May 10, 2010                        HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS                  Vol. XLVI  No. 18


The House met at 1:30 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Fitzgerald): Order, please!

Admit strangers.

Statements by Members

MR. SPEAKER: Today the Chair welcomes the following members' statements: the hon. the Member for the District of Ferryland; the hon. the Member for the District of Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair; the hon. the Member for the District of Humber Valley; the hon. the Member for the District of The Straits & White Bay North; and the hon. the Member for the District of Exploits.

The hon. the Member for the District of Ferryland.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HUTCHINGS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in this hon. House today to pay tribute to an outstanding young man, Michael Dinn, who lost his courageous battle with cancer on the morning of March 5, 2010 at the age of 35.

Michael was best known to many in this Province as a well respected hockey official. He began his officiating career in 1991, becoming an official with the Goulds Minor Hockey Program. During Mike's time with the Goulds program, he was instrumental in developing the program and helping to build its profile on a provincial level.

In 1997, Michael was largely responsible for forming the Goulds Referees Association. Michael also served as the president of the Metro Referees Association for the last several years, as well as provincial officiating instructor and evaluator. He was one of only a handful of officials in Newfoundland and Labrador to obtain a Level VI certification.

He was also a linesman for the Fog Devils in St. John's, as part of the Quebec Major Junior League. In November 2009, Mike was selected by his community, the Town of Petty Harbour-Maddox Cove, to serve as an Olympic torchbearer in recognition of his leadership and commitment to the community.

Despite his many accomplishments on and off the ice, Michael often said his greatest moments are far away from the rink and near his family. In 2007 Michael married Mandy Everard, and the couple moved into their new home in Maddox Cove. His son, Joel, was born in April 2009. Michael is also the nephew of the hon. the Member for the District of Kilbride.

Even through his illness, there was never time for pity. Those who visited Michael came away feeling recharged and positive, a testament of his character and outlook on life, despite the fact that he was ill.

Mr. Speaker, Michael Dinn will be forever remembered as one of the Province's finest hockey officials. He had a level of respect on and off the ice that was unprecedented and an unwavering desire to serve his community in the great Canadian game of hockey.

I ask all hon. members to join with me in expressing our sympathy to Michael's parents, Russell and Louise Dinn, his wife, Mandy, and their loving son, Joel.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KELLY: Mr. Speaker, I am proud to stand in this hon. House today and pay tribute to Robyn Langdon. Robyn, a Level II from Elwood Regional High School in Deer Lake climbed up the public speaking ladder over the last few months. She won the Rotary Club of Humber regional speak-off and, most recently, the Lions West Coast district championship in Corner Brook.

Mr. Speaker, Robyn is heading to the Atlantic district speak-off competition as one of two students representing Newfoundland and Labrador. The next level of competition will be in Fredericton, New Brunswick, and will see speakers from Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Maine compete for the title. She feels it is a great honour to be going to represent her Province.

Mr. Speaker, Robyn is eager to participate in the elite competition, share her speech with a new audience and make her first visit to New Brunswick. The Multiple District Speak Out competition is from May 21-23.

Mr. Speaker, public speaking benefits people of all ages, including children. It instills confidence and enables people to become better communicators and generally more successful in all aspects of life - personal, social, business and in the field of learning. It builds their self-esteem. It helps them to feel comfortable talking in public.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all members of this hon. House to join me in congratulating Robyn Langdon on her recent public speaking successes and to wish her well at her next competition in New Brunswick.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in this hon. House today to congratulate Kayla Carroll, a resident of St. Lunaire-Griquet who was one of the eight recipients awarded with an inaugural URock Volunteer Award on April 24. This award recognizes the outstanding work done by young volunteers and organizations with a connection to young people.

Ms Carroll is well known in my district for her volunteer efforts and is a fine example to the youth in our Province that volunteer work is not only rewarding but also essential to non-profit organizations.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all members of this House to join with me in congratulating Kayla on this achievement and wish her well in her future endeavours.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FORSEY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in this House today to recognize the achievement of Botwood Collegiate Robotics team on claiming gold in their category at the Skills Canada Newfoundland and Labrador competition held at the College of the North Atlantic in St. John's on March 26.

Mr. Speaker, the Skills Canada Competition for Robotics is an engineering project to encourage individuals with different skill sets for co-operative teams to design, fabricate and operate a robot.

Mr. Speaker, this year's competition was entitled: pipe fitter. The robots were to take possession of their assigned plumbing connectors and deliver them to the target destination of their choice in an assigned home space.

Mr. Speaker, this year's team consisted of team members: Stephen Antle, Tyler Cramm, Meaghan Jeans, Garrett Slade, and teacher Mr. Brian Antle. They will now represent Newfoundland and Labrador at the National Competition at Waterloo, Ontario May 20-24.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all members of this House to join me in congratulating Botwood Collegiate Robotics team on their first place finish.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise in the House today to congratulate an extraordinary youth from Forteau, Ms Katie Flynn, who recently received one of the most prestigious scholarships in Canada, the TD Scholarship for Community Leadership.

Mr. Speaker, this major national scholarship valued up to $70,000 rewards students who have shown leadership in many areas including: environmental cleanup, the promotion of social justice, and the fight against poverty. Katie was awarded one of twenty scholarships out of 4,000 applicants from across Canada.

Mr. Speaker, Katie attends Mountain Field Academy and since winning Miss Teen Canada Galaxy, she has been a strong voice for youth and an avid volunteer in her community. She has served as youth representative on the municipal council, the Labrador Straits Development Corporation, and currently sits on Futures in Newfoundland and Labrador's Youth Council and the provincial Youth Advisory Committee. Katie participated in a youth parliament, organized a World Vision 30 Hour Famine and is also active in her faith community.

Katie recently succeeded in bringing an elected student council to her school and was elected as president. She is also a member of the Centre for Distance Learning and Innovation's Youth Advisory Group. She is a peer tutor, participates in various sports, and recently won the Lions Club Speak Out Contest. She plans to pursue a career in economic development in human advocacy

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my colleagues today to join with me in congratulating Ms Katie Flynn as well as Mr. Cody Dunne from Booth Memorial, who were the only two recipients from our Province, on their tremendous accomplishments and in receiving the TD Scholarship.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I am sure everyone joins me in wishing every success to these two young people.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Statements by Ministers.

Statements by Ministers

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 wish today to recognize May 9-15, 2010, as National Police Week.

Police Week reminds us that police and community co-operation is the key to safer homes and communities. In celebration of this, numerous activities will take place throughout the Province in which both the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary will participate. Presentations are happening at local schools with an emphasis on safety and drug awareness, and events will also be held at community halls and seniors' residences.

On Wednesday, a multi-denominational church service to acknowledge National Police and Peace Officers Memorial Day will be held at the Seventh Day Adventist Church in St. John's. I am looking forward to attending for the first time and joining newly appointed Chief of the RNC Robert Johnston and Assistant Commissioner Smith of the RCMP, along with other law enforcement agencies, to pay tribute to those uniformed officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty.

Mr. Speaker, I recently had the opportunity, along with my colleague, the Minister of Government Services, to join Assistant Commissioner Smith to unveil two 1950 styled patrol vehicles to commence celebrations of the sixtieth anniversary of the RCMP in our Province. These two vehicles will be rather busy this week as they circulate throughout Newfoundlander and Labrador to celebrate police week, along with RCMP members who will proudly be wearing their Red Serge and high brown boots and breeches – internationally recognized and beloved symbols of the force.

Our government's support of our police forces is unwavering. In Budget 2010 we provided funding to support an enhanced policing presence for Postville, Labrador, an additional Internet Child Exploitation officer in Gander, and the continued redevelopment of Fort Townshend, the historic home of the RNC, North America's oldest civil police force. In total, our government has provided an additional 141 new officers since 2004 and we have increased our investment in policing by almost $40 million.

The Department of Justice has forged an excellent relationship with both the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary which I look forward, Mr. Speaker, to continuing. The women and men of our police forces have extraordinary occupations and provide us with an invaluable service, often under extremely difficult circumstances.

Mr. Speaker, Police Week is our opportunity to recognize these actions and to thank them for their service. I encourage all residents to participate in Police Week activities and acknowledge these remarkable efforts.

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 statement.

I would like to take this opportunity first off, to also congratulate Robert Johnston as his swearing in as the new Chief of the RNC. Congratulations to both the RNC and the RCMP, of course, and we thank them for their invaluable service which they provide to our communities. Also, the co-operation that exists between the RNC and the RCMP is just amazing, because they do have a lot of joint operations and so on. So, albeit they are two different forces, one being provincial and one being of a national scope, they certainly do co-operate in our Province in carrying out a lot of joint operations and do a masterful job of doing it together.

Of course, feeling safe in one's community is very, very important and it is because of the great work that both police forces provide to our citizens that we are able to feel safe in our communities. Also, of course, the educational aspect that they bring to our communities, teaching kids about law, respect for the law, drug awareness programs and so on. All of which they do in addition to their typical and their usual policing activities. They are indeed forces that we are proud of. We also extend our congratulations to them, not only as police officers but we thank them as well for the invaluable role they play in our communities as citizens, ordinary citizens. If we did not have people like the police officers we probably would not have a lot of minor hockey associations in our towns and the support that we get from coaching activities and so on. So I would like to thank them for that as well.

Thank you.

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

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

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

I am very pleased to stand and acknowledge the National Police Week and the National Police and Peace Officer's Memorial Day. It is a very important function that police officers perform in our society and I am happy to see more communities where there has not been policing be put in by the government when communities are asking for it. If they are asking for it, it means that we should respond.

There have been many changes in both of the police forces here in our Province over the last couple of decades. We see many more women in both the RCMP and the RNC. We see the police officers very involved with the community. One area in particular where I know they have been involved is in dealing with violence issues and being part of the consultations with the Violence Prevention Initiative. I think the role they play there is absolutely essential.

One thing I see in my own district is the work that is done by Constable Kevin Foley, who does tremendous work through the program called DARE. I have been in schools in my district where Constable Foley is there, I see the great relationship he has with the students and the family. So I am really happy to recognize him, and also recognize all of the members of both police forces in our Province.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Further statements by ministers?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SKINNER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Supporting the progression of companies and projects from start-up to commercialization is integral to the provincial government's economic development agenda. It is an agenda focused on building strong, economically diversified communities.

Mr. Speaker, the provincial government's economic development agenda is also about far more than just financial gain. Economic development is the driving force - however, working with community groups to balance the social and economic requirements of our communities and regions is invaluable. To meet these demands, trained facilitators, including staff from the Department of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development, facilitate workshops and collaborate with community groups through the Community Capacity Building program.

This program has been highly utilized by community groups who view it as an effective platform to identify and manage opportunities focused on increasing the capacity of local organizations and ultimately encourage greater levels of social and economic development. In 2009 alone, more than 130 working sessions, involving almost 4,000 participants, were held in communities across Newfoundland and Labrador.

In early 2009, it was the Community Capacity Building program that served as the starting point to address the social and economic issues that materialized following AbitibiBowater announcing that it was ceasing operations in the Central Region. Bringing together more than eighty local stakeholders that included regional economic development groups, municipalities, union officials, and many others led to the identification of opportunities for economic activity, and instilled confidence that the future would be bright for the region's residents.

Through the program, short and long-term opportunities were assessed and an action plan established. Partners were quickly mobilized to advance development of a cranberry industry in the area and confirm land availability, environmental considerations, and market opportunities. Mr. Cyril Langdon, Chair of the Exploits Valley Economic Development Corporation, described the program as providing a great opportunity for stakeholders to share ideas, prioritize opportunities, and identify partners for project implementation.

The Community Capacity Building program is also playing an important role in the provincial government's Poverty Reduction Strategy. By working with community groups such as the Community Centre Alliance, we are enabling them to work with lower-income individuals to strengthen their skill-sets, develop business and strategic plans, and open the door for them to be larger contributors to the provincial economy.

Mr. Speaker, the provincial government looks forward to continued collaboration with our partners at the local level through the Community Capacity Building program. Coupled with strategic investments, they are critical in the sustained development of all of our communities and regions.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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.

First of all, I would like to thank the minister for an advance copy of his presentation. It is good to see where the program has been effective in Central Newfoundland, in particular, given the situation that they face with the mill closure and so on. I think it just reaffirms for us the importance of having the input of local stakeholders when it comes to any types of decisions and ensuring that they are sound and logical and the correct decisions on important issues.

I know at times we all have a tendency to want to move things forward hastily and we forget the importance of having local input and so on. We can see that throughout our Province in many different aspects. I would certainly suggest that based on the success in Central that we would want to do that in every situation. If so, then I am sure that we can be very pleased with the decisions that we make. Getting people together, talking about success and being able to measure that effectiveness is very important for us going forward.

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 really glad to see that the ITRD training programs and capacity building sessions are still available to communities and other groups who want to develop their local economies. I believe very strongly in the need for community-based economic development because that is where our social development is going to work as well.

As before in this House, I do encourage the minister, as maybe he already is doing, to look closely at the model that they use in Ireland; there are other places too that have community-based development models. The model there I think is close to what we are aiming for here. I think it is more structured, maybe, than it is here. I would encourage the minister to look at it. The program called LEADER is based on the concept of partnerships and special areas of disadvantage, both urban and rural. I think the model fits the needs that we have here in this Province. I would also hope that when the department is helping local groups identify partners for enterprises that they be encouraged to look at co-operative models of business development, not just as individual entrepreneurs. Co-op enterprises, as the minister knows and I know, are working very well in this Province, in the forest products and agrifoods industry but they need stronger support from government and I encourage the minister to continue looking in that direction.

Thank you, 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.

Mr. Speaker, over the weekend we understand that President Obama has issued a moratorium on new drilling leases until there is a full and further environmental review. Yet, today, we are going deeper into the North Atlantic Ocean, drilling a well in 2,600 metres of water off the Coast of Newfoundland and Labrador, which is one kilometre deeper than the British Petroleum well in the United States.

In light of the current environmental spill in the Gulf of Mexico, I ask the government today, if they have reviewed our own environmental protection safeguards for Chevron's ultra deep water drilling project which just started?

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, we have. Chevron released, in this past week, quite a considerable amount of information with regard to its drilling plans in the Orphan Basin. Mr. Speaker, we have confidence in the regulatory and legislative regime that we have in place with regard to offshore safety. We constantly look at those regulations. The Premier made a commitment here in the House of Assembly last week to do an independent review of the boards regulations and that process is currently unfolding, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

As I said, Chevron is now drilling a well in 2,600 metres of water; 1,000 metres deeper than the British Petroleum in the Gulf of Mexico. We saw over the weekend the enormous difficulty in trying to stop a leak that far under water in the Gulf of Mexico.

I ask the Premier today, Mr. Speaker: Does he have any concerns about the drilling project off the Coast of Newfoundland and Labrador and the technology that is being used? I ask him: How can he give assurances to the people of the Province that this can be prevented and protected when we see what is happening in the Gulf of Mexico today?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Deputy Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, there is always a risk associated when you go offshore, whether you go there in a boat to fish or you are drilling for oil. What we have to do, as best we can, is understand that risk and do everything we can to mitigate it. We understand that the Stena Carron, the oil rig that will be drilling the exploratory role in the Orphan Basin has at least three backup systems. We are required to have at least one; other than the drilling of a relief well, Mr. Speaker, one of three systems. I am happy to report that the Stena Carron has all three.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I also would like to ask the minister, because there was a commitment last week for the independent review board, she indicated it again today.

I would ask the government, Mr. Speaker, when we will see the details and the framework around the independent review board and when we can see them start their work in this Province?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Deputy Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, the terms of reference have been developed and are now in the approval process. As well, there is a scoping exercise ongoing to find the appropriate individual or agency to do this piece of work. It is extremely important that we get it done in a timely way for our own information and knowledge, Mr. Speaker, and for that of the people of the Province. So it will be done as quickly as possibly can be done.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Scientists in the Province who scrutinize both government and industry's responses to oil spills charged that the monitoring of chronic oil pollution from offshore oil and gas activity is inadequate due to a lack of independent observers on platforms, due to lack of aerial surveillance and a lack of public disclosure of details of pollution events or even methods used to monitor these.

I ask the Premier today, Mr. Speaker: Why are the experts telling us that there is no credible and comprehensive program in place to monitor oil spills and pollution, yet your government giving people assurances of the Province that everything is fine?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Deputy Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, before any activity happens in our offshore there is a very comprehensive review that goes on, not only in terms of the C-NLOPB but also in terms of the Canadian Environmental Protection Agency. We have a number of departments, both federally and provincially, that are engaged. Operational plans are developed; they are reviewed by external agencies that have international reputations, Mr. Speaker, such as Lloyd's of London - that certainly would be a name that we are all familiar with here in this Province.

Mr. Speaker, the Premier has already undertaken to do an arm's-length review of all of the safety procedures that are used in our offshore. We are not going to predict what the outcome of that is going to be. Up to now, Mr. Speaker, we are satisfied. We know that there are risks, there are always risks but it is an understood risk, and at this point in time we feel that all measures are in place to mitigate that risk.

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, Justice for Children and Youth, a local non-profit advocacy group, has been advancing the causes of children in our Province for many years. They have devoted hours and hours of their own personal time trying to help children and families. They were instrumental in advocating for the establishment of the Child and Youth Advocate office and are now appalled by the fact that we have an Advocate who will not speak for the children.

I ask the minister: When will you recognize that it is the Advocate's job to speak out on issues affecting our children and to ensure that this happens within this office?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. F. COLLINS: Mr. Speaker, the act that sets up the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate is permissive legislation; it sets out the roles and jurisdictions of the Officer of the House. It is not prescript, it does not tell him how to do the job, it does not lay out any regulations with how often he should talk to the media or if he should talk to the media at all.

The Opposition is suggesting, Mr. Speaker, that by not talking to the media, he is not advocating for children. How they can make that rationalization is beyond me, Mr. Speaker. The Officer of the House has a job to do. In the latest report, for example, he did his investigation, he made his recommendations. The recommendations have been made, now it is up to the receiving party to act on the recommendations. There is nothing in the act that requires him to speak to anybody.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: I say to the minister, that being the case, maybe it should not be permissive, it should be mandatory. Maybe what we should be doing is telling him the specific details of his job.

Section 3 of the act, however, Mr. Speaker, requires that the Advocate protect and advance the rights of children and youth. The Child and Youth Advocate's 2008-2011 own business plan states that the Advocate and staff engage in children and youth agencies, government departments and the general public in all discussions and consultations. Yet, this advocacy group has been trying for months to get a meeting with the current Child and Youth Advocate, but to date, they have not been successful.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the minister, because the Advocate is not fulfilling the requirements of his job: If he is not meeting with the people who have first-hand knowledge of the issues, does he feel, as the minister, that this is an acceptable behaviour for the Child and Youth Advocate office?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. F. COLLINS: Mr. Speaker, with respect to what the Advocate is doing in his job and who he talks to and who he does not and who he consults, that is not a question for the Minister of Justice to respond to. The Advocate has his role to play. The Opposition Leader, as I have mentioned, indicates that by not talking to certain people he is not doing his role. There is no logic in that reasoning, Mr. Speaker. The Advocate is fulfilling his role. We are very pleased with the job he has done in cleaning up the mess and the shambles that office was in.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

When you have a group like Justice for Children and Youth and they are unable to access the Child and Youth Advocate to talk about issues regarding children in this Province, I ask the minister, does he actually think this is acceptable behaviour for this office?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. F. COLLINS: Mr. Speaker, I know very little about the group that the hon. Leader of the Opposition just referred to. I assume that there are a lot of similar type organizations out there that want to talk to the Child and Youth Advocate, and I assume that he has talked to a lot of them. I am sure he will consult with all and sundry to get the information he needs and make his recommendation.

If there is one group who was left out of that, it is not for me to suggest that that Advocate should meet with that specific group, there may be any reasons in the world why he did not.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, so far what we know is that we have a Child and Youth Advocate today in this Province who is temporary, who is not speaking to any politicians, who refuses to speak to the media, who will not speak to community groups who approach him, and he will not speak to the findings within his own reports. We also know, Mr. Speaker, he is being paid at $175 an hour by the government, and we know he is entitled to a provincial pension.

So I ask the government today: Is Mr. Rorke collecting his provincial pension while being employed as a temporary Advocate in this Province?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. F. COLLINS: Mr. Speaker, given the situation we had in that office as of September of last year, this government had to make a decision to find somebody who was competent to fulfill that role in an acting capacity, to get that office back on stream, to re-establish morale, to advocate for youth, and to do all of the things that office is supposed to do.

We were very fortunate, Mr. Speaker, to get a person of such impeccable credentials as Judge Rorke. He is a retired judge - I assume he has a pension as a retired judge. Whether he is collecting it or not, I would not know, but if he is, he is certainly entitled to it.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Over the weekend we heard that 1,200 workers at six OCI plants across the Province have handed their union a strike mandate. These workers are being asked for concessions relating to vacation pay, overtime and holidays. Now, Mr. Speaker, when Ocean Choice International bought these plants in 2007, when the government dismantled FPI, workers at that time agreed to take wage cuts for a short period of time.

Today, Mr. Speaker, these workers earn less than they did six years ago, and I ask the minister: Does he not agree that it is time that this company started to give back to these workers so that they make a decent wage? I ask him if his government has been intervening or having any discussions in this process between the company and the union.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Leader of the Opposition is right. During the FPI debate, there was a time when government acquired some funds to assist that transition.

Mr. Speaker, right at this particular time, both parties are into negotiations. That is what negotiations and contract talks are about, Mr. Speaker. We certainly hope that in spite of the strike mandate that was taken over the weekend, we hope that both sides can come to an agreement here and find a resolution.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Not only is Ocean Choice International after inheriting the assets of FPI under an agreement with the government, not only are they not paying their workers at a wage that is acceptable, but we understand that they are also not meeting the terms of their agreement that they signed by government for the five-year period between 2007 and 2011.

In 2007 at the Marystown plant, there were between 400 and 500 people working two shifts. Today the workforce is about 230 employees and they are down to one shift. I ask the minister: Why is OCI not living up to the terms of their agreement and what is government doing about this to ensure that they do not continue to downsize and jeopardize the livelihoods of the fish workers in that area?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, this is probably one of the most challenging times to be in the groundfish business, which exactly is what the OCI plant in Marystown is. It is in my district, Mr. Speaker, so I know all about the challenges that they are facing at that particular facility.

Mr. Speaker, they have rolled out a plan. Government has been in negotiations with them around the OCI – the shipping out of yellow tail. We met with the union there. We met with the company. We made an agreement in conjunction with the union at that particular site that we would assist in those measures. We certainly hope that they will have continued performance and improved number of workers in that plant, but there is no doubt about it, it is a challenging time to be in the groundfish industry and we can only hope for the best as a result.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

We understand that this company, as I said, has not been paying their workers properly since they took over the plants in 2007. We have also been hearing from the municipality in the area that they have outstanding taxes over the past two years, and we are also seeing that they are not meeting the terms and conditions of their five-year agreement with government.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the minister today - this company has really inherited this entire enterprise. Many people's lives depend upon the jobs in these particular plants and we have understood that there has been a proposal to government for funding from this company.

I ask the minister today if he can confirm if that is the case or not, and if so, can he tell me what that will do to stabilize the industry and provide benefits to the workers that are affected?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, I am certainly not aware of funding that the company has requested to assist with financial operations.

The OCI operations, as is other processors and harvesters across the Province, often submit applications to government under technology programs, Mr. Speaker, that will help reduce, let's say, heating costs or fuel costs and costs of that nature. That company would not be any different than any other company or harvester within this particular Province.

So, Mr. Speaker, if that is what she is referring to there has been an application to that regard, but in terms of financial assistance around operations, no, Mr. Speaker.

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.

Mr. Speaker, government's hand-picked consultant who completed a review of the air ambulance services in the Northern region of our Province has already proven that his work is questionable by submitting a poorly researched report. We also know that while he was in a leadership role with the health care system in James Bay that he had major issues with air ambulance, including an incident in 2009 that resulted in the death of an elderly patient.

I ask the minister: Were you aware of these past incidents and why would you hire an individual who has a questionable record of his own in providing effective air ambulance service?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, we hired a consultant who had quite an extensive resume, who had worked in various places throughout the country in various capacities. This consultant reviewed, essentially, the numbers that related to flights in and out of Labrador, in and out of St. Anthony, and came to a conclusion at the end of the day, Mr. Speaker, that the public could best be served by the placement of the air ambulance in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

So, Mr. Speaker, I am not aware of what the hon. member opposite is suggesting there, but it is a very serious allegation to be making, and I am hoping that he is simply not throwing this out for the sake of ruining another person's reputation.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. DEAN: Mr. Speaker, in this week's Northern Pen, a reporter asked Mr. Drodge several questions about the report and his response was no comment. The reporter even asked: Do you have a comment about anything at all? His response was no, no comment; so again, another hand-picked consultant unwilling to answer questions about the reports.

I ask the minister: Is there a reason that this person is refusing to comment on a report with such ramifications in health care delivery in the Province, especially if he truly believes in his recommendations?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, one of the issues that we have looked at since the receipt of Mr. Drodge's report is the actual implementation of the recommendations. So I have asked the supervisors of the provincial air ambulance program, being the medical director and also the paramedic in charge, to look at the recommendations to see if they can be implemented. At the end of the day, Mr. Speaker, a report prepared by the Lab Grenfell employees accepts that the numbers put forward by Mr. Drodge are accurate, and, in fact, Mr. Speaker, the eight recommendations agree with recommendations two to seven. The only disagreement that the report prepared by the Lab Grenfell employees has is with the placement of the air ambulance.

So, again, Mr. Speaker, there does not appear to be any dispute with the numbers put forward by Mr. Drodge, the recommendations put forward. The only dispute relates to where the ambulance should be.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. DEAN: Mr. Speaker, we have heard that before, and I beg to differ, but nevertheless, the reason Mr. Drodge refuses to speak basically is, in my opinion, his report is a farce.

The Opposition office required documents back in March related to Mr. Drodge's research for his report, paid the fees being charged, and now government tells us we have to wait another two months to receive the information; another example of this government breaking the access to information legislation in an attempt to hide the information.

I ask the minister: Why are you hiding this information, or are you afraid it will prove how weak this report really is?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Yes, thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I do not think there is anything being hidden in terms of the cost. It is my understanding, the cost of the report cost – we paid the consultant around $10,000. That is my understanding. That can be finalized by my department.

Mr. Speaker, what we have to look at here is a basic issue of, where can we place the air ambulance to best protect the people of this Province? We have had a number of incidents in Labrador which are very unfortunate, and which we are all aware of. The placement of the air ambulance in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Mr. Speaker, will mean now that all people in this Province will be within sixty minutes access to air ambulance, a situation that did not exist in Lab West while the air ambulance was in St. Anthony.

Secondly, Mr. Speaker, what we looked at is, where are the greater number of people living? We know that the population of the Labrador region is at least twice that of the St. Anthony-Port au Choix region. Thirdly, Mr. Speaker, we have to look at the issue of the risk factor. There is a much greater risk factor in Labrador right now, not only in relation to population but in relation to heavy industrialization of the area. When you look at all of these factors, Mr. Speaker, the recommendations of Mr. Drodge are certainly sensible, that we are looking at implementing them, and we made significant Budget investments this year in…

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. DEAN: Mr. Speaker, I would suggest if the minister would follow some of the things that were in the Minister of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development's statement earlier, that it might have helped in making his decision in the proper way.

Mr. Speaker, government has given notice to air ambulance employees that the service will be moved to Goose Bay on May 30. Obviously the minister is rushing this decision; his actions will create more problems in the system. One of the main recommendations of the report was that the medevac flight team would be there as well.

I ask the minister: Will medevac teams with the necessary flight medical specialities requirement be available to fly in Goose Bay on May 30?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Yes, thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I think the hon. member is aware that whether or not the air ambulance was placed in either St. Anthony or Happy Valley-Goose Bay, the second medical flight services team was announced in the Budget this year. There is a period of time that we have to advertise for these jobs, they are speciality jobs and there has to be a training period. So, Mr. Speaker, we are in that process of doing the hiring right now. It will be a while before people are in place, but I can assure the member opposite that we are looking at other alternatives to ensure that air ambulance is provided to all areas of this Province.

As I indicated, Mr. Speaker, when I was in Lab West, there was a recommendation by the doctors there that perhaps we should use Quebecair in certain obstetrical emergencies, and we have agreed to do that. What we are looking at now, Mr. Speaker, are other alternatives here to ensure that the best possible service is provided. We may have something to say on that in the next couple of days, Mr. Speaker.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. DEAN: Mr. Speaker, the main recommendation that made this work was the medevac team. Now we realize that it will not be available in Goose Bay and all medical flights basically in that case – all flights will have to travel to St. John's before responding to an emergency. Moving the plane to Goose Bay will now add an extra hour to the response time.

I ask the minister: How will this increased delay in the absence of the medical flight team - how will this increased delay help patients and improve the air medevac service in the Province?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

In this Budget, this year, we announced a new plane which will be approximately $8 million. We also announced, Mr. Speaker, a second medical flight services team which would cost about $1.1 million annually. Obviously, we have to do the hiring, and until the announcement was made in the Budget we could not begin that process.

Mr. Speaker, there will be a period of time in which we will have to ensure that services are available and as I have indicated, I am currently in discussions right now with other groups to achieve that end, Mr. Speaker. Earlier today, again, I met with the air ambulance personnel for the Province. We are going to be making changes to the way air ambulance services are delivered in this Province in terms of both dispatch and the availability. Mr. Speaker, what we have to do is look at how do we get our out-of-province residents out there in the best way possible. So, the changes cannot all take place overnight, Mr. Speaker, but they will take place and what we will have is a stronger air ambulance system as a result of this change.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. DEAN: Mr. Speaker, again, a very simple question to the minister. The fact that we are moving the aircraft without the medevac team means that that plane has to fly from Goose Bay to St. John's for the team versus flying from St. Anthony to St. John's.

My question is: Why would we rush the relocation of the plane before the medevac team is in place?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Yes, Mr. Speaker.

One of the reasons that we have to make this move and to make it as quickly as possible, we have had a number of unfortunate incidents right now in St. Anthony, at least one incident where a pilot has refused to fly. So we have a situation where we have to stabilize this situation. We are going to move that plane to Happy Valley-Goose Bay as soon as possible. The report came down on March 22, Mr. Speaker, and we cannot allow for situations like this to arise in light of what is going on. So we are going to move that plane as soon as possible, it will be moved at the end of May.

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 is very disappointing knowing the Premier's commitment to an objective study of what is happening in the Gulf of Mexico, to then hear the Minister of Natural Resources say that there is no intention of stopping exploratory drilling in the Orphan Basin until government understands more about what happened in the Gulf of Mexico. Mr. Speaker, this thinking is counterintuitive. It would make more sense to stop drilling until we know what happened so that we can prevent such catastrophes.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Premier: Why government is not pressuring the C-NLOPB to stop the drilling in the Orphan Basin until we know the results of what is now an environmental catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier, there is always a risk when you are operating offshore. What we need to know, as best we can, what is that risk and how can we best mitigate it? We have confidence in the plans that the C-NLOPB have put forward and the federal government under the Environmental Protection Act, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, we are not going to shut down our offshore under these circumstances. We have a degree of security, as much as one can rely on, that the proper measures and countermeasures are in place. We will endeavour to learn more and do more as best practices evolve, but we do not see a rationale, at this point in time, for shutting down our offshore.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

Mr. Speaker, the minister talks about risk - and I have heard her talk about the risk. If an accident occurs in the Orphan Basin – and I am talking about the Orphan Basin; we are talking about an exploratory drilling rig, not the whole of our offshore production. If we have an accident there similar to that in the Gulf of Mexico, we can expect crude oil to spew uninhibited into the North Atlantic for quite some time.

Mr. Speaker, today the minister is saying that the people in our Province are used to risks on the water. Mr. Speaker, this kind of an accident is not an acceptable risk. I ask: Can the government explain to the people of this Province why they are willing to take this risk?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the NDP's premise is faulty. Unless she fully understands the regulation and requirements that are in the United States, which I suspect she does not, and compares them to the regulation that we have here, Mr. Speaker, I do not think she can make that kind of a statement.

In The Globe and Mail this week, there was discussion about the requirements and the lack of requirements in the United States with regard to backup systems when a blowout prevention stack fails. Mr. Speaker, there are requirements – one of three – that are required here in this country. Mr. Speaker, the Stena Carron has all three of those capacities.

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, oil industry observers and analysts say the equipment needed to drill a relief well would not be available fast enough should there be a rupture in the Chevron well, which is 2,600 metres beneath the ocean. Mr. Speaker, the C-NLOPB say that until they understand more about what is happening, they do not see any reason to stop drilling.

Mr. Speaker, I have to question both the C-NLOPB and the provincial government's reasoning. Why won't they put a halt to this project until we know how to deal with incidents so far beneath the ocean? We have no idea.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, her premise is faulty again that we do not have any idea. Indeed we do have ideas, Mr. Speaker.

Now, Mr. Speaker, a relief well is not the only fail-safe mechanism if a blowout prevention stack fails. There are at least three more that have been identified in this country - one of them is required for drilling offshore. The Stena Carron has all three capabilities on the rig, Mr. Speaker, plus it has the option of drilling a relief well.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Question Period has been so quiet and attentive the Speaker is reluctant to move on.

The time allotted for questions and answers has expired.

The Chair would like to recognize His Worship Churence Rogers, the Mayor of Centreville-Wareham-Trinity who is present in the gallery today.

Welcome, sir, to the House of Assembly.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Presenting Reports by Standing and Select Committees.

Tabling of Documents

Tabling of Documents

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

MR. MARSHALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Pursuant to section 25, subsection 5(a) of the Financial Administration Act, I am tabling six Orders in Council relating to funding pre-commitments for the 2010-2011 to the 2014-2015 fiscal years.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Further tabling of documents?

Notices of Motion.

Notices of Motion

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

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

Today being Monday, preceding Private Members' Day - it is the Opposition private members' this Wednesday - on behalf of the Member for Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair, seconded by the Member for Burgeo & La Poile, we would like to enter the following private member's resolution for consideration on this Wednesday:

WHEREAS drilling and production in our offshore areas brings not only economic benefits, but real risks of environmental disaster, as we have seen with the Louisiana oil catastrophe which will have impacts for decades to come; and

WHEREAS the offshore oil industry polices itself through the C-NLOPB and there are concerns on their lack of transparency in addressing oil spills, as well as resources available to address a major emergency event; and

WHEREAS there is no comprehensive safety regime or work plans for oil spills, no independent monitors on rigs and oil extraction is exempt from the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, the Fisheries Act, and the Canada Shipping Act; and

WHEREAS Chevron is currently drilling in deep waters without immediate backup plans and oil analysts say it could take up to three to four months for backup rigs to become operations; and

WHEREAS the Grand Banks represents one of the richest fishing banks and fragile ecosystems in the world and thousands of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians could be gravely impacted should a major oil spill occur; and

WHEREAS British Columbia and the Pacific States have a combined oil spill task force in place with annual work plans - notwithstanding a moratorium of offshore drilling on the West Coast;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that this House of Assembly encourages the provincial government to immediately put into place a task force to examine the current environmental and safety procedures, policies and processes; make recommendations for "best practices and technology" changes; review the industry on an annual basis; review protocols for potential oil spills in Placentia Bay; produce an annual work plan to enhance oil spill preparedness and response capabilities throughout all drilling areas and oil transport routes near Newfoundland and Labrador to avoid and-or mitigate the effects of a possible oil spill that could devastate the waters off our coast for decades to come.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Further notices of motion?

The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services.

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I give notice that I will ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act Respecting The Practice of Social Work. (Bill 20)

MR. SPEAKER: Further notices of motions?

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.

Mr. Speaker, I will go to the Order Paper, Motion 4.

With that, I move, seconded by the hon. Minister of Government Services, for leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Amend The Insurance Companies Act No. 2, Bill 19, and I further move that the said bill be now read a first time.

MR. SPEAKER: The Chair is going to have to ask the hon. Government House Leader if she would be kind enough to repeat the bill number please.

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MS BURKE: Bill 19, Mr. Speaker, on the last page.

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that the hon. the Government House Leader shall have leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Amend The Insurance Companies Act No. 2, Bill 19, and that the said bill be now read a first time.

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion that Bill 19 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 Government Services to introduce a bill, "An Act To Amend The Insurance Companies Act No. 2", carried. (Bill 19)

CLERK: A bill, An Act To Amend The Insurance Companies Act No. 2. (Bill 19)

MR. SPEAKER: Bill 19 has now been read a first time.

When shall Bill 19 be read a second time?

MS BURKE: Tomorrow, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Tomorrow.

On motion, Bill 19 read a first time, ordered read a second time on tomorrow.

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, we will go to the Order Paper, Order 1, third reading of Bill 5.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the hon. Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation, that Bill 5, An Act To Provide Liability Protection On Portions Of Pedestrian Trails, be now read a third time.

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

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion that this bill 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 Provide Liability Protection On Portions Of Pedestrian Trails. (Bill 5)

MR. SPEAKER: Bill 5, An Act To Provide Liability Protection On Portions Of Pedestrian Trails, 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 Provide Liability Protection On Portions Of Pedestrian Trails", read a third time, ordered passed and its title be as on the Order Paper. (Bill 5)

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

MS BURKE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, Order 2, third reading of Bill 12.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the hon. Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation, that Bill 12, An Act To Amend The Grand Concourse Authority Act, be now read a third time.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion that Bill 12 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 Grand Concourse Authority Act. (Bill 12)

MR. SPEAKER: Bill 12 has now been read a third time and it is ordered that this bill do pass and that its title be as on the Order Paper.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Grand Concourse Authority Act", read a third time, ordered passed and its title be as on the Order Paper. (Bill 12)

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, Order 3, third reading of Bill 13.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the hon. Minister of Government Services, that Bill 13, An Act To Amend The Consumer Protection And Business Practices Act, be now read a third time.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion that Bill 13 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 Consumer Protection And Business Practices Act. (Bill 13)

MR. SPEAKER: Bill 13 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 Consumer Protection And Business Practices Act", read a third time, ordered passed and its title be as on the Order Paper. (Bill 13)

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, we will move to Order 4, third reading of Bill 14.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the hon. Minister of Government Services, that Bill 14, An Act To Amend The Private Investigation And Security Services Act, be now read a third time.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion that Bill 14 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 Private Investigation And Security Services Act. (Bill 14)

MR. SPEAKER: Bill 14 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 Private Investigation And Security Services Act," read a third time, ordered passed and its title be as on the Order Paper. (Bill 14)

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, we will call from the Order Paper, Motion 1.

MR. SPEAKER: Motion 1, the Budget Speech.

The hon. the Member for the District of Bellevue.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. PEACH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It gives me great pleasure to stand in this hon. House and speak to Budget 2010. I want to thank the Minister of Finance for delivering a Budget for this government that highlights our youth; a Budget that covers a broad area; a Budget that has self-reliance; a Budget that will keep us on a good course to stimulate the future while we are still facing an unstable economy.

Mr. Speaker, our minister travelled throughout the Province and listened to the people. Budget 2010 allows our government to make sound decisions that give us an economic outlook that remains positive.

Also, I want to congratulate and welcome the new additions to this hon. House: the Member for Topsail. I hope he enjoys representing his constituents as I do in representing mine in my district, the great District of Bellevue. I also congratulate him and the Member for Terra Nova on presenting their maiden speech in this hon. House just a few days ago. They delivered a speech that was very positive, very much full of confidence and pride to be part of a team and a government who are doing the right things; a team which has a leader who stands up for the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador and what he believes in.

Mr. Speaker, it is with great honour that I stand here in this hon. House of Assembly for the District of Bellevue and represent my constituents in this great hon. House. Since being elected in 2007, the people of the District of Bellevue have seen a great change. They have seen improvements to roads, housing, water and sewer, health care, and the list goes on, Mr. Speaker. We have seen funding in the fishery to the fish plants in Arnold's Cove, Icewater Seafoods, and Dorset Fisheries, Long Cove. We have seen maintenance on wharves from special assistance grants. We have seen improvement to recreation facilities. We have seen a great focus on community, healthy and active living programs.

I want to talk about some of these areas of funding, and emphasize the funding amounts, Mr. Speaker, but time will not permit me to talk about all the good things in this Budget, all the great things our government is doing for the people of this great Province of Newfoundland and Labrador; however, I will talk about funding that means a great deal to the constituents of the district I represent.

I would like to address a broad range of funding under the Budget that helps many constituents in my district: funding that comes in small packages. Nitty-gritty is what they call it - small packages, as one would say, Mr. Speaker – funding that means a lot to the towns and communities in my district, and individuals who received the funding.

Mr. Speaker, I have thirteen towns in my district, I have eighteen LSDs in my district, and three small communities that are not represented by any committee at all. Mr. Speaker, thirty of these towns and communities depend on the fishery and, as you can see, the fishery is very important to the district. Southern Harbour – a town in my district I refer to as the second Petty Harbour – 80 per cent of the town revenue and income comes from the fishery. The town relies fully on the fishery for its survival.

I am pleased to see a resolution to the crab dispute, and to see our fishermen back on the water. I want to congratulate our Minister of Fisheries on a great job of keeping both sides together and bringing our crab fishery to an opening again this year.

Mr. Speaker, if I may, I would like to highlight our government's commitments to the fishery that were announced in the Budget: $2 million for the Fisheries Technology and New Opportunities Program; $1 million to the Canadian Centre for Fisheries Innovation to support fisheries and aquaculture research and development; $250,000 for a Fishing Industry Safety Council; $100,000 for communications in support of the sealing industry; $300,000 for continuing development and implementation of a provincial Coastal and Ocean Management Strategy and Policy Framework; $100,000 to Dorset Fisheries in Long Cove to pilot new machinery toward replacing retired employees.

We all hear of the difficulty plants are facing in getting workers to replace those who retire. Well, Mr. Speaker, this is a piece of machinery that will deal with the downsizing of employees at the pelagic species plant in Long Cove through retirements.

Let us not forget the fisheries enhancements programs we had last fall for fishers who needed to qualify for EI benefits. Almost every fishing community had a project, and people working in my district.

Mr. Speaker, other areas of funding: an increase of $1.4 million to Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation maintenance annually to a total of $10.2 million. Many people from my district, Mr. Speaker, under low-income families, have qualified for home repairs. I visit many home owners in low income. I have seen first-hand the need for this program. Our government has recognized the need for this program. It is a program that is much appreciated, and the people of my district thank our government, thank our Premier, and thank our Minister of Finance for increasing this program.

Mr. Speaker, I cannot help but mention the people who have benefitted from this program under the disability funding portion as well. Mr. Speaker, I could tell some great stories about families who needed a wheelchair ramp for someone in the household; someone who had to change the heating system in their house because someone was on oxygen; seniors whose homes needed to be upgraded because of the age of the home. Mr. Speaker, to see smiles on their faces; to see the thank you cards mailed into my office; to talk over a coffee at their home and to hear the appreciation from someone who benefitted from this program, gives the satisfaction of being an MHA and puts things in perspective to say that our government is doing the right things.

Mr. Speaker, it shows our government has their heart in the right place. Why do we do this, Mr. Speaker? Because we care, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. PEACH: Mr. Speaker, an additional $797,000 to expand coverage for insulin pumps to be extended from eighteen to twenty-five years of age; $1.4 million for individuals up to eighteen years.

Mr. Speaker, I had a discussion with a family whose daughter and son will be in St. John's this year attending post-secondary, and both have diabetes. Just imagine the cost to that family, but thanks to this government life can be a lot easier, not only financially but with a piece of mind knowing that their children could avail of an insulin pump up to the age of twenty-five years.

I, myself, faced this situation just a couple of years ago, Mr. Speaker. Our son developed Type 1 diabetes at the age of fifteen. When he was going to post-secondary a few years ago he did not have the option of an insulin pump, he had to mix his insulin needles himself. Many restless nights for his mother and many worries that no one could imagine for both of us. Walking the floor, you might say, some nights, Mr. Speaker, when there was no answer on the phone when you called him, when there should have been. Then you worried: Did he take his insulin or did he not, or did he mix it right?

Now, Mr. Speaker, our government has relieved this stress. Insulin pumps are now covered. Again, I would like to thank our government, my colleagues, thank you to the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Health for making funding possible under this Budget. This is fantastic, Mr. Speaker, a great relief for many families across the Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. PEACH: Mr. Speaker, firefighting; funding increased to municipalities for fire truck acquisitions to $2.5 million this year and $7.6 million over the next four years. Back in 2008 our government announced a program of 90-10, which allowed fire departments to be able to afford to apply for funding. Mr. Speaker, that is a great benefit to all fire departments because before the funding was at a 50-50 cost-shared funding basis and most departments could not afford to apply for funding and in most cases had to buy second-hand clothing for their department, boots, trucks, pumps and other equipment. Today, Mr. Speaker, this government have made it possible for fire departments to apply to renew their equipment and to request new fire trucks, to update their fire departments and to better train their firefighters.

Last year, Mr. Speaker, our government gave the Fire Fighter's Association $150,000 to help provide training programs throughout the Province. Many fire departments are taking advantage of these sessions. An increase of firefighting equipment of $1 million this year and $2.5 million over the next four years; this under the 90-10 program will allow fire departments to upgrade their equipment in communities and towns that need to do so. To work in a fire department with new equipment certainly assures firemen of their safety when they have the proper tools to do the job. It allows firemen to be able to fight fires and enter into properties and enter into homes knowing that they can do so without taking unnecessary risk. Mr. Speaker, I want to recognize the firefighters in my district who take pride in what they do and do a very professional job with the equipment that they have. I also want to recognize the working together of communities and towns in fighting fires. All neighbouring communities are auxiliary to each other.

Mr. Speaker, $200,000 in Home Heating Oil Tank Storage Replacement Assistance Program. Mr. Speaker, this may seem to be an issue that is not of grave concern to the Opposition. However, low-income families now can renew their oil tank without having the burden of trying to find $1,200 up front. When you are on low income it is not easy to get $1,200 at once but now under this program they can now make application to Newfoundland and Labrador Housing and if they are eligible under the low income, they can receive a repayment loan of $25 per month. This might be a laugh to the Opposition, and I even heard similar comments from highly-paid individuals, but to the low-income families out in the district they are very appreciative. Our government recognizes that we had to do something and we did. We did this, Mr. Speaker, because we care.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. PEACH: Mr. Speaker, I cannot go without mentioning the increase of Low Income Seniors' Benefit from $800 to $900. Wellness grants, an additional $200,000 for community-based agencies programs under the Department of Health and Community Services through our Healthy Aging Strategy. These programs are very important to the groups out in the communities who are trying to promote a program and operate on very low funding.

Mr. Speaker, our government has realized the importance of healthy and active living and providing such funding, allowing our seniors groups to purchase exercise equipment, plan outings, plan trips, and to do something they have never done before, come visit the House of Assembly. The groups that availed of the funding in my district, Mr. Speaker, I gave an invitation to them to organize a tour of the House of Assembly and our office has arranged six tours for different communities, 50+ Clubs, and I have groups already that visited the House and we have more to come, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. PEACH: Mr. Speaker, I had a group from Come By Chance 50+ last week, where you yourself had the opportunity to speak to them and some of my colleagues as well, including the minister of not-for-profit and voluntary organizations.

Mr. Speaker, over the next couple of weeks we have more groups to come. As a matter of fact, I have a group from Sunnyside tomorrow; and yet to come, groups from Norman's Cove, Long Cove, Swift Current, Arnold's Cove and Dildo. I have visited some of the 50+ programs and I want to say, Mr. Speaker, it is an atmosphere and an experience that I invite all my colleagues in this hon. House to witness. They know how to enjoy themselves, they are being active, they are contributing to their community, partnering with the youth in some communities, and they have developed a healthy lifestyle. Our government again has recognized the need and I want to thank the Minister of Health and Community Services for promoting this program and the people of my district as well want to thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. PEACH: Mr. Speaker, Capital Grants increased for recreation and sport facilities up to $300,000 for a total of $1.3 million; recreational capital grants has helped communities and towns in my district.

In 2007, funding towards playground upgrades in St. Bernard's; in 2008, upgrades to a soccer field in South Dildo for the areas from New Harbour to Fairhaven. I might say, Mr. Speaker, this also benefits the youth from the Minister of Environment and Conservation and the Minister of Justice districts as well. Children from all around love to play soccer each year. Dr. Bonasteel has been very active in promoting soccer in this area and has been volunteering his time in coaching, managing and mentoring the youth and families for healthy active living in these areas and I want to thank him for his involvement.

In 2008-2009, $10,000 was given to the Come By Chance for recreational facility upgrades; $15,000 to Southern Harbour in 2009 for equipment for a playground. The town itself raised $12,000 to construct the playground in memory of a young girl who lost her life a few years ago. This capital grant will contribute to the purchase of a piece of equipment for the playground that will fulfill the hearts of many in memory of the young girl in that town.

Mr. Speaker, coverage for cancer drugs, new therapy drugs under the Prescription Drug Program; $606,000 to enhance the Medical Transportation Assistance Program to allow reimbursement of mileage for private vehicles used when the total kilometres over a twelve-month period is more than $5,000; $2.4 million for continuing planning and construction of a new residential treatment centre in St. John's for children and youth with complex mental health and behavioural issues; $131,000 to help organize and develop programs promoting healthy eating and physical activities.

Mr. Speaker, extra beds for dialysis patients in Clarenville – this one was very important to some people in my district. Some families who had to travel all the way to St. John's, about two hours drive, who now can travel to Clarenville in half an hour. These people have to travel about four times a week, Mr. Speaker, and they told me to thank our government and also to thank our minister for making this possible.

Mr. Speaker, $2.5 million to improve the income threshold of Newfoundland and Labrador's Prescription Drug Program under the Access Plan, this will benefit a lot of seniors in my area.

Mr. Speaker, education spending of $3.4 million to Memorial University and College of the North Atlantic; $18 million for a 500-bed residence at Memorial campus, $88.3 million in Corner Brook - and $7.5 million for upgrading to existing residences. All monies announced, Mr. Speaker, will help many of our youth who attend these colleges and universities each year to further their education in post-secondary. Mr. Speaker, $2.2 million to advancing the Excellence in Mathematics strategy through new curriculum textbooks and resources for students and teachers; an additional $5 million to extend the tuition freeze at MUN and $1 million at the College of the North Atlantic.

Mr. Speaker, there is much other spending in education. As a matter of fact, the total budget for the Department of Education is $1.3 billion alone. This education funding is a very important investment in the future of our youth.

Mr. Speaker, twenty-seven new personnel hiring for the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services; this department will receive a total of $167 million. This department under the leadership of our Government House Leader and the minister responsible will see many positive changes to serve and protect the youth of our Province.

Mr. Speaker, job creation programs – these programs are administered by HRLE and I might say they are doing a fantastic job at administering these programs. The application process has been speedier, the turnaround of getting projects approved are by far efficient than that of the federal departments, and the personnel are great to work with. These programs, these projects are a great asset to church groups, recreation groups, fire departments, harbour authorities, local service districts, town councils and the rural developments. These projects give the opportunity for infrastructure maintenance repair to buildings and wharves, retaining walls along the shorelines, and other buildings throughout the towns, Mr. Speaker.

My district, since our government took over this program in November 2009, has received nine meaningful programs. In Terrenceville, we have the seen the completion of the fire hall construction; in Grand Le Pierre, a community park construction; and in Long Cove, extension of a tourism enhancement to construct and install eight floating docks. They are just some of the great projects in the great District of Bellevue.

Mr. Speaker, many communities and towns have benefited from water and sewer, funding for upgrades and new construction since I have been elected in 2007. We have seen municipal infrastructure, water and sewer extensions and upgrades in Norman's Cove, Sunnyside, Southern Harbour, Arnold's Cove, Thornlea, treatment plant in Come By Chance, and we also saw fire and emergency trucks in Arnold's Cove in 2007 and a fire equipment truck in Southern Harbour in 2008.

The spinoff from the Vale Inco Long Harbour project has seen many needs for extra housing units and to meet the challenges we have to concentrate on completion of water and sewer in these towns. With the new company investing in Come By Chance, and under new management, we are expecting a growth of employment. Growth of employment and new investments mean more people moving in and more need for housing development. Our government recognizes the need and we have been very instrumental in providing funding to water and sewer projects throughout the district.

Funding provided from Municipal Affairs for a project to replace a breakwater in Chapel Arm with armour rock and a shoreline construction of retaining walls and marginal wharves; emergency funding for sewer outfall in Norman's cove. Mr. Speaker, these are some of the infrastructure through Municipal Affairs.

I know my time is pretty much run out there now, Mr. Speaker, but I –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: By leave.

MR. PEACH: By leave, Mr. Speaker?

Mr. Speaker, road improvements on the Burin Peninsula Highway – 50-50 stimulus cost-shared by the federal and provincial government in paving and upgrades of eight point nine kilometres interchange on the Burin Peninsula Highway, and an interchange at Come By Chance-Sunnyside – federal and provincial stimulus, 50-50 cost-shared as well.

Mr. Speaker, in 2009 levelling in New Harbour, Dildo, Old Shop, Fair Haven, Sunnyside, Long Cove and North Harbour. Since I have been elected in 2007 paving in the Town of Chapel Arm; paving through the community of Bellevue; recapping of main road from Chapel Arm through to Norman's Cove-Long Cove; paving and upgrades of the main road in St. Bernard's-Jacques Fontaine; upgrades in Harbour Mille, upgrades near Pipers Hole, Swift Current; replacement of two large culverts in Little Harbour; Monkstown road ditching, brush cutting, road space build up and crushed stone finish top. Mr. Speaker, bridge repair on Grand Le Pierre highway, upgrade and paving of long grade in Terrenceville, and repairs to Little Bay Bridge in Little Bay in Fortune Bay.

Mr. Speaker, all these things, I might point out, have been neglects of the past Administration -

AN HON. MEMBER: And the member.

MR. PEACH: - and the past member.

All, Mr. Speaker, are investments in the great District of Bellevue for the safety of motorists travelling through the great District of Bellevue. I also want to thank my colleagues, the Minister of Fisheries, MHA, Burin-Placentia West, and the Minister of Education, MHA for Grand Bank.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. PEACH: Also, Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Transportation and Works for their support and working with me in securing funding from the federal and provincial 50-50 cost-shared stimulus for the Burin Peninsula Highway.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. PEACH: Mr. Speaker, this shows how a team works together to improve our districts.

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank all my colleagues in this hon. House for their support as well. Most of all, I would like to thank our Premier, our leader, for the countless hours and dedication he has for the people of this great Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. He is a man that listens, he is passionate, he understands, his door is always open to his colleagues of this House. I am very proud to be part of a great team with a leader who has a positive vision for the future of Newfoundland and Labrador. Why Mr. Speaker? Because we care!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. PEACH: Mr. Speaker, many times we heard on Open Line shows about the negativity of rural Newfoundland. We have heard from the Opposition in this House many times, as well, Mr. Speaker. I want to put a little different spin on this today.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. PEACH: Spin span.

Rural Newfoundland and Labrador has a lot to offer, Mr. Speaker. Let's just ask a few questions, a little trivia, if I am allowed, Mr. Speaker. We always hear people say that all stays inside the Overpass. Well, Mr. Speaker, where do people go from the great cities to fish for salmon and for trout? Rural Newfoundland. Where do people go from the cities to relax? Rural Newfoundland. Where do people go from the cities to get a good feed of lobsters? Rural Newfoundland. Where do people go of the city to build a cabin?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

MR. PEACH: Thank you. Where do people of the city go to hunt moose, rabbit and partridges, et cetera?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

MR. PEACH: Thank you. Where do people go to visit tourism, enjoy walking trails, hiking, boating, skidooing, and buy (inaudible)? Rural Newfoundland. Where do the companies go to find hard-working people? Rural Newfoundland, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, there is a reason why I ask these questions, because we all depend on each other. You can change these questions and show that rural Newfoundland and Labrador depends on the city as well. Rural Newfoundland and Labrador is people of pride with a passion for where they live and love their lifestyle. They are outport people with outport ways.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HUNTER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, it is a job to follow that act today. My colleagues here in the House do such a wonderful job in speaking and telling us about their districts.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to also say welcome to our two newest members in the House of Assembly, the Member for Terra Nova and the Member for Topsail. Two great people added on to our caucus and going to contribute a lot to this government, I can tell you that right now. From hearing the speeches that they made last week and showing how dedicated they are to the people who elected them to come in here, it is a given that they are going to do a wonderful job.

Mr. Speaker, having said that, I just want to reflect a little bit back on years ago when I first came in the House of Assembly, this is my twelfth Budget now that I will be speaking on since I have been here. Just to go back to the day when I first was elected and came and took my seat in the House of Assembly, it was probably the most important day in my career and probably will always be the most important day because there is a lot of pride in coming in here representing the people who elect you in your district.

Mr. Speaker, we always learn from our colleagues in the House. There are so many different things that happen in rural Newfoundland and, of course, in urban Newfoundland, and we must learn from what other people are talking about in their districts. My colleague in Bay Verte-Springdale, for instance, the Springdale area which used to be in my district, I had a lot of pride representing that part of the district. Now to see from the representation that Springdale has now, I am very comfortable in knowing that they are going to be well represented here. From the speech he made last week, Mr. Speaker, he did a great job and I am sure what he was saying, that we care, applies to every member in this House of Assembly; every member is here because they care.

Mr. Speaker, my four-and-a-half years here, in the beginning, I came in Opposition, and I tell you that was not an easy time when we came in Opposition with such a large government. So, I can understand how the Opposition has to do their job in keeping government to task to make sure we do our job. Even in those days, Mr. Speaker, even yourself, and a couple of us went to Harbour Breton in a big snowstorm one time to meet with the fisherpeople and the plant workers down there, and I tell you that was a challenge. We were down there in the biggest kind of snowstorm. We got stuck – at least I got stuck there. Some of you got back but it was a big challenge, not only because of the time and the problems that we were having in the fishery at the time in Cape la Hune district, but of course, it was a challenge for us to get around as Opposition members. We attended many, many functions around the Province representing the party and our caucus. Our goal at that time was to take over government. We worked very hard attending many, many by-elections, working – most of it out of our own pocket.

Mr. Speaker, you can see the commitment that we have had in the past from the members that we had in our caucus. Some of them were very good speakers. We had speakers who could get up in a moments notice and speak for hours. The Member for Waterford Valley at the time - that was the district - could speak for hours and hours; our former member for Kilbride area. We all had good speakers at that time and put a lot into speaking, especially on the Budget, when back then we used to have the critic, and the minister had unlimited time. Some of the time we were here sitting nighttime, long hours debating the Budget.

Mr. Speaker, this Budget is a very good Budget. We have a brochure here with Budget Highlights that tells all the things that government is doing and have done in the last year and shows all the plans for this government in the coming year. If anybody had a chance to read down through it you would see so many good things here, so much money being spent by this government. Every member here can look down through these highlights on the Budget and pick out things that they are doing in their districts; some of the very good things they are doing in the districts pertaining to education and health care, and roads. It is a very good document to refer to when you want to spell out exactly what you are spending in your district.

Mr. Speaker, we also get an opportunity too, as part of the Budget process, to sit in on committees. We have committees where the Opposition and committee members can ask questions to the different departments and the ministers. It is all highlighted in a book called Estimates. Opposition members can pick out parts in every department and ask questions on where the money is being budgeted for and how it is going to be spent. Not only that, Mr. Speaker, they can go back and look at where they spent money last year, whether they overspent or under spent in last year's Budget. It creates an opportunity for everybody to find out exactly what is going on when it comes to government spending the money of the people of this Province.

Mr. Speaker, when we get an opportunity to speak we can certainly speak on anything we would like to speak on in our districts or whatever. The Budget process gives us that opportunity to do that. We can always outline some of the things in our district, most members can attest to that. A lot of things are done in rural Newfoundland, as my former colleague just spoke on, all the things that are good in his district. That goes for all the districts here, Mr. Speaker.

One thing I have to remember to bring up right now that I am so delighted about and so appreciative of are the councils in my district. The councils, most all of them, are volunteers. They work for the people who elected them in their different communities. These councils, Mr. Speaker, are doing a great job in making sure that in their communities government helps and that they perform for the people who put them there.

We are so lucky this year, and the last couple of Budgets, Mr. Speaker, with the Capital Works Program. In the past, when we had the other Capital Works Program where some of the projects had to go 70-30 and 50-50, then small communities could not take advantage of any government money to do anything in the communities. In the last couple of years in my district we have certainly done lots of capital works projects. We have done many different projects with water and sewer, road paving, and municipal infrastructure with town halls. There were so many projects, Mr. Speaker, it would take you probably half an hour just to list off all the projects.

We are very lucky that we can take advantage of the 90-10 agreement now, even though there are still some towns in my district, and some in everybody's district in rural Newfoundland, I would imagine, that cannot take advantage because 10 per cent is still a high amount for some of these small communities with very little tax base to take advantage of that. In my district, especially, I am so lucky to have some of the towns that are very prosperous. Some of the communities in Green Bay South are doing very well. We have some towns with numerous businesses in the town.

I was talking to a businessman the other day in Triton and he told me he could not take on any more work this year, and the construction season is only just starting. He has over $10 million worth of work on his books now, and he is working very hard. That is only one contractor in my district. In the Green Bay side we have a lot of other businesses there that, of course, are successful because they work all over the place. They go out and they do work in the forestry industry and they do work in the mining industry.

The fishery is certainly a big part of the success in my area. Even though we are going through a downturn, we have, right now in the Green Bay South area, a lot of mussel producers, mussel farmers that produce 70 per cent to 75 per cent of the farmed mussels in the Province. They put a lot into it, and with the help of this government we have made money available to these producers to keep up in the technology, to keep up in the harvesting techniques, so that they can be more efficient and more profitable.

Even though we cannot control the markets and the market prices, we still have a lot of people – fishermen and plant workers - in my district. We have an OCI plant in Triton, at times with 300 workers there that depend on the crab fishery mostly, even though we do some mackerel and caplin; and, of course, the company is always looking for opportunities to do more. Even at that, they are having a struggle to keep these people in the fishery in rural Newfoundland.

Our young people want to move away. They want to get into other careers. We are finding now that it is hard to find younger people to get involved in the processing plants in the Province. We are no different. In Triton we are having trouble keeping our young people there; but, having said that, we still are very successful in keeping our young people involved in Newfoundland industries.

A lot of people in the Green Bay South area do work at the Duck Pond mine; they work in other mines outside the Province. Some commute back and forth to Alberta. A lot of money is being brought back to the Province in parts of my district, and you can certainly see that when you see an increase in population and an increase in housing in that part of my district. Even on Long Island last year we had a couple of houses built. Even in Triton we had three subdivisions going at the one time, now with a shortage of land to develop more housing lots. The developers are starting to struggle now to find other areas that they can develop.

The potential is there; the potential is there for all of Green Bay South to prosper a lot from other industries. We have a lot of them that go overseas to work. We have one young fellow - I was talking to his wife the other day - down in Saudi Arabia working. Another guy is on a ship somewhere, down in the Antarctic working on a ship. These people are very well-paid and they come back to the Province. You should see the things they have around them because of their prosperity, which they share with other people in the district.

Mr. Speaker, my district is spread out a lot, like a lot of other rural districts. Even on the Grand Falls-Windsor side we are not doing too badly after the tragic loss of our paper mill and the downturn for a little while in the forest industry. Some of the contractors are starting to pick up and they are starting to come back. Most of the businesses in the town are starting to come back, and a lot of them are doing very well.

There is some confusion over what part of Grand Falls-Windsor is my district and my colleague's district for Grand Falls-Windsor-Buchans. Sometimes even a lot of people in the town do not realize the part of the district, and some of my colleagues are not sure on what part of the district is mine. Since the last change in the boundaries, I have certainly enjoyed the extra part of Grand Falls-Windsor that I have taken into my district. I have all the north side of the Trans-Canada Highway right up to the light and power building and office on the Trans-Canada, everything north of that. If you went to Canadian Tire, you would be in my district; if you went to the mall you would be in my district; if you went to any of the heavy equipment suppliers out there you would be in my district, on Hardy Avenue, Cromer Avenue and, of course, part of Grenfell Heights.

I also took in a new part of my district now, which would be Wooddale. Wooddale is certainly a very important part of my district to me. Where I used to be agrifoods critic, I used to put a lot of time into the agrifoods and forestry sector, attending many, many meetings all over the Island, and meeting many farmers and the Federation of Agriculture. I put a lot of time into that and now I do have, from the last change, a lot of farms in my district. I have a dozen or so farms in Wooddale, a few over in Green Bay South area, and a couple on the highway there in the Springdale area. That is a part of my district that I am very interested in, the farming community - I pay a lot of attention to them - and the forestry industry, which is dear to my heart too. Having grown up in a forestry community, everybody was connected one way or another to forestry in Central Newfoundland. I enjoyed working over the years, helping out sawmill operators and some logging contractors.

Having said that, Mr. Speaker, the downturn is certainly only for a short period of time, I think. I think that we are going to come out of this and we are going to be a lot stronger. We do have a great resource in forestry, and that is going to make a difference to all Newfoundland and Labrador. Timing is everything, and right now, with the downturn, we are having our time of struggles, but that will change.

Mr. Speaker, in the Budget we have a lot of areas of spending that government does, and it is no different in my district than others. We have a lot of money spent on roads, over $10 million in the last six years that we have spent in roads in my district. This year there is going to be more money spent on roads in my district. We have more money allocated for water and sewer projects, and more money for the other social areas like recreation. We have put a lot of money into different areas that we have recreation grants. Senior citizens, of course, we are always trying to do something to help our senior citizens. We are putting grants out for senior citizens to be active and healthy, and we have been very lucky with our Budgets to do that.

Mr. Speaker, we are lucky in Grand Falls-Windsor - not lucky - I say we are very fortunate to have the government that we have, that can produce a Budget such as we had in the last couple of years, and again this year with the Budget that we have, to do the things that we need to do. With over $7.9 million going to be spent in Central Newfoundland hospital, that is something we have been looking for, for awhile. Now government is going to take that initiative to make sure we have that infrastructure up to date and working a lot better than what we had in the past.

We do recognize the education aspect in the area; government is going to be spending $500,000 for some retrofit and renovation at Exploits Valley High. We just went through a renovation process at the Windsor Stadium. We spent a couple of million dollars there through our multi-year Capital Works program with the town. We have done a lot of paving projects throughout my district through the Capital Works program, through the Town of Grand Falls-Windsor. It just keeps on going.

The town has done a great job in spending not only the taxpayers of Grand Falls-Windsor's money, but the taxpayers of the Province when we throw in our share of the Capital Works program. Our town has to be commended. The staff and the council have to be commended for doing such a great job; and our council in the past, because in the past we had a great council that put a lot into our town. Even through the hard times that we have been having with Abitibi, the town has stayed steadfast and worked with community leaders, they worked with government, and of course things are not as bad as they could have been if everybody had panicked and tried to do other things.

So we are working very hard trying to help alleviate the stress and the downturn of Abitibi, but it is going to take a while to do that. We are still talking; we are still meeting with proponents. The government is working very hard through our Minister of ITRD who has done a great job in helping the people of Central Newfoundland. The Minister of Natural Resources has been very good to the people of Central Newfoundland. It is not only in my district, Mr. Speaker, we have surrounding districts.

As I was saying earlier, years ago when I was the Member for Windsor-Springdale I was pretty well the only PC member in the Central area. I was bordered by Grand Falls-Buchans, a Liberal member, Exploits with the Premier of the day and a Liberal member. Deer Lake was a boundary of mine, and Cape la Hune was a boundary. I was responsible at that time to being a shadow member for all those Liberal districts that were in Central. It kept me very busy because a lot of people did not want to talk to their Liberal member - the PC people of those districts. I was given the task, of course, to represent them at times and to work on their behalf here in the House and through departments. I did not mind doing that but as time went by and our government became popular and people wanted a change, then we elected a PC member in Exploits. Our Member for Exploits, a great addition to our caucus, took a big lot of the workload from me. Of course, as we went on with Deer Lake with a PC member, then we had Grand Falls-Buchans with a great member. It just made my life a lot easier, Mr. Speaker, and it gave me a lot more time -

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

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

MR. HUNTER: To clue up?

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MR. HUNTER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Let me say that I am very pleased today to get a chance to have a few words at least in this Budget process seeing as it is my twelfth Budget. Just to have a few words to say about our government, our district, the things that we have done in our district. There is so much difference between now and it was a few years ago. We have the money, the finances to do that, and I really appreciate our ministers who are there for me when I call for help in different things in the district. Of course, we have a long ways to go and this government is on the right track to make this Province a lot better place for our residents, and my colleagues here in the House are doing a great job in representing their districts. I look forward to another four or five years representing the people in my district.

Having said that, Mr. Speaker, I would just like to say thank you and I give my colleagues a chance to have debate in the Budget.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am going to garner the attention of all the folks now for the next twenty or so minutes.

Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure for me to get up today and follow the Member for Grand Falls-Windsor-Green Bay South, my colleague, and my colleague from Bellevue.

Mr. Speaker, I am going to kind of take my few minutes and take it in the context of what I have seen happen in terms of this Budget but more, in particular, as to what I have seen since I come into government in 2003. The previous speaker, the MHA for Grand Falls-Windsor-Green Bay South talked about the time and some of the things that he has seen since he came into government. I would kind of like to speak to some of the things that I see that have been part of our Budget this year and Budgets past, that really jump out at people and speak to things that really impact individuals on the ground.

Mr. Speaker, we know the nature of politics. We know that there are two of our members who got up and spoke, I am the third one. Somebody in the Opposition will get up after us, and they will start to attempt to twist things around and make comments. I do not know if it is so much to discredit as it is to portray a different side as they see it. One of the previous speakers mentioned negativity around rural Newfoundland and Labrador and that he does not see signs of that. Mr. Speaker, I have to say the same thing. Now I am sure that people in the Opposition will get up and try to counter, like I said, the things that we say, but I thought the essence of my speech would be to focus on a few things that have happened since 2003.

Mr. Speaker, I remember coming in, in 2003, and really being very green to politics. It was almost to a point where my phone was ringing practically every day, quite often every day, and that people had an expectation as we came into government, they wanted everything and they wanted everything quickly.

Mr. Speaker, during the campaign I remember things that really, really struck me. One of the things was that we had the highest debt in the country. It was at $12 billion, and for every individual in this Province it equated to somewhere around $24,000 per individual. I thought that was just staggering. That in itself was something to campaign on, that we had ourselves in debt $24,000 per individual. Mr. Speaker, that was one of the things I campaigned on and said that it was simply unacceptable, and we as a government campaigned on that.

Another thing, Mr. Speaker, was the issue of we wanted to see better returns for our resources, and we campaigned on no more giveaways. So, Mr. Speaker, for the first couple of years, there is no doubt about it, it was quite challenging. Then we started to make some changes into the types of things that really, really impacted individual's lives. I mean, there are a couple of things that really have stood out for me since that time. I am willing to bet anybody who was in government during the last term will always remember the Atlantic Accord. There is no doubt about it; it is something that is etched in my memory and it will always be there.

Second, Mr. Speaker, was to be able to say to the people in the Province and to be able to share with the people of the Province that we had reached a point where we could be at have status - a population of 500,000 people. I think often we were a people who may have - our sense of place within Canada, we did not always, I do not think, take pride in that. I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, from where I sit and from where many people sit, that has certainly changed.

If we were to look a bit deeper then, into the things that really, really impact upon people, I can guarantee you one thing - and I am willing to bet that every member who came into government with us in 2003 and before heard about the roads. They talked about the roads being in deplorable, deplorable conditions.

If I am not mistaken, Mr. Speaker, I think in our first year our roads' budget was something like $6 million. From that it went up to $24 million to $26 million. Following that, I believe it went up to $48 million to $49 million and then on up until the present in the vicinity of $70 million. There are places in this Province where the roads have been improved and improved extensively. It has been improved for the purposes of our own people in the Province but, equally as important, we know that the many people - the tourists who travel to our Province.

We did not want them going away talking about the horrific road conditions that existed in our Province and as such, the investment. I am very pleased to say that the MHAs for Bellevue and Grand Bank and myself, being the three representatives on the Burin Peninsula, worked very closely on that stretch of road. I have to commend the Member for Bellevue because while the section of the road that is being worked on right now is not in our district, it certainly impacts upon our district. That gentleman has worked long and hard to get that project, along with myself and Minister King for the District of Grand Bank to see that come to fruition.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, taxes – take a look at the taxes. When you can get on your feet and say that we are now, we have the lowest taxes in Atlantic Canada there is something to be said for that. It is something that people, you hear it in a Budget Speech one year, and then after a while you just forget that it is there because you take it for granted. Think about that, Mr. Speaker, we have the lowest taxes in Atlantic Canada.

I go back to where the debt was. As I said, when I came into government in 2003, it was at $12 billion, $24,000 per capita, and now, Mr. Speaker, it is below $9 billion. It has been reduced to below $9 billion. I believe the per capita debt now is somewhere around $14,000 per individual – not acceptable by any means, but Mr. Speaker, if you see where we have come to in that short span of time, I think it is quite significant.

Mr. Speaker, I go to education. Look at some of the investments in education. Again, I say to the people who are watching and the people in the House that, oftentimes, they happen in a particular Budget year, we kind of forget them, but take a look at the tuition. We have the second lowest tuition in all of Canada.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HICKEY: What a commitment to our youth.

MR. JACKMAN: And that tuition is frozen. That is certainly, as the Member for Lake Melville has said: What a commitment to students.

Take a look at another one, there was always the issue in education about fees. Students were charged fees. Those fees have been removed. We have textbooks that are provided free of charge to students. I was to a CNA graduation – College of the North Atlantic graduation - on Friday past, and to see the quality of programming that institution has, and the pride in those people who were graduating, and the expectation of getting the jobs that are out there, I think it speaks to the commitment that this government has made to the educational institutions from the schools to our post-secondary institutions and the advancements that they are making at those institutions.

Mr. Speaker, I can speak to the infrastructure; anybody who looks to the construction industry or roadwork, the schools that are being built - $89 million going into school construction. Couple that with what we have invested over the years, and I do not think anyone can question our commitment to ensuring that we have safe environments in which our students live and work.

I have to speak to the Minister of Government Services who was down in my district just a little while ago to open a Government Services centre down there. It is a centre that provides to the Burin Peninsula so that many of the services that they would normally have to do through the mail or travel to St. John's or Clarenville before will be able to do them now in our particular area.

Right now, through the commitment of our government there are two ferries being built at the shipyard in Marystown at the Kiewit facility, and we hope that there will be two more to follow and much work going on in that particular facility related to our provincial ferries and other ship construction if and when the country – the federal government – announces further projects to that regard.

The health care, Mr. Speaker – I know that people have heard me speak on this before, but when I came into government in 2003, there were two very burning issues around health care down in my district; that being around dialysis and CT scan, and a third one was around having a centralized health care facility in the northern part of my district. Mr. Speaker, I can tell you and I stand proudly here to say that those three commitments have come through and that speaks volumes for the investment of this government in facilities and the provision of care in rural Newfoundland and Labrador. Check and see the number of dialysis units that have been put across the Province, the investment in new MRI equipment, and that just speaks volumes to where we have invested and the investment in quality health care in the Province.

Mr. Speaker, I have to speak to my own department, the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture. I do not think it is widely known, but our government invests three-and-a-half times – our total Budget is three-and-a-half times bigger, larger, than all of the other Atlantic Provinces' investments in their fisheries departments combined. That tells you, Mr. Speaker, that speaks volumes to our investment and our support for that fishing industry.

The aquaculture industry that my colleague for Fortune Bay-Cape la Hune can attest to is growing in leaps and bounds in her particular district. I had one of the reporters up in the area ask me, he said the question that we need to speak to in aquaculture and the investments that are made is: Where would the thousand or so people be if they were not engaged in the aquaculture industry? We are investing in bio-security measures to ensure that we protect, to the extent that we can, against disease in the aquaculture industry. That means we have invested heavily in waste water treatment, in new wharves again this year to make sure, to the extent that we can, that that industry is protected and that it is safe and secure and that they are providing a quality product on an ongoing basis.

We have many, many programs in our department. It is a department, Mr. Speaker, that I am very proud to be minister of. A number of people have said to me: You poor creature, what have you gotten into? Mr. Speaker, I have to say that I think it is probably one of the best departments to work in, in government. I came from the Department of Tourism, Culture and Recreation and I have to say that was not too bad of a department, Mr. Speaker, it was a wonderful, wonderful department. This department here, I am enjoying equally as much as I did my former department.

This department, Mr. Speaker, is of critical importance to the people of the Province, but in particular to the people of rural Newfoundland and Labrador. As I have said to many people, you do not find too many fish plants down on Water Street. The fish places that my colleagues for St. John's talked most about are Ches's and Leo's, but we have to say that the products that come out of Ches's and Leo's come from our communities in rural Newfoundland.

Mr. Speaker, is shaking his head no, not for him. Well, I have to have to check on that because if he is not, he is missing out on a few things. I say to him, Mr. Speaker, he does not know fish. I am only joking, Mr. Speaker, I am certain that he does.

I have to say that in discussions around the fishery, sometimes people talk about the divide of the Overpass. I can tell the people watching from rural Newfoundland and Labrador, that the MHAs in the St. John's area are as interested and concerned about fisheries issues as I am and all of our colleagues. We are working as closely as we possibly can with the processors and with the harvesters to see if we can work our way through - I do not even think restructuring is the right word to use, Mr. Speaker. I think it is a means of working together to establish what the fishery of the future is going to be like.

I met recently with my Atlantic counterparts. The minister from Nova Scotia said something that struck a cord with me, and I think he is exactly right. He said that the fishery of today is not the fishery of my grandfather's day. All we have to do is take a look at the operations that many of these harvesters have and they are certainly quite different from the means and the capabilities of harvesting that our grandfathers often engaged in. They have bigger boats. They have more advancement in technology, and that is often because of some of the things that we invest in.

Our Fishing Industry Technology Program stands now at $2 million. That is a fund whereby harvesters or processors make application to government and decisions are made to award them money based on the ways that they may see advances and improvements made in their particular sector. For example, it may be in one particular plant how they can reduce their cost of heating. In another harvesting sector it may point to how they improve vessel operations to reduce their fuel costs. So, those are the types of programs that we have in place in our department. We also look to programs through the MOU process, and I am certainly hoping that I can get both sides to look very carefully at the marketing aspect. This is somewhere where we have to go. We are one player on a global scene.

Mr. Speaker, I recently went to the Boston Seafood Show, and if there is one thing I learned from stepping out and looking at the venue where they displayed seafood producers and what not around the room, I soon learned that while we in the Province may think that we are a major, major large player in the world seafood market, Mr. Speaker, in fact we are just one of many. Around that marketing strategy, that seafood marketing council, I think it is something that we definitely have to wrap our head around and we have to work with both the harvesting and processing side to ensure that that works. We are making progress in that, Mr. Speaker.

Now that we have the crab fishery underway, and hopefully the shrimp fishing industry will get underway in very, very short order, I intend to call both sides together then because we have two major tasks before us. One is that we need to start talking now to see what it is we have to do to open the 2011 fishery. I know we are just opening the 2010 fishery, but the annual ritual that we seem to get into and debate about getting the fishery started, I think the conversations need to start happening right now so that we can get talks under way about opening the 2011 fishery.

Of course, through the MOU process, I hope we can see some advances whereby we take a look at how this fishery in the Province is going to look in the future. There is no doubt about it; there are two ways that this can happen. We can allow evolution to take its course and suffer the pain of what happens in that evolutionary process or we can attempt to be a part of making changes within the industry and taking some lead in that. So, Mr. Speaker, I am looking very much forward to sitting down with the partners, the ASP and other representations of the processors, and equally probably with the FFAW and seeing what things we can work out, making this industry a better one in which to set us into the future and to maintain and strengthen that industry within rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, I know my time is up. I will conclude by saying that this government, and myself as a member from a rural part of the Province, feel very strongly that we have made major, major advances, ones that are going to prove very strategic. I think history will say and state that this government was one that set a course for the future of Newfoundland and Labrador that history books will speak very kindly of.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS BURKE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

With that, Mr. Speaker, we will adjourn debate on the main motion for this afternoon and I will return to the Order Paper.

Mr. Speaker, we will call Order 4, second reading of Bill 7.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I believe that is Order 8, I say to the Government House Leader. Bill 7, is that correct?

MS BURKE: It would be Bill 4, Order 7.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. F. COLLINS: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by my colleague, the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board, that Bill 4, An Act To Amend The Provincial Court Act, 1991, be now read a second time.

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that Bill 4, entitled, An Act To Amend The Provincial Court Act, 1991, be now read a second time.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Provincial Court Act, 1991". (Bill 4)

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased today to introduce Bill 4, An Act To Amend The Provincial Court Act, 1991. Mr. Speaker, while this is a very technical and minor amendment, I feel it would be prudent for me to give some backdrop as to where that amendment fits in terms of the whole Provincial Court Act. I realize, Mr. Speaker, that not everybody out there might be aware of the significance of the Provincial Court Act, or the difference between Provincial Courts and Supreme Courts, and how they are all governed, and the jurisdictions of both, so I want to take a few minutes, if I may, to discuss the Provincial Court Act before we get into the amendment.

Mr. Speaker, the Provincial Court Act governs the role and powers and jurisdiction of the Provincial Court in this Province, as well as the judges of the Provincial Court. The judges are appointed by the Provincial Court, paid by the Provincial Court; all the administration of the Provincial Court is borne by the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, as opposed, Mr. Speaker, to the Supreme Court, Trial Division and Appeal Division, as well as what is now the Unified Family Court, soon to become the Family Division. Under the Constitution Act, judges in these courts fall under section 96 of the Constitution Act. The judges are all appointed by the federal government, and their salaries are paid by the federal government. The administration of the courts, however, the cost of administration, is borne by the provincial government. So the Supreme Court judges, sometimes called section 96 judges, sometimes call superior court judges, come under the auspices of the federal government whereas the Provincial Courts come under the Provincial Court Act and provincial jurisdiction.

That is why, Mr. Speaker, for example, Supreme Court judges, whether it be Trial Division, Family Division or Appeal Court, the numbers and allocations of those judges are under the jurisdiction of the Federal Government of Canada, and if we need extra judges for any of our courts at that level, then we have to rely on the good graces of the Federal Government of Canada to provide extra judges. For example, at the moment we are expanding our Family Division to the Western Region of the Province and there is a judge appointed to that division. We need to expand that division further, Mr. Speaker, but the problem being the shortage of judges. We need at least three more federal judges to provide for the expansion of that division, but we are dependent upon the federal government, Mr. Speaker, to appoint and give us those judges.

The Federal Court Act deals with, as I mentioned, the responsibility and jurisdiction of the Provincial Courts. It deals with such things as the appointment of judges, and lays out the offices of the different judges: chief judge, associate chief judge, and so on. It also refers to provincial districts, Provincial Court jurisdiction districts, and deals with transfers of judges and so on. It also deals with a judicial council which, of course – one of the functions of a judicial council is to appoint judges, hear complaints and so on. It deals with a Complaints Review Committee, and the powers of these committees, and how they are set it up. It also has a section, Part III, which deals with the administration of the courts and the hiring of clerks and Director of Court Services, and it deals with the tribunal, which we will be speaking to today in this amendment. So the Provincial Court Act, Mr. Speaker, is an act that governs the jurisdiction of Provincial Courts of which Newfoundland and Labrador has jurisdiction.

Mr. Speaker, I would also like to bring reference to the fact that just last week, along with my colleague the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board, we attended the opening of the new Law Courts in Corner Brook. Mr. Speaker, that was a very exciting and interesting occasion because the new Law Courts in Corner Brook certainly can be classed as the jewel of the crown in terms of our court facilities in this Province. It is a beautiful, awesome building designed with so many things in mind; especially with security, for example, there is no interaction whatsoever between the accused and the public. Judges have all the security attached; they can approach their courtrooms without going out in public. It has the latest in electronic videoing technology. It has a law library, two court registries – one for the Provincial Court and one for the Supreme Court. It has a security station for the sheriff's officers; and the third floor, Mr. Speaker, deals with the Family Division and it is specially designed.

Anybody who has any experience in family law would do well to visit the third floor of the Law Courts in Corner Brook because the court there bears little resemblance to an ordinary court. It reduces the adversarial nature of these kinds of activities. It keeps these parties apart from the ordinary public courts because of the privacy and the trauma of the discussions at that level. These people often carry on discussions in the Family Division in difficult circumstances, and it is now separated, on a separate floor, apart from the other court facilities.

We mentioned we are expanding the Family Division to the Western Region as soon as the Court Act will be proclaimed, and that will be in the coming weeks. All matters, then, Mr. Speaker, in the Western Region - dealing with family law, family matters – will be heard in one court: the Corner Brook Family Division. They are currently being heard by some of the Provincial Courts, who hear some family matters; they are giving their jurisdiction over to the Family Division. There will also be circuits, Mr. Speaker, to the various courts in Stephenville and Port aux Basques and St. Anthony to deal with family matters. This will be in addition to the current circuits.

As well, Mr. Speaker, I would like to point out that this year in the Budget we have invested significantly in security in our courts. Now, I just mentioned Corner Brook because Corner Brook is a unique court to itself; it is designed with security in mind. Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, that is not the case in most of our court facilities.

Our largest and busiest court is the court at Atlantic Place. That was never designed as a courthouse, as everybody knows. It has presented some challenges to the people who work there, to our own staff and the public. Because of the nature of crime changing, and the nature of criminals changing, the possibilities for dangers within these courts and that particular court are increasing every day. We have had a few incidents last fall where certain matters came up and it caused some tremendous matters of concern to the people who use that court.

As a result of that, Mr. Speaker, this government has responded. This year we are investing over $300,000 to hire three new deputy sheriffs to work in that court. We are also going to install perimeter screening mechanisms at both entrances to the court. Nobody will be allowed in and out of the court, Mr. Speaker, unless they go through that screening process. That will be a tremendous addition to the security provisions in that court, and is being met with very positive results.

Mr. Speaker, I mention these things as a backdrop to this amendment today. The amendment to Bill 4, An Act To Amend The Provincial Court Act, 1991, the amendment, Mr. Speaker, would provide very simply that the next report of the Salary and Benefits Tribunal, which was set up under section 28 of the Act, that the next report of that tribunal be given no later than September 30, 2010. Currently, under section 28, the Provincial Court Act requires the report to have been presented no later than April 1, 2010.

The reason for that, Mr. Speaker, is that these tribunals are set up on a four-year basis, four years from the date of the last report. The act states, "The Lieutenant-Governor in Council shall appoint a tribunal consisting of 3 persons to prepare periodically a report containing recommendations on the salaries and benefits of judges and the chief judge." "…the tribunal shall review…salaries and benefits of judges and shall present its recommendations together with reasons to the minister not later than 4 years from the date of the last tribunal report."

Mr. Speaker, the next report then, in that sequence, under that section "…after April 30, 2007 shall be presented to the minister not later than April 1, 2010." Mr. Speaker, we have to change that because we could not get the report in on April 1, 2010 and that is what this amendment is all about.

Let me speak about the tribunal for minute. Section 28 of the Provincial Court Act sets up the tribunal and it requires the Lieutenant-Governor in Council to appoint a tribunal consisting of three persons every four years to review the report on salaries and benefits of the Provincial Court judges, and present its recommendations together with reasons to the Minister of Justice. Now, keep in mind we are talking only about Provincial Court justices; it has nothing to do with Supreme Court justices. It does not fall under our jurisdiction. The purpose of that tribunal - we will get into it later - it takes the negotiations out of the hands of government, direct negotiations between government and the judiciary in the interest of judicial independence, which we will talk about in a few minutes.

One of the members of that tribunal is nominated by the chief judge and the other judges of the court. One of the members shall be a nominee of the government. The third member, the chairperson, is appointed by the Lieutenant-Governor in Council after consultation with the judges, the chief judge. This process of setting up this independent committee is designed to ensure the independence of judges in the judicial system.

This amendment and this act, this section of the act, Mr. Speaker, is all about judicial independence, judicial autonomy and keeping the jurisdiction of the judiciary and the executive apart. The independence of the judiciary from the executive and the legislative branches, Mr. Speaker, is the cornerstone of our system, and by extensions, the cornerstone of democracy itself.

The Supreme Court of Canada, in a reference called a remuneration of judges of Provincial Court of Prince Edward Island in 1997. The Supreme Court, in that reference, stated that judicial independence protects citizens against the abuse of state power, hence the need to keep both divisions apart. It protects citizens against the abuse of state power. Now it is also an integral component of federalism, protecting one level of government from encroachment into the jurisdiction by another.

In the P.E.I. reference, Mr. Speaker, the Supreme Court of Canada confirmed that judicial independence is comprised of three essential aspects. Judicial independence has to have security of tenure, is the first component; judges have to have financial security, the second component; and thirdly it has to have administrative independence.

Mr. Speaker, security of tenure and financial security has two dimensions. Now these dimensions, they protect the individual judges and they protect the courts as an institution. The institutional dimension is significant and important because this institutional dimension underscores the position of the courts as guardians of the constitution. It protects the courts as guardians of the rule of law and guardians of equality in the democratic process. This institutional dimension reflects a deep commitment in Canadian society to the separation of powers between the judiciary and the executive and the Legislature.

Mr. Speaker, judicial independence is enhanced when the judges are seen to be deciding their cases free of economic influences and free of political influences. That is what judicial independence is all about. So, the financial security therefore demands that this whole process of determining compensation for judges had to be free of politics, has to be depoliticized. It has to be fair and it has to be transparent. So what that means, Mr. Speaker, to take it out of the negotiations between government and judiciary, this means there has to be an independent body set up to determine what is appropriate in terms of salary and benefits for judges. In this Province, that body is known as the Provincial Court Judges' Salary and Benefits Tribunal established under twenty-eight of the Provincial Court Act.

Mr. Speaker, the last tribunal was chaired by former Justice Steele and he reported to the former Minister of Justice in April of 2006. Its report was considered by this House and was implemented, as directed by the House, on November 29, 2006. The report of the tribunal always comes back to this House. It is this House that determines and considers the report of the tribunal. The last one was reported in April 2006, and in November's sitting of the House, 2006, the report was considered by the House.

Now, Mr. Speaker, there has been a new tribunal. The current tribunal was appointed in December 2009, and it is comprised of Lewis Andrews, Q.C., who is a member of the private Bar, he is the chairperson; Mr. John Clarke, another member of the private Bar, as the judges' representative on the tribunal; and David Norris is an MBA, the former Deputy Minister of Finance for the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, he is the government's representative on the tribunal. So the new tribunal consists of David Norris, John Clarke, with Lewis Andrews as the chairperson. This tribunal now, Mr. Speaker, has been asked to make recommendations for a four-year period from 2008-2009, 2012-2013.

Now, Mr. Speaker, ordinarily, and as according to the act, the report is due, according to the act, not later than April 1, 2010. As a result of the (inaudible) time requested by both parties to prepare submission by the tribunal, and to allow time for the tribunal to adjudicate and prepare the report, it was necessary to extend the current reporting date from April 1 to September 30. That new date of September 30 will provide sufficient time for the tribunal to consider all the issues before it and also permits a tabling of the report for consideration by this House before the fall session. So there is no prejudice to any party because that report has to come back to this House anyway, and of course, the House will not be sitting again until the fall, so there is no prejudice to any party because of that.

So, Mr. Speaker, the purpose of this amendment then, is to change the legislation to extend the current reporting date from April 1, 2010 to September 30, 2010.

Mr. Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to propose that amendment, and I ask the support of all the members of the House in passing this bill.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

I appreciate an opportunity to have a few words with respect to this piece of legislation, Bill 4.

It is pretty straightforward. The minister has given a great explanation of why we do such a thing. The tribunal that decides issues of remuneration and compensation to Provincial Court judges has been around for quite some time.

There are a few pieces of the history that the minister left out, but I guess for the sake of fairness and completeness we need to know some of the history about it. We did not always in this Province – we were not always thought of by the Provincial Court judges as being fair. The reason of course we had it, as the minister says, there are three basic pieces to our democratic system. One is the Legislature, which we are sitting in here. The Legislature makes all the laws of the land. The second piece, of course, is the executive. That is the actual government, consisting of the Premier, his Cabinet. That is the Executive Branch. The third branch of our democratic system is the judiciary. The rule we have always developed through our democracy is that you cannot have a situation if you expect judges, who are supposed to be fair and totally impartial – you cannot have a situation where those judges are subject to being tampered with, influenced by or ordered to do things by either one of the other two branches. So that is how it came about.

We always had a situation in this Province, right up to the 1980s, whereby the negotiations took place between our judges and the government. So you always had this perception out there of, well, government always held the money whip and if we do not agree – if you Provincial Court judges do not agree with us on some rulings in your courtrooms, we are not going to be very nice to you when we come to the bargaining table. We had to get rid of that perception; that could not exist if we were going to have a truly independent judiciary.

The question was: How do you pay them? How do you determine what their compensation is as judges? How do you determine what their pension scheme is going to be? These are all legitimate issues. So we decided to adopt what a lot of other jurisdictions did in Canada and that is the tribunal process whereby we said: Government, get your nose out of it. The judges' association would appoint a representative, which in this case – the minister just said that this time around it is going to be Mr. John Clarke. John Clarke is a well-known lawyer in the Province. He does a lot of mediations and so on here in the capital city. He has been appointed to represent the judges. Then of course government has to appoint someone, and they have appointed Mr. David Norris. Between the two of them, they select a chair. They have chosen in this case Lewis Andrews, QC, a well-known, well respected, very competent member of the Law Society of Newfoundland and Labrador. They will sit down and come up with that report.

Back in the early 1990s, we had a government in the Province headed up by Premier Wells. It was not always a smooth road between the judges and their tribunals and trying to get the government to accept the reports. In fact, we had a lot of major issues. In fact, court cases. I think the first tribunal ever accepted in this Province, without question, without change and without challenge to the tribunal report was 2001 or 2002. I happened to be the Minister of Justice at the time, when that was the first tribunal report we ever brought back that was not contested.

From the early 1990s, everyone recalls the days of when Mr. Wells started, we had rollbacks in the public sector wages, freezes and everything else. Included amongst all of that, because of the financial circumstances that the Province was in the government of the day argued: We cannot and should not be bound by what a tribunal says, because what if we cannot afford to pay it? That was the rationale that the government used. They said: thank you very much; we know what it is all about. We know why you want to be independent and why you should be independent but we cannot just subject ourselves to take any report that says anything without question because we might not, as a Province, be in a position to pay for it. That was contested. It was up and down, appeals galore for the next ten or twelve years until finally in 2002 we got to the point where we said: Look, enough of these court battles. You have to accept it; it is the right thing to do. So we finally did accept then the first tribunal without question.

I do believe the lady who is the Law Clerk of the House of Assembly today, who is seated here today, played a major role in that process in terms of the pension piece because there were a lot of details when it first came out, because all we did for ten years was contest what it should be and should we accept it. Therefore, we never, ever got into the nitty-gritty detail of: How do we implement it? When it finally was accepted of course, it took some time because you had a very complicated process. You had judges, for example, who were under the old pension system of government. You had some judges, for example, who had been in other occupations. For example, teachers or social workers who had built up pensions and so on. How do we integrate all of that? The first early going, 2002, 2003 was a pretty complicated time, and finally we did get it worked out. So now when these tribunals come back you do not have to go through reinventing the wheel all the time because you have the templates in place and now it is a basic matter of compensation.

That is some of the history. As I say, fortunately for the last ten years we have not had a lot of dispute about it. The report gets done; they come back, they bring it into the House and a few comments on it. Nobody is contesting them, you pretty well take it carte blanche and it gets done. That is usually the system.

Now, there have been lots of issues of course when you talk about independence of the judiciary. Sometimes we end up with problems or rackets that we cause ourselves, because you can do all you want in terms of financial independence, which is one of the cornerstones of judicial independence, but when you get people in the Executive Branch still making statements, challenging the judiciary, it causes problems because it shows disrespect.

We have had lots of examples in this House, for example. I mean, the Premier as recently as last week, the week before, talking about Judge Gascon in Quebec. Regardless of whether you are a judge in our Province or a judge in some other province, there is a minimum - particular for members of the Bar, lawyers, there is a particular minimum standard that one should exhibit towards our judiciary. You may disagree with them, you may disagree with them vehemently, but there is a process to go through if you disagree with a judge. It is called appeals.

When we have members of the Executive Branch, in this case the Premier standing up and saying whatever his name was, Judge Garson or the Great Gatsby I think were the words he used, that shows disrespect to the judiciary. There is no need of that because if we are going to truly let them have their independence we should not be commenting on them, particularly like poking fun of someone's name, regardless of where you live.

We have had in our Province here members of the Supreme Court, where the Premier has taken a shot at them. You wonder sometimes, what is the purpose of it? I refer, of course, to the case of Mr. Ruelokke who is the Chair of our C-NLOPB. He is the Chair of the C-NLOPB. The Premier had his hand-picked person that he wanted to be the Chair, Mr. Andy Wells the former Mayor of the City of St. John's. Of course, some other people had different ideas. They did not think that the Premier should get to hand-pick who the Chair was going to be. So of course they had a racket. The Premier wanted his own way, determined to get his own way. Anyway, it ended up going to court. Mr. Ruelokke took it to court. He said: that is supposed to be a fair, independent, equitable place to take your arguments. So they ended up going off to the Supreme Court down here.

Lo and behold, the judge in the case decided that Mr. Ruelokke was correct; he should have the job. A committee had picked him and there was no reason why he should not be the Chair. What was the Premier's reaction? Instead of accepting the findings of the committee that had recommended Mr. Ruelokke for the position, instead of accepting the judge's decision, and without even appealing it, our Premier says: I don't know what side of the bed that judge got up on this morning.

Now, that is a fine, respectful comment to one of our justices, just because you disagree with him and you did not get your own way: I don't know what side of the bed he got up on this morning.

Some people think that is pretty disrespectful - all because you did not get your own way. So, there are all kinds of ways to show judicial independence and to show your respect for the judiciary. Just taking potshots at people because you do not like them, and they disagree with you, is not always seen by everyone as being the best approach, particularly when you are in positions of responsibility.

Anyway, that is part of the history of our relationship, as government, with some of our judicial members here. I am sure we all have disagreements with them. We see cases, for example, that go through our courts and lots of times, because of where you live or your involvement in the case, you may be totally opposed to what that judge did.

We had the case back in Central Newfoundland where a Provincial Court judge disregarded what the prosecutor and what the defence counsel had recommended in the case of an individual who was charged with sexual assault. Anybody in the Province has seen that; it dominated the news for six or seven months. It finally went to appeal and our Court of Appeal overruled it and said it was not proper. That is the right thing. That is what you do. You have an appeal, you have a concern, you appeal it and you get a decision.

We also have people, for example, who totally disagree with house arrest. They say it is a waste of time. It is just as well if you never, ever laid a charge in the first place, if you are going to get somebody to have house arrest. What does it accomplish, other than keeping somebody from going to jail and you do not have to feed them or counsel them? What is the point?

That is where we all have an opportunity to voice our opinions. Regardless of the fact that we might disagree with the policies in place and the laws in place, it does not give us a right to personally attack the individual who is entrusted with enforcing those and adjudicating upon those rules. There are other forums to do that. It is not up to the judges in the Provincial Court to change the laws. The laws get changed - if it is a provincial law - right here. If it is a federal law, it gets changed in the House of Commons.

Sometimes, of course, we get frustrated and we lose respect for the individual or the institution when we should not. We should go back and take our complaint to the place that should change it, not to the person who is given a set of rules and says, there they are - and they have discretion to impose them. If we do not want them to have that discretion, take it away from them; change the law. That is the bottom line.

The P.E.I. reference case was, of course, the main case that dealt with tribunals, making sure that the economics, the fiscal piece of judges, was kept absolutely free from any political influences. Really, who in our society today would want a system that was any different? Would any citizen in this Province want to risk or face the possibility that a judge before whom he or she goes might be subject to make a decision one way or the other simply because they had a boss?

If I ever end up in a courtroom, I would like to think that the person who is going to decide my fate is going to be subject to the facts, making a decision based upon the facts and the law, and not because there might be some untoward pressures brought to bear from outside. He should be absolutely free from any influences, and certainly free from any political influences; because, God knows, we have lots of concerns that are raised about political influences in this Province as we speak today.

I mean, we have a situation, for example - and I do not know; I doubt if it is any political influence, but you get questions raised - the Child Advocate. We have a case here where we have an Acting Child Advocate - it is irrelevant how much he makes, but he happens to be making $175 an hour – who makes a decision and then he does not have to speak about it. He does not have to talk to any advocacy groups about what he did; he does not have to explain anything to the media about why he did it.

Now, the minister gets up and talks in Question Period about – well, that is permissive; that is permissive legislation. In other words, what he is telling you is that the legislation as it currently stands does not require, does not mandate, that the Child and Youth Advocate must talk about it or explain his reasoning. It is true; he is right. He is absolutely right. It says: may. That is permissive. I forget the section number; I did read it recently - section 11 or section 15 talks about it – but that does not make it right. All that means is that we did not get the legislation right in the first place.

We are always here talking about why we have amendments. That is why we are here now; we are amending this piece of legislation because we needed to, to make it fit, to have some common sense to it. Yet the minister uses, as an excuse and a fallback: Well, it is permissive; he does not have to talk about it.

Because the law does not currently provide that he shall do it does not make it right. That does not make it right, when an individual can write a report and say: Here it is, and I am answerable to no one. I talk to no one, and I explain nothing to anyone.

That is exactly what we have here, and the people of this Province are simply saying – and I say the people because it is a quite a few people. On the one hand, you get here in the House and you ask a question and the members opposite are up on the government side shouting and bawling and saying: You are fear mongering. You are fear mongering. You do not have your facts right. Go do your homework. You hear that accusation fly across this floor every day.

So we get a report from the Child and Youth Advocate. The Leader of the Opposition calls up and says: By the way, I got your report. I have it read, and I have a number of questions. I am wondering if you could expound upon some of the things that you said, so that we do not misinterpret anything that you said. I am not talking to you; you are a politician.

Now, I do not know if that is – maybe that is a dirty word, but I would think that Mr. Rorke must know better than that. Why would he not want to explain? The Leader of the Opposition has a role other than politician, as he calls it, and put it in an e-mail. The Leader of the Opposition of this Province, and the Leader of the Third Party in this Province, as Opposition members, and us as Opposition MHAs, we do not only have a right to ask questions; we have an obligation to ask questions. Yet, this gentleman says no, thank you.

The minister will get up and say it is permissive; he justified every penny we paid to him. He is not answerable to anybody – the best decision we ever made. Well, I hear a lot of people out there who beg to differ. A lot of people beg to differ.

We hear today, in Question Period, we get questions from advocacy groups who say: I have been months and months trying to get a meeting with that man, and, Mr. Speaker, no luck. So do we sit back as a government – does the minister sit back - and say: Well, that is all fine and dandy. Thank you very much. You did your job.

He may well have cleaned up a mess that was in the office left by the former Advocate, as the minister says. Even if that is totally, absolutely, true it does not remove the obligation of Mr. Rorke to be forthcoming enough, to be open enough, and to be commonsensical enough to explain what he said in his report to the public in this Province.

I submit that even though the legislation does not say it, it is an abrogation of his responsibilities to refuse to do so – an absolute abrogation of his responsibility.

If that is the case, are we going to allow every person in this Province, whoever does a report for government, to say: Thank you very much. We got your papers; we got your writing. We don't understand a thing you said in it, and we are never going to get to question you about it.

Now, what is the purpose? If we do not have somebody come back and explain what they are doing and why they are doing it, it makes for a pretty tough system.

I will give you an example of somebody who was just the opposite of that - just the opposite of that. That is Justice Robert Wells who is doing the Cougar Inquiry. You did not see him ducking it. You did not see him saying: I do not want to talk to the public. That gentleman gets in the middle of an inquiry, and he saw right away that some things needed to be changed. He did not want to wait until he got his final report done up at the end of the summer or early fall. He saw something that needed to be done right away, and he did it.

Now, what is the difference, in terms of explaining to the public, when here is a justice doing an inquiry about public safety issues and he takes it upon himself, before he is even finished his report, to say this needs to be done now. Guess what folks? He did not just do it, and he just did not do it when he felt it was appropriate and necessary. I remember seeing him on TV. I remember reading articles in a newspaper where he explained what he was doing. Now that is pretty open. That is pretty common sense. Yet, you compare that type of individual who does an inquiry, which is certainly equally important to anything that the Child and Youth Advocate is doing, and yet the Child and Youth Advocate can say: Thank you very much, there is your report. Do what you wish with it, but I talk to no one. That is not good enough, I submit. That is not good enough. With all due respect to the gentleman, if that is the way he is going to conduct himself, government has to look very seriously whether he is the individual we want as the continuing acting Child and Youth Advocate – not appropriate, not appropriate at all.

When you have interest groups in this Province, when you have the parents in this Province who are impacted by it, and he answers to no one. I do not think that is the society we live in today. We never did create the Child and Youth Advocate legislation in this Province to be interpreted and dealt with in this manner. It was assumed that it was needed; we needed a voice for the children and the youth of this Province. We did not need somebody who was going to go in there, write a report and answer to no one. That is not it was all about from the beginning, and if the legislation does not order him to do it now, he should be ordered to do it. Anybody who takes on the position in future should understand that they have a responsibility to do that as part of the job. I do not know of anyone else in this Province, public industry or private industry, who does not take it as part of their job is explaining what they are doing.

Even the Chair of Fortis, for example, Mr. Marshall he is not answerable to - he is answerable to his shareholders and his board but if something comes up in private industry they are the first out there at the (inaudible). Oh yes, this is what happened. This is what we did and this is why we did it. That is part of communicating to the people you deal with what you are doing and why you are doing it. To be silent and to refuse to talk leaves more unanswered questions because then the first obvious question is: Well, why won't you talk to us? Are you hiding something? Is there something you did not put in the report? That is human nature. If I ask you something and you say: I cannot tell you. I do not want to tell you and I am not going to talk to you. My first instinct as a human being is to say: Well, why won't you? Are you hiding something? We will never get the answer out of this Child and Youth Advocate.

I am shocked to see that our minister agrees with that. Here is a government that professes to be open, accountable and transparent - and we have seen that preached from 2003. I do not care which district a member of this House represents, you all bought into this openness, transparency and accountability and those are big words, boys, for Joe Chesterfield. All that means out there is you are going to tell the truth and you are going to be open about it and everybody is going to understand and see what you did and why you did it.

Now, if that is the mantra that you were elected on in 2003, don't you think it is one obvious thing that you keep that commitment? So you preach that in your Blue Books, you preach that during elections, you preach that every time you give Ministerial Statements; yet, you say to the Child and Youth Advocate: We agree with him. The best decision we ever made, we hired a man who does not have to talk to the public.

I think there is something missing in that logic. Maybe the members on the government side do not see anything wrong with that logic. We pledge to be open, but we do not think he has to be open. We pledge to be transparent, but we do not think he has to be transparent. We acknowledge that the law might be faulty because we cannot order him to do it. Then a logical question would be: When are you going to change the law so that you are going to order him to do it? Never hears the minister saying anything about that. All we hear are justifications as to why he should not have to talk. Now that is pretty good coming from a democratically based government who wants nothing but openness and transparency. There is an obvious contradiction there, folks, and a lot of people are asking about the contradiction out in the public.

The first three or four years that this Administration was in government, I do not believe I saw one editorial or one article in any publication or on any news source that questioned the openness and accountability of this government – I do not believe I saw one. I am telling you, as time goes on, you can see them virtually every day on some issue talking about openness and accountability – every single day.

I will give you another example which has been in the news recently and that is the detention centre in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. The same minister, by the way, who stands up for this no speak Child and Youth Advocate, was the minister who carries the file on the pre-detention centre in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. They plan it, they come out - the Minister of Labrador Affairs is out putting out press releases, cheering it on, we are going to do this, done, needed. In fact, they did it in reaction to an incident that took place in the cells up in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

There was a lady who, I understand, was being detained. They did not have a mental health room or anywhere that they could keep her, so they figured the safest thing to do was let's strip her clothes off and put her in a jail cell. They did that and they left her there. That incident, of course, came to the attention of a lot of people. They said: We have advanced beyond that; that is pretty inhumane when we do that with people, particularly if it is somebody who may have mental health issues. We are gone past that day when we strip their clothes off and put them in the hole because we are still talking pre-detention here. We are not talking about anybody who was convicted - not that anybody who was convicted should ever be submitted to that treatment because they should not.

Instead of that the child representative – now, you want a comparison about who talks and who does not talk, Mr. Speaker. In that particular case, the Citizens' Representative got a hold of the incident. I do not believe he even had an official complaint. I think he read it, took it upon himself because he said this is not right in our so-called humane, compassionate society. What did he do? He went and did a report; he found the facts. He put his report out. Did he sit back and say I am not going to explain this to anybody like the Child and Youth Advocate is doing? No, not on your life he did not. Mr. Fleming said: Folks, here is the report, and he went to every news media source that he could and explained it, and anybody who asked him he explained it. That is a pretty good contrast between two of our Officers of the House, the Citizens' Representative who did that in the case of the detention centre - and that was the recommendation, by the way, that he made. He concluded that we needed a detention centre in Happy Valley-Goose Bay so that we would never, ever have a reoccurrence of that type of incident. That is pretty open. He did the report. He published the report. He gave it to government, of course, put it on-line, and he spoke to anybody in the media who wanted to know his rationale for that recommendation, anybody.

By the way, the government applauded his report and said, thank you very much, Mr. Representative. We are going to follow through on that recommendation. Sure enough, the government put money in their Budget to go do a pre-detention centre for women and youth in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. Two years ago - I believe I first saw it in the Budget of 2007-2008, I think it was, the first time.

The Minister of Labrador Affairs, who also happens to be the MHA for the Melville District wherein Happy Valley-Goose Bay falls, was out stomping on the drum. Stomping the drum, I have something else for my district. The Status of Women up there were patting him on the back. We need this. You are some minister, you are some member. We got something else for Happy Valley-Goose Bay. Yes, sir, we could not keep up with the press releases that were coming out of the government about it. Lo and behold, we are in Estimates Committee this year, two years after, and the Leader of the NDP spotted it first and said: What is this about here, the $2 million that is scrapped? What is this all about?

Anyway, I probed it a bit further when it got to be my turn in Estimates. I was not satisfied with the answers they gave, because he had said: Well, we just put it on hold. I did not think that was good enough. So I said, when I had my opportunity my question was: Well, why did you put it on hold, minister? Well, we decided when we went out and we spent a few hundred thousand dollars and then we figured out that we could not get it done for what we thought we were going to get it done for, so we scrapped it. He did not say scrapped it. He said: What we are doing now is we are going to look at the whole system and we are going to decide what we need. Do we need a pre-detention centre? Do we need a new Penitentiary? Do we need to make some improvements to the women's prison out in Clarenville? What are we going to do out in Stephenville? We are going to do a whole package now.

Guess what? The unfortunate part was he never told anybody that it was "suspended", "cancelled", "put on hold until we do a full comprehensive study." That got overlooked. We never even saw a late Friday afternoon release with that shoved in the middle somewhere like we normally see. We never saw anything on that. The minister –

MR. F. COLLINS: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER (Kelly): The hon. the Minister of Justice, on a point of order.

MR. F. COLLINS: Mr. Speaker, the hon. member likes to ramble on about every topic under the sun and nothing relevant to the tribunal. I am just questioning the whole issue of relevancy here. He has gone onto two topics now, the pre-trial detention centre and – I know he has an hour to speak and he has to fill up his hour but it is just getting a bit ridiculous.

MR. SPEAKER: I remind the hon. member to keep his comments relevant to the bill under debate in the House at this time.

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

I am glad to see that you had to come to the defence of the minister because it is pretty obvious that when you start getting into the real facts and the real meat of these issues, the government members do not want to hear about it. They resort to the Chair then and they use this rule called relevance, because the minister does not want to stand up – never has stood up and given adequate answers to those types of issues. He has never given them. He has been asked but never gave them.

It is relevant, Mr. Speaker, I submit. It is relevant because detention centres and Provincial Court judges do have a very close link. There is a very close link. We are talking about the judges here and the independence of the judges. We talk about financial independence; we talk about the independence to do their jobs, the overall piece without interference. It is judges, of course, particularly Provincial Court judges in Happy Valley-Goose Bay who put people in detention centres. Absolutely! That is not done by the sheriff; it is not done by the prosecutor. That is done by Provincial Court judges. They have a big concern.

I have spoken to judges in this Province who have concerns about what happens to someone when they order them detained. I have had concerns, not only when they put them in a detention centre but when they, for example, submit someone for a thirty-day examination in the Waterford Hospital. Judges just do not do that. I have more faith in our judges in this Province. They do not just make these orders and the minute they make the order they do not care where the individual went. These judges have concerns about: What happens to that person when they leave my courtroom? Not only do they have concerns about where they went, they want to know and see the reports of what happened to them when they were there. How long were they there? Who saw them when they were there? What kind of counselling did they get when they were there? That is all part of our system.

Now, maybe the minister does not want to talk about that, but we cannot look at our justice system in little pigeonhole pieces. It all fits together, and this is one piece of it. These judges that we are talking about here today who we want to be truly independent, they play a large role in our detention centres. They do not serve the meals, they do not provide the security for these people in there but they are the individuals who put them there and they are the individuals who want to know what happened to them while they were in there. That is why this is relevant.

If the Minister of Justice of this Province does not think it is relevant to talk about that, I think we have another problem, I submit, Mr. Speaker. If we are going to try to skiver and segregate and differentiate between how Provincial Court judges fit into this and suggest: Don't talk about that; don't talk about the detention centre that we cancelled up there because that is not relevant? Tell Joe Chesterfield who I talk to every time I get up that it is not relevant; tell Joe Chesterfield. Yes, my friend Joe knows what is relevant. He makes his own determination, I say, Mr. Speaker, as to what is relevant.

If the Minister of Justice wants to get up here and try to duck talking about this issue on the grounds that it is irrelevant; now what a cop out. What an absolute cop out. He does not want to talk about the Child and Youth Advocate: we are not telling him what to do. We are just going to pay him from August of last year up to now, $213,000, but we do not care if he has to go out and explain to anybody, that is his choice. Lots of people in the Province are wondering what – was that included in the price, that he should explain himself? A lot of people out there are telling me it is; very relevant.

Anyway, Mr. Speaker, we will continue on about why we have come as far as we have when it comes to judicial independence. The old days of the first fishing master who came into the narrows has to be the magistrate back in those days hundreds of years ago. We are long past that where you just happened to be the skipper who got the most favourable winds. You got here first in the spring and you end up being top dog of the magistrate. They did not have any law degrees back then. You just happened to be the first skipper that came through the narrows and you were proclaimed to be the magistrate. Nobody questioned your educational standing, nobody questioned your politics, nobody questioned your loyalty and I do not even know if they were paid. Anyway, that is how we ran the system years ago here. Obviously, as time went on and we became more cultured we realized that is not a very fair system. Maybe the fellow who comes before that magistrate, maybe he might get a raw deal. If he was out putting his lobster traps in the magistrate's backyard yesterday, maybe he is not going to get the same deal. So we had to get rid of that.

In our Province, we were really behind the times for a long time because we did not have – they were called magistrates. We have only had Provincial Court judges for a couple of decades. Before that, they were always called magistrates. Of course, you did not have to have a legal background. I know an individual, I know him very well, for example, retired Judge Gordon Seabright. He happened to be a school teacher. There are all kinds of them. Lloyd Wicks, I do believe, was a social worker. We had a case where David Peddle, who is now Justice Peddle of the Supreme Court, sitting in Corner Brook, the new courthouse just opened last week. He is a Supreme Court justice. He started off as a magistrate back in the 1970s - him and a guy by the name of Don Luther. Both of them were young graduates with social work degrees, and they got appointed to the bench as a magistrate. They were appointed magistrates. They did not have law degrees. Justice Peddle certainly never had his law degree.

So what happened was the minister of the day, the Minister of Justice, Alex Hickman was the Minister of Justice, and he said: This is not right. We need a professional setup here. We do not need people you pick off the street and make magistrates. Why don't we have people who are qualified as Provincial Court judges like anywhere else in the country - law degrees and so on? Sometimes you are usually respected members of the Bar, Law Society, you practise and you have some experience in it.

So anyway, Minister Hickman, at that time, he created a program whereby we bought a certain number of seats in Dalhousie Law School. I think it was six seats every year that we had the dibs on. What he did was he said to all the magistrates: Look, we are going to get professionalized here. So what we are going to do is we are going to pay you to go to school – go to law school and get your law degree. Now I do think a vast majority of the sitting magistrates went. Those who did not have law degrees did go and avail of the program. There were a couple who did not go, did not want to go, maybe because of their age they did not think they were capable to do it. Anyway, we grandfathered those. There were a few who were grandfathered. There were a couple who went and did not make it, they failed. Now we did not kick them off the bench. Again, they were grandfathered because they tried their best, but there were a couple who failed, as I understand it.

Anyway, we ended up eventually with all of the magistrates having law degrees. Now some of them went on to be members of the Law Society. I do not think it is an automatic. Some chose not only to have a law degree and to continue sitting on the bench, they also said: I want to write the Bar exam and to become a certified lawyer as per the requirements of the Law Society of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Judge Seabright, for example, the current Minister of Finance, the Member for Humber East, and myself used to work in the same law firm back then. This judge, Judge Seabright, who was a provincial court judge actually articled with the law firm that we were with at the same time that I articled there. I was articled to Mr. Wells – Clyde Wells - at the time and I do believe that Judge Seabright articled with Mr. Monaghan who was the senior partner of the firm as well. Anyway, he went that step further. He did not just get his law degree; he went and became a member of the Law Society of Newfoundland and Labrador. He finished out his career on the bench. He finished it while he was in here in Mount Pearl. I think Judge Seabright probably ended up living in just about every community in Newfoundland and Labrador. When he retired, he was in here in Mount Pearl - still here. The former Mayor of Mount Pearl, the Member now for Mount Pearl South –

MR. KENT: North.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: North, excuse me.

He has him as a constituent, I do believe.

MR. KENT: Yes, I do - and he voted for me too.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Now, he does not tell me he votes for the hon. member. He does not tell me that, but anyway he is in the district of the Member for Mount Pearl North.

Anyway, he went on after he retired and to this day he still practices. I believe he is certainly in his late seventies. I would not want to be dating him here, but he is certainly in his late seventies and he still practices.

Back to the legislation we have here, and – oh, I must say, when we talk about the independence of the judiciary which this is all about, I have to bring up the point about the muzzling because the whole point was you cannot muzzle a Provincial Court judge – muzzle them in any way. You cannot influence them and you cannot muzzle them. Now, when I uttered that word muzzle here in the House last week, and when the Leader of the Opposition used the word muzzled, there was a to-do – a big problem. The Government House Leader jumped up on a point of order and said: You cannot be using that word muzzled. You cannot use that word muzzle in here; it is disrespectful. You should not be doing that.

Anyway, I was shocked – I was absolutely shocked to hear that we could not use the word muzzled in the people's House. I could not believe there was something wrong with that. Anyway, I was so taken aback with it; we made our submissions at the time and said: Look, there is no point of order, there is no disrespect here. There is no parliamentary body in the Western World that has ever ruled that muzzled was unparliamentary or disrespectful - none. Sure enough, Mr. Speaker, the Chair ruled that absolutely.

I was so taken aback that I said I have to go and do some research on this, just out of curiosity, because sometimes these little things intrigue me that I have to go check them out. I thought it was so commonsensical that I would not have to, but I said I do not understand where the Government House Leader was coming from. So I went and checked the dictionary, and I looked in the Compact Oxford English Dictionary. I have it right here if anybody would like to have a copy of it. I looked up the word muzzle. What does it mean to muzzle somebody? Well, obviously there are some different connotations. There are all kinds of things. A guard fitted over an animal's muzzle to stop it from biting or feeding – but that did not apply. I do not think that is what the member thought we were saying. We were not calling the government members animals or anything.

Anyway, it says: Prevent someone expressing their opinions freely. Now that is the definition of muzzle, Mr. Speaker. Can you believe that a Government House Leader rose on a point of order and said that to use the word muzzle was problematic and it means to prevent someone from expressing their opinions freely?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I remind the hon. Member for the second time to keep his comments relevant to Bill 4, please.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Yes, Mr. Speaker.

Again, Mr. Speaker, I come back to pointing out why it is relevant because –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, I am sure this Chair is not subject to intimidation from anyone, Mr. Speaker. Least of all, this individual, but I think I am certainly entitled to raise why it is relevant. I point out the relevance, I like taking the opportunity. I like taking the opportunity when someone says something is irrelevant, I like to take the opportunity to prove why it is relevant because lots of times we can muzzle people just by saying all the time it is irrelevant. Now that is another form of muzzling someone.

Now, that is another form, my point is proven, Mr. Speaker. It is an –

MR. SPEAKER: I would just like to remind the hon. Member that relevance regarding Bill 4, which is An Act To Amend The Provincial Court Act, 1991, is now under consideration - relevant to that, please.

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

I have another point I would like to make concerning – and it ties in with this again. Again, the minister, of course, when we get to conclusion of second reading or into the Committee stage, he certainly can explain to me then what he meant by these comments, and I will refer to what we are talking about.

One of the gentlemen he mentioned today - and by the way, make no doubt about it, I have no concerns whatsoever. The names of the three individuals who form the tribunal for this Provincial Court judges' tribunal, which we are here in this amendment saying we would like now to have until September 30 to report on. I have absolutely no problem with their integrity and the respect that is shown by them, not only by this member, but anyone who has ever met them. I want to make that point first because I do not want anybody suggesting that I am doing this for some dubious reasons, but I want to explain - the reason I have to explain this is one of the names that the minister referenced here, and this was the government appointee, David Norris. Now I just point that out because that is a fact. The minister said that here today, that government chooses somebody, they choose David Norris; lawyers choose somebody, they choose Mr. Clarke, between them they choose Mr. Lewis Andrews as the Chair.

Now when we were in Estimates - and I will show you the connection here. When we were in Estimates, and I just ask the minister if he could explain this at some point, because there was a study done in 2005 called the Provincial Court, Newfoundland and Labrador, and it says: Management, Organization and Operations. It is stamped confidential. Now anybody who wants a copy of it, I am prepared to table a copy of it. Anyway, we asked the minister about it in Estimates. We said: Minister, what about some of the comments that are made – and the reason I say Mr. Norris' name, of course, because he is the individual who did it. The same Mr. Norris, I would assume, David G. Norris who did this back in 2005, and he is now the government representative on the tribunal. Perfectly fine; perfectly legit; perfectly acceptable and understandable.

My question relates to - this report, again, was on the Provincial Courts. So it is all relevant. We are talking about the tribunal, independence of the judiciary, Mr. Norris is on the tribunal; Mr. Norris did this report in 2005. So I trust that relevancy has been established here. Now, my question was, when I asked the minister about this report in the Estimates Committee, because in the report they talked about wanting, it says - and I will read it, exactly, so there is no misunderstanding. It says, recommendation 1: It is recommended that management of the courts be restructured, strengthened and empowered to manage through an overall strategy that encompasses the administration of both the Provincial Court and the Supreme Court Trial Division. It is recommended that this be accomplished within a revised organizational structure which is addressed in the following section of this report. Then they go on in recommendation 2 and so on.

The gist of it was that when the money is turned over, because the minister already mentioned the fact in his comments that every cent that it takes to operate the Provincial Court comes from the provincial coffers. Any money that it takes for a courthouse, any money that it takes for the judges, any money that it takes for the staff who work in the courthouse, janitors, secretaries, whatever, that is all paid for by the people of this Province. That does not come from the federal government. It is not like legal aid where there is a sharing arrangement. That all comes from the Province.

What they had said here in this report was they recommended that if we are going to have total independence of the judiciary, how can we take the money to run the court system? It goes into the courts for operational purposes, we have a Chief Provincial Court Judge who was recently appointed, and at the same time – like, where is the independence? If you are still holding the purse strings when it comes to what the money is used for, or you can hold back money if you feel like it, isn't that also an encroachment upon the Provincial Court's independence, the independence of the judiciary? We know we have true independence now when it comes to their compensation, that is why we have these tribunals, but the issue was raised, what about the independence vis-à-vis what they spend their money on? Should the Deputy Minister of Justice or the Minister of Justice be saying: We have $10 million for you but this is how you are going to use it? You can put so much into this, you can do so much here and you can do so much there. How is that impacting the independence of the judiciary?

This report suggested that they should have more control over it. That was the ultimate goal. The minister did not have too many comments about that report. In fact, the report was rejected. I do not think the minister at the time I asked him, in fairness to him, I do not think he knew about the report. I do not think he knew about the existence of this report. Anyway, we put it too him. Again, if we are going to talk independence of the judiciary we would certainly appreciate the minister's comments as to why that recommendation was rejected. We are here with the tribunal, we are going to extend its reporting time, but yet, when it comes to these issues of how they spend their money for management, organization and court structures, we as a government still keep our fingers in the pie and tell them how to do it.

Now, if we are going to have true independence of our judiciary, why wouldn't we accept the recommendations of Mr. Norris in that report? Government trusts Mr. Norris enough to put him on the commission now, the tribunal as their representative, Mr. Speaker. Not a question that they have any problem with the writer of the report. Mr. Norris wrote this report, it is his recommendation.

Now, Mr. Norris makes a recommendation there, we never hear about it. It got buried in the bowels of the Justice Department. Somebody, of course, took it upon themselves, got it out, put it in a brown envelope and it found its way to the public. So we can accept Mr. Norris' report but not his recommendations. Yet, on the other hand we turn around and put him on the tribunal. I think that begs for some explanation. Why would we do a report from a man who we respect, he gives you the report, he tells you what you should do, he recommends it to you but you are not going to accept his recommendations? Now maybe it is a simple case of, maybe the Provincial Court went off and did that by themselves. Maybe they hired Mr. Norris. Maybe he was not hired by the Department of Justice. If that is the case, that would be nice to know, too; be nice to know. We just never could get at the details because the minister at the time, we asked him in Estimates, did not have the details. Like I say, I do not think he was aware of the report. In fairness to him now, that is an opportunity, we would like some of these explanations.

This gives us an opportunity when we talk about this independence stuff, you do not often get to do this. A lot of people out there are wondering, for example, how did he get his job, he or she, the judge? Who does he report to? Can we get somebody to straighten him or her out? They have to understand that, and this is the opportunity for members to stand up and explain that no, judges are supposed to be absolutely independent. We do not want a case here in our Province where they are so poorly paid for example, that they might be subject to bribes. God forbid! God forbid that we are paying them $10 an hour and here they are dealing with cases that are worth thousands and thousands, hundreds of thousands of dollars. We want competent people who are getting paid reasonably for their services. I believe the Canadian Bar Association, who made comments on it, thought there should be obviously some connection between if a person practised in the private industry, what would be a reasonable salary for a practitioner, something at least commensurate with that, if they went on the bench. We would not expect them to take a cut in pay.

Anyway, Mr. Speaker, my time has just about come to an end. I did not expect to take that much time, but as I say, there are certainly lots of issues out here, and albeit, the minister does not think some of my comments were relevant, I would waive the relevancy rule in the interests of having him explain some of the things that I did raise. If he wants to get up and talk about why the Child and Youth Advocate, for example, does not want to speak out, I will waive the relevancy rule, allow him that opportunity, because I am sure the people in the public would like to know. He might not think it is relevant, but they certainly do.

So I have much more to say, but at this point I understand my colleague from Labrador wants to have a few words as well, so I will reserve any other comments I have, Mr. Speaker –

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Oh, okay. I thought she said she wanted to have a few words, Mr. Speaker. In any case, I will reserve the other comments that I have until we get to the Committee stage.

Thank you.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker (inaudible).

Thank you, Mr. Speaker - the red light is on.

Mr. Speaker, it is certainly a pleasure for me to stand here this afternoon and to speak a few minutes on Bill 4. I was over at the Department of Justice today because I was interested in some of the legislation that was being put forward by the Minister of Justice, and I was actually talking to some of the officials about some of the – wanted to get some details about what exactly Bill 4 is.

Mr. Speaker, I have to say, I am very surprised that the Opposition House Leader was able to talk for close to an hour on Bill 4 because if you look at the legislation, simply, Bill 4 is really, from what I can see, a change in a date. What we have is An Act To Amend The Provincial Court Act, 1991, and it says, "Be it enacted by the Lieutenant-Governor and House of Assembly in Legislative Session convened, as follows…" "Subsection 28.2…of the Provincial Court Act, 1991 is repealed and the following substituted…" It says simply this, "…The next report required under subsection (1) after April 30, 2007 shall be presented to the minister not later than September 30, 2010." That is really the extent of the amendment.

What Bill 4 does is that it gives the tribunal that is looking into salaries and benefits for judges it gives them the opportunity now to submit their report at or before September 30, as opposed to April 1. So that is really what this piece of legislation does. I want to talk for a little while, hopefully with more relevance than the Opposition House Leader, Mr. Speaker. I want to talk about this bill and, I guess, I want to talk about the independence of the role of our judges. I am not a lawyer; I have no background in the legal system. The Minister of Justice and the Opposition House Leader maybe can talk and recall some experience in the legal system. I cannot do that, but I am interested in that procedure, Mr. Speaker.

Now, in terms of an extension to a date, basically, the tribunal was to submit their report about the salaries and benefits of judges by April 1 and they have asked for an extension to that date. That actually requires a change in the legislation in order to give that extension. We know that when committees meet or committees are struck, sometimes they are given a piece of work to do. They are asked to gather information, to seek input, and to compile a report. Usually when committees are asked to do that, they are given a period of time in which to bring back the report. In this case, for some reasons that I am not privy to, but there are a number of reasons, the tribunal could not have the report submitted by the deadline. Of course, in the interest of having a report that is full, in the interest of having a report that has all the facts, in the interest of having a report that has done a complete review, our government has said that we need to grant this deadline, extend this deadline, and we are doing it by changing this piece of legislation.

Mr. Speaker, one of the things that – I did a little research in preparing to speak on this bill today, and one of the obvious pieces that keeps coming up is the importance of the independence of the office of a judge. The independence of that office is of critical importance, Mr. Speaker. If our justices are to do their jobs, to do them right, they have to be assured and the public has to be assured that this office is completely independent, free of outside influence, free of bias.

I looked at just a little bit of, I guess, some writings about the independence of the judge's office and there was a writing that I came across, it was actually in an American piece of media, it says: Judicial independence, what does it mean? It "...means that judges needn't fear punishment for using their best judgement to interpret the law. The concept is important because it provides for continuity and stability in our legal system, guaranteeing that disputes can be resolved fairly and impartially. An independent judge does not fear for his or her job or good reputation when ruling against…" powerful clients. "Judges who are fearful that they can be punished for unpopular decisions are less likely to be neutral referees in the cases that come before them."

So, Mr. Speaker, we see, I guess from an American perspective and very much from a Canadian and a provincial perspective that just about everywhere people hold and adhere to the importance of the independence of the office of a judge.

On the Canadian scene, as I was again doing a little research to speak on this, this afternoon, I read the following, "Judicial independence is a cornerstone of the Canadian judicial system. Under the Constitution, the judiciary is separate from and independent of the other two branches of government, the executive and the legislative. Judicial independence is a guarantee that judges will make decisions free of influence and based solely on fact and law." So again, Mr. Speaker, we see the importance being emphasized about the independence of the office of a judge.

There are three components - and the Minister of Justice alluded to this when he was talking about it, three components really which sort of tie in with the independence of a judge's office. Firstly, there is security of tenure. There is financial security which, I guess, really is what this piece of legislation is about today. It is talking about giving an extension to the tribunal that was looking into the benefits and services and salaries being paid to our judges, so security of finances. There is also administrative independence. There are these three components which, I guess, need to come together to ensure that the office is independent.

What does security of tenure mean? Well really, Mr. Speaker, it means that once a judge is appointed there is a certain security in that position. On that Canadian scene, security of tenure means that once appointed a judge is eligible to serve upon the bench until the age of retirement - that is a Supreme Court justice. They can be removed only if an independent investigation shows that there is good reason. On the provincial scene we have security of tenure as well, Mr. Speaker, in that judges, once they are appointed, they can only be removed with good reason.

In terms of financial security - and what we are looking at here today is we have this tribunal that have done a piece of work, they are completing a piece of work, and really what they are looking at is: How much do we pay our judges? What should their salary be? What should their pensionable benefits be? What kinds of benefits should these people receive? The point has already been made that it is important, Mr. Speaker, that this decision be made outside of, I guess, political interference and this decision be made by an independent body, and it also be made, of course, outside influence by the judges themselves.

Financial security means that the judges should be paid sufficiently and in a manner that does not leave them in a position of dependence or subject to pressure. In Canada, governments cannot change judges' salaries or benefits without first consulting an independent commission. Of course this is kind of what we have here. This tribunal is really some sort of an independent body called the provincial court judges' salary and benefits tribunal.

Another measure of the independence of the judge's office is the administrative independence. What that means, Mr. Speaker, is that no one can interfere without courts managing the litigation process and exercise their judicial functions. In the Supreme Court it is the chief justice who chooses how cases are assigned to be judged in the court, for example - or assigned to the judges of the court, I am sorry.

So, this level of administrative independence is also very important in ensuring the independence of the office of the judge.

In Nova Scotia, Mr. Speaker, I was reading and it said in some of the writings in that Province that it has been recognized time and again that the independence of the judiciary is the single overriding principle to be considered when determining judicial salaries. So, it is recognized internationally, it is recognized provincially on the national scene and we recognize it right here in our own Province.

So, by passing this piece of legislation what we are doing, Mr. Speaker, is saying to this independent body: Yes, we recognize you have an important piece of work to do. The piece of work that you are doing helps to ensure the independence of the office of the judge, and given that there are certain things that have happened right now that prevent you from submitting this report as of April 1, then we are going to pass legislation which will give you until September 30, if you need it, to complete the piece of work.

Mr. Speaker, that is really what the piece of legislation does. Like I said, I did a bit of research on it. I thought it would take me just a few minutes to speak about it. I listened to the Opposition House Leader talk about a lot of things this afternoon. In my opinion, Mr. Speaker, a lot of it was irrelevant to the piece of legislation at hand. I certainly think it was an abuse of his speaking time. Talking about things such as the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate, Mr. Speaker, which is a far stretch just because the person that is now appointed happens to be a judge. To spend all kinds of time talking about that when he knows that in the House of Assembly we had to remove the former Child and Youth Advocate and there was a person appointed, a judge, a very confident person who has come in, who has increased the productivity of the office, who has increased the morale of the office and is doing a good job in that capacity, Mr. Speaker.

So, I am fully in support of this bill, and I look forward to the Minister of Justice cluing up debate on it a little while later and, of course, allowing this group to complete and to get back to their work.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

I am very pleased to speak this afternoon and to speak to Bill 4, a bill dealing with the tribunal set up to look at the wages and benefits, salaries and benefits, of the judges in our Province. As other speakers have said, it is an important bill and I think one of the things that is most important about it, again it has been pointed out, is the fact that we do have a tribunal and that neither judges nor the House of Assembly are in control of looking at the salaries and the benefits for judges.

It will be interesting when the report comes in to see what this tribunal comes up with, just as it was interesting for us here in the House of Assembly when the committee to look at the salaries and benefits - more than that – of the House of Assembly came with their report to the House of Assembly.

We, too, will be receiving the report of the tribunal at a later date now than originally planned. Now, September 30 the report will come in instead of April 1, but better late than never. I am sure the tribunal needs the time to do its work or it would not have requested extra time, which is obviously what happened.

I think it is important that this tribunal is a body that has been mutually made up with a representative from the government, a representative from the judges and then with the Chair chosen by them. I have to say it was too bad when I heard the makeup of the tribunal to learn that there was no woman on the tribunal. I would love to see the next tribunal, when it gets set up, somebody realizing that it would be really good to look to a woman to be on it. Maybe the two men could have chosen a woman chair. I am sure there would be tremendous women out there - I know there are - with the knowledge and ability and interest to be on the tribunal.

So be it; this does not have any women on it, which goes against something that this government says it is committed to, and that is trying to have women on all bodies that are set up by government. Of course, this is not set up by government but there is still a lot of work to be done to get that principle and that spirit across to everybody and that is deliberately looking for qualified women - because they are there - but, so be it; that is the way it is.

Naturally we will still respect, obviously, the report that comes forward, and we will take very seriously the report that the tribunal brings here to the House of Assembly, knowing that the tribunal will have taken very seriously their job and will bring forward a well-thought-out report to the House of Assembly.

As has been pointed out again by other speakers here this afternoon, the role of judges is extremely important in our society. The judicial system is an essential part of our society, and it cannot work if we do not have judges and we do not have good judges.

Judges have an awful lot on their shoulders. They have to look at the law and they have to make sure that they interpret the law correctly. They also have to look at society and they have to look at the expectations of society. I am not a legal person, I am just a layperson, but I do know that is a struggle that is going on, has gone on for a long time and continues to go on, and that is the balance between making judicial decisions, but making those judicial decisions coming out of what is prevalent in society at the moment, and sometimes also giving leadership to society in the judicial decisions that are made.

Obviously, judges do not make the rules; the rules come from the government. The regulations for society come from the government. The law comes from the government, but judges have to make the decisions that affect people's lives and they have to interpret that law.

We have recently seen in our Province where we have had cases of a judge overturning a sentence - overturning not the sentence but the recommended sentence of the prosecution, because of the judge thinking that the sentence that was being recommended did not suit the crime; in actual fact saying it should be a harder sentence, it should be a harsher sentence, to really meet the seriousness of the crime.

This is very interesting, these incidents that have happened in our Province recently, and I am sure it is causing discussions inside of the legal system and the judicial system. It is something that I certainly cannot speak to in terms of I have no decisions to make about it; I just think that it is really important to look at where the judge was coming from and why he would think - because it was a he in the two cases I am thinking about - would have the right to do what he did. He obviously did have the right to do what he did, and that being able to step out and to do something a bit differently than what was expected is very important.

Now no judge, of course, should have all power, and that is why we have an appeal process, so that in this case, for example, I am sure that decision can be appealed. I do not know whether it is going to be or not, but the appeal process recognizes that no judge has all wisdom. Judges can make mistakes, judges do make mistakes, and that is why appeal is so important; and having an appeal court and having appeal judges is an essential part of our system as well.

The responsibility of government is to make sure that not only do we have judges, that we have, to the best degree possible, good judges, people who have proven themselves as people of wisdom, who know how to work with the law, and also to have enough judges, because judges are essential to the judicial system and judges are essential to the correctional system.

People, for example, who are charged with a crime, have to go to court, but they cannot go to a court without a judge. So very often in this Province we have people waiting way too long to go to court because we do not have a big enough court system to meet the need. I have heard of people who are waiting for months in prison before they have even been found guilty, waiting in prison in order to go to court to have their case heard.

Right now, in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, for example, one of the two judges is sick, is on sick leave, and that has to have a real negative effect on people in that area of the Province because they have half the judicial resources up there now to hear cases. So we have a real responsibility in that case, because people need to be treated respectfully.

We have too many experiences in this Province of knowing of people who probably were incarcerated for a long time, waiting for trials, went through trial, were found guilty, and then were found to be not guilty. This is the kind of thing that happens in all judicial systems. People can make mistakes, but we have to make sure that we minimize those kinds of mistakes.

We also have to make sure that we minimize the length of time that somebody has to held in prison, has to be incarcerated, waiting for a trial. We also have to make sure that when they are incarcerated they have circumstances to be in that are respectful, that are safe. That is why I have been so concerned about the fact that the pre-trial detention centre has been shelved, or put on hold, for Happy Valley-Goose Bay, because we have experiences up there of women, Aboriginal women, being incarcerated, being held in circumstances that were judged by the Citizens' Representative to not be adequate, to not be even humane in some cases, and to not even be safe. We cannot have that. Just as we need good judges, and judges who are "just", who understand what justice is about, we also need an infrastructure; we need buildings where people will also be treated respectfully where they will feel safe.

One of the issues in Canada right now, and it is an issue in Newfoundland and Labrador too, is the number of women going to prison is going up. A recent report, as of yesterday, in the Canwest News Service, tells us that not only are the number of women who are being incarcerated going up in the country; the percentage is even higher for Aboriginal women. The report also tells us that a high percentage of women, over 80 per cent of women who are incarcerated are women who have a history of sexual or physical abuse. For Aboriginal women, on the national level, it is 91 per cent of Aboriginal women who are incarcerated are they themselves victims of sexual or physical abuse. It is extremely important that not only are they treated well by the system while they are waiting to be tried, it is also important that they are treated well by the system when they go to trial.

That is why a judge has to look not just at the law as the law exists; the judge also has to look at the circumstances of a person who is in that courtroom. We know of cases, for example, where women who have been victims of abuse and who have killed a partner. We now, luckily and rightly so, have cases where they have been found not guilty of murder because of the circumstance under which they killed their partner. This is the kind of thing that judges have to do. Judges have to take into consideration everything that has to do with a crime in making a judgment.

What we expect of judges is pretty intense. They have a pretty heavy responsibility on their shoulders. We need to do everything in our power, as people who are lawmakers, to make sure that they have what they need to do their jobs. It must be just as frustrating for a judge when people are being held in a holding or in a detention centre in a detention situation, when people are being held there for weeks or months before a trial. It must be just as frustrating for a caring judge as it is for one of us because I am sure that no judge wants to think that somebody who is potentially innocent - because everybody who has been charged is innocent until proven guilty – is being held maybe for weeks, maybe for months and in some cases it is months. A recent one I heard of was months. Judges must find that very, very difficult. They must find it very hard.

I can imagine that they have to harden themselves when they have somebody in front of them whom they know has not been treated well, because they have no control over what is happening in a penitentiary, for example. Judges have no control over what is happening, for example, down at Her Majesty's Penitentiary, a place where I do not think anybody should be living or working in the terrible circumstances that it is. Judges have no control over that. Judges have no control over what happens, for example, here in St. John's down at the courthouse in holding cells. That is not their venue. They have no control over that, but if they are going to do their job, and if they are going to do their job with dignity and if they are going to do their job believing that they are really bringing justice to people in the Province, they need to have a system that is working. They need to be coming out of a system that has adequate resources. They need to come out of a system where people are respected, where people, men and women, can feel that even though they have been charged with a crime that they are not useless, that even though they have been charged with a crime that they still have worth. If judges are going to be able to do their work with dignity, they need to know that the whole system also creates a spirit of dignity. I cannot say that is always the case.

When we look at the Penitentiary, Her Majesty's Penitentiary here in St. John's, and we see the situation - I have seen it, I have been down there as recently as July past. I know the circumstances down there and I have seen the condition under which people are living and working and we know that that place needs to go. How can you expect judges to be comfortable knowing that people who are coming and standing in front of them are coming from places where they are not living in conditions that really respect who they are as human beings?

So, Mr. Speaker, that is all I have to say today. I look forward to the report from the tribunal and I guess that will come in the fall session when we come back, but I am very happy to have had this bill here on the floor so I could put out the thoughts that I have with regard to the relationship between judges and the judicial system. They are not there by themselves in their courtroom; they are part of a whole system. Just as we want to make sure that judges are treated fairly, just as we want to make sure that they are paid adequately, that their worth is recognized, we also need to make sure that the whole judicial system that they are part of and the correctional system that is part of that judicial system is also a place where everybody in it – even those who are charged, even those who are found guilty – that they too can feel that they are being treated fairly, that they too can feel that they have worth.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity.

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

MS BURKE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I intend to move that the House adjourn, but before I do that, Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind the hon. members that the Resource Committee will review the Estimates for the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture at 6:00 p.m. this evening.

Further to that, Mr. Speaker, the Government Services Committee will review the Estimates of the Department of Transportation and Works and the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation at 9:00 a.m. tomorrow.

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

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

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

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

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