May 19, 2010                        HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS                  Vol. XLVI  No. 24


The House met at 2:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Fitzgerald): Order, please!

Admit strangers.

Today the Chair would like to welcome representatives from the Canadian Federation of Students who are sitting in the public gallery.

Welcome to the House of Assembly.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Today the Chair would also like to welcome a former long-time Member of the House of Assembly, Ms Mary Hodder.

Welcome to the House of Assembly.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Statements by Members

MR. SPEAKER: The following members' statements will be heard: the hon. the Member for the District of Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi; the hon. the Member for the District of Labrador West; the hon. the Member for the District of Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair; the hon. the Member for the District of St. John's West; and the hon. the Member for the District of St. John's East.

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

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

Mr. Speaker, I stand in this hon. today to recognize a distinguished writer, constituent and good friend, Helen Fogwill Porter, who was recently inducted into the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council's hall of fame at the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council Awards Ceremony in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. This most recent accolade follows her lifetime achievement award from NLAC in 1993.

Mr. Speaker, Helen Fogwill Porter's contribution to the arts and literary heritage of Newfoundland and Labrador is amazing with a writing career spanning twenty-five years.

She has been called by another very accomplished Newfoundland writer, Bernice Morgan, as Newfoundland's Roddy Doyle. Helen is best known for her novel January, February, June or July, which won the Canadian Library Association Award and was shortlisted for the W.H. Smith/Books in Canada First Novel Award.

She is accomplished in every genre: fiction, non-fiction, poetry, humour, drama and criticism. Mr. Speaker, her works include a much acclaimed memoir, Below the Bridge, a collection of short stories A Long and Lonely Ride, and some award-winning poetry, plus a collection, Blood and Water. Her most recent novel is titled Finishing School.

More important, Mr. Speaker, Helen has done much to bolster the writing scene in Newfoundland and Labrador, long before Newfoundland was considered, as it is today, the country's richest pool of literary talent. She has done much to pave the way for others and is remarkably supportive of new writers.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all hon. members in this House to join me in congratulating Helen Fogwill Porter for her incredible accomplishments and for joining other remarkable Newfoundlanders and Labradorians in the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council hall of fame.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for the District of Labrador West.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. BAKER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise in this hon. House today to congratulate the Northern Lights Theatre Company of Labrador West for their impressive showing again this year at the sixtieth annual Provincial Drama Festival held from April 5-10 in Corner Brook.

This was the second year at the drama festival for this relatively new theatre troupe and they followed up with their debut performance last year by taking top honours again this year for their play entitled Wit. In addition to having the best overall play, they also won the Harvey Rose Bowl for best visual presentation.

This theatre company was also the recipient of a number of a number individual awards. Wendy Chambers took the Chrissi Andrews Memorial Award for best actress, and the Neala F. Griffin award went to Peter McCormack for best direction. Other performing members were: Michele Ralph, Dana Blackmore, Darrel Brenton Sr., Darrel Brenton Jr., Pam Brinston, Lester Simmons, Ruth Simmons, and Diana Dwyer. Stage crew members were Ashleigh Strang, Sandra McCormack, Craig Robinson, Curtis Doran and Sean Fagan.

Meanwhile, Mr. Speaker, the Carol Players, also from Labrador West, won the Allan Power Memorial Trophy for best lighting.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all members of this hon. House to join me in congratulating the Northern Lights Theatre Company and all of the other drama groups that participated in the sixtieth annual Provincial Drama Festival.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I recently attended the Labrador Straits Women's Institute thirty-seventh anniversary dinner, and I rise in the House today to extend congratulations to their organization and to honour the accomplishments of twenty-nine women with the institute who were awarded their thirty-five-year service pins.

Mr. Speaker, the Women's Institute in this Province actually evolved from a service league that was formed in 1929 to help the victims of the tidal wave that swept the South Coast of Newfoundland. The present day Newfoundland and Labrador Women's Institute is an informal, educational organization for women to work together to strengthen the quality of life for themselves, their families and their communities.

Mr. Speaker, the Women's Institute was formed in the Labrador Straits region in 1973 and, currently, there are five branches still active in Red Bay, Pinware, West St. Modeste, Capstan Island and L'Anse-au-Loup.

Mr. Speaker, these women have volunteered and served their community unselfishly and have been a tremendous asset to the region. I would like to commend their contributions to my district and encourage other women to take advantage of this opportunity to be a part of this wonderful organization.

I ask my colleagues in the House of Assembly today to join with me in honouring these women and congratulating their new district board.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. BUCKINGHAM: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pride that I rise in the House today to recognize Andrew O'Dea, a resident of St. John's East, for being named a co-winner of the 2010 City of St. John's Youth of the Year Award.

By way of explanation, this award was developed by the Mayor's Advisory Committee on Youth, also known as MACY, and is open to residents between the ages of thirteen and eighteen.

While Andrew's marks were in the top 3 per cent of his class at Gonzaga High School, he also finds time to be involved in student government, as the school's vice-president, student leadership, sports, music, and mentoring. Andrew also serves as a member of the school's Peace and Justice Committee and also on the Care and Respect Everywhere Committee. He volunteers with Easter Seals, the Gathering Place, MUNHOPE, Haiti Relief and Children's Wish. He has also achieved gold standard in the Duke of Edinburgh Award program.

Mr. Speaker, I invite all hon. members to join me in congratulating Andrew O'Dea on his choices in how he uses his time and the recognition for those choices by being named the co-winner of the 2010 City of St. John's Youth of the Year Award.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS S. OSBORNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Today, also with pride, I would like to recognize Heather Anne Conway, a resident of St. John's West who was named the other co-winner of the 2010 City of St. John's Youth of the Year Award - and Heather and her mom are with us today in the gallery.

Heather is a Level III honours student at Holy Heart of Mary High School. Over the last couple of years she has held positions on numerous committees at the school including: Student Council, peer counsellor, Tutoring for Tuition co-ordinator, Interact Club and is the chair of the Mercy Centre Youth Group for Ecology and Justice. She has also volunteered with Kids Help Phone. She is a member of the school's jazz and concert bands and chamber choir, plays basketball, soccer and is an avid swimmer.

In spite of all these volunteer activities, Heather has found time to attend conferences and workshops designed to enhance her leadership skills. All the extracurricular activities have obviously not hurt her school work as she is an international baccalaureate student, one of only eleven in the Province.

I ask Members of the House of Assembly to join me in congratulating Heather Anne Conway as St. John's Youth of the Year.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Statements by Ministers.

Statements by Ministers

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FRENCH: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to inform the hon. members of the House of an important government investment in a campaign designed to place lifesaving Automated External Defibrillators, commonly known as AEDs, in key public places throughout Newfoundland and Labrador, starting with stadiums.

Mr. Speaker, studies show that defibrillation within three to five minutes of a heart-related incident results in a survival rate of up to 75 per cent. Since stadiums are one obvious place where large numbers of people gather, it makes sense to have these units close by in case of a cardiac emergency.

Earlier today, Mr. Speaker, I was involved in a Heart and Stroke Foundation news conference, where they launched their three-year Restart a Heart fundraising campaign to put more AEDs in public places. The provincial government is the largest contributor to Phase I of that campaign, having provided $100,000 this year to support efforts to place AEDs in about fifty stadiums throughout the Province.

Mr. Speaker, the Department of Tourism, Culture and Recreation was already investigating the possibility of putting more AEDs in sports facilities when the Heart and Stroke Foundation approached us with a proposal to partner on this initiative. So the timing was excellent and we were certainly pleased to come onboard.

Mr. Speaker, some of our sporting facilities already have AEDs on site. If there was ever a doubt as to their importance, it was dispelled a few weeks ago when the manager of the Stephenville Dome, Ross White, used an AED to resuscitate a gentleman who had collapsed at the facility. Mr. White was at the news conference this morning, and was recognized for his actions in saving that gentleman's life.

Mr. Speaker, with this $100,000 investment, the provincial government is demonstrating our commitment to providing greater capacity within communities to respond to similar cardiac emergencies in the future. We look forward to working with the foundation as the campaign progresses.

Finally, I take this opportunity to commend corporate sponsors, Vale Inco and the Resource Development Council, which contributed $50,000 each, as well as Newfoundland Hydro, which provided $10,000 to this worthy campaign. This is an excellent example of government, the corporate community and the not-for-profit sector coming together on a project designed to protect the health and well-being of our people.

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. This is indeed an excellent program. It is good to see that government has, in fact, partnered with the corporate community, and with the not-for-profit sector. There is about 35,000-40,000 apparent cardiac arrest incidents in Canada per year. Albeit, of course, AEDs are not going to be always successful, it is certainly a valuable tool. A lot of these do happen in sporting facilities. I am sure all of us who have been involved in sporting events in our communities, have throughout their lifetime experienced an example where your friend or your neighbour in fact had suffered cardiac arrest, and years ago we did not have these. So it is great to see that we do in fact have these being placed in our sporting facilities.

We also would extend our congratulations to Mr. White of Stephenville, and thank him for his quick thinking and his fast response. Hopefully, not only will we be putting them there but we would encourage the minister, as well, to encourage everyone, not only those who work in sporting facilities but wherever, to actually undergo first aid courses so that they can use them, because quite often we have them in the facilities but not everybody who is trained in them happens to be around. So the more people we can encourage to take the first aid courses to be able to utilize them, the better off we will be again.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

I thank the minister for the advance copy of his statement. This is an excellent program, especially in a Province like ours, it is very necessary because we are aware of the high rate of heart and stroke incidents that happen in this Province. Having the AEDs available in the public places that this program will now allow can be something that we can be certain is going to be saving more lives, just as we saw happen in Stephenville.

I join with my colleague in talking about the need for more and more people to take first aid so that they can be available at times of emergency because you cannot immediately get somebody in an emergency, especially in our Province right now where we do not have Province-wide 911.

If we are serious about saving lives, and I know we are, then I have to urge this government to speed up this process with regard to getting enhanced 911 everywhere in this Province, because there are times that the AED is not going to be enough and we are going to need ambulances or firefighters or whatever. So let's put all of these programs together in an effort to save lives.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Further statements by ministers?

The hon. the Minister of Municipal Affairs.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, each year communities throughout Newfoundland and Labrador have a special day devoted to acknowledging the dedicated work of individuals who participate in municipal government. Today, May 19, is Municipal Awareness Day an opportunity to recognize mayors, councillors, municipal administrators and staff for their hard work and commitment to strengthening communities throughout Newfoundland and Labrador, for today and for future generations.

Municipal Awareness Day is celebrated by 281 communities, and provides an opportunity to promote the work of municipal government, and the tireless efforts of the approximately 3,500 elected municipal councillors and staff in the Province. Municipal governments work diligently to secure the many essential services which affect our everyday lives. This is important work and includes services such as water, street lighting, and garbage collection - services which we may take for granted, but are vital to ensure the well-being of our communities.

Mr. Speaker, Municipal Awareness Day is supported by our government in partnership with Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador. This year, the Department of Municipal Affairs provided funding of $15,000 to support Municipal Awareness Day and a province-wide advertising campaign. In recognition of Municipal Awareness Day, municipalities around the Province will be hosting a variety of activities including history days, municipal displays, open houses, essays, stories, trivia and poster contests, so that individuals within communities can gain a better insight on how their city or town operates.

The MakeYourMark Campaign that I led last summer sparked a renewed interest in municipal government. The campaign will now serve as a stepping stone in our efforts to promote the benefits of strong municipal representation, and the rewards of contributing to your community. MakeYourMark is about promoting municipal council and making people more aware of the important work of municipal government, and we will continue our work to sustain this important message.

Mr. Speaker, the positive partnership between government, Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador, and our municipal councils is critical as we work together to take advantage of opportunities, address challenges, and support a bright future for our wonderful Province.

I am very pleased by the interest in last month's Municipal Symposium in Gander where more than 270 municipal leaders in attendance. It was the largest turnout in the history of this event. I encourage Newfoundlanders and Labradorians and my hon. colleagues to support Municipal Awareness Day and the work of our municipal leaders. We all have an important role to play to make our mark and to ensure our municipalities are strong, vibrant and sustainable.

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.

I would like to thank the minister for an advance copy of her statement.

Municipal Awareness Day is an extremely important recognition, and as often we forget sometimes the vital services and tasks that municipalities carry out, we overlook sometimes in our busy schedules the people who work hard to ensure that our lives run as smoothly as possible. Councils, staff and volunteers are oftentimes at the heart of ensuring that a community functions effectively, that quality services are provided for its citizens and so on. In this day and age it is easy to often take for granted all the essential services that they offer and that we see every day. So, taking time in our busy lives to celebrate those aspects of municipal functioning is very important.

I know that for the past two years or so the Department of Municipal Affairs has been working with the MNL to understand and to bring together a new fiscal arrangement, and I would encourage the minister to see that through. Municipalities are not without their challenges, whether it is with waste management or whether it is just finding the financial means with a shrinking tax base and so on. So, yes, I would want to today, just offer my sincere thanks to all those who are involved in our municipal governments and look forward to their continued contribution to our communities.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

I too thank the minister for the advance copy of her statement. It is good to take time to congratulate those in elected positions in the municipalities, as well as the staff who work closely with the elected people, because they do have large tasks. It is much more complicated today than it was fifty years ago to be running a municipality. Whether it is a large one like our urban centres, or the small municipal ones.

I note that today Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador released Regional Government Papers today that they are encouraging their members to take and to study. It shows the willingness on their part, which I think is really important to see how more effectively the rural communities, in particular, can work together, both for the benefit of the people in the communities as well as a way to use money to its maximum. So I think that kind of effort by the MNL should be a message to government also that we continue to really try to ease the burden of the smaller communities, and as they get into looking at regionalization, to make sure the resources are there to help them with the regionalization.

I would like to make one mention of the MakeYourMark campaign, which I think was a good campaign, encouraging all people to run but especially encouraging women to run, which I think was very important. I would just like the minister to think about this the next time a campaign like this happens, I think it would be really good if all elected women in the House of Assembly could be invited to be part of that campaign.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Further statements by ministers?

Oral Questions.

Oral Questions

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Quebec courts unfortunately rejected government's request to appeal a decision related to Abitibi's environmental remediation cost in the Province. We have raised this issue several times during this session and we now fear that the people of the Province will indeed be on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars in clean-up costs.

I ask the Premier today: Are you planning to seek leave to appeal this court loss to the Supreme Court of Canada at this time?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, let's do a little history lesson first of all, and what this is all about. This goes back to the late 1960s when we had the best project in the world that we wanted to develop but we could not do it on our own because we were a poor Province - because of what happened as a result of Confederation and everything else. We were the poor and the weak sisters of Canada. So, we basically entered into a partnership with Quebec in order to develop that particular project. For that, they acquired at least one-third of the company which developed that particular project.

Then, when it got down to the short strokes and we were months away from concluding it and we were out of money, the company was basically out of money, they squeezed us. That is when they squeezed us for another twenty-five years on a contract that already was a complete giveaway of a very valuable hydro resource. They squeezed us for another twenty-five years at a lower price -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Does the hon. the Premier have leave to continue with his answer?

AN HON. MEMBER: Yes.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

So based on that history, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, particularly this Newfoundlander and Labradorian, and all these Newfoundlanders and Labradorians here and all the people in this Province, feel very, very strongly about the way Quebec has treated us. So if we have to fight them in the courts or fight them at the R้gie, or if I personally got to get down and go toe to toe or roll around on the ground with them to fight them, we will do it.

So your answer is quite simple, we are now reviewing it. We are looking at asking for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. I think that, as a Province, we have to keep fighting Quebec because if we don't they will take away everything we have.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

As a result of the court decision, the Province will not be considered a secured creditor to receive compensation for the clean-up cost. We also know that we missed the deadline as a Province to be considered an unsecured creditor.

I ask the Premier today: What is the recourse for the Province to now be added to the list of unsecured creditors?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, we did not miss any deadlines. Any decisions that we made in this legal process all the way through have been conscious and deliberate and have been strategic. Of course, what we are dealing with is obviously a very biased court.

When you look at the Quebec courts, you look at the decision that was given here. The opinion, of course, that we have from our solicitors on this is that the court dodged a central legal and policy issue. So we had constitutional and factual arguments and the Court of Appeal completely and totally avoided that. In addition, they completely ignored the same rationale which has been used by the Ontario Court of Appeal, B.C. Court of Appeal, the Alberta Court of Appeal, and the Supreme Court of Canada. So, basically, these courts are doing whatever they can to try and stop us.

The same thing with Judge Gascon, we just saw the R้gie ruling which came out of Quebec, which is one of the most horrendous, absurd rulings that I have ever seen. They ignored facts. They said that what Hydro-Quebec was doing was discretionary. They ignored the evidence - a complete abuse of process. So, throughout this process we will just keep hammering away.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I will probably just re-ask the question of the Premier: What is the process that we take now to become listed as an unsecured creditor?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, from day one, as the hon. member knows when we explained this when this all started - and I can quote from her in Hansard in the debate where she said, "…we certainly have no problem with supporting anything that is in this particular bill. We have had an opportunity to discuss it in great detail with the officials within the minister's department and within the Department of Justice, and we have had an opportunity, Mr. Speaker, to ask the questions that we needed to ask in order for us to have a comfort zone with this."

So, they knew exactly what the ground rules were. They knew that when it comes to environmental liabilities we were likely to be at risk as unsecured creditors, but what this government did, and what we did unanimously, we expropriated the assets.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, by expropriating the assets, we protected the interests of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, so now when the environmental liabilities come up at least we have an asset to go against those liabilities. Instead, Mr. Speaker - if I may have a moment -of what they have done in Botwood and Stephenville, put those assets in a shell company so that they could go bankrupt so that we get nothing. That is what would have happened with all of those assets if we had not moved them.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Our decisions were made based on the information that we were given by the Premier and by the government, Mr. Speaker, from the best legal minds that they had in the world is what we were told at that particular time.

Mr. Speaker, we have lost three courts cases in the Quebec courts recently, notably the data room case in November, the EPA case in March and the failed appeal from yesterday. In each of these cases the judges ordered that the Province pay for Abitibi's legal bills. The Minister of Justice committed to getting me this information on April 28.

I ask the minister again today: What is the cost to the people of the Province for the legal fees for our lawyers and Abitibi's lawyers in all three of those cases?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. F. COLLINS: Mr. Speaker, we do not have those figures because the damages that were allocated against the Province have not been forthcoming and we have not received any notice of any damages that will be applied – cost, that is. Until such time as we get that, Mr. Speaker, we will not be able to answer the question.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

We also requested a breakdown of the $8 million in fees spent by the Department of Natural Resources last year related to the expropriation. The minister has yet to provide that information in the House, although she committed to do so on April 29.

So, Mr. Speaker, we know that the minister expropriated a mill and she hid it for ten months, so maybe she can hide this information for a lot longer, but I ask her: Are you prepared to share the information with us?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Deputy Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, we have undertaken to provide that information to the Leader of the Opposition. When it is prepared, she will certainly have it. They also have a freedom of information request with regard to that information.

Again, I have to correct her, it was not ten months before we disclosed. We disclosed in February. She missed it, Mr. Speaker - not surprising for the Leader of the Opposition.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The minister needs to do her math.

Mr. Speaker, it certainly appears that there is no requirement for Abitibi to clean up their former properties in this Province. The courts in Quebec have ruled that way and the company has already ceased doing cleanup activities in the Province.

I ask the Minister of Environment: Now that it appears that we will be responsible for the cleanup costs, will you finally put a price tag on this expropriated liability?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS JOHNSON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, it is obvious that the Leader of the Opposition has given up, and as this Premier just clearly indicated, we have not given up. We are going to do everything we can to ensure that Abitibi is held liable and responsible for the environmental issues here, Mr. Speaker.

Obviously, we are disappointed with the decisions out of the Quebec court, but we cannot stop there, Mr. Speaker, and we are reviewing all of the options that we have before us before we decide how we proceed.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Last week in questioning in the House of Assembly, the minister said that under section 99 it is the polluter that pays. Well, we already know what the court rulings are on that now, Minister. We also know that section 99 states, as well, that the owner pays. Under Bill 75, aren't you now the owner?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS JOHNSON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, under section 99 of the act, I issued the orders in reference to section 7 of the act where it clearly defines that the person who releases the substance into the environment is the person who is responsible for cleaning up. That is the general premise of the polluter pays principle, Mr. Speaker. That is why we appealed this decision and that is why we are looking at our options now on a go-forward basis, Mr. Speaker.

We cannot let Abitibi off the hook. They came into this Province and they reaped the benefits for years and years here. Mr. Speaker, all we are asking is that they return the environment back to the state they found it in when they came here and used our resources.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The minister forgets that it is her government who let them off the hook in the first place. You are the ones who made the mistake and expropriated the liabilities. You are in the courts now fighting to give it back, I say to the minister – to give them back the liabilities. You are the one who let them off the hook in the first place.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, we know the Minister of Environment has not completed her due diligence during this entire process. She has continually suggested that Abitibi would have to submit remediation plans before they could provide information. Minister, it appears that is not the case.

I ask the minister: Will you now complete a detailed inventory and remediation plan so the people of the Province will know exactly the scope of contamination and what needs to be done to address these problems?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS JOHNSON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition talks about not doing due diligence, we saw an example earlier in the House this week when she was wrong again in insinuating that I sat on a report for eighteen months - clearly a mistake on her part.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS JOHNSON: She was also in this House, Mr. Speaker, saying that I did not provide writing under section 27 of the act.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS JOHNSON: Clearly using the wrong section of the act, Mr. Speaker. Section 27 references section 26 where the minister has the authority to designate a site as a contaminated area.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS JOHNSON: Again, a misinterpretation on her part, Mr. Speaker. We see this time and time again.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair is having difficulty in hearing the hon. minister and the questions asked. I ask members for their co-operation.

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Once again I think the minister needs to check her facts, I say to the minister. Mr. Speaker, we have been waiting a week for government to provide an English translation of the R้gie decision out of Quebec.

Government has a full division of translators within Executive Council, as I understand it. They must have reviewed this document by now and translated it. Surely, the Premier and the Cabinet must have had access to it.

I ask the Premier today if he is prepared to table a copy of the English version of the R้gie decision in the House of Assembly so that we may have the opportunity to read it.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, I said it last week, and I can say it again in all honesty today, I have not seen an English copy of the R้gie decision. We are waiting on the R้gie to provide us with an English copy.

It is really interesting, too, when you go on their Web site, pretty well everything that they have is always in English and French, but on this particular one we have not been provided an English copy. That tells me a lot about the R้gie, the attitude of Quebec against Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I do not know why government is paying all the translators if we have to wait a whole week and we still cannot get an English version of the copy, Mr. Speaker. Anyway, we will wait a few more days and see what happens.

On Monday, we questioned this government about the fifteen striking Burin Peninsula workers and their fourteen disabled clients who are impacted by this. Again today, Mr. Speaker, these workers protested on the steps of Confederation Building. Today, government is saying no to reclassification within their agreement, yet in 2007 an agreement was reached with these workers and the employer and government. Correspondence was circulated to NAPE indicating that the positions would undergo a reclassification review. I say to the minister, it was your government who had the final say before it was signed.

I ask you minister: Why did your government agree to this reclassification review for these employees in their last contract, yet refuse it today?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MARSHALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I have taken a look at the collective agreement. The undertaking with respect to job classification is signed by the employment corporation; government is not a signatory to this contract.

Mr. Speaker, this strike has gone on for a long time -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. MARSHALL: Mr. Speaker, there is an impasse here and it is a monetary impasse. Government has made a very fair offer of 21 per cent – compounded 21.4 per cent over four years and NAPE is requesting, from the employment corporation, 43 per cent over four years. We are too far apart, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, we have made a fair and generous offer and it is appropriate now for NAPE to come forward in negotiating an agreement with the government.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The minister knows that schedule B in the contract speaks to the reclassification. He also knows that they could not sign on and have this agreement approved without government agreeing to it. That is the reason they are on strike today is because government is not agreeing to it.

Minister, I ask you: Why are you demanding that the reclassification clauses be removed from these contracts before they go back to work? We do not understand why government is so insistent on this for the sake of less than $20,000.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MARSHALL: Mr. Speaker, in the negotiations NAPE requested from the employment corporation the government template, and the employees are not employees of government. There is also a reference in the contract to where the employment corporation has provided undertakings with respect to a job classification system, and yet this is the government's job classification. It is inappropriate that it apply outside of government.

The bottom line here is that we value very much the work that the workers in Burin do but they are not employees of this government. So we have made a very fair offer of 21.40 per cent. It is fair and generous, especially in these times, especially in these economic times when we see what is happening over in Europe, we see what is happening with the price of oil. It is a fair and generous offer.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

These employees are more than happy with the agreement they have reached with their employer. The problem is that the government will not sign on to the reclassification, and that will only be settled once government comes to terms and makes that decision.

Mr. Speaker, there was $30,000 found to settle the VON strike in Corner Brook a few years ago by your government, yet you cannot find the money to settle this particular contract with these workers. I ask you and urge you minister to do so immediately so they can get back to work.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MARSHALL: Mr. Speaker, with respect to the classification system, I mean NAPE has agreed that the classification system can come out for more money. The problem is if you come out for money we are just hassling over the amount of money. We have offered 21.40 per cent; they want 43 per cent over four years. There is an impasse, there is a difference of opinion, and we will continue to negotiate. Hopefully, for the sake of the people in Burin and for the sake of the people of the Province, we will reach an agreement acceptable to both sides.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is unjustifiable how this government can find a way to pay John Rorke $175 an hour to be a child advocate in this Province but cannot find a little over $17,000 to put fifteen workers back to work to provide services to fourteen disabled people in this Province.

I ask you minister: How do you justify keeping these minimum wage - mostly women - workers and their disabled clients on the street for so long?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MARSHALL: Mr. Speaker, government has put a lot of money into aid for people with disabilities; over $27 million this year, including about $6.8 million to provide employment opportunities for people that work with employment corporations, not just one but twenty, which are right across the Province.

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, as we have heard, DFO has released its shrimp quota allocation for this season and there will a quota cut at 28 per cent in Area 6. This decision violates three of the principles of the management plan of the northern shrimp, including that of adjacency. In my region, a group called NOFTA will lose its entire quota of 3,000 tons in Area 6 and they are expressing severe disappointment with this decision. The Minister of Fisheries indicated in his press release this morning that he sent a letter on April 26 to the federal Minister of Fisheries on this matter stating the government's position.

I ask the minister today, knowing these quota cuts were coming, can he tell us what other dialogue, face-to-face meetings, whatever, he has held with the minister to ensure our Province's position was clearly put forth?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, I received some information indicating that this was going to be the ruling just prior to April 26. So immediately, we engaged our staff to forward a letter to Minister Shea indicating that we totally disagreed with the last-in first-out amendment.

As the hon. member has mentioned, we do feel that adjacency is the key here, and in my news release this morning I indicated that we are totally dissatisfied with the decision and disappointed that the federal minister did not see fit to take the side that we had promoted as a Province.

Mr. Speaker, it is important to note that we will continue to pressure the federal government on this because if that rule continues, Mr. Speaker, we could have the Innu of Labrador losing their shrimp quotas, we could also have the Fogo Island Co-op losing their quotas, if further cuts were to come about, 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.

We realize that they violated their own plan. This quota cut to NOFTA represents a loss of income for some 350 fishing enterprises on the Northern Peninsula, and it is an economic loss from the region of over $1.2 million. At the same time, licence holders, as you know, from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick are allowed to fish quota adjacent to our waters.

I ask the minister: Now that the cuts have been unleashed on our Province, what do you plan to do as a counteraction or as an offset to this devastating fallout for our communities and people along our North Coast?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, we know that there a number of harvesters that are impacted on this and I expect that we will receive representation from them.

Mr. Speaker, the important thing here is we do not disagree with the science as to there is a reduction in the quota. What we disagree with is how the cut was distributed. We have lost those allocations because of the last-in first-out formula, which the federal government has instituted, and which we totally disagree with, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. BUTLER: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Environment and Conservation issued notices to remove structures being occupied by gravel pit campers. The minister has recently stated that this does not apply to short-term gravel pit structures, but rather only to permanent and long-term structures. This distinction between short-term and long-term camping structures has been causing some confusion.

I ask the minister: Can you clarify the criteria that determine whether a structure is short-term or long-term?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Environment and Conservation.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS JOHNSON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, we have been very clear from day one, back a year-and-a-half ago now, when I got some first inquiries about this, we have absolutely no issue with people going out and enjoying our great outdoors. We have an absolutely beautiful Province here to explore. If people want to go camping on a short-term basis, or if you want to take your trailer and go moose hunting for a week or two, or go berry picking, then by all means go out and explore our beautiful outdoors.

The issue becomes when people take over ownership of an area and it becomes permanent. That is in violation of section 32 of the act, but it is also unfair to the people who might want to go up to that very same spot a week or two later and use that for moose hunting.

All we are asking here is that fairness be applied across the board to all residents of the Province so that everybody can have an equal opportunity to enjoy our great outdoors.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. BUTLER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I have to go back to the minister again. I ask her to identify for me what is short-term.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS JOHNSON: Mr. Speaker, perhaps it is easier to explain what long-term is. What we see as long-term is when people start putting outhouses or decks or bridges and taking ownership of a certain site, when they leave their trailer there for the weekend and go home. We want them to take the waste back with them, and we want that site opened up for somebody else to have an opportunity to use.

If people are out having a vacation, whether it is a week or two – typically, however long you take for a vacation in the Province - as long as you are not taking permanent ownership. The basic premise here is that all residents of the Province have fair and equal access.

Mr. Speaker, I know that the member was on Crosstalk today, and I am sure he heard from the majority of callers exactly what I am saying in terms of the reports that I got back. They all agree that it should be fair and equal; nobody should take ownership of a certain spot.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. BUTLER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The minister is after telling me now that short-term is so that someone can go to the gravel pit for a weekend and come home and let someone else go there. All along, when this started, it was get everybody out of the gravel pits because it was an unsightly issue.

Mr. Speaker, there has been a lot of controversy surrounding the removal notices given to gravel pit campers. This is a tradition in our Province, and one which engages a responsibility. We are heading into the May 24 weekend, which is a popular time for campers to set up their camps for the summer; however, these people are concerned that as soon as they set up camp they will be evicted.

I ask the minister: Can you clarify whether gravel pit campers across this Province will be permitted to set up temporary camps for the duration of the summer without being served with a notice?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Environment and Conservation.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS JOHNSON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, there are options available to these people. The member leaves the impression that there aren't any options. We have clearly said to these people - and people who have written me and I have written them back - that they can certainly form an association, as they have done. The Member for Cape la Hune, they are very happy - the trailers in Howley that have been removed - they have formed an association so that everything is done in a proper manner. They get the proper approvals from Government Services in terms of septic and water and so on. If the environment is protected and they find a piece of land and form an association, that is how you should stay there for the entire summer.

Mr. Speaker, a lot of times there are pristine spots, salmon rivers and so on, that you or the person sitting next to you, or every single resident in this Province, should have equal and fair opportunity to use those sites. I wonder if the member opposite agrees with that fair and equal opportunity principle.

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, with the latest court ruling from Quebec against this government it has become clear that government is not able to control some of the biggest issues facing this Province, from the AbitibiBowater assets to the Lower Churchill development. It seems government is at the mercy of the legal systems in Quebec and is powerless to move its own agenda forward.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Premier today: How will he restore people's confidence that government knows what they are doing, as they claim they do?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, 93 per cent is a lot of confidence. That is the kind of confidence I think people have in this government as a result of our performance so far.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Having said that, Mr. Speaker, we are not going to just rest on our laurels. When we go back and we look at our record, and we look at things that we did from a negotiations perspective - you look at the Hebron agreement, the White Rose agreement and Hibernia South - that has put anywhere from $30 billion to $40 billion extra into this Province.

The reason we got those is because we have a mantra which is no more giveaways, and we intend to stay with that. We are not going to give away any more of the assets of this Province. As I said to the hon. the Leader of the Opposition, and I say to the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi, we will fight them wherever we have to fight them in order to prove our point. If that is in the Quebec courts - we know what the attitude is in Quebec courts, we know what the bias is in the Quebec courts, but there are higher courts than that and we are not going to give up.

If the attitude is to sit back and go in on our hands and knees, like we did back in the 1960s when a Liberal government negotiated away the Upper Churchill and gave away our right to be a have Province for thirty years - and they did it – we are not going to that. We have no intention of doing that. So we will carry on as we (inaudible).

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

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

I would like to ask the minister, Mr. Speaker, if he is going to fight it the way he is talking about, and going to the Supreme Court, this is going to take quite a bit of time, and a lot more money too.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS MICHAEL: I want to ask the Premier to explain to this House and to the people of the Province what the implications are. If he takes that action, what are the implications for the CCAA proceedings to come up with a plan, for Abitibi to come up with a plan for their creditors who are waiting as well? We are not the only creditors.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, as I said before, if we had not taken the action that we took, if we had not expropriated those assets, we would have absolutely nothing to put against the environmental liabilities that this company has left us with in this particular Province.

So we have those assets as a result of the action we took, and as a result of that we have given a severance to the workers in Grand Falls; we have put over $100 million into projects. The amount invested in Central Newfoundland this year is over $200 million in total. That is what we are doing with it.

So, as a result of our positive, our affirmative, action –

AN HON. MEMBER: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: – and instead of our mantra of no more giveaways, we took it away. We took it away from a company that had abused this Province, had not fulfilled its mandate to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, were given land assets and timber assets and hydro assets to run a pulp and paper mill and they did not. They tried to walk away from it, so we nailed them.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

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

All of that will mean nothing if the courts of –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

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

Everything that the Premier has just said will mean absolutely nothing if he cannot convince the Supreme Court of Canada that he is as right as he thinks he is, and then we will lose everything – because we are talking about hundreds of millions of dollars.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. members to allow the member to ask her question, and I ask the hon. member to pose her question now.

MS MICHAEL: While government is spinning its wheels in court, there are issues here at home they should be dealing with: a health care system in trouble, inadequate home care and long-term care, a serious lack of affordable housing, and a fishery in crisis, to name a few.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Premier: When will he admit that there are things that are beyond his control, and deal with the issues he can deal with here in the Province?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, making sure that Quebec will never get the better of us again is not beyond our control. It is fully within our control and we will fight that to the very end.

The hon. member, in all fairness to her, does not understand the consequences – no, really you do not. Going to the Supreme Court has nothing to do with the ultimate consequence on Abitibi. We have the assets. We will use those assets to counter any liabilities at the end of the day so we are in a net positive position. That was the whole purpose of the exercise. Appealing to the Supreme Court of Canada has absolutely nothing to do with that.

In addition - I mean if I had enough time we could go down through the Budget. Was the Budget $6.7 billion? Is that the total amount of the Budget? You know what we have done in affordable housing. You know what we have done in health care. You know what we have done in education. The problem with the hon. member is it is never enough, but money does not grow on trees; that is the problem. That is the problem.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The time allotted for questions and answers has expired.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Presenting Reports by Standing and Select Committees.

Tabling of Documents.

Notices of Motion.

Answers to Questions for which Notice has been Given.

Petitions.

Petitions

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

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

I present another petition today on behalf of the residents of Coomb's Cove, St. Jacques, Boxey, St. Alban's, English Harbour West, Wreck Cove and Belleoram, and Burgeo by the way.

Mr. Speaker, I read the prayer of the petition again:

WHEREAS we, the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, have built cabins and tilts away from home for hunting, fishing, berry picking or just spending time up in the country or places around our shores, sometimes just to get away from the stress of everyday living, a place to relax and enjoy the great outdoors; and - I can almost recite it now, Mr. Speaker.

WHEREAS your government has come down hard on the thousands of cabin owners and trailer owners that are out on the land with eviction notices, and forcing them to move without providing them with an alternative; and

WHEREAS Kruger Inc. has timber rights to approximately one-third of all forested lands on the Island and is refusing the vast majority of applications for cabin development;

WHEREUPON your petitioners call upon all Members of the House of Assembly to urge government to have compassion on the citizens of this fair Province and allow them the right to enjoy what is rightfully ours. We were born on this land and should have the right to enjoy it.

As in duty bound your petitioners will ever pray.

Mr. Speaker, just in response to what the minister said, I did not get a chance to get back up again. When she was trying to determine what was short-term, long-term, and indefinite. I say to her, duration of the summer is pretty short-term in Newfoundland and Labrador. That is why those people go those areas to do their camping, to enjoy the great outdoors, Mr. Speaker.

All they are asking government is to do this –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. BUTLER: – and I say to the minister, I think what she should do is let them go back to what they were used to. Not anything that is environmentally unfriendly, not to do that. Make sure everything is right and proper. Let them go back the way they were camping, and over this year, before next year steps in, be able to go and sit down with those people and say what is wrong, and give them the opportunity to be able to be incorporated, or whatever they want to do, if that is their wish, to make sure that they can out and enjoy the great outdoors, Mr. Speaker.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. BUTLER: Anyway - I do not know what she said that time, but it is something about my driveway.

I can assure the minister, I am going camping this weekend, and I am going over to her district, by the way, and I will not be in a gravel pit. Still and all, I believe in what those people are fighting for, and they have a right to do what they always did. Sit down and consult with them, for glory sake. Do not be so heavy-handed.

You are discriminating against people because some areas were evicted, other areas were not. I do not know why it is, I do not know - maybe it is political districts. I cannot say that for sure.

All I say, Mr. Speaker, in closing, I have one other petition – twenty-fourth of May weekend is getting close, but I have another one for tomorrow. So, all I am asking on government is to consult with those people and see that they are given a right to enjoy the great outdoors like they have done for decades.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Orders of the Day

Private Members' Day

MR. SPEAKER: It being 2:59 p.m. and this being Private Members' Day, I now call on the hon. Member for Lewisporte to bring forward his private member's resolution.

The hon. the Member for the District of Lewisporte.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a privilege for me to stand today and to speak to the private member's motion that I read into the record yesterday.

As the government, we have engaged post-secondary students. We have listened to post-secondary students, and we have taken decisive action to make post-secondary education more affordable, more accessible for all those who wish to avail of higher educational opportunities. We have done that, Mr. Speaker.

What this motion asks is for the House of Assembly to affirm its support for the actions that have been taken by our government to make post-secondary education more accessible through things such as the elimination of interest on the provincial portion of student loans, and through the extension of a tuition freeze at Memorial University of Newfoundland and at the College of the North Atlantic.

Mr. Speaker, when I read this motion into the record yesterday, I could hear some groans from the members opposite. I could hear some groans when I read this into the record yesterday from the members opposite. It was as if to say - as I read their body language and I eyed them yesterday when I read this – there they go again patting themselves on the back.

Mr. Speaker, I read into that. When you look at the tremendous progress that we have made in the area of post-secondary educational availability and accessibility since 2003, as a sitting member in this House of Assembly, as the MHA, I feel a deep sense of pride and satisfaction with the advancements that we have made.

I am going to say to the members opposite that your groans do very little to dampen my excitement when I see the progress that we have made toward the opportunities and availability of post-secondary education in this Province.

Mr. Speaker, I am going to zero in on two significant investments we have made. One was the removal of interest on the provincial portion of the student loans and the other is the continuation of a tuition freeze at the College of the North Atlantic and at Memorial University.

Last spring, actually roundabout this time, Mr. Speaker, we passed a bill in the House that was entitled, An Act To Amend The Student Financial Assistance Act. That was a great moment in our Province as the Minister of Education at the time, who is actually still the Minister of Education, introduced that bill. I can imagine it was quite a privilege as the minister to be able to stand and introduce it and to let students know across this Province that we were going to pass legislation that would eliminate interest on the provincial portion of their student loans. That passed, it took effect on August 1, 2009, and students are now availing of that tremendous advantage.

Mr. Speaker, many of our students have benefited from the passage of that bill; 49,000 students have extra money in their pockets because the interest has been eliminated on the provincial portion of the student loan. If they continue to pay at the same rate and the same monthly payment for somebody who borrowed the maximum, by us passing that bill, they actually had their student loan paid off fifteen months early. So it actually took fifteen months of payments off their debt load.

If I do a cross-country comparison, Mr. Speaker – and we wonder: How significant was this? How big was this in the country? Not just in the Province, but how big was this in the country? The latest information that I have is for last year. When I look at the interest on the provincial portion of student loans across the ten provinces in our great country - I look at Alberta. In Alberta, touted as one of the richest provinces we have, students, on the provincial portion of the student loans, are charged a rate of interest equal to prime. If I look at Quebec and Nova Scotia, they charge prime plus an additional 0.5 per cent. In Ontario, students are charged prime plus an additional 1 per cent; in Manitoba, prime and 1.5 per cent. In P.E.I., students pay prime plus another 2 per cent on the provincial portion of their student loans. While in New Brunswick, Saskatchewan, and also in British Columbia, all of these students are charged prime plus 2.5 per cent.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I just named out nine provinces in Canada where they are all paying prime, or prime plus some more. When we look at our Province, what interest are we now charging on the provincial portion of student loans? It is a big, fat zero, Mr. Speaker. It is nothing. It is zero. That is a country leading action, Mr. Speaker. We are leading the country in that regard. We are a national leader and that gives us, I would think, lots to brag about.

Let's talk about the tuition freeze at Memorial University and at the College of the North Atlantic. Let's see where we sit and let's talk about that great initiative. Fifty-six million dollars, Mr. Speaker, is what we have invested in education in order to maintain a tuition freeze at our post-secondary institutions up until 2011-2012, $56 million. It is fine to talk about $56 million on a big provincial scale, and that is a lot of money invested, but how does that actually filter down to parents and students, whether it is in St. Anthony, whether it is in Corner Brook, whether it is in Port aux Basques, whether it is in Gander, Grand Falls-Windsor, whether it is in my district of Lewisporte or Twillingate, whether it is on the Avalon Peninsula? What does that mean to the parents and the students across our Province?

Well, to go to university right now - again, I am looking at last year's stats and some of these provinces may have had increases since then. We have not because we have a freeze on, but if you go to Memorial right now it is $2,632. Did you get that, Mr. Speaker? Two thousand, six hundred and thirty-two dollars, the cost of one year's tuition at Memorial University. How does that compare to the rest of country again? Because what we are talking about here is nationally leading initiatives. These are not just things where we are bringing in some tremendous initiative in the Province; we are leading the country in these initiatives, Mr. Speaker. We are leading the country; so, $2,632 in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Now, if you go to Manitoba, in Manitoba tuition is $3,276 for a year. That is $644 greater than it is here in Newfoundland and Labrador. How about P.E.I.? In P.E.I., tuition at their university, average tuition is $4,530. Now remember what I said about Newfoundland and Labrador, basically $2,632. In Prince Edward Island, $4,530; that is almost $1,900 a year greater than we are paying right here. That is a lot of money back into the pockets of students and parents in this Province. If you go to B.C. it is $5,040, almost double what we are paying here in Newfoundland and Labrador. New Brunswick is $5,590 for a year's tuition.

Mr. Speaker, again I have to emphasize, $2,600 in Newfoundland and Labrador, almost $5,600 in New Brunswick. More than double what our students pay to attend university. In Ontario, it is even more, $5,643; in Nova Scotia, $5,932. Now what does that translate into, again, in terms of money? If a student goes to university here in this Province they are paying $2,632; if they go in Nova Scotia, which is the highest, $5,932. Do you know what that is? That is $3,300 a year.

My daughter is in university. If she was going in Nova Scotia it would cost me $3,300 a year more in tuition alone. She is doing a five-year program. That is $16,500 more I would have to pay if my daughter attended university doing the same program in Nova Scotia. That is an awful lot of money. That is a lot of money, Mr. Speaker.

The Canadian average across the country is $2,092 a year more on average. If you take all the provinces, calculate the average for a five-year program, anywhere else in the country, on average, is $10,460 more than we are paying right here in Newfoundland and Labrador; 44 per cent lower is what our tuition is at the universities, and it is actually 43 per cent lower at the colleges.

Mr. Speaker, these two great initiatives - 0 per cent, the elimination of interest on the provincial portion of student loans - these two initiatives alone, that one and the continuation of the tuition freeze, are nationally-leading initiatives. They put us at the forefront of the country. We are leading the way in making education available and accessible for our students.

The only Province that has a lower tuition rate than us is Quebec. Quebec actually only has a lower rate for students from Quebec. In actual fact, our students cannot go to university anywhere in this country and get an education any cheaper than they can get it right here - and cheaper by a lot, Mr. Speaker.

Andy McIntyre once said: If you think education is expensive, you should try ignorance. Mr. Speaker, we believe in education, we believe in it being accessible, we believe in it being affordable, and we value it. Do we have something to applaud? You bet we have something to applaud, Mr. Speaker. Should we affirm the actions taken by our government? We definitely should, Mr. Speaker.

I certainly look forward to listening to other people speak on this private member's motion this afternoon. I will come back at the end of it to close debate and talk about a few more initiatives that we have taken, again, that are nationally-leading initiatives.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I certainly want to rise and speak to the motion that has been put forward by the Member for Lewisporte. Mr. Speaker, any time that we can do anything to promote education in this Province, whether it is through our regular school system, through post-secondary education, we certainly have an obligation to do that as parliamentarians.

Mr. Speaker, more importantly, we have an obligation to make that education accessible to people in this Province, and make it affordable to people, so that they have the opportunity for further learning, for higher learning, in order to be able to participate in the careers of their choice and to give back to this Province.

Mr. Speaker, I do not see education or freezing tuitions as a gift. I see it as something that is required. I see it as –

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) while you were in here.

MS JONES: We did, actually, I say to the member from Mount Pearl. We were the first government to freeze tuition rates in this Province at Memorial University, I say to the member from Mount Pearl. Absolutely. Absolutely, Mr. Speaker. We were the first government, Mr. Speaker, to put a freeze –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS JONES: – on tuition rates on this Province –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS JONES: – and we did it in 1999, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, we also increased the grant program to Memorial University during those years, even though there was not a lot of money, even though at that time we were negotiating the deals on Voisey's Bay and we were negotiating White Rose and we were negotiating deals on Terra Nova, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS JONES: We were not seeing the money coming in at that point, Mr. Speaker, but we were doing the negotiations, and with the small amount of money, less than half of what the total provincial budget is today, we managed to be able to put on freeze on tuition rates at Memorial University. It was a good initiative then, it is a good initiative today, and, Mr. Speaker, it should be one that is continued.

I would take it a step further, Mr. Speaker: I think they need to be reduced. I think that tuition fees are only one of the minor costs of educating young people in this Province today. That is what members have to understand. Tuition costs are a part of it, but you take a student today, Mr. Speaker, who lives in the District of Labrador West or in my district, or on the Northern Peninsula, or down on the West Coast of Newfoundland, Mr. Speaker; there is a cost associated with sending your children away from home to get a post-secondary education as well. We see that all too often. We see the cost of the airline tickets; we see the cost of transporting these students; we see the cost of board and lodging, whether that be in residence, Mr. Speaker, or in apartments when they are away from home. These are legitimate costs associated with educating young people today in our Province as well.

Mr. Speaker, I know a lot of these young people who are in university and colleges and trades institutions, and a lot of them even have part-time jobs. They work part time to be able to pay for their education, to help their parents out a little bit in covering off some of their expenses on a monthly basis. So, Mr. Speaker, there is still a lot that can be done to relieve some of that pressure.

Mr. Speaker, I agree; I agree that post-secondary education of any form, whether that be in the trades or colleges or in the university, should be accessible to every student in this Province who wants to access it, and that starts with ensuring that we graduate students today from our high schools that have the actual credits and have the courses to meet the entrance requirements into a lot of these colleges and universities. Because what we are seeing today in the Province is that a lot of these students are coming out of high school and they do not have the academic requirements lots of times to meet the entrance requirements to get into some of these post-secondary institutions – whether that is because the courses are not being offered in some of these rural schools, whether it is because there are no teachers to provide for the instruction, whether these students are not able to learn through the CDI system or some other forum, Mr. Speaker. Therefore, you need to start looking at that first of all.


Secondly, when they go into university and they go into college, tuition is one part of it; keep the fees down. The fact that we have the lowest tuition rates in Canada today is absolutely wonderful. It is a great service that we are doing for our young people, Mr. Speaker, but do not sit back and pat yourselves on the back and think the job is done. Don't sit back, Mr. Speaker, and say how wonderful I am because I happen to be the government today and we are going to continue to do what governments before us have done, and that is to keep a tuition freeze in place. It does not mean your job is finished, I say to the hon. members. Look at the cost of living. Look at the expenses that are incurred today by a young kid in my district who has to leave Charlottetown and come here to go to school, and what the extra cost is to the parents and that family.

Mr. Speaker, also look at parental income. Look at parental income. Today, kids are being denied student loans in post-secondary education because their parents earn a certain amount of money. Well, Mr. Speaker, not always because you earn money do you have money. That is the sad reality. I had a family, Mr. Speaker, a few years ago whose kids could not get any student loans to go to university or post-secondary because of their parental income. They had three children in university at the one time. To me, Mr. Speaker, that should be changed. Children who want to go to university, who want to be able to get a student loan to do it, should have the opportunity to be able to do that. It does not matter how high or low the tuition rates are; if you cannot access the money, you do not have any money to pay for it, then it becomes a goal that is out of your reach. Our job is to ensure that goal is in the reach of every single child in this Province, every single young man and woman who wants to get a higher education.

In addition to that, Mr. Speaker, I have dealt with a number of women, in particular, who are on social assistance. They are single parents in most cases, they are on social assistance, they want to go back to school, they want to get a university education or they want to do a college or trades program. The first thing they have to do as a single parent, with a child, who is on welfare, Mr. Speaker, they have to go out and borrow a student loan. As a result of it, their benefits are impacted.

I remember back a few months ago being in a community college in this Province, going into a classroom - I think it was a business administration course that I was in. There were a lot of women in that class. They were adults who had gone back to school to retrain. They were telling me about the few benefits that they get because they are trying to further their education, they are trying to re-educate themselves to get a better job to provide better for their families. I think there were like sixteen women in this particular program. I do not have the note in front of me now, Mr. Speaker, but they did outline a number of the challenges that they were experiencing in terms of driving back and forth. In fact, some of them were driving up to - I think it was something like forty or fifty kilometres one way to be able to go to school to do this college course. Yet, Mr. Speaker, they were not getting anything for their travel back and forth.

Mr. Speaker, that was one of the issues that they raised. The other issue that they raised were the number of supports that they were receiving. I say to the minister, there is obviously more than the sixteen women who were in this classroom, who I met with, who raised that issue as a concern. There have to be others out there who have that as a concern as well.

I do not know how the travel subsidy works for someone who is on social assistance and has to drive forty or fifty kilometres to go to the school; I do not know how those things work. I can only tell you what they have told me and that is that they were not receiving supplements for those particular benefits because they were getting a student loan, Mr. Speaker – because they were forced to get a student loan.

Mr. Speaker, there are a number of issues that we could raise around this particular piece, and I am sure that there are other colleagues who want to speak today. You need to understand and realize that a tuition freeze is a good thing in this Province, bringing tuition down is a good thing, but there are other things that need to be done.

It is unfortunate that this government thinks that when they do one thing right, they can sit back and pat themselves on the back and not deal with the other issues that are out there. There are other issues and many of them, Mr. Speaker, come for a lot of these graduates when they finish school and they cannot get apprenticeship training and they have trouble getting jobs in this Province, when they have huge student loans. Mr. Speaker, those are the things that this government needs to look at and focus on for many of these students.

In fact, I have a folder in my office today of resumes like this and most of them are university graduates or college graduates that are looking for jobs in this Province, that are trying to find jobs in this Province. So, Mr. Speaker, one of the things that government should be doing today instead of bringing in a motion to pat themselves on the back because they froze tuition – something our government did over ten years ago, Mr. Speaker – but instead they should be bringing in a motion to talk about how they are going to ensure more gainful employment for many of these people that are coming out of our universities who have high student loans, need jobs, need to be able to earn money, and deal with the issues around apprenticeship, which is still a huge issue as well. I encourage the government to start looking at some of these things.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I will be supporting the motion today.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for the District of Baie Verte-Springdale.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. POLLARD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am delighted to stand in the hon. House today to second the motion put forward by my hon. colleague, the Member for Lewisporte, that this House would affirm the actions of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador for its outstanding leadership on student aid and post-secondary education accessibility.

Mr. Speaker, graduation from high school is not the end of a person's education; in fact, as we all know it is just the very beginning. Albeit, we do acknowledge that graduation is a very significant milestone in a person's life. It usually involves a huge financial commitment on the part of parents.

Speaking of parents, Mr. Speaker, we do appreciate their support. Their input enriches and improves, no doubt, our education system and ultimately leads to higher student achievement, Mr. Speaker.

So at the K-12 level, the cost of an education is minimal. Although some parents still struggle, it is a manageable level. That came about because of the various actions taken by our government which ease the pain and lessen the financial stress upon families, Mr. Speaker. I could mention two of these actions as examples: number one, school fees were eliminated in 2006; and number two, on top of that, we provided free textbooks to high schools in 2007. This initiative required $12.8 million investment. That was greatly appreciated by all parents and schools councils alike, Mr. Speaker.

As a government, we want to continue to ensure that students receive a quality education, not only from kindergarten to Grade 12 but also at a post-secondary level. We desire that our post-secondary students would have an easy access to an affordable education. So bearing that in mind, Mr. Speaker, with that objective, our government embarked upon an enhanced student aid package a few years ago. With a record $1.3 billion invested in Budget 2010 in education, we can proudly say today that Newfoundland and Labrador can boast of being a national leader in student aid and student debt.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. POLLARD: Mr. Speaker, in Aristotle's words, we believe that the fruit of education is sweet. We realize that an educated society is a successful society. One cannot go wrong with investing in our young people. So consequently, as was stated in the 2009 Speech from the Throne, every action is grounded in the conviction that our success tomorrow depends on the investments that we make in education today. How true that is, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, we realized that post-secondary students and their families faced a heavy burden of trying to grapple with their educational costs, regardless if they entered MUN or the College of the North Atlantic or some other institution. As a result, after several extensive consultations, our government took swift decisive action, took decisive steps to implement a suite of initiatives that put Newfoundland and Labrador on the educational map, Mr. Speaker.

I will attempt to highlight some of these. One, August 1, 2009 the interest on the provincial portion of the student loan was eliminated making us the first jurisdiction in Canada to take such a bold step, which benefited approximately 49,000 students, Mr. Speaker. The second feature, since 2003, tuition fees were frozen at national lows making us second only to Quebec which only applies to Quebec students.

Now, Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague from Lewisporte waxed eloquently and gave us a lot more detail in considering these two features. He did an exemplary job in explaining these two initiatives.

Number three, Mr. Speaker, we reduced the expected parental contributions to student financial assistance programs - how important is that? Well, it means that more low and middle income families are able to access financial assistance which, in turn, enables our children to pursue their chosen career. So that is greatly appreciated by the affected parents, Mr. Speaker.

Another feature of our national program, Mr. Speaker, that is known nationally, another feature. We established a six-month grace period after graduation. So that if a student had some trouble in getting a job or trouble in transitioning from college to the workplace, that six-month window was greatly appreciated. I know several students who availed of that six-month window, Mr. Speaker, my two daughters included.

Another feature, Mr. Speaker, we have provided flexibility to adjust the terms of their repayment arrangement if a person or a student runs into some problems, cannot meet their monthly payment. Example, we could extend the amortization period to lower their monthly payment, Mr. Speaker. Another feature, we introduced a payment deferral plan for up to a maximum of fifty-four months, or four-and-a-half years for borrowers who experience difficulty meeting their repayment obligations due to a low income.

As a government, we recognized the needs of students. We had compassion, we had empathy, and we took the necessary adjustments, Mr. Speaker. Furthermore, we increased provincial financial assistance limits from $110 a week to $140 per week. Because of these actions and many more, Mr. Speaker, it is no wonder that Newfoundland and Labrador is leading the country in student debt reform and improvements to post-secondary achievements in accessibility. No wonder we are the envy of the nation. No wonder we are attracting students from all over the word. No wonder students from all over other jurisdictions are scrambling to come to our great Province to attend our institutions. No wonder we are looked upon as a model, Mr. Speaker.

Yet, what is so intriguing, what is so very important to point out, Mr. Speaker, is this, that it is important to point out that we did all that while maintaining funding for facilities and programs. That, in itself, is a remarkable feat because past governments, once they have given something, would usually take something back in return, but not this government, Mr. Speaker. We continue to build, we continue to enhance, we continue to add, we continue to improve, and we continue to consult, Mr. Speaker.

I would be remiss, Mr. Speaker, if I did not mention the contribution of two individuals, and many more of course and their staff, who led the charge of student aid reform. Because of the hard work and the dedication and commitment of the former Education Minister, the hon. Government House Leader and hon. Member for St. George's-Stephenville, and the present Education Minister, the hon. Member for Grand Bank, Newfoundland and Labrador post-secondary students can proudly hold their head up high knowing that not only are they getting a quality education, but also getting an education that is both affordable and accessible.

Mr. Speaker, these individuals provided the expertise, the strong leadership and the tenacity that was necessary to implement this wide array of initiatives that grabbed the attention of the nation and grabbed students of our Province. Now other provinces look at us as a model, they want to follow suit, Mr. Speaker. It is good to see our Province out in front, leading the charge, leading the pack, Mr. Speaker.

It is also important to point out that this thing was not done in a corner. There were numerous consultations with the various student groups, as my hon. colleague pointed out earlier, various engagements; many, many around the Province. Students were consulted. Our government heard what they said. Our government listened to what they said. Our government understood what they said. Our government went back and deliberated. They discussed, they debated, and then they delivered, Mr. Speaker. As a consequence, we are a national leader today. All of these actions, Mr. Speaker, are based upon the philosophy that was put forward by Newton Baker, who once said, "The man who graduates today and stops learning tomorrow is uneducated the day after."

Mr. Speaker, that is the very reason that propels us as a government today to continue to address the debt load of our post-secondary students. That is the very reason why we continue to strive to be the best as we can be in offering an affordable and accessible education to all of our post-secondary students, Mr. Speaker. That is the reason why we are, indeed, a national leader in that domain. That is the reason why I can stand in this hon. House today and proudly second the motion put forward by my hon. colleague.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. DEAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is indeed a privilege to be able to stand this afternoon in this House and speak to the motion that was put forward by the Member for Baie Verte-Springdale.

Basically, we would want to be in support of any initiative that improves the access to post-secondary education in our Province, both for our residents within our own Province and for those who also come to Newfoundland and Labrador to study, because it is very important to realize that our university and our colleges certainly attract others from around our country, and indeed, others from around the world. So we want to make sure that all we are doing in terms of recruitments and so on are things that will definitely bring people into our education system.

It was noted by the Leader of the Opposition earlier, and I think it is worthy of noting when it comes to the tuition freeze, that it was initially instituted by the Liberal government back in 1999, true to the promise to increase the grant to Memorial University for the two years following by $7 million from approximately $99 million to approximately $106 million. It was done to ensure that tuition rates would not increase over those two years and it is certainly good to see that this government picked up on that particular benefit to students. It has continued, and as the motion suggests today, it will continue for at least another year. We would trust that it would continue for some time to come.

Statistics show that since this tuition freeze has been implemented, that indeed student enrolment has increased. That if we look at statistics since 1999, we would find that enrolment has increased by more than 12 per cent. What is significant about that is that at the same time we realize the population of our Province has declined by about 16 per cent for those under the age of thirty. So that certainly is significant and important to note. Obviously, it would be credit programs and initiatives such as this that would encourage people to be involved in post-secondary education through these kinds of programs, that while your population is decreasing and the population that you have is aging, yet the numbers enrolling into our university programs and college programs continue to increase. So that is certainly a good thing to see.

There are some things though, obviously, that we need to be concerned about. As we recognize the usefulness of our program here this afternoon, there are some other things that we need to know. When we consider the full-time students in our Province, our students do represent the most indebted students in the country, if you will. Nearly 60 per cent of our undergraduates, as compared to a national average of approximately 42 per cent, do require student financial assistance to attend university and college. So that is very important for us to recognize and to understand the need to make sure that we do support our students financially, that there are grant programs available, that there are good student loan programs available, and that the financial piece of going to university, college and so on is not a barrier for them, and that indeed there is a way that they can have funding provided for them. Certainly, it is very, very important that we realize the necessity of that.

Currently, students who graduate from a university or a college program that is of at least an eighty-week duration they are eligible, as we all know, for debt reduction grants provided that they meet certain specific criteria. The issue that has been raised with this, of course, is the fact that these grants are not available until the end of the studies. So, they would do very little in some circumstances to encourage students to initially enrol in post-secondary education. I believe that is something that we can look at in addition to our commitment to what we are looking at here in the motion this afternoon. We could look at a way that possibly these grants could be up-front grants rather than being grants one's study program, again removing that barrier for low-income students and students who require the financial assistance and so on to be able to really participate in post-secondary education.

I know from my own experience, as many of the hon. members in this House would know, putting your children through university is a fairly expensive proposition. I had my seven years of doing that as a parent. Being able to do it was great, but yet, realizing so many of the expenses that have already been mentioned by the members who have spoken, it is not only the tuition piece, but as we live in the rural parts of our Province, as so many of us do, and we send our students, our children into the centres of either Corner Brook or St. John's - in my case, two of girls went to Corner Brook and did their nursing degrees there. The extra requirements that are placed upon you to financially to provide housing, transportation back and forth, to just be there to support them and so on, and all of the other things that are necessary, certainly it takes a lot of money. Any time that people are looking for special funding and so on, and I believe the smoother and the easier that they can access that then I believe that the most benefit to them.

Another item that I would like to just make mention of is the international tuition rates and rates for Canadian students. While Canadian students pay the same as our provincial students, I do believe that the international student pays significantly more to attend MUN than residents of Canada. I am not sure what the justification for that would be, but I would suggest again that it would be something that we could look at in terms of encouraging immigrants and so on, international students to come to our Province. Then having parity, if you will, in terms of tuition fees would certainly benefit us as a Province and benefit our universities and colleges as bodies of students because these people obviously have great experience that they bring with them. There is great value and they add great value to our university and to our Province as a whole. Again, something I am sure that we can look at.

University is the stepping stone from our high school. Many of us I am sure, as MHAs, probably attended graduations in the past week or so, or if not, we certainly will do so in the next week or so. I had the privilege of going to one on Friday evening, as I mentioned in a member's statement yesterday, watching as forty-eight students of Harriot Curtis Collegiate received their graduation certificates. Our universities are only as good as what our high schools are in terms of preparing our students for that particular part of their education process.

When we look at some of the challenges that are there as well, realizing the programs that are offered in the three categories of programs of honours and academic and general studies, MUN in particular, obviously, without being a mature student, will not consider the general program. So it is important that again that students are prepared, that students understand the options that are there and they realize the importance of a good education early in their life and coming up to the high school time that they are provided the counselling and the guidance and the availability of information and workshops and other things that sometimes we take for granted in our larger centres. Certainly, not seeing it all that often, not having access and so on, not understanding the programs that are there, the more that government can do and the more that our Department of Education can do in general, I guess, to really ensure that the message gets out there, that it is understood, that students know what the options are. Again, we think back to when we were high school and then going through the past twenty, thirty years, whatever the case might be for us, in our careers, we realize that probably all the information that we would have liked to have had was not there for us. So students being able to know and to understand that are very important.

We know that students who are being educated in rural parts of our Province are experiencing and encountering situations and challenges that are unique to them. So, whether it is tuition fees, or it is financial challenges and so on, it is important, again, that we do as much as we possibly can.

One of the other items that I would like to mention in the next moment or so is our apprenticeship programs. We get a lot of calls that come to our office, students that are concerned about the fact that they cannot find employers to take them on as an apprentice. The government has recently created this special task force to identify future labour market trends and employment opportunities in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, and the labour force that will be needed to supply that particular market. That is a good thing to do; that is a good initiative. Again, the task force led to the development of an incentive program to attract people to the trades, and the Provincial Apprenticeship and Certification Board to develop and oversee the program. The problem that seems to be there with that is that many are finding it difficult to find work in their trade to get through their apprenticeship program. Again, something that is important.

The point of offering incentives, obviously, for apprenticeship programs in particular then we need to be certain that those apprentices can go and find the on-the-job training and the hands-on experience and so on that they need to be able to do to finish their programs. What we are hearing from the college, in particular, is that is not always the case. So while we have seen some new initiatives in recent, just back a couple of months ago, two or three months ago in the winter, we know that government released the announcement regarding apprenticeship programs and so on. We would encourage that kind of thing and we would hope that we can see all of our apprentices in the Province being able to get the proper on-the-job training, being able to get the proper sponsorship that they need and so on.

Another issue that is important, when we consider post-secondary education is the necessity for housing. We have addressed that in the fall session, I believe, possibly in the House. We talked about it a little bit, and it is an ongoing thing, and while we have seen government, since back in 2007 or so, budgeting large sums of money to address the housing situation in St. John's and in Corner Brook and we see some of that coming again in this year's Budget, we realize the importance of seeing that through. We have debated the parking lot at MUN which is supposed to be a residency, and we hope that that will come through in short order and so on, but we do realize that our vacancy in the Province is practically nil. I think it is said to be around 1 per cent or so. So that is not very much and that is very, very important to us.

Again, the cost of housing in terms of – I know the low tuition, and I applaud where we are. We are excited about the fact that we are the lowest in the country and we certainly want to stay there, but it is part of a platform that has to be built upon and we would encourage proper housing, access to housing, adequate housing. We encourage financial programs to assist with all the other things that are important for students to get through their academic careers.

So, Mr. Speaker, it has been a privilege to stand for the past few moments to speak to this motion. It is certainly something that I have no problem supporting and I would trust that the offering of a tuition freeze would be something that we could see in our system for some years to come.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is indeed a pleasure for me to have the opportunity today to stand and take a few minutes to speak in support of a motion that is on the table, a motion that is very important not only to our government in demonstrating our commitment to students, but very important to the future of the Province and very important to the current and future students of post-secondary systems in Newfoundland and Labrador.

I want to take a moment, Mr. Speaker, first of all, to recognize a couple of individuals who are here in the gallery with us: Keith Dunne and Daniel Smith.

I want to talk for a few moments about the relationship that we have had over the last number of years, during my tenure and before my tenure, with the Canadian Federation of Students. We have a strong working relationship, one where the students address issues as they see fit with us, and do on a regular basis. We have a mutual understanding that sometimes we agree to disagree on things, but I can say with a degree of certainty, Mr. Speaker, that by working together with the students over the last number of years we have been able to realize some significant gains for students in this Province; some significant gains to benefit the students who are not only attending post-secondary today, Mr. Speaker, but those who will be attending post-secondary in the future.

We recognize, Mr. Speaker, the government recognizes the importance of supporting our students. I think all members in the House would agree that the future of the Province rests on our ability to provide quality educational experiences and ensure that every possible avenue is explored for us to have an educated, affluent population in society. So, as those of us who sit here today in the House of Assembly, as we age and move forward and a new generation comes behind us, the growth of the Province and the future of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador will only be as strong as the strength, and the quality, and the character of the individuals and the education level of the individuals who come behind us.

Mr. Speaker, that has always been a cornerstone for this government and it will continue to be a cornerstone for this government. We will continue to work with the students and continue to make education a priority in all of the decisions that we make, budgetary and otherwise. With that, it is indeed a pleasure to have these couple of individuals join us today to hear the debate and to hear what hon. members had to say.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KING: Mr. Speaker, I want to talk a bit about the student aid program and some of the benefits that we have realized. I want to remind members in the House as well that when we are talking about the package of assistance that is available for students in this Province, we are not only talking about the student aid package, Mr. Speaker, we are talking about a number of other things that support students. We are talking, for example, about our investment in infrastructure at the post-secondary level, Mr. Speaker, because the investment in infrastructure results in better quality facilities and better quality learning environments for our students.

I think, Mr. Speaker, more recently about the investment in Grenfell, the academic building for Grenfell College in Corner Brook. I think about the investment in deferred maintenance for Memorial University. I think about the investment for College of the North Atlantic, the Seal Cove campus, the Prince Phillip Drive campus, the new campus in Labrador West, are a couple that come to mind.

I also think about our investment in programs. During the last Budget for Memorial we had the pleasure and the honour, through the Minister of Finance, to introduce support for a doctoral program at Memorial University, Mr. Speaker.

We are supporting all of these initiatives to demonstrate our continuous and ongoing and unwavering support for our students. That is really what this debate today is all about. The motion here today is all about reaffirming government's support for the future of this Province and government's support for the current and the future educational needs of our students.

Mr. Speaker, I will touch on a couple that have already been mentioned. The tuition freeze is one that I think - in the area of $6 million was invested this year for College of the North Atlantic and for Memorial. That one is one that we have maintained now for the last number of years and feedback has been very positive on that. I think members may have said this already but it bears repeating, that we do have the lowest tuition in all of Canada for public education, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KING: In all of Canada. The only exception, Mr. Speaker, is for Quebec residents only in the Province of Quebec. That is the only place where you will find lower tuition. Newfoundland and Labrador is the lowest in all of Canada for public education and we are very proud of that. We are very proud of that, and that is why we have continued to make that investment, Mr. Speaker, because while we are keeping the tuition down near the bottom of the barrel we are keeping the quality of our programs at the top of the barrel. We are leading the pack in many ways, Mr. Speaker, and we are very proud of that. We are very proud of the opportunities that exist in this Province for students.

Mr. Speaker, a number of great strides have been made in the last three or four years on our student aid package. I want to touch on those, Mr. Speaker, because – and then I am going to talk a little bit about some of the issues that have been raised here today.

I want to touch, first of all, on a very momentous occasion last summer where I had the good fortune, not long after becoming minister, to join with the Canadian Federation of Students in a trademark day, a momentous day where we eliminated the interest on the provincial student loan portion of the student loan.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KING: Mr. Speaker, nowhere else in Canada is that happening. Nowhere else in Canada, but this government through our work with the students who are led by the two individuals in the gallery, it is through that co-operative effort and the collaborative work that we are able to continue to invest in our students, Mr. Speaker. We do, Mr. Speaker -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. KING: Thank you.

My colleague says: I thank you very much for that.

We continuously challenge the federal government to match the decisions that we are making. We have eliminated the interest in this Province and we want the federal government to do the same thing on the federal portion of the student loan. We challenge them to do that, Mr. Speaker. We will all be better off for it but more importantly, the students of Newfoundland and Labrador and the students in the rest of Canada will be better off if the federal government were to match the courageous decision that we have taken to eliminate the interest on the student loans, Mr. Speaker.

Let me touch on a couple of other things that kind of get fluffed off by members opposite sometimes in their speaking. We talked about the need to continuously lower the amount of money students are borrowing. Mr. Speaker, check the track record for the last three or four years and you will find that this government each year has lowered the amount of money on a weekly basis that students have been required to borrow, while at the same time, Mr. Speaker, increasing the up-front free money. The up-front grant has increased every year for the last number of years, Mr. Speaker - a move, I might add, that was not supported by previous governments to our tenure. That, Mr. Speaker, is significant because students today are now borrowing less money, a lot less money than they have in previous years, and they are into their programs of study with a lot more free Up-Front, Needs-Based Grant money than they have had in many, many, many years, Mr. Speaker. That is a very, very positive move, one that we are very pleased with, and certainly one that we are very pleased that we have been able to bring forward knowing that the previous Liberal Administration eliminated that years ago, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, let me touch on a couple of things. There have been a couple of issues raised by members opposite, and it is always a challenge in this House - when we are here today debating such a good news motion, it is always a challenge to listen to members opposite who continue to be negative, Mr. Speaker. They continue to be negative and they continue to say things that misrepresent the facts, and they are not fair, not only to government but they are not fair to individuals, Mr. Speaker.

I heard a piece of the Leader of the Opposition's speech - I listened very closely to a piece of her speech - but it is very disappointing, because I also listened to the member opposite last week when she chastised and criticized the teachers in Labrador. Check the Hansard and you will find it, Mr. Speaker. The member opposite stood on her feet and said that students in Labrador - because of the teachers - are getting less than a quality education. Mr. Speaker, it is shameful; it is shameful that anybody stands in this House and utters that kind of rhetoric to criticize the quality of education.

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

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, I would think that the member opposite, who has been in the education field as long as he has, would recognize the difference and take the context of what I said accurately. What I said is there are vacancies in the schools; there are classrooms in my district today, Mr. Speaker, in Grades 4 to 6, where they have had up to three teachers this year who have left those classrooms. The minister knows that today many of these schools have substitute classroom teachers, as they do on the North Coast of Labrador, Mr. Speaker, and his colleague next to him can tell him the difficulty there has been in recruiting teachers in these schools. What the minister says, Mr. Speaker, is a false interpretation.

MR. SPEAKER: There is no point of order.

The hon. the Minister of Education.

MR. KING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I see that the trend continues, Mr. Speaker. The member opposite stands up, she takes three minutes of my time and says absolutely nothing to the House, I say.

Let me go back to where I was, Mr. Speaker, because the member opposite can sit there, stand there, and say all she wants. She can do cartwheels if she wants. Hansard will record the comments the member made, and the member made the comment that the students in Labrador are getting less than a quality education. I submit to you, Mr. Speaker, the quality of the educational experience, the quality of the educational experience is determined in large part by the quality of the teaching. So I say the member opposite should stand to her feet and she should retract her statement about the quality of the teaching in Labrador, I say, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KING: If the member opposite wants a point of order, she should retract and apologize to the people in Labrador for those comments.

Mr. Speaker, I am not going to belabour that point, because there is any number of points –

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Leader of the Opposition, is this a new point of order?

MS JONES: Yes it is, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Okay.

MS JONES: In fact, Mr. Speaker, the one who should be apologizing here is the Minister of Education, for having children in classrooms these days that do not have teachers to teach in them, Mr. Speaker -

MR. SPEAKER: I ask the hon. member to get to her point of order.

MS JONES: – and having schools in this Province today where you have up to four and five grades in the one classroom, Mr. Speaker, with one teacher. That is what the Minister of Education should be apologizing to the children of this Province for today, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: There is no point of order.

The hon. the Minister of Education.

MR. KING: Surprise, surprise, no point of order. Another two minutes of my time, Mr. Speaker. Shall I go on? Shall I go on about the negativity? Shall I go on about the negativity?

Members opposite stood in this House yesterday, Mr. Speaker, and made allegations about the access to information in the Department of Education. Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, I did not get the chance to end my comments, but let me say them today, for the record, so the people understand where the negativity comes from across on that side of the House, I say to you.

Three telephone calls, Mr. Speaker, from the Department of Education were made to the office of the member opposite - three times - with messages left, wanting clarification on what exactly the request for information entailed, Mr. Speaker, before we followed the policy of government, and before we sent the correspondence out. Guess how many times, Mr. Speaker, guess how many times we had a return phone call?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Zero.

MR. KING: Zero, Mr. Speaker. They had no interest – no interest - in finding out the facts, no interest in working with government, no interest whatsoever in finding what went on in Qatar. The interest is only to stand over on that side of the House and grandstand and have a little fun.

Well, Mr. Speaker, I say when they are interested in governing they had better get their act together, because we are interested in doing what is right for the Province and for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KING: Mr. Speaker, I want to talk about a couple of things that are very important in the Province, now that I have had a chance to point out a little bit of the negativity on the other side of the House. Let me correct another little error that was made. The member opposite who spoke ahead of me referenced the recently called Skills Task Force on apprenticeship. I want to remind people that the task force actually released their report in 2007. The task force was called about five or six years ago and the report has been released. I want to just share this with people because there is a lot of talk about apprenticeship in the Province. I want to talk a little bit about what is in that report, Mr. Speaker, so that people have a clear understanding.

The apprenticeship report that came out, Mr. Speaker, was designed around offering recommendations for government and for the public and private sector to support students, Mr. Speaker. There were some eighty recommendations and they were split. There were a number of recommendations that government, itself, we were asked to address, and there were a number of recommendations for the private sector to address. I am happy to report, Mr. Speaker, as I have on many, many occasions before, that every single recommendation that government was asked to address to support the further development of apprenticeship in this Province, every single one of them have been actioned, Mr. Speaker – every single one of them.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KING: I also want to take a moment and move off apprenticeship. We have talked about student housing, and housing is a very important issue. My colleagues up in the gallery listening would know this because they made a case to me just this past year in looking for extra support for student housing. Mr. Speaker, I remind my critic across the way that it is this government that just confirmed in excess of $80 million in student housing for this Province, which will include 700 beds: 500 beds for the St. John's campus of Memorial and 200 beds for the Corner Brook campus of Memorial, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. KING: By leave, to clue up?

MR. SPEAKER: By leave, to clue up?

AN HON. MEMBER: No leave.

MR. SPEAKER: No leave.

MR. KING: Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Leave has been denied.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

I am quite pleased to have an opportunity to speak to –

A point of order, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: A point of order.

MS MICHAEL: I really hate, Mr. Speaker, to put it in the way I have to put it, but I have to put it. I have mentioned it before in the House - and this is not a game; this is very serious - I have a hearing problem, and when the shouting is going on something actually happens to me physically - I am serious – and I cannot speak because of what is going on in my head, with the shouting.

MR. SPEAKER: I would ask all hon. members to please be conscious that the hon. member has the floor and that the hon. member does have a hearing impairment, and for all hon. members to respect that.

Thank you.

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MS MICHAEL: Thank you very much.

I am very pleased to speak to this motion. It is an important motion. I am glad that the motion points out some good things that have happened, and there is no doubt that they have. Because of some of the things that have been said in the House, I would also like to point out that as people who sit in this part of the House in Opposition, it is part of what our democratic process is in this House. Our democratic process is that we have Opposition in order to bring new ideas forward, in order to challenge. It is not always to say something is bad, but to push ideas further.

We do question, I hear it all the time, saying: Why are you being so negative? Why are you not satisfied? I am after hearing the Premier say that during the debate on the Budget, I heard almost every single member of the government side of the House stand and wonder why I am not satisfied. Well, I am not satisfied because there is always more. We have to keep putting vision out there and we have to keep pushing for more. That is what I try to do, Mr. Speaker.

To show what the role of Opposition is, I would like to pick up on one of the statements that are in the resolution. That is pointing out that there was the elimination of interest on the provincial portion of student loans that was effective August 1, 2009.

Mr. Speaker, I am really pleased to see that. I am absolutely pleased to see it, especially because in 2007 I was promoting no interest on the provincial part of the loans. I promoted it during the campaign in the general election in 2007, to the point that it inspired the Canadian Federation of Students to say that is something to ask for. I applaud them, because they put on a fantastic campaign and they were able to convince the Minister of Education and this government that this was something to do. The government knew students wanted it and they did it. I am glad they did it but I would also like to point out that I was the one who started talking about it. My party was the one who was saying it.

So there is a role for Opposition, and that is my point, Mr. Speaker. There is a role for Opposition and we are elected to be in Opposition. Therefore, we are elected to stand and come forward with new ideas and come forward pushing ideas. Let's remember that, Mr. Speaker, when we criticize.

I just told the hon. member, Mr. Speaker, one of my ideas was the elimination of the interest on the provincial portion. If the hon. member does not -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I remind all hon. members that the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi has the floor.

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

We have to remember what all of our roles are here. We all have a role to play, and I would ask my hon. members to listen to the ideas that come out because they are going to learn from those ideas.

Mr. Speaker, some of the members have already said it but I will say it again. We know that things are improving. We know that more money has gone into the needs-based grants this year. We know that. We know that there has been a freeze on tuition but we also know that we still have students with heavy debt loads. We know that those heavy debt loads are on the backs of students who come from homes with lower incomes, because it is the students from homes of lower incomes who are the ones who most carry student debt.

Mr. Speaker, for families who have incomes of over $80,000, only 14 per cent of students who come from those families have to carry student debt, but for students who come from families who earn less than $40,000 - with incomes of less than $40,000, 52 per cent of students aged eighteen to twenty-four from those families have student loans, and those student loans are burdens, Mr. Speaker. That is why we have to be looking at getting rid of loans and bringing in grants. This is the only way to go.

Right now, we do have a needs-based grant, it does help some students. It is not helping enough because we still have a large number of students coming from families who have incomes of less than $40,000 who are coming out with $50,000 debts. A lot of them are coming out, even though they have their university education or they have their diplomas from the College of the North Atlantic, they are coming out and still not being able to access jobs that are paying them well. A large number will but there is also a goodly number who do not. So they are coming out carrying debts that are larger than mortgages in an awful lot of cases, larger than what some people carry in mortgages and starting up - at starting rates in jobs that are not paying the maximum money yet and trying to pay off debts.

Mr. Speaker, that has to be a goal of this government. That has to be a goal of this government and that is why I do get concerned when I see millions and millions of dollars going out, for example, in legal fees. We have to make sure that if we continue fighting legal battles that we are not fighting those legal battles without a strong hope of winning, because we are spending money that could be spent by students instead of students carrying debts.

These are kind of things government has to look at, Mr. Speaker. They have to look at the options that they are making, and are those options really going to pay off for the people of the Province, because it is not for government to gamble. It is not government's goal to gamble with the money that could be spent for our post-secondary education students. This is a reality, Mr. Speaker.

The minister spoke about housing. Well, students up in Labrador West are not very happy about housing up there. We have a major housing problem in Labrador West and we have been speaking about that problem for at least two years in this House. Yet, we do not see anything happening for the students in Labrador West with regard to housing.

Mr. Speaker, I really get tired of being told what they are doing. I know what they are doing. We all know what they are doing, but when we have immediate needs this government does not come forward to take care of those immediate needs. So, it is not enough to do a bit. We have to put a plan in place that shows us what their goal is and where they are heading. That is what we do not know. That is what we do not get from this government, Mr. Speaker.

There are many of us in this House, maybe not as many as there would have been maybe, I do not know, five years ago, but there are still a number of us in this House who are old enough to have benefited from the public financing of our own higher education. I did not have to pay for my university education. My parents paid through taxation, we paid in that way, but many of us in this House, for our basic education, did not have to pay for it. That is still going on in many countries. That is still going on in Europe, it is going on in Ireland and it should be going on here, Mr. Speaker.

The amount of money that would cost this government is pretty minimal. This is something that we have to look at. This is something this government has to look at, and they know they have to look at it. That is why they start shouting and screaming at us when we start bringing up points here on the floor of the House because they do not want those things said, Mr. Speaker. They do not want those things said, that is the problem. That is what we have to do, that is what I have to do. We have to get away from the notion of the user pay approach to education because there are still many people for whom it is a barrier, especially our younger people outside of the urban centres, especially our younger people in rural Newfoundland.

Mr. Speaker, a study that was done here in our Province in Newfoundland and Labrador found that only 3 per cent of students from low-income families living beyond commuting distance participated in university. Well, Mr. Speaker, one of the biggest ways that we can help poverty reduction - and this is a big goal of this government - is to have more and more and more young people who are living in poverty, living with low-income families, have them go and get higher education. Only 3 per cent of the students from low-income families outside of commuting distance of the higher education institutions are able to access, are able to go to university.

Mr. Speaker, that is a serious problem. If we are going to really reduce poverty in this Province that is something that has to be dealt with. What is connected to that as well is the issue of literacy in this Province. We still have such a low rate of literacy in this Province that it is frightening.

Again, if we are going to really reduce poverty that is what we have to deal with. We have to make sure that students can go into university, can come out just as they do up to Grade 12 and be able - without debts on their backs - to then pursue jobs and be able to pursue life, just like most of us were able to do. Most of us, a lot of us - we are getting younger members in the House now, for them, they did not experience it, but a lot of us did. When we came out of university we did not have to worry about this monthly debt that had to be paid. It was unacceptable. It is unacceptable and we should make sure that our young people have the same benefits that some of us had.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS MICHAEL: I have told them what I am saying, Mr. Speaker, they do not want to hear what I am saying, that we have to make sure that every child who graduates from school in this Province can go onto university and that there should be no barriers for them to go on to university. If they are capable of doing university, they should be in there. That is what this government's responsibility is, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, there was a Decima poll done in October here in this Province looking at education here in Newfoundland and Labrador. That Decima poll pointed out that 88 per cent of the respondents were concerned that youth cannot afford to attend college or university – 88 per cent, Mr. Speaker. Ninety per cent were concerned that students incur large debts to attend. They do not have that concern because they are sitting around saying: Oh, I am just worried about it. They are worried about it because it is a reality and they know it is a reality. They are concerned that that reality is going to continue.

Another point of that poll, Mr. Speaker, was that 85 per cent supported the provincial government gradually increasing post-secondary funding to the point of providing free education. So what they are waiting to hear from this government, Mr. Speaker, is not just waiting every year to see what is going to happen, but for the government to come out and say: Maybe we have a two-year plan, or maybe we have a three-year plan, or even a five-year plan. Our goal is by 2011 the tuition fee will be gone, and it will be so much down this year and next year it will be gone – or give a three-year plan, four-year plan, or five-year plan, I do not care, but a plan that says at the end there will be no tuition.

So this is what I am looking for, Mr. Speaker, I am looking for a plan that tells us that this government believes students should not be in debt when they leave, that they do not have a tuition fee, that they can get grants to help them with the other costs that they incur, and that every student in the Province – not just some – are going to be able to access the housing that they need. So these are the things that I am looking for, Mr. Speaker. I do not think these are too many things to look for.

We need this government also to pressure the federal government with regard to the interest on the federal part of student loans and get other provinces on board with them because if the minister is right in saying that he supports the Canadian Federation of Students – which I know he does – they are fighting for this right across Canada. So this Province should be bringing this to the table when they are meeting with the Premiers and the Ministers of Education of other provinces and territories. This Province should be promoting this with the federal government because that would really be a real boon if we got all the interest removed from students loans and if we could work towards a day when we would have no loan.

We also have to address, Mr. Speaker, the problem of loan repayment rates among the private college graduates because they are ones that are really hit as well. I have another whole thing about private colleges, but I will not go into that. The issue is if they are there and students are going to them, then we have look –

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MS MICHAEL: Just to clue up, Mr. Speaker, please?

MR. SPEAKER: Leave to clue up?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS MICHAEL: Okay, I will just clue up, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Pardon?

AN HON. MEMBER: One minute.

MR. SPEAKER: One minute to clue up.

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

So, Mr. Speaker, yes applaud – I applaud the things that government has done and what I am saying to them is I want the plan to show us that they are going to do more and they are going to push some of the initiatives that they have already done to the point where they reach exactly where I think they should be, especially with regard to the tuition rates.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The Chair recognizes the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and also the Minister Responsible for the Volunteer and Non-Profit Sector.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DENINE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am very pleased to get up here today to support this motion put forth by my colleague from Lewisporte.

Mr. Speaker, I heard the Leader of the NDP say, and she said it during Question Period, why are we spending all the money on these legal cases, we should be doing something else. Is she insinuating that we should give up the future of Newfoundland and Labrador? Is she saying that we should give up, not fight for our rights with regard to Quebec and hydro deals, and make sure that we are treated with respect and dignity and we get what we want? Is that what she is saying? That seems to be what she is saying.

I could not believe the questions she asked today. I could not believe it, that that was the question that would come from a person who leads the Third Party in Newfoundland and Labrador. Basically, insinuating that we give up on it, forget about our legal cost. Let's say, well everything that happened here, yes, the courts were right, so we should give up on it because we have no right to do that.

Well, Mr. Speaker, when we talk about education - and she talked about the things she wanted to do on education. Well, we can do that. We can do that, Mr. Speaker, if we fight this case and take it to the limit that Newfoundland and Labrador are treated with respect that we deserve in the future of Canada.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DENINE: Obviously, it is too hot to handle.

Mr. Speaker, we talk about people who are on Income Support and people with low incomes. Well let me tell you, Mr. Speaker, that was done by the Leader of the Opposition and the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi basically saying we do not support people who are in need to go to university, and nothing could be further from the truth, Mr. Speaker. Our Income Support clients, with dependants, continue to avail, continue to avail of their Income Support, plus they are allowed to avail of the Canada Student Loan Program. Mr. Speaker, we are the only Province in the country that does that - only Province.

So, Mr. Speaker, are we not helping people who are in need to get to a post-secondary institution? Yes, we are.

Mr. Speaker, there are training services - programs for over 300 people with disabilities, and they are fully supported to attend post-secondary. That is 300 people with disabilities are fully supported. Now, Mr. Speaker, are we not helping people out like that?

AN HON. MEMBER: And that was only last year.

MR. DENINE: And that was only last, yes, right.

Mr. Speaker, we have the SWASP program. It is part paid component and there is a tuition voucher on that. That is targeted for people who are in low-income situations –

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. DENINE: Mr. Speaker, I must have sparked a chord. He has not been here for awhile, so he is starting to listen to what I have to say. They are able to participate in the SWASP program that we support, Mr. Speaker, and there are 1,100 students - 1,100.

AN HON. MEMBER: Eleven hundred?

MR. DENINE: Yes, and if I go back to their formula, it is not 100, not 200, not 300, but 1,100, Mr. Speaker. That might ring a bell to them over there because that is the support that we give to people who are in need to get a post-secondary education.

Mr. Speaker, under LMDA, Labour Market Development Agreement, we provide short-term training for anyone who is seeking support. This is done basically for Income Support people, the training for them. The LMDA, also, Mr. Speaker, provides a wide range of training to help encourage these people, the people on Income Support to get ahead and to make sure that they can avail of all of the educational opportunities that they can get and to make sure that they are looked after as well as everyone else.

Mr. Speaker, Newfoundland and Labrador Housing offer grants and scholarships to children of Income Support clients for post-secondary education. Now, Mr. Speaker, I just read through five or six issues here, five or six issues that are related about Income Support. People, as the Opposition said, cannot afford to go. We are doing what we can to make that happen, to make post-secondary education available for the people with Income Support, and I think that is a good vision of us.

Now, Mr. Speaker, when we talk about all of this, we talk about making everything accessible to everyone. Another thing that was said by the Leader of the Opposition: Well, you cannot just sit back. Now if you can read this motion that was put forward today and you can find any line in that which said that this government is going to sit back and not continue the progress that we have made over the last seven years, Mr. Speaker, they must be wrong. If it is there, show it to me because this government is not going to sit back on its laurels and not move forward.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DENINE: We are going to move forward to make post-secondary education accessible to those who need it and those who want it.

Mr. Speaker, when I go back to the motion, the first WHEREAS that I have on the Order Paper here today - and it is very, very important, a very important component of this whole motion - it says "…demonstrate that this government is listening to students…"

Now, Mr. Speaker, I spoke to people from the student union and the student federation, and I got their reaction. I spoke to them. I speak to them all the time at many functions across this Province and on the campus of the university.

When the Government House Leader was Minister of Education there was a summit basically held in Corner Brook and a lot of these things came out of that. The Leader of the New Democratic Party says: Well, we did this. I would like to know when and where? Mr. Speaker, a lot of that came out of discussion that we were listening to the students. We were listening to the students, what they were saying to us, and that is where our policy came from. Our policy came from - so that we are making the burden of those students a lot less today than it was nine years ago when they were in session.

Now one thing the Leader of the Opposition said: Well, we were the first ones to reduce tuition. Yes, okay. Let's go back to that, Mr. Speaker. What happened was they increased it by 30 per cent or 40 per cent and then rolled it back 10 per cent or 15 per cent. That is what happened. So, by doing that they are saying they rolled back the tuition. No, Mr. Speaker, those figures do not add up.

Mr. Speaker, I can remember when I was Parliamentary Secretary of Education, the student federation came to me and said: Look, we want Up-Front, Needs-Based Grants. They were lobbying government members on that and I give to all their credit, and did a great job on doing it. Mr. Speaker, I was not sure if we were able or in a position to do that.

Mr. Speaker, the next Budget that this government brought in, basically, we introduced Up-Front, Needs-Based Grants. Students who previously borrowed a maximum of $140 per week were now only required to borrow $60. That is all they are required. They were required to borrow $140 before; $60 now - $80 -

AN HON. MEMBER: It went from $110 to $140.

MR. DENINE: It went from $110 to $140. They get now, out of that $140, they get an $80 grant. They do not have to pay back a cent of that, and I think it is fantastic. Speaking to the members of the student union and the federation of students, they are very pleased.

Now, let me give you a story. Mr. Speaker, about two years ago I was in Vancouver visiting my son. There was a student there he was living with, who was part of the national body of the federation of students. What he said was this government is the leading edge of post-secondary education. This government has given more support to post-secondary education than any government in Canada, Mr. Speaker. Let me tell you that came unsolicited, it was only a general conversation. Let me tell you, to hear it from someone else outside of Newfoundland and Labrador, in Vancouver, the other coast, that was very encouraging. There are students here today, I have spoken to them many times, and they are very proud of what this government has done.

Now, Mr. Speaker, we cannot sit back and just let it go on, in terms of not doing any more. We will continue to do this. We will continue to make investments. We will continue to try to reduce the debt load of our students. We are going to continue to do that, because what we know, Mr. Speaker, is that when we have a well educated population, we have a good, solid foundation to go forward. Once we educate our students, our young people, they then have the tools necessary to bring this Province to where it should be.

Not unlike the Leader of the NDP who says: Well, let's forget about this court battle; let's forget about this; let's accept what the courts say in Quebec; let's deal with it and let's put the money somewhere else. So, basically, she is going to wipe her hands of the future and not fight for what Newfoundlanders and Labradorians well deserve.

Mr. Speaker, when I look at the tuition freeze, people say: Well, we should have free tuition. Well, let's look at what tuition freeze has done from 2005 to 2010-2011. Government committed $101.6 million to freeze tuition at MUN and CNA; $101 million. That is a significant investment, a significant recognition of our students to get a good education. That to me spells visionary. That spells support for our students and our young people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, also what we did, we eliminated the interest rate on the provincial portion of the Canada student loan. As my colleague, the Minister of Education said, that was a great thing. That was excellent because – I think it was 2.5 per cent at the time and then we rolled it back to a zero, 2.5 per cent of prime. So, they pay no interest on that. That is an exceptionally giant step forward, but as the Minister of Education pointed out, what we need to do is we need to encourage the federal government to do the same on their portion, because that in itself would help reduce the debt. I think, if I am not mistaken – I am going to throw out a number now; I could stand to be corrected, but when we did this 0 per cent interest on the provincial portion, that affected 49,000 students. Is that correct?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. DENINE: I think it was 49,000 students. Both present and past students, it was not only today the students would take advantage, but those who graduated. That put money back in their pockets, Mr. Speaker. That put money in their pockets so when they graduated, they could put that on a car, they could put that on even part of their loan, or they could even put that to buy a house, Mr. Speaker. These are some of the things where we helped to put money.

Now, are we going to put enough money in people's pockets, Mr. Speaker? We are certainly going to do what we can. We are reducing personal income tax - I think it is the lowest in the Atlantic Provinces right now, personal income tax. So when we do these things, we get it back. Unlike the Leader of the NDP: Oh, you are never doing enough. Mr. Speaker, we have taken giant steps, we have taken giant steps to reduce the debt load of our students.

Now, Mr. Speaker, there is no one around here on this side, on government side, saying we should not have done it. No, we are very, very proud of it. I said to some people when you get in government - being a pragmatist and realist myself in terms of what happens, I want to be able to put my hand and say, we did this. We are the ones who took control, and we did it. Mr. Speaker, reducing the debt load of our students is something we can look at as tangible. That we, by our steps, by the initiation of the steps that we have put in here, we have certainly done a good job in helping to reduce that.

So, Mr. Speaker, I look at that as a great success, a great initiative by this government, and this government will continue to do that. We continue to do that because on our horizon we are going to need educated people - very skilled, well-educated people. By doing that, that is an investment that we need to make in them. I think this government, since I have been elected, have proven that we have made this possible. We have done that. We have made it possible so that the people in both our post-secondary institutions can avail of a lower education.

One point, Mr. Speaker, my colleague talked about the tuition. I spoke to an individual at MUN, and I said: Why did you come to MUN? She was from Toronto. I said: You can go to any university in Ontario. She said to me: By coming here, I am able to get my education done cheaper than I can in Ontario. Mr. Speaker, I have to say congratulations to the student federation, how they handle things, how they recognize the achievement of this government, what we have done for them, and we have not stopped and we will not stop. Our fiscal reality will dictate how we move forward, but we have not stopped trying to improve and trying to decrease the debt load of our students.

Thank you very much.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS BURKE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It certainly was not my intention to speak, but I know we do have a few minutes before we have to conclude debate at 4:45 this afternoon. I wanted to therefore take a few minutes to speak about this particular private member's motion because it is one motion that is certainly near and dear to my heart as a member of this government and one that I certainly feel a need to speak on.

It is an issue that, in my former role in this government as the Minister of Education, it is something that I certainly embraced and wanted to bring forward and have some initiatives that would benefit the students of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, it is very easy for members of government or members of a Cabinet to sit around and develop a policy or funding proposals that we feel will benefit the students of Newfoundland and Labrador. Mr. Speaker, when I am at that table, what I bring to that table is what I experienced when I went to university and when I went to post-secondary, and that was in the 1980s. That was from 1982 to 1987 and then I went again from 1989 to 1990. That is my experience and that is what I bring and when I talk about university that is my frame of reference.

Mr. Speaker, we are not in the 1980s any more. We are in a time right now where we need to understand the issues of students and what this government did was we listened to the students. We held round-table discussions – I did, Mr. Speaker, on at least two occasions with post-secondary students in Newfoundland and Labrador. When we met, we had representatives from the Canadian Federation of Students, from Memorial University St. John's campus, as well as Grenfell, we had representatives from the College of the North Atlantic, we had representatives of students who attend private post-secondary institutions, and we also had people who are representatives on the Youth Advisory Committee. Why we did that, Mr. Speaker, was because we felt it was absolutely necessary to have the input from the people who are most affected by the decisions that we would make regarding funding, tuition or student loans. We felt we needed those people at the table because when I went back to the Cabinet table and decisions were being made, I wanted to make sure that I was able to bring their voice back and their suggestions because we value their input, Mr. Speaker.

When we had our round table, Mr. Speaker, we discussed everything. We discussed Up-Front, Needs-Based Grants, the tuition freeze and the elimination of interest on the provincial portion of student loans. Then, we talked about other issues, we talked about tax credits, we talked about tax incentives for post-secondary students when they graduate, we talked about relocation allowances to help rural students move from rural parts of the Province into St. John's. What was interesting, Mr. Speaker, was what came back from the post-secondary students. I forgot to add, at that table as well, we also had people who are not students but people who had graduated and were in repayment of their student loans because they understood the challenges as well.

What we heard loud and clear from the students and the people in repayment were two things: reduce or eliminate the interest on the provincial portion of the student loans and introduce Up-Front, Needs-Based Grants. Mr. Speaker, I am proud to say that we listened to the post-secondary students in Newfoundland and Labrador and we delivered on what they requested of government to assist them –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS BURKE: - with the financial burdens that they carry as students or, I guess, as graduates once they graduate and enter the workforce.

Mr. Speaker, what is also important is we talk about the debt load of students from rural Newfoundland and Labrador, but it is the students from rural Newfoundland and Labrador who have to borrow the most because they come into St. John's or Corner Brook and they have to pay for housing and other costs, travel, that students probably from the metro areas or the Corner Brook area may not necessarily incur.

What we have done, Mr. Speaker, is we have helped the students who are most in need. I need to explain that because when we talk about the Up-Front, Needs-Based Grants what we are saying is a student who borrows the maximum student loan is able to borrow up to $140 a week. That means students who have the highest financial burden will have to borrow $140 a week. With the grants, what we said, Mr. Speaker, is that the last $80 of that $140 they will not have to repay. That means that students who need this money the most will only borrow up to $60 a week as opposed to $140. They are still entitled to the $140 if they qualify for it, but we are equalizing it so the students in the most need are no further disadvantaged than somebody who needs to borrow up to $60 a week. That is a significant step.

Mr. Speaker, what is interesting to know is that Up-Front, Needs-Based Grants were available in Newfoundland and Labrador but the previous Liberal Administration took away the grants for these students. That is what happened to these grants and that is why we are bringing them back now, Mr. Speaker. That was a shameful act that they did to the students in the 1990s.

At the same time they eliminated the grants for students; they increased and increased and increased the tuition at our post-secondary institutions. When we hear about the financial burden that students are carrying, we can only go back to the 1990s and understand the government decisions and the policy decisions that were made at that time that put our students or our graduates and our young people in the hardships and the situations that they have experienced for the last ten or fifteen years.

Mr. Speaker, we have put significant money into post-secondary, but we have made the investments where we felt it would benefit the students the most; whether that was our tuition freeze, the elimination of the interest on the provincial part of the student loans or the Up-Front, Needs-Based Grants. We put our students first and foremost in our policy decisions and, Mr. Speaker, who we listen to. So when we go to that Cabinet table, we are taking their voices, their ideas and their concerns. Now I am not saying we can deliver on everything, but what we can deliver has to come from the students because they know best. Mr. Speaker, we have listened to the students.

Not only have we made it more accessible and affordable for our post-secondary students, this is rooted back in our K-12 system as well, Mr. Speaker, because we have invested heavily in our students, whether they are post-secondary students or whether they are students who are in our K-12 system.

What we have done, Mr. Speaker, and some great initiatives that people appreciate in the Province. One is we eliminated paying for textbooks in high school. In every other province of Canada, every student in the K-12 system had access to free textbooks except in this Province, Mr. Speaker. Our high-school students had to pay for their textbooks. We thought that was a shame, it was inappropriate, and we made sure that all students in our K-12 system have access to the appropriate textbooks and they do not have to pay for them.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, another thing we brought in to make education accessible and affordable was the elimination of school fees. We would provide textbooks to K-9; we would not provide it to our high-school students. Then we would say: Oh, by the way, in the lower grades you may need a workbook to go along with your textbook, but do you know what? We will not give it to you; you will pay us for it. You may need a recorder to go with the music program, but do you know what? You are going to pay for that, too. Mr. Speaker, we have reimbursed schools to the point that they were able to eliminate school fees and none of the supplies that the students needed were neglected.

So, Mr. Speaker, I will be proud any day to stand and talk about our investments in education and what we have done for our post-secondary students. Mr. Speaker, not only that, I am also proud to say that our investments and our policies have been rooted in what the students tell us.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

When he speaks now he will close debate.

MR. VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Well, it has certainly been a spirited debate today and we have heard lots of good news. We have heard lots of affirmation about the steps that we have taken as a government in making post-secondary education more accessible, more available, and more affordable for the students in our Province.

I want to thank all the members who participated in this debate today and participated in the private member's motion that I brought forward. I thank the Leader of the Opposition, the Member for Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair. I want to thank the Member for Baie Verte-Springdale, the Member for The Straits & White Bay North. I want to thank the Minister of Education, the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi, the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, the Minister Responsible for the Volunteer and Non-Profit Sector, and finally, the Government House Leader who took her seven or eight minutes there to very succinctly put a lot of the points into focus.

I am not going to go through and address what each person said because there were a lot of valid points made today and there was a lot of affirmation for what we have done in education, but I do want to pick up on something that the Leader of the NDP said and also I guess what the Leader of the Opposition said. While they recognize that what we have done is good and they both said that freezing tuition is good, eliminating the interest on the provincial portion of student loans is good; they continue to ask for more.

Now, Mr. Speaker, we have done and we will continue to do everything that is fiscally responsible to do in order to demonstrate to the students of this Province and the parents of this Province who have children attending school, we will do everything that is fiscally responsible to support and to encourage attendance at post-secondary education. On the one hand, while we are supportive of education, there is only so much that you can do and still be fiscally responsible.

I would love to be able to say that education is free. Unfortunately, that is not where we are, but we have to remember that the initiatives we are talking about here today are nationally leading initiatives. The freezing of tuition, having the lowest tuition in the country – and again, outside of Quebec, and Quebec only offers that to students who are from Quebec – but having the lowest tuition rates in the country is a nationally leading thing, it is a nationally leading initiative. Eliminating the interest on the student loans, the provincial portion, is a nationally leading initiative. When you cannot get up in the House and say: yes, this is great news, and yes, we affirm that, and yes, we applaud that, without at the same time continuing to ask for more, to me that is a little bit of a problem. Because on one hand – I will tell you what the problem is, it is because at the one hand you are complaining that –

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) what you are doing, but it is not enough.

MR. VERGE: Yes, but on the one hand, what you are saying, you are saying we are running – I heard the members of the Opposition criticize the fact that we are running about $190 million deficit this year, and saying we should be having a balanced budget. Well, how can we do everything that you continue to ask? How can we do all of these initiatives without spending money? They cost money. We want to spend money in wise means and we want to be fiscally responsible, and that is what we will do, and that is what this government has done.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I am not going to go through some of the other points that some of the other speakers have talked about, in particular, the up-front grants, and other speakers have addressed those rather eloquently and succinctly. One of the initiatives that I did not hear - and if it was mentioned, I apologize - was the commitment that we made to married students to help ease the financial burden of attending school while honouring the financial obligations needed to raise a family. What we have done there, 70 per cent is the new amount of a student's spouse's discretionary income that is considered as resources to be used toward the spouse's education. It was 80 per cent, we reduced that to 70 per cent. So that makes the cost of education a little bit cheaper again for people who are in university, who have made the commitment to enter a marriage contract, and maybe have children, and therefore they have all kinds of other associated expenses. About 200 students benefit from that initiative.

With respect to investments, I want to review – just in closing, Mr. Speaker – not only what we did with the tuition, not only what we did with the interest on the student loans, but I want to go back and talk about the investment that this government has made since 2004 – total investment in Memorial University and in the College of the North Atlantic.

In 2004, Mr. Speaker, our total investment in Memorial University was $163.8 million. I want members to hear these figures because they are outstanding. These figures that I am going to give you now are absolutely off the charts, Mr. Speaker: 2004, in Memorial, $163 million; 2005, $182 million; 2006, gone up to $206 million; in 2007, up to $232 million; in 2008, gone up to $267 million; in 2009, up to $270 million; and the total investment for 2010, Mr. Speaker, in Memorial University, gone from 2004, $163 million up to $320 million. That is pretty well a 100 per cent increase in the last six or seven years.

At the College of the North Atlantic we have seen similar investments. Back in 2004, the total investment was $51 million at the College of the North Atlantic. It went to $55 million in 2005, up to $65 million in 2006, up to $73 million in 2007 – we are going up. We are continuing to go up. The investment gets higher. Our investment in education continues to increase. Up to 2010, Mr. Speaker, $100 million at College of the North Atlantic, again, a 100 per cent increase – tremendous investments.

We are building a new campus down in Lab City College of the North Atlantic. I was talking to the member there today for Lab West who is very excited about the initiative that is going on there, an investment of about $20 million going to be spent there.

We are spending upwards of $80 million for renovations and construction of new residences at Memorial. The numbers of post-secondary students are continuing to increase. We heard the Member for The Straits & White Bay North talk about that. They are continuing to increase and they are increasing because we are making education more accessible and more affordable.

Mr. Speaker, I have a few minutes left and I am going to conclude. The Minister of Education today alluded to a couple of people who were in the gallery, a couple of students. As it happened, I am going to quote from the media that I looked up. Last year, when we passed the Student Financial Assistance Act there was a quote from Daniel Smith and he said this, "We're extremely excited about this." He is the provincial chair of the Canadian Federation of Students. He said, "It's like the finance minister said - this is going to ease the burden of student debt for students of Newfoundland and Labrador. Almost 50,000 people who currently fall under the student loan portfolio here in the province are going to be in a much better situation coming out of this."

Yes, Mr. Speaker, we have made tremendous investments in post-secondary education. The record speaks for itself. We are leading the country. This is the place to come and to learn. We value education. It is the way to a brighter future. So we have consulted, we have engaged our youth and we do have lots to be proud of. The House of Assembly should affirm, as a matter of fact it should applaud and it should shout its support for the actions taken by this government to not only improve access but to also decrease the cost associated with post-secondary education in this Province.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER (Fitzgerald): Order, please!

Is the House ready for the question?

Shall the resolution as brought forward by the hon. the Member for the District of Lewisporte carry?

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

The resolution is carried unanimously.

AN HON. MEMBER: Division.

MR. SPEAKER: Division.

Call in the members.

Division

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Are the whips ready for the vote?

All those in favour of the resolution as put forward by the hon. Member for the District of Lewisporte please stand.

CLERK: Ms Burke, Ms Dunderdale, Mr. Hedderson, Mr. Skinner, Mr. Jackman, Mr. Wiseman, Mr. Marshall, Mr. Felix Collins, Mr. Tom Osborne, Mr. Kelly, Mr. Ridgley, Ms Johnson, Mr. French, Ms Pottle, Mr. King, Mr. O'Brien, Mr. Hickey, Ms Sullivan, Mr. Denine, Mr. Dinn, Mr. Davis, Mr. Baker, Ms Perry, Mr. Dalley, Mr. Kevin Parsons, Mr. Pollard, Ms Sheila Osborne, Mr. Peach, Mr. Hunter, Mr. Verge, Mr. Young, Mr. Harding, Mr. Hutchings, Mr. Kent, Mr. Forsey, Mr. Loder, Mr. Buckingham, Mr. Cornect, Mr. Sandy Collins, Mr. Kelvin Parsons, Mr. Dean.

MR. SPEAKER: All those against the motion as put forward by the hon. the Member for the District of Lewisporte please stand.

Seeing nobody is standing, the Chair declares the resolution carried unanimously.

On motion, resolution carried unanimously.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

This being Private Members' Day and the business of the House being concluded, this House now stands adjourned until 1:30 of the clock tomorrow, being Thursday.

This House is now adjourned.