June 3, 2010                        HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS                  Vol. XLVI  No. 32


The House met at 1: 30 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Fitzgerald): Order, please!

Admit strangers.

Today the Chair would like to welcome thirty individuals from the Golden Rod's 50 Plus Club from the District of Cape St. Francis. The club is accompanied by their President, Andrι Loder, with Councillor Eileen Hatch of the Town of Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove.

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 Port au Port; the hon. the Member for the District of Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi; and the hon. the Member for the District of Labrador West.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. CORNECT: Mr. Speaker, I rise today in this hon. House to congratulate the winner and nominees at the recently held Annual Premier's Athletic Award Ceremony in St. John's. These athletes were recognized for outstanding accomplishments.

Mr. Speaker, I am extremely proud of the fact that two athletes from my District of Port au Port were honoured and recognized for their success and achievement in their respective sports. I know the grants received from the Premier's Athletic Awards Program will help these fine athletes to further advance and excel in their sport.

I would like to congratulate Emily Alexander of Kippens for her dedication, hard work and skill in the sport of Badminton. She also received this award, Mr. Speaker, in 2009.

Also, Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate and applaud Erica Noonan of Stephenville for her discipline, perseverance and stamina in the sport of swimming.

As everyone knows, it takes a lot of determination to excel in any sport. Athletes must also have the training opportunities to allow them to perform to the best of their ability and these awards help make this possible.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all hon. members of this hon. House to join with me in congratulating Emily and Erica and all the award winners and nominees of the Annual Premier's Athletics Awards on their significant achievements in sport.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

Mr. Speaker, I stand in this hon. House today to recognize the significant cultural contributions of the Hooking Our Heritage project. Frances Ennis, her daughter, Laura Coultas, and all the women rug hookers of the Five Island Gallery are continuing the generations old tradition of rug hooking in Newfoundland and Labrador and introducing rug hooking to a whole new generation of people.

Mr. Speaker, the rug hooking group has recently embarked on this project which consists of more than thirty original rugs depicting images inspired by the topic of the Irish-Newfoundland connection. This topic allows the rug hookers to explore their own family heritage as well as to explore our Province's history and connection with Ireland.

The images in the rugs on display at Five Island Gallery as part of the Hooking Our Heritage project range from scenes depicting the streets of St. John's in days gone by to rugs accentuating our unique geography, and pieces that highlight the multiculturalism of our society, with Irish roots being just one part of the cultural mosaic that makes our Province such a wonderful place to live.

Frances and Laura are to be commended, Mr. Speaker, not only for continuing the rug hooking tradition in the Province but also teaching a new generation of rug hookers the skill and art. It is quite uplifting and inspiring, Mr. Speaker, to see young rug hookers, such as nine-year-old Maya Morton-Ninomiya, the youngest of the group, having such great time learning and creating these wonderful pieces of folk art.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all hon. members of this House of Assembly to join me in congratulating Frances Ennis and Laura Coultas for keeping the tradition of rug hooking alive in our Province, ensuring our cultural traditions are preserved, and inspiring the creation of Newfoundland and Labrador artwork from a whole new generation of people.

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.

Mr. Speaker, the fifth annual Labrador West Music Festival was held from March 22-26 and ended with a gala evening on Saturday, March 27 of this year.

This wonderful music event brought over 500 participants of all ages – from the very young to the young at heart – to the stage. Although this is a non-competitive festival, awards and scholarships were presented thanks to the support of generous sponsors. The following award recipients were chosen by the festival adjudicators.

Nine merit awards which consisted of a trophy and $25 were presented. Solo performances went to: Lucas Eldem, Jared Martin, Jack Brennan, Alex Penney, Mitchell Mullen, Andrew Leriche, Megan Harrington, and Emily Costello.

Merit awards for group entry went to the A.P. Low Primary School - Grade 3 Choir for their choral entry.

Nine bursary awards, consisting of a trophy and $150, were presented as follows, for solo performances: Sarah Hearn, Marcus Gibbs, Hayley Hynes, Catherine Rogers, Jenna Etsell, and Andrew Noseworthy. Awards for the group performances went to the group called Here Comes Treble for Ensemble Choral Singing; the Menihek High School Senior Band for Instrumental Ensemble; J.R. Smallwood Middle School – Grade 7 Choral Speech Group for their Choral Speech.

The Linda Nuotio-Flynn Award for outstanding performance in Dramatic Speech went to Ms Simons' Choral Speech Group, consisting of Katie Peddle, Kayla Milley, Madison Hancock, and Nicole Maddox.

The Harold Stanley Memorial Award for future potential in voice went to Ariana Pitcher.

The Sharon E. Whalen Award for the performance best expressing the joy of choral singing went to the group called Les Versicolores.

This year the festival was very pleased to present two $1,000 scholarships for the pursuit of further studies at Memorial University's School of Music. These awards were sponsored by the Iron Ore Company of Canada and were presented to Catherine Rogers and Andrew Noseworthy.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all hon. members to join me in congratulating the Labrador West Music Festival organizing committee, the many volunteers, the sponsors and participants for making this festival such a successful and truly inspirational week of music and learning.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Statements by Ministers.

Statements by Ministers

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am pleased to announce today that beginning this fall all schools and school districts will have access to a mass communication tool which will allow them to send instant messages via telephone or e-mail to parents or guardians.

Government is investing approximately $150,000 annually to enable school districts to purchase this service. Once in place, Mr. Speaker, every school in the Province will have the ability to alert the local parent community about important notifications. These could include, Mr. Speaker, emergency messages, information on school closures, or changes to bus schedules, for example. It can also be used to send a message to a specific home to report on individual incidents, to give a homework reminder, or even to notify parents when a child is not in class. The service is also capable of multilingual message delivery.

Communication between the school and home is extremely important. Parents are engaged in their child's education and they require information in a timely manner. Through this initiative, we are responding to that need and this funding will enable all school districts across the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador to purchase and implement this service.

Mr. Speaker, when we think about information technologies in education, we often think of computers in the classroom or interactive whiteboards, but government has also made tremendous investments in important technology outside the classroom. For example, we invest $1 million annually to purchase software licensing, including Microsoft licensing for schools and school boards, providing a common software package for students and teachers. We provided secure flash drives to every teacher in the Province who required one. More than $430,000, Mr. Speaker, was allocated for anti-virus software licensing for use in the entire K-12 system. As well, $1 million is being invested annually for an additional twenty information technology support specialists to work with school boards and support schools and school districts.

Investments such as these provide a solid foundation that contributes to improve teaching and improve learning. All technology, Mr. Speaker, has a shelf life and all technology continues to improve. We are working to equip schools with technology that is functional, affordable and relevant. With today's announcement, we are providing a new technology in schools that will meet the needs of both the students and the parents.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. DEAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

First of all, I would like to thank the minister for an advance copy of his statement, and certainly would suggest that a mass communication tool is a very good initiative.

Certainly, in times of school closures and that kind of thing, when weather comes down suddenly it is important that parents get the message out and that students understand, and that teachers and everyone else involved understand the changes they are making and that things can happen in a co-ordinated approach and properly and so on. So any initiative to keep the communication lines open between parents, the school and teachers is always a good thing. It is essential that between schools and families we are building a trust relationship that really fosters parental involvement and so on. I understand it is already in place in some parts of the Province, I believe, and certainly look forward to it being throughout the Province so that parents can use it at their convenience.

Of course, there are many other issues that we know, that we would encourage government to continue to work on within the education system in our schools, and so on, and that we would certainly encourage funding for the same. So it is a good initiative, and it is just good to speak about this afternoon.

Thank you.

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

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

I, too, thank the minister for the advance copy of his statement. I am glad to see the announcements that are being made today by the minister. Obviously, the tool that he first spoke to, with regard to getting the messages out to parents and guardians should be a very important tool. I would imagine that the schools will be careful that the numbers they are calling are where they can actually get the person, either a cell phone or where they are on the day, because not many people are in their homes these days. I assume that is something they would be looking carefully at, that the parents and guardians will get the message immediately because it is dealing with messages, for the most part, that they would need to get right away.

I am interested in the fact that one of the things that the minister mentioned was the possibility of letting parents know when children are not in school. That does raise the issue of children who are missing school and how the schools do follow up with parents after they leave the message, what else happens? So follow up will be really important.

One of the concerns I have been hearing from parents are about students who are suspended, and we do know that here in the St. John's area we are getting a program, that is an important program, the YMCA Alternative Suspension Program to provide activities and workshops for suspended students. So I put that out to the minister as something else to look into when looking at things like being connected with parents over the attendance of school children.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Further statements by ministers?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SKINNER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, establishing formal trade linkages through Memorandums of Understanding, or MOUs, creates a solid foundation to advance trade activity. MOUs provide the platform for partners to learn more about one another; how they can better work together; and how they can collectively better advance their interests. In essence, Mr. Speaker, they plant the seeds to grow new opportunities.

As a government, we recognize the significance of MOUs. We view them as a valuable means of creating an environment for increased linkages and to opening trade corridors - not trade solely from a good and services perspective but also in knowledge and experience. Our approach to forming these agreements has targeted those jurisdictions where we share a common bond.

In particular, our historical ties and relationship with the Atlantic Ocean led to increasingly valuable and productive agreements with the State of Rhode Island and the Republic of Ireland. The value of which was highlighted at last week's Ocean Tech Expo in Rhode Island.

Based on the spirit and the intent of these MOUs, representatives from this Province' ocean technology sector were joined last week by Ireland's Marine Institute to showcase their capabilities and excellence to international audiences.

This marks an important step in positioning the Province as the agent for greater ocean-related activities in the North Atlantic. By building relationships between Newfoundland and Labrador, Ireland, and New England we are working to advance applied ocean research projects, business partnerships, and trade development.

Participants in the four day mission included AMEC, Compusult, Marport, Oceanic Consulting, PanGeo Subsea, the Fisheries and Marine Institute of Memorial University, and the Marine Institute of Ireland. While in Rhode Island the delegation also marketed their products and strengthened relationships in a variety of areas including military, energy, academic research, and boating.

Mr. Gary Dinn of PanGeo Subsea presented at the Ocean Tech Expo. He described the mission as creating the platform to meet with potential clients, vendors and industry leaders and found it effective in creating greater awareness of his company in a key market.

A delegation from the Province will be looking to extend the positive momentum generated in Rhode Island at the Maritime Systems and Technology Conference in Washington, DC in late June. The delegation will be able to explore and develop commercial and technology partnering opportunities in the maritime security and defense sector.

Mr. Speaker, we are optimistic that the seeds planted through our MOUs will continue to germinate and lead the Province and its partners to continuing to expand our respective interests.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. DEAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

First, I would like to thank the minister for an advance copy of his statement. MOUs certainly do provide platform for partnership and any time that the Province can negotiate with foreign countries and other interest groups in terms of developing business and so on, investing in our Province, then certainly is a good thing.

Of course, we know the MOU for Ireland has been around for some time, back in 1977, I believe it was, when then Premier Brian Tobin announced that this high-level committee was in place and the MOU was signed. Since then we have seen good things and we continue to see good things, and that is good.

I certainly would wish the delegation that will be attending the institution or conference in Washington well and trust that, again, good things will continue to develop in this partnership.

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

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

Mr. Speaker, I do thank the minister for the advance copy of his statement. I do agree that the MOUs that the minister is speaking about are a valuable way to promote trade and to get people connecting in a very practical way in the industries that they are working in. Promoting ocean technology in particular is certainly a commendable goal for us here in this Province. The connections that are being made and have been made in the past are most commendable.

I say to the government, Mr. Speaker, that I would like to see them expend the same level of energy and enthusiasm towards developing a provincial seafood marketing program. The Minister of Fisheries has heard me speak of this before. Offshore technology is an important and growing component of our economy but so is our fishery, and I look forward to seeing leadership from the government in the discussions that are ongoing in the industry to make sure that we do get into a provincial seafood marketing program.

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: Mr. Speaker, yesterday we received a briefing from the C-NLOPB regarding offshore drilling regulations. I must say, Mr. Speaker, instead of hearing the Minister of Natural Resources in the House of Assembly in the last few days going on about vegetable oil and the man in the moon, I can say it was somewhat refreshing.

During the briefing, Mr. Speaker, we were advised that once an oil company self-reports an oil spill under section 115 of the provincial accord act, the C-NLOPB is required to get written consent from the company before it can release the information to the public.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS JONES: I ask the minister, in the spirit of openness and transparency, will you commit to bringing forward amendments to this piece of legislation that will clearly outline any information related to spills can be reported by the C-NLOPB without permission from the companies?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, section 115 and 119 of the Atlantic Accord act does talk about proprietary information and having to seek permission from the oil companies to release information. However, Mr. Speaker, the practice has been, and will continue to be, where it relates to environment and to safety, that all reports that are made to the board are posted on their Web site and made public.

Mr. Speaker, we currently have a review of the regulation on practices around oil spills taking place, prevention of oil spills and oil spill reaction, and that is certainly something we will take under consideration once those recommendations are made.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The C-NLOPB is indicating that because of the legislation, every time that they reveal information to the public without having written consent, they are in violation of the act.

So I ask you today, Minister, why not make the amendments in the legislation to allow for a full open and full transparent process?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, as I said, the practice has been to report all incidents with regard to human safety and to the environment. That practice will continue.

Once we have been through the review process, there will be a number of recommendations made without a doubt. Mr. Speaker, perhaps more than one legislative change is going to be required. That is something that will have to take place between the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and the federal government, Mr. Speaker. That is a piece of work that we will have to do together.

We have committed before, through the Premier and through myself, that whatever the recommendations are, whatever requirements on changes to legislation that might be required, Mr. Speaker, then we are committed to doing that.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It needs to be noted that these companies are into a self-reporting process, and in addition to that, they have legislation that really can protect them from having this information released publicly. So there is no openness and transparency.

Mr. Speaker, we also asked the C-NLOPB why independent monitors have not been used as an option in the offshore area. In fact, Mr. Speaker, what their response to me was is that it would be an inconvenience to the companies because the capacity for accommodations does not exist on the rigs to be adding more personnel as observers or as monitors.

So I ask you today, Minister: Why does it appear that we are more concerned with inconveniencing the oil companies right now as opposed to ensuring full oversight on these drill rigs?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Deputy Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I can only speak for the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and our issue with regard with monitoring for oil spills has nothing to do with accommodation on platforms. Mr. Speaker, we have a number of people, dedicated people, with the C-NLOPB, who monitor what happens on the rigs in terms of environment and conservation. We have a series – just about every day when there is good flying weather, there is a plane in the air with trained oil spill spotters on board and a protocol established where oil spills are reported.

Mr. Speaker, science tells us that that is the most effective way to spot oil spills - from the air and not from stationary platforms.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

There are no independent monitors on the platforms. In fact, Mr. Speaker, the rationale that was given to us was only because they did not have the accommodations.

I ask the minister today if she is prepared, Mr. Speaker, to make a commitment to have independent monitors or observers on these platforms to ensure that there is greater oversight and more protection from an oil spill.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, these are very serious issues. When we see what is happening in the Gulf, that fact is brought home to us in a very, very strong way.

Mr. Speaker, I have attended two briefings - the same briefing twice from the C-NLOPB. The same briefing that I asked the C-NLOPB to provide to members of the Opposition, Mr. Speaker. At no time did I hear in the briefings that the only reason we did not have independent monitors on platforms was because of accommodation shortages.

The board is satisfied with the level of monitoring that takes place by their employees on the board. Every day, as I said, where visibility is good there is a plane in the air monitoring what is happening offshore. They have a protocol that causes them to report to the board, Mr. Speaker, and that is the most effective way of monitoring.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The minister had her officials and her communications director sit in on our session, so maybe they can give you the information, Mr. Speaker, because the questions and the answers were very clear.

Mr. Speaker, the minister keeps stating that air surveillance is the best place to be monitoring any detection of a spill offshore. No one is arguing with that, but what we have learned from the C-NLOPB is that there have been no records related to surveillance flights. They do not co-ordinate these surveillance flights, they do not keep records of these surveillance flights. In fact, much of the data comes from Coast Guard or Transport Canada who are really out there monitoring shipping lanes and fishing vessels and not mandatory rig platforms, I say to the minister.

So I ask the minister today: If air surveillance is the best way of monitoring, why does the C-NLOPB not have a mandatory program and recorded data available?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Deputy Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, Transport Canada, through the Coast Guard, employs or contracts with PAL to do oil spill monitoring in our offshore - over 100 flights a year on that contract. Transport Canada also uses its Dash 8 out of New Brunswick to do periodic patrols of the offshore. Mr. Speaker, DFO also has a contract with PAL on fishing surveillance on the offshore.

Now, Mr. Speaker, all of the people who are doing the monitoring for these agencies are trained in oil spill detection. There is a protocol established again with all of this monitoring that if there is any spills spotted it is reported to the Coast Guard who reports it to the C-NLOPB. Mr. Speaker, there is no need for an extra layer of surveillance.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

We are well aware of the patrols that are happening on the ocean, Mr. Speaker, and the contracts that exist. The issue that we have, Mr. Speaker, is this: If air surveillance is the method, and the most convenient method or the most proven method, as the minister likes to state, Mr. Speaker, why is it that the C-NLOPB does not have a mandatory program for the oil rigs, and why is it that they are not collecting the data from these air surveillances? Why is it, Minister, that the only time that these aircraft are flying to rigs to look for spill detection is when the C-NLOPB themselves request that that be done? Very different!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS DUNDERDALE: Mr. Speaker, the whole area offshore is covered through all of these flights; the contracts through the Coast Guard, Mr. Speaker, and the contracts through PAL.

Mr. Speaker, PAL also does, once or twice a week, radar satellite imagery of our offshore which is also very effective in detecting oil spills. So, Mr. Speaker, they are only required to report to the C-NLOPB if they spot an oil spill. It is not required to report on a daily basis.

So, Mr. Speaker, in addition to the monitoring, the self-monitoring that goes on with the oil companies, the independent monitoring that goes on with the C-NLOPB, we also have this overfly through federal agencies and they report when there is anything to be reported.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is unfortunate that the minister would hang her hat on all of this when we know for certain today that the C-NLOPB has no firm data on how many flights - how much air surveillance is done over those rigs on an annual basis, could not provide us with the information, Mr. Speaker, and assured us that there is no mandatory program.

Mr. Speaker, we have also raised the issue of establishing a task force which has so far been rejected by the minister, but members of the C-NLOPB did not raise any concerns related to this suggestion. They said it would have to be a political policy decision of government.

So I ask the minister today: To ensure the most open, accountable and proactive process of monitoring our offshore, will you commit to creating a task force that will work with and make recommendations concerning the offshore industry on a continuous basis?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, let me address the issue of data first. Mr. Speaker, the C-NLOPB does have hard data, any data that is available on oil spills, which is the issue. Mr. Speaker, they do not need to know how many times, because they know that every day there is good visibility and good flying conditions there is a plane in the air going over our offshore, probably several, Mr. Speaker. They know that there is radar satellite imagery once to twice a week. What they need to know about is: Is there any detection of oil spills? That data is sent to them immediately, Mr. Speaker. So they do have that data which is most pertinent to the discussion at hand and what we are talking about in terms -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS DUNDERDALE: Mr. Speaker, in terms of the other piece, the Premier committed, and in effect now is a complete review of our legislative and regulatory requirements for…

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

Mr. Speaker, this week government lost yet another court case. This time the government lost an appeal against NAPE on the closure of thirteen winter maintenance depots. This is after government already lost the case twice, first in arbitration, and in the lower courts.

I ask the Minister of Treasury Board: Can the minister advise if he is going to appeal this decision yet again? If not, can you provide an estimate of what this is going to cost the people of this Province in terms of back wages to the employees, government legal fees, and the legal costs which the court has ordered that you must pay on behalf of NAPE for these various appeals?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MARSHALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Court of Appeal did release its decision on this issue which has affirmed the position of the government on two of the major issues that were before the courts. The court, first of all, did affirm the government's ability as employer to reorganize and to seasonalize for the summer season its headquarters area. That was number one, and therefore overruled the decision of the arbitration board and the Trial Division.

Secondly, the court affirmed the government's right as employer to layoff for lack of work, thereby again, overruling the decision of the arbitration board and the Trial Division. While the court affirmed the governments position with respect to the right to seasonalize or to close for the summer the depots and also to lay people off for lack of work, thereby protecting a very important management right of government as an employer, the government did recognize that in dismissing the employees, laying off the employees, there were certain employees whose seniority rights and whose recall rights, bumping rights were infringed and our government officials are getting together to review the decision to determine the next step.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

That is like the guy who was whistling past the graveyard. Now that you have been ruled against, you decide what you liked about it. Pretty good.

Mr. Speaker, this case is one of the largest arbitration decisions upheld by our courts in terms of dollar values. This latest legal debacle is going to cost anywhere from $6 million to $7 million to cover the five years of back pay to the workers which government improperly laid off in 2005. That amount does not include the government legal fees and the NAPE legal fees. The people of the Province are on the hook once again for all of these costs.

I ask the minister: Can you confirm that these figures are accurate, $6 million to $7 million for wages plus the court costs? I ask the minister, what are your plans to resolve this issue?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MARSHALL: Mr. Speaker, as I indicated earlier, this particular court case has reaffirmed the position of the government on two very important issues which are important to government in its role as an employer, and that was very important. Again, the Public Service Secretariat and Transportation and Works, and Justice will get together to determine which employees may have had their seniority rights infringed because of any improper layoffs and they will determine if any salary and benefits are owed to these people and then the Public Service Secretariat will get together with NAPE to make sure that the appropriate redress is provided.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

Despite the spin being put forward by the minister, I will tell you what this court decision does make quite clear. Mr. Speaker, this case is entirely about government's attempt to defeat the established principle of labour seniority through a short-sighted move to get through the back door what you cannot legally get through the front door.

I ask the minister: What steps will be taken by you, as President of Treasury Board, to ensure that these costly labour mistakes will never happen again?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MARSHALL: Mr. Speaker, this case reaffirms the government's right as employer to decide how it is going to organize its work and organize its workers. That is the important principle in this case and the government's position in this has been upheld.

In carrying out the layoffs, however, the government did not follow the procedure that the court considered appropriate. Some people's seniority rights and recall rights were affected and therefore Transportation and Works will quantify those claims and will work with the Public Service Secretariat who will work in turn with NAPE in order to ensure that the appropriate redress is provided for those particular employees that need to be compensated.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. DEAN: Mr. Speaker, thank you.

I questioned the Minister of Fisheries yesterday on the MOU process and the concerns shared by many that it is not progressing fast enough to effectively address the challenges confronting the industry at present. For example, we have seen the turmoil created in the community of Jackson's Arm when its shrimp plant abruptly closed last week.

Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, this is only a taste of what rural communities in this Province may see in months ahead, yet the government is refusing to offer any meaningful assistance at this time outside job creation projects.

So I ask the minister: Until the MOU comes together, are you prepared in the meantime to provide early retirement programs, worker adjustment programs, community investment funds, or whatever it is that people need so that they and their communities can weather this storm in their industry?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, the communities affected, we are very much engaged with, and we will find our way through this.

Let me tell you, Mr. Speaker, where the problem arises. Anybody who would have read the Cashin report in 2005 under a section called management processing capacity, a statement is made by Mr. Richard Cashin, he cautioned against the wholesale increase in crab processing licence. Mr. Speaker, in 1996, down further he just says: With full knowledge of the mess that the industry was in, in 1996-1997 the provincial government, with the full knowledge of the mess, allocated seventeen licences. Then in 1998-2000 they allocated another three and then in 2001, Mr. Speaker, they issued another six – twenty-six additional licences.

No wonder we are in the mess that we are in, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. DEAN: Mr. Speaker, with all due respect, we can all read history.

So I ask the question again: Until the MOU comes together, are you prepared in the meantime to provide an early retirement program, a worker adjustment program –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. DEAN: – or a community investment fund that would help the people –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. member to pose his question.

MR. DEAN: The question, Mr. Speaker, is: Until the MOU process comes together again, are you prepared in the meantime to provide an early retirement program, a worker adjustment program, or a community investment fund – whatever you want to call them – so that the people and communities can weather this storm in their industry?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, 2001 is not that long in history, and I would suggest that popular political decisions are not always the best ones to make in the long-term interests of the people of the Province. I can assure you of that, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, as I have said, we have –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, we have not at any time, as a government, failed the plant workers of the Province. We have stepped up for them in the past. We are talking to mayors, union representatives and communities at large, and Mr. Speaker, we will offer the supports that we can to get them through this.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. DEAN: Mr. Speaker, it is clear that the MOU process has become nothing by a defence for government on these fishery failures, and in fact, many are fearful that MOU is the new phrase for closing out plants and leaving plant workers abandoned. Frankly, if this government was all serious about the MOU, the most recent Budget would have allocated money for this process, and the federal government, a key player in the industry, would be at the table.

So I ask the minister, if you are not prepared to provide the necessary investments required to stabilize this industry now, and the federal government is not prepared to step in, where does this leave the people and the communities who are facing devastation of their livelihood?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, what I am hearing is that this member should go out and say to the FFAW and the ASP that this MOU process is a waste of time. Is that what he is saying? That is what I am hearing, Mr. Speaker.

I am telling you, Mr. Speaker, if this MOU process does not work, it will not be because of the efforts that this government puts into it. We allocated $800,000 to engage the parties in this process. As I have said, the parties that can make the difference are at the table, and it will be in the best interests of the people of this Province, the fishery, and rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. BUTLER: Mr. Speaker, last week I asked questions with regard to the tender that was recently called to compact and redistribute the used tires being stored in Dunville. We also asked for details surrounding the proposal, that the minister mentioned would be coming on stream. Not surprisingly, Mr. Speaker, we did not receive an answer.

So I ask the minister, yet again: What is the nature of this proposal and when will we see a formal announcement?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS JOHNSON: Mr. Speaker, while we are trying to work our way through a solution for tires, and as the member opposite would know, this is not easy, as there were two failed attempts under their watch, we are trying to do measures in the interim to cut down on the costs, but also to cut down on the environmental benefits, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS JOHNSON: This tender that was put out was to look at if baling would certainly work in the area. So we are just trying to get a feel for if it will lower the costs. We believe it will, but of course, we want to wait for that process to unfold to see if, in fact, that will happen.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. BUTLER: I say, Mr. Speaker, with all due respect, seven years and no watch. I would also go as far as to say that the tires that were collected under the former Administration probably have been burned for many months.

Mr. Speaker, I have heard the Minister of Environment state in 2007, 2008, and yet again in 2009, and again this year that a plan for recycling tires is imminent. It would be nice to finally see some details.

The minister stated recently that our tires were now being shipped to Quebec to be burned and we were paying a shipping fee to get them there.

I ask the minister: What is the cost of shipping those tires to Quebec and will the proposal currently being considered by government address this issue as well?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS JOHNSON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I can get the exact details for him on the cost for shipping to Quebec. Certainly, under their failed attempts in the past that is where the tires went as well, so I imagine it would be somewhere in line when you had to ship them to Quebec as well.

Mr. Speaker, shipping tires to Quebec is certainly, we know, the cheapest option for the tires.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS JOHNSON: However, government committed to a made in Newfoundland and Labrador solution, Mr. Speaker, and we want to make sure that this proposal comes into place that it works for the long term. We do not want other failed attempts, so we are working our way through it. There are things that come up along the way with the proponents, but certainly we are working our way through that and we really hope for a successful project at the end of the day.

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, the C-NLOPB gave the Orphan Basin project the green light in 2006 for an environmental assessment known as the Screening Report. Previous to 2006 the environmental assessment rules included a comprehensive study which would have included public consultations. This practice changed in November 2005 when the federal government relaxed the environment assessment rules for offshore projects by eliminating the need for comprehensive studies at the exploratory drilling stage.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I plead to members once again. Members have asked their questions and provided with answers. The Chair has recognized the hon. the Member for the District of Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi. I ask members for their co-operation in hearing the question put forth by the hon. member.

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

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

In hoping that the minister heard my preliminary comments, I now ask the Minister of Environment and Conservation: How can she be satisfied to have a less rigorous assessment done of the environment especially when dealing with totally new areas of exploration?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, as I have stated before in this House, environmental assessment happens in our offshore under the auspices of the CEAA and the C-NLOPB. Mr. Speaker, there are two environmental assessments that take place, first around drilling. When oil is discovered, Mr. Speaker, there is another environmental assessment done before production takes place, and as part of all of that, Mr. Speaker, there are studies done on the possibility of oil spills and what might happen in that case. All of these documents are public and available for comment, and the public are included in the environmental assessment process.

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.

Yes, I know the documents and I know they are public because, Mr. Speaker, the original strategic and environmental assessment for the Orphan Basin exploratory drilling program which was released in November, 2003, and which is public, said that there was a lack of data on the environment. In the addendum to the assessment that was released in 2006 there were observations by qualified critics who said this lack of data on deepwater environment is a serious concern, and I have read the gaps in data that have been identified. We know very little about the environment two-point-six kilometres below the ocean surface as it pertains to fish, mammals and benthos.

So, Mr. Speaker, I ask the minister: Why is this government willing to allow exploration in the Orphan Basin before gaining a better understanding of the environmental impact on the various life forms?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Deputy Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS DUNDERDALE: Mr. Speaker, as I said, there are two types of environmental assessments that take place; one prior to drilling, Mr. Speaker, and a second one once oil is found in the basin.

Mr. Speaker, as part of the Orphan Basin EA there was a study done on the effect of an oil spill, a possible oil spill, Mr. Speaker. The model which was done as part of the environmental assessment by an arm's-length agency that have expertise in oil spills, Mr. Speaker, they modelled the loss of 30,000 barrels of oil a day, every day for forty years, using the wind and wave data that we have for that period of time. Mr. Speaker, the findings of that modelling was none of that oil went outside of the basin area.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

I say to the minister, that I am concerned about the area in the basin area and we have very little understanding of what the damage would be in that area, and that has been identified in the studies that she has talked about. The data gaps are very significant.

Mr. Speaker, in 2007 government launched its Energy Plan with lots of hoopla and the first stated goal of its Energy Plan was environmental leadership to ensure the environment is improved and protected.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Minister of Natural Resources, if it is leadership to continue to allow exploratory drilling for oil in the Orphan Basin when the environmental assessment admits that little is known about the environment in which they are drilling?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I do not accept the premise that she has put forward. There are stringent environmental studies done - pre-drilling and post-drilling - before production, Mr. Speaker. The environment is extremely important to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. We are surrounded by the ocean. It has extreme value over a variety of ways to all of us, Mr. Speaker. When we see what is happening in the Gulf of Mexico it elicits a very strong response in all of us. Nobody who is involved in this business and on this side of the House, Mr. Speaker, within the government, is going to take an action that would deliberately or through lack of intervention, pose an unreasonable risk to our offshore. We cannot guarantee no risk, Mr. Speaker, but we will do our best to prevent…

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The time allotted for questions and answers has expired.

Presenting Reports by Standing and Select Committees.

Tabling of Documents.

Notices of Motion.

Notices of Motion

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

MR. MARSHALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I give notice that I will move that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole to consider a Resolution Relating to the Advancing or Guaranteeing of Certain Loans made under the Loan and Guarantee Act of 1957. (Bill 25)

Thank you, sir.

MR. SPEAKER: Further notices of motion?

Answers to Questions for Which Notice has been Given.

Petitions.

Orders of the Day.

Orders of the Day

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

MS BURKE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to call from the Order Paper, Order 9, second reading of a Bill, An Act To Amend The Insurance Companies Act. (Bill 16)

Mr. Speaker, we had adjourned that debate on June 1.

MR. SPEAKER: The debate will be further heard on An Act To Amend The Insurance Companies Act. (Bill 16)

The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

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

I appreciate an opportunity to have a few words on Bill 16.

Mr. Speaker, again, this is not a new act. We are just amending the Insurance Companies Act. My colleague, the Member for Port de Grave, of course, is the principal critic for matters that come under the Department of Government Services. However, of course, under the rules of this House we are all permitted to have a few words and pose some questions, if we might, to the minister as to what the legislation is about, what the intentions of it are and so on. I certainly appreciate the opportunity to do that.

Mr. Speaker, we have all kinds of insurance companies in this Province. They are regulated, and of course there are all kinds of insurance. We have auto insurance, we have home insurance, we have marine insurance, and we have life insurance. There are all kinds of insurance that one can purchase. Of course, there are companies involved, there are brokers involved, there are agents involved, and of course there is the consumer involved.

One of the principal responsibilities of government, of course, is to ensure that these people who are selling these products abide by certain rules and regulations so that the consumer is protected. As time goes on, different circumstances arise. Usually it arises when we find out that some individual or some consumer has not received the protection that we feel he or she ought to have gotten. Therefore, of course, we have to come back to the Legislature to amend the legislation to ensure that the individuals in question get the protection that they want. It is not only for that individual, of course. We make legislation in this House so that it accords and provides the necessary supports and protections to all consumers in the Province.

That obligation, from a personal point of view, an individualistic point of view, rests of course with the minister. Once he hears these concerns - the minister has to listen to the concerns. He usually has department officials who would weigh out the concerns, determine what the facts are and decide what, if any, course of action should be taken. Here we have an attempt again where we have seen that government has been put on notice that some things are obviously happening in the marketplace when it comes to insurance companies that do not necessarily pass muster or at least we want to put further constraints and requirements in place to ensure that the consumers are protected.

Now, I did not have the benefit of listening to the minister's comments when he introduced Bill 16. I heard some of them, but not all of them. So if I repeat anything that the minister has already addressed, well, that is fine. I would appreciate as well – my colleague, the Member for Port de Grave, did pose some comments and questions. Normally, of course, the minister has two opportunities to respond to any queries. He can respond to it in a general sense when he closes off debate in second reading or, of course, he can deal with it more specifically when we get to the committee stage. We are only at the stage that they call second reading right here. Most ministers take the opportunity. They have staff standing by, of course, who can give them information if we pose questions and most ministers take the opportunity, if time permits, to deal with the concerns that are raised by Opposition members when they close off the debate in second reading. If not, of course, we always have another opportunity to raise those questions when we get to the committee stage. In committee stage, of course, we not only get to raise questions; we can pose amendments ourselves. Amendments do not just have to come from the government members. An Opposition member in this House is totally permitted to pose any amendment that he or she wants to propose. That is the process.

Anyway, we are dealing here with the insurance amendments we are trying to bring forward. In particular we are talking about the regulations; and, according to the Explanatory Notes - whenever a bill comes before the House, you always get, on the inside cover, the first cover, an explanation. Because these laws, of course, or proposed laws, are drafted by the legislative draftsperson, and that person usually tries to, in common language, explain what the particular amendment says. Because sometimes if you read these amendments that are proposed and you get boggled down in the section numbers 95.1, sections 95.2 and 95.3 and subsections, of course, sometimes it can boggle your mind. You have to be a Philadelphia lawyer to figure some of it out. That is why, of course, the Explanatory Notes are there. So, along with the Explanatory Notes – and, if they are not explanatory enough, that is usually where the minister takes it upon himself to provide that explanation, so that before we ultimately vote on something in this House we feel comfortable. We know we have had our questions answered, we know we have had the information given to us, and we can vote aye or nay based upon the comfort level that you have with the particular piece of legislation.

Now, I can say from the outset that this particular member, as the Member for Port de Grave said, is certainly not opposed to this piece of legislation. It is not a case of being opposed to it. It is not like in the Fatal Accidents Act, which was called two days ago here. There is great opposition to that particular amendment in the sense that it does not go far enough. It is our view, of course, that if you are going to bring legislation to the House it should deal with the issue and not take half measures. In any case, dealing with this, according to the Explanatory Notes here, Bill 16 would amend the Insurance Companies Act, and do a couple of things.

First of all, it would authorize the Lieutenant-Governor in Council - and a lot of people wonder: Well, who is the Lieutenant-Governor in Council? You often hear that phrase, but a Lieutenant-Governor in Council, of course, that is the Cabinet, basically, made up of the Premier and his Cabinet ministers. That is generally who the Lieutenant-Governor in Council is. A lot of people were confused. Some friends of mine asked me one time: What is the difference between a Lieutenant-Governor in Council and a Lieutenant-Governor? Anyway, we went through those explanations, but the Lieutenant-Governor in Council basically refers to the Cabinet, the Executive Branch of government, and that is, of course, who brings legislation forward. Every piece of legislation that comes into this House of Assembly for consideration has to be proposed, brought forward and moved by a certain minister. In this case, of course, because insurance company regulation comes under the Minister of Government Services, that is why his name is on this bill, because he is the person who brings it into this House and moves it for consideration.

Now, what it is going to do, first of all, the proposal here, is, it will "authorize the Lieutenant-Governor in Council to make regulations respecting the underwriting, rating and market conduct practices of property and casualty insurance companies." Now, just dissect that for a second. I direct some of these questions, of course, by way of explanation, to the minister. Maybe he could explain to us some distinctions here. People like to understand. We know we have an insurance company, we know there is underwriting, we know that there is rating, and we know that there are certain market conduct practices.

Now, I ask the minister: Is there anything in particular that has happened in the marketplace to the consumers which has sparked this particular piece of this amendment? Normally, we do not just get someone who sits in government, for example, in the minister's office or somewhere, who says: My God, I think we will go out and review the Insurance Companies Act and change that.

Normally, it is precipitated and brought about because something has happened. Normally, there is some seminal event that took place in the marketplace: somebody got burnt, they felt, by some insurance company, some practice that they did in the marketplace. Usually you hear about it being talked about on open lines and Letters to the Editor. Anyway, it eventually finds its way to the minister's office and the minister says: We have to deal with this.

So, I am asking the minister: I wonder, is there some particular incident that brought this about? By the way, folks, we are talking here about giving the minister the authority – the Lieutenant-Governor, and the minister is a part of that Lieutenant-Governor in Council – we are talking about giving authority to make regulations respecting the underwriting, rating and market conduct practices of property and casualty insurance companies. Obviously, we are not dealing with life insurance here; we are dealing with property and casualty insurance here.

So my question to the minister is: What has happened to make this amendment to this act necessary? In particular, can you tell us what it is you are going to do in the regulations? For example, when we dealt the other day with amendments to the Small Claims Act, it referred to amendments being made to the Small Claims Act, and regulations being made by the minister, one of which dictated, or could decide, the limit of suing someone in Small Claims Court. The minister, in that case, told the audience, told the public who were watching this, that what we are going to do when we get this authority from this amendment is make a regulation that is going to take the limit from $5,000 up to $25,000. It was very clear why the minister felt that it was necessary to make this amendment and have this authority.

My question to the minister is: What happened to bring the amendment about; and, besides simply saying that you are going to have the authority to make the regulation, what is it you anticipate doing in the regulation?

People sometimes like to know that; because we have had cases in this House, for example, where government says: We want the authority to make a regulation. The Opposition will ask: Well, okay, once you get the authority to make the regulation, what is it you intend to do? Do you know at this point?

It might be a case where the minister has not decided right yet. That might be legitimate. That may be legitimate. Maybe the minister says: Look, I have 100 things I might do. We have not decided definitively what it is we want to do, but before we go anywhere we have to have the authority to do it.

So, maybe he is just there at this point saying: Pass this amendment; give us the authority so that we can make these regulations - but I think it is helpful to the public. It is certainly helpful to the people who are voting here. For example, maybe the minister is going to pass a regulation after this law gets brought into effect here, this amendment, maybe he is going to do something and everybody in this Province might say: That is crazy. Why did we ever agree to that? That was a stupid move.

I am just trying to get some idea to gauge what it is that the minister intends to do. I will give you an example of where that happened. I will give you an example of where a regulation came about. The government used the regulation and it caused wholesale anguish in the public. I am talking, of course, about the trail sticker users back a few years ago. We had amendments brought into the House and they needed authority, of course, to be able to impose a fee structure in the Province for people who would use certain property, certain rail beds and stuff like that. We got here in the House and we said to the government at the time: Why is it you are doing this? They told us why: because they wanted to have the authority to be able to put a fee structure in place when it came to trail users. We said: Okay, that is fine. What do you plan on doing? What is the fee structure going to be? We have not worked that out yet. When are you going to bring it in? We have not worked that out yet. So, you just want the authority.

Anyway, they brought in the particular fee structure and, as they say, H-E-double-L broke loose. That is exactly what happened. The people went crazy because their government did not tell them up front what it is they were going to regulate. They knew what they were going to regulate, but they did not tell them what the regulation was going to be.

So, I put it to the minister. He gets two opportunities now. He will get the opportunity when he is closing off second reading and he will get another opportunity when we come back in committee stage and deal with this. We will see if, at any point, he is going to tell us what it is he intends to put in the regulations that this amendment is going to allow him to do.

So, people would like to know that. God knows, and as the people in this Province know, it does not take very long for this government to have out a notice, to put something out on the Web site, to take out an ad in the newspaper, to say we did this or we did something else or we are going to do something else. As I have often said in this House, Mr. Speaker, we have had enough press releases from this government in the last seven years that we could have kept both the Stephenville and the Grand Falls-Windsor mills going. That is how many press releases we have had. So, I say to the minister, here is an opportunity, now, in second reading, give us some hint. Let's have the people of the Province - give them a little bit of insight into what it is you are going to say in these regulations to protect it.

Now, of course, that is just the first part of the explanatory note here. I will move on to the second part. I do not know if I will get enough time in this session to address all of the concerns that I have. I might have to wait until we get to committee stage, of course, because there is a lot to this little piece here. Even though it is only two pages, and it only takes up one page on the paper, it is actually pretty detailed.

The second part I will get into, it says this change would allow, it would add a provision to clarify that an insurer shall not decline to issue, refuse to renew or terminate a contract or refuse to provide or continue coverage on a ground prescribed in the regulations. So now, we already know, from the regulations and the authorities that exist, that the government has already decided what certain prescribed prohibitions are – certain things you cannot do. You cannot refuse to give someone, for example, coverage. You cannot refuse to renew their contract of insurance. You cannot terminate a contract of insurance. You cannot refuse to provide or continue the coverage for insurance on certain grounds.

So, I am just wondering, from the minister, if he could educate us again, inform us what kinds of actions by insurance companies do you see coming out in these regulations. We know what we are saying the regulations are going to allow you to do. We know that you need the authority to be able to make these regulations, but again, can you give us some insight as to what types of activities are currently going on by insurance companies that might need to be addressed by bringing in this law? Are there any particular incidents that have happened that have caused this to be necessary? Obviously, the information, the laws that we had previously, did not provide this authority. If it had provided this authority, of course, we would not be here today. So, something has happened that the minister had to change it and he wants to do something. I would like to know what it is, what circumstances have occurred that require this.

Now, of course, the other thing that this piece of legislation is going to do, it is to add a provision to clarify that an insurer shall not use a ground in a risk classification system that is prohibited in the regulations. Now, I say to the minister, I do not understand personally. I have tried to unravel some of the pieces, but like you say, I am certainly not one to think I know everything about everything. That is why, of course, we ask the informed ministers who have the knowledge at their fingertips. That is why we ask them. If we do not understand something, this is the purpose to ask the question, right here in the House. Sometimes we get to do it in Question Period, but as everybody knows who watches the TV program or sits in this hon. House as a guest and watches, we do not often get answers from these ministers when you ask them in Question Period.

Now, this is a different story. This is not a case here where we are in Question Period and the minister does not have enough time or he only has a limited amount of time. The minister can take whatever time he wants to answer these questions that anyone might pose here. He can do it. We are prepared to give him leave to answer whatever. As long as it is complete and it is detailed, that is all we are looking for. We do not care if he has to go get a book and come in here and read from the book to us. We do not care if he has to get a briefing note and come in here and read from it. I understand he is one of the ministers, of course, who uses briefing notes. We had some over there who did not need them. The former Minister of Health did not need briefing notes. His head was big enough to handle it all. He did not need any.

Anyway, I wonder if the minister could explain to us what exactly a risk classification system is. I have some idea about it. I have some basic idea about it, but I admit I do not understand how it works. For example, once we explain what it is - and we are saying, under this third part that I am referring here, that you are looking for some authority so that you can add a provision here which will clarify that an insurer shall not use a ground in a risk classification system that is prohibited in the regulations. That is a little bit complicated to me.

Now, of course, other members in the government will be getting up speaking on this issue too, so I look forward to hearing from them. Maybe they have the answers. Maybe they have the answers and the minister does not need to respond, but it would be very helpful if we could have that kind of explanation. I often get asked by people who watch TV – a lot of people watch these proceedings and they say: Well, what was that all about? You get a phone call or you get an e-mail and they say: You fellows were talking about something today, we know it was about insurance but we do not have a clue what it was.

So part of our obligation, of course, as parliamentarians, is to explain what it is. There is no doubt that all forty-eight in the House here – or forty-seven, because the Speaker does not get involved in the voting – have an obligation to understand it. We are going to vote on it. We do not always understand it and that is the purpose of this legislative debate session. It is not a debate. A debate sometimes implies that two people are on opposite sides of the fence. We are not on the opposite side of the fence with the minister here with this piece of legislation – not from what we understand of it – but we just want to be certain that what we do understand is correct.

So I look forward to some of this level of detail from the minister, some explanations, so that when we make our decisions we will be fully informed.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity to speak to this issue.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for the District of Cape St. Francis.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

It is indeed an honour today to stand up here in this House and represent the beautiful District of Cape St. Francis and say a few words on Bill 16.

I suggest to the hon. member across the way who just spoke to us that he should talk to his partner, the hon. person for - where is it to - Port de Grave. Two of them are not on the same page because last week we heard from the hon. Member for Port de Grave and he was fully in favour of this bill.

An Act To Amend The Insurance Companies Act, I believe this is one of fourteen bills that the hon. the Member for Gander, the Minister of Government Services, is going to bring in. This is a very important –

AN HON. MEMBER: What a minister.

MR. KEVIN PARSONS: What a minister indeed. This is a very important department in government. It is a department in government that I realize a little bit more about these days since I got into government. Most of us look outside; we look at departments like Transportation, Education, Municipal Affairs, Health, and we look at those as the most important departments in government. As I got in government, I realized that the Department of Government Services is so important. From the time you are born until the time you die, this department has something to do with your life.

This act that we are bringing in here today is very important to the people of the Province. I am going to give the hon. member a couple of examples where it does affect the people in the Province. This government, since 2003, has done a lot for the consumers in this Province. This is another bill that we are doing to do to protect the people of this Province, who, through no reason of their own, are finding that they have been unfairly treated.

Mr. Speaker, today we look at insurance companies, and they have many means of charging different rates for different things that you want to do. Recently, my son went through the insurance to try to get the best possible cost he could on his car insurance. The variance was $1,100 from one insurance company to another. So you can see that they have a right to charge basically whatever they wanted.

I have a friend of mine who sells insurance, so what I did, I gave him a call. I wanted to know a little bit more about house insurance. It was very interesting what he was telling me. I asked him about a scenario. I said a house that cost $200,000-$250,000, what are you looking at for a cost for insurance? He told me it could be anywhere probably between $600, $800 or $900. He said, however, there are a lot of rates that can be reduced. A lot of cost can be reduced, depending on the insurance companies.

For example, insurance companies, if you have your vehicle insured you can get up to a 25 per cent discount on your home insurance just for having a vehicle insured with that company also. If you use electric heat, for example, you can get a 10 per cent deduction in your cost; an alarm system, you can get up to 5 per cent. If you are over the age of fifty you can get a deduction there of up to 10 per cent, and if your home is less than three years old it is another 10 per cent. As you see, there are many ways how home insurance can decide what rate you get charged. The one interesting thing that really surprised me, he said insurance companies can decide whether or not to insure you based on your financial situation.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I look at that and think that is so unfair. When you look at insurance companies, property and casual insurance companies can charge higher rates for home and auto insurance for people who have low credit ratings. They are saying because they are at a higher risk. Also, Mr. Speaker, they can give the people who have high credit ratings a deduction. A person who is doing really well, they can give them a deduction and they can put down the person who is not doing so well. Well, that is against every standard we have here in this government.

If anyone looked at our poverty reduction, what we are doing to make sure that residents of this Province come up on an even keel with everyone else through our poverty reduction plan, this is not flying at all. Because a person finds themselves - it could be unemployed, they could have a marriage breakup. There are many different reasons why you could have your credit rating changed.

Now, Mr. Speaker, since this was introduced, since the minister introduced this bill - and I tell the hon. member, he was wondering why - the Opposition House Leader was wondering why we put this burden on government, why this is happening now. Well, I have a great case since this bill was introduced, in my district. I had a call from a constituent of mine who, her and her husband had some financial difficulties in the last number of years. When she went to get her home insurance renewed this year – she paid $600 last year, and this year her rate went up to $1,300. When she asked why, she was advised because it was her credit rating. She was also told she either had to pay it or go elsewhere and look. So she did.

She checked around with other companies and she got a suitable price, almost the same price that she was paying the year before. She told the company that she was going to get her insurance through; she told them the reason why she went from this company to the other company was because the previous company that she had her house insured with, it was because of her credit rating. They told her that this company did not do that. So she called back a couple of days later, she wanted to know how much to put on her postdated cheques. She was paying so much down and she wanted to know how much to put on her postdated cheques. When she called back, Mr. Speaker, they told her that it went to head office and she was turned down again because she had a high credit score.

Mr. Speaker, that is so unfair. This lady, who called her previous insurer and told them that she was going to go with another company, was left a weekend without insurance. This is when she called me, and she was very, very stressed out over it. To put a person through this was unbelievable. She went the whole weekend hoping that nothing would happen to her home. On Monday she called and got another insurance company and finally got her insurance for $900; which is $300 more than she paid the year before.

Mr. Speaker, I believe that this government has made great changes in helping the people of this Province. I talked to the guy from the insurance and he told me today they are more people with house insurance than ever before in this Province. I think it is because of what this government is doing to put more money in people's pockets so they can afford to pay for important things like house insurance.

Mr. Speaker, in my district housing has increased unbelievably in the last ten years. It is one of the fastest growing areas of the Province. The average home in Torbay right now, a new home is at $307,000. That is the highest in the Province, per capita, and under any municipality. Mr. Speaker, anyone who can afford a $307,000 home, their credit rating is pretty good and they do not have to worry about getting insurance. It is the people in my district who are on fixed incomes, like the lady I just spoke about. They do have to worry about it. It is so unfair, because of their credit or because of their financial situation, like I said that they get themselves in sometimes, that they be penalized.

Mr. Speaker, today the value of everything is up so high and it is very important that we have insurance. We have insurance on vehicles; some that have skidoos, trailers, cabins and whatnot. There is no bigger investment that we will have, I know there is no bigger investment I will have in my life than my home, and it is so important that we protect our investments. If you look today, there are people with mortgages twenty-five, thirty, thirty-five years. Something they invest their whole life in just to have, and if something ever happened to lose that they would want to have the security of insurance. So we should not be denying people insurance.

Mr. Speaker, insurance companies can basically decide what they want to do. Recently, I read an article back a little while ago on the City of St. John's, where downtown St. John's people were either denied insurance or the rates even tripled because of the area they lived in. I think that is unfair also. I think it is discriminatory that they can say because you live in one area or live in another area that we are not going to insure you. So we have to look at the regulations that we do have with insurance and make sure that they are fair to all people in the Province.

House insurance is so important because it is a sense of security that we get. Mr. Speaker, if your house ever happens to burn down - and nobody wants their house to burn down. There are so many different things, I know with my home there is sentimental value. There is sentimental value in your home. I have some pictures downstairs of my kids that mean a whole lot to me. I have a wall downstairs, and I know the hon. Member for Ferryland will like this one, called the Herder wall. There are some pictures down there of all the Herders where we beat the Southern Shore. They mean a lot to me also. So if you ever lost your home, there is a lot of sentimental value in your home that you would lose but the one thing that home insurance gives you, it gives you a chance to get everything back that you lost with your home - the place where you live. So, again, home insurance is just so important to people for security.

Now, I am going to tell you a little story. About fifteen years ago my parents went on vacation. Every year they used to go on vacation, and they left me with the job of taking care of their home. While they were gone every day - I live pretty close to them. I am the closest one who lives to their house. Every evening I used to walk up and I would flick on the light in the living room and then I would come up in the morning before I went to work and I would turn the light off, just to show that somebody was in their home while they were away so nothing would happen. My father came home late at night, they come back from their holiday late at night, the phone rang, and he said: Kev, why did you cut off the lock downstairs in my room? I said: I didn't cut off the lock in the room downstairs. So he called my brother, Robert. He said: He did it. So, he called Robert, and Robert did not do it. So I went on up to see, and by the time I got up there he was after realizing that they were robbed. Someone was after going into their home – I did not know the place was robbed – robbed all of his small tools. Everything was gone. He had a room downstairs where he kept all of his papers. He had a trucking company. He kept cheques there, he had different things, and all of this was stolen. My mother had some rings and jewellery; that was gone. The VCR was gone. I never noticed the VCR being gone. Anyway, the thing was, they lost –

AN HON. MEMBER: Some job you did.

MR. KEVIN PARSONS: I did a great job, yes. If anybody wants their house watched, I will not do it.

Anyway, Mr. Speaker, my point is that they lost a lot, but what they did lose they got replaced because they had insurance. Was it hard for those people - my parent's home, the doors were always open; now they have a security system and they are locked. They got everything back that they replaced. They got it all back again. So I would say to all hon. members: I am not going to watch any of your homes any more.

That is an example of what home insurance does for people so that they can replace things.

Mr. Speaker, also if you look at home insurance, if anybody comes to your home and happens to have an accident, you can be sued and your home insurance will cover you. It will cover your legal bills and it will cover any damages up to a certain amount that you are insured with. So that is another great way - home insurance that we all need.

The other thing, I had an example in my home where I had a leak come down through the ceiling. It ruined a lot of things and cost me a couple of hundred dollars for the deductible, but the $2,000 or $3,000 it cost to repair it was covered.

Mr. Speaker, it is so important that we do not deny people home insurance. It is very important that they have that sense of security and everybody wants it.

Mr. Speaker, since 2003 this government has done a lot for people in this Province. If you look at the poverty reduction plan, in 2003 there were 63,000 people who fell below the cut off point; by 2007 we have 30,000 fewer people on that. Right now, we are considered the third lowest in all of Canada and we are investing this year $134 million, which is $482 million since 2006.

Different other things we have done: the minimum wage. Increasing the minimum wage is putting more money in people's pockets. The prescription drug plan, 12,000 more people are under this plan, putting more money in people's pockets. This year we have $42.8 million in tax reductions. Since 2006, that is $1.2 billion in tax deductions that we are putting in people's pockets so they can pay for things like home insurance.

Mr. Speaker, this government has looked at insurance for auto insurance. In 2007, this government introduced the elimination of the Retail Sales Tax, 15 per cent. The RST applied to the insurance premiums for property and casualty insurance properties on vehicles and homes means $75 million a year that this government is paying to help people with their insurance. In 2004-2005, we introduced the Automobile Insurance Act, in which this eliminated people being discriminated because of age, gender or marital status.

Mr. Speaker, you can see that there is a lot that this government has done when it comes to insurance. I applaud the minister. I think he is doing a fantastic job. I hope that he gets a cheer rather than a jeer on this bill because he is doing such a good job. The reason why he is doing a good job, Mr. Speaker, is because, like the hon. Member for Baie Verte-Springdale says, we care.

Thank you very much.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

I am happy to have an opportunity to speak to this bill, which is An Act To Amend The Insurance Companies Act. I was unable to be in the House yesterday when the discussion began, so I am happy that I still have an opportunity to speak to it.

It is a simple bill in many ways, Mr. Speaker, as has been pointed out, Bill 16. It is short. It is an amendment to a major act, the Insurance Companies Act. What this bill is doing is making sure that all forms of insurance are covered when it comes to certain aspects of insurance. Insurance is a fact of life and many, many people really find it difficult to have insurance, which is sometimes more than an inconvenience for them when they cannot afford to have insurance. For example, when you hear of fires that take place in rental properties the property itself will be insured because the landlord will have insurance. The landlord who owns the building has to have insurance. They cannot be renting a building, cannot have a mortgage on it, they have to have insurance. The people who rent the property, the people who live in the rental property very often cannot afford to have insurance. If a fire happens in the rental property while the landlord will get the insurance for the damage to the structure, the person living there will not get anything for the things that they owned in the rental property.

So often you hear of that. You hear of fires where people had no insurance and after the fire they have to be put up sometimes by the Salvation Army or Red Cross, and people collect things for them because they do not have the money to replace what they lost in the fire. So, insurance can be very expensive. There are times when we have no choice over insurance. For example, if we own a car, we have to have insurance on that car. There are many times when accidents happen that a person does not have insurance, well they get penalized for that.

Most other insurances, of course, are optional. If people want to get life insurance, it is optional. It is not something that they have to get. You have insurances now on mortgages so that if something happens, you become unemployed, and in the interim because you are unemployed would have difficult paying your insurance, if you have insurance on your mortgage then your mortgage will continue to be paid. We have health insurance. We just have massive amounts of insurance. We all know that the insurance companies are doing very well in our society because many people carry insurance for years and years and years and never ever have to claim it but they are afraid not to have it. I would be; I am afraid not to have it. Of course I have insurance on the things that I own because I do not want to run the risk if a fire happened, for example, I do not want to run the risk of not being able to replace what was destroyed in a fire.

Insurance is a part of life. The majority of people who have it are people – well, all of the people who have it are people who can afford it, but for the most part low-income people do not have it because they cannot afford it. If they are blessed enough to be able to have a car, they obviously have to have it. Very often, you will find that low-income people who are able to have a car because they need it, especially if they live in a rural part of the Province, may not have the insurance because they cannot afford it and they run the risk of owning the car and using the car without insurance. So, insurance is a tricky thing in our lives and many people have good experiences of having had insurance, and yet there are also experiences that people have that are bad.

It is incumbent on the government, it is the responsibility of Legislatures to make sure that legislation is in place to protect people vis-ΰ-vis insurance companies. That it what the act is called, actually, the Insurance Companies Act, and the amendments that are being made are amendments that will apply to classes of insurance other than automobile, because the automobile has quite a bit of legislation covering it – the automobile insurance – so, the amendments that are being brought into the act are broadening some areas of concern to other classes of insurance, and I think that is extremely important. It is extremely important that anybody who needs insurance, or who believes he or she needs insurance, is able to access that insurance. That is why clause 95.2 is so important, that "An insurer shall not decline to issue, refuse to renew or terminate a contract or refuse to provide or continue coverage or an endorsement in respect of a contract on a ground prescribed in the regulations."

Now, as has been pointed out, Mr. Speaker, we do not have the regulations with this bill. Regulations do not come here to the House to be approved; regulations are under the aegis of the Lieutenant-Governor in Council and they get put together under departments, under the minister responsible, and will always and should always reflect the spirit of the legislation that the regulations flow from.

So the thing I think I would expect from the minister – and he may have done it when he presented the bill in the House yesterday. As I said, unfortunately, I was not able to be in the House at that time, so I apologize to the minister if what I am asking for has already been done. I could, I guess, get Hansard now and see if it is there, but I would like to have the minister give us an idea of the full gamut of what the regulations will cover, the regulations that will go along with the amendment. Will they cover all potentialities? We have had some examples used here in the House already today that somebody who was used to having insurance, all of a sudden their credit rating changes and they are being refused by an insurance company.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS MICHAEL: Insurance companies, too, very often raise insurance quite liberally, benefiting the insurance companies, and individuals suffer from that. So I would like to have some idea from the minister of what it is that the regulations will be covering, because the regulations will be extremely important in determining when companies cannot act arbitrarily. It will stop them from acting arbitrarily with regard to changing a contract, with regard to terminating one, or even with regard to refusing to enter into a contract with an individual who is seeking insurance.

Mr. Speaker, we have heard a lot about insurance. I do not think I need to add to what we have heard, except to say that while I understand why regulations are not coming here, I would like to hear from the minister about what he hopes to see in the regulations, to assure our listeners today, to assure people in the Province, that the new regulations will benefit them completely, that the new regulations will make sure that anybody who is insured is protected at all times while they are insured, and anybody who wants to access insurance is able to access the insurance.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I will take my seat and I look forward to hearing from the minister.

Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for the District of Lewisporte.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. VERGE: I was not about to start without the applause, Mr. Speaker.

AN HON. MEMBER: We will give you another one.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. VERGE: Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure for me to stand here today, as the Member for Lewisporte district, and speak on another piece of legislation. I say that with all sincerity; it is an honour and a privilege to be able to speak at any time in the House. Before I even start to talk about the legislation, though, Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate you, Deputy Speaker, on becoming a grandfather today.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. VERGE: May you have lots of pleasant times, grandparenting.

This piece of legislation, An Act To Amend The Insurance Companies Act, the approach that I have taken with this piece of legislation, Mr. Speaker, is, whenever I get the opportunity to speak, I kind of look at it and I read the legislation and I say to myself: What is it here that I understand, and what is it that I do not understand? Then I try to, I guess, frame my comments around that, and hope that, when I am done, some people who listen to this through the media, or some people in the House - we might all have a better understanding, and I might be able to share a little something that is of value.

The Insurance Companies Act enables government to make regulations respecting underwriting. That is one of the things that I want to talk about, because when I read this piece of legislation the first thing I did, as a lay person, I said to myself: Well, what is underwriting - respecting the underwriting, rating and market conduct practices of property and casualty insurance companies. It goes on for another couple of clauses, but I want to talk for a while on underwriting: what is it that it does, and who are they and what do they do?

Insurance underwriters, what they do, they evaluate the risk and the exposure of potential clients. It is these people who decide how much coverage a client should receive, how much they should pay for it, and sometimes whether even to accept the risk of insuring the client at all. Underwriting involves measuring the risk exposure and then determining, based on the risk exposure, the premium that is going to be charged to insure that risk. So the function of an underwriter really is to acquire or to write business that will make the insurance company money, and to protect the company's book of business from risk that they feel would result in a loss. It is very important piece of the pie; the underwriter determines how much a person, really, is going to pay for insurance based on a whole set of factors.

Insurance, of course, is all about risk. When you get an insurance policy, that company is taking a risk on you. If you drive a car, we all have a risk that the car could be damaged in an accident. When we have auto insurance and the car gets damaged in an accident, then the insurance company pays for that damage. So, when we have insurance we are, ourselves, at a lower risk.

The insurance company makes up for the risk it takes by charging premiums and also by setting certain deductibles on their insurance. If the company charges too little and there is a large claim that comes in - the company charged too little – well, the company could go bankrupt. We, certainly, as government and as citizens, do not want to see insurance companies not being able to make enough money to survive and to provide us with the protection that we need. So, what we want, we want to see insurance companies be able to profit, yes, but we do not want to see them profit at too much of our expense, so the underwriters should be able to help the insurance calculate all the risk and then give that insurance company a premium that they should charge us, as the client, that will protect the interests of the business but also protect the interests of us, the client.

Now, insurance underwriting is very important, and I guess as residents we need to know that. Insurance companies want to stay competitive and they want to stay open for business, so underwriting is important. If they charge too much, well, people are going to start shopping around and going other places. If they charge too little, and then they get claims coming in that are exorbitant, then they are going to be at a deficit position there. Why is it important to me? Why is it important to the members of the House or the residents, the people of Newfoundland and Labrador?

Well, when you apply for an insurance policy your application is looked over by the underwriter. That underwriter's opinion is going to determine how much you pay. For example, if you were applying for life insurance, the condition of your health would be taken into account. If you are applying for auto insurance, maybe your age, your experience as a driver. Maybe what could be taken into account could be your driving history. Have you had an accident in the past, were you at fault, how many accidents did you have? So, the underwriter looks at these things and that then determines what your classification is going to be. It could even be simply as something as little as you made a mistake on your application, and that could put you in a different class in terms of a premium.

So, you say to yourself: well, I will go and apply for insurance at company X, and they come back and say: no, we consider you too big a risk; we are not going to give you insurance. So you say to yourself, I guess that is no big deal. I can go down to the next insurance company and apply for insurance, and hopefully I will get insurance there. I think a word of caution here. In this day and age in which we live, everything is digital. We talk in terms of databases today, and what company X knows probably company Y knows, and because it is all connected, there is a digital memory of the applications that have been made. So you go down and the first thing they say is: well, you already applied to our competitor and they turned you down, so we are not going to accept you either. So, there is something to be careful of there. These things are very important.

Each insurance company has its own set of underwriting guidelines to help the underwriter determine whether or not the company should accept the risk. The information used to evaluate the risk of an applicant for insurance is going to depend on the coverage involved.

Now, the factors - and this is where we get into this piece of legislation, I think the meat of it is here. The factors that insurers use to classify risk, they should be objective, they should be clearly related to the likely cost of providing coverage, they should be practical to administer, they should be consistent with applicable law, and they should be designed to protect the long-term viability of the insurance program.

The Minister of Government Services, when he opened up debate on this piece of legislation back on Tuesday, the Government House Leader and the Leader of the NDP both had questions about the regulations that might follow from this piece of legislation. The minister - and I guess if they checked Hansard they would see this – outlined, I thought was very clearly, about some of the things that he had as a concern. One of the things that insurance companies have taken the liberty to consider right now when they decide how much of a premium someone should pay for insurance, one of the things that they have taken the liberty to consider is a person's credit score. What is their credit history? Somehow they have come to the conclusion that if you are somebody who has a poor credit score, maybe you have gone bankrupt, maybe through no fault of your own - and this happens folks, this happens out in the real world everyday. Good people go bankrupt. Good, honest people go bankrupt.

We have seen marriages break up, where if two people were together, and together they could care for the financial burden and the debt that they have assumed but when they separate this burden becomes too much for one person to bear because there are additional costs and they see that they cannot manage this any more. What happens is that some of these people end up filing for bankruptcy. Now, that does not mean that the people are dishonest. It does not mean that they are at a greater risk. Maybe there is a family emergency, maybe there is a big health problem in the family, maybe one of your children, maybe one of the children out there somewhere in Newfoundland and Labrador, the family comes down with a big financial burden. So they have to decide. Every cent of money that they have goes into trying to care for the health and wellbeing of that child. So the person ends up filing for bankruptcy. Things fall in around them. What happens a little while later? They go to an insurance company, they are filing for insurance, and the insurance company says: Look, you filed for bankruptcy; you are at a bigger risk for making a claim. Therefore, instead of $600 for your house insurance – I do not know, it could be $900, it could be $1,000.

The thing is that we see evidence of people doing this, and I am not saying that every insurance company is doing it, but we see evidence of people doing it, insurance companies doing it, and the current legislation does not prohibit it. So our Minister of Government Services has brought in this piece of legislation. Why? We want to protect the citizens of Newfoundland and Labrador from unfair practices. We want to make sure that all people in Newfoundland and Labrador have a fair opportunity and somebody saying to you that you are going to pay a lot more for your home insurance or your car insurance or whatever just because you have a poor credit history, we think that is wrong. We think that is wrong, Mr. Speaker, and when this piece of legislation comes in and the regulations that follow, we certainly hope and the plan is that that practice will no longer be legal. It will be prohibited.

We have done a lot of things in terms of insurance in the Province. Just last year or the year before – memory fails me, if it was last year or the year before – we eliminated the tax on insurance. That was a 20 per cent reduction in insurance across the Province. As a government, I want to reiterate, I have heard the minister say – and I could pat the minister on the back for this. I have heard the minister say that we are not adverse to any company or any business making an honest living and showing a good profit. Do you know why? We need that in Newfoundland and Labrador. We need a climate and an atmosphere where people in this Province are able to run a good and a profitable and a sound business. We need that and we encourage it, but at the same time we do not want to see people unfairly done by.

I could share a story of somebody I know, a friend of mine, who filed for bankruptcy a while back and that person is a very honest person. That person would never do anything that was dishonest, or at least I have never seen him do it. Do you mean to tell me that when that person goes to apply for home insurance he should pay more than me? No, I do not think there is anybody in this House that agrees with that.

Mr. Speaker, Ontario and Alberta, they already prohibit the use of credit scoring for automobile insurance. New Brunswick has announced their intention to prohibit the use of credit scoring in the underwriting and the rating of homeowner insurance. When this bill is passed the practice of having people pay more for insurance in this Province just because of a low credit score that will be prohibited.

It is a good bill, Mr. Speaker, it brings a higher level of fairness to the industry. It is good for our people and I look forward to the passage of this very important piece of legislation.

Thank you, 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.

I, too, consider it a privilege this afternoon to be able to stand for a few moments and speak to Bill 16 and the amendments that are being proposed in this piece of legislation.

It has been mentioned by colleagues of the House already that insurance is very necessary. All of us who owns property, as everyone practically do, it is important that we have protection. It is important that we understand the protection that is offered through the different insurance agencies and companies and so on. Obviously, it is important that it is affordable to the people. In this day, especially low-income families and those who may not have incomes that others might have it, it is important that they can get affordable insurance for their properties. So, broadening the areas of concerns regarding insurance, bringing it more in line with perhaps the auto insurance act and so on, then I see today as being a good thing.

The protection of renewal rights is one piece of this legislation. It is very important that when the time comes for renewals that some of the circumstances that clients have gone through in that past twelve-month period do not negatively impact the ability for them to renew their policy. We all know of the many things that can happen in terms of seasonal employments of people and at times waiting for EIs to begin in the fall of the year and this kind of thing and people losing jobs and many other things that affect our people from day to day. Those things can all affect the ability of the client to pay on their insurance policies at different times. So it is important that if they have gone through that short period of delinquency, or whatever the case might be, that they are not punished for that, so to speak, in terms of their renewal of their particular insurance.

The addition of this new piece of legislation, in particular section 95.2, where it says: An insurer shall not decline to issue, refuse to renew or terminate a contract or refuse to provide or continue coverage or an endorsement in respect of a contract on a ground prescribed in the regulations. As the minister mentioned some of the regulations in his speech just a day or so ago that many of the areas that are covered are crucial to this particular piece of importance for our clients.

It is worth noting that the only regulations that currently exist under the Insurance Companies Act are the automobile insurance prohibited underwriting regulations. Certainly, new regulations would be needed to set out prohibited grounds referred to in this proposed section. It is good to see the minister bringing this forward in this sitting of our House of Assembly.

The proposed amendments, ultimately, they are targeted at consumer protection. In this day and age when consumers are challenged, I guess, from many different avenues it is good to see – I am not suggesting that insurance companies are necessarily doing anything wrong, but it is good to see that we are protecting our consumers as much as possible, that we are putting regulations in place that insure that any potential loopholes that are in our system are being looked after and so on. Really, what it is doing, it is limiting the grounds on which insurance companies may refuse it if they so deem necessary, or they may refuse to insure someone for something other than what we consider to be legitimate reasons.

Some of the reasons of refusal that have been noted, things like age, or sex, or marital status, things like past accidents or claims as a result of an accident for which the person has not been at fault and so on. Whether it is things like a person that has missed payments, as I mentioned, where the amounts due were subsequently paid within a reasonable period of time, really not putting the insurance company at risk, and really not jeopardising the legitimacy of the policy and so on, past declines for refusal of insurance and there have been times when someone has been refused that renewal policy, then it is good to see that does not come against them.

One of the nicest things that I see in here, as was just mentioned by our colleague, was the use of the credit score system to determine a person's eligibility for insurance or to determine the rate classification that particular individual would fall in. While the credit score is obviously a good system and used in lending institutions and other institutions in particular, certainly, I do not see either the need or where it would be necessary for a particular person applying for insurance to have to go through a credit evaluation to determine whether they are eligible and to determine the rate at which they should pay. That purpose - I believe credit scores are for a different purpose. It is for determining a person's credibility, it is for determining the ability of a client to purchase a new home or to purchase an automobile or to purchase some recreation vehicle, or whatever the case might be, but I do not believe that it should be used to determine whether that person can have insurance, number one, and number two, the amount that policy should be in.

So, for it to influence rates of policy, for it to influence the premiums, then I consider that to be an unfair practice. So I am pleased to see that it is included in this piece of legislation, and I am pleased to see that the minister has recognized that and that it will be a part of this amendment. Not having any other insurance company policies with the insurance company is something that people at times run into. Well, if you have your automobile policy with someone else, so the fact that you do not have your automobile policy with me means that I am not able to provide with your house insurance policy. Well, that is an unfair practice in my opinion. Those are the kind of things that I believe that this legislation hopefully will target against, and will protect the consumer from and will better make the whole insurance industry a much more consumer friendly industry, if you will, and one that protects the consumers in those situations.

Our position, as an Opposition, Mr. Speaker, is very clear with this piece of legislation. We certainly see it as a positive piece of legislation. It further protects individuals seeking insurances, and it protects their ability to obtain insurance, and the fact that it protects them from not being denied that renewal or that new policy or that extension, or whatever the case might be, that they are not denied on unreasonable grounds. So we see it as something that ensures fairness, it ensures consistency in the process. We will not find one thing from one company to another or from one town to another or from one particular part of the Province to another, and so on. It will ensure consistency, that we can expect the same thing from one insurance company to another when it comes to dealing with applicants for insurance policies.

Not only that, it also expands on their protections as well because if we are controlling the ability of the insurance companies to charge premiums based on things like someone's credit score, then we are controlling the premiums themselves. How I would see that, is that it will allow the consumer to get a higher level of insurance for a lower premium simply because something in their past that has come against them from a credit score point of view is not allowed to be taken into consideration when their policy is being evaluated, when their application is being evaluated for approval and so on. So I see that as a good thing and it expands consumer protection towards their property and towards casualty insurance and so on.

So for me this afternoon, Mr. Speaker, Bill 16, the amendment is a good amendment and I am glad this afternoon to be able to stand just for a few moments and to share my thoughts on it. I see it as something that certainly I would want to support when the minister brings it forward for legislation.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: If the hon. the Minister of Government Services speaks now he will close debate.

The hon. the Minister of Government Services.

MR. O'BRIEN: Yes, Mr. Speaker, it is certainly a pleasure to get up in this House and close debate at second reading in regard to Bill 16, An Act Respecting The Insurance Companies Act, an amendment thereof.

I listened intently to all of the comments by the hon. members, the hon. Member for Cape St. Francis, the hon. Member for Lewisporte and also the hon. members across the House in regard to their comments on this act and the amendment. I know they are – at least I felt that they are in support. They can see the merits in regard to this amendment in what it does to protect the consumer from practices that might be carried out by insurance companies that would set rates higher than the norm in regard to whatever type of a house that they may have or a residence, cottage, or whatever it may be.

Certainly, I heard some questions in regard to why we need this amendment at this time and what it might play out in regard to the regulations themselves that come after we get this amendment. To be clearer to the hon. members in the House and clearer to the people who are watching the proceedings here in the House of Assembly, the only thing that I am asking for here today is an amendment that gives the right to regulate homeowners insurance. We already have the right to regulate auto insurance in this Province which happened in the spring session of 2004, shortly after we took government. We took that right - we regulated the auto industry and we certainly see a decrease in regard to the premiums being paid by the people of Newfoundland and Labrador by approximately a little over 20 per cent. They have been remaining steady at that decrease now since 2004. It is a huge benefit to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and the consumers of auto insurance.

This amendment will give the department and me, as the minister responsible, the right to bring in regulations that will govern the issuing of homeowners insurance and the rates which are set to that particular type of insurance.

One of the hon. members across the House wanted to know what precipitated that, and he is right. Sometimes we get complaints. Things are brought to our attention in regard to either piece of legislation that we hold in Government Services that would generate a review of that piece of legislation to address the issue at hand. The issue has to be prominent in the marketplace before I would go and regulate. It would not be just a one instance or whatever. It would have to have merit before I would go and review that piece of legislation and then bring in amendments thereof and then regulations after the amendment to the piece of legislation. This piece I felt was absolutely needed in regard to protecting the consumers and the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. I see one instance alone in regard to regulations that we will certainly bring in, and that is the use of credit scoring in determining rate and premium of insurance. We will be definitely bringing that in shortly after this piece of legislation is amended and gazetted and then becomes law in Newfoundland and Labrador.

I do not agree in regard to using credit scores to determine a rate of a person. As I said in this hon. House earlier this week, I could not see the correlation between a credit score and you having a claim. I could not see a person who owns a $250,000 house here and the other person has a $250,000 house down the street, each one of them paying a different rate for the same value of the house, I could not see that. Just because they had a poor credit score, one person did and the other person did not, I just could not see it. I could not see that correlation. I think that is an injustice. As the hon. Member for Cape St. Francis referenced, it flies in the face of our Poverty Reduction Strategy, which is one of the best strategies being hailed all across this nation, all across North America and probably the world as being one of the best ever tabled and followed in regard to any government in the free world. It has certainly shown great results.

Also, one of the foundations of this government is to protect those who are most vulnerable. Again, this particular piece addresses this issue because sometimes the person may have an absolutely great credit score all of their adult lives and then run into a problem that they did not foresee, something that they did not plan and something that they probably, nine chances out of ten, certainly did not want. Anyway, just because of that, and in regard to the break up of a marriage or whatever it may be, that they had a credit score that is much less than what they had all of their life. Then, after that - that is one thing in regard to that, and that is a trauma in itself to the particular person at hand, but then to also have the trauma of going in to renew their insurance the next year and find that the rate has gone from like $600 up to $1,300. Well, then I have a problem with that. I absolutely have a problem with that, and I cannot see the relationship between a credit score and an actual claim. I just cannot see it. I have not seen the data, and I have asked for the data. It is great for the insurance companies to produce the data, but I want to see that data from a third party before I will ever be able to relate it to being a claim.

That actually addresses the risk classification system that the hon. member referenced in some of the questions he asked. That is the one we are looking at there in regard to that risk classification system, is the use of credit scores in determining a premium and a rate that a consumer would buy.

Other things that we are looking at – and we are only looking at it. I also said in this House, I believe it was Tuesday - I think it was on Tuesday when I spoke in second reading on this particular bill and this particular amendment - that I want, we want, the department wants, my division wants to work with the insurance industry itself. As well, we want to work with the Brokers Association of Newfoundland and Labrador. I met with them. I spoke to them only a couple of weeks ago. They are a great industry. They are very, very professional and they want to address these issues as well.

If they can address the issues - but they cannot address credit scores, they cannot do that. That is a directive of the insurance company itself, which most of the insurance companies, except two, are outside of Newfoundland and Labrador, based out of Toronto, based out of Montreal and based out of places like that. We only have two registered insurance companies in Newfoundland and Labrador that are registered in this Province that are home to this Province. So they cannot address that in regard to the Brokers Association because they can only follow the rules of the insurance company that they are underwriting for, so that is one that they cannot. Some of the things that they can address, I guess, and we will work it through, but I want to be clear in this House that I will regulate if I have to. I will regulate if the industry does not correct itself in regard to protecting the consumer. I will regulate if I see denying insurance for no reason, that no reason given would be contrary to what we are trying to do in this Province. We all understand that each and every individual that owns a house, owns a cottage, or whatever else they own that they need insurance onto it and should have insurance onto it. So that is not a reason, we have to have a reason and a very valid reason to have that insurance cancelled.

Cancelling policies for cheques that are provided with insufficient funds, like I addressed there a couple of days ago, this week in particular, in regard to this piece of legislation, I addressed that too. That can happen sometimes when you move residence from one place to another. You have it set up with the bank with regard to having postdated cheques. You go and you get your insurance on your next residence, whatever it is, and then the first payment comes out and it bounces because of insufficient funds because you closed down the account and moved it to another bank in another community or another part of the city that you are now living in. I think that happens at times. The Brokers Association assured me that it does not happen very, very often that they do address those issues and track down the person, and then give them every opportunity to make sure the funds are available and they do not have their insurance cancelled. That is fine, but if it continues - we had a number of complaints in the department and if it continues, well then certainly we will regulate.

Also, tied selling is another piece that we would want to have a look at. Again, we will work with the Brokers Association of Newfoundland and Labrador on this. What tied selling means is that you cannot obtain homeowners insurance unless they have your auto insurance. Well, I think that is wrong because they should be able to avail of whatever type of insurance that the particular company is actually selling regardless if they have their auto insurance or any other type of insurance in that particular company. They should be able to provide them with a quote, then it is up to the consumer if they will avail of that quote and actually establish their insurance policy in that particular company.

So these are a couple of things that we are considering in regard to the regulations. We will not be able to give a full overview of the regulations, that will come forward after this amendment is considered in this House and, hopefully, it is passed in this House. I think it will be because I think it will get unanimous vote because it is a consumer protection piece of legislation and amendment. I think I heard most of the members, my hon. colleagues across the House, agree that this is needed, that we do not condone certain things that is happening in the homeowners insurance industry, as well as when we were back in 2004 we did not condone certain this in the auto industry either.

So certainly this is a very good piece of legislation in regard to the amendment and I feel very, very good about bringing this forward. I think it will be well-received by the people of Newfoundland and Labrador because I do not think that anybody should be disenfranchised when they are trying to buy a product.

Again, I will say that I have no problem with brokers in this Province making a profit, I have no problem with insurance companies making a profit, and I have no problem with businesses making a profit, just as long as the product that they are providing to the consumers of the Province is fair and a decent price and that they are not being gouged for some reason or disenfranchised by some type of policy that they have that would cause any of those things.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I will take my seat in the House. Certainly, I welcome any other questions or comments that we might have in committee stage in regard to Bill 16, An Act To Amend The Insurance Companies Act.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Is it the pleasure of the House that Bill 16 be now read a second time?

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

Carried.

CLERK: A bill, An Act To Amend The Insurance Companies Act. (Bill 16)

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

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

Now? Tomorrow?

MS BURKE: Tomorrow, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Tomorrow.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Insurance Companies Act", read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House on tomorrow. (Bill 16)

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

MS BURKE: Thank you.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to call from the Order Paper, Order 12, second reading of a bill, An Act To Amend The Insurance Companies Act No. 2, Bill 19.

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

MR. O'BRIEN: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the Minister of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development, that Bill 19, An Act To Amend The Insurance Companies Act No. 2, be now read a second time.

MR. SPEAKER: It is properly moved and seconded that Bill 19, An Act To Amend The Insurance Companies Act No. 2, be now read a second time.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Insurance Companies Act No. 2", carried. (Bill 19)

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

MR. O'BRIEN: Mr. Speaker, this particular amendment to the act respecting the Insurance Companies Act certainly addresses the issues surrounding all the types of classes of insurance that are sold in Newfoundland and Labrador and also in this nation of Canada. These classes of insurance are defined and the authority exists to add, delete, or change a class of insurance to allow the regulation to keep pace with the industry itself when it creates a new product or alters an existing product.

Currently, there are variances in the number of classes and definitions across the federal and provincial governments. Through the Canadian Council of Insurance Regulators, they carried out a review to look at the different classes of insurance and use in Canada to see if they could streamline and harmonize those particular classes of insurance. The amendments that we are making here are certainly a result of that review by the Canadian Council of Insurance Regulators. These recommendations are certainly in line with similar changes that are now happening in other provinces, and they will also be harmonized with the federal jurisdictions too.

It will also make, when you look at the amendment and the harmonization of the classes of insurance, it will make it easier, really, for insurance companies to operate in Newfoundland and Labrador, but also Canada. What will happen, when we harmonize all the different classes of insurance, it will harmonize to the effect that all the classes of insurance will be the same right across Canada. So, an insurance company in Manitoba, or an insurance company in Nova Scotia, or an insurance company in – transacting business, that is – in Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and Manitoba, well then they will be dealing with the same class of insurance all the time.

Mr. Speaker, there were seventeen, I think, different classes of insurance that are included in appendix 1 of this act, and certainly, we see that those seventeen classes of insurance are what transpired out of that review by the Canadian Council of Insurance Regulators. So they recommended and established those. They also left an opening that if there is another classification that came about in regard to anything that might happen in the industry, they have the right to develop that class of insurance as well. Then, we will have a look at that and add it to the list of seventeen in the future, if it is so warranted.

In regard to the amendment, we are not boxing the insurance industry into just seventeen classes of insurance. I want to be clear on that. The seventeen classes of insurance address all the issues in the industry as we see it today right across Canada, but if a new class should be created then certainly we will - over and above those classes of insurance - they have the opportunity to develop that class of insurance and then table it in regard to having it included in Appendix I.

It also makes it easier, as well, for the consumer itself. If you had a consumer in Newfoundland and Labrador who had an insurance policy here in Newfoundland and Labrador, and it was of a certain class, and then he moved to another province, then that class will actually be the same in that Province as well.

In regard to that harmonization piece, it certainly addresses the ability of the insurance companies to operate more efficiently and better in each and every province and territory that we have, but it also enables the consumer to access that insurance as well, and understand it, because the classes are the same.

There might be some minor variations in the definitions between the federal Ontario and Quebec Schedules in regard to how they classify a certain type of insurance, I guess, if you want to put it. One in particular I will say is that one of the variances is in the Quebec insurance. Certainly, in Quebec, the insurance to protect a lender from a loss due to a default by the borrower where the loan is secured by a moveable property such as a car is included in their mortgage insurance definition. In the rest of Canada this type of insurance falls under the credit or credit protection class. The Province's definition of mortgage insurance will not be harmonized with Quebec, but will be with the Ontario and the federal legislation.

Also, we, in Newfoundland and Labrador, will have to maintain, for a period of time, a definition of fire insurance until a detailed review of the Fire Insurance Act is done and is undertaken. Certainly, when we determine just exactly how we are going to handle that, then we will change that definition as well.

Government Services also notes that the property insurance includes the damage by fire but also includes other things such as water damage and other perils as well. Fire insurance is a separate class but covers only fire damage and is used when somebody only wants coverage for this peril. We have to harmonize this a bit, so there is going to be a variation there for the time being until we can work that through and make sure that we have it done right under the Fire Insurance Act.

This is an important piece of legislation as well. Certainly, as a government and also in regard to a lot of the things that are happening between all of the provinces and the federal government as well, a number of years ago they decided, we decided, as governments across this great land, that we would try to harmonize all of these things such as insurances, et cetera, to make it easier for the people of the Province, the people of Canada, to do whatever they are doing.

One of the things that we are doing in particular in this act is to try to harmonize the classes of insurance across Canada to make sure that all the classes are the same, and that people clearly understand the insurance that they are transacting or entertaining to buy into. It certainly makes it easier, as I said before, for the insurance companies to transact their business. They can now act more efficiently and effectively, in regard to what they are trying to do, and certainly the consumer understands, as well, because each and every class will be the same, regardless of where they are or where they are having that particular insurance. Because there are people here in Newfoundland and Labrador who have investments in other provinces - properties, or whatever they have, rental properties, or whatever they might have across Canada in other provinces as well. Then, when they go into an insurance company here to have that property insured, then they understand that the same type of insurance in Newfoundland and Labrador exists in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, or wherever it may be.

Simply, Mr. Speaker, that is exactly what this act does. It is a harmonization piece of legislation, but even though it is a harmonization piece of legislation it is equally important to the industry and also to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. That is as much as I will say at this particular time in regard to second reading. I certainly welcome any comments by my hon. colleagues across the House, or my hon. colleagues on this side of the House in government, in regard to this particular act. I certainly will listen intently to any questions, try to answer those questions, and welcome any comments.

At this point in time, Mr. Speaker, I will take my seat in the House and welcome any comments by my hon. colleagues.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

I appreciate an opportunity to have a few words with respect to Bill 19. I notice I have about an hour, being the first speaker. I do not know if that is going to be sufficient, but in any case there is a second part to the process, of course, which is very helpful, and that is called the committee stage; because, if one does not get an opportunity to make all of their comments during the second reading stage, of course, you always get an opportunity, when this thing comes up in committee stage again, to ask any specific commentaries from the minister and questions of the minister.

Anyway, we have had several pieces of insurance-related legislation in the House. We have several more to come, and I understand from my colleague, who apparently spoke to the minister, that we can expect some more to come before this House before this session ends.

Of course, it is important – it is very important – to the public that they have an understanding of what it is that is happening here. It is really, really, important that the members who are voting for this have a complete understanding of what it is we are voting for. We often get pieces of legislation, for example, that might not be considered substantive, or the world will not come to an end if you vote one way or the other, but that does not remove the fact that, as Members of the House of Assembly, we have an obligation to understand what is being put before us, where it came from, why it is here, what it means. Any questions we have, of course, we pose them to the minister, and before he closes out second reading he will get an opportunity, if he wishes, to answer any concerns that we raise; or he can, of course, wait until the committee stage and deal with them then when we get into the particulars.

Now, the minister gave some general comments as to what this piece of legislation is about. It is very general. Basically, his commentary was: We are going to define certain classes of insurance, and this is intended principally to harmonize the laws in this regard to these various classes of insurance across this country. Of course, there is a lot in between that. If you were to look at the detail here, the minister, for example, said there are going to be seventeen classes of insurance in this Province. I do not know if the public are aware even of what all the seventeen different classes of insurance are.

It is very important to understand that this is not just one little amendment to the Insurance Companies Act dealing with something about fire insurance, for example, which the minister referred to – that there might still be some differences and variations between what happens in federal insurance, what happens in Quebec, and what happens in Ontario. So albeit, I guess, we are striving for harmonization, what a class of insurance means here does not mean the same thing in other provinces. It is obvious right from the get-go that we are not going to have it harmonized; we are still going to have some issues, from the minister's own admission.

Of course, one of the obvious questions was: If we have taken so long to do this harmonization, what is it about the Quebec piece that the minister referenced when it came to the fire damages piece? I did not truly get an understanding of what he meant from his explanation as to why we are still going to be offside with Quebec when it comes to the fire damages piece here. So getting some further information and education on that would certainly be helpful from the minister.

It would be nice to know, of course, as well what other differences we are still going to be left with. The minister specifically said that we would be still not in harmony with the federal government, with Ontario and with Quebec on certain areas. I think the people need to know that. If we have taken all of this time and effort to come up with this harmonization package, why didn't we go the whole way? Why are we still left with these differences?

Now, of course, that is not unusual that different provinces might have different regulations, might have different laws. We see that quite often. You need only look at any regulations or statutes, or any jurisdiction in Canada or in the territories and you will see that sometimes we have laws that are basically identical, on other occasions we are very far apart.

For example, the Province of Quebec, given their particular distinct culture and languages, for example, they sometimes have laws that are quite different from us and the rest of Canada. Quite often, the Province of Quebec wants nothing to do with what is a federal law, for example, and they often opt out of a particular program. For example, I think the rest of Canada has the Canada Pension Plan. I do not think the Province of Quebec is a participant in the Canada Pension Plan.

MR. BUTLER: Not the same as ours.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Not the same as ours. They decided to go their own way, row their own boat as it were, and create their own program, which is perfectly acceptable. That is a part of being in this great federation we are in that the minister referred to. We are all at liberty to go down own provincial spheres to have our own laws, in certain areas of jurisdiction that is.

For example, we have no authority in this Province to make any laws concerning the quotas for the fisheries. That is done by the feds, but once the fish lands on the land, of course, we have all the say in terms of the processing. You have to make laws, and you can only make laws within the sphere of the jurisdiction that you are permitted. Who can do what in Canada basically comes under section 91 and section 92 of our Constitution Act.

Here we are dealing with a case of insurance, and it is obvious that some areas of jurisdiction are shared. We have a case here where insurance regulation is shared in the sense that the feds can make certain regulations about insurance and different provinces can make regulations about insurance. Who can sell insurance? What are the different kinds of insurance products that are in the marketplace that allows one to avail of? It changes, it changes drastically.

For example, just to reference some of the different types of insurance that we have here - and I spent a lot of time in my former career as a lawyer dealing with insurance claims and stuff like that but I was quite shocked actually to read some of the different products that are in the insurance market. I was sincerely not aware of some of these types of insurance. I am sure there are people out there today, once I reference some of these, who are not aware of them. I think, in fact, that is a public service that we are performing if we let people know in the course of a debate what products are available for them to purchase if they so desire.

I will give you an example here. The first one leading off in Bill 19, of course, the minister talks about accident and sickness insurance. Now most people who live in Newfoundland and Labrador have heard the phrase accident and sickness insurance. It means, according to this bill now, from here on in it is going to have a certain meaning. You will not have to wonder any more if you are looking for accident and sickness insurance, you will not have to worry about what it is because the law is going to define what it is.

In this particular case - because previously what the government did, the government being the regulator in this case of course, was if they wanted to define something they did it by regulation. In other words, they had a general umbrella power to, from time to time, vary something. Vary a product. Vary the definition of a product. What we are doing here, of course, is we are not taking that step any more of just having it done ad hoc for any particular product from time to time. What we are saying here is from here on in, at least with respect to these types of insurance that we have here in Bill 19, we are going to define them. So everybody will know. The insurance companies will know upfront what it is if you are selling this kind of insurance and what is entailed in it. The public will know.

If anyone in the public wants to know, for example, what accident and sickness insurance is, from here on in they need only look on the government Web site. Go into the Statutes of Newfoundland and Labrador, type in insurance act, and sure enough, they will be able to find it on their Web site what accident and sickness insurance will now mean after we pass this law here. Most people today, of course, they do access the legislation by way of the Web.

Years ago, of course, a lot of people in a lot of rural areas in particular did not have access to the statutes and what the laws might be and the regulations might be. Normally they were confined to lawyers' offices, or someone in the community might have one. The magistrate's office might have a set of statutes or whatever, but nowadays most people can Google it on the Web and find out exactly what it is you are looking for. That is a good thing, by the way. That is a public service, but there is more than just putting it on the Web to make it accessible to the people.

We have an obligation as legislators to explain to people what in fact it is, or what we at least think it is. This is why the debate, of course, is an opportunity for the minister to say this is what I think it is, or this is what it is, not what I think it is, and for Opposition members to discuss it. Anything we do not understand, to tear it apart. For the minister to say: No, you misinterpreted that, Member for Burgeo & La Poile. You read that wrong; that is not correct; this is what it says; this is what it means. A lot of times, of course, by doing that – because everything we do in here is recorded. Everything is absolutely recorded in here, and it is in a process called Hansard. In fact, today is also taped and broadcast.

So, what you say here is important in the sense that if you put a piece of legislation forward and the minister says one thing and the Opposition raise questions about that particular piece of legislation, it could be years down the road when that particular piece of legislation becomes the subject of a court case. The lawyers get involved, of course, and they are trying to pick apart: Well, what did it mean when they passed that? Who said what?

For example, if there is a court case that unfolds two years out and it involves accident and sickness insurance, the lawyers involved in the case are going to go to Hansard and they are going to say: I wonder what the government had to say about this when they made it law? I wonder what they said the reason was that they created this new definition of accident and sickness insurance. Yes, they are going to have the actual black on white wording from this schedule as to what accident and sickness insurance is, the definition of it, but of course anything pretty well can be fodder for a court case, anything. You do not need too much to hinge a court case on.

So if someone is having a racket about whether they or he or she is or is not covered in this Province in the future on an accident and sickness claim, somebody is going to say: Well, what does it mean? Well, they will know what it means because they only have to go to this act to find it. Then, of course, there is a difference of opinion between the lawyers for the insurance company and the lawyers for the consumer. A person who feels that, look, I should have had accident and sickness insurance. I was paying a premium and this is what I thought I was getting for my money, only to find out now that I am not getting that for my money.

So, that is where it is important. One of the things they will do, of course, to try to figure out what the definition of accident and sickness insurance was, is they will come back and review the transcripts of the House. They will say: What did the Minister of Government Services of the day, what did he have to say about this? They might come back and read Hansard and say, at least from what I heard so far today: Well, the minister did not say too much about it. He certainly never made any express comments about what accident and sickness insurance was. I do not think he uttered the words. He made comments about harmonization. He made comments about a schedule with definitions. He made comments about seventeen classes of insurance, but he never once uttered the words, accident and sickness insurance.

So people might say: Well, that is not very helpful. He did not even tell us, why did we, as a Province, Newfoundland and Labrador, why did we agree to adopt this definition of accident and sickness insurance? Obviously, if he had not talked about it, there is no help there for anybody. So I will just use that one, first, as an example of what type of questions people might ask. The first one off the top, accident and sickness insurance.

Now, the minister says this is a case of harmonization. I would like to know as well, who was at the table when we did this? Was every province involved? Were all the territories involved? How long was the process going on? Is this something that just started last year? How many meetings were there to bring this about? Did this happen fairly quickly or was this something that took meetings after meetings? That is the kind of stuff that would be interesting to know.

It be also interesting, Mr. Speaker, to know was it a unanimous thing on each of these seventeen classifications? For example, we know that the Province of Quebec, I believe the minister said, is still offside with us, or the rest of the country, when it comes to the fire damages piece. So we still have some issues there. I stand to be corrected on that. That is the whole purpose because I was not clear when the minister made his comments. I was left unclear about what he meant about who was offside with whom.

So, that is the kind of stuff that we are looking for.

I look forward to listening to the minister when he gives me that explanation. He is pretty good when it comes down to explaining stuff, sometimes. Other times, he tends to be pretty generalist. He does not get into too many specifics, but most times, he is pretty – when you tell him exactly what it is you want, he usually spits it out to you; that is not a problem. Anyway, he is going to have lots of time to figure out the answer to that one because, like I say, I have forty-four minutes to talk yet, so he has at least forty-four minutes to go figure that piece out.

Mr. Speaker, I digress, to come back to my point here, on this case of accident and sickness insurance, for example, this is the first time, to my knowledge, that we have actually had in this Province a legislated definition of what accident and sickness insurance is, a legislated one. We might have had a regulated one, definition. We might have had definitions that Johnson Insurance use or Desjardins use or some Crosbie Insurance used but now we are going to have a definition of accident and sickness insurance that is legislated. You are not going to be able to have Johnsons Insurance, for example, say well this is what we think accident and sickness insurance is and the other insurance company down the street, whoever they might be, say well this is our definition of accident and sickness insurance. From here on in, they are all going to have to abide by the same definition; nobody can vary.

That is a good thing because that way the consumer, no matter if you live in Port aux Basques and you go and you are trying to negotiate, for example, on behalf of your work staff - say, you run a little business in Port aux Basques and you have four or five employees and you want to negotiate an accident and sickness program to put into their work environment for them, you go to an insurance company, it does not matter now after this. If you go to the insurance company down the street in Port aux Basques, or you go to the insurance company on the street in Stephenville, or you go into St. John's, or you go to Gander, you are going to get the same definition of accident and sickness insurance that applies to everybody in this Province no matter where you live and no matter what insurance company you deal with. That is a pretty fair thing. We were not always guaranteed of that. It was not great divergence because they did have some form of regulation before, but now there is no question about it, none whatsoever.

So just take that example, accident and sickness insurance, and I am going to flip over now to the Schedule which is also a part of Bill 19 when they give the definition of what accident and sickness insurance means, and I think it is important. The people of this Province have to know and should know that from here on in, in this Province, accident and sickness insurance means insurance - and they give one, two, three, four, five different subcategories of accident and sickness insurance.

The first one means insurance against loss resulting from bodily injury to, or the death of, a person caused by an accident. That is pretty straightforward. Surely, I would think nobody in this House is going to disagree that that would qualify and should qualify as accident insurance and sickness insurance. It is against loss resulting from bodily injury.

So if you have a policy, a contract of insurance in place, a contract of accident and sickness insurance in place, it is going to include that. If you are working, for example, in your employment and you slip and fall, you injure yourself, you have a bodily injury, you broke two ribs and you are going to be off work for awhile, or broke a leg, something like that, that bodily injury, under this definition, will qualify; you will be there. Not only that, if, God forbid, it is a very, very serious accident that might lead to death, you will also be covered. That will be included. So insurance companies, for example, will be able to offer a product called accident and sickness insurance and that will be included in the meaning of it: a loss resulting from bodily injury or death caused by an accident.

Now, of course, that does not mean that there is not going to be any lawsuits come out of this. Like I said, it does not take very much sometimes to give one grounds to have a lawsuit. In this particular case, you do not need to look very far other than the last word in that subsection which says accident – person caused by an accident. Where, of course, the lawyers are going to have great fun with this is if Joe gets injured and Joe says that was an accident, I was injured by that accident and I want to get my accident and sickness insurance, the insurance company may well still say: Yes, those types of things are covered if it is an accident, but we do not believe it was an accident. So the question then, of course, still becomes a determination for the court, that regardless of what the law says in terms of a definition, it still comes down in any court case to the argument as to: Was it or was it not an accident?

That is not being legislated here, of course. All this law is going to tell us in the future is that, yes, if it is proven that a person received bodily injury, they had a loss as the result of bodily injury, or they died caused by an accident, that they are going to be covered. As I say, that is at least a good first step, because now we do not have to wonder any more if bodily injury can be covered by the contract. We know right here that it can be.

Now, they do not try to go so far as to define an accident, of course. It is pretty difficult to define an accident. That is usually based on a particular set of facts. If it so happens that the person who purchased the insurance, the accident and sickness insurance, feels that it was caused by an accident, and gives a set of statements, gives facts, and the insurance company says: yes, no problem, we know that. We can verify all of that. We can certainly verify that you have bodily injury. We have the medical reports here that show you broke your leg. That is determined by X-rays and so on, and doctor's certificates. We have all of that. So there is not going to be any problem with that. They might have some issue with whether it happened on the job or not, maybe that might become an issue sometimes, but of course if there were witnesses to it and you can obtain statements from witnesses that yes, Joe fell down and broke his leg on the job. There usually would not be any trouble and the insurance company, of course, would pay up, and pay whatever was due and there would not be any argument.

Sometimes these cases get settled fairly quickly. Sometimes it is just as simple as that. You had an injury, you make your report, you outline the facts, and you say who the witnesses were. The insurance company comes back, verifies those facts, verifies those statements and says fine. Once that is done, of course, you have to get to the issue of quantifying the extent. What should they get, what was the loss? Once you have proven that there was a loss, once you have proven that there was an insurance company, yes, you bought your package and you have your loss, and you proved it because your medical report showed you have your leg broke. You might say: well, I am entitled to $10,000 for that. The insurance company might say that is crazy. You are not getting $10,000 for a broken leg. In fact, the insurance company might say well, normally a broken leg might be worth $10,000 but you were wearing sneakers on the job instead of wearing proper footwear. So, you contributed to your accident because you did not have proper foot gear on. So instead of the $10,000 that you would normally get for your broken leg, we are only going to pay you $5,000.

All of those things happen, of course, in the trial. There are a lot of people involved in that process. Not only the insurance company and the person who is covered, the insurer and the insured, not only those two parties, of course. There are appraisers, there are assessors, there are adjudicators, there is – you name it. There is a whole bunch of people involved in determining what the injuries might be.

We even have some people in this House of Assembly who, in their former life, they were adjusters, they were insurance adjusters. The Member for the Bay of Islands, I do believe. That was his job in his former life, one of the things that he did. Now, you could, of course - I am talking about accident and sickness insurance right here, but you might, for example, have a specific practice where you would just be an insurance adjuster in fire loss, for example, or automobile loss, because not everybody is a master of all trades. Most people, as they say, is a jack of all trades and a master of none.

So, I do not know exactly what his specialty was, or if he had a specialty or he was more of a generalist and did several areas. I would look forward to hearing him speak as well, because when I started out, I commented on the different types and classes of insurance we have here, some I have never seen. I am going to get to these in a little while, if my time permits. If not, I will do it in committee.

There are some classes of insurance here, do not know where they came from. I do not know where they came from or where they are used, who would have it, what are the circumstances as to why we would have them. Fire insurance is pretty straightforward. Let's stay with accident and sickness insurance, since that is what I am dealing with here now. Pretty straightforward. A lot of people might have accident and sickness insurance. Virtually anybody, for example, who works in any form of employment might want accident and sickness insurance. You might even be retired from your former occupation and yet you still have a program or a policy of accident and sickness insurance in place.

For example, it is my understanding that anyone involved in the public service, including members of the House of Assembly, that if you retire, of course, you can still continue your accident and sickness insurance, if you so wish. So, that is the first clause, subclause of this Schedule, 1.(a)(i). It is called accident and sickness insurance.

Now, my question I would pose to the minister is: This subclause that we are dealing with here is that in all the other provinces and territories? Because it is one thing to talk about harmonization but it is another thing to tell us the extent of the harmonization. I would like to have some further details as to - for example, what provinces are onside with this definition of accident and sickness insurance, and which ones are not? Is there anybody who disagrees, in this country, with that 1.(a)(i) definition of accident and sickness insurance? That would be interesting to know, because it is fine to use a general word like harmonization, but tell us some of the specifics.

MR. KENT: Sit down and I will tell you.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: I suspect – I say to the hon. Member for Mount Pearl, I will sit down when my time is up. I have the floor of this House. I have exactly thirty-two minutes and two seconds left to speak, and I will use whatever amount of that time, Mr. Speaker, that I am entitled to use, and I will not sit down because the Member for Mount Pearl asked me to sit down. I have the rights of anybody else in this House to get up and speak, and if he wants to speak, he can certainly speak when his turn comes, Mr. Speaker. He can certainly speak when his turn comes, Mr. Speaker, and we will see just how much he speaks when his turn comes, and we will see what he contributes to the debate on Bill 19, Mr. Speaker. I look forward to it, and I do not want to –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER (Kelly): Order, please!

The Chair recognizes the hon. member's right to speak.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for your protection.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for your protection and indulgence. Just for the record, Mr. Speaker, I do not want to improperly cast any aspersions upon the Member for Mount Pearl. I must say, I am not sure if it is Mount Pearl South or North.

AN HON. MEMBER: South.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: South? So, I want to make it clear that my comments were directed to the Member for Mount Pearl South. I would not want the Member for Mount Pearl North to think that I said anything against him in any way. He is a very quiet gentleman normally, the Member for Mount Pearl North usually –

MR. DENINE: No, I'm South.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Okay. For clarification, Mr. Speaker, I am now told it is the Member for Mount Pearl North who my comments were directed towards, not the Member for Mount Pearl South. I was never good at geography. The Member for Mount Pearl South, of course, is a very genteel man, he is a gentleman, and he usually allows anyone who is on the floor of this House speaking to have their say without disruption.

Mr. Speaker, let me go back to the bill here, because one of the considerations, Mr. Speaker, in debating this thing, as I say, is to be informed. So, again, before I was so rudely interrupted by the Member for Mount Pearl North, I was posing a question to the minister. I will go back, and I will have to restate that now because I am not sure if he got it. My question to the minister was: How many other jurisdictions in Canada were onside with this definition in the Schedule, identified as 1.(a)(i), when it talks about accident and sickness insurance?

As I said, the minister was pretty general. We have harmonized, or we are trying to harmonize. I would like to get down to more bare-bones stuff. Just how much harmony are we going to have in this country once we accept this piece of legislation?

Now, we have some idea, for example, that not everybody is onside. We already know that, and the minister admitted that. I would just like to know, and that is why it ties in to the context of what I already asked, how long was this process going on? Were we talking on this for a month? Were we talking on this for six months or are we on this for a year? God forbid, if we were talking about the accident and sickness definition that we were going to use in this country for a year, and at the end of the day, we are still here bringing in a definition that the other nine or ten jurisdictions disagree with. So, if that is the case, we are not harmonized at all.

Anyway, I will move on to subsection (ii) under this definition now. By the way, it is very important that we stay relevant in these discussions, and that is why I am confining my remarks. I am not being political today. I am not suggesting that anything that is being done here is not appropriate. I am not suggesting that anything being done in Bill 19 is in any way political or politically motivated. I think it is a good idea, actually, to harmonize our laws with the rest of Canada. Not only should the person who lives in my district or live in the Gander district, for example, have the same laws apply to them, it should be the same in the country, if you can do it. If you can in any way, shape or form do it, it makes it easier. It does not mean you are going to be living in Newfoundland and Labrador all your life. Hopefully, you would be, but if you move to B.C., it is nice to have an idea that the laws are pretty well the same.

It is also nice to know if they are going to be different. I guess, you cannot stand here in the House obviously - the minister cannot - and give every single difference that is going to exist in these schedule definitions with every other jurisdiction. What would be the point of it? There would be no point of it. Of course, the minister can give us some indication of just how far, if at all, we are still offside with some jurisdictions on some issues.

So on this section, Mr. Speaker, 1.(a)(ii), it says: Accident and sickness insurance means insurance "under which an insurer undertakes to pay a certain sum or sums of insurance money in the event of bodily injury to, or the death of, a person caused by an accident." So, the first one, of course, talks about loss is included. Now it talks about the insurer agreeing to pay money. That would qualify as accident and sickness insurance.

Now again, I do not know if everybody else in this House understands what that particular subclause means. Is it there because this will quantify that money received by the insured person in a certain way? Obviously, it is not employment income. So what kind of income will it be? We know it is income being paid pursuant to an accident and sickness policy. Are there any particular tax consequences to that? Why do we need that there? Why do we need to say that the money that an insurer pays is accident and sickness insurance, or it comes from accident and sickness insurance. Does it have any particular ramifications for the individual who receives that money, when it comes to the Canada Revenue Agency? Is it taxable, the same as income, or is it non-taxable?

I think there is actually a distinction. I do not know the details, but I actually do believe I have heard somewhere that there is distinction made between money that you would get in the course of your employment – your normal, everyday paycheque, for example - and the money that you would get under an accident and sickness policy. Now, that is what I think that subsection is geared to, and I look forward to the minister giving me an answer on that. If that is the case, let us know.

To move on to (iii), Mr. Speaker. It says: Accident and sickness insurance means insurance "against loss resulting from the sickness or disability of a person excluding loss resulting from an accident or death." So I guess that is making a distinction between – because it is all coming under the definition of accident and sickness insurance, but yet, when we get into the actual definition, they have carved out what one is and what the other is – what is accident and what is sickness. They have said here that accident and sickness insurance means insurance resulting from sickness or disability, excluding loss resulting from an accident or a death.

Now, if I were to read that, to me, the common, plain reading of that would be that it is different from an – it is a loss that I had as a result of a sickness, but it was not a loss that I incurred as a result of an accident. The first definition, an example that I used: Joe was walking across his workplace with his sneakers on and he slipped and broke his leg. So I would think that was the accident piece of the policy, and now we are dealing with the sickness piece of the policy. Joe did not slip and break his leg; instead, maybe Joe got cancer. Maybe Joe had something that happened, some kind of disease or illness that he contracted; therefore, he is going to be off work. I think that is what that means, is that one was an accident that you get compensated for, one was a sickness that you get compensated for, there is a difference between the two, but you can lump them together in one contract called an accident and sickness contract, if you want. I think that is what this is all about. Of course, the minister can educate us on that, it would be nice to know.

In the next section there, Mr. Speaker, it says: Accident and sickness insurance means insurance "under which an insurer undertakes to pay a certain sum or sums of insurance money in the event of the sickness or disability of a person not caused by an accident." So again, we are making the distinction here between a sickness that you get money for and an accident that you get money for. Again, it talks about the sum or sums of insurance money. The one before that talked about the sickness or the disability. In this, now, we are talking about the money that is being paid for that sickness or disability.

Again, I raise the question with the minister: Is money that you receive from a sickness, not an accident, from a sickness, is the money that you receive as the result of a sickness insurance policy, how is that treated by CRA? Those are pretty ‘sensical' questions. If I get a paycheque from my job, I know I pay income taxes on it. There is a certain rate, depending on how much money you make. So my first question was, I am not getting my paycheque any more because I broke my leg, I had an accident, I am going to get some money from it. How is that going to be treated by CRA? Are there any changes to the law in regard to Revenue Canada as a result of what we are adopting here today? What if the money came from a sickness that I had? Is that treated differently by CRA than accident money that got?

Those are pretty straightforward questions. As MHAs, of course, we often get asked these questions. We often get asked these questions as an MHA: Can you do this? Can you do that? In our occupation, we just do not stand here on the floor of the House of Assembly and debate legislation. We get questions about everything. What side of the road can you drive on? What are the requirements if you want to get Crown land? What are the requirements if you need to apply for a certain government program? There are all kinds of questions. I do not have all these answers, but the minister does, or his staff does. So I look forward to the minister providing some of those answers.

Then, of course, still under subsection (a) but the Roman numeral (v), it says accident and sickness insurance means insurance "under which an insurer undertakes to pay insurance money in respect of the health care, including the dental care and the preventive care, of a person." So, we are gone beyond the bodily injury piece that you are getting some money for, an accident. We are gone beyond the money that you are going to get for a sickness that you might have had, and now we are down into dealing with money that you are going to get for health care, including the dental care and the preventive care of a person.

Now, maybe the minister could tell us as well, because this question often comes up, what would be included? We are talking definitions here. What is included under the definition of health care? It says that accident and sickness insurance, this is what it means, and it says money that you get in respect of health care. Now, is there something further that defines what this means? Because if I am going in as consumer Joe, and I am going to buy into this contract of accident and sickness insurance, and I pay my money every month faithfully for the premium, when all of a sudden I need health care. So I go to my employer and I say: listen government - or whoever your employer was - I have an accident and sickness policy with you and I have been paying on that policy, my premium, faithfully as an employee of yours for the last fifteen years. All of a sudden now, I have a health care issue. The insurance company looks up to me and says: you are not covered.

Now, what am I or what am I not covered for when you use the phrase health care? What is included in the definition of health care? I mean, we know as citizens and residents of this Province, God knows there are enough issues now we already face every day as MHAs as to what is included in health care. I have people in my district every week who need to leave town, they cannot get the services that they want in town, but they have to go somewhere for health care. It always comes down to an issue, particularly if they need government assistance to get there. It might be by way of a plane fare, mileage for gas, gas or mileage and so on, they might need a hotel to stay in. The question is: What is included in health care?

We already know from dealing with this every day, day in day out, week in and week out, as MHAs, that there are all kinds of problems as to what is included in health care. I would like to know, is there anything that defines further what health care is? That is a pretty straightforward question. Do not sell me a policy that you said: yes, that insurer can sell you an accident and sickness policy and here is the definition of accident and sickness, and I come back fifteen years later and say: okay, I have your policy, you have my money but now you are telling me that that health care is not covered. Where does it define what health care I am covered for? Do not tell me that I am only covered for brain surgery. That is not going to help me if my problem is I need something done with my foot. That is not going to be helpful.

If we are going to harmonize, in addition to harmonizing laws we also need to be more specific. I do not mean to be humorous but that is a very serious issue. If I bought insurance thinking that I am covered for health care, and all of a sudden I go in and they say: well, I am sorry, we forgot to tell you that. We forgot to tell you what health care was covered. That is a pretty important thing for people to know. To come back to what the minister was saying earlier, not only today but his comments of Tuesday when he introduced other pieces of legislation here, he talked about the consumer protection piece. That is why it is so important. The consumer needs to be protected.

We are telling the consumer we are going to harmonize things, but we are not going to be specific as to what we are telling them. It is no good to tell me I have accident and sickness insurance if you do not tell me what is included and what is covered by it, because I will guarantee you one thing that is a sure recipe for a court case again. That is a sure recipe for a court case. If I need a health care thing covered that is going to cost potentially thousands or tens of thousands of dollars, rest assured, there is going to be an insurance company somewhere who is going to question and say: We do not know if that is covered or not. That is not going to help Joe when Joe needs the health care and you end up with a court case that could take a year or two years to resolve. That is not going to help Joe.

So, let's give Joe some more specificity as to what is included in health care, or maybe that is already included, by the way. Maybe there is another definition somewhere that we do not know about. Maybe that is in another part of the contract. I have seen contracts where it was further defined, health care shall mean, health care shall not mean. That has been there. So, maybe the minister can tell us if there is any consistency between this new definition and when we get into issues such as that.

Mr. Speaker, before I move off that section, it says including dental care. That is case where they have said health care; we know one thing that is included in it. We know that dental care is included in health care. Just take a little bit closer look at it. What does dental care mean? It says dental care is included in health care, but what is included in dental care? Does that include, for example, if I have to get braces? Does that include if I have to get other orthodontic work done, or does it include simply giving you – you had a cavity, we fixed you? What is the extent of the dental work that is referred to here as part of the health care piece?

So, you can see the problems that one can encounter when you do not ask these questions. You can see there is a myriad of possible potential problems, and that is why it is important. I cannot bring myself to vote for this piece of legislation if I do not get some more specific answers to it. I like the words harmonization. I think it is great. I love it, but it does not tell me very much. If I am going to go out and want to buy a contract of accident and sickness insurance, is that defined anywhere?

Again, Mr. Speaker, before I move off that particular section, it says "…health care, including the dental care…" and then it says "…and the preventive care…" Now, maybe there is a legislated definition of preventive care. Maybe I just do not know where it is. Maybe I do not know if there is such a thing, but if there is a definition, Mr. Speaker, of preventive care, shouldn't we have it spelled out? Shouldn't someone tell us a little bit further on here that when you are talking about preventive care this is what it means? What I might think is preventive care - even the words preventive care is pretty broad. Preventive care, now what am I preventing? There could be lots of things that I call preventive care, but my interpretation of preventive care and an insurance company's contract or definition of preventive care could be miles apart. If they are miles apart, if there is any uncertainty that is what leads to the court cases again, that is what leads to the situation where consumers do not have the protections that they ought to have. So, I look forward to some information on that. Maybe it is all there on the Web. Maybe it is all there. This government is great in saying: Well, you did not check the Web; it is all on the Web. Well, as we all know too, Mr. Speaker, getting some information out of the government sometimes is not an easy thing. Anyway, I am sure this minister will give me the information either when he clues up from second reading on this Bill 19 or we get to the committee stage.

Now, just to go back for a second to the comments about the harmonization and the process that brought this about. I have already asked the minister, from a national perspective, who was involved in the consultations? Did every province and territory take place in the consultations? How long they took place? Where are we in terms of true harmonization when it comes to insurance contracts and definitions of insurances in this country after this? Are we the last ones to bring this in to our Legislature to be debated and voted upon? Nice to know - I would like to know is this already brought in, in British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island? Are we the last ones through the door on this or are we the first ones on the door or are we in the middle of the pack? It would be nice to know because there is not much harmonization about it if we are the only ones who are doing this so far. If we are the only ones out of ten or twelve jurisdictions that got to this point where it is in our House of Assembly, our Legislature to make this law, we might be well on the road to harmonization, but I would like some assurance, where is the rest of the crowd in Canada? Where are the rest of our provinces and territories on this issue?

I say hats off to our minister if we are the first, no problem. Somebody has to lead the way. Newfoundland and Labrador, quite often, has led the way in the last sixty years that we have been part of the federation. It do not surprise me at all again that we are the first ones leading the way on this harmonization, but it would be nice to know where the rest are and what kind of assurances we have that they are going to do this. I have gone to national conferences myself, you sit around, you all have the best of intentions, we are going to do this and we are going to that. The Minsters of Justice conferences, for example, great agreements on legal aid agreements, and we are going to do this. Oh yes, we will do this as a Province, and everybody buys in around the national convention when the cameras are there. They all buy into it. All of a sudden you find yourself, one year, two years, five years out, you have done your move, but the rest of the jurisdictions have not budged. They have not budged.

So, it would be nice to know that kind of information. I am sure our Minister of Government Services has been attending his national conventions. I would like to know, for example, was he involved in the actual negotiations of this stuff, the discussions around this stuff, the consultations on this stuff, or was it left to what we call the bureaucrats. The deputy ministers and assistant deputy ministers and the directors in the department, did they go off and negotiate this and come back say: Okay, Minister, this is what we got. What kind of discussions took place? Was our minister involved in these national-level discussions? If so, some idea of the extent of it. What kind of problems did you have when you were talking to the crowd up along? Was there any particular piece of this that you had to fight to get in here? That somebody did not want us to have some piece of this, but you finally convinced them that we should do this because it was the right thing to do. That would be interesting to know. Of course, the public would love to know and like to know and deserve to know what it is the ministers of the Crown do. You just do not fly off to conferences for the sake of flying off to a conference, you have to take part in the debates, and I am sure our minister did. I would like to know the extent of his involvement in the debate. Were there working groups? Was he a part of a working group? How was this dealt with?

Now, Mr. Speaker, just in a general sense again – I am going to come back to these definitions because I only touched upon accident and sickness insurance yet. That is one category, we have sixteen more of these that I have some pointed questions for the minister. I probably will not get time today to get them all in. I probably will not get time today, but I say to my colleagues in the House of Assembly, there is going to be a committee stage, there will be a committee stage, and at that stage I will get my opportunity to discuss the rest of these sixteen, if I do not get an opportunity today. It is important that we get there.

To follow up on that harmonization piece in a general sense before I move on to my next category which is going to be aircraft insurance - now, I would not think that is a category that every Joe is involved with. I use Joe in a good sense here. Joe, of course, is representing the public, the people of our Province. Whether it is Joe or Joan, we all have an interest in having proper insurance coverage in this Province. I will come back to that one because insurance in the aircraft industry has some unique issues – some very unique issues. I will put those questions to the minister.

The comment I would like to make though of a general nature on the harmonization piece – and I have asked the minister about what his involvement was on the national level and how it came about because he used the word harmonization at least fifteen times in his introduction. I asked him what his involvement was in that harmonization process and the process itself, but I would also like to know: What was the process that unfolded here in our Province? Was this just a case of our officials and minister going off and negotiating with other people to say this is what we are going to do to harmonize our contracts of insurance? I do not think so. I doubt that was the case because, obviously, the minister wanted to know what the insurance industry in our Province would have thought about it. He is not going to bring Bill 19 into the House today without having consulted, I would think, with the insurance industry.

We have many players in the insurance industry in this Province, so that is one obvious party that a minister or his officials or his employees in that department would have consulted with. What do the insurance companies think? They are the persons who are going to be selling these products. These are the persons who have to live by and abide by these definitions that we are doing here. So I would like to know from the minister: Who was consulted in the insurance industry? I would even like to have some names. I would not even mind names. This is not a privacy issue; this is a public issue, a public concern, as to who was consulted in this Province on the contents of Bill 19. Who was consulted?

Now, this is a government who prides itself on being consultative. They go out and talk to people, they listen to the people, and they are in tune with the desires and the wishes of the people – so they say. So I would like for the minister to illuminate us on just exactly who was consulted in the insurance industry. There are a lot of players.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Yes, I used the word deliberately, I say to the minister, because I am just waiting to see the lights go on. I would like the minister to turn on my lights when it comes to understanding some of the stuff that we have here, because it is very important.

From the provincial perspective, in all seriousness, I would like the minister to tell us: Who did he talk to? Who did he invite to talk to him and his staff? When did the talks take place? How long does the consultation process take in this Province? I am assuming it has been in the works for some time. You just do not get a bill of this magnitude - I mean most of the bills we get here amending an act are only a page long. This one is at least six, seven, eight pages long. In fact, as I look at it, it is eleven pages long. This is one of the longer type bills we get here, most of them are three or four pages.

So, when we get into the details - and this is just a preliminary intro from my perspective. I just put this stuff to the minister because I would like to know when we get into committee stage: Who you talked to, when you talked to them, what did they tell you? Have you gone back to them since you have drafted this and asked them what they thought of it? Because there is one thing to have twenty, thirty, forty, fifty meetings with people, input back and forth, letters back and forth and then somewhere along the lines this was taken and given to the legislative draftsmen here in Confederation Building. I dare say it is my good friend Mr. Lake, who I went to law school with, who was the draftsperson on this. Did they get a copy of this before it hit the floor of the House to get their opinion on it?

Anyway, Mr. Speaker, that is all the questions that I have. I notice my time is just about run out, it is seventeen, sixteen seconds on the clock right now. I wish I had more time. There are lots more to talk about, but I am sure the Member for Mount Pearl North is anxious to rise to his feet. So I certainly do not want to use any of his time.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It has certainly been a long and interesting debate on what is a really important issue that the House is dealing with here today and I am thrilled to have a chance to rise and talk about this particular bill, Bill 19. This, of course, as you now know from the debate that has ensued this afternoon, is a bill to amend the Insurance Companies Act to revise the classes of insurance that companies carrying on business in this Province may offer for sale here.

While some may consider this bill to simply be a housekeeping bill, so to speak, I think as the previous speaker, the Opposition House Leader acknowledges, insurance is an important issue and it is one that is worthy of considerable debate and dialogue and discussion in this hon. House. I want to thank him for taking an interest in this piece of legislation.

I think he was having a little fun with me during debate. My friendly comment obviously struck a nerve at one point in the discussions, but I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, that I am as interested in this legislation as he is and I am glad that as a government we continue to bring forward progressive, informed legislation that is good for the taxpayers and the people of this great Province. He raised some interesting questions, the Opposition House Leader, some not so interesting questions, but I will certainly do my best to add to the debate in an informed way and hopefully address some of the concerns and questions as well that the Opposition has raised.

Mr. Speaker, I can tell you in researching this particular bill and what is behind it, I discovered that this harmonization that the minister, quite adequately and well described, has been under discussion by the Canadian Council of Insurance Regulators for quite some time, several years in fact. I am not sure how many exactly, but I know it has been years. Keep in mind what we are trying to do, Mr. Speaker. We are talking about getting ten provinces, three territories, the federal government, as well as the insurance industry, to all agree on particular definitions.

Now, Mr. Speaker, the Opposition House Leader has been around this House for quite some time. He knows that when you are talking about getting ten provinces, three territories, the federal government and an entire industry of insurance companies to agree on particular definitions, that is something that is obviously going to take time and it is going to take careful consideration. That goes without saying, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to talk a little bit about the importance of insurance coverage as well. Another question that the Opposition House Leader raised though, related to what jurisdictions have gone down this road. It is my understanding, Mr. Speaker, that the federal government, as well as the Province of Ontario, have already amended their legislation. Some have already done so, and others are in the process of doing so. So this is a real, genuine effort to create harmonization, which I think is going to benefit the insurance industry, but most importantly it is going to benefit consumers right across the country.

Mr. Speaker, I gained a greater understanding of the importance of insurance coverage several years ago when my own family home was broken into. I remember the turmoil that caused, and some of the tangible items could easily be replaced and there were some other items that had sentimental value that were impossible to replace. I remember how grateful I was that I had an opportunity to work with an insurance adjustor and actually take advantage of the homeowner's insurance policy that I had been paying for numerous years and had never any reason to be concerned about.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada describes insurance as the oxygen of our economy. I thought that was a little dramatic – not quite as dramatic as the Opposition House Leader has been over the last hour or so – but it is a reasonable analogy when you think about it. Without oxygen, nothing thrives. There was a heck of a lot of oxygen used up in this hon. House in the last hour or so, Mr. Speaker. For the next fifteen minutes or so I am going to use up some myself as I participate in this important debate.

Even though oxygen is a vital part of our world, it is something that we take for granted. It is just like insurance. Without insurance though, the reality is that life as we know it would be impossible. We tend to pay insurance very little attention, thinking it is always going to be there to protect against damaging events that most people never believe will happen to them. The thing is many things in life that people think are exciting and worthwhile would not be possible if it were not for insurance. Which is why a piece of legislation like this one, while it is fairly routine in nature and fairly straightforward – contrary to what the Opposition House Leader would have you believe – it is actually very important to people.

We are talking about an insurance industry that provides protection for our homes, for our vehicles, for commercial enterprises, for our health. The insurance industry certainly plays a vital role in Canada's economy. Anyone who owns a car or a house or a business or any property knows the importance of having insurance. Liability insurance and other forms of insurance are essential for the operation of society as we know it.

Insurance companies are required to operate within rules and regulations that are set in place through our legislative systems. So these companies do provide a much needed service to the people of this Province. They also need to maintain certain standards if they are going to operate in the insurance industry.

So if we as residents of Newfoundland and Labrador pay insurance premiums to these companies in good faith, we should feel fairly confident that our needs are being met. We expect that when we need assistance via filing a claim that we are going to receive appropriate compensation, the type of compensation that was offered when we first signed our agreement.

I found it really interesting, Mr. Speaker, that the Opposition House Leader spent considerable time inquiring about what health care means. Well, Mr. Speaker, I would expect he has had health insurance at some point in time, and he would therefore know that health care and the benefits associated with a health insurance policy are very well defined. In fact, as purchasers of insurance, we have all kinds of rights. Those rights include the right to be informed fully, to be treated fairly, to timely complaint resolution, and to privacy.

In terms of the right to be informed, we can expect, as consumers, clear information about our policy, the precise coverage – to use the example of health care coverage, a health insurance policy would very well define what kind of benefits and coverage are in place through that policy. We, as consumers, have rights to a claims settlement process and the right to easy to understand explanations of how insurance works and how it will meet our needs.

So, I found some of the questions that the Opposition House Leader raised to be interesting. Frankly, I found some of them to be rather comical. We are talking about insurance that most people in this hon. House would have had reason to experience and be involved with, and I think most people who have health insurance policies know what health care means. Anyway, I will try not to go off on the kind of tangent that we witnessed a little while ago.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. KENT: Thank you. My colleagues are expressing their appreciation.

This bill speaks to the classes of insurance that companies carrying on business in this Province may offer for sale here. There are really three levels of insurance regulations that we see. We see regulations pertaining to insurance companies, we see regulations and legislation that pertains to insurance brokers and agents, and we see acts and legislation that relates to specific types of insurance policies.

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to be part of a government that has a history of trying to make insurance accessible to all residents of the Province. We abolished the sales tax on insurance a few years ago. It was in 2008, actually. That put dollars back into the pockets of people in every corner of this great Province. So this government fully understands the important role that insurance companies play in day to day living. Our residents need to be comfortable with the level of coverage they have, and they need to be reassured that if they file a claim, and it is legitimate, then it will be processed.

In licensing Mr. Speaker, insurance providers must identify the type of insurance that they are selling. That is really what this bill speaks to. There are further requirements, depending on the type of insurance that they are selling. There are seventeen different classes or types of insurance. It is quite an interesting list. The Opposition House Leader used his time to only talk about accident and sickness insurance, but this legislation also speaks to aircraft insurance, automobile insurance, boiler and machinery insurance. I will give you a few more examples: credit insurance, credit protection insurance, fidelity insurance, fraternal or sororal society insurance, hail insurance, legal expenses insurance, liability insurance, life insurance, mortgage insurance, property insurance, title insurance, and I could go on and on.

These amendments are going to harmonize our legislation so that we are in sync with other jurisdictions in Canada. I do not know if the Opposition House Leader was paying attention, Mr. Speaker, but the minister explained, quite eloquently, why this consistency is beneficial to the taxpayers of this Province and to people across this country.

These changes we are making speak to these issues. We are a government that wants to ensure that our legislation is clear, concise and explains the responsibility of both the insurer and the insured parties. It is for this reason that I fully support the amendments that are laid out here that make up Bill 19.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind my colleagues and the people of this great Province that we are all affected by insurance and we have rights and responsibilities accordingly. With the rights that I referenced earlier, come responsibilities. We have to provide complete and accurate information when we are dealing with insurance companies. We have a right to be informed as I mentioned. We have a responsibility to ask questions, as the Opposition House Leader has done today. We have the responsibility to ask questions to make sure that we have the right and appropriate coverage in place and that we are acquiring coverage at a reasonable price. We can access all kinds of information to become more informed about our specific insurance policies.

We have the right to complaint resolution and the insurance industry has a complaints resolution process in place. We have a right to professional service, a right to deal with insurance professionals who exhibit a high ethical standard, which includes acting with honesty, integrity, fairness and skill. We also have a right to privacy. Given the kind of information that is exchanged with insurance companies in putting various types of insurance policies in place, we have to disclose a considerable amount of information. It is important that we know that our information is going to be used appropriately, it is going to be protected and it is not going to be disclosed to anyone except those who are permitted to have it by law. It is important to note that insurers in Canada are, of course, subject to Canadian privacy laws.

Mr. Speaker, Bill 19 is an important bill. Insurance is something that affects virtually every resident of this Province. I support Bill 19. I believe we are doing something that makes sense. We are playing a leadership role and we will be among the first jurisdictions in Canada to actually take the step of bringing our legislation in line with the proposed definitions that other jurisdictions have reviewed and have been part of coming up with.

I am certainly pleased to stand for a few minutes and support this bill. Mr. Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

It is a pleasure today to be able to take a few minutes for some debate with regard to Bill 19, An Act To Amend The Insurance Companies Act No. 2.

Mr. Speaker, as the minister has outlined recently in his opening comments, this bill more or less was to add or delete the different classes of insurance within the system. It is totally about harmonization to be the same right across this country so that each and every province would be dealing with the same classes of insurance. I think that is very important, even though there might be some who would disagree with me on that.

The minister also noted that there were seventeen different classes in this bill. I do not know if I will get to speak to them all today. My hon. colleague, I thought he was going to do them all, but I think he got through one of them. I was hoping that he would get to the second one at least, the aircraft insurance. He did not go that far and I understand that he could have very easily done that because in his former life he would deal with many cases with aeronautics, the act.

Mr. Speaker, it is very important to know that each class of insurance is defined as it is in the Schedule in Bill 19. It is important for, I guess, a couple of reasons, as the minister stated. The insurance companies will know exactly what the legislation and guidelines are, but I think, more importantly, it explains to the consumer in an easier terminology that they can understand the various types of insurance and what is available to them.

Mr. Speaker, we know that according to the explanatory note that Bill 19 would amend the Insurance Companies Act to revise the classes of insurance that companies carry on business in this Province and they may offer for sale here. Mr. Speaker, it goes into the different components with regard to the aircraft insurance, boiler and machinery insurance, credit insurance, credit protection insurance, fidelity insurance, hail insurance, legal expense insurance, mortgage insurance, surety and title insurance. Under the existing act it defines in section 11.(2) - the first part I will not read but it goes on to say "…defined in section 2 or other classes that may be defined by the Lieutenant-Governor in Council by regulation." Under the proposed amendment "that" is deleted and what is listed here that are set out in the Schedule.

So, Mr. Speaker, with regard to the different components within the piece of legislation, Bill 19 appears to intend to better clarify the act by setting out various types of insurance in the Schedule, which I will go through, and the insurance companies that carry on business in the Province may look to the Schedule and find the types of insurance for which they may carry on business.

The minister mentioned that there would be seventeen, but he also stated that there are other classes that could be added at a future time. He wanted to make sure that the insurance companies were made aware of that, that this is not an exclusive list; other classes could be added to the act as well.

Mr. Speaker, when it comes to looking at any piece of legislation, sometimes I find it very difficult reading and comprehending what some of the various components in the act say. I guess it comes down to even the policies that individuals receive regardless of what type of insurance they have, whether it is accident and sickness insurance, automobile insurance, mortgage insurance, what have you, all too often individuals, and I guess we are all to blame, we do not read that fine print. Everybody will go to an insurance company or to an institution and you believe that you are getting a good deal, you take it for what it is worth, but we fail to read the fine print. That is not saying that the institutions or the insurance companies are trying to pull something over on you that is not right or proper, I do not mean it that way, but I think each and every individual should read the fine print, and as I touch on some of the classes I will give you examples of why I believe that should be.

Mr. Speaker, we talk about the automobile insurance, and what that means in the Schedule is an "…insurance (i) against liability arising out of bodily injury to, or the death of, a person, or the loss of, or damage to, property, in each case caused by an automobile or the use or operation of an automobile, (ii) against the loss of, the loss of use of, or damage to, an automobile...".

Mr. Speaker, I know this has come up at various times and the minister has explained it to us very well during the Estimates and at other times, and we have asked questions again this year, and that is the problem with regard to individuals in our Province, residents of this Province, who do not carry any insurance at all. We know there are many people out there who are in that situation.

I know this year the minister explained to us that they are trying to put a system in place. Like he said, it is a costly venture, they are seeking information from other jurisdictions to see that that can be done, and hopefully sooner rather that later we will know that there will be a system in place where we can detect and find out people who do not carry any insurance at all. All too often, there are accidents that happen, whether it is the individual themselves who are seriously injured, or it could be a bystander, it could be someone walking on the side of the street, and lo and behold, they find out that the individual who caused the accident had no insurance at all.

Mr. Speaker, when it comes to automobile insurance, and I guess I have encountered this as well as others, that many times you go to your insurance company and you say your rates are a bit higher than somebody else, because your neighbour or a family member informed you that coverage they had was cheaper somewhere else. Mr. Speaker, this is where it comes down again. You have to really search and check out what type of policy you are getting, because all too often that cheaper policy is exactly what it is, you do not have the coverage that someone else would have.

Mr. Speaker, I can speak to this first hand. I had a policy, and I thought I had a policy that was covering me when I was driving to and from work. A couple of years later someone said to me: boy, you are paying a lot of insurance compared to somebody else – a lot less than somebody else. So I went and checked with a friend of mine who sold at a different insurance company, and he advised me, when he looked at my policy, that my coverage was covering a distance I was travelling between ten and fifteen kilometres, and I was travelling 176 kilometres back and forth to St. John's. He explained to me, he said: yeah, you have coverage, but if you are involved in an accident on the Trans-Canada Highway you have nothing, because you are using your vehicle back and forth to work. I was just floored over the incident, knowing that I had coverage to travel a distance from ten to fifteen kilometres in a vehicle that I was going back and forth to work with.

That is something we have to be very careful of, because I was so proud that I had this cheap insurance policy; but I guess I got what I paid for. That is no fault on the insurance company, but then again, I think they should explain to you what is in that policy that you are paying for, and tell me: Look, you do not have coverage for back and forth to work. You only have coverage for a pleasure trip – but that is not explained. They should explain that to you, and maybe many companies do that, but in my particular case it did not happen. I just went on, and I had that coverage for three or four years, but lo and behold, when that was explained to me – and all they have to do is tell people, just tell them: look, this is the coverage you have. This is what it is costing you, but if you want this coverage, it will cost you so much extra. I am sure there are many people who would do that and have the proper coverage. Many people just have liability insurance, and we are compelled I think in this Province to have liability coverage. Many people just have that, but the majority I would say of people carry all types of insurance.

Mr. Speaker, only this week I had an incident in my area where this young gentleman was injured in an accident. Unfortunately, he could not get to see a specialist for twenty-four months about the injury that he sustained in that accident. He went to another doctor. He gets to see a specialist this January; January, 2011. The problem is he is not receiving the proper benefits that he should receive from that company because now it becomes a medical situation. That is unfortunate. He is getting so much but he is not getting the full benefits that would be covered, because now they are saying: we need something from the medical profession. All too often that happens, Mr. Speaker, when people find themselves in such a situation.

Another one listed in the Schedule is the boiler and machinery insurance. I think that is another one that is very important because all too often – in recent months we have heard talk of incidents that happened on ships and carriers, whether it was a fire, whether it was an explosion, or a pipe exploded. People were severely burnt or scalded or what have you, and not only ships and that, but in the construction industry. I think some of the ads that we see on television; the one where the pipe has the tape on it says it all. It is good to know that this type of insurance – this type of insurance, Mr. Speaker, is very important for people to have.

Another one listed there is the credit protection insurance. Many individuals are unaware of this particular credit protection insurance. What it comes down to, Mr. Speaker, if somebody – or my understanding of it. If I am incorrect on saying this, the minister I am sure will correct me later on when he closes debate. My understanding is that if you have a loan with an institution or with a bank or what have you and you become sick for unknown reasons and are unable to carry on with your occupation, you are unable to keep working, what happens is this insurance is supposed to cover you. They would look after the cost of the loans or what you have to pay back. Mr. Speaker, even with that insurance, as good as it is, it is important for individuals to really read the fine print and see the duration of the coverage that you do have.

Another one listed in the act is fraternal society. Mr. Speaker, this society, order, or association is incorporated for the purpose of making its members only for non-profit. That is like the various lodges and sometimes legions. There is an opportunity for them to not get a full major policy, but I know, being a member of an association that often they offer you this policy where you could get $5,000 or $10,000 in case something happened.

Mr. Speaker, we go to the life insurance one, under (k), which means insurance that is payable on death, or on the happening of an event dependent on human life. All too often, when we talk about life insurance, and there is one item I would like to speak about here is the educational programs that are offered to young people through their parents that also include the education component as well as life insurance. I know many people in my area who purchase those educational programs, hoping that down the road they would have enough funds there to help their children start their education. Tied to that is a life insurance component. I know the policies that were purchased in my area, many people thought that the life insurance component, they were told that the life insurance component would end after about eight or ten years, then the full amount of the money would go into the investment of the educational programs.

Lo and behold, Mr. Speaker, when their children became of age, when they became of age to go to university or go to some college, they found out that just about all of the money, close to 80 to 90 per cent of it was used up towards the life insurance component and they had very little left in this particular program. I am not saying every group or every individual that is selling those policies find themselves that way, but, Mr. Speaker, it has happened, let me assure you.

Another one that is mentioned here is mortgage insurance, which is very important. I am sure there are a lot of people who have mortgages this day and age. If you have a mortgage and you want mortgage insurance there are cases that have happened where you can purchase life insurance on that as well as disability. Mr. Speaker, the life insurance part, I guess, we all know how that would become effective, but when it comes to the disability part – and I say to the minister this part is very important when you are talking about the mortgage insurance, the disability component, because many people, when they pay that premium for the disability on their mortgage they think they have it for the life of the mortgage. That is not correct, Mr. Speaker, in many cases.

I know of people who have called me since I have been involved in the business that we are in here today who became disabled and the insurance kicked in where the principal on their loan was being paid for, but lo and behold before two years was up, they received a letter saying that their disability insurance is only for two years. That is why I say it is important to read the fine print because that had to be in the fine print, but those people were not told up front that this only for two years. They were still disabled and they were left to stand the course and make sure that payments were taken care of, whether it was a car or their home would have been taken from them.

Mr. Speaker, we talk about property insurance. Since this legislation has been tabled, I had a lady call me from here in St. John's. She said: I am hoping you can relay my story if you get the opportunity. It had to do with home insurance and it had to do with her cabin or cottage up in the country. She had an ATV up there and she was paying insurance on an ATV that was valued at $12,500. Anyway, somebody got in and stole her ATV, so she figured the ATV would be replaced up to the value that she was paying her insurance on it or fairly close to it. Lo and behold, what did she get? She got $5,400 which was the book value. She classified it as fraud. She said: I do not think that is right. Why was I paying premiums on something valued at $12,500 when I am only insured for $5,400? She had other items in her cabin that were stolen like televisions and various items and she thought that was covered under an extended policy that she had on her home because she owned a cabin and it was all in conjunction with each other, but lo and behold she had no coverage whatsoever there.

I think that when we go out – I know this act covers many different titles of insurance, but I think the consumer has to be advised on many of the issues that take place. I know that through the Department of Government Services, they do put out what is listed as principles for the sale of insurance, a consumer protection document. They talk about the selling of an insurance policy and the key issue is not what the insurance company should be doing or the agent or the broker, it should be priority given to the consumer. All too often, Mr. Speaker, that does not happen.

We also know that from time to time under the insurance act, the information that they obtain now with all the issues with regard to protection and privacy – that is a very important component. Proper authorization has to be given and we know, as MHAs in this hon. House of Assembly, that whether we are dealing with CPP, EI, Workers' Compensation, or just dealing with any issue on behalf of constituents, we have to have authorization to obtain information on behalf of those people. All too often that does not happen and the information that they provide could be sent to other individuals for unknown reasons. That is why it is important that individuals, whether it is insurance companies or whoever, should have proper authorization.

Mr. Speaker, one of the other important issues, I guess, is at point of sale or renewal an agent, broker or representative must provide the following information. They must give a full range of deductibles available and the cost of insurance to the individuals, the various coverages available and the cost of these coverages and any discounts available. Mr. Speaker, that should be provided to every individual who would go and look for insurance, regardless of what classification.

Mr. Speaker, having made those few comments, I know there are other components with regard to this bill, the Insurance Companies Act that I have not touched on because there are many of them there, like I said there is surety insurance, title insurance. We also talk about liability insurance, legal expenses insurance. One thing about it, the consumers of this Province today, by the amendments to this act, have a clear definition of each of them. It is very valuable to the insurance company as well as the consumer itself. As I stated, Mr. Speaker, I think where the minister is coming from is to bring all of this in under the one act, Bill 19, so that it is there for the guidance of the insurance companies or brokers and the agents but, more importantly, it is there on behalf of the consumers, the residents of this Province.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MS BURKE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

With that, Mr. Speaker, we will adjourn debate on this particular bill.

Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the hon. Minister of Justice and Attorney General that the House do now adjourn.

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

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

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

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