December 6, 2010                   HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS                     XLVI  No. 44


The House met at 1:30 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Fitzgerald): Order, please!

The Chair would like to welcome members and staff of the House of Assembly for the continuation of the Third Session of the 46th General Assembly.

The Chair would also like to welcome and offer congratulations to Newfoundland and Labrador's first woman Premier, the hon. Member for Virginia Waters.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Also, to welcome the hon. Premier's family and friends who are visiting here today.

The Chair would also like to welcome and congratulate Mr. David Brazil, who is accompanied by his wife Alice, who has recently won the right to represent the District of Conception Bay East & Bell Island and will take his seat in the Chamber twelve days after the official ballot count, which happened December 5.

Congratulations and welcome.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The Chair would also like to welcome a new Page who has joined us for this session of the House of Assembly, Mr. Andrew Furneaux.

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 de Grave; the hon. the Member for the District of Ferryland; the hon. the Member for the District of The Straits & White Bay North; the hon. the Member for the District of Cape St. Francis; and the hon. the Member for the District of St. John's East.

The hon. the Premier, by leave?

Does the hon. the Premier have leave?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: By leave.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, on November 25 the hon. Danny Williams announced that he would be stepping down as Premier, as Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Newfoundland and Labrador, and as Member for Humber West district, on December 3, Friday past.

This is our first opportunity here in this Chamber to pay tribute to our former colleague who served as our Province's ninth Premier from November 6, 2003 until December 3, 2010, and was a Member of the House of Assembly since August 2, 2001.

Please join me in thanking Danny Williams, on behalf of all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, for his enormous contribution and his unwavering dedication to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

In announcing his retirement from these posts, he also announced that I had agreed to serve as Premier and PC Party Leader during the interim period until our party elects a new leader in the spring of 2011. On Friday morning, December 3, I had the honour and privilege of taking the Oath of Office to become the tenth Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, and the first woman to hold this post in the history of our Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Mr. Speaker, my predecessor never failed to state how important it was to have a good team of caucus members around him, and I, as Premier, am blessed to have inherited, and to have surrounding and supporting me now, one of the most dedicated and talented caucus teams in the history of our Province. You are a credit to your Province.

We, as a team, are blessed to have surrounding us and supporting us many thousands of people in communities throughout the Province who share our commitment to a brighter future for Newfoundland and Labrador, and are willing to work with us co-operatively to advance us toward our goals, region by region, initiative by initiative. This is the approach that underpins the unparalleled success we have achieved to date.

The initiatives our government has taken, and the achievements we have made for the people of our Province since November 6, 2003, are absolutely phenomenal and they have already transformed Newfoundland and Labrador into a Province that is stronger and more confident going forward than it has ever been before. We stand on this rock-solid foundation of accomplishments; we look forward to raising Newfoundland and Labrador to the next level of opportunity and growth. We have barely even scratched the surface of our potential. As far as we have come since 2003, the best is still before us.

Challenges remain; as the Opposition does its job we are sure to hear about some of them in the House this afternoon. Rather than run and hide from them, we are determined to acknowledge and address them so we can move beyond them to something better.

Whatever issues we face, we are up to the challenge of meeting them head on, together, as a team and as a Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: We are stronger, we are better positioned, and we are better prepared right now to achieve the full measure of our potential than we have ever been before in our history. We are more determined to succeed and we are more confident than ever that we can achieve our goals.

What I pledge, Mr. Speaker, as Premier, and what we pledge as a government, is to follow through on what we have started, to meet the challenges vigorously and to leave no stone unturned in pursuing opportunities that will open even wider the doors to jobs and growth, prosperity and self-reliance for our youth, for our families, for our communities, for our regions, and for all of us as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

I am truly humbled by all of the expressions of support and co-operation I have received from people around the Province in recent days, and I also sincerely appreciate the congratulations I have received from across the aisle. A great deal of attention is being paid across the country to the fact that Newfoundland and Labrador is the first jurisdiction in Canadian history in which the leaders of all political parties in the Legislature are women.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: At the same time, all of us are also cognizant of the fact that the Leader of the Official Opposition, the Member for Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair, is unable to be here today because she is battling courageously to gain victory over a significant health care challenge, and I am confident that she will. I speak for all members of our caucus, and also for hundreds of thousands of people throughout our Province, in saying we wish her well and sincerely hope to have her back here in this House healthy and re-energized very soon.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Finally, Mr. Speaker, I pay tribute to my colleague and friend, Dianne Whalen, who passed away on October 3 following a courageous battle with cancer. She served her constituents in Conception Bay East & Bell Island with tremendous passion and heartfelt compassion for others. She served all of us, first as Minister of Government Services and Lands and Minister Responsible for the Strategic Social Plan, then as Minister of Transportation and Works, and finally as Minister of Municipal Affairs, Minister Responsible for Emergency Preparedness, and Registrar General of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Dianne was an extraordinary individual whose genuine love for Newfoundland and Labrador will never be surpassed nor ever be forgotten.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Does the hon. the Acting Leader of the Opposition have leave?

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

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

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

I would like to take this opportunity on behalf of Ms Jones, my colleague, who is off ill, as was indicated by the Premier, to personally congratulate the Premier upon this historic occasion. It is indeed the first woman Premier we have had in this Province. We have been a long time getting here, to recognize full equality in our country and in our Province, but it is great to see that we have made another significant, major and momentous stride in that direction. Congratulations, Premier.

I am sure as time goes on in the House, this session and in the spring, if she is still the Premier at that time, we will have our disagreements. That is our job, to keep her feet and the feet of the ministers to the fire, and we look forward to doing that, as we have done for the past number of years. Maybe not too longer in the future, hopefully, but that is what we will be doing in the short term for sure.

I would also like to pay tribute to the late Dianne Whalen. Ms Whalen was Minister of Municipal Affairs and she was, besides being hard-working - and I think her work ethic was recognized by all without question - more importantly than that, she was seen by everybody who ever dealt with her as being a very fair-minded person. She always dealt with everybody equally, and she had the respect and admiration of every person in this House and who she dealt with. We would like to pass on our condolences to her family as well.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Does the hon. the Member for the District of Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi have leave?

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

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

MS MICHAEL: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, and to the members of the House.

It is a privilege today, Mr. Speaker, as Leader of the Third Party to stand and recognize the special moment that we have here today. I congratulate Premier Dunderdale on being the first woman in the history of our Province to fill this position. It is, indeed, an historic moment.

We are in a unique situation in this Province today, in that the leaders of all parties sitting in the House are women, as has been noted. Nowhere else in Canada has this happened; it is a tremendous tribute to the women of Newfoundland and Labrador who, from 1890 to 1925, in different configurations, worked tirelessly to gain the right for women to vote. Like all women in Newfoundland and Labrador, they never gave up. No matter how many noes they got, they went back and they fought.

Today, here we are, eighty years after Lady Helena Squires became the first woman to sit in the House of Assembly; it was 1930. Indeed, we have come a long way on the political stage. The one sad note today is that the Leader of the Official Opposition, and Member for Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair, and the other leader of the political parties in this House, cannot be here so that visually we would see the three women who are the leaders of the House. I want to take this opportunity to wish the Leader of the Official Opposition all the best and a speedy return to her seat in the House. We all look forward to that.

I also would like to mention Dianne Whalen, especially in this context, because she believed so much in women running for office. We all know the campaign that she led as Minister of Municipal Affairs to get more women running, so she would have been so proud, I think, to be sitting here today with us.

It is also significant today that this historic moment is occurring on December 6, the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. We do not sit in this Legislature alone, the women or the men. We sit here representing the many women who have spoken out and struggled for women's rights, and the many women who have suffered violence and even death for believing in those rights.

As we now move forward to work together – and we do work together, even when we disagree – for the good of this Province, for the women, men, and children in this Province, we do so under the mantle of the legacy that these women, the ones I have mentioned, have given through their lives and deaths and passed on to us.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Members' statements.

Statements by Members

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

MR. BUTLER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Recently, I had the honour of attending the forty-sixth Charter Anniversary of the Bay Roberts Lions Club. This event took place on Friday, October 29, at the Lions Club building. What an achievement! One can only imagine the hours of dedication and the service provided for the past forty-six years to those who are less fortunate. Mr. Walter Baggs, a Charter and Life Member of this club, also attended the celebrations.

The last line of the Lions Invocation states, "To Help the Weak and Right the Wrong". Mr. Speaker, this club has truly kept that promise. The Bay Roberts Lions Club have supported the Lions Max Simms Camp, diabetes, speak-outs, special needs dogs, scholarship funds, the Trinity Conception Placentia Health Foundation, Janeway Children's Wish Foundation, plus all sports activities, to mention a few. Guest speaker for the evening was Mr. Frank Antle of Victoria, a Lion himself, who praised the club for the tremendous work they are doing.

A major event for all Lions Clubs in the 170-plus countries is that they take part in a peace poster contest. If we are to achieve total peace in this world, the youth can play a huge role in discouraging war in their various countries.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all hon. members to join me in extending congratulations to the Bay Roberts Lions Club and Mr. Walter Baggs on forty-six years of serving their community and its residents.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HUTCHINGS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, on Saturday, October 16, I had the pleasure of attending the twenty-third Annual Firefighters' Ball of the Witless Bay Volunteer Fire Department. I rise today to recognize and congratulate the Witless Bay Volunteer Fire Department on this occasion.

The Witless Bay Volunteer Fire Department consists of twenty-three members and serves the area from Bay Bulls to Bauline. The contribution that has been made by volunteers, both past and present, over the last twenty-three years is indeed commendable.

Rural Newfoundland and Labrador, in many places, faces challenges with recruiting new volunteers and maintaining past levels. It was indeed encouraging to see a good mix of young men, women and experienced firefighters in the volunteer fire brigade that now make up the fire department. It certainly bodes well to the future fire protection services in the area. I would also like to recognize Crystal Kelly who was named Firefighter of the Year, and congratulate her on her dedication as a volunteer.

These individuals give freely of their time to the residents of our communities so we can have someone to rely on in the event of an emergency. The volunteer firefighter never knows what awaits when the alarm sounds, but they respond without a moment's hesitation - day or night.

Mr. Speaker, much more can be accomplished by co-operating and working together in our rural communities. Joining together, taking up a common cause, working as a unit for the benefit of others, is what it means to be a firefighter, and no doubt the members of the Witless Bay Volunteer Fire Department have done so for the past twenty-three years.

I ask all hon. members to join with me in thanking the Witless Bay Volunteer Fire Department for the contribution they are making to our communities.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. DEAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in this hon. House today to congratulate Noah Coish, a nine-year-old resident of St. Anthony who took home the gold medal in the Grade 4 boys Cross-Country Provincial Championship Game that was held in Stephenville on November 6. Noah finished first in the Grade 4 category and fourth overall in the elementary division, placing behind three Grade 6 students.

Noah is well known in St. Anthony for his love of sports. In addition to cross-country running, Noah plays baseball, soccer, softball, tennis, and hockey.

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

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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.

I rise in this hon. House today to congratulate a young lady for her outstanding service to her community and for being presented with the 2010 Canadian Red Cross Young Humanitarian Award.

Mr. Speaker, Kristina Roche is presently in her third year of studies at MUN pursuing a degree in biochemistry.

In the summer of 2009, Kristina travelled to Nepal to volunteer at an orphanage where she taught English and mathematics to the children. She went beyond her duties and assisted the children in all aspects of their daily care. Since returning, she has remained in contact with her young friends.

Mr. Speaker, Kristina Roche has been involved in various community organizations in the Town of Torbay and surrounding communities. She participated in the Winter Lights Committee to raise money for Young Adult Cancer Canada and is a member of the Young Adult Advisory Board. She volunteers at both the Health Sciences and the Janeway. She is a tutor at the Association for New Canadians. She was one of the winners for the U-Rock award last year. She is also a 2010 Duke of Edinburgh gold award winner.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all members in this House to congratulate, with me, Kristina Roche for being named the 2010 Canadian Red Cross Young Humanitarian Award winner, and I am sure we will hear from her in the future.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. BUCKINGHAM: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to an old friend who recently passed away.

This past November 11, St. John's lost a very dedicated volunteer and teacher when Mr. Jeff Steiner, director of the world renowned St. Pat's Dancers, passed away. Jeff dedicated his time to helping keep the tradition of Newfoundland step-dancing alive by providing opportunity and guidance to many children from inner city schools.

He and his wife, Yvonne, have been with the group since 1991. Over those nineteen years, the group performed for many dignitaries such as Queen Elizabeth II and the Prince and Princess of Wales. They performed across Canada, including a memorable performance in 1997 when the dancers participated alongside Great Big Sea during the Canada Day celebrations on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, in front of the entire country.

I first met Jeff in 1986 when he joined us as part of the original staff of the Brother T. I. Murphy Centre as our science teacher. Jeff seemed to have a soft spot for the youth whose needs could not be served by the regular school system. Why became clear when I later found out that he had been a bit of a rogue himself at some of the best private schools in Upper Canada before coming to Newfoundland to get his university education. It was here he met Yvonne, and together they raised seven children. Of course, when you marry a Critch from St. Mary's Bay that was bound to happen!

Jeff will be forever missed by all the present and past members of the St. Pat's Dancers, as well as the students and his colleagues from the Murphy Centre.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all members of this hon. House to join me in recognizing a life well lived, and in extending condolences to Jeff's family.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Statements by Ministers.

Statements by Ministers

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister Responsible for the Status of Women.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House of Assembly today to honour the memory of fourteen young women who were killed during what we now refer to as the Montreal Massacre.

Twenty-one years ago today, as they were studying for their futures, the lives of these women were taken at Montreal's Ιcole Polytechnique, simply because they were women.

In 1991, in memory of these women, the federal government designated December 6 as the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.

More than two decades after it occurred, this horrific event is a chilling reminder of the devastating effects of violence against women.

Mr. Speaker, far too many women in our Province live with violence every day. Our two police forces reported over 8,600 incidents of violence against women between 2006 and 2009.

Equally alarming is the fact that of the 217,900 women over the age of fifteen residing in Newfoundland and Labrador, approximately 108,950 will experience at least one incident of sexual or physical violence throughout their lifetime; however, only 10 per cent will report these incidents to police.

These facts represent a huge societal issue that we all have a responsibility to address. Through a six-year, $12 million Violence Prevention Initiative, our government is proactively working with communities and volunteer organizations to identify long-term solutions to preventing violence against women.

Our Respect Women Campaign includes a Web site of information and resource materials, as well as print and television advertisements. In this campaign, we are using positive messages to encourage men to teach young boys how to respect women, and we are addressing the very root of violence: inequality.

As well, the Purple Ribbon Campaign can now be seen throughout our Province. Wearing the ribbon, like the one every Member of the House of Assembly is wearing today, shows support for the need to prevent violence against women, and the need to make it a topic we can openly discuss in our society. I am so pleased that our Province is the first in Canada to officially support such a campaign.

Mr. Speaker, let this ribbon also symbolize the hope that comes from our collective efforts to end inequality and violence against women. I encourage everyone to learn more about how they can help bring an end to violence against women.

As a reminder to all of us of the events of December 6, 1989, I want to read into the record of the House of Assembly the names of those fourteen women who died that day: Geneviθve Bergeron, Hιlθne Colgan, Nathalie Croteau, Barbara Daigneault, Anne-Marie Edward, Maud Haviernick, Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz, Maryse Laganiθre, Maryse Leclair, Anne-Marie Lemay, Sonia Pelletier, Michθle Richard, Annie St. Arneault, Annie Turcotte.

At this time I would like to ask that we all observe a moment of silence to remember these women and all the women whose lives have been affected by violence.

MR. SPEAKER: Please rise.

[A moment of silence is observed]

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

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

I thank the minister for an advance copy of her statement. We take several occasions, of course, throughout our year to recognize and pay tribute to various people who have been in our society. For example, November 11, we pay tribute to our veterans and our fallen, as is quite appropriate, and likewise here.

This particular tragedy is a black mark in our history. It was specifically directed towards women, and absolutely unnecessary and horrific. We have come a long ways in this country sometimes, when you look at it and think about where we have come and advanced ourselves as a society with respect to constitutional rights and equality provisions. We still have a long ways to go. There is no point in having these rights enshrined in our legislation if we, as people, do not learn to accord those rights and these equality provisions with the respect that has to go with them to make them truly functional. This was a very unfortunate event, as I say.

The Purple Ribbon Campaign is indeed a very worthy campaign. It is not only a campaign which recognizes the significant and invaluable contributions that women make to our society, but it is also educational and we need to continue to educate ourselves as people to get to that point where eventually we will see a complete eradication of violence towards women.

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 her statement.

It is always a very solemn moment on December 6 when we stand here in this House and recognize, along with people across Canada, the significance of what happened in 1989. Certainly the Canadian government made sure that we do that by marking this as a National Day of Remembrance, and, as has already been noted by my colleague from the Official Opposition, that puts it in the same classification as what we do on November 11 when we remember the wars, and what we do on July 1 when we remember Beaumont Hamel. It is fitting that the federal government did put it in that class, because this significant moment of women being killed because they are women is something we can never forget.

We do know that violence continues. In the past twenty years we have had twenty-one women who have been murdered by spouses or partners in this Province alone. So we know that the violence is so much more serious than a word here and there. The work that we have to do is significant work that we have to do, and I know that we are all committed to doing that work together.

So, as we remember, we plan our actions; we plan how we can make sure that we have zero tolerance for all violence against women in this Province. I think one way to do that is to mark what is happening today with other members of the community. So, Mr. Speaker, I humbly encourage the members of the House to attend the vigil tonight at Memorial University in the Engineering Building, because we join then with the whole community in making our statement: that we no longer want to have women suffering the violence that they suffer in this country.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Further statements by ministers.

The hon. the Minister Responsible for the Volunteer and Non-Profit Sector.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DENINE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, today I rise to recognize Newfoundland and Labrador's Volunteer and Non-Profit Sector, given that Sunday, December 5, was International Volunteer Day. In 1985, the United Nations General Assembly established the International Volunteer Day to commemorate the contributions and dedication of volunteers worldwide. Volunteers from this Province, Mr. Speaker, are major contributors to organizations that do work all over the world. This year's recognition day is also significant as it marks the launch of the tenth anniversary of the 2001 International Year of the Volunteer.

Our Province, Mr. Speaker, has approximately 197,000 volunteers who give thirty-five million hours of their time each year to their communities. This government appreciates the tremendous contributions of the volunteer and non-profit sector. That is why, this past summer, we launched a campaign to recognize their efforts called the Who Cares? Campaign.

Mr. Speaker, this campaign profiles and celebrates the incredible work being done by men and women, young and old, in communities large and small all across the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador; work that makes our neighbourhoods stronger, that defines our communities and makes our Province the wonderful place it is.

Like International Volunteer Day, the Who Cares? Campaign is designed to give the community based and non-profit sector the recognition they deserve, and to say thank you to the thousands of volunteers and workers who make a difference in our communities every day. It shows how the volunteer and non-profit sector positively impacts each and every one of us. Furthermore, it will educate the public about the real value and importance of the sector to our society.

Mr. Speaker, the campaign is aimed to reinforce the importance of the Volunteer and Non-Profit Sector in people's minds and motivate them to act – either volunteer themselves or to thank someone who does. On the Web site, WhoCaresNL.ca, we have been profiling volunteers from across the Province as well as giving visitors to the site the opportunity to thank a volunteer or non-profit organization for their contributions.

The Volunteer and Non-Profit Sector is instrumental in our Province's prosperity and overall community health. It is filled with amazing people who work tirelessly and proudly to strengthen our communities. It is an amazing story, Mr. Speaker, that needs to be told, one that needs to be shared more often. Recently we have heard many stories of communities coming together after this Province was devastated by Hurricane Igor this past September. Mr. Speaker, volunteers were crucial in the recovery efforts in the affected communities. I would like to say a huge thank you to all those who volunteered their time, talent, and hearts during this time. Mr. Speaker, they are true heroes.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all Members of the House of Assembly of Newfoundland and Labrador to take the time to register a thank you to those who volunteer in our communities, day in and day out.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I thank the minister for an advance copy of his statement.

According to a June 2009 Canada survey of giving, volunteering, and participating, almost one half – 46 per cent – of Canadians volunteer their time in one capacity or another. On average, volunteers contribute 166 hours each to our society and our communities. Of course, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are world renowned for their sense of community and generosity. Across the Province, our volunteers accumulate millions of hours of volunteer time, whether it be firefighters – many of whom are in a volunteer capacity – food banks, soup kitchens, schools, hospitals, libraries, sports and recreation groups, church groups, service clubs, animal shelters. It is a selfless effort, all to help their own communities in which they live. Without their help, of course, many important services and programs would not be able to function.

We thank and congratulate the thousands of volunteers from across the Province who take the time to make a difference, because their contributions to our community and to our Province only improve the quality of our life here in our Province.

Thank you.

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

MS MICHAEL: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, and I thank the minister for the advance copy of his statement.

I am very happy to stand with him and recognize and congratulate the thousands of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who give their time and their skills for the benefit of their community and the Province. Like the minister, and many others of us here in the House, long before we became elected to political office, many of us spent our own hours working as volunteers and working with volunteers, so we have a very personal knowledge of what the life of volunteers is all about. We do not often get the opportunity to thank them en masse, as we are doing here today, and I think it is good that we do that.

I, too, toured the damage that Hurricane Igor wreaked across the two peninsulas. I went to the Bonavista Peninsula and learned first-hand the crucial role that volunteers played in meeting the immediate needs of the neighbours and community. In actual fact, because of the nature of that storm, and the way in which people were cut off, without volunteers I do not know what would have happened at that time.

We do have to remember, though, that volunteer groups are organizations. They have to have infrastructure, they have to have staff, and we have to make sure that we really thank the volunteers and honour them by ensuring that they have everything they need to do the work that they do. There is a role for them but there is also a role for money, to give them the staff that they need to do that work.

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.

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

Mr. Speaker, this government has been trying to negotiate a deal with our Province's doctors for almost two years and have been unsuccessful. We have been asking that the doctors' issue be sent to binding arbitration, as early as March 23 of last year, and the government has flatly refused this request. The doctors of this Province, we feel, have made a very fair offer. They are willing to give up their right to strike if government is prepared to give the doctors binding arbitration to resolve any such disputes and to have it enshrined in legislation.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Premier: Are you finally prepared to take the recommendation of binding arbitration, give the doctors such, and entrench this right in legislation, the same as you did with respect to firefighters in this Province and the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, as I have stated publicly earlier, both of my ministers, the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Health, met with the head of the NLMA and Mr. Ritter on Friday. There have been subsequent conversations with Dr. O'Shea since that time.

Mr. Speaker, what the doctors have asked us to do is to respect their ratification process, which we are absolutely happy to do. We have created, I think, a very healthy environment for discussions. We are talking about a process which we can engage in that will bring this hopefully to a satisfactory conclusion for the NLMA and for the people of the Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

We are all aware in this Province, Mr. Speaker, about the meetings that took place on Friday and the commentary from the NLMA this past weekend and today. The question is quite simple, Premier, and it narrows down to this, as the doctors have said. We are going to have a crisis and a catastrophe on our hands, and it comes down to one simple question. You have obviously switched gears when it comes to how you treat the doctors now, or at least the minister seems to have had a personality transplant in that regard. I ask you, Premier, a simple question: Are you prepared to give the doctors of this Province binding arbitration, the same as we have done with the other essential services in this Province, such as police and firefighters? That is a pretty simple answer and it is a pretty simple question – or question and answer.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, the doctors who serve the people of Newfoundland and Labrador are respected and valued, as is their work in this Province. They are important members of our communities.

Mr. Speaker, both of my ministers are fully engaged with the NLMA. Together we will work out a process that is satisfactory to both of us. Then, Mr. Speaker, we will share that with the Leader of the Opposition and with the rest of the people in the Province. Hopefully, through that process, we will be able to come to a conclusion of our contractual negotiations that works for the NLMA and works for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

Well, we have already seen the two ministers, the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Health, swallow themselves whole on this position in the last week or so, and I guess we have to wait to see the Premier do the same.

In May of 2008 this government made a side deal with the Province's pathologists and oncologists. This was done against the advice of the NLMA, the group that represents doctors in this Province. It created a two-tiered pay system; salaried specialists working side by side are not receiving equal pay for equal work. As a result, at least fourteen specialists have threatened to resign in February of next year, and many more are considering the option.

I ask the Premier: Are you willing to pay the doctors, these specialists, equal pay for equal work?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, with all due respect to the Acting Leader of the Opposition, equal pay for work of equal value is a concept that I am very familiar with and have dedicated my life to, and, with all due respect to him, do not need any lessons on.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: What I do commit to doing, Mr. Speaker, is continuing discussions in an atmosphere that is conducive to bringing a satisfactory resolution to the challenges that face the NLMA and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, maintaining a balance between meeting their needs and being fiscally responsible. Both of my ministers are firmly committed to that, Mr. Speaker. We are not going to do the negotiation here on the floor of the House of Assembly, Mr. Speaker; we are going to do it, and continue to do it, with the NLMA.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

Everybody in this Province knows by now and accepts that binding arbitration is the proper and the sensible solution to the resolution of this impending crisis. We have been saying it for months, the doctors have been saying it now for quite some time, and the people of the Province are saying it through the media.

If this government is not prepared to give binding arbitration to resolve disputes for doctors, and we certainly had no indication from the Premier today that she is prepared to go down that road, given this government has been adamant about the doctors' dispute and not sending it to binding arbitration, as all of the messages we have gotten so far from this government – and the Premier need not waste her time giving me any lessons - could you tell us what you have done yourself to prepare a Plan B? Because if you do not resolve this thing, and you do not resolve it quickly, the Province is going to be in crisis.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: What is your Plan B, Premier, if you do not give binding arbitration?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, let me say again: We have engaged with the NLMA in a very respectful process where we understand what it is they need to be able to operate and provide service to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. We have also created an environment where they understand what our responsibilities and liabilities are. In that environment, Mr. Speaker, we have agreed to find a way forward.

Now, Mr. Speaker, the people of the Province do not want any more of a commitment than that from their government. We are going to pursue, we have set timelines, and hopefully sooner rather than later, Mr. Speaker, we are going to be able to resolve this issue.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. BUTLER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

There are fifteen striking workers on the Burin Peninsula who are job coaches for people with intellectual disabilities. They have been on strike for over a year and this government now, Mr. Speaker, wins the award for the longest public sector strike in the Province's history. I have to say, Mr. Speaker, it is absolutely shameful! A rally was held in the region two weeks ago trying to encourage government to settle this dispute. Government already settled a strike similar to this on the West Coast of the Province where there are workers who are helping other people with disabilities.

I ask the minister: Will government finally step up to the plate, make a deal, and end this strike before Christmas?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to report to the House of Assembly that our negotiators met this morning and we are working hard to resolve this issue as quickly as it is possible to do it, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

The new Premier is on record as saying that power produced at Muskrat Falls will cost in the neighbourhood of $143 per megawatt hour.

Will the Premier provide us today with a breakdown of that cost? Does it include, for example, transmission cost and financing cost, or any other associated cost? Is that $143, which translates into 14.3 cents per kilowatt hour, just the charge for generation of the electricity at Muskrat Falls, or is that the end cost to the consumers in their homes?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, when we talk about costs, either the cost to Emera to buy power from Muskrat Falls, or the cost to the people of the Province to have access to power from Churchill Falls – Muskrat Falls, specifically – we talk about the total cost. Mr. Speaker, we gave the members of the Opposition, during the time of our announcement, a technical briefing on all of the elements of this deal with Emera. I understand that these issues are very complex, and you may not get them on your first sweep of all of the information.

If it would help the members opposite understand what we have agreed to with Emera better, then I am prepared, Mr. Speaker, to talk to Nalcor and to the Department of Natural Resources to prepare further briefings for the members of the Opposition.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

Our fear is that the briefing on the Muskrat Falls term sheet might turn out like the briefing from the same Mr. Ed Martin that we got on the Abitibi – and we know what a fiasco that was, so do not talk about how thorough your briefings are, I say to the Premier. We have been down that track once before with the very same individual.

Mr. Speaker, the Premier is reluctant to tell us exactly how it is broken out. Do you notice that? Pretty cagey. She does not say exactly how it is broken out here, and what it is going to cost the rate payers. At the end of the day, that is going to be one of the significant decisions and deal breakers in this deal, if you cannot explain to the people: are they going to pay the 9.5 they are currently paying, are they going to pay 14.5 after this is done, or what is the real cost on this, Mr. Speaker.

I ask the Premier: Can you be a little bit more detailed and tell us exactly what is included in your $143 per kilowatt hour? Just give the people of the Province some indication of what is in that.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

What is included in that $143, Mr. Speaker, is the cost that is charged off to the Province in terms of our investment in the development of Muskrat Falls; in the building of the generating capacity at Muskrat Falls, Mr. Speaker, of which we will own 100 per cent; of the infrastructure that is required for transmission in Labrador from Muskrat Falls to the border, Mr. Speaker; the cost of the Labrador link, Labrador-Island link, and the transmission throughout the Island of Newfoundland, Mr. Speaker. That is what is included to bring power from Muskrat Falls to offset Holyrood. Once we take all of those costs into account, Mr. Speaker, we arrive at the sum of $143 per megawatt hour.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

We all know that the Upper Churchill Falls agreement was probably the worst deal ever signed in the Province. We all know that under the terms of that deal Hydro-Quebec gets to buy our energy at an unfair rate, far below market cost.

Mr. Speaker, in light of our history with the Upper Churchill, why is government agreeing to give Emera Energy of Nova Scotia free power for thirty-five years? How does the Premier justify giving free power to a Nova Scotian company for thirty-five years when the taxpayers of this Province – not only are they going to be put on the hook for the $4.5 billion which gets added to our public debt, but we are also financing it through higher electricity rates in their homes. Why the sweet deal for Emera, I say to the Premier?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Mr. Speaker, we never needed a better example of how much trouble we escaped in 2002 when we did not sign onto the Grimes deal.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Mr. Speaker, how $1.2 billion translates into zero dollars for electricity is something that I am unable to wrap my mind around. Mr. Speaker, we have costed the power we are selling to Emera at $95 per megawatt hour, escalating to $125 over the thirty-five years. Mr. Speaker, that works out to be $1.2 billion.

What we have said to them is: Instead of giving us the $1.2 billion over thirty-five years, give it to us all now, we will build the Maritime Link with it now, and we will save the people of Newfoundland and Labrador hundreds of millions of dollars in financing costs by doing it that way.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

It is amazing the spin that one can put on something. The fact is, Mr. Speaker, $1.2 billion -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: - being invested by Emera is to build their link for their purposes. They are going to put $600 million into the so-called Labrador-trans Island link, and they are going to receive in return 29 per cent ownership in perpetuity, forever. Not only are they going to get thirty-five years of free power, they are going to get 29 per cent of the profits generated on the transmission in this Province on the backs of the ratepayers of this Province in perpetuity.

I ask the Premier –

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

If the hon. member has a question, I ask him to pose it now.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: I ask the Premier: How can you justify, in addition to the free power, giving them 29 per cent of the profits that the people of this Province have to pay for the rest of time?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Mr. Speaker, first of all to the Maritime Link which Emera will own 100 per cent of for their investment of $1.2 billion, they will own that Maritime Link for thirty-five years, at which time they will sell it to the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador for $1.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Mr. Speaker, on that link for thirty-five years they have exclusive rights with regard to one terawatt of power. All other rights on the Maritime Link, beyond the one terawatt of power, are owned by Nalcor.

Mr. Speaker, in terms of their investment in energy infrastructure here in the Province, they are investing $600 million. That is a regulated activity that companies all over the world have an opportunity to invest in. It is governed by the PUB. They get a regulated rate of return of 8.25 per cent, the same as Nalcor and Newfoundland Power get.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. DEAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, one of our greatest renewable resources, the fishery, has been neglected by this government for seven long years. An MOU was signed in July 2009 and the steering committee was to report no later than December 15, 2009. Yet, seventeen months later, this much anticipated report still remains hidden from the people and the communities that will be profoundly impacted.

So I ask the minister today: Have you yet received this report and, more importantly, when are you going to share it with the people and the communities that are still waiting for some word on their fate and their future?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, the hon. member opposite is alluding that government has not looked into the fisheries in this Province. Mr. Speaker, I am hoping, on February 8, he will join us down at the waterfront and we will get him to walk aboard a vessel that we are leasing for research within our own Province.

We announced, this year, $14 million into science research within our Province - one of the latest announcements, Mr. Speaker, that we have made.

Mr. Speaker, specifically to the MOU –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, specifically to the MOU, the parties at the table are the FFAW, the ASP, and government. Since last February these groups, together, have met on seventy occasions.

Mr. Speaker, this MOU is quite different than other reports, because in other reports what happens is we have a particular individual who goes out, he is commissioned to do a report –

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. minister to conclude his answer.

MR. JACKMAN: I will, Mr. Speaker, thank you.

In this particular case, rather than having somebody coming to us and presenting us with a document, what we have in this document, Mr. Speaker, is a report on behalf of the industry and government, and Mr. Speaker –

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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 such an important question that I will ask it again. Probably we can get through all the preamble and he can go directly into the answer.

I would ask the minister: Have you received the report and, more importantly, when will it be available to the people of this Province?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: I thank the member for asking his question again.

Mr. Speaker, I do expect that the report will be at the office tomorrow, receiving just a final technical review. I expect that I will have the report in my hands by this coming Friday.

Mr. Speaker, as I have said publicly as recently as Thursday on the broadcast, up until the Christmas season and a little into the New Year, I will be reviewing that report myself. I have not been involved in the development of the report because I did not want the people opposite to accuse us of skewing it or having involvement in it.

This report will be provided by industry, an independent chair that government paid for, a process that is $800,000 that we put into this. We want to do a good job around this MOU.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. DEAN: Mr. Speaker, this government has been promising reform on the fishery since the infamous fishery summit in the spring of 2006, nearly five years ago.

I ask the minister: Can we stop the rhetoric, give the people of the Province assurances that this report will be made public and indeed debated by the public ahead of the election next fall, or is it something that we are trying to hide as a government?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, apparently he has not been listening to the media.

Mr. Speaker, I have said, on occasion, that the context of this report is so important to all of Newfoundland and Labrador, and in particular rural Newfoundland and Labrador, that there is going to have to be a larger engagement of the entire Newfoundland and Labrador population.

If he was tracking the media, Mr. Speaker, I have said that right now, as of today, on two occasions, I have met with Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador to indicate to them that we certainly hope that we might have their engagement and their support as we get the message out as to what needs to happen in the fishery in this Province, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. DEAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, this past Sunday morning, at approximately 3:00 o'clock, two people were found lying in a street in Wabush, the apparent victims of a hit and run. I know all the members of this House join with me in praying for the well-being of those individuals today.

Mr. Speaker, my question today is in regard to the response of air ambulance to assist these two people. According to media reports, the air ambulance took close to twenty-four hours to get these two seriously injured people to the Intensive Care Unit in St. John's. This new and improved air ambulance service based in Happy Valley-Goose Bay first had to fly to St. John's to pick up a medical flight service team and fly all the way back to Wabush to retrieve the accident victims.

Mr. Speaker, this is totally unacceptable, and I would ask: When is this government going to recognize that when it removed the air ambulance from St. Anthony it failed to recruit and put in place a properly trained medical flight service team, as it had promised to do some years ago?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I certainly would like to pass my best wishes on to the people injured in this accident.

Mr. Speaker, there is one thing that I would also like to say: It is unacceptable that the member opposite not try to get the facts before he puts them before this hon. House and puts them out in the media.

Mr. Speaker, a call was received at the Medical Communication Centre at 6:15 o'clock. The Happy Valley-Goose Bay plane was in St. John's. The medical flight service team got on the plane, went immediately to Lab West, and at 10:15 o'clock arrived in Labrador City. They were at the patients' side before the doctors were even finished with the patients, Mr. Speaker. So, right away we have two inaccuracies in terms of the time frame and also where the plane was located.

Mr. Speaker, it took two-and-a-half-hours then to stabilize the patients and to transport them to the airport. At 1:00 o'clock, the plane left Labrador City and arrived in St. John's at 3:15 o'clock. Now, whatever math you use, Mr. Speaker, when a call is received at 6:15 o'clock and the plane arrives in St. John's at 3:15 o'clock, it is certainly a lot less than twenty-four hours. I would certainly ask the member opposite to get his facts straight.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

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

Mr. Speaker, we have just come off a by-election campaign in the District of Conception Bay East & Bell Island. I and others were out on the doorsteps – many of us were out on the doorsteps - over the last few weeks, including members of Cabinet, who must have heard the same concerns about health care that I heard. Citizens, whether they were medical professionals or users of the system, on their doorsteps, needing no prompting, said that health care is a mess, it is a shemozzle and it is dysfunctional, and I use their words. They are the words that were said to me.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Premier: When is this government going to wake up to what is happening in our health care system and embark on a full review process?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Yes, Mr. Speaker, as I have said in this hon. House on many occasions, health care, involving the lives of people, evokes an emotional response and is certainly something that we have to look at in terms of the delivery of services; however, there are a lot of good things happening out there. There are a lot of issues which do not get reported in the media because of the incidents that occur.

Mr. Speaker, I will give you an example: This summer and fall alone, we travelled to rural Newfoundland and Labrador, visited various health facilities, and put over $25.5 million out there in capital equipment and in repairs and renovations.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: We are building new health care facilities, Mr. Speaker, in Corner Brook, Flower's Cove, St. John's redevelopment; the long-term care facilities in Lewisporte, Carbonear, and the new health care facility in Labrador West.

Mr. Speaker, we are spending $2.7 billion on health care and there are a lot of good things happening. It is really, Mr. Speaker, unfortunate when we hear the Leader of the NDP make comments like that.

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.

It is a wonderful list that the Minister of Health and Community Services has just touted. All of that is true, but, Mr. Speaker, the things that were said to me on the doorsteps of people in that district were horrendous stories; two in particular with regard to people not being able to see specialists when they need to see them, having to leave the Province; ER wait times, because we do not have ERs that are set up, well functioning ERs; lack of resources so that they can be the kind of ERs we should have, and concerns about what is going to happen to children who are at the Janeway. Mr. Speaker, these are realities that are not being dealt with.

Again, I ask the Premier: When is this government going to review our system and get us a first-class system like other places in Canada?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I find it somewhat disconcerting. On one hand the Leader of the New Democratic Party says: Well, it is all true what I just said, and on the other hand she is talking about a first-class health care system.

Mr. Speaker, to give you an example, we now have 1,098 physicians practicing in our Province; the most we have ever had. Mr. Speaker, when I became Minister of Health and Community Services a year ago I looked at the issues out there. We have addressed mental health and addictions, Mr. Speaker. We are addressing wait times. I can assure the member opposite, that emergency room is the next issue that we will be tackling in a big way.

Mr. Speaker, I have already talked about rural health care. Everyone knows what we are doing with long-term care. Mr. Speaker, we recently announced our cancer control strategy. We got out there with the colorectal cancer screening policy. Mr. Speaker, this government is putting enormous amounts of money into wellness and trying to encourage youth, adults and seniors alike to stay healthy and thereby improve the quality of life and decrease the cost to the health care system.

Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, it takes time. We are working hard at it. Is the system perfect? Certainly not; but, Mr. Speaker, it is a lot better than what the member opposite would have us believe.

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, professionals inside of the system are saying the approach that government is taking is not working, it is piecemeal. It is this piece, this piece, this piece. There is not a vision of how the whole system should work together.

Why is this government, I ask the Premier, Mr. Speaker, resisting doing a full review of the whole system? Not a piecemeal, reactionary, kneejerk approach.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

I, and my officials, work closely with the regional health authorities. They are responsible for the operations of the health system in this Province, Mr. Speaker. They come back to me and they indicate how, through the budgetary process and otherwise, we can improve the system.

Mr. Speaker, we need to increase efficiencies and effectiveness in the system. We are working at that. We need to increase, Mr. Speaker, the way we deliver services in a more comprehensive, again, efficient way. We are looking at, Mr. Speaker, different aspects of the system.

There was recently a pathology review conducted by the University Health Network. Mr. Speaker, we recently had the radiology review in Gander, and we have an accreditation process going on. I am in consultation, Mr. Speaker, with various experts throughout the country. We have relationships with the University Health Network in Toronto. Mr. Speaker, recently, or as of yesterday, I met with all of the Boards of Trustees, thanked them for all of their effort and encouraged them to make positive suggestions.

So, Mr. Speaker, we are doing –

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The time allotted for questions and answers has expired.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

Presenting Reports by Standing and Select Committees

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

MR. VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

On behalf of the Select Committee appointed to draft a reply to the Speech from His Honour, the Lieutenant-Governor, I am pleased to present the report of the Select Committee, as follows:

To His Honour, the Lieutenant-Governor, The Honourable John C. Crosbie, may it please Your Honour, we the commons of Newfoundland and Labrador in Legislative Session assembled, beg to thank Your Honour for the Gracious Speech which Your Honour has addressed to this House.

I move the adoption of this report, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: When shall the report be received?

Now?

MS BURKE: Now, Mr. Speaker.

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

Tabling of Documents.

Notices of Motion.

Notices of Motion

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HARDING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I give notice that I will ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Amend The Real Estate Trading Act. (Bill 32)

I give notice that I will ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Amend The Consumer Protection And Business Practices Act No. 2. (Bill 33)

I give notice that I will ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Amend The Mortgage Brokers Act. (Bill 34)

I give notice that I will ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Amend The Public Safety Act. (Bill 35)

I give notice that I will ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Amend The Consumer Protection And Business Practice Act No. 3. (Bill 40)

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Further notices of motion?

The hon. the Minister of Justice and the Attorney General.

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

Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Amend The Judicature Act. (Bill 36)

I give further notice that I will ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Amend The Statutes Act. (Bill 37)

I further give notice I will ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Remove Anomalies And Errors In The Statute Law. (Bill 38)

I give further notice I will ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Amend The Justices And Public Authorities Protection Act. (Bill 39)

MR. SPEAKER: Further notices of motion?

Answers to Questions for which Notice has been Given.

Petitions.

Petitions

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

MR. BUTLER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Seeing this is the first time, I will read the prayer of the petition.

To the hon. House of Assembly of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador in Parliament assembled, the petition of the undersigned residents humbly sheweth:

WHEREAS Coley's Point Primary is a wooden structure built in the early 1960s; and

WHEREAS a consultant's report recommended that a new school be built to replace Coley's Point Primary; and

WHEREAS the student population is increasing yearly and constitutes a system of K-3; and

WHEREAS this forty-nine-year-old wooden structure should be replaced for the safety of both students and staff;

WHEREUPON the undersigned, your petitioners, call upon all Members of the House of Assembly to urge government to take action and proceed with the construction of a new primary school for Coley's Point.

As in duty bound your petitioners will ever pray.

Mr. Speaker, I have to say, this is a friendly petition. I know the Minister of Education is well aware of the situation when he was in his former position. He knows full well what that particular school is like; he was there and had meetings. I know there are officials within that department who know full well the situation.

Mr. Speaker, all I am doing is presenting this petition on behalf of the residents in that immediate area. As I say, there was a consultant's report done back, I do not know how many years, four or five years ago, when the former Minister of Education was in her place. I know there were some issues in that consultant's report that did not fare well with other situations in other schools in the area. I think her comment at the time was the consultant's report should be shredded. Maybe so, a lot of it should, but the school should not have been shredded with it, so I am calling upon the Minister of Education. I know we will soon be getting into the budget process now that the residents of that area, and like I said, the Bay Robert's area where the people go to that school, every year now there are fifty to sixty new families moving into the area. The population of that school is increasing. It was only two or three years ago – and I thank government for the work that they have done on Amalgamated Academy – they had to take the Grade 4 students from that school for space reasons. They built on classrooms at Amalgamated Academy. This primary school has to be replaced. All one has to do is go there and see the facility. It is fine now to carry out for another few months, but all I am doing, Mr. Speaker, is calling upon members of this hon. House to ask government to consider this petition and hopefully we can hear an announcement in due course.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Further petitions?

On a point of order, the hon. Opposition House Leader.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, I am checking with the Table Officers. It was my understanding that this Wednesday, Private Members' Day, was the government private members, and I notice we have passed on the Order Paper for today the Notices of Motion which is the slot that we would normally be given notice of what the Private Members' is for Wednesday.

I am just wondering what the plan is with respect to that.

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, we thought according to the Standing Orders that it would be the Opposition's Private Members' Day on this Wednesday; however, if it is the government's side we will certainly, before the end of the day, with leave, introduce our private member's motion.

MR. SPEAKER: Orders of the Day.

Orders of the Day

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, I will call the Address in Reply.

MR. SPEAKER: We will now hear debate on the report of the select committee appointed to draft the Address in Reply of the Speech from the Throne delivered by His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor.

Is it the pleasure of the House to concur in the report of the select committee?

The hon. the Member for Lewisporte.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is certainly my pleasure to stand here this afternoon and to speak for the time allotted, which I think is around twenty minutes, to speak about Address in Reply.

Mr. Speaker, since we closed the House in June there have been quite a few changes in the political landscape in this Province. I want to start off today by recognizing, and also thanking where appropriate, some of these things that happened since June.

I certainly want to, first of all, recognize the hon. Dianne Whalen, who passed away since we last met. I had the privilege of sitting next to her, or right behind her, for a few sessions, and I also had the privilege of having a few conversations with her and getting to know her. I just want to say that I am a much better person for having known her and conversed with her, and I know that she will be sadly missed.

I also want to say thank you to our former Premier, Mr. Danny Williams, who has recently resigned and moved on to some other things. I want to thank him for his time that he served in this House, the time he served the people of the Province. I will also say, Mr. Speaker, that my beginnings in politics, which does not go back that far, actually – I have only been at this a little over three years – but I will say in all honesty that it was the former Premier's brilliance, his intelligence, his passion and his commitment that inspired me to get into politics. I wish him all the best in the rest of his endeavours.

I also want to welcome and congratulate the newest Member of the House of Assembly, the Member for Conception Bay East & Bell Island, and I am sure he will be sworn in, in due time, and will rightfully take his seat here in the House among the rest of us.

I also want to offer my sincerest congratulations to our new Premier, who I have every confidence is going to do a fantastic job. I am sure she has the confidence of this House and all members and I look forward to working with the new Premier in her role.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. VERGE: Mr. Speaker, there have also been a number of ministerial posts that have changed hands, and I will not get into naming those but I certainly want to offer my congratulations to all of the ministers who have changed hands and those who have come into Cabinet or changed portfolios. I certainly look forward to working with them in their new roles.

Mr. Speaker, each year the Lieutenant-Governor gives a Speech from the Throne. The purpose of that speech is to outline the government's main objectives that they are going to follow for that year and possibly beyond that. What I have done in preparing for this speech today, I went back and I looked at the Speech from the Throne for 2010 and there are – I guess one could speak at length and for a lot longer period of time than you are allotted here today, taking out some of the main points from the Speech from the Throne and expanding on them. I really looked at three different areas and I am sure some other members of the House will look at some other areas in the days that are ahead as they prepare to talk about the Speech from the Throne.

Of course, we also recognize that in the proceedings in the House it is customary, when speaking on a money bill, or when speaking in Address and Reply, that there is a fair bit of latitude given in what we might talk about. So it is a good time for us, as members, to talk about not only the government's direction but also to concentrate on some things that might be happening more specifically within our own districts.

Mr. Speaker, three topics that I pulled out of the Speech from the Thorne are children, economic responsibility, and the area of research and development. I want to talk briefly about each of these areas today.

In the first one, the area of children, and I am going to quote from the Speech from the Throne just briefly here, a section which says, "There is no gift more precious than a child, and no duty more important than advancing the best interests of our children through the choices we make. My Government since 2003 has been focused on creating a family-friendly environment where people can establish a lifelong foothold; where families can thrive; where children can chase their dreams, seize golden opportunities and realize their greatest potential. There is no greater legacy My Government is building for our Province's children than the renewed sense of pride and confidence that they, as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, are feeling as we become masters of our own destiny".

That particular section in the Speech from the Throne when on and expanded and it really emphasized the importance that we, as a government, place on children, whether it is young children, school-aged children, or even post-secondary students.

The importance that we place on children, I guess, was evidenced when recently – I guess a little over a year ago now - our government established a new department, the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services. In the last session, the spring session, we passed a new act called the Children and Youth Care and Protection Act. I was privileged during the last session to have had the opportunity to speak to that act.

Mr. Speaker, I just want to cover a couple of things, because it really ties in with the Speech from the Throne and the emphasis that we believe we put on our children, our future. I have worked with children and youth, I guess most of my working life, in my time as an educator, as a school teacher and then fifteen years as a school principal. I worked with children very closely. Mr. Speaker, I have heard some sad stories, I have seen some sad stories. Our children are certainly in the group of the most vulnerable citizens. We believe they have the right to live in an environment that is free from threat, violence, and emotional, sexual or physical abuse. We also believe they have the right to grow up in a nurturing and caring environment and to have their needs provided; and most do, Mr. Speaker. Most do grow up in that type of a caring environment; however, not all do, and therefore we have the responsibility as government to provide protection for those children and youth who are in need of our intervention.

The act that we passed, the Children and Youth Care and Protection Act, provided the opportunity to intervene when a child or youth is a victim or at risk of harm or neglect by a parent or some other person. We passed that act back in the spring session. I think most people would agree that it was probably the most significant piece of legislation that we dealt with in the spring session. It was a new piece of legislation. A lot of work was done into bringing it to fruition and it was certainly a piece of legislation that I was proud to be a part of and proud to have had the opportunity to speak to it.

I believe that we are fulfilling our commitment, as outlined in the Speech from the Throne, when it comes to emphasizing the importance of children; not only the importance, but also making sure they are well protected, nurtured and cared for. There are many things that we have done along those lines, of course. If you look at the whole piece around education and tuition, the money we have put into schools, the infrastructure, and the pupil-teacher ratio. I have talked to teachers in the last year, year and a half; I have talked to school principals because I still stay in touch with that a bit, and a lot of my friends are still involved in that profession. They have said to me, they have said very clearly, that they believe this government is on the right track when it comes to education. They see the investment that has been going into education, into class size and pupil-teacher ratio, and they appreciate it, Mr. Speaker. It is another example of investment in our children.

Mr. Speaker, another section in the Throne Speech talked about strengthening our economy. It says: "Newfoundlanders and Labradorians young and old are united in their determination to see our province grow to achieve its full potential as a place of prosperity, self-reliance and opportunity for all. When the global financial crisis hit a year ago, My Government responded swiftly and powerfully with an unprecedented program of stimulus measures in a concerted effort to keep our people working, to keep our businesses growing and to" also "keep our economy moving forward with confidence and strength. Weeks before last year's budget was brought down…" – and I am quoting from the Speech from the Throne here, this short section. It says: "…My Premier announced an unparalleled increase in infrastructure spending to $800 million in the 2009-10 fiscal year and a plan to grow infrastructure spending to more than $4 billion over the next several years. As My Government rolled out one project after another under this aggressive Infrastructure Strategy, public confidence surged, employers across the province rolled up their sleeves to ready tenders and, in short order, workers across the province had their shovels in the ground. By year's end, we had let tenders for $1.3 billion worth of projects. Not only has this massive stimulus program fueled economic activity throughout our province, but it has also prepared our communities to take the lead in seizing growth opportunities as the world rebounds from the downturn. This is not a time to slow down but a time to move forward. My government will continue to fuel the fires of economic stimulus in the year ahead with its unprecedented infrastructure spending program. This approach is the right approach, not only for the short term but for our long-term future."

The commitment to not put the brakes on, the commitment to continue to add fuel to an economy that was growing; that was the commitment that our government made last year, or 2010, in the Throne Speech. We wanted to keep the economy hot. We did not want to probably pull back and see things slow down.

When I look around my own district over the last while and I think of some of the stimulus money that has been spent in my district - and I look at road work, for example. This is an example of infrastructure money that has been invested in districts throughout the Province, and certainly in my own district. We have had a fair bit of work done down in Campbellton and in Horwood. In Gander Bay this past summer, we had the road paved from Horwood Junction right over to the causeway, the Gander Bay Road. Myself and my colleague, the Minister of Government Services, we neighbour districts there. We saw a great piece of pavement put down there this past summer. I would probably hazard a guess, probably a $2 million to $3 million investment.

Now branching off that road on Gander Bay Road, I have two communities; one is Horwood. A couple of years ago we had the road paved through the community of Horwood, but there is a three kilometre stretch from the main road out into the community of Horwood. The people of Horwood know that we had planned to have that done this summer, in this construction season; however, there were some slowdowns and some things got in the way of that. I have assured those people, and I will tell them again today, if anybody is listening to the House of Assembly, that money has been tendered, that money has been committed, and as soon as the spring construction season starts again, that roadwork will be done. It is a part of money that is already committed, and it will not have anything to do – it is already in the hopper.

As well, the road going out into Rodgers Cove is in the same boat; it is leftover money from this year that did not get completed. Again, in conversation with the Minister of Transportation and Works and his department, I certainly have been assured that that will be completed in the beginning of the next construction season.

Then, if we come along, we have done some roadwork in Stoneville. This past summer, we continued paving through the community of Norris Arm North, and we have about five kilometres of pavement there that is completed now. There is still a short section to get done from Norris Arm North up to the highway, but the people in that community are very pleased, indeed, to see that done. We have done a significant piece up on the Trans-Canada Highway in my district: rutting repair, as well as a full new surface, really, from Notre Dame Park through to Glenwood.

So there has been a lot of roadwork done, and I am going to move on to something else now because my time is running out. In terms of infrastructure spending, the health care facility in Lewisporte, we budgeted $5 million last year in the Budget to do the groundwork and to get the temporary building and maintenance building up. That has been progressing quite nicely throughout this construction season.

Of course, we are looking forward to more money being budgeted for that project in the upcoming Budget, and for that to be able to continue to build up into the great, new facility that it is going to be. It is going to be a facility that will have long-term care homes and a dementia bungalow. It is going to have a full kitchen. It is going to have a lab and X-ray clinic. It is going to have an after-hours clinic. It is a beautiful, beautiful concept. We have shown the drawings to some of the people out in the district, and they are very, very pleased with the look of that.

So, Mr. Speaker, our responsibility to economic growth, we decided not to put the brakes on. I am sure members throughout this House of Assembly today can stand in their own districts and give examples of where the brakes have not gone on. In fact, there has been an infusion of capital spending. This has kept the economy hot, kept it growing.

I was very pleased as well last week to be able to attend a press conference that was held by the Minister of Finance. The Minister of Finance called us together to give a fall Budget update. A few of the things that he said at that conference, one was: Newfoundland and Labrador is now expected to post solid growth with real GDP increase by 5.4 per cent. It was a fall update, but it was actually figures that were drawn at the six-month mark. That was my understanding from the information that the minister shared in the press conference.

Labour income increased by 3.6 per cent in the first half of the year, and housing starts were up by 30.6 per cent as compared to the same period last year. Mr. Speaker, the outlook for the remainder of the year is very positive, so the decisions that we have made around economics, they certainly appear to be working. The outlook is very positive, and we have a revised forecast.

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

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

MR. VERGE: May I have leave to clue up, Mr. Speaker?

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

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. member, by leave.

MR. VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, Budget 2010 forecasted a deficit of $194.3 million. The mid-year numbers are in. The fall update tells us we expect an improvement of $206.6 million, thereby having a surplus this year, not a deficit but a surplus of $12.3 million. That is great news, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. VERGE: Mr. Speaker, out of respect for everybody else's time now, I did have some other things that I would like to share, but maybe I will get the opportunity on another time to do that.

I thank you for this opportunity to speak.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

I have to say, I guess to begin with, it is great to be back in the House again and to see all of our fellow colleagues, and hopefully it will lead us into the Christmas season until we come back in the new year.

Mr. Speaker, I want to say from the outset - I did it privately with our new Premier. I did congratulate her this morning and I want to do it publicly. I know she said that the best is yet to come, and that is what we are looking forward to, Mr. Speaker. We always look for something good for this Province of ours. We, in the Official Opposition, yes we have a job to do, but I can assure you when there are good things done, we give credit where credit is due. We will bring forward issues when the time comes, when the best is yet to come, we have some issues that we believe, not just from our own selves, from the people that we represent and the people throughout this Province of ours.

I also want to congratulate those who took on new duties this morning in the swearing-in ceremony. My good friend, the Minister of Government Services, I think it is now, has a new role, one of my critic ministers. Also, to Mr. Brazil who is in the Speaker's gallery, I want to congratulate him and welcome him to the Chambers this afternoon.

Mr. Speaker, no doubt about it, last week when the big announcement came that the Premier was stepping down, I heard some people say: Boy, it changes the water on the beans. There are other people who will make you believe and think to believe that some of the beans are probably going to even change with all this. It really changes the political scene in the Province of ours. That happens from time to time. We know what it was like to be in the government, we knew what it was like when we ended up in Opposition, and those things happen.

Mr. Speaker, there is no doubt about it, like the three individuals who made their statements here today, when the present Premier spoke about the Premier and thanked him for what he has done in the past and wished him well in the future, and I am sure we all wish him well.

I know in the front benches there are ministers now, they have some tremendous amount of duties to carry out, and I cannot help but look at some of my colleagues over there and I think it should have been shared around a little bit better. There are members here in this House like the Member for St. John's West, the Member for Lewisporte, St. John's East, Mount Pearl North, St. Barbe, I am sure some of those hon. members could have accepted some of those duties to help those who are burdened so much. Mr. Speaker, I guess it was not in the cards. Hopefully, one of those days, they will step forward. I am sure they would love to step forward, but the call has not come yet.

Mr. Speaker, in the few moments I have, I want to make them with regard to my hon. colleague who was in the Chair in the last sitting of the House, the Deputy Speaker. When he stood in his place in the last sitting, he was talking about the election coming up and how the Liberals will be coming around knocking on your doors and saying this and that about what the government has done. Well, Mr. Speaker, he brought up some good points, no doubt about it; no argument. There is nobody going to argue about decreases in taxes and so on. I have a list here that I am sure when the people of this Province go door-to-door in October of 2011, I want them to ask every member, think about those issues, think about some issues I have here that have not been dealt with.

That is not being critical; they are serious issues and the people of this Province need answers. I will begin by looking at some of the key ones I have: health care. We know there are millions of dollars going into health care, but when someone goes knocking on the door in St. Barbe and The Straits & White Bay North, I think it is only fair to say: What did you do about the air ambulance? What a question to ask whoever is going door-to-door in that campaign.

Those people have a serious issue. They brought it forward, and whether it was listened to properly - we had explanations back and forth, but I can assure you it is not to the satisfaction of the people in both of those districts. That is not being critical. Like I said, good things are done in those districts as well. Mr. Speaker, that is an issue that someone will have to answer when they knock on the doors in those two districts.

There are other issues ongoing with regard to the doctors. We know there have been meetings this past week, and that is great; hopefully something good will come from it. Hopefully government will give in to the binding arbitration and settle this issue once and for all, so down the road it will not surface again.

There are many heartbreaking situations that we hear. I had a call this past week from a gentleman in my area who had a serious industrial accident back twelve years ago. He is receiving workers' compensation at the present time right up through to whatever age he can receive it.

Back in August of this year he went – his doctor sent him in to the hospital – and he had a scan done. It came out that there is an issue they can deal with. Maybe the man will never get back to work at the job that he already had, but they are telling him they can improve his lifestyle and maybe be able to do some lighter work.

Have a guess what! He had that scan done in August 2010; the earliest time he can get to see a specialist in this Province is September 2011. That is not good enough, and I know that is not altogether government's fault, but they have to deal with the issues. I know there is money going into health care, but that is a tremendous and a serious wait-list.

Mr. Speaker, there are many like that. I have had constituents, and I am sure there are other people here, with pregnant mothers who cannot stay here in this Province, and have to be airlifted by air ambulance outside the Province. Many of them get there and have to wait until someone travels out on air ambulance to get back in their Province and be hospitalized here again. Simple reason: The specialist for those particular cases was not here in this Province.

The list goes on, Mr. Speaker: the cost of transporting people out and then, in many cases, because they cannot travel back by that same means, have to be transported back again by air ambulance.

We hear talk of the doctors who are saying that they are going to resign and leave the Province. God forbid, I hope they do not. I hope there is an agreement that they come to, that those thirteen or fourteen stay here in this Province, because we need others besides them. I am sure not a member in this hon. House would want to see them go. Mr. Speaker, can you imagine if those thirteen or fourteen left, how many other cases would have to be transported outside of this Province?

Those are questions someone is going to answer at the doors in October 2011, when we go around.

AN HON. MEMBER: You answer.

MR. BUTLER: No, I will not be answering them. I have already made my decision, I say to the hon. member. I am going to tell you, I will probably be to the door with somebody else. I will probably be to the door with somebody else.

Mr. Speaker, when someone knocks on the doors of seniors in this Province – and we see the advertisements; they have a campaign on, in our local papers, about the issue about indexing their pensions and so on. Many people in my district and other districts are choosing between food and heat this time of the year; maybe not yet, because we have not had cold weather, but it will come up in January and February and March. Those are issues that are very dear and close to their hearts.

We have heard stories before, here in the city and probably in Carbonear and other areas, where there are malls, that people go there and spend most of the day, and that is unfortunate. I know if their pensions were indexed some of those people are still going to have problems, but it is a major issue that those people have to deal with.

Mr. Speaker, there were questions asked today about the MOU, the issue with the fishery in this Province. I do not know what is in it, and the minister has not released it. He says he has to spend some time to go over it; there are three parties that are involved. I can assure you of one thing: The people of this Province who are involved in the fishery, whether they are harvesters or plant workers, they have a major concern. I have many of them in my area. There is one plant in Port de Grave; I think when the going is good there are 350 to 400 people employed there. They are asking the question: Will our plant survive? What is coming down with this MOU? I do not know if they are getting feedback from somewhere. I do not know and cannot answer that.

I also know many of the small boat fishermen – and there are quite a few of them in my area and throughout this Province – are saying: Where do we stand in the fishery of the future? Will we be swallowed up by the large boat fishermen?

I know that can happen, but I can tell you one thing, I do not know what is on the horizon but in the area that I represent there are quite a few big boat fishermen who are selling their enterprises; they are getting out of the fishery now. That is happening not only in my area but throughout this Province. That is sad to see - because I am going to come to rural Newfoundland and Labrador shortly - because that is what rural Newfoundland and Labrador is built around: the life that the people spent on the sea; the jobs that they have with the resources that come from the sea.

Yes, we have many other resources, but I am going to tell you the time will come when the oil resources that we see now will dry up. Hopefully they will find new, but some of the wells that we have now, in the very near future, they are beginning to decline, the resources that we receive from them.

Many people are asking, plant workers are asking, will our plant be there next year? You cannot answer them that. Hopefully this MOU – we had this major summit here in the Province; it was wonderful, and everybody came together. That was back a few years ago and we are still dealing with the issues.

As the minister responded today, the government is involved, they put the chairperson in place, but this also has to go to the federal government. They have to get approval from the federal government to probably carry out some of the options that will be announced from this MOU. Then, you have the fishers themselves; they do not know what is in it, but they are asking questions, and I can assure you when we or whoever knocks on the doors in this Province, as you travel throughout rural Newfoundland and Labrador in 2011, you will be asked that question. Hopefully, the answers will be there before that time comes. That is what we are all hoping for.

The former Premier said one time that the fishery was so important – the issues about offshore and custodial management – he felt that we should have an office open in Europe. I do not think it ever happened, but maybe it would have been a good thing. We all complained and I guess laughed at the office that was in Ottawa. Maybe that is where we should have moved it to, to deal with this very serious issue that is facing our people.

Then, we talk about rural Newfoundland and Labrador and urban Newfoundland and Labrador – the divide. I know hon. members, and I can understand where they are coming from when they stand up and say we are doing this in rural Newfoundland and Labrador. True, there are good things happening with regard to paving and probably infrastructure; changes to their schools, renovations, taking care of air quality problems. That is all good, but I am going to tell you when you look at the unemployment rates by Employment Insurance Economic Regions here in the City of St. John's, for the period from November 7 to December 4, 7.8 per cent are here in St. John's. The average throughout our Province, outside of that area, is 17.9 per cent. There are areas which go anywhere from the high twenties to the thirties. Let's face it, those are the figures. You can look throughout the Maritimes - we talk about us being a have province. Yes, we have advanced a lot, no backdoors about it, but I am going to tell you, when you look at the figures from the other Atlantic Provinces and right throughout Canada, there is no one near 17.9 per cent.

The other issue I mentioned today is about the strike on the Burin Peninsula. I was pleased with the Premier's response. She said there have been negotiations, and hopefully they are going to come to a settlement. That is wonderful, but I was shocked last week when I heard two hon. members for that area, the Member for Grand Bank and the Member for Burin-Placentia West, when they went up to a demonstration. When they went before the cameras, or the mikes, they turned around and said: Look, we are going to take your concerns back to government. Boys, twelve months later: we are going to bring your concerns back to government.

I hope the Premier today was true to her word, and I know she is true to her word, that there will be a settlement. Those people up there deserve better than that, to be on strike for twelve months and for someone to walk in and say: we are going to bring it back to St. John's - twelve months later? I am not saying there was nothing brought back before but there could not have been too much for the members to say that themselves. Those are the questions they are going to have to answer when they go door-to-door in those two districts.

Mr. Speaker, we talk about poverty in the Province, and I know there is major investment put into all aspects of poverty. I appreciate that, but there is something wrong. Why is the use of food banks in this Province gone up another 3 per cent this year? Do you know what I have been told by people who operate the food banks? It is people who come back to this Province looking for jobs, looking for the prosperity that is here - and we have it right here on the Avalon, but in other areas I know of families who came back looking for the jobs that they were told were back here and ended up going to food banks. That is not good enough, and I am sure someone is going to have to answer that when they knock on those people's doors.

We talk about waste disposal and contaminated material removal on sites. There is an issue that has been ongoing, not in my area but directly affected by it, on the New Harbour Barrens. It has been ongoing for several years. I think the hon. member who is in the Chair today, the Deputy Speaker, was minister when that issue surfaced, to some degree. It is still there. The site is closed, but there is one gentleman over there who brought this forward many, many times but he was not listened to by anybody. I guarantee you that gentleman knew what he was talking about, because now the feds have moved in and there are so many tons of material that have to be moved from that site. He is still not satisfied, because he said the site will still not be cleaned up when that is done.

The other issue is waste disposal. There was an article that appeared in our local paper recently - and Bay Roberts and that area is a fairly prosperous area. We live in close proximity to St. John's. They pay $51 a ton, the dumping fee here in the city. Starting in the New Year they are going to have to increase that by $14.50, up to $65.50, and they are saying they cannot afford it. If the Town of Bay Roberts, as prosperous as that is – what about all of the other outlying areas that are covered with the same structure? How are they are going to deal with it? It is going to be impossible, Mr. Speaker, because the fees are going up and many people who are suffering now and asking for other issues to be considered will be unable to do what has to be done.

Mr. Speaker, I know we talked about the tires many times that are stored in Dunville. I visited that site. I said it last year - and recently I saw an aerial view of that site. It is a wonderful job the way they are stored but I am going to tell you, if this government has a plan it is time to bring it forward now. We know there is an issue ongoing on the West Coast, and I have been told by the ministers and staff during Estimates meetings that there are other proposals they were looking at. Well, I suggest they should come forward sooner rather than later because that is a situation that is waiting to unfold and could turn out to be something that none of us would want to even consider.

The other thing I want to touch on – and I can guarantee you, this will be when you knock on the doors – is the moose situation in this Province. I have spoken to many families, and I am sure all hon. members here have done the same thing, no families who have lost loved ones – as a matter of fact, I was over in Trinity-Bay de Verde District this summer, over in the park there, and on my way back I saw this young gentleman who did not stand a chance. We can say: Look, we have to be careful; we have to watch out for the moose. That is true. I know it was started in areas throughout this Province, I commend the minister for that but it has to continue, and that is the brush cutting further back from the road. Where that accident happened and where this young gentleman lost his life, there was no such thing as seeing a moose because he just came out of the trees, and the trees were tight to the shoulder of the road. That is what has to be done.

I can give you an instance. Last Thursday when I left this city going out the Trans-Canada, about 8:00 or 9:00 o'clock in the evening, going eighty to eighty-five kilometres per hour - and had nothing to do with brush cutting. If there was a fence there he probably jumped over the fence, but I am going to tell you when I stopped on the Trans-Canada I was parallel parked between two moose. Thank God, I did not strike them and they did not strike me, but that is how close it can be. You have to be very careful. You have to be careful, but I am going to tell you one thing, more has to be done.

I commend the Minister of Environment and Conservation with the numbers that they have increased, the numbers of moose that could be shot in a given season. I am going to tell you, the numbers of moose that are here on the Avalon, the numbers of accidents that are happening, more has to be done. More licences have to be issued in those areas. Two weeks ago, three accidents from the Holyrood cut-off to St. John's, and that is three too many. I do not know how serious the injuries were but I know there was major, major damage. Those are some issues, Mr. Speaker, that I am sure when we all go knocking on the doors, that people are going to want answers to, and rightly so.

I know my time is just about spent. I want to thank you for the opportunity to have a few words this afternoon and I look forward to future debates.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to be back in the House of Assembly first of all, and delighted to speak in response to the Address in Reply, the Speech from the Throne from March 22 of 2010.

I took a few minutes just to leaf through this booklet a few moments ago as I was preparing a few words to say here in the House this afternoon. I want to say, it is inspiring to me as I look at that Speech from the Throne of 2010, to see how much we have accomplished of that for which we purposed that speech back in March of this year. It truly is inspiring to see how much hard work has taken place.

Mr. Speaker, before I get into what it is that I really want to address this afternoon, I, like my colleagues before me, would like to take a few minutes to look at the political landscape, as my colleague from Lewisporte so eloquently put it, and offer my congratulations as well to, first of all, the new Member for Conception Bay East & Bell Island on an outstanding campaign and an outstanding win out there in the former Minister of Government Services, Transportation and Works and Municipal Affairs seat, the hon. Dianne Whalen, of course, who is someone whose loss we all mourn. Those of us who knew her particularly as a friend, and those of us who served with her here in the House, all know of the loss that we have suffered there. We continue to miss her here in this House. We continue to offer condolences to her family.

At the same time, we offer congratulations to Mr. Brazil for retaining that seat, in some sense, in her honour. We look forward to the time when he can come and sit here in this House of Assembly and continue the good representation that I am sure he will do, and the good representation that was brought to the district before him.

Of course, I also have to mention our former Premier, Danny Williams, who did such remarkable job in his tenure here – ten years as an elected official and seven years as Premier. We certainly owe him a debt of gratitude for all that he has given, for all that he has accomplished here. No doubt, his place in history has been etched, and I think for all of us it has been a pleasure to serve, and we certainly wish him well as he now takes advantage of some time to do some other personal things that he might like to turn his attention to as well.

There were a number of other appointments that have been made in the last little bit of time. Of course, the new Minister of Government Services whom I am happy to welcome here as a colleague as well. Congratulations to the new minister.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS SULLIVAN: Our new Minister of Natural Resources, I am sure, will prove to be an outstanding addition as well. Not an addition to Cabinet for sure, because he has been around for some time now. I know that in this role, he will bring the same diligence that he always does.

Then, of course, Mr. Speaker, I have to talk about our new Premier, the very first woman to be elected at Premier in Newfoundland and Labrador, and how proud we are of that.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS SULLIVAN: Mr. Speaker, we are proud of the fact that she is the first woman Premier, but we are equally proud of the talents that she brings to this job. Most of us have known her now for several years, some longer than others, but in all of this we have all come to be inspired by this woman who has such great leadership skills, and who has demonstrated those skills to us over a long period of time. She has such empathy for people, Mr. Speaker, which is what this government has always stood for.

This is a government of the people, for the people and by the people, and I can tell you that Premier Dunderdale certainly stands for that. She has such empathy for people, and we have seen that on a number of occasions. I have had the pleasure of working with her through the Poverty Reduction Strategy of this government, and her empathy for people, her knowledge, her understanding of the needs of the people of this Province, far surpass many of us who sit round that table. Her knowledge of governance overall, Mr. Speaker, is something that we all have to recognize and commend. No doubt, it has been her file that has taken us a long distance to where we are today.

If we look, for example, at the great deals were negotiated during her tenure as the Minister of Natural Resources, if we look at the oil and gas deals that were negotiated, if we look at the Lower Churchill deals that were negotiated, if we look at the expropriation that happened out in my very own District of Grand Falls-Windsor-Buchans, all at the time when Premier Dunderdale was at the helm of Natural Resources, then we see that she has had some great influence, some great skill in those particular areas.

Mr. Speaker, her abilities, her capabilities in her capacity for knowing the people of the Province go beyond Natural Resources. I would hearken back to the days, for example, when Minister Dunderdale, now Premier Dunderdale, was known as the president of the former Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador. She brought a great deal of strength to that particular opportunity.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I remind the hon. member that it is inappropriate to use the name of an individual. We should all refer to the title or the district that an individual represents.

MS SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, referring, of course, to the Premier.

I also note, with great feel, that her former past is from the social side, being a social worker. So, I am so inspired, so impressed, and so proud to be working with Premier Dunderdale because of all she brings to this particular job.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS SULLIVAN: I did it again.

It is hard to change old habits. To the Premier – but it is a wonderful thing to be saying to the Premier, so I thank you for giving me the opportunity to continue saying it.

However, having said all of that, I want to move forward now and again begin to discuss the Speech from the Throne as we had talked about, the Address in Reply. Our government, Mr. Speaker, is one whose primary focus is and has been, and I believe always will be, a focus on people. Serving, to the best of our ability, the residents of this Province is what we all agreed to, it is all what we signed on for, it is what all of us intended to do when we took office, and I believe that we continue to do that.

Mr. Speaker, our focus and our governance style is clearly one of consultation, because if we are to govern effectively, then we have to be governing according to the wishes of the people of this Province, Mr. Speaker. That is why consultation has been so important to this particular government. Now, Mr. Speaker, we have been criticized by members opposite for doing as much consultation as we have done but, I, and this government, offer absolutely no apologies for going out there and consulting with the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, asking them what their opinions are, and asking them what they would like to see, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS SULLIVAN: We have seen a number of consultations take place over just these past few months. I refer to the poverty reduction consultation which will shape the plan for how we continue to address poverty in this Province over the next four years. A series of eighteen consultations took place, Mr. Speaker, two stakeholder consultations, and ten to twelve focus groups with people who are living in poverty or who are vulnerable to poverty. Mr. Speaker, how else can we govern, how else can we put forward a strategy if we do not ask the people? That is precisely what we have done through that set of consultations.

I would draw your attention as well to the fact that we did consultations around the inclusion of persons with disabilities, Mr. Speaker. Within those consultations, again we went across the Province from one end to the other and up into Labrador with about fifteen different consultation sessions and two stakeholder sessions once again. We heard clearly from the people, Mr. Speaker, what it is that they want us to do, what issues they face every day, what barriers they face every single day. It is as a result of listening to the people, Mr. Speaker, that we are going to be able to continue to make the differences that have already started to happen in this Province. Again, I am very proud of the fact that this is a government who listens.

We would have seen that there was a consultation as well in terms of long-term care in this Province conducted by the Minister of Health this summer. Again, asking the people: what are your issues? We hear from members opposite all the time that there are issues around health care, that we have to fix this and we have to fix that, that we cannot do it piecemeal. Well, the Minister of Health and Community Services went out and asked the people, this summer, what it is that they would like to see. I am sure when he has the opportunity to have all of that information collated then there will be a strategy in place that will address those very issues.

Mr. Speaker, suggesting to us that we can govern without listening is something that I find absolutely unfathomable; yet, we have heard that. We have heard that we are doing too much consulting. Well, Mr. Speaker, I, for one, will continue to espouse the values of standing up and consulting, of listening to people, and ensuring that we are not out of touch, because it is the only possibility of good governance. It occurs when we are in touch with the people who have elected us to serve.

As I leaf through the Speech from the Throne, I saw that our commitments though, have been met as a result of those kinds of consultations, Mr. Speaker. I have only named three of them here this afternoon. I could name any number of other consultations that have taken place over the last six months within this government, but I will leave that for some other people to do.

In terms of talking about the commitments and what it is that we said in the Speech from the Throne that we would do, then I think we have lived up to what it is that we said. I refer, for example, to the Early Learning and Child Care Strategy. That has come about, again, as a result of listening to people who are saying to us early learning is a big issue. Early learning and child care themselves both constitute issues that will affect where we are going as a Province, that will affect our overall sustainability, and that will affect our overall ability to move forward as a Province.

The Poverty Reduction Strategy, Mr. Speaker, has been a strategy that has been met with accolades from right across this country; not just here in Newfoundland and Labrador, but across the country. When I was in that department - it seems like a long time ago but it was really only this morning. When I was in that department I had trouble keeping my staff in the office because from all over the country people were saying to me: Can we have opportunity to meet with your staff? Can we learn from you what it is that you are doing, because you are doing it so well? What I always responded to them was: you absolutely can have opportunity to meet with them, but the one thing that you should know is that we have accomplished what we did in terms of reducing, alleviating and preventing poverty because we listened to the people, Mr. Speaker. We consulted with them. We asked them what we should do, and that is what is working. That is the premise for what it is that helped us move forward on the Poverty Reduction Strategy.

We have invested close to half a billion dollars, Mr. Speaker, in that particular strategy. We clearly indicate that we have made significant progress, but we also have indicated, and we heard it from the people, that we still have work to do. We will continue to put in place initiatives that will help to address the people who are most vulnerable to poverty and the working poor of Newfoundland and Labrador, again, because we have consulted, we have listened and we will move on.

Mr. Speaker, the inclusion strategy for persons with disabilities was mentioned in the Speech from the Throne as well. The suggestion here was that my government will listen attentively to the ideas and develop a new provincial strategy. Well, I can tell you, we listened attentively to all of the needs of people from throughout this Province. I am happy to report that the collation of those particular consultations is well in hand and that people in the Department of Human Resources, Labour and Employment are now in the process of putting together a strategy with initiatives that will help to address the needs and the concerns that we heard about, that will help to take down those barriers. The barriers have been identified for years and years and years. We did not go out to ask what the barriers were to the inclusion of persons with disabilities, Mr. Speaker. We knew that. Why would we go and ask that again? We went out to consult with people, to say: What are the solutions? Tell us how we can make a difference. We heard some great solutions, Mr. Speaker, and we will now start to formulate a strategy to address those particular solutions here in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, the Speech from the Throne actually had a speech about strengthening the local economy and in particular talked about the difficulties in Central Newfoundland and Labrador. Central Newfoundland, of course, when we talked about the difficulties and the issues that were out there, referred to my District of Grand Falls-Windsor-Buchans primarily but to other districts in the area as well. I can tell you that in listening to the people of Central, great progress has been made; great progress, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS SULLIVAN: The Community Development Committee was put in place specifically so that we could consult with the people in Central Newfoundland to find out what it was going to take to put that part of the Province back into a situation where they felt secure and safe, and where their economy could be re-stimulated and where the economy could be diversified. Mr. Speaker, I have nothing but great accolades for the work done by the Community Development Committee that was part of our ministerial task force on the Abitibi file.

I believe that it is as a result of that consultation, I believe that it is a result of listening on the ground to the people of the Central area, that such progress has been made. I am happy to report, Mr. Speaker, from my own experience, about the great things that are happening, particularly in Grand Falls-Windsor which is, of course, the part of that district that I would know the best. I can tell you, for example, that retail sales in the area are as good as or better than they were before the closing of Abitibi. I can tell you that residential construction has doubled this year, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS SULLIVAN: Doubled, at a time when they lost their primary industry. Why has that happened, Mr. Speaker? It has happened because we listened to the people, we heard what they said and we responded. We responded by investing in the area; $100 million worth of investment in that area, Mr. Speaker, which has sustained the area, which has proven over and over again that this is an area of the Province worth investing in, and invest they did, Mr. Speaker. There are a number of new establishments, commercial businesses that are going up in the area and all to the credit again of people who affirm and reaffirm that this is the hub of Central Newfoundland, this is the service sector part of Central Newfoundland and Labrador and this is not a sector that is going down the tubes. It has not gone down the tubes because this government has listened and this government has responded.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS SULLIVAN: Mr. Speaker, again, another indication, as I look through the Speech from the Throne, of an area where we have made a difference and we have lived up to our commitment.

Again, as I continue to leaf through here I see a Youth Retention and Attraction Strategy. Well, Mr. Speaker, I can tell you, again from work in Human Resources, Labour and Employment, that this is one of the most exciting strategies ever to have been put forward by this government. It is a $15 million investment in the young people of Newfoundland and Labrador but more so than just the young people of Newfoundland and Labrador, it is an investment in the future of Newfoundland and Labrador, Mr. Speaker, because without our young people we know we will not have that future.

So, we put our money where our mouth was. We put the $15 million there; we put forward a strategy with forty, fifty initiatives. Where did those initiatives come from, Mr. Speaker? They came from the youth of this area. They came because we consulted with young people and we said to them: What will it take? What will make this Province a province of choice for young people in Newfoundland and Labrador?

We had a youth committee that was in place. We consulted with them for two to three years on this particular strategy. We went to Fort McMurray, Mr. Speaker, we went to Ontario and we consulted with the youth who had left the Province and said: What will it take for you to come back? We put in place initiatives there that will make a difference, and they are making differences already, Mr. Speaker.

As we continue down the road of self reliance, as we continue to be the have Province that we are, as we continue to make inroads in developing more mega projects in this Province then we know that the future is bright for these young people. They are so happy to respond to that, to embrace that. Many of these young people have said to us, Mr. Speaker, those who have left: we want to come home, we are so happy. The e-mails that I get, the letters that I get on a regular basis that talk to us about how significant it is, how significant home is, are truly inspiring, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I see that my time is just about done here this afternoon; yet, I have only gone to page 10 of the Speech from the Throne, and I have only glanced down to make a few comments on a few of the items in here.

Our commitment to Newfoundland and Labrador has been unwavering, our future is bright with possibilities, Mr. Speaker, and I believe that our new era of self-determination, of self-reliance, is clearly here now. This is our time to shine, Mr. Speaker, better than ever; this is only the beginning, I believe. For Newfoundland and Labrador, I believe the best is yet to come. We will continue to serve, as we always have, and we will do that by listening to the people first, by continuing to consult.

Thank you for the time, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

I appreciate an opportunity to have a few words here in the House of Assembly today. We have been off for quite some time now. We last met here, I guess, back in the June month. So, it has been an eventful, shall I say, couple of months, particularly what has unfolded in the last couple of weeks with the departure of Premier Williams. It has certainly changed the circumstances. I think my colleague, the Member for Port de Grave, alluded to that in his comments as well.

First of all, Mr. Speaker, I would certainly like to, on behalf of my colleague, the Member for Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair, bring her congratulations to the new Premier, and best wishes in the future to the outgoing Premier. I know she has spoken to him personally as well and passed those comments along to him, and I believe as well to the new Premier.

As everyone in this Province is aware, and in this House, the Member for Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair is currently facing a very serious challenge in her personal health - we wish her all the best, of course. If I use a comparison, it is almost like it is a car with no motor, because there is no question that in terms of us as an Opposition, she drove us in more ways than one. She is a tower of strength to us, she is very knowledgeable, she always made sure that we were on our toes, and it was appreciated on the end of the day. We will certainly miss her, in terms of not having her with us during this session of the House.

I understand she had planned, if circumstances permit, to be in for a day or so, but that will, of course, depend upon the course of her medical treatment. That is, as it should be, her priority right now: her personal circumstances and her health. So, depending on how her treatment unfolds, she may or may not be back for a day or so here. So, that will unfold in due course.

I would also like to, as well, on behalf of the Official Opposition, wish the departing Premier the best in his future. He has been a great contributor to our Province. He has been around. When you give ten years of your public life, it is not an easy thing to do. Some people on the outside might think it is a pretty cushy affair. Anybody, of course, who has been an MHA, or a minister, and particularly the Premier, the time constraints that you encounter on a day-to-day basis are just amazing. It is a sixteen, eighteen-hour day vocation, and he, of course, had to give his time to it. If you want any success as the Premier in the Province, you have to devote your time and your energies to making sure that the job gets done. We wish him well in his future as well.

We did not always agree with his style. We did not always agree with his tactics, but that is part of the system as well. I guess if we all kowtowed and agreed to everything that someone said, or their style, for example, there is not much point in having a democratic system. That is what it is all about.

We vociferously voiced our opinion whenever we felt the need to do so, and, of course, we will continue to do that because we have a job here. We do not make the policies, that is the government's job, but we do have an onus and a responsibility to ensure that we question what it is the government does. Is it right? Is it the right approach? Are there other options available? How will it impact the people? Of course, over time, as you see reactions to a program or a policy that is implemented by government, sometimes it does not work as well as government intended. Some governments see that, they try to tinker with it, change it and make it better so it fits better. You do not probably guess or implement a program that works perfectly in the first instance.

Our job, of course, whenever these things happen, is to make sure that government members are aware of it. We do not criticize just for the sake of criticizing. That is not very constructive. We would like to think that our criticisms are well intended, not because you try to tear something down but hopefully you can make a suggestion that makes it better, and that is the purpose here.

I would like to congratulate the new Premier, the Member for Virginia Waters. It is a historic occasion today. Last Friday, actually, she was sworn in. It is the first time in the history of this Province that we have had a woman sit in the Premier's chair. We have come a long way. As she alluded to in the comments that she made at Government House on Friday, it was only in the mid-20s that women were even allowed to vote.

Imagine, only eighty-five years ago, women were not even allowed to vote, were not allowed to have any say in how their lives were governed and how our countries were governed, and our colonies or our provinces were governed. Here we are today we have a woman leading this Province as the Premier of the Province. As I alluded to in my earlier comments in response to her statement, we can talk all we want about having a Charter, a Constitution, a Charter of Rights and entrenching rights, what is the point if we do not give fulfillment to those rights - equality.

I congratulate the Premier and I wish her well. That is not to say you will not find me from day to day tearing strips off her. If it is necessary, if the Premier takes a wrong course, we will be the first to challenge her, the same as we did the former Premier. She is up to the task. She is not a rookie in the House of Assembly. She sat here for quite some time. She knows the rules, she knows how the Opposition operates, and she is fully expecting to be challenged.

I would also like to congratulate the ministers today in their new portfolios. The Member for St. John's Centre, I understand, is now the Minister of Industry.

AN HON. MEMBER: Natural Resources.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Natural Resources, excuse me. He left the Department of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development, which is now filled by the member for Central Newfoundland who was the former Minister of Human Resources, Labour and Employment. Some shuffles, not significant.

I had the media ask me, in fact, after Question Period today what were our comments or thoughts on the shuffle. I guess there are two ways to look at it. You can say it is a transitional thing. The new Premier, of course, has a lot of files to get her head around – a lot of files, major stuff happening in this Province. I will allude to some of that in the minutes that I have left to speak.

One approach, of course, is that it is a transition thing. She did not want to make a decision now when we are here for a couple of weeks in this time of year, the House is going to close, maybe she needed some time to put more thought into it; therefore, she just looked to ministers who had some experience and said: What is the best thing to do in the short term? That is why it was done.

It does not reflect well to some people. It does not reflect well upon other members of the caucus. They already lost Wayne Gretzky or Sid Crosby a couple of weeks ago. Then you have to look to your bench strength, of course, and you wonder where your bench strength is. One has to ask: How come there were no other ministers put in the Cabinet? Surely, this is not reflective of what the new Premier thinks her team is all about. We have some members here who have been here for years. Some consider me a fossil here in the House; well, they have a few fossils on their own side. I have not seen any one of them promoted to Cabinet. That must be disheartening to those members. It must be very disheartening when you know you have the experience, you know you certainly have the public interest at heart, yet you have been overlooked again. You have not been put in.

Maybe that will change soon. Maybe this is, indeed, just a transitional thing and the Premier never had time to deal with that issue. Because everybody, of course, if you get elected as an MHA, you aspire to go to Cabinet; it is one of the ‘ultimates' of being in politics. You just do not only represent your district, you also have the opportunity to play a role and to voice your concerns and to put forward your ideas around the Cabinet table, like the Member for Bonavista North who is now the Minister of Government Services. I congratulated him today, the first time I saw him since we sat, I believe, last spring. I congratulated him because he aspired to that position and he has attained it. Of course, he asked me not to be too harsh on him in Question Period and stuff, but we will see how things unfold. If it is warranted and justified, I will be the first one to have a go at him, too; but he is a very calm, collected guy. He usually has his brain in gear before he opens his mouth. He has proven himself to be a pretty efficient and shrewd operator while I have known him. We wish him well.

Some other people, for example, wonder: Are we piling too much on one minister's shoulders, like the Member for St. George's-Stephenville East, the Government House Leader? These are big, big roles here to fill. As Government House Leader, she has to control everything that goes on in here when the House is open. She is a member of the Management Commission, Minister of Child, Youth and Family Services Department, and a whole new act to implement, create, develop and bring in – create a whole new department. In fact, it is a little bit disconcerting to see that that new department that the minister created or headed up was created for the sole reason that it was all lumped together before. It needed to be off by itself; it needed the importance, the significance, of its own department. Now we have turned around and given her the responsibility of Human Resources, Labour and Employment on top of it. Not to suggest that she is not capable, because I think she is fully capable, but the question is it is a monstrous job, a mountainous job to look after a government department. If we put all of these responsibilities on one member rather than try to share the load, give these two departments the significance that they deserve -and place it on the shoulders of one person.

Now, there are a few things you could have gotten rid of, you could have cut down on things. I have been saying for years that the Department of Business, for example, is an absolute waste. You do not need a separate Department of Business. That has been my position for years, and I still stand by that and think that is absolutely correct. The former Premier, of course, thought it was. We saw last year that it cost more money to run the Department of Business, for example, the minister's salary and the staff salaries than they put out the door in trying to attract new business. There is something wrong with that. There is something wrong with that when you have a department that did not spend enough money, did not spend as much money as it cost to run their own department. Anyway, that is another issue I am sure that we will get a chance to discuss in the future. The minister of that department now, of course, he is quite contented to be there after he unceremoniously, I would suggest, was put out of the Department of Health after the Cameron inquiry. That just shows that from time to time there is some tweaking that has to be done to move bodies aright if they do not toe the line or they do not handle a department properly.

I am sure in addition to some of the members being disappointed that they were not asked to do new duties in this Cabinet; nobody new brought in. We do not have any new ideas, any new blood, any new contributions in the new Cabinet that we have just had announced, the shuffle. I am sure that in addition to the ministers who were already there probably being somewhat disappointed that they did not get asked to do anything new, the other MHAs, the backbenchers, I am sure must be thoroughly disappointed because they were not invited into the circle. That, of course, is where we will see over time how they react of course. They are always disappointed.

As my colleague, of course, the Member for Port de Grave alluded to, there has been a changing of the political landscape in the Province because of the departure of the Premier; no doubt about it. As I say, he was the Wayne Gretzky of the political field here. That has changed. Wayne Gretzky has gone into retirement now. The question is, these backbenchers, where do they fit? Are they in the press box from here on in or sitting on the end of the bench, or are they going to be players in the game? Are they first stringers or four stringers? Of course, they want to play a larger role here.

Someone else also told me the analogy, they talked about some of the backbenchers – and I do not say this callously, by the way, but it has been an observation of mine and also an observation of many people in the public who have said it to me: we do not hear a lot from some of the government members. We might hear their first speech that they make in the House of Assembly – maiden speech, it is called – but then we have not heard a lot out of them after. We wonder if we are going to see more of them now. Are they going to get more face time between now and next October, the election, in order to give them some more profile? Because we have not seen a lot out of them.

Somebody was even nasty and said: yeah, well they got in on the Premier's coattails. Well, I guess the coattails are gone now. The trench coat is gone and we are back to wearing a windbreaker, and there are no tails. That is going to be very telling in the next year. It will be very telling in the next year to see what happens there.

We even had a member, for example, on the government side who refused to enter a petition in this House on behalf of his constituents; refused to do it. Now, regardless of what party you are a part of, your constituents who elect you to office have concerns, sometimes they might be in direct conflict with the government of which you are a part – and by the way, you are not part of the government if you sit in the back bench. You are a government member, but the government is the Cabinet. So if you are a backbencher and you are asked by your constituents to bring their concerns forward, you have an obligation to do that. You cannot be worried that the Premier or some minister might be upset with you. You have a job to do.

That was very disconcerting when you see that kind of thing happening, when someone will not bring a petition to the House of Assembly on behalf of their constituents; to the point where it was so important to them that they brought it to a member of the Opposition. We found ourselves here bringing forward petitions from districts that we did not represent. Needless to say, we have no problem with that. We have no problem if there is somebody in this Province who has an issue that is not getting heard; their member is not acting for them; let us know. You have to be represented and we will be more than glad to do that.

We have heard some glowing comments, and I will say generalities from some of the government members who spoke today; the Member for Lewisporte who stood up first and had his talks today, the new Minister of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development had a few comments here today. All in very glowing terms; where we have been. Not too much about where we are going, but where we have been.

The people of the Province are not only concerned about where you have been and what you have done. It is like the old saying, what are you going to do for me today? What are you going to do for me tomorrow, and the next day, and next year? That is what the people are going to ask.

We have some very serious, thorny issues in this Province, despite all the glowing commentary that the government members would like to spout about; some very serious issues. I would not be just concerned if they did not have the answers – nobody has all the answers. It is very upsetting when they will not even talk about it. You cannot put your head in the sand because you think everything is working well, and these things are going on around you and you do not even recognize it or want to acknowledge that these things are happening.

I will give you a few examples: labour relations in this Province. The style of this government from 2003 up to a week ago, when the Minister of Health currently swallowed himself whole on the doctors' strike, the whole thing about labour relations, was always abrasive and combative.

We go back to the days of Leo Puddister and NAPE – always combative. Late night meetings in parking lots, again raising the temperature of the water to the boiling point; it is either my way or no way. That started years ago, people do not forget that. People of the Province will not forget that.

Then we had the nurses' issue. Nurses were trying to get a contract. Everybody who lives in this Province knows, or ought to know, that we had a terrible shortage of nurses. Nurses have some very serious issues when it comes to workloads. Yet when they tried to better themselves – their work environment and their pay scales – they were slammed. The combative approach again; go to a bargaining table with a sledgehammer instead of an olive branch. That was the style. I see some members shaking their heads, they can shake their heads all they want but that is the truth. Those are two examples I gave there.

You have a history and you establish a history over time by that kind of style. We have some recent ones going on as well; that is only in the past. We have some very recent ones – Marystown, for example. I would say other than the Member for Grand Bank and the members for Marystown area, a lot of the others did not even inform themselves about what was going on and what the issues were. I am sure the Minister of Finance did because I spoke to him about it. Had a similar issue out in my district, Burgeo & La Poile and Port au Basques. The same type of group; that one was resolved, but not without some animosities being created. I dealt with the people who were there. The fear factor, the big hammer again – do this or else – rather than the olive branch. We have not seen any movement. I hope the Premier comments today that she made about talking to the people of Marystown who are on strike down there, these people who coach disabled people. I hope it comes to fruition. I hope they get it resolved.

We have had these people on strike for over a year. That is not a flourishing example of how you deal with people in this Province when it comes labour relations. To say nothing of the particular group you are dealing with, these people give their hearts and souls. This is not about the God almighty dollar, these give their hearts and their souls to caring for these disabled people. The impacts you add on the disabled and their families, that will not be water under the bridge and forgotten about. There has been a bad taste left in a lot of people's minds on the Burin Peninsula. We are okay with you, we think the world of you when you agree with what we say but if we disagree with you we ignore you. That is not respectful of people, not at all.

We have the case of Vale Inco; they have been on strike up there for months. We have not heard too much from the members for Labrador talking about that issue, whether it impacts them or not. What role are they playing in it? What role is the Minister of Labrador Affairs playing in it? We do not see him speaking about it here in the House. I have not heard many comments in the media, and I usually watch pretty carefully and closely about what is happening. So, they appoint a tribunal. They could not appoint a better person, by the way, to chair the tribunal; Mr. John Roil, probably one of, if not the most experienced individuals in this Province when it comes to mediation, arbitration, and negotiation. I know him personally; I dealt with him in the past. However, the bottom line is the tribunal has no teeth in the sense of resolving it.

Is the government, for example, prepared to live with the recommendations that the tribunal makes? We have not heard that. The tribunal is going to go in, talk to both sides, all parties, and they are going to make some commentary on, hopefully, some recommendations. Is this government prepared to stand up when they come in and say if the recommendation is that we do such and such to resolve it that we are onside, we accept this recommendation, or is this just another delay tactic?

The Premier thought he was going to solve it the night before the PC convention; called all the parties in on Friday night. He was going to give the key note address at the convention this year. He needed something to go rah-rah-rah about, but it did not pan out so then we ended up with the tribunal. The fact you even had to go appoint a tribunal suggests that you are incapable of resolving it yourselves. That is what a lot of people do not see here. Number one, we ignored it for months, then we get involved in it and we cannot deal with it ourselves, so let's slough it off to someone else and hopefully they will resolve it. We are still not stuck. We do not have to accept the recommendations of the tribunal. We still have another option to do something else if we want to, but at least it will appear that we are doing something.

That is hardly a very positive tact for a government, is it? That is just the Voisey's Bay piece and the workers up there. It is desperate. These people need to be helped. They do not need avoidance tactics and delay tactics. They do not need them. Be helpful if you are going to be anything, do not be delaying this thing.

The minute, of course, we suggest any such thing as that we are being negative. What is negative about suggesting that you take an approach that is not bombastic, that is not critical, that is not a sledgehammer approach, but you actually devote some constructive time to trying to resolve an issue. I do not think that is very critical to suggest such a thing. Of course, that leads me to the granddaddy of them all, what we have looming here now in the Province. That is the health care and the doctors' situation.

Anybody who has turned on their TV or radio in this Province in the last twenty-three months is aware that this situation has been unfolding. What did we see from the government? We had the Premier out tearing strips off of their executive director, Mr. Rob Ritter. He is not a doctor. He takes his directions from the board of the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association, the NLMA; yet, what did we see? The Premier had to pound the gentleman in public because he stood up for the group that he represented. I would think the association would have given him a pounding if he did not do his job. Now that he would not mind, that would be justified, but he certainly does not deserve to be vilified by the Premier and the government because he was doing his job. Whatever happened to having a difference of opinion? Whatever happened to having a dialogue?

Twenty-three months, folks; this was not a dispute that went on for a couple of weeks or a negotiation that we could not resolve, this is virtually two years. We saw the vilification of Rob Ritter as being the government's agenda rather than dealing with the issues. We had the Minister of Finance, of course, involved, President of Treasury Board, at the table. We had the Minister of Health at the table from time to time. He was not particularly helpful, by the way. I have spoken to members of the executive board of the NLMA, and the current Minister of Health was not very helpful in the negotiations with the doctors and trying to bring a peaceful, proper resolution to that matter. Not good.

I spoke to other doctors, of course, who are aware of his attitude as well – and a lot of it is attitude - the abrasiveness to slam your book down, slam your cover down on your book and storm out of meetings, to get out here in the lobby of Confederation Building and to publicize private information about a doctor in this Province because she stood up for her rights. That is a record you want to be proud of.

The new Minister of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development talked today about consulting, listening to the people. Indeed it is. What hypocrisy. You can talk about consulting with people on the one hand, yet you can go in front of the cameras and slam them and put out private information about them. None of those actions helped resolve the issue. Where are we today in this Province? We have the NLMA representing these doctors taking a vote from their membership to decide if we are going to accept or reject government's offer, and the executive board of the NLMA have recommended rejection. I will make a prediction today that you are going to get an overwhelming rejection.

Now, I am sure it is going to please this government, and that is why you have seen in the last few days the change of attitude on the part of the Minister of Health. That might have more to do with his leadership aspirations than it have to do with the doctors' strike, I am sure. In any case, regardless of what his motivations are, he has to turn his attention to getting this resolved. Not for his sake, not for the sake of the government; he has to get this resolved for the sake of the people of this Province.

In the midst of all of this - and I use the words of the NLMA, all of these doctors represented by the NLMA: Because of the disrespect that the government showed at the negotiations, that is what has brought this about. They did not sit across the bargaining table in fairness, open minds, open hearts and open eyes and say: Okay, what do you want? This is what we can afford to give and deal with it. There was always that abrasiveness there, and somebody needs to be punished if you disagree with me. Well, look at the mess you have found yourselves in now. Look at the mess you are facing now.

What did the NLMA do in trying to be reasonable? They said: Why don't you send it to binding arbitration? That is a recognized tool in the world of labour relations to resolve differences. In fact, binding arbitration is quite often used when it comes to people who are in what we consider to be fields of essential service. In fact, the doctors of this Province went so far as to say: We will give up our right to strike. That is the ultimate tool that a union would have: the right to strike, the right to shut down the system, the right to stop the process until we get a decision. Now, you might be able to handle a strike for awhile, such as the Metrobus strike that is going on. You might be able to handle a strike amongst transportation workers in the Province, but it is pretty tough to handle a strike in this Province if the medical profession stops work.

The other issue tied in with that, of course, is the consequences of a work stoppage from the medics. We are not talking here about you might not get your garbage picked up on time, or you might have to find an alternate route to get to work, or to get to school or university because the buses are off. We are talking about potential consequences, life and death. That is not dramatizing it; that is a fact. If the doctors of this Province go on strike, there will be people incur significant injuries and potentially, possibly, likely death as a result of it. That is a pretty big burden to carry.

When you have those burdens, there are some things you just do not use a hammer on. There are some things you say there has to be another way. The other way, of course, is binding arbitration. By the way, for some reason or other, this government has a fear of binding arbitration because it takes the control out of their hands, they say. We have a responsibility to look after the public purse and we cannot tell anyone else, or give anyone else the authority to make a decision on the public purse except us. Well, that would be a fine argument, and it would be tough to debate that argument, if we did not have other circumstances where the government does exactly that.

I refer to a couple of examples. Firefighters -we think the services that firefighters provide are so significant, so important, and so essential that we have said we will not get involved. If we have issues we cannot resolve, we will send them to binding arbitration.

We also gave the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary binding arbitration. In fact, I was the person who was the Minister of Justice when we did it. We have had a couple of negotiations since with the RNC. I do not think there were any big issues about it. We did not have the City of St. John's, the City of Corner Brook, and, I believe, the City of Lab City, Wabush who are policed by the RNC. I do not think we had any big disruptions of service in security, property, public protection, and public safety.

So it is hypocritical when you say we cannot give it to one group, such as the doctors, but we can give it to another group, because you yourselves are doing that. You will not trust anybody to make a decision other than yourselves.

We do it in the case of judges. We have a tribunal, for example, made up of a representative of the Judges' Association, a representative of government. They get their heads together, they choose a chairperson, they look at the issues and they come down with a decision, and this government, the governments before them, rubber-stamp it. We do that all based on the theory that the government part of the triumvirate of the Legislature, the government and the judiciary, that one should not control the pocketbook of the other. Government controls the pocketbook of the Legislature by voting on the budgets but you never, never again will get a contest of government saying we are not going to pay the judges such and such. If we can do it for those three groups who are essential to our society, is anybody in the government benches prepared to stand up and say that judges, firefighters and police officers are more important than our doctors? I challenge anyone to get up and say that. I challenge some government members and ministers to stand up and say that you think those three groups who already have binding arbitration are more important than the doctors of our society. I do not see anybody rushing to their feet, and not likely to.

The other piece tied into this, in terms of the disaster's piece, is the attitude of people outside who might ever come here again in the medical profession. This got to a point where we had fourteen specialists submit their resignations for February of next year; no doubt, frustration, no doubt themselves trying to use it as a bargaining chip. What other options do they have? Their options are either to proceed as we are, which is on the doomed path of a work stoppage, or try to find some tool whereby we bring some sense to this government and get them to negotiate with respect and get a fair deal. Now it is pretty clear for anybody in the government side who has been listening in the last few days, and I do not know what transpired between the new Premier and the Minister of Health. They have certainly had an attitudinal change towards the doctors, and that is good to see. They have certainly had an attitudinal change because, as I say, the Minister of Justice swallowed himself whole, or the Minister of Health. He swallowed himself whole a couple of Thursdays ago. He said he received an e-mail from some person in the public who had a concern and that is what made him see the light.

Well, I would suggest if you checked in his computer he probably had hundreds and hundreds of e-mails from people who said: you have to do something because if these doctors go on strike we are going to have a problem. I do not think it was one e-mail that all of a sudden he had an epiphany. I doubt that. The Premier leaves and does not even have his boxes out the door when the Minister of Health is changing his tune. Now, again, it might be because he has leadership aspirations. If those are his motivations, albeit not the right ones, but it is great to see the attitude change; it is great to see the Premier stand up today and say: I hope we bring some closure to this.

I can assure you of one thing – I was about to say something that is unparliamentary and an old saying, so I will not. I will refrain, but I am safe in saying that if the government does not go with binding arbitration – and there are all kinds of ways of binding arbitration – if the doctors do not get binding arbitration in this Province, and they are prepared to give up their right to strike, as I said, I do not think you are going to see a deal. I believe from the doctors – and I have talked to dozens of them around this Province in the last three months. I believe they are so entrenched in their view now of binding arbitration that if the government tries to stall this, stymie it and beat them over the head with that hammer and not give them binding arbitration, I do not think we are going to see a resolution. Now, God forbid, if that ever happens in this Province. God forbid all of us if that ever happens. It is not a situation that I would like to wear the consequences for.

I do believe also that if the binding arbitration piece was dealt with, we would have doctors who are more content to work here. They do not have to worry about that. They have enough concerns now with trying to look after the people and run their practice than they do worrying about what the government is going to give me in a bargaining. They are prepared to go to an arbitrator and say: Give me whatever. We will take whatever you give us; it is binding. They are not looking for national parity. I never heard a thing about them saying: Pay me the same as a doctor gets paid in Alberta or Ontario. I do not think the Minister of Finance is going to stand up and say they put that on the table. Even though they are in the same country, I do not think that doctors ever said give me what the guy or the lady in Ontario is getting. They are saying: give us something there, Atlantic parity. Obviously, for whatever reasons, they have not been able to reach it.

The government told us about this great package they put on the table in April. Well, you watch and see; when the vote comes down we are going to see what the doctors think of it. I would not be surprised if we had the first unanimous decision in the Province, that they rejected the government's offer.

I also believe that if the thing is resolved the fourteen doctors would withdraw their resignations, because as I said earlier, I think that was one of the few chips they had left to try to get a resolution to this thing. I do not think these people want to leave this Province. Some of them were born here, raised here, educated here in our medical school, went away for specialty training and so on but they came back. They are raising their families here. They have their practices here. They do not want to leave, but they have to have a sensible work environment, a comfortable work environment, that they are reasonably compensated for what they do. They are prepared to entrust that decision as to what is reasonable compensation to someone outside of themselves.

Not government, they are not going to let government be the arbitrator because obviously, I would think now there is a little bit of distrust there, given how the government has treated them for the last twenty-three months. Surely, we can find people to decide issues, which sometimes we should not have a role in ourselves because the two parties are in conflict with each other as to where it ought to go, but we both know it needs to be done. Hopefully it will be resolved. One piece, I believe, is going to be an unfortunate aftermath of the doctors' issue, and that is the attitude and the impression that we have left with anybody outside of this Province when it comes to our attraction and retention program.

I was listening to one of the Open Line shows one day when a gentleman, who was a Newfoundlander, Labradorian, educated here, practising in BC. He is coming home because his family has grown now; he is at an age where he wants to retire back here. He said: I am at the end of my medical career, getting near the end of it. He said it is sad to see that all the young specialists who are up here on the mainland that we might be able to attract back - given that the words used were toxic atmosphere - given the toxic atmosphere that exists in Newfoundland and the acrimony between the government and the NLMA, why would you ever want to go work in that environment?

Not only are we asking them to come back down here and work at less pay in sometimes pretty trying and challenging work circumstances, we want them to come back here now where a government beats you over the head with a sledgehammer whenever they feel like it. Now that is a real good welcome mat to put out to these specialists or anybody we are trying to bring back. You do not have the money to entice them. You are not prepared to give them the money that they think is necessary to come here, and, on top of that, you create an impression that – I hear this government talking about open for business, open for business. I do not see much open for business when it comes to attracting the doctors. That is a pretty unfortunate circumstance that we have here.

Of course, there are a lot of other major issues on the go in this Province. I just spent twenty-five minutes talking about the terrible labour relations situation we have in the Province, and I only just scratched the surface. I only just scratched the surface, and that permeates after a while. If you upset enough people in enough different vocations in enough communities, you know what happens. That message is pretty loud and clear.

Another one: the fishery. Now, I will be the first to admit that I am not the most knowledgeable person in this Province when it comes to the fishery, absolutely not. I know a bit about it. I grew up in a town that used to have a fish plant - Port aux Basques - represented a district that had more plants than we have now, but listened avidly to the news, listened to the leaders in the industry when it comes to the fishermen's union, the processors, the harvesters, the plant workers, government's side of the story. We have heard here, the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, the member for the Marystown area; we have heard him talking about this MOU. My colleague, the Member for The Straits & White Bay North, he has pounded him over it in Question Period, on Open Line shows, on the Fisheries Broadcast to see what this is all about and where you are going with this.

I am sure the people of this Province - anybody who watched TV - must have seen the great summit that took place here in the City of St. John's back in, I think it was, the spring of 2007. The Premier was the chairperson down there, called everybody together who was anybody in the fishing industry. We have to fix this; we are going to fix this. I think we are a little over three years out and all we have heard to replace any optimism and positive comments that were talked about in the summit was MOU.

Now, a lot of people might not understand what an MOU is. It is called a Memorandum of Understanding. We have heard of term sheets out of this government, we have heard of MOUs out of this government, and God knows what they are going to come up with next. What is this famous MOU? We know the summit did not go anywhere. We also saw, by the way, and this was a day of great regret for myself here, and that was the day that this government dismantled Fishery Products International. Fishery Products International was the flagship of the fishing industry in this Province. Great marketing arm, all kinds of plants, produce, produced great products sold the world round.

The marketing arm is very valuable, of course, because they marketed not only their own products and fish, they marketed fish that anybody else in the Province caught and sold to them as well. What did this government do in their wisdom? They dismantled it. They destroyed it. They called a special sitting of the House of Assembly to do it. We sat here in the House and we had a big debate on it.

Guess what? The government of the former Premier, Premier Williams, called that debate, called the House back to have that debate. The legislation was: we shall destroy FPI. Guess what, folks? He did not even vote on it himself. He did not vote on the piece of legislation that he had his government bring in. Do you know why? He stood up here in the House of Assembly and he said: After reading the piece of legislation, after hearing all the comments that are being made here in the House of Assembly, I do not feel comfortable voting for this, and he voted against it.

Now, this is the Leader of the Government. He decides, by the way, folks, what comes into this House, it is not the Government House Leader. There is nothing that comes into this House of Assembly, in terms of a piece of legislation, if the Premier of the Province does not approve it - nothing. He is the boss. The buck stops with him. Again, what a conflicting message to send to people; what a conflicting piece of information.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER (Kelly): Order, please!

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Do you know why he said he could not vote for it? He said: Being a lawyer, I have some concerns with some of the things that are in that piece of legislation. Go back and check out Hansard, what he said.

Lo and behold, he did not want to do it because he, himself, did not have the personal conviction to destroy it; yet, everybody in his Cabinet and his caucus – I think there were two more who did not vote; a good friend of mine, actually, the former Member for Baie Verte. He did not vote for it, but the rest of the government voted for it. Snap, just like that, FPI down the tubes. Have not seen it since, nor heard of it.

Then, of course, we had to do something to make up for that, so we called the big summit. We called them all together. We are going to fix this now, we have to do something. That is a pretty good strategy too: destroy what we have and then we figure out what we are going to do. Never mind to fix it, never mind to look for other options. Seek out and destroy, then we will figure out now we have a problem, what are we going to do? That is not lost, by the way, on a lot of people in this Province, not at all, the hypocrisy of that move. It will not be lost. They are going to hear for the next year about all of that stuff. Maybe they will listen now. I am sure they will, intently.

That brings me back to the MOU, of course, the brainstorm of someone. I do not know whose brainstorm it was, but I would think if you are going to have any kind of understanding or agreement in this Province to deal with the fishing industry, one of the players that you need at the table is the federal government. No, they are not there, folks. No federal government involved in this process. I do believe the federal government has a lot to do with the fishing laws of this Province, of this country. They are the main authority when it comes to the fishing laws. We only get a say once the fish is landed on the processing; that is the law. Yet, that person who governs the quotas has all to do with who gets what fish and where you get them. That person has no say in this MOU, not even at the table. What if you come up with a plan, for example, and it means that you need cash and you need some money to do something? I do not know we will figure that out later, I guess. Unless this government is going to pay the piper, they are going to go back to the feds looking for some money I would think. No, we will talk to them later when we need to. That is a great strategy.

Then again, even probably more important than the federal government not being at the table, communities around the Province have been saying: Excuse me, Minister; can we have some say at the table too? We happen to have a fish plant in our area, we happen to have people who, not only in our community but in the communities around it, dozens, hundreds of us who work in the industry, do you think we might have some say on what you are doing with our lives? It sounds like a pretty fair question to me. No, no, no, we do not need you. We are going to deal with all this, do the study, and do the report. The minister is going to read it over Christmas and then we are going to decide the fate of the fishing industry in the Province.

You left out two of the main players. To use my analogy of the hockey game again, it is something like playing without a referee or a goalie, isn't it? It is not a very good game folks. It is not a very good game at all, but, unfortunately, it is not a game, it is people's lives we are playing with and people's livelihoods that we are playing with in this Province.

The Minister of Fisheries, talk about revelation and being open about stuff, when are we going to see this famous report that you have been dragging around behind closed doors and hiding in closets and broom closets and briefcases for the last year or two? When are we going to see it? Well, I think we are going to put it off until November of 2011. Well, that is a pretty convenient date – 2011, folks, happens to be after the election. Now, God forbid that my mind would make me think that there might be something political about that. The government has to deal with the fishing industry, which impacts hundreds and hundreds of people in this Province and dozens of communities, and the minister says, I will read it over Christmas and we will have a chat about it next November. Now that is pretty convenient, I would think.

That is pretty convenient.

Be wary people I say, be wary. This government has been known before – this is a case of just sloughing it off, and they do not want to deal with it because it might cause them some problems. We have had occasions in the past when they have promised, actually put it in black and white, and did not do it. These are called broken commitments. I am going to get an opportunity between now and next October – we have two sessions before the election – to take that famous Blue Book and go through it.

We will get an opportunity to go through that and a few other little things that happened like the whistle-blower. It was very convenient the Saturday before the Tuesday election in 2007, the Premier says we are going to give you whistle-blower legislation so people in the public sector who have concerns and want to bring them forward, they do not have to worry about getting their throat cut or their head chopped off because they came forward with something; we are going to give them whistle-blower legislation to protect them. Have not seen the light of day; have not seen the light of day since 2007. We have sat in this House twice in 2008, twice in 2009, twice in 2010, and maybe even in the fall of 2007; at least a half a dozen times. Every time the media says to the government where is your whistle-blower stuff? Well, no comment on that. That was lost somewhere, lost somewhere up on the eighth or the ninth or the tenth floor, whoever is supposed to be responsible for it. We cannot even find out who is supposed to be drafting it, cannot even find out. So let us not talk about broken promises and broken commitments.

This government has a few of them; we are going to get in a few more in the next few months. Just so that the people with memories, just in case some people forgot about some of this stuff. We are going to remind the people about some of the things that have not been happening.

The last comment I am going to make is on the minister's comments about consultation. We are a government who listens, she said today; we listen to people. We went out and we did sessions all around the Province on the poverty strategy. I do not even think they did consultations on the poverty reduction program before they introduced it.

AN HON. MEMBER: Yes, we did.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Not sure. They were not near as extensive. If they did, they certainly were not as well publicized as they are today. I saw all summer, when I was out going around my district, just about every day right on up until the fall, you get a copy of a government press release; we are doing a consultation here, we are doing a consultation there, we listen.

Well, the problem with some of that stuff is it is no good to listen if that is all you are doing is listening for the sake of listening with no intention of delivering anything. If you are not intent upon delivering anything, what is the point? It looks a little bit again as if you are being evasive and you are pushing an issue out, similar to the MOU. We are doing all these consultations, we are not going to include everybody – just the ones who we feel are pertinent to the problem – and we will let you know about it so many months down the road. God forbid, of course, if that gets lost in the translation or between the cracks anywhere, which it is likely to do.

There are all kinds of things, some more important and major than others. You take the caribou situation, for example. This is the same government who said – and I only have a couple of minutes left so I will end off on the caribou – this is the same government who two or three years ago took $15 million to study the caribou issue; $15 million to study the caribou.

Three or four weeks ago we get a press release come out from the Minister of Environment saying we are basically going to ban caribou hunting up in Labrador. Operators, outfitters are basically going to go out of business. I watched one gentleman on TV; he is severely restricted because we have no caribou left.

They took three years to study the caribou, and here we are today with the caribou herds just about decimated, $15 million worth of collars and no caribou. Now that sounds like a good one. That is terrible to put it in that language but that is exactly what we have. We have $15 million of taxpayers' money to take three, four years to study a problem and we end up with a bunch of collars and no caribou to put them on. Now that was a great thought-out strategy, that was a great program, that was a great consultation. I do not think we need to be rocket scientists to figure out that we had a problem with our caribou herd, but I do not think it is appropriate, either, to put it off for two or three years while we figure out what we are going to do. It is too late when the horse is out of the barn, they say. It is too late when the caribou are decimated.

That are some of the thoughtful processes that we have seen from this government. I have a number of others, of course, that I will be coming back to. The one that is near and dear to my heart, of course, is the Muskrat Falls one, the Abitibi one. This whole piece about the burning of the tires, for example, out in Corner Brook, we have to revisit that, because that needs some light shed on it as well.

Anyway, I thank you for the opportunity, Mr. Speaker. I have used up my speaking time and I am sure all the members would graciously give me leave, but I will not request any. I will just take my leave and next opportunity I will be back. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The Chair recognizes the hon. Minister of Labrador Affairs.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HICKEY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Let me say it is a great pleasure to be here in this hon. House again today, and to stand and represent the people of Labrador, and certainly for the people that voted for me, and supported me and still support me, the people of the great District of Lake Melville, which covers the towns of Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Northwest River, Mud Lake, Churchill Falls, Sheshatshui.

Mr. Speaker, before I begin my comments today in Address in Reply, I want to make a couple of comments. I want to thank our former Premier, Premier Williams, for what he has done for the people of our Province, but certainly for what he did and has done for the Aboriginal people and for the people of Labrador, and for the support that he has given us since 2003. We wish him well, we wish him good health, and he will be missed, and I think those accolades have been coming from all over the Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HICKEY: Mr. Speaker, I also want to wish our new Premier, and I will remind the Leader of the Opposition that ‘she' is the boss. There is no more ‘he' is the boss, ‘she' is the boss, and I think that is –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HICKEY: I am very proud to serve with her, and I look forward to working with her as we take this Province into the next election and beyond.

Mr. Speaker, I also want to take a minute to wish a colleague of mine, although we have been political foes, I do want to wish the Leader of the Opposition the very best. Because I can tell you, while she and I have had many debates in this House, I will say I have the greatest respect for her and for what she has done, certainly for the Liberal Party, because there were times when she stood over there by herself and carried it. I was never as disgusted as on Friday evening past when NTV announced that there were some of the elite Liberals of this Province meeting in St. John's to pick the sword that they were going to use to try to remove her from office. Absolutely disgusting! Absolutely shameful! I can tell you, it was big talk up in the Big Land this past weekend and certainly in my district.

Mr. Speaker, hon. members, this government is one that listens to the people. We hear them loud and clear, and we act on their behalf. That is our duty as Members of the House of Assembly. The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador firmly believes that consulting directly with the people of this Province is the most effective way to develop policy and to guide us into the future, Mr. Speaker.

A very good example of that, I say, Mr. Speaker, is the Northern Strategic Plan for Labrador, known as the NSP. The NSP, Mr. Speaker, is the hallmark of the provincial government's strong commitment to address the needs of Labrador and to improve the infrastructure, and to advance the social programming and to foster economic development.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair has recognized the hon. the Minister of Labrador Affairs and he is the one who has the right to speak at this time.

MR. HICKEY: Mr. Speaker, the NSP is the hallmark of the provincial government's strong commitment to address the needs of Labrador - because I can tell you, before 2003 they certainly were neglected by the hon. crowd across the way - and to improve the infrastructure and advance the social programming and to foster economic prosperity. Ongoing investments through the plan support a plan of vision for Labrador, where the government and the people work together so that all of the citizens share and improve quality of life.

We first consulted with people through Labrador in 2006, Mr. Speaker, which was essential in the formation and now historic document. When it was launched in April, 2007, then Premier Williams said it was one of the finest documents that this government has ever produced. We made a promise when it was launched. We promised to go back to the people halfway through to do a progress report on the NSP; a report card, if you will, that clearly showed that goals were reached through the plan and what remained to be completed. Last spring and summer we conducted several information sessions throughout Labrador, including the North Coast, the Southern Coast, Western Labrador and Central Labrador.

The NSP Progress Report deals with the accomplishments that had taken place in the fall of 2009, and since then we have marked a number of additional milestones. Our message, Mr. Speaker, has been loud and our message has been clear: We are very proud of what we have accomplished so far. We know that much more is yet to do, and the best, Mr. Speaker, is yet to come.

By the end of the coming fiscal year, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador will have spent more than $2.4 billion, Mr. Speaker, in Labrador since the Budget of 2004.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HICKEY: Most notably, Mr. Speaker, was the historic opening of Phase III of the Trans-Labrador Highway, connecting Labrador West through Lake Melville and indeed down into Southern Labrador.

In Budget 2010 alone, Mr. Speaker, there will be an unprecedented investment of $158 million in Labrador to improve infrastructure and to enhance the programs and services. Some of these investments, Mr. Speaker, include: $602,000 to continue the implementation of the Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement of which we were a party, this government, and including $80,000 in funding for public hearings on a draft Land Use Plan for the Labrador Inuit Settlement Area, preparing the Regional Planning Authority and to provide funding to start-up costs associated with the establishment of a Dispute Resolution Board mandated to deal with the disputes of the Labrador Inuit Settlement Area; $590,000, Mr. Speaker, for grooming coastal snowmobile trails, including an additional $200,000 for a groomer storage facility in North West River, and trail improvements and signage; $100,000 for the continued operating fund for the Combined Council of Labrador, and $100,000 for the Suicide and Detrimental Lifestyles.

Mr. Speaker, other departments are spending money in Labrador; including $672,000 for a new satellite dialysis unit for Labrador West, and as most of you are aware, the provincial government will invest approximately $1 million to purchase a new 64-slice CT scanner which will be housed in a temporary location adjacent to the hospital in Labrador West. ICO will invest $600,000 to build a temporary structure to house the CT scanner, given the lifespan of the CT scanner is approximately ten years; $700,000 in Budget 2010 with an annual investment of $1.1 million to enhance the provincial air ambulance program with a second medical flight team to be located in Happy Valley-Goose Bay; $430,000, Mr. Speaker, in operational funding for the transitional house in Nain and Rigolet; and $300,000 to hire diabetic education staff in the Innu communities of Sheshatshiu and Natuashish.

Mr. Speaker, Budget 2010 provides for funding for the construction of four new social housing units in Nain; $1 million will assess with the environmental clean up of the former United States military station in Hopedale; $500,000 will be allocated for the capacity building and funding program enabling meaningful Aboriginal participation during the Environmental Assessment process of the Labrador-Island Transmission Link; and a $2.1 million assessment program in Western Labrador that will provide a better understanding of the great Julienne Lake deposit and its potential marker; $125,000 to Aboriginal women in Labrador to develop and deliver a series of capacity-building workshops in the five Innu communities of the North Coast.

Mr. Speaker, this government has gone out to the people of this Province, and I want to commend the Minister of Finance who goes out each and every year and listens to the people in different regions of the Province. The government values the opportunity to hear directly from the people of the Province as the process of preparing the next annual budget gets underway.

Government's commitment to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to manage the Province's finances responsibly continues, and I look forward to the Minister of Finance visiting with residents in Labrador to get their perspectives on the future priorities for the Province as we set sights towards Budget 2011, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, one of the programs that we are very proud of as a government, and it has been touted as one of the best, if not the best in all of Canada, and that is our poverty reduction program. Mr. Speaker, I would like to take a few minutes to discuss the Poverty Reduction Strategy consultations and the inclusion strategy consultations that were held in various locations in Labrador this past fall. Both consultations were of tremendous importance to me and, indeed, to the people of Labrador. I was pleased and proud to participate in that process.

The Poverty Reduction Strategy consultations were significant because they will form the development of the next four-year action plan to fight poverty in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, the first time ever, Mr. Speaker. The inclusion strategy consultations were tremendously important because they will guide the Province's future efforts with respect to removing the barriers experienced by persons with disabilities in their daily lives.

Both consultation processes engaged stakeholders directly using public sessions, focus groups and round-table meetings to encourage conversations with individuals, their families and their advocates, and community-based organizations. With respect to the Poverty Reduction Strategy consultations, public sessions were held in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Hopedale, Sheshatshiu, L'Anse-au-Loup, and invited focus groups in sessions held in Labrador City and Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

With respect to the inclusion strategy consultations, Mr. Speaker, public sessions were held in Labrador City, Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Hopedale, and Sheshatshiu. Focus group sessions were held in Happy Valley-Goose Bay and by teleconference to the people of the communities on the South Coast.

Mr. Speaker, when we come to the issue of feedback, because while we go out for these consultations, it is the feedback that we get that is the most important part of these discussions. The feedback that we received, Mr. Speaker, was phenomenal.

I am confident that these consultations will see barriers removed and will take a real and positive difference in the lives of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. I look forward to seeing future announcements about the Poverty Reduction Strategy and the inclusion strategy in the upcoming months.

Mr. Speaker, I want to take a minute to talk about the NunatuKavut group in Labrador. Because while there are those who say that we have not consulted with NunatuKavut, I will say to you, Mr. Speaker, nothing can be further from the truth. As demonstrated by the signing of the New Dawn Agreement and the Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement, our government believes in negotiating fairly with Aboriginal peoples.

We understand the NunatuKavut community council has recently submitted a land claim to the federal government. We continue to urge the Government of Canada to make a decision on the land claim. I challenge the Member of Parliament for Labrador who just very recently came out against the Lower Churchill that while he is Ottawa, it is under his watch that he should making sure that the federal government has this front and centre. He has done nothing since he has been elected as the Member of Parliament for Labrador to put this forward to the federal government, Mr. Speaker. This is his responsibility, but he has done nothing. He did nothing when the Liberal government was in power and he has done less since the Conservative government has been in power in Labrador.

Meanwhile, there are concerns that the NunatuKavut have on the potential impact of the Lower Churchill. These issues will be addressed through the environmental assessment review process. NunatuKavut have been provided ample opportunity to have input throughout the process through the many public avenues available such as the environmental assessment process, and Nalcor has had extensive correspondence with this organization. As per the guidelines of the Environmental Impact Statement, Nalcor is required to have an understanding of the issues and impacts of Aboriginal peoples, and it has conducted significant research into Aboriginal people in Labrador, including NunatuKavut, and has done so.

Let me say this, we will not hold up the progress of Labrador for NunatuKavut. They have a responsibility to go to the federal government and get recognized. As the former Premier said: If you get recognized on Monday with the federal government, and we will sit down with on Tuesday. So, the message is clear: Do not protest in front of my office on the tenth, get up to Ottawa and do the work that your leadership should be doing, along with the former Liberal Cabinet Minister Kevin Aylward, and Chris Montague, I say to NunatuKavut.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HICKEY: Honourable members, there have been a number of significant investments in Labrador which include: an energy rebate; isolated communities in coastal Labrador, the completion of Phase III; and numerous other construction projects including schools and hospitals. We have made enhancements to programs such as the Medical Transportation program, the Labrador Travel Subsidy, and the cultural Labrador subsidy.

Throughout all of these investments, we still look to the future. This government is engaged with the people and with the many leaders. A prime example of this, Mr. Speaker, was the joint executive meeting which we held here with the Nunatsiavut Government in St. John's in October, a truly historic day where two governing bodies came together to discuss the future and opportunities to the people of the North Coast.

Mr. Speaker, we look forward to the Christmas holidays and beyond, and we realize that more is required of this government before we can say our work is done. We will continue to consult, we will continue to listen and engage the people of the Province at every opportunity. I encourage everyone from Nain to the Burin Peninsula to raise their concerns, offer their ideas, and let their voices be heard.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. DEAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is my opportunity and privilege this evening to be able to stand for a few moments and just share some of the concerns that we have as an Opposition in relation to the economic well-being of our Province and so on.

First, I would like to acknowledge, as my colleagues have already done, and congratulate our new Premier and trust that she will do well. I first knew her as the Minister of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development, and I am sure that she will do well in the coming months. Cabinet ministers who received their new appointments today for St. John's Centre to a Natural Resources portfolio and our Member for Grand Falls-Windsor-Buchans to ITRD, I would just like to take a moment and wish them well.

I also acknowledge the absence of our Leader today as she is struggling with her illness. I am sure that things will work out for her, but again, I would just like for her to know that we miss her here in the House of Assembly. I certainly appreciate, as a colleague of hers, the kindness that has been shown and spoken by those who have spoken here this afternoon.

One of the things that I have had the opportunity to follow in this past year, as I have come to the House of Assembly, fairly closely - as been mentioned earlier by my colleague - has been this MOU and the fishery. We have waited in great anticipation for this process to unfold and to see what direction this government is going to take our Province in terms of the fishery. I have to say that, today, I feel as though this government has handed the future of our fishery and the greatest renewable resource that we have into the hands of the ASP and the FFAW. While there is nothing wrong with, obviously, knowing their suggestions and their piece in terms of their recommendations and their input and so on, in Question Period today it felt very uncertain that this government really wanted to take ownership of this resource and to give leadership and direction to the future of it in the way in which it needs to be done.

Our future and our fate, to watch our children leave our rural communities and to see them going to other communities and to other provinces to work and so on, that seems to be our fate, given the direction that we are heading in today. I think it is great that St. John's is booming and that it is doing well, that the oil business is doing well, that we see new subdivisions going up and new commercial buildings being erected and so on, and certainly all of that is good. Meanwhile, rural Newfoundland continues to struggle, and there is that reality there, there is that truth there that the quicker we accept that and understand it and work through it, than I believe the better off that we will be.

We often hear of the rural-urban divide, and it is not necessarily a term or a word that I like, but there is a reality in that. Not that we are divided in terms of a people, we are divided in terms of economic opportunity, we are divided in terms of economic stability, we are divided in terms of industry and so on, and that is why the fishing industry is so important and so vital to the survival of our communities. Again, my district is one that is very rural, as are many of the communities represented by the MHAs here this afternoon, and in seven years and counting, we are not seeing the leadership given to this great resource that we need to see by this government.

Perhaps our fate is to watch our people leave, and whatever the case might be, and to relocate and to see our communities continue to age, and to just see the senior people there and so on. I believe that we have one last opportunity, if you will, and that is through this MOU process. That is why I would challenge the Minister of Fisheries, why I would challenge the government, why I would challenge the Premier to look at this whole process to date, to see what it has accomplished, to see what it has not accomplished, and to see just what needs to be involved in the process before it comes to fruition and completion.

One of the things that has been a concern for us, and has been mentioned many times as I have had the opportunity to speak - either in the House of Assembly or through media, or on the Fisheries Broadcast and so on, as my colleague made reference to earlier - is the fact that all the parties that should have been involved in this process have not been involved. Certainly, the federal government, as was mentioned. They are the part of government that has so much control over this industry. They are the part of government that we will look to, to help fund this MOU process, whether it is through licence buyouts, whether it is through early retirement programs. Whatever the cast might be, without them onboard it will be much more difficult to do.

Another part of the piece that is missing is that of the communities that are involved, the communities that are impacted by the recommendations that will come down through this MOU process. Again, we have not had our communities involved. I have seen a lot of correspondence in this past year, whether it has been through the community linkage committee and others who have written the Minister of Fisheries, who have written the Premier; who have requested that they have a voice at the table before this MOU process completes, that they would be able to speak their concerns, to bring their expertise, to bring their knowledge of the industry and the impact that it would have on their communities, to bring all that to the floor. Yet, here we are today, we still do not see that as being recognized as a legitimate process, and I have to bring that forward again today.

My concern is that before it goes to Cabinet on a provincial level, before it goes to the federal government, we need to make sure that we have engaged our communities, that we have listened to our stakeholders, that we have understood not only the processing side, not only the union side, but we understand from the point of view of plant workers, mayors of the communities, business people in the communities. We understand the impact that it will have potentially, the changes that might be recommended under the MOU process.

I believe that as MHAs - it does not matter to me which side of the House we sit on, but I believe that we need to voice our concerns about it. We need to be heard. John Furlong, just a couple of weeks ago on the Fisheries Broadcast, said that he has not been hearing much from the MHAs in terms of the MOU. I commit to continuing to speak to this process until we see a conclusion or resolution, hopefully one that really takes us in a direction that we need to go.

In my district, many communities over the years had a good fishery, had a good economy and they are looking today to CEEP and JCP programs as a means of getting through, and that is very unfortunate. While we recognize that change is coming and the only constant that we have is change, I understand that, but as we change we have to be able to do it in such a way that communities can survive; that communities are not negatively impacted by it any more than they need to be. So, as we talk about plant closures, as we talk about realignments of licensing, as we talk about other things that will impact these communities, then it is very, very important that we understand their concerns and they have that voice as well.

One of the other things that concerns me, not only the fishing process of the fishing industry, but I have a great concern today when it comes to long-term health care. Again, an aging population, living in a rural community, we have a desperate need. I know that in the hospital in St. Anthony today - and I have addressed this through media and through press releases and so on, I have talked to many people about it. In the hospital today in St. Anthony I have a dear friend of mine. When I was just a young man I had the opportunity of boarding at her house, staying with her for a year when I was working in St. Anthony at that time. She has paid her dues to society; she has served society well. She has volunteered, she has done all the things and now in her late years she has found herself not able to stay in her home any more, not able to look after herself, and because there is no bed available in the long-term care facility, she is lying in the hospital. Medically discharged; she does not need to be there, but she is there because there is nowhere else to go.

I get e-mails and phone calls regularly from her family who live in other parts of Canada. Just last week I spoke with her daughter who lives in Ontario. She is very, very concerned about her mother; the fact that she has been in the hospital now for some ten, eleven months. No end in sight; not really sure how much longer she will have to stay there and when she can expect to be in a proper long-term care facility. That is very unfortunate. That is what you and I have to look forward to as we age, that one day we will be in that same predicament, or we will be there with one of our parents or one of our loved ones, or whatever the case might be; but, for someone who has contributed to society, for someone who has been a great citizen of our Province to come down to, in the later years of their life, having to lay in a hospital bed day in and day out, missing the socialization that a home would offer, missing proper care that a home would offer, missing the recreation and the exercise that a proper home would offer, I think it is a tragedy.

So, while I realize that we understand to some degree the situation, I believe that as a government we need to really hasten the process to address these issues and to see it through. Again, eleven or twelve months in a hospital, in a ward of four persons, watching them change every other day as the acute care people come and go and there you sit in that corner, it obviously must be very demoralizing. It certainly is not something that any of us should have to put with this day and age.

I heard the Member for Lake Melville brag about the money that the government has spent in health care in the past Budget, and rightfully so, a lot of money spent in terms of equipment and so on. He mentioned the dialysis, I believe it was, going into Lab West. Well, we are proud to have a dialysis unit in St. Anthony, but unfortunately, there is not enough staff attached to that equipment to make the best use of it.

Just today, in the Northern Pen, there is a story there about a family who I spoke with last week. A sixty-seven-year-old gentlemen who has lived in the area all of his life, has been dealing with the necessity of having dialysis and coming down to the point where he will soon have to go on dialysis equipment. The doctor has been very upfront with him and said: Listen, you can expect to have to leave the area. This is a family who have their home there, they live in the community, their church is there, all of their family is there, their friends are there and so on. They are in the realization now and the expectation that within the not too distant future they will have to pack up and go into an environment where they do not know anyone, possibly challenged financially to be able to do that and so on, simply because the equipment in St. Anthony is not available to them.

I met with a couple in Sandy Cove last week as I drove down through The Straits. The gentleman wanted me to drop by his house, and I did. I got the same story. He has been using the home dialysis equipment, if you will, and being told by the doctor that it will only suffice for a very short period of time. He, too, will have to go to the hospital, to the centre, for the larger treatment. He is being told again that as of this time he may as well prepare to have to go away to St. John's, or wherever he can get that treatment, because he will not be able to get it in his own region.

This is just so disturbing. The people are so distraught when you talk to them about those situations. So, I want to challenge the government today to, yes, we have the equipment, but the staffing is an issue, the budget of doing it, of it being available seven days a week, or six days a week, or five days a week, or however many days that it would need to be to look after these patients, it needs to be looked at very shortly.

Certainly, in this day and age, I believe it is totally unacceptable that when we want medicare, proper medical attention, that we would have to bypass our own town where equipment is, where the necessary tools are that we need to look after us, and we cannot go there because of budget restraints or because of human resources.

So, Mr. Speaker, this is just an opportunity to speak to those two or three issues this afternoon. Thank you for your time.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, based on the time, we will not be having any further speakers on the Address in Reply; however, I would like, by leave, to introduce the private member's motion for Wednesday of his week.

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

The hon. member, by leave.

MS BURKE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I move for the Member for St. John's North the following motion:

WHEREAS the provincial government on May 10, 2007 released the report of the government's Skills Task Force, which the government commissioned in March 2006 to gather the expertise and insight of people across business, labour, education, and other key sectors with a mandate to identify needs in the workforce, look at the ability to meet those needs, and identify what must be done to fill current and anticipated shortages in skilled labour;

AND WHEREAS the Skills Task Force report, entitled: All the Skills to Succeed, recommended fifty action items for labour, business, industry, government, and education to help meet labour market demands through a co-ordinated response to labour market needs;

AND WHEREAS the work of implementing this action plan has been progressing under the direction of the Industry Co-ordinating Committee, established on February 19, 2008 and comprising of eleven individuals appointed to represent business, labour, industry, education, the provincial government and non-governmental agencies;

AND WHEREAS, in moving forward on this strategy, the Province is actively encouraging young people to go into trades so they are ready to benefit from emerging employment opportunities in Newfoundland and Labrador;

AND WHEREAS job attachment is a critical factor in promoting youth retention in our Province, and apprenticeship is an important means by which young people trained in the trades are able to move into jobs in their areas of expertise;

AND BE IT RESOLVED that the House of Assembly urges the government to continue to encourage the owners of small- and medium-size businesses to make every effort to hire an apprentice;

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the House of Assembly commends the government for its work to date in promoting apprenticeships; in particular, for entering into a partnership with the Newfoundland and Labrador Regional Council of Carpenters, Millwrights and Allied Workers, and the Office to Advance Women Apprentices to provide a new subsidy program for women apprentices.

Mr. Speaker, this is seconded by the hon. Member for Grand Bank.

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

MS BURKE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I move, seconded by the hon. Minister of Natural Resources, that the House do now adjourn.

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

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

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

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