April 12, 2011                      HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS                   Vol. XLVI  No. 14


The House met at 1:30 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Fitzgerald): Order, please!

Admit strangers.

Today the Chair would like to welcome sixteen residents of the Karwood Retirement Complex from the District of Topsail. The residents are accompanied by their director, Ms Katrea Hilton and the bus driver, Randy Breen.

Welcome to the House of Assembly.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The Chair would also like to welcome, a special welcome, a warm welcome, to one of the residents from the Karwood Retirement Complex, Mrs. Clara Torraville, who was born and raised in Fogo Island, who just celebrated her ninety-sixth birthday and this is her first visit to the House of Assembly.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The Chair would also like to extend a welcome to Councillor Vince Burton from the Town of Paradise.

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 Topsail; the hon. the Member for the District of Burgeo & La Poile; the hon. the Member for the District of Lewisporte; and the hon. the Member for the District of Conception Bay East & Bell Island.

The hon. the Member for the District of Port de Grave.

MR. BUTLER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

On Saturday, April 9, 2011, I had the pleasure, along with the hon. the Member for the District of Harbour Main, to attend the First Annual Fireman's Ball for the Bay de Grave Regional Fire Department, which was held in South River.

The Bay de Grave Fire Department is a newly formed department which opened its doors on March 29, 2010. They serve the towns of Cupids and South River in the District of Harbour Main and the towns of Clarke's Beach, North River and Makinsons in the District of Port de Grave.

The twenty-one firefighters, including Ms Cassandra Bishop, the only female firefighter, are highly trained personnel, and they are there to respond to any emergency.

Fire Chief Jeremy Hall paid tribute to Mr. Frank L. Bishop, a firefighter who passed away in 2010. He was a devoted and dedicated firefighter who gave endless and selfless hours of service. Fire Chief Hall ended his tribute by saying, "All gave some, some gave all."

Mr. Speaker, I ask all hon. members to join me in extending congratulations and best wishes to the Regional Board of directors and the Bay de Grave Regional Fire Department.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DAVIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, communities throughout Newfoundland and Labrador are blessed with residents who have a strong sense of community spirit and involvement. Today, I rise in this hon. House to recognize the Town Council of Conception Bay South and the Town Council of Paradise, both of whom recently held and celebrated their very well-attended annual winter carnivals.

From February 5 to 13, the Town of Conception Bay South celebrated its sixth annual "Winterfest in CBS," which featured events such as the popular annual free pancake breakfast, scavenger hunt and sliding party. Snow and Ice in Paradise took place from February 19 to 27 and was a week filled with fun activities that included an enjoyable afternoon social at the Karwood Retirement Complex.

Mr. Speaker, these successful events are made possible because of the hard work and dedication of the numerous volunteers, town staff, members of council and corporate sponsors.

I ask all hon. members to join me in congratulating and wishing these towns and their residents continued success in adding to the quality of life in their communities.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for the District of Burgeo & La Poile.

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

I rise today to recognize and congratulate Corporal Kirk Keeping of Port aux Basques, on being awarded the Chief of the Defence Staff Commendation.

On May 16, 2008, Corporal Keeping, while on joint Canadian and Afghan patrol, was attacked by a suicide bomber in Zhari District, Afghanistan. After helping extract the casualties, he immediately took charge of their treatment by supervising fellow soldiers as they provided first aid and helped establish on-scene security with the aim of preventing a second attack. Corporal Keeping's decisive actions and skilled treatment saved the life of a seriously wounded Afghan soldier. This was Kirk's second tour of duty at Afghanistan.

Corporal Keeping received the Chief of the Defence Staff Commendation at Gander in December of 2010.

Corporal Keeping is the son of Melvin and Faye Keeping of Port aux Basques. Kirk is currently stationed at Gander.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all members of this House to join with me in extending thanks to Corporal Keeping on his service to our country and congratulations on being awarded the Chief of the Defence Staff Commendation. All the best to Kirk Keeping and his family.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. VERGE: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to offer congratulations to a musical group in my district entitled, Two Weeks Notice. This group is made up of five high-school students; Daniel Carpenter and Zachary Steiner of Lewisporte, as well as Lindsey Lewis, Tori Barrett and Chelsea Lewis of Baytona.

Two Weeks Notice has been playing together for a little over a year now. They participated last year in the Battle of the Bands, which is an annual musical competition that brings together the best of young talent throughout the Province for an evening of friendly competition, and they won an award last year for the best original song. In fact, Mr. Speaker, their name, Two Weeks Notice, was a name they gave themselves when they had to meet a two-week deadline last year prior to entering their first competition.

This year, Two Weeks Notice came away with first place honours at the competition. The group and their families are very excited about this great accomplishment. They plan to continue playing together during the summer at different festivals and they also plan to continue writing original songs.

Members of the House please join with me in recognizing an up-and-coming group: Two Weeks Notice.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for the District of Conception Bay East & Bell Island.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. BRAZIL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to acknowledge an exceptional young man formerly of Portugal Cove-St. Philips in my district.

I speak of Mr. Adam Morgan who, on April 2, 2011, at the age of twenty-nine, was inducted as a member of the Newfoundland and Labrador Sports Hall of Fame, which I had the privilege of presenting. At twenty-nine, Adam becomes the youngest member ever inducted.

This in itself is an exceptional accomplishment, but when you learn of Adam's accomplishments as a talented athlete in the sport of diving, it becomes clear why he was chosen from among sixty nominees this year.

Adam is the only athlete from this Province to have won three medals in a single Canada Games: a gold and two silver. Adam received a full athletic scholarship to Texas A & M University, one of the most prestigious universities in the United States. He was a three-time member of the Canadian National Diving Team and competed at the 1994 Can-Am International Diving Competition, where he won a silver medal in the three meter board. Adam received the athletic distinction of all-American label three times in his career while diving in the United States.

What is as inspiring as Adam's athletic accomplishments was his acceptance speech, where he thanked his parents, Bill and Anna, his coaches, and his former team mates. While he acknowledged he now lives in Texas, he emphasized how proud he was to be from Newfoundland and Labrador, and how proud he was to have had the opportunity to represent his Province proudly in his sporting career.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all members to join with me in congratulating Adam on such an honour.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Statements by Ministers.

Statements by Ministers

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Human Resources, Labour and Employment.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KING: Thank you.

Mr. Speaker, there was a time when navigating through the many programs and services our government delivers was challenging for residents. However, through numerous initiatives in recent years, our government has made this process easier and more manageable.

Members may recall that in support of the Poverty Reduction Strategy, the provincial government developed a Guide to Government Programs and Services. This book is now in its third edition with wide distribution and was complemented by a Web site last year. Now, through another initiative under the Creating a Province of Choice: A Youth Retention and Attraction Strategy for Newfoundland and Labrador, we have once again delivered on this important commitment by developing a new online youth Web portal.

Speaking the language that the youth speak is crucial to get them to listen to what you have to say and offer, Mr. Speaker. Our government has always believed in that concept. Since the launch of the Youth Retention and Attraction Strategy in November 2009, we have been communicating with our young people via Facebook, and other online tools such as YouTube. This, Mr. Speaker, has proven to be a huge success.

Mr. Speaker, a further step in this well laid out plan has brought us to this moment. We are proud to announce the launch of our online youth Web portal at www.youth.gov.nl.ca. This is a resource for youth to find out what the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador has to offer them and how to get involved.

It is indeed a great time to be a young person in this Province, Mr. Speaker. We have one of the lowest tuition rates in Canada. We have a strong and rapidly growing economy. We have endless opportunities knocking on our door; and, Mr. Speaker, our people have a government that has a vision and demonstrated commitment which will ensure that we travel down the right path for our future. Most of all, Mr. Speaker, we have youth and other groups who will be the shining beacons of our success as they transition from school to a rewarding career and life right here in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Youth are undoubtedly the future of this Province, our most valued investment, and our most precious resource. Our government is proud to support them toward making Newfoundland and Labrador their final destination on their path to success.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. BUTLER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

While it is great to hear government announce the new Web portal and how it is using social media such as Facebook and YouTube to retain more young people in this Province, we cannot, Mr. Speaker, overlook the serious challenges facing young people.

Mr. Speaker, youth unemployment in Newfoundland and Labrador stands at 24.8 per cent, which is double the national average. Too many of our young people have to leave this Province, Mr. Speaker, to find work as previous generations have done. I know the minister mentioned in his statement we have to ensure we travel down the right path for the future. I have to say, Mr. Speaker, it is true they are travelling down a path. I do not know if it is the right one or not, hopefully it is, because most of them are ending up in Western Canada.

I hear countless stories of young people who have to leave to go away to work. Youth unemployment, student debt are on the rise, and our young people have been particularly hit by the economic downturn outside the greater Avalon area. Young people living in remote, rural areas, and Aboriginal youth are particularly at risk. Many of these young people will not be able to access the government Web site because they do not have access to the Internet.

One thing I agree with, Mr. Speaker, youth are undoubtedly the future of this Province, but we need to do more to retain them.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

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

This is good news. It is important, as part of the Youth Retention Strategy, to make sure that social media is now being used because it is one of the ways in which young people are most communicating these days.

Mr. Speaker, many people, and that includes young people as well, who need government services do not have online access. So, a paper edition of the guide, regularly updated, is certainly a good thing also. Lack of information can mean people missing out on support to improve their lives, and we want to make sure that everybody, youth and others, get all the information that is available.

With regard to the Poverty Reduction Strategy; the government continues promoting the Poverty Reduction Strategy but there are two very serious contributors to poverty in this Province, the low rates of Income Support and the lack of affordable housing. Those two things affect young people as well, because young people coming from families who have been living in poverty are adversely affected as they continue to move forward in their lives.

The other thing, Mr. Speaker, is that youth need jobs. They are not going to stay in this Province unless there is work for them to do. The minister painted a really rosy picture but the reality is young people are still leaving this Province in droves to find jobs. If this government really wants to help them, Mr. Speaker, I encourage them to get on the job when it comes to making sure the economy is working for our young people.

Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Further statements by ministers?

The hon. the Minister of Justice and Attorney General.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure today to update this hon. House on the small claims e-filing initiative. The ability to e-file small claims was introduced last June, and since that time we have seen almost 25 per cent of all claims filed electronically with the Small Claims Court.

E-filing is easy and convenient and allows users to file claims at any time, day or night from anywhere in the Province, as long as they have access to the Internet. There are only two jurisdictions in Canada which offer e-filing and I am proud to say that Newfoundland and Labrador is one of them.

Furthermore, Mr. Speaker, e-filing coincided with the legislative amendments that increased the amount of small claims from $5,000 to $25,000. This was an important move for all citizens of Newfoundland and Labrador as it provides greater access to the Small Claims Court. Prior to increasing the amount, if an individual had a claim which was over $5,000, the likely process to address this would have been through the Supreme Court. This process was costly and one of our main goals of increasing the monetary limit was to help individuals avoid that costly process.

Mr. Speaker, for the fiscal year 2010-2011, there were almost 1,500 claims filed with the Small Claims Court. This is in comparison to the previous fiscal year when just under 1,300 claims were filed.

While I am pleased with the numbers of the people who have opted to file their claims electronically, I would like to see more people use this option. I encourage all hon. members to inform their constituents that e-filing is a convenient new option.

Mr. Speaker, we believe that both the increase in monetary jurisdiction and e-filing are ways to provide greater service delivery. Members of the public can access the e-filing process at the Provincial Court Web site and as an individual goes through the process online, there are help functions including an e-mail address and a toll-free number should they have any questions.

Mr. Speaker, the Department of Justice is certainly proud of this new application as it provides more expeditious access to justice for more people. It is our hope that we will see more people use the e-filing process for filing their small claims.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

I thank the minister for an advance copy of his statement. It is indeed a good thing when we have people being able to access justice more easily. Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, about two-thirds of the people who live in rural Newfoundland cannot access the new e-filing system simply because they do not have high-speed Internet in rural Newfoundland, in most cases. It is a great process, great to have, great initiative, but if we can only get the rest of the government to catch up with the Department of Justice and the small claims process, we would be far better off I would say.

With regard to the increase in jurisdiction from $5,000 to $25,000, Mr. Speaker, that is indeed a welcomed move as well. Small claims were restricted below $5,000, but over time most claims are well above $5,000. This allows people, through the small claims process, to take their own cases; they do not have to pay for lawyers which could be very expensive and so on. That is indeed a good move and we applaud the government in moving to lift that limitation that was there previously.

Mr. Speaker, it is great to see that we have Small Courts Court, as I say, for access to justice purposes. There are still a lot of issues here; there are still some complications in terms of the amount of paperwork and the number of forms that are required. The minister indicated last week when we dealt with that piece of legislation that he would be moving towards looking at making it a more streamlined, simplistic process as well. We look forward to seeing those advances as well.

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 thank the minister for the advance copy of his statement. As he pointed out in his statement, the e-filing and the legislation that was changed that supports the e-filing goes back to last May when we made those legislative changes here in the House and the minister made the announcement of the Provincial Court's strategic direction of improving access to justice by alternative service delivery models.

In his statement, the minister hits the nail on the head when he says e-filing is easy and convenient –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS MICHAEL: - for those who have access to the Internet. Well, we have many people in the Province who do not have access to the Internet, Mr. Speaker. I wonder, when the minister points out that we had 200 more claims this past year, is that because of e-filing or is it because of the legislative change which increased the amount of small claims from $5,000 to $25,000. I suspect it is a mix and it could be that latter change that made the number go up to 200. It is important that we have this, Mr. Speaker, but the minister –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS MICHAEL: - has to realize that the on-line service is not going to help those who most need it, and that is those who live far away from the court. This government had better get its act together and get broadband access to Internet for everybody in this Province.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Further statements by ministers?

Oral Questions.

Oral Questions

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, according to a report from the World Commission on Dams, large dams has demonstrated a marked tendency towards scheduled delays and significant cost overruns. This study states that the average cost overruns on projects like Muskrat Falls are approximately 56 per cent.

I ask the Premier: What can consumers in this Province expect to pay if Muskrat Falls goes 50 per cent over budget, as is predicted by the World Commission on Dams?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, she goes far afield wherever she can to find stats that support their position that Muskrat Falls is not a good plan for Newfoundland and Labrador. It is a very good project for Newfoundland and Labrador, Mr. Speaker, because it will stabilize our energy prices and provide energy for householders and for industry into this Province for years and years to come.

Mr. Speaker, everybody in the world knows that when you are involved in any kind of industrial activity or construction, there is a risk with regard to commodities and labour that is not predictable, and so you always run the risk of an overrun. We run that risk of an overrun on Muskrat Falls, on doing something in the isolated system here in the Province in terms of our second proposal, or trying to hook up the sixty or seventy ponds that she talked about.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

We know the government has not built in overruns on this project; however, we do know that the World Commission on Dams is predicting that 56 per cent of projects like this have overruns. We also know that Professor Gilles Duranton of the University of Toronto has publicly stated that there is a tendency for governments to underestimate costs and overestimate benefits to projects like Muskrat Falls – not unlike what we are seeing actually. He has warned that the final price could be double or even triple the initial estimates.

I ask the Premier today: If this project goes 50 per cent over budget, like many experts in the field are predicting, what can the public expect to pay for Muskrat Falls power?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, when this government went about establishing Nalcor, a provincially-owned Crown corporation that would deal with energy matters here in this Province, we went and found the best expertise that was available and we hired them. We got an extra bonus when we did that hiring, Mr. Speaker, because those people were Newfoundlanders and Labradorians and shared our passion about this place and our commitment to this place.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Mr. Speaker, it is not the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador that is doing this project. This project comes from Nalcor, with some of the best minds in the country, getting the expertise that they require to ensure that this project is properly engineered, contingencies are built in, and that the people of Newfoundland and Labrador are protected.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: I would like to remind the Premier that she had the best expertise when it came to Abitibi as well, and that has turned into a black hole for the people of this Province, and the Premier knows that. She also knows that experts out there are projecting overruns on this project which means it will drive the price of energy to consumers in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, the Premier has stated that Muskrat Falls power will cost 14.3 cents per kilowatt hour, and that is before Newfoundland Power adds their fees. I ask the Premier today: Given that all of your numbers do not take into account the full cost overruns that will happen, what will happen to the base cost of electricity if Muskrat Falls is to go over budget?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Mr. Speaker, I would like the Leader of the Opposition to produce her experts who do these kinds of predictions, who have concrete knowledge of this project and who are able to comment; because, in terms of the expertise that we have available to us, they do not concur with the hypothesis put forward by the members of the Opposition.

Mr. Speaker, we are going to pay 14.3 cents a kilowatt hour in 2016 without Muskrat Falls. The only difference is our light bills will continue to grow 5 per cent year over year over year. Mr. Speaker, those are the facts. They are supported by statistical agencies in Newfoundland and Labrador and across the country.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, this report studied eighty-one dams in North America, Europe and around the world and found that the average cost overrun was 56 per cent. I know the Premier does not want to hear this because she does not want the people of this Province to realize how much they are going to have to pay for energy. She does not want them to know that their light bills are going to double. Well, the reality is they are and they may even surpass that.

I ask you again, Premier: Given that this project is likely to go over budget, why did you agree to cover 50 per cent of the cost overruns on Emera, a private company in Nova Scotia, why did you agree to cover 50 per cent of the overrun costs on the Maritime Link?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, we have been in Question Period, I think this is our fourth week of the House of Assembly, and we have had about five questions over the space of four weeks that get asked time and time again. Now, Mr. Speaker, I am going to continue to use the good information that we have here to try to enlighten members of the Opposition, but I am not living in hope, as I have said before.

Mr. Speaker, 80 per cent of the capital costs of Muskrat Falls will be borne by Nalcor, 20 per cent by Emera. As a result, 80 per cent of the power generated by Muskrat Falls will be available to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, 20 per cent available to Emera, 20 per cent of operations, and 20 per cent of maintenance. That is the way the project is constructed, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Premier likes to dish out insults but she certainly does not like to provide answers to the people of the Province, which is what is expected of someone in her position.

Mr. Speaker, we know that the government has signed on to cover 50 per cent of the overruns and costs that could be incurred by Emera on the Maritime Link. Mr. Speaker, Emera Energy of Nova Scotia also owns 29 per cent of the transmission line from Central Labrador to Soldiers Pond but will not have to pick up the bill for any cost overruns on that line.

I ask the Premier: Why have you agreed to cover 50 per cent of the overruns on the Maritime Link, but Emera, who will have 29 per cent ownership of our link, is not responsible to cover any of the overruns?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, to begin with, Emera does not own 29 per cent of anything. Mr. Speaker, they have an opportunity to invest and to get a rate of return, the same way that Newfoundland Power does, the same way that Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro does.

Mr. Speaker, the basics of this deal is that it is an 80-20 deal, and the costs are assigned that way, energy is assigned that way. The bonus that we get besides the $1.2 billion that we are getting for the power, we also have an opportunity to take excess power, whether it is from Muskrat Falls or somewhere else, and wheel it through the Maritimes and into New England. That way, allowing Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to earn even more benefit from our energy resource.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

So, we know now that if there are any overruns on the Maritime Link that is owned by Emera, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians will pay 50 per cent of the costs of that overrun. We know, Mr. Speaker, that Emera Energy will own 29 per cent of the transmission in Newfoundland and Labrador, because of the investment that they are going to make, but yet will not be responsible for overruns on that link. Mr. Speaker, Emera Energy of Nova Scotia, in owning 29 per cent of the Labrador-Island Link means they will get a cut of all Muskrat power sales in this Province.

I ask the Premier: How much money will Emera Energy of Nova Scotia make from selling power to our own people in Newfoundland and Labrador?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Mr. Speaker, these are serious accusations that are being tossed across the House by the Leader of the Opposition, and I do not know quite where they come from. I am not quite sure if she is not aware of the facts, that she does not understand how the transmission of electricity works in this Province, and that there is a regulated rate of return when people invest in utilities in this Province, and that is what Emera has taken advantage of, Mr. Speaker, or there is some other plan afoot.

You know, Mr. Speaker, one thing I am really glad about is that she is concerned about overruns. I wished she had been so concerned about overruns when they were trying to do the deal with former Premier Grimes, because that deal and the overruns that were associated with that, would have seen the Lower Churchill belong lock, stock, and barrel to Hydro Quebec.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Premier knows, Mr. Speaker, that she is in the hot seat on this one. She knows that she cannot explain to the people of the Province why she is going to increase their electricity bill, Mr. Speaker, and why she is going to allow the people in Nova Scotia to get a return.

I ask the Premier again today, whether you want to call it a regulated rate of return, whether you want to call it an investment on which they get money back, the reality is that Emera with a 29 per cent share in transmission in this Province will make money off the backs of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

So I ask you today, Premier, to stand and tell the people of this Province how much money they will pay out of their pocket to Emera Energy for that transmission.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, there are all kinds of opportunities in Newfoundland and Labrador to make investments. Not only our own indigenous companies, but companies come from all over the world to invest in Newfoundland and Labrador. You are so proud of Vale Inco, IOC, Cliffs, and Kiewit – the list could go on and on, Mr. Speaker – ExxonMobil, Chevron, and Husky.

Yes, they make money, Mr. Speaker, and we want them to make money, but we ensure that the bulk of the benefits come to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: That is a new circumstance in this Province, Mr. Speaker – a new circumstance that came in 2003 with this government.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Now, Mr. Speaker, we are going to pay 14.3 cents a kilowatt hour in 2016, Muskrat or no Muskrat.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Maybe the Premier forgets that the people of Newfoundland and Labrador were never proud of selling out ownership in their utility company or their energy company, I say to you Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS JONES: They were never proud of selling out that ownership to Emera Energy like you have done.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair has recognized the hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, yesterday in the House and again today, the Premier stated that electricity prices in the Province would be 14.3 cent a kilowatt hour in 2016, regardless of the Muskrat Falls development. Now, Mr. Speaker, that is a new spin. That is a different one for the government than she stated before and it is different from what Nalcor documents have been stating.

I ask the Premier: Why are you now saying that electricity will cost so much more regardless of Muskrat Falls?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: So, Mr. Speaker, we have come a full 360 degrees now.

Mr. Speaker, we have laid it out time and time again, as have statistical agencies, as have forecasters such as PIRA, the Conference Board of Canada, Ernst & Young, and CBC has done its own polling. The cost of electricity is going through the roof for all kinds of reasons. The primary reason that it is going to go through the roof in Newfoundland and Labrador is because of Holyrood, Mr. Speaker. We generate almost 600 megawatts of our electricity out of Holyrood that is dependent on Bunker C. Not even considering the cost that has on our environment, Mr. Speaker, it is going to drive the cost of generation through the roof over the next ten to fifteen years.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Just as I suspected, the Premier likes to overstate our reliance on Holyrood for our electricity. In fact, Mr. Speaker, Nalcor has informed us that Holyrood only supplied 11 per cent of the Island's energy last year – 11 per cent, Premier – and that the vast majority of our electricity came from hydro developments such as Bay d'Espoir.

Why will our rates go up by 50 per cent by 2016 if most of our electricity is already coming from clean, cheap hydro power in Bay d'Espoir?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Mr. Speaker, our electricity bills have gone up over 36 per cent in the last ten years. Mr. Speaker, anybody who pays an electricity rate in this Province, an electricity bill, knows how electricity is going up.

Mr. Speaker, they have stood on their feet in this House and gone on, and on, and on about us subsidizing electricity, not only in Labrador but to people here in the Province, because of the cost of heating a home. Mr. Speaker, she has gotten up and ranted about people having to be in shopping centres because they cannot afford to turn the heat up in their home.

Mr. Speaker, those costs are going up year over year, over year and they are predicted to go even higher at the rate of 5 per cent a year without talking about any of the other considerations in terms of our need for electricity, Mr. Speaker. We have to find a way to level out (inaudible).

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The way the Premier is planning on increasing light bills in this Province our seniors will have to move in the shopping malls, I say to you, Premier, not just go there to get warm.

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the minister confused the media, the House and probably his Cabinet colleagues with his answers about government's handling of the tobacco litigation, so let us try it again today.

You stated yesterday that there is a second contract related to retaining a local law firm to act as an agent for the Missouri firm Humphrey Farrington McClain. Can the minister confirm today – I will take it very short and slow, Minister – can you confirm today that there is a contract between government and the firm Roebothan McKay Marshall?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. F. COLLINS: Mr. Speaker, in 2002, the former Liberal government under the Opposition House Leader, who was then Minister of Justice, entered into a contract, contingency agreement with a law firm in Independence, Missouri at the lucrative return rate of 30 percent; the most lucrative in the country.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. F. COLLINS: In comparison, Mr. Speaker, to a sliding rate, for example, in New Brunswick of 22 per cent to 18 per cent; 30 per cent, Mr. Speaker, the most lucrative in the country. Now, Mr. Speaker, in addition to that, prior to entering into that contract the government of the day retained three firms in the Province to carry this file, all three of them with notable connections to the Liberal Party.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Now the minister is reading up on the history, let's see if he can get his own history right. Back in February, Minister, you said that the previous contract, the one you are referring to in 2002, had been cancelled and that your government had entered into a new contract.

Stand in the House today, explain why you would make that statement in February and make a different statement today?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. F. COLLINS: Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned yesterday, the original agreement was with the firm in Independence, Missouri. Mr. Speaker, the contingency agreement was with that firm. That firm retained the local counsel Roebothan McKay Marshall to be their agents on the ground.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. F. COLLINS: A very good choice, I might say, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, we do not pay Roebothan McKay Marshall one cent.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. F. COLLINS: Any funds that Roebothan McKay Marshall gets are out of the contingency agreement that was to be paid to the American firm. I want to make that perfectly clear, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, if I created any confusion –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. F. COLLINS: - over the contract, the tender. We had to revise that agreement in December to make the local counsel, the counsel for the purposes of expediting the process in the court, as I mentioned yesterday. That is the only revision, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: So we got to the crux of it, Mr. Speaker. There was a new contract. The 2002 contract does not exist anymore. There was a new contract; it was put in place in December.

I ask the minister today if he can confirm for me what the context of the negotiations of the new contract is. What is included in it? What is the rate of pay that is going to be made to this particular company?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. F. COLLINS: Mr. Speaker, if the hon. Leader of the Opposition had to check with her colleague next to her, she would know very well why we cannot release that document.

When the hon. member was the Minister of justice, he came into this House and he waved the contract saying 30 per cent, continuously, which waived his solicitor-client privilege which resulted in us having to release all documents to the other side. We have no intention of doing that, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, we have established now that there was a new contract, the old one was thrown out. There was a new contract in December, Mr. Speaker, between the government and the United States firm. The minister confirmed in the media yesterday that there was also a second contract entered into between the government and Roebothan McKay Marshall.

I ask you, Minister: When was that contract entered into, and why did you enter into that particular contract when you already had the firm in the US acting on behalf of the government?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. F. COLLINS: Mr. Speaker, I have to reiterate, and if I confused people on the other side yesterday then I apologize for that, but, Mr. Speaker, I want to say there was an original agreement with the American firm, Humphrey Farrington McClain. Mr. Speaker, they retained local counsel, Roebothan McKay Marshall. Humphrey Farrington McClain could not bring the statement of claim to the court. We had to revise the document to make the local firm the lead counsel so that they could expedite this process and bring the statement of claim into court. That is the so-called second contract, Mr. Speaker, if you want to call it that. Really, it is a revision of the first one.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Before the Chair recognizes the hon. Leader of the Opposition, I ask members if they would be kind enough to stop shouting back and forth across the House. The Chair is having difficulty hearing the questions and the answers.

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Now we have identified that there was a second contract and it was issued by the government opposite, and it was with Roebothan McKay Marshall. Now let's talk about when the firms changed hands. In 2002, there was a local firm contracted by the name of Browne Fitzgerald Morgan Avis.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the minister, when the firms switched from the Browne firm to the Roebothan McKay Marshall firm, and will you confirm that it happened under your government's watch?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

I can confirm that no contract was entered into with the Liberal firm that was just mentioned. It never happened, never happened. They tried to get part of the action, Mr. Speaker, but the American firm did not accept them. They instead shopped around and picked the firm Roebothan McKay Marshall. That is what happened, Mr. Speaker. Roebothan McKay Marshall has been involved in this file for at least five, six years, at least five or six years; no contract entered into with Dennis Browne.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Little bit by little bit we are getting the information.

The contract with Roebothan McKay Marshall was entered into under your government's Administration about five or six years ago. It has nothing to do with the previous government, as the minister tried to lead people to believe yesterday, Mr. Speaker.

I ask the government: Did you have any influence or any involvement in recommending Roebothan McKay Marshall to this Missouri firm for the work and the contract that they received?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask members for their co-operation, for the final time.

The hon. the Minister of Justice and Attorney General.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. F. COLLINS: Mr. Speaker, I can only assume that the American firm would have access to a list of law firms in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. There was provision directly in their agreement, put there by the hon. member across the way, that you can retain a local firm to act as counsel, which is what they did. I can assume they would have shopped around; checked out all the firms, picked the one that best suited the bill and chose the firm they did.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. F. COLLINS: Any more than that, Mr. Speaker, I cannot tell you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

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

Mr. Speaker, yesterday we heard that Kiewit Offshore Services is pulling out of the bidding for the Joint Support Ships contract to build navy frigates and Coast Guard vessels. Kiewit had been one of the five companies shortlisted for the $35 billion, thirty-year federal shipbuilding strategy. I recognize that government is building two ferries at their facility, and that is good, but it is still only short-term work, and even if the next two planned ferries are built in Marystown, it will only bring us up to 2014 or 2015.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Premier: Is her government going to meet with Kiewit to try and find out why they made the decision to withdraw from bidding on the JSS contracts?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Business.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DALLEY: Mr. Speaker, the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy has been ongoing for a number of years. Our government and my department have been fully engaged with Peter Kiewit Sons through a series of meetings, discussions, and very open communication. We were advised late last week that Peter Kiewit Sons has decided to withdraw from the process.

They have cited publicly that their reason for withdrawing is the fact that they have too much work. They are not in a position right now to focus on the bid. As a result of securing some recent contracts and as a result of opportunities that are coming up in the Province, Peter Kiewit Sons feel they want to focus on that work, focus on hiring Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, and, Mr. Speaker, we are very pleased with the decision.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

Mr. Speaker, I understand that Kiewit only has to worry about the immediate future, but this government has a responsibility to worry about the long-term future of this Province.

Mr. Speaker, Kiewit has benefited from government investment in the Marystown Shipyard. Now what we need to see, Mr. Speaker, is far more aggressive action on the part of this government to ensure our ship building facilities are being fully used and to ensure we get our fair share of the developments in our own country in the long-term. Government must ensure that there is a long-term future for this shipyard.

So I ask the Premier again, Mr. Speaker: What is government's long-term plan for promoting the Marystown Shipyard and the work in that shipyard?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I was a young woman growing up in Burin when Marystown Shipyard was constructed. I understand the importance of that facility to all of the people on the Burin Peninsula.

Mr. Speaker, is it not a wonderful thing that Kiewit can walk away from a thirty-five year contract bidding because they are so overwhelmed with work? There is so much going on right here in this Province that they do not have the capacity to take on more work.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Now, Mr. Speaker, I also want to say that we have been very supportive of Kiewit, especially in terms of the work they were doing in trying to secure the contract with the Canadian Armed Forces, Mr. Speaker.

AN HON. MEMBER: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: We talked about an investment of tens of millions of dollars in infrastructure in Marystown, Mr. Speaker. We are very supportive and we will continue to be.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

Yes, there is so much going on right now and we know how short-term that very much is. I am talking about the long-term future, Mr. Speaker. We know what happens in Marystown when there are gaps in projects at the shipyard, whether it is three years time or it is seven years time. People have left the Burin Peninsula and gone to work in Alberta. We need to keep our skilled workers here in the long-term, not just in the next five or six years, Mr. Speaker.

Once again, I want to know: What is the Premier going to do to ensure a long-term future for marine fabrication in this Province?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, we are doing that all of the time. We have put all our energy into making sure that there was industrial development right here in Newfoundland and Labrador. That is why we do industrial benefits agreements with people such as Exxon Mobil, Chevron, and Husky about the development of our offshore.

Mr. Speaker, that is why we grabbed the opportunity on Vale Inco; so that we could ensure something more than best efforts, which they negotiated, the Liberals negotiated, when they signed that contract with Vale, to be able to say that we had concrete benefits, tangible benefits, tangible employment coming to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, that is our history, resources developed to the benefit of the people of the Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The time allotted for questions and answers has expired.

Presenting Reports by Standing and Select Committees

Tabling of Documents

Tabling of Documents

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

MR. F. COLLINS: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to table the report with Tribunal appointed under section 28 of the Provincial Court Act, 1991, to report on salaries and benefits for provincial court judges.

MR. SPEAKER: Further tabling of documents?

Notices of Motion.

Notices of Motion

MR. SPEAKER: 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 move the following resolution.

BE IT RESOLVED by the House of Assembly as follows:

WHEREAS the Lieutenant-Governor in Council appointed a tribunal under section 28 of the Provincial Court Act, 1991 to make recommendations on the salaries and benefits of judges and the chief judge; and

WHEREAS the Tribunal submitted its recommendations to the Minister of Justice on September 30, 2010; and

WHEREAS the report of the Newfoundland and Labrador Provincial Court Judges Salaries and Benefits Tribunal was tabled in this hon. House today; and

WHEREAS the House of Assembly is required under section 28.2 of the Act to approve, vary or reject the report within thirty days of it being tabled; and

WHEREAS government has decided to ask the House to accept the recommendations of the tribunal as contained in its report of September 30, 2010;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that this hon. House accept the recommendations of the report of the Newfoundland and Labrador Provincial Court Judges Salaries and Benefits Tribunal.

MR. SPEAKER: Further notices of motion?

Answers to Questions for which Notice has been Given.

Petitions.

Petitions

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I stand today to present a petition on behalf of the communities in Labrador, Mr. Speaker, that are asking the government to pave the Trans-Labrador Highway, as it is a vital lifeline to the Labrador communities. It reads:

WHEREAS the Trans-Labrador Highway is a vital transportation lifeline for the Labrador communities, providing access, generating economic activity, and allowing residents to obtain health care and other public services; and

WHEREAS Route 510 and other connecting branch roads of the Trans-Labrador Highway are unpaved, in deplorable condition and are no longer suitable and safe for the traffic volumes that travel this route; and

WHEREAS Labrador cannot afford to wait years or decades for upgrading and paving of their essential transportation route;

WHEREUPON the petitioners ask the House of Assembly to urge government to provide additional funding for much-needed improvements to Route 510 and connecting branch roads of the Trans-Labrador Highway.

Mr. Speaker, this petition is being circulated all across Labrador for the information of members across the way who are asking who signed the petitions, Mr. Speaker. There are signed petitions from communities in Lake Melville District, Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair District and Labrador West District, Mr. Speaker, and any other people from the Island of Newfoundland who have the fortune to travel into Labrador but the misfortune of travelling over that road, have signed this petition as well.

Mr. Speaker, this is being spearheaded by a local group made up of people from all across Labrador. They have been meeting on this regularly. They feel that their concerns are being ignored by the government. They feel that in their last meeting with the minister they were told that paving for this section of road is not on the radar of government, will not be on the radar of government for at least another couple of years before they decide to do anything at all with it. In fact, Mr. Speaker, the road is in deplorable condition. I drove over that highway myself this past weekend and it was nothing only potholes and ruts all in that road everywhere, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS JONES: I stopped and I talked to grader operators who told me that the road is so bad that the blades now of the grader are digging into the rocks and jolting them in the seats of the machinery that they are using to try and maintain those roads. That is how bad it is. The pavement in the Labrador Straits, Mr. Speaker, because of the increased traffic, realizing right now that all traffic in Labrador is going over this section of road. The amount of traffic there, Mr. Speaker, has quadrupled over the last number of years. There has been a lot of wear and tear on pavement that was already old. Last year, the potholes in the paved section of the road was so deep, Mr. Speaker, that people were damaging their vehicles every day on that section of road, and the department of highways, for weeks, did not even take the time to go out and put a sign up to say that there was a bump there. Then, they would not reimburse the people for the amount of damages that they did.

It is unfair treatment, Mr. Speaker, of the people in this part of the Province. They belong to the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador as well. They deserve to have representation from their government. They deserve to have roads that equal to other roads and highways across the Island of Newfoundland, and they are asking the government to take this issue seriously, to invest money, and to do what is right and bring this road up to a paved standard that is acceptable to the people in that area.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Further petitions?

The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

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

I rise today to enter my seventh petition concerning the washroom-restroom, or lack thereof, in the community of Rose Blanche-Harbour Le Cou servicing the community of La Poile.

Mr. Speaker, the prayer, as stated, pretty well lays it out pretty clearly:

WHEREAS the people of La Poile must use the provincial ferry system in order to travel to and from La Poile; and

WHEREAS the people of La Poile and visitors are required to wait at the Town of Rose Blanche-Harbour Le Cou from time to time for the ferry; and

WHEREAS there is no restroom-waiting room area at the Town of Rose Blanche where users of the ferry services may utilize washroom facilities; and –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair is having difficulty hearing the hon. member present his petition. I ask members on both sides for their co-operation.

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

WHEREAS citizens of all ages including men, women, children, seniors, disabled persons, require washroom facilities as a basic human need in the course of their travels, and particularly while awaiting the transit systems; and

WHEREAS it is an abuse of human dignity, as well as health and safety regulations, to allow such degrading and dehumanizing circumstances to continue;

WHEREUPON the undersigned, your petitioners, humbly pray and call upon the House of Assembly to urge government to immediately construct and operate a waiting room-restroom facility at the Town of Rose Blanche, such that all users of the provincial ferry system which operates out of La Poile may be able to utilize such washroom.

Mr. Speaker, as I indicated, this is my seventh time in entering this petition in this House. Hopefully, it gets the attention of the Minister of Transportation and Works.

I was in Rose Blanche, actually, on Saturday night past for a firemen's ball, met with several people in that community, and residents earlier that day from La Poile. They are very disgusted, would be the only word, that this matter has not yet been addressed.

Now, we are expecting to get the Budget next Tuesday on the nineteenth. Hopefully, Mr. Speaker, the people will no longer have to deal with and handle these inhuman, unsafe, unhealthy circumstances, and that the Minister of Transportation will find the dollars in order to put a facility there. Hopefully, the facility will not be what they did out of pure embarrassment and disrespect to the people of Ramea when they stuck porta-potties out on the head of the wharf. A porta-potty is not good enough. They need a facility and they need something that is humanly decent to use when they are travelling.

Any person who uses a public transit system in this Province ought to be entitled to the basic services that go with it. That includes having a washroom that you can use. You should not be expected to wait on the wharf in your vehicle, have to use the washroom while you are waiting for the provincial ferry, only to find yourself up behind a rock somewhere because you had to relieve yourself. It is absolutely embarrassing to even have to talk about it, Mr. Speaker, but that is the reality of it. Those are the facts of what is happening.

In this day and age, in this Province, when we talk about being a have Province, well, the people of La Poile do not have a washroom and they are deserving of one.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Further petitions?

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I stand today to present a petition on behalf of the residents of the District of The Isles of Notre Dame.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, residents in The Isles of Notre Dame, in the communities of the Twillingate-New World Island area, is very upset by government because of the acute care beds that were closed in their hospital.

Mr. Speaker, I cannot hear a thing.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask members for their co-operation.

I remind hon. members as well that is unparliamentary to sit with your backs to the Chair of the Speaker. I remind members as well that if they have private conversations if they would take them to outside, please, and allow hon. members here to carry out the work of the Parliament, allow petitions to be presented, listen to the directions that are given from the Chair, and allow the Orders of the Day to be presented when the time comes.

For the final time, I ask members for their co-operation.

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and thank you for your ruling.

I know it is hard for government members to listen to petitions from their constituents that are coming to the House of Assembly, but it is the reality. Their constituents are not happy and that is why they are sending these petitions to the House of Assembly. Mr. Speaker, it says:

WHEREAS there were fifteen acute care beds in the Notre Dame Bay Memorial Hospital Health Centre; and

WHEREAS five of the acute care beds closed this past summer and did not reopen in the fall; and

WHEREAS the availability of acute care beds is critical to the people of Twillingate and New World Island; and

WHEREAS the shortage of acute beds is resulting in people being denied admittance to Notre Dame Bay Memorial Hospital Health Centre; and

WHEREAS the people of Twillingate-New World Island do not want to see their health care services cut;

WHEREUPON the undersigned, your petitioners, humbly pray and call upon the House of Assembly to urge the government to reinstate the five acute care beds in the Notre Dame Bay Memorial Hospital Health Centre.

Mr. Speaker, the petitions that I have come from communities like Moreton's Harbour, Valley Pond, Bridgeport, Summerford, Virgin Arm, Cottlesville, Twillingate, Carter's Cove, Toogood Arm, Cow Head, Herring Neck, Bayview, Cobbs Arm, and the list goes on actually. These people are not happy. They are not happy at all because they depend upon the services of Notre Dame Bay Memorial Hospital for all of their health care services in that immediate area. When five of their acute care beds closed last year for the summer, it was under the impression that they would reopen in the fall. Instead, what the government did was played very cute with the people in this area. They told the people in the area that they would install, or make available, five restorative care beds because they knew there was a need as well for restorative care beds in that particular area. They said we will make those beds available to you, but what they did is they took the five acute care beds that were in the hospital, they designated them as restorative care beds and that was the plan that they handed the people.

To make matters worse, Mr. Speaker, the MHA for the area, the MHA that the people elected in Twillingate-New World Island area to come to this House of Assembly to represent them, went out there with the minister and tried to pull the wool over people's eyes, tried to sell the people a bill of goods that we were going to give you five restorative care beds when, in fact, they were closing down acute care beds in this hospital.

The people in the area are not happy about it. They are petitioning the House of Assembly, they are petitioning the government to do something about it, and they are petitioning their MHA to stand up and to represent their issues.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Further petitions?

Orders of the Day.

Orders of the Day

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

MS BURKE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

We will commence with some bills for first reading. With that, Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the hon. Minister of Natural Resources to ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act Respecting Forestry Professions, Bill 27, and I further move that the said bill be now read the first time.

MR. SPEAKER: It is properly moved and seconded by the hon. the Government House Leader to ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act Respecting Forestry Professions, Bill 27, and that Bill 27 be now read a first time.

Is it the pleasure of the House that Bill 27 be now read a first time?

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

The motion is carried.

Motion, the hon. the Minister of Natural Resources to introduce a bill, "An Act Respecting Forestry Professions", carried. (Bill 27)

CLERK: A bill, An Act Respecting Forestry Professions. (Bill 27)

MR. SPEAKER: Bill 27 has now been read a first time.

When shall Bill 27 be read a second time?

MS BURKE: Tomorrow, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Tomorrow.

On motion, Bill 27 read a first time, ordered read a second time on tomorrow.

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the hon. Minister of Health and Community Services, to ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Amend The Health Research Ethics Authority Act, Bill 28, and I further move that the said bill be now read a first time.

MR. SPEAKER: It is properly moved and seconded by the hon. the Government House Leader to ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Amend The Health Research Ethics Authority Act, Bill 28, and that Bill 28 be now read a first time.

Is it the pleasure of the House that Bill 28 be now read a first time?

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

The motion is carried.

Motion, the hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services to introduce a bill, "An Act To Amend The Health Research Ethics Authority Act", carried. (Bill 28)

CLERK: A bill, An Act To Amend The Health Research Ethics Authority Act. (Bill 28)

MR. SPEAKER: Bill 28 has now been read a first time.

When shall Bill 28 be read a second time?

MS BURKE: Tomorrow, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Tomorrow.

On motion, Bill 28 read a first time, ordered read a second time on tomorrow.

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the hon. the Minister of Natural Resources, that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole to consider Bills 1, 11, 12, 13, 14, 18 and 20.

MR. SPEAKER: It is properly moved and seconded that this House now resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole and that I do now leave the Chair.

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

The motion is carried.

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

Committee of the Whole

CHAIR (T. Osborne): The hon. the Government House Leader.

MS BURKE: Mr. Chair, we would like to call Order 9, Bill 18.

CHAIR: We are now debating Bill 18, An Act To Amend The Municipalities Act, 1999 No. 2.

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Municipalities Act, 1999 No. 2". (Bill 18)

CLERK: Clause 1.

CHAIR: Shall clause 1 carry?

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, ‘nay'.

Carried.

On motion, clause 1 carried.

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

CHAIR: Shall the enacting clause carry?

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, ‘nay'.

Carried.

On motion, enacting clause carried.

CLERK: An Act To Amend The Municipalities Act, 1999 No. 2.

CHAIR: Shall the title carry?

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, ‘nay'.

Carried.

On motion, title carried.

CHAIR: Shall I report the bill without amendment?

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, ‘nay'.

Carried.

Motion, that the Committee report having passed the bill without amendment, carried.

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MS BURKE: Thank you.

We would like to call Order 10, second reading of Bill 20.

CHAIR: We are now debating Bill 20, An Act To Amend The Highway Traffic Act.

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Highway Traffic Act". (Bill 20)

CLERK: Clause 1.

CHAIR: Shall clause 1 carry?

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, ‘nay'.

Carried.

On motion, clause 1 carried.

CLERK: Clauses 2 to 5 inclusive.

CHAIR: Shall clauses 2 to 5 inclusive carry?

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, ‘nay'.

Carried.

On motion, clauses 2 through 5 carried.

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

CHAIR: Shall the enacting clause carry?

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, ‘nay'.

Carried.

On motion, enacting clause carried.

CLERK: An Act To Amend The Highway Traffic Act.

CHAIR: Shall the title carry?

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, ‘nay'.

Carried.

On motion, title carried.

CHAIR: Shall I report the bill without amendment?

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, ‘nay'.

Carried.

Motion, that the Committee report having passed the bill without amendment, carried.

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MS BURKE: We would like to call Order 5, Bill 11.

CHAIR: We are now debating Bill 11, An Act To Amend The Sheriff's Act, 1991.

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Sheriff's Act, 1991". (Bill 11)

CLERK: Clause 1.

CHAIR: Shall clause 1 carry?

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, ‘nay'.

Carried.

On motion, clause 1 carried.

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

CHAIR: Shall the enacting clause carry?

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, ‘nay'.

Carried.

On motion, enacting clause carried.

CLERK: An Act To Amend The Sheriff's Act, 1991.

CHAIR: Shall the title carry?

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, ‘nay'.

Carried.

On motion, title carried.

CHAIR: Shall I report the bill without amendment?

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, ‘nay'.

Carried.

Motion, that the Committee report having passed the bill without amendment, carried.

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MS BURKE: We would like to call Order 6, Bill 12.

CHAIR: We are now debating Bill 12, An Act To Repeal The Regulatory Reform Act.

A bill, "An Act To Repeal The Regulatory Reform Act". (Bill 12)

CLERK: Clause 1.

CHAIR: Shall clause 1 carry?

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, ‘nay'.

Carried.

On motion, clause 1 carried.

CLERK: Clause 2.

CHAIR: Shall clause 2 carry?

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, ‘nay'.

Carried.

On motion, clause 2 carried.

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

CHAIR: Shall the enacting clause carry?

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, ‘nay'.

Carried.

On motion, enacting clause carried.

CLERK: An Act To Repeal The Regulatory Reform Act.

CHAIR: Shall the title carry?

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, ‘nay'.

Carried.

On motion, title carried.

CHAIR: Shall I report the bill without amendment?

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, ‘nay'.

Carried.

Motion, that the Committee report having passed the bill without amendment, carried.

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MS BURKE: Mr. Chair, we would like to call Order 7, Bill 13.

CHAIR: We are now debating Bill 13, An Act To Repeal The Subordinate Legislation Revision And Consolidation Act.

A bill, "An Act To Repeal The Subordinate Legislation Revision And Consolidation Act". (Bill 13)

CLERK: Clause 1.

CHAIR: Shall clause 1 carry?

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, ‘nay'.

Carried.

On motion, clause 1 carried.

CLERK: Clause 2.

CHAIR: Shall clause 2 carry?

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, ‘nay'.

Carried.

On motion, clause 2 carried.

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

CHAIR: Shall the enacting clause carry?

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, ‘nay'.

Carried.

On motion, enacting clause carried.

CLERK: An Act To Repeal The Subordinate Legislation Revision And Consolidation Act.

CHAIR: Shall the title carry?

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, ‘nay'.

Carried.

On motion, title carried.

CHAIR: Shall I report the bill without amendment?

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, ‘nay'.

Carried.

Motion, that the Committee report having passed the bill without amendment, carried.

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MS BURKE: Thank you.

We would like to call Order 8, Bill 14.

CHAIR: We are now debating Bill 14, An Act To Amend The Proceedings Against The Crown Act.

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Proceedings Against The Crown Act". (Bill 14)

CLERK: Clause 1.

CHAIR: Shall clause 1 carry?

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, ‘nay'.

Carried.

On motion, clause 1 carried.

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

CHAIR: Shall the enacting clause carry?

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, ‘nay'.

Carried.

On motion, enacting clause carried.

CLERK: An Act To Amend The Proceedings Against The Crown Act.

CHAIR: Shall the title carry?

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, ‘nay'.

Carried.

On motion, title carried.

CHAIR: Shall I report the bill without amendment?

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, ‘nay'.

Carried.

Motion, that the Committee report having passed the bill without amendment, carried.

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MS BURKE: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

We would like to call Order 4, Bill 1.

CHAIR: We are now debating Bill 1, An Act Respecting The Protection Of Adults.

A bill, "An Act Respecting The Protection Of Adults". (Bill 1)

CLERK: Clause 1.

CHAIR: Shall clause 1 carry?

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services.

MR. KENNEDY: Yes, Mr. Chair.

During second reading last week there was discussion of section 16.(4) of the act and some issues were raised by the Leader of the New Democratic Party. I have since had an opportunity to look at that and will be proposing an amendment.

If you want to deal with sections 1 to 15, we certainly can, but I do wish to have the opportunity to speak on section 16 and the proposed amendment.

CHAIR: Order, please!

We will proceed with clauses 1 through 15, and then we will accept the amendment from the Minister of Health and Community Services.

Shall clause 1 carry?

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, ‘nay'.

Carried.

On motion, clause 1 carried.

CLERK: Clauses 2 to 15 inclusive.

CHAIR: Shall clauses 2 to 15 inclusive carry?

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, ‘nay'.

Carried.

On motion, clauses 2 through 15 carried.

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services.

AN HON. MEMBER: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Thanks, John.

Mr. Chair, during a discussion last week in second reading an issue was raised by the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi in relation to section 16 of the proposed act which dealt with the investigation. Section 16 of the proposed act would have involved an overriding of any claim for a solicitor-client privilege. The member opposite raised concerns about that, Mr. Chair, and I indicated I would go back and have a look at that.

I will indicate, Mr. Chair, that the concerns raised by the Leader of the NDP are valid concerns; that there was a real concern there in relation to the overriding of solicitor-client privilege. We are proposing an amendment, a copy of which I provide to the Opposition.

Before getting to that, Mr. Chair, I wish to speak very briefly on this issue of solicitor-client privilege. Mr. Chair, as pointed out by the Leader of the NDP, solicitor-client privilege is a very basic privilege that exists in our legal system. It describes the privilege that exists between a client and his or her lawyer. Clients must feel free and protected, to be frank, and candid with their lawyers with respect to their affairs so that the legal system may properly function. Having been a practising lawyer for many years prior to my election into politics in 2007, I am acutely aware of the importance of solicitor-client privilege.

Mr. Chair, what we have to look at when we are bringing in a piece of legislation, the one privilege that if not sacrosanct, near absolute in our legal system, is that of solicitor-client privilege. The Supreme Court of Canada, in a decision called Pritchard v. Ontario in 2004, reaffirmed the principles underlying solicitor-client privilege and the importance of the same. Mr. Chair, as long as the communication falls within the usual scope of a professional relationship it is something that must be given respect by the courts. It is, once established, considerably broad and all-encompassing.

The Supreme Court of Canada, Mr. Chair, in this particular case, Justice Major writing for the court, referred to previous jurisprudence on solicitor-client privilege and basically stated, "The privilege is jealously guarded and should only be set aside in the most unusual circumstances, such as a genuine risk of wrongful conviction." He referred to previous case law which says that, "…solicitor-client privilege must be as close to absolute as possible to ensure public confidence and retain relevance. As such, it will only yield in certain clearly defined circumstances, and does not involve a balancing of interests on a case-by-case basis."

In a subsequent decision, Mr. Chair, out of the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador Trial Division in 2009, Justice Valerie Marshall in reviewing – this was an ATIPP case – referred to R. v. Pritchard, and stated that in R. v. Pritchard the Supreme Court of Canada stated, legislation which purports to "…limit or deny solicitor-client privilege will be interpreted restrictively". Further, at paragraph 35, the Supreme Court of Canada concludes that a legislative expression of intention to abrogate the privilege must be clear and unequivocal.

Mr. Chair, the point raised by the Leader of the NDP is a valid one. It is one that demonstrates the importance of debate in this hon. House. It is something that I certainly should have been more alert to as I was reading and preparing for the act; however, again, it emphasizes that the role played by all members in this hon. House can be very practical, it can be one that can allow for the recognition of oversights, mistakes, errors, or correction. So, what we are going to do is we are proposing an amendment to this bill based on the Supreme Court of Canada case law, which I just referred to, and out of our Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador Trial Division. Mr. Chair, I have to again come back and just reiterate that the purpose of this act is to protect vulnerable adults.

Section 12 of the act states that, "A person who reasonably believes that an adult may be an adult in need of protective intervention shall immediately give that information, together with the name and address of the adult, if known, to the provincial director, a director, a social worker or a peace officer." What it does, Mr. Chair, it places an onus upon all of us if we are in a situation where we have information that an individual, a reasonable belief that an adult may be in need of protective intervention. This section is consistent with the Child, Youth and Family Services Act. What I am trying to do with the amendment, Mr. Chair, is ensure a balancing with the spirit intent of the act, yet respect the near absolute solicitor-client privilege. I had to look at, how can we achieve these goals? How can we balance the importance of solicitor-client privilege with the overriding intent of this act is to protect vulnerable adults and to ensure that they are protected?

Mr. Chair, section 16 then deals with the investigative stage. The amendment we propose, Mr. Chair, would now read, under subsection (4): For the purpose of subsection (3), the right to information overrides a claim of confidentiality or privilege, except solicitor-client privilege. Now, perhaps I should expand on that for a second because there are different kinds of privilege. There is the doctor-patient privilege, the priest-penitent privilege. There are other types of privilege that are outlined in such scholarly texts as Sopinka, Lederman & Bryant on evidence, Wigmore on Evidence.

What we are trying to do here is to, again, pay due respect to the Supreme Court of Canada dicta in Pritchard and other cases, such as McClure, and Lavallee, which have preceded that. We are now highlighting the importance of solicitor-client privilege and that a claim of privilege or – excuse me, that it is overridden except in a solicitor-client privilege. Mr. Chair, now we have to come back though and say: well, look, the purpose of this act is to protect vulnerable adults. How can we achieve a legislative balancing of the interests of the intent of the act, to protect vulnerable adults, with the respect for the solicitor-client privilege?

What we are proposing, Mr. Chair, in subsection (5) is that, "Notwithstanding paragraph (4)(a) an investigator may, in the course of an investigation, require and access information that is solicitor-client privileged, where it relates to a report of a solicitor under section 12."

Now, Mr. Chair, this is clear and unequivocal language, but I want to put it very practical. If I, as a solicitor, make a report that I have reason to believe that there is a vulnerable adult then I have made that report so I have to cooperate with the investigator. However, Mr. Chair, if an investigator comes to me as a lawyer looking for information that is solicitor-client privileged, I can say no. It is not a report that was made by me.

That is a very practical distinction and perhaps, Mr. Chair, if I can just give a couple of working scenarios to try to explain the rationale behind this amendment as we try to balance these rights.

Mr. Chair, we have an individual who is a business owner, a long time client of a lawyer. The lawyer has advised the client on many business matters. Last year, the lawyer completed a will for the businessman but in a meeting last week the lawyer became aware that, his client said, well my son is moving back from the US and I have not had contact with him for ten years but I am going to; he is coming back. Then what happens is, since the son has come back, Mr. Chair, the client, the long standing client, his behaviour has changed. The son now makes business related decisions. He talks of changing his will and naming his son as beneficiary but, Mr. Chair, he seems that he is agitated and nervous. He notices some bruising around the neckline, Mr. Chair. He is looking malnourished and unkempt and not like himself in all the years that the lawyer has been dealing with him. He reports his concern to a social worker as he suspects that this may be a case of abuse. He reports that to the social worker under section 12 as required. Now, Mr. Chair, that investigator can go to this lawyer and say well we need you to cooperate. In those circumstances where the lawyer made the report, Mr. Chair, the solicitor-client privilege would be overridden.

Mr. Chair, in that particular case the lawyer would be expected, if an investigation is required – and the social worker will determine that – then the investigator will access information from the lawyer.

Now, Mr. Chair, we have another scenario where a social worker receives a referral that a lady, maybe an adult in need of protective intervention from a neighbour. So, an investigation is started. The social worker doing the investigation under the act calls a lawyer regarding the lady who is the subject of the call or who may be in need of intervention. The lawyer, Mr. Chair, is representing the lady on a number of matters including a divorce. The lawyer, Mr. Chair, has no reason to believe that the lady, his client, is an adult in need of protective intervention. The social worker wants to discuss the investigation with the lawyer and is seeking access to some of the files.

The lawyer in this circumstance is not required to cooperate, Mr. Chair, because what has happened is a neighbour phoned a social worker about Mrs. W. The social worker has concerns. She phones the lawyer and says, well, I know you act for Mrs. W; I want you to cooperate. The lawyer says, no, solicitor-client privilege applies.

So again, Mr. Chair, the practical distinction is if as a lawyer I have observations, I make those observations, and I feel compelled to report that. If an investigation is conducted, then solicitor-client privilege is overridden to the extent that I must cooperate. Mr. Chair, if someone else makes a report, I as a lawyer have no obligation and in fact cannot cooperate because of the importance of solicitor-client privilege.

So, Mr. Chair, these are not circumstances that arise often. We do not know under the new act. We have tried to beef up the new act to ensure that adults in need of protection receive that protection they need. We do know, Mr. Chair, under the previous act there were not a lot of complaints. We have to ensure, Mr. Chair, and I have to ensure as a minister of the Crown where I am aware of a situation such as raised by the Leader of the NDP, and when we go back and look at it and we say, yes, he or she has a good point in terms of whether it comes from one of my own Cabinet colleagues, from caucus colleagues, from members of the Opposition, or from a member of a public. Certainly, we cannot simply bring in a piece of legislation where I know there is a potential problem.

Now, that problem may never arise, Mr. Chair. I could simply say, well, I am not going to cooperate here. This is not something we are going to do. We are going to barrel ahead with this legislation. That defeats the purpose of debate in this House, Mr. Chair, and the purpose of debate in this House is to have discussion, to highlight problems, and to take into account suggestions. I for one, Mr. Chair, as a minister, can ensure the members of this hon. House, whether on this side of the House or on the Opposition's side, I have no difficulty with taking those suggestions into account, going back and looking at it, and determining whether or not it is a valid suggestion, a valid criticism, a valid complaint, and whether it has merit.

In this, Mr. Chair, I can say that, and I thank the Leader of the NDP for raising this point. She has certainly highlighted a situation, Mr. Speaker, that I, quite frankly, would have been somewhat embarrassed if it had come to court in something, again, being a lawyer by training, that I had missed.

We have taken this opportunity, Mr. Speaker, to correct this oversight. I hope that it meets with the approval of the members opposite in terms of the suggested amendment. I would like, Mr. Speaker, to read the amendment that we are suggesting, into the record. It would be in Bill 1, An Act Respecting The Protection Of Adults.

"1. Subclause 16(4) of the Bill is repealed and the following substituted: (4) For the purpose of subsection (3), the right to information overrides (a) a claim of confidentiality or privilege, except solicitor-client privilege; and (b) a restriction in an enactment or the common law about the disclosure or confidentially of information. (5) Notwithstanding paragraph (4)(a), an investigator may, in the course of an investigation, require and access information that is solicitor-client privileged where it relates to the report of a solicitor under section 12."

That would be the proposed amendment, Mr. Speaker, and I thank the members opposite for their suggestions, especially the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

CHAIR: Order, please!

It is properly moved by the Minister of Health and Community Services that clause 16 be amended and the Chair finds that the amendment is in order.

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

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

I am delighted to stand and respond. I thank the minister for the clear explanation that he has given. I am very glad to hear him recognizing what he has recognized here today, that we all are responsible in this House, not just in this House but particularly in this House, we are all responsible for every piece of legislation that goes through. We all have to personally hold that responsibility and know that if a piece of legislation goes through, we want to make sure that it is accurate and that it meets the needs of the people of the Province, and anybody else who is going to be affected, any groups that are going to be affected by a piece of legislation.

Having the time to read legislation before it comes to the House for reading is extremely important. I am glad to say that with Bill 1 we did have the time in our office to carefully go through the bill and to make sure that the bill was good, that it was accurate, that it did what it wanted to do. I was really pleased to say during second reading, and pleased to say again today, that the bill, as a whole, is an excellent bill. I really believe it is. I really do believe it deals with protecting adults. Adults who need protection sometimes from themselves, sometimes from others, sometimes from a system, will definitely be taken care of by the Province because of this legislation and by our legal system because of this legislation.

In going through the bill, as the minister has indicated, I did find that section 16.(5) was really questionable when it talked about the fact that solicitor-client privilege could be ignored by an investigator, somebody investigating a complaint. While we do not have lawyers in our office, we certainly do have people who are excellent researchers and I have to say it was I, myself, who picked up on this section, as well as the researcher who was working on it. We said this certainly cannot be meant. It cannot be meant that solicitor-client privilege can be ignored by an investigator.

I am really glad to have had the wonderful explanation that the minister gave today, showing the legal precedents and the reason why we have to make sure that we do not have something in a piece of legislation that could ignore something as important as solicitor-client privilege. What would have been really awful is that if this had gone into legislation and remained there, it would have set a terrible precedent in our Province. I am sure that somewhere down the road it may have been picked up, but it is much better to pick up something like this prior to its being passed in the House rather than after.

Once again, I want to point out how important the process is of our getting bills early enough and being able to go through them so that we can be sure that what we are passing is accurate. This is not a statement about the minister, but I would just like to point out that even after this bill was done very carefully, I am sure, in the Department of Health and Community Services and even after lawyers went through this bill, as I know happens, still, this point about section 16.(5) was not picked up by anybody. I am very glad that I have been able to make sure that this clause is not going to be in and we now have the amendment that was put forth by the minister.

He has explained very carefully where it is necessary that solicitor-client privilege will be overlooked and that is where a solicitor, him or herself, actually is the one who makes the report. Then, of course, their information, their papers, et cetera have to be accessible.

We have read the clause and the minister, as a lawyer, certainly got engaged in the amendment, I know. The amendment is excellent. The amendment does meet the needs of the legislation itself, while making sure that, in general, solicitor-client privilege is continued to be honoured by this House. So, I am very happy to support the bill with the amendment.

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

CHAIR: Is it the pleasure of the Committee to adopt the amendment to clause 16?

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, ‘nay'.

Carried.

On motion, amendment carried.

CHAIR: Is it the pleasure of the Committee to adopt clause 16, as amended?

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, ‘nay'.

Carried.

On motion, clause 16, as amended, carried.

CLERK: Clause 17 to 41 inclusive.

CHAIR: Shall clauses 17 to 41 inclusive carry?

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, ‘nay'.

Carried.

On motion, clauses 17 through 41 carried.

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

CHAIR: Shall the enacting clause carry?

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, ‘nay'.

Carried.

On motion, enacting clause carried.

CLERK: An Act Respecting The Protection Of Adults.

CHAIR: Shall the title carry?

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, ‘nay'.

Carried.

On motion, title carried.

CHAIR: Shall I report the bill carried with amendment?

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, ‘nay'.

Carried.

Motion, that the Committee report having passed the bill with amendment, carried.

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MS BURKE: Thank you.

Mr. Chair, I move that the Committee rise and report Bills 1, 11, 12, 13, 14, 18, and 20.

CHAIR: The motion is that the Committee rise and report Bill 1 with amendment, and Bills 11, 12, 13, 14, 18, and 20 carried without amendment, and ask leave to sit again.

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, ‘nay'.

Carried.

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

MR. SPEAKER (Fitzgerald): Order, please!

The hon. the Member for the District of St. John's South and Deputy Speaker.

MR. T. OSBORNE: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole have considered the matters to them referred and have directed me to report Bill 1 carried with amendment.

MR. SPEAKER: The Chair of the Committee of the Whole reports that the Committee have considered the matters to them referred and have directed him to report Bill 1 with some amendments.

When shall the amendments be read?

MS BURKE: Now, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Now.

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services, that the amendments be now read a first time.

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

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

The motion is carried.

CLERK: First reading of amendments.

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the hon. Minister of Health and Community Services, that the amendments be now read a second time.

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

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt this motion?

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

The motion is carried.

CLERK: Second reading of amendments.

MR. SPEAKER: When shall Bill 1, as amended, be read a third time?

MS BURKE: Now, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Now.

On motion, amendment read a first and second time. Bill ordered read a third time presently, by leave.

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the hon. Minister of Health and Community Services, that Bill 1, An Act Respecting The Protection Of Adults, be now read a third time.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion that Bill 1, An Act Respecting The Protection Of Adults, be now read a third time?

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

The motion is carried.

CLERK: A bill, An Act Respecting The Protection Of Adults. (Bill 1)

MR. SPEAKER: Bill 1 has now been read a third time and it is ordered that the bill do pass and that its title be as on the Order Paper.

On motion, a bill, "An Act Respecting The Protection Of Adults", read a third time, ordered passed and its title be as on the Order Paper. (Bill 1).

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Deputy Speaker and Member for St. John's South.

MR. T. OSBORNE: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole have considered the matters to them referred and have directed me to report Bills 11, 12, 13, 14, 18, and 20 carried without amendment.

MR. SPEAKER: The Chair of the Committee of the Whole reports that the Committee have considered the matters to them referred and have directed him to report Bills 11, 12, 13, 14, 18 and 20 carried without amendment.

When shall the report be received?

Now?

When shall the said bills be read a third time?

MS BURKE: Now, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Now.

On motion, report received and adopted. Bills ordered read a third time presently, by leave.

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the hon. Minister of Justice and Attorney General, that Bill 11, An Act To Amend The Sheriff's Act, 1991, be now read a third time.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion that Bill 11 be now read a third time?

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

The motion is carried.

CLERK: A bill, An Act To Amend The Sheriff's Act, 1991. (Bill 11)

MR. SPEAKER: Bill 11 has now been read a third time and it is ordered that the bill do pass and that its title be as on the Order Paper.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Sheriff's Act, 1991", read a third time, ordered passed and its title be as on the Order Paper. (Bill 11)

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the hon. Minister of Justice and Attorney General, that Bill 12, An Act To Repeal The Regulatory Reform Act, be now read a third time.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion that Bill 12 be now read a third time?

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

The motion is carried.

CLERK: A bill, An Act To Repeal The Regulatory Reform Act. (Bill 12)

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

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

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the hon. Minister of Justice and Attorney General, that Bill 13, An Act To Repeal The Subordinate Legislation Revision And Consolidation Act, be now read a third time.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion that Bill 13 be now read a third time?

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

The motion is carried.

CLERK: A bill, An Act To Repeal The Subordinate Legislation Revision And Consolidation Act. (Bill 13)

MR. SPEAKER: Bill 13 has now been read a third time and it is ordered that the bill do pass and that its title be as on the Order Paper.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Repeal The Subordinate Legislation Revision And Consolidation Act", read a third time, ordered passed and its title be as on the Order Paper. (Bill 13)

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the hon. Minister of Justice and Attorney General, that Bill 14, An Act To Amend The Proceedings Against The Crown Act, be now read a third time.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion that Bill 14 be now read a third time?

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

The motion is carried.

CLERK: A bill, An Act To Amend The Proceedings Against The Crown Act. (Bill 14)

MR. SPEAKER: Bill 14 has now been read a third time and it is ordered that Bill 14 do pass and that its title be as on the Order Paper.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Proceedings Against The Crown Act", read a third time, ordered passed and its title be as on the Order Paper. (Bill 14)

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the hon. Minister of Natural Resources, that Bill 15, An Act To Amend The Petroleum And Natural Gas Act, be now read a third time.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion that Bill 15, An Act To Amend The Petroleum And Natural Gas Act, be now read a third time?

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

The motion is carried.

CLERK: A bill, An Act To Amend The Petroleum And Natural Gas Act. (Bill 15)

MR. SPEAKER: Bill 15 has now been read a third time and it is ordered that Bill 15 do pass and that its title be as on the Order Paper.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Petroleum And Natural Gas Act", read a third time, ordered passed and its title be as on the Order Paper. (Bill 15)

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the hon. Minister of Municipal Affairs, that Bill 18, An Act To Amend The Municipalities Act, 1999 No. 2, be now read a third time.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion that Bill 18 be now read a third time?

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

The motion is carried.

CLERK: A bill, An Act To Amend The Municipalities Act, 1999 No. 2. (Bill 18)

MR. SPEAKER: Bill 18 has now been read a third time and it is ordered that the bill do pass that its title be as on the Order Paper.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Municipalities Act, 1999 No. 2", read a third time, ordered passed and its title be as on the Order Paper. (Bill 18)

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the hon. Minister of Municipal Affairs, that Bill 19, An Act To Amend The Urban And Rural Planning Act, 2000, be now read a third time.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion that Bill 19 be now read a third time?

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

The motion is carried.

CLERK: A bill, An Act To Amend The Urban And Rural Planning Act, 2000. (Bill 19)

MR. SPEAKER: Bill 19 has now been read a third time and it is ordered that the bill do pass and that its title be as on Order Paper.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Urban And Rural Planning Act, 2000", read a third time, ordered passed and its title be as on the Order Paper. (Bill 19)

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the hon. Minister of Government Services, that Bill 20, An Act To Amend The Highway Traffic Act, be now read a third time.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion that Bill 20 be now read a third time?

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

Carried.

CLERK: A bill, An Act To Amend The Highway Traffic Act. (Bill 20)

MR. SPEAKER: Bill 20 has now been read a third time and it is ordered that the bill do pass and that its title be as on the Order Paper.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Highway Traffic Act", read a third time, ordered passed and its title be as on the Order Paper. (Bill 20)

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

MS BURKE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

We will now go to the second reading of bills and, with that, I will call Order 11, second reading of Bill 16.

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

MR. F. COLLINS: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the hon. Minister of Education, that Bill 16 be now read a second time.

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that Bill 16, entitled An Act To Amend The Support Orders Enforcement Act, 2006, be now read a second time.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Support Orders Enforcement Act, 2006". (Bill 16)

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

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

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased today to introduce Bill 16, An Act To Amend The Support Orders Enforcement Act, 2006. Bill 16 proposes three amendments to that act, and I will refer to these amendments in a few minutes.

First of all, Mr. Speaker, I would like to say a few words about the Support Orders Enforcement Act, 2006. It was passed by this House of Assembly on May 26, 2006 and it was proclaimed in force on April 13, 2007. This act replaced the old act, the Support Orders Enforcement Act, which was first introduced in 1988.

Mr. Speaker, the Support Orders Enforcement Act is designed to help individuals who are entitled to receive support pursuant to a support order. The legislation establishes the agency known as the Support Enforcement Program, which has been situated in Corner Brook now since its inception but its staff services the entire Province. The Support Enforcement Program falls under the responsibility of the Department of Justice and is a publicly funded program. The program is set up to enforce all child and spousal support orders on behalf of parties in whose favour these orders have been made. Mr. Speaker, for the purpose of this presentation, the party in favour of who the order has been made is referred to as the creditor.

This legislation, Mr. Speaker, requires that every support order that was made after May 1, 1989, the date on which the old legislation came into effect, is to be registered with and enforced by the program. Every support order, supported by the court, approved by the court, has to be registered with the program and enforced by the program, unless the creditor decides to opt out. It is the court's responsibility, Mr. Speaker, to send a copy of the support order directly to the Support Enforcement Program, not the creditor's responsibility. It is the court's responsibility to send a copy of the support order directly to the Support Enforcement Program.

Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned, the person entitled to receive the support, known as the creditor, will be asked to complete a registration form which contains the information that is necessary to enforce the order. The Support Enforcement Program monitors the payments through a computer system, and should default occur at any time, that program will take enforcement proceedings without the necessity of any intervention by the creditor to whom the money is owed. That responsibility is the responsibility of the Support Enforcement Program. When monitoring the payments if they find that someone has defaulted a payment, that director of the enforcement program will take action, without any necessary intervention by the person who is entitled to receive it, to make sure that the money is paid, to take the necessary intervention.

Mr. Speaker, in April of 2007 the House of Assembly passed the Support Orders Enforcement Act, 2006. That legislation dramatically increased the powers that were available to the director for the enforcement of support orders that were in the initial enforcement act introduced in 1998. The director now has significantly increased availability or capacity to enforce the program.

Some of the enforcement tools that are available to that Support Enforcement Program are set out in the legislation and they include such things as wage garnishments - you can garnish wages, garnish bank accounts. It can register the support orders with the Judgment Enforcement Registry and that enables the High Sheriff to then enforce the program. The High Sheriff has the same powers as the director does but he has additional powers, he can seize property for example.

The enforcement tool available to the program also would include the establishment of a lien against real property. It can result in the suspension of a debtor's driver's licence, or it could impinge or impede his ability to get big game licences for example. It could also attach certain entitlements that he might be due, for example, registered savings plans like RRSPs or RIFFS. These are enforcement tools that the director has in order to enforce this program.

He can also, Mr. Speaker, attach funds that are payable to the director from federal sources such as income tax refunds. He can attach GST, HST rebates. He can attach Canada Pension Plan, Training Allowances, and he can attach unemployment insurance. He can also request that federal licences and permits be suspended. For example, he can have your Canadian passport suspended. The range of enforcement tools available to the director for enforcement, Mr. Speaker, is pretty large. The new act has dramatically increased the powers available to the director.

Mr. Speaker, since the new Support Orders Enforcement Act, was brought in, in 2006, this has significantly increased the amount of support collected annually in this Province. One would make that deduction, obviously, from the increased enforcement tools now that the director has. The amount of support collected annually now has increased dramatically. For example, Mr. Speaker, in 2005, under the old act, the Support Enforcement Program was collecting $22.5 million in support payments annually, $22.5 million. This figure now, Mr. Speaker, has increased to almost $31.5 million annually, which equates, basically, to a 40 per cent increase in collections since the end of that fiscal year.

Mr. Speaker, at the end of this current fiscal year, the Support Enforcement Program will have collected and distributed to creditors $386.1 million to custodial parents since it was first introduced in 1989. Currently, the program monitors over 7,000 active accounts and has eleven enforcement officers. This equates to a caseload of about 648 cases per officer and it issues an average of 7,700 support cheques per month, or 92,400 cheques annually. Mr. Speaker, the effect of the program is quite substantial.

The latest report that was released by the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics covering the fiscal year that ended March 31, 2010, demonstrated that this Province's Support Enforcement Program has the second highest compliance rate in the country, behind only Quebec, at 78 per cent. The program, Mr. Speaker, is doing quite well. Our Support Enforcement Program also had the lowest percentage of cases in the country in arrears at 37 per cent. The enforcement program is working quite well.

The act, Mr. Speaker, sets out a series of enforcement options which promote greater compliance of support orders, but Bill 16 seeks to introduce some amendments that are necessary to address a number of circumstances which have come to light related to the enforcement of support orders of this Province.

Mr. Speaker, I will briefly read the amendments that we are presenting in this bill. We are making two amendments to section 8; one, "to expand the director's ability to withdraw a support order if the creditor wilfully fails or refuses to provide to the Director of Support Enforcement any information necessary to enforce a support order." That is the first one.

Mr. Speaker, currently, section 8 of the Support Orders Enforcement Act states that the director may withdraw a support order where the creditor wilfully fails to or refuses to provide information about the debtor that the director requires to enforce the order. The director needs certain information in order to enforce the support orders and if the creditor refuses to give information about the debtor that the director needs, then he can withdraw the support order. For example, the debtor's whereabouts - if the director needs to know the debtor's whereabouts and the creditor knows but refuses to disclose it - the place of employment, telephone number. This information is necessary for the Support Enforcement Program to be enforced and make use of the enforcement tools that are available pursuant to the legislation. If that happens, the director may decide to withdraw the order from the program.

Mr. Speaker, this does not mean that the support order is no longer valid. It just means that the director does not have enough information to properly enforce it. All support orders remain valid and remain on the books until the child is no longer a child of the marriage or the relationship, or until the ordered is varied by a court competent jurisdiction.

Now I am advised, Mr. Speaker, by the Director of Support Enforcement that there are situations where information about the status of the children have to be provided and is also necessary to enforce certain support orders. That information can only be provided by the creditor. Now, there are some support orders registered with the Support Enforcement Program where the children involved are over the age of nineteen, for example, and the creditor is not providing information with respect to their status. For example, is the child enrolled in full-time studies? If he or she is, they might be eligible for support from the debtor. Is the child still dependent on the creditor, or is the child off working somewhere in some other jurisdiction? Is the child employed full-time? Does he reside with the creditor? These are valid questions, Mr. Speaker, that can only be confirmed by the creditor or the custodial parent.

There is nothing in the act, Mr. Speaker, that mandates the creditor to supply that information. The only thing in the act that mandates a creditor to supply information refers to the debtor only. This bill proposes to amend paragraph 8(e) of the Support Orders Enforcement Act to "expand the director's ability to withdraw a support order if the creditor wilfully fails or refuses to provide to the Director of Support Enforcement any information necessary to enforce a support order." Not necessarily only referring to the debtor, but any information. This language, Mr. Speaker, is not unique. It is found in similar legislation in the other provinces. That is the first amendment that we are proposing.

The second amendment, Mr. Speaker, is also to section 8 to "permit the director to withdraw a support order if both the debtor and the creditor no longer reside in the Province."

Mr. Speaker, this is currently the practice. The director will withdraw a support order when he is advised by the creditor that neither party resides in the Province. The order is withdrawn because it is more appropriately transferred to the jurisdiction where the creditor resides.

It is not uncommon, Mr. Speaker, that a creditor will advise the director that he or she is moving to another Province. The director will simply advise the creditor that he or she needs to re-register the support order in the province of the new jurisdiction. The director will facilitate this transfer. He will continue to enforce a support order until he receives a letter from the maintenance enforcement program in the new jurisdiction requesting that the file be transferred. So until he hears from the new jurisdiction, he will continue to enforce the support order.

It does happen, Mr. Speaker, on occasion, that the Support Enforcement Program enforces a support order notwithstanding that both the creditor and the debtor no longer reside in the jurisdiction because nobody has told the director about it. The Support Enforcement Division has not been made aware that the parties have moved. That is quite understandable, Mr. Speaker, because in some situations there is little need for any day-to-day involvement of the creditor. He or she does not become involved in the program because payments are forthcoming from the debtor and the transfer of funds is completed by electronic banking. There is very little occasion where the creditor becomes involved in the day-to-day involvement, and moves from the jurisdiction and does not advise the director.

It is important, however, Mr. Speaker, to set out this power in the legislation to ensure that the public is aware that the Support Orders Enforcement Act, 2006 is indeed provincial legislation and that the Support Enforcement Program only has the jurisdiction to enforce orders that are registered with it, where either the debtor or the creditor both reside in the jurisdiction. This amendment proposes to add an amendment that the director can withdraw a support order if both the debtor and the creditor no longer reside in the Province. That is the second amendment. It is currently the practice but we want to enshrine it in the legislation.

Lastly, Mr. Speaker, the last amendment requires a debtor to serve notice to the director if the debtor applies to court for an order suspending any proceeding taken by the director. This amendment will require the debtor to serve notice to the director if he is going to apply to the court for any order suspending the proceeding taken by the director.

Section 14, Mr. Speaker, provides that mechanism, whereby a debtor may apply to the court to have the director stop enforcing the support order for a period of three months. Now, while the debtor must serve the stay application on the creditor, there is nothing in the act, Mr. Speaker, which obligates him to serve a copy on the director. The director may not know that there is an application before the court by the debtor to vary the support order. That is not consistent with maintenance enforcement legislation in other provinces and is not consistent with the role of the director, because the role of the director is that he stands in the place of the creditor for the purpose of this act.

Mr. Speaker, it is important for the director to be in attendance at any court hearing which involves any actions taken by the debtor, and it is equally important that the director have the opportunity to present any information necessary to the court in such a situation. Currently, the director may be given notice in some of those matters, because the court will sometimes provide him with a copy of the application. Sometimes a lawyer representing the director will provide a copy as a courtesy, but there is nothing in the act to mandate it. This amendment mandates any application made by the debtor has to be served directly on the director.

Mr. Speaker, these amendments are positive and they will further ensure our children benefit from financial support ordered by the courts. It helps to ensure that the end of a marriage or relationship should not be the start of any financial hardship for children and families as a result of the parents ignoring their financial obligations. They are necessary, Mr. Speaker, to enhance and support the work of the director in enforcing the act.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity to discuss Bill 16, and I look forward to the comments of the other speakers.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER (Kelly): The Chair recognizes the hon. the Opposition House Leader.

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

I appreciate an opportunity to have a few comments about Bill 16. The minister gave some history, of course, as to where the Support Enforcement Agency originated, where it came from and so on. It is probably one of the most valuable pieces of legislation and one of the most valuable structures that we have in our society today when it comes to supporting families. It is very, very important.

Everybody, of course, has heard about the deadbeat dad. That was a very serious problem we have had. I say deadbeat dads because generally, historically, that is what it was. It was not a case of moms who failed to look after and support their children. It was usually dads, who albeit the marriage might have broken down, they had a court order against them. There was no way to track them down, especially if they left the Province. There was no way the mother in that case, for example, could see that the court order was in some way enforced so that she received the money she was suppose to get from that order to support her children.

Now, Mr. Speaker, the statistics today are apparently something like two out of every three marriages break down in divorce. Back years ago it used to one in three, now it is about two in three marriages that end in divorce. Of course, when that happens you do not only have, if there are children involved of course, child support issues, you have spousal support issues that apply.

In fact, in Canada - the minister did not mention it - the Divorce Act of Canada came about in 1968, not an awfully long time ago, and in Newfoundland and Labrador the only way that you could actually terminate your marriage by way of divorce was on the floor of the House of Commons. There was no system when it first started, prior to 1968, whereby if you wanted to end your marriage, there was no set-up established structure whereby you could file the papers, go to court, comply with certain criteria and have your divorce done. Of course, when the Divorce Act came along in 1968, that was to make it easier. The marriage had ended and the parties needed some way to actually legally, officially, terminate it. That is where the Divorce Act came about in 1968.

In fact, I know one gentleman, he is passed on now, a very good friend of mine in Port aux Basques, who lived separate and apart from his wife for something like twenty-odd years. He was in another relationship and wanted to get married, but there was no way that he could actually terminate his marriage without all kinds of rigamarole. In 1968, the Divorce Act comes along.

Now, in addition to the Divorce Act, which just terminates the marriage, tied into the Divorce Act there are all kinds of rules and regulations about what happens to child support, what happens to custody issues, what about spousal support. All of that is dealt with in the Divorce Act. In addition to the Divorce Act, there were also provincial laws that dealt with maintenance and support. Somewhere that all had to mesh. At the end of the day, if a party went to court and received an order saying: okay, you, Sir, have to pay your wife x-amount of dollars for spousal support. You have three children; this is what your income is, so this is what you are going to pay for child support. The woman in that case, for example, she was the creditor. She was entitled to get the money from her spouse and the husband was the debtor. The question then was: Where did they take that piece of paper? How did they ever get it enforced? In lots of cases, of course, this is where the deadbeat dad strategy came in and these deadbeat dads, just so they did not have to pay spousal support and did not have to pay child support, would leave the Province. In some cases, they never, ever tracked them down. It built up to be thousands and millions of dollars that was owed to people, such as ex-wives, who needed money for themselves and for their children and had no way to enforce it.

Along in 1989 comes the Support Enforcement Agency – 1988, actually. I believe the minister of the day was Minister Lynn Verge who represented the District of Humber East at the time. That is probably why the Support Enforcement Agency ended up being in Corner Brook. There is nothing wrong with that. It is great to have good government agencies out on the West Coast as well as in St. John's. It has been there since 1988. I think today they have something like seventeen employees.

So, no matter if you get an order for support from any provincial court or any Supreme Court in Newfoundland, the documentation all ends up going to Corner Brook to be filed. Of course, they need to know certain things. They need to know the name of the creditor, the name of the debtor, they need to have dates of birth, they need to know who your employers are, and so on, so they can set-up a file and put it on computer. Then they have to enforce it.

They can pretty well do anything now legally within the Province in order to either get the money or prevent the person who holds the money from doing certain things until he pays the money. I use he because generally it is the he who does not pay the support order.

For example, if Joe does not pay his support order today and is registered with the Support Enforcement Agency, they can actually stop your driver's licence. They can say: Until you fulfill your obligations that you have under that support order for your spouse and your children, you are not allowed to drive anymore. You are not allowed to have a moose licence anymore.

For example, if the creditor comes in and says: He has not paid his support, but I know that he works for whomever. You can tell the director where that person works. The director can go and order that employer to pay that money right from the pay cheque. It is called garnishment. You garnish the wages, is what it is. It is as simple as that.

The director can actually do that so that if Joe thinks he is getting off easy and he is not going to pay the missus and the kids, tough luck today, and tough luck since 1989. Once the director becomes aware of where he works, he can go and force, by law, the employer must garnish – must take the money from the wages – pay it to the Support Enforcement Agency, and the Support Enforcement Agency in turn passes it on to the creditor. A great system and, as I say, there were millions and millions of dollars that creditors did not get to support their families prior to this law coming into being.

It has had to be tweaked over time, a lot of tweaking, because you find out stuff as you go along that – my God, we wish we had put that in there. Who, for example, has to give the director the information? It has to be the creditor of course. Why should it be the creditor? Otherwise, what is the point in having an agency if the director of that agency, who is supposed to go out and collect the money, does not know who to go to? The director does not know where Joe works, the director does not know if Joe has any money in the bank, the director does not know if Joe left the Province and absconded.

That is why the onus and one of these amendments right here now is saying make sure that the creditor must tell the director any and all information that the director wants. The onus is on the creditor. The creditor has her order; she cannot come back in six months time and say: Well you did not do this and you did not do that, and you did not do something else. The director can now look after this amendment goes through and say excuse me, just a second, the onus was on you to tell me what I needed to know to help you. That little quirk was missing about who had to give it and who they had to give it to. It was there that they had to give it, but it did not say to whom the creditor had to give the information. Now we are going to be very explicit, the information must be given to the director. Not anybody else, not a court, not an employee in a director's office – to the director. That will make the system work that much better.

I came across a few statistics just to see how many cases we have in the Province right now, for example, maintenance enforcement cases that we had. This came right from Statistics Canada. In 2010, we had 5,885 maintenance enforcement orders in our system. The amount of arrears – and I guess this is where the minister said we have a pretty good rate – we have about 78 per cent, 79 per cent collection rate we will call it, and that is pretty good. Actually the arrears outstanding from support enforcement maintenance orders in this Province in 2010 was $11.4 million according to Statistics Canada. On the whole, that is pretty good – that is pretty good. I can assure you, some people who do not want to pay their support will do anything and everything in the world to avoid paying it, anything.

For example, not only does the director do what I just outlined he can do in Canada like attach your wages and keep you from getting a driver's licence or a moose licence and all that kind of thing, take your HST or whatever, he can also stop you from doing things nationally. The federal government is tied into this. Every other province in Canada is tied into this. The United States is tied into this and Australia is tied into our system. We are all tied in together. It is called the reciprocal enforcement of orders. In other words, we are saying to Australia, for example, you have a similar type system to us. If Joe leaves Newfoundland and absconds off to Australia we will send you the information and you collect it down there for us, and if you have a Joe down your way who is going to come up here, you let us know he is here and we will do the same for you. It is called reciprocal enforcement. That is what makes the system work, because that way the debtor cannot just simply leave the Province, take off and not pay the debt. There is a pretty good chance he is going to go somewhere in Canada or somewhere in the United States.

I am aware of some personal circumstances, having practiced myself, where I have had people who have left and went to Europe; countries that we did not have reciprocal enforcement with, and they did it deliberately so they would not have to pay the money. They knew, they were keen enough and sharp enough to figure out that if I move to Alberta they are still going to get me, but if I move to Germany they cannot get me. People actually did that so they would not have to pay their child support. That has happened. I have been personally involved with those types of situations. Whatever would possess someone to go to that fact when they did not want to support their kids I have no idea, but that reality exists.

We have been pretty successful and it is a great system. We are just tweaking it here to make it even better, and we need to do that because God knows, a marriage break-up, or marriage breakdown, is traumatic enough as it is, particularly if you have children involved. The last thing a person who separates has to worry about is where is the money that I have been ordered should be paid to me, how do I know that I am going to get it?

It was a great move and anything we need to continue to do to make sure, in the future, that the creditor gets his or her money from the debtor that is where we definitely need to go.

There were some issues with the Support Enforcement Agency recently, some serious issues. The Auditor General reported on it in this year's report which was made public for the year ending March 31, 2010. The Auditor General referred to it and basically what he pointed out was, one of the issues was security arrangements. I will just read from the Auditor General's report so that I do not misstate what it was that he actually said. He said, and I am referring to page 425 of his report, "Our review indicated that security arrangements for access by employees at HRLE were not adequate. We also found inaccuracies in the Division's database information. Furthermore, contrary to Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) guidelines, the Division's application software and database information were contained on a single server."

Then he got into some of the details. This ties into the privacy piece and I will just read again what he said. "There were accounts in the Division's…", now he is talking here about the Support Enforcement Division. "There were accounts in the Division's database which were for individuals employed at HRLE that were accessed through HRLE computers. For example…", just get the numbers here, the numbers here were alarming. "For example, 3 HRLE employee accounts were accessed in excess of 250 times each, even though the 3 employees were not in receipt of income support. One account was accessed 797 times, another was accessed 456 times, while the third was accessed 256 times."

Now, we all know we passed, the former Administration passed the Access To Information and Privacy Act back in 2002. The access to information piece came in almost immediately; the privacy piece only came in a year or so ago, two years ago. The reason being, of course, that a lot of groundwork had to be done in municipal agencies, government agencies, municipalities, because the whole act was broadened back in 2002. These agencies had to understand that in the future it just was not government departments that were going to be subject to ATIPPA; ATIPPA was just not going to apply to a government department any more; it was going to apply to municipalities, government agencies and so on. So, these people needed some time to get ready for the privacy provisions and therefore it was until last year, I believe, the current Minister of Finance was actually in Justice when it was actually proclaimed, the privacy pieces of that particular piece of legislation.

This is what the AG is referring to, the Auditor General, when he did his report. He is saying that even though we have a fantastic agency here in the Support Enforcement Agency – and we do – there are still issues when it comes to privacy, because these incidents had occurred.

Now, I am sure the Minister of Justice has taken upon himself, since this report came out, to have these matters rectified, or I certainly hope he would, because the last thing we need to have is anybody's privacy being breached. These personal family matters are sensitive enough. The last thing we need is anything going wrong from a privacy perspective, which might take away from the good name that the Support Enforcement Agency might have. So hopefully, these breaches that the Auditor General referred to were just that. It was, in terms of the overall scheme of what they deal with, hopefully it was very infinitesimal, and hopefully it will not happen again, and that the security arrangements have been in fact improved so that there is no possibility of privacy breaches when it comes to the Support Enforcement Agency doing its job.

Now, the minister referred to the two amendments here. The second one – I already addressed the first one where he says it is the creditor's responsibility to advise the director and provide information to the director – directly to the director. Another one of them here deals with the fact that if neither the creditor nor the debtor live in the Province anymore, that the agency here can terminate its involvement with that particular enforcement order.

Now, they just cannot say Joe and Jane have left the jurisdiction, therefore we are not going to be collecting the bill anymore for anybody. There is a process. The director, and I am pleased to see here, even though they are saying if both parties leave the jurisdiction it will not be on our books anymore, there is a process so that the creditor and the debtor do not get stung. You just do not say, I heard they both left the Province, so that is the end of it, we close our file and it gets put somewhere in the back room. There is a process whereby the parties involved know; if the party, for example, the creditor lady leaves and goes to Nova Scotia, she can notify the director here that she has moved; here is my new address, here is my new place of employment and so on. The director here will contact the Support Enforcement Agency in Nova Scotia, transfer the file over there, and then she takes it over from over there. That is the right way to have it, and that is that reciprocal piece again. It is not only reciprocal when it comes to enforcement, it is courtesy and good administrative practice when you talk about passing the files on. Why should the Newfoundland jurisdiction have to deal with it if both parties have left and they are no longer here? Put it in the jurisdiction where the creditor or the debtor has moved to. That is what this particular amendment is geared to.

I have just a couple of curious questions, I call it. This is not hot seat type of questions for the minister. I am not sure if it is my naiveté or my curiosity which led me to raise this question: What happens, for example, if the debtor has left the jurisdiction and gone to BC? The creditor leaves and moves to Alberta. How will the director ever know anyway that they moved?

I do not know if the amendment, the first one I talked about, requires that if you move you must tell them you moved. It is no good to say if both of them move, we are no longer responsible and we will move it to the new jurisdiction. Is there an onus on the creditor and the debtor when you move – because they both might have been complying with this for years; they may have been paying their support for ten years, no problem. All of a sudden, the person has a new job in Alberta. All of a sudden, the creditor says: I am moving to BC. Is there an onus under the act that both of them must currently notify the director where they are moving?

We know what the amendment is saying about the director will no longer be responsible for administering the files, but I am just curious if the minister could straighten that out. How will we find out, for example? How do we know who moved or did not move and where they moved, unless someone has the onus to tell someone what they did? I am just wondering if that is already covered in the legislation because this new amendment certainly would not appear to cover that in that circumstance.

Again, we will certainly be voting for these amendments because we appreciate the spirit and the intent of the amendments. The spirit and the intent here is to improve upon what is already an excellent piece of legislation which went through years ago. It is proven to be very effective. It has been improved over the years with an assortment of amendments and continues to be improved. So we will certainly be supportive of this. We think it is a great move. The sooner it can get done, the better.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

I am glad to get a few moments to speak to this bill, An Act To Amend The Support Orders Enforcement Act. I will not have a lot to say about it. I will be supporting the bill. I think the amendments being recommended are amendments that are needed in the legislation.

I think we do have a good piece of legislation. The act was enforced in 2006, the act that we are currently amending. I think we go a long way in that act to make sure that everybody is protected when it comes to support in the case of couples where there has been a divorce and marriage breakdown, and we have to make sure that everybody is taken care of at a time like that. Protecting all parties is extremely important and it seems to me that this amendment is about making sure that there is fairness with regard to everybody involved.

When we talk about support, one of the tricky things is that, historically, when there has been marriage breakdown, the support has very often been from the male partner to the female partner and to the children. More and more, today, you are getting cases where, in actual fact, female partners are supporting male partners after a breakdown of a male-female relationship. Now that we have marriage between gay couples and therefore divorces between gay couples, the gender mix becomes quite different, so you could have females paying support to females and males paying support to males.

Our legislation is gender-neutral, of course, as it should be. We do know that very often in the past the male-female dynamic where women have come out from very imbalanced relationships, where there has been violence et cetera, there have been problems with regard to women and the children getting justice when it comes to the payment of support.

As I said, our legislation is gender-neutral, as it should be, and the amendment itself, too, is gender-neutral. No matter what the mix we are dealing with, this legislation covers all situations. Again, no matter what the gender of the person giving the support and the person receiving the support, it is important that all parties are treated fairly. I think that is what this amendment is about.

For example, when we do look at the very first amendment, "where the creditor wilfully fails to or refuses to provide information to the director that the director requires to enforce the support order". If that happens, then the director can suspend the support order. I think it is extremely important to note that the amendment that is happening here is that in the current legislation it says that the information that is required is information about the debtor. What the original says is, "where the creditor wilfully fails to or refuses to provide information about the debtor…". There was an imbalance in that because perhaps there is information that needs to be gathered about the creditor, male or female, and not just the creditor giving information about the debtor. Maybe there is information about the creditor that is also required.

This definition broadens because of the general word information, not just information about the debtor. For example, you can have a creditor receiving money even after situations have changed. You can have a creditor, for example, with a child who is now grown, no longer living with the creditor but the creditor is still receiving payments from the other spouse. You could also have a child who is an adult with the parent filing for continued support because the parent is saying the child is still in school, where in actual fact the child quit school and is working, so it is no longer valid for the creditor to be receiving money.

It is not easy to get this information all the time, but now there is a responsibility put on the shoulders of the creditor that creditors do have to give correct information, whatever that information is with regard to themselves, to their children if their children are involved, or with regard to the debtor. It gives a much wider field for the director in terms of gathering information. If a creditor wilfully fails or refuses to provide information to the director that the director requires, then there can be a suspension of the support order.

This is one case where, obviously, we are seeing fairness with regard to the debtor in many cases and fairness with regard to the system. I think it is important to point out that the act itself, our Support Orders Enforcement Act, really does do a good job in being fair to everybody, being fair to the creditors. There are some cases that have been identified by the Department of Justice and this is one, where in actual fact by only having the creditor having to reveal information about the debtor, it was taking pressure off the creditor with regard to having to be honest about himself or herself as well and how circumstances have changed for them and that there is information they may have about themselves or the children who are with them that causes the support order to be changed. I would imagine sometimes it could be that the support order would be suspended, and maybe sometimes there would still be a support order but it may require change. Certainly, it is right that this amendment is going to be made.

The second amendment makes all the sense in the world. It is where the creditor and the debtor no longer reside in the jurisdiction of the director. It is quite logical that this Province, for example, should no longer have to be worrying about the contract with regard to support orders between two parties who do not even any longer live in this Province. I know that there is a whole process that has to go on to make sure that wherever they go, you still have to make sure justice is being meted out for the sake of both parties, and especially for the sake of the creditor. Legislation does require that. In this case, the amendment is dealing with both the creditor and the debtor so that both of them have to no longer reside in the jurisdiction in order for the change to be made.

I am not going to go on, Mr. Speaker, because I think it is very straightforward. I think they are good amendments. I think they make the process fairer and I will be happy to vote for this amendment.

Thank you.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FORSEY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is certainly a pleasure to comment on this particular bill. I think it is a great piece of legislation. It is An Act To Amend The Support Orders Enforcement Act.

Basically, in detail, it will "expand the director's ability to withdraw a support order if the creditor wilfully fails or refuses to provide to the Director of Support Enforcement any information necessary to enforce a support order; permit a director to withdraw a support order if both the debtor and creditor no longer reside in the Province; and require the debtor to serve notice to the director if the debtor applies to court for an order suspending any proceeding taken by the director."

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the minister, and I listened to the rest of my colleagues speak on this piece of legislation. I have been involved in it somewhat myself over the past couple of years being in the position that I am in. What we are doing here is making sure that it is really the children who are getting the support they need. As was mentioned earlier, the debtor definitely will try to, in a lot of cases, get away from his responsibilities, but what we are doing here today is giving the director of support enforcement more powers to actually engage and act on collecting the monies that need to be collected.

Mr. Speaker, when a debtor knows - of course, the debtor is the person who is responsible to pay the child support and, as was mentioned earlier, it is usually the male. It is usually the man who is trying to shrug his duties of supporting his family. Why? We could never figure that out, but we cannot leave the family and the creditor, which would be, in most cases in the past, the wife and the youngsters without the money that they so deserve. This gives the enforcement and the director a lot of power. Basically, what we need to point out here is that support enforcement division of the Department of Justice provides assistance to individuals requiring help in the collection of court awarded child and spousal support. That is very important. We are talking about child and spousal support. This piece of legislation improves the powers of the director of support enforcement.

In a lot of cases - we have said it before and it was said earlier today - the debtor will probably leave the Province. He can leave the Province, but he is still responsible to make sure that he owns up to supporting his family that he is separated from. What is really good about this piece of legislation as well, I think a lot of it was in there before, Mr. Speaker, but the Director of Support Enforcement can actually garnish the wages of the debtor, they can take his driver's licence, he can be put in the credit bureau, they can seize assets, motor vehicle restrictions, and even put liens on other properties. This in itself is a great piece of legislation, to ensure that the creditor gets what they deserve.

It was mentioned also that if the debtor and the creditor move out of the Province, then of course we are no longer responsible for them. However, there are a lot of things done, Mr. Speaker, when a debtor is trying to renege on their duties and their responsibilities. Sometimes I have seen - through family, through parents, through brother, sister - where a debtor may be on a bank account with that particular family member. Maybe did not own any money in that bank account but the family member of the debtor owns all the money. If you are going to go on an account with a family member and you are a debtor and you have to make payments to child support, then you could end up - your parent or your brother, your family, your relative - losing the funds from this account. Now I do not think any debtor or any person wants to jeopardize some account that belongs to a family member, whether it be a parent or whether it be a brother or a sister. That in itself should be very clear, because sometimes we find that debtors do some foolish things, as was mentioned earlier, to get away from not meeting their responsibilities. This piece of legislation, Mr. Speaker, is very good indeed.

Also, "require the debtor to serve notice to the director if the debtor applies to court for an order suspending any proceeding taken by the director." I guess it gives the debtor some support. Probably this particular person has been making his payments, has been very regular and loyal, understands his responsibilities but may probably be out of work and just cannot make the payments. Unless he notifies the director, then they are going to still try to claim that money. You can get a temporary suspension. If you are meeting your commitments every month and you run into some difficulties and you cannot make the payments, then, Mr. Speaker, you can report this to the Director of the Support Enforcement and they will suspend the payments temporarily. You will not be totally off the hook, because you should not be as long as the children need your support.

The other thing too, Mr. Speaker, we find sometimes that the creditor probably does not give all the information. The child may be – if they are in school, if they are in university, well then of course the debtor still has to make his payments as he was forced to do. What happens sometimes is when that child gets of age, is not in school and is out working and the debtor is still paying. The debtor has to make sure he also reports that to the support enforcement, Mr. Speaker.

This itself is a very, very good piece of legislation. I noticed that everyone in the House today who spoke on it is supporting it. I will certainly be supporting this particular piece of legislation myself.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

The hon. the Minister of Justice.

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

Mr. Speaker, just a few comments on some of the remarks made by opposite speakers. A question raised by the Opposition House Leader with respect to any mandated requirement on the part of the creditor to report absence from the Province. There is no legislative mandate, Mr. Speaker, to do that, and perhaps that is something we might have to have a look at.

The director is usually informed by the creditor, however, and he may have constant consultations or connections with the creditor and would know from that source. As well, Mr. Speaker, he would probably find out from the maintenance enforcement program in the other jurisdiction if the creditor went to another jurisdiction and re-registered there. It does raise a question and something we probably should have to look into.

Mr. Speaker, with regard to the Opposition House Leader's reference to the problem that occurred with the Auditor General's report in relation to HRLE; the Support Enforcement Division was not able to identify which Human Resources, Labour and Employment employee accessed the particular account. We did know there was access on a significant number of occasions. The problem with it, Mr. Speaker, is that HRLE employees, those people involved, social workers and people involved in client services, will have access to the support enforcement database in the purpose of carrying out their duties and servicing their clients. In this case, it was found, Mr. Speaker, that the majority of the unusual activity on the three accounts in question was by HRLE employees, it was mostly one employee, or a couple of employees checking their own accounts, checking their own personal information.

Mr. Speaker, since that time the OCIO, the Office of the Chief Information Officer, in conjunction with the support enforcement officials, has implemented a new process which records the name of the HRLE employee when an account is accessed. The support enforcement database still has to be available to HRLE support workers.

Also, Mr. Speaker, a new log file has been created and will be reviewed monthly by the support enforcement division. If it is accessed more than twenty times per month, Mr. Speaker, it will be flagged for follow-up. Audits of these accounts can also be carried out.

Mr. Speaker, in addition to the log system HRLE has also issued a directive to the employees that they are not to use the support enforcement database for personal use, and that the searches should be limited to work related inquiries. If they want to search their own personal support information, Mr. Speaker, they will have to use the public web portal instead of the HRLE web portal.

Mr. Speaker, when the Attorney General came up with that report with regard to HRLE, between HRLE and the Support Enforcement Division procedures, protocols have been put in place to ensure that does not happen again.

With respect to the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act obligations arising out of that, Mr. Speaker, all of these people were contacted by the Support Enforcement Director. In addition, the support enforcement – there is also consideration being given to conducting a Privacy Impact Assessment on all HRLE employees' access to its support enforcement database.

The Department of HRLE and enforcement moved immediately, Mr. Speaker, to put protocols in place to make sure that did not happen again.

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. members for their contribution to the debate and I now ask that this bill move to second reading.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

Carried.

CLERK: A bill, "An Act To Amend The Support Orders Enforcement Act, 2006. (Bill 16)

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

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

Now, tomorrow, presently?

MS BURKE: Tomorrow, Mr. Speaker.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Support Orders Enforcement Act, 2006", read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House on tomorrow. (Bill 16)

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, we would like to call, from the Order Paper, Order 14; that is the continuation of second reading of Bill 22. That debate was adjourned yesterday.

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

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

I am very pleased to stand today and speak to Bill 22, An Act Respecting The Practice Of Medicine In the Province.

Yesterday, of course, we began the second reading, and the minister did give a very good overview of this bill, and it was very clear, and I think certainly set it out clearly for people. There are some things that I am going to want to speak to that I want more clarity on, but for the most part, I think the minister really did present the bill in its fullness. Now, there are some things I will want to speak to right now, and I remind people, especially those who are watching the House, of what this bill is about.

It replaces the former Medical Act of 2005, but this bill is not dealing with a lot of what was in the old legislation, it is just more or less repeating it. What this bill is very concerned about is dealing with the issue of quality assurance and incorporating quality assurance measures into the former legislation. This, of course, has become necessitated by the process that we have been through in this Province with the investigation that went on because of the ER/PR fiasco that we had happen in the Province, and the excellent report that was done by Justice Cameron. That report dealt quite in detail with issues around quality assurance. I think what we see now in this act is a piece of legislation that is taking that quality assurance very seriously.

It is making sure that there is a quality assurance committee to perform quality assurance reviews when it comes to the College of Physicians. That they have a committee in place that makes sure that there will be compliance with quality assurance reviews, and that this committee is an unbiased body that has representation, that represents more than physicians, so that there will be fairness, openness, and transparency with regard to these reviews.

The bill will also incorporate mandatory continuing medical education and continuing competency measures. I think this is extremely important. We all, for the most part, thank goodness, live long lives. When somebody first enters into any profession, you enter that profession with the knowledge and experience that profession offers at the time when you have been trained. That is true for anybody. It does not matter if you are physicians, engineers, or teachers; we all receive the training in our professions that is available at the moment.

Certainly, we all know that over the lifetime of a profession, especially today with the technologies that we have, things change continually. New information comes in. It is not just new techniques that occur or new ways of doing the work, but actually the content sometimes is even changing. That is true in science as it is true in anything else. Of course, when we are dealing with physicians we are dealing with science, because when we are dealing with medicine we are dealing with science. We all know that many, many changes occur.

So it is reasonable to expect, and that is what this legislation is doing; that people need to do continuing medical education. They need to keep their competency up. They need to know everything that is going on inside of their profession.

I am going to speak specifically now to the practice of medicine because that is what we are dealing with. The changes in medicine are vast and there is no one person, no one physician, or no one doctor who can know everything about their profession and about what they are trying to do. At any given time they probably cannot know everything. So there really does need to be a recognition that all of us in any profession, and particularly in medicine, need to be learning all the time what is going on in our profession. Doctors need to be kept up-to-date on new knowledge, new techniques, new drugs, and et cetera.

So it is really important that the changes that are being made to the former act will make continuing medical education and continuing competency measures mandatory. In other words, it is not just that a physician can choose to continue his or her education, can choose to have their competency measured on a regular basis, but in actual fact it is now going to be mandatory. I think this is extremely important because we are dealing with something that is so important for safety, dealing with people's lives. Making sure that our doctors and physicians are as up-to-date as possible is extremely important.

The new legislation also revises and updates the disciplinary processes and this is also important. In any profession the association of the profession has to be able to make sure that their members are qualified for what they are doing, that their members are living up to what the profession is all about, and that whenever there is a sign that a member has not lived up to what is expected by the profession then there has to be the ability to use discipline. The discipline has to be fair. The discipline in this case, for example, with doctors and physicians, the discipline has to be fair to the doctor and physician but the discipline also has to be fair to anybody who is affected by what the doctor or physician may have done. It is extremely important that we have good disciplinary processes and the new legislation is certainly dealing with that.

The other thing that the legislation deals with is revising and updating requirements for licensure. That means that people who are licensed, there have to be some requirements and even restrictions on the licences and that is what this deals with. We need to have licences that are kept up-to-date. We need to be sure that somebody is practicing in the area that he or she is licensed for. I noted one of the things in the legislation that I found very interesting is that when you are licensed as a physician, for example, you are not just licensed as a physician; you are licensed very specifically to what it is that you are allowed to do because today is the age of specialties. I mean being licensed as a physician 100 years ago was quite different from being licensed as a physician now. The recognition of special knowledge, the recognition of specialties is part of this legislation.

The rapid change means that doctors really have a lot of work to keep themselves up on developments, and there is a role for the College of Physicians as doctors keep themselves up in their education. That is what this legislation is all about.

The new piece in this legislation, which cannot be found in the old legislation, is in sections 69-73; the Quality Assurance section of the new piece of legislation. Under the new section the act will, "incorporate quality assurance measures by authorizing the appointment of a quality assurance committee to perform quality assurance reviews, and by requiring compliance with those reviews". I think I have already made reference to that.

Making the education mandatory, they are making sure that there are disciplinary processes, and making sure that licensing is monitored well all comes under the new legislation. The thing that I just referred to, which is extremely important, is that the College of Physicians now, under this new legislation, will be able to authorize a limitation on the scope of a practice. That will be part of the licensing. It is interesting, it can happen in more than one way. For example, I may be licensed as a family practitioner, I may be licensed as a surgeon, I might be a particular surgeon, so there is licensing in that way.

Part of the disciplinary process – and I will make reference to it now and I may come back to it again – is that if somebody has had to be disciplined, a result of the discipline could actually mean that even under the licence to be a particular type of physician, there might also be restrictions. For example, if you had a physician who had a problem with drugs or narcotics, it is very possible that person may be able to go back into practice but, for example, not be able to dispense narcotics; be able to prescribe narcotics. That is a restriction under a licence that is even more restrictive than the general licence that person is practising under. This, I think, is an extremely important point about this legislation. It is recognizing everybody's needs and everybody's rights.

The new act gives, and I think this, Dr. Patel, yesterday, when the minister and Dr. Patel met with the media, he made a very strong point, an important point that the new act gives the College of Physicians and Surgeons the tools it needs to monitor quality assurance, ensuring continuing professional development and the licensing of its members. Dr. Patel and members of the college obviously want to be able to do a good job. They want to be able to make sure that everybody who is a member of the College of Physicians and Surgeons is giving fully to the community, is giving safe – making sure that the service that is being given to people when they need health care is going to be safe for them; that it is going to be delivered by people who are living up to the high standards that are set by the College of Physicians and Surgeons. They are high standards that are set by the College of Physicians and Surgeons.

So it is extremely important that we recognize that everybody wants things to go well. Everybody wants to be sure that what is happening here in this Province is of the highest excellence so that everybody is benefiting, both those who are giving the service and those who are receiving. So it is extremely important, what we are doing here today in looking at this piece of legislation.

It was pointed out by both the minister and Dr. Patel, and I think the minister pointed it out here in the House yesterday too, that the Medical Act of 2005 – and I would like to say, like any piece of legislation – is a living document; that there is always room for change. Just as we are saying that physicians and surgeons have to recognize that their professions are continually changing, and they have to be sure that they are getting ongoing continuing education and continuing improvement of skills, et cetera, well, it is true for a piece of legislation. If a piece of legislation is reflecting society's life, then a piece of legislation has to continually change as well. So, I think it is really good that we are having this amendment go into this legislation, to recognize the change that has happened in our society with regard to the understanding of the need for quality assurance in our health care system.

The quality assurance committee that is talked about in the legislation is an extremely important committee. The committee will have subpoena powers. They will be able to subpoena information that they need when they are investigating a situation that has been brought to them. The committee will be able to address areas of concern below a disciplinary level. Sometimes there are issues that may not require discipline but still are issues that need to be looked at. It is almost like sometimes there can be preventative stuff that needs to happen so something does not get to the point of requiring discipline. Well, the committee is going to be able to address areas of concern like that.

What is really important, and it is also the spirit of the College of Physicians and Surgeons, the committee will include members who are not physicians, appointed to represent the public interest. It is interesting to point out that the College of Physicians and Surgeons does have community people on the board. That is not something new; that is something that exists. So making sure that its committee, the quality assurance committee, also has that mix is really important so that you just do not have physicians on this committee. You will also have people who are appointed to represent the public interest. Part of that will also be government appointment.

The committee will be able to order a physician to undergo an evaluation, assessment, examination, or practice review and restrict a physician's practice if necessary. These are important powers that are being given to the committee, the committee that would be there to represent our interests within the college.

It will be able to monitor and verify a physician's prescribing practices. This is really important because we do know, unfortunately, there have been cases where there is actual criminal activity carried on when it comes to prescribing practices. It is unfortunate, but it happens. Well, this quality assurance committee will be able to monitor and actually look at a physician's prescribing practices if there has been reason to have to do that.

The committee will also be able to order a physician to obtain counselling and order the completion of an education or training program. Again, it does not have that power now. It will have that power under the new legislation.

Under this legislation, an individual doctor's personal health issues, including addictions problems, can be dealt with internally through this committee process – and this is important – provided that there has been no harm to any patient. This is extremely important. In the current legislation, there was a mandatory disciplinary hearing. Now it is saying that if you are dealing with somebody who has had a problem, maybe a health issue or an addictions problem, and it has been identified but they have not caused any harm to a patient. The only harm maybe has been caused to themselves, but their practice has not been harmed and no patient has been harmed, then that individual doctor's issues can be dealt internally by the committee. It will be different if there was harm brought to a patient, then we are talking about a whole different process and that is where discipline would have to come in.

There are deeper powers being given to the College of Physicians and Surgeons which I know that they are taking very seriously. The doctors recognize the need for this to happen – the physicians and surgeons recognize the need for this to happen. The college worked closely with the Department of Health and Community Services in putting this legislation together and is committed to making this legislation work.

Some other points, I am not going to raise every point but the issue around mandatory medical education and continuing competency measures is really important. No longer will doctors only have to be proven competent at the time of licensing, they are going to have to upgrade regularly, every five years. Continuing education, as I have said, is voluntary under the current act but what is going to happen now is that it is going to be mandatory. This is, as I have said earlier, really important because of the speed with which medicine is changing. Every five years there will be an upgrade, sort of a re-licensing if you want.

Under the current legislation the only way to address the problem of a doctor with personal health issues was a disciplinary and public hearings. As I have said a minute ago, there are sometimes issues that a doctor will have where no harm has been caused to anybody, so now the college will be able to deal in those cases privately with the person. I think that is quite legitimate actually. Somebody may even self-identify a problem and if they know that they do not have to go through the disciplinary process, they would be more open I think to going to the college and saying: I have identified a problem, I have identified that I have an addiction and I am fearful of this. Going to the college and through self-identification –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

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

MS MICHAEL: - deal with it.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The other thing that the new act does, which is important, is that the new act allows a compliant authorization committee to quickly suspend or restrict a physician's licence where "conduct deserving of sanction" – that is the quote from the act – where "conduct deserving of sanction" is suspected. That means if the college comes to know about something that is conduct that should be sanctioned by the college, they are going to be able to suspend or restrict the physician's licence immediately. The current legislation only permits the college to suspend a doctor after a guilty verdict. Now, the suspension is not saying you are guilty but if they have real strong reason to believe that there has been conduct deserving of sanction then it is precautionary to say, we suspend, we do the investigation, if everything is okay then the person gets the licence back and can continue practicing. This is extremely important. I think it is really important for people to see that the College of Physicians and Surgeons is not just there to protect the physicians and surgeons from us; that they are there to make sure that everybody is protected. We have to recognize that while everybody is trying to do their work well and everybody is trying to be a good doctor or a good surgeon that things happen, for whatever reason, and then the college has to be there to protect.

I want to talk about, in particular, section 75. There are some issues, I am not going to talk further about the details of the legislation; I want to pick on some of the issues that I am slightly concerned about. I have acknowledged that medicine is changing rapidly and doctors have to be kept up on the developments and I am really glad to see the government, the Department of Health and the college working together because it is extremely important. It is good to know that this bill is giving doctors the tools to better govern themselves and their profession. They do need to be the ones who govern themselves; they know what their profession is but they also have to be accountable for how they govern themselves, and this legislation does that. The legislation allows for them to be accountable for the self-governing, and self-governance is something we value. It is something we recognize for all groups of professionals in our society. There is not a group of professionals that we can name, from accountants to surgeons, who cannot or may not professionally govern themselves. It is extremely important, but because they are in positions that are of service to the community then they also have to be called upon to be accountable for that governance of themselves. What this bill is doing is improving the whole area of self-governance.

The other thing that is important, and this is what this bill is about, is the value of the public's right to know. This is something that came out particularly during the Cameron inquiry. So much of what has led to this bill is public outrage over undue secrecy and failure to communicate.

All of us, I am sure, in this House, as people who have been elected, have met with families, have met with individuals and have met with groups who have felt that they have not been served well by the medical institution either as a system or maybe by some individuals, and who have stories to tell. People do not choose to try to go out and blame doctors, to blame physicians, to blame surgeons, but they get quite upset when, if something happens, they feel they cannot get answers to the questions, they cannot find out why their loved one died in the ER, why somebody who went into surgery and it was supposed to be minor surgery ends up dying on the table - these are extremes but these extremes happen- why somebody picks up an infection, even, it can be small, it can be large, but they want to know and they have the right to know. This is the thing. I do not know if there is anything as sensitive in our society as the whole issue of people dealing with the medical system and not feeling that they are safe, and not feeling that if they have a complaint, it is not going to be listened to. It is very, very problematic. We are dealing with people's lives. We all know the emotion that is involved when people are speaking from life experience where they feel their lives, in some way, have been threatened. We do have to listen to them.

Right now, in our Province we have legitimate reasons why people have been questioning. The Cameron report was born of flawed lab tests. Also, besides the whole issue around the lab testing itself, what came out during the Cameron inquiry was the real problematic lack of information available when victims or families and the public wanted to find out what had happened.

We have to acknowledge, whether we like it or not, that part of the history of our society is a model of authority where people with expertise could protect themselves and be secretive with people who did not have the same expertise. We are no longer living in a society like that. We are living in a society where everybody is held accountable. There was a time in our society here in Newfoundland and Labrador where if you were a lawyer, or if you were a priest, or if you were a clergy person, or even if you were the merchant in the community, you were seen as having all the answers and having an authority that other people in the community did not have.

Well, we are moving away from those days, thank goodness, and the kind of things that came out during the Cameron inquiry, especially with regard to people not being able to access information, are things that we want to stop. We do not want these things to continue.

We also had the work of the adverse events committee. That report was written to try to make sure that people who had suffered an adverse event, in other words, something went wrong in the care: the person almost died, or the person did die, or the person had surgery done to the wrong part of their body, or there was a mix up in pharmaceuticals and people got very sick because of having the wrong medicine given to them. When an event like that, which is called an adverse event, happens at a health facility, people need to be fully informed. So, the adverse events report had all kinds of recommendations about informing people.

We also have the famous, well-known W5 case featuring a family who tried to find out what happened to their loved one. The story of their fight to get medical information after the loved one died in an emergency room. I am really glad that these cases are being recognized publicly, and that yesterday when the minister and Dr. Patel met with the media they named these cases. While we protect the names of the individuals, or we talk about the W5 case, it is a real case, it is a real family, it was a real loved one who died in the ER, and they deserved answers. It does not mean that the loved one may not have died, that is not the point, the point is they have to know, they needed to know – and they have those answers now.

So, all of these events – I am just picking out some of the major things that have happened in our society over the last few years, but I do not know if there is a family that one could look to who does not have a story. That is a reality, and that is what we are dealing with. So, with this document, with this bill today, what we are seeing is government making a deeper attempt with regard to openness and transparency. That is extremely important.

Section 46.(3), I would like to speak to this section. This section says, "A hearing shall be conducted in public" – this is when a hearing is required – "but an adjudication tribunal may exclude the public from a hearing, or from part of it, where it considers the desirability of protecting a party to the complaint or another person against the consequences of possible disclosure of personal matters outweigh the desirability of holding the hearing in public." Now, that sounds pretty complicated for anybody who is out there sitting on their sofa this afternoon listening to us. That may sound complicated, but it is pretty easy to explain. Hearings will be held in public, unless the allegation is a sensitive one. For instance, it could be a sexual charge against a physician or surgeon. In such a case, the hearing may be closed to public in order to protect the victim's identity. This, of course, is something that happens often in our courtrooms too, that you get protection in cases of sexual charges, protection for the victim.

The issue with having a hearing closed is trying to get a balance of protecting the victim or a doctor's profession versus the public interest. So, there are a lot of issues to be considered, and getting that balance is not easy. I note that a lot of discretion has been given to the tribunal that will hold hearings. I have some concerns about the tribunal having too much discretion. I would like the minister to speak to this when he does speak later on; I am thinking that this section needed a clearer outlining of what exempts the public. The minister has spoken to the need for plain language of people to be able to use this act in this process when they have a complaint, but we need to make sure we have not omitted details that are needed to maintain the openness and transparency that the minister spoke about. So, I would like to have seen some guidelines in the act with regard to the discretion given to the minister when it comes to closing a hearing.

The minister did note that the new act gives much more detail in some areas. He noted, for example, that the general term, negligence, which used to be used in the bill, is now spelled out in section 39.(c). I will not go through reading the whole definition of negligence again, but he has noted that it has been spelled out now and this is going to be better because you just do not have somebody trying to define what negligence is, it is spelled out in section 39.(c).

Well, then I ask: Why not also spell out what is required for barring the public from information or hearings? I fully understand why they may have to be closed sometimes, but why not spell out what is required? I think we need more details here. For example, it does say that it would be closed if the party who is being complained about or another person might actually – disclosure of personal matters might outweigh the desirability of holding the hearing in public. Well, let's be told what the personal matters are.

For example, it would make a big difference to me if the personal matter actually invaded a person's privacy to the degree that the invasion of privacy had nothing to do with why the person, for example, was being charged with something, or the personal matter was just an embarrassment to the physician or the surgeon. So, it would be good, I think, just as the bill spells out negligence a bit, that it spells out a bit what the personal matters are. It is not there in the bill. I know it is a tricky call. I know we have the issue of, what if the public hearing happens and the person is innocent and things have come out in the public hearing? That happens in trials as well, which are public. I just think that we need more definition of what the disclosure of personal matters would be that would cause a hearing to be done in private.

There is also the issue of a doctor's behaviour. Looking at the fact, for example, is the issue that is being dealt with a one-time thing, it has only happened once with this doctor, or it has been a continuing pattern of behaviour. These kinds of details are not spelled out in the bill. I think a bit more clarity on this might help. I know the college was having a difficult time, and the department, having a difficult time dealing with that balance between the rights of the physician or surgeon, and the rights of the patient and the right of the public to know. It is a hard balance, but a bit more detail to help the tribunal make decisions I think would be helpful. Something in legislation that would indicate that the tribunal should examine a doctor's pattern of behaviour when deciding what disciplinary path to take would be good. To give direction that you need because sometimes - we have, for example, the Human Rights Act. Sometimes we only look at the one event, but looking at one event is not adequate.

Looking at one event is not adequate, one needs to look at a pattern of behaviour. I do not see that indicated anywhere in the act. I am supposed to trust that it is going to be in regulations, but I think that is something that should be in the act, not just in regulations. It would help, not just the public, but the adjudication tribunal if the grounds for exempting the public from a hearing were more clearly outlined, because I think there are going to be some times when this is going to be problematic. Since this is a living document, maybe this is one of the things I will say to the minister that he is going to have to pay attention to down the road, because maybe we are going to want to see that regulations may need to go into the act.

We dealt with an act already this week in the House where we actually took regulations and put them into an act. We realized these regulations should be enacted in legislation. Maybe that is what will happen with this bill, because I do not expect the minister to stop the bill at this point and say, yes, I agree. Maybe he will, he just made a change today to a bill that I made a suggestion about. I think regulations around the definition of personal matters is something that should go into the bill, and I also think this whole thing around judging somebody within the context of his or her pattern of behaviour should also be there.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The next section, I am only going to look at one other section, and that is section 75. Section 75 of the bill is slightly problematic for me. It says, "(1) The council may disclose information in its possession, including information that identifies the individual to whom it relates, to other bodies having authority to regulate health professionals. (2) The council, the complaints authorization committee and the quality assurance committee shall disclose information in their possession, including (a) information that identifies the individual to whom it relates; and (b) personal health information for those purposes, in the manner and to those persons prescribed in the regulations."

My concern here is that section (2) leaves the disclosure of information to the discretion of the minister in regulation. So, "…the complaints authorization committee and the quality assurance committee shall disclose information in their possession, including (a) information that identifies the individual to whom it relates; and (b) personal health information for those purposes". The setting up of how that is going to happen is going to be done in regulation. Once again, this is something that bothers me because I think this is an area, once again, where we are dealing with something that needs to be put in the body of the legislation.

The minister has spoken to this publicly, or in the briefing that he gave to the media. He does point out that this is a transparent process, but the public confidence in the system demands not only openness and transparency – we say it is happening, but also, it has to be seen to be done. Putting some more detail into the legislation rather than leaving in regulation, I think would give a better assurance to people that openness and transparency is there, and that they do not have anything to worry about.

We recognize, and I recognize, the need to protect a doctor's reputation but I also recognize the right for the public to know. So, that balance is really, really hard, but we have to make sure that not too much discretion is left in the hands of the minister – I do not mean this particular minister, but any minister – when it comes to the issue of disclosure of information. I would be much more comfortable if there were more guidelines in the legislation around that.

The minister did speak about common sense being a guide, and we have to trust common sense is going to be followed. Unfortunately, we know that common sense is not all that common, and that is a cliché, but it is a bit of truism. I use it because of that, that common sense is not all that common. So we cannot just trust that something is going to go all right because people are using their common sense. The last thing that we can do in this Province today is ask people to trust, because there is so much that has happened that gives them pause, and gives them cause not to trust.

To me, with regard to the legislation, it would have been common sense to ensure that adjudicators had enshrined in legislation the right amount of information to guide whatever discretion they have. That, to me, would have been common sense so that the adjudicators have something clear in legislation to say to them, follow this, and you are going to be on the right track. I am hoping that it is going to be in regulation, but once again, time may tell that we may have regulations, with regard to this section as well, that are regulations that in actual fact should be enshrined in the legislation.

The bottom line is that people in the Province always must have a sense of security. That if something goes wrong, they are going to be able to find out why it went wrong, how it went wrong. They need to find that out quickly, and they need to know what is going to be put in place so that whatever went wrong hopefully will not happen again. That is what people are expecting. That is what people need. This legislation will go a long ways to make that happen, but I do think a bit more detail of stuff that is going to be in regulations and not in legislation would have been better.

One thing is sure – and we all know this and we need to say it – no matter what we do, no matter how much we try to cover the bases, we may make information as accessible as possible to people, and there might still be people who will feel that they did not get all the answers. There may still be people who will feel that they are not satisfied – that is human. What we have to be sure of, Mr. Speaker, and our responsibility is that if people, after going through a bad experience, and after going through trying to find out why, if they feel dissatisfied, we need to be sure that they were not dissatisfied because the process was not open, or the process was not transparent, or the process was not fair.

Having said that, I do say to the minister, I would like him to speak a bit more about the regulations that are going to have to be put in place. Will the regulations that have to be put in place, particularly with regard to section 75, and my other section was – I forget now, forty – I said it earlier – forty-six point something, anyway it is in my notes and I can speak to that again when we are in Committee to make sure that it is made clear. I would like to know from the minister how those regulations are going to be put together and are they going to be put together with the same kind of consultation that went on between the committee and the College of Physicians and Surgeons in order to have the new act put in place?

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Humber Valley and the Deputy Chair of Committees.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KELLY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am very pleased this afternoon to rise in this hon. House and say a few words on Bill 22 which is An Act Respecting The Practice Of Medicine In The Province. I have been listening very attentively yesterday and today to the debate in this hon. House on this particular piece of legislation and I will say right from the get-go that I will be voting in support of it.

I think the minister, yesterday, did an exceptional job, in about an hour presentation, outlining the act and the benefits of the act to the people in our great Province.

Mr. Speaker, a lot of things have changed in the world of medicine. I know many years ago my own grandfather used to deliver doctors by dog teams. I remember one time the doctor had to jack up a bed using birch junks to do surgery in a rural community. Today, of course, times have changed and medicine is more modern and, of course, with that there comes a degree of increased accountability.

This new bill is an act respecting the practice of medicine. Yesterday at 11:00 in the morning, I was so pleased with my colleague from Humber West, to attend a news conference in the Media Centre downstairs with the minister and Dr. Patel from the Council of Physicians doing the presentation on the act that was about to come before the Legislature. I was impressed with the fact that patient safety and quality assurance will be enhanced through this act respecting the practice of medicine, 2011. Of course, this new bill replaces the Medical Act, 2005.

This new medical act is aimed at enhancing public protection and patient safety and that is so critical and that is the real value, I think, in this particular piece of legislation, Mr. Speaker. While supporting physicians in maintaining high standards and practice – and we all want the highest standard of care, in particular health care in this Province – this government, the last Budget in 2010 committed $2.7 billion to health care in this Province showing that this government is indeed committed to making improvements to health care now and well into the future.

Mr. Speaker, the new legislation will also guide how the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Newfoundland and Labrador, referred to as the college, regulates the practice of medicine. It will require physicians in the Province, for the first time, to participate in mandatory continuing education in order to maintain their licences. This, I think, Mr. Speaker, is an important accountability criterion that is found in this piece of legislation. Being a former educator myself, education is so vital and so key in all areas of human endeavour and there is no area more important to us as a society than health care.

One of our main priorities as a government is to ensure that we protect patient safety and put quality assurance measures in place that residents of Newfoundland and Labrador can be confident in. Yesterday the minister stated, one of our main priorities, as a government, is to ensure that we protect patient safety and put quality assurance measures in place that residents of Newfoundland and Labrador can be confident in. That was a direct quotation from what the Minister of Health had said yesterday, so true. It is a very positive aspect indeed of this new legislation to have safeguards in place for patient safety, first and foremost.

Mr. Speaker, this new legislation helps us ensure that physicians practising in this Province continue to maintain their high professional standards. It also assists the College of Physicians and Surgeons to carry out its primary mandate: protection of the public. Health care affects each and every one of us and this legislation is very positive in terms of supporting our health care system.

The proposed act will incorporate quality assurance measures into the regulation into the practice of medicine. Proposed measures include a quality assurance committee, which will require mandatory continuing and remedial education ensuring provisionally licensed physicians receive appropriate orientation, supervision and assessment, and a monitoring of prescribing practices; a process of formative evaluation component to encourage physicians to continuously stay current in their profession. That is certainly very important. Evaluation then is ongoing and it is continuous, it is a process.

Some of the key elements of this new legislation that the minister went through yesterday - and I have already said that he did a remarkable job doing an overview of this important piece of legislation – is the establishment of a quality assurance committee which will include members who are not physicians, which is important, and appointed to represent the public interest. The committee will have the ability to subpoena records, order a physician to undergo an evaluation assessment, examination or practice review, and restrict a physician's practice. The committee will also be able to order a physician to obtain counselling and order the completion of an educational or training program, PD or professional development.

Mr. Speaker, authorization for the college to make regulations, with ministerial approval, to monitor and verify physicians' prescribing practices, this is indeed important because it does provide greater accountability to the system. Authorization for the college to make regulations, with ministerial approval, to ensure that sponsors of professionally licensed physicians have appropriate orientation, supervision and ongoing assessment processes in place. So, evaluation is continuous, it is a process, it is formative, and, of course, it has summative elements.

Another important piece of the legislation is the protection of citizens; the provisions of the complaints authorization committee to act quickly to suspend or restrict a physician's licence where there is reasonable belief that the physician has engaged in a conduct deserving of sanction, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, also, there is recognition that no one physician will have the training or practice experience to perform all medical procedures. The act will restrict licence holders from changing to a different scope of practice without assessment and possibly retraining. Again, Mr. Speaker, I think this is very significant. As you can see, just a few minutes into my presentation, these couple of points that I have highlighted already are so important to ensuring public safety and increasing the accountability of our physicians. Of course, it also involves the College of Physicians, which is also very important.

There is an authorization for the college to make regulation. Of course, those regulations have to be made, Mr. Speaker, with ministerial approval. That specifies to whom information gathered during the discipline process has to be disclosed. Public access to disciplinary records will be extended from five years to a minimum of ten years. That, in itself, is quite significant. That is public access we are talking about. So that is, again, extra criteria to ensure that the public has access to records for the benefit of the public.

Also, Mr. Speaker, there is a requirement that all physicians participate in mandatory continuing education. I think that is critical for all professions, and, in particular, the medical profession. As I said earlier, it is changing so rapidly. When I go to the doctor today, the equipment that the doctor has in his office, or the equipment that the doctor has in the local clinic, is so much different from what it was so many years ago. Given the information age, information and knowledge is growing at an astounding rate, Mr. Speaker. The important thing about this act is that it will ensure that our medical practitioners, our physicians keep up-to-date on current practices, current modern standards, for the protection of the patients.

The new act will help to further some of the recommendations of Madam Justice Cameron's report. We all know, Mr. Speaker, what the Province went through in terms of that commission of inquiry on hormone receptor testing and this shows that this government is indeed committed to the Cameron report and the recommendations. In fact, Mr. Speaker, this government has made significant progress in implementing the Justice Cameron report. There were sixty recommendations in that particular report, and so far this government has completed forty-three of the sixty. There are twelve of those recommendations that are, in fact, substantially complete. That, indeed, is quite significant, and my compliments to the Minister of Health on doing that.

Mr. Speaker, our new legislation is fully in keeping with the recommendations surrounding continuing education and medical professionals. We are committed to restoring public faith in our health care system. I believe we have made great strides to this particular end. This government recognizes that health care affects each and every individual, and I think this legislation certainly recognizes that.

Mr. Speaker, through this legislation, this government is working diligently to improving the health care system for all of us who use it. To me, the legislation is showing that this government is listening and this government is responding to the needs of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador who indeed require these particular programs and services that are offered through our Department of Health, Mr. Speaker. Our government is continuing to respond to the health care needs of our Province.

Mr. Speaker, this new legislation helps us ensure that physicians practising in this Province continue to maintain their high professional standards. It also assists the College of Physicians and Surgeons carry out its primary mandate which is the protection of the public. The proposed act incorporates quality assurance measures into the regulation of the practice of medicine. The proposed measures include establishing a quality assurance committee that require mandatory continuing and remedial education, ensuring provisionally licensed physicians receive appropriate orientation, appropriate supervision and appropriate assessment, and the ongoing monitoring and evaluation of the prescribing practices in this Province; a significant increase in accountability for the patients and for the public in this Province, Mr. Speaker.

The college now has the tools it needs for quality assurance, continuing professional development and licensing so that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians may continue to have confidence in our medical care system. I know Dr. Patel, who is the Chair of the College of Physicians and Surgeons said, and I quote, "The new legislation reflects the fact that the practice of medicine is in constant evolution and that the college must continue to evolve with it in order to protect the public." Those are the times we are in.

I listened very attentively to the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi when she talked about science and how science is changing and how as a society things are changing so rapidly, that we have to agree. I think that was a point that was well made, Mr. Speaker, and I feel this legislation obviously will ensure that our medical profession, our physicians are current and they are doing the best job that they can do for the citizens of our great Province. The committee will also be able to order physicians to obtain counselling if that is necessary, Mr. Speaker, and order the completion of an educational or a training program.

Mr. Speaker, there are indeed a lot of positives with this new medical act, 2011, that was introduced in this hon. House yesterday by the Minister of Health. There is a requirement, of course, that all physicians participate in a mandatory continuous education, and I think that is so significant. There is also a requirement that the establishment of a quality assurance committee will be expected to be up and running by year end, by the end of 2011.

Mr. Speaker, there is also authorization for the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Newfoundland and Labrador to make regulations with ministerial approval to monitor and verify physicians prescribing practices. That is an important degree of accountability. Now you have someone under regulation, under an act of this Legislature, you have a group who has that responsibility to make these regulations, of course, with ministerial approval. It also recognizes that as a government we have a very important role to play in ensuring that these regulations are indeed appropriate and accountable.

Mr. Speaker, there is also authorization for the college to make regulations, again with ministerial approval, to ensure that sponsors of provisionally licensed physicians have appropriate orientation, supervision and ongoing assessment. There is also recognition that no one physician will have the training or practice or experience to perform all medical practices. It does not happen, Mr. Speaker. There are specialists, obviously, and when it comes to the medical profession it is pretty tough, given the nature of medicine, to know it all from all the different disciplines within that area. This act, Mr. Speaker, will restrict license holders from changing to a different scope of practice without assessment and possibly retraining.

Mr. Speaker, the college, with the approval of the minister, will also make regulations with respect to monitoring and verification of physicians' prescribing practices in response, again, to the recommendations of the OxyContin Task Force recommendation.

Mr. Speaker, just in the last few minutes that I have had the honour and privilege to rise in this hon. House, there is no doubt in my mind that the Minister of Health has done a tremendous job in bringing this legislation forward. My congratulations, and I will indeed be supporting this legislation.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. With that, I will take my seat.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS BURKE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the hon. Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board, that this House do now adjourn.

MR. SPEAKER: It is 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 2:00 o'clock tomorrow, being Private Members' Day.

On motion, the House at its rising adjourned until tomorrow, Wednesday, at 2:00 p.m.