May 12, 2011                         HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS                 Vol. XLVI  No. 24


The House met at 1:30 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Fitzgerald): Order, please!

Admit strangers.

Statements by Members

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Today, the Chair welcomes the following members' statements: the hon. the Member for the District of The Straits & White Bay North; the hon. the Member for the District of Fortune Bay-Cape la Hune; the hon. the Member for the District of Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi; the hon. the Member for the District of Humber Valley; and the hon. the Member for the District of Lewisporte.

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

MR. DEAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in this hon. House today to congratulate a Newfoundlander who refuses to "WIPEOUT". He is known as Trent "The Sailor" Taylor on the National TV show Wipeout Canada. The show is a spinoff of the American version where contestants run the world's largest and funniest obstacle course. There were twenty competitors who tackled the course but only two can make it to the final round in an effort to be named Wipeout Canada Champion.

The episode titled East vs. West aired Sunday, May 8, where Trent "The Sailor" Taylor, representing the East, came out on top completing the obstacles ‘Sucker Punch', ‘Big Red Balls' and ‘The Sweeper'. Having accomplished all of these, he was the last one standing and therefore got an automatic "bye" to the Final Wipeout Zone. In the Wipeout Zone, the contestant who reaches the final platform and hits the buzzer in the quickest time is declared Wipeout Champion and takes home the spectacular grand prize of $50,000.

Trent is a former resident of Raleigh, a small fishing community on the Northern Peninsula. He now lives in Torbay with his wife and six-month-old daughter and has a career as a second officer on a ship. He watched the show faithfully and wanted someday to take the obstacle course for himself. When auditions for Wipeout Canada, Trent got his chance and he went all the way. He is now Wipeout Canada Champion and the winner of $50,000. As for what he is going to do with his winnings, he intends for one-half to go towards his daughter's education; he will have some fun with the rest, he says.

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

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for the District of Fortune Bay-Cape la Hune.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS PERRY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise in this hon. House today to congratulate the Bay d'Espoir Blizzards for their outstanding hockey performance this year. During Easter, I had the privilege of attending the opening ceremonies of the Provincial Hockey Tournament for the Atom J Division, hosted by the Bay d'Espoir Blizzards at St. Alban's. It was a very exciting event, and I was impressed with all the talent and energy in the room.

There were six teams in attendance, and while all performed very well, the Bay d'Espoir Blizzards won the gold honour. I would like to thank everyone involved in organizing this tournament, especially the coaches who have done a great job all year long: Mr. Randy Dollimont, Mr. James Skinner, and Mr. Karl Inkpen. Special recognition also goes to Lou Willcott, former President of the Bay d'Espoir Minor Hockey Association, for his unwavering commitment to developing this sport for our kids over the last decade.

Not only did the Blizzards win the Easter tournament, they also won the gold medal at the Mount Peyton Tournament earlier in January, and a silver medal at invitational tournament in March.

Mr. Speaker, we have other stars in the region as well. On April 27, the Harbour Breton Hurricanes Bantam division played an awesome tournament in Torbay, and they, too, brought home the gold. In addition, the Bay d'Espoir Bantam division also won gold at Harbour Grace.

Mr. Speaker, I think we should keep an eye out for these young players. Who knows, maybe someday they will become Herder Champions as well.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all members of this hon. House to join with me in congratulating the Bay d'Espoir Blizzards and the Harbour Breton Hurricanes on a spectacular performance.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to stand in the House to recognize and congratulate the Virginia Park Vaulters on thirty years of athletic spectacle.

Mr. Speaker, the Virginia Vaulters are a gymnastic display team comprised of students of Virginia Park Elementary, as well as some junior high aged members who formerly attended Virginia Park Elementary and have remained interested in being active members.

Over the past thirty years, the Vaulters have performed over 120 shows at more than ninety different venues province-wide.

The show itself has grown over the years, going from a short display for parents at years end to a fast-paced, highly charged forty-minute performance. The members of the group perform skills learned as part of the regular curriculum and are encouraged to perform the more advanced and challenging skills they have learned in practice with the group. The show is comprised of individual and group skills that take place on the floor and over vaulting boxes.

Mr. Speaker, the opportunities this program provides to its participants are amazing. These young people are learning the value of teamwork, practice and determination, social skills, and commitment to a goal while being physically active.

Mr. Speaker, I am very much looking forward to attending the Virginia Park Vaulters meet and greet this evening where past members will be treated to a performance by the current Vaulter team and have the opportunity to share stories and experiences from their time as members. It is sure to be a very entertaining evening.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all hon. members to join me in congratulating the Virginia Park Vaulters on thirty successful years and wishing them all the best for thirty more.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KELLY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I feel privileged indeed to rise in this hon. House today and formally recognize the winner of the Victor May Award for 2011. The Victor May Memorial Award is an annual award presented each year by the Pasadena Winter Carnival committee to a person who, in the opinion of the committee, demonstrates carnival spirit.

Mr. Speaker, Victor was a member of the carnival committee and chairperson for many years. He gave many hours of his time and efforts to ensuring a carnival that the residents would enjoy. This award is held in high esteem by the committee. Victor was a former colleague and close personal friend of mine, and I was so pleased to be present when the award was presented by Victor's wife, Sadie, and daughter, Melissa, to this year's recipient.

Mr. Speaker, this year's winner was Carol Parsons. She was a very deserving winner. Carol was very active in various carnival events, but also she was always there to lend a hand in running events for children, cooking and serving meals, and serving at suppers. She always had a smile on her face and, like Victor, was giving so others, too, could enjoy.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all hon. colleagues to join me in congratulating Carol Parsons, this year's award winner for her dedicated, unselfish efforts to ensuring the success of Pasadena's Winter Carnival 2011 in the carnival spirit she displayed.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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 recently had the privilege of attending an evening of food and drama at Lewisporte Intermediate School in Lewisporte.

The evening began with a sit down meal in the gymnasium that was prepared by parent volunteers and served by students. Following the meal, all those in attendance spent time viewing displays of student artwork in other areas of the school, while the organizing committee transformed the gymnasium from a banquet hall into a theatre. Upon re-entering the gymnasium, we were treated to an evening of student drama performances.

Principal Terry Spurrell offered congratulations to the student body for their first-rate performances. He also expressed appreciation to the many parent volunteers who made the evening come together in a seamless transition of events. As well, Mr. Spurrell recognized the tremendous contribution of English teacher Ms Cole, in ensuring the night was a success.

Members of the House, please join with me in expressing thanks to all the volunteers who make events like this happen. Also, let's join with Principal Terry Spurrell in recognition of the tremendous effort expended by a very dedicated teacher, Ms Pamela Cole.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Statements by Ministers.

Statements by Ministers

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, from May 5 to the 8, the theatrical talent of our junior high and high school students was showcased during the Annual Provincial Theatre Arts Festival, held at Pearce Junior High School in Salt Pond, Burin.

Ten schools and more than 140 students from throughout Newfoundland and Labrador took part in this year's festival. Performances were held at Pearce Junior High, while theatre related workshops were held at the Burin campus of the College of the North Atlantic. During the festival, the Burin region student art exhibit was also displayed at the school.

Mr. Speaker, the provincial government is a proud supporter of the Provincial Theatre Arts Festival, providing $80,000 through our $2 million annual Cultural Connections Program. It provides our young people with opportunities, both on stage and behind the scenes, to develop their talents and skills.

There is no doubt, Mr. Speaker, that some of them will choose careers in the arts. Many of this Province's theatre professionals discovered their love of performing arts during their school years, during regional competitions, and at this festival. Our government is committed to strengthening arts and cultural programming in schools.

Since the implementation of Cultural Connections, about $15 million has been invested to increase the presence of cultural content in the school curriculum, and to foster links between the arts and school communities. That funding has been used to purchase equipment and resources, and to support such programs as ArtsSmarts, the School Touring Program, the Visiting Artist Program, the Student Travel Grant Program, and the Learning Partners Program.

Through our schools, Mr. Speaker, we are continuing to develop and nurture the next generation of actors, writers, musicians, set designers and technicians. They will ensure our reputation as a Province rich in creative talent continues into the future.

I invite my colleagues in the House to join me in congratulating the students, festival organizers, teachers, parent volunteers and others for their commitment to making this year's Provincial Theatre Arts Festival yet another unqualified success.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. DEAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to first of all thank the minister for an advance copy of her statement. It is good to see the theatrical talent of our schools being displayed in competitions and so on. By all indications, the Provincial Theatre Arts Festival that was held in Burin was a success. We would like to congratulate the 140 students who participated.

I would like to congratulate those who helped to prepare for the festival at the Burin regional school and the art exhibit, as well, that was put forth there. The comments that I have been able to read on it were very encouraging and to congratulate those who were a part of organizing the same.

There is no question that regional competitions and festivals are an opportunity for students to get a feel for where they feel they should take their careers and what talents they have. Being able to come together from around the Province, rural parts of the Province in particular, and to be exposed to a larger setting is always very positive. The implementation of the Cultural Connections is an opportunity for students to develop their skills, whether it is music skills or theatrical skills, visual arts and so on.

It is good to see the provincial government putting money into that and supporting this program. I would wish all of the students and the organizers well as they do it again in another year's time.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

I, too, thank the minister for an advance copy of her statement. It is so important that we recognize the achievements of young theatre professionals in the Province, whether they be actors or directors, technicians, whatever the role that they play.

We currently have a lot of attention here on our Province with regard to our actors, technicians and arts professionals, thanks to the popularity of The Republic of Doyle. All the more reason to be encouraging our young people in the involvement of arts, because opportunities for them are growing in this Province and in the country.

Students involved in the provincial festival are primarily junior high and high school aged students; however, there are also some younger students who take part in the festival. I understand, Mr. Speaker, that these younger participants are not eligible for awards and recognition at the current festival even though they are a part of it. I encourage the minister and organizers of the festival to consider a separate event or a portion of the current festival, which focuses on these younger actors. We should recognize their contributions and talent, no matter what their age, and encourage involvement as young as possible. Recognizing them in the festival would encourage them to continue as they go into junior and senior high.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Further statements by ministers?

The hon. the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS POTTLE: Mr. Speaker, heritage is vital to all of Newfoundland and Labrador. This vast Province is rich in cultural diversity with strong ancestral ties in each region.

Within the Inuit culture, heritage helps to define us, both as individuals and as a people. It is in the way we speak; it is in our art and in our songs. We witness it in our traditions, our hunting and gathering, the way we use the land, and the way we treat the gifts the land and sea provide us.

Mr. Speaker, it is my great pleasure to inform this hon. House of the Nunatsiavut Heritage Forum that took place in Hopedale during the first week of May, where I had the opportunity to address the delegates and attend the sessions.

This was the second year for the forum, which was organized by a steering committee with representation from the Labrador Interpretation Centre, the White Elephant Museum of Makkovik, the Labrador Institute, and the Torngβsok Culture Centre. Representatives from the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Nunatsiavut Government participated with leaders of the five Inuit communities, non-government organizations and groups who were provided an opportunity to discuss heritage related issues, concerns and priorities.

The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador recognizes and celebrates the many pieces that weave the fabric of our society together. It was just this past February in Happy Valley-Goose Bay that I was joined by my colleague, the Minister of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development, when we announced a partnership between the Nunatsiavut Government and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador seeking to foster a better appreciation of the Torngat Mountains National Park and the richness of Inuit culture through the Torngβsok Cultural Centre.

As well, through the Department of Tourism, Culture and Recreation, the provincial government continues to fund the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Program, which is designed to address the increasingly urgent need to preserve Aboriginal culture throughout our Province.

One notable outcome of the Nunatsiavut Heritage Forum will see the Torngβsok Cultural Centre act as an umbrella organization for the heritage groups in Northern and Central Labrador. As well, there was discussion concerning the holding of heritage workshops throughout the five Inuit communities.

Mr. Speaker, I am proud of my Inuit heritage. While it is important to share it with the world, it is also important for Inuit people to share and celebrate who we are within our own communities. I encourage the Nunatsiavut Government and other Aboriginal groups throughout our Province to continue their work in preserving and celebrating their culture and heritage.

Thank you very much.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

Mr. Speaker, a sense of pride has been felt all across Newfoundland and Labrador in all aspects of our culture. Many regions throughout our Province hold festivals that celebrate song and dance, celebrate craft and art, celebrate the very fibre of who we are as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. I am happy to see that the Inuit people of Labrador have developed a festival and a forum in the Nunatsiavut heritage forum. I certainly encourage them in their communities, Mr. Speaker, as they come together and grow this festival over the years to ensure that it is a full showcase of the unique and wonderful culture of the Aboriginal people of Northern Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, the Inuit culture signifies a people who are no doubt harmonious with nature and with the land but also people who are united within themselves and within their community. They are people of relentlessness, generosity and deep spirituality. I have had the opportunity and the very great privilege, Mr. Speaker, to spend some time in Northern Labrador, the opportunity to tour historic sites, like the one in the minister's own hometown of Hopedale, the opportunity to be able to camp and hike in the great Torngat Mountains, to learn how to fish with the Inuit hunters, and to learn how to cook char and caribou with the women of the villages.

Mr. Speaker, I can tell you that it is a wonderful experience. I would not only encourage the communities of Northern Labrador to celebrate their culture and their heritage but I would encourage the people of the whole Province to share in that celebration, to learn the great culture of the Inuit of the North, because, Mr. Speaker, until you have walked their land and touched their hand, it is really not the same as watching it from afar.

Thank you very much.

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 her statement.

I certainly congratulate everyone who took part in the Nunatsiavut Heritage Forum, and all those who were there from both governments. It is a wonderful time in our history that we can have the self-government of Nunatsiavut celebrating with the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. I remember when I was on the Voisey's Bay Environmental Assessment Panel, which is almost fifteen years ago, that this was the kind of thing I was looking forward to for the Aboriginal peoples in Labrador – to be self-governing, and to be able to stand with pride in who they are.

I agree with the urgent need to preserve Aboriginal culture throughout the Province, and for the whole Province to celebrate the culture of the Aboriginal peoples. I hope, sincerely, that the discussion concerning holding heritage workshops throughout the five Inuit communities will lead to that happening in the very near future. I think each community needs to celebrate the heritage of the whole community. I also wish the Torngβsok Cultural Centre all the best in its new role as umbrella organization for heritage groups in Northern and Central Labrador.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Further statements by ministers.

Oral Questions.

Oral Questions

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I was sitting in my seat and I was saying Muskrat Falls is not even on stream yet, and we have the heat shutdown in the House of Assembly. So, I hope, Premier, I do not freeze up halfway through Question Period today.

Mr. Speaker, yesterday in the House of Assembly, the Premier said something that was wrong. When I asked her why she was enforcing a moratorium on wind energy projects in the Province, she stated that wind power is always more expensive than hydro. Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind the Premier that the wind farm that she rejected at Argentia would have cost $2.2 million per megawatt of power, compared to that of the $7.5 million per megawatt that her Muskrat Falls plan will cost.

So I ask the Premier today: Why would she leave the impression with people in the Province that wind is more expensive than hydro, when in all cases, it is clearly not?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, wind is a green form of energy of which we have an abundance in Labrador and in Newfoundland, Mr. Speaker. Once we develop our vast hydro resource, Mr. Speaker, that commodity becomes even more valuable because we will not need to go beyond Newfoundland and Labrador to find the capacity to back stop wind.

Mr. Speaker, she talks about the cost of the wind project in Argentia, but she does not talk about the cost of back stopping that wind, nor does she talk about the cost of transmission that will be necessary to bring that wind around the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

So, Mr. Speaker, as in most of her questions, they are one-dimensional. One-dimensional thinking does not address all the aspects of energy development that is required in this Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, the government rejected the proposal without giving it real consideration. That was the wind farm in Argentia. We know that it could have reduced fuel consumption at Holyrood by 330,000 barrels a year. Mr. Speaker, the government spent over a year trying to find a way to reject this proposal.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Premier today: Why are you insisting on blocking new wind power developments in our Province, projects that could produce energy at a fraction of the cost of Muskrat Falls and leave cheaper available power for the people of the Province?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, this line of questioning is much the same as we heard from the Leader of the Opposition yesterday when she talked about the Harris report, which was based on the Shawmont study that she referred to in this House before our Easter break. That talked about linking up ponds all around this Province, Mr. Speaker, to provide energy at, she insists, a cheaper cost than Muskrat Falls.

Mr. Speaker, she talked about the presentation to the environmental assessment panel. What she neglected to tell the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and neglected to tell the people here in the House is that Nalcor appeared immediately after the Harris report was presented to the environmental assessment panel, Mr. Speaker, and was able to repudiate all of the recommendations that have been put forward.

Now, Mr. Speaker, either she is not paying attention to what is happening at the environmental assessment or she is not prepared to provide comprehensive information.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

You want to talk about one-dimensional thinking, I say that it is what we are getting from the government and the Premier when they are not prepared to leave themselves open to look at other options in the Province. Instead, they have put a moratorium on all other forms of hydro and wind power development.

Mr. Speaker, my next question is for the Minister of Finance. Minister, this year's Budget is seeing record amounts of revenue from oil and minerals, yet because of your spending plan the Province's net debt and gross debt is still going up.

I ask you today: How much more will the debt go up next year when you start borrowing on the Muskrat Falls project?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MARSHALL: Mr. Speaker, our direct debt is not going up, it is going down. We are spending $400 million this year on our debt to pay it down. We spent $400 million last year on our direct debt to pay it down, and the year before we spent $367 million on our direct debt to pay it down. Direct debt is going down.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MARSHALL: Mr. Speaker, this government has not borrowed money for operational purposes since the year 2004.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MARSHALL: Mr. Speaker, Standard & Poor's, a credit rating agency which has warned the United States of America about its debt and its future, has given this Province an upgrade in its rating from A to A+ -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MARSHALL: - because of its liquidity, because of its operating surpluses, and because of its prudent financial practices.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

A great speech by the Minister of Finance but you are not at the board of trade now, Minister, you are in the House of Assembly, and let me ask you the question again.

The net debt has risen this year, and I ask the minister again today if he will tell us what that debt will climb to when we start borrowing funds for Muskrat Falls?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board.

MR. MARSHALL: Mr. Speaker, the net debt in this Province has gone from just under $12 billion. At the start of this year it is down to $8.2 billion. That is a decline of 31 per cent.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MARSHALL: Our net debt has gone down. When the members opposite were in government, how much did they put on the net debt? Not one dollar, not one dime.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is all out of the spin documents of government. We know the net debt has increased this year over last year. In fact, Mr. Speaker, I have asked the minister twice now to tell us what it will mean when they start borrowing for Muskrat Falls and, again, we do not see any answers.

It is an interesting scheme when you start borrowing millions of dollars so that we can pay more for our own electricity, when subsidizing the same power that is going to go outside of Newfoundland and Labrador. We understand that the debt to equity ratio on the Muskrat Falls plant will be 60-40, and on the transmission line will be 75-25.

I ask the minister, if he can tell the House what the total interest costs will be on the borrowed portion and whether that is in addition to the $6.2 billion in construction costs?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MARSHALL: Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her question, which is a very important one.

Our government believes very strongly that we want to keep hydro rates for the people of this Province down. We do not want them to rise; we want them to go down.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MARSHALL: If we do not get off oil, if we do not get off Holyrood, which produces electricity based on oil, which is going higher and higher and higher, people in this Province are going to have to pay higher electricity. The way to stop that is to get off Holyrood and to go to the Lower Churchill River. When we are ready to go we are going to get the guarantee from the federal Government of Canada, which is going to reduce our costs by 2 per cent on the debt.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MARSHALL: When the deal is finalized and we are ready to go, at that point the debt equity ratio will be known and then I can answer the member's question.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The minister talks about keeping the rates down for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians but people know the reality, minister. You are prepared to do a deal today that will see the rates in Newfoundland and Labrador skyrocket while the rates in Maritime Canada and places like Nova Scotia will be much more cheaper on the same power source. Mr. Speaker, is that looking out for the best interest of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians?

I ask the Minister of Finance today, if he can tell us what the total interest costs will be on the borrowed amount and if it is included in the $6.2 billion or if it will be in addition to that?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MARSHALL: Mr. Speaker, when the deal is ready to be put forward, then we will know what the debt equity ratio is and then we will be able to do the calculations; but, I can tell you this, is that from this project the revenue that will come in will pay the operating costs of the project. It will pay the cost of building the facility and it will provide money to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador to pay any debt we have to take off and provide a surplus that governments can use to either lower hydro rates further or to build hospitals or to initiate progressive social programs for the people of this Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is so ironic you know, this is a government that claims they do not know if there is going to be overruns; they do not know what the interest rate is going to be; they do not know what the actual final price of power is going to be to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, Mr. Speaker, but they know –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS JONES: - they are going to make a profit for Nalcor. They are going to make a profit for Emera corporation out of Nova Scotia, Mr. Speaker, they know all of those things.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS JONES: I say to you, Minister, due diligence, tell the people of the Province how much their electricity is going to cost and if the rates are going to go up once the interest is calculated in this deal?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MARSHALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Leader of the Opposition talks about profits for Nalcor, the people of Newfoundland own Nalcor.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MARSHALL: Any profits they make are going to come to the taxpayers of the Province. The hon. Leader of the Opposition should know that because when they were in power they were over at Nalcor every second day gutting out the money.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MARSHALL: We are putting money into Nalcor to build a project to bring lower hydro rates to the people of this Province. It is smart public policy.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I will tell you what we know of Nalcor, it has become a corporation that has had the doors locked. You transfer hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayers' money into Nalcor corporation every year to be spent, God knows how, because no one can get their hands on the books. That is the people's money, I say to you, Minister.

Mr. Speaker, Emera Energy is going to get free power for thirty-five years. It is also going to get 29 per cent of all of our power sales in Newfoundland and Labrador. Perhaps the government can tell us what this projection is because they do not have the answers around any of the other variables.

Can you tell us what the total amount of money that ratepayers in this Province will have to pay Emera Energy over the life of this project for their percentage in it?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MARSHALL: Mr. Speaker, we are dealing with Emera because they own transmission rights through Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the Untied States. We are going to build a facility in Muskrat Falls to provide cheaper hydro rates to the people of this Province. We are going to build a facility in Muskrat Falls to have hydro to attract industry to Labrador and to the Island of Newfoundland and Labrador.

There is going to be three terawatts of power left over. One of them is going to Emera, because they are going to pay $1.2 billion to build a link to Nova Scotia. The other two are going to be sold into the Maritime Provinces, into New England, so that we can make a profit for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

What the minister and his government are going to do is they are going to double the rates of electricity for people in Newfoundland and Labrador, Mr. Speaker. They are going to give away 29 per cent ownership of our transmission capacity in Newfoundland and Labrador to a private company in Nova Scotia and they are going to sell our power to Maritimers and people in the New England states cheaper than they are going to sell it to our own people.

Let me ask you again, Minister: Have you thought far enough ahead, have you calculated enough to understand today how much money Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are going to have to pay out of their pocket to Emera corporation to compensate for the 29 per cent shares that you have given to them?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MARSHALL: None - none. There is a regulated return that is going to provide the people of this Province with about a half a billion dollars, on average, from the day that project starts to the day it is finished - a half a billion dollars a year, on average, which will be used to either lower hydro rates even further, which will be used to build hospitals and daycare facilities, and will be used along with revenues from Gull Island and the Upper Churchill, when it comes back, to provide wealth and prosperity to our children and our grandchildren as long as that river flows to the sea.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. DEAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, what a shame! The only ones who missed out on the energy drinks today were those of us sitting right over here. I guess we came through the wrong door.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. DEAN: Mr. Speaker, a twenty-one-year-old man had recently –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair is having difficulty hearing the hon. member.

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

MR. DEAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

A twenty-one-year-old young man has recently graduated with an architectural engineering technology diploma and is actively looking for work. He is disabled and is confined to a wheelchair. He is running into issues that physically disabled community members face each and every day, and that is accessibility. Many of the companies he is applying to are physically inaccessible to him because he is in a wheelchair. He is not able to access as many as half or more of the companies to which he has applied.

My question to the minister is: What is your government doing to address the issue of physical access for disabled individuals confined to wheelchairs?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I thank the member opposite for his question. It is indeed a very important topic, and I want to begin by offering my congratulations to the individual. It is great to see. I had the good pleasure recently of attending an event at the College of the North Atlantic with a number of individuals like that. I think our record is very clear on how we feel about disabled people in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. We have a provincial advisory council on the status of persons with disabilities that I meet with on a regular basis. They have done some tremendous work. We are on the verge of releasing a provincial disabled person's policy that will guide a framework for how we are going to operate in this Province.

Specific to the issue the member has raised, I do not know the individual you are talking about. I can say I have had a discussion with a number of individuals very similar to what you have described. My office is working with those individuals and we are prepared to do what we can. The goal for all of us to make sure, in this Province, the disabled individuals are treated the same as other individuals, they have every opportunity to survive, work, prosper, and have a happy and comfortable life in Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. DEAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

One of the other issues this young man is facing is the issue of accessible housing. Right now, he is staying at MUN on campus while he is looking for work, but he has to find his own place in short order. The problem is a severe shortage of accessible housing for people in wheelchairs. Even if he is lucky enough to get in through the main doors of an apartment or a house, many times these units prevent him from living in the unit, like doors swinging properly and so on.

So I ask the minister: What are you doing to address the issue of accessible housing for people in wheelchairs?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister Responsible for the Status of Persons with Disabilities.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KING: I thank the member opposite for his question, Mr. Speaker, and I will pick up where I left off in my last remarks. We are very committed to the disabled of the Province. That is why in our recent Budget we made an announcement of significant investments for the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation.

The member may be aware that just about ten days ago I made a significant announcement at the Easter Seals building here in St. John's of a provincial program for disabled persons to apply for grants – free money from the government – to make modifications to their housing accommodations to provide for things like ramps and other necessities that allow them to live in homes comfortably. In some instances, Mr. Speaker, there are persons who might otherwise have to leave their homes because they are unable to be accommodated there. We are providing an opportunity, through free money, for them to upgrade their home so that they can live there and live comfortably.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. DEAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

We know also that government regulations do not require buildings that were built prior to 1982 to conform to the accessibility code. They must, however, conform if they are doing renovations of 50 per cent or more of the building. Mr. Speaker, we know of many businesses that are doing renovations that change basically 47 per cent or 48 per cent of their building, just under the 50 per cent mark.

I ask the minister: Are you looking at changing the legislation to reflect the need to make buildings more accessible to disabled people?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister Responsible for the Status of Persons with Disabilities.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Again, I thank the member opposite for the question. This is an important topic. I am very pleased that you bring it to the floor of the House of Assembly because I think it is one, sometimes, that gets overlooked.

As I said a few moments ago, we are very committed to supporting the inclusion of persons with disabilities in society, and I acknowledge, as the member said, there are many buildings throughout the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador that are not accessible. It has been the practice of our government that when we build new buildings and we do renovations that we provide that. I can also tell the member that we have had extensive discussions with disabled groups, and contractors and others who would be a part of that process, throughout the Province, as part of the development of our provincial strategy for the inclusion of persons with disabilities. That certainly is going to be a key part of it.

I will reassure members in this House, Mr. Speaker, that through the leadership of Joanne MacDonald, we have a tremendous provincial advisory council on the status of persons with disabilities, and I can reassure everybody here that I hear from Joanne, literally, on a weekly basis about issues affecting those persons and (inaudible).

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. DEAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, in the House yesterday, I questioned the Minister of Fisheries on the desperate situation at New Ferolle. The minister said he followed up on his commitment to look into the complaints that the plant was far from ready for production. He stated yesterday that he hoped that people are in there assembling equipment, and he also said that he hoped that the plant will be in production.

I would like to ask the minister today: Can he tell the House where he obtained his information about what was taking place in New Ferolle?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, I directed staff to make an inquiry as to what was happening in New Ferolle, and that is what was reported back to me. I cannot say anything more than that, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. DEAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

According to the people of the community, the Minister of Fisheries is being pumped full of lies – that is basically how they term it – regarding the New Ferolle plant, and it seems indeed that the minister was misled by someone.

I ask the minister, has he or his staff visited the plant to see first-hand - because I have photos here that were taken just yesterday of the plant. It shows it empty, it shows it barren, it shows they have no equipment, and basically it is nowhere near getting ready for processing of fish and so on. So I ask the minister if he is aware of that situation.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, I certainly hope the member is not insinuating that we are attempting to shirk or whatnot. We want to do what we can for the people of New Ferolle, the people on the Northern Peninsula, people in the entire Province. He has photos there. I will certainly look at them after Question Period and I will follow up on the situation again, Mr. Speaker. We want to do what we can –

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. JACKMAN: Do you want an answer or do you want to banter back and forth?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

MR. JACKMAN: I certainly will commit to taking the information and I will follow up further, Mr. Speaker. I have met with the people in New Ferolle on a couple of occasions. In fact, last year I visited the plant. I am not averse to doing that again, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. DEAN: Mr. Speaker, I am not trying to play with it again – as I said yesterday, this is an important issue. I know from looking at the pictures last evening there is room enough in that building – vacant space – for this government to have a caucus meeting. It is not something that is ready to do any production.

Mr. Speaker, the solution is not a complex solution. The current owner has not lived up to the terms of his licence. Whatever happened to the use it or lose it philosophy –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. DEAN: – that should be attached to that and so my question again is: Are you ready, as a minister, as a government, to rescind the licence, show respect to the workers, bring in a processor that is going to do something and put people to work?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, we continue to assess the situation in New Ferolle.

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Maloney legally owns the plant and there is a licence that is attached to that plant. If we are going down this road there are legal implications that we just simply cannot overlook. Mr. Speaker, as I said in my last response, he has some information, I will certainly ask that he provide it to me afterwards and I will follow up on the situation, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. DEAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, twenty-four hours later the lobster crisis continues – no resolution, no resolve by the government. While the minister fails to act lobsters are dying in crates tied on to wharves. Fishermen are making no income. Communities are suffering. He said yesterday he expected a deal yesterday; it obviously did not happen.

I ask the minister: What has he done since yesterday to ensure this industry does begin to move forward?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, I do not know if the member opposite read the paper or not today but I thought I was quite clear in the paper. One thing that really did surprise me though, Mr. Speaker, the Liberal would-be candidate for St. John's West, Mr. Joyce, the Liberal hopeful, out saying that I as minister should not interfere in this process while negotiations are going on. Mr. Speaker –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. JACKMAN: – yesterday negotiations were ongoing. Second to that, Mr. Speaker, they continued today. As I have said in the paper –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. JACKMAN: As it was reported in the paper this morning, if at the end of this day a resolution is not found, Mr. Speaker, then I will make the ruling on outside buying.

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.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS MICHAEL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health and Community Services. In Estimates it was indicated to us that the Long-Term Care and Community Support Services Strategy will be going to Cabinet in short order. Mr. Speaker, the people of this Province have been waiting a long time for this strategy that they hope will fix problems in the system.

I ask the minister: Will he give the House and the public some timelines more specific than ‘in short order' –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS MICHAEL: – around the release of the Long-Term Care and Community Support Services Strategy?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask members on both sides of the House to kindly listen to the questions asked and the answers given.

The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

As I indicated in Estimates to the member opposite a couple of days ago, we have been taking all of the steps to implement the long-term care strategy without actually finalizing the strategy. We have spent over $200 million, Mr. Speaker, in infrastructure, in home care investments and personal care home investments. We are building facilities, Mr. Speaker, in Corner Brook – it just opened, excuse me – Happy Valley-Goose Bay has just opened. We are building facilities in Lewisporte; we are building facilities in Carbonear and St. John's.

What we are doing, Mr. Speaker, is we are investing in our seniors; $200,000 in age-friendly grants; a couple of hundred thousand dollars in wellness grants for seniors. We are looking at the continuum from the time the person is in the community until the time they are entering the long-term care facility and we are taking a very preventative approach, where groups like the Random Age-Friendly group are taking their fate in their own hands, looking after their health with support from us as a government, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

Yes, and that is all fine and dandy, we still do not know what the long-term strategy is though and we are still waiting.

One of the things government has done in this Budget is that they are raising the home support hourly subsidy rate by twenty-five cents which they say will raise the current salary rate from $1.75 to $2 above minimum wage. There is no guarantee that home support workers will get that raise and even if they do, it only brings them slightly above minimum wage. Mr. Speaker, home support workers need higher wages and affordable training if we want to keep them working in the sector.

I ask the Minister of Health and Community Services: Will the strategy that we are waiting for include a plan for a publicly administered and delivered home care system with better wages and training access for home support workers?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I will give the hon. member a forty-five second synopsis of the long-term care strategy. Keeping our seniors as healthy and happy in our communities and in their home as long as possible -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: - prevention and wellness. Secondly, Mr. Speaker, we will then look at the provision of home care to our seniors, again, in their homes, to keep them in their homes as long as possible. We will then look into the personal care home and community care home sector as to how we can assist people in living healthy and happy lives within that facility that accommodates Level I and II clients, Mr. Speaker.

We will then look at moving into the long-term care facilities with Level III and IV recognizing that should be utilized only for those who need it so we will use our interRAI tool to ensure that there is an objective assessment as to which facility they should be in.

Meanwhile, Mr. Speaker, we will have medically discharged patients who are taking up acute care beds in hospitals. We will look at moving them into the community, Mr. Speaker to open up acute care beds.

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 look forward to getting that in writing. I look forward to seeing what that is going to look like in a budget, so I hope that the budget of next year is going to have all of those details. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

We know that hundreds of people are on wait lists for nursing homes, but the new Hoyles-Escasoni facility in St. John's, for example, will only have twenty-six additional beds over and above what exists now.

Mr. Speaker, government is putting up these facilities, like the ones in St. John's and Corner Brook, without creating enough beds for people on waiting lists and acute care patients in the present. We were told in Estimates that an additional forty beds procured at Chancellor Park, and that has been out in the public as well, for acute care patients.

Mr. Speaker, I would like the minister to tell us: Is government's use of private nursing home facilities a temporary arrangement or a permanent direction?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, what we are doing in building long-term care facilities, we are projecting into the future and we are recognizing that we never have enough beds unless we make changes at the front end in terms of keeping our seniors in their communities.

Mr. Speaker, to paraphrase what the House Leader said yesterday, if we do everything the NDP want to do we will never have enough money because that is essentially what the NDP is saying. She is criticizing us for the money we are spending, yet she is criticizing us for not spending enough.

Mr. Speaker, we have spent more than $200 million on long-term care facilities. This year alone, in this Province, we will spend $140 million on health care infrastructure – this year alone.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The time allotted for questions and answers has expired.

Presenting Reports by Standing and Select Committees.

Tabling of Documents.

Notices of Motion.

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 people in Labrador with regard to the Trans-Labrador Highway.

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

Mr. Speaker, this is one of many petitions that I have presented in the House of Assembly on behalf of people in communities from various regions of Labrador. Mr. Speaker, you will notice from the petitions that they are signed by people from the Island portion of the Province as well. That is because once you cross the Strait of Belle Isle and you get in Blanc-Sablon and the Quebec side, then the access to Labrador is by road, the entire highway network.

People who are doing business in Labrador, no matter what business they are in, they have to have their merchandise, their goods, all trucked into Labrador. People are using this road on a daily basis. There is any number of tractor-trailers that are travelling over it. There are all kinds of people who are using it and travelling over it. Mr. Speaker, the roads are not being maintained to a standard that is acceptable.

In fact, Mr. Speaker, despite the fact that government is paying for grader operators, graders, and contracts on a daily basis, there are many of them out there telling me they are grading this road every single day. Yet, there is no stone left on the road to grade. In most cases, you have bedrock coming up through the road. They are actually hitting the rocks with their blades. There are workers now, Mr. Speaker, grader operators who are actually off sick with bad backs and bad necks because they have injured themselves in trying to carry out their work on that particular road.

In addition to that, Mr. Speaker, there are so many people who live in the area who have no other option only to use that road. They do not have any other options. If they have to go to hospital, they have to drive out in many cases. If they have to come home from hospital, like the patient I talked about yesterday who could not be transported by ambulance because the road was so bad, they had to be flown back into their community.

Mr. Speaker, is that acceptable for people who live in that particular area? They have asked the government, in a meeting of their leadership of different communities around Labrador, to look at paving this section of road. The government has said no, it is not on our radar, and we are not going to put it on our radar until 2014. Mr. Speaker, that is unacceptable to people who live there. They want to have their roads addressed and they want to have it done immediately. At the very least, government should be looking at where they are going to approve crushed stone for that section of road this year so that you can grade it and maintain it like a proper gravel road should be. People cannot be expected to continue to travel over these sections of road without having them maintained and looked after properly. It is far too dangerous and it is not acceptable.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Further petitions?

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

MR. DEAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I will read the prayer of the petition into the record.

To the hon. House of Assembly of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador in Parliament Assembled.

The petition of the undersigned residents humbly sheweth:

WHEREAS the shrimp industry is in crisis for both harvesters and processors; and

WHEREAS previously there was protection for Gulf shrimp plants and plant workers through a regional processing restriction mechanism ("the cap") which prevented landed shrimp from being trucked for processing beyond the region where it was landed;

WHEREUPON the undersigned, your petitioners, humbly pray and call upon the House of Assembly to urge the government to reinstate the regional processing restriction ("the cap") in order to preserve the principle of adjacency for shrimp processing and to ensure that employment opportunities are protected for plant workers and the overall viability of communities in the region.

And as in duty bound your petitioners will ever pray.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased this afternoon to be able to stand and present this again to the House of Assembly and before this government to say that again we have a crisis in the fishing industry. We are seeing it around in every species at the present time. The issue of adjacency, the issue of shipping shrimp past idle plants is something that just does not make sense. It is not in the best interest of the people. It is not protecting their jobs. It is putting their livelihoods in jeopardy and so on.

Mr. Speaker, there was a process put in place back in the 1990s that worked quite well, where this cap on the Gulf shrimp in particular was there. It had to be processed locally. It had to be processed in the region where it was harvested. Mr. Speaker, this cap was removed in 2006 approximately, when the RMS discussions and debate began.

Mr. Speaker, we have come to a point where, with shrimp quota cuts last year, more cuts this year, which we still do not know what the final outcome will be. It is time, Mr. Speaker, that that cap be repositioned, that it be reinstated. That is why today this petition is here in the House of Assembly. That is why I am pleased to be able to present it today, to call upon this government, to call upon the Minister of Fisheries in particular, to reinstate this cap that worked well in the past and there is no reason why it cannot work well and protect the jobs for this year and into the future.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Further petitions?

The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

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

I take this opportunity to present a petition which reads as follows:

WHEREAS the Department of Transportation and Works of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador is responsible for funding and maintenance of roads in the community of Cape Ray, in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador; and

WHEREAS the roads at Cape Ray are in deplorable condition, including the road leading from that community to J.T. Cheeseman Provincial Park; and

WHEREAS the citizens of Cape Ray demand that the roads be upgraded;

WHEREUPON the undersigned, your petitioners, humbly pray and call upon the House of Assembly to urge government to provide sufficient funding to complete the necessary repairs to the roads at Cape Ray.

Now, Mr. Speaker, Cape Ray is a smaller community within my district, located about fourteen, fifteen kilometres from Port aux Basques. They have paved roads in their community and there is also a gravel road which goes from the community around to J.T. Cheeseman Park, which is a provincial park. This is a park that this government operates, pays for, and maintains annually. They encourage people, people who travel from within the Province, people who travel from without, visitors here from mainland Canada and the United States, to go there with their travel trailers and so on.

The problem is you cannot expect people to come here if once they come here they do not have proper roads to get around on. This is one such road. In fact, the Department of Transportation and Works itself uses the road quite often and yet, they are not maintaining the road in a fit condition. I would think if they are using the road themselves - it is a public access road, it is utilized by tourists who come to this area, it is utilized by the residents of the area – that they would undertake to keep it in a fit condition. Again, maybe the minister can have a look at this and see if there is something that can be done even under the annual maintenance program of his department to see that this matter can be addressed rather than leave the people in the condition that they are currently in.

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.

Before I call the order for today, I would just like to draw attention to Motion 6 on the Order Paper, which addresses the tribunal recommendations on the salaries and benefits of judges and the chief judge. According to that, Mr. Speaker, it does say that under section 28.2 of the act, we had to approve, vary or reject the report within thirty days of it being tabled.

Mr. Speaker, we are going to continue with the Budget debate today. So, I just want some agreement, by leave, with the Opposition that we will continue with Motion 6 during this sitting of the House, but at a later date than today.

MR. SPEAKER: By agreement?

AN HON. MEMBER: By agreement.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Government House Leader, by agreement.

MS BURKE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

From the Orders of the Day we would like to call, under Motions, Motion 1.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MARSHALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to have an opportunity to take part in this Budget debate once again, this time on the sub-amendment. You will recall that as Finance Minister, after I read the Budget Speech and presented the Budget to the people of the Province for this year, I moved a resolution that this House supported the budgetary policy of the government, and we were debating that, and then the hon. Opposition House Leader spoke to the debate and then he moved an amendment that we not support the budgetary policy of the government. Now, the Leader of the Opposition, in her remarks speaking to the amendment, has now moved a sub-amendment to the amendment. That is what the discussion is today.

It gives hon. members a chance to speak again. You have an opportunity to speak three times, on the main motion, on the amendment, and also on the sub-amendment. I do not know if you can have further sub-amendments. I do not think I have ever seen that in the time I have been here, and I see the Opposition House Leader is saying no.

So, I have had an opportunity to speak in this House, and I have had an opportunity to speak in the City of Corner Brook about the Budget and to the Board of Trade here in St. John's yesterday. Tonight, I am going to be in the wonderful Town of Pasadena speaking to the Board of Trade and the Chamber of Commerce there about what is in the Budget. I am certainly looking forward to that because I know Pasadena has an interest in a new multi-purpose building in their town. There is money, a block of funding, in the Budget to allow communities in the Province that are looking for recreational facilities and multi-purpose facilities to apply to access some of that money to build the facilities that are very important to the residents of those communities.

Now, Mr. Speaker, when we first came into office, we indicated we had a very clear plan of what we had to do. Governments had run nothing but deficits year after year. When you run a deficit that means you are spending more than you are taking in. There are times when that is good public policy to do that, and there are other times when it is not good public policy to do that. Because when you run deficits, you are going to spend more money than you are taking in, the question, of course, is where you get that money. The answer is that you have to go and borrow it. You have to go to the bank or you have to go to the bonding companies and you have to borrow the money. When you borrow the money, it increases your debt. Then, of course, when you are doing the Budget for next year, now you have to pay the interest on that debt. That means you have less money to spend on the things that are important to the people of the Province, like progressive social programs and providing services.

The more and more you do that, the debt gets bigger and bigger, the interest gets bigger and bigger, and it takes away from things that the people want the government do and things that politicians want to do. Politicians on all sides of the House want to do good things. You want to see your Province grow and prosper. You want to see the people have benefits. We all want to do that, but sometimes you also have to be prudent. You cannot just spend like there is no tomorrow. Remember, if you keep running deficits and you build up a big debt, your children and your grandchildren are going to have to pay it off and not see any of the benefits of it. So, you have to be fiscally prudent.

When our government came into power, the first thing we did was get this Province back into surplus. We have to stop spending more than we are taking in each year. We have to spend within our means, the same as a family. I do not see one heck of a lot of difference between what we have to do here in this House, or what I have to do as Minister of Finance for this government, and what every family has to do in running their own households. You have a certain amount of money coming in. That is what you have to spend. You can spend that. If you spend more, you have to go into debt. There is good debt and there is bad debt. There is wise debt, like investing in a home. It makes a lot of sense. People need a car, you invest in a car. Another good debt is investing in education, investing in training, to train you to get a better job in society that earns more income for your family.

So, we have to do that as well. We have to be prudent and we always have to recognize - and I always like to say this - that although we have been elected to be the stewards of the people's money, it is not our money. It is their money, not our money, and that is why we have to ensure that we spend it wisely. That is why we have to ensure that we do the complete analysis and ensure that we spend that money wisely.

What we have done since we have come into office, the first thing, is to get this Province back into surplus. Now, the Auditor General when he talks about having a surplus says that is a very good sign of whether you are being fiscally prudent. He says that a surplus is a sign that you are living within your means. Like every family, we have to do that as well.

After a tough year, the first year in office, in 2005-2006, we finally turned the corner. The previous government could not run surpluses, they kept running deficits. They did have one surplus, but that was questionable. I understand there was some money there that should have been spread over a number of years and it was all included in one year and gave a surplus, but, in reality, I do not know if it was a proper accounting practice. The practice we have been following is to prepare all of our statements on a complete consolidated accrual basis. In the words of Ms Anna Thistle, who used to be Treasury Board Minister and served in this House for many years, she said: everything in. That is how we do it, we include everything.

In 2005-2006, we ran a surplus - the first one - of $199 million. In 2006-2007, the following year, we had a second surplus of $154 million. In 2007- 2008, I had the honour to be the Finance Minister for the first time and because of the $2 billion that Premier Williams negotiated with Prime Minister Martin, the Atlantic Accord money, the Atlantic Accord of 2005, we had a surplus that year of $1,421,000,000. The following year, 2008-2009, which was the year when oil prices went very high - and we benefited. At least the government benefits fiscally from high oil prices. On the other hand, as citizens we do not benefit when we have to pay higher prices for gas and for heat. I am like everybody else in that regard. As Finance Minister, high oil prices are great but as a citizen I can appreciate what all citizens go through. We have our cars; we have to pay for the gas. We have to pay for our heat, and that way we do not appreciate high oil prices.

In the year 2008-2009, this government ran a surplus of $2,350,000,000. The next year, there was a recession throughout the world. It was called the Great Recession. The worst recession, they say, since the Great Depression. What all governments throughout the world did is they stimulated the economy, because the private sector was slowing down, because demand was not happening. Therefore, there were no orders for businesses. Businesses had to lay people off and suffer losses. Expansion plans were cancelled, they were put on hold. As a result of that, government has to step in. It is called deficit spending. Government has to step in, spend a lot of money. The federal government get it, they stimulate it, and at their request we join with them, as did every other province and territory in Canada.

We thought when we did the Budget that year we would have a deficit of as high as $750 million; but, fortunately, the recession came to an end. The recovery started, and in certain parts of the world it came back strongly. In other parts of the world it did not. We know what happened in the United States. The United States is still hurting. Americans are not working. They have high unemployment in the United States. Americans have big debt on their homes, and the values of their homes have gone down. They have negative equity in their homes. Their governments and their citizens are running very high debt loads and it is making the recovery in the US difficult. That is what it was back then. Hopefully, we see signs now that things could be starting to come back and they are encouraging but back then we had to have deficit spending. Fortunately, here the economy came back and our deficit, instead of being three-quarters of a billion dollars, our deficit was only $33 million, which was good news.

When I presented the Budget last year, we thought we would still have a deficit. We forecast a deficit of $195 million, but the numbers came in a lot better and we ended up with a surplus for 2010-2011 of $485 million. This year, subject to some comments I am going to make later on, at Budget time we forecast a surplus of $59 million.

Since 2005-2006, this government has run cumulative surpluses of $4.6 billion. That has enabled us to do some wonderful things in this Province, and that has enabled us to turn the economic life in this Province around. It has been six surpluses in the last seven years. Mr. Speaker, we know what has given us the right to these surpluses is the oil industry in particular. The revenues coming from the oil industry have provided us with the opportunity, for the first time maybe in our history, to experience some real wealth and some real opportunity.

I want to make a statement about surpluses. I heard from a man who thought that when we ran a surplus we somehow kept the money, that government somehow kept the money. Of course, that is not the case. The surplus is spent as well. It is just not spent on programs. Instead, the surplus, if you do nothing with it, will go automatically to paying down that $12 billion debt we had, which is now down to $8.2 billion; or, you can use the surplus to fund or finance the building of things known as capital, which are buildings, roads, harbours, ferries, air ambulances, water bombers, long-term care facilities and hospitals. The surplus will go to pay for those things.

I recently saw on the VOCM Web site a comment from Mary Webb - who is an economist with the Scotiabank in Toronto – who said that spending on infrastructure is important. Infrastructure is the foundation of society; infrastructure is the foundation of economic growth and development. If you cannot get your products from the fish plant, for example, to market or to the ferry to get them to Canada to sell, how do you have economic life? So you need infrastructure, you need roads, you need wharves, you need airports, but we also need things for our people. Our population is aging. We need hospitals, we need long-term care facilities, and the surplus is spent to pay for those things.

This government is going through an infrastructure strategy involving $5 billion. We are doing that and we are not borrowing for it. We are paying for it out of those surpluses that we run. We are paying down our debt. As our debt comes due we pay it down. We have a certain amount of debt. It is called direct debt, it is called public debt, and it is called borrowing. It is debt the way everybody thinks of debt. That you borrow a sum of money, you have to pay interest on it, and at some point you have to pay it back. We are paying that down. We are paying that down out of this cash flow, out of these surpluses, but we cannot prepay. I suppose we could prepay some of them, but we would have to pay a very high penalty. So we are not doing that.

The strategy we have been following is that we, out of our cash flow, out of our surpluses, pay down our debt as it comes due. As I said earlier today, we have not borrowed for operational purposes since 2004. We did borrow to put money in the pension fund. We borrowed, I think it was $982 million, just under a billion dollars, but that was replacing one debt with another. Because we have an unfunded pension liability, which is a debt of the Province, in the pension fund. By borrowing a billion dollars and putting that money into the pension fund, reducing the unfunded liability there, you are simply exchanging one debt for another debt. For operational purposes, we have, thankfully, not had to borrow.

Now, in the past when our debt would come due, when a bond issue that may have been taken out twenty-five or thirty years ago comes due, the government of the day would then go and borrow the money again and pay off that. It is like rolling over the debt. We have not had to do that. Fortunately, because of these surpluses, because of the cash flow of this Province, we can pay down the debt as it comes due and that is what we have been doing.

At the same time we have been doing that, we are also funding the infrastructure strategy. We have not had to borrow to pay for the infrastructure. Now, how many water bombers do we have out there? Maybe the Minister of Transportation and Works can tell me how many water bombers we have. We have paid for those and we have not borrowed. Maybe the Minister of Transportation and Works can tell me how many ferries we have coming forward.

MS BURKE: Six water bombers.

MR. MARSHALL: Six water bombers, she told me, all going to be paid for.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. MARSHALL: Four ferries coming. We just had the…

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. MARSHALL: Four water bombers.

I would have better off if I had kept to myself, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MARSHALL: Two years ago we had an infrastructure, I think it was somewhere around $657 million, somewhere in that range, and that has been paid for without going into debt. Last year it was about $700 million. That is paid for. All of that infrastructure has been paid for without going further into debt. This year it is going to be about a billion dollars, and that is going to be paid for without going into debt.

Mr. Speaker, we do not keep the surpluses. That is the point I want to make to that gentleman, and that is the point I want to make to anybody else who might think that: Why are you running surplus? We do not keep it, we spend it. We just spend it in a different area, and we use it for a number of different things. We can use it to pay down debt, as I just said. We can use it to lower our taxes. We can use it to pay for infrastructure and we can use it to do things like Poverty Reduction Strategies that provide benefits for people who need help, who are vulnerable in our society; people living on fixed incomes who are noticing that the cost of living is going up, the cost of food is going up, the cost of electricity is going up because of the fact that a significant part of electricity is constructed or produced based on oil prices, which are going higher. If the oil prices are higher, electricity rates are going higher and I will talk about that a little later on when I speak some more about Muskrat Falls.

We have to diversify our economy. We have to get off oil and the way to diversify our economy for the day when the oil is gone – because it is the oil, as I said earlier, and the minerals that are providing us with our wealth, especially the oil. The minerals, the mining industry is doing very well indeed but the revenue that government receives from the mining industry is very small relative to what we receive from the offshore oil. Offshore oil: we get over $2 billion, I think it is $2.2 billion in revenue that we receive from that. Diversification of the economy to provide for the day when the oil is gone is extremely, extremely important.

Mr. Speaker, one of the things that we have been able to do, as I said earlier, is that we could use the surplus to pay down some taxes. That is one of the things that we have been doing to make the Province of Newfoundland a tax competitive jurisdiction. We have to make ourselves competitive with other provinces particularly those of our neighbours in Atlantic Canada.

Mr. Speaker, in terms of taxation for this year we have lowered taxes again and we believe in making our tax regime competitive. We believe that government has to take its hands out of people's pockets; because of rising prices, because of the rising cost of food and the rising cost of oil and the rising cost of electricity people need some help in paying their bills. One way government can do that is providing cheques to people. Another way you can do it is take your hands out of their pockets. Make their taxes lower so they have less money to pay to the taxman and more money in their pocket to pay some bills.

Effective October 1, the date we are working for, we are going to eliminate the 8 per cent provincial share of the HST on heat and light. That is the cost to heat a residential home, whether it is oil, wood, or electricity. We are not charging the tax on the electricity even if it is not used for heating. That is going to help a lot of people. That is going to cost us about $38 million, Mr. Speaker, from the Treasury.

In addition to that, we are going to maintain the home heating rebate program that we have, which costs about another $17.6 million. That helps people at low income, people with incomes up to $40,000. That is a net family income of up to $40,000. They will continue to receive a cheque of $250 and $500 in Labrador. So we are going to keep both programs. Both programs will help people – everyone, as a matter of fact, because it will apply to everyone. It will help people cope with higher electricity costs.

It is not going to end it. If we are still dependent on Holyrood, the experts tell us that that the price is going to go up. Until we get off Holyrood, the prices are going go up, according to the experts, at about 4 per cent to 6 per cent a year. They are also telling us if we go to Muskrat Falls and build Muskrat Falls, after 2016 or 2017 the prices are still going to go up obviously but they will go up about 0.7 per cent or 0.8 per cent – less than 1 per cent a year. That is a big difference.

In terms of taxes, the other thing we are doing, Mr. Speaker, is instituting a non-refundable child care tax credit based on child care expenses which are currently deductible from income. What we hope to do with that is provide incentives for people throughout the Province to provide additional home care spaces. We know that child care, or the lack of child care, is a barrier to women who want to go to work. They cannot because they have to stay home to look after their kids because there are not enough child care spaces.

We are hoping this will be an incentive to induce people to offer more child care spaces in their homes. Instead of governments building buildings throughout the Province and instead of governments hiring child care workers to work at all these buildings, this will be incentive for entrepreneurs to provide these spaces and it will be particularly effective in rural parts of the Province.

Another tax incentive this year is one we are going to combine with one the federal government had announced in their budget, which is a new non-refundable tax credit for volunteer firefighters – the Volunteer Firefighters' Tax Credit. Most of the members here have districts in which we have communities with volunteer fire departments. I know in the district that I have the honour to represent, Humber East, we have a volunteer fire department in Pasadena and in Little Rapids – it is a combined one between Little Rapids and Steady Brook – Massey Drive. Volunteer firefighters spend a lot of time in training and spend a lot of time to be there to protect their families and that is why they are doing it. They are not paid and they put a lot of time into training, they put a lot of time into being on call. This is a way that governments can provide them with some recognition for the great service that they provide to the people of their communities and to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. It is also a way, hopefully, that might induce some people who are not volunteer firefighters maybe to decide to join the local brigade.

Mr. Speaker, the last tax credit we are giving this year has to do with what is known as a Payroll Tax. It is the Health and Post-Secondary Education Tax Act. Under that there is a threshold and businesses that have employees, they have their labour costs, and over a certain threshold they have to pay tax on their payroll. I remember when the threshold was $500,000, it was raised to $1 million and now we have put it up to $1.2 million. That is going to be retroactive to January 1, 2011 and I believe that is going to remove ninety businesses – ninety employers in Newfoundland and Labrador – that will no longer have to pay the Payroll Tax. It will also provide some tax relief for about another 800 or 845 businesses.

In the past we have done other things to give tax relief. I cannot seem to find my notes here so I will have to go on memory. One of the first things I remember Minister Sullivan did when he was Finance Minister, there was a low-income tax credit. A lot of people in the lower income, it removed them entirely from the rule. I think it was family income up to $21,000, individuals up to a lesser amount, and they were totally removed from the tax rules. That particular credit has been enhanced from time to time.

Another thing we did, and one thing I did as Minister of Finance - and I have done it on three occasions - is enhance the Seniors' Benefit. The Seniors' Benefit is a refundable tax credit. It is a cheque that seniors get in October with their GST. It was originally given just to couples. Then, we changed the law in one of our Budgets to give it to single people as well because we knew that if a spouse died, the cost of living did not go down that much, and the cost of living was just as high for the single person as it was for the couple. We gave it to the widows and widowers as well. Then, from time to time, we would increase the amount of the benefit. In last year's Budget, we increased that tax credit to $900. That is a cheque that seniors receive in October. They get it with their GST cheque, and it provides some help in dealing with the cost of living. It is not a pension, it not based on how long they work. Like Old Age Security, it is not a pension, it is not based on how long you work, it is based on the fact that you are a resident of this Province, you have a low income but you need help with the cost of living, and you qualify based on the fact that you are a senior.

When you total these up - and this is what is so amazing - this year, the people of Newfoundland and Labrador will pay, in taxes, $500 million less than they were paying in 2007; and that is remarkable. That is a half a billion dollars less in taxes that people are paying. That will help our people pay their bills, pay the cost of electricity and the cost of food. It will help, somewhat. It will help us attract to this Province the skilled people we need, people in the medical profession, people with skilled trades because they look at what is their after-tax income. They do not just look at what the gross salary is, they look at what the tax rate is, the taxes they would have to pay and how much they are going to have as disposable income, how much they are actually going to have to spend.

Mr. Speaker, that is important and that will help us with the salary raises that we have given to our employees, to the increases we have given to medical professionals like nurses and doctors; this will help us attract people to the Province and to the rural parts of our Province as well.

Mr. Speaker, one tax that was great to get rid of was the 15 per cent retail sales tax on insurance. We did that a number of years ago. That was in a Budget that I presented. I think it was the second Budget I did. In the first Budget that I had the opportunity to deliver, we also gave the biggest personal income tax cut in the Province's history. I think it was somewhere around $155 million reduction. We reduced all the rates in all three tax brackets that we have. We eliminated this surtax that people had to pay, a surtax which was a tax on tax. We brought in indexation of the brackets. We brought in indexation of the credits that are available under the act.

Then, the next year we reduced the rates even further. In the lowest rate, the lowest bracket, the rate is 7.7 per cent, the lowest in Atlantic Canada, lower than Nova Scotia, lower than PEI. The rates in the second and the third bracket were tied with New Brunswick for being the lowest in Atlantic Canada. I think New Brunswick may have gotten lower in one or two of their brackets this year, but we are competitive. That is something we will do every year. We will continue to look at our taxes. There are other taxes that we would, obviously, love to eliminate, but you have to strike a balance. We also need revenue to pay doctors, to pay our police officers, to pay our nurses. We need revenue to build hospitals and whatnot. So, we strike a balance between reducing taxes and paying for progressive public programs and services.

Now, Mr. Speaker, the other thing we do is we pay down debt. As I said earlier, we have been paying down debt as it comes due. We have been paying our direct debt continually and constantly, without taking on new debt, and we have been doing that since 2004. That is called our direct debt. It is called our funded debt. It is called our borrowings. It is what we think of as debt, but we have other debt as well. We have a pension fund under which our public employees who work for government are entitled to a pension, as determined by a formula. It is called the pension promise. The formula, I think it is 2 per cent times the number of years of pensionable service times the average of the best five years of salary. The government has an obligation to guarantee that pension.

What happens, of course, is that an actuary is hired every three years to come in and do what is called an actuarial evaluation of the pension fund and calculate the contributions that the employee and the employer, in this case the government, have to make into that fund to ensure that the money is there to meet the government's pension obligations. Something called the funded liability is the amount of money that has to be in that fund, assuming it is earning 7.25 per cent a year, that will be available to meet all obligations of the government in the future as they come due. The obligations are not necessarily now. The debt is not due right now, but it has accrued to meet the obligations as people retire and, therefore, as the pension obligations comes due.

When you subtract from that liability, the amount of money in the pension fund which is about $6 billion - I think it is actually $6,044,000,000 - that gives you a number called the unfunded pension liability, which is a debt of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. While the contribution does not have to be paid every year, the contribution is not guaranteed but the benefits are guaranteed. Government has an obligation to pay that pension. Fortunately, because of efforts that government has made to put money in that pension fund to reduce the unfunded liability, all of our employees are receiving benefits based on the contributions that they and their employer happened to make. They are getting the benefits that the pension promised that they would receive, and it is partially indexed. There is indexation; I think it is 60 per cent of the rising cost of living capped at 1.2 per cent.

The unfunded liability continues to climb. There is an unfunded liability there now, and that unfunded liability is supposed to earn 7.25 per cent a year. There is no money there. If it is unfunded, it is obviously not making the 7.25 per cent a year; therefore, the interest costs go up. It is an imputed interest cost and, therefore, the unfunded liability gets bigger. Now, if the money in the pension fund earns more than 7.25 per cent, which many years it does, that reduces the unfunded pension liability. Fortunately over time, since its inception, the pension fund has, in fact, earned an average of about 10 per cent.

The unfunded pension liability right now is about $3.9 billion. That is the debt of the Province, it is the debt of the people of Newfoundland owed to retired government workers, and it will have to be paid as the pensions come due. That amount is rising every year. Even though we paid down, I said earlier today that we paid down our direct debt last year about $400 million. We are going to pay it down again this year another $400 million. Two years ago we paid it down $367 million. The unfunded pension liabilities have gone up.

If you add the two together, our direct debt and our unfunded pension liabilities, which are the total liability of the Province, if you then subtract the cash we have, that gives you your definition of net debt. The unfunded liabilities have been going up. Fortunately, because of the surpluses we have had, we still have, we were told last night in Estimates, about $2 billion in the bank. That reduces our net debt.

So when we build infrastructure like we are doing when we are building the hospitals and building the long-term care facilities, we do not have to borrow but we are using the cash to pay for these things. We do not have to go into debt for it, but we are using the cash. Therefore, by the definition I just mentioned, because cash would be expended, the net debt goes up. That is certainly what has happened this year.

Mr. Speaker, I said earlier that a lot of our wealth was dependent on offshore oil. That has given us the benefit of doing the wonderful things we have been able to do in terms of lowering taxes, in terms of paying down debt, and in terms of building infrastructure throughout this Province. Some people will say: Well, the people in St. John's and the people on the Avalon are benefiting from the oil and gas because they are the base for the offshore oil and gas. That is true, but the revenues that are coming in from the offshore are being spent by government throughout the entire Province.

For example, I will use my hometown of Corner Brook. We all see infrastructure. We all see it in our districts and in our homes. There is a new hospital being built in Corner Brook and I am told the cost of that could be about $500 million. There is $18.5 million in the Budget this year to be spent there. The oil money is going to help build that.

Regina High School is a school where I went in what we called Grade 12 many years ago. It was first year arts in St. Francis Xavier University at Regina High School. It is just a wonderful school. That is now going to be extended and renovated to become a new junior high school in the City of Corner Brook. It is going to replace Presentation Junior High School. They are going to be very sorry to see Pres go, but they are going to have a new school. It is the oil money and the wealth from the oil and minerals that is giving government the ability to do this.

At Grenfell College – I am sorry, I am using the wrong name, and I hate it when people use that name. At the Grenfell Campus of Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador, there is an academic building built with $27 million. That is in addition to another $6 million we gave to Grenfell last year to help it grow and to help it recruit students throughout the world. I cannot remember how many extra staff were hired on to accomplish that. There was some good news; I saw President Kachanoski, Gary Kachanoski, the President of MUN, indicated that applications to Grenfell College were up 15 per cent. So, it is working.

In addition to the hospital, and Regina, and the academic building, there is a new $22 million residence that I understand they are going to call tenders on very soon – 200 units. That will have a big impact on housing in the City of Corner Brook, because that will free up other accommodation throughout the city, and make that available for other people, because the vacancy rate is extremely low.

There is $3 million for the long-term care facility to open up a wing that was going to go to Grenfell College, but now needs to be fitted up to be used for long-term care beds. There are about fourteen or fifteen beds on that particular floor.

There is another $626,000 – most of that money was in last year's Budget, but it is going to be left there and re-profiled, together with another approximately $200,000 in money that is going to provide for a higher level of care in one of the protective care units in Corner Brook. There are four protective care units, and one of them was empty, but now there are funds that are going to free up another ten beds. The protective care units were originally intended for people with mild to moderate dementia, and then the nursing home, the main facility, would be for people who have serious dementia. This unit number four will now be used for people between – just above mild to moderate, but not necessarily to go into the home. So that is a great expenditure of public funds. We need facilities for our seniors, and we can do this with the oil monies and the mineral monies that we have earned.

There is a child exploitation prevention unit of the RNC going to be opened up in Corner Brook. There is $450,000 to be invested in that centre of winter tourism on the West Coast, Marble Mountain. There is the $30 million in block funding that I mentioned earlier, so that towns that are looking for recreational facilities and multipurpose buildings – I mentioned Pasadena in particular – looking for rinks, could apply for that fund.

This, in addition to the Corner Brook High School, which was built – the old Herdman Collegiate, which is now renovated and redeveloped into a beautiful, beautiful facility; the long-term care unit itself; the four protective care residential units; the addiction centre that was built there; the new court house that was built there; the Joe Mullins Building, which is the headquarters for Newfoundland and Labrador Housing on the West Coast; the new city hall – I think 70 or 80 per cent of the money for the new city hall has been provided by the Province to the government of the City of Corner Brook and the people of the City of Corner Brook to build that new city hall. In addition to helping pay for it the government has decided to move the library from the Sir Richard Squires Building. That library is going in the new city hall and government is even going to pay rent to the city for using a facility that it has already contributed 70 or 80 per cent of the cost to.

There is also a new eye centre that has been opened in Corner Brook. Dr. Wijay, it was his idea. He was very wise, a lot of foresight there. He wanted to make sure when he retired there was a successor to take his place. Now, a new facility has been built over on Herald Avenue, over in the former Canadian Tire Building where we have an eye centre to provide eye care to the people of the West Coast.

The list goes on and on; the new Medical Transportation Assistance Program. It is going to help people pre-pay. They will be able to go to a facility like a travel agency and the government will pay 50 per cent of the cost of travelling if they have to go to St. John's or wherever, without having to pay the full amount upfront and then finally later on to get reimbursed and wait for the cheque. They will be able to get 50 per cent of the money upfront. Also, if people want to use their cars to travel to a facility – if someone was coming from St. Anthony into Corner Brook, or from Corner Brook into St. John's – the 5,000 kilometre threshold is now going to be reduced to 2,500 kilometres so you would make one trip to St. John's and after that you would certainly be eligible to quality for the kilometres. These things are very, very important.

The elimination of the patient fees; if someone was in a hospital or in a medical facility and they had to transfer to another facility, whether by air or by road ambulance, they had to pay a fee – I think it was $130. We have eliminated that fee. Thank God! To make seniors or make people have to pay a fee – I am told that some people would not go in the ambulance because they could not afford, or did not want to pay the $130. We have eliminated that fee so we do not have that situation anymore.

Mr. Speaker, when we do the budget, one of the things that obviously impacts heavily on us is the revenues we get from oil. One in every $3 of our revenue is coming from the oil industry. As I said, we are spreading it around the Province in terms of our infrastructure spending. I think 80 per cent of the spending of infrastructure is happening outside the Northeast Avalon. The wealth from oil and gas is spread around the Province and into Labrador as well.

When we do the Budget, we have to budget for one-third of our revenue based on oil royalties, which in turn are based on the price of oil which is very volatile, set in the world market, something over which we have no control whatsoever. It is based on the exchange rate of the Canadian dollar vis-ΰ-vis the US dollar, which is something we do not have any control over. It happens, it is also volatile. It is based on production. It is based on the number of barrels of oil that come out of the ground in any year. Obviously, the more that come out of the ground the more royalties will have to be paid to the Province. Of course, it is based on the royalty rate, how much would have to be paid to the government by the oil companies when they take the oil out of the ground because the oil belongs to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. If any company wants to explore and extract that oil, once they find it, from the ground, because it belongs to the people of the Province, not only do they have to pay income tax but they also have to pay a royalty, a percentage of the value of the oil they are taking out, and there are different royalty rates.

We have talked about the fact that the producing oilfields in this Province are aging, therefore they are depleting. We have Hibernia, we have White Rose, and we have Terra Nova. They have been around a while. I always quote Mr. T. Boone Pickens, an American oilman, who talked about that after you discover oil, once you start pumping it out - it takes a long time to find it. He says it takes a long time to get ready to take it out because you have to build a production facility which in the offshore industry can take a heck of a long time, but once it starts coming out, it comes out pretty quickly.

In last year's Budget, 2010-2011, we were very surprised at the end of the year to find out that the amount of oil that had come out of the ground was 8 million barrels more than we thought it was; which did not seem to make sense given the age of the fields. I understand through new technology and through something called reserve growth that they are managing to extract more. This year, in doing our calculations, we projected that the oil production would go down by 18 million barrels. We based our revenues on that.

Included in that was the fact that the Terra Nova FPSO, which is owned by Suncor, had announced that that particular rig or FPSO would have to come into St. John's this year, in the year 2011-2012, in order to have repairs done on its swivel. When we did the Budget we double checked, because there had been some stories reported in the paper that they might have conversations with their partners and they may have deferred that decision to come in for another year. At Budget time, that decision had not been made. Therefore, we have to budget on - we cannot budget on something that might happen. We had to budget on what the plan was, and the plan was to bring that FPSO in for repairs. That should take about three months, it would take 105 days. While those repairs would be happening, they obviously would not be producing oil. We calculated that. That was obviously involved in our forecast for production for the year, and our Budget was based on that.

Since the Budget came down, we have now learned that Suncor and its partners have decided that they are going to defer having the FPSO come in to do the repairs. They are going to defer that, and I understand it is to the third-quarter of the following year. That means oil production is going to be higher than we had anticipated. We are still running the numbers, but an order of magnitude could be that the revenues, the oil royalties for this particular year could be in the range of $150 million, $200 million more than we were anticipating, which would mean that this year our forecasted surplus of $59 million will now be significantly higher than that. Of course, it also means that in the following year the number will go the other way, because it will be in the year 2012-2013 that the FPSO will come in to have the repairs done.

Mr. Speaker, in commenting on things which will affect our Budget, normally we comment at Budget time and we comment when we do what is called our mid-year report or our fall report, and not comment during those periods of time because we would be commenting every day based on what has happened that day and how it is going to affect the price of oil. If some foreign despot happens to die, we could get a call saying: What will that do to the price of oil? If NATO attacks a country in the Middle East or in Africa, how is that going to affect the price of oil?

When oil takes a bump or drops, the media will call and want to know our comments on: What is this going to be? How is this going to affect the deficit or the surplus, as the case may be? Normally we do not comment, but in view of the fact that these numbers are potentially significant, we felt that it was appropriate. I guess most people who follow the industry have realized that, based on the decision by Suncor to defer bringing the FPSO in to repair the swivel, production numbers will be higher. That will impact positively, all other things being equal of course. Because there could be changes in other things like the price of oil, the exchange rate, and production numbers from other fields that could impact it differently.

Mr. Speaker, remember I said we can use the surplus to pay down debt, we can use the surplus to pay taxes, we can use the surplus to pay for much needed infrastructure, and we can use the surplus to bring in strategies like the Poverty Reduction Strategy to help people who are vulnerable and who need help. We also, I said, have to diversify the economy. What is giving us our wealth is the oil. That is what is making us wealthy right now, and it is a non-renewable resource. We all know, and it is very important that we remember, that the oil is going to be gone one day.

The other industry that is sizzling right now is the mineral industry. Because of demand coming out of China and out of India, the iron ore industry in Lab West is absolutely sizzling, and of course on the Baie Verte Peninsula as well. These are non-renewable resources. Some day they will be gone. What do we do then? What are we going to do when those revenues that are providing us with our wealth, that are keeping taxes low, that are allowing us to build all of these new facilities, that are allowing us to put money in people's hands so they can deal with the rising cost of living, what happens when it stops? One day it will stop. So we have to diversify the economy. It is easier said than done.

The plan that we have - it is an agenda, it is not a hidden agenda, it has been set out in our blueprint, it has been set out in our campaign platform, it has been set out in our energy plan, it is on the Web, anyone can see – is to use the revenues that are coming from the oil industry and from the mining industry, from the non-renewables, and to use those to develop renewable revenue streams based on the hydro power of the Lower Churchill River, based on other small hydro projects that can be built in the future, based on wind, and, of course, natural gas that is off Labrador that will be available.

Then we can use those energy sources to heat our homes, to light our homes, to give us low electricity rates in Newfoundland and Labrador. We can use it to attract industry to our Province, to Labrador first and to the Island portion of our Province. Then, what is surplus to our needs can be sold down through the Maritime Link into Nova Scotia, into New Brunswick, into Prince Edward Island, and into New England. We can do that because Emera has the transmission rights and Emera can give us – we do not have to build a pipeline down to the New England states, it is already there, it is already built. I do not think a lot of people saw that. I think a lot of people thought that we would have to build a transmission system from the Island of Newfoundland or from Labrador down into the US, but it is already there.

Premier Williams had the foresight to recognize that it was there and to recognize that we did not need to own the transmission pipe, we just needed the right to shoot our electricity down through it. It is like any business. If you have a business here, you want to ship your goods somewhere else, you do not have to own the ship that ships it, you just need a ship that you will charter to do that for you. That is why Emera is such an important partner here because they are going to give us the transmission rights to ship our power down.

Now, Mr. Speaker, the Lower Churchill, we are doing the Muskrat Falls. We want to do the Muskrat Falls for one reason: to provide cheaper electricity costs to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. That is it. We are not doing it to export. We are not doing it for any other purpose. We want our people to have low electricity costs. Right now, a significant part of the production of electricity in Newfoundland and Labrador is coming out of Holyrood and it is made from oil, and oil is expensive. The experts we use tell us that oil prices are going to stay high and they are going to get higher because it is hard to find. We know the price of something is based on demand and supply, supply is limited, oil is harder and harder to find. It is not in shallow water close by, it is further offshore. The demand is going up from China and India, and the other emerging countries, as their population comes out of poverty into middle class. They are demanding more energy, more cars, and more machinery that use oil.

So, the demand is going up which means the price is going up, and we have to get off that. We have to shut down Holyrood. Instead, we have to have clean hydro rates, clean power, environmentally friendly, green power, but, more importantly, cheap power. We know that if we do not do the Lower Churchill, if we do not do Muskrat, that our prices are going to go up, and our hydro rates are going to go up between 4 per cent and 6 per cent a year. That is what our experts are telling us. Those experts work for us, they work with Nalcor, and the people of Newfoundland and Labrador own Nalcor.

The Muskrat Falls Project can produce five terawatt hours of power - five. We need two to service our needs. We need two to replace Holyrood and to meet new demands from things like the Vale Inco processing plant. There are three left over that we do not have to produce and, as they say, you can spill the water, which means do not produce the other three. We can take the other three terawatt hours - and Emera said that they will build a Maritime Link for $1.2 billion. They are going to put $1.2 billion to build that link - $1.2 billion - and we are going to give them one of those terawatt hours in payment for that and we are going to own it after thirty-five years. Then, we still have two terawatt hours of power left over. We are going to take those two terawatt hours of power and we are going to ship it through the Maritime Link, free, with priority transmission rights and then when we get into Nova Scotia, we are going to pay Emera to transfer through Nova Scotia and through New Brunswick, and if necessary into the United States, where we are going to sell that power, that surplus to our needs.

Mr. Speaker, if we need it, we will keep it. If we can get a plant or an aluminium smelter to come to Labrador, they want power and we have it, then that will be our first - we want power for the people first for cheaper electricity rates; secondly, we want power to attract industry to Labrador, we want power to attract industry to Newfoundland and Labrador that will offset the lower costs of labour in places like China and India and make our industry competitive once again.

Beyond that, over and above that, when Gull Island comes on and the Upper Churchill comes back, we will now have power to sell into the US market to make our kids and grandkids wealthy. That will replace the oil and that will provide us with the wealth to make up for the oil that is going to be gone. That way we are going to have the prosperity and wealth for our children and our grandchildren. If we do not do that, what are we going to do when the oil is gone?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MARSHALL: That is the key to our energy plan. That is key concept of what we are trying to do because we know the oil is going to be gone, we know the minerals are going to gone, someday. There is exploration going on and over the years there will be more exploration. Hopefully, there will be more fields; more fields will be more money. Someday, I do not know when it is going to be, it might be ten years, it might be twenty years, it might be thirty years, but someday it is going to be gone and that is why we have to have the hydro so that our kids and our grandkids can be wealthy.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. DEAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is always a privilege to stand in the House of Assembly and speak to any issue or to ask any question, and certainly none more than being able to stand in response to the Budget that we have been debating for the past number of days.

I enjoy listening to the Minister of Finance. He is a great speaker, a very knowledgeable man, and certainly presents his piece very well. I think it is great that we are looking at acknowledging the fact that oil revenues are non-renewable, that mining revenues are non-renewable and that, at some point in our future, in the future of our children and in the future of our grandchildren, the day will come when these non-renewable resources may not be there, we may have exhausted the end. The new finds may not be what we would anticipate or like them to be. Obviously, it is important that we look at renewable resources.

We have debated the Muskrat Falls deal much in this House in recent days again, especially through Question Period and debate. Certainly, as an Opposition, we have no issue at all with developing the Muskrat Falls. We would love to develop both Muskrat Falls and Gull Island as a Lower Churchill energy project that we have always wanted to see, but the issue we have had with that project, Mr. Speaker, has been the fact that this excess power the minister was just referring to, that we are going to pay Emera to transport for us through their grid and possibly into New England and so on, is going to be sold, potentially, into that market for a price today that would appear to be far less than what we would be paying ourselves. That is, in essence, the sore point in this whole deal; that we are willing to allow our rates to escalate, and at the same time, understand that the excess power that otherwise would be spilled over the dam, as they refer to it, that we will take it and sell it at a subsidized rate.

Mr. Speaker, this afternoon, in the few moments that I have, I want to talk about two or three things in terms of what I see as shortfalls in this Budget. I want to talk, first of all, about health care. Mr. Speaker, long-term care is one of the most pressing issues in terms of delivering health to the residents, the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. In 2008, three years ago now basically, this government announced they were going to do a long-term care strategy. Obviously, the idea of that strategy was to really look at the whole delivery of long-term care, of the need for long-term care, of where the demographics were going and the requirements of what that would be as the future unfolded before us.

Again, this year, Mr. Speaker, it has been disappointing to see that we do not have a long-term care strategy for this Province. There basically have not been any monies specifically allocated for that plan. It is not addressed in the Budget again, so it questions whether or not it is the priority that it should be, and at times the government members and the Minister of Health would profess that it is. We are going into another year not certain of where that whole piece is. Certainly, all over Newfoundland I am sure, but each one of us as MHAs, we speak more specifically to our own area because it is the area that we know well. While we may have an understanding of what is taking place across the Province, it is our districts that we live in, it is our older folk that we see everyday, it is those who we have grown alongside of for a number of years that really are near and dear to our hearts.

I know in my District of The Straits & White Bay North, in St. Anthony for example, where I live, I know at the John M. Gray – and I have brought this issue to the floor of the House before, but at the John M. Gray right now it is filled to capacity. At the same time, while there are no beds available, there are literally several, if not ten, twelve, perhaps more people who are in the hospital, who are just waiting, who are medically discharged and basically are there because they have nowhere to go. They are lying in their beds day in and day out, or they are requiring the assistance of a nurse who is there working on the medicine floor as well, or some other area of the hospital, Mr. Speaker, and just not able to really access the type of care they need. Some of those people have been there now for upwards of a year.

I know a very good friend of mine, a lady who I boarded with when I was just a young fellow and working in St. Anthony, she has been in the hospital now for a year practically, waiting for a bed, but no bed has become available. That is very unfortunate. In the Budget, one of the things we do not see is monies that are earmarked specifically for the introduction of a long-term care strategy throughout our Province.

A second piece of caring for our seniors, Mr. Speaker, is community care homes. This program, as we understand it, is basically an extension of the Waterford Hospital Mental Health Program. It basically has fourteen homes, I believe the number is, that are mainly throughout the Conception Bay South area. They care for mentally ill patients or clients who have severe and persistent mental health issues.

Mr. Speaker, again, these homes have been willing to open their books to the government to clearly identify that there is a need; that they are suffering. They are having trouble covering the mandated staffing costs, let alone any other costs and the escalating prices that we are all facing today in businesses of one kind or another. The association has told us as an Opposition that the Department of Health refused to meet with them to discuss the issue; yet, Eastern Health has told them that funding for the program is set by the government. So, there is unwillingness there for some reason. They are given a small raise in this Budget, but our understanding, Mr. Speaker, is that it does not cover the costs required to run the homes and to really meet government mandated regulations.

The third piece of long-term care, or of caring for our seniors, Mr. Speaker, is that of personal care homes. This one I can relate to and appreciate a little more because I have spoken to, in my own district, a personal care homeowner. This issue has been raised on several occasions over the last couple of years, but still nothing has really been done to fully address the concerns of the Personal Care Home Association of Newfoundland and Labrador. Mr. Speaker, they have explained to government the dire straits that some of these homes find themselves in. For example, Mr. Speaker, some of the people who own larger homes use their income to basically subsidize their smaller homes. You are doing well on one piece of the business, but another piece of the business it is not doing so well. It is basically taking one to subsidize the other.

Mr. Speaker, the Personal Care Home Association of Newfoundland and Labrador - it has about fifty-plus small homes and roughly ten large homes - say the most recent Budget increases will not make up the minimum wage increases that have been set by government. Again, it is very unfortunate that we have this out there, because they are very valuable. They do very important work in terms of providing care for our seniors and so on.

When you take into account the clawbacks from the government, we understand that government pays an average of about eighty-one cents per hour to keep an individual in a personal care home; eighty-one cents per hour. Yet, if we do not have that individual, that senior in a personal care home, if we put him into a long-term care facility, the numbers are up $7,000 or $8,000 a month or so. While they are appreciative of the increases they have received, this is a part of our health care system that is struggling. Mr. Speaker, it really needs much more attention than what it is getting. That is basically a few words on health care.

I want to come back again to the Minister of Finance and his comments about renewable resources. We have the greatest renewable resource that you possibly could have. Hydro is great, and we all hope years down the road we are making lots of money off our hydro projects, and that would be good.

Mr. Speaker, I have to speak to the fishery again because it is one that is so important to the District of The Straits & White Bay North. It important, Mr. Speaker, I would suggest to a lot of districts that are represented here in this House of Assembly, although I have to admit, I do not hear their members speaking to the issue and to the concerns that they have in terms of the fishery very much.

Mr. Speaker, it has been eight years now since this government has been at the helm. There is no other industry – well, with exception of forestry probably, because that has not done very well either. It is another renewable resource. The fishery truly has been placed on the backburner. That is the way those who work in the fishery, those who thrive in the fishery day by day, those who have earned their living in the fishing industry for the past number of years, decades, and so on, they feel that basically it has been eight years of wasted days and wasted nights, if you want to call it that, Mr. Speaker. If you ever doubted that or if you ever suspected that might not be true, I want to suggest that the 2011 Budget clearly shows that the fishery is low on the government's radar – more so than any other department, more so than any other industry, more so than any other thing that we would expect to see in our Budget. When we look into the Budget and when we look at the monies that are there for the fishery, Mr. Speaker, it is very clear where it stands in terms of priority. As a matter of fact there is not enough in it to make a stand, it is sitting at best.

I have to admit, the aquaculture; there is money in there and that is a part of the fishing industry that is doing well and it is good to see that. It is serving a particular piece of the Province, a particular part of the Province. We cannot have aquaculture in every bay and cove of Newfoundland and Labrador, nor do we need it. We have a wild fishery, as we refer to it, that if it is managed properly, financed properly, and structured properly, Mr. Speaker, it can carry us for generations and generations to come, as it has done in the past.

Mr. Speaker, the MOU that we waited and anticipated for so many months is a glaring example of a lack of leadership by this government in terms of doing something with our fishery. We waited, communities waited, municipalities waited, fishermen waited, harvesters waited, processors waited, families waited for this great study that the government had committed $800,000 towards; we waited for nearly two years for that study to finish, Mr. Speaker, only to find basically on the morning that it was presented to the minister – to this government – that it was taken and it was totally condemned.

Mr. Speaker, I believe there is a change of heart with that today because I believe that they are now realizing that in that document there is lot of good information, a lot of good suggestions, and a lot of good ways of taking the industry forward, of reaching that revitalization – that restructuring which needs to take place within the industry. Mr. Speaker, there were many flaws; no consultation by communities, for example.

Mr. Speaker, there are so many issues that are very current as we speak here this afternoon in the fishing industry.

Now, good news for those who might or might not know; the lobster crisis was just settled a few moments ago and they have come to an agreement and we are glad to hear that.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. DEAN: I would not be so quick to praise the Minister of Fisheries for that one. Nevertheless, Mr. Speaker, perhaps now that we have done that we can get on to other things then, if we have done such a good job.

Mr. Speaker, the best that we get out of the Minister of Fisheries is a letter. We have had letters, we had an MOU process that took us twenty years – twenty months, sorry, it seemed like twenty years perhaps to some waiting for it. It took $800,000 and when the thing broke down the response from the Minister of Fisheries was that he was going to write a letter, which he has done. He wrote a letter to the FFAW and to the ASP, the two groups that took twenty months to put the report together, and he is waiting for them to come back with a response.

Mr. Speaker, the FFAW came with a lobster rationalization program proposal where the federal government, the provincial government and the FFAW would partner in terms of supporting financially a rationalization to restructure the industry – to take people out who were ready to retire, to reduce the number of licences and harvesters. Mr. Speaker, we have had a letter written about that as well and we are waiting for a response to the letter. Mr. Speaker, we have a licence buyback issue or early retirement for plant workers.

Mr. Speaker, something that can be done; two years ago, nearly three years ago the former Minister of Fisheries said that if the federal government did not come on side with the 70-30 request – I believe it was that was put in by the provincial government – that the provincial government would look at going it alone. Obviously, not on the same scale, on a smaller scale over a longer time frame or whatever the case might be; there was basically a verbal commitment or suggestion that this government would certainly do something on its own, to be proactive in terms of an early buyout program. Well, Mr. Speaker, that has not happened, as a matter of fact it is not being discussed anymore, certainly not openly.

Yet, we realize that one of the recommendations from the MOU is that there needs to be an early licence buyback program; there needs to be an early retirement. There needs to be a way that those who want to leave the industry, those who want to exit the industry, can do so gracefully; that they can do so without really hurting them financially and that they can go prematurely, if you will, into retirement and look forward to what they have in front of them, or they can go into another type of employment – whatever the case might be, Mr. Speaker. Again, it comes back to leadership, it comes back to giving direction, it comes back to a government having the will and desire to do something with that issue. As of right now, Mr. Speaker, that is not there.

Mr. Speaker, custodial management and a joint-management regime is something that appeared to be in the government's priorities as they had discussions about that a year or so ago with the federal government. In the letter that our Premier wrote to the three parties before the election, it seems as though it has fallen off the priorities because it was not part of that presentation at all. Mr. Speaker, the rebuilding of the fish stocks, and cod in particular when we consider our ground fish, it is so important that we are able to somehow have a co-operative management process with the federal, with DFO, and with DFA, and that we are able to see that stock rebound to the point where it can be a very viable, sustainable fishery in the future of our Province.

Mr. Speaker, we are not talking about rocket science. We are not talking about having to go out and spend millions and millions of dollars in trying to discover new oil, trying to discover new minerals, or whatever the case may be. We are talking about paying attention and investing into the rebuilding of our fishery in this Province – the fishery, Mr. Speaker, that made us who we are. Mr. Speaker, it is very unfortunate, again, as we read and look at the Budget; as I sat back and listened to the Throne Speech on the day the Budget came down to see what was in there for the fishery of this Province. I have to admit, it was very, very disappointing.

Mr. Speaker, the sealing industry is another part of our fishery that has been in crisis for some time. Just this morning on the news, I was listening as I came to work in the early morning – there is a 400,000 quota of seal pelts for this Province this year. Less than 10 per cent, or less than 40,000 have been taken. Mr. Speaker, the season is just kind of left open at this point. The sad part is that there is no one out there. There are no harvesters out there. All of the vessels are in and have moved on to other types of fishery for the year.

Again, I understand the challenges and I understand the issues in terms of animal rights groups and the protest of the sealing industry over the years. Mr. Speaker, we have $100,000 in this Budget that has been assigned to the sealing industry. I want to suggest that with the challenges that are there, $100,000 probably is not going to take them very far.

Mr. Speaker, I do not have much time left, but one other thing I want to mention in terms of my district is that fishermen are experiencing – one of the biggest challenges they have is in fuel pricing. The difference in buying a litre of fuel from a sixty-five-foot vessel in St. Anthony compared to buying it in Harbour Grace, for example, is roughly twelve cents or fourteen cents a litre. Mr. Speaker, as the price of fuels are increasing it is difficult enough, but when you have that disparity between one region of the Province to another for the same fishery getting the same amount for their catch and having to experience a 10 per cent or 12 per cent difference in the fuel costs, again, it is something that I believe this government should be looking at, something that the Department of Fisheries should be aware of, and I would challenge the government to consider ways that they can do something with that.

Mr. Speaker, my time has elapsed. I thank you for the privilege to be able to stand this afternoon and speak for those few moments.

Thank you.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is certainly an honour to stand up this year and have a few words on the Budget. This Budget this year, I have been around here now for nine years and I have to say this is certainly a comparable, if not the best, Budget that this government has brought down thus far. It is certainly much better than the previous number of years prior to us forming the government. There are some very, very significant pieces of work in there. A number of them, I would like to touch on from a departmental perspective.

Mr. Speaker, when you make a Budget, regardless of which party - some people like to lean left, some people like to lean right, more people are in the centre - it is all about making choices and sometimes these choices are very, very tough. If you are against something, then you have to say what you are for. If you do not say what you are for, to me, you have no right to speak. If you are against something in a Budget or you are voting against something, then you have to say what you are going to do with it.

Mr. Speaker, it is fine to get up and criticize. I always remember one of the first lessons I learned in politics. We were in Opposition at the time actually. The first caucus meeting I went to, I was against an issue that was happening at the table, and for the life of me I cannot remember what it was, but I was against the issue. It was immediately said to me: What would you do? How would you spend the money? I hesitated, and the minute I hesitated I had lost the argument. Because the minute you were asked what you would do, you better have an answer. Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, the Liberal Opposition and the NDP do not have an answer. Well, the NDP does have an answer because they say yes to everything and support everything. We would need $100 billion. We would need the Budget of the federal Government of Canada to support what the NDP is in favour of.

I would like to go through a list of things. It is obvious that the Liberal Party are voting against this Budget. It is obvious that the NDP are voting against this Budget. I would like to point out some of the things that these people are actually against and voting not in favour of, Mr. Speaker. Before I do, I just want to comment on the health care issue that the previous member had spoken about, and comment on the things that he is against in this Budget.

Mr. Speaker, the first one he talked about was the health care and how we currently spent $3 billion in health care. It is 38.5 per cent of our Budget, yet we are not doing enough. I guess in something like health care you can never do enough. In all honesty, there is not a member on this side of the House or on that side of the House who would not like to do more, but there are realities. The realities are that you have to make choices. So, it is fine for this crowd opposite to stand up and criticize; however, they forget to outline the options that they would choose over what we have chosen, Mr. Speaker.

I have to reference the community care homes because he referenced Conception Bay South, which is a place near and dear to me. He mentioned the community care homes, but the point he forgot to make, and the point he neglected to make, was that for fourteen straight years when they were the government, fourteen straight years, they never had a one cent increase, not one nickel did they get in increase. Mr. Speaker, in this last Budget they have now gone from – when we took the government - I think it was around $1,100 to $1,800 today. Included in that, this year's Budget, the Health Minister announced that there is going to be, for the smaller homes, those fifteen and under, a $2,000 a month grant. I do not believe that the member speaking previously knew that. I really do not. He did not reference it. He talked about they had a small increase.

I think of one home in particular in my area, Mr. Speaker, that has six people in their home, they have an $80 a month increase, or a $70-odd a month increase, in their monthly rate plus they have $2,000 a month. That home, that small home, will have an increase this year of about $30,000.

Mr. Speaker, when the hon. member starts talking, he should lay out all of the facts. He should make the point that the Liberals, when they were in government, gave zero and in this year's Budget alone a small home of six got a $30,000 a year increase. Mr. Speaker, those are the points that he forgets to make.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FRENCH: Mr. Speaker, the Member for The Straits & White Bay North is voting against this Budget. He has been clear about that and spoke about it here in the House and that is fine, but I want to point out to the people of his district something that he is voting against.

There is a heritage project that we have announced from our department that is launched on the Northern Peninsula, a $205,000 three-year pilot project launched partially in his district, partially in the member below his district, my colleague from The Straits & White Bay North, who is total support of this; however, the member further up the peninsula is against it. This is about bringing heritage groups together - I think there are fifteen heritage organizations throughout the Northern Peninsula - and finding a way to be more successful, to better protect our heritage, and also to bring tourists into the area.

So, although this is a wonderful thing, the member opposite is against that, Mr. Speaker. That is worthy of note, and something that everybody should realize. Coming from an area where the numbers in tourism have gone through the roof, the hon. member should stand with this government and vote in favour of that money, for this issue alone. This is a very significant issue and something that we have to do throughout this Province, and something that the hon. member is against.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I always refer to my friend from the NDP. Now, Mr. Speaker, it is very easy for the NDP to be in favour of everything. They have a small number of seats in this House - they have one - so it is very easy to jump on a wagon and say we have to do this and we have to do that. Mr. Speaker, in a provincial campaign, I have yet to see, any time, any costing on the commitments that the NDP make in this Province. Mr. Speaker, they are in favour of everything, they stand with every group – and that is fine; I stand with every group too and hear their issues, but there comes a time when you have to pay the piper. Somebody has to write the cheque and pay for this. We can do what Bob Rae did. The NDP government in Ontario almost sent the biggest populated province in this country into bankruptcy, because he had made that many promises and that many commitments and was in favour of that many things that when he finally showed up in the big chair, he almost ran the place bankrupt. So, Mr. Speaker, I am sure the people of this Province are not thinking about anywhere near bankruptcy right now. That is what we are in fear of. If we elect NDP members to this House, we are in fear of bankruptcy.

Mr. Speaker, it is quite clear, it is not only me, occasionally, this party and the Liberals agree on something – it is not very often. Just to quote the Opposition House Leader yesterday, and I quote Hansard, he said, "If you listen to the leader of the NDP, there would not be enough money in the universe to satisfy what she wants, probably, when it comes to child care" alone. Mr. Speaker, that is what the Opposition House Leader said in this House, so we agree on that. We agree on the problem with the NDP promising the world. The Leader of the NDP is about to vote for some very significant things in culture, and in heritage, and in the arts community. I think it is important that the arts community know out there what the Leader of the NDP is about to vote against - very, very significant items. Mr. Speaker, I am about to point out a few of those things that the Leader of the NDP is about to vote against. I think it is very important that we know.

Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the NDP is against $44 million we have invested in the cultural heritage sector over the last several years. I know she is against it because she voted against every Budget since we have been here. Mr. Speaker, she is against a $44 million investment in the cultural heritage sector.

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is against the Republic of Doyle. We have heard some comments out there recently about the Republic of Doyle. Well, Mr. Speaker, not only am I in favour and this government is in favour of supporting the Republic of Doyle, we are in favour of it for two reasons. The first reason, let's talk about the business case. Right off the bat we invest $3 million – actually, it is $1.5 million in this fiscal year, $1.5 million in the next fiscal year, from an Equity Investment Program that was brought in, in 1999. This was not a program that we created last week. This was a program that came to pass in 1999. Mr. Speaker, we are very happy. We invested $1.5 million this year, $1.5 million next year. This year's episodes, Mr. Speaker, thirteen episodes, the net budget for that program this year is $23 million; $23 million.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FRENCH: Mr. Speaker, this investment of $3 million brings into this Province – and this is money that is going to be invested into film in this country. The federal government are investing into films, as well as investors in this country. Without this stipend from this Province and our government, Mr. Speaker, we would have seen none of that $20 million-odd come to this Province. This is point number one.

The net economic benefit to this Province for having the Republic of Doyle is $6.5 million. The net economic benefit alone is $6.5 million. We are employing 280 people, Mr. Speaker, of which a significant number of them are Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. Ten million dollars of that budget is spent directly into wages, Mr. Speaker, going into the pockets of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

The hon. crowd opposite are against that. They are against that, Mr. Speaker. No, I will take that back. The other night, again my colleague, the Official Opposition House Leader said he was in favour of the Republic of Doyle. I would hope, Mr. Speaker, that the NDP member would vote for the Budget and be in favour of the Republic of Doyle but no, she is against this industry and will be voting against the Budget.

Mr. Speaker, as well, she is against operational support to the arts sector through the CEDP. We give a significant amount of money to the arts sector in this Province, Mr. Speaker. At one time in the previous Liberal Administration, I think it was somewhere around $700,000 or $800,000 in total went to the culture and heritage sector of this Province. Today, Mr. Speaker, it is $2.9 million in our CEDP that goes to the arts and heritage sector of this Province.

That hon. crowd are going to vote against the Budget. They are against that. They are against the heritage community; they are against the arts community, Mr. Speaker. It is quite clear, quite clear. It really shocked me from the NDP, because the NDP always likes to come in support of the arts. It is something they are known for nationally and provincially. However, Mr. Speaker, whatever happened in this Province, the Leader of the NDP is falling off the line. I think she is moving more right wing. I believe we are more left wing than the Leader of the NDP, Mr. Speaker. That is the way it seems. We are more left wing than the Leader of the NDP.

I think she would be better as a real right winger. She comes across as a real right winger if she is against the arts community. She must be, Mr. Speaker. I will tell you what I would love to get, I would love to get an accountant chasing her around and adding up every time she speaks, everything she is going to give. Mr. Speaker, if we could hire an accountant, I would love that to happen.

Mr. Speaker, I want to say something else that the members opposite are against: the Cultural Economic Development Program. It is an investment this year in this Budget to go out and give money to anchor attractions in this Province. Our tourism numbers are up significantly and we need to build on the support we give to anchor attractions. There are several of them throughout the Province. There are a number of anchor attractions. There are engines that drive our tourism markets that come in certain regions of the Province, Mr. Speaker, and that $200,000 is to enhance, support, and give extra funding to these anchor attractions to continue the development of tourism in this Province.

Just before I move on, I want to refer back to the Republic of Doyle. I said there were two things that the Republic of Doyle does. I laid out the business case for it, Mr. Speaker, but I just want to talk about what it does for tourism and bringing people to the Province – something the NDP is against, by the way. I just want to remind people of that. It is something she is against. This is a sector she will vote against in this coming Budget, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, this is an article that was written in the Toronto Sun. This paper out of Ontario, I believe it is the second biggest, if not the biggest distribution newspaper in the country. This is what they are saying about the Republic of Doyle and this is the kind of stuff we get by promoting the Republic of Doyle. It starts off: "St. John's is North America's oldest city and also the continent's furthest eastern point… Much of historic St. John's centres around its harbour…" It talks about the shops, how quaint they are, and how you can shop at different specialities stores. It talks about our great seafood and what great food product we have here, whether you want to have a fish and chips, Mr. Speaker, or sit at a high-end restaurant and sit down and look at the harbour and eat fine dining. It talks about how upscale some of these restaurants are and how good they are.

So, Mr. Speaker, we speak to all areas, whether you want a fish and chips or you want a high-end meal. It talks about Signal Hill. Now, Mr. Speaker, not only is the hon. member opposite against this, we are promoting her district. Can you imagine? This government is promoting the Leader of the NDP's district and she is still against the Budget.

Mr. Speaker, in her district it is full of these beautiful, colourful houses that we promote through ads and advertising and through articles written because of the Republic of Doyle. The Leader of the NDP is against that, Mr. Speaker. She is against promoting her own district. It is amazing, it is amazing.

Mr. Speaker, it talks about George Street. This article in the Toronto Sun talks about a number of things and how nice this city is and how nice this Province is but then it goes on and it branches out. This article branches out and talks about the East Coast Trail, it talks about The Rooms. The main thing it says is it talks about our people. Just to let you know, not only does the Republic of Doyle make sense from a business perspective, it also make sense for promoting our Province and promoting tourism for people across the country. This is a show, right now, that has thirteen episodes and is averaging somewhere close to a million viewers a week, Mr. Speaker, which is significant.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to talk about a few other things that the hon. member is against. Being in the arts community, being a fan of the arts community, I assume she is a fan of the arts community and I believe we attended an event, the same event recently. The Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council, Mr. Speaker, a group that had very little money from the Liberals in the years they were government here, and now this year has an increase of $150,000 on top of their previous budget - I am trying to recall here, I believe now is close to $2 million. I think it is around the $2 million mark. Here we are, Mr. Speaker, with an increase to the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council that the hon. members opposite are totally against. They are going to vote against the Budget and going to vote against giving the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council more money in this Budget. When they stand up, it is important that we point out when they vote against the Budget, let's show what they are voting against, Mr. Speaker. That is certainly, certainly significant.

Mr. Speaker, the LSPU Hall is a beautiful facility in downtown St. John's, beautiful renovations. We give them an operating grant as well, Mr. Speaker. We are going to give them an increase this year. Because of this Budget, they will get an increase this year. They will get an increase that they do not know is coming yet, but they are going to get one. Mr. Speaker, the hon. member opposite, I believe it is in her district, she is against that. She is against the LSPU Hall getting an increase of funding. She is against the LSPU Hall being renovated. It is ridiculous to see the investment going into the arts community and the Leader of the NDP will not stand up in support of investments in the arts community. It is unbelievable.

Mr. Speaker, there are a number of things in cultural events that we do throughout this Province. The list is amazing, actually, when you size up what we do in this Province for cultural events. I would just like to talk about some of the places that we give money to under cultural events.

AN HON. MEMBER: Tells us about them, Minister. Tell us about some of them.

MR. FRENCH: As soon as I can find it, Mr. Speaker, I can guarantee I will tell you about them.

This first one – now these are things that they are against. We have to understand they are voting against this Budget. The Liberals and the NDP will not be supporting these festivals in this Province, Mr. Speaker. Let's start with the Women's International Film Festival. Imagine, Mr. Speaker, one of kind; one of a very few number of festivals dedicated to women, women producers, women writers, women actors, happening in this city. This is something that hon. crowd are going to vote against. They are against the Wreckhouse Jazz & Blues Festival, something that we have given $10,000 or $15,000. It brings all kinds of jazz musicians into this Province. It is growing our own musician base, they do training for local artists, and the list goes on, Mr. Speaker.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FRENCH: That is a good question. These first two items I talked about, most of these are in the hon. member opposite's district. It is in the Leader of the NDP's district. So, she is voting against her own district, Mr. Speaker. She is voting against the principles of her own party. This is what you are dealing with, yet she is in favour of everything, but she is against this.

The Seasons in the Bight Festival, another beautiful festival, the Gros Morne Theatre Festival, the Grand Bank Theatre Festival, the Newfoundland Folk Festival, the Nickel Film Festival – a beautiful film festival that I had the opportunity to attend last year for the first time, showcasing some of our greatest producers' work, some of our greatest actors in the country. This is something the Leader of the NDP, and the Liberal Party will vote against, Mr. Speaker. The Writers at Woody Point – I believe I even saw the hon. member there last year, the Leader of the NDP. She is against that, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. FRENCH: Just to clue up, Mr. Speaker?

MR. SPEAKER: By leave to clue up?

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MR. SPEAKER: Leave to clue up.

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I will clue up, Mr. Speaker. I could go on and talk about how the hon. member is against the Colonial Building. Imagine, a provincial icon in this Province, the Colonial Building, a provincial icon that she is against – and the Liberals are against – doing anything with. If it was anywhere else in the world, there would be flags flying off it for the last fifty years.

To clue up, I just want to acknowledge that this Budget is a great Budget. Some of the things, the Leader of the NDP even took credit for one of our biggest pieces of it: removing the HST from our home heating oil, but she is voting against it.

Mr. Speaker, I say to the people of the Province to take heed and watch how people vote and support this Budget.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

I am very pleased to have an opportunity again to take part in the Budget debate, my second time for speaking, and I look forward to the many more times that we will have an opportunity to speak to the Budget.

Before I go into the things I want to say today, I have to say that it has been very amusing sitting here and listening to the hon. Member for Conception Bay South. I think today he showed himself in a new light, Mr. Speaker, a stand-up comic because there was so much of what he said that I just had to laugh at. It was just amazing -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

I do not often take on things that are being said and counteract them, but before I get into what I want to say today I think I have to because I really and truly get tired of listening to people like the hon. Member for Conception Bay South make comments about the New Democratic Party. I would like to point this out whether they are talking about the New Democratic Party of Newfoundland and Labrador or the New Democratic Party in Ontario, or other parts of the country, they have this brush that they use that says the New Democratic Party does not understand economics. Mr. Speaker, the New Democratic Party in Canada has shown itself to be a party that fully understands that you meet people's needs while you also are economically wise.

The first person who did that was the founder of the New Democratic Party, Tommy Douglas, who, for seventeen years, was Premier of Saskatchewan and for seventeen years had a balanced Budget; a Premier who brought in health care, a Premier who, because of what they did in Saskatchewan, was able to get the Government of Canada to bring in health care.

We also have the whole history of the NDP in Manitoba, Mr. Speaker. Again, a government that has brought to that province full home care, has brought to that province child care, and has done it with fiscal responsibility. They are the governments of BC, where the NDP government once again has been fiscally responsible while delivering programs to the people of BC. We have the current NDP government, Mr. Speaker, in Nova Scotia which is proving itself also to know how to deliver services and to know how to do that in a fiscally responsible way.

Well, God help us that one Premier in one Province during an economic downturn could not do what we sometimes may have hoped he would have been able to do, and that becomes the model of the NDP? Sorry, Mr. Speaker, that is the biggest laugh that one can have. One of the things the NDP has shown is that you can take care of people and you can do it with fiscal responsibility. That is the lesson that this crowd has to learn, Mr. Speaker. So, that really makes me laugh.

The other thing, Mr. Speaker, that really made me laugh when our stand-up comic was on his feet this afternoon had to do with myself and saying that I was moving to the right. Now, I really had to laugh at that one because he does seem to think that people out there do not know what I am about and do not know what my party is about. Well, they do, and they know that wanting a full home care program in this Province where people can be taken care of in their homes without having to worry about where their money comes from to pay for part of it or all of it is not right wing. People in this Province understand fully that wanting to have child care for everybody in this Province who wants or requires it is not right wing. Wanting to have social programs that are administered by the government, that are funded by the government, and that are delivered by the government is not right wing, Mr. Speaker. They certainly knew that taking the HST off of home heating was not right wing, because they finally listened to it and did it themselves.

So, Mr. Speaker, this government is just being so disingenuous in this attempt to try to paint what I am doing as being right wing.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

What people in this Province know and what this government knows, Mr. Speaker, is that the NDP does care about people. The NDP wants people taken care of, and the NDP wants all people taken care of, Mr. Speaker. What really bothers me about this Budget, Mr. Speaker, is that it chooses, it is cherry-picking and that is the problem with this government saying: Are you going to vote for the Budget?

This Budget, Mr. Speaker, does not have a plan for the future. It has bits and pieces. It has bits and pieces but it is not a plan for the future. Mr. Speaker, this Budget does not have a plan for child care; a plan for child care that would make sure that child care is delivered all over this Province. It does not have a plan for home care, Mr. Speaker. It does not have a plan for long-term care. They keep telling us plans are coming. I have been in this House since 2006 and I have yet to receive a plan from this government on any of these items. They have been promising and promising and promising.

We are coming into another election in the fall of this year, Mr. Speaker, and we are no further ahead with regard to visionary plans with timelines attached them than we were when I first came into this House five years ago, Mr. Speaker. So, this government just makes me sick with all of these words that they use. They make me sick with the words they use and the way in which all they do is attack things that I am saying and the Official Opposition is saying rather than listening to what I am saying and sitting down and saying there is wisdom here.

The things that I present in this House, Mr. Speaker, around the issues that I have just mentioned are things that are working in other parts of this country. For some reason, no, they cannot work here in Newfoundland and Labrador. We cannot do it like they are doing it somewhere else. We have to take another five, six or seven years to figure out how to do something that they figured out in other places.

Mr. Speaker, of course I cannot vote for this Budget because it does not have a full vision.

There are all kinds of things in this Budget, Mr. Speaker, that I obviously support. I am delighted to see the things in health care that are in the Budget. I am delighted to see the infrastructural spending. I am delighted to see the new moves around client protection but, Mr. Speaker, I have to look at the whole picture and all of these things are going to happen anyway, we all know that. They are in the Budget and we have a majority government and they are going to be passed. I accept that and I am happy but I am not happy about the things that are not there, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, one of the things – and this is the meat of what I wanted to talk about this afternoon – one of the things that this Budget and this government is not acknowledging is that the expenditures that they are now making and the budgets they are developing are based on a revenue that does not have a future, Mr. Speaker, and that is the revenue from oil and gas.

This, Mr. Speaker, is the bottom line of my concern. That they have not presented, in this Budget or prior Budgets, to the people of this Province how they are going to continue and how we are going to continue – because they are going to leave us with it – how we are going to continue trying to work towards the future based solely on the revenue that is coming from oil and gas.

I do not see a plan in this Budget, Mr. Speaker, for building an economic base for when oil revenues no longer exist. I do not see a plan for building community-based economies that are going to be able to sustain the programs that we need for people, that are going to be able to sustain our educational programs, sustain our health care programs, sustain our programs that people need in order to have healthy lives. Where is the plan, Mr. Speaker? That is what really bothers me.

Let us take today alone. Today in our fishery we have such uncertainty, Mr. Speaker, and I am really glad to recognize that with regard to the lobster prices it seems that SPNL and FFAW have come to an agreement so that really makes me feel good. Mr. Speaker, what we need from this government is recognition of the importance of the fishery in this Province and they are not indicating that they really understand that.

Mr. Speaker, the fishery is always going to be there if we make sure it is going to be there. It is not going to happen – just oh, we leave it alone, and it is going to happen. That is the attitude I see from this government. At the Estimates meeting this week on the fishery, the minister said two or three times, if not more, that he absolutely believes – he absolutely believes that we will have a vibrant wild fishery in the future, our traditional wild fishery. While there will be fewer people involved, we will have a vibrant fishery. Well it is not just going to happen, Mr. Speaker. It is not just going to happen unless this government seriously takes what has to be done in order to make that happen. Now, I know this government is not going to do that on its own; this government has to do it with the federal government.

Mr. Speaker, when I look at the Budget and I see $64.7 million for Tourism, Culture and Recreation and $44.6 million to Fisheries and Aquaculture, that says a lot to me. That says to me that this government does not have faith in this fishery as an economic base in this Province. When I look at $64.7 million in Tourism, Culture and Recreation and only $44.6 million in our fishery, I see what has happened in developing countries around the world. Developing countries, in order to survive, have had to put a lot of resources and a lot of hope into their tourism, Mr. Speaker. I am for tourism, so I do not want to be quoted as saying I am not for tourism. I am. But tourism in and of itself is not sufficient to be able to give us an economic base for this Province.

We have a natural resource that so many people in the world do not have, Mr. Speaker. It really does break my heart to look out at our ocean and to realize that we are helpless. We certainly come across as being helpless when it comes to using that ocean for the good of the people of this Province, and also for the good of the people around the world because food is necessary for the world. The ocean is part of the food supply. The ocean gives us what people in this world need to survive, Mr. Speaker.

We have, just as we always had, a role to play globally going right back to when John Cabot, we think, came to our shores in 1497 and before that, but particularly at that time. Just as we went on from there to be important on the global stage, we can be that again, Mr. Speaker. It is not going to happen without effort being put into it, Mr. Speaker. That is what I do not see this government doing.

We have a pittance going into the research that is necessary for our waters. We have to have this government out there fighting with the federal government to get back into real research that will really look at, number one, how we can rebuild our ground fishery, and number two, how we can do more secondary processing that will be good for the people in this Province. Mr. Speaker, it is not there. That is what is really upsetting me.

When I look at the fishery budget, for example, I see $11.8 million going into our traditional wild fishery – $11.8 million – and $11.6 million going into aquaculture, just a difference of $200,000, Mr. Speaker. The Minister of Fisheries at Estimates said that aquaculture employs 700 people. Well, Mr. Speaker, our traditional wild fishery employs thousands of people. So, Mr. Speaker, here we go. The same amount of money virtually in this Budget is going into both of those.

So what is the message? The message to me, Mr. Speaker, is the government sees aquaculture as more important than our natural fishery; the government sees tourism, culture and recreation as more important than our natural fishery. This is ridiculous, Mr. Speaker, because the ocean out there is our future, not just the oil that is coming out of it. Even if we keep exploring and get more of it, it is not going to be enough. Even if the gas exploration pays off and we get into it that is still not going to be enough. The renewable resource is going to go on and on and on if we make sure it happens. It is not going to happen unless we work at it, Mr. Speaker. We all know that.

I found it really interesting also at the Estimates meeting this week when the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture talked about something which I have raised a number of times in this House, things that I have questioned the Minister of Fisheries on. Believe it or not, Mr. Speaker, I do stand and ask questions on the fishery, and that was the whole issue about marketing. He talked about the experience he had just last week, I think it was - it was no more than two weeks ago - when he was in Europe and was at a big conference. He was there meeting people involved in the fishery in the EU, Mr. Speaker. One of the things that came home to him was the importance of marketing. As he put it, we are a small player on the global stage and on the stage of the EU with the EU, but marketing is what they really do, and you can bet your bottom dollar marketing is what they really do. He says he became really aware of how important that marketing piece is. I have been standing in this House and saying that now for two years, talking about marketing. I have been wondering why he is not following the recommendations that have come to him around marketing, and I look at a budget that is not putting any emphasis on marketing, Mr. Speaker.

That is where we find out where this government is going, Mr. Speaker. That this government just tells us where it is putting its money, what its priority is. The message to the people in the fishery in this Province is that the traditional fishery based on the wild fish is not a priority for them. They are just going to let it slide and see where it lands, sort of the law of nature, not coming in and putting any efforts in to giving direction to where the fishery goes, Mr. Speaker. It is not good enough. It is absolutely not good enough. People see it and people know it. People are not stupid. They see it and they know it and they talk about it. It is not just people in rural Newfoundland who see it and know it. People here in St. John's are concerned about it, Mr. Speaker. They, too, want our fishery to be alive. They, too, understand that we have to maintain our natural resources and use our natural resources, especially the renewable resources, Mr. Speaker.

We have to get creative about our forestry, Mr. Speaker, again, when we look at our forestry management; $50.4 million in forestry management, $64.7 million in tourism, culture and recreation. We look at agrifoods – now, if there was ever a place where we have potential in this Province, Mr. Speaker, it is in agrifoods. There are so many people in the Province who have bright, creative ideas about what needs to be done here in the Province around agriculture. How much do we have in the Budget, Mr. Speaker? We have $30.3 million for that, $64.7 million for tourism, recreation and culture.

I am all for the money for tourism, recreation and culture but I am not all for, Mr. Speaker, ignoring the renewable resources in this Province. We have to become realistic about this because if we do not, we are not going to have a future. We are not an industrial area; we do not have big factories. We know the founding father of our Confederation thought that was a way to go –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

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

MS MICHAEL: - and it did not work, but we have our natural resources and we have our renewable resources and that is what we have to build on, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS MICHAEL: Yes, let's take benefit from the oil now and let's benefit from gas when it comes. We will benefit from that but only to the degree that we use it to broaden our economic base, to get our economic base broadened, as the way they have done it in Norway, Mr. Speaker. Norway's fishery has not died because they have oil and gas, both are alive and well.

Mr. Speaker, the crowd opposite me, they can continue all they want to mock. They can do that, they can mock, they can laugh at me, they can do it all, but I know people who are watching here today, I know people who I speak to on the street, I know people who I speak to when I go into rural Newfoundland, they believe in what I am saying. That is what is important to me, Mr. Speaker, not somebody standing up and acting as a stand-up comic as the Member for Conception Bay South did today, but people who really know what they want for this Province.

I will keep on saying what I am saying, Mr. Speaker. I will keep on making demands, Mr. Speaker. I will make it very clear to the people of this Province, and it will not be hard to do it, when I vote against the Budget why I have to vote against it, because there is so much that is not in it, Mr. Speaker, that should be in it.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I thank you very much for my time. I am ending almost right on the button at my zero point up there, and I look forward to speaking again before this debate is over.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is indeed a pleasure to get up and have an opportunity to have a few words about the Budget, and perhaps take an opportunity to respond to a few comments from across the way some time throughout my comments.

First of all, I want to say how pleased I am with the focus of this year's Budget. It certainly laid out a great vision for the Province, a great focus on children, a great focus on families, and a number of very significant investments. One in particular that I want to touch on, to follow through from a discussion we had in Question Period with my hon. colleague opposite from The Straits & White Bay North. We had the opportunity to talk a little bit about persons with disabilities. I want to take a few minutes to talk about that, because it is an initiative that I am very proud to be a part of as a member of this government.

Over the past year or so, Mr. Speaker, we have been engaged in significant consultation and discussions with members throughout the Province to develop a strategy for persons with disabilities. I have to say, right at the outset, it has just been a tremendous opportunity to engage with the public and to seek their feedback on the kinds of initiatives that they feel we need to address and we need to make some changes in. We have established and appointed a Provincial Advisory Council for the status of persons with disabilities, and I want to thank Joanne MacDonald for her tremendous leadership there, Mr. Speaker. It is really a great example where this government is working collaboratively with members of the public.

We have representation from a cross-population in the Province, cross-sector representing many different types of groups in the disability community. It is a great opportunity when they meet, for me to go and to speak to them and to hear their views. They represent what they believe in very well, Mr. Speaker. They represent their constituents very well. I want to thank them for that, because I really believe the strategy for the inclusion of persons with disabilities that we will be announcing in the near future is going to have a significant positive impact on people of the Province.

The individual who happened to be here today in the gallery is an example of the kind of individual that we want to help, Mr. Speaker. It is someone who is trying to further their education, and they are doing it with lots of hard work and commitment and dedication, and we are there to help them, Mr. Speaker. We are there to help them. I am very pleased about that. We have done a number of other initiatives on the whole issue of inclusion of persons with disabilities.

My hon. colleague, the Minister of Education, could speak at length about our policy for inclusion in school classrooms and the kind of things that are happening there to support those individuals.

Mr. Speaker, I had the pleasure about a week or ten days ago of announcing a Provincial Home Repair Program intended specifically to support persons with disabilities so that we can take the opportunity to support them staying in their homes, making their homes more accessible, putting ramps in, changing doorways, widening hallways, and any other changes that are needed to make them more comfortable and to allow them to live at home, live in comfort, and live a quality life.

The disability strategy that we are working on is one I am very proud of. I do sincerely thank my colleague opposite, the Member for The Straits & White Bay North, for raising the question today. I think it is one we all agree upon. It is very significant and very important. It is a great opportunity to have the topic here on the floor in the House of Assembly. So I certainly want to thank him for raising that.

Mr. Speaker, the other issue I want to touch on for a couple of moments is the whole issue of poverty and in particular the Poverty Reduction Strategy which I am responsible for as well as part of my ministry. I want to highlight a couple of key initiatives, Mr. Speaker, which will then probably bring me to the second part of the remarks I want to make. Over the last number of years, we have been very active and very aggressive in bringing forth initiatives for this Province and for the people of this Province to support the alleviation of poverty and helping individuals who are living in poverty situations. Mr. Speaker, I want to touch on a couple just very briefly because I think they bear repeating.

First of all, it is very significant the fact that government has brought forward the initiatives, but I think the big piece of the message I want to share with people, Mr. Speaker, is that our Poverty Reduction Strategy was developed through a consultative process. It was not developed by a bunch of politicians or bureaucrats here at Confederation Building sitting down and drafting up ideas, Mr. Speaker. It was developed though a consultative process where we travelled throughout the Province. We listened to what people had to say from all nooks and crannies, Mr. Speaker. We travelled throughout the Province, we listened to input that people wanted to provide to us, and focused on areas that they felt we needed to make improvements on, Mr. Speaker

I have to say it is a little disappointing, but we had a debate here in the House not long ago where the Leader of the Opposition questioned and expressed her lack of support or non-support for the process of consulting people. I have to say I was very disappointed because, Mr. Speaker, we are talking about groups like the Corner Brook Status of Women Council or the Gambo Association for Community Living. The Leader clearly indicated her lack of support for the fact that we went out and consulted with these groups to make sure that our strategy represented and reflected the views of society.

Mr. Speaker, that is what the strategy is all about – it provides an opportunity for people who are most affected by poverty, who are most vulnerable in society to provide us not only with feedback on what we are currently doing but it also provides them an opportunity to provide suggestions on how we can improve and fix things.

Mr. Speaker, the result of that could be any number of things. It could be that we are doing things that are not working and we will throw them out. It could be that we are doing things that are okay but we can improve upon them in which case we will take their advice and we will improve upon them. It could be that we will bring in some new initiatives like, for example, this year my colleague the Minister of Health announced the adult dental program; a great initiative, Mr. Speaker, a great initiative that will affect many people, many people in my own district.

Mr. Speaker, those initiatives come about because we take the time and we take the opportunity to travel throughout the Province, we travel to Labrador and we travel to the Northern Peninsula, we travel to Corner Brook and along the South Coast, my colleague opposite Burgeo & La Poile. We travel into communities and we listen to people, Mr. Speaker, and we listen to groups, interest groups who are engaged in this on a daily basis and on a weekly basis. That is where we are able to come up with very good, sound, positive ideas, Mr. Speaker. Things that will impact people's lives and it certainly therefore reflects, the strategy reflects what people want to see in this Province.

Let me touch on a couple of other ones that are important, in particular a couple with Newfoundland and Labrador Housing, which I am also responsible for. Mr. Speaker, $2 million we have invested for another 375 new rent supplement units. A lot of people in the Province have difficulty with housing, have difficulty with the amount of rent they have to pay, Mr. Speaker, and we have invested another $2 million to try and help those people out. As well, Mr. Speaker, we have extended our Energy Efficiency Program, which is a $12 million investment over a number of years.

Where we have invested to help people renovate their homes for energy efficiency over the last three years, we have evidence that shows that they are saving energy, Mr. Speaker. The program is indeed working. It is conserving energy. It is putting money back in people's pockets. We are very pleased as part of this year's Budget to announce again that we will continue with our Energy Efficiency Program.

Mr. Speaker, one of the other ones, which I may have mentioned earlier today, is the Home Modification Program for the disabled. I touched on it a few minutes ago. We have two programs for home modification; we have what is loosely known as the PHRP program, Mr. Speaker, where individuals, low-income individuals and families can apply for our support to make renovations to their home – it could be faulty electrical wiring that needs to be upgraded, it could be a roof that needs repairs, windows, siding, any number of things, Mr. Speaker. We have a program where they can come looking for our help and we will do our best to reach out and help those in need.

Mr. Speaker, the home modification for the accessibility program is a program where we have carved off a large chunk of money and we have focused it specifically, Mr. Speaker, to help persons with disabilities who need modifications to their homes. It is a very good investment and I have to say I made the announcement a couple of weeks ago at the Easter Seal home here and I was very pleased with the turn out and very pleased with the feedback we received. The number of groups that were represented there was fabulous. The feedback was very positive and they certainly recognize the commitment of this government to poverty, to low-income housing and to persons with disabilities.

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member opposite, the Leader for the NDP, talk a lot about housing over the last number of years in this House of Assembly. I am going to touch on a couple of things we are doing here because if you listen to the member opposite you would tend to think that we put blinders on, close our ears and do not do anything for housing. Mr. Speaker, this Budget, this provincial Budget brought forward $24 million for the Home Repair Program; $24 million to help families in need renovate their homes. We also committed to a new affordable housing agreement, our share of $8.1 million, Mr. Speaker. We probably would have the program up and running now and be spreading money across the Province if Mr. Layton, her colleague in Ottawa, had not brought down the government, because there has been a delay as a result of the federal election.

We certainly announced our commitment, our provincial commitment to the affordable housing program. I have every confidence, by the way, coincidentally, every confidence that the Prime Minister and the new Cabinet, the new government, will come forward with their share and we will start moving that money across the Province to help people and invest in affordable housing.

We also have a social housing plan where we have invested another $25.9 million, Mr. Speaker, great investments, great investments. We recognize here, as a government, that there are challenges with housing in the Province, and we recognize that we need to invest. What sometimes members do not recognize, Mr. Speaker, is that you cannot do it overnight. It takes time. You have to recognize that there is a limited construction season; there is a limited capacity for those who do the construction to take on new work. We are working within certain parameters and certain restrictions, Mr. Speaker, and we recognize that. We are investing here because we believe in that.

Mr. Speaker, I want to make a couple of comments on a couple of initiatives that I am bothered by, I have to say. As I listened to a number of the members opposite speak I am bothered. Particularly, one of the great initiatives in this Budget that benefits my district on the Burin Peninsula, to listen to the members opposite stand up and say that they do not support dialysis at the Burin Health Care Centre is just beyond me. I have to say, Mr. Speaker, it is just unbelievable. The number of constituents that I talk to - and I listened to a member opposite yesterday talk about constituents affected by the lobster fishery who spoke with passion, and I understand that because I have people in the same situation. I have constituents who had to travel to St. John's three times a week because of a lack of dialysis services. To hear members opposite say that they will not support this Budget, they do not support expanding the dialysis services in Burin, is just beyond the pale of reason as to why anybody would believe in that.

I have a constituent in Lord's Cove who incurred significant difficulties, and through the hard work of my colleague in Health, we were able to assist that individual. Mr. Speaker, if the opposite members have their way and defeat the Budget, that individual would still be out to the tune of some $70,000 in health care expenses. It is only because of this government and the Budget we brought in that that individual is now going to receive assistance, Mr. Speaker.

I think about other things, particularly the energy rebate announcement. That is one that has me puzzled, I have to say. I listened to the Leader of the NDP opposite and I have to say I am puzzled. The member stood in her place and used language, borderline language I think, referring to one of my colleagues as a comic. I think that is a stretch. She used language like we are being disingenuous. I have to say, I ask my colleagues in the House, what is more disingenuous than standing up for a period of weeks and months in this House, every single day, asking for a home heat rebate and the day that government announces we are going to do it, you stand back up and say great, well, I am not supporting it. Now, Mr. Speaker, what is more disingenuous than that? Because the people of the Province have a right to know, and I think the member is absolutely right when she says that people of the Province do not always see the true story, and I do not think they do, Mr. Speaker. I think more people need to sit in this gallery and observe what people are saying in their remarks, and they will get a better sense of where people are coming from. I think it is just ridiculous that you argue for a point in here, and then the minute that government announces something that you have been supporting, you say you are not going to support it.

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member talk at length a few moments ago. She talked about a lot of Budget initiatives - all the good initiatives I think was the word that was used - that the member supports. There was a whole host of things, Mr. Speaker. The member then proceeded to talk about a number of things that she does not support. Fair enough, Mr. Speaker, fair enough, because in politics every single one of us in this House has to make a decision every single day, because none of us ever get 100 per cent of what we are looking for and what we are fighting for, so we always have to make a choice: Do the things that you believe in and the things that you support, like the home heating rebate and the great advances that our government made in child care, do all of those things outweigh the things you do not like? In other words, Mr. Speaker, what is your priority? Are you prepared to support a Budget, and are you are prepared to go into a fall election and tell the people at the doors that you supported this Budget, though you do not support the government, because of the great initiatives that you support, or are you prepared to say that I did not support the Budget because it was more important to me to defeat the government and go against the government than it was to pass along an 8 per cent home heating rebate to you?

Now, Mr. Speaker, that is the question, because every single person in this House will have to answer that question when they go to the door. I tell you what; I look forward to going down the Burin Peninsula with my colleague, the Minister of Fisheries, and asking those questions. When the Liberal candidate and the NDP candidate goes to the door, I look forward to their answer when they have to stand up and face the person who is getting dialysis and they say: Sir or madam, your leader did not support the Budget and did not support dialysis for Burin. I look forward to them having to defend that, Mr. Speaker, because I tell you what, I am going to defend it.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KING: I am going to defend it, Mr. Speaker, and I am going to be very proud to talk about why I supported an adult dental program and what that is going to do for my constituents. I am going to be very proud to talk about why people in Lamaline, nearly five hours from St. John's, will now be able to get dialysis in Burin, or will now get greater medical transportation coverage as a result of this Budget. I will make sure that those who are running against me will answer the question why their party did not support it. If you want to take elected office in any district in this Province and sit in this House, you owe the people that. You owe the people the opportunity.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KING: You owe it to the people to talk about what you stand for, Mr. Speaker. You owe the people to talk about what you stand for and what your vision is, and I look forward to doing that like I know the rest of my colleagues do.

This is a great Budget. There are many tremendous initiatives in there that will affect not only the entire Province but, specifically, constituents in my district. I have heard from people all over my district and all over the Burin Peninsula over the last three, four, five weeks about priorities that are important to them, and in the wake of the Budget I have tremendous calls and e-mails and feedback about what this Budget means. Whether you are talking about investments in education, or whether you are talking about investments in health care, like I just spoke about, the drug plan, the medical transportation, the dialysis service, and the CAT scan unit that when into the Burin hospital. Whether you are talking about that or you are talking about child care - and for the first time in a long time, small communities in my district will have the opportunity to have child care spaces developed - or whether you are talking about the investment in roads and transportation and municipalities, no matter what you are talking about, you have to explain to people at the door and explain to them well where you stand on the issue.

I know where I will be standing; I will be standing and explaining why I supported this Budget. I will be looking for anybody who runs against me, from the opposite side, to explain why they did not support the Budget and why they did not support the initiatives that would be beneficial to the people of the Grand Bank district and the people of the Province, and that is a very important question. That is a very important question that all of us have to keep in mind when we go back and we face our constituents, we talk about why we want to get re-elected, and where we want to go in the future.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) proudly walk to the door.

MR. KING: With that, as my colleague said, absolutely, I will proudly walk up to the door and lay my record out and talk about what our government has done for this Province, and talk about the benefits for my constituents, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KING: With that, I am going to take leave and have a seat, and let my colleague across the way have a few words.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

I appreciate an opportunity to have a few words. I am sure after following behind the minister, it is going to be a hard act to follow.

I do not know about this Budget stuff. We have had a lot of talk today about whether we do or do not support a Budget; support all of it, some of it, none of it, knock on the doors when you go to the polls in the fall. I do not know, maybe people act differently out on the West Coast and the Southwest Coast. I voted against eight Budgets. I voted against eight Budgets in this House since 2003, went to the doors twice since, knocked on the doors, not a problem - not a problem. I do not think people look at whether you are going to get elected or not based upon on whether you perform your parliamentary duty and vote for or against a Budget. That is the whole purpose of the House of Assembly is to have a debate, and it ought to be welcomed - it ought to be welcomed. I am more concerned when you go to the door, and I am sure the people of the Province are going to be far more concerned when they knock on the door, even in places like Grand Bank, and say: Are you going to vote for that member who is running for the Conservatives who is going to give you the double light bill? Or are you going to vote for the party over there that does not want you have a double light bill?

Now, that is the kind of good pocketbook issues that people are going to get their head around. People out in Mount Pearl, for example, the member goes to knock on the door. Is he going to tell them when he knocks on the door: Vote for me and I am going to double your light bill? We will go ahead with Muskrat Falls in its current form and we are going to double your light bill, folks. Please vote for us so we can take twice the money out of your pocket. That is what they are asking the people. They can sugar-coat it all they want; they can try to fancy it up. They can have all kinds of spin artists out spinning it the way they want.

For example, the Minister of Finance stood up in this House today, we always call him the minister who always says: stay tuned. In other words, he never tells you anything, he just says: stay tuned. Sure enough, he was true to form today. The Leader of the Opposition asked him five questions, and he never answered a single question. Not one question did he answer. He talked about everything else. He talked about programs, he talked about where the money comes from and so on. Never once did he give an answer. Now, that is called spin, and that is not lost on the people. That is not lost on people out in the districts who are going to vote for people, no more than it is lost on people when they wonder where some of their members got lost in the bowels of Confederation Building. There are members in here, for example, on the government side who got elected, who have not been heard from since they came here. They have not been heard from. Now you talk about who you are going to vote for when it comes October month.

The Member here for The Straits & White Bay North, for example, he has been on his feet for the last three, four, five weeks asking questions about the continued existence of a plant in New Ferolle. We have a member for that district who sits in this House, and sat here for ten years or so. We have not heard a peep. We have not heard one peep from the Member for St. Barbe about that plant. Now, that is shameful. That is absolutely shameful, when someone else has to come into this House and repeatedly ask the Minister of Fisheries about something in someone else's district that means their livelihood. That is absolutely shameful. You talk about who is doing their job and who is honestly taking their paycheque home for what they are doing here. That is not lost on people.

Now, the Minister of Finance, for example, I am going to make a bold statement now. I am going to make a bold statement, because he got up today and talked about the $8 billion that we are spending. It is absolutely correct and true, but guess what, Mr. Speaker? This government did not do anything to make one penny of the $8 billion that they are spending. Not a thing. The money that this Province has today, that is being spent by this government, was not made by this government. They did not make a penny. Now, that is a pretty strong statement to make, but it is absolutely factual and truthful.

I refer you to the little chart the minister put in everybody's mailbox in the Province this year; a little summary of the Budget. I am going to take that pie that he shows where our money comes from and you will see very simply that my statement is absolutely truthful. In this pie, 39 per cent of our pie comes from taxation. That is not because the government did anything. That is because there is a regime for taxes in this Province that people have been paying since 1949. It is not something they created or did. That is 40 per cent of it. We have from the federal government another 7 per cent, roughly – 47 per cent, we are up to. That comes from the federal government. That is not something this government created and contributed. Then you look at the Health and Social Transfers; another 8 per cent. We are up to 55 per cent. The government never lifted a finger, never did it create a job, and never did anything to bring that 55 per cent into the coffers of government to spend. It is written right down there in their own language.

Then you look at the other biggie, offshore royalties. Guess what, folks? This government did not do one single thing to bring in a single penny that is coming into this Province today from the offshore. Not a bit. That is pretty obvious, you just need to look at the history. It was not this Administration, or either one going back to 2003, that had anything to do with Hibernia. This Administration did not create White Rose, which is in our offshore. This Administration did not create Terra Nova, and this Administration certainly did not create Voisey's Bay.

Now, you tell me what parts of this Budget that the crowd who are in here today, who get up on their feet day after day and brag as if they put the money in the pot, ask them to show you what they actually have done to put a single penny in the pot today of $8 billion that they are spending. Not a bit, and that is a fact. Now, they are entrusted as the government to spend it, there is no doubt about it, but when it comes to the money they are bringing in from royalties, for example, that was all negotiated before. The money that is coming from oil, they do not control the price of a barrel of oil. They do not control how much is being produced in the offshore. The royalties and income from the offshore is dictated by what you get for the price of a barrel of oil, what the exchange rate is, there are all kinds of factors that go in there.

They would have you believe they are somewhat of a Houdini. They would have you believe that they are some kind of magicians who created all of this overnight. They happen to be the custodians of the pot right now. The question is going to be are the people going to continue to allow them to be the custodians to spend what is in that pot if you do not look after it properly, if you do not have some vision to see that it is properly spent and spent in the right directions.

That is what the Budget is all about when it comes to voting. Do we think, as Opposition members, that it portrays the right fiscal economic policies of the government? I pointed out things in the Budget that I thought were very positive. I thought the HST thing was very good. I do not like the fact that Nalcor is over in the Public Utilities Board. While the government is going to save you 8 per cent in one pocket, Nalcor is going to take it out of the other one, 7 per cent. I do not like that piece of it. That is robbing Peter to pay Paul. You are about one cent to the good, folks; not 8 per cent, you are about 1 per cent to the good. That is the bottom line. When you talk to government members you only ever hear of the 8 per cent. You do not hear anything about what is happening over in Mr. Wells' shop, the PUB where he is going to rob you of the 7 per cent.

Those are the things that bring the money in. Now, I can get into the negativity and talk about lots of things we do not have anymore. I can talk about two paper mills we do not have in this Province anymore. God forbid! Who was the government when that happened? Who was the government when that happened in Stephenville and that happened in Grand Falls-Windsor? My God, it is the same crowd. Yes, forget about that folks, let's play the shell game. This is what we tell you is all the good stuff, but we will not tell you about any of this little bit of bad stuff. We have two paper mills that do not exist anymore, forget about that. By the way, forget about the fishery. Forget about the fishery because the Minister of Fisheries in this Province has certainly forgotten it folks. I mean that very seriously.

I was raked over the coals a bit here yesterday because I stood up for my constituents and spoke out for them. Well, I am telling you, I am going to take a lot of raking if it means I am not going to be able to speak out on behalf of my constituents. That will happen again and again.

Of course, I referred to the lobster piece. We got it resolved today, this afternoon, no thanks to the Minister of Fisheries, not a bit. I just met with two processors who are involved, embroiled in that argument. The minister just met with them, actually - I spoke to them before he met with them - from the West Coast who are involved in this. He had no involvement in settling it. It was resolved between the processors and the FFAW without his involvement. What did the minister have the gall to say in this House yesterday when he was asked a simple question: Minister, are you doing anything to assist or expedite a resolution to this matter? He said: I wrote a letter. Now, can you believe the response from the Minister of Fisheries saying: I wrote a letter? I wrote a letter, he said.

Now meanwhile, the Minister of Fisheries over there might not take this very serious, folks. I will tell you Melvin Bateman who lives in Port aux Basques takes it pretty serious. I tell you Lendy Vautier who lives in Burnt Islands takes it pretty serious. Charlie Riles who lives in Port aux Basques takes it pretty serious. Because these gentlemen and their wives, who are their fishing partners in some cases, they have thousands of pounds of lobsters that they were going to lose. These people, they do not make a great pile of money. They work hard for what they get, and they have to often depend upon EI.

This minister let them languish; he let them blow in the wind. Figure it out yourselves. I do not have an answer. I am not even prepared to get involved and help you. That is downright disrespectful, at the very least, of a Minister of Fisheries to treat people who depend upon the fishery for their livelihood. Three or four thousand dollars might not mean much to him, it means a lot in the pocket of a person who is making $20,000 to $25,000 a year and also risk losing their Employment Insurance because they cannot sell their product. It is absolutely disrespectful and irresponsible for a minister to take that kind of action and attitude towards our fishery.

That is not the only case. I go back to the New Ferolle situation. He stood up in the House yesterday and he told the Fisheries critic, the Member for The Straits & White Bay North: Oh, I think the plant is up and running in New Ferolle. I think they are getting ready to open that thing. They are moving in equipment up there. Guess what? A whole batch of pictures today, photographs, the same member, the Fisheries critic, had to get up today and deliver across the floor of this House photographs to the minister who has staff coming out of his yin-yang and did not know the truth of the situation.

Now, it does not take a rocket scientist to send somebody up there to figure out if it is going to operate or not and what is in there. I had a glance at the photographs and I saw a scaffold. I saw somebody had a scaffold geared up, I did not see anything geared up for business. I have been in lots of fish plants. The minister, of course, says: Do not worry, cool it, I have somebody checking it out. We cannot touch the guy, there might be legal ramifications. I did not hear him up yesterday talking about legal ramifications. He did not get up then and explain it the last two or three times he has been asked in the House. We will write you a letter; we will wait for the MOU twenty, twenty-four months. Meanwhile, if it goes down the tubes, so be it, sorry, nothing more we can do for you, folks, sorry about it. Well, apologies are not good enough after the fact – apologies simply are not good enough.

The minister, I noticed, is very unique in Question Period. I know it is called Question Period and not answer period for a very explicit reason because we do not normally get answers, folks. We ask the questions but you do not get answers, there is no question about that. The Minister of Fisheries always answers a question with a question. He is so adept at asking our Fisheries critic in the Opposition what he thinks of something that the crowd on the government side want him over there as the Minister of Fisheries. They have invited him actually. Why don't you cross the floor, they say, because you do know what you are talking about. Why don't you come over here with us, they have said to the Member for The Straits & White Bay North. They have asked him that. How embarrassing is that to a minister when he has his own colleagues over there clamouring to get the Fisheries critic on their side of the House because they know what he is capable of and the knowledge and information that he has - absolutely embarrassing.

Mr. Speaker, there are some issues too – you talk about whether you would like or do not like pieces of the Budget. For example, the bulk of our money goes into health care. The Member for Grand Bank referenced dialysis. My district had the same issue and last year the Budget addressed it. I stood up in this House and acknowledged it. It was a problem, everybody knew it was a problem; he has the same problem that he is going to solve now based on this year's Budget.

Even though you put the bulk of the taxpayers' money into health care, you wonder, for example, is it being efficiently used? I am going to give a couple of examples here because you can throw all the money you want at some things and you are still left at the end of the day sometimes wondering if you solved the problem. Thankfully - and I said thank you to the Minister of Health. I encountered a situation this week for example, a gentleman in Burgeo was languishing in the hospital, eighty years old, and needed a dye test. Now, there is no wait-list in this Province for a dye test as far as I know – nothing of an extreme wait-list. He was sitting in the hospital in Burgeo and could not get it done. He had to get here to St. John's to get it done.

The family called. I contacted the minister and said: Is there anything you can do? We do not want you to jump the queue. We do not want to push somebody ahead of somebody else. Why is this happening? Surely God, with all of the money we have in the health care system this gentleman should be able to get from Burgeo to St. John's and get his dye test. Sure enough, it got done. A system, if is working efficiently, should not have to get that kind of stuff done when some people have to be rooted and prodded to do it. People still get lost in the cracks no matter how much money government throws at it.

I had another gentleman from Burgeo due for surgery in Gander yesterday on his shoulder. He calls me and said: I had a fine experience today. He said: I got my hotel room booked in Gander. I am going to leave Burgeo now, drive in, and get the surgery on Thursday. He said: I happened to call in before I left the house and said I got my letter from you telling me what time the surgery is and so on, on Thursday. Do you mind telling me what the hour is because it said I should be there two hours ahead of time? She said: Your surgery has been cancelled, sir.

Now, that might be just some inefficiency, but can you imagine when somebody travels. He was prepared to leave Burgeo to go to Gander and book a hotel room, only to find out when he walked in the hospital it was cancelled and he did not know about it. Those are inefficiencies that need not exist in the system that we have with so much money, with so many resources, and so many professional people – good, qualified, professional people. That is what is frustrating sometimes in our system

So, government can throw money at things - and that is why we in the Opposition do not agree with everything that is happening. We still keep probing government to say throwing money at problems is not always the right answer. You have to fix the inefficiencies.

Anyway, Mr. Speaker, my time is just about up. I will get several more opportunities to address this. I say to the Member for Grand Bank: Have no doubt about me going to the polls in the fall and being concerned about whether I vote for this Budget or not. You have my assurance. I moved a non-confidence motion. I will definitely, sir, be voting against this Budget, have no doubt about it.

Thank you.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Colleagues, I have to ask you – are we ready to go to the polls? We are ready to go to the polls. It is too bad it is not the second week in October, Mr. Speaker. I expected after he got up and spoke that time, I expected the dome to open up and to see wings appearing on his back, and he would flutter off up through the ceiling. Mr. Speaker, what I just heard I think is the heights of – I will say foolishness, because I just cannot get to the words that I want to say, Mr. Speaker, because I know you would interrupt me. You would interrupt me if I had to say what I wanted to say.

Mr. Speaker, this is a gentleman who yesterday, during Question Period, when he could not get his own way, I thought he was going to blow his bloody top. His blood pressure seemed to have gone so high he turned as red as the lobsters we were debating. Mr. Speaker, I have to say, it is so easy to get up and be critical. Day in and day out we get him, he gets up and he whines and he criticizes, but you never hear him come forward with any solutions.

Mr. Speaker, I meant no apologies for sending a letter across to him and his party, and I would love to see it sent back to me with his signature on it, to say exactly where he stands on outside buying. He met with a buyer from over on the West Coast. Is he telling me he is content with those people who are working in that plant doing secondary processing? That he is content that we would allow outside buyers or some other process whereby these people would be unemployed? That individual said to me –

MR. PARSONS: (Inaudible).

MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, he is jabbering again. He does that quite often these days. I can only take it as a sign of frustration. That is a sign of frustration, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, he met with the individual, and that particular individual, you know what he said to me? We have lost three to four weeks of employment for the people who would have been in doing secondary processing around lobster. That is not acceptable to us, and I would like to know what his stand is on this issue of outside buying. No one could be happier than I am and so many of the other members on this side. These members who represent rural parts of the Province have indicated to me over and over the many calls that they have gotten, the responses they have had to send back to people and we know the situation they find themselves in.

A point of interest here is that this is the first time that collective bargaining has been used to establish the price of lobster. That should tell us something, Mr. Speaker; that should tell us something. I would love to hear what the Member for Burgeo & La Poile, what his stand is on outside buying as it relates to the sale of crab. Mr. Speaker, I would even take my chair to hear would he say aye or nay to outside buying of crab.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: (Inaudible)

MR. JACKMAN: He is jabbering again, Mr. Speaker, he jabbers a lot these days and again I go back to it is a sign of frustration, Mr. Speaker, a total sign of frustration because when you are in that state what do you do? You attack, you attack. That is what he is good at and he continues to do it over and over.

Mr. Speaker, when we spoke to the Member for The Straits & White Bay North coming over with us, we said come on, but notice we did not invite the Member for Burgeo & La Poile. Do not think we ever will, Mr. Speaker; do not think we ever will. I do not think he would add much to our party, Mr. Speaker. I would certainly like to see him offer up some opinions as to what he sees as a solution in the fishery. I said every spring we find ourselves in this situation whereby there is some sort of protest.

I was at a seafood show a little while ago, let us put it all in perspective. We produce 0.1 per cent of the world's fish – 0.1 per cent of the world's fish we produce in this Province.

Mr. Speaker, I have said in this House before there are two things that are important in this industry; one is resource, and the other is markets. Mr. Speaker, through the MOU process we are taking a look at the market piece and I am hoping that we might be able to announce very soon our support for marketing efforts. If we can do that and if we can get the industry to agree to move on it, then to me, Mr. Speaker, that is leadership. We provide the funding support to initiatives such as marketing.

If the industry opts not to take part in it, I cannot go down there and take a bat or something and decide to go into the ASP office or the union office and try to entice them in that way; all we can do is offer our support and our leadership. If they do not take it, it is time that the people of the Province and memberships to their union and their organizations start to ask the question as to why they are not. That is where we need to be with the things that are happening in the fishery in this Province, Mr. Speaker. I have to say that over the past couple of weeks, members in this House and myself have heard from harvesters. Mr. Speaker, we truly do sympathize with them.

Mr. Speaker, I will conclude by saying I am looking forward to more debate from the Member for Burgeo & La Poile. I hope he does not get a bit redder because we never know what might happen. I would not wish that on anyone. We look forward to debates, Mr. Speaker, and we are more than pleased that we have found a solution and a settlement in the lobster debate.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS BURKE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Before I move a motion to adjourn, I want remind the hon. members that on Monday, May 16, the Resource Committee will meet in the House at 9:00 a.m. to review the Estimates of the Department of Environment and Conservation.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the hon. Minister of Transportation and Works, that this House do now adjourn.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that this House do now adjourn.

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

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

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