May 26, 2011                          HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS               Vol. XLVI   No. 31


The House met at 1:30 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Fitzgerald): Order, please!

Admit strangers.

Statements by Members

MR. SPEAKER: Today, the Chair welcomes the following private members' statements: the hon. the Member for the District of The Straits & White Bay North; the hon. the Member for the District of Humber Valley; the hon. the Member for the District of Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi; the hon. the Member for the District of Humber West; and the hon. the Member for the District of Bay of Islands.

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

MR. DEAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise in this hon. House today and bring birthday greetings to Mr. George Ellsworth of Englee, who is celebrating his 104th birthday today.

Mr. Ellsworth, who presently resides with his daughter Dorothy Breen in Englee, says the reason for his longevity is because he always honoured and obeyed his parents. He also gives credit to the fact that he grew his own vegetables, and that there was no pollution back then like there is today.

Mr. Ellsworth worked very hard throughout his life to raise his family. He spent most of his life as a fisherman, and he also worked as a cook with Bowater's. Mr. Ellsworth loved to work and wishes he could still be working today. He now spends most of his days relaxing with a word puzzle book in his recliner, while looking out his living room window watching people go by. According to his daughter, George has always been a very happy man; she has never seen him angry or stressed, and he remains a very happy and quiet man today.

Mr. Speaker, I would also like to recognize Mr. Ellsworth's two brothers, Jim, 102 years old, who resides in Mount Pearl and Pat, 100 years old, who resides in St. Anthony. It is my understanding that this family is the only family in Canada at the present time that has three siblings living over the age of 100 years old. What an amazing story of longevity!

Mr. Speaker, I ask all members of this House to join with me in wishing Mr. George Ellsworth a very happy 104th birthday and to wish him and his family all the best.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. KELLY: Mr. Speaker, I rise today in this hon. House to remind all hon. members that June is ALS awareness month. Several constituents in my district have been afflicted by this terrible disease.

ALS, or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, is more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease and it was the disease that took the life of the once-great baseball player on June 2, 1941. This neuromuscular disease progresses rapidly and is usually fatal within three to five years of diagnosis.

Mr. Speaker, I lost a colleague in 2003, Christopher Dennis, to the ravages of this terrible disease. Chris was a fellow school administrator in the Deer Lake area and an absolutely remarkable individual with an absolute zeal for life. He was extremely well respected by his colleagues and was a significant volunteer with many organizations in the region.

Mr. Speaker, cornflowers have been placed on all members desks today and they are invited to wear them to show their support those afflicted with this disease. The blue cornflower is the international flower of hope for ALS. This flower was selected as it is hardy despite its fragile appearance. The same can be said of the persons living with ALS, as they show courage and great strength of character in order to cope with the devastating changes to the muscles in their bodies.

To beat this disease we must make people aware of it. It is through a better understanding that we are able to move towards helping all people with ALS living in this Province. The ALS Society will be having several walks on June 12 across the Island, and one on June 19 in Labrador City. They need your support and we need hope.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

Mr. Speaker, I stand in this hon. House today to recognize Techsploration Newfoundland and Labrador, which is an initiative of the Women in Resource Development Corporation's Educational Resource Centre, operating out of Bond Street in downtown St. John's.

Yesterday, I proudly attended the celebration of Techsploration's tenth anniversary. I was still Executive Director of Women in Resource Development when the program began, and was delighted last evening to celebrate with original members of the board and the original corporate sponsor of the program.

Techsploration is designed to provide teenage women students with opportunities to explore trades, technical and technology-related occupations. The program is inclusive of all girls including those from various levels of academic achievement, from diverse cultural backgrounds, and girls with special needs.

Techsploration is typically available to young women in Grade 9 because it is the year students choose their high school courses. Each school has a team of six girls and a co-ordinating teacher working with a role model from industry. Since it began, 500 girls have gone through the program. Today, they will be actually celebrating the 500th student who registered this year.

Last night, Techsploration said thank you to its sponsors, especially ExxonMobil who was the original corporate sponsor, and the community at large. The program's goal is to get more women into trades and technology, to respond to the coming skilled labour shortages - they already exist, as we know. The program's supporters know that attracting more women to train for work in all sectors of the economy will continue to be a business imperative for many years.

Women in Resource Development, through Techsploration and other programs, are working to change women's economic security for the better.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all members of the House to join me in congratulating this wonderful group.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. GRANTER: Mr. Speaker, I stand in this hon. House to congratulate one of Corner Brook's finest citizens. Mr. Dave Higdon was recently awarded Citizen of the Year as an all around volunteer at the most recent Sustainable Community Awards reception.

The awards program is a joint effort by the City of Corner Brook and The Western Star and is aimed at recognizing individuals, groups, organizations, and businesses for their valued contributions to creating and strengthening a culture of sustainability in Corner Brook.

Dave has had a long history of volunteering in the community. He started volunteering nearly twenty years ago when he became a Cub leader at the Salvation Army on O'Connell Drive. He went on to become a leader in Scouts and Venturers and helped start a Duke of Edinburgh program in the city. He has also been an active volunteer at the city's long-term care centre and, prior to its opening, at the long-term care unit at Western Memorial Regional Hospital.

Much of his volunteer time is now spent on the Forget Me Not campaign to raise money for a project that is to revitalize Remembrance Square which will include the placing of three bronze statues on the site. He is also volunteering for the Canadian Student Leadership Conference to be held in Corner Brook this fall.

This past February, Mr. Higdon took his volunteering to a new level when he travelled to South America on a sixteen-day volunteer mission. On that mission, he helped rebuild a seniors' complex, a home for the poor, and an orphanage. Always wanting to give, Dave used some of his own money to buy shoes for all thirty-two children at the orphanage. Although his children are long graduated from high school in Corner Brook, Dave always finds time to volunteer each year at the Corner Brook Regional High graduation ceremonies.

Happiness lies within reach of those who reach beyond themselves is a motto that summarizes Dave's volunteerism.

I would ask all hon. members of this House to congratulate and wish well Mr. Dave Higdon and all community volunteers for their tireless efforts in making our communities better places to live.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for the District of Bay of Islands.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. LODER: Mr. Speaker, I rise in this hon. House today to recognize four individuals in the District of Bay of Islands.

Mr. Speaker, on Saturday, May 14, I had the honour to attend The Duke of Edinburgh Awards – Silver Awards of Achievement at the Pepsi Centre in Corner Brook. The awards were presented by the hon. John C. Crosbie, Lieutenant Governor of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, I like to acknowledge two students from Templeton Academy in Meadows: Ian Locke and Tyler Locke, recipients of the Silver Awards. These two bright young men will no doubt have a great future in our Province.

Mr. Speaker, I would also like to acknowledge two young ladies from St. James All Grade School in Lark Harbour: Mallory MacDonald and Deidre Wheeler are another two very impressive young people who were very successful and determined to receive this award.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all members here today to congratulate Ian, Tyler, Mallory, Deidre, their family and their group leaders, Mrs. Bonnie Wheeler of St. James and Ms Debbie Greene of Templeton Academy.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Statements by Ministers.

Statements by Ministers

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DALLEY: Mr. Speaker, I rise in this hon. House today to congratulate a talented group of Memorial University students on being named the 2011 Students in Free Enterprise national champions in Toronto on May 10. The competition took place during the Advancing Canadian Entrepreneurship National Exposition and students performed for a panel of judges comprising of forty top Canadian CEOs.

This annual competition brings together the country's brightest university and college students, academic professionals and top Canadian business leaders. The SIFE memorial team stood victorious because of their dedication to arming Canadian Forces personnel and student entrepreneurs with the tools and assistance needed to thrive as business owners, as well as teaching high school students and seniors vital financial education.

Memorial's award-winning presentation team consisted of eight students from Newfoundland and Labrador: Danielle Seward, Nick Hounsell, Alexandra States, Rena Kufudi, Rebecca Aylward, Bryan Glavine, Dave Feehan, and Jacob Pratt.

As national winners, the SIFE memorial team will head to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in October to compete for the SIFE World Cup.

The Department of Business is focused on attracting inward investments to Newfoundland and Labrador. We develop and execute marketing campaigns designed to attract progressive business investments in diverse sectors like aerospace and defence, ocean technology, ICT, and oil and gas. One of our key selling propositions is the fact that our Province is powered by people with knowledge, skills, ideas, and experience, attributes strongly displayed by this winning group of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

Mr. Speaker, Newfoundland and Labrador is increasingly recognized as a desirable place in which to live, work, and invest. We continue to show the rest of the country and, indeed, the rest of the world that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are clever and creative people who thrive in competition and we are winners academically, economically, and culturally.

I ask all members of this hon. House to join me in congratulating the SIFE Memorial Team, and wish them every success in Malaysia.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

I thank the minister for an advance copy of his statement. We also wish to congratulate the Students In Free Enterprise – SIFE, as it is referred to – on their remarkable victory in becoming national champs. We can produce in this Province the best competitors in the country and, indeed, the best in the world. Our students are as bright, hardworking and energetic, as students anywhere. Our educational system, our teachers, and our professors in universities are as demanding as any in the world or the country. The key is opportunity. When our young people have the opportunity, they can beat anyone in the world. Hats off to the students and to the MUN Business School, and to all of the people who participated and contributed to their success.

I only wish, Mr. Speaker, this statement had come from a minister or department that could possibly have claimed some credit, such as the Department of Education; instead, it comes from our sad-sack department, the Department of Business. Mr. Speaker, one group who had absolutely no role in the success of this team is the Department of Business. In fact, the last word I would ever use in describing this department, Mr. Speaker, is success. They cannot get their act together even to give away, Mr. Speaker – $25 million in their budget, and could not give it away. The Minister of Business has become so desperate to associate himself with success that he is willing to reflect and bathe in the undeserved glory of the SIFE team.

Congratulations to the SIFE team, congratulations to the Department of Education for whatever role they may have played here, shame on the Minister of the Department of Business.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS MICHAEL: I thank the minister for the advance copy of his statement. I, too, would like to congratulate the students in the SIFE program for the wonderful work they have done once again, Mr. Speaker. We continue to have winners in this national championship.

How exciting for them that they are going on to compete for the World Cup in Kuala Lumpur. I really wish them success. It is great to know that people from our Province, and especially our young people, continue to go on showing themselves very strongly in such competitions.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS MICHAEL: Mr. Speaker, our young people also need jobs to come back to and to be able to remain in this Province. It is not enough to send them off to win; they also have to have jobs in this Province. We definitely need to continue strengthening and upgrading our internship and apprenticeship programs to help students make the transition into the workforce in our business and resource departments.

We still have too many skilled and educated young people leaving the Province, unfortunately. So, I encourage the minister and other ministers dealing with this issue to keep looking at the issues in their departments and to see how we can keep our young people here.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Further statements by ministers?

The hon. the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FRENCH: Mr. Speaker, I rise in this hon. House today to acknowledge the 100th anniversary of Parks Canada.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. FRENCH: Established in 1911 as the world's first national park service, Parks Canada today manages 167 national historic sites, forty-two national parks, and four national marine conservation areas.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. FRENCH: It is good to see the Opposition are so excited about Parks Canada, Mr. Speaker.

For the past 100 years, Parks Canada has protected and preserved the environment, educated visitors, and provided a variety of programming.

Newfoundland and Labrador is home to twelve of these national parks and historic sites. There are, of course, our breathtaking and picturesque parks located in Gros Morne, Terra Nova, and the Torngat Mountains. Then there are our ever popular and well-known historic sites: Signal Hill, Hawthorne Cottage, the Ryan Premises, L'Anse aux Meadows, Port au Choix, Red Bay, Castle Hill, Hopedale Mission, and Cape Spear Lighthouse, the most easterly point in North America.

Mr. Speaker, year after year residents and tourists alike continue to visit these beautiful historic places to learn about our history and culture of Newfoundland and Labrador, and to gain insight and knowledge into our incredible national heritage.

In celebration of this historic occasion, Parks Canada will be hosting a wide range of events and activities to be enjoyed by all ages, coast to coast. In this Province, the celebration started on May 19 and will continue with events at various sites from June right through to September.

I encourage those who live here, along with those who are travelling to Newfoundland and Labrador, to be sure to visit as many of our national parks and historic sites as possible in recognition of Parks Canada's centennial anniversary.

Mr. Speaker, I invite the members of the House to join me in congratulating Parks Canada as they celebrate this milestone.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

I thank the minister for an advance copy of his statement. We, too, are happy to acknowledge the 100th anniversary of Parks Canada. Our country and this Province in particular, is home to some of the most beautiful natural settings in the world. I am blessed even in my own district, for example, with the Sandbanks of Burgeo, the Table Mountains, and the Cape Ray beach at J.T. Cheeseman Park. Every member here I am sure has equally beautiful settings in their districts.

It is no wonder that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians love nothing more than to enjoy the outdoors. Of course, our national parks afford us the opportunity to do just that. In addition to the twelve national parks, of course, and the historical sites already founded in our Province, the federal government is currently working on establishing the Mealy Mountains National Park in Labrador.

On a national scale, this Mealy Mountains Park will represent the East Coast Boreal Forest. It will aid in protecting the Mealy Mountains woodland caribou and provide a breeding ground and migration route for the artic seabirds. The Torngat, which is already a national park of course, has a great role in keeping the Leader of the Official Opposition in shape every year; she hikes it and did last year, six years in the Torngat Mountains.

Mr. Speaker, our parks are no doubt a resource that we need to take advantage of. We would certainly encourage all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, and indeed, Canadians and anyone who might visit us here in our Province to get out this year, to be active and to enjoy the activities that these parks have to offer.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

I, too, thank the minister for the advance copy of his statement. I am also happy to congratulate Parks Canada on its 100th anniversary and encourage everyone, especially this year, to see at least one park that you are actually going to go visit, stay in, and not just drive through as we do with some of them.

I also would encourage everyone, and this is not an ad for one particular media, but I would encourage everyone to visit the CBC Web site because they have a wonderful documentary on the geology of Gros Morne that was done by Chris Brooks, I think he has earned awards for it. It is also being aired internationally in the United States and abroad. I have not had a chance to do it myself but I am going to do it tonight, I promise myself. This documentary underlines the fact that the park is also a UNESCO World Site.

I obviously have to mention the historic area that is in my own district, Signal Hill, which is a very important tourist attraction, as well as part of our city that has very historical meaning as well as geological interest. We almost had a dangerous thing happen last year with regard to the potential of development right on the edge of the area that is designated as a historic site.

I encourage the minister to continue doing what he and I talked about, and that is making sure that nothing can happen to that site and maybe even see about getting it broadened so that we can get full protection of Signal Hill.

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, in two weeks the Harper Conservatives will reintroduce their 2011 Budget. We know that in their original plan they slashed nearly $60 million from DFO.

Today I ask the Premier, now that you have had over two months of downtime with the original budget: Does government know anything more about what areas of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans programming that will be cut in Newfoundland and Labrador and how these cuts will affect the fishermen and fisherwomen of our Province?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, we have been in touch with Minister Ashfield's office, to head up there as soon as he can accommodate us. It looks right now, Mr. Speaker, that we will have a meeting with the federal minister on the week of the thirteenth.

Mr. Speaker, that particular issue, and issues that we have heard raised in this House over the last number of days and the past weeks are all issues that we intend to take to the federal government and hopefully get some action on those.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Too little too late, I say to the minister, because the federal budget will be brought down again before that date.

What we are wondering is how the $60 million cut inside of DFO is going to affect Newfoundland and Labrador, what programs are going to be cut, and how is it going to affect the people in the industry? Can the minister tell me what the answer to that is?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, one of the things we will be indicating to Minister Ashfield's office before the day is out is the items that we want to speak to him about. We are going to ask, Mr. Speaker, to hold off on decisions until we get there and have a chat with him. Hopefully, some of these issues will be given reconsideration, as they are extremely important to the people of this Province, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Premier and the government opposite have known for two months now that there is a $60 million cut in DFO, and obviously, no one has been interested enough to find out what that cut entails. In addition, they have announced that ACOA will be cut by $15 million, and we know that our Province depends upon this agency for critical tourism and agriculture dollars to be spent all throughout the Province. It is also going to see $5.4 million cut from Marine Atlantic, which is a vital service to the people of this Province.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Premier today, if she can tell me what these cuts will entail, how they are going to affect communities and programs in this Province, and will there be any impact on the Gulf ferry service?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The games play continues. The federal government has been involved in an election for the last two months, Mr. Speaker, and effectively, the federal government has been shut down, which you well know; which you well know, Mr. Speaker. Now, there is one thing that we know as well. When there are policy decisions taken at the federal level that affect this Province, and affect it detrimentally, this government is well-known for making its views known and heard, and it has an effect.

Now, Mr. Speaker, we are in the process, now that the government is up and running and active, of having all our ministers meet with their federal counterparts and we will be addressing all of these issues that affect the people here in Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The only people playing games here is you, Premier. You are playing games with the people of this Province who are going to see cuts in the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, cuts within Marine Atlantic, cuts within the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

In the last two months, I ask you, what have you done as the Premier of this Province to make representation on our behalf to the federal government to ensure that those cuts in programs and services do not come to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador when this Budget is reinstated in two weeks?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, one of the things that I have done in the last number of months since I have become Premier is I have tried to build a relationship with the Prime Minister. That effort has been successful. We worked hard as a caucus to ensure that we had provincial representation at the Cabinet table, so when these important issues are raised, Mr. Speaker, that our voice is there at the Cabinet table.

Mr. Speaker, we will continue to advocate and lobby on behalf of the people of this Province and ensure that our interests are given the consideration warranted, and it is due to a respectful relationship between this Province and the federal government.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I say to the Premier, there is about $100 million in cuts coming to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador as a result of your newfound friendship. So, congratulations to you.

Mr. Speaker, I wanted to follow up on something that was said yesterday. Mr. Speaker, the Premier admitted that one of the reasons Muskrat Falls is so expensive is because of the transmission line that will run from the plant in Labrador to the coast, across the Straits, and all the way across the Island. The last time such a line was proposed was back in 1998. At that time, the President of Fortis said the cost would be crippling and that customers could not afford it in this Province.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Premier today: If this is the case, why is she insisting on this project? Why is she bringing a project to bear that is too expensive and too costly for the people of this Province?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, a lot of things have changed in thirteen years. There have been improvements in technology. The price of oil has gone through the roof. The demands have risen in this Province and will continue to rise.

Mr. Speaker, she is not concerned about cost when she is asking that we run transmission down the coast. Why is that, Mr. Speaker? Well, I did some research and I found a transcript from the Leader of the Opposition on Open Line in 2005. This is what she had to say, Mr. Speaker: We want change to the way that electricity is generated in Labrador because diesel plants are a thing of the past, both environmentally and both from an industry perspective.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Now, Mr. Speaker, that is her philosophy for Labrador, yet she stands in this House day after day and advocates that we keep Holyrood going.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I want to remind the Premier, she does not have to put any words in my mouth. We are talking about delivering cheap energy to the people of this Province, Mr. Speaker. We are talking about developing hydro projects that people can afford.

Mr. Speaker, what the Premier is looking at doing is a project that is not only expensive but is surplus to our needs. It is like buying a tractor-trailer to come to work in the mornings as opposed to coming to work in a small car. Mr. Speaker, that is the difference between what the Premier is saying and doing and what we would certainly do.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS JONES: It is not the residents of Newfoundland and Labrador who will bear the exorbitant costs of this deal with Emera and Muskrat Falls. Many businesses have seen the huge increases that are being projected in residential rates and they are wondering what is in store for them. To date, they have not been told in this Province what the industrial rates are going to be.

I ask the Premier today if she could tell the employers of this Province how much more that they are going to have to pay for energy as a result of the Muskrat Falls deal.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, it is a perfect example of what we have to deal with on this debate from the Leader of the Opposition day after day. No diesel in Labrador, we do not want the effect of oil generation having an effect on our environment in Labrador. In terms of Holyrood and the region of Holyrood, you just suck it up because we are going to keep Holyrood operational for the next twenty-five, thirty, forty years.

Mr. Speaker, she makes the argument: We deserve to have electricity from Muskrat Falls on the Coast. Don't talk to me about how much it costs because I do not care how much it costs, we deserve to have it, put it there. Costs, do not take it into consideration; but if you are going to bring electricity to the Province, then cost becomes a factor.

Mr. Speaker, she talks out of both sides of her mouth day after day. She is not making sense to anybody on this side of the House; she is not making sense to the people of the Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would not expect to make sense to too many on the other side of the House because they are all on the same Kool-Aid and they do not hear anything else. Mr. Speaker, let me just say this to the Premier: We think, absolutely, it is time to get rid of diesel-generated power in Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair is having difficulty hearing the hon. member pose her question.

MS JONES: We think, absolutely, it is time to get rid of diesel power in Labrador. We think it is time to get rid of diesel power on the Island. We think that we should be developing power sources that people can afford and not developing projects so that Emera Energy in Nova Scotia can make a profit and Nalcor corporation can make a profit. Why are you not doing a deal so the people can make a profit?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Now, Mr. Speaker, we are doing exactly that. We are making sure that the people of this Province do not have to rely on diesel or oil-fired generation. That is why we are developing Muskrat. Mr. Speaker, we are concerned about the rates that people are paying. That is why we are developing Muskrat, so they are no longer tied to the price of oil and they no longer have to rely on Holyrood. On those points, at least, we agree.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Obviously, the Premier is diverting Question Period only because she do not want to tell the people of this Province what the industrial rate is going to be on the Island portion of Newfoundland. Mr. Speaker, we are seeing the cost to businesses in this Province increasing. We are going to see costs increase drastically for transportation, manufacturing, and other businesses that have to depend upon Muskrat Falls power.

I ask the Premier today: What will be the commercial rate for power generated under Muskrat Falls? You have told us what the base rate for residential power is going to be, what is the base rate for businesses and industrial customers?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, Muskrat Falls is the answer, not only to the ratepayers here in the Province domestically but it is the answer also for businesses here in this Province. Despite what the Leader of the Opposition says, it is oil that is driving the cost of electricity. If we do not develop Muskrat Falls, light bills will continue to increase year over year over year. The transition from 2016 from the isolated system to the Muskrat Falls system will be seamless - absolutely seamless. What you are paying on one, you will be paying on the other. The difference, Mr. Speaker, is your light bills will not be going up 3 per cent to 5 per cent a year; they will be going up less than 1 per cent a year.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

There is nothing seamless about an electricity bill that is going to go from $300 a month to $600 in this Province, I will tell the Premier that. It might be seamless in her bank account, but it is not seamless in a lot of bank accounts in this Province.

Mr. Speaker, my next questions are for the Minister of Health. There are over 4,000 residents living in ninety-seven personal care homes across the Province. Time and again we have raised this issue in the House of Assembly, yet government has failed to provide the proper levels of funding required by these homes. Even an independent view by PricewaterhouseCoopers verified this.

I ask the minister today: Why is government forcing these homes, mainly the smaller ones that are located in rural areas of this Province, to close their doors and to leave our seniors without proper care?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

There are approximately ninety-seven personal care homes in this Province that have 3,900 beds. We have heard a lot of talk about the financial difficulty that these homes face. Since 2004, Mr. Speaker, the increase in the personal care home subsidy has gone from $1,172 to $1,800 this year. We heard what these small personal care homeowners had to say. We increased the personal care home subsidy up to $1,800 this year from $1,717. We brought in a small personal care home subsidy package, which is $2,000 a month for homes with less than fifteen residents, and we brought in isolation grants of $1 million to help personal care homes in isolated areas. If that is not helping personal care homes, then I do not know what is.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The minister knows, despite the fact there have been contributions, it does not cover the cost of the previously mandated wage cost that your government mandated, let alone all the other costs that come from caring for our seniors. Our population is aging. Not everyone in this Province, Minister, can afford to stay in upscale retirement living. They depend upon smaller personal care homes to deliver the services they need in their aging years. Many rural areas are totally dependent upon these particular homes.

I ask you, Minister: Why are you not working with the personal care homes in this Province to find a way to keep these homes open? Because it is not about the operators, it is all about the people who need the service.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

Again, what we are dealing with, we are dealing with private business and we are dealing with the regulated business. Mr. Speaker, let's give you an example of what this Budget means to these small personal care homes. If you have fifteen residents or less on average, you will get that $2,000 a month; that is $24,000 a year. It is close to $100; again, a month per resident it is $1,200. What we have done in one year, Mr. Speaker, is increased by more than $30,000 the amount of income that this small personal care home will have.

Then, if we talk about small personal care homes in the area like where the Leader of the Opposition lives, Mr. Speaker, they are entitled to apply for isolation grants where we recently put $1 million into isolation grants. That could translate into more money for these homes. There is a real financial viability to these homes that they have to look at. We are not hearing from the homes with more than fifty residents that they have the same concerns. In fact, Mr. Speaker, they were quite happy with the fact that we brought the rate up to $1,800 a month.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The minister knows it is the smaller homes that are having this problem. It is the smaller homes in rural areas of this Province that are having the problems and he knows it is not about the operators of these homes, it is about the people who need the service. Mr. Speaker, we have no idea what the vision of the government opposite is when it comes to our aging seniors.

I ask the minister today, is it his wish that he warehouse all the seniors in this Province into urban centres of the Province and not work to preserve personal care homes in rural areas all over our Province?

I ask you, Minister: What is your vision for the aging population in this Province and meeting the needs that they have?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

Mr. Speaker, those kinds of comments are very disappointing and disrespectful to the seniors of this Province. What we are doing, Mr. Speaker, as a government is putting money into the seniors groups, $1,000 grants, wellness grants, and seniors' grants. I can tell you, that is the best money we are spending. These groups are using this money.

We were at a group in Cavendish the other day, Mr. Speaker, and to see the smiling faces and how active these people are. That is the first thing we are doing, Mr. Speaker. Then what we are doing next is increasing home care rates. We are hoping to allow people to stay closer to their homes. Then, Mr. Speaker, as they move into the personal care homes we are allowing for the financial and economic viability of these homes by increasing rates, bringing in small personal care homes, and isolation grants. We are moving people out of acute care beds and into other homes.

What we are doing, Mr. Speaker, we are trying to allow for that seamless transition from the community into personal care homes and long-term care facilities.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The word of the day for the government must be seamless.

Mr. Speaker, let me just say this to the minister. There is nothing wrong with our aging seniors wanting to stay in their own communities in their own regions. There is nothing wrong with them having access to personal care homes. There is nothing wrong with the people who provide that service expecting what is an adequate subsidy from the government to do so. Right now, the problem is they are not getting the subsidies they need to meet the financial requirements and to provide the services to many of our seniors in rural areas of the Province that they need. Mr. Speaker, in addition to that there is a wait-list of seniors in this Province to receive a subsidy. We know that the government added an additional 100 subsidies this year.

I ask the minister, if he can tell me: How many more people are on the wait-list for a subsidy in this Province and when they can see that subsidy coming?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

We, as a government, have added more than 1,000 portable subsidies since 2005. We allowed $3 million for the installation of sprinkler systems.

In terms of how many people are on the wait-list, Mr. Speaker, there are eighty-seven people waiting at Level I to get in personal care homes; thirty-one people waiting to get into Level II personal care homes; 118 people waiting, fifty-four in Eastern, eight in Central, thirty-eight in Western, and eighteen in Lab Grenfell. Does that answer your question?

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, as we have heard, the fish harvesters on the West Coast have ended their protest at the DFO office in Corner Brook. They are now waiting for some positive action from DFO and they have strongly indicated that they are also seeking strong and forceful support from the provincial Minister of Fisheries as well as the Premier of our Province.

I ask the minister today: What communications has your government had with DFO - I heard what you said a moment ago - and the federal Minister of Fisheries to help the harvesters in their fight with Ottawa on this quota sharing problem? Furthermore, what communication have you had with the new federal minister, Peter Penashue, on this important issue?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I answered part of that question yesterday in the House, Mr. Speaker. We heard of this in the past week. Immediately, a letter was written off to the new minister, copied to Minister Penashue. Also, copies went to the FFAW, to ASP, to SPN, all expressing our dismay at the decision that was made.

As I alluded to just earlier, we have requested a meeting with Minister Ashfield. We look for a confirmation date for the week of the thirteenth when we will express our concerns about this and, equally as important, where decisions are going around the shrimp allocation and LIFO.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. DEAN: Mr. Speaker, we keep hearing about the letter. I suggest to the minister that the telephone might bring a quicker response. The minister is always stressing the need to bring a unified voice to Ottawa on the matters of great importance to our fishing industry. In fact, the minister indicated yesterday that he is prepared to collectively work with parties to address the issues in the fishery.

Mr. Speaker, I spoke for our party – or I speak for our party I should say, when I say that we are quite prepared to participate in an all-party committee that brings the concerns of the fisherpeople of this Province to the Prime Minister of Canada.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. DEAN: In fact, Mr. Speaker, such an all-party committee, last year, was suggested on the Northern shrimp cut, but this government declined the offer.

I ask the minister today: Will you commit, in this House of Assembly, to the formation of an all-party committee to advocate for and help address the concerns of the fisherpeople of Newfoundland and Labrador?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, I was pleased to hear yesterday, I believe it was an interview on one of the Open Line shows, that a member of the union acknowledged the letter that we had sent off to Minister Ashfield supporting – and I publicly stated that we stand with the decision, contrary to the decision that was made at the federal government.

Mr. Speaker, we do use the telephone. I will inform the member that we did call Minister Ashfield's office to establish the date, we did not write. We wrote raising our issues of concern, and we certainly did make the phone call.

As to an all-party committee, I am not ready to commit there yet, Mr. Speaker.

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.

I was going to suggest to the minister that he might start up a blog, but a blog is where you say something, so I guess that really would not work anyway, I suppose.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. DEAN: Mr. Speaker, municipal leaders throughout the Province, even though they support a new Waste Management Strategy, have grave concerns about the operating cost attached to its implementation. People in the Western Region feel that if their waste is transported to the Central site, the cost to the residents will be very high compared to some other regions of the Province. In fact, they are recently just asking for $1.5 million to help support the extra cost in doing so.

My question today for the Minister of Municipal Affairs is this: If the decision is made to transport Western's waste to the Central Region of our Province, will your government commit to ensure that the fees for administering waste management are equal across the regions of this Province?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Municipal Affairs.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. O'BRIEN: Yes, Mr. Speaker, we in the department have received a request from Western Waste Management to consider the subsidy as an option, and we will consider it as an option. More importantly, we will be working with the newly appointed Chair, and the committee, and all the municipalities in Western Newfoundland and Labrador to have and seek a viable option to the waste management issue in that part of the Province. We will be working that through over a period time. We have until 2016 in regard to our target date in the implementation process.

We will be working through and making sure that we do things right, and have an affordable, sustainable system for the people of this Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. DEAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

We realize that we have time to implement the strategy, but one of the concerns in the Western Region is the lack of appointments to the Western Management Authority – and we realize the new Chair was just appointed.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the minister again: Now that the Chair has been announced, when will your government appoint a full complement of members to the Western Waste Management Authority?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Municipal Affairs.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. O'BRIEN: Soon.

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 almost lost that signal, it happened so fast.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS MICHAEL: Mr. Speaker, in early April the Nova Scotia government joined with a number of partners launching a public campaign in support of Irving Shipyard's bid for the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy. Also in early April, Mr. Speaker, the people of Marystown were flabbergasted when Kiewit said it was dropping out of the joint supply ships contract competition when it could have provided thirty years of work for the area.

It is this government's responsibility to plan for the long-term future of our Province, to ensure continued economic viability. Instead, Mr. Speaker, the Premier supported Kiewit's decision giving the lame excuse: Isn't it a wonderful thing that there is so much work going on in the Province that they can walk away from the contract.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Premier: Did government decide to change their position on the contract because of the campaign that the Nova Scotia government has taken leadership in, to get the federal contract?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, in my seven-and-a-half years in this House of Assembly I have been asked some offensive questions from time to time, but I do believe that one tops them all.

Mr. Speaker, we were involved with Kiewit over a number of years as they tried to advance their bid for that contract. Mr. Speaker, we were in negotiation, not over a million dollars or a couple of million dollars but tens and tens of millions of dollars of support to that shipyard so that they could win that contract. Mr. Speaker, they never, ever, indicated to us that they had a problem with capacity in terms of working on that bid. We heard it when everybody else heard it.

Mr. Speaker, you cannot address a problem that you do not know exists. We are disappointed that things turned out the way they did –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: - but, Mr. Speaker, we were fully supportive of this company, as her own former candidate –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

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

Mr. Speaker, the Premier knows the Marystown region has experienced a boom-and-bust economy for years because of a series of projects related primarily to oil development. The joint supply ships contract would have provided a potential thirty years of shipbuilding with enumerable economic spinoffs.

Mr. Speaker, prior to the announcement - and the Premier is right, I know what they have done - the government said it supported Kiewit's bidding on the contract, even offering to consider financial support for the graving dock needed in the Marystown shipyard. That is why, Mr. Speaker, I want the Premier to tell us, and to tell the public and the people in Marystown, why she did an about-face in supporting Kiewit in their decision.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, Kiewit is a private company that operates in this Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Mr. Speaker, we were so supportive of what Kiewit was doing around this contract that we were considering investing over $100 million – $100 million, Mr. Speaker – in a graving dock.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Now, Mr. Speaker, they never indicated to us that there was an issue in terms of capacity in being able to advance their bid.

We are very good here, as a government, and everybody in this Province attests to that, but we are not mind readers. We do not have a crystal ball. Companies have to share with us issues and challenges they have, if they want our assistance in bridging whatever the issue might be, Mr. Speaker.

Kiewit did not do that. We are disappointed, Mr. Speaker, but at the same time we are buoyed up that we do not rely just on one company to advance the economy in any part of the Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

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

Mr. Speaker, the Nova Scotia government managed to get a full partnership of strategic partners – industry, universities, the City of Halifax, you name it – in an aggressive marketing strategy to get the National Shipbuilding Procurement contracts which could provide them with the thirty years of work. In contrast, our government has sat back and did not have ongoing discussions with Kiewit, Mr. Speaker.

Why did this government not take the same kind of initiative that they have done over in Nova Scotia? I invite her to go onto the Web site and see how aggressive this marketing strategy is.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, while she was informing herself of the effort in Nova Scotia, it is too bad you did not take some time to inform yourself of the effort here.

There were weekly meetings with Kiewit, Mr. Speaker. We advanced that proposal at every opportunity with our federal counterparts, Mr. Speaker. We offered financial assistance to the company.

We heard nothing from members opposite. In fact, their leader wanted to delay the contract to allow Quebec shipyard to bid. That is what their federal leadership wanted to do, Mr. Speaker, and I do not remember hearing from you as we advanced the Kiewit proposal as well.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The time allotted for questions and answers has expired.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Before the Chair proceeds, the Chair would like to recognize a former Member of the House of Assembly. The hon. member served the District of Labrador West, I think, from 1996 to 1999. Perry Canning, welcome to the House of Assembly.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

Tabling of Documents.

Tabling of Documents

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

MR. KING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is indeed my pleasure to stand today as Minister Responsible for the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation and present our first progress report on a social housing plan for Newfoundland and Labrador.

Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Further 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 women in the Province who are asking the government to reduce the age for breast screening in Newfoundland and Labrador to age forty as opposed to the benchmark age of fifty that currently exists.

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

WHEREAS breast cancer is one of the most common cancers among Newfoundland and Labrador women, excluding non-melanoma skin cancer, with approximately 370 women to be diagnosed with breast cancer in Newfoundland and Labrador this year; and

WHEREAS we have one of the highest mortality rates from breast cancer and breast cancer in young women tends to be more aggressive; and

WHEREAS the benchmark for Newfoundland and Labrador's organized breast screening program is age fifty; and

WHEREAS women aged forty to forty-nine are not eligible to participate in Newfoundland and Labrador's organized breast screening program, while women aged forty to forty-nine are eligible in the provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Northwest Territories, and the Yukon; and

WHEREAS there is evidence that routine mammography screening of women in their forties can reduce mortality from breast cancer by at least 24 per cent, but Newfoundland and Labrador still does not allow women in that age group to self refer into their breast screening program;

WHEREUPON the undersigned, your petitioners, humbly pray and call upon the House of Assembly to urge the government to allow women aged forty to forty-nine to be eligible for breast screening and that breast screening begin at age forty and that all women be able to self refer through Newfoundland and Labrador's screening programs.

Mr. Speaker, these petitions are coming in from all over the Province. They are from women and families who have gone through breast cancer. They are from young women who were diagnosed at an early age. They are from people who have had experiences in our system with not being able to self refer in order to get mammograms and get testing done.

These petitions, Mr. Speaker, come out of the fact that they know that everywhere else in Canada, most provinces in Canada, including Ontario, have now committed to reduce the benchmark age for breast screening from age fifty to age forty. What women in this Province cannot understand is why the government opposite is not prepared to do this. Why the government opposite for the past year, Mr. Speaker, has had an opportunity to review every study and every bit of information out there that supports reducing the age for breast screening in this country, and why they have not acted on that to ensure there is a full program in Newfoundland and Labrador so that we can self refer and start getting checked at an earlier age in order to reduce the mortality rate associated with breast cancer.

Newfoundland and Labrador has one of the highest mortality rates due to breast cancer of any other part of the country. If there is a way we can bring that down, if there is a way we can save lives in Newfoundland and Labrador, why aren't we moving as a government to ensure that happens? Why are we not changing the benchmarks from age fifty to age forty? That is what these women are asking the government to do.

MR. SPEAKER: Further petitions?

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

MR. DEAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I am always pleased to be able to stand and present a petition on behalf of the residents of Newfoundland and Labrador. This one in particular pertains to people within my own district, but I am sure it affects other people as well.

In Newfoundland and Labrador we have a tradition of the outdoors, enjoying the outdoors and being able to take advantage of hunting wild game. Mr. Speaker, this one particularly speaks to the hunting season for ducks along the Northeast Coast of Newfoundland and Labrador. I will read the petition into the minutes. It says:

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

WHEREAS the people of the Northeast Coast feel that due to high winds and stormy seas during the months of December through February; and

WHEREAS during the last number of years we are unable to do little or no hunting during those months; and

WHEREAS there is an abundance of eider ducks in the last few years; and

WHEREAS eider ducks will not nest until mid-May;

WHEREUPON your petitioners call upon all members of the House of Assembly to urge government to extend the hunting of eider ducks until March 10 during these designated hunting seasons.

And as in duty bound your petitioners will ever pray.

Mr. Speaker, again, this may not seem earth shattering to all of the members of the House of Assembly but I am somewhat surprised at the number of signatures that are attached to this particular petition; several hundred, actually, who took the time to sign and many who are involved in the hunt itself.

Mr. Speaker, it has been a way of life, and being able to hunt wild game within the Province is something we have enjoyed for many generations. The greater concern for me in presenting this petition would be that people can participate in the hunt each year but, more importantly, understanding the sea conditions along the Northeast Coast, and the weather conditions, realizing that earlier in the year it certainly is very hazardous to take a small boat and try to go to traditional hunting places and locations along the Northeast Coast.

So, Mr. Speaker, I present that today on their behalf. I trust the House of Assembly will consider the part it can play in terms of having the season extended so they can continue to participate in the tradition as they always have.

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.

I would like to call from the Order Paper, Motion 4.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, as all members and people throughout the Province are aware, the positions of Chief Electoral Officer and Commissioner for Legislative Standards were held since 2007 by the late Paul Reynolds who sadly passed away on April 21. The Speaker, all party leaders, as well as a great many others in this Province, have paid tribute to Mr. Reynolds for his outstanding work in these vital positions throughout the past four years.

By resolution today, we are appointing a successor to Mr. Reynolds, in fact, an individual who worked very closely with Mr. Reynolds throughout his tenure and also with Mr. Reynolds' predecessors in the Chief Electoral office. Let me read the resolution into the record:

WHEREAS subsection 4(1) of the Elections Act, 1991 provides that the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer be filled by resolution of the House of Assembly; and

WHEREAS subsection 34(2) of the House of Assembly Act provides that a Commissioner for Legislative Standards be appointed by the House of Assembly on motion of the Premier following consultation with the Leader of the Official Opposition and representatives of other registered political parties having representation in the House of Assembly;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that Mr. Victor Powers be appointed Chief Electoral Officer and Commissioner for Legislative Standards.

Mr. Speaker, Victor Powers was born in St. John's where he attended Gonzaga Regional High School and Memorial University of Newfoundland, prior to attaining the certified general accountant designation in 1987. Mr. Powers has over thirty-three years of experience working in financial, auditing, and administrative roles with both the provincial and federal governments.

Mr. Speaker, for the last twelve years, he has been employed with the Chief Electoral office where he has held the positions of Assistant Chief Electoral Officer and Director of Election Finance. He is eminently qualified for the duties associated with these two important offices of the House of Assembly.

Mr. Speaker, let me describe briefly what these positions entail, particularly for those watching these proceedings. Firstly, the Chief Electoral Officer functions independently as an Officer of the House of Assembly in conducting fair and impartial provincial elections, as well as regulating the election finance provisions of political entities in accordance with the Elections Act, 1991.

Section 5 of the Elections Act, 1991 lays out the duties of Chief Electoral Officer, it reads as follows, "It is the duty of the Chief Electoral Officer (a) to exercise general direction and supervision over the administrative conduct of elections and to enforce on the part of election officers fairness, impartiality and compliance with this Act; (b) to issue to election officers those instructions that he or she considers necessary to ensure effective execution of this Act; and (c) to perform all other duties that are imposed on him or her by or under this Act."

Mr. Speaker, as we look forward to a general election in October, we recognize the importance of the work of the Chief Electoral Officer will do to ensure the fundamental democratic rights of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador are protected and the principles of fairness, impartiality, and compliance with the legislation are upheld. It will be a very busy year for the CEO but with twelve years of experience in that office, Mr. Powers will be hitting the ground running.

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Powers' second role is equally important. In 2007, in light of the recommendations of a report that our government commissioned of Mr. Justice Derek Green, operations of the House of Assembly were overhauled and measures were put in place to raise the standards of accountability to the highest level. Legislation was amended to give effect to the recommendations and the amendments included changing the name of this position from Commissioner of Members' Interests to Commissioner for Legislative Standards, as well as changing the nature of the role to promote greater accountability.

The Commissioner is an Officer of the House of Assembly and reports annually upon the affairs of the office to the Speaker of the Assembly who then presents the report to the House of Assembly. As well as the responsibilities under the House of Assembly Act and the House of Assembly Accountability, Integrity and Administration Act, the Commissioner is also responsible for hearing appeals of public office holders under the Conflict of Interest Act, 1995.

The responsibility entrusted to the Commissioner is significant. For example, all members of the House are required to file disclosure statements with the Commissioner identifying private interests, and the Commissioner must review those statements and make recommendations about measures for the member to take to ensure that there are no conflicts of interest. The Commissioner has the power to conduct inquiries regarding the conduct of members, and if members fail to comply, Mr. Speaker, the Commissioner has the power to recommend remedies that may range from reprimand, to restitution, to suspension, to removal from the seat.

Clearly, Mr. Speaker, the Commissioner has a critical role to play in ensuring the integrity and accountability of the House of Assembly, and it is therefore vital that we place an individual in this role who is committed to upholding the highest standards of accountability. The members of our caucus are confident that Mr. Powers is an ideal candidate for this role.

As the motion notes, Mr. Speaker, the House of Assembly Act specifies, in moving this motion the Premier must consult with the leaders of the other caucuses in the House, and this has been done, Mr. Speaker. We look forward to hearing their remarks as this debate on this motion proceeds.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

I appreciate an opportunity to have a few words with respect to this resolution. It was only a few years ago we went through the process, of course, when Mr. Reynolds was appointed, the late Mr. Reynolds. That became quite a heated debate, shall we say, in that case. It certainly was not a unanimously agreed to resolution. That is the purpose of such a debate, of course, is that all members have an opportunity to voice their concerns if they have any, or give their well wishes if that is where they feel that the appointment is appropriate.

Before that, of course, the former Chief Electoral Officer prior to - Mr. Reynolds again was in many respects controversial. Sometimes the appointee in and of itself, given what they did or did not do in life before, brings some open debate, shall we say, to that particular position, because it is central. The whole underpinnings of the system that we operate here in this Province, is based upon the Elections Act. Everybody who is involved – and I just do not mean MHAs who happen to be a by-product of the process. We are just the elected persons who get elected under the act, but everybody in the Province who has rights here, and particularly the right to vote, which is central to our democracy, are impacted by the person who holds that position. That is why it is ever so important that the person who fills that position must be absolutely unbiased; must be absolutely fair to everybody who is in the system, whether you are a voter or you are a candidate or you are an MHA; must be absolutely impartial and must be independent.

Now the word independent is extremely important as well, because we do not need someone as a Chief Electoral Officer who takes his or her direction from government. They are not the employee of government. The government of the day cannot tell that individual, you do this or you do that, or you apply the rules in a certain way. That is why it is so crucial that person have a backbone, be strong and be independent.

If there is ever any interference or even a perceived interference with the Chief Electoral Officer's doing his or her duty, that person has an obligation to see that it does not happen and that it is straightened out. Anyone who would try to infringe upon the independence of that position would be severely chastised and dealt with. That is how important that office is. We hear all kinds of stories from around the world where people do not have anything near democracy. We hear all kinds of stories from around the world what are so-called democracies are not in fact democracies, and the systems are perverted. We certainly do not need to go there.

Sir Winston Churchill said one time: I guess democracy is probably not the best form of government but it is the best we have figured out so far. That is a very true statement. Sure, there are going to be flaws from time to time but it is only thanks to such things as the Elections Act and having people who operate, administer and implement the Elections Act properly that we can have the system that we do have.

I have been around since 1999; I have had the benefit of dealing with four different Chief Electoral Officers. I have found all of them in the past to be absolutely fair, absolutely unbiased and absolutely independent. As I say, with respect to Mr. Reynolds, that was a very heated debate in that case. Personally, I voted for the resolution in favour of Mr. Reynolds. I did not know the gentleman at that time but I am a firm believer that you give everybody a fair shake. Unless you know what you are talking about and you know the facts, you do not discredit and you certainly do not question the credibility and integrity of someone if you do not know what you are talking about.

In that particular case I got to know the gentleman after, and I am pleased to say that I did. I got to know him in very unusual circumstances, not only because you deal with him in the course of your duty as a candidate, a nominee, and an MHA, of course, but I happened to run into him at the gym repeatedly. I found him to be a fine gentleman. He tried to get me golfing, but, of course, that was never possible. I just do not have the aptitude or the interest in that. I found him to be a great gentleman. In fact, I attended his wake, when he passed away here recently, and paid my respects to his family and his friends, and was pleased to do so. I found him to be a total, absolute gentleman.

With regard to the resolution here today, this person, Mr. Powers, is going to have an onerous responsibility. It is pretty complicated. We talk about it in terms of maybe one act, the Elections Act, and the Accountability Act being a second, for example, but it is pretty complex, as anyone knows who has been through the system, especially when you get into an actual election year. They might only happen once every four years under our fixed election strategy, but they are pretty complex, they are pretty detailed, and they are pretty busy.

Fortunately, we have seen a lot of changes in the Chief Electoral Office in the last number of years, in terms of the technology that has been made available. I know, for example, being a member of the Management Commission, with whom the Chief Electoral Officer deals when it comes Budget time and so on, that in the last number of years there have been some vast investments made. Needed investments, no doubt, probably not totally where we need to go, but there have certainly been extra resources provided so that it can be done properly. You cannot operate a first-class operation on a shoestring budget.

In a lot of cases we did not properly, previously, pay the due respect and provide the resources that we ought to have done as a government to see that office was operated. The Management Commission, I am pleased to say, through its works, has done good deeds when it comes to making those provisions available to the Chief Electoral Office in the last while, not only in technology, in equipment and so on, but in working resources, in having the extra bodies there that needed to be done, to providing training to all of the people who operate in an election – because it is massive. When you have forty-eight districts in this Province and everybody needs a DRO, a District Returning Officer, and there are assistants, and there are poll clerks, and places that need to be rented, for example, and there are special ballot offices that have to be set up, it is huge. It just does not happen. Albeit the main office is here in St. John's, when the election is on - and that is still, no doubt, the heartbeat of the election, here in St. John's - the bottom line is there are forty-eight other little heartbeats around this Province at that time, and that person has to be in control of it all, and it has to be fair in all of them. If it is unfair in either one of the forty-eight districts when that person is in charge of an election, he compromises the whole system. So there is a lot of work involved there.

I am pleased to see as well in recent years in terms, I guess, again of the resources, that the Chief Electoral Officer has the provisions. If someone who is running, for example, needs advice, what do I do? How do I go about it? What do I need to sign? How do I get organized? Where can I go or not go? How do I get access to a voters list? That kind of stuff needs to be made readily available, within the law of what the Chief Electoral Office can do. If it is available and it is proper to give it out, that information needs to be provided in a timely fashion. Otherwise, again, the system is compromised and not working to the best of its ability.

One other comment, Mr. Speaker, in regard to organization, is with regard to the special ballot process. Now, for anyone who has been involved in the system or aware of the act, the special ballots will start in advance, for example, of the election that is actually coming up in the fall. I am very pleased to see that the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer has made available to people, particularly in rural Newfoundland, access to vote by way of special ballot, which they did in the election of 2007. I use my own district as an example. If you did not go through the mailing system which existed previously, if you had to go through that - that was the only way of doing it prior to 2007 - it just was not fair to all forty-eight districts in the same way. For example, if someone who was running in St. John's South had a constituent who wanted to vote by special ballot, all he or she had to do was make sure that the voter got delivered to the Chief Electoral Office in St. John's, a pretty simple process in terms of delivery of the voter into the system to get it done.

That is pretty tough to do if you live in Grey River or if you live in Ramea or you live in Burgeo and you do not have access to the office here in St. John's and you have to go through this complicated mailing system. There were questions about: Was it done properly? Who oversaw it? Who could you trust to administer it, for example?

I know in the last election - there was only one before, and even then the system was more complicated, but the DRO, for example, in my district in Port aux Basques, she can look after everything in that area from Rose Blanche, Burnt Islands, Isle aux Morts, Cape Ray, Port aux Basques, Margaree, everybody can easily access within a drive's distance if they want to get a special ballot done. In addition to that - hats off and kudos to the system - they put one in Ramea; 600 voters absolutely on an island and isolated, but now, because of a special ballot office, they have access to the same privileges and opportunities that a voter would have who lives on MacDonald Drive here in St. John's; likewise in Burgeo.

It was great to see, because it is no good to have a system if we do not make the system accessible to the people. We talk about voter turnouts becoming less and less. Sometimes we say it is apathy, and usually that might be the case, but also access to the system is so important. The more access we allow people – because it is no point to try to get people energized and encourage them to take part in the electoral process if we do not make it accessible and easily accessible to them, Mr. Speaker. So, that is great to see.

It always does not work proper, and I am sure every MHA here in this House has probably had some incident during an election that they wished they never had encountered and wished could be avoided. I am going to relate one here. There are several incidents I have had. I am not going to get into it in the public domain with regard to individuals or whatever. Any discussions I need or wish to have in that regard, I will take to the Commissioner and to the Chief Electoral Officer, and I think that is the appropriate way to deal with it.

There was one incident that sometimes the act causes the problem. I will give you an example and maybe some other members here have run into this. Back in 1999 when I first ran, I set up an office, what they call your headquarters, on Main Street in Port aux Basques. The election is usually, of course, twenty-one days of duration. So, you had your headquarters all set up, everybody was working out of there; it was the beehive of activity.

Twenty-four hours before the vote started on February 9, 1999 I was contacted and told that I had to shut down and move my headquarters – twenty-four hours before. The reason being, after I had opened my headquarters and started and was campaigning for a couple of weeks, the Chief Electoral office - no doubt, nobody had bad intentions or anything, but they needed a polling spot for voting day. One of the polling places they picked was directly across the street in the senior citizens' club from where my headquarters was.

Now, I am sure nobody did that intentionally but the bottom line is once the Chief Electoral office made that decision to put a polling booth out there and the Elections Act clicked into place, there is a section in it which says the candidates could not have headquarters or paraphernalia within so many feet. I think that was a case that was absolutely unnecessary and should not have happened. Anybody knows how important your headquarters are to your election, yet here you are told twenty-four hours before voting day: Shut her down, move all your stuff. Your telephones are hooked up there, your staff are all there, your computers are all hooked up there, and you had to shut her down and move it out. You were not the cause of the problem, the problem came about because that place was chosen as a polling station. Now, we worked through it, no doubt, and won the election, it did not impact anything. We did not have all the telephones hooked up like we wanted to and cellphones were not as available back then as they are today, but we got through it.

That is just an example, sometimes, of how the Chief Electoral office and the candidates, when it comes to an election, need to work co-operatively to make sure that kind of unintended consequence does not happen. By the way, it is great to have a good relationship with the Chief Electoral office in order to do that. It is not a case of calling up and getting snarky or upset because you did this and you should not have done that. That is not the way it should be dealt with, but you need also to know, albeit you are going to have comply with certain rules if you are a voter, an elector, a candidate – you are going to have to do that – there has got to be co-operation coming back as well. I found, in my experience, that no matter who I dealt with over there, I have always had that experience.

I am not sure, I do believe Mr. Powers was there when I first ran in February of 1999. According to what the Premier says, he had twelve years' experience, so that might have been back about the time when he started, and I do seem to recall that I dealt with him during 1999, 2003, and 2007. Of course, you have to file your financial papers at the end of the day. In addition to being a candidate and filing your nomination papers, you have to file your member's interest statements and everything annually as well, disclose whatever you have to that Commissioner of Legislative Standards, and he puts out a public document saying what you do or do not have within certain restrictions of what he feels is appropriate, and it gets posted for the public to see.

So, it is very important that that person who fills that position, that every member here, and not only every member here, every candidate who wants to get involved in the electoral process and every voter who wants to vote, should have the comfort of knowing you can call the Chief Electoral Officer's office and get what you need done to allow you to partake properly in the electoral process. So far, I am pleased to see that I have been accorded nothing by fair treatment and respect whenever I have had to deal with the Chief Electoral office.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I guess you can gather from all that, this member is certainly going to be voting in favour of the appointment of Mr. Victor Powers as the Chief Electoral Officer and Commissioner of Legislative Standards for the Province. I would not want to have to do what he has to do within the next six months. He is going to have a busy time on his hands, he is going to have to hire a lot of people, and a lot of training has to be done, this being an election year in October.

Mr. Speaker, in conclusion, I just simply say with regard to this particular individual, I know him. I have worked with him to some extent in the electoral process. I am pleased to see that he has gone from working his way up the ranks to become the top honcho there, as he should be. Based upon his experience, based upon his training, based upon from what I understand he has treated every person who has ever had to deal with him, and most of my experience comes from MHAs who have dealt with him over the years, he has been nothing but fair. He has treated them with respect and he is absolutely impartial when it comes to the political process. He does not wear any colours. He is colour-blind when it comes to putting the rules in place, no matter who you are.

Mr. Speaker, based on that, I am pleased to say and happy to endorse the appointment of Mr. Powers in that position.

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 am happy to be able to stand and speak to the resolution concerning the appointment of Mr. Victor Powers as the Chief Electoral Officer and Commissioner for Legislative Standards.

I do have some points I would like to make. Before making those points I want to say, first of all, that I am very pleased to support this resolution and to support Mr. Powers taking up both of these positions. I know him over the last five years as a person who is totally committed in his work. Because, of course, he was the Assistant Chief Electoral Officer, assistant to Mr. Paul Reynolds whom we recognize here today, and he was the Director of Election Finances. In that role, every time we had to meet with the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer, Mr. Powers would always accompany Mr. Reynolds, whether they were budget discussions or other discussions that we may have had. I certainly came to know him during those years.

I also came to know him because of his availability to the political parties around elections. There were times Mr. Powers came and gave training to volunteers in our party who were going to be involved in elections to make sure they understood all the intricacies of running a campaign, especially from the financial perspective. He was always available and gave excellent presentations that I sat at and showed his knowledge to be impeccable actually, Mr. Speaker. When I had been at the sessions that I have sat in on, I have been impressed with the very clear way in which he explains things to people and the very logical way in which he does explain the whole process. I have to say he has impressed me; impressed me also with his commitment to democracy itself and the whole democratic right to elect, and his desire to make sure the process of elections is accessible to everybody and accessible in every possible way one can mean that.

The Opposition House Leader made some reference to those things, the way in which we have to make sure everybody's right to vote is honoured and that things operate in such a way that the whole system facilitates, maximizes the potential for people to be able to vote. That whole principle around our elections is something that I have seen over the last six years. It is something that Mr. Powers is really committed to.

I am delighted to see government announce somebody who has the experience that he has. It is extremely important right now of course with the election coming in October that the person who is filling this position is somebody who has a lot of experience and who knows the system inside out, as Mr. Vic Powers does. It is not only because of convenience that I think he should have this role, I think it is also because of the way in which he has exercised his responsibilities over the years that I have seen him and I think over all of his years as the CEO, the way in which he understands the roles and the way in which he has conducted himself. Both for those reasons and for the reason of making sure this is a smooth transition right now because of an election coming up. I think he really is the best candidate that we should have.

I do want to make one reference to the whole thing of consultation. I want to thank the House Leader because she did call on behalf of the Premier, when the government made the decision that Mr. Powers was going to be their appointee, to inform me - I think she also did the same with the Opposition Leader - of the government's decision. I was very, very happy to say that I was really pleased with the decision.

Government's understanding of consultation is strange, Mr. Speaker. I actually believe - and this is no statement about the moment, that is why I spoke about Mr. Powers' appointment first. I actually believe there should be an all-party body that gets together and looks at who is going to fill some of these positions where government has to consult. I think that is the spirit of the consulting, that we all sit together and actually look at the possibilities, and make sure that this position - and there are a couple of others like it in the Legislature - the appointment is made in a totally complete non-partisan way. I think that is essential to this position.

In this case, if I had been able to sit down with the Premier and with the Opposition Leader and look at a person that I would want to see fill the position, the person I would have wanted to see is Mr. Powers. I am not speaking to the current moment. I am delighted with this appointment. I do put that out to government to think about the way in which the consultation happens. What exactly does it mean to say there is consultation? I actually think it does mean that there should be real consultation so that it is totally a non-partisan appointment.

Having said that, Mr. Speaker, I will not take anymore time, I do not think there is any need to. I just wish Mr. Powers well and to let him know he certainly has my support for the gruelling five months or so he has ahead of him and for his work after that. I will always try to find a way, as the Leader of the Third Party here in this House, to listen to his voice when it comes to the needs of the office that he is now going to head up and to facilitate his work and the work of his staff.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

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

MS BURKE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am just closing the debate or the discussion on our motion today. Mr. Speaker, it is very reassuring to know that all parties support the selection of Mr. Vic Powers as our Chief Electoral Officer. It is certainly noteworthy that he has a very important job, particularly this year as we move into the general election in the fall.

So, Mr. Speaker, I just want to indicate how pleased we are that we have full endorsement of our new Chief Electoral Officer from this House of Assembly.

MR. SPEAKER: Is the House ready for the question?

The motion is that Mr. Victor Powers be appointed Chief Electoral Officer and Commissioner for Legislative Standards.

All those in favour of the motion, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

The motion is carried unanimously.

I am sure I speak on behalf of everybody in the House of Assembly today to say congratulations to Mr. Victor Powers who is present in the gallery.

Congratulations.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS BURKE: Thank you.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to call Order 1.

With that, I move, seconded by the hon. Minister of Transportation and Works, that the House resolve itself into Committee of Supply to debate the Estimates of Executive Council, the Legislature and the Consolidated Revenue Fund.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that this House now resolve itself into a Committee of Supply and that I do now leave the Chair.

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

The motion is carried.

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

Committee of the Whole

CHAIR (T. Osborne): Order, please!

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MS BURKE: Mr. Chair, we will call the Estimates for Executive Council, Legislature and the Consolidated Revenue Fund.

CHAIR: The Committee are now considering the Legislature, Consolidated Fund Services and Executive Council.

CLERK: Clause 1.

CHAIR: Shall clause 1 carry?

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

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

MR. MARSHALL: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

It is my duty today to speak to the Estimates that are being heard in Committee of the Whole House. Members might recall that on Budget Day it was the duty of the Minister of Finance on that day to distribute the Estimates, which is a list of the spending that the government is going to do. Because we cannot do any spending, governments cannot appropriate any money unless it is approved by the elected representatives of the people in this House, and the detailed Estimates are referred to the members. Under Standing Orders, I believe, the Estimates are referred to a number of committees, three committees in fact. On that same day, on Budget Day, we moved a resolution that this House support, in general, the budgetary policy of the government, that is the Budget debate and we have had that debate.

The three committees have met from time to time. Every minister of every department and the ministers' officials have attended these committee meetings and have sat - some of them have been held here in this House. The minister and all of his supporting staff sit next to the minister. The members of the committee, members of the Opposition and members of the government as well who are members of the various committees have an opportunity to question in detail not only the minister but also the officials as to the Estimates, as to the detailed spending in a particular department under a particular head.

Then we have what is called a Concurrence debate when the reports of the committees are brought into the House. There were three committees as I said. We had a Concurrence debate where the House voted a resolution as to whether it concurred with the report that came from the committees. We have done that for all three committees. There are parts of the Estimates that we do not do in Committee; we do it here in this House in what is called a Committee of the Whole. That is what we are doing here today.

There is a great little booklet that has been put out by the officials here in the House of Assembly which gives a great explanation of the Budget and the related proceedings in the House of Assembly. I would encourage members to take a look at this booklet. I would hope that the booklet would be mailed out to the people of the Province so they would have a better idea of the Budget process.

Most people, they think the Budget process is when the Minister of Finance gets up and reads the Budget Speech. There is a lot more to it than that. There is the Budget debate which is the resolution that the members of the House support the budgetary policy of the government. That is moved by the minister, and the Opposition then moves an amendment which is, in effect, a non-confidence motion. It is an amendment to the effect that the House does not support the budgetary policy of the government. Then the Opposition usually moves a sub-amendment to the amendment. That gives the government members the opportunity to speak more than once. All members can speak on the motion, on the resolution, and then by the amendment, all members get a chance to speak on the resolution and all members get a chance to speak on the subcommittee. So, we have had that. We also have the main supply bill, which is a vote that will take place after we finish this particular Estimates proceeding.

As I said earlier, there are some heads of expenditure that are not sent to committee and we deal with them here, and that is what we are doing today. You have heard a few minutes ago the officials said that the matters to be heard today were the expenditures of the Legislature, the expenditures of the Consolidated Fund Services, which is the borrowing expenses of the government, and the Executive Council. The Executive Council is the one that will pique members' interest because the Executive Council consists of a number of different divisions that are major players, if I can use those words, in the context of public life in this Province.

The first thing will be the Lieutenant Governor's Establishment. There are the Estimates of Government House, that is $759,000. There are listed in the Estimates: the Salaries; the Employee Benefits; Transportation and Communications cost; Supplies; Purchased Services; and Property, Furnishings and Equipment. They total $759,000, and some hon. members may have some questions.

We have the budget from 2010-2011, that is last year, and we have the revised figures, they are the figures at the end of the year, the actual figures. For example, in budget 2010-2011, the budget amount for Government House was $704,500, and that amount of money was approved by the MHAs in this particular House last year, but at the end of the year the actual amount spent was a little more than that, it was $737,400. Now, the members may have some questions about the differences. For example, last year's budget, the amount of salaries was $611,000, and this year it has gone up to $635,600, and people will wonder: Well, why is there an increase? The answer, of course, is that people may recall that the government gave its employees a substantial wage increase during the last collective bargaining, which was 8 per cent, four, four, and four. That is a 20 per cent raise, and the increase is the 4 per cent that is coming into effect this year.

After the Lieutenant Governor's Establishment, we are going to deal with the Office of the Executive Council, and the big one there is the Office of the Premier. The Premier's Office is about $2 million in the Estimates. It consists of Salaries, Employee Benefits, Transportation and Communications, Supplies that are purchased, Purchased Services, Property, Furnishings and Equipment, and Allowances and Assistance. I am sure that members opposite will have some questions there.

In addition to that, there is the Cabinet Secretariat. This is the executive support for the Premier's Office. It is executive support for Cabinet and the committees of Cabinet. There is the Economic Policy Committee of Cabinet, there is the Social Policy Committee of Cabinet, and there is Treasury Board. There is also a committee on appointments and routine proceedings, and there is the priorities and policy committee of Cabinet. Cabinet Secretariat provides executive support to support those committees in Cabinet.

In addition, under head 2.2.02, we have something called Planning and Coordination, $538,000, and that is the Transparency and Accountability Office which is set up under the Transparency and Accountability Act.

The next head is 2.2.03, which is Provincial Government Programs Office. That is an office that was set up under the leadership of a deputy minister in the government to take a look at government programs, to ensure that we are actually getting value for the money that is being spent, to make sure we are getting bang for our buck, and to make sure the programs are providing the outcomes that are intended. Sometimes a program is put into place and it is there for many, many years. It is important that we go back and look at these programs. Some of them may have outlived their time or outlived their usefulness, or maybe it would be simply better to cancel that program, take that money and do a program that would have a higher priority to the people of the Province and be more important to the people of the Province.

The next head is Economic and Social Policy Analysis. This is appropriations of $855,000 for "planning support through analysis and advice on future directions in economic and social policy matters for the Economic and Social Policy Committees of Cabinet."

Then there is a relatively new office that was established, it is the Office of Climate Change, Energy Efficiency and Emissions Trading. That has a budget of almost $1.4 million. It is allocations, estimates to "provide for the operating costs of an Office to provide policy development and analysis on climate change…" We all know the effect that climate change is having on the world and indeed, having on this particular Province. Climate change is certainly real and it is something that we have to be ready for.

I could not help but notice yesterday some of the remarks of the retiring Auditor General of Canada, Sheila Fraser. She talked about some things that were of concern to her. She mentioned the aging demographics, the fact that the population of Canada was aging. In Newfoundland and Labrador, our population is certainly aging as well, and it is also shifting. We are seeing a lot of movement of our population towards the communities that are on the Trans-Canada Highway. We are also seeing a shifting of people into the Eastern part of the Province. As our population ages, we are seeing people move to the Eastern part of the Province or move to areas where there are health facilities. Many, of course, are moving to where their children are, where their children have found jobs and whatnot.

The Office of Climate Change was established in 2009. It is a central agency within the Executive Council. It acts as the lead for the government, to work with the federal government, to work with other provinces, to work with industry and other stakeholders on policy matters that relate to climate change and relate to energy efficiency, which is very important, and relate to emissions trading. The office is responsible for three lines of business relevant to its mandate, which includes: policy and strategic advice, strengthening the evidence base, and interdepartmental collaboration.

Mr. Chair, our government believes that climate change is one of the greatest long-term challenges that are facing this planet, and one that presents both opportunities and potential impacts for jurisdictions such as this one in Newfoundland and Labrador. There is strong and indisputable evidence that climate change is happening and that it is mainly caused by humans. It is mainly caused by human activity. If left unchecked, climate change could result in sea level rising, coastal erosion, more intense weather systems and storm surges, which we have been seeing in the last number of years, and increased frequency of floods. These impacts will affect all of us. It will affect our wildlife; it will affect the marine environment, our communities and our economies as well.

Recently, in the City of Corner Brook, at the convocation ceremony for the Grenfell campus of Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador, they issued an honorary degree to Mr. Stephen Lewis, who was a former Leader of the New Democratic Party in the Province of Ontario. He served in the Ontario Legislature for many years. He has since done work - I think he was Canada's Ambassador to the United Nations since leaving that position. He has done work for the United Nations internationally in Africa. He has done major work with AIDS, and he gave an inspiring address to the graduates at Grenfell. A very inspiring address in which he said if he had to live his life over again, he would have done it in the field of environmental studies and environmental science because it is his belief that between 2030 - were the words he used - and 2050 he felt that there was going to be a catalytic change going to happen in the world and probably is something that is going to happen and there is nothing we can do to prevent it. Needless to say, it certainly caught my attention and the attention of everyone else in the room. It was inspiring to hear this man speak.

The Office of Climate Change was established in recognition of the increased importance of these climate change issues. The fact that leadership is needed to integrate the issues into the work of government and that the issues are cross-cutting in nature. Climate change is not an environmental challenge, it is equally an economic and social one that can impact the Province and all our people and can present opportunities for clean energy development, job growth, and applications of innovative technologies. The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador is committed to respond to climate change and to promote energy efficiency to ensure that this Province is indeed a model of economic and environmental sustainability.

Mr. Chair, in addition to that office, there is also the Protocol office, there is Public Service Development which is an awards office. There is Intergovernmental Affairs which was dealt with in one of the committees. There is the Public Service Secretariat which provides human resource advice to the government and to Treasury Board. There is Research & Development Corporation and these were done in committee.

What we are going to do here today is Government House, the Premier's Office, Cabinet Secretariat, the Transparency and Accountability Office, the Provincial Government Programs, Economic and Social Policy, the Office of Climate Change, Protocol, Public Service Development, Communications and Consultations, Financial Administration, Strategic Human Resource Management, the Public Service Secretariat, and the Consolidated Fund Service. I understand it is possibly a money bill, so we may have an interesting debate on many other things that happen today.

I believe my time is up –

CHAIR: It is.

MR. MARSHALL: -and I will sit down. I understand members are going to speak; everyone gets ten minutes or so to speak, so we will have an interesting discussion today, I am sure.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

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

MR. DEAN: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

It is always an honour to be able to stand in this sitting and speak again. The Estimates, as the minister has already stated, is basically approval for funding or for spending that is referred to Committee stage. I have enjoyed, actually, going through the Estimates this past two years.

The day after Budget day the process this year began. I must say, it came right out of the chute sort of thing, the Budget was delivered on an afternoon, on a Tuesday afternoon I believe it was, and the very next morning we were in an Estimates Committee; I believe with Municipal Affairs we started that morning. So, there is a lot of preparation work to be done by research staff and by ourselves as MHAs in the Opposition, in particular, to come in for that two, three-hour period of time, whatever it would take to go through a department and to scrutinize the different line items and the spending of all the different categories within that particular department, and to interact with the minister and the staff in terms of the differences in spending for the previous year, compared to what the Budget has been. Also, to look at where that is expected to go going forward into the next year. So, it is a very useful exercise, and one, certainly, that for myself as an Opposition MHA and just as an MHA in general, that I enjoy being able to participate in that particular process.

When you look at the numbers, Mr. Chair, and you get into the line items and we realize that we have $8 billion to spend, or approximately, in our Budget this year, and when you get in and break it down into departments, and you get into the department and you further break it down into departments within the department, if you will, and you look at different sections of a department, different programs within a department, the resources that it takes financially to make it work, then obviously, the numbers are very significant. I certainly would agree with what the Minister of Finance just said, in terms of reviewing the items and going through that process of critiquing and scrutinizing different things. Are we doing things in departments that have outlived its usefulness? Are we doing things in ways today simply because it is the way we always did them? Tradition is great, but tradition in any setting can certainly, at times, cause us to become somewhat complacent in what we are doing, and believe that because it is has always been done that way, that is the way it needs to continue or whatever. I believe this is one of the things that in the exercise of going through Estimates, that we certainly can go through to ask whether it really is necessary, is there a better way to do it, and is there really any need to do it at all?

As a new MHA, as someone who has a background around numbers. Budgets are familiar to me; I have seen them for many years. One of the things that intrigue me about the budgets of government is that within a department and within the branches of that department there are plenty of places to hide numbers if you want to hide it so to speak. Not hiding intentionally, necessarily, but really a lot of places where you can ask whether the spending is necessary.

As we look at the Executive Council here this afternoon for a few moments in this particular type of setting, as the minister has introduced there; again, significant spending. It is very necessary obviously, but some items I would question, which would play from my perspective as to why the increases. There is just one item really within the Premier's Office, Mr. Chair. I would not be one to suggest that the numbers are extravagant or anything by any means.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

CHAIR: Order, please!

MR. DEAN: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

We were able to realize $100,000 saving last year in Transportation and Communications for some reason, but going forward into this year we are going to carry the same figure forward. I wonder if the Minister of Finance could probably speak to that in his remarks a little later in terms of why we were able to make a saving and not able to feel that we could realize that saving moving forward. It is approximately 30 per cent of the budget for that particular line item. If we were able to save 30 per cent on that particular line item last year, then the very obvious question is can we do it next year? Is there a reason why we did it last year that does not allow us to do it this year, whatever the case might be, on one particular item?

Mr. Chair, those are the kinds of items in terms of budgeting and controlling expenditures. When it comes to things such as Transportation and Communications, purchasing supplies, those are the items that are very easy to go off course, so to speak. These are the items that are very easy to load things into and they can really get out of hand. If we can get through twelve months and whether there is an invoice outstanding for that, I assume it would not be anything like that, but if we can get through twelve months at 30 per cent less then I would just ask why we need to revert to the budgeted figure rather than the revised figure in this particular year going forward.

Mr. Chair, that is pretty much all I see in that particular line item or section 2.1.02. Then again, when we get into 2.2.03 and we look at the Provincial Government Programs Office and again, just one item there that is kind of a similar reflection but yet a greater number, and that is in the Professional Services of line 05. We had a budget there of $200,000 and when we finished our year we revised it down to $34,000 and going forward into this year we carry it back again to the same figure of $200,000. There is a difference of $166,000 in that particular line item, and there is a difference of $100,000 on Transportation and Communications in the Premier's Office. Of course, if you add just these two line items together alone, then suddenly you have a quarter of a million dollars in savings I will call it, in 2010-2011; yet, going into 2011-2012 we want to take those numbers back to where they were. We realize a quarter of a million dollar savings on two lines, but going forward we feel we cannot take those savings forward with us and so we need to take our numbers back up to where they were again.

Again, I just ask these questions, not to question for the sake of questioning but in our day of tight budgets and all the program needs that are out there and all the requests that come in from our different districts, whether it is for student programming, whether it is through Municipal Affairs projects, whether it is through many other things that come in, certainly all of these items, if they were available in the Budget, if these were things that do not necessarily need to be done, then obviously these are things that we can see some great savings in.

In section 2.2.04 Economic and Social Policy Analysis; again, we have a couple of areas in there. The biggest item would be salaries. We were $90,000-odd, roughly $91,000 I believe it would be, off our budget, less than what our budget was. That is 2.2.04 Economic and Social Policy Analysis. Again, we have increased the budget, not only from what the revised was last year but we have also increased it from what the budget had been last year as well. I realize some of those items could be the case of a position that was not filled or whatever the case is, I guess then it would beg the argument of whether it is really necessary or not. I ask the minister if he could speak to that as well.

The other item I would like to speak to, Mr. Chair, in my first few moments that I have to speak here this afternoon is in item 2.2.05. The minister said this is a relatively new office, the Office of Climate Change, Energy Efficiency and Emissions Trading. While I am all for the protection of our environment and so on, Mr. Chair, and all that we can do to understand climate change and efficiencies and so on –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

CHAIR: Order, please!

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

MR. DEAN: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

It is a little hard to hear when so many people get talking as you are trying to speak.

Mr. Chair, that whole office in itself is one that, as the minister said, is relatively new. I do not know if it is necessarily an office that needs to be, so to speak. I am not saying the work it is doing does not need to be done. When we consider ourselves, the number of people who are in our Province, and the impact we have on climate globally, I am not certain that it needs to be pegged out. It becomes that priority of ours. I guess that is a debate, obviously, that can be had if that becomes such a priority that we establish a new office.

I do not know if this is the first year for it or not, last year, Mr. Chair, but we have gone from $1 million budget, we actually used less than $900,000, and going forward we have increased our budget to $1.3 million. Again, when you look at big budgets and you have large numbers, it is easy to set things up. It is easy to create new offices. It is easy to establish new departments and so on.

Underneath all of that, Mr. Chair, what I see especially are the needs that are coming in and the requests in districts like mine. Every other district I am sure around the Province is no different. Small communities are trying to diversify. They are looking for money for water and sewer within their own towns. Mr. Chair, I have a community on the Northern Peninsula, for example, and I am sure it is only one of many. Anchor Point basically has a water supply and sewer supply that are almost flowing in together. Those kinds of items are the things that are really important to me.

Again, I question: How much do we put behind something like this and how far do we take it? How necessary is it in terms of where we are, in terms of the global perspective, the number of people we have, and the real impact we can make on climate change anyway? I am not saying it is not important, but establishing a new office and spending that kind of money, for me personally I would wonder whether that is the best way that we can go and the best bang for our buck so to speak.

Mr. Chair, these are some of the comments on this particular piece. I will end there in terms of the line items, but just to say again that I feel that this is a very important process that we have gone through in the Estimates. The input, I believe there is great value to it. The process is good and I do not know where it developed or how it developed but it is a good thing, to be able to go through these items here this afternoon. I will get a chance to speak again a little later and I will come back and ask the minister some more questions.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

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

MR. MARSHALL: Yes, I would just like to get the procedure down. I take it I now respond to the questions that the hon. member has asked for ten minutes and then other speakers will speak? Is that –

CHAIR: The House is free to speak on either side.

MR. MARSHALL: Okay, well I will be happy to take – I understand I can take ten minutes?

CHAIR: Absolutely.

MR. MARSHALL: I want to thank the hon. member for his comments and his questions. He reminded me that my thoughts – and I have heard the Opposition House Leader talk about this from time to time and he is right. When we do the Committees in Committee meetings, they are not televised. There is a transcript taken of everything that is said, it is all written down and it is published. Hon. members and the people of the Province are entitled to read the transcripts of what is said.

It is not televised and maybe because of that the meetings are quite different from what we do in the House of Assembly. The meetings are quite civil. As I said the ministers are here with their officials and the Opposition ask questions – reasonable questions, questions that the people are entitled to have an answer to. Government on this side answers the questions and we do good work.

We have taken on that approach here today. I think if the debate that happens this afternoon is similar to the debate that we just heard from the hon. member for The Strait of Belle Isle, then I think the people of the Province will be pleased to see that we do not revert to a lot of ranting and roaring as has been customary in the past. We will see what happens as the afternoon wears on.

I should also mention that there are certain parts of Executive Council which we have done in Committees and that included the Intergovernmental Affairs Secretariat, the Volunteer and Non-Profit Secretariat, the Rural Secretariat, the Women's Policy Office, the Newfoundland and Labrador Research and Development Corporation and the Office of the Chief Information Officer.

Now, I would like to take the time I have remaining to deal with the questions that the hon. member asked. I think the first question was from the Premier's Office and he questioned about the Transportation heading in the Premier's Office. In last year's budget the amount was $296,700 but only $195,000 was spent at year's end. The budgeted amount for the coming year is the same as it was budgeted last year, $296,700.

The reason for the drop from $296,700 to $195,000 was simply that it is lower by $101,000, $102,000 because of the fact that the actual travel was less than had been anticipated for the year. We had Premier Williams, the current Premier, and members of their staff travel, of course, to meetings in Ottawa and to different places throughout the world, and obviously places throughout the Province. During the past year 2010-2011, there was simply less travel than anticipated by the tune of $102,000.

For next year, it is anticipated the normal expenditures will take place again. That is why the amount of $296,700, which I believe is the amount that it has been for the past number of years, is back into the budget.

Mr. Chair, the next question I believe was in the – maybe the hon. member will remind me. The next question had to do with heading 2.2.03 or 04?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. MARSHALL: Government Programs Office. That is an office that has been established within the Cabinet Secretariat as I talked about earlier. It was established in 2009 to try to build in government an evaluative management culture across government departments. It had a primary role to focus department's efforts to improve efficiency and effectiveness of programs. As I said earlier, we have a number of programs in government, they were put in effect many years ago and they are pretty well forgotten about. The idea is to provide support to government departments to help them do an evaluation of the programs they are offering, to make sure that we are getting value for the people's money that is being spent and to make sure we are getting the outcomes that are desired.

We have, as a government, strived to improve transparency and accountability through the Transparency and Accountability Act, to the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act. To further our accountability to the taxpayers, we have to be able to demonstrate as well that the policies and programs that we are delivering are, in fact, making a difference, they are still relevant, they are still effective and that they are efficient. As I have said many times in this House, it is not our money we are spending here, it is the people's money and we have an obligation to them, all of us, to ensure that the money is being spent very wisely.

I think the hon. member asked about Professional Services. In revised 2010, the budget included $100,000 for work relating to an evaluation framework for the Poverty Reduction Strategy. Only two contracts relating to the PRS were completed as of March 31. The remaining $100,000 represents a contingency block to assist departments as needed with program evaluation. The Provincial Government Programs Office in consultation with the Voluntary and Non-Profit Secretariat has entered into a contract for $6,500 with the Community Sector Council to explore the feasibility of piloting a social return on investment analysis with select community groups. Any other evaluation done in consultation with government departments were funded through existing departmental funding. For next year, it is unchanged from last year's budget as this will reflect anticipated expenditures in this area. So the $200,000 budget from last year will continue.

Then I was a bit surprised, I must say, to hear the hon. member's comments with respect to the Office of Climate Change. I have to say I disagree; I was surprised at your comments that you did not see the – I wrote them down. You are not certain that the office was needed and you wondered if this was the way to go. We feel differently. We feel that climate change is real and it is having a big impact on our world, our environment, our economies, and that we have to deal with it.

In terms of the amount of the budget, I would even like to see that we invest more in that particular area. We are already seeing it with storms like Igor and Earl and the damage that it is doing, the potential damages with our coastal area. We have to get a jump on this and I think we have to try to be leaders in this country in dealing with climate change because it is not going away.

Again, I mentioned the Stephen Lewis address at Memorial University in Corner Brook. I mentioned the Auditor General of Canada who gave a warning as she retired. She gave a warning on climate change. She was worried, as I said, about the aging demographic but she was also very much worried about climate change and the effect it was going to have on our country.

With respect to Professional Services, for the Revised we had savings this year and it was due to delays in the request for proposals process. There were four major studies commenced in 2010-2011 and they will be concluded in 2011-2012. Of course, they will be made publicly available when they are finalized.

There is a study to identify the economic development opportunities that are associated with a green economy for Newfoundland and Labrador. This study is cost shared 50-50 with the Department of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development. There is a study of climate change monitoring capabilities. There is a study to understand best practices for enhancing energy efficiency programming. There is a study to recommend methodologies to forecast and measure outcomes of initiatives, to promote energy efficiency, and to reduce greenhouse gas effects. This work is very complex. It often requires specialized competencies and specialized skill sets.

Among the four major studies, one was managed and led by a local consultant; two are being led by out of Province consultants with a local partner. This allows us to build local capacity and to build expertise in the area. The fourth consultant is conducting a review of statistical energy and econometric models. In this case Finance, Natural Resources, and the utilities are participating to build in-house expertise in government and the utilities. For this particular year, there is a $250,000 increase to develop a communications campaign to raise awareness of climate change and energy efficiency. Further work to develop the evidence base that is necessary to support informed decision-making on climate change and energy efficiency will be undertaken as necessary.

I think it might be a good idea, for the benefit of the hon. member and the Opposition, if maybe the head of the Office of Climate Change, Energy Efficiency and Emissions Trading could provide a briefing to the Opposition to give you an indication of the very good work and the important work that office is doing and the benefits it will provide to this Province, not only in our environment but the economy and the social effects it is going to have as well.

CHAIR: Order, please!

MR. MARSHALL: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

CHAIR: The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

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

I appreciate an opportunity to have a few words today in the continuing, shall we say, Estimates debate. We have done all of the government departments at this point, but there are three bodies of course that are part of government and the system, the Legislature in which we work here in the House of Assembly and the associated bodies around it, as well as Executive Council, and the Consolidated Revenue Fund. During this debate, for which there is three hours-plus or something that is left to debate this issue, we may well be all over the place. You may talk on one occasion, you may have some questions about the Legislature, on another occasion you may have questions about Executive Council or the Consolidated Revenue Fund. So, just for those observers who are watching, who might think: What are we doing here? That is the three heads we are talking about.

It gives an opportunity for government to explain their position when it comes to Executive Council, for example. Usually, the Minister of Finance, as has been done today, speaks on behalf of the Executive Council in these Estimates debates. Then, of course, there is the Legislature, which anybody can ask any questions about any of these three headings, and hopefully the answers will be there. It is very pleasing to see that of all the money, $8 billion that this government is spending, the vast, vast majority of it gets dealt with in Estimates committees that are not televised.

Some great questions get asked in Estimates about: Why you are spending money, how many employees you have, where are you spending your money, what did you not spend, why did you not spend it, and what are you spending it on? That happens in Estimates committees, and sometimes the ministers have answers and sometimes they do not. In fact, there are some of them quite embarrassing when you ask questions sometimes and you find out that the minister does not know why such and such went, or it did not go well, for example, or as was anticipated. I guess it is great, and the government likes it when that kind of information is not public, it is not on the airwaves, it is not in front of the cameras, because that would be extremely embarrassing to government should that happen.

Now, today of course, here in the House of Assembly being televised, we have an opportunity to ask whatever about these three headings. It is a pretty broad ranging topic of discussion because it is money bills again. I guess unfortunately for the Minister of Finance, he has to be the scapegoat to answer these questions, albeit, he might not be connected to it. For example, he is not connected directly to the Legislature. The Legislature operates totally, solely and separately from the government, so-called independence. I will come back to that, because technically, albeit we are theoretically independent in the Legislature and the bodies that are governed by the Legislature, from government itself. You will see when I go through the numbers – the numbers game, I call it – that ultimately, government decides as well what happens even here in the Legislature. Sometimes, I would suggest, not appropriately and indeed, unfairly. I will allude to one of those circumstances and outline the details about that as we go through the afternoon.

For example, we have the Legislature Estimates. It lets the people of the Province know exactly how much money in total is being spent to run the Legislature, the House of Assembly, the associated offices of the House of Assembly, the Auditor General's department for example. We have the Auditor General, we have the Chief Electoral Officer, we have the Citizens' Representative, and we have the Child and Youth Advocate. We have a number of so-called independent offices, independent of government, independent of the House of Assembly, who have their own laws that govern them and they report back to the House of course, as required by law. They get their budget allocations, their money from the House of Assembly budget.

The House of Assembly budget is not just about what it costs to staff and run the House of Assembly including the broadcast cost. What it costs, for example, for the Pages, the Clerk, the staff who work here, the Deputy Clerk and so on. Not only the MHAs' salaries and so on and constituency allowances that MHAs have for doing their district work and so on and attending the House of Assembly as well but all of those areas come under the Legislature budget.

Some might ask if it is separate from the government well who runs it? Well actually it is managed, shall we say, since 2007 when we passed the new accountability act, which was after the Justice Green review. Everybody in this Province of course well recalls and remembers the MHA scandal they call it whereby monies went, people actually ended up being charged and convicted for improper use of the funds that were supposed to be used by them for public purposes and in the proper conduct of their jobs. When the Chief Justice did his review when all of that broke loose, he came back with a series of recommendations. He wanted to restructure things so that there was actual openness, there was actual transparency and there was accountability so that if the Legislature had money that they had control of or the MHAs had money directed to them that they had control of in order to do their jobs, there had to be some system outlining what you could spend it on, how it was accounted for and that it was properly spent for the proper purposes.

That led, of course, to some major, major shake-ups when it came to structure, particularly the accounting structure. Back then when I first came here back in 1999 you had one person basically who was in charge of the whole show when it came to the financial part of it – who filed claims, what you filed for, how they were processed, totally separate from the Comptroller General's office pretty well. It was carte blanche, nobody overseeing it and of course it got broken. It got seriously broken and it got seriously abused. That is why Chief Justice Green had to make the changes that he did.

Since that time there has been a series of structural changes made to improve the system and to ensure that it does not happen again. In addition to Justice Green putting that in place, one of the persons who – we call him the top dog here – other than the Speaker – and the Speaker is more legislatively, shall we say, in controlling the goings on here in the House, is the Clerk of the House. Mr. MacKenzie who was the Clerk of the House since all that started back in the Green time, no doubt about it had his hands full. We were getting binders of information as to what the new rules were going to be. He had to make sure that the right policies were put in place around those rules. He had to make sure that staff was hired to implement what the new rules were going to be.

We even have now, for example, a new corporate services branch of the House of Assembly which deals with these issues. Not just a one-man show anymore in one little office in the back room that dealt with all of that stuff. Now it is being dealt with – there is a whole number of bodies. In fact, it got to the point where there were so many bodies administering what you were doing, you wondered okay, are you spending too much money to make sure that you had the safeguards in place.

It was necessary – absolutely necessary to make sure that the right rules were implemented. It is fair to say, and even the Auditor General has commented on this publicly in his statements now in the last couple of years actually saying that he has reviewed things since Chief Justice Green's report was documented and implemented and he is quite pleased that the show is being run properly. There is openness, there is transparency and there is accountability when it comes to the House of Assembly and when it comes to MHAs and how they deal with their money.

Unfortunately, I cannot say the same thing about government. Government used the mantra as well, openness, accountability and transparency. As anyone who has lived in this Province for the last number of years knows and experienced actually, we are dealing now with the most secretive government in the history of this Province since 1949. There is more stuff hidden in the back rooms of government when it comes to reports, recommendations and stuff that we do not have a clue about and the public has no clue about. We amended the freedom of information back in 2002 – actually I was the Minister of Justice who introduced it into the House – with a view to changing that lock them away type attitude and keep it in the dark with the curtains drawn to get more open.

What we have found and experienced since 2003, the very next year when this current government took over, is that instead of advancing and being more open, they found more creative ways not to be open. They kept saying for eight years we are absolutely open, yet when you want information there are more roadblocks put in your face, way and path than you could want to believe. Yet every day we see press releases and we hear comments in this House from government talking about openness and transparency. It is absolutely not the case, Mr. Chair.

Anyway, my time is up in this short, brief session. I will respond, of course, and continue with the debate as we proceed.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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

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

We are winding down the Budget discussions. The Budget debate is the word that we use. With the discussion that is happening today, we just have some few hours left of discussion.

It is important that we look closely at the figures being presented to us today because today we are dealing with, in particular, the budgets of the Government House, the Premier's Office, the Cabinet Secretariat - and that has something like seven subheads under it - Communications and Consultation, Financial Administration and Human Resource Support, and the Public Service Secretariat. These are extremely important divisions, Mr. Chair, and I think we do need to look at the budgets of these divisions.

The ones that interest me in particular – they all do, but in terms of some questions I have today – are the budgets of the Premier's Office, the Cabinet Secretariat, and Communications and Consultation. I am particularly looking at those budgets because, in particular, those divisions are the divisions that sort of are at the heart of the Executive Council, the heart of the government. This is where government does its thinking together. This is where government sits and does its overall broad policies. This is where government does its planning as a government.

For example, Mr. Chair, I am just going to read some of the descriptions so people understand what happens in the Cabinet Secretariat. In the Cabinet Secretariat, for example, you have the Cabinet itself and the process of the Cabinet. The budget covers support to the Cabinet and its committees. It is also where senior planning and direction takes place. There are people who are involved in offering senior planning and direction to the Cabinet Secretariat. It also includes the establishment and evaluation of policies and objectives. So, it is a very, very key group, the group that offers executive support to the Cabinet Secretariat.

There is another subhead that I think people would find interesting. It is the subhead that is called Provincial Government Programs Office. Here, the budget items provide for the operations of an office to provide co-ordination and focus in support of departments' assessment of the effectiveness and efficiency of programs. It is in the Executive Council, in the Cabinet Secretariat, that you also get an assessment and overview of what is going on inside of government.

Another division under the Cabinet Secretariat, Mr. Chair, which I think is really important for people to know about, is that you have what is called Economic and Social Policy Analysis. The budget lines provide for planning support through analysis and advice on future directions in economic and social policy matters for the Economic and Social Policy Committees of Cabinet. This definitely is something that is at the heart of government because, again, this is where members of the Cabinet Secretariat –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

CHAIR: Order, please!

MS MICHAEL: - in two committees, work together and look at what the overall direction of government is, both on an economic and social level. So, the budgets of these divisions of the Executive Council are very important, because these are the resources that are going toward government's work in setting its goals, setting its vision, looking at exactly where they want to go as a government.

So, one of the first things I want to do this afternoon is look at some of the specifics of some of these divisions, and ask the minister if he can give us some explanation. What I am particularly looking at first, is the staffing for some of these divisions. If the minister needs to know, I am looking at the Departmental Salary Details booklet, and I am looking at page 6 of that booklet. First of all, it is the Provincial Government Programs Office. The Provincial Government Programs Office, again, is an important office of the secretariat, and it provides advice. I think I read what it said. It assesses the effectiveness and efficiency of programs, and its salaries amount to $225,500. I am curious about the fact that only $76,300 is a permanent amount of money and $139,600 goes to temporary employees. What I am going to be asking the minister to do in a couple of these cases is to explain the nature of the temporary employees in those departments. I am saying all of this for him so that he knows what I am going to be looking for, and he may or may not be able to answer it right away. He may need to get the information.

The other line, the appropriation that I am really interested in as well from the same perspective, is Economic and Social Policy Analysis. There the total salary is $836,700 of which $469,800 is temporary and other employees. I am really trying to understand why that area has so many temporary and other employees. Now it could be that it is contracts, they get advice from outside, from people who are advisers who may not be permanent but maybe are on call. I do not know, but I just would like some explanation from the minister as to why there is so much money. More than half of the budget, way more than half of the budget is for temporary and other employees. I am sure there is a logical explanation; I think it would be good for us to hear. The minister is looking over at me, that one is the Economic and Social Policy Analysis.

Then the other one that I am looking at and would like some explanation of, the minister when he gave his opening comments did make reference to the Office of Climate Change, Energy Efficiency and Emissions Trading. I notice there that the full salary line is designated temporary and other employees. I would like the minister to give an explanation of that as well, why the total salary line is temporary.

For the sake of people who are watching, because while this may seem like deadly television to us there are people who are out there watching. I think it is important to point that when we have our Estimates meetings, that means when we meet with departments to go over their budgets, like the Department of Education, the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture, any department, we do ask questions of the budgets of these departments, line item questions. The Estimates meetings most people do not see but right here in Committee now with these, people are getting to see the kinds of questions that we ask of the different departments.

What I am asking the minister to do is to give an explanation of the temporary and other employees line of those three divisions. I think what I will do, because I do have some other points I want to make, I am going to sit down now and give the minister time to answer questions that have been put to him, then I will speak again later.

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

MR. MARSHALL: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I should tell the Leader of the Third Party, the Leader of the NDP, that as this debate takes place today there are officials listening very carefully and they are looking up frantically the answers to the questions. Pretty soon they will appear at that door there and there will be slipped in my hand the answers to the questions. For now I am going to deal with the comments made by the hon. Member for The Strait of Belle Isle, some more comments on the Office of Climate Change.

I just want to emphasize, that office is not just responsible for looking at how the Province can reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, but also understanding how the Province is going to be impacted by climate change and how we adapt to what is going to be unavoidable impacts. We know that severe weather events, as I mentioned previously, like Hurricane Igor will occur more frequently. We know that. We are seeing it in this Province. Obviously, that has a big impact on the government and on our people who are impacted negatively. The impacts could be many and they could be varied, more flooding, more coastal erosion, and impacts on economic factors like forestry and the fisheries.

The Office of Climate Change is also responsible for driving forward work on energy efficiency, which has multiple benefits, including reducing household energy bills and reducing business costs. The office, in my view, is an extremely important one. The whole issue of climate change is one that more and more of our citizens are going to learn about and are going to be impacted by. That is why I was concerned by the comments the hon. member made with respect to: Do we really need this office? I believe very firmly that we definitely do, and we have to ensure that we are at the leading edge in dealing with this particular problem which is facing not only Newfoundland and Labrador but indeed the world.

The Government House Leader talked about the Legislature; that is one of the Estimates that are being deal with here today. Ever since the Green report, the Legislature is independent. Those MHAs who support the government side make up a majority in this House of Assembly. In terms of the Officers who work for the House of Assembly like the Auditor General, like the Chief Electoral Officer who was appointed today, like the Information Commissioner, like the Citizens' Representative, like the Child and Youth Advocate, they are independent, they are appointed by the House, they are not responsible to the government. They do not answer to the government, they answer to the people of this Province through this House of Assembly.

With respect to the comment that we are a secretive government, I, in fact, believe and I believe very firmly the exact opposite of what the hon. Opposition House Leader said. I believe that this government has been the most open, the most transparent, and the most accountable government in the history of Newfoundland and Labrador. It is because we have to be because we are the first government that has had to live under the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act. We have to follow that legislation, we are bound by that legislation, and no other government was. In fact, the Liberal Party, the Opposition House Leader was the Minister of Justice when the legislation was passed through this House. They did some great work.

Previous to that, they had a law called the Freedom of Information Act. They had public consultations, I believe, and they finally brought in the legislation. They passed the legislation in this House but they never proclaimed it. So in other words, the government that preceded our government never had to live under the obligations, the rules and the responsibilities of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act. Our government did, we call it the ATIPP Act. Our government had to. We brought it in, we proclaimed it, and we had to live under it. We have taken a lot of criticism, it was new law, it was new legislation, and there was a lot to be learned. Sometimes when you bring in new legislation sometimes there is a difference of opinion – a principle difference of opinion as to what the law is actually saying. The English language is subject to different points of view and different opinions and different interpretations.

We have utilized the courts, we have utilized the benefits of the Supreme Court of this Province to give us direction and to give us an interpretation of what the law means. Once we have that, we certainly follow it. From time to time, there have been differences of opinion. Reasonable people can have differences of opinion, and reasonable people can have principle differences of opinion. There was a mechanism set out in the legislation to resolve those disputes, to resolve those differences of opinion and that was by referring the matter to the Trial Division of the Supreme Court and when there was a principle difference of opinion, that option was certainly utilized and that has helped us grow the law and have a better understanding of the law.

The other thing we did is we brought in the Transparency and Accountability Act. Most of all, what we have done is that we were the ones who allowed the Auditor General to come into the House because as I understand it - and I was not here then - the previous government, or some government, would not allow the Auditor General to come into this House of Assembly and to investigate what was going on in the House of Assembly. Our government did that. I think if there was ever a sign of a government being open and being transparent and being accountable, it was letting the Auditor General come in and do his investigation. The facts came out and the people got to see what was really going on. The people got to see what had been hidden. It came out and there were severe, severe consequences to all of us for that.

Now, our government appointed Chief Justice Green to come in and to change the law, and he did that. I do not know if we agreed with everything he did or suggested. I disagree with him on certain things, but the law was passed. All parties voted for it, all parties agreed to it. As the Opposition House Leader mentioned, the Auditor General has now - I was not aware of what he said, but I understand from what he said, the Auditor General has taken a look at what is happening in the House, he has looked at all the changes that the House has made, with the assistance of the government, and that things are now the way they should be.

I understand people have come in from other countries and other jurisdictions to look at what we have done here and to use that as best practices for what they need to do in places like Nova Scotia, and even in the Mother of Parliaments in England where they have had major problems as well.

With respect to the question from the Leader of the NDP on the Office of Climate Change and the fact that the salaries, under the Salaries head, were all temporary. All the staff are on contract. There are no permanent posts in the office. The work of the office is evolving over time, so this allows the office to recruit people with the skills it needs at different points in time, for example, those with economic, statistical engineering and policy skills to provide the best advice possible to inform policy development and the deepening of an excellence base.

With respect to the Provincial Government Programs Office, as I said, it was a program brought in to develop in this government an evaluative culture so we can make sure our programs are giving us the outcomes we wanted or programs are still giving us the outcomes that were desired. The deputy minister is Donna Brewer who is funded under Executive Support.

The office is staffed temporarily as a long-term need for the office has not been established. Through the Public Service Commission competition, they have hired two program officers and also employ students from Memorial for research. They have hired from the Masters of Applied Social Psychology, who are trained in evaluation. In exposing students, the government hope they will find employment in government departments doing evaluation.

With respect to Economic and Social Policy, the temporary dollars are used for development opportunities to build policy capacity and professional development opportunities. Existing staff from other departments have been seconded as well.

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

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

I appreciate an opportunity to continue with a few words debating these Estimates, particularly the Legislature. As indicated earlier, there is a whole pile of money, of course, that falls under the ambit of the Legislature. For example, the total budget for the Legislature for this fiscal year, 2011-2012, is going to be $28,737,000. So it is not a small sum of money, of course. If you are going to run it properly, you have to have the money.

Before I move on to the actual figures in the Legislature and how they are broken out for each office and so on, I would just like to comment on the Minister of Finance's comment about the freedom of information act, or the new access to information act as we called it in 2002. God forbid, the minister would not intentionally leave something out in his commentary, deliberately or whatever, so as to give a different spin on things. I think he ought to have explained why the former Administration did not proclaim the access to information act.

It was a very legitimate reason why it was not proclaimed. It was actually passed in this Legislature in the fall of 2002. The new act had a number of things in it, one of them principally being the privacy piece and the other piece being the access to information piece. For the first time in the history of this Province that act said that not only government but municipalities, health care boards and so on, public agencies, would be subject to the access to information act. Everybody knew at the time of its passage that it was going to take some time from the time you passed it until you said to municipalities and health care authorities, for example, this is what you have to do with this new law. You could not pass the law today and then expect people in municipalities, clerks for example, councils and in health care authorities, to know how to implement it.

From 2002 in the fall – the government changed in 2003. Actually it was well beyond that, that it became before these agencies had shall we say the pieces in place in order to bring the act to fruition. When we talk about proclaiming, the minister also realizes that the privacy piece – I do not know if it has ever been proclaimed. I saw press releases yesterday from our Minister of Health and Community Services talking about private information and so on, but we were years and years after this government took office before we had the privacy provisions of the access to information and privacy law proclaimed.

That is not to point a fault. That is not to say that the government was at fault. In fact, I believe they did the prudent thing because again, you could not proclaim it and expect people to live with the law if you yourself as a government had not put the pieces in place to do it. I am not being critical of government when I say you delayed the implementation or the proclamation of the privacy provisions of that act, you had to do it right. It might have taken longer than some would have liked but it got done, or I should say most of it has certainly been done now. There may be some particular sections of it that yet are not done.

That is the background on the access to information. It was the former Administration who had the fortitude to say that what we had since going back to the 1970s – in fact I believe it was 1979 under Premier Peckford back at that time. Over twenty years it had become antiquated and needed to be changed and that is why it was changed. It took too long to do it, it took two decades to get it done but it finally was done. No doubt we will see amendments as we move forward.

In terms of the openness that the minister talks about as well, I would like to come back to how this House is actually run. For example, the House of Assembly is run and all of the offices that associate with the House of Assembly, by the Management Commission. The Management Commission is constituted legislatively, it is in a law, it comes under the House Of Assembly Accountability, Integrity And Administration Act. Albeit theoretically it is an independent body, the bottom line is the government still calls the shots, and we have to recognize that. The government still calls the shots and it calls the shots based upon the numbers and who the representatives are on the Management Commission. Things happen sometimes that some people consider untoward and unfair.

For example, on that Management Commission, the Speaker of the House is the Chair of the Management Commission, by law. Also sitting on there, by reason of their positions, is the Clerk of the House sits there but he does not vote. The Deputy Speaker sits there but he is not a member. He sits in but he is not officially a member and he is certainly not a voter, but he chairs the meetings if the Chairman/Speaker is not there. The Government House Leader, the Member for Stephenville East in this case, sits there, and the Opposition House Leader sits on that Commission.

Now, in addition to that, if there is a Third Party in the House, which there is, the NDP, they have a representative on there. The current Leader of the NDP, the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi sits on that Commission. The Opposition have another member on there, and the government have two others on there. Two of them are usually Cabinet ministers. The Government House Leader is generally, almost unanimously always a minister. In this case she sits there, so you have a minister, and one of the others is a minister. In this case it is the Minister of Health and Community Services who is a member, and I do believe it is the Member for St. John's North who is the other government caucus member who sits on that Commission.

If you do the balance, there is three and three. You have three from the Opposition party-wise. You have three from the government party-wise, and then you get into a case if there has to be a deciding vote that is cast by the Chair of the committee. The Chair of the committee of course is the Speaker. The Speaker of the House is determined by a vote in this House. In this case it was determined by the government members, because he is elected to this House as a member of government side, and represents the District of Bonavista North.

The bottom line is you need some set of rules to decide what you do in the case of a tie. We had a tie situation back in 2007-2008 when we talked about what funding was going to be made available in the Budget for the various parties. What was the government caucus going to have? What was the Official Opposition going to have? What was the Third Party going to have? What would be a fair amount? Because everybody has a job to do, whether you sit in a government caucus you have a job. If you sit in the Opposition you have a job, and the Third Party has a job. You get those jobs done because you have the resources or the money to hire people to help you do them.

We had a case back then when, to make sure that it was done absolutely fairly, we said we will get someone from outside to do it, an independent group. We will not even sit down and row and fight amongst ourselves as to what is fair. We went out and hired a company, I believe it was Metrics EFG or something like that, who dealt with that kind of information. They were a consulting group. That consulting group came back to the Management Commission and said here is my report. Here is what I think government should get, here is what I think the Official Opposition should get, and here is what we think the Third Party should get.

Lo and behold, talk about fairness and calling the shots, two out of three parts were accepted. The government funding was accepted from that report, the government members on that Committee voted to accept what was there for the Third Party. When it came to the Official Opposition – remember now, that is how you are able to do your job properly. This independent group had recommended X dollars for the Official Opposition. It was tied. The three government members said: no way, they are not getting the money. The Leader of the Third Party, NDP, voted for the money. The two Liberal Opposition members of course voted for the money, which left you in a tie situation. One person and one person only could make the decision, the Chair, and he voted not to give the Official Opposition the money. He accepted all the other parts but only one part, and that was to deny the money to the Official Opposition.

A lot of people thought that was pretty unfair. That is why even to the root of the system, and I believe it is the best system we have as old Churchill said, probably the best system we have, but even when you think you are working within the best system, you end up with consequences that are not fair. Because the players who are in the game do things that give a perception sometimes, albeit done legitimately, properly, legally, legislatively, the perception that there is an unfairness to that.

Anyway, I am going to come back, Mr. Chair, to the budgetary allocations to the various parties when I next get an opportunity to speak.

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

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

I thank the minister for getting the answers to my questions. That is helpful because it leads into some of the points that I want to make. I am glad to have an explanation of the interim positions that exist under Executive Council, and they were particularly under the Cabinet Secretariat, I think.

The point that I first want to make, Mr. Chair, is that we do have – and we need it, I am not being critical of it – a fair amount of money going into the Salaries for Executive Council for the Premier's Office and for Executive Council, and we need the funding that is there, there is no doubt. Just so people know, and I may be out a little, so I am going to give an approximation, because I have done the arithmetic myself here, and I mean arithmetic, adding up. When you count the Premier's Office, and you count the Executive Support for the Cabinet Secretariat, and the line items for planning and co-ordination of the Cabinet Secretariat, the line items for the Provincial Government Programs Office of the Cabinet Secretariat, and the line items for the Economic and Social Policy Analysis, which are, as I said, pieces of work that are sort of at the heart of government's thinking, of government doing its planning, the budget is slightly over $5 million for staff. That includes both the permanent and the temporary, so just for the sections that I discussed.

I point that out because government has money to enable it to sit, to think, to hire people who have expertise in areas that they are interested about, hire people who have expertise in economic and fiscal areas, in social planning, in environmental planning, in areas where government is concerned and where government decides on its priorities. Every government, of course, has different priorities, every government is formed and shaped by the party in our system, for the most part, that has the majority of seats in the Legislature, and the government gets to decide the direction in which it wants to go. Of course, governments get elected by people and they tell people the direction in which they want to go, and people indicate they want it as well by voting for the government. That is our system; there is no doubt about that.

So, government does have the ability to have a think tank, the ability to sit down and to strategize and to think things through, and to decide how they get where they want to go. This is why I have some concerns that I am going to raise here today. For example, with this government, one of their priorities - and I am not saying it is a bad priority; I am just naming the priority. Government is very focused, and it should be, on trying to develop new business in the Province. We need new business. I am always talking about economic development and I believe we do. So we have a department called the Department of Business. This government is also, because of that – it is not just in the Department of Business that they show their priority around developing business, that department in particular is focused on trying to get new businesses coming into the Province from outside the Province.

Then you have, of course, the Department of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development, or INTRD. That department is very much focused on developing and strengthening businesses that already exist in the Province, small ones, medium-sized ones, and large ones. There are quite a number of different ways in which, under INTRD, government puts money into business. You have a section, for example, Innovation, Research and Technology. This is an area where government provides money for "functions related to research, development and promotion of strategic approaches to innovation in industry and business development…".

So, government wants innovation. Government wants new things to happen, even with businesses that exist in the here and now in the Province. They have money for that. They have Grants and Subsidies; this year it is going to be over $5 million, just under that heading alone, which is good. I am not being negative about that.

You also have another head in the Budget called Comprehensive Economic Development. The budgeting here provides for "regional and sectoral economic development and diversification initiatives and projects throughout the Province with emphasis on projects that leverage funding from other sources." That is a very particular thing there at the end. Again, it is money for economic development and here we are almost talking about $9 million under that head.

Then you have very specialty areas, like Ocean Technology Initiatives. We have $1 million under that. You have another heading: Strategic Industries Development, "Appropriations provide for the research, development, co-ordination, administration and monitoring of policies, programs, initiatives and projects to support strategic growth and diversification opportunities within the Provincial business community." You have Grants and Subsidies there as well, albeit those grants and subsidies are smaller, just $112,000 there, but almost $1.5 million just going into that one particular piece. Then you have the money, of course, for regional economic development, which is very, very particular because that is very community-based. You have Strategic Enterprise Development for funding through the Business Investment Corporation to support small and medium-sized businesses throughout the Province. The point I am making here is that this government does have a high priority on business, bringing in new business, strengthening businesses that are here, millions of dollars are being poured into it.

Today, I asked questions in the House which indicates something that I am thinking, that is with all of that money, with all of this focus that this government is saying they are concerned about business, I really, absolutely fail to understand how what happened with regard to the JSS contract, for the contract for the building of the naval ships, how that fell under the radar. If this government, with all of the resources it has, both through departments as well as through their own Executive Council, which is made up particularly of ministers, the Cabinet Secretariat and all of the staff who are there to support them, plus experts they can get in to work with them in their think tank, how they could allow what happened with Kiewit to happen, I do not understand.

You would think, Mr. Chair, that with all of the expertise they have, with all of the creativity one would hope they have, that they could have come up with something as creative as what the Government of Nova Scotia came up with. I am so impressed by what I see and what has happened over in Nova Scotia. I wish we had had that initiative. I wish we were the ones with this tremendous marketing strategy to promote our boat building capabilities here in Newfoundland and Labrador. We have tremendous capabilities in Newfoundland and Labrador. We have our large site on the Burin Peninsula, but we have other smaller sites around the Province as well. Industry knows the expertise we have here, that we have the ability, especially if the facility in Marystown had a graving dock. We have the ability to have huge projects in Marystown and then smaller projects like the ferries in other yards around the Province.

It just amazes me that this government has not been more creative in the approach of government working with industry, working with our researchers in places like the Marine Institute, with our researchers in the Harris Centre. Surely, we could be doing a better job.

I am just going to stop here now because I only have a few seconds left. I want to go on with my thought, so I will wait to go on.

CHAIR: The Chair recognizes the hon. the Member for The Straits & White Bay North.

MR. DEAN: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Again, it is always great to be able to stand and speak for the next ten-minute slot on the Estimates that we are debating here this afternoon. I would like to go back to the minister's comments after I spoke last time, in terms of the climate change in particular. Certainly, I share the same concern about climate change, Mr. Chair, as do all of us I am sure in this House. My point was the amount of money we are spending and the energy we put into that piece in terms of the outcome. That is something we can agree to disagree on.

Mr. Chair, going back to the Executive Council and looking at some of the numbers there again for a few moments; I refer to what has been somewhat of a controversial piece for the two years now that I have been in the House of Assembly, it has been brought to the floor on several occasions –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

CHAIR: Order, please!

I ask all hon. members for their co-operation while the hon. member is speaking.

MR. DEAN: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I will go back to section 2.3.04, and it is the Ottawa Office. Again, I would not dispute the necessity, necessarily, of an Ottawa Office for Intergovernmental Affairs and so on. It probably has great potential. When it was operational, Mr. Chair, I would suggest that we, for sure, probably saw some good things come out of it, but we realize looking through the Estimates - one of the things I have done in preparation for Estimates this year was to go back to 2004, 2005, and 2006. To just go back four or five years and see what kinds of trends there were in terms of spending for the different offices within the different departments that I am the critic for.

This one shows up first of all, in 2004-2005, and that would be the first year, I would assume, for the office there. It carries a budget of $350,000 per year. So it is not a small amount of money, it is a significant amount of money. If the return from that can be good, then certainly I have no issue with that at all, but the reality is, Mr. Chair, that in the last couple of years the office has basically been vacant. I guess the government can argue it is somewhere to prepare for a meeting while you are in Ottawa perhaps, but other than that, Mr. Chair, it has been a place that we have been accumulating expenditure on. When I look at last year's numbers in last year's Estimates, we see $166,000 being spent basically on a non-functional office – $95,000 of that shows in Purchased Services, and I would assume that would be for the rental of the property, the monthly rent for the office, and Mr. Chair, there is also a salary piece there as well.

To my point that we are spending $160,000 today having an office in Ottawa that is not functional, that has been vacant for two years, and even though there is a promise by the Premier and by this government that someone will be appointed to that office soon, I would have thought that if it is important enough to set up five or six years ago, if it was seen as a way forward, in terms of bettering our relationship with Ottawa and the production of Intergovernmental Affairs and so on, then, Mr. Chair, I would have thought someone would have been in there long before this. So that would be really the point that I make on it.

I remember when the Minister of Finance was, a couple of years ago, I believe it was in St. Anthony at the time on Budget consultation, that he had his clock with him, and it kind of became popular going around the Province. It was a good strategy, I think, to get the point across, and I am sure he did well with that, but as that clock was ticking then, the clock on this one is ticking today. Every day that passes we are spending money on an office in the capital city of our country, and we are not getting anything in return for it. So, point made, it is there again this year, and there is a $387,000 budget for it, and today, I think we would all have to agree that it is basically dysfunctional, unoccupied, and at this point in time, does not have a person working there.

Mr. Chair, moving on from there, a couple of other line items that I would like to bring to the minister's attention, and probably he could again reflect on them as he gets a chance to respond a little later. There are two sections. Section 2.4.01 in the Office of the Executive Council, I look at the Salaries for that department, and I know that again, comparing it to 2004-2005, it has gone from around $490,000 a year, and this year's Budget it is going to $863,000. Probably the minister could provide some explanation for that. I know some things have changed, in terms of the media centre and so on, and perhaps that is a piece of it, but it is certainly a significant increase in the Budget. Nearly doubled, not quite doubled, but certainly about an 80 per cent increase or so. It is line item 2.4.01, and it is Communications and Consultation Branch. So if you could just give some explanation on the difference, or really on the progressive increase to that department, because it is increasing year over year, the line item Salaries, in particular. I realize the annual increased percentage and so on, we expect to see that, but the numbers seem to be far different than that. Last year it was $700,000, the revised budget, and this year we are going back to $863,000. Again, comparing it to a few years ago, it is practically double.

The other piece, Mr. Chair, in section 2.5.01, that is under Financial Administration. Again, when you take all of these lines and you can take the $8 billion Budget and you break it down and you put it into offices and so on, and you look at line item over line item, you suddenly see where a lot of money is being held, and a lot of increases in expenditure. So, it is good to be able to go through this process of questioning those line items and getting some explanation so that we all understand, and agree for that matter, that where it is, is where it should be and so on. In that particular one as well, Mr. Chair, 2.5.01, the Salaries piece has gone from $577,000 up to approximately $847,000. So we have again a significant increase of $300,000 over a $500,000 budget in just four or five years. So, without something significant happening in a particular office, we certainly would not expect to see those kinds of increases.

The other item that I would like to speak to, in the next two or three minutes that I have, Mr. Chair, is section 2.6.01, the Rural Secretariat. Mr. Chair, this is one of the items that I asked some questions on in the departmental Estimates, with the Department of ITRD. I have to be quite honest; I was involved in the Rural Secretariat when it began, on the Northern Peninsula. I do not know how familiar people are with the role of the Rural Secretariat. When I look at the role of the Rural Secretariat, and I look at the role of development groups, and I look at the role of other groups that are within our regions, regional groups, there certainly seems, in my opinion, to be an overlap. It is all about promoting sustainable economics, it is all about growing our economy, it is all about social development, it is all about input into government decisions by the rural parts of our Province and so on, something, that I, Mr. Chair, have a very strong opinion on, in terms of how it has been utilized in the decisions that are made from day to day.

The one that I refer to, of course, is when the air ambulance was removed from the Northern Peninsula and relocated to Labrador. It certainly was not vetted through the rural lens. So that, in particular, was a decision that this Rural Secretariat, the rural lens piece of that office really seemed to have no input into.

So, when we look at we are spending $2 million a year, again, to run that office, we really have to ask: What are the long-term benefits? What are the goals? Are we achieving the goals? Can someone tell us where we are better today because we are spending $2 million a year on a Rural Secretariat than we were before we created that office? If we are, and it is worth it, then I would be the first to support; but again, I think we are overlapping in terms of what we are trying to do in certain parts of the Province, and we are spending money that could otherwise be spent on some very important things.

As an MHA, I go to the ministers, as the MHAs of the government do, to support projects in the district, looking for funding. Whether it is for transportation, whether it is for municipalities, whether is for tourism, whether it is for fisheries, whatever department it is, we are continually there looking for funding. When we hear the stories that funding is hard to find and so on, we realize that the numbers requested are tremendous compared to the dollars that are available. Then, I look at these items and say I wonder is that the best thing we can do for rural Newfoundland, in terms of spending $2 million a year.

Again, those are some thoughts on that, and probably a briefing on that as well or something - as the minister suggested on other items - can be offered whereby we can understand it much better. I realize my time is gone, Mr. Chair, and thank you for the time to speak again.

Thank you.

MR. CHAIR: The Chair recognizes the hon. Minister of Finance.

MR. MARSHALL: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I have to say that it was my understanding that we were only going to do certain things in the House today, and that things like the Rural Secretariat, INTRD, and Intergovernmental Affairs, my understanding is they were done in Committee so that they were not to come up today, but I will do the best I can here.

I know the Opposition House Leader was talking about the Management Commission and the ATIPP legislation. The Government House Leader and I, we have a difference of opinion. He thinks we are the most secretive government in history, and my contention is that we have been the open, and transparent, and accountable government in the history. To support my argument, I say we had to be because we are the government that was bound by the provisions of the ATIPP legislation, the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act. When I talked about the fact that their government had passed the legislation but had not proclaimed it and that, therefore, they did not have to live under the legislation, they did not have to follow or obey that particular legislation, I was not saying that to criticize their government or to criticize the hon. member in any way. I was simply pointing out the fact that the legislation was not in effect while they were the government and, therefore, they did not have to live under that law, but we did. It is the simple matter of fact that we had to, dare I say, endure it.

The ATIPP legislation - and it has been a while since I have been in Justice and had the responsibility for that legislation, but I do recall that the legislation set out that certain information was available as a matter of right to the people of the Province and then there were exceptions. In fact, part of that legislation says that there are certain types of information that cannot be disclosed and that the government would be breaking the law if they actually disclosed the information. The third item was information that it was up to the discretion of the government whether it was disclosed or not. So, certain information government could not disclose, certain information government has to disclose it, and certain information was up to the discretion of government. I recall that sometimes we were criticized by hon. members opposite; we were criticized by the Opposition for not releasing certain information when, in fact, the legislation prevented the government, the legislation actually prohibited the government, from distributing the legislation or giving out the information I should say.

The hon. member also mentioned the Management Commission. I also disagree, it is my belief that when Chief Justice Green said that the Management Commission should consist of an equality of the people in this House, I disagree with that. We have had this discussion in this House on a number of occasions. In my view, government should govern. In my view, on the Management Commission, government should have a majority so that you do not run into these stalemates where you have this gridlock between the government on the one side and the Opposition on the other side, and then putting the burden on the Speaker who is an impartial Chair in order to force him to render a decision to determine which side wins. Every Legislature, I believe, in the world operates on the principle that the membership of committees is based on the proportion of seats that you have the Legislature. My own view is that should be followed here and then you would not have this gridlock and you would not put the Speaker in the position he finds himself from time to time where he has to break the deadlock.

The hon. Member for The Straits & White Bay North talked about three things, the Ottawa office, and the fact that no one had been appointed. I understand the Ottawa office has now been transferred from the Premier's Office to the Intergovernmental Affairs, is that correct? Of course, it would be up to the Premier to make the appointment of that position. I think the position is extremely important. I did spend some part of my life living in Ottawa. My father was a Member of Parliament for about ten years and he also served in the Senate of Canada for about fifteen years. While I did not work there I did get an idea of what was happening. I think it is important, because our Members of Parliament who are elected from this Province to represent us, they have a number of files. They have a lot of files on their desk.

The new Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs for Canada, the President of the Queen's Privy Council of Canada, Mr. Penashue, he has 26,000 files, because there are 26,000 people I understand in Labrador, and he also has the files of the Province. Sometimes you need somebody who will focus on the key files for the Province. I think that is why other provinces have established offices in Ottawa. Our government believes the office is important. It plays a vital role in the work the government does with the federal government, with embassies and other sovereign governments that do in fact have offices located in Ottawa.

I think you need in that position - we have had Mr. Bill Rowe, a former member of this House, a former, very well respected Cabinet minister. I remember when he was a young man he was appointed to Cabinet. I think he was made the minister of community development, if I can remember that well, and I think that was exciting. It was around the time in Ottawa that the Department of Regional Economic Expansion - we had a government in Ottawa that was obviously, for the first time maybe, concerned with economic development in the regions.

In spite of Mr. Rowe's abilities, he is a lawyer, I think he spent a lot of time in labour arbitrations, he is a Rhodes Scholar, and so there is no question of his qualifications. I think for that position maybe you need somebody who is an Ottawa insider. You need somebody who knows the people who run the government in Ottawa, who know the senior civil servants, who knows the people who are in positions of power, who knows the members of the new federal government. I think that is what we need and I look forward to when the Premier makes that appointment.

Six provinces, Nova Scotia, Quebec, Ontario, Nunatsiavut, Northwest Territories, and the Yukon all maintain offices in Ottawa to liaise with the federal government, with MPs and senators and with each other, to monitor and to gather intelligence and co-ordinate with their intergovernmental affairs officials and to arrange meetings. Again, I see from my notes here, this was also a matter that was dealt with in Estimates when IGA Estimates were heard.

Mr. Chair, also, the hon. Member for The Straits & White Bay North raised some questions about the Salaries in Financial Administration and Human Resources, is that correct? The Salaries in Budget 2010-2011 were $643,300. They spent that year a little bit more, $668,300. In this year's Budget they are up to $847,900, about $848,000. What is happening here is that the revised amount has been restated due to a corporate services restructuring that is taking place. An overrun is reflected due to the payment of overtime.

For the year that is coming, for the year 2011-2012 where it is going to go up to $848,000, that is an increase of $204,600. The reason for the increase is attributed to - first of all, there is a 4 per cent salary increase for this year which all government employees receive, and that is $25,700. There is $82,900 reallocated from general operating; there is $50,000 from Transportation and Communications; and $32,900 from Purchased Services. There is $96,000 transferred from other departments to cover the requirements of the new corporate services model. There is $24,000 from each of the Departments of Finance, Business, the Public Service Secretariat and the Office of the Chief Information Officer.

I only have five seconds left. I do not know if the Leader of the NDP asked a question, I know she was talking about government programs and the JSS contract. With that, my time is out and I will come back later.

Thank you.

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

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

I thank the minister for checking with me, but no, I did not ask a question the last time I stood up. I made some significant points, I think, but I did not ask a question. I might have a question this time that we may not get answered today.

I was talking about government's priority with regard to business and bringing new businesses into the Province as well as developing strategically, creatively, businesses that are already here, helping them develop, helping them increase their capacity, come up with new ideas, et cetera. I am all for that, but I would like to see government assess the way in which it is spending some of its money, as it does its planning and its prioritizing and its work in its think tank up at the top of this building.

One thing I would like to point out to the Minister of Finance, it is too late for this year, this year he cannot do anything about it, but I think as Minister of Finance he has a responsibility to raise it for the next Budget if, per chance, he is still Minister of Finance after October 11. That has to do with the Department of Business. I noticed in the Cabinet Secretariat, under Executive Council - and I have mentioned this already - there is a line item for the Provincial Government Programs Office. We are told that the money here is to "provide for the operations of an Office to provide co-ordination and focus in support of departments' assessment of the effectiveness and efficiency of programs." I would like to point out to all of us if there is any department that needs to have its effectiveness and efficiency assessed, it is the Department of Business.

When we look at the budget for this year and look at the Estimates and expenditures in 2010-2011, which we just ended, the total budget last year for the Department of Business was approximately $39.2 million; however, just about $30 million went unspent in just two subheads. In the subhead that is entitled Special Initiatives, that subhead was just over $7 million and the department left unspent in last year's budget approximately $5.6 million. Then there is the fund that comes under that department, the $25 million fund. Last year, I think it was actually $1,075,000 was spent, so the fund was hardly touched. Every year for the past three or four years, which is the life of that department, that fund is left almost untouched. There is $25 million there. Special Initiatives has never been used to its capacity.

I ask the minister to think about this if he is Minister of Finance after this year. Whoever it is needs to look at this department and use some of the money. We have over $5 million, almost $6 million, going into staffing for the Executive Council and for the Cabinet Secretariat.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS MICHAEL: Mr. Chair, I would like to say to across the way: We all can take ten minutes to speak during this period of time, and if the member wants to stand up and speak he can do that, when I am finished. Thank you very much.

So I am just saying I think there really does need to be an assessment of this department and why we continue to put millions of dollars in that department. Imagine if this government had said: Let's take $30 million and do the kind of initiative they are doing over in Nova Scotia with regard to trying to get the federal contract for shipbuilding. We would be a lot better off than holding the money we are holding there in that attraction fund, Mr. Chair. I would like all of us to think about it; let's be open-minded and think about this. We are sitting on that money which has not been used, what, for four years now.

When I look at what is happening over in Nova Scotia, Nova Scotians are just going crazy over this initiative, and no wonder. Some of the things that are being said are things that we need to listen to here. For example – now this is the Premier, of course, of Nova Scotia saying this – the "project will mean billions of dollars and thousands of jobs for the next 30 years. And that means an entire generation of skilled workers won't have to travel west to start, or continue, their careers. The sons, daughters and grandchildren of today's shipbuilders will have the chance to continue their family's legacy of shipbuilding in Atlantic Canada."

Well, I think about what is happening here because we are not going after that contract. I think about what is happening down in Marystown because we are not going after that contract. I think I am going to quote the Leader of the Opposition from the other day when she said whoop-de-do. I thought, yes, whoop-de-do sometimes is a real good saying. It is a real good saying here because, whoop-de-do, the only thing Marystown Shipyard has to look forward to right now is the building of two more ferries and two more years work.

What is going to happen to the skills set of the shipbuilders on the Burin Peninsula? We cannot say that we have a fantastic thirty years ahead of us, and the sons and the daughters and grandchildren of today's shipbuilders will continue shipbuilding, because, what is going to happen after the two ferries are built down in Marystown?

Let's listen to something else that is being said over in Nova Scotia: "This contract", if it happens, "would mean thousands of new jobs in Nova Scotia for a new generation of shipbuilders. Many families can return home and start a life here in Nova Scotia because of a stable shipbuilding industry." Well, just like I said earlier today in the House, what we are going to see down in Marystown is once again, they are heading into it already, another bust period where it will not be many families returning home, it will be many families leaving again, or the individual worker leaving and having to travel back and forth.

So, is it not wonderful that Nova Scotia can say this, but we cannot say it? The people on the Burin Peninsula are being left high and dry. The quote here again is from the federation of labour of Nova Scotia: "These federal shipbuilding contracts would be a game changer for Nova Scotia and all of Canada." Well, they will not be a game changer for Newfoundland and Labrador. They may be a game changer for Nova Scotia, but they will not be for Newfoundland and Labrador.

An economist from the greater Halifax area: "Nothing is more important for the future of our [Nova Scotia]. Indeed nothing else even comes close. The project will provide high wage high value jobs to a new generation of workers. It will boost consumer spending, government's tax take, and it will turn Halifax into one of Canada's high growth cities for the foreseeable future."

This is unbelievable. I mean, they have the vision to see what this contract, this federal contract will mean to the economy of Nova Scotia, to the lives of the people in Nova Scotia, and we have let it slip between our fingers. I cannot believe we have let it slip between our fingers. So I think, if this government is going to be responsible, one of the things it has to do, and use some of the millions of dollars that you have, to do your thinking upstairs on the eighth and ninth and tenth floors, use some of that money for people who are going to get you to see how you let one of the biggest opportunities we have had lately slip through your fingers. That is what you are leaving the people, not just on the Burin Peninsula, but in this Province. This is unbelievable. This is what we have to think about.

One more. The past chair of the Halifax Chamber of Commerce, who is one of the strategic partners in this tremendous marketing strategy that they are doing over there: "This is a huge confidence boost for the business community! Confidence spurs growth and many businesses will benefit tremendously from this work happening right here in Halifax. I can imagine a surge in employment, a significant boost in just about every consumable product sold in Nova Scotia." So, whoop-de-do for Nova Scotia, whoop-de-do for the people there, and whoop-de-do for the businesses there. I thank the Opposition Leader; her colleagues will have to tell her that I am quoting her today using her whoop-de-do.

What a slap in the face for the workers on the Burin Peninsula. What a slap in the face for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. Something that was laid in our hands, if we had been creative and shown leadership and gotten strategic partners together –

CHAIR: Order, please!

MS MICHAEL: - could have moved forward. So whoop-de-do, Mr. Chair, that is what I have to say to the Budget that we have here.

Thank you.

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

MR. MARSHALL: Mr. Chair, if we are going to start singing whoop-de-do, maybe I can add something to the discussion here today. Mr. Chair, there is the NDP government out of Manitoba which I admire. They have a Premier who was probably the best Finance Minister, who I certainly saw from the time that I have been Minister of Finance here, a man by the name of Greg Selinger. If you are going to tell us that we have to run our Province the way Nova Scotia runs it, then I think you are making a terrible, terrible mistake.

When the NDP ran in Nova Scotia they said three things. I heard in the election campaign people saying I do not trust this guy because he did not do this, and I do not trust Harper because he did not do this, and I do not trust Chrιtien because Chrιtien said he would eliminate the GST if he got re-elected. He got elected, then he got re-elected and he got re-elected again and he did not bring back the GST. Yet, Harper, the other guy they do not trust, reduced the HST twice.

Now, in Nova Scotia they said they would not run a deficit, they said they would not run taxes and they would not cut spending. Well they have been in office two years and they have done three of them. They have had a deficit, they have raised taxes and they have cut spending – whoop-de-do, whoop-de-do, whoop-de-do.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MARSHALL: Mr. Chair, I like Nova Scotians but do you think the people of Newfoundland and Labrador want us to raise our HST from 8 per cent to 10 per cent like they did in Nova Scotia? I do not think so – whoop-de-do.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MARSHALL: How about health care? We spend more in health care in this Province than any other Province or any other territory in the country. This year we are spending an additional 8.7 per cent on health care because we are concerned about health care in this Province, we are concerned about our seniors, and we want to make sure that they have nothing but the best. In Nova Scotia: 1.2 per cent; whoop-de-do, Mr. Chair, whoop-de-do.

Mr. Chair, in this Budget that we brought to the people of this Province, in 2010-2011 we were fortunate to have a surplus of $485 million. We thought it was going to be a deficit of $195 million, it is a surplus of $485 million, and for the year coming we are predicting a surplus for $59 million. We now know something that we did not know at the time the Budget was done. We knew that the Terra Nova FPSO was coming in for repairs this year; they are going to get a swivel repaired. We have now heard recently that they have changed their minds and they are not coming in until next year. That means that our Budget, Mr. Chair, is going to be affected in a major way and that we will probably not have a surplus of $59 million. We will now probably have a surplus of maybe $150 million to $200 million more than that. Now that is whoop-de-do, Mr. Chair.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MARSHALL: That is the kind of whoop-de-do that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians like.

Mr. Chair, when it comes to the JSS contract, as the Premier said today, our government was prepared to work with Kiewit in going after that contract. There were stories in The Globe and Mail and we all know about the different shipbuilding operations throughout the country that are going after that, the Irving group in the Maritimes. If Peter Kiewit decided they are not going ahead with the contract, how can we be blamed for the fact that they made that decision not to do that? We do not force people with a gun and say you have to do this. We will work with anyone and we have all the programs. The hon. Leader of the NDP talked favourably about the programs and she supports the fact that government would offer programs to try to support economic development, but you cannot force people if they do not want to do it.

If someone wants to go after that contract, we will certainly work with them. The Minister of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development will certainly work with them. I know the Minister of Transportation and Works - more than two ferries are going to be done. I think we have the propulsion system, the engine for the third one. We are already designing another one for Fogo Island. There is going to be a lot more of that type of work there. Also, the rigs have to come in. I just mentioned the Terra Nova FPSO; that has to come in to have a swivel repaired. The drilling rigs have to come in as well. I am sure that Marystown and other places on the Island will certainly benefit from all of that.

I wish Nova Scotians nothing but the best of luck as they apply for those contracts, but I also know that this government will stand behind industry in the Province and the Budget proves that. There are some people in this world who do not believe government should give money to companies. They call it corporate welfare. I remember when David Lewis was head of the NDP. He had a very successful federal campaign talking about corporate welfare bums. His argument was you should not be using taxpayers' money and giving it to for-profit businesses that are trying to use public money to make a profit.

There is an opposite view that says if government is giving money to one company over another company then they are trying to pick winners and losers, and that government is not very good at picking winners and losers. Maybe the thing to do is not to give anybody any money but to lower taxes, and that way it is a level playing field for everybody and you are treating everybody fairly.

That has not been our approach. Much to the chagrin of the Leader of the Opposition, we have purchased interest in oil fields. We are in the oil business. We have not bought shares in oil companies, but we have bought interest in oil fields because we think it is going to make the people wealthy. At some point, maybe, in the future we are going to sell the interest in those fields and then we might use that money to do some good things here, like paying down our debt further or plugging the debt into the unfunded pension liabilities so our pensioners can be protected.

Mr. Chair, it has been a long Budget process. We are all anxious to go home for the weekend. We do so at a time when the finances of the Province are in good shape. We are running surpluses. Our debt has been reduced. Our taxes are lower. We are giving more taxes this year. We are building lots of infrastructure, which is a foundation for future economic growth for the people of the Province. Mary Webb, a senior economist for the Bank of Nova Scotia, said infrastructure is the foundation of future development. We are going to leverage what we have now. We are going to leverage our non-renewable resources away from the oil and into things like infrastructure and into things like new renewable revenue streams coming from Labrador that will benefit the people of this Province for a heck of a long time.

With that, I will take my seat and we can all go home.

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MS BURKE: Mr. Chair, I move, seconded by the hon. Minister of Transportation and Works, that the Committee rise, report progress, and ask leave to sit again.

CHAIR: The motion is that the Committee rise, report progress, and ask leave to sit again.

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, ‘nay'.

Carried.

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

MR. SPEAKER (Fitzgerald): Order, please!

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

MR. T. OSBORNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Committee of Supply have considered the matters to them referred and have asked me to report progress and ask leave to sit again.

MR. SPEAKER: The Chair of the Committee of Supply reports that the Committee have considered the matters to them referred and have directed him to report progress and ask leave to sit again.

When shall the Committee have leave to sit again?

MS BURKE: Tomorrow, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Tomorrow.

On motion, report received and adopted. Committee ordered to sit again on tomorrow.

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

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the hon. Minister of Finance, that this House now adjourn.

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

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

This House is now 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.