March 8, 2012                            HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS              Vol. XLVII No. 5


The House met at 1:30 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Wiseman): Order, please!

Admit strangers.

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. KENNEDY: I rise on a point of privilege, Mr. Speaker.

In light of information that has come to my attention only very recently, this is my earliest opportunity to raise this serious matter of privilege here in the House. An event has been disclosed to me regarding the intimidation of the Member for St. George's – Stephenville East, who is also the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills, and the intimidation of a member of her staff. The intimidation was by the Member for St. Barbe.

O'Brien and Bosc in House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Second Edition, 2009, on-line, Mr. Speaker, states that a "Member must satisfy the Speaker that he or she is bringing the matter to the attention of the House as soon as practicable after becoming aware of the situation." So, that is what I am doing by raising this now.

On February 3, 2012, at 2:52 p.m. the Member for St. Barbe telephoned the constituency office of the Member for St. George's – Stephenville East, and in his capacity as member, left a recorded voice message for the minister's assistant about a client. This call was returned almost immediately, Mr. Speaker, by the constituency assistant in the office, who spoke with the constituency assistant for the Member for St. Barbe. At 3:22 p.m., the Member for St. Barbe called again and left this message, and I quote, "Hello, this is Jim Bennett calling. I am calling on the xxxx file. You were just speaking with my constituency assistant. If this problem is not resolved today, you can expect me to absolutely vilify your Minister on Monday morning on open line. I will absolutely trash your Minister and say what a bunch of idiots she's got working in her department. You fix the problem and fix it today or there will be lots of trouble. My number, if you want to call me personally or have the Minister call me is 898-7571. It's approximately 25 minutes after 3 on Friday and this should not have taken so long if the people in your department had been doing their job. We've had this file complete since the 31st of January and you wasted three days. So get the prob… the file fixed. Call back to me 898-7571 or call back to Rhonda at 898-6751 or my office 898-2298 or on Monday morning I will be calling and there will be hell to pay with your Minister for having such a bunch of slackers working for her who don't care about people who are in need. Thank you."

Mr. Speaker, those statements are threats, clearly and unequivocally. Any reasonable person would conclude they cross the line on what is acceptable behaviour. When she listened to the recorded message – for which there is an audio available, if needed – the minister's assistant was profoundly and understandably distressed by the threatening invective she heard the Member for Barbe unleash. This kind of behaviour is clearly abhorrent, unacceptable and, frankly, calls this hon. House into disrepute.

O'Brien and Bosc, Mr. Speaker, in chapter 3, distinguish contempt from privilege, describing contempt as including "assaulting, threatening, obstructing or intimidating a Member or officer of the House in the discharge of their duties" and "assaulting, threatening or disadvantaging a Member, or a former Member, on account of the Member's conduct in Parliament".

Clearly, the threatening behaviour of this member, Mr. Speaker, at the very least, satisfies the definition of contempt and, for that reason, warrants discipline.

Contempt is serious in itself, Mr. Speaker, but a breach of privilege is even more serious, and I believe a case can be made that his threats go beyond contempt to constitute a breach of privilege.

O'Brien and Bosc define "The rights, privileges and immunities of individual Members of the House" as including "freedom from obstruction, interference, intimidation and molestation".

O'Brien and Bosc state, "Should an Hon. Member be able to say that something has happened which prevented him or her from performing functions, that he or she has been threatened, intimidated, or in any way unduly influenced, this will be a case for the Chair to consider."

O'Brien and Bosc further state, Mr. Speaker, "It is impossible to codify all incidents which might be interpreted as matters of obstruction, interference, molestation or intimidation and as such constitute prima facie cases of privilege. However, some matters found to be prima facie include the damaging of the Member's reputation, the usurpation of the title of Member of Parliament, the intimidation of Members and their staff and of witnesses before committees, and the provision of misleading information."

O'Brien and Bosc went on further to state: "an action which amounts to a form of intimidation does not need to be directed at the Member in person in order to constitute an offence in terms of privilege."

O'Brien and Bosc quote Maingot as stating: "The purpose of raising matters of ‘privilege' in either House of Parliament is to maintain the respect and credibility due to and required of each House in respect of these privileges, to uphold its powers, and to enforce the enjoyment of the privileges of its Members. A genuine question of privilege is therefore a serious matter not to be reckoned with lightly and accordingly ought to be rare, and thus rarely raised in the House of Commons."

In light of the preceding, Mr. Speaker, I ask that you rule that the threatening behaviour of this member constitutes a prima facie case of breach of privilege, and I ask you to direct the House to proceed to debate the following motion:

"WHEREAS threats directed by Members towards other Members or Ministers or those who work with them are intolerable;

AND WHEREAS the Member for St. Barbe, in a telephone message on February 3, 2012, directed threats toward the Member for St. George's – Stephenville East and a member of her staff and others in her employ;

BE IT RESOLVED that this honourable House declares that the aforementioned threats by the Member for St. Barbe constitutes a breach of privilege, that this House expresses its condemnation of this Member for making these threats, and that this House directs the offending Member to apologize in this House to those to whom his threats were directed."

Alternatively, Mr. Speaker, the bar for privilege is necessarily high, and for this reason, if you were to rule that a prima facie case of privilege is not established, then I ask that the member's threatening behaviour be treated as a matter of contempt, for which there are various remedies, as defined in the section of Bosc and O'Brien on Power to Discipline. They range from censure or reprimand all the way up to incarceration, Mr. Speaker, indicating the seriousness with which contempt is taken.

So, if this is not deemed a prima facie question of privilege, then I would ask that this behaviour be deemed contemptuous and that he be ordered to apologize in this House to those to whom these threats were directed.

Mr. Speaker, we are becoming more and more vigilant in our society in addressing bullying, harassment, intimidation and violence with the seriousness they warrant. The responsibility for addressing such behaviour with respect to the members and operations of this House rests on all of us collectively. We need to send a clear and unequivocal message and set an example that intimidation will not be tolerated here any more than we would tolerate it anywhere else.

That is the motion, Mr. Speaker, and the point of privilege.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Cartwright – L'Anse au Clair to the point of privilege.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

This is the first knowledge that I have of this particular incident. I would ask for the opportunity to examine the information that has been presented by my colleague, the Government House Leader, and to consult with the Member for St. Barbe. We will await your ruling after that.

Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Any further comments to the point of privilege?

The House will take a recess while the Speaker reviews the point of privilege raised and return with his ruling.

Recess

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Thank you for the opportunity to take a few minutes to look at the point of privilege that has been raised by the Government House Leader. I had an opportunity to review the sections of our House that deals with the particular points that the Government House Leader did read and present today. I also had an opportunity to discuss this with my colleague, the Member for St. Barbe.

First of all, Mr. Speaker, in looking at our Standing Orders and also in looking at the proceedings which governs the House, O'Brien and Bosc, I have had an opportunity to read through these sections very carefully. First of all, Mr. Speaker, as it relates to a point of privilege, which is what the Government House Leader raised today, it states very clearly here on page 141, Chapter 3: "First, the Speaker must be convinced that a prima facie case of breach of privilege has been made and, second, the matter must be raised at the earliest opportunity."

I would suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, the phone call, which the Government House Leader had alluded to, was actually made on February 3. That is over a month ago. I would have to question the reason the government did not bring this to the House of Assembly in the past two days, which they have had the opportunity to do so.

I would suggest, Mr. Speaker, that the minister, the government, or the Government House Leader cannot just wait until there is a prime opportunity to raise a point of privilege but must do so at the earliest opportunity, and the earliest opportunity would have been Tuesday. There is precedence within this House of Assembly where there have been points of privilege that have been raised even within twenty-four hours of an incident, in which the Speaker had ruled that it was not a point of privilege because it was not raised at the earliest convenience.

Mr. Speaker, we would certainly have to question why, again, this issue was not raised on Tuesday or Wednesday. I am sure the minister would have been aware of this issue if it was left on her phone since February 3. She is the previous Government House Leader in the Legislature. She knows the rules as well or better than anyone who sits in this House of Assembly. She would know that in raising a point of privilege, there are very strict rules and procedures that govern that which must be accounted for and followed. So, Mr. Speaker, the first thing I would do is suggest that this is not a breach of privilege, nor is it a prima facie case.

Mr. Speaker, I would also like to speak to the piece that the Government House Leader raised with regard to this being interference or intimidation. Again, I have consulted the orders which govern the House, O'Brien and Bosc, Mr. Speaker, on page 111, where it speaks to examples of obstruction, interference, and intimidation. First of all it says: "A Member may also be obstructed or interfered with in the performance of his or her parliamentary functions by non-physical means. In ruling on such matters, the Speaker examines the effect the incident or event had on the Member's ability to fulfil his or her parliamentary responsibilities. If, in the Speaker's view, the Member was not obstructed in the performance of his or her parliamentary duties and functions, then a prima facie breach of privilege cannot be found."

Well, Mr. Speaker, after consultation with the Member for St. Barbe, I have learned that the incident that occurred – and I am not dismissing that anything that the Government House Leader read as part of a transcript of a phone call is inaccurate in any way. The member confirmed with me that indeed was accurate. He also confirmed with me, Mr. Speaker, that he was very concerned and very frustrated in representing an issue relative to a constituent in his district. He had been trying in his office for nearly two weeks to have the issue resolved. He had made a number of calls, Mr. Speaker, to the department and to others, and, including that day, directly to the minister's office and assistant. Mr. Speaker, he was frustrated simply because his constituent – this happened to be on a Friday afternoon, the constituent who had a husband who was a cancer patient had to be in Corner Brook on Monday morning for chemotherapy.

That particular family did not own a vehicle. They had no financial resources to get there; they were contacting the minister's department to look for financial assistance in being able to access the therapy that her husband required. It was getting late in the day. No one had called back this MHA or provided any assistance to him. Maybe, Mr. Speaker, I would suggest that, if the people in that department or the minister was on top of her duties, then this incident would not have occurred.

Mr. Speaker, in the absence of no one providing assistance to this family and answering to this MHA, the frustration continued to grow. Mr. Speaker, as a result of it, the member was very upset and made the comments that he did. However, Mr. Speaker, I would suggest to you that if you listen carefully to the comments that were read by the Government House Leader, you would suffice, as I did, that none of these comments obstructed the minister in her duties; none of it was relative to physical threats in any particular way. None of it affected the minister's ability to be able to do her job, and therefore, Mr. Speaker, it is not a prima facie case. In fact, Mr. Speaker, the minister continued to work for the last month, and we know that. We have seen her in the House, we have seen her in the media, we have seen her in press conferences, and we have seen her dealing with a number of different issues.

Mr. Speaker, also, our rules speak to the fact that was this damaging to the reputation of the minister or usurp her in her title or as a member. Mr. Speaker, we certainly do not see that was the case in any way. We do not see that it was damaging to her reputation in any way.

Mr. Speaker, the other piece to this is that in addition to the member leaving that message on the answering machine – by the way, that message did prompt action in the department; it did prompt someone in the department and in the minister's office to finally react to the constituent and what their need was, and to help resolve it. Mr. Speaker, what the Government House Leader did not outline was the other message that was left on the answering machine when the Member for St. Barbe actually called back and apologized if he had been forceful or strong in his comments that he had made.

Mr. Speaker, these are the points that I want to make with regard to this particular case, that one: it is not a point of privilege simply because the rules around the point of privilege have not been followed in making this particular case in the House of Assembly. It was not brought to the attention of the House at the earliest possible time, although the minister, who was a former Government House Leader here, was aware of it since February 3 or soon thereafter.

In addition, Mr. Speaker, I have outlined the circumstances under which this has occurred. Mr. Speaker, I also outlined the fact that this has not been a prima facie case because it has not damaged the reputation of the minister; it has not affected her ability to be able to do her job in any way, shape, or form. Mr. Speaker, I would provide that argument –

MR. SPEAKER: Just to advise the House, apparently there is a malfunction in the door; it needs a key to deactivate it, so just be a little patient while they do that.

Thank you.

The Opposition House Leader.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The only other piece that the Government House Leader raised around this was the piece around intimidation. I would suggest that there was no intimidation to the minister, Mr. Speaker. Our argument would be that if the minister felt intimidated or threatened in any way within the last thirty-five days or thirty-six days, she would have made contact with the RCMP or, Mr. Speaker, she would have reported it to some authority or at the very minimum to the Government House Leader, or to the Speaker's Office prior to this. So we would suggest, Mr. Speaker, that this is just an opportunity for the government to be able come into the House and to raise this issue on a day when it is, in our opinion, at the earliest opportunistic time for them, as opposed to the earliest opportunity to make the case.

MR. SPEAKER: Any further comments to the point of privilege?

The hon. the Government House Leader.

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

The first point I will deal with is the issue of the timing of the issue. The earliest opportunity, Mr. Speaker, we have acknowledged that it has to be brought forward at the earliest opportunity. Now, because Minister Burke is a minister of the Crown, as a Member of the House of Assembly, does not mean that she reacts any differently to situations than any other human being. One of the myths that were debunked many years ago, Mr. Speaker, in terms of violence against women and reporting of everything from sexual abuse to spousal abuse was that people act immediately. There are situations, Mr. Speaker, in which people do not know what to do.

I would suggest to you, and I am going to have a suggestion here, that we play the tape, and you listen to the tape, and you see for yourself if there is intimidation.

So, as it was pointed out, on International Women's Day to be promulgating these myths and fallacies that we got rid of in the legal system years ago, Mr. Speaker, I do not think does justice to the system. What happened was that I heard this tape yesterday. When I heard the tape, I said immediately: Something has to be done here. I became aware, as the Government House Leader, yesterday.

Now, what happens is, when I hear it, this is close to a physical threat. Do we go to the police or do we bring it to the House? We chose this route, Mr. Speaker, because the Member for St. Barbe, in his role as an MHA, threatened and intimidated, or attempted to threaten and intimidate another MHA.

So, Mr. Speaker, the House opened two days ago. The application or the point of privilege relates to his role as an MHA, a member of this House, in relation to his behaviour toward another member of this House. That is what we are relating to. Not only the staff, because to refer to members of our public service as idiots and slackers, what kind of message does that send to people out there, Mr. Speaker? Is that the way this individual, who wants to be the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, treats the people who work in this government, Mr. Speaker, in the civil service?

In terms of the earliest opportunity, Mr. Speaker, I would suggest to you that the earliest opportunity has been met. Even beyond that, look at the seriousness of the matter. Look at the seriousness of the words. There is no acceptance of responsibility, in fact, I think it is rather sad, Mr. Speaker. What we are seeing here is a condonation of intimidation, bullying and threats by a former Status of Women minister, Mr. Speaker. I find that disconcerting.

Let us look at what happens in between. At 2:52 p.m., Mr. Bennett – excuse me, the Member for St. Barbe – phones and identifies himself as the MHA for St. Barbe. Hello, this is Jim Bennett; I am the MHA for St. Barbe. He clearly identifies he is acting in that role.

Then we have, Mr. Speaker, thirty minutes later: Hello, this is Jim Bennett calling. I am calling on the so-and-so file. You were just speaking with my constituency assistant.

In between, Mr. Speaker, in thirty minutes, he has placed one call, a call has been returned, and then he goes on this unacceptable tirade. It is not as simple to say, well, he was frustrated. We all get frustrated, but we can control our behaviour to a certain extent.

What I am going to suggest, Mr. Speaker, and I really think we should do this here. I have seen it so often, Mr. Speaker, in a courtroom setting where a transcript does not give you the flavour for what actually took place. I am suggesting we play the tape. We play the audio of what was said and then let you – I was going to call you Your Lordship – hear the words, hear the rage in the voice, hear the threatening tone. Then look at it, Mr. Speaker, from that perspective, and ask yourself: Is this the kind of behaviour that is acceptable?

It is one thing, Mr. Speaker, to be heckling and critiquing each other. This goes far beyond that. In fact, what I hear the Opposition House Leader to be saying is, bullying is okay in certain circumstances. It is okay for an MHA to bully members of the civil service and to say, and this is the word, Mr. Speaker, "on Monday morning I will be calling and there will be hell to pay with your Minister…" Mr. Speaker, we are getting awful close when we are starting to use words like that. I am suggesting we play the tape and you listen to it, Mr. Speaker.

Finally, as I have indicated, to say that the minister did not bring it to anyone's attention early enough is because she was not bothered. We have sat in the House, Mr. Speaker. There is a pattern developing on the other side. There is a pattern of intimidation developing and it needs to be dealt with, Mr. Speaker. I understand we still have several points of order. I see the member, Mr. Speaker; I see he is commenting and smiling. Do you find this funny, Sir? Do you find this funny?

AN HON. MEMBER: The Member for the Bay of Islands.

MR. KENNEDY: The Member for the Bay of Islands, do you find this funny? Mr. Speaker, what I am suggesting now, let us play the tape. Hear for yourself what was said. Those would be my comments, Mr. Speaker.

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

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, I have spent a lot of years in this House of Assembly, but I do not think I have ever seen anybody sink so low to score political points in my entire life as I am witnessing before me today – as I am witnessing before me today. It is a proud day in this Province to have a female Premier, and what do they do? They orchestrated, Mr. Speaker, to bring a point of privilege to the House of Assembly against a member on International Women's Day instead of coming here and talking about the important issues that face women in this Province.

Why didn't you bring the issues in on Tuesday when you were supposed to bring the issue in?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS JONES: We would not be debating today whether it is a point of privilege or not, because if it was brought here on Tuesday, you would have followed the rules of the House and it would have been done appropriately. Well, forgive me if you do not like the message, but those are the rules. You did not follow them appropriately. When you do not follow them appropriately, then I argue with you, with all due respect, Sir, that you are in violation of what the rules really are. It is not a point of privilege.

Now, Mr. Speaker, the government members opposite are actually exploiting this issue and exploiting International Women's Day, and that is what is happening there. That is the lowest, lowest thing I have ever seen in my entire life. That is what I say to you.

Mr. Speaker, if the government and the members opposite can plead ignorance after the very member sat there as the Opposition House Leader for three or four years, that she does not know the rules and waited for thirty days before they brought it forward to the House of Assembly is a little bit much.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, I am not justifying the behaviour; I am justifying the procedure, I say to the member, and you listen to what I have to say, because that is what I am talking about – procedure, Mr. Speaker. When you look at the procedures for this House, and when there are points of privilege, when they are supposed to be raised is the earliest opportunity, that did not happen with the government opposite because, Mr. Speaker, it was more opportunistic for them to do it today. They know that full well. That is what I find so degrading about all of this, I say to you, Premier. I would expect more from you than to allow your government to do that.

Mr. Speaker, if there are things in that tape or in that message, I say to the hon. minister, that are threatening, why did you not take it to the RCMP and why are you not taking it to the RCMP today?

It is not a breach of privilege in this House of Assembly. You know that. You know the rules of the House. You know the guide that governs it. If you feel that it is so serious and that there were such strong implications to you, your office, and your government, then you are really bringing it to the wrong authority, I would suggest to you, Minister. I would expect that the Government House Leader, being a lawyer himself, would certainly know a lot better, Mr. Speaker, what the process is and what the practice is, as opposed to taking the route that he is taking today.

Now, Mr. Speaker, the Member for St. Barbe, after he made that call out of frustration in trying to get a response from the government to act on behalf of a person in this Province who needed help, he also made a call of an apology. That was not expressed in the House of Assembly today.

In addition to that, Mr. Speaker, after consulting with the Member for St. Barbe, he realizes that he may have overstepped his bounds in saying to the minister – and, by the way, what was the threat? - that I am going to go to the Open Line show and talk about your minister? Well, Mr. Speaker, people are on the Open Line show talking about politicians every single day.

Mr. Speaker, in the absence of the minister not accepting the apology that was left on the answering machine a couple of days later, and looking at the fact that she feels a threat from an MHA that she is not doing her job and will bring his voice to the open line shows to talk about her behaviour, if she finds that upsetting, well I have to say that the Member for St. Barbe has no problem standing and apologizing again, as he did two days after he made the phone call. He certainly, Mr. Speaker, is prepared to do that.

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

MR. KENNEDY: Mr. Speaker, I hesitate to rise again, but there are a couple of points. We have now, Mr. Speaker, gone from the condemnation of intimidation, the promulgation of old myths to support the minister's failure to report, to now saying it is only physical threats you should go to the RCMP with. That is not the purpose of this House, Mr. Speaker. There is a basic rule that sometimes you have to look at form over substance. You have to look at the substance, Mr. Speaker; you do not allow form to guide.

Now, what I will say to you is that she has misled the House, Mr. Speaker; it is a very serious allegation.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. KENNEDY: The Minister for Advanced Education and Skills –

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. KENNEDY: That the Minister for Advanced Education and Skills states unequivocally, and will state under oath, that there was no apology. So what we have here, Mr. Speaker, we have gone from bad to worse. That has to be investigated, because she has stood up in this House and said that there was an apology. You said there was a message left. Well, we got the messages and we would like to play them for you, Mr. Speaker. We would like to play the two messages that we have for you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. KENNEDY: Mr. Speaker, what we have now is a situation that has gone from bad to worse, and the minister can speak to this. She states unequivocally that there was no apology. So what we have now is someone is lying, and we have to get to the bottom of this, Mr. Speaker. I hate to use that word in this House, but there is no other way to describe what is going on here. What we have is a situation where there is not only a condemnation of absolutely abhorrent behaviour but now they are trying to cover it up.

Mr. Speaker, my first request, and I have asked you to deal with this request, is to play the tape and listen to the tape. Mr. Speaker, listen to it.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for St. Barbe to a point of privilege.

MR. BENNETT: Mr. Speaker, I can confirm that this matter did happen late on Friday afternoon. A few days later I telephoned and left a message for the supervisor, who is Ms Joanne Woodward or Woodford, and said that if I was too extreme in my comments then I would apologize. I think my constituency assistant was present in the room with me when I did that.

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

MR. KENNEDY: Mr. Speaker, the lady referred to does not work in the minister's office. The Opposition House Leader said that he apologized to the minister or her staff. The tapes, Mr. Speaker, are to the constituency assistant office in Stephenville. So, here we go again. The truth is coming out again, isn't it? The truth is coming out again. You do not insult and threaten someone and then apologize to someone else. So here we go, we are now seeing a little bit of slipping and sliding.

Now I come back, Mr. Speaker, to the orchestration point. Again, I challenge the Opposition House Leader on that. To say that this government is orchestrating anything is simply false. I heard that tape yesterday. Mr. Speaker, I heard the tape and then decided as Government House Leader that there is an issue here of privilege. Again, Mr. Speaker, I come back to the point of now we have gotten deeper into it because there has been an attempt here to put forward a statement, a set of facts that are not correct, and the Member for St. Barbe stands up when he is caught again. That is what has happened here, Mr. Speaker.

Again, I ask you, I implore you, Sir, play the tape.

MR. SPEAKER: A point of privilege has been raised on the floor of the House today. Obviously, points of privileges are taken very seriously, they reflect on the entire House. We have heard comments from both sides. I wanted to ensure that we have given ample opportunity to reflect on the point that has been raised, but I want to defer my decision until another day and I have had an opportunity to reflect on the evidence that has been provided and comments provided in the House, but I would also ask the Government House Leader if they would turn over the tape in question to my office so I can hear them. On a future day I will make my ruling.

The House will now move to daily proceedings with Statements by Members. Before we do that, I want to acknowledge some guests we have in the gallery today. There are seven individuals from the Isthmus Rural Development Association Targeted Initiative for Older Workers group from the District of Bellevue. The group is accompanied by their coordinator, Cynthia Smith.

I welcome you to the Assembly today.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Statements by Members

MR. SPEAKER: Today we are going to have members' statements from the Member for the District of Cartwright – L'Anse au Clair, the Member for the District of Bay of Islands, the Member for the District of Mount Pearl North, the Member for the District of St. John's North, the Member for the District of Mount Pearl South, and the Member for the District of Bonavista South.

The hon. the Member for Cartwright – L'Anse au Clair.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

On International Women's Day, I am pleased to rise in this House today to congratulate the recent winner of the Wayne Earle Community Service Award in Labrador, a remarkable woman and a great friend who has given a lot of time to community service: Ms Madelyn Kelly of Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

First of all, the Wayne Earle Community Service Award was established in memory of Mr. Earle of L'Anse au Loup. This award is presented each year at the Combined Councils of Labrador AGM.

Mr. Speaker, Ms Kelly served as a councillor for the Town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay for eight years. During that time, she was involved in many different aspects of municipal life, chairing the Economic Development Committee and acting as a council representative on the Central Labrador Economic Development Board and the Labrador North Chamber of Commerce. She also sat on the board of Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador and a number of their subsidiary committees.

Locally, she was a willing volunteer and ambassador from Happy Valley-Goose Bay, involved in events such as the annual SnoBreak and the Labrador Winter Games. She gave freely of her time to serve not only the people of Goose Bay, but represented and expressed the views of people in all areas of Labrador as she actively engaged in the economic development process to stabilize and improve our local economy.

Ms Kelly always had the best interests of residents in mind when discussing their challenges. Her dedication to her community and to Labrador as a whole is commendable, and she is very deserving of the Wayne Earle Community Service Award.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all members in this House to join with me in extending congratulations to Madelyn Kelly.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. JOYCE: Mr. Speaker, I rise in this hon. House today to recognize Terri-Lynn Loder Gillett of Summerside 4-H Rockets, who has been awarded the Leader of the Year award for Newfoundland and Labrador by the 4-H Canadian Council.

This award is presented annually to one person in each Province who has demonstrated the leadership and continued contribution to their local 4-H club. To be nominated by this award, the nomination is made by the members of the local club. There is no better honour than being recognized by your peers.

Mr. Speaker, Terri-Lynn has been a member of the 4-H Rockets since childhood, always providing leadership and taking the initiative to get things done. In recent years, she has held many positions within the club and this year has taken on the role of club coordinator.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all members of the House to join me in extending congratulations to Terri-Lynn on receiving this much-deserved award.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for the District of Mount Pearl North.

MR. KENT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise in this hon. House today on International Women's Day to recognize Mount Pearl Intermediate and the Character Counts Community project, an initiative that has been created to help encourage children and youth to be more accepting of others. This program was implemented in recent years.

The Character Counts program invites students and staff to create a positive school environment where all students and staff can feel safe and respected. This program also promotes an atmosphere of acceptance, trust, and responsibility for others.

While planning this project, the committee sought a unique way to transform the physical building so that their determination and commitment to the Character Counts program would be reflected. Posters, murals, banners and displays were created, but still, the committee felt their efforts lacked the wow factor they were looking for.

Considering that Mount Pearl Intermediate was a small community within the larger community of Mount Pearl, it was decided to designate the hallways and corridors as friendly areas by using street signs. The size and design of the signs were mirrored after the City of Mount Pearl street signs, but the colour was changed, the school crest was added along with the new street names. The signs have made a huge impact on how the school looks and feels.

Placed in high-traffic areas, like the main circular hallway referred to as the Citizenship Circle, all students see the signs. Twenty signs have currently been mounted with plans for at least ten more to complete the community. The names reflect the type of school Mount Pearl Intermediate strives to be. Some of the signs include: Caring Crescent, Citizenship Circle, Fairness Freeway, Respect Road, Responsibility Way, and Trustworthiness Trail.

The overall response from the Grade 5 to 9 students, staff, parents, and visitors has been overwhelmingly positive. This idea has definitely made a bold statement to everyone concerned. The message is clear: Character counts at Mount Pearl Intermediate.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all members of this House to join me in congratulating the staff and students at Mount Pearl Intermediate for continuing to create the best learning and working environment for our children and youth.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. KIRBY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

On March 3 of this year, the College of the North Atlantic hosted the sixth Newfoundland and Labrador regional finals of Canspell, the national spelling bee. CanSpell is locally sponsored by The Telegram newspaper as part of its ongoing commitment to literacy skills.

The 2012 CanSpell competition saw 1,800 students participating from around the Province, and a record fifty-five young scholars from Grades 4 through 8 competed for the right to represent the Province at the national final in Toronto. Every participant deserves congratulations, Mr. Speaker. I would add that their teachers and parents deserve our thanks for supporting the students.

If the House will indulge me, I would like to single out two students who represented a school in my own district for special recognition. Grade 4 student Aaron Sarkar and Grade 6 student Brandon Tilley represented St. Andrews Elementary in the regional spelling bee. St. Andrews has a long history of involvement with the CanSpell bee, and the school is to be applauded for its commitment to literacy.

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all hon. members join me in congratulating the participants of the 2012 edition of the CanSpell spelling bee.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for the District of Mount Pearl South.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. LANE: Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege to stand in this hon. House to recognize the tremendous success which was the thirtieth annual Frosty Festival in the City of Mount Pearl. Once again, this year's festival included various activities for citizens of all ages and interests including: a concert featuring Newfoundland and Labrador's own Buddy Wasisname and the Other Fellers, two community breakfasts, an Irish pub night, a lip sync contest, seniors bingo, jigs dinner, a variety show and a dinner theatre, just to name a few.

Mr. Speaker, as I am sure you can appreciate, any festival of this magnitude would not be possible were it not for the hard work and co-operation of a number of community partners. I would therefore ask all members of this hon. House to join me in congratulating the City of Mount Pearl, the Frosty Festival Board of Directors, the various community groups and organizations, the corporate sponsors and all of the community-minded volunteers who contributed to the great success story which was Frosty Festival 2012.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Bonavista South.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. LITTLE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, hon. colleagues, I rise in this House today to recognize and congratulate Captain John Russell on reaching a major milestone that few of us probably ever will. On December 11, 2011, Mr. Russell celebrated his 105th birthday.

It is most astonishing that Mr. Russell still resides in his own home. I had the honour of sitting with him as he enlightened me with the tales of his life's adventures, portraying a memory as sharp as yours or mine. These memoirs can be found in the book, Memories of a Lifetime, a published autobiography that Mr. Russell wrote back in 1997 at the age of ninety.

Captain Johnny Russell, a title he earned while sailing on schooners as a young man, spent his earliest years growing up in Red Cliff, and has then lived in Bonavista since 1952. He is well known and admired by many people throughout the Bonavista Peninsula and the great Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. I certainly hope I get the privilege of helping Captain Johnny Russell celebrate birthday number 106.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all members of this House to join me in congratulating such an honorary member of our Province, Captain John Russell.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Statements by Ministers.

Statements by Ministers

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Child, Youth and Family Services.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS JOHNSON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in this hon. House today to commemorate the 101st anniversary of International Women's Day.

Last week, the Premier and I met with representatives of numerous groups committed to advancing the status of women in our Province – and a lot of those women are in the gallery today. Together, we proclaimed March 8 as International Women's Day in Newfoundland and Labrador.

On this day, women in our Province celebrate the many accomplishments women have made to date, as well as determine next steps to continue achieving equality for all women.

A striking example of the progress that has been made here in our Province is that for the first time in our history, a woman serves as Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS JOHNSON: In honour of International Women's Day, MSN News compiled a list of Canadian women worthy of note. They further described these women as distinguished and at the top of their game. Included in this list was our Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS JOHNSON: Mr. Speaker, this year's theme for International Women's Day is Strong Women, Strong Canada – Women in Rural, Remote and Northern Communities: Key to Canada's Economic Prosperity. This theme allows us to celebrate the economic contributions of women in our rural communities, as well as the overall achievements in advancing women.

For instance, over the last three years a total of 172 women have obtained apprenticeship opportunities with the help of the Office to Advance Women Apprentices and over fifty of these hires were supported by our government's Apprentice Wage Subsidy Program.

Mr. Speaker, government's commitment to the women's community remains strong, with funding to organizations throughout the Province, including: Newfoundland and Labrador Organization of Women Entrepreneurs (NLOWE); Women in Resource Development Corporation; eight Status of Women Councils; Provincial Advisory Council on the Status of Women; Multicultural Women's Organization of Newfoundland and Labrador; and the Newfoundland and Labrador Aboriginal Women's Network.

International Women's Day allows us to share our gratitude for these organizations and all women past and present who are the driving force in advancing the status of women in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

We want to join with others in the House of Assembly today, Mr. Speaker, in commemorating International Women's Day and celebrating the many accomplishments of women, not just in Newfoundland and Labrador, but all throughout our country; women who have reached to the top pillars of many offices and many jobs, in many different sectors of our society.

Mr. Speaker, we cannot forget that when you reflect on the theme of this year, which is Women in Rural, Remote and Northern Communities, we cannot forget the challenges that many of these women still face. Many of them today, Mr. Speaker, still live in communities where they do not have water and sewer running into their homes. Many of them are still living way below the poverty wage and dealing with significant challenges every day around things that we take for granted, like the cost of food and the cost of living. Mr. Speaker, we need to turn our particular attention to them, to women in our Province who are caregivers, who care for their parents, who care for their sick children and have to give up their jobs and give up a large chunk of their lives to be able to do that. We need to ensure that we can reach out in some way to many of those women as well.

Mr. Speaker, I think the one that we hear all too often are women who are still looking for child care in this Province and women who want to be an active part of the workforce, but without having affordable, reliable child care services, which they look to their governments to provide, they are unable to able to provide it.

So, Mr. Speaker, we commend all the groups out there today who work to advance the status of women in our Province. We certainly wish them well and say to them that we are there to support you and work with you as we go forward.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Leader of the Third Party.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

It is wonderful that we all are here today celebrating International Women's Day. For some of us in the room here, we began on Sunday with the bigger than ever brunch that took place here in St. John's. I think well over 400 people attended the brunch on Sunday. It is wonderful to be with the women's community as we do celebrate.

I am glad the minister mentioned the groups that government supports because those groups, such as NLOWE, Women in Resource Development, the various advisory councils, and the multicultural and aboriginal women's organizations, are doing tremendous work in this Province. They are a backbone to the needs of women on all kinds of levels, economic and social, in this Province. It is most important that we recognize them.

We also have to look at the whole role of women in decision making in the Province too, Mr. Speaker. We need to see government develop plans and targets to ensure equal representation of women and all publicly-funded agencies, boards, and institutions.

Today, MP Irene Mathyssen tabled a bill in the House of Commons requiring mandatory gender parity within the boards of directors of Crown corporations, and women must account for no less than 40 per cent of directors in federal organizations. So I put this forward as something for us to think about here provincially, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DALLEY: Mr. Speaker, I rise in the hon. House today to inform my colleagues that our tourism marketing campaign Find Yourself was recently honoured with ten Adrian Awards, presented by the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International of New York City.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DALLEY: The Find Yourself campaign has now won a total of 147 national and international awards, including a Grand Prix CASSIE, the top award for advertising in Canada. These awards demonstrate that our Province is leading the way in tourism marketing in the country. We are particularly proud of the CASSIE because it not only recognizes creative design, production, and content, but it focuses on the tangible results of our advertising campaign such as tourism numbers and spending. The Find Yourself campaign was also named Marketing Campaign of the Year by the Tourism Industry Association of Canada.

In January, we released two new chapters in our television advertising campaign, featuring Iceberg Alley and Secret Place. These ads are well received by audiences throughout Canada, motivate the tourism industry here in the Province, and exude the sense of pride that we have in this amazing place we call home.

Our government has been working with Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador and destinations management organizations as part of the Tourism Board to implement our provincial strategy Uncommon Potential: A Vision for Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism.

Mr. Speaker, our vision is to be a leading tourism destination, offering authentic experiences, showcasing our people, culture and natural environment. Resident and non-resident tourism spending in Newfoundland and Labrador was almost $880 million in 2010. Our goal is to reach $1.6 billion in tourism spending by 2020. Mr. Speaker, there is no question we are on the right path.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. BALL: I thank the minister for the advance copy of his ministerial statement and certainly congratulate government on the Find Yourself campaign. Receiving ten Adrian awards is quite the honour and certainly deserves the recognition. It makes all of us proud to be a Newfoundlander and a Labradorian.

I know every time as I travel, if it is on an airplane or in a hotel room, it makes me feel at home when I look at those campaigns. It makes me proud, as I said. What I really particularly enjoy is if I am travelling, as I said on an airplane or so, it is watching the reaction of people who are around me as they respond to the ads that they see, especially on some of our airlines these days. It is their reaction, and as we interact with fellow passengers and tell them that is exactly where I live, it stimulates conversation and a lot of questions are answered.

I encourage the support and the investment into the Find Yourself campaign as it supports our people, culture and our natural environment. Tourism in general is important and an economic driver for all of us, in particular in rural Newfoundland. I look forward to 2020 as we reach the goal of $1.6 billion.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for St. John's Centre.

MS ROGERS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

Congratulations to all the people who worked very hard in this industry to have achieved these awards. What a marvellous job they have done, and they make us all proud. I also congratulate the department for acknowledging that tourism is not just for people from away but for all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. What a great shift that was.

I also would like to remind government that there is still a lot of work to do and, in particular, people come to see our magnificent geography, but they also come to experience our culture and our heritage. The people who work in our cultural and heritage industries are doing it at great cost to themselves, and these cultural and heritage groups are often hanging on by a thread wondering when the next bit of money will come so that they can provide the wonderful cultural experiences that they do for us. They have no core funding, and they must rely on piecemeal project funding. Often, never knowing when that money will come.

So, I would like to encourage the government and the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation to review their funding policy guidelines and the timelines as it relates to cultural and heritage activities so that they may better accommodate the needs of this industry.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Oral Questions.

Oral Questions

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

MR. BALL: Mr. Speaker, Justice Robert Wells, in his report on the crash of Cougar Flight 491 was very clear: Offshore workers deserve to have a separate and independent safety board, apart from C-NLOPB. Any changes to the offshore regulatory structure require the support of both levels of government; however, the federal minister has been very clear, he is not interested.

So, I ask the Premier: What will you do now that the federal government is not onside?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, this government is clearly onside in terms of supporting all the recommendations of that report. We have made our position very clear to the federal government. Responsibility for the C-NLOPB is shared between us and between the federal government. Unfortunately, I do not have unilateral authority to direct the C-NLOPB to have a stand-alone regulatory agency. I continue to press my point, Mr. Speaker. Immediately following Question Period, the minister and I will be meeting with the federal Minister of Natural Resources and we will press our case once more.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Since there is no movement on the Justice Wells recommendation, the C-NLOPB is still responsible for offshore safety. The provincial government has left a vacancy on the board for over a year now.

So, I ask the Premier: Why have you left this position vacant for so long and when do you plan to make an appointment of an individual to fill that role?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I have to point out to the hon. Leader of the Opposition that appointments to the board require concurrence by both levels of government. Mr. Speaker, we have made a recommendation to the Department of Natural, we are waiting for their concurrence.

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

MR. BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, municipalities in Newfoundland and Labrador are in a financial crisis. The Mayor of St. John's stated this morning that it is fundamentally wrong for the Province to be taxing communities and is calling on the Province to halt its practice of charging the municipalities HST.

My question is for the Premier: Will your government introduce a rebating of the provincial portion of the HST to communities in Budget 2012?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I have to say that I am disappointed in the remarks of the Mayor of the City of St. John's today, given the fact that we had a meeting last week in which he did not raise those two particular issues. We did talk about the MOG and the fact that we need a new formula for Municipal Operating Grants in this Province. We are working on that, a considerable amount of work has been done.

I shared with him at that time that it would not be ready for this year's Budget. We will continue the work and the consultation that is required to do a really good job of that. Mr. Speaker, we are not going to make other changes to municipal financing until we have all of the work done because that needs to be done in concert with the new MOG formula.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. BALL: Mr. Speaker, municipalities in Newfoundland and Labrador have called an emergency meeting of its membership on Monday, March 12, this to discuss the inaction of government in developing a new fiscal framework for municipalities.

My question once again is to the Premier: Will communities have to bear the brunt of the inactions of this government to develop a new fiscal framework as promised for the last several years?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, this government has acted very responsibly in terms of municipal government. Many of the members in this House cut their political teeth in municipalities in this Province. I certainly did and was the first woman, in fact, to be President of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Municipalities –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: – so I understand these issues very well, Mr. Speaker. We are taking a comprehensive approach, a consultative approach in the formulation of a new MOG, something that was not done with the last MOG under the Liberal Administration, I might add, when I was President of the Federation of Municipalities. Last year, Mr. Speaker, during the Budget we made available transition funding to buffer some of the effects that municipalities are feeling until the new MOGs are in place.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. BALL: Mr. Speaker, I will remind the Premier this is leading to the frustration, so this is a reason why the emergency meeting is being called on March 12. I think it is timely. It has been discussed for several years now.

Mr. Speaker, the federal Minister of Natural Resources also mentioned today that a final decision on a loan guarantee for Muskrat Falls is still months away. Apparently, they are waiting on several documents from the provincial government.

I ask the Premier: What documents are they waiting for?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I have checked, I am not aware of any documentation that the Department of Natural Resources federally has requested that has not been provided. I will follow this up with the minister this afternoon.

Mr. Speaker, a loan guarantee is not critical to the Muskrat Falls project. We have defended this project and the financing of this project and the cost to ratepayers without inclusion of the federal loan guarantee. If we get a federal loan guarantee, and there is no reason to believe that we would not, Mr. Speaker, then that just helps ratepayers in the long run.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. JOYCE: Mr. Speaker, only minutes after a commitment was made in the Throne Speech to review the formula for the Municipal Operating Grants, the Premier said in the media they will not be announcing it this year. All of a sudden the Premier stated that this is a complicated issue and municipalities will be left to bear the brunt of government cuts.

I ask the Premier: Has your government stated the process of revisiting the MOG formula, if so, when can we expect the changes to this formula and when will it be tabled in the House of Assembly?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Once again, Mr. Speaker, we are reviewing the MOGs. There is a considerable amount of work that has already taken place. There are consultations that need to take place with communities all across this Province. Mr. Speaker, last year when the case was made to us that we needed a new MOG formula and that there were financial pressures on municipalities that was taken into account in our Budget, Mr. Speaker. The Leader opposite will have to wait to see what is going to happen in the next Budget.

Mr. Speaker, we appreciate very much the level of government and governance that is provided at the municipal level. We have always been very supportive of our municipalities, Mr. Speaker. That is not going to change.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. JOYCE: Mr. Speaker, the members opposite are so supportive; when the mayor had the press conference not one MHA from St. John's showed up to support St. John's.

Mr. Speaker, Budget 2011 also saw a one-time percentage increase in the MOG allocation for the 2011 fiscal year that was based on the 2006 population census. The Premier has now stated that there is no fiscal framework this year.

My question to the Premier: Will the Premier commit today, in light of the 3 per cent cut to all departments, to maintain the same level of the 2011 MOGs for 2012?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I would just like to point out to the Member for Bay of Islands, I do not believe the members of the NDP, or myself, were invited to the news conference. I certainly was not, and I do not think the members of the NDP were invited to the news conference, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, we do not plan any cuts to MOGs. Last year we added over $4 million in support; $4.6 million, in fact, to the operating grants last year during the transition. Mr. Speaker, I suggest he wait until the Budget is brought down and then he will see the level of support that this government provides to municipalities.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Cartwright – L'Anse au Clair.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

In March, last year, I presented a resolution to the hon. House to lower the age of breast screening in the Province from age fifty to forty. At that time, government deferred the decision to the Cancer Control Advisory Committee. During the election, the government also promised that within ninety days they would conclude a review of whether it was appropriate to lower the age to begin breast screening in Newfoundland and Labrador at age forty.

I ask the Minister of Health and Community Services today: Has the work of the Cancer Control Advisory Committee been completed, and are you prepared to lower the age for breast screening in Newfoundland and Labrador?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, we all understand that cancer touches the lives of many of us here in this Province, in many of our families. In fact, I would suspect in most all of our families, cancer touches the lives. We will continue to work aggressively to fight this terrible disease.

In response to the question, the ninety-day review has been done. The Cancer Control Advisory Committee did its work. They consulted on a number of different fronts, and they have reported that back to me. As well, Mr. Speaker, we have done a jurisdictional scan and a review right across this country as to what is being done there and about the appropriateness of reducing the age from fifty to fifty-nine down to forty to forty-nine. We are taking all of what we have found throughout those reviews into consideration, and we will be able to advise on that in the coming weeks.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Cartwright – L'Anse au Clair.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to remind the minister that this year, there will be nearly 400 women in this Province again diagnosed with breast cancer. We still have one of the highest mortality rates associated with breast cancer of any other Province in Canada. Today, Mr. Speaker, we have eight provinces and territories in Canada that have already reduced the age of screening for women to age forty.

So, Minister, with all due respect, it has been a year now and I would ask you: Are you prepared to follow the best practices of the other provinces in Canada and reduce the age of breast screening for women in Newfoundland and Labrador to age forty?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Again, Mr. Speaker, I want to reiterate that we take this very, very seriously. This is not a matter that we have sloughed off. It is not something that I am doing on the corner of my desk. This is an issue we take exceptionally seriously in the Department of Health and Community Services, Mr. Speaker.

To that end, we have continued to invest, and invest significantly in breast cancer control. In fact, we have now in this Province, operational, twelve mammography units. Budget 2009 allowed for the purchase of those twelve mammography units at a cost of $10.9 million, Mr. Speaker. They have replaced the older units, which really could not do the job to the degree these new units can do. These are now not analog machines anymore, but digital mammography units, Mr. Speaker. They are placed right throughout the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for St. Barbe.

MR. BENNETT: Mr. Speaker, listen to the Fisheries Broadcast and you know our inshore fishermen fully support fleet separation as a cornerstone of our fisheries policy, yet the federal minister cannot make up his mind on fleet separation and the provincial minister cannot make up his mind on fleet separation.

I ask the Premier: Will you stand up for our rural communities and support the Fleet Separation Policy?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, this government is very, very supportive of our fishery. As I have said several times over the last number of weeks, we have invested over $52 million in the fishery in the last five years. We understand that there are many challenges. We are prepared to work with everybody to overcome those challenges.

We understand that fleet separation is an important policy to fishers here in this Province, and this government has not backed away from its policy on fleet separation.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for St. Barbe.

MR. BENNETT: Mr. Speaker, tomorrow the Fisheries Minister of this Province will be attending the Atlantic Council of Fisheries and Aquaculture Ministers conference in Halifax.

I ask the Premier: Has she directed her minister to include fleet separation on the agenda now that the Province of Nova Scotia has come out in strong support of keeping this policy?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to make a quick comment on the previous question because it is very interesting. I sat in this House eight or ten months ago when I was a minister of a different department and we heard the same rhetoric from the Opposition. We were doing consultations across the Province and they encouraged us to stop them and to not listen to the people. Now I am hearing the critics say the same thing today. There is a period of time we are asking to hear from people in the Province, and the federal minister is asking the same thing, and yet the member opposite wants a decision today; he does not want us to listen to what is happening in the industry.

Mr. Speaker, I say to the member opposite, that is not how we operate here. We listen to people and we try to form opinions based on good evidence. My meetings tomorrow, Mr. Speaker, will involve a lot of topics including aquaculture and wild fishery – and fleet separation, among many other things, will be part of the things that we will be talking about.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Burgeo – La Poile.

MR. A. PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, Crown attorneys are warning that increased caseloads due to the Harper crime bill, which is slated to be passed next week, could result in more plea bargains and dropped charges, releasing offenders into society.

Given the majority of sexual assault and domestic violence is perpetrated against women, I ask the Minister of Justice on International Women's Day: What is being done to lessen the impact on victims of violence whose offenders are released because our prisons cannot accommodate the increased numbers of prisoners?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

I assume the hon. member is referring to Bill C-10, which is currently in the House of Parliament. We recognize that it is a significant piece of legislation and a complex one. It has some positive provisions to it, Mr. Speaker, which we have supported, but it also has some complex provisions that we are currently analyzing and we will continue to do so.

In terms of the analysis of the impact of that bill, Mr. Speaker, that is ongoing. We are part of an Atlantic committee of correctional officials who are looking at the impact of legislation, and we will continue to work on that dialogue with federal officials on the implementation.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Burgeo – La Poile.

MR. A. PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, the Parliamentary Budget Officer in Ottawa has estimated the Harper crime bill will cost the provinces billions of dollars to implement. A minor section eliminating house arrest alone will cost the provinces an additional $137 million annually.

I ask the Minister of Justice: Has your department determined the provincial cost to implement the entire bill, and if so, is there a plan in place to address these costs, particularly in light of government's instructions to cut 3 per cent of spending?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

Mr. Speaker, I have no idea what the connection is of the 3 per cent cut in spending, but I will repeat that the analysis of Bill C-10 is currently underway by all provinces, and all provinces are having their difficulty trying to ascertain what impact this might have. We are currently assessing our whole correction system and a lot of factors come into play, Mr. Speaker, with regard to the replanning and reshaping of our infrastructure. Certainly, any impact of Bill C-10 will be factored into the equation.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Leader of the Third Party.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

Mr. Speaker, the Premier talks about the needs for austerity in government. She compares the prudent running of government to the prudent running of a household; yet, at the same time, she is not giving householders in this Province an exact indication of what they can expect to pay for electricity in the future so they can run their households prudently.

I ask the Premier: Why doesn't she understand the need for people to have accurate information to help them prudently manage their own households?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Let me try again, Mr. Speaker.

The average household ratepayer – and that is the ratepayer, Mr. Speaker, of 230,000 ratepayers who uses 1,517 kilowatt hours of electricity a month – in 2016, they will pay $217. That is based on what we know today, and we will adjust those numbers as (inaudible).

What will happen, Mr. Speaker, in 2017, when Muskrat Falls comes on that average Island ratepayer, based on what we know today, we will $232. It will go up $15 per month. What will happen, Mr. Speaker, then, it will go up $14 per month over the next thirteen years. Without Muskrat Falls, it will triple. That is pretty simple. I have a chart I can give to the member opposite, if she would like to see it, and I can explain it to her.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Leader of the Third Party.

MS MICHAEL: I am really glad the minister stood up today and made it a bit clear because I tell you, I read Hansard about four times yesterday afternoon to try to figure out his answer, and it was really hard to figure it out.

I do, Mr. Speaker, invite the Minister of Natural Resources today, he mentioned yesterday that he could provide documents –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

He said yesterday he could provide documents – in the plural – outlining how government arrived at the figures that he was using, so I do ask the Minister of Natural Resources today: Will you please table the documents – with an "s" – that you said you could provide?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Both sides have been asking us to table documents. Next week, Mr. Speaker, we will table some documents, but you are going to have to make that floor a little bit bigger out there because it is going to be taken up by these documents.

Mr. Speaker, it is very simple how we get to these numbers. We have 230,000 ratepayers in the Province. We have developed three profiles. The ratepayer who uses 770 kilowatt hours per month is the person who just has electricity. Then we have the person who burns 2,000 kilowatt hours per month, they use electricity and electric heat. We take the average of those, Mr. Speaker, it is 1,517 kilowatt hours, we look at the numbers, and what I can say to the members of the public is what we have broken this down is into dollars, Mr. Speaker. Muskrat Falls will stabilize and reduce rates. Without Muskrat Falls, rates will raise three times more than they would with Muskrat Falls.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Leader of the Third Party.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I look forward to a speedy reception of the documents that the minister is referring to.

Mr. Speaker, in order for the Muskrat Falls Project to be released from the environmental assessment process, the provincial government must reply to the recommendations of the joint panel review, specifically the ones that apply to the provincial government.

So, Mr. Speaker, I ask the Premier: Can she report to the House what work, to date, her government has done to complete this requirement?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Mr. Speaker, when I met with Minister Oliver in Ottawa last week, we discussed the environmental assessment process. Well, let us talk about the environment for a second, Mr. Speaker, because we are not hearing much from the NDP about the protection of the environment. If you live in Holyrood and you breathe in what is spewing there – 18,000 barrels of oil a day, Mr. Speaker, when Holyrood is burning at maximum capacity. It is the equivalent of taking 300,000 cars off the road. It is the equivalent, Mr. Speaker, to removing a million tons of greenhouse gases.

What we are doing, Mr. Speaker, this government is looking to the future, the environment, and protecting the environment for our children. One of the ways we are doing that is through Muskrat Falls and getting rid of that dirty, Bunker C burning Holyrood.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Leader of the Third Party.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I take it that they are not doing anything with regard to the requirements today, except to talk to the other minister on the federal level. Well, we want some action, Mr. Speaker. The joint panel review of the Muskrat Falls proposal noted the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans has already found mercury in Lake Melville because of the Upper Churchill hydro project – proof that downstream mercury contamination is already a reality in the region. The panel also noted Health Canada questioned Nalcor's calculations surrounding the measuring of mercury contamination in wild game, country food, and fish downstream from the proposed hydro dam, and recommended more research to be done.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Premier: What is her government doing to address the immediate and future concerns of the significant adverse affect on the residents of the Upper Lake Melville communities and Rigolet?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

This is the same member, Mr. Speaker, who on a debate on VOCM a few weeks ago said that Muskrat Falls was not a clean, renewable project – it was not green energy. So, Mr. Speaker, when we look at the approach taken by the NDP, we have to take all that into account.

What we do as a government, Mr. Speaker, is we balance the environmental concerns. We balance them against the economic benefits. We balance them against the vision for the future of the Province. Mr. Speaker, the NDP keep saying: Spend, spend, spend. Well, Mr. Speaker, it is Muskrat Falls and projects like Muskrat Falls that provide the projects that allow us to provide housing, to allow us to deal with the Poverty Reduction Strategy, to allow us to provide for education, and the level of living that people have in this Province.

So we balance all of that, Mr. Speaker. We are confident when the decision is made, it will be the right one.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Leader of the Third Party.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

I did not hear myself say anything about money in the last three questions I have asked, Mr. Speaker. I have spoken very significantly about an identified contamination in Lake Melville already – already, Mr. Speaker – identified by DFO and presented to the panel.

Is this government investigating the possible immediate need of a consumption advisory regarding Lake Melville, Mr. Speaker?

This is serious business.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister Responsible for Natural Resources.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

One question I would have for the member opposite: If it is such serious business, how come she never asked the question the last sitting of the House of Assembly? All of a sudden she realized that Muskrat Falls may get her some political points.

Well, what is her position on Muskrat Falls, Mr. Speaker? All of those other NDP members out there who support Muskrat Falls, did they not have the information? Were they incorrect? I heard her waffle on Open Line yesterday, Mr. Speaker, and the question becomes: Does she support it? Does she not support it?

We are taking all the steps we have to take, Mr. Speaker. She does not have to worry about that. We are doing what we have to do.

What I would say to the Leader of the Third Party: Make up your mind.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Leader of the Third Party.

MS MICHAEL: Mr. Speaker, thank you.

The report from the panel did not come out until August of this past year – August. That is when this information came to light.

So I want to know: What is this government going to do about the contamination in Lake Melville?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I can assure the member opposite that we have looked at this issue. The environmental assessment panel recommendations have been looked at. The ones that are appropriate to be examined in terms of their mandate we have looked at and we are continuing to look at. The federal government is working closely with the provincial government. We are working closely, Mr. Speaker, with the stakeholders in Happy Valley-Goose Bay and in the Labrador area. Only two days ago, representatives of Nalcor were in Happy Valley-Goose Bay meeting with people.

Mr. Speaker, it is interesting though. I would like to know: Did Jack Harris have this information when he came out last week and endorsed Muskrat Falls? Perhaps she should tell him that.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for St. John's North.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KIRBY: Mr. Speaker, time and again we have seen companies in this Province hire strikebreakers when they do not want to negotiate with our workers. Workers at the mine in Voisey's Bay were forced to strike for eighteen months – eighteen months, because Vale Inco was able to fly in scabs when they did not want to negotiate. More recently, Mr. Speaker, dozens of trawlermen were thrown out of work by Ocean Choice International when that company chose to hire strikebreakers instead of reaching a fair and just agreement with its workers at the bargaining table.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Minister Responsible for the Labour Relations Agency: When will he finally introduce legislation to ban the use of scab labour in this Province once and for all?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Service Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DAVIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is a pleasure to rise today and receive this first question from the member opposite. An interesting note, it is his first question in the House and my first opportunity to answer on behalf of the Minister Responsible for Labour.

The Employment Relations Committee was struck some time ago, Mr. Speaker, and included representatives from business, labour and government. They were tasked to review all aspects – all aspects of the Labour Relations Act. They completed their work in the fall of 2011, Mr. Speaker.

The minister has received the report and has reviewed it. He has asked for further research and further information before he proceeds with answering that question. He is waiting on that research and when he receives it, he will provide further information.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for St. John's North.

MR. KIRBY: Mr. Speaker, having anti-scab legislation would help workers and their families to avoid days, and weeks, and months of lost wages and encourage both sides to bargain in good faith so that labour disputes do not drag on and on needlessly. In 2007, this government promised to look at implementing anti-scab legislation but did nothing.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the minister once again: Will he support anti-scab legislation or not?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Service Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DAVIS: Mr. Speaker, thank you once again.

The anti-replacement legislation that is being considered is something that has to be carefully considered. As I just indicated to the hon. member opposite, the minister responsible has requested further information requiring further research before he answers that question. When he has all the information, he will provide his answer.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for St. John's North.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KIRBY: Mr. Speaker, this government has spent much of its so-called new energy talking about the positive business environment, but we have seen too many labour disruptions as a result of not having anti-scab legislation. This government does a good job of repeating itself over and over, Mr. Speaker.

I ask: When are the workers of this Province going to see some of that new energy put into action instead of more talk, Mr. Speaker?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Service Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DAVIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am going to try this again. The anti-replacement legislation that is being considered is a very important matter for the minister to consider. It is important for the minister to review all of the information that is available to him. He has requested some further information. It is important as well, Mr. Speaker, to acknowledge and to understand as well that there is no consensus throughout Canada when it comes to anti-replacement legislation. There is no consensus among stakeholders and as well, it is interesting to point out that it is only the Provinces of Quebec and B.C. that currently have such legislation.

It is important to consider all of these factors, and when the minister responsible has all of his information he will provide his answer.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The time for Question Period has expired.

Presenting Reports by Standing and Select Committees.

Tabling of Documents.

Tabling of Documents

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

MR. MARSHALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Pursuant to section 26, subsection (5) (a) –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. MARSHALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Pursuant to section 26 (5) (a) of the Financial Administration Act, I am tabling twenty-three Orders in Council relating to funding pre-commitments for the 2012-2013 to 2016-2017 fiscal year.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Further Tabling of Documents.

The hon. the Minister of Service Newfoundland and Labrador.

MR. DAVIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am pleased to stand today to table the 2010-2011 Annual Report for the Certified Management Accountants of Newfoundland and Labrador; as well, the 2010-2011 Annual Report for the Certified General Accountants of Newfoundland and Labrador; and the 2011 Annual Report for the Chartered Accountants of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Notices of Motion.

Notices of Motion

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister Responsible for Municipal Affairs.

MR. O'BRIEN: Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Amend The Municipalities Act, 1999 and the Urban And Rural Planning Act, 2000. (Bill 9)

MR. SPEAKER: Further Notices of Motion.

The hon. the Minister of Justice and Attorney General.

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

Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Amend The Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act. (Bill 10)

MR. SPEAKER: Answers to Questions for which Notice has been Given.

Answers to Questions for which Notice has been Given

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for St. Barbe.

MR. BENNETT: Mr. Speaker, earlier a point of privilege was raised by the Government House Leader, and that involved conduct of mine outside of the House, and that conduct was at a time when I was very frustrated in helping a disadvantaged –

MR. SPEAKER: We going through now Answers to Questions – does the member have leave to make commentary? I just want to ensure that we – we are straying from the Orders, and if it is the intent of the member to speak to the point of privilege, then we have passed that point in the proceedings. If the member is asking for leave to respond to the point of privilege by way of an apology of some kind, then if that is the case, then apologies are qualified in the House. They are statements of apology, and that is as far as you go. So I just want to make sure that we understand, if you have leave to stand at this proceeding of the House, then I would ask the Government House Leader if that is okay.

MR. KENNEDY: Yes, if he wants to make an apology and it is unqualified.

MR. SPEAKER: I want to make sure that we understand, the apologies before the House are just apologies without qualification, and if the member intends to do that, I would ask him to get to the apology without the additional commentary.

MR. BENNETT: Mr. Speaker, in that case, I absolutely, and wholeheartedly, unequivocally apologize for the House if I have done anything that –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. BENNETT: I apologize.

MR. SPEAKER: I ask the member again, apologies in the House are not qualified in any way, and do not require any elaboration or explanations. Apologies are offered to the House and accepted if they are not qualified in any kind of fashion. So, if the member is attempting to apologize for the issues arising out of the point of privilege, then I ask the member to apologize without any explanation or qualification.

MR. BENNETT: Mr. Speaker, I apologize to the point of privilege raised by the Government House Leader.

MR. SPEAKER: Petitions.

Petitions

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for St. John's North.

MR. KIRBY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to present a petition on behalf of the residents of Newfoundland and Labrador.

I spoke on this petition yesterday, Mr. Speaker, but there was a lot of noise and shouting from the other side of the House, and I hope the hon. members will have a better opportunity to hear me today.

This is a petition that has been circulated throughout the Province, and it pertains to the issue of the Department of Education's school bus transportation policies.

WHEREAS school district restructuring has resulted in longer bus travel times and more hazardous winter travel for rural students of all ages; and

WHEREAS due to recent school closures, children living within 1.6 kilometres of school face increased barriers of congested streets and busy intersections in the walk to school, and parents without cars are having more difficulty getting children to different schools on foot; and

WHEREAS only those child care centres outside the 1.6 kilometre zone and directly on bus routes are included in kindergarten noontime routes, causing hardship for working parents; and

WHEREAS the 1.6 kilometre policy has been in place since 1975, and student transportation policies have not been reviewed through public consultation since 1996; and

WHEREAS parents are expressing the need for more flexible policies for student transportation and school restructuring to meet the current needs of school children;

We, the undersigned, petition the House of Assembly to urge the government to conduct a review of school bus transportation policies and school restructuring to ensure safe and quality education for all school children in the Province.

As in duty bound, your petitioners will ever pray.

Mr. Speaker, this review of school bus regulations is very much long overdue. In fact, on my drive here this morning I saw at least five kids walking on the road because there are no sidewalks. In some areas of the Province, we have students with longer and longer busing times and that becomes more and more hazardous at this time of the year. In urban areas of the Province, we have other issues. Because of the 1.6 kilometre policy, we have a lot of students, small children, who have to cross streets that have become busier and busier over the years. That gets more problematic at this time of the year when we have a lot of snow covering sidewalks and, as I said, there are a good number of roads and streets across the Province where there are no sidewalks at all.

I understand, Mr. Speaker, that in the Avalon West region alone of the Eastern School District children at eleven schools have to cross four to five lanes of traffic to get to school. This petition is supported by many school councils across the Province. It is supported by the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of School Councils. I have also received support from a number of municipal and community leaders across the Province. I hope the government will see fit to heed this request from the petitioners.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Cartwright – L'Anse au Clair.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I stand in the House today to present a petition, and I will read the prayer into the record:

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

WHEREAS we have one of the highest mortality rates for 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 empirical 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; and

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 to begin at age forty and that all women be able to self-refer through Newfoundland and Labrador's screening programs.

Mr. Speaker, I presented petitions like this in the House of Assembly over a year ago, actually I would say getting into a year and a few months. The government at that time, Mr. Speaker, not only in the process of presenting petitions but also bringing in a motion, also posing this issue in Question Period; I had responses from the government that they would indeed act on this particular request and have it looked at and to make a decision.

It is more than twelve months that have passed and we are still getting absolutely no response from the government on what they are going to do. They have told us that they have completed some of the work and that they have a report; however, they have not tabled that report or made it public. They have told us that they are looking at what is being done in other provinces. That does not take too long; I have looked at all of that myself, Mr. Speaker. There are many documents out there written on it in what is happening in other provinces. Even as we speak, there are other provinces like Ontario that are getting ready to move to a different screening process.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, we have the capacity to be able to reduce the age of screening for women because of the fact that we have a lot of new mammography equipment throughout our health care facilities in the Province. We have only a 65 per cent take up on most of that equipment. There is a lot of work to grow and broaden the program.

Mr. Speaker, I would say almost every single day I get an e-mail from a woman in this Province who is under the age of fifty who is looking for breast screening or have already been diagnosed with breast cancer. It is becoming a problem, it is an issue that is confronting women's health in this Province, and we are asking the government to please, please reduce the age of screening for women in Newfoundland and Labrador.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Burgeo – La Poile.

MR. A. PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, I have a petition here today.

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

WHEREAS the Department of Health and Community Services of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador is responsible for the funding and administration of the health care system in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador; and

WHEREAS the Western Health Care Corporation is responsible for the delivery of health care services in the Town of Ramea and surrounding communities upon the terms and conditions prescribed by the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador Department of Health and Community Services; and

WHEREAS we have a medical clinic within the Town of Ramea which services the residents of Ramea, Grey River, and Franηois; and

WHEREAS there is a constant shortage of nurse practitioners at the Ramea clinic in order to provide the necessary medical services to the residents of Ramea and the coastal clinics; and

WHEREAS the Ramea Health Services Committee and the Town of Ramea and concerned citizens have been repeatedly requesting of Western Health to provide the appropriate number of medical/nursing personnel at Ramea; and

WHEREAS Western Health and the Department of Health and Community Services have failed in their obligations to deliver stabilized medical/nursing personnel to Ramea and coastal clinics;

WHEREUPON the undersigned, your petitioners, humbly pray and call upon the House of Assembly to support the residents of Ramea, Grey River, and Franηois in their request to have adequate health care and nursing services available at all times and in appropriate numbers and with appropriate skills at the Ramea and coastal clinics;

As in duty bound your petitioners will ever pray.

Now, Mr. Speaker, this is an issue that has been ongoing for some time. The member before me dealt with this issue, and ever since I started my campaign during the summer and during the lead up to the election and after the election, this has been an issue. There are two nursing practitioner positions at the Town of Ramea. Both are empty and have been empty since the early fall. Western Health is trying to fill these positions, but as you can imagine, it is difficult to fill positions such as these in a rural community.

What I am asking, what I am hoping is that we can work together – and again, this is another issue that affects my colleague from the District of Fortune Bay – Cape La Hune. We can all work together to make sure that we solve this problem. There has to be more done, it has been ongoing for too long. I am looking forward to a meeting with the Minister of Health and Community Services. I have written her, and she is certainly aware of this. Due to the number of letters coming from citizens all over Ramea, whether it be the schools, whether it be the seniors club, whether it be the economic development corporation, everybody is aware. This is affecting their day-to-day lives. They are supposed to take a ferry over to Burgeo to get health care that they should be getting right home in Ramea. Again, the coastal clinics down in Grey River and Franηois are affected by this. So, I am very happy to stand and present this, but it is unfortunate that I need to do so.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Orders of the Day.

Orders of the Day

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister Responsible for Natural Resources.

MR. KENNEDY: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills, that the hon. Minister of Justice to ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Amend The Enduring Powers Of Attorney Act, and I further move that the said bill be now read a first time.

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

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MR. SPEAKER: Contra-minded?

Motion, the hon. the Minister of Justice to introduce a bill, "An Act To Amend The Enduring Powers Of Attorney Act", carried. (Bill 3)

CLERK: A bill, An Act To Amend The Enduring Powers Of Attorney Act. (Bill 3)

MR. SPEAKER: Bill 3 has now been read a first time.

When shall the bill be read a second time?

MR. KENNEDY: Tomorrow.

MR. SPEAKER: Tomorrow.

On motion, Bill 3 read a first time, ordered read a second time on tomorrow.

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

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

Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills, for leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Amend The Income Tax Act, 2000, Bill 4, and I further move that the said bill be now read a first time.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it the wish of the House to have the bill read a first time?

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MR. SPEAKER: Contra-minded?

Motion, the hon. the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board to introduce a bill, "An Act To Amend The Income Tax Act, 2000", carried. (Bill 4)

CLERK: A bill, An Act To Amend The Income Tax Act, 2000. (Bill 4).

MR. SPEAKER: The bill has now been read a first time.

When shall the bill be read a second time?

MR. KENNEDY: Tomorrow, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: On tomorrow.

On motion, Bill 4 read a first time, ordered read a second time on tomorrow.

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

MR. KENNEDY: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills, pursuant to Standing Order 65(1), that the following members constitute the Striking Committee whose duty it shall be to prepare and report within the first twenty sitting days after its appointment lists of members to compose the following Standing Committees of the House: (a) Government Services Committee, to consist of not more than seventeen members and not less than seven members – I am doing this with leave, Mr. Speaker, by the way - (b) Social Services Committee, to consist of not more than seventeen members and not less than seven members; (c) Resource Committee, to consist of not more than seventeen members and not less than seven members; (d) the Public Accounts Committee, to consist of seven members; (e) the Privileges and Elections Committee, to consist of five members; (f) the Standing Orders Committee, to consist of five members; and (g) Miscellaneous and Private Bills Committee, to consist of five members.

The members of the Striking Committee will be: the Member for the District of Grand Bank; the Member for the District of Conception Bay East - Bell Island; the Member for the District of Cape St. Francis; the Member for the District of Cartwright - L'Anse au Clair; and the Member for the District of St. John's North.

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Section 65, it shall be the duty of this Striking Committee to prepare and report within the first twenty days after its appointment the lists referred to therein.

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

MR. KENNEDY: Mr. Speaker, I call from the Order Paper, Order 1, Committee of Supply.

MR. SPEAKER: Before we proceed, Government House Leader – it was my error - would you make that in the form of a motion? We need to vote on that motion, of a Striking Committee.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MR. SPEAKER: Contra-minded?

Motion carried.

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. KENNEDY: Mr. Speaker, I call from the Orders of the Day, Order 1, Committee of Supply.

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole to consider the resolution and Bill 2, Committee of Supply.

It is moved and seconded that I do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into a Committee of the Whole to consider the resolution and the bill.

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

Committee of the Whole

CHAIR (Verge): Order, please!

We are considering Bill 2, but before we do that, before we recognize any speakers to Bill 2, I would like to bring forth a ruling on a point of order that was made when we were in Committee last, on Tuesday, March 6.

On Tuesday, March 6, in Committee of Supply, a point of order was raised by the Government House Leader respecting the language and the actions of the Member for Bay of Islands, specifically, that the language together with the action of pointing at another member was unparliamentary. At the time I took the matter under advisement so that I would have an opportunity to review Hansard, and to also review the video record of the debate leading up to the point of order.

Our Standing Orders are the rules agreed on by this House; they are the Orders which allow us to conduct order and decorum in the House. Primary among these is Standing Order 7(1), stating in part as follows: "The Speaker shall preserve order and decorum and shall decide questions of order." Standing Order 49 states that no member shall "use offensive words against any (other) Member of the House." Standing Order 60 provides for the Standing Orders to be followed during Committee of the Whole House, so far as may be applicable.

In addition, the members of this hon. House have endorsed, and are thereby bound by their Code of Conduct. The second paragraph of the Members' Code of Conduct states: "Members of this House of Assembly respect the law and the institution of the Legislature and acknowledge our need to maintain the public trust placed in us by performing our duties with accessibility, accountability, courtesy, honesty and integrity." Clause 1 of this Code states, in part: "Members shall inform themselves of and shall conduct themselves in accordance with the provisions and spirit of the Standing Orders of the House of Assembly". A breach of the Code by a member can lead to a report to an investigation by the Commissioner for Legislative Standards.

These are serious matters, and members must be aware of their obligation to behave appropriately in this Chamber. In this House, a word, phrase, or behaviour must be seen within the context of how and what it was said and done. Some actions are unparliamentary in some contexts and not in others. The essential route of supporting or not supporting this point of order is, however, whether or not the challenged actions are seen to be disruptive and therefore unparliamentary.

O'Brien and Bosc, House of Commons Procedure and Practice, states on page 619, "In dealing with unparliamentary language, the Speaker takes into account the tone, manner and intention of the Member speaking; the person to whom the words were directed; the degree of provocation; and, most importantly, whether or not the remarks created disorder in the Chamber." It is not that a statement or behaviour in incredibly egregious but that it causes disruption or disorder.

Further, O'Brien and Bosc states on page 619, "…any language which leads to disorder in the House should not be used." On page 309, "The Speaker can call to order any Member whose conduct is disruptive to the order of the House".

Thus having reviewed Hansard, our Standing Orders, and the advice of the various authorities I have concluded that the language, together with the actions of the Member for the Bay of Islands were indeed unparliamentary. Therefore, I must ask the member to make an unequivocal apology to the Committee.

The hon. the Member for the Bay of Islands.

MR. JOYCE: I withdraw my remarks, Mr. Chair.

CHAIR: The Chair recognizes the hon. the Member for Fortune Bay – Cape La Hune.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

CHAIR: Okay. We go back to the Member for the Bay of Islands.

MR. JOYCE: Thank you, Mr. Chair, for that. and thank you for allowing me to continue debate. I would never do anything to try to dishonour this House. Most people who know me know that. I have no problem with withdrawing remarks if they feel – as we all know, they were done in jest, but just to save the House –

Mr. Chair, I just want to talk today –

CHAIR: Order, please!

The member has already given an unequivocal apology and you cannot take this opportunity, in speaking in debate now, to further clarify that.

MR. JOYCE: I wasn't clarifying that.

CHAIR: I would caution the member; you have offered an unequivocal apology, and I do not see it as in order to now get up and to add any meat to that which you have already said.

MR. JOYCE: I was agreeing with you, Mr. Chair.

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for the Bay of Islands.

MR. JOYCE: I know everybody wants me to be muffled, but it is hard to do, I will guarantee you that. Mr. Chair, today we had a very serious issue here. During the debate, the Minister of Natural Resources looked over and said that I was laughing.

Mr. Chair, that is unequivocally not true. I just want to let him know, the minister, that you just cannot stand up and just make statements and expect everybody to believe it when it is not true. I just want to be on the record, because if the minister stands up and says it – I just wanted the people in Newfoundland and Labrador to know that –

MR. KENNEDY: A point of order, Mr. Chair.

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader, on a point of order.

MR. KENNEDY: (Inaudible) to have a chat with the people on this side of the House who saw it, Mr. Chair. It is not enough for the member opposite to get up and deny something. There are people here who can prove what took place. If people just want to put a show of hands - who saw him laughing - just do it.

CHAIR: There is no point of order.

I recognize the hon. the Member for the Bay of Islands.

MR. JOYCE: Mr. Chair, I have to ask, that is three or four times now that the members opposite – this is a very serious issue and if the minister wants to keep on doing this, that was a very serious issue and you should not be just trying to single members out because you think it sounds good and looks good, Mr. Minister. I can guarantee you I will not be standing for it on a regular basis. I can assure the minister right away, I will be standing on a point of privilege at every time –

CHAIR: The Government House Leader, on a point of order.

MR. KENNEDY: (Inaudible) standing and pointing a finger at me. That is the very thing you just said a few minutes ago that the member could not engage in, Mr. Chair. I guarantee you I will not stand for it, and he is pointing a finger – exactly what you just ruled he could not do.

CHAIR: Could the Government House Leader – the point of order is?

MR. KENNEDY: The point of order, Mr. Chair, is that he contravened the very rule that you just made that he cannot threaten and intimidate people in this House.

CHAIR: As Chair, I did not see that at that point in time, but I will take it under advisement and will have a look at it, but that is not what I just saw.

We will go back to the hon. the Member for the Bay of Islands.

MR. JOYCE: Mr. Chair, pointing, we always point. We point to a minister when we ask questions. Mr. Chair, I will just go on to the Member for Humber West, and I know the member. I know the member made some statements last week in his speech and he got caught up in the speech. I just want to bring it to his attention.

Mr. Chair, I never had to give up my seat for a political appointment to the House. I did not have to do it. I just want to let the member know; I know you did not mean it, but under any Chief Electoral Officer, it is illegal to give up a seat for a political appointment. So, I know you did not infer that I was doing it just for a political appointment, because it is illegal to give up for some reward. I just want to remind you earlier when I wanted to speak to you about it, that is what I was going to say – that I know you did not mean it, but I just wanted to clear the record that –

MR. CHAIR: Order, please!

I would ask the member to please direct his comments to the Chair.

MR. JOYCE: Well, Mr. Chair, I just wanted to let the member know earlier, that is why earlier I just wanted to let him know that I know he did not mean any intent by it and I just wanted to clear the record.

I will go back to 1989, Mr. Chair, when I did step aside for Premier Wells. At the time, there was on the South shore of the Bay of Islands, there was not one house with water and sewer; North shore, there was none. There was five per cent on the North shore, Mr. Chair. So, my decision at the time, I did it. I did it for the District of the Bay of Islands. I did it because I thought it was the right thing to do to give the district – also at the time, Mr. Chair, I wanted to do the best that I could for the District of the Bay of Islands. Mr. Chair, in the whole area of the Bay of Islands at the time there was a lot of neglect, and I can assure you that the people of the Bay of Islands were very proud, very happy with what I did, for the number of years that a Liberal has been elected, except for one little interruption. Other than that, there always has been a Liberal elected.

Another thing that the member said is that Corner Brook got what they wanted in the Grenfell College. It is not. There were commitments made by the Minister of Finance, the Member for Humber East. I will look at different ministers here – at least three, at least three. Sorry, I am not allowed to point; I am not allowed to use my hand to point. At least three that I see here, Mr. Chair, at least three that I see here that made the commitment on fourteen or fifteen different occasions. So I will just let the Member for Humber West know that if he wants to see the transcripts where it was committed to, promised, legislation being developed, I would have no problem probably doing it.

The Member for Humber West also went on talking about all the funds being spent in Corner Brook and the Bay of Islands. I agree, there were some improvements made in Corner Brook. I absolutely agree. I cannot take that away that there were some major announcements made in Corner Brook. Grenfell College is one that was made. Hopefully we are going to see the hospital that was done. There were some major announcements, but then again, I always have to ask the question, he said even in the Bay of Islands. My question is: If there is so much work done in the Bay of Islands, Mr. Chair, what am I doing here? With everything that the Member for Humber West said, what am I doing here? Obviously, everything that the member said is not 100 per cent.

I used the long-term care facility, and I know the Member for Humber West and the Member for Humber East are very concerned about this here, the long-term care facility. When that was being built, Mr. Chair, it was 275 units. It was scaled down to 225. I know the Member for Humber East can remember this last year. I am not sure if he is aware of this today. Last year, he could remember when an individual had to be brought down to Port au Choix because there were no beds in the long-term care unit. The family went down and they knew there were going to be dire consequences when he did because they did not think this person was going to survive the travel back. He did not. He did not make it back.

When the Minister of Finance, the Member for Humber East first heard it, he said in the media: I was not aware that there were no beds available in the long-term care facility. That was stated in The Western Star. The minister then came up with $3 million. There was one wing in the long-term care facility, which I do not know if the Member for Humber West was even aware, that was not being used. It was going to be used for Grenfell College. It was going to be used for some research on seniors.

Minister, I just want to let you know, and I am not sure if you are aware, that unit is still not open. The money has been put aside. The unit is still not open as of today. Those twenty-five beds are still not open. It is still not open. Trust me; I checked today again, it is still not open. The extra twenty-five beds are still not there. It is a major issue, Mr. Chair, and I just bring it to the attention of the Member for Humber East and the Member for Humber West. It is still not open. It is a major concern, as we all know, in the Corner Brook area.

I only have a minute-and-a-half left, so I was asked on behalf of the Mayor of St. John's today, in his press conference today when he was talking about a new fiscal arrangement for all the municipalities across the Province, he just wanted to make sure that all the members from the St. John's area who were mentioned – and they knew he was there. The Member for Kilbride was down a bit earlier. Yes, he was down a bit earlier. He did not stay for the press conference –

MR. DINN: (Inaudible).

MR. JOYCE: Yes, I am just saying. I am saying you were down there a bit earlier. I am saying you were.

So obviously, the members knew about it. They asked me to say how disappointed they were that the members from St. John's did not show up. Even the Premier, he wanted me to mention – even the Premier never showed up to the press conference to support St. John's. They did not even show up. This fiscal arrangement –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

CHAIR: Order, please!

MR. JOYCE: I will let the Member for Humber East and the Member for Humber West know, this affects Corner Brook, it affects Pasadena, and it affects the whole Province. This is not a St. John's issue, as the mayor mentioned. This is not a St. John's issue. This is an issue for all the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, Mr. Chair.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

CHAIR: Order, please!

MR. JOYCE: Mr. Chair, can you please control these –

CHAIR: Order, please!

MR. JOYCE: Thank you.

Mr. Chair, this is an issue for all Newfoundland and Labrador. This is just not a St. John's issue. I urge all members in the House to do what they can to support the government and bring the points forward to the government that this is a major issue and that it has to be done.

CHAIR: Order, please!

I remind the member that his –

MR. JOYCE: Leave for thirty seconds to clue up?

CHAIR: Order, please!

AN HON. MEMBER: Thirty seconds.

CHAIR: Does the member have leave?

MR. JOYCE: I have leave. Thank you.

Mr. Chair, I just want to bring that up about the long-term facility. It is a serious issue, a very serious issue.

I ask the Member for Humber East: Look into it, please, because anything we can do to speed this up to get this unit open is going to help all seniors in Newfoundland and Labrador. It was brought to my attention and I can assure you those twenty-five extra beds, as of today, are not in use.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MARSHALL: Thank you, Mr. Chair, for giving me this opportunity to speak once again on the debate for Interim Supply.

The Member for the Bay of Islands raised a matter of the long-term care facility in Corner Brook, which is a beautiful building. The building was needed for many, many years. It was built, and I think the cost was about $65 million to $70 million. Then there were four dementia units built as well. Using this model, the people who had mild dementia could live in a homelike setting in these very beautiful units that have gone over extremely well with the people of Corner Brook. Then, if their condition continues to deteriorate, eventually they go into the main building, into the nursing home.

As the Member for Bay of Islands indicated, at one point there was not enough room. It turned out that there was a floor on one of the wings of the long-term care facility that had been promised to Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador to do research on aging. For the people who had been around the table when that promise had been made – there was a new president at Memorial at that time, there was a new chair of the Board of Regents at Memorial at that time, there was a new Minister of Health at that time - they did not know, and I reminded them that the promise to Memorial, of course, was on condition that the beds were not needed, and if the beds were needed then Memorial would not be able to have this space. They were disappointed, but obviously I think we are all in agreement that it is more important to have the beds for our seniors who need the long-term care. We can find alternate accommodation to meet the needs of the university as important as they might be as well.

If I understand the hon. member correctly, he is saying that this unit has not been fitted up; the money has been allocated, but the unit has not been fitted up. I will certainly check into that, but it is my understanding that what happened was that at the time that they were building a protective care unit and that was just about ready. Then they were going to do the Memorial space and use that for additional long-term care beds, and I understand they did a swap. That was my understanding of what was going to happen, but I will be very happy to look into that and check.

Mr. Chair, I've been mentioning long-term care is so important, health care is so important. The new hospital that is going to be built to service the West Coast and Corner Brook is going to be a huge project. Much work has been done on the land; it is a gigantic site. We look forward to the ultimate building of this very large project, which of course is going to take a number of years.

You cannot go to a drugstore or a bookstore and pull out a plan on how to build a hospital. You have to hire consultants and you have to hire programmers and the Department of Health has to agree with the regional health authority on what is needed to go into the hospital. Then the planning is done, and then the program is done, and then ultimately, it is given to an architect and he designs the building or maybe the buildings, because the cost of a hospital can be so expensive that it can make a lot of sense and control the costs if you would put – you do not have to put certain things like office buildings in the hospital itself, you do not have to put things like maybe laundry or housekeeping. You can have that in a regular building and then just ensuring that the human resources can move back and forth, but ensuring that all the modern technology that people need in their rooms and in the operating rooms and whatnot would be in the hospital building, but maybe the other things that do not need that could be in cheaper buildings.

We also mentioned the university. We now have the Grenfell Campus of Memorial, which was originally a community college; it is now recognized for what it is and what it has become. When it originally was set up it was a community college, a two-year college with the idea that students would do the first two years at the Corner Brook campus, at Grenfell Campus, and that they then move on. They come into St. John's, or they go to St. FX, or they go to Dal, or they go to universities in the Maritime area.

So the name had to be changed, because one of the problems Grenfell was having was the fact that its market was mainly the high school students from Western Newfoundland, Central Newfoundland, and Labrador, and the enrolments are declining and they have been declining quite drastically. Therefore, the students that were available and who would go to Grenfell were getting less and less, and therefore Grenfell's enrolment was getting less and less.

It was very difficult for Grenfell, which is essentially a university, it is a campus of a university – it was not a college, but it was branded as a college. So when recruiters for the university would go to various recruitment fairs, they would find that as soon they mentioned the word college, the students walked away, because they wanted to attend a university. So, now the university has been renamed. The Grenfell Campus is now the Memorial University of Newfoundland, Grenfell Campus in Corner Brook. Now that recognizes what it really is, and funding was given to ensure that there would be money to market Grenfell as a university campus, to rebrand it as a university campus, and to hire recruiters to go out into the world and recruit people to come to that great institution which is there. It is a beautiful campus in a beautiful area with small enrolment. I believe, and I am sure the Member for Humber West, and I am sure the Member for Bay of Islands will agree, that university in Corner Brook can become the best of the small liberal arts colleges in Atlantic Canada, and a big influence in the economy as well.

The principal of the college has now been made a vice-president and reports directly to the president of the university, whereas previously, the principal used to report to the vice-president academic in St. John's. The principal had the status equivalent to the head of a university department. Now, the principal is now a vice-president of the entire university and sits on the president's team. I think one thing that is important to note, that the new president of the university, Dr. Kachanoski, has even opened an office for himself at the Grenfell Campus, which goes to show that the president of the university, and I know the president of the Board of Regents, have now made the Grenfell Campus a big priority in the university's plans for the future.

Money was also given to Grenfell to eliminate its fiscal deficit. Money was given for research, for student services, and for administration. Money was provided to hire new staff and to give increased autonomy here, to add to the increased autonomy, because there is a difference between autonomy and complete independence. Grenfell was given a separate budget and they were given the right to go directly to the Board of Regents. Instead of putting their budget through the VP Academic in the St. John's Campus and through the VP Academic to the Board of Regents, Grenfell now has the right to go for a separate budget directly to the Board of Regents. Now, that does not mean they get whatever they want, but at least they can go directly and make their pitch to the Board of Regents.

I am very pleased that the campus continues to grow. Grenfell is evolving. There is a new academic building that is now just being completed. I think the cost of that was somewhere between $22 million to $27 million, in that range. There is a new 200-unit residence that is being built there. That construction, the tenders have been awarded. There is a new environmental laboratory building that is in the planning stage that will be an overpass over University Drive. They have also taken over the Pepsi Centre in Corner Brook. That money was given to them to purchase the rec centre.

Grenfell is growing. It is what it is. It will continue to grow. It has gone from a community college, it is now a university, and this year the first master's program will be offered there. I have no doubt that the Grenfell Campus of Memorial University will continue to grow, it will continue to prosper, it will continue to evolve and continue to be a credit to the people, not only the people of Western Newfoundland but will be a credit to all of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

CHAIR: The Chair recognizes the hon. the Member for Burgeo – La Poile.

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

It is an honour to be given this opportunity today to speak to this bill. I will hopefully have a chance at a later opportunity to speak more in length and detail about my district and the many people I owe gratitude for putting me here in this House.

I certainly appreciate the reception I have received thus far by all members of the House. I realize that things may get tense at times, but that is the case when you have passionate people with differing view points on an issue that is important to the entire Province. That is part of the territory that comes with it, but I think at the end of the day everybody has the best interests of the people of this Province at heart, and that is the good thing here today.

I do want to reference some points made previously by various people who have spoken to this bill. Certainly, the first one I will direct to the Minister of Finance. I have the most respect for the Minister of Finance. In his previous field before this, that is something I grew up in on the West Coast. As a practising lawyer, his name was very well-renowned and continues to be. I have told the Minister of Finance how disappointed I am in his travelling road show and that it did not come to my District of Burgeo – La Poile. I have made that known to the minister that when he goes around doing pre-Budget consultations, I hope next year that he can come to the great District of Burgeo – La Poile, whether it be Port aux Basques, whether it be La Poile, or whether it be Burgeo. Again, he will get a different point of view and it is one that he will take points from when he makes his decisions as they get to Budget consultations.

One thing I would also like to mention is to the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills, she is well aware of the College of the North Atlantic that is in Port aux Basques in my district and how it has a great opportunity to get bigger and better. We have an institution there that has been around for forty years in my district now. I can remember growing up when it was called West Viking College. Now it is the College of the North Atlantic, but it is busting at the seams. The building is too small. They cannot fit any more in there. It is jam-packed in there. They need more space.

One of the things that is going to come out of that is in the skills trades that are being taught there, we are going to hopefully solve another problem that is facing this Province today that is acknowledged by everyone, we have a skilled labour shortage. I look forward to that issue being brought to the forefront. It is also going to double as an investment into the community. If we have more infrastructure there, there are construction jobs which is going to mean more teachers there, more programmers there. There are going to be more students coming here and living in Port aux Basques, and hopefully making a home in Port aux Basques and in the surrounding area. It is something that the minister is well aware of with this department and I will continue to put that issue to the front as I continue.

I do have a note for the Minister of Municipal Affairs. He has been very welcoming. Thus far, I have enjoyed working with him in this House; I have had some great conversations. Some of that magic that is being spread in Gander, let us make sure that it is spread westward across this Island over to the District of Burgeo – La Poile. I commend you on what you are doing and let us make sure that it goes everywhere.

I have some comments to the Minister of Transportation. This is a gentleman who I have had conversations with in the past, even prior to being given this great opportunity to speak for the people of Burgeo – La Poile. One of the issues that are affecting my district every day in the winter is this twenty-four hour snowclearing. I have made the minister well aware of that and certainly his department is well aware of it. We are the main point of entry for rubber tire traffic to this Province, yet we are not included in the twenty-four hour snowclearing that is being done.

I have had some meetings with the minister's staff, and the problem I am getting so far is that the numbers being presented are different every time. They have changed. I actually have some numbers here that are different from the numbers that were given to me previously. I look forward to working with the minister and hopefully getting Route 401 from Port aux Basques all the way to Stephenville covered in that. Certainly, I think it is an issue of importance.

We realize with regionalization that we are going to have to travel to Corner Brook for a lot of services: health care, if we have to go to the hospital, and if we have to go to the home. There are many things we cannot get. Orthodontic care, you have to go to Corner Brook. If we are going to drive over those roads, then we deserve a safe road to drive over. We have the numbers to justify it and I do not think we should put a price on the safety of the people.

Let's not even get into the tourists who come off the boat late at night or very early in the morning to an unfamiliar road. If any of you have never been out to the District of Burgeo - La Poile, I do not know if you have driven through the Wreckhouse, which is not a pleasure to drive through in the summer, let alone in the winter. Just a few weeks ago we had a big wind storm. The winds were going over 200 kilometres an hour. That just gives you an idea of what we have to persevere through, what we have to get through every day to take advantage of the services we have to travel for. Again, that is something I will continue to raise with the minister and the minister's staff. I am sure we can get a mutually agreeable resolution, which again is going to be more agreeable to me if I get what I want.

I would also mention to the gentleman from Baie Verte – Springdale, in his speech on Tuesday he mentioned all the great things that are being done. One of them was the ferries. Now, again, I realize the ferry in the District of Baie Verte – Springdale, the Hazel McIsaac, is a new ferry. It just got commissioned in 2011. I would suggest we not talk about how good the ferries are until we take the trip from Rose Blanche-Harbour Le Cou down to La Poile. It is not a very good ferry. The Marine Eagle is not a good one to travel on. In fact, we had complaints that the lights were out on the wharf down in La Poile. I got a call about it. I brought it to the minister's attention, and to the minister's credit, a gentleman was dispatched down there immediately to fix the lights but he brought the wrong lights with him. The problem was that it took him three weeks to get over the seasickness before he could come back and fix it the second time. Again, I just had to put that out there.

I have another area of my district that relies on ferries. If you are going from Burgeo to Ramea or you have to go from Ramea to Grey River – and in fact, that one goes right down to Franηois and Fortune Bay - Cape Le Hune. Again, ferries are of huge importance to us and I look forward to seeing the provincial ferry strategy as soon as I can get my hands on it.

Again, I would like to speak very quickly to my colleague, the Member for Bay of Islands. I am going to give him credit here because he is what I call an equal opportunity critic. He is going to criticize you if you are in the front benches or the backbenches. It speaks to somebody who is passionate about his district. I have to throw that out there.

I am very lucky, being a rookie member, that I do have experience on both sides of me to refer to, and that plays a big role. I am sure members in all parties can agree with that. It is nice to have some experience, because this is a daunting task representing your district and coming here into the House and trying to speak. I see members on the other side nodding their heads; they know what I am talking about. They recognize what I am talking about here.

One thing I would like to talk about is the House of Assembly private member's resolution that I presented the other day that was tabled. Again, we all know - no matter what side you are on, we all know it was an issue to the public since the election when the House did not open. We heard it everywhere, whether you agreed with it or did not agree with it, it was out there. It was noteworthy, it was news. That is why I brought that motion forward. The fact is we need to have a House that has regular sittings, not just to make sure that the issues of the day are discussed. We cannot go from May all the way around to March without having an opportunity to discuss these issues. We have major issues everyday, so to have a regular sitting – we need to show how important it is to the people who put us here, that we are here talking, discussing, debating. If it gets heated, that is fine, but the fact is the people out in TV land - I have people down in Burgeo who are watching here now, they like to know that they are seeing us on TV. I am sure that applies to members from all districts, that we have people watching us here doing our job. Now, that does not mean we do not do our job on a day-to-day basis when we are not in the House.

AN HON. MEMBER: Joe and Martha Chesterfield?

MR. A. PARSONS: Yes, Joe Chesterfield down in Burgeo. Like my father before me mentions Joe Chesterfield, but they are watching, and they are listening, and they want to know we talking about issues that are of importance to our district. That is what I am trying to do here, and that is what the members on all sides are doing. That is why, when the House of Assembly bill is tabled, that I am expecting support and at least proper debate on the merits of that. We need to get it out there, we need to reassure the public that we are doing what we were elected to do. I look forward to that coming up. I look forward to it actually being debated.

Now, I am going to talk about an issue that is near and dear to me as a practicing lawyer before I got here and now as the critic for Justice, and that is this Harper omnibus crime bill. It looks like this bill is going to be coming down next week, and this bill is going to mean huge expenditures to us here in this Province, in every province. That is why I am looking forward to discussing this issue with the Minister of Justice.

Again, when we talk about getting rid of conditional sentences, when we talk about mandatory minimums, what that means is more people in jail. One of the things I have had the opportunity to do is have a tour of the Penitentiary since I have been here. I do not know if you guys have been through the Penitentiary, but I suggest you take a little walk there. Now, I am going to get another chance to speak to this, so I am going to save that story. I am going to keep you on the edge of your seats. I am going to save that story since my time is running out. I feel like the people at the Oscars; the music is going to start and I am going to get ushered out of here.

I am very happy to stand here today and speak to these issues. I intend on doing it again. I certainly thank you for your attention to me here today. It is an honour and a privilege again to stand for the people of Burgeo – La Poile.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

CHAIR: The Chair recognizes the hon. the Member for Fortune Bay – Cape la Hune.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS PERRY: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

It is certainly quite a privilege for me to have the opportunity to speak here in the House of Assembly today, Mr. Chair, to speak to Interim Supply. I would certainly like to thank Minister Marshall for bringing this bill forward to ensure that we can continue to do the very important business of the Province.

CHAIR: Order, please!

I would like to remind the member she should refer to the minister by his position, not by his name.

MS PERRY: The Minister of Finance. Sorry there, Mr. Chair.

CHAIR: Thank you.

MS PERRY: Certainly, he is one of the most brilliant Finance ministers that we have seen in this Province. As the books will show, we have had great success –

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS PERRY: One of, I did say to the Minister of Natural Resources.

We have certainly had great success in this Province and his leadership is very valuable in that.

I would like to thank, in particular, since this is a money bill today, my constituents of Fortune Bay – Cape la Hune for the confidence they have bestowed in me in the election of October 2011. I want to assure them that I will continue to work very, very, very hard on their behalf and continue to advocate to my colleagues for all of the various issues and needs that we have in the District of Fortune Bay – Cape la Hune that we are achieving success towards. We will continue on until we have it all done.

I would also like to thank this team, my caucus, my colleagues, for the wonderful support they have given me. I, unlike some of my colleagues, did not get my feet wet in the municipal arena. This was my introduction to politics and it was quite a steep learning curve. In fact, I was so excited to get here four years ago, I broke my neck on the way. It has been an interesting time, some great people and some of the most brilliant people I have ever met.

Thank you to all of you as well for your support.

Most importantly, though, I would like to congratulate our Premier. As a woman myself, I have such great pride that we have our very first female Premier for Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS PERRY: For all of you out there, we know she has certainly achieved this bar for us, quite a milestone for us women in this Province and in this country. It certainly gives us a great comfort level that not only our sons, but our daughters will have equal opportunities for great success as they move ahead in the future.

I would also like to mention that today our Premier has been named among Canada's most influential women on MSN as earlier referenced by Minister Johnson.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS PERRY: Boy, what a feeling of pride to know that we have such great leadership in this Province and this leadership is going to continue, and going to enable us to continue to grow this Province and build it to be even better than it is today. It is International Women's Day, so it is certainly very appropriate that this recognition comes today.

I have to say that the pride I feel in our Province with a woman as our Premier, with our success economically, is quite incredible. Ten years ago, I was working in community economic development and it was all doom and gloom; she is gone, boy, she is gone. In eight short years, this government has turned that completely all around, and for the first time since the 1970s, we are seeing a population increase in Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS PERRY: That is due to the leadership and governance of this team and this Premier. About a month ago or so – one of the things I like to do at the end of the day is watch CBC News The National; I enjoy the panel that Peter Mansbridge puts on. He had a panel of economists about a month or so ago and they were talking about the challenges that Canada is going to face economically as we move into the next year or two. The panellist was saying it will be provinces like Alberta and Newfoundland that will carry us through. Boy, what a feeling of pride. Newfoundland is helping Canada weather an economic storm.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS PERRY: Whoever thought we would see the day? The A+ credit rating that we have is the best we have ever had in history.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS PERRY: This new energy from this new team is certainly going to continue to generate wealth and prosperity for Newfoundland and Labrador. Mr. Chair, one of the first times I spoke in this House of Assembly, it was related to the hydro development that we are putting forward. I would like to talk a little bit today again about Muskrat Falls.

You hear so often – because everyone has needs, and certainly, we would love to have a money tree that would be able to address all of these needs. It is important at the end of the day that we are fiscally responsible and prudent. You hear a lot of talk about, well, you should do this now because you have the oil money, you should do that now because you have the oil money; it is going to run out.

That is partly in part of what Muskrat Falls is all about. We are investing in a renewable resource that will ensure once the oil money is gone, we will continue as a Province to generate economic wealth from the hydroelectricity that we are going to use to satisfy the demands of our people, our businesses. Please God, we will continue to build our power; we look forward to Upper Churchill coming back in 2041 and we are going to be a powerhouse for selling that hydroelectricity all over North America. We will generate revenue for generations of our grandchildren to come.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS PERRY: To me, Muskrat Falls is a very visionary project. You talk about waiting. Oh, let us explore natural gas a little bit more, why are we moving ahead with this investment now. We must move ahead with this investment now. Today, it is costing $6 billion. Image how much it would cost if we waited another ten years. Inflation would drive those costs through the roof. Now is the time, because now we have a little bit of breathing room. In ten years time, there would be a crisis for energy. It is absolutely prudent and responsible of us to move forward with this project now while it is financially doable, and while we can avert the crisis that probably would lie ahead if this deal is not done.

I come from a region, actually, where there is a power plant. We have a power plant that powers 60 per cent of the island, in fact. When this initiative and development was talked about back in the 1960s, there was a lot of resistance and opposition to it at the time. Looking back, I can say, my gosh, where would we be had it not happened? We certainly can see the importance of such an important development in our Province, not only for today but for ensuring the future of our Province and our future wealth and prosperity.

So, Mr. Chair, there are a lot of things that are happening in the District of Fortune Bay – Cape La Hune that I would like to talk about a little bit as well. Earlier, the Member for Burgeo – La Poile talked about health care, and I certainly want to assure the members of Fortune Bay – Cape La Hune that myself and the minister are very vigilant on this issue. Just looking back, attracting people to rural Newfoundland can sometimes be a challenge. I am certainly a strong believer in promoting residents and young ones who live there now to explore opportunities that can enable them to have jobs back home, because people like me love the opportunity to be able to live home in rural Newfoundland, which is what we thoroughly enjoy. So, as we recruit, I am confident that recruitment efforts will be successful.

One of the things that no doubt was a challenge for some of the workers in working in the isolated communities, was that we did not have optimal health care facilities. I am extremely pleased that through Budget 2010 we were able to invest in Fortune Bay – Cape La Hune in each and every clinic that I have in my rural, remote, isolated communities. There was no privacy, there were inadequate facilities, and they were rundown from years and years of neglect from a previous government. We have invested in those facilities, we have upgraded those facilities, and that, I am sure, will also help us attract new personnel to work in these offices.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS PERRY: Mr. Chair, there are a lot of things that I would like to be able to talk about, but my time is running short. So, I probably will not get into my next issue, but certainly the next time I get up and speak when we are speaking openly on a money bill, I would like to talk a little bit more about the role of an MHA and what we do, and the importance of the House of Assembly. It is one of the crucial aspects of our job, the most crucial aspect of our job. It concerns me that in some of the propaganda being put about, about the House not being open, there is a perception among some that we do not do any other work. We certainly do.

In my opinion, when the House of Assembly is open I have two jobs. I have the job in the House of Assembly; then I have to continue to do my constituency work at night and weekends, which I do all year long anyway, but it really is like having two jobs. I would like the opportunity to be able to speak more to the public about just how much we do and the importance of being in our districts, consulting with our constituents so that we can bring forward the important initiatives we need to debate and include in our policies and legislation here in the House of Assembly.

For example, we are going to be debating the Income Tax Act later; that came about because of our consultations with firemen who wanted some type of recognition and reimbursement for their volunteer efforts. That legislation is coming forward. It is based on our consultations and the work we all do as MHAs in communities listening to our people. That is just an example, of course.

I look forward to speaking more, Mr. Chair, and I thank you for the opportunity to speak here today. Once again, I would like to say congratulations, Newfoundland and Labrador; we have our first female Premier. We have great new energy on International Women's Day. Congratulations to all of you women in Newfoundland and Labrador. We are making a difference.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

CHAIR: Order, please!

The Chair recognizes the hon. the Member for St. John's North.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KIRBY: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I am pleased to rise here in the House today and try to correct the record regarding some of the more poorly thought out things that were said during Tuesday's debate. It is important to make these sorts of corrections, Mr. Chair, because when government members stand in this hon. House and say things that are poorly thought out, it causes the whole House to lose creditability. Of course, then people stop listening to anything hon. members have to say. That makes it hard for some hon. members, like the hon. Minister of Natural Resources, to do the job he is trying to do. He is on the road a lot, Mr. Chair, crisscrossing this great Province of ours, trying to sell his multi-billion dollar mega debt hydro project.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

CHAIR: Order, please!

MR. KIRBY: When hon. members stand here in the Legislature and say really poorly thought out things, that makes the minister's job harder. Then he has to do things like try and frighten people, Mr. Chair, try to frighten seniors, frighten workers at Corner Brook Pulp and Paper, and frighten anyone else into supporting his government's multi-billion dollar mega debt hydro project. I caution members not to make the minister's job any harder.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

CHAIR: Order, please!

MR. KIRBY: Otherwise he has to go out and attack prominent well-respected, well-meaning citizens of Newfoundland and Labrador, like the former chairperson and CEO of the Public Utilities Commission, Dr. David Vardy. Mr. Chair, let me see if I can correct the public record a bit so that the hon. minister will not have to be going around Newfoundland and Labrador attacking the good people of this Province and telling them tall tales about blackouts and the coming great electricity apocalypse.

First of all, Mr. Chair, there have been some comments in the House stating that our party, the New Democratic Party, is not fiscally responsible. Well, our party has not had the honour and privilege of providing good government for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador at this point. Of course that is not up to us, Mr. Chair, that is the decision of the good people of Newfoundland and Labrador and they will make that decision in due course.

Unlike the governing party, which has shown an inability to accurately forecast revenue from year to year, we do not have a fiscal record to defend at this point. However, Mr. Chair, we do have a collective record across the provinces, that is our Party, the New Democratic Party, and the two old line political parties.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

CHAIR: Order, please!

I ask all members for their co-operation, please. The Chair is having difficulty hearing the Member for St. John's North.

MR. KIRBY: Each party's record on the issue of fiscal responsibility, Mr. Chair –

CHAIR: Order, please!

Order, please!

When the Chair is saying order, the member should stop talking.

MR. KIRBY: I could not hear over the noise.

CHAIR: Okay.

The Chair is having difficulty hearing the Member for St. John's North speak, so I would ask all members for their co-operation, please.

The hon. the Member for St. John's North.

MR. KIRBY: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Each party's record on the issue of fiscal responsibility in Canada is represented in the fiscal reference tables that are produced annually by the federal Department of Finance. The numbers speak for themselves, Mr. Chair. New Democrat governments across Canada produced budgets that were in surplus – that is surplus, 51 per cent of the time since 1986. Conservative governments - that is this government's party and that of Mr. Harper - they were almost as good as New Democrat governments, Mr. Chair, in producing surplus Budgets.

I should also note, Mr. Chair, that Liberal governments fell far short in this area. They produced surplus Budgets only 30 per cent of the time that they have been in government since the mid-1980s. So, Mr. Chair, the numbers speak for themselves. I hope I do not have to keep repeating this as frequently as the Minister of Natural Resources does with his two or three Muskrat Falls talking points that he keeps referring back to.

Okay, so on Tuesday, Mr. Chair, the Minister of Education stood in his place and said that unrestrained social program growth has taken economies to the brink of bankruptcy in Ireland, Italy, Spain, and the United States. Those were the countries he named. I hope that information will not be included in our school curriculum any time soon, Mr. Chair, because this statement is inaccurate. It is inaccurate.

So, let's review the minister's comments from a fiscal standpoint. Let's look at Ireland first. Ireland, which was hailed as an economic miracle not so long ago, went from that to an economic basket case. Why was that, Mr. Chair? Was it because of social program growth, as the Minister of Education has stated? No, not at all. It is widely acknowledged by economists that the economic meltdown in Ireland was a result of corporate greed, reckless lending, and lax regulation in the banking industry in Ireland. That is what it was.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KIRBY: People who know anything about economics, Mr. Chair, know that.

Let's look at Italy next. Why is that country's ten-year bond yield percentage at a historic low, at a critical low? Why is that, Mr. Chair? Is it only because of social program growth, as the Minister of Education has stated? No, Mr. Chair, not at all. It is widely acknowledged by economists that Italy allowed its public debt to balloon, much like the government members would have us do with their Muskrat Falls multi-billion dollar mega-debt plan. In Italy, as easily as it could be here, Mr. Chair, that high level of debt was most seriously exacerbated by the international banking crisis that we have been affected by as well.

We should not choose to ignore that the global financial crisis hit us as well, Mr. Chair. Newfoundland and Labrador ended up losing most of the $2 billion in gains that we managed to get from the 2005 Atlantic Accord settlement. We got it all right, Mr. Chair, in the same way that Italy got it. In both cases, our economic hit was the result of the international banking crisis. That is what it was. People who know anything about economics, Mr. Chair, know that.

Now, let's look at Spain next, because that was another country named by the Minister of Education. Spain is one of the Eurozone's largest economies. It went from a red-hot economy to a participant in the broader Euro mess. Now, why was that, Mr. Chair? Why did that happen? Was that only because of social program growth, as the Minister of Education has stated? No, of course not, not at all. There were many contributing factors to the Spanish financial crisis. They include Spanish fiscal policy and Eurozone monetary policy.

MR. KENNEDY: A point of order, Mr. Chair.

CHAIR (Kent): Order, please!

Is the hon. the Government House Leader rising on a point of order?

MR. KENNEDY: Yes, Mr. Chair, I noticed that the member opposite is reading word for word from a speech. Now, it is tradition in this House to read from notes, you are allowed to refer to your notes, but it is generally discouraged to be reading from written speeches. I am referring to O'Brien and Bosc on pages 607-608. It states on page 608, "A Member addressing the House may refer to notes. The Prime Minister, the cabinet ministers, the Leader of the Opposition, the leaders of other parties or Members speaking on their behalf, may read important policy speeches. New Members may read their [maiden] speeches. The Members speaking in a language other than their mother tongue" or in debates may use full notes if they wish.

Mr. Chair, the member opposite is reading word for word, and that is generally frowned upon.

CHAIR: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Signal Hill – Quidi Vidi, to the point of order.

MS MICHAEL: Yes, thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Chair, my colleague, the Member for St. John's North, has prepared his own prepared speech. He is reading facts from his research. He is not reading from any document but his own speech, Mr. Chair. That is all he is reading from.

CHAIR: Thank you.

The Chair has considered the point of order that has been raised, and I rule that there is no point of order; however, I would remind hon. members that while there is no Standing Order which governs the citation of documents, the practice of reading from prepared texts is certainly discouraged in the House of Assembly.

I would once again call on the Member for St. John's North to conclude his remarks.

MR. KIRBY: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I am reading from my notes here. I hope that is okay with the Minister of Natural Resources.

So, let's see if we can go back here to where I was. There are many contributing factors to the Spanish economic crisis, and they include Spanish fiscal policy, and Eurozone monetary policy; but, one factor, perhaps the most important factor in the Spanish economic crisis, was greed and the lack of regulation of banks, the lack of regulation in the Spanish real estate market. That is what it was. People who know anything about economics know that.

Finally, let's look at the United States then. The Minister of Education would have us believe that the ongoing economic crisis and debt problems –

CHAIR: Order, please!

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

MR. KIRBY: By leave?

CHAIR: Does the hon. member have leave?

I am sorry, there is no leave.

Ladies and gentlemen, before I recognize the next speaker, on Tuesday, March 6 in Committee of the Whole, the Government House Leader rose on a point of order respecting the language of the Member for Bay of Islands, specifically, that during the debate he presumed to disparage the Chair of the Committee, which is unparliamentary. The Government House Leader also raised a point of order respecting the same member's unparliamentary language. As Chair, I took the matters under advisement until I could review the Hansard of that day. I have now done so, and I have also consulted the Standing Orders and various parliamentary authorities. I will address the second point of order respecting unparliamentary language first.

The point of order was the result of the Member for the Bay of Islands' purported use of the word bullying. At the time, I indicated to this House that I had not heard the comments in question and that I would review Hansard and report back to the House. I have read Hansard and I have also viewed the video clip from Tuesday. The comments referred to by the Government House Leader cannot be heard on the video clip and the word bullying appears once in Hansard, and it is out of context. A word itself may not be unparliamentary and must be seen in the context of what was being said. Considering that the Chair did not hear the remark, the absence of this comment from the video, and the record of the word in Hansard amidst inaudible speaking, I find that there is no point of order with respect to the purported language of the member.

The other point of order concerned disparagement of the Chair. I have reviewed Hansard and the video recording of House proceedings for March 6 and there is indeed a statement by the member to the Chair stating: "…Mr. Chair, you were supposed to correct him…", in reference to a statement that another member had already voluntarily withdrawn.

O'Brien and Bosc, House of Commons Procedure and Practice, 2nd Edition, states on page 313: "The actions of the Speaker may not be criticized in debate or by any means except by way of a substantive motion…Reflections on the character or actions of the Speaker…Could be taken by the House as [a] breach[es] of privilege". This would equally apply to the Chair.

O'Brien and Bosc further states on page 314: "…in 1993, a question of privilege was raised concerning disparaging remarks made by the member about the impartiality of the Assistant Deputy Chairman of the Committee of the Whole. When the member refused to withdraw the comments, the Speaker declared that they ‘affect[ed] the dignity of [the] House' and were ‘an attack against the integrity' of an officer of the House." Prima facie, there was a breach of privilege.

Erskine May, 21st edition, pages 127, 180 and 325, cited in the MacMinn Parliamentary Practice in British Columbia, 4th edition, on page 23, states, "the actions of a presiding officer ought not to be criticized incidentally in debate upon any form of proceeding except a substantive motion, and indeed it has been held that any reflection upon the character or the actions of the Speaker, other than by substantive motion, may be punished…" by breach of privilege itself. Clearly, there are occasions when the Speaker's actions are challenged, but this must be by way of a substantive motion and otherwise the commentary stands to be seen as a breach of privilege.

Having reviewed the Hansard, our Standing Orders, and the advice of various authorities, I have concluded that in attempting to discredit the Chair and in explicitly questioning a decision of the Chair, the Member for the Bay of Islands was acting in an unparliamentary manner. Therefore, I must ask the member to make an unequivocal apology to the Committee.

Order, please!

The hon. the Member for the District of Bay of Islands.

MR. JOYCE: I withdraw my remarks, Mr. Chair.

CHAIR: Thank you.

While the Member for Bay of Islands has withdrawn his remarks, again I ask the member to apologize to this Committee.

MR. JOYCE: I apologize, Mr. Chair.

Anything else?

CHAIR: Order, please!

Again, I remind the hon. member that the apology must indeed be unequivocal. For the final time, I ask the member to apologize.

AN HON. MEMBER: What did he do?

CHAIR: Then he made further statements to his apology.

I ask the member to apologize; and if an apology is not offered, I will be forced to report to the Speaker that the Chair's authority has been disregarded by the Member for the Bay of Islands.

MR. JOYCE: I apologize, Mr. Chair.

CHAIR: Thank you.

We will now resume debate.

The Chair recognizes the hon. the Member for the District of Flatrock – for Cape St. Francis.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

The hon. minister from Flatrock, thank you. They also mentioned Flatrock last night on the Republic of Doyle, by the way.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. K. PARSONS: Mr. Chair, it is indeed a great privilege to get here today and to say a few words. First of all I have to congratulate the hon. member across the way from St. John's North for getting up and finishing off the other day when he got up. All I heard for the last six months on the Open Line shows in the morning, evening, afternoon, all you hear was the hon. member getting out and saying, we need the House open, I want to debate this, I want to debate that.

He had his opportunity the other day to get up and debate, and what did he do? He sat down after seven minutes. That is all I ever heard and I was waiting, I was anticipating it. What did he do today? He talked about Spain, he talked about Ireland, and he talked about the United States. This is the same gentleman who is on the Open Line shows day in, day out, all the time with issues; I want to get in the House of Assembly, because I have important issues to talk about. Well, we heard your important issues the last two times you were on the floor. I do not want to know about Spain. I want to know what your important issues are here in the House. Obviously, you do not have very many.

Anyway, Mr. Chair, I am going to continue now with my speech.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. K. PARSONS: Thank you.

First of all, I have to welcome everybody back here. It is indeed a pleasure to be here and it is some good. This is a very exciting day in the parliamentary procedures in Newfoundland and Labrador. I learned a lot here today with privileges and conflicts. I heard more apologies than I ever heard in my life. So it is indeed a great day to be here.

I want to congratulate everybody here. I know election time is a great time. I enjoy elections. I enjoy knocking on people's doors. I enjoy going into their homes. I enjoy having a conversation. As a matter of fact, sometimes I enjoy it a little bit too much because I have a gentleman who was driving around with me, Dave, and Dave used to say: What were you doing in there? In Newfoundland, politics is a part of life I would say more so than any other part of Canada. You go in, you sit down, you just come in through the door, they grab hold of you, you want to sit down, and you talk for half an hour when you are trying to get out of there in five minutes. Everybody in Newfoundland is engaged. They are engaged in what we are doing.

The number one question I received when I knocked on their doors and went in, everyone asked me: So what do you think of the Premier? How do you think the Premier is doing? What do you think? There was only thing I could basically, really, say every time – and they agreed with me too – it was her passion. It is her passion she has for the people of this Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. K. PARSONS: Mr. Chair, I see it all over this side of the House. Again, my colleague here from Conception Bay East – Bell Island, and yourself, Mr. Chair, mentioned the other day how good it was to be on this side. Well, let me tell you, it is some good to have you over here too because at least we can say: Listen, this crowd on this side, we know what we are at and we do know what we are at when it comes to fiscal responsibility in this Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. K. PARSONS: Mr. Chair, for all the new MHAs that are here, and I am fairly new myself – this is only the fourth year for me, so I consider myself new. I know we do not have the same responsibilities as the gentlemen in front of us here in the Cabinet and stuff like that. I do not know how these guys do it sometimes because they have so much responsibility. I take my responsibility as an MHA very seriously. If a person calls me, and it may seem like a little problem, it may seem like a small problem, but for that person it is a large problem. I get so much gratification knowing that I helped that person and I made a difference in that person's life. I will let all the new MHAs know that is the most important thing there is about being an MHA. We do make a difference and we make a difference in the people's lives in Newfoundland and Labrador all the time.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. K. PARSONS: Mr. Chair, I do have to thank the people from Cape St. Francis, and I will always say the beautiful District of Cape St. Francis because it is a beautiful district. I have to thank them for their support and their encouragement. I had over 4,000 votes in that election, and I appreciate it.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. K. PARSONS: By the way, Mr. Chair, the most in the Province, 4,200 people in my district came out and supported me.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. K. PARSONS: I will show them that in the last four years I represented them the best I could and the next four years I am going to do the same thing, Mr. Chair.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. K. PARSONS: Mr. Chair, we look at how this government is doing – I look back longer even than when I was here, since this government came in since 2003. We look at where we were and I know everybody gets up and talks about it, but we paid on our debt by $4 billion – $4 billion. In 2003, every dollar that we took in from revenues that government had, twenty-five cents had to go just to pay off the debt. Not pay anything at all; twenty-five cents went to the debt of the Province.

Today, still, we want to get it down. I think the Premier mentioned it the other day: We want to get down to below the average in Canada. We are paying ten cents, so that means there is fifteen cents more that we have on every dollar to put back into the people of this Province. That is how important it is that we continue to do the things we have to do.

We do not have a money tree like the NDP suggests. They have a money tree; they want to do this and never, ever, ever say what the cost is. There is no cost; they have a money tree over there, just throw money at it. That is not what I want to see because I want to see my children and some day my grandchildren benefit from what we do in this House of Assembly. It is very important that we stand up for our children and our grandchildren and keep the path that we are going.

MS MICHAEL: A point of order.

CHAIR: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for the District of Signal Hill – Quidi Vidi, rising on a point of order.

MS MICHAEL: Thank you.

I think the hon. member across is referring to us, to our party, and referring to our position. I would like to point out to him if he is going to make those statements, he might as well know the reality. We had a platform that was completely costed, that had a whole fact sheet of cost paper, showed where every cent was going to come from. We, Mr. Chair, do not talk about spending money without showing where it can come from.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

CHAIR: Order, please!

There is no point of order.

The hon. the Member for the District of Cape St. Francis.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. K. PARSONS: Mr. Chair, it is pretty obvious to me that the people of Newfoundland and Labrador liked our platform more so than they liked their platform.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. K. PARSONS: Mr. Chair, I just want to talk a little bit about - my father always says to me, and he always used to say to me growing up: Kevin, you cannot spend $500 if you are only making $400, because it will come back to haunt you all the time.

That is what this government, what we are doing here, when we look at savings, we are looking in departments. The Premier stated the other day that we are going to be down, in the next two years it looks like this Province could run a deficit, and we have to look for savings. We have to look for savings, and the savings that we have to look for, we have to be smart. We have to spend our money wisely.

I am going to give you a great example now in my own district. We used to have three recreation communities, three had their own recreation programs, and the Towns of Flat Rock, Pouch Cove, and Bauline combined. They combined it to one program. Now they come in and they look for money, and they have a better chance to get their money. What they offer, because it is three towns that came together – and that is something people in Newfoundland and Labrador in small towns have to do. We have to come together so we can give our residents better services and more efficient services.

Right now, the softball association is down there, the minor soccer association, and are filled with children because there are lots of children to take up. The other day I spoke to a senior - and before it was a job to get seniors because you would get ten from this community, five from this community, whatever; but they went and had a day of bowling for seniors, the rec association. They all went, got on a bus, and went in to Boston Pizza, it cost them $10 for a meal. Then they all went out to Plaza Bowl, and what a day they had. It was unbelievable to talk to the seniors and realize how much they enjoyed doing the bowling and what it meant; but they would never be able to do it. They would never be able to supply that service if it was just a single town. It is important that the towns in this Province, and I know the Minister of Municipal Affairs is preaching it all the time; we need to get the best bang for our buck. We need to share services, as towns in my area, there are lots of things.

I have a great example of shared services. It is a great example, too, and it is the Jack Byrne Arena. The Jack Byrne Arena, the towns in my area invested over $2 million; $2 million they put in. That took a lot of big decisions because there was a lot of want in each town. Right now, today, that arena is getting used like you would not believe. There are seniors programs down there that are doing walking around; they do that two or three times a week. Minor hockey has gone from 170 to 500 children. We have the schools in the area that are using it on a regular basis doing their skating and whatnot.

So, there are so many different things we can do and there are so many great services we can supply to the residents of Newfoundland and Labrador, as long as we do it together, and we have to get the best bang for our buck. That is the main thing that this government is doing. We are going to do it. We are going to look at all the departments in this government and we are going to make sure that we get the best bang for our buck. Also, in saying that, we are going to make sure that the people of Newfoundland and Labrador get the best possible services that they can.

Thank you very much.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

CHAIR: Order, please!

The Chair recognizes the hon. the Member for the District of Burgeo - La Poile.

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

It certainly is an honour to get up twice today and have an opportunity to speak. That is not normally a privilege conferred on new members to the House, but again, I have been given that honour and I certainly intend to take advantage of it.

I want to go back to the story I was talking about earlier that I know has the members left on the edge of their seats from the last time I was talking. That was about a lovely little place called Her Majesty's Penitentiary. I have to tell you, Mr. Chair, having the opportunity as the Justice critic to go and tour Her Majesty's Penitentiary it really was an eye-opener to get in there. I have been in there in the past when I represented people, but to get the grand tour of Her Majesty's Penitentiary was just amazing.

The first thing you notice when you walk in and you go around the back of Her Majesty's Penitentiary is you have that large brick wall that is keeping the inside from the outside, which is beautiful Quidi Vidi. Just about ten feet in front of that there is a little white picket fence – a little, white, beautiful picket fence. I walked in and I said: What is that white picket fence doing there? They said: Well, you are not allowed past that. I said: What do you mean, I am not allowed past that white picket fence? They said: If you do, the wall might come in on top of you. I said: Oh, so that tells you about the state of the prisons in this Province.

This is a huge issue. Like I asked the minister today, this is something that is not going to get better. When this Harper crime bill comes down next week and we talk about issues like mandatory minimums, which take away from our judges' discretion to make a ruling – these are trained people who should have an opportunity to make the decision they want to. When we talk about getting rid of conditional sentences, this is something that is going to put a huge strain on a system that is already busting at the seams.

I had the opportunity to go down to the lockup and have a walk through there. It reminded me of The Shawshank Redemption. It is in a state down there. Again, what I am saying is that this is not a popular subject, but it is a subject that is here and we cannot stick our heads in the sand on this. We need to be prepared for it. If we are not prepared, what you are going to have is what is happening now, where people are coming in and they figure out who they can let go on the weekends because we do not have a cell to put them in. Where are we going to put these people?

I plan on continuing my justice tour across the Province. I am going to do my travelling road show as well. One of the places I am hoping to go to is Stephenville, but the problem I have there is I know the critic for the NDP, the Third Party was refused. Now, I am not sure why. I do not know why somebody here, one of these hon. members, should not be allowed an opportunity to go and view a public institution. Again, I am going to be putting my request in to the Department of Justice and I am hoping I am going to get that opportunity. I plan on having a tour of that facility and every other facility in this Province.

I am not sure if there is something being hidden here or if they just do not want us to see. I did try to take pictures when I was in Her Majesty's, but there was no way they were letting me take any pictures when I was in there. Again, that is not to take away from the quality of the staff who works at HMP. It is a quality staff, but they are working at a building that is over a century old; it is not built to comply with today's standards. What you are having are inmates who are in danger, and more importantly, we have staff who are in danger if we keep putting up with this facility.

We can talk about other courthouses. The courthouse in Port aux Basques is not wheelchair accessible – not wheelchair accessible. We can talk about occupational health and safety. When you have a public building that is not wheelchair accessible, so when we have a trial that involves somebody who is disabled, we have to move it up to St. Christopher's and have the matter heard there. We cannot do it in Port aux Basques, because we have to walk up over these stairs and these disabled individuals cannot have their matters heard there. We are dealing with this; we have an aging infrastructure in this Province and we are not going to fix it; from what I hear it is not going to get fixed. I had to put that out there on the record.

There are a number of other issues I could talk about; one of them that I have actually raised twice in the last two days is the issue of cellphone service. I do not need to get into cellphone service that was brought up here today dealing with young Burton Winters who walked nineteen kilometres with a cellphone in his pocket that he could not use. This is an issue that touches a lot of people here. It touches Bay of Islands, Cartwright – L'Anse au Clair, it touches St. Barbe, it touches Fortune Bay – Cape La Hune, and it touches The Straits – White Bay North. Maybe there are other areas that I am not aware of.

With a minimal investment in this infrastructure, we can save somebody's life. We have a situation now down on Route 470. I am driving down there. People down there cannot get the calls to go to work because if they get a call on their cellphone they are not getting through. I am sure this is an issue up in the Big Land, up in Labrador as well; cellphone service is not there. I hope the minister is shaking his head; I wish the camera could recognize that.

Cellphone service is not a luxury; it is a necessity in this day and age. This is 2012; we need to put the investment into this. The cost of a tower that will service all Route 470 is about $450,000. That is a drop in the bucket to make sure somebody's life is saved or to contribute to economic development. That is something that I am going to keep pressing. I have a suitcase full of petitions that I am going to keep putting in this House to make sure that this issue is not forgotten – a suitcase full of those petitions.

Another issue that affects my district, but it affects everybody here - it certainly affects the Minister of Tourism, and it affects the Minister of Transportation – is Marine Atlantic. Good old Marine Atlantic, which is a staple, which is the backbone of my district. The problem is that it is a federal entity; and, because it is a federal entity, we do not have enough say in it.

What I am calling upon government to do – I never hear anything out of government when it comes to services being taken out of Port aux Basques and put over in North Sydney. Why shouldn't somebody else on the government side be talking about this? I am bringing this up, but the people over there will not talk about Marine Atlantic. They will not talk about VP positions being taken from Port aux Basques and put over in North Sydney. Not a word is said. Again, this is something we have to acknowledge. This is the backbone; it is the main point of entry for rubber tire traffic to this Province, whether it goes to Port aux Basques, whether it goes to Placentia. It has to be taken care of.

We have to have more of a say when it comes to federal issues here, whether it be the fisheries, whether it be search and rescue, whether it be the Service Canada cuts that are coming. I have two spots in my district that they are cutting Service Canada. That is in Burgeo, and that is in Ramea. I am sure it is actually going to cut more places. It is actually going to affect the Minister of Municipal Affairs; they are cutting Service Canada in your district too. We need to have a bigger say here. We need to speak up and make sure that this Province is protected. I do not know why we are not doing it, but we need to make sure that it is done.

Now, my time is starting to run out. I am sure I am going to get another opportunity to talk here to this bill. I am sure I am going to get another opportunity. One thing that I do have to bring up, obviously, as the issue of the day – it is the issue of every day, and that is Muskrat Falls. Again, this House has been talking about Muskrat Falls since last year; it is talking about it this year, it is going to keep talking about it. What I am saying, I am not going to get into the numbers, because again, they have been discussed ad nauseam. We have a position, the government has a position.

What I want to talk about is the fact that democracy will not be served if the members of this House are not given an opportunity to vote on this. The members of this House deserve an opportunity to vote on it and put their name on it. We are going to have one of the biggest issues in this Province discussed, but we are not going to have a proper debate, and we are not going to have it heard. I know all the members, especially the new members that came in with me – if you are for it, or if you are against it, you should be given that opportunity to stand up and put your name on it. That is what I am asking for here. I think we should get that opportunity. We should have a special debate. We should not discuss this; we should not debate it during the budget. We should have a special debate on it. We do not need to rush this. If that project turns out to be the greatest thing ever, then let us give it the due diligence, let us give the due course that it needs.

It is going to be hard for me if it turns out, after independent eyes have laid on this –if it turns out to be a great thing, then how am I going to be able to not support it, if it turns out to be a great thing? I do not feel that it has been given the proper opportunity. Again, I wish I could stand up at the end of the day and put my name on it. I know that when they discussed Voisey's Bay back in the day I was not here, but the opposition at that time got a chance – they said there needs to be a special debate on this, and it was had, and it was the right thing to do. It was the right thing to do, to give people an opportunity to speak to it, have no time limit on it, to make sure that we are going forward in the best interests of the Province. Again, if we are going to have something like this come forward, I think all the members on every seat here, every hon. member should stand up and say yea or nay. It does not matter who you are, what side you are on, you need to be able to stand up and put your name on this. Now, again, I could get into the fact that I do not think there has been a proper independent analysis, but again, I am not going to get a chance to fully get into that.

One thing I will say, I have to discuss the Member for Mount Pearl South who was on Open Line and said I should not talk about medical issues because I am a lawyer, not a doctor. If that is the case, I would ask that member: What issues are you allowed to discuss? I have to put that forward. If we are only going to be allowed to discuss things because we are experts, then there are not many of us in here who are experts. We need to listen to experts and we need to get our points across.

Again, I might not be an expert, but I can do my review. I can listen to the experts. I can get my point of view across. I am listening to experts, too. I have looked at the Department of Health notes on the skin surgery. I am making my point of view and I am putting it across. I have the right to do that.

Sometimes we forget that our job is to put criticism out there. It is like I am going to say many times: My job is not to criticize for the sake of criticizing; my job is to put the opposition there, to oppose something. Again, I have to put it forward to make sure we are going forward in the best interest of the people. So I would say to the minister: When I criticize, do not think I am just criticizing just to do it. That is my job, to make sure we are going forward in the best interest of this Province.

I am going to end there today, Mr. Chair, but I certainly thank you and all the members for the opportunity to speak here today.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

CHAIR: The Chair recognizes the hon. the Member for Humber West.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. GRANTER: Mr. Chair, it is a wonderful opportunity again to be able to stand twice this week and speak to the Interim Supply bill brought to the floor by the hon. Member for Humber East, my colleague the Minister of Finance.

Before I do, as other colleagues in the House today have done, I want to take this opportunity to extend to all females in Newfoundland and Labrador and, indeed, throughout our great country on International Women's Day the very best of this day for all that you have done, all that you continue to do, and all that you will do in the future. To all female members of this House, not only the leaders, the female leaders of this House, because you are all leaders in this House, I want to wish you all the very best on this International Women's Day.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. GRANTER: In particular, as the Member for Fortune Bay – Cape La Hune said earlier, to congratulate our Premier, the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, on being recognized today on International Women's Day.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. GRANTER: Mr. Chair, I have been sitting all afternoon listening to hon. members on both sides of the House. A few minutes ago, I had an opportunity as the people at home watching on television and people on this side of the House and on the other side of the House as well to listen to the Member for St. John's North. He went through a litany of events associated with other parts of the world. He came back and in his speech he did reference Corner Brook Pulp and Paper and what this government has or has not done for Corner Brook Pulp and Paper and, indeed, Corner Brook in general. I can tell you, Mr. Chair, the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Natural Resources, myself and others have continued to meet with the people, the unions at Corner Brook Pulp and Paper, over the last number of weeks, not on one occasion, not on two occasions, not on three occasions but on many occasions, Mr. Chair, and those meetings have lasted longer than fifteen minutes.

I understand, I have been told, Mr. Chair, by others that the hon. member from across the House did meet with some of the union representation in Corner Brook Pulp and Paper for fifteen minutes and was interrupted by a phone call. He was interrupted by a phone call and the meeting ended there. I was also told, Mr. Chair, that it was also said that if the leader of their party was governing this Province, Corner Brook Pulp and Paper would be no more. That is what was told to us, Mr. Chair. I think that is shameful, Mr. Chair. I will leave it at that today. The member from the opposite side can address that at a later date if he so chooses.

Mr. Chair, as I said earlier this week, Humber West, Corner Brook, and the West Coast is a great place to live. I said that when I spoke earlier this week, and I believe it is a better place because of the investments that this government have put in place over the last number of years.

MR. KIRBY: A point of order.

CHAIR: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for St. John's North, rising on a point of order.

MR. KIRBY: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I wanted to address the comment just made by the Member for Humber West. It is certainly indeed not the case that I had a fifteen-minute meeting and was interrupted by a telephone call. That is patently false, and I just do not think it is appropriate. You are telling stories in here that are very, very far from what it is that transpired in my meetings on the West Coast, Mr. Chair. I just want to point that out.

CHAIR: Order, please!

There is no point of order.

The hon. the Government House Leader, to the point of order.

MR. KENNEDY: There is a point of order arising, Mr. Chair.

This member has said it is patently false what was put forward by the Member for Humber West. Myself, and I do not know about the Minister of Finance, at least I was present in a meeting with two union representatives and that is exactly what they said, that the meeting took place for fifteen minutes to twenty minutes, a phone call was taken and he left. It was put to him if your leader was in power, Corner Brook Pulp and Paper would not be open.

Mr. Chair, again, if that is the kind of misleading statements that are going to be made in this House, then we can find the individuals who made these comments, they will come forward and establish that what he just said is incorrect, Mr. Chair. It is absolutely and totally inappropriate.

CHAIR: Order, please!

Once again, there is no point of order.

The hon. the Member for Humber West.

MR. GRANTER: Mr. Chair, again, I will stand in this House and I will say that this government, for the last number of years, stands on principle leadership, Mr. Chair, and that means leadership based on principles. This government will stand on leadership; they stood on leadership in the past, principle leaderships, and will continue to stand on principle leadership.

The people of this Province, Mr. Chair, understand, they know and support that this government has been efficient and effective in all of its operations over the last number of years. As the Member of the House of Assembly for Humber West, I am pleased to be associated with a government that makes decisions which are principled, efficient and effective.

Mr. Chair, if I might just take a few moments to isolate and breakdown the incredible transformation this Province has seen over the last number of years: 2011-2012 will mark the sixth out of the past seven years that we have seen a surplus.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. GRANTER: That shows, Mr. Chair, that we have been living within our means. Since 2004 our debt has decreased by more than 30 per cent, from just under $12 billion in 2004-2005 to just under $8 billion now. This government is fiscally responsible, Mr. Chair, and socially progressive. That is what the people want, Mr. Chair; that is what Newfoundlanders and Labradorians want.

I say to all hon. members on the other side of the House, we were at the cusp of bankruptcy but are now recognized as one of the leaders in this country. This is something all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians should be very proud of, and I know that the people of Humber West are really proud of.

The net debt, Mr. Chair, as a percentage of GDP, has dropped from a high of 70.2 per cent to 26.7 per cent. In terms of net debt per capita, it has improved from $23,000 in 2004-2005 to approximately $15,000. We no longer have the highest debt per capita in Canada. We are ahead of Ontario and Quebec, Mr. Chair. Who would have thought that just a few years ago?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. GRANTER: In terms of debt servicing expenses, almost twenty-five cents of every dollar received went to servicing the debt in 2003-2004. That has dropped to ten cents for every dollar received today. Standard & Poor's has given the Province the highest credit rating in its history, an A+, which reflects very favourably for any future borrowing requirements, as you all know.

What are the estimates for 2011? We have real GDP growth of 5.2 per cent, capital investment grew by 17.7 per cent, personal incomes increased by 6 per cent, and employment increased by 2.7 per cent to 225,400. More people are working in Newfoundland and Labrador now than ever before in its history, and that is something to be proud of, all of us.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. GRANTER: Retail sales grew by 4.9 per cent; the number of housing starts remains strong at 3,488, and the population increased to 510,600.

Let me talk a minute or so about the economic outlook for 2012. Capital investment is expected to increase by 15.6 per cent; this will be the third straight year of double-digit growth, Mr. Chair. Employment growth of 2 per cent is expected to an average of 229,900; personal income to grow by 5.5 per cent, both aided by wage gains and employment growth; retail sales growth of 4.2 per cent, just over $8 billion, and we all should be proud of that. Again, Mr. Chair, an increase in population to 513,400 that is something we are all proud of.

Mr. Chair, I just want to go back and reference the economic work that has been done on the West Coast of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, particularly in Corner Brook, Humber East, Humber West and, yes, the beautiful Bay of Islands that has been referenced here today. This government over the last number of years have kept their promises. The people of Corner Brook, the people of the West Coast, they know, they understand, they see it.

In the last minute that I have, I will reiterate some of the investments that this government has made in Corner Brook and region, including the Bay of Islands, in the last number of years. The courthouse in Corner Brook, again, millions of dollars; the long-term care unit which we were talking about today, millions of dollars; dementia units, millions of dollars; Corner Brook Regional High, the school which I was the principal of, again, millions of dollars; planning for the former Regina school, on the way and future development; Bartlett's Point, hundreds of thousands of dollars; the revitalization of Margaret Bowater Park; road paving and infrastructure work on both sides of the Bay of Islands; cost-shared of the Trans-Canada Highway from Massey Drive west; monies for the new fire pumper truck in Corner Brook, and in Meadows, in the Bay of Islands; monies to straighten the road at Gallants; the new Dunfield Park Community Centre; support for Summit Place in Corner Brook; the new residence at Grenfell Campus, and a new administrative building at Grenfell Campus, Memorial University. Tell me, people on the opposite side of the House, that this government does not make its commitments and keep its commitments.

CHAIR: Order, please!

MR. GRANTER: Thank you very much.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

CHAIR: The Chair recognizes the hon. the Member for St. John's North.

MR. KIRBY: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

All of that positive economic news here in the Province and we are have to cut 3 per cent from – well we will find out where.

I want to address some comments made on Tuesday in debate by the Minister of Child, Youth and Family Services who was up applauding this government's record on early learning and care. There is no doubt that we need investments in child care and there are a lot of people out there struggling to afford it, so we need to do much more, but $3.2 million that was referenced for family child care is a paltry sum of money really. It is a paltry sum of money out of an overall budget, Mr. Chair, of some $8 billion.

The minister went on to describe what she called a lesson in child care, but after the lesson was all over, I went home and looked at my notes from the lesson and it appeared to me the lesson plan was well, very, very incomplete. I say that, Mr. Chair, because last fall there was a national report, the Early Years Study 3 was released, which showed that this Province, Newfoundland and Labrador, is dead last in Canada when it comes to the provision of early learning and care. That is a fact and that is a serious failure of this government. There were seventeen different metrics out of nineteen – seventeen out of nineteen – where Newfoundland and Labrador scored a zero, goose egg, nothing, no score. Let me go through them one by one, those seventeen, just for all the members present, so they can get a good idea of what was in the Early Years 3 study.

The first one was the fact that we have separated child care and early learning into two different government departments. We have child care in the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services, and early learning in the Department of Education. The trend in jurisdictions around the world, modern jurisdictions, forward-looking jurisdictions that have some interest in having a decent system of early learning and care, the direction is to combine child care and early learning in one department, as opposed to what we are doing right now. That way we can have combined oversight and a less scattered approach and have a high-level, consistent direction for early learning and care.

The next three areas where we scored a zero related to the lack of system integration here in Newfoundland and Labrador. They are: the absence of a common early childhood education supervisory unit; the absence of a common early childhood education policy framework; and the absence of a common, local authority for early childhood education, management and administration. We do not register on any of those benchmarks at all, Mr. Chair. We get zero, goose egg on all of those.

The next three areas where we get a zero relate to the funding of early childhood education, so I think this is really relevant. Those were: that at least two-thirds of child care funding goes to program operations; second, that there is a mandated salary scale and fee scale; and third, at least 3 per cent of provincial budget is devoted to early learning and care. That is what is considered the bare minimum in jurisdictions that have developed early childhood early learning and care programs. All zeros in those areas, again, Mr. Chair.

The biggest problem we have in this Province right now is the cost of child care. We have a market-determined price for child care, and if you have one child, you are paying somewhere between $600 and $1,000 a month for child care, and if you have two children, we can double that – somewhere between $1,200 and $2,000 per month for child care. So how is anybody supposed to afford that? That fee structure is too high, and it puts undue pressure on working families. It is made worse by insufficient subsidies which we have, and a narrow eligibility criterion that is used to select individuals for subsidies.

Now, the Early Years Study 3 report also points out that we should have greater stability and greater quality and greater affordability if we developed a publicly managed system, more publicly managed services. This would include a mandated salary structure and fee scales, and funding that is directed toward program operations, not other areas.

The next three areas where we scored a zero relate to access to early childhood education, access to early learning and care programs in Newfoundland and Labrador. This is interesting, because they include the funding. Whether or not we have full-day kindergarten offered or not – of course, we do not – whether or not 50 per cent of two to four year old children attend early childhood education programs on a regular basis, and funding is conditional on inclusion. Something that this government purports to support, the inclusion of children who have special education needs. Many provinces in the country, Mr. Chair, have expanded early learning by offering full-day kindergarten. Fully six Canadian jurisdictions right now have full-day kindergarten programs. That is the direction progressive governments are going in this country, and some of them that are not so progressive, even.

Unlike this Province, Quebec and Ontario have more than 50 per cent, more than 50 per cent of two to four year old children in an early childhood education program that they attend regularly. To promote inclusion, governments like Manitoba and the Government of Prince Edward Island have made public funding available for early learning and care programs that are conditional – funding that is conditional on accepting children with special education needs.

Mr. Chair, the next five areas where we scored a zero all relate to the early childhood education, the early learning and care environment itself. There is a lack of a clear framework here for early childhood education curriculum. There is an absence of any alignment, any connection, between early childhood education programs and the kindergarten to Grade 12 system, the Level III system, the grade school system. There is no integration between those two systems. There is certainly a deficit when it comes to integration. There is an absence of a requirement that programs for two to four year olds require at least two-thirds of staff at early childhood education facilities have early childhood education qualifications. There is a lack of any requirement for kindergarten teachers to have early childhood education qualifications.

Now, the fifth area where we got a zero, under this heading, relates to the salaries of early childhood education, early childhood educators, and the need for them to be at least two-thirds of the salaries of teachers in the kindergarten to Level III system, in the grade school system. Mr. Chair, the early learning and care research clearly points out the need for trained early childhood education staff that have the resources they need and who know, by the resources that are delegated to them, that the work that they do is valued by those who are providing the funding. This includes a need for a curriculum to support the work of early childhood education, a structured curriculum to support the work of early childhood educators. We need a curriculum that aligns with the grade school system that aligns with the kindergarten to Level III system, Mr. Chair. We need to know that educators in both kindergarten and child care are trained in early childhood development, that they have training through ECE programs that provides them with an understanding of early childhood development.

The final area, Mr. Chair, where this government received two additional zeros relate to issues of monitoring and accountability. This government says it is big on accountability. These two benchmarks are annual reports that are current and posted in program standards for early childhood education programs, including kindergarten that are current and posted. Monitoring and accountability for the use of public resource is essential, Mr. Chair. I do not think anybody here would disagree with that. It is essential for supporting informed decisions and ensuring that the goals of public funding, of public support are met and if not met, exceeded. The government fails in two regards here because it has no requirement for official annual reports and there are no program standards, Mr. Chair, to ensure we have a basic measure of assurance for program quality in early learning programs.

So, there you have it. There are seventeen areas where we scored a zero in a review by local, national, and international experts on early learning and care. The sum total here is a complete and utter disgrace, a national disgrace, but I have some hope, Mr. Chair, that this government will finally be shamed into providing more than the bare minimum for early learning and care. Our children are counting on us.

CHAIR: Order, please!

MR. KIRBY: Our families are counting on that.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I move 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.

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

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: Contra, if any?

Carried.

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

MR. SPEAKER (Wiseman): Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl South and Deputy Chair of Committees.

MR. KENT: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of Supply have considered the matters to them referred, and have directed 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?

MR. KENNEDY: Tomorrow.

MR. SPEAKER: Tomorrow.

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

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

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

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that this House do now adjourn.

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

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

Motion carried.

This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 of the clock on Monday afternoon.

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