March 28, 2012                        HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS              Vol. XLVII No. 15


The House met at 2:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Wiseman): Order, please'

Admit strangers.

Today I would like to welcome to our gallery two visitors who are representing the Coalition of Persons with Disabilities Newfoundland and Labrador. We have Kelly White who is the Executive Director, and Michelle Murdoch who is the President of the Board of Directors.

Welcome to our Assembly.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

Statements by Members

MR. SPEAKER: Today we have members’ statements from the hon. the Minister of Child, Youth and Family Services, by leave; the Member for the District of St. John’s West; the Member for the District of Torngat Mountains; the Member for the District of Exploits; the Member for the District of Humber West; and the Member for the District of Grand Falls-Windsor – Green Bay South.

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 today to recognize the RCSCC 295 Baccalieu Cadet Corps in Old Perlican for receiving the distinguished award of Top Cadet Corps in Newfoundland and Labrador. I had the opportunity to attend the awards presentation on February 29 in Old Perlican, Mr. Speaker. Commander Trimm from CFS St. John’s and Station Chief Harris visited the corps to officially present this prestigious award.

295 Baccalieu consists of eighty-four cadets, ten officers, and three ci’s. They are a very active group with the cadets participating in numerous activities including sail seminars, band seminars, and public speaking competitions. They contribute greatly to their region by participating in six Santa Claus parades a year, fundraising for the Children’s Wish Foundation, and countless other events. Also, Mr. Speaker, they recently won the right to compete at a provincial competition next month in the Zone Drill Category.

Baccalieu 295 receives tremendous support from their committee members, parents, Baccalieu Collegiate School, numerous local businesses, and the community as a whole. We are all very proud of Baccalieu 295 for being recognized for their hard work and dedication by winning the Sea Cadet Corps of the Year Award for 2011.

I ask all members of this hon. House to join me in offering congratulations to Baccalieu 295 Cadet Corps.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for St. John’s West.

MR. CRUMMELL: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to extend congratulations to the Coalition of Persons with Disabilities Newfoundland and Labrador, or COD-NL, on the opening of their new location on Hamlyn Road in my District of St. John’s West.

Mr. Speaker, COD-NL is an advocacy organization for persons with disabilities in our Province. It serves people with all disabilities, promoting their rights and raising awareness at local and provincial levels.

Mr. Speaker, I had the honour of attending the grand opening of COD-NL’s new office back in December, which was organized to coincide with the United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities. I was very impressed with the space. I had the opportunity to speak with board members from across the Province, as well as members of organizations representing individuals with various disabilities and they, too, were very excited about the space.

The new office is fully accessible, there is more parking, and of course, the location itself provides increased visibility. Mr. Speaker, increased visibility goes hand in hand with creating increased awareness within the community of COD-NL, and this is very positive.

I ask all hon. members to join me in congratulating COD-NL on the opening of their new office and wish them continued success at their new location.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Torngat Mountains.

MR. EDMUNDS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise in this hon. House today to pay tribute to a special group of individuals from Natuashish and Sheshatshiu – the Youth Innu Cultural Walkers.

Mr. Speaker, this group has walked thousands of kilometres over the last few years in the footsteps of their forefathers, a nomadic people.

Mr. Speaker, the Innu of Labrador, at one time, travelled the length and width of Labrador as well as Northern Quebec.

Mr. Speaker, the Youth Innu Cultural Walkers from Natuashish and Sheshatshiu recently travelled from Natuashish to Makkovik in honour of young Burton Winters. In appreciation of their efforts, the community of Makkovik held a wonderful reception upon their arrival.

I was honoured to attend that reception and to show my personal appreciation of their efforts.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all members in this hon. House to join me in thanking this prestigious group of individuals for their dedication to Burton Winters’ legacy and in wishing them Godspeed as they continue their walk from Makkovik to Sheshatshiu, a distance of over 300 kilometres.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

MR. FORSEY: Mr. Speaker, on Monday, February 6 of this year, the Bishop’s Falls Fire Department celebrated fifty years of volunteer firefighting service in the town. The event was recognized with an anniversary dinner and was attended by current members, honourary members, and ten of the chartered members from 1962.

Mr. Speaker, in 1962 citizens of the Town of Bishop’s Falls recognized a need for fire protection in the community, and on February 6, 1962, the volunteer fire department was formed with thirty-five members.

Mr. Speaker, I am sure in 1962 firefighting was their main focus. Since then, they have grown into a well-trained, well-respected emergency response team. They have responded to residential fires, forest fires, highway traffic accidents, our major flood of 1983, and recently responded to a fire at the Bishop’s Falls hydro generating station and was successful in preventing another disaster.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all members of this House to join me in congratulating the Bishop’s Falls fire department on fifty years of dedication to fire protection and emergency response to the Town of Bishop’s Falls and the Exploits Valley.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

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

MR. GRANTER: Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to stand in this House to congratulate the organizers of an event that has been taking place in Corner Brook for over a quarter century. The event I speak of is the March Hare.

March Hare was started twenty-six years ago by the late Al Pittman to give poets a platform to gather and share their work. Festival organizers strive to keep audiences engaged by offering a mixture of poetry, storytelling, prose, reading and traditional music. March Hare has grown from its early beginnings in Corner Brook to include shows in Europe, Mainland Canada, St. John’s, Gander, Deer Lake, Rocky Harbour, and indeed, Corner Brook.

The 26th Annual March Hare was a huge success and came to a close on March 11, 2012. Mr. Speaker, about 1,500 people attended the shows over a ten day period.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all member of this hon. House to join with me in congratulating the host committee under the direction of Mr. Rex Brown, and wish them much success in future March Hare Festivals.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Grand Falls-Windsor – Green Bay South.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

MR. HUNTER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise in this hon. House today to congratulate Ms Emily Bland. Emily has achieved great strides in her seventeen years. Her latest is being chosen as Miss Teen Newfoundland and Labrador for the year 2012.

Her training and awards are also lengthy. Emily is very active in volunteer work and extracurricular activities such as coaching volleyball, grad steering committee, mathematics, and has achieved many awards, such as Kiwanis Music Festival, floor hockey, volleyball, basketball, and competitive cheerleading.

She has special training such as voice, ballet, piano, school band, art and painting just to mention a few. She also has honours with distinction in Grades 7 to 9, and Grade 11, honours in Grade 10, and made the Principal’s list in Grades 10 to 12.

I would like to ask my hon. colleagues to join with me to congratulate Emily Bland for all her accomplishments, and as well, Miss Teen Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

MR. SPEAKER: Statements by Ministers.

Statements by Ministers

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

MR. MARSHALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is always an honour for me to rise in this hon. House to recognize the work of dedicated public service employees. Doing so is even a greater honour when they have been recognized for their dedication and for their professionalism by community stakeholders.

Mr. Speaker, this past December I had the privilege of attending, and I know other MHAs attended as well, the Independent Living Resource Centre’s annual Independent Living Awards ceremony. Launched in the year 2009, this awards program recognizes individuals and organizations which promote the full inclusion of people with disabilities.

The recipient of this year’s Local Government Award for Independent Living was the Public Service Secretariat’s Office of Employment Equity for Persons with Disabilities. The office received this award for its successes in implementing substantial change by breaking down barriers faced by people with disabilities. The award was accepted by Mr. Jim McDonald, Senior Manager of Programs for Persons with Disabilities, on behalf of the staff.

Mr. Speaker, the Office of Employment Equity for Persons with Disabilities works very hard to promote inclusion and to promote employment opportunities for persons with disabilities throughout the provincial public service throughout the whole Province. This office provides employment programs for persons with disabilities including the Opening Doors Program; wage subsidy programs for departments, agencies, boards, commissions and Crown corporations; and, the Student Summer Employment Program for post-secondary students with disabilities. Mr. Speaker, the office also provides valuable employment services including an enabling resource centre and employment counselling to assist persons with disabilities in finding employment.

Since the first person was hired under the Opening Doors Program back in 1990, approximately 1,000 clients have secured positions through the various employment programs offered by this office.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all members to join me in congratulating Mr. McDonald and the entire staff of the Office of Employment Equity for Persons with Disabilities on their award and for the great work that they do to support the community of persons with disabilities.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

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

MR. BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I want to thank the minister for the advance copy of his Ministerial Statement. I, too, want to congratulate Mr. Jim McDonald and all the Public Service employees for the role that they play in promoting those people with disabilities. It was important – and I can remember back in the 1990s, even in my own professional career, I had the privilege to work very closely with community groups in Deer Lake; in particular, SEDLER has been a very successful community group and we have had an employee there for a number of years. Even tonight, the Green Bay Community Employment Corporation, they will hold their annual meeting of recognition; there will be two people there, Miss Charlotte Winsor and Breene Saunders, who will be part of that evening tonight, I am sure.

It is appropriate, I think, that the Minister of Finance actually read this statement today. I would encourage him that this is Budget time and important that we continue to support those community groups for the great work that they do.

I also want to thank all the community volunteers that work diligently on behalf, and work in collaboration with those community groups and continue to support the people with disabilities.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

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

MR. KIRBY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to thank the minister for the advance copy of his statement.

The Independent Living Resource Centre is a very important organization that helps people living with disabilities by providing supports, resources, and opportunities for empowerment, which enables persons with disabilities to make informed choices about their lives. Congratulations to Mr. Jim McDonald and his staff for their work with persons with disabilities. I certainly hope, Mr. Speaker, that if this government follows through with its promise of a belt tightening and the cutbacks, that it will ensure that funding for the Opening Doors Program and any new hires at the Independent Living Resource Centre – that funding is not cut.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

MR. DAVIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am pleased to rise today in this hon. House to highlight changes which are coming into effect to enhance the accessibility of blue zone parking spaces.

Amendments to the Designated Mobility Impaired Parking Regulations will increase fines for illegal parking in designated spaces without having the proper permit from the current range of $45 to $180 to the new range of $100 to $400. Under these regulations, those without parking permits parking illegally in designated spaces will be fined when either a vertical sign or a painted parking space is present. The increased fines are designed to act as a greater deterrent against illegal parking in these spaces. These new increased fines will come into effect on April 1, 2012.

Mr. Speaker, in addition to the changes to parking fines, we have also made changes to the Building Accessibility Regulations. These amendments require that accessible parking signage be made permanent, visible to the public, and kept in good repair at all times. These regulations came into effect for new and proposed buildings on February 15, 2012. Existing properties which are subject to the Building Accessibility Regulations will be required to comply by September 30 of this year.

Under the previous regulations, Mr. Speaker, the requirements for permanent placement of these signs was not clear. In some instances, signs were being moved for snow clearing and not always replaced. This led to problems for people with designated mobility parking permits being unable to identify and use these spaces which are so important to their ability to access public areas.

We have also encouraged municipalities to bring their parking fines in line with our new regulations, and we are working with law enforcement throughout Newfoundland and Labrador on the implementation of these important changes to the regulations.

As a government, Mr. Speaker, we are committed to working closely with the community of persons with disabilities. Through this relationship, we have heard the needs and concerns of people with disabilities and we have responded by making changes to the regulations. Our government’s commitment is strong, Mr. Speaker. Our actions reflect the commitment and we will continue our work to ensure inclusion for all.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Torngat Mountains.

MR. EDMUNDS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I thank the minister for the advance copy of his statement. On increasing fines, Mr. Speaker, people with mobility impairments have every right to drive and park in a way convenient to them. Thoughtless drivers have no right to take the spots reserved for those with mobility impairments.

Mr. Speaker, increasing the fines to a maximum of $400 will make people think twice. On the changing Building Accessibility Regulations, Mr. Speaker, after recent confusions about what may or may not be legal; it is good to see the clarification.

Mr. Speaker, there is no point in having heavy fines for illegally parking in blue spaces if the blue spaces are not visible. Blue spaces need to be clearly marked, protected for those with mobility impairments, and available to use when needed. Mr. Speaker, I applaud the minister for his moves on this and his sensitivity to this issue.

Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for St. John’s East.

MR. MURPHY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I too would also like to thank the minister for an advance copy of his statement. It is good to hear that after so many years of people ignoring the designated mobility and parking regulations, the Province has decided to follow through with an increase of fines and a tightening of the regulations. However, it should not have come to this; public ignorance of the rules is no excuse and violators know what they are doing.

Higher penalties are well deserved, but we also need stronger monitoring and enforcement to make sure that these regulations will be complied with. People with disabilities have rights and they should be protected.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

MR. SPEAKER: Oral Questions.

Oral Questions

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

MR. BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

During the Public Utilities Board hearings, Nalcor stated that the power purchase price to be paid by hydro for Muskrat Falls power has escalated at a rate of 2 per cent. Nalcor stated that this rate was consistent with their assumption in the long-term CPI.

I ask the Premier: You stated that the power purchase agreement price will increase at 2 per cent a year. I ask, just for clarification, is this a fixed rate or is it tied to inflation?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The only reference I can remember to the 2 per cent is the escalation cost in terms of 2010-2011 dollars going to 2017. Mr. Speaker, what we have shown to our taking of the three profiles that we have developed is that rates will go up a certain point between 2011-2017. Then, they will be a $15 increase for the average ratepayer in 2017. It will then, Mr. Speaker, go up $14 after that, so I do not know where the 2 per cent is coming into. I am certainly willing to look at what the member opposite had to say, but in terms of rates themselves we are defining them based on, again, a number of factors such as load demand forecast and all of the cost of the project.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

MR. SPEAKER: The Leader of the Official Opposition.

MR. BALL: The reason why I asked the question, because it did come up in the Public Utilities Board and there was a response, yet it is unclear because Nalcor makes reference to the assumption of inflation rates. What we want to figure out, is it indeed a 2 per cent fixed rate, or is it tied to inflation? It is important to ratepayers. So, I will ask the question again. This is an important issue and will look for clarification. It appears that Nalcor has artificially lowered the early price of Muskrat Falls power and that they are under pricing the power in the early years and extending the deal to fifty years to actually make the project work financially.

Since you are refusing, and this would be in the power purchase agreement, we have not seen that.

The question is: Why did Nalcor tie the 2 per cent to the general inflation over fifty years when, indeed, over the last fifty years it has been around 4.16 per cent, more than what Nalcor (inaudible) –

MR. SPEAKER: I ask the hon. member to conclude his question, please.

MR. BALL: We would like the clarification.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. speaker.

As I indicated, Mr. Speaker, on a number of occasions we have $5 billion right now is the estimated cost of the project; $2.9 for Muskrat Falls Generating Station and $2.1 million for the Labrador-Island Link. Built into that, Mr. Speaker, is a 15 per cent contingency and also a 2 per cent escalation rate as we try to predict the 2017 cost to the project. That adds up, Mr. Speaker, to $1.1 billion.

In terms of the rates themselves, the way they have been approximated is based again on all the factors. That $232 that I talk about, Mr. Speaker, includes all costs of the project, including interest costs, including operational costs. So, Mr. Speaker, I do not know; the 2 per cent that I am aware of is relating to escalation in terms of the cost of the project, not the cost of electricity rates.

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

MR. BALL: Just for clarification, again to the minister: Are you saying that after 2017, what can we expect in price increases after 2017?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

MR. KENNEDY: Yes, Mr. Speaker.

As I indicated, what we have tried to do to give the public an idea what this is going to cost them we broke it down into three profiles. There was the person who just used electricity and burns approximately 770 kilowatt hours per month. We then looked at the average of 1,517, up to 2,000, for a total of 230,000 ratepayers. To put it into perspective, the average ratepayer, based on what we know today, Mr. Speaker, they will pay $217 pre-Muskrat in 2016, based on the price of oil. It will go up $15 to $232 in 2017, and then go up another $14 between 2017 and 2030. What we are trying to do, Mr. Speaker, is talk a language that people understand, put it in plain terms so that they understand this is the impact. Muskrat Falls is the cheapest power, Mr. Speaker, and it saves people money.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

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

MR. BALL: Okay, I will tell the minister we will get back to the formula at a later date, but I will move on.

Mr. Speaker, the Premier said yesterday in Question Period, based on their own legal counsel’s advice, she does not have the authority to call a public inquiry.

I ask the Premier: Will you table a copy of the legal opinion in this House today?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, as Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, I have a whole Justice Department who provide advice. They do not always provide it writing. We spend quite a bit of time in briefings, Mr. Speaker. The law is explained on what we can do and what we cannot do. I am advised by my Department of Justice officials that I do not have authority to call an inquiry into federal government jurisdiction.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

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

MR. BALL: Mr. Speaker, to Madam Premier, it would be nice to see an independent legal opinion on this because from what we believe, is that under section 3 we do have the authority to do that.

Mr. Speaker, the Premier has repeatedly stated in the House that she has communicated with Ottawa on several occasions regarding the Burton Winters tragedy. Are you prepared to table all the correspondence that you have had with the federal government relating to the Burton Winters tragedy?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I committed in this House yesterday to provide the correspondence and the answers to the correspondence. Mr. Speaker, I would also point out to the Leader of the Opposition that I have had a telephone conversation with the Minister of National Defence and I have had a face-to-face meeting with Rear-Admiral Gardam, Mr. Speaker. There is no transcript of either of those conversations on this important matter, but as Premier of this Province I do believe that my word counts for something.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Torngat Mountains.

MR. EDMUNDS: Mr. Speaker, in respect to the Burton Winters tragedy, the Minister of Municipal Affairs has stated that fire and emergency services received their first phone call for assistance at 8:30 Monday morning. Seven hours after the call for assistance was made from Makkovik.

I ask the minister: Did your internal investigation explain why there was a seven-hour gap between the time the call went out from Makkovik until it was received by fire and emergency services, the most crucial time of the search?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

MR. O’BRIEN: Mr. Speaker, once again I will explain to the hon. member how search and rescue and the process in regard to search and rescue are governed in any province, and Newfoundland and Labrador.

The lead agency in regard to the actual search and rescue is the policing agency that is in place in the particular area or the region that the search has to happen. That call comes from that region, that constable, or whoever it may be in regard to the policing force to the headquarters here in St. John’s.

I can confirm to the hon. member that the first call in regard to Makkovik and the first time we ever knew in regard to this department, my department, that there was anybody missing in that community was at 8:19 on Monday morning.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Torngat Mountains.

MR. EDMUNDS: Mr. Speaker, with regard to search and rescue, the Public Inquiries Act is very simple: the Premier can call an inquiry on any matter of public concern.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Premier: Are you suggesting that the death of Burton Winters and the state of search and rescue in this Province is not a public concern?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, it is very hard to respond to statements such as those just made by the Member for Torngat Mountains. We have a family who is grieving and looking for answers. We have a community that is grieving and looking for answers. We have a Province that is grieving, Mr. Speaker, and looking for answers. As a government, we are endeavouring to get those answers.

Every life in this Province is valued, Mr. Speaker, and the federal government has a responsibility in terms of search and rescue in this Province as well as in the rest of the country. They cannot abrogate that responsibility, and if their response has been found wanting, they have a responsibility to give answers to all of the people I just named. We are demanding those answers, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

We have a private member’s motion brought forward by the government today to debate their success in dealing with wait times in the health care system in the Province. I have just currently learned that the non-urgent physiotherapy outpatients’ wait-list just for the Health Sciences and St. Clare’s today is about 450 patients. I have been told by a MS patient that she has to wait eight months to get physio. I have been told by a young girl on the West Coast of Newfoundland that she has to wait a full year.

I ask the minister today: What is the Province doing to address the wait-list for physiotherapy in this Province, because these individuals cannot afford the private services?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

MS SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, wait times are something that we have been very concerned about in this Province and will continue to be concerned about. In fact, we are making tremendous progress in many, many areas in terms of wait times in this Province and a large part of that is due to our very significant investment of over $140 million, Mr. Speaker.

One of the things that I would say to the hon. member opposite that we are doing, and I think it is having significant payback for us, has to do with the $1.8 million that we have invested to establish a new access and clinical efficiency division within our department. Through that division and through the skills of some very confident people, we are addressing areas of wait times throughout the Province and in all departments in which we deal.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Those efforts are certainly not helping the 450 patients who are on the wait-list just in this particular area right now.

Mr. Speaker, it is not only the acute care facilities that have a wait-list for physiotherapy; it is also the long-term care facilities. We know, for example, Glenbrook Lodge and St. Pat’s Mercy Home today have over 300 residents but they have only one physiotherapist to provide that service.

I ask the minister: Why are we continuing with the shortage? Why are we not filling those positions and ensuring that there is adequate service for people in the Province who cannot afford the private services?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

MS SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I would remind, again, all members in this House today, and all of those people in the galleries, and people who are listening, that wait times are an issue that we take very, very seriously. We are addressing issues as we are able to address issues. We are putting in place bursaries to be able to fund positions to bring people into those positions as well, Mr. Speaker. They are serious issues. We take them seriously. We will continue to address all issues.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Another issue with regard to wait-lists that I have run into in the last week or so is with the acute care facility in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, the Labrador Health Centre. At that time, Mr. Speaker, the twenty-five acute care beds were all full. They even had patients in the nursery – adult patients in the hospital – and they had absolutely no space left, a lack of beds.

I ask the minister: What is being done to address the need for acute care beds in the Labrador hospital right now?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

MS SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, from time to time there are capacity issues in our health care institutions, and we acknowledge that. There were not any patients in the nursery, because we do not have one in that particular facility; it has not been in use for many, many years. That is an overflow capacity area that we use from time to time, and when we see need, we will continue to do that to address those issues, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

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

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, we know that eight or nine of those acute care beds are being occupied by long-term care patients. We know of cases in the Labrador Health Centre in Goose Bay where some of those long-term care patients have used acute care beds for up to two years before being placed in a facility. We also know that the new long-term care facility is to capacity, and that there is a need for additional long-term care services in the Happy Valley-Goose Bay area. There is a proposal to the government to utilize the Patton home to do that.

I ask you today, minister: Are you prepared to increase the capacity for long-term care services in the Goose Bay area, and ensure that those beds are made available at the Patton home for residents that need it?

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 recognize the demands that are on long-term care in Newfoundland and Labrador; for years and years and years, when members opposite were in power, there was nothing done to address long-term care in this Province. We have made huge investments in long-term care – $440 million annually in long-term care in this Province, Mr. Speaker, $140 million in additional investments since 2006. We will continue to make those investments, Mr. Speaker.

As for the Patton home, we are, at this point in time, doing an investigation as to the best use of that home, Mr. Speaker. Whether that would be for long-term care or not, we are not aware at this point in time, but we are doing an investigation.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

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

MR. BENNETT: Mr. Speaker, the second round of lobster license buyouts is over and the results are almost as abysmal as the first. The third round is set for this summer with no prospect for better results. This is a good program that is turning into a farce.

Will the minister take this program seriously and make the required changes so the people leaving the industry can do so with dignity instead of being squeezed out with nothing to show for their years in the fishery?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

MR. KING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The program is actually very important. I would not at all, in this Legislature, put the term farce in with an issue trying to address a challenge in the fishery, and I suggest the member opposite might want to rethink putting those phrases together for future questions.

Just for the benefit of the member opposite, this program is a partnership between the federal government, our government, and the FFAW. A significant piece of that program is the early retirement program for lobster enterprises, Mr. Speaker, to ensure the best approach to this program. It is actually not even – a minister by government, I am provided advice or briefings and updates, but, Mr. Speaker, this is clearly administered by the FFAW, so the question ought to be more appropriately be put to that group.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

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

MR. JOYCE: Mr. Speaker, this government’s pilot project with the moose detection systems on the Trans-Canada Highway has been mired in breakdowns and malfunctions.

I ask the Minister of Transportation and Works: What is the operating status today of both detection systems – in particular, the system near Grand Falls-Windsor?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Transportation and Works.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

MR. HEDDERSON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Of course, as a government, we have made a commitment to look at ways that we can better mitigate the moose vehicle accidents on our highways in Newfoundland and Labrador. Last year, we looked at $5 million towards putting into affect three pilot projects: two detection systems and moose fencing on the West Coast.

Mr. Speaker, we have had some significant difficulties with the moose detection installations. We are working with the company right now to try to make sure that they are living up to the expectations that they gave to us, that these systems would be up and running and basically doing what they are intended to do.

Again I mention, Mr. Speaker, these are pilot projects, and the reason why we are doing them is to test the effectiveness.

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, on March 9, the Premier said she supported the fleet separation and owner-operation policies. Then on Monday past, the Harper government indicated they planned to abandon these policies, which would trigger the end of the traditional inshore fishery.

Mr. Speaker, the loss of the Maritime Search and Rescue Sub-centre, the delay in establishing an independent offshore safety authority – whatever the issue, the Premier often says she has no control over the federal government.

Mr. Speaker, in light of this latest Conservative decision, will the Premier stand in this House and affirm her commitment to these policies, or will she again pass the buck?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

MR. KING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The member opposite knows full well that every time an issue is brought before this House, we accept responsibility for matters that we are responsible for, Mr. Speaker. We are not prepared to stand here at any point in time and accept responsibility and the buck being passed from across the House for things that we are not responsible for.

We have very clearly been open and transparent with this House on any number of issues that have been brought forward as it relates to the involvement of the federal government and the provincial government. Fleet separation, which was just raised a few moments ago – the Premier has been very clear in this House and I have been very clear, over and over and over again; I do not know how many times that we can repeat the message, Mr. Speaker, but our position on fleet separation and owner-operator policy in this Province has not changed from the past.

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 would say to the minister that it is their responsibility to work with the federal government, Mr. Speaker. The very people this government supported in the last federal election are now about to inflict a blow to our fishing communities not seen since the imposition of the 1992 cod moratorium.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Premier again: Will she now admit campaigning for Stephen Harper was a mistake and start the fight to preserve the vital fleet separation and owner-operator policies and save our coastal communities?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, there is no way to satisfy the Opposition and the Third Party. Mr. Speaker, we have had, at the very best, what one could describe as a contentious relationship with the federal government since 2003.

Mr. Speaker, we launched the ABC campaign and were critiqued on a daily basis. I can provide copies of Hansard here in this House where time after time we were criticized in this House for not talking to, not working with, not co-operating with the federal government from members on the opposite side of the aisle. Mr. Speaker, we have a majority government, a Prime Minister – and are criticizing me for talking to him instead of shouting at him. What do you want?

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 respond to the Premier, Mr. Speaker, that what I am looking for is results of the talking with him. Mr. Speaker, fleet separation –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please'

MS MICHAEL: – and owner-operator policy is critical to coastal communities and protecting independent fishers in the inshore fishery of this Province.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Premier: Will she affirm her government’s unwavering support for fleet separation and owner-operated vessels in the inshore fishery, and vow to fight any move to eliminate this policy, even if it means raising her voice with the federal government?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, this government supports all of the people in this Province. When we came to government in 2003, there was an affirmation of the rights of the people to expect governance that was principle-centred, Mr. Speaker. We have provided that governance to the people of the Province since 2003.

We support fishers in this Province. In terms of what we do as a provincial government – over $50 million investment in the fishery of this Province - we stand up for the rights of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, Mr. Speaker, whether it is here at home, in Ottawa, or abroad.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

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

MR. MITCHELMORE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, we have seen from other jurisdictions, when large companies buy fish licences, they sometimes sell them on the open market, often at very high prices. Often the buyer of a licence tries to recoup their investment by lowering the wages for local people who are employed. Mr. Speaker, fishing rights should not be something that you trade on the stock market. They are a legacy for coastal communities.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Premier: What is her government doing to protect the legacy of the people of this Province?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

MR. KING: Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to respond.

I say to the member opposite, first of all, that the jurisdictional issue of quota is a matter that is with the federal government. We have no responsibility whatsoever.

Mr. Speaker, let me be very clear on the previous question. This government will not take any lectures from the Leader of the Third Party on coastal communities in Newfoundland and Labrador. I say, Mr. Speaker, very clearly that the critic for her party wrote me a letter and told me very clearly that they are against shipping out of live lobster in this Province. I will tell you this much: that will shut down many communities in rural Newfoundland and Labrador if that policy were followed.

I also say, Mr. Speaker, that they are against any exemptions to unprocessed fish, which would have closed the Marystown fish plant years ago.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh'

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please'

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

MR. MITCHELMORE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, co-operative work. We have seen this across Newfoundland and Labrador. Mr. Speaker, a group of lobster fishers in my district, in a bid to increase their incomes, want to develop a lobster co-op. Mr. Speaker, a great deal of infrastructure to help them is already in place through regional economic development boards and other government offices. Mr. Speaker, they are experts at harvesting lobster, but they will need help in developing a co-op.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture: Will this government take a proactive leadership role and assist these people in establishing a lobster co-op?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

MR. KING: Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased that the member is finally on his feet asking some very, very important questions. The short answer to that question is absolutely, yes. We have established regional economic development boards and zonal boards and marketing divisions in my department and other officials through policy and research for just that purpose. This government will never, ever stand in the way of co-ops in this Province, Mr. Speaker, but let us be very clear; it is not this government that establishes co-ops. It has to be the harvesters in the communities who decide collectively that we want to come together and make a co-op. We have them in the Province and they are working, Mr. Speaker, because the business owners want them, not because government tells (inaudible).

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for St. John’s East.

MR. MURPHY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, experts say that a real barrier to successful economic development of the fishery is in our municipal government’s lack of resources, mandate, and jurisdiction. Other places such as Norway benefit from powerful and capable municipal government structures. Mr. Speaker, we must give our municipal governments the resources they need to develop their connection to the fishery.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Minister of Municipal Affairs: When is government going to empower our fishing communities to develop their economic potential for the full benefit of the residents?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

MR. KING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

A very, very interesting question; probably a very quick reminder to people that jurisdiction around the fishery in Canada is not with municipal governments, I say to the member opposite, Mr. Speaker. Jurisdiction around quotas in the fishery is with the federal government.

The provincial government has responsibility for fish from the time that they are landed on shore and sold. Once fish are being processed, we have responsibility for that, and we manage that very well, Mr. Speaker. We work with the industry very closely to ensure that we have proper protocols and procedures in place to ensure we get good quality coming out of this Province.

Mr. Speaker, if the member opposite wants to talk about Norway, we can get into a lot more detail about Norway next time around.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

MS ROGERS: Mr. Speaker, in the Blue Book in the past election the government promised to promote local consumption of locally grown fish. Six months later we have not heard anything on this promise. Mr. Speaker, we need a strategy for marketing and distributing our fresh seafood products to our own people.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture: What is the plan and the strategy for promoting local consumption of local fish, and will he table it?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

MR. KING: There is something very fishy going on here today, Mr. Speaker. Be careful what you ask for, I say to all members in this House.

A very good question, let me just say to the member opposite, a very good question. The aquaculture industry in this Province, Mr. Speaker, is to the tune of more than $100 million right now; more than $100 million, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

MR. KING: I point people in the direction, in particular, of two areas of the Province: The Connaigre Peninsula, the Harbour Breton area. Certainly, my colleague here, the Member for St. George’s – Stephenville East, we were there on Friday. Mr. Speaker, I say to you, there is a facility in Stephenville now that is a part of the aquaculture industry, a project more than $16 million, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

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

MR. KIRBY: Mr. Speaker, I would like to think that we learned something from the mistakes of the TAGS program and its failure to properly retrain displaced fisheries workers. With OCI refusing to open the Marystown and Port Union plants, Mr. Speaker -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh'

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please'

MR. KIRBY: Will this government provide retraining and upgrading opportunities so that these workers can find meaningful employment right here in Newfoundland and Labrador?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

MR. KING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Yes.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

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

MR. KIRBY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

We only have a few short years left until a projected skilled labour shortage is upon us. What opportunities will this government provide to ensure that unemployed and underemployed workers in Newfoundland and Labrador have the skills they need to meet the coming labour market demands?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills, you have about eleven seconds to answer the question.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

MS BURKE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, this Province and this government acknowledges that there will be a labour shortage, and in some sectors we are experiencing the labour shortage today. We have money that we administer that comes to us through the labour market agreement, and we want to make sure, Mr. Speaker – do not cut me off yet, I just started, I know you are going to stand up on me.

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

Presenting Reports by Standing and Select Committees.

Tabling of Documents.

Tabling of Documents

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh'

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please'

Pursuant to section 8 and section 10 of the Public Tender Act, I hereby table the Report of Public Tender Exceptions for the period of May 2011 to February 2012 inclusive as presented by the Chief Operating Officer of the Government Purchasing Agency.

Notices of Motion.

Answers to Questions for which Notice has been Given.

Petitions.

Petitions

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Torngat Mountains.

MR. EDMUNDS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I table the following petition:

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

WHEREAS there is an identified need for all levels of care in the region of Labrador; and

WHEREAS the Paddon Home is suitable for all levels of care;

WHEREUPON the undersigned, your petitioners, humbly pray and call upon the House of Assembly to urge the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to conduct a needs assessment to identify the needs of all levels of long-term care in Labrador, and to reopen the Paddon Seniors Nursing Home, located in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, to provide all levels of health care.

As in duty bound, your petitioners will ever pray.

Mr. Speaker, as our seniors in Labrador continue to find difficulty in all levels of care, a building sits empty in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. A building, Mr. Speaker, that is designed to address the level of need for our seniors in Labrador.

Although this facility is in the district of the hon. Member for Lake Melville, Mr. Speaker, the need for this facility comes from all over Labrador. Mr. Speaker, there are twenty-five beds for acute care at the Labrador Health Centre in Goose Bay. Last week, Mr. Speaker, there were no beds available for acute care. I ask all members in this hon. House to urge the government to reopen the Paddon Home.

Thank you.

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

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

I have a petition to the hon. House of Assembly of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador in Parliament Assembled. The petition of the undersigned residents:

WHEREAS hundreds of residents of the Southwest Coast of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, including residents of the communities of Margaree, Fox Roost, Isle aux Morts, Burnt Islands, Rose Blanche-Harbour Le Cou, Diamond Cove and La Poile, use Route 470 on a regular basis for work, medical, educational and social reasons; and

WHEREAS there is no cellphone coverage on Route 470; and

WHEREAS resident and users of Route 470 require cellphone coverage to ensure their safety and communications abilities; and

WHEREAS the Department of Innovation, Business and Rural Development recently announced significant funding to improve broadband services in rural Newfoundland and Labrador; and

WHEREAS the residents and users of Route 470 feel that the Department of Innovation, Business and Rural Development should also invest in cellular phone coverage for rural Newfoundland and Labrador;

WHEREUPON the undersigned, your petitioners, humbly pray and call upon the House of Assembly to urge government to support the users of Route 470 in their request to obtain cellular phone coverage along Route 470 and as in duty bound your petitioners will ever pray.

Again, I have sent correspondence to the minister responsible and I am certainly looking forward to the response and to the strategy that is going to be implemented for the situation.

Yesterday, when you look at the headlines, there was a situation in Placentia-Whitbourne RCMP district where a gentleman was recovered. He passed away; there was a rescue situation to recover the body. When you look at the press briefing it says that information from the scene was limited due to a lack of cellular phone coverage. This is twice in two weeks now that we have seen a situation like this. It is two times too many in this day and age.

I look forward to hearing from the minister on this.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. MITCHELMORE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I present a petition for the removal of the Englee fish plant, public safety hazard and environmental concern.

To the hon. House of Assembly of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

MR. DAVIS: A point of order, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: A point of order.

MR. DAVIS: A point of order, Mr. Speaker.

This is the third time now the member has risen on this point of order on the Englee fish plant. I would just like to point out that a ministerial order has been issued to the owner of the plant for the immediate removal of the plant.

MR. SPEAKER: There is no point of order.

The Member for The Straits – White Bay North.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

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

WHEREAS the provincial government has not acknowledged that they have role to play in the removal of the condemned Englee fish plant; and

WHEREAS the Town of Englee has exhausted all avenues over the past seven years, lobbying government for removal; and

WHEREAS inaction has resulted in economic loss for the town, delay of new infrastructure and has become a concern of public safety as large debris has fallen into a major shipping route;

We the undersigned, petition the House of Assembly to urge government to immediately order full removal and environmental cleanup of this condemned property, a former fish plant, in order to restore public confidence in the system and settle land issues to permit new wharf development, providing residents of Englee with a mechanism to revitalize the presently devitalized economy.

As in duty bound your petitioners shall ever pray, sincerely the undersigned.

Mr. Speaker, I certainly thank the Minister of Service Newfoundland and Labrador for pointing out that there is action being taken, that there is an order there, because this is something that I have been quite active on since I have been elected and prior to be elected, and none of this information has been circulated to me. It is great that he is sharing this with the House. We do need action on this. Since 2004, this plant has been closed down because of public safety, because it has been a health and safety issue. The operator walked away, the processor walked away, filed for bankruptcy, and left this town economically impacted, and they are really – this is where the role of government in these situations really needs to come in and take the action, take what is needed to help this small municipality be able to move forward and really look at advancing the economy. We need to look after small towns, allow them to be more sustainable and grow.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

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

MR. BENNETT: Mr. Speaker, today I bring a petition to this hon. House of Assembly in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador in Parliament Assemble. The petition of the undersigned humbly sheweth:

WHEREAS there is no cellphone service in the Towns of St. Paul’s, Cow Head, Sally’s Cove or Trout River, all of which are enclave communities in Gros Morne National Park; and

WHEREAS there is either very poor or no cellphone service in most of Gros Morne National Park; and

WHEREAS visitors to Gros Morne National Park, more than 100,000 annually, expect to use cellphones when they visit the park; and

WHEREAS cellphone service is an important safety feature for numerous travellers, hikers and others in the park; and

WHEREAS cellphone service is necessary to modern business development;

WHEREUPON the undersigned, your petitioners, humbly pray and call upon the House of Assembly to urge the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to partner with the private sector to extend cellphone coverage throughout Gros Morne National Park and the enclave communities within the park.

As in duty bound your petitioners will ever pray.

Mr. Speaker, this Province has made numerous tremendous strides in the past decade with tourist advertising. A person can turn on the television almost anywhere in North America, open major newspapers, and we can see advertising for our Province. Much of that advertising is of Gros Morne National Park.

A person can travel almost anywhere in the world and stop into a shop and buy a cellphone. You can go into Mumbai, into the worse slum, and buy a cellphone and use it. You can go to Lahore in Pakistan and you can use a cellphone. You can go to Kathmandu, Nepal and you can use a cellphone, but can you go to Gros Morne National Park? No, Mr. Speaker, you cannot do so, even though our Province spends millions of dollars every year to promote tourism. This would be a very minimal expense; very few cellphone towers would be necessary.

In spite of the Province bragging about all of the money they spend on infrastructure, and I agree that they do, this Province cannot seem to find a few hundred thousand dollars for cellphones in Gros Morne National Park.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Orders of the Day

Private Members’ Day

MR. SPEAKER: This being Wednesday, Private Members’ Day, I now call on the Member for Terra Nova to introduce the resolution that stands on the Order Paper in his name.

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

So I will go ahead and read the motion into the record once again:

WHEREAS the current government, in its 2011 policy Blue Book, promised to deliver wait times strategies for emergency departments and hip and knee joint replacement surgeries; and

WHEREAS the Minister of Health and Community Services fulfilled these election commitments by announcing strategies to reduce wait times in both of these vital areas of our health care system; and

WHEREAS we have made significant progress in improving wait times for the benchmark areas outlined in the 2004 Accord; and

WHEREAS 83 per cent of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians received access to care in the five priority areas within their respective benchmarks, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information annual report on wait times, the second highest of all the provinces; and

WHEREAS the provincial government has directed resources to other areas outside of the 2004 Accord where access has been a challenge, such as emergency departments and diagnostic imaging; and

WHEREAS the current government has invested over $140 million over the past eight years to improve wait times throughout the Province;

BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED that this hon. House supports the significant actions this government has taken and is continuing to take to enhance access and reduce wait times throughout Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

MR. S. COLLINS: Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise here in the House once again today. I have been up a couple of times in the last few days. It seems we are talking about good stuff every time we are on our feet. Any time I can rise and speak to anything good, obviously it is a wonderful opportunity.

Before I begin, I would like to just put a little bit of a frame around what we are going to be – because I am going to be talking about a lot of good news. I encourage the Opposition to sharpen their pencils because I am going to be throwing a lot of numbers out there, and a lot of good numbers.

I was speaking to a constituent. It was probably only about three weeks ago. She was an elderly lady and she knew I had recently gotten Parliamentary Secretariat to the Minister of Health and Community Services. She said: Why is it that we only hear of the bad things going on in the health care system? She said: Why is it? She said: My daughter is a nurse and I hear good stories all the time. Me, myself, the lady said, I have been in hospital in the past two years and I had a wonderful experience. She spent an extended period of time at James Paton in Gander.

She said: Why is that we are always hearing this vile message that the health care system is terrible? Why is that? She said: I know there are good stories. She said: Why don’t we start putting those out there? And I said, well, we try to each and every day; certainly, that is something we are going to do here today.

As I said, any time I get an opportunity to put this forward, I love taking the opportunity to do so. While I am going to speak to everybody here in the House today and in the gallery and on television, I would also like to put that towards the lady who asked me just a few short weeks ago: What good is happening in health care? I would say much good is happening. I think to suggest anything less, you are not insulting the minister as such, you are insulting every health care professional who works day in and day out in this Province. I would argue that we have amongst the best professionals in this Province in Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

MR. S. COLLINS: Mr. Speaker, our government has invested more than $140 million over the past eight years to improve wait times throughout this Province. We as a government obviously saw the need that we had to address this. We had to look at it; we had to. Why did we have to look at it? Because it was not being looked at before, and we saw the results of that; people were being neglected. Wait times were never addressed. You can only address something if you know your target. You cannot shoot a gun at a target if you do not know what your target is. What we did is we looked at it and we saw our target. We knew we had to invest money; we knew we had to put a strategy around this, so that is what we have been doing.

Health care costs, Mr. Speaker, consume the largest proportion of government budgets across Canada. This is not a Newfoundland and Labrador phenomenon. This is not even, I would suggest, exclusive to Canada. This is something we hear each and every day. I watch a lot of CNN and it dominates CNN, ObamaCare, talking about health care and sustainability, trying to get health care costs under a plan where we can sustain it and have it grow – grow it at a sustainable amount, but obviously perform what we want it to perform, and that obviously is to promote the health and safety of all residents.

In order to meet current and future health needs, efficiencies must be found within the existing health care system. We need to ensure that we are maximizing and using every resource to ensure wait times for services are minimized.

I think it is rather relevant that I stand here today – I do not know, we left the House late last night, I suppose; we never got out until just after midnight. Only a short few hours ago, it seems, we were standing up talking about the generic drug pricing policy. Why did we speak about that at such length and why was that such an important piece of legislation? It was about sustainability in the system. It is all about getting the best bang for your buck.

We as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are spending, God knows, enough money in the health care system. We are spending almost $3 billion – $3 billion - recognizing, of course, that our population is less than half a million people, and we are spending $3 billion a year. So every bit of revenue we have coming into this Province, forty cents of every dollar we earn in this Province is going to health care.

I can stand up and I feel glad I can brag about that number, but the fact is, where does it stop? Is it going to be forty-five cents? Is it going to be fifty cents? At what point do we say we have to start reining in spending, while at the same time ensuring that we are providing the same good services that we have been providing?

I was very encouraged last night when Division was called and we all had an opportunity to stand up – and it is something the Opposition always likes to say: Well, stand in your place and show us where your support is. It was such a great pleasure last night when we – we all knew what we were voting, but the Opposition called Division. It made be happy, obviously, having spoke on it and having supported it, to be able to stand in my place.

What was even more impressive to me and myself and my colleagues over on this side standing and supporting it, was the Third Party standing up. I have to say, I, like many members, sometimes give you a hard go, and a lot of times it is just in jest and it is just banter back and forth, but I have to say - I have to say - I was very impressed, and my hat is off to you. You did not pay the partisan game last night. You recognized how that bill could possibly affect the residents of Newfoundland and Labrador. So I am saying today, thank you for supporting that. I think really it showed true leadership.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

AN HON. MEMBER: Take care.

MR. S. COLLINS: Exactly.

Now, while I speak about the Third Party, of course, we had a little bit of a different story on the Opposition; but that is fine. That is fine. We have a lot of debates coming up, and a lot of places where they could probably regain some of that. Maybe this motion today, Mr. Speaker, they can redeem themselves. Anyway, we will see what happens.

In Budget 2011, Mr. Speaker, we announced $1.8 million to establish a new Access and Clinical Efficiency Division which would focus on wait time improvement strategies in this Province. Mr. Speaker, we have invested $4.1 million to improve access and patient flow through the emergency department at St. Clare’s, and we have also invested $400,000 to fund renovations to the Health Sciences emergency department to improve efficiencies.

It is nice to talk about the dollars, but how do we see those dollars being spent? I do not know if anybody has been to the hospital lately – the Health Sciences Centre, the hospital name eluded me – but we now have what is called – and we had this, in fact, actually in place before, what is called a fast track system. This money has gone to improving the logistics of that, the layout of it. Actually, we were down to the hospital a little while ago for a news release and we were taken on a tour of the fast track; and it is so impressive to see how it works. It is something that is simple in idea, but once implemented it is one of those things you wonder: Why didn’t we do this before?

Like I said, while the idea was there, it was not truly implemented before. Through this strategy and through the money being put into it, we now see that fast track system develop and we see how it can improve access. I hope I do not get to see it first-hand. I have only been to the emergency department a couple of times in my life, and I do not want that to change, but it is good to know those efficiencies are put in place.

Mr. Speaker, on February 22, 2012, the department released two five-year provincial strategies which will focus on reducing emergency departments wait times and orthopaedic surgery for hip and knee joint replacement. As I have said, I was down at the Health Sciences Centre with the minister the day that was announced and it was so encouraging to see the amount of professionals in the room and people who obviously were affected by this sort of news release. It was just a positive feeling.

We knew what were doing was right, obviously. We didn’t do it for no reason. We did it because we heard from the health professionals. We knew what we had to do, and we knew we had to get a strategy in place to reduce those wait times. So, I was glad to be a part of that and encouraged, like I said, to see people come out and certainly encourage government to keep on the path that we are headed.

We will invest $5 million in Budget 2012-2013, the upcoming Budget, to further our commitment to wait times: $1.4 million in the first year of the joint replacement strategy and $3.6 in year one of the emergency department strategy. So it is all good that we are here at this place now. We are investing money. Again, we know the path we have to head down.

So, how did we arrive here? I am going to go into a little bit of the history, if I may. Back in December 2005 at the FPT Ministers of Health meetings, they established national wait time benchmarks in five priority areas. Most of us would be familiar with these: radiation therapy; cardiac bypass surgery, or open heart surgery; joint replacement, as I just spoke about; cataracts; and screening diagnostics, which are basically pap tests and breast screening, those types of things.

So we move ahead. In 2007, the Province entered into a Patient Wait Times Guarantee contribution agreement with the federal government. Through this agreement, we guarantee that patients will receive access to cardiac bypass – again, open heart surgery – within the national benchmark of 182 days, and that we would provide alternate treatment options, such as the option to access surgery in other jurisdictions if we could not provide it within that benchmark time frame of 182. The guarantee came into effect in 2010, and since that time all cardiac bypass patients continue to receive access to surgery within the benchmark time frame.

Now, I want people to pay particular attention to this because this is really good news. As of the end of March 2, 2012, only nineteen of the forty-five patients on the cardiac surgery wait-list are waiting for bypass surgery, and we are confident those nineteen patients will all access their treatment within the benchmark time frame.

MS SULLIVAN: How many?

MR. S. COLLINS: Nineteen; but, I would say to my minister, what is even more interesting than that is six to eight years ago that list was almost 300 people; 300.

AN HON. MEMBER: How many now?

MR. S. COLLINS: There are nineteen now.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

MR. S. COLLINS: Mr. Speaker, I professed just yesterday or the day before, I do not claim to be a pharmacist. Today I am going to profess I am not a mathematician by any stretch, and my math marks in high school would probably show you that, but I am just wondering; 300, six to eight years ago, and now there are nineteen. What kind of percentages are we looking at? I am no mathematician, but I see there is a huge difference and a huge improvement. Obviously, whatever we are doing, the stuff that I am talking about here today, is working. It is working.

Further to that, the nineteen who are now on the list will reach their treatment before the 182 elapses. If it does not, Mr. Speaker, we will make sure it does in another jurisdiction, but that is not going to be the case because we are going to take care of them right here in Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

MR. S. COLLINS: In January 2010 the Atlantic Ministers of Health signed an interprovincial MOU to ensure cancer patients in four provinces received access to radiation treatment within medically accepted benchmarks. So, not only did we improve it right here at home; we also looked outside in our Atlantic counterparts to ensure a partnership there, because if we cannot do it, it is something they may be able to help us with. It is all about partnering with the other jurisdictions, and that is something we have done successfully. It is that one step further we are going, that one extra step.

I see my time is running out quite quickly so I am going to change gears just for a second. Mr. Speaker, it is something that applies to a lot of people, and sadly a lot of us know folks with autism. The sad part about autism, we know the numbers are so great but we do not know why they are so great. It is a medical mystery, and it is something that is awful troubling. I know even myself, as a young parent - because a lot of times a diagnosis does not happen until later in life, and it is a scary fact of life.

With that being said, through an overall investment of $2.7 million in 2011, the provincial government enhanced access and expanded services to support those with autism. Mr. Speaker, this investment included $2.2 million for the initial expansion of the ABA or the Applied Behaviour Analysis program. This expansion is taking place over a two-year period. The interesting part of that: we were one of the first to implement the no-wait-list for access to ABA services.

Further to that, our publicly-funded program that provides services from ages zero to three is actually probably leading the nation. What we recognize is the fact that we have to diagnose these ailments early. With something like autism, if you can diagnose it early you can get in front of it and you can cause a world of difference. You can cause a world of difference. You can improve the lives of so many people if you can do that, but again the diagnosis is so important.

I am going to jump along here.

AN HON. MEMBER: Thirty seconds.

MR. S. COLLINS: Thirty seconds? Okay.

I want to talk about a few other things here. Five hundred thousand dollars just recently was provided to Eastern Health for a patient flow study. It is something I was talking about before. It is all right to put money out there, because we know we are putting money out there, we are putting $3 billion a year out there, but we need to be able to target that money for effective areas where we can find efficiencies, and that is what we have been doing. I do not know if the members across the way – I am sure you have – there are two wonderful pieces of literature here to take a look at. One is the Strategy to Reduce Emergency Department Wait Times, and the other, of course, is Hip and Knee Joint Replacement Surgery Wait Times.

MR. SPEAKER (Verge): Order, please'

MR. S. COLLINS: By leave, just to clue up, please?

MR. SPEAKER: Does the member have leave?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Yes.

MR. SPEAKER: Just to clue up.

Back to the Member for Terra Nova.

AN HON. MEMBER: You will get another ten minutes anyway, after.

MR. S. COLLINS: Okay, I will have another moment to get up and speak, so I will leave it there, but by the very fact that I ran out of time before I got through half my material I think speaks volumes, obviously, of what we are doing in the department, what we are doing as a Province for people and wait times, and addressing the needs.

So, with that, I will take my seat and I will be up shortly to continue on.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please'

The hon. the Leader of the Official Opposition.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

MR. BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is my privilege to rise to this private member’s resolution today and addressing wait times. First of all, I want to make it quite clear, as the member opposite just mentioned, he started out speaking about health care professionals, and all of us, as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, I would say, Mr. Speaker, we actually do recognize the great work that our health care professionals do on a day in, day out basis, our nurses, our doctors. Yesterday, you spoke at great length about pharmacists and about physiotherapists. They do a great job every single day in the work that they do, and we certainly need to recognize the value that they bring to our health care system.

I also want to recognize the fact that when we speak about wait times, benchmarking is indeed important. We have made tremendous gains in meeting some of those benchmarks, certainly, cardiac care is one of those areas , but I want to talk a little bit about how we get to even recognizing wait times and benchmarks. It was as late as 2002 when benchmarking wait times was something that really did not get discussed much at all. It happened as a result of a federal government initiative and the Romanow inquiry and the commission that was put in place around 2001, eighteen months, and the report came back in 2002, is when we first started talking about wait times. In particular, we were challenged - and all this tied into the 2004 health accord. As we know, in 2014 this health accord expires again. This will bring a tremendous financial impact on the Province again as we develop a new health accord on a go-forward basis. Indeed, I agree that wait times are important and we do need to put those targets in place, but simply saying that we are satisfied with the work we have done is certainly not the case.

I do want to make mention, before I move on, about the great work that our health care professionals do. I want to bring us back to the critical care nurses, the 100 of them who signed a petition back at the Health Sciences Centre. We need to really recognize and focus a little bit more closely on what those nurses are doing.

Wait times are important. In some recent literature we have been reading it says that it is one of the leading problems for residents of Newfoundland and Labrador as they access our health care system. Wait times are important. As you are waiting to access care, there are a lot of things that go on in someone’s life. For instance, if you are waiting on bypass surgery, if you are waiting on a hip and joint replacement, it really impacts your life. There are certain things, in terms of mobility, that you are not able to do.

Indeed, in 2002 the Romanow Commission did mention things like cancer, cardiac disease, diagnostic imaging, joint replacements and cataract surgery. These are important. These were the five priority areas that were mentioned. Benchmarking those five priority areas of our health care system is we cannot leave it there. There is a lot more work to be done as we move from there.

When I look back at where we were as a Province in meeting those wait times, yes, we have done very good when it comes to cardiac bypass surgery, and cataract surgery, we are about three-quarters of the way there where we need to be. We are not there yet. As a matter of fact, we really have not shown much significant growth in a number of years.

What we have to recognize too, there are a lot of inconsistencies across the many regions in the Province. For instance, Western would be maybe at a higher percentage rate right now than Eastern would be for some reason, but it is the inconsistencies. It matters where you live, how long the wait times are. For instance, with hip replacement Eastern Health does not do as well as Western and Central. It is the same way with knee replacements. It is important that we try and create some consistency amongst those wait times across the Province. We are not really seeing that right now.

One of the other things that is important is what those wait times could be. For instance, if you have somebody in the hospital right now, they are waiting for some kind of alternate care, for instance if they are waiting to leave a hospital to go into a long-term care site, what happens is we trigger what is called bed blockage. This is really important, because the whole idea around waiting for an alternative level of care impacts admissions by people who are looking for acute care. When we look at the aging population that we have, particularly in rural areas of Newfoundland and Labrador, we find today that this bed blocking problem that we see, it is a serious problem for us right now. We really do not have any strategy at all. It is not something in actual fact that we are even considering.

My colleague, in Question Period today, mentioned about the 450 people that we have waiting on physiotherapy treatment. I will give an example of what happens in this particular case. In the last few months we have had a number of calls that came into our office and one in particular that I remember, and it really impacts not just the individual but how it impacts families. We had a gentleman who was in the hospital in Corner Brook, in this particular case, waiting to go back home which was in the Bombay area, and really could not do, simply because there was no physiotherapist available for that individual in the Bombay area. We can see in this particular case how it really affects families, it affects the individual. In this particular case, it was causing the gentleman a lot of anxiety in his life simply because he was not getting the family support around him that was important to him.

When I go back and look at the Romanow Commission and the recommendations that he made, health care investment in rural communities in Newfoundland and Labrador was extremely important in that whole report. In actual fact, in Newfoundland and Labrador, in many cases we have not delivered. Even with all the good news we have seen in meeting some of our wait-list benchmarks, there are a lot of things in rural Newfoundland they just cannot access that you can in some of the larger centres.

One of the things that I want to highlight a little bit today when we look at wait-lists is the whole idea of mental illness and the serious problem that is creating in our Province today. Mental illness is often called the orphan child of health care. That is important because the stigma that is attached with mental illness has a tremendous impact on people’s lives. I just want to quote something that came out of the commission’s report back in 2002. He refers to this as the invisible illness. We know that in our Province today one in five Newfoundlanders and Labradorians will at some point in their life experience mental illness. That is 20 per cent of our population, Mr. Speaker. It really goes to show how important this is and the cost that this is adding to our health care system. The sad fact is that only one in three of those people who need mental health services will actually receive them. Just think about that, one in five, 20 per cent of our population will have a mental illness at some point in their life and only one-third of those people will get the services that they need.

There is a tremendous economic cost to mental illness in our Province today. What we really need is – and I looked at a recent report that talked about the number of psychiatrists and the wait times to see a psychiatrist in our Province. I can guarantee you right now that in every single case, it is usually a number of months that people are waiting to seek psychiatric services.

This is a common theme across the Province, Mr. Speaker. I can tell you right now that when a person actually gets to the point where they actually get the resolve to actually seek the support of those services, it is not easy. We often see repeat hospitalization with people with mental illness. Psychiatrists and counsellors are just not readily available.

I know yesterday, for instance, there was significant debate in this House in terms of what we do with certain drugs that are on formulary. In my life as a pharmacist, we saw this first hand; we saw it a lot, actually. What we do see is that most of the special authorization claims for people were actually for drugs to treat mental illness. That was the number one request that would be made. As a matter of fact, I think the report was – and this one is back, I believe it was, sometime in late 2011, so it is fairly recent – that we had over 13,000 requests for special authorization. It was the highest denial rate of any particular category of drugs in the Province, the denial rate being around 26.3 per cent.

It just goes to show where our society really has not moved. We made significant ground, but we are really not there, where we need to be when it comes to treating mental illness. Related to some of that, we often see – when I speak of counselling services that are available in many of our smaller communities, we know right now that once you go past Grand Falls, for instance, you cannot get methadone treatment; there is no methadone clinic once you go past Grand Falls. That is a serious problem right now on the West Coast of Newfoundland. When you think about that, anybody who is motivated to go and get the addiction treated, they have really nowhere to go, except go to Grand Falls where there is an extremely long wait-list, or come into St. John’s where the wait-list is extremely long and really very difficult to get into.

Mr. Speaker, even though I understand that we have reached benchmarks in many of the priority areas, we are not reaching it into many of the other health illnesses that affect Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. Regardless of what the government would say on all of this, there is still a lot of work to be done within our health care system as we try to address the wait time list that we have right now.

Mr. Speaker, I spoke yesterday, as I did listen to some of the things about special authorization. I just want to go through the process that happens in a community when someone is actually seeking special authorization for any particular drug. It is not easy to do.

The first thing – yesterday, there was some mention made of automation, but in actual fact, the automation is a fax machine and it gets faxed in to the Newfoundland and Labrador Prescription Drug Program. Right now, the last reports I have seen, we have been over a month waiting for approvals. When you look at what happens here – I can give you an example of someone who lives in a rural area and sometimes they are driving up to an hour and more to get in to a clinic when they can get to see their family physician. So what happens when this request goes in, if there is a denial, usually the information is going back to the family physician. In a lot of cases, those people just remain waiting and they have no idea that there is more information required.

Mr. Speaker, it is important that we address some things that would seem to be very simple to most of us, but yet is actually complicating many people as they try to get medical treatment in many of the areas of our Province. These special authorization approvals are not always easy to do. We have often seen when we have all of these specialized physicians, when they would actually write prescriptions, you would actually think that if it got to that point, we would almost respect the fact that these particular physicians would actually know there are certain guidelines to be met and that these specialty drugs would not be as hard to access.

Mr. Speaker, as we have listened to much of the information that we have from the members opposite, when they speak about wait times – there is no question that we have made significant advancements in certain areas, but we have had lapses in many other areas. I have spoken about bed blockages, the importance, and the cost that is actually adding to our health care system right now.

What I did not mention, and there are many others, were things like home care. Right now we have people who wait weeks and weeks trying to avail of home care services in their communities right now. It is very, very difficult and adds a lot of strain on families. Even today when we have seen reports coming out of Goose Bay right now, we have seen long-term care wait-lists. Even with a new building up there, we are continuing to see wait-lists in the long-term care centre in Goose Bay. These are important things, and things that affect the many families we have right now in Newfoundland and Labrador.

It is important that we get those benchmarks. It is important that we make those significant investments. It is just not as simple as getting up and running off a bunch of numbers. What happens is this actually affects a lot of people. It affects the day-to-day lives of a lot of people. It is important that we get a little more focused, at least in my opinion, that we address not just the five priority areas, but we also look at the many other illnesses that people in our society –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh'

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please'

MR. BALL: – have to deal with on a day-in and a day-out basis. Right now, Mr. Speaker, I want to put forward an amendment to the private member’s resolution on wait times.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh'

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please'

MR. BALL: I move, and it is seconded by the Member for Burgeo – La Poile, the following amendment to the motion:

That the following be added after the third recital:

WHEREAS significant wait times still exist for individuals to receive access to mental health treatment, addiction counselling, physiotherapy services, home care and special authorization approvals; and

Also the word "significant" be deleted from the resolution clause, Mr. Speaker.

Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please'

We have an amendment to the resolution put forward by the Member of the Official Opposition. Before I deal with the amendment, I just want to recognize we have a special guest in the gallery who just came in: Mr. Jeremy Cross, a great fan of this House of Assembly and son to the Member for Bonavista North. We would like to welcome Jeremy to the House of Assembly today.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you.

We will now take a brief recess to consider whether the amendment as put forward by the Leader of the Official Opposition is in order.

Recess

MR. SPEAKER (Verge): Order, please'

We have reviewed the amendment and determined that the amendment is in order.

The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

MS SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Once again, it is a pleasure to have the opportunity to address some of the good work that the Department of Health and Community Services is doing, has been doing for quite some time, and will continue to do in the future.

Today we get an opportunity to let the people of Newfoundland and Labrador know some of the initiatives that we have started, and some of the plans that we have around wait times, and addressing the concerns that we have heard about from residents of Newfoundland and Labrador in terms of wait times.

Specifically today I want to talk about two of our new wait time strategies, Mr. Speaker. My colleague, the Member for Terra Nova, started out talking generally about some of the issues around wait times, and some of the ways that we have addressed them. What I would like to do is take the opportunity to address the two issues that we committed to in our Blue Book and that we have already delivered on, Mr. Speaker.

Back in February of this year, we were able to announce $5 million worth of wait time strategies for Newfoundland and Labrador; two in particular: one around emergency departments, because we had heard significant concerns around wait times in emergency departments; and the second one in terms of the replacement of hip and knee joints within the Province.

Mr. Speaker, particularly in regard to wait times for emergency departments, it is not simply that we are going to go into an emergency department and somehow just speed up the process right there. When we talk about emergency departments and wait times that occur there, there is a whole patient flow that we have to look at within that department. So, preparing this strategy took us some time to do some research, it took us some time to look at some best practices from other jurisdictions and so on, as well as relying on the good expertise we have within our own department here in the Department of Health and Community Services. Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin, though, by talking to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador specifically about that front door; and that front door really and truly is the emergency department.

Pertinent information that people probably do not often understand or know is the amount of activity that takes place in an emergency department. I found this statistic rather staggering: we have thirty-three emergency departments in our Province, Mr. Speaker, and last year, 2010-2011, there were 520,000 visits made to our emergency departments. Essentially everybody in Newfoundland and Labrador, if you look at the number, would have gone to our emergency departments at least once and then a few.

Trying to ensure, with that many people going through thirty-three emergency departments, that we have efficient patient flow and that we have patients being seen in the order in which they need to be seen, you can imagine is quite a task to have to undertake. From what I can tell, we have been doing a reasonable job with that. My hope is that the work we have done and the work we will do in implementing this particular strategy around emergency departments will make an even bigger difference.

It is a five-year plan, Mr. Speaker, because nothing can be rectified overnight. So, it is a five-year plan with a $3.6 million price tag that is part of this year’s budget. We are looking at improving the efficiency of their higher volume emergency departments, Mr. Speaker. We have thirteen of what we call our higher volume emergency departments; they see more patients.

Mr. Speaker, when we talk about some of what we need to do in those emergency departments, we are talking about examining optimal staff scheduling; because, Mr. Speaker, once we had done some research, we found that in many of our emergency departments, the busiest day of the week – I almost feel like we should have a contest and see who can guess the busiest day of the week in an emergency department –

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS SULLIVAN: He has an answer over there; it is Monday. Monday is generally the busiest day in our emergency departments.

So, Mr. Speaker, if we know that, then we need to respond to that, and on Mondays we should have more staff operating in the emergency departments, simply because that is the day that we have recognized that there are more people coming in and out through that emergency department.

We need to continue to monitor that, to make sure that is going to continue, that path is going to continue, but if we know that we have days when there are those ebbs and flows, and that is a day when there is more activity there, then we need to respond to that. We need to make sure that we have the right skill mix in there as well, Mr. Speaker, that we have supportive policies in place, and that the physical layout is not something that gets in the way of being able to deliver good, efficient care – and that is something that we have looked at as well, in terms of patient flow.

The second goal that we looked at is community-based health services. I recall when I first launched this strategy, Mr. Speaker, back on February 22, that there was some criticism from the Opposition saying that we were not looking at community-based health services in the provision of emergency department care, and in our opportunity to ensure that we increased our activity and that we were able to see that our wait times were decreased.

In actual fact, Mr. Speaker, that was one of the areas that we put a great deal of focus on in our strategy. Through some of the MOUs that we had signed with our doctors, we are able to talk to doctors, particularly our family doctors, about increasing the awareness of health lines, and also about providing that community-based alternative to hospital admission, for seniors particularly, Mr. Speaker.

So, we are looking at some things, for example, speaking with our physicians about providing evening clinics, speaking with physicians about providing weekend clinics. Again, that takes the pressure off our emergency departments, because quite often people cannot get to their physician during the daytime, through work hours, but they could make those appointments for the evenings, or they could make those weekend appointments. So, through some money that we have available to us with the MOU that was negotiated with doctors, those are initiatives that we have committed to undertaking. That is an example of good community-based health care.

The other has to do with the provision of seniors care. I will talk about that a little bit later on, but again, I just wanted to emphasize for the sake of those who are at home and for the Opposition who did not have opportunity to read in detail before the scrum on that particular day when you talked about wait times, that we, in fact, did address some of the issues that we were criticized for not addressing. I will speak to that again.

The Province-wide standard for patient triage is something that is exceptionally important as well. What happens is that if people come into an emergency department they are first registered and then seen by a triage nurse. The triage nurse will do the original assessment, and based on that assessment will decide in which order a patient is seen. If it is a CTAS 1 or 2, those patients are perhaps seen first - not perhaps, they are seen first - our 4 and 5s may not be as serious and they can wait a little while longer. Sometimes we hear complaints and somebody will say: so-and-so was in the emergency department, came in and got seen before I did. Well, that is because the need was greater. There was a need for that person to be seen. That is an important piece of the mix in ensuring good patient flow in our emergency departments, Mr. Speaker. We will be introducing and implementing a Province-wide standard for patient triage. Some of that has been happening in many of our hospitals, particularly here in Eastern Health in St. John’s, but it has not necessarily been happening in all of our emergency departments, so we will implement that.

To improve the collection reporting and use of emergency department wait time data; if we cannot measure it, then quite often we cannot fix it because we do not know what is wrong. We need to be able to find a mechanism to do that. We need to look at the time between entering that hospital and seeing that doctor. How do we measure that time? How do we look at length of stay there? That is another important piece. How do we look at overall patient satisfaction in terms of the amount of time they have had to wait, given the particular reason that brought them into that emergency department?

Finally, improving the communication with patients and the public regarding emergency departments; what did we do to respond to all that, Mr. Speaker? We invested $2 million right away for the procurement and the installation of emergency department information systems. Two are up and running right now, one at the Health Sciences here and the other at St. Clare’s Mercy Hospital.

We have invested $720,000, Mr. Speaker, to hire an external consultant to review three of our higher volume emergency departments. Now, you will remember that I said we have thirteen. We have two done and now we are in the process of reviewing three others. That will bring the total to five; again, to determine that baseline wait time and to identify the causes of delays within our patient-flow systems.

Also, $534,000 - and this is the piece that I really wanted to speak to - will be invested for a two-year pilot for community rapid response program. We will do that in two locations as a pilot project. What we are doing here is we are trying to find a method for our seniors to be able to say - oftentimes you cannot go home alone because of the particular diagnosis that you may have received. It may not be a serious illness. It may not be a serious condition, but because there is not anyone home to see that you are getting your meds properly, because there is not anyone home to administer care to you, then we cannot send you home; therefore, we have to admit. When we admit, we know what we do, we are using up beds; therefore, lots of times people will come into the hospital who need one of those beds and cannot get it. That backlogs into the emergency department.

What we will do here in terms of community support is we have committed to that pilot project in two areas that will look at support to a senior in the senior’s home. We will actually provide home support so that that senior can go home with twenty-four hour support for up to seven days so that the particular concern that was addressed in the emergency department can be taken care of at home. We free up the bed in the hospital and we keep the patient flow within the emergency department moving as it should and we ensure that that senior has had good attention in terms of his or her particular problem. Mr. Speaker, I think that is one of the most innovative and one of the most creative things that we have done here in terms of improving wait times.

Finally, we have invested $335,000 for six additional nursing positions and one ward clerk in the emergency departments. That will happen in St. John’s, Gander, Grand Falls – Windsor, and Stephenville.

Mr. Speaker, in the little bit of time that I have had, I can tell you that in terms of our emergency department that is a huge piece of work. Our fast track area - and I need to talk about that as well. The fast track area when we do our CTAS, you would call the patient triage and we decide some of these patients really do not need a bed to lie in, in the emergency department, in order to be treated. They may simply need to come in and sit in a chair, if it is a problem with their hand or if it is a sore throat, or if it is an ear infection. They do not need, necessarily, to be seen in a specialized room. If we set up a fast track area - and I was privileged to see the one that we just set up over at the Health Sciences - then we can remove those patients, put them into the fast track area. They can be seen by a health care provider, either a physician or a nurse practitioner, thereby reducing the congestion in the emergency department but also seeing to it that they are seen in an expeditious and efficient manner as well. That fast track room at the emergency department at the Health Sciences has been working very effectively. At St. Clare’s, we are in the process right now of doing some work to set up that particular fast track system. As soon as we get our other assessments done, then we will move that out to our other hospitals. They are two wonderful initiatives that we have seen.

Mr. Speaker, I wanted to address as well some of the other things that we are doing around our strategies. The second one had to do with our hip and knee joint replacement strategy. There were five goals that we had used there to address that particular issue. It is an important issue for us in Newfoundland and Labrador, particularly as we become a more active society, Mr. Speaker. I do not know, but I could use a knee replacement myself from the little bit of running that I have been doing. We do know that the demand for hip and knee replacement has increased in Newfoundland and Labrador.

We have invested, Mr. Speaker - without going through all the detail because my time will run out. Without going through all of the detail in terms of the goals of this strategy, we have invested $900,000 for an additional sixty hip and knee replacement surgeries to take place this year, in 2012-2013, Mr. Speaker. That will certainly look after or address the current backlog of patients.

Also, $254,900 for the establishment of central intake clinics in both Gander and Corner Brook where our two other orthopaedic departments are housed. That will enhance the management of patients who require that hip and knee replacement surgery, and better prepare patients. One of the problems we have, Mr. Speaker, is that people come and they are not prepared for surgery. They could be overweight and not able to undergo the surgery. Sometimes it is something as simple as they would have eaten something and did not realize that they could not eat before the surgery. These central intake clinics help to get a patient prepared and ready for surgery.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, we spent $235,000 to hire two additional physiotherapists. Again, exceptionally important because some of the problem has to do with the fact that we keep people in hospital too long because we are not able to get them the treatment they need. If they do not have a physiotherapist working on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, that means they are in the hospital three extra days longer. They do not need to be. What we could do is we could have physiotherapists who are working weekends, so we have invested money there.

I see my time is up, and I am so disappointed because I could talk for another hour as anybody in this House knows. Mr. Speaker, we are making great advances in wait times in Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please'

I recognize the hon. the Member for Burgeo – La Poile.

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

It is a pleasure to rise in this House today and speak again. Certainly, it only feels like this morning that were here, and I guess it was.

Again, I have had an opportunity to listen to my colleague, the Leader of the Opposition, to listen to the minister, and certainly to listen to the Member for Terra Nova who introduced this private member’s resolution. I am glad to see that government has recognized the importance of this issue, when we are talking about wait times. This is an important issue when it comes to the health care system.

Again, I have to go back to the Member for Terra Nova, because I have heard him speak more in three days – I think this is actually recognized in the World Wide Web - that he has spoken more in three days than in the last two-and-a-half years; but that is good, because he is speaking on an important issue. You are like The Jeffersons; you are moving on up. You are moving on up, and that is good. I am glad to hear you speak on this.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

MR. A. PARSONS: Again, getting away from that, this is an important issue. I am speaking to the resolution, but I actually have to speak to the amendment as well, because the fact is we certainly acknowledge that efforts have been made. There is no doubt about that.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

MR. A. PARSONS: But, at the same time, given the fact that a strategy has just been introduced, we need to acknowledge that more efforts have to be taken to combat this issue. That is very obvious. Now, I have a number of different issues when it comes to the wait-list times that I would like to address, and hopefully I will get time to get through them all. I hope I can stick to each point because, again, there are various ones.

One thing I would mention, when it comes to the issue of mental health and wait times, right now in this Province we only have seventy-eight psychiatrists for this Province. So, when we look at the wait times here in the different areas, there are significant wait times that need to be addressed. We have four to six months in Burin. In Western Health is depends on if you are a priority one, two, or three. If you are a priority one, thank God, you get there right away. If you are a priority three, though, you have twelve months that you have to wait for psychiatric services.

We need to make sure that mental health – which is why we have this amendment there – that mental health is addressed. When you look at Corner Brook, it is the same thing; Corner Brook, again falling under the West Coast, priority one, two, or three. If you are priority one, you are supposed to be seen right away, but if you are a priority three, twelve months. In Grand Falls-Windsor, right now the statistics that we have – we are talking about private psychiatrists – you could have over a two year wait time to have the psychiatric services. Those are the stats that we are looking at that come right from the Canadian Mental Health Association. That is where I go to get my information.

Again, when we talk about the information that is being presented, it is one thing to have it presented by political staff, but a lot of the information we are getting is from the people actually on the wait-lists. We are getting firsthand information here that we are lucky to get an opportunity to stand in this House and present. So, I want to keep going on here.

AN HON. MEMBER: Don’t talk about things you don’t (inaudible).

MR. A. PARSONS: Again, I do know what I am talking about, Minister. I am going to keep talking about these issues. I certainly will keep talking about them.

One of the things I would like to talk about today, Mr. Speaker, I would like to talk about autism. Autism is an issue that was referenced by the Member for Terra Nova. Autism was brought up by the member.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh'

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please'

MR. A. PARSONS: What I would say, it was addressed by the member that the early diagnosis of autism is important if children are to achieve their full potential – early diagnosis. Now, what I have had an opportunity to do is talk to a friend who has actually had to deal with this issue very recently. They have to deal with this issue right now.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh'

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please'

MR. A. PARSONS: Now, what I would say is the member does not want me to talk, but I have to talk. I have to keep talking about this.

AN HON. MEMBER: You don’t know what you are talking about'

MR. A. PARSONS: I certainly know what I am talking about, Minister, and I am going to keep talking about it.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh'

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please'

I recognize the Member for Burgeo - La Poile to speak. I would like to have everybody’s co-operation.

The hon. the Member for Burgeo - La Poile.

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

Now, this family are friends of mine and they received a letter from the Janeway on August 18. They had their child in, and they sent back a letter and said: Look, we have detection of autism. We need to send him to a specialist.

In this case, they were told there is a ten-month to twelve-month wait-list for the pediatrician – a ten-month to twelve-month wait-list for the pediatrician. They were also told at that time they have a twelve-month to fourteen-month wait-list when it comes to the speech-language pathologist – twelve to fourteen months, Mr. Speaker. Finally, we have a two-and-a-quarter-year wait-list to see an occupational therapist at the Janeway.

Now, this is happening right now in 2011-2012. This family is very concerned, so we have to make sure that we are catching this early. Newfoundland is known to have a prevalence of this. The prevalence of autism in this Province has increased tenfold in the last decade; the prevalence of autism has increased tenfold in this Province. When we are getting back to the early intervention and the early diagnosis, we need to make sure that these professionals are available for these families so they can address this.

What I come back to here is the fact that in two very short years under this Health Accord we are going to be dealing with a reduction in our funds – I believe that to be true – a reduction in our funds. What I am saying here is that no doubt there has been money spent. Nobody is denying that, but we need to make sure that for every dollar spent we are getting the best possible outcome for that dollar. We are going to have less money to put into this system, according to the federal health transfers that are coming up.

What I am saying is that we just cannot say that we are putting this much money into it; we need to make sure that the outcomes for this money spent is the best possible. I want to keep going on the autism, but I am going to move on because autism is an important issue but I certainly have another important issue that I would like to continue with.

One of the things that we have talked about, and this came up a lot in the election, was bed blockage. That is a serious issue in this Province. When we talk about the health accord, and there were the five subject areas, one of the things was that there were supposed to be quarterly reports sent out beginning in July 2005. This was followed through, but the last update received was March 3, 2011. So, we have not had a quarterly report in over a year. We need to maintain these quarterly reports. That information I believe to be true. I have no reason not to believe it, so we need to make sure that is reported.

The fact is that in certain areas the benchmarks are being met, and we are not denying that, but in certain areas the benchmarks are not being met, and that is what we are bringing up here. If we are putting a private member’s resolution in to make sure that wait times are improved and that the well-being and the health of this Province of the people of this Province is taken care of, we need to put out what is good and we need to put out what needs to be improved.

The problem is - and I guess this is due to the population density – that Eastern Health has a lot of these problems. In Western Health and Central, if you need a knee replacement you are going to get it faster than if you go to Eastern Health. That is true. Knee replacements at Eastern are a big problem; that is why this strategy is out here. Again, we are under the benchmark for the rest of the Province. This is something that has to be addressed here.

CIHI released a wait times in Canada report back in 2011, so not even a year old. From June to September 2010, Mr. Speaker, Newfoundland was reaching its benchmark for hip replacement 75 per cent of the time. Canada is at 84 per cent. Eastern Health is at 60.5 per cent. That is why the strategy is there. That is why funds have been allocated. Again, what I am saying is we need to make sure that those funds that are being allocated, that we get the best bang for our buck. That is what we need to make sure.

We go to the next step here when we talk about the knee replacements instead of the hip replacements. The national average is 79 per cent; the benchmark here is 67 per cent. There is a gap there, a 79 per cent average nationally, 67 per cent here in this Province; in Eastern Health, 44.5 per cent. The Province has acknowledged this, they are trying to fix it, and they are putting money into it. Let’s make sure that we are getting the best results for that money.

Now I have to go back for a second to the bed blockage, because one in six beds in this Province are occupied by people that should not be there. They should be getting their health care, whether that be in a rehabilitative bed, whether that should be in a long-term care bed. They should not be in the acute care bed, and again I look at the Leader of the Opposition, or someone who has been in health care his entire life; I am lucky to have his experience to draw on as well as our research that we have been doing here.

When we look at the cost, again, bed blockage is the biggest cause of wait times in this Province – bed blockage. That is an issue that has to be addressed. Now what our researchers did when they went around and looked at all this, they actually went to the department with a request for info – the briefing notes, information, and documentation when it comes to this issue. The whole idea is to find out, what are we doing? What are we doing to address that issue? What are we doing to make sure?

Again, we all know that in 2025, one in four in this Province will be sixty-five and older – 25 per cent. It is an aging population. We know it is there. It is going to get worse.

We looked at this, we tried to figure out what was going on and the results we got back were – and again, I notice the Member for Exploits putting his hand up; he might be one of those seniors. I hope you are not part of the bed blockage; I hope you are not part of it, Sir. What I would say is that when we got the results back from this request, it actually said: No records responsive to the request – no records. What that indicates to us is that this does not appear to even be considered. This is not being considered.

Here we have a huge drain on the system, the system that – we are going to have less money coming in from the feds, and we are trying to put more money in, and we have not done anything to address something that is a huge drain on the system. One hundred and twenty million dollars a year – I am not sure, I think that is between 4 per cent and 6 per cent of our annual health care budget.

Again, if we are not looking into this now, what are we doing? I would note the Member for St. Barbe mentioned to me that in Windsor, Ontario, they looked at this issue in 1991. In 1991 they did a study on this. Here we are in 2012 and it does not look like we are getting there. I would say, look, if we are talking wait times, let’s make sure that we are looking at this, because this might be the biggest part of it all.

Now, another issue here I could move on to is certainly the physiotherapy. When I go to that issue, we have about 200 physiotherapists in this Province. We have the lowest physiotherapists per population ratio in the country. Depending on where you are, the wait times for physiotherapy can be a year or more. I know that is what it is like out in my district. Out in my district, some people do not have that year to wait so they have to get in their cars, drive through the Wreckhouse, drive into Stephenville, drive into Corner Brook to get private physiotherapy. They are lucky because they have insurance that they can do that, but they still have to bear some costs. There are people out there, and I have sent letters on their behalf; the Member for St. Barbe just sent a letter on behalf of one of his constituents. They are on Income Support. They do not have the funds to get private physiotherapy that they need. They are on the wait-list. We need to improve that wait-list. This is another very, very serious issue.

I know the government is aware of this. Again, we look at the number referenced by the Member for Cartwright – L’Anse au Clair; at the Health Sciences and St. Clare’s, there are up to 450 patients on the wait-list there. Again, I am hoping that when we look at this private member’s resolution that is being introduced, and we are talking about the direction of resources, let’s make sure that this is one issue that is taken care of. Let’s make sure that we are getting the best bang for our buck. Let’s not just say we spent this; let’s say how we spent this – how did we spend this money.

I guess the last section I am going to talk about when we talk about the wait-lists is another area in my district, and that is the issue about nurse practitioners, when we talk about wait-lists. I am very happy to report that the Minister of Health is going to be meeting with the people from Ramea. There is a committee there that deals with this issue. She has agreed to meet with them. Her department has agreed to meet with them. That is great, and I am looking forward to it. Basically, Ramea still services Francois down in the Member for Fortune Bay – Cape La Hune’s district. They represent Grey River; they handle the health care there. Again, you have to get around by boat here. It is not easy to get around as it is.

We have no nurse practitioners there and have not had them since September. We get locums to come in from Port Saunders or we get an LPN to fix it. This is an issue that is causing wait times for people. These people do not just hop in their car or go somewhere else; these people have to get on the ferry, go across, go into Burgeo; again, if there is an issue in Burgeo, they have to go on across the highway. We need to make sure that these wait-lists take into account the people of rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

I would conclude, Mr. Speaker, by saying that it is an honour to stand here and speak to this very important issue. The government knows it is an important issue and I look forward to an improvement in this area of the health care system.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please'

I recognize the hon. the Member for Bonavista North.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

MR. CROSS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is indeed a privilege and honour, and I am very humbled to stand in this House to represent the people of the District of Bonavista North for the time that we speak of the larger issues, for the greater good of the Province. I understand, Mr. Speaker, last night was a time when we stood – we stood strong for the less vulnerable in our Province. Where did our Opposition party stand? They were standing alone. They would have our seniors and our less fortunate population paying much more for a longer time for their prescription drugs.

AN HON. MEMBER: Shame.

MR. CROSS: Shameful.

The revitalized debate from last night from this side of the House, it was very nice to know that the eloquence of the speakers that came forward – we were all standing in line; we did not all get a chance to speak – but the eloquence and the arguments that were put forth from here, it was very reassuring to realize that the Third Party stood and were counted when we stood up for the greater good. It is not that we like Caesar less, but we like Rome more; it is not that we like CICPO less, but we love the less fortunate of Newfoundland and Labrador more. That is where this stands, the principle.

It leads me to today’s resolution, Mr. Speaker. I thank the Member for Terra Nova for bringing this forward. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health and Community Services is bringing this issue forward so we can highlight the significant impact and the effort and the actions that have been taken by this progressive and aggressive, efficient, motivated, and effective government in the last eight years.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

MR. CROSS: As an educator, Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind the last speaker that in the last Budget, this government committed $2.7 million to autism in this Province, to the education system.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

MR. CROSS: And $2.2 million of this was for the expansion of the applied behaviour analysis program. It is money well spent, Mr. Speaker. I say we stand up, we stand up when it counts for everyday residents – every day and most nights in Newfoundland and Labrador, Mr. Speaker.

If we had a health care system, Mr. Speaker, whereby the money in our pocket could pay for it in a utopian world – instant health care; instant health care - but, Mr. Speaker, we live in a society whereby we have a public system of health care and associated with such, where there is no money tree and we cannot have instant access, then one of the features are wait times. These wait times are distinguished, and the most urgent and emergent cases go first. We all stand back. The routine and follow-up procedures are decided by the gatekeeper in our health care system, Mr. Speaker. I venture to call our family doctors and our general practitioners the gatekeepers. They are the ones who would refer the patients to further need and decide on the urgent care.

In 2004, Mr. Speaker, the federal government wanted wait times to be addressed in the country. There was an establishment of benchmarks in five priority areas. We will get to these in a few minutes. I just want to reassure the minister that I am impressed every time she stands up because the vast amount of information that flows out of this lady in instant questions shows her commitment and her passion for this portfolio. She knows this inside out. She knows her stuff. She is well prepared. She is well rehearsed.

She spoke to the fast track system, so I will not need to go back in whole through that entire system. I will say by the implementation of some of the fast track systems in our biggest ERs, it makes it more welcoming and more efficient for people to be reassured if they come into the health care facility in ER when they are in great need of important health care to know that the place will not be as crowded, they will feel more reassured.

Our government, Mr. Speaker, has made significant investments in wait times over the last eight years.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

MR. CROSS: This government is leading to increased access and shorter wait periods for essential health care services, for procedures and for major surgeries. It is apparent that the work we are doing is seeing positive results. Over the last eight years, we have invested over $140 million – I say $140 million – to improve wait times in this Province, Mr. Speaker.

I was proud to visit the Health Sciences Centre a few short weeks ago to attend a press conference by the Minister of Health and Community Services where she included a pre-Budget commitment of $5 million -

AN HON. MEMBER: How much?

MR. CROSS: - announced $5million to implement two new wait time strategies.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

MR. CROSS: Wait time strategies announced on time, ensuring that Newfoundlanders, like Canadians, have access to the care they need when they need it. This was identified right across the country as a priority by our First Ministers in the 2004 Health Accord. At that time, a ten-year plan was devised to identify - and the need to reduce wait times in five priority areas: cancer, heart, diagnostic imaging, joint replacement, and sight restoration. The provinces agreed at that time to report on five priority areas on an annual basis: on radiation treatment; cardiac bypass surgery; cataract surgery; hip fracture repair; hip, knee, joint replacement surgery; and, breast screening and cervical screening.

As a part of this plan, Mr. Speaker, CIHI, or the Canadian Institute for Health Information, was asked to report on progress in wait times in jurisdictions across our country. The institute was established in 1994. CIHI established in 1994 "…is an independent, not-for-profit corporation that provides essential information on Canada’s health system and the health of Canadians." The reports issued by CIHI profile both national and provincial benchmarks, and here is where I will get back to the benchmarks, information in the five priority areas.

Benchmarks are defined as evidence-based goals that every province and territory is going to strive to meet and it is based on evidence and research. These benchmarks express the amount of time that clinical evidence shows that wait times for procedures should take place, the maximum times. This institute’s seventh annual report was released in March of 2012. The wait times covered for the first six months of fiscal year 2011-2012. The report indicates with specific reference to Newfoundland and Labrador – and I hope the ears are open on the opposite side of the House.

The report indicates, overall, 83 per cent of Newfoundland and Labrador residents receive access to care in the five priority areas within their respective benchmarks. This was the second highest in the country, only second to Ontario. I feel our minister would be depressed by that, because she would want to be the first, and she would strive to get these numbers to be the first.

More than 90 per cent of patients accessed radiation treatment within twenty-eight day benchmark – more than 90 per cent, Mr. Speaker. One hundred percent of patients accessed cardiac bypass surgery within the 182 day benchmark, and well before – 100 per cent, Mr. Speaker. Six to eight years ago, the Member for Terra Nova referenced that it was between 250 and 300 patients. We have reduced that by over 90 per cent to nineteen patients, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

MR. CROSS: Seventy-one percent of patients accessed cataract surgery within the 112 day benchmark. Ninety-one percent of patients accessed hip fracture repair surgery within forty-eight hour benchmark, Mr. Speaker. Newfoundland and Labrador’s rate of access to this surgery surpassed all other provinces.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

MR. CROSS: Let me clear my throat, Mr. Speaker.

Newfoundland and Labrador’s rate of access surpassed all other provinces.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

MR. CROSS: The Canadian Institute for Health Information reported on slightly different features, which means our case was actually higher than what was reported, because they calculate based on time of admission, not arrival to the emergency department, which means the date and times of our surgery was performed even more efficiently. According to these analyses, the proportion of hip fracture cases performed in this Province is even higher than what CIHI is reporting on.

The Canadian Institute for Health Information also reports that 82 per cent of patients accessed hip joint replacement surgery within the 182 day benchmark. Newfoundland and Labrador was one of four provinces to achieve this result – one of four provinces. This is an improvement from the previous year, when 75 per cent accessed surgery within the benchmark. So even though our numbers are high, we are still striving to be higher.

Sixty-two per cent of patients accessed knee joint replacement surgery within the benchmark; however, at the regional level we have scores or percentiles of over 90 per cent accessing the replacement surgery, depending on the health care region within the Province. Where demand is significantly higher, then patients experience wait times that slightly exceeded the benchmark. That was the reason, Mr. Speaker, for the strategies we have released. These were the challenged areas – 62 per cent. It was 90 per cent in some areas, but these were challenged areas, Mr. Speaker. We want to improve them even more, Mr. Speaker, and that is the reason for these strategies. I am pleased to say that these numbers are proving that we are making the right investments to reduce wait times and enhance access in our Province.

The Canadian Institute for Health Information report findings are generally consistent with those from 2011 when looking at the national perspective. At a minimum, 80 per cent of Canadians were reported to have accessed priority benchmark procedures within the recommended benchmarks. Eighty-two per cent of Canadians received access to cataract surgery within the benchmarks. Only four provinces, including Newfoundland and Labrador, reported that 80 per cent or more of patients accessed hip replacement surgery within the benchmarks. The remaining provinces were unable to reach this level of access, Mr. Speaker.

It is very apparent that Newfoundland and Labrador is going in the right direction. Have we solved all the problems? No, Mr. Speaker; this is not utopia. Problems still exist. We are challenged, but we are accessing and improving access to our health care system right across this Province.

The two new strategies that were released recently on emergency department wait times and joint replacement wait times are confirmation that the issues of wait times are priorities for this government. We will continue to strive for further improvements so we ensure all people in our Province can have timely access to health care. This government stands up every day, Newfoundlanders, every day. We make difficult choices.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please'

MR. CROSS: Ten seconds leave, Mr. Speaker?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please'

Does the member have leave?

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

MR. CROSS: We make difficult choices based on factual evidence with vision for this Province, Mr. Speaker.

Thank you for your time.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please'

I recognize the hon. the Member for St. John’s Centre.

MS ROGERS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

What a glorious, incredible area health care is. It is complex; it is very expensive; it takes creative solutions. We all know the incredible challenges that our health care system presents to us. I would like to say that all is not well with our waiting times as is presented in the private member’s motion.

It has been very, very interesting to hear the Minister of Health talk about some of the initiatives that may be interesting initiatives in and of themselves, but are a piecemeal approach to some of the over-arching problems that we do face in our health care system, in our wonderful health care system that is filled with people who are trained, who are compassionate, who are passionate about the work that they do – people who have committed their lives to taking care of our sick and helping us be the best and the strongest that we possibly can be, sometimes under the most difficult of situations.

I would like to speak to some of the major problems that we do have in the area of wait times in our health care area. Some of the major problems that have been identified here today, and I would like to speak to as well, are emergency rooms. We know that there are major problems, and we have seen these problems build up over the years and increase because of the lack of attention to this area: the issue of the shortage of psychiatrists, both for young people and for adults, and in particular the area of psychiatry for seniors, many who have psychiatric problems because of extended stays in hospitals. Rheumatologists, we know that there is a very long waiting time to see rheumatologists. The problem with having long waiting times with rheumatologists is that a person who has severe arthritis and has to wait a year to see a rheumatologist, in fact, even after six months, they can suffer irreparable joint damage because of the lack of access to drugs that only rheumatologists can prescribe.

Again, a shortage of urologists, we have all heard this over the past few years. In these particular areas of specialization, there is an incredible sense of urgency, because harm is done when patients do not have access, timely access, to these kinds of specialists. This impacts negatively on the particular patient, but also impacts negatively on our health care system, because their health care needs become complicated, requiring more intervention and therefore also more cost on our health care system, particularly, again, in the areas of psychiatry, rheumatology, the ER, and urologists.

I would like to talk now to the whole issue of wait times for orthopaedic surgery, particularly for knee and hip replacements. Now, I have just spoken with an orthopaedic surgeon who said that one of the problems that we have as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians is that we are a patient people and that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, at times – because we have not been aggressive about our own health care, because we have not been strong health activists around our health care – we sit by sometimes and wait, and we wait too long before there are changes.

For the government to present the fact that we are at a benchmark, that we have reached a good benchmark in the area of hip and knee replacement surgery, is not quite an accurate reflection of the picture and the reality of what we are dealing with. For instance, if a citizen were to have a knee problem, their own family doctor – once they get into their family doctor – will probably deal with that knee problem and try and treat it for at least a year, because it takes at least that long to see an orthopaedic surgeon. We have one year, and then the family doctor will try and get the person into the orthopaedic surgeon. The orthopaedic surgeon cannot see that patient for a year; hence we are down to two years. Then, if an orthopaedic surgeon decides yes, well, the orthopaedic surgeon – because there are 600 people on the waiting list in Newfoundland and Labrador for orthopaedic surgery, 600 people - there is a problem with that, because if you are number 453 on that waiting list, you will be bumped down every time there is an emergency that must supersede your particular needs. What we are seeing then is that the patient’s particular health problem is deteriorating.

If you have a problem knee, and already now you are waiting two years – your hip starts to act up; then maybe you start to have back problems, maybe you start to have neck problems. The problem is growing while the person is waiting. So we are up to year two. Then the surgeon is going to try and treat you without surgery, if the surgeon can possibly do that, because of the great wait-list right now for orthopaedic surgery in the Province. So we are up to year three. Finally, you are slated for surgery; you may be up to year four, in fact, before you get your hip or your knee surgery. It is possible that once the final decision is made, it may not look, but it is all about shifting operative priorities.

What has happened, as well, with decreasing some of what seems to be wait times for knee and hip surgery, is that it has been a shift of operative priorities, a shift of operating times. In fact, what happens – I may be able to get my knee done, but the thirty-five-year-old construction worker who has fallen and has hurt his shoulder will have to wait longer for his surgery, and will have to wait longer for an orthopaedic surgery intervention. This will be at great expense to this particular worker.

The approach to minimizing –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh'

MR. SPEAKER (Wiseman): Order, please'

MS ROGERS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The approach to minimizing the wait times for hip and knee replacement surgery has not been done by extending operating hours. What has happened is that there has been a shift of operating times; therefore, it means that we do not have an increased number of operating times. That means other things get shifted down. Other Provinces have dealt with this in a different way; they have extended working hours in ORs to perhaps 5:00 p.m. We do not have that in our Province. Or, they may do surgeries on the weekends. We do not have that in our Province in the area of orthopaedic surgery. There has been some resistance to this, but there are some solutions. One of the solutions is that we do need access to more orthopaedic surgeons. There is a shortage of access to orthopaedic surgeons in our provinces, Newfoundland and Labrador, so patients cannot access timely care.

We do not do day surgeries as much as we could. Not all orthopaedic surgery requires hospitalization or admission afterwards. The 600 people on the wait-list – some of those are people who, in fact, can have day surgery, but they get bumped; many people get bumped on the wait-list because of emergencies. If orthopaedic surgeons had more OR time, they would be able to do the day surgeries, therefore not putting any more stress on the acute bed situation.

There are other solutions that we can look at, but when we look at some of the solutions and the proposals again, that have been suggested by the minister, it is piecemeal reviews. Again, some of them highlighted in and of themselves in isolated areas look like good ideas; however, they are simply piecemeal. They do not address the whole spectrum of the problems and the challenges that we face in our health care system.

This points, yet again, to the need for legislative all-party standing committees. If we had an all-party Standing Committee looking at health and the great challenges – and we know that there are even greater challenges coming our way and facing us, particularly as our population ages – but the great challenges that are facing us, we must work together. We have to work together. It is folly not to work together to address the challenges that we can see so clearly directed our way in the area of health. It is about money, it is about creative solutions, it is about doing it right.

We know that particularly our emergency rooms are filled with patients waiting for acute care beds. If there was a more comprehensive plan of opening up more OR time to orthopaedic surgeons so that they can do day surgeries, this would not impact on acute care beds and the needs for acute care beds. We also know that a minimum of 15 per cent to 20 per cent of acute care beds are occupied presently by patients who really require an alternate level of care. It is not acute care beds where they need to be.

We know from a report on wait times in Canada that one person waiting in an emergency room for an acute care bed to become available – one person who is simply parked in an emergency room waiting to go up to an acute care bed actually prevents four other people from being treated in emergency, hence that whole backup. We can see it. Again, if we only deal with our issues in a piecemeal way, we can see the implications of that.

One issue that we know has been a burning issue for our party, but also for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador – and we heard it so clearly on the doorsteps all over the Province – is the need for a better, more comprehensive long-term care strategy and the need for home care, none of this based on income, but based on need.

We are a Province of 500,000 people who are used to caring for one another and who are used to valuing our youth, our adults, and our seniors. We know that it is possible and that it would be fiscally responsible to respond to the challenges that many seniors face and people who do need home care in a comprehensive way. It is a basic right for all people to be able to be taken care of in a professional manner in their homes in a way that is comprehensive and safe. It is a moral and ethical duty of us as legislators to make that possible, and we can make that possible. In this time of prosperity we can make it possible, and it would be absolutely fiscally responsible and doable.

The aging population has increasingly complex needs and for a home care strategy that is government administered and funded is a must. It is an absolute must. We can no longer house our seniors in acute beds. That is fiscally irresponsible.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please'

I remind the member that her time has expired.

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

I look forward to speaking further on this issue in the future.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Terra Nova.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

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

I guess once I heard the amendment come across the floor, there are a couple of things I would like to address. What is significant? The Leader of the Opposition asked to take the word significant out when it comes to significant investment. I am just going to put a few numbers across the way here. I will ask him, is it significant? One hundred and forty million dollars into wait times, is that not significant? More nurses and doctors in this Province than ever before, is that not significant? Obviously, if we have more nurses and doctors that affects wait times. If we do not have enough nurses and doctors we cannot obviously address the needs. We have done that. I will go further. Infrastructure, not only buildings and the new hospitals and clinics we are building but what about the equipment, MRIs, I am sure we are all familiar with? When we came into government there was one and today there are four. These are not cheap pieces of equipment, millions of dollars. I have heard members stand here time after time saying it is awful; they cannot get in to get an MRI. We have increased it fourfold. There are four now, and we are going to be putting more in.

I heard someone mention dialysis, seven new sites since 2004.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

MR. S. COLLINS: Seven new dialysis sites. The gall and I am thinking the Member for Burgeo – La Poile may have been the one who had referenced it. I am just wondering, how would your constituents feel about dialysis, and about wait times and access?

MR. A. PARSONS: A point of order, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The Member for Burgeo – La Poile, on a point of order.

MR. A. PARSONS: I do not doubt that issue was brought up, but I would like to correct the member in that I did not mention the issue of dialysis in my time.

MR. SPEAKER: There is no point of order.

The Member for Terra Nova.

MR. S. COLLINS: Thank you.

By the very fact he did not mention it, means he agreed with what we said, and it is wonderful that we have put out so many dialysis machines.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

MR. S. COLLINS: I am actually feeling dirty today, Mr. Speaker, I thanked the NDP and now I am thanking the Opposition as well – but it is great to have that recognition. Dialysis right across the Province, fantastic, seven additional sites.

Now, it was also brought up – I am not going to say who brought it up just in case I am mistaken, but I am pretty sure it was from a gentleman across the way – with regard to mental health. For you to be able to stand here today and say we have done very little for mental health is absolutely despicable. Let me tell you why it is despicable. In the last two years, $15.9 million has been spent on mental health.

AN HON. MEMBER: How much?

MR. S. COLLINS: $15.9 million – but to make the best of it, it is all good whether you spend your money; it is how you spend your money. I was recently lucky enough to attend the National Mental Health Summit in Winnipeg on behalf of the minister. What a feeling to walk into a room with a bunch of professional people in mental health who know their field, and they are coming up to me saying: You guys are doing terrific work in Newfoundland and Labrador, terrific work.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

MR. S. COLLINS: Our Director of Mental Health Services, I believe that is her title, she was like a superstar when she was up there. People wanted to come and talk to her, saying: What are you guys doing down there? How are you making this work? The investments you are doing are just absolutely fantastic – recognizing, of course, that we are a smaller province, our geography does not lend itself to being helpful, but still with all those challenges in place, we are leading the country. We are a leader in mental health. On top of the $15.9 million we are spending, we are doing it right, and everybody sees it except you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

MR. S. COLLINS: I just have a little bit more on mental health to go. I just want to give the member across the way a little breakdown of what we have done, because it is all right to shout across the way and say $15.9 million. So, $15.9 million, this funding will assist in providing the following – please pay attention, I ask the member. An addictions youth treatment centre in Grand Falls-Windsor, an addictions youth treatment centre – you did not bring that up when you were speaking; a mental health youth treatment centre in Paradise, just down the round; the planning for an adult addictions facility in Harbour Grace – my God, I have so much stuff here; plus, planning a new specialized mental health centre to replace the Waterford Hospital in St. John’s. We are not doing any investments in mental health. Well, what am I up here talking about today?

I will keep going; enhanced child psychiatry services at the Janeway Hospital; additional adult and youth case managers outside St. John’s – rural Newfoundland and Labrador, where you are from, I believe; increased funding to community groups; and, five new mental health and addictions counsellors for coastal communities in Labrador. That is what we are doing in mental health. When members stand opposite and say we are not doing anything, if they do not want to hear the answer, do not put the gibberish out there.

Now, I have to be quick on time, but also was mentioned long-term care. Again the word was put up that we were not doing significant amounts for long-term care. I would say we have invested $38.6 million since 2006.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

MR. S. COLLINS: We see that in new initiatives, improvements and capital expenditures. We have done a load for long-term care and we are continuing to do more. Again, if you would pay attention to all of the stuff we are talking about over here and the wonderful things that have been happening, you would know this. I would not have to stand up here and lecture you like a professor. That was a delayed reaction, Mr. Speaker, on the laughter.

The last thing before I go into a bit more about the investments, a member of the Opposition stood today and said: It is about making sure the dollars are spent in the best possible way; very sincerely, the best possible way. Folks, we understand we only have a little bit of money, but we have to spend it in the best possible way. Well, why in God’s name did you folks stand last night against the amendment that we had going last night, the policy that directly affected spending money in the most effective way, $30 million?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

MR. S. COLLINS: How can things change so quickly? Today they are the guardians of dollars. We have to be careful. We have to spend dollars getting the best bang for our buck. When it is in the best interests of special interest groups, not of the people of this Province, and I would say the seniors of this Province –

MR. JOYCE: A point of order, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The Member for Bay of Islands, on a point of order.

MR. JOYCE: I just want to let the member know, if he is making an accusation that I stood up in this House last night and voted for a special interest group and I did it on the backs of seniors, that person should know what he is talking about. You cannot go making accusations that I am making statements and I am voting in this House for special interest groups –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh'

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please'

There is no point of order.

The Member for Terra Nova.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

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

I am glad the member stood on whatever he stood on, because it gave me a chance to rejuvenate. I have a lot more to say about last night if I can just for one second. For you to say you stood last night for the betterment of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, I say, it is absolutely shameful – shameful. If you do not believe me, ask the crowd next to you because they stood for it. So what was it?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

MR. S. COLLINS: I went to bed last night and I slept soundly – I slept absolutely soundly. Do you know why I slept soundly? Because last night I was part of a decision, that was a good decision for the seniors and for every resident in Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

MR. S. COLLINS: The proof is in the pudding. We do not have to go back and forth. We all saw it. It was on TV. We saw who stood. We saw who voted for it.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh'

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please'

MR. S. COLLINS: Now, if I may get back into my main crux here.

MR. JOYCE: A point of order, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: A point of order by the hon. the Member for the Bay of Islands.

MR. JOYCE: I just wanted to let the member know, from the briefing note we got from the Department of Health, the most affected people who are going to be on this are the seniors, and that is why I voted against –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh'

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please'

There is no point of order.

The hon. the Member for Terra Nova.

MR. S. COLLINS: Again, Mr. Speaker, for him to have the audacity to stand here and blame it on officials in the department, when they know exactly what it was – we discussed it; we said there were two issues that were at risk and we were addressing both. Do not stand here and tell us that we did not know and they did because that is completely false.

Mr. Speaker, if I may go back into the investments, actually to speak to the motion of why we are here today. As a young parent, Mr. Speaker, obviously all investments in the health care –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh'

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please'

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

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please'

The Chair has recognized the hon. the Member for Terra Nova. I would ask the members in the House to respect the member as he is speaking.

MR. S. COLLINS: Mr. Speaker, it is always good when you can have a lively debate, because if I was talking nothing but foolishness up here, they would be silent; they would be over on their BlackBerries doing nothing, but because I am speaking the truth – and the truth shall set you free – you are all up in arms. That makes me feel good. That tells me that I am saying something good. It tells me I am saying something true.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

MR. S. COLLINS: Mr. Speaker, if I may take the last five minutes to go on with my notes here. What I was saying before I was interrupted – as a young parent, obviously, any investments in the health care are wonderful, but when I see investments into the Janeway Hospital that are obviously specific to youth and to children, it is particularly good. I just wanted to highlight a few here: $7.5 million was provided to redevelop operating rooms at the Janeway Hospital allowing for two – let me just see, I lost my train of thought. Sorry, I am reading from the wrong – I lost my train of thought, Mr. Speaker.

I cannot find my notes, but what I will say – any investments into the Janeway Hospital are absolutely fantastic. I wanted to make a point, because as MHAs we get the opportunity and we get, I guess, the benefit, the pleasure, and the honour of being able to get involved in people’s lives a lot of times. When they are having trouble, they call upon us.

I remember visiting a young couple who were at the Janeway; it was probably about a year ago. They were so impressed with the service, the delivery of service, the quality of service, and the people there, from everyone who cleaned the room to the person who did the surgery – so impressed with it and the timely fashion it was done. To go a little bit farther with that, the HealthLine, that is how they ended up at the Janeway – another great initiative, another great way that we are helping with wait times, because people can actually pick up a phone from the comfort of their living room and talk to someone, a professional at the end of the line. This person actually –

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. S. COLLINS: Actually, I would say to the member, the person was in remote rural Newfoundland and Labrador, and I am sure some of them are used to that. They were not able to access a hospital in a quick fashion so they picked up the Health Line; they said, we will put out the question just to see.

The person on the other end of that phone diagnosed her problem. I am sure they always cannot do that not having the hands on, but in this instance they diagnosed their problem and told them to go to the emergency room ASAP. Three hours later they were at the Janeway, they were admitted, and the child was being taken care of from that point on. The system works; we have been investing heavily in the system and it works.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

MR. S. COLLINS: I am going to finish off with some provincial data results, just some numbers. Provincial data results for these first two quarters combined show that: 96 per cent of newly diagnosed cancer patients commenced radiation treatment within the twenty-eight day benchmark; 100 per cent of bypass surgeries were performed within 182 days – 100 per cent; nearly three-quarters of cataract cases on the first eye were performed within 112 days; eight out of ten hip replacements were completed within the recommended benchmark of 182 days; six out of ten knee replacements were performed within 182 days, however, regional data more particular to us shows that nine out of ten patients accessed knee replacement surgeries within the 182 days.

In three of the four health regions, in the fourth region, demand is significantly higher in St. John’s and Eastern, and consequently, patients experience a little bit longer in wait times. Nine out of ten patients underwent hip fracture surgery within the benchmark of forty-eight hours. Newfoundland and Labrador’s rate of access surpassed all other provinces.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Opposition House Leader, on a point of order.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please'

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to ask the member to table the briefing book that he has been reading from the entire afternoon, Mr. Speaker. He has continued to read from it in his opening comments and in his closing comments. He has continued to read and list off data from various pages within the book that he has, and I ask that he would table it in the House.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh'

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please'

I would ask the Member for Terra Nova if he would table the statistics that he was just recently citing to the House.

MR. S. COLLINS: Certainly.

MR. JOYCE: The binder, the whole binder.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please'

The Speaker is ruling. While the Speaker is on his feet, I ask members to respect the Speaker. The Speaker has made his ruling and will not be challenged from the floor.

The Speaker has indicated that I have asked the Member for Terra Nova to table the statistics that he was citing, to the Table Officers of the House.

The hon. the Member for Terra Nova, to conclude his remarks; you have twenty-eight seconds.

MR. S. COLLINS: Mr. Speaker, I am absolutely flattered they would like to look over the data that I have presented here today, because it is so positive. That is the reason they want to see it. They cannot believe it is so positive. It is; it is in Hansard. You can even go back on the Internet and watch it again tonight if you want to.

I would say to the member again, thank you for the time. I am glad I was able to put these numbers out there. It is so positive what is happening in Newfoundland and Labrador and I am proud to be a part of the team over on this side that is making a difference every day.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear'

MR. SPEAKER: There has been an amendment proposed to the private members’ motion. The Member for Humber Valley, seconded by the Member for Burgeo – La Poile has proposed an amendment to the motion.

All those in favour the amendment, ‘aye’.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MR. SPEAKER: All those against the amendment, ‘nay’.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Nay.

MR. SPEAKER: Amendment defeated.

On motion, amendment defeated.

MR. SPEAKER: 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’.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Nay.

MR. SPEAKER: Motion carried.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh'

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please'

This being Wednesday, according to Standing Order 9, the House stands adjourned until tomorrow, Thursday, at 1:30 p.m.