June 14, 2012                     HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS                    Vol. XLVII No. 48


The House met at 1:30 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Wiseman): Order, please!

Admit strangers.

Statements by Members

MR. SPEAKER: Today we are going to have member statements from the Member for the District of Mount Pearl North; the Member for the District of Humber Valley; the Member for the District of Bay of Islands; the Member for the District of Humber West; the Member for the District of St. John's North; and the Member for the District of Bonavista South.

The hon. the Member for the District of Mount Pearl North.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise in this hon. House today to congratulate a resident of Mount Pearl and a friend of mine, James Loder, on his recent success on being elected president of the National Association of Career Colleges. He was recently voted into this position at NACC's annual convention in Montreal on May 5 of this year. This is only the second time a Newfoundlander and Labradorian has been elected as president in the last couple of decades.

The NACC has represented the interests of independent career college students, faculty, and staff from all provinces and territories since 1896.

James has been involved in the Newfoundland and Labrador education system for more than twenty years and currently works as a director with Academy Canada Career College. He also serves on the Provincial Apprenticeship Board, Canadian Education and Training Accreditation Commission, Newfoundland and Labrador Construction Association, and the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Career Practitioners. His experience as a career counsellor, instructor, principal, and manager is impressive.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all members of this House to join me in congratulating James Loder on his success in being elected president of the National Association of Career Colleges, and wish him all the best in his efforts to serve the students, faculty, and staff of independent career colleges across Canada.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise in this House today to congratulate seventeen-year-old Kyle Payne from Cormack on his recent appointment to the Para Soccer Canadian Team and the team's gold-medal victory against Spain in the finals.

Kyle left Canada on June 1 for the first time in his life to begin his unique journey. The ten-day training trip and the subsequent tournament had the team spend time in Barcelona and then compete in the six-country International Trophy of 7-A-Side Football Tournament. The Para-Team Canada was undefeated in the tournament, defeating Northern Ireland 3-0, Denmark 10-0, Holland 5-1, and finally, Spain 8-3 in the gold medal game.

Kyle has had to work hard to qualify for this position. His personal achievements over adversity are a great example of the strength and determination of our youth when they aspire to achieve. Kyle has mild cerebral palsy, and has never lost sight of the challenges that come from his condition, and still plans to pursue his dream of being a professional soccer player. I ask all members in this House to join me in congratulating Kyle on his appointment to the Para Soccer Canadian Team, and on the team's gold medal victory on the international scene.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. JOYCE: Mr. Speaker, I rise in this hon. House today to recognize a recent recipient of Recreation Newfoundland and Labrador's Pitcher Plant Award. This award recognizes the outstanding efforts and significant contribution of individuals or groups to recreation in their area.

Richard Park, better known as Richie, retired teacher and former Mayor of Gillams, is this year's award winner, recognized for his continuing efforts and contribution to improving recreational activities in the Town of Gillams. It was a pleasure for me to recommend Mr. Park for this award.

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Park has been an active volunteer in his community for over forty years, having served with the Gillams Recreation Committee since 1972 in various roles. He has organized and served on the executive of the Gillams Softball League for many years, as well as organized many other recreational events in the town.

In addition to his recreational volunteer work, Mr. Park has been a driving force to ensure that traditions and culture of the Town of Gillams are preserved; currently he is a member of the Gillams Historical Society. He has also served in various capacities with the St. James Church in Gillams and is recognized as a community leader.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all members of the House to join with me in extending congratulations to Mr. Park on receiving this award and thank him for his continued contribution and commitment to the Town of Gillams.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. GRANTER: Mr. Speaker, I stand to congratulate the Corner Brook Regional High Titans Female U18 Volleyball Team on their many successful performances this year.

This team has shown that it can compete not only on the provincial level but on the national level as well. The girls claimed silver in Division 2 at the Canadian Open Volleyball Championships at the Direct Energy Centre in Toronto recently. A total of ninety-two teams participated in three divisions.

In round robin play, the Titan girls defeated one of the top teams in the country for the past several years, Manitoba Junior Bisons. This was a heavyweight battle with the girls winning two games to one.

After nine gruelling matches, the Titans placed second out of thirty-four teams and ranked thirty-sixth overall out of ninety-two of the top teams in Canada. The Titans were defeated by Envolley from Sherbrooke Quebec, two games to one in a best of three final affair.

Corner Brook schools including Presentation, G.C. Rowe, and Corner Brook Regional High have been producing great volleyball teams for many, many years now. The volleyball community can say that they along with other provincial teams can compete at the national level. This is indeed a great accomplishment.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. KIRBY: Mr. Speaker, I am happy to rise in the House and congratulate students and coaches of Leary's Brook Junior High Grade 9 boy's basketball team. This valiant team of good sports played in many tournaments this year, as people from the school have told me, and they lost many of their games.

The team is a testament to perseverance, however. The boys kept practicing, developing their team play and skills, not letting a few setbacks get them down. By the end of the basketball season this year, Leary's Brook Junior High hosted the Grade 9 C Provincials, and their hard work and optimism paid off. The team won every single one of their games in their final tournament, defeating a skilled and much-discussed opposing team in the championship game.

On the school's Web page, there is a photo of the boys holding up their championship banner, and, Mr. Speaker, their smiles say it all.

I ask all hon. members of the House to join me in congratulating the players and coaches of the little team that could – the Leary's Brook Junior High Grade 9 boy's basketball team.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. LITTLE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to recognize and congratulate the Discovery Geopark Project Steering Committee on their presentation, which received the highest reviews, at the recent national convention of the Geological and Mineralogical Associations of Canada, in St. John's.

Formed in 2005 by residents in and around the District of Bonavista South, the committee's goal is to establish itself as North America's second Geopark. The group is compiling a site selection list, prioritizing the sites they would like to highlight and develop, covering a large geographical region on the Bonavista Peninsula. Some of the top sites are Tickle Cove, King's Cove, Bonavista and Port Union.

More than 800 people attended the conference, including a number of renowned geologists from around the world. Following the conference, a group of twenty-one earth scientists travelled to the district, visiting many of the proposed sites. As one scientist said, "With each stop, I'm becoming more and more amazed of what this area has to offer".

Honourable colleagues, please join me in congratulating this Grassroots Steering Committee on the continuous work and dedication they contribute to our Province, as a result of which will once again place Newfoundland and Labrador on the international stage as a leader in tourism.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Statements by Ministers.

Statements by Ministers

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Child, Youth and Family Services, and Minister Responsible for the Status of Women.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS JOHNSON: Mr. Speaker, I rise in this hon. House today to congratulate the Gateway Status of Women Council on the completion of renovations to their facility in Port aux Basques. These renovations provide the space to ensure that clients' needs are met in a professional and welcoming environment.

Yesterday, Gateway held an open house to celebrate their new space and I would like to take this opportunity to commend them on their hard work and wish them continued success as they address the needs of women in their community.

I am also pleased to have the opportunity to applaud all Status of Women Councils throughout Newfoundland and Labrador on the important work they do each and every day to ensure the social and economic advancement of women in our Province. These councils provide services, education and leadership on status of women issues and are a strong voice for women in their regions.

Mr. Speaker, as a government, we share in this commitment. Since 2004, our government has more than doubled its funding to the Status of Women Councils throughout the Province. Budget 2012 announced a 5 per cent increase in funding for the Women's Centres in Newfoundland and Labrador, seeing each of the eight Women's Centres now receiving $127,625 annually, up from $55,000 in 2004. The provincial government now provides annual operational funding of over $1 million to the Status of Women Councils in the Province. As a result of this increased funding, women in the Province will continue to have access to services and programs related to their social and economic well-being.

Once again, congratulations to the Gateway Status of Women Council, the Board of Directors, Executive Director Susanne Ingram, staff, volunteers and many supporters.

This is a celebration of the Women's Centres and all those who work together to advance the status of women in our Province. I look forward to our continued collaboration to ensure equality, equity and inclusion for all women in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

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

I am very proud to stand here today and recognize the Gateway Status of Women Council in Port aux Basques - my home district - for everything that they have done to advance the cause of women, not only in the Southwest Coast area but in the entire Province.

I have had the opportunity to see where they used to operate and see the renovations they have done on this new centre. It is certainly a tremendous upgrade. It allows them to be better able to do the job that they do.

The services that Susanne, Vinie, Sherry, Christine, and the entire board provide for the women, children, and families in my area is just amazing to see, whether it be providing employment services to ensure these females have an opportunity to access employment or whether it be helping women and families through times of trouble and hard periods in their lives. The amount of work they do is simply phenomenal, and I commend them for continuing to do that.

I am very happy to say that I was pleased to hear the increase in funding by this government towards the Status of Women Councils in this Province. That is a great thing and we need to ensure that funding stays there and, if anything, only goes up. It is so important to continue that cause in this Province. I would say the functions that the centre provides out in Port aux Basques and the events they put off, including the Bread and Roses Dinner in March, a sold-out event, which raises money to go towards the programs they provide.

I am very happy to stand here today and I look forward to standing here to speak about their cause in the future.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS ROGERS: I, too, thank the minister for an advance copy of her statement. Congratulations to the Gateway Status of Women Council. As a former Co-ordinator of the St. John's Status of Women Council, I am aware of the incredibly important work that the Status of Women Councils does province-wide.

For years, on miniscule budgets, they have provided vital services to women and children when no one else did. These centres of committed feminist activism are responsible for pushing governments to change laws and polices, to develop appropriate services, and to commit to the women of this Province.

Government has increased funding. This is as it should be. As the Status of Women Councils continue to take on the lion's share of women's rights, it is imperative and only just that governments continue to support these crucial organizations. There is still much work to do.

Thank you to all of those feminists who work so hard with expertise, dedication, passion, and determination. Thank you, sisters.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, I rise today in the House to inform hon. members that employers are well into the process of hiring students for summer job positions throughout the Province. These job opportunities are provided through a number of programs offered by the Department of Advanced Education and Skills.

Mr. Speaker, organizations throughout the Province are currently posting job positions and interviewing candidates to find students for the positions they have available.

Student employment experiences play an important role in a young person's life as they prepare for future careers and opportunities. It is often a young person's first exposure to the labour market and a great way to establish positive, lifelong work habits that teach the value of earning a living. These jobs enable young people to acquire life and time-management skills and ultimately contribute to the economic success of Newfoundland and Labrador.

This government recognizes the importance of student employment. Students can take advantage of the employment opportunities throughout Newfoundland and Labrador as a result of over $6.6 million provided by the provincial government for employment programs. This funding will benefit nearly 3,000 youth across the Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, these student jobs span a wide and diverse range of sectors including tourism, culture and heritage, sports and recreation, environmental sustainability, health and medical, marketing and economic development. These jobs are helping young people with costs of education, while providing work experience in a chosen field and teaching important life skills.

With the expectation that the Province will see as many as 70,000 job openings in the next ten years, this government is directly supporting student employment and is focused on creating opportunities, providing skills training, delivering affordable and accessible education, and building a prosperous future for our young people.

For many, this Province has always been a preferred place to live and work, and now improving economic circumstances are providing young people with greater opportunities to settle in our Province and make a life here.

Mr. Speaker, I encourage students to seek out one of our student job opportunities. There are many resources available to find out about these opportunities, including JobsinNL.ca, visiting one of our Career Work Centres, or calling the Labour Market and Career Information Hotline.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

I thank the minister for an advance copy of her statement. Ensuring students obtain work experience through their studies is an important learning mechanism for them. Enabling them to step out from the world of academia to have real world experience in the working world is a crucial one, as the transition from graduation to work will be less an adjustment down the road. These host organizations for these student employees are benefiting considerably, not just by having this extra workforce but by having the enthusiasm the students bring to this employment.

As the minister indicated, students are going to work in a wide variety of sectors in this Province, including tourism, which is so important to this entire Province and to my little corner of this Province. Hopefully, consideration was given to the Parks Canada sites in the Province, given that we have had these cuts from the federal government. We all know that we need to do everything we can to ensure that these sectors are given all the resources that they need to do the job properly as we market ourselves to the world.

As the labour market outlook, and as the minister has just attested, we have a number of job openings coming up in this Province which are expected to continue to 2020. Hopefully this $6.6 million that we are investing will give these students valuable work experience, but will go a long way to ensure that these needs are met down the road.

So again, I congratulate the government on ensuring that our students in this Province are getting this opportunity and I wish these students the best of luck as they commence this summer employment.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. KIRBY: Thanks to the minister for an advance copy of her statement.

Summer employment programs are essential for high school and post-secondary students. Now more than ever, students rely on government's initiative to help create summer employment so that they can earn money for their education and gain the skills and experience they need. Student employment across Canada is now at an all-time high, so it is good to see our government showing some leadership in this area.

Summer employment is one thing, but students are working toward one day getting meaningful employment, so government needs to do more than just promise that jobs will be there in the future.

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.

The communities of Northwest River and Sheshatshiu have been placed on evacuation alert, this of course due to a forest fire that is in the area.

I ask the minister: Can they give us an update on what resources have been deployed to the area, and if the fire is contained, what can they do to ensure that people's safety is not compromised?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

We currently have three water bombers and two fire crews on standby, Mr. Speaker, with eight to ten people on each crew ready to fight the fire. Additional resources will be identified as requested. Fire and Emergency Services Newfoundland and Labrador is working with community officials to coordinate efforts, and the residents, if necessary, will be evacuated to safe and secure locations.

The most recent notice I got, Mr. Speaker, is that the fire is moving toward Sheshatshiu and Northwest River.

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

MR. BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Well, the Government House Leader publicly stated that he would allow the debate on Bill 29 to go on as long as the Opposition wanted. However, early this morning, he gave notice of closure, effectively shutting down debate on this draconian legislation.

So, I ask the minister: Why are you using such a heavy-handed procedural manoeuvre to stifle debate on the secrets act?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

We started debate on this bill at approximately 1:30 on Monday and sat all through Monday night, all day Tuesday, and all through Tuesday night; we sat last night until 12:30, Mr. Speaker. I indicated I was willing to keep going, but I am not going to – as a government, we are not going to tolerate racist allegations being made by the Minister of the Crown, who is responsible for human rights. At that point, Mr. Speaker, it was felt appropriate to bring in the notice of closure and to shut debate.

MR. SPEAKER: The Leader of the Official Opposition.

MR. BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Justice Green led us down the road to openness and accountability, resulting in what we know as the Transparency and Accountability Act. Now, through Bill 29, your government is taking us a step backward in democracy.

I ask the minister: Why are you taking us in an opposite direction from where Justice Green was taking us?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. F. COLLINS: Mr. Speaker, anytime you bring legislation into being, whether it is the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador or whether it is the federal Parliament of Canada, you have to try to find a balance between what is in the interest of public safety and the public interest, and the infringement on individual rights. Those are always the principles that you have to follow when you bring in legislation. It does not matter whether it is the Access to Information Act that we are doing here or whether it was Bill C-30 in the federal Parliament, where the police were given extra powers to deal with cyber net crime. Mr. Speaker, you always have to try to find that balance. In our estimation we have found that balance in this act and we have brought it forward on that basis.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The Leader of the Official Opposition.

MR. BALL: Mr. Speaker, some of the most important events in the Province's history, such as the Cameron Inquiry, Lamer Inquiry, and details on the Burton Winters tragedy, have come as a result of the access to information.

I ask the minister: With your new laws, will it now restrict the access to information by the public on important events like this? Why would you allow this?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. F. COLLINS: Mr. Speaker, these are the kinds of allegations, incorrect allegations, that have caused the hysteria and concern in the public. Nothing could be further from the truth. Mr. Speaker, the majority of provisions in this act are discretionary provisions subject to the approval of the Privacy Commissioner. Mr. Speaker, there is nothing in this act that will change conditions from what they were before.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The Leader of the Official Opposition.

MR. BALL: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Justice has commented that nobody wants to see what is in the minister's briefing book. The minister thinks that no one wants to know what information he bases his decisions on.

I ask the minister: Limiting access to information is an affront to democracy. Why are you insisting on pushing the ATIPPA amendments through?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. F. COLLINS: Mr. Speaker, the right to information is not an absolute right. We safeguard the principle of the need for the public to have access to government information. That is a sacred principle. We cannot violate that, but, Mr. Speaker, in the interest of good governance and in the interest of constructing government policy, it is necessary sometimes to put restrictions on what you can release. That is what this act does.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The Leader of the Official Opposition.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. BALL: Mr. Speaker, Democracy Watch, a national group that advocates for open and accountable government, has said that changes to ATIPPA would allow government to limit scrutiny, exempt more information from disclosure, and weaken enforcement of the rules. They called it dangerously undemocratic, Mr. Speaker.

I ask the minister: Why are you forcing changes that are deemed as dangerously undemocratic?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. F. COLLINS: Mr. Speaker, let me tell the House what this act does. Public bodies now, as a result of the new provision in this act, will have greater flexibility to provide public information. The previous act had a mandatory restriction. You could not release personal information.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. F. COLLINS: That mandatory restriction is taken away and any personal information now, Mr. Speaker, subject to a harms test, can be released.

Mr. Speaker, people who want to do business with this Province now have greater protection in developing the economy and moving forward in this Province. Mr. Speaker, the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner has the same powers as they always did, no change, with the exception of the official Cabinet records. Mr. Speaker, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner also has the legislative ability now to conduct privacy investigations.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. F. COLLINS: Mr. Speaker, there is nothing in this act that speaks to the allegations that the hon. member raised.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The Leader of the Official Opposition.

MR. BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I can assure you that the people on that side of the House are the only people who believe there is greater flexibility.

As the Canadian Association of Journalists correctly points out, government work is paid for by the public; therefore, every effort needs to be made to make this information as available as possible.

I ask the minister: Why are you making it harder for people to access their own information?

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

MR. F. COLLINS: Mr. Speaker, I simply have to go back to what I just said about people accessing their own information. People accessing information from this government were subject to a mandatory prescription in the previous act, in the current act, that personal information cannot be released. It is a mandatory provision. You cannot release anybody's personal information.

Mr. Speaker, now, we have a harms test in there that if it is not an unreasonable invasion of privacy, and there is a whole list of reasons to justify it, that creates much more flexibility in giving out personal information, much more flexibility than you ever had before.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The Leader of the Official Opposition.

MR. BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

We already know of examples where we have had to take the Attorney General to court to get personal information.

Mr. Speaker, Newspapers Canada stated that they do not see a rationale for what government is attempting to do.

I ask the minister: What is your rationale for going well beyond the recommendations of the Cummings Report?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. F. COLLINS: Mr. Speaker, we were quite fortunate to be able to enlist the services of Mr. Cummings to do this report. We followed the majority of his recommendations. Mr. Speaker, his recommendations enhances ATIPPA. It enhances it. It makes it more consistent with other jurisdictions. It strengthens it. It makes a number of provisions in this act, Mr. Speaker, that betters the position, both of the people who look for information from the public and the government's position. Mr. Speaker, this is a very well-balanced act.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The Leader of the Official Opposition.

MR. BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The only position that is in the better situation today is the Cabinet position. Mr. Cummings, by the way, there were sixteen of the thirty-three recommendations that have been accepted. Mr. Speaker, by making these changes, government is effectively using the majority to overturn a court of appeal ruling and in doing so, making our access law a national embarrassment.

I ask the minister: Will you revoke these harsh amendments to the ATIPPA legislation and save the Province from further damage at the national stage?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. F. COLLINS: Mr. Speaker, it is obvious that the hon. member across does not understand some of the things we have been debating for the last couple of days. The court of appeal decision that he is referring to, Mr. Speaker, deals with solicitor-client privilege. Mr. Speaker, solicitor-client privilege is a sacred principle of law that has strength in every jurisdiction. The court that made that decision is aware of that, but because of the vagueness of the language it had no choice but to advise us that the information had to be disclosed.

We have simply tightened up the law, Mr. Speaker. The court of appeal never said that the Privacy Commissioner was the person to make decisions on solicitor-client privilege. What the court of appeal said was that the law was so vague that it could not be enforced.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Over the years government has made many Blue Book promises and repeated claims of being open and transparent.

I ask the minister: Why are you breaking your promise to be open and transparent?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. F. COLLINS: Mr. Speaker, no government in the history of this Province gives out as much information liberally and freely as this government – no government in this Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. F. COLLINS: Mr. Speaker, we have numerous pieces of legislation and provincial strategies, which in combination with this act makes this an open, transparent, democratic Province and a safe place to live. We have the best human rights legislation in the Province. We brought the Auditor General into this place, Mr. Speaker. We have provided more possibilities, more avenues and more mechanisms to get information out to the public than any government in our history.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The Leader of the Official Opposition.

MR. BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Minister of Justice stated that government receives thousands of access of information requests when in fact it is only eleven per week.

I ask the minister: Why did you present the wrong information to the public? Was it just to try to justify the bill?

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

MR. F. COLLINS: Mr. Speaker, the hon. member refers to comments that I made in a press conference that said we have had thousands of requests over the years. Mr. Speaker, we have an average of 500 and 600 requests a year of information, and in addition to that, requests for personal information. Back over three years, Mr. Speaker, we had over 1,500. If you go back to five or six years, we are certainly into the thousands. So, Mr. Speaker, it is a matter of manipulating figures.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. A. PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, the government is showing its true colours by denying the people the right to know under freedom of information and rejecting whistle-blower legislation even when they promised to do so. You are now doing everything you can to limit access to information.

My question is for the Premier: Why such a secret and oppressive manner of governance?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. F. COLLINS: Mr. Speaker, as I just mentioned, this Province has in the past five, six years brought in more legislation and more provincial strategies to make this Province a safe, democratic, and good place to live. Mr. Speaker, we have the best anti-poverty reduction strategy in the country; we have the disabilities inclusion program, which was just brought in; we have the Auditor General in place. Mr. Speaker, we have a freedom of information in place, we have whistle-blower protection in a number of pieces of legislation. Mr. Speaker, this is not a secret and oppressive government, much to the contrary of what the Opposition states.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. A. PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, because of the closure motion, government is not allowing debate on twenty-eight of the thirty-four clauses in Bill 29. For example, clause 10, or as we say the John Noseworthy clause on withholding employment contracts, will not be debated.

I ask the Premier: Why are you not allowing debate on these serious issues? What are you hiding?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

By my count, there has been over seventy hours of debate. The members opposite chose yesterday to spend approximately six to eight to ten hours on shall versus the may, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. KENNEDY: Mr. Speaker, much of it very uninformed and just very nonsensical comments. They chose to go that route, Mr. Speaker. I –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. KENNEDY: I indicated last night, Mr. Speaker, that we were willing to keep the House open. We had our members coming back. We were willing to sit through the night, but when we saw the kind of behaviour displayed by the Leader of the NDP last night, Mr. Speaker, there was no way we were going to continue that and subject anyone to that kind of abuse.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. A. PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, what I would say is nonsensical –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. A. PARSONS: What I would say is nonsensical is what this government is trying to do to deny information to the people of this Province. Mr. Speaker, government actions, when it came to expropriating a paper mill in Grand Falls-Windsor or a report to cut X-ray and lab services in the Province, were all revealed through access to information by the people in this Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. A. PARSONS: I would ask the Premier: Is it embarrassing situations like this that is driving government to introduce this legislation?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

There was plenty of time to debate this. As was indicated during the debate, Mr. Speaker, the Cabinet documents are ones that are subject to restriction, but there are well-known rules in law. The matters that were referred to earlier, Mr. Speaker, Burton Winters was not a Cabinet document and the Cameron inquiry was not a Cabinet document. Those matters became known, and although they were discussed in Cabinet, Cabinet confidentiality would apply, Mr. Speaker.

What we have here is a situation where there are changes. There is no question about that, but the changes relate to Cabinet documents and keeping them confidential.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. A. PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, we have asked in the House: How much government money has been spent thus far fighting employees' entitlement to legislated pay at the College of the North Atlantic in Qatar? Similarly, the AG highlighted concerns over inappropriate spending at the Western School District. These are mechanisms of accountability and depend upon access to information.

I would ask the Minister of Justice: Will this type of information be made available in the future? If not, how is the Opposition to do its job to hold you accountable to make sure public money is spent properly?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, as the process is in place now and will continue if anybody or any particular organization is looking for information, they will apply through the access to information. Mr. Speaker, if that information is available within the department and it is accessible, it will be provided.

Mr. Speaker, at this point, anything that is a Cabinet document, and as we move forward with the legislative changes that is a certified Cabinet document, that is not accessible nor should it be. We all understand that principle. Any other information that will go through the test will go through the rules and will go through the regulations. If it is available, it will be provided.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. A. PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, I would say this new legislation is removing the test. There is no test that we are going to go through any longer.

A former employee of the College of the North Atlantic in Qatar has come out to illustrate how changes to ATIPP will impact his case against the College moving forward, as well as how it would have prevented him from receiving information on why he may have been wrongfully dismissed. This employee made numerous ATIPP requests over the years, to the extent that government might interpret it vexatious. Indeed, he has been vexed by wrongful dismissal.

I would ask the minister: Without clear guidelines on what constitutes a vexatious request, what will prevent government from denying, for example, an individual vexed by a wrongful dismissal access to information?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. F. COLLINS: Mr. Speaker, let me give you an example; let me give you an example of a frivolous and vexatious request: a request from an applicant to several departments, asking for all correspondence, external and internal information, and transcripts from all radio talk programs and polls. Staff tried to work with the applicant to narrow the parameters of the request. It was so massive, requiring enormous amounts of time and resources; the applicant refused to co-operate and proceed with the request. Department officials tried to get the information together, and got it together, only to be told by the applicant he did not want it.

Mr. Speaker, there is another one: an applicant request for the subject line for all e-mails to and from seven people in the department for a one-month period and the subject line for all e-mails exchanged between two other individuals for the period of one year.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. F. COLLINS: Mr. Speaker, that is (inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Burgeo-La Poile, time for a –

MR. A. PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, I would deem that a frivolous and vexatious answer to my question, is what I would call that.

In attempting to justify the sweeping changes government has proposed to ATIPP, the Government House Leader said that he supports tightening the rules on access, because he does not want to operate in fear.

MR. SPEAKER: Please get to your question.

MR. A. PARSONS: My question to the House Leader is: What do you have to fear?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Government House Leader, for a quick answer.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

A briefing note, Mr. Speaker, a Cabinet document can have a number of options. What happens, Mr. Speaker, when those documents get in the hands of unscrupulous people, the question can become: why did you choose one option or the other, Mr. Speaker. So what happens is you are subject then to criticism and scrutiny when you are doing your job, and that is simply not a way in which Cabinet confidentiality can work.

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.

Canada is a well-respected member of the international community. We are also a respected member of the Commonwealth, as is our colleague country, Uganda – equal in every respect to Canada in the federation. What is said in the House of Commons and in provincial houses can have international repercussions.

So, Mr. Speaker, I ask the Minister of Justice: Will he stand and apologize for remarks he has made about Uganda and other countries to avoid any possible diplomatic embarrassment for Canada?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Natural Resources and Government House Leader.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

I have to say that I am very disappointed in the approach taken by the Leader of the Third Party. I heard her on CBC today, Mr. Speaker, where not only she maintained her position from last night, but she now accused the minister of systemic racism. That kind of commentary is simply uncalled for, and just shows how nasty you really are.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS MICHAEL: Mr. Speaker, when a politician or celebrity from elsewhere says something disparaging about Newfoundland and Labrador, people in this Province are quick to react with outrage. We are proud of who we are.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Minister of Justice: Why does he think it is okay for him to disparage the proud people of other countries?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. F. COLLINS: Mr. Speaker, the comments that the hon. member refers to were comments made last night in this House in response to a media presentation. You talk about apologizing to Canada. We are presenting on behalf of Canada and the G8 countries, Mr. Speaker; the media presentation suggested that Canada as a G8 country ranked below a whole list of Third World developing countries. Mr. Speaker, the G8 countries were ranked well below Mexico, Ethiopia, Nicaragua, Bulgaria, Uganda, Moldova, and Guatemala. Canada was nowhere to be seen below that. We are speaking for Canada, not apologizing to Canada. Canada, the ranking system in here, Mr. Speaker, was never explained and the countries ranked on top of that list have –

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The Leader of the Third Party.

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

Perhaps the minister should go study why the ranking is the way it is.

Mr. Speaker, the Canadian Association of Journalists, the largest national professional organization for journalists, which represents some 600 members, has said they are shocked by the draconian changes this government is trying to make to our Access to Information and Protection of Privacy laws. This is strong language.

I ask the Minister of Justice, Mr. Speaker: Why is government pushing legislation which is changing this Province from being a leader in the area of access to information to being a national embarrassment?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Natural Resources and Government House Leader.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Mr. Speaker, the members opposite asked why we invoked closure, and I referred to the behaviour of the Leader of the Third Party. Well, what we are seeing here today is not someone who is contrite for making unsubstantiated allegations; what we are seeing is an individual who is trying to put forward justification for, Mr. Speaker, what only can be referred to as scurrilous remarks. I would suggest that is the tone of the debate that this member wants to continue and it justifies what we did last night.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The Leader of the Third Party.

MS MICHAEL: Mr. Speaker, another well-known national organization which advocates open and accountable government, Democracy Watch, has also taken a strong stand against government's proposed changes to the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy legislation. The group says the legislation is dangerously undemocratic, legislation which goes against the trend across Canada towards more openness. It warns government is proposing excessive, unjustifiable, and undemocratic secrecy, which is a recipe for corruption, waste, and abuse of power. That is what they say, Mr. Speaker.

I ask the Minister of Justice: Why, in the face of strong national opposition to this legislation, does this minister continue to insist it is good legislation?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, reasonable people can disagree as to the nature and intent of legislation. The members opposite have done their job in questioning the legislation, Mr. Speaker, but to compare us last night, to call us racists and fascists, I would suggest that simply goes beyond the pale.

What we are seeing from this Third Party, Mr. Speaker, is that their true colours are coming out. What I would suggest that the Leader of the Third Party should do is get up today and apologize to the Minister of Justice for the comments that she made last night. Not only to apologize, Mr. Speaker, for the sake of it, but to mean it. Because the dance she did in her seat last night, Mr. Speaker, was something to behold.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

When government was forced by a Supreme Court decision to allow the Information and Privacy Commission to review documents government has deemed protected by solicitor-client privilege, he found that many of them were, in fact, not legitimately protected. He found in many cases the public body was unable to offer a reasonable explanation for their claim.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Minister of Justice, if he is able to explain why this privilege was apparently used inappropriately by government?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. F. COLLINS: Mr. Speaker, you will not find anyone in the legal fraternity, or in the legal Bar, or in the judiciary, or anywhere else for that matter, who will deny the privilege of solicitor-client needs to be protected. Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, in the drafting of the current act the language was not strong enough to protect solicitor-client privilege. It had nothing to do with whether or not the Privacy Commissioner is the one to make a decision on solicitor-client privilege. The Court of Appeal was clear on that. The language was vague, so the court had no choice but to make the comments about that particular language. Mr. Speaker, when that happened, the government tightened up the language so as to ensure the privilege of solicitor-client privilege.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS ROGERS: Mr. Speaker, section 22 of Bill 29 allows the Commissioner to investigate an attempt to resolve a person's complaint of a government breach of their privacy. There is no provision, however, in the bill for the Commissioner to investigate a whistle-blower's complaint to the Commissioner.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Minister of Justice: Will he amend the bill to ensure the Commissioner has this power?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. F. COLLINS: Mr. Speaker, the whistle-blower legislation has been discussed at length in this House, or the lack of whistle-blower legislation. We made it clear, Mr. Speaker, in this House that when we see a piece of whistle-blower legislation that we can adopt, we will do that. In the meantime, Mr. Speaker, we have all kinds of coverage in our legislation and in the Criminal Code of Canada with respect to protection for people in the workplace.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. MURPHY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

One of the problems with applying ATIPP in a small municipal setting is the availability of trained staff and councils to safeguard the protection of privacy and ensure access to information when deemed necessary under the law.

My question for the Minister is: What steps has his department been taking to ensure 100 per cent compliance with the present legislation?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. O'BRIEN: Mr. Speaker, each and every year we give several educational sessions to municipalities, especially after an election, say in 2013, that we might or may have new councillors being elected in that process. That is a continuous process in regard to an educational program that we have within Municipal Affairs, which will include this act as well. Each and every one of the councillors and staff will be provided enough information to deal with the provisions within the act.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. KIRBY: Mr. Speaker, I filed access to information requests with the Department of Advanced Education and Skills in an attempt to discover information regarding plans for infrastructure work at College of the North Atlantic in Stephenville. In response, I received back from the department nearly six pages of solid black toner.

I ask the Minister: What was the message she was trying to send by approving the release of this black toner response?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, it is like any request that comes into any department, whether it is Advanced Education or Skills. The request is reviewed and if the information is accessible information it is provided. There are rules around what is not provided and rules around what needs to be redacted. If the information was not to be provided it is redacted by the staff who do that, Mr. Speaker, for the department. If the information is accessible, it would not have been redacted.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. MITCHELMORE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

For years now the people of St. Anthony have tried to find the truth behind government's relocation of their air ambulance service. Despite frustrated access to information requests from myself and others, and despite pending court cases pursued by concerned citizens of St. Anthony, the people of the region remain in the dark.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Minister of Health before she closes the door on this information permanently: Will she commit to providing the people with all documentation around the event so they can know the truth?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, on any number of occasions in this House of Assembly that same question has been asked. It was asked long before I came into this portfolio to my predecessor. He has answered the question. I have stood in this House of Assembly and I have answered the question.

I have no idea what he is talking about when he says he cannot get access to the information. We have given it to him on many, many occasions and to the person who asked the questions the last few times when he was not in the House.

Mr. Speaker, this is really unfounded, this is really unnecessary. Anybody who watches the House of Assembly knows how many times we have answered that question.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

CBC learned from filing requests for information using provincial access to information legislation that although the Minister of Health and Community Service's office said she was monitoring a health scare in Central Newfoundland, it was the local health authority who was handling the problem. The e-mail CBC got shows otherwise; the truth was the minister was very much involved.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Minister of Health and Community Services: Is she supporting her government's amendments to the Access to Information legislation so she can avoid future embarrassments of this kind?

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 am in no way embarrassed about doing my job.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS SULLIVAN: Mr. Speaker, if anything, this is one of the best examples I have seen of openness and transparency. They requested information, they got information, and no information denied, Mr. Speaker. They asked and they got it.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The member has about ten seconds to ask a very quick question.

MS MICHAEL: Mr. Speaker, I ask the Premier: In order to avoid future embarrassment with regard to getting bills passed in this House, will she immediately strike viable working standing committees similar to other Canadian jurisdictions?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

Presenting Reports by Standing and Select Committees.

Tabling of Documents.

Notices of Motion.

Notices of Motion

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

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I give notice under Standing Order 11, seconded by the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills, that I shall move that this House not adjourn at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, June 17, 2012.

I further give notice under Standing Order 11, I shall move that this House not adjourn at 10:00 p.m. on Monday, June 17, 2012.

MR. SPEAKER: Further notices of motion.

Answers to Questions for which Notice has been Given.

MR. KENNEDY: Sorry, Mr. Speaker, it appears that Monday is June 18.

Mr. Speaker, I give notice under Standing Order 11, seconded by the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills, I move that this House not adjourn at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, June 18, 2012.

I further give notice under Standing Order 11 that this House not adjourn at 10:00 p.m. Monday, June 18, 2012.

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

Petitions.

Petitions

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

MR. MITCHELMORE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I present a petition, 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 Regional Economic Development Boards diversify, grow, and strengthen economies throughout the Province by providing training opportunities, marketing advice, proposal writing, leveraging funds, collaboration, and other means; and

WHEREAS the federal government's decision to cut funding to the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency – ACOA – is resulting in the elimination of funding to the RED Boards and their termination in May, 2013; and

WHEREAS 75 per cent of the operational funding for RED Boards, roughly $3.6 million, is provided by ACOA, with the additional 25 per cent from the provincial government; and

WHEREAS the Department of Innovation, Business and Rural Development – IBRD – has $200 million in their suite of programming, some of which has poor uptake; and

WHEREAS just 1.5 per cent of the Business Attraction Fund of the Department of Innovation, Business and Rural Development was used last year, $366,800 of a $25 million budget;

We the undersigned petition the House of Assembly to urge the government to commit to bridge funding in its 2013 Budget, which may come from the Business Attraction Fund, to help preserve the RED Boards in Newfoundland and Labrador who provide support to municipalities, communities, organizations, and businesses.

As in duty bound, your petitioners will ever pray.

The petition that I have is signed by petitioners in St. John's, Mount Pearl, Conception Harbour, and CBS.

Mr. Speaker, there are nineteen RED Boards in the Province and they were sixteen years in the making. They have had many, many successes in what they have done over the years, in terms of being able to truly create local, regional issues, to bring forward, and to work with a number of stakeholders. Right now, the Department of IBRD, in the Business Attraction Fund, has $15 million. So, if anything goes on past history, they will not use all that money, and they can commit to funding and look at, maybe – with the performance-based model that has been implemented with the RED Boards – doing things that also can look at making them more self-sufficient around revenue-generating mechanisms.

So, I present that petition here to the House of Assembly.

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

MR. KIRBY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am pleased to rise today to present a petition.

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 strikes and lockouts are rare and on average, 97 per cent of collective agreements are negotiated without work disruption; and

WHEREAS anti-temporary replacement worker laws have existed in Quebec since 1978, and in British Columbia since 1993, and successive governments in those provinces have never repealed those laws; and

WHEREAS anti-temporary replacement worker legislation has reduced the length and divisiveness of labour disputes; and

WHEREAS the use of temporary replacement workers during a strike or a lockout is damaging to the social fabric of a community, the local economy, and the well-being of residents, as evident by the recent use of temporary replacement workers by both Ocean Choice International and Vale in Voisey's Bay.

We, the undersigned, petition the House of Assembly to urge the government to enact legislation banning the use of temporary replacement workers during a strike or lockout.

As in duty bound, your petitioners will ever pray.

Mr. Speaker, we are very fortunate in Newfoundland and Labrador that we do not see the use of replacement workers or scab labour very frequently. It is only in very seldom occasions that it really comes to that, because most of the time employers and employees, whether that is in the public sector or the private sector, come to an agreement in a very quick manner. Very seldom does it come to a strike and very, very, seldom does it ever come to the point where employers resort to the use of replacement workers. I would say that we are very fortunate for that, but I would like to see a situation in Newfoundland and Labrador where we never see the use of scab labour in the collective bargaining process, in labour disputes, because I think that that really diminishes the rights of workers and I think it really hurts employers in the long term as well.

I urge Members of the House of Assembly to support these petitioners because this is an excessively important issue.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MS MICHAEL: A point of order, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The Leader of the Third Party, on a point of order.

MS MICHAEL: Mr. Speaker, in Chapter 13 of Bosc and O'Brien, Rules of Order and Decorum, says, "Remarks directed specifically at another Member which question that Member's integrity, honesty or character are not in order. A Member will be requested to withdraw offensive remarks, allegations, or accusations of impropriety directed towards another Member. The Speaker has no authority to rule on statements made outside the House by one Member against another."

Mr. Speaker, today during Question Period, the Government House Leader made remarks that were personal attacks directed at myself; language used against me that were personal insults. I do request an apology from the Government House Leader saying what you did in this House last night is showing how nasty you are, is an insult. There were many other things that were said; I do not have, obviously, Hansard in front of me. I am standing up here trying to represent the people of this Province and, Mr. Speaker, I do request an apology from the Government House Leader covered by this.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

What I said, Mr. Speaker, was indeed something to behold last night as she did her dance and it showed how truly nasty she is. Also, Mr. Speaker, you have to look at the interview that she gave to CBC Radio this morning where she questioned again the minister's integrity and this time accused him of systemic racism. In fact, Mr. Speaker, it was put to her on a number of times: Are you saying the minister is racist? She would not go that far. She did invoke parliamentary privilege last night, Mr. Speaker, because she wanted to protect herself. She knew she had made libellous comments.

Mr. Speaker, the comments I made to the Leader of the Opposition today were no different than her accusing the Minister of Health basically of lying or misleading this House. If there is anyone who should be apologizing, Mr. Speaker, it is her for her behaviour last night. There is no point of order.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The Leader of the Third Party, to the point of order.

MS MICHAEL: To the point of order, Mr. Speaker. When the Government House Leader refers to what I said on the radio this morning, first of all the Speaker does not rule on things said outside of the House. Secondly, when I was on radio this morning, Mr. Speaker –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS MICHAEL: – I explained my understanding of systematic racism based on the work that I have done around racism. That is what I did on the radio this morning. That is not something that can be ruled here, what can be ruled are the insulting remarks that were made to me questioning my character – remarks about my character that were made by the Government House Leader. I want an apology, Mr. Speaker. I hope you will rule that way.

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

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

In fact, what is interesting is when the member says that her comments outside do not give rise to a point of order. They do give rise to a point of privilege and the Speaker ruled on that earlier this year in relation to another member of the NDP. Mr. Speaker, the comments made outside the House – and when we get the transcript, maybe this is something we will have to raise as a point of privilege because a point of privilege is one that questions a minister and affects the minister's ability to do his or her job, or a member.

Mr. Speaker, this minister is the minister for human rights and for that member opposite to question his integrity like she did last night and make that very serious allegation and to repeat it again today – I challenge her, go outside the House of Assembly after and make the comment.

Mr. Speaker, there is no point of order. What may come from her comments is a point of privilege.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) court.

MR. KENNEDY: Or a court action, yes.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Leader of the Third Party, to the point of order.

MS MICHAEL: Just to say, Mr. Speaker, that I will stand by your ruling on the point of order that I have raised.

MR. SPEAKER: When Hansard is published on today's session, the Speaker will review Hansard and the tapes of today's proceeding and on the next sitting day provide a comment for the House.

The Member for The Straits – White Bay North.

MR. MITCHELMORE: I would like to present a petition to the House, Mr. Speaker.

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

WHEREAS the need for cellular coverage is far-reaching in the District of The Straits – White Bay North; and

WHEREAS there is limited cell coverage in the Route 430 from St. Anthony Airport to St. Anthony, and there is little to no cellphone coverage in the communities surrounding Route 432, Route 433, Route 434, Route 435, Route 436, Route 437, and Route 438; and

WHEREAS residents of these communities require cellphone coverage to ensure their safety and communication abilities; and

WHEREAS the residents of The Straits – White Bay North District feel the Department of Innovation, Business and Rural Development should also develop incentives for further investments in cellular phone coverage for rural Newfoundland and Labrador;

We, the undersigned, petition the House of Assembly to urge the government to support the residents of The Straits – White Bay North District in their request to obtain adequate cellular coverage in rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

As in duty bound, your petitioners will ever pray.

This petition is signed by residents of Flower's Cove, Cook's Harbour, Sandy Cove, Savage Cove, Anchor Point, Black Duck Cove, Nameless Cove, Pines Cove, Ship Cove, and a number from Raleigh. The people of Raleigh and Ship Cove, actually – there was someone who went door to door to ensure that all residents of Raleigh and Ship Cove, I believe, had signed it. There are quite a number of signatures for the people who live there.

Mr. Speaker, there are significant gaps, and there are significant gaps all around the Province when it comes to cellular coverage. I have been working with stakeholders, working with mobility providers, doing research on the CRTC, and also hoping that we can see similar initiatives put forward, how we can work with regions and how we can work with RED Boards, municipalities, and with the Department of IBRD to bridge those gaps.

There is some positive work that can be done around that. There are critical gaps, but with the right approach we can ensure we have better communication and cellular coverage. That is coming far-reaching from people in the district and even without. Other members here in the Opposition have been presenting petitions on cellular phone coverage. This is something I hope we all as hon. members urge the government to make a greater investment.

MR. SPEAKER: Petitions.

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

MR. MITCHELMORE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

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 showeth.

WHEREAS the provincial government refuses to admit they have a 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 in the 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 – 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 the mechanism to revitalize a presently devitalized economy.

As in duty bound, your petitions will ever pray.

Sincerely, the undersigned.

This petition is signed by residents of Roddickton and Englee.

Mr. Speaker, I recognize that the government, through Service NL has issued an order to the defunct company hoping that there will be some removal. However, there are greater initiatives that need to be done and we are seeing where government can take further action to press to settle those land issues around who actually owns the property so that this town can really move on.

It has been close to ninety days and there has been no removal to date.

The residents of Englee and area are certainly urging this House to press the government to see if more can be done to make sure that the health and safety concerns in this environmental matter can be restored. We have seen the government intervene in areas where they have taken property which they did not own and they are doing the environmental remediation and cleanup for the goodwill, health, and safety protection of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. MITCHELMORE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I have a petition here to the House; 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 in the District of The Straits – White Bay North, despite the $4 million rural broadband initiative announcement on December 22, 2011, only one community, Ship Cove, is slated for broadband coverage; and

WHEREAS the communities of Pines Cove, Eddies Cove East, Bide Arm, North Boat Harbour, L'Anse aux Meadows, Great Brehat, St. Carol's, Goose Cove, Grandois, and St. Anthony Bight still remain without services; and –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. MITCHELMORE: WHEREAS many small businesses within the district rely on the Internet to conduct business; and

WHEREAS broadband Internet permits a business to be more competitive than the slower dial-up services; and

WHEREAS broadband Internet enhances primary, secondary, post-secondary, and further educational opportunities;

We petition the House of Assembly to urge the government to reinvest in the rural broadband initiatives in Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. MITCHELMORE: As in duty bound, your petitioners will ever pray.

Mr. Speaker, I have presented this petition to the House, but we are getting more and more mailed into our office, so it just shows that this initiative is very important and we hope to see that there is greater investment.

Thank you for your time, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Orders of the Day.

Orders of the Day

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

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I move, seconded by the Minister of Justice and Attorney General, to ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Amend The Fatalities Investigations Act, Bill 33, Mr. Speaker, and I further move that the said bill be now read the first time.

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that the hon. Minister of Justice shall have leave to introduce a bill, An Act To Amend The Fatalities Investigations Act, Bill 33, and that the said bill be now read a first time.

Is it the pleasure of the House that the minister shall have leave to introduce Bill 33, and that the said bill be now read a first time?

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

Carried.

Motion, the hon. the Minister of Justice and Attorney General to introduce a bill, "An Act To Amend The Fatalities Investigations Act", carried. (Bill 33)

CLERK: A bill, An Act To Amend The Fatalities Investigations Act. (Bill 33)

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

When shall the bill be read a second time?

MR. KENNEDY: Tomorrow, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Tomorrow.

On motion, Bill 33 read a first time, ordered read a second time on tomorrow.

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

MR. KENNEDY: Yes, Mr. Speaker.

I move, seconded by the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills, that pursuant to Standing Order 11, that this House not adjourn at 5:30 o'clock p.m. on today, June 14, 2012.

I further move, Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 11, that the House not adjourn at 10:00 p.m. on Thursday, June 14, 2012.

MR. SPEAKER: It has been moved and seconded that this House do not adjourn at 5:30 o'clock p.m. Thursday, June 14, and further that this House do not adjourn at 10:00 p.m. on Thursday, June 14, 2012.

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

Motion carried.

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. KENNEDY: Mr. Speaker, I call from the Order Paper, Order 5, second reading of a bill, An Act To Amend The City Of St. John's Act and The City Of St. John's Municipal Taxation Act, Bill 30.

MR. O'BRIEN: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the Minister of Education, that Bill 30, An Act To Amend The City Of St. John's Act and The City Of St. John's Municipal Taxation Act, be now read the second time.

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that Bill 30, An Act To Amend The City Of St. John's Act and The City Of St. John's Municipal Taxation Act, be now read a second time.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The City Of St. John's Act and The City Of St. John's Municipal Taxation Act". (Bill 30)

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

MR. O'BRIEN: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I take great pleasure in regard to bringing these much-needed amendments to the floor of the House of Assembly here today. They were requested by the City of St. John's and also supported by the Board of Trade as well. There is a fair bit of consultations went into these amendments with the city and also the business community of the City of St. John's.

These amendments will enable the city to provide a commercial tax system which is equitable and transparent. Mr. Speaker, right now, as it sits today, there are two forms of commercial taxation in the city, a business occupancy tax and a commercial property tax. The city's assessment roll has a listing of all the commercial properties in the city. They are assessed at a value, which includes both the real property, which is the building itself, and the value of the space that might be occupied by each individual business at that particular property, Mr. Speaker, and that is the way it is done.

What the City of St. John's wants to do is blend these two together and create a taxation system that is more transparent, more understandable by the business community, and also there is some value in that, in regard to the business community. The business tax is based upon, right now, the assessed value of the property that is occupied by the business, and multiplied by an applicable tax rate. That is the way it works. The rate varies for different types of classes of businesses, and they are set in regard to the regulations of the City of St. John's.

The commercial property tax is based upon the set value of the property, multiplied by the commercial mill rate, which is common to all commercial properties. In other words, there are two types of rates. The rate would vary to the type of business and the classes of businesses that are set in the guidelines in regard to the City of the St. John's, and then the assessed value of the property is valued at a commercial mill rate, which is common to all.

The amendments that I am proposing, in regard to the City of St. John's Act and the City of St. John's Municipal Taxation Act will allow the city to streamline the processes for business commercial property owners and the city. With the elimination of the business tax, will require the city to increase its commercial property tax to recover previous revenue generated by the business tax. The new tax structure will be revenue neutral. By not increasing overall taxation, it will provide a clear taxation structure. I want all the hon. members in the House of Assembly to understand that this does not mean there is going to be an increase in business tax and overall taxation to the City of St. John's. It is actually revenue neutral to the City of St. John's, other than it provides clarity under the act and clarity to the business owners in regard to their taxation rates.

Mr. Speaker, these amendments will also ensure that the commercial tax structure of the city is clear. It will ensure efficiency in the administration of taxation, and it should help eliminate problems associated with the collection of taxes as well. The City of St. John's requires their tax base to provide the infrastructure requirements of all the people, its residents, the businesses that do business in the city, so they need revenue streams to do that, along with the important contribution that the provincial government makes to the City of St. John's on a yearly basis. I believe that we, on average, give the City of St. John's anywhere between $10 million and $12 million in regard to their infrastructure requirements, not counting other special investments too that we have made in various buildings and various infrastructure – big infrastructure investments over the years. With the City of St. John's though, from their point of view, they have to have a tax revenue stream to help them provide those kinds of things to the residents of the city, as well as the business world.

In the circumstance where a commercial property owner is leasing a property to a business, other than the property in which the provincial government is a tenant, the lessee can collect increased fees from the business in order to offset any tax increases. That has been discussed between the City of St. John's and the business world. The business world clearly understands, along with the Board of Trade, how it is going to work in regard to the way the new tax structure is set up, the extra fees in regard to their lease agreements would be worked out, and they will move forward. Again, I want to highlight that this is a revenue neutral position for the City of St. John's; it does not require and will not increase the amounts of money that businesses would be spending or required to spend in regard to business tax and commercial taxation.

When the Province is a tenant of a building, which we have many across the city, the owner of the commercial real property can claim vacancy relief, so to compensate the owner for their inability to collect any tax. In other words what I am saying is that there is no infringement in regard to the buildings that we occupy as a government across the city right now. The City of St. John's is in agreement with that; the business world is in agreement with that. So the mechanism that will be used to offset the blending of the commercial and business tax would be that they would be deemed as being vacant, but they would be occupied by government offices.

Mr. Speaker, our government has been pleased to work with the City of St. John's to provide a progressive structure for the city, and the amendments proposed were requested by the city, as I said before, and supported by the Board of Trade.

Mr. Speaker, we, in Municipal Affairs and my staff, will continue to work with all our municipalities to ensure the appropriate tools required to provide services to its residents. We have undertaken significant efforts in recent years to work with our municipalities and provide support as we recognize their importance to our Province, and this will continue.

As well, Mr. Speaker, I should mention in regard to a building that a person would own but is currently vacant, that the owner of that building can apply for a vacancy relief when that is empty. In other words, their tax would reflect that they are not collecting any lease revenues from that particular building and that would offset any undue hardship on the owner of the building.

Mr. Speaker, this is a good amendment to the legislation of the City of St. John's. There is a fair bit of work that has gone into it and a fair bit of collaboration and the consultation with the City of St. John's, the Board of Trade, and the business community at large. I have spoken to the city, I have spoken to various business owners in St. John's, and each and every one of them supports these amendments. They are looking forward to them being enacted in the very near future.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I will take my seat in the House. I look forward to any comments. I am quite sure that my Opposition people across the House will support it and take knowledge that the Board of Trade and the City of St. John's both are in agreement to these amendments.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. JOYCE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I just rise to have a few words on this bill. I heard the minister say the Board of Trade is in support of this bill. I am not sure that is 100 per cent correct that the Board of Trade is in support of this bill. From my understanding, they contacted myself personally and they would like to address a few concerns that they have with the bill. I am not sure if the minister had consultations with the Board of Trade. If he did, I am not aware that they are in support of this bill, Mr. Speaker. They do have some concerns.

Mr. Speaker, this bill would amend the City of St. John's Act to allow the elimination of business tax, the city tax, and the vacant land tax.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. JOYCE: This is an administration thing for the City of St. John's to try to incorporate, to eliminate a few of the taxes that they have. This bill would also amend the City of St. John's Municipal Taxation Act, eliminating the ability of St. John's to impose a business tax. This is a part of why the City of St. John's is recommending and supporting this bill, Mr. Speaker. It is a thing for the City of St. John's that would help the City of St. John's in some of the taxation, which they would have on rental properties and other businesses in the St. John's area.

Also, Mr. Speaker, the bill will allow the owner of a commercial property to increase rent to a tenant, recovering from the tenant "the amount of any increases in commercial property taxes resulting from the elimination of the business tax". What they are saying here is that it gives a person who owns a commercial property the ability to increase the rent if the business tax is taken away from the person who is renting the property. If their tax is eliminated, then the rate the person can charge whoever is renting the building – it gives them the ability to increase the rent, Mr. Speaker; now they will not be paying any taxes to the city directly, but it will go to the person who rents the property.

Basically, Mr. Speaker, the bill moves responsibility of tax collection from the city to the landlord of the commercial property by increasing the rent to the tenant in the amount that the tenant would have paid the City of St. John's in business tax. What we see here is a business that operates within a rental structure. Right now, the person who is renting the building would pay the tax, which would decrease the tax of the person who actually owns the building you are renting.

Mr. Speaker, what this amendment is asking is that now the City of St. John's can put a business tax on the person who owns the building. That would allow whoever owns the building the ability to charge extra rent to cover the amount the person who is renting the building would have to pay in taxes to the city. In theory, Mr. Speaker, it would eliminate somehow that the city is responsible for one taxation purpose then, just whoever owns the building, not who is renting the building.

It does change the scope of rentals and taxation. Once again, that was one of the concerns that the Board of Trade mentioned, Mr. Speaker. Again, I heard the minister say that the Board of Trade is in support of this bill. From my understanding, that is not correct. The last one that I was speaking to is – and Mr. Speaker, the minister is saying that they are in support of this and that the Board of Trade is in support of it. I understand if the minister says it, and I will be speaking to the Board of Trade – that this is fine, Mr. Speaker.

The rationale for the City of St. John's, Mr. Speaker – I can understand this totally, Newfoundland and Labrador is one of the last provinces in the country to have a business occupancy tax. This would eliminate this from the department. Once again, if everybody is in agreement with this, we can see that it is bringing it more in line with the rest of Canada. I can see why the City of St. John's would support this.

Then we have the elimination of the business tax, which would put the City into a more competitive position with Atlantic Canada for business attractions and retention. This is the City of St. John's rationale for it, Mr. Speaker. Of course, if we are going to put legislation in play to ensure that businesses can operate better in St. John's, attract new businesses because of the taxation system, and keep businesses in St. John's, I would have to support that. When we get down to the details of the bill, if this is an actual fact, it is a great thing that we can attract and retain businesses in St. John's.

As I mentioned earlier, Mr. Speaker, businesses pay two taxes: the business property tax and the business occupancy tax. The minister mentioned also that what they are going to do is eliminate this here and bring it all in the one. I guess if you can eliminate anything that is going to help the City and ensure that there is uniform taxation system for the City of St. John's, Mr. Speaker, I can definitely agree with that. I definitely agree with it and understand the rationale behind it, Mr. Speaker.

To compensate for the lost revenue through the business tax, the City will increase the mill rate on the business property taxes by the landlord. The landlord will in turn increase the rent to compensate for the increased business property tax.

Once again, Mr. Speaker, this is just to streamline the business taxes, as we know. The City of St. John's will bring this in in-line with other uniform – across Canada to ensure there is only one form of tax. The landlord then will, and I am sure will have the right to increase the rent for the City of St. John's to make sure they are compensated in the extra tax. That is now streamlined and will be taken care of by the property owner, Mr. Speaker.

Also, it helps with the administration burden in the collection of two taxes, Mr. Speaker. As we said, this is a part of the legislation, the regulations and the amendments, is to ensure that the administration burden of two taxes – then again, if you are doing any accounting for any municipality in Newfoundland and Labrador, if you have to go and bill the same person or the same building twice, it is an administrative pressure on them. It definitely helps to have one bill going to one person who happens to own the building. It definitely helps with the administration. It fine tunes the collection system for St. John's.

Mr. Speaker, the good side about it for the landlord, is if the landlord has this act in place, when he does advertising for his building or his property, it will advertise all inclusive facts. Once you put an advertisement out for some type of rental for your building you would put out one tax, and this one tax then would be all inclusive.

Mr. Speaker, I apologize to the minister, because this bill is supported by the St. John's Board of Trade and the Canadian Federation of Small Business. I was waiting to consult with the – because I had a phone call into the St. John's Board of Trade but I am aware they are supportive of this bill. There is another one I think, Mr. Speaker, that the Board of Trade has some concerns with. So I apologize to the minister for bringing that up in the beginning. The Board of Trade and the Canadian Independent Business are both in favour of this bill, Mr. Speaker, and I am sure they analyzed the bill quite well. I am sure they understand the implications for the people under their umbrella, and I am sure they are ensuring that it is best for the people in their groups. Also, the City of St. John's is supporting this bill, Mr. Speaker.

As the minister mentioned, in a brief discussion that we had earlier with the minister, this is more of a housecleaning amendment, Mr. Speaker. This is to ensure that – Mr. Speaker, we all have to have consultations on these types of bills and all these regulations, and the minister mentioned that he had consultations with the City of St. John's, the St. John's Board of Trade, and other stakeholders.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. JOYCE: Also, Mr. Speaker, I am not sure if the minister had any other discussions with other towns across the Province to incorporate this type of legislation for other major towns across the Province. I am not sure he has, but, Mr. Speaker, if a lot of groups look at this and if it is good for some areas, we may be able to implement it in some other areas all across Newfoundland.

Mr. Speaker, as we know now, the vacant land tax, as it is known today, will be eliminated through this regulation. That is part of this regulation also, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, the city tax was a tax used years ago as a rental value tax. I will just give you an example of that. The tax was assessed by using the rental value of the property. This tax has not been used since the early 1980s and is seen more as a housekeeping item, Mr. Speaker.

Once again, when you have certain bills and regulations in place it is always nice to go and review the bills and review the regulations to ensure that you can improve upon them to help with the municipalities, and in this case the City of St. John's, and the other businesses in St. John's that fall under the St. John's Board of Trade. Once again, it is great that everybody can come together and come to a mutual agreement that yes, there needs to be some changes.

On this issue itself, Mr. Speaker, I may have a few questions when we get into Committee stage, but as the minister mentioned, and after reviewing the legislation on this bill, I will be, just as a formality, calling the three parties involved with this: the Canadian independent business, the St. John's Board of Trade, and the City of St. John's, to see if they have any concerns or any questions, or anybody else who have any questions or concerns that they would like for me to raise during the Committee stage. As I mentioned earlier, this seems like more of a housecleaning bill because it is supported by all parties involved.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The Member for St. John's East.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MURPHY: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

It gives me pleasure to talk to Bill 30 today, the amendments to the City of St. John's Act. I think that knowing the number of pieces that have been coming up dealing with municipalities lately, in particular affecting the City of St. John's itself, I think that one of the first observances that I had in looking at all these bills that were coming through that perhaps our provincial government needs to get into consultation now with the City of St. John's and probably undertake a new work, a whole new City of St. John's Act and modernize the act itself. St. John's is a growing city; it is growing very, very fast. That is one consideration, I think, that came upon these pieces of legislation that are coming through in the next couple of days.

Perhaps the minister can probably get into consultations with the City of St. John's on that. I know that it would be a big piece of work, but I think that these are modern times and the City of St. John's Act still has things in it, for example, like the necessity of registering of horses is still in the act. It just goes to show – I do not know if there are any horses that are still registered within the confines of the City of St. John's, but it is probably a good question to ask. Modernization of the act may simplify things in the future when it comes to that.

I want to thank the minister as well for the excellent briefing from his staff. Chad Blundon gave us a really good breakdown of what has been happening here. He opened it up to the point where we still have some questions to it, and probably a couple of suggestions that the Minister of Municipal Affairs can not only work into the present City of St. John's Act, work it into the policies, but possibly to work in with other municipalities around the Province for example that may run into the same – well, I guess in this particular case we will call it a taxing problem or in this case probably a taxing solution. You can call it what you will.

Getting into it, there is really not much to it that we found next to these couple of points. The problematics that we had with it – we understand the necessity for the City of St. John's to have the freedom of blending the tax and showing some transparency when it comes to this. One of the more important points that we found when you are dealing with a commercial operator for example like a mall versus the business contained within, both were being taxed and both on that same space at some point. They decided to remove the responsibility of the corporation involved, for example, the owner of the mall, and put the onus on the business for the business to be paying its tax. Then they merged it so that would be collected at the same time through that corporation. Also, what it does is give the city the ability to place a lien on particular problem payers of the taxes.

The big concern we had, Mr. Minister, and perhaps you can give us a little bit of a flavour as regards what to do here, the question we had was how charities were going to be able to handle this particular tax measure. We have some feelers out there as regards how charities are going to be affected, for example, by this tax measure. We know charities do not carry a big bottom line. They do not have a lot of money in the bank. Of course, these days, with problems with people donating money and the lower level of funds they have been getting, sometimes they do not have a lot of money in the bank to be able to pay their taxes upfront. The situation is different, for example, from one charity that may own a particular property that they are living in vis-à-vis a charity that owns the property they are living in.

There are two different dichotomies there we hope the City of St. John's is going to be working through. I think one of the things they are talking about is the possibility of a rebate system where they are paying their business tax upfront. Then, they get the ability to either, A, get the tax back automatically or, B, have to apply for it and then get their taxes back.

Those are the only couple of little problems we have seen with it when it came to the charitable end of things. We are a little bit worried about the effect that is going to have on charities and their ability to carry a positive bottom line in the future. We are feeling that has to be looked at. Hopefully the City of St. John's will be able to address that little matter.

The other matter having to do with the collection of taxes has to do with some of the vacant buildings we are seeing around town, in particular some of the grocery stores, and how that is going to affect how the City of St. John's is probably going to be collecting taxes there. The question here in this particular case, and the one thing the residents of the City of St. John's will obviously notice, is abandoned grocery stores, for example, where you have a parent company that would own a business, that business was formerly operating in that premises and now they are not there. How is that tax going to be measured upon companies that are leaving these properties vacant? Because while they are not used and while there is still some sort of a commercial tax that is being collected from these businesses, the problem still is that these formerly operating businesses are now vacant and they are a little bit of an eyesore. Hopefully, it would be upon the city to see if they can have that one addressed.

We agree with the fact that the city needs to be able to do this on their own. Again, the real concern that we have is, of course, number one, a new City of St. John's Act possibly should be done here to address some of these problems, and for older municipalities around the Province to have the act in their respective cities redrawn as well. I think there are two or three other cities within the confines of the Province that would probably be deserving of having their acts revisited.

Again, just something else that was in there too, when I mentioned to the minister when I was looking down through the initial bill when it was first passed out, there is even mention there of a fuel oil tax, but it has not being imposed on consumers in years. My understanding was that was done on the basis of the old imperial gallon versus the US gallon in that particular time and it was done, I think, at two cents on an imperial gallon. That will give you a sense of the last time that was addressed. The last time we used imperial gallons over US gallons in this Province, I think at the time, was we switched over to metric, which was probably 1975 I am guessing or 1976.

Just a couple of concerns there – and again, our real concern here lie with how charities are going to be affected here. Hopefully the City of St. John's will address that. It gives them the freedom to do this measure, so we look at it as being a positive thing where government takes its hands off the city and gives them the ability to call their own shot if you will.

That being said, Mr. Speaker, I cannot see any other problem with this particular piece of legislation. Some of the things that we already mentioned are probably about the only things that we can think of. If there are any other problems we can think of or that I did not get at this particular time, we will bring it up again when the bill comes to Committee.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The Member for Kilbride.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DINN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I, too, had a briefing at Municipal Affairs with the manager of governance – a very bright young man, makes you feel confident when you have such excellent young people in our system here. This young fellow knew all about local government. I was kind of impressed that he was in the position he was at the age he is. I thank him for the briefing.

I knew an awful lot of what he was going to tell me anyway because, as you know, I was twelve-and-a-half years at St. John's city council anyway. This legislation that we are dealing with today, the issue we were dealing with ten years ago at the city, it started then, so this is nothing new.

Bill 30 is going to amend the city act and the city's municipal taxation act. It was requested by the city and the minister said that, the city is the one that is requesting this. This did not come out because someone else wanted it; the city has been dealing with this for ten or more years and they want this. As a matter of fact, I think it was only the other day that I had a copy of a letter from the mayor asking us to support this legislation, to get it through as quickly as possible because they want to act on this.

When this Bill 30 is passed – and I am assuming it will be – St. John's will have the authority to change its present commercial tax system. Presently, there are two tax rates with the city's commercial system. There is a business realty tax or a commercial realty tax, which is based on the value of the commercial building. There is also a commercial or a business occupancy tax. What this new legislation will do is blend the two of these taxes into one.

As I mentioned already, Mr. Speaker, the city has been dealing with this for a number of years. They have not been dealing with it on their own. Back ten years ago when this started, the Board of Trade and other business groups in the city were involved with this, but they were very cool to the idea of what was happening today, what we are doing now. They did not want any changes. Something had to be done to get them to go along with it.

The city, with its present commercial system, had a lot of problems, especially with the occupancy tax part of it. This occupancy tax was very difficult to apply first of all. It was very labour intensive. What had to happen, take a commercial site like the Avalon Mall. A city tax assessor literally had to go in, measure up the whole building, first of all, and know the square footage of the building. If someone applied to put a store in part of the Avalon Mall, then you had to go in and measure that up, and to apply an occupancy tax you had to know what percentage the business was of the commercial site. Once you knew that you applied the commercial occupancy tax rate, which was so many mills, so you would times that by the percentage.

Also, applying this occupancy tax was troublesome, apart from being labour intensive. It was hard to collect. I can remember when I was on council, on the finance committee; we would have a list of people who owed business taxes. You would have a list, probably four or five pages long of taxes that could not be collected. Because what often happened, a business went into a commercial site, like the Avalon Mall, set up, they lasted two or three months, then they went out of business or they left and went somewhere else and the city was not notified. Very often that tax had to be written off, it was uncollectible.

Another thing about this tax system is that the only way the city sometimes were aware that someone was in business in a commercial site is that they went in and made an application. If they did not apply, the city did not know they were there. They had no way, unless they picked it up in the papers as an advertisement or something. If someone was advertising their commercial business saying we have a sale on today. Then the city said: boy, we did not know this existed. Then they would send a bill out. Technically, the biggest problem the city had with its commercial business taxes was the occupancy tax. They wanted to change that because it was hard to collect, especially.

The new system that will be introduced when Bill 30 is passed will be a blend of the two systems. What will happen, the commercial site will be assessed. The city, which now collects $25 million in business property tax and $20 million, approximately, in occupancy tax, they will keep that revenue. They are not going to lose any revenue, nor will they gain any revenue. The idea is to assess the building then increase the mill rate so that they get the same revenue from businesses.

Now, the advantage of the new system is this. What will happen, the owner of the building will now collect the tax as a part of his rent and then he will forward that on to the city. I mentioned in the beginning that the business community was not in favour of this. What did the city do or what was done to get them to come onboard? One of the things they did, rather than sending bills out and having bills payable January 1, which was always the case, they decided to send bills out four times a year, with the first one going out at the end of March. So that gave businesses a chance to get set up and have the year at least a quarter of the way over.

Another thing they did, they put in a vacancy relief clause in this. Actually, it is vacancy relief. If you had a commercial building that you were not renting for six months of the year, you were not charged for the whole year. You could get some tax relief on that under the new system. Another thing they did to try to make this palatable to the business community, they said they would recognize all existing leases. It is difficult to have someone who has a lease signed in a building, say for two years, bring in a new system and expect them to go on the new system right away. So until those leases run out, the new system, when it comes in place, will not affect these businesses.

The amendments in Bill 30 will give the city a new commercial tax system. Also, in Bill 30 there will be provisions that will allow the city and give the city authority to make tax relief bylaws.

MR. JOYCE: A point of order.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Bay of Islands, on a point of order.

MR. JOYCE: Mr. Speaker, I notice the Member for Signal Hill – Quidi Vidi has (inaudible) buttons on. From my understanding of the rules in the House, you are not allowed to have buttons to wear in the House of Assembly. I will just ask for a ruling on that, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: From where the Speaker sits, I know the Member for Signal Hill – Quidi Vidi is wearing something in her lapel. I have no idea whether it is a piece of jewellery or what it may be, because I cannot read it from this distance; however, I would remind members that they are not to wear material to promote or to convey a message that would otherwise be frowned upon in this House.

I take the member on her word, if she is, in fact, wearing something that is prohibited in the House, that she would remove it. If it is a piece of jewellery, obviously it is something very different; but, because I cannot personally see it, I would ask the member, and I will take her on her word, if that is what it is, if she will remove it.

Thank you.

The Member for Kilbride.

MR. DINN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I can see now.

I will go back to what I was saying. Bill 30 also gives the city the authority to make tax relief bylaws –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. DINN: – and this will cover registered charities. The city with the tax relief bylaws will be able to recognize charities that are now renting parts of commercial buildings tax free – or rent free I should say. So now that will be recognized. It will also recognize the fact that the government rents commercial buildings in the City of St. John's and they do not pay taxes. With Bill 30, the city can make tax relief bylaws to cover those situations. St. John's, today, has variable mill rates for businesses. When the new system comes in, there will be only one mill rate for businesses in St. John's. That will be an advantage for people.

To sum up, the minister noted that this is going on in other jurisdictions in the country; this has been done in many places. The city has been dealing with this issue for several years. Much discussion has taken place over the years on this issue. They hired a consultant to do a report on the issue. A law firm was hired to look at the legal ramifications in setting up this new system, and the business community has been involved with this from day one.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. DINN: I encourage all hon. members in the House to approve Bill 30. The city is in favour of this, they are waiting for it, and we have to get on with it.

There are some points I mentioned that the minister will deal with. I will not say much more, other than thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The Member for St. John's West.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. CRUMMELL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am delighted to stand in the House today to speak on Bill 30, An Act To Amend The City Of St. John's Act And The City Of St. John's Municipal Taxation Act. As a resident of the city, as a MHA for St. John's West, I take great pride in this city and I take great pride in good legislation that is going to help this city and the businesses in particular in this city to move forward.

Mr. Speaker, a quick definition of municipalities, I would consider: They are communities of neighbours working co-operatively to deliver basic services, enhance the quality of life of citizens, and foster local business growth. Bill 30 is about streamlining the municipal tax system, which enables the City of St. John's to collect taxes through an equitable and transparent commercial tax system. Working collaboratively with municipalities and consulting with the municipalities is one of our most important priorities as a government. Helping municipalities follow through on the choices they make is important as well, Mr. Speaker. Bill 30 is a direct result of this type of co-operation. The City of St. John's requested these changes. They deemed the present system to be somewhat cumbersome and inefficient. This was supported by the St. John's Board of Trade, as previous members have noted.

Mr. Speaker, when we looked at this legislation, we as a government are continually thinking about our municipalities and their fiscal sustainability. We are currently reviewing criteria for municipal financing and have provided traditional funding, while the Department of Municipal Affairs continues its work regarding the municipal grants formula. Bill 30 is the type of legislation that will help a municipality, in this case the City of St. John's, to better manage their ability to generate revenue and deliver the host of important services they provide to their citizens on a daily basis.

Mr. Speaker, while this new tax structure will be revenue neutral to the businesses impacted, it will ensure the commercial tax structure for the City of John's is clear. It will provide efficiencies to the city in terms of administrative and collection. Basically this bill will eliminate the business tax, the city tax, and the vacant land tax but will allow the city to collect taxes through commercial real property taxes. They are basically combining three taxes into one and streamlining the system, which makes things efficient for everybody involved. From a former business person, myself, I know how important it is to cut through red tape and to make running a business easier so you can focus on what is important: to be profitable.

This will also allow the owner of a commercial property who is leasing property to a business to collect increased fees in order to offset any tax increases. With regard to situations where the Province is a tenant, the lessee can claim vacancy relief as a result of the owner's inability to collect any tax increases. Mr. Speaker, there will also be provisions in the regulations for commercial property owners for vacancy relief if a property is not leased for six months or more.

On that note, Mr. Speaker, as everybody knows, we are experiencing an economic boom in this region. There are many properties in this city, but the commercial vacancy rate is at a very, very low level. That situation does not exist very often right now.

Mr. Speaker, most commercial properties, most business owners that own commercial properties have their properties leased, rented, and are doing very well. In fact, one of the things our government is most proud of, certainly in the last little while, is the facilitating of the growth of our economy, the business sector. Certainly as a St. John's MHA in this particular region, there is so much going on in this region and I want to take a moment to highlight it, just a few things that are happening in St. John's in terms of commercial business development that this tax will have an impact on in terms of making these businesses more profitable, more viable, and streamlining their operations.

For instance, Mr. Speaker, just calling out a few notes here that I have, there are five or six hotels being built in the city as we speak right now. There is a $65 million development in downtown St. John's; they have a new building, East Port Properties Ltd. – the demolition of the former department store there everybody is familiar with on Water Street West; that property is well underway. That development is worth $65 million. There is another $50 million being spent today; it is already started and is in construction. Fortis Properties is working towards a twelve-storey building: 152,000 square feet, class A office space, and 183 parking spaces, at the corner of Springdale Street and New Gower Street. You drive by it every day if you are in that neck of the woods. That is where I go when I leave here and go home; I drive right by it. It is fabulous to see all of these cranes up in the city, all this construction happening. What a great thing happening in our economy.

Mr. Speaker, there is $8 million being spent on Kelsey Drive for a new building that has been identified. It is going to be happening over the next year. They have already started construction on that one. There is a restaurant going up next to the Keg downtown, a $12 million investment. There are going to be two restaurants in that building. Again, it is going to be very applicable to helping these businesses run efficiently with the new tax structure, the new tax regime that the City is going to incorporate.

We have a few other highlights here, Mr. Speaker, before I close and let the minister close off debate. I do not want to be too long. We have already touched on all of the points, but again, I just want to talk about the glowing things that are happening n this region and the happy things that are happening for the citizens of St. John's in particular.

Mr. Speaker, another hotel – $70 million is being spent on Stavanger Drive; it is 129 rooms, 2,500 square feet, meeting spaces combined. The Hampton Inn, it is going to be called. There is another $50 million; construction is starting already, Mr. Speaker. It is going to be on Duckworth Street, with a parking garage, Republic Properties. It is going to be a long-term stay facility. Mr. Speaker, another hotel going up: the SilverBirch Hotel & Resorts on Kenmount Road –

MR. SPEAKER: I remind the member that the bill is about taxation and not –

MR. CRUMMELL: – $21 million. The point being, Mr. Speaker, the economy is doing well. We have all these businesses –

AN HON. MEMBER: Putting in tax dollars.

MR. CRUMMELL: Yes, that tax dollars are going to be generating revenue from; just applying it and calling highlights to the building tax, which is in reference to that. Mr. Speaker, I take your point, and there are a few more as well to go through. There are so many great things happening in this region. The taxation system for the business owners and for the commercial property owners needs to be revamped. We recognize that, the City of St. John's recognizes that, and we are doing the right thing.

Mr. Speaker, in closing, I am just saying again that this will create a more equitable and transparent commercial tax system. There are ways for owners to be compensated for their inability to increase fees. Both the City of St. John's and the Board of Trade support these changes. Mr. Speaker, I encourage all members of this hon. House to support these amendments. It is good for the city; it is a good example for the Province. I am sure we will see similar taxation structures rolled out over time in other jurisdictions.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: If the hon. the Minister of Municipal Affairs speaks now, he will close debate.

The hon. the Minister of Municipal Affairs.

MR. O'BRIEN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I thank my hon. colleagues in regard to their comments and support for the proposed amendments, amendments to An Act to Amend the City of St. John's Act and the City of St. John's Municipal Taxation Act. I am pleased now to close debate in regard to second reading of this proposed bill.

As well, I do support, and I want to make sure that I highlight a couple of things. One thing is that it is revenue neutral to the City of St. John's. In other words, what that means is that there will be no increase in business taxes to the business community of the City of St. John's. It is supported by the business community of the City of St. John's. It is supported by the Board of Trade. The hon. member for Kilbride is right in that a lot of work has gone into this over several years.

I also want to reference, Mr. Speaker, that we are in a constant consultation process with the City of St. John's in regard to their acts, with a view that at some point in time in the future, we might replace the full act itself to reflect changes in our society over the years. That is something that happens on an ongoing basis in government. When I was the Minister of Government Services at the time, I brought forward many acts and amendments to the acts to this floor of the House of Assembly, and in my capacity as the Minister of Municipal Affairs I will do the same.

Also, as well, Mr. Speaker, there is no change in regard to charitable organizations that would occupy a building or a space in the City of St. John's, in that they will be given taxation relief as well, no different than what they did before. The City of St. John's has agreed to that.

As well, with regard to any vacant buildings in the City of St. John's, such as abandoned – I suppose, if you want to put it that way – buildings that are not used, grocery stores or whatever, they will be subject to a tax, yes, but they will be given tax relief under the vacancy portion of these amendments. It will be considered that it would be exempt to a certain degree, with regard to the vacancy portion of that tax.

The business world is aware of that, has supported it, and is quite aware of it. That is the way the tax will work. I want to point out as well, Mr. Speaker, that just because a building is vacant and not used as a grocery store – that was referenced in some of the comments that I heard in this House of Assembly – does not mean that it should not be subject to tax. It has to be subject to a tax, but the City of St. John's will treat it as a vacant building, apply the applicable tax, and apply the applicable relief that should be afforded that particular building, no different than having an office building and having some of the office space not rented. Until it is rented, it will be subject to a tax relief, which will be provided by the City of St. John's. So, it would be no different.

Anyway, Mr. Speaker, with that, I will take my seat in the House and certainly try to answer any questions that might come forward in Committee stage. I think that most of the members in the House of Assembly would support this particular bill, because it is beneficial not only to the City of St. John's but also the business community in the City. It will bring clarity and it will bring continuity in regards to the way the tax is applied now to the City of St. John's. We all agree that they have to have the revenue stream to provide the services that they try to provide to the people and residents of the City of St. John's.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

Motion carried.

CLERK: A bill, An Act To Amend The City of St. John's Act and The City of St. John's Municipal Taxation Act. (Bill 30)

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

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

MR. KENNEDY: Tomorrow, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Tomorrow.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The City of St. John's Act and The City of St. John's Municipal Taxation Act", read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House on tomorrow. (Bill 30)

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

MR. KENNEDY: Mr. Speaker, I call from the Order Paper, Order 10, second reading of Bill 36, An Act Respecting Regional Service Boards In the Province.

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that Bill 36, entitled, An Act Respecting Regional Service Boards In The Province, be now read a second time.

The hon. the Minister of Municipal Affairs.

MR. O'BRIEN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I move, seconded by the Minister of Environment and Conservation, that Bill 36, An Act Respecting Regional Services Boards In The Province, be now read a second time.

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that Bill 36, An Act Respecting Regional Services Boards In The Province, be read a second time.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act Respecting Regional Service Boards In The Province". (Bill 36)

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

MR. O'BRIEN: Mr. Speaker, the Regional Services Board – and again, I take pleasure in rising in my place in this House of Assembly to propose amendments to the Regional Services Board Act. There has been a fair bit of work going into these amendments, and also participation and consultation with municipalities right across the Province in regard to putting forward these amendments and developing these amendments.

The Regional Services Board Act certainly facilitates the provision of municipal services in a way that it achieves economic scale and allows for integrated regional approaches to service delivery, which is so important in our society today in regard to providing services that municipalities try to provide to their residents that live in all the communities in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Sometimes in regard to those municipalities, even though they have revenue streams outside of the investments that the provincial government makes to all our municipalities on a yearly basis, trying to support them to the best of our ability in regard to the infrastructure requirements and the services they provide its citizens; they as well have to look at economies at scale. They have to look at regionalization and getting the best bang for their dollar in regard to better ways to do the business that they have to do to provide that particular service. The Regional Services Board Act certainly facilitates that provision of municipal services.

Mr. Speaker, Regional Services Board is mandated to provide those municipal services on a regional basis. That is what I am getting at; this is all about regionalization, about providing the best service they can possibly provide, taking into account all of the municipalities within that particular region, then supplying that service at a better cost to the municipalities in general in regard to the region we are talking about. These services can include water supply, sewage disposal, solid waste disposal, police and ambulance services, animal control, public transportation, recreational facilities, and fire protection, Mr. Speaker.

Currently there are three boards that have been created in the Province: East, Central and the Northern Peninsula. These amendments to the Regional Service Boards Act will provide a great consistency between municipal councils and the regional service boards themselves.

Amendments will support the continued implementation of the Provincial Waste Management Strategy, Mr. Speaker, one of the most important strategies that has ever been tabled and implemented by a government in Newfoundland and Labrador. I firmly believe in it. I firmly believe in our responsibility to protect our environment for future generations. As the implementation of the strategy continues, there are going to be additional boards created to correspond with the establishment of the waste management regions.

Mr. Speaker, the purpose of the Provincial Waste Management Strategy is to ensure effective and efficient management of solid waste in Newfoundland and Labrador. It is incumbent on us as a government, incumbent on municipalities, and incumbent on the citizens of the Province to take that very seriously. We only have one environment and one environment only. Once we destroy it will be gone, or we do it, protect it, make sure it is there for future generations, our children's children, and the people who will come after us, and make sure this remains a pristine Province as it has been since the beginning of time.

There are five goals framing the strategy, Mr. Speaker. Number one is to reduce material going to the landfill by 50 per cent, reduce the number of waste disposal sites by 80 per cent, eliminate open burning of waste at disposal sites and phase out waste incinerators, phase out unlined landfills, and have full, Province-wide, modern waste management by 2020. We have made great strides in regard to that implementation process. We are well underway of achieving our mandate to have full, Province-wide, modern waste management by 2020, Mr. Speaker.

Approximately two-thirds of the Province's population is currently disposing of its waste in a lined landfill at either Norris Arm or Robin Hood Bay. Close to 50 per cent of the Province's population also has access to recycling facilities. In that we have come a long way since we first implemented this strategy. We have seen great strides, great participation, great partnership, and I thank all the municipalities in Newfoundland and Labrador for working with us as a government for a common goal to protect out environment. They recognize, as well as the provincial government, how important it is to protect that environment for our future generations, Mr. Speaker.

Through the strategy, Mr. Speaker, the provincial government is working with over twenty regional or sub-regional committees, our board, Province-wide, made up of local community leaders. Mr. Speaker, they are all made up of community leaders and leaders who have given themselves freely in regard to the positions they hold, mainly on a volunteer basis. Very few of them get any kind of a stipend in regard to the countless hours that they spend offering themselves up as community leaders – and I thank them for that too, not only from my own perspective as the Minister of Municipal Affairs but also the provincial government, and our Premier. Because she certainly had a background in municipal leadership herself, before she entered the world of provincial politics. So she understands clearly what it takes to be a community leader and the countless hours and the time required to make sure that the community is working well and trying to provide the optimum service level that you possibly can provide to the people who live in these particular communities right across Newfoundland and Labrador.

There is no doubt that regional service delivery makes waste management affordable, Mr. Speaker, and it is important to have an appropriate entity – regional service boards with proper legislative authority to advance the Provincial Waste Management Strategy with each respective region.

Mr. Speaker, amendments to the regional service boards will include, number one, the establishment of sub-regions in a region in order to define the geographical areas from which board members will be drawn. Number two, the appointment of board members for four years, which is consistent with the terms of municipal councillors. Number three, consistency with the administrative provisions of the Municipalities Act, 1999, regarding board vacancies, conflict of interest, privileged meetings, rules of procedure for voting, committees, and finance provisions, expansion of the authority of boards to include the operation of solid waste management systems, and clarity regarding the charging of user fees.

Mr. Speaker, amendments are the result of a legislative review by the Department of Municipal Affairs and will incorporate suggestions brought forward by municipal leaders. Also, Mr. Speaker, the vast majority of our municipal leaders volunteer, as I said before, their time, and we thank them for that. We are cognizant of their contribution and the need for consistency in how they operate.

These amendments in regard to the Regional Service Boards Act have been worked on for a fair amount of time now in consultation with our municipal leaders across the Province. I would like to thank them for their participation as community leaders in itself but also the work and hard work they have given of themselves in regard to the implementation of the Provincial Solid Waste Management Strategy, Mr. Speaker. As well, I thank them for their support in regard to that strategy. I would also like to thank them for recognizing the importance of that particular strategy. I firmly believe it is one of the most important strategies and most worthwhile strategies ever implemented by a provincial government when it comes to the longevity of our Province and the pristine nature of our Province as compared to elsewhere in the world.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I will take my seat in this House of Assembly. I welcome any comments from my colleagues. We will continue debate in second reading of amendments to the Regional Service Boards Act, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. JOYCE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Once again, we see a piece of legislation that is going to affect a lot of people in Newfoundland and Labrador. Bill 36 is a regional service boards – it is going to impact a lot of people all throughout Newfoundland and Labrador, Mr. Speaker. As we know, this bill will revise the law respecting regional service boards in the Province and create a new Regional Service Boards Act, 2012.

Mr. Speaker, what we are doing is the old act that we had, we are moving it aside and the government is creating a new regional service board. The regional service board was adopted in 1990. It was many, many years, I think sixteen or seventeen years later before it was actually proclaimed, if I am correct. It was a long while before it was proclaimed. It took a while to come in, Mr. Speaker, but it was finally proclaimed.

The act was proclaimed, Mr. Speaker, to create regional service boards, mainly as the minister mentioned, for the waste management strategy in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Mr. Speaker, we all know about the waste management strategy and it is a good opportunity for me to bring up about the waste management strategy for Western Newfoundland. I truly and honestly feel that the waste management strategy for Western Newfoundland is a bit behind the rest of the Province. They ran into some difficulties. I know the former chair, I think it was Gil Smart; I think Mr. Smart resigned because of a lack of having any real productive things moving forward for the waste management strategy for the Western Region. I have asked questions in the House of Assembly on this, Mr. Speaker, and this is one area of concern.

The board for the Western Region takes in Port aux Basques, all the way out past Deer Lake, some parts down on the Northern Peninsula also. It is a vast area. It goes into Stephenville and Port au Port, all that area. It is a vast area, Mr. Speaker. It is a huge area for a waste management board. Mr. Speaker, we need some commitments from the government and some concrete help to move this forward. I said it on many occasions and I will say it again, it is great to have some goals set but we also need to ensure that we are going to implement the boards and give them the funds and the ability to move forward, Mr. Speaker. Out on the West Coast this is a hot topic. I was at a Great Humber Joint Council meeting several weeks ago and this, once again, was brought up by some members. I urge the minister and I urge the government to give whatever assistance is needed for the western waste management board to move it forward because we are lagging behind, Mr. Speaker, out on the West Coast.

As I mentioned, Mr. Speaker, there are three regional boards. There is one in Eastern. The one in Central is up and running. We have seen many pictures of it, Mr. Speaker, it is running very well. It is operating very well. There is even some discussion about moving the waste from the Western to the Central land site. I know the Great Humber Joint Council is against this move. I urge the minister to get his officials to sit down with the Great Humber Joint Council, which encompasses most municipalities in the greater Humber region, Mr. Speaker, to discuss this and explain the rationale why it is leaning towards moving to the Central, and give them the opportunity to say why they feel there should be a regional board set up in the Western Region. That is one way. I know the minister committed to sit down with the Great Humber Joint Council, and I am sure he will. That is one of the concerns that is going to be brought up to him about establishing a waste management board for the Western Region and not bringing the waste to the Central Region. I just mention that to the minister, because it will be discussed when he meets with the Great Humber Joint Council, Mr. Speaker.

Since the regional service boards were consistently made of municipality councillors and local service districts, both the Municipalities Act, 1999, and the Regional Service Boards Act need to be as consistent as possible. I agree with that, Minister; you need to bring it into uniform so we are all working on the same legislation, to help move it forward as much as we can.

Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned earlier, the distribution for the West Coast is big. It is a large area. It encompasses a lot of municipalities. The geography, the history, and in some cases, some of the differences, part of living in different areas, make it difficult for the Western Region, Mr. Speaker, but we need to find a solution for it. We definitely need to find a solution.

Mr. Speaker, under Bill 36, the minister will have the authority to appoint or dismiss members of the board. I am not sure how the minister will set up criteria for dismissing someone from the board. If it is for moving away, losing a council, or some other reason, we have to ensure that is not because someone is speaking out for some reason. We have to put some safeguards in there that if people are appointed to the board, if they are to be dismissed, there has to be some reason to be dismissed instead of, Mr. Speaker, leaving it to discretion. That will also lead to a lot of confidence in the municipalities.

Mr. Speaker, of course in Committee I will ask the minister some questions on this, and I use the Western Region, for example. Because of the vast geographic region of the Western Region, under this act the minister will have the authority to establish wards within the board structure itself. Once again, Mr. Speaker, this is something I would need to ask a few questions on. You have to say: How many wards? What constitutes a new ward? Will the new wards be approved by, in this case, most municipalities that are in the region?

Mr. Speaker, we have to ask a few questions on that aspect of it, because we have to know what constitutes a ward, when will you set up a ward within the board itself, and why would you set it up; is it because of geography, population? I would assume it is mainly because of the geography out on the West Coast, if there are wards to be set up. That is one of the things I will be asking during the Committee stage.

Also, Mr. Speaker, the bill allows the term of regional service board members to be extended to allow members of council to sit on regional boards to coincide with their council term of office. Mr. Speaker, what we have to be careful of here – and I agree with that in concept; if there are eight people on the board, and I give a hypothetical situation that we have to be very careful of: what if there were eight people who decided not to run? Then you have a board with no experience, expertise, knowledge, or history. That is something that we have to try to figure out; if there are six people on the board, we have to find some way to – even if you can keep one or two around just for the history of it, or for a certain period of time, just to have an education period for it, Mr. Speaker. I understand the concept is if you are elected you could sit on the board.

Mr. Speaker, the next part I will speak about is the bill states that the regional service boards will – board terms will have no expiry date. Members may remain on the board until they are reappointed or replaced by the minister. Once again, I mention this: what if they are off the council? Will they stay on, will they move off, will they automatically be gone?

Mr. Speaker, that is one of the things; if there is an election – I will just give you an example. Say I give the minister an example. I say to the minister, I know during one election there were people who lost the election, but there was no one appointed for the board up to eight and nine months after. I ask the minister if somewhere in this act, the minister can appoint a time period to have re-appointees made to the board. That is very important if the minister is going to – if people are off, and we needed people appointed, is there some way within the act, minister, you could put in the regulations that you have to be appointed in a certain period of time after someone loses an election? There are times when it goes on for seven, eight, and nine months and there are people not on the board, Mr. Speaker. That is a concern.

Also I noticed here the fees. The bill will give regional service boards the authority to charge towns, LSDs, and unincorporated areas a fee for the service of regional service boards in providing the region. Of course, we have to give them that authority, because someone has to ensure that there are funds paid to ensure that our waste is taken care of properly, Mr. Speaker.

I see the changes here from user fee to assessment fees, Mr. Speaker. Of course, this gives the board more authority to assess fees for all unincorporated or municipalities within the service board, instead of having what we call the user's fee, because someone could say: well, we are not using it; therefore, we do not have to pay any fees. So, I understand why you are making that change in the act, Mr. Speaker, and ensuring that it is in the act.

Mr. Speaker, there will be some questions that I will ask the minister during the Committee stage. I will take my seat now, Mr. Speaker, and wait for Committee stage to get a few answers that I want.

Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER (Verge): The hon. the Member for Cape St. Francis.

MR. K. PARSONS: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

Thank you, Minister, for asking me to say a few words on this bill, Bill 36, An Act Respecting Regional Service Boards in the Province.

Mr. Speaker, it is very important that we, as a government, make sure that our municipalities get the best bang for their buck and make sure that we spend our money wisely. As small towns all over the Province have different services they want to supply to their constituents and to the residents of their communities, it is very important that we get the best things that we can for our constituents. As a former Mayor of the Town of the Flatrock, I saw firsthand how important it was that the services you can provide to the people in the town, that you can do a much better job when you get together with the other towns in your area to supply a regional service.

Mr. Speaker, look at different things that we can provide. For example, recreation, small towns have a hard job getting things together for their children and whatnot, and everybody wants to supply the greatest services that they can. In order to get the teams together and get everything together, you need numbers, and a regional approach is the way to do it. That is how we can get our towns – and our towns are listening to what this government is saying, because the towns are coming to government, they are coming to me, they are coming to the minister, and they are saying: listen, we want to do a regional approach. We want to supply services to our constituents on a regional approach. A regional way to do – for example, I had three towns in just recently looking at doing garbage collection together. They realized that if towns come together they can give a better service to their people, and they also can do it at a better price. So, it is very important that we do things with a regional approach.

Now, Mr. Speaker, this act was proclaimed, like the minister said earlier, in 2004. It was on the go, basically, since the 1990s. So there are a lot of things that we need to do to improve and make sure that we are doing things properly. If you look at what the regional board's mandate is, it is basically to supply water and supply services, solid waste, police, ambulance services, animal control, public transportation, recreation facilities and fire protection. I look in my area, and I look at fire protection. I have to thank the minister, we just had an announcement for a new fire truck in the Town of Pouch Cove, and they supply a joint service with the Town of Bauline. Those two towns are coming together, and we are supplying things like fire trucks and giving better services and giving better equipment to our towns so they can supply it, but it is easier for the towns to come on a regional approach. The minister looks at a regional approach from the towns and says yes, and if it is regional we can supply better service. He is all for it.

Mr. Speaker, there are three boards. When you look at it there is Eastern, Central, and the Northern Peninsula. If you look at the geography of Newfoundland, it is huge area in which you talk about regional boards. A part of what the amendments are going to do here, the new amendments that the minister is introducing, is sub regions within those regions. I know the demands on the Burin Peninsula and the demands in the Bonavista Peninsula are probably a whole lot different from what the demands are in my area. It is important that everybody gets together and can realize that: okay, the problems that we are having on the Burin Peninsula are completely different than the problems that we are having in Torbay and Flatrock and that area. It is important that we do have these sub regions in different regions.

Mr. Speaker, I heard the hon. member across the way talk about the four-year term on these boards. It is important that we stay consistent with the municipal councils, because a lot of people who serve on municipal councils do it, I am going to give four years, or I am going to give eight years of my time and volunteer. They are volunteers, and once you get on a municipal council in small communities it is hard to get volunteers sometimes to sit on these boards or whatnot. So it is important that we stay consistent with what the people are volunteering. They are volunteering to go on councils, because I know in my area only one town basically pays for the – in the rest of the towns it is just a volunteer basis.

Mr. Speaker, it is important that we also stay consistent with the Municipalities Act when it comes to conflict of interest, meetings with different procedures, voting, committees and financial provisions. Mr. Speaker, this is basically making this board consistent with what we are doing in our towns.

Mr. Speaker, the main reason for this bill today is basically with our provincial waste management strategy. As the minister just spoke, he talked about what we are doing. I am not really sure what is happening on the West Coast or Central, but I know what is happening in my area. Since 2007, when we first introduced this, $200 million in the Provincial Waste Management Strategy, Mr. Speaker, that is huge. What it is doing, Mr. Speaker, I look at in the area that I am from. One time there were four different dumps in a very small area. Within twenty-five kilometres of that area there were four dumps. Mr. Speaker, there was garbage all over the place. There were plastic bags. There was dirt. If the dump gate was closed, there was garbage out in front of it when people came to it.

Mr. Speaker, on a regular Saturday, every second or third Saturday, I have an opportunity to go to Robin Hood Bay. It is unbelievable when you go down there because the line up of cars and the line up of people who are there. I know there is a friend of mine, I think it is every Saturday morning he just gets up and he has to go to Robin Hood Bay. He goes and gets garbage, gets a coffee at Tims, and goes down and lines up.

Mr. Speaker, when you look at it, it was years ago when we went to Robin Hood Bay when we were up to our knees in mud. It was dirt, nothing but seagulls all over the place. The place was an absolute mess. To go down there now and see what facility –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. K. PARSONS: – we have in place down there now, it is absolutely amazing. You go down there, you have your cardboard you can put it off into one pile. During the summertime if you have paint cans, whatnot, you bring them to another pile. The people are using it –

AN HON. MEMBER: There are not many gulls there now either.

MR. K. PARSONS: There are not many gulls down there. There are no gulls down there hardly at all any more.

When the people are using it, Mr. Speaker – and we look at some of the things that we were planning. The goals of the department was to reduce landfills by 50 per cent. I will say to the minister, down our way you have reduced it by 100 per cent. To look at the sites across the Province, reduce it by 80 per cent. Mr. Speaker, even if you look at what we were doing in burning garbage and the incinerators that were around then, I think there was one up in Holyrood or some place up there. Every time you went by there was a smell. This is some of the stuff that we are doing.

Mr. Speaker, this strategy, I do not know how far we are on with it but it was supposed to be fully implemented by 2020. I am sure, Minister, we are well on our way of getting this done. Mr. Speaker, two-thirds currently are using either Norris Arm or Robin Hood Bay. Like I said if you went down to Robin Hood Bay today, it is an absolute pleasure to go down there. It is great to see what our government is doing to protect the environment and to take all the garbage and all the dirt that was around in our woods and give people an opportunity to go to a place where we can go down and sit down in our car and listen to Jigs and Reels on the radio and have a Tim Horton's coffee while you are waiting to get through it; it is a complete pleasure.

Mr. Speaker, I will sit down now and tell that this is a great bill and it is a great strategy that our government is doing with the Provincial Waste Management.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The Member for St. John's East.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MURPHY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It gives me pleasure to get up again, rise in the House, and speak to Bill 36 and its implications positive, negative, or either way. Again, I can see that there are some pretty important changes when it comes to regional development boards. There are a couple of concerns when you talk about it, but you cannot speak to any negatives in the bill without speaking to some of the positive initiatives out there on the part of the volunteers who serve the most time on these boards.

The one that really comes to mind is NorPen and how successful NorPen has been. I think it is thirteen or fourteen communities up there that pool their resources and they are all pulling on the same rope. They have become a real success story, as well as a couple of other regional boards out there, but I wanted to make notice of NorPen out there.

We recognize the importance of, for example, in the section of the act where he talks about the merging of elections versus the appointments to the boards. We feel there is no sense if some people have to be councillors who are appointed to the boards, for example, if they decide to quit serving on council or if an election changes things, that they would remain in a volunteer position on these boards and represent the towns and communities that they are. It is just as well, seeing as how they have to be councillors and such, that once their term of office is finished they would be finished doing their volunteer duties as well as their council duties at the same time. There is no sense carrying on and leaving somebody with the burden whenever they finish up of carrying on those duties as well. We can see the positive in that. Merging of the times, of course, gives everybody a little bit more time to deal with things. Of course, if they continue to serve, then it serves as a little piece of longevity there and serves as a little bit of stability. We look at that as a positive move.

The waste disposal costs are a concern for some regions. No doubt the Department of Municipal Affairs and in some cases the Multi-Materials Stewardship Board are going to be facing some challenges when it comes to garbage disposal, and even recycling. I would certainly like to see the Department of Municipal Affairs, for example, promote a little bit more of a recycling initiative in some of these areas, besides the work they have been doing, to be promoting recycling in these areas a little bit more, and perhaps to get into composting and that sort of thing to keep down on the loads of garbage to help mitigate costs. That is a pretty important fact to bring out and we would like to see a bigger initiative on the part of Municipal Affairs when it comes to that.

I am glad to see that the regional service boards are coming under the Municipal Affairs Act. Before, they were a separate entity all their own, but now they get a sense of being in contact with government a little bit more. I look at that as being a positive thing. Even though it might increase the minister's workload, I am pretty sure that he is going to be up for the challenges that are going to be brought in underneath that jurisdiction. It is probably one of these cases that he has already had his hands on it.

The only concern, directly, that needs to be brought out here is they talk about the unincorporated areas; it gives the boards the authority to charge fees. I can see that there might be a bit of an administration problem when it comes to this particular point. That is the fact that cabin areas are in some of these districts. I think that cabins – being for only for part-year use in some cases by some people, there are still some problems that I hear about every now and then with cabin owners; when they are not occupying their cabins, they end up with getting bills for service and everything like that, even though the cabin has been unoccupied for months. I think that is probably a small administrative thing that the regional service boards can overcome, but I think that is a challenge that no doubt that they will be met with. I think that it can be overcome.

I do not see too much else in this. Again, a bit hats-off to the volunteers that are out there. The only other challenge when it comes to speaking about volunteers and being able to find staffing for some of these boards, the last thing I will put in mind is that we do have municipal elections coming up. Over the past couple of years – in regard to some of the problems that some of the smaller municipalities are facing with declining populations and that, it is going to be hard; it is going to be a real challenge for the Department of Municipal Affairs, or even some of these towns and unincorporated areas, to find people to serve. Where the numbers have been down – I think around the last municipal election rounds that happened in the Province, I think they managed to fill out directly about 55 per cent of the councils in and around the Province. There is a real problem here with maintaining the integrity, if you will, if I can say it that way, in regard to the people that are serving in these communities.

I would really like to add in the thought that I hope the Department of Municipal Affairs and the provincial government, hand in hand, are going to get out there and try to do their best to recruit people to get in, serve on these councils, and to take up the challenges with regard to the regional service boards.

We know that the regional service boards have got a lot of work to do. In most cases, 99 per cent of the cases, it is all volunteer. Again, hats off to them; hopefully government will be proceeding forthwith on a program of recruitment and encouraging people to run and, at the same time as that, making things a little bit easier as regards to having these boards fully filled out.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. LANE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It certainly is a pleasure for me to stand in this hon. House today to speak to Bill 36, An Act Respecting Regional Service Boards in the Province, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I can certainly speak from experience when it comes to this issue, having served eight years in the City of Mount Pearl as a municipal councillor and deputy mayor. I had the opportunity, certainly, to experience a lot of regional co-operation. Quite frankly, Mr. Speaker, the City of Mount Pearl has always, always stood for regional co-operation. We believe that we can maintain our own identity and we can co-operate with our neighbours. That has always been what we have maintained, and that is where we will be going into the future, Mr. Speaker.

Now, Mr. Speaker, there is a lot of co-operation that occurs certainly in our region, between the City of Mount Pearl –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. LANE: – City of St. John's, Town of Paradise, Mr. Speaker; we co-operate as it relates to the –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl South, to continue.

MR. LANE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I certainly thank you for the protection from the Member for Cartwright – L'Anse au Clair.

Anyway, Mr. Speaker, as I was saying, we co-operate – the City of Mount Pearl co-operates as it relates to the Robin Hood Bay landfill. We have the wastewater facility down at the south side, and we have the regional water system, Mr. Speaker, at Bay Bulls Big Pond. Certainly there is a lot of co-operation that occurs there.

We also co-operate with the City of St. John's, the City of Mount Pearl does, as it relates to regional fire, a system which is working quite well, Mr. Speaker. The City of Mount Pearl actually co-operates with the Town of Paradise on animal control as well.

So, Mr. Speaker –

MS JONES: (Inaudible).

MR. LANE: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the Member for Cartwright – L'Anse au Clair is finished, so I can continue.

MS JONES: I am not.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. LANE: You are not quite finished? Okay, well, Mr. Speaker –

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl South.

MR. LANE: I would ask, Mr. Speaker, would you like for me to sit, so the Member for Cartwright – L'Anse au Clair can continue on?

MS JONES: (Inaudible).

MR. LANE: Okay.

Anyway, I am going to try to continue on, Mr. Speaker, despite all the disruption from the Member for Cartwright – L'Anse au Clair.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. LANE: Anyway, before the continued interruption and folly here, Mr. Speaker – anyway, I am going to carry on here now. I am going to try to at least.

Mr. Speaker, as I said, I am well aware of regional co-operation and what that means to the citizens. In addition to my role on the City of Mount Pearl as a city councillor, I also served on the Board of Directors with Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador and served as the Avalon director there. Mr. Speaker, in doing so, I had the opportunity to interact with town councils all across the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, particularly as it related to the Avalon region.

There are a number of joint councils that exist on the Avalon. You have the Northeast Avalon Joint Councils, you have the Trinity Bay North Joint Mayors, you have the Conception Bay North Joint Councils, and there is the Isthmus Joint Councils, Southern Shore, and St. Mary's Bay as well. I can tell you, one of the themes that I have certainly seen over the last few years as it relates to municipalities through MNL, through all these joint council meetings and so on, Mr. Speaker, is the need for these communities to follow the lead that is taking place in the capital region, and to co-operate on municipal services.

Mr. Speaker, this bill, in particular, is going to be dealing with waste management primarily. Now, Mr. Speaker, as was said by my colleague earlier, when we talk about regional services, the things that we are contemplating here, that you talk about here are things such as: water supply, sewage disposal, solid waste disposal, police, ambulance services, animal control, public transportation, recreation facilities, fire protection. Mr. Speaker, I would certainly hope that this is going to be a start of more things to come. I know in speaking to mayors and councillors of municipalities all across the Island, and as I said, the theme that I have been hearing from them, Mr. Speaker, is that the time has come for co-operation to bring a lot of these services. In order to expand these services, in order to be able to provide all of these quality services to its citizens, there is a need for those municipalities to pool their resources in order to provide them.

This particular amendment to this act, Mr. Speaker, as I said, is going to deal –

MS JONES: (Inaudible).

MR. LANE: Anyway, Mr. Speaker, I was so rudely interrupted again – I am going to try once again – by the Member for Cartwright – L'Anse au Clair.

Mr. Speaker, we do have three regional service boards in place now, and they are primarily dealing with waste management. That would be Eastern Regional Service Board; there is a Central Regional Service –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. LANE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for your protection from the Member for Cartwright – L'Anse au Clair once again.

Mr. Speaker, the Central Regional Service Board and NorPen; Mr. Speaker, it is my understanding that NorPen also currently has the ability to deal with fire protection as well. I think they do combine their efforts in certain communities on the Northern Peninsula.

Mr. Speaker, what this act is going to do, it is going to do a number of things. First of all, under these current boards which exist, and I think it is my understanding that over time we may see more of these regional service boards, that this is being contemplated, Mr. Speaker. These boards deal with waste disposal and waste disposal only. One of the changes that is going to be made here under this amendment, Mr. Speaker, is that it is also going to give these particular regional service boards the ability to also manage both the pick up of the waste and it is also going to give them the ability to deal with things like recycling. In a nutshell, when we talk about pick up and so on, Mr. Speaker, that means in theory that –

MS JONES: That has nothing to do with (inaudible), Mr. Speaker, it is irrelevant. It has nothing to do with it.

MR. LANE: Mr. Speaker, I am going to try to continue on again, once again after the constant interruptions by the Member for Cartwright – L'Anse au Clair. I am going to have to ask you for some protection here very shortly from her comments, Mr. Speaker, because obviously she does not want me to be able to speak on an issue which is important to municipalities. I would have thought, Mr. Speaker, that the Member for Cartwright – L'Anse au Clair, she has lots of municipalities in her district like everyone else but obviously she has no concern for doing things to improve municipalities in her district. I certainly do.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. LANE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I would ask the member to speak to the bill.

The Member for Mount Pearl South.

MR. LANE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I have been trying to speak from the bill –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. LANE: – but I constantly get interrupted.

AN HON. MEMBER: By who?

MR. LANE: By the Member for Cartwright – L'Anse au Clair.

Anyway, Mr. Speaker, what is going to happen here is there is a definition which we currently have in the act. It talks about waste disposal. Waste disposal is going to be changed to waste management systems. By changing it from waste disposal to waste management systems, it will give the regional service boards that are now running these three landfill sites the ability not only to manage the actual landfill site and the disposal, but also to be able to get into picking up the garbage, Mr. Speaker, and also to be able to get into things like recycling and so on like we are seeing happening in this region, which is very, very successful I might add.

Mr. Speaker, another change which is taking place here –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS JONES: (Inaudible) that is why you should amalgamate.

MR. LANE: Anyway, I hear the Member for Cartwright – L'Anse au Clair saying that we should amalgamate. I wonder: Is that the Liberal Party's position, that Mount Pearl should be amalgamated? Because it is not this government's. That is what she said. We all know what happened with Southlands, Mr. Speaker, so it is not surprising.

Anyway, trying to carry on, we are also going to be formalizing a process for the minister to divide the region into sub-regions. The purpose for dividing it into sub-regions, Mr. Speaker, is that when he is appointing councillors to the board of the regional boards he can do so on a regional basis so that all areas within the region have equal say and equal representation. Not all municipalities –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. LANE: Thank you once again, Mr. Speaker.

As I was saying, it is going to give the minister the ability to be able to appoint people throughout the region so each part of the region has equal representation. In a region there could be smaller municipalities, some larger ones, and so on. It is going to be able to provide a mix so we have representation from all areas so all municipalities can get their points across, Mr. Speaker.

Another change that is going to occur has been alluded to already. Currently there is a two-year term with the ability to apply for two more years. Under this change, Mr. Speaker, the appointment would be for four years, which makes all the sense in the world when you consider the fact that municipalities are elected for four years. So now, once you have a new council elected – and all councils, certainly, in the Province are elected on the same date every four years – when the new council comes to fruition, we will know who is there and then the minister can appoint people throughout the region, on a sub-regional basis, be able to appoint them to the board. Then you know that you have that continuity there for four years. Then, after four years, their term is up, the council term is up, and then, depending on the results of the following municipal election and so on, you may appoint the same people back or you may have to appoint some new people, Mr. Speaker. I think that makes all the sense in the world.

The other point and the last point I want to speak to – and this has been raised as well – are the fees, Mr. Speaker. The change that we are seeing here is that currently the act calls it a user fee, and now the term is going to be just changed from user fee to fee. That is very significant, Mr. Speaker, because the argument you had from certain individuals and so on in certain parts of the Province – perhaps with local service districts and so on – the argument would be made that: Why should we pay the fee? Why should we pay a used fee? We are not using your landfill. We are not using it, so we should not have to pay the fee. So now what we are saying, under this, this is going to give greater authority to the board, it is going to give greater clarity that if you live in a region where that service is available to you, whether you choose to use it or you choose not to use it, that is totally up to you. I have heard that argument from people over the years where someone would say: Well, why build a new hockey arena? I do not play hockey. Why build a new swimming pool? I do not swim. Why put in a walking trail? I do not like to go for walks, and so on, and you can get all these arguments.

Any service that a municipality or regional authority provides, Mr. Speaker, we all know that not everybody is going to avail of every service. Some people will use some services and some will not. At the end of the day, for the greater good of the community, we need these services, and these services have to be paid for. Everybody should pay their fair share. Nobody should ride for free, that is the reality of it – nobody should ride for free. If a service is being provided, you should pay for that service, you should pay your fair share. This particular change, Mr. Speaker, is going to give the regional service board the ability to certainly eliminate that argument that I do not use it, so I should not pay for it. Now everybody is going to have to pay for the service that is available to them.

Mr. Speaker, I think that these are very positive changes. I certainly support them 100 per cent. I really believe, in my experience both on the board with Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador as a councillor and in meeting with councillors all across the Province – and councillors and mayors in Labrador too, I might add – that I certainly am concerned about their well-being as well. There are good people in Labrador and there are good councillors in Labrador. I support them as well, Mr. Speaker.

I think this is all-around good legislation. I think they will be very supportive of this. Again, I want to say that I think it is a great start dealing with the waste; let us deal with that first, but there are so many more regional services that can be implemented over time where municipalities can get together and get the best bang for their buck, if you would. That is in the best interests of everybody, Mr. Speaker.

I certainly applaud the minister and the department for bringing forth what I consider a very progressive piece of legislation, Mr. Speaker. I also want to acknowledge and thank the Member for Cartwright – L'Anse au Clair for finally showing me a little respect and giving me the opportunity to speak.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

If the Minister of Municipal Affairs speaks now, he will close the debate.

The hon. the Minister of Municipal Affairs.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. O'BRIEN: Yes, Mr. Speaker.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to stand in my place in the House today and just close debate in regard to an Act to Amend the Regional Service Boards Act.

I certainly welcomed and listened intently to all of the members that commented on this bill. I certainly welcome their support. I think it is a very important amendment to the Regional Service Boards Act. There has been a great lot of consultation in place in regard to the creation of these regions and sub-regions, and how important it is for municipalities from a continuity point of view.

A couple of things that were said, in regard to the comments of the Official Opposition and the Third Party, regarding to solid waste management in general; one was that the hon. Member for the Bay of Islands had some concerns in regard to the western portion of the Province being a little bit behind the rest of the Province. That is true, Mr. Speaker, in regard to that.

I also want to comment on the strides that have been taken by the western board, or the western committee, in regard to the implementation of that particular strategy on that part of the Island. I compliment them in regard to the great work that they have done up to this date and also the amount of work that is being done, completed, and accomplished over the last only few months, Mr. Speaker. They have come a long ways in a very short period of time.

We cannot have each and every part of the Province exactly the same at all times; it requires a fair investment by the provincial government with regard to the facilities and the infrastructure that are required. We have approximately $145 million invested to date in regard to the two facilities, one in Norris Arm, and Robin Hood Bay, very important investments. You just cannot have each and every one of the regions the same.

What I will say to the hon. member in regard to western, I understand the views of the Great Humber Council – I just cannot remember the exact terminology; what I will say to the hon. member is that when the final decision, in regard to the implementation of exactly what will be invested in or not invested in, will be the most cost-effective solution to solid waste management and to the householders in general. That is what it will be. We are working to have something that is affordable to the people of the Province, affordable to that region, and affordable to the householders. That is what is important: to make sure that they can afford something. We protect their environment in the long run.

Also, in regard to some other comments, I firmly believe that everyone in this Province, as citizens of Newfoundland and Labrador, has the same responsibility: that is the responsibility of protecting our environment. If that includes cabins or cottages and the disposal of waste concerning those particular cottages – I have one myself – and cabins that kind of stuff, well, that is the responsibility that I take seriously. I would hope that each and every person in Newfoundland and Labrador would take it seriously, taking that into account, because it is our environment. We only have one, so the responsibility is on us as the citizens of this time in history to take that seriously and to protect our environment.

There is a cost to doing everything and that is one of those costs. Just because you have a cabin, or just because you have a cottage, you just cannot divest of your responsibility to the environment. That is a cost and that will be determined by the people that are sitting on these regional boards and sub-regions; they will be making decisions thereof. I am sure that each and every one of them have cottages, too, or a good many of them do, and they will apply the applicable fee, and it will be fair to everyone. I commend them for the great work they are doing.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I will take my seat in this House of Assembly. I welcome any other comments, or any questions I will try to answer in Committee stage, as we move these two important pieces of legislation through this House of Assembly.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Is it the pleasure of the House that Bill 36 be now read a second time?

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

Carried.

CLERK: A bill, An Act Respecting Regional Service Boards In The Province. (Bill 36)

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

This bill has now been read the second time.

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

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

On motion, a bill, "An Act Respecting Regional Service Boards In The Province", read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House on tomorrow. (Bill 36)

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

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I call from the Order Paper, Order 9, second reading of Bill 35, An Act To Amend The Municipal Affairs Act.

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

MR. O'BRIEN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I move, seconded by the Minister of Education, that Bill 35, An Act To Amend The Municipal Affairs Act, be now read a second time.

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that Bill 35, An Act To Amend The Municipal Affairs Act, be now read the second time.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Municipal Affairs Act". (Bill 35)

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

MR. O'BRIEN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

In regard to this, An Act To Amend The Municipal Affairs Act, this is caused I guess – if you want to put it that way, we have to do this to recognize what we have just discussed in the House of Assembly, an act to amend the regional service boards. Mr. Speaker, this brings consistency to the oversight capacity of the Minister of Municipal Affairs. The Municipal Affairs Act authorizes the Minister of Municipal Affairs to have general oversight of municipalities in the Province.

The oversight really includes the authority to inspect all municipal records and documents, and to provide directives to municipal authorities, and to remove from office members of a municipal authority who conduct the affairs of the organization in an improper manner. It gives an oversight perspective to the minister through the Municipal Affairs Act. That is required now that we are considering the amendments to the act of the Regional Service Boards Act, Mr. Speaker. This is only just really – I suppose you could use the word housekeeping but it is not substantive in regard to the nature. It is a necessary piece we had to bring forward to bring consistency to the overall working relationship we have within Municipal Affairs with our regional boards and with our municipalities, and provides that oversight service to the municipal councils and regional boards.

The minister would have the authority to remove councillors from office for misconduct. It is not frequent, but it will be available where circumstances warrant. It is also suspected the authority will be exercised in a similar manner with respect to regional service board members, Mr. Speaker. This gives accountability and consistency to the process. It gives clarity to the municipal leaders in themselves and who offer themselves on a volunteer basis to provide the services to the citizens of the communities they live in. I commend them again for that service, and I also thank them for that on behalf of government and on behalf of me as the Minister of Municipal Affairs.

Mr. Speaker, there is not, as I said, much to this one. It is just keeping consistency within the two acts so they can work, work in clarity, and have clarity to the councillors who will be serving on these particular appeals boards.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I will take my seat in the House and welcome any comments by hon. members in this House.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Member for Bay of Islands.

MR. JOYCE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

This bill, Bill 35, is only mirroring the other bill. We will have a few questions in Committee and maybe a few questions here, Mr. Speaker, about when you reappoint somebody or dismiss somebody. Under this old bill, Bill 29, if it is done by Cabinet, Bill 29 that is coming in, some of the concerns we are going to have. We may not be able to get the information if Cabinet makes the decision. That is one of the concerns we have here. All of a sudden, Mr. Speaker, if we are discussing this bill here, Bill 29 that we are going to discuss later, the minister has the authority to appoint, replace or dismiss.

The question is: If it is a dismissal under Bill 29, can we get the reasons why? Can we put in the Freedom of Information, Mr. Speaker? Under this act, Bill 35, and I read it: This bill also gives the minister authority to appoint, replace or dismiss a regional service board or its members the same powers he or she now has over municipalities.

Mr. Speaker, this is a big issue. When we were discussing Bill 29 for the last three or four days, we were always talking about taking away people's rights and can we get the information on it. Later on tonight apparently, if we get through this filibuster by government, we may be able to discuss Bill 29. I have a major concern, Mr. Speaker, about this giving the minister authority, because once the minister makes the decision, I am assuming that it has to be a Cabinet decision if you are removing a municipality. Can we get the reasons why? That is a big concern here, Mr. Speaker.

This Bill 29 plays right into this here, Mr. Speaker, plays right into this here, Bill 29. So, Mr. Speaker, I am hoping we are going to get an opportunity tonight to discuss Bill 29.

MS JONES: We should be doing it now.

MR. JOYCE: We should be doing it now. That is right, we should be discussing Bill 29.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

We are discussing Bill 35. I would ask the member to speak to Bill 35.

MR. JOYCE: Mr. Speaker, I think it is very relevant to Bill 35.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Speak to Bill 35.

MR. JOYCE: Bill 35, Mr. Speaker, and I –

MR. SPEAKER: I would ask the member to speak to Bill 35, or else take his seat.

MR. JOYCE: I will speak to Bill 35, Mr. Speaker. Not a problem, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The Member for Bay of Islands.

MR. JOYCE: Regional service boards have been appointed to oversee the implementation of the waste management strategy, presently three in the Province: Eastern, Central, and Western Waste Management. As I mentioned earlier to the minister, now that the government has the authority, Mr. Speaker, to appoint the waste management boards in the Province, and of course we mentioned one of the people today appointed on the West Coast is Don Downer. Now that it is going to be done by the Cabinet, Mr. Speaker, will we be able to get the information of how much this person is getting per year, how much is this person getting paid to travel, how much are we going to get for office space? Because once it is made into a Cabinet decision – and it is right under Bill 35, Mr. Speaker, what the department is allowed to do. So, Mr. Speaker –

AN HON. MEMBER: Who is Don Downer, who is that?

MR. JOYCE: Don Downer is a former person who ran for the PC Party, who also – and I know the minister knows him very well – and he is making it on the board. He is also on the land advisory committee, Mr. Speaker, that was on the go for four years, to make some requests or to make some – advisory to the land. He is doing a good job for three years and we have yet to see a report. In 2010, Mr. Downer got, I think it was $39,000 to do an advisory role.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS JONES: And now you will never out.

MR. JOYCE: So, Mr. Speaker, in Bill 35 –

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Speaker is trying to give some latitude, but the Member for Bay of Islands is not being relevant to Bill 35. I would ask you to speak to Bill 35 or else we will go to the next speaker.

MR. JOYCE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

In this bill, the Municipal Affairs Act gives the Minister of Municipal Affairs the authority of cities, towns, and local improvement districts, Mr. Speaker. So, the minister will just mirror this here, and that is a good one, Mr. Speaker, because the minister should have the authority to do that. Up to now, regional service boards were not included under the minister's authority. I think they all should be, if they are going to receive government funds and receive money for roads and things, they should be under the authority of the minister.

Bill 35 incorporates regional service boards into the Municipal Affairs Act to give the minister authority over the boards. Mr. Speaker, what that means is once the boards are in place the minister has control. Once again, Mr. Speaker, once the minister has control he makes the decisions. He makes the appointments and he can also take people off the boards.

I think, and I speak on behalf of a lot of municipalities, Mr. Speaker, that are in the municipalities, that if someone is being taken off a board, I am very confident – and I will be asking this in Committee, what constitutes dismissal? Mr. Speaker, once you constitute dismissal, people want to know why they are being dismissed. I am sure the minister will stand up after and say yes, if someone is dismissed they will not have to take it to court to find out, that the minister will let them know. Under this, it gives the minister the authority to dismiss.

I ask the minister, and the minister can answer this when he stands up: Will the person be given the reason why he is being dismissed, or will he have to take it to court to find out the reasons why? It is a big concern for a lot of municipalities. Once you are in there, if you are taken off the board, and if you are dismissed from the board, Mr. Speaker, you need to know the reason why. If you did something wrong, or is it because of your political stripe or something like that. We have to protect the people who are presenting themselves on these boards, Mr. Speaker, because most of these people are volunteers. If the minister has the right to appoint and to fire, a lot of those people would like to know why. A lot of those people may not have the funds to take it to the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador to find out why. Mr. Speaker, I wait for the minister's comments on this.

Mr. Speaker, I thank you again for the latitude. All of this here of someone's rights is all intertwined, because if someone is dismissed from a council right now, Mr. Speaker, they can appeal to the minister. If the minister is the person who appoints to the board, who are you going to appeal to now? What is the appellant process, Mr. Speaker? Is there an appellant process? That is the kind of questions because we know, Mr. Speaker, if certain laws are put into this House of Assembly the only way, if it is a Cabinet decision, is for them to go to the court. Mr. Speaker, we are talking about volunteers in Newfoundland and Labrador, so it is very important. If we have volunteers out there doing work, and if these volunteers are going to be: oh, you are gone today - we have to be able to give them a process to appeal and a process to find out why they were dismissed. Mr. Speaker, we have to ensure that certain bills that are enacted in this House do not infringe on these rights of these councillors and infringe on the rights of these volunteers, because we know there are some governments that will bring legislation in that would do that, Mr. Speaker: make a person take them to court to find out certain information that they cannot get if the Cabinet made the decision, and that is wrong.

I thank you for the opportunity, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. MURPHY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Just a quick comment on this particular change to the act, Bill 35; my concern rises over the simple fact that this gives the power to the minister to fire somebody, as it falls under the act, "…where the affairs of the board are managed in an irregular, improper or improvident manner."

Number one, the determination of irregular, improper or improvident, the definition of which we do not have here in this particular change; number two, knowing that some of these members are volunteer members but they have to be councillors as well, the concern is arising here on my part that if you are going to let go somebody who is acting in an irregular, improper, or improvident manner, does that also constitute them being removed as a councillor?

We have this section here of the act and, Mr. Minister, maybe you can answer it later on; Mr. Speaker, maybe the minister can answer this later on as regard to that, when it gets to Committee, exactly what their definition is of irregular, improper, or improvident, and at the same time, to ask if removal of a board member also involves the removal at the same time of their position that he or she would have on council at that particular time.

I think it is a very important question to ask and, again, I would presume to ask in Committee as well what guidelines there are to hire and fire somebody as regards to their appointment to the board, the paperwork that may be involved. We are talking about, at the same time, defending the rights of somebody who is in a volunteer position who would, if the money was there, be paid for that same position – for example, any one of the cities that have a large financial base.

There are a couple of concerns there, but I will bring them up to Committee stage when Committee comes around.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Cape St. Francis.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. K. PARSONS: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

It is good to get up and be able to speak on this bill also, Bill 35, An Act To Amend The Municipal Affairs Act. Mr. Speaker, it is very important that there is some kind of authority in place that can – in municipalities, while they are all volunteers and gives their time freely, it is very important that we have somewhere where they have to be accountable.

Granted, we are very fortunate in Newfoundland; I think as a Province we have more volunteers per capita than anywhere else in Canada. Our people volunteer and we are the most charitable people in all of Canada, also. Sometimes, Mr. Speaker, with municipalities, there are some conflicts and there are some reasons why people do different things, and some misconduct happens.

It is very important that there is a Department of Municipal Affairs and the minister has the authority to say you cannot do that, or you cannot do this. This is basically what we are doing here today. We are making it so that the three regional boards that we do – Eastern, Central, and the Northern Peninsula – we have some kind of authority in place that says to the people on those boards: you have to conduct yourself in a certain way and make sure that you are there for the right reasons, the same way we have to do with our municipalities and our towns.

Most people, like I said, in small towns – I know I had the opportunity myself, and it was a great privilege to be a member of a small town and have the opportunity to serve your town, an opportunity to get up and do what you think to make, for the people in that town, a better place to live for everybody; it is the opportunity to get to do these things.

Mr. Speaker, we had to have a mechanism in place where if a person, for some reason, gets on one of these councils and has a different agenda than anybody else, there is some kind of authority that people can say: this is not right; that person is there for that reason. Then we have to have the minister or the department investigate and say, listen, there is a conduct here, no matter if it is – it could be some kind of a privilege, it could be some kind of a conflict of interest that person has there.

It is nice to have that authority through the minister and through the Department of Municipal Affairs that someone is there to say there is misconduct and to say, listen, we have to do an investigation on this person; we have to look at and see the reasons they are doing there.

Mr. Speaker, like I said, these people are volunteers; there is no doubt about it. They are pillars of our community. They are the people we look up to. When you deal with councils and the boards – and these are councillors who are on these boards, these are people who are your next door neighbours.

I will just tell you a little story now, Mr. Speaker, how important it is, especially in small towns. There was a decision made. When I first became mayor, there was a decision that was made. One of my best friends, it affected him and it affected something that he had to do under the town. He figured that listen boy, you are my buddy. It does not make any difference what you are; you are my buddy, so that can be done.

Mr. Speaker, there are rules and regulations, and there are reasons that we get on council. We get on council for reasons that are to make sure that everybody in the town lives a whole lot better. For the things we can provide, snow clearing, garbage collection, street lights; you name it, we are there to do it for the small towns. It is very important that if you are a council member, that you are there for the right reasons. It is the same reason why we are bringing in this today, to be consistent with what we are doing in the town. Mr. Speaker –

MR. JOYCE: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. K. PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, the Member for Bay of Islands, I am telling you, you are pretty good, keep her going. I am telling you, you stood up and spoke for ten minutes, give me the same courtesy to speak too.

MR. JOYCE: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. K. PARSONS: Be courteous enough to give me the same thing.

Mr. Speaker, it is very important that we be consistent with what we are doing with municipalities, be consistent with what we are doing with the towns. If we are going to have boards out there representing people, that the people on these boards be the same as the councillors. They are the councillors in the town, so they have to make sure they are there for the right reasons.

It is very important that – look at what this board does for example, Mr. Speaker. Their mandate basically is to supply water services and sewer, solid waste management, police and ambulance control; different things that they control, like fire protection. Like I said when I was up earlier, fire protection is so important. Just look at our volunteer fire departments. They are volunteers –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Speaker is having difficulty hearing the Member for Cape St. Francis. I would ask all members for their co-operation.

The hon. the Member for Cape St. Francis.

MR. K. PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, it is not too often I ask for protection to tell you the truth. No, Mr. Speaker, I do not look for protection very often to tell you the truth, but thank you very much. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, my whole point is that it is so important, because like I said, councillors are people. They are the pillars of our community. They are people who volunteer, and a lot of times, like I gave a story there a little while ago, it is pretty hard when you have to make decisions against your neighbours. These people are there for the right reasons but a scattered time there is someone there for the wrong reason.

That is all this is doing, it is just giving the department the opportunity to say: listen, if some misconduct happens then we have the right to take somebody off that. Then it gets investigated and there has to be something put on paper. The Department of Municipal Affairs will investigate it and say yes, there is misconduct there, and yes, that person should not be on that board. The same thing they do as if you were a council member. It would be the same thing if you were a mayor or a councillor of any town, you would have to make sure that you are there for the right reasons, make sure that you are there to serve the people, to serve your neighbours, your friends, your children and everyone else to make sure that there is nothing done wrong. It is not something that you have something to put in your back pocket. It is not something that you want to do for yourself. It is not something that you get any monetary gain out of, and that is a conflict of interest if there is some interest, or for a family member. It is very important that there is someone in place and there is some authority in place that can get there and say: listen, this is wrong. There is something wrong here, and we have to make sure that person has to come off.

You could have a situation, Mr. Speaker, where there is no mechanism in place, and then you have to live with it. You have to live with a decision that somebody makes for the wrong reasons. At least what we are doing here by this bill today, we are making sure that there is a mechanism in place, that if someone is doing something that is misconduct and they are not there for the right reasons, then there is an authority in place that can say, listen here, you cannot do that. That is all we are doing here today.

Mr. Speaker, I applaud the minister for bringing this in today. I applaud him for bringing in, like I said earlier, about the regional boards and how important it is and what this department and what our government looks at a regional approach. It is so important that the regional – we have to do things regionally.

Mr. Speaker, we have 500,000 people on this Island and we have it spread out all over the place. We would love to give everybody the services they want. We would love to see everybody have a regional swimming pool. We would like to see everybody have a soccer field, but in order to do this and make sure we get the best facilities and make sure we get the money spent wisely, we have to do regional things. That is what these regional boards do, they make sure we come together and we do things regional.

Mr. Speaker, I have another great example down my way, and I talk about it nearly every time I get up. It is the regional approach that we did in my area when it comes to the Jack Byrne Arena, and as far as I am concerned the most beautiful arena in this Province. It was all about a vision that Mr. Jack Byrne had, a vision of getting communities to work together, and this is what happened. We could have probably gone – the Town of Torbay had enough people probably to go ahead –

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I would ask the member to speak to Bill 35.

MR. K. PARSONS: Okay, no sweat, Mr. Speaker.

It is just the regional approach that I am trying to do, and I understand. It is important, Mr. Speaker, that whatever we do in a regional approach the people are there for the right reasons and they have a mechanism in place so they do not – just somebody with a little bit of misconduct or someone there for the wrong reason, there has to be an authority to say: You are doing something wrong. There has to be an authority to say: Listen, we have to remove that person. The conduct of that person is not what should be on a board or on a town council.

That is all we are doing here today is bringing in and making sure the minister and the department has the authority to say: Listen here, you are doing something wrong and it is not in the best interest of the people you are serving. Mr. Speaker, I applaud the department for a great bill they are bringing in.

Thank you very much.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Member for Mount Pearl South.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. LANE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, it is certainly my pleasure to stand once again in this hon. House to speak to Bill 35, An Act To Amend –

MR. JOYCE: (Inaudible).

MR. LANE: Mr. Speaker, I am not going to ask for protection from the Member for Bay of Islands. Quite honestly, I think he needs protection from himself; however, I would ask him for a little courtesy, Mr. Speaker. He has taken over from where the Member for Cartwright – L'Anse au Clair took off.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I would ask the member to speak to Bill 35.

MR. LANE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

That is exactly what I would like to do, un-heckled. Mr. Speaker, as I said, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill 35, An Act To Amend The Municipal Affairs Act. Obviously this ties into the bill we already discussed, Bill 36 – yes, Bill 36 ties into that, Mr. Speaker.

As has been said, Mr. Speaker, when we talk about regional services there are a number of regional services which these regional service boards do have the ability to enter into. While the previous bill we talked to really speaks to waste management, these regional service boards can certainly go beyond waste management, Mr. Speaker. These regional boards can get into things such as water supply.

As I said earlier, Mr. Speaker, we see a great example of that here in this region, certainly with the City of Mount Pearl, the City of St. John's, and the Town of Paradise when it comes to regional water. We also see a regional service here in the region when it comes to waste water collection, Mr. Speaker, down at the new Southside Road solid waste facility. We have waste management here in this region, Mr. Speaker, as relates to the Robin Hood Bay landfill facility. We have the St. John's regional fire system which is shared between the City of Mount Pearl and the City of St. John's, Mr. Speaker.

The reason why I say that, Mr. Speaker, is that I think it is important to point out just how far reaching these regional service boards can go. Hopefully they will go over time in order to create efficiencies for communities, in order for them to be able to come together, to be able to provide quality services for all of their residents, Mr. Speaker. I think it is important to realize then that the people who are appointed to these regional service boards, Mr. Speaker – I think it is important to point out the responsibility that these people have.

Yes, Mr. Speaker, there is no doubt about it, these people primarily are volunteers. There are some exceptions in some of the larger municipalities and the cities and so on where there are various rates of remuneration. For the most part, these people, as has been said earlier, are all volunteers. They give so freely of their time to the communities they certainly should be commended for that. Mr. Speaker, just because these people are volunteers does not diminish the responsibility that these people take on. Whether they run for council, whether they are appointed to a regional service board of any kind, the fact that they are volunteers does not take away the fact that they have an enormous responsibility, and that responsibility can cover many facets of the community as we said.

We look at something like waste management as we are saying now. We are going to be looking at managing the process of not just the disposal of the waste, Mr. Speaker, at the waste management facility, but we are also going to be looking at the collection of that waste. We are going to be looking at the opportunity for them to get into things like recycling, which we know is so very, very important for our environment. It is something that we all support, Mr. Speaker, recycling. When we look at things that regional service boards can get into like fire protection, this is a huge responsibility. Fire protection – people's lives could hang in the balance over regional fire services and so on, Mr. Speaker.

We look at things, Mr. Speaker, like the provision of water, clean drinking water. We realize, Mr. Speaker, the enormous responsibility that these regional service boards could have as it relates to the provision of this safe drinking water for people. We look at waste disposal, the enormous responsibility that comes with managing that system. That is why and what I am coming around to, Mr. Speaker, and this particular amendment is basically ensuring that the Minister of Municipal Affairs, who has the ultimate responsibility – and that is something we have to realize when we talk about responsibility, the Minister of Municipal Affairs has the ultimate responsibility to the entire Province for these services because municipalities basically serve the provincial government. They are creatures of the Province, if you will, and these boards as appointed by the minister are also an extension of the Province. They all ultimately fall under the responsibility of the Minister of Municipal Affairs.

It is, therefore, important, Mr. Speaker, it is critical to the Minister of Municipal Affairs that he ensures that any activities which are taking place relating to waste management, safe and clean drinking water, not just solid waste disposal but waste water, fire services, it is so important that the Minister of Municipal Affairs has the ability to ensure that these boards that are set up under our legislation are operating properly. That they are doing the job that they were appointed to do and that they are doing the job in the best interests of all the people that they are there to serve, Mr. Speaker, because that is for the benefit of all the communities, for the benefit of all the people, all the citizens who have to pay into this regional service with their hard-earned tax dollars. It is important for the safety of the community. It is important that there is an assurance that these boards are functioning properly.

What this does is it gives the Minister of Municipal Affairs the minister the ability that should an instance occur whether it be through complaints by the general public, whether it be as a result of a complaint from other members of the board or whether it just simply be a review done by the department or so on and there is a determination that these boards are not operating properly, then the Minister of Municipal Affairs needs to have the ability to either deal with the entire board, if that should be the case, or deal with any particular individual or individuals who are contributing to the problem. I do not see a thing in the world wrong with that, Mr. Speaker.

The Minister of Municipal Affairs currently has that same power right now. He currently has that same power right now, Mr. Speaker, as it relates to municipalities. He currently can do that with municipalities if there is a problem. Unfortunately, we have seen instances in this Province where this has had to occur. It is very unfortunate but it has occurred where there have been issues in municipalities, where the Minister of Municipal Affairs had to step in to deal with the issue. Whether that was related to one particular councillor or an entire council, Mr. Speaker, it has happened.

All we are doing is we are affording the Minister of Municipal Affairs that same ability. The same ability he has to deal with issues on municipal councils, he is going to be given that same ability now to deal with regional service boards. Mr. Speaker, this is in no way to suggest that the people who serve on these boards would go in there and do anything premeditated and do it wrong. I certainly do not believe that, Mr. Speaker, in a premeditated way to go there and try to make the system not work as it should. I really do not believe that, Mr. Speaker. Do you know why? Because I know these people; I served with all these people, as I said earlier when I spoke on the other bill, on Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador as a councillor and Deputy Mayor of the City of Mount Pearl. I had many interactions with them. They are all good people; they are all there for the right reasons.

Sometimes, Mr. Speaker, people clash. It could be a clash of personalities. It could be a difference in opinion. It could be a difference in philosophy. At the end of the day, Mr. Speaker, when those things happen, and they can happen, and they are not necessarily a reflection on the individual, because I really believe all of these people come in here for the right reasons, they want to do a good job, but things happen, Mr. Speaker. For one reason or another, things can happen. As I said, personality clash, difference of opinion and so on. All of a sudden, Mr. Speaker, as a result of that, the whole board could be crippled. The whole board could be crippled from doing what it was put there to do. It could be crippled and not able to perform the mandate which they have.

When we talk about that, Mr. Speaker, not having the ability to carry out their mandate, we go back to what I said a little earlier about the critical services they are responsible for like fire protection, waste management, and clean drinking water. Mr. Speaker, we think about the implications of those services not being managed properly for whatever reason, I think that as a Province we have a responsibility to ensure that there is a mechanism in place to deal with that issue.

This piece of legislation is going to provide the Minister of Municipal Affairs with the tools he requires to ensure the safety of the public, Mr. Speaker. That is what this does. I think it is a great piece of legislation. I support it 100 per cent, Mr. Speaker, and that is basically all I have to say on it. I am going to now leave it to the minister to conclude.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER (Wiseman): The hon. the Minister of Municipal Affairs, if he speaks now he will close debate.

The hon. the Minister of Municipal Affairs.

MR. O'BRIEN: Mr. Speaker, I stand in my place to talk just a little bit more in regard to Bill 35, An Act To Amend The Municipal Affairs Act. As I said before, it provides consistency in regard to the act that we discussed previous to this, the Act To Amend The Regional Service Boards Act.

Mr. Speaker, you have given great latitude in the things that have been said on the floor here today in regard to the act. I have been the Minister of Municipal Affairs now for about eighteen months or so and I thought I would never see a lot of political spin applied to the Municipal Affairs Act but I have seen it here in this House today in some of the things that have been said in regard to a very simple housekeeping piece and using the opportunity to put the political spin on it.

In my speaking I have complimented, I have thanked, I have recognized the important role that municipal councillors play in the giving of their time, giving of their family time, and giving of themselves in the services that they provide. The political spin we put on it is that if they were to give of their time – and I heard one of the members say that most of the people who give their time, give it for all the right reasons. Every now and then you might get somebody who does not give their time for the right reason.

That is a process that we have to go through, a process of investigation, and that has been enshrined. As the hon. members know being my critics – or should know – this is enshrined for fifteen years in the Municipal Affairs Act in regard to the types of things that would constitute improper conduct, anything from fraud or that kind of thing, that would be determined by the courts. Any of the things that are enshrined in the Municipal Affairs Act were enshrined through the courts, Mr. Speaker. There is a process they would go through.

I would also like to say the authority is very rarely used. I did a lot of research on that. I asked the questions in regard to the process, my responsibilities as a minister if approached by an appeal board or approached by a municipal council, the process that we would have to go through on the investigation and verification that there is actually improper conduct by a councillor or a person now – it would be a councillor actually – serving on the appeals board as well. There is a process that has to be gone through. That would have to be discussed with the particular person before the person would be actually taken off the board. That would have to be a part of that process. The person would be brought in, told all about the improper charges and that kind of thing that would be against him or being applied against him, and there would have to be an absolute, and I mean an absolute, process that you would have to go through.

I would not want any of the councillors out there who would be thinking – the hon. member who spoke from the Third Party said I hope that me as the Municipal Affairs Minister and the department are encouraging people to run for council in the upcoming 2013 elections. I hope we do. I hope we have a great slate of people who put their names forward. It is the first level of government, a very important level of government, and I recognize that.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. O'BRIEN: Sometimes we take for granted services that they try to provide and the governance they provide. They are so important to the political process and democracy as a whole. I hate to see that a political spin would be put at the expense of those types of people – people who serve on councils, people who give their time, and people who give their time for no cost. We get paid to be here; we get paid to do a job. Yes, we go out and we get ourselves elected, but we get paid. Very few of the small councils across Newfoundland and Labrador have the ability to pay their people. Putting a political spin on this today with a person out there half thinking maybe I should run, and I have something to provide. They say gee, I am not going to do that because I could get caught in something sinister or something that will be inside of government. I hope and pray that will not hamper people from coming forward and giving their names in running in the next election in 2013.

I talked at length last night in regard to words, and words of secrecy and that kind of stuff. We all understand under a democracy that you have to have confidentiality and you have to have all those kinds of things in place. We are living in a real world of democracy that you have to have oversight and that you have to have authorities. If you do not have that, well then certainly it will not be a democracy. A part of democracy are the three levels of government – in regard to government, municipalities in general is the first level, provincial government in this country of Canada, and in the federal level in regard to Canada itself, Mr. Speaker.

You get great latitude, Mr. Speaker, in the comments that are being made in regard to this piece of legislation, the amendments thereof. I want to speak to that as well, so I thought I would mention those kinds of things; there is a time and a place for everything in regard to political spin, Mr. Speaker. If you want to have political spin, use it in a more productive way and at a more productive time when we are talking about people who give themselves to their communities on an ongoing basis for X numbers of years.

Some of them, I sign them just about every day, thirty years of service, thirty-five years of service, forty years of service, of their time, Mr. Speaker, their own valuable family time, without compensation I say, without just about any compensation. They might get a trip to an annual AGM sometime in their career. All of them do not go to the AGMs because they cannot afford it. My heart and soul go out to all those people. I did not do it, Mr. Speaker; there are many in this House who did. I respect each and every one of you for doing that, for coming forward and giving your time and giving your name and trying to do what you possibly can do for your people.

I see the hon. Member for St. John's Centre shaking her head and going on as if this is nothing in regard to these councillors who give their name forward and their time and all their honesty and then putting a political spin to it, well, I am going to get up in my place in this House and counterbalance that each and every time I can, regardless if I am the Minister of Municipal Affairs or not.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I will take my seat in this House of Assembly and, hopefully – hopefully – we will bring some respect back to this House.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

Motion carried.

CLERK: A bill, An Act To Amend The Municipal Affairs Act. (Bill 35)

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

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

MR. KENNEDY: On tomorrow.

MR. SPEAKER: Tomorrow.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Municipal Affairs Act", read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House on tomorrow. (Bill 35)

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

MR. KENNEDY: Mr. Speaker, it being 5:19 in the afternoon, I would move, seconded by the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills, that the House do now adjourn until 7:00 o'clock.

MR. SPEAKER: We are operating on leave; we will recess until 7:00 p.m.

The House will reconvene, after a short recess, at 7:00 p.m.


June 14, 2012                    HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS                  Vol. XLVII No. 48A


MR. SPEAKER: (Wiseman): Order, please!

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. KENNEDY: Mr. Speaker, I rise to raise a point of privilege, or failing that, if the test for privilege is not established than certainly a matter of contempt.

Having just received the material, Mr. Speaker, to which I will refer, I am raising this point at the earliest opportunity. I do have copies here, Mr. Speaker, for both of the other caucuses.

Mr. Speaker, as we already know, during debate in the House Wednesday night the Leader of the Third Party cast aspersions on the Minister of Justice, the Minister Responsible for Human Rights by alleging that his remarks demonstrated racism, a term she used. The Chair recessed to review the tape, deemed the language used by the Leader of the Third Party to be unparliamentary and ordered her to apologize, which she did. Today, however, Mr. Chair, both in a scrum within the House precincts and in an interview broadcast on the public airways in this Province, the Leader of the Third Party not only repeated the remarks for which she was ordered to apologize, but intensified them.

Mr. Speaker, I obtained a recording of the media scrum she conducted following Question Period today in the precincts of this House. Let me just quote some of what was said, Mr. Speaker: When you talk about countries that are both poor countries where people are not of the – well, in our country they are not of the majority. They are black people or people with Hispanic backgrounds or whatever, people of colour. You put the two things together and then very often systemically in our society we have – how do I put it? We have judgements that are there in our society, attitudes that are there. Sometimes they are prejudicial attitudes.

What was happening for me around this in the House of Assembly was hearing comments that were smacking of assuming that because a country was a Third country, a poor country, a country of people of colour, they would not understand access to information and protection of privacy of the person. That was what upset me. That, to me, is an aspect of racism, the assumption that a Third country could be ahead of us on this issue. That, to me, was the part that was very problematic.

The second quote, Mr. Speaker, there are an awful lot of people – I want you to really listen closely to this quote, Mr. Speaker: There are an awful lot of people working on racism, you know; CUPE, for example. One of the largest public sector unions in Canada is doing it, has a massive campaign going on with regard to racism, and you know it is a very serious issue in our Province. You know it is a very serious issue in our Province.

So, not only is the Minister of Justice a racist, Mr. Speaker, but all people in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, according to this member. What can I say? I think we do have to name it as we see it, if we think that is what is going on. If that has helped, I will be happy that it has helped.

Mr. Speaker, the very words she apologized for saying in this House, she later admits she is happy she said. Her apology was not genuine, Mr. Speaker. She is also saying that: there is a very serious issue in our Province with racism which cast aspersions on the character of the people of our Province; which is a whole other matter, Mr. Speaker.

An interview broadcast on CBC Radio at about 12:05 p.m. – and I heard this interview myself, Mr. Speaker. Here is some of what she said, first quote: I think I responded with regard to racism that every one of the countries that he was referring to or a lot of them were developing countries but, and there were also countries with a majority whose makeup are people from different ethnic groups and people of colour.

Second quote: I really wish the minister would do some of the reading, do some of the learning that a lot of us have done, to show how what he said was very problematic when it comes to the area of racism and prejudice.

Third quote: What we need to look at, and this is what I am asking the minister to look at, is that you have racism on a number of levels when you talk about racism. There is one, the area which is the big one, systemic racism. Systemic racism, you know, is part of where prejudice comes from. It is part of where the lack of knowledge comes from and it is how systems treat people. When I look at what happened last night I think it is coming out of systemic racism. Yes, I do believe that.

By accusing the Minister of Justice, the Minister Responsible for Human Rights, of systemic, call it racism, aimed at "people of colour", the Leader of the Third Party has fabricated words the minister did not say or even imply, and in the process damaged his reputation even further. It affects his ability to do his job, representing our Province as the Minister Responsible for Human Rights.

She has also shown great disrespect, Mr. Speaker, for the ruling the Chair made by repeating just outside the House the very words for which he ordered her to apologize. Her behaviour undermines the authority of the Chair and the dignity of the House. She is even glad she did it.

Mr. Speaker, the ruling you made on May 9, 2012, regarding an accusation of lying made against a member. Mr. Speaker, you said the following on pages 1409-1410. "Here is a point I would you ask you to keep in mind, or one of the points I think it is significant to be guided by: had this accusation of lying been sent while the House was sitting so as to escape being sanctioned for unparliamentary language while still making the accusation, I believe it would be a prima facie case of privilege. I remind all members of the privilege they enjoy as members of this House, and with that privilege comes a responsibility that all of us have to maintain the integrity of this House."

The Leader of the Third Party today, Mr. Speaker, in raising a point of order stated: The Speaker has no authority to rule on statements made outside the House by one member made against another. In other words, Mr. Speaker, I will come in here, I will make a statement, I will apologize, I do not mean it, and it is not genuine. I will go outside the House and I will say the same thing again because you cannot touch me, ha ha.

I will put to you, Mr. Speaker, that the Leader of the Third Party while apologizing within this Chamber is in essence retracting her apology the moment she steps outside by stating twice outside the House, where she says: The Speaker has no authority – the very comment she was ordered to withdraw. She is playing the game, Mr. Speaker, of qualifying her apology with a statement that she does not truly mean it. This is in essence, Mr. Speaker, the very thing the Speaker was referring to: using unparliamentary language in a calculated way to escape sanction.

Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Third Party also came into the House today wearing a button which read: Fight racism. I put to you, Mr. Speaker, this is just another way to try to get around the command that she apologize for charging the minister with racism. It was a finger in the eye of all of us, Mr. Speaker, an expression of contempt for the ruling to which she was held. It was another way of demonstrating that her apology was reluctant, insincere, and disingenuous. If you remember that large period of time last night, Mr. Speaker, in which she determined whether or not she was going to apologize.

Mr. Speaker, O’Brien and Bosc, in Chapter 3, on pages 83 to 84 distinguishes contempt from privilege, describing contempt as including "assaulting, threatening, obstructing or intimidating a Member or officer of the House in the discharge of their duties" and "assaulting, threatening or disadvantaging a Member, or a former Member, on account of the Member’s conduct in Parliament".

O’Brien and Bosc state on page 111, "It is impossible to codify all incidents which might be interpreted as matters of obstruction, interference, molestation or intimidation and as such constitute prima facie cases of privilege. However, some matters found to be prima facie include the damaging of a Member’s reputation, the usurpation of the title of Member of Parliament, the intimidation of Members and their staff and of witnesses before committees, and the provision of misleading information."

O’Brien and Bosc state on page 85, "By far, most of the cases of privilege raised in this House relate to matters of contempt challenging the perceived authority and dignity of Parliament and its Members."

In light of the proceeding, Mr. Speaker, I ask that you rule that the member’s behaviour does constitute a prima facie case of breach of privilege, and I ask you to direct the House to proceed to debate the following motion:

WHEREAS the Leader of the Third Party in the House, in a scrum area within the House precinct and in the broadcast media has maligned the reputation of the Minister of Justice and the Minister Responsible for Human Rights by accusing him of systemic racism; and

WHEREAS the Leader of the Third Party has repeated in a media scrum conducted within the House precincts the very remark she made in this House and that the Chair had deemed to be unparliamentary and for which she was ordered to apologize; and

WHEREAS the Leader of the Third Party has stated publicly she is happy she made the statement in this House for which she was earlier ordered to apologize;

BE IT RESOLVED this hon. House declares that the behaviour of the Leader of the Third Party constitutes a breach of privilege, that this House expresses its condemnation of this member, that this House direct the member to apologize in this House to the minister whose reputation she maligned, and that the member be ordered not to make such comments again.

The bar for privilege, Mr. Speaker, is necessarily high. For this reason, if you were to rule that a prima facie case of privilege is not established, then I ask the member’s behaviour be treated as a matter of contempt for which there are various remedies as defined in the section of Bosc and O’Brien on power to discipline, including censure and reprimand.

I would ask in this case, Mr. Speaker, her behaviour be deemed to be contemptuous, and that she be ordered to apologize in this House to the minister and promise not to make such comments again.

Attached, Mr. Speaker, you have the transcript of the scrum outside the House, a transcript of the CBC interview earlier today, and if you look at Hansard earlier today on the point of order, it was referred to, and also pages 1409-1410 of the May 9 Hansard. Mr. Speaker, those would be my submissions in relation to this matter.

MR. SPEAKER: The Leader of the Third Party, to the point of privilege raised.

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

I am requesting time to see the documentation that the Government House Leader has given to you, and time to prepare myself to make a response to what has been said here tonight.

MR. SPEAKER: Further comments on the point of privilege?

Points of privilege, when they are raised in the House, they are serious matters. The Speaker, obviously, would want to give full consideration to any points of privilege being raised, but at the same time recognize that a member, who the point of privilege is raised concerning, has not had an opportunity to see the point of privilege raised and would want an opportunity to review that.

The second thing I would comment is the Speaker’s role in the point of privilege is to determine, firstly, if there is a prima facie case of breach of privilege, and then it is for this House to decide what course of action will be taken when that happens.

I would like to just recess the House for a few moments to reflect on the information that has been submitted to see if it has a foundation for consideration, but then would reserve ruling until the member has had an opportunity to make a comment. The reason I am saying this is that a point of privilege needs to be considered quickly. Serious points of privilege have an ability and potential to undermine how this House functions, and for the House to proceed when there is a point of privilege being raised creates difficulty in the House proceeding with its business, unless it is being given some consideration.

So, I would like to have a short recess to review the information just submitted, and then to provide a comment about how we would proceed from here. I will respect the member who has raised the issue and the points being raised, but I also want to respect the Member for Signal Hill – Quidi Vidi, who is the subject matter of the point of privilege, and her opportunity to provide a response after carefully considering the information that has been presented.

The House will take a brief recess. I will have an opportunity to review the documentation and provide a comment as to how we move forward, rather than rule whether or not we have a prima facie case until the members have an opportunity to make a submission.

The House stands recessed until the call of the Chair.

Recess

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Thank you for the opportunity to respond to the point of privilege. I do not believe that there is a point of privilege, but I do know it is for the Speaker to decide if there is a prima facie case.

After having the opportunity to review the documents, I would like to point out that the Government House Leader is referencing interviews which were made outside the House of Assembly. Last night, the Chair made a ruling regarding unparliamentary language in the House, I accepted the ruling and I apologized.

Mr. Speaker, I am surprised that the Government House Leader would now bring it to the House again, since the issue was dealt with and settled. I have reviewed the submitted documents by the Government House Leader, but I have not heard the actual broadcasts; however, I am confident that I did not cast aspersions on the person of the Minister of Justice. I do believe that the Government House Leader has taken my comments out of context and has attributed to them meanings that were not mine.

Mr. Speaker, as I have said, I do not believe that what has been brought forward constitutes a point of privilege. I thank you for the opportunity to respond, and I shall abide by your ruling.

MR. SPEAKER: As I said before we recessed, a point of privilege being raised in the House is a very serious charge, as is a charge of contempt – both very significant and serious charges. I have had an opportunity to review the documentation that has been submitted, and I thank the member for her comment.

Because of the significance and the seriousness of the charge, and embedded in that is the significance and the seriousness of some of the language used as we heard a ruling last night around the issue of racism, in a society as a whole, that is a very sensitive issue for our society. I think all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians would be very much offended to think that there is an element of racism within our society.

So the subject matter itself contributes to the significance, in this particular case, of the charges of both breach of privilege and contempt. I do not want to hastily make a decision within a half hour or forty-five minutes of the evidence being presented, but I am also extremely sensitive that a breach of privilege is so significant and viewed as being of such importance to any Assembly that it has to be dealt with before anything can proceed.

I am also trying to balance that consideration with the broader responsibility we have, as legislators, to deal with legislation before the House. Today we are operating under a notice of closure motion on a very significant piece of legislation, so I am trying to balance all of those matters. In the interest of ensuring that any ruling that I would make appropriately reflects the evidence that we have been provided and responds to the significance of the charge, I want to take a little more time to review the documentation, and in addition to the information submitted to listen first-hand to the interviews and the comments that were made. It will give me an opportunity to better understand the context in which any comments would be or the relevance of such comments in a certain context.

I will give some more time for consideration and make a ruling next week with respect to the points being raised. I just want to remind members that as we proceed this evening to debate the legislation before us be mindful of how emotionally charged this debate has been over the last three or four days. That emotion and the intensity of the debate led to some of the comments that we are debating and talking about in this point of privilege. It just speaks to what happens at the time of intense debate. When we lose sight of the focus of the debate and concentrate on personalities, then it becomes a personal discussion rather than debate around the merits, facts, and issues raised in legislation.

I ask members to be guided by that and be mindful of that as we proceed with the debate tonight. When debate gets heated debate gets personal, comments get made, and sometimes they are slanderous. Because they are made in this House we have a certain immunity, and we should not abuse our privilege. Then we take them outside of the House where we are not protected, we do not that immunity, and then you can be subject to civil action. We need to be very mindful of that as we proceed with the debate this evening.

The Speaker will consider the points being raised both by the Government House Leader and by the Member for Signal Hill – Quidi Vidi and provide further comment next week. I do want to remind members once again the issues of breach of privilege and issues with respect to contempt of this House are serious. They are important to all of us, because inasmuch as we ourselves, as individual members, have responsibilities to this House, all of us collectively have a responsibility to the dignity of this House, and that is a greater responsibility than our individual interest. I ask members to be guided by some of those comments.

So my ruling will be delivered next week. I now call upon the Government House Leader to call proceedings for the rest of this evening.

MR. KENNEDY: I move, seconded by the Minister of Health and Community Services, that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole to consider Bill 29.

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that I do leave the Chair for the House to resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole to consider Bill 29.

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

All those in favour, ‘aye’.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

Motion carried.

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

Committee of the Whole

CHAIR (Kent): Order, please!

We are now, once again, considering Bill 29, An Act to Amend the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

We are currently debating clause 6.

Shall clause 6 carry?

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I apologize for the delay.

I give notice, Mr. Chair, that I will move, pursuant to Standing Order 47, that further consideration of any resolution or resolutions, clause or clauses, section or sections –

CHAIR: Order, please!

I remind the Government House Leader that he has already given notice, so I am just asking for clarification. Is he in fact moving the motion at this time as it is outlined on the Order Paper?

MR. KENNEDY: Yes, Mr. Chair.

I move, seconded by the Minister of Health and Community Services, pursuant to Standing Order 47 that further consideration of any resolution or resolutions, clause or clauses, section or sections, preamble or preambles, title or titles relating to Bill 29, entitled, An Act to Amend the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act shall be the first business of the committee and shall not be further postponed.

I further move, Mr. Chair, seconded by the Minister of Health and Community Services, pursuant to Standing Order 47 –

CHAIR: Order, please!

We will deal with that motion once we are in committee, and the other motion will follow once we rise committee.

It has been moved by the Government House Leader and seconded by the Minister of Health and Community Services that pursuant to Standing Order 47, that consideration of any resolution or resolutions, clause or clauses, section or sections, preamble or preambles, title or titles relating to Bill 29, entitled, An Act to Amend the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, shall be the first business of the committee and shall not be further postponed.

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

All those in favour, ‘aye’.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, ‘nay’.

The motion is carried.

We will now resume debate on Bill 29, we are currently debating clause 6.

Shall clause 6 carry?

The hon. the Member for Burgeo – La Poile.

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

I am honoured to have the opportunity to speak again in this House of Assembly. As I have done every other time I have stood up in this House, I will express the honour that carries when we speak to this, especially when we speak to legislation, even whether you agree or disagree with legislation. I cannot say I am happy to speak to this piece of legislation that we are dealing with tonight. Again, I do not think that is any surprise to anybody here in this House.

Where do I begin when we discuss this piece of legislation tonight? Obviously, it is something – we have been here now for hours upon hours upon hours. It is the longest I have ever sat in this House for one continuous period of time. That is no doubt, when we are sitting here to talk about access to information legislation, or the name I like to call it, the official secrets act.

The reason I am speaking about this is that we are talking about what, in my mind, constitutes the erosion of democracy in this Province or certainly the beginning of it. What I am going to do tonight, given that closure has been invoked here and the amount of time that we have to speak is dwindling down. What I am going to try to do is try to sum up my concerns when it comes to this particular piece of legislation, both generally, as it relates to the bill as a whole, as well as it related to the specifics.

What I think the crux of what the government is trying to do with this bill, Mr. Chair, specifically with the amendments to clause 6, is to close off or seal off the Cabinet from any and all scrutiny to ensure secrecy whether the information is relevant or not. How bad is this section particularly? Well, we debated it for over twenty-four hours straight and we were still on it when we had closure called on this.

We still have twenty-eight out of thirty-four sections of this piece of legislation that we never got to. We were still on section 6, which really is an unprecedented piece. The clause is unprecedented in the level of secrecy. It has never been before seen and certainly was never before necessary.

Mr. Chair, I understand that Cabinet needs to operate in an environment where they can deliberate without fear of the repercussions of that process, and I agree with that. I understand that. That is what they say is one of the underpinnings of democracy but what this specific section does, along with this act, is establish anything and everything that government or Cabinet talks about as being off limits. It will never see the light of day. It is locked away, never to be seen by the eyes of the public.

Now, the problem I have, another problem along with that, is it is an undeniable, unforgivable act of hypocrisy. When we really think about it, this is a hypercritical act. It is not lost on us as the Opposition, and certainly not lost on the public given the amount of talk that has been generated over the last week in this Province.

We have seen a government that was elected on numerous promises of openness, transparency and accountability, which in many ways seems a means to get elected. When we look at the campaign promises that were made, whether it be 1999 or 2003.

The Blue Book 1999, states: a PC government will establish a new Freedom of Information Act to reduce the wait for information and to ensure ministers actually provide the information requested, where that information belongs in the public domain. Now it is my opinion, I have not had this clarified yet, how this act does that. Really, it is doing the opposite of that which was stated in the Blue Book.

The former Premier stated in November 2001, regarding access to information: the party who rejects it can completely ignore the recommendation of the Citizen’s Representative, and that is significant. He also stated later in 2001, November, regarding which was then Bill 49: that the exact words in the legislation, or in the absence of the public, which means that in secret this is a code of silence. That was the former Premier’s words. Again, these are things that were stated then when that government was here in Opposition, but now they are in government and things change.

We move on, Mr. Chair, to the 2003 Blue Book, which states: A Progressive Conservative government will include amendments that will clearly identify information that should be in the public domain, including Cabinet documents, and will require full and prompt disclosure of the information. Now, I would state that was the broad theme of all the difference amendments that we brought here over the last week; every one of which was rejected.

The 2003 Blue Book states: We will release to the public every government commissioner report within thirty days of receiving it; indicate the action government will take on a report’s recommendation within sixty days and ensure prompt public access to all government reports in hard copy and on the Internet. This bill is the opposite of what you said you would do if you were elected. Again, I would suggest we put forth an identical amendment to that this week. That was voted down.

The former Premier stated: A comprehensive and effective Freedom of Information Act is the best safeguard against the tendency of governments to descend into official secrecy and elitism. The former premier said, "We are committed to ensuring that government is fully accountable to the people who have entrusted us to run the Province."

Accountability is not being met with this piece of legislation, Mr. Chair. Again, I would state the current Premier and a number of members on that side were parts of that government, parts of that team. You are going against your promise.

The 2011 election, Mr. Chair: We will continue to demonstrate that our commitment to accountability is unwavering. It turns out that the commitment was to do away with it. Now, Winston Churchill said: Politics is the ability to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year, and to have the ability afterwards to explain why it did not happen.

Again, that is what we have here. What I am saying here would be laughable if the implications were not so serious to what the Opposition and the public – they are hampering our ability to access information that should be available to the public. Without openness and accountability, the spending scandal would never have been uncovered. The Cameron Inquiry would not have happened.

Now, we were all elected here to represent the best interests of our constituents. We are all elected to represent their best interests. I have heard said here that this piece of legislation ensures the best interests of our constituents, of the people of this Province. I have asked on numerous occasions in the last four days: Please explain to me how this act makes that happen? I have not had that happen yet. I invite you tonight, please, in the closing hours of this debate, to stand and explain to me how this helps the public.

The fact is that the timing of this bill, Mr. Chair, needs to be addressed as well. Government had hoped to usher this through the House towards the end of this session, hoping we would be too fatigued, too tired to contest it. In the end, it was the government that brought in closure of this debate. We were here twenty-four hours a day and we were ready to keep debating this. The fact is that invoking closure is an unusual step, and it is ironic and rare. The fact is, when you look at it, we have eleven on this side and thirty-six or thirty-seven over there; David versus Goliath.

I would also suggest, and maybe this is not going to be a popular statement that I am going to make now, but the timing as it relates to Muskrat Falls moving towards sanction must also be considered. The fact is once this bill is passed, anything that is discussed around that Cabinet table is off limits, whether it is relevant or irrelevant, if it does not contribute to your suggestions. I would invite any member who wishes to contrast what I am saying to please stand here when it is your opportunity and speak; speak, please.

Time and time we have stood here in the last week and asked how transparency and accountability were going to be improved with the passage of this act. I have heard the minister say that was the purpose of this. I have not heard on any single occasion yet how this was going to happen, how this act creates that. Do you know why it has not happened yet? Because it cannot happen, it cannot be explained.

The Minister of Finance has cited the Poverty Reduction Strategy as something that sets us apart in this Province, as a good thing. What I would say to you, Mr. Chair, is that the amendments being suggested here are going to make information less accessible for everyone, but particularly for those without the financial means. They are not going to have the money to go to the legal system to make an application to get the information.

I go back ten years ago. The former Premier said: My God, how can someone pay $10,000 to go out and get a piece of information? That is not right. That is where we are going. That is what you are doing.

We just have to look at some of the groups across the country. We have made national news with this piece of legislation. I believe it was the President of the Canadian journalist association who said: We are triggering a race to the bottom. I say to you: What are you hiding? What are we hiding?

When this vote is done tonight – and that is what is going to happen, it is going to happen tonight – it is going to go down in history and every member opposite, I do not believe, are representing their constituents’ wishes. I have gotten e-mails from your constituents. Yes, and I will table –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

CHAIR: Order, please!

MR. A. PARSONS: It is difficult, Mr. Chair.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

CHAIR: Order, please!

MR. A. PARSONS: The muzzle on this government is burdensome to us all, Mr. Chair.

I say to the backbenchers over there, when you stand up to cast your vote tonight, cast your vote on what your constituents would want you to do. Do not sell out your principles. Do what your constituents would want you to do. That is what I say to you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

CHAIR: Order, please!

MR. A. PARSONS: I invite you all to stand and speak to this. Put it on the record. We might agree, we might disagree, but stand and put your thoughts on the record here as to why, in your mind, if you feel this act is the best thing. I invite you to do that.

I will continue on, because one of the things that disappoint me with this particular piece of legislation is that it in effect overturns a Court of Appeal decision which was made in October, 2011. That is what is going to happen here, Mr. Chair. We had a Court of Appeal decision that came out. It was a unanimous decision where the Information and Privacy Commissioner had to appeal to the Court of Appeal against the Attorney General.

Some of the points here: "The court is concerned by the possibility of misuse of authority conferred by the legislation. One form of misuse would be for the Department of Justice to claim a ‘blanket’ privilege for files which, while they may contain some privileged documents, also contain others for which privilege clearly does not attach."

That is the problem. We have, in effect, blanket coverage of entire files. That particular case, as I have said on many occasions here, concerned a Department of Justice solicitor who wanted access to their own file. They were denied that file. They got the Privacy Commissioner to take the matter to court. When they went to court it was ruled eventually in their favour that: Look, not everything in that file is privileged.

"Another form of misuse of authority would arise if the information commissioner demanded to have documents produced that he could reasonably conclude, without inspecting them, were covered by solicitor-client privilege." That is another thing in this legislation that we did not even get to, Mr. Chair, because we did not get past clause 6. There are another twenty-eight clauses, and one of them discusses solicitor-client privilege.

It is my opinion that once this bill becomes legislation, and that is going to happen because of the sheer majority we are facing, the fact is that solicitor-client privilege is going to be applied to everything. I have a feeling that the Department of Justice is going to have a lawyer in on every single meeting. Once that is done, solicitor-client privilege can be claimed on absolutely everything.

I would state that this judgement was not around – when Mr. Cummings made the recommendations which are being used to support this piece of legislation this decision was not made. "The key to all this is good faith in the exercise of authority. With that comes mutual trust, by the commissioner" – the Privacy Commissioner – "that senior Justice officials are being truthful and by Justice officials that the commissioner will not unreasonably call for the production of legal opinion and advice."

The fact is there is a balance. A balance needs to be maintained, but the problem is the balance is shifting here with this piece of legislation. It is shifting in the favour of Cabinet. That is not what this legislation is for. It is supposed to be for a reasonable access to information. You need to have that access, but it has to be balanced against what information should not be out there. We are shifting away from that, Mr. Chair.

Government has said during this debate, Mr. Chair, it was brought up a couple times, that if we want access to government files or Cabinet files, then they want access to our files. You want access to our files. You want to see what it is we are doing. I say: By all means, if you want to see it, by all means, in the hopes that you bring down the Opposition; in the hopes that you are going to bring down the Opposition here.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

CHAIR: Order, please!

MR. A. PARSONS: Again, I am just going by what your members have said, Mr. Chair. All of these government members are looking for it.

These are some of the terms that caught on in the public as the definition of frivolous and vexatious. That is a new clause that has been put here. It is another clause we will not get to specifically debate because it was closed down tonight.

Well, we are going to talk about vexatious. Yes, we are going to talk about it. When you talk about the term vexation, it says, "to bring trouble, distress, or agitation to… to bring physical distress to… to irritate or annoy by petty provocations…" So, if that is the case, guaranteed everything is going to get shut down because anything we do is an irritant to this government. Everything we do is going to get turned down.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

CHAIR: Order, please!

MR. A. PARSONS: I am looking forward to seeing how this standard is applied, Mr. Chair.

We have also heard during this debate the sheer number of requests that have come in. At one point it was said to be thousands, another time it was countless. The fact is that it added up, on average, to eleven requests per week amongst 8,600 employees and 500 public bodies.

MS JONES: How many a week?

MR. A. PARSONS: Eleven requests per week, 500 public bodies, and there are fifteen different departments. That is less than one per week per department. That is not too much to handle, that is not.

The fact is that the front page of the government’s Web site, Mr. Chair, has the statement, "All inquiries are welcome". I would suggest that we need to put an asterisk at the end of that statement with some fine print that says you will all be judged for vexatiousness. Most will cost you money, and some will send you through a court process you have never encountered and it is probably going to bankrupt you.

The fact is I have specific problems with this bill as well. Clause 6, Cabinet secrecy – I listened with interest to the Member for Terra Nova, who I look forward to hearing his comments on this piece of legislation – timelines extended allowing for delays. Again, that is specifically in this legislation. This is further means to deny applications, specifically when we talk about frivolous and vexatious.

The discussion on solicitor-client privilege, and there is a provision – again, another one we did not get to but we talk about the AG. Again, the AG is not going to have the same access that he should have, and that is in here. That is in the legislation.

AN HON. MEMBER: Where?

MR. A. PARSONS: Well, you helped draft the legislation; you should know where it is.

Now, the fact is, Mr. Chair –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

CHAIR: Order, please!

MR. A. PARSONS: There are so many sections down there that we just did not get to, so many sections.

MS JONES: Section 33.

CHAIR: Order, please!

I ask members for their co-operation, the hon. the Member for Burgeo – La Poile has the floor.

The hon. the Member for Burgeo – La Poile.

MR. A. PARSONS: Mr. Chair, clause 33, section 19. That is where it is.

Thank you. I thank the Member for Cartwright – L’Anse au Clair.

Now, the fact is –

AN HON. MEMBER: What does it say?

MR. A. PARSONS: If you guys do not have the time to read it, then we are really in trouble here. That is what I would say to you.

The fact is the former Premier, Mr. Chair, said he referenced Abraham Lincoln once in his speech. He said: Let the people know the truth and the country is safe. We will keep the people of this Province fully informed. There will be no secret documents; there will be no hidden agenda. This bill flies in the face of that comment. It flies in the face of that quote.

Mr. Chair, we have been here, we have discussed – I cannot say we have discussed the entire bill because we never had the opportunity.

MS JONES: Six clauses of thirty-four.

MR. A. PARSONS: Yes, six clauses is where we got, Mr. Chair.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

CHAIR: Order, please!

MR. A. PARSONS: My time is running out, but what I am going to say is this. It is no surprise that I am not going to be supporting this bill. I cannot support this bill because it goes against everything you promised you would do. You campaigned on it. You campaigned on this. We offered constructive criticism in the form of amendments that your former Premier suggested, you turned those down. We did not get a chance to debate this. We were promised all the time we needed to debate it, that did not happen.

Mr. Chair, I am going to conclude my remarks tonight by saying that it is not going to take much for me to vote against this. I am just hoping that the other members think about what they are doing when they cast their vote on this tonight, I really hope you do.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

CHAIR: Order, please!

Before I recognize the next member who wishes to speak, I want to welcome visitors to the gallery. I also want to advise visitors in the public galleries that they are not to participate or to demonstrate in any way in order to show their approval or disapproval of any proceedings in this House. I ask visitors, of course, for their co-operation.

The hon. the Minister of Service Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DAVIS: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I am delighted to have an opportunity to rise and enter into debate in committee here on clause 6 which deals with section 18 of the act, the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

This is not my first time having an opportunity, Mr Chair, to speak to this particular clause because we have been debating this particular clause for many hours. As the House is aware, we have had several amendments that have been debated as well as we go through the clauses.

I feel, Mr. Chair, it would be a valuable use of my time and the time of the House tonight to dig into a little bit of what clause 6 actually contains, where it is derived from, and what happens. Because there seems to be a misunderstanding or misrepresentation that this is all new, all of the information here is new. It is all brought together from somewhere out in never-never land and created for the sole purpose of creating secrecy and privacy.

Now, the hon. member opposite who just spoke from Burgeo – La Poile, and I enjoyed sitting down and listening to him. He speaks quite often in the House and I try to pay attention to what he is saying. Sometimes it gets to be challenging but I do my best, and he sometimes can bring forward some points. Tonight he went back a little bit in time. I did that myself on a previous occasion of speaking.

I went back in time because, Mr. Chair, if you want to see where you are heading and where you are going forward, it can sometimes become a valuable asset, a valuable lesson, to go back in time. Let’s look: Has this happened before in history? What were the discussions and the comments that were made? What happened with the progress? Where did things move forward?

I have done that. I have taken the time to look back to 2002 when there was a Liberal government in power, the members opposite when their party was in power and sat on this side of the House. There was a debate on the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act at that point in time, a debate that happened and existed here in this hon. House, Mr. Chair. It was an in-depth debate and it had very much of the same flavour we are experiencing in this debate. There were some comments made that are important because it deals particularly with clause 6, which has to do with Cabinet confidence.

The Justice Minister of the day, who is, I suppose somewhat ironically, still engaged in the process to a certain extent because he is currently – I think the proper title, and I stand to be corrected – the chief of staff for the Opposition. We know that he is still very close to the current members of the Opposition. While in debate, and having questions and actions that were taking place, he said – and I am going to take excerpts. It would take me forever; I would never have enough time to go through it all because we would have to relive the entire debate.

He said, "This government has made a major step forward in saying that there will come a time limit" – he is talking about time limits, which is included in this section – "when what you do in Cabinet, albeit in confidence, there is a reasonable period of time upon which it should be released."

Then he says, and this is a very important part, "Again, it is a policy decision – I cannot overemphasize that enough – of this Administration that matters of Cabinet confidence should be in place for twenty years." He is speaking to the importance of Cabinet confidence. Because they had gone through a review and they had gone through consultations, and the recommendation of the review was a shorter period of time for protecting the Cabinet confidence than what the government of the day was recommending. They were recommending twenty years.

That is what exists in the act today; it exists in the act today. Under proposed clause 6, paragraph 7.(a), information and records have been existing for twenty years. That twenty years reference still exists here today.

To get back to the quote, "This, in fact, was one of the recommendations put forward by our own committee that we are rejecting." So they were in the process then of rejecting the recommendations of their own committee. "They recommended fifteen years, but as a policy decision this government feels that an appropriate period of time is twenty years."

There is a very important point of why I go back to that. This was a piece of legislation they brought forward. I can show you here how they referenced previous debates. He references previous debates, the Minister of Justice of the day. He says further in the same date, this goes back to March 11, 2002.

"We cannot forget where the Freedom of Information Act came from in 1981. I am not suggesting that the government, which was a Conservative government which brought it in in 1981, did not make good advances by doing so. They did, it was a good move, but unfortunately they did not go far enough." That is what the Minister of Justice said at the time, that the previous legislation did not go far enough.

At the same time he refers to, these are policy decisions. He refers to amending what was put forward by the committee that reviewed it. They had a good debate on it, but one thing they did not do was enact their own legislation. They did not proclaim the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act. This government did that. When we came into power that is what happened. This government actually enacted the legislation. They fell short on the responsibility. They did not do it.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

CHAIR: Order, please!

MR. DAVIS: This government proclaimed that piece of legislation. We have worked with that piece of legislation since 2003. Then, what we did is we carried out a review by Commissioner Cummings. Mr. Cummings carried out a review. There was a significant amount of the recommendations that Mr. Cummings has made that we are proposing in clause 6.

There were some amendments made, there were some changes made. There was a significant amount that we did, that we are bringing forward in this bill, but we made changes. The same as that government did back in those days. Because they relied on the fact that it is the government of the day that makes those decisions, and for a number of reasons. I can find some more quotes to support what I am telling you, because the Minister of day also talked about that. They made changes to it that they felt were proper and appropriate based on their own experiences in being the government at that time.

What we have today, Mr. Chair, is a lengthy debate occurring on clause 6. I can tell you from my perspective, I take my responsibilities in the House of Assembly very seriously and I am going to continue in the twelve-and-a-half minutes that I have left to try and explain clause 6, despite the attempts by the Opposition House Leader to throw me off what I want to say tonight. I am not going to pay attention to that. I am going to stay away from that. I am going to stay with my comments.

In clause 6, which refers to section 18 of the current act, refers to Cabinet confidences. It points out that, this was their bill: The head of a public body shall refuse to disclose to an applicant information that would reveal the substance of deliberations of Cabinet, including advice, recommendations or policy considerations, draft legislation or regulations submitted or prepared for submission to Cabinet.

What we are doing is expanding and clarifying what all of that says. We are going to expand and clarify that. As a matter of fact, 18.(1)(a)(i), now you just heard the words I said, "Cabinet record" means (i) advice, recommendations or policy…" the same as what it says now, "…considerations submitted or prepared for submission to the Cabinet." Now, do we see any big, earth-shattering changes in that particular part? Because I do not, to me it appears to be very much the same. That is what is in the current.

What else we did, Mr. Chair – and it is probably a very good time to refer to it. We had a look at what is also in existence in our laws today and have been since 2005, if memory serves me correct. Assented to on May 19, 2005, was an Act Respecting the Management of Government Information for the Province. This act is in power today. This is the act that guides government on how and what we must do to manage information.

The bill that is being debated tonight, the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy, is the access of the general public to that information. So if that makes sense, the management of information, quite often called MIA, is how we as a government management our information. The ATIPP is how people can access that information.

In a Management of Information Act, in definition sections there is a definition of Cabinet record. It says Cabinet record, and a Cabinet record means – and there are eight different lines here which outline and define what Cabinet records are. Now, I want to take a few minutes, Mr. Chair, to compare that to clause 6, section 18, that is proposed in this act. These are the major changes that have brought this House to a standstill in making progress on this debate.

Section 18.(1)(a)(i) - and I am reading from what is proposed in our bill - Cabinet record means "(ii) draft legislation or regulations submitted or prepared for submission to the Cabinet".

If I look at the Management of Information Act under paragraph "(vii) is draft legislation or a draft regulation". Well, that has similarities. They refer to draft legislation or regulations, nothing earth shattering there.

Paragraph (iii) of the proposed bill, a Cabinet record means "a memorandum, the purpose of which is to present proposals or recommendations to the Cabinet".

I want to go to the existing legislation that we, as a government, are abiding by under 2.(a.2)(i). I know I am going back and forth. It is hard for me to follow, I am sure it is hard for everyone else but I am doing my best to show the similarities here, Mr. Chair – "is a memorandum, the purpose of which is to present proposals or recommendations to Cabinet". What we have over here is, "a memorandum, the purpose of which is to present proposals or recommendations to the Cabinet." Does it sound familiar? It is identical.

The next paragraph in our bill, Cabinet record means, "(iv) a discussion paper, policy analysis, proposal, advice or briefing material, including all factual and background material prepared for the Cabinet". That is paragraph (iv).

If we look over at the current act, the Management of Information Act under, "(ii) is a discussion paper, policy analysis, proposal, advice or briefing material, including all factual and background material prepared for Cabinet". Does it sound the same? It sounds the same.

I would say to the hon. Member for Burgeo – La Poile, I sat quietly and listened to your submission, I would ask you to serve me with the same respect, Sir.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DAVIS: I guess you will not do that. I will ask you, but even though you are not going to abide by it I will continue on.

In paragraph (v), Cabinet record means - this is what is proposed, "an agenda, minute or other record of Cabinet recording deliberations or decisions of the Cabinet". I will go to our current existing Management of Information, "(iii) is an agenda, minute or other record of Cabinet recording deliberations or decisions of Cabinet". Does it sound the same? It sounds very similar to me.

Paragraph (vi) under the definition of Cabinet record, "a record used for or which reflects communications or discussions among ministers on matters relating to the making of government decisions or the formulation of government policy". That is what we have here.

What does it say over here in (iv)? It "is used for or reflects communications or discussions among ministers on matters relating to the making of government decisions or the formulation of government policy". Does it sound the same?

AN HON. MEMBER: Yes.

MR. DAVIS: All right. It sounds the same. Well, I will keep going.

Paragraph "(vii) a record created for or by a minister for the purpose of briefing that minister on a matter for the Cabinet". That is what we have proposed as part of the definition of a Cabinet record.

If I look over in the current law under the Management of Information Act, "(vi) is created during the process of developing or preparing a submission for Cabinet". It is very similar to, "(viii) a record created during the process of developing or preparing a submission for the Cabinet". Once again, we have that similarity.

Now, in section (ix), and this is where there is a difference. I would like to point out to the members present, and also to the general public and people in the gallery who are here paying attention to this tonight. Under section (ix) a Cabinet record means, that portion of a record – that is an important part, I will get back to that, "that portion of a record which contains information about the contents of a record within a class of information referred to in subparagraphs (i) to (viii)" – which are the ones I just reviewed with you.

What is in the current Management of Information is contains. A Cabinet record means a record that "(viii) contains information about the contents of a record within a class of information referred to in subparagraphs (1) to (vii)".

The difference is, Mr. Chair, is that what we are proposing in our bill and the difference from the Management of Information Act is only the portion of the record that contains information about the contents of a record within the classes listed here, where the Management of Information Act refers to the entire record. What it does is it breaks it down, that it is only the portion of the record is what we are proposing, which I would submit is a more open clause than what exists in the Management of Information Act.

That is the definition that is proposed under clause 6, which deals with section 18 of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act. That is the definition of what a Cabinet record means.

Mr. Chair, what I say to you, and what I say to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, we have been here debating clause 6 for, I do not know, twenty-four, thirty, thirty-two, thirty-four, thirty-three hours or something like that, I do not know. It has been a long time. That is the substance of what a Cabinet record means. It is essentially what exists in the law of Newfoundland and Labrador today with an improvement, I say to my colleagues here in the House, with an improvement in the last one that I just wrote.

What it does, of what exists in the current Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, it clarifies that definition, because the current act fails to do that. It fails to clarify in detail what a Cabinet record is. It fails to do that.

We have gone even a step further to categorize Cabinet records. We have broken them down into three paragraphs, or three different sections. One being a "discontinued Cabinet record" and it defines that. It means, "…a Cabinet record referred to in paragraph (a)…" – which I just went through in detail – "the original intent of which was to inform the Cabinet process, but which is neither a supporting Cabinet record nor an official Cabinet record".

Then it is important for us to understand what an official Cabinet record is under what is proposed. What we proposed under clause 6, dealing with section 18 of the act, "(c) "official Cabinet record" means a Cabinet record referred to in paragraph (a)…" – which is the paragraph I just went over in detail – "which has been prepared for and considered in a meeting of the Cabinet". Now, that is very clear; to me, that is very clear. It is a very concise and clear statement of what is an official Cabinet record.

The third category then would be a "supporting Cabinet record" which means "…a Cabinet record referred to in paragraph (a)…" – again, the same list as I have gone over in detail – "which informs the Cabinet process, but which is not an official Cabinet record." Again, that clarifies those three different categories.

I can see I am quickly running out of time, Mr. Chair, and we do not have a lot of time when we are in debate to discuss these. If I can, I am going to expound on some of these just a little bit. A discontinued Cabinet record could be – because we have been asked several times in the House now: Give me an example. What is it you are talking about?

In my department, I may have a desire to review, to look into the potential of making a change to an act or bringing forward a new act, a new piece of legislation. In discussions with the officials in my department, I could say to my officials: I want to know more about that. I think we should consider making improvement to this law and I think we should consider doing that. We should improve this law.

When we make improvements to a law, we all know, despite all the rhetoric that goes on in the House, we are doing it for the best interest of the Province. That is why we are here. We are all here to serve our constituents and do what we feel is the best job that we can do.

I may say to them: I think we should look at doing this, and can we find a solution to a particular problem, to a particular challenge? The officials in the department would go away and go off, and in consultation with me and direction, they would go off and begin to investigate or compile information as to the matter before them that we are considering. That would be really supporting Cabinet records – that type of information. Then we may get to a point where they may bring in, to me, either a draft Cabinet paper or a synopsis of the information, or they may come to me and say: Look, here is what we found out. We have looked at this. Here are some of the options. I may say: Do you know what? I am not comfortable with that. We are better off with what we have.

Then the process is discontinued at that point in time. Not forever, because we may come up with an opportunity to make a correction or another improvement or another option somewhere down the road, but we are looking at how we can make that better with the intention of someday bringing it to the Cabinet process. This is a hypothetical that I am telling you that could happen. Under that type of a process, it could be considered discontinued Cabinet record.

Mr. Chair, I see my time has expired and I would like to thank the House for its patience tonight. I hope I have further opportunity later to further discuss this.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

CHAIR: The hon. the Leader of the Official Opposition.

MR. BALL: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

It is again a privilege to rise in this House today to speak to Bill 29. Mr. Chair, when we started the debate on Monday, I do not think anyone would have imagined how this would have caught the attention of the Province, Bill 29, An Act to Amend the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act. It really captured the attention of the Province, and I do not think anyone would have imagined that on Monday. Even though members opposite may not agree that there has been a lot of information, a lot of e-mails and a lot of messages that have come in to our office – and I can assure you that there has.

Mr. Chair, everyone around this Province is talking about it. People who normally would not have had any interest in government, they are talking about this particular bill, not only because the length of the debate but also about the substance and about what it is we are talking about here.

Mr. Chair, government ministers have insisted that people really do not care about this. They know that because a few people came out to provincial-wide meetings, the consultations that Commissioner John Cummings conducted, they believed that people really did not care about that.

Mr. Chair, we had just come off an election in 2011, where we had aspiring politicians, I guess, they were out there on the government side and they were saying they were committed to openness and transparency. They were committing to people that if elected that they would open, that they would transparent, and they would be accountable, especially with the funds in our Budget funds. That was a commitment that they made.

In actual fact, the fact that people did not come out in the numbers that people would have anticipated merely was because people did not realize the magnitude of this legislation. They did not really believe – they really thought that the amendments would not have the significant impact we see they have today.

Mr. Chair, in 1962 John Kennedy said, "The very word ‘secrecy’ is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and to secret proceedings."

That is what Newfoundlanders and Labradorians believe, too, Mr. Chair. We do not like secrets. We do not like it that government tells us we have no right to know what government is up to. We do not like it when publicly-paid-for information is kept from us. All they are asking for is if the public is paying for this information, they should know with some certainty that if they want access to that, then indeed they could. Mr. Chair, Bill 29 does a bit of that. Bill 29 will ensure that far more information will be kept secret than ever before, Mr. Chair.

Newfoundlanders and Labradorians respect the law. We respect the decisions of the courts and we believe that the final words of the courts should be final. That is the way we are, Mr. Chair. This government, through this legislation, really does not support that. This government believes that the final words of the courts are really inconvenient and sometimes irrelevant.

The Court of Appeal decided that the government had no right to hide away vast amounts of information under the veil of solicitor-client privilege. This was in late 2011. This was after Mr. Cummings’ report was submitted, Mr. Chair. Solicitor-client privilege is very important. We have heard that in many of the debates this week. We concur with that. It is very important. Our legal system cannot always work without the insurance that confidences passed between lawyers and their clients are kept secret. The appeal was made, Mr. Chair. What was happening is there was information in that file that was felt was okay to disclose. So that is the way it is.

This government, in this particular case with this amendment to Bill 29, has abused that right. The government tried to stretch and extend that sacred privilege to areas of information to which it did not apply. The Court of Appeal in this Province, Mr. Chair, the highest court in this Province, made up of judges who know and understand what solicitor-client privilege means, decided the government was wrong. That was the decision of late last fall.

The government abused the notion of solicitor-client privilege for their own ends, Mr. Chair. Government decided to impose their view anyway by amending the act so that their view would prevail, so their view of the solicitor-client privilege, Mr. Chair, would trump the learned opinion of the highest court in this Province.

Now, government is doing something the same in this House. This is what Bill 29 does. Government has imposed closure, Mr. Chair. Closure means that government has made the decision that public debate is inconvenient. Now, I know this debate went on for quite a few hours. There were six clauses. We made numerous amendments. Some of those amendments, Mr. Chair, would have made a meaningful difference in this piece of legislation. All were rejected. Closure means no more debate, no more amendments, and no more public discussion in this House. It means that we are cutting off discussion and holding a vote that they know we will win.

I have heard many ministers over the past few months say that Oppositions will have their say, but in the end government will have their way. That is the way it will be tonight. That is what closure will do to this piece of legislation, Mr. Chair.

The Privacy Commissioner is an important part of the entire access to information process because his office will do the heavy lifting; we know that. If you are turned down for an information request, you have the right to go to court, but that is no meaningful right because most people just cannot afford that process. It adds time, it adds expense, and it is inconvenient for the average person living in Newfoundland and Labrador, Mr. Chair.

The act was premised on the basis that if there was a problem, there would be an independent Review Commissioner who would look at the circumstances. If the Review Commissioner deems it feasible and advisable, he could appeal the government’s decision. He can make recommendations to the government and with the applicants’ consent the Review Commissioner can proceed to the Supreme Court, Trial Division – that is if they wish – but, Mr. Chair, that has changed.

There are many areas in this amendment which weaken those powers. There are now many more cases where if you do not have the commissioner in your corner, you are on your own. In most cases, unless the commissioner is ready to go to court, then the matter will never go because the money just will not be available.

The other officer that has been weakened in this whole process is one that my colleague mentioned earlier and that is, of course, the Auditor General. In his last report, we all know that the Auditor General described how he wanted to review the $5 billion infrastructure plan – the infrastructure strategy, Mr. Chair, that really did not exist. We were told that it was an evolving strategy, but when the AG asked for those documents, the government said no. So all the Auditor General could do was go back to the House and report that the government refused to allow him to review those documents.

Now, the day that the Auditor General, Mr. Wayne Loveys, revealed in his annual report his staff was denied access to the document of a $5 billion infrastructure program, the Premier herself quoted: I think we are very open and transparent. She said the government has nothing to hide and said the Loveys had alternative ways to get the same information.

Mr. Chair, the mandate here is to make it efficient, to make it easy. All Mr. Loveys needed to do was to do his work and audit the $5 billion infrastructure plan. The impact of this bill will be to ensure that the Auditor General will never be allowed to ask to see those types of documents in the future, never mind actually auditing them. The information the AG says he needs to do his work will forever be put off.

What this bill does is institutionalizes and entrenches the barrier to information. It has been shocking to hear what kind of arguments some of the ministers have made in defence of this bill. One minister even argued that because of the information needed to keep the business environment secure that government had to do the same. So what they were doing was trying to connect the business of government to that of the private sector. Mr. Chair, this is quite different. The funds there are publicly owned. They are not privately owned. It was public information paid for by taxpayers’ money. Mr. Chair, there is quite a difference.

We have heard many other ministers arguing that the public actually does not have a right to know, everything should be on the table except for day-to-day scrutiny, not only for the Opposition but for the scrutiny of government, the scrutiny of the public at large, and the scrutiny of the media.

Mr. Chair, that is in no way how a democratic society works. That is not the way that people would expect from a government living here in Newfoundland and Labrador. I say to our hon. members, that is not the way a democratic society should work in our Province.

Mr. Chair, other members have talked about receiving countless numbers of access to information requests, some are blocking up government, impeding the way that their staff could actually do their day-to-day work. Some of them even put the numbers in the thousands, but, Mr. Chair, they were more vague. They would make countless and countless requests, but we know the difference now. In the follow-up reports from this, as my colleague mentioned, we know that the actual numbers were much less than that. Keep in mind we now have fifteen departments, and in some cases there was less than one a week.

Mr. Chair, others have said that the bill will have no real effect at all. These changes will not have any effect on the way government works. Mr. Chair, let’s look at what some others are saying about that. We have all heard the reviews this week about associations like Democracy Watch, Mr. Chair. Democracy Watch is a non-profit, non-partisan organization and Canada’s leading citizen group advocating for democratic reform, government accountability, and corporate responsibility.

Mr. Chair, Democracy Watch said the following in an interview on June 12, this week: This is a dangerously undemocratic move that reduces access for the public the information that they paid for and have a right to know. It goes against the trend across the country which is towards more openness. Instead, this is towards more excessive, unjustifiable secrecy. Mr. Chair, these are not my words; these are the words of Democracy Watch.

They went on to say, essentially in every area there are more loopholes, more exemptions to disclosure of information, and they are weakening enforcement as well. When you do this there is a double whammy that leads to excessive, unjustifiable secrecy at a greater level. As I said, Mr. Chair, these are the words of Democracy Watch.

They went on to say that everyone should care that secrecy is a recipe for corruption, waste, and abuse of the public. The strongest governments have weaknesses, and these weaknesses and loopholes are always exploited when governments run to hide abuse, waste, and corruption. If you do not have a strong, open government and the system is not enforceable, with high penalties for keeping excessive secrets, you will have bad governments that will abuse people and communities and waste people’s money. That was their comments, Mr. Chair; these are not mine.

That sounds like that really is not housekeeping amendments, to me, Mr. Chair. Many other people have weighed in to the argument – people like the Canadian Association of Journalists. This group are the largest national professional association of journalists, and they went on to make many comments about this piece of legislation this week. They were shocked at the changes proposed right here in Newfoundland and Labrador. They were shocked at the changes to the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

Mr. Chair, the Province’s House of Assembly has been debating Bill 29, which proposes amendments, including a trio of items that would reclassify large amounts of public information so they would not be released when requested through the information process.

Mr. Chair, lots of the debate this week has been around the definition of Cabinet records, the definition of what makes Cabinet documents secret. We now know, four days later in this debate, that this definition will certainly be broadened. They will include everything from new classes of information, and any documents on briefings prepared for Cabinet, regardless whether or not they have ever been considered by Cabinet. This would also impact the information available to the Province’s Auditor General.

Government’s research reports and audits would be withheld for up to three years if a Cabinet minister decided that they were not complete. This could allow for politically sensitive or damaging documents to be kept in draft form. So, Mr. Chair, what this means is that if you have a record that you keep adding information to for a period of three years, they would not be disclosed. Fees were also increased, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Chair, there has been a lot of work and a lot of debate over the last four years. The government work, including information, which is paid for by the public, belongs to the public – and this was said by the president. This bill would erect some very large roadblocks for journalists and any members of the public. So this is not just about the media, this is indeed about the members of the public as well. These members of the public, who wish to see what their government is doing, and they want to hold it accountable for its decisions.

The bill’s amendment seems to fly in the face of comments from some ministers opposite who were broadly quoted this week as saying that the government remains committed to openness, transparency, and accountability – just like we said in 1999, 2003, 2007, and 2011. These were all election platform comments.

So, let us talk about how this government is committed to openness, transparency, and accountability. If nothing else, this debate has demolished this claim forever. Now, the entire Province will know that you are not committed to the process of openness, transparency, and accountability. How can say you are and the actions speak different? Maybe they were at a point, but we know now they are not there any more. Now, we all know that this government is committed to the closure, obscurity, making access to information much more difficult. Mr. Chair, one effect of the debate on this bill is that no minister or his government will seriously be able to claim the openness, transparency, and accountability.

This should be an evolving process, Mr. Chair. We started this process back in 1981, there was a bill introduced in 2001, there were some comments made earlier about why this bill was not enacted by the Liberal government of the day – or was not proclaimed. The reason was the public bodies and the communities, they were not ready, because they were part of the over 460 public bodies that we know of today. They were not ready for this new idea. This was the same reason, and these were the same reasons that were given by this very government in 2003, and the reason why it was not proclaimed – at least from the access point – until 2005. The privacy component of it was not proclaimed until 2008.

In 1999, for instance, Mr. Chair, they said in their own policy platform for that election: A PC government will what? They will establish a new Freedom of Information Act to reduce the wait for information, and to ensure ministers actually provide the information requested, where the information belongs where? In the public domain. We know now that this will not be happening any time soon.

In November 2001, the former Premier Williams stated: The party who rejects, it can completely ignore the recommendations of the Citizens’ Representative, and that is significant. The bill not only ignores the recommendations and the will of the Privacy Commissioners that they have entrusted that role, this role is permanently weakened.

In 2003, the Blue Book stated, "A Progressive Conservative government will: Proclaim new Freedom of Information legislation which will include amendments that will clearly identify information that should be in the public domain, including cabinet documents, and will require full and prompt disclosure of the information…"

Mr. Chair, we know today that we have new definitions of Cabinet records, official Cabinet records, but they did not identify the information all right. Then they introduced this bill to ensure that this information will never see the light of day. All it will take to put information away forever is a certification by the Clerk of the Executive Council, with very little opportunity to appeal.

The 2003 Blue Book also stated, "Release to the public every government-commissioned report within 30 days…" This was a significant commitment. I can remember the discussion about this. What they talked about was having reports on the table and what they committed to was making those reports available.

Mr. Chair, we could go on about other comments that were made. For instance, in 2005 the Province proclaimed the Transparency and Accountability Act. This is the act that I was just speaking about a few minutes ago. The reason why it was delayed was that public bodies were not ready. The difference was though in 2005, the communities actually came out and said: Guess what? We are ready now. Do not hold this up on our behalf.

The former Premier said he planned to make transparency and accountability the watchwords of his Administration. That is how important this was. In 2007, our current Premier said that four years is not enough to begin and to finish things. They needed more time. In this particular case, Mr. Chair, we know that is not the case. It only took a few months.

Mr. Chair, the pattern is now becoming quite clear. I have just a few seconds left before I finish up. They promised openness, but indeed we get closure. They promised transparency, and the information is now buried where people really cannot get an opportunity to see it. They promised accountability, but they make sure it is impossible to achieve.

Mr. Chair, I will finish up my comments with just a few seconds left by one quote, and this is from a former Supreme Court of Canada justice: "The overarching purpose of access to information legislation, then, is to facilitate democracy. It does so in two related ways. It helps to ensure first, that citizens have the information required to participate meaningfully in the democratic process, and secondly, that politicians and bureaucrats remain accountable to the citizenry."

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Chair, we started this debate at approximately 1:30 on Monday afternoon, I think it was. We have gone through two full nights and went to 12:30 last night. In total, Mr. Chair, I think there will be about sixty to sixty-five hours of debate. You have to take out a couple of hours here and there for breaks but there were not many.

As I said last night, Mr. Chair, reasonable people may disagree on the need for and the interpretation of legislation. My colleague, the Minister of Service Newfoundland and Labrador outlined earlier the issues that the party opposite had gotten into in 2002. It is similar arguments, Mr. Chair. We hear the same kinds of things, but a government has to make decisions. One of the things we have to make sure though, there is an opportunity to debate. Now, there has been criticism of the fact that we have brought in closure and what a draconian move this is and how can you do that, it is not fair.

Mr. Chair, I thought it might be helpful to look at the debates that have taken place in this House. I am looking up; I do not see Telegram James. It is almost like he has to be up there before I can speak, Mr. Chair.

The Opposition, both the Official Opposition and the Third Party, have certainly stated their case well. Obviously, I do not agree with everything they were saying. There were times over the last few days that have been tough on everyone, but there has been a lot of debate.

Mr. Chair, let’s just look at some of the sessions that have taken place in this House. We went to the Legislative Library and just asked them: How long, has this kind of debate taken place in the past? What we find is that in 2009 there was a debate of approximately twenty-three hours on the Chiropractors Act. I remember we went through the night. The Member for Cartwright – L’Anse au Clair and the Member for Burgeo – La Poile basically took us through the night and we spent twenty-three hours. It was a type of filibuster, not as much relating to the act but to make a point.

I will go back; in 2002 there was a debate until 10:30 a.m. In 1992, there was twenty-three hours on December 19. Mr. Chair, in the records I have, the most that I can find back to 1968 – this, again, is the information that was provided to me by the Legislative Library today – are two sessions of twenty-three hours. Mr. Chair, we have been here, and we will by the time we finish this debate, somewhere between sixty-five and seventy hours. That is a lot of debate, Mr. Chair.

Yesterday, the Opposition, as is their right, chose to spend a full day almost, I do not know the exact amount of time, arguing the difference between may and shall. Ten minutes at a time they got up and they kept arguing. It is somewhat unfair for the Member for Burgeo – La Poile to say we did not get to the rest of the clauses. They chose to go to certain clauses and they brought in numerous amendments to that particular clause.

Mr. Chair, sixty-five to seventy hours, I do not know what the actual number will be. It could be three times, or twenty-three, seventy. So, three times as long as any other debate that has taken place in this House.

Now, we look at closure. You say: Well, that is not very fair to bring in closure. Let’s look at closure, Mr. Chair. Let’s look at who has done what with closure. There are some interesting statistics.

Mr. Chair, the Liberal Administration between 1990 and I go up to 1997, I see seventeen closure motions. Whether or not they all brought closure, the motion was certainly there, Mr. Chair. Seventeen closure motions.

In 1992-1997 there were nine closure motions, Mr. Chair. In 1990 and 1991, in a two-year period, eight closure motions – seventeen closure motions. Let’s look at some of the acts they brought in closure motions on, Mr. Chair.

The Privatization of Hydro, does anyone remember that? The Electrical Power Control Act, which is still an act that we are dealing with today. We have had closure motions on those, both in Committee on second and third reading.

Mr. Chair, we have looked at in Bill 18 – in 1997 we had the Shops Closing Act, closure on the Shops Closing Act. Do not ask me, Mr. Chair, how in 1996 you get the closure on the Printing Services Act; closure on the Schools Act. People remember the Schools Act, so let’s not sit over there across the way and say this government is draconian; they are bringing in closure on this act. The Schools Act; the Privatization of Hydro Act; in 1995 closure on the Hydro Corporation Act, the Electrical Corporation Act and other acts; in 1992, closure on the Police Act; closure on the Gasoline Tax Act in 1991; in 1990, the Meech Lake Accord Resolution again.

We are dealing with the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act. I am not diminishing the importance of this act and the Opposition have done a good job, but let’s not sit over there and say: What you are doing here is unprecedented. It is uncalled for. We have never seen the likes of this in the past. Democracy is threatened.

Now, let us look, Mr. Chair, at what takes place between 2004 and 2007, the first term of our government: three closure motions. One was to amend the Tobacco Tax Act. In 2004, An Act to Provide for the Resumption and Continuation of Public Services – now, I thought there was something there, but that is not on my list, so I do not know what happened there. Then, there was a closure motion in 2007.

Let us just look at our government from 2004 to 2007: three closure motions; and 2007 to 2011: zero. The Liberals win, Mr. Chair, 17-3. That is how many closure motions we have seen in this House.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Let us look at the length of time of debates, Mr. Chair: twenty-three hours.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

CHAIR: Order, please!

MR. KENNEDY: How long here, Mr. Chair? Seventy to seventy-five hours; how can they accuse us of fronting democracy? We were aware of the closure issue from day one. We chose to let this go, Mr. Chair, as long as we could. It could have gone longer, but I am not going to get into that because we are trying to get through tonight.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. KENNEDY: Well, I suggest you talk to the Leader of the Third Party.

Mr. Chair, all I would say to the members of the Opposition: You can criticize us. You have done a good job. You have outlined your positions. You have stated them clearly. Please, give us a little credit for sitting here and listening. When you talk about frivolous and vexatious – and I look at my colleague the Member for St. Barbe and my colleague the Member for Burgeo – La Poile, both lawyers – what we went through yesterday, I would suggest, could be a little bit frivolous and vexatious after about twenty hours on arguing one word, the difference between may and shall. That is a fair point.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. KENNEDY: We do, and that is the unfortunate part of it. May and shall can take up a lot of time. To give credit to the Member for Bay of Islands, he talked about the importance of the words and there is a significant difference – may, being discretionary; shall, being mandatory or imperative.

Mr. Chair, this may sound disingenuous, and if that is an unparliamentary word – the debate we have listened to we do not agree, but we have listened and you have had your opportunity to speak. We will continue tonight and you will have your opportunity to speak.

The point I simply wanted to make is what we are doing here tonight is not unprecedented in the history of this Province. In fact, Mr. Chair, the Liberals like to use closure motions and closure orders much more than we do, and did not give people as long to speak.

Thank you very much.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

CHAIR: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for St. John’s Centre.

MS ROGERS: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Chair, what has happened in this House of Assembly over the past few days, and the hours and hours, has been nothing short of historical, not in the numbers of hours and hours that we in the Opposition Party have persistently undertaken in debating this bill but in the number of hours we have pushed government to look at its increasingly cavalier and dismissive attitude towards eroding the democratic principles on which our Province is based.

Bill 29 is not only about the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act. Bill 29, in its short-sighted, far-reaching ramifications, shines a light on how this government has been doing the business of the Province, the business of governing, and the business of democracy.

I am a new MHA. It was never my intention to run for political office. I was always an activist who worked hard on issues of social justice, on issues of equality for everyone. I have always believed that there is enough for everyone. Some will have more, but that is okay. Regardless, everyone has a right to a safe place to live, a job, and a community. I have always been an optimist.

Last spring when I saw the Premier and her caucus totally embrace Prime Minister Stephen Harper, I was catapulted into action. That was not the Canada I wanted, and it certainly was not the Newfoundland and Labrador I wanted. It was then –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

CHAIR: Order, please!

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

It was then I decided to run for political office. Mr. Chair, I truly believed that if I was elected, I would have the opportunity to work together with my caucus, the other Opposition Party, and government members, to work together for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, to work to help foster the best use of our natural resources for the benefit of the people, the best social programs, things like affordable housing, affordable child care, solid services for seniors, strengthening our health care system, our education system, and our municipalities –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

CHAIR: Order, please!

MS ROGERS: Thank you, Mr. Chair – together making it possible for departments to create even more innovative ways of assisting the private business sector, and of finding socially responsible ways of developing our natural resources to the benefit of the people of the Province – of all the people of the Province.

Much to my dismay, I found out that although I have been elected to represent the people of my district, as has every member of this House, I was not, nor are my colleagues in my caucus and the other Opposition Party MHAs, welcome at the table. We are not permitted to participate in the running of this Province.

Our Province has an increasing democratic deficit. We are the only Province in the country without all-party standing legislative committees, a mechanism that allows us all to work together on major pieces of legislation – major pieces of legislation like this. Not only do all jurisdictions across the country use this committee system, but the federal House does as well.

Now, after seven years of having a well-functioning Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, this government is dragging us backwards, diminishing our Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, and disempowering the best safeguard we have of our ATIPPA through the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner in the role of the Privacy Commissioner, an independent referee.

I understand Cabinet solidarity and I understand Cabinet secrecy. I wish I had been a fly on the wall while Cabinet and departments discussed why they thought it was necessary to amend our Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act the way they are proposing. What were they thinking? Did they know, did they anticipate, or did they even suspect the firestorm this legislation would kindle in this House, across the Province, and across the country? If they did know this was coming, why did they decide to pay this price?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

CHAIR: Order, please!

MS ROGERS: What were their concerns? What was the motivation for this?

Before Christmas, the Privacy Commissioner gave the government caucus a full briefing and was told that everything was going well, that the legislation was working well, and that the office of the information and privacy protection commission was working well. What did Cabinet then tell the members of government that made them turn around and march the other way? Why? What had changed their minds?

Cabinet is the heart of our political system and we need to know what makes this heart beat. I know that they will yell at me. I know that they yell at me when I talk about those things. I want to know why – why do they yell at me? I also wonder how will they explain and justify this to the people of the Province. I want to know how they will justify to their own constituents why they are willing to diminish the powers of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

CHAIR: Order, please!

MS ROGERS: We are, as I have said before, in a crucial time in the history of our Province. We stand at the cusp of making some of the most important decisions that we will ever make in our Province’s history, decisions that will affect generations to come – Muskrat Falls, the development of our natural resources in mining.

So, why now? Why now would this government propose legislation to limit our right to know how these decisions are made, why they are being made, on what basis they are being made. Information that tells us who makes the recommendations, what are these recommendations, what advice has government accepted, what advice has government rejected or ignored. Does government have something to hide? If not, they why do what is tantamount to closing the doors to access of information?

This government does not want people to know what they are doing, how they are making decisions, who they are listening to and who they refuse to listen to. They say: trust us.

Today in Question Period, the Minister of Justice responded to a question: Mr. Speaker, people who want to do business with this Province now have greater protection in developing the economy and moving forward in this Province. People who want to do business with this Province now have greater protection.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

CHAIR: Order, please!

MS ROGERS: I am fine.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

CHAIR: Order, please!

MS ROGERS: Mr. Chair, thank you very much for your assistance. I appreciate that.

Mr. Chair, who is it exactly that government would like to protect business from?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

CHAIR: Order, please!

MS ROGERS: Is it the people of Newfoundland and Labrador? Is it the people of Newfoundland and Labrador who need protection from business?

We are at the cusp –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

CHAIR: Order, please!

MS ROGERS: Mr. Chair, is stripping our Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act of its strengths and protection for the people of Newfoundland what we are doing? I ask this government: Who is it representing? Does this government feel its commitment is to the information rights of the people of this Province; or does this government feel that its commitment is representing the rights of business? Do they need to be mutually exclusive?

However, who are they protecting business from? Has business not happened already in this Province? We know that it has. Newfoundland and Labrador is open for business. The future looks good. The Province is not going to fall into a pit of economic despair without Muskrat Falls.

The opposition to this bill has not been purely political. It has not been only on this side of the House. It has been across the Province. We know that it is from the people of the Province. In this Legislature, the people of this Province are saying, through their representatives, that they are not happy.

If this government is willing to compromise our rights to access to information to assuage business, then there is a problem because we have been open to business and business can continue. This legislation does nothing to encourage business, but everything to encourage secrecy. The spinoff of this, Mr. Chair, is that it undermines the confidence and the trust of our people in our political process. It undermines the confidence and the trust of our people in our Legislature. It undermines the confidence and the trust of our people in the political process. It creates political alienation. I know this is not the intent.

We have all been entrusted to protect and ensure the rights of the people of this Province. Government has assumed that this is not a real, important issue and that the people of Newfoundland and Labrador are not concerned with the minutiae of this bill. I dare to differ on that, Mr. Chair.

The people of Newfoundland and Labrador care very deeply. They care very deeply about their basic rights and the fundamental rights as a citizen of Newfoundland and Labrador. They care very deeply about the future of this Province. They care very deeply in the trust and confidence they have in the political system. They care very deeply in the trust and confidence they can have in the politicians they have elected and in the representatives they have elected. The people of Newfoundland and Labrador are informed and they care deeply.

I refer once again to the commitment made by former Premier Danny Williams on December 5, 2000. We have heard this read in the House many times over the last few days, "We will keep the people of this Province fully informed; there will be no secret documents, there will be no hidden agenda. If you and I know the facts then we will collectively decide the best course for our future…."

We know, Mr. Chair, that we cannot compromise our rights, our fundamental basic rights. We cannot compromise our laws in order for the people who want to do business with the Province to have greater protection. Mr. Chair, I believe it to be a sad night if, in fact, that is what we are doing here.

I thank you very much for the opportunity to speak.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

CHAIR: Order, please!

MS ROGERS: I look forward to hearing the words from all members of the House tonight on this very important piece of legislation.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills.

MS BURKE: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I do want to take a few minutes because I feel we are in a very important debate this evening. I want to build on some things that we have heard from some of our previous members, and one is the importance of the motion for closure. My colleague here, the Minister of Natural Resources, spoke about it and how often we have used the closure motion.

Mr. Chair, I have been in the House since 2003. In our first term from 2003 to 2007, we used it three times. The next mandate in the last four years, we did not bring in closure at any point, and we did have some fairly lengthy debates. Speaking as the former Government House Leader, it was something that I would never bring in unless I felt absolutely that we are at a point where it had to happen.

When we look at the hours of debate that we put in to this particular legislation and the clause that we are debating, and the significant hours were put in, it is not unreasonable that we did this at this point. What I can say is despite that and the fact that we had so many amendments and we discussed the legislation, we spent so much time on one particular amendment, there was always respect of the fact that the Opposition were doing their job and they were debating the issues and they were laying down the amendments. We would have continued on that vein; however, we reached an all-time low here last night in the Legislature. One that was quite shocking actually, Mr. Chair, and I hope never to be repeated again.

I want to have a few comments on the messages we just heard from the Member for St. John’s Centre. She comes across and pontificates that they are the only party that cares about the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. I can tell you, Mr. Chair, there are many MHAs in this House of Assembly who have represented their district for many years in successive terms and if they run again, they will get re-elected. There are some new MHAs here who will represent their districts for many, many terms as well, Mr. Chair, and that is because the individual constituents in these districts understand that they have elected somebody who cares about them and their concerns and represents them well. To hear the rhetoric from the Member for St. John’s Centre as if they are the only people, the Third Party, who care about their constituents is absolutely galling, Mr. Chair. Every MHA in this House has compassion and cares about the people they represent.

Also, Mr. Chair, she commented on how we should work together and how great that would be, almost like she created a utopia for us. Well, Mr. Chair, the comments from her leader last night to insinuate that the Minister of Justice was racist was absolutely inappropriate. She apologized here in the House, but Mr Chair, that is an example of sometimes why it is difficult to work together. So it is no good to put out the facade that all you want is co-operation and then you cut someone down like that. You go out publicly and you make comments on all kinds of different mediums within the media, Mr. Chair. That is unacceptable.

So when you get up and say how co-operative you want to be and how you want to work together, you better first check with your own party and see what they are doing and how much they put out that environment that we are not going to work together, by not only just saying the Minister of Justice was racist but implying that the people of Newfoundland and Labrador are. Mr. Chair, when you deal with comments like that, it makes it very difficult.

The other comment she made, she said that the access to information act as it is today, prior to these amendments, was well functioning. Well, Mr. Chair, her party and members of her party have stood in this House and asked questions because they had difficultly with the access to information. They have not been standing up and saying what a great act it was and how it meets their needs and how they think it should never be touched; it is a sacred cow we have here, Mr. Chair. They stand up, they show reports with information that has been redacted, they are not satisfied with it, and then they get up tonight and say how well-functioning it is. Well, Mr. Chair, either they do not know what each other is doing over there, or they have no stand, or they think they are participating in a popularity contest. It is not about good work, not about good analysis, but what makes them popular. Mr. Chair, that is the lowest form of politics.

Mr. Chair, I want to address some issues with regard to this legislation that I think are important. One is the fact that the application for a request for information has been $5, and will remain $5; however, there has been a change in the pay schedule or the fee schedule that we have set out here, and I want to make a few points to explain what that means. As the legislation reads now a person who puts in a request to access information sometimes it requires time, I guess, to put the information together. The first two hours to put the information together, a person is not charged. After that there is a charge.

The change that we have brought in, Mr. Chair, says that the application fee of $5 applies and then the first four hours there is no charge. When you look at that, Mr. Chair, most people who apply for access to information are looking for a particular form or a particular report or something specific, it does not usually take more than the four hours. So, generally, most people will be able to access the information, unless it is an excessive amount of information or something more than just that one particular report. Most of the information requested will be able to be provided with nothing more than the $5 charge.

Mr. Chair, I also want to comment on the Cabinet records, because I think there seems to be the impression that the Cabinet records up to this point are accessible and we are changing the legislation to ensure that they are not accessible. What I want to speak about is the fact that Cabinet records today are not accessible. They are not accessible under the act as it reads today. They will not be accessible once we do the amendments. The difference is at this time a request for Cabinet information or information that would have been Cabinet information would go to the Privacy Commissioner who would then determine if it was Cabinet information or not.

What we are saying is if that information is information distributed for a decision at Cabinet and used at the Cabinet table, it will be certified at that time as a Cabinet document. The person who will certify that information is the Clerk of the Executive Council. If people do not understand who the Clerk of the Executive Council is, it is the top civil servant in the Province, Mr. Chair, and a person who sits in on the Cabinet meetings. That person will certify that the documents are Cabinet material.

We are taking away a process that somebody, being the Privacy Commissioner, would have to review the documents to determine if they are Cabinet documents. This process will certify those documents by the Clerk at the source at the time, and therefore, I think, will safeguard that information and keep it confidential as it is today without having to go through a time consuming process to determine that it was used at the Cabinet table. It will be certified by the Clerk. The fact that Cabinet material is not accessible is not something unique to this Province, Mr. Chair. This would be a standard practice for all provinces in Canada and for the federal government as well.

Mr. Chair, when I spoke about this legislation, and when we look at the fact it was brought in and had been around for a number of years before it was proclaimed, it is indicative of the fact that bringing in legislation like this, either for the first time or during amendments, is not something that is popular. Why is it not popular? Well, it is not popular because there are two main bodies that access information more frequently than the individuals in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Mr. Chair, those two bodies would be the Opposition and the media.

When you are in the Legislature and you have something that is going to affect the Opposition, they will have their say in the House of Assembly. They will have it over and over. They will be recorded and they will have their opportunity. When you are saying something that is going to affect the media and they perceive that it is not going to be what they want, well they carry the message to the public.

When you are in government, and as some of the hon. members who would have been in the previous government, the Liberal Administration that brought in this, they understand that sometimes you have to, as a member of government, make decisions that are not popular. If we run government and we make decisions only because it will run well in the local newspaper, the daily newspaper, or run well on the evening news, well we are not governing, Mr. Chair. This government needs to be able to make decisions sometimes that do not sit well with those parties, whether it is the media or the Opposition, but it should not preclude us from doing what we need to do.

The review of access to information was a mandatory review. The legislation indicates that it will have to be reviewed every five years. During this review, Mr. Chair, the Commissioner who did the review did a consultation in various regions of Newfoundland and Labrador. The people had access to that Commissioner to provide their information. That information was written up in a report and given to government; therefore, the analysis was done and here we are in this debate, Mr. Chair.

This is not the last review of access to information. This will happen again within the time frame stipulated in the legislation, and it will happen over and over. I can also predict that every time it is reviewed and every time there are amendments that come to the Legislature, they will not be popular. Mr. Chair, the people who govern, whether it is the same party or a different party, will have to make those difficult decisions. That separates what it means to be government versus Opposition. There are Opposition members who truly understand that process.

The last point I want to make is the fact that we have heard comments that information regarding the tragedy of Burton Winters, or the Cameron inquiry, or the spending scandal, would not be available today once these amendments go through. Mr. Chair, those instances that I spoke of are not Cabinet decisions. It is not Cabinet material; it is not Cabinet papers that would be accessible.

The information that we would have regarding the tragedy of Burton Winters, or what was called in the Cameron inquiry, or anything on the spending scandal was not related to any deliberations of Cabinet, Mr. Chair. That information would have been accessible today, and tomorrow with the amendments would still be accessible. I want to clear that up, because I think that is an important point to make, Mr. Chair.

There would be no rationale, there were no decisions, there were no Cabinet papers, there was nothing that Cabinet had to decide on the Burton Winters incident. The Cameron inquiry was a judicial inquiry; it called in witnesses and it accessed the information that was available to review to come back and make recommendations to government.

The spending scandal, Mr. Chair, rocked the House of Assembly; it rocked the whole Province. That was information that the Auditor General had access to and he continues to have access to. If there is any –

MR. KENNEDY: We posted it; it is on-line.

MS BURKE: Mr. Chair, as a result of the spending scandal and how we do things now, the reports of ministers and our expenses, or expenses of the MHAs, are all posted for everyone to see. There are no secrets. We have Management Commission that is televised as well. It is more open than it has ever been, Mr. Chair, and that is very important.

In closing, I guess I want to just make a comment that it is unfortunate that we had allowed, permitted, and listened respectfully to hours and hours of debate that came to an abrupt ending last night. We brought a closure motion in because it deteriorated, as I said, to an all-time low. Mr. Chair, tonight we will continue, and we will make sure that before we vote on this we will ensure that we have the ability to provide our opinions and be able to speak what we feel is most important in this legislation.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

CHAIR: Order, please!

The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I am standing tonight to speak to the closure motion as it relates to Bill 29. Mr. Chair, I am speaking to this only because it is our very last opportunity to speak to the fact that we are going to see the protection of information in this Province in a way that is ‘ungarnered’ in the twenty-first century. I think it is absolutely wrong.

It is unfortunate we did not get an opportunity to have a full debate around this, despite the fact, Mr. Chair, early on in this when we said we were prepared to come here and debate this until there was closure. We had hoped we would have had the opportunity to present our amendments, to present our arguments, and to be able to challenge government’s thinking on where they were going with the protection of information in this Province.

We did not get that opportunity, Mr. Chair. Despite the fact they said we would, we did not get that opportunity. It is unfortunate that we did not, Mr. Chair. Because of the episodes last night with the NDP and with the Minister of Justice, it caused the shutdown of this entire bill and that is wrong. It is wrong.

It was a diversion, Mr. Chair, from the real issue of what is happening in this Province. The real issue was the bill that was on the table. It is unfortunate that issues around racism and all of the other things got tied up in this, Mr. Chair. The people’s interests were not put first, but rather the interests and the adrenaline of politicians in the House of Assembly dominated the agenda.

What did we see today? We saw a play out in the media all about that, but not about the protection of information for the people of this Province. After tonight, people in Newfoundland and Labrador, Mr. Chair, will have a much more difficult time, a much harder time, to access the information they need to have. Unfortunately, it did not become the priority and that is why we are here tonight now discussing a closure motion as opposed to discussing the motion. That does not please me too much.

I listened to the government opposite. I listened to them stand up and their defence was on closure. It is not the first time we have had closure motions in this House of Assembly. Indeed, it is not. I have been here when I have seen a number of them discussed, Mr. Chair. I was on this side and I have been on that side when they have been discussed.

I have seen closure motions, Mr. Chair, that sent public servants back to work in hospitals when it needed to be done sometimes. I have seen closure motions that sent Newfoundlanders and Labradorians shopping on a Sunday afternoon, whether they wanted to go or not. Now we are seeing closure motions in the House of Assembly that is going to take information inside of the government and bury it in a black hole in the Cabinet room for the next twenty years, Mr. Chair. That is the issue that is at hand today.

I listened, Mr. Chair, to the members opposite when they talked about how everything is on-line and everything is disclosed. Well, there are a lot of things in this Province that are not disclosed, I say to hon. members. It is under your Administration that the locks were put on the doors. I am going to remind you of the legislation you passed in 2008 when you exempted the government’s own energy corporation, Nalcor, and the Research & Development arm of government from the Public Tender Act.

You broadened the class, Mr. Chair, to include commercially sensitive records. What happened from that day on? From that day on we have not been able to access one trace of information inside of Nalcor despite the fact we transfer over $600 million a year, again this year, of taxpayers’ money to that corporation for investment, and the public cannot access the information. That is not right. That is not open and transparent, Mr. Chair.

We cannot get copies of contracts and procurement deals. We do not know if they are being tendered or negotiated. We do not know how much money is being funnelled out to this company and that company, and what the results are of that money and spending at the end of the day. Is that open and transparent? Well, it was your government who did that in 2008.

Then in 2009, Mr. Chair, when we were trying to get briefing notes, all of a sudden the government decides we are not going to use them anymore. I remember a former Minister of Health, who is no longer in this Legislature now, talked about that he did not have a briefing book. However, it was only a few days before that he was out bragging that he had one that was about twenty-four inches thick. Then when they were asked for it, all of a sudden we do not have any. We do not use them. We do not need them anymore.

Mr. Chair, for a number of years the government opposite have been looking for ways to try to deflect from having to release information to the public, to the Opposition, and to the government. Yes, we have an act there now and I will be the first to stand and say it is not perfect, but it is a far greater piece of legislation than what you are proposing to bring forward tonight.

Now, Mr. Chair, I have had my experiences with that act like everybody else. I showed you across the House tonight. I have here pages and pages of redacted information, pages and pages, Mr. Chair. Is the act perfect the way it is today? Absolutely not! In addition, Mr. Chair, there are pages that do have information as well. The thing is a little information is always a whole lot better than none at all, and that is what I would say to the government opposite.

They do not like the word secrecy. They do not like the words, when it comes to trust. You have to realize that whenever there is an onus effort on behalf of governments or politicians of any stripe to try and hide information from the public, the first thing that is going to be looked at is hiding secrecy and mistrust. There is no one who is going to disagree with that who is a politician, because you have all been through it, every one of us.

That begs the question of why you would want to put your government through that when you were the very people who ran and got elected on openness and accountability and transparency. When you preached in this Province for years, Mr. Chair, when you sat on the bench over here and demanded that the regulations be changed. What happened? The government of the day went out, they consulted, and they came back. They passed a new act, the act we have today, in 2002.

You guys waited a couple of years when you came into office for claimants, because you said you were going to make amendments that you would release Cabinet documents, even. What happened? You proclaimed it. You did not make the amendments. Today, the only amendments you are making are regressive legislation, not progressive. That is the sad part about it, Mr. Chair.

President Woodrow Wilson said, "Everybody knows that corruption thrives in secret places, and avoids public places, and we believe it is a fair presumption that secrecy means impropriety." That is what was said, Mr. Chair.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

CHAIR: Order, please!

MS JONES: Mr. Chair, that is the kind of mentality, I am saying to members, that gets flared when you start seeing things like what we are seeing before the House of Assembly today. It does not mean that the intention might be different. I am just telling you, Mr. Chair, what people believe and what they think, and what they are led to be suspicious of.

Now, Mr. Chair, we feel that justice is always served better when it is informative. We feel that governments are stronger when there is more information. We feel that even as an Opposition when we are doing our job, the more that we can access information, the more that we can learn about how government comes about decisions, the more that we can understand about what happens behind the scenes in the Province, the better able we are to represent the people of the Province and hold the government accountable.

Mr. Chair, I will firmly say and I will always believe that the strongest governments in the world, the most powerful governments in the world, are the ones that want to have free and open disclosure of information; are those that want to operate on a real democracy; are those that have nothing to hide but everything to show because the work they do is always in the best interest of the people who elected them.

Mr. Chair, that is real openness and real transparency –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

CHAIR: Order, please!

MS JONES: – and real accountability, I say to the members opposite.

Mr. Chair, I did not feel very good last night when I saw the report by CBC, but I took it for what it was and I dismissed it at that. I did not comment on it in the House last night. I am not going to comment on it too much tonight, because I really do believe that we have the potential in this Province to have good, strong legislation and I think that we put forward very good amendments to make that happen.

Unfortunately, we only got nine of those amendments tabled in the House and they were all rejected by the government, which led me to believe that there was no flexibility on the other side, there was no openness in your thinking to accept an amendment, to look at a different way, to look at broadening something and making it stronger.

Mr. Chair, we did not relent, we were not discouraged, we knew we had a job to do, and we had many amendments that we were prepared to place on the table over the course of the next two, three or four days in hope that at some point that the government would see that it was wrong what you were doing and that you would change. Unfortunately, we never got the opportunity to do that because of what happened with the report, because of what happened with the NDP, all of that stuff, and it just inflamed the situation, Mr. Chair. As a result of it, the people’s voices will not be heard on this bill, and that is the most unfortunate thing.

Mr. Chair, information is the fundamental energy that is moving the economy and political change. It is a great quote, Mr. Chair, not mine but a great quote. I think it is a great quote because if you have information, you have power. When a society has power, it has energy and when it has energy, it is able to move things. When you are able to move things, Mr. Chair, you are able to be stronger. You are able to be more progressive. What is wrong with that? That is how societies get built. That is how we get strengthened.

We are seeing this tonight as an infringement on our democracy in this Province in many ways. What we are seeing, Mr. Chair, first of all, is a voice for the people in the Opposition that is going to be restricted information. There are clauses in that bill that I am sure that was written just for us because of our experiences in dealing with the freedom of information over the years, Mr. Chair, and the reasons that we were given and the challenges that we had in getting the information. I was reading this bill and I was saying that one is designed to stop us as an Opposition from getting money – from getting information.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

CHAIR: Order, please!

MS JONES: I am getting to the money, Mr. Chair.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MS JONES: That is my slight dyslexia catching up with me up again. I am getting to the money, I say to hon. members.

In restricting the information to the Opposition, you are restricting the voices of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians and their ability to be able to demand good accountability from their government. In restricting it to the media, you are restricting the right of the people to be heard, to have different view points and different perspectives, and there is nothing open and transparent and accountable about that. When you are restricting private information to citizens, it is wrong.

I read the story in the paper of the individual who has been trying to get their personal information from the government because they were dismissed from a job in the public service. They felt it was wrong; it was a wrongful dismissal. They could not get their information. They have been trying and they have had to go to court.

That is wrong, Mr. Chair; those things are wrong. If people are dismissed, there is a reason they are being dismissed. Government should have nothing to hide in the actions that they take with their employees, with their staff; they are public servants. You should have nothing to hide in the money that you spend, the contracts that you draw, the corporations that you deal with; it should all be open. Why would you want to hide any of that, Mr. Chair? It is not your money; it is the people’s money. When it is the people’s money, they have a right to know – they have a right to know.

Activism and engagement are essential to reminding citizens of their rights to know about public institutions, about priorities, about plans of action and decisions, to promote what needs to be done. When you have that, you have a healthier democracy, you have a healthier Province.

It was a good feeling to know that in Newfoundland and Labrador we had a really good act of freedom of information, and that we were among some of the best in Canada. It is sad, Mr. Chair – even then I did not think it was open enough and I have to admit it. How many times I would complain when I would get all of these blank pages. Now, I am going to complain even more when I do not get any pages, Mr. Chair, and that is the problem.

How many times did I complain when we asked for information and got a bill for over $2,000 for that information, knowing that we did not have the money or the budget to buy it, but now we would have to go to court and spend $22,000 to get it, not $2,200. That is the change that we are seeing tonight in the simplest form, in the simplest words that I can put it, that is the real change and the scope of the change that we are seeing tonight. For what? For a few hundred requests that go to the government on an annual basis. Give me a break!

I listened to the Minister of Justice and I listened to the Minister of Service Newfoundland and Labrador talk about how the system was blocked up in government. So many requests, we are blocked up, Mr. Chair; there is no way that we can do it. The minister said we are receiving countless numbers and numbers to access to information requests and somehow it is blocking up the government. That was his quote: blocking up the government. Five hundred and eighty-one requests over fifteen government departments, over 500 agencies of government, over 8,600 employees on the payroll of the public service – and 581 requests.

The speech in the House of Assembly, Mr. Chair, the defence mechanism of the government to restrict the access of information to the people of this Province, is because it has the government system bogged up – 581 requests. I have never heard such a lame, dismal argument in my entire life coming from a government as a form of defence for bringing in an act that will restrict information to the people of the Province. We cannot give it to you, Mr. Chair, because we are too busy doing everything else. We have everybody too busy doing everything else, so we cannot give you any information. Well, Mr. Chair, not much of an argument, I would say. I would try and work on that one a little bit better.

Mr. Chair, I am going to conclude my comments. I have less than two minutes left and this will be the last opportunity that I will have to speak to this bill, unfortunately, and you can tell I am not pleased by that at all. I am not pleased by that at all because I really believe that in a democracy we should have the opportunity to have full debate around issues and we did not have that opportunity.

Mr. Chair, this I will say, that I think the government should withdraw this bill from the table. I do not think you need to be doing what you are doing. I think the Freedom of Information Act that you have had has been able to protect the privacy of government and of Cabinet and still protect the right of the people to know, and that is a good balance. When you can strike a good balance, it may not be perfect, I may not like it all and you may not like it all but if it is a good balance and it works, why not leave it there? Because the real issues in this bill, the real problems that we have with it are not the recommendations of Mr. Cummings, they are the recommendations of the Executive Council, and that is the government that sits today.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

A tough act to follow, I think she might win the Academy Award. I think she should stand and thank the Academy and a few other people.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS SULLIVAN: Mr. Chair, we are all tired here tonight. We have debated this bill for seventy, or close to seventy hours now and I think we have made some really good arguments here and I appreciate the arguments from the other side. I always appreciate listening to the Opposition House Leader as well. She does a great job expressing opinion and we are happy to hear that opinion, but as she said, we certainly do not always have to agree with it. There are many points she made here this evening, Mr Chair, that I am not going to agree with and I will not have too much hesitation putting that out there as I stand for my twenty minutes here in the House.

Mr. Chair, I, and this government – I am sure I can speak for my colleagues when I say we believe in access to information. We believe in openness. We believe in transparency. Mr. Chair, I taught for thirty years in this Province. I was absolutely privileged to be able to do that in this Province, Mr. Chair, and when I worked with the young people of this Province one of the things that I always encouraged them was to seek information, to find out as much as they could. Because I told them that the truth will set you free, and that is a principle by which I have lived, that is a principle that I believe in, and that is certainly a principle that this government believes in, Mr Chair.

I have three children, Mr. Chair, and what I taught my three children was the same thing. I encouraged their curiosity. I encouraged that they would go and find information, Mr. Chair, because that information is important to them, but there were times when that information is not information that they should have had. It was not the right time for them to have the information, Mr. Chair. There is certain information the needed to be kept with – whether it was us as staff when we were teaching, or parents or whatever, it isn’t always appropriate to give out all of the information, for all kinds of reason. Mr. Chair, that is much of what we have been saying here when we have been talking about access to information and public protection of privacy, that part of that clause is often lost here. That is a piece that we need to speak to as well.

Mr. Chair, for the average citizen here in Newfoundland and Labrador, I believe that the enhancements of this bill will make a difference for them. I heard the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills make reference to that this evening. I believe that because of the new regulations that we have brought in, access to that information for them is easier, it is cheaper. In fact, Mr. Chair, there is a provision that says if it is deemed by the head of the department, or the head of whatever body, that it is a financial hardship then that financial cost can be waived. Mr. Chair, we are attempting to make the access to that information for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador easier and cheaper for them.

Now, Mr. Chair, when we heard the Opposition House Leader a few minutes ago, she was talking about the exorbitant cost, somewhere in the vicinity of $2,200 for one piece of information. Now, Mr. Chair, what was she looking for that would have taken a department eighty hours to find? Mr. Chair, she obviously went on a fishing expedition and said get me information on the word banana or something. We have no idea, but if she cannot narrow down what it is that she is looking for then it probably is going to take seventy or eighty hours to get it, and that is what the cost is going to be. It is about $25 an hour; the first four hours are free.

For the average citizen who is looking for information, Mr. Chair, the first four hours are absolutely free. Most requests can be responded to in that first four hours, Mr. Chair. So, I really do not understand what it is that she would have been looking for there.

Now, Mr. Chair, we have heard people from both sides of the House here, the Official Opposition and the Third Party, say they understand that certain Cabinet information has to be protected, and that is good, Mr. Chair. I am glad that we do not have to explain all of the reasons why Cabinet information has to be protected. I understand that for people who have never been in Cabinet it may be difficult to understand the format of Cabinet. It is a meeting that is different and unlike any other meeting, Mr. Chair. You just do not sit around the table and have a chat. This is a meeting where we look at papers that are prepared, that come to the table after they have been to social policy, after they have been to economic policy, after they have been to Treasury Board. They have been looked at on a number of different levels from a number of different perspectives. They come to Cabinet then for the final decision making.

Mr. Chair, we do not just get up there and talk willy-nilly about anything we would like to talk about, that is the prepared agenda. I heard somebody during one of the hours of this debate very early on say: Well what is the agenda being protected for? The agenda outlines those papers, Mr. Chair, and that is the reason why. That agenda outlines those. It is important for people who do not understand the process that we talk about that.

Mr. Chair, we do not intend that when we are protecting Cabinet papers, that what we are trying to do is to keep information from people. What we are doing is we are using the information that we have there to make the best decisions for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. Mr. Chair, sometimes that information is proprietary information to businesses, to industries, to companies in this Province that make a decision to come here and do business. We say but you are not doing business until you give us the information that we need to see that you are a business that is going to be able to survive here, to see that you are going to employ Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, to see that you are going to use these resources for our young people, the people who need jobs, who want jobs here in this Province. They share that information with us. Now that is but one example. In the sharing of that information, Mr. Chair, we are not going to put that out there for their competition to take a look at. That makes no sense.

There are reasons why we have to do it. I see nods from the other side that indicate that they understand that, or at least from one part of the other side, Mr. Chair. We also have formal research that is done. Intellectual property of researchers who provide us with information that helps inform those decisions, so people understand why it is that we are not putting that information out there. For the purpose of people who have not been at Cabinet, I think it is important to do that.

Mr. Chair, I have so much information here and so little time, so I want to make sure that what I do is I put out the information that is most pertinent to some of the questions that have been asked. We have talked about the numbers of requests that come into departments. I heard that in the debate here earlier this week and I went back to my department and I said: Give me the numbers. Take it back as far as 2008 and give me the numbers, but tell me who is asking for the information.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS SULLIVAN: I did not total it; I will tell you, though.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS SULLIVAN: I will tell you. If you listen I will tell you, that is what I am going to do. In 2008, there were forty requests. Twenty-four of them came from the Opposition – or political parties, I am sorry, so I do not know which one of the two parties. Twenty-four of them were political, that is what I am going to call them. Thirteen of those were media. Three – three – came from individuals. In 2009, we had thirty-one requests. I had fifteen of those that were political. Eight of those were media. Five of them came from individuals, one from an interest group and one from business.

In 2010, Mr. Chair, we had fifty-three requests for information. Twenty-seven of them were political requests, meaning from one of those two parties on the other side of the House. Eight of them were from media. In 2011, believe it or not I do not know what happened, if it was a cold winter in 2011 or what, but we only had fifteen requests. Three of them were political. Three of them were from media.

In 2012, Mr. Chair, so far this year, the number of those requests has gone up – really gone up. We have had twenty-seven just since April of this year. Twenty-one of them were political, from these people on the other side of the House. Only two of them were from the media.

Now, Mr. Chair, when we talk about the people –

AN HON. MEMBER: That is frivolous.

MS SULLIVAN: I am giving you the information that was asked for in the debate. If you call the debate you did on the other side of the House frivolous, that is fine with me. That is what you asked for. I got it for you.

Now, Mr. Chair, when we talk about frivolous and vexatious kinds of requests, let me just point out a few of those to you. I have received these ATIPP requests, I start to look at them, and I have to chuckle at a few of them here. I am just going to read a few of them if I can find them in amongst my notes here. We talk about frivolous and vexatious. Here is a good example of one here. This came from a political party. I do not know which of the two political parties, Mr. Chair, and I did not care to know. Here it is: With respect to the purchase and provision of single-use bottles and water coolers by the Newfoundland and Labrador Ministry of Health and Community Services over the last five years, what are the total ministry expenditures for bottled water on an annual basis, as well as over five years? Now, Mr. Chair, I do not know if I call that frivolous –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

CHAIR: Order, please!

MS SULLIVAN: – or I do not know if I call that vexatious, but that is not what I want the staff in my department doing. Mr. Chair, that is the kind of thing we are trying to get a handle on. That is not the kind of work the people in my department need to be doing, let me tell you.

Here is another one from a political party: I request under the Access to Information any correspondence, e-mails, directives, instructions, fax sheets, briefing notes, meeting minutes or other communications, either internal or external, regarding the VOCM Question of the Day. They did not give a date. I do not know which VOCM Question of the Day I am supposed to look up here, or VOCM’s Open Line show and or Back Talk and or any other talk shows, no date, just anyone of them. Again, is that frivolous, is that vexatious?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

CHAIR: Order, please!

MS SULLIVAN: What is it, Mr Chair?

Now, Mr. Chair, after we go about getting all of that information, guess what happens? Those requests are abandoned. We put in the hours to try to get the information that we are asked for, we call and say we have your information; this is what it is going to cost. They say, thanks, we do not want it now. Now, Mr. Chair, if we do not do that, if we do not get a handle on that, what are we doing? That is what this act is trying to tighten up, Mr. Chair. That is some of the foolishness that we need to get a handle on, Mr. Chair.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS SULLIVAN: Mr. Chair, in terms of repetitive requests; well, Mr. Chair, let me see if I can find this because this is the one – in fact the Member for The Straits –White Bay North asked a question today in the House of Assembly about the air ambulance. Well, Mr. Chair, we have fourteen requests, fourteen ATIPP requests about the air ambulance. Now, Mr. Chair, you talk about repetition. They have asked for the same thing over and over and over and we have provided it over and over and over. They came to the House of Assembly and they ask the questions, and my predecessor answered the questions. I come in as Health Minister they ask the questions, I answer the questions. Is that an example of something repetitive? Mr. Chair, fourteen requests, question after question in the House of Assembly, what is it about? What is it you really want to do? Do you just want to keep us tied up looking up information or do you want to really understand this? You do not get it no matter how many times we give you the information.

Mr. Chair, I do want to talk about a couple of very serious things. Those are examples and my time is running short. I have all kinds of examples here, Mr. Chair, pages and pages of examples that I can give you as to why it is that we need to tighten up this act. Mr. Chair, let me tell you something, let me talk to you about a couple of really serious examples and things that have come up here in this House over the last couple of days.

AN HON. MEMBER: Use the example of (inaudible).

MS SULLIVAN: Mr. Chair, the one that came up today – and that is a good one to give, Minister, thank you for reminding me – was the example of how disclosure is going to be affected with regard to radiology review that was conducted in Gander. Mr. Chair, CBC has been carrying the story, people have been watching I hope. I hope they are getting the news, they are watching the news at least to understand some of what has been out there.

Mr. Chair, as soon as my department was informed of that, guess what? Right away, we acted and we informed. When we were informed of that potential issue with diagnostic imaging in Gander, we implemented the adverse events protocol, which came out of Cameron by the way. We implemented that and we encouraged Central Health to get out there as soon as possible and put that information out there, Mr. Chair. We are not hiding anything, we wanted it out there. We said to the people in Central Health, get that information out there and get it out there as quickly as you possibly can.

Mr. Chair, we recognized that the nature of the information was important to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador so we did not waste any time. Mr. Chair, we said let’s get that out there. This warrants the people being able to have access to that information. Mr. Chair, what we are doing with Bill 29 in this Legislature at this moment in history will ensure that that information still gets out there to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

There is nothing in this legislation that we have introduced here tonight that would prohibit that information from getting out there, absolutely nothing. Every single e-mail that was asked for with regard to that situation was put out there, Mr. Chair, and it would be put out there after this legislation is passed. The fear mongering that I heard about, oh you are trying to make sure that people cannot get access to that information; not true, Mr. Chair, not true at all. That information is information that the people should have, will have and did have, Mr. Chair. That will not change.

Now, Mr. Chair, I have heard on a couple of occasions in this House reference made to the fact that the Cameron inquiry, one of the most important pieces of work that has ever been done in this Province – I have heard it said that the Cameron inquiry would never happen if this particular piece of legislation was passed. Mr. Chair, again, that is fear mongering. That is inaccurate and it is really unfair to put that information out there.

Mr. Chair, the Cameron inquiry was a judicial public inquiry. It is governed by the Public Inquiries Act with full rights to subpoena witnesses and with full rights to subpoena documents. It has nothing to do with ATIPPA. It is not connected to ATIPPA in any way, Mr. Chair. It is completely outside of the ATIPP process. Neither that inquiry nor any future inquiries would be impeded by the amendments to this particular act. In fact, Mr. Chair, as a result of Cameron and the important lessons we learned there, we now have the adverse events protocol –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

CHAIR: Order, please!

MS SULLIVAN: – which we followed in the Central Health radiology piece that I referenced a few minutes ago today, Mr. Chair.

When we talk about trying to make a difference here, when people want to try to take some emotional issue and then tie it back to something and mislead, because that is what that was doing, Mr. Chair, that is really unfair. That is part of the reason why the people of the Province do not necessarily know what is going on.

Mr. Chair, they need to hear this: The Cameron inquiry would have happened, did happen, will happen, and will not be impeded in any way by this legislation, nor will any other public inquiry. That inquiry had its own mandate. That inquiry had its own procedures to follow. That inquiry could subpoena witnesses, and did, Mr. Chair. That inquiry could subpoena information, and did. That is the way it will continue to happen.

Mr. Chair, the proposed changes we are talking about here are not in any way designed to look at the people of this Province and say: What we want to do is hide something from you. Mr. Chair, I started off talking about the fact that I have three children and some day I hope I will have grandchildren. The last thing I want to do, having spent thirty-odd years in public service now, having been the Deputy Mayor of Grand Falls-Windsor –a position that I also very proudly had – and having been what I think is a very good teacher in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, and the last thing I want anyone to be able to say is that I got to a place where I decided we needed to hide information and I facilitated that process. That is not going to be my legacy, Mr. Chair. That is not what this particular bill is doing.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS SULLIVAN: This bill is about ensuring privacy of information for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and access to information as well, Mr. Chair. We have tightened the process a little bit. We have gotten rid of that opportunity for fishing expeditions from the other side and from fishing expeditions from the media, as the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills referred to. She made an excellent point when she said it is the Opposition who does not like this because they cannot get their information as quickly as they want so they can come in and ask whatever questions they want. Not that there is a problem with asking that, but do your research. The same thing with the media, not that there is a problem, do your research, tell us what you want, we will give you that, but do not come in here and say: Give us all your briefing books –

CHAIR: Order, please!

I remind the minister that her time for speaking has expired.

MS SULLIVAN: I am sorry, Mr. Chair. I see that my time is up and I will take my seat.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

CHAIR: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Signal Hill – Quidi Vidi.

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

I am glad to get to the point of being able to –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

CHAIR: Order, please!

MS MICHAEL: – speak to the closure motion that is on the floor tonight. It is interesting to hear the Minister for Health and Community Services, with what she closed with, because it helps me get very easily into one of the main points that I want to talk about. That is the attitude of this government. When the minister was talking about what they have been able to stop, what this bill is going to be able to stop and that people are not going to be able to make repeat requests, it would do this government well to look at why repeat requests are being made. It is not because people are being deliberately vexatious or because they deliberately want to keep at you and keep at you and keep at them, Mr. Chair, it is because they are not getting the information they are looking for, when they are being very clear about the information. We have examples of that in our office, our caucus has examples of, and the repeats are saying: Please give us the full information that we are asking for.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

CHAIR: Order, please!

MS MICHAEL: What we see here in this government is a paternalistic attitude that they are in control, they are in charge, and they are going to make sure that they tell us how to do things. We will tell you how to ask for the information that you want. We will tell you what it is that you should be able to ask for. We will tell you everything. Instead of listening to people when they explain why things are not working, when they explain why they have to go look again, they should be looking at their systems finding out why people are going to have to repeat.

I am really happy that the minister ended with that because it really helped me get at this attitude that the government is the only one who has a responsibility for the issues we deal with in this House of Assembly. We all have the responsibility. When I thought about what is the main point that I wanted to make tonight in my final speech on this bill, I realized this is what it had to be. It had to be pointing out how this government does not know how to consult.

Yes, we have sat here for seventy hours – sat and stood, because when we speak we stand. We have been here. We have presented evidence, hard evidence, about why some of the things they have in this bill are wrong. One of the reasons we spent so long on clause 6 is because clause 6 is really the heart of the document. The amendments that were brought in, Mr. Chair, were absolutely important amendments trying to get at what is wrong, trying to get various ways to speak to the issues, and to try to make the points.

This government is determined to put this bill in. They are not going to listen to reason, whether the reason comes from the Opposition parties, whether the reason comes from the Information and Privacy Commissioner, whether the reason comes from Mr. Cummings, or whether the reasons come from groups like Democracy Watch or the Canadian Association of Journalists, it does not matter. They know everything. They do not need to be told anything. They do not need consultation.

They do not need all-party standing committees like every other Legislature in Canada. They do not need to bring draft bills into a committee and let a committee work on it. They do not need to do any of that, Mr. Chair, because they have all the answers. That is such a flaw, because one of the things we know is the more information that people have, the more heads that are working on something and the more experiences that are brought in, the better our decisions are going to be. This government does not believe that, Mr. Chair. They believe they do not need to have that consultation.

What happens, Mr. Chair, is that a bill like this one, such an important bill, comes in as it has come into this House with the Opposition parties getting at this one only four days ahead of time with massive detail, so people are working around the clock trying to prepare for speaking in the House. Then we get into the House to speak to it, Mr. Chair, and we end up being confrontational because they are determined this is the final document, so it does not matter what we say.

All of the points we made, Mr. Chair, especially about clause 6, all of the points we made about what now an official Cabinet record is going to be; all of the points we made about substance of deliberations; all of the points we made about the loss of a role for the commissioner; all of the points we made about people now having to go to court in order to get information they did not have to go to court about before, none of that means anything to them because for some reason they are determined that this bill should be the way that it is, Mr. Chair.

If we had the committee structure, if we had real consultation, then we would have a better chance of bringing a document into the House that really did reflect everybody’s thinking, but you see they want to control everything. They want it all to meet their agenda, Mr. Chair. They want it to meet their agenda, whether that agenda is the agenda of the people of the Province –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

CHAIR: Order, please!

MS MICHAEL: – or whether that agenda is large enough, it does not matter. They want it their way only.

It is really and truly the only Legislature across the country that operates this way. All of the other Legislatures have committee structures. You go onto Nova Scotia’s Web site and you see the standing committees, you see the dates of their meetings, you see the witnesses they have called in, and you see the documents that have been given to the committee. Things that we could be doing but we do not do.

I am really happy to hear about the Public Accounts Committee because I understand the Public Accounts Committee is actually going to be holding public meetings. For the first time since I have been in the House in the six years I have been here, it looks like we are actually going to get a well-functioning Public Accounts Committee. I am delighted to see it, the reports I have been getting. I am delighted about that.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

CHAIR: Order, please!

MS MICHAEL: Maybe we will start showing, with a functioning Public Accounts Committee, how our standing committees could work, Mr. Chair.

There are a number of things I want to speak to, to get at what I am talking about here. The government says they are not into secrecy. They are trying to get us to believe that this document, especially clause 6, is not about protection of information. They are trying to have us believe that this is going to lead to greater openness. In spite of the fact that they have had all kinds of evidence put before them that it will not lead to greater openness, Mr. Chair, they are insisting on it.

Let me take one section that we are very concerned about. It really is a very treacherous clause in the bill. It is section 20.

What section 20 says, Mr. Chair, is, "The head of a public body may refuse to disclose to an applicant information that would reveal (a) advice, proposals, recommendations, analyses or policy options developed by or for a public body or minister;

(b) the contents of a formal research report or audit report that in the opinion of the head of the public body is incomplete unless no progress has been made on it for more than 3 years;

(c) consultations or deliberations involving officers or employees of a public body, a minister or the staff of a minister, or

(d) draft legislation or regulations."

Mr. Chair, the problem, and the major problem with this section, first of all, "The head of a public body may refuse…" In the original act it was "may also". The thing is we now have a possibility to change that to make it a better clause, but government is not making it a better clause. The changes they have made to what is now covered makes it even more restrictive than what was there before.

The head of a public body may refuse to disclose to an applicant information that come from "consultations or deliberations involving officers or employees of a public body, a minister or the staff of a minister". Let’s look at a public body. It is any department in government, any department, agencies, College of the North Atlantic, school districts, regional health authorities, municipalities, et cetera, and that is not a complete list.

What we are looking at in section 20.(1)(c) is a ruthless change to the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Amendment Act, Bill 29; the whole section, "(c) consultations or deliberations involving officers or employees of a public body, a minister or the staff of a minister". Let’s look at what we mean by consultation.

Before that, let’s think about the word may. The word may is a dangerous word because the word may implies it could happen. It could happen, but there is no reason why it should. It could make one think that government will say that since it is a discretionary exemption, maybe they could release a piece of information. They can choose to give some, to not give some.

The public agency could just decide not to do it at all, and that will be fine also. They can ask for the exemption – the public body can ask for the exemption – but government might never give that exemption because they do not have to. Not everyone has the ability to go to court to get a copy of a record. If these public bodies do actually ask about giving out a public record because government has the final word, then very often it is not going to happen.

Another very concerning thing is the second point I wanted to make in part (c) is the consultations or deliberations. Well, Mr. Chair, here is what is really disturbing.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

CHAIR: Order, please!

I ask members for their co-operation.

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

These two words, consultations or deliberations, can describe any e-mail, the notes from a conversation on the phone, any letter, correspondence, or anything at all that in any way can be defined as a consultation or deliberation. Any time a government employee sends an e-mail, no matter what it is, it can be considered a consultation or a deliberation. Any government employee, whether or not they are talking to another government employee or if they are talking to anyone else, any piece of information they exchange could be kept private due to section 20.(1)(c).

This clause, Mr. Chair, is the heart of secrecy. As we are putting it, it is serving secrecy up on a silver platter for government. They have the gall to sit there and to say to people – to make the statement – this bill is going to make everything more open, when they know that is not the fact and when they know it is not. All of the evidence is there for that. That is why we have spent seventy hours there and only gotten to clause 6. We are trying to show them, Mr. Chair, why what they are saying is wrong.

There is no way anybody in this House should be voting for this clause. There is no way anybody in this House should be voting for clause 6 either, not because of the list – here we go with the secrecy again – of Cabinet records, not because of all of the minutiae that are in there, everything from an agenda. In other words, we are not even allowed to know what was discussed in a meeting. We are not even allowed to know what the items were in a Cabinet meeting or a meeting of a board of a public body. We are not even allowed to know what they talked about because that is all you find on an agenda.

An agenda, a minute, which is just a record, or any other record of Cabinet recording deliberations or decisions, advice, recommendations, draft legislation, a memorandum, the purpose of which is to present proposals or recommendations to the Cabinet, discussion papers – you can have all kinds of discussion papers that will never indicate something that government actually did.

The problem, Mr. Chair, with the list that we now have that replaces three little sections that were there before, with these three pages of detail, the problem is it is not dealing with what it should be dealing with. What we should be looking at is: What is the content that needs to be protected. I have no problem with protection of some information. That is absolutely essential. I think I have enough intelligence to understand why there has to be some privacy around parts of the workings of government; however, not every single word, not every single comma, not every single letter has to be kept private.

What we should be dealing with – and it is what we dealt with before and I will explain that. What we should be doing is looking at the content. What is the content that should not be released. That is why the phrase "substance of deliberations" was so important. That is why I have no problem with government coming up with a list. If they had maintained the phrase, this list becomes subject to what is the substance in the item. That is what substance of deliberations mean. What was that meeting about? Oh, that is a meeting that really should not be out there.

Just like with the House of Assembly Management Commission, for example, it is in legislation and everybody knows that there are times when the House of Assembly Management Commission does not meet publically. All of our meetings are normally public. TV cameras, people can come into this room or they can watch it on television; our meetings are public.

There are sometimes when our meetings are in camera. So, if we are dealing with personnel issues, those meetings are in camera; that means they are private. We report the meeting publicly and we report in a general way what we were dealing with, but it is in camera. If we are dealing with budget items, that is an in camera session. It is in legislation; it is in camera. We announce that we are having a meeting, but the meeting is private and we report what we held the meeting for. So, if it was to talk about the budgets of the statutory offices, that gets reported. The meeting was held to discuss the budgets of the statutory offices, but the substance is not revealed publicly.

It is very clear in the legislation that covers the House of Assembly Management Commission what is public, what is private. It depends on the content of what we are doing. What government has done – and this is where the secrecy comes in. By removing the phrase "substance of deliberations" nobody has any kind of flexibility. The worse part, of course, is what I have already spoken about and I want to speak about again tonight, is that the Information and Privacy Commissioner is not allowed to help determine what really an official Cabinet document is, and that is new.

Because of the way in which the bill is now written, the Information and Privacy Commissioner cannot do what he used to do, which was, using the phrase "substance of deliberations", he could determine what a Cabinet document that should not be released was. That is gone now, so you have this list of things rather than what is the content, and the Clerk of Executive Council, using this list of things, will make the decision about what is an official Cabinet document. If somebody wants to appeal not being able to get that information, then the person has to go to court.

Those two clauses, just those two alone, number 20 and number 6, are the evidence of the secrecy that is at the heart of this. How government can possibly say that this is going to bring more information, it is going to bring more openness, it is going bring more transparency, is unbelievable to me, how they can sit here with a straight face and say it. I cannot believe that every single one of them believes that. I cannot believe it.

When the time comes to vote for this, there is no way that I can vote for a document that is going to become so secretive that we are going to drive you even crazier. If you think you are being driven crazy now by 581 requests a year, it will be worse with this because we are going to have to try first in order to find out and we will go back again, so you are going to make it worse instead of better.

Mr. Chair, it is very sad that we have sat here for all these days, and in terms of effecting this bill we have done nothing. The only good thing is 11:00 o’clock on a Thursday night we have people in the public galleries. People are interested in this. We have been able, through the hours we have been here in the House, Mr. Chair, through the hours we have been here in the office, we have been able to make public how weak this bill is.

CHAIR (Verge): Order, please!

I remind the member her time for speaking has expired.

MS MICHAEL: That is fine, Mr. Chair.

Thank you very much.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Environment and Conservation.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

It is certainly a pleasure to get up and have a few words. I am not going to go on too long tonight, but I want to speak to Bill 29, the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, which we call ATIPPA as it is commonly known.

Before I get into too much of the bill, Mr. Chair, I have to comment on the Member for St. John’s Centre. There are a lot of people in this House who speak on a regular basis and there are a lot of people who have opinions. A lot of the times I disagree with members on the opposite side. Obviously, we come from different political ideologies, we have different backgrounds. Sometimes we agree, rarely, but we do agree on occasion.

Mr. Chair, I take it very, very personal and very insulting when somebody is putting their name on a ballot on four separate occasions and people have elected them. I find it hard to take a lecture from somebody who has been here several months and believes that we on this side of the House do not have any responsibility, any connection, or any feel for the people who put us here.

Mr. Chair, that is what this party was all about. It goes right back to 1949 when we were in the political wilderness for an awful long time. People who have deep roots in this party, and I am one of them, Mr. Chair, remember that time. I find it very, very difficult. There are people, like I said, of all parties on the other side, but that attitude and that opinion, that the people on this side of the House care nothing for the people who put them there. Mr. Chair, I take a lot of exception to that, and it is unfortunate.

It is unfortunate when a relatively new member – and I take my hat off to the member. They got themselves elected. They went out and spoke to the people who put them here, and that is what this is all about. That is what this business is all about.

Mr. Chair, as much as I may disagree with their opinion, I would never say they did not take the people who put them here seriously, because we all do that on a daily basis.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FRENCH: Mr. Chair, I could go on at length on some of the things the Member for Signal Hill said, but I have to go back to a few things I said the other night, in particular the history of how we got here today and how Bill 29 all came about. We have to go back, Mr. Chair, way back to 2001.

In 2001, the Official Opposition were the government of the day, Mr. Chair. There was a fair bit of angst, if you will, in the general public. They wanted freedom of information and a way for people to get information from different parts of government. In 2001, the Premier of the day passed legislation in this House that was something like what we have today.

Mr. Chair, a strange thing happened. It was passed in 2001. In 2002, nothing happened. It was passed in this House, but it was not brought into law. So 2002 went by, almost all of 2003 went by. We are into October of 2003 and we have an election. Mr. Chair, one of the commitments we made was to make that law.

Although the Official Opposition had the law in place, they never enacted it in their whole two-and-a-half to three year period. Mr. Chair, when we took the government, we took that law, did consultations and we reviewed that law. I remember, Mr. Chair, we never got elected until the end of 2003.

So, 2004 goes through. We are a new government, new Cabinet ministers, new bills, lots of bills actually. I cannot remember the number of bills we passed in the first couple of sessions but it was an insurmountable number, I remember that. It went on for quite some time.

In 2005, in January, Mr. Chair, we make it law. This government is very, very proud of the fact that we were the government that brought this to law. Mr. Chair, I will get into it in a few minutes and tell a couple of stories of why I believe we are making these changes here now and why they are important.

Mr. Chair, before I go on, I just had to lay out exactly how we got to the point we are today. Before I tell those couple of stories, I want to talk about the Centre for Law and Democracy and some of the things that were said this week.

Mr. Chair, we are politicians, so I guess we are used to taking a scattered kick in the rump sometimes, and sometimes we need one. I know my friends in the media, all the time they like to kick us in the rump. A lot of times I do not agree with the kick but you take it, Mr. Chair, and you move on. You try to improve.

Mr. Chair, again, it was quite insulting what was said, to say we were ranked below the number of countries that they said we were. Basically, they said we were below a lot of Third World countries in this area. They said we were below Mexico, below Ethiopia, worst than Nicaragua, worst than Bulgaria, worst than Uganda. This House of Assembly is worst than Uganda.

The hon. member of the Third Party just said about all the people in the galleries here watching this tonight. Rightly so, that is what democracy is all about, Mr. Chair. I hope the people of Uganda have the same privileges. A lot of years they did not, a lot of years they did not. A lot of years they were not as open as this Parliament is here. Not only that, I do not agree with everything that happens in Ottawa, but I can assure you, Mr. Chair, that they are far ahead of some of these countries that we have been compared to.

Mr. Chair, when this was reported and this was out there, they left out some very significant information. This group, the Centre for Law and Democracy, forgot some very important facts. I think they are worthy of note and I am going to point them out.

Mr. Chair, not only were we, the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, ranked below these countries, so were all the G8 countries. Every G8 country in the world was ranked below these. Mr. Chair, I find it hard to take it seriously when you see countries like Canada, the US, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy and Japan ranked under this when it comes to human rights. Mr. Chair, I just find it hard to take.

Then you have twelve of the G20 countries who rank worse. Eighteen countries out of twenty in Europe ranked below this. Mr. Chair, I have a job to take that. When these kinds of pieces of information are put out there, I think the full story needs to be told. I am disappointed in the people who are telling this story because they did not tell the full story. That is sad, because the person who told this story initially, I have an awful lot of respect for. So I am disappointed, Mr. Chair. I am disappointed that all of the facts were not brought out.

Mr. Chair, we in this Province have an awful lot of pieces of legislation, a number of pieces of legislation here that I believe protects the rights of the citizens. We have done a number of things. Like I said, we proclaimed this ATIPPA legislation a number of years ago.

Mr. Chair, this side of the House here were the hon. crowd that allowed the Governor General to come in and look at the House of Assembly, to look at its books.

AN HON. MEMBER: Auditor General.

MR. FRENCH: Auditor General, sorry.

Mr. Chair, I think it is important that it be noted. It is a very, very important thing that we did to garner the trust of the public to let them know this is how open and accountable we are that the Auditor General, and to this day, still has the right to come into this House.

In 2010, we brought in the Human Rights Act to protect people from discrimination and harassment. Poverty Reduction, my hon. colleague from St. John’s Centre always gets up and blasts us all of the time. Mr. Chair, this is a $150 million annual program that we have to help some of the less fortunate in our Province and something personally – the proudest thing for me in what we have done is our Poverty Reduction Strategy. Our Violence Prevention Strategy; our Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities, Mr. Chair, another significant move that we have made as a government.

Mr. Chair, when you say we have done nothing and we are doing things for other reasons, nothing could be further from the truth. We have also, of course, the Auditor General, Citizens’ Representative, Child and Youth Advocate, Chief Electoral Office, the Information and Privacy Commissioner.

Mr. Chair, I challenge the Centre for Law and Democracy to do a comparison between those things I have just listed and some of the countries she referred to earlier. I challenge them to do that comparison and see how we compare, Mr. Chair, based on some of the things I have read and seen.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FRENCH: Mr. Chair, I did not want to go on too long, but I want to tell two quick stories, if I can, of why I believe this piece of legislation is very important; however, it still will not take away the rights of average citizens to find out information and things that are going on that are important to them. I have to tell two stories. I believe it is important that we have to tighten this up, and here are the two.

The first thing, Mr. Chair, I have to talk about is Cabinet. Now, the hon. members went on for some time and they talk a lot about Cabinet, Cabinet secrecy, you should be open in Cabinet, and you have to know everything that is on the go in Cabinet. Mr. Chair, there are three committees, basically, that pour into Cabinet. I am fortunate enough to be on the Economic Policy Committee. There are people on the Social Policy Committee. There are people on Treasury Board.

Mr. Chair, believe me when I tell you there is an awful lot of things discussed before it gets to committee, and then from committee to Cabinet. Mr. Chair, this can take time, there is a lot of work that goes into it, and a lot of the good civil servants we have put a lot of effort into channelling this stuff. We channel into these committees and hope that it gets to Cabinet. As a minister, when you bring it forward your plan is initially to get it to Cabinet and make something happen.

I just recall recently one of the things that came up. There was a company looking to IBRD for equity funding – I think it was equity funding at the time. It was a couple of months ago. Mr. Chair, we dealt with that pot of money and we actually wanted to give this company money. To start that process, this company in rural Newfoundland, I believe, that was providing hundreds – a little over 100 – of jobs to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians we were going to try to help.

Mr. Chair, now we are dealing with very sensitive financial information about that company. They have to pour out their soul. If they want money – a loan of the taxpayers’ money – to help them up and to bring them to the next level, it is important they have to provide it. Mr. Chair, obviously we cannot share that with the masses.

Now, you would love no other. Anyone in this Cabinet or in this caucus does not benefit one red nickel about this. It is quite easy for us to say no; however, Mr. Chair, we want to help Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, employ them, and bring them to the next level. That is what it is all about: creating an economy in our Province.

Mr. Chair, if we had released that information that would affect that company not only locally here in this Province. It could have affected them in Atlantic Canada and it could affect them nationally. These are the types of things that go through Cabinet and can have such negative impacts, not only on the individual company but everybody in the Province in general.

Mr. Chair, the other one, we talked frivolous complaints. I said here the other night that I have an individual in our department who has forty requests in. I said I think it is seventy, but I will say forty. I actually went back and found out how many. It is actually over eighty. He has over eighty requests for information in our department, Mr. Chair.

Based on what I have seen, the requests are about things that, really, are none of their business because it is about other things in their area, in their community, and other land holdings. Mr. Chair, I do not see any reason for it. There is no need of it. It is not infringing on the individual. It is not hampering the individual. It is not about Terry French getting land or anybody else on this side of the House making any money from it. Mr. Chair, it is absolutely being nosey. It is the best way I can describe it. They are being nosey. That is it, and I do not mind saying it. If I met the man, I would probably say it to him myself: You are being nosey.

Mr. Chair, have a guess. Out of one of these eighty-plus requests he has in – can you imagine the time it takes to process eighty requests? You can imagine. There are staff dealing with it; staff doing research on it. Imagine the number of hands it passes through and so on. Mr. Chair, the most important part of these eighty requests is that one of the eighty requests, one of the latter of the eighty requests, asked for a copy of all of his requests. That is what the request is. He wants a copy of all of his requests. I guess he is after writing them and he cannot remember them.

Mr. Chair, now what has to happen, someone in our department is going back and finding out all of the things he requested information for over the last number of years. Mr. Chair, that is absolute foolishness. That is the best way, it is foolishness. That is frivolous, as the bill says.

Mr. Chair, this is why I am supporting the bill, based on those couple of stories – and it is important. This is costing the taxpayers of Newfoundland and Labrador an awful lot of money and a lot of times it is because of nosiness, Mr. Chair, and foolishness. That is why I am voting for this bill.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

CHAIR: Order, please!

The Member for St. Barbe.

MR. BENNETT: Mr. Chair, freedom of information, or as it has been called in Canada, access to information legislation is an idea whose time came a long time ago, but continues to be expanded in its scope. Information access laws were passed as early as 1776 in Sweden and have continued to be implemented and refined up to the present day in other jurisdictions worldwide. Some examples of those other jurisdictions are: Finland, 1951; United States, 1966; Australia, 1982; Canada, 1983.

Mr. Chair, transparency is the foundation upon which accountability of public officials is built. It implies openness and a willingness to accept public scrutiny. Openness and the potential for scrutiny is the antidote for suspicion and mistrust. Transparency thus increases confidence and trust in our democratic system. In most cases, the operative logic, buttressed by notions of the rule of law, is that if legislators are going to impose requirements on society, they should be willing, with appropriate safeguards in place, to have such requirements applied to themselves.

Now, Mr. Chair, if those comments sound familiar, it is because they came from the Green report. The Green report, by Mr. Justice Green, dealing with restoring confidence in our system, is something that stresses transparency and accountability. So, Mr. Chair, before this bill is passed tonight, as it clearly will, with the government majority –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

CHAIR: Order, please!

MR. BENNETT: – what is the status today of our access to information law? Well, information is available on application through access to information; however, there are exceptions. There are four mandatory exceptions. There are numerous discretionary exceptions, which I will not refer to, but of the four mandatory exceptions, one is Cabinet confidences, where the release of information would reveal the substance of deliberations of Cabinet. So, Mr. Chair, it is not necessary to have any change in the current law to have Cabinet confidences protected where the release of information would reveal the substance of deliberations of Cabinet.

Second, is the mandatory exception on personal information, which is recorded information about an identifiable individual, including name, address or telephone number, race, colour, religious or political beliefs, age or marital status. There is also a mandatory exception to information that would be harmful to business interests of a third party, which includes commercial, financial, labour relations, scientific or technical information, and trade secrets. Mr. Chair, there is also a mandatory exception to House of Assembly service and statutory office records, which protects parliamentary privilege, advice and recommendations to the House of Assembly, and records connected with the investigatory functions of a statutory office. Mr. Chair, our access to information is working in this Province, and there are four mandatory exceptions where it is impossible to get the information.

If we look at 2010-2011, which is the most recent copy of the annual report from the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner, we have heard over the last few days quite a number of different numbers being thrown around about access to information requests. There are access to information requests, and then there are requests for review and complaints dealt with by the office.

In the year 2010-2011, there were 175 requests for review and complaints dealt with by the office. Of those 175 requests, 90 per cent were initiated by individuals, not political parties and not the media – 90 per cent of 175 requests for review and complaints dealt with in the last year of this report were initiated by 158 individuals, or 90 per cent; 4 per cent were initiated by the media; and 2 per cent were initiated by political parties. Those are reviews and complaints. How can the government say this is used almost exclusively or primarily by political parties?

Mr. Chair, we are all now familiar with the Cummings report. The Cummings report was part of the report mandated to determine how access to information was working in our Province. Mr. Cummings reported that he had eight public hearings, and only ten people showed up. For some reason, that seems to be taken as a criticism. In fact, isn’t it possible that may mean people felt access to information legislation was working well in the Province? If only ten people showed up in eight hearings, obviously people could not have been too worried, too unhappy, or too concerned. In my view, that indicates satisfaction, not dissatisfaction.

Mr. Chair, the big turning point in my opinion in the government’s view on how access to information is handled in this Province came about in a case which was decided by our Court of Appeal only two weeks after this government was elected. Two weeks after this government was elected, our Court of Appeal ruled against the government and in favour of the Commissioner of Information and Privacy. In our Court of Appeal, one of the members of the Court of Appeal – now the Chief – is Chief Justice Green, who was also the author of the Green report. While nobody wants to say for certain what a court would do on any particular case, it is easy to be able to read excerpts from the case that the Court of Appeal decided last October that went against the government and how the government decided to plug the hole and fix the problem and make sure the courts could not look inside any sort of Cabinet documents.

To read segments from that decision, our Court of Appeal identified ATIPPA’s predecessor, which all of us know, was the Freedom of Information Act, Revised Statutes of Newfoundland and Labrador 1990. That was introduced by the Peckford Administration, a Progressive Conservative Administration – no doubt about that.

In 2002, the Freedom of Information Act was repealed and replaced by ATIPPA, which was a Liberal Administration. It was enacted in 2002 and then proclaimed three years later, so no party has a mandate to say that they are the ones who are more or less interested in access to information and in protection of privacy.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

CHAIR: Order, please!

MR. BENNETT: The Court of Appeal clearly stated – and it is for us to understand – ATIPPA was debated as the current legislation is being debated and enacted by the provincial Legislature following the receipt of a report titled, Striking the Balance: The Right to Know & the Right to Privacy, because clearly they must go hand in hand.

The Court of Appeal went on to say there is always a risk that internal management of documents may be affected by personal issues and even matters of political sensitivity. It went on to say that the commissioner’s role is designed to be a timely and inexpensive method of testing whether the Department of Justice, in this case, has a legitimate claim to withhold particular information.

Mr. Chair, what was at hand in the most recent and the only Court of Appeal decision involving freedom of information was a claim for solicitor-client privilege that the Department of Justice claimed over certain documents related to an employment file. The commissioner took exception and argued that the Department of Justice may be casting too wide a net and claiming solicitor-client privilege over more than really was privileged information.

The Court of Appeal recognized the concerns and excerpted from the earlier report a statement to say that to conduct an effective investigation, the Information and Privacy Commissioner must be able to examine the information in question to determine if disclosure has been appropriately denied or if personal privacy is threatened. Without such power, the commissioner will be unable to make well-informed and considered decisions.

This power of review should operate notwithstanding any law or privilege that may be claimed for the information in question, such as Cabinet confidences. The Court of Appeal clearly stated in October 2011, that Cabinet confidences were open to review. That really is one of the biggest points, the biggest issue, and the biggest point of contention in the debate surrounding this particular bill. Are Cabinet confidences absolutely protected, or is it only, as the current legislation says, Cabinet confidences which might indicate the substance of the Cabinet decision making?

At this point, this new legislation is intended to broaden the net and encapsulate all Cabinet documents, and it is done by having the Clerk of the Cabinet certify what is an official Cabinet document. There is no right of appeal from that, and the commissioner does not get to see it, regardless.

So, what do we think of secrecy? Because this debate is really about government secrecy. Well, Mr. Chair, here is what Pierre Elliott Trudeau said about freedom of information, "Democratic progress requires the ready availability of true and complete information. In this way people can objectively evaluate their government’s policy. To act otherwise is to give way to despotic secrecy."

Mr. Chair, Harry Truman said, "Secrecy and a free, democratic government don’t mix." Senator Patrick Moynihan said, "Secrecy is for losers." Jeremy Bentham, over 200 years ago said: "Secrecy, being an instrument of conspiracy, ought never to be the system of regular government."

James Madison, the fourth President of the United States, said: "Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives." Patrick Henry said, "The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them."

That is what we are talking about here, Mr. Chair. We are talking about the transactions of this government being concealed from the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. It is not just the political leaders and politicians who have had expressions of concern about secrecy.

In 1982, the Swedish philosopher, Sissela Bok said, "I believe that a guarantee of public access to government information is indispensible in the long run for any democratic society…. if officials make public only what they want citizens to know, then publicity becomes a sham and accountability meaningless."

Edward Teller said, "Secrecy, once accepted, becomes an addiction." This government, Mr. Chair, is addicted to secrecy. "Secrecy is the freedom tyrants dream of."

Niels Bohr, Danish physicist and Nobel Prize winner for physics said, "The best weapon of a dictatorship is secrecy, but the best weapon of a democracy should be the weapon of openness."

Mr. Chair, what is at issue here besides secrecy is, whose government is this? Does this government belong to the governing political party or does this government belong to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador? I say that this government belongs to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, not to the political party that currently controls the government.

There are two issues that are extremely dangerous in this legislation, in my view. One is the new role for the Clerk to certify a document as an official Cabinet document. That certification is conclusive, not subject to appeal, and not able to be seen by the commissioner. The other one is ministers’ briefing books and ministers’ briefing notes. The ministers’ briefing books are compiled at public expense by public employees to inform the minister, not for the minister to keep as top secret so his critic or anybody else can understand what is informing him.

Mr. Chair, I have had the pleasure and the satisfaction of receiving the briefing book, the briefing notes from the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture. I requested and was given the notes. I may well have received them from the Minister of Innovation, Business and Rural Development. If I have, I apologize for not saying. Clearly I have not read it yet, but I will, because we have been so darn busy.

On receiving the briefing notes from the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, obviously I read it because I wanted to understand what the minister understood. How can a critic be a critic effectively without being properly informed? You need to know where the minister is starting from. Even if the minister has a bit of a head start, the critic should understand those things.

To give one example in reading the briefing notes of the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture was to see who was on the licensing board. I could determine the minister had been briefed last October that of five members on the licensing board, there were three vacancies. Obviously, I had a concern over, who is licensing fish plants and why are there vacancies? Needless to say, that may have been temporary, that may have been turnover.

I had my researcher follow it further, because the preliminary research of getting the minister’s briefing books was sent to me to find that out. Sure enough, the three vacancies had been filled by the end of the year. There was no harm, no foul, the minister had done his job, but I, as critic, certainly would have followed up on that had those positions not been filled.

Mr. Chair, it would be very unfortunate if the minister’s briefing books are unavailable for a five-year period because that would mean critics would no longer be able to receive the minister’s briefing book and be at a significant disadvantage. In my view, a strong, informed critic can make a strong, effective minister. A weak critic means that the minister does not have to work so hard. Obviously, it is in everybody’s interest that all of us work as hard as we can for the people of our Province.

Mr. Chair, to illustrate my view of how government is entrusted to us and it is the people’s government; a few weeks ago I attended a public group to establish a small business organization in one of the towns in my district, in Rocky Harbour. They want to establish a small business group. Each one wanted to be polled, who could contribute what. I offered the availability of the services of my constituency office. Why wouldn’t I? I am certain any member here would do the same thing.

The individuals, my constituents, my small business operators who want to set up a small organization were really grateful and said to me, thank you for letting us use your office. I said, wait, wait, this is not my office. This is your office. I have a budget for the benefit of our district. It is your office and if there is anything that I can help and assist you with in this office, just because I am the MHA and it is the MHA’s office, this is still your office. I happen to have the keys right now and I have the responsibility to look after your office and your affairs.

I say to the members opposite, when you are voting on this and when you are considering this information, this information is the information of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. You have been elected and you have the privilege to run the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. It is absolutely critical that you maintain openness.

In my view, significant progress has been made in freedom of information in this Province over the last thirty years. Thirty, forty, or fifty years ago there was a group running China, and it is still running China. They had a program. What they had was the Great Leap Forward, and maybe it was and maybe it was not, but I say this legislation will be a significant step backward.

It is important not to enact this legislation. If you do enact this legislation, which I hope you will not, that you certainly do not proclaim this legislation. If you enact it and proclaim it, I am certain there will be a clamour from both parties opposite to offer as an election promise, that either one of us will get rid of it as soon as we are elected. This is bad legislation for the Province and it is bad legislation for your party and for the government.

On a final note about closure, all I want to say about closure is this has been very effective in tuning in people’s attention, letting people watch, and letting people understand. Yes, we would have liked to debate the bill further but we have not been able to and closure was invoked.

All I can say to the Minister of Natural Resources, and I am certain he is here somewhere, is he should now prepare his notice of closure for the Muskrat Falls debate because he is going to need one.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

CHAIR: Order, please!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS JOHNSON: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Chair, we would like to thank the Member for St. Barbe for his warning on closure on the Muskrat Falls debate. It is certainly familiar territory for his colleagues opposite. It is not something we have used, not even one-fifth of the time as the colleagues opposite, but we certainly thank you for that heads-up.

Mr. Chair, I would like to take a moment tonight to speak about the misconceptions being raised by the Opposition around this ATIPP Act. I know I only have twenty minutes so I am not going to go on and on, but I am going to get right into the misconceptions. There are so many of them, Mr. Chair, and I feel that I should get right into it so I can try and cover as many as possible.

First of all, Mr. Chair, we hear the Member for Burgeo – La Poile talking about how people are not going to be able to afford to get information anymore. It is going to be so costly because they are going to have to go to the courts, and so on.

Misconception number one, Mr. Chair, is that this will not be more costly for the members of the general public, and this is what this bill is all about. It is finding that balance. It is allowing members of the general public to have access to information.

Mr. Chair, we have maintained the $5 fee. For anybody who applies for information, if what they are asking for can be done within four hours or less, that is your total bill, $5. The misconception that this will cost more money –

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS JOHNSON: Now he is over there saying: What, $5 for a lawyer?

Well, here is something, Mr. Chair, that the Opposition failed to mention when they were talking about having access to information. The point that the Opposition members have continuously ignored is that if the public body notifies an applicant that their request is refused due to it being frivolous or vexatious, a reason must be provided as to why that refusal was provided.

Mr. Chair, here is the key point that the Opposition conveniently, I suppose, failed to mention. The applicant has the right to appeal that to the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner. It is pretty convenient to leave that piece out, isn’t it? That is no cost, Mr. Chair.

The majority of the information requests that are put in by the general public are done within the four hours. So, $5 is certainly one of the cheapest places in the country to get the information. Rightly so, Mr. Chair, and that is something that we really believe in.

When speaking about frivolous and vexatious requests, Mr. Chair, I thought I would outline a couple of those. When I was in the Department of Environment, and the current minister has referred to some of those, there were numerous requests there. I have some interesting information here, examples.

Just note the year, this is 2008. In 2008, an applicant requested speaking notes, prepared text or bullet points for all speeches written or prepared for use by an elected member whether or not the speech was delivered, transcripts of the speeches by the elected member, and all since October 22, 2003. It is a five-year span that they were looking for that kind of information. It was an enormous request. It took 177 hours, it took over 10,000 photocopies.

Staff worked really, really hard to try and get the applicant to narrow the scope and to make the request more manageable because we really believe the importance of providing information. That is what this is all about. When it is frivolous, when it is vexatious, when it is not reasonable in terms of five years of information, 10,000 copies, and then when you do all of the work and they no longer require the information, Mr. Chair, that is a complete waste of taxpayers’ time and taxpayers’ dollars. That is what this bill is trying to get at, Mr. Chair. There are numerous examples of this.

It is very interesting to hear from the Minister of Service Newfoundland and Labrador, how there was a request for information on restaurant reports for two months, January and February. In two months, Mr. Chair, thirty-eight environmental health officers completed 459 reports. About four days of work, when those environmental health officers could be doing inspections, which certainly as a public we would want them to be, but it takes them off the job to gather up this information.

What happened when the information was gathered? The applicant did not want half of the information, Mr. Chair. The point here is there is nothing wrong with asking for information such as inspection reports, say on MUN, or inspection reports on the Avalon Mall, but to go out and cast a complete fishing net to see what it is you might get out of it is really a complete waste of taxpayers’ time and taxpayers’ money.

Mr. Chair, we heard the Opposition tonight mock how long it takes. Why does it take 177 hours? Why does it take this long? What are the staff doing? They were really mocking what it is that the staff are doing.

Mr. Chair, I have been in government nine years now. I have been minister for – I do not even know what day it is today, but I have been minister for five of those years. I can honestly speak for the public service and the tremendous, valuable work they do on behalf of the public in this Province, Mr. Chair.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS JOHNSON: To hear members opposite question: What is it they are doing? Why is it taking so long? Mr. Chair, this is Public Service Week. It is really, really sad to hear that being questioned in the House this week. It is really, really unfortunate, Mr. Chair, because they work hard.

The reality is, when the fishing net is cast and they are trying to work with the applicant to narrow the focus, to narrow it down, to help them get the information they want, Mr. Chair, that is where the waste of money comes in.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

CHAIR: Order, please!

MS JOHNSON: It is unfortunate they would say such disparaging remarks about the public service during Public Service Week.

Well, we can certainly produce –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

CHAIR: Order, please!

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

MS JOHNSON: I struck a nerve, Mr. Chair, but certainly Hansard will tell the tale.

Mr. Chair, we also heard earlier tonight by the Member for Burgeo – La Poile that we are blocking the AG. First of all, I want to remind the people listening tonight, the people in the galleries, the people in this House and everybody watching on TV, it certainly was not us who blocked the AG many years ago.

I completely recall the Liberals when they were there showing the AG the door: It is none of your business what we are doing in this House of Assembly. You do not need to know what it is we are doing. You do not need to know what money we are spending, what money we are wasting, what taxpayers’ dollars we are wasting. There is the door, go through it, and do not come in here.

That was you who blocked the AG; it was this government who brought the AG in.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

CHAIR: Order, please!

I would ask all members for their co-operation as tonight members have been extremely co-operative and the Chair really appreciates it.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

CHAIR: As we approach the end of the closure motion, another hour and fifteen minutes at 1:00 a.m. according to the Standing Orders, we will be voting on the motion. I would ask members if the would keep the debate and their emotions at a low level for the rest of the evening.

I will go back to the hon. the Minister of Child, Youth and Family Services to continue.

MS JOHNSON: Mr. Chair, it has been a reoccurring theme from the Opposition: Do as I say, not as I do.

Mr. Chair, as I was saying, they left the impression that we were blocking out the AG. I heard the Member for Burgeo – La Poile, when he was speaking he could not exactly remember which section in the new bill and after some time his seatmate there –

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS JOHNSON: Absolutely, section 33. If you reference section 33, let’s tell the members opposite what section 33 says, Mr. Chair.

Section 33 replaces section 19 of the Auditor General’s Act, Mr. Chair, which prohibits the AG from access to Cabinet documents. Who brought in section 19 of the Auditor General’s Act? Does anyone know who brought in section 19 of the Auditor General’s Act?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MS JOHNSON: The Liberal Opposition in 2002 brought in section 19 of the Auditor General’s Act which blocked the AG with access to Cabinet documents. We are not diminishing any of the information that the AG is getting. We are maintaining status quo and that is simply replacing it.

Mr. Chair, we are maintaining status quo because we believe it is the right thing to do. The AG in this Province gets access to every single cent that this government spends, Mr. Chair. Despite what the Opposition is saying there now, and they have tried to say, and cast dispersion that there is going to be a diminishment of the information that the AG is entitled to, that is absolutely not the case.

I sit on Treasury Board, Mr. Chair. Every single minute that comes out of Treasury Board directly goes to the AG. The AG knows every single cent that we spend in government and we are maintaining that in this act because we believe it is the right thing to do. So for them to say and to leave the impression there that section 33 is going to block the AG, all it did was replace what they brought in, in 2002.

We are maintaining that standard and we are ensuring that the AG continues to get – and I see the heads nodding over there, it is the truth. Why don’t you speak the truth? It is quite convenient to leave out certain parts and to leave the impressions that you are leaving. That is why it is important to put this out in plain language so people understand exactly what we are talking about.

Then you see the Opposition House Leader get up and wave around the blank pages. Mr. Chair, she leaves the impression that that was us, the reason why she has the blank pages is something due to what we are doing here. That is exactly what they brought in, in 2002. The reason you are getting the blank pages is by your own doing. I am not saying it is wrong. I agree with what you did because some of the information has to be protected. I am not disagreeing with it. We are just maintaining that principle. The blacked out pages are compliments of the members opposite, two of which were there at the time when the bill was brought in, Mr. Chair

Mr. Chair, we have debated this bill at great length, which was said. In fact, I guess we have made history here debating this bill. Mr. Chair, I have to make a comment about the closure motion that was brought in and the reason it was brought in.

Mr. Chair, I am the lead minister for the Violence Prevention Initiative in the Province, and we have many ministers who sit on the Violence Prevention Initiative. In fact, I did a statement here in the House today on how much this government supports groups like women’s groups, putting $1 million to the eight women’s centres across the Province, Mr. Chair.

As a government, we do great work in terms of violence prevention – the Minister of Education on anti-bullying, we are doing it in our schools; we are doing it in our homes. One of the members who sit on that violence prevention committee is the Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Mr. Chair. To hear him last night being accused of being racist was absolutely despicable. I can certainly speak for anybody on this side of the House, and anyone who knows the member, he does not have a racist bone in his body, Mr. Chair, and to say that, absolutely –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS JOHNSON: – is not true. Speak to any of the community groups that our committee works with on a weekly basis, on a monthly basis – the women’s groups, the not-for-profit groups, Mr. Chair – it does not exist, and that is absolutely why closure was brought in, because that was the lowest of the low that I have seen here in a while.

Mr. Chair, this bill is not about secrecy, as the Opposition proposes, this is about the Opposition and the media having to focus, having to narrow what it is they are asking. We are all here to provide it, but stop casting the fishing net, stop wasting taxpayers’ dollars and stop wasting taxpayers’ time, and this will all work out fine. Because we are all about providing information, we are a very open government, and the aspersions of secrecy, Mr. Chair, are simply not true.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

CHAIR: Order, please!

MS JOHNSON: Most importantly, what this bill is about is the individual citizen having access to information, Mr. Chair. Not only are they going to have access to information –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

CHAIR: Order, please!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

CHAIR: Order, please!

The Chair would ask for your co-operation.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS JOHNSON: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Chair, there is some heckling going on saying wasting taxpayers’ time and money. The waste that I am referring to is when all the work is done, they put up their hands and say, oh, we do not need it now, Mr. Chair, when hundreds and hundreds of hours are collected on this information. All we are asking is to work with us. We will provide you with the information, narrow your focus, and we will certainly give you that information.

So, this is not about secrecy, this is about the Opposition and the media having to do a bit more work, and that is fine. Mr. Chair, what this is really about is the individual citizen in the Province, allowing them to have access to information. They will continue to have exceptional access to information and we have enhanced that access, Mr. Chair. That is why I am supporting this bill.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

CHAIR: The Member for St. John’s North.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KIRBY: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I am pleased once again to stand in my place and speak to this bill, the proposed changes to the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, Bill 29. For all intents and purposes right now, we are debating clause 6, which are changes to article 18 under Cabinet confidences, but things go a bit more broadly than that at this point.

I would like to take the temperature down in the room, if I could, just a little bit. I just want to say the hours we have spent here debating this bill since Monday speaks to the importance of the public’s right to know. I am really happy that I have had the opportunity to participate in this filibuster. I can say with all honesty I have learned from all of you who have spoken on both sides of the aisle in the hours we have had together to discuss this.

I am also deeply concerned because I believe this bill is flawed. I will try to discuss some of the ways. I hope as I go through it members across the way will search inside yourselves and ask yourselves: Is this the sort of legislation you believe your constituents elected you to enact? Is this the sort of legislation your constituents want to see our government enact?

As I said, there is a lot more to say. I will try to say the things I think are most important from my perspective and from my party’s perspective, but obviously time is quickly running out for that.

The minister has said these changes to the act will strengthen access to information and protection of privacy. It may in fact protect privacy of Cabinet, in particular, but I cannot see how many of these changes are going to allow for strengthened access to information for the public or other parties seeking information. They will not strengthen access to information – they will not. They will not provide increased access to information.

The proposed changes will, rather, further restrict access. They will deny access. They will make information less available than it currently is.

We have all been researching various documents that are pertinent to the bill since we had it placed in our hands last Thursday. Just over a week ago we received notice of this legislation. I would just like to read a quote from a very interesting document called The Public’s Right to Know, which talks about international standards for access to information around the world.

It says, "Information is the oxygen of democracy. If people do not know what is happening in their society, if the actions of those who rule them are hidden, then they cannot take a meaningful part in the affairs of that society. But information is not just a necessity for people – it is an essential part of good government. Bad government needs secrecy to survive… Information allows people to scrutinise the actions of a government and is the basis for proper, informed debate of those actions."

We only have to go back for a moment and see what the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act is intended to do. It says, "The purposes of this Act are to make public bodies more accountable to the public and to protect personal privacy by (a) giving the public a right of access to records; (b) giving individuals a right of access to, and a right to request correction of, personal information about themselves; (c) specifying limited exemptions of the right of access…". That is the essence of the legislation. That is what it is intended to do.

When all of this business was going on when the Department of Justice was having a conflict with various parties about the provision of information, there were questions of solicitor-client privilege, the Information and Privacy Commissioner, who all of us have a sincere respect for, an Officer of this House of Assembly, after all of that was said and done, he said: This is a question of whether citizens of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador should enjoy the services of a strong commissioner who is fully able to uphold the rights of citizens granted under that act, or whether the citizens of this Province should stand at the back of the line and settle for having the weakest commissioner of an access to information law in Canada.

Do we want to stand at the back of the line and have the weakest legislation in the country? There is an interesting question here. As we have gone through this, it is apparent that to some extent the authors of this legislation have gone through access to information and freedom of information acts across Canada, other provinces and other territories, and cherry-picked some of the worst examples, copied it, and put it all in this bill in order to create a piece of legislation that will provide for less transparency in government.

The Member for Labrador West got up earlier this evening and explained that many of the provisions –

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. KIRBY: It was not?

The member got up and said: Many of the provisions under the Cabinet confidences section, the changes to article 18, clause 6 – I borrowed language from our federal cousins, or I believe it is the Official Opposition’s federal cousins, around the Mack truck clause, because you could pretty well drive a Mack full of Cabinet documents through it now with these amendments. The member said that many of these items that are included in the amendments are included in the Management of Information Act, I believe.

Maybe it was another member who said that. The days and the hours have been long. I believe it was the Member for Topsail – my apologies – who said that. Many of these, the description of the items, all of the documents, records, information, data, and so on are included in the Management of Information Act.

One of the things that the Information and Privacy Commissioner said when he presented to the Cummings commission was that there was no necessity for the authors of this particular legislation to include what is contained in the Management of Information Act when it comes to the description of what is Cabinet information. The other thing I would like to add is this particular clause, the changes to article 18 of the act, go far beyond the provisions in the Management of Information Act.

Though members may be right to talk about technicalities around the spending scandal and whether information that was attained proved there was malfeasance in activity by politicians that none of us would be able to defend, the spending scandal did tell us – it did teach us – that we do need public oversight. We need independent oversight. We need independent bodies – independent individuals – when government is refusing access to information and hiding records accordingly. Now, with these provisions in Bill 29, government is removing a large part of the right of access.

No one will be able to know, as members have pointed out tonight. My colleague, the MHA for Signal Hill – Quidi Vidi, talked about the provisions under public bodies and the implications for access to information to public bodies. There are some 400-odd – I am not certain of the number – almost 500 of these public bodies in Newfoundland and Labrador from post-secondary institutions to school districts, to health authorities to municipalities. There are some 400-odd of these.

No one will know if a public body’s refusal of the right of access to information requested by an individual in the public is appropriate or not because the right of appeal to the Information and Privacy Commissioner under the provisions of this legislation is not there any more. Instead, the alternative is the Trial Division. Go to the courts. That is what individuals have to look forward to: a long court process. That is unfortunate.

This particular piece of legislation shields more information from public release. It also gives Ministers of the Crown and members of Executive Council the sole discretion – the sole discretion – to deem that an access to information request is frivolous and vexatious. It allows government to disregard the requests it wants to fill and the ones it does not, and to comply with the requests it wants to fill and not comply with the ones it does not. It removes the role, to some extent, by and large, of the Information and Privacy Commissioner.

In addition to government departments and other public agencies as I have said, hundreds of them will be able to disregard access to information requests they deem to be frivolous and vexatious. The bill eliminates the current role of the Information and Privacy Commissioner who is in many cases an arbiter, as many of you have heard me say time and again, hour after hour since Monday, who is an umpire in information requests.

This change runs counter to, it is contrary to, and it is the opposite of what was recommended by Commissioner Cummings when he conducted the review of this legislation. His review recommended that public bodies have the prior approval of the commissioner, in the event they want to disregard requests for information in the event they believe them to be frivolous or vexatious, in bad faith, annoying, trivial, and so on.

I have to say that we acknowledge, yes, municipalities and other public bodies in Newfoundland and Labrador do not have access to the resources they need, the training they need, and maybe the time they need to deal with some of this. We should not cut the commissioner out. We should not cut the public out. That is a deficit we can correct, that the government can correct. This is not the way to fix the problem.

Instead of allowing the Information and Privacy Commissioner to make such rulings – and this was upheld. We remember. This was upheld by the Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal last October as this government is well aware. These changes provide an unnecessary level of power to ministers and to public bodies now to decide which requests are legitimate and which requests are not.

Where ministers are concerned, it will be as if the umpire is playing for the other side, to some extent. I have all due respect for the position of Clerk of Executive Council. We know that person holds an important position in government and is answerable to government, however not to the House of Assembly. It will be as if to some extent the umpire is playing for the other side, rather than leaving those decisions in the hands of a truly impartial individual, an independent body such as the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner. Instead of having an independent Officer of the House of Assembly making those decisions, this legislation gives that authority over to ministers to decide if requests are frivolous or otherwise, and if an applicant will have access to information or not.

There is no other avenue of appeal, by and large, with this legislation other than the courts. This legislation will prohibit them from appealing to the Information and Privacy Commissioner as they currently can. The courts should not have a final say on this, I think. Many of the amendments that were put forward were good amendments. They tried to circumvent that. They tried to provide other avenues for individuals to take other than having to go through the courts.

I just want to say, when we talked over here about getting communications from members, there has been some suggestion you should be able to access those. I will kindly provide e-mails that have been sent to me hour after hour as we have stood here in this Legislature since Monday. I have gotten e-mails hour after hour from my own constituents and from constituents of other members of the House of Assembly here. I will provide those e-mails to you with the names redacted if you do not believe that is the case. I have gotten numerous e-mails from individuals. I have gotten numerous phone calls from individuals.

As I said, people talk to their neighbours. People talk to other voters. People talk to their co-workers, their friends, their family, and other individuals. They are concerned about this. There is a public outcry about this. It is not just the media. It is not just hysteria, I say to the Minister of Justice – it is not.

There was a real deficiency in the way the consultations were carried out in this, and I am not talking about the good work that was done by Commissioner Cummings. I believe the report that was put together by Commissioner Cummings, and I have read it, is a decent piece of work, I have to say.

The commissioner was dealing with a situation whereby notice was given at a short notice for those hearings that were held last year. The announcement was made one day, and then a few days later hearings were underway in Labrador first and then on the Island portion of the Province. People had a very short period of time to prepare. It was all during a federal election that people in the Province were very in tune with.

In respect to the Cabinet confidences section, the Mack truck clause, clause 6, the changes to article 18 of the bill, there were only three parties that had anything to say about that. One was the Official Opposition, another was the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner, and the other was Executive Council. It appears from looking at Bill 29 that it was Executive Council that got its way in the end.

I would just like to say in summing up my comments here; I have said a number of times I do believe there is a good reason for Cabinet confidences. There is no question about that. We would never dispute that. There is information that is sensitive, and that contains personal information. There are data and records that perhaps should not be released, but government policy should not be developed, enacted, created, brought in, and slammed in at the convenience of the government. It should not always be about what is good for Cabinet.

We all know it is a privilege to be here. It is our responsibility to make sure we have the best legislation that we can have for Newfoundland and Labrador. I will say it one more time. This legislation runs absolutely counter to the public’s right to know. It is inconsistent with access to information. It is out of step to international concepts of access to information. It will not enhance and it will not strengthen access to information. Any modern, open, transparent, and accountable government would want to have a piece of legislation that provides access to information that is far better than this.

I say to the members opposite: Seek inside yourself. Consider this information. Consider what we have said. Vote against this. This is not good for Newfoundland and Labrador.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

CHAIR: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Justice and Attorney General.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

Mr. Chair, in a few minutes we will be bringing to a close an exercise that started back in January, 2011, when Mr. Cummings presented his report on the statutory revision of ATIPPA. That report and the work that has been done since resulted in this piece of comprehensive legislation that we are bringing to the floor tonight.

Mr. Chair, for the first time in this House tonight we had the opportunity to get out the points and get out the information as to what this act is all about. My colleagues on this side of the House have done a masterful job of presenting the key points of this act, why it is such an important act, and why we need to vote for it for this Province. They did a great job at that.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. F. COLLINS: Mr. Chair, the only part of the debate that was worthwhile was what we heard tonight. It is too bad we spent seventy hours wasting time in this House on bringing meaningless amendment after meaningless amendment on section 6. We spent two days debating section 6 with meaningless amendments.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

CHAIR: Order, please!

MR. F. COLLINS: It is too bad. If we had to have spent that time in a constructive debate like we had tonight, the people of this country and of this Province would know what this act is all about.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

CHAIR: Order, please!

MR. F. COLLINS: Mr. Chair, the Opposition parties have put out in the public general, sweeping statements causing people to fear they will never again get access to information from this government. They have called it regressive, oppressive, secret, and closing the door on any possibility of having access to information.

We talked about e-mails, people getting e-mails. The hon. member just mentioned the e-mails he got. I got e-mails, too. I got e-mails from people who were shocked by this act. I said: Why? What is it about the act that shocks you? Well, you are not going to give out anymore information. You are closing the door, you are taking away the AG, you are taking away the Privacy Commissioner, you are making everything secret, and we are going to get nothing. I said: Where did you hear that? Who gave you that information? Well, that is what the Opposition is saying.

I said: Well, what part of the act is it that you do not like? Well, there is none of it. It is going to hide everything. I said: No, be specific now. Tell me what part of the act you do not like. Well, you overruled the Court of Appeal and solicitor-client privilege. When I explained to them what solicitor-client privilege is all about: Oh, I did not realize that was the case.

When I talked to them about more flexibility in giving out personal information: All right, but that is not what they are saying. That is the case. I talked about: Are you hiding everything in Cabinet? Everything is going to be secret now. When I explained about Cabinet documents and how it works: Oh, I did not know that. That is the attitude that the Opposition has put out and are still putting out there, just listening to what the Member for St. John’s North just spewed out, the same stuff.

Mr. Chair, I saw this morning an interview by the head of the Third Party. She talked in an interview about a lady who talked to her –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

CHAIR: Order, please!

MR. F. COLLINS: I am trying to quote what she said here. She expressed the fear that she had some personal information she was trying to get and the fear that she would never be able to get the information now anymore that she was looking for, personal information. The Member for Signal Hill – Quidi Vidi was agreeing with that.

Did the Member for Signal Hill – Quidi Vidi tell her, for example, that her first four hours are free in getting her information, that there are provisions now in the act that gives it much more flexibility in providing personal information? Did the member tell that to the lady? Did the member tell the lady that the Privacy Commissioner now has the authority to investigate privacy complaints when a complainant feels their information is not being used properly? Did she explain that to her? I bet she did not, I bet she did not.

Mr. Chair, we have all gotten e-mails, but when we explain to the people what this act is all about, as has happened here tonight, people know about Cabinet meetings now, Cabinet records. People know about personal information. People know about the role of the Privacy Commissioner. If we had the opportunity over this week to get all of that stuff out instead of wasting time on shall or may –

AN HON. MEMBER: You are frivolous and vexatious.

MR. F. COLLINS: You talk about frivolous and vexatious, we had several examples on this side of the House tonight of frivolous and vexatious. We are wasting taxpayers’ money spending hours and hours filing frivolous and vexatious complaints. You heard lots of them tonight. Did you tell that to the people?

Mr. Chair, the right of the people, the public to access information is a privilege, a privilege which we must safeguard. We hold it dear and we have to safeguard it.

As Mr. Cummings pointed out – and the hon. Member for St. John’s North lauded Mr. Cummings’ work – "the right of the public to disclosure of information needs to be restricted somewhat to ensure the proper functioning of government when addressing issues of public policy." Mr. Cummings said that. The hon. the Minister of Finance said it some time in this House, that right to privacy is not an absolute right. It must be tempered with the need to have good government.

Mr. Chair, Mr. Cummings also said, "The ATIPPA should not be structured in a way that discourages the proper functioning of the government." Prime Minister Jean Chrétien in 2000, said: "some information has to remain in the privy of the office of the Prime Minister and the ministers for the proper administration of government." Mr. Chair, these are the principles governing this act.

All you have done is fear mongering among people there who do not understand the act. Once you explain it to them, they understand it well. People in Newfoundland are not stupid. They understand legislation when you explain it to them.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

CHAIR: Order, please!

MR. F. COLLINS: Mr. Chair, this bill, I am not going to go into the highlights of this bill.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

CHAIR: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Justice, to continue.

I would ask members for their co-operation.

MR. F. COLLINS: There is no need for me to go into the highlights of this bill, Mr. Chair. It has been covered splendidly by people on this side of the House. There is no need for me to reinvent the wheel.

There is one thing I will speak to, though, Mr. Chair, and that is the matter of solicitor-client privilege because I do not think it was addressed tonight. The hon. Member for Burgeo – La Poile accuses the government of overturning the Court of Appeal with the solicitor-client privilege; overturning it.

Mr. Chair, the Supreme Court of Canada has stated, "Solicitor-client privilege is fundamental to the proper functioning of our legal system." Mr. Chair, the Court of Appeal never said the Privacy Commissioner was the person to make a ruling on solicitor-client privilege, they never said that. What the Court of Appeal said was that the language was so structured in the current act that they had no choice but agree with the Privacy Commissioner.

Mr. Chair, let me quote you this, "The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society." When the Supreme Court of Canada examines federal laws under Charter scrutiny, if it does not meet Charter scrutiny what happens? You go back to the federal government and the federal government restructures the law so that it does. That is not overriding the Supreme Court.

By restructuring the law and making it right, we did not override the Supreme Court. We just set it right. Mr. Chair, that has to be pointed out. Solicitor-client privilege has to be protected at all costs. Now you are telling the people out there: Do you know what they did? They went and overruled the Court of Appeal. Rubbish, I say, Mr. Chair, rubbish.

Mr. Chair, I would be remiss if I did not refer briefly to the spectacle of last evening. I do not want to get involved in it. It has already been discussed. Offensive as it is, I do have to make a comment because I have to clarify something that I said last night.

Mr. Chair, I was speaking and very upset, as was the Minister of Environment who already spoke earlier, with the Centre for Law and Democracy and a certain media report that was made in the news. It ranked this Province behind a list of developing countries. Some of these countries, Mr. Chair, as I said last night, are well-known for human rights atrocities, drug wars, civil wars, some of them on travel alert.

I was not speaking whatsoever of the people of those countries, Mr. Speaker. That had nothing to do with. I was talking about the governing regimes of these countries. It was astounding that they would be discussed in the context of Bill 29.

Mr. Chair, that report left the impression on people watching, because they would associate these countries that were mentioned with Third World developing countries that have lots of challenges, poorly-developed countries with oppressive regimes, that is the impression people got. When the report was made that ours was below that, what other impression would people get?

What the report did not do, Mr. Chair – and this is what really got me going – was clarify the fact that most of these great democracies in the world, Canada included, ranked well below them as well. Had he pointed that out, it would have been a different story.

As a matter of fact, the hon. Member for St. Barbe mentioned some countries tonight that brought in freedom of information years ago, hundreds of years ago. Guess what? They all ranked below us again, the same countries just referenced.

That is the kind of journalism that upset me last night. I talked about comparing our regime with theirs. I cast no aspersions whatsoever on the good people of these countries and the great people there, a lot of them living in our country now. Some of these countries are no doubt making great strides to bring some reasonable democratic developments to their society, and they are to be commended for that.

I was shocked, Mr. Chair, when the journalist did not explain the full story so that the people out watching that show could put it in the right context, and left the impression that we were at the bottom. These countries, we were given the impression they were at the bottom of the list, so we were even below them, without pointing out that the great democracies of the world, all of the G8 countries and all of the G20 countries, ranked lower sill.

The fact that the hon. Member for Signal Hill – Quidi Vidi made the comments that she did was offensive and regrettable, but they are done, they are done. The House will take care of her as far as the privilege that she operates under in this House. She can hide behind privilege within the House, but she cannot hide behind privilege outside the House.

Mr. Chair, in closing, I simply want to say we are bringing to a close tonight something that started back in January, 2011. A piece of legislation that will provide access to information in this Province for some years to come, for five years anyway, and then it will have to be redone.

Mr. Chair, I want to re-assert the necessity of getting a balance between the right to access information, which we have put in this act - personal information now with much more flexibility. We have taken off the mandatory restrictions that were there to balance that, Mr. Chair.

Most of the provisions in this act are discretionary. The head of a public body may refuse, all discretionary. Not will, as you have suggested to the people you talk to. Not will, not shall, because you are saying that no more are they going to get it. They may, in certain circumstances, with the Privacy Commissioner having all the rights in the world to come in and review all of that. Mr. Chair, we have found a balance between the interest of good government and government addressing issues of public policy to make that fine balance between that and the right of access.

Mr. Chair, this is a good piece of legislation and I trust everybody will vote for it, including the people on the other side.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

CHAIR: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Bay of Islands.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JOYCE: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I am going to stand just for a few minutes, Mr. Chair, to have a few words on this. First, I have to get something off my chest. I do not believe any member of this House is a racist. I have to say that upfront and I have to be honest on that, Mr. Chair.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JOYCE: I always said if I am going to protect people’s rights, it is going to be the people in this House. I will protect every person’s right. I do not think anybody is a racist in this House, Mr. Chair. I can honestly say that.

Mr. Chair, I have to say, there was no reason to close down the House last night. To me, it was an excuse. It was an excuse, Mr. Chair. It was a total abuse of power to close down the House last night, a total abuse. They were looking for an excuse, you think you have one, and you close down the House, Mr. Chair. To me, that is shameful. It is shameful to close down this House of Assembly because you want an excuse.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JOYCE: That is my honest opinion, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Chair, it is kind of ironic. We are debating Access to Information and Protection of Privacy, and we are invoking closure. We are an open and accountable government and we are invoking closure. Go home out of it, we have had enough. We are invoking closure. This Legislature is telling the people in this Province: We had enough of you.

I heard the minister. How condescending, his statements. How condescending the minister saying it is a waste of time. Why doesn’t the minister stand up or go out to the Bay of Islands and say, I am wasting your time? This is what democracy is all about, Minister. This is what it is all about in this Legislature. For you to tell me that I am wasting my time –

CHAIR: Order, please!

MR. JOYCE: Sorry, Mr. Chair.

CHAIR: I ask the member to direct his comments to the Chair.

MR. JOYCE: Well, Mr. Chair, could you tell the Minister of Justice to tell me that I am wasting my time in this House? It is definitely a great sense that is so condescending, it is unbelievable. I think the minister should apologize to every person out there who voted to put us in this Legislature. Everybody across, too, remember your minister said you are wasting your time. Mr. Chair, they are wasting your time.

The minister got up on this and he was carrying this bill. He said every place it says: it may, it may, it may, it shall, it shall, and they shall. We tried to change that yesterday, and do you know what he said? Shut it down. We never even got past clause 6. Shut it down. Here you are saying: they may, they may. We want to put in there: they shall, they shall. To make sure every right, Mr. Chair, in this Province is protected.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JOYCE: Mr. Chair, this government is saying to all of the people of the Province: Trust me. That is what we are saying, trust me.

Mr. Chair, we had the Government House Leader stand in this Legislature and say: This House will not invoke closure. When the people out around the Province sees the Government House Leader standing up on his feet and saying we will not invoke closure, we trust him.

Mr. Chair, he was out and he said: We will not invoke closure. This is what he said to the media also, Mr. Chair. Take a guess when? June 12. Take a guess when he invoked closure? June 13. When the Government House Leader is out saying to people trust me, just remember he said publicly in this House and out in the media that he will not invoke closure.

How do you explain that, Mr. Chair? What am I allowed to say, that he is factually incorrect, he made a mistake? What can I say, Mr. Chair, when a Government House Leader representing the government over here stands outside and stands in this House, makes statements, and the next day goes right against it? Trust me. Trust me people, trust me. That is what he is saying.

Do you know the interesting thing about this, Mr. Chair? I never heard one person on the opposite side, not one person on this side – do you know the strange part about this debate? We are in here almost seventy hours. Take a guess. The Premier never said one word. The Premier of this Province has not said one word.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JOYCE: Do you know that? She has not said one word. This came in Monday, Mr. Chair. The Premier has not said one word, Mr. Chair, not one word. She had lots of opportunity.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

CHAIR: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Bay of Islands.

MR. JOYCE: If I am wrong, can anybody stand up and say I am wrong? You cannot do it. The Premier never made a statement. Monday this was brought in. This was brought in Monday.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. JOYCE: That is right. I know it is touchy. I know your leader had lots of opportunities Monday to speak about this, lots of opportunity.

Mr. Chair, we hear the minister saying: Only ten people went to the hearings, only ten. Did you ever think the people might have said: Right now, the legislation is fine? Because people do not show up, that does not mean you can take it and make draconian measures to it. Did you ever think that if people do not show up, they think that legislation is good? Because people never showed up, the minister took this and said: Oh, people do not agree with it. They took it, took away their rights, and took away their freedom of information to get in there.

If an individual in this Province right now, Mr. Chair, wants to try to get a bit of information that was up in Cabinet or even considered to go to Cabinet, guess what? They have to go to court. Guess what, Mr. Chair? I had to go to court. I know the Minister of Finance remembers this very well. I had to go to court. I had to pay $14,000 to represent DROs and the poll clerk. Not every individual in this Province can afford to go to court, people. They just cannot afford it. Not everybody can afford it. A lot of us in this Legislature are lucky, but not everybody can afford to go to court.

If we are looking for some information, Mr. Chair, what do they have to do? They have to go to court. If the person cannot afford to go to court, their rights are denied and their information is denied. The old saying is –

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. JOYCE: Someone is saying I am fear mongering. Tell me what I am fear mongering about. Tell me. Stand up and tell me what I am fear mongering about. Stand up and tell me. You cannot, so do not go standing up over there in the back –

CHAIR: Order, please!

MR. JOYCE: Sorry, Mr. Chair.

Can you tell the person who is in the back, Mr. Chair, that if they want to come out, pack a lunch, sit down here and say what you have to say. Stand up back there. You had your opportunity and you would not do it. Thank you, Mr. Chair, I will move on from that.

Mr. Chair, get these statements: Provincial politicians must change their attitudes towards openness. That is one statement. The second statement: Transparency and accountability are the building blocks of public confidence – a good statement, Mr. Chair. There must be visible checks and balances for any hope of rebuilding confidence. Take a guess who said it? Chief Justice Green. That is what he said, and you all said we are going to adopt his reports. We are going to live by the spirit of the law. Guess what? You might say it, but this act, this bill, does not support what you are saying. That was Chief Justice Green who said that. Those were his statements. Your actions here tonight do not support what Chief Justice Green – when you are out in the public saying we support what he is saying, you do not. You are closing down – you are shutting the government down.

These recommendations, throwing out the legislation – open to freedom of information, open up the freedom of information. Take a guess who said that? Open it up, not close it. Justice Derek Green, that is what he said: Open it up. Everybody said we agree with Justice Green – we agree with him. You say it, but when you bring in this act, you do not mean it.

To me, as I said many, many, many times this is taking away the rights of individuals. Taking away the rights of individuals across this Province, it is my opinion. I read through the act. We asked questions here. We never even had time to get through the other twenty-eight clauses. We actually had shut down, Mr. Speaker, because we could not get through the other twenty-eight. The minister said it is a waste of time, but he would not even let us go through the other twenty-eight.

Mr. Chair, the former Auditor General, John Noseworthy, one of his reports stated: Openness and accountability and transparency is very important. John Noseworthy, the same person this government just hired, $150,000, made his statements when he was the AG, Mr. Chair. That is what he said. Guess what? Do you know what they are saying about him now? Thanks John, sounds good; hard luck, we are not doing it. If you want go to court, go on down on Water Street, go to the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador, get your information if you want it, because we do not really believe what you said. That is what this bill is saying.

There is no one who can tell me any different. No one can tell me any different, Mr. Chair. These two people made a lot of recommendations, and guess what? They are being ignored here tonight. They are actually being ignored. To me, we are moving back, and we are taking away the rights of the people. For some reason this government has the impression that we own the rights of everybody in Newfoundland and Labrador – we own all your rights. Now, if you want your rights back, go down to court and get them. Go here and get them, go through all kinds of hoops to get them.

The philosophy should be that people’s rights should be there – they should be open for people rights. You have to put in some restrictions to it, there is no doubt, but it is not your rights. It is the people’s rights. It is the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. It is their rights. That is why, Mr. Chair, we have to fight for the people. So, when the minister stands up and says I am wasting my time, we are all wasting time, Mr. Chair, we are here because it is a democracy. Tell the minister it is a democracy. When you enter democracy, you can stand in this House, it is never a waste of time when you are standing up for the rights of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, Mr. Chair.

John Cummings did a review and it is very telling – very telling, Mr. Chair, the review he did. What he did, when he went around the Province I think they picked up some of his recommendations, probably fifteen or sixteen; they made thirty or forty. They said: Oh, that is John Cummings. John Cummings did not make half of those recommendations that are in this report. He just did not do it.

The minister can stand up and the government can stand up as much as they like and say: Oh, John Cummings, but if anybody read the report, you can see that John Cummings did not make half of those recommendations; government made the recommendations.

How did the government make the recommendations? I will just let the people out there know how the government made the recommendations. They went around the Province and said okay we have ten people. Let’s make changes now. It will not be a big issue around here. They went to every province in Canada, every draconian legislation that they could find, the toughest one they could find, they picked one in Alberta, the toughest they had, we will put that in there. They took one out of Ontario, put that in there. Take one out of Saskatchewan; we will put that in there to make this law draconian. In my opinion: draconian. That is what they did.

Any time they fell into a bit of pressure, they said: Oh, they do it in Ontario. It is the draconian law in Ontario that they picked to make this the hardest law, the toughest law, for anybody in Newfoundland and Labrador to get legislation – it is the toughest in Canada for people getting their rights and their information – toughest in Canada.

I have to ask one question, Mr. Chair. Sometimes they are our friends and sometimes they are not. What is wrong with the media looking for information? We heard member after member tonight, Mr. Chair, stand up tonight and say: Oh, the media should not get any information. We said it here time and time tonight that you stood and said: How many do you want, as many as the media? That is what is being said here tonight. When they get up: Oh, there is only so many for the Opposition, so many for the media. Mr. Chair, in most countries people say the media is the way we get information. It is our democracy to have media – to be able to speak in the media.

That is why the media should be able to get access. That is why it is not frivolous when the media puts in a request. We all feel sometimes the brunt of media, but we are in the public eye, we are big people, we understand that, and we expect that. If the media can help safeguard all of our rights, I say power to them. Sometimes they work for us, sometimes they work against us, when we are in the public eye, Mr. Chair, and that is just the way it is. That is what we call democracy.

The minute we start taking away a few rights here, take away a few more here, make it harder to get here, guess what, Mr Chair? We are all going to start moving backwards. I really feel that this is what is happening in this legislation. I really honestly feel that is what is going to happen in this legislation.

I will give you an example –and the Minister of Finance agreed with me the other day. We have in this legislation now, if it classified Cabinet documents, the Clerk of the House can sign it and it cannot be released. I said to the minister: Guess what? If I went to the court today, if I did not agree with the court, I could take it to an appellate court and if the appellate court did not agree with it, I could take it to the Supreme Court.

The minister said: Justice not only has to be done; it has to be perceived as done. If we in Newfoundland and Labrador, if we really believe in the justice system, why can’t individuals have an appeal process if they want to get their own information or information through Cabinet? If you believe in the court system that we have layers of appeals, when we try to put in the legislation saying the commissioner shall review the information, guess what? We are turned down, shut down. We never even got past the legislation. We could not even get it in, but we have lawyers over there who agree that justice must be perceived as done. That is why we have appellate courts in the Province and in Canada, but in this government we have no level of appeal – absolutely no level of appeal whatsoever. I think it is a shame that we do not have a level of appeal.

If we had the commissioner –

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. JOYCE: The minister is over there saying we have a level. Minister, we have a level of appeal, but not every person in this Province can afford to go to court. Not everybody in this Province has the money, Mr Chair, to go to court. If you want to appeal it, you go to court. Read your own legislation. Read your own legislation I say, Mr. Chair, to the minister. If you want it, go to court. Everybody cannot afford it.

Mr. Chair, everybody in this Province should have their rights and their rights should not be denied because they do not have access to funds. If you do not have access to funds, you do not have access to go to court and if you do not have access to go to court, your rights are denied. We all agree with that. Even in the courts, if you cannot afford a lawyer, they will appoint one; but, here in this government, if you cannot get information, if someone signs off on it, guess what? The information that is included now in a Cabinet document is anything, discussion, or anything relevant to make up a paper if some minister sits down and discusses it with somebody.

This solicitor- client privilege is another thing in this legislation. Anybody in this Province here now, Mr. Chair, anybody, if you go into a department, the Department of Justice sends a lawyer over: Oh, we cannot discuss that, no; solicitor-client privilege.

That is in the legislation, solicitor-client privilege. Everything here is in solicitor-client privilege. If anybody wants any information now, when you go in – trust me on this, Mr Chair.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

CHAIR: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Bay of Islands.

MR. JOYCE: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I know they cannot handle the truth. They never could. They cannot handle that because you know it is true, too, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Chair, I will tell anybody in this Province now, and you mark my words as sure as I am here, the next time you goes into a department there is going to be a lawyer sitting next to you. You are going to ask a question: No, we cannot do it, solicitor-client privilege. We cannot release the information.

I ask the Minister of Justice: Isn’t it in the legislation? Sure it is in the legislation. Can it be abused? Sure it can be abused, Mr. Chair. You are giving the option that it can be abused. You are giving another layer that the people of Newfoundland and Labrador have an option to have their rights denied. That is what is happening here. The option is there. You take away barriers from people; you do not put them in front of people. That is what happens here, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Chair, when I asked a bit earlier about what would be considered? Any paper right now that is gone to Cabinet or any discussion in Cabinet can be considered a Cabinet paper. Right now, anything that any Cabinet minister sits down and discusses: Look at this; oh, I looked at this. That is part of the Cabinet paper now. It cannot be released. Now, Mr. Chair, I think that is just an abuse of power. I really, truly feel it is.

Then we have the substance of deliberations, Mr. Chair. That was taken out. That was just taken right out. Minister, I will give you the opportunity in my few seconds left to stand up and say you did not take it out. Here is your opportunity, you never took it out. You are right; you cannot stand up and do it. Do you know why, Mr. Chair? It is taken out.

CHAIR: Order, please!

MR. JOYCE: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I thank you for the opportunity for the words here today.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Finance.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MARSHALL: Thank you very much.

Mr. Chair, it is my pleasure to stand –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

CHAIR: Order, please!

Could I have everybody’s co-operation please? The Minister of Finance is going to speak.

The hon. the Minister of Finance.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MARSHALL: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Chair, I guess I will be the last speaker tonight taking part in this debate on Bill 29, An Act to Amend the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, and to bring an end to what has been a filibuster; what has been the attempt or the goal of the Opposition to delay the passage of this legislation, and they have therefore forced the government after sixty-five or seventy hours of debate. We did have an awful lot of debate. The problem is we only got to clause 6 because the Opposition would not let us get past clause 6. I think three days in a row, it seemed like we were always starting at clause 6.

Mr. Chair, tonight it comes to an end after a good debate, and I was going to say –

[Comments from the gallery]

CHAIR: Order, please!

I must advise visitors in the public gallery, they are not to participate or to demonstrate in anyway or to show their approval or disapproval of any proceedings of the House. We appreciate your attendance but we would ask for your co-operation.

The hon. the Minister of Finance to continue.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MARSHALL: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Chair, it is a privilege and an honour for all of us who have the right to speak in this House. We seek the approval of our fellow citizens and anybody who wants to do that is entitled to do it. You are entitled to meet your fellow citizens, put your views to your fellow citizens, and then we have elections. In the elections the people decide who they want to represent them. With all due respect to the member of the gallery, if he wants to speak here, there is a fixed election date. He can go and seek the consent and approval of his citizens, and then he can stand here and have his say like the rest of us.

Mr. Chair, I was going to say in spite of the emotion that took place in this filibuster tonight, I think we have the best of the debate on both sides. I think all the points were made. All the points that when the Opposition started with this and called it draconian, and called it secrecy, and no more secrets. This has given us an opportunity to contest that and to refute that.

I hope the people of the Province are watching this, and I think it is great that there are people in the galleries, because for the most part I think it moderated our behaviour and kept a lot of the emotion from coming out of it. When we saw what happened last night, the unfortunate event that happened last night, and that was because of the fact we had been here for three days, a lack of sleep. That is what happens in emotionally charged debates.

I think tonight has been a good one. It allows us to deal with some of, what I would say, misinformation that is out there. I think some people are thinking: Oh my God, they want to take away information; they want to deny the right of people to get information. Of course, that is not what is happening at all.

It is helpful if we look, first of all, at the law as it stands right now. What is the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act? What is it all about? What it is, it is a piece of legislation that tries to strike a balance between the people’s right to know on the one part, but also with the requirement on government to conduct its operations in a way that meets the aspirations and the hopes of the people of the Province. It is a difficult balance to strike.

The key thing, if we look at the purpose of this legislation – and I am talking about the original legislation which is in effect now - the main purpose is to give to people the right of access to records, and that is clearly set out there. It is clearly set out in clause 3.(a) of the legislation that the people have a right of access.

We know – and I mentioned this, I do not know what day it was, it was the second day or the first day – that our rights have limitations. Our rights are not absolute. I mentioned our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which was brought in by Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau. Now, I am a Progressive Conservative, but I was an admirer of Prime Minister Trudeau for what he did for human rights, in bringing in the charter and making it a super law that all our other laws were subject to.

What the charter, which sets out our most important rights and freedoms – and I mentioned the freedom of expression, but there are limitations on that. The wording – I marked it down earlier – is that our rights and freedoms that are contained in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms are subject to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society. If we take that and by analogy apply that to our right of access contained in the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, there are limits. It is expressly set out in subparagraph (c) that there is a specifying of limited exceptions to the right of access.

So, it is not an absolute right to access, there are limitations set out. Then it provides, Mr. Chair, for an independent review. There is an Officer of the House – not of the government, not an Officer of the government, but an Officer of this House of Assembly appointed by the Members of this House of Assembly who will provide an independent review of the decisions that are made by public bodies under this act.

If I can just go further to section 7 of that legislation, section 7.(1) says that a person who makes a request under this act for a record or for information, they have a right of access to that record, this limited right. Subsection (2) of the same section, section 7, says that the right of access to a record does not extend to information exempted from disclosure. So there is certain information in the legislation, notwithstanding we have a right of access but certain limitation is exempted from disclosure.

If we go through the legislation – and people who have not done that, I think could be very helpful if they might take the time to go through this legislation and you will see that all the exemptions to access are set out in the act. I am talking about Part III of the act which is entitled: Exceptions to Access. When you look at it, for example, let us start with section 18. Section 18 is one – and I am going to come back to it later, but it has to do with Cabinet confidences. It is something that we have talked about here tonight.

It says: The head of a public body shall refuse to disclose to an applicant information that would reveal the substance of deliberations of Cabinet. The law now, not a new law, not the amendment we are bringing in, but the existing law we have now says the head of a public body shall refuse to provide that information. If we keep reading on, if we go to section 19, it says: The head of a local public body may refuse to disclose to an applicant information. Then, that information is set out in the section.

Then, in section 20, it says: The head of a public body may refuse to disclose to an applicant information. In section 21, it says: The head of a public body may refuse to disclose to an applicant information that is subject to solicitor and client privilege.

Under section 22: The head of a public body may refuse to disclose information to an applicant where the disclosure could reasonably be expected to interfere with, disclose information about or harm the law enforcement matter.

As you can see, in the existing law, not the new law, not the amendments that we are bringing in, but in the existing law there are lots of exemptions, there are lots of places where the head of a public body may refuse to give the information, but there are some cases where the head of a public body is mandated that you cannot release the information, and if you release the information, you are breaking the law. We have to note that there is a balance here. There is a balance involved here.

Under section 23: The head of a public body may refuse to disclose information to an applicant if the disclosure could reasonably be expected to harm the conduct by the government of the Province of relations between that government and the following or their agencies. It mentions other provinces, the Government of Canada, the government of a foreign state and so on.

Section 24 says: The head of a public body may refuse to disclose to an applicant information the disclosure of which could reasonably be expected to harm the financial or economic interests of a public body, or the government of the province or the ability of the government to manage the economy. Again, section after section mandating that information cannot be given or telling the government you may or may not release it.

Of course, what has happened is that every time there is something in the paper or something in the media about a government not releasing information, the reaction of the Opposition and the reaction of critics of government are: Oh, the government is denying this information. When, in reality, it is the legislation that is denying the information, and the government has no ability to actually release that information.

Section 25: The head of a public body may refuse to disclose information to an applicant if the disclosure could reasonably be expected to result in damage, or interfere with conservation of fossil sites, natural sites, or other sites that have an anthropological or heritage value. The head of a public body, in section 26, may refuse to disclose to an applicant information including personal information about the applicant.

Mr. Chair, there is a third element. There is the right to the access, and then there are limitations on the access, but then there is an oversight. This House of Assembly appointed an Information and Privacy Commissioner who can review, to make sure that the public body is not trying to exceed what the legislation says.

It might be helpful to go back to section 18 now when we talk about Cabinet confidences. Section 18 right now says: The head of a public body shall refuse to disclose to an applicant information that would reveal the substance of deliberations of Cabinet. So, any information that would reveal the substance of deliberations of Cabinet cannot be released. That applies for twenty years. So, Cabinet documents cannot be released for twenty years. I think it is the law in every province in the country.

Everyone is aware that documents dealt with in Cabinet, there is a time period before they are released, and their release is twenty years. So, we have brought in a new section that is going to clarify, rather than having to determine which documents meet that test of the substance of deliberations – if a document that is used in the Cabinet process actually gets into Cabinet, then we know it is an official document. It is self evident that the document was a document that was the subject of Cabinet deliberations.

So, we are saying there is no need to disclose that. Now, if you want to look at it, you can appeal it to a judge, but if it is a Cabinet document that did not get to Cabinet, if it was not an official Cabinet document, if it was something that happened earlier in the process that informed the Cabinet decision, but never got to the Cabinet, then there is an appeal to the commissioner. So, you have the commissioner, you have the court, and under section 60, if you cannot afford to go to court, the commissioner has the right to take your appeal to the court anyway.

Mr. Chair, we have to be open an accountable, but there are restrictions and this legislation will enable us to meet our commitments to the people and ensure that our laws are still free and open to the people of the Province.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

CHAIR: Order, please!

In accordance with Standing Order 47, it being 1:00 a.m., we will be voting in committee on Bill 29.

Before we actually do the vote, the Chair would like to take the liberty to make a couple of comments. Many people worked around the clock this week to make this long week of debate happen. Our Commissionaires, our Pages, our Web cast staff, our Hansard staff, plus our Table Officers and all members. The Chair would like to express appreciation to all members. Debate at times has been tense, but I want to thank everybody for their co-operation. I would encourage everybody to leave their tension here and to have a great weekend.

I will now ask the Clerk to call clause 6.

CLERK: Clause 6.

CHAIR: Shall clause 6 carry?

All those in favour, ‘aye’.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, ‘nay’.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Nay.

CHAIR: Carried.

On motion, clause 6 carried.

CLERK: Clauses 7 to 34 inclusive.

CHAIR: Shall clauses 7 through 34 inclusive carry?

All those in favour, ‘aye’.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, ‘nay’.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Nay.

CHAIR: Carried.

On motion, clauses 7 through 34 carried.

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

AN HON. MEMBER: Division.

CHAIR: Division has been called.

Call in the members.

Division

CHAIR: House Leaders, are we ready for the question?

All those in favour of the motion, please stand.

CLERK: Mr. Kennedy, Ms Burke, Ms Sullivan, Mr. O’Brien, Mr. Jackman, Mr. French, Mr. Marshall, Mr. Hedderson, Mr. Felix Collins, Mr. Dalley, Mr. Kent, Mr. Granter, Ms Johnson, Mr. Hutchings, Mr. Davis, Mr. McGrath, Mr. Sandy Collins, Mr. Kevin Parsons, Mr. Little, Mr. Hunter, Mr. Osborne, Ms Perry, Mr. Dinn, Mr. Cornect, Mr. Littlejohn, Mr. Crummell, Mr. Pollard, Mr. Cross, Mr. Peach, Mr. Lane, Mr. Russell.

CHAIR: All those against the motion, please stand.

CLERK: Mr. Ball, Ms Jones, Mr. Andrew Parsons, Mr. Joyce, Mr. Edmunds, Mr. Bennett, Ms Michael, Mr. Kirby, Mr. Murphy, Mr. Mitchelmore, Ms Rogers.

Mr. Chair, the ayes thirty-one, the nays eleven.

CHAIR: The motion is carried.

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

CHAIR: Shall the enacting clause carry?

All those in favour, ‘aye’.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, ‘nay’.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Nay.

CHAIR: Carried.

On motion, enacting clause carried.

CLERK: An Act to Amend the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

CHAIR: Shall the title carry?

All those in favour, ‘aye’.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, ‘nay’.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Nay.

CHAIR: Carried.

On motion, title carried.

AN HON. MEMBER: Division.

CHAIR: Division has been called.

Call in the members.

Division

CHAIR: Are the House Leaders ready for the question?

AN HON. MEMBER: Yes.

CHAIR: Question: All those in favour of the motion, please rise.

CLERK: Mr. Kennedy, Ms Burke, Ms Sullivan, Mr. O’Brien, Mr. Jackman, Mr. French, Mr. Marshall, Mr. Hedderson, Mr. Felix Collins, Mr. Dalley, Mr. Kent, Mr. Granter, Ms Johnson, Mr. Hutchings, Mr. Davis, Mr. McGrath, Mr. Sandy Collins, Mr. Kevin Parsons, Mr. Little, Mr. Hunter, Mr. Osborne, Ms Perry, Mr. Dinn, Mr. Cornect, Mr. Littlejohn, Mr. Crummell, Mr. Pollard, Mr. Cross, Mr. Peach, Mr. Lane, Mr. Russell.

CHAIR: All those against the motion, please rise.

CLERK: Mr. Ball, Ms Jones, Mr. Andrew Parsons, Mr. Joyce, Mr. Edmunds, Mr. Bennett, Ms Michael, Mr. Kirby, Mr. Murphy, Mr. Mitchelmore, Ms Rogers.

Mr. Chair, the ayes thirty-one, the nays eleven.

MR. CHAIR: The motion is carried.

Shall I report the bill without amendment?

All those in favour, ‘aye’.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MR. CHAIR: All those against, ‘nay’.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Nay.

MR. CHAIR: Carried.

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

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. KENNEDY: Mr. Chair, I move that the Committee rise and report Bill 29.

CHAIR: The motion is that the Committee rise and report Bill 29.

All those in favour, ‘aye’.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

CHAIR: All those against, ‘nay’.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Nay.

CHAIR: Carried.

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

MR. SPEAKER (Wiseman): Order, please!

The hon. the Member for the District of Lewisporte.

MR. VERGE: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole have considered the matters to them referred and have directed me to report Bill 29 carried without amendment.

MR. SPEAKER: The Chair of the Committee of the Whole reports that the Committee have considered the matters to them referred and have directed him to report Bill 29 passed without amendment.

What shall the report be received?

AN HON. MEMBER: Now.

MR. SPEAKER: Now.

When shall the bill be read a third time?

AN HON. MEMBER: Presently.

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

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

MR. KENNEDY: Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I move, pursuant to Standing Order 47, that the debate or further consideration of third reading of Bill 29 entitled, An Act to Amend the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, and any amendments to that motion for third reading of Bill 29, shall not be further adjourned.

MR. SPEAKER: The Government House Leader is moving the motion, seconded by –

MR. KENNEDY: Seconded by the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills.

MR. SPEAKER: It has been moved and seconded, pursuant to Standing Order 47, that the debate or further consideration of third reading of Bill 29 entitled, An Act to Amend the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, and any amendments to that motion for third reading of Bill 29, shall not be furthered adjourned.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Nay.

MR. SPEAKER: Motion carried.

AN HON. MEMBER: Division.

MR. SPEAKER: Division has been called.

Summon the members.

Division

MR. SPEAKER: Are the Whips ready?

All those in favour of the motion, please stand.

CLERK: Mr. Kennedy, Ms Burke, Ms Sullivan, Mr. O’Brien, Mr. Jackman, Mr. French, Mr. Marshall, Mr. Hedderson, Mr. Felix Collins, Mr. Dalley, Mr. Verge, Mr. Kent, Mr. Granter, Ms Johnson, Mr. Hutchings, Mr. Davis, Mr. McGrath, Mr. Sandy Collins, Mr. Kevin Parsons, Mr. Little, Mr. Hunter, Mr. Osborne, Ms Perry, Mr. Dinn, Mr. Cornect, Mr. Littlejohn, Mr. Crummell, Mr. Pollard, Mr. Cross, Mr. Peach, Mr. Lane, Mr. Russell.

MR. SPEAKER: All of those against the motion, please stand.

CLERK: Mr. Ball, Ms Jones, Mr. Andrew Parsons, Mr. Joyce, Mr. Edmunds, Mr. Bennett, Ms Michael, Mr. Kirby, Mr. Murphy, Mr. Mitchelmore, Ms Rogers.

Mr. Speaker, the ayes: thirty-two; the nays: eleven.

MR. SPEAKER: Motion carried.

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. KENNEDY: Yes, Mr. Speaker.

I call third reading, Mr. Speaker, of Bill 29.

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

MR. F. COLLINS: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the hon. the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board, that Bill 29, An Act to Amend the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, be now read a third time.

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

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I move, seconded by the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills, pursuant to Standing Order 43, that this question be now put.

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded, pursuant to Standing Order 43, that the question be now put.

All those in favour, ‘aye’.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Nay.

MR. SPEAKER: Motion carried.

Division has been called. Summon the members.

Division

MR. SPEAKER: Are the Whips ready?

All those in favour of the motion, please stand.

CLERK: Mr. Kennedy, Ms Burke, Ms Sullivan, Mr. O’Brien, Mr. Jackman, Mr. French, Mr. Marshall, Mr. Hedderson, Mr. Felix Collins, Mr. Dalley, Mr. Verge, Mr. Kent, Mr. Granter, Ms Johnson, Mr. Hutchings, Mr. Davis, Mr. McGrath, Mr. Sandy Collins, Mr. Kevin Parsons, Mr. Little, Mr. Hunter, Mr. Osborne, Ms Perry, Mr. Dinn, Mr. Cornect, Mr. Littlejohn, Mr. Crummell, Mr. Pollard, Mr. Cross, Mr. Peach, Mr. Lane, Mr. Russell.

MR. SPEAKER: All those against the motion, please stand.

CLERK: Mr. Ball, Ms Jones, Mr. Andrew Parsons, Mr. Joyce, Mr. Edmunds, Mr. Bennett, Ms Michael, Mr. Kirby, Mr. Murphy, Mr. Mitchelmore, Ms Rogers.

Mr. Speaker, the ayes: thirty-one; the nays: eleven.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

CLERK: Mr. Speaker, the ayes: thirty-two; the nays: eleven.

MR. SPEAKER: Motion carried.

It has been moved and seconded that the bill be now read a third time.

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion that Bill 29 be read a third time?

All those in favour, ‘aye’.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Nay.

MR. SPEAKER: Motion carried.

CLERK: A bill, An Act To Amend The Access To Information And Protection Of Privacy Act. (Bill 29)

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

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Access To Information And Protection Of Privacy Act", read a third time, ordered passed and its title be as on the Order Paper. (Bill 29)

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

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I do move, seconded by the Minister of Health and Community Services, that this House do now adjourn.

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

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

All those in favour, ‘aye’.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Nay.

MR. SPEAKER: Motion carried.

This House now stands adjourned until Monday, at 1:30 in the afternoon.

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