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June 15, 2015                HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS                Vol. XLVII No. 31


 

The House met at 1:30 p.m.

 

MR. SPEAKER (Verge): Order, please!

 

Admit strangers.

 

Statements by Members

 

MR. SPEAKER: Today we will be hearing members' statements from members representing the Districts of Port de Grave, Trinity – Bay de Verde, Bonavista South, Cartwright – L'Anse au Clair, Kilbride, and Torngat Mountains.

 

The hon. the Member for the District of Port de Grave.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. LITTLEJOHN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I rise today to congratulate the organizers and volunteers of this year's Songs, Stages and Seafood Festival held in Bay Roberts this past weekend.  This was the third year for the event and it continues to grow and exceed the participants' expectations.

 

The festival is a weekend celebration of all things seafood and song.  Events this year included a salmon dinner, a fish cake breakfast, a small plate reception, and a chef's seafood barbeque along with entertainment from Connemara, Irish Descendants, Jackeasy, and others. 

 

The highlights of the weekend are the small plate reception on Friday evening, an eight-course seafood experience, prepared by some of the Province's top chefs like Rory Macpherson; Mark McCrowe (2015 Gold Medal Plate Champion); Shaun Hussey who played a huge role with the chefs; and our own Gary Gosse.  On Saturday evening, the Chefs Seafood Barbeque took center stage with a five-course feast which included a variety of locally sustainable, authentic – seafood all prepared to perfection. 

 

Other events included a culinary workshop, the toutons, tomcods and tunes with the Newfoundland and Labrador fishcake championship and geocaching for those so inclined. 

 

I invite all hon. members to mark your calendars and join us again next year for a seafood experience you will not forget. 

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for the District of Trinity – Bay de Verde. 

 

MR. CROCKER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I rise in this hon. House today to congratulate the 2015 Graduating Classes from the District of Trinity –Bay de Verde.  Students in the District of Trinity – Bay de Verde attend high school in one of three schools, Crescent Collegiate, Baccalieu Collegiate, or Carbonear Collegiate. 

 

I recently had the opportunity to attend the graduation ceremonies for Baccalieu Collegiate, as well as Crescent Collegiate, and look forward to attending the graduation ceremony at Carbonear Collegiate on June 25.  There are over 100 graduating students from the district this year.  The education these students have received is a remarkable tool which will enable them to pursue their individual goals. 

 

Graduation is an outstanding achievement for these students, but it is not the end, rather the beginning of a future filled with opportunities.  I encourage all graduates to strive for excellence in whatever they may choose to do and remind them that the learning does not end here, but will continue throughout their lives. 

 

I ask all hon. members to join me in congratulating the Trinity – Bay de Verde Graduating Classes of 2015 and all graduates throughout our Province and wish them all the best for their future endeavours. 

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. LITTLE: Mr. Speaker, I rise today in this hon. House to recognize and congratulate all of the Level III students in the District of Bonavista South. 

 

Mr. Speaker, during the past few weeks, the graduating students of Discovery Collegiate, Bonavista, St. Mark's School, King's Cove, and Heritage Collegiate, Lethbridge have had the opportunity to celebrate the many years of memories and experiences that have shaped their lives.  This important milestone will lead them to new and exciting endeavours as they prepare to either enter the workforce or continue on to post-secondary studies. 

 

Mr. Speaker, these schools have prepared the students well for a world of opportunities – and many of those opportunities are right here in Newfoundland and Labrador.  We all recognize the value of post-secondary education for students, their communities, and the economy of the Province.  We have world-class institutions which are leading the way in any number of program areas, including oil and gas, medicine, maritime studies, and engineering.

 

I would like to commend the parents, staff, administration, and graduates on all their hard work.

 

Members of the House, please join me in congratulating the leaders of tomorrow and wish them good fortune with their future endeavours.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MS DEMPSTER: Thank you.

 

Mr. Speaker, I rise in this hon. House today to commend Christa Glover for being the first-ever female pilot to be recognized as one of the Top 20 Under 40 in the aerospace industry by Wings Magazine and Helicopters Magazine.

 

Christa grew up in Pinsent's Arm, a community of seventy-five people in Southeast Labrador, and knew at a very early age she wanted to be a helicopter pilot.  Following her dream, she graduated from Gander Flight Training school with both her helicopter and fixed-wing licence at the age of twenty-one.

 

Christa is Chief Pilot with Universal Helicopters, where she has worked for the past ten years – the first female pilot to be hired by the company, and has logged 3,500 flying hours to date.

 

According to the editor of the magazine, Christa had many attributes that led her to being named the Top 20 Under 40 list, including her career development, leadership ability, job performance, interaction with colleagues, and going the extra mile.

 

According to Christa, “soaring through the friendly skies is the best feeling in the world – it's where every pilot longs to be.”

 

Mr. Speaker, I ask all hon. members to join me in congratulating Christa on this prestigious recognition.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Kilbride.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. DINN: On May 21, Governor General David Johnston was in Newfoundland and Labrador to present Caring Canadian Awards to eleven individuals from this Province.  One of the recipients was a person all of us in this House of Assembly know very well.  That person is one of our Pages, Raylene Mackey.

 

Raylene was honoured for many volunteer hours devoted to many groups and activities at her school, parish, community, and Province.  As a high school student from 2011-2014, Raylene was involved with nearly a dozen groups and organizations at St. Kevin's High School, while also being Student of the Year for her three high school years.  In 2014, she was a provincial government URock award winner.  Raylene has won provincial golf awards, school speak offs, and many scholarships.

 

She has helped special athletes, seniors, and been involved with Ovarian Cancer Canada, the Parkinson Society; as well as volunteering with the Children's Wish Foundation, Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival, and the St. John's Downtown Parade.  Raylene is a member of a local parish youth group in Goulds.  In 2013-2014, she was Miss Teen Newfoundland and Labrador.

 

Mr. Speaker, I ask all hon. members to join me in congratulating Raylene for winning a Caring Canadian Award.

 

Thank you.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. EDMUNDS: Mr. Speaker, I rise in this hon. House today to congratulate the Angajukkak of Makkovik, Herb Jacques on receiving the Wayne Earle Community Service Award at the Combined Councils of Labrador this past weekend in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

 

The award is given to Angajukkaks, mayors, and councillors who have demonstrated a long-term commitment to municipal councils and have helped implement social and economic development opportunities in their community.

 

Herb was born in North West River but is from Makkovik.  He was elected to council in 1996, spending five years as mayor and the last nine years as the Angajukkak of Makkovik.

 

Herb has been very dedicated and active in his community, having served on the Board of Directors for Labrador Legal Services and the Torngat Regional Housing Association.  He became a member of the recreation commission at the tender age of fifteen.

 

Herb is no stranger to Combined Councils, having spent close to two decades representing the interests of Makkovik and the North Coast.  He is a truly dedicated Aboriginal leader and a very worthy recipient of this prestigious award.

 

Mr. Speaker, I ask all hon. members to join me in congratulating Angajukkak Herb Jacques on being awarded the Wayne Earle Award.

 

Thank you.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Statements by Ministers.

 

Statements by Ministers

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. BRAZIL: Mr. Speaker, I stand today to inform this hon. House that yesterday sixty-two employees of the Department of Transportation and Works undertook a cleanup of the Outer Ring Road from Logy Bay Road to Portugal Cove Road.  Crews worked hard and the results were the removal of approximately 3,000 bags of garbage or twenty-five to thirty tons from the sides of the road.

 

Mr. Speaker, keeping our provincial highways clean and litter-free is important to the employees of the Department of Transportation and Works and to the residents of Newfoundland and Labrador.  It is also important to the many visitors who travel our roads during the summer tourist season.

 

Every year, Transportation and Works crews undertake a cleanup of key areas of the Province's highway system.  Areas of greatest concern, and therefore our areas of focus, are Pitts Memorial, the Outer Ringer Road, the Lewin Parkway in Corner Brook, and Route 450 (South Shore Highway) to the waste disposal site.  In addition to these targeted cleanups, crews pick up bigger items on the provincial highways, such as large household items, on a regular basis. 

 

Mr. Speaker, items that are tossed or fall from vehicles onto the road can be a safety hazard for motorists and also for the highway crews who must collect them.  We remind everyone to dispose of their garbage and old household items in a responsible and appropriate manner.  We all share a responsibility to protect our environment, and to also be mindful of the safety of crews and fellow motorists.

 

I would like to thank the motorists for their patience during the closure of the Outer Ring Road yesterday, and we appreciate their co-operation for the second phase of the cleanup, which will begin in the next couple of weeks between Allandale Road and Topsail Road.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. OSBORNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I thank the minister for an advance copy of his statement.  I also want to thank the employees of Transportation and Works who went out and cleaned the Outer Ring Road this following weekend. 

 

Mr. Speaker, 3,000 bags of garbage or twenty-five to thirty tons does not end up on this portion of the Outer Ring Road just by accident.  Obviously disregard for the regulations and a failure to properly enforce the regulations are major contributing factors.

 

Mr. Speaker, we all know that the Outer Ring Road is a major route to the Robin Hood Bay landfill facility.  If we fail to enforce the regulations that are in place to ensure that this garbage does not end up on the Outer Ring Road, it is not only a hazard to motorists – especially if an item were to come out of a vehicle while in transport. 

 

I do ask the minister – I realize you are nodding at me – to properly enforce the regulations for the safety of the motoring public as well as the workers at Transportation and Works.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. MURPHY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I, too, thank the minister for the advance copy of his statement here today.  Thanks as well, Mr. Speaker, to the workers of Trans and Works who did the cleanup yesterday. 

 

Mr. Speaker, thirty tons – a ton or two you can see with the odd mishap, but thirty tons sounds like we need a far more rigid enforcement policy on the Outer Ring Road especially.  This is an infamous stretch of highway at the best of times.  Hardly a day goes by without an accident of some kind up there.  We still see car parts up there.  I am surprised that somebody has not opened up a shop up there.  Speeding is definitely an issue up there on the road. 

 

Now we learn there is a ridiculous amount of material falling off vehicles, Mr. Speaker.  It is enforcement that we need here, and we need government to deal with it. 

 

Thank you very much. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

The hon. the Minister of Natural Resources. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. DALLEY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I rise in this hon. House today to highlight an exciting new scholarship program being offered by Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro and the Women in Resource Development Corporation which will provide financial assistance to women in our Province pursuing trades and technology education. 

 

The program will award eight students with a scholarship of $2,000 each.  These funds can be applied toward the cost of pursuing post-secondary education at any public or private institution that offers select programming, including power line technician, construction or industrial electrician, industrial mechanic, heavy duty repair mechanic, welder, carpenter, automotive service technician, and heavy equipment operator. 

 

Women are currently under-represented in trades and technology occupations in this Province and this funding will help remove educational and employment barriers, and financial challenges women may encounter in pursuing their career. 

 

For those interested in learning more about this scholarship, full program details can be found on the Women in Resource Development Corporation's web site at www.wrdc.nf.ca. 

 

Mr. Speaker, the Women in Resource Development Corporation and Newfoundland Labrador Hydro are committed to increasing women's participation in trades and technology.  Certainly, we are all committed to ensuring that women throughout the Province share in our economic prosperity, and that they do so directly through the development of our natural resources. 

 

Since 2007, through the Skilled Task Force Report, our government has committed more than $100 million to support initiatives to help apprentices.  The Office to Advance Women Apprentices was created in 2009 and has helped women make significant gains in the skilled trades.  The office works collaboratively with the provincial government, industry, labour and other key groups to achieve its goals.  We are continuing our efforts to help ensure under-represented groups such as women, persons with disabilities, and Aboriginal persons have the opportunity and necessary skills to secure employment. 

 

The provincial government is fully committed to supporting women pursing educational, employment and business opportunities within industry and we are pleased to see that same commitment coming through joint initiatives such as the scholarship program highlighted here today. 

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

I want to thank the minister for the advance copy of his statement.  I too am pleased to support the Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro and the Women in Resource Development Corporation in this new initiative.  Adequate women's representation in all industries and trades is an important goal, one that we should all strive towards, even more representation in this House of Assembly.

 

It is my hope that this scholarship program will bring us closer to achieving equal opportunity for women in Newfoundland and Labrador, and address barriers to entering post-secondary programs and employment in their chosen trades.

 

Unfortunately, government has not adequately addressed one of these barriers.  The consistent lack of up-to-date labour market information available to these women and other potential apprentices makes finding meaningful employment much more difficult.  However, I commend Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro and the Women in Resource Development Corporation for their efforts to support women in their trades, and the commitment to eliminating some of the financial barriers to their success.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Signal Hill – Quidi Vidi.

 

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

 

I too thank the minister for the advance copy of his statement.  I have to say it is very satisfying, as the first Executive Director of Women in Resource Development, to see this joint initiative between NLH and WRDC.

 

It is true that advances are being made in creating diverse workplaces, something that has proven to benefit financially both the workers and companies.  It has proven you have greater workplaces; however, retention of women in trades and technology continues to be a major issue. 

 

It is not enough that we get women in and we have to do the upfront work, but I encourage the minister to look at the fact that retention is really poor, not just globally but in this Province as well.  The Province should support the women by finding out what those barriers are.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Oral Questions.

 

Oral Questions

 

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

 

MR. BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

The Auditor General released his report last week outlining the many areas this government has failed to provide proper oversight.  It was shocking to learn government is not following their own guidelines when hiring external consultants.  In fact, the AG says consultants for the Department of Transportation and Works were not hired competitively through an open, fair, and transparent procurement process.

 

I ask the Premier: Why are you not being open, fair, and transparent in the hiring of external consultants in the spending of taxpayers' money?

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

PREMIER DAVIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Yes, last week, the Auditor General did issue his annual report, Mr. Speaker.  It is a very comprehensive piece of work, as the Auditor General always does.  I would, first of all, like to acknowledge receiving the report and the work that the Auditor General does. 

 

He is of great value to us in government in providing a fresh set of eyes, quite often, a deep dive into operations of government and different government departments.  We take his recommendations very, very seriously, as we have demonstrated year over year that we respond to the Auditor General's recommendations.  We do take them seriously.  We work very hard to make corrections where corrections are required, often highlighted and pointed out by the Auditor General. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I say to the Premier, there are your guidelines that are already established so a deep dive into this – all you needed to do was follow the guidelines that already existed.

 

The AG points to major issues with oversight with the Office of the Chief Information Officer and the Department of Transportation and Works.  The Premier was the minister responsible for these departments for much of the period covered in these reviews.  The Minister of Finance says there is no excuse for not following internal policies.  He actually went on to say it is not acceptable.

 

I ask the Premier: If this is not acceptable, why did you fail to provide the proper oversight in these departments?

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

 

PREMIER DAVIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

As I said in my last answer, it is important that government policies and protocols and procedures are followed.  It is also important to make sure that we have very strong operating procedures that exist in government departments that are followed by the minister and senior executives in all decisions-making processes.  We acknowledge that.  We acknowledge it is the right thing to do and it is important for us to do that.

 

In the case of OCIO, I call tell you, I am not an IT expert.  I know the Minister of Finance is not an IT expert.  The Minister of Business is not an IT expert.  We have to rely on the expertise of what is in the department.  I can tell you based on the report and what we saw occur in 2009-2010, even though there has been significant changes made in OCIO in the last number of years, I want to make sure that OCIO is operating properly, it is set up properly, and it is established property.

 

As a result of that, we are going to be calling an RFP.  We are going to go to the market in the coming days looking for advice and direction so we can ensure we –

 

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.

 

Well, you are going to get an RFP so you can follow a guideline.

 

Mr. Speaker, government failed to be open and transparent and failed to –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. BALL: – get Treasury Board approval before paying out $3.2 million in contract overruns.  Now, I am not so sure an RFP is going to explain to Treasury Board how they should do this; but one contract, as an example, with an original value of $6,300 ended up costing taxpayers over $240,000.

 

That is an increase of almost 4,000 per cent from the original contact – go get an RFP for that, I say.  This was the responsibility, as you know, of Treasury Board which is comprised of Cabinet ministers.

 

I ask the Premier: Why didn't you get Cabinet to provide the proper oversight before paying out $3.2 million for these extra contracts?

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. BRAZIL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I want to clarify here that what we have in the Department of Transportation and Works, when it comes to consultants' contracts, is we have a Consultant Registry.  It is a Consultant Registry that is noted by my officials, that they certify that the consultants we have in place are qualified to do specific types of jobs that we need. 

 

Mr. Speaker, in this particular case, this was an environmental assessment in a small community on the West Coast to ensure that safety was there.  As we got into it and moved along, we did change orders.  As we did change orders, we realized for the economy of scale and to make sure we assess this situation and addressed it so that there would be no danger to people, we moved the project along.  While the money that was spent, Mr. Speaker, was spent to assist and deal with this issue, there was no additional money spent in that.  That was budgeted, Mr. Speaker.

 

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. 

 

Maybe the Minister of Finance needs to apologize to the Minister of Transportation and Works.  Maybe he spoke out of turn, I am not sure, but the AG has reviewed the Office of the Chief Information Officer and their use of the external consultant.  So the AG actually did this work.  He found that cost and timelines were not being monitored and there were no documented reasons to account for the overruns. 

 

I ask the Premier: Why didn't you provide the oversight to ensure that these projects were being effectively monitored? 

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. WISEMAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

Over the course of the last couple of years the Office of the Chief Information Officer has made some significant changes in their processes for managing large-scale and small-scale projects, Mr. Speaker, of how we look at issuing RPs, how we actually define the scope of work to be done, and how we monitor contracts that we do put in place. 

 

I want to make sure – as the Premier just pointed out, we want to make sure that those processes reflect current day best practices and we want to make sure that –

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible). 

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. WISEMAN: Do I have the floor, Mr. Speaker, or the member opposite? 

 

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

 

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

 

As I was saying, we want to make sure that the current process does reflect current day reality, I say.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. WISEMAN: The members opposite obviously do not want an answer to the question, but if they do, Mr. Speaker, I am only too glad to provide it. 

 

As I was saying, we want to make sure the processes that were implemented do reflect current day reality.  As the Premier has pointed out, within the next couple of days – in fact, the RFP is being reviewed by Justice as we speak.  We want to make sure we bring in some IT experts to have a look at the processes that we have implemented, to make sure they do reflect current day best practices, and within a couple of days we will have that process concluded.

 

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. 

 

The AG reviewed $1.6 million in travel costs for these consultants and found that there were 81 per cent not supported by receipts.  You do not need an RFP to tell you that this is really a basic function.  One consultant was paid over $21,000 for miscellaneous expenses with no supporting documentation.  We need an answer for this.  The people are looking for an answer. 

 

So I ask the Premier: Why did you allow these payments to be made without any supporting documentation?

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. WISEMAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

The Auditor General has a significant role to play in pointing out areas and opportunities for making improvements in our systems, and that is what this report has done.  What we want to do, Mr. Speaker, is we want to augment the work of the Auditor General.  We want to make sure we have appropriate processes that will not only reflect some of the things that the AG reviewed of two or three years ago, but a number of things have lapsed since that period of time. 

 

So we want to make sure that what we have done in the last two or three years reflect best practices and we are well-positioned to take on major projects, because there are going to be advances in IT systems in the next couple of years and well into the future, I suspect.  We want to make sure we have the kind of robust oversight in place that is required to make sure that we have good fiscal management systems in place.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Well, I guess I will ask the Minister of Finance this, because we are talking about some very – these are normal practices, best practices in just about every community that we live in.

 

I want to ask the Minister of Finance: Is it now the best practice of your department to actually at least go get receipts and documentation before paying a bill?

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. WISEMAN: Mr. Speaker, as I said a moment go; we want to make sure that what we do reflects current best practices, not only in internal controls, but how we manage major IT projects.  So we want to make sure we have a robust system in place.  That is what we are going to achieve by bringing in some outside IT experts to be able to provide some structural advice, how we manage projects, how we structure ourselves to provide IT supports throughout government and all its departments throughout the entire Province.  That is what this initiative is intending to do.

 

We want to make sure, Mr. Speaker, the things that the Auditor General has identified that are not acceptable, not a reflection of best practices, do not reflect what we believe to be good fiscal management.  We want to make sure those systems and those oversight processes are strengthened and serve us well into the future.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. OSBORNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

The Auditor General has found that even though a competitive open, fair, and transparent process for engaging consultants can contribute greatly to the success of a project, none of this happened in the Department of Transportation and Works.

 

I ask the minister: Why the AG could not identify instances where guidelines were followed to appoint consultants, and more importantly, could not find sufficient documentation to support the rationale for the minister directly appointing consultants.

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. BRAZIL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

As the Premier has outlined, we respect the work of the Auditor General and the recommendations.  As part of that process, I am sitting down with my officials and we are re-examining the process we use. 

 

As I outlined earlier, there is a Consultant Registry which is part and parcel made up of recommendations and assessments, through my staff, around who are qualified to do specific projects, Mr. Speaker.  We have a process in place. 

 

We want to ensure that the people of this Province get the return on their investment.  We want to ensure that we do not bring government to a halt and we move our projects forward.  We want to make sure that the people in our industries have the ability to move the projects to the next level, Mr. Speaker. 

 

That is what we have done here.  In some cases, we have change orders which change the scope of the costing on these projects.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. OSBORNE: The rules are in place; they just did not follow them.

 

Mr. Speaker, section 2.4 of the Consultants Guidelines clearly states that in cases of contracts awarded at set amounts, departments must receive Treasury Board approval to authorize payments which are in excess of 110 percent of the original contract. 

 

Of the sixteen projects that were reviewed by the AG, ten of these projects received excess payments that the minister failed to receive Treasury Board approval.  Some of the projects received payments many times higher than the original contract.

 

MR. SPEAKER: I ask the member to quickly ask his question.

 

MR. OSBORNE: I ask the minister why payments that did not receive proper Treasury Board approval were made on contracts where the consultant was hand chosen by the minister.

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. BRAZIL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I want to note a couple of other things also.  These are consultants.  These are brought in when there are particular projects or there are particular issues that we need to address.  These are all professional companies or individuals who are certified in their respective fields, Mr. Speaker.

 

It has been a practice that has been going on for decades in Administrations.  It is this Administration that has taken it to the next level of putting in policies to ensure that we use the process better, Mr. Speaker, and we have done it.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. BRAZIL: In the case of where the Auditor General has identified some issues, it has been based on change orders, where we brought in a particular consultant to give us some advice and to take it to one stage, move to the next stage with change orders.  That is why the changing in the costing here, Mr. Speaker.  The same amount of money was spent.  We got the job done by professional people.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. OSBORNE: Not only do they not follow the rules, they deny not following the rules.

 

As a result of determining the department was not obtaining Treasury Board approval, the Auditor General further investigated and found an additional seventy-one companies.  Of those, fifty of those companies did not receive Treasury Board approval.  There were millions of dollars paid out without Treasury Board approval. 

 

I ask the minister: How can a project that had an original value of less than $180,000 get funding for over $1.2 million without Treasury Board approval?  The only thing transparent here, Mr. Speaker, is that they do not believe they need to follow the rules? 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. BRAZIL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

We deal with thousands of companies a year, Mr. Speaker, because we want to ensure that services are provided for the people of this Province and we want to ensure we get a good value for the money we spend, and we have done that.  The Auditor General has not noted that the money did not go where it was supposed to, that the right amount of money was paid. 

 

There is a process here around the procedure we use, Mr. Speaker.  As the Premier has outlined, we have gone back to look at that and look at what our policies are, or how we better use those policies and implement those policies, but I want to reassure everybody here, projects were completed.  They were completed in a timely fashion and they benefit the people of this Province, Mr. Speaker.  That is what we do as a government here; we benefit the people of this Province. 

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. LANE: Mr. Speaker, according to the Auditor General's report, it appears as if the Office of the Chief Information Officer was skirting the rules when it came to work orders.  There are examples of statements of work that were changed so dramatically that cost doubled, and in one case they quadrupled, going from $280,000 to over $1.1 million. 

 

I ask the minister: Why was this office allowed to engage in such lax financial practices? 

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister Responsible for the Office of the Chief Information Officer. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. WISEMAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

I just want to make sure the member's opposite and the people of Newfoundland and Labrador appreciate my comments I have already made with respect to, not just this issue, but with respect to the Auditor General's report.  We take those recommendations very seriously. 

 

Any area where there is opportunity for improvement, we will take those recommendations and we will implement.  We are going to implement all the recommendations in this report, like we are committed to working on the recommendations in all the previous reports.  That is how we do business, Mr. Speaker.  We take those Auditor General reports very seriously. 

 

Any time that there is a non-compliance with a practice or procedure, that is unacceptable.  We do not accept that.  We want to change that, and that is what we are doing here, but because this is such a technical area and requires such technical expertise to make sure we have appropriate oversight, that is why we are bringing in some IT experts to give us a hand on helping to put in place a very robust, oversight process. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. LANE: Mr. Speaker, one of the recommendations in the Auditor General's report is beyond disturbing.  I quote, “The OCIO should ensure that there is an adequate system in place to monitor project costs.”  This is the most basic of operational requirements for any department of the government.

 

I ask the minister: Based on these disturbing reports, will you call for a full operational review of this office?

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister Responsible for OCIO.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. WISEMAN: Mr. Speaker, unfortunately Hansard is not available until tomorrow, so the member opposite will not get a chance to review my last four or five comments.  I have been on my feet about four times on this same issue. 

 

Let me repeat for clarity.  I said we have an RFP that is being reviewed by legal counsel.  Within probably twenty-four hours, an RFP will be on the street to do just that, Mr. Speaker.  That is the IT expertise that I talked about bringing in to provide the kind of information that we need, and some advice we need to make sure that there is a very robust oversight process in place. 

 

I am not sure how much clearer I can make that.  It will happen within twenty-four hours.  You will see it on the street tomorrow.  As I say, Mr. Speaker, if that does not provide additional clarity, Hansard tomorrow will record everything that I said, and members opposite can probably read it at that time.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

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

 

MS DEMPSTER: Mr. Speaker, when we asked last week about government's failed mismanagement of the Labour Market Development Agreement, the minister said it is working extensively well.  The next day the Auditor General reported numerous deficiencies related to financial monitoring, evaluation, and project management of the agreement.

 

I ask the Premier: Do you agree with your minister that it is working extensively well?

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Justice and Public Safety.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. KING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I appreciate the member's question.  First of all, let me say very clearly that we accept the recommendations of the Auditor General's report as it pertains to that topic.  I will certainly use the recommendations to build upon changes we have already made.

 

I can say to the member and to members of this House that a number of changes have been made in the Department of Advanced Education and Skills to deal with some of these particular deficiencies.  Service standards have been implemented, Mr. Speaker.  Very strong and very clear performance standards and indicators, and quality measurements have been established. 

 

We have had further employees who are targeted with the job specifically of assessing applications and making sure that there are specific criteria that are met before they are deemed to be qualified and eligible for funding.  We will take the recommendations of the AG, Mr. Speaker, and we will incorporate that to further build upon the changes we have made.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MS DEMPSTER: It looks like we have some changes being implemented since Thursday.  After blowing over $9 million on a completely mismanaged project for case management software, government had to spend another $5 million to implement Nova Scotia's system.  Government paid $1 for Nova Scotia's system and almost $5 million to implement it.

 

I ask the minister: Why didn't you bother to consult Nova Scotia in the first place rather than wasting over $9 million in taxpayers' dollars?

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

PREMIER DAVIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Once again, as I already indicated in this House, that –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

PREMIER DAVIS: – ministers, myself as Premier, the Minister of Finance has said earlier, the Minister of Business has said earlier, we are not IT experts, Mr. Speaker.  We do not in any way, shape, or form have any background – I do not have a background in IT to that depth and knowledge, but we want to make sure we get it right.  We do want to make sure we get it right.

 

Since 2009-2010 when the LMDA project first got underway, I can tell you first-hand there has been many changes made to OCIO, but we cannot rest there.  We cannot stop there.  We need to make sure that we are getting best value for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.  We need to make sure we are getting state-of-the-art operating systems that can provide best services and best operational assistance and supports to a broad range of programs.

 

To do that, Mr. Speaker, we are going to go to the street.  We are going to seek the advice of experts.  Even though the members opposite mocked us for it when I said it earlier, now they are even asking for it and we have already said we are going to do it.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Virginia Waters.

 

MS C. BENNETT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

There was $935,000 paid in error to nearly 430 seniors over ten years and now legal action has been taken against government for their attempt to take back pension overpayments from seniors.

 

I ask the Premier: Since this is now public knowledge, what is the government's response to this legal action and what will government's response cost?

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. WISEMAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I thank the member for her question.  I heard – maybe as she has – through the media, that such an action has been initiated.  I have not seen the documents that have been filed with the courts yet, but when we do, we will have an opportunity to review them and provide a response at that time.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Virginia Waters.

 

MS C. BENNETT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

This court action further puts government's actions in question.  Seniors are getting mixed messages on the criteria established for collection and the amounts sought after, and if they will be forced to pay it all back.  Apparently, Mr. Bonnell is asking seniors to make him an offer.

 

I ask the Premier again: What are the specific criteria established by government on if seniors will have to pay this money back or not?

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

PREMIER DAVIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

This is a very serious matter for many, many reasons.  We wanted to ensure that we were not providing any undue hardship, unbearable hardship to seniors.  Mr. Bonnell who has an extensive background in financial dealings for people on a very personal level, who has a lifetime in banking, actually – he is seniors' advocate and representative in his own right, provincially recognized as a leader in seniors programs and supporting seniors.  We know, and I know, and members over here can tell you –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

PREMIER DAVIS: – experiences that constituents have had, their own constituents have had in dealing with Mr. Bonnell, they have found him to be professional, to be caring, and to be considerate in working out arrangements for them that were more than acceptable and beyond what any of them had expected.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Virginia Waters.

 

MS C. BENNETT: Mr. Speaker, I will remind the Premier that the question was very specific about what exactly are the criteria that Mr. Bonnell is using to ask for this money back.

 

Will the Premier clarify for these seniors who are worried about when they are going to be met by Mr. Bonnell's request to make a deal?

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

PREMIER DAVIS: Certainly, Mr. Speaker, thank you very much.

 

As I said, it is a very important matter, especially to seniors who are impacted by these circumstances.  Some of them have been impacted and it has been ongoing for many, many years.  What the minister has done is he put a process in place to make sure that they are fairly represented, that seniors' best interests are at hand, first and foremost, and that there is not undue hardship placed against any of those seniors.

 

What Mr. Bonnell is doing is he is applying all of the circumstances, because we know that seniors all have different circumstances and can vary very, very broadly, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

PREMIER DAVIS: What he is doing is he taking all of their circumstances into consideration – probably much as he did as a personal banker for many, many years.  Then he is helping them and suggesting to them how we can move forward without any undue hardship on those seniors.

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Burgeo – La Poile has time for a very quick question.

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, for the paramedics protesting outside Confederation Building today for unsafe working conditions and how it affects patients, I ask the Minister of Health: What are you doing to make sure that these conditions that have existed for well over a decade are being taken care of?

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services has time for a quick reply.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. KENT: Mr. Speaker, we are dealing with the issues that have come out of the provincial road ambulance review through ongoing negotiations with the various groups of ambulance operators in the Province.  I am pleased to report that we have signed agreements with twenty-two community ambulance operators.  We are very, very close to finalizing an agreement with the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Ambulance Services.  In fact, we expect an agreement very soon – we are finalizing contract language.

 

Once that is done, I suspect we will be able to get the other agreements finalized in short order to address wages, to address scheduling, to address staffing issues, which are legitimate concerns.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

The hon. the Member for Signal Hill – Quidi Vidi.

 

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

 

The Auditor General's negative report on food quality and safety in long-term care facilities gives credence to complaints I have received, both in writing and orally, regarding the food at the St. John's long-term care facility.  The minister's response was: Residents get nutritious snacks and cannot be forced to eat healthy food.

 

I ask the minister: When will he quit the defensiveness, identify deficiencies, and get them fixed now?

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. KENT: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the Member for Signal Hill – Quidi Vidi and I can assure all members that the menus in our long-term care facilities are approved by a registered dietician and they adhere to Canada's Food Guide.  When the Auditor General did his review he only looked at the master menu in our homes, he did not factor in other food that is provided to residents throughout the day. 

 

It is also important, Mr. Speaker, that we balance meeting Canada's Food Guide with the preferences of residents as well, the people who live in these homes.  They have a right to make decisions about their own diet and their own nutritional needs as well.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Signal Hill – Quidi Vidi.

 

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

The Auditor General also said that residents are not always getting assistance with their meals – and I have reports on that – and that food trays are being left to grow cold because no one comes to feed them.  I have had complaints of residents regularly waiting up to two hours for help.

 

I ask the minister: What is he going to do about this clear issue of understaffing?  Because that is the issue.

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. KENT: Mr. Speaker, I can assure members of the House that in our long-term care facilities staff does provide supervision.  These staff, who are professionally trained, use their own clinical judgment to decide what level of supervision is required depending on the patient, depending on the resident.  Those are the facts.

 

We take the issues raised by the Auditor General extremely seriously.  We are committed to reviewing standards.  We are committed to working with the regional health authorities to ensure that standards are indeed met.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. MURPHY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Mr. Speaker, the retention of personnel to work in ambulance services in rural regions of the Province is a very serious issue.  We are losing our trained people. 

 

How is government going to guarantee that ambulance service is going to exist for everyone if contract talks keep falling off the rails like they do?

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. KENT: Mr. Speaker, there is a little bit of irony in the member's question.  We are talking about a hon. member who stood on the steps of Confederation Building an hour ago and said that the NDP would do away with all the private ambulance operators in communities serving this Province.  That is what we are dealing with.

 

In the meantime, the issues that are being raised by paramedics are very, very concerning.  That is why we conducted a provincial ambulance review.  It is why we are engaged in negotiations right now to address some of the issues related to staffing and scheduling, and other concerns that are legitimate concerns. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. KENT: We have reached an agreement with community ambulance operators.  We are about to reach an agreement with the large private ambulance operators, and I hope that the remaining group, which is a much smaller group, we will be able to reach an agreement with in short order. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. MURPHY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

Private ambulance operators have been without a contract for close to two-and-a-half years.

 

So I would like to ask government: It has been two-and-a-half years since we saw the last agreement –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. MURPHY: – why has it taken two-and-a-half years too long in meeting the needs of both the paramedics and the private ambulance operators?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh! 

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. KENT: Mr. Speaker, on one hand, the hon. member is now asking questions about ongoing negotiations with private operators in our Province, and on the other hand, he has the nerve to stand on the steps of Confederation Building an hour ago and suggest they should not exist.  There is something incredibly disingenuous about that. 

 

What I can report, once again, is we have reached an agreement with the community ambulance operators.  It addresses many of the issues related to staffing, wages, and scheduling that are legitimate concerns that our paramedics in this Province have.  In addition to that, we are days away from finalizing an agreement with the large Ambulance Operators Association which represents most of our ambulances and paramedics in the Province.  I suspect a deal with the smaller operators will follow in short order. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. KENT: I am certainly hopeful of that, Mr. Speaker, and I can assure you this is a top priority. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

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 Member for Conception Bay South. 

 

MR. HILLIER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

You are on a roll today. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I would like to bring forward the following private member's resolution to be debated on Wednesday:

 

WHEREAS seniors in Newfoundland and Labrador have the lowest median income amongst all provinces; and

 

WHEREAS seniors in Newfoundland and Labrador have remained at the very bottom in median after tax income amongst provinces since 2003 despite billions in oil revenue and a poverty reduction strategy;

 

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED this hon. House urge government to commit to a poverty reduction strategy designed specifically to target seniors' poverty. 

 

Mr. Speaker, that is seconded by my colleague from the Straits – White Bay North. 

 

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

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 63(3), the private member's resolution entered by the Member for CBS is the one to be debated this Wednesday. 

 

MR. SPEAKER: Further notices of motion? 

 

Answers to Questions for which Notice has been Given.

 

Petitions.

 

Petitions

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Signal Hill – Quidi Vidi.

 

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

 

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

 

WHEREAS privatized nursing homes lower operating costs by paying lower wages, de-unionizing, laying people off, and cutting staff in these facilities; and

 

WHEREAS studies have established that for-profit nursing homes are associated with lower quality of services and poorer resident health outcomes, including an increased risk of hospitalization; and

 

WHEREAS Auditors General of the Provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Ontario have reported the P3's cost taxpayers more;

 

WHEREPON the undersigned, your petitioners, humbly pray and call upon the House of Assembly to urge government to immediately stop the privatization of long-term care.

 

As in duty bound, your petitioners will ever pray.

 

Once again, Mr. Speaker, I am happy to stand and speak to this concern, which is being expressed by people from all over the Province.  I notice that the petition I hold in my hand today has been signed by people from the St. John's area, people from Corner Brook, people from the Dunville-Placentia area, from Paradise, and Port Saunders.  It is quite a variety of people who have signed his petition.

 

I am happy to speak to it because I have so much information that what they are saying is correct.  This government keeps ignoring the proof that privatization with long-term care is something that is just not acceptable. 

 

An institute in Alberta, the Parkland Institute, studied what is happening in Alberta because of for-profit companies taking over long-term care.  It is a tremendous study that they have done and it shows, number one, how the numbers of people in long-term care being taking care of by for-profit companies has grown.  The other thing it has shown – this is the thing I wanted to say today.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MS MICHAEL: They have proven in their report that as more services has been provided by for-profit enterprises and as the available supports have decreased, elder care in Alberta has gone from bad to worse.

 

Now, this is what this government is going to be laying on the people of this Province.  We already have it identified that even in the government's own facilities things are not going well.  Just think what is going to happen when you have for-profit enterprises running our long-term care having to make money, as these enterprises are doing in Alberta, and having to give services to people and have a labour force that is being treated fairly and paid fairly with benefits.  What has happened in Alberta is that the services have gone down, but the companies themselves, Mr. Speaker, are making gross profits.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

I remind the member her time has expired.

 

MS MICHAEL: Thank you very much.

 

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

 

MS DEMPSTER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

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

 

WHEREAS Route 510 from L'Anse au Clair to Red Bay is in deplorable condition and requires immediate upgrading; and

 

WHEREAS the condition of the highway is causing undue damage to vehicles using the highway and is a safety hazard for the travelling public; and

 

WHEREAS both residential and commercial traffic has increased dramatically with the opening of the Trans-Labrador Highway and increased development in Labrador; and

 

WHEREAS cold patching is no longer adequate as a means of repair;

 

WHEREUPON the undersigned, your petitioners, humbly pray and call upon the House of Assembly to urge the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to immediately allocate resources to Route 510 from L'Anse au Clair to Red Bay that allows for permanent resurfacing of the highway.

 

As in duty bound, your petitioners will ever pray.

 

Mr. Speaker, this past weekend in Goose Bay the forty-third annual Combined Councils of Labrador was held.  I thank the Minister of Transportation and Works for attending a portion of that.  It was no surprise to me that transportation was one of the main topics of discussion at the Combined Councils of Labrador. 

 

One of the first questions that were asked to the minister when he spoke there was: Where is Route 510, L'Anse au Clair to Red Bay, on your list of priorities?  It is a huge safety concern.  It is a piece of road, Mr. Speaker, where the pavement is long past its expiration date, thirty-six, close to forty years old.  It is a huge, huge safety hazard for the travelling public, the tourist season that is coming on now, and people travelling not familiar with the road.

 

Mr. Speaker, there was discussion there again at the Combined Councils on all of the vehicles that have to swerve out into private businesses and parking lots to get around the humongous craters that are in the road.  The cold patch is continuing, but it is inadequate.  The time has come for the minister to announce what is the plan to resurface Route 510.  I will continue to stand on my feet and offer petitions on behalf of the people who have to drive that road every single day.

 

Thank you.

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Trinity – Bay de Verde.

 

MR. CROCKER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

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

 

WHEREAS EMS workers throughout rural Newfoundland and Labrador should receive equal wages, benefits, health and safety protection, and most importantly, respect and fairness in the workplace; and

 

WHEREAS ambulance services throughout the Province are crucial and vital services for all residents of Newfoundland and Labrador; and

 

WHEREAS negotiations should focus on providing quality, twenty-four hour services as opposed to focusing on call volume;

 

WHEREUPON the undersigned, your petitioners, humbly pray and call upon the House of Assembly to urge the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to recognize and act on the principle of equal pay for equal work.

 

As in duty bound, your petitioners will ever pray.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity to stand this afternoon and enter this petition.  This petition came from the protest at lunch hour on the steps of Confederation Building.  It was very interesting to hear the workers and the paramedics and the emergency service workers over lunch hour talk about the issues that they face day in and day out.  These ambulance workers, EMS workers, and paramedics are on call twenty-four seven and, in lots of cases, they have varying wages, varying levels of service and pay.

 

It was interesting – one story over lunch hour was that one worker had to pay for alterations to a uniform, and the alterations to the uniform were about the cost of a new uniform.  So, Mr. Speaker, it is time the government brought in some steady standards, contracts that are longer in term to ensure that these services have the adequate funding that is required.

 

Just quickly for a second, Mr. Speaker, the District of Trinity – Bay de Verde has four community-based ambulance services.  We have a community-based ambulance service in Heart's Delight-Islington, one in Winterton, one in Old Perlican, and one on the North shore.  I am quite familiar with these services and I am quite familiar with the people who provide these services.  They spend twenty-four hours, seven days a week, 365 days a year being tied to a pager, and providing services that are essential in rural Newfoundland and Labrador – as essential as they are in any other part of the Province.  Sometimes it feels like they are not getting the respect they deserve.

 

I thank the workers from these ambulance services for what they do for our communities, for all of our people.  Again, Mr. Speaker, we call upon the government to take the necessary action to ensure that these workers are treated with the utmost respect.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Carbonear – Harbour Grace.

 

MR. SLADE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

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

 

WHEREAS there is no traffic signage or traffic control devices present for eastbound traffic from Whitbourne, or the oncoming westbound traffic from the east end of Tilton, or exiting from either Route 73 off the Veteran's Memorial Highway from Harbour Grace; and

 

WHEREAS due to the increased residential dwellings, residents with small children, and a resident living with a hearing impairment, inadequate signage and no visible sidewalks increase the risk of residents being hit by oncoming traffic; and

 

WHEREAS the speed limit is fifty kilometres an hour; and

 

WHEREAS dangerous driving motorists drive excessive speeds beyond the speed limit; and

 

WHEREAS there is no traffic signage to advise motorists they are entering a residential zone, non-confirmative drivers do not have enough time to slow down;

 

WHEREUPON the undersigned, your petitioners, humbly pray and call upon the House of Assembly to urge the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to erect adequate traffic signage and traffic control devices and revisit and reduce the speed limit from the current fifty kilometres an hour.

 

As in duty bound, your petitioners will ever pray.

 

Mr. Speaker, this is coming from the New Harbour barrens over towards the Tilton area.  The problem with it, of course, is all along that route when you get on it over in New Harbour, you come on through there 80 kilometres an hour.  So what is taking place is there is no signage saying a reduced speed should be taken around where those residents are.  There is absolutely no signage there whatsoever. 

 

The residents in that area are quite concerned about the situation.  There are young children there.  Of course they are coming through there eighty kilometres an hour so if some small child happens to get hit there – they are showing concerns.  There is also a lady there who has a hearing impairment.

 

Again, for the drivers not to be warned that they are actually supposed to slow down to fifty kilometres an hour, that gives those residents in the Tilton area a great concern.

 

Mr. Speaker, I do know the Minister of Transportation had an email sent to him today speaking about this.  I certainly hope they take a very favourable look at least putting the signage on it that needs to be on it so no accident or anything takes place in that area.

 

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, for the time.

 

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

 

MR. MITCHELMORE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

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 Route 438 (Croque-St. Julien's/Grandois Road), a former woods road, is nearly thirty kilometres of gravel road; and

 

WHEREAS the students, workers, and residents much travel this road for all education, health, business, and other services; and

 

WHEREAS the Department of Transportation and Works has no immediate plans to do major upgrading on Route 438, despite the current road conditions being disgraceful, and

 

WHEREAS it is the government's obligation to provide basic infrastructure to all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians;

 

We, the undersigned, petition the House of Assembly to urge the government to allocate funds in the provincial roads program to improve Route 438.

 

As in duty bound, your petitioners will ever pray.

 

Mr. Speaker, this petition is signed by residents of Main Brook and Croque.  This is a road that was put in place by the Pilgrim brothers because of the lumber industry and forestry being very vibrant going out to this particular peninsula. 

 

There have been finds around minerals, marble, copper, gold, and other samples listed there, but when it comes to the overall economic activity right now, it is stagnant.  These residents who live in Croque and Grandois, St. Julien's deserve to have a good quality road infrastructure. 

 

Even though the Department of Transportation and Works is adding some stone and doing grading, as soon as it is being added and because there is no roller, because there is inadequate equipment, it is being pushed off the road.  It is a very treacherous road that needs focus.  It does need upgrade.  I would ask the minister to put some focus on looking at the gravel roads that are in our inventory.  I have highlighted that around Route 434, Conche Road. 

 

I think it is highly important that when we look at maintaining and the infrastructure piece, that the Ministerial Statement that was talking about making sure the roadways are clean and things like that – but we also need to make sure those students, those workers, and everybody who are travelling from Croque, St. Julien's and Grandois, they have to leave their community basically for all services so they should have a good, safe road to travel under.  So I put forward this petition on behalf of my constituents, Mr. Speaker.

 

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

 

MR. MURPHY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. MURPHY: – the petition of the undersigned residents humbly sheweth:

 

WHEREAS in 2011 the provincial government announced it would lift the 8 per cent provincial portion of the HST off residential heat and light by introducing the Residential Energy Rebate; and

 

WHEREAS heat is a necessity of life and a health concern, particularly for seniors; and

 

WHEREAS the provincial government has projected oil prices to increase in the next five years;

 

WHEREUPON the undersigned, your petitioners, humbly pray and call upon the House of Assembly to urge government to stop taxing home energy and to reverse its decision to abolish the Residential Energy Rebate.

 

As in duty bound, your petitioners will ever pray.

 

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the residents of Conception Harbour, St. Anthony, and Rocky Harbour for sending these petitions in today as I enter them into the House record.  If you are a heating oil user, today you may have gotten notice from your particular supplier that the Residential Energy Rebate will be over in July and you will start to see the 8 per cent tax back on your bill.

 

Mr. Speaker, I am one of those people who have received notice of that already.  That is a substantial hit to take again after government took the tax off in – I think it was 2011, in the 2012 Budget, I should say.  It was a substantial move on government's part at that particular time, and it came from this side of the House.  It was a record of accomplishment that we finally got this done.  We had 55,000 people sign a petition back in 2001 asking government to do this move, because they thought it was abhorrent in itself to be taxing home energy to the point that it was no longer recognized as a necessity here in Newfoundland and Labrador. 

 

Mr. Speaker, this is a very cold climate here in the Province.  As you know, it can get very costly for things like heating oil, as well as for electricity.  We know that electricity costs are going to be going up.  Some of the projections, even from Muskrat Falls, would have you guessing as regards to how much we are going to be paying in the future. 

 

Mr. Speaker, nonetheless, we still have 8 per cent that is taken out of people's pockets in the form of disposable income that could have gone back into the economy.  We know food costs in this Province are extremely high as well.  This is money that is taken out of the economy and it is going to have to go towards a necessity of life again because government decided to take the tax and put it back on. 

 

Mr. Speaker, again, we hope that government would listen when it comes to taking this tax off, when it comes to the Residential Energy Rebate.  We know government has speculated already about the whole idea of the removal of the 2 per cent HST.  They still do not know whether they are going to be putting it on or taking it off again.  There is still time, obviously, for government to reconsider its position when it comes to the whole idea of adding the tax on heat again. 

 

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the people from Rocky Harbour, St. Anthony, and Conception Harbour (inaudible). 

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

I remind the member his time has expired. 

 

Orders of the Day. 

 

Orders of the Day

 

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

 

MR. KING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

I would like to call from the Order Paper, Motion 5, to move pursuant to Standing Order 11 that the House not adjourn at 5:30 p.m. today, Monday, June 15, 2015. 

 

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that this House not adjourn at 5:30 p.m. today. 

 

All those in favour, 'aye.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

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

 

The motion is carried. 

 

The hon. the Government House Leader.

 

MR. KING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

I would like to now call Motion 6, to move pursuant to Standing Order 11 that the House not adjourn at 10:00 p.m. today, Monday, June 15, 2015. 

 

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is this House not adjourn at 10:00 p.m. today. 

 

All those in favour, 'aye.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

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

 

The motion is carried. 

 

The hon. the Government House Leader.

 

MR. KING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

I would like to call Motion 7, to move pursuant to Standing Order 11 that the House not adjourn at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 16, 2015. 

 

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that the House not adjourn at 5:30 p.m. tomorrow, Tuesday.

 

All those in favour, 'aye.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

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

 

The motion is carried.

 

The hon. the Government House Leader.

 

MR. KING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I would like to move Motion 8, pursuant to Standing Order 11, that the House not adjourn at 10:00 p.m. tomorrow, Tuesday, June 16.

 

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that this House do not adjourn at 10:00 p.m. tomorrow, Tuesday.

 

All those in favour, 'aye.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

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

 

The motion is carried.

 

The hon. the Government House Leader.

 

MR. KING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I would like to move Motion 9, pursuant to Standing Order 11, that the House not adjourn at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 18, 2015.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

The motion is that for Thursday of this week, June 18, the House not adjourn at 5:30 p.m.

 

All those in favour, 'aye.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

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

 

The motion is carried.

 

The hon. the Government House Leader.

 

MR. KING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I would like to call Motion 10, pursuant to Standing Order 11, the House not adjourn at 10:00 p.m. on Thursday, June 18, 2015.

 

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that for Thursday, June 18, of this week at 10:00 p.m. the House not adjourn.

 

All those in favour, 'aye.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

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

 

The motion is carried.

 

The hon. the Government House Leader.

 

MR. KING: Mr. Speaker, I would like to call from the Order Paper, Order 2, third reading of a bill, An Act To Amend The Revenue Administration Act, Bill 7.  So moved by me, seconded by the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board, that the said bill be now read a third time.

 

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that the said bill be now read a third time.

 

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion that Bill 7, An Act To Amend The Revenue Administration Act be now read a third time.

 

All those in favour, 'aye.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

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

 

The motion is carried.

 

CLERK: A bill, An Act To Amend The Revenue Administration Act.  (Bill 7)

 

MR. SPEAKER: This bill has been read a third time.  It is ordered that the bill do pass and that its title be as on the Order Paper.

 

On motion, a bill “An Act To Amend The Revenue Administration Act,” read a third time, ordered passed and its title be as on the Order Paper.  (Bill 7)

 

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

 

MR. KING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

At this time I would like to call second reading, Order 7, An Act To Amend The House Of Assembly Act, Bill 13, from the Order Paper.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Resuming debate on Bill 13.

 

Are there any further speakers to Bill 13?

 

The hon. the Member for Cape St. Francis.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

It is indeed a privilege to get up here today to speak on this bill, Bill 13. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I am not going to take my full time today because we already debated the bill here in January.  I think the consensus we had back then was that it was a good move, that the House should reduce the seats from forty-eight down to forty.  We all voted on that on the understanding there were going to have to be big changes.  Obviously, if you take eight seats away from forty-eight there are going to be big changes to the whole boundaries, and obviously there is going to be a big effect on a lot of members who are here in the House of Assembly. 

 

I voted at that time not knowing what was going to happen to my district, and not knowing whether I was going to lose a certain portion or I was going to gain another portion, or perhaps even in some cases that happened here in the House where some districts were dissolved altogether because of the way the boundaries came down and stuff like that, but I voted.  When I voted to reduce it from forty-eight to forty, I voted because it was the right thing to do. 

 

No matter what the impact is on myself, and the impact on others here now, I do not think I should change my vote because it affects me as a person, or it affects me as an individual because I think we all agree in this House that we should reduce it to make sure – where we are with the rest of Canada, we were on a very low scale and moving up to about 13.5 representatives.  We are at the lower end still with the number of constituents we have to represent here in the House of Assembly. 

 

In just saying that, and I respect and I understand people getting a little bit antsy about losing their seats and whatnot but on the real thing here, this was the right thing to do.  We all voted for it and understood there were going to be consequences afterwards, that some people were going to lose their seats and some people were going to have districts that were dissolved completely.  We will see as the vote comes.  I hope people vote because it was the right thing to do not because it affects them in a certain way.  I think that is what we have to look at on this vote. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I am going to talk a little bit about my own district, the District of Cape St. Francis.  In times gone by it was called St. John's East Extern, when a former good friend of mine, Mr. Tom Hickey, was here.  I was speaking with Mr. Hickey the other day, to let the people of the Province know.  I know he was very well respected in this Province.  He is doing well.  If you ever want to talk politics, give him a call because he will keep you on the phone for about an hour.  He is still in tune with the political life, and he has not changed. 

 

A lot of times I get up and I speak about former members, and I do not mention Mr. Hickey, but he made a great contribution to this Province.  He served in portfolios as ministers of the Crown and different things.  He did a fantastic job, and it is nice to see that he is still doing so well.  It was nice to be able to talk to him. 

 

Mr. Speaker, like I said, in my District of Cape St. Francis in the earlier years –and it has changed a lot because of the growth in the area and the communities down, we call it down on the East.  Cape St. Francis in the earlier days was called St. John's East Extern.  When my father was there, it covered right into Virginia Park, Wedgewood Park, and took in Airport Heights and the whole area.  Then it changed. 

 

When Mr. Jack Byrne became the member, it changed a little bit.  They took out Virginia Park and Wedgewood Park, but he still had Airport Heights.  Then it changed again – because they do change as populations grow.  It changed where – the Stavanger Drive area grew up so fast, that the Airport Heights area was taken away from it.

 

So in Cape St. Francis right now as it exists today, it has a good portion of St. John's in there.  Mr. Speaker, I just want to thank those people in the area.  I want to thank the people in the Stavanger Drive area, Ann-Jeannett trailer park, and people up along Majors Path going right up to the airport, for their support.  They supported me and I really have to thank them.  As I knocked on the door I was treated with courtesy, and very nice people.  I really want to thank them.

 

If the changes come in and this bill goes ahead, it looks like I am going to lose that portion of my district, which is basically the St. John's portion of the district, which is the Stavanger Drive area and that area.  Now I am going to have – which are the communities in my area. 

 

The communities in my area really, I have to say, work closely together.  I have to give the mayors in the area a lot of credit.  The Mayor of Torbay, Mr. Ralph Tapper, the Mayor of Bauline, Chris Dredge, the Mayor of Flatrock, Darrin Thorne, the Mayor of Pouch Cove, Joedy Wall, the Mayor of Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove, John Kennedy, along with the Mayor of Portugal Cove-St. Phillips, they have regular meetings.  They get together and talk about things in the district, whether it is transportation, whether it is recreation, whether it is anything to do with any municipal function at all, whether it is fire protection.  They do clean ups.  They correspond their festivals so one does not overlap with the other.  They work very closely together. 

 

I have to say that with the new district, if this bill gets passed, it is a very nice district.  What is happening right now is that these communities really work closely together.  I attend the meetings with them, also along with the Minister of Transportation whose area is Portugal Cove-St. Phillips.  We attend the meetings and we have a great discussion.  They do a lot of stuff together, so it is important. 

 

That is an important part for all of Newfoundland and Labrador.  While we all want top-notch services and stuff like that, it is so important that our municipalities work together and share services, and do things together so that it does not have an overlap.  Maybe the cost of a recreation program for a couple of communities, or the fire protection, bringing in three communities rather than have fire trucks in each community and stuff like this.  Then it is the cost to the taxpayers in those areas that they can get their services, whether it is snow clearing, whether it is garbage collection or anything at all, can be done top notch because there is a few dollars there to pay for that.  It is important when we look at the boundaries we are doing here today, that we reflect on what the services are that we offer the people in those areas. 

 

Like I said, in Cape St. Francis right now I am very pleased as a member.  I have to say I had a lady call me from the Torbay Road area.  I have been dealing with her.  Not really helping – she is a good supporter of mine.  She calls on a regular basis.  Anything I can do for any of my constituents, I try to do it.  She said: Kevin, whatever happens it looks like you are not going to be our MHA anymore, but you will always be my MHA. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. K. PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, that is a good thing with this job because a lot of times as you go around there are things that are hard and decisions have to be made, but you have to be honest with people.  You have to let them know whether you can help them or just say listen, this is the way it is, I am sorry.  At least if you talk to them and be upfront and honest with people, people really appreciate it.

 

This lady, I have to say – like I told a few other people in the area that I know I am not going to be their representative anymore.  Any time at all, pick up the phone and give me a call, if there is anything I can do for them in that area.  I really mean that because they showed me the support. 

 

I always get up and say how Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are.  We go around and knock on doors.  I am sure we will all be at it again this fall, most of us out around this summer doing our thing, our politicking thing and whatever, but people are generally really, really nice to you.  We are very fortunate to be living where we are because I would not like to have too many people slamming the door in your face or anything like that, but that is not happening.

 

Mr. Speaker, all I am doing here today is I would like to thank the people that I represent.  My district has changed a little bit.  I am going to put out something and let everybody in my district know how the district has changed.  I would like to thank the people who have supported me over the last number of years and thank them for the different things they have done.

 

Again, we are all here to support the constituents of our districts.  There are going to be a lot of changes, but the changes that are made, we all voted here in January for those changes.  Now, whether they affect a different person or stuff like that, I think the right thing is getting done.  I hope people vote because it is the right thing to do.

 

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. JOYCE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I am just going to stand and have a few minutes on Bill 13.  I guess Hansard is a wonderful thing.  I heard the member just speaking.  He spoke very good about his district and very well, talking about the reason why we voted, but the Minister of Transportation and Works on Thursday talked about how he followed the master plan, that is why this was done.  So there is a bit of conflict there.

 

The Minister of Transportation and Works had a chance to get up and explain what he meant about the master plan and how they foiled it.  I am just assuming that this Bill 13 was to foil some plan, not to save the millions of dollars that the Premier himself went out and said the reason why it was done.  The minister will have an opportunity later to say that either the Premier is incorrect or what he said was incorrect.  He can decide which one it is.  I know he was brought to the wood shed by the Minister of Finance already, maybe today the Premier also. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I am going to speak on the electoral boundary changes.  I am just going to give a brief history when this was brought back in – the original bill that came in was for thirty-eight seats.  It was not for forty.  It was for thirty-eight seats.  What happened – I just have to give a history of this.  Mr. Speaker, this is the most damming part of this bill.  When it came in for thirty-eight seats, there was no protection for Labrador.  With the uniqueness and the vastness, there was no protection whatsoever for Labrador. 

 

I know the members opposite are looking and I will just go through a history of it.  When this bill came in, it had three parts to it.  By the time we realized from government that this was going to happen, we said okay, sure, let's go through the process and do it.  Mr. Speaker, there were three amendments made to this bill by this Opposition – three of them.  The proudest one that I have, and this was compounded, is to protect Labrador and its uniqueness.  Because we protected Labrador, because we protected this uniqueness, there were two extra seats added for rural Newfoundland and Labrador.  We all voted for it.  I voted for it, I stand by it, and I have absolutely no problem in defending it.  I just want to give a brief history of it and how this came about.

 

The Minister of Transportation and Works can give his own reasons why it was done, but that is what the Premier said.  I can only assume whatever the Premier of the Province says in this House of Assembly that it is factual.  I have no doubt that it is not, but I guess the Minister of Transportation and Works has a different story on it. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I just want to also thank Judge Stack and the Commissioners for this because I am sure around the Province and in some of their submissions they got a lot of gut-wrenching stories about the towns being together and why they should be together, about communities being separated.  For those individuals and the staff to go around to hear those arguments face to face, and get them sent in, it is gut wrenching for them.  I just wanted to thank the Commission for the work they did, and the staff who carried out this work for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I go back to a speech I gave in the closing of Bill 13.  I have been through this before.  I am one of the lucky ones or unlucky ones who has been through it before, on two occasions actually.  One there were no changes, and one there were changes.  I said at the time that this is going to be gut wrenching for a lot of members in this House.  I said it.  I said there are going to be a lot of communities that are going to be divided.  There are going to be a lot of people who are going to be against each other because of these boundary changes. 

 

I said it then, Mr. Speaker, and I will say again it.  Somewhere along the line we have to try to resolve and heal a lot of these issues in the towns and communities.  We are the leaders.  I said it then, I will say it again now.  I know there are people in this House who are directly affected.  I know that.  Somewhere along the line we have to try to bring the Province back together in some of the communities that are affected.  I just implore on people, all of us, once this calms down, once the water gets back to normal, that we try to calm people down and calm communities and towns, and realize that yes, we will do the best we can in our abilities to represent the people. 

 

Mr. Speaker, in the Bay of Islands itself – and I am going back.  I will use the Bay of Islands.  In the Bay of Islands there were recommendations to change.  I said at the beginning of my presentation – I made a presentation.  I said at the beginning, my presentation has nothing to do with Bay St. George or other parts of Corner Brook, other parts of Pasadena, other parts of Humber West.  It has nothing to do with it.  It was concerning the viewpoints that I received from the District of Bay of Islands. 

 

Mr. Speaker, everybody knew I was going to make a presentation.  Everybody in the Province who wanted to know, I made no secrets about it.  The second day, I put in I was going to make a presentation.  Also, well before the presentation, I served around copies of my presentation into any municipality in Corner Brook on the West Coast that wanted.  It was available.  I gave it to many people.  Many people were informed that I was going to make a presentation on this on behalf of the people of the Bay of Islands. 

 

In this House, when we got back a few people criticized me.  Not many.  Most understood what I was going to do.  I have to point out two people who were very critical of me making a presentation.  One was Tony Adey, the NDP candidate in the Bay of Islands who ran the last time.  He was very critical of me making a presentation. 

 

I just asked Tony Adey: Would you stand up for the people of the Bay of Islands, or would you stand and go on your Twitter box and criticize people like me who stand up for people in the Bay of Islands?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. JOYCE: You had your opportunity to stand with me for the District of Bay of Islands, Mr. Speaker, and what did he do?  He criticized me for standing up and representing the people.  It is terrible.

 

The other person, Mr. Speaker, is the vice-president of the PC association in the Bay of Islands.  He criticized me and told me he would like to see it separated.  The Member for Humber West, we sat down and discussed this and we said, well if it gets divided, one part of Corner Brook goes with the Bay of Islands, if it is Humber Heights, we are all fine with it, as long as we are all together somehow. 

 

Mr. Speaker, politicians in this room, there are one or two who gave a few snipes, but the majority of people out around Corner Brook – and I give the Member for Humber West credit.  The Member for Humber West said, no, let's do what is best for the people, however it turns out.

 

MR. KING: I did not snipe you.

 

MR. JOYCE: No, you never.  No, the Member for Grand Bank never sniped me either.  I have to say, he never. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I ask the people out there, when you have concerns brought forth by the people you represent, should you not put them forth in the proper manner?  Should you not?  Of course you should.

 

Mr. Speaker, the good thing about it is that the presentation that I made with the support of many councils in the Bay of Islands, if not all, because some put in written submissions – of the fire departments in the Bay of Islands.  If you had not known how many people who call my office supported me and asked me to make the presentation, I can go through the presentation about how the Bay of Islands itself has always been together, three fish plants together, and a number of other reasons why I thought they should have stayed together. 

 

Mr. Speaker, do I apologize for that?  Absolutely not.  I, as a Member for the District of Bay of Islands, made the best presentation that I could on their behalf, expressing their views.  The Commission agreed and said, yes, you made a reasonable argument for that.  That is no slight on other people in Corner Brook.  That is no slight on Pasadena or Humber Village, absolutely not.  It is the people I represented in the Bay of Islands.

 

Mr. Speaker, Tony Adey again – I do not mean to bring him up, but he was the most vocal one.  I saw something on Twitter, Tony Adey did – the NDP candidate in Bay of Islands.  I saw something on Twitter.  Do you know what he was upset about?  Do you know what he thinks may have influenced the Commission?  I was doing up a brochure, and we all do.  All members in this House send out brochures to their municipalities.  We all do. 

 

I sent out a brochure explaining and giving information to people, the numbers.  If you want to make a presentation, if you want to make a call, I gave the numbers.  He actually criticized me for that.  He said that may have influenced the Commission.  Instead of standing up and saying, well, at least Eddie Joyce went out and informed the people of the District of Bay of Islands.  At least he informed the people of the District of Islands.  He criticized me for sending all the information out.  At no time did I say you must make a presentation, you should.  I said, here is the information.  I got criticized for telling people about these boundary changes – which I voted for.

 

Mr. Speaker, the Member for Humber West – I hope you do not mind me pointing out your name – we sat down and discussed this.  Guess what?  We both agreed that, yes, we should.  If I want to make a presentation taking a part of Humber West, or a part of the Humber Heights, it is whatever the Commission decides.  Both are going to be represented well.

 

If the Member for Humber West keeps the Upper Country Road, it is going to be represented well.  If Humber Heights had to stay with the Member for Humber East, it is going to be represented well.  There was never any dispute about that.  There was never any argument whatsoever among us. 

 

Who are doing the sniping?  It is the NDP who did not have the intestinal fortitude – Tony Adey and the vice-president of the PC association who went out and wanted it changed.  It is going to be interesting in the next election just to see how much they are going to stand up – see if they are going to put in the brochure that I objected to having to keep the Bay of Islands together.

 

Mr. Speaker, a couple of fire chiefs, I have to – and I know all of them on the North Shore signed the letter sent in.  I just want to thank Colin Tucker, Wayne Payne, Cecil, Rick, and a few more, because they know how much the Bay of Islands, how much training they do together.  They know how much service agreement they have amongst themselves.  On the South Shore they work together so much, and having one MHA to speak for the whole group, it does make a difference.  When you have three fish plants, it is much easier to have one voice for all of the fish plants in the Bay of Islands than having one voice for two, another voice for another, and being separated.  Those were the arguments that I was making. 

 

Mr. Speaker, it was not as I presented to the Commission; the changes were different.  The changes that the member up Country Road area, the Member for Humber West, in his area, that is what I recommended.  I recommended that because the elementary school those parents go to are J.J. Curling.  That is what I recommended. 

 

The Mayor of Corner Brook made a presentation – and both of us agreed on this, Mr. Speaker, myself and the Mayor of Corner Brook agreed.  He made a presentation that there should be one area of Corner Brook, just one area of Corner Brook, and that one area of Corner Brook should encompass the mill, the water supply, and any major infrastructure in the City of Corner Brook, for example, the industrial park, that area.  That should be in one boundary of the City of Corner Brook and have one member.  That is why the Commission at the time said okay, we understand the concerns the Member of Bay of Islands put forward, we understand the concerns of the Mayor of the City of Corner Brook, so how can we incorporate all of those concerns, and they did. 

 

What they did, they made one seat which took in the mill, which took in the water supply, which took in the industrial park and that area.  Now the North and South Shore of the Bay of Islands are still together, and I am very proud of that.  They took in the Humber Heights area.  So now to the people of Humber Heights, which I have a lot of friends and family in that area, coming November I will be knocking on your doors – well before then, of course – explaining that the boundaries, if there are any questions about it, and I will be representing the Humber – and I am very proud to.  I am very proud.  I have played many sports up there.  I have a lot of good friends, a lot of family up in that area, and I look forward to representing the people of Humber Heights with the Bay of Islands with the same vigor as I always did for the people in the Bay of Islands. 

 

I even made a joke, Mr. Speaker.  In the Humber Heights area, there is a team called the Humber Hawks and we were rivals in soccer.  A lot of those guys are my friends.  I had to go up and I bumped into a few of them and I told them that I will be representing the people in Humber Heights now.  I said I will be such a nice guy to the soccer players of Humber Heights, the Hawks that we played against and fought against for so many years – I am such a nice guy I am going to show them all the trophies that we beat them for, so they could see the trophies.

 

They all had a good chuckle at that because a lot have moved on to be teachers, a lot of them moved on to be working in Corner Brook.  I had a lot of dealings with a lot of those foes over a number of years, Mr. Speaker; foes on the field, but good friends off the field.  That is the way that we all should work in the political game also.  I must say we all do. 

 

Myself and the Member for Humber West had a great night out in Cox's Cove delivering the fire truck on behalf of the government.  Once we get outside this theatre – we debate – once we are outside, we all work for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.  Also, the only thing that was missing Friday night from the fire truck in Cox's Cove was the Member for Gander who was instrumental in helping us get the truck.  The Member for Gander was praised by the fire chief and the council and by the Member for Humber West and myself.  We had a great night.  It was great.

 

That is how we work, Mr. Speaker.  We all work together.  We all have a difference of opinion, but when it comes down to it we work well together.  That is the way we did it on this realignment also.  I even spoke to the Member for Humber West about what I was proposing. 

 

Mr. Speaker, this is very sensitive to a lot of people on our side.  Our caucus and our leader decided that we are going to have a free vote.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with having a free vote because this is not a money bill.  This is not going to drag down the government with people offering a difference of opinion.

 

I am proud of our leader going to our caucus saying: What should we do?  Our caucus said: You have to speak on how the towns in your district feel.  That is what you have to do.  I applaud that because I know when I made the presentation back three months ago, I spoke on behalf of the people who I represented at the time, the people of the Bay of Islands.  I am so proud that we are going to have a free vote in this House of Assembly, so anybody who wants to express their views on behalf of the people who elected them, can stand in this House of Assembly, express their views openly and express their views with the full confidence of their caucus.

 

MR. MITCHELMORE: The Liberal caucus.

 

MR. JOYCE: The Liberal caucus.  The Member for The Straits – White Bay North said yes, the Liberal caucus.  That is right.  That is good leadership, but that just shows how we, as a Liberal caucus, understand the sensitivity of this issue.  We understand how towns are pulled apart.  We understand how people are pulled apart.  We understand how districts are pulled apart.  We understand that. 

 

This will heal, Mr. Speaker.  I can assure you this will heal.  I know any member who is elected to this House of Assembly, either from the government side or from this side, will do the best job they possibly can to represent their new districts.  I have absolutely no doubt.  We may differ on how to do it.  We may differ on policies, but I feel confident that every member is here for the right reason.

 

Mr. Speaker, I see my time is getting short.  I have less than a minute to go.  Before I close I just want to say a big thank you to the people of the Bay of Islands for supporting me in this cause.  I first got elected in 1989.  I always lived in the district, except for university.  I always lived in the district.  I was born and raised in the district.  When there are times when an issue like this comes up, they surround you. 

 

I just want to thank all the communities on the North and South Shore.  I had calls from Lark Harbour, York Harbour, Humber Arm South, Mount Moriah, Curling, all throughout the North Shore from all the fire departments saying we should keep the Bay of Islands together, what can you do?  We together, collectively – and I have to thank Judy Bolt.  Judy works in my office in Corner Brook.  She is the CA.  I thank Judy for all the hard work that she did also. 

 

In closing, thank you to the people of Bay of Islands for supporting me on this.

 

MR. SPEAKER (Cross): Order, please!

 

MR. JOYCE: The people from Humber Heights, I look forward to representing you.  Mr. Speaker, to everybody, this will pass, let's try to unite.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

The member's time has expired.

 

MR. JOYCE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Baie Verte – Springdale.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. POLLARD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

It is certainly always a privilege, a delight, and an honour to get up in this House of Assembly to represent the people of Baie Verte – Springdale district, and, in fact, the entire Province.  A lot of important people graced the halls of this place over the years.  I feel humbled every time I come in here and a privilege to come in this House of Assembly and stand and speak on behalf of the people.  It has a lot of historical significance over the years. 

 

It is always a surreal experience.  Even seven years now I feel always humbled every time I come in here.  It is a privilege to do so.  Like every other member in this House of Assembly, Mr. Speaker, we always like to take every opportunity, every chance we get to stand up on our feet and debate the issues of the day.

 

Mr. Speaker, I would like to speak on Bill 13, An Act to Amend the House of Assembly Act.  The Explanatory Notes here have five highlights.  It is sixty-one pages long so I am not going to read sixty-one pages today, just briefly the five bullets in bullet form. 

 

Number one, this bill would reduce the number of Members of the House of Assembly to forty; number two, it would effect a reorganization of the boundaries of electoral districts in the Province; number three, it would set a date when a general election shall be held in 2015 as a result of an overlap with the federal election; number four, it would establish a mechanism to resolve future overlaps between federal and provincial elections; and number five, it would provide for an exception to the requirement to hold a by-election where a seat in the House of Assembly becomes vacant six months or less before the day a general election is required to be held.

 

Mr. Speaker, before I start, I would certainly like to applaud and commend the Commission members for their outstanding, stellar work that they have done: the Chairperson, the hon. Robert Stack; Deputy Chair, Shawn Skinner; we have Bernard Coffey, Bill Matthews, and Allan Goulding.  I think, in my opinion, in 120 days – that was their time frame.  I think they did stellar work.  They used all the modern technology – and thanks to the modern technology for getting it on time.  I think the Commission and all of their staff, the technical people involved, did an outstanding job to get this on time so we can debate this in the House of Assembly today.  So a shout out to the Commission members, Mr. Speaker. 

 

Again, like I said, this act will reduce the seats from forty-eight to forty-one member districts, it will establish new boundaries, and also give new names where applicable.  Some names remain the same, Mr. Speaker, as you know.  One interesting overarching or overriding premise, I suppose, upon which this act or the Commission stands on is that “ … the vote of every elector in the Province shall have a weight equal to that of every other elector.”

 

I suppose my interpretation of that is if I was living in Tilt Cove, for example, and somebody else living in Mount Pearl or St. John's, my vote in Tilt Cove would have equal value, equal power.  It would not be diluted.  So the Commission would take steps where my vote in Tilt Cove would not be diluted, that every vote would have equal value in this Province based on fair representation.  I think that was the overriding arch, overriding premise upon which the Commission members made their recommendations so that every vote is very, very important and of equal value, Mr. Speaker. 

 

That is nothing new.  The electoral boundaries review, as we all know, is nothing new.  It would happen every ten years.  The last time there was a boundary commission review I believe it was in 2006, at that particular time.  We went one year earlier.  That is okay, Mr. Speaker.  It gives us a chance to do it one year earlier.  I would like to applaud all the former members of the district who served the district over the years, in the new one that I will have which I will mention shortly. 

 

I checked in the hallway out here, I looked at all the pictures and the names of all the districts and my district, in particular, over the years, Mr. Speaker.  I discovered that there are all kinds of names out there.  In my district we had: Fred Rowe, Bill Smallwood, Ed Roberts, Bill Rowe, Brian Peckford, Tom Rideout, Harold Small, Alvin Hewlett, Paul Shelley, Graham Flight, and the present one in Green Bay South is the member here today.

 

All I am saying, Mr. Speaker, is that they laid the foundation, I am building upon the foundation that these hon. gentlemen did over the years.  They did some outstanding work.  If you go back 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, you will find that these MHAs, it does not matter if they were Liberal, NDP, or PC, it looks like it was – I do not think we ever had an NDP, but we had Liberal and PC.  Over the years, they did stupendous jobs in representing the people in this district or this area of the Province. 

 

I just want to say a big shout out to all these gentleman who have served the people over the years.  It is a privilege just to build on what they have learned.  We were taught over the years, Mr. Speaker, you just build upon someone else's work.  You do not reinvent the wheel; you do not take all the credit for what you have done.  Somebody else before you laid a solid foundation and you build upon that and you keep it going.  Hopefully, you will make a difference in the days ahead.

 

Mr. Speaker, just to zero in on my district for example, my present name of my district is Baie Verte – Springdale.  The new name is going to be Baie Verte – Green Bay.  The Commission based that name upon – there is some significance or historical significance.  For example, the name Baie Verte was used since 1975 in naming parts of my district up to the present day. 

 

Mr. Speaker, Green Bay has been used since 1928 up to 1996.  As you can understand, when the Commission members looked at this particular portion of the Province, this particular region, they wondered what kind of name would be best suited to represent the people of this area.  Needless to say – I guess it was right in front of their face – they used the name Baie Verte – Green Bay because of their historical significance.

 

Over the years, we know that the district was called Baie Verte, then it was Green Bay over the years, then it was White Bay North, White Bay South, it was Grand Falls-Windsor – Springdale district one time, then it was Baie Verte – Springdale district.  So over the years this particular portion of the Province had a lot of different names, varied names over the years, Mr. Speaker.  If this goes through, if this passes, and most likely it will, the new name of the district, upon which I am hoping to represent, would be Baie Verte – Green Bay.  There is nothing wrong with that name.  That is a nice name.

 

You might ask: What would be the impact on my district?  Well, we have a new name of course.  Then prior to this boundary commission I had around thirty-four communities that I would manage and look after.  Now with the change, I would have approximately forty communities.  I would go from approximately 11,000 people to approximately 13,773. 

 

So what I am trying to say is we will have the communities from Green Bay South.  I did not lose any.  I picked up and I am very, very pleased, very, very happy to say that I have kept the Baie Verte Peninsula.  I have kept the Springdale area, Green Bay North, and now they have added on Green Bay South.  I am very pleased that the boundary Commissioners saw fit to say that because that is a natural fit.

 

On behalf of the people of Baie Verte, the Baie Verte Peninsula, on behalf of the people in Springdale, I welcome the Green Bay communities on board in this new district, should we get a majority vote in this House of Assembly.  It is just a natural fit because I have gone around the region over the last little while and I have had people say it is just a natural fit.  Not only geographically speaking, but it is also based upon culture, based upon history, based upon people's shopping patterns or travel patterns.  People shop in Springdale.  We go down to Robert's Arm, Triton, or Brighton for a drive.  We do some shopping down there.  So it is just a natural flow of traffic, Mr. Speaker.  Doctors' appointments – people from Green Bay South will either go to Grand Falls for doctors' appointments or they would come in Springdale for doctors' appointments, or for social events. 

 

Of course, sports and athletic events over the year, our schools and schools in Green Bay South, we have competed over the years back and forth, teachers engaged in social activities, teachers and students engaged in athletic events.  I have been there over thirty years in that area, and I applaud the commissioners for their insight in recognizing the significance of historical patterns, travelling patterns, business patterns, social patterns, educational patterns.  It just flows together, Mr. Speaker. 

 

Even before the changes, I have had people over the years say we should be involved in this because they have more commonalities.  They have a lot in common.  I am truly, truly humbled, and would truly be very pleased and grateful should I win the PC nomination and go on to win in a general election.  I certainly would be pleased to represent that particular area.  I would be honoured and thrilled.

 

Again, I would like to reiterate the fact that – or honour all our former members, but the present member here today, he said publicly he is about to retire, so I am not giving away any secrets, Mr. Speaker.  I just want to say in this hon. House publicly that I would like to thank him for all of his help over the years.  Yes, give him a hand.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. POLLARD: I was Mayor of Springdale for four or five years and served on council for seven years.  The present member was very accessible.  He helped us out whenever he could.  I just want to applaud him and commend him for his work in our district, and district issues.  I hate to see him go, but on behalf of all the people I would like to say a great big thank you.  Now, if he did not go, Mr. Speaker, him and I will be vying for the – we will be fighting for the position, I would think.

 

I would like to address one issue that I heard all along, right across the Province, is representation.  This change will not dilute representation a great deal, Mr. Speaker.  With this change, Newfoundland and Labrador still will be ranked very, very high nationally.  If I am not mistaken, the average representation number is about 17,000 per district. 

 

What we try to do is 13,500, to get that quotient, which is the average residents per district; but, of course, it is practically impossible to get every district at 13,500.  That is the quotient the Commission was mandated to do.  So there is some deviation, 10 per cent plus, or negative 10 per cent, whatever.  It is practically impossible to divide the Province up to 13,550 every single one.  It is impossible to do, and they recognize that, Mr. Speaker. 

 

These changes, I do not think I have any problem.  In fact, I know I do not have any problem when it comes to fair representation because the district that I will then have, my new district, Baie Verte – Green Bay will only have close to about 14,000, about forty communities to look after.  I admit, Mr. Speaker – and you have heard the resident from Brighton, Mr. Bartlett, talk about this, how we manage that. 

 

Well, I go back and say that everybody in this House, our values, our culture and our heritage, we were taught hard work.  We were raised that – if I look around this House here, I see all hard work among every MHA here.  So it is not like representation is going to be diluted.  The representation will be fair, and each MHA will have to manage their time. 

 

With hard work, we will get around and deal with the issues at hand.  Yes, we will have more communities.  I will have more councils to deal with, but that is life, Mr. Speaker.  We are not afraid of hard work.  It is just a matter of managing your time.  Every single day you will hear: here, here.  At the end of the day, you will get to everybody in your district.

 

So we still have good, fair representation, nationally speaking.  I believe, if I am not mistaken, I think we are probably ranked third or fourth in the country.  We are still ranked high when it comes to representation.  It is a valid argument, Mr. Speaker.  I am not up here saying that the people should not be represented.  That is the number one priority for everybody here in this House of Assembly, to make sure the people we serve are well represented. 

 

I have had relationships in this House with MHAs here and I can see their hard work.  I have no qualms in saying that the MHAs who represent those districts, the changes, they will have no qualms in representing the people they serve.  I know how hard they work.  It is based upon the value of hard work.  In fact, Mr. Speaker, we were all raised, if you did not work, you should not eat.  I mean that is a little bit harsh, but the bottom line is a strong work ethic will yield good results along the way. 

 

I just want to reiterate that point and welcome my communities, Green Bay South communities into the new District of Baie Verte – Green Bay.  Mr. Speaker, what a thrill it is to see us all combined, because geographically speaking, culturally speaking, and based upon all the commonalities we do have, I think it is a natural fit.  I commend the commissioners for their outstanding work.  I have to say again, when I look on that wall and see the outstanding people who served this House and these people district wise and Province, Mr. Speaker, it is so humbling and it is a thrill to be here. 

 

Just for the record, before I sit down, Mr. Speaker, I would like to name the communities that will be involved in the new District of Baie Verte – Green Bay.  Here they are, and I hope I have time to do this.  This district includes the communities of: Baie Verte, Beachside, Brent's Cove, Brighton, Burlington, Coachman's Cove, Fleur de Lys, King's Point, La Scie, Little Bay, Little Bay Islands, Lushes Bight – Beaumont-Beaumont North, Middle Arm, Miles Cove, Ming's Bight, Nippers Harbour, Pacquet, Pilley's Island, Port Anson, Robert's Arm, Seal Cove, South Brook, Springdale, Tilt Cove, Triton, Westport, Woodstock, Harbour Round, Purbeck's Cove, Wild Cove, Sheppardville, St. Patrick's, Round Harbour, Shoe Cove, Smith's Harbour, Snooks Arm, Harry's Harbour, Jackson's Cove – Langdon's Cove-Silverdale, and Rattling Brook.  I hope I said Lushes Bight – Beaumont-Beaumont North.

 

Mr. Speaker, I apologize if I left any communities out, but I do not think I did.  The population is 13,773, and the land mass would be approximately 5,600 square kilometres, and the quotient deviation is 1.6 per cent. 

 

Mr. Speaker, what a thrill it is to represent the people of the district, and like most MHAs, I should say all MHAs here, this is a tremendous job.  I love it.  I have the energy, the fire, and the passion to serve this district. 

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Signal Hill – Quidi Vidi. 

 

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

 

I am glad to have the opportunity to stand today and speak to Bill 13. 

 

It certainly does have a dιjΰ vu feeling to it, of course, because of the fact that in January we discussed Bill 42, which was the bill that is making this bill exist.  The bill we are discussing, Bill 13, has the changes in it that relate to the study that was done by the Boundaries Commission that Bill 42 set up. 

 

I have to say that it is very disturbing to stand here again today and have to speak to that whole process, what was wrong with that process, and the undemocratic nature of the process of Bill 42, which was put together by the government, manipulating the system for their own ends, and that becomes very disturbing.  There was absolutely no need to put the Boundaries Commission that should have been put in place in 2016 – according to our legislation – there was absolutely no need to put the boundaries commission that should have been put in place in 2016 – according to our legislation – there was absolutely no need for that to be put in place in 2015.  No need whatsoever.  The government had its own agenda.  The government put the Commission in place to meet its own agenda.

 

Now, Mr. Speaker, I have to commend the Commission itself because the Commission worked under tremendous pressure.  The Commission was told they had to cut seats.  They were told the number of seats they had to cut.  They were told when and where they were allowed to – well, the where of when they were allowed to hold public hearings.  They were given so many directions by the government under Bill 42, and agreed to by the Official Opposition, that they were constrained.  Yet, they took it upon themselves, they were appointed and they did the work, but they obviously understood, in doing the work – they did not criticize the legislation they were working under, and rightly so, that shows the integrity of the people who were on the Commission, but their recommendations are telling, Mr. Speaker.

 

They have four recommendations at the end of their report that have not really been talked about by government and most people of course are focusing on the recommendations with regard to the changes to the boundary, what the forty districts look like, but we cannot forget what they have in their recommendations.  What they have in their recommendations are telling.

 

One of the recommendations is that you should not set up a commission with only 120 days to do the work that they did, especially when it included boundary changes.  Now that was one thing.  That said a lot, Mr. Speaker.  They were telling the government: Even though we worked hard, we killed ourselves, staff worked morning, noon, and night and weekends.  We did all that.  We got the work down, but it was not the right way.

 

They also say in their recommendations that the decision on when and where to have hearings should be the decision of the Commission.  They should not be bound by decisions that government passes on to them when another commission is set up.

 

That in itself is also very telling.  They, for example, – and they point this out.  It is in the Commission's report.  They say it themselves.  Even though they were told that the four seats in Labrador were to remain, they still had to hold a hearing in Labrador because they were told they had to do it.  Now, that did not make any sense, not in this case because there were going to be no changes to Labrador.  Now, they say that themselves, so they had no choice over that.

 

Their recommendation is that the decision on hearings should be left up to the commission that is put in place.  That is in the recommendations.  We seem to forget they have recommendations in there.  They just did not do the work of putting the forty boundaries in place and doing the changes that had to be made.  They made other recommendations. 

 

They also talk about why – they do not put it this way but it is really what they are saying – the boundaries commission should be when it is.  It has to be related to when censuses are taken.  So they believe that the figures that they used, because of when they were doing the Commission's report – that the figures they are using are figures that are not the most up-to-date figures in creating the new districts.

 

Mr. Speaker, I am reminding the government and I am reminding the people that the Commission worked under tremendous constraint.  I congratulate them for the work that they did.  I also say to government and to the Official Opposition, look at their recommendations.  What they are saying is do not do it again the way you did it.  I think that is very important.

 

Having said that, Mr. Speaker, I want to move on and remind people of what it is that we are dealing with and why we are here.  There were many things that were in Bill 42 that we are now seeing the result of in Bill 13, things that people forget about. 

 

The process itself was an undemocratic process.  The government laying on the legislation, government and Official Opposition together agreeing to it, but going against our legislation, going against what is there which gives directions for when electoral boundaries should take place limiting – because of the limited time, limiting the voice of people, limiting how many people could get involved in saying what they are thinking. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I have had many people speak to me since the Commission's report came out – and we are basically voting on the report here in this House as we discuss Bill 13.  I have had many people, some of whom are mayors in towns out around the Province, who are not happy with the process, who are not happy with the fact that rural representation is being cut, that fewer rural MHAs will sit in this House of Assembly.

 

They are very concerned that at this time of uncertainty, at this time of fiscal restraint, at this time when people are really feeling unsure about where we are going to be going in economic terms in this Province, what really is the overall future when you look at the nature of resource development with what is happening in the mining industry, with what is happening in the oil industry.  It is rural Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who are the ones being badly affected by that, that at this point in time, the representation of the rural voice is going to be lessened. 

 

Mr. Speaker, this is what people out around are concerned about.  This is what some mayors have spoken to me about.  They are not happy with what has happened.  They are not happy with the cutting of seven seats in rural Newfoundland, not at all.  That is why, just as we could not as a party and as a caucus – we could not vote for Bill 42, we will not be able to vote for Bill 13 either.  It is based on everything that was wrong about Bill 42. 

 

Let's look at what is happening with regard to that voice I am talking about.  I had a good example of that, Mr. Speaker, this past week when, I, along with my colleagues, MHAs for Labrador attended the Combined Councils of Labrador.  The Minister of Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs was there.  The Member for Torngat Mountains and the Member for Cartwright – L'Anse au Clair was there. 

 

We heard once again all the problems that exist for people in Labrador, the delivery of services, their transportation system, the infrastructure, and all the problems that exist.  I could only say it was good that when the bill first came out – when Bill 42 first came out from that government, Mr. Speaker.  When it first came out with the possibility of the loss of seats in Labrador, I saw that immediately and spoke to it immediately. 

 

I cannot say the same thing happened with the Official Opposition.  Their leader first accepted it.  I would say that the representatives from Labrador in his caucus had a lot to say that weekend so that he came back on a Monday and all of a sudden he saw the light.  Rightly so, because it would have been terrible if the voice of Labradorians had been lessened.  It is also terrible –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MS MICHAEL: – that the voice of rural Newfoundlanders has been lessened.  This really disturbs me.  This is something this government has not thought about.  It is shocking and it is shameful.  It is shocking and shameful. 

 

Mr. Speaker, let's go on.  What else do we need to remember?  It is easy to forget.  I want to remind people what else do people forget about?  We forget about that we sat here through a filibuster, we sat overnight, and we had – every single person in the House got up and spoke on the government side.  Every single backbencher got up and used every second of his twenty minutes, or her twenty minutes – although they do not have many hers over on that side of the House now, unfortunately.  Every single MHA of the Official Opposition got up and used every one of their twenty minutes.  They used the time while backroom deals were being done by the government and the Official Opposition together. 

 

Mr. Speaker, they want us to forget that happened.  That was undemocratic.  To have this bill brought into us without any warning, to force that debate in January was one of the most undemocratic things I have been through in this House of Assembly.  Then to have the writing of that important bill taking place out in the hallways of the House of Assembly, talk about an undemocratic process and how this House does not operate in a functional way.  We had a brilliant example of it in January of this year with Bill 42. 

 

Mr. Speaker, is there anything in Bill 13 that we agree with?  Believe it or not, there is.  The Official Opposition may not like this, but we do agree with the proposal for the date of our general election to be November 30. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MS MICHAEL: We do agree with that.  We agree with it because right from the very beginning, all year we were saying how can you have a provincial and federal election going on at the same time.  Saskatchewan recognized that long ago because Saskatchewan has a fixed election that takes place in the same years that the federal one does, and ours do, but the Saskatchewan legislation allows for that date to be different if there is a clash between a federal and provincial election.

 

Mr. Speaker, that change, that piece of Bill 13 we agree with; number one, that the general election should be on November 30 this year, and number two, that any other time that there is the potential for a clash between a provincial and a federal election campaign, that we make the change of having the election provincially at the end of November.  That we agree with. 

 

In 2016 – well, we will not have a Commission in 2016.  We were supposed to have the Commission in 2016.  It now will be 2026, the next one; so instead of ten years in between two Commissions, there will be eleven in between this one. 

 

It is very disturbing that the government, as I said earlier, manipulated legislation, manipulated everything around our electoral boundaries commission in this year to try to shore up their own fortunes, to try to change things enough so they can try to get re-elected in this House of Assembly.  That is what we are dealing with.

 

There are two other things I want to get at, Mr. Speaker.  I would like this government to explain – when they get to the end of the debate they will be standing on their feet.  I would like them to explain to the people of rural Newfoundland because they have not done it adequately – they have not done it at all, really.  They may have used smokescreens.  They have used smokescreens.  Everything they have done has been a smokescreen.

 

In a year when we are dealing with such a deficit that we are dealing with, in a year when we are going to be asked later on this week – because we have now seen the bill – we are going to be asked to approve a $2 billion loan in a year like that, they caused this whole smokescreen of the changes to the boundary and setting up the Commission and having this bill here in the House today to get people away from realizing and thinking about and talking about the mess they have put us in financially.  That is the thing, Mr. Speaker.  They put us in a mess.  They have created the mess.  They did this as a smokescreen to try to undo that. 

 

We have to wait until November 11, I absolutely agree with it, but they are also hoping that if they wait long enough people are going to forget.  People are not going to forget, Mr. Speaker.  People are not going to forget what this government has done.  People are not going to forget the mess they have put us in.  They are not going to forget the fact that this government has lessened the voice of rural Newfoundlanders here in this House of Assembly.  That is not going to be forgotten by them.  I will not have to remind them.  They are going to remember.  They will remember when they go to the ballot box.  They will remember who is really there for them.

 

Mr. Speaker, one more point I would like to make.  I would like this government, before this week is out, will they be able to tell us how much the Commission cost this year?  It cost more than one would normally cost because of what they had to do to get their report in.  When you read the two or three sentences in the report, they talk about all the overtime that was done.  Mr. Speaker, you had staff who worked overtime.  It is in the report.  They worked morning, noon, and night.  They worked on weekends.  I would like to know what the cost of this is going to be. 

 

It cost over a million dollars to undo Bill 29.  I am wondering how much it cost to do what they did enforcing the Commission this year – enforcing a Commission to happen in too short a period of time.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MS MICHAEL: Enforcing a Commission to have to work morning, noon, and night.  So once again if they want something done for their own political gain, they do not care how much it costs.  They will make it happen.  They do not care if it is another million or another $2 million, it does not matter. 

 

It is a different story when it comes to talking about services to the people.  All of a sudden it is cut, cut, cut.  When they want to make something happen for their own ends, Mr. Speaker, it is spend, spend, and spend.  Forget the money.  Do not admit that you have made a mistake like with Bill 29 and bringing in a new bill to put back in place everything that they took out, plus to improve our access to privacy as we had recommended. 

 

Bill 29, Mr. Speaker – they will never apologize for Bill 29.  You can bet your bottom dollar they will never apologize for Bill 42.  They never will. 

 

Mr. Speaker, we are going to be consistent.  Nothing about Bill 42 could we agree with.  Unfortunately, the date of the election is in Bill 13.  Well that is okay, we will vote against Bill 13.  The election will be November 30 anyway.  We are being consistent and standing here for a democratic process, for a process that should have helped the people of the Province, not hurt the people of the Province. 

 

Even their own Member for Baie Verte – Springdale admitted when he stood up a few minutes ago that things are going to be harder for him, things are going to be harder for other MHAs.  So it is going to be harder for people in rural Newfoundland on two levels.  It is going to be harder for the people to try to get their voice heard, and it is going to be harder for MHAs as well.  He said it himself, Mr. Speaker.  It is not going to be harder for me here in St. John's.  No, it will not be, if people re-elect me.  It is going to be harder for any of us in rural Newfoundland.  Their own members have said it. 

 

Are they going to have a free vote, Mr. Speaker?  Apparently the Official Opposition does not have much agreement so they are having a free vote.  Is the government side going to have a free vote over this one?  Are they going to let their own people vote and say how they really feel about what has happened?  That is what is going to be telling.  So are you going to have free vote all around here?  I know where we stand as three people.  We are not afraid of it.  We always have been in agreement on it, but obviously we have division, both on the government side and the Official Opposition side.

 

So having said that, I think I have made all the points, Mr. Speaker, that are important to me.

 

I thank you very much for the opportunity.

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. FORSEY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity to speak on Bill 13.

 

I certainly wanted to, like the Member for Baie Verte – Springdale, talk about the changes in my own district and the additions, but when you listen sometimes to the foolishness that comes from the mouths of other people who do not understand what they are talking about and do not understand rural Newfoundland, I suppose the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi spent some time in rural Newfoundland and Labrador.  I am almost sure she has.

 

I am sure she means well in some of the things she says, but it is better to get the facts straight, and that way then everybody can make a decision.  Number one, if we waited until next year to do this, Mr. Speaker, we would not be able to change the boundaries until the next election, which would be another four years down the road, which would be 2020.  So we would not be able to change the Assembly Act.  We would not be able to do that to the Legislature, as our Premier wanted to do because it was requested by lots of people in this Province to do that.

 

Also, we are able to have the support of the Opposition.  Of course, the leader, in the beginning when it came out took credit for it and said it was his idea anyway.  So I guess we have a unanimous decision here on the boundary changes.

 

Also, Mr. Speaker, I find it rather insulting when a member can get up from another party, especially from Signal Hill – Quidi Vidi, and say there are no females over here on this side, when one of the hardest working members for this government and this Province of Newfoundland and Labrador is the Member for Fortune Bay Cape – La Hune.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. FORSEY: We also have another member, who happens to be off sick, Mr. Speaker, and has worked very hard for this government and this Province and her district –

 

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

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

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

 

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

 

I do not mind being quoted, but I would remind the speaker that if somebody is going to quote me, quote me correctly.  I said I wish they had more over there, not that they did not have –

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

There is no point of order.

 

MR. FORSEY: Even when a member of this side, anyway, is off sick and dedicated so much time to the people of this Province, who the Member for Grand Falls-Windsor – Buchans, who has worked very hard in the departments she has been in, and then to get up and be insulted in that way and not here to defend herself, Mr. Speaker, I think it is a shame.  I never heard such foolishness in my life. 

 

It seems like we try to get up here in the House of Assembly, and all of us are here for a good reason, and we want to improve the way we do things in this Province.  We want to do the right things for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.  I am sure just about everyone who gets elected wants to do that, Mr. Speaker.

 

I have not seen any opposition to the bill from the Official Opposition in this particular case, which I think is great because I think we are all on the same page with this one.  When it comes to a vote, there may be some changes.  Apparently not everybody is probably in support of it, but just let me say, when you get down to these kinds of things and you start insulting members of government, or whether they are in government or not, but hard-working people, hard-working members for their district, I think it is time to give that stuff up and talk about the facts.

 

I actually stood up in the beginning to talk about the facts, Mr. Speaker, and that is where I want to go.  The Member for Signal Hill – Quidi Vidi seems to know everything about rural Newfoundland.  Well, I grew up in rural Newfoundland.  I was born in rural Newfoundland, like a lot of us, most of us –

 

MR. S. COLLINS: Leading Tickles.

 

MR. FORSEY: Leading Tickles, yes, for the Member for Terra Nova.

 

Now, I am glad he mentioned that, Mr. Speaker, because when I grew up in Leading Tickles we were under the District of Lewisporte.  We had no road, we had no communications, but challenging for the member for that district.  I would say it was rather challenging.  To be able to service that particular part of his district, I would say it was pretty difficult to do. 

 

Today, everything is a lot closer.  We all talk about such a small world.  When I got elected I thought I had a big district, but today it is not so big anymore because of the communications we have, because of our transportation network.

 

Mr. Speaker, you know as well as I do and the rest of the members in this House, we have Facebook, we have inbox messages, we have emails, we have phones, and we have fax.  You name it, we have it.  It is just amazing. 

 

I was talking to someone the other day, and I said it is like my constituents are almost in my driveway.  That is another thing. Mr. Speaker.  We seem to forget the part about servicing your district when you are representing, when you are the member. 

 

I am not going to say this disrespectful, but I am just going to state this as fact.  For fifteen years prior to me getting elected in the District of Exploits, the member lived in St. John's – for fifteen years.  We never had the communications that we have today; however, the member represented the district and got re-elected there numbers of times.  For him to be able to represent that district, when he needed to get to the district, he had a four-and-a-half-hour drive.  It all depends whether your member lives in the district or does not live in the district.

 

Somebody mentioned to me a while ago, well, you had a former Premier who lived in St. John's and represented a district on the West Coast.  Absolutely, and I am not making up any excuses for him either.  He had to do the same thing.  So did they –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. FORSEY: Mr. Speaker, I cannot even hear myself talk.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. FORSEY: I like hearing myself talk.  They might not like to hear me talk.  There you go.

 

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

 

MR. FORSEY: Mr. Speaker, what I am trying to say here is that it is much easier today to represent more communities and more people.  Like the Member for Baie Verte – Springdale said, the national average per district is somewhere around 17,000, 17,500.  We are not even close to that.  We are averaging somewhere around 13,500, I think, I say to the Member for Baie Verte – Springdale.  So we are not even close to that. 

 

In some places in the country they have rural areas like we have and sure, it is a little bit more challenging.  However, when we came to vote on Bill 42 and voting on Bill 13, I do believe in the process and I do believe that we are doing actually what people expect. 

 

I spent a lot of time in my district since this came up.  Since January, I have talked to the constituents.  They were not sure how the districts were going to go.  By the way, the first proposal that came out with regard to the district changes and the electoral boundary changes is not the same now on the final one as it was in the beginning.  What the committee had done for the District of Exploits, they had put Buchans, Millertown, Badger, and that area in with Exploits.  So in order for me to represent that particular portion of my district, I would have to basically go through, jump over another district to get there, which was Grand Falls-Windsor. 

 

I must say that these communities and the councils and the mayors made presentations or submissions to the committee and very good presentations, I say, along with the Town of Grand Falls-Windsor.  For the most part, the Town of Grand Falls-Windsor, the mayor, the deputy mayor, were in support of the submissions by these communities.  The Commission looked at that and realized they were sort of dividing a district.  They were actually separating a district with no boundary connection whatsoever.  So they looked at that and they said: Yes, that is a good submission.  I think we will give that some consideration.

 

Well, they did.  I would have enjoyed representing Badger, Millertown, Buchans; however, they took the recommendations, they changed it and what we have now is the District of Exploits and we have Grand Falls-Windsor – Buchans, which is what is was in the beginning before the changes started, Grand Falls-Windsor – Buchans.  The only thing was that Windsor was in Grand Falls-Windsor – Green Bay South, represented by a different member from Windsor, lived in Windsor.  A hard-working Member for Grand Falls-Windsor – Green Bay South, but what we have now is Grand Falls-Windsor – Buchans.  Part of Grand Falls is now in the Exploits district. 

 

We also have Wooddale, Sandy Point, Norris Arm and Norris Arm North, along with a portion of Grand Falls-Windsor.  For anybody who may happen to be listening, it is all of Grenfell Heights and when you get to the intersection of Scott Avenue and Hardy Avenue on Grenfell Heights, you turn left and go up towards Finn Avenue.  When you get to Finn Avenue, you turn right and you take everything in on the right and I think I have something like twenty-seven streets altogether as part of Grand Falls-Windsor is now in the Exploits district.

 

There is something unique about this particular boundary change for the Exploits Valley.  I will say the Exploits Valley.  Mr. Speaker, we have always considered ourselves being in the Exploits Valley.  Whether we were from Badger, whether we were from Grand Falls-Windsor, whether we were from Norris Arm, whether we were from Botwood or Leading Tickles or wherever, we were part of the Exploits Valley.  We have the Exploits Valley.  We have the Exploits River.  We have the Bay of Exploits.  So everything is related to and comes from Exploits. 

 

I recall back when we had the so-called RED Boards, it was the Exploits Valley Economic Development Corporation.  It represented everybody from Buchans down to Norris Arm, to Leading Tickles, and Botwood, Bishop's Falls, and Grand Falls-Windsor.  Everything in between was all part of the Exploits Valley Economic Development Corporation.  So was the Exploits Valley Tourism Association.  That included everything from Buchans again down to Norris Arm, to Leading Tickles, and everything in between.

 

What we have now is, even though at one time Green Bay South was part of Grand Falls-Windsor, Green Bay South is now in with Baie Verte – Springdale.  What we have is very, very well defined.  We will have two members representing the entire Exploits Valley, if you want to look at it that way, which I think is very unique.  I think it is very nice. 

 

I remember, Mr. Speaker, being one of the first committee members on the Exploits Valley Salmon Festival.  The Exploits Valley Salmon Festival was actually born in Bishop's Falls in the District of Exploits and then it started to grow.  I remember we had members from Grand Falls-Windsor on the committee and we had members from Bishop's Falls on the committee.  It grew and grew to where it is today.  It is really large today.  What was it called?  It was called the Exploits Valley Salmon Festival.  That is what it was called.  That is still the Exploits Valley.  Everything is directed to the Exploits Valley.

 

Basically, what I have now are my original communities.  I would like to do the same as the Member for Baie Verte – Springdale.  If anyone is listening, it is nice to know where the boundaries are.  In the original Exploits district there was: Leading Tickles, Glovers Harbour, Point Leamington, Pleasantview, Morris Cove, Cottrell's Cove, Fortune Harbour, Point of Bay, Phillips Head, Northern Arm, Botwood, Peterview, Bishop's Falls.  Now we also have Norris Arm, Norris Arm North, Sandy Point, Wooddale, and part of Grand Falls-Windsor with so many streets. 

 

I thought it rather funny because the Member for Baie Verte – Springdale has a lot more communities and he started naming them off.  Someone had said happy New Year and I do not know if everybody can remember every year on NTV when they have old year out and the New Year in and all that stuff, it comes up all of these communities on the bottom of the screen.  He kept naming them off – it might have been the Minister of Municipal Affairs, I am not sure, I believe he thought it was happy New Year already.  That was rather nice. 

 

Also, we were talking about shared service and regional services.  Mr. Speaker, in the Exploits Valley we have Grand Falls-Windsor, Bishop's Falls, Botwood, Peterview, and Northern Arm soon will be on the water supply.  We have all of these communities in the Exploit's Valley who are on the same feeder system, the same water supply.  It is not new to us in the Exploit's Valley.  We were operating the same waste management sites and shared services and waste management long before the actual waste management system came in.  We had animal control, we had committees, and everything was already there in place. 

 

When they did the job on the signage back a few years ago, I know it came up here in the House sometime this week and I think there were some questions on it, but we have already done that.  It is already done.  It has been there for years.  The signage is up, everybody knows what it is, and it identifies the heritage sites and the tourism sites in all the Exploit's Valley.  We have been doing that.  We have a lot in common.  Every community in the Exploit's Valley has a lot in common. 

 

Mr. Speaker, my time is just about up – it is couple of minutes – but I would just like to say while I am up here I, yes, probably got a little bit extra work.  Why wouldn't you?  You have extra communities, you have extra people, and that is the way it is.  We do not mind that. 

 

I say to anyone over there, especially the Third Party, when it comes to work, come on, we welcome it.  We welcome it.  I have been privileged to be able to work for the District of Exploits.  I have been privileged.  It is a privilege to actually – I remember, as the Member for Baie Verte – Springdale, when I walked into this Chamber first, at the beginning, I was in awe, I did not know, I was shaking in probably 99 per cent of my body, because if I had to open my mouth probably my mouth would have been shaking as well, but that is what happens.  It is a privilege to represent the people of any district, especially the District of Exploits. 

 

I just want to thank them right now, publicly, because without them I would not be here.  That is why I spend every moment I can representing them and their needs in whatever manner they need.

 

Now, I also look forward, and have a desire, to look after the people in the addition of the Exploits district, which is Wooddale – and by the way, Wooddale and Sandy Point in 2006 was in the District of Exploits.  I had the opportunity to represent them for a year or so, and the new boundary changes were up in 2006.  In the new election when they took effect in 2007, I had lost Sandy Point to the District of Lewisporte, and I had last Wooddale to the District of Grand Falls-Windsor – Green Bay South.

 

So what is happening now is – I am sure that the Member for Lewisporte, I probably have big boots to fill, because what I am picking up is from three different districts, but I welcome that.  I do welcome that, because it is still all part of the Exploits Valley.  I have always enjoyed being a part of it.  I grew up there.  I spent a lifetime there – whatever my lifetime is right now, it has been spent in the district.  I live in the district, and whatever happens, I will continue to live in the district because it is a great place to live, the Exploits Valley, and the Exploits district is certainly the ideal spot for me.

 

So, Mr. Speaker, I think what we are doing is fair, and I have enjoyed and had the privilege of representing the District of Exploits, and I will be supporting this bill.

 

Thank you very much.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Excuse me, before I recognize the next speaker, in the vein of thinking it is never too late to right a wrong or to correct something, in the early part of the member's address he made a reference to foolishness, and at that point in time was trying to make the context to the member on the opposite side.  Where the root of the word foolish is fool, I would think, although maybe in its totality it may not be unparliamentary, it is certainly provocative, I would like to ask the member to withdraw that reference.

 

MR. FORSEY: I withdraw that, Mr. Speaker.

 

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

 

MS DEMPSTER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I am happy to stand and say a few words on Bill 13, An Act to Amend the House of Assembly Act.  The history of the act, Mr. Speaker, has already been given here a couple of times today.  We all remember – it does not seem like that long ago – in January when we were all surprised with the Premier calling us back into the House to debate Bill 42.

 

We know that the electoral boundaries review happens every ten years and the reason that we are here today and we are discussing Bill 13 is because we have had political interference in this process.  This process would have happened next year anyway, Mr. Speaker, and I think that is very sad.  When we are giving reasons that it is because of savings – I think savings, by reducing the eight or ten seats, is going to be $2.5 million, Mr. Speaker.  People see through that.  It was a direct interference in the electoral boundaries process.  It has created much havoc, Mr. Speaker, and we hear that everywhere we go.

 

Every day we talk about examples in this House of where millions and millions and millions of dollars is wasted and today my questions were around $9 million the Department of AES, around a complete mismanagement and bungled RFPs totalling $9 million.  The other day we referenced $13 million in EAS, so lots of examples of millions and millions and millions of dollars of wastage and now we see that we are interfering here with the electoral boundaries process, and that is the reason why we have a Bill 13 from debating Bill 42 in January. 

 

I want to talk for a few minutes about the four seats in Labrador, and that will not be a surprise to anybody, Mr. Speaker.  When we were called back into the House in January and the act was tabled at that time, the piece of legislation, I could not believe that section 15(6) part of the act was to be repealed. 

 

I was not around for other electoral boundary review but I certainly spent my weekend here digging into what I could and researching information, and I could not believe that the Premier and the government did not see the unique challenges that exist in Labrador.  I am going to remind viewers of a couple today, Mr. Speaker.  Did not see why four seats in Labrador had been protected for four decades.  There is a reason why those four seats had been protected. 

 

I feel that it is important for me to talk about that over the next few minutes because since we have debated Bill 42 in the House in January, I have been asked a number of times – you have probably been in places, Mr. Speaker, yourself where people have said why did you vote in the end to support the four seats in Labrador.  When you thumb through the book, the Commission's report that came back – and I want to commend the Commission, Justice Stack and his team, for getting this extensive piece of legislation back into the House, meeting the timelines.

 

When you thumb through that and you look at the sizes of the districts – I am here in the House right now representing – and there have been many before me – the District of Cartwright – L'Anse au Clair.  I have a land mass in that district of more than 26,500-plus square kilometres.  There are other members in the House here and their district is fifteen square kilometres versus over 26,000 square kilometres.

 

I just heard the Member for Exploits talk about the progress we have made in social media and the progress we have made in transportation.  Well, Mr. Speaker, I want to tell you, from the district that I represent right now – I spoke passionately about that in January, even for other member who will come after me, but most importantly for the people who live there.  Back in the 1990s, we had two airlines in Southeast Labrador flying in and out.  Five days a week we had air travel in that area in the 1990s, and we had a couple of chartered airlines.  Now, Mr. Speaker, we have one that goes out every three days.  So that will tell you the challenges. 

 

Every weekend when I travel – I have quite a journey when I am getting back and forth to my district every weekend.  It is only people who do that who can appreciate it.  I will share a couple of things to put it into context.  A couple of weeks ago I left St. John's, I flew to Blanc-Sablon.  Two hours on a flight and I could not land.  I flew another hour to Goose Bay. 

 

We talk about Muskrat Falls and the minimal impacts on the community, there was not a vehicle available to rent anywhere in Goose Bay.  I was going to drive the 420 kilometres back to the coast because I had several events lined up.  There was nothing available.  I got back on the plane.  I flew back to St. Anthony.  I got off the plane.  I hitched a ride with an airline agent and I overnighted in Flower's Cove.  The next day I caught the ferry.  After two full days of travelling, I got to the District of Cartwright – L'Anse au Clair. 

 

Mr. Speaker, people who get in their vehicle here in the parking lot and drive out to their district events to speak, they do not understand what somebody that far off the beaten path goes through every single weekend.  As I said earlier, the shortest way I can get back and forth to the district every weekend is four hours on a plane and driving 600 kilometres.  That is short; most times it is longer. 

 

When you represent a district – the people in that area are the furthest from this Legislature, along the Coast of Labrador.  If everybody is to be treated equal and everybody deserves equal representation, Mr. Speaker, to diminish the representation of those people would be very sad, and I believe it would be wrong. 

 

The furthest from the Legislature, huge infrastructure needs.  They rely heavily on their member to advocate for them, to put issues forward.  In addition to that, it is those rural areas – and there are rural areas on the Island, some that have similar challenges, Mr. Speaker, but the federal services and the provincial services are very, very lacking in some of those areas.  Then that heightens the reason why you have a heavier dependence on your member's office. 

 

The people in my district, in Cartwright – L'Anse au Clair, do not have the opportunity to run down the road and go into an employment office.  The seniors cannot go into an office and gain federal services.  So a lot of times the member's office, whoever it might be in that district, is dealing with a lot of these issues. 

 

Mr. Speaker, talk about the size of Labrador.  It was said here before – and my colleague may be going to speak about it too, I do not know, but you can take all of the Atlantic Provinces and put in Labrador.  So we do, we have lots and lots of challenges.  That is the reason why we felt that the four seats needed to be protected. 

 

I just spent the weekend in Goose Bay attending the Combined Councils of Labrador, Mr. Speaker.  There are three Aboriginal groups in Labrador, so we have a vast land.  We have a cultural diversity.  There is certainly a great need to preserve what we already have and what has been around for four decades. 

 

When you dig back into the presentations that were made in previous years, when other electoral boundary reviews were happening, there were lots of good arguments made, Mr. Speaker, on why some of the seats needed to be maintained the way they were.  It was strongly felt that if you take a section of Labrador and you put it with a part of the Island, the little voice that is there now, that would be diminished even more.  These people would certainly be disadvantaged.

 

Mr. Speaker, I was very pleased that our leader, Dwight Ball – that my colleague and I for Torngat had the strong support of our leader and of this caucus.  Everyone in this caucus – lots of urban MHAs.  MHAs here from the Avalon, from St. John's and Mount Pearl, they understood.  The Premier did not understand when he tabled this.  There was no provision there.  Section 15(6) of the act was going to be repealed, but I was very happy to have the full support of our leader and our caucus to protect the four seats in Labrador.  I was happy, when we submitted the amendment, that it was approved here in the House of Assembly.

 

Mr. Speaker, right now while we have the protection for the seats in Labrador, I cannot help but think about especially the rural areas on the Island, because I have represented them.  Because I was born and raised in a rural area, I have a special attachment to rural areas.  I think we have a fantastic lifestyle.  I think we are rich in many ways in rural areas. 

 

Mr. Speaker, what this has done to colleagues, I believe, on both sides of the House – I followed a little bit some of the hearings that were held and reading in the paper about the presentations that were put forward, and a lot of concern about areas of the Province that have existed nicely together. 

 

You had zone boards that were in place representing an area.  You had areas where, historically, they have always had things in common.  They have shared festivals.  They have had joint councils.  Now we see that a lot of that is in upheaval.  It is going to take some time for people to work through that and to adjust to this new normal.  It is unfortunate – I have to say again – that it happened a year before it had to.  This electoral boundary review was a direct result of political interference, political gain, and people see through that, and so it is going to take some time for all of that to happen. 

 

I want to comment on a point that the Leader of the NDP made a few minutes ago, Mr. Speaker.  I took a little bit of offence when she said there is obviously dissention on this side, so there is going to be a free vote because everybody was not on the one page.  Well, I want to say, make no mistake, that here in the Opposition we have a leader who does not believe in whipping people in. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MS DEMPSTER: That is not the democratic process.  Mr. Speaker, we have a leader where we are free and we are welcome to give our opinions.  When we sit around the caucus table, the variety of input is welcomed.  I am happy to be a part of a caucus, I am happy to sit at a table every morning where our leader says: How do you feel about this, and how do you feel about this?  If I have a colleague who feels I do not want to stand and support for reason (a), (b), and (c), I would be remiss if I did not say in this House of Assembly we come with a voice to speak for the people that we represent. 

 

All of the MHAs here, when they go out in their districts, if they are hearing concerns from their people, they have an obligation to stand and bring those issues forward.  So yes, Mr. Speaker, a free vote is welcomed here on this side.  I am so thrilled that we have a leader that is okay with that, that is not whipping the vote into how he wants this to be. 

 

Mr. Speaker, the Member for –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER (Littlejohn): Order, please!

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

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

 

MS DEMPSTER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for that protection; I will continue with my points for the few minutes that I have.

 

The Member for Exploits talked about there was a member that represented their district for years before that did not live in his district – picking on the former Premier, Roger Grimes.  I know he was a fantastic Premier for the people in Labrador; we were delighted to have him. 

 

I just noticed it was interesting that he did not talk about the years that Danny Williams lived in his district.  So, Mr. Speaker, I do not want to get down in the weeds and talk about that –

 

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

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Exploits, on a point of order.

 

MR. FORSEY: I used two former Premiers, and the other one was Williams who represented the West Coast and I did not make any excuses for him either.

 

MR. SPEAKER: I am sorry; there is no point of order.

 

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

 

MS DEMPSTER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I will continue on.  One of the points that I was making earlier about the rural areas and especially back to Labrador and some of the challenges – when the member talked about the progress that we have made, he talked about not only the progress we have made in transportation and I have alluded to the many, many challenges that we still have in that area in transportation.  I did not even talk about the bungled RFP process and the fact that we have an unreliable ferry service that we have been waiting for a long, long time to get a new ferry as a part of the new provincial ferry strategy, but it seems like we are going to be waiting an unforeseeable time for a while yet.

 

The other thing is he talked about social media, Mr. Speaker.  It is important for people to understand that we are not there yet either.  We cannot sit down in offices and hold meetings and depend on the social media for us to be able to use Skype and things like that.  Why?  Because, Mr. Speaker, we do not have the sufficient infrastructure for us to be able to use that.  Many, many times I have stood and I have presented petitions on behalf of the region calling on the government to work with the feds and to work with the service provider and the provincial government to put the funds in that we need to bring us up to where we need to be in broadband. 

 

We do not have the option to say a member who represents that area, a member who represents Cartwright – L'Anse au Clair can do some of that by social media.  Mr. Speaker, no, we cannot.  You can barely do more than send or receive an email.  As I was sitting here – and I do not make it up – an hour ago one of the town councillors in my district messaged me and she said I cannot even get emails from you anymore, the Internet is so slow.  To say yes, you can have less representation because there is social media and there are all kinds of options we can use, we are not there.  We do not have the infrastructure yet, and it is important for people to understand that. 

 

Mr. Speaker, we are going to have an election.  We are going to have an election on November 30.  We have a Premier whose mandate clearly was up until the end of September.  I would have been happy for the people of Cartwright – L'Anse au Clair to go to the polls in September, and I know they would have been happy to have an election at that time, Mr. Speaker, because guess what?  I have three unconnected communities in my district.  As of right now, November 30 I have no idea how I am getting into three of them.  I know one thing, we may not have an air service going into them.  I know another thing, we are certainly not going to have the ferry running.  So, unless you have a snow plane or something – again, this goes back to the challenges of rural parts, and the transportation challenges that exist that I am speaking to in my district.

 

We have small unconnected communities, Mr. Speaker.  I can give you examples that ballot boxes did not even get into when a nomination was held, because there was no way to get them there.  So, when we are going that late in the year, we are not only competing at the doors with the jolly guy, but some of these communities are going to be very, very difficult to get to, because I doubt anybody, with the caps that are put on the money you can spend in an election – and so it should be – you are not going to have the money to be chartering helicopters or anything like that.

 

So I do have communities that I do not know if any candidates will get to those communities at that time of year.  Once again, it goes back to being very, very unfortunate that we have had this interference at this time with the electoral boundary review.

 

In clueing up, Mr. Speaker, I want to say I was thrilled that we have a leader who understands Labrador, who understands the vastness, who understands the transportation issues, who understands we have these diverse cultures with three Aboriginal groups.  Our leader and the Opposition Office stood firmly to support that the four seats be protected in Labrador, and that those people deserve equal representation.  They submitted the amendments, and the amendments were voted for.  I was thrilled.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Did the NDP (inaudible)?

 

MS DEMPSTER: No, the NDP did not submit any amendments, I say to my hon. colleague.  They did not submit any amendments, Mr. Speaker, but I was thrilled with the outcome. 

 

I am happy to have a couple of words to speak to this.  I will continue to represent the people from the wonderful District of Cartwright – L'Anse au Clair as long as I am in this capacity, a position that I take very seriously.  I work hard for them every single day.  We have lots of infrastructure issues, and we are making some progress.  I will continue to do what I can to keep their issues front and center.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. LITTLE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

It is Bonavista South, no doubt.

 

MR. SPEAKER: I apologize.

 

MR. LITTLE: Today I am honoured to be able to rise in the House again and speak to this very important amendment, Mr. Speaker, an amendment that affects the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. 

 

I listened to the previous speaker, and I must say on this side of the House there are two members from Labrador, the great land.  They certainly represented the great land well in January. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. LITTLE: I can safely say the two members on this side of the House stood up and they certainly supported the Big Land, the land that is very important to Newfoundland and Labrador, Mr. Speaker. 

 

Also, I am delighted to be able to stand in this House and represent the great people of Bonavista South, the Bonavista Peninsula in particular.  To be able to speak on a bill like this gives me great gratitude to speak at this time in the House of Assembly.  I know there are a large number of members who are lined up to speak on this very important bill on the boundary changes.

 

First of all, I would like to say I commend the Commission, the Chairperson Mr. Robert Stack, the Deputy Chairperson Mr. Shawn Skinner, Mr. Bernard Coffey, Mr. Allan Goulding, and Mr. Bill Matthews.  I commend the Committee in relation to doing some outstanding work.  On behalf of every member in the House of Assembly, we certainly appreciate the hard work.  The time frames were met and so forth to bring this particular report back to the House of Assembly for us to have some debate and have some say on as well, Mr. Speaker.

 

In January, the Members of the House of Assembly voted in favour of a reduction of seats from forty-eight to forty.  I supported the motion and the change, as did the members on this side of the House, Mr. Speaker.  Members on the opposite side of the House also supported that motion at that particular time.  There will be additional communities in the district that I come from in relation to the new boundary change, the name change.  The District of Bonavista South is going to be the new name of the district that I come from. 

 

I look forward to representing the new communities that will be in the new District of Bonavista.  I look forward to reaching out to each and every community, and each and every constituent in the new communities.  I will work hard.  I commit that I will work hard as the member in the House of Assembly as I continued to do in the last four years, Mr. Speaker.  That is one thing that I can stand on my feet and say that, without doubt, I will represent the people of the new District of Bonavista, as I did with the District of Bonavista South.

 

I must say I am gifted in this House, I am surrounded by strong members: the Member for Baie Verte who gets up and speaks eloquently and with passion and pride on a continuous basis –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. LITTLE: The member on the right side of me for Cape St. Francis who has been in the House of Assembly for a long time and certainly a very experienced member who works hard on an annual basis on behalf of the constituents in his district; and in front of me there, the member who spoke recently, the Member for Exploits who gets up on his feet on a regular basis and carries home some of the issues that are important to his district and the people of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. 

 

I am surrounded, like I said, with a great, great number of experienced, great members on this side of the House. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. LITTLE: From time to time I get up and I speak about the ministers, the people who sit in front of me, and the people who I have learned a lot from and the people that I connect with on a regular basis, but sometimes we need to talk about the members who are sitting here as well.  We do have a great team on this side of the House, a great bunch of members who represent the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, and we will continue to work hard as we move into the future.

 

I listened to the previous speaker, the Member for Cartwright – L'Anse au Clair, and no doubt there will be challenges; there always will be challenges in relation to government and what we do on a regular basis.  Every day I am faced with a new challenge in the District of Bonavista South.  That is not uncommon, but the resources that we have in relation to our constituency assistants who work hard on a regular basis on behalf of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Opposition leaders as well, and the Third Party, they do wonderful work on a regular basis, the staff that continue to be on the front line, out in our districts and here in Confederation Building.  Then the staff that we actually talk to on a regular basis to help us through what we do in our jobs, Mr. Speaker, they provide great resources as well.

 

Being from the District of Bonavista South – I am from Bonavista and I am proud of that, and I know the issues in my district because I am from the district, which is very important, Mr. Speaker.  I was raised in Bonavista, part of a large family.  My wife actually is from the District of Bonavista South as well.  She is from Elliston, a small community that certainly I have spoken on in the House of Assembly many times.  The Town of Elliston is a beautiful town with a beautiful landscape and a beautiful ocean view.  It is a town that did a wonderful job on behalf of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador in the tourism industry.  There are new businesses out there and so forth due to what is happening in the tourism industry.

 

I am very proud of my district, knowing that I come from that district.  My wife and I, we raised two children who lived in the District of Bonavista South for years and years, received an education there, and moved on.  One of my children is actually living in St. John's in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.  My other daughter is out in Alberta.  I do have a grandson.  They are coming back to this beautiful Province within a month.  They are coming back to this beautiful Province within a month.

 

Now I will tell you what I am going to do, Mr. Speaker.  I am going to take my grandson throughout the beautiful District of Bonavista South this upcoming summer.  I just cannot wait to wrap my arms around him and take him through the district and take the salt water – do you know what I am saying?  Take him to the beaches and the beautiful communities in the District of Bonavista South.  So I am looking forward to that venture in the next few weeks. 

 

You could tell that I am very passionate about the district that I come from.  I can see how the district is growing and becoming a tourism icon, Mr. Speaker, in this great Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.  I often speak on that when I rise in the House because I feel very passionate.  I am proud of my roots, proud of where I have come from.  I know that same sentiment spreads right across this full House of Assembly.  Each and every MHA feels the same as well. 

 

It is very important that we rise in the House of Assembly and speak on issues like this on a continued basis.  The proposed District of Bonavista will have a population of 12,591.  The Commission actually chose to keep the Bonavista Peninsula intact within the district.  I feel good about that, Mr. Speaker, because any time that a district becomes divided, and especially an area that such significance and how it ties into the history and the heritage of this Province, it is important to keep that district intact based on history alone.  I think that was one reason why the district of the Bonavista Peninsula is kept intact, which I feel was a very important move and I definitely support that.  I support it from different angles as well, Mr. Speaker. 

 

The Commission worked hard and did some good work.  Can we all say that we are all pleased?  Probably not, Mr. Speaker, based on some of the outcomes in the Commission.  Any time that the Commission makes a move to actually reduce the number of seats, there is going to be some challenges that we face as a government and as an Opposition, as a Third Party as well, but overall they have done some great work.

 

To amend the House of Assembly Act, as we are doing and speaking on here today, the bill would reduce the number of Members of the House of Assembly to forty; in effect the bill would reorganize the boundaries of the electoral districts in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador; set a date when a general election shall be held in 2015 as a result of an overlap with the federal election; establish a mechanism to resolve future overlaps between federal and provincial elections; and to provide for an exception to the requirement to hold a by-election where a seat in the House of Assembly becomes vacant six months or less before the day a general election is required to be held. 

 

Mr. Speaker, it is very important that these particular numbers of items are outlined and we deal with these issues as we move forward in relation to this particular piece of legislation.  I listened closely to the previous speakers in the House today, Mr. Speaker, and you can tell there is passion, there is pride, there is creativity coming from each and every speaker in relation to how they feel about their districts.  My district in particular has a land area of approximately 2,175 square kilometres.  I feel incumbent that I should name the communities as I stand here in this House today that will be in the new district. 

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Happy New Year.

 

MR. LITTLE: The Opposition is saying happy New Year, and hopefully it will be a happy New Year.  We are all looking forward to that. 

 

I will definitely name the communities in the new district, the District of Bonavista.  The communities include: the Town of Bonavista, Duntara, Elliston, Keels, King's Cove, Musgravetown, Port Rexton, Trinity, Bunyan's Cove, Canning's Cove, Bloomfield, Lethbridge, Brooklyn, Morley's Siding, Portland-Jamestown-Winter Brook, Open Hall-Red Cliffe, Summerville-Princeton-Southern Bay, Charleston-Sweet Bay, Plate Cove East, Plate Cove West, Tickle Cove, Birchy Cove, Newman's Cove, Upper Amherst Cove, Dunfield, Bonaventure-Trouty, Trinity East, English Harbour-Champney's, Burgoynes Cove, George's Brook, Harcourt-Monroe-Waterville, and Milton.  You listen to the names of the coves.  I am proud to listen to the names of the coves, Mr. Speaker.

 

Trinity Bay North, Melrose, Port Union, Catalina, and Little Catalina; great communities in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, I must say, that contribute to the well-being and the prosperity of this Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, the great Province that we are part of.

 

I am delighted to be able to stand in the House of Assembly at this particular time with my colleagues to support this amendment.  I have no problem in rising on my feet.  I have talked to a number of people in the District of Bonavista South in relation to the boundary changes, and the recommendations of the Commission as well, Mr. Speaker.  I look forward to working hard on behalf of the people in my district, and I look forward to going out to the district this summer and visiting every community in the district –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. LITTLE: – and talking to people first-hand.  I will definitely highlight the positivity and the positive announcements that this government did within, in particular, the last four years, Mr. Speaker.  I will highlight the positivity from the angle of where this Province is in comparison to other provinces in the country of Canada.  We are leaders, this Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. LITTLE: We will lead the people into the future, Mr. Speaker.

 

Anytime you stand on your feet and bring about change, positive change, change that will help the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, Mr. Speaker, and when you are in challenging times and you are faced with some difficulties, that is where the leadership comes from, and the leaders on this side of the House continually show how we have become a strong government.  We will weather the storm.

 

MR. SPEAKER: I remind the hon. member to speak to the bill, please.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. LITTLE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

I definitely will bring it back to the bill, Mr. Speaker.  I do have to highlight how the boundaries and how these changes will definitely take us into the future.  We will continue as a government to definitely support the people of Newfoundland and Labrador even though there are changes, there is a reduction. 

 

I can say for a fact that the people on this side of the House will represent the people well in their districts that they are part of.  I know they will because they are hard workers.  We will continue to work as a government and govern the people of Newfoundland and Labrador into the future, Mr. Speaker.  We will definitely do that.  I am looking forward to going out into the district and actually talking to people about some of the moves we made as a government in the future.

 

Right now, Mr. Speaker, I think I have gotten my point out.  I stated exactly where I stand as a member in the House of Assembly in relation to this amendment to Bill 13.  I know for a fact that we will definitely prosper as a Province as we move into the future.

 

Thank you very much.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. MURPHY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I cannot say that I am really pleased to be on my feet to speak to this piece of legislation because I did not vote for forty-two.  I am pleased to say I did not vote for forty-two because I think this House was under a lot of duress at the time. 

 

I think it was placed in a position – how we got there, Mr. Speaker, actually remains to be questioned.  I question the whole efficacy and the timing of why this came up in January in the first place, that this had to be done.  The reduction of seats had to become a necessity.  The reduction of seats had to be done now.  People had to lose their representation now.  It had to happen now because government said it had to happen now. 

 

The worst part about it, Mr. Speaker, is Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition also agreed with the fact that representation had to be reduced.  There is no way out of it.  Free vote or not –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. MURPHY: Whether we are going to have a free vote or not now, Mr. Speaker, either way, there was still a cost in representation of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.  Not necessarily Labrador, of course, because we were successful in protecting Labrador; but, either way, on the Island of Newfoundland we lost a number of seats.  We lost effective representation.  Free vote or not, it still cost somebody representation. 

 

Mr. Speaker, when this piece of legislation came up it sounded like it was desperation on the part of government.  That it had to be done now, that the number had to be forty.  Of course, in the media there were several points in the past that were brought up by various leaders, that in some cases the numbers could have been as low as thirty-eight. 

 

They were toyed with.  The number was picked arbitrarily out of a hat, in my mind.  That is where the number came from.  We have no reasoning's from government as to why the number was forty.  We still have not heard any good reasons as to why they settled on forty. 

 

My understanding, Mr. Speaker, was that a commission – when it came in, in 2016 – were going to be the ones who were going to be choosing the number of seats if, in fact, there was actually going to be a reduction in seats, that they were the ones who would set the amount of seats in order for democracy to reign in Newfoundland and Labrador. 

 

Mr. Speaker, it was Winston Churchill who said democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.  I think he meant something by that.  I think he kind of held his nose himself when he was talking about democracy. 

 

This is one those cases, Mr. Speaker, where I think the people in Newfoundland and Labrador saw what was happening.  Municipalities spoke out, various groups spoke out.  I think government had to recognize all those groups that came out and spoke to the Commission and talked about those changes at the time were being made.  We still do not know why forty seats, and I keep asking myself the same question. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I come back and I think about my district, the great District of St. John's East, and all those associations, working relationships that built up over time, since October, 2011.  I want to thank them right off the bat.  They were receptive to me.  They were kind to me.  In some cases the residents and the groups there showed me the ropes, and I have to be thankful for them. 

 

I have to be thankful for all of the schools, Mr. Speaker, that I built relationships with.  Gonzaga, my old alma mater; Mary Queen of Peace, another school that I went to; Rennies River; Vanier, to which my kids are going to school right now.  All of these schools are great. 

 

The Association for New Canadians; Newfoundland and Labrador Organization of Women Entrepreneurs that we worked with over the years; Chalker Place, the community centre and the people down there – all these working relationships that we built up over time.  The seniors' homes and the people in them; I can think of Tiffany Court, Tiffany Village, Cambridge Estates – great people to work with.  St. Pat's nursing home, Kenny's Park, Glenbrook Lodge, all the residents there have become just like family and they really are family.

 

I am thinking about them an awful lot when I am standing on my feet talking about this because when the Commission came back and showed the change of boundaries to me, it was a bit of a shock that they actually took St. John's East and they carved it up in four different ways, Mr. Speaker.  On the west end, you ended up with a residential area and Memorial University cut out of the district.  To the north, in the new District of Winsor Lake, I lost another chunk, some great people up there that we had been working on issues with.  Anywhere north of the parkway up around Belfast Street and London Road, Stony Castle Place, all these houses up there, Higgins Line, Ridge Road, all that section is gone from the district. 

 

I look to the east and noted that anything from Torbay Road to the east, Conway Crescent, O'Regan Road where I grew up in and live, all that area was cut out from the district, gone, and the chunk that was left over was lumped in with Signal Hill – Quidi Vidi, where most of my working relationships were and still exist.

 

Mr. Speaker, it was alarming to see, so we made a presentation to the Commission.  One of the things that we wanted to do, myself and the Member for Signal Hill – Quidi Vidi – and this was important to us.  It was important for her as much as it was for me because when you look at the districts potentially where you are going to be running, you look at where most of your relationships were and you look at how you are going to preserve those relationships.  It was no different than any other member of the House here who that made the presentations to the Commission.  They wanted to preserve the working relationships that they had.

 

Unfortunately for the working relationships that we had, the Commission did not look at them.  They did not make any changes based on the working relationships that we had, so it was a bit of a loss for me personally.  I still take it to heart –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. MURPHY: On that particular, Mr. Speaker, the simple fact is that you can look at this in two different ways, in my mind: number one, it might be a loss of relationships; but, number two, it might be a chance to form new ones too.  In some cases, I have to look at that in a positive light. 

 

Like I said, even though you are kind of distanced away because another district has been formed and the Commission has gone ahead and said well, we are not going to make that change, and we know that government is going to go ahead and make the change anyway by passing the vote, the opportunity is there to get out and actually make new relationships.  I say that because of course the phone is ringing all the time, people asking where are you going to run – where are you going to run?  I keep weighing the prospects too of where are you going to run.  I would like to certainly stick close to home when it comes to that and see where those relationships are going to go. 

 

Life is an adventure and you cannot really say no to any prospect that is out there.  You cannot tell anybody no.  The simple fact is that people just want effective representation.  They do not care, sometimes, who it comes from, as long as they are going to have a voice in this House of Assembly.  That is what makes this place great. 

 

What does not make this place great is the way that Bill 42 came through and these changes resulted.  I think that is what everybody in this Province has issues with.  They are all asking themselves why it had to happen this way.  What gave us the right?  What gave the government the right to set that number at forty seats? 

 

I say to some of the members of this House, you are darn right we did not put in any amendments because there was no sense of us putting in amendments, number one.  They would have been turned down.  Number two, they most certainly would not have been listened to.  Number three, we did not agree with the legislation in the first place.  It should never have happened.  That is why we did not put in any amendments, Mr. Speaker.  That is why to this day I still feel good about voting against Bill 42.  Like I said, it was all about the loss of representation.

 

We have to look too at the same time as that – like I said, we had another issue here that became very burning in my mind because of government's rush to get here in the first place.  We know of course in March that about forty-five days ago now, I think it is, or forty-six days ago, we had a problem come across our desk.  We knew that the price of oil was collapsing.

 

Mr. Speaker, I said to myself, right off the bat, this government actually made the connection between democracy and oil because they wanted to save a little bit of money.  They wanted to cost democracy.  They wanted to pick the pocket of democracy by putting a number on it, Mr. Speaker.

 

They said it was at the time about two-and-a-half million dollars that the House of Assembly would save every year simply by the reduction of the number of people in the House, all at the expediency of this year's Budget $1.1 billion in the hole.  At the same time they cut off things like the Regional Economic Development Boards, they cut off representation, they actually made work – they are going to make things harder for our rural MHAs. 

 

I think that the Member for Bay Verte – Green Bay has already stated that point that, yes, it is going to be hard.  It is going to be pretty hard, but they are going to have to put their shoulders to the wheel.  Well, you are darn right they are now because government has made the cuts previously to it and made things a little bit harder on this Province. 

 

We have an awful lot here to atone for that we are not hearing from government.  Mr. Speaker, it certainly cost us eight districts.  It certainly cost us representation.  The best way I tell this to people is just imagine if the federal government decided to redraw the Terms of Union and reduce the number of sitting members of Parliament here in the Province by one, there would be such a hue and cry in this Province over effective representation and our voice within the House of Commons that you would never be able to turn down the roar from them.  Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, I think, would be highly upset that they would be losing one voice in the House of Commons, let alone losing eight voices here in the House of Assembly of the Province. 

 

You can imagine the hue and cry that would be there from the rural areas of the Province that, in actual fact, would lose representation even if they rejig the boundaries.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

The Speaker is having difficulty hearing the hon. member.  Can we have some courtesy, please? 

 

Thank you. 

 

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

 

MR. MURPHY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

I do appreciate the protection.  I know that some of these points actually hurt government and I know that some of the government members over there are particularly interested in the reduction of representation.  Some people are going to have a harder time getting hold of their MHA as much as they would if the reductions did happen federally, or as much as they would have problems in getting hold of their Member of Parliament too at the same time.  I think that government members over there can see the point that if it happened, we would certainly protest loudly about it. 

 

Mr. Speaker, the election date, I am in favour of the changes when it comes to the election date.  I think November 30 is a good time to actually be getting around door to door – any time of the year actually is a good time for me to getting around door to door and saying hello to everybody; but the simple fact is that when we knew that this legislation was going to be coming forward, that the report was going to be done the first, possibly the second week of June, we knew as well that Elections NL were coming out and they were saying for sure that they were going to need a minimum of four months – at the time, I think it was Elections NL came out and said they were going to need a minimum of four months in order to institute all the changes that we contained within the report for the next election to happen.  Am I right?  I think I am pretty much right on that, that there would be a minimum of four months needed to institute all the work necessary on it – and I see that the minister of business, trade and all of the above agrees with me on that particular point.

 

The simple fact is that we can do the math here because if you come out with the report early in the second week of June, you have July, August, September, October, there are your four months gone; have your election in November and there you go, we are off to the races.  Of course we already know that there is a federal election that is going to be happening on October 19 at the same time.  We had no other choice but to move the date.  If you had to move the date up to September, like Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition was saying, you would be within three months of the guidelines of what Election NL were saying, and I think that is the point.  That is why government had to go and move that particular date. 

 

So either way, Mr. Speaker, democracy is going to happen on November 30.  We hope it is going to be a high voter turnout, expressly to tell this government that they were not in favour of the changes that we made in the House of Assembly on Bill 42 and that they would get out there and express their voices on that.

 

Mr. Speaker, that is all I really wanted to say.  Other than that, I am still not supportive of this piece of legislation.  Number one, like I said, because of the changes in relationships here.  We could not get some changes made obviously to keep and maintain some of the relationships that we had ongoing.  It still concerns me.  It eats me alive sometimes when I sit down and think about how much we have actually lost here when it comes to democracy.  A Commission could do its work in 2016 and come back and institute changes for 2017, take its time with a new census. 

 

Even in the District of St. John's East, Mr. Speaker, I can tell you right now where growth is going to be happening because we have the City of St. John's already that has approved a number of building projects down there that is going to make the population literally explode within St. John's East.  That is going to be a change to the census numbers.

 

I know, for example, down on Torbay Road there are a number of apartment buildings that are going to be going down there, condominium developments.  That is going to change the population as well.  We know, of course, that full-time kindergarten is going to be coming down.  We have people moving into the east end, simply to access some of the better services and everything down there from the schools.

 

Mr. Speaker, it is difficult at times, but like I said, when it comes to the simple fact with you losing relationships, it is also an opportunity here to gain some new relationships at the same time and help build again.  So, it is going to be a tough call for some, including myself, in what happens.  I think those choices, while they are tough, they are going to be made.  They are going to be reasoned.  They will be done with all the heart that is meant to be given to them.

 

So, Mr. Speaker, again, like I said, I have trouble supporting this bill.  I will not be doing it.  The work of democracy I know goes on, but let this be a lesson at the same time that government did this in haste.  They did it based on the price of a barrel of oil.  We know they panicked when they saw the numbers.  They said the savings had to come from somewhere.  Unfortunate as it is, they did not come out directly and say how much trouble we were in. 

 

The simple fact is right now this government has put the price of democracy for eight particular districts at about $2.5 million.  The people of this Province, both in Newfoundland and Labrador, are asking themselves the question: Is democracy, is economy, is effective representation worth $2.5 million?

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. CROSS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

It is a very, very good thing to be able to stand on my feet today to talk for a few moments about the changes that are happening around us.  If we look at the old saying, the only constant in the whole universe is the fact that we are always changing.  You change, you adapt, you react to situations around the whole world, and every society or every group that has changed and adapted to things that have come before them have gotten stronger and gotten better. 

 

So, if we look at in that vein – and I do not want to really get into all the positivity that my friend from Bonavista South uses, but in the sense that if you look to the future with hope, and thinking about the vibrancy we have as a people, we can only image that we are going to continue on and thrive, and the situation we find ourselves in today.

 

Comments I want to make this afternoon, I do not know – like I stand on my feet very happily again.  Everyone says you stand to represent your district.  Sometimes you speak of the comments from people in your district.  Some more times, Mr. Speaker, you speak from your heart or from your own mind.  You have to mix all of these together.  That is what makes our consciousness be our guide in what we want to say and how we want to proceed and go forward. 

 

I heard the Third Party reference to democracy and the fact that this was a different deal.  As much as you can argue and say that is not democracy, I can argue, Mr. Speaker, and say that when parties get together and unite, mould things, reflect on legislation before them, and make amendments to strengthen the legislation and stand up for rights and strong beliefs, that is democracy.  Parties can work together. 

 

It is not always that we are going to stand on this side of the House and be totally abhorrent to everything that happens on the other side, nor they to us.  I think, Mr. Speaker, we have to look at and reflect the fact that we are in this Chamber and this is democracy in action.  We can make such agreements from time to time and we vote for many things alike, sometimes as the Member for Gander would always say, unanimous.  There are many things that every time someone votes in this House we are voting unanimously together for something that is positive and looking hopeful for the future. 

 

I would like to say, Mr. Speaker, that I have been standing now for nearly four years representing the District of Bonavista North.  The first time I put my name on the ballot was 1989, the same year the Member for Bay of Islands said he became a member in this hon. House.  He has been around since 1989, back and forth.  I can just imagine how this whole place would be if I had been here to experience the whole things and changes with him. 

 

There was another member in this House who ran in the same election in 1989, Mr. Speaker, and that was the Member for Grand Falls-Windsor – Green Bay South.  He was actually running as a young man in that election in 1989.  Think of the changes that have happened since.  I say that, only because I want to get into talking about how things have changed. 

 

The biggest change in this whole thing is that for the first time since 1949 the name Bonavista North as a district will not be used.  We have been a part of Confederation ever since 1949 and that name is not reflected now.  In looking at the geography of the region, I can appreciate and understand how the Commission named the district as they did. 

 

The new district that was the chunk of – because Bonavista North has not been carved, or separated, or sliced up in any way.  Bonavista North has grown to the south and to the north and northeast, and gone overseas.  We now have enlarged from a district of approximately 9,000 in population to a district of 14,000.  So we are a little higher than the quotient, but that is only a challenge to whoever becomes the member in the future for that district. 

 

Even though the size of that district may be greater than it has been before, there are ways that it is smaller, Mr. Speaker, than it was before.  Our ways of communicating and getting back and forth have changed dramatically in the last forty to fifty years.  Being able to service a group of that size with the transportation system and the communication system we have today is not the challenge that it would have been in 1949. 

 

When Bonavista North went from the center of Bonavista Bay around Traytown – which is part of the Member for Terra Nova's district right now – and went as far as Cape Freels, which is recognized as one of the two names, now it is the entity for the new district, and in that region there was a small population but there was vast travel complications.  Communication systems did not exist.  Electricity was not in place in most areas as well.  So you can imagine the sort of Province we had back then compared to the Province we have today.

 

When you look at things changing, the district now that we see as Bonavista North is growing.  The impact this legislation would have – and I want to bring that forward, Mr. Speaker, to be able to extend those words to the people on camera today, or on the other side of the camera who are in the district paying attention, because that is where most of the comments go. 

 

When we travel around our districts now – I was in Wing's Point, Gander Bay, and Davidsville this weekend, and most of the people who want to ask questions, want to know two things: Are you still running?  Who else is going to be voting in our district, or where are we, and what is the name of our district?  Because they still do not have the connection of all of everything that has happened everywhere, Mr. Speaker.

 

When you explain to them that our district started in Trinity to the south before in Bonavista Bay, now we are going to extend and take in two communities that were for the last fifteen years in Terra Nova District, in Hare Bay-Dover.  These communities were, when I ran back in 1989 the first time, they were in Bonavista North.  Now they are back in. 

 

The other way this is expanding, Mr. Speaker, is when we go to the north and northeast, the communities that were in Bonavista North from 1997 until 2007, Rodgers Cove and Victoria Cove, are now back in Bonavista North again.  They were removed to be added to the great District of Lewisporte I would say, and, Mr. Speaker, is quite familiar with that district. 

 

Also we have the communities of Horwood, Stoneville, and Port Albert.  The communities that lead toward the connection with the other part, the new part of the district as well, Mr. Speaker.  As we go a little further north, The Isles of Notre Dame are now part of the district that will be referred to – once we add Change Islands and Fogo Island.  Then the new district, and I have not named it yet, is going to be referred to as Fogo Island – Cape Freels. 

 

Many people to the farther south have questioned, and they thought that just by mentioning to me, change would be made.  They thought, well, Cape Freels is not the most southerly part of the district.  Probably it might have been named Hare Bay, Fogo, Fogo Island – Hare Bay, if you want to put the two extremities there together.  What is realized is that Cape Freels is the cape that leaves around Hare Bay.  As you go towards that land mass coming out of the bay where a cape would be, then what you have is all points are leading to Cape Freels.  Even though it is a very tiny community, the community itself of Cape Freels, but if people think it is called Cape Freels just after that community, then that is not necessarily – sure, Mr. Speaker.

 

What we need to think about here is that area, that idea of Cape Freels.  The first integrated school board in Newfoundland and Labrador was the Cape Freels Integrated School Board, Mr. Speaker.  It was not in the community of Cape Freels, but it took in most of the land mass that led out towards the cape from Deadman's Bay to Trinity, including Greenspond.  That area, which is part of Bonavista North, was recognized as Cape Freels. 

 

The development association that is out there right now is, when people refer to it as Cape Freels Development Association, it is a regional thing.  Cape Freels is the region, Mr. Speaker.  So naming of that may be appropriate.  It may be an appropriate part of this.  When you look at that in its entirety, it is really a fitting name. 

 

The change that was made from the beginning of the Commission when its first report came out and the final one, is that it was changed from just called Fogo – Cape Freels – because the historic district that used to leave Fogo and come to the point of Cape Freels was originally just called Fogo back in the day, in the first twenty or thirty years of Confederation.  That district, Mr. Speaker, is referenced now and it is part of this district, so the two older districts have been unified. 

 

Now, Mr. Speaker, there has been some reference also made and I just want to get a point in too about the timing of this Commission and the impact right now.  Back when I spoke to Bill 42, I was making a comment and I am not sure I finished the comment because my time was running short.  I think I need to bring it back now, just for a second, that in thinking about this, many people are critical of this particular action being taken in this year and not waiting until next year.

 

Well, one of the arguments you can look at that has nothing to do with finances or nothing to do with any particular leader, but if this Commission was to be done in 2016, the election, if it was going to have any impact, is already done and you have three years before the next election.  My comment back in January was around the point that we know that the Commission meets every ten years to debate or to look at the redistribution of the districts.  What happens is if you look at elections happen every four years, which means that inevitably there is going to be a conflict in timing such that an election and a Commission are going to happen in the same year, or are going to happen so close together that if you go – so really, do you do the Commission every eight years so that it is in the middle of districts when they happen?

 

Just to expound, Mr. Speaker, just that simple comment.  Imagine this year we have now had a Commission and a boundary in the same year but if we went 2015, 2019, 2023, 2027, twelve years for districts, if were in 2016-2017, the next one then inevitably, ten years later for the Commission review, it would have hit right smack in an election again.  So really, we need to think about the Commission and the review such that we space it in the future to match up with the concurrence of the four-year intervals in multiples of three or in two.  Four obviously does not divide into ten, so therefore we need to think about that consideration in the future. 

 

If we look back at the other parts of what this particular piece of legislation does, in the five Explanatory Notes: to reduce the number of Members of the House of Assembly to forty – which is what is being done and has been done and some of the decision making or the organization of this is done by the Commission, but the ultimate vote will come here on the floor of this House of Assembly to call it together in the next hours or days, however many that may be – whichever measurement we use.

 

The effect of the reorganization on the boundaries of the electoral districts – and I hope I spoke to that in the last few minutes – but to also set a date when the general election shall be held in 2015 as a result of an overlap with the federal election is a piece of information that was left out of the previous legislation.  That really needs to be placed in there, because this inevitably could have happened, can happen, will happen, and has happened in other provinces.

 

So, basically, having this piece of information as one of the important points in this bill, Bill 13, is very important that we do that, and we put things in place such that this does not happen in the future.  Also to establish a mechanism to resolve the future overlaps between the federal and provincial elections.  So that is put in place with this to do this as well.

 

The other piece of information here is to provide an exception to the requirement to hold by-elections if in the last six months leading into a general election someone resigns, then we would not have the necessity to say we are going have ninety days to impose the by-election, knowing that within a month or so later there is going to be a general election.  So that helps with that, Mr. Speaker, to provide for mechanisms whereby when the Chief Electoral Officer would need to be focusing on getting ready for a provincial election, there would not be a by-election right smack dab, right before that.

 

Now, as everybody else said, they talk about the district.  I have not listed all of the districts' names, but I talked about the new names of the communities that will be included with the names of this district.  Again, for the record, to read it into the record, I cannot really omit the portion of the district that would have been the old District of Bonavista North.

 

So, the new district, Mr. Speaker, includes approximately forty communities, and it is – I say approximately because depending on how you think of them, the amalgamated towns, you refer to every small community of the amalgamated town, like in the case of New-Wes-Valley.  Do you consider that as one community or eight or nine communities?

 

What is very important through all of this is that as a district, the new district still has many things in common, because the fishery is still a very vital link in the whole parts of the communities.  The whole region thrives on different denominational religious backgrounds, but again religion is very strong in the entire area.  People are very firm in their faith and their beliefs in proper ways of living.  I would just like to say, as I say all of the names of the district together now, that it is a very welcoming thought on my part that I may be able to offer myself as a candidate in that newly created district.

 

The district includes communities, and the first few names are coming alphabetically, and we refer to the NTV roll down of communities on New Year's Eve, but again that is not as important as mentioning them here in this House today.

 

The district includes amalgamated communities or municipal communities of Carmanville, Centreville-Wareham- Trinity, Change Islands, Dover, Fogo, Greenspond, Hare Bay, Indian Bay, Joe Batt's Arm-Barr'd Islands-Shoal Bay, Lumsden, Musgrave Harbour, New-Wes-Valley – and New-Wes-Valley would have included eight smaller communities but if you are not from the New-Wes-Valley area, you would think that there are only eight communities but in that local precinct, there are probably fifteen or sixteen because Badger's Quay is made up of colloquially about five or six little communities if you refer to Southwest Island, Tinker's Island, Pool's Island, Safe Harbour Square, and all these other little entities that exist, Mr. Speaker.

 

Seldom-Little Seldom, Tilting, Cape Freels North, Aspen Cove, Gander Bay North, Gander Bay South – and again Gander Bay North and Gander Bay South is like an amalgamation because in each of these communities these areas there are four or five local communities: Horwood, Main Point-Davidsville, Noggin Cove, Port Albert, Stoneville, Fredericton, Ladle Cove, and Deadman's Bay.  The population is 14,035.

 

I would like just to say that it is very welcoming to be a part of this.  Just as a final little aside, as a person, you always feel pride in everything you do and you have done, I would like to say that this is like the third event of this nature that has happened to me personally.  I was the last Mayor of the Town of Wesleyville, an amalgamation happened, and Wesleyville was no more, Mr. Speaker.  We moved into New-Wes-Valley, it took four or five years for the names of the community to come together, but again the community is strong and it is vibrant so I am looking forward that way. 

 

I became principal ultimately of a K-6 school, the charge of being a principal in a school.  In my last year before retirement, that school closed its doors and joined together with Pearson Academy, but again, the two have come together and moved ahead in vibrancy, and with great promise for the future. 

 

Now, I come here to sit in this hon. House and to stand in this hon. House to talk about Bonavista North – again, the name itself, it is like it is ominous that Bonavista North has a name that is not continuing on, but I am hoping to be able to be the person to represent the new, vibrant district that is going to be created, the promise and the hope and everything for the future we look forward to.  I look forward to that with open arms.  Come on with it. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. CROSS: I would just like to say it is always great to stand and speak. 

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER (Verge): If the hon. minister speaks now, he will close the debate. 

 

MR. KING: No, Mr. Speaker.  I am just standing up, with leave of the House, to propose we will take a break now for supper and we will be back at 7:00 p.m., if that is fine with leave. 

 

MR. SPEAKER: Okay, my mistake.  You were standing as the Government House Leader –

 

MR. KING: Yes, correct.

 

MR. SPEAKER: We will take a recess until 7:00 p.m. 

 

MR. KING: That is correct. 

 

MR. SPEAKER: Is everybody good with that? 

 

The House will be in recess until 7:00 p.m.

 


June 15, 2015                HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS                Vol. XLVII No. 31A



The House resumed sitting at 7:00 p.m.

 

MR. SPEAKER (Verge): Order, please!

 

The hon. the Government House Leader.

 

MR. KING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

At this time I would like to call from the Order Paper, Bill 11, second reading, An Act To Amend The Health and Community Services Act.

 

So moved by me and seconded by the Minister of Health and Community Services that the said bill be now read the second time. 

 

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that Bill 11 be now read a second time. 

 

Motion, second reading of a bill, “An Act To Amend The Health And Community Services Act.”  (Bill 11)

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. KENT: Mr. Speaker, I would be remiss if I did not start by thanking my hon. colleagues in this House for the warm welcome here this evening.  They are so excited to be here in prime time, Mr. Speaker, to participate in democracy in action right here in our Legislature.  I also want to say a special hello to the thousands and thousands of people who are tuned in to watch this broadcast tonight.  Welcome to all of you, and thanks for the warm welcome. 

 

Mr. Speaker, as I was preparing for this bill, I felt like I was back in Municipal Affairs given the subject matter, but it is an important piece of legislation that I am pleased to be advancing here this evening.  I am rising before this hon. House to introduce Bill 11 entitled, An Act To Amend The Health And Community Services Act.  That act deals with certain public health issues, such as unsanitary conditions and dwelling places that are unfit for human habitation. 

 

The act also grants authority to make regulations in a number of areas such as the construction and installation of sewage disposal or septic systems.  In order to be able to make regulations, proper authority must be found in the enabling statute.  Currently, the sanitation regulations made under the Health and Community Services Act regulate private sewage disposal systems, also known as septic systems, used in many homes and cottages throughout our Province.  The regulation of private sewage disposal is a joint responsibility of the Department of Health and Community Services and Service Newfoundland and Labrador as well. 

 

What we are doing here, Bill 11 adds authority to the act to make regulations with respect to the qualification and process of approving those persons who wish to be registered with Service NL as an Approved Designer.  Private sewage systems for homes and cottages, or cabins as I like to call them, have been and continue to be an important part of sewage waste management in many communities in Newfoundland and Labrador.  Some people have cottages I suppose; I have a cabin. 

 

Safe sewage disposal practices are an important component in the protection of public health and ensure our sources of drinking water and other aspects of our environment are safe from contamination by disease causing micro-organisms.  Many rural communities, because of their small size and low population density, cannot provide municipal style sewer services to individual homes and businesses.  Where this is the case, private sewage systems have been employed as a practical solution to servicing small developments such as single family homes. 

 

For people in locations where municipal sewer services are not available, private sewage disposal systems are often the only practical solution available.  Well designed and properly maintained systems installed on an acceptable building site can provide long-term, safe, and effective treatment of household sewage.  So not every proposed building site can be approved for a private sewage disposal system.  The systems location, design, installation, operation and maintenance are key factors in ensuring that a private sewage disposal system functions properly over the long term.

 

A thorough site evaluation is required to determine if a proposed building lot is suitable for a private sewage disposal system.  This work is done by Approved Designers.  Mr. Speaker, Approved Designers are professional engineers, engineer technicians, public health inspectors, and other individuals who have met the requirements established by Service NL to be certified as an improved designer for the purposes of the sanitation regulations. 

 

For the benefit of my hon. colleagues here this evening, and the thousands of people watching the proceedings online this evening or on cable, I will briefly summarize the approval process for private sewage disposal systems.  First, a building lot owner obtains the services of an Approved Designer to determine if the lot is suitable for the installation of a private sewage disposal system.  If the lot is suitable, the Approved Designer will design a private sewage disposal system for the building lot. 

 

The building lot owner will then apply to Service NL to install a private sewage disposal system on the lot and submit the Approved Designer's lot evaluation and sewage system design with the application.  An environmental health officer with Service NL will review the application and design.  If the submission is satisfactory, a certificate of approval allowing for the construction of a system will be issued by the environmental health officer.  When the system has been installed the environmental health officer will then carry out an onsite inspection to verify that the system has actually been installed correctly. 

 

Bill 11 is an example of amendments that are required to be consistent with changes that are happening around us, changes in this case in industry practice.  That is the Approved Designer element of this bill.  The next element relates to fees. 

 

Mr. Speaker, Bill 11 sets out another amendment which authorizes the minister to set fees in established forms for the purpose and administration of the Health and Community Services Act and the regulations.  While ministers of the Crown have authority to set fees in accordance with the Executive Council Act, our government, in keeping with its policy of greater transparency and accountability, is proposing to add specific authority to the Health and Community Services Act to allow for the actual establishment of fees. 

 

In Budget 2015, our government had to make some difficult decisions in reducing government spending and increasing revenue streams to compensate for the reduction in oil prices.  As such, in this recent Budget we announced that a number of new fees would be implemented.  Two of the new fees are related to the approval of private sewage disposal systems. 

 

One of the fees will be an annual registration fee for Approved Designers.  There are approximately 270 persons currently registered as Approved Designers with Service Newfoundland and Labrador.  The second fee will be an applications fee for any individual or developer who submits an application to install a private sewage system. 

 

Last year, Service NL received approximately 1,350 applications to install private sewage systems.  Currently, the Health and Community Services Act does not give government the specific authority to implement either the annual Approved Designer registration fee or the application fee – the two fees that we are talking about here tonight.  To accomplish our commitments in the Budget to introduce these fees, Bill 11 will grant clear authority to establish fees under the act and the regulations that are made under the act. 

 

Mr. Speaker, under Bill 11, the overall mandate for the regulation of private sewage disposal systems for homes and cabins, or cottages, will continue to rest with the Department of Health and Community Services and our partner, Service Newfoundland and Labrador. 

 

Bill 11 permits recognition of the change in practice of relying on building lot assessments and sewage system designs of Approved Designers when reviewing applications for the establishment of septic systems on private land.  It also grants authority to set fees for the purpose of the Health and Community Services Act and its regulations. 

 

Mr. Speaker, what I believe to be a fairly straightforward piece of legislation, I am asking my colleagues this evening to support this bill with me so that the law can reflect the change in the assessment process for the approval of private sewage disposal systems and that the fees announced in the recent Budget can also be implemented. 

 

I look forward to the debate here in second reading.  I am happy to answer any questions at the conclusion of second reading, and as well when we move to the Committee stage of the bill process as well. 

 

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 am happy to stand and speak to this.  It sounds like the crowd on the other side are quite excited about this particular piece of legislation.  Again, I am glad to see that they are.  I am not as excited in one way, given the fact that really – I think the minister explained, in the second part of the discussion, about the fees.  That is what is going on here is that this is a way to go after people for more money to make up for the mismanagement that has been occurring on the other side.

 

I will continue on here and the first thing I want to say is I would like to –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Again, I am getting heckled now, Mr. Speaker, over the Health and Community Services Act bill.  It is amazing.  I am going to continue on and talk about this piece of legislation.

 

I do appreciate the department staff giving us a briefing, sitting down – and it is very straightforward.  The minister laid it out very well.  There are two basic aspects to this.  The first part talks about amending subsection 11(1), which respects the qualifications of and the process of approval for a person to be registered as an approved designer.  The fact is everything that has been said here tonight is already happening; it already goes on, on a daily basis.  As the minister said, there are about 1,350 applications on annual basis, or there were last year.

 

So these applications come in, it falls under Health and Community Services, but Service NL is the department that runs the show on this.  It is their workers who come in and deal with the front-line people, whether it is design or people trying to get this done.  I see a lot of this out in rural Newfoundland, out in my area.  This happens fairly regularly. 

 

What we know is that there are certain people who are the ones who are approved by the department – they can be the designers of these sites.  Some people are engineers.  I think some people have what is called a CET diploma.  A number of individuals – again, they are approved and the department has a list.  So if I want to go in and I am not connected to town sewer and water – I am building up in the country, we will say, I have to have the approved septic.  An example I am going to use is Kenny Meade out in Port aux Basques.  Kenny Meade is an approved designer.  So I go to him, get the design, I pay him for that design, and then I move forward.

 

In this case, though – and again, these people have already been accepted.  We are just legislating that particular aspect.  It has already done in practice; now it is going to be legislated.  I guess what I am coming at is this is probably one of the main thrusts of it, although I think the second part of the bill is the real reason that we are here doing this right now.  Again, there is no rush to this, per se.  We have been doing this – right now, this probably happened today, so it has been happening without the legislation.

 

I was concerned that they were going to make it harder for people or make it more onerous for people, but apparently it is not going to change that one bit.  The one difference there is that these people now have to pay $200 annually so they can be an approved designer. 

 

We all know where that cost is going to go.  It is going to go on the people out there.  That is just one side of the bill that people are going to get.  That is one revenue stream that this government is creating now because of the situation that they have gotten us in.

 

Mr. Speaker, $200 annually for these 270 designers.  That is the money that they are going to pay in so they can be on this list.  I want to put this out there now before I forget.  I am wondering – and this might be a question for Committee.  This is clearly a case of coming up with new revenue streams.  There is no cost here that needs to be recovered; there is nothing changing that they need to recover.  It is a case of how can we get more money coming in the door.  How can we come up with more money?  If I am wrong, I am sure the minister will enlighten us all on why I am wrong.  That is the first way that they are going to get money off the backs of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians is create this new fee. 

 

The second part is the application fee for the homeowner.  So what is going to happen now, no change, I want to get that approved system.  I go to Kenny Meade, I get the plan, I have to pay him for that – it has always been done.  Now, when I put my application into Service NL, I have to pay $200. 

 

I do not think there is any extra layer of red tape that has been created.  I do not think there is going to be a change in practice.  This is a way for them to say there are 1,350 of these applications on average coming in a year, well let's tack $200 on each one and let's nickel and dime the people.  There is no new service that people are getting.  People out our way are still going to wait a long time to get service because there are not enough people within the system.  There is a lot of work.  Service NL handles a lot of applications in different areas for a number of different departments.

 

So what is going to happen?  We talk about these regulations happen because it is in the interest of the protection of public health, but we know this has been happening all along.  There is no change to anything.  It is a case of we want to get the money out of them.  We have to change it now so we can change the regulations so that the minister can start coming after them for the money, but while we are at it let's legislate this practice that we are already doing. 

 

I have no problem with legislating the approval of designers who are qualified to do this work.  I have no problem with that.  Let's not stand here and say that we need to do this in the best interests of the people of the Province because that is not the case.  This has nothing to do with the best interests of the people of the Province.  The best interests were already met when they said yes, we want to have the right systems in place.  That has already been done. 

 

Service NL sends out – and they have great people in their department who I have been dealing with.  Sometimes the problem is there are not enough of them to handle the work that comes, but the people there are great, the people who I have dealt with.  Thankfully now government has made changes.  It used to be you could not talk to these people, you were not allowed; but now we are allowed, and that is good because it means better things happening for the constituents out there, and that is who we should all be thinking about. 

 

Again, the minister said that we are doing this in the interest of greater transparency and accountability, but I think we are doing this in the interest of greater revenue streams off the backs of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. 

 

On that note, I will sit down and likely have a few questions for the minister during the Committee phase, when we can figure out if there are any other fees that are going to be added on to people later on.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Baie Verte – Springdale.

 

MR. POLLARD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

It is a privilege for me to speak to Bill 11, An Act to Amend the Health and Community Services Act.  With respect to the fees in our Province, the fees in our Province vary quite a bit.  I would characterize the fees as very low to mid-range compared to similar fees across other jurisdictions.  To my knowledge, the Yukon and Saskatchewan have no fees, but other jurisdictions have fees.  It could range from a designer fee, it could be zero to $370, and the other applicant fees could range from zero to $730. 

 

There are about 270 approved designers currently registered with Service NL, as the minister pointed out.  Service NL receives about 1,350 applicants to install private sewage systems throughout the year.  Just in case we do not know what we are referring to, Mr. Speaker, with the audience out there, private sewage disposal refers to the on-site disposal and treatment of household sewage waste into subserviced soil.  The conventional method for new development is a private sewage disposal system consisting of a septic tank, distribution box, and absorption field. 

 

In a septic system, just to be a little bit more explicit, Mr. Speaker, a septic tank receives all of the household waste, the solids stay in the tank, and the liquid effluent flows into the distribution box.  From the tank, the liquid effluent flows into pipes in an area called an absorption field.  In the absorption field, the effluent from the tank is distributed into the ground where bacteria and other naturally occurring activities render the effluent safe. 

 

The bottom line, ultimately, the overarching principle of this bill is this: It is all in the best interests of public health and public safety that drinking water has to be safe and not to be contaminated in any way.  Safe methods of sewage disposal are something that all residents in this day and age expect in a modern, developed society, Mr. Speaker. 

 

The bottom line, the main thrust of this bill is that the septic system must be well designed and properly maintained systems installed, or on an acceptable building site that can provide long-term, safe and effective treatment of household sewage. 

 

With that, I will conclude my remarks because I think the minister did an eloquent job in explaining the bill.

 

Thank you very much.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. MURPHY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity to speak to this piece of legislation. 

 

I do not think I am going to come out here and dump all over government because they are coming out with new regulations when it comes to the way we are handling our waste.  I could say something about the $270,000 in fees they are projecting to collect, but I think there is probably a necessity for government to be collecting something as they are putting some people under employ, number one, to actually inspect some of these systems as they are coming through.

 

Mr. Speaker, it is simply a case, I think, where we have to realize what is happening with the mess in our own backyard sometimes.  I do not know if any of the other members have ever dealt with it, but when you have a failure of a septic system, it is not very tidy, to say the least.

 

Some of the systems, the contractors I have talked to over the years certainly have met some horror stories along the way when it comes to the design, particularly, of some of these systems.  I can see where government is coming from when it comes to this. 

 

I can also see where government is coming from on another aspect, Mr. Speaker, not only having to do with what is happening in your own house, but certainly in the big picture too when it comes to environmental concerns.  Obviously, it is a huge environmental concern when it comes to this. 

 

A failure of a septic system, for example – obviously, if you get human waste and excrement close to water supplies, it is going to present a problem.  One need only look at the news stories over the years in order to see what disasters can happen.  We all know of course of water testing, for example, the water testing resources that have to go into something like that too.

 

Mr. Speaker, while we have to question that, there are several aspects of this of the reason why government I think in the long run is certainly going to have to deal with this.  We also have to deal now with federal waste water regulations, just to give an example of what kind of a problem can add up.  I think overall federally we are looking at about a $30 billion ask, I think it is, that municipalities are asking for that they have to deal with some of the waste water regulations in the next couple of years in order to just meet with that. 

 

Yes, Mr. Speaker, I can see where government is coming from.  Certainly, we will be supporting this piece of legislation.  Like I said, the department is dealing with about 1,350 applications in the run of a year, and to make sure your system is going to be lasting for the next thirty or thirty-five years.  If you look after a septic system, it can really last that long. 

 

We know several people out there whose systems, of course, have never given them an ounce of trouble because they have the care and maintenance gone into their systems.  Again, like I said the contractors I have talked to, absolute horror stories.  Some of them have gone to old oil barrels, for example, and then just let the rest of it run off into our environment – and that is the wrong thing to do.  So, I think in this particular case we have to agree with government.  We will question fees, of that there is no doubt, but at the same time there are personnel within government who are going to be looking at the design of these systems and everything. 

 

Mr. Speaker, right now based on what we were presented with at the briefing, certainly I think in this particular case we will be supporting this piece of legislation.

 

Thank you very much.

 

MR. SPEAKER: If the hon. Minister of Health and Community Services speaks now he will close the debate.

 

The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. KENT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I want to thank my Parliamentary Secretary who is always enthusiastic to speak to legislation in this House when it comes to the health and safety of our citizens.  So kudos to the hon. member.  I also want to thank both members for participating in the discussion tonight.  I really appreciate the input and the acknowledgement of the briefings that have taken place.

 

I just want to reiterate quickly in closing that there is no change to current practice.  I think both hon. members opposite highlighted that, and I think it is important that our laws reflect current reality in our Province as well.  I think everybody would agree that safe drinking water and good sewage disposal practices are really important when we are talking about public health.

 

This is a sensible piece of legislation.  We can have the debate around budget and fees and so on, but this is very much in line with other jurisdictions, and I appreciate the comments expressed by all hon. members here during second reading.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion that Bill 11 be now read a second time?

 

All those in favour, 'aye.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

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

 

The motion is carried.

 

CLERK: A bill, An Act To Amend The Health And Community Services Act.  (Bill 11)

 

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. KING: Now.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Now.

 

On motion, a bill, “An Act To Amend The Health And Community Services Act,” read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole presently, by leave.  (Bill 11)

 

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

 

MR. KING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I move, seconded by the Minister of Health and Community Services, that the House do now resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole to consider Bill 11, An Act To Amend The Health And Community Services Act.

 

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that the House now resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole to consider Bill 11 and that I now leave the Chair.

 

All those in favour, 'aye.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

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

 

The motion is carried.

 

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

 

Committee of the Whole

 

CHAIR (Cross): Order, please!

 

We are now considering Bill 11, An Act To Amend The Health and Community Services Act.

 

A bill, “An Act To Amend The Health And Community Services Act.”  (Bill 11)

 

CLERK: Clause 1.

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

 

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

 

I just want to ask the minister one question.  So we can confirm that this legislation does absolutely nothing to change the current practice, its goal is to raise another couple of hundred thousand dollars?

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services.

 

MR. KENT: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

I appreciate the question from the hon. member.  We had very difficult decisions to make in this Budget process, as you know.  We have made them, we will defend them, we will stand by them, and we will live with those decisions.  In taking this approach, to answer the hon. member's question, we did look closely at what is happening across the country and this is not inconsistent with what goes on in other jurisdictions.

 

We are not talking about a large amount of revenue, but all the funds of the provincial government matter and we need to use those funds as wisely as we can.  Not only do we need to find opportunities to save money, we also need to identify opportunities to generate revenue, and this is indeed one of them.  Though, admittedly, we are talking about a relatively small amount of money in the grand scheme of things but it is consistent with other jurisdictions in the country and it is something we are prepared to support and also defend.

 

I thank the member for his question.

 

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

 

MR. MURPHY: Mr. Chair, I guess now that we have that particular end of it out of the way, I am just wondering from the minister, for the 1,350 applications you get roughly for a year, the estimate here is about $270,000 to be collected.  I am just wondering, how many people in Service NL, for example, are there who are actually doing the approvals of these designs, or is this done also through – you mentioned, as well, this is going through public health, too, a public health matter. 

 

So I am just wondering, is there anybody there from the Department of Health, for example, who would be there to gauge the approval process?  Perhaps you can answer those questions.

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. KENT: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

There are Environmental Health Officers with Service Newfoundland and Labrador who review the applications and the designs, do the inspections, and issue the certificates of approval which is the critical work here.

 

Our responsibility as a department is to set the regulations and to set the policy related to the system.  So we are involved in the policies and the regulations.  The actual work of carrying this out rests with my colleague in Service Newfoundland and Labrador.

 

As I am not the minister responsible, I cannot confirm at the moment how many of those Environmental Health Officers there are, but we can certainly provide the hon. member with that information.  I hope that addresses his question.

 

Thank you.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

CHAIR: Shall clause 1 carry?

 

All those in favour, 'aye.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: All those against, 'nay.'

 

Carried.

 

On motion, clause 1 carried.

 

CLERK: Clause 2.

 

CHAIR: Shall clause 2 carry?

 

All those in favour, 'aye.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: All those against, 'nay.'

 

Carried.

 

On motion, clause 2 carried.

 

CLERK: Be it enacted by the Lieutenant Governor and 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.'

 

Carried.

 

On motion, enacting clause carried.

 

CLERK: An Act To Amend The Health And Community Services Act.

 

CHAIR: Shall the title carry?

 

All those in favour, 'aye.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: All those against, 'nay.'

 

Carried.

 

On motion, title carried.

 

CHAIR: Shall I report the bill without amendment?

 

All those in favour, 'aye.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: All those against, 'nay.'

 

Carried.

 

Motion, that the Committee report having passed the bill without amendment, carried.

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

 

MR. KING: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

I moved, seconded by the Minister of Health and Community Services, that the Committee do now rise and report Bill 11, An Act To Amend The Health And Community Services Act, as presented without amendment.

 

CHAIR: The motion is that the Committee rise and report Bill 11.

 

All those in favour, 'aye.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: All those against, 'nay.'

 

Carried.

 

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

 

MR. SPEAKER (Verge): The hon. the Member for Bonavista North.

 

MR. CROSS: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole have considered the matters to them referred and have directed me to report Bill 11 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 11 without amendment.

 

When shall the report be received?

 

MR. KING: Now.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Now.

 

On motion, report received and adopted.

 

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

 

MR. KING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

At this time I would like to call back from the Order Paper, second reading number seven, Bill 13, An Act To Amend The House Of Assembly Act.

 

MR. SPEAKER: We are resuming debate on the House Of Assembly Act.

 

I recognize the hon. the Member for Torngat Mountains.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. EDMUNDS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

It is certainly a pleasure to rise to have a few comments on Bill 13, An Act to Amend the House of Assembly Act.  Mr. Speaker, when the original legislation was proposed, it called for the removal of eight seats throughout the Province.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Ten.

 

MR. EDMUNDS: Or ten, I am sorry, Mr. Speaker.  That would reduce the number of seats from forty-eight to thirty-eight.  Labrador was a part of that reduction.  Everything was on the table I guess I can safely say, with the exception of the district I represent, the District of Torngat Mountains.  I will come back to the district.

 

I would like to just thank my colleagues on this side of the House, Mr. Speaker, for the support they gave in recognizing the importance of four seats in Labrador.  It was actually the Liberal Opposition that came forward with the amendments, contrary to what a lot of people said.  As a matter of fact, I have yet to see an amendment from the Third Party on these four seats in Labrador, so I will give credit where credit is due.

 

The position our leader has come out on, and our party supported, is the allowance of a free vote from the Liberal caucus, Mr. Speaker.  Our leader chose to take that route because it would better bring the views of the constituents we represent throughout the districts in this Province who are going to be affected. 

 

We have heard from almost every district that is affected through individuals.  Not all of them are in agreement with how the boundaries were drawn up.  They would like to have some say.  We are hopeful that the members across the way will take the concerns of their district – or we ask the question: Is everybody being whipped into shape on this bill?

 

Mr. Speaker, when you talk about a free vote, it shows honesty and integrity.  To be criticized for that is something that I am sure we can take exception to.  The last time the Third Party had an expression of interest in the free vote, well, we all know what happened back then. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I would just like to say a few words about the district I represent.  I hear hon. colleagues stand up and speak quite proudly about the district they represent.  That has happened on both sides of this hon. House.  The district that I represent, and I say this quite proudly, is the largest district in the Province.  It has its challenges, but you could take the whole Island portion of this Province and fit it in my district and have room left over.  If the boundaries act was divided by geography and by size that would certainly be a large story. 

 

I would like to thank the Member for Bonavista South, Mr. Speaker, who stood up and called it the great land.  It is certainly one welcomed comment.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Call it the Big Land.

 

MR. EDMUNDS: We call it the Big Land. 

 

I would like to talk about the diversity in the district that I represent alone, Mr. Speaker.  I will actually touch on all four seats in Labrador.  In the District of Torngat Mountains we have two ethnic groups; we have an Inuit population and an Innu population. 

 

I was just looking at some of the documentation up through the years.  Labrador as a district was actually not represented in this House until 1949 until this Province joined Confederation.  As you go up through the representation from Labrador it gradually encompasses more districts.  I think this is based on acceptance of the Aboriginal community, respect for their traditions, and respect for their culture. 

 

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Lake Melville has Aboriginal populations in his district.  He has Innu who live there, the community of Sheshatshiu; you have the Inuit population who lives there; and, you have a population from the South Coast, NunatuKavut, who live in Lake Melville.  On the South Coast, my hon. colleague from Cartwright – L'Anse au Clair has an organization called NunatuKavut that she represents.

 

Mr. Speaker, throughout history, even in Labrador West, you have had the Innu who were once a nomadic people who travelled that country extensively.  In later years, in the mid-1700s, 1800s you had trappers who moved up from the coast who trapped in on the height of the land near Menihek, Menihek Lake, (inaudible).  So this area is well used, and certainly well-travelled, and has a lot of history that relates back to the Aboriginal community.

 

Mr. Speaker, in Labrador we have some comprehensive land claims agreements that are in different stages.  I would just like to talk a little bit about them.  We have the Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement that was signed in 2005.  It is a comprehensive agreement that is actually implemented now.  We have a new government in our Province, the newest government, called the Nunatsiavut Government.

 

Mr. Speaker, we also have the Innu Nation that has signed an agreement in principle in terms of their negotiations towards an agreement.  Part of that agreement would be what we refer to as the New Dawn.  On the South Coast we have NunatuKavut, who have yet to have their claims accepted by the federal government, and, indeed, by the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

 

When you look at the use of the land and you look at those comprehensive land claims agreements, not so much on the South Coast, but when you get into the North Coast you talk about the claims the Nunatsiavut Government has, that are proposed by the Innu Nation, and you look at where Nunavik stands in Northern Quebec, a major component of those land claims agreements is overlap.  Overlap primarily based on land usage. 

 

Now, Mr. Speaker, I have gone caribou hunting.  I have left Nain, and I was actually in Quebec when I harvested caribou.  I have met hunters from Northern Quebec in Ugjuktok Fiord who came across caribou hunting.  We have also met Innu, hunting with the Innu.  It is an overlap agreement, that we do not recognize the borders on our traditional hunting grounds.  So we do overlap.  It is actually one of the easiest negotiations that came about when you are looking at the claims of Aboriginal people.

 

So, Mr. Speaker, I do have some areas of concern in this legislation, and it goes back to the scheduling, how the Premier got his job, and the whole scenario of events that unfolded.  Now, Premier Kathy Dunderdale resigned sixteen months ago, and the legislation states that there should be an election that is over within a year.  Now, Mr. Speaker, we had Premiers who wanted to be Premiers who could not be Premiers.  We had Premiers who were Premiers who did not want to be Premiers. 

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Premier designates.

 

MR. EDMUNDS: We have had Premier designates.  Eventually, I think in September of last fall there was an election.  I think there were some 340 people who elected a new Premier of our Province. 

 

When you apply the legislation it states again that the election shall be over within a year.  Mr. Speaker, if I could do the math – and hopefully I am a little better at it than the Minister of Finance – a year from September 25 is September 25 the following year.  It is easy math. 

 

This government, through its inability to look after itself and look after its own interests, has manipulated the legislation, Mr. Speaker, and pushed out the election to November 30.  It causes some concern.  We have heard some concerns from within the districts.  We have seen the popular polling within the Province.  Everybody agrees with it, that the election should be held early, except the members across the way.  They are the only ones who seem to have some issues with it.  I think the Third Party might be in acceptance with it. 

 

When you look at the legislation that is coming out, we are happy with the protection of the seats in Labrador.  As a matter of fact, I think it was in 1993 that the Mahoney commission ensured that the Torngat Mountains district would be protected. 

 

Incidentally, you talk about the changes to the boundaries act and they say there were no changes in Labrador.  Well, there was actually one change, Mr. Speaker, and it happened to be in my district.  It states, “Minor changes were made to the boundary description to clarify the delineation of its northern tip.”  So there were some issues around what Nunavut had acquired in the past, namely Button Islands at the tip of Labrador, and a small part of the tip of Labrador. 

 

As you come down you get into the Torngat Mountains where the national park is, Mr. Speaker.  That takes in roughly the distance from the tip of the Northern Peninsula to Deer Lake.  As you go from Lab West over to Natuashish, that takes in the West Coast to the East Coast, and there is still room leftover. 

 

With that, I will take my place.  I just ask that when you are looking at the representation of your districts that you take into account what your constituents are saying.

 

Thank you.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Port de Grave.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. LITTLEJOHN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

It is a privilege to stand up and say a few words tonight on the electoral boundary reform.  Mr. Speaker, most speakers on both sides of the House have talked about their apprehension to change.  I think we were all apprehensive when we came in and we know we are going to face change.  When you lose eight seats, it is inevitable that we are all going to face change.  Your boundaries are going to change and all the rest, but as we go along change is inevitable.  Change is inevitable in everybody's life.  We need to embrace that. 

 

I think my hon. colleague from Bonavista North, who sits next to me here in the House, said this afternoon that you need to sometimes embrace change.  In the historic District of Port de Grave it is no different; the boundaries in the District of Port de Grave.  I will talk a little bit about the District of Trinity – Bay de Verde and Harbour Main as we go through, and the District of Carbonear – Harbour Grace, because we have all experienced change.

 

One of the challenges that came out of the boundary reform – and the Commission talked about it – was the fact of keeping historic names, and keeping historic names of districts.  That was a challenge to them.  Particularly in our area, in my region of the Province along the north shore of Conception Bay, there are many historic names. 

 

Harbour Main, for example, has been an electoral district in some form since 1885.  It is the same with the District of Port de Grave.  Port de Grave had been in existence in some form in the name of an electoral district since 1885.

 

Trinity – Bay de Verde; the name Trinity has been in existence in an electoral district in this Province since 1832.  If we go back to the District of Harbour Grace – because at one point we all remember the district was just the District of Harbour Grace – that dates back to 1885.  Until 1996, Harbour Grace consistently was in the name of a boundary in Newfoundland and Labrador.

 

Mr. Speaker, the District of Port de Grave is steeped in history.  Carbonear, I would say to the hon. member, was always part of Trinity – Bay de Verde, or Carbonear – Harbour Grace, and it was part of the name.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Since 1855.

 

MR. LITTLEJOHN: Since 1855, the hon. member says.  So Carbonear has also been steeped.  That only proves my point further, that these districts have been steeped and have been in the electoral boundary name for many, many years. 

 

Mr. Speaker, Ferryland is the oldest, I say to the hon. minister who represents Ferryland, but again, it was a challenge for the boundaries commission.  I want to point that out because over the years, the boundaries for all these districts have kind of moved back and forth.  I remember a time when the boundaries for the District of Port de Grave ran from Georgetown to Bryant's Cove.  Today, at the present – in 2011, when I ran, the District of Port de Grave ran from Upper Island Cove to Makinsons, not including South River. 

 

Prior to the boundaries commission's report the last time, the communities of North River and Clarke's Beach and Makinsons, which are now in my district, were in the District of Harbour Main.  If I go down a little further and we go down to Spaniard's Bay and Tilton, years ago in the District of Harbour Grace, many years ago, the community of Shearstown, which was in the Town of Bay Roberts, was part of the District of Harbour Grace.  The District of Harbour Grace took in Shearstown, Upper Island Cove, Spaniard's Bay, Tilton, and I believe Bristol's Hope.  I stand to be corrected on that, but I think the old District of Harbour Grace used to take in those names.

 

Mr. Speaker, in the District of Carbonear – Harbour Grace and Trinity – Bay de Verde, I know those boundaries have changed over the years, but those names have lasted.  I know it was a challenge to the boundaries commission and it was important to them to keep some of these historical names. 

 

In reference to my district, the new district's name will be Harbour Grace – Port de Grave.  It was a way for the boundaries commission to keep Harbour Grace and Port de Grave in the name of the boundary.  Again when that was done, Mr. Speaker, the boundary has moved.  I think this is the first time I can honestly say that the boundary is gone, what we refer to in my community, as going down the bay.  We have never went down the bay all the way to Harbour Grace.  We have normally stopped at Bryant's Cove or we stopped at Upper Island Cove, or Spaniard's Bay-Tilton, but we have never ever encompassed the community of Harbour Grace.

 

Mr. Speaker, it is breaking new ground and we are going into new ground.  Like everybody else, I know members opposite have talked about some of their concerns.  I remember the morning after it was announced they were going to do the boundary change, I had a gentleman from the Town of Upper Island Cove call.  He was on the phone and I believe we began talking about a housing concern, but we ended up talking about the proposed boundary change.  He said: Glenn, the only problem, you should have cut her deeper.  He said: It should only be thirty-six of them.

 

I said: I think everybody has their opinion on how many seats it should be.  I think there are members in this House who continue to believe that there should be no reduction in seats, instead have forty-eight.  There are members here, Mr. Speaker, who truly believe there should be a reduction in seats.  If we came to that, we probably would all come to different numbers. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I think forty is a good number.  I stood here in this House and I supported the boundary change and I support it now at forty seats.  If I supported that then, I have to support it now.  One of the things about it is that in supporting that I understood that the electoral boundaries that I ran in, in 2011 would not be the electoral boundaries that I would run in, in 2015. 

 

Mr. Speaker, it is always difficult to leave people behind who have supported you.  To the people of Makinsons, Clarke's Beach, and North River who have supported me – and I have supported them over the last four years and when I ran in 2007 they supported me then – I want to say thank you for their support.  We talk often about we sit in this House because of the people.  I appreciated their support. 

 

Mr. Speaker, whether they are PCs, or Liberals, or NDPs, we have worked together to make their life a little bit better no matter what the cause was.  I am pleased to do that.  Those communities are now going to go back into the District of Harbour Main.  Not strange to them, they have been in the District of Harbour Main before and they are going to go back to Harbour Main. 

 

For me, Mr. Speaker, it is moving down the bay, as they say.  I know the municipality of Spaniard's Bay – and I know my colleague opposite would agree that the municipality of Spaniard's Bay is very happy about the boundary changes.  For now, the municipality of Spaniard's Bay and the community of Tilton will all be in the one district.  It is something that they have advocated prior to the last boundary change.  They are very pleased.  I was at their fiftieth anniversary of incorporation only over the weekend and speaking to the mayor there.  They are very pleased that their town is going to be under one MHA.  They are looking forward to it.

 

Mr. Speaker, as we go forward, the boundaries will move in and a couple of new communities that I have not had the privilege to represent in the part of Spaniard's Bay will be Bryant's Cove, Harbour Grace South, Riverhead, and Harbour Grace itself.  I look forward to that.  I look forward to meeting those people and working with those people as we move forward.

 

Harbour Grace is no stranger to myself.  I grew up in a minor hockey system where we were the Conception Bay North minor hockey system.  There was no arena in Bay Roberts.  The Bay Arena did not exist in my day growing up playing minor hockey.  I spent many a night, many a morning, travelling the road to Harbour Grace to practice, whether it was for minor hockey with the Conception Bay North Stars or whether it was with our own high school team at Ascension Collegiate. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I know the hon. Member for Bay of Islands today talked about the Humber Hawks and the competition.  Well, we had a pretty good rivalry with Harbour Grace and hockey over the years, and it was pretty fierce at times.  The only difference, I have to say to the hon. member across, is we were not so successful in our endeavours down the bay playing Harbour Grace as the hon. member across was.

 

Once again, as the hon. member said today, we made a lot of good friends.  I made a lot of good friends.  I know a lot of people in Harbour Grace.  They are good people.  There are good people in Riverhead and Bryant's Cove and Harbour Grace South.  I hope I get the opportunity to represent them in the next siting of this House. 

 

As boundary change comes forward, as I have said, I know the Commission agonized over the boundaries along the area.  It was done because of the historical nature of the names on the electoral district.  Names like Harbour Main, Port de Grave, Harbour Grace, Carbonear, and Trinity – Bay de Verde.  I know that was a challenge.

 

I know, as well, that the district will become larger.  We will have 14,848 citizens in the District of Harbour Grace – Port de Grave.  I look forward to serving all those people come 2016 or 2015 when the election is.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: We are not sure yet.

 

MR. LITTLEJOHN: We are not sure yet, but we are moving.

 

Mr. Speaker, I want to just follow a couple of comments as well.  The hon. Member for Torngat stood up and talked about the Big Land and the four seats in the Big Land.  I stood in the House in January and I supported the four seats in the Big Land. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. LITTLEJOHN: I started my public service career in the Big Land in 1987.  I had the opportunity at that time to go from Nain to L'Anse au Loup to Labrador West.  I covered all of Labrador.  Mr. Speaker, it is a diverse land.  I had no trouble standing up in this House and supporting four seats in Labrador. 

 

In closing this evening, Mr. Speaker, I just want to have a few words.  I look forward to the change.  Change is inevitable.  I know it is going to be a challenge.  We look forward to the challenge.  I support fully the reduction to forty seats.

 

Thank you very much.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

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

 

I am both happy to stand and speak to this House, and to speak to the second reading of Bill 13, a bill entitled, An Act to Amend the House of Assembly Act.  I am also saddened, Mr. Speaker, to stand –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MS ROGERS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I am also saddened to stand this evening and speak to this bill.  I do not believe it is a time to celebrate or to even feel that something great has been accomplished.

 

Mr. Speaker, I would like to start off by thanking all the folks who served on the Electoral Boundaries Commission.  They were given an enormous task.  They were given a task that has such weight in terms of the future of our Province.  A task that is so incredibly important for our democratic process and a task that I am sure that every member of the Electoral Boundaries Commission –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

Mr. Speaker, I sat in my chair and I listened to every word that was spoken by the member before me.  I would ask for the same kind of consideration.  This is a very serious issue that we are talking about here tonight and that we are debating tonight.  I believe we all need to be paying heed to it.

 

Thank you very much.

 

Again, I would like to thank very much the staff, as well, of the Electoral Boundaries Commission, Mr. Speaker.  I would also like to thank – because I know that staff who were hired to listen to –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MS ROGERS: Mr. Speaker, I do not know what to do.  Shall I just sit down?

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

It is up to the member if you want to sit down.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MS ROGERS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MS ROGERS: Mr. Speaker, I would like to stand.  I would like to continue to speak to this bill, but I would ask for your protection.

 

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

 

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

 

I would like to thank not only the members who served on the Commission, but I would also like to thank the staff who served on this Commission who worked very hard.  I would also like to thank, Mr. Speaker, all the people who made representation to the Commission.  I believe that there were a number of presentations, both in person and both written representation, because people saw how important this is

 

Mr. Speaker, I would also like to thank all those who feel so passionate about our democratic process.  Particularly, the experts in this area in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador who have made it their life goal to study our democratic process, to weigh in on our democratic process, and to ensure that the process is as good as it possibly can b.  It is so important.  We know that our democratic process is about how we live our lives together, how we share our resources –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MS ROGERS:  – and how we plan for our future.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

I ask members for their co-operation please.

 

MS ROGERS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Not only the political scientists who have made it their goal to study our democratic process, to be advisors on our democratic process, who feel so very passionate about it, I would also like to thank those who study our democratic process, students.  There are so many young people who are so excited. 

 

You know so often, Mr. Speaker, people talk about the fact that youth are not engaged.  Well in some ways they may not be engaged in some aspects of our democratic process, but there are a number of youth who do care deeply, who care passionately about how we go about our business.  I would like to thank all those who weighed in on this bill. 

 

Do we want to modernize?  Absolutely, Mr. Speaker, we want to modernize our system because we know how important it is.  There is no reason for us not to modernize our system.  We want to use every tool to ensure we have the best governances possible.  I believe, to an extent, that is what every member in this House wants.  We all want to make sure that we have every tool at our disposal to ensure we do have the best governance possible. Again, it is about how we live our lives together. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I believe that the way this bill was introduced – and with the direction to the Electoral Boundaries Commission with the very, very narrow time frame to do it – has been divisive.  It has been as divisive as Bill 29. 

 

I keep asking, Mr. Speaker, into whose best interest was this bill?  To be introduced at the time when it was introduced, to whose best interest?  Is this in the best interest of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador?  I believe that it is not.  I believe when it was introduced that it was introduced because of a type of cynicism and pandering.  I do not believe it is in the best interest of the people from the beginning and I do not believe that what we are doing with this bill is in the best interest of the people and in the best interest of our democratic process. 

 

This is not about numbers, it is not about which MHA will lose their seat or who will have a better chance of winning theirs.  This, again, is about how we plan for our best governance.  Mr. Speaker, we know the role of an MHA is not just in the House of Assembly.  All of the talk has been about how many people will we have in this House of Assembly, but we know the role of an MHA is far bigger than that. 

 

We also know that what has been proposed by this bill and the outcome of the Electoral Boundaries Commission is about concentrating power in the system.  It is about taking voices away from rural Newfoundland and Labrador.  It is not about enhancing our democratic process, it is about shrinking it.  There are no if, ands, or buts about it.  If we look simply at the numbers we are going from forty-eight to forty, a reduction of eight seats by about 25 per cent.  This is about reducing voices.  This is about concentrating power.  It is not about the best interest of the people. 

 

If it was cost saving, it is not much in the way of cost saving.  We know that.  The roll out of the effects of what was done so hastily, so speedily in this House in January, we will see, Mr. Speaker, when election time rolls around November 30.  So very close to the federal election. 

 

Mr. Speaker, one has to keep asking why?  Why was this done now?  If it was for money, I do not believe it saves us a lot of money.  If, in fact, our democratic process shrinks –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MS ROGERS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

If our democratic process is tied to the price of oil, boy, are we in trouble.  What will happen?  If the price of oil skyrockets, will we then have more seats?  We are told by the Premier that this was about saving money because of the dire financial situation we are in.  Logic then says, well, if the price of oil soars, will we go back to the drawing table and increase the number of seats?  I am not so sure that any democracy in this world would want to tie their democratic process to the cost of oil, and that is what is happening here in this House. 

 

Mr. Speaker, the other thing I would like to know, because this was introduced so hastily by a Premier who did not have the mandate of the people of the Newfoundland and Labrador.  Let's not forget that.  He did not have the mandate of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. 

 

So who exactly did this Premier consult with before he came up with the number of thirty-eight?  That is the number he came up with.  I do not know where he got that number.  Maybe he pulled it out of thin air, I do not know.  Who did he consult with? 

 

He did not consult with the local experts we have in our Province who have made it their life passion to study democratic processes and governance.  He did not consult with them.  He did not consult with the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.  He bypassed the democratic process.  He totally bypassed that democratic process. 

 

We have an Electoral Boundaries Act.  We had a scheduled review of our democratic process scheduled for 2015.  He bypassed that – totally bypassed that.  There should have been consultation. 

 

Then the Premier had said he would let the Electoral Boundaries Commission decide if Labrador would keep four districts.  That is what he said when he first introduced this legislation.  Afterwards, after pressure, he decided, yes, Labrador could keep those seats.  Then after a little bit more pressure he decided it would be forty seats instead of thirty-eight seats, all done, Mr. Speaker, in the time of a few days. 

 

I remember walking out of this House at one point when we were here –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

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

 

I remember walking out of this House at one point, Mr. Speaker, when we were debating all through the night and there was the Premier with a senior bureaucrat rewriting the legislation.  That is what this Premier thinks about our democratic process.  A democratic process that is so sacrosanct, that is so important on how we live our lives together, how we make our decisions, and how we go forward in our future. 

 

Mr. Speaker, that is what this Premier without the mandate of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador made those decisions, and he was supported.  He was supported by the Official Opposition, let's not forget this.  The amendments to the bill were presented jointly by the Official Opposition, by the Liberals and by the Conservatives.  We know that this was written –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

Once again I ask all members for their co-operation.  The Speaker does not want to identify anybody in particular, but I would ask members please to pay attention as the Member for St. John's Centre continues with her debate.

 

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

 

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

 

We know that the process for this legislation was flawed.  The legislation in and of itself is flawed.  Government succumbed to the pressure in a matter of about forty-eight hours.  The process was condemned by some of our most eminent political scientists.  It was condemned by them.  They were raising the red flags, and it was condemned by the expertise of groups like Democracy Watch. 

 

Mr. Speaker, this is not modernizing our democracy.  This is not true electoral reform.  This is just about numbers.  It is not about how we do our business.  It is not about how we conduct our democracy.  It is not about, will we have proportional representation?  Because we still have that feeble process we use of first past the post. 

 

So, it is not about looking at how we use committee structures in our democracy.  This is not about electoral reform; it is not about democratic reform.  It is just simply playing numbers.  It was a rash decision without consultation that bypassed already existing democratic processes which were supposed to safeguard us from this kind of activity, that was supposed to safeguard us from hyper-partisan approaches to our democratic process, and this government and the Opposition decided to ignore that and to race in. 

 

In 2006, the Electoral Boundaries Commission took six months to analyze, to consult, to come up with their plan – six months, not even including the breaks they took.  We had that scheduled for us for next year.  Next year's would have been based on a new population statistic, so it would have been based on a much stronger foundation of information.  Again, when we keep asking why, there is no rational answer.  There is no good answer as to why government decided to do this at this time.  There is no good answer as to why the Official Opposition decided to play along, because that is what they did.  They decided to play along. 

 

Who is affected by this?  Not so much St. John's and the neighbourhoods close to St. John's.  Thank goodness, Labrador has its four seats.  At a time when we need stability – we are in a recession – because of the precarious economic times we are in, government chooses to throw it all up in the air and create chaos, to ram it in, to ram it through. 

 

Mr. Speaker, there is no rationale for this.  There was no rationale at all.  The Minister of Finance said we make strategic decisions.  That is what he said in the House.  He said we make decisions that affect twelve months down the road.  Maybe not decisions that affect us right away, but it is decisions where we will see the outcome twelve months down the road.  He said we make decisions that are not just about today, but into the future because we are looking for long-term sustainability.  He said we have to make tough decisions and the Minister of Health said we have to make tough decisions. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure this was a tough decision.  This certainly was not a well-thought-out decision.  This was not a decision that was done within the directives of our own democratic process.  It is rural Newfoundland that will suffer most.  I believe what happened as well is that this government was pandering to this myth that people do not like politicians.  So they have decided to pander to that, to what they believe people think about politicians. 

 

I believe, Mr. Speaker, the people of Newfoundland and Labrador are in fact smarter than that and they are wiser than that.  The people of Newfoundland and Labrador are voting.  They are voting for the people in their Province.  They want to be involved in their democratic process and we see that more and more. 

 

I believe this is not in the best interest of the people.  I do not know whose best interest it is in.  It has been absolutely stunning to watch this process, to watch it unfold, to watch this kind of legislation be rammed through.  I believe that people in rural Newfoundland and Labrador realize their voices have been weakened by this kind of legislation. 

 

They know they will have less representation because there will be fewer MHAs.  They know their voices will be minimized.  Is that a good thing?  I think not.  I think the people of rural Newfoundland and Labrador will not think this is a good thing, that their voices have been minimized in this House of Assembly. 

 

If we were looking at true electoral reform, we would be looking at the best way and the most effective way to make sure that every voice and every citizen of Newfoundland and Labrador is, in fact, represented here in this House.  That is not what this bill does.  It does quite the opposite and for no justifiable reason except for abstract numbers. 

 

That is what this was all about.  When the Premier introduced it he said thirty-eight seats, and then within no time at all he said forty seats.  I wonder what would have happened if there had been a little more pressure?  Maybe he would have said forty-two seats.  Then with a lot of pressure and a lot of time, maybe he would have said forty-four seats.  Who knows? 

 

We do not know because he instructed the Electoral Boundaries Commission for forty seats.  He did not say we want you to look at our democratic system; we want you to look at our method of governance across the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, and out of that come up with a recommendation in terms of the number of possible seats. 

 

No, what he did was just rammed it down and said this is what it is going to be.  This is in the best interest of who?  He never did say it was in the best interest of the people.  He never did say it was in the best interest of our democratic process.  He never did say it was in the best interest of our governance.  He said it was to save $2.5 million a year.  Which is what?  Not even 2 per cent of the deficit that was experienced. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I believe it is a sad time in our House of Assembly that this has been done in this way.  It did not need to be done in this way.  What it has done is that it has bypassed an existing method of democratic reform that was part of our legislation.  It totally ignored that, the same way that Bill 29 was divisive.  I think it is unfortunate. 

 

Of course, I will not be supporting this bill because I do not believe it is in the best interest of the people.  There has never been one argument to prove that it has been in the best interest of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. 

 

MR. SPEAKER (Cross): Order, please!

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. RUSSELL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

It is a great honour and a great privilege, as I always say, Mr. Speaker, every time I get on my feet in this honourable House.  I always say thank you to the great people of the District of Lake Melville.  Thank you so much for your continued support.  It is truly my honour to be here.


I will be brief tonight.  We heard some back and forth.  I tell you one thing I do want to comment on first and foremost; I listened to my two Labrador colleagues from across the way on the Liberals there.  Mr. Speaker, I tell you one thing I have the upmost respect for is passion for your districts.  We have heard it from people on this side of the House, passion from everybody in this House.

 

The Member for Cartwright – L'Anse au Clair did talk about us having an obligation, during her talk, about the ability to have a free vote on the other side of the House, which sounds so wonderful and so nice coming from them at this particular time.  To me, Mr. Speaker, it simply just speaks to the inconsistencies we have seen over the last number of months from the Opposition.

 

With that, I will say simple as this: She said we have an obligation as MHAs to come out here and speak for the people and say exactly what the people want us to say.  Everyone in this House, every single individual in this House is here for that very reason, Mr. Speaker.

 

They do not have the market cornered on being the voice of the people they represent.  Every single person here shares that same sentiment, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. RUSSELL: It is something we all take very, very seriously.  I recognize the passion. 

 

The Member for Cartwright – L'Anse au Clair talked about the extensive travel in her district.  With all due respect, that is what you sign up for.  Labrador is the Big Land.  We have heard it referred to as such for many, many years, Mr. Speaker. 

 

She has a big district.  There are a lot of small communities.  They are vast distances apart.  That is all part and parcel with what we do here, Mr. Speaker.  I can understand the frustrations, I certainly can.  I have travelled in her district.  I have travelled in the Member for Torngat Mountain's district as well.  My bloodline is all up and down that coast.

 

With that being said, Mr. Speaker, it is not easy in Labrador because of the isolated, and I will say, ultra-rural type of communities that we have in Labrador.  It is certainly something to behold in its majesty, the beauty of Labrador.  It is difficult when you do not have that interconnectivity by roads. 

 

With small communities, in some cases, Mr. Speaker, 100 and maybe even less people in those communities, you are certainly not going to have all the amenities and the infrastructure that comes with major city centres, bigger towns, populations like, say for example, Lake Melville of 10,000.  It is just not going to happen.  We have to keep striving to make sure they get what they need as well.

 

When we are talking about the issue of House reform and why we are here today – and we are talking about the reduction in seats and all that comes with that, Mr. Speaker.  I am standing on one point really and one point alone here tonight, and that is to make a clarification on how this came to be. 

 

If you were to look at exactly where we ended, Mr. Speaker, and I will just read from Hansard right here.  When we talked about this in the House the last time, when we all did our speeches, we were here well into the wee hours.  I ended by saying, “Labrador, the Big Land, and its unique landscape and geography, its unique people from all walks of life, the beauty of the Aboriginal groups and their cultures, and I am proud to be a native son of Labrador – ultimately, that is one of the greatest things that I have in my life, Mr. Speaker.”  I went on to say, “Therefore, I would like to say, with my last few seconds, that I would like to announce that in the Committee stage to come in the debate for Bill 42, under the leadership of our Premier, I would just like to say that we will be putting forth an amendment that will protect and maintain the four seats in Labrador.”

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. RUSSELL: I will just talk about our Premier for a minute here, Mr. Speaker, when we talk about somebody who has leadership.  Obviously, he would not be in the position if he does not.  Flexibility, Mr. Speaker, is a quality in leadership, approachability too. 

 

When we were prepared to put the bill to the floor, and that was going to apply to – and calling Newfoundland and Labrador, Newfoundland and Labrador, putting them on equal footing there.  That was what was going to apply to that.  I was able to go to our Premier and I was able to work with my colleague from Lab West.  I have had many conversations with my other colleagues from across the way from Labrador as well. 

 

We were able to talk about the Aboriginal groups, some mentioned by both of my colleagues from across the way.  We were able to talk geography, distance, resources, and the land mass.  The sheer ruggedness and beauty of Labrador came up time and time again.  I was able to approach this caucus, this Cabinet, this Premier, this Deputy Premier, and make a case for simply why we could not have it any other way than four seats, Mr. Speaker. 

 

Do you know what?  It is nice to hear – we have heard words from across the way.  The Member for Torngat Mountains said: Our Liberal amendment.  It came up – even the NDP said it earlier.  Do you know what?  At that time when we realized everybody had a chance to speak and we could move past this, we could work together and put out a joint amendment, that is great.  It does not matter where it comes from as long as it gets done and we had the four seats protected in Labrador.  That was the main thing. 

 

What were we willing to do, Mr. Speaker?  Leadership; a Premier willing to, right down to the wire, take the time to spend as much time as I needed to make my case and to fight for the four seats in Labrador.  As much time as I needed, with the support of other ministers, to just talk about everything.  I talked about elders.  I talked about culture.  I talked about hunting and fishing.  I talked about everything that makes us unique in the Big Land. 

 

Do you know what?  It was received with open arms from our Premier to the point that he was going to allow a member of his caucus to amend our own legislation that we are putting to the House.  Now you think about that.  I ask the people at home to just think about that for a second. 

 

Leadership is being flexible and recognizing when something can truly be better than it is.  It is the willingness to see that change, the vision to say, Mr. Speaker, that we are going to do whatever it takes to make that change happen for the betterment of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, and specifically in this case, for the representation of all the four distinct regions in Labrador which those four seats represent.

 

Having said that, we were prepared to put our amendment to the floor.  Of course, then as we got into the wee hours we had some great debate back and forth.  We heard a lot of passion, which I started my few minutes here tonight with.  I really appreciate that. 

 

When the Member for Torngat Mountains gets up, he talks about the Innu, he talks about NunatuKavut.  He talks about the culture and the geography of Labrador, the hunting, being in the deep country.  I have been there, Mr. Speaker.  I appreciate that.  I understand. 

 

I hear people talking about – and they are making some derogatory comments from across the way.  That is fine, I do not mind that.  You can say whatever you want to try and interrupt me when I am talking about Labrador.  You are not going to get it done because when I am talking about Labrador, I am talking about my passion. 

 

The bottom line here is this.  I appreciate the Member for Torngat Mountains when he gets up and speaks from the heart.  I do, and the same thing for the Member for Cartwright – L'Anse au Clair when she does the same.  Do you want to know why?  Because we are born and raised and we love where we come from, and we are proud to be from there, Mr. Speaker, very much so.  I can appreciate that.

 

Even though we have political philosophical differences, I will still support them in the things they want to do for their districts and for the betterment of Labrador, for the betterment of the people and the next generation of children to come, and out of respect for our elders.  As the hon. Member for Torngat references time and time again, and I have referenced it too, we are both beneficiaries of the Labrador Inuit Land Claims that has been implemented. 

 

That agreement, Mr. Speaker, was groundbreaking.  The Innu, with the Tshash Petapen, are right behind Nunatsiavut in terms of having an agreement in principle, and NunatuKavut, I wish them all the very best and luck with getting approved at the federal level.  We will be right here in short order when that day comes, Mr. Speaker. 

 

Having said that, what we are doing here tonight – I needed a few minutes to get up and clear the air because one, I wanted to commend them for their passion for Labrador because I share it.  We share it on this side of the House.  Two, when they are talking to all the people in their districts and they are talking about four seats, and how a Liberal amendment, the leadership of their Leader of the Opposition and that is where that came from, I am going to beg to differ, Mr. Speaker. 

 

We arrived at a good place where the four seats were maintained, and I think that is absolutely fabulous, but our Premier was able to see past all that was being said out in the news.  People were saying, well, Labrador is not special.  There were a few people saying those things, Mr. Speaker.  We did not allow that to resonate on this side of the House. 

 

We took the time to have meaningful, open, and honest dialogue about where we thought Labrador should be in this whole process and what we deserve, and that is where we ended up.  That is leadership.  That is not only leadership to the process here, Mr. Speaker, that speaks to this Premier's leadership to everybody on this side of the House who works with him every single day, ready to reconsider and to look at difference ways of looking at things.  I say that is a true sign of leadership. 

 

With that, Mr. Speaker, we heard some mention over across the way with talk of a free vote and all that.  We have seen that some wanted certain things over on that side of the House, some do not.  What a luxury, Mr. Speaker, to be able to say whatever you like whenever you like and cater to which audience is in front of you at that particular time. 

 

We have said it time and time again on this side of the House, we have a responsibility to do things right.  We are always going to do that.  We are going to govern on principle, Mr. Speaker.  We have and we will. 

 

It is very easy to throw something out there that is pretty sexy, if you will, Mr. Speaker, to make people think you are on another plane when it comes to the way you are thinking.  It is simply not the case.  I will say it speaks to inconsistency.

 

When we talk about this piece of legislation, Mr. Speaker, and about what we are trying to do here, yes, there is a cost savings associated with that.  Nothing could be further from the truth and we have to embrace that.  It is times like this in which we have to be flexible.  You have to rein things in from time to time.

 

We have heard criticism from across the way that we simply did not plan, we did not diversify.  Again, I am not going to get into Muskrat Falls.  I have tried to champion that as much as I can every time I get on my feet in this House, Mr. Speaker.  It is true diversification.

 

When it comes to what we are doing here, we are hearing that democracy is falling, the sky is falling.  It is simply not true, Mr. Speaker.  Just because the NDP say the democratic process is now dead, does not make it so. 

 

I will let everybody at home know that I just wanted to get up – take a few minutes, Mr. Speaker, to get up and tell people that in the event the Liberals did not want to compromise with us, this government was prepared to amend our own legislation. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. RUSSELL: No, that is something – Mr. Speaker, I do mind that.  I do not mind that.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. RUSSELL: I wish people at home could see them, Mr. Speaker.  The bottom line here, the ultimate –

 

AN HON. MEMBER: They are laughing at it.

 

MR. RUSSELL: Yes, they are laughing at the four seats in Labrador.  They are laughing at the process, Mr. Speaker. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. RUSSELL: I tell you what; it is not something to be laughed at.  The bottom line here is this.  As we were prepared to do whatever it took, laugh all you want, but we were prepared to do whatever it took to make sure the four seats in Labrador were maintained. 

 

As I said on the radio the very next morning after we were finished in the House, Mr. Speaker, that was my number one priority throughout the whole process, was making sure we maintained our four seats.  Mr. Speaker, I am proud to say I was a big part of that.  I am proud to say we were flexible enough to do it.  The fact that people want to take credit over there for the entire process across the way, that only speaks to what they are all about.

 

I am just going to say the most important thing here is the uniqueness – contrary to what the Member for Cartwright – L'Anse au Clair has said.  The uniqueness of the four different, separate districts in Labrador was recognized by this side of the House, Mr. Speaker.  Today I am very happy to say to anybody watching at home that those districts will be maintained. 

 

I am certainly honoured, privileged, and proud to be the representative for Lake Melville here in this House of Assembly.  I would like to wish everybody a good evening.  Thank you for allowing me the time to speak.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Leader of the Official Opposition and the Member for Humber Valley.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

It is certainly a privilege for me to be able to stand and speak to Bill 13 tonight.  I am just going to take a few minutes to go through the bill and I guess the suggested amendments – or not amendments tonight, but this piece of legislation, Bill 13. 

 

The Explanatory Notes speaks to really the changes that will go from forty-eight existing seats to forty districts in our Province.  It speaks to the overlap with the federal election being – the election date being set now on November 30.  Of course, the by-elections are really not getting a whole lot of discussion, but we will speak just briefly about that.

 

Now the by-elections – just to get to that for a few minutes because I do want to comment on some of the remarks that were just made by the Member for Lake Melville of course.  The by-elections, in this particular case, are something that – when you look back at it and you sometimes reflect and understand why amendments and we make changes to legislation. 

 

Currently, in most provincial jurisdictions that we see across the country right now, it is not unusual to see by-elections in an election year.  In particular, six months or so in front of the provincial election, that you would see by-elections that would occur.  In this particular case when asked, and I do believe we will see in the next few weeks – the reason for doing this right now will even become clearer as we get closer to the election and as we move into the summer.

 

Mr. Speaker, I was part of the House of Assembly back in 2007.  I can assure you that changes in districts, boundary changes, and sorts of things are always difficult.  They are always difficult decisions that are made.  People are impacted because they get used to a particular representative, they get used to their MHA. 

 

Back in 2007, I know the District of Humber Valley which I was representing at the time went through some boundary changes at that time.  As a matter of fact, I presented petitions in the House at the time.  The community of Pasadena was going to be split, and in the past they were not.  They were part of Humber East.  Even then the people in Pasadena said they did not want their district split into two parts.  One being in Humber Valley and another part being in Humber East, but the changes were made. 

 

Now I heard representatives from that community reach out even and made suggestions that they like the idea of having two members because for them it was two voices in this House of Assembly.  At one point, as a matter of fact, I think it was the mayor who said they were very comfortable having even the Leader of the Opposition, an Opposition member, and indeed a member from the government side at that particular time, but we must always remember and not forget that there is a statutory requirement to do this every ten years.  That would have happened next year.  The decision was made by the Premier to advance this one year.

 

I want to also clarify that I was in a very unique position back in March last year when the Leader of the Third Party – and it was very clear at that point, even then, that the reduction in the number of seats, without the number given, but indeed agreeing there would be a reduction in seats would be okay and believed that we could have a functioning Legislature at that point.  I agreed with that too. 

 

I made a comment that I could see that number – when pressed by the person who was doing the interview with CBC On Point, I did say: well, I can see forty or so; but, at that point thinking the decision would be made in 2016 with consultations around the Province.  Did I agree – as Leader of the Official Opposition – that we could do with a lesser number of seats in this Legislature?  I did, because I believe in legislative reform. 

 

We must always be aware that things evolve, things change.  A part of change, sometimes people get negatively impacted, but to have a functioning Legislature, I was a firm believe that it could be less.  We have often heard people talk about, you lead by example.  If you want to downsize and make changes in the Legislature, well then as a leader I did support that I say, Mr. Speaker.  That was part of the interview that I did, which is over a year ago now and really one of the first leaders, as well as the Leader of the Third Party at that point in time, to agree with that.

 

Now, under normal circumstances this would have been reviewed in 2016, as I said.  This would have been the changes that would have been reflected in the 2019 election.  In January, of course, the Premier made a decision that he was going to put forward a piece of legislation to bring it back into 2015 and have the seat reductions to be reflective in the next provincial election.  At that time the Premier clearly was on record as saying – because the legislation we talked about, that was introduced, had thirty-eight seats at that time.  That would have been a reduction from forty-eight seats to thirty-eight seats.  That, in our opinion, Mr. Speaker, would have been very difficult to do.

 

It was very ironic to listen to the Member for Lake Melville because clearly it was the Premier's wishes and the will of government not to protect the four seats in Labrador.  They were not committed to that.  I think the question for the Member for Lake Melville, based on the comments he just made, it is almost as if the point – there was an amendment they were willing to make but they were going to bring it to the floor of the House of Assembly.  So clearly –

 

AN HON. MEMBER: In Cabinet?

 

MR. BALL: Yes, this member was in Cabinet. 

 

Clearly, if you agreed with this, why would you need to amend your own legislation?  If you wanted to protect the seats in Labrador, well a government member, especially a Cabinet member I would say, would not have to amend their own legislation.  It would not have been in the legislation, Mr. Speaker, in the beginning. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. BALL: Now, there could be one issue.  There could be another issue around this, because I know members of the Official Opposition, we get together on a regular basis.  We discuss issues and we have very open discussions at our caucus table.  So if the legislation that was put forward in January did not carve out the four seats in Labrador, it is very clear to me they had zero input into what the legislation was. 

 

You cannot have it both ways.  You cannot say you are going to make the amendment, and pleased to make the amendment on your own legislation.  You clearly had zero input into the legislation in the beginning.  You cannot have it both ways.

 

Around this particular point when the discussion was ongoing in January, there was also some certainty around when the election would be.  There were many people in the Province suggesting that this was a way of getting the election pushed out into 2016. 

 

Now when you look at the fixed election laws that we have in our Province, the election was supposed to be in October 2015.  What really complicated this, at this particular point in time, was the fact that the fixed election date also talks about a new Premier coming in and that the election should occur within a year.  The intention, the spirit of the election laws with a new Premier – keeping in mind that Premier Dunderdale resigned her seat back in January.  We went through a series of leadership test runs, or test drives and so on.  Then eventually the PCs decided to get their new leader in place in September. 

 

There was a message that went out from the current Premier that said: well, obviously this election will happen on or before September 26.  It was very clear to us, and to people who were concerned about this, that we did not want this to be an opportunity to push the election out into 2016. 

 

One thing we did as the Official Opposition, and I am very proud to be a part of this, is that we actually did not wait for the legislation to come to the floor of the House of Assembly.  We put our amendments out there in advance.  It is something that is very unusual in this Legislature.  We held a press conference.  We put out three amendments that we thought would be appropriate for this piece of legislation.  At that point, I reached out and asked the other two parties if there was any input.  We were certainly made available.  This was all part of what I would consider to be legislative reform, given the circumstances that we were faced with as an Opposition, knowing that this government was coming with this piece of legislation, Bill 42, in January of 2015.

 

Mr. Speaker, to think that there were secretive meetings – keep in mind, I just said that we put our amendments out there in advance of this legislation.  So there was actually nothing secretive about this.  The amendments were out there, three amendments that we had put in place to this piece of legislation. 

 

Thirty eight seats would go to – one amendment would be forty or forty-two seats.  The second would be carving out, protecting Labrador.  The Member for Lake Melville said this was an amendment that he was going to bring forward, and very pleased to do so.  The bill was not even in then when we made our suggestion that this was an amendment we would be bringing forward.

 

The other thing we wanted in place to put some certainty around a 2015 election was for this to be a sunset clause.  So the Commission would have 120 days to do their work.  There is a recommendation, when you look at this report, the Commission put in.  They felt this was indeed a very aggressive timeline and something in an election year that they would recommend we not do again.  This is in place now, as I said, Mr. Speaker, as part of a statutory review every ten years.

 

So these were the three recommendations.  Not thirty-eight seats.  We felt it was too deep a cut – forty to forty-two.  Protect Labrador; that was a critical piece for us.  We wanted to make sure that the Labrador seats were protected.  Keep in mind when you look at the vastness of Labrador, just the land mass of Labrador with all the activity that is going on up there, it was important for us to send a message to the people of Labrador that we were very concerned, and indeed we wanted to protect the four seats for Labrador.

 

Contrary to what the Member for Lake Melville will say, this is really not about taking credit for this.  This is about respecting the people of that part of our Province, I say, Mr. Speaker.  Indeed the amendment was something that we are very proud to be part of.  We put it out there early so that everyone could clearly understand what it is.  The sunset clause, 120 days, was part of it.  There was really nothing secretive about this.  This was clearly out there well in advance of the legislation being debated on this floor. 

 

At no point, I say, Mr. Speaker, did the members from the Third Party reach out to us for any clarification on any of this.  So to think that this was done without them being included is really disingenuous, I say, in this particular overall debate.  We have often had discussions with all Members of this House of Assembly on legislation.  So there was really nothing mysterious about any of this.

 

I would say, Mr. Speaker, when you put it in the context of the discussion on how this all unfolded this week in January – there were members from the Department of Justice.  This was not just secret meetings in the hallways or in some dark room somewhere, there were members from the Department of Justice included in this.  The deputy minister was there.  So this was a very good discussion, the way things should unfold in this Legislature, I say. 

 

Our three amendments that we had put forward were there.  They were discussed and eventually made it to the floor of this House of Assembly. 

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Legislative writers.

 

MR. BALL: That is right, Mr. Speaker, legislative writers involved in all of this making sure that the language was there as we had agreed to in the amendment.

 

Mr. Speaker, what came out of the discussions is that there were two districts.  When you think about the importance of this particular piece here, there was not a whole lot of discussion on this. 

 

When you look at the variances, when you look at the number, the population in each of the districts, there is an average just around 13,500.  That is kind of the average quotient in terms of representation.  Keep in mind part of the Constitution is that every vote should carry similar weight.  That is what is important.  That is kind of the foundation, the fundamental piece of all of this.  So you determine what this average quotient is, somewhere around 13,500 in terms of population, and then you allow for certain variances to occur around the Province.

 

Mr. Speaker, constitutionally, you cannot have a Province of exceptions, therefore, it is important that you get as close to this average as possible.  It was also important for us to – there were certain areas within the Province where there would be a community of interest that would be created.  Indeed you need to apply some of the variances, just like we did in protecting the seats in Labrador.  We felt, during the discussions we had, that there would potentially be two seats in the Province where we would give the Commission the authority and the direction to be able to establish those variances. 

 

Mr. Speaker, eventually when you see the final draft from the Commission's work, you will see that those two districts in Burgeo – La Poile and Fortune Bay – Cape La Hune have been considered to be exemptions in that particular 25 per cent difference.  The weight of the vote, regardless of where you live in the Province, is really important and is certainly part of the Constitution that we have within our Province and within our country. 

 

Mr. Speaker, there is always a discussion that occurs between access to MHA services and representation which occurs in this particular Legislature.  There is no question, for those of us who work in rural districts access to MHA services can be very different than you would see in a more concentrated population. 

 

I would say the new district – as I have seen change as being the MHA for Humber Valley –now includes Gros Morne, which goes from Jackson's Arm into White Bay, right to Bellburns on the Northern Peninsula.  I would say when you look at the land mass of any particular district in the Province, that district is probably – if not, I think it is – the largest district that we would see on the Island portion of the Province.

 

Mr. Speaker, it is not about me as the MHA.  When you consider the services, how we apply those services to that district, we are going to have to be creative in how we determine and how we service that.  In terms of the representation, that being the weight of the vote, then the forty districts in my opinion will have to be done, and indeed I think with finding new ways to connect.  In some cases, maybe resources will be required, but this is where I think we need to have the flexibility to be able to make those changes along the way. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I think it is worthwhile when we look at this as an election year.  I certainly made public comments that I felt there was a window of opportunity to get the 2015 election – it would be very aggressive to get this done – in September of this year.  It is a very aggressive timeline I would say, but it would have given us the ability to actually move away from the federal election being in mid-October of this year. 

 

Mr. Speaker, the reason why, of course, this did not happen, if you go back to last year and you think about the number of tries, missed opportunities I guess of actually finding a – I am just trying to be kind here as I pick my words, I say to my members behind me.  Indeed we all know there were some failed attempts at actually determining a leader.  I do not think it should be lost on us that by the time this election is over on November 30, it will be twenty-two months before the people of Newfoundland and Labrador will have a say in determining who the Premier of this Province is – twenty-two months.


When you look back at fixed election dates in our Province, that was not the spirit and that was not the intent of the election laws that were put in place back in 2005 I say, Mr. Speaker.  There is no doubt that the selection of a leader for the PC Party has had an influence on when the date of this election is because if their first run at it had been successful, indeed, the election would have been over right now.  June 2015, the election would have been over right now and people in our Province would have had a say in who their Premier would be. 

 

Mr. Speaker, as I said, there was a window for a September provincial election.  One of the reasons why that was important to me was because that was the only way to clearly get us away, completely away, from the federal election. 

 

One thing that is very unique in our Province is that we put in place a special ballot process.  So if you look at a twenty-one-day election campaign, well then thirty days prior to that is the special ballot time frame.  Under the November 30 time frame, there is going to be an overlap with the federal election on October 19.  Having an election in September clearly would have distanced us from the federal election. 

 

Considering the impact this would have had on the Chief Electoral Office and Elections NL – them saying that this would have been very difficult to pull off – we have to respect the work that office is doing.  We do respect the work that they do.  Mr. Speaker, I was on record as saying we would not quibble over the date; therefore, the November 30 provincial election is something we obviously support.

 

Mr. Speaker, when you look at the work of this Commission, they have done a tremendous amount of work under a very tight timeline under Judge Stack, Shawn Skinner, Bill Matthews, Allan Goulding, and our representative there Bern Coffey.  I want to thank those individuals for the great work they have done through this spring.  They went through a number of public consultations.  Added to that, the work of the staff who was engaged in this process supporting them along the way, I think has been just an absolute remarkable achievement by the work that was done by all those who were involved in this.

 

Mr. Speaker, being very cognizant about this whole process, I want to make one thing clear here.  As I stand here as Leader of the Official Opposition I can honestly say that our representative on this Commission, Mr. Bern Coffey, was really the first appointment as leader that I had the privilege of making.  I can honestly tell people in Newfoundland and Labrador, beyond a shadow of a doubt, I was not aware of any of the changes that would be suggested.  As a matter of fact, we did not communicate during this whole process. 

 

That was the integrity, I can tell you, of the appointment that we had.  There was no idea at all.  We read the report when it was tabled here.  That is when we first found out about any of the changes.  There was absolutely no advance information and no involvement from our point of view, as Leader of the Official Opposition, and our members.

 

I did encourage our members.  I encouraged everyone in our Province to get involved in the process.  It was part of the democratic progress in our Province that I have a lot of respect for, I say, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. BALL: I really want to thank the Commission and thank the staff for the work they have done.  We are very proud of our members, as I say.

 

As the Member for Lake Melville, as I close up my comments I want to talk a little bit about the free vote on this piece of legislation.  Keep in mind this is a decision that we are making, not for four years, not for the mandate of any government; this is a decision we are making that will last ten years, Mr. Speaker. 

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Eleven years.

 

MR. BALL: Yes, it will last eleven years as my colleague reminds me.  So this will be a decision that will really go beyond the mandate of any next government.

 

I am very proud, as the Leader.  We have had great discussions.  I have encouraged our members to go back, speak to their constituents, and bring their concerns forward.  They are very free to represent the constituents in their districts and vote as they wish, I say, Mr. Speaker.  It is just part of the philosophy that I believe in.  It is a personal decision for me to be able to say to our members – and I am very proud to do so – that you can speak freely on behalf of our constituents. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. BALL: Mr. Speaker, I can say being elected as the MHA for Humber Valley back in 2011, I have been very proud to be their MHA.  There are communities under this current new distribution – Pasadena as an example and Pynn's Brook are communities in my district right now that will no longer be part of the new district.

 

I did meet with the Town of Pasadena yesterday morning.  I can tell you they are very concerned about some of the changes they have seen with those boundary changes.  With that said, Mr. Speaker, I have also been very proud to represent that community over the years, the support amongst the residents there.  I have certainly told them that I would bring their concerns to this debate.

 

They obviously feel that right now, as a community, they have been through three changes in the last seven or eight years.  They were changed, as I said, in 2007, and changed again now in 2015.  So it is a community that has seen a number of changes.  They are concerned about that.  I understand why they would ask questions and feel that the representation – and why it is they are excluded from this particular electoral boundary.

 

Mr. Speaker, with that said I will finish up.  I am looking forward to continued debate and to the vote, when it occurs, in this House.  I am very proud to be able to say that our members – not because there are any distractions or that we are not a united party, I say, but simply because they are allowed to represent the people who they were elected by, their constituents.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. BALL: Mr. Speaker, with that, I will my finish remarks on Bill 13.  As I said, I will look forward to debate and the eventual vote in this House of Assembly. 

 

Regardless of where we all land in a few days, I look forward to participating in the next provincial election, November 30.  For me, I would be happy if it is in the old District of Humber Valley or in the new district of wherever it is, in Gros Morne.  I am certainly proud to be able to lead the Liberal Party into that election and looking –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. BALL: (Inaudible) and meeting people across the Province.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Fortune Bay – Cape La Hune.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MS PERRY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

It is certainly a pleasure for me to rise in the House tonight and speak to Bill 13, Mr. Speaker.  I am going to start out with a little bit of humour because I have always believed that the number thirteen was a lucky number, me, being the thirteenth child in the family.  I love the number thirteen.

 

So I certainly look forward to the successful passing, Mr. Speaker, of this bill in the House of Assembly.  I am proud to say that I am going to be supporting this bill and I strongly believe in this bill.  I think this bill makes a lot of sense for a whole lot of reasons. 

 

As I like to do when I stand in this House of Assembly, I want to also start out by thanking my constituents once again for the privilege and honour of representing them here in the House of Assembly, and bringing forth the views that matter so much to the people of Fortune Bay – Cape La Hune to the forefront and the table where decisions are being made right here in the House of Assembly, Mr. Speaker.  I would also like to take the opportunity to thank the Commission for the outstanding work they have done.  It was certainly a large task that they had to undertake.  They did it, I think, remarkably well in a remarkably short period of time, so hats off to the Commission, as well, for their work.

 

As has been previously alluded to by several speakers prior to me, there are the four seats in Labrador remaining the same.  There are two seats on the Island portion of the Province that will not be seeing any changes, Mr. Speaker.  They are Fortune Bay – Cape La Hune and Burgeo – La Poile, both districts of which, of course, border on the Southwest Coast of Newfoundland and Labrador.  Back in the day, when the steamer was on the go, it was a coastal run and a beautiful coastal run that a lot of tourists still like to undertake to this day.

 

In those days that was our only mode of transportation.  That was how we kept in constant contact with one another, was along the coast.  I know I, myself, and my family, a lot of my relatives actually moved to Ramea because Ramea was where the fish plant was.  Ramea was where all the work was.  So in those days there was a lot of back and forth, up and down the coast, and a lot of people marrying each other from neighboring communities.  There were a lot of connections if you go back in time, Mr. Speaker, up along the entire Southwest Coast, and a lot of relatives along the way.

 

Certainly the Commission, in doing its work, recognized the unique geography of districts like mine and that of Burgeo – La Poile, Mr. Speaker.  If I can provide a little bit more information on my district, it is fifteen kilometres square.  I do not know if there any other members in the House besides me who have three ferries they are responsible for.  In my district there are four isolated communities and three ferries which service these communities.  In particular, we have a ferry that runs to Rencontre East. Bay L'Argent and we have a ferry run to Gaultois, McCallum.  We have another ferry that runs from Burgeo to Franηois. 

 

Just to give some perspective in terms of travelling the district, for me to get to the community of Franηois, I have to drive to Burgeo, which is about an eight or nine-hour drive from where I live in St. Alban's, and then take a ferry which is a three-hour run.  It takes me a day or a day-and-a-half to get to Franηois if I go the ferry route, Mr. Speaker. 

 

In recognition of the unique geographic challenges of my district there is an allowance, both in my district and in Burgeo – La Poile, for helicopter that enables us to get there in short notice if our constituents so request, Mr. Speaker.  We certainly thank the Management Commission for recognition of that as well. 

 

I am a very strong believer that it is the constituent's right and the constituents are entitled to have access to their member.  From that point of view anything and everything that we as a government can do to support us as members in accessing our communities is certainly very, very important.  Everyone should have equal access to their MHAs. 

 

Here we are, we have been here in the House of Assembly now this year since March, as we usually are.  The Standing Orders say that we typically conclude the House around May 24.  That has never happened in my years since I have been in here. 

 

One of the things I really do miss, when the House of Assembly is open, is the ability to get out and about in my district, as I do during the months when I am able to actually reside in the district.  I do have twenty-one communities.  As I said, they are scattered over a very diverse geography.  If I were to travel my entire district within a week, it would take at least three to four days to do so. 

 

I often ponder about what it would be like to be an urban MHA.  My colleague from St. John's South and his predecessor before him – and I think I can use his name now because he is no longer in the House – Dave Denine, we would often sit and chat about the differences in our district.  Using the District of Mount Pearl South, it is a district that can be walked from one end to the other within an hour or so, whereas with mine, you cannot drive it in two or three days.  So there are vast geographic differences, Mr. Speaker, in the geographies of some of the districts. 

 

I, for one, would like to applaud our leader, our Premier, for having the initiative to advance the boundary review in advance of this year's election.  I think it is a very responsible and prudent thing to do.  As I said earlier when I started out, I am happy to support this bill. 

 

I think some previous speakers have also spoken to the fact that constitutionally – and it is enshrined in the federal Constitution – one person equals one vote is kind of how boundaries are broken down, both on a federal and a provincial level.  There are times when some of us as rural members would probably argue, well, maybe we should look at it maybe more on a basis of workload, but of course that contravenes the Constitution.  That is not where the boundaries are.  It would be a much larger debate at a provincial and national level if anything were to change in that regard, Mr. Speaker. 

 

Looking at the differences in what an urban MHA does versus a rural MHA – and I will use the Coast of Bays as an example, we are a rural, remote area.  Unlike an urban area which has the Confederation Building, which has every department of government, which has arms of government agencies, which has not-for-profit groups that work in tandem with government, all of these resources right here in one central location, not quite so in rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

 

A rural MHA often acts – and members from all parties on all sides of the House who are rural members would agree that sometimes you are all departments to all people.  So as a rural MHA you are the inquiry base for the Department of Health, for the department of social services, for Advanced Education and Skills, for tourism, and for municipal affairs.  You are it.  You are the only government person around for miles and miles and miles in some cases, Mr. Speaker.  So the job we do and the tasks we undertake, I would argue, are vastly different from a rural area to an urban area. 

 

I certainly thank the Commission for recognition of the Southwest Coast for its unique geography.  I am very, very pleased, Mr. Speaker, that Fortune Bay – Cape La Hune will be remaining exactly the same as it was in 2007.  Now, I do believe during the last boundary review prior to that, the District of Fortune Bay – Cape La Hune also encompassed the community of Ramea.  The community of Ramea was included and I have a lot of family there.  I would not mind representing them in any case, but that did change in 2007 and the boundary remains intact with this review.  I am pleased to be running again in this district. 

 

For the record, as many of my colleagues have done, I will read into the record of Hansard what communities Fortune Bay – Cape La Hune will continue to represent post-Bill 13.  They are: St. Alban's, Swanger Cove, St. Veronica's, St. Joseph's Cove, Milltown-Head of Bay d'Espoir, Morrisville, Conne River, Hermitage-Sandyville, Seal Cove, Gaultois, McCallum, Franηois, Harbour Breton, Boxey, St. Jacques-Coomb's Cove.

 

I am going to tell a little story about St. Jacques-Coomb's Cove.  It is one municipality but it has five communities.  They have been that way for well on a couple of decades.  They recognized a long time ago there was economies of scale in them merging.  So that would be English Harbour West, Boxey, Coomb's Cove, Wreck Cove, and St. Jacques.  Then we also have Belleoram, we have Pool's Cove, and we have Rencontre East.  So these would be the communities of the District of Fortune Bay – Cape La Hune that I proudly represent and I hope I continue to represent for a very long time to come, Mr. Speaker.

 

I am very pleased the district is remaining the same in size because I could not imagine the challenges with trying to be as available to constituents as you need to be with a district that is quite so large. 

 

Again, going back to how much time we spend in the House of Assembly, which is certainly a very important part of our job, but it means I am out of the district often for five to six months a year.  When you have twenty-one or twenty-two communities that are so geographically dispersed, it takes a while to get around, Mr. Speaker.  You would like to be able to spend more time in them than what you physically can sometimes. 

 

It is an honour for me to speak to this bill and to say that I strongly support this bill.  I look forward to its passing and to the election on November 30. 

 

Thank you so much, Mr. Speaker. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for St. George's – Stephenville East. 

 

MR. REID: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

It is good to have an opportunity to get up and speak to this piece of legislation today.  It is a very important piece of legislation and we are having a very important debate here today. 

 

It is important for a number of reasons.  It impacts every member of this House in some way or other.  Some more than others, but it impacts us all.  More importantly, it impacts the people in this Province, the people we represent.  That is why this piece of legislation is so important, Mr. Speaker. 

 

I want to take a few minutes now to talk about this process that we have gone through and what I see has happened here with this process in the House.  First, back in January government came forward with a number of amendments, a number of changes they were proposing to the Electoral Boundaries Commission Act.  It is interesting that these sort of changes came about all of a sudden, Mr. Speaker.  They were thrown at the media one day, floated around, and before we knew it we were back here in this House for a special session to deal with a piece of legislation that we had no idea was coming.  The process was sort of flawed from the beginning. 

 

What we should be aware of is this was not a process that needed to be pushed forward.  It was a process we had to go through, a natural process that we have set up in legislation that we go through every ten years, Mr. Speaker.  The population patterns in this Province change.  Some people move into new areas, like Southlands and Mount Pearl.  The population is growing.  In CBS the population is growing.  In other parts of the Province you see the population contracting. 

 

The Legislature set up this process that every ten years they set up an independent commission to review how the boundaries are designed.  When they do this process, they look at a few things.  I guess the first principle they look at is the concept of equality of votes, Mr. Speaker, that a vote in one part of the Province is worth as much as a vote in another part of the Province.  That concept of equality of the vote leads us to have districts that are sort of equal in size. 

 

There is another principle that the Commission takes into account when they do this as well, Mr. Speaker.  That is the principle of the right of constituents to have equal representation, equal opportunity to be represented in the House, to have access to their members.  Certain geographic considerations are taken into account when the Commission looks at how they establish the boundaries.  That is the second principle.

 

There are formulas in the piece of legislation, the electoral boundaries legislation that guides the Electoral Boundaries Commission as they go out and do their work, Mr. Speaker.  The Electoral Boundaries Commission are guided by aspects in the legislation that encompass these two principles, equality of the vote and also equality of representation and the difficulty of people getting to their members, different sizes in the districts, urban and rural differences.  That was the case in this situation. 

 

Government interfered with that normal process, Mr. Speaker.  They rushed ahead to make changes.  That is sort of a very drastic act.  Not only did they rush that process forward to achieve some political advantage, they also legislated in that act a reduction in the number of seats down to thirty-eight from forty-eight. 

 

The government opposite has a majority.  So they could ram this piece of legislation through the House, and they did.  The Liberal Party had a little bit of influence.  They were able to amend the legislation in ways that protected seats in Labrador and modified it a little bit.  The point is the members opposite, the government, have a majority in this House and they were intent on ramming that piece of legislation through, and they did for their politically motivated means. 

 

The Commission was appointed and it had very tight timelines, Mr. Speaker.  Usually when a commission of this nature is appointed they are appointed shortly after an election.  That is the way it is set up; that is the way it is encompassed.  It is set up so they have the newest census data.  They did not have it this time because the process was pushed forward, the process was rushed. 

 

Usually there is a process that is followed, and the Commission has a lot of time to do its work because they do not have an impending election coming at them.  They have time to do the process, to travel around the Province, to talk to people in person, to have an opportunity to talk to people face to face, to listen to them, and to have an opportunity sometimes to go back and do that a second time, Mr. Speaker. 

 

Governments have said we do not like these boundaries.  They have sent it back to the Commission again and said: do it again, have another talk to people.  Sometimes these consultations have taken as long as two years to do.  This process was really rushed I think. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I presented to the Commission, and I talked to people in the district before I presented to the Commission.  I talked to the mayors; I talked to the joint councils in the area.  I talked to various community representatives and organizations such as the chamber of commerce, rotary clubs and things like that.  They did not want their district to change.  They felt if the district changed, they would lose the closeness they had in being represented. 

 

The legislation, after it goes through that commission, is not automatically accepted.  It comes back to this House, and this House has an opportunity to look at it.  It comes to government first and then government brings it to the House.  This House has a responsibility to look at that legislation again and say, does that fit with what we want?  It is a second vote.  We have another opportunity to look at it and see if it right for this Province, Mr. Speaker. 

 

That is what we are doing here right now.  We are looking at the report of the Commission and what they recommend to us as members.  We have a responsibility to debate it, to talk about it, and to see if it is right for the people we represent, Mr. Speaker. 

 

I started by saying this is an important piece of legislation.  It is important because it impacts how we govern ourselves.  It sets out how we set up this House, how we make decisions, and the rules about how we pass the legislation, Mr. Speaker. 

 

It impacts on things like the type of House reform that we can make possible in this House.  The number of people we have in this House impacts the type of committee systems we can have here in this House, it impacts things like the size of Cabinet that we can have, and issues like that.  The size of our House has an impact on those things as well.  It is important that we look at those aspects. 

 

I think the fact that it is so important in these aspects sort of emphasizes the fault, that this process was rushed.  Especially when you are reducing seats by that number, the process being rushed in that instance does not give us time to consider all the aspects and all the impacts of this kind of legislation, Mr. Speaker. 

 

It is also important because this is something that we are going to have for a while.  These boundaries that we are going to have are going to be around for ten years before we can go back and have another look at it, Mr. Speaker.  Ten years they are going to be around for. 

 

Also, it is important because once you cut seats like this legislation is cutting seats, it is very difficult to find the political will to put them back, Mr. Speaker.  If we made a mistake to put them back, is it possible?  I think it would be very difficult to do that if we have made a mistake.  We should have had enough time to consider what we are doing here and to consider the impacts of what we are doing here on the way we are governed, and on the governance of the Province.  Those are some issues that I have with it. 

 

Mr. Speaker, another series of issues that I have with it is the way that this came about, the process, how it was initiated, and what were the motives behind it.  When I talked on the Electoral Boundaries Act, I talked about the concept of a level playing field and how important that is to the legitimacy of our government. 

 

The concept of a level playing field is used in political science, but it is also familiar with people who have played sports.  It is the idea of fairness and the idea of fair play.  The idea that everyone has an opportunity to participate in a game where they know the rules, where they know how things are going to operate, and where they know this is how the rules of the game are going to be played.  The rules are not going to be changed to benefit one team or the other.  It is not like at the end of the hockey game, you say, okay, rather than have the normal three periods we are going to have a fourth period this time because our team is behind.  You have rules and you follow them, Mr. Speaker. 

 

When you do not follow the rules, when you do not follow the normal process, when you rush it through this House, then you begin to draw into question the legitimacy of the system.  You begin to draw into question the fairness of the process and the legitimacy of the government, Mr. Speaker.  So that is a very important issue as well.

 

Many places in the world look to Canada and look to places like Newfoundland and Labrador that have stable governments as ideals, as places that they would like to be like, Mr. Speaker.  I think when we begin to chip away at the legitimacy of our government and the sort of system that we have, with these types of politically motivated moves, then we really begin to start on a slide that we do not know where it is going to end. 

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

 

MR. REID: Yes.  Some people have been talking about the politically motivated, the fact that it is heavy handed, the fact that it is not well-thought-through.  Other people have told me they thought it is a desperate act of a dying government, Mr. Speaker.  I think there is a lot to be said for that.

 

I want to talk about a few impacts on the district that I represent, Mr. Speaker.  I want to talk about St. George's – Stephenville East. 

 

When I was campaigning in the election less than a year ago, in August of last year, I was going around the district and many people were telling me they feel they are left out.  They are feeling their voice was not being heard in government, that they were not being heard.  There is lots of evidence there, when you look at the issues in the district, that their voice is not being heard, Mr. Speaker.

 

You look at the doctor situation in Jeffrey's and St. George's, and health care in Stephenville.  There is lots of evidence that their voice is not being heard now, Mr. Speaker.  The situation in Jeffery's is they have not had a doctor for about a year-and-a-half.  In St. George's, they have not had a doctor there for about half-a-year.  That is not good enough.  That is shameful.  If you look at the road conditions –

 

MR. SPEAKER (Littlejohn): I remind the hon. member to speak to the bill please.

 

MR. REID: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I am talking about representation and the importance of voice in the House, and the closeness of representatives, the number of representatives, and access to their representatives.  I am linking that to these issues in the district.

 

Mr. Speaker, I want to talk a little bit more.  There are other issues like road conditions in the district.  One instance we had a case where a fire truck – about $5,000 damage to the fire truck because the roads were so bad.

 

So there are lots of issues.  I will not talk about all of them here, Mr. Speaker.  I think when we change the size of our districts, when we make them so big that representatives become distant from the people they represent, we lose something.  We lose something about the way this House operates and the way people in this Province are governed.

 

Mr. Speaker, there are many people – I go to many events as the MHA, people who would not send me an email, they would not give me a call, they would not write a letter to me, but if I am there they will come up to me and they will talk to me about their concerns.  They will talk to me about an issue, something that is happening in government or a concern that they have.  I know other members do the same thing. 

 

When we make our districts so big that people do not have the same access to us, we are losing something, Mr. Speaker.  It impacts on the type of government we have and the type of decisions that are being made.  I think it is not good for this Province.  So, I think it is important that we listen to the people.  It is important that we have a close connection to the people.

 

Mr. Speaker, I am going to conclude by saying that I have outlined that I think the objectives of the process are flawed.  I think the process that we followed is flawed.  I have outlined why I think the motives behind the process are flawed.  I have heard from constituents who say that they do not want these changes.  I have outlined the disagreements that people have had with the reports that have come out.

 

I think for those reasons I will not be voting for this piece of legislation, Mr. Speaker.  I will not be voting for this piece of legislation.  I do not think it is in the interest of the constituents I represent.  I do not think the process is what it should have been, and I think we are selling ourselves short when we do this legislation. 

 

I notice the member opposite from my neighbouring district in Port au Port – Stephenville – I have a few minutes.  I was not going to respond to his comments but I think I will, Mr. Speaker. 

 

He should stand up because the people in his district have some of the same concerns.  I have talked to the people in his district and they have some of the same concerns.  They are wondering why he is not speaking up for them, Mr. Speaker. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. REID: Mr. Speaker, with that, I will conclude my comments. 

 

Thank you. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Bellevue. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. PEACH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

If that is not a flip-flop, I never ever heard one. 

 

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to stand in my place as the Member for the District of Bellevue and speak on Bill 13, the bill that would amend the House of Assembly Act. 

 

My district is probably one of the hardest hit districts maybe in the amendments that are being done.  When it came to a vote in our caucus, Mr. Speaker, I voted in favour of going ahead with reducing the seats from forty-eight down to forty.  I am certainly not going to go back and say well, you know, I thought it all over – because I knew what I was getting into.  I am not going to flip-flop like the people on the other side. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. PEACH: I lost some good people in this reduction of seats, Mr. Speaker, and the reorganizing of the district.  I lost some really good people.  I lost some good people from New Harbour to Blaketown in my district, and also on the Burin Peninsula from Harbour Mille up to St. Bernard's – Jacques Fontaine.  I had many emails from them, not objecting to the change but objecting that they were losing their MHA as a member. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. PEACH: We had sessions in Whitbourne.  I do not think there was anybody from the district that I represent, Bellevue district – I do not think there was anybody who made a submission to the Commission on the change.  Nobody disputed the changes.  They were just sitting back, listening, and watching what was going on.  They did not like it, but because of the geographical areas of four MHAs, I knew there was something that was going to come out of it.

 

As a matter of fact, there were five MHAs that I was a bit scared of in the beginning, that maybe I would not have a district at all because it could have split three ways.  It could have gone from New Harbour to Goobies, or the Clarenville district could have been taken into that area.  It could have gone different ways than it went, but I am certainly pleased with the way it did go. 

 

I certainly welcome the people who are coming into the District of Placentia West – Bellevue.  Even though myself and the Member for Placentia West are still working out the details to see what is going on with the districts, but I am not the only one.  There are others in this House who are working out the details as well to see what is going on with the districts.

 

We have decisions to make.  We all have decisions to make as to what we are going to be doing in the election coming up in November, but, Mr. Speaker, I did not go into it with a blind eye.  I went into voting on this, to accept this, because it was what the people wanted.

 

If everybody listened to the people – and the people on the other side say: Why don't you listen to the people in your districts?  Well, if you listen to the Open Line shows and the different places you have been and listen to people talking, they always said: you have too many members in the House of Assembly.  You need to reduce the seats in the House of Assembly.  You need to get rid of some people.  That is what I heard for the last four or five years.  For the last four or five years I have heard that. 

 

I think this might have all started when a member of the Opposition said he would reduce the seats in the House of Assembly.  So I guess the people then took hold of that and started going with that too, and they demanded it more and more.

 

Mr. Speaker, our Premier took care of that and now the change has happened.  I will live with that.  I will own that.  As a Member for the District of Bellevue, I will own that.  I am sure the people are quite satisfied in my district as to how that is going to go and how it is going to change.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: They are pleased with your work.

 

MR. PEACH: Yes, they are very pleased with the work I have done as an MHA over the years.  I have worked hard for the people of that district.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. PEACH: I have worked hard for the people in that district, Mr. Speaker, and if I am successful in the election in the fall, in the nomination for Placentia West – Bellevue, I will work hard in that district too. 

 

I know it is going to be a bigger district; it is going to be a bigger challenge from one end of the district to the other.  It starts off in Chapel Arm in Trinity Bay and I think it goes up so far as, past Marystown to Creston South and Creston North.  It is a very big area. 

 

The ones I lost in the Fortune Bay area I picked up from South East Bight near Monkstown right on up to Marystown and Creston North, Creston South.  I am very pleased, like I said earlier, to be accepting a nomination for that area and running in that area as well as the MHA. 

 

I talked to quite a few people over the last weekend.  A lot of people had a lot of questions to ask, but it was more or less common questions as to how I felt about it – not how they felt about it.  They did not really have any objection to any of it.  They just wanted to know how I felt about it as a member and if I was okay with the district that I was getting.  I told them yes I was.  We know what we are running for; we know the districts we are going to be running in now.  Like I said earlier, we have to own that now.  We just have to move on as far as I am concerned as an MHA.

 

Some of the people will now have to probably look at new members coming in.  It is going to be different for some of them.  Some have to wonder how they are going to fit in with the other districts, other parts of the districts, but most of them know the representation they had from the MHA they had there before.  Most of them know how they did with the representation they had there from this government.  Most of them know the projects and the monies that have been put into those districts from this government and they are quite pleased with the way things are going.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

 

MR. PEACH: It is taxpayers' money but it is good money.  It is good money.

 

I met a Liberal on Saturday night, Mr. Speaker, and he looked at me and said: Oh, it is time for a change.  There were seven of us there, I said: Oh, it is time for a change.  Tell me what our government has done.  Tell me what our government has not done for you, a man who works in Bull Arm, a man who has lots of things around him, his family is all working in Bull Arm and in Long Harbour.  It is all through the big negotiations of this government, all through the negotiations of this government to get those mining companies in there and provide work for those people. 

 

At the end of our conversation he looked at me and said you may not be all that wrong.  He said a lot of things you are saying are right.  So I said you are starting to agree with me.  He said, well, I cannot disagree with you because there have been a lot of things done.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. PEACH: Now that was a Liberal.  I know the guy.  He was a staunch Liberal, and probably still is.  He might never change, but, Mr. Speaker, he did admit that our government has done a lot for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.  When you get a discussion going like that in your district, you can see that people will look at what is happening. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I also want to touch on the dates of the election.  I think the date of the election to November 30 after coming out of a federal election is the right thing to do.  I think it is the right thing to do.  I honestly think if we went ahead with an election earlier or right at the time of the federal election, the people out there would not want that.  The people do not want that.  I think the election in November right now takes away the confusion from people and certainly would be a better time to have that election. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I represent right now in the district the communities of New Harbour, Dildo, South Dildo, Old Shop, and Blaketown.  I know those areas are going from my district that is being recommended right now.  I was very proud and very pleased, and I want to thank them for the support they gave me over the last seven, eight years.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. PEACH: My district now will consist from Chapel Arm, Norman's Cove-Long Cove, Thornlea, and Bellevue Beach.  Then I go across into Placentia Bay from Fairhaven to Little Harbour, to Southern Harbour, and to Arnold's Cove.  Then I go on up to North Harbour in Placentia Bay, and also up so far as – well Garden Cove as well, Mr. Speaker. 

 

I also take in Goobies and Swift Current, and on the other side in Trinity Bay I also go as far as Sunnyside.  Then it crosses over – well, before that it goes through Terrenceville, Grand Le Pierre, and English Harbour East.  Then it crosses over into Placentia Bay and it takes in Monkstown.  The new proposal will take in Monkstown, Southeast Bight; we have Petit Forte, going on up the shore right up to Marystown, a lot of small communities, some of the small communities that I know very, very well. 

 

I have family in a lot of those communities.  I moved in myself back in 1966 from Placentia Bay, on a little island out in Placentia Bay.  Most of the people in those communities resettled back at the same time that I did, that our family did.  Mr. Speaker, we all knew each other.  We were almost like a family in Placentia Bay.  I can go into almost every house in Placentia Bay and they will call me by name and I can call them, in the communities.  That is in the small communities. 

 

Also, Mr. Speaker, I have quite a few family in Marystown too I might say.  I represented the Burin Peninsula several times in the past.  They know where I stand and they know where I will stand.  They know me as the Member for the District of Bellevue and what I have done in the District of Bellevue.  I talk to a lot of people from Marystown all of the time.  I was getting emails long before these boundaries were even proposed.  I was getting emails from different people on the Burin Peninsula. 

 

If anybody followed me on Facebook, I update my Facebook all the time.  I let people know where I travel every day.  I let people know where their money is going.  I let people know that I just do not sit back on my ass – excuse the language, Mr. Speaker, it might be unparliamentary. 

 

MR. SPEAKER: I remind the hon. member – I ask him to withdraw, please. 

 

MR. PEACH: I apologize.  I take that back.

 

Mr. Speaker, I do not sit back and just get a paycheque.  I like to let people know that I work hard for them in the district and I will continue to do so. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. PEACH: Mr. Speaker, I guess right now we have to wait to see where this bill goes.  Some over there say they are not supporting it.  On this side of the House here, I have to say that I am going to support it.  I am not going to flip-flop like some of them.  I am not going to hide behind a free vote, Mr. Speaker.  I vote as I see it.  I voted for these changes.  I will stay with that decision that I made and I will live with that decision that I made.  I guess when we knock on the doors the people will decide if we did right or wrong.  I want to thank you for the time.

 

Thank you very much.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Virginia Waters.

 

MS C. BENNETT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I am certainly honoured to stand tonight and speak to Bill 13, on what is an important conversation and debate that we are having in the House of Assembly tonight.  Like many of the members in this House, I want to say a thank you on behalf of the House to the members of the Commission, and in particular, Judge Stack. 

 

The amount of work this Committee had to do was very significant.  When you look at the recommendations they made as part of their submission to the Minister of Justice, they actually indicated that the timeline was very tight.  So I think it is certainly responsible of us as Members of this House of Assembly to thank them.

 

Mr. Speaker, as I sat here and listened to debate over the last number of hours, there are a couple of things I would certainly like to call out.  In particular, I found it interesting that the Member for Lake Melville earlier talked about – I think he used the term, leadership, to define what happened inside his caucus during the January discussions around the original piece of legislation that initiated the work that the boundaries commission did.  I found that quite ironic.  The member opposite –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

Order, please!

 

Thank you.

 

The hon. the Member for Virginia Waters.

 

MS C. BENNETT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I found it quite ironic that the Member for Lake Melville, who would be a member of a caucus and certainly a member of Cabinet that would be bringing in legislation that was designed to cut the seats in Labrador from four to three – that he was part of that group that brought in that legislation. 

 

It was not, quite frankly, until our leader publicly said we were going to make some changes and make some amendments to the legislation that the members opposite, I am assuming – I have not been around this House of Assembly for more than a year.  There are lots of other people in this House who are more experienced than me.  I would assume there were some caucus conflicts about those conversations. 

 

Certainly, on this side of the House I think we recognized very early that the challenges, the issues, the land mass, the geography and many, many of the issues in Labrador needed to be represented with respect as part of this piece of legislation. 

 

I find it ironic that the Member for Lake Melville took credit for a piece of legislation that actually came into this House to shrink the representation for Labrador.  He takes credit for expanding that when it was this side of the House that actually brought the amendment in. 

 

You know what, Mr. Speaker, I have a tremendous amount of respect for, not only the people of Newfoundland and the Island, but I have a lot of respect for the people in Labrador.  I am sure that they are going to see those comments for exactly what they were, shallow and political. 

 

Mr. Speaker, the other thing I would like to talk about is that as the –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MS C. BENNETT: Mr. Speaker, the other item I would mention is that the Boundaries Commission report also indicated they were very pleased with how they used technology to seek feedback.  One of the things that were very evident and concerning in some of the places in the Province is that individuals did not have a chance to present face to face with the Commission. Certainly some of the members on this side of the House have heard from their constituents that – one of the things they heard was that they did not have the chance to present face to face. 

 

What I found ironic is when the Boundaries Commission started its work, one of the things that we were certainly encouraged to do on this side of the House was to let our constituents know through social media, through our contacts, through our newsletters, through debate here in the House to participate in the hearings, to provide emails, and to provide feedback.  It was interesting because when you looked at the communication from the forty-eight members in the House, there was certainly a skewed activity around encouraging response from our constituents. 

 

We stand here today and we make decisions about how representation is going to change in this Province.  There has been lots of conversation about where the number forty came from and why the government was motivated in an election year to bring in this legislation as they did.  What is the real purpose?  Was it about saving money?  Was it about political fortunes?  Was it about trying to extend their ability to campaign because they needed more time? 

 

Ultimately, what they are really debating tonight and what we are debating about this legislation is the representation.  Let's just think about for a minute the why.  Mr. Speaker, why is it that we are having a conversation about moving from forty-eight to forty seats? 

 

Sadly, the reality is that the population in this Province has declined in the last nine years and it has declined significantly.  As a result, when you look at the numbers of people who each of us are going to represent, and you take into account the quotients that are used to determine fair representation depending on geography, the reality is that we have seen a significant shift in our population.  I think, Mr. Speaker, that piece of this debate has been lost in the last several months. 

 

I do not think anybody in this House, on any side, should be proud of the fact that as a population we now require fewer representatives because we are a smaller population.  I would suspect that many people who are listening at home and are watching this tonight understand.  As they have seen their community shrink and they have seen young people leave our Province, they understand why that population has changed.

 

Mr. Speaker, during the debate, as well, I listened to the members from the Third Party talk about their perception of what happened in January.  They also talked about when they found out about the amendments or when they heard about the amendments.  One of the things the Leader of the Official Opposition spoke about earlier was that we had a press conference where the leader spoke about the amendments, and let the entire Province know that in order for us to come into this House and have a discussion about this piece of legislation, these were the things that we were going to put on the table. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I know that the members in the Third Party were sitting next to us those couple of days as we had the debate.  I am sure they were aware of that press conference.  I think the Member for St. John's East, one of the things that he forgot to tell the people of the Province when he was performing – or doing his debate, speech, was that his leader at the time actually was also very supportive of reductions in the representation here in the House of Assembly, and had been on record publicly about that.

 

Mr. Speaker, I think one of the things that have been very eye opening for me as we have gone through this process, especially as one of the seven new – there are seven new, I think.  Seven new Members of the House of Assembly on this side anyway.  One of the things that was certainly interesting for me as we went through this debate is the more I understood the difference between a whipped vote and a not-whipped vote.  I think there has been a lot of discussion throughout the debate in the last few hours about what that is.  For those listening at home the reality is that in a whipped vote – my understanding is that if a member of the opposite side, for example, if somebody on the government side chose to stand up and represent the people of their district in this important discussion and they felt that they could not support this, they, in fact, would risk being kicked out of caucus. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I think there is a very big difference between supporting the idea of the fact that we need to readjust the seats in this Province based on population because we have seen an economy that has not respected all parts of the Province, and has not been led by a government that has been able to improve the lot for all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.  What we have now is our leader has said it is important that each of the members of our party –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MS C. BENNETT:  – that each member on this side of the House has the ability to vote based on what they are hearing from their constituents. 

 

I want to be clear to those people, I am proud to stand here tonight and currently represent the constituents of the District of Virginia Waters.  During the Boundaries Commission there was a discussion that the district was going to be changed and there was going to be a new name.  It was going to be the district of Pippy Park.  Now the district that I will, hopefully, be the candidate in, once we go through our nominations, will be the District of Windsor Lake.  I look forward to continuing to earn the respect of those constituents and representing them here in this House of Assembly should they choose to elect me. 

 

My responsibility to them is just like the responsibility of my colleagues here, and that is to represent what their wishes are.  I think the fact that our leader has been able to understand the importance of an individual person in this House voting based on what the constituents are saying is very important. 

 

In my particular district, the issue of boundary changes certainly has not had the same amount of feedback from my constituents.  I would think that there are members on that side of the House who have had tremendous feedback from their constituents around the impacts on their particular communities. 

 

When we come back to the issue of an open vote, I am very proud to be a member of a party that recognizes there are discussions that we are going to have in this House of Assembly that transcend politics and, quite frankly, require us to allow people and encourage people to represent the constituents who elected them here, as opposed to the party or the institution they may happen to be a member of.

 

Our representation here is to the people of the Province.  It is not to a political party.  I think there are members on the opposite side of the House who, just like other members on this side of the House, may have had feedback from their constituents.  It is unfortunate that they are not able to vote in a situation that releases them from the possibility of being extracted from their caucus.

 

Mr. Speaker, the other item I would like to speak to, with regard to the Boundaries Commission report and certainly this legislation under Bill 13, are the changes with regard to the by-elections.  For those listening at home and who have been following debate, you will understand that this piece of legislation now will mean that any seats that are vacant, I believe it is six months before an election date – there will not be a by-election held. 

 

I guess one of the things that many people have asked me is: How many people in this House of Assembly are in fact intending to come back?  How many retirements from public office, public life will we see over the next coming months?

 

Those constituents from those districts that will not have representation in this House certainly will be at a disadvantage.  I think the changes in the by-election rules, particularly in this piece of legislation, certainly will cause some people in our Province to be questioning and honestly asking what the intentions of the members on the opposite side of the House are when it comes to their future here in the House of Assembly.

 

Mr. Speaker, the other thing that I would like to mention just really quickly is that I listened interestingly to the Member for St. John's Centre earlier talk about how this activity was taking voices away from rural Newfoundland and Labrador.  One of the things that are certainly going to be very important, as the voting happens here over the next while on Bill 13, is that those members in this House of Assembly who represent rural districts are going to have to make sure that they stand up and support their constituents in the way their constituents want them to. 

 

I think that is going to be challenging for government's side, considering it is a whipped vote.  I think it is important they consider that their responsibility in this House of Assembly is, in fact, to the people who elected them and not necessarily to a Premier who is in the position because of a failed leadership race and 320-something votes.

 

Mr. Speaker, when I am given my opportunity to stand up I will look forward to voting on behalf of the constituents from the district that I represent now, which is Virginia Waters; a district that will be renamed Windsor Lake, a district that will have some minor changes.  I look forward to the portions of the district that will be added to the one I have now; pieces of the District of Cape St. Francis, St. John's East, and St. John's North that will be joining the district that I already represent.  I look forward to meeting those constituents at the doorsteps and in their homes in the community in the very near future.  In the meantime, I will continue to work – as I am sure every member in this House of Assembly will – very diligently and very focussed on the needs of the constituents who have elected us here at this time.

 

So, Mr. Speaker, with that I do want to say one last item.  When you stand in this House to vote on legislation and vote on laws it is a very important decision.  When I heard the Leader of the Opposition mention earlier that this legislation is going to make changes to democracy and changes to representation for the next ten years, it certainly does require us to take a deep pause. 

 

Ten years is a long time.  It is a significant decision that we have to make here as legislators to represent our constituents in a way that is true to what their wishes are.  I am very proud of the work that our leader has done throughout this process, and his integrity and commitment to making sure that the individuals we represent are represented in a way that is respectful.

 

Mr. Speaker, with that I will take my seat.  I thank you for your time tonight.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. MCGRATH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

It gives me great pleasure to be able to stand here this evening and speak to this bill.  With modern technology today – I had a text a little while ago, while my colleague was speaking, from one of my constituents saying you look a little bit tired, I guess it has been a long day.  For those who are still watching out there in TV land, it has been a long day, but those long days are very important when it comes to getting legislation to pass here.  So, I am pleased that there are still people watching us here in the House of Assembly even though the game is on now.  I am sure we are losing some of our audience to that. 

 

This certainly, Mr. Speaker, is an important piece of legislation that we are debating here today.  I have listened to the debate.  I guess in one sense – I do not know if it is fair to say it or not – I am sort of sitting in a neutral area because I am one of the four fortunate MHAs from Labrador who got through our debate early as to what would happen with the boundaries within our electoral districts.  We knew they were not going to be changing.  I am sure the other three MHAs from Labrador would agree that it was a sort of a sigh of relief because you knew back then what your district was going to be and what you would be representing. 

 

I am very proud over the last almost four years as to how I have represented my district.  I have worked hard as I am sure every MHA in this House of Assembly has in representing the districts. 

 

I remember a while ago when I stood on my feet, somebody had commented about this being an election year and when you will start campaigning.  I remember my comment to that.  I started campaigning back on October 12, 2011 for the next election.  I think it is very important that we constantly be representing our constituents, and more importantly, we need to be letting our constituents know that we are representing them.

 

We all have our different styles of how we do politics.  I have listened to quite a few people here tonight and I do want to comment.  In listening to some of the Opposition as they spoke – and I will not say this as a negative against their philosophy because I respect their philosophy.  They are certainly entitled to their philosophy of how they deal with politics.  Several members, including the Leader of the Opposition, and I just heard the Member for Virginia Waters spend quite a bit of time talking about it – an open vote and a free vote.  I find that a little bit confusing,

 

I have been involved in many, many organizations.  I have been involved in municipal politics and I have been involved in provincial politics.  As every party in politics – for people who are following politics and for people who are listening, when you sit in your caucus and you are debating within your caucus different pieces of legislation, the debates are done back there, but you have to reach consensus.  You always have a free vote.  You always have an open vote.  It is your choice.

 

I did hear the Member for Virginia Waters say the chance of being reprimanded or being kicked out of your caucus is there.  That is a chance and a choice that we as politicians – we all make that choice.  At some point we may take that chance, but you always have – and I think it is very important that the general public know.  You always have the choice of voting whatever way you want.  As an MHA, you have that choice.  If you decide to vote against your government after debates are done, that is entirely up to you.  It is still free and it is open. 

 

I think people need to understand that you are not dictated to, or certainly I can only speak for this side.  That you are not dictated to as to how you have to vote, but you certainly do within your caucus, within meetings you have in different committees, different briefings you have, and that is the purpose of the caucus meetings, the purpose of committee meetings, the purpose of meeting with and getting briefings from ministers and their staff, is that you can debate where you stand on it, but then hopefully you reach a consensus as a party.  I think that is very important. 

 

What we are debating now is Bill 13.  Bill 13 is, An Act to Amend the House of Assembly Act around the electoral boundaries.  I have listened to most of the speakers.  I have listened to what they have talked about in the difference in the electoral boundaries, in the geography of different districts now, the effect it is going to have on certain members and the elimination of certain districts. 

 

I have colleagues within all three parties.  I have had discussions with colleagues in all three parties.  We have talked about different things they have to face now and how are they going to approach it.  If their district is affected, are they going to move on?  Are they going to move on to another career?  Are they going to seek nomination in another district?  Some districts have been split and divided.  Many members are faced with having to answer those questions, and they are not easy questions to answer. 

 

I remember the Member for Bay of Islands back in January made a comment, and he made the same comment a couple of days ago when he stood and spoke on this debate.  He said there is going to be difficult decisions made between friends and there are going to be riffs.  I am not saying verbatim what he said, but he talked about some of the arguing that is going to be done between members on the same sides and members on different sides. 

 

There are friendships that are going to be tested because of decisions that are being made, but again – and I agree with the Member for Bay of Islands – that is all part of a process.  I would hope at the end of the day, that we as professionals in our fields and as politicians representing the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, when we leave this House of Assembly at the end of the debate we can still be friends and we can still be, for lack of a better word, humane to one another. 

 

I think that is very important, because whether I am representing the people in Labrador West or the people in Conception Bay South, as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, all of those people collectively are important to all of us as politicians.  They are the people who have put us here to represent them.  So I think that is really important.

 

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the Commission for the hard work they have done.  Certainly, the hon. Robert Stack for taking on the responsibilities of being the Chair, Shawn Skinner as the Deputy Chair, Bernard Coffey, Allan Golding, and Bill Matthews.  These five people took on a tremendous task when they took on the task of rearranging the electoral boundaries within the Province, and in a very short time. 

 

I have heard other members, as they have stood in debate here in the House, also compliment the Commission.  I think it is very important that we recognize the work they have done in a very short time, how important it is to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.  I certainly commend them for the amount of time and effort they put into that. 

 

The Member for Port de Grave spoke of the importance of history of names.  I know how important that is because I go back to many, many years ago when I first moved to Labrador.  The district that I now represent had a different name.  It was called the District of Menihek.  Menihek is an Indian word, and it had a huge piece of history.  Menihek had a great meaning for that particular district because of its Aboriginal roots. 

 

I heard the Member for Torngat Mountains talk of the Nomads and how they were in Labrador West.  Menihek is an Indian word that refers to the nomads.  To me, losing that name – at the time when it was changed from Menihek to Labrador West it meant very little to me, but as a former Aboriginal minister and as an MHA representing a district that does have a representation of Aboriginals within my district, a very active Aboriginal presence, that word today means something different to me.  So when I heard the Member for Port de Grave talk of the importance of the history and name recognition, that came back to me. 

 

I was in a meeting with the Premier the other day and I was very pleased that when we sat with the President of the Iron Ore Company of Canada, he reminded the Premier and I that 10 per cent of the workforce at IOC, which is the largest mine in North America – 10 per cent of the workforce there is Aboriginal.  I did not realize that 10 per cent of their working force right now has Aboriginal roots.  I think that is great to see. 

 

Should it be higher?  I certainly agree.  I think it should, but just to see the progress of where we are going, to me, I think that is good progress.  I was pleased to see that.  When he talked about the history of the names – because I do not want the Member for St. John's South to get upset over there going with his hands telling me to move, but we will get there eventually.

 

The other thing that quite a few MHAs have talked about when they stood in debate was the geography and the size of districts.  I almost feel guilty.  I have 10,000 people in my district, but my district is very contained.  I heard many of the members stand up and start naming off the communities in their districts.  I looked at my colleague from Bellevue and I said I wonder would I be allowed to stand up and name the streets in my district because I only have two communities.  I still have 10,000 constituents in my district.  Even though your size is smaller, your work is just as much.  You still have to get out and represent those people. 

 

I certainly empathize with some members, such as the Member for Torngat Mountains, the Member for Bellevue, the size of their districts, getting to speak to your constituents because of the geography certainly is not easy.  I know I have been in most every district over the past four years, so I understand the size of the districts and the geography of the districts.  That is something we are all aware of and we understand the difficulties of it.

 

I also heard a member – I think it was the Member for Lake Melville who made a comment, you knew what you were getting into.  When you put your name on that ballot, you knew what you were doing and you knew the size of your district.  So I empathize, but it is not a legitimate complaint to be able to complain about it.

 

Having the House of Assembly move from forty-eight to forty, I agree with that.  As some members spoke earlier, we all talk to our constituents.  I think every one of us have heard that constituents in your district will all say we need to make the House of Assembly smaller.  The representation in the House of Assembly needs to be smaller.  So we listened to that. 

 

I think the important thing with doing it now versus waiting until after the next election – or doing it now, or waiting until next year when the review is due.  The difference is by doing it now we are actually saving about $10 million right there in that alone.  If we waited until after the next election and that piece of legislation went in, it does not come into effect then for another four years.  I think the people need to understand that.

 

We were very prudent.  When the decision was made, this government was looking at cost savings and saying just by making that small move it has nothing to do with politics, it has to do with saving money.  You are saving $10 million just there alone.  That is not counting all of the sidebars. 

 

I agree with making the House of Assembly smaller, going from forty-eight to forty.  We will find out after November 30 who will be sitting in the House.  Those forty people will have to then decide how they are going to run the Province with forty people versus forty-eight.  Hopefully, it will be done diligently. 

 

Like every other member sitting in this House now, I do not mind it being read into Hansard that I plan on seeking re-election.  That is not a secret.  I certainly hope that after November 30, I will be here representing the people of Labrador West.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. MCGRATH: The reorganization is another piece.  That is something that this bill is going to do, the reorganization of the boundaries.  Again, I just want to thank the Commission.  I think that was a very important piece on how they did the reorganization.

 

I did hear the Member for Virginia Waters.  I was listening as she was speaking.  She made a comment that there was not enough time for consultation.  I watched, as I am sure every other member in this House did, the process of the consultation when it was happening.  It would have been great for everybody to be able to get out and do a presentation face to face with the Commission.  With social media the way it is today and technology the way it is today, there were so many different opportunities to do presentations to that Commission. 

 

I thank again the general public that came out and made presentations, those who submitted presentations.  I am very pleased they were involved with the process.  I think it was a fair process that was done.  I think the Commission worked well with that. 

 

The other thing I would like to just touch on is the six months before an election.  I think that is a very, very important amendment.  You take today, if there were a resignation today – and I do not mind saying it because it is now public.  The Member for Gander, for example, has put his name forward for the nomination in the federal election.  If he gets that nomination he has to resign his seat in the House of Assembly – if he wins that nomination. 

 

This is an example, if you were to get – and it is not uncommon for politicians to leave municipal politics and to move into provincial.  Quite often from provincial politics, some politicians will go into federal politics.  It is not uncommon when you have a federal election looming that some provincial politicians make the decision.  They quite often wait until the last minute to make that decision, until the nomination is actually called.

 

I think putting that six months in there – and when you look across the country, it is sort of in the middle of the rest of the country.  I agree with the six months.  If somebody resigns six months before the date of a provincial election, there will not be a by-election.  That is just good governance and good prudency. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased that I was able to stand up and be part of this debate tonight.  I look forward to the vote and listening to the rest of the debate.

 

Thank you very much.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER (Verge): The hon. the Member for Humber East. 

 

MR. FLYNN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

It is indeed an honour to get up tonight and speak on this Bill 13.  On Saturday, after I got back in the district, and me with my supporters, I took the time to travel from one end of the district to the other.  Nowhere did I hear such condemnation and frustration as I did, not only from the people of Pasadena, but right down to the Codroy Valley.  I cannot stand here tonight with a good heart and say thank you to the Commission for the work that was completed on the electoral District of St. George's – Grand Lake.  It was, as far as I am concerned, flawed. 

 

The people were presented with one scenario.  When the report came back a completely different scenario was laid before them.  Make no mistake, tonight, as I stand here, I will be voting against this legislation for that reason.  It is not because of Stelman Flynn, it does not matter.  This is what I heard from the people.  I will read into the record some of the correspondence that I had from the people who elected me to this House.

 

Philosophically I am not opposed to the idea of reviewing representation in the House of Assembly.  It should be done.  We have done a process that was established, that was in place, and that we should not have changed.  This legislation was brought to this House, four days of me – my fourth day sitting in the House this legislation was brought forward.  There is something flawed with this, I think for the simple reason they just rushed through this process.  Those are not my words.  Those are the Premier's words that this process was, indeed, very tight on timeline.

 

So it is not about me.  It is about the people who elected me to this House.  I would feel more comfortable if I did not think that government's early request for a seat reduction was not a self-serving and a desperate attempt to hold onto power as long as possible, because purely in my view, that is what this was all about.  It was for the people to cling to power.  You have to change two laws just to get to where we are today: one on the election date, maybe that is two; and the other one on the boundaries.  Truly and honestly, this was a rush to get into or to be able to hold onto power.  We are basically using statistics that are indeed four years old.

 

In the initial incidents I had no problem with the format that was set out for the review of the seat reduction, but I feel the people of the new District of St. George's – Grand Lake, the 12,000-plus people have now been robbed of their democratic right to be able to speak on the changes that are put forward in this new legislation.  It is absolutely gross, Mr. Speaker, that we should treat the people that way.

 

The Commission would be appointed and draw up a framework for commentary and submissions to be given by groups and individuals.  There is nothing wrong with that.  Except the flawed process was when they brought back the second report they had completely changed the district all together. 

 

Listen, I have no problem going to the Codroy Valley.  My wife has relatives there.  I have gone down and met with them.  I have no problem speaking to the people in the Codroy Valley and, indeed, throughout the whole district, Mr. Speaker. 

 

I grew up in a rural area of this Province.  I moved to Corner Brook by choice some years back.  My family and I have invested heavily there and I feel obligated to run in the district that I represent. 

 

It would have been better if the Commission could have visited more of the communities and done so in person, but there were constraints.  That is where the flaw happened here.  There were constraints and the people on that commission, I really do not feel, understood the geography of the district.  As a result, we are now stuck with a bad law that we are going to have to live with for the next eleven years.  The Commission completed their initial work and submitted its first proposal sometime in May. 

 

Those wishing to submit had an opportunity to do so at one of the hearings, or could submit in writing.  In the initial proposal, the District of Humber East, which I have proudly served for the past few months, has been changed significantly and it went on without the input from the people.

 

The North Shore of the Bay of Islands and the remainder of Pasadena and Pynn's Brook were added to form a new District of Humber North.  I will read the letter for the members present here this evening because, as I said, this is not about me.  This is about the people in the district that I serve.  I want to read into the records parts of that letter which was actually sent to the Premier last week. 

 

From the communications that I have received there really is a lot of opposition in my district, in particular, against this proposal – a significant amount of opposition.  As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, I have found no one, zero, no one, who will actually support the present proposal as it stands.  It would be hypocritical of me to stand up here and say this is a good proposal for the people of this new proposed district.  Indeed, it is not what some people thought was best but it seemed in the initial proposal that came out in May, that they would accept what the boundary commission had recommended. 

 

I have no choice but to stand here tonight and say that when they went back they radically changed the district from what the original proposal was and they did not give the people in that district an opportunity to have input into it.  I think that is a sad day in democracy in this Province.  I suspect this was the reason some of the individuals from those communities did not present to the Commission in Corner Brook because they were relatively pleased with the initial recommendations that were brought forth in that proposal.  They were agreeable to the proposed boundary changes that were made in the first proposal and chose not to report after.

 

So, as mentioned, some members of the House did present to the Commission, but I decided not to, based on the facts of the feedback I had received in the original proposal.  I applaud those MHAs on either side of the House.  It was their democratic right to get up and speak to the proposal.  Some chose – but what the Commission did and what I was led to believe is that there would be minor tweaks made to the proposal after the initial proposal came in, but in the case of the new District of Bay St. George – Grand Lake, it was a massive change.  Almost 50 per cent of it is now totally different from what the original proposal was.  So I cannot stand here and defend that.

 

As I mentioned previously, there were some big changes in the District of Humber East.  Actually, the whole West Coast was affected with the changes to all the district boundaries and the loss of two seats.  When the second and final report was released on June 8, there were substantial changes made for some districts from the first report.  Too many significant changes were made and I feel the people in that area have not been given the proper input as a democratic society that they should have and record their objections to this.

 

These changes affected the Districts of Humber North, Humber South – St. George's, Bay of Islands, and Burgeo – La Poile.  In its decision to maintain the Bay of Islands with the addition of a part of Corner Brook, this obviously had huge ramifications for the other districts in the area.  Most notably, a new district was created that did not look anything like what was proposed and presented in the first report.  This new district extends from Pynn's Brook to the Codroy Valley, jumping over – just imagine – three other districts that you travel to.  This is ludicrous. 

 

I do not know if the Commission just took community names and threw them at the wall to see which ones stuck on, because that sure seems like the planning that went into this.  It was not long after the final report had been released that I began to get phone calls and emails from concerned citizens around the district.  I received calls not only from the area of the present district that I represent but also –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. FLYNN: – from areas outside such as Stephenville Crossing and the Codroy Valley.

 

I would like to read part of an email that I have here: The purpose of this email is to convey my complete and utter disgust with the new Humber East boundaries.  Never have I seen such a radical change from proposed to final boundary changes with no consultation and with no commonality or historical connections between its two different parts.  Frankly, it stinks to the high heavens.

 

One of the issues that concern many of those that was expressed – and I think the Mayor of Pasadena was quite forceful in his letter to the Premier about these changes.  I would like to read that into the record here this evening, or at least part of it because it is a three-page letter.  I am going to read part of the letter so it is documented in this House to show the disgust, not that Stelman Flynn has, that the people of the district has.

 

It says, “Dear Premier Davis;

 

“On behalf of the Pasadena Town Council, I would like to express our strong objections to the 2015 Newfoundland and Labrador Electoral Districts Boundaries Report release on June 9, 2015. 

 

“In the past, Pasadena's electoral district has always been associated within the Humber Valley, either Corner Brook or Deer Lake or both, as is the current structure, and this has served us really well.

 

“In the proposed districts released by the Commission on April 10, 2015, Pasadena was included in a district called Humber North which includes Pasadena, portions of Corner Brook and the North Shore of the Bay of Islands.  Our council reviewed this proposal and, although we preferred to remain in Humber East, we agreed that this new configuration would also serve our needs.  Consequently we did not make a presentation to the Commission.

 

“On June 8, 2015, when the final report was released, Pasadena was included in a district called St. George's – Grand Lake, a district that covers an area from Pynn's Brook to Cape Ray, just east of Port aux Basques.  The Town Council of Pasadena was totally shocked.  Not in our wildest dreams did we think we would be included in such a district.  In our opinion, there is no rationale for this district to exist.

 

“It has been suggested to us that we should have objected, however, it should be noted that we did not have the opportunity because we were not told by the Commission that we would be in a district called St. George's – Grand Lake until the final report was released.

 

“In the final report, the Commission indicates that one of their guiding principles is that they did not wish to 'split' districts, whereby it would be necessary for residents to cross through another district to get to another part of the district.  This is exactly what has been done with this new district.  In order for residents of Pasadena to get to the western part of the new district, they have to pass by/through districts in Corner Brook, which we were formally associated with, to get to the western part of the new district.  Truly a bizarre situation!

 

“Mr. Premier, in view of all the irregularities that have taken place during the Commission hearings we are asking that the proposed electoral boundary changes be postponed until after the next election so that a proper and thorough review can be completed.  A secondary option would be to approve the Commissions initial proposal of districts in the Bay of Island/Humber Valley/Bay St. George area that we as a Council had agreed was reasonable.  Clearly, because of limited time available to the commission to do a proper report, towns such as Pasadena, have been treated unfairly.

 

“I respectfully wait for your response.” 

 

If these changes had been proposed in the first draft, most certainly submissions would have been made by municipalities such as Pasadena, Little Rapids, Steady Brook, Codroy Valley, and so on.  So no one in that district is happy with these changes.  You have left out, as far as I am concerned, 12,500 people from a due democratic process that every Newfoundlander and Labradorian in this Province is entitled to.  At this point, these communities, which I presently serve as MHA for Humber East, are not pleased with the boundary changes in the final report.  I believe these changes are substantially different from what was proposed in the first draft. 

 

I ask all of the hon. members in the House to take a look at what was proposed the first time and what came back the second time.  I think we would be ashamed to approve the proposed first draft.  They should have given the same opportunity to make a presentation to the Commission as was afforded in the initial draft.  Unfortunately, given the significance of that change, the people in that area from Pynn's Brook down through the Codroy Valley never had that opportunity. 

 

Rightly or wrongly, it was at least my understanding, changes from the first draft would be minimal and not of the nature that has happened.  I was told that changes would be minor and there would be a street adjusted here or there to accommodate these changes.  Mr. Speaker, that did not happen.  The Commission did not treat the people fairly in the new district. 

 

As the Member of Humber East – and I represent many of these constituents who will be dramatically affected by these changes – I am urging this House to take a second sober look at what has been put forward.  I totally agree with them that their voice has not been heard.  In many respects the process has failed them and their concerns.  We are talking 12,000 people here.  I thought the motto of democracy was to leave no one behind. 

 

For that reason, Mr. Speaker, while I voted in favour of the initial bill, I cannot support what has occurred in the final report.  It is an injustice to the people of that district.  It is totally, totally injustice.  I am asking the members to take a look at that book and see from the original proposal to what came back to us a week ago today, and see the changes that were made, especially where the constituents that I represent did not have the opportunity to hear their concerns for such dramatic changes. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I stand here and I feel that – as the people of that district – their voice has not been heard.  I totally understand that.  I totally feel that the people of that district have been neglected in the Commission's report.  I cannot stand here and say congratulations to that Commission for the great work they did because we have failed.  The Commission has failed the people in that district.  They have totally changed what was originally laid out.  The people had no opportunity to have input into it, Mr. Speaker, and I think it is a disaster for the region. 

 

In regard to whether Stelman Flynn can represent that district; I grew up, Mr. Speaker, in a rural area and I feel quite comfortable, but I still believe that given the significant changes that were made, they had every right to request to this House that their voice be heard.  Hopefully, tonight I have been able to express in some small way their voice, because up until this point it has been missing.  I feel terrible for that, and I apologize to the people in that district for what I think is an injustice to democracy.

 

Thank you, 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 to have my first opportunity to speak to Bill 13, An Act to Amend the House of Assembly Act.  I guess the bad news for me, I suppose, is I only have twenty minutes, but the good news is that Committee is coming and we will have many opportunities to get up as many times as we want at ten-minute intervals to speak to this legislation.  Guess what?  I have every intention of doing so, as I know a lot of my other colleagues do as well.  I am sure the members opposite are looking forward to that.

 

Anyway, Mr. Speaker, there are a number of aspects to this bill and it is a fairly thick piece of legislation.  Although, really it comes down to four key areas.  One area, of course, is the number of boundaries itself, moving from forty-eight to forty seats.  We have the name changes of the districts.  We have the election date change, and we have the new by-election rule.  We can speak to all four of those at significant length, I would suspect.  We probably will as we have time to do so. 

 

I just wanted to speak for a moment, Mr. Speaker, on my district as it currently exists, and my district as is proposed.  Currently, I represent the District of Mount Pearl South.  Traditionally, Mount Pearl had two districts, if you will, Mount Pearl South and Mount Pearl North.  At one point in time we had Waterford – Kenmount.  Mount Pearl North was called Waterford – Kenmount.  Then it was changed to Waterford Valley.  Then it was changed to Mount Pearl North.  Mount Pearl South has pretty much been, to my knowledge, a constant. 

 

The general boundary has changed to some degree.  Generally we have had two members, although as it currently stands we have three.  The last time there was a boundary change done, they added Topsail.  They took a portion of Power's Pond, the upper end of Power's Pond and then they put that into Topsail district.  I am not sure how that worked in terms of the communities of interest and so on, nonetheless that was done.  Now we are basically going back to two districts, Mount Pearl North and Mount Pearl South, with the general boundary line being Ruth Avenue and Commonwealth Avenue. 

 

Mr. Speaker, after the Commission was formed and they had the boundary hearings, I did make a presentation to the Boundaries Commission down at the Airport Inn.  Quite frankly, there were not many submissions made, I think, on that particular day, and that was to cover the whole St. John's metro area.  I think there were only three presentations and mine was one of them, of the three. 

 

At the time the only issue I had – of course the proposal was to change Mount Pearl South to Mount Pearl – Southlands.  That would see the addition of Southlands to my district, as well as the other area, which is sort of adjacent to Southlands, which is known as South Brook.  Then, there are a few houses on Heavy Tree Road.  Basically, everything to the north or west – whatever way you want to look at it, I guess northwest of the arterial, the Robert E. Howlett, including that area.  Beyond that, there was no change in the Mount Pearl portion. 

 

I did make a representation at the time to the Commission because there was a little anomaly there.  There was a confusing area between Mount Pearl North and Mount Pearl South.  That was in the area of Roosevelt Avenue and Second Street.  While Ruth Avenue was generally one of the main border lines, when you got so far down Ruth Avenue, down to Roosevelt, you kind of went south on Roosevelt Avenue.  Then, of course, you had Mount Pearl North on one side of the street and Mount Pearl South on the other side of the street. 

 

Then it went east on St. Andrew's Avenue.  As you went east on St. Andrew's Avenue there were maybe ten or twelve houses there that would be in Mount Pearl North, while the bulk of St. Andrew's Avenue was in Mount Pearl South.  Then you got into some other anomalies around Second Street and Sunrise Avenue where, I think, Mount Pearl North had four houses on Sunrise and the rest of Sunrise was Mount Pearl South, and then similar anomalies over on Second Street.

 

Basically what I had requested to the Commission at the time was really that you need to draw that line straight down the middle of Ruth Avenue to Commonwealth Avenue and then proceed down Commonwealth Avenue to Brookfield Road.  That would basically capture the area of the entirety of Roosevelt Avenue, Second Street, First Street, Edinburgh, the entirety of St. Andrew's Avenue, Teasdale, the entirety of Sunrise Avenue, and St. David's Avenue.

 

I thought that made perfect sense to do so because there was confusion in that neighborhood, as I said, where you would have two members, and they would be divided by portions of streets or different sides of the street.  It was very confusing. 

 

I was very pleased that the Commission actually did take that into account.  I have to say they were very receptive to the idea when I made my presentation.  I was suspecting that they would make that change and they actually did make that change.  I thought that was a positive change.  It cleared up the confusion.  It really cleaned up that area. 

 

What happened though, which I did not realize at the time – when the report came out the first thing I looked for was the change I requested and they had made it.  So I said, okay, great the change is made, perfect.  What I did not realize at the time was that in exchange for fixing that portion they actually took another little section out of my district at the top of Ruth Avenue, which would be the Lindburgh Crescent neighbourhood which would include Lindburgh Crescent, Wellington through Nelson and Marconi Place, and also took out the Scammell Crescent, and Glendening Place as well.

 

Basically they fixed up one end, but then they took another portion out.  Now, I suppose it made some sense – from the perspective of taking out that section up around Lindburgh and Scammell – that they took out an entire neighbourhood.  That entire neighbourhood is now moved into Mount Pearl North, so at least there will not be confusion. 

 

I have to say I was very disappointed to lose that section of my district as I am sure any member, who has seen any changes to their district, would be disappointed.  You have represented a particular area.  You get to know the people.  You work on their issues.  You build relationships, and now, all of a sudden, you see that disappear.  There is no doubt I was disappointed by that particular change, but from an overall perspective I have no issue with the change at all.

 

In terms of the Southlands, South Brook part – and as I told the Commission at the time, obviously when we were reducing the number of seats we knew that the districts had to grow.  Some districts were going to be lost because we were going from forty-eight to forty, so we know some would be lost.  We knew in order to accomplish that, the other remaining districts would have to grow, with the exception of the Labrador seats and of course any areas that, because of geography, could not be expanded, like Fortune Bay – Cape La Hune.

 

We knew that was going to happen.  I suspected at the time – before these boundaries were even drawn, I was asked: How do you think the Commission is going to make this division in the Mount Pearl area?  I said at the time, I suspected that Southlands would be added in and that is exactly what happened.

 

Like I said, when I presented to the Commission I certainly spoke in favour of that because Southlands and South Brook have an affinity to Mount Pearl in terms of the whole concept of communities of interest, Mr. Speaker.  Really, many of the people who live in Southlands are former Mount Pearl residents, people who grew up in Mount Pearl.  A lot of them are people who, perhaps, had their starter home in Mount Pearl.  Then they wanted to build a newer home, but because of the geographic challenges in Mount Pearl in terms of the actual area available to build new homes, they decided they would do the next best thing, stay close to Mount Pearl and move into Southlands. 

 

Many of the people who are living there I would sort of deem as Mount Pearl people; people who have an affinity to Mount Pearl.  Even those who may not have been from Mount Pearl or moved there from Mount Pearl, certainly anyone who is living in that area in terms of the schools, their children would actually be going to school in Mount Pearl.  They would be going to St. Peter's Primary, they would be going to Newtown Elementary, they would be going to St. Peter's Junior High, and they would be going to O'Donel High School. 

 

All the kids would be going up through school in Mount Pearl.  Consequently, they would also for the most part be involved in sports and activities in Mount Pearl, whether that be the Show Choir, the O'Donel Jazz Band, whether that be Mount Pearl Minor Hockey, Mount Pearl Minor Baseball, basketball, the Mount Pearl Marlins Swim Team, Campia gymnastics, and what have you. 

 

The children are obviously not just going to school in Mount Pearl; they are participating in sports in Mount Pearl.  Consequently, the parents are involved in terms of being volunteers with all of these organizations in Mount Pearl.  Generally, they would be going to church, in many cases I would suggest in Mount Pearl, shopping in Mount Pearl and so on.

 

The reality of it is that there was a strong affinity to Mount Pearl.  That connection is definitely there.  The community of interest is definitely there so I think it is a natural fit.  Of course we know that Southlands – which we are not going to get into that story.  I could.  Southlands was actually once part of Mount Pearl.  It actually was in the municipal boundary of Mount Pearl and it was removed. 

 

It made a whole lot of sense that Southlands and South Brook would be brought into that district.  I certainly will be very proud to represent the people of South Brook and to represent the people of Southlands.  I have already made contact with a number of them.  I know many of them and I will continue to make contact with them. 

 

I will be seeking their support in the next provincial election in the District of Mount Pearl – Southlands assuming that it goes through as is being suggested.  I guess we are going to assume that it is going to happen, although it does not have to happen.  As members have said, these are recommendations.  These are recommendations that have been made by the Commission.  Just because they are recommendations does not mean it all has to be rubber stamped. 

 

We could see changes made, if we wanted to, if the will was there, to some of the districts.  We could see name changes of districts.  We could see a whole bunch of changes if the will was there.  Whether the government is prepared to do anything like that, well, who knows?  We will see what happens as time goes on for sure. 

 

At the end of the day, I voted for the seat reduction.  I knew there would be changes to my district.  I knew my district would be expanded.  I suspected it would be expanded to where it is, and it is.  I had hoped to clean up that section down at the bottom of Ruth which I was successful in getting done.  Like I said, I am disappointed in losing the Lindburgh and Scammell area because I have an affinity with that and work with those people. 

 

At the end of the day, I am satisfied and will be very proud to represent the people in that particular district to the best of my ability, as I represent the people of my current district to the best of my ability.  In that regard, I do not have any real issue with it.  

 

I understand, I think we all understand, that there are definitely differences between districts, whether they be Labrador districts, whether they be urban districts, or whether they be rural districts.  We understand that there are geographic considerations.  We understand there are issues around communities of interest and so on.  That is why even though I am in favour, and I believe the people of my district are in favour, or have no issue with at least the change, I realize that there will be districts in the Province where the people may not be satisfied.  That is why I am very glad that our leader has given the opportunity for our members to represent the wishes of the people who they represent.  I think that is a good thing.

 

As a matter of fact, when the boundaries thing came up I had only one email – that is it, one – from a constituent around the whole issue of the reduction of seats.  That was: Paul, I hope you are going to vote in favour of reducing the seats.  I know that since the change has come out, I have not heard any complaints from anybody around that particular change.  I communicated the change to the people of Southlands at the time about the proposed change before the final report and I never received any objections.  Based on that I can only assume the people who I represent now, and the people I will be representing – if the changes come to fruition, and if I am successful in the next general election, I can only assume that they are okay with that change. 

 

From that perspective, I will be voting in favour of the legislation.  I totally understand and appreciate that there are members in our caucus, as I said a few minutes ago, in representing the people of their districts and proposed districts, that they have to represent them and they have to vote their conscience.  They have to vote based on what those people have suggested that they would do so.  I totally respect them for doing just that.

 

Mr. Speaker, as I had indicated earlier, there are so many areas that we can speak to as it relates to this.  Unfortunately, I have less than two minutes so I am not going to get even close to touching on them all now, but I certainly will when we get to Committee of the Whole. 

 

I do want to pick up on one point while I have a minute or so.  My colleague here for Humber East – and I think it was a valid point.  When the Commission came out and drew the original map they shrunk the districts from forty-eight to forty, and there were some big changes there.  People had the opportunity to make representation because there were big changes. 

 

Whether they got enough opportunity, and whether doing it by Skype in some areas and video conferences is acceptable, and whether all the communities or every region got to have an opportunity, that is another issue which I am going to talk about when we get to Committee perhaps.  Certainly there was a big change made.  People had an opportunity to speak to those changes.  In the second and so-called final report, we have also seen huge changes. 

 

It was also my thought that you would have a proposal, and once that proposal was made they would get feedback. Then if there were changes after that, it may be somewhat minor changes, boundary issues and so on, but somewhat minor perhaps.  We have seen areas where we have seen huge changes in the second draft from what was in the first draft.  For those huge changes, the people never had any opportunity to have any say whatsoever.  I think that is a flaw.  That is a flaw, there is no doubt about it.  I recognize what my colleague said.  I certainly think he has a valid concern there.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.  I look forward to speaking again in Committee on a number of other things.

 

Thank you.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Trinity – Bay de Verde.

 

MR. CROCKER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Thank you for the opportunity this evening to stand and take a few minutes to talk about Bill 13 and represent the views of the people of my District of Trinity – Bay de Verde. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I want to look at the time frame or the piece of work of what has happened here in the last twenty-two months I guess, or a little less than twenty-two months.  It will be twenty-two months by the time we get to election day on November 30. 

 

Mr. Speaker, you go back to – I think really all this started with DarkNL.  The power went out.  This is where all this started.  It was a year ago in January the lights went out and things started to change.  It started off in January 2014 with the resignation of Premier Dunderdale. 

 

The first PC leadership race starts.  Wayne Bennett gets kicked out of the race.  Bill Barry quits the race.  Frank Coleman assumes the role.  We have a massive turnover in the Premier's Office costing hundreds of thousands of dollars in severance.  The Premier-elect Coleman, all but assumes office. 

 

I believe actually, Mr. Speaker, a year ago today – if my memory serves me correctly.  I think a year ago today was the day that Mr. Coleman pulled out of the PC leadership race.  Check your facts, but I think –

 

MR. FORSEY: Relevance.

 

MR. CROCKER: The Member for Exploits is calling relevance, but you know –

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

I would ask the member to make his comments relevant to the legislation.

 

The hon. the Member for Trinity – Bay de Verde.

 

MR. FORSEY: I am running in the next election (inaudible).

 

MR. CROCKER: I say to the Member for Exploits, I will certainly be running, I say to the member.  I also say to the member, the people of Trinity – Bay de Verde spoke very clearly on November 25 on who they wanted to represent them.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. CROCKER: Very, very clearly, Sir – very clearly.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. CROCKER: Again, I will come back to Bill 13 and I will come back to the Commission – Mr. Speaker, can I have some protection please?  The member talks about protection all the time.

 

Mr. Speaker, the Commission's timelines were restrained.  It is interesting, if you go to 12.0 of the report and you look at what the Commission actually says when it brings the report back to the House, “The Commission recommends that more than 120 days be allocated for any future commission, particularly one mandated to propose changes to the number of electoral districts.”  That is their number one recommendation in the recommendations of the report. 

 

They go on to say technology, like video conferencing, was good.  They managed to hold twelve public sittings.  I disagree with the twelve public sittings, Mr. Speaker.  I attended the public sitting in Carbonear and I also attended the public sitting in Whitbourne.  There were two different types of public sittings I witnessed in that process. 

 

I went to the Carbonear public sitting and the Commission was there in video, sort of like the Jetsons.  Mr. Speaker, a week later I made my presentation in Whitbourne and the Commission was actually present in the room.  I think the Commission got a greater feel of what was being said, or the emotion that was in the room that day in Whitbourne than they did the afternoon in Carbonear. 

 

In Trinity – Bay de Verde, Mr. Speaker, from day one, when we started talking about Bill 42, then what brings it back today as Bill 13, there was a very keen interest.  I had representation from the joint mayors and joint firefighters association.  I was actually invited to attend, and attended, three public meetings throughout the consultation process of people planning how they were going to have their views heard.  I attended a public meeting in Whiteway, one in Hant's Harbour, and one also in Old Perlican.  Mr. Speaker, everybody at those meetings shared their concerns, and their concerns were very much valid. 

 

The day I made my presentation in Whitbourne there were also presentations made by Whiteway Mayor Craig Whelan, Dr. David Prior, Heart's Content Mayor Fred Cumby, and Joy Dobbie, the chair of the local service district in Cavendish as well. 

 

Mr. Speaker, they all spoke passionately about why their portion of the district – because in the original proposal Trinity South, communities that were south of Cavendish to Hopeall, were excluded from the new district.  They felt very much slighted by that and opposed to that change.  They made a strong representation.  They presented a petition that day in Whitbourne with over 700 names that were collected in four days of people from the district who were not satisfied with the current proposal.  They wanted to stay a part of a district that they were accustomed to being a part of. 

 

I do give some credit to the Commission.  The Commission did recognize in their final report, Mr. Speaker, and placed Cavendish and Whiteway back in the new District of Carbonear-Trinity-Bay de Verde.  The people in Cavendish and Whiteway were very much pleased to be a part of the new district, and I thank the Commission for hearing what the people from Cavendish and Whiteway had to say.  I am, Mr. Speaker, disappointed for the people of Green's Harbour and Hopeall.  They also wanted to be a part of the new district, and I guess the population cap created the issue for them not being able to come back into the new district. 

 

Mr. Speaker, just to go back momentarily to the presentations that were made, I will go back to the presentation in Carbonear.  Seventeen-year-old Blake Potter, Mr. Speaker, presented that day in Carbonear.  I am going to go out on a limb and guess that Blake was probably the youngest presenter in the hearings that were held on the boundaries commission.  Blake, being a Grade 12 student – graduating from Baccalieu Collegiate, I guess next week, and future political aspirations – presented on two things that day.  It was very interesting. 

 

Blake is very much a history buff.  Blake's first part of his presentation, he gave everybody present a history lesson.  Blake brought us back to 1855.  When Blake brought us back to 1855, he talked about the name Bay de Verde remaining in a district.  Bay de Verde dates back to 1855.  So, it was a seventeen-year-old young man, Mr. Speaker, who pointed that out to the Commission.  Because the original report when it came back, it had the district called Trinity – Carbonear, I think, was the original proposal. 

 

Blake presented, and myself in my submission in Whitbourne, also suggested that Bay de Verde be put back in the name.  Much to our surprise, when the final report came back, Mr. Speaker, the Commission did change the name.  They changed it back to simply Trinity – Bay de Verde. 

 

As my colleague from Carbonear – Harbour Grace and I have chatted about, we both totally support the idea of Carbonear being a part of that district.  Carbonear has been historically a name –

 

MR. SLADE: Since 1855.

 

MR. CROCKER: Since 1855.

 

The Member for Port de Grave eloquently pointed out earlier this evening about the history of names.  No matter what the configurations are, if you look at the Bay de Verde Peninsula over history and over the last 250 years, you will always find the words Port de Grave, Carbonear, Harbour Grace, Bay de Verde, and Trinity.  You always find those names.  It is really good to see that by the time this report finally makes it through the House we are going to see all those names back again, I would hope.

 

Mr. Speaker, that brings us to the public sittings and the input that I heard from my constituents.  I want to c