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May 30, 2016                    HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS                    Vol. XLVIII No. 35


 

The House met at 1:30 p.m.

 

MR. SPEAKER (Osborne): Order, please!

 

Admit strangers.

 

Today we welcome to the Speaker's gallery Dr. Sharif Rathore and Dr. Iffat Shaheen, parents of Fatima, our Page.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: As well, we have friends of theirs, Janice Parsons and David Vincer.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: For those of you who don't know, today is Fatima's last day, so we wish her well.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: As well, I welcome to our public galleries Helen Sinclair, Mary Walsh and Joanne Morris with the Association of Early Childhood Educators of Newfoundland and Labrador. They are going to be the subjects of a Ministerial Statement.

 

Also, in the public galleries we recognize the Provincial Francophone Day representatives Cyrilda Poirier – I hope I pronounced that properly – President of the Francophone Federation and Gaλl Corbineau – I hope I pronounced that properly as well – Director of the Francophone Federation.

 

Welcome to our galleries.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

Statements by Members

 

MR. SPEAKER: For Member's statements today, we have the Members for the Districts of Harbour Grace – Port de Grave, Mount Pearl North, Exploits, Labrador West and Stephenville – Port au Port.

 

The hon. the Member for Harbour Grace – Port de Grave.

 

MS. P. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I would like to recognize the Conception Bay North Joint Council. Each month municipal councils assemble to discuss issues pertaining to communities throughout our region.

 

This association originated in the early 1970s and has now grown to include multiple municipalities such as Brigus, Cupids, South River, Clarke's Beach, North River, Bay Roberts, Spaniard's Bay, Tilton, Bishop's Cove, Upper Island Cove, Bryant's Cove, Harbour Grace, Carbonear and Victoria. Conception Bay North is comprised of strong municipalities with growing populations along with significant business sectors and industry.

 

The inshore and offshore fishery continues to be a robust mainstay in the region. Other strong industry sectors include forestry at Garland's Forest Products, manufacturing at Tetford's Restwell Mattresses, retail at Powell's Supermarkets and Atlantic Grocery and many more industry players which deliver services and product and provide employment for our residents.

 

Since beginning my political journey, I continue to attend the Joint Councils meetings. It is this team which continues to come together to tackle issues facing our region such as the replacement of Coley's Point Primary school, as it houses students from many of these communities. The council is also united on working together to keep the Harbour Grace court service in the region.

 

Colleagues, please join me in recognizing the Conception Bay North Joint Councils.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. KENT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I rise in this hon. House today to recognize and congratulate the nominees and the winner of the 2015 Citizen of the Year Award for the City of Mount Pearl.

 

Volunteers give so much of their time, without need or want for compensation of any kind. The selfless acts of these individuals were especially evident at the 2015 Citizen of the Year Ceremony which was recently held in the City of Mount Pearl. The work of volunteers is oftentimes not recognized, and it is vital that such ceremonies continue, to bring the efforts of these individuals to the forefront, highlighting the great work they do.

 

I would like to recognize in particular Donna Collens, Sandra Milmore, Bill Vincent, Sandra Woolfrey-Fahey and the winner of the 2015 Citizen of the Year Award, Emma Thornhill, nominated by the Mount Pearl Seniors Independence Group.

 

Mr. Speaker, I ask all Members of this House to join me in congratulating all nominees as well as the winner, Emma Thornhill, of the 2015 Citizen of the Year Award for Mount Pearl. Volunteers are truly the heart of our community.

 

Thank you.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. DEAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I rise in this hon. House to acknowledge the recent marking of another milestone by a true Newfoundland and Labrador icon. He was a Member of the Grand Falls Junior All Stars, who won the Veitch Memorial Trophy in 1953. He won five Herder Championships in the 1950s and 1960s.

 

He donned his number 8 jersey with the Toronto Maple Leafs on December 7, 1961, to become the first person from our province to play in the National Hockey League. From there, he moved on to conclude his career with the Detroit Red Wings, wearing number 12.

 

In 1994, he was inducted into the Newfoundland and Labrador Hockey Hall of Fame with four hockey-playing brothers: Lindy, George, Seth and Jack. His family continues to be referred to as our province's first family of hockey.

 

Alex Faulkner lives with his wife Doris in Bishop's Falls, on the banks of the mighty Exploits River, where he honed his hockey prowess.

 

I ask all Members to join with me in extending our warm wishes and birthday greetings to our very own Alex Faulkner, whose milestone of 80 years was celebrated just recently on May 21, 2016.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. LETTO: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

This past weekend I attended the 56th Anniversary of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 47 in Labrador City.

 

Legion Branch 47 has played a tremendous role in Labrador West over the past 56 years and continues to boast a membership of 130 members today. They have been diligent in honouring the veterans for decades, especially on July 1 and November 11. Four veterans remain in Branch 47, one of which is a veteran of WW II, Mrs. Joan Robertson.

 

Earlier in the day, I attended the 52nd Annual Ceremonial Review of the Royal Canadian Sea Cadet Corps 191 Labrador and the 35th Annual Ceremonial Review for the Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps 2977, both sponsored by the Legions in Labrador City and Wabush.

 

I want to also recognize Mr. Dave Flannigan, a member of Branch 47, who will be assuming the two-year role of President of Dominion Command on June 14. Mr. Flannigan, a 40-year member of the Legion, has been a loyal and active comrade.

 

Mr. Speaker, I ask all hon. Members to join me in congratulating the Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 47, on 56 years of service, and wish Mr. Flannigan success in his term as President of Dominion Command.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Stephenville – Port au Port.

 

MR. FINN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I rise today to acknowledge Doug Fowlow of Stephenville on his recent induction into the Newfoundland and Labrador Cross Country Skiing Hall of Fame. Doug was inducted into the builder category for his involvement as one of the founding members of the Stephenville Whaleback Nordic Ski Club.

 

Officially incorporated in 1968, the Whaleback Ski Club has played host to several provincial competitions, and more recently a national masters' competition in 2005. Doug was instrumental in establishing the club over 48 years ago and has been involved ever since, having just finished serving a term for eight years as president. 

 

Always a manager yet always a participant, Doug's efforts with the club involved everything from managing the finances, to the upgrading of trails and recruiting of volunteers. Whaleback Nordic Ski Club has produced some of the province's top cross-country skiing athletes and without exception this would not have been possible without the vision of Doug as a founding member in creating a training ground. 

 

In addition to Doug, Ron and Anne Chambers of Plum Point were recently inducted into the Hall of Fame.

 

Please join me in congratulating Doug, Ron and Anne on their significant achievement. 

 

Thank you. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

The Commemoration of the First World War and the Battle of Beaumont-Hamel

 

MR. SPEAKER: Today, for Honour 100 we have the Member for the District of St. Barbe – L'Anse aux Meadows. 

 

MR. MITCHELMORE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I will now read into the record the following 40 names of those who lost their lives in the First World War in the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, the Royal Newfoundland Naval Reserve, or the Newfoundland Mercantile Marine. This will be followed by a moment of silence.

 

Lest we forget: Henry Sheppard, Nelson Sherren, Samuel Sherwin, John Shiwak, James Short, Joshua Short, Richard M. Short, Leo M. Shortall, Richard A. Shortall, Stephen Shute, William Thomas Simmonds, F. Eugene Simmons, Ernest Simms, Frank F. H. Simms, George Simms, George Percival Simms, Henry Simms, John Henry Simms, Leaten Simms, Robert Ronald Simms, Ronald Gordon Simpson, Sylvester Sinnott, William Skeans, William A. Skinner, Patrick J. Slattery, George Stewart Small, Edward Smart, Frank Smart, Donald Smith, Edgar Smith, Edward Smith, Howard Smith, Josiah Smith, Luke Smith, Noah Smith, Samuel R. Smith, Stephen Smith, William H. Smith, Zechariah Smith, Isaac John Snelgrove.

 

(Moment of silence.)

 

MR. SPEAKER: Please be seated.

 

Statements by Ministers.

 

Statements by Ministers

 

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

 

MR. TRIMPER: Thank you.

 

Merci, Monsieur.

 

Mr. Speaker, I rise in this hon. House to recognize today as Provincial Francophonie Day.

 

The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador has celebrated this occasion since 1999.

 

This morning, I was pleased to participate in an event organized by the Francophone Federation of Newfoundland and Labrador here at Confederation Building. I was honoured to join students from Ιcole des Grand-Vents in this celebration and similar events are taking place today on the Port au Port Peninsula and in Labrador.

 

Ce matin, j'ai ιtι trθs heureux de participer ΰ un ιvιnement organisι par la Fιdιration des francophones de Terre-Neuve et du Labrador ici ΰ l'ιdifice de la Confιdιration. J'ai eu l'honneur de me joindre aux ιlθves de l'Ιcole des Grands-Vents dans cette cιlιbration. Des activitιs connexes se dιroulent aujourd'hui sur la pιninsule de Port-au-Port et au Labrador.

 

Monsieur le Prιsident, je travaille ιtroitement avec le Bureau des services en franηais, des ministθres clιs et la Fιdιration des francophones afin de dιterminer les meilleures faηons de mettre en œuvre la Politique sur les services en franηais en faveur de notre communautι francophone et acadienne.

 

Mr. Speaker, I've been working closely with the Office of French Services, key departments and the Francophone Federation to identify the best ways to implement the policy on French language services for the benefit of our Francophone and Acadian communities. This policy is helping us build stronger partnerships across the provincial government and identify tangible services that can be offered in both English and in French.

 

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to advise this hon. House that on June 22 and 23, I will co-host the Ministerial Conference on the Canadian Francophonie here in St. John's. This will be along with the hon. Mιlanie Joly, Minister of Canadian Heritage. We look forward to addressing the priority issues of the Francophone community during this conference.

 

Aujourd'hui, j'invite tous les honorables dιputιs ΰ se joinder ΰ moi pour fιliciter la communautι francophone et acadienne de Terre-Neuve-et-Labrador en cette Journιe de la francophonie provinciale.

 

Today, I ask all hon. Members to join me in congratulating the Francophone and Acadian community of Newfoundland and Labrador on this, Provincial Francophonie Day.

 

Thank you. Merci, beacoup.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Fortune Bay – Cape La Hune.

 

MS. PERRY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I would like to thank the minister for the advance copy of his statement. On behalf of the Official Opposition I, too, would like to recognize today as Provincial Francophonie Day, a day which we have celebrated in this province for more than 17 years.

 

I would also like to extend my appreciation to the Francophone community of our province for their efforts in organizing today's celebrations, both here at the Confederation Building and all across the province. Their dedication to the historical, cultural and linguistic culture of this province is evident.

 

However, Mr. Speaker, I would also like to take this opportunity to ask the Education Minister to reconsider cuts to Intensive Core French in this province. Many students in our province want the opportunity to gain a greater understanding of the French language. Government should be supporting these youth and not removing their opportunities.

 

(French spoken.)

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

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

 

Je dis merci au ministre pour le copie de sa dιclaration.

 

I'm very pleased to stand today and join in congratulating with him and my colleague from the Official Opposition, the Francophone and Acadian communities of Newfoundland and Labrador.

 

It is always such a pleasure to be part of the Francophonie Day celebrations and it is so important that we make sure that both the history and the culture of all the people who make up this country is kept alive, but especially those who are part of the formation of the confederation of this country.

 

Fιlicitations ΰ tous.

 

Merci Monsieur le ministre.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Further statements by ministers?

 

The hon. the Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development.

 

MR. KIRBY: Mr. Speaker, I rise in this hon. House today to proclaim May 29-June 4 as Early Childhood Educators Week in Newfoundland and Labrador.

 

Children are born ready to learn. Their early childhood learning experiences shape their future growth and early childhood educators play an important role in their development.

 

Early childhood educators influence a child's critical early learning years. Each day, ECEs wear many different hats, providing quality care, and supporting the needs of our children through play-based learning.

 

Our government supports the vital role of early childhood educators in our communities, by assisting with retention, recruitment and training of early childhood educators through the province's 10-year child care strategy.

 

Newfoundland and Labrador has a strong and effective system of regulated child care, with approximately 2,200 certified early childhood educators working throughout the province. These professionals work in diverse settings including child care centres, family child care homes, family resource centres, educational institutions, businesses and not-for-profit organizations.

 

Throughout the week, ECEs will have an opportunity to participate in a series of activities taking place around the province, such as workshops, public awareness and other special events that will provide ECEs with professional development and networking opportunities.

 

I ask all hon. Members to join me in thanking early childhood educators for their valuable work and for their continued commitment to the children of Newfoundland and Labrador.

 

Thank you.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Conception Bay East – Bell Island.

 

MR. BRAZIL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I thank the minister for an advance copy of his statement. We join with the government in recognizing Early Childhood Educators Week. We all understand and appreciate the influence and impact that early childhood educators have during the critical early-learning years.

 

Mr. Speaker, we are so pleased to see the government following through with the initiatives and plans that our administration set in motion through our 10-year child care strategy. The minister now appreciates and touts a strategy he constantly criticized just a few short months ago while in Opposition. It seems to be a trend with the minister and with this entire government.

 

In closing, I wish to thank the over 2,000 certified early childhood educators in this province and recognize the important role they play in helping develop our greatest resource – our children.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

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

 

I, too, thank the minister for the advance copy of his statement. I'm pleased to stand and recognize the importance of the early childhood educators in this province who play such an important role in the development of our children.

 

It was disappointing to see government eliminating the workplace training program that had been planned to meet the training needs of that sector. I just hope the government won't renege on its commitment to improve the financial situation of early childhood educators as well.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Further statements by ministers?

 

The hon. the Minister of Service NL.

 

MR. JOYCE: Mr. Speaker, I rise in this hon. House today to recognize the 60th anniversary of the Atlantic Branch of the Canadian Institute of Public Health Inspectors.

 

The institute is the professional organization that represents Public Health Inspectors working in every province and territory throughout Canada. The institute advances the profession and the field of Environmental Public Health through certification, advocacy, education and professional competencies.

 

Mr. Speaker, the Environmental Health Officers employed by Service NL play a key role in protecting the health and well-being of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. They have a wide range of responsibilities including food safety inspections, monitoring the bacteriological quality of drinking water, and carrying out health-related inspections of daycares, schools, personal care homes and long-term care facilities, as well as recreational facilities.

 

The public enjoys a high standard of health and safety thanks to the work of these valued professionals. On the 60th anniversary of the Atlantic Branch that represents them and helps them develop their skills, I think it's appropriate to recognize their contributions and the value of the Canadian Institute of Public Health Inspectors.

 

I ask hon. Members to join me in congratulating the Members of the Atlantic Branch for reaching its 60th anniversary. Mr. Speaker, their work is greatly appreciated.

 

Thank you.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

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

 

I thank the minister for an advance copy of his statement. Mr. Speaker, we, too, congratulate the Atlantic Branch of the Canadian Institute of Public Health Inspectors on their 60th anniversary. We'd like to extend our appreciation of the hard work the environmental officers and inspectors do for our provincial government.

 

These individuals work hard on the health and safety of the general public, from food inspections to monitoring our drinking water, daycares, long-term care facilities – undertake a range of services to help and protect the population. On behalf of the Official Opposition, I'd like to thank them for keeping Newfoundland and Labrador a safe place to live.

 

Thank you very much.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

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

 

I, too, thank the minister for the advance copy of his statement. I'm happy to join with him and my colleague from the Official Opposition in congratulating the Atlantic Branch of the Canadian Institute of Public Health Inspectors. Their work is vital to the continued well-being of all of us.

 

I remind the minister that publishing food establishment inspections online did a great deal to improve the public confidence. So I urge him, in the spirit of openness and transparency, to have all inspections conducted by our environmental health officers published online where the public can access them.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Question Period.

 

Oral Questions

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. P. DAVIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Mr. Speaker, Justice officials have been working on an opinion on this whole severance affair for over three weeks.

 

I ask the Premier: What observations were made by the Department of Justice which led you to decide to call in the Auditor General?

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

 

PREMIER BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

First of all, I'd like to say this is the last day for Fatimah. We just lost another Page here just a few weeks ago. So it really speaks to what's happening in the House of Assembly as this is a great succession plan as they move on to the next career of their lives. So before I begin to answer the Members question, I'd like to express our thank you on behalf of government for the work they've done.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

PREMIER BALL: To the question at hand about the work of the Department of Justice, Mr. Speaker, they completed their work on the weekend. As a result of that, they came back with a suggestion that, indeed, in order to finish and do the wholesome determination of the events around the appropriateness of the severance package that was paid to the outgoing CEO of Nalcor, that in their opinion what was required here was someone from the outside who could actually do an independent review, and their suggestion would be that the AG is well positioned to be able to do that review. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. P. DAVIS: What caused them to reach that conclusion, Premier? 

 

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

 

MR. P. DAVIS: Thank you. 

 

I'll try it again: What caused them to reach that conclusion? 

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

 

PREMIER BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

The Department of Justice, which is not unusual for anyone in the Premier's office to actually seek out and go looking for advice within the Department of Justice as a normal course of business. So in their opinion, in order to complete the exhaustive – and a determination of what was required in terms of the severance package for Mr. Martin, it would have required someone to actually go and interview people who would have been involved in that process.

 

As you know, the Department of Justice – that would not be in their realm of authority to do that. Although someone from the outside, they have – someone like the AG could actually do that. So the process would be determined by the AG then. We've outlined and we've passed over all the documentation that we have available to the AG. We've reached out to the AG. He and his office are willing to do this work. So in order to complete the kind of comprehensive review that's required here, it's the AG's office that is best positioned to be able to do that.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. P. DAVIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

I ask the Premier if he can confirm – we understand he received the report on Saturday from the Department of Justice. Was that a written report?

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

 

PREMIER BALL: The report was received on Saturday. After a review of the report, and when you look at the suggestions that were in the report from the Department of Justice, they came to the conclusion that in order to get to do the level of report that was required on this particular issue, in order to get to the fulsome determination that was mentioned in the report, in order to do that we needed someone to be able to go out with some more authority, to be able to interview people that were involved in this particular decision, and in order to do that we needed someone like the Auditor General, someone that was independent. We have supplied the AG's office – we have reached out to that, supplied them with all the information that is required, and now the AG is prepared to start that work.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. P. DAVIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Well, the Premier stated here in the House of Assembly on numerous occasions now that he would make this report public.

 

Will you table that report here in the House of Assembly today, Premier?

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

 

PREMIER BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

When you look at the documentation that will be forwarded to the AG, and this is – bringing the AG's office in, I would think the former premier and maybe the Leader of the Third Party would be up complimenting what we had done on the weekend, because this is something they've been asking us to do as a government for quite some time now.

 

So what we decided to do was let the Department of Justice complete their work, which they did on Saturday. We acted swiftly, I would say, Mr. Speaker, because we asked the AG to come in once the report was back. Right now, the report from the Department of Justice, we'll turn that over to the AG.

 

A couple of things we want is to make sure we have a fair and full process, and we also want to make sure that information that's out there would not influence in any way the work of the AG. All the information is now with the AG to use in his determination of the events.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. P. DAVIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Well, Premier, last week you repeated several times here in the House you would release the information. As a matter of fact, you stood here one day and you talked about how important it was for you to get the information out as quickly as possible. You said: I can't wait to get that information out as soon as Justice finishes their work. You said: Once the Department of Justice finished their work, then we'll be sharing it with the people of the province.

 

You went on to say: I look forward to getting the information out as quickly as possible. As a matter of fact, Premier, nine times on Thursday you said you were going to release it as soon the Department of Justice finished their work.

 

So, Premier, I'll ask you again: Will you table the documents from the Department of Justice, all the information they had, and their opinion here in the House of Assembly?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

 

PREMIER BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Well, part of all of that too was allowing the Department of Justice to complete their work. By then we would be into a situation where we'd be determining what options we had available to us, which direction we would go.

 

In this particular case, we turned over all the information to the Auditor General. So it's not if we're going to do this, it's going to be when we're going to do this. The former premier, he may think it's the better exercise to put information out there that could maybe have a negative impact on the independence of the work of the AG.

 

What's important for me today is to let the AG be in the position to put in place a very full, fair analysis on this documentation. Also to have information available, not to influence the interviews or the work of the AG, it's to make sure the information is out there at the appropriate time. It is not if; it is just necessarily when, I say, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. P. DAVIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Well, that is contrary to what you said last week, Premier, with all due respect. You said here in the House last week: I'm anticipating this to be just in a few days, referring to the report from the Department of Justice, that they'll have the work reviewed and as soon you get it and as quickly as possible, you're going to table it.

 

Now, Mr. Speaker, I can't think of any reason why all of the information available to the Premier can no longer be tabled or made available.

 

I will ask the Premier again: Are you going to flip-flop one more time, or are you going to stick to what you committed to last week and table the information here in the House?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

 

PREMIER BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I'm not surprised at all with some of the language coming from the former premier. It seems to be what he'd like to do. He is really not too concerned at all about due diligence. We've never seen that. Any history at all when he spent his time in government planning and making sure that information was done correct was never anything that he was concerned about before, so I don't know why he would be concerned about it today.

 

We are not interested at all in prejudicing any of the work of the AG. We will get the information out there when it's the right time to do it. What's more important now – people are concerned about this – we want to have a very fair and full process for the AG. The documentation is gone to the AG. It's the Department of Justice themselves that said they should bring in someone like the AG, not have information out there that could influence the work of the AG.

 

Mr. Speaker, it is not if; it is just a matter of when we can get that legal information out there.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. P. DAVIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Mr. Speaker, this is not about me or what anyone else has done. This is about what the Premier said. Nine times he said on Thursday that as soon as possible, he wanted to do it. He was going to get it out right away. Have it in a few days, is what the Premier said.

 

Premier, explain to the House how this will be prejudicial to the investigation being done by the Auditor General.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

 

PREMIER BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Well, I can assure you too it seems to be not only prejudicial on behalf of the former premier, but it is obviously becoming very political, I would suggest too, Mr. Speaker. Let's not forget that those contracts that were put in place were put in place by the very party that he leads. So let's not forget that.

 

Right now, Mr. Speaker, what I'm mostly concerned about is to have a very fair and very full process. This information just became available over the weekend. We've asked the AG to get involved. The AG has committed to get involved, his office; they will deal with this. What's also important here is not to have information that could actually influence the work of the AG.

 

Mr. Speaker, as I said, this information will get out there, but let's let the AG – which the very Member opposite has asked us to do – in there so that office can get the work done in the most efficient way.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. P. DAVIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

We're delighted you brought the Auditor General in, no two ways about it, but the Premier made a commitment last week that he would table information. Now he's saying it could prejudice the Auditor General.

 

I'll ask him again, because he hasn't answered the question: How could this prejudice the work the Auditor General is going to do?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

 

PREMIER BALL: Mr. Speaker, we've given the information to the Auditor General. He will determine and outline the process that he sees fit. That is the best way to answer the questions that we've asked him to do.

 

What's important here is to get that fulsome determination and examine the decision on the severance package for the former CEO. I think it's very fair that we give the AG the opportunity, number one, to outline the process that his office would like to use. Number two, maintain the integrity of that process. That will allow then a very fair – a very full and fair process to occur.

 

Mr. Speaker, this is the AG. It's an important piece of work that he's doing right now. The documentation is in the office now. They will outline the process that is best for them. This information will get out there when the AG determines his process. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. P. DAVIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Well, the Premier knew right well that this could very well end up in an investigation by the Auditor General. He talked about it last week. The province talked about it; yet, he went on to say numerous times – just at our last sitting day on Thursday, the last time this House sat, that he would release the information as soon as possible. He's saying one thing on Thursday but he's doing something else, is what he's doing. We've seen this pattern before, Mr. Speaker.

 

The Premier has not explained why or how this is going to prejudice the Auditor General. You made a commitment to release the information as soon as possible. Why won't you live up to that commitment you made the last day we sat here?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

 

PREMIER BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Well, I'm glad the former premier actually mentioned as soon as possible because that's exactly what we intend to do. First of all, I think it's very fair, unless we want to get into a situation where the information that's out there in the public could actually influence the work of the AG.

 

Mr. Speaker, the AG here is a very credible office in this House of Assembly. We've asked him – we brought the AG in to do this piece of work right now. What's important here is to maintain the integrity of the process, making sure nothing is out there that would influence in a negative way the work of the AG. So having this information now, the documentation in the office of the AG is extremely important to me and to this government. It will enable a very fair and full process.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. P. DAVIS: Thank you.

 

Are you saying the Auditor General could be influenced by the information that you table here in the House of Assembly, or we're asking you to table? Is that what you just said?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

The hon. the Premier.

 

PREMIER BALL: Mr. Speaker, I tell you, I can't even believe that question. The question was: Are you saying the Auditor General could be influenced? I just told the Member opposite that we're giving him all the information. So we want the information to influence the work and the process that he does.

 

What I'm saying is – what the Member opposite is asking is that we lay it out there today in advance of the Auditor General having a chance, the opportunity to review the documentation. That is too foolish to even think about what he just said, that that would influence the Auditor General.

 

We're going to give the information to the Auditor General, I say, Mr. Speaker. When he gets a chance to review the documentation, he will then outline his process that he will establish. It's then that the determination could be made when this information gets out there. It's not a matter of when or if we're going to do this. We will do this at the earliest possible date.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. P. DAVIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Those were the Premier's words, not mine. It came out of his mouth moments before he got up on his last answer. It's very simple. If it's not going to in any way influence what the Auditor General does – and I'm glad you've confirmed that, because you sounded like you had a different position a few minutes ago – then there's no reason not to release the information, Premier. You committed to it over and over and over again, and now you've changed your decision over the weekend.

 

Have you received any advice from anybody suggesting that you change that position, that you now not release the details that you promised to release just the last day we sat in this House?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

 

PREMIER BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

The advice to make sure we have a very open and a very fair and full process, a process that would not be influenced by information that we would prematurely put out there? Not at all, Mr. Speaker. We trust the Auditor General to do the work that they will do. That is the reason why we're asking the Auditor General, at the recommendation of the Department of Justice.

 

The Department of Justice on Saturday said that in order to do the fulsome determination of what's required here, you need someone from the outside, someone independent to come in. The Auditor General is in the best position, Mr. Speaker, to be able to do that. We've provided them the information that his office will need. They will do the investigation – which will mean from time to time, I would guess, that they are going to interview certain people that were involved in this.

 

So, Mr. Speaker, once that information has been dealt with, the Auditor General will give his report.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. P. DAVIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I ask the Premier: Who will the Auditor General report to?

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

 

PREMIER BALL: Well, Mr. Speaker, if the former premier has to ask this House who the Auditor General reports to – he's an independent officer of this House of Assembly. Who does he think he's going to report to? He's going to report to this House, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

I ask all Members one last time today, that the person standing to be recognized is the only person that should be speaking.

 

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

 

MR. P. DAVIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Well, maybe the Premier should have a look at the Auditor General Act because it gives him three options: he can report to the House of Assembly, to the Public Accounts Committee or to Cabinet. So now I'm glad we have the Premier on record that the Auditor General will report to the House of Assembly.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. P. DAVIS: Will that report be made public as soon as that report is completed, Premier?

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

 

PREMIER BALL: Mr. Speaker, it's our intention to get all this information out in the public realm as quickly as possible, but we have to allow the process to unfold. I just said to the Members opposite that the Auditor General will report to the House of Assembly. That will obviously mean that would be then public, of course. This is where we want to get this.

 

What's important here, Mr. Speaker, is to make sure that we have the process in place that has integrity, that is very full, very fair and one that is not influenced by anything that we would do. Once the Auditor General gets the opportunity to establish whatever the process he would like for his office to follow, then he will do his work that he does as he's done in the past.

 

He will do the interview. Once the report is completed, it will be here in this House of Assembly.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. P. DAVIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I'll ask the Premier: Does he expect the House of Assembly to be open at the time? If it's not open at the time, will he reconvene the House of Assembly so we can debate the report from the Auditor General?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

 

PREMIER BALL: Mr. Speaker, one thing that we do, as we sit here in this House of Assembly – my job today was number one, to get the Auditor General at the start line so he can get started on this piece of work. We've done that rather swiftly, I would say. So we've been able to do that.

 

The amount of work that's required for the Auditor General, I cannot determine what the timeline will be. I'm hoping that he'll get through this as fast as possible. If this House will be open at that particular time – as I stand here today just getting this piece of work started, I do not know if this House will be open then or not.

 

Mr. Speaker, we've seen Auditor General reports that's been given to this House of Assembly and there's usually lots of opportunity at some particular point. We do not want to prejudge where this will go, but we look forward to getting the report.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. P. DAVIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I saw the letter written to the Auditor General on the weekend.

 

I ask the Premier: Will the Auditor General be also investigating and looking into the potential involvement of the Premier, his staff, his Cabinet and his colleagues on the other side of the House?

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

 

PREMIER BALL: Mr. Speaker, as I said, the Auditor General will determine the process that his office would want. I'm fully expecting for our office to be involved in that. I can tell you right now as Premier of this province I will fully co-operate with the AG, if asked. I anticipate that will probably happen.

 

Mr. Speaker, I just look forward for the AG getting his work done in a way that's not influenced by anything that would be prematurely put out there. I can tell you from what I know of the AG, it will be a very fair and full process.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. P. DAVIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

When I read the letter from the Premier to Mr. Terry Paddon, who is the Auditor General, it looks to me the parameters of the instructions are fairly narrow: Inquire into a report on the appropriateness of severance benefits received by Mr. Martin.

 

So I ask the Premier: Will the review include any and all information that is available, any and all activities that have taken place; and, for example, will the activities of the Minister of Natural Resources and her attendance at meetings, will this be a part of the Auditor General's review? 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

 

PREMIER BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

We've put in place a great IAC committee, and I anticipate by the sound of questioning here that we might have a future Auditor General in our presence.

 

Mr. Speaker, listen, in all fairness here, the Auditor General will outline the process that is required. He can expect full co-operation from any Members on this side of the House, once that process is determined. And I can tell you, from what I know of Members over here, there will be full co-operation for the Auditor General and, like most people in this province, we look forward to the finalization of that report.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. P. DAVIS: Thank you. 

 

Maybe the Premier can tell me this: Will the Auditor General also have a look at maybe any involvement, advice, direction, or assistance that the Minister of Finance has provided, given the fact that she's a former chair of Nalcor and she was actually a board member when the contract was entered into with Mr. Martin?

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

 

PREMIER BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

I just want to finish up on the last question too because when the Clerk had reached out to the AG in this particular case, the AG was very comfortable and felt that this was a very broad range, and this will allow him and his office to complete the work that they have been asked to do. 

 

Mr. Speaker, you can anticipate, expect and will have full co-operation from all our Members, all our ministers on this side of the House, as the Auditor General goes about completing the work that we've asked him to do. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. P. DAVIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

Maybe the Premier can tell us this, because his answers are very vague as usual, but he referred to the media this morning about some type of telephone log. So the work that the Auditor General does, will he have access to any of these supposed telephone logs, your emails in and out of your office, your own personally or other emails – would that all be part of the Auditor General's review as well? 

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

 

PREMIER BALL: Mr. Speaker, as I said, what is important to me is that we have a very full, a very fair and a very open process. I will tell you that I will be co-operating. I will give whatever level of co-operation is required to the Auditor General as he completes his work, as I'm sure all our Members and ministers will. If there's information that I have that I could bring to the AG, absolutely, that information will be made available to the AG.

 

Mr. Speaker, this is important because of the public concern that we have in our province. Mr. Speaker, I will do whatever it takes to get to the bottom of this so that the AG, the Auditor General, can do the type of work to the extent that we've asked him to do.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. P. DAVIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Well, maybe the Premier can tell us: Will the Auditor General also look at the minutes of meetings that were taken? Will he look at the fact that you had a meeting with Stan Marshall prior to Mr. Martin even resigning? Will the Auditor General look at the fact that you provided conflicting information here regarding when you actually became aware that would be receiving severance?

 

The Auditor General, will he also look at the fact that board members, current board members, when did they know about the severance being paid, what knowledge did they have and who approved the cheque? Will all of those matters be looked at, Premier, by the Auditor General?

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

 

PREMIER BALL: Mr. Speaker, the only thing I think the former premier didn't ask is to do the review of the Muskrat Falls Project.

 

Mr. Speaker, I can assure you right now, whatever the AG needs in terms of questioning and information that he would require to have or seems necessary to have from Members on this side of the House, including myself and my office, we'll be more than happy to supply whatever information we have.

 

All the questions that were just outlined, they seemed to be very relevant, but I'm not here today, Mr. Speaker, to outline the process that the Auditor General would do. I would then be influencing his work. I respect and maintain the independency of the Auditor General. He is well positioned to do the work that he's been asked to do, and he agrees with that.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. P. DAVIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Well, I appreciate that from the Premier and I'm glad he's going to be open on this. Hopefully, he will hold to his word, this time.

 

Mr. Speaker, I'll ask the Premier this: Will you also ask the Auditor General to consider the fact that when asked here in the House of Assembly, you and your government refused to state confidence or lack of confidence in the board of directors or Mr. Marshall and the executive team. Will the Auditor General also consider all of this to decide if actually there was a circumstance here created by you and your government whereby constructive dismissal of Mr. Martin was created and created by your government?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

 

PREMIER BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Well, what we've asked the Auditor General to do is to look into the appropriateness of the severance package that was given to Mr. Martin by the board of Nalcor, the outgoing board of Nalcor.

 

Mr. Speaker, when you consider the appropriateness of the severance contract, the severance package that was put in place, a number of those questions that the Member just asked, I would think, would form the questioning and part of the investigation, part of the reviewing of what occurred back in April until eventually the severance contract or agreement was put in place.

 

Mr. Speaker, all of these questions are very relevant to this. All I can tell you is that we will make ourselves available and we will be co-operating with whatever the AG asks.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

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

 

In his letter to the Auditor General, the Premier issued a narrow instruction to investigate the appropriateness of the severance payments paid to the former Nalcor CEO.

 

I ask the Premier: Will the Auditor General's investigation also include looking into the involvement of the Premier's office directly with the former Nalcor board of directors, or with any individual members of that board concerning the severance issue?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

 

PREMIER BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I think, number one, is that when the Clerk spoke to the Auditor General on this particular issue, he felt that what was given in the letter, what he was asked to do, would give him a very broad range to answer the questions around the severance package that was given to the outgoing CEO of Nalcor. The AG, his office, they feel that this is a very broad mandate actually.

 

I can assure you that we will co-operate when asked to do so by the AG on any of the matters that are related to the severance contract or the severance package that was given to the former and outgoing CEO of Nalcor, Mr. Speaker. We will co-operate to make sure that we have a very full and a very fair process, one that I'm sure all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians look forward to and make sure that they want to see this occur.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

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

 

The former CEO of Nalcor said he and the Premier came to a way forward and that if they were aligned, then he would be ready to move on from Nalcor.

 

I ask the Premier: Did the way forward include agreement that Mr. Martin would be paid severance even though he said publicly he was resigning?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

 

PREMIER BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

All the information that's available outlining the events of the discussions that we've had, Mr. Speaker – all of this information, including the legal opinion, will be given to the AG to complete his work. So right now, what we do not want to do is put anything out there publicly that will influence the work of the AG.

 

As soon as the AG determines to the extent of what that process, those interviews would look like, Mr. Speaker, we look forward to getting all the information. As I've said so many times today, this is not a matter of if; this is just a matter of when. We want to make sure that the AG is in a position to have whatever legally accepted information is available to the public in our province. I look forward to getting this information out there as quickly as possible.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MS. ROGERS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I ask the Minister of Natural Resources: Did she meet with the former chair or any other representatives of the former Nalcor board regarding severance pay or other financial compensation that would be paid to the former CEO of Nalcor?

 

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

 

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

 

The Premier has sent this to the Auditor General to review, in particular the appropriateness of the payment of severance. But I do want to take the opportunity, as well, to talk a little bit about some of the other things that we've done with Nalcor. We've done a full study with EY on the cost benefit and associated risks, which I think is very important. We have a new CEO that's making some very important work with Nalcor.

 

So I think that we have to look at the fulsomeness of what we've done with Nalcor, and in particular, to answer her question, it's all been referred to the Auditor General and will be reviewed as such.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MS. ROGERS: Odd answer, if that's what an answer is, Mr. Speaker.

 

I ask the Minister of Finance: Did she meet with the former chair or any other representatives of the former Nalcor board regarding severance pay or other compensation that would be paid to the former CEO of Nalcor?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MS. C. BENNETT: No.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MS. ROGERS: Mr. Speaker, I ask the Minister of Finance, who is the former chair of Nalcor: Did she inform the Premier of the terms of the former CEO's contract, which, among things, made it clear that severance was not payable in the event of voluntary resignation by the CEO?

 

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

 

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

 

As the Member opposite may be aware, as a director for a corporation you breach your fiduciary responsibility should you discuss anything that you know about the corporation during your time as a director. I can certainly assure this House that I have maintained my fiduciary responsibility in my former role as a director at Nalcor.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

Presenting Reports by Standing and Select Committees.

 

Tabling of Documents.

 

Notices of Motion.

 

Notices of Motion

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Environment and Conservation.

 

MR. TRIMPER: Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Regulate Greenhouse Gas Emissions From Industrial Facilities In The Province, Bill 34.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Further notices of motion?

 

The hon. the Member for Conception Bay East – Bell Island.

 

MR. BRAZIL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I will move the following private Member's resolution:

 

BE IT RESOLVED that this hon. House urge the government to postpone the commencement of full-day kindergarten to avoid other decisions that will negatively impact students.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

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

 

MR. HUTCHINGS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 63(3), the private Member's resolution just entered by my colleague will be the one that will be debated on Wednesday, Private Members' Day.

 

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

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Yes, thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Pursuant to Standing Order 11, I give notice that this House do not adjourn at 5:30 p.m. tomorrow, May 31.

 

Also pursuant to Standing Order 11, I give notice that this House do not adjourn at 10 p.m. tomorrow, Tuesday, May 31.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Further notices of motion?

 

Answers to Questions for which Notice has been Given.

 

Petitions.

 

Petitions

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

WHEREAS the Deficit Reduction Levy is an extremely regressive surtax, placing a higher tax burden on low- and middle-income taxpayers; and

 

WHEREAS surtaxes are typically levied on the highest income earners only, as currently demonstrated in other provinces as well as Australia, Norway and other countries; and

 

WHEREAS government states in the 2016 provincial budget that the personal income tax schedule needs to be revised and promises to do so;

 

WHEREUPON the undersigned, your petitioners, humbly pray and call upon the House of Assembly to urge government to ensure that the Deficit Reduction Levy be eliminated and any replacement measure be based on progressive taxation principles, and that an independent review of the Newfoundland and Labrador provincial income tax system begin immediately to make it fairer to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

 

As in duty bound, your petitioners will ever pray.

 

Mr. Speaker, I'd like to point once again to the online petition that over 20,000 – not 200, not 2,000, but 20,000 people across the province signed. It was an electronic petition. Our House at this point is not able to receive electronic petitions, which is unfortunate. I would hope that in the future we would see modifications to our House, modernization of the process in which we do our business here in the House where electronic petitions will be accepted.

 

Some might say, well, it's nothing to add your name to an electronic petition. The interesting thing is, Mr. Speaker, actually what people did here required, in some ways, even more work than just signing a hard-copy paper because many, thousands of people actually wrote comments, and some of them quite extensive comments as to why they believed the levy was unfair and regressive taxation. Within those comments we have people who are talking about the need for a complete overview of our taxation system to ensure that we have a progressive taxation system. Government has promised that but it seems that it's going to be pushed down the road a little bit.

 

Mr. Speaker, I've offered this to the Premier a few times and I'm willing to offer it to him again. I have hard copies of all the electronic petitions and also a number of the comments that people wrote. Again, what people are calling for is an overview of our complete taxation system. That's what this petition in my hand calls for and I believe it is time the people of the province know that it is time to do that. 

 

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

 

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

 

MR. K. PARSONS: Thank you very much, 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 the high quality of education is vital to a strong and successful society and should be a priority of the provincial government; and

 

WHEREAS the provincial government has announced funding reductions to the Department of Education which will result in an increase in class size cap for students in grades four to Level III, as delivered on April 15, 2016; and

 

WHEREAS these funding reductions will result in a reduction of teacher allocation units at Ιcole Mary Queen of Peace School, the introduction of combined classes and a reduction in the provision Intensive Core French instruction at our children's school; and

 

WHEREAS the provincial government has decided to proceed with the costly implementation of full-day kindergarten in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador;

 

WHEREUPON the undersigned, your petitioners, humbly pray and call upon the House of Assembly to urge government to instruct the school boards to delay the implementation of full-day kindergarten until such time as the province's financial circumstances improve and restore programs, teacher allocations and class size caps to 2014 levels.

 

And as in duty bound, your petitioners forever pray. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I attended a silent protest, one of the ones that were organized by the school. I spoke to many of the parents at Mary Queen of Peace and all of them are in the same thing. This is a school that has 700 students. It's a K to12 school. There has been crowding in this school for the past 10 years. Last year it was announced, the first extension to the school. 

 

As you know, in the Northeast Avalon there have been many renovations, upgrades and new schools are getting built, but this is the first time in 10 years that anything has been done. Other than pavement and a few lockers, a bit of capital expenditure on the school. This is devastating to the community. The cuts to education, combined classes, layoffs, and increased, like I said, cap size.

 

At Mary Queen of Peace they're going to lose three units – that's three teachers – resulting in combined classes for grades three and four, and grades five and six. Early French immersion also, 14 children won't get to take intensive core French. This school doesn't have a cafeteria. The gym is used half the time so people can have a place to go eat. There is no functioning library. There is no computer lab for the kids, and this is really another kick to that school.

 

This is a school that's not represented by my district, but represented by Members opposite me. Parents really are concerned. Actually, Mr. Speaker, as of – there are still petitions out there, but right now there are almost 500 names from the parents of this school; 500 parents who are really concerned. They're asking the government to listen to their concerns. They're asking the Minister of Education to listen to their concerns.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. K. PARSONS: I ask government, please listen to the concerns of the parents of this school.

 

Thank you.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

WHEREAS government has once again cut the libraries budget, forcing the closure of 54 libraries; and

 

WHEREAS libraries are often the backbone of their communities, especially for those with little access to government services where they offer learning opportunities and computer access; and

 

WHEREAS libraries and librarians are critical in efforts to improve the province's literacy levels which are among the lowest in Canada; and

 

WHEREAS already strapped municipalities are not in a position to take over the operation and cost of libraries;

 

WHEREUPON the undersigned, your petitioners, humbly pray and call upon the House of Assembly to urge government to keep these libraries open and work on a long-term plan to strengthen the library system.

 

And as in duty bound, your petitioners will ever pray.

 

Today, Mr. Speaker, I'm presenting the signatures of people from – actually, from my district here in St. John's – people who are concerned about the fact that 54 of the libraries in rural Newfoundland and Labrador are being shut down by this government. It seems that the ordinary people in our constituencies understand the issue that is arising because of these closures, people in all parts of the province understand it, people outside the province understand it but this government doesn't understand what they're doing.

 

One of the letters that I've received that's very outspoken about the libraries says that it's impossible to understand how cutting communities' access to physical books will improve our low literacy levels, the worst in the country. Then adding to that, the increased taxes, including a new tax on books, will make it even more difficult to obtain print material in other ways. In tough economic times, libraries are needed more than ever.

 

Even somebody who loses a job and needs to go to a computer to even find out what job opportunities there are, that's being taken away from them in rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

 

The writer of one letter that was in The Telegram points out that we are just falling so far behind the rest of Atlantic Canada, just look at Atlantic Canada itself, and talks about the Province of New Brunswick where they've just announced a new $900,000 investment to extend library hours as part of the provincial plan to boost literacy. Here we are with a worse literacy rate than New Brunswick and we're shutting them down. I mean it's absolutely disgraceful, shutting down the libraries that are on islands; islands that have to use ferries to get to the mainland; islands that have, some of them, no other services left on their islands, and the libraries are being shut.

 

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Conception Bay South.

 

MR. PETTEN: 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 Budget 2016 introduced over 50 new fees and increased over 300 fees; and

 

WHEREAS Budget 2016 asks the people of this province to pay more for a decrease in government services; and

 

WHEREAS these fee increases negatively impact the financial well-being of seniors, youth, families, students and individuals;

 

WHEREUPON the undersigned, your petitioners, humbly pray and call upon the House of Assembly to urge government to immediately reverse fee increases as introduced through Budget 2016.

 

And as in duty bound, your petitioners will ever pray.

 

Mr. Speaker, we get up in the House and the levy has always been the lightning rod, and we talked about a lot of other factors in the budget, the gas tax, the insurance tax, other programs but we never really speak a lot about the fees. As time goes on, when they all come into full impact – I know if you go, for instance, to a provincial park, you're still paying last year's fees. A lot of this stuff hasn't hit home yet.

 

We get sometimes sidetracked and it's the bigger items that people are sometimes focused on, which is fair game. We all do that, but it's the little fees – and I've probably said it here in this House before, it's death by a thousand cuts. It's no one big thing, it's all these – and they're all hitting people very hard. We've talked about schools and other parts of the – a bunch of items, but fees themselves we don't zero in on them a lot. There are people, as we're presenting this petition actually, who have great concerns over a lot of these fees.

 

You go right down; there are pages of them here. You can list them off. A lot of these fee increases have doubled. I'll say it again, I'll be on record as saying you add all these fees and everything else, the other impacts of this budget – you put fees on top of everything else, people are already crying out that they're going to find a struggle. These fee increases are not going to help, like I say.

 

The budget already impacts most every person in the province in a negative way. Then you're just adding the fees, it's equivalent, Mr. Speaker, of putting salt in the wound. I present this petition and I ask government to give it some serious consideration because it is an important issue that sometimes gets lost in the mix.

 

Thank you.

 

MR. SPEAKER (Warr): The hon. the Member for Ferryland.

 

MR. HUTCHINGS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Mr. Speaker, I rise to present this petition in the House:

 

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

 

WHEREAS an extension was announced to the Robert E. Howlett Highway on March 25, 2014; and

 

WHEREAS the environmental assessment, design and engineering of this project is completed; and

 

WHEREAS continued residential growth and commercial growth has increased traffic on the Southern Avalon;

 

WHEREUPON the undersigned, your petitioners, humbly pray and call upon the House of Assembly to urge the government to continue with this significant piece of infrastructure to enhance and improve traffic to the Southern Avalon.

 

And as in duty bound, your petitioners will ever pray.

 

Mr. Speaker, this highway – for a number of years we've looked at increasing the infrastructure requirement. The extension to the Robert E. Howlett would do that. It's about 9.6 kilometres that were approved in 2014, and I had it moved on through the environmental assessment piece. I think that was released in maybe March 2015. Further on in that year it was accepted by the then minister of Environment.

 

Unfortunately, in this year's budget of 2016, this government decided not even to defer this project, but basically to cancel it, take it off the books, which is very difficult news and upsetting news for the people of the Southern Avalon, the whole Southern Avalon. So while this is to enhance traffic, commerce from and to the Southern Shore, it enhances the whole Southern Avalon.

 

What it does, we have significant, as I said, commerce back and forth through the region, significant residential growth we've seen in the past number of years. We see a lot of people commuting back and forth to the city, as well from the manufacturing, fabrication point of view. We've seen significant work over the past number of years that, as a government, we've invested in as well. You're looking at Bay Bulls harbour and infrastructure as well to the offshore. So a lot is happening.

 

It's very disappointing to the people that this was shelved. There are some concerns with respect to watershed, but that's not something we can't mitigate and move forward on. It shouldn't be a showstopper. Obviously, there is a watershed at Bay Bulls Big Pond.

 

This project would take traffic further away from that watershed which would seem to support everything in regard to the protection of that watershed. If we need to take some other measures to protect it, we should do that. We call on Transportation and Works and Environment now as well to work collectively to get this back on the radar, to move forward.

 

There is supposedly federal infrastructure money there that can now be accessed. So let's get to work, get this done for the people of the Southern Avalon which require it. It should be done. It was announced. Let's get this back on and get it done.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for St. George's – Humber.

 

MR. REID: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I have a petition today related to the public library in St. George's. I will read the prayer of the petition, 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 the public library in St. George's could possibly close in 2017-2018; and

 

WHEREAS the library provides many services, in addition to the access of books, which are an important part of the social and cultural life of the community; and

 

WHEREAS the library has many important partnerships with community groups; and

 

WHEREAS the limited expenditures on this library is very good value for taxpayers;

 

WHEREUPON the undersigned, your petitioners, humbly pray and call upon the House of Assembly to urge the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to take actions which will result in the continued operation of St. George's public library.

 

Mr. Speaker, this petition is signed by over 500 people from the communities of St. George's and Flat Bay which use this library. I think the fact that many people have signed the petition demonstrates the feeling in the community that the library should continue to stay open.

 

This library is one of four in my district which are on the list of possible closures. There's one in Stephenville Crossing, there's one in St. George's that this petition relates to, another one in McKay's and another in the Codroy Valley.

 

So when I heard the possibility that these libraries might close, I met with the local volunteer boards related to each of these libraries to get a better sense of the work that these libraries do in the community. It was very interesting to find out the range of activities that happen at these libraries. They are not just places where people go to take out books, although that's an important function that they provide as well.

 

Another thing that they do is provide Internet access to people who can't get Internet access or can't afford to get Internet access in their communities. In a couple of cases, it's the only place in the community where you can go and get free Wi-Fi and use that service as well, Mr. Speaker.

 

As well, libraries have developed many partnerships with community groups and they have many activities such as literacy programs for young children, homework programs, students can go there and do their homework, also cultural activities. The library in St. George's has in the past offered music lessons and activities like that for people in the community who might not have had that opportunity if the library weren't in place.

 

There are many sorts of things that libraries do and I think rather than looking at closing libraries, maybe we should be looking at how we can reinvigorate libraries in this province. What does excellence in small libraries look like?

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. REID: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. Member's time has expired.

 

The hon. the Government House Leader.

 

MR. A. PARSONS: I call Orders of the Day, Mr. Speaker.

 

Orders of the Day

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, I would move, seconded by the Minister of Natural Resources, for leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Amend The Highway Traffic Act No. 2, Bill 33, and I further move that the said bill be now read a first time.

 

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that the hon. the Minster of Service NL shall have leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Amend The Highway Traffic Act No. 2, Bill 33, and that the said bill be now read a first time.

 

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

 

All those in favour, 'aye.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Carried.

 

Motion, the hon. the Minster of Service Newfoundland and Labrador to introduce a bill, “An Act To Amend The Highway Traffic Act No. 2,” carried. (Bill 33)

 

CLERK (Barnes): A bill, An Act To Amend The Highway Traffic Act No. 2. (Bill 33)

 

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

 

When shall the bill be read a second time?

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Tomorrow.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Tomorrow.

 

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

 

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

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, I call Order 6, second reading of Bill 31.

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Environment and Conservation.

 

MR. TRIMPER: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the Member for Labrador West, that Bill 31, An Act To Amend The Labour Standards Act, now be given a second reading.

 

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that Bill 31 entitled, An Act To Amend The Labour Standards Act, be now read a second time.

 

Motion, second reading of a bill, “An Act To Amend The Labour Standards Act.” (Bill 31)

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Environment and Conservation.

 

MR. TRIMPER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I rise today in this hon. House to introduce a bill to amend the Labour Standards Act, which confirms legislative authority for issuing labour standards clearance certificates and increases the fee to $75 from $50. The issuance of clearance certificates has been ongoing for some time.

 

Mr. Speaker, a clearance certificate is a certificate provided by the Labour Standards Division of the Labour Relations Agency on my behalf as minister, which indicates that an individual or company is in good standing under the legislation. The Labour Standards Division administers and enforces the Labour Standards Act which establishes the minimum terms and conditions of employment.

 

The staff of the division receives approximately 12,000 requests for services annually. They are involved in the resolution of approximately 450 workplace disputes through the provision of mediation and/or conciliation services. It is one very busy group of government. They conduct investigations and issue orders of compliance.

 

Mr. Speaker, the provision of a clearance certificate is an incentive to business or parties to abide by the Labour Standards Act. They can be used as a tool to ensure compliance with the Labour Standards Act as they are not issued if the party has a claim against them or is subject to an investigation. The web-based clearance certificate service is fast and efficient and very easy to use.

 

I thank you for the opportunity to speak to the bill. I invite other hon. Members to share their perspectives.

 

Thank you.

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Conception Bay South.

 

MR. PETTEN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I won't take a lot of time speaking on Bill 31, but I have a few comments. I'd like to thank the minister for the briefing received Friday past to our staff. Thank you for that.

 

As the minister just stated, this legislation – it's the fees increasing up to $75. At one time I believe it was $25 and it increased to $50. Now we're increasing it from $50 to $75 as of Budget 2016. From my notes, it's part of a legislative change. It was a policy that's now being put into legislation. I guess that is a good thing.

 

I'm reading they have 2,800 certificates they issue per year and that's probably two days to complete. As the minister stated, that's a busy division. I'm well aware of the work they do.

 

You look at 2,800 of these, on top of everything else they do, and it does create a lot of extra work. For that, I do recognize. It's a fee increase. No one likes a fee increase, but it's an important service and a lot of time goes into preparing these, Mr. Speaker.

 

Like I say, you're enshrined in the legislation – going from policy to legislation which makes it more complete. As we know, policies sometimes are what they are. At least with legislation, it's more solid footing.

 

I also point out we're one of three provinces that charge for this service. There are eight other provinces actually that don't charge for it. It's an interesting note that kind of jumped out at me. In any event, it's been an ongoing practice. It has just been an increase over the last number of years and putting something like this in the legislation from policy, I have no problem with that either. It's a very busy division.

 

Basically, that's all I really have to add to it, Mr. Speaker. It's a pretty routine housekeeping item.

 

Thank you very much.

 

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

 

MR. LETTO: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

It's a pleasure for me to rise today and speak on behalf of Bill 39 and support my colleague, the Minister of Environment and Conservation.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Bill 31.

 

MR. LETTO: What did I say?

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Thirty-nine.

 

MR. LETTO: Oh, 39 – 31, sorry; I'm just getting a head of myself. I thought we missed a few. We all make mistakes. Some of us are able to admit it.

 

Anyway, Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak on this bill. As the minister already noted, this bill proposes to amend the Labour Standards Act to establish legislative authority for issuing labour standards clearance certificates and increase the related fee from $50 to $75.

 

Now, it's interesting to note, Mr. Speaker, that it was raised to $50 and the Member for CBS alluded to it that one time it was $25. He is right. It was his administration that raised it from $25 to $50 in April 2013 and it's been that way ever since. The fact of the matter is they didn't bring in legislation to make it official. So as we've been doing since we took office, we are just cleaning up more of the mess that they left behind.

 

As part of the budget and as part of the GRI that fee is now going to $75. Raising this fee for clearance certificates will increase the revenue by an estimated $70,000 per year based on an average of 2,800 certificates issued annually over each of the last five years. The estimated revenue from clearance certificates this year is $175,000, which factors in a partial year increase for 2016.

 

Clearance certificates are provided by the Labour Relations Agency to confirm that a person or company is in good standing under the Labour Standards Act. Upon receipt of their request, the LRA reviews case files and advises the client on whether the person or company remains a subject of an unresolved investigation or claim.

 

As you know, Mr. Speaker, these certificates are usually requested by law firms in the course of ensuring due diligence in real estate transactions. Again, we're bringing in legislation to make sure that everything is above board and everything is legally in place. 

 

But before I sit down, Mr. Speaker, I want to just mention a couple of words about the Labour Relations Agency and the work that they do. Since we took office in December, since I was elected in November, I've had the privilege of working with the Labour Relations Agency on a number of issues, especially around the labour relations at the Iron Ore Company of Canada and I have found them to be very, very co-operative. They have some good staff over there who really know their stuff. So it's been a pleasure and I want to thank them for their work over the past four months since I've started working with them.

 

I won't go on any longer, Mr. Speaker, but just to say that this bill is going before the House today and I look to the Opposition and Third Party to support this very important bill.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

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

 

I'm pleased to stand and speak to Bill 31, which is making an amendment to the Labour Standards Act. I know the other speakers have explained what's going on, so I won't go into huge detail, but probably point out first of all that what it is dealing with, which is a fee for clearance certificates, is something that happens when there is a transaction of property and a lawyer for a company wants to ensure that the company selling the property to his or her company doesn't have a lien placed on it on behalf of an employee who is owed money. These clearance certificates are certificates that make it clear that the company that's selling is not going to be causing them any legal problems if they buy that property.

 

Now, it's interesting that what we have happening here is that a fee that was only $35 is now going up to $75 without any explanation of why it is necessary to do that. So I think what we have is something that is, again, part of the budget this government has brought down, and what we see here is a real cash grab, because what we have in that budget is any possible fee that can be raised has been raised by the government. This is another fee which has been substantially raised by the government. It may not sound like a lot, but enough of these could cause a company a real problem.

 

It's another sign of this government raising fees without any analysis, without any explanation of why they're doing it, except, I guess, for saying we are getting money wherever we can get it. So this is their way of getting revenues off the backs of individuals and of small businesses, and that's how they're getting the revenue that's needed instead of coming up with some real, intelligent plans for real revenue growth in this province.

 

Now, this comes under labour standards, and I think it's important to point out that we do know that the act, we're being told, is always being reviewed to make sure it meets minimum standards, but what is really needed for the Labour Standards Act is a whole legislative review. It's long overdue, and it's something that needs to happen. The only reason we're standing here today looking at a change to it is not a change that's necessarily really concerned with workers and the standards for workers, it's a change that has to do with government doing another cash grab off the backs of people, as I've just said.

 

There are things in this Labour Standards Act, for example the section that stipulates that overtime, which is paid at time and a half, will be paid at minimum wage. So lots of people are not getting overtime. They're not getting their breaks. They're not getting, really, the full reimbursement that they should be getting for overtime.

 

Another piece of the labour standards that needs to be reviewed is the complaints section. Labour standards are complaint driven, whereas the Occupational Health and Safety Division in enforcing its legislation does its own inspections and went from 11 to 32 inspectors in recent years. We need to bring the labour standards up so that people can really have their needs met, that complaints that they do have are dealt with quickly and that people who are working in our province are being taken care of.

 

The department knows there should be a review of the Labour Standards Act. We keep getting piecemeal changes, but there isn't an overall review. We've had a lot of changes in our labour force in Newfoundland and Labrador, changes in work that's being done, changes in the face of our workers in terms of age, et cetera. So we really do need an overhaul.

 

We also have questions about the work-alone provisions. This is something that needs to be looked at. But what we don't want is piecemeal, and this is what we're getting here is piecemeal. We also have the whole issue of temporary foreign workers and whether or not they are adequately protected under our labour standards legislation.

 

I'm encouraging the minister to look at the fact that our Labour Standards Act is well overdue for an overhaul. It's outmoded and it's very sad that the only reason we're standing here today is not to try to really improve our Labour Standards Act and the protection of our workers, it's only to give the government the opportunity, as I said before, to do a cash grab off the backs of people in the province, to help them with a budget that is showing no creativity, no vision.

 

Obviously I'm going to vote for this –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MS. MICHAEL: – but the thing is that this government will just continue doing this kind of thing, Mr. Speaker, and it's very disturbing.

 

Thank you.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl – Southlands.

 

MR. LANE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I'm not going to take too long to speak to this, but I will take a moment just to have my say on Bill 31. As indicated, I intend to, at the very least, stand on each and every bill to at least give my position whether I'm in favour or I'm against.

 

I will be supporting the bill. As has been said, it is really a housekeeping bill, to some degree. It's put in place obviously, as has been said, for real estate transactions and so on between businesses that – and it's a protection for a business. If they were going to purchase another company or take over a new company, they would have assurances. They would know what they're getting into basically.

 

I see it as a protection mechanism that is being formalized. I think it should be there. I agree with it. I also agree that if that is going to be provided and if it's going to involve employees of the provincial government that we're all paying for to process these certificates and so on, then obviously, at the very least, we should recover the cost.

 

Obviously, there's an attempt here to raise additional funds because of the budgetary situation that we're in. Unlike what my colleague just said, from my perspective if we're going to have to raise money, then I would much rather see some fees on things like this, than I would see fees on drivers licences and registration and so on that are going to hurt a lot of people and a lot of – even like low-income people. If I had to choose, I'd prefer to support something like this to be honest with you.

 

I really have no big problem with it. I would say the Member for St. John's East – Quidi Vidi does raise a good point, as it relates to the Labour Standards Act. While it's fine to put this in place and it makes sense – and like I said, I have no real big issue with the fee – there certainly are a number of things in the Labour Standards Act that do need to be addressed.

 

I'm not going to get into them all, but one that she did mention – and I've actually had a couple of people call me on this. I can remember speaking to one gentleman. He was working at – I believe it was security, if I'm not mistaken. He was making like $15 an hour. He had worked a whole bunch of overtime because it had been available. When his cheque came he was really surprised by the amount he received. He was expecting to receive time and a half, which would have brought him up to basically $22.50 an hour. Under the Labour Standards, he was told by his employer they only had to pay him time and a half minimum wage, not time and a half of his actual wages.

 

That was something there that I thought was a real injustice to that worker in that case. That's one thing, and there are other things that definitely need to be addressed in the Labour Standards Act for sure. I would agree with the Member who was just up, that there are much more pressing things in the Labour Standards Act that certainly do need to be addressed for sure. Obviously, that hasn't been done today, but what is being done I agree with in principle.

 

While I would agree that this is being done, the real motivation here is to generate additional money, given the fact where we are financially with the budget and so on. If we had to go down certain roads with the fees and so on, I'd certainly think this is much more palatable than some of the other ones which have been proposed. So I will be supporting it.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER (Osborne): The hon. the Member for Stephenville – Port au Port. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. FINN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

It's always great to rise and speak to any piece of legislation. In particular today we're discussing Bill 31, An Act To Amend the Labour Standards Act. I'd like to thank the Minister Responsible for the Labour Relations Agency and the Member for Lake Melville for introducing this piece of legislation, and to those Members who've already taken the opportunity to speak to it as well.

 

Mr. Speaker, the Labour Relations Agency does a great deal of work here in the province. I believe the minister had alluded to receiving some-12,000 applications annually with respect to the clearance certificates. The clearance certificates, essentially, in addition to providing individuals with the proper information regarding individuals, businesses and their compliance, it's certainly a great incentive for businesses to abide by the Labour Standards Act as well, and use as a tool to ensure compliance with the act.

 

In having a conversation earlier with the minister and discussing some of the issues around the Labour Standards Act and the Labour Relations Agency, essentially with respect to the number of requests they get annually, the increase in fee here is in part due to a cost recovery measure. In addition to that, and just to make reference I guess to the Member for St. John's East – Quidi Vidi who just spoke with respect to this being a cash grab, I don't really believe that's a very accurate reflection of what we're looking to do here.

 

In doing a provincial and territorial scan, it looks that we've been a bit behind with respect to this fee. So this is a nominal fee increase, I would suggest to the Member opposite, and to the Members who referenced this as essentially a cash grab, a $25 increase.

 

As the Member for Labrador West alluded to as well, this fee was increased in 2013 by the former administration. At which time there was no legislation around enforcing that, if you will. So in addition to making the nominal fee increase here, we're just looking to make sure it's introduced into the legislation.

 

The estimated revenue we'd be generating from this right now, an increase of $70,000 per year, and with the partial year of 2016, that's $175,000 per year for this fee increase. So I'd suggest to the Member for St. John's East – Quidi Vidi, as well as the Member for Conception Bay South, when you're talking about fee increases and those impacting and all these fee increases, well this is one that's not going to have any grave impact on very many citizens of our province. In fact, I would suggest it would be mostly law firms and those other companies that are looking to issue certificates of clearance.

 

I won't say too much more than that. It seems to be a pretty straightforward bill; a pretty straightforward request as well. The Member also raised, as did the independent Member, some issues around other issues in the Labour Relations Agency. I'll leave that to the minister.

 

Always to give credit where credit is due, it's always great to bring up other ideas and suggestions and it certainly sounds like you brought up a specific issue. I didn't hear any suggestions for that matter on that note, but again today a very nominal fee increase to the Labour Standards Act and Labour Relations Agency. I certainly won't have any trouble supporting this bill.

 

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: If the hon. Minister of Environment and Conservation speaks now he shall close debate.

 

Seeing no further speakers, the hon. the Minister of Environment and Conservation.

 

MR. TRIMPER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I do thank the hon. Members of the House from Conception Bay South, Labrador West, St. John's East – Quidi Vidi, Stephenville – Port au Port and Mount Pearl – Southlands.

 

I'd just like to make a couple of comments that I heard. First of all, I'm very encouraged about the support that I anticipate has been expressed by all hon. Members and colleagues of the House, working for the people of this province.

 

I did want to talk a little bit about, a couple of things they mentioned. First of all, I'd like to thank the Member for Labrador West and his acknowledgement of the important role of the Labour Relations Agency. I can tell you, of the five departments I'm responsible for, this is the one that I needed to go and do my homework on. I didn't have a good, strong technical background, but I must say I'm extremely impressed with the calibre of people there.

 

It is interesting to note that they are – I'm curious as to how long this is going to last, but for the last about 16 months now we have not had a legal strike or lockout in this province. I'm hoping that's going to continue, but these are challenging times so we'll see how we do. I must say our conciliators or mediators in this agency and the role of the Labour Relations Board is a very busy group. We cross our fingers and see how they'll do.

 

I also wanted to – the Member for St. John's East – Quidi Vidi brings up an important point. I wanted to assure her and other Members, that yes, this is a very straightforward bill. It is very much administrative in its actions. It is capturing some text that we wanted to revise as per motions that were made in the previous administration. So it is a catch up.

 

The fee increase from $50 to $75 is also a catch-up to other jurisdictions. I can assure you also, though, that there are a lot of services government provides, including in the Labour Relations Agency which, as now that I'm in this side after having a career in private sector and private life, I can assure you we don't even come close to recovering the services that government provides.

 

In terms of looking at other aspects of the bill and so on such as labour standards or the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, if I could ask the patience of the House, I would like to introduce a very important situation in that probably the leader of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program in Labrador was a gentleman – his name is Edgar Kippenhuk.

 

Unfortunately, his funeral was yesterday. I was at his funeral and I can tell you that it was very moving to see the dozens of members, particularly from the Filipino community who were there. I can tell you this minister understands full well the importance of that legislation and getting it right. I'm looking forward to working with other departments, but particularly the federal counterparts, on improving standards for foreign workers in this province and in this country.

 

This bill supports working Newfoundlanders and Labradorians by ensuring they get the employment benefits they have earned. I look forward to the passage of this bill, Mr. Speaker.

 

Thank you.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Is it the pleasure of the House that Bill 31, An Act To Amend The Labour Standards Act, be now read a second time?

 

All those in favour?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Those against?

 

Carried.

 

CLERK: A bill, An Act To Amend The Labour Standards Act. (Bill 31)

 

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. A. PARSONS: Now.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Now.

 

On motion, a bill, “An Act To Amend The Labour Standards Act,” read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House presently, by leave. (Bill 31)

 

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

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the Minister of Environment and Conservation, that the House resolve into a Committee of the Whole to consider Bill 31.

 

MR. SPEAKER: It's been moved and seconded that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole and that I do now leave the Chair so that they can debate Bill 31, An Act To Amend The Labour Standards Act.

 

All those in favour?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Those against?

 

Carried.

 

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

 

Committee of the Whole

 

CHAIR (Warr): Order, please!

 

We are now considering Bill 31, An Act To Amend The Labour Standards Act.

 

A bill, “An Act To Amend The Labour Standards Act.” (Bill 31)

 

CLERK: Clause 1.

 

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: A bill, An Act To Amend The Labour Standards 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. A. PARSONS: Mr. Chair, I would move the Committee rise and report Bill 31.

 

CHAIR: The motion is that the Committee rise and report Bill 31 carried without amendment.

 

All those in favour, 'aye.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: Opposed?

 

Carried.

 

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

 

MR. SPEAKER (Osborne): The hon. the Deputy Chair of Committees.

 

MR. WARR: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole have considered the matters to them referred and have directed me to report Bill 31 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 31, An Act To Amend The Labour Standards Act, without amendment.

 

When shall the report be received?

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Now.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Now.

 

When shall the said bill be read a third time?

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Tomorrow.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Tomorrow.

 

On motion, report received and adopted. Bill ordered read a third time on tomorrow.

 

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

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, I would call from the Order Paper, Order 5, second reading of Bill 30.

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Service NL.

 

MR. JOYCE: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the Minister of Natural Resources, that I now introduce the bill for the second time.

 

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that Bill 30, An Act To Amend The Co-operatives Act, be now read a second time.

 

Motion, second reading of a bill, “An Act To Amend The Co-operatives Act.” (Bill 30)

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Service NL.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. JOYCE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I rise for debate on the amendments to the Co-operatives Act. The Co-operatives Act currently requires that any co-operative that is incorporated in our province is to have the word co-operative as part of their legal name. The act does not currently permit usage of a French language version of the word coopιrative. This proposed legislative amendment will permit a co-operative to use the French or English version of the word co-operative as the legal name or both.

 

The Co-operatives Act has existed in its current form for decades, but the requirement to use the English version of the word co-operative became an issue for the Francophone organization last year. They were attempting to establish a co-operative for business and took issue with the requirement of two file papers using the English language version of the word in the legal name of the business.

 

While the proposed legislative amendment is minor in nature, it is an important amendment to the members of the Francophone community. Our government values the Francophone community in our province and is currently pursuing this amendment to respond to their concerns.

 

This issue was significant enough to the Francophone community that people filed a complaint with the Office of the Citizens' Representative last month. We want to resolve this issue for members of the Francophone community as quickly as possible and we hope to have the support of all parties in this hon. House in moving the proposed amendment forward. Making this amendment will bring provincial law in line with other provinces in Canada and other jurisdictions to permit the French version of the word co-operative in a co-operative name.

 

I look forward to progressing with this important amendment quickly and to addressing the needs of the Francophone community. 

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

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

 

We, too, along with the minister, agree that this had to be done. Again, it's only bringing us in line with the rest of Canada, and to all co-operatives in the province that do have need of the French name.

 

This is really something to just put us in line with the rest of Canada and make sure we have proper legislation in for all co-operatives right across the province. So we will be supporting this also.

 

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. 

 

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

 

MR. LETTO: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

It is a pleasure for me to rise today and support this bill, Bill 30, An Act to Amend the Co-operatives Act.

 

Mr. Speaker, Labrador West – I guess since its incorporation in 1960 – has had many ethnic backgrounds of people in its community. One of the most prominent ones, I guess, is the Francophone Association, the Francophone population that exists there. I guess it's twofold why we have such a large population. One is because when the town was formed in 1960 and the Iron Ore company was formed, people came from all over the world, actually, to work there. Being in close proximity, next to the border of the Province of Quebec, we do have a large Francophone influence.

 

This bill was brought forward because of a request from the Francophone Association in Labrador West to be able to form a coopιrative. When they went to get it done, the legislation didn't allow the French version of coopιrative to be used. That's why we brought this bill forward.

 

We certainly would like to thank the Francophone Association for bringing this forward. We're very pleased as a government to support them in this initiative. As the minister has said, it is bringing legislation current with the rest of Canada and recognizing the value of our Francophone population in this province.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

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'm very happy to stand and to speak to this Bill 30, An Act to Amend the Co-operatives Act. C'est vraiment une bonne chose, especially parce que c'est le jour de Francophonie.

 

We cannot go wrong on this bill. It's interesting that it has taken us this long to get to this point. As we know, Mr. Speaker, the amendment allows a co-operative incorporated in this province to use a French name if it wishes, and pourquoi pas? Why not? Why wouldn't we do this?

 

Officials have said that the act has been in place for a while, since 1998, and it only allows the English version of the word, “co-operative.” So this is really a good thing to do. A new co-operative wanted to form in this province and wanted to use the French word, “coopιrative,” but couldn't because the act doesn't allow it.

 

The act will now permit English, French or a combination of the two in the name of any co-operative. I'm sure there are other languages, particularly in Labrador, who may want to use as well the appropriate name in their own language. I would hope that we would be able to move into that direction as well.

 

Pourquoi pas? Again, why not? It would be a good thing. It doesn't diminish anything. As a matter of fact, it reflects and respects the diversity of our province. It also respects the diversity of the people who are coming together in the work that they do. It would be a co-operative thing to do, as a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, to be able to expand to include the diversity of our province. It's something that we can celebrate and something that we can be proud of.

 

When we look at the co-operatives that still exist in our province – and we've seen, there was a heyday of co-operatives, especially around the 1960s, the 1970s and the 1980s. Then we see a little bit of a dip, but I believe, Mr. Speaker, once again when we look in the area of green technology, when we look in the area of very progressive types of agriculture, we may in fact see the growth in the area of co-operatives in our province as well. That would be a great thing.

 

We know we have credit unions. Many of our public service sectors employees belong to the credit union. I happily am a member of the Credit Union of Newfoundland and Labrador, and I'm so glad to be able to be a member of the credit union. It's very interesting because the credit union is one of the few banks in Newfoundland and Labrador where local decisions can be made. I was also a client of another bank here in the province as a member of the credit union – 

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

I ask the Member to try to keep her comments relevant to the bill we're debating.

 

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

 

The issue is that co-operatives can make local decisions, decisions that are in the best interest of the province.

 

We know we still have co-operative stores. All of those are, at this point, in English. That may change. We know the credit union does a lot of their work en franηais also, and a lot of their print material is in French. We have fishing co-operatives all over the province. Perhaps not as many as we did have, but again when we look at what's happening in the area of fishery, the innovative projects that are happening, that's a good thing too. We will see an expansion in those areas. Also, as I mentioned, in the agricultural area.

 

We're seeing a growth in child care co-operatives. Wouldn't it be interesting, Mr. Speaker, if we see a growth in child care co-operatives that are also in French?

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

Again, I ask the Member to try to keep her comments relevant to the bill we're debating.

 

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

 

I will attempt to do that.

 

Again, when we see the potential growth of co-operatives in the province we would hopefully see a growth of child care programs in French; that we can see a growth of child care programs in a number of languages, different languages in co-operatives in Labrador.

 

Mr. Speaker, again, this is something we can really support. It's fitting that it's happening on la journee de Francophonie. We also look forward to a complete review of our Co-operatives Act.

 

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl – Southlands.

 

MR. LANE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Mr. Speaker, just for the record, I wanted to say that I will be supporting Bill 30. Obviously, we're a bilingual country. We have a strong French influence in some parts of our province. This just makes a whole lot of sense.

 

I congratulate the government on doing it and I will be supporting Bill 30.

 

Thank you.

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for St. George's – Humber.

 

MR. REID: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I just wanted to take a few minutes to also voice my support of this bill here. I think it's especially applicable to areas such as the West Coast, the Port au Port Peninsula and the Stephenville area where we have a large rejuvenation of the French heritage in that area.

 

I've attended meetings on the Port au Port Peninsula where people have been thinking about setting up co-operatives and some of them around their French heritage. So I think this is a very good move. It originated in Labrador, but it's also applicable to other areas in the province, so it's very good, and I'd like to compliment the minister on moving forward with this change. It's very important to recognize, especially on today, which is Francophone Day, I believe.

 

So thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

Seeing no further speakers, I recognize the hon. the Minister of Service NL.

 

MR. JOYCE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I just want to thank all speakers: the Member for Cape St. Francis, for speaking; the Member for Lab West, the Member for St. John's Centre and the Member for Mount Pearl – Southlands for speaking on this; and the Member for St. George's – Humber for speaking on this.

 

Mr. Speaker, as I said before, this is an important bill for the francophone community, and of course the Member for St. John's Centre had to get in the co-operatives and other things, trying to make it political, but this is a great day for the francophone community.

 

I also have to recognize the Minister of Environment and Conservation, the Member for Lake Melville, who helped to bring this through. I just want to thank you for your support for that also.

 

Mr. Speaker, the francophone community in Lab West mentioned how quick they got this through. This is part of people on this side, but it's also part of the Opposition for helping us push this through, a very important issue. So I just want to make sure I thank the Opposition for supporting this.

 

I spoke to the Member for Cape St. Francis earlier in the last couple of weeks, and he said he'll definitely support it and do what they can to get it through this Legislature as fast as possible. I just want to thank the Member for continuing his support and honouring his commitment to get this through.

 

It's a great day for the francophone community, and this is a great day on why Parliament works when we come up with something that will help the francophone community. It's something that they're very proud of, and we in the Legislature are very proud of that on the Francophone Day, with the flag raising earlier today, we just show our support as all legislators in this province behind the request that was made by the francophone community in Lab West.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Is it the pleasure of the House that Bill 30, An Act To Amend The Co-operatives Act, be now read a second time? 

 

All those in favour, 'aye.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

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

 

Carried. 

 

CLERK (Murphy): A bill, An Act To Amend The Co-operatives Act. (Bill 30)

 

MR. SPEAKER: This bill has now been read a second time. When shall the bill be referred to a Committee of the Whole House? 

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Now.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Now. 

 

On motion, a bill, “An Act To Amend The Co-operatives Act,” read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House presently, by leave. (Bill 30)

 

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

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the Minister for Service Newfoundland and Labrador, that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole to consider Bill 30.

 

MR. SPEAKER: It has been moved and seconded that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole to debate Bill 30, An Act To Amend The Co-operatives Act and that I do now leave the Chair.

 

All those in favour, 'aye.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

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

 

Carried. 

 

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

 

Committee of the Whole

 

CHAIR (Warr): Order, please!

 

We are now considering Bill 30, An Act To Amend The Co-operatives Act.

 

A bill, “An Act To Amend The Co-operatives Act.” (Bill 30)

 

CLERK (Barnes): Clause 1.

 

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: 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: Opposed?

 

Carried. 

 

On motion, enacting clause carried. 

 

CLERK: An Act To Amend The Co-operatives Act. (Bill 30)

 

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: Opposed?

 

Carried. 

 

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

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

 

MR. A. PARSONS: I move, Mr. Chair, that the Committee rise and report Bill 30.

 

CHAIR: The motion is that the Committee rise and report Bill 30 without amendment.

 

All those in favour, 'aye.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: Opposed?

 

Carried.

 

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

 

MR. SPEAKER (Osborne): The hon. the Deputy Chair of Committees.

 

MR. WARR: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole have considered the matters to them referred and have directed me to report Bill 30 carried without amendment.

 

MR. SPEAKER: The Chair of the Committee of the Whole reports that the Committee have considered the matters to them referred and have directed him to report Bill 30, An Act To Amend The Co-operatives Act, carried without amendment.

 

When shall the report be received?

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Now.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Now.

 

When shall the bill be read a third time?

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Tomorrow.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Tomorrow.

 

On motion, report received and adopted. Bill ordered read a third time on tomorrow.

 

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

 

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

 

I call from the Order Paper, Order 4, second reading of Bill 28.

 

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

 

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

 

It's a privilege as it always is to stand in the House today to speak to the bill. I move, seconded by the Minister of Justice and Public Safety, that Bill 28, An Act To Amend The Pensions Funding Act And The Teachers' Pensions Act, be now read a second time.

 

MR. SPEAKER: It has been moved and seconded that Bill 28, An Act To Amend The Pensions Funding Act And The Teachers' Pensions Act, be now read a second time.

 

Motion, second reading of a bill, “An Act To Amend The Pensions Funding Act And The Teachers' Pensions Act.” (Bill 28)

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

I'm happy to stand today and speak to this bill, Bill 28. It's a very important piece of legislation which will amend the Pensions Funding Act and the Teachers' Pensions Act.

 

As this House is well aware, the unfunded pension liability of the Public Sector Pension Plan was one of the most serious financial issues facing the province. It has been highlighted as an area of concern by both the Auditor General as well as bond rating agencies. The provincial government and the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers' Association reached a pension reform agreement on June 15, 2015 that ensured the long-term sustainability of the Teachers' Pension Plan. Based on that agreement, the former administration amended the Teachers' Pensions Act to implement benefit changes and contribution rate increases.

 

You will recall that all Members in this hon. House at the time supported those amendments and these new amendments, Mr. Speaker, are the second part of that reform agreement actually establishing the teachers' pension fund and the teachers' pension corporation.

 

Through these amendments, we are helping to ensure that once our teachers retire they have access to a secure pension in retirement. These amendments result from the joint sponsorship agreement that was negotiated between government and the NLTA as the joint sponsors of the pension plan that provides joint trusteeship for the future, with the government and the plan members sharing equal responsibility for the plan and the fund.

 

Under the terms of the joint sponsorship agreement, the sponsor body will be established with equal representation from government and the NLTA and will be responsible for planned amendments and the funding policy. The Teachers' Pension Plan Corporation, with an eight-member board of directors, four appointed by government and four appointed by the NLTA, will be the trustee of the plan and the fund.

 

Their main responsibility will be the administration of the plan, as well as the investment of the plan's assets. It is anticipated, Mr. Speaker, that the board of directors will be appointed shortly; however, until the corporation is operational I, as the Minister of Finance and the current trustee of the pension fund, will remain the trustee until the new board takes over.

 

The agreement reached with the NLTA was developed from the TPP reform, along with the same principles that have established the Public Service Pension Plan reform. Under these principles, government agreed to take responsibility for 100 per cent of the retiree unfunded liability and 50 per cent of the active member unfunded liability to the date of the pension reform. TPP members were responsible for the remaining 50 per cent, which they achieved through benefit reductions.

 

This bill addresses one final change to TPP benefits. Teachers who were terminated after August 31, 2016, with less than 24½ years of service and take a deferred pension, will have to wait until age 62 to access that pension. Currently they can access that at the age of 60.

 

The provincial government will contribute $1.862 billion to the plan over the next 30 years starting August 31, 2016. In addition, pursuant to the pension reform agreement signed last June, both employee and employer contribution rates increased by 2 per cent effective September 1, 2015. Government will continue to work with the public sector unions to ensure the sustainability of their pension plans.

 

In addition to the amendments resulting from the pension reform, there are two additional amendments that will make the TPP more consistent with the Pension Benefits Act. The first amendment provides for an actuarial reduction pension for a teacher who is aged 55, has at least five years of service and who currently would not qualify for a pension before age 62. This amendment will provide the teacher, upon retirement, with access to an immediate reduced pension from as early as age 55.

 

The actuarial reduction is necessary to ensure that the early payment of pension is cost neutral to the plan, thus resulting in little impact on the plan's liability. While the pension is reduced, it does give the teacher additional flexibility with respect to accessing the pension.

 

The second amendment will amend the formula for determining the entitlement of a survivor of a teacher who is under the age of 65 at the time of death. Until recently, such survivors, Mr. Speaker, were receiving benefits equal to 60 per cent of the spouse's pension, as if the spouse had been at the age of 65 at the date of death.

 

With this amendment, Mr. Speaker, the survivor of the retired teacher who dies before age 65 will receive 60 per cent of the teacher's pension at the time of death. The survivor benefit will then be reduced on the date the deceased pensioner would have reached age 65. This will provide the survivor with a higher annual pension until their deceased spouse's 65th birthday. As this was a PBA compliance issue, this provision has already been applied to existing survivors with the result that approximately 100 survivors of retired teachers received an increase in their survivor benefit.

 

Mr. Speaker, this bill also includes amendments to the Pensions Funding Act that are necessary to facilitate the joint sponsorship, and effectively the teachers' pension fund will be separate from the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador's Pooled Pension Fund and managed by the board of directors of the TPP Corporation.

 

As well, government and taxpayers will no longer bear sole responsibility, should the fund run out of money to pay benefits. The join sponsors, which are government and the plan members, will be equally responsible for the future of the plan.

 

Mr. Speaker, one additional amendment that may create questions during debate is also listed and that is an amendment that will reduce the amount that government must pay to cover its share of the unfunded liabilities from $195 million per year to $188 million per year. Because the payments are to be made quarterly, instead of what was initially planned which was annually, there has been a reduction in interest costs and this was determined then that $195 million per year was more than required to close the fund gap over the 30 years.

 

The initial agreement which was based on the Eckler model was premised on, as I said earlier, annual payments of $195 million at the end of the year. It has been subsequently agreed that from a cash flow perspective it would be more advantageous to the Public Service Pension Plan fund if the payments were made on a quarterly basis commencing March 31, 2015. By changing to a quarterly payment schedule, the actual quarterly payments made would be $47 million per quarter, not $195 million divided by four or $48.75 million.

 

Paying the $48.75 million quarterly would result in accelerating the repayment schedule such that $2.685 billion would be fully paid by June of 2042, which would be 26.2 years instead of the 30 years that the original agreement outlined.

 

With that, Mr. Speaker, I will look forward to the discussion today in the House. I'm sure Members, particularly those of us that were here last year and supported the bill as it was presented last year, will have a great bit of knowledge when it comes to this change in the pension plan. I look forward to hearing what the Members in the House who chose to debate this today have to say.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

MR. SPEAKER (Warr): The hon. the Member for Ferryland.

 

MR. HUTCHINGS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I'm certainly glad to rise and speak to Bill 28, An Act to Amend the Pensions Funding Act and the Teachers' Pensions Act.

 

As the Minister of Finance has indicated, this arose from discussion the previous Progressive Conservative administration had in regard to the unions and the unfunded situation of the pension funds. Obviously, as the minister has identified as well, it was recognized from a financial point of view, certainly from a bond-rating point of view, a significant issue that had to be dealt with.

 

Fortunately, through the work of the prior administration and working with the various unions, we were able to reach agreement on how we would deal with that unfunded liability on a go-forward basis, and hats off to all involved on both sides for being able to reach an agreement on that. That lays out a plan for sustainability for those to pay into the plan, or have paid into the plan and will pay in the future, that they can guarantee that will be there for them. What we faced prior to this, that ability wasn't really identified or wasn't really secured. What it also allows is for joint partnership and joint management as we go forward as well, which is important for all concerned.

 

This is the second piece of legislation needed to implement the Teachers' Pension reform measures, as I said, was announced in June of 2015. Last spring, if I remember correctly, we passed the first piece of legislation which changed the pension contribution rates and included the promissory note provision.

 

This piece of legislation, Bill 28, established a jointly-sponsored pension corporation. I think the minister referenced as well, will have representation from government, from the NLTA, and will administer the Teachers' Pension Fund on a going forward basis. You'll have a partnership with all the party concerns, in terms of the overall management and decisions on future management of that fund.

 

The legislation also provides other provisions. It looks at implementing the pension reform agreement. That would be things like clarifying the value of a promissory note. It removes the assets from the Pooled Pension Fund into the Teachers' Pension Fund, and other similar initiatives like that too. This operationalizes it under the new provisions of the legislation and under the pension corporation as well.

 

Some of the overview of Bill 28. The bill amends both the Pensions Funding Act and the Teachers' Pensions Act to reflect the pension reform agreement which was signed between the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers' Association, as we've indicated in June of 2015.

 

The measures here on what was reached through much discussion and negotiation was basically just simply to ensure the future of the pension plan for all concerned and to reduce and eliminate the unfunded pension liability within 30 years. Certainly along that way as well as we've moved forward with the partnership and with the pension corporation, with the representation from the parties concerned, the decisions made by those groups in regard to the management of the fund as it moves forward over that 30-year period.

 

The legislation also includes some technical provisions in regard to the sponsor corporation and how that would move forward, changes references from the minister to the corporation within the text of the legislation. These changes are needed because previously the minister was the trustee of the pension plan, but the plan will now be administered by – as I referenced – the new corporation.

 

Transfer of assets to the fund out of the Pooled Pension Fund, which I referenced, and into the Teachers' Pension Fund – I think that's section 2 of the bill. As well, removal of the pension guarantee which was previously in place by the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador.

 

Previously, if there was a shortfall in the fund, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador would pay this money out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund. Now deficiencies will be dealt with by the corporation and by both sponsors, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and the NLTA, and will be responsible for taking action regarding deficits.

 

That's a huge difference in terms of – before if there was a shortfall or excess in terms of investments, that would be a decision made by government through the minister. Now with the joint partnership of the corporation, that will be dealt with through the parties concerned, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers' Association who have representation on a corporation. So that's a huge difference.

 

They are basically collectively managing those funds and that pension fund, currently, and as we move through that period of 30 years, to make it fully funded. So decisions made in regard to returns on investments, whether it's loss or greater returns on investments, that corporation with the representation on it, will make decisions on that fund as they move forward. As I said, excess funds will also be the responsibility of the corporation as outlined in section 3 of the bill.

 

There are other technical requirements to ensure that the Teachers' Pension Plan is in line with the Pension Benefits Act, 1997. As well, the Pensions Funding Act sections 1, 2 and 3 of the bill make the necessary changes to the Pensions Funding Act.

 

Section 2 removes the Teachers' Pension Plan from the Pooled Pension Fund. That value is transferred to the Teachers' Pension Plan Fund.

 

Section 3 of Bill 28, removes the pension guarantee which was previously in place by the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. As I said previously, if there was a shortfall, this would be paid out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund. Now, any deficiencies or shortfalls would be dealt with collectively by the corporation and those who are represented within the corporation.

 

There are a various number of adjustments in regard to the Teachers' Pensions Act. Section 4 through section 35 of Bill 28 proposes amendments to the Teachers' Pension Act.

 

Section 4 would look at things like definitions. Overall, the majority of definitions would stay the same. Some have been added or clarified to be consistent with funding or other sponsorship agreements. That would be standard going from where we were to the corporation and the administration of that. That would be technical terms, in terms of making sure they are consistent with the administration of it.

 

Section 6, sets up the Teachers' Pension Plan fund and ensures that it's in order with the Pension Benefits Act, 1997. That would allow for existing assets to be transferred to the fund. So what we are doing, we're setting up a corporation, a different fund so the current balance in the current fund will need to be transferred out to the new entity.

 

Section 7 clarifies the minister cannot change the pension contribution rates of members. This power resides with the sponsored body. That's another very important element of what we are able to reach, the previous administration in June 2015 on a way forward. That now it's in the hands of the owners of the fund, shared jointly with the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. Decisions are made collectively in regard to the administration of the fund, which is extremely important.

 

Section 9 deals with the contributions, Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to the Teacher's Pension Plan fund. The sponsor body prescribed the amounts which are to be paid into the fund.

 

As you see as you go through Bill 28, various sections, significant changes made but reflective to the corporation. How it was set up, why it was set up and the joint partner provisions over the next 30 years to administer any excess or shortfalls but also the overall intent to get the fund to where it needs to be, to make sure we protect the past and future recipients to the fund.

 

There are many sections, as I said, others that have gone through in Bill 28, but as Cabinet minister in the prior administration, this was an initiative of the prior government to get us to where we needed to be. The minister recognized when she got up about the significant issue this was to try to deal with it in terms of the fiscal situation and the liability that existed and to ensure that these funds would be sustainable. We were able to, working with the various groups and teachers' association here, to make sure that we could sustain the Teachers' Pension fund and others in the public service as well through the initiative.

 

Obviously, we initiated this process when in power. We brought in some legislation. This is now complementary legislation to build on that with the NLTA. We supported it, driving that initiative while in government and reaching that conclusion. Certainly with this legislation we'd support it again and know that it's very important to today, and certainly to future years and the financial issues with our province, this lays out collectively a means to deal with this unfunded liability over 30 years with a jointly sponsored pension corporation. So we'll certainly be supporting this bill and this legislation, and look forward to further discussion and debate on it as we move through the afternoon.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

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

 

I'm pleased to stand and speak to Bill 28, changes to the Teachers' Pensions Act. I won't have much new to say, but I think it's important to put on the record how much I agree with this bill. I think the move that was made in the province, first of all, for the public pensioners to have a separate pension corporation – the Public Service Pension Fund it is called. And that move, at the same time, I remember when that happened here in the House it was indicated that the same thing would be happening with the teachers' pension fund. Negotiations were still going on between the government and the NLTA at that time. So what we have now, as it has been pointed out, are two pension funds that were once under government that now are individually incorporated.

 

It's really the correct model to be using, and it's a model that has happened in other parts of the country. I don't know so much about public service sector, although I'm pretty sure there had to be, but I do know teachers, in particular, around the country have had separately incorporated teachers' pension funds. Certainly some of them have done extremely well. I think it's the secondary teachers in Ontario – I may have the union wrong, but I think it is the Toronto secondary teachers who have quite a successful pension fund that has been separate from government, as this fund will be. 

 

It is the way to go. It certainly changes the whole situation of government liability because the liability now will be with the fund itself. I'm sure that the government and the NLTA together will come up with a group of people, the trustees, who will be people who are well chosen, and will have the expertise that will be needed to make sure that this pension fund moves very successfully.

 

Please goodness, the section that was put into the bill, a section that is not in the old act, but now will be in the revised act, a section dealing with termination will hopefully never, ever have to be dealt with. The section that now will be going into the act with regard to termination and windup wasn't something that was needed in the old act because the teachers' fund was funded by the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the government. Now that  will not be the situation and the fund will be standing on its own as a separate corporation, if, for some reason – I said I hope that will never happen, but if for some reason it had to be terminated and wound down, then there's a whole section in the bill dealing with that. Hopefully that will never happen.

 

So I'm very pleased that we are making this move. I think it shows a whole new level of maturity of how we operate here in the province with regard to pensions covering the public service sector and other dimensions of the public service sector – teachers are public servants as well, doing a very, very particular job.

 

I think the willingness of the members of the unions, both the public service sector and also the teachers, their willingness to co-operate and work to make this happen should really be applauded. For example, they had to agree to increased premiums, and they had to reduce future pension benefits to ensure the long-term sustainability of the plan. The fact that they were willing to do that shows how committed they are to making this plan work. It's in their benefit for this new corporation, this new way of dealing with their pensions to work. They made sure that they showed that commitment through negotiations by being willing to pay increased premiums and to take a reduction in some benefits in the future.

 

Also, this agreement and the willingness of both sides to make this happen hopefully will take care of any future problems with regard to the teachers' pensions – that this will no longer be something that will have to be dealt with here in this House of Assembly. You will have a separate corporation with its own trustees running the show, as it were, and with a high expectation of making it work, because it will have to work. The members will be breathing down their necks to make sure it does work because it has to work.

 

It has taken time to get to where we are, but from what I can see as I've read the bill and read the notes that came from the briefing that was held with our researchers, I do know that great care has been taken on both sides. I'm very pleased to stand and support this bill today. I'm glad that it's reached this point.

 

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Conception Bay East – Bell Island.

 

MR. BRAZIL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

It's an honour to stand in this hon. House and speak to An Act to Amend the Pensions Funding Act and the Teachers' Pensions Act. Mr. Speaker, as has been mentioned before, this is an important piece of legislation to move forward, as we endeavoured over the last number of years and we're continuing to endeavour, to ensure that our pension funds are secure and that there's a proper mechanism in place so that the taxpayers are protected. Particularly, those pensioners who have paid into it over the course of the last number of decades have some security.

 

It's principally about administration. It's about funding. It's about having a co-operative approach to changes in the future. It's also about – particularly I liked the sponsorship concept here that all the key players involved are the ones who will have, not only a stake in what happens on the outcome, but also have a direct input into how you move the pension fund's security forward.

 

We know, we've talked about – and I've heard my colleagues on both sides of the House talk about what the changes mean. I had the privilege of being part of the whole legislative discussion. As the minister of Service NL at the time where the pension fund falls under, even though it's Finance, the registration – I had a fair bit of collaboration back with the minister of Finance and her staff and my staff particularly to get a better understanding. We were looking at a pension process that needed to be brought up to speed, but particularly needed to be secured. So there were a number of components.

 

There were a lot of late nights. There was a lot of engaging. There was a lot of looking at other jurisdictions. There was a lot of having conversations with different levels of the key stakeholders, particularly the unions and having their input, and coming to something that was equitable so that the taxpayers didn't have to take the full brunt of the burden, and that we didn't in some way jeopardize existing pensioners or future pensioners.

 

I think we came to a happy place at the end of the day. It's still a costly investment every year for the next 30 years to ensure that there's some solvency and some security around the pension plans. We've gotten to a point where the unions realize their members had to contribute more so that the taxpayers themselves didn't have to take the whole brunt of the burden. At the same time, we as an administration and, no doubt, former administrations and the present administration realized we as the employer have a responsibility to ensure that the pension plan is secure and taken care of.

 

This piece of legislation here, some of it is housekeeping to do, but some of it is very intense. It's very important to making sure that the legislation itself protects all those involved. Also, it puts in place a mechanism to ensure when it gets to a point where it's fully funded and gets to a point where it's probably generating additional revenues, how that can be better used to offset costs to the taxpayers, offset costs to the members who are paying their premiums for the pension plan, or invest it in some other way that it's additional security for either helping past pensioners or future pensioners.

 

There is a fair bit of legislation here, a number of changes, but going through them all, they all make total sense and they all move us to the key point. The key point is about having a piece of legislation that protects all pensioners. This particular one is around the teachers' pensions. While we remove the teachers' pension from the bigger picture of being under the one umbrella, the principles are fairly similar on how the unions themselves are engaged and how we have a full third party entity made up of all the key stakeholders who oversee the administration, and particularly any changes to an act such as this and the fund itself.

 

There are a number of things here that are very important. The various sections you go through here that will have an impact on the existing pensioners, and basically protects them. From things around disability retirements and what that means, and cleaning up the wording, but particularly making it clear so everybody understands exactly what they're entitled to and what the costing to that would be. We can project, as one of the stakeholders, what the cost would be to all those involved, be it the taxpayers themselves or the pensioners who are contributing to it.

 

It goes a long way in ensuring that this piece of legislation is taken care of. It outlines exactly – we now know from a financial point of view what it is we have to contribute on an ongoing basis to make this a secure fund. It wasn't that long ago that the Teachers' Pension fund – all the pension funds, obviously, were in peril to a certain degree and there was a risk of what impact it would have on past pensioners and future pensioners.

 

Our previous administration made a major investment, particularly in the teachers' fund because we realized the fact that it had to be solved. It also, in the bottom line then, keeps our whole financial situation in a better place. We were committed to it and we made those commitments, but they were temporary ones because we realized we couldn't continue on the path we were.

 

We engaged all the key players here to say how do we come up with something that's equitable and make it work. We went through the existing act. We went through the financial burden. We met with the key players. They met with their membership.

 

I'm happy to say this time last year there were a lot of heavy discussions going on, but everybody who came to the table came with the right intent. The right intent was to get to an agreement that made this pension fund secure and that it didn't become a major burden to the rest of the people in this province. Unfortunately in this province, we have hundreds of thousands of people who don't have access to pension funds. So to be fair to them we had to ensure that this wasn't on their backs.

 

I think we did it. I think finding a way to do it with everybody being very co-operative, with us finding the proper legislation so that we have something in play that people can take back and know for the next number of years, as they move this forward, there's some security in exactly what the act says.

 

These changes here make total sense. They protect everybody involved in different categories. Yet, they still leave it open for the full management to go back to government at a given point and say we're in a good place now, how do we do some changes or make some changes that we ensure everybody benefits from this? Particularly, the taxpayers who, over the last number of years, have been fully supportive of what's going on here financially and 'morely,' by encouraging people to go into the civil service to work towards a pension plan to have some security when they finish, but at the same time, for the members who invest in it to know there might be additional supports at the end of it. It could be some way of indexing. It could be a way of reducing premiums. It could be a way of encouraging other supports into the pension plan.

 

As my former colleague has mentioned, and the colleague from the Third Party, we will be supporting this piece of legislation. We look forward to moving not only the Teachers' Pension but all of our pension plans forward.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl – Southlands.

 

MR. LANE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Mr. Speaker, it's a pleasure to say a few words now about Bill 28, An Act to Amend the Pensions Funding Act and the Teachers' Pensions Act. I'm not going to repeat a lot of the stuff that's been said, only to say that I do support this.

 

I think it's a good thing that was done. It was started by the former administration. It's now being carried on by the present administration to get the pension plans on track. It certainly was something that needed to be done, especially when you look at the fact that over the years – we've all heard the stories over the years where there were pension plans which were, I guess you could say, raided and used for purposes for which they were not intended. Money was taken out of the pension plans for roads and all kinds of other expenditures. Some people would argue for political purposes. People put into the plan who never paid into the plans and so on. As a result of that, of course, we see this large unfunded pension liability which really fell upon the shoulders of the people, ultimately, to try to correct.

 

Obviously, this is just a further step and I guess a final step in terms of the Teachers' Pension Plan to do just that. I'm very pleased to see with the plan now it will be managed jointly by government and the teachers. So the stakeholders who are actually – it's their pension, so having their representatives as part of managing this plan makes a whole lot of sense. It's a positive thing for the teachers themselves, but it's also a positive thing for the taxpayers as well so that they're not on the hook for this in the future. I think that's an important thing.

 

Mr. Speaker, through this whole process – I think I heard the Minister of Finance say there's actually going to be an increase in the survivor benefit, which is a positive thing. Then conversely there are some situations, I think she alluded to, where there may be some teachers in certain circumstances who will have to wait an additional two years to collect the pension that prior to this they could have collected.

 

Obviously, as part of this whole overall scheme there had to be negotiations. Government contributed, as they should have, given the fact that it was governments over the years that had taken this money out of the plan, but also there had to be concession on behalf of the unions, in this case, on behalf of the NLTA. Unfortunately, that's resulted in, I guess, higher premiums and perhaps changes in certain benefits and so on.

 

So it was a give and take. The fact that it was negotiated, in this case, with the NLTA, which is the representative of the teachers, I think that's a good thing. The fact that we've been able to save all these plans for people who have paid into it, it's a good thing. As I said, obviously, there had to be concessions on both sides.

 

This does conclude this piece of business. It gets the plan now in a – to make sure we have a stable plan. That it's managed properly. That we have an independent board, if you will, to manage it, will ensure that nobody again can start dipping into these funds for any purposes other than the purposes for which they were put in place, which is a positive thing. So while there are many aspects to the bill here and a number of amendments, a lot of them which have been already spoken to, I'm not going to get into each and every one of them other than to say that certainly from a general perspective as well as based on the amendments that are here, I will support this bill once it comes to the vote.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

MR. SPEAKER: If the hon. the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board speaks now, she will close the debate.

 

Seeing there are no further speakers, the hon. the Minister Finance and President of Treasury Board.

 

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

 

I wanted to say a thank you to the Members in the House today who spoke to Bill 28, An Act to Amend the Pensions Funding Act and the Teachers' Pensions Act, the Member for Ferryland, the Member for St. John's East – Quidi Vidi, the Member for Conception Bay East – Bell Island, as well as the Member for Mount Pearl – Southlands.

 

Mr. Speaker, as has been discussed, and as many of the Members have referenced today, the agreement that was reached on June 15, 2015, with the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers' Association and the provincial government will ensure the long-term sustainability of the Teachers' Pension Plan. Through the amendments we are making today, we are continuing the path to ensure that once our teachers retire they have access to a secure pension in retirement.

 

These amendments we are making today result from the joint sponsorship agreement, and I want to say again a thank you to the Members who participated in the debate, and my sense is and I look forward to the vote on the matter, but certainly Members from all sides of this House indicated their support for this bill, and I look forward to the vote when it's called, Mr. Speaker.

 

Thank you.

 

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

 

All those in favour, 'aye.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

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

 

Carried.

 

CLERK: A bill, An Act To Amend The Pensions Funding Act And The Teachers' Pensions Act. (Bill 28)

 

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. A. PARSONS: Now.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Now.

 

On motion, a bill, “An Act To Amend The Pensions Funding Act And The Teachers' Pensions Act,” read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole presently, by leave. (Bill 28)

 

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

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board, that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole to consider Bill 28.

 

MR. SPEAKER: It's been moved and seconded by the hon. the Government House Leader that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole to debate Bill 28, An Act To Amend The Pensions Funding Act And The Teachers' Pensions Act.

 

All those in favour?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Those against?

 

Carried.

 

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

 

Committee of the Whole

 

CHAIR (Warr): Order, please!

 

We are now considering Bill 28, An Act To Amend The Pensions Funding Act And The Teachers' Pensions Act.

 

A bill, “An Act To Amend The Pensions Funding Act And The Teachers' Pensions Act.” (Bill 28)

 

CLERK: Clause 1.

 

CHAIR: Shall clause 1 carry?

 

All those in favour?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: Opposed?

 

Carried.

 

On motion, clause 1 carried.

 

CLERK: Clauses 2 through 35 inclusive.

 

CHAIR: Shall clauses 2 through 35 inclusive carry?

 

All those in favour?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: Opposed?

 

Carried.

 

On motion, clauses 2 through 35 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?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: Opposed?

 

Carried.

 

On motion, enacting clause carried.

 

CLERK: An Act To Amend The Pensions Funding Act And The Teachers' Pensions Act.

 

CHAIR: Shall the title carry?

 

All those in favour?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: Opposed?

 

Carried.

 

On motion, title carried.

 

CHAIR: Shall I report the bill without amendment?

 

All those in favour?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: Opposed?

 

Carried.

 

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

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Yes, I move, Mr. Chair, that the Committee rise and report Bill 28.

 

CHAIR: The motion is that the Committee rise and report Bill 28.

 

All those in favour?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: Opposed?

 

Carried.

 

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

 

MR. SPEAKER (Osborne): The hon. the Deputy Chair of Committees.

 

MR. WARR: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole have considered the matters to them referred and have directed me to report Bill 28 carried without amendment.

 

MR. SPEAKER: The Chair of the Committee of the Whole has reported that the Committee have considered the matters to them referred and have directed him to report Bill 28, An Act To Amend The Pensions Funding Act And The Teachers' Pensions Act carried without amendment.

 

When shall the report be received?

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Now.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Now.

 

When shall the bill be read a third time?

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Tomorrow.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Tomorrow.

 

On motion, report received and adopted. Bill ordered read a third time on tomorrow.

 

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

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, I would move at this point Motion 10, pursuant to Standing Order 11 that the House not adjourn at 5:30 p.m. today, Monday, May 30; and I would also move, pursuant to Standing Order 11, Motion 11, that this House not adjourn at 10 p.m. on Monday, May 30, 2016.

 

Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole to consider Motion 6, a resolution respecting the imposition of taxes on tobacco, Bill 22 and Motion 7, a resolution relating to the raising of loans by the province, Bill 32.

 

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole to debate certain bills and that I do now leave Chair.

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

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

 

Carried.

 

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

 

Committee of the Whole

 

CHAIR (Warr): Order, please!

 

We are now debating the related resolution and Bill 22.

 

Resolution

 

“That it is expedient to bring in a measure respecting the imposition of taxes on tobacco.”

 

CHAIR: Shall the resolution carry?

 

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

 

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

 

I'm certainly honoured again to stand in this hon. House today to speak to this important piece of legislation, which is Bill 22, An Act to Amend the Revenue Administration Act. No. 5, particularly as it relates to tobacco taxes.

 

Mr. Chair, as part of the difficult decisions made in Budget 2016, an increase on the tobacco tax is being introduced. Government is facing some very serious fiscal situations and given that it is concerned about smoking prevalence, particularly among youth, tobacco tax was identified as one of the areas for a tax increase. High tobacco prices discourage smoking and are especially effective in preventing youth from taking up the habit. Enforcement is ongoing in accordance with the priorities of the various law enforcement agencies, and continues, certainly, to be a very active file.

 

This increase is only one measure in a package of revenue measures developed to address a difficult fiscal situation and represents a balance between the often competing objectives of public health policy and driving the demand for contraband product.

 

To increase taxes significantly would fuel the demand for black market tobacco products. Mr. Chair, several jurisdictions have implemented modest increases to tobacco tax of late and this approach is believed to mitigate the shift from legitimate sales to contraband market in the wake of significant tobacco tax or price increases. The contraband market fuels illegal activities and is detrimental to the society as a whole.

 

The amount of increase on fine-cut is comparable with the amount of increase per cigarette and remains the highest rate in Canada. And to clarify how that compares, one gram of fine-cut tobacco is equivalent to two cigarettes. The provincial taxes on cigarettes are the fifth lowest provincial rate in Canada and the province has the highest tax on fine-cut tobacco in the country. As I've said, the need to manage the demand for contraband products needs to be considered when we are reviewing these kinds of tax measures.

 

As is the case for gas, there is a Labrador border zone tobacco tax rebate and this applies to Labrador West, which includes Labrador City, Wabush and Southern Labrador, which includes the area from the Quebec border to and including the community of Red Bay. The Labrador border one tobacco tax rebate amounts will remain unchanged at 10.75 cents per cigarette, and 23.36 cents per gram of fine-cut tobacco.

 

As a result of the offsetting impact of the rebate, the effective tobacco tax rates for the Labrador border zones are 13.75 cents per cigarette and 16.65 cents per gram of fine-cut tobacco.

 

The purpose of the Labrador border zone rebate is to make the prices in Labrador competitive with the prices of Quebec. So by partially alleviating tobacco and sales taxes in the border zones, the prices of cigarettes and tobacco would be comparable in both jurisdictions, thus achieving the goal of reducing the image of cross-border shopping on local retailers.

 

Mr. Chair, I look forward to the discussion here in the House this afternoon as we continue to discuss Bill 22, An Act to Amend the Revenue Administration Act, as it relates to tobacco tax.

 

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Conception Bay South.

 

MR. PETTEN: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

It's a pleasure to get up and speak on Bill 22, as the minister stated is an increase on tobacco tax. Of all the things we get up and – of all the tax increases that we've objected to, this is one that we don't. I guess based on the dangers of tobacco to our youth and all residents for that matter.

 

It's funny when I was reading the bill when the minister was up speaking about it, there was time when the budgets would come out that – when I was younger – the big thing was how much was liquor and tobacco going up. That seemed to be the main attraction to the budget, if that all stayed fine, everyone seemed to be relatively happy.

 

As for the tobacco tax, that is one we feel we have no problem with. It makes a lot of sense. It's one of those sin taxes, we said before, a sin tax on certain foods. Even though it's one item, it's a good example of a sin tax but it is zeroed in on one item.

 

We asked in the House several times about the sin tax on junk foods and what have you. It's definitely something worth considering because we all know the effect that has on a lot of individuals and I suppose a lot of our youth really because there are a lot of things they do and a lot of foods they eat that are not conducive to their health and has a chain reaction to our health care costs and hospitals with the medical conditions that are becoming more evident. You see now a lot more of our youth come up with problems that the parents probably were 20 years later in life before they experienced it. I think a lot of that has to do with their lifestyle and the intake of food.

 

Mr. Chair, where this is a money bill, I'd like to have some commentary as well on the budget. Last week, I spoke and I got up in the House – many times when you get up and speak you tend to try to zero in on where you really feel. I want to go back to a part that pretty well summed up my full assessment. Every commentary I've had on the budget, it brings it back to the root of what – you don't always relay that when you stand up or probably when you speak to people. I used the term last week, and it probably sums up best my feelings in general, the sense of hope and the bounce in your step.

 

I guess in the last month – the budget came in April 14, the last month and a half, six weeks. Every time you pick up the newspaper, you turn on the radio, you run into people; it no longer seems to be a happy conversation. You run into some of them, but it's really been taken over with people's concerns. Everyone's concerns are legitimate.

 

A lot of those concerns are turning to fear. It's kind of a sad statement because it wasn't that long ago when a lot of the same people you ran into, they were talking about the new home they were building or their plans for their future or their holiday. It was always upbeat or they just got this job here or they were looking for another job or this place was hiring or looking for – it was a sense of hope and optimism.

 

Now when I go around – and I mean I don't think there's a Member in this House can argue with me – those conversations are becoming less and less. There are still some people, no doubt. There's still some, I suppose, optimism there. I wouldn't say there's none. The best explanation I can give is a lot of the bounce has gone out of our step.

 

Back in 2003 when this government took over – the former government, Premier Williams's government took over – I was involved back in the background of the party and that. You watch it evolve over the years. I remember I ran into and I can't remember what – it was someone. Ontario, I believe, they were from. They visited here back in the '90s and early 2000s, and then they spent a lot more time in the late 2000s, probably 2008-2009.

 

I remember them stating – and certain things stick with you. They said, what a difference 10 years made. When they were here in the late '90s, they said people were desperate. They were wondering where they were going to pay their bills. There was a lot of despair; there was a lot of uncertainty.

 

When they came back 10 years later they were amazed. The place was alive. The economy was on bust. People were happy. They said, I don't know, whatever – he was still our premier of the day. No one knew how much longer he was going to serve, but I remember them saying if nothing else he does, he's after putting the bounce back in people's steps. I guess there's a lot to be said for that.

 

We hear a lot of times, it comes in to people. Members opposite want to criticize about the finances of the province and that's their prerogative. I respect that, but when you look at the outcome of years of – when you had those years and everything was good, it's a job to argue they weren't good years and it's a job to argue they weren't some of our best times.

 

It's sad today that I'm finding – and unfortunately it just attributes back to the budget. Again today when I got up, I spoke on a petition on the fees and increases. Whoever crafted the budget, because I know every Member opposite never crafted the budget. It was probably done by a select group, I don't know. I know a few years back I was part of a few conversations but then the former government were there. I remember there used to be a conversation that would pop up all the time, you can't do death by a thousand cuts.

 

You read about that. I've read articles and stuff. No matter who is doing them – no matter how big or small a budget is you have to be more concise. You have to be more – if you're going to affect a certain group you need to kind of spread it a bit but not spread it everywhere. This budget does that. I believe that's a big part of the reason why when I say that people have lost the bounce in their step, I guess that sums it up in my mind.

 

That is why people don't have that bounce in their step because – I don't know if there is a man, woman or child in this province who has not been affected in some way negatively. I know some people have the financial means and they realize it will impact them but they say, well, I'll be all right. Those people are few and far between.

 

Most people – even if it's not them, it's their children. If not their children, it's their parents. It has that far-reaching effect. So you have someone who is doing well financially – somewhere along the line there's a brother, there's a sister, there's a mother, there's a father, there's a child who is being affected. That does create this level of anxiety and anger in people. Who are any of us in here to argue or to tell those people they're wrong to feel that way? I don't really think it's personal. A lot of it is just outright stress. It turns into anger, but a lot of it is frustration.

 

You look at this bill on tobacco tax, some of these increases like that – I know you're limited in how much of that you can do, but stuff like that, as you can see, there's no opposing certain things like that. People understand that. I think people fully expect those sorts of increases. I know a lot of people said, do you expect an HST increase? Even though when the previous government last year announced it in their budget it was cries from afar that it was going to be a job killer, it was going to be the ruination. You just don't do that.

 

Most people have said, I don't know why they – we accepted that, because we used to pay 15 per cent. It's a new thing when the federal government under the former prime minister reduced the GST by 2 per cent in successive years, 1 per cent each year and brought it back. Other than that, we were paying 15 per cent. So people are willing to accept that. That's the price you pay and other things.

 

With this budget and the effects it's having on individuals – like I just said, tobacco tax is a no-brainer. It's an easy one to get through. A lot of them would be if they were thought out probably – I know that's one that always is tinkered with, but there are other ways.

 

I know some of my colleagues, and I've heard the term used a lot, they say it was a lazy budget. Well, whether that's right or not or fair or not, it does make you sit back and wonder how much thought really and truly went into when the budget was crafted. Again, I'll go back to that comment, when it was crafted.

 

I remember the day – I go back to April 14 when we were getting a briefing on the budget. You're looking at the documents and you're reading some of the information there and you're a bit floored yourself. You're reading it and you're going, this is not going to work. My God, there's going to be an outcry over this. As time went on you were floored with the amount of stuff. Then as every day went on there was new stuff came out, more stuff that you didn't see on that first day. There's no doubt that, we all know, okay, the financial situation needed some tinkering, but you look out in Alberta, they decided to increase spending. Whether that's the way out, I'm not an economist. You can't flatten your economy either.

 

I'll loop back as my time is running down, but that's my point to the bounce in your step. If you don't have that bounce in your step on that nice, sunny day, you're not going out to buy that new vehicle. You're not going out to look at that new purchase you've been looking at, or to landscape your yard, I don't know, to renovate your home. With the bounce in your step there's a lot of decisions you make, believe or not, when the sun shines.

 

I talked to a contractor in CBS recently. He said you would not believe with a week of sunshine his sales are off the charts. Three days of bad weather, it takes four days to get back to where he would have been on the week of good weather. I laughed when he said it. He said it's true. It takes them a couple of days after a string of bad weather to come out and start looking around again. People have a different – it was news to me when he said it. I did laugh but I mean it's true.

 

When you don't have confidence – the guy said the bounce in your step is consumer confidence – it affects everything. Do you feel the same way? Do you feel like going out to a meal? Do you feel like going out shopping? Do you feel like going and making a purchase? Most of your life is governed by your mood. Whether people realize that or not, we all live it. If you're not in the mood, as the saying goes with everything we do, you're not going to do it. If your mood is – you're the one to tighten the purse strings it will have a drastic impact. That starts from that extra tank of gas, that extra trip to the restaurant, extra. It's all about purchases.

 

That's economics 101. If you're not spending, the economy is stalling. Most of these tax increases and affects will not take effect. I know insurance will kick in July 1. If you don't see it, you don't really feel it. July 1, with 15 per cent on your insurance, that will be a huge kick. When people get their renewals come in and they realize their insurance is up by $400 to $500 to $600 to where it was last year that will have an impact.

 

Gas is going up on Thursday, the second, 16½ cents. That will have a huge impact. Ironically, it don't really hit – they'll complain, and we're all like it. It's human nature. We'll all complain until all of a sudden you're going – reality hits when you see the bill and the invoice in front of you or you look at the pump price and you realize this is costing you $10 or $15 more to fill up your vehicle.

 

About this budget, we've talked about it and we'll continue to talk about it until this session closes, and maybe we'll pick it up in the fall. This is the problem I've seen with the budget, people's confidence is gone. As I use the term bounce in their step, they no longer have it. As much as people may want to think otherwise – personally, I would like to see it not have that affect, because it affects everybody.

 

One thing with the economy, the economy affects everybody. No matter where you are on the income scale or whatever class you're in, it does affect every single person in this province. A poor economy has a trickle effect. That will affect each and every one of us, as this budget does.

 

Mr. Chair, it's all tied together. I believe there could have been some good increases, when we look at some tax that could have went pretty quietly. Unfortunately, a lot of these tax increases that we see in this budget are just – you know, we've seen the protests and we've seen the emails. The reason that there's so much outcry is a lot of these tax increases are just not where people want to be. It's not where we should be as a province.

 

We went from having a thriving, booming economy – I know this is a bump in the road, but there had to be a better way out of this than this. Right now, where we stand as a province and as a people, we need to turn the corner and we need to turn a corner quick because our economy – again, it's like buddy buying the house, once the economy crashes it's going to take two or three times, in years, as long to get the economy back.

 

That's all I'll add on this. We do support the bill, but obviously we don't support the budget as it stands.

 

Thank you.

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

The hon. the Member for Cape St. Francis.

 

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

 

It's indeed a pleasure to get up again here today. As most of you know, this is what we call a money bill, so it gives us the option to be able to speak on the budget and give our views on how we perceive things to be happening in the budget.

 

Today, this amendment is basically about the extra tax they're putting on tobacco. I'm one of those fellows that never smoked. I'm so glad that I didn't smoke, but I was around lots of people that did. I can remember my mom, she used to smoke but she gave it up in her latter years. My dad, the same thing and he gave it up.

 

A lot of people today are really aware of the costs and the effects that tobacco has on us all. No matter, whether you're driving in a car and you see someone smoking in a car and there are people in the car, it always just really hits home to me that it's something we shouldn't be at, and there are laws so that you can't do that. It's important that people follow the laws when it comes to tobacco.

 

I'll go back to as a parent and I'll look at things you try to encourage and do when people are smoking. I know I was very fortunate to have a babysitter that lived next door. I know that when my kids went down – and they had some young kids there. I respected the man that was there. He used to always go out on the deck and have his cigarette and whatnot. I wouldn't accept smoking in front of my children. I think we all should be like that no matter what it is today.

 

You look today; I know that when I first moved in my house I probably had ashtrays downstairs, ashtrays in the kitchen and everything else but as you go to homes today, people are more aware. The courtesy would be if you're going to have a smoke, you'd go outside and smoke. That's really good because people are really getting educated on the effects.

 

It is not only the health effects that it's caused to individuals – and we know that lung cancer and different cancers that tobacco has a direct effect on that. I'm sure the Minister of Health could speak on this and the cost that tobacco has on our health care system, cost that it has to people going to the hospital with results of smoking.

 

This is a very important bill, it is important that we speak to this bill today and it's important that people realize that – I know I have friends and colleagues that do smoke and I'm not against that; that's their right, like anyone else's right to smoke. But I really believe today is – I can remember going in a hockey dressing room years ago and we'd be all out sat down in a hockey dressing room and a scattered fellow would have a smoke between periods in the dressing room. Mr. Chair, you probably know what I'm talking about. People got a little bit smarter after a while and said b'y you can't be at that.

 

We're trying to be athletes, we're trying to exercise and stuff like that and here you are smoking in front of everyone. The day has gone so far to make people aware. I really believe that – I'm not sure; I'd like to know the stats that are there for young people smoking today. I don't see it as much as what I used to when I grew up. I know most of my friends smoked and still do today – some do. I have a son who is 25, a daughter who is 28 and I don't see a lot of their friends smoking like we did when we were growing up.

 

I'm hoping that any time we drive up the cost it has an effect, but I'm also thinking that more or less it is probably due to the awareness that people have today on the impacts of what smoking does to your health and what it does to other people's health because we can all look at the effect of – I'm sure for years everyone used to say, well, you're doing it yourself, you're killing yourself by smoking and stuff like this; but people didn't realize until a couple of years ago what effects second-hand smoke had on people, which was huge.

 

People in their homes – we all know, we all lived in it, that you'd go in and there'd be somebody smoking, two or three people and the smell of smoke in the house used to kill me. I used to have to get outside. The effect that that was having on individuals, children in homes and stuff like that, but we're after coming a long ways is my point today, Mr. Chair. We're after coming a long ways when it comes to smoking.

 

I will definitely be supporting this bill and saying that any time we can do anything that can eliminate people from taking up the habit or hopefully making people quit when they realize it costs way too much for me to be smoking – I'm not even sure what a pack of cigarettes cost now. I think it over $10 or $12 for a pack of cigarettes or something like that. That seems very high to me.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible.)

 

MR. K. PARSONS: I don't know. We all have bad habits, we'll say, but I really believe this is an important piece of legislation. It's important because I really believe the more we can do to have young people not take up the habit and encourage them not to smoke and really make sure they know, not only is the cost a factor of having to go pay $10 or $12 whatever it is for a pack of cigarettes, but how important it is to your health, how important it is down the road.

 

We look at many different types of cancer that can be related to people who smoke. We can look at the effect it has on people who are pregnant, people who have different disabilities. Smoking is definitely not healthy for any of us.

 

This is a part of the budget that came down that we will support. To me, I'm not against anyone that does smoke. We all have our choices to make. I just hope that people do it very, very responsible. I have friends and colleagues that it is really difficult to break the habit. There are all kinds of different solutions out there from patches to hypnotism to all different things that people do try. People really do try it and it's pretty difficult.

 

Some people smoke because it may calm their nerves. It may make them sleep better, I don't know, but there are whole different reasons for smoking, I would imagine. It's like anything. It's a habit. People enjoy it, but we all realize – and I'm sure most people who do smoke realize that it's not good for them anyway. That's just part of it.

 

There are other things we've done over the years. One time you'd always go to a club. You would come out of the club that night and come home. The next day you would smell your jacket and the stink of tobacco off your jacket or off your clothes would be unbelievable. There were rules and regulations that came in that people are not allowed to smoke in clubs and stuff like that. Those are really good regulations.

 

I just noticed the other day – I think it was in Quebec – for the first time last week, the law was passed in Quebec that you're not allowed to smoke in restaurants and on the decks and in different lounges outside. We're way ahead of what they've been doing. That's a good thing.

 

I know a couple of times I went to Montreal and that is one thing you really notice: a lot of them do smoke. I'd say they probably have a higher population of smokers than anywhere else in Canada. I don't know now, that's just what I've seen it there.

 

Everybody is catching up to where they should be when it comes to regulations for tobacco. So they should, because it's not only their own health that it affects. Tobacco affects everybody's health. It affects the young people who are around. It could be somebody who is walking outside on the street or whatever.

 

Second-hand smoke, apparently – the Department of Health can tell you a little bit more about it, but the effects of second-hand smoke is huge also. It can have an effect on so many people.

 

The big thing, if you look at what we are looking at here today, and we're in a financial situation in the province where we find ourselves in hard shape, really. This is part of the budget. We're discussing different options and stuff like that. If you look at the health care cost to the province. The health care cost to the province is probably – almost 40 per cent of the total amount of money that we'll spend goes to the cost of health care. When people look at anything that we can do in the health care system to encourage them not to smoke, can help the cost of our health care system.

 

I'd love to see smoking eliminated altogether. I think it would be a great thing for the health care system, but I don't smoke. I respect the people who do smoke. Like I said, I had parents who did smoke. I have a brother who did smoke. I have colleagues who do smoke.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. K. PARSONS: I don't begrudge them in what they do, but I really believe if I could help them, encourage them not to smoke, I would. I'd be really good. I wouldn't take them to the store to get a pack of cigarettes.

 

It's important, because anything we can do in our society to discourage people from smoking is a great thing. I think we all agree to that. I would imagine most smokers would agree to that. Anything we can do to discourage people in the province from smoking would be really good.

 

Again, I want to go back to health care because that's where I wanted to focus my talk on today is basically the cost it does to our health care system. Anything that we can eliminate –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. K. PARSONS: If we can eliminate people in our hospitals that are there because of smoking related illnesses, how much would that free up other things? It will free up our emergency departments. It will free up beds. It will bring down the cost. We look at 40 per cent of our costs today is health care. Anything that we can do in the health care system to bring down – I would imagine it's not something that's going to happen overnight.

 

We really have to encourage young people coming up. I would like to know the stats of how many young people actually smoke today versus, say, back in my time which was only a few years ago now, Mr. Chair. It seemed like a lot of people smoked years ago. It seems like today, I don't see –although I visit schools and I know a lot of schools now have areas outside where they do have a smoking area.

 

When I went to Gonzaga we had one too. I tell you, when I went to Gonzaga everybody was out there during the day having a smoke. If you wanted anywhere to go, that's where you would go. So times have changed.

 

This is a good piece of legislation. Any time we can get people to the cost – and I know the cost is a deterrent and the cost can go up. Again, I respect the people who do smoke. I respect that they have the right to smoke just like anybody who wants to have a drink or anything at all. There are all kinds of different bad habits that we all have.

 

It goes back to others that are around us. I look at buildings today, and it's nice to see. Another regulation you'll see in front of most of the buildings now is this blue area that shows people where they can go to smoke.

 

In the Health Sciences now you're not even allowed to smoke in the parking lot in there, I don't believe, and so it should be. To witness people going out on – again, it's their right to and they have all the right in the world. When you're sick in hospital to see people go outside and have to have a smoke, it's heart wrenching actually. It's a habit. It's a real bad habit and it's a hard habit to break. Everybody has their reasons for doing it.

 

I think this bill we're bringing in today that puts extra tax on tobacco will be a deterrent. It will hopefully help young people not take it up. Other things we can do, we can always do it ourselves too. We look at recreation and stuff like that. The more our kids are involved in sports, they get the encouragement from grown-ups and adults and everybody else to say, listen, don't go smoking. You have a healthy lifestyle. If you want to live a healthy life, this is part of what you should do.

 

So there are all kinds of things we can do to make sure we encourage younger people because that's where it starts, at the younger age. I would assume, Mr. Chair, there are stats that can show you if a person doesn't take up smoking at a certain age, there's a good chance they probably will never smoke. It's probably a critical time in young people's lives where, I'd say from maybe 14 to 18, if a young person doesn't take up smoking – and I bet you there's a stat that will say there's a real good chance that young person won't smoke.

 

It's a good thing to do because we know that young people – money means a lot to them. They have lots of ways to spend their money. If taxes are on cigarettes and they're expensive, and they don't take it up at that age, that will mean we'll have a healthier society. I think that's what we're all looking for.

 

Health and our families, and everybody else, should be the key priority of anything. I always say if you have your health, you have everything. The longer we can encourage young people not to smoke it will be a great thing. It will be a great thing if people do not go and smoke.

 

I'm going to support this bill. Again, everyone out there who smokes, you have your right to smoke. I don't say anything against you, but I really want to encourage young people – if it means a few extra dollars on a pack of cigarettes or a few extra cents on a cigarette, then so be it. Hopefully, this does discourage people from going and actually smoking.

 

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Virginia Waters – Pleasantville.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. B. DAVIS: Mr. Chair, I'm very pleased to rise in this hon. House to discuss Bill 22, to increase taxes on tobacco.

 

I know some of our colleagues in the House may not be as interested in this as I am, but I'm not going to repeat many of the messages from my previous colleagues. Any measure our government can do to mitigate the high number of smokers who are in our community is a benefit, both from the health care perspective but also from their own healthy living perspective. It gives them an opportunity to become healthier individuals in our community. Anytime we can do that, that's betterment for our health system as a whole.

 

The high tobacco prices discourage people from even starting smoking and especially effective in preventing youth from starting the habit. As mentioned by my previous colleagues, if you get the youth not to start smoking you're much more likely to have them not pick up smoking later in life.

 

This increase is only one measure in a package of revenue measures developed to address a difficult fiscal situation and represents a balance between the often competing objectives of public health policy and the driving demand for contraband products. Increasing the taxes significantly will fuel the demand for contraband products. So we have to be careful to make sure we balance that approach.

 

Several other jurisdictions have implemented modest increases to the tobacco tax as of late. This approach is believed to mitigate and legitimize the sale of this contraband and reduce this contraband use. So we're trying our best to balance that approach, and it's important that we do so.

 

The amount of increase on fine-cut tobacco is comparable with the amount of increase per cigarette and remains the highest in Canada. To clarify how this compares, one gram of fine-cut tobacco is equivalent to two cigarettes. Our provincial taxes on cigarettes are the fifth lowest provincial rate in Canada. Our province has the highest tax on fine-cut tobacco in the country, although.

 

Mr. Chair, I'm very pleased to support Bill 22, and I'm sure many of my colleagues on both sides of the House will be supporting this bill as well, for many reasons highlighted by our previous speakers.

 

Some of the comments made by the hon. Member for CBS, I agree with. The decisions made in this budget were very difficult and made mainly because of this financial situation that we've been left by the previous administration. They choose to kick the problem to the next generation, and that's something that I'm not prepared, and I know this administration on this side of the House is not prepared to do as well.

 

One of the things that was a little bit disappointing that the hon. Member for CBS mentioned – and I know him to be a very honourable gentleman, so I was surprised by this. I feel we have a lot of hope in this province. The potential and long-term opportunities in this province are great, and that hasn't changed. There's just a path we have to take to get there. It's tough right now.

 

In this budget we're spending $8.48 billion – that's billion dollars – on programs and services for the people of our province, which includes $226 million on priority transportation projects and another $344.1 million over the next four years on new and existing infrastructure projects from a municipal standpoint, which will leverage $146 million in federal funding. These investments will stimulate the economy and provide much-needed boosts to our infrastructure, which include health care initiatives, education infrastructure, housing projects and thousands and thousands of jobs.

 

To support new industries and build opportunities, our government has included millions in funding for research, marketing and innovation. This is all hopeful in my opinion. We have included $18.5 million in support for culture and heritage initiatives; another $13 million in tourism marketing; $2 million in advanced broadband infrastructure for rural areas, which I'm sure Members opposite will really appreciate, and improving access for economic development reasons and educational opportunities; $18.9 million to the Research and Development Corporation for research and development opportunities; $8.5 million to leverage federal funding for economic development diversification. The funding goes some ways to allow us to welcome the rest of the world to our borders.

 

Mr. Chair, I believe in our people and our province. For those reasons I think that we have a very hopeful future in this province. For that reason and many others, I'll be supporting Bill 22, the tobacco tax increase.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl North.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. KENT: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

I just wanted to rise for a few moments to talk about Bill 22. I think previous speakers have done a good job of outlining what this bill is all about. It is related to the provincial budget. It has to do with implementation of the increase on tax to tobacco and related products. It's actually retroactive to April 15 of this year which I believe was the day after the budget.

 

I don't think you're going to hear a lot of opposition to this particular bill, Mr. Chair. I think most people in the province agree that when it comes to all of the choices that have to be made about how to deal with the province's fiscal circumstances, an increase on taxes on cigarettes and tobacco makes sense. I think there is considerable support not only within this House for that, but within the public as well. It's just one example of the kinds of choices that were available to be made.

 

On this side of the House, Mr. Chair, we continue to contend that there were other options, there were better options, recognizing that none of them may be particularly popular or easy. The challenge we have with this budget is that it's devastating to absolutely everybody. It's bad for business. It's bad for the economy. Even more importantly, it's bad for individuals of all ages. It's bad for families. That said, I believe there is support among the public for an increase, in this instance, on taxes on cigarettes and tobacco.

 

One of the increases is for a tax on cigarettes. It's being increased to 24½ cents on each cigarette. That's been increased by one cent from 23½ cents. There are a lot of people out there who would argue that government perhaps could go further and increase taxation on cigarettes even further. I tend to share that sentiment, but at the same time, the increases that are proposed are increases I'm prepared to support.

 

The tax on tobacco, other than cigarettes and cigars, is increased to 40 cents per gram of tobacco. So that's been increased by only 2 cents per gram up from 38 cents.

 

Now, there are also those who would argue that taxes on cigarettes and tobacco are already very high. I would argue, given the implications for our health system, given the implications for individual health, there're perhaps not high enough.

 

So this bill makes changes in section 98 of the Revenue Administration Act that lays out taxation on cigarettes and tobacco. The bill also includes a sentence regarding the tax on cigars but there's no change to the legislation. The sentence in this bill is the same as what's in the existing legislation. As I said, these increases will be retroactive.

 

Some people may be wondering: How much revenue does government hope to get from making such a change? We understand that – and I think previous speakers have alluded to this – it's about $5.5 million a year. Had you doubled the amount of increases, it would be $11 million.

 

Still, given the size of our provincial budget, it's not a big, big number but every one of these implications adds up and $11 million is a significant amount of money; $5.5 million is a significant amount of money. It all definitely does add up.

 

The only suggestion I would make to government is perhaps this is an area where you could have gone even further. Would it have generated hundreds of millions of dollars and avoided some of the other decisions that have been made? No, it would not have. I believe there was room here to perhaps go even further.

 

I won't say too much else regarding Bill 22. While we're into a debate on another bill related to a financial aspect of the budget, as one of my colleagues pointed out, it is considered what we call here in the House of Assembly a money bill. So that allows us to talk just about anything under the sun, which is a great opportunity to raise concerns on behalf of constituents and on behalf of people of the province, generally. In the few minutes I have left, I'll take the opportunity to raise some more concerns on behalf of my constituents.

 

During debate on various aspects of the budget, I've talked about all kinds of issues that affect people in my district related to health care, related to the cost of living generally, related to income tax, related to the elimination of the home heat rebate and what that does for people.

 

MR. MITCHELMORE: (Inaudible).

 

MR. KENT: I'm being heckled by the Minister of Business, Tourism, Culture and Rural Development. He's heckling me about bees, Mr. Chair.

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. KENT: I'd be happy to have a discussion with him about bees, and it may sound like a trivial matter, or a laughing matter, but it isn't. In fact, I hope to have an opportunity to talk to the minister this week because I think he's a fairly informed, intelligent individual and I found him, honestly, in his time as minister to be quite reasonable.

 

And as the Minister Responsible for Agrifoods, I would encourage him to take a close look at what environmentalists are saying and what actual bee keepers in our province are saying. The issue is that it's being contemplated to bring in bees from outside the province. The risk that creates for our ecosystem is actually fairly significant, so I hope perhaps before the night is over, Mr. Chair, I'll rise and talk about the issue in more detail.

 

But in response to the minister's comments, I can tell you that as an Opposition we're very concerned about what is taking place. The notion of introducing bees from outside Newfoundland and Labrador is a scary one. It could create some real concerns. We have a healthy bee population and, in fact, despite the decline in the population, I think there's more that can be done by our Agrifoods Agency to foster the growth of that population, which is really important for –

 

MR. MITCHELMORE: (Inaudible.)

 

MR. KENT: And the minister is saying they are. I look forward to hearing him talk about that. I have no doubt that there's work being done, but I think we need to do more because if the solution that government is now contemplating is bringing in bees from outside the province, I think that is a grave mistake based on the feedback I've gotten from a number of people who know more about it than I do.

 

Our history as a province in introducing species to Newfoundland and Labrador that are not native hasn't been widely successful, Mr. Chair, I would argue, and the instability it can create, the risk of disease to our existing bee population is real. So from an agriculture perspective, I think this really does need to be looked at. I would, in all seriousness, encourage the minister to listen to what people are saying, and not just make jokes about it here in this House of Assembly, but really look at the issue.

 

Like I said, I found him to be reasonable so far in my dealings with him and I hope that he will take a close look at the issue because I think there are better options. One would be, like I said, doing more to grow our bee population here in Newfoundland and Labrador, but maybe there are some other solutions as well. Introducing new bees from outside Newfoundland and Labrador is not the right way to move forward based on everything that I've heard in recent days. It's a health and safety issue. It's an environmental issue. It's an important issue for our agrifoods sector in our province.

 

I thank the minister for giving me the opportunity to talk about it for a few minutes. It doesn't leave me with sufficient time to dig in to some of the issues that I had planned to talk about related to my district, but I look forward to doing so later this evening, perhaps after the supper break.

 

What I was saying before I was interrupted is that citizens in my district are concerned about cost of living. They are concerned about the economy. They are concerned about cuts to health care. They're particularly concerned about cuts to education and I'll talk more about that this evening. I've had an opportunity to meet with representatives from multiple schools in my own community and there is real concern about some of the choices that this government has made in this recent budget.

 

I remain convinced that there is a better way forward. Part of our role and part of our responsibility as an Opposition is not just to be critical, which frankly is sometimes easy to do, but also to talk about solutions and to talk about alternatives. So hopefully, as debate on various aspects of the budget continues in this House, we'll have a chance to do more of that as well.

 

I see my time is up, Mr. Chair, so I look forward to continuing discussion on these matters and others later this evening.

 

Thank you.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl – Southlands.

 

MR. LANE: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

It certainly is a pleasure to stand in his hon. House once again today and speak to Bill 22, An Act to Amend the Revenue Administration Act. Mr. Chair, as has already been explained, this is about raising taxes on tobacco. I think, as other Members have said, when we look at all the tax increases, we look at all the fee increases – of course we know people are going to be hit with the HST increase. We're going to have income tax increases. There is going to be a levy. There is going to be a gas tax.

 

Pretty much every fee we can imagine is going to be raised but when you look at the various taxes and fees that are going to be raised, I think everybody would agree and it has already been said that when it comes to the sin taxes, is what we call them, whether it be alcohol, tobacco and so on, I think that all Members in this hon. House and I think members of the general public in general would agree that if we're going to go down that road of taxation, that this is probably one of the better ways to go.

 

Now, obviously, if you're a smoker, you're not going to be too happy about this increase. Everybody understands that. We all understand that smoking is an addiction. People don't necessarily choose to smoke. I suppose they choose initially, but after a period of time you become addicted and so on. Even though you know it's doing harm to your health, sometimes it's not easy to quit.

 

I know going back – that would be going back, let me see, 25 years ago now since I smoked, but prior to that I had smoked. Last going off, I was up to almost three packages a day on certain days. You'd just be lighting one off the other. I know how that addiction can be. I tried different methods, like everybody did, to try to quit smoking with the patch, the menthol cigarettes and all these different things, but it didn't work. In the end, the only thing that really worked for me is one day I just said enough of this. I smoked one last cigarette, took what was left, balled them up, threw them in the garbage and –

 

MR. KENT: And he switched to Lamb's Rum.

 

MR. LANE: My colleague here for Mount Pearl North is saying that I switched to Lamb's Rum. I took them and threw them in the garbage and I never looked back, thank goodness.

 

We all know that cigarettes are bad for your health. Not only is it causing damage to the individual who's smoking and to people who are exposed to second-hand smoke – and thank goodness we've put laws in place now to prohibit that type of activity in restaurants, bars and public places and so on – the additional piece to all this, and I think the real rationale for taxing the cigarettes, is the impact that it has on our health care system.

 

When somebody decides they're going to smoke or whatever, and if they do it for a long period of time and over a period of time, they end up coming down with various diseases. That, we all know, can cause heart disease, cancer, emphysema, COPD and all these different lung-related diseases, for sure, associated to smoking. That's all costing everybody else money in the health care system. When those people have to receive treatment, when they have to go to doctors' appointments, when they have to get medication, surgeries, time in the hospital, all of those associated things, all that bill is being footed by the taxpayer. Therefore, it's good to try to prevent it, obviously. I suppose taxation is one way to some degree to at least limit the amount of cigarettes that someone is prepared to pay.

 

Well, that's certainly one thing we can do, but the other thing, of course, is it's important that we have smoking cessation programs and so on as well, to try to break that habit. Because at the end of the day, the taxes that someone is paying on cigarettes, if they should come down with some sort of a critical illness they'll never pay that money back in taxes. No matter how many cigarettes they smoke and how much tax they're paying on those cigarettes, I would say that if they came down with a critical illness all the taxes they paid on those cigarettes wouldn't come close to paying back the health care system for all the costs that are going to be incurred with it.

 

So therefore, I think that's why most people recognize, while nobody likes being taxed, and we don't like taxing people in general, if you're going to tax people on certain things – and this would be one that would be more palatable, more acceptable to the majority of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. Like I said, if you're a smoker perhaps you don't feel that way, but I think the rest of the people do feel that way. So from that perspective, I will be supporting Bill 22.

 

Mr. Chair, of course we know this is just one – well, there's another one, because we already passed a bill earlier in the House that was going to increase some fees for businesses. Of course, this is another one we're doing now, and we know there are going to be many other measures. Like I said, we already passed the gas tax, and we know that's 16½ cents. We doubled the gas tax. Not only is it 16½ on a litre of gas, but then there's tax on that. So it's probably closer to 19, 20 cents that we taxed gas.

 

One question I would have for the Minister of Finance – and it's not really related to this bill, but it is a question I would have as it relates to the gas tax. Of course, we can talk about anything because this is a money bill, but if we're going to be taxing that additional 16½ on gasoline, part of that 15 per cent HST is federal. So it would seem to me the federal government are capitalizing on our austerity measures.

 

Now, I stand to be corrected. I would love for some clarification on that issue at some point in time, maybe not on this bill but on another bill. Maybe on the budget, I don't know. I just put it out there, that it would seem the federal government are going to capitalize on their share of the HST that's going on the 16½ cents on gas.

 

I don't know how many litres of fuel are consumed in Newfoundland and Labrador in the run of a year. Maybe if George Murphy was still here he could tell me for sure, because George was up on those things. It would seem to me that the federal government stand to gain money off the austerity measures being taken here in this particular case.

 

I would love to know what that money is. If it's something significant or whatever it is, I'd like then for our federal MPs to be lobbied to say, listen, if it wasn't for these austerity measures we never would have gotten that extra tax off that 16½ cents of gas; therefore, we're going to return it to you because the federal government is not taking austerity measures. Newfoundland and Labrador are taking austerity measures.

 

I would like to see that portion of the tax on gas returned back to us from the federal government, or at least go against this deferred repayment. We could do that, or they could simply return that money. Now, I have no idea what the math is on that and how much money it would be, but maybe it's enough money to keep the libraries open. I don't know. Maybe it's enough money to help offset the levy for everybody else.

 

I would throw that out there to the Minister of Finance, if she hasn't already thought of this. I'm sure she has because she's a very intelligent person. She understands all this stuff. I believe she probably knows all this. Maybe this is nothing new, but I do want to get it on the record at least that on the 16½ cents, the feds are getting their fair share of that 15 per cent tax. Whatever that works out to be, it's doing nothing to help our situation. It's just putting more money in the federal coffers and I think we should get it back.

 

With that said, Mr. Chair, I'm going to take my seat. If somebody else wants to speak, obviously, they will.

 

Thank you.

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Yes, Mr. Chair, given the hour of the day, and with leave of my colleagues, I would suggest now that we suspend debate for supper and then resume at 7 p.m.

 

CHAIR: It is recommended that we suspend debate.

 

We'll recess until 7 p.m. 

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Thank you.

 


May 30, 2016                  HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS                  Vol. XLVIII No. 35A


 

The House resumed at 7 p.m.

 

CHAIR (Warr): Order, please!

 

We'll continue to debate Bill 22.

 

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

 

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

 

I am very happy to stand this evening as we resume our day to speak to Bill 22, An Act to Amend the Revenue Administration Act No. 5. Mr. Chair, aside from us debating a number of bills where the issue, in fact, may be simply an administrative issue or it may be something much more in depth in a bill, really what we need to be looking at still, once again, and continuously is the overall issue of the budget, the budget that was brought down in April – a budget that one would have hoped would stabilize our economy, not only stabilize the economy, but also propel us forward.

 

Mr. Chair, this is not what this budget does. In fact, this budget destabilizes the economy. It doesn't create jobs. As a matter of fact, what it does is that it cuts jobs. Not only does it cut jobs in the public sector – which is a very unfortunate thing because at this point the role of government, in times of really difficult economic times, is to be able to stabilize the economy, to shore up the public sector, to shore up communities, to find ways so the people who are so willing to roll up their sleeves and get to work can do so.

 

So last week I decided that I would go over a paper that was written by Toby Sanger who is an economist. The title of his paper and his presentation was Two budgets, similar circumstances: Which would you choose? Mr. Chair, we know that we cannot control the oil industry. We cannot control the commodity market. We can't control that, but what we can control is our response to it. We can control our response to the particular economic situation and fiscal situation that we find ourselves in as a province.

 

Just to update folks on the presentation where I started to go through Toby's presentation – and it's great – he started by saying what are the similarities between Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador. We know that one of the things is that both have a lot of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

 

Alberta has a lot of really hard-working Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. Newfoundland and Labrador has a lot of really hard-working Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. Alberta has a lot of out-of-work Newfoundlanders and Labradorians right now because of what's been happening in the oil industry. Newfoundland and Labrador also has a lot of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians out of work because of what's happening in the oil industry.

 

I went through a number of similarities, like they both have majestic landscapes and rugged mountains. Both provinces' major energy exports are oil. Both have fantastic cultural workers and artists. Both have big chunks of moving ice. We're seeing the icebergs coming down now around our province. How fabulous is that. He said they both had, once, good hockey teams. Maybe we have a good one coming up again.

 

The other thing that I found interesting is that both provinces, both Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador, have about the same number of moose. I found that interesting because I didn't know that. So the Alberta moose population is 118,000 and the Newfoundland and Labrador moose population is 115,000. Isn't that interesting?

 

I can't remember exactly where our moose came from. Did they come from Alberta? They came from somewhere in Canada, but I can't remember where that might be.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: New Brunswick.

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MS. ROGERS: New Brunswick, of course. I heard somebody call them swamp donkeys the other day. Those are some of the similarities.

 

Now, other similarities that Mr. Toby Sanger drew, aside from some of these descriptive similarities of our two provinces – and again I want to remind people that both provinces have hard-working Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who are ready to roll up their sleeves, who are ready to work. They want to be a part of the solution. They all want to be a part of the solution of stabilizing our economy, of propelling us forward.

 

They're not looking at just to be bailed out. These are people who want to work hard to be able to make things better for Newfoundland and Labrador. We know that a number of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who have been commuting back and forth, their jobs are gone, so they're going to stay home. There are a number of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who moved to Alberta who want to move back home too. Some have, and then with the unfortunate fires that also affects what's happening to people.

 

We heard tonight that there are 15,000 people who thought they would be able to move home and they can't now in Fort McMurray because their homes are not habitable. It's a really tough time.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible.)

 

MS. ROGERS: Sorry?

 

AN HON. MEMBER: There are 567 homes.

 

MS. ROGERS: There are 567 homes. That's a lot of homes that are completely destroyed.

 

What he also looked at was what really sets us apart. He said the things that are common is Newfoundland and Labrador cut income tax rates, especially for top incomes; but even with recent increases, top rate is still below the rates that were effective up until 2007. So around 2007-2008, we saw a drop in income tax for our top earners and now in this budget we see a bit of an increase, but they're still below the rates of 2007.

 

He said, “Then the price of oil plunged and resource royalties plummeted in both provinces.” We're all very familiar with that. Those are sort of the slings and arrows we're suffering right now. Because the price of oil plunged and because our resource royalties plummeted, that's one of the big problems we're in right now.

 

We've seen a cut in revenue in terms of corporate income taxes and personal income taxes in Newfoundland and Labrador. That cut our revenue substantially, Mr. Chair. Now what we're doing is suffering from what we had no control over – we had control over that, but we have no control over what's happening in the oil industry and the resource market.

 

Again, he reminds us both elected new governments in 2015. The NDP government in Alberta and a Liberal government in Newfoundland and Labrador and – it's very interesting, here we are comparing the two provinces with some many similarities – both tabled their budgets on the same day, April 14, 2016. How coincidental is that? What's the chance of that happening? One in one million, I'd say.

 

He said that's where the similarities end. So now he's walking us through the differences. The different approach of the NDP government in Alberta – and we know there are differences as well between the resilience of Alberta and our particular financial resilience right now. Alberta is not in as bad a space, but the similarities are so very interesting. He said that's where the similarities end. So let's look where they end around public spending.

 

In Alberta, the public spending, a 2 per cent increase in overall operating spending. Stable funding for education and health – now that's Alberta. That's the choices they made on how they were going to deal with their economic crisis.

 

Then he said there was an increase in infrastructure funding by 23 per cent in their budget this year and by another 13 per cent next year. Those are some of the ways they're going to attack the financial crisis they're facing. They are doing an increase in overall operating spending, stable funding for education and health, and increase in infrastructure funding by 23 per cent this year and by another 13 per cent next year.

 

What did Newfoundland and Labrador do? What did this government do, this government that we would hope would stabilize our economy, that we hoped their budget would have propelled us forward? Newfoundland and Labrador did $260 million cuts in public spending. The overall cuts put another $1.3 billion into Nalcor. Even though we had all those cuts, they put $1.3 billion into Nalcor – and we can see there are problems there – and $100 million cuts to planned capital and repair projects.

 

Infrastructure; we hear governments talking about they've got some money put aside for infrastructure. That's really important because that creates jobs and the jobs are projects that are beneficial to the whole province; but, in fact, what Newfoundland and Labrador – what this government did is they actually cut their infrastructure capital and repair project by $100 million. Economists all over the world are telling us during times of austerity, during times of budget crisis, it's not time to cut public spending nor is it time to cut infrastructure spending.

 

So, Mr. Chair, I can see that my time is slipping away here. I have a number of other topic areas that I'm looking forward to going through tonight, like education and health care. So I really look forward to looking at those comparisons on how Alberta dealt with theirs, how Newfoundland and Labrador dealt with theirs.

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Conception Bay East – Bell Island.

 

MR. BRAZIL: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

It's indeed an honour to stand tonight and speak to Bill 22, An Act to Amend the Revenue Administration Act.

 

For those who are watching at home, this is a bill that would allow for an increase to the tax on cigarettes. It will move up to 24.5 cents per cigarette, up 1 cent from 23.5.

 

Obviously, the intent here is to generate revenue. As a non-smoker, I see the benefits from two perspectives. One, hopefully that will generate revenue. Two, from a health perspective, I would encourage people to either curb or not be smokers, but people choose to do that and that's their right. There are various reasons why people smoke and we understand that.

 

The issue I had, in conversations I had this past weekend at a function with an economist, was around – a lot of the things that are being implemented, a lot of the tax increases and the fee increases and that, because of the nature that there are so many and how they're divided, will probably, in some cases, generate less revenue than previously was generated under that same heading, even with an increase. Particularly, under smoking, the additional $5.5 million that's being anticipated to be generated as additional revenues may not be realized because of the costing, and the costing around the fact there are so many other tax increases that people are going to have to make some choices.

 

If they make a choice not to smoke, from a healthy point of view I encourage that and I see that as a benefit. From a financial point of view for the government – who are basing all their expenditures and their budget on making sure they're going to maximize all these tax revenues and these fee increases they talked about to that level – obviously, they're doing bad accounting. The fear here is going to be around whether or not their outlined deficit is even going to be worse because of the approach they've taken.

 

When we look at all the fees they've tried to implement around increases, around the levy itself – which means less disposable income for the working public – we also talk about the other fee increases around insurance. People are going to make decisions around not registering as many cars if they have two cars in the family, or if a company has X number of vehicles they need to do. That's lost revenue.

 

They talk about the gas tax. Obviously, they're going to have to curb exactly how they operate their business. There are going to be lost revenues as part of that perspective. They're also talking – then the insurance industry themselves say we're not going to insure as many vehicles. Then that's lost revenue the companies themselves pay taxes on.

 

So these are just three or four right off the cuff that I think of. I've had conversations, particularly with people who have the financial background and our economists, who say there has to be a full-fledged plan around how you implement some of these taxes and how they're going to generate additional revenues. And you can do it.

 

Every administration has done it, where they've picked certain things. Cigarettes was one they increased, alcohol was another one. In certain times you increased registration on vehicles and certain other things that you could do, but you did it to a minimum point where you knew people would still sustain what they had. They would absorb any disposable income they had by paying those additional fees.

 

The problem we have with this budget – and it's being echoed to me by my constituents, by people from other parts of the province, by people outside of the province who are reading on it, particularly those who are in the know, those who have studied budgets, those who work in the finance industry, those who do it from an economic point of view who study the whole realm of budgets and implementation of tax regimes. They're seeing real faults in how this is going to be approached. Particularly the hardship it's going to impose on people, but even being able to generate the revenues that are expected by the Liberal administration to offset the deficit they're projecting.

 

Again, as I mentioned earlier, people are thinking the deficit would actually get to a higher level because the expectation of generating some of these revenues are going to be harder to realize for a number of other cases. There are businesses on the Mainland, companies I've dealt with who were at a point where we're encouraging them to move to, particularly, parts of my district because we have a readily available workforce. We have available land at affordable prices – that are looking at moving, either expanding their productivity or actually moving the business they have. Now they're second-guessing it because of the additional costs that are going to be incurred, because they're not quite sure if the same workforce is going to be available. People are going to have to make choices, if they can live the lifestyle here that they are accustomed to or are going to have to move to another province.

 

That's the frightening part about everything that has been outlined in this budget. It's not as much about how people are going to have to dig deeper in their pockets or take some of their savings or move things there, the real fear factor that I have – and I see it in my district, and I'm seeing it on the emails I get from people around – is the impact it's going to have and the decisions people are going to have to make of whether or not they stay in this province.

 

People are accustomed – we've been pretty good the last decade or so. People are accustomed to a certain standard of living; not an exorbitant one, but a certain standard of living. They managed to be able to do certain things. Even those who were in a poverty level have moved up the ranks and have gotten accustomed, have more opportunities for employment, have more opportunities to make sure their kids have a better quality of education, and have a better outlook on life.

 

Unfortunately, what I'm being told, what I'm reading, what I'm understanding and what I believe now is that's at jeopardy, and it's at jeopardy for a number of reasons. One, it's the cost-of-living increases that are being put on people right now and it's going to be an across-the-board cost. Some can afford it, there's no doubt. Some people have enough disposable income that they can absorb that. They'll just alter their lifestyles to a certain degree.

 

There's a middle-class working group that are going to have to alter dramatically what they do and make some decisions. There's going to be another group of individuals, the working poor, who are dramatically going to have to look at – they wanted to move to the next level. They wanted to ensure things were going to be better for the next generation. They're going to have to make decisions, and they're making them.

 

I've already had three of my constituents put For Sale signs on their homes. These are not people who are losing their jobs; this is not where it is. These are people who are saying if I stay in Newfoundland and Labrador, the way things are now, my quality of life and my family's quality of life – because it's not just about the income. It's about the services being lost. It's about the cuts to education. It's about the cuts to health care. It's about the second level of cuts that are going to come.

 

People are astute enough to know that the worst is yet to come. The service cuts are what are really going to have a dramatic impact on people.

 

When we look at our snow clearing, what impact is that going to have from an operations point of view, from a safety point of view, from being able to get to work on time? Does it mean leaving an hour or two earlier?

 

If there are going to be changes to ferry schedules, what does that mean for an average person who takes a ferry to get to work, who works eight hours, but we know they're doing 13 or 14 just to get to work and back, is that going to be a 16- or 18-hour day? Is it viable, then, for them to even live in those communities? Is it viable for them, depending on the income, to even go to work?

 

Do they then have to make a choice between spending time with their family and probably being better off being reliant on the province, than it would be for being able to get up, take 16 or 18 hours a day, have no quality of life, have no time with their family and yet, be paying taxes for no benefit to them? So everybody loses under that regime.

 

There has to be some real thought into where people are coming from. Somewhere along the way somebody has to give a glimmer of hope. Somebody has to say at the end of the day we're going to go back and review exactly what we've done.

 

We have to impose certain increases, certain fee increases, certain taxes. It's a reality. People of this province understood the fiscal challenges we had and understood government would have to make some decisions. I think they would have been supportive to that, had there been a method to the madness, as they say. A plan as to how we would get to a point where it would be minimal impact on people, it would still help grow the economy in some way, shape or form. That we would find an alternate way of providing services, not cutting services but a better, more efficient way, a better economy of scale on the investment, how we would diversify the economy.

 

Because it was talked about; it was a big touted plan of the Liberal administration. We were going to diversify the economy. Part of that diversification would have been attracting businesses that traditionally would not work out of Newfoundland and Labrador. Thought it would be a great idea, thought what a way to do it.

 

If I had seen in this budget investments in that area where you could show we're investing $10 million, but we know we're going to create $100 million worth of business over the next number of years because we're attracting certain industries here that can mould their businesses around either being so close to the European market or the Mainland market or the American market; or developing a piece of technology that makes no difference where you're at when you do it, it can be shipped anywhere in the world; or if I thought they were going to do something more creative around our mineral industry, that would be more beneficial to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, then I would have said good investment.

 

But no indication; cuts at every level, cuts at support levels. Being regressive in our health care, regressive in our education, regressive in our financial ability to go out and attract businesses. Doing very little to encourage citizens and give any glimmer of hope for those people who are fortunate enough, who did well over the last decade, business people, individuals who have money stashed away to be able to want to reinvest it in this province and want to be able to stay here and be confident that things can move forward.

 

The one thing about Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, as we all know, no matter where they go this is still home. This is the first time we're forcing people out because we're making the wrong choices. People have had to leave over the decades because the economics were what they were. The choices we're making now with this budget are forcing people to leave, and that's the wrong thing to be doing.

 

Thank you, Mr. Chair, and I'll have a chance to speak again later on this.

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl – Southlands.

 

MR. LANE: Yes, thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

It's certainly a pleasure to rise once again and speak to Bill 22. Mr. Chair, for anyone who may be watching – and we talked about this before – this is actually the bill to increase tobacco taxes. I think everybody has already spoken to the fact that if we're going to be looking at having to raise additional revenue, this would probably be one of the preferred areas for sure.

 

Given that this is considered a money bill, we can utilize this opportunity to speak to the budget in general. Certainly I've been contacted by, I can't tell you how many people, but an awful lot, I can tell you that, from all throughout the province. What I keep hearing from people is that you've got to continue to speak out, we all need to continue to speak out, we all need to continue to advocate to the government to ask them to make some changes in this budget, and to use every single opportunity we can to keep this going.

 

Hopefully, they'll be listening, at some point in time, to what we're saying here in the House. They'll be listening to what the people are saying, whether it be through social media or emails or on the open line shows or whatever, to keep that message going that people are not in support of this budget and they want to see change.

 

So with that in mind, certainly it is my intent, and I'm sure my other colleagues here on this side, to keep this debate going as long as we can and to take every single opportunity to stand on our feet and talk about this budget – and this bill will be no different. Although I may not be talking about tobacco tax, per se, we will be talking about the budget. And if I can speak 10 times to this night and keep her going, that's what I'm prepared to do. We will see how it goes.

 

Anyway, Mr. Chair, before we took our break and I spoke the last time, one of the questions I had posed, which actually was a point that was raised by a constituent of mine – I was actually at a function on Saturday cleaning up the Waterford River, as a matter of fact. One of the gentlemen there, a friend of mine, I've known him for a long time, posed a question about the gas tax. The question he posed was quite a good one, which, to be perfectly frank, it wasn't something that I thought about at the time but when he said it, it made a whole lot of sense.

 

What he had said was, basically, if we're going to put 16½ cents on a litre of gas, then we're going to tax that 16½ cents with the 15 per cent HST – well, I guess it'll be 13 per cent HST and then, come July 1, it will change to 15 per cent HST but eventually it will be 15 HST.

 

Well, a portion of that HST is federal tax, not provincial tax. So, basically, what would be happening here is that the federal government would be taking advantage of and gaining revenue from our austerity measures, a portion of that 15 per cent – so if 15 per cent on 16½ cents means an extra two or three cents or whatever, well maybe a cent or a cent and a half of that is actually going to go into federal coffers, not provincial coffers. So it's doing nothing to help our situation whatsoever and Ottawa is collecting additional taxation.

 

The thought process is: Is this really fair? Given the fact that we're only doing this because of the financial mess that we find ourselves in, if that's the only reason why we're doing this, then surely there should be some arrangement made with Ottawa, with the federal government. Particularly given the strong relationship between our provincial government and our federal government, there should be some measures to say, listen, whatever we collect here in federal tax, then you should be returning that back to the province to help us with our situation.

 

I didn't know what that number would be. So what I did, just a while ago, I reached out to a former Member of the House of Assembly who knows a fair bit about gas, of course. That's our own George Murphy. I reached out to George. I sent him a message. I posed that question to him: How many litres of gas did we use last year in the province? According to George's numbers – and I'm not stating this as gospel, neither is he, but based on his numbers and calculations, he's telling me that last year we actually consumed 1.13 billion litres of gasoline.

 

On doing the math on the federal portion of the HST on that 16½ cents, if we were to consume the same amount of fuel again this year, according to his calculations, it would bring in $22.4 million. In theory – again, if it stays the same as last year, according to his numbers, not mine. This is what he's telling me, and I have a lot of respect for George and his numbers, he's been doing it a long time – $22.4 million that's going to the federal government that they're just going to collect. It's going into their coffers on the backs of our austerity measures. That's not doing one thing to help us in our financial situation.

 

When you think about $22.4 million, I believe, and I stand to be corrected, but I believe all these library closures, I think it's going to save a million dollars, or around a million dollars, roughly. So out of that $22.4 million, $1 million could save all the libraries. All the Members now on all sides who have all the libraries closing down in their districts, $22.4 million going to Ottawa, $1 million of that could save all the libraries.

 

We look at other things like the levy. We know we just received a deferral on monies owed to the federal government of – I think it was $27 million; I think was the number, or something like that, this year of a deferral. That was going to raise the cap to $50,000.

 

If we took that $1 million off that $22.4 million we could save all the libraries, and we still got another $21.4 million that could go against the levy this year. It wouldn't eliminate the whole levy, totally, but I'd say it would pretty much remove the levy for all the non-sunshine listeners. Which, quite frankly, would in terms of the people in my district – I've said before, I have a lot of people like nurses and teachers and firemen and RNC officers and so on, and those people are – the announcement that was made, while it was a great announcement by the federal government, that deferral to raise the cap to $50,000 did nothing for a lot of those people.

 

Certainly, if we could apply this money toward the levy, a lot of those people, probably all of those people I named in those particular occupations and so on, none of those people would have to pay a levy this year. This is not an exact number or science, but it's rough calculations. It would seem to me that could save that.

 

This money could save the courthouse. There's one in Harbour Grace and there are some other ones. I can't remember the number, but the money we're taking away from seniors – which I have to say, I was really blown away by that one, Mr. Chair.

 

I sat through Estimates and I was shocked to learn – you have seniors. Particularly, you have seniors in a nursing home or whatever and they only get $150 a month. When it comes to some of the non-prescription medications they require, now they have to pay for those. I'm not sure what the dollar amount is we're saving on that, but that $22.4 million could certainly go a long way in maintaining that program. There are all kinds of other programs we can talk about that could be maintained.

 

I am running out of time on these 10 minutes. Hopefully I'll have many more opportunities.

 

Again, I put it out there and if the numbers are wrong, fair enough. But based on the numbers, $22.4 million going to the federal government, capitalizing on our austerity measures, I really believe that the government needs to get on the phone with the MPs and make sure that money comes back to Newfoundland.

 

Thank you.

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

I remind the hon. Member that his time has expired.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

I'm happy to get up and speak this evening to Bill 22 which, like a few more of the bills we'll see tonight, represents the famous budget that we're dealing with this year. The bill tonight has to do with taxation on tobacco. I have to say that I'm not opposed to taxation on tobacco. Let's hope this rise in the tax on tobacco might help more people give it up. I really do hope that.

 

Having said that, it's probably one of the only taxes in that budget I would say that about. This budget is a budget that's really being made on the backs of the people of the province. I've used that expression a couple of times today and I'm going to keep using it because it's so apt.

 

A couple of weeks ago I made allusions to the binders of messages that I have from people who are unhappy with the budget, people whose lives are going to be badly affected by the budget. I said I was going to be using these letters when I spoke. I've been doing that off and on, and I'm certainly going to continue doing it because I think it's really important for the government to hear the words of the people of the province themselves. Not me up sort of regurgitating it or standing up and saying I heard this or I saw that, but actually using, where possible, the names of the people. They want their names used, and their real stories and what they have to say about the budget and how the budget is going to affect them, because this is what I think government needs to hear.

 

Although, in the case of a lot of the messages that I'll be reading and alluding to – and that's certainly true of the one I'm using tonight – a lot of them have been sent to government Members. A lot of them have been written specifically to their own MHAs and then copied to the rest of the government Members, but it seems like an awful lot of the government Members haven't read these messages. Because if they have, I don't know how they could be as calm as they are over this budget.

 

Tonight I'm going to read one from a woman, a teacher, who has said yes, please use my name because I've used it when I have written my Member. Her name is Corina Reardon. She's originally from Goose Cove on the Northern Peninsula and currently residing in St. Anthony. Right now, she's an unemployed teacher, and as she says, she's extremely frustrated. She did write her Member, and when she wrote her Member she also copied all the Members of the Liberal Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. So they all received it, but whether or not they read it, I have no idea.

 

She has an extremely interesting story A woman of determination and a woman who has fought to get to where she is. When she was 22 years old she went to university. She had a three-year-old son at that time and brought the three-year-old son with her to university. As she says: Needless to say, my university experience was not typical. It was a trying experience and proposed many challenges. But, she's so proud today because she was the first member of her immediate family to graduate with a post-secondary degree. Her family is proud of her, and she's proud of what she has done.

 

She was 28 years old when she graduated with her first degree, and she went away. She and her husband moved. They lived in Alberta and worked in Alberta. This was after she'd done an internship in the province, because she did do an internship in the province. They moved to Alberta. Alberta wasn't the land of milk and honey for them, certainly not for her. In Newfoundland and Labrador during her internship, and for a short period that she'd taught here, she used to sub and really had no problems getting jobs as a substitute teacher. Something that was frustrating for her, when they were in Alberta, was that substituting there meant you were up against retired teachers, because they also were on the substitute list.

 

So, Mr. Chair, things didn't go well and they decided in the winter of 2011 to come back home to Newfoundland – as she says, because home is the Island. They were delighted to come back home. Once she came back she found she could sub, that she could get replacement positions and she really had no concern for a long time.

 

She said something very interesting in the middle of her letter, because she's going to go on and talk about the budget. She says: First, let me begin by saying that I don't believe this budget was made maliciously. On the contrary, I believe the Liberals came to power, were faced with dire financial hardships, and decided the best way to remedy these would be to make as many cutbacks as possible while hurting the least amount of people as possible.

 

If I'm right – and this is why she's writing – and you didn't do it deliberately but this is why you did it, then your government has failed. This is what her message is. I'm writing this letter to inform you that due to the cutbacks you have made in education, I no longer have any hope of finding a teaching position in this province.

 

Now, there's quite a statement. Due to the number of positions being cut, combining of classes, and closing of smaller schools, leading to bumping of teachers, I am not hopeful that I will secure a position for September. I am now faced with a decision to either leave the teaching profession or, once again, leave Newfoundland.

 

This is not me making this up; this is Corina Reardon herself speaking to us in this House. This is Corina telling us her story. She remembers when they came back from Alberta. She talks about when they arrived in Port aux Basques and her son, judging by what she's been saying, he may have been around 10 or 11 at the time, the first thing he did was roll down the window of the car to smell the fresh Newfoundland air.

 

She talks about how much they love the province and how much they want to stay, and how much her children want to stay. However, because of the cuts being made to education, her concerns are being felt throughout the province. It's not only her who's feeling it. The first reason being that the Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development should not be the Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development if he believes that all of these cuts and combined classes will not affect students.

 

She says: All cuts – in bold, underlined and in capitals – in education affect students. If you cut back on teachers, school budgets and the services available in schools, it will ultimately affect the students. Schools are for students. If you reduce anything involved in the running of a school, it will affect the people it is meant to serve.

 

So let's try to not patronize people. This is something I've been saying. People understand what's going on and Corina is saying the same thing. People understand that if you have a lot of children in a class with only one teacher, it is physically impossible for that teacher to be able to assist and aid all of the students in that class. Increasing class caps does nothing except ensure that more children get left behind and fall through the educational cracks. Those cracks are bursting at the seams already.

 

I should point out that when she did her internship, she was in a school that had combined classes. She has the experience of teaching in this province with combined classes. Her experience is that what's going to happen with the changes that have been made to the budget and with the change that have been made to the educational system because of this budget and by a minister whom she says should know better, that the children of our province are going to suffer.

 

That's something I don't think that this government is stopping to think about: the impact on the children of our province, the impact of not having libraries to go to, the impact of not having libraries in their schools. A lot of those libraries that are being cut were in schools. The impact of being left behind. The impact of being leftover – whether the minister likes hearing that phrase or not, that's what it is, they're being leftover.

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

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

 

I will continue the next time I can.

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

I remind the hon. Member that her speaking time has expired.

 

The hon. the Member for Topsail – Paradise.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. P. DAVIS: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

You're fitting into your new role rather quickly and comfortably. You look like you've been there all your life, but you haven't. You're brand new there. Congratulations to you. You're doing your role well, so I congratulate you on that as well.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. P. DAVIS: Mr. Chair, we're here in the House this evening –

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Well said.

 

MR. P. DAVIS: Let's not overdo it now.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. P. DAVIS: Let's go back to the bill, that's what we'll do. We'll go back to the bill. The bill night is Bill 22 which is An Act to Amend the Revenue Administration Act and it refers specifically to tobacco tax. So for those who are tuning in tonight, along with the budget goes a number of, what's often termed, enacting legislation.

 

When we do this and talk about these bills and debate these bills, they're considered to be money bills. Because they're money bills, we can essentially talk about anything that's in the purview of what's happening in government, quite often within the realm of budget, but we have the liberty then to talk about any matter of importance.

 

As Members rise tonight, they get to rise over and over again, for 10-minute intervals they can talk about a variety of issues. That's what's happening here tonight, if someone just happens to be tuning in – and for you too, Mr. Chair, just in case you weren't clear.

 

On this bill, on the revenue administration bill and on tobacco tax, there's always an interesting discussion because there are two ways about it. One is the firm belief that raising the cost of tobacco results in the decreased use of tobacco, which we all know and I'm sure we all will agree, is a good thing. It's always a good thing when we do that. It also creates more revenue.

 

The government is anticipating total projected revenue this year of $5.5 million on its increases both in cigarettes and fine cut tobacco. It became effective April 5. It's a retroactive type of bill where it's effective but we still bring it before the House. Tax will go up by one cent per cigarette and two cents per gram on fine cut tobacco. Again, as I said, $5.5 million in revenue expected to be generated by the government.

 

I remember when I was on the government side of the House, one of the discussions that always take places on this, and we quite often get it from the business community, that they see a reduction in tobacco sometimes greater than the reduction of the number of people who use tobacco. What people in the business community have argued in the past is as you make tobacco prices higher, especially if it's disproportionately higher to other areas, so if one region or one jurisdiction puts it up more than the others, then it increases the likelihood of the illegal movement and sales of tobacco in the province.

 

I understand in some regions, in some places, in some circles, there's a very active underground market for tobacco. When you increase the price – granted, it's a small amount, total projected revenues of $5.5 million, but it's a small amount, then that increases that underground market. That's one of the side effects of increasing costs on the people of the province.

 

If you add that to the other decisions and other actions involving the budget that increases the pressures on individuals and families to make ends meet, to pay for the needs of their own families, then an increase is the likelihood. If a person has an addiction to tobacco and uses tobacco on a regular basis, and feels the need – now that there's greater stress put on them, and we've heard from many, many people who are anticipating a lot more stress in their own lives because of the implications of this budget. If you have stress in your life, it's harder to give up smoking. It's harder to give up an addiction when people quite often use that as an assistance or support to their own addiction.

 

When you increase the pressure on people, you increase their cost overall. You increase the need for their own tobacco and then decrease the likelihood that you're going to help them quit or to stop smoking, which we would like nothing more than everyone to quit and stop smoking because I believe in the long run and in the long term there would be benefits to the province from a financial perspective. It would cause healthier lifestyles, healthier lives, less demand on health care and all of the effects that can go with that. At the same time, as I mentioned, one of the concerns is an increase on the underground market which increases crime, criminal activity, illegal activity by people in the province and how they obtain their tobacco.

 

When we talk about the pressures – I know our colleague from Mount Pearl – Southlands talked about gas tax at some length. I was going to mention gas tax tonight because it's this week that gas tax is going up. So on Thursday of this week, on June 2 the 16.5 cents per litre will go on the gas tax. I reference that now because it's a good time for people to go and fill up their jerry cans and their gas cans.

 

I had a conversation with someone this weekend and they said –

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible.)

 

MR. P. DAVIS: Well, jerry can was the name of the can, not in reference to the Member of the House. Yes, I know.

 

Gas cans, and someone said this weekend: Well, I could go around the neighbourhood, go to my neighbour and say, can I borrow your gas can? Can I borrow your gas can? Go out and pick up all your gas cans, fill them up now, and when your neighbour comes back in a couple of weeks and says I need my gas can back. You say, well as soon as I use that gas you can get your gas can back. You can save yourself at least 16½ cents a litre, plus the 13 per cent HST on the 16½ cents.

 

I say 13 per cent only until July 1 when, of course, the HST increases by 2 per cent to 15 per cent. Then that HST goes on the 16½ per cent increase. Essentially what's happening is the gas tax is being doubled. I referenced this in the House before; when I've spoken in the House before.

 

I've talked to taxi drivers. I've talked to three different taxi drivers who I have had in-depth conversations with and a couple of others besides. The Member for Mount Pearl – Southlands referenced the former Member for St. John's Centre, Mr. George Murphy. I've even talked to him about it as well.

 

Taxi driving is not a high-income business – it's not. They have a fair bit of overhead: the vehicle, the operation of the vehicle, insurance and, of course, fuel. These are all aspects of increased costs for taxi drivers.

 

Fuel is going to go up 16½ cents plus HST, when it goes on to 15 per cent HST in July. It's probably upwards of a 19- or 20-cent increase on the price of gas per litre; a significant increase. With the price of gas today, I've looked at the charts – I don't have it here in front of me, I've looked at the charts – we're kind of in the upper end to the middle of the pack right now. If you're in around the middle of the pack, there's not a big difference. But this gas tax increase will put us disproportionately higher than the rest of the country, almost out to a rank all on our own.

 

That's going to impact taxi drivers. They have insurance costs that are high because of the business they're in, the work they do, the frequency and how many miles they drive. That's going to go up by 15 per cent. Their repairs and maintenance costs are going to go up by 15 per cent.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible.)

 

MR. P. DAVIS: What was that?

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Two extra per cent on the repairs.

 

MR. P. DAVIS: That's right, two extra cents on repairs as well. That's all going to go up. Their insurance goes up. Their gas goes up. One of the hard parts for taxi drivers is they don't have the ability just to say we're going to charge more.

 

When the cost of groceries start to get impacted by the increase in taxes –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. P. DAVIS: When the taxes go up and that causes an increase in the cost of groceries – because groceries will go up, Mr. Chair. Groceries will be impacted by the tax increases that this government is bringing in. That will go up and that will go on your bottom dollar. The hard part for taxis is they can't pass that on because they don't have the ability to tune their meters and charge more for their taxi run. It comes directly out of their pockets.

 

One taxi driver I spoke to earns about $25,000 a year. He believes it will be more than $4,000 – somewhere between $4,000 and $5,000, depending on the year that he has – extra cost to him because of the changes in taxation this year. So that's a 20 to 25 per cent increase in his costs for his operations this year and that's significant. It may be a little bit less than that, depending on the year and the costs he has.

 

Mr. Chair, the point of it is that makes an impact on people's lives. If you cut someone's income or salary by 10 per cent, because they've now got extra costs, extra taxation, more money they have to spend just to go about their day-to-day lives, then that's money they'll have to spend at a grocery store, in maintaining their vehicle, their business operations, taking their children places, or registering them for different programs or services. It's going to have an impact on all of those families.

 

Mr. Chair, I think we're going to have a late night tonight and I look forward to the opportunity to rise and further debate this bill that's before the House in Committee tonight.

 

Thank you.

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl North.

 

MR. KENT: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

It's great to have an opportunity once again to speak to this bill at the Committee stage. I think I'd like to pick up on some of the comments made by the Leader of the Opposition in the last 10 minutes or so.

 

A number of speakers this evening have done a good job of highlighting some of the broad concerns we have with this budget and the impact it will have on average citizens in Newfoundland and Labrador. You can look at any individual point within the budget and debate whether it's good or whether it's bad, or debate the degree to which it will impact people, but when you look at the impact of this budget in its totality, it's costing most families in this province thousands of dollars, and that's not by any stretch an exaggeration.

 

If you punch the numbers into either calculator, except the government one, but if you punch your own numbers into either of the other calculators I think you'll find that the budget impact for most citizens is significant.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible.)

 

MR. KENT: Pardon me?

 

AN HON. MEMBER: I would like the NDP (inaudible).

 

MR. KENT: Yes, the NDP one is not bad. I would argue that Bradley Russell's calculator is far superior having played with them both, but I commend the NDP for coming out with one. I thought it was a good idea. I think the one that a private citizen has come out with shows the power of open data, which is something I hope government won't shelve completely as it moves forward.

 

I do want to talk about some other elements in this budget and why it is a concern for people, and just to remind people of some of the things that have been cut and eliminated in this budget. Because it's not just about the levy, which has been a major bone of contention and a major focal point, it's much bigger than that.

 

One thing, of course, that we've heard talked about in this House is the 2 per cent increase to HST. That was something the previous administration talked about doing. We felt it was going to be necessary just based on where we were fiscally. The Liberal's while campaigning, said: No way, it's a job killer. We can't raise the HST. Now they're going to do exactly what we said we were going to do. So that's rather unfortunate but, nonetheless, HST is going up for all of us. There's a personal income tax increase, and I suspect over the next number of days in this House we'll have a chance to talk some more about that.

 

There have been a number of cuts to health care in Newfoundland and Labrador. One that's been highlighted a number of times in this House – and I know the Member for Fortune Bay – Cape La Hune has spoken to it quite eloquently and passionately – is cuts to breast cancer screening. I've heard the minister's arguments and, based on my prior role, I'm aware of some of the arguments that he's making; but, ultimately, I don't believe that the cuts that are being made in the budget to the program are the right ones.

 

Gas tax is a big one. The cost of gasoline is going up significantly. As of this week, I believe June 2, we're going to see a major increase at the pumps. And there's tax on tax because the HST is also applied, so it's going to drive the cost of gasoline for the average consumer quite significantly as well.

 

One thing that I don't think there has been discussion on so far is the increases to insurance. A 15 per cent hit on insurance tax is substantial. For many people, for many households, the cost, the impact of that is hundreds of dollars a year. That can't be underestimated as well.

 

Tonight, I think we have an opportunity to talk about other things in the budget that have been cut and have been impacted by the budget decisions by the Liberals. Let's just talk about a number of departments as a starting point and, hopefully, I'll have a number of times to get to speak to this bill and others as they go through the Committee stage.

 

We've seen AES offices close in various communities and regions in the province. The real issue there is rural access. It's not to say that the services can't technically be done in another location, but it's about access for the citizens in those regions. That's the big issue here. Obviously, there are going to be jobs lost from given communities if offices close, even if those jobs are relocated elsewhere. That impacts people, but the fact that people in rural communities will no longer have the same level of access to services is a legitimate concern that's being expressed by people in multiple regions in Newfoundland and Labrador.

 

There have been changes to medical transportation benefits, and that's a program that's been a challenge for some time. Many would argue that the program was under resourced to begin with, despite the fact that it's one of the better programs in the country when it comes to medical transportation. Yet, there have been some impacts as a result of this budget.

 

We had made a commitment to move from student loans to needs-based grants. This government is now backing away from that commitment, so there's going to be an impact on post-secondary students in our province. There's been an elimination of apprenticeship scholarships in this budget, which is not something we've heard a whole lot about. I know that there are many challenges facing apprentices in our province and they're complex challenges, but I would say that having scholarships available to attract more apprentices to the trades is a positive thing. To see those eliminated in this budget, I think, is rather unfortunate.

 

Back to student aid for a moment where what we're seeing in this budget is the grant portion of the student financial assistance for Newfoundland and Labrador students is being reduced and the loan portion is being increased. That applies to our medical students as well. We've seen cuts to youth services funding and student services funding. The operational grant for Memorial University has been cut.

 

Let me talk about one of the departments that I'm critic for: Business, Tourism, Culture and Rural Development. I hope that most of the things you'll hear me say about that department in the months and years ahead will be positive because I believe there are lots of good things happening in that department. There are lots of initiatives that I'll be the first to stand and support, but there are a number of cuts within Business, Tourism, Culture and Rural Development in this budget that haven't received a lot of attention or discussion during the budget debate so far.

 

There's funding being eliminated for the Collaborative Applied Research in Economics Initiative, the CARE Initiative. There's a reduction in funding for the Season Extension Program. There's reduced funding for our provincial and regional Visitor Information Centres.

 

The cuts to tourism are particularly frustrating because I believe, and I know the minister believes as well, that there's incredible growth potential within our tourism sector. It's a billion-dollar industry for Newfoundland and Labrador. The investments in the sector over the last number of years have really paid off. It's not just about the award-winning advertising campaign, which I think has contributed greatly to the success, but beyond that, there's been lots of work done on the ground to help the sector grow, develop and reach its full potential. In a time of economic downturn, where tourism still has such growth potential despite that downturn, any cuts to tourism don't make a whole lot of sense.

 

Also in Business, Tourism, Culture and Rural Development there is a reduction in the Regional Development Fund; reduced funding for our Research & Development Corporation, which will foster innovation in our province and encourage economic activity.

 

The grants for the Newfoundland and Labrador Film Development Corporation have been cut, grants that support general operations and also programming, perhaps more importantly. The grant for the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador has been reduced as well.

 

The Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council was also affected. The Labrador Cultural Outreach Office and Travel Fund were eliminated. Now, I understand that there are some efforts being made to address some of those needs through other programs. I guess time will tell whether that's successful and effective or not. But the fact remains that the funding for the Labrador Cultural Outreach Office and Travel Fund as part of the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council has been eliminated.

 

Speaking of Labrador, the Air Foodlift Subsidy Program has been discontinued. Now, I understand again that there's a portion of that funding that's being reinvested in a new program that will promote nutritional and artistic endeavours in Labrador, but there still have been cuts.

 

Mr. Chair, I see I'm out of time, so I'll have to rise again later and speak further.

 

Thank you.

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development.

 

MR. KIRBY: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

It's a pleasure for me to get up and speak on this bill. As we've said, the bill is primarily about increasing the tobacco tax. As a reformed smoker myself, I certainly endorse any measures to reduce rates of smoking in the province. I wanted to pick up on one thing the Member for Mount Pearl just said; he talked about the cuts to the Newfoundland and Labrador Film Development Corporation. I read in the newspaper about that particular reduction, and I actually was fortunate enough to sit in on the Treasury Board presentation from NIFCO.

 

The reason why the budget for NIFCO was cut, I understand it from them and from reading in the newspaper, is that there was an equity stake that was going to be purchased by government in a production and the production company – the Republic of Doyle – independently reduced the cost of production because the production ended and so there was not any need for the expenditure on the production.

 

To somehow decry that as a terrible thing, I guess we all didn't like to see the end of the Republic of Doyle but to suggest somehow that this was a nefarious cut to NIFCO on behalf of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador is nothing but hogwash.

 

Mr. Chair, we hear nothing but doom and gloom from the Opposition day in and day out. Before the budget was released we were encouraged by the Opposition to stop talking about the difficult situation the province finds itself in and stop talking about doom and gloom. We have doom and we have gloom on a daily basis here, and it isn't all doom and gloom.

 

I think people get up and they talk about, how dare you say Newfoundlanders and Labradorians ought to go away and get work experience in other provinces? How dare you do that? It's a complete ignorance of the fact or purposeful avoidance of the fact that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have always gone away to work. Newfoundlanders and Labradorians went to work on the Labrador fishery. Newfoundlanders and Labradorians went to work in sealing outside of their communities. Newfoundlanders and Labradorians went and built some of the tallest skyscrapers in the United States, in Boston, New York and other American cities. When we joined Confederation, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians went and worked on the mainland of Canada.

 

My father went to work for one year in 1967 for Labatt Brewery in London, Ontario. I myself went out of the province to study and work for a period of time for the Ontario government in a public service capacity. Many of us have worked outside the province and we have benefited from that. We go get experience elsewhere and it's a benefit to the province when people come back and contribute gainfully to the economy using the experience and skill they have gained elsewhere. So the glass is either half full or the glass is either half empty. It really depends on how we look at the glass, I guess.

 

The other thing is the budget does include quite a good number of positive measures. In Transportation, $226 million for priority projects. That's a huge investment in infrastructure; $63.7 million for widening and paving of the Trans-Labrador Highway; $62 million for the Provincial Roads Program and brush clearing – quite a number of people in the province will gain employment through that; $5 million for heavy equipment replacement; $23 million for continuation of the Team Gushue Highway – quite an important infrastructure project for the City of St. John's and metro, period.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: And Mount Pearl.

 

MR. KIRBY: And Mount Pearl; $8.13 million for renovations to wharves and ferry terminals; $730,000 to continue the travel subsidy for Labrador teams and individuals to participate in athletic events on the Island – quite an important program that's continuing; $351,000 for the Labrador Transportation Grooming Subsidy to otherwise isolated communities through an extensive winter trail system.

 

We also have significant investments in our communities: $344 million over four years for new and existing municipal infrastructure projects which will leverage $146.4 million in federal funding. With municipal contributions included, we're looking at $625 million total investment in municipal infrastructure. That's 950 full-time equivalent positions per year.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible.)

 

MR. KIRBY: It's not a slush fund at all. If providing good infrastructure and investing in our communities is a slush fund, then you can call it that but I don't call it a slush fund. It's important investment in community infrastructure in the province.

 

There's $18.4 million for revenue sharing and other ventures as part of the Community Sustainability Partnership. There's $22 million for Municipal Operating Grants so that they can remain at current levels. I think MNL and a lot of our municipal partners have been quite vocal in supporting that; $5 million for improvements to provincial buildings, including upgrades for accessibility at a number of the Arts and Culture Centres that sorely needed the upgrades to provide greater accessibility; $1.46 million to continue the remediation at the former American radar site in Hopedale, cleaning up environmental problems that we have in that part of Labrador.

 

There's also a $530,000 grant there for funding for repair to the Terra Nova bridge to ensure there is not a significant problem with the T'Railway Provincial Park, and to begin engineering assessments for other bridges in the park.

 

The provincial government is also providing $1 million over the next two years for new renovations to the Family Court in St. John's to increase capacity and lessen hardship on families and those individuals going through court processes.

 

There is also $100,000 in funding for an external review of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. As we know from news we saw earlier, there is significant need for a review of that office.

 

In the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development there are significant investments in school infrastructure to address capacity issues, planning and replacement of school infrastructure that's aging. We have quite a bit of aging school infrastructure in the province. We can't repair it all this year; we can't repair it all in a couple of years. But as we go along what we can afford and what we see that we need to do, we're doing. There's $88 million to continue projects and over $16 million for repairs and maintenance.

 

We've got over $73 million for school projects, six of them: a Conception Bay South school; a Gander four to six school; a Paradise school, the Octagon Pond school, that's where students are currently attending at the former site of the School for the Deaf. Portugal Cove-St. Philip's will be getting a new school, albeit on a delayed schedule in comparison to what the previous administration had promised. Likewise, Torbay will be getting a new school, a needed middle school.

 

We're also going to finish the Virginia Park school, something that's been tied up for a significant period of time, and then also completing the promised extension and renovation to St. Peter's Junior High. There's over $4.8 million in the budget for an extension and renovation to St. Peter's Primary, also in Mount Pearl; an extension to Mobile Central High School; a modular classroom for Ιcole des Grands-Vents in St. John's; and continued planning for the new Gander K to three – well, a refurbishment.

 

In terms of post-secondary education, there's $3.2 million for Memorial University for priority infrastructure projects. There's $1.9 million in infrastructure funding for College of the North Atlantic for priority infrastructure projects there. There's a new investment of $350,000 for planning future infrastructure priorities.

 

I'll be happy to get up throughout the evening and continue to point out the obvious which is that there's quite a lot of spending, new initiatives, positive initiatives, good investments in communities, in municipal infrastructure, in education infrastructure, in health care infrastructure and so on. I'm pleased to stand as many times as I can this evening to point some of these things out.

 

Thank you.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl – Southlands.

 

MR. LANE: Yes, thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

It's certainly a pleasure to get up one more time and speak to Bill 22. Once again, while this is about raising the tax on tobacco, where it's a money bill we can speak to whatever we decide we want to speak on.

 

I was just listening to the Minister of Education. I agree with the Minister of Education, there are good spends in the budget. Certainly it should be, given the fact we're actually spending more money this year than we did last year in an austerity budget which some people have told me they kind of got a bit of trouble trying to figure out how that works, how on the one hand we're taxing people and taxing people and taxing people but we're actually going to spend more money than we did last year.

 

I don't mean to be critical of what the minister is saying. I mean there are things there, but, Mr. Chair, I've talked about this before. When we're talking about all these things, we could all get a list. I understand what the minister is trying to do. He's trying to find some positive here, but we can all get a list and talk about, okay, we spent money on this school, we spent money on that school; we paved this road, we paved that road; we're going to do the Team Gushue Highway; we're going to do some extensions on St. Peter's Junior High; we're going to do some renovations and extension on St. Peter's Primary and so on.

 

Those are all good things. I'm not going to say they're bad things, they're good things. They're needed things. At the end of the day, isn't that what we expect anyway? If I'm paying taxes, if people are paying taxes they're expecting services. We expect the hospitals to be open. We expect the hospitals to be fit to go in. We expect the schools to be open and have teachers, and the right amount of teachers. We expect it to be fit for our children to go in. We expect the roads to be fit to drive on and so on.

 

While I understand what the minister is saying, that it's not all doom and gloom and there are things getting done, but at the end of the day we pay taxes for it. That's what we expect. So it's not like we need to take a special opportunity to pat ourselves on the back for actually spending our money that we're paying for to do what we expect to be done.

 

It's like me saying to the council in Mount Pearl – they do a great job, a fabulous city council, but it's like saying thank you so much for collecting my garbage. I paid all this money in taxes, probably like $3,000 a year or whatever it is, we get great services, but thank you so much for picking up my garbage. Thank you so much for keeping the water on. Thank you so much. It's not belittling what they're doing, but it's what we expect. So to somehow try to turn that into something over and above, simply doing what we expect anyway, I do find it a little strange.

 

One thing people do expect though is that whatever services are going to be provided and so on, we expect it to be done as cost effectively as possible, as efficiently as possible and we expect it to be affordable. We expect it to be affordable to people who have to pay for all these things. That's why sometimes people have questioned, in a time when we're taxing, taxing, taxing, we're actually spending more money than we did before. I just put that out there, Mr. Chair.

 

I just want to spend the next five minutes or so to talk about the economic piece. As I've said here in this House before, I'm no economist. I don't pretend to be, but I do find it strange, and people have raised this, numerous people have raised this: How is it that four months ago, increasing the HST by 2 per cent was a job killer? Four months ago it was a job killer, 2 per cent on HST.

 

Fast forward to now, and we're going to go 2 per cent on the HST. We're going to increase income tax. We're going to impose a levy. We're going to increase gasoline. We're going to increase all the fees. We're going to charge 15 per cent on insurance, but somehow that's okay.

 

MR. LETTO: (Inaudible) $1.8 billion in the hole.

 

MR. LANE: Somehow that's not a job killer.

 

I say to the Member for Lab West, who said we're still $1.8 billion in the hole, we all understand that. Everyone understands that. I'm not talking about where we're in the hole. I'm just talking about what people are questioning. I know they've questioned you as well and other Members. How is it that it's a job killer today, with just a 2 per cent increase, but the cumulative effect of all this taxation four months later, that's not a job killer?

 

Again, I don't know. I'm not an economist, I don't know. That's my honest answer. I don't know. I can't figure it out. I really can't figure it out, how it would be, because when you think about it – all of this has been said but we're going to continue saying it. I know it sounds repetitive but the people want us to continue saying it. That as we look at all these taxes and the cumulative effect on it, people are not going to have money to spend. They're not going to have that money to invest in the economy. That expendable income is going to be gone.

 

Now, in some cases it's going to hit different people to different degrees. There are some people who have told me – and I can only go by what they're telling me. I don't know their personal finances and their situation. I can only go by the emails I'm getting. Some people tell me it's going to break them financially, that they are afraid they're going to actually lose their home. Now, that's what they're telling me. I'm not going to say it's not true. I'm only going by what people are telling me.

 

There are other people that are saying it's going to drastically impact their ability to live. They're going to have to start cutting an awful lot of stuff that they do now. They're going to have to cut in order to pay for it.

 

There are other people who are perhaps a little bit better off financially and so on. A lot of the people who are in my district, and they would say, yeah, I can absorb it, but what it means for me, I'm not going to lose my house, we're not going to have to eat Kraft Dinner for every meal of the day, but it has taken away my expendable income. That means that myself and my wife on a Friday afternoon or whatever, we get off work, let's go unwind. Let's go down on George Street or something and have a couple of drinks, listen to some music, have a meal or whatever, that's gone now. Taking the kids out to a movie or whatever, that's gone or that's compromised.

 

Taking a vacation, or even a staycation – I think I mentioned when I spoke one time before, someone I was talking to who talked about going to the Terra Nova – Eastport area. A very popular spot, beautiful spot in the summertime. That's going to impact their trip, their vacation to Terra Nova – Glovertown – Traytown or wherever they stay. If they can't go there, that's money that's not getting injected into that local economy. Now if the money is not getting injected into that local economy, how are the businesses going to stay open? How are they going to keep their staff employed? If the staff aren't employed and they don't have a job and they're not making money, then they got no money to spend on other services and so on in the area.

 

So it would seem to me that there would be a trickle-down effect with all of this. If the money is taken away from people, their expendable income, they cannot spend it, they cannot put it into the economy, the economy can't grow. Not only can it not grow, it can't even maintain itself. Because what's going to happen is that the economy is going to actually contract. The economy will contract, people will end up losing their jobs, businesses are going to close down, in theory. Some of them will, not all of them. I'm not trying to preach this doom and gloom, that everything is going to be destroyed overnight and every business is going to close down. Of course, there are going to be businesses that will survive, but there will be a number of them that won't survive. There will be a number of impacts on people, in terms of their employment, that will be impacted by that. If they don't have money, then they can't spend their money either. Like I said, it's an ongoing trickle-down effect.

 

Again, not being an economist, people are asking me, and I really don't have the answer, how one day HST is a job killer and the next day all this isn't.

 

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

CHAIR (Dempster): Seeing no further speakers, we'll call the bill.

 

A bill, “An Act To Amend The Revenue Administration Act No. 5.” (Bill 22)

 

CLERK (Ms. Murphy): Clause 1.

 

CHAIR: Shall clause 1 carry?

 

All those in favour?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: All those against?

 

Carried.

 

On motion, clause 1 carried.

 

CLERK: Clause 2.

 

CHAIR: Shall clause 2 carry?

 

All those in favour?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: All those against?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Nay.

 

CHAIR: 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?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: All those against?

 

Carried.

 

On motion, enacting clause carried.

 

CLERK: A bill, An Act To Amend The Revenue Administration Act No. 5.

 

CHAIR: Shall the long title carry?

 

All those in favour?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: All those against?

 

Carried.

 

On motion, title carried.

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

Shall I report Bill 22 carried without amendment?

 

All those in favour?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: All those against?

 

Carried.

 

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

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

We are now considering Bill 32 and the related resolution.

 

Resolution

 

“That it is expedient to bring in a measure to authorize the raising from time to time by way of loan on the credit of the province, in addition to the sum of money already voted, a sum of money not exceeding $1,800,000,000.”

 

CHAIR: Shall the resolution carry?

 

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

 

MS. C. BENNETT: Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

I'm happy to stand in the House tonight and speak to Bill 32 and the resolution as it was read earlier. Our government recognizes that we have significant borrowing requirements, borrowing requirements that are to the tune of $3.4 billion for this fiscal year as set out in Budget 2016. Bill 32 is a bill to amend the Loan Act, 2016, which was discussed in this House earlier this session.

 

In order to allow provincial borrowing activity to continue through the early part of the fiscal year leading up to the passage of Budget 2016, an interim loan bill was drafted and passed by the House of Assembly on April 29, 2016, and this bill that was passed on the 29th of April established interim borrowing authority for $1.6 billion.

 

Budget 2016 set out a borrowing requirement of $3.4 billion for the fiscal year 2016-2017. In order to align the legislative authority with the borrowing requirements set out in the budget, a new loan act will be required and this will take the form of an amendment to the Loan Act, 2016.

 

Madam Chair, term borrowing completed thus far in the fiscal year stands at $1.625 billion, which was borrowed under the authority of the Financial Administration Act and a loan bill of 2016. Thus, additional borrowing of $1.775 billion will be required to meet the budgetary requirement.

 

This $1.625 billion has been borrowed through three bond issues this fiscal year: one of $500 million, one of $450 million and, most recently, one of $675 million. This bill will see the Loan Act, 2016 be amended to increase the authorized borrowing authority from $1.6 billion to $3.4 billion, as I said earlier, which is consistent with the budgetary requirements.

 

Madam Chair, our government has had success in the long-term market in spite of the challenges that we've been facing – this province and many provinces as well – in the long-term bond market. These challenges have been a result of the sharp fall in oil prices and the result and impact on provincial finances, as well as the uncertainty leading into the election of November 30, as well as potential negative downgrades from rating agencies' negative watch.

 

A further challenging fiscal situation in the province was outlined at mid-year. Under the previous administration borrowing was very slow from April to December, with only $400 million being able to be secured. Since January, this government has been able to secure seven market issues totalling $3.11 billion.

 

It is clear that our government's commitment to action to deal with the fiscal situation is allowing Newfoundland and Labrador to secure long-term borrowing in the market domestically, and in Budget 2016 government laid out a fiscal plan that allows our province to regain control of government finances.

 

Madam Chair, as we have said, repeatedly, the choices we have made were not easy, but necessary to deal with the lack of planning and the mismanagement of the former administration. That, coupled with their inability to manage a financial plan, has left our province to deal with an unprecedented deficit, unprecedented borrowing requirements and unprecedented fiscal pressures.

 

Our government is working very hard to continue to have a good relationship with the rating agencies and our investors in the face of a tremendously difficult fiscal situation. We intend to continue to present to them and the people of the province a credible plan forward which will see our province get back into a surplus position.

 

The success this government has seen in the long-term market in the last six months is a testament to the fact that the Premier has been having many conversations over the last months, as I have, with our financial advisors. We are certainly giving them the confidence that we did the due diligence and the evidence-based analysis we needed to do as part of Budget 2016. We believe the markets are reacting in a way that we hope continues.

 

With that, Madam Chair, I will take my seat and look forward to continuing to discuss this government's financial plan to reshape Newfoundland and Labrador's fiscal future and, sadly, a bill that requires this government to borrow the most amount of money ever borrowed in our history in one single year.

 

Thank you.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

CHAIR: The Chair recognizes the hon. the Member for Ferryland.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. HUTCHINGS: Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

I'm glad to rise and speak to Bill 32, An Act to Amend the Loan Act which, as the minister has indicated, certainly references increasing loan capacity, increased the maximum cap, I guess, to $3.4 billion. We had some previous debates in the Legislature in regard to this in April, I do believe. At that time, the Lieutenant Governor in Council was approved to borrow up to $1.6 billion. Now what we're talking about here is a cap to be increased again for future possible borrowing to $3.4 billion.

 

That would help with the borrowing program for this year in terms of meeting our requirements. Obviously, this flows into the budget and discussions we had for the past number of weeks since the budget came down. There is over $8.4 billion roughly this year in terms of budget requirements of the province to meet our programs and services, look at things like infrastructure and assistance for various programs from an economic perspective. Although we haven't seen a lot from this government yet in terms of diversification and what they are going to do, but we hope to see that sometime soon in regard to the programs and services, how they're going to drive that. We heard last fall about great ideas, great lines, great one-liners in terms of what they do and how they could do it, but to date, as I said, it has been very limited.

 

At a time like this in the economy, certainly in various jurisdictions across Canada, in a commodity market like ours, we've seen significant slowdown. At that point in time, it's important that we – the key indicators in the economy – pay close attention to and make sure our economy still moves along. Even though in some respects it can be slowing, like I said, related to the commodities and oil. We've seen it in the mining sector, and various jurisdictions in Canada have seen it as well.

 

Some of the things we've seen in this budget are extremely concerning and have been expressed here in the House and expressed across the province in regard to the amount of consumer confidence. The amount of money that's been taken out of people's pockets and what that's going to mean in terms of continuing to drive the economy and stabilize the economy.

 

As we know, it's very basic to our economy. Free enterprise is that people have the ability to spend, whether that's in basic retail for small business, whether it's larger purchases, whether it's driving larger economic activity. All of that drives our economy. We need that. So there are huge concerns with this budget and the level of taxation.

 

I think we all recognize there are choices to be made, but we continue to repeat it's the choices. It's the decisions that were made and what the choices were that are of concern to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. We've seen so many protests and petitions written and people voicing their concern in regard to direction. There's no plan laid out here in the long term. So to do what we're going to do today, what benefit is that tomorrow and how does that move us forward? That's very limited in this budget and what's trying to be achieved.

 

I did notice the Minister of Finance referenced borrowing capacity and long-term borrowing capacity. She indicated that – even last February, I think it was, there was some confusion from the Premier when he indicated we weren't able to borrow long term. We asked for clarification on that and the fact of what he meant. He said there were lending institutions out there that turned us down for long-term borrowing. We asked who they were; they weren't identified. I think it was even them who suggested we weren't able to raise long-term borrowing, the last administration, which, in fact, wasn't accurate. There was over $400 million raised in long-term borrowing.

 

Due to various times during the year when you can go to market, sometimes it's receptive in long-term borrowing and sometimes it's not. Based on that, when you go to the market there could be higher fees in terms of borrowing. So obviously at that point in time you wouldn't borrow, you'd wait.

 

Back a number of years ago the lending institutions often required sinking funds, where they'd require – when you'd go to market, it would be based on interest but also based on a requirement to – as you borrowed and as you moved forward past that borrowing date, you put aside actual dollars into a sinking fund so when that borrowing matured, the dollars through there and you could pay it off. There are many reasons when you go to the market of why it may not be receptive at a point in time to access that long-term borrowing.

 

We never did get clarification when the Premier said we didn't borrow long term last year, which was incorrect, and who the institutions were that apparently wouldn't give us long-term borrowing. It was never identified. Yet, this evening, again, the minister confirms they were able to borrow, I think, over $3 billion. Inconsistencies, not really sure what's happening there, but we asked the questions and never received the answers; so just a point in regard to that into the borrowing.

 

This is required in terms of the bill in terms of operations for the province as we move forward. Overall, from a budget perspective, we do have concerns in regard to the outline of this budget. We have an opportunity, a number of bills left. We haven't voted on the main motion of the budget yet.

 

As we move forward over the next number of days, maybe weeks, I guess, as we continue the budget debate, we'll all have to rise here and continue to vote on the enabling legislation, which is tied to the budget, whether that's the levy. I think there's one on automobile tax and a number of those that are required as parts of decisions that were made for revenue generators. They'll be part of the overall process as we move forward in concluding the process with the budget.

 

There are a number of areas of concern for me. I represent my district, the Ferryland District. We've seen a lot of growth in the Northern part of the district closer to St. John's, from Bauline to Bay Bulls. Last year, we had announced a new middle school for the region because of the number of young children we have and kids we have in the area.

 

St. Bernard's in Witless Bay from K to six, the past number of years we've built on two classroom extensions to the building, three portables, with the goal of moving forward to build a middle school. As well, Mobile Central High, a new school that was built and opened in 2007 from grades seven to 12. We're seeing a lot of two-stream classrooms in Witless Bay, even getting into the third stream in some of the grades because of the increase in population.

 

As those children move through, go to Mobile Central High, there's a need to be able to accommodate those. The middle school from, say, possibly grade five to seven would allow that. It would take pressure off St. Bernard's, as well as take pressure off Mobile Central High, which is much needed for the region. Unfortunately, in Budget 2016 it wasn't deferred, it was cancelled. We're not going to do it for the region. The families for the region, it's certainly devastating news for the region.

 

We look at the growth we're having in moving forward and what we need to accommodate it. It's all tied to economic and social development to any part of our province. You need to have the economics where you want to live because you make a living but you also need the social enhancements, whether that's access to health care services, whether it's access to recreation, whether it's access to education facilities. People want a certain standard, and it's unfortunate that these decisions were made by this government.

 

There's also a reference now to building on to Mobile Central High in regard to some classrooms there. The point there – and we've spent money on consultants over the past year that looked at what's the benefit of building on to maybe St. Bernard's or building on to Mobile Central High or building a new middle school. The conclusion was the middle school was the way to go in terms of cost. In terms of service delivery, that was the way to go.

 

The decision was made for whatever reason that we're not going to do the middle school. We'll continue to work and advocate with the people of the region that that needs to be built. Hopefully, our friends on the other side will see the light and that will be done. As I said, in the past number of years as we've seen continued growth, we've worked towards enhancing school infrastructure. We'll continue to work towards making that a reality because it's needed and certainly justified for the region.

 

The other huge issue for the district is the cancellation of a significant piece of highway infrastructure. The Robert E. Howlett, one of the major thoroughfares to the Southern Avalon. A tremendous amount of traffic, north and south, related to being adjacent to St. John's; a lot of commercial development.

 

We have the port in Bay Bulls, an offshore supply base for the offshore. We have a number of crab plants, in terms of transporting of resource back and forth the Southern Shore Highway, and thousands and thousands of vehicles now each day coming out Route 10, Southern Shore Highway. That route travels right by one of the biggest water supplies for the City of St. John's, Bay Bulls Big Pond. This route goes right adjacent to Bay Bulls Big Pond. A couple of years ago we had a vehicle go into the watershed and concerns in regard to pollutants.

 

So this proposal, as it was designed, would take it away from that water supply. About a 9.6 kilometre highway, take it up over the ridge on Bay Bulls Big Pond to the left, drop it down into Bay Bulls and allow that flow of traffic to be enhanced. Again, a decision was made not to defer that, it was to cancel it. I'm not sure on that.

 

I mentioned earlier not much talk of this government of economic development or diversification, but here you have a region that's growing and developing, but we're not going to build the infrastructure to meet the needs of the region. As I said, further down the shore, Fermeuse, we've had opportunities again and done work with the port down there in regard to the type of port it is, the depth of water, the available land that sometime in the future again could be used for things like offshore development. So there are great opportunities.

 

The tourism sector on the Southern Shore is huge. It continued to grow in terms of the amount of traffic we had, either daytime trips out of St. John's or even further down the shore right through to Trepassey, right along the shore, right adjacent in the district, certainly adjacent to St. John's, Petty Harbour-Maddox Cove. Then you go on to Bay Bulls, Witless Bay with the bird sanctuaries, all the boat tours further down.

 

We have the Avalon wilderness area, adjacent as part of the district. You have a place like the Colony of Avalon, anywhere from 15,000-20,000 visitors a year. Lighthouse picnics – award-winning entrepreneur there, in terms of developing that and what it is. On down through Renews, Calvert, on down through, and then on the way up to Portugal Cove South, where we're hopefully getting some very good news in regard to UNESCO designation and that being approved this year in July.

 

So we've also seen an investment in Trepassey with the hotel there – I know the operator there. So they're looking forward in terms of the opportunities in what it is going to build. Having said all that, you need the infrastructure; you've got to build the infrastructure. You can't do anything in isolation. So you've got to build that road and infrastructure I talked about. It's all about economic development, driving opportunities, small business, and that's what we get, collectively. So tourism is huge, huge for the area.

 

Cape Race is there. We've seen a lot of increase in that, along with the interpretation centre in Portugal Cove South, and that continues to grow. Obviously La Manche Park, one of the busiest summer parks in Newfoundland, is very well used, very well utilized. So a lot of reasons to continue to build that infrastructure, and we can only hope this government will see that and invest.

 

I've been in touch with the local MP. We've heard great news, or so-called news about the amount of infrastructure that's available to the federal government; advocated to MP O'Regan in regard to the possibilities for that; haven't heard anything back on that, but there are huge opportunities there to assist with that infrastructure with those monies that are available.

 

So, Madam Chair, I'm certainly pleased to speak to this loan bill – it is a money bill, so it gives you wide parameters in terms of talking about various issues in regard to the bill itself, the budget and other things that are relevant in all of our districts that we like to talk about and let people know what's happening with them.

 

With that, Madam Chair, I'll take my seat, but I certainly appreciate the time to take a few minutes and have some discussion and hopefully we'll have further chats later in the night.

 

Thank you very much. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MS. ROGERS: Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

 

I'm happy to stand and speak to this bill. Once again, what I would like to do is – we can speak to a number of bills that really only deal with a very, very small portion of the budget. We really need to continue to look at the big picture. Because, otherwise, all we're doing is just what the minister responsible for Finance said, where she said she went line by line by line through the budget.

 

Then she had people in every department going line by line by line, basically just doing the job of an accountant rather than a Minister of Finance who is to look at the larger picture, including the Premier as well, to look at the larger picture and say: How can we weather this storm? How can we harness the energy of our workers? How can we harness the energy of our people who want to be part of creating a solution? Not just having the life squeezed out of them and not to see that the province just gets choked by this austerity budget, but, really, what we needed them to do was to lift their gaze from their line-by-line activities and look at the larger picture, not just look at the deficit but also look at what can we do together as a province to create employment, to stimulate the economy, not to destabilize the economy.

 

Because this is not stabilizing the economy; this budget is cutting jobs. What happens when you cut jobs? We get unemployment. We get further unemployment and that actually destabilizes the economy and doesn't propel us forward.

 

So, once again, I would like to continue to look at Toby Sanger, the economist, and what he did once again in comparing the way Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador handled their crisis. Again, I know it's not comparing apples to apples entirely. I do know, and we all know in this House, that Alberta is in a position to have a little more, or perhaps even much more economic resilience because they weren't carrying the same level of debt as Newfoundland and Labrador are carrying right now. But the commonalities, the similarities, are so incredibly strong. Again, that we have hard-working Newfoundlanders and Labradorians in Alberta and we have lots of hard-working Newfoundlanders and Labradorians in Newfoundland and Labrador.

 

What the NDP government in Alberta decided to do was look at ways of getting people to work. Their budget was about jobs. What the government here in Newfoundland and Labrador has decided to do is cut jobs and pick people's pockets. That's their P3s plan so far. Who knows what else they're going to do with P3s, but right now their P3 plan is to pick people's pockets.

 

I've already talked a little bit about some of the different topic areas that this government addressed in the budget, looking at how Alberta has approached it. So now I'm going to continue, looking at some of the issues that the economist Toby Sanger looked at comparing Newfoundland and Labrador's approach to Alberta's approach.

 

In the area of education, Madam Chair, what Alberta did, in terms of dealing with education in their budget, was stable funding for kindergarten to grade 12 to fully fund enrolment growth. What we're seeing are cuts to our education program, so we're not fully funding employment growth.

 

I spent the weekend in Gambo, in the wonderful area of Central Newfoundland and Labrador. I don't know if people realize, I went there for my grandson's second birthday. What a treat to be able to do that. Two years ago, there were 28 children born in Gambo – 28 children. For Gambo, that's a population explosion. That's a full grade right there.

 

They had about 24 boys and four girls. I'm not quite sure how that happened, but it did happen. Last year they had quite a few babies born as well. But imagine, just in that small community, 28 children born. Those children are going to be heading into the educational system. We can see in some of the different parts of our province – in Paradise, in Whitbourne – a growth in population just in these little pockets. We're not seeing an overall population growth in the entire province, but we're seeing a few pockets of activity.

 

The other thing that Alberta did for education – and this is Premier Notley's NDP government, how they dealt with education during their time of economic crisis – is that they committed capital funding for 200 new school and modernization projects. That's great. That's infrastructure spending. That's putting people to work.

 

That's the role of government. In times of economic crisis like this, the role of government is to help us weather the storm, to keep us stable, to keep people working, to keep taxes going, to keep people spending and to make sure everybody is okay. People don't want to be unemployed. Newfoundlanders and Labradorians want to work. The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador has not addressed that issue.

 

The other thing they have done is stable funding to post-secondary education. So they are funding for a tuition freeze. That's what Alberta is doing. Now Newfoundland and Labrador, in contrast they've increased class sizes for grade four to 12 and cuts to teachers. It makes no sense, cuts to teachers.

 

In a time of economic crisis – and we can see this economic crisis is going to be ahead of us for a while – you want as many people well educated as you possibly can. You want to invest in people, you want to invest in your educational system, you want to invest in infrastructure because it pays off in the long run. That's what you want. You want investments. You don't want expenses, you want investments. There's a difference. Expenses mean you spend your money, it's gone. Investments mean you spend your money and there's something positive in the outcome. Investing in our people, investing in our infrastructure, investing in jobs. That is what's going to stabilize our economy, not what the government has done.

 

The other thing that Newfoundland and Labrador government – what this government has done in this budget is a $34 million cut to Advanced Education and Skills, with a $25 million cut to MUN. How could that be? How could that be to our primary post-secondary education facility, a $25 million cut to MUN? In fact, what we need to do is we need to make sure we have centres of excellence in our education. We have to have centres of excellence and we have to invest in our people so they can do innovative work, they can do creative work, they can do work that stabilizes our economy.

 

It's almost like cutting your nose off to spite your face. It's a mystery to me how government could see that kind of cut would be beneficial. It's the same thing as when you cut jobs, what you get is unemployment. You get people who are unemployed. It impoverishes our people.

 

The cuts to our education system impoverishes our education system. It doesn't propel us forward. It's not an investment. As a matter of fact, it diminishes what we can do in our education system. The other thing that happened here in our education is government cut 18 per cent to student financial assistance and there was no commitment to a tuition freeze.

 

In the area of learning: Alberta, no tax on books. Alberta, the Notley government committed a new $37 million for community public libraries. What did Newfoundland and Labrador do? What did this budget do to its people? Again, this is about impoverishing our people. They closed 54 community libraries. They closed over half the community libraries, over half of our libraries. People are reeling from it all across the country and in North America – closing libraries.

 

Alberta has committed an extra $37 million for community public libraries. Why? Because they know how valuable it is to invest in people, to invest in education, to invest in literacy. What does that all end up meaning? That all ends up meaning employment. You have people who are more employable. You have people who can contribute to the economy.

 

Alberta did increased funding for adult learning. Newfoundland and Labrador was the only province to impose tax on books; the only province in the country to impose tax on books. What else did we do in the area of learning? This government closed eight Advanced Education and Skills offices. Impoverishing Newfoundland and Labrador, impoverishing the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. This is not a plan for economic growth and sustainability. This is killing rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

I remind the hon. Member her time for speaking has expired.

 

MS. ROGERS: Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

The hon. the Minister of Business, Tourism, Culture and Rural Development.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. MITCHELMORE: Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

I stand to speak to Bill 32, An Act to Amend the Loan Act, which is basically a loan to allow us to have the ability to borrow additional sums to pay for excessive spending that needs to happen because of all the mismanagement that's happened on the other side for years and years and years.

 

Now, you look at the Member opposite who's talking about ways in which we need to spend more and more dollars, which we don't have that type of revenue. This is why the Loan Act needs to be amended to borrow.

 

My colleague opposite, the Member for Mount Pearl North, got up to speak. He talked about cuts that were made to the Department of Business, Tourism, Culture and Rural Development. We had a very good discussion on the Department of Business, Tourism, Culture and Rural Development in Estimates. He had all the opportunities to ask the questions on these matters.

 

When we talk about the CARE Initiative, $25,000 was reduced. This was an initiative that was funded for collaborative research, but we have a policy department within the Department of Business, Tourism, Culture and Rural Development that can do great work. These researchers that are at MUN, and Dr. Wade Locke, can reach out into the community and do research through MUN. This seems like a reason of which we could find savings.

 

When we look at the Season Extension Program, we understand the importance of extending the visitor season. We look at that through the value and the impact of recreation, like snowmobiling, on the province. We look at it through works and ways of which we can expand skiing and other wellness activities, and through festival activities like the Mid-Winter Bivver that happens in Grand Falls-Windsor, and a number of other activities.

 

Some of these festivals and events that we've been investing in are getting quite mature. They have been more financially sustainable and they've been reaching out and achieving other funding. So this will not have an impact on the projects that we fund.

 

When we look at our Visitor Information Centres, we have maintained all of our provincial Visitor Information Centres. When we look at our Regional Development Fund, we have $8.5 million to invest in regional economic development. That is more than what was appropriated in previous years beyond the one-time transfer of $3 million. We also have $2 million that will be put for broadband Internet. So in total that's $10.5 million. RDC, as well, continues to have $18.9 million. The Newfoundland and Labrador Film Development Corporation remains their core equity program.

 

I'm glad the Member opposite for Mount Pearl North asked a number of questions when it comes to the arts and when it comes to culture and heritage events. The Members from the Third Party didn't ask one question in Estimates on anything relating to the arts, heritage and culture.

 

When we look at the Heritage Foundation, they put forward their proposals. They have sufficient funding to deal with the structural and the programs from the application base that comes forward. The Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council, when it comes to the travel program what we've done, through Labrador Affairs and the Department of Business, Tourism, Culture and Rural Development, we will work collaboratively on arts programming. Labrador Affairs has a new program for travel for artists, so they will pick up that matter.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. MITCHELMORE: If we look at the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council, I've been working very closely with them. We've had a number of supportive programs for the arts here in Newfoundland and Labrador. Our party supports the arts tremendously. The Arts Council continues to have their funding and their applications. The program that was put forward was not a core program. So these were all about finding efficiencies.

 

The Member opposite talks about the book tax, but one of the things that we do is we support our publishers to grow the local industry and to produce books here in Newfoundland and Labrador to the tune of $200,000 to support our five publishers here. They generate about $2 million in local sales of books. That's what the revenues are. We're going to work with them to continue to grow those revenues, to try and ensure we have enhanced local content and that books they sell reach as many people as absolutely possible.

 

When it comes to looking at economic development and economic diversification, we have a tremendous amount in our budget. We have $18.5 million when it comes to culture and heritage in the arts. We have $13 million for tourism marketing. I'm quite excited that this is Tourism Awareness Week and we're seeing our operators excited, talking about how numbers and bookings are up, talking about their season, how they're excited about the tourism season. And we all should be promoting every nook, cove, cranny, and the city here. We have to be promoting all of our assets and all of our opportunities.

 

We also need to be looking at our agricultural sector. I am quite pleased that we've planted our first canola field, looking at the economic diversification here in the province. We've also seen success with winter wheat, bringing down the cost of production.

 

When I was in Nashville, I had met with a number of people involved in the agricultural sector and looking at those opportunities, looking at our forest sector and the diversification. We're also looking at various forms of investment when it comes to looking at innovation and developing a new innovation strategy. There is a tremendous amount of opportunity when we look at maintaining our small business tax at 3 per cent, keeping us the third most competitive in the country when it comes to small business tax. This is extremely positive. There's $570 million when it comes to infrastructure here in the budget.

 

When we look at opportunities for our oceans, we're using some really high tech – and we have some very high-tech companies that have signed deals. We look at one company that just recently signed a deal with Brazil and other South American countries. Another company had done business in Israel. So we do have true international reach.

 

When we look at the export value of Newfoundland and Labrador, look at just to the US market alone, $6.2 billion in exports last year; that's a significant account for our overall GDP and what's produced here in Newfoundland and Labrador.

 

Look, we have a lot of work to do here as a government. We acknowledge that. We have a lot to clean up from the past actions of the previous government. The Third Party continues to put forward: Oh, well, this is what Alberta's doing. Well, Alberta got downgraded. Alberta has a little more flexibility in terms of borrowing because they have very limited debt. They have that flexibility. They have a higher credit rating and they can borrow. But at the rate they're going, they're going to accumulate $60 billion in debt, basically, in that short term of the current Government of Alberta.

 

That's not somewhere where we have the flexibility to go, nor would we want to pass that burden on to our young Newfoundlanders and Labradorians and the future generation. We have to do things right now and be responsible so that we can grow the economy and we can continue so that –

 

AN HON. MEMBER: They couldn't care less about the debt.

 

MR. MITCHELMORE: Certainly, it seems like the debt is an afterthought – borrow, borrow, borrow. The previous administration accumulated more debt and had significant oil wealth and oil royalties that the debt is now much more than what it was when they started and they had $25 billion to work with. It's unbelievable for them to try and lecture us here on this side after 12 years of what we've just been through.

 

Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

CHAIR: The Chair recognizes the hon. Member for Mount Pearl North.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. KENT: Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

Good evening, once again. I'm only going to respond for a few minutes, but I was so –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. KENT: You're disappointed? Well, I'll talk for longer then. Thank you for the encouragement.

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. KENT: They're a happy bunch tonight, Madam Chair, but after the day they've had, I'm surprised. I have to say, I'm surprised.

 

I'm a bit surprised by the criticism from the Minister of Business, Tourism, Culture and Rural Development. He's not the first minister to do this. For some reason, it must be in the talking points. The Member for Mount Pearl – Southlands has predicted some of the talking points recently. I think he's been pretty on the mark, but this notion that hey, you had a chance in Estimates to ask questions about the budget and, therefore, you shouldn't ask any more is a ridiculous notion.

 

The budget debate in this Legislature is 75 hours and Estimates is a portion of that. Estimates were a productive session. We had an opportunity to talk about some of the issues related to Business, Tourism, Culture and Rural Development. We talked about the Forestry and Agrifoods Agency. We talked about The Rooms. We talked about the Research & Development Corporation. Both the Member for St. John's Centre and I asked lots of questions and we had a reasonable conversation. There were a few times when I had hoped the minister would give us a little bit more information, but I have to acknowledge that it was a productive conversation.

 

To suggest tonight that because we had a conversation weeks ago in Estimates that we're no longer allowed to raise questions about this budget, that's outrageous. One of the reasons it's outrageous, Madam Chair, is that people across the province are outraged about this budget. Since our Estimates meetings, we've been receiving dozens and dozens of emails a day, receiving dozens of calls a day, receiving letters from constituents. We've attended dozens of protests around the province. There are a lot of people who have questions. There are a lot of people who have concerns.

 

So just because in a three-hour Estimates meeting we didn't get to cover every single issue related to Business, Tourism, Culture and Rural Development that's not a reason to not come here to the floor of this House of Assembly and raise issues and ask questions that need to be asked. I've tried to do so, particularly in my dealings with Business, Tourism, Culture and Rural Development, I've tried to do so in a productive and constructive way because, as I've said, I support a lot of the work that the department is doing. I support a lot of the work that our Forestry and Agrifoods Agency is doing.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible.)

 

MR. KENT: The minister wants to make jokes about bees again, Madam Chair. It's unfortunate that he's challenging our right and our responsibility to raise questions about this budget.

 

I'll acknowledge there are good things happening, there's no doubt about it, but I also need to point out the deficiencies in this budget and the gaps. One of the biggest challenges overall that faces this government, beyond some of the immediate ones that have surfaced in recent days in this House and in the media, is the lack of a plan when it comes to our economy.

 

The minister, in his remarks, just then talked about economic diversification and the funds that are in the budget. Well yes, for a number of years, there have been significant dollars in our budget to support advances in economic diversification, whether it's been in tourism or aquaculture, or ocean technology or telecommunications. I mean, there are all kinds of areas where we have seen growth and we have seen diversification. That said, though, what we were promised back in the fall is a new way forward and a new plan. There was the big LEAP tour, where the captains of industry toured the province last summer and promised a plan by September.

 

The political momentum going into the election campaign, everybody will acknowledge, was clearly in the favour of the Liberals. They did not need to make dozens and dozens of irresponsible promises to get themselves elected, I don't think.

 

Anyway, in September we waited to see if this magical LEAP plan would emerge and it did not. Then we thought going into the election campaign, well, surely in the red book that LEAP plan will be revealed. It will be a major election announcement. That seemed logical. Wait a number of weeks and make it a campaign announcement. From a political perspective, that seems to make a lot of sense. Well, that never happened either.

 

The red book came out containing all kinds of promises, some references to economic diversification, which the Premier and others like to talk about, but still no plan. Now we find ourselves in a situation with a devastating budget that's going to grind our economy to a halt in this province, and still no plan. No new investments in the budget.

 

So, yes, there's money in Business, Tourism, Culture and Rural Development for various economic development initiatives that have been ongoing for some time prior to the Liberal administration, but nothing new. No new ideas, no new commitments, no plan.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible.)

 

MR. KENT: Now the minister is heckling about canola crops. I'm glad to see he's taking this all very seriously.

 

The other thing I find offensive about his comments related to Estimates is the suggestion that somehow the New Democratic Party didn't do their job. Now they're quite capable of defending themselves, but I sat next to them through several Estimates meetings and I know lots of issues were raised during the Estimates sessions by the New Democratic Party, just as there were lots of questions and issues raised by our party as well.

 

In fact, on the day in question we worked together to ensure there was lots of discussion during the Estimates debate about culture and heritage and the arts. There were lots of questions asked and, in fairness to the minister, there were some answers provided. We don't necessarily agree with all of the answers. I would have liked more information on a number of topics but at least the questions were asked and some answers were provided.

 

It's frustrating to see ministers of the Crown suggest that, well, because you had a chance during Estimates to ask a few questions you shouldn't raise issues and ask questions further related to this devastating budget. That's a cop out, Madam Chair. I won't stand for it. I don't believe there are other Members on this side of the House that will stand for it either.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. KENT: And this is a crew that promised openness and transparency on a whole new level. They've grinded the Open Government Action Plan to a halt. That's buried. We were told in Estimates there would be several initiatives coming this month. Well, it's May 30, so I guess maybe tomorrow is going to be a big day. But it would be very ironic if the government spends a lot of time tomorrow talking about openness and transparency in light of the week they've had so far. To suggest that somehow we're not allowed to ask questions: that's crazy. We have a job to do and it's one we take very seriously. So I'll continue to raise concerns that have been expressed about this budget.

 

One other comment I want to pick up on from the minister, he talked about how happy the book publishers are with this budget. That's outrageous. They're upset about the book tax. The book tax is having a negative impact on their businesses and it's going to have a negative impact on their industry. Some of them have been very public in expressing their concerns. For the minister to suggest that all is well, I think is irresponsible.

 

I'll tell you something else they're all unhappy about, Madam Chair, they're unhappy with libraries closing in communities around this province. There is a better way. That's not to say there aren't some adjustments needed to the structure of libraries in this province. No doubt the systems have to change and evolve over time. But to close half our libraries in communities – more than half, sorry – just doesn't make sense, especially when some of these centres are hubs of community activity. They're more than just traditional libraries; they're gathering places. They're places where all kinds of community programs and services are offered. That needs to be taken into consideration as well.

 

In communities large and small, community spaces are really important. They contribute a great deal to our life in our communities socially, economically and culturally. Many of our libraries fall in this category. Were there some sites that maybe needed to close at some point? Quite possibly, these are things that government has no choice but to examine. But to make the drastic, devastating cuts that this government has made in the absence of a plan is just simply irresponsible.

 

I hadn't planned to speak so quickly again in this debate, but I had no choice but to respond to some of the comments made by the Minister of Business, Tourism, Culture and Rural Development. I thank you for the opportunity to do so, Madam Chair.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MS. PERRY: Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

I'm certainly happy to be rising in the House again tonight to raise the concerns on behalf of the people of rural Newfoundland and Labrador regarding Budget 2016. Madam Chair, the one thing we have clearly heard over and over and over again from the people of this great province is that this budget is an attack on rural Newfoundland and Labrador, it's an attack on women, it's an attack on seniors.

 

I was delighted to listen to the words of wisdom from my colleagues on this side of the House here tonight, and frustrated with some of the commentary from ministers opposite, Madam Chair, which is a position I find myself in quite often these last few weeks here in the House.

 

Earlier this evening the Minister of Education got up and listed infrastructure projects. He read out this long list of infrastructure projects, and he said he has a long list of infrastructure projects to read out again when he rises to his feet a second time. Madam Chair, in the same breath, almost, his colleague next to him got up and said well, all the infrastructure money that was spent by the Conservative government was a waste of money. So what is it? Is infrastructure an investment or is it a waste of money?

 

It's really hard to follow the train of thought that comes from Members opposite. I guess that's why we see the poll numbers where they are today. I truly hope the people of Newfoundland and Labrador really don't have to wait until 2019 before we can correct the situation we are in, because there's no doubt in my mind that the grinding halt this government is bringing our economy to, we can't withstand for 3½ years. We really need to bring back to the people the choice of who they want to govern. I truly believe – and as we all know, they're not pleased with what we have seen so far in terms of the promises made versus the actions that have been delivered.

 

Let's talk about where strategic investment lies versus money that you probably don't have to spend at this point in time. Madam Chair, I'm going to bring up the study on the tunnel for Labrador. I will say again, no doubt a very good investment. In times of prosperity, I absolutely would stand behind it 110 per cent. But for that amount of money, we can keep libraries open.

 

Let's say, hypothetically, that this time the study recommended a tunnel be built. Now, we have lots of studies on the shelves that don't recommend it, but let's say, hypothetically, it did. Where would the money come from? There is no money to build it. So at this point in time is that really a strategic decision to make? I would say, Madam Chair, in my opinion it borders more on the lines of what they would define as wastage when they were sitting in Opposition, but they seem to have changed their tune.

 

Let's talk about as well, Madam Chair, the $30 million that's been set aside as, we call it, a slush fund, but Members opposite like to say it's set aside in case of emergencies. Well, there are tweaks that can be made to improve this budget to make it better for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, and one of them could be reallocating that number from $30 million to $29 million and keep some of the libraries open.

 

In this budget, there's also a lot of money that's being spent in interest on payments because our credit rating was downgraded. Shortly after the election, when the new government took place, we received a credit rating downgrade. The Premier himself said – and I believe it was an interview on CTV – that the bond agencies probably would have viewed them more favourably if they had a plan. Well, we're all still waiting for that plan, Madam Chair. In the meantime, that downgrade in the credit rating is costing the taxpayers of Newfoundland and Labrador, because of the Liberal's lack of a plan, hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars, which is quite unfortunate.

 

The other thing that doesn't get talked about a whole lot is how they've actually increased the day-to-day bottom line expenditures; all-day kindergarten being one of them. How can you introduce a new expenditure year over year of $30 million on one hand and, on the other hand, you cut and rip from the basic services such as health care and libraries in rural Newfoundland and Labrador, and you tax seniors and you tax low-income people to the point where they're really not sure how they're going to survive in this province?

 

These are all things that have taken up half of my time and I haven't even begun to talk about some of the issues that I really wanted to speak to tonight. What I'm starting to see is a pattern of regionalization, and they refer to their library cuts. I have no idea how the Minister of Education sleeps at night, with the way he is ripping apart the libraries and the education system in Newfoundland and Labrador. Because it will be the worst it has ever been under his management, Madam Chair.

 

Let's look at libraries and regionalization. In my district – and I'll use my district as an example, and I'm sure all of the Members opposite if they could get up and speak about what devastating impacts this budget is having on their rural communities, they would have the same commentary, I have no doubt. We have, in my area, 22 communities; one community as a result of this regionalization plan will have access to a library. Three libraries are being closed down. None of the other communities are within a half an hour driving distance.

 

In fact, the next closest community would be Hermitage which is a 45-minute drive, and that's on a good day. You talk about women being disadvantaged by this budget. Many of the people who work in these libraries are young professional women; great job opportunities are being pulled from them. Can somebody explain to me how a single mother of a young child can afford – especially with all these tax increases and gas increases that we have had – to take their child to story time, drive an hour to get to the library and another hour to get back from the library? It is absolutely unbelievable what this government is doing, Madam Chair.

 

Then you look as well at the expectations that the federal government is placing on rural communities. Let's look at EI. We know as a result of this budget the number of people that will be filing for EI is going to increase dramatically because the job losses will both be in the public sector and the private sector. It's going to happen because businesses will not be able to withstand the cumulative impact of all these tax hikes that we are receiving, Madam Chair. It's going to be just absolutely devastating.

 

We look at geography in an area like mine; an hour's drive to an hour and a half from the Bay d'Espoir portion of my district, which has about 4,000 people, to the site of the library that they're going to keep open in Harbour Breton – and that is on a good day and in good weather, Madam Chair. I notice that the Member for St. Barbe – L'Anse aux Meadows, not one library – not one library is closing in his district, if someone can explain that to me, I'm not sure why.

 

The only thing that comes to my mind is geography. What I would say to that, Madam Chair, is the Coast of Bays region is more geographically challenged than St. Barbe – L'Anse aux Meadows. We have a mountainous terrain. We have treacherous weather conditions for at least six months of the year. In the summertime, we can see fog for weeks and weeks on end and, in the wintertime, there are times when that highway is literally shut down. You can't drive over the high country because of the snow tunnels and the drifts that are up there. You are two and three days stranded on either side, Madam Chair, and this is what they call regionalization.

 

It is absolutely astounding at the lack of knowledge that they have surrounding what rural Newfoundland is really all about and the geography of rural Newfoundland. I'm sure that some of their real Liberal colleagues must be astounded that their libraries are closing when, in St. Barbe, they're all staying open, whatever that's all about, Madam Chair. Maybe we'll receive some sort of an explanation for that as the budget debate continues.

 

Going back to what I saying, access to the Internet – how are people going to file for EI? There are going to be no libraries. They're not going to have any money to be able to afford Internet in their own homes. They're not going to be able to have enough money to buy groceries or pay their heat and light with some of these tax implications that are in this budget, Madam Chair.

 

I'm only just getting started. I would be pleased to get up and speak again to how this budget is going to totally devastate Newfoundland and Labrador. I truly hope that Members opposite implore the executive of their government to make some changes. Madam Chair, $29 million instead of $30 million for a slush fund can solve the library problem right there. Postpone the study on the Labrador tunnel and keep some of your clinics open is another solution right there. We can have a lot of solutions. I truly hope that the Members opposite consider some of these solutions.

 

Thank you very much.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

CHAIR: The Chair recognizes the hon. the Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development.

 

MR. KIRBY: Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

I'm happy to get up. I'll see how happy I'm going to be about it after. I'm happy to get up and say another few words about this budget.

 

It was interesting to listen to the Member for Fortune Bay – Cape La Hune decrying regionalization of library services. I understand it must have been a busy news week the weekend because VOCM was reporting that former Finance Minister Charlene Johnson was in the news by virtue of her Facebook post talking about the solution to government's problems. It was regionalization of services she said. We need more regionalization of services and so on and so forth.

 

There were a lot of other things in there that didn't make a whole lot of sense. One thing she said is you had to get rid of night sittings of the House of Assembly, like the one we're doing now, to try to get through government's budget bills and other bills that are important and necessary for the province. But she said more or less in addition to regionalization, we could solve a lot of our problems if we didn't have night sittings of the House of Assembly and other business in the House of Assembly.

 

Someone kindly pointed out that if you basically eliminated the House of Assembly's work, you'd save a total of $16 million. I'm not sure how far that goes to resolving our remaining $1.83 billion deficit problem that was dug down into a deep, dark crevasse by the people who raided the Treasury of the province and now assume somehow that we are all responsible for finding solutions.

 

I have some notes here and, hopefully, I'll have some time to talk about economic diversification and the previous government's record on economic diversification, which is nothing short of dismal, of course, because we were reliant so heavily on commodities and really not much more than anything else.

 

Before I get to that, I'll just talk a little bit more about what I was talking about earlier, which are the good-news items that we have in the budget this year. There are quite a number of them. There's quite a bit of spending still that's happening because there were quite a lot of thoughtful deliberations around Treasury Board and Cabinet and caucus and committees about how we ought not to just pull the plug entirely and have massive cutbacks in government spending and short-circuit the economy.

 

There's no question, we have lots of economic challenges ahead. I think there was a recognition that creating our own cod moratorium scenario by laying off thousands of civil servants, such as the Official Opposition has alluded that we somehow ought to do in the days leading up to the budget and since. I have quotes here from Members opposite indicating doing just that. That they would be cutting far more civil service positions, firing or laying off or pensioning off or buying out or somehow getting rid of many of our public servants as a pathway to prosperity. I don't think you can lay off and fire and buy your way to prosperity in that way, or fire your way to prosperity, or lay off your way to prosperity, and you also can't borrow your way to prosperity either.

 

Now, you certainly can't tax your way to prosperity either, but cutting taxes in the fashion the previous administration did – I believe it was about $4 billion worth of tax cuts that were made over a period of time when oil was trading as high as it was. Those tax cuts went to the highest income earners in the province. When there was an opportunity to provide some tax relief to people, it didn't go to the people in the lowest income brackets. That's sort of their record on economic development, broadly speaking, and why we're in the mess we're in today in part.

 

This budget, thankfully, provides a lot of the things people need in Newfoundland and Labrador with respect to health and community services. This budget has a lot of initiatives to promote healthy living, to promote active living, and to support and sustain necessary health delivery.

 

There's $5.9 million for community-based organizations and agencies that deliver programs and services to encourage healthy living. There's $2.6 million for the Newfoundland and Labrador Prescription Drug Program for coverage of a variety of new drug therapies that weren't previously covered or will be covered from now on. There's $1.84 million in there for programs and projects focused on recreation, physical activity and wellness.

 

I think one of the Members talked about how it was terrible that the government decided to stop funding the Canadian Tire Jumpstart program. I think the Canadian Tire Jumpstart program is a great community program that should be funded by Canadian Tire because it's a branding exercise done by Canadian Tire. They recognize that as part of their community outreach.

 

When we're in times of economic difficulty, such as we are now, do we focus on core programing for recreation, for sport, for healthy living or do we subsidize a program that bolsters one company's brand over another? In this budget, we decided not to continue to do that because it was the right thing to do, and maintain core funding for recreation, for physical activity and for wellness in our communities. Over $1 million to support initiatives dedicated to encouraging healthy living and increased physical activity in school-aged children.

 

In the fall, we'll have continued adoption of active living programs in our schools, because we have a lot of schools in the province where gymnasiums are too small. Those problems were not addressed over the previous 12 years that the last administration was in power.

 

There are many children who don't have access to even smaller spaces for physical activity. There's going to be a renewed emphasis on getting children up and active and out of their desks and making sure there are opportunities for them to go outside when the weather is fine. Maybe when the weather is good and it's reasonable to go outside, you can bundle up, even in the winter, and participate in winter sport.

 

Madam Chair, I was up in your district in January, in Mary's Harbour – 

 

CHAIR: February.

 

MR. KIRBY: In February, sorry.

 

There were school children of all ages out participating in winter sport activity, having a boil up just down on the river. We can take advantage of our environment for physical activity. You just have to be creative about it. You have to be safe. It needs to be done in an organized fashion. I understand the English School District is going to be putting a lot of focus on that in the coming year, and that's a good thing. We need that to happen.

 

There's approximately $500,000 for programs which focus on healthy eating, physical activity and mental health promotion. There's also an additional $350,000 – it's ironic that we're talking about this now – to support new and expanded programs and services to help people quit smoking. So there's a whole renewed emphasis, and we're going to see that being rolled out, new emphasis or new programming in the area of supporting people who are trying to quit smoking.

 

There's also funding in the budget for continued planning and design of the Western Memorial Regional Hospital, something that's been promised and promised and promised. I think one of the Members said at one point it was the largest, publicly subsidized dog park in Newfoundland and Labrador because it's more or less just a green space with perhaps some plumbing worked in there. Not a whole lot else has been done to develop that site. Of course, that was done in advance of an election and promised time and again. I commend the Member for Bay of Islands for continually raising that matter in the House of Assembly and ensuring that it got some attention in this budget.

 

There's also funding in the budget to continue planning and design for the replacement for the Waterford Hospital. Something I think all the Members of the House of Assembly agree needs to be done. We may have some differences over how it ought to be done and how it will be built but hopefully with these funds that are allocated in this year's budget there'll be some opportunity to move that work forward.

 

Likewise, the long-term care facilities in the Western and Central regions, there's $2 million set aside in the budget to plan for that. We know we have an aging population. More and more seniors who are looking for housing in their elder years and looking for support for supported living arrangements where they can be healthy and get the desired level of care they need in their elder years.

 

There's funding in the budget for select individuals to receive enhanced care in personal care homes. There's $3.5 million in the budget for that. We'll also be establishing a new seniors' advocate office. I know one of the Members suggested that would be a luxury to have that. We don't think it's a luxury to have an advocate for seniors in Newfoundland and Labrador today, so we're going to do that.

 

There's also $300,000 in there for the Seniors Resource Centre to help them enhance in their information and referral system – 

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. KIRBY: I could go on, Madam Chair, but thank you. I appreciate the time.

 

CHAIR: I remind the hon. Member his time for speaking has expired.

 

The Chair recognizes the Member for St. John's East – Quidi Vidi.

 

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

 

I'm very pleased to be able to stand again this evening and speak to aspects of the budget. Because basically that's what all these bills are about that we're discussing tonight, different aspects of the budget.

 

When I stood the last time I was speaking from a letter that was written actually by a woman, Corina Reardon, who lives in St. Anthony. It was written to her Member for St. Barbe – L'Anse aux Meadows, and to all of the Members of the Liberal Government of Newfoundland and Labrador.

 

As I said earlier, Ms. Reardon is a teacher, and she and her family returned to Newfoundland and Labrador. In this letter she shared with her Member and with all the Members of his caucus her concerns about the budget and how it's affecting her and her family. Not only her and her family, but the community as well.

 

One of the things I want to refer to now, I think I mentioned the fact that when she did her internship, back around 2008, she had the experience of working in combined classes. So she has grave concerns about the way in which this budget is forcing the combining of classes. I think it would be worthwhile for the Members who obviously must not have read her letter when she sent it, to listen to what Ms. Reardon has to say.

 

She says: In regard to combining classes, this will also be detrimental to the students' success in the classroom. If you remember, this is what she was really pressing on: the effect on the children. Multigrade classes can work really well in small schools with low student populations – and I think that's how she had operated when she taught in them – and with trained teachers who are equipped with the knowledge to be able to teach multiple grade level curriculums to multiple learners in a classroom. This is a trained teacher and she knows what she's talking about.

 

Placing students new to multigrade in classes with teachers who are not equipped with the understanding required to run a multigrade is a recipe for disaster. As we've been told, there will be no professional development training – I think it's one day they are going to get – for these teachers. So the government is basically placing the teachers and students in a sink or swim situation.

 

She goes on: Having school administration choose which students are placed into these new combined classes will aid in creating an openly hostile community school relationship. Parents will not be responsive to these changes, but it will be the teachers and administrations who will take the brunt of the blame for them while government gets to sit comfortably behind the desks away from the spotlight.

 

And that's what we're seeing. We're seeing that it isn't the government that has to face the people for the decisions that boards are having to make because of the government's budget. Whether it's the English-speaking school board, whether it's the board of trustees for the libraries in the province, the administrators in schools, as Ms. Reardon is pointing out, others have to make the terrible, nasty decisions and face people with those decisions.

 

Ms. Reardon offered a challenge to the government, and here's her challenge: If you have the knowledge and understanding of how little these cutbacks will effect students in this province, go to the schools and talk to the teachers and the students – something which the Members of the government side loathe to do. A couple of them sort of dipped their toes in when their schools were being affected and then pulled their feet out pretty quickly. Their constituents are looking for them, so go and speak.

 

Meet the students who are frustrated with school because they are placed in classes without the services they need to be able to succeed. Meet the students who require speech language, IRT or other specialist services who can't get the help they require because of the lack of funding to provide them. Meet with the teachers to see how burnt out they are in trying to get through the jam-packed curriculums, even before the budget changes come into play.

 

Lastly, speak to the families of the students and teachers; the families who struggle to help their kids because they aren't getting the services or amount of instructional time they need. Or speak to the teachers' families and ask about the amount of time mom or dad spends doing work at home because it isn't possible to get it all done during the school day.

 

She's inviting you to go meet with them, go meet with the students, meet with the families and meet with the teachers. She didn't even get an answer to her letter from you. Let alone go out and meet the people in the community, you didn't even bother to answer her letter.

 

Despite what a large number of people assume, the majority of teachers work long, unpaid overtime hours and are constantly trying to find different ways to help the various learners in their classes. Many become consumed with this amount of work, taking away from their family time. When you increase the workload of the teacher, which is what's happening, you negatively affect every student in that class, their families and the teacher's family as well.

 

This is a very dedicated person here, a very dedicated teacher, well trained, knows what she's talking about. She's writing this letter as a plea to the government. She quotes the Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development who said: “The decisions that had to be made during Budget 2016 were difficult, but focus on the long-term goal of fiscal sustainability for our province.”

 

Here's what she says back: I'm sure that this is the belief of the government, but when you have to sustain a province fiscally by hurting the people who live there by making them make tough financial decisions, and often forcing them to move, you are not sustaining the provincial population – and I would add, therefore, you're not sustaining the economy because that's what she means.

 

She goes on: Making it too expensive to live here by creating levies – and you've made changes but, believe me, people are saying to us that was a small part and the changes mean nothing to them – and additional taxes, cutting jobs and making education even less of a priority than previously only ensures that the population will decrease, leaving behind those that can't afford to leave or pay the exorbitant amounts of money to live here.

 

Then she pleads with you. She pleads with her MHA, the Member for St. Barbe – L'Anse aux Meadows. She pleads with his colleagues in the Cabinet and in caucus. She says to her MHA: As our representative, the person chosen by the people to voice their concerns and put their best interests first, to vote against this budget.

 

You're not going to, I know you're not going to because it's your budget and you all stand behind it. The only reason you made changes to the levy – she makes reference to the levy. This was written before you made the change. The only reason you made the changes was because literally thousands of people were marching in the province. Just on the doorstep of this building alone there were over 3,000 at one. And there were hundreds in groups all over the province, on the Island, in Labrador, everywhere.

 

So the only reason you made the changes wasn't because you cared about the people, because if you cared about people you wouldn't have had the levy in there in the first place. If you had cared about people you wouldn't have had people under incomes of $50,000 paying anything. You haven't made it a progressive tax. It shouldn't be there. If you need money, do a more progressive income tax system.

 

You didn't care in the first place; you made the changes because of protest. But we all know it's limited how many changes you can make to your own budget. Although you seem to be making decisions, I'm starting to wonder where the decisions are coming from with regard to the budget because the math is not working out.

 

The math around the closure of the libraries, for example, is not working out. We're not really sure how you've done the math around that one. Even the math around the levy, combined with the $27 million you're not going to have to pay a year because of the deferred payment of the loan to the federal government, that's not working out either. That's math we can't figure out.

 

We're going to start seeing maybe that $30 million is going to get used up pretty quickly. You don't seem to know what you're going to be using it for, but the way you're doing things, I think, we do know what you're going to be using it for.

 

It's very frustrating, Mr. Chair, extremely frustrating, to read something so well written, so well put together as this woman's letter, with an excellent analysis based on her experience with a wonderful education, having started from a very small community, Goose Cove, and to think that she didn't even get an answer to her letter. So if you really cared, if this government really cared, then you would take time to see that somebody like this was given the respect of writing a response. That's one of the things people want. They want to know you really care. If you really cared, then you would respond to their messages.

 

CHAIR (Warr): Order, please!

 

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

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

I recognize the hon. the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Service NL.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. JOYCE: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

I'll only spend a few minutes. I was listening to the Member opposite, the co-leader of the Third Party. It's not very often I get too upset in this House of Assembly. I listened to her lecturing us about people.

 

I can tell you this is the same Member that I worked with the Opposition when they were in government to secure a deal for the mill in Corner Brook. When we were securing a deal I have to give Jerome Kennedy, I have to give the former premier and Tom Marshall credit. Myself and the premier were involved. We worked hand in hand.

 

I stood in this House on three different days when this Member stood up and asked questions to try to scuttle the deal because the union members wanted to know. I went out and I called the three union members. I said tell me now, are you speaking to this Member? Do you know what they said? Not one of them spoke to her – not one of them spoke to her.

 

And this Member is up trying to give us a lecture on how to treat people. Trying to scuttle the deal in Corner Brook in the Corner Brook Pulp and Paper – scuttle the deal. Shut the mill down, ruin the workers, cancel the pension that they had and she is over there laughing. She is over there laughing at it.

 

I went out and I called the three union members. I have to give the government credit. That's when the government stepped up and we worked together. The Opposition, the Members who are over there, we stepped up because we worked together as a team. We worked together as a team to work for Corner Brook Pulp and Paper.

 

So when the co-leader of the Third Party wants to stand up and give a lecture, remember what you tried to do to the people of Corner Brook, the people of the mill and the pensioners of the mill, what you personally tried to do. She's over there laughing. Stand up if I'm saying anything wrong. Stand up.

 

Don't go lecturing about how people should be treated because you almost scuttled that deal. I called the union. I can give you the three names that I called – three names. They never spoke to you once about asking a question.

 

Mr. Chair, that's the kind of stuff that you have to be asking for –

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MS. MICHAEL: Point of order.

 

It is a practice that we do not name each other, we do not speak to each other in the House. I feel I'm being attacked by the Member who keeps speaking at me and using personal pronouns at me. It goes against the practice of the House.

 

MR. JOYCE: Mr. Chair, if she feels that, I apologize.

 

Mr. Chair, can you tell the co-leader of the Third Party that she almost scuttled that deal in Corner Book. Can you please pass that on to the co-leader of the Third Party that the three union members that she stood up in this House and said she was speaking to, never spoke to one of them. Can you please pass that on?

 

How does she think the people of the mill at the time felt? How does she think the pensioners felt? How does she think they felt? Mr. Chair, you could ask her. How do you think they felt when she was up here asking questions on a daily basis and never even spoke to them?

 

She's over there laughing. Mr. Chair, can you ask her to stop laughing because that was a serious issue.

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. JOYCE: That was a very serious issue, Mr. Chair. She knows I'm right, because I walked out in front of that media and I asked her to deny what I – and she couldn't even deny it. So don't lecture, I say to her, because I know how she treated the people of Corner Brook. I know how she treated the people of the mill.

 

The Opposition, who were the government at the time, I've got to give them credit. We worked well together at the time. That shows how government and Opposition can work together, Mr. Chair.

 

I always gave Jerome Kennedy and I always gave Tom Marshall credit for that, for helping to save the mill in Corner Brook and save the pensioners. I always did that, and I'll give it every day that I possibly can. We worked together to do it. We did not try to scuttle the deal. We did not ask frivolous questions, Mr. Chair, just to try to prove a point; you want to get in the media, because I wasn't part of the story.

 

I could see why, because no one can trust the Third Party, no one can trust to give the information, Mr. Chair. That's what you talk about unions – then you stand up defending all the unions? How about the unions in the mill? Did they matter? Did unions in the mill matter? Of course they mattered.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Just like Coley's Point Primary.

 

MR. JOYCE: Just like the Coley's Point Primary matter. Yeah, I got the appointment with him.

 

When I stood up, Mr. Chair, I stood up out in the meeting and they brought up the school; that the school was ready to go to tender. I said it was absolutely, categorically false. What did they come out in the media? After stating that Coley's Point Primary land was bought and paid for, the design was ready to go, do you know what the Member came up and said? We're moving along.


But just before the election, the last two years, it was ready to go. I stood up right in front of 45 people and I said there was no design going for that school. Absolutely there was no design ready. And they said, well, the minister of Transportation said it and the former Member. Guess what? No design.

 

What did the former Member say? I thought we bought the land. We were moving ahead with it; I thought we bought the land. They expropriated. The land was never paid for. There was never a design. And they were picking on the Member here saying, why don't you vote against the budget? How many times did Glenn Littlejohn vote against the budget after you promised the school? That's how hypocritical it is.

 

I know the former minister of Transportation and Works is over there laughing. Why don't you go to Coley's Point and laugh? Go out in Coley's Point. Why didn't you come to the meeting we had the other night?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. JOYCE: Why don't you come out and say to the people, listen, there was a tender called? Go out and show them the tender.

 

You have access to your Cabinet documents. Go up on the 11th floor, get out your Cabinet documents and show them a design was done. That's what I'd challenge you to do. Guess what? You won't do it because it was never done.

 

For those Members to attack the Member here and say you're voting against the school in Coley's Point, you're voting not to put it in, when for four years they had it, they made a commitment, a design was done, they promised the land was done, and Glenn Littlejohn stood every time in his seat and voted for the budget, knowing full well that Coley's Point wasn't in it. All off a sudden, he's picking on people up here saying oh, you are bad. You're going against the budget.

 

What would you call that, Mr. Chair? I'd call that hypocritical. Would you? I would. I'd call that hypocritical. I have no problem – there's stuff in the budget. It's a tough budget. I'd be the first to admit it. It's a tough budget.

 

I hear Members opposite: What are you doing for the economy? Mr. Chair, do you know what committee we have set up right now? Just one part of it, there is a lot, but do you know the one we have set up? It's with the minister of industry and trade and we have the Minister of Environment. We have now thousands of hectares of land that we're putting aside and going to work on to put aside for farming in Newfoundland and Labrador, something that was never done before, Mr. Chair.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. JOYCE: I know four farmers. Do you know why they never set up? They couldn't get through the Crown Lands process. They couldn't get no one in government to give them the land, to sell the land, to lease them the land, couldn't do it.

 

We're after having two or three meetings already, Mr. Chair. You'd be surprised how much land right now we're looking to put aside for people in Newfoundland so we would be self-sustained in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. That's one thing we're doing. Guess what? Five months and we already have the action moving. Do you want to talk about diversification? There's a prime example.

 

I heard the Member for St. John's Centre talk about a $20 million slush fund we had. Guess what? There's $20 million that just came back with Ottawa – the province, $24 million going to be spent in Newfoundland and Labrador. She's over there and she has no idea of what's going on in rural Newfoundland and Labrador, while she's the defender of rural Newfoundland, making a mockery of rural Newfoundland and Labrador. It's shameful.

 

Mr. Chair, right now in Ottawa there's another $20 million waiting to be approved.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. JOYCE: Another $20 million waiting to be approved up in Ottawa.

 

We're up here doing a list. I was speaking to Members opposite, all across, Mr. Chair, about some funding for water and sewer for rural Newfoundland and Labrador. I ask anybody to stand up and say there shouldn't be funding put in rural Newfoundland and Labrador – over $300 million.

 

Does anybody here want to stand up, Members opposite stand up? St. John's Centre may stand up because she doesn't know anything about rural Newfoundland and Labrador. All she wants to do is criticize the $20 million slush fund which is going to bring in money from Ottawa to help rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

 

I have to say when the Member for Ferryland was there, he treated people fair. When Kevin O'Brien was in his seat, he treated people fair, Mr. Chair. That's what we have to try to do, not stand up just because you see a $20 million – well, it was a slush fund.

 

Think about rural Newfoundland and Labrador. When you stand on your feet and you want to be pontificating on everybody in rural Newfoundland and Labrador, think about what you're saying. You don't need, you don't want water and sewer. You don't need any improvements for tourism. Because I live in St. John's Centre you shouldn't get it and that's only a slush fund. It's shameful.

 

I'll even ask the Member for St. John's Centre to stand up and tell me which one of the projects in rural Newfoundland and Labrador from the government opposite, opposite Members or government that you wouldn't approve to help tourism, give people proper drinking water. Stand up on your feet and tell us which one it will be. Here's your opportunity, I'll sit down.

 

Like I thought, Mr. Chair, she wouldn't stand up. Do you know why? Because it helps rural Newfoundland and Labrador –

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. JOYCE: This government here, we're standing up for rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

I remind the hon. minister –

 

MR. JOYCE: Take $20 million, we'll do it, Mr. Chair.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Cape St. Francis.

 

MR. K. PARSONS: Mr. Chair, it was interesting listening to the speaker that time. I've listened to ministers get up tonight and talk and give reasons why they believe in this budget and the good things in the budget. There are some good things in the budget. No doubt, infrastructure spending is good right across the province.

 

But when we did it, it was a complete waste of money. We squandered money in districts all over the place. When we built fire departments, built new schools – I think there are 10 new schools built in the last five or six years.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: It's 15.

 

MR. K. PARSONS: Fifteen new schools – that was squandering money. So when we did it, we squandered money; when they did the investment, it's something that's good for Newfoundland and Labrador.

 

There's no doubt water and sewer is an important part of Newfoundland and Labrador. It's an important part for everybody. Everyone should have safe, clean drinking water. I have issues in my district and I've been advocating to the minister, just like I did with ministers on my own side. I hope that ministers do listen to us when we do advocate because we're here for a reason. We're here to represent the people that elected us.

 

I listened to the Minister of Education get up and he mentioned doom and gloom and everything else. The thing that I can't understand about this whole process that we're doing – and I look to the other side – I don't understand why you're not listening to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, why you're not listening to people in your districts.

 

I've been here eight years and I've never seen this before. I've never seen so much discontent in every part of the province, no matter where you go to. This weekend, everyone was lining up getting gas. They all know that the price of gas is going up – and you talk to people, the devastation and the effect that is going to have on businesses, it is going to have on families, it is going to have on middle-income families and it is going to have on everybody in this province. It's a huge, huge factor.

 

You're just not listening to the people in the province. You're not listening to your constituents. I presented a petition today and I'm going to talk a little bit about that now in a second. I look at some of the petitions that have been presented over there by your own party. Now if I got up and I presented a petition – the Member for St. George's – Humber presented one today. I just noticed there were a lot of sheets there, so there must have been an awful lot of names on that petition.

 

Those are constituents of yours who are saying: How can you vote for this budget when you're going to close our library? They're the people that elected you. So to present a petition is great, but I presented a petition and I'm not listening to them.

 

The Member for Fogo Island – Cape Freels got up last week and he said he had 1,050 names on a petition from part of his district. My God, that's huge – 1,050 names from people who are your constituents, your bosses. As far as I'm concerned, the people that elected you are your bosses. So you had 1,050 names on a petition that came to you and said, listen here, get this to your government; we can't have this clinic – I think it was a clinic last week that he was talking about. We can't have that clinic closed in our district. Now you go represent us. Present this petition to your government and tell them that that can't happen.

 

Okay, I'll take the petition and I'll go and present it, but I'm still going to vote for that budget. Now how they can do this I do not know. If you're listening to your constituents and 1,050 of them are telling you we do not want this. We do not want you to vote for it. No, I'll present it, but I'm still going to vote for that budget.

 

We had the Member for Harbour Grace – Port de Grave; she's after getting up twice in this House and presenting. Listen, the pressure on her in her district I can understand it. The courthouse, there's after being all kinds of protests out there with the courthouse and everything else. Those constituents of hers are after asking her and saying, listen, can you please take this to your colleagues in the House of Assembly – can you please take this petition and tell them that we do not want our courthouse closed down, and she did it. I applaud her for doing it, but is there anybody over there listening?

 

How can you vote for a budget when your constituents – your constituents are the people that elected you, your constituents are the ones you're going to have to go back to and knock on the doors in four years' time, or three years' time, whenever it is, and they're going to say to you: Well, I asked you to vote against a budget. I asked you to stand up in the House and say there's no way I'm putting up with that courthouse closing; there's no way I'm putting up with that library closed; there's no way I'm going to put up with that clinic closed; there's no way I'm going to put up with taxes on books; there's no way I'm going to do this; yet, you do it.

 

Now, we heard from ministers tonight. All the ministers got up tonight. I never heard from one person on the back row tonight, but the Minister of Education was up twice.

 

We just heard another great speech by the Minister of Municipal Affairs. He gets up and kind of does a show that he got on, and he does it every time he gets up. It's basically the same speech, calling down the different people that are here, but he makes his points and he goes back. He got a great history in the House of Assembly. He does his job, just like I'm doing mine right now.

 

I look at the Member for Terra Nova, he got up here a couple of weeks ago and talked about going to an island and how welcomed he was on that island. People are having a little bit of a hard time with this budget but they're understanding it. Well, I looked at the petition they sent him and the comments on the petition. There was nothing even close to what he said here in the House of Assembly. How can he represent those people? They're the people that elected you and they're asking you to take a petition to your colleagues, to the Minister of Finance, to the Minister of Education.

 

Now these are who we heard tonight. We only heard ministers get up tonight. They asked you to represent them and vote against their library getting closed, or vote against their offices getting closed. I know the Member for Bonavista is after hearing it from all his constituents. There's a lady who put an RV right across the door out there and didn't want the AES offices closed.

 

When are you going to listen to the people of the province? You're in here and you talk like everything is hunky-dory and everything else, but it's not. You have to be listening to the people. When you go to your functions – I go to my functions and I hear it all the time, people are not happy.

 

I'm not in a Liberal district; I'm in a PC district. I can only imagine the stress that's on some of you people when you go to your districts. These are your friends. These are people who worked on your campaigns. These are people you had come out and probably put signs in the ground for you, made phone calls for you and everything else. They're the ones that are signing these petitions. They said, listen, I supported you. I went and marked that X for you like you asked me to. So here's a petition.

 

We're not talking two or three names on a petition. I saw the Member get up today and I noticed the petition that he had. I said, wow, there are a lot of names on that.

 

I got up today and presented a petition. I presented a petition that wasn't in my district. A lady called me. I represented a part of Stavanger Drive area which covered a good part of where the school, Mary Queen of Peace, is. Over the last six years I had a good rapport with some people in the area, as you would. When I became a politician, I didn't know many people when I started, but I got to meet people. People called me up and I make a point always to return my calls.

 

That lady today – they had a meeting, they said they contacted a couple of their Members – was wondering if I'd present a petition for them. You know, there are over 500 names from Mary Queen of Peace today that wants – and what they're asking for, they're saying in these financial times we find ourselves, how about putting off full-day kindergarten. Just put it off until we get our finances straight.

 

That's a reasonable request. I bet everyone over there, everyone on that backbench can tell me they've heard that. Don't tell me you haven't heard it because that's what people are talking about. We hear it in the news. Everybody is talking about it.

 

That request from these 500 people – they're not my constituents, they're your constituents. They're saying go back and revisit some of these education cuts. The lady tells me it's going to mean that grades three and four are going to be combined. They're losing three teacher units. Grades five and six are going to be combined.

 

There are 700 children in the school. There are going to be 14 children left out of Intensive Core French because of the cuts. Fourteen children weren't lucky enough to have their name pulled out of a hat.

 

We heard from all you ministers tonight. You are the ones that made this budget. You are the ones that sat in and did this budget. I think it's time for the backbenchers – and the people that elected you, that asked you to represent them. I think it's time for you to get up and speak for the constituents in your districts, speak for the people that elected you.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) give up lecturing us.

 

MR. K. PARSONS: I'm not lecturing you. No, Sir, I'm not lecturing you at all.

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. K. PARSONS: What I'm telling you is there are people that elected you in your district. You can turn back on to me all you like, but they're the people that elected you and they're the people you should be listening to. That's who you should be listening to, are the people in Newfoundland and Labrador. The people in Newfoundland and Labrador are speaking loudly about this budget, so it's time to listen to them.

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

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

 

I am happy to stand again and speak to this bill. What we really need to be doing, as we've seen here tonight, is not speaking to just corollary issues, but we are speaking to the budget as a whole and how the budget as a whole affects the people of the province, how it affects the people of the province currently, how it will affect the people of the province in a year from now, how it will affect the people of the province two years from now and three years from now.

 

We all understand and we all are very much aware of the financial situation the province is in. We also know that what we have to do is keep a steady hand, that we have to be able to navigate our way through this crisis, and it is a crisis. Some of it came upon quite quickly, beyond our control. We have absolutely no control over the price of oil; however, what government did have control over – the past administration – was the way taxes were administered and they did deep tax cuts to personal income tax for high earners and also to corporations. So that's part of the revenue loss that has gotten us into this situation.

 

So, Mr. Chair, once again we cannot control what is beyond the control of this House or of government. Example being, the price of oil, the price of commodities, what's happening globally also in the mining industry. What we do have control over, or what government does have control over is how they're going to deal with that and how they're going to help navigate through this storm.

 

Mr. Chair, the last few times I have stood, I've spoken specifically about a comparison that the economist, Toby Sanger – he's a great economist – the comparison he has been making between Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador. Just sort of to update people, before looking at some of the differences, some of the comparisons are: both provinces have experienced a sharp and sudden decline in the price of oil and gas. The oil was a key source of revenue for both provinces. Both provinces have hard-working Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, both in Alberta and in Newfoundland and Labrador, and in both provinces they have hard-working Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who are willing to roll up their sleeves, to work to help get their respective provinces out of this crisis.

 

There are Newfoundlanders and Labradorians in Alberta who have lost their jobs and who have come home, or who want to come home. There are Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who are working in Alberta back and forth and no longer going to Alberta because they've lost those jobs. And we have folks, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, here at home who were working at home and lost their jobs because of the downturn in the oil industry and in the mining industry, as we can so clearly see what's been happening up in Labrador.

 

Mr. Chair, once again it's how differently the two governments – Alberta had an election this year and they voted for Premier Notley for an NDP government. Newfoundland and Labrador had an election this year and voted for a Liberal government. Alberta chose one way, and the interesting thing is both provinces came down on the same day – their budgets came down on the same day, April 14, which is kind of interesting. It's very, very interesting that both budgets came down exactly on the same day.

 

Now I'm also aware, as I've qualified the two times I got up and spoke about, there are differences; we're not comparing completely apples to apples. Newfoundland and Labrador has had a great debt. Alberta has much more resiliency in their economy. They don't have the same great level of debt. They had a fund. They banked some of the money, some of the royalties that they have made, but they also are hurting. They've had 60,000 jobs cut quickly that disappeared in the oil industry and collateral jobs as well.

 

So, again, what we're looking at is: What are the differences? We've seen some of the similarities. What are some of the differences in the way Alberta is dealing with their crisis and the way that Newfoundland and Labrador government is dealing with their crisis?

 

Now we're going to look at health care. We've looked at education, we've looked at learning, we've looked at a number of issues, now health care. Alberta; their decision was stable funding for health care including mental health. No cuts to their health care; a 2.5 per cent annual increase in health care spending over the next three years. Not only are they not cutting in their health care, they're actually increasing their spending in health care. We know that good, solid public services that serve the people and provide stable, well-paying jobs in communities all over the province and also provide good, stable supports and services to the people of the province.

 

The other thing that they've done is investments in hospitals and health care facilities, $3.5 billion over five years. So that's some of their infrastructure spending. The reason they're doing that is those services are needed. Also, we know that infrastructure spending creates jobs.

 

What our government is doing here is cutting jobs. Cutting jobs simply leads to unemployment. Unemployment means that people don't have jobs; they don't have money to spend. Then the corollary, the roll off is that we see even further job losses. So what we see is that what our government is doing, in fact, is destabilizing the economy by cutting jobs.

 

What has this government done in the area of health care? A $50 million cut to health care and over 100 job cuts. Those are jobs that are across the province, some in smaller communities, in rural communities. So we've lost these well-paying, stable jobs – communities have lost those – as well as we see devolution of health care services to people across the province. This is a direct slap to rural Newfoundland and Labrador. We know that.

 

We see cuts to mental health. We see a closure of clinics instead of increases to mental health. We know when times are tough economically we see an increase in problems in the area of mental health. The stress of not knowing whether – if you have a job, the stress of not knowing if your job is going to be there in a few months.

 

With this budget, they're doing a one-two punch. The Minister of Finance has warned us the next part of the budget is coming in six months. People don't know if their have their jobs, they're sitting on their wallets. They're full of stress because they don't know what's going to happen.

 

Also, we've seen a $7.9 million cut to home support, which again, is cutting your nose off to spite your face. Home support is about keeping seniors and other individuals out of expensive institutions so they can stay at home if that's where they want to be. In fact, what this is – this is an expense, it's not an investment. It's actually placing more strain on our already strained hospital system.

 

Mr. Chair, I don't know why they would do that again. It's counterintuitive. It doesn't stabilize the economy. It does the exact opposite.

 

The removal of the over-the-counter drug subsidy affects predominately our seniors. We have the highest percentage of seniors living on OAS and GIS. Mr. Chair, they're living below the poverty line. We have the highest percentage of seniors in the whole country living below the poverty line. What we have here now is that some of the over-the-counter drugs – which are really important – things like laxatives, things like special lotions, particularly for people who have any kind of chronic disease, they cannot afford it.

 

We've had letters, we've had emails, we've had phone calls from seniors who are saying: I'm going to have to decide whether I'm going to pay my rent or pay my heat or pay my food –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MS. ROGERS: – or buy the over-the-counter drugs I need in order to be able to maintain my health. Mr. Chair, that is not a decision; that is an investment. That's a decision that creates further health care complications, which then, in the long run, costs more money as well.

 

It's interesting that what some of these measures may mean to some of these folks who made the decisions they say, oh, well, that's a minor thing. You know what's happened is that, already, seniors who are in personal care homes have $150 a month for their personal items. Out of that will have to come if they have to take iron medications, if they have to take vitamins, if they have to take calcium, if they have to take vitamin D, their shampoo, their lotions, their potions – there's no way. Some of these movements are actually, Mr. Chair, impoverishing our people.

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MS. ROGERS: Imagine working all your life and it coming to this.

 

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

 

CHAIR: The Chair recognizes the hon. the Member for Stephenville – Port au Port.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. FINN: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

 

It's always a pleasure to rise and speak here in this great House. Tonight we're speaking about Bill 32. That somewhere got lost, I think, through a number of speakers throughout the evening. Bill 32 is an Act to Amend the Loan Act. I'd like to read exactly what Bill 32 is about for the record so we can try and put some things back in context here, specifically with reference to some of the comments from the Member for St. John's Centre.

 

The Explanatory Note here on the bill – and all of the Members on our side as well as Members opposite would certainly have this bill in front of them this evening: “This Bill would authorize the Lieutenant-Governor in Council to increase the amount of money raised under the Loan Act, 2016 from a maximum of '$1,600,000,000' to a maximum amount of '$3,400,000,000.' ”

 

AN HON. MEMBER: How much?

 

MR. FINN: We're going to increase the maximum amount that we'll borrow from $1.6 billion to $3.4 billion. It's important to note exactly those figures. Billions of dollars certainly is not something easy to grasp when you're talking that high figure. But it's important to note that because we're here this evening talking about many of the things we've done and we could have done or we should have done and what the Members opposite would have done differently – I haven't heard any suggestions this evening at all, in fact, as to what the Members opposite would have done differently.

 

This is the highest amount of money our province has ever requested to borrow. In the history of our province, this is the highest amount of money we have ever requested to borrow. For the Member for St. John's Centre to get up and compare us now borrowing $3.4 billion this year, to compare us to Alberta is apples and oranges, Mr. Chair. It's apples and oranges.

 

The estimated revenue that they'll generate this year in the Province of Alberta is $41.14 billion. That's the expected revenue that Alberta is going to generate. The Province of Alberta, by the way, for the Member for St. John's Centre, has over 4.2 million souls and we're here with less than half a million, or just over half a million people. So it's completely apples and oranges to talk about the Alberta budget and the measures they've taken.

 

By the way, as well, over the next three years the Government of Alberta is anticipating $28.9 billion in deficit – $28.9 billion in deficit. So for a province with four million people and revenue of $41 billion, absolutely, they have every ability to go into deficit to that magnitude based on the revenue they're expected to generate. Unfortunately, we're not in that position here. We're not in that position here in this province.

 

Newfoundland and Labrador is starting from two completely different places, there's no doubt. We have no ability to be in any position that the Province of Alberta is in. I'm tired of hearing about the Province of Alberta's budget and the Notley budget, and everything that the NDP has done in Alberta. It is apples and oranges when you're talking about 525,000 people in the Province of Newfoundland, over four million there and revenue gaps to $30-odd billion. It's insurmountable to even think about.

 

Now, there are a few things I wanted to talk about this evening but the Members opposite have gotten me on a completely different track. We're here talking about the amount of money we're going to borrow and the tough decisions we've made. Looking back into some of the records, it was interesting to go back, research and see what some of the Members opposite said, in particular, with respect to their budget of 2015.

 

I'm going to read just a few quotes and I'll flick through them quickly. I know I only have a few minutes here, four or five minutes to speak this evening. The Member for Mount Pearl North, the minister of Health and Community Services and the deputy premier at the time – and on the record this is early January, I guess, as they were going into a budget process. The Member for Mount Pearl North said, and I quote: We're going into a budget process that is clearly a tough budget process, given the financial situation that we face – sounds like something we're saying right about now. That is going to require tough decisions. It means we're going to have to make tough decisions.

 

We'll go further: Clearly, we're going to have to do things differently. Our level of spending around health care in this province is not sustainable; 40 cents of every dollar is being spent on the delivery of health care services in Newfoundland and Labrador. This is the Member of Mount Pearl North last year in January. I'll fast forward for the Member. I'm only fast-forwarding to further comments, but I'm only reminding him –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. FINN: – as these are some of the same statements that we're making here now. So it's one thing to get up last year during your budget process and make some of these comments, and then to get up and claim that we're going to bring the economy to a halt. We're not on any track of mind or any different thinking than you were last year; however, we've chosen to stand by our decisions, and we've chosen to accept the difficult choices that we've had to make.

 

May 5 – so this is just over a year ago last year – the Member for Mount Pearl North, the Leader of the Opposition – referring to us at the time – refers to what we are doing as cuts, and I'm obviously not surprised to hear him categorize it in that way. What we are doing is finding efficiencies. We are streamlining services. There is an opportunity to do things better. There is an opportunity to do things more efficiently.

 

That was on May 5 of last year. Here we go, May 20; this is a great one: The Liberal idea seems to be, let's avoid tough choices; let's make the popular choices. Let's say whatever we think the public wants to hear. Let's borrow, let's borrow, let's borrow. I'll come back to that, because the Liberal government certainly took every opportunity to make the tough choices, but there are some more interesting ones from the Member for Topsail – Paradise.

 

The Member for Topsail – Paradise: I would say if we lined up at the door of the House of Assembly or in government today down over the steps of Confederation Building – because it is a long line; we had a big line of people who received funding from our government – and we said, come in now and tell us what you think about reducing our budget, every one of them, I would suggest, Mr. Speaker, will have a reason why yes, you should reduce the budget; but do not touch me, do not reduce mine and here is why you should not reduce mine. That's the former premier speaking last year with respect to their budget.

 

Mr. Speaker – and this is another for the Leader of the Official Opposition last year in June – there are three options: you reduce services, you increase borrowing or you increase your revenue. What we sought out was balanced choices.

 

Now, that's just a few quotes to put into context what the Members opposite were stating this time last year, but now over there boldly stating that we're over here with some new rhetoric, new rhetoric and we cannot stand, and the Liberal idea was not to make tough choices, and the Liberal government was only going to make popular choices. Well, we've made a lot of very unpopular choices, and I believe that our government is on the record as simply stating –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. FINN: Oh, laugh right now, laugh right now –

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. FINN: Oh, laugh right now. Were you laughing in 2007, 2008 and 2010 – and the Member for Ferryland was present and opposite at the time and so was the Member for Cape St. Francis. Were you laughing then when you decreased taxes to the highest earners in our province year over year over year and decreased the HST at the same time? And for that matter, the same insurance tax that you're over there referring to now, Mr. Chair –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. FINN: – that we now have 15 per cent –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. FINN: – you took it away in 2008.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. FINN: You took it away at the same time you decreased the taxes to the highest earners in the province. Now you're over here saying that we're going to grind the economy to a halt. Well, if you had some vision and you looked at a sustainable plan, we wouldn't be here right now, and we might be able to look at the Member for St. John's Centre's lovely plan of taking on an Alberta fantasy of going into deficit.

 

We cannot go any further into debt than we are today. We cannot do it. We simply cannot. We're spending more on debt servicing than we are on education. That's something that's unacceptable right now.

 

You talk about unpopular decisions, I'll tell you one thing: The Minister of Transportation and Works put it best there about a week ago. He put it best when he said, you know what, we certainly made some unpopular decisions, but this is not a popularity contest. He is exactly right, this is not. This is not about popularity, it's not about fame. It's about protecting our future. Right now, we've had to make some very, very difficult choices, all of which we're aware, none of which are lost on me or my colleagues here in the House of Assembly.

 

For you guys over there with the nerve to get up and say the things you've been saying, when I've just read right into the record – I can table the document if you'd like – everything that you said last year when you defended your budget, it's unacceptable.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. FINN: It's absolutely unacceptable.

 

Thank you very much for your time today, Mr. Chair.

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

I remind all hon. Members that it's a privilege here to talk in the House. We should respect each other's opportunity to speak.

 

I recognize the hon. the Member for Mount Pearl – Southlands.

 

MR. LANE: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

It certainly is a pleasure to speak to Bill 32 for the first time. Of course what we're talking about here is it's giving us the ability to go from a maximum $1.6 billion loan to $3.4 billion.

 

I will agree with the Member opposite, that is significant. It's significant money. It's more money than, I think it's been said, we've ever had to borrow. I don't think that should be lost on anybody. It's certainly not lost on me. It never was lost on me and it's not lost on the people either.

 

As I've said now a number of times, I've spoken to many, many people in my district by phone, by email, by Facebook. I met them up at Sobeys or Dominion or whatever the case might be, had the conversations. I've also received a ton of emails, Facebook messages, phone calls and so on from people all over this province, all over Newfoundland and Labrador. I've received emails and calls even from people who are working up in Fort McMurray and so on, commuting back and forth. I've gotten calls from them.

 

Nobody that I've spoken to, or certainly the vast majority of people I've spoken to, all recognize this. They all recognize that – I don't know it they knew we were going to be borrowing $3.4 billion.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: That's a lot of money.

 

MR. LANE: It is a lot of money. Absolutely, it's a lot of money.

 

But they realize we're in a tough financial circumstance. Everybody gets that. Nobody has stood up – I can't say nobody stood up, but I certainly – and you can go through Hansard if you like. I don't recall ever standing up and saying we were not in a tough financial circumstance or the people I've spoken to, the vast majority of them, do not get that, because they absolutely do get it.

 

I think it's fair to say everybody expected, without a doubt – everybody expected, including me, Mr. Chair – this was going to be a tough budget; that taxes were going to increase and efficiencies would have to be made. We all get that. I totally get it. I totally understand it. I think most people understand it. I know they do.

 

Though, the problem we have – and I'm not saying anything that everybody doesn't know. We all know that. Everybody over here knows it. We're getting a bit of rhetoric now on both sides and so on. We all know that. That's part of the political game, the jousting and all that kind of stuff.

 

We're seeing exaggeration on both sides of the House. We see all that stuff happening, a bit of grandstanding, all that happens. We all know how that works on all sides, but people understand and expected we were going to have to pay taxes and we'll have to pay more taxes but it's a matter of degrees, Mr. Chair. Everybody knows that's true. In talking to people, people are willing to pay what they can. They understand the situation they're in, but people feel we've gone too far. That's the issue; it's gone too far, the cumulative effect.

 

I was sitting on the other side at the time and I can remember doing the consultations, the independent review commission – or the independent review process, I forget the terminology now – that was happening around the province. There were ministers and the Office of Public Engagement were facilitating these meetings, asking for feedback from people.

 

I did one in my own district; I did it on my own in my district. Some other Members did them in their district on their own as well, in addition to the regional ones. There's no doubt there was probably a person or a couple of people who said, you know what, I think we should increase gas tax, that's a way to bring in some revenue. That happened. Absolutely, it happened. There were people who said maybe we should increase income tax. That's a way to bring in some revenue, we can increase income tax.

 

I don't recall ever hearing anyone talk about the insurance tax, but maybe at one of the sessions that I wasn't at, someone might have said insurance tax. I know for a fact that the sessions I had, the one that I had – and I attended one by the Member for St. John's West, the minister. She had one, and I went around to some of the tables and people definitely talked about increasing fees. That was another way, especially the sin taxes, liquor and cigarettes, which you see happen all the time.

 

All of those things happened. Now I don't ever recall a levy. I have to be honest with you, I never. As a matter of fact, until this budget I never even heard of levy. I did hear of a Newfoundland surtax that used to be in place years ago and it got removed and so on. I guess the levy is kind of like the Newfoundland surtax, it's very similar, that we had at one point in history that got removed.

 

The point is at none of the sessions – or the sessions I attended at least – I never heard anybody say I want you to do all of it at once, increase the fees, do the insurance tax, do the gas tax, do the HST, do it all. Do it all at the one time and dump it on everybody at once. I never heard that. I challenge anybody, any Member in this House, to stand and say that they went to a public engagement session where somebody stood up, or a number of people stood up, and said: Take all these taxes and do it all; do it all at once. It didn't happen. I don't believe it. I really don't believe it.

 

So really what we're hearing, and we're all hearing, is it's a case of going too far. It's a case of too much, too fast. I really believe –

 

MR. JOYCE: (Inaudible) here now.

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. LANE: I say to the Minister of Municipal Affairs, I never said a word when he was up speaking. I've been respectful every time I've gotten up and spoken. So if he wants to heckle me – maybe he can get up and heckle away – he's only doing a disservice to himself, not to me.

 

But I would just say that at no point in time did I hear anybody say we wanted to do all these things together at the one time. That's the point. When you look at the impact it's going to have on people, it's going to have various impacts, depending on where you're to in your life financially.

 

There's no doubt – and I want to put the facts out there. There's no doubt that there are going to be benefits from federal. There are going to be federal tax breaks, thanks to the Trudeau government, that's going to offset the income tax. That's a fact. There are going to be some increased benefits for people with children that are going to offset some of the cost. That's a fact.

 

In this budget – well, up until the announcement last week they were going to put in money, and they still are, to help seniors, the very bottom, the very low-income seniors. That's a fact. Some of them will be better off and that's a great thing. But the point is there are still an awful lot of people – certainly in my district there are an awful lot of people who, when you combine all of these taxes and fees and so on, it's going to cost them a heck of a lot of money. Maybe $4,000 or $5,000 or $6,000, it depends on who you ask. Some people will say even more.

 

That's going to have an impact on the economy. It's going to have an impact, more importantly, on those families and their ability to provide for their families, for their kids, extracurricular activities. In some cases, just the ability just for the basics, just to pay the bills, it's going to be a challenge for a lot of people.

 

I don't think for one second that's what those consultation sessions said to do. I really don't think there's anybody who wants to do it on either side of the House. I know they don't.

 

All I would be asking for, all I've ever asked for, all that people are asking for is to go back, have another look and make some adjustments. There are things that money is being spent on that you could not do this year and make some changes. Reasonable changes; that's all anybody is asking for. And I think the people would live with it if you did that.

 

Thank you.

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

The hon. the Member for St. John's East – Quidi Vidi.

 

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

 

I want to continue on a point I was making the last time I stood up. I probably won't even use my whole 10 minutes this time for it, but it's so important because I've been inundated with messages with regard to what's happening in the education system.

 

I read one letter which had quite a bit about that, but one of the points that letter was making was the point of the multigrade classes. I have another letter here and I want to read it, because I learned something from it that I didn't know and I think it would be good for all of us to hear it. The letter comes from Ms. Patricia Beason. Now when she wrote her message she wrote it to the Premier. She also included the Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development. She included the Minister of Finance. She included the Leader of the Official Opposition, myself and I think maybe also her MHA. Yes, I'm sure it was her MHA. Ms. Beason is also quite upset about some of the issues that I had raised earlier from the email I had received from St. Barbe – L'Anse aux Meadows.

 

She talks about the multigrade class. Her child is going to be affected by this. She said: I just received notice from my child's school that the one-room classroom effect will be implemented next year. She wonders: How are the children to understand this process when all they know when this happens is that they're not with their friends. They're not even in the same grade as their friends. They're being ridiculed for having to return to a grade they just did, because that's what it looks like to them. That's what it looks like to their chums. And expect this to work because it will save our wonderful government money. She says: You all should be ashamed of yourselves for the decisions you have made as you play Russian roulette at the expense of our children.

 

You can do what you like to us as taxpayers; you've done that anyway. But to play with the livelihood of our children, and not giving them the opportunity of enhancing their education that they are so entitled to, is downright disgusting.

 

She goes on – and this is the part that was something I learned from her. She goes on and quotes from the English School District's website. It's a frequently asked question with the answer to the frequently asked question. It's about combined-classroom teaching. The question on the website says: “Will my child be successful in this class?” Here's the answer on the English School District website: “Research results demonstrate that multi-grade education has a positive effect on students” –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MS. MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

“Research results demonstrate that multi-grade education has a positive effect on students, particularly with respect to 'such things as social development and mental development' ….” She points out that there are two studies that are quoted: One study from 1986 and another study from 2002. As she says, this research that said multigrade education has a positive effect is based on research done 30 years ago. The other study that she refers to, the research was done 14 years ago.

 

She says, as a parent, she knows that technology has changed a lot since this research, and so have the number of students in certain areas demographically. This research isn't even up to date and we're expected to be okay with it and let the system work for our children. Then she puts a question to the Minister of Education: I ask you to do your homework on this.

 

The people are out there and they know what they're talking about. They know what the impact is. Parents are so upset over what's happening to their children. The Russian roulette has to do not only with the multigrade classes and you have some children – this whole thing of having so many grade fives and two children who are too many for that class and two will have to go into another class. I heard the Minister of Education get really upset because they were referred to as leftovers. Well, they are leftovers. They're leftovers from their own class. They're not going to be able to stay with their own group. They don't even get a choice. The Russian roulette is it gets decided by draw what children are in which classroom.

 

The same thing is happening with the Intensive Core French. On this day, which was the Francophonie Day, I think it's a good night for me to bring this up because a number of the emails I've had over the last two weeks in particular are about this. Of course why it's happening is because the draws are happening. That's why we're getting the emails, because people are starting to feel the effect because the administrators have to set up the classrooms and their schools for next September. So people are starting to feel the effect of the decisions that have been brought down on them.

 

Two schools in particular that I've been getting a lot of emails from: one is Roncalli, which is, I think, in the District of the Minister of Finance; and then also from Beachy Cove. I think that's an area that is of interest to the Minister of Education.

 

I'll quote from just one, from Ms. Budgell: My daughter will be going to grade six at Roncalli Elementary in September but we don't know if she will be doing English or French – they may know by now – and we don't know if she will be in grade five or six. Now that's wonderful, a child not knowing if she's doing the English or French and not knowing if she's going to be in the grade five or six room. She's stressed, I'm stressed, her teachers are stressed. Is that a way to treat the people that voted for you?

 

In her group of grade fives there will be – and this is language used by the parent, not by the head of the NLTA or not by me – four leftover kids. That's the language used by the parent. They will be left in a grade five classroom. The Minister of Education refers to this as multigrading, but what it really is, is four leftover kids being thrown in with a bunch of grade fives. How will they select those four unfortunate kids?

 

The Minister of Finance – she mentions the name, I won't do that – as my MHA, I really need your help. I don't have another MHA. If this is a conflict of interest, maybe you could appoint someone else to address my concerns.

 

She feels completely alone and left out because the Minister of Finance, her MHA, has abandoned her. She feels there is nobody she can turn to.

 

I need answers, and I want someone to talk to me about this as soon as possible. And she ends with: imagine if this was your child.

 

When the demonstration of parents and teachers and children was out here on the doorstep quarter to six last week, I met many of these parents. They were at that demonstration, parents who had kids. Several of them came to me about the Intensive Core French. I had several of them who came to me about the leftover kids. This is a reality. This is disgraceful. It's absolutely unbelievable. I feel like I'm in some kind of a strange movie, that this kind of thing – that's not multigrading. This is pure disgrace.

 

I can't believe that a Minister of Education who says he knows education and has taught at university, et cetera, that he would see this as something reasonable. I can't believe that anybody sitting across from me sees this as reasonable. It's disgraceful.

 

There's no plan. The administrators are being left with a mess. The administrators have no control over the decisions that are being made and they're the ones who have to deal with this.

 

This thing of the leftover children, we didn't make this up. This is exactly what it is. The children don't fit into that classroom. The two or three, they're left over. They can't fit in there and they're going to be put into another group with another grade and calling it multigrading. That is nonsense. It's disgraceful, and I can't believe we're living through it.

 

Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

 

CHAIR (Dempster): The hon. the Member for Terra Nova.

 

MR. HOLLOWAY: Thanks for the opportunity to stand up here tonight and speak to some of the things that have been said in this House.

 

I have to tell you, the time has come for an education in this House. It's been said time and time again that we have been afraid to go out in our districts; we've been afraid to go out and listen to the people; that we're not listening; that we haven't received the emails; that we haven't talked to people.

 

Well, I can tell you, I'm in this House from Monday until Thursday evening, but after that I go to my district. I go to my district Thursday night. I am in my district on Friday. I am in my district on Saturday. I'm in my district on Sunday. I am going to events and I'm hearing what people have to say.

 

I'm going to go back a little bit and talk about that we have been listening to the people of this province for a number of months. We went out with the Government Renewal Initiative and we asked people three important questions, because we knew the significant issue we had with the deficit and the need to continue with programs and services in this province and we needed advice from the people. So we went out and we asked them.

 

If anybody thinks that I don't know about the process we used, I can tell you I worked in it for 15 years. I know exactly what the process was around the consultation and the engagement. Is the consultation and engagement process we used legitimate? Absolutely! I can tell you I've had experience of doing about 140 sessions like that and looking at the key themes.

 

So we asked people: Thinking of all the things government spends your money on to provide residents of the province with services, what are the three things that could be stopped in order to save money? We also asked them: Given the fiscal challenges facing our province, what three things do you think government could do to raise money to increase revenue? The third question we asked them is: How can government be more innovative or efficient to provide quality services to lower costs?

 

Well, I can tell you this document came out in March and it had a series of themes that came from the discussions and the engagements we did around the province. The Member for Mount Pearl – Southlands said he can't remember any of the things that came out in this budget. He didn't hear it in any of the sessions that he was part of.

 

Well, I can tell you, here are the things that came out of the sessions. It talked about themes like regionalization, county system, regional governance structures. It talked about amalgamating communities and shared services. It talked about tax and it eliminates local service districts. When it talked about rural considerations, it talked about resettlement and the need for rural services.

 

On the theme of technology; of course, in this budget we have allocated $2 million to go toward broadband; use information and communication technology to reduce travel needs; open source technologies; use a digital form and signatures internally; online services. Those are things that came out in this budget.

 

In terms of the private sector; talking about workforce, talking about reductions. We have said it is our preferred option to use attrition. That is still the option we will use. The fear mongering that has gone on in this province is unreal. To say we're going to be laying off thousands of people in this province, I can tell you that is not the preferred option of this government. Attrition has been the preferred option.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. HOLLOWAY: The themes go on. It talks about departmental and board mergers. I can tell you some of those efficiencies we're finding in departments, we will see that as we go forward into this year.

 

We talked about wages. They talked about alternative work arrangements and retirement incentives. How can we help downsize the public service in the right way without creating fear in the public service?

 

Pension reform; all these themes, Madam Chair, came forward from the discussions and the engagement we did in this province.

 

Crown land; the Minister of Municipal Affairs talked tonight about Crown land and agricultural development. We're opening up Crown land so that we can be more sustainable in food security in this province.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. HOLLOWAY: My lord, what more do you want us to be doing?

 

In terms of health care; money in terms of helping our population become healthier, including our kids in our schools.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Especially in rural Newfoundland.

 

MR. HOLLOWAY: Especially in rural Newfoundland.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. HOLLOWAY: Talking about energy, and, of course, Muskrat Falls and oil and wind power.

 

Economic diversification; I was in Gander today, Madam Chair. This is Tourism Awareness Week. I was proud to be there to talk about the wonderful tourism industry that we have in this province, how we continue to invest money in this province and in tourism. There were a lot of people in the room and they were very happy about the investments we're making.

 

Reduced barriers to start-ups and small businesses; last week I had the ability to meet some great level II students who were interested in excelling in math and science, and technology and engineering who will be going to MIT and the University of Toronto, and will be exploring the Arctic this summer.

 

Those are investments we've made through the Research & Development Corporation. These are the things that people told us. So for Members opposite to say we haven't been listening, I can tell you the proof is here in the budget, because this document told us what we needed to do.

 

The Member opposite said he didn't hear anything about fees. We shouldn't be putting up fees. Well, I can tell you in this document it talks about fees. It talks about putting in tolls. It talks about ferry rates. Of course, yes, I spoke about the ferry to St. Brendan's, but I also said that ferry was being subsidized at 98 per cent. That is happening across our province.

 

Tuitions, other fees, taxes – oh my, we weren't told to put up taxes. Well, lo and behold, it's here. HST; participants suggest increasing the Harmonized Sales Tax. Well, could you imagine that? We were told to do it. Tobacco and alcohol tax, we talked about that bill here earlier tonight.

 

So for someone to say we haven't been told, we haven't been asked to do these things – another one, an elastic gas tax. I can tell you for sure, Madam Chair, that in my constituency office in Clarenville I had constituents who walked in when we were consulting and saying will you put up the gas. Increase the gas, that's an idea. You can increase it. At least you'll be able to control it when you need to bring it down. Sure enough, it is a temporary measure that we will bring back down as the price of oil goes up.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Temporary.

 

MR. HOLLOWAY: Temporary. Temporary measures; just like the levy, temporary measures. We've been able to mitigate that with some help from our friends in Ottawa. So to tell us we have not been listening to the people is absolutely false.

 

Now, the Members opposite talk about we're driving all these people out of the province. Well, I can tell you, let's do some comparisons, shall we, about the taxes. If someone is making $20,000, I can tell you now in Newfoundland and Labrador they're going to pay $233. In Nova Scotia they're going to pay $858. In New Brunswick they're going to pay $355, and in PEI they're going to pay $859. So we're driving people out into other Atlantic provinces because it's more expensive to live over there. Yes, more expensive to live here.

 

Madam Chair, $70,000 as an income, we're going to be paying $7,441 here in Newfoundland. In Nova Scotia you'll be paying $7,775. Now, in New Brunswick, yes, it's a little bit better at $7,009. But I can tell you in PEI it's going to be $7,429.

 

Let's go a little bit higher now, Madam Chair, and let's talk about a hundred thousand-dollar income. It would be $12,477 to be paid in taxes. In Nova Scotia it will be $12,834; in New Brunswick, yes, a little bit better again, $11,779. Yes, about $500 cheaper on a year, certainly competitive. In PEI it's going to be $12,439. For Members opposite to say that we're driving people out of this province because of the taxes is not true, Madam Chair. We are certainly competitive to any other Atlantic province when it comes to taxes.

 

The last thing I'll talk – well, I'm running out of time. I'm going to be back, I can tell you this.

 

When I come back I'm going to talk about that we do have a plan. It's built on a vision. We've been at it for 10 years and the Members opposite who were in government did not listen. I'll talk about that when I get up again.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Conception Bay South.

 

MR. PETTEN: Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

I was hoping we were going to be gone by now, but it seems like everyone is getting warmed up. Everybody is getting right excited trying to talk about the budget. I guess that includes me, Madam Chair.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

I ask Members for their co-operation to keep the noise down.

 

Thank you.

 

MR. PETTEN: Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

I was just sitting back, taking in and listening to some of the commentary being made. It's kind of interesting actually. I know the Member for – I struggle with the district names, but – Stephenville – Port au Port gave a very passionate speech on what we did, what the former government did. I was not part of it in this level. He said it's terrible. It's cherry-picking I guess too. It's talking about the tax cuts for the high-income earners.

 

Tax adjustments from 2004-2014, seeing you only concentrated on high-income earners – in budget 2004 was the introduction of a low-income tax reduction for the 2005 tax year; indexation of the Newfoundland and Labrador Child Benefit for low-income and the Seniors' Benefit; enhancement of the Mother Baby Nutrition Supplement.

 

Budget 2005: enhanced the Newfoundland and Labrador Child Benefit by increasing first-child benefit rate by $5 a month; there was a liquor licence levy reduction. In 2006, there was the elimination or reduction of 34 fees. In 2007, there was elimination of the surtax; indexation of low-income tax reduction enhancement.

 

I could go down through every one of these budgets. I know we all tend to sometimes, as I like to use the term, cherry-pick; it sounds great to get up and go on your tangent. These tax adjustments, if you talk about hurting an economy, they put actually over $4 billion back in our economy, and I don't think there is anyone going to apologize on this side of the House for putting $4 billion back into taxpayers' pockets. At least I won't be apologizing for it, Madam Chair.

 

I could down through more of them, but there are a few other things I'd like to touch on with my time. The Member for Terra Nova there went into a lot of stuff that I could care less to go into, some of it; but one thing, now our tax rates are where the rest of Atlantic Canada is, according to your numbers, so that's a good thing. Is that a good thing? I question that comment because prior to this budget, we had the lowest tax rates in Atlantic Canada. Wasn't that a good thing, or was that a bad thing?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

Order, please!

 

MR. PETTEN: Now you're up telling us how wonderful it is that we pay the same tax as the rest of Atlantic Canada. What is it? Do you want us to apologize for having low tax rates? Please, I mean –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. PETTEN: – don't insult intelligence in the House here. I know we're not as smart as everyone on the other side, but don't go insulting our intelligence on those commentaries. That doesn't wash with me, I'm sorry. That doesn't wash. Just because now we're going back to where we were, we're regressive, we're going backwards, it's a good thing? I caution you it's not, Madam Chair.

 

Another point I'd like to get to, because I'm going to try to hit a few things that I sit back and I absorb and I hear we all talk about the levy and there are changes made to the levy that I want to add that we never got money for it. It was an out for the government to get it because you don't have to pay the money now; you can pay it in 10 years' time or eight, what is it, six years' time when you return to surplus, 2022. But there's no money in our pockets –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. PETTEN: You don't have to pay your bill now; you pay it later. That's not money coming in from the federal government. That's just I'll pay you later. I'll take it on the tick. In the community I come from it's a very common term: You're on the tick. Well, I guess they're on the tick with Ottawa.

 

Others are getting real money. We're getting, okay, you can pay us back later on. It's a great relationship they got. I hope the federal government would play the same game no matter – I heard commentary last week and it made a lot of sense, talking about your relationship with your federal cousins.

 

It's an NDP government in Alberta and Saskatchewan got the Saskatchewan Party. The question is: Would they be treated differently because they're not the same stripe as the federal government? If that's the case, it's a sad state of affairs of politics in the country. It's a sad state of the federal government.

 

Yet, the provincial government can get there and the Premier of this province can stand in front of the microphone and boast about the great relationship we have with Ottawa. So I wonder would Premier Notley or Premier Wall say the same thing because they're not the same stripe and they obviously don't share the same beliefs. You do it because you're part of the Federation. You're a part of Canada. Not because you're the same stripe.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. HOLLOWAY: A point of order, Madam Chair.

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

The Chair recognizes the Member for Terra Nova on a point of order.

 

MR. HOLLOWAY: I believe I heard the Member opposite curse in this House.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) Standing Orders 49.

 

MR. HOLLOWAY: Standing Order 49.

 

I thought he used the F-word, Madam Chair.

 

CHAIR: The Chair did not hear the Member (inaudible).

 

The hon. the Member for Conception Bay South.

 

MR. PETTEN: You know, Madam Chair, I will point something out. Clearly, I did not and I take great offence that he would play small-time politics in this House to say I did that. I know what I say. If you want me to swear, we'll do so outside this House. Not while I'm in this House. To play small games like that is totally disrespectful.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. PETTEN: That's low, Madam Chair, and he knows it, with his grin on his face.

 

MR. LETTO: (Inaudible.)

 

MR. PETTEN: No, my blood pressure is great – the Member for Lab West is asking me.

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

It's getting late into the evening, but I ask all hon. Members when a person is on their feet, please keep the noise levels down. The Chair is having trouble hearing the speaker.

 

Thank you.

 

The hon. the Member for Conception Bay South.

 

MR. PETTEN: Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

This is difficult. I thought I was going to be home watching the third period of the hockey game. I didn't anticipate this.

 

Madam Chair, in my last few minutes – if I don't get interrupted again – I'd like to talk about the levy. There is a reduction on the levy. No doubt, there's a reduction. When it was implemented, you had a $20,000 to $50,000 range where you had to pay a levy. I guess one of the sobering thoughts that hit me was that 74 per cent of our residents make less than $50,000. So the adjustment was made for that percentage of people. It was one of the most –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. PETTEN: Madam Chair, I'm having trouble hearing myself speak, let alone anyone else –

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. PETTEN: That was one startling amount. Members opposite, I've talked to them privately. We've talked about it. You hear it in the House, we read it in documents, and I heard Members get up and speak on it. The levy is based on your taxation, on your line 236 if I'm not mistaken.

 

If you look at the income, you are looking at probably in the vicinity of $12 an hour on the old system. So now we are gone up to the $50,000 range. They still boost about the 236 as being the amount that you are taxed on, on your net income on line 236. The deductions in that – that is not your income tax. People think your basic, your EI, your CPP, there are other deductions and everyone does not qualify for those deductions.

 

The levy has been talked about and talked about. It will be talked more when the bill is introduced in this House. There have been adjustments, which I won't say is a bad thing, but I will say that any form of a levy no matter what income level, it's insulting to people of this province. That's about the best way to describe it.

 

I talked to people and they tell me it's galling. June 2, they are going to have to go to the gas pumps now – I mean, as my colleague for Cape St. Francis stated, they are lining up at gas stations now trying to save on what they'll be nailed with 16½ cents Wednesday.

 

Members can get up on that side of the House – I know it's a bit of politicking and they are trying to save face; I get all of that. I understand the dilemma, to be honest with you, and I've never once got up and said that I don't understand the dilemma. But to get up and to be bantering about how wonderful everything is and how much we don't understand. We fully understand. We get it. We understand where you are coming from. We do.

 

But it galls me to sit here and listen to the theatrics of getting up and making it seem like all is well. Because I tell you, all is not well in this province. All is not well with this budget. The people are not happy. If you don't believe that, you're not listening to the same people we are because what we hear and I hear it daily, no matter where I go, no matter who I speak to, it is a conversation and none of our districts are different. The faces change, but the people are the same. They have the same issues. I don't think there is anyone in this House can dispute that.

 

Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Bonavista.

 

MR. KING: Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

I'd like to start off by (inaudible) and the Member for Cape St. Francis, I like the Member as a person but some of the stuff he said last week and tonight, it is, as the Member for CBS pointed out, small-time politics.

 

He got up last week and said all the government Members – the Member for Terra Nova brought this up – are afraid to go back to your districts. Well, Madam Chair, I've been back to my district every weekend since this budget has come out. I have held public consultations; I have met with groups and organizations. I'm not afraid. I have never backed down from anything in my life and I don't plan on backing down from anything now.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. KING: For the Member for Mount Pearl North, he's pretty good on the Twitter and the Facebook but he won't say anything to your face, though. He said I'm not going to be intimidated by the Member for Bonavista yelling at me across the way. Well, you know what, I used some unparliamentary language last week and I apologized to this hon. House for saying it. But, I'm a very passionate person when it comes to my district, such as all the Members on the government House side, and I'm sure all the Members on the Opposition side as well.

 

When the Member for Mount Pearl North says he's not going to be intimidated by me yelling across the aisle, well I'm not going to be intimidated by him posting on Facebook, posting on Twitter negative things about me.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. KING: I will speak for my district as I have since I got elected and I'll continue to do so.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: It's bullying.

 

MR. KING: It is bullying (inaudible).

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. KENT: A point of order, Madam Chair. 

 

CHAIR: The Member for Mount Pearl North on a point of order. 

 

MR. KENT: Standing Order 49, the Minister of Natural Resources and the Member for Harbour Grace – Port de Grave just accused me of bullying. That's very unparliamentary, and I'd ask them both to stand and withdraw their comments.

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

There is no point of order.

 

The hon. the Member for Bonavista. 

 

MR. KING: Thank you, Madam Chair. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: The Chair did not hear the comment. I'm sorry, I can't respond if I did not hear –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. KING: If I could get to speak, Madam Chair, I might get to my points. 

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. KING: I've got seven-and-a-half minutes left and I plan on using each of them.

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

When the Chair is speaking, I ask for respect in this hon. House to acknowledge the Chair.

 

The Chair did not hear the comments.

 

The hon. the Member for Bonavista.

 

MR. KING: Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

So we're talking about small-time politics, and the Member for Cape St. Francis has gotten up and said you're afraid to go out in your districts, or none of the backbenchers will get up to speak on this motion here tonight. I think quite a few of us have actually gotten up here to speak tonight.

 

I said I'd like to have another opportunity to speak on the budget, and I didn't realize my second time had been utilized. So I want to talk a little bit about the fishery. The fishery is a big part of the District of Bonavista. We have a very good fishery. We have a big crab fishery in the District of Bonavista. Our largest supplier is in the Town of Bonavista at the OCI plant, who employs about 370 people as seasonal workers. That is a big employer, but we'll talk what's in the budget for diversification.

 

I'm going to quote, Madam Chair, what's in the budget for the fishery. “… $2 million in a new Seafood and Aquaculture Innovation and Transition Program supporting technology and innovation in harvesting.”

 

Madam Chair, that's very good for the District of Bonavista. “… $100,000 to establish a Fisheries Advisory Council to provide industry stakeholders with the opportunity to offer advice on present or emerging issues in the fishing industry. The Council will play a key role in the creation of a strategic action plan on cod revitalization.”

 

Currently, I talked about the plant in Bonavista. They had phase one of their plant renovations done recently. They're waiting for phase two right now. So this relates back to the groundfish. As we see the shrimp stocks and crab stocks go down, we're seeing an increase in the cod.

 

This phase two that will take place at OCI, they don't know what they're going to do yet, but this Advisory Council, this funding can help them set up, get ready for the groundfish when it comes back in full force. It's no secret that the District of Bonavista – the old Bonavista South, the old Trinity North district – was devastated in 1992 with the closure of the Northern cod fishery. We had 1,400 people employed at the FPI plant in Port Union. We had another 700 in Trouty; we had another 700 in Charleston. So to lose that number of jobs in the cod fishery is devastating for this area. To see investments like that coming back to the District of Bonavista is hopeful. It is good news.

 

I want to talk a little bit more about infrastructure. The Third Party, the NDP talk about a $20 million slush fund. Let me talk about what else the NDP has done.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: It's $30 million.

 

MR. KING: Sorry, $30 million.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: It's gone up now.

 

MR. KING: They're gone up, all right. I'll make that note.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Inflation.

 

MR. KING: Inflation.

 

Anyway, what they've also done is fear mongered. Them and their buddies at the unions have fear mongered, putting out misinformation to the general public. I had one fellow come up to me when I was in my district and say: My poor old mother, she's going to lose her $1,000 she gets in October. I said: My son, your mother is not going to lose her $1,000. She's going to get roughly $1,000 in October, plus she's going to get $455 more in January. She's going to get another $455 in April. She's going to get another $455 in July.

 

Fear mongering; I lived with an NDP government in Nova Scotia and that's a stink you can't wash off.

 

Getting back to infrastructure and the $30 million. We've got projects where the $30 million slush fund is going to actually benefit the District of Bonavista. The neck in George's Brook –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. KING: – the 4.3 kilometres of pavement there, that's going to be partially funded by our Building Canada Fund.

 

Also, the water project in Milton-George's Brook, Milton has had water issues for the last three or four years. That project is currently with the federal government right now to get approved so they can get a stable water source. I'd argue, that's good infrastructure spending. People actually have reliable water. I think that's a good thing.

 

We're able to leverage money for the Bonavista water tower, the bar bridge in Trinity Bay North; all good things. We're spending $226 million for transportation infrastructure; $344 million in municipal infrastructure. So if that's not good investments, not good diversification, I don't know what is. That's going to create jobs, shovel-ready jobs in the District of Bonavista. I think that's a good investment. So when you talk about losing jobs, that's creating jobs, good-paying jobs.

 

I have about a minute and 15 seconds left, so I'm going to talk about tourism. Tourism is the largest industry in my district. It's the third largest tourism hub in the province. It was second. Last year it went to my friend for Fogo Island – Cape Freels, but we're hoping to get that back. This year, tourism numbers are up in the District of Bonavista. You can't tell me that it is not going to be good for our area. It is more jobs, more money coming to the district.

 

Do you know what? The Minister of Business, Tourism, Culture and Rural Development, and his department, is investing $13 million in tourism marketing. That is going to get people out into the district; another $18.5 million to support culture and heritage initiatives. So, Madam Chair, I think that is good for the District of Bonavista.

 

My time is winding down, so I'd like to thank this hon. House for the opportunity to speak. I took the opportunity to speak, I was challenged to speak and I wanted to speak, so I did. Thank you for the opportunity to do so.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Terra Nova.

 

MR. HOLLOWAY: Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

I want to continue on from the last time I got up and spoke and just to talk a little bit about – and I'll do it a bit calmer now this time – this trend of we have been engaging the people of this province. I just want to talk about that, tonight, we are discussing the fact that we needed to increase our borrowing to the tune of $3.4 billion and why have we had to do that. Well, we needed to continue with the investment in a number of programs and services in this province. It's all about getting this province back into sustainability.

 

I just want to reference, Madam Chair, that sustainability means keeping our communities alive and supporting them into the future. How do we get to that? Well, go back to about more than 10 years ago and I was involved in a piece of work that set a vision for this province. What's a vision you might ask? Well, a vision is a glimpse of what potential lies ahead for this region, for the province, and it is based on sustainability pillars that look at demographics, they look at the private sector investment, the delivery of public services and programs and they look at infrastructure and skill development.

 

So when I look at what was contained in the vision – and you'll see that in this budget, there are number of things that we talked about 10 years ago in terms of making a region and the province sustainable, that those investments need to be had. There was co-operation and collaboration between and within communities. It was something that we saw, so certainly there's money in this budget and I'll speak to it.

 

It talks about regional co-operation, in terms of investments in agriculture and in tourism. There were investments in public transport and broadband. These were the things we were seeing 10 years ago that we needed to try to achieve to make us sustainable.

 

Road infrastructure needed to have some investments; investments in healthy, active living. Also, the one thing that there has been a lot of discussion about over the last number of days is full-day kindergarten. It talked about changes to the education delivery in the K to 12 system that allowed for a new focus on education quality and the quest for excellence. That was 10 years ago that we talked about as we would get to 2020, this was a kind of province that we all wanted to live in.

 

Tonight we're talking about the need to raise our borrowing ability so that we can continue with those programs and services. Well, I can tell you that when you think about sustainable development, Madam Chair, sustainable development must be rooted in a holistic and attainable vision for the future. They just talked about a vision, so it was based on the things that we were hearing people were telling us. It was based on a plan.

 

I've heard the Leader of the Opposition talk about there's no plan for this province; we've had no plan as a government. I've heard Members opposite talk about that we have no plan. I can tell you that we've had a tremendous plan that's guided this budget. The things we've talked about have certainly been around meeting basic needs, tackling poverty and promoting equity; a sense of place and physical and cultural identity; intergenerational equity; talk about governance and participation by our citizens; talk about integrated social and economic factors. These are all the things that are going to support our sustainability in this province.

 

What have we done around that? I can tell you that in the budget we talked about $5.9 million for community-based organizations and agencies to deliver programs and services to encourage healthy living. That was in a vision of 10 years ago. Now we've put it in part of our plan for the investments that we've made in this budget. Again, why we've needed to raise our lending ability and, therefore, our budget itself is $8.34 billion this year. We're going to continue because we need to make these investments.

 

It also talks about $1.84 million for programs and services; focus on recreation, physical activity and wellness; $300,000 for age-friendly transportation services. There's a great one that's happening in my district in Clarenville, when it came about in 2013, one of the first in the province. Of course, we're continuing to invest in those kinds of projects in this budget; $100,000 to support continued development of age-friendly communities throughout Newfoundland and Labrador.

 

They've done tremendous work, Madam Chair, in terms of helping seniors learn how to use computers, to engage with our young people, to be out into the community and utilizing our College of the North Atlantic. Those are all the things that we talked about. Roads and ferries; the K-12 system itself, the Minister of Education has talked about; and community investment, $72.7 million for projects under multi-year capital works, municipal capital works.

 

These are all the things that are based on a plan, a vision that was identified some 10 years ago and now we've identified in this budget. So I'm glad I was able to stand, speak and talk about the budget that we put together. It is based on a sound plan.

 

Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

CHAIR: Seeing no further speakers, we'll call the vote.

 

Shall the resolution carry? 

 

All those in favour, 'aye.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: All those against, 'nay.'

 

Carried. 

 

On motion, resolution carried.

 

A bill, “An Act To Amend The Loan Act, 2016.” (Bill 32)

 

CLERK (Ms. Barnes): Clause 1.

 

CHAIR: Shall clause 1 carry?

 

All those in favour, 'aye.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: All those against, 'nay.'

 

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 Loan Act, 2016.

 

CHAIR: Shall the long 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 Bill 32 carried 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 resolution and a bill consequent thereto, carried. 

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Madam Chair, I move that that the Committee rise, report the resolutions in Bills 22 and 32 carried without amendment.

 

CHAIR: The motion is that the Committee rise and report the resolution in Bills 22 and 32 carried without amendment?

 

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

 

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: The hon. the Deputy Speaker.

 

MS. DEMPSTER: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of Ways and Means have considered the matters to them referred and have directed me to report that they have adopted certain resolutions and recommend that bills be introduced to give effect to the same.

 

MR. SPEAKER: The Chair of the Committee of Ways and Means reports that the Committee have considered the matters to them referred and have adopted certain resolutions and recommend that bills be introduced to give effect to the same.

 

When shall the reports be received?

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Now.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Now.

 

On motion, report received and adopted.

 

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

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board, that a resolution respecting the imposition of taxes on tobacco, Bill 22, be now read the first time.

 

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that the resolution be now read a first time.

 

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

 

All those in favour?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

MR. SPEAKER: All those against?

 

Carried.

 

CLERK: “That it is expedient to bring in a measure respecting the imposition of taxes on tobacco.”

 

On motion, resolution read a first time.

 

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

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board, that the resolution be now read the second time.

 

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

 

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

 

All those in favour?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Those against?

 

Carried.

 

CLERK: “That it is expedient to bring in a measure respecting the imposition of taxes on tobacco.”

 

On motion, resolution read a second time.

 

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

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board, for leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Amend The Revenue Administration Act No. 5, Bill 22, and I further move that the said bill be now read the first time.

 

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded by the hon. the Government House Leader that he shall have leave to introduce Bill 22 and that the bill be now read a first time.

 

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

 

All those in favour?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Those against?

 

Carried.

 

Motion, the hon. the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board to introduce a bill, “An Act To Amend The Revenue Administration Act No. 5,” carried. (Bill 22)

 

CLERK: A bill, An Act To Amend The Revenue Administration Act No. 5. (Bill 22)

 

On motion, Bill 22 read a first time.

 

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

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board, that Bill 22 be now read a second time.

 

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that Bill 22 be now read a second time.

 

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

 

All those in favour?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Those against?

 

Carried.

 

CLERK: A bill, An Act To Amend The Revenue Administration Act No. 5. (Bill 22)

 

On motion, Bill 22 read a second time.

 

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

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board, that Bill 22 be now read a third time.

 

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that Bill 22 be now read a third time.

 

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

 

All those in favour?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Those against?

 

Carried.

 

CLERK: A bill, An Act To Amend The Revenue Administration Act No. 5. (Bill 22)

 

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

 

On motion, a bill, “An Act To Amend the Revenue Administration Act No. 5,” read a third time, ordered passed and its title be as on the Order Paper. (Bill 22)

 

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

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board, that a resolution relating to the raising of loans by the province, Bill 32, be now read a first time.

 

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that this resolution be read a first time.

 

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

 

All those in favour?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Those against?

 

Carried.

 

CLERK: “That it is expedient to bring in a measure to authorize the raising from time to time by way of loan on the credit of the province, in addition to the sum of money already voted, a sum of money not exceeding $1,800,000,000.”

 

On motion, resolution read a first time.

 

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

 

I'm sorry, the hon. the Government House Leader.

 

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

 

Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board, that the resolution be now read a second time.

 

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

 

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

 

All those in favour?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Those against?

 

Carried.

 

CLERK: Second reading of the resolution.

 

On motion, resolution read a second time.

 

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

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board, for leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Amend The Loan Act, 2016, Bill 32, and I further move that the said bill be now read a first time.

 

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded by the hon. Government House Leader that he shall have leave to introduce Bill 32 and that the bill shall now be read a first time.

 

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

 

All those in favour?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Those against?

 

Carried.

 

Motion, the hon. the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board to introduce a bill, “An Act To Amend The Loan Act, 2016,” carried. (Bill 32)

 

CLERK: A bill, An Act To Amend The Loan Act, 2016. (Bill 32)

 

On motion, Bill 32 read a first time.

 

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

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board, that Bill 32 be now read a second time.

 

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that Bill 32 be now read a second time.

 

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

 

All those in favour?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

MR. SPEAKER: All those against?

 

Carried.

 

CLERK: A bill, An Act To Amend The Loan Act, 2016. (Bill 32)

 

On motion, Bill 32 read a second time.

 

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

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board, that Bill 32 be now read a third time.

 

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that Bill 32 be now read a third time.

 

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

 

All those in favour?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

MR. SPEAKER: All those against?

 

Carried.

 

CLERK: A bill, An Act To Amend The Loan Act, 2016. (Bill 32)

 

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

 

On motion, a bill, “An Act To Amend The Loan Act, 2016,” read a third time, ordered passed and its title be as on the Order Paper. (Bill 32)

 

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

 

MS. COADY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

It has come to my attention this evening that in response to a question asked by the Member for Ferryland on May 25 concerning the termination agreement, Hansard reflects that I said at the end of my response “contract agreement” instead of termination agreement. Please let the record show, I meant, as the Member for Ferryland said, termination agreement.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

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

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, given the hour of the day, I would move, seconded by the Member for Placentia West – Bellevue, that the House do now adjourn.

 

MR. SPEAKER: It has been moved and seconded that the House do now adjourn.

 

All those in favour?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Those against?

 

Carried.

 

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