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June 7, 2016                     HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS                     Vol. XLVIII No. 40


 

The House met at 1:30 p.m.

 

MR. SPEAKER (Osborne): Order, please!

 

Admit strangers.

 

I would like to welcome Mr. Egbert Walters and Adolph Crant to the Speaker's gallery today. Eg Walters, as most of you know him, is the General Manager of the Community Food Sharing Association. Even though this is Mr. Walters' occupation, it is obvious to all that know him that it is also his passion.

 

This passion combined with his skill set has grown the Community Food Sharing Association to the successful organization that it is today. Since joining the association in 1992, Mr. Walters has spearheaded the acquisition of millions of dollars in food donations and consumables, which is no small feat.

 

Mr. Walters and his team work far beyond 40 hours a week and this demonstration of commitment is not seen every day. It is for this very reason that I would like to recognize Mr. Eg Walters today for his unwavering dedication to his community and to his province.

 

Welcome to the House.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

Statements by Members

 

MR. SPEAKER: For Members' statements today we have the Members for the Districts of Stephenville – Port au Port, Burin – Grand Bank, Terra Nova, Ferryland and Mount Pearl North.

 

The hon. the Member for Stephenville – Port au Port.

 

MR. FINN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to acknowledge the Stephenville High Spartans boys and girls track and field teams. On May 28, the boys' team captured their sixth straight provincial banner and the girls placed second.

 

Both teams included athletes and a coach who also recently took home further accolades at the School Sport Newfoundland and Labrador annual award banquet. Stephenville High's Jesse Byrne was recently SSNL male athlete of the year, and Katara White was named runner-up as female athlete of the year. 

 

School Sport NL also recognized coach Rosie Forsey with an honour award as well as a coaching service award for her 30 years of dedication in coaching some of our province's top athletes.

 

Under Rosie's leadership in coaching track and field, cross-country running and skiing, Stephenville High has captured over 40 provincial banners in the last 10 years alone. In addition to Stephenville High's recent success, the Stephenville Middle School girls' and boys' track and field teams, also coached by Rosie, took home first and second place respectively at the provincial level.

 

I ask all hon. Members to join me in congratulating the amazing young athletes of Stephenville and their esteemed coach, Rosie Forsey.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Burin – Grand Bank.

 

MS. HALEY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize the Lord's Cove Recreation Committee for winning the regional Community Physical Activity Challenge sponsored by Recreation Newfoundland and Labrador, despite being pitted against many larger towns in the area.

 

The residents of Lord's Cove were joined by those of Lamaline, Point au Gaul and Point May in completing an array of weekly physical activities, ranging from a poker walk, Nerf gun war, beach bonfire, to many other during the month of April when the competition was held.

 

The committee is especially appreciative of the work done by volunteer, Lisa Sheppard, who organized a fitness night for each week during April. As well, the local school, St. Joseph's Academy, was a worthy partner in the venture, allowing the participants to use the school gymnasium, free of charge.

 

I ask all Members to join me in congratulating the residents of Lord's Cove and surrounding towns on winning their region's Community Physical Activity Challenge. 

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. HOLLOWAY: Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise in this hon. House to acknowledge the accomplishments of athletes and volunteers in my district.

 

The Clarenville Area Recreation Association is responsible for the delivery of recreation programming to the residents of the community. The CARA Association, in partnership with the Clarenville Lions Club, held its annual award ceremony on May 31.

 

The following individuals and groups were recognized at this year's event: The Peter S. Cholock Senior Male and Female Athletes of the Year were awarded to Jacob Evans and Emma Hackett; Special Olympics Male and Female Athlete of the Year were awarded to Nick Chafe and Katelyn Butt; William T. Davis Team of the Year went to the Clarenville High Senior Boys Volleyball Team.

 

The Junior Male and Female Athlete of the Year went to Cole Mackey and Amber Fitzpatrick; Junior Team of the Year was awarded to Clarenville Middle grade eight Boys Volleyball Team; Leroy Miller Sports Builder of the Year was given to Robert Pond; Lions Senior Volunteer of the Year was awarded to Mary Felkar; the Lions Junior Volunteer of the Year went to Teeannah Jennex; and the President's Award was shared with former CARA member Keith Randell and current member Neil Greening.

 

I ask all hon. Members to join me in applauding the accomplishments of this fine group of community volunteers and outstanding athletes.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. HUTCHINGS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize a constituent of mine from my district. Amelda Boland lost her courageous battle with cancer at the young age of 49 on May 21, 2016. Amelda was married to Jerry for almost 26 years and had two wonderful daughters Shae-Lynn and Danielle.

 

Amelda was well known all over the province for her love of Girl Guiding. She has been involved in the guiding movement for the past 27 years. Amelda's nickname was “guideaholic.” She received every award there was to be awarded within the Girl Guides. She received her last reward, The Dedicated Guider Award, the day before she passed away, at her home in Renews.

 

Amelda was a much respected leader, volunteer and loved by all guides and colleagues. Amelda lived her life with great determination and never took no for an answer in whatever ventures or causes she took on.

 

During Amelda's funeral many guides from all over the Avalon attended and she was acknowledged with a Girl Guide honour guard.

 

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask all my colleagues of this House of Assembly to join me in honouring the life of Amelda Boland and the contribution she made to our youth and to our province overall.

 

Thank you very much.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. KENT: Good morning, Mr. Speaker.

 

I rise in this hon. House today to recognize the 60 anniversary of the Mount Pearl Lions Club. The Lions celebrated their 60 anniversary at Park Place in Mount Pearl on May 27.

 

The Lions Charter in Mount Pearl started in 1956 and consisted of 28 members. Their longest serving member is Mr. Fred Anderson who joined the club in its Charter year. Currently, the Charter has 32 members, including me, involved in our community. The Mount Pearl Lions Club undertakes many projects of a humanitarian nature, within the community, nationally and internationally.

 

Current projects the club is working on include collecting used eyeglasses to send to other countries, organizing the Mount Pearl Santa Claus Parade, working with schools to offer scholarships at junior high and senior high schools and holding peace poster contests in schools, plus numerous other activities. The club is very active with helping the youth and seniors in our community.

 

Mr. Speaker, I ask all Members of this House to join me in congratulating the Mount Pearl Lions Club members as they celebrate their 60th anniversary, and for all the great work they do to contribute to our community.

 

Thank you.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: It has come to my attention that we have a delegation from Botwood and Peterview who are here for Question Period today. The Town of Botwood is represented by Mayor Scott Sceviour, Deputy Mayor Dennis Woolridge, town manager Stephen Jerrett and the Town of Peterview by Mayor Jim Samson.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. SPEAKER: For Honour 100 today, we have the Member for the District of Virginia Waters – Pleasantville.

 

MR. B. DAVIS: 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, the Newfoundland Mercantile Marine or the Newfoundland Forestry Corps. This will be followed by a moment of silence.

 

Lest we forget: Wesley Watts, Norman Way, Leonard Webb, George Webber, Hubert Webber, Archibald Thomas Wells, Clarence Wells, Daniel Wells, Frederick Wells, Harry Augustus Wells, Hubert Wells, Joseph Warren Wells, Robert Wells, Edward West, Stanley West, Harry T. Westcott, Augustus Patrick Whalen, Simeon Whalen, Frederick Wheeler, James Joseph Wheeler, Reuben Wheeler, James Whelan, Thomas J. Whelan, Albert Clarence White, Alec J. White, Arthur E. White, Frederick White, Frederick J. White, Gordon A. White, Hollie White, John White, Michael White, Reginald Bayley White, Richard White, Thomas White, William White, William Arthur White, Willis White, Archibald Whitehorn, Edgar Charles Whitten.

 

(Moment of silence.)

 

MR. SPEAKER: Please be seated.

 

Statements by Ministers.

 

Statements by Ministers

 

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

 

MS. COADY: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to highlight the provincial government's participation in the 29th Annual Baie Verte Mining Conference from June 3 to 4.

 

Along with the hon. Premier, the Member of Parliament for Coast of Bays-Central-Notre Dame and the MHA for the District of Baie Verte – Green Bay, I had the honour of attending. At the conference, we had the pleasure of exchanging information and ideas about the province's business, mining and mineral exploration industries and the investment community.

 

The innovation and ingenuity, the excitement and interest that the conference attendees are contributing to the mining sector is remarkable. While mineral commodity prices are under pressure in the current economy, the companies and people of the Baie Verte region are thriving.

 

I was pleased to tour Anaconda's Pine Cove gold mine and meet individuals from its vibrant, young workforce. The provincial government is supporting Anaconda Mining in its efforts to expand its operations through a $400,000 repayable loan under the Business Investment Program and a $100,000 investment through the Business Development Support Program.

 

I also toured Rambler Mines and Metals' copper-gold Ming mine. The company recently announced financing was in place for expansion plans that will extend the life of the mine to at least 2021 and perhaps beyond. Last month, Rambler received the John T. Ryan Safety Award – a first for a Newfoundland and Labrador underground mine.

 

Both companies continue to actively explore projects in the area to expand their resources and are significantly contributing to the industry and economy in the Baie Verte region, and ultimately the province.

 

Our government is supporting growth in the mineral industry through prospector training and mentoring, the mineral incentive program, public geoscience, the core storage program, promotions and efficient and transparent regulation. We are committed to working closely with the mining industry and with communities to attract investment and to develop the economy in Newfoundland and Labrador.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. HUTCHINGS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I thank the minister for an advance copy of her statement. We, too, certainly congratulate those that attended the mining conference and its exchange of ideas as they move the industry forward. It's good to see the mining industry in the province is active and has certainly experienced growth, despite some downturns in some other commodity markets. I want to congratulate Rambler Mines and Metals on the financing announced and look forward to hearing good news from the company in the future.

 

I know the prior administration as well were heavily involved in the mining sector, and certainly through Research & Development Corporation, the investment fund, also worked with the mining industry and continued to grow – very important to our economy in Newfoundland and Labrador.

 

Certainly, extended congratulations to Anaconda on their investment, and as we invested in local resource companies in the past I'm certainly glad to support this investment through the Business Investment Program. 

 

Well done! 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MS. ROGERS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

I thank the minister for an advance copy of her statement, and good to hear of the mining developments on the Baie Verte Peninsula. We hope that our investment in Anaconda Mining is viable. It would be interesting what returns we can expect for our $100,000 investment.

 

What we really need from government is a long-term economic plan for growth and a sustainable economy not so dependent on the whims on the global commodity prices. We heard plenty of promises about diversifying the economy from them during the last election but nothing since, and certainly not in this budget.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

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

 

MR. JOYCE: Mr. Speaker, I rise in this hon. House to note that Roadcheck 2016 will be carried out in our province, and throughout North America from today, June 7, until Thursday, June 9.

 

Roadcheck 2016 is an initiative of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance and represents a major undertaking by vehicle safety enforcement personnel across Canada, the United States and Mexico.

 

Mr. Speaker, over the next three days, provincial highway enforcement officers will conduct an inspection blitz of commercial vehicles, and remind owners and operators of safe operating practices. Officers will mainly conduct the North American Standard Level 1 Inspection, which is a 37-step procedure that checks both driver and vehicle safety. Supporting safe and sustainable communities is a priority for our government and our participation in Roadcheck 2016 speaks to this commitment.

 

Mr. Speaker, each year our dedicated staff check hundreds of vehicles throughout the province during the Roadcheck exercise. As we undertake Roadcheck 2016, I would like to take this opportunity to recognize the great work of our enforcement staff, who perform their duties faithfully every day. Their work is greatly appreciated by our government, and is vital to the safety of motorists throughout Newfoundland and Labrador. I also want to applaud the efforts of everyone in the commercial transport industry who promote road safety and follow best practices.

 

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.

 

I thank the minister for an advance copy of his statement. Road safety is very important to us also in keeping motorists, passengers and pedestrians safe each and every day. We do recognize Roadcheck 2016 and recognize the work of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance and the undertaking of this initiative.

 

I'd also like to extend and thank the enforcement staff that perform their duties every day to make sure our roads are safe for pedestrians. As we come on to summer months, I'd like to encourage all drivers, no matter if it's commercial or whatever, to stay safe on the roads. We're having too many accidents. Road safety is the responsibility of everybody.

 

Thank you very much.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MS. ROGERS: Mr. Speaker, I, too, thank the minister for an advance copy of his statement. Safety on the province's highways is of paramount importance. These spot inspections are really the only way we have to protect the motoring public from commercial vehicles that may be in a poor state of repair.

 

Good luck to the staff and to those on the highways. We must remind people about our Move Over and other regulations when encountering people whose work puts them in harm's way on our province's highway. I thank the dedicated enforcement staff.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MS. ROGERS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Bravo!

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Further statements by ministers?

 

Oral Questions.

 

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, last Thursday the Premier stated that he would release the Justice report. Yesterday, the Premier had his Minister of Justice tell the people that the report would not be released.

 

I'll ask the Premier: Why the change of position? Why not release the Justice report as you have committed?

 

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

 

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

 

Certainly what the Premier said was that he'd like to get the Justice opinion out as soon as possible, and that he would go back to our department, the Department of Justice and Public Safety, and see what options there were. Solicitors within our department made it quite clear that doing so would breach solicitor-client privilege. Not only that, it would prejudice the process.

 

Do we want a legal opinion out, that has been given to government, and that could possibly influence the testimony of individuals that may be called under subpoena to testify in front of the Auditor General? It's not something we thought was right, and could influence and have a negative effect on government matters.

 

Thank you.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Opposition Leader.

 

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

 

My recollection is the Premier said in one day nine times that he would release the information.

 

I'll ask the Premier again: Knowing that, Premier, you've made a very clear commitment to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, will you now release the secretive Justice report and documentation today?

 

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

 

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

 

Certainly, I think the Member opposite understands the concept of solicitor-client privilege, but perhaps he doesn't. Again, what the Premier has said all along was there would be a Justice review done. That review was done by officials within my department and an opinion was provided that this matter should be referred to the Auditor General, something I think that the other side actually concurred with.

 

Again, it was advised by solicitors and lawyers within the Department of Justice that releasing this opinion at this time would prejudice the process. The important thing to remember here is that the Auditor General has absolutely all information that is necessary to conduct a full and thorough investigation into the severance payout to Mr. Martin. I think that is something that all of us here in this province want to know how this happened. The Auditor General has the information necessary to make this determination.

 

Thank you. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Opposition Leader.

 

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

 

I say to the Premier that the report, who was doing the report, and the relationship between you and who was doing the report has not changed. It has not changed since you said – and I quote – that you would happily release the Justice report as long as the AG didn't have any objections – end of quote.

 

Well, the Auditor General has said he had no issue with government releasing the report.

 

So I ask the Premier again: Why are you hiding behind solicitor-client privilege when you can release this report? Why are you keeping it secret, Premier? 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

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

 

Again, I figure that the Member opposite, with his background in policing, would understand the concept of solicitor-client privilege, but apparently not so.

 

What we've said all along here is that a Justice review would be done. Once was that review was concluded, it was determined that the only way to get all of the information necessary to determine the Ed Martin severance payout would be to have the Auditor General do this.

 

Obviously, the Auditor General is not going to be influenced. The Auditor General has no issue with the release of this because it is not his opinion; it's not his solicitor-client privilege to waive. But I don't think it's a good suggestion here that individuals who may be called in to give testimony in front of the Auditor General should have the legal opinion provided to government before they do so. If the Member opposite can explain how that doesn't prejudice the process, I would love to understand that.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Opposition Leader. 

 

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

 

I'll ask the Premier, just to be clear, if he has or has not provided the secret Justice report to the Auditor General? Have you or have you not provided it, Premier? 

 

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

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Absolutely, everything from government has been provided to the Auditor General so that they can do a full and thorough investigation of the Nalcor payment to Mr. Martin. 

 

Thank you. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Opposition Leader. 

 

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

 

Mr. Speaker, I'll ask the Premier: How can you release information to the Auditor General – he said it's not going to create a bias from his perspective; it doesn't matter to the work that he's going to do. So how can you release the information to the Auditor General but not to the public? You said you would release the information to the public; why are you not doing that now? What's in this report that you're refusing to disclose?

 

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

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Again, Mr. Speaker, the public is not the group that's conducting this investigation. The public wants to know what the investigation of the Auditor General is going to find out, and the Auditor General has access to all this information. Again, this is nothing new; this is the exact same thing that was done by the previous administration when they referred certain matters to the Auditor General.

 

We look forward to a full and thorough investigation of Mr. Martin's payout from the former Nalcor board, and we look forward to having that done; and if the Auditor General has more information that they need, we look forward to providing it as soon as requested.

 

Thank you.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. P. DAVIS: So the Premier once again is going against a commitment that he repeatedly made here in the House of Assembly, a commitment he made to the people of the province.

 

Now, Mr. Speaker, the Attorney General, he's the Minister of Justice, has the ability and the discretion to go beyond what solicitor-client privilege he may decide, and he still has the right and ability and authority to release the report.

 

So I ask the Premier: Will you stick to your word on this one? On this one, will you stick to your word? Will you provide direction and make the report public, live up to the commitment that you made just days ago?

 

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

 

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

 

Again, the Leader of the Official Opposition, a former premier, is erring in his words. The fact is the Premier said he would like to get the opinion out, but he would have to go back to the Department of Justice and see what all the options are. In fact, that's what the Premier said on a number of occasions here.

 

The fact is I don't know why the Member opposite would want government to prejudice this process, prejudice their case. The Auditor General has all the information. The Auditor General is going to do a full and thorough investigation into the payment of Ed Martin's severance under the contract that was signed by the former Tory-appointed board. We look forward to that investigation being done as well. Again, any information the Auditor General requires, we will certainly be happy to provide that.

 

Thank you.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. P. DAVIS: I'll try another question for the Premier, Mr. Speaker. The Premier has chosen to release bits and pieces of information about this matter already. He's made that decision; he's already directed ministers to release information. That appears to have been pieces that government felt were going to benefit them, and that's all they've released.

 

So I'll ask the Premier: Why not the release the full package, as you committed to do, and as you provided to the Auditor General?

 

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

 

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

 

I think I've stated twice already here today. The Auditor General has absolutely all the information necessary that the government has in its possession in order to do a full and thorough investigation into the severance payout to Mr. Martin. The Auditor General has all that.

 

The Member opposite, I believe, actually wanted the Auditor General involved. The Department of Justice concluded that was the best way in order to get all the information out and allow the Auditor General to use the powers under that piece of legislation to do a full and thorough investigation including getting testimony through a subpoena of all the witnesses and all of the people in this matter.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. HUTCHINGS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I ask the Minister of Finance: Why was the simple deadline to inform the nurses' union and allied professionals about the intent to enter into negotiations missed?

 

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

 

MS. C. BENNETT: Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. Member for the opportunity to discuss this issue in the House.

 

As I have said already, have said to Ms. Forward and certainly the Allied Health Professionals, as the Minister Responsible for the Human Resource Secretariat, I accept responsibility for the issue that we are faced with today. I intend to address the issue, and certainly as minister I accept accountability for it.

 

Thank you.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. HUTCHINGS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I ask the minister: How can people have confidence, considering the importance of this deadline in the department, when you can't meet a simple deadline related to labour negotiations?

 

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

 

MS. C. BENNETT: Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned earlier, as the minister responsible it is unaccountable, and my intend to solve the problem, once I have a chance to assess whether what process broke down and implement the corrective action to ensure that situations like this do not happen.

 

I would remind the Member, and remind the Members of this hon. House, though, that does not change our intent and the unions knowledge of our intent and the current situation that we're faced with, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. HUTCHINGS: Mr. Speaker, not only has the Minister of Finance dropped the ball on this, but it is fair to question the value of $500 an hour being paid to outside legal counsel hired by the Liberal government to assist with negotiations.

 

How did everyone, including yourself and your high-paid hired help, miss this vital deadline?

 

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

 

MS. C. BENNETT: Mr. Speaker, Members opposite have the right to ask questions and I will continue to say, I accept accountability and responsibility for the error that was made. That doesn't take away from the fact that government has been clear from the beginning that we intend to bargain with all of our public sector unions in a fair and equitable way.

 

We are faced with an unprecedented situation in this province and we intend to honour the good faith bargaining. It is our intention to make sure that we treat all unions fairly, regardless of whether or not there is a bargaining delay, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. HUTCHINGS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Recognizing that two significant unions, the deadline was missed by the minister, how will this miss impact public sector negotiations going forward?

 

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

 

MS. C. BENNETT: Mr. Speaker, it is our intention that our approach does not change. The circumstances that happened in relation to the serving of the contracts has been unfortunate. I accept accountability for that, as the minister, and intend to solve the process problem once I get to the bottom of it.

 

However, we cannot lose sight of the fact that government has made it clear from the beginning that we intended to negotiate will all of the unions in a fair and equitable way. It will not change our approach to collective bargaining and having a good-faith dialogue with our very valuable public sector employees, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. HUTCHINGS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

The minister indicates she wants to negotiate with all the unions, but how can she proceed with negotiations without all the unions at the table? You've missed the deadline. How can you negotiate with all the unions?

 

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

 

MS. C. BENNETT: Mr. Speaker, I have reached out personally to both unions and encouraged them to participate as part of the process that we have this year. We intend to set up a meeting with them to discuss it, but let me be clear, government was clear about our intention. Everybody in the province knew what our intention was. The unions knew what our intention was. The delay won't change our approach.

 

Most importantly, we have to ensure equity and fairness amongst all of our unions and make sure that our public sector employees, at the end of the day, have a collective agreement that is fair and reflective of what this province can do for them and is respectful of the circumstances that they find themselves in as employees, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. HUTCHINGS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

The minister indicated she wanted to be clear with the unions, but she didn't provide clarity in terms of notifying them. Unfortunately, that's the issue.

 

I ask the minister: What is the impact on the budget targets if the nurses' union and the Allied Health Professionals are not at the table this fiscal year?

 

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

 

MS. C. BENNETT: Mr. Speaker, that question is baffling. We would never budget an assumption about collective bargaining when we haven't gotten to the table and negotiated in good faith.

 

As I have said in this House repeatedly, we intend to have those important dialogues with our valuable employees at the table with their union representatives, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

Before I recognize the Opposition House Leader, I will remind all Members that the only person I wish to hear speaking is the individual recognized to speak.

 

The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

 

MR. HUTCHINGS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Mr. Speaker, the nurses' union celebrated news of the one-year extension granted to them by the Finance Minister's incompetent misstep.

 

I ask the Premier: Do you expect nurses to waive this provision?

 

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

 

MS. C. BENNETT: Mr. Speaker, our government expects that the conversations we've been having on an ongoing basis with the unions – and I would suggest very clearly and transparently with the people of this province. Our intention from the beginning was to bargain with all of our unions.

 

The situation that happened with the serving of the letters, as I've said to the Member opposite, as the minister responsible for the department, I have accountability for that. I will get to the bottom of the issue that caused this problem. That does not take away from the fact that we have been very clear with the people of this province that we intend to bargain in good faith with all of our public sector unions, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The Opposition House Leader.

 

MR. HUTCHINGS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I ask the minister: Does she have the ability to force the unions to the table or is that your intent?

 

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

 

MS. C. BENNETT: Mr. Speaker, it is my intent, as the Minister Responsible for the Human Resources Secretariat, and the intent of this government to bargain in good faith with all of our unions. We intend to have those conversations at the bargaining table where they need to happen.

 

A delay in a bargaining implementation date will not change our approach. We will continue to focus on good-faith bargaining with our valuable employees at the same time as ensuring that we put the interests of the people of the province at the forefront when it comes to providing a sustainable public service in our province, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The Opposition House Leader.

 

MR. HUTCHINGS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

If public employees had been allowed to do their job, I don't think we'd have this problem.

 

I ask the minister: How much has been spent to date on the services of McInnes Cooper and outside communications counsel?

 

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

 

MS. C. BENNETT: Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned earlier, it is my intention to solve the process issue that led to the circumstances of yesterday. For the information of the Member opposite, I don't have the information today. I'm happy to provide it to him tomorrow when I have the information from officials.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. KENT: Mr. Speaker, it's good to see the Finance Minister accepting responsibility for a mistake, let's try the Minister of Transportation and Works. We were shocked yesterday when he admitted that the provincial government removed political posters in the middle of the night.

 

I ask the Premier again: Who in government ordered that the posters be removed?

 

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

 

MR. HAWKINS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Really, the answer today is no different than yesterday. I stated in this House yesterday that it was an operational decision that a management personnel made. We were not aware of that. However, since yesterday, I've spoken to the employee and I think the employee is well aware that, in the future, anything of a sensitive nature of that will come to the minister's level. But it was not yesterday reported to me because it was an operational measure they felt that they could care of, Mr. Speaker. It was simply no more than that.

 

He was just exercising what he thought was his right to do. He did that and there are no further implications as far as I'm concerned as minister. It is certainly not a responsibility that Premier or myself were aware of prior to the taking of the signs.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. KENT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

So it's clear that an employee of Transportation and Works engaged a private contractor through some kind of Standing Order to do this work. 

 

I ask the minister: Has this contractor that he refuses to name done any additional work since the initial $200 job? 

 

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

 

MR. HAWKINS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

Well, the Member opposite should know because it's the same contractor they've used on numerous occasions to do routine work around the building and for some of the issues they had. Yesterday, they asked that I would table a quote. Mr. Speaker, I have no problem in tabling the quote.

 

It's a contractor that the previous government had engaged on numerous occasions to do work around the Confederation Building, and within our property as well, Mr. Speaker. The actual total bill came in – HST included – at $203.40, which I am pleased to table today for the House. 

 

Thank you. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. KENT: Minister, what's the name of the company and have they done any additional work on behalf of Transportation and Works since the initial $200 job? 

 

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

 

MR. HAWKINS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

It's a fairly open-ended question. This is a contract that we have, a standing contract – and I don't know; they might have been up last night fixing plumbing. I have no idea. These are contracts that we have on a routine basis and they have done work for the previous administration, for this administration, and I would assume if we have work today that needs to be done, then it would be done.

 

So for the Member opposite to ask me if they had done any additional work since yesterday, I don't know that. I know they haven't taken any signs down, Mr. Speaker, nor will they take any signs down. He should know that and that's an answer I have for him.

 

Mr. Speaker, I really didn't – not that I didn't want to name the contractor, I just wanted to protect the contractor but actually the contractor is Kelloway Construction.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. HAWKINS: So there are no secrets over here, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. KENT: Mr. Speaker, fixing plumbing may be routine but hauling down political posters in the middle of the night certainly is not routine.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. KENT: So 24-hour snow clearing was eliminated with the Liberal budget, long-term care beds were closed with the Liberal budget, 54 libraries were shut down with the Liberal budget, yet you have no trouble spending money to remove political posters in the middle of the night.

 

I ask the Premier: How can you possibly justify that expense?

 

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

 

MR. HAWKINS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I don't know how many times I have to repeat myself with regard to the fact that this particular issue came to the attention of one of the managers that we have. The manager, in doing what he thought was right at the time – it's a practice that had been done in the past. So he made a judgement call with regard to taking those signs down. It is not something out of the ordinary that they would have done.

 

Mr. Speaker, again I am very clear – I think I've been very clear the last two days with regard to answering the question that, in fact, it was operational and as a matter of fact it was something that had been done previously. They were just following what they thought was regular and they just did that, Mr. Speaker. That is about as much as I can answer on that question.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. KENT: Mr. Speaker, first they cut snacks and stickers at the Janeway through this budget. Today we hear –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

I remind all hon. Members again – I know we've had a long night and Members are tired. I ask Members to respect the individual who has been identified to speak. The only individual I have identified at this particular time is the Member for Mount Pearl North.

 

MR. KENT: Mr. Speaker, I'm hearing Members accusing me of not telling the truth. That is certainly unparliamentary; I hope you will address that after Question Period.

 

First, this government over here allows Eastern Health to cut snacks and stickers at the Janeway and today we learn that this Liberal government has cut funding for the Teddy Bears' Picnic.

 

I ask the Premier: Is your administration completely out of control?

 

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

 

MR. HAGGIE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

The issue of the snacks and stickers at the Janeway was a decision taken in September of 2015 –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. HAGGIE: – with an implementation date this year.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. KENT: I challenge the minster to table documentation in this House to prove that statement, which is inaccurate, Mr. Speaker.

 

Back to the poster issue, the minister said there's no real policy and this feels like –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. KENT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

I say to the Member for Labrador West that you need not stand today. I've made it very clear in this House. You will not be recognized today.

 

The Member for the District of Mount Pearl North.

 

MR. KENT: Excellent call, Mr. Speaker.

 

The minister said there's no real policy on poster removal. This feels like flags all over again.

 

I ask the Premier: If there's no policy, why were the posters removed?

 

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

 

MR. HAWKINS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Again, as I've stated before and I will continue to state, it was an operational decision that was made. There is no policy in place. It was a practice – as you know, of course, at the Confederation Building we have Pippy Park and that's within our property.

 

However, Mr. Speaker, since yesterday we've been reaching out to the City of St. John's as well as to the utilities because it is our understanding that these poles are actually owned by the city and there are certain bylaws. That's an exercise that we will continue to do.

 

I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, one of the important things, to take subjectivity out of decision making, we need clear policies. That certainly will be my intent as we look further into what happened in this situation, that we will have a policy that we can adhere to so subjectivity is not an issue.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. HAWKINS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. KENT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I ask the Premier: Why were the resign posters taken down while other political signs, like the NL Rising posters that have been up for weeks in the same location, were not touched?

 

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

 

MR. HAWKINS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

A very good question actually. It's a question I asked the employee this morning. I wanted an answer to that because yesterday I didn't have an answer to that.

 

Apparently, from my understanding, the director was in Montreal at the time. The manager had called him and specifically told him the type of sign it was, didn't get into any details of other signs, and it was a decision based on the information that he had.

 

It was not intended to be anything other than that, Mr. Speaker. That's the explanation I had from the employee and I believe that to be accurate and correct. That's why I'm stressing it's important for us to have a policy in place that we do not have subjective decisions made. We need to have a policy in place, we know exactly what we have to do, and we will have that.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MS. ROGERS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

The minister's plan A for the levy projected revenue of $126 million annually. Her modified levy, plan B, will raise only $61 million. The minister also said a federal loan payment due to the federal government has been deferred to 2022, and that was the reason for changing the levy.

 

I ask the minister: How can the $27 million deferral of the debt payment offset the large shortfall in projected revenues from the levy? 

 

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

 

MS. C. BENNETT: Mr. Speaker, as part of the redefined temporary deficit levy, the payments for the outstanding $267 million equalization repayment floor loan, which was deferred by the federal government, the amount was deferring for a number of years.

 

What we did in the department was ascertain how we could make changes to the temporary deficit levy. As such, we were able to make those changes, which would mean that individuals with $50,000 of taxable income would pay no levy and individuals between $51,000 and $100,000 would pay significantly less. Three in four Newfoundlanders won't be paying the deficit levy and, certainly, we were pleased with what the feds did. 

 

Thank you. 

 

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

 

MS. ROGERS: Mr. Speaker, I ask the minister: What is she planning to cut now that the amount to be collected by the levy will be reduced?

 

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

 

MS. C. BENNETT: I'm sorry, Mr. Speaker. I didn't hear the Member opposite's question.

 

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

 

MS. ROGERS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

I ask the minister: What is she planning to cut now that the amount to be collected by the levy will be reduced? 

 

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

 

MS. C. BENNETT: Nothing.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MS. ROGERS: (Inaudible) the number of exempt taxpayers, reduce the amount that people earning between $50,000 and $100,000 will have to pay and increase the burden on taxpayers with more than $100,000 in taxable income.

 

I ask the minister: Is she now admitting that the initial plan for the levy, her plan A, was a political blunder which placed a disproportionate share of the burden on low- and middle-income earners? 

 

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

 

MS. C. BENNETT: Mr. Speaker, what I'm prepared to admit is that our budget made sure that we were able to borrow money at a cost that was significantly stable compared to what would have happened had we not made the changes in the budget, including the introduction of the temporary deficit levy which we have debated in this House, Mr. Speaker, since April 14, and which we've put legislation in and that we're debating now that would see this legislation be removed.

 

That's what I can say to this House. We made sure that we were able to borrow money to pay for critical services like education, like health.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MS. ROGERS: Mr. Speaker, people are willing to pay taxes that are fair, and they are willing to roll up their sleeves to be part of the solution to deal with our debt and deficit, but they also recognize government's budgetary measures that are not fair.

 

Yesterday, award-winning author Michael Crummey donated his $1,500 cash award for his lovely book Sweetland to the Buchans library that is slated to close. The Premier has said that his government is listening to the people; however, while he stood by and allowed $1.4 million, plus an additional $5 million in severance pay to go to the outgoing Nalcor CEO, he told people that the government doesn't have $1 million –

 

MR. SPEAKER: I ask the Member to get to her question, please.

 

MS. ROGERS: – to keep libraries open in 54 communities.

 

I ask the Premier: Will he listen to the people of Fogo Island –

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MS. ROGERS: – Change Islands –

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

The Member's time for her question has been expired.

 

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

 

MR. KIRBY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

As we've said, I've said, repeatedly here in the House of Assembly, as result of the changes in the ways that people are accessing text in the 21st century, the provincial libraries board has decided to move towards a regional model. Regionalization is something that we heard time and again through the Government Renewal Initiative exercise that Members opposite have even suggested. I believe we got a missive from Brunei the other day, a former minister of Finance who sat on with that government, suggested regionalization.

 

So it's something the provincial libraries board did in good faith to try and improve their services so they would have a minimum of 30 hours of operation per week, that around 85 per cent of the population would be within 30 minutes commuting distance.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for the District of St. John's Centre, for a very short question.

 

MS. ROGERS: Mr. Speaker: Will the Premier listen to the plea of the Mayor of Lourdes, supported by two of his own MHAs for the area, and reverse the decision to close their libraries?

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development.

 

MR. KIRBY: Well, Mr. Speaker, there's a lot of work to be done in this area from here to when any changes are made. As we've said, we encourage local organizations to reach out to the school district to see if there is ways that public access to school libraries can be maintained in those libraries that are co-located in schools. We also encourage municipalities and local organizations to see if there are opportunities to take over the operation of all of those libraries – a good number of them – that are located in municipal buildings.

 

There's a lot more to be done here. I encourage Members to encourage local organizations, municipalities, local groups to reach out to the school district and to the libraries board to try and find ways to continue service.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. KIRBY: 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.

 

Answers to Questions for which Notice has been Given.

 

Petitions.

 

Petitions

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MS. PERRY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

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

 

WHEREAS Budget 2016 introduces over 50 new fees and increases 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 fees and increases as introduced through Budget 2016.

 

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

 

Mr. Speaker, we just spent 24 hours, nearly, in this House. Last night around 8, we started a debate on the levy which allowed us to talk about all aspects of this devastating budget once again.

 

What the budget of 2016 – I've heard it referred to a lazy budget; I've heard it referred to as amateur hour. One thing that we are all certain of, apart from Members opposite I think, Mr. Speaker, is that this budget is going to hurt people in their pocketbooks. It is going to impede the ability of some people to be able to have basic necessities of life such as food and shelter. It's definitely going to take from the disposable income of families for enjoying activities with their children, for visiting other parts of Newfoundland, any type of disposable income whatsoever.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

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

 

MS. PERRY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

We're all devastated by the vast number of tax increases in this budget. To look at these fees – and they say, well, you know when we did our consultations, people told us to raise fees. They told us to raise taxes. They didn't tell you to do all of it all at the one time, Mr. Speaker. They certainly didn't expect to see the introduction of 50 new fees that never ever existed in this province before.

 

It's been a sad few weeks for the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador as we all try and grapple with what this budget is going to mean. It's very unfortunate that government is unwilling to listen to the people of the province who prior to November 30, all they could talk about was how people matter. We see now they mattered for purposes of November 30, but beyond that they don't seem to matter much anymore, Mr. Speaker.

 

We want this Liberal government to really reverse its decisions. To restore health care, to restore education and to revisit Budget 2016.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

The Member for the District of 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.

 

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

 

Mr. Speaker, I have a few hundred signatures here alone. These petitions keep arriving. These ones arrived today in our office. There are still hundreds more that we haven't yet presented. Most of these signatures are from the Glovertown, Gambo area. These are people who know – Trinity – people who were very upset with the levy as it stood. Why? Because they knew it was unfair.

 

Again, Mr. Speaker, people are willing to pay taxes if they know they are fair. I mean that's the culture of Newfoundland and Labrador. We take care of one another. We ensure that our neighbours are safe. We ensure that no one is left behind.

 

I believe this levy was so counter to the culture that most of us grew up in here in Newfoundland and Labrador. We knew this was not a just and a fair way of taxation, this particular surcharge – even if it was temporary. People understand what the word temporary means. So they still saw this as a very unfair tax, and it doesn't fit in with the culture with which most of us have grown up in, whether we grew up here in Newfoundland and Labrador or we are new to the province. People know it's a tax that does not bring us forward.

 

So that's why people have been so committed to signing petitions, to sending them in, to make sure that their voice is heard here in the House. There have been thousands and thousands and thousands of signatures, because, Mr. Speaker, people are outraged by this.

 

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 a 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 the 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 of 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 board 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 will ever pray.

 

Mr. Speaker, this is probably going to be the last chance I'll get to present this petition, but I can just show you that there are over 500 names on this petition. The parents and school council have met with their representatives. I am not their representative. In my district before, I had part of Stavanger Drive, which a lot of students come from, but the Minister of Finance and the Member for Virginia Waters – Pleasantville, those are the two representatives of this school. They've met, but it doesn't seem like – and they've also met with the Minister of Education and they're not getting anywhere. They're heartbroken really because they're after doing everything they could possibly do.

 

This is a school that – and I have to do a correction, too. I was saying, because my notes were saying, it was K to 12, but it's actually a K to six school. There are 700 students in this school. For the last number of years they've seen no major renovations or improvements to the school. The first time last year, in over 10 years they've seen an extension.

 

The parents are very concerned about what's going to happen because they're looking at combined classes for grades three and four, and grades five and six. They don't have a cafeteria. There are no computer labs in the school. They have to split the lunch time because of the students going out.

 

All I ask is for the minister to listen to the parents and listen to the school council and listen to their concerns. That's what they're asking for.

 

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

 

MR. SPEAKER: The Member for the District of Ferryland.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. HUTCHINGS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to rise in the House today to present this petition.

 

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

 

WHEREAS the Witless Bay Line is a significant piece of infrastructure; and

 

WHEREAS the continuation of the Hebron and Long Harbour projects and the commercial and residential growth in our region has increased the volume of traffic on this highway;

 

WHEREUPON the undersigned, your petitioners, humbly pray and call upon the House of Assembly to urge the government to upgrade this significant piece of infrastructure to enhance and improve the flow of traffic to and from the Trans-Canada Highway.

 

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

 

Mr. Speaker, this piece of infrastructure from Route 10 to the Trans-Canada Highway, about 20-odd-plus kilometres, over the past number of years through investments we've upgraded I'd say about half with significant investment, probably in the range of $2 million. It connects the Southern Shore with the Trans Canada.

 

With the number of commercial activities that are going on, significant projects, we have a lot of employment from along the Southern Shore that uses this highway to get to their place of employment. As well, we look at things like the fishing industry, the crab industry in particular, the amount of product that's used – this highway is used back and forth, the flow as well.

 

So it's very significant in terms of that and industry – those types of industries, as well from the tourism sector. We see a lot coming east on the Trans-Canada Highway. Certainly whether people come in by boat or just domestic travel coming east turning off and entering the Southern Shore, Route 10, through that means and then going further south along Route 10 to access the many tourism opportunities we have.

 

It's a very significant piece of infrastructure. I just was on it the other day. It needs some immediate patch work and that type of thing done. I've been in touch with the department and with the depot, both. Hopefully that will get done shortly. We've had some vehicles that had some damage done to them, so we need to get that fixed, certainly on a temporary basis, some of the challenges we have but, as well, long term to invest in a very significant piece of infrastructure that's needed.

 

I have spoken to the Minister of Transportation on it and continue to work towards enhancing the piece of infrastructure.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

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

 

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

 

Orders of the Day

 

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

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, I would move Motion 4, pursuant to Standing Order 11, that the House not adjourn at 5:30 p.m. today, Tuesday, June 7, 2016.

 

Further, I would move Motion 5, that pursuant to Standing Order 11, that the House not adjourn at 10 p.m. today, Tuesday, June 7.

 

MR. SPEAKER: It has been moved that the House do not adjourn at 5:30 p.m. today, June 7.

 

All those in favour, 'aye.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Those against?

 

Carried.

 

It is further moved that the House not adjourn at 10 p.m. today, June 7.

 

All those in favour, 'aye.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Those against?

 

Carried.

 

The hon. the Government House Leader.

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, I would call Order 2, third reading of Bill 35.

 

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

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development, that Bill 35, An Act To Amend The Smoke-Free Environment Act, 2005 And The Tobacco Control Act, be now read the third time.

 

MR. SPEAKER: It has been moved and seconded that Bill 35 be now read a third time.

 

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

 

All those in favour, 'aye.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Those against?

 

Carried.

 

CLERK (Barnes): A bill, An Act To Amend The Smoke-Free Environment Act, 2005 And The Tobacco Control Act. (Bill 35)

 

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 Smoke-Free Environment Act, 2005 And The Tobacco Control Act,” read a third time, ordered passed and its title be as on the Order Paper. (Bill 35)

 

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

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, I would call Order 3, third reading of Bill 36.

 

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

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the Minister of Transportation and Works, that Bill 36, An Act To Amend The Victims Of Crime Services Act, be now read the third time.

 

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that Bill 36 be now read a third time.

 

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

 

All those in favour, 'aye.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Those against?

 

Carried.

 

CLERK: A bill, An Act To Amend The Victims Of Crime Services Act. (Bill 36)

 

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 Victims Of Crime Services Act,” read a third time, ordered passed and its title be as on the Order Paper. (Bill 36)

 

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

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, I would call Order 5, second reading of Bill 34.

 

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

 

MR. TRIMPER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I move, seconded by the Government House Leader that Bill 34, An Act To Regulate Greenhouse Gas Emissions From Industrial Facilities In the Province, be now read a second time.

 

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that Bill 34 entitled, An Act To Regulate Greenhouse Gas Emissions From Industrial Facilities In the Province, be now read a second time.

 

Motion, second reading of a bill, “An Act To Regulate Greenhouse Gas Emissions From Industrial Facilities In the Province.” (Bill 34)

 

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

 

MR. TRIMPER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Before I start my remarks, I'd like to acknowledge the leadership and support of Jackie Janes and Gerald Crane from the Office of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency and all the great work they've done to bring this bill to the House here today. This is truly a very amazing day.

 

As Minister Responsible for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency it is with great pleasure that I stand here before you today with Bill 34. Mr. Speaker, climate change is one of the greatest long-term challenges facing the world today that requires a global response, with a strong input from all countries and all governments. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change or IPCC, established in 1988 by the world meteorological office and the United Nations Environment Programme, is the most authoritative source of information on climate change.

 

It reports that average global temperatures are now about 1 degree Celsius above pre-industrial averages and that without policy action, globally, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, average global temperatures could be as much as 4.8 degrees Celsius above those pre-industrial averages by the end of this century.

 

Mr. Speaker, let me put this in perspective. At the time of the last ice age, about 20,000 years ago – and by the way, in Labrador, it only represents about 9,000 years ago – average global temperatures were only five to six degrees lower than what they are today. So now within less than 100 years, average temperatures could be four or more degrees higher than they are today.

 

The IPCC reports, with 95 per cent certainty, that this temperature growth is caused by human actions; namely, the release of greenhouse gas emission into the atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels, the release of methane from agriculture and waste and deforestation activities.

 

The IPCC also reports that transformative changes will occur as a result of climate change; for example, it reports that sea levels are likely to rise by up to one metre by the end of this century, that there will be more intense storm activity, increased desertification of agricultural areas and reduced availability of drinking water.

 

Mr. Speaker, countries from around the world recognize that climate change is an urgent problem and are taking steps to address this issue. In December 2015, the Paris Agreement on climate change was supported by every country of the world, including Canada. On Earth Day, April 22, just a few weeks ago in 2016, leaders from 175 countries, including Canada, signed this agreement demonstrating the continued commitment globally to addressing climate change.

 

This agreement will facilitate the shift globally to a local carbon economy. What does this mean? The IPCC reports that if global temperature rise is to be kept to a minimum of 2 degrees Celsius, then greenhouse gas emissions will need to be reduced by as much as 80 per cent by mid-century and further again by the end of this century. The climate change imperative will force countries and companies to adapt. It will increasingly focus energy investments on renewable electricity and more efficient production processes and modes of transportation.

 

Jurisdictions and companies that recognize these changes that promote technology advancements and investments to lower their carbon footprint will be better placed over the coming decades to prosper and thrive.

 

Turning to Canada, Mr. Speaker, and as part of the Paris Agreement, Canada agreed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. This target builds on a 2020 target in which Canada agreed to reduce its emissions by 17 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020, just three years away. 

 

In actual numbers, this will mean that Canadian greenhouse gas emissions, by 2030, will need to be reduced to levels not seen in over 25 years. It will mean a one-third reduction in emissions by 2030, below business as usual levels. These are challenging targets. These are targets that the federal government can only achieve in partnership with provinces and territories. These targets will require coordinated action by the federal, provincial and territorial governments. They will require action in areas of the economy including electricity generation, transportation, the oil and gas sector, large industrial sectors such as mining and manufacturing, as well as action by individuals, households, businesses and governments. These targets will also require technological advancement, investments in renewable and low-carbon energy and investments to improve production efficiencies and energy efficiency.

 

Mr. Speaker, Prime Minister Trudeau, since being elected six months ago, has already held two First Ministers' meetings on climate change. One in November of last year before the Paris agreement was reached and a second meeting in March of this year. The message from the Prime Minister is clear. Canada has made commitments to act to reduce the impacts of climate change. The federal government recognizes the actions of provinces and territories to date, but more needs to be done.

 

Mr. Speaker, other provinces are already acting. Alberta introduced regulations for its large industry in 2007 and is updating its regulations as I speak. British Columbia introduced its carbon tax in 2008, and legislation to regulate new natural gas development in 2014. Quebec joined an emissions trading system with California in 2014, and Ontario will be joining this system in 2018.

 

Together, these four provinces account for over 80 per cent of Canadian greenhouse gas emissions and over 80 per cent of the Canadian population. Other provinces are now starting to act as well. Manitoba is exploring how to join the Quebec and Ontario emissions trading system, and Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan are taking steps to decarbonize their electricity sector.

 

Mr. Speaker, as I said, more needs to be done within Canada. At the First Ministers' meeting in March of this year, the prime minister and premiers agreed to develop a pan-Canadian framework on clean growth and climate change in 2016 that will be implemented just next year. Work is underway focusing on issues such as carbon pricing, clean technology and innovation, and other measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in sectors such as transportation, buildings and forestry, and agriculture. Work is also underway through this process to identify new mechanisms to improve resilience to the impacts of climate change from global warming that we have already experienced.

 

Mr. Speaker, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador recognize the seriousness of climate change. We are already seeing the impacts of climate change. This is why we are an active participant in the First Ministers process for a new pan-Canadian framework on climate change. Average annual temperatures in the province are now more than 1 degree Celsius higher than historical averages. We expect that temperatures will continue to increase.

 

By mid-century we expect summer temperatures in the province to be over two degrees higher than historical average and winter temperatures to be at least three degrees higher. Winter temperatures in Northern Labrador are projected to be almost four degrees higher. These are massive changes that will have very serious implications. Climate change will result in more storms, more coastal erosion and more impacts from sea surge and sea level rise.

 

Since 1990, for example, we have been subjected to twice as many hurricanes and tropical storms per year than for the whole 90-year period prior to 1990. These storms are getting more intense. In St. John's, for example, a one-in-100-year storm is now expected to bring 135 millimetres of rain. By mid-century this is expected to grow by 22 per cent and by late century to 33 per cent, to almost 180 millimetres.

 

Mr. Speaker, we recognized this defining issue in our electoral platform and committed to act. We cannot put our head in the sand and pretend it is not happening.

 

Mr. Speaker, Newfoundland and Labrador wishes to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. To this end, the province set out province-specific greenhouse gas reduction targets in 2007 to enable long-term planning and signal our policy intent to industry, businesses and citizens.

 

By 2020, the target is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 10 per cent below 1990 levels. By 2050, the target is to reduce GHG emissions by 75 to 85 per cent below 2001 levels. However, the province is not on track to achieve the 2020 target, even with the Muskrat Falls development. I would note that the development of the Muskrat Falls Project will reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 10 per cent when it starts up and when the Holyrood Generating Station closes.

 

Given this, in our electoral platform we committed to put in place measures to accelerate progress to meeting these greenhouse gas reduction targets. Mr. Speaker, today we are meeting our electoral platform commitment to establish a framework to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the industrial sector. Today we are taking a significant step to becoming the fifth province in Canada and the first province in Atlantic Canada to regulate large industrial greenhouse gas emissions.

 

Today I'm bringing forward for a second read a new bill to regulate greenhouse gas emissions in the province's large industrial sector. This bill will see the establishment of a flexible regulatory framework for large industry; conceptually similar to what is being implemented in Alberta, what British Columbia is implementing for its new natural gas developments and what Saskatchewan has passed in legislation.

 

Mr. Speaker, this bill accomplishes three things. First, it balances environmental progress with economic prosperity. The bill will regulate these facilities in a manner that accommodates the impacts of low and changing commodity prices and builds on the competitiveness in that it will facilitate new investment, new economic activity and expand production in the province. It will also allow for regulation to occur with negligible fiscal impacts.

 

Second, the bill is tailored to the unique industrial structure in this province. We have the only oil refinery without access to low-carbon natural gas as a fuel source. We have the larger of only two pelletizers in Canada, and this facility also has no access to natural gas. We have the only hydromet processing facility in North America, and that facility at Long Harbour is absolutely brand new.

 

Third, the bill will result in real reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in the province. Through this bill, business as usual emissions will no longer be allowed. We will be tasking companies to find ways to reduce their emissions at their facilities. Where the costs of this are prohibitive, we will be providing for alternative pathways for them to be in compliance with regulation. These alternative pathways will generate new economic opportunity and activity outside the large industrial sector. They will also result in reductions in greenhouse gas emissions throughout the economy.

 

Madam Speaker, at this time I need to differentiate between onshore and offshore industrial facilities. The bill before us today deals with onshore facilities that are within the province's jurisdiction to regulate. However, the bill will also facilitate discussions with the federal government that will enable future regulation from a greenhouse gas perspective of the offshore petroleum sector.

 

Offshore platforms are in federal jurisdiction and are managed jointly with the federal government through the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board. We will be engaging with the federal government to determine how offshore companies can contribute to greenhouse gas reduction targets, what the appropriate regulatory mechanism would be, and when that mechanism can be made operational.

 

Madam Speaker, I would like now to turn to a brief description of the key elements of the bill. There are six main elements in the bill.

 

First, the bill establishes that any industrial facility that emits 15,000 tons or more greenhouse gas emissions per year will have to report their emissions. At least two years of reporting data will be needed to set a baseline against a greenhouse gas target that can be established for each facility. Pending approval of this bill, Madam Speaker, we intend to start collecting data for the 2016 reporting year.

 

Second, any industrial facility that emits 25,000 tons or more of GHG emissions per year will also be required to reduce their emissions. This will include Iron Ore Company of Canada, the North Atlantic Oil Refinery, the two facilities owned by Vale, and any other existing and new facility that meets this threshold. However, Madam Speaker, the Holyrood generating station is exempted, as it is scheduled to close in the near term and any costs incurred will be passed on to ratepayers in the form of higher electricity rates.

 

I would note also, Mr. Speaker – Madam Speaker, sorry – that preliminary estimates include that at the current time Corner Brook Pulp and Paper emits enough to be required to report their emissions, but they are less than the 25,000 ton threshold that would have to be crossed to be required to reduce their emissions. We will work to make a final determination of that facility.

 

Third, the bill requires that Cabinet set out in regulation a greenhouse gas limit for each facility. We intend to set this target once we have sufficient reporting data and after future consultations with companies. This will give companies a long advanced time frame of at least two years to plan for how they will take action to reduce their emissions.

 

Fourth, the bill provides for the establishment in regulations of alternative compliance mechanisms to allow companies flexibility to be in legislative compliance at least cost. The rationale for these mechanisms is simple. Because climate change is a global problem, it doesn't matter if greenhouse gas reductions occur at the facility or off site. So the objective is to allow companies to reduce their emissions at least cost.

 

These mechanisms will potentially include a carbon offset system which will allow for investment and job creation in sectors such as agriculture, forestry and energy efficiency, as well as the establishment of technology fund.

 

Fifth, the bill sets out governance structures for this technology fund. The fund, which is also an alternative compliance measure, will be 100 per cent industry funded and will be managed by the minister responsible for the implementation of the act and, right now, that's myself.

 

It will invest in projects that will reduce greenhouse gases in Newfoundland and Labrador. Because it is 100 per cent industry funded, the bill proposes that an expert advisory committee comprised of approximately five to seven industry, academic and government Members will advise the minister on how to allocate monies from the fund.

 

Finally, the bill sets out the mechanisms and procedures to ensure proper compliance by the minister. These mechanisms and procedures are consistent with those already in place for the Environmental Protection Act.

 

Madam Speaker, we have undertaken extensive consultation and preparation before tabling this bill and we've incorporated feedback received into our approach. Large industrial companies have been consulted four times. These consultations have been invaluable to exchange views, test proposals and receive feedback. The most recent consultation occurred last year after commodity prices started to decline. The bill reflects the input and feedback put forward by the companies.

 

Technical studies with iron ore mining, oil refining and offshore petroleum industries have also been concluded. These studies, which were completed in partnership with the companies, identify potential investments that could be made that would result in both GHG reductions, while reducing operating costs and improving profitability. That is, Madam Speaker, the focus was on achieving environmental outcomes, while respecting the investment and business case for companies.

 

We have engaged with the federal government, other provinces, Aboriginal organizations and national, environmental and industry associations to understand policy innovations elsewhere in the country and to fully understand both the opportunities for companies and the competitiveness concerns for companies and stakeholders.

 

We have conducted economic and fiscal impacts of various greenhouse gas reduction targets using reasonable scenarios that Cabinet may consider in the future. While the range of impacts differ, the key findings are that the costs are not prohibitive to companies based on what the companies themselves have said – a very important point. Economic benefits will be generated and fiscal targets are considered negligible.

 

Madam Speaker, I would like to emphasize the points I made on costs to the company and the potential competitiveness impacts. Consultations with companies have occurred for a number of years, over which time ideas have been exchanged and the potential range of regulatory costs discussed with companies.

 

In light of this, we have developed an approach that is not cost prohibitive to companies or to government, even during periods of low commodity prices. We are providing companies with a lead-in time, with at least two years before these GHG targets will be established, for their facilities to allow them time to plan to minimize any capital cost that they may incur.

 

Madam Speaker, while no company likes to be regulated, the companies themselves understand the greenhouse gas emissions need to be reduced. They understand they need to play a part of this. They also appreciate that government is working to put in a framework that minimizes any negative competitive impacts and provides mechanisms such as a technology fund in seizing new opportunities. Madam Speaker, the companies supported the timeline that is being built in to allow them time to plan a best way forward to achieve these reductions.

 

I want to emphasis a final point on cost and competitiveness. There will be no cost to companies associated with the approval of this bill, other than costs associated with reporting their emissions. Other capital costs to improve facilities, invest in carbon offsets or contribute to a technology fund will only be incurred after regulations are approved by Cabinet. This is not expected for at least another two years. Industry will be consulted as regulations are developed.

 

Madam Speaker, before ending my remarks, I would like to recap the three main points I've made here today. First of all, climate change is a global problem and new actions are planned and being taken, including within Canada. Newfoundland and Labrador is not immune to this problem or its impacts and we cannot bury our heads in the sand any longer. Second, the approach we've outlined today balances environment and economic priorities. It is tailored to the circumstances of this province and it will achieve real reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Finally, we have consulted with the companies and undertaken studies in partnership with them to understand the opportunities and challenges to reducing greenhouse gas emissions at a facility level.

 

The bill we are discussing today incorporates this work and, at the same time, does not set out a cost prohibitive approach to either the companies or government.

 

With this, I will conclude my remarks and I will speak later in second reading and at the conclusion of the debate.

 

Thank you very much. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MADAM SPEAKER (Dempster): The Speaker recognizes the hon. Member for Conception Bay South. 

 

MR. PETTEN: Thank you, Madam Speaker.

 

It is a great pleasure to rise in the House today to speak on Bill 34, An Act to Regulate Greenhouse Gas Emissions From Industrial Facilities in the Province. This is an issue, I believe, that many of our citizens will be engaged on, and I encourage that.

 

Regarding the topic of climate change and greenhouse gas emissions, I believe that we need to establish and achieve responsible greenhouse gas reduction targets. I also believe that we, as province, need to balance the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions with our economy.

 

Our economy and the viability of a large industry in the province is in a fragile state. We need to make sure that we take actions and the actions we take regarding greenhouse emissions will not end the competitiveness of our industries.

 

As our leader has said, we see value in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We just need to make sure that it's done in a manner which stimulates the economy. We suggest that the price of carbon and the timeline of implementation be such that large industry has ample time to prepare and invest in green technology.

 

The legislation which has been presented to us has too many questions and a lack of information. I'll outline some of these questions in my time here this afternoon. What's in the bill? This bill is proposing emission reduction regulations with flexible compliance options. The first thing that this bill will require is for all onshore industrial producers who produce over 15,000 tons of greenhouse gases each year to report their annual emissions to the provincial office for climate change. This is something we are in support of. We are generally supportive in asking industry to report their emissions to us.

 

It is important to have accurate and precise information before making decisions, knowing the exact emissions will give us a better ability to estimate an impact of reduction targets. However, I ask the minister: Is two years reporting enough to get true and accurate data of the average emissions of a large onshore industry here in the province?

 

With only two years of data, there's no way to determine if one or even both of these years are outliers. If production at one of these facilities is down, then the greenhouse gas emissions from the facility would be decreased for that time frame.

 

We know commodity markets are experiencing a downturn right now. Would that affect emission measures in 2016 and 2017? Would three, four or more years of monitoring emissions give a more accurate level of greenhouse gas emissions for these large industrial emitters?

 

As I said, the Office of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency currently do not have the exact emission numbers for large onshore emitters in the province, but they do have estimates. Requiring all facilities that emit more than 15,000 tons to report greenhouse gas emissions is a good step in turning these estimates into exact information. Is two years of data enough to make decisions? Reporting will start in 2017 with the 2016 data. Reporting is just the first part of the bill. This bill also sets up a framework for reduction of emissions and how facilities can achieve emissions.

 

Phase two, Madam Speaker, reducing of emissions. Facilities that produce more than 25,000 tons of greenhouse gas annually will be required to reduce their emissions by a target. These facilities include: IOC, Tata Steel when it's up and running, the Come By Chance refinery, Vale at Long Harbour and Vale at Voisey's Bay. We're not sure if Corner Brook Pulp and Paper will be required to reduce their emissions or not.

 

The Office of Climate Change estimates that the emissions of Corner Brook Pulp and Paper are somewhere in the vicinity of 24,000 to 25,000 tons. If emissions are over 25,000 tons, they will fall under regulation and will have to reduce their emissions. If they fall under the 25,000 tons, obviously, they will not have to reduce their emissions. This is one of the reasons we need them to report their emissions; however, this is one of many questions that have been left unanswered. It's unknown if Corner Brook Pulp and Paper will be required to reduce their emissions.

 

As we all know, Corner Brook Pulp and Paper is a very important facility on the West Coast of our province. It generates economic activity and employs a large number of residents on the West Coast. We also all know that Corner Brook Pulp and Paper has gone through some challenging times. If they have to decrease their emissions, how much would that cost them? How does the minister propose Corner Brook Pulp and Paper reduce their emissions and thrive on the West Coast?

 

I would also assume the management of the facility would want to know if they are required to reduce emissions in future years as well, Madam Speaker; however, this is unknown. We are concerned that there is so much information which has not yet been determined or not yet known surrounding these regulations.

 

Speaking of emission reductions, this legislation will set up the greenhouse gas emissions reduction framework. We don't know when the reduction targets will be imposed and we don't know what the reduction targets will be. We have concerns with that.

 

The government is asking for us to support a framework without giving all the details. Government is asking us to give blind support to Cabinet to come up with emission reduction targets and a timeline of reduction. We also have concerns about that.

 

What should happen is that after several years of monitoring emissions from our large onshore producers, the government and the minister should come back to this House, recommend an emissions reduction target and a timeline. We should have a debate about that. The House of Assembly should have a role. That would help balance the need to reduce our emissions with the need to encourage economic growth within our offshore industries.

 

To put it simply, Cabinet hasn't determined what the reduction targets are yet. Cabinet hasn't decided upon a timeline for reduction targets yet; but despite this, Cabinet is asking the House of Assembly to put blind faith in them to support whatever decision they will make.

 

Madam Speaker, while I have an opportunity, I would like to pose a couple of questions to the minister. Maybe he can address them when he gets up a little later in the debate. How will Cabinet decide what emission reduction targets will be? What evidence will they weigh in their decision-making process? How quickly will Cabinet ask these facilities to reduce their emissions?

 

These are questions which need to be answered. This legislation could have a considerable impact on our large facilities – facilities used to generate economic activity. So it would be wise to outline Cabinet's process.

 

A target which is too aggressive, a target which tries to decrease greenhouse emissions too quickly, may be cost prohibitive for these facilities. Many of the facilities covered in this legislation are already experiencing challenges. We are cautious about the impacts of this legislation on their ability to operate. We support emission reduction but we are cautious not to put these facilities in undue stress.

 

I have a couple of more questions for the minister. Maybe he can just jot down and get back to me with some more information.

 

IOC in Labrador; we know there are ongoing challenges with IOC in Labrador. Just last week we heard that the Phase III expansion has been deferred. IOC has operations in Labrador and also operations in Quebec.

 

Quebec has a framework which industry deems to be more favourable than ours. The company will decrease operations in this province and increase them in Quebec. That would result in job losses in Quebec. Will the minister take this into account when setting emission targets and timelines?

 

Then there's the Come By Chance Refinery. It's another important employer located on the eastern part of the province. How will they be impacted by reductions in emissions? How can they reduce their emissions while still being a viable operation?

 

That is the goal here, to reduce emissions, to be environmentally friendly while ensuring that our industrial facilities have the potential to thrive in our province. We are asking Cabinet to think about these facilities when determining timeline and reduction targets.

 

Madam Speaker, I've listed a number of questions so far, but I have a few more for the minister and for Cabinet. I would estimate that the general public, employees of these facilities, and environmental groups would also have questions about this framework.

 

First of all, we know the federal government is keen on greenhouse gas reduction. We know that recently the Prime Minister stated if the provinces didn't take action, the federal government would take action. Emissions reduction, carbon taxes, cap and trade systems, they're all examples of regimes which are now being implemented in various provinces across the country.

 

I wonder if there is a risk in implementing this system without alignment from the federal government. Is it possible the federal government may implement a framework which is different than ours? This is counter to what is contained in this legislation.

 

All of a sudden, Madam Speaker, I wonder, how this legislation impacts our future development. Maybe the minister can speak about that when he gets up again as well. What if there are new industries established in our province? Will the legislation help or hinder the attraction of new facilities? What about future energy developments?

 

We know we have a large potential for hydropower in Gull Island. From developing Gull Island, we could export green energy all throughout Eastern North America. We could help other provinces, and we could help the Northeastern States reduce their carbon footprint.

 

Why are we looking at provincial emissions targets instead of regional targets? Greenhouse gases are not bound by geography, so we should be looking at regional strategies. With the development of Muskrat Falls and Gull Island we could lead the country in exporting green energy.

 

Madam Speaker, I have one more question for the minister. He has consulted with large onshore industry about his framework. What are they saying about it? And how will this framework impact the offshore oil industry?

 

I certainly hope the minister has noted those questions – I'm sure he has. Perhaps he can address them when he rises to speak again, Madam Speaker.

 

This bill, Bill 34, sets up various options from which a facility can choose to reduce their carbon footprint. These options are known as flexible compliance options. The framework set up in this bill gives facilities various options to choose from in order to reach their emissions targets.

 

The first option to achieve emission reduction targets is the reduction at the facility itself. Here companies would reduce the emissions produced at their facility. This would most likely mean the company would have to invest capital into the facility to make modifications and purchase new technology and equipment. Examples of this could be buying a new furnace, a new mining truck which would produce few emissions than the one currently on site. The benefit to this approach is that companies will be investing in their operations here in the province.

 

Many investments which are more energy efficient are also more productive. However, the downside to this is depending on the equipment and the age of the facility, where the facility is located and the operational practices, it may cost a lot more to reduce emissions. 

 

Some of the companies may not be able to afford significantly high, one-time investment costs to reduce these emissions. For companies that cannot afford this option for those facilities in which the price of capital investment is too high, there are other options which they may choose from. The options which they can choose from are technology fund, offsets and banking.

 

I'm going to speak about each of these three, but I will start with banking first. With banking, Madam Speaker, a facility can carry forward the reductions for future years. For example, if a facility reduces its emissions by 20 per cent in the first year, but its target was only 5 per cent per year, it can use the 20 per cent reduction to meet its emission reduction targets for the next four years. This is something we are supportive of. It's only fair the company be able to bring forward their unused reductions into future years.

 

Related to banking is also a concept of company (inaudible). This means a company which has two or more facilities, say Vale, can choose to meet its emissions reduction target overall, instead of both facilities individually meetings their targets. In other words, if one of Vale's facilities exceed their reduction target and the other doesn't, Vale can use the excess reduction from one facility to offset the other. This is also something we are supportive of.

 

I want to speak now about the second flexible compliance option which is carbon offsets. We know the offsets are included in the framework set up in the legislation, but like much of this legislation, it's short on details with a lot of logistical information not yet available. Although the legislation mentions offsets, there is not enough detail about how this process would work.

 

If emission reduction targets are not achieved at the industrial facility, a company can purchase offsets in the forestry, agriculture, et cetera, but the legislation does not give a full list of which offsets are available for purchase or the price per ton of carbon emissions.

 

Government is asking us to support a framework but one of their option offsets is just a concept at this point. We do not know what these offsets are. We also do not know how much these offsets would cost. The biggest problem here is the legislation does not outline the price per ton of carbon. Again, government is asking us to give blind authority to Cabinet for them to make the decisions related to offsets.

 

Minister, I would suggest this House should debate the price of carbon related to the purchase of carbon offsets. It is challenging to support legislation when we don't have the full details. We don't know how much the offsets will cost facilities. We also don't know exactly what these offsets will be. There simply isn't enough information available. We would like to be able to be cautiously supportive of offsets in principle, but we don't know enough about the price or the process in which these large onshore facilities will have to go through.

 

Let me speak about the final flexible compliance option, the technology fund. According to the briefing given by the Office of Climate Change, this is something the industry is generally supportive of. I would like to learn more about the industry's view on this. So when the minister gets up again in debate – I know he spoke about it when he just read – perhaps he can outline how consultation with industry progress and what industry feels would be an appropriate way to balance carbon reduction with economic activity.

 

Regarding the technology fund, the proposed legislation gives some detail about this fund, about how it will be set up, its details, and how an advisory committee will review applications and make recommendations for funding to the minister responsible.

 

Facilities whose emissions are higher than their targets can pay into a fund to offset their emissions. However, as I just mentioned, carbon offsets. About carbon offsets, we don't know the price per ton of emissions. Again, this government is asking us to endorse a program. We have not been given all of the details. We do not know how much it will cost the industry to pay into the fund.

 

Setting the price for each ton of carbon is a discussion which should take place here in the House of Assembly. The price of carbon carries a lot of significance and importance. Industry should have input into it. Environmental groups should have input into it. The public should have input, and that decision should be carried out in public.

 

The technology fund will collect a certain dollar for each ton of carbon but no one knows what the dollar figure is yet. So people listening at home may be asking themselves, what will this fund do?

 

Once companies pay into the fund the government will hold the technology fund in trust. Companies can now apply to the technology fund to fund green technology. Even smaller industrial facilities will be able to apply to access funds. So large industrial facilities which would be paying into the fund, along with smaller industries, will be able to access this money.

 

We are generally supportive of establishing a technology fund; however, we are concerned that the price per ton of carbon emissions is not available to us or to industry. I don't understand it. Industry is supportive of the technology fund but I'm looking forward to hearing more from the minister about his conversation with leadership of various companies.

 

This province is unique, Madam Speaker. One of the reasons in which finding the balance between reduction of emissions and the stimulation of economic activity is so important is that our province is unique. The industries and facilities that will be impacted by this legislation are unique.

 

The five facilities which are impacted by this, as I said, are IOC, Vale, Long Harbour, Voisey's Bay, Come by Chance Refinery, Corner Brook Pulp and Paper, and Tata Steel when up and running. Many of these facilities have unique properties and are in direct competition with others in Canada, so we need to ensure environmental regulations do not hamper their viability.

 

For example, we have one of two pelletizers in the country. The others operate on natural gas. The facility at IOC cannot operate on natural gas and because of its location it's at a competitive disadvantage. Additionally, Come By Chance Refinery does not have a source of natural gas. This causes the refinery to have a higher level of emissions than other similar facilities.

 

These two examples, IOC and Come By Chance, emit higher levels of greenhouse gases because we do not have access to natural gas in this province for industry. Any price on carbon would be higher for these facilities than their competitors elsewhere in the country.

 

These facilities employ many people in our province and these facilities are economic generators, obviously. So while we need to reduce emissions, while we need to protect our environment, we need to ensure we also protect the economy at the same time. We believe both can be done. 

 

Madam Speaker, we don't have to choose between the environment and the economy. I believe it's possible to have both. We believe on this side of the House that investment into green technology, investment into the green industry can help stimulate economic growth. Muskrat Falls is one example of this, and there are others.

 

There is immense possibility in the area of green research in green technology and in green industry. I would recommend to the Minister of Environment and Conservation that his department look into green investment as a way to reduce our province's carbon footprint and to decrease our overall greenhouse gas reductions.

 

The federal government has talked much about investing in green technology. I hope the provincial government is able to lobby their friends in Ottawa to allocate some of that funding to our large offshore greenhouse gas producers in this province. These large producers could leverage that funding to invest in their facilities, lower their emissions and reduce their carbon footprint. 

 

Madam Speaker, I'd be remiss if I didn't talk about the reduction in greenhouse gas which will occur from transitioning our power supply from Holyrood to Muskrat Falls. Holyrood is not covered under this legislation because it's scheduled to be offline by the time the reduction in emissions will occur; however, there is a provision which will allow its inclusion if it's not offline.

 

Holyrood produces 1.2 million tons of greenhouse gas annually. By switching our industry source from Holyrood to Muskrat Falls we will be reducing our provincial emissions by 1.2 million tons. This is a step in the right direction; however, this will not meet our province's emissions reduction targets. We must all work together to reduce our emissions.

 

Madam Speaker, I noted earlier that the emissions are not contained within geographic boundaries. Our province has the exciting potential to work with other Eastern Canadian provinces and the Eastern States to devise a regional greenhouse gas reduction strategy.

 

We have a great resource here in our hydro power. We can develop Gull Island and help our neighbouring states and provinces convert their electricity and green hydro power. This would result in a reduction of greenhouse emissions for the entire region.

 

In conclusion, Madam Speaker, I just want to summarize a few things for the benefit of the minister and for those who will speak on this legislation. First of all, I believe we do need to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions in order to achieve our 2020 emissions targets. There are many ways it can be done and the government would be wise to progress and to look into some of these options like green technology and development of Gull Island.

 

Madam Speaker, some concerns we have: we do not know enough about a government price on carbon, we do not know what the emission reduction targets will be, and we do not know how aggressive the timeline to reduce emissions will be. So I hope the minister will give us some insight into that.

 

Madam Speaker, without this information, we are unable to fully assess the impact of this legislation on these industries. We do not know how they will reduce their targets and what their costs will be.

 

Thank you, Madam Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MADAM SPEAKER: The Speaker recognizes the hon. the Member for Torngat Mountains.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. EDMUNDS: Thank you, Madam Speaker.

 

It's certainly an honour to rise and speak to Bill 34, An Act to Regulate Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Industrial Facilities in the Province. Madam Speaker, when the minister asked if I could speak to this bill, I just went and scribbled down some notes I think, more or less, on my own experiences over the course of my very short, young life.

 

When I listened to the minister talking about greenhouse gas emissions in history, I was a little surprised that his research kind of coincided with the notes that I scribbled down and I'm going to get to those very shortly. I'm just going to speak to the part of the bill that reflects on the area that I come from or the district that I represent. Madam Speaker, that's the area in the North.

 

We do have diesel-generating power stations in all the communities in my district. The only industrial complex or the industrial plant is the one that operates the Vale nickel mine at Voisey's Bay. Madam Speaker, I can remember going into Voisey's Bay as an observer back in the '90s when there were just three tents and a bunch of Archean Resources employees doing exploration.

 

Since then, it has evolved into a major open-pit mine. It is almost nearing completion in that respect, Madam Speaker, and now plans are being made to go into underground mining at the same site. Voisey's Bay permits less than 100,000 tons per year which is, at this time, less than 1 per cent of the provincial total of emissions. This will increase once the facility goes underground, but will still be less than 2 per cent of the provincial total.

 

This facility, like many of the communities on the North Coast, is an awkward facility; it also relies on diesel generation. It will take a considerable investment between now and 2020 to allow the mine to gear up to go into underground.

 

I think it's one of the biggest employers, if not the biggest employer, in Northern Labrador, having created and I think consistent with approximately 500 jobs. Now, I'm glad to see that our province is buying into the greenhouse gas reduction targets for 2020 and 2050. It seems that it's a tall order and it's a strict deadline, but I think, Madam Speaker, it is something that needs to be done.

 

This legislation will require all industrial facilities in our province to be regulated. Madam Speaker, it's a small world that we occupy and the need for greenhouse gas reduction is more and more a priority. I don't think we can stand by and wait for greenhouse gas emissions to reduce themselves. If left unchecked, the impact of greenhouse gas emissions have the potential for irreparable damage.

 

Madam Speaker, evidence suggests that the North is the first place where indications of environmental impacts are felt. Industrial development has been front and centre in the North for the last 50 to 60 years, with new developments occurring on an ongoing basis.

 

Madam Speaker, there are areas of concern when it comes to the emission of greenhouse gases and the effect on climate change and global warming. I'd just like to point out a couple of examples that concern us in Northern Labrador. It's a species that's in decline that affects people in Labrador and Northern Quebec and that is the caribou herds, Madam Speaker. The herd that concerns us the most is the George River caribou herd.

 

Madam Speaker, I've been harvesting the George River caribou herd since the late '70s. I've seen the herd go from just over 100,000 animals up to nearly three quarters of a million in the early '90s, to a population today which is hovering around the 10,000 mark; all this in a span of less than 40 years, so there are concerns.

 

Not only that, Madam Speaker, there are other non-native species that over the last 20 years are starting to make an appearance in Northern Labrador. Some of these species may not seem like they're something that's weird and tropical, these are species that are quite common in other areas in the province.

 

Madam Speaker, to see them up in Northern Labrador has gone from a rare occasion to larger and larger populations. Some of the examples include mallard ducks, gannets, black cormorants, porbeagle sharks; some of these species that were rare occasions not that long ago that are quite common now. It's causing some concern. Is it the impacts of global warming and climate change that comes from greenhouse gas emissions?

 

Another example is the ice formation and the thaw of the sea ice in the spring. Madam Speaker, when I was a young man and started in the commercial seal harvest of ringed seals and harp seals in the early '80s, we went out on the ice late into the spring. From that point in the early '80s to now, we've seen a huge difference in the ice formation and the thaw.

 

Back then in the early '80s, it wasn't uncommon to travel out on the sea ice seal hunting by snowmobile into the second and third week of June. It was not uncommon. Today, Madam Speaker, by contrast, it's now not uncommon to be out in boat by the third or fourth week in May.

 

Madam Speaker, the same applies to freeze-up in November, December. In my lifetime, we've gone through spring break a month early. In the spring, the ice breaks up a month earlier and the freeze-up comes a month later in the fall. Now, these are just some of the changes that we're seeing and it is causing concern.

 

Another area of concern that I scribbled down that I've noticed in the last 30, 35 years in the change in weather patterns. I believe that along the Eastern Seaboard, which includes Labrador, storms are becoming more and more severe and are occurring more and more often. We do question whether or not these are the impacts or the results of greenhouse gas emissions which, in turn, cause global warming and obvious climate change.

 

Mr. Speaker, we've seen the potential for green energy and, certainly, we look forward to more exploration into the possibility of green energy. I know in my hometown in Makkovik in the last few years there was a demonstration, a wind power generating station set up to monitor the potential to harvest wind energy. Certainly I've been waiting to sit down with the Minister of Natural Resources and explore the results of the survey. That alone, Mr. Speaker, would cut down on greenhouse gas emissions even within the communities.

 

In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, I would like to say that I'm happy to support this bill. It is good to see that our province is joining our federal government to tackle greenhouse gas emissions regionally, provincially, nationally and, hopefully, very soon, internationally.

 

Thank you.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER (Osborne): The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

 

MR. HUTCHINGS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

(Inaudible) Bill 34, An Act to Regulate Greenhouse Gas Emissions From Industrial Facilities in the Province. No doubt, as my colleague suggested, this is a framework to start the process of putting in place – I guess it is the start of a framework but, as we go forward, in terms of monitoring emissions of five facilities on land in Newfoundland and Labrador of looking at a process, over the next two years and subsequent to that, of developing some kind of guidelines in terms of what those emissions are from those facilities, how they would rate in terms of what the legislation says in regard to thresholds, and then from there, pay towards an actual fund that would look at reducing greenhouse gas through a number of areas.

 

One of the things we talked about too is the detail that's provided in the legislation. So what it's looking at are five facilities that have been mentioned before: IOC; Vale, Long Harbour and Voisey's Bay collectively; the Come By Chance refinery; Corner Brook Pulp and Paper; and Tata Steel when, indeed, it is developed.

 

We know through resource development, industrial development in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, it's certainly extremely important to us, as is greenhouse gas emissions, the reductions and what's happening in protecting our environment. So both of those go hand in hand and we have to take a balanced approach, recognizing, as I said, the importance of these facilities and for economic development, economic growth and how we put in place a method to reduce greenhouse gases and emissions to help for the betterment of all and do our role, which is extremely important.

 

The other thing that stands out too when we look at the federal government and what role they played in – I mean they're the sovereign entity, Canada, when they sign on to international agreements in regard to greenhouse gas emissions, whether it's Kyoto or other provisions that we often adopt and use as guides as we move forward. It's unusual that the federal government has sort of stepped back and said for the provincial jurisdictions to take a leading role in this.

 

When you look at it broadly you kind of wonder, if each jurisdiction develops a regulatory framework, then at some point the federal government says, well, here's our regulatory framework and we have a bunch of patchwork across the country for various jurisdictions. I think that's a little problematic. Maybe the minister can speak to that at some time in debate here or maybe in actual Committee.

 

I guess you could debate whether the federal government should lead this because they're on the national scene in terms of Canada as a whole and what percentage of greenhouse gases we emit as a country. Then you further break it down by – I think it's a couple of per cent and I could be wrong. Most of that may be with the tar sands. Then you break that down even further to Newfoundland and Labrador. What role should the national government play in coming up and developing these standards? What role does each province play in that? At some point, will it come together? What's that going to look like? So we would like to have some discussion and some thought on where that would be.

 

Other issues, as we have gone through this piece of legislation, our caucus talking about it, the Member mentioned as well we had some discussion about the fact that we have five facilities mentioned here so what about we are able to attract another facility to the province, which ultimately had certain emissions that would fall under the current regulatory framework of the legislation – does the legislation allow that? Obviously some entity coming to the province, there is often a negotiation in regard to coming. What information can we tell them upfront, if there was a new entity outside of those five that is mentioned in this piece of legislation? We certainly have question in regard to that.

 

There was some discussion in regard to the particular facilities that are mentioned in the legislation. Some have struggled in the past years due to commodity prices and those sorts of things. So what analysis has been done on a framework, an approximate cost in terms of emissions and what that cost would be to those industries that we have identified?

 

I certainly would like to hear from the minister too in the discussions that have been had from some of these operators in terms of their perspective and how they feel this would roll out and affect their operations. Recognizing again, as I said when I started, this is a partnership between doing your part in regard to the reduction of greenhouse gases and handling and trying to assist with the emissions of these particular industrial activities and facilities on land in Newfoundland and Labrador and ensuring that we work in partnership to continue to grow those industries as they mean so much to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, but as I said, in a partnership, to protect the environment, how we do it.

 

Going through the legislation and looking at various components of it, we also know there's a fund that is set up and that would be paid in to by emitters once they went over a certain threshold. What that would be per ton is going to be determined at some point after, my understanding, a couple of years of monitoring of emissions and then Cabinet would make that decision. I'm not sure on that one. I think we would like to see a more open and transparent process where we had maybe some monitoring of facilities of emissions. Then, at some point, with consultations with industry and with all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, something be brought to the House in a legislative content that identifies the emissions, the charges so it can be laid out for everybody to see and there would be a fulsome discussion, if you will, on that whole set-up as it is, but recognizing – I mean it is a first start, this is a framework, so it's good that we have some basis to move ahead here on how we do this.

 

In regard to that fund, some questions on how it would be used. Do you have to be one of these five facilities to access that fund? Would those five facilities be the only ones required to use the fund? How would you monitor that? How would you identify their reductions? Based on that, would they have to entertain various avenues to reduce their emissions? It could be technology, different machinery they'd have to use, those types of things. So we understand it's a discussion about some of those items as well.

 

Obviously you look at things like Muskrat Falls, the investments in our province we made there and what that's going to do in regard to reduction in our greenhouse gases. Obviously that plays a huge role going forward. Holyrood, we understand, is not in the legislation or identified, but the expectation is that will be shut down by the time that this legislation will come into play.

 

I'm just wondering would monitoring be done of that facility currently, or has it been done? At some point if, for some sake, it wasn't shut down, I think there's provision in the legislation where it could be covered if it wasn't shut down. Would we do monitoring of emissions at that facility as an alternative just in case they were identified or the facility was identified as part of the legislation?

 

In some other jurisdictions what I've learned from reading there are some – whether it's cap and trade or whether it's just direct tax on carbon, in other jurisdictions there's been collective action taken with the province. I think Quebec and California are cap and trade, but that's not what we're talking about here. Obviously there's ability to work together with regions to collectively reduce emissions and greenhouse gases.

 

Is there a potential there to work with other Eastern Canadian provinces, other states in the US, in some kind of partnership, work collectively? Obviously with excess energy we have from Muskrat, we have a line to the Eastern Seaboard. We can help reduce on a regional basis, whether it's coal burning or other types of pollutants for energy generation that hydro could offset that in Atlantic Canada or even in the Eastern Seaboard. Then further when we look at future development, something like Gull Island in Labrador, the potential again to transport that out of province and how we could work collectively with other jurisdictions to reduce emissions. So that's something too. I don't know if the legislation recognizes that or if it's something that could be discussed.

 

We, on this side, recognize the importance of a piece of legislation like this. We have some concerns in regard to there is not a lot of detail in what is going to happen. We're going to do some monitoring. Then there are five facilities here that have been identified on land in Newfoundland and Labrador, and then on a go-forward basis we are going to come up with emission targets that are going to be decided at some time in the future and, if not, coming back here to the Legislature.

 

What's the consultation process that is taking place, the date, in regard to those on-land facilities? What will happen in the future in terms of that overall consultative piece as we move forward to getting to the point of emission targets and based on tonnage of emissions, what would the cost be and what will your contribution be to the fund as identified in the legislation? 

 

So those are areas that we'd like to see flushed out in some more detail in regard to what that will mean. Again, consultation with the industry and those particular operations, what do they foresee of the challenges in terms of operations required as they move forward?

 

Those are some of the issues that we have. Personally looking through it from caucus, my colleague who is the critic discussed – I know I listened to the minister as he went through and certainly gave his overview of the legislation and what the intent is, and what they're trying to accomplish here. I still think it's a good start, but there's a lot here that is missing in regard to the details on the particular piece of legislation.

 

The other one, as I said, that stands out is the role of the federal government in this whole process as they are the ones who sign on to international accords in regard to reduction in greenhouse gases and emissions. I think we adopted targets from 2010 and we've met those, but when you look out to 2020 there is some concern we may not meet targets.

 

So those are some of the issues we've certainly talked about. I look forward to the minister having further discussion in second reading and then, as we get into Committee, we may be asking some questions back and forth. We'll certainly be quite interested to what the minister has to say as we move through debate on this particular bill.

 

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. 

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Placentia West – Bellevue.

 

MR. BROWNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I'm pleased to rise today and speak in support of Bill 34, which I believe will go down as one of the most important pieces of legislation in this session. In an age where there's still major climate change denialism in political circles around the world, despite overwhelming support of evidence, it's gratifying to be on the right side of history.

 

I take the comments from the Members opposite well this afternoon. I think they're certainly committed to the principle of addressing climate change and I thank them for that. I certainly thank the minister and his officials for their leadership on this file.

 

This piece of legislation treats global warming as a self-evident fact. It rushes past any diplomatic consideration of the climate change debate per se, Mr. Speaker, and instead simply proposes a solution to one of the most serious problems facing our society, or any society for that matter, facing the world. For my generation, there has never been doubt about climate change. The science is so clear, the cause and effect is so glaringly obvious that human-led activity is warming our planet, uncovering a Pandora's box of climatic and ecological consequences.

 

Of course, there is the obvious effect of rising sea levels which threaten our coastal communities across the globe. For a province with so many communities on the coast, that hits us right in our own backyard. Sea levels are rising, Mr. Speaker, and this process is accelerating with every additional ton of carbon we pump into the atmosphere. How many of our own communities will be impacted if the sea rises two metres?

 

In my own District of Placentia West – Bellevue, Mr. Speaker – which I've said many, many times and described it to Members of the Chamber and those listening at home how it's a rural district bordered by the sea. I have one community that's inland and that's Goobies. It's hard to imagine in my own district how the communities would manage to be untouched by such a steep increase in sea levels. It's truly not unthinkable. It's not a hypothetical future; it's a virtual certainty if action is not taken.

 

That's why I'm happy to support the move that the government is taking here to address the consequences of global warming because it has other unintended consequences that are terrible for the ecosystem and the world we live in. It means we will have a much more difficult time feeding everyone, which is not a reality we'll want to face as our species reaches record population numbers, Mr. Speaker.

 

It is also taking a terrible on ecology and biodiversity. Species across the globe are threatened with extinction due to habitat loss and changing living conditions. Whole coral reefs are transforming from underwater biodiversity hotspots to bleached subsea wastelands. By a growing consensus, we need to take action, immediate and decisive action to combat global warming. The principle of all this, Mr. Speaker, is that each of us must do our part. Whether you are small emitters or large emitters, it is time for all of us to do our part, all of us today.

 

There's an obvious need in the global economy today that we are largely fueled by fossil fuels. It is not only for shipping and electricity; we depend on it for much more than that, Mr. Speaker. We use it to make fertilizer which we need in order to feed the world. They are used to make tires, plastic, pharmaceuticals and even some foods.

 

Taking fossil fuels out of the global economic equation would require an immediate shift in the current paradigm so drastic that we would barely recognize the world we were living in. That is why we must take a measured approach which is what I am glad the minister is proposing. Eliminating our dependence on fossil fuels simply cannot happen overnight and we must work with our industries to make sure we do it in a sustainable and responsible way.

 

In our world today, we see many developing nations such as Brazil, India, China or South Africa wanting to even the score with those of us who are already developed, rapidly trying to expand their economies at the expense of the environment. Mr. Speaker, we only have one planet and we must all work to preserve it together. And for these reasons, I am pleased to speak in support of this act.

 

This piece of legislation encompasses the spirit of compromise that is essential to finding a way forward on climate change. It seeks to regulate carbon emissions at industrial operations in our province while recognizing that these operations are essential components of our economy right here in Newfoundland and Labrador. As a government, we recognize that industrial operations result in carbon emissions. This ties back into the whole fact that our world is dependent on fossil fuels, Mr. Speaker.

 

What I'm about to say, Mr. Speaker, from my perspective in the debate is key. We recognize that industrial operations are the key to economic prosperity here in the province. We do not want to do anything to jeopardize the economic prosperity of our province; in fact, we want to enhance it, and we will enhance it. That is why this bill strikes a balance between environmental progress and economic prosperity. Two positions we believe can and should and will coexist alongside each other.

 

Mr. Speaker, I'm making myself clear to those listening at home and my constituents in particular. This is not about inhibiting industry; it's about working with industry as we collectively tackle the global problem that is climate change.

 

I want to take a couple of moments to talk about how this impacts my district specifically. Members would know and certainly those watching at home would know that I have two of the highest emitters. They are nearing the top of the list. That would be the North Atlantic Refinery in Come By Chance and that would be also the Vale, Long Harbour facility. These are very important economic generators in my district and in the province as a whole. In fact, I've said many times in this House that I liken my district to be the industrial heartland of the Island of Newfoundland, given the large industries encompassed within it.

 

North Atlantic Refining is the largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the province that will be regulated as a result of this act. It accounts for about 9 per cent of the total provincial emissions, but it employs about 500 workers which underscore the importance it plays in our economy and certainly in the region that I represent.

 

About 75 to 80 per cent of North Atlantic's greenhouse gas emissions in any given year are from stationary fuel combustion, that is heating the furnaces and boilers on site; 15 to 20 per cent of its emissions are fixed process emissions, that is chemical reactions that occur as crude oil is broken down and refined; and 5 per cent is from flaring and related emissions that would be from the flare stack, which many people would relate to, given that they would drive past on the Trans-Canada and see the flare stack flaring about.

 

This point, Mr. Speaker, that I'm about to make is also key, I believe, to my support of this legislation in that the companies were involved in the consultation process leading back as far as 2009, and they were a key part of the development of this legislation. For me, Come by Chance is a major employer and I would do nothing, I would say nothing, I would support nothing that saw that go into jeopardy. This is truly about finding a way forward together, and we'll do the same in Long Harbour. As Members would know, it's currently under construction. Once it's in operation they'll have about 500 workers, and it's a facility that will have some emissions carrying with it. 

 

The facility has a purchase power agreement with Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro; however, it is also expected to consume a large volume of diesel fuel to heat the furnaces and boilers at the facility. Its emissions will largely be driven by diesel fuel consumption. And another key point here, Mr. Speaker, is the fact that they were also involved in the consultation process leading up to this.

 

I've been out, I've toured the Come By Chance Refinery, and I've got a great relationship with the staff and the workers there. I've also toured, with the Minister of Natural Resources, the Vale operation in Long Harbour. I have a great relationship with the workers there as well. So the points that I'm underscoring today is yes, on the one hand, we have to address climate change, and I'm 100 per cent behind that. I believe it is a problem for our time, a problem that we must collectively resolve to fix.

 

Whether we are just 1.8 per cent of the Canadian emissions or not, we have a part to play as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians and we must play that role, Mr. Speaker. But at the same time as we move to further generate economic wealth in our province, particularly for me as the MHA representing these two large industries, I'm saying to my constituents that I am firmly supporting their economic ambitions at the same time that we can work towards collectively addressing the environmental challenges of our times.

 

Mr. Speaker, I really have nothing more to say other than that. I'm supporting the minister's legislation. I thank him for involving me beforehand and asking me to speak to this. I can look at my constituents in the eye and the industries in my district and say that we will work with you moving forward and anything we can do to help address any issues, environmental or economic, we will be there as a government to help support industry.

 

With that, Mr. Speaker,, I'll take my seat.

 

Thank you.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: 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, Bill 34. This bill, its intention is to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from industrial facilities in the province. Mr. Speaker, I'm happily taking over this portfolio as critic for Environment and Conservation for our caucus. It's an entirely new area for me, so there's been a steep learning curve. It's been great to take a look at this particular piece of legislation and what it might mean for us.

 

I would like to thank the officials in the department who gave an excellent briefing. I would like to thank also all the activists throughout the province and all the climate and environmental activists globally who have been pushing us, pushing us, pushing us to do the right thing because they have been the leaders in this area. So often government is very slow to respond but once government is pushed hard enough, government will respond – oftentimes not as quickly nor as far or comprehensively as activists might like to see us do so.

 

The activists may be people from the science community, people from the environmental community, people from social justice communities in this whole area of climate change and the global environment. So I would like to thank them for their vision, for their persistence, for their passion and their compassion.

 

Mr. Speaker, this Bill 34 again is about the Management of Greenhouse Gas Act and, in 2014, the most recent year for which data is available, greenhouse gas emissions in Newfoundland and Labrador were 10 per cent increase from 2013 levels. Already global activists have been pushing for a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Instead, what has been happening in our province is that the emissions have been increasing.

 

In 2014, large industrial companies, including oil and gas, mining and oil refining, accounted for 36 per cent of provincial greenhouse gas emissions. So that's 36 per cent in the oil and gas, mining and oil refining industries. Transportation, which includes personal vehicles and heavy trucks, as well as marine vessels, accounted for 34 per cent.

 

Power generation, including that big, old monster, the Holyrood Generating Station – which has provided us more often than not reliably with our energy, but really is state of the ark now, no longer state of the art, and it's been under much discussion in the past few years. The power generation, including the Holyrood generation station, accounted for 11 per cent and waste accounted for 8 per cent.

 

The target for Newfoundland and Labrador – and again, we are part of a global community. It's very interesting because it's hard to talk about climate change. It's hard to talk about the issue of the environment in Newfoundland and Labrador because we are lulled into this false sense that we're okay. We have lots of fresh water. We have lots of open land. We're an island in the middle of the cold Atlantic Ocean. We don't have a traffic grid. We don't have a whole lot of smog.

 

People are lulled into a sense that we're safe; however, we are part of a global economy and we have a responsibility. We do have significant greenhouse gas emissions. We do have a moral, a legal and an economic responsibility to do something about that. We have been slow. We have been so painfully slow to get on with this.

 

We know the framework that the minister has proposed to us, some activists are very frustrated. They say it's going to be two years before we see any real action. I understand that frustration. I'm sure even the minister himself understands that frustration. I'm sure if the minister could wave a magic wand he would accelerate this process.

 

I'm going to encourage the minister to accelerate this process as much as possible. Particularly in the consultation that he plans to do this summer, but we also have to be careful about that consultation process. It's hard doing consultation, real, true consultation during summer months. People are off camping and thinking about other things, trouting, jigging a cod and taking holidays. It's hard to get information out to groups who are interested about this or activists about this, so we have to look at how do we accelerate this process but also how do we do it responsibly, comprehensively, thoroughly to make sure that real, true consultation has happened.

 

So far we haven't seen real, true consultation with this government when we look at the kinds of consultation they did around the budget. It wasn't true consultation. I am hoping and trusting that this minister will be true to his word and really look at making sure that this consultation is thorough, that people are heard. We have to listen not only to industry. We have to listen to industry because they play a crucial role in the health of our province in terms of the economic life of our province, but we also have to listen to the people, we have to listen to the scientists and we have to listen to the activists.

 

Hopefully, through this consultation process we can come to consensus building around this issue because this issue is perhaps one of the biggest issues globally. We belong to that global village. We have a moral responsibility to act fairly and with a sense of social justice.

 

Our target for 2020 is 8.6 million tons, and we are only going to make it down to 9.6 million tons. In 2011, the previous government reneged on a promise to reduce greenhouse gases by 10 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020. Again, it hasn't been a burning issue. It's so easy to pretend. It's not a real burning issue for our province.

 

They said emissions were rising due to industrial growth and we needed to be competitive to attract more investment in mining and offshore oil. So how do we deal with those seemingly competing issues? There are ways, and we know if we look in other jurisdictions in the world, in some countries in Europe, when we look also at what might be happening in Alberta, those competing issues do not have to be mutually exclusive. We have to find a way to work together. We know industry knows that this is important.

 

They promised to explore energy efficiency incentives in the private sector, but there was no program to help small business. Then they cut the Residential Energy Efficiency Program. I get so jealous. I vacillate between jealousy and heartbreak when I visit other jurisdictions. When I look at the programs that are available in other cities in our country, in other provinces, when I go to Europe, when I'm travelling in other parts of the world when I see initiatives by government around the areas of energy efficiency incentives, both in the private sector in small businesses and also in energy efficiency programs.

 

I remember when we had the filibuster around Muskrat Falls. One night, all through the night, whenever I got up to speak I looked at who our dancing partners were with Muskrat Falls. There was Manitoba Hydro, there was SNC-Lavalin, there was Ontario hydro and I looked at who they were dancing with since they had left Muskrat Falls. They were doing some incredibly progressive energy efficiency-type programs, projects in different parts of the world. Ones that we couldn't take part in because all our eggs were in one basket, in that basket of Muskrat Falls.

 

Mr. Speaker, it's time, but when we look at this particular budget if we look at the area of Residential Energy Efficiency Programs, our government in fact cut. When jurisdictions all over the world are helping small businesses, helping their people make their homes more efficient, their places of business more efficient – when they are pouring money into that because they know (a) green technology creates jobs and the amount of money needed to create jobs in that area is so little and the payoff is so great – what did our government do? They cut our Residential Energy Efficiency Program. It was $3 million last year and they've cut it to $1.7 million this year. It's exactly the opposite of what they should have been doing.

 

What we see is they've gone from providing assistance to a thousand households – and we know this program was always oversubscribed – to now only to 500 households. That flies in the face of everything that this bill is about. That flies in the face of everything that's happening globally around energy efficiency and dealing with greenhouse gas emissions. It's heartbreaking, and I'm jealous of the wonderful programs that are happening all over the world and I'm heartbroken about the fact that it's not happening here. What I see here is that we get stuck with state of the ark, instead of moving forward with state of the art.

 

So I'm glad to see that this government now, at least in this area, is making a renewed to commitment to cutting our greenhouse gas emissions. It is the right thing to do. But they are also saying we won't meet our 2020 targets because Hebron, White Rose and Long Harbour are coming on stream and will offset the effects of Muskrat Falls and the closure of Holyrood, and that's a problem.

 

I know that some of the activists have been speaking to me about their dismay about the issue that we have no jurisdiction over this issue in regard to the offshore oil industry, but they see what is happening in Alberta, with the tar sands and the oil industry in Alberta. One of the activists asked me – he wants to know – what legal opinion did the minister seek in regard to the jurisdiction over the offshore gas and oil? I would like very much for the minister to be able to speak to that issue.

 

I am pleased that there is now at least this flexible compliance framework for the large, land-based industrial facilities. That's an important approach for us, but it will be a long time before they have to either reduce emissions or pay offset penalties, at least 2019, a year before our next greenhouse gas emission reduction target.

 

So we're looking at two years of gathering data and information. I know that some of the activists feel that that data is already being collected by Environment Canada, but I also know that the data that is being required by this for our provincial purposes is a little more intensive, and is more specific.

 

I would like for the minister to be able to speak to that because a number of activists have this question: Why, when they feel that the data is already available and is collected by Environment Canada for some of our larger industrial facilities? So if the minister can speak to that, and again, the concern that this doesn't include the offshore major emitter because it requires working with the federal government as the co-regulator of the offshore. I know that people would like to hear from the minister about that.

 

Local environmental industries are pleased with this framework. I know that NEIA has put out a press release today saying that they pleased with this because, in fact, what it does is create work. Once we have a framework in hand that large industrial companies, even smaller companies who need to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, that they will need help doing that and they will need the specific technology, this will create jobs in the green energy sector.

 

I can't mention Iron & Earth enough, and I don't know if the minister has had a chance yet to meet with that organization. Again Iron & Earth started here; the Atlantic chapter started here in St. John's about a month and a half ago and I went to their first meeting. Iron & Earth is comprised of men and women who work in the oil industry and in the mining industry, extraction industries and they are well trained, they are plumbers, electricians, pipe fitters, scaffolders and they have been displaced by the crash in the commodity prices, by the crash in the oil prices. But again, they are people who are well trained, who are hard workers and they want to turn their skills around and use their skills in this area, in the green technology area.

 

They have some really good ideas. Iron & Earth have chapters in Alberta and in BC. A lot of people in those chapters are also from Newfoundland and Labrador. A lot of them displaced workers from Northern Alberta and from Fort McMurray. So I really look forward to the minister meeting with them. They are educating themselves and they are ready to roll up their sleeves and jump in and be part of the solution, and I think that is great. Many of them have come back home and that's what they want to do. They want to work here; they want to be part of the solution.

 

There are opportunities now here for some of these funds to be invested in renewable energy and that's a good thing, although we see again that cut to the REEP program. But net metering has stalled – this is stalling us going forward and I am hoping that the minister is going to be looking at this issue. There are a number of green technology companies that are ready. They are ready to move forward. They are being held back by net metering. People because of legislation around Muskrat Falls, nobody is legally allowed to produce their own energy and then sell back to our grid, which is happening again all over the world. It's heartbreaking that it's not happening here.

 

Again, I'm jealous of the progressive measures that are being taken in other places in the world. I am hoping that the minister is going to take a look at that in this whole package because that's part of it. It's absolutely part of it. I hope that there is an openness to take a look at that.

 

Now, the minister has promised that there will be public consultations this summer for a new climate change action plan. Thank goodness! We need one, but we need one with teeth and then we need an absolute commitment that we will move forward. It's not enough to have a plan and put it on a shelf. And we need resources committed to it.

 

I believe the minister seems to be a very optimistic kind of guy, and he seems to be very committed and passionate about this issue, and I believe that he is going to take some leadership and push us forward. But, just in case, Minister, I do hope that the activists and the industries are going to help push you to accelerate this – again, because sometimes that's what we need.

 

The teeter-totter between competing interests, I believe that all of us together can negotiate those specific issues. So we need to look at what is possible for more incentives to cut emissions in small business, in transportation and in other sectors. And we need not just to look, we need to be able to be committed to action, we need resources committed to this.

 

I would like the minister to also speak about what is his timeline for the consultations. As we know, there were public consultations on the residential tenancies board that was, I don't know, 3½ years ago, maybe almost four years now; we still haven't seen a new act. We still haven't seen that report. So we need to know from the minister exactly what his plan is. It's not enough just to raise dialogue. It's not enough just to consult. We need to know what are his plans for coming forth with the new plan and the new strategy, and when will it be public, when will that be available to the province. I'd also like him to speak a little bit to his plan for consultation, how he will ensure that it's true public consultation, that's it's true engagement.

 

I believe part of the reason that we are in so much trouble with Muskrat Falls is because there wasn't authentic engagement, there wasn't authentic consultation, and it was just rammed through. It is my hope that the minister will take a different approach.

 

I would like to just take a brief look – again, there is a sense of urgency that we have to wait another two years before any real action takes place. I would like the minister to somehow speak to that. He cannot compress time nor can he accelerate time, but I would like him to speak to that sense that people are saying, oh no, here we go again. I believe, Minister, that you might be able to do that.

 

There is a concern that it doesn't –

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

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

 

I'm very happy to speak to this. I hope that the minister will also speak to some of the shortfalls that people see in comparison to Alberta.

 

Thank you very much.

 

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

 

MR. REID: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I just want to take a few minutes to add my voice to support this bill and the changes that are being brought forward in this bill, Mr. Speaker. Greenhouse gases and global warming is an international issue; it's a global issue that we face. It's a very challenging issue because there's no overall – it's very difficult to get compliance in the international context.

 

It's very encouraging that – and the Member opposite mentioned the activist who sort of pushed forward the agenda on this in this province and around the world. I think it's very important to recognize the importance of their involvement in that as well.

 

Also, I want to – it's encouraging to see that this is a priority of the new federal government as well as the new provincial government, Mr. Speaker. It's good to see that both levels of government are willing to work towards putting in place mechanisms that will see Canada and our province contribute to solving this problem as well.

 

That's in contrast to the previous administration, in many ways what's seen as a laggard in dealing with this issue and was seen as someone who contested the whole idea that global warming was taking place. So it's good to see that fresh new approach to Canada. The previous federal administration, I mean. Some of the Members opposite were looking at me.

 

The other provinces are already beginning to act. It's interesting that each province is sort of putting forward a method of reducing greenhouse gases that fits their own circumstances, Mr. Speaker. It's important to note that one size doesn't fit all in this case. This province is moving forward with mechanisms which suit the circumstances here in this province.

 

Some would say we're a small part of the Canadian problem, Mr. Speaker. Newfoundland and Labrador's contribution to emissions are about 1.2 to 1.4 per cent of the Canadian total, but that's in proportion to our population. It's important to note as well that everyone has a part to play, Mr. Speaker. We all have a role to play.

 

Some considerations for our province as we move forward, and I guess any jurisdiction as well, is to look at the cost and the competitiveness issues that are involved for our jurisdiction. That's important as well. The timelines, how quickly you can implement these changes that you want to bring in. The other thing is the local circumstances and how our circumstances are different from other circumstances and how our program should deal with those things.

 

We've brought forward a program of flexible compliance mechanisms. We have a technology fund. We have offsets. The general principle with the offset is although you may not do something to deal with the issue you have, you may be able to find a way of offsetting the emissions you put out in another way that's more suitable for you. Also, the idea of being able to bank the credits you have due to the changes that you make.

 

We're breaking new ground here in what we're doing in dealing with this issue and developing a solution. Some of the main components of this bill – that's a few comments about the general sort of problem and context of global warming and greenhouse gas issues.

 

Now I want to look a little bit at the issues that are specific to this province and, more specifically, how this might all impact on the area that I represent here in the House of Assembly.

 

Some of the main elements of this bill are that industrial facilities that emit more than 15,000 tons will be required to report their greenhouse gas emissions. Report regulations will be released this year and reporting is expected to start in 2016. Some facilities are already reporting to the federal government to comply with their regulation. That's in terms of facilities that are below 15,000 tons.

 

Industrial facilities that emit more than 25,000 tons will be required to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions at a future date. Reporting data will inform the greenhouse gas targets for each facility, which will be set in regulations in due course. At least two years of reporting will be required before limits can be established.

 

That's a prudent way of dealing with this issue, is understanding the context of which the emissions are taking place in this province, gathering data, allowing people enough time to adjust to the situations and finding solutions that will result in the ultimate objective of reducing greenhouse emissions, Mr. Speaker. I'm pleased with that approach and those things are in place.

 

Mr. Speaker, one of the facilities that may or may not be impacted by this is the – well, some of the facilities in this province, there are only a few large emitters in this province. Basically, it's the iron ore mining, oil refining, nickel mining and processing, and the newsprint industry. The iron ore mining basically involves a pellet plant. Pelletization of ore requires the use of energy and bunker C is used too in that process. Also, oil refining is another area that involves emissions and nickel mining also, especially as the facility goes underground.

 

The newsprint industry may or may not in this province meet the – it seems like it's between the 15,000 and 25,000 so it may not have to look at ways to mitigate the emissions that they make. They're sort of one of the majors, but not one of the largest emitters.

 

This whole idea of the competing values of environmental industries and resource industries and other industries has been around for a while, but it seems to be changing in recent years where people are more looking at the ways that – competitive industries are industries that are also environmentally aware, that take responsibility for the environmental issues that they have and show leadership in these areas. So that's an important part of this legislation, the way we've done it, and the way that it promotes companies being responsible in dealing with their emissions, Mr. Speaker. 

 

Also, I think there are some possibilities in the future that may evolve in terms of the way greenhouse gases are being dealt with. For example, there some facilities in the area that I represent that produce biogas, so there may be some possibilities in those areas in the future. Also, the Bay St. George area is one of the areas in the province that is being proposed for a major wind energy development, so that may be another possibility there as well. It's interesting that, in the future, those industries may benefit, as well as the companies that make up the Newfoundland and Labrador Environmental Industry Association.

 

These areas may benefit from this type of regulation, this type of flexible compliance. I want to commend the minister and the team within his department for bringing forward this piece of legislation, and the work that they're doing, playing their part, our part, as the province, in looking after greenhouse emission. 

 

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Seeing no further speakers, if the hon. the Minister of Environment and Conservation speaks now, he will close debate. 

 

The hon. the Minister of Environment and Conservation.

 

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

 

First of all, thank you to each of the speakers. I must say the thoughts and the questions were excellent, very comprehensive; you touched on a lot of the nuances and actually a lot of the action to come forward. I thank you very much for paying a lot of attention to what is in there. 

 

What I'm going to try to do is lightly answer your questions as we go through. I would suggest that if it's insufficient, you perhaps let me know right here. I don't mind exploring with you in further detail, and/or I guess we could talk about it further in Committee. So I'll just throw that out there. I'm more than open and willing to talk.

 

First of all, to my colleague, the critic for Environment for Conception Bay South, he had a series of questions and I'll go through some of these. First of all, he asked about whether or not two years was sufficient to compile accurate data for decisions. It may not be. We have set two years as a target. We are anxious to see progress. As the Member for St. John's Centre indicated, it's important to move, so we've struck that compromise of two years.

 

I'll note why that two years may just work fine for us. Most of these facilities, certainly those that are emitting over 50,000 tons a year right now, are already reporting to the federal government. They're used to reporting. The challenge that we have in that data is that they're not reporting in a way that we need the information, it tends to be system wide. We need to have it more specific for the particular parameters we are looking for, things like carbon dioxide and things like methane and so on.

 

Another thing that we are doing in terms of how we handle the data that comes in is that we tend to normalize the data. I'll note that over the last couple of years, we've had highs and lows in each of these industrial facilities that we're talking about, so we've had to adjust for that and we will be adjusting for that as that occurs. This is all about the co-operation that we have working with industry to ensure the data that we're collecting accurately reflects a normal year.

 

The other aspect to this is, of course, you don't ever want to set it in stone because as my colleague for Torngat Mountains indicated, operations like Vale and their underground, they're going underground. Their energy demands are actually going to increase, so we need to accommodate that in future and so on. You don't want to set a limit on a facility that would preclude it from expanding from operating from pursuing other opportunities. At each iteration, if you like, of the lifecycle of a plant, we would be working closely with them to set. Two years is a target. We'll be watching that closely.

 

The emissions reduction at Corner Brook; what is their level? That's Corner Brook Pulp and Paper. I'm going to put an overarching thought out there for several of the speakers in terms of there's a suggestion that this bill before you was lacking in detail. In fact this is enabling legislation; there are no regulations in here. I would suggest there were a couple of times the word “regulation” was used but there are no regs in this. The regulations will be developed in full consultation, as the Member indicated.

 

We really wanted to narrow down on the approach. There are three carbon-pricing mechanisms active in Canada right now. We wanted to agree as to what's the most appropriate for this sector of our economy. We have done that; that's what we're looking at. Now in terms of how and what and where and so on and the price, all those different things, that will all be developed through a consultation process that I would suggest will be ongoing.

 

But certainly our plan is to have, as I said, two years of data, so we'll be developing the rates to support the decisions that will come to Cabinet at the end of 2018. So such that by the start of 2019, companies will receive their targets and they will have strategies before them as to how they are going to meet those targets.

 

In terms of identifying what the cost of the emissions reductions is for each of these, it is very difficult to say. I can give you a couple of examples of a rough ballpark. It really will depend on what target is set, what the price per ton – right now a ton of greenhouse gas emission varies in price around the world, anywhere from $30 to $50 a ton. So that may change, we'll see. There may be a national standard that Canada will adapt and then, therefore, present to all of the jurisdictions or there could be some international agreement as to what's most appropriate.

 

A lot of parameters in there, a lot of moving parts, but I would suggest to the Member for – perhaps I will just refer to it in general but one of the speakers certainly talked about the need to be very transparent, and we'll do our best to certainly do that in terms of setting what the price will be. Bringing those targets back to the House of Assembly, I would need to confer, but I certainly take the point and we'll be discussing with my colleagues.

 

A lot of the target setting frankly is going on and in the end of January, I was in Ottawa and since that time I've certainly been working with environment ministers in other provinces and territories, going through their lessons learned, what's been working for them, what might work here. While we are late coming to the game, at least we have the benefit of learning how others have fared and what's worked for them, what didn't. So it's a lessons learned tour, if you like, that we are on.

 

I had a remark around IOC in Labrador. I guess it was just around the fragility of that operation. For IOC and for the refinery there have been – as I might have indicated, we started with very intensive consultations with industry back in 2011. We've had five years of working very closely with them. Processes, evaluations, as to what it will take for them to reduce their emissions and what investments they need, that kind of work has been ongoing. So the Office of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency is able to avail of that. It's not like this is a sudden surprise to anyone.

 

In fact, I was very pleased to have the vice-president of the North Atlantic Refining Limited present with myself today when we launched this in a press conference. He's comfortable with the process that we've selected. It feels, from an industry perspective and in terms of the options that are out there, the carbon-pricing mechanisms, this is the one that Newfoundland and Labrador and the industries here can most and best work with.

 

In terms of alignment with Ottawa, it's very interesting. My background is in science, but as I've gotten into this portfolio it is so complex to really understand it well. Hat's off to the folks in the office. They're a small group, but there's a high quality and calibre of people that work there.

 

It's really interesting because Ottawa unfortunately has been almost absent from this whole strategy of addressing climate change for the last decade. Provinces and territories have moved on their own accord. That's why we have the patchwork that one of the Members referred to. We see different strategies across the country and each has had to move unilaterally as opposed to with their colleagues and in a national framework.

 

That is why right now the prime minster has called on a pan-Canadian framework to start to pull this all together. That does not necessarily mean we're all going to go to a cap-and-trade system or a carbon tax or this regulatory approach. What it does mean is that we're going to look and understand. A clear message I had to deliver in Ottawa late January, new to the job, was to ensure that our jurisdiction, we find a solution that works for us.

 

I was very pleased to see good reception around the room. Certainly the big players of Quebec and Ontario tend to dominate that discussion, as they do any FPT discussion. Nevertheless, with our Atlantic provincial colleagues and reaching out across the country, I feel we're in a good place in terms of letting this jurisdiction proceed.

 

How do future developments fit into this whole bill and this legislation? We've talked about it and it's actually going to roll into the environmental assessment process. As projects are registered and as that undertaking is reviewed, this will just be one of those triggers that would initiate a review of what kind of emissions are you going to have, what are your anticipated levels? Certainly, if they're anticipating to exceed 15,000, we're going to be advising that proponent that they're going to need to co-operate and move into our jurisdictional approach to carbon pricing. We see that as a very convenient way to capture all new developments.

 

In terms of export energy from Gull Island – and it's been interesting because I've had a variety of people speak to myself and I'm sure to the office on this point. Gull Island is a great opportunity in terms of producing non-GHG emitting energy. There are challenges around it of course besides building the project. There are environmental issues but in terms of releasing greenhouse gas emissions, hydro is a very effective way of doing that and creating a lot of energy.

 

In terms of us meeting our target, you must appreciate that it doesn't reduce our own footprint. You might have heard the statement that by the conclusion of Muskrat Falls Project and the demolishing, decommissioning of the Holyrood plant, we will be at 98 per cent of the electricity generated in this province will come from non GHG sources. Sounds great, sounds like we are way ahead of the scene.

 

Unfortunately, on a per capita basis we rank as one of the biggest troublemakers in the country. So for our half million people, we are no saints. I think we are in eighth position in the county in terms of – with tenth being the highest. So on a per capita basis, this half million people, we send a lot of stuff into the atmosphere. We do need to step up. On total, of course, it is a very small amount. It's only 1.2 to 1.4 per cent, as one of my colleagues said, but on a per capita we have a lot of work to do.

 

In terms of regional targets versus provincial. This target game is interesting. We have a provincial target for 2020, we also have a provincial target for 2050. We have a regional target for 2030, and this was developed in conjunction with the Atlantic provinces and New England governors. So it's not one specific for ourselves; that may come about in the future.

 

To be honest with you, in six months I have been preoccupied with just getting moving, getting this jurisdiction to pull up its socks and get forward. I would anticipate there will be a dialogue at some point in the future to decide whether or not we need to identify a provincial target for 2030. We are availing of both regional and provincial targets.

 

Offshore oil; as you saw on our pie chart offshore, industry represents some 16 per cent of our total emissions. So onshore is what this approach is and that represents some 19 per cent. We realize that we need both in terms of co-operation, in terms of emission reduction. We started some time ago. We've sent a signal to Ottawa that we want to sit down with them and engage in a discussion because it's a federal-provincial jurisdictional dialogue that's going to be needed to open – we don't know if we have to open up the Atlantic Accord or not, but that's where it's going to sit is in that realm.

 

We've already started that communication. As I've said to some folks already today, I was just anxious for us to get started. We've got this one step; we've got a few more steps to go before we're going to meet our target for 2020 and beyond. I look forward to reporting back to the House on our progress with Ottawa.

 

It was a good discussion from my critic on the discussion of options and so on. One key point I'd like to make about offsets – and if you look at some of the other carbon-pricing mechanisms, things like cap and trade, you want to have a very different kind of economy than what Newfoundland and Labrador currently has right now.

 

Cap and trade means you now enter into a system – it's an international system. The rules are already set in place. We're talking large industrial economies and we're also talking about potentially the exit or import of large amounts of capital. If you're not making your targets in a cap-and-trade system, you can invest somewhere else in the network of international opportunity.

 

It doesn't necessarily mean – so for example, NARL let's say, had an obligation. If they were under a cap-and-trade system, they may find a cheaper mechanism perhaps in Brazil that they could avail of. All the money to meet the targets that we'd want, they could invest in something in Brazil and it would have been a lost opportunity for us to grow our own economy to diversify what we're doing and so on. Again, another key reason why we selected this regulatory approach.

 

Yes, and I got the point about the price per ton that we debated. As I said, I have a sense, and it's just a sense, that you're going to see more of a universal identification as to what the price is, what that commodity price will be for that carbon.

 

Oh, yes. How do we ensure reductions occur elsewhere through our technology fund. That will be my responsibility as the minister, but as I said, there will be an advisory council made up of academia, industry and government. We estimate some five to seven persons. I'm not sure right now at this time, I'll just transparently admit whether or not this would fit within our Independent Appointments Commission. Perhaps it will, I don't see any reason why not. As it's a new bill, it hasn't been captured in Bill 1. So I'll just put that out there for further deliberation.

 

The idea is that other industry will be able to propose. I'm aware of my colleague from Western Newfoundland and a couple of companies in particular that are showing tremendous advancements in technology. They may be able to apply to this fund, which is in receipt of cash from industry that is captured by this legislation, that weren't able to make their targets. Money will sit in the fund, we'll administer it, but other industrial players could apply and use that cash to in turn reduce their own emissions.

 

As I like to say, there's one atmosphere up there and this is one jurisdiction. So if Corner Brook Pulp and Paper, or some other large industrial player is emitting emissions in the sky, they can't find reductions on their own operation, on their own strategies and so on, their investment in the technology fund will allow others to reduce their emissions; thereby, we will still, collectively, total net at the end of the day, reduce our provincial jurisdictional footprint in terms of GHG emissions.

 

In terms of the green investment and the green economy, absolutely, there is plenty of opportunity. I must say, I've been very busy myself and the Minister of Natural Resources. I believe we probably have met with at least a half-dozen green energy companies already in the last few months.

 

The Member for Torngat Mountains talked about the operation at Vale. He talked about the tremendous change on the landscape. He's seeing new species of plants and animals that are showing up and changes in ice cover.

 

It's interesting, the Nunatsiavut Government is doing a study right now looking at the effects of climate change on the mental health of Inuit. It's very traumatic, actually, when you think about Aboriginal traditional knowledge and you're no longer able to accurately inform younger generations as to where it's safe to walk or snowmobile, hunt or fish because things are changing so fast and so dramatically. The further North you get, the more obvious this is.

 

I talked about the patchwork of strategies, for the Member for Ferryland. What role does Canada play in directing? Well, right now what they're doing is encouraging all the jurisdictions to move. You probably have heard myself speak a little bit in the press about this. I felt we needed to move quickly.

 

It's been a busy six months since I came into office, but I wanted to see this province get involved in carbon pricing. There are still two other provinces that haven't moved yet and the federal government is trying to move everyone together. So who knows, maybe the feds might have imposed something. I don't know, but we said let's find something that works for us. So that's what we did.

 

They are showing great leadership. We have four committees right now. This province is heavily – and my comrades from the Office of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency are involved in all four of these side tables that are reporting to the pan-Canadian framework.

 

I talked about how to accommodate new industry, how to change targets. Holyrood monitoring is ongoing now. We are going to watch – as you say, there is a clause in the bill that will allow us, if in the event Holyrood does have to continue, that it will be captured within this legislation. It's certainly not our plan right now.

 

In terms of partnering with other provinces and states to reduce their emissions; opportunities like Gull Island, if we were to develop it, it would benefit those jurisdictions. It won't necessarily benefit ours in terms of carbon credits or GHG emission reduction here but it certainly will help others and it will make our export all the more attractive.

 

Need to take action, Placentia West, I talked about NARL and Vale – the role of activists and so on, I couldn't agree more. I have a pretty thick skin. I'm used to – even today watching the social media jump on the announcements and criticizing and challenging, and that's fine. It's also important to understand – 

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

The hon. Member's time for speaking has expired.

 

MR. TRIMPER: Okay, thank you.

 

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

 

MR. JOYCE: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the Minister of Environment and Conservation, that the House now resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole to consider the bill –

 

MR. SPEAKER: I'm sorry, my mistake. Is the House ready for the question?

 

The motion is that Bill 34 be 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 Regulate Greenhouse Gas Emissions From Industrial Facilities In The Province. (Bill 34)

 

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

 

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

 

MR. JOYCE: Now.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Now.

 

On motion, a bill, “An Act To Regulate Greenhouse Gas Emissions From Industrial Facilities In The Province,” read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House presently, by leave. (Bill 34)

 

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

 

MR. JOYCE: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the Minister of Environment and Conservation, that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole to consider Bill 34.

 

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole to consider Bill 34 and that I do now leave the Chair.

 

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

 

All those in favour, 'aye.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

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

 

Carried.

 

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

 

Committee of the Whole

 

CHAIR (Dempster): Order, please!

 

We are now considering Bill 34, An Act To Regulate Greenhouse Gas Emissions From Industrial Facilities In The Province.

 

A bill, “An Act To Regulate Greenhouse Gas Emissions From Industrial Facilities In The province.” (Bill 34)

 

CLERK: Clause 1.

 

CHAIR: Shall clause 1 carry? 

 

The Chair recognizes the hon. the Member for Conception Bay South.

 

MR. PETTEN: Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

Can the minister provide some additional information on how the carbon offsets will work? Why aren't the provisions in the bill for this? Unless it's all part of the one question, I guess. Why will they only be contained in regulations? When will the full list of offsets, which can be purchased, be released and how much will they cost? I know it's wordy, but it's all kind of tied together.

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Environment and Conservation.

 

MR. TRIMPER: I'm going to take a second. In terms of the opportunity of what offsets are available, I mean, offsets will appear. There are some now.

 

I just would like to describe to you a little example, if I could. Yes, here we go. For example, there's a company that operates in this province called Abydoz. It's a waste water treatment technology company. It can treat waste water in more environmentally benign, i.e. lower methane emissions. They have two projects in this province right now. One is in Appleton and the other is in Stephenville. They've just received a national award.

 

This is an example of the type of activity that could be expanded throughout the province in terms of offsets. I would anticipate that as a result of this bill being passed, you're going to see more entrepreneurs get involved. I'm pleased to say I've already met several, and I've been encouraging them to get ready.

 

If I could have one more further thought. The federal minister, this is where she is also very interested in supporting us and looking for this jurisdiction to get more involved. Central Canada is taking full advantage of this opportunity and there's a great role for our smaller medium-size sector to do this.

 

Thank you.

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Ferryland.

 

MR. HUTCHINGS: Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

Just a comment from the minister, I know you may have touched on it in your closing remarks in second reading. Alignment with the federal government in regard to implementing your framework and working towards it, any thoughts on will that be counterproductive in terms of being offside with what the feds may come in at a later date, or will you be working collaboratively with the federal government as you put this framework in place? How do you think that's going to work?

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Environment and Conservation.

 

MR. TRIMPER: As I indicated, the meetings in January were actually quite intense because this was the key question. Here for the first time ever, the federal government, all the provincial government ministers for environment and territorial ministers, were together in one room talking about climate change. This was what was on everybody's mind because so much progress had been made by frankly most of the jurisdictions, not including ours, unfortunately, but here we go.

 

We went to that table over those days to ensure that we would not get swallowed over by what the big boys were doing. Frankly, we were able to achieve that. I'm very pleased to say we enjoy a great working relationship and people like Jackie Janes and Gerald Crane and their other staff. Almost on a daily basis I'm talking to the federal government as we move forward on these four working groups and around this pan-Canadian framework.

 

At the end of the day, we're all going to use a different way to get to the same point, which is reducing Canada's greenhouse gas emission reduction levels.

 

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

 

MR. PETTEN: Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

I ask the minister: How many of the five industrial emitters are reporting emissions?

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Environment and Conservation.

 

MR. TRIMPER: I'm looking up on high and I see the number four, and that's because they are emitting more than 50,000 tons of GHGs right now. The federal government requires facilities in this country that are emitting more than 50,000 tons to report. As I said, the reporting structure that they are following now is not in the format that we wanted, but it's a great start. They don't need to necessarily hire additional staff, get involved in an honorary process that they don't know a thing about, so we're just going to do some tweaking with them on their reporting.

 

CHAIR: Seeing no further speakers, I will ask the Clerk to call –

 

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: Clauses 2 through 31 inclusive.

 

CHAIR: Shall clauses 2 to 31 inclusive carry?

 

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

 

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

 

Just referring to the minister, there were a number of questions that I had raised and I know that he was on the verge of – I tell you 50,000 tons, that's what my head feels like right now. He was on the verge of possibly addressing some of those questions I raised and I wonder if maybe he could do that because he ran out of time. 

 

Thank you very much. 

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Environment and Conservation.

 

MR. TRIMPER: It would be my pleasure. Thank you for the opportunity. 

 

First of all, yes, this is going to be a very busy office over the coming months. I'm going to go to the action plan, first of all. We have four community consultations we've identified across the province. They're going to be happening over the next month and a half, approximately, through June and July. We are also engaging all industry groups, identified stakeholder groups, so we'll be reaching out to those people. We have facilitated discussions. We have guides already prepared in terms of engaging thought-provoking questions. We'll be compiling all of that information.

 

We do have a bit of a deadline. We want to have the document approved by government and ready for action at the end of this year. So working backwards from that, it's a five-year plan. The current one expires this year, so we don't want to start 2017 without an action plan in place. To that end, we're moving backwards. We're anticipating approximately September to conclude our public consultation. 

 

I take your point about the summer consultations and I have to say this has been something that has been raised in the office, so we're going to look for as much strategy and opportunity as possible to incorporate. We want to get our public meetings happening now and get the word out. We're also doing some marketing – Turn Back The Tide – and some other advertising to let people know this is happening.

 

That's on the action plan. In terms of working with this bill and the regulations that need to be developed, I'm very pleased to say that in the last couple of hours I've heard from a variety of industry associations, in addition to those that we've already been talking to. Because of the nature of the discussions and so on that have gone on, we've been high level with them in terms of what we were doing and how we went forward.

 

It was good to see the positive remarks from NEIA; it's an organization I know very well. I'm a past chair of that important board. I look forward to working with NEIA and others like it in a very collaborative way as we develop the regulations. As the Member for CBS identified at the start of this debate, that is the real meat on the bones as to how we're going to do this. I hope that helps. 

 

One more thing: Your Iron & Earth group, we're actually meeting with them in two days' time, on Friday.

 

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

 

MR. PETTEN: Thank you, Madam Chair. 

 

Just a couple of quick points, when will emission reduction targets be released and how long after the targets are released will facilities have to comply and reduce their emissions?

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Environment and Conservation.

 

MR. TRIMPER: We're anticipating two years of data. That would start this summer. It will be in the summer of 2018, we'll be compiling information along that period. We'll be having a discussion with the industry associations, with the industry industrial facilities themselves, with others that are curious. We'll be identifying a target probably in the fall of 2018 such that at the start of 2019 – I'm looking for a head nod; yeah, I've got it.

 

Madam Chair, 2019, January 1, that's our plan, is that they will start having to respond to a target, each of these industrial facilities. Each one will be separate and individual for their situation.

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Ferryland.

 

MR. HUTCHINGS: Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

I'm just wondering, section 5(4) references an exemption of an industrial facility. The Lieutenant Governor in Council and Cabinet would have the authority to provide the exemption. I just need clarity. Is that for a facility that was already emitting over 25,000 tons and then subsequent, did not so then it could apply to have a future exemption?

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Environment and Conservation.

 

MR. TRIMPER: Yes, and it also could apply to situations – for example, say there was an industrial fire on the site that limited their operation or there was something that might interfere with their ability to respond, we want to work, as I said this morning in a press conference, very much hand in hand with industry. We don't want this to be onerous but we do want to get on with the challenge of addressing climate change.

 

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

 

MR. PETTEN: Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

On the technology fund, Minister, we have a fund that's there where monies deposited in the fund remains in the fund for five years after it was deposited. My general question is: What happens to this money basically? If it hasn't been spent after five years what – I know it's administered by this advisory panel which reports to you. What happens, I guess, is the general question. If this money is invested into the fund, where does it go? What is the plan for this fund after that five-year period?

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Environment and Conservation.

 

MR. TRIMPER: Thank you very much.

 

We do anticipate that the fund will be a very attractive opportunity for the economy. We'll certainly be monitoring. If it builds up to a certain level there will be strategies employed.

 

I must confess, because I think I've been awake for about 40 hours, there is a nice little answer. If I could, I'd like to report back to you because I know the team have thought about that, what if the fund builds up to a level and it's not being used. I just can't come up with it right now, to be honest with you.

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Ferryland.

 

MR. HUTCHINGS: Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

Minister, I think you spoke of that in your comments, the question I have, just for clarity, on the fund. The five land-based industries that are identified in the legislation, are they required to access the fund to reduce their greenhouse emissions? I know you mentioned that people outside or industries outside of those five could access the fund, right, but is there a requirement for those five entities to access that fund and reduce their emissions based on that fund or some technology or whatever case is they would adopt?

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Environment and Conservation.

 

MR. TRIMPER: Actually yes, a firm can both deposit their obligation in a given year and perhaps, in a subsequent year, could apply for some idea that may reduce emissions elsewhere on their site, on their facilities. So yes, it is very well a possibility.

 

I do have an answer – it has come in remarkably – to the previous question, in terms of the fund building up to a point. Government can invest it in greenhouse gas reductions outside of the industrial sector. What this does, the technology fund, it actually takes obligation somewhat in terms of the obligation of ensuring that we are actually reducing emissions, it takes it somewhat away from industry and puts it squarely on government.

 

So we are stepping up to the plate here. We have to make sure that the money in that fund is being in use, so there is great incentive to make sure that it does go out to its intended purpose. Government can do this, if money has been there for five years. It gives industry a time to bid in the fund, if they so desire. You hit that milestone quite accurately. So five years is the time frame that they said we won't touch it and we'll wait and see if industry can respond first before we step in.

 

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

 

MR. PETTEN: Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

I want to ask the minister – I'll read the clause because it kind of runs together but the question is pretty straight forward. Clause 7(1)(a)(ii)(B) reads “the reduction referred to in clause A will be in addition to any greenhouse gas reductions the industrial facility is required to make to achieve its annual greenhouse gas emission reduction target.”

 

Does that mean if the facility receives funding from the technology fund, they cannot use this funding to invest and achieve their reduction emission targets for that year?

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Environment and Conservation.

 

MR. TRIMPER: I do have an answer here to that question. This clause requires that project components demonstrate that verifiable GHG reductions can be achieved within a reasonable period of time. The verifiable reductions mean that greenhouse gas reductions achieved are measurable and incremental to what is required under the act. This is necessary to demonstrate that the technology fund monies were used for the desired purpose and that any reductions achieved are over and above those that are otherwise required by the act.

 

Does that address that point? I can certainly share this with you. It is a detailed line-by-line explanation of each clause of the act and I don't mind tabling that, Madam Chair.

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Ferryland.

 

MR. HUTCHINGS: Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

Just to be – I apologize, Minister. We talked about the fund and the gas reduction fund in those five facilities that are identified and if they remit to the fund, I guess my question is, just to be clear: Are they then required to access the fund to reduce their emissions based on some usage of that fund? Or can they just pay into that and – what is the correlation between the two?

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Environment and Conservation.

 

MR. TRIMPER: Actually not at all. They have several options. They could invest in offsets. One of the Members spoke about banking. There's a variety of mechanisms. The key thing to remember is that because of the target that they are obligated to meet, we want to be able to ensure that we can document at least somewhere around that facility or around the facility's involvement a reduction in GHG emissions. It's really up to them and it's the least-cost option.

 

There was a chart that I had on the press conference this morning. You might have seen, or the folks that were at the briefing, where we talked about the flexibility, the certainty around this process. I was pleased to see, as I said, the vice-president of NARL present with myself this morning, very content in the way we're going – no one likes to be regulated, but he was able to live with what we're doing here.

 

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

 

MR. PETTEN: Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

I ask the minister: I guess to give credit for emission reductions, how is Office of Climate Change, the Department of Environment, going to distinguish between emissions that were achieved through other means outside of the technology fund? How do you differentiate to give them credits for emission reduction targets?

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Environment and Conservation.

 

MR. TRIMPER: The office right now quantifies everything from the number of vehicles in the province, their average size; for example, 4.8 tons per year of GHGs are emitted out of every vehicle in this province. They are calculating all matter of parameters and information that is coming in. As we do things like invest in electric vehicle infrastructure, that is a strategy we do; if we, through our marketing, incent people to buy smaller cars, different things like that. This is constantly being incorporated and quantified.

 

I hope that answers that question.

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Ferryland.

 

MR. HUTCHINGS: Thank you.

 

Minister, just give me some idea in regard to the advisory council, how would that operate, appointments those kinds of things, please.

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Environment and Conservation.

 

MR. TRIMPER: As I said, we anticipate it consisting of approximately five to seven folks. Full transparency, I believe that there is an opportunity for it to be incorporated under the IAC. So it would be very much based on a merit-base. Obviously we anticipate representatives from industry, from academia and from government. So folks like perhaps the deputy minister, perhaps Jackie Janes or her equivalent, something like that. But these would have to be people who really understand the industry, understand this jargon. It is a complicated world, so it would not be for the faint of heart but it would be folks who are in the industry.

 

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

 

MR. PETTEN: (Inaudible.) Minister, what does non-identifying aggregate information mean? Does this mean that the total emissions from each facility will be made public?

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Environment and Conservation.

 

MR. TRIMPER: That is correct; yes is the answer.

 

CHAIR: Seeing no further speakers, I'll ask the Clerk to call.

 

CLERK: Clauses 2 through 31 inclusive.

 

CHAIR: Shall clauses 2 to 31 inclusive carry?

 

All those in favour, 'aye.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: All those against, 'nay.'

 

Carried.

 

On motion, clauses 2 through 31 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 Regulate Greenhouse Gas Emissions From Industrial Facilities In The Province.

 

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 34 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 bill without amendment, carried.

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Municipal Affairs.

 

MR. JOYCE: Madam Chair, I move that the Committee rise, report Bill 34, report progress and ask leave to sit again.

 

CHAIR: The motion is that the Committee rise and report Bill 34 carried without amendment.

 

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

 

All those in favour, 'aye.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: All those against, 'nay.'

 

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 Speaker.

 

MS. DEMPSTER: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole have considered the matters to them referred and have asked me to report Bill 34 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 her to report Bill 34 carried without amendment.

 

When shall the report be received?

 

MR. JOYCE: Now.

 

MR. SPEAKER: When shall the said bill be read a third time? 

 

MR. JOYCE: Tomorrow. 

 

MR. SPEAKER: Tomorrow.

 

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

 

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

 

MR. JOYCE: Mr. Speaker, it is moved and seconded by the Minister of Education that we now do second reading of Bill 38. 

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development.

 

MR. KIRBY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

It's a pleasure for me to rise here and speak to second reading of Bill 38, An Act To Amend The –

 

CLERK: (Inaudible.)

 

MR. KIRBY: Oh, sorry. There's a first time for everything.

 

I move, seconded by the Minister of Finance, that Bill 38, An Act To Amend The Schools Act, 1997 be now read the second time.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible.)

 

MR. KIRBY: Would you like to (inaudible)? May I continue?

 

MR. SPEAKER: It's no big deal. I've made mistakes today as well, I'm so tired.

 

It is moved and seconded that Bill 38, An Act To Amend The Schools Act, 1997 be now read a second time.

 

Motion, second reading of a bill, “An Act To Amend The Schools Act, 1997.” (Bill 38)

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development.

 

MR. KIRBY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I'm speaking to second reading of Bill 38. This is An Act to Amend the Schools Act, 1997.

 

Just to provide some context, this all relates to how the trustees of the French school board, the conseil scolaire francophone provincial is elected, or the CSFP, or the conseil scolaire for short. The conseil was created in 1996 and this was in recognition of section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Now the charter – as everyone should be aware, if they are not – guarantees minority language educational rights to the French linguistic minority populations that reside outside of the Province of Quebec.

 

In the discussions we've been having here regarding the budget and decisions regarding Intensive Core French, I think sometimes Members are confused when they confuse minority French language education, which we provide in Newfoundland and Labrador through the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, with French immersion, which is a program for people who are learning to speak French as their second language not as their first language, which would be the case with students who attend the schools that fall under the ambit of the conseil scolaire.

 

The conseil is established under section 94 of the Schools Act, 1997. The conseil has a mandate to organize and administer primary, elementary and secondary French first language education in our province. So like the English district which is responsible for organizing and administering primary, elementary and secondary English language education, the conseil has that responsibility for those Newfoundlanders and Labradorians whose first language is French.

 

The current process for electing the trustees to the conseil is an indirect process and that's based on sections 95 and 96 of the Schools Act, 1997. As per that process, during the school board election period a school council for each of the schools under the conseil is voted upon by the parents of the students at each of those schools, and there are five. After those school councils are elected, each of those school councils has 30 days from the end of the election period for the school council to elect two individuals who sit on the conseil scolaire as trustees.

 

The conseil is responsible for five schools, as I said. There's the French school in Labrador City; there's one in Happy Valley-Goose Bay; there are two on the Port au Port Peninsula, Ιcole Sainte-Anne and Ιcole Notre-Dame-du-Cap; and here in St. John's, Ιcole des Grands-Vents. The roles and duties of the conseil are similar, as I've indicated. The roles and duties of the trustees in the conseil scolaire are similar to that of the Newfoundland and Labrador English School board and are indicated in sections 97 and 98 of the Schools Act, 1997.

 

The conseil is governed by an elected board of trustees that includes presently 10 trustees. That's based on regional representation. There are two trustees presently for Labrador West, two trustees presently for Happy Valley-Goose Bay, four trustees presently for Port au Port Peninsula in recognition that there are two schools there, and two trustees representing the school in St. John's.

 

For the English school board, the voting method for electing trustees is a direct process, like a general election basically. The process for that is outlined in section 53 of the Schools Act, 1997 and the School Board Election Regulations, 1998. It basically says that the English trustees are to be directly elected by residents of the province regardless of whether they have children in school or not. So you can vote, as per a general election, even in the event that you do not have children who are attending school.

 

Direct elections provide for all eligible voters to vote directly for trustees rather than voting through elected representatives, which is the case for the conseil scolaire president.

 

As it stands, Newfoundland and Labrador is the only jurisdiction, the only province or territory in our country that currently uses an indirect electoral system for minority language school board trustees. In September of last year, the Francophone Federation of Newfoundland and Labrador, the FFTNL, brought it to the attention of the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development that the existing electoral process for the conseil scolaire is not in accordance, in their opinion, with section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

 

They indicated that the indirect nature of the elections restricts the full democratic participation of minority language right holders in the province, and the voter eligibility criteria indeed exclude francophones who don't have a child enrolled in a conseil scolaire school, including those who live outside communities with French-language schools.

 

So unlike the English system where everyone can participate in the election of trustees, the French system currently doesn't allow for that. This was brought to the attention of the department. The department advised the FFTNL, the Francophone Federation of Newfoundland and Labrador, to meet with the representatives of the conseil scolaire to have a conversation about that.

 

Upon my appointment to Cabinet last year in December, I became aware of this matter through briefings and it seemed to me as well that there could be a better system put in place that would provide people with eligibility to vote as per the English trustee system. So we engaged stakeholders in conversations about this.

 

After a number of meetings, and some conversations back and forth, on March 16 of this year the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development received a motion from the conseil scolaire with a request to amend the Schools Act, 1997 so as to allow for a direct voting process for the conseil scolaire by all section 23 right holders.

 

All of those minority French-language right holders would include all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians with right-holder privileges who have children or don't have children in the French-first-language school system in the province. It also includes obviously parents who do have children who go to school in one of the French-first-language schools in the province.

 

This is important because section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees minority language educational rights to the French linguistic minority populations who reside outside of the province of Quebec. This is another mechanism of ensuring that those Charter rights are upheld by legislation and regulations here in our province, and ensure that they enjoy the same rights and privileges that French minority language right holders enjoy in other provinces of Canada, outside of Quebec.

 

Basically, we're talking about section 60(2)(c) will be repealed and substituted to require the conseil scolaire to set two or more electoral zones to ensure provincial trustee representation. Section 95(1) is repealed and substituted in order to allow for direct voting, and to set the timing of the elections to be held as per section 53 of the act or at a time the Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development directs on the recommendation of the conseil scolaire.

 

Section 95(3) of the Schools Act, 1997 is repealed and substituted to allow for direct voting. That removes the whole process of an election following school councils. It more or less removes that whole process from the election process. It allows the Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development to set the number of trustees and that number of trustees would not exceed 12. That decision by the minister would be made on recommendation of the conseil scolaire.

 

Section 95(5) is repealed with no substitution, as this is a consequential amendment resulting from the move to direct voting. It removes the school council's previous requirement of electing trustees within the 30-day period of electing school council.

 

Section 95(1) is added to require that the conseil establish at least two representative zones. That is similar to the English School District. Section 95(2) is added and that is again in parallel with the English trustee process. There is a requirement to notify the Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development in the event there is a trustee vacancy.

 

Section 96 is repealed and substituted in parallel again to the English district's section on the replacement of trustees. It replaces a previous requirement for the conseil to replace trustees through school councils as a result of the existing indirect voting process for the conseil trustees.

 

Section 98(2) is repealed and substituted in order to remove the previous ability of the conseil to establish procedures and conduct elections for the school board, as the school board elections for the conseil will now be addressed in section 95(1).

 

Section 102(10) is repealed and substituted in order to align the conseil school council elections with the new timelines established under section 95(1). Section 118(1)(c) is repealed and substituted in order to clarify, for greater certainty, the Lieutenant Governor in Council authority to make regulations concerning voter and candidate eligibility.

 

The amendments will come into force on the day to be proclaimed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council, as is customary for legislative amendments here in the House of Assembly. These regulations will be developed in consultation with the conseil scolaire. We have been in communication with them about this. I think myself and/or officials in the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development have met with representatives of conseil twice in the last five working days. All of this is to allow for regulations addressing the conseil scolaire voter and candidate eligibility and the election process to be finalized with the commencement of the act and the regulations to come in force and to coincide with that happening.

 

I won't go into great detail on the amendments, though I could. I think that's probably a sufficient amount of explanation. Just to recap, in case anyone is unclear of what the purpose of these legislative amendments are, it's primarily to remove the indirect voting process that currently exists and to address concerns that have been raised by the French minority right-holder community.

 

There are three different organizations that we have consulted on this in addition to the federation of francophones in the province: there's the conseil itself, the trustees and then also the federation of francophone parents. All of these are sort of a web of relationships that we have consulted. I have spoken to all three of those groups on one or more occasions since January regarding this matter.

 

Regulations will be then enacted to address the voter candidate ineligibility and the election process. All of this has been discussed now with the conseil, their representatives. They will divide the province, the conseil will, as the English trustees have already done – divide the province of Newfoundland and Labrador into zones, not unlike the division of Newfoundland and Labrador into 40 electoral districts for the purposes of election of Members of the House of Assembly.

 

They'll divide the province into electoral zones for the purposes of electing conseil scolaire trustees through an amendment to their constitution. I will, or whoever the minister of Education of the day is, will approve that division of zones of the province for the purposes of electing trustees.

 

With that, I'll take my seat and we will proceed with the debate.

 

Thank you.

 

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

 

MR. BRAZIL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

It's an honour to stand and speak to Bill 38, and let it be known directly that I will speak for a few minutes and we wholeheartedly will support the Minister of Education in this endeavour. We see it as a positive move forward. We realize and thank the minister for living up to his commitment to get the school board elections moving forward. I do realize there are some administrative things that need to be done in advance of that.

 

This is one of the pieces of work that have to be done. The changing of the bill, particularly around the amendment to the Schools Act and particularly here as it relates to the removal of the requirement to indirectly elect the trustees of the conseil scolaire and requires the elections to the conseil scolaire to proceed in a manner of the board, align the process of replacing trustees of the conseil scolaire and requirements for the zones with the process and requirements of a school board – that is to bring them in line and to go back through the existing process that is being used to assess exactly how they then would fit in accordance with the Schools Act, particularly around elections for a school district and a school board itself.

 

So this is a great step forward. It is part of the administrative process of ensuring that we get a point where we have a democratically elected school board, be it the English School District and the francophone school district.

 

Going through the amendments that are being made, the minister has already, in very much detail, gone through exactly what they are all about. But just as a quick overview again, for people who may be watching and listening here, the intent here is to bring the school board elections in line or the legislation in line, particularly around the francophone process here now, so it would be in line with the English School District so that elections could take place in the near future and it could be done simultaneously together. 

 

So the francophone school board Newfoundland and Labrador have been in consultation with the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to have changes made to the way they elect and appoint members to their school board.

 

The purpose of the legislation is to have the government amend the Schools Act to reflect the procedures that take place with the English school council. As I mentioned earlier, this is about bringing it in line with an existing one so simultaneously we can have school board elections – obviously the candidates then, it can be noted who is out there to represent their respective regions and districts, but also at the end of the day, from a financial point of view, it is much easier for the department to be able to provide provincial-wide elections when there is two boards being done the one time.

 

It's a good move forward. I wholeheartedly support it and I'm glad it's progressing. No doubt, with the passing of this legislation over the summer, the minister and his staff can start putting the process in place.

 

The francophone school board Newfoundland and Labrador uses an indirect election method – just so people know the difference here, why it has to be changed. Indirect elections is a process in which voters in an election do not choose between candidates for an office, but rather elect persons who will then make the choice. It's a bit different than the standard process that's been used in the English school board's election. We want to bring that in line.

 

This is what's been lobbied for by the francophone school board and is no doubt being endorsed by the minister. It makes sense to fit in the same mindset and the same operational procedures as the English School District. This is due in part because the francophone community in Newfoundland and Labrador operates as a separate entity and uses legislation that's not being amended to become more modernized.

 

Because they've been operating separately for the last number of years, now is an opportunity because we're putting the education system – be it English school system or the francophone school system – all under one umbrella when it comes to an election process here, to have a democratic process put in place. This is, indeed, a step forward and we'll move exactly where we want to go.

 

“Direct election is a term describing a system of choosing political officeholders in which the voters directly cast ballots for the person, persons, or political party that they desire to see elected.” Once somebody puts their name forward as a candidate or representing a particular party – in this area it will be done as in districts and it will be individuals put their names forward – you'll get to go in and vote for that individual or a group of individuals depending on how the process is put in play. Then that will be done in the same manner from the francophone board as it will be for the English board.

 

The English board in Newfoundland and Labrador uses the direct method now of voting. Members of the school board council and Bill 38 will enable the francophone board of Newfoundland Labrador to directly elect the conseil scolaire. What we're doing now is bringing it in line so the minister can move forward and get the elections in play. So then we would have a democratically elected school board that would oversee, as part of the legislation that they have in play – that would oversee exactly how the school districts in this province move forward, both the French and English School District.

 

It's a progressive move forward. It's something that's been in the works for the last number of years. I'm glad to see that the minister has moved forward on it. It was one of the commitments that the Premier gave him in his initial letter of responsibilities and he's taking the lead on this. I'm glad I can stand here and talk a little bit about exactly what this is about. Particularly how this is one of the steps that will be a better way of enhancing our education system, or particularly a better way of engaging people to have discussion around what are the challenges to our education system and particularly those who will be engaged and help guide the decision making.

 

The school districts have more power than I think people understand. Their boards are responsible for actually directing the education system in Newfoundland and Labrador. The department has a different philosophy and a different responsibility. They work in partnership, but the independence and particularly the democratically elected process here will obviously dictate that you're going to get people there who are committed to what needs to be done and will understand their roles and responsibilities. We, in the Opposition, see this as a very positive move. I've gone through this. The amendments fall well in line with exactly what exists now in the original English school districts constitutional act around elections.

 

So, Mr. Speaker, with that being said, I will take my seat by saying we wholeheartedly support this and we look forward to a call for public elections for both the francophone school district and the English School District.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. FINN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

It's great to take the opportunity to rise and speak to Bill 38, An Act to Amend the Schools Act. Thank you to the Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development and his staff for the work around kind of tweaking of this bill, if you will. It's a little more than housekeeping in the sense that we're changing the way the election process occurs, specifically with respect to the French school board, better known as the conseil scolaire.

 

So it's important to bring this in line, specifically in line with what we do with the English school board right now. Of course, our school boards and the elections of such have seen extensive changes over the years. Historically, back to the nominational system, the church officials would appoint individuals to the school board. Of course, that was changed with the referendum in '95 and a subsequent referendum in '97, and then there was an election process.

 

Since that time the electoral process has continued, but it is a bit different with the conseil scolaire. Currently during the school board election period, a school council for each of the schools – school councils being voted upon by the parents. Under the conseil scolaire, the school councils then have 30 days at the end of their election to elect two individuals to sit on the conseil scolaire, so being a lot different than, of course, the general election that's held with the English School District. So we're really just looking to streamline this. This was a direct result, as a request, from the francophone parents association – correct me if I'm wrong – to the Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Close enough. 

 

MR. FINN: Yes. So certainly a request put forward by them and something the staff took the opportunity to review.

 

Noteworthy as well, and being the Member that represents Stephenville – Port au Port, and the minister alluded to the four areas in the province in which there are French schools. Two, of course, being on the Port au Port Peninsula, Ιcole Sainte-Anne and Ιcole Notre-Dame-du-Cap. I had the great opportunity of attending a graduation at Ιcole Sainte-Anne just a few weeks ago, and actually had a great conversation with the chair of the conseil scolaire, trying to hear out some of their ideas and some of the things they're looking at doing as they move forward.

 

So it's important that we bring them in line and keep these regulations in line with the English School District because right now we're the only province that uses an indirect, if you will, or an indirect electoral system for a minority language school board.

 

Again, I think this is a very good piece of legislation. It's great to see the Member for Conception Bay East – Bell Island speak to it in support of this legislation. I don't believe we'll have much opposition to it. It certainly seems pretty straightforward, keeping us all in line with respect to the electoral process, and more specifically, this stems particularly from section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

 

That's where they kind of founded their concerns around this, and section 23 guaranteeing minority language, educational rights to French linguistic minority populations outside of Quebec. That's where all this stemmed from, and in doing so and in honouring that, and also in honouring a fair election process, I certainly have no trouble supporting the bill.

 

I'd like to thank the Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development for introducing it, thank his staff, and again, as well as the Member opposite. 

 

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Seeing no further speakers, if the Minister of Education speaks now he shall close debate. 

 

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

 

MR. KIRBY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

Thanks to my colleague, the Member for Port au Port, and the Education critic, the Member for Conception Bay East – Bell Island for contributing to the debate.

 

I won't go back into things, but I just want to say it's interesting coming from an area of the province – St. Pierre and Miquelon is just right across the way from where I grew up. We look around the province and we see so many places that have French names. We often forget our French heritage as a people in Newfoundland and Labrador. I think we ought to remember that not only do we have a French history that should be celebrated, but we ought to always remember that it is important for us to respect the rights of those amongst us whose language is French.

 

I just want to end with a bit of a joke because I always thought it was interesting how we sort of modified French names. Down on the Burin Peninsula we have places like Point au Gaul that we more or less pronounce properly, but then we have Jacques Fontaine that the locals call Jack's Fountain. Then we have Bay L'Argent which we call Bay L'Argent. I think the best one of all in the whole province is Bay d'Espoir, you know, bay of hope which we call Bay d'Espoir. It's very Newfoundland of us in any case, but I thought I'd share that moment of levity with the Members.

 

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Is the House ready for the question?

 

The motion is that Bill 38 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 Schools Act, 1997. (Bill 38)

 

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

 

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

 

MR. JOYCE: Now.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Now.

 

On motion, a bill, “An Act To Amend The Schools Act, 1997,” read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House presently, by leave. (Bill 38)

 

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

 

MR. JOYCE: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development, that the House now resolve itself into Committee of the Whole to consider Bill 38.

 

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole to consider Bill 38 and that I now leave the Chair.

 

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

 

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 (Dempster): Order, please!

 

We are now considering Bill 38, An Act To Amend The Schools Act, 1997.

 

A bill, “An Act To Amend The Schools Act, 1997.” (Bill 38)

 

CLERK: 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: Clauses 2 through 8 inclusive.

 

CHAIR: Shall clauses 2 to 8 inclusive carry?

 

All those in favour?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: All those against?

 

Carried.

 

On motion, clauses 2 through 8 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 Schools Act, 1997.

 

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 38 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 bill without amendment, carried.

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Acting Government House Leader.

 

MR. JOYCE: I move that the Committee rise and report that bill is carried without amendment.

 

CHAIR: The motion that the Committee rise and report Bill 38 carried without amendment.

 

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 (Osborne): The hon. the Deputy Speaker.

 

MS. DEMPSTER: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole have considered the matters to them referred and have asked me to report Bill 38 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 has directed her to report Bill 38 carried without amendment.

 

When shall the report be received?

 

MR. JOYCE: Now.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Now.

 

When shall the said bill be read a third time?

 

MR. JOYCE: Tomorrow.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Tomorrow.

 

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

 

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

MR. JOYCE: I call, seconded by the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills, Bill 37.

 

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

 

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

 

I'm very delighted to stand and present An Act To Amend The Income And Employment Support Act And The Student Financial Assistance Act –

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible.)

 

MR. BYRNE: Oh, that's right; you're correct.

 

I would move, seconded by the Minister of Municipal Affairs, that Bill 37, An Act To Amend The Income And Employment Support Act And The Student Financial Assistance Act be now read a second time.

 

Merci beaucoup.

 

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded –

 

MR. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, this is what I would call extravagant –

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. BYRNE: It is extravagant co-operation.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

It is moved and seconded that Bill 37, entitled An Act To Amend The Income And Employment Support Act And The Student Financial Assistance Act be now read a second time. 

 

Motion, second reading of a bill, “An Act To Amend The Income And Employment Support Act And The Student Financial Assistance Act.” (Bill 37)

 

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

 

MR. BYRNE: I'm just overwhelmed, Mr. Speaker, with the level of co-operation. I feel as though I'm strengthened by the support of my colleagues in this House. I feel like I've been raised up.  I've been lifted. Mr. Speaker, maybe we'll be able to lift this bill into a quick passage.

 

I would like to speak briefly on an amendment to a bill to amend the Student Financial Assistance Act and the Income and Employment Support Act. Basically, the essence of this particular amendment for this bill would be to allow officials within the Department of Advanced Education and Skills – they are involved in two separate activities at the moment; one, involved in the administration of the Student Financial Assistance Act, the student loan portfolio; the other, a group of officials that would be involved in the income and employment support section of the department.

 

We have two sets of officials that are involved in roughly the same activity, which is to administer some programs for which monies have been paid out and monies would have to be recollected. It's a normal transaction. What this particular bill would do, it would simply allow the two sets of officials to be able to work co-operatively together, to be able to share a certain amount of information about files and on files, so that we can maximize efficiency in this process.

 

One of the things that I would like to point out, Mr. Speaker, is this particular idea, this initiative, came forward from employees from officials within the Department of Advanced Education and Skills. We had asked our front-line workers to be able to come forward and inform us, tell us, how could we create greater efficiencies, how could we work more effectively, more efficiently, to be able to provide a better, bigger, stronger result. And this is one of the ideas that came forward.

 

There was recognition that there were two sets of employees doing roughly the same work, roughly the same skill set, yet involved in two separate functions. This is an innovation which I think has the potential to be implemented across government, be reviewed and studied and potentially reviewed across government a little bit more effectively as well. We would almost consider it a bit of a pilot project in that regard.

 

One other thing that I would point out is that these measures have indeed been – the Information and Privacy Commissioner and the Office of Public Engagement have both been consulted on these initiatives, and the protection of individual privacy is indeed protected according to these particular provisions. I think, Madam Speaker, that this would form basically the core, the essence, of the amendment to bring forward.

 

Now, there are some changes that are going on within the Student Loan Corporation, for example. We're going to be moving more and more of the collections. Right now the federal government is authorized – as we're paying the federal government to collect on provincial student loans that were issued after 2007. We're paying about $300,000 a year for that service. We have an excellent group of officials that are highly capable of doing that work, and quite frankly, they're better at it. They're more effective at it.

 

So if we were able to provide them with greater duties to be able to do that kind of work, then I think we're all better off in the process, and there will probably be a healthy benefit to the public purse as a result. So I'm very pleased about that.

 

There's not really too much else to say. I've enjoyed receiving questions. Maybe I'll be able to provide a little more in-depth replies if there were specific questions, but, Madam Speaker, the actual amendments are very short, very tight, very scripted and it simply allows for information exchange between two sets of collectors, two sets of employees, and allow for information exchange under the rule of law and with no breach of privacy concerns whatsoever.

 

With that, Madam Speaker, I'll surrender my spot and look forward to hearing if there might be consent from all parties to be able to proceed.

 

MADAM SPEAKER (Dempster): The hon. the Member for Conception Bay East – Bell Island.

 

MR. BRAZIL: Thank you, Madam. Speaker.

 

It's indeed an honour to speak to Bill 37, An Act to Amend the Income and Employment Support Act and the Student Financial Assistance Act. I want to thank the minister for outlining exactly what this act is about, and outlining two key components here. One, that this was driven by staff – and staff, no doubt, in those line divisions would have a better understanding of how it can become more efficient, and how their responsibilities could be well in line with a better opportunity to be able to, not only collect the money, but deal with the clientele in a more effective manner.

 

I did have the privilege over my career to work for both of those divisions, particularly in the Income Support and collections division as a supervisor for a period of time, but also connected with the student loan process in the formation of the corporation a number of years ago.

 

The minister is right. When the Department of Advanced Education and Skills really became one entity, a multitude of other services began to fit under that umbrella. It was then that staff started to look at, we have similar people with similar skill sets doing similar work but doing it for a different clientele set. Somewhere along the way there should be a way of collaborating and bringing them together. I'm glad the minister – one of the key things, one of his first bills – was able to achieve that.

 

There's no doubt, I will be supporting that. We, on this side of the House, will be supporting that, but there a number of good things here I like about this. One is streamlining it, but I'm also glad to hear the minister and them are moving forward in taking some of the services away from the federal government. The complaints we get around people trying to identify monies they owe, or if they feel they're being harassed in a certain manner or being able to get documentation, be it because they need to move to some other level of a loan process or into another schooling system or be able to outline exactly what they owe is when they try to deal with the federal government.

 

The provincial part of it has been fairly efficient. People know it. We've have the collection officers in place with the Student Loan Corporation. We have a whole act that oversees exactly what we do there. People understand that and they work collaboratively.

 

The Income Support act itself has provisions in there for the collection of overpayments. It may be done a little bit differently in past history because of the nature of some of the Income Support clients' needs. But since, we've been able to move away from those key challenges and get into the point of those who have been identified as having an overpayment and having the ability to pay or an ability to discuss future payments. Knowing which files will be stagnant for a period of time, which ones are collectable and which ones are in default that we have to make some decisions on exactly what's the best move forward.

 

So putting this under one umbrella, changing both acts so the Student Loan Corporation has the ability, in a two-fold process, one that the Income Support division and their staff can also be part and parcel of the student loan collections process and vice versa.

 

It's a great opportunity to now, instead of having six under the AES collections officers and seven Student Loan Corporation officers working separately in separate parts of the building, in some cases separate buildings, yet in some cases it's either similar clients – and it doesn't necessarily have to be the similar clients, but it's exactly, in most cases, the similar process you would use to collect money.

 

You would determine if they have an income; they have an ability to pay it. What monies are owed? Is there some discrepancy about what's owed? Is there a challenge on that? And being able to move it so you have a clean file that would reflect exactly how much money is owed to the state itself, and how we go best about collecting that without imposing hardship on people.

 

I know the officers have leeway there under the policies to be able to work out repayment plans, or relief in certain cases, or to put files on hold because knowing that the circumstance of the individual may change down the road, that we can collect the money.

 

In all these cases, these are debts that are owed to the province and owed to the taxpayers in Newfoundland and Labrador for various reasons. Obviously, the student loan one is based on the principle of borrowing money for your post-secondary education. Then, at the completion of that, or if you didn't complete it, you're still responsible for the payment of those monies. So it is ensuring that we find a way to do it without invoking too much hardship on people and without it being too invasive.

 

The process we have here is fairly simple. Now it will be a collaborative approach here by all 13 staff, and, as the minister outlined, if we're going to be able to take on some of the other responsibilities that we were paying the federal representatives who were collective monies, that either saves us money or gives us additional resources to be able to collect more money, which in turn helps our provincial financial situation, and/or gives another way for the clientele to be able to access information or get advice on how they best go around trying to square up their debt loads or work out a repayment plan or look at a financial plan for the future.

 

I've looked at some of the changes that are there. They're fairly simple when it comes to the administration, because it's just the collaboration of two existing processes, but putting them under the bigger, which is the Student Loan Corporation, that over the last number of years, the last decade, has put a lot of work into to make sure this is a very efficient, a very tight, and a very open process so that people would understand exactly what it's about, and our ability to expand as our post-secondary moves forward as our student loan process moves forward – but now having the collection division which could then, itself, maybe that moves, becomes a bigger entity and becomes the collection agency for all of government and different entities.

 

If it's outstanding loans that people have to government in other ways, if it's business loans that people have, if it possibly could be child payments that people owe. Maybe that becomes more efficient that we have it under one, and it all fits because people are trained.

 

One thing about this, there's a training process. It's just not as simple as making a phone call. There's a process here of knowing, legally, what you can do and what you can impose. There's even an ability to understand and research, and to a certain degree, a little bit of investigative – particularly from a paper trail to understand whether or not people have the ability to pay. Maybe there are people out there – and we've run into it and in my own career I've run into it – where people have an enormous amount of monies that they've earned, they just have chosen not to pay back the debt that they were given in good faith from the people of this province.

 

I see this as a great opportunity to streamline and make more efficient what a line department is doing with two separate divisions. As the minister has taken the first lead of noting there's a partnership with the federal government in the sense of taking back something that we've been paying for and expanding our ability to do it.

 

I would encourage the step he's taking by listening to staff, that they listen to staff about – maybe there are other line departments or other units in other departments that this could be better fit under this umbrella, that we become the collection agency for government, become very efficient and would give us a better understanding at what a given point how much monies we're owed, how many people are still in good standing and making those debt payments to us and which ones are in default so we have to make the decisions about how we move forward on those.

 

Madam Speaker, I will be supporting this bill. I'm encouraging my colleagues on this side to support this also.

 

Thank you.

 

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

 

MR. FINN: Thank you very much, Madam Speaker.

 

It's great to have the opportunity to rise on Bill 37, An Act to Amend the Income and Employment Support Act – oops, sorry; I don't think my microphone was on. We can start over.

 

Thank you very much, Madam Speaker.

 

It's a pleasure to rise and speak to Bill 37, An Act to Amend the Income and Employment Support Act and the Student Financial Assistance Act. The hon. the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills did a great job, I think, explaining that this particular act is really looking at just streamlining two positions, certainly as did the Member for Conception Bay East – Bell Island.

 

What a great idea as a result of the Government Renewal Initiative, particularly the Renewal Initiative that invoked the public service sector to come up with ideas within their own departments. Here we have a classic example in the Department of Advanced Education and Skills where you have one arm collecting under the Student Financial Assistance Act and the legislation is only providing them to collect monies with respect to provincial student loans.

 

At the same time, with respect to the income and employment support overpayments, we have another financial arm, if you will, collecting funds. So the merger of these is a natural marriage I would say and certainly something that's great that comes from your front-line staff.

 

I have a lot of respect for the front-line staff within the Department of Advanced Education and Skills, having worked very closely with the staff there for the last number of years, in particular in the Income Support department. I have a great relationship with those folks in the Income Support department in Stephenville where they handle all the caseloads for all of the applications, if you will, and the case managers and client service officers in the Corner Brook office.

 

One area around the Department of Advanced Education and Skills where I didn't have a great deal of knowledge was, in particular, around the Student Financial Assistance Act, other than being the recipient of a student loan and making payments on such. The ins and outs of that I wasn't entirely familiar with.

 

I give credit to the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills, the Member for Corner Brook. One of the things he did when he first took office was he arranged for all of the MHAs on the West Coast to sit down and have a very thorough and detailed briefing with all of the aspects of his department at the office in Corner Brook, at which time we were given a great overview, I must say, of the Student Financial Assistance Act.

 

Again, as the minister alluded to and the Member opposite, there is certainly nothing contentious here. In doing some due diligence, of course, this was vetted through the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner and the Office of Public Engagement.

 

One of the other things in terms of efficiencies and streamlining services, what's important to note here is that while we did have two financial arms here and there is a natural merger, of which to become more efficient, there was no reduction of employment or job losses as a result of this efficiency. It is certainly just a great idea put forth and something to tidy up the legislation to make things easier.

 

With that, Madam Speaker, I don't have anything else to add.

 

Thank you very much for the opportunity to speak.

 

MADAM SPEAKER: Seeing no further speakers if the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills speaks now, he will close debate.

 

MR. BYRNE: Thank you very much, Madam Speaker.

 

I very much appreciate the support and the kind words. I would love to take credit for this but as I noted, and the Member for Conception Bay East – Bell Island and others have noted, this was indeed an initiative that came from staff, from the very people that understand the process, the service culture, the best – who understand how to make things most efficient and effective for each and every one of our benefits and for the benefit of the Treasury as well.

 

I'm delighted that it appears that we have all-party support on this particular initiative. I guess we'll let the process go forward from here.

 

Thank you very much, Madam Speaker.

 

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

 

All those in favour, 'aye.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

MADAM SPEAKER: All those against, 'nay.'

 

Carried.

 

CLERK (Murphy): An Act To Amend The Income And Employment Support Act And The Student Financial Assistance Act. (Bill 37)

 

MADAM SPEAKER: This bill has now been read the second time.

 

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

 

MR. JOYCE: Now.

 

On motion, a bill, “An Act to Amend The Income And Employment Support Act And The Student Financial Assistance Act,” read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House presently, by leave. (Bill 37)

 

MADAM SPEAKER: The hon. the Acting Government House Leader.

 

MR. JOYCE: Madam Speaker, I move, seconded by the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills, that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole to consider Bill 37.

 

MADAM SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that I do now leave the Chair for the House to resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole to consider the said bill.

 

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

 

All those in favour, 'aye.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

MADAM SPEAKER: All those against, 'nay.'

 

Carried.

 

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

 

Committee of the Whole

 

CHAIR (Dempster): Order, please!

 

We are now considering Bill 37, An Act to Amend The Income And Employment Support Act And The Student Financial Assistance Act.

 

A bill, “An Act to Amend The Income And Employment Support Act And The Student Financial Assistance Act.” (Bill 37)

 

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 Government 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 Income And Employment Support Act And The Student Financial Assistance Act.

 

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 37 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 bill without amendment, carried.

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Acting Government House Leader.

 

MR. JOYCE: Madam Chair, I ask that the Committee rise and report that Bill 37 has been approved without amendments.

 

CHAIR: The motion is that I do rise and report Bill 37 carried without amendment.

 

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

 

All those in favour, 'aye.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: All those against, 'nay.'

 

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 Speaker.

 

MS. DEMPSTER: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole have considered the matters to them referred and have asked me to report Bill 37 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 has directed her to report Bill 37 carried without amendment.

 

When shall the report be received?

 

MR. JOYCE: Now.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Now.

 

When shall the bill be read a third time?

 

MR. JOYCE: Tomorrow.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Tomorrow.

 

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

 

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

 

MR. JOYCE: Mr. Speaker, I call from the Order Paper, Bill 17.

 

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 move, seconded by the minister of early education – sorry, Mr. Speaker.

 

MR. KIRBY: Education and Early Childhood Development.

 

MS. C. BENNETT: Education and Early Childhood Development – it's been a long couple of days, Mr. Speaker. Thank you very much to the minister for reminding me.

 

I move that Bill 17, An Act To Amend The Income Tax Act, 2000 No. 5, be now read the second time.

 

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that Bill 17 be now read a second time.

 

Motion, second reading of a bill, “An Act To Amend The Income Tax Act, 2000 No. 5.” (Bill 17)

 

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

 

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

 

I'm pleased to stand in the House this evening to speak to what is a very important component of the budget that we presented on April 14. Bill 17, which relates to the Newfoundland and Labrador Income Supplement, is an extremely important bill for our government and an extremely important piece of legislation, we believe, to make sure that we are taking care of the most vulnerable in our province, Mr. Speaker.

 

Through the budget exercise and the planning and all of the analysis that was completed, and based on the discussions we had, we certainly recognized that there was an impact on many people in the province as a result of the budget that we presented.

 

We are ensuring, Madam Speaker, that the impact of the budget is lessened on those that are the most vulnerable in our province. That is why we introduced the new Newfoundland and Labrador Income Supplement. As we have discussed in this House, we are also enhancing the Seniors' Benefit.

 

This new benefit will provide financial assistance to individuals and families with net income less than $40,000, with those eligible receiving up to $450 for an individual, $60 for a spouse and $200 for each eligible dependant. Of course, individuals and families with net income of more than $40,000 may be eligible to receive a partial benefit depending on their family income.

 

The annualized cost of the Income Supplement is $63.7 million. In addition, $12.7 million annualized has been provided to enhance the Seniors' Benefit by $250 annually. This totals approximately $76.4 million for both of these important benefits, Madam Speaker.

 

As part of the introduction of this Income Supplement, the HST credit was eliminated and replaced with the Newfoundland Income Supplement effective January 1, 2016, and this new benefit will provide more money to low-income households. Eligible recipients will receive their first payment, consisting of two quarterly payments, in October of 2016. And for those people who are watching at home, just to clarify again, the first payment under the Newfoundland and Labrador Income Supplement will be received as two quarterly payments in October of 2016.

 

There is no application required for the supplement; however, eligible individuals must ensure that their annual income tax return is filed in order to receive their quarterly payments. I might add, Madam Speaker, that under the old HST credit, cheques were received on an annual basis and certainly we feel that the quarterly payments are also a benefit to low-income individuals in our province, as they will be able to anticipate and plan for that cash earlier than they would have with an annual benefit.

 

Madam Speaker, the supplement will be based on the family net income and paid directly to eligible individuals, and as I said earlier, through quarterly payments. In addition to the Newfoundland and Labrador Income Supplement we have also introduced, as I've said earlier, the enhanced Seniors' Benefit. Our government is committed to making sure that the Seniors' Benefit delivers meaningful and equitable benefits to low-income seniors in this province, and government is enhancing the benefit to provide additional support to all eligible seniors in our province.

 

As I've said, the maximum benefit amount for the Seniors' Benefit is being increased by $250, from the old $1,063 to the new $1,313. Many seniors that receive this benefit will also receive payments in respect of the new Newfoundland and Labrador Income Supplement announced in this budget. The 2016 parameters of the enhanced Seniors' Benefit for all eligible seniors are the maximum benefit amount that I just referred to. There's a phase-out rate of 11.66 per cent – that remains unchanged – a lower income threshold maintained at $29,402, and an upper income threshold increased from $38,519 to $40,663.

 

The change to quarterly payments, as I said earlier, was made so that eligible seniors would receive assistance throughout the year instead of the single payment that was previously made in October. Approximately 48,200 households will benefit from these changes to the Seniors' Benefit, including seniors who receive a higher benefit amount, or receive a partial Seniors' Benefit for the first time.

 

Madam Speaker, the Newfoundland and Labrador Income Supplement, together with the enhanced Seniors' Benefit, will see eligible seniors receiving a maximum payment of up $911.50 in October 2016, with additional payments of $455.75 in January and April of 2017, compared to one single payment of $1,823 in October 2016.

 

Also included in this bill is the elimination of the Manufacturing and Processing Profits Tax Credit, which will generate additional annual revenues of $31.8 million. As well, in addition, the Dividend Tax Credit rate will be reduced for non-eligible dividends from 4.1 per cent to 3.5 per cent for dividends received on or after July 1, 2016 to maintain integration of the corporate and personal income tax systems.

 

The estimated impact is $1.4 million in annual revenue. As a government, we have a responsibility to ensure there is a plan in place to address the unprecedented fiscal challenges facing our province. However, we also have, and take very seriously, our obligation to protect and support our low-income seniors, families and individuals in the face of these necessary new revenue measures.

 

Madam Speaker, we must always, as a society, ensure that those that need the help most receive it.

 

Thank you, Madam Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MADAM SPEAKER: The Speaker recognizes the hon. Member for Conception Bay East – Bell Island.

 

MR. BRAZIL: Thank you, Madam Speaker.

 

It is a privilege to stand and talk about Bill 17. Just for those who are watching at home, there are three main components here that the minister talked about. Two were directly tax revenues because they are changing the tax scene, particularly around the Dividend Tax Credit and the Manufacturing and Processing Profits Tax Credit.

 

Then what also is being proposed here is that there are a number of adjustments and collaboration and eliminating of certain tax credits but under that heading these are ones that would be enticing and supportive of low-income individuals here as part of it.

 

It's a unique change to a bill where, in some cases, we're changing the formulas or we're changing the percentage on certain areas to generate some revenue as part of the process. The other is then to streamline or to collaboratively put together a Newfoundland and Labrador Income Supplement and enhance the Seniors' Benefit by changing some of the existing processes and tax credits that are there.

 

I'm just going to outline some of the key things here. For those who may know and say, well, you get up and you talk all about the impacts of the budget; this is not what would be considered a money bill. While it's directly linked to the budget and it's part and parcel of what's being proposed here as an incentive and supports for low-income individuals, and particularly seniors, it's seen as a direct financial benefactor process and investment, but it's not seen as one of your normal money bills to be able to talk about that.

 

What we're talking about here is the corporate world having to step up to the plate and pay more of its part here to ensure that the financial challenges that we are facing right now are less of a burden on those who can't afford it. I think that it's a move forward there. It's not a dramatic cut that it's going to do major damage to some of the corporations here from how it's done. Some of it is done directly, that there is a cut and it will generate money. Some of it is also done in a way that it's the percentage and depending on how viable companies are this year or future years, it may not have a direct impact on them.

 

But in the normal stance, it should generate enough revenue, hopefully, as the minister has outlined, to offset some of the other incentives that are put in to address some of the challenges that seniors and other citizens are going to have when it comes to additional costs this year.

 

There is no doubt the collaboration here of two direct tax credits differently in the corporate world versus putting in a process and a supplement that would enhance and support seniors in most of these cases and low-income individuals is no doubt a good use of this bill.

 

I will be supporting this, and no doubt when we get into Committee I'll have a couple of questions there that I want to look at to ensure we have a better understanding of exactly how this is going to benefit the people in the province, and particularly that it doesn't have a major detrimental effect on the industries that are helping drive the extra monies that are being generated.

 

With that being said, as I said at the beginning, the corporate world has a responsibility to help out the province when it's in financial dire straits and also to help out those at less advantage. So in this case it's a good movement of the money. It's streamlining to a certain degree, the supplements themselves so people would understand it. There will have to be, no doubt – and I'll talk to the minister about this in Committee – a process of being able to explain to people, because people are used to two or three different tax credits here.

 

If you come from a low-income family, those are the things that drive how you pay for your phone bills, your light bills, when your oil company comes at certain times of the year when you fill up your tanks, these are the times when people rely on that money. You don't want to make it confusing that people are not sure, was I to fill out an application, was I to make a call, was there something I needed from Revenue Canada that I didn't have. You don't want people sitting and waiting.

 

Too often I get calls from constituents – and I know we all do – saying I never got my particular tax credit. It may be as simple as they didn't tick something on a form, or they didn't fill out their income tax. They may say, well, I had no income this year. Not realizing all of that is what drives us in our society, and particularly those in the financial world, to understand exactly what it is people earn and who fits in various categories, particularly under programs and services that are going to be supportive of people who have particular hardships.

 

I understand this will help streamline that and put it into that category. I do understand there is a slight, maybe even a little bit of a modest increase. That's a positive for people because as we've already outlined in the last number of weeks, people are going to face some additional challenges. Their normal monies they would get in the fall of the year to fill up their oil tanks now may not go as far with the additional taxes on that.

 

So this is a step forward into at least addressing that, but particularly – I'm hoping, and as I get my head around it a little bit more and a couple of questions I'll have for the minister in Committee – around streamlining it so we ensure that everybody gets what they are entitled to and gets it in a timely fashion, because there's no doubt people are going to have a hard number of years.

 

If somebody falls behind, even companies are no longer going to be able to give the leeway they once did because their profit margins and their ability to ensure that their creditors give them some leeway is based on the principal of them being able to generate their monies and have it in play. Obviously, it's taxpayers' money that the program has been put in place to support individuals. No doubt you want to be able to move it out so you know exactly what you have in your coffers then for other programs.

 

You want to know to make sure that everybody who is entitled to it gets it. You want to ensure that if there are any hardships on people, they're addressed. You want to know and let the corporate world know the monies that are being generated from either a reduction in some of the tax regimes you had or some of the discounts you may have had, are now no longer available, but they're going for a good cause. As good corporate citizens, I would hope they'd understand that and then they would readjust their expenditures to reflect exactly what it is their profit margins have to be to be sustainable here.

 

I do also note the fact that there are a number of changes within the system here to reflect better administration within the act itself. Part of it is just wording and housekeeping, but some of the bills here actually reflect how they collaborate with an existing section so they flow a little bit better as part of the process.

 

I'm happy to say, while I do understand there's no corporation out there that would want to have a reduction in some of the discounts they may have had or some of the processes they may have had for different discounts, the reality is everybody has to do their part, particularly when it comes to the corporate world here to help out.

 

It's good to know there is going to be, at least a stability here around – because we're hearing all kinds of rumors about if we're in such a fiscal restraint, how are the people who are most vulnerable still going to be able to receive the supports that the last three or four administrations have put in play.

 

A process here to move it under one umbrella and make it more efficient and having it based on a qualifying level of income, obviously, then will make it more efficient, but I have to stress again, when you're changing something – in Newfoundland and Labrador, particularly if you're dealing with people in rural or isolated areas who may not have access to information constantly, then you need to ensure the information is readily available to them and it's explained in layman's terms because they may not have computers.

 

They may not have access to certain pieces of technology. So as a result, they can do whatever has to be done to ensure whatever they're entitled to they get it as quick as possible without any hassle. If it means cheques have to be issued, if it's direct deposits in some cases, there are challenges around that.

 

So having that information out, and if we're going to be doing our dual-quarterly payments in October – I'm going to get the minister, when I get a chance in Committee, to just ask for a little bit more clarification so all of us in the House and those listening can have a better understanding and explain it to their loved ones or their neighbours or the people they work with on a daily basis, exactly when they can expect certain things, what to expect and the process they would have to go through to ensure they get that.

 

Madam Speaker, with that being said, I'll take my chair. When we get to Committee stage I'll have a few questions for the minister so she can explain and we can get the proper information out to the general population.

 

Thank you, Madam Speaker.

 

MADAM SPEAKER: The Speaker recognizes the hon. the Member for Bonavista.

 

MR. KING: Thank you, Madam Speaker.

 

It's an honour to rise here to speak on Bill 17, second reading of a bill, An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act, 2000, which is the Income Supplement and enhanced Seniors' Benefit. We have some great things going on in the District of Bonavista; however, we still have a lot of work to do.

 

This bill is very, very important to my constituents. We have an aging population. We have seasonal employment. We have a lot of minimum-wage workers who are in the district.

 

I'm not going to speak long on this. The Finance Minister and the Member opposite did a very good job of talking about that. There are some things I wanted to highlight.

 

The Income Supplement itself is providing $63.7 million to low-income seniors, individuals, families and persons with disabilities. I'm just going to re-emphasize a point that the Finance Minister made. The new Income Supplement benefit will provide financial assistance to individuals and families with a net income less than $40,000, that's taxable money, with those eligible receiving up to $450 for an individual, $60 for a spouse and $200 for each eligible dependent. Individuals and families with a net income of more than $40,000 may be eligible to receive a partial benefit depending on their family net income.

 

Going back here looking through this, the sliding scale starts at, I believe, 9 per cent at $40,000. For a one-earner income at $40,000 net income, you'll have a quarterly payment of $227.50. That's very good news for the families.

 

On top of that, you have the enhanced Seniors' Benefit which was an investment of $12.7 million. That's an additional $250 on the current $1,063 for a total of $1,313. You take the Income Supplement and you take the enhanced Seniors' Benefit, total that together and you get a total investment of $76.4 million which is a very significant investment to those who are our most vulnerable people, as I mentioned.

 

All this comes into effect on July 1, but there's going to be a double payment for anyone affected in October. One of the concerns I had brought up to me time and time again is how is this going to affect me, especially when I'm a senior. I said, normally you'd get a thousand dollars in October. I said, now you're going to get a double payment, which is going to give you about $910. That's your July and October money. So the money you had put aside for your Christmas gifts, your furnace oil, your wood, whatever, you're still going to get that; but, in January, you're going to get an additional $455.75, April you are going to get an additional $455.75, and it will continue and continue. People get used to this and plan their years around the additional Income Supplement that they will receive.

 

One other thing I wanted to point out is there is no application required for the supplement; however, eligible individuals must ensure that their annual income tax return is filed in order to receive their quarterly payments. So if you filed your taxes last year, Revenue Canada is going to take a look into it and we're going to get out your payment based on your taxes. This supplement will be based on the family net income, not gross income, net income and paid directly to eligible individuals in quarterly payments.

 

I just want to talk about some examples I have here of the Newfoundland and Labrador Income Supplement with the annual Income Supplement, which is your Newfoundland and Labrador Income Supplement, with your Seniors' Benefit, if you qualify.

 

If you're a single senior with a net family income of $16,000 you have the Newfoundland Income Supplement, annual Income Supplement, of $266, with a Seniors' Benefit of $1313 for a quarterly installment of $394.75. As I mentioned, a senior couple with a net family income of $26,000 will get a Newfoundland and Labrador Income Supplement of $510. You add that to their $1,313 and you are going to get quarterly installments of $455.75. It goes on and on.

 

A single person that is eligible to claim the disability tax credit – you get a lot of injured people; you have a lot of people who aren't able to work. If you have a net income of $22,000 your annual Income Supplement is $650. So that is going to be a quarterly payment of $162.50. If you're a single parent with one child with a family net income of $16,000 you get an annual Income Supplement of $466. So that's $116.50 every three months.

 

I can go on and on, but it is a sliding scale. It's a percentage that comes off. If you hit a certain threshold, you are not automatically cut off. It is a sliding scale so you will actually get something to a certain level.

 

Madam Speaker, that's all I have to say. I think it's a wonderful program. It's going to benefit the people in the District of Bonavista greatly. I look forward to voting and supporting this bill.

 

Thank you very much.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MADAM SPEAKER: The Speaker recognizes the hon. Member for Cape St. Francis.

 

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

 

Just a couple of little points I want to make on this. I know once we get into further discussions, as we discussed the last couple of days, on budget stuff because this is – the Income Supplement is good for a lot of Newfoundlanders, low-income seniors and people. Overall, when you look at it – and it's the problem that we're having with the whole budget, it's the cumulative factor that people are seeing. It's the increase in different taxes.

 

While this is great for seniors, it's the whole effect of this budget that has happened on seniors that I think that people should be looking at. I know that all over the province, everyone – people that can apply for this, it's great for them.

 

At the end of the day it's the number of charges, whether it's the gas and income tax –

 

MADAM SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

I remind the Member that –

 

MR. K. PARSONS: It has a lot to do with it. It's a benefit that your –

 

MADAM SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. K. PARSONS: Okay.

 

MADAM SPEAKER: I remind the Member that it's not a money bill.

 

MR. K. PARSONS: I know it's not a money bill, but it's also –

 

MADAM SPEAKER: I ask him to speak specifically to Bill 17.

 

MR. K. PARSONS: Okay. Yeah, well, we'll be supporting it. I'll get to tell the reasons later on why in Bill 18 or 19.

 

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

 

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

 

I certainly look forward to having this discussion continue in Committee. We'll leave that to the House.

 

With the House's permission, I will turn it over to the Minister of Municipal Affairs.

 

Thank you.

 

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

 

All those in favour?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

MADAM SPEAKER: All those against?

 

Carried.

 

CLERK (Barnes): A bill, An Act To Amend The Income Tax Act, 2000 No. 5. (Bill 17)

 

MADAM SPEAKER: This bill has now been read the second time.

 

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

 

MR. JOYCE: Now.

 

On motion, a bill, “An Act To Amend The Income Tax Act, 2000 No. 5,” read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House presently, by leave. (Bill 17)

 

MADAM SPEAKER: The hon. the Acting Government House Leader.

 

MR. JOYCE: Madam Speaker, I move, seconded by the Minister of Finance, that the House now resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole to consider Bill 17.

 

MADAM SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that I do now leave the Chair for the House to resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole to consider the said bill.

 

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

 

All those in favour?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

MADAM SPEAKER: All those against?

 

Carried.

 

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

 

Committee of the Whole

 

CHAIR (Dempster): Order, please!

 

We are now considering Bill 17, An Act To Amend The Income Tax Act, 2000 No. 5.

 

A bill, “An Act To Amend The Income Tax Act, 2000 No. 5.” (Bill 17)

 

CLERK: Clause 1.

 

CHAIR: Shall clause 1 carry?

 

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

 

MR. BRAZIL: Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

Just a few questions for the minister around the process – and I know it's done on a quarterly basis, and I know you noted that the fall, in October, there'll be two quarterly payments made to catch up and bring people in line with exactly the process. So I'm assuming – and if you could clarify – this will based on their 2015 income tax filing, as part of the process. Will the two payments be in one cheque or two separate cheques? If you could just clarify that for me, please.

 

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

 

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

 

Yes, it would be very important for eligible residents of our province to ensure they have filed their 2015 tax return, because that will be the trigger for the Newfoundland and Labrador Income Supplement.

 

To answer the question, I think the Member mentioned before we were in Committee, while I am standing, was around the double payment in October. There is insufficient time to implement a payment as of July 1, so as a result there are two payments happening in October. From what I understand, it will be processed on the same cheque, and that's why there's a double payment in October, and then the payments will kick in every quarter after that.

 

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

 

MR. BRAZIL: Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

I thank the minister; that clarifies those concerns I had.

 

The other concern I have – and I talked about it when I spoke to the bill – is around getting the message out to people, because there is somewhat of a change here. I know one is an enhancement and one is a new approach to it, or at least a new naming of it. What thought has been given to it, or what process will you be using either through the Department of Finance or respective line departments that may have access to people who fit the criteria with low incomes?

 

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

 

MS. C. BENNETT: Well, the creation, Madam Chair, of the Newfoundland and Labrador Income Supplement tool that is on the government's website is available for residents of the province, or their families, or government employees or constituency assistants, people that work for not-for-profits. All of us who support and advocate for our parents or even for our friends and neighbours, that tool is there. Recognizing that there are limitations to people's access to the government website, there is paper information that's available.

 

We'll continue to use dialogue with stakeholder groups to make sure the information gets out to seniors. I certainly encourage the Members of this House, through the work that we do with our constituents, to support that effort.

 

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

 

MR. BRAZIL: Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

I thank the minister for clarifying that. I have one final question here: Were there any stakeholder discussions with the corporate world around the Dividend Tax Credit changes in putting this process together?

 

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

 

MS. C. BENNETT: Madam Chair, there are ongoing conversations through the Department of Finance, certainly since I've been minister, but also with prior ministers around regular consultation with stakeholders around tax changes. Whether it's the St. John's Board of Trade, whether it's the CFIB, all those lobby organizations provide feedback to the province on a variety of tax issues.

 

In this particular case, with the manufacturing and processing tax – and I will have to confirm this, but I believe we're one of the few provinces that actually have it, so it's an unusual tax that's applicable. I will double check that for the Member opposite. I wouldn't want to be giving him misleading information. It's very important that we give the accurate information in this House, Madam Chair.

 

CHAIR: Seeing no further speakers, I'll ask the Clerk to call for the vote.

 

Shall clause 1 carry?

 

All those in favour?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: All those against?

 

Carried.

 

On motion, clause 1 carried.

 

CLERK: Clauses 2 through 9 inclusive.

 

CHAIR: Shall clauses 2 through 9 inclusive carry?

 

All those in favour?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: All those against?

 

Carried.

 

On motion, clauses 2 through 9 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: An Act To Amend The Income Tax Act, 2000 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: Shall I report Bill 17, An Act To Amend The Income Tax Act, 2000 No. 5 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: The hon. the Acting Government House Leader.

 

MR. JOYCE: Madam Chair, I ask that the Committee rise and report Bill 17 carried without amendment.

 

CHAIR: The motion is that the Committee do rise and report Bill 17 carried without amendment.

 

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

 

All those in favour, 'aye.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: All those against, 'nay.'

 

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 Speaker.

 

MS. DEMPSTER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

The Committee of the Whole have considered the matters to them referred and have asked me to report Bill 17 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 has directed her to report Bill 17 carried without amendment.

 

When shall the report be received?

 

MR. JOYCE: Now.

 

MR. SPEAKER: When shall the said bill be read a third time?

 

MR. JOYCE: Tomorrow.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Tomorrow.

 

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

 

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

 

MS. C. BENNETT: Give me one moment, Mr. Speaker, to find the page we are going to. I'm going to ask that I move, seconded by the Minister of Environment and Conservation, that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole on –

 

MR. JOYCE: (Inaudible.)

 

MS. C. BENNETT: I will change that, Mr. Speaker, to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Service NL, the hon. Member for Humber – Bay of Islands.

 

I move, and seconded, that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole on Ways and Means to consider certain resolutions and a bill relating to the imposition of tax, Bill 19, An Act To Amend The Revenue Administration Act No. 2.

 

Thank you.

 

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole on Ways and Means.

 

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

 

All those in favour, 'aye.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

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

 

Carried.

 

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

 

Committee of the Whole

 

CHAIR (Dempster): Order, please!

 

We are now debating the related resolution and Bill 19, An Act To Amend The Revenue Administration Act No. 2.

 

Resolution

 

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

 

CHAIR: Shall the resolution carry?

 

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

 

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

 

Madam Chair, I'm pleased to stand in this hon. House of Assembly and speak to this important piece of legislation this evening.

 

As part of the very difficult choices made in Budget 2016, the retail sales tax, or RST on insurance premiums will be reintroduced. The previous administration eliminated the RST on insurance premiums in 2008. This was only one of the many measures they took that were unsustainable and have contributed to the fiscal situation that we face today, Madam Chair.

 

Our government and the people of the province are facing a very serious fiscal challenge when it comes to the operations of government and we needed to take action with significant revenue measures to help address the deficit. As a result, the RST on insurance premiums is being reintroduced at 15 per cent effective July 1, 2016.

 

The RST will apply to insurance premiums for property and casualty insurance policies. Mainly for vehicles, homes and business locations. It does not apply to life, sickness or health premiums, Madam Chair. A tax will apply to substantially the same tax base as it did in the past. It is estimated that the revenue measure will generate, as we suggested in the budget, $111 million in revenue annually.

 

To provide some history on this tax. It was first implemented in 1968 under the Insurance Premium Tax Act and was then moved into the Retail Sales Tax Act.

 

Prior to the implementation of the HST in 1997, the rate for RST on insurance premiums was 12 per cent and the GST does not apply to this type of transaction. So as a result, the HST does not apply. As a result, the province decided to continue imposing the RST on insurance premiums and on the private sale of used vehicles. The tax rate on insurance premiums was increased from 12 per cent to 15 per cent at that time.

 

This Retail Sales Tax is a provincial sales tax, not a HST; therefore, businesses will not be able to claim input tax credits for the tax paid. The tax will be applied for contracts renewed or new contracts entered into on or after July 1, 2016.

 

Government has been talking with the industry regarding the reintroduction of the RST on insurance premiums and we will continue to work closely with the industry.

 

Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

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

 

MR. KENT: Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

It feels like dιjΰ vu almost. So here we go. We're back debating a resolution that's directly related to the implementation of the budget. For that reason, we will have lots of debate and discussion this evening. That's important, because in the last 24 hours in particular, I've been amazed at how many people have taken the time to call or write. We have piles and piles of pieces of correspondence that people want brought to the House of Assembly to express their concerns about the budget, and it's not just about one element.

 

I'll talk for a couple of minutes about this particular bill related to the Revenue Administration Act and taxes on insurance premiums. That is an issue people are really, really concerned about. I don't think the public has fully realized the tremendous impact this bill will have on people, on families. I think it's one of those things that when people get their bills they'll fully appreciate and realize the impact. Similar to the levy, similar to gas tax, it's something people will definitely be concerned about.

 

This type of bill gives us an opportunity to talk about all the issues people are concerned about related to Budget 2016. As I said, I'll speak briefly about some of what's contained in this bill and then I'd also like to talk about some of the other issues that people have asked me to bring to the House of Assembly. I suspect tonight my colleagues will be bringing forward concerns as well.

 

It's nice to be on the early shift this evening, Madam Chair. I should acknowledge that reality as well. We're bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.

 

This bill will enable the introduction of the retail sales tax on insurance premiums. This retail sales tax, as the Finance Minister indicated, will be reintroduced on July 1. A 15 per cent tax will be applied to all insurance premiums for home insurance, auto insurance, recreational vehicles and so on.

 

I'd encourage the people of the province for a moment to think about how much insurance you pay for in the run of a year related to just home and auto, and add 15 per cent. So that's effectively what's happening with this piece of legislation. It's important to note, because there has been some confusion in the public. I've noticed some confusion myself on social media related to health insurance, life insurance and mortgage insurance. These things are not included. So we're really talking about home and auto and large recreational vehicles and so on.

 

The total projected annual revenue that government expects from this is $111 million, according to the Department of Finance. Installments will be paid at the same time as insurance premiums. For most people, that means it will be paid monthly. Some people pay their insurance up-front, some people pay it in a couple of installments. Lots of people divide up the cost of their home insurance and/or auto insurance and stretch it out over the 12 months.

 

The 15 per cent will be charged on dues. The 15 per cent will also be charged on assessments, it will be charged on transaction fees, it will be charged on processing fees, it will be charged on policy fees. So pretty well everything on your insurance bill will be subject to this new 15 per cent tax. It won't be charged, though, on interest and underwriting fees if they're shown separately on the invoice. As long as they're shown separately on the invoice, the 15 per cent tax won't be applicable.

 

If a person's policy contains property inside and outside the province, the 15 per cent tax will only be charged on the portion inside the province. I actually had somebody reach out to me through Facebook yesterday to ask that very question. They have property both in Newfoundland and Labrador and I believe in Alberta, and they were concerned about what the implication would be, given they deal with the one insurance company and I guess it's all connected to the same policy. If the insurance company is not registered in the province, then the individual will still pay the 15 per cent retail sales tax, but will have to self-assess.

 

Now, the 15 per cent tax will become effective on policies when they are renewed, or on new contracts that are entered into on July 1 of this year or later. So if your renewal date is July 2, then you will be hit with this tax. If you go to get something insured on July 2, then you'll be hit with this tax. If you go and set up a policy for the first time or renew a policy on June 30, you won't be hit with the tax.

 

That particular element makes some sense. You've got to have a logical implementation date. So while I have concerns about the insurance tax, the implementation aspect is not something that I think we can argue a whole lot about.

 

Even when it comes to this 15 per cent tax, if that was the only impact that people were going to feel as a result of this budget, or if it was one of only a couple of impacts people would feel as a result of this budget, then I think we'd have a hard time standing here and putting up too much of a fight. When you look at the overall impact of the budget and the thousands of dollars it will cost the average family in Newfoundland and Labrador, then this 15 per cent tax on insurance is one of those big issues in the budget that hasn't gotten the kind of attention yet that I think it will, especially when insurance bills start coming out post-July 1.

 

Just back to the implementation point, if a person renews their contract before July 1, they won't pay the 15 per cent tax until they renew their policy. If it's a yearly renewal, it means they will not have to pay until June 2017 if they renew in June 2016. I think that's fairly straightforward.

 

For the average person in Newfoundland and Labrador, Madam Chair, who has home and auto insurance, we're talking hundreds of dollars here. This is not a small amount of money. I think when the budget was initially introduced, people really focused on the levy. That was sort of a focal point of the anger, the frustration, the disappointment and all of those emotions that surrounded the budget.

 

Then gas went up 20 cents, and I think all of a sudden that became another focal point. So I really believe this is the next big one. There are lots of other things in the budget that people are upset about which we'll talk about tonight; cuts in education, cuts in health care, cuts to infrastructure, cuts that will limit access to certain programs and services, particularly in rural regions of the province. This insurance tax, no matter where you live in Newfoundland and Labrador, it's going to hit you if you have home insurance or auto insurance, and a lot of people do.

 

A lot of those people that are being hit with this are the same people who are the most hit by some of the other measures that are in this budget. I think that's why people will be upset. I think that's why we feel an obligation to look at it holistically and not just pick on one particular point of the budget, but talk about the total impact of the budget when it's applied to an individual or to a family. That's what we'd like to spend some time talking about this evening.

 

I have many pieces of correspondence that I could share. In no particular order, here are a couple of departmental related questions. I know there are ministers around this evening and maybe at some point during debate they'd like to touch on these issues.

 

Here is one from somebody who's a town councillor in our province and has some concerns about the impact of the budget on municipalities. The minister has assured us in the House that municipalities will not be greatly impacted but I think there are a number of issues in the budget and falling out of the budget that people have questions about, that municipal leaders have questions about.

 

It is just this past weekend municipal leaders from our province, a fair number of them, gathered in Winnipeg for the Federation of Canadian Municipalities annual conference. From what I hear from talking to a couple of people who were there, there was discussion among the Newfoundland and Labrador contingent about some of the budget issues and how it could potentially impact municipalities.

 

Also, some of the opportunities that may exist for municipalities as a result of these fiscal challenges and how municipalities could potentially be part of a solution in providing services and meeting the needs of regions and working together without enduring further downloading from the federal government or the provincial government which has been a long time concern of municipal leaders.

 

This individual writes: What is the government's plan for provincial roads that are within the boundaries of municipalities? A very good question, Madam Chair. They have already said that some roads will not be plowed if there is a private contractor to do it. Are they planning on downloading those roads to municipalities? I don't think it was specifically addressed in this budget, but budget number two is coming.

 

The spending challenges have not been addressed at all by this budget. So this looks like a real threat for municipalities. It's a good point to have some discussion about. I think municipal leaders want some clarity on what the future does hold.

 

If they do, are they going to compensate municipalities or just leave us high and dry with the additional costs? We will be faced with costs for additional equipment to do snow clearing and summer maintenance and also require additional personnel. If the government does not offer some kind of additional support for these operations the only place municipalities can go for the additional revenue is the property tax payers. This will place additional financial strain on property owners and municipalities.

 

During my 10 years in municipal government, I remember we would often say there's only one taxpayer. So we all pay our share of municipal taxes, provincial taxes and federal taxes and when the possibility exists for downloading from one level of government to the next, we always need to bear in mind that ultimately it's the same person at the end of the day who's paying the bill. Municipalities have faced downloading over the years at various points in our history.

 

Given the financial situation we're in, I think it's understandable that there are some municipal leaders in our province with some questions. I was asked to present those issues as they relate to municipalities. I know the Minister of Municipal Affairs will be speaking at some point during the debate. He may wish to speak to some of those issues, I have no doubt.

 

Here's another issue that I think is a little more controversial – and I should say, as I said last night, Madam Chair, when I'm sharing this correspondence on behalf of people throughout Newfoundland and Labrador, my quoting or sharing the correspondence does not necessarily equal an endorsement. Much like the Twitter philosophy, I guess, which we've discussed in recent days in the House of Assembly. I do feel an obligation, whether I necessarily support the view or not, to bring those views forward.

 

I hope during the debate in the hours ahead that Members will keep that in mind. I may agree with aspects of what I'm presenting, I may agree with all of it or I may agree with none of it at all, but I have a responsibility to bring those concerns forward to the House of Assembly. Other than censoring some inappropriate language or some language that's just unparliamentary – a lot of this correspondence will reference individual MHAs. One of the rules we have in this House is we're not allowed to mention the actual names of Members, not even our own names. So one of those weird and wonderful parliamentary traditions.

 

I'll omit those things as I share the correspondence: I know this may not get read in the House of Assembly during the filibuster or at any other time, but I'd like to know where the government stands on revamping the Advanced Education and Skills system to eliminate spending by cutting off people that don't need to be in it, therefore saving the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador millions of dollars. I addressed this issue with my MHA, the MHA for Terra Nova in the past, but he either refused to address it in the House of Assembly or the Liberal government refused to address it at all. I'm currently watching and waiting to see if this gets addressed.

 

Now that was – what day is this, Tuesday? That was this afternoon. It's funny how we lose track of time in here. This gentleman from the Clarenville area is suggesting there are perhaps reforms that can be made within Advanced Education and Skills that would lead to savings. That's been a challenge for governments for a long time. It was a challenge for the previous government. I know it must be a challenge for this government.

 

One of the things we're really proud of is the Poverty Reduction Strategy that we've implemented over the last number of years. That has made a huge difference. That has taken people out of the Income Support system and gotten them above the poverty line and kept them there.

 

One of our big fears with this budget, Madam Chair, is that people will be driven back below the poverty line, and that's one of the reasons why we need to have the debate that started yesterday afternoon and is going to continue tonight, perhaps into tomorrow, who knows, because these are issues that really matter to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. 

 

I see my time is about to expire. I look forward to having many opportunities tonight – until I need to go to bed at some point and take a brief nap – to share these issues. If people have concerns, they have ideas and they have questions they want asked, they can email them to us. My colleagues are here for Conception Bay South and Cape St. Francis and others, and we will work hard to make sure those concerns ultimately this week –

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. KENT: – get brought to the House of Assembly. 

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

I remind the hon. Member his time for speaking has expired.

 

MR. KENT: Thank you, Madam Chair. 

 

CHAIR: The Chair recognizes the hon. Member for Cape St. Francis. 

 

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

 

Again, it's a privilege to get up here and start here at 7 o'clock this evening. We'll see how far she goes into the night.

 

Madam Chair, it's amazing when you talk to people in the districts. They understand what we're trying to do and understand what we can do. There's no doubt that the government has the majority here. At the end of the day, they get basically what they want when it comes to legislation and what they want to bring in. But I feel obligated and I think my colleagues feel obligated to do our best and stand up for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

 

When you look at, and you listen to the open line shows, you see the news shows in the evenings, and general conversations with the normal beings we will call them of Newfoundland and Labrador, people want to be heard. It's so important that they be heard, and that's a huge problem because we had the promise again – I spoke about promises all day, all last night. You had promised that you would be listening to the residents of Newfoundland and Labrador. It's obvious that the government is not listening to the residents of Newfoundland and Labrador by bringing in such bills that they're bringing in tonight.

 

We said it last night two or three times that it's too much, too fast. There are just so many different things. It doesn't stop. I think the normal person out there understands that there is a financial crisis in the province, and no doubt they do. But to put it all on the backs of hard-working Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, seniors and people who are on a fixed income, our youth, everyone, people are just saying this is just too much.

 

For some people here in the House of Assembly, maybe it's nothing at all. Maybe it's just you have to pay a few extra bills, so be it, you got lots of money or whatever, but to the common Newfoundlander and Labradorian this is very difficult.

 

This bill that we're going to talk about tonight here is Bill 19. I know the minister said they brought it in in 2008 and should never have done it, but I bet that every Liberal that was on this side of the House in 2008, when this bill was brought in, I bet they voted for it because they saw that it was giving Newfoundlanders and Labradorians a break.

 

We all know what it's like to pay car insurance. We all know what it's like to pay house insurance. Anytime you can get a break on this, it's important. People did appreciate it, but it's a combination of so many different things in this budget that people are upset about.

 

We just spoke to Bill 17 and I wanted to get up and make my point. I had to talk to the bill, but now I'm into Bill 19, I can talk about Bill 17 because I can talk about anything on a money bill, just to let you know.

 

While we did some good things for seniors and the supplement is a good thing – there's no doubt about it. It puts an extra $250 into seniors' hands. I like the fact that it's done over a period of time so there are different cheques coming all through the year; but, at the end the day, it's nothing because when you look at 16.5 cents they're going to pay extra on the gas that's going in their vehicle. When you look at now, in this bill here, what we're going to do to them is we're going to charge the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, their insurance on their cars and insurance on their homes and insurance on recreational vehicles is gone up by 15 per cent.

 

I asked a question in the House of Assembly about a month ago to the minister. She came back the next day and told me that they'd have to have a boat, they'd have to have an RV and all this and their total amount for their insurance would have to be $7,000. I told her it was going to cost a family of four, $1,000. I had a person call me and say: Kevin, my insurance is gone up by $1,000.

 

She came up with the fact they would have to have a boat, they'd have to have an RV, but it wasn't so. What they had was two children, one going to post-secondary and one planning on going to post-secondary. I think one of them might have had a little accident over the year. As we know, especially young drivers, once they have an accident, the insurance goes right through the roof. That's like all of us, I think, unless you have the new plan they came up with now that you get one free one or it's (inaudible) and then you have six years.

 

Once you have an accident, and once a young person has an accident, they're talking a$3,000 almost $4,000 for insurance. This family of four, they had house insurance, they have two vehicles – they had to have two vehicles because the young fellow was going back and forth to school. Like I said the two children are insured, you want to make sure they are insured and covered, and his wife and himself.

 

I believe they have a quad; I think nearly everybody in Newfoundland has a quad, but I mean that was just the basic – there was no RV. There was no boat. There was nothing involved in it but the total amount of insurance – he said the extra cost on the insurance to him was going to be $1,000 more a year on a family. That's just on insurance alone. That's not counting the price of gas going up by 16.5 cents. Last week it went up 18 cents and we have no cap on that whatsoever. If gas continues to go up, government just said no, let her go. There is no stopping that at all.

 

But just look at the impact that this is having on a family – the family, I know them pretty well. They are a modest family. An extra $1,000 is going to mean that they are going to have to come up with $1,000 that they are not going to spend maybe at a restaurant; it may be something to small businesses somewhere in the province. Maybe it's their holiday that they'll go on or whatever. But here it is $1,000 more that they are going to have to pay.

 

I have another fear with this insurance too. By going up by 15 per cent sometimes – and we look at it all the time; we hear it on the news. There are a lot of people out there driving without insurance. I would imagine the reason why most of them are driving without insurance is because it's hard to afford it. So I'm just hoping that this doesn't increase people that do drive without insurance because that's not good. I mean, we don't want to see anybody have accidents but if there are people on the road that are not insured, that's not good for anyone and it's hard.

 

This is just another factor that we've been talking about for the last couple of days. What we've been talking about is it's a tax again – if this was the only tax that you brought in, if you didn't have the levy that we talked about for a long while there yesterday, and if you didn't have the gas tax, and if you didn't increase income tax and every other fee that's out there – there are 50 new fees that you introduced. You increased everything from 300 licences and different bills that are out there now, people have to pay more.

 

This whole budget is all about taxing people. The problem with it, a lot of people have a problem in the province, is it is tax, tax, tax, cut, cut, cut, but there's no plan. There's nothing there to show the people we have a plan in place. Once we get this factor here we're going to invest. We're going to take the money, we're going to invest in and we're going to diversify the economy. We're going to do something.

 

People don't see a plan. People see absolutely nothing from this government. You can see it. All you have to do is listen to the open line shows, listen to people on the street. People are just so upset because there's nothing there. The future, the hope that people have in this province has been taken away and it's been taken away by the taxation they've been doing. People have the fear. They're worried about where they're going to get the money, where are they going to be able to pay their bills.

 

You take it, while we do a supplement for seniors and now when they go – and you can mark it down, they will have insurance on their cars and they'll have insurance on their home. Please God, they will have insurance on their home. Here's what you're doing, you're taking the money right out of their pockets. Then they have to make a decision.

 

Here's the decision I have to make: Will I heat my house? What do I do with my groceries? You can mark it down, like I said last night several times, if you look at a lot of people in this province, when they get their paycheque at the end of the month or at the end of the week, I guarantee you they can tell you where each dollar is going. Now, as of July 1, when they go to renew their insurance on their cars and renew the insurance on their home, they have an additional 15 per cent that they have to come up with. To most that's a lot of money, that's hundreds of dollars.

 

Like my colleague said, most of them pay their bills on a monthly basis, so they know exactly where it is. If you look at a person that's paying a $150 bill a month on his insurance, now he has an extra 15 per cent to pay on that $150. That's huge.

 

CHAIR (Bragg): Order, please!

 

I remind the Member his time for speaking is up.

 

MR. K. PARSONS: Thank you very much.

 

I'll be up to talk about this later on.

 

CHAIR: The Chair recognizes the Member for Conception Bay South.

 

MR. PETTEN: Good evening, Mr. Chair.

 

There's always a new Chair. You have to keep watching, there's always a new one.

 

CHAIR: Three cheers for the new Chair.

 

MR. PETTEN: I echo what my colleagues have been saying of the insurance tax, I know my colleague for Mount Pearl North said it. I've said this many times – actually, I say this probably every time I get up. The insurance tax is one of the taxes I always bring up, but I don't think it's been talked about even in the public domain and in this House as much as probably it should be.

 

My colleague for Cape St. Francis just pointed out that these people are looking at probably a thousand dollars extra cost a year. As we all know, the levy, before it was adjusted, the highest threshold to that was $900 a year. We know the public outcry that came with that and it's still a public outcry.

 

We've been here now for quite some time. We were on the levy, now we're into insurance, but it brings us back to that point of the public outcry with the levy. In my opinion, there are a lot of families going to be hit harder with this insurance tax than there would have with the levy. I say that from before any adjustments were done. I think you can find that on record.

 

I know on Open Line this morning, or I heard somewhere along my travels, this lady was a senior and she was really upset. She felt she should pay her insurance early and she'd get off without having to pay the 15 per cent. That is not the way it's designed.

 

I understand that, that's the way those insurance – on renewals, if July 1 is your renewal date, but there are people trying to find – and if you're a senior, I can see where they're coming from because, as one of my colleagues just pointed out, people who are on fixed incomes, as we all know, dollars are tight. Dollars are going to get tighter as this budget – as we say all the time when the different increments of this budget takes effect.

 

We have July 1 insurance tax, the levy will fall. We're not sure exactly, but the mechanism has been all over the place, but I guess one way or the other, whether it's at the end of the year or even now, we know that's coming too. Gas tax, we're paying that now. Our income tax will come up in taxation.

 

It almost gets exhausting sometimes because you feel like tax, tax, tax. My colleague from Cape St. Francis said everything is tax, tax, tax, tax. You know, unfortunately it is.

 

Driving in here this afternoon, or lunchtime today, Mr. Chair, I'm not sure, so I may be wrong, but I think it was someone who represents the taxpayers association. They're saying this levy and other tax measures – we're talking about the insurance one as well, but we can go anywhere of course with this bill – it's bad for the province, it's a bad tax.

 

His commentary was similar to what I've heard in this Chamber. I don't know if any of us are tax experts but this guy is supposed to be a tax expert. I know when he said his statement – I've heard it said here by a lot of us in so many words, it's crippling.

 

I think it was yesterday – you want people to spend money. Consumer confidence, it has to come back to consumer confidence. If you want people to spend money that drives your economy. As your economy is being driven, people spend more money, there's more confidence, there's more taxes for government and more employees. You attract business, you attract people, and you attract investments. As it has been said many times, you don't tax yourself into prosperity. It just don't happen, it will not happen, it cannot happen.

 

As we've said many times as well, we understand we're faced with a financial crisis but I guess – and I've heard this said too, there was a better way. Taxation of this level, regardless of what financial situation you're in, when you're going to do a tax regime like this and affect every single person in the province, it can't work. You're taking the confidence right out from underneath everybody.

 

I said it before and I could say it again, but we all know it, I don't have to tell anyone in this House. People don't have that same feeling about spending. We'll see it as the year goes on. It will be interesting to see how retail sales numbers reflect at the end of the year. As we all know, in the fall and over the Christmas season that's a lot of – we get the retail sales numbers leading into budget time. That equates into consumer confidence. I can't see consumer confidence being up this coming year. That should be a direct reflection on the effect of this budget.

 

The Minister of BTCRD a while back was boasting about tourism numbers – a totally different case. This year's numbers are based on last year's investment. The investment stayed stable so next year's numbers shouldn't change, but it's not a matter of – consumer confidence and with our income tax and with our economy, it's pretty immediate on a go-forward basis. We know now, we're starting to see the effects.

 

By the fall, next year's budget – well, we have another budget, I believe, don't we? We have part two coming up in another few months that we don't know, but I guess in March or next April – the numbers they're forecasting now I think will be a lot lower. Again, I'm not an economist, but I think common sense should prevail there that people are not going to be spending. People are not spending now.

 

As I said here the other day and I'll say it again, I have a lot of people in my district that their spending has – they're contractors building homes. New home construction has bottomed out. If that's an indication, new home construction has bottomed out in one of the fastest growing communities in Newfoundland, that has an effect right across the province. If it's having an effect in CBS – if anyone ever were reading up on it, it was always CBS and Paradise are the fast growing communities in Newfoundland, and Atlantic Canada for a few years. So when you're seeing everything coming to a halt there, I mean it's caution to the wind, because I think it will have a crippling effect on our economy.

 

Speaking about this bill on insurance – we'll have lots more time tonight to get up, I'm sure, to go on to other stuff. Pertinent to the insurance tax, the Town of CBS has to pay an extra $350,000 this year, alone. That's a result of the insurance tax and the gas tax. They haven't factored in all the other numbers. That's the easy – the so-called, low-hanging fruit. They can say quickly they know the insurance tax, 15 percent on it. They can take their gas, roughly their usage and put the 16.5 cents with the 2 per cent HST on. These are easy numbers. I mean, it doesn't take a lot of work to figure that out. They're looking at in the vicinity of $300 to $400,000 extra over and above a budget that has to be a balanced budget under the Municipalities Act.

 

Every municipality in the province that already has their budget done – they operate on a 12-month calendar, most of them – they've got to find extra money. CBS is one of the largest towns, so that's in the bigger municipalities. You've got Mount Pearl, you've got St. John's, you've got Paradise, you've got Corner Brook, you've got Grand Falls-Windsor. Then you go down the line to Gander – all these municipalities will be hit. We don't know the full effects yet. I know from my own community – that can have a pretty harsh effect on a smaller municipality, because we all know what they operate on. They're always looking for a new municipal framework. They're looking for more money every day.

 

So now they've done a budget in December that they got balanced one way or the other – they balanced their books, which they have to – then to be hit now in May, June, or April, May and figure out their numbers and they're going to have to come up with extra money. A small town, $100,000 is immense. I'm out in CBS, we're a bigger town, but the numbers were crunched the year, and they had themselves boxed in a corner.

 

They will probably find the $400,000, I'm sure they will – but at what cost? Like I said a while back, it was a big public outcry in CBS because they cut back discounts for seniors. Just one factor that saved a small amount of money in the big scheme of things and there was a huge public outcry. Their argument was we had to do it to balance the books. I don't know how they're going to come up with this $400,000. I hazard to guess they'll stay away from seniors this time, but they have to find it. So something will suffer because of it.

 

So I'm going from a large municipality to an individual, middle-class family, to a senior, to a student. Again, I say it and I say it and I'll say it again – it's tax, tax, tax, and it affects every single person in the province. No matter what it is, you can't turn around and the budget is not a topic of the day, because as I said, and it can't be overstated, it affects every single person in the province: man, woman, child.

 

Thank you very much.

 

CHAIR: The Chair recognizes the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Service Newfoundland and Labrador.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. JOYCE: I'm only going to speak for two minutes because I know a couple of Members opposite were talking about municipalities and I just wanted to give one example. I spoke to a city councillor from the City of Corner Brook and he talked about this large amount – I don't know what it was, 400 – I can't even remember the amount but it was a huge, huge amount that they were going to lose this year.

 

I spoke to him Saturday at the Great Humber Joint Council and I said: How much is the city losing? He said I went back and said explain to me how you're losing this money. Do you know how much they are using? Ten per cent of what was announced publicly – 10 per cent. The money that they can charge off as a town or municipality and the money that's coming in is 10 per cent.

 

I'd love for the Member opposite to give this figure that the Town of CBS is losing $400,000. I'd love to get a breakdown. I'm not saying it's not accurate; I'd just love to have it so I can see it. Because I know when the City of Corner Brook made this large figure, large number, and the city councillor went back and they asked questions and they said I'd love to see it. A lot of the funds that are coming in – and it's sustainable.

 

Anyway I'd just like to see it, if you don't mind. If you could ask the town – I'm sure you have it there because I'm sure –

 

MR. PETTEN: (Inaudible.)

 

MR. JOYCE: You'll get it, okay. I thought you would have it there saying – anyway, thank you very much for that.

 

Mr. Chair, I'm not going to belabour that point. It is just that the information that is out publicly when you speak to the councillors privately and you get the information privately from the councillors – and this one with the City of Corner Brook is going to get me the actual information and I'm hoping to have it by Thursday so I can stand up in the House of Assembly and show the information that is thrown out there is not accurate.

 

I won't keep speaking, Mr. Chair. I don't want to get into a heated debate here tonight but I just wanted to bring that up and I look forward that, hopefully tomorrow, I can get that information from CBS so I can sit down with the mayor and say, okay, explain to me how you're losing $400,000 over six months this year because all these fees will take over six months. If that is fact and prorated next year it is $800,000. I can't see how they are going to lose $800,000 over –

 

AN HON. MEMBER: It would be nice to look at.

 

MR. JOYCE: It would be nice to look at.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible.)

 

MR. JOYCE: Pardon me?

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible.)

 

MR. JOYCE: Out of the 10 per cent, what they said, yes.

 

I'm hoping to get the figures Thursday. I was told that by a city councillor. That's what I'm going to get and that's why I'd love to see what CBS is getting. Because if CBS is losing $400,000 over next year that means they're losing a million dollars – $800,000 over a full year. A million dollars – I don't even know what CBS budget is $18 million, $20 million, I'm not sure.

 

It's an increase I'd love to be able to get justified by the towns because I spoke to a lot of smaller towns. Sure, there's going to be some but with the sustainable partnership, they will not be losing. Next year, I think they'll be in money and the year after with the sustainable partnership, with the gas tax share and the MOGs. They'll be in money.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible.)

 

MR. JOYCE: You can't budget it next year because you haven't made up your budget for next year. You can't budget for the third year because you never made up your budget.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible.)

 

MR. JOYCE: You wouldn't have it in your budget. That's what I'm saying, but the money is coming. I couldn't be in your budget. So you can't say three years down the road, well, we're going to budget for this because the money's not there yet. Their budget they have now, next year they will have more and the year after, they'll have more. Even if they lost a portion of it, they'd still be better off.

 

I'd just love to see the numbers, that's all. I thank the Member for committing to get them back to me. So I won't belabour that, Mr. Chair. I just wanted to point that out. When I spoke to the city councillor from Corner Brook he agreed to get me that.

 

I'd love to see it. I really would because I heard the numbers being tossed around on many occasions but I have yet to see anything laid out for six months this year that a town is losing $400,000. I'm not saying it's not. I'm just saying that no one has shown me or the department just so I can see it. If it is so, I will stand up and say here's what's happening. I just know with the sustainable partnership program, Mr. Chair, most towns would be better off even with some of the measures that are put in place.

 

Mr. Chair, I didn't want to speak about it but, as I said, at the Great Humber Joint Council meeting this weekend, it was in The Western Star today, the biggest issue is waste management. It wasn't the gas tax. It wasn't the levy. It was waste management.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: The Burin Peninsula is the same.

 

MR. JOYCE: I met down on the Burin Peninsula – an interview I did today with CBC – and the big issue on the Burin Peninsula is waste management because once you get into waste management and you put the cost – it used to be 60 or 70, all of a sudden it's up to 220 or 250 per household. There is $170 levy the waste management is putting on every household in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

 

No way in the world, when the waste management came in – and I'm not here to argue, I know the Members opposite – there was no way in the world that the waste management, when it was brought in in the strategy, was to bring the rates up so high.

 

It wasn't supposed to be. That's why, hopefully, we can find some way to help out towns because if it keeps rising and rising, that's a levy on every household, Mr. Chair. That is something, again, we inherited that we have to try to work with and bring down because that is a big issue with a lot of municipalities.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible.)

 

MR. JOYCE: I say to the hon. Member, a waste management report was brought in, the funding was brought in. I didn't mean to get into it, but, Mr. Chair, the capital for the waste management came from the federal government for the gas tax.

 

What happened – and I didn't mean to get into it – if you read the report, there were supposed to be two sites set up, first over on Eastern and Western. Somewhere along the line, the previous administration took the funds and set up the one in Central. The one in Central is so large now they are saying, okay, it's not worth putting one in Western because the one in Central is so big.

 

The report that your government put in place – I'm not here to cause an argument, because I'm trying to get along with everybody. The report you put in – I'll show you the page, show you the copy of the report – that if garbage is shipped from Western Newfoundland it's an extra $1.8 million in transportation. That's right in the report. The concept was there was supposed to be a subsidy from the government to help with that cost. That was part of it.

 

They held out, and then one night at a meeting with government appointed individuals, they decided, no, let's move it out to Norris Arm without the subsidy. At that meeting, which wasn't even on the agenda but it came up through a discussion – get this, the City of Corner Brook representatives weren't even at the meeting to vote on waste management from the City of Corner Brook. The largest municipality on the West Coast, they weren't even at the meeting to vote there.

 

The rep out at Pasadena, Gary Bishop, the mayor wasn't even at the meeting. They went ahead and voted and then went ahead to Norris Arm. So that's some of the concerns and frustrations from the people. I'll give you a good example. I'm not saying it's going to change, because once you review it – because the site now in Western Newfoundland is a big capital cost. It could be, I think, $75 million or $80 million, minimum, to set up a site on the West Coast for that.

 

How you can take garbage – I didn't say Ramea – from Ramea, bring it across the boat, bring it up the Burgeo highway, get to Stephenville, bring it down to Norris Arm, you tell me how that's cheaper. The Town of St. Anthony, take it from St. Anthony, five hours up to Deer Lake, another three hours to Norris Arm, eight hours driving on trucks. You see the frustration, and that is the frustration.

 

So when you're talking about the towns, and if you talk about the City of Corner Brook – and I know everybody is trying, and I'm definitely not trying to – because it is an issue that we inherited. We all have to work together and I spoke to the Member for Cape St. Francis, we have to come up with a solution together because it's costing a lot of money. If we don't do that, Mr. Chair, there's going to be a levy on every household in Western Newfoundland much larger than what's going to be there now. The cost is going from $75 million, it's going up, up and up. That's the cost of the garbage.

 

Mr. Chair, there are a lot of hidden things that's happening here. What we're trying to do as a government and what I'm going to try to do as the minister, with the help from all the MHAs here – what we're going to try to do is try to work through this. Work with the municipalities, work with all the groups, work with all the waste management committees to see if we can bring the cost down so we can keep it down to a manageable level. Every dollar that goes onto it is going to be passed on to the householder.

 

I didn't mean to step in. I look forward for the Member to get me that information tomorrow; they're going to lose $400,000 in six months. I look forward to getting that.

 

Thank you very much.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible.)

 

MR. JOYCE: Once I get it I'll give it to you, yes.

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

The Chair recognizes the Member for Conception Bay East – Bell Island.

 

MR. BRAZIL: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

Indeed, it's an honour again to stand here in this House and speak to a bill being presented. Unfortunately, it's one that I have some reservations about because of the impact it's going to have on people.

 

I've echoed here when I've gotten up and argued for ways that we may be able to improve our education system and outlined exactly that we do support wholeheartedly all-day kindergarten. The fact is from a financial point of view, investing in all-day kindergarten now at the expense of some of the existing other programs are a challenge and a detriment. I say that in the context of the fact my argument always was it's less of an impact if you're not taking away something that people had versus implementing something they never had.

 

The issue here is the same thing with this, we're now taking away a rebate or break that the taxpayers had in Newfoundland and Labrador. It's only a number of years ago that the former administration implemented no tax on insurance because they saw the impact. As the insurance rates were rising all through Newfoundland and Labrador, they saw the impact. They wanted to ensure that people could afford to have insurance on their homes, afford to be able to drive insured, even if it was with the public liability ability; one, for their own security, but also for the security of other peoples around them.

 

One of the ways our administration of the day found that we could at least give some other incentive and some enticement, and maybe that extra threshold where it was going to be harder from a financial point of view to have insurance, we could give them some kind of a rebate. The easiest way to give a rebate was we wouldn't charge any tax. We worked out a deal that there'd be no tax on insurance.

 

That was a savings, a substantial savings for people. We noticed the insurance policies increasing. The insurance industry will tell you that. They ended up getting more people who hadn't had insurance on their homes, which meant they had to do more inspections. Things were identified in homes to make sure these homes were safe for people. So there was a benefit for that, not only financially but we ended getting a safer society, being around the cars people were driving and the homes.

 

I also want to talk about – earlier this morning I got up and I had some legitimate questions, some from my taxpayers and some of my colleagues from the former side when we're having good conversations with each other and said you're aware, you guys had $28 billion over a period of time that you spent, and what do you have to show for it? I said you're legitimate; we did have $28 billion or so. I'll even go a bit further and say we had in the vicinity of $30 billion from our tax revenue from the oil industry.

 

That was things that were negotiated through some of the royalty regimes. Some of it was pure luck. That's what life is about too, luck, and being able to take advantage of those situations. In this case, to take advantage to put it back for the taxpayers of Newfoundland and Labrador but it's a legitimate question.

 

We are in a fiscal crunch. People say maybe we spent too much. We had all this money but we did spend it in areas where people had identified there were challenges. We had some major infrastructure needs and there were certain things that people needed. People needed a break in life to be able to maintain a certain standard of living or move to another level either it is around safety or enhancement of their own quality of life. Like I just mentioned about the insurance rebate and taking the tax off that.

 

There was a method to why we were doing that and there was an end result, and it worked out. More policies were sold which meant more people were safe as part of the process, and we ensured that people in our society would not have to worry about if there was a hardship from an accident or a fire of some sort like that.

 

I want to outline exactly – and I'm giving the $30 billion level, it may be a little bit higher than what we would have normally had, but let's give it that because we always generate money in different areas. So I can explain to the viewers at home and to my colleagues across for those who may not have been around, may not understand it. This is some in-depth research that's been done to outline exactly where the monies went.

 

Now, you may not agree how we spent it, but I will give the outline of exactly where the money went so people would understand there isn't $30 billion that was blown on some kind of a big party and nothing to show for it. There's an asset shown in some way, shape or form to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador out of that $30 billion.

 

One of the things people need to realize, for years and years we were relying on our federal counterparts to support us, and it's called equalization. Through equalization we were getting a billion, a billion-plus per year as part of that process. That was because we were an economically depressed province. We were just finding our way. We were just starting to get control of our own resources. We were trying to find our economic plan in life. It took a period of time to get there.

 

The way it works with any jurisdiction, particularly any province, if you get to a point where your income levels are higher based on your population to a certain scale, and then obviously you're entitled to equalization. If you're on a lower level at a certain period of time or a certain threshold you meet, then you're not entitled to it. All provinces have the ability to draw upon that, depending on the income being generated from various categories.

 

So for years and years, since our Confederation, we were drawing down on equalization and it was part of being part of this bigger entity of the country we call Canada, and it's part of what you do. In the mid-2000s, as our oil industry started to take off and our royalties and our other mineral industries and our employment rate started to soar, we managed to get to a point where we didn't have to draw down on the equalization and we no longer qualified. So there was a scale as we were being weaned off that until we got to a point where, in 2008, we were no longer entitled to it.

 

On one side, that's a hard thing. You don't have a billion-plus dollars coming in from the federal government, but on another side it proves that economically you're moving forward and now you can give back to other provinces that may have some challenges. That happened. Ontario, who we were reliant on, to a certain degree, for a number of years from employment and what they were paying into the equalization formula plan, we now could put in to offset some of the challenges they had when the manufacturing industry started to go down.

 

So these were ways that we could also have a bit of pride in what we were doing, take control of it because now it was our money. We didn't have to fill out applications. We didn't have to be saying how we fit and pigeonholed into something that the federal government felt this is what we have to do, or hoops we have to jump through, to ensure we get money and only be able to use it in certain categories. We became the stewards of our own demise, but in a positive way. We could set up exactly what we wanted to do. We could get rid of negative programs and services and put in positive ones.

 

The $10 billion is the $10 billion that we would have had in equalization, but as a result we didn't get that. That $10 billion had to come off the $30 billion that was being generated through our oil revenues. So there was $10 billion automatically. It's no more money in, no more money out, but what it is, is money we now have control of, that we earn, and is part and parcel of our own economic viability in this province. So that was one part of it and it was a positive thing. It's where it gave us pride again; it's where we could initiate other negotiations with other jurisdictions, other countries, other companies to come here. We didn't have to bow down and take the mere pittance. We had control over what we were doing, so that's what we did.

 

In infrastructure, we invested $6 billion over that period of time. That's less than a decade, $6 billion, and that went into things such as schools. I talked about earlier this morning, anybody ever remember the '80s and '90s and even the early 2000s, schools were closed down on a weekly basis due to mould, or some schools were too cold because their heating infrastructure didn't work, or there were issues around the location of schools from parking or safety factors. All of these issues were major control issues that we could not do anything about because we didn't have the economic ability to do it. It had an impact on our education levels.

 

As a result, we said what do we need to do? To have a sustainable community and a sustainable province you need to be able to make sure your education system works for you. What we started to do is we endeavoured to start investing in our infrastructure: $6 billion. So $6 billion and the $10 billion for the equalization, we're up to $16 billion. Out of that $6 billion, these are things you have. They're assets that are owned by the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

 

There are 17 schools that we built, brand new ones. There are 36 other ones that we did major renovations – major expansions to. There are eight projects on the go now to build new schools. There are 1,600 renovations to existing schools to ensure that the mould and that be gone through either putting in new heating systems, new air conditioning systems, new windows to make things conducive to our environment so that people would have a good learning entity and a new learning environment, so that things would be at the level we intended them to be. We wanted to ensure our society had a better opportunity, from an education point of view, than the previous one.

 

We built highways and byways. We built roads. The Trans-Labrador Highway, we invested hundreds of millions of dollars up there because we saw the benefits of having that road network connected. We started from Labrador West and we came right through to Labrador centre as we move forward.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. BRAZIL: We continue to do that, to invest in our infrastructure. We continued to do that. Firefighting equipment, fire trucks went out because we had these small communities who didn't have the safety equipment. First responders, volunteers who went into fires with equipment that it was just as easy if you went in with a T-shirt on. They were no safer.

 

We invested into enhancements there and ensuring that people were safe when they did these types of things. We did that up to the tune of $6 billion. No doubt, it's a continuation that would go on and go on. I know there are monies allocated in this year's budget to enhance infrastructure. It's an ongoing thing, but we were so far behind we had to spend and catch up at the $6 billion mark.

 

Mr. Chair, I'll have an opportunity to go through the other things we invested in over the night.

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. BRAZIL: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

The Chair recognizes the Member for Mount Pearl North.

 

MR. KENT: Well, excuse me for one second there, Mr. Chair.

 

CHAIR: Seeing the Member is sitting down –

 

MR. KENT: I am on my feet.

 

CHAIR: Not sitting down?

 

AN HON. MEMBER: No, he's not sitting down; he's still on his feet.

 

CHAIR: Okay.

 

MR. KENT: I'm ready. Thank you.

 

I thank the Minister of Municipal Affairs for offering to pinch-hit there for a moment. I want to compliment on his work in the House this evening. We've both been acting as House Leaders for a period of time and we were able to make progress on several bills.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. KENT: Mr. Chair, there's a little bit of disruption happening over here that I'm hoping you can help me manage. None of the disruption tonight has been created by the hon. minister, so I appreciate that.

 

As I said earlier when I spoke to this bill, tonight I'm going to use the opportunity to bring –

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

Order, please!

 

MR. KENT: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

Can you guys just head down there, somewhere? He thinks I'm joking, Mr. Chair. I won't name him. Thanks, guys.

 

I'm going to use the opportunity in debate tonight to raise concerns that have been brought to me on behalf of people all over the province. We've also been having lots of banter about the debate and this filibuster on social media, and I guess I should clarify for the record so it's in Hansard that I don't believe that John Riche is a protester. I just want to get that out there right away. I've found him to be a fine, upstanding constituent in my district. I've never felt threatened by him.

 

His taste in football is dismal, though, Mr. Chair. I do need to point that out. But I don't feel threatened by his presence, no matter where he is.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Is he a Pats fan?

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

Order, please!

 

MR. KENT: No, he's not a Pats fan; that would be worse.

 

Anyway, back to the matter at hand. I'm mentioned in my opening comments this evening that people will be outraged by the increase in insurance costs. I just received a message on social media from a woman who did the math tonight, and the cost to her family is over $800 a year. So that's what we're talking about. We didn't get into it, but she may or may not have to still pay the levy as well.

 

People are also upset about gas tax. So I want to read some correspondence that I received this evening, actually. It says: I'm emailing you to voice my concerns about the gas tax. My husband just retired and his monthly income is $2,200 a month. I'm unable to work due to a car accident I was in, in 2004, in Ontario. My husband doesn't qualify for GIS because they base this income not on what he is getting now, but what he got last year when he worked. So we are not eligible until July 2017.

 

My medications are $150 per month, and they are not covered.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

Order, please!

 

MR. KENT: Thank you, Mr. Chair; I appreciate your protection.

 

My husband, who is a diabetic, has suffered from bladder cancer, high blood pressure, thyroid problems, and high cholesterol, takes medications that are about $500 a month, and we currently have no coverage for those either. Our mortgage is $1,100 a month, so you do the math.

 

Starting next month, both of us will no longer be taking our medications. We live in a rural community and with so many medical issues we are required to see various specialists. Unlike people who live in St. John's or other larger communities, we are required to travel to Grand Falls, 166 kilometres one-way, or St. John's, 230 kilometres one-way. We can't afford to do this. So along with not being able to get medication, we now have to stop seeing the specialist as well. Then again, I guess if you can't afford the meds you put them on, then seeing them is kind of pointless anyway.

 

Ask the Premier if he will pay for my husband's funeral when he passes away because he can't get the medical help he needs because he can't afford it.

 

These are the kinds of horrible, desperate situations that we're hearing about in recent weeks. They are individuals who had difficult circumstances to face in their lives prior to this budget, but the point that needs to be made, Mr. Chair, is that this budget and the combination of decisions that have made by the Liberal government makes things –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. KENT: Thank you, Mr. Chair. 

 

It makes things so much worse for so many families in Newfoundland and Labrador.

 

So these stories need to be told. I'm hoping by taking opportunities through this debate on Bill 19, and also the debate that will resume on Bill 14 at some point, we will be able to bring as many of these concerns as possible forward. In some cases, individuals like this person have asked their MHA to bring their concerns forward. They've been watching the House of Assembly. They've been watching social media. They've been hopeful that at some point they would hear their own MHA stand and be counted and bring these concerns forward, but, unfortunately, for many people that hasn't been what has happened.

 

I think, Mr. Chair, you saw my papers fall to the floor as you recognized me to speak, so we're a little out of order here but we'll carry on.

 

I have another message that was received earlier today from – I think I would categorize the gentleman as a former Liberal –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. KENT: I'm not sure why that's funny. 

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Is it Paul Lane?

 

MR. KENT: No, it is not the Member for Mount Pearl – Southlands, but he's also a former Tory, in fairness, and there is a lot of former Liberals around these days as my colleague has pointed out. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

I ask for order, please.

 

The hon. Member. 

 

MR. KENT: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

I seem to have awoken the giants or something like that, I don't know.

 

This gentleman writes: I worked so hard to campaign for the Liberal government on public promises and personal help from certain MHAs. The rise in taxes, the levy, not only takes money out of my pocket and puts me further behind from trying to see my daughter; but, with my own health issues, it makes it that much harder to trust anything that comes from anyone's mouth again. That is my view.

 

It's hard to read that stuff, Mr. Chair, but these are messages that people have contacted me about in the last 24 hours and asked me to present on their behalf in the House of Assembly, so that's what I'll do.

 

Here's another one from a gentleman that I know. He's originally from the Bonavista area and now lives in the great District of Mount Pearl North. In some cases, as I'm going here, Mr. Chair, I need to do a little bit of censorship so that I don't say anything that's unparliamentary:

 

I refuse to call you Premier and I refuse to refer to you as the Liberal Party anymore, as you don't resemble anything liberal. You're totalitarian in every sense of the word. I'm not sure if it's your ego or your incompetence that limits you from seeing the simple truth.

 

Let me elaborate. Three years ago my wife and I were forced to purchase a home that was too small for far too much money in order for our two sons to have a place to call home. We accepted this and are still paying more than we should for it. We were also very excited about the screeching halt in the housing market as soon as we bought – just full of luck we are. Add to that the rising cost of groceries and electricity, and my wife and I were left with barely anything at the end of the day. Keep in mind that we both have good-paying jobs. It will show just how much we were and are paying out.

 

Fast forward to your ill-thought-out budget and cutback scenarios galore, what do you want us to do? Starve so we can feed our kids? We now have three kids and even less to go around thanks to you. There are no words for your lack of common sense, lack of leadership and, well, sense of reality. Stop punishing us for your own benefit. Pack your bags and get out of here for a long time. You don't deserve to call Newfoundland and Labrador home.

 

There's a lot of anger in those messages, Mr. Chair. I don't think it's a desire on the part of average citizens to be disrespectful. I think people are just filled with such rage and such anger that they're not sure where to turn.

 

What I'm hearing over and over again from people across the province is we don't know what to do. We're signing petitions. We're posting on social media. We're voting in polls. We're calling our MHAs, some of whom are not calling us back. We're sending emails and we can't get a response from certain ministers or from certain MHAs. We just don't know where to turn.

 

That's why this debate matters. This is not just some kind of political game that's being played here, Mr. Chair. This debate matters because people deserve to have a voice. People deserve to have an opportunity to have their concerns brought forward to the House of Assembly. If government won't bring those concerns forward and if government in the leadership it shows or doesn't show and in the work that it does, doesn't reflect those concerns and those wishes of constituents from around Newfoundland and Labrador, then we have a responsibility to make sure those issues get raised.

 

That's what we'll do tonight. That's what we'll do tomorrow. That's what we'll do for as long as we can.

 

Thank you.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

CHAIR: The Chair recognizes the Minister of Transportation and Works.

 

MR. HAWKINS: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

As I was sitting here patiently, I was somewhat reluctant to speak tonight because I think I'm operating on about three hours sleep since yesterday morning.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

The level of noise – again, I can't hear the speaker.

 

Mr. Minister.

 

MR. HAWKINS: Thank you, Mr. Chair, for protecting me.

 

I've been sitting here patiently and I know that I have limited amount of sleep but there's only so much the rear-end can take when there is so much garbage going into the head.

 

It's very difficult to sit and listen to all of these comments. Mr. Chair, it's great but sometimes when you try to be theatrical and only look at – and I understand very clearly that it's the intent of the Opposition to bring only the negative pieces to the House. I understand that.

 

Mr. Chair, that's the role that they do; however, you wouldn't know that that's the only comments that are coming in. I received a message this afternoon as well. So it's not only the Members of the Opposition, and I'll it read out. It says: Mr. Hawkins, during the past few weeks, I have been following the proceedings in the House and have been listening to the people on Open Line and in the coffee shops. My comments reflect the feelings of most people who are disgusted with the former government and disappointed with the actions being taken by the current administration.

 

If you would –

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible.)

 

MR. HAWKINS: Mr. Chair, I would respect the Member opposite not to be putting words into my mouth or to be pretending who this is from.

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. HAWKINS: If you would, please allow me to take you back in history when, in 1934, Newfoundland teetered on the edge of bankruptcy, which nearly repeated itself if not for the action of your government. The Commission of Government in Newfoundland was established in a response to what was called an extraordinary set of circumstances. The collapse of the world trade during the Depression of the 1930s was particularly damaging to the Newfoundland economy, which depended on exporting large quantities of fish and forest products. In 1933, following several turbulent years of severe budget deficits and heavy foreign borrowing – sound familiar – the British government established a royal commission to investigate Newfoundland's financial difficulties.

 

The commission's report suggested replacing responsible government with a Commission of Government that took over the day-to-day operations of the province until Newfoundland was once again self-supporting. The Commission of Government, Mr. Chair, took office in 1934, according to this person, and remained in power until Newfoundland became a province of Canada in 1949.

 

Therefore, history shows that had the current government ignored the extraordinary set of circumstances that the former government ignored, I am sure it would have led our province back into bankruptcy. The general consensus is that the PCs did too little, too late, while the Liberal government did too much, too soon. However, I am sure that most Newfoundlanders and Labradorians realize that unprecedented action had to be taken, otherwise someone else would be running our affairs if history repeated itself. That's an email that I received today, Mr. Chair.

 

So again, we have been talking about, if you listen to the Opposition and if you listen to the Members opposite, and if you read the emails, we fully understand the impact this budget is going to have on people. We've never, ever, ever stood on this side and said it was having no impact on the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. Somebody has to be impacted by a budget where we're trying to correct the mess that we're in.

 

My honoured and educated colleague calls it junk bonds; we're that close to junk bonds. Do you know what, Mr. Chair? He is absolutely –

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. HAWKINS: – totally right.

 

CHAIR: I'm having a real problem hearing the hon. minister.

 

Order, please!

 

Thank you.

 

MR. HAWKINS: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

It might be nice for the Members opposite to listen what we're saying sometimes because we are making some good points, I would hope, from time to time. I understand we are all passionate about this province. I love this Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. I love this province. Of course, I've lived all of my life on the Island part. I've visited the Big Land on a number of occasions, looking forward to going back again.

 

Mr. Chair, I am so proud to be a Newfoundlander and Labradorian. As I said many, many times, the choices that we have to make may not be necessarily for me, I'm getting up there now in years. I'm a senior citizen and I've had a good life in this province. I don't know how much longer I have to live. I might have five days, I might have a year and I might have 10 – who knows?

 

I'm telling you one thing, Mr. Chair, my pride is in my children and my grandchildren. I am so proud of them. As I said before, I have six wonderful grandchildren: four in Ontario, two in Newfoundland and Labrador. I wish I had all of them in Newfoundland and Labrador, but it's just not possible because my children have jobs in Ontario that are well-paying jobs and are doing well for themselves. I have a son here in Southlands that, right now, is doing quite well in the city; and my two grandchildren that I have are in Gander.

 

Really, when we look at what we are doing for this province, we have to understand it may not necessarily be for us – we have caused the problem, folks. Our children and our grandchildren have not caused the financial mess that we're in. They have not caused it.

 

We are responsible for the mess that we're in financially because we are in a financial mess and we are about that close to bankruptcy. I don't know how many times I have to say it. I am honest; I am passionate about what I am saying. It is incumbent upon us, as elected officials, to make sure that we have a path forward so that the young people in this province have an opportunity, and they have a hope not built on paying for our debt, a debt that we are going to be kicking down to them.

 

Where else is it going to come from? Nobody wants to raise taxes, nobody wants to cut services, and everybody wants to keep the status quo. How can that happen? Tell me, how can that happen? It doesn't make sense to me. It just cannot happen.

 

We have an obligation to the people of this province. We have an obligation to our young people. We must be passionate about what we're doing and we must understand that we have to chart the course for the future. It's based on sound financial management. It can't be wishy-washy. We can't borrow, borrow, borrow, borrow forever and a day.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. HAWKINS: There has to be an end to that, Mr. Chair. There has to be. We have to understand that we have an obligation. Yes, I get passionate; I get emotional about this because I care about where we are. I care about what we are facing.

 

I'm concerned about where we're going as a province if we do not make tough choices; choices that we have to make and they're not easy. People are going to be impacted by it. I'm going to be impacted. Just about, I'm sure, every single person in this province will be impacted by the choices. Mr. Chair, we have to chart a future for this province.

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. HAWKINS: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

CHAIR: The Chair recognizes the Member for Cape St. Francis.

 

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

 

It's again a pleasure to get up and represent the beautiful District of Cape St. Francis. I really like the passion of the Minister of Transportation because I think a lot of us have that passion in here. We're here for a reason. I say it every time I get up that I don't believe people on the other side really believe that they're doing things wrong.

 

I'll tell the minister something, I someday wish to have grandchildren. I do have two children now and I tell you I can't wait to have a grandchild. It will mean so much to me because –

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible.)

 

MR. K. PARSONS: I know. I can't be (inaudible).

 

I tell you one thing that this budget is doing. While I understand where you're coming to with the grandchildren and everything else, when I talk to seniors who pay their price in this province, who've done their part for us and have paid the price all these years and they're being taxed to death, they're worried about where their food is going to come from. They're worried where the heat in their house is coming from. Don't forget those people either – do not forget those people.

 

While you get up here and you stand and throw your arms up in the air and everything else and say we have to make these hard choices, don't make the choices on the backs of the hard-working Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who did so much so we can be here today, and did so much for the people in the province.

 

You're right, the budget is about choices.

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

Quite a little bit of extra noise coming from that section here, I'd like you to keep it down, please.

 

MR. K. PARSONS: It is about choices, minister. I have no doubt at all it's about choices, but it's about making the right choices.

 

Last night when you spoke you said you went to Twillingate, 180 people in Twillingate and there was only one table in Twillingate that said anything bad about the budget – only one table. I'd ask you a question now tonight, and I know you're an honest man.

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

I'd like to advise the speaker to address the Chair, please.

 

MR. K. PARSONS: I'd like to ask the minister, while he got up tonight and read an email – and it was positive a one. I'm sure all Members over on the other side get a scattered positive one, but I will guarantee you, I can tell by the way they're looking at me right now that the majority of the ones they're getting are not positive. They're not positive. You can pick them out. You can cherry-pick them all you like. You can cherry-pick them because most of the emails – all the emails that we're getting, other than a scattered one –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. K. PARSONS: Come on, let's see them.

 

The ones we're getting have all your names on them. They're sending them out to everyone. Every MHA in the province, they're sending them out, and I haven't seen very many positive ones. A scattered one maybe is not too bad but most of them, I tell you now, Minister, and you know I'm right, the majority of the emails you're getting are not positive.

 

We are living in a time and we know, unless your head is right in the sand all together, unless your head is so far down in the sand that you don't see what's happening in Newfoundland and Labrador, take it up out of there and have a look. Take it up. Take your head up out of the sand.

 

We have a Premier of the province who wouldn't answer a question two days in the House of Assembly. He wouldn't answer a question, two days in the House of Assembly being asked questions. What's wrong?

 

We're here tonight, at 8 o'clock in the night –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. K. PARSONS: We're here tonight, 8 o'clock in the night, with about 20-odd Members here in the House of Assembly and the only ones – the minister was the first fellow to get up. There's only two on that side after speaking and we're here talking about the budget. None of them are even speaking about the budget. Not even getting up to talk about the budget at 8 o'clock in the night. I can see that being 12 o'clock or 2 o'clock tomorrow morning, I would understand that one, but 8 o'clock in the night and not getting up to talk about the budget. That's unbelievable. People are watching.

 

You're wondering why the VOCM poll, like I said last night, had 28,000 on it – about 28,000. I don't think the Member from Mount Pearl did all the 28,000 votes. I really don't think so, because I can tell you right now –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. K. PARSONS: I don't think the Angus Reid poll that showed from 60 per cent down to 17 per cent was done by one person either.

 

It's time to get your head out of the sand. Listen to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. They're speaking to you. They're talking to you. They're sending you emails. They're upset. They're frightened to death that there's another budget coming this fall. They're frightened to death about jobs. They're frightened to death of what's going to happen. Nobody knows what's going to happen this fall. There's a fear out there that's unbelievable. What does that do to people when they have that fear? What do they do? Do they spend money?

 

We're talking about a bill here tonight that's taking 15 per cent on insurance, putting insurance up 15 per cent on homes and stuff like that. The majority of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador would understand. The minister said people don't understand what we're doing. Every time the Minister of Finance gets up on her feet she doesn't think anybody understands. I tell you right now, people do understand. Newfoundlanders and Labradorians do understand. They see it. They see the Members across the way won't get up and talk about this budget. They won't tell the positive things because there's not much in it.

 

The Minister of Finance, before the budget even came down, said there is nothing good in this budget. Well, I'll tell you there are a lot of good things in the budget.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. K. PARSONS: Listen, there's money getting spent on roads. That's a good thing. There's money getting spent in municipalities. That's a good thing. The seniors grants, there are a lot of grants that were there before. The Home Repair Program and stuff like that, that's still there. Those are good things.

 

We're not the ones who came up and said there's nothing good in this budget. It's you guys who said there's nothing good in this budget. It's gone. She's gone b'y she's gone.

 

Let me tell you something right now, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians don't believe that. The pride we have here as people, we've been through hard times before. We'll get around this one, I guarantee you. I can say here tonight, I know down the road, it's a little bit difficult for us right now, but down the road I believe, I really do believe that Newfoundland and Labrador will be just like it was 10 years ago. We're in a cycle. We're down. The price of oil is down but it will come back up again.

 

I have great faith in our fishery. I really believe in our fishery. I have to say to the minister, I have some major concerns in the crab fishery. I really do. I'm a little bit concerned talking with fishermen in my area, and I know you are too, in the 3Ps in the crab. I'm talking to fishermen and they're not even going down there. They're saying it is soft crab there and the catches are very low. Off here, I think it's 3L or 2L – 2J off here they're saying – 

 

AN HON. MEMBER: 3L.

 

MR. K. PARSONS: 2L, yeah. They're saying the catches off here are very low also. I've been talking to people the weekend and they told me in the last week or so they're up to where they were on par last year. That's a concern. The fishery is a huge concern. The fishery is a place where we could be making investments in our budget.

 

There's one little part of the budget that I really have to – and I know small communities all over the province took advantage of it. It was a small grant they used to get for like $1,500, $3,000. The minister will agree with me, it was nice. I know the Member for Harbour Grace – Port de Grave, people out in her district took that, and we all did around. Your harbour authorities had a few dollars.

 

I know in Torbay they put up a gate. In Flatrock they did some work around the wharf, just to beautify it actually. In Bauline, the grant that I got them down there, they got a new pump to clean off the wharf. People will say that's Small Craft Harbours, they should be the ones doing their part, but that's not true. Small stuff like that, we cut that out the year.

 

There was $300,000 I believe, Minister, that was in that grant. When I looked at it in the budget there was only $10,000. I think that's there just to cover the few grants that are left over from last year. That's a cut to our fishery, and maybe it just had to be done. This time, maybe there are some grants we can look at. Hopefully, down the road we can bring that back again. I don't doubt it at all.

 

I'd like to ask the Members across the way, I'd really like to ask you, get up and tell your constituents. Get up and tell them what's good about the budget. Get up and tell them. Tell them what the positive things are in the budget. Get up and do it. They want to hear from you.

 

We have a Premier two days in a row that sat in this House of Assembly and had question after question asked to him and he never even got up and spoke. I'm not sure now, I don't know about today, but I know yesterday he didn't even go out and meet with the media. I don't know if he did today or not, I didn't see what happened today. So I'm not sure whether he did or not.

 

The people of the province deserve better. They deserve better. They deserve to have a government they can trust. That's what happened in this election and it's what happened with this budget. They trusted you. They thought you were going to be able to do what you were supposed to do and their trust in you is gone. They feel betrayed.

 

I want to get up and speak on something else. I'm going to get up here 10 times tonight and speak on different things, but you know it's time for you to get up and talk.

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MS. DEMPSTER: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

It's always a privilege to stand on my feet and represent the good people of Cartwright – L'Anse au Clair on the Southern Coast of Labrador. I just listened to the Member for Cape St. Francis. I've actually listened to him a lot, like most people here, over the last 25 or 30 hours. We haven't had a lot of sleep.

 

One thing noteworthy, he's been up 15 or 20 times on behalf of his district and he does a very good job bringing forward the issues of his district and he does a good job raising the issues in the budget and what's wrong, but, Mr. Chair, I've not heard him table a solution. I've not heard him table a solution. We're going at this again now into the second night and he's identifying the issues with the budget. He just asked a question to the Members on this side of the House, where are we, do we have our head in the sand. Well, I want to say somebody who was in charge –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MS. DEMPSTER: – of this government for the last 12 or 13 years must have had their head in the sand for the mess that we picked up on the 30th of November.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MS. DEMPSTER: Mr. Chair, I'm pleased tonight to get up and talk about my district and where I can best represent my district, the people of Cartwright – L'Anse au Clair. Let me tell you what has been happening. Over the last two or three years since I sat in Opposition, I brought many, many petitions to the floor of the House of Assembly, many real issues in a rural district.

 

One of them I'm going to mention is fire trucks. When I have a community like Cartwright that's the second largest poll in my district, that is 200 kilometres from the nearest town, they have a fire, a man loses a house; a month later they have another fire, a man and woman loses their life, the fire truck burned in it. Again and again and again, I went to the minister and I said I don't have to make a case for these people. They've been wanting a truck for 10 years but now the case should be there. People have lost their lives; more people are going to lose their lives.

 

We saw 20 fire trucks get announced – one in a Liberal district. Finally – finally – the now Leader of the Opposition was in Labrador and he made a last-minute decision because there was pressure put on by the member for Grand Bank at the time, and he announced a fire truck in August. Guess what happened? Guess what we found out? After we won the election on the 30th of November, I went over and met with the Minister of Municipal Affairs and said: What is the status on the fire truck? He said they never put it to tender. If I wasn't sitting down, I would have fell down. I could not believe it, playing with people's lives. Nineteen trucks announced in Tory districts.

 

We need a formula in this province where we are able to allocate people according to needs. If the leader was here right now I would ask him, stand up and tell us why that truck was announced for Cartwright in August and November 30 – and actually the fire truck, the minister put it out to tender on December 22.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MS. DEMPSTER: Mr. Chair, I am in a district where we have many issues and I want to go back for a moment and talk about what would have happened had we not took extreme measures with this budget. I mentioned it last night. When you become bankrupt, as a province, and we're teetering on bankruptcy, and another province takes over your affairs or the Government of Canada takes over your affairs, I thought about Combined Councils, a very important group in Labrador coming in tomorrow, into the House of Assembly. The Combined Councils of Labrador, an umbrella group that represents all the municipalities in Labrador.

 

Once or twice a year, they travel in to St. John's and they meet with the various ministers and they put forth the issues on behalf of the district. Now, I thought about that last night. Just imagine if we had gone bankrupt and these people are going to take their money and go to Ottawa somewhere and try to have their issues put forward or they are going to go and meet with Nova Scotia or someone like that –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MS. DEMPSTER: We were in a very, very serious situation. But, Mr. Chair, let me use a few minutes of my time to talk about some good things that are in this budget for the people that I represent in Labrador. Ten per cent of the provincial infrastructure budget, Mr. Chair, the Trans-Labrador Highway – I said it many times in this House while parts of this province was getting their second lot of pavement, we were still fighting for our first.

 

Every single weekend I'm driving on hundreds and hundreds of kilometres of gravel road, and we're a stone's throw from so many projects that have contributed so much to this provincial Treasury. It's not good enough, Mr. Chair, the neglect that has happened, but I am happy to be a part of a government now that sees that it's time for Labrador to come up and to be equal with the rest of the province, and that's the direction that we are moving forward in.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MS. DEMPSTER: Route 510, Mr. Chair, from the border of L'Anse au Clair down to Red Bay, pavement that is 40 years old. Many, many times I've petitioned, more cold patch there – we used to use it the Dalmatian highway. More cold patch there than was pavement. It is just a miracle, Mr. Chair, that someone has not lost their life.

 

I am so thankful that the Minister of Transportation and Works is using provincial dollars to leverage federal funds so that we are going to start to move the pavement now, redo that from Black Rocks north down 44 kilometres.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MS. DEMPSTER: Mr. Chair, every day we hear people talking about drinking water and how it's a basic right and it is 2016. Well, Mr. Chair, sadly I have many, many seniors in my district that don't have good drinking water today as I stand here. But I'm very, very grateful that the Minister of Municipal Affairs has been working very closely with Ottawa and many of my capital works projects that through years and years of neglect because we were in the Opposition and we did not have a formula in place, the previous government didn't have a formula in place where they allocated based on need, we were not getting our fair share of the money – again and again and again.

 

I am very much looking forward, Mr. Chair, this year to the approval of the capital works and seeing some fantastic work going ahead in the District of Cartwright – L'Anse au Clair.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MS. DEMPSTER: Some roadwork, some money for sewer, some money for drinking water, for wells, for communities.

 

So when I get asked, how can you stand and how can you support a budget like your government brought down? I want to say a couple of things to that, Mr. Chair. We just had 10 or 12 years where seeing expenditures go up, up, up. At the same time the expenditure pattern was going up, cutting taxes, the revenue was going down. Think about, Mr. Chair, in your own household. Think about it –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

I remind the Members opposite to keep it down to a low roar, please.

 

MS. DEMPSTER: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

We respect them when they're on their feet and we ask that they respect us the same and return that, Mr. Chair.

 

Think about it in terms of your own household. If you have a certain standard of income and you have this much expense and then you start cutting back and cutting back, your income gets reduced and your expenditure goes up, sooner or later you are in trouble.

 

That's where we find ourselves as a province when we are paying $20 million a week – I was at a kindergarten graduation on Saturday; beautiful, bright little children. I asked them all kinds of questions; they were sharp as tacks. Something like the ones my colleague talked to at Beachy Cove Elementary. I bet you those five-year-olds that graduated, if I said to them, if you keep spending more money than what you have, what would happen? I'm sure they would know the answer. It is pretty simple arithmetic, really. I was something like the former minister of Finance with the Tories, I wasn't good at math but I do know that. I do know that you cannot spend more than you're taking in. Sooner or later, you will find yourself in the place that we do as a province.

 

MR. BROWNE: Tell us about the fixed link.

 

MS. DEMPSTER: Well, yes, I'm going to mention ferries before I sit down, because in Labrador we have the Strait of Belle Isle and we deal with a lot of ferry issues. There's one positive thing I want to say, this year, this winter, I am very happy to say that in the five years that the winter pilot project ran, this was the best winter we have ever had, Mr. Chair, and the ferry ran out of St. Barbe for the whole winter.

 

Mr. Chair, we have had many, many bungles. We've seen many bungles from this previous administration when it came to the ferry. They announced a provincial ferry strategy. They went over to Romania when they probably could have been out to my colleague's district, the shipyard in Marystown, and they ended up with all these tariffs. They spent millions in ferries and they did not even have the infrastructure, Mr. Chair, to dock the ferries when they came. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MS. DEMPSTER: And, Mr. Chair, they bungled our RFP so bad, after several delays the RFP got pulled off the table.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MS. DEMPSTER: It's just a stall tactic, Mr. Chair. The RFP got pulled off the table. They appointed all these people to this transportation advisory committee and they spent a fortune putting together a document called: What We Heard. Mr. Chair, what they heard was what we already knew. Everything they heard, the money that was spent and the delay was what we already knew for a long time.

 

Mr. Chair, it's very sad. As it sits today, we still don't have the new ferry that the people of that part of the province certainly deserve. Right now, we see we are in this financial calamity that they have created.

 

I see that my time is out, Mr. Chair, and I look forward to getting on my feet again.

 

Thank you. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

The Chair recognizes the hon. Member for Conception Bay South. 

 

MR. PETTEN: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

It's great to see we have spirit across the way. I have to say, it's good isn't it. My colleague got the juices flowing again. It's good to see. It started off with the Minister of Transportation and Works, but they all have districts. Forget about the minister's portfolio. I represent people, and I'm sure there are people around who would like to see what they really think, and it's good to see.

 

The Minister of Education, to his credit, gets up a lot, and the Minister of Municipal Affairs.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. PETTEN: Our Opposition House Leader gets up. The Premier is in hiding. It's good to see you up speaking about Labrador. It's good to see you up speaking about your district. It's nice to see more people up, but I have to say it's better than nothing.

 

I never have to worry about the Minister of Municipal Affairs. It's kind of a race to get to your feet to beat him. I'll give him that much, and he's passionate.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: He gets excited.

 

MR. PETTEN: Yes, he does, but he does a good job. He speaks his mind and we have to respect that.

 

We have a new Mr. Chair now, so welcome.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible.)

 

MR. PETTEN: Oh, yes. We have order back in the House again, thank God. She was on the rails.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible.)

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. PETTEN: It's been a long two days, Mr. Chair.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible.)

 

MR. PETTEN: Mr. Chair, things are digressing here in a hurry. I have to stick to my text.

 

We speak about the budget, people talk about the levy and we're talking about insurance; this Bill 19 of tax on insurance. Well, ultimately, it all comes back to the same thing. My example of the levy is people find it insulting, but I think with a lot of actions in this budget a lot of people find insulting. Someone said why do I have to pay all these taxes? Why do I have to pay – someone referred to the levy as a head tax and a cover charge.

 

I was talking to this guy one day, we had a conversation and he said you know I pay every day. I don't need to pay a cover charge to live here. I pay every day to live here. Every time I buy a pop, every time I buy a coffee, I file my income tax. Every time I get paid, I'm paying to live here every single day of my life. I don't have to pay an extra fee. There is a lot of truth to that, because we do pay everywhere.

 

Everywhere we go there is a tax on everything; there is a fee for everything. Most of the time it finds its way back to government, which is fine. The government are left with the public purse to look after the roads we drive on, our health care, education. It all goes around and makes sense but I guess adding some fees on, people do find it insulting.

 

I heard earlier tonight, the Minister of Finance pointed out that this tax was removed on insurance in 2008. I don't know, and I don't think anyone opposite is going around with no insurance on their homes or their vehicles but insurance without tax on it is pretty steep. I have a clean record right across the board with no claims and my insurance is pretty hefty. You only have a home and a couple of vehicles and a couple of other small items. It is not anything extravagant and it's thousands of dollars a year for insurance. I guess some people could find that insulting. I don't really call it insulting as much as troubling, because when you removed the tax on insurance back in 2008, I don't think that was a bad thing.

 

We hear Members opposite say we are on the verge of bankruptcy but that goes hand in hand with my comments that I say over and over again about consumer confidence and the bounce in your step. That commentary has been on the airways around here now since December month, shortly after this government took over. The channel is not changed, actually it's gotten worse. I wish it wasn't that way. I mean let's be honest, we all live here. Outside of politics when we check out of here we go home like everyone does. You feel it on the streets and you see it around your neighbourhood. You see it from people you know.

 

I say it again and I don't care how many times I say it because I'll never overstate it, it's not the way it should be. Yes, you hit a bump in the road. Personally, people hit bumps in the road. They lose their jobs or they're in a financial crunch. They are stressful times, there's no doubt. We all said before we understand the province. Because we're an oil-based economy or commodity-based economy it's why we're struggling.

 

I have a list there and I won't go through it again. I did it before and I think most Members opposite that have been around and most people live in this province, they like to say it was a lot of money wasted. As much as they might say it's money wasted, a lot of these same people opposite ask for everything and then some when the money was available.

 

You can't apologize for building new schools, new roads, health facilities, doing pension funds, giving your public sector raises, new programs, a lot of social programs. A lot of people looked at the former PC government as the most socialist Conservative government ever in this province really because the programs were in place because people wanted them. I don't think any of those things were a waste of money.

 

Is there a government that's ever been in power that didn't waste money? Absolutely not, and this government here will waste money and next and every government previous. So that kind of grows old. If everyone opposite was there and oil was at $120 a barrel, this conversation would not be going on. It would be the government down the road that when oil bottomed out to $40 a barrel that you'd be in the same conversation again.

 

In saying that everyone opposite is fixing the world's problems forever and a day, no, you're biding your time until oil goes up again. Then the spending will increase because the public will come to the door, they'll be looking for programs and they'll be looking for spending. You'll need to build those extra new schools. You have a lot of stuff that's being deferred now will need to be picked up on and there will be new things coming. Every day that goes on a road wears out; a building needs to be replaced. It's life, we live it at home. You have a home you need to renovate. If you have a vehicle, you need a new vehicle every few years. It's the reality of life.

 

In saying you're curing all the world's problems – and I know you're faced with a dilemma. Whoever would have been there would have been faced with this dilemma. In November, when we were all knocking doors, the 40 MHAs here and other people who ran in that election, anyone that wasn't with this government, the government of the day, the Liberal Party, were listening to promises day in, day out, day in, day out. You flick on the radio, you flick on the news. I said it before and I'll say it again, in all sincerity, I had no reason to question it. There were a lot of people out there – the skeptics – but, fair enough, that's part of the game, too. I just said if they can do it, good on them. As we know, that turned out not to be the case.

 

That's something that you guys have to explain to people, not me. I represented myself. I went out and I wasn't selling that. I was who I was, and a lot of Members here were like that. But the promises – once the trust is gone, everything is gone.

 

As the saying goes when someone betrays your trust, you can live a long time and you can go back, you'll never forget that they betrayed your trust. You'll move on and you'll probably run into them people and carry on normal conversations as if everything is fine. Deep in your heart of hearts that never leaves you.

 

Budgets aside, and a very sincere note, I really believe that will be what will dog this government for the next three-and-a-half years. I really, truly do. A month is a lifetime and a week is – in politics, they say anything is possible. That is my opinion, the point I'm getting to; I think that's why there is so much anger.

 

All the other notes that have been said, like the Minister of Transportation made his points, and fair enough and what had to be done, we are teeter-tottering on bankruptcy and all that – I don't know if it's that extreme, but we know we're in a crisis and we have to weather it. If oil goes up we'll, no doubt, be in a better place. I think outside of all of that the biggest challenge is going to be faced by Members opposite – this budget is going to be with you for a long time. The decisions you've made in the budget, which tied to a lot of your election promises, is going to be with you for a long time.

 

You've lost a lot of trust in people. As my colleague for Cape St. Francis said, in my last few seconds I'll say too, your Premier, who happens to be the Premier of this province, should get up and answer questions of the public. He's the Premier of the government, he's your leader but he's the Premier of this province. He's my Premier as well. People want answers from that man. He should get up and speak to the media, regardless of whatever else – and that's becoming an issue too. We have two days and counting, and I believe this is trickling into the big problem this government is facing with this budget and everything else.

 

CHAIR (Warr): Order, please!

 

I remind the hon. Member that his speaking time has expired.

 

MR. PETTEN: Thank you very much.

 

MR. JOYCE: I am just going to stand up on a point of order, Mr. Chair.

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Municipal Affairs, on a point of order.

 

MR. JOYCE:  Bill 29, just two things, the Member was just – I don't even know what district he is in.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible.)

 

MR. JOYCE: Pardon me?

 

AN HON. MEMBER: CBS.

 

MR. JOYCE: The Member for CBS and the Member from up in Cape St. Francis, both of them stood in the House of Assembly and said the Premier won't answer any questions the last two days. Here's Hansard from yesterday where the Premier stood on many occasions to answer questions.

 

When you want to have a debate in this House, speak what's true. Here's Hansard and I'll lay Hansard down that you can see that the Premier did answer questions in this House of Assembly yesterday.

 

Please, please read the information and say what's correct here in this House of Assembly. Add some validity to the speech.

 

Thank you.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

There is no point of order.

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MS. P. PARSONS: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

 

Again, it's always a privilege and an honour to stand here in our hon. House of Assembly. It's our constituents who put us here. I'm very proud of the 15,000 constituents that I represent in Harbour Grace – Port de Grave District and, of course, I will always stand and represent their needs and their concerns.

 

First, before we get going, I also want to reflect on a very successful festival. It's an annual festival in the Town of Bay Roberts which is called the Songs, Stages and Seafood Festival. It was a big success. It continues to grow each and every year. We had many visitors travel from outside of town and even out of the province to come. I'm also happy to say that the government, through the Department of Tourism, invested $15,000 into this festival, which was a privilege to announce at the time.

 

Just to reflect on some commentary that we're hearing tonight with regard to fire trucks and whatnot, I have to weigh in on this one. We know how the fire trucks were handed out prior to the election. Having said that, it's very important that our volunteer firefighters and our firefighters throughout the province have the proper equipment that they need in order to save lives and to help put out fires and to help emergency services. I'm happy to say that the Town of Bay Roberts received a fire truck and well deserving.

 

I'm disappointed, however. The Town of Upper Island Cove, another town in my district, was also somewhat led or insinuated that they, too, would potentially receive a fire truck, but that did not happen. It did not happen prior to the election, but we did indeed have a meeting with the Minister of Municipal Affairs. It's something that I will certainly continue to work on.

 

This particular piece of equipment is a special fire truck. It's also for medical services. It is noted that firefighters in Upper Island Cove are also trained for medical services and emergency services. So I would like to recognize that and we will certainly continue to work on that.

 

Of course, I have to go back to a very important topic in my district which I talk about frequently – and I will continue to until we turn that sod – and that is, as we know, Coley's Point Primary.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible.)

 

MS. P. PARSONS: That's right; we can all say it together.

 

I'm happy to say we had a meeting today actually. Some staff from the Town of Bay Roberts, along with the mayor and a councillor, travelled in from Bay Roberts and we met with the Minister of Transportation and Works. Again, the minister understands that this is very important, as does the Education Minister. It is something that we are certainly going to continue to work toward.

 

Again, just to recap, I want to go back in time. I'm always a fan of travelling back in time and I'm going to take us back to December 11, 2007. This was a letter from a consulting firm – noted it was sent to the then Education Minister Joan Shea. The firm will remain nameless, but I will quote some of the professional opinions here in this letter. This says, and I quote: In my opinion, the school has exceeded its life expectancy and usefulness, and it is not economically feasible to reconstruct the facility to achieve current standards to the 25-year lifespan.

 

It goes on to say: The extent of the renovation and repair for the expected product is not a viable solution. A new school should be built to meet the 25-year primary education needs of this community. Again, I reiterate, this is from 2007. It begs the question, what happened? We are in 2016 now; we know that money has been allocated for this school. In a time when the province was rich with oil money, again the $25 billion oil royalties and in three past budgets there was money for this school, but we didn't see anything happen.

 

As a matter of fact, the only thing that we did see that still remains today is a picture of this sign saying the promise of a new school would soon arrive.

 

MR. KING: Nice sign.

 

MS. P. PARSONS: My colleague for Bonavista, it is a nice sign, but hopefully this sign is going to mean something more. We want to break ground on this school.

 

I will reiterate this school services communities from Port de Grave, Bareneed, Shearstown, Butlerville, Coley's Point –

 

MR. KING: Beautiful town.

 

MS. P. PARSONS: Absolutely, and with a growing population, beautiful town, a strong population – we have an expanding population in the Conception Bay North region all around, in particular with Harbour Grace – Port de Grave District.

 

Again, the need is there and the school is at capacity. I had a recent conversation again with the principal and it is currently gravel. There is no asphalt, no pavement, so there is a concern with lines and safety guidelines for the new busing routes that will take effect.

 

I hear from parents as well on a day-to-day basis about their concerns, but it is something that I am certainly going to continue working toward with our ministers and whatnot. Again, like I say, I will lobby. You will hear Coley's Point Primary in this hon. House until we see that. Please God, when that day comes, I invite all hon. colleagues here in this House to come out and celebrate that opening for that facility, for those children in my district who deserve a new facility. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MS. P. PARSONS: That's right. My colleague across the way from CBS says the previous administration won't apologize for new schools, absolutely not. Every child in Newfoundland and Labrador, and Canada for that matter, deserve to live and grow in a healthy, up-to-date, modern facility to accommodate their needs and modern life. I will say that. Of course, not apologize, but we can't overlook communities. We can't overlook districts for political reasons. Whether or not this was the case, I will certainly continue, like I say, to lobby for this cause.

 

Also, I want to talk about the courthouse in Harbour Grace as well. It's a very important topic, of course, since the budget came down, in the District of Harbour Grace – Port de Grave. This service has been in place since the 1800s. The building itself, the old building which no longer houses the current service is a national historic site, but it's no longer fit. It's no longer safe or suitable to operate now, so they have moved to an alternative location.

 

This service accommodates 50,000 people in our region. This is bigger than a Harbour Grace – Port de Grave district topic. It is Harbour Grace – Port de Grave, it's the District of Harbour Main, the District of Carbonear – Trinity – Bay de Verde, Placentia – St. Mary's. Again, 50,000 people utilize this service annually. They have a full docket every week on a day-to-day basis. 

 

I have been working with the Town of Harbour Grace, and I must commend the people of Harbour Grace. They've come together on this, and also the town council. The old building, as we know, is an historic site but unfortunately it was neglected. There were no investments put into that building. As we know, unfortunately, it's closed shop today.

 

Again, I want to commend the town council in Harbour Grace. They're working very hard. They've actually formed a committee. I've been working with that committee. We've been meeting with the Justice Minister, and it's certainly something that I'm going to continue fighting for, for lack of a better word, and lobbying for, because that's what we do here in his hon. House.

 

Also, you can't get up here and not reflect on the past because that is the job of the Opposition, the Third Party, and, of course, the government and whatnot.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: And the fourth party.

 

MS. P. PARSONS: And the fourth party, you're right.

 

There's a lot of talk of smart choices and the right choices. When you're put in a position of responsibility and authority, there is a lot of pressure and there is a lot of expectation to make the right choices.

 

Nobody wants to play the blame game or whatnot, but we can't let go of the fact that a $19 million contract was forgiven for Humber Valley Paving. That's a shame. The libraries we're seeing closed right now and the cuts, that $19 million would have been utilized today, absolutely.

 

I will stand on my feet again. We're here round the clock. We've been in session since yesterday, Monday, 1:30 p.m. We're now up to Tuesday at 8:40 p.m. I want to thank the people at home if they're tuning in. They're watching what's happening here. They're supporting their Members. They're making sure that everybody is staying on their toes and keeping everyone accountable.

 

I also want to thank the Members and staff from the Bay Roberts town council for travelling in today to meet with myself and the Minister of Transportation and Works to fight for the cause for Coley's Point Primary school. We've got 350-plus students in an area with an expanding population, a 60-year-old-plus facility. We know over the years it's been looked over and passed on since 2007. That's a significant time.

 

We will keep this at the forefront. We're going to hear the words Coley's Point Primary in this hon. House until that happens. I want to reiterate that to my constituents, absolutely. If any constituent would like to reach me to have a meeting with me for any concern – and I have been corresponding through email, through social media, on the phone, some meetings in person – my office number in my constituency is 786-1372.

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MS. P. PARSONS: By all means, please reach out.

 

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. BRAZIL: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

Again, it's an honour to stand and talk to Bill 17, the Income Tax Act, to talk about that and talk about our Revenue Administration Act, talk about our tax bills around our insurance act and talk about all the things relevant to the budget, Mr. Chair. I need to clarify some misinformation. I think it's probably, just not understanding exactly the whole process of what went on.

 

There was no $19 million of taxpayers' money that was paid out to anybody or lost in any way. What happened with Humber Valley Paving, they were paid for the work they did. Somebody else came in and did the rest of the work. The same amount of money was paid for the contract a year later. It cost a little bit more because of the fire in Labrador. The work all got done.

 

As my colleagues from Labrador would attest, it's a great highway that goes from Lab West right to Goose Bay, a great piece of work done. I would have liked to have gotten it done a year earlier, but unfortunately the forest fire, the company runs into some problems there. We protected the taxpayers and ensured the job was done. It's all done. It's a great asset for the people of Labrador.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. BRAZIL: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

I'm going to get back to what I had started outlining exactly where the $30 billion worth of oil revenues that we had for the last eight years or so, while we were in government as an administration, where we invested. I'll just quickly go back to it again. I'll just explain to people in my last opportunity to speak: offsetting equalization, $10 billion; infrastructure, $6 billion. So it's $16 billion that we had to put back or use for day-to-day operations or invested in infrastructure.

 

Poverty reduction; we invested $1.2 billion into poverty reduction. Mr. Chair, as everybody knew and all the organizations, every level of government and the people in this province knew, we had some troubles in this province. Because we didn't have the economic base for generations, there were some challenges in our communities based on the principle of geography, we're so spread out. You're trying to sustain small communities. You're trying to sustain infrastructure in those communities. Your monies to be able to put into the support mechanisms for people are minimal. You can give them the base things if you're trying to also supply services and that.

 

What we did is we looked at how do we improve the quality of life for people who have some struggles, or for people who want a hand up and not a handout. We said let's look at developing a strategy, a Poverty Reduction Strategy. Let's build that from the inside out, and the inside out being let's engage all the agencies who already do work on a volunteer basis, who already do it as a partnership for us to support the people who need things in this province.

 

So we reached out to the churches. We reached out to the agencies who have been serving them. We reached out to the professionals. We went internally within government; the expertise that we have internally to assess exactly what is it we need to develop to make a Poverty Reduction Strategy so that we improve the quality of life for people.

 

We started to carve out exactly what was needed. We even went so far – and this is probably the smartest thing we did – as to have consultations with the average citizen, the people who are facing turmoil, the people who are facing every day challenges. We asked them: How do we improve your life? What are the struggles? Why do you find yourself in these situations?

 

They gave us a litany of challenges they faced and it goes back from early childhood – and I talked to the Minister of Education in our debates the last number of days about early childhood education and the benefits there. We saw those benefits. So that was in the back of our mind as we were carving out exactly how we move things forward.

 

It talked about employability; it talked about supportive services, everything from domestic violence to how we also do housing, to all the other supportive things that were necessary. We talked about all that quality of life and people's only sense of worth. We talked about all those things.

 

How do you do that? First of all, you have to engage people; you have to have a structure in place. Then you have to put the amenities. Then you have to invest. Those investments meant improving people's quality of life by giving them access to services, providing other types of supports that would be necessary to be able to get them to the next level. The ultimate level was to get them to a point where they were comfortable and ready for some type of training so they can move on to gainful employment and to be employable.

 

Particularly, it was perfect timing because as we started this process, so did our economy start to improve. So there was another demand from the industry that we needed people to fill certain positions. We had an ability to look at what we needed from a structural point of view and from an employment point of view, but particularly look at the skill sets of some of the people that wanted some supports from us, or particularly the skill sets they didn't have or the skill set they'd like to have and what we needed to do to put that in place.

 

Over a course of a period of time, we gave some incentives for people to go to work. We would give clothing allowances for their first-time employment, so people could go into the workplace with the proper footwear, wearing proper clothes so that they didn't stand out as somebody who had some challenges or were economically challenged or depressed. They wanted to look like they would fit in, a sense of pride, so they could go to a job interview and feel comfortable about what was being discussed and being able to sell themselves exactly on what their ability was.

 

We put those things in place. Then we said we needed infrastructure out there. So we worked with the college systems. We worked with the not-for-profit organizations who supply all these services. We worked with the professionals to say there are certain types of services that may be necessary for people; it could be counselling services. There could have been some challenges.

 

We implemented things around dental programs so people could go in their workplace and would have pride if they were in the service sector and wouldn't feel intimidated in any way, shape or form. That amounted to $1.2 billion. I think that's probably some of the best money we ever invested because that's money we directly invested back into our citizens.

 

Not just money that we gave them something and they went away, and three years later that's wore out and it's gone. We invested in them as individuals, their own skill set, their own ability to take control of their own lives. This is what this was all about. It was simply a way of investing so people would have control of their own lives and their own destiny, and would become better productive citizens, be it from an economic point of view, being from a social point of view being included, being that their offspring and their children would be more engaged in the community, be it that they would be volunteers and give back to the community.

 

No doubt, we had a vested interest here. Our vested interest was if we invest in people who become productive citizens in the sense that they're employable and they're gainfully employed, they're paying taxes and they're no longer a ward of the state, then obviously that frees up more money for us to invest in other areas. More particularly, it gives our citizens control of their own destiny.

 

That's what we did, and very efficiently. So much so that we went from the lowest when it came to services and net worth, and providing self-esteem and citizens feeling like they have control of their own lives, to the best in the country, so much to the point that other jurisdictions wanted to look at how we did it. Places outside of Canada came in and said can you give us a breakdown, how did you outline your strategy, how did you start it, what was the crux of the first process, who was engaged in it.

 

So we did that. When we look at it, over an eight-year period to invest $1.2 billion that would go directly for tens of thousands of our citizens, and particularly the next generation of those citizens, I think it was a really good investment. The return is twenty-fold, and we're still seeing the benefits now as we move forward. But outside of that, the process, we learned a lot about how the next generation, the type of services we'll need to put in place to try to minimize the impact on poverty. 

 

Does poverty still exist? No doubt. Are there still challenges for people? Without a doubt. We could invest another $1.2 billion and still have some challenges. But the framework is in play; we know exactly what has worked. There's no doubt when the economy gets better, and there's no doubt we need to still have a responsibility that we ensure that people don't fall further and further behind – we made too many good, positive steps forward, and too many people were engaged in this process, and too many of the agencies were established based on the principle of being able to support people, so that if they step back, they still have the support to be able to continue being able to be progressive and move forward.

 

That benefits all of us. As we get an aging population, we want to make sure that sector of the population is taken care of. To do that, we have to ensure the sector that had some challenges prior to that needs to be engaged and needs to be productive and have a skill set to be able to provide the service we need.

 

So the $1.2 billion has gone a long way. The difference is we're not investing anywhere near what we did then, but we're still gaining from it. Those people who went out in the workforce are still providing services. They are no longer wards of the state. They are no longer a cost process for our taxpayers. They themselves are now people who are taking a leadership role in their respective communities. That was $1.2 billion, very valued; it was a great learning process for us because we have a template to use. It put us on the national and international stage for being able to sell our wares and share our wares with other jurisdictions, and it gave a sense of hope to thousands of individuals.

 

No doubt, as we get over this hump financially, we can take the next stages of our Poverty Reduction Strategy and move that forward so people who have gotten to phase one and two but have an ultimate goal of getting to phase three or four and being able to do whatever it is that they wanted to do in life, be productive, ensure that their families are taken care of and are engaged and have abilities to productive citizens also, we can do that. But, particularly, more importantly, for all citizens of the province, it gives us an opportunity to show that we have another part of our sector that can also service what we need in this province.

 

Mr. Chair, there is another part, but I will outline the rest –

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. BRAZIL: – of it as I get a chance later on tonight.

 

Thank you, Sir.

 

CHAIR: The Chair recognizes the hon. the Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. KIRBY: Thanks, Mr. Chair.

 

That was an interesting speech from the Member over there. I'm not sure why it is Nick McGrath resigned now if everything was fine and dandy with Humber Valley Paving, nothing went on, and why his leader had said that he would have fired Nick McGrath had he not resigned. It seems very odd now that everything was hunky-dory with the Labrador paving contract. But anyways, there are all kinds of stuff coming out here.

 

I just wanted to have a few words about the library reorganization and something that came up here in the House of Assembly which I continue, a month later, to try and figure out why the person said this. Basically we've talked about it here. I have tried to give as much information and be as open and transparent as I can about it. The libraries board worked with the department through the Government Renewal Initiative to come up with a plan for regionalization of the libraries because the libraries were 50 per cent underfunded in comparison to other jurisdictions. We thought, they thought, that a better model would be one that provided people with a better level of service.

 

That would involve everyone or 85 per cent of the population – not everyone, about 86 per cent of the population being within a 30-minute commuting distance of a public library, a regional library, and then those libraries having a minimum service standard; for example, 30 hours of operation per week because some of them are only open for a dozen hours a week or 20 hours a week and so on.

 

The model that was adopted by the libraries board – in the end, while no one wants to lose a public service in their community; it was about 10 per cent of the existing library patrons who were affected by this – 10 per cent. To give you a sense of the 10 per cent, I'm a library patron of the Corner Brook library. And 14 years ago I went into the Corner Brook library and got a library card so I could use the Internet that weekend. But according to the statistics, I'm a patron of that library. That's how accurate some of the statistics are. But 10 per cent of the library patrons, yes, we acknowledge are impacted by this.

 

We are reinvesting a significant amount of money, nearly $650,000, back into the system. The libraries board is reinvesting that money back in to ensure better collections, more up-to-date materials, more access to digital libraries. We know that the use of digital materials has gone up 25 per cent in one annual report year after year, and more access to books via distance.

 

One day here in the House of Assembly the Member for St. John's Centre – so this is the NDP's perspective – stood up and she said: Closing libraries, this is only something that happens in times of war – this is like something that happens in times of war. Whatever the comment was, it was about times of war.

 

Every day, Mr. Chair, when we come in here in the House of Assembly during this year, the 100th anniversary of Beaumont-Hamel – where blood of young Newfoundlanders and Labradorians was shed in France, in Belgium and in Europe – we get up every day and we read out the names of these poor young fellows that are, I believe, almost all men who never got a chance to come back home after World War I. The Member for St. John's Centre believes that what we are doing is like something that happens in times of war.

 

This exposes a gross naοvetι about the nature of war. I don't understand war. I don't claim to be an expert on war because I've never participated in war. I never want to participate in war, but I would never stand here in the House of Assembly – we're reading out the names of boys who died and did not get a chance to come home from war – and compare closing public libraries to, somehow, warfare.

 

Why is this important? Many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians went to World War I; they participated in the Boer War. They didn't get a chance to come back from World War II. They volunteered for Vietnam and they didn't come home. They went to the Korean War with the Canadian Forces; they didn't get a chance to come home. Some of us know people who went to Afghanistan and did not come back alive in our lifetimes. To say that this is somehow equivalent to war is absolutely a mockery of people who have the guts to put on a uniform and go out there and fight so that we can have the privilege to stand here in this House of Assembly and govern our affairs in the way that the people of the province democratically elect us to do so.

 

You can disagree with the decisions, but that sort of rhetoric is absolutely out of place in our discourse here in the House of Assembly. Why is this important to this debate? When people want to participate in a debate they look to their leaders to set the auger for the standard at which people will debate. They look to their leaders to set the standard for discourse, for discussion. Well, if their leaders are setting that as an example, there's no wonder – like the Member for Virginia Waters – Pleasantville said, somebody went onto his Facebook and called him a Nazi the other day.

 

There's no wonder people use that sort of language when their leaders are taking the public discourse down so far, when they just throw around language like this is like a time of war, when they know nothing about war. They have no appreciation for it, and I don't know if they honour it or they have any idea what those families go through when their loved ones don't return from war, or in fact when they are at war and you wonder about whether or not they are going to return in one piece or not, or if they return alive, whether they'll have post-traumatic stress disorder and suffer for the rest of their lives because of the trauma they experienced.

 

I call on Members of the House of Assembly here this evening, raise the tenor of the debate. Don't go down there. We don't need that. Don't use that kind of language. We need our Members of the House of Assembly to be better than that. Honour the sacrifices of the people who didn't get a chance to come back here and enjoy what we enjoy. They gave up their lives. This year, the 100th anniversary of the sacrifice at Beaumont-Hamel in France, honour their sacrifice and raise the level of the debate. Don't drive it down there that far because people will follow that. They'll believe that is actually reasonable, that's something that we ought to be doing. 

 

The Member for St. John's Centre, I have absolutely no idea why you would rise in the House of Assembly and say that. You could say it's a bad decision. You could say I don't like that decision. You could say people are going to be disappointed; people are going to be put out by the decision. I accept all of that, but don't ever say that this is like we are at war unless you know what war looks like – and I don't know, we have one gentleman over here who is a veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces. I'm not sure if anybody else here is. I'm not sure if anybody else is here.

 

We've had people here who have worn other uniforms in the police force, but don't stand here and tell us this is like we are at war when you know nothing about it, because that just drives the debate down so far. Then the people who are looking to Members of the House of Assembly for leadership in difficult times, they think that this sort of cop out is the way we should be acting, and it's not the way we should be acting. It dishonours the sacrifice of our veterans.

 

I have been sitting here since the 10th of May, I go back and I read it every now and again and try to figure out why it is you would say something like that here. It's absolutely ridiculous. Considering, like I said, for Honour 100, what we do every day and this was said after this was read out. We stand here every day and somebody reads out these names so that we can honour the sacrifice of these people who went and fought for us and didn't get a chance to benefit from the things that they fought for us for. They did not get that opportunity.

 

Here we are in the most privileged position, there are over half a million Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, and there are only 40 of us who have the honour and the privilege to come in here and stand in the House of Assembly and try and represent the values of what we believe it is to be a Newfoundlander and Labradorian, and try to fight for the things that we think members of our districts and communities deserve and need to have; to try and ensure they have health care, have decent education, have roads, have all the things that our vets fought for. 

 

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. KENT: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

It seems there are some emotions running high in the House of Assembly this evening, and that's not uncommon when we're having this kind of debate. I understand we may be striking some nerves when we're bringing forward issues and concerns on behalf of citizens of the province.

 

I think the matter that the Minister of Education was just referring to was brought forward by a Member of the Third Party, from what I gathered from that angry speech. In fact, I just received a message from someone who listened to that speech and their reaction was, how are people like our young kids and seniors going to be able travel 30 minutes to a regional library? Now with the cost of gas, who could afford it? Maybe all communities don't have libraries, so we need to punish the ones that do and aid our illiteracy. There are some people out there who took exception to some of the comments just made by the Minister of Education.

 

On a related note, speaking of libraries, I have a couple of issues I want to raise in this period. I received another message this evening from the District of Exploits and it's related to libraries. So based on the dramatic performance we just witnessed, it might be an appropriate time to share these concerns.

 

Again, without saying anything unparliamentary, Mr. Chair, I'll work my way through this message. Approximately 75 people met with the MHA for Exploits Friday evening at our library in Bishop's Falls and presented him with a petition to reverse the decision of closing our library. He said he would present it in the House of Assembly. I didn't see petitions yesterday or today, and I don't know if he did. There was a good turnout, considering it was 4:30 on a Friday evening. The spokesperson for the library said we have nearly 2,000 members with about 10,000 transactions per year. So clearly, a pretty busy library in Bishop's Falls.

 

In the District of Exploits the libraries in Bishop's Falls, Norris Arm and Point Leamington are closing. He also said a number of times that this move was demoralizing, referring to the MHA for Exploits, but he still voted for the budget and the closure of libraries. This is tearing the guts out of rural Newfoundland and Labrador and a step backwards for our education in rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

 

Perhaps the MHA can speak to the petition. I don't recall it being presented today, Mr. Chair, but I could be wrong and we still have probably a couple of other opportunities at least this week and perhaps more next week for petitions to be presented. The Member is going to speak that, so I'll take my place after I have my time to speak and perhaps he'll address that. He looks interested in speaking to that, so I thank him for that. I think it's great when MHAs can rise and speak on behalf of their constituents.

 

I also have a note here that was addressed to our Premier. It was acknowledged by the information management specialist in his office. I think we all need to be reasonable enough to acknowledge that the Premier would be getting a far greater volume of correspondence than anybody else in this House, I would imagine. So it's not realistic to expect that the Premier himself would be able to write a personal response to every single piece of correspondence that comes through his office. That's not realistic at all.

 

I know, even as an Opposition Member, I'm having a hard time keeping up with the volume of correspondence right now. I suspect it is worse for government MHAs and far, far, far worse for the Premier's office. Fortunately, he would have folks in his office to assist him with that and to acknowledge correspondence, as is the case here.

 

Mr. Premier, I feel compelled to write you in regard to recent information that has come to light regarding the retention of McInnes Copper and Cathy Dornan to assist with labour negotiations. I find it troubling and peculiar that this step has been taken at a time when you are asking the people of Newfoundland and Labrador to make sacrifices and endure hardships. It seems ridiculous to me that you're going to the public and saying we can't afford to give unions a raise while paying $600 an hour to deliver that message. That's a wage most people can't even dream of.

 

You already employ people to handle public sector collective bargaining negotiations. They are government employees who draw a salary in a department that has a budget. I am of the understanding that this will end up costing the people of this province in excess of $1 million – and this is why I'm bringing up this email at this particular point in time – when you have just closed libraries to save the same amount.

 

It could be then said that the government has closed libraries to pay a law firm to negotiate on their behalf with public sector unions. I have listened to you on radio and television this week defend your budget – this email is from several weeks ago, of course – by telling people it was hard to find a million dollars in this budget; it was hard to find $50,000 even. These are tough measures, no doubt about it.

 

Then where did this money come from? Or from where did it suddenly become available? The optics of this is terrible and it makes me wonder if you have anyone in your office who manages the image of the government and the optics of the decisions you make. Did that person pull you aside and advise that hiring this firm at this extraordinary cost is not going to play well in the public eye and it is very counter to the message you are trying to convey.

 

Where you even aware of this decision and, if so, were you aware that Robert Dornan is a personal friend of the Finance Minister? Again, the optics is terrible and it reeks of the very cronyism that you attribute to the Opposition. I voted for you and I am having a very hard time coming to grips with that decision. This is just the latest in a series of inexplicable decisions your government has made.

 

My God, man, you've been in office for four months – it is now six months. I've talked to many people who are having the same trouble as I am. Regret is the deepest of human emotions and it cements itself in the memory. Don't make the people regret voting for you, Mr. Premier, because in four years' time that painful memory will prevent them from doing so again.

 

I anticipate your response, though I have little hope of receiving a sincere one.

 

Now again, I want to highlight that this correspondence was acknowledged by the Premier's office. I've confirmed that. I have a little bit of appreciation for the incredible volume of correspondence that the Premier must receive on a daily basis. But it is an important issue and it is one that I was asked to raise here again this evening in the House of Assembly.

 

Anyway, I've expressed concerns on behalf of those who are speaking out against library closures in the District of Exploits. I thank the MHA for indicating his willingness to speak to that this evening; I have no doubt that he will. I need to pick up on something that the Minister of Transportation and Works said when he was on his feet. He seems to have taken exception to me holding him accountable for the comment but in another dramatic performance tonight he was very quick to accuse me – he used the word “theatrical;” I was being theatrical by reading into the record the emails that are being sent to me from people around the province.

 

Well, these are issues that need to be raised. People are upset and sometimes they're using colourful language. Some of the choice of words is a bit challenging and I know that some of it may be offensive to some of the Members opposite. I'm trying to censor it as best I can when I present it in the House, Madam Chair, so that I don't say anything that's unparliamentary, but these issues have to be raised.

 

If the minister thinks that I'm somehow being theatrical by presenting those concerns, I'm sorry, Madam Chair, but I can't apologize for that. These issues need to be raised. Simply reading into the record, emails, like I just presented from people in the province that have concerns, I don't think there's much drama on my part. While some of the language may be a little dramatic, it's because people are outraged. They're frustrated. They feel betrayed. They feel that they were lied to. They're looking for answers and they don't feel they have a voice. That's why this debate in the House of Assembly is so very, very important.

 

I see I only have a minute left so I'll pick a couple of short messages to share at this point in time, Madam Chair. Several hours ago someone who I believe lives in the District of St. John's West wrote: Can you ask why many Liberal MHAs haven't bothered to respond to constituents who have reached out to them? I know many who haven't even received a simple acknowledgement, myself included.

 

We've been in here a long time together; I know that there are lots of MHAs on both sides of the House that are working hard to respond to inquiries from constituents. Again, I would ask people to be patient and mindful of the fact that we're getting a larger volume of correspondence than perhaps ever before. I've never witnessed this and I was in government. I was a government MHA at times where government was not doing too well in the polls and there were lots of controversial issues that people were concerned about, but I've never witnessed anything like what I'm witnessing right now.

 

I'll acknowledge that people deserve a response, but it may take a little bit of time just because of the volume that we're dealing with.

 

CHAIR (Dempster): Order, please!

 

MR. KENT: I see my time has expired –

 

CHAIR: I remind the hon. Member his time for speaking has expired.

 

MR. KENT: I see my time has expired, Madam Chair. I thank you for the opportunity. I look forward to hearing from the Member for Exploits.

 

Thank you.

 

CHAIR: The Chair recognizes the Member for Placentia West – Bellevue.

 

MR. BROWNE: Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

I would have to concur with the Member for Mount Pearl North that we've never seen anything like this because in all of our history we've never seen $25 billion disappear. We've never seen it gone to the wayside, Madam Chair.

 

In our 66 years since Confederation, we've accrued $12 billion of net debt. If no action was taken in this budget, that number would double in the next five years. Madam Chair, I do imagine that Members opposite have never seen the likes of this before. Neither have we, I say to the Members opposite.

 

To put out the suggestion, Madam Chair, that we're not responding to our constituents – well, I can tell you I've been responding to mine. And I'd like a constituent to come forward to me who I haven't responded to. I've been emailing them back and forth, we've been on the phone, we've been having meetings and we've been in our districts. We've been very active in responding to our constituents and listening to them and bringing their concerns back to the government caucus.

 

Madam Chair, how does the Member opposite think the changes came about to the levy that they don't even want to talk about anymore? The changes brought forward to the levy will ensure that three out of four tax filers never have to pay it. Those are changes brought about as a result of the work of this government and a co-operation and a relationship with the federal government that they never had.

 

They signed pledges for Stephen Harper but it never came true, Madam Chair. They went around campaigning for John Ottenheimer and everyone else that they were going around with. Where did it take them, Madam Chair, I ask? Where did their coziness with Stephen Harper get them? Because in the few short months that we've had a federal government, a Liberal government in Ottawa, this Premier has had more meetings with the prime minister than their former premier had at all, I say to the Members opposite.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

I ask Members to keep their conversations down or take them outside.

 

Thank you.

 

MR. BROWNE: So while I'm on the topic of the federal relationship, Madam Chair, I'd like to expand on it. We have seven outstanding Members of Parliament now in Ottawa who we work with on a daily basis to confront the issues that we face as a province and, so far, the fruits of our labour have been shown.

 

The Members opposite don't want to tell the story of the good, productive work that has occurred with our federal partners, but just look at what has happened already. The levy, as an example, this was something that we were never comfortable with at all. This is something that we said from day one was temporary, and this is something that we committed to do. We held true to that commitment as soon as was possible as a result of the relationship with our federal partners.

 

Now we raised the threshold of taxable income from 20 to 50. We went forward. We removed the cap on the $900 and made it a more progressive tax structure and, indeed, three out of four people will never pay that levy, Madam Chair, and I am very happy about that. I think all Members are happy about that, even if they won't say.

 

You take the announcement that Fisheries Minister Foote made about the additional day to the food fishery. Now Newfoundlanders and Labradorians can take to their boats every weekend in July and August without fear of weather and wind getting in the way. They can make safe and prudent decisions and will have access to the resource that we rightfully should have access to.

 

We see the Member for Cape St. Francis over there and I'm glad whatever part he played, but I can assure you, you never got that out of Stephen Harper, I say to the Member for Cape St. Francis.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. BROWNE: Your pledge didn't yield that for you, did it, I say to the Member.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. BROWNE: What else have we gotten from the federal government, Madam Chair? A doubling of Canada summer jobs across the country by our new prime minister to help young people gain employment through the summer.

 

What about the ferries, Madam Chair? We heard the Member for Conception Bay East – Bell Island get up here tonight and talk about how we tried to make lives better. Well, how about sending ferries over to Romania without doing their homework, costing $25 million on a tariff. Thank God we had a federal Liberal government to help us forgive the tariffs. Imagine. That work could have been done in Marystown in my district or somewhere else in the province at least, or the opportunity should have been given.

 

The Member opposite is heckling me again because he refuses to admit the fact that now the province is being billed $50,000 a month because you didn't have the foresight to build a proper wharf, I say to the Member. A ship-building policy that was failed, I say to the Member opposite.

 

The list of our federal accomplishments continues, Madam Chair. Minister Foote delivered on the stabilization fund among other things. I'm proud to say that Members on this side of the House have a good working relationship with our federal partners. I know I have a good working relationship with Minister Foote.

 

We're working very hard with her, myself and the Member for Burin – Grand Bank, on a number of files for economic development and to engender economic diversification in our districts on the Burin and Avalon peninsulas, Madam Chair, I say. Whether it's the mine in St. Lawrence with Canada Fluorspar, whether it's the Grieg aquaculture proposal that affects all of Placentia Bay, the fish plant in Burin is something that we're working on and the Marystown Shipyard. Myself and Minister Foote had a meeting with the council and union just recently. The Premier is committed to getting involved with this. We're going to put the people back to work if it's within our power to do so. We are committed to working with the communities that we represent.

 

I say to the Members opposite, their embrace of Harper got them nothing more than a loan guarantee for a project that has been blatantly mismanaged, Madam Chair. We don't know the cost; we don't know the schedule. That's all their federal relationship got with them.

 

Of course, we can't forget the CETA announcement that they forgot to invite their federal friends to. Then the federal friends turned around and said they didn't know anything about it, Madam Chair. That's the kind of mismanagement they were turfed for last fall. We have not forgotten about it, I say to the Members opposite. We won't forget about the $50,000 a month you're getting billed because you didn't know about the wharf that you should have built.

 

Madam Chair, I'm compelled to rise because I wanted to set the record straight. I've been listening to the debate over the last few days. To people tuning in at home, we started this yesterday –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. BROWNE: – at 1:30 p.m. I left the House of Assembly 7 a.m. this morning.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. BROWNE: I went to an event to welcome the Venezuela Ambassador here at 8:30 this morning. I returned to the House of Assembly at 1:30 p.m. and it is now 9:30 at night and I'm still here, Madam Chair.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. BROWNE: I said that is the kind of hard work that you'll get on this side of the House of Assembly. I have no doubt that the Members on that side work hard as well, Madam Chair, but we're putting our efforts into strong management and better planning for the future so we don't get stuck with $50,000 a month bills because we didn't build a wharf that we should have known about.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Bought the vessel first, didn't have a wharf.

 

MR. BROWNE: Bought the vessel first – it is a lemon now parked down in St. John's Harbour, and the bill is getting sent to this government.

 

I also want to set the record straight on something that the Member for Mount Pearl North said yesterday when he was talking about his awesome attrition plan where they would replace eight out of 10 workers.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. BROWNE: The Auditor General came forward, Madam Chair, and said that this awesome attrition plan would have to be done 19 times for it to yield the kind of value this province would need. So that's what the Auditor General thought of their awesome attrition plan.

 

Madam Chair, the comments that we hear from the Members opposite, I have no problem with a lot of them. I mean, there are lots of legitimate points that we can debate on the budget. There is no doubt about that. We are not sticking our heads in the sand, as the Member for Cape St. Francis tries to suggest we do. I can say that we are very committed to fiscal prudence in this province.

 

We hear the Member for Bell Island get up and talk about how hunky-dory Humber Valley Paving was. Well, why did Nick McGrath resign? Why did the Leader the Opposition say had he not resigned, he would have fired him? That's how hunky-dory Humber Valley Paving was. You hear the Member for Cartwright – L'Anse au Clair up talking about the impacts on the small businesses. Well, I say to the Members opposite, that is a black mark that you won't get rid of very fast. It is something that the people of Newfoundland and Labrador won't forget, and I certainly won't forget.

 

In my last minute, I want to make some comments because I don't know how long this debate will last. I want to make some comments on the lack of hope that they say is –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. BROWNE: – eluding this budget. Well, I say to Members opposite, there is hope, but belief must exist. The people of Newfoundland and Labrador put their trust in us. They put their trust in us and we will ask them in four years to judge us on a four-year record, not five years. Because when they judged your 12 year record I say, Madam Chair, they spoke loud and clear to the full extent of what their record was.

 

We are putting forward tough measures because of the mess that was left behind by this government. I can say as a newly elected official, do you think it gives me any pleasure to come in here and vote for all this, Madam Chair? Of course it doesn't. It disgusts me every day to think that after $25 billion we're left in this position.

 

What choice do we have, Madam Chair, but to address it head on, take the bull by the horns in a way that the Members opposite refused to do and address the issues to move this province forward so there can be a future for rural Newfoundland and Labrador, so there can be a future for the young people of Newfoundland and Labrador and so we can engender and bring about a brighter future for this province?

 

Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

CHAIR: The Chair recognizes the Minister of Municipal Affairs.

 

MR. JOYCE: Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

I'm just going to stand up. Obviously, I say to the Member, that was a very passionate speech. Obviously, there was a lot of passion. You have a lot of history there, a very passionate speech.

 

Madam Chair, I'm just going to speak about the district for a few minutes, the District of Humber – Bay of Islands. I'm just going to speak about the people –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

The Chair is having difficulty hearing the Member that she recognized.

 

Thank you.

 

MR. JOYCE: I'm just going to have a few words about the District of Humber – Bay of Islands that I had the pleasure to represent many times. I was first elected in 1989, Madam Chair. It's always an honour and a pleasure to be a Member for the old district of Bay of Islands and Humber – Bay of Islands.

 

In 1989, Madam Chair, when I first got elected, 95 per cent of the people in the Bay of Islands never had water and sewer – 95 per cent. All of Corner Brook had it – 95 per cent. Gradually, we were working on it and over the years it gradually got better and better. I spoke to many councils. I'll just go through the towns in Humber – Bay of Islands where I know a lot of people and a lot of people know me, and in Corner Brook and the Corner Brook area.

 

I'll just go with Lark Harbour. There's no doubt back in the '90s, Clyde Wells at the time, who was the premier, left money in the district, in Lark Harbour, to try to get water. They had a plebiscite; they wouldn't take it. They're actually looking for water now.

 

Madam Chair, are there any guarantees made by this government? We can't make any. The previous government didn't make any guarantees either. I'm not saying anybody is making guarantees, but they are looking for water and sewer in Lark Harbour. Hopefully, we can supply some water and sewer.

 

When you move up, Humber Arm South which includes Frenchman's Cove, John's Beach, Benoit's Cove and Halfway Point; they did well with the water and sewer over the years and the roads. The Allen's fish plant in the area is a big employer in the area. At the time, Madam Chair, I remember when we were trying to put water and sewer in that area there was none coming off what they called the hilt.

 

I remember Clyde Wells always saying that we can't create the jobs, but we can create the infrastructure for the jobs. I know the water was put in and they helped expand the plant – a big employer in the whole South Shore of the Bay of Islands, big employer. I'm very pleased with that, and just finishing up the last phase in Frenchman's Cove of water and sewer.

 

I know on Route 450 there is going to be some roadwork done this year. The tender is already announced and Marine Contractors has the tender for that portion. When you come further up, Madam Chair, is the Cook's Brook bridge, which needed to be replaced, and now that's being replaced. I have to say that it was last year I lobbied and it was the previous government that had put in the money last year for the Cook's Brook bridge, a much-needed bridge. The turn itself was very dangerous and there was a bridge being put in. The work, as we speak, that's being done. That just improves the quality of life for a lot of people, improves tourism all throughout.

 

Madam Chair, when you get in Curling, Curling is a part of Corner Brook and we just approved some money through the federal government to do some water and sewer and roadwork in Curling and Georgetown Road, that area, Riverside Drive. So once again, the federal MPs did come through. I know Gudie Hutchings, who is the MP for the area, sometimes she doesn't get in on the credit because it comes out as provincial, but I know she worked very hard. I remember going back on the plane with her and she wanted to know every project that was going to happen in the Corner Brook, Humber, Bay of Islands area, she wanted to be a part of it and she wanted to know whatever we can do to help out.

 

I always said in this House Judy Foote is/was, and all with the other MPs, very supportive. I said to Judy Foote when we made an announcement out in CBS, you mustn't have a portfolio because you're doing so much work for Newfoundland and Labrador. I just wanted to recognize that Judy Foote is a big supporter and Judy Foote is helping in a long way in a lot of this money that's coming, Madam Chair.

 

When you go in Corner Brook, we already announced some funding for some roads in the area in through Corner Brook. I'm not sure the exact amount, probably $4 million or $5 million under the PTIC fund. So it was much-needed money. Even the mayor of the City of Corner Brook and the council were very pleased. There are a couple of other bigger projects the council in Corner Brook are looking for. The bridge there on Main Street and the waste water separation is a big project for the City of Corner Brook.

 

Madam Chair, I can't forget the hospital in Corner Brook. I'm not going to get into any debate about the hospital in Corner Brook, just not going to do it, but I know first when we got in we got together with the Minister of Health, the Minister of Transportation, the Member for Corner Brook, and we went through it to get the design work. We're hoping to have the design work for the long-term care facility completed this summer so we can bring something to the City of Corner Brook. The design for the hospital is going to take a bit longer, but I know we're all working on it. I know the Premier himself has asked many times okay, where is that? We're moving it ahead.

 

Madam Chair, just for the people in Corner Brook, let them know, the pensioners and the mill – a big issue. I deal with the pensioners and the mill unions all the time. I have to say the Member for Corner Brook is dealing with me on a regular basis. The Premier is dealing with me on a regular basis. They are helping to secure the pensions in Corner Brook and helping to secure the mill in Corner Brook. It is a big employer. The last figure I had there was almost $18 million – don't hold me to that because I'm just going on memory – worth of pension money for the mill going in the City of Corner Brook. That's a lot of money.

 

So to the pensioners who I speak to on a regular basis, we are working on the pensions with Service NL, with the Department of Justice, all the members involved, we are working on that diligently. They know where we are at with that.

 

Madam Chair, the Minister of Transportation and Works when I go across to Route 440, he made a commitment. He made a commitment that the roads are going to be done on a priority basis. That it is going to be done on what the regional managers put forth.

 

Madam Chair, as a politician, we all try to fight more for our district than others and sometimes you have to adhere to the minister but the minister said to me, we are setting out a priority list. Do you know what I said, Madam Chair? I'm good with that because I knew the Bay of Islands, the North and South Shore, needed funding and there has been funding put in, two contracts. One was to fix the Gabion baskets there in Plant Hill. There is a second one to fix the road washed out in McIver's that was there for at least seven or eight years that the minister, the department, tagged it as a priority.

 

Out in Cox's Cove there was flooding along the main street where the fish plant is and that was part of one tender, $900,000. The second tender that went out for the North and South Shore for pavement was over a million dollars. It was all done on a priority basis. There was no influence whatsoever, Madam Chair, and I feel that's the way it should be. I know the people in the North Shore area are very pleased and will be pleased when all the work is done, and the same on the South Shore.

 

When you get into Irishtown-Summerside, Madam Chair, there are a lot of places there haven't got sewer. I know up in Christopher's Cove and Plant Hill they don't have sewer. Hopefully, no guarantees of course, but hopefully with this federal funding, waste water, that we'll be able to find some way to get some projects started, get some projects moving. I say to the people in Irishtown- Summerside, we are working on your water problem. There's a boil order in Irishtown right now. We are working on that problem to help solve the boil order in the town. We are working with the town. I'm working with the mayor on a regular basis. He's working with his firm and we're working with the department.

 

I know the fire department in HIS is looking for some funds to help with the fire hall. They had a fire truck there, the expanded hall, new members, and they're looking for some funds to do that. I know they raised a lot of money on their own to put forward. I don't know what can be done but we'll be definitely looking at it to help out.

 

Madam Chair, when you move down a bit further, you go into the Summerside part and they have a lot of water and sewer. They're doing well. There are some roads that need to be fixed, going up Plant Hill; I've stood in this House so many times.

 

Meadows is doing well. Madam Chair, Meadows themselves are looking for some money for some side roads. I think they all have water and sewer, 100 per cent. A few years ago, I have to say, there was Kevin O'Brien who sat in this House and helped with the recreation. There's a recreational complex. Myself and the Premier went down there last year at the big games that they had. It's an outdoor facility, Madam Chair, second to none in the province. This year alone, I think there are 152 kids playing ball hockey in the summertime. In the previous government, Kevin O'Brien was a bit part of that. He helped me to get that done, so I have to give Kevin O'Brien credit.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. JOYCE: When you move down to Gillams, Gillams is a smaller town. Scott Blanchard and his wife, and the whole recreational committee – there's one commitment I made was to try to get a softball field. When they dug it out by Meadows, Madam Chair, there was 16 feet of bog.

 

Could I ask for leave for a few minutes to finish up?

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Leave.

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. JOYCE: Sixteen feet of bog, so we couldn't put it next to the recreational complex that they had because of the cost, so Gillams stepped in. Scott Blanchard, his wife and the whole recreation committee stepped in. I have to say the previous government helped out last year with some grants. This year we're chipping in some grant money already. That softball field will be ready this summer. I just thought how important it is. There's a K-12 school there and one of the biggest sports they have is softball. The only place they can practise is drive about 40 minutes to get to Corner Brook. They couldn't even host a provincial tournament, Madam Chair.

 

As you go further out, there's a bit of water and sewer in McIver's, and in Cox's Cove there's a major water system. So I just tell the people of Humber – Bay of Islands thank you very much for your support. I know there are difficult times but there are times better ahead. I thank the Members opposite. For the District of the Bay of Islands, I just hope and pray that when the funding comes through that everybody is going to have clean drinking water, safe roads and we'll expand our economy in the Humber – Bay of Islands area so that we can improve in tourism and help work in the area.

 

Thank you, Madam Chair. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

The Chair recognizes the hon. the Member for Mount Pearl – Southlands. 

 

MR. LANE: Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

It certainly is a pleasure to be back in the House of Assembly again. I managed to get home and have a little nap, whatever, recharge the batteries, have a shower and now I'm all ready to be at it again and looking forward to spending maybe the next 24 hours or so here now speaking to Bill 19.

 

I just want to say that I really enjoyed the speech that time from the Minister of Municipal Affairs. I really like his softer side. I have to say he did a really good job there. I like it when he does that. Unlike the Member for Placentia West, I think he must have been watching George Baker videos or something before he came here because he was all fired up there. But I appreciated it; I thought it was pretty good. It kind of reminded me of – what were they called – the rat pack or whatever they were called.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible.)

 

MR. LANE: You had Tobin, Baker and somebody else. I can't remember who it was. But I found it pretty entertaining. I got to say it was a good job, really entertaining. I don't think I could top that one, I can guarantee you, and I'm not really fired up at the moment.

 

Madam Chair, we're speaking to Bill 19 now. I guess just for anyone who is tuning in, we were debating Bill 14 which was the levy bill. The Government House Leader basically had recessed – not recessed, I'm not sure what the word is, but had concluded debate temporarily, we went into Question Period, and now we find ourselves at Bill 19. Bill 19 is the insurance tax. So we're actually debating Bill 19, the insurance tax.

 

We're not finished with Bill 14, so I guess we're going to have a nice, long debate on Bill 19, then we're going to go back to Bill 14 and we're going to continue with a nice, long debate on Bill 14. I suspect we're going to be here for quite some time as we continue to bring these issues forward that the people have.

 

Madam Chair – sorry, Mr. Chair; you changed the Chair there. As I said a number of times, and other Members have said, it's really interesting to see how the public have become engaged in this whole debate and how we're continuing to get emails, Facebook messages, Twitter messages and so on, from people who are actually watching the debate and sending us messages and emails asking us will we read it into the record of the House of Assembly, or ask questions on their behalf.

 

I think it's absolutely wonderful. I mean, you think about social media and so on, how great is that that people can actually watch this and, in real time, they can send questions or comments whatever so that their voice is literally heard as opposed to anecdotal evidence you get from talking to people on the street? Now you can actually read in real time things people are saying.

 

With that said, I have a tweet – no, Facebook –

 

MR. CROCKER: From Steve?

 

MR. LANE: No, I say to the Minister of Fisheries, it's not from the Member for Mount Pearl North.

 

This one here is actually an email or it might be a tweet, I'm not sure. It's one or the other. I wrote it down anyway. I want to say in advance I was asked by this individual to read this into the record. I can't use names; I can use districts I guess. It is not in my district and I certainly mean it is not me attacking any district, but I got this and I was asked to bring it up so I'm going to do so.

 

This one says: Mr. Lane, I have been trying to get answers out of the Member for Bonavista I guess or Bonavista South or whatever the district is there – he says the name – since April, even attended his budget meeting out there in Bonavista District.

 

My husband and I make, between us, $52,000 a year and that was last year when he claimed common – I guess she meant common law. He has speech therapy in Clarenville once a week because Bonavista does not have a speech therapist. So please, can someone tell me how this gas tax will help our family now costing us more to take him there? Also with auto insurance rising and food taxes because of this gas, how long will we continue to give our son the services he needs or deserves?

 

I guess the issue there is there is no speech therapist in Bonavista. My understanding there was one at some point in time. I'll leave that to the Member to – and again, I say to the Member, that's not me. I got sent the message. He is probably aware of it and that's good. Anyway, I only got this today.

 

Basically they are saying that with gas gone up, now they have to drive to Clarenville so that's going to be an issue for them and for their family. I throw that out there because I was asked to.

 

I have a Facebook message as well and this person says: I have to be able to house, feed, clothe and educate my children. The way things are now I can barely afford to keep our car on the road. I don't have the privilege of being able to “suck it up” in quotations. This person is basically saying they're struggling to make ends meet now as it is.

 

Obviously, if they have a vehicle and so on – so obviously the cost of insurance, which is the bill we're talking about now, the increased cost of gas and registration and all that kind of stuff and all the other taxes, this person is basically saying I can't afford to live now. Whereas, I guess, some people have used the expression that some people on higher incomes perhaps can suck it up or absorb it or whatever terminology you want to use, all these increases. This person is saying that they cannot absorb it.

 

I think it's important to note that was another message that was received, Mr. Chair. The other one I had – and unfortunately here we go again with technology. It's great when it's working. I'll have to get the other one the next time I speak.

 

Mr. Chair, before I take my seat – because I'm running out of time. That's the problem when you only have 10 minutes.

 

MR. CROCKER: You'll get another chance.

 

MR. LANE: Oh, I'm going to get lots of chances, I say to the Minister of Fisheries – lots of chances.

 

A couple of issues here, I raised this one last night. I'm going to raise it again because I thought it was an important point. I sort of direct it to the Minister of Finance. When she spoke a couple of times I never heard a response, not that she is required to respond to my question or this question under this format. I throw it out there again. It would be nice to know.

 

This person talks about the fact that – in terms of the levy, when we look at the levy it's based on individual versus household. The example given here by this person is: I'm in a household, two people are working and they make $50,000 each or they have a net income of $50,000 each. They would be paying $100 each in a levy.

 

If the husband had a net income of $50,000, that's $100 in a levy; the wife had $50,000, that's $100. That's $200 that household pays. Now, at the same point you have the neighbour next door. The wife is, say, working and the husband is living at home or vice versa and the spouse is making $100,000. Now they're paying $700 in a levy. You have two houses side by side, husband and wife, husband and wife, exact same scenario except this one has two people working at $50,000, this one has one person working at $100,000. This household pays $700, and this household only pays $200. That is a very legitimate point.

 

How can anybody logically look at that and say those should not be the same? It's $700 in this house, $200 in this house, the exact same family income. I guess one of the flaws being pointed out here is that instead of looking at these things on an individual basis, the levy should have been looking at it from the perspective of a household income, because it's the exact same amount of money in the household. How can one pay 3½ times as much as the other household in a levy. That's just not fair and equitable. It's not something I really thought about until this person pointed out that scenario, but it's a very legitimate scenario and it's a definite flaw in how this levy is being applied. I wanted to throw that out there again.

 

I have many other things I need to bring forward, but unfortunately I'm down to seven seconds. So I'm going to take my seat and I'll get many opportunities to speak again.

 

Thank you, Mr. Chair. 

 

CHAIR (Warr): The Chair recognizes the hon. the Member for Exploits. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. DEAN: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

Mr. Chair, I stand in this hon. House humbled to be representing the good people in the great District of Exploits, but I guess on this particular bill and the current situation, indeed, the people of the province. I'm also humbled in another way by the economic challenges facing our province. Our government has made tough decisions that affect every person in Newfoundland and Labrador, but I refuse to stand before you and say we could have done nothing and allowed our province to go bankrupt.

 

I ask, Mr. Chair, what does the Opposition want us to do? Do they want us to take inaction, as they have done during the past decade thus ensuring an unstable, fiscal footing for our people? Our government has taken action, action that should have been taken by the previous government. It seems the Opposition would prefer that we continue down the same path they were taking, which would have bankrupted our province. Would they rather we not govern, not make tough decisions that they refused to make?

 

The situation we are facing today is due to the fact that the government of day had no direction, no long-term plan to alleviate the problems facing us today. That's just some of my thoughts that I know I've done previously; maybe not 100 times but I've done it.

 

Now, this here I'm not going to cherry-pick, so if I may, and if you'll indulge me, this is from the Office of the Auditor General dated January 29, 2016: “Auditor General says Provincial deficit levels not sustainable.

 

“In his Report on the audit of the financial statements of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, delivered to the Speaker of the House of Assembly today in St. John's, Auditor General Terry Paddon raises serious concerns regarding the Province's ability to sustain the level of unprecedented deficits forecast in the December 2015 Economic and Fiscal Update.

 

“The Province recorded a deficit of $986 million in 2014-15, the highest in our history.” I didn't say that. No one in this House said that. The Auditor General said that. “Additional deficits, totalling $12.2 billion, are forecast from 2015-16 to 2020-21, an amount greater than the Province's entire Net Debt at March 31, 2015. Deficits of this magnitude are not sustainable.” To the people of the province, that's not coming from the Liberal government, that's not coming from the Opposition, that's not coming from just anyone. It's not coming from outer space; it's coming from our Auditor General.

 

“When compared to the size of the provincial economy, the forecast deficit for 2015-16 of almost $2.0 billion will be over 3½ times greater than the next higher province. This level must be reduced.

 

“'Dealing with the anticipated deficits will require hard choices that will affect all residents of Newfoundland and Labrador,' said Mr. Paddon.

 

“Measures to address the size of the deficit will have to consider opportunities to increase revenue from existing or new sources and reductions in spending, Mr. Paddon noted. These measures will have to be implemented within a reasonable timeframe.

 

“'Seventy per cent of program expenses are directed towards health, education and skills development and over 50 per cent of Government's program costs are spent on salaries and benefits,' said Mr. Paddon.” – no one else – “'Any meaningful reductions in expenses will have to consider the entire breadth of public services and consider how and where those services are delivered.'” That's the Auditor General's cover report of January 29, 2016.

 

Now, I want the people back in Exploits to know, and in the province, that I believe that this House of Assembly – like I alluded to in maiden speech – is full of sincere hearts, reflective of all the people that we represent in this province.

 

I served a long time as mayor and I want everyone here to know if you doubt it and the people in this province and back home in my district, that I don't know what else I can do to be sincere. When I find myself at a table, I've always argued and presented the case for the 12 people who were sitting at that table for 15, 20, a lifetime, that is we're running into hard times and something had to be done. I've always been a believer.

 

If people outside of this House tonight want to take it out of context and want to run with it and bad mouth me, then that's fine and dandy. But as God is my witness, I've always advocated that those 12 people around that table that have been there for a lifetime, if it means moving from prime rib steak to keep the 12 there as opposed to keeping six there and continuing with the diet of prime rib, then the 12 people can stay – in my humble opinion – and we can eat round steak until things get better.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. DEAN: Now, for the question with my good friend there, the Member for Mount Pearl North, I indeed did go to a meeting on Friday in Bishop's Falls and it was a good meeting. It was well attended and it was a civil meeting.

 

MR. KENT: I heard that.

 

MR. DEAN: Yes, it certainly was.

 

I came out here late Sunday evening. I assured my constituents that the petition would be presented. The timelines – I got here yesterday morning, went on the fifth floor to have staff look after it for me and have it delivered to the Clerk's office so it could be printed for my delivery. At which time I was told that the three cover signatures, authentic signatures, weren't in the package. Of course, wanting to be true to my word, to the people back in Bishop's Falls and in my district, I did everything I could in light of the fact that we were busy here for the last 24 hours, amongst other things, to ensure that this was done.

 

That was delivered by the mayor of Botwood today because it just so happened that we were having a session with Dr. Haggie. So that didn't get into my hands until approximately 4 o'clock today. That will be looked after first thing in the morning. To the good people back in Bishop's Falls and the District of Exploits, you have no worries. I'll do like I've done when I was mayor and, on more than one occasion, I've spoken out when federal politicians and provincial politicians were quiet.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. DEAN: I know all about job loss in tough economic times when companies fall on hard times. I know about job loss in other ways and I won't go there, not tonight. I'll keep that for another time.

 

Anyway, with that being said, I spoke to the Premier earlier; I spoke to Minister Kirby. The library issue, as I assure the people in Bishop's Falls – I can't speak for any other MHA, but this government is open minded. While the clock is ticking, we're open minded to meetings which Minister Kirby said not a problem, Jerry, when I spoke to him about it yesterday. He said we'll set up a meeting ASAP with the library board and the leadership in Bishop's Falls and anyone else for that matter. This government is really open when it comes to that.

 

On that issue, we'll do what we can as a government to be fair in moving this issue forward. No promises – we can't make any promises on that because we found ourselves in a difficult situation. Time is running short. The other thing is we had a great session today with the Minister of Health, Minister Haggie. Again, a commitment to review the service levels and everything also at the Hugh Twomey Centre is on the table, with no strings attached.

 

With all that being said, I haven't been up here a hundred times, but I will be. Give me some time. You people give me some time. It's like the old saying goes, it's not how much you say; it's what you say.

 

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

CHAIR: The Chair recognizes the hon. the Member for Cape St. Francis.

 

MR. K. PARSONS: It's nice to see the Minister of Fisheries wanting to get up. He'll get his turn. We have all night; you'll have lots of time to get up.

 

Mr. Chair – oh, that's a look. Indeed it is a privilege to get up again – the last couple of days I've gotten up a few times – and represent the District of Cape St. Francis and the beautiful people in the District of Cape St. Francis. Before I start off tonight, I'm going to applaud the Member that just got up for Exploits. I had a good talk to him today, a good man.

 

There are a lot of times we do things in the House of Assembly, I do my part and you do your part, but we're in it for the same reasons. I know you are, just like I am. We represent people in our districts. We're more or less the advocates in their areas. People do come to us.

 

There are a lot of times that you can do good things to help and sometimes there are things you can only do your best at. I'm sure the people of Exploits will know that you'll do the best for their library. It's sad that we're to the state we're in. It's sad that there are 54 libraries that are going. Again, I'm going down a different road than I had planned, but I guess I have all night so I'll go there again. While I'm talking about libraries, I might as well get going on that road too.

 

I say to the Member, I know that sometimes in your district that people are there and they're ready to get mad with you and everything else, but you keep your head up and do your job that you're doing and people will respect you for that. I know that you put yourself out there to do the public thing and stuff like that and I really believe that people do it for the right reason. I'm sure you, along with all other Members here, are doing it for the right reasons, as am I. That's part of it.

 

We'll have our arguments. Mr. Chair, I used to play a lot of hockey and the fellows used to say to me, b'y, you're a different fellow on the ice than you were off the ice. I had a role to play on the ice and I played my role. I knew what my role was and what happened on the ice stayed on the ice. I'd be the first fellow outside to have a beer with you afterwards or to meet you down at the club afterwards, and that's the way it was. We'll argue in this House of Assembly and we'll disagree on things, but I hope that when we do go outside that we respect each other.

 

I'm sure that we're here for the right reasons, just like I have the respect for that man tonight to get up here and do what he did tonight. He is representing – and I really do feel for Members across the way because it must be hard to do petitions and people come to you and ask to present a petition. It's not easy. I was in government for seven years and I'm kind of glad no one ever asked me to present a petition on their behalf. If they had to, I think I'd do the same thing as you are doing. I'd have to, because they are the people that I represent.

 

I was never put in that position, but I have to say it must be difficult to do that kind of thing because you are really asking your government to do something to represent the people. I know the Member for Harbour Grace – Port de Grave is after doing it a couple times, and some Members here. I'm after telling you, look, I respect you for that. It's a difficult situation because you're really there to represent the people that elected you. I applaud you for that.

 

Now, I just want to take comment to the Minister of Education now. While I'm talking about libraries again, it's not the topic I – I'm going to have to use this topic I have here the next time I get up because I'm gone too far into this one now. He was talking about libraries and he talked about 30 minutes away. Do you know what? Thirty minutes away may seem like it's just around the corner or just around here, but 30 minutes for me is the Witless Bay Line from here. That's a long ways away; that's 42 kilometres to go to Witless Bay Line – from the Confederation Building to Witless Bay Line is 30 minutes. To a lot of people that's not a very far, but to go to a library – and the people that are using the libraries, just look at the people. You think the people that are using libraries are going to jump in their car and run an hour – I'm going to go for an hour. They're in small communities. The gas and everything else to do it – just think, 85 per cent are within 30 minutes. Oh my God, don't you realize how far that is. I can go from Flatrock to St. John's and back to Flatrock in 30 minutes.

 

He's talking 30 minutes doesn't seem like – and here we are, we have Bell Island losing their library. They have to get on a boat. I don't know how far the boat ride from – where's the closest library, Torbay?

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Torbay.

 

MR. K. PARSONS: Torbay is the closest library. The closest library to Bell Island is Torbay. The minister is saying 30 minutes away.

 

Then there's Fogo Island, they're losing their library. How long – I don't know how long. I was out there a couple of times. It's a beautiful spot. My mother is from Joe Batt's Arm, by the way, a beautiful island. How far away is that?

 

I listened to some Members. Some Members over there have six and seven libraries that they're losing. It's not about the distance of the library – and the minister gets on, oh, this is a new thing we're doing. Everybody is into this new distance thing, we can get it online. Most of the people that use the library need it just for the comfort of going to the library to get their research done, to have the peace and quiet to be able to do things, to take their child to a story time. It's an event to go to a library. It's something that the children look forward to.

 

We have seniors out there that want to go to – the library in Torbay, we had some issues because it got moved out of the municipal building over across the way. We worked very hard, the group worked together and the towns of Flatrock and Torbay really came through. I didn't really realize what the usage was. They put a petition out in Torbay to save the library. Do you know how many names they had on that petition? There were 1,700 names.

 

The minister said he was in Corner Brook and he signed the card so he was only 10 per cent of the people, but people do use libraries. Down there they have this computer thing that they do. They register cards. I think it's six slots a day or seven slots a day. They're booked solid all the time because people are using it. People are using their libraries.

 

It's unbelievable that we would just say, the libraries, that's nothing. If you're within 30 minutes of a library you're okay. If a library is on the Salmonier Line from the Confederation Building to drive out there, that's okay, that's good enough. It's not good enough. It's not good enough for rural Newfoundland. It's not good enough for the 54 that are using it.

 

The Member for Cartwright – L'Anse au Clair asked me tonight, she said to me tonight, you're up all the time and you're criticizing. What would you do? I'll tell you what I'd do. The $30 million contingency money that you have there, the slush fund you have put off to a side, I'd take a million dollars of that and I wouldn't close any libraries. That's what I'd do. She wanted to know what I'd do. That's what I'd do. I wouldn't close the libraries.

 

I'm going to watch tomorrow when the gentleman across the way from Exploits is going to get up in this House and he's going to present a petition. I really hope the minister will listen to your petition. I hope that he will. I saw other Members get up and do the same thing about the libraries.

 

I have one here now from Pouch Cove. The Pouch Cove library is one of the oldest ones around. It has been on the go for 70 years. It's down in Pouch Cove, and you wouldn't believe the volunteers. The volunteers that are in Pouch Cove, like I said a little earlier when I was up doing it; the town council of Pouch Cove puts money into their library because their library is in the same building. They only have X number of hours a week that the library – but there were that many people in the community who took advantage of the library, the town council decided to put some funding into their library so they could open it after school because there were children wanting to use the library after school. There were seniors in the community wanting to use it.

 

Up in my office right now I have petitions that high from people in Pouch Cove who are saying save our library – save our library. Can you imagine, the minister says, oh, 30 minutes; all of them are within 30 minutes. A gentleman in Pouch Cove or a senior in Pouch Cove who is going to walk over the road, he's going to have to hitchhike to Torbay to go to a library that he always used.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: What about the winter?

 

MR. K. PARSONS: How about the winter? The other thing that people don't realize, our librarians are very – they are so dedicated. Librarians are really dedicated. They love their jobs and stuff like that. They really want to go into a library and there may be somebody there who needs a bit of help. That's what they do. They help.

 

It's like all of us I suppose. We're Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. We're known for – if we can lend a hand we'll lend a hand, but how good is that if somebody – because in today's age, like I said the other day, it could be somebody trying to figure out how to get the $10 off their registration and go to Motor Registration. How do they navigate through the system? There is someone there to say, look, you do this and this, and they get it.

 

In Torbay it's the Mother Goose thing. My time is all gone again, but it's the Mother Goose. What they do, the grandparents take their grandchildren over and it's reading time. That's what's happening.

 

Mr. Chair, I'm going to get up again a couple more times and get to discuss half the stuff I have to discuss but I just wanted to touch base on libraries. I want to commend the Member for Exploits and say keep up the good work, keep your head up and everything will be okay.

 

CHAIR: The Chair recognizes the hon. the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

 

The Chair recognizes the hon. the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. CROCKER: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

It's a pleasure to rise tonight and to take a few minutes to talk about a couple of things actually, but I think I'm going to start by responding to some remarks that the Member for Cape St. Francis made in one of his earlier speeches, one of the earlier ones when he was being a nice Member. Sorry, I apologize.

 

In an earlier speech, the Member for Cape St. Francis brought up a couple of points and one of the points he brought was the Special Assistance Grants. They were the small grants that government in the past was able to provide to small groups and communities. Unfortunately, due to the fiscal situation, it's something that at this time we are no longer able to do, but something that if ever in the future there's an ability to do, we will certainly look at it again.

 

One of the things we find a common ground on in this House very often is the fishery. The Member for Cape St. Francis tonight, and all our Members on my side who are involved in the fishery, it's something we conversate about a lot. The conditions of the crab stocks in this province today is an issue we hear every day, whether it's in 3Ps, 3K, or 3L – 3L is doing quite well.

 

Just so the House is aware, if you look at crab landings year over year, crab landings right now are on par with what they were last year. So even though there were slow starts to the season or some trouble spots, landings are on par with previous years.

 

One of the things in Budget 2016, Mr. Chair, was, as a government, even though we faced a stark fiscal reality, we were able to carve out $2 million for a new seafood transition fund. This fund is really going to put a lens on the cod recovery, and we're going to look at new innovations in the cod fishery, whether it be with harvesters or processors. This fund, we're hoping to get it rolled out in the coming days and enable us to take that $2 million and help harvesters and processors, not only in the ground fish but with a lens on the ground fishery.

 

Another thing in Budget 2016, Mr. Chair, was an allocation of over $450,000 for bay management. For the Members of the House or anybody wondering the role of bay management, one of the things with bay management that government does today is to help grow our aquaculture industry. We see great potential in cod stocks but, as well, we have very much a growing aquaculture industry in this province, and in 2016 this province will have its highest aquaculture tonnage ever. We had a bad year last year in aquaculture – sorry, in 2014, but the recovery has happened.

 

When you think about the fishery and its effects on the economy overall, if you look at some of the – I think it's in Bishop's Falls, the Styrofoam packaging plant. That Styrofoam making plant or forming plant supplies the aquaculture industry on the South Coast and the trucking through Central Newfoundland when it comes to aquaculture. So the aquaculture industry on the South Coast of the province and in Central Newfoundland is very much an important component to the economy.

 

Mr. Chair, I have about half of my time gone so I'm just going to change my channel a little bit. We talk about budgets – and I'm going to go back again. I'm going to go back to Budget 2015: Balancing Choices for a Promising Future.

 

In Budget 2015, there were some tax adjustments. There was a personal income tax adjustment, the HST adjustment, Residential Energy Rebate was discontinued and the Financial Corporations Tax was increased. These initiatives in the 2015-16 budget increased revenue for this province by $254 million. Just keep that number in mind for one minute. It increased revenue in 2015-16 by $250 million.

 

Without the measures that the previous administration took last year – the leader got up on Thursday afternoon and talked about the measures they took last year. So without those measures, our deficit this year would have been over $3 billion. With the minor tax adjustments last year, we took a deficit that would have been $3 billion and brought it down to $2.8 billion. Just think about it. Just think about the impacts of a deficit of over $3 billion.

 

Like I said when I stood here last night and spoke about where we find ourselves, I'm a father of two teenage boys. I assure you, no different than my colleague, the Minister of Transportation and Works is a grandfather, I'm a father. I have no appetite to serve in public life to take deficits of $3 billion and pass them on to my kids or anybody's kids in this House or in this province or their grandchildren or, hopefully, my future grandchildren. I have no desire to pass $3 billion deficits on to those kids.

 

Some Member got up in this House tonight on this side and talked about it took us 66 years to get to a $12 billion deficit in this province, and in the next five years, left unchecked, we were going to bring that debt to $25 billion – left unchecked, $25 billion. The interest on $25 billion, ladies and gentlemen, would be $2 billion a year.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Every year. 

 

MR. CROCKER: Every year; year over year over year. Just think about it. What will we have? We have a health care system in this province today that costs us $3 billion a year to run. We're to a point already where we spend more on interest today than we do on education, and in five years' time we'll be spending two-thirds on interest of what we spend on health care. It's not sustainable.

 

So, Mr. Chair, when you look around at the choices we had to make as a government, there's nobody on this side of the House – I can assure you, I've sat through caucus meetings – who wanted to have to make the choices we made, but we made those choices for future generations because if we don't put this province on a stable fiscal footing, what's the sense to have a province that is not stable, that we can't borrow.

 

The Member for Cape St. Francis, just a few minutes ago, used the word slush fund, the $30 million slush fund that this government set up. I tell you what I liken the slush fund to, you have a credit card with a $1,000 credit limit. You have a $1,000 credit limit on a credit card and you have $300 left on it. What do you do? You try and maintain a little bit of room. You try and maintain a little bit of borrowing capability so that if something comes up, if you pop a tire on your car, you have a little bit of money on that credit card. You have a little bit of space in your borrowing, you have a little bit of leeway. What happens if we have a major forest fire this year somewhere in this province and we didn't budget some room, some fiscal capacity? We would have had to go out and do a special warrant.

 

They call it a slush fund. This slush fund, we didn't take $30 million and put in a bank account. It's money on a credit card. It's borrowing capacity if we need it. I liken it to a person. This is what I bring it back to. It's like you or I, again, with a credit card, with $1,000 credit limit and we're leaving $300 space on that credit card. So we didn't max out the credit card, because if we did max out the credit card and went and blew a tire, we would have had to go and get another credit card.

 

Many of the things that we do as a government comes back to a household. We all operate within budgets. It's very clear where we are as a province right now and it's not anywhere that any person in this House wants to be.

 

When you hear somebody call something a slush fund or use the $30 million. We don't have $30 million in a bank account. We have $30 million worth of budgeting space left.

 

Anyway, Mr. Chair, I'll take my place. I'll probably get another opportunity within the next day or two.

 

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. PETTEN: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

I heard the Minister of Municipal Affairs talk about the money I said recently about the Town of CBS as a result of insurance and the gas tax, the increase it had on their budget when they factored it in. I know the minister is trying to refute that claim, and maybe he's right. We'll find out for sure, but those numbers were reported by the deputy mayor and also reported in the local paper.

 

If I'm not mistaken, the deputy mayor is the chair of the finance committee. So I have a feeling he does have an idea of what he's talking about. I'm sure the minister has some information to share but I'll wait until that time comes. I'll still stand by my $400,000 figure until proven wrong.

 

Mr. Chair, we get up here in the House and we read emails and we talk issues and we listen to Members opposite. You banter back a