May 7, 1997               HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS                Vol. XLIII  No. 21

The House met at 2:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Snow): Order, please!


Statements by Ministers


MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Education.

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. GRIMES: Mr. Speaker, I wish to issue a statement today for clarification purposes only regarding teacher layoffs in the Province. The Teachers' Collective Agreement, Mr. Speaker, requires all school boards to issue layoff notices to teachers by today's date, May 7. Usually school boards have completed all the necessary assignment and reassignment of teachers for the next school year by this date. Therefore layoff notices ordinarily are issued only to those teachers actually losing their jobs.

Mr. Speaker, the situation this year is somewhat different because of the reorganization of the school districts and the unusually high number of school closings. As a result, Mr. Speaker, government and the Newfoundland and Labrador School Boards Association requested that the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers' Association extend the layoff date beyond May 7 for this year only, to give school boards the extra time to complete the reassignment process and avoid any unnecessary aggravation and stress to teachers and their families. However, Mr. Speaker, the NLTA chose not to comply with that request. As a consequence, school districts have resorted to issuing layoff notices to more teachers than necessary in order to guarantee that they can meet the requirements of the collective agreement. Over the next few weeks, Mr. Speaker, boards will complete the reassignment process and in doing so will recall most of the teachers who have been issued layoff notices yesterday and today.

Mr. Speaker, I have been assured by the school districts that every effort will be made to reassign teachers and to reduce the number that will actually lose their jobs. Let me state emphatically that the number of teachers being removed from the system this year will not exceed the 468 as previously announced by government. In fact, Mr. Speaker, less actual layoffs will occur due to the number of retirements which currently exceed 200 as of today's date. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

This ministerial statement again reflects the instability and the total chaos which we have in our education system in this Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. OTTENHEIMER: It is not education reform, it is education deform that we have in Newfoundland and Labrador over the past several months and past couple of years. We have not only this problem with teachers and dismissals, we have lawsuits being commenced throughout the Province. We have closures of schools. We have community against community and sadly, there is nobody who will listen and even more sadly, that includes the Minister of Education.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi, does he have leave?

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Once again the Minister of Education is trying to down load the blame, but this time to the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers Association and the blame really belongs with him and his government for it's failure to provide leadership and direction in this whole school reform process.

Why are we here, now on May 7th in the year 1997, after a reform process that went through this House and went to the House of Parliament many, many months ago, still trying to decide how many teachers we have and where they are. The blame really rest with the minister and this government, Mr. Speaker.


Oral Questions


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

MR. H. HODDER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My questions are for the Minister of Human Resources and Employment.

I want to ask the minister, why she has demanded that student/parents, one of the most disadvantaged groups in the Province, must access the maximum of student loans available of about $4400 per semester before these, mostly poverty stricken student/parents are able to access social assistant benefits and only then will they be able to access social assistant benefits in cases of extreme circumstances.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Human Resources and Employment.

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I understand this is the issue for debate this afternoon, but I certainly have no problem answering the question.

As I have met with the students on a number of occasions and explained to them this process was a part of the program review. It is an initiative that identifies ways that we were able to achieve savings in the department, as well the students will be required to borrow the same amount of money as other students going through university. They will not receive any less money while attending university during the semester.

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

MR. H. HODDER: Madame minister, in the budget statement read by the Minister of Finance on March 20th, it said "For too long we have seen people who want to work, get caught in the welfare trap, it is time for bold measures."

Student parents are asking for a fair and equal opportunity and to give them a fair and equal opportunity you cannot treat them the same as others, they need special treatment, they have special circumstances.

So, madame minister, when can we expect you to include in those bold measures that you talked about, a redress of the disincentives that have been placed in the pathway of these student/parents as they try to increase their educational levels so they can better themselves and in particular provide a better family support for their children?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Employment and Human Resources.

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

In addition to having access to student aid, many of these students will have access to the skills, loans and grants component under the labour market agreement that we signed March 24. In addition to that, because of the special circumstances arising that were brought forward by the students, we have been working with Memorial University and probably, today as we speak, a proposal will be finalized for these students which will allow them some flexibility. It will allow them a part-time work and study program under the SWASP program; in addition to that it will offer them a full-time summer SWASP program similar to that that will be offered under the community services council, and in addition to that, there is a pilot project that is called an internship program which will allow many of these very same students to obtain double, Mr. Speaker, the amount of tuition that any other student in the Province will be able to achieve.

I also would like to say, Mr. Speaker, that while we understand that it is always difficult for students, single students either without dependants or with dependants attending school, that in addition to the 394 students who are on social assistance going to MUN and other public institutions, we have 427 students who are single parents and are married students with dependants who are borrowing full maximum student loans, Mr. Speaker, and they are proceeding through their educational course as best they can. So I think in fairness, there are as many, in fact there are more who are going to university and other public institutions and are borrowing the full, maximum capacity without the other assistance that we are providing through social assistance living allowances and other top-ups.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Opposition House Leader, a supplementary.

MR. H. HODDER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

If I read into what the minister has said, in essence what it says is that, these students will be able to get a job at MUN, working let us say at MUN for their tuition and that kind of thing. I am reading into that, approximately let us say, $1,000 is possible per semester. That still means Madam Minister, that these students will now go into debt, instead of going into debt of about $2,500 per semester, they will actually go into debt about $1,500 per semester more than they would before this program was changed, as you have just stated now. Is that approximately correct? Instead of having, say, $15,000 - $20,000 in debts they will now have $30,000 or $35,000 upon graduation?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Human Resources and Employment.

MS J. M. AYLWARD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

What it means is that students who are receiving social assistance will borrow exactly the same as students who are not on social assistance will borrow, but these students on social assistance will also receive the top-up and living allowances that they will require. As we have pointed out to them, they will not be receiving less. They will still receive the same amount of money each semester that they are currently receiving, and their debt load will be the same as that of all the other single students and married students with dependants who are going through university without any social assistance at all, who are borrowing their student loans. That is what it means, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Opposition House Leader, a supplementary.

MR. H. HODDER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

In essence, what the minister is saying is that these students who have very special circumstances are being treated just the same as any other student. I do not hear of programs that are particularly and specifically targeted towards this group of student parents. The programs you announced seem to me to be -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member is on a supplementary; I ask him to get to his question.

MR. H. HODDER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

- seem to be consistent with all other students.

I ask the minister: In the gallery today there are a group of parents who are called Student Parents for a Better Tomorrow. In view of the program changes you have made in March, and the modifications you are making now, which is the same as everybody else at the university, when will you be able to tell them and their families that they can expect to have a better tomorrow?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Human Resources and Employment.

MS J. M. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, we have met with the Students for a Better Tomorrow at their request. We have explained this initiative to them. We are still meeting with them. They have been working with us on this new initiative that is being delivered by Memorial University to provide some flexibility to accommodate many of their needs with respect to their part-time work that they are looking for, with respect to having an option to double their tuition voucher; and yes, Mr. Speaker, they will have the same opportunities as other students who are single and with dependants or without dependants, but they will also have access to social assistance to assist them to top it up.

Let me finish again by saying that in addition to - and we recognize that going to school as a single parent is not easy; going to school if you are married with dependants is not easy. We recognize this and we support them and compliment them on their initiative. But I think it is also important to note, Mr. Speaker, of the students who are attending Memorial, while 394 of them are single parents or married students with dependants, 427 are single students with dependants, and they are borrowing their maximum capacity and pursuing their education. We are working with the University. We have recognized their initiative with them, and we support them in that initiative.

MR. SPEAKER: A supplementary, the hon. the Opposition House Leader.

MR. H. HODDER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Finally, I would like to ask the minister - and the minister is quite aware that she is comparing here two different sets of circumstances altogether.

Madam Minister, most single parents are mothers, and approximately 80 per cent of single parents live in poverty. Of course, three out of four of the children of single parents - the children, themselves, live in poverty as well. Madam Minister, the Women's Policy Office of your government advocates for the rights of women -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Again, I have to remind the hon. member that he is on a supplementary and no preambles are permitted.

MR. H. HODDER: I ask the minister, does she not see a conflict between the policies of her government and her department towards women, and the stated philosophy of the Women's Policy Office, which is to be a strong advocate for equal opportunity, and equal opportunity does not always mean equal funding?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Human Resources and Employment.

MS J. M. AYLWARD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

This policy applies to both men and women. Again, it is an initiative that we brought forward, keeping in mind a number of other initiatives. As I pointed out, under the labour market development agreement, in addition to the initiatives in our department, under the Department of Education there is also the skills, loans and grants component, which offers a loan remission for students who complete their study in a set period of time, whether it is in four or five years. It will almost reduce the borrowings - for example, an average student borrowing $35,000 would have to pay back $22,000. That is part of that loans remission program.

So, Mr. Speaker, we were aware of this type of initiative. We did incorporate all the other programs that we are offering through both the Departments of Education, and Human Resources and Employment, and recognizing that these students will not receive less money as they are going through the programs. That was part of the decision. That was part of the reason why we moved forward with this decision.

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

MR. J. BYRNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, my question today is for the Minister of Environment and Labour. Mr. Minister, the people of Argentia and the surrounding towns are nervous about the commitment of the U.S., Canadian and provincial governments to clean up the contaminants left at the former U.S. naval site. Everyone agrees that clean-up money committed to date is inadequate and the three governments continue to spar among themselves over who will pay the various costs associated with the clean-up in the short term and in the long term. What can the minister say today to reassure the people of the area that regardless of who ends up footing the bill the contaminants will be cleaned up, the site will be restored to pre-contamination levels and the people's health and safety will not be further jeopardized?

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

MR. K. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his question.

I would like to say to him that there is a high level of confidence on the part of the people of Argentia and of the Province that that site is going to be cleared up and cleaned up to acceptable environmental standards in Canada. We are not going to accept anything less. The money that has been allocated by the Federal Government and is committed, will be spent there. The work plan has been approved for this year and for the next couple of years. We are looking at trying to make sure that that gets sped up and done as quickly as possible. The standards under which the clean-up will continue are Canadian Environmental Standards. They are the highest standards on the planet and we are going to ensure that it is cleaned up.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: A supplementary, the hon. the Member for Cape St. Francis.

MR. J. BYRNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Minister, Voisey's Bay nickel is manoeuvring for first rights to all lands that butt on the Argentia Harbour. The company may well purchase rights for much of the area formerly occupied by the U.S. naval base, that is heavily contaminated. Can the minister assure us that all sites sold to Voisey's Bay Nickel will be cleaned up prior to the sale? If not, then will Voisey's Bay Nickel, in acquiring rights to these sites, also assume some degree of responsibility for ensuring the sites are cleaned up before they are put to a new use?

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

MR. K. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, that site that he is talking about went through five years of environmental assessment study before we started to clean it up. Five years, the Federal Government paid for five years of studies to evaluate the site, to evaluate the problems, identify the problems, identify the technologies used to clean it up. Now they are getting ready to clean it up and have started the clean-up. And I can assure him with respect to that site and any other lands near that site, we will ensure that the land is remediated to its appropriate standards, so that if any other business activity is going to occur, it will occur with proper environmental guidelines put in place ahead of time. We want to make sure, Mr. Speaker, that when the new industry starts out there it is done properly with proper environmental standards. Right now, it is going through the most comprehensive environmental assessment that you could find anywhere, again, on the planet, Mr. Speaker - the new Argentia development that is going to occur. So, yes, we are going to ensure that everything is done appropriately, as best we can, working with the Federal Government in partnership.

MR. SPEAKER: A supplementary, the hon. the Member for Cape St. Francis.

MR. J. BYRNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Minister, from information given to me, Building 4, which contained a power plant and the bomb shelter, has been vandalized. A contract was let for $54,000 to clean up the PCBs in the building. Four hundred drums of contaminated material are stored in bunkers 55 and 56. The contract was terminated after six weeks, which left thousands of litres of untreated material in Building Four. The material remaining is readily accessible to the ocean and this building is to be torn down. Will the minister tell the House why the contract was terminated and what measures are taken to secure the contaminated material at Building Four?

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

MR. K. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, the federal Department of Public Works, which is responsible for the site, along with the Federal Government, is responsible for that material. I will check it out to see whether or not there is a problem, or if a problem has occurred, and I will get back to the hon. member. This is the first I have heard of it. They are undertaking the clean-up. I think $17 million is the work plan. We have been working with the member for the region to ensure that the work plan continues. I will check out the situation that he is mentioning.

MR. SPEAKER: A supplementary, the hon. the Member for Cape St. Francis.

MR. J. BYRNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Minister, I understand that Rogers Enterprises recently got a contract for the demolition of six buildings at the site, some of which are quite contaminated. Can the minister tell us who were the bidders for that work, what were the various bid prices, and the basis on which a winning bid was chosen?

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

MR. K. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, I will undertake to get the information. It is a federal process. The Federal Government is cleaning up the site and we have a committee member who sits with them, and so on, but the Federal Government is responsible, the federal Department of Public Works is responsible. We will check it out and see whatever details we can get to ensure that everything is done appropriately.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My question is for the Minister of Human Resources and Employment and concerns the policy of the department to force social assistance recipients to borrow the maximum student loan in order to attend post-secondary education.

Will the minister acknowledge that the whole purpose of this policy is to save the government $2 million from the Human Resources and Employment budget, and to force that money, instead of being spent by the government, to be put on the backs of these students in the form of student loans and individual debt? That is the whole purpose behind this policy, to off-load this expense onto the individual social assistance recipients in the form of debt?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Human Resources and Employment.

MS J. M. AYLWARD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

As I have mentioned in a previous question, government did a program review on all the programs and services offered to the citizens of the Province. One of the decisions we made was to make this change in how we allocate monies for social assistance students who are returning to school to pursue post-secondary education.

What government is asking of these students is really the same as what we are asking of all students, and that is that they would have to borrow. But in addition to borrowing, we will be providing the necessary money for housing and other supplements, child care. In addition, they will have access to monies under the labour market development agreement, they have access to money under a new pilot project initiative that I just announced here a few minutes ago, where students will have access to a part-time SWASP, an internship program, and an opportunity to double their tuition voucher.

I have been very honest from the very beginning that part of this decision was definitely related to finances - we have told that from day one with the students - and part of it was to put this program in line with other students who are borrowing to achieve an education. We have been very honest from the very beginning. There is no big sort of deal to the question as it relates to: Is this a secret? It is no secret. We have been very honest with them right from day one that this was partially to keep it in line with other programs, and partially to meet our financial requirements.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: A supplementary, the hon. the Member for Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi.

MR. HARRIS: Mr. Speaker, does the minister not realize that the child poverty rate for children of single parents is over 75 per cent, and that these poor people are being asked to borrow money and pay interest on it over many years, on their clothing, their children's food, on their child care, to be able to attend post-secondary education? Does she not realize that her policy is an absolute deterrent to poor people on social assistance to obtain an education?

It is a deterrent for those who are there now, they will leave, and it is a deterrent to prevent people who are on social assistance now to go to post-secondary education. Will she not acknowledge that her policy is going to deter students or people on social assistance from getting a proper education?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Human Resources and Employment.

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I think some of the issues you have raised answer some of the programs that we have in place to assist students. We do provide funding for child care. We have just worked with Memorial University for the special $300,000 pilot project to address some of the concerns that you have raised, and we believe that by working with the students, by addressing these needs, by acknowledging that these students will not have to pay any more than any other student coming out of a program, that they will not receive any less money as they are going through their program, that we are treating all of these students fairly.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi, a supplementary.

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Why does this minister insist that poor people in this Province borrow their way out of poverty? Will she not reverse this policy and recognize that facing the prospect of the kind of debt that she expects them to endure, prospective students and students on social assistance will not be able to continue their education? Will she not change this policy now?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Human Resources and Employment.

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I think it is worth mentioning again that in addition to the students who are attending university and other public institutions - Memorial in particular - we have about 394 students. We also have about 427 who are single parents, who are not receiving social assistance.

Mr. Speaker, this decision will not be reversed. We believe we have put other supports in place. We have a loans remission program that if students are meeting their requirements in four or five semesters they can access the loans remission program. We have a child care component. We have an ability for them to get up to double their tuition voucher while working in either a part-time or a full-time SWASP program, and we believe we are providing supports to assist people to go through and further their education.

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My question today is to the Premier.

Premier, back some fifteen months ago Newfoundlanders and Labradorians went to the polls and voted for a better tomorrow. You, Premier, promised them hope and opportunity. I ask the Premier: What real words of hope, or assurances, can he provide today to the tens of thousands of Newfoundlanders unable to provide a decent living for their families?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I would be glad to give an answer to a specific question. I have to confess, I was talking for a moment with the Minister of Finance. If it was a specific question I would be glad to try and answer it. I just heard a general -

MR. J. BYRNE: Not paying attention, I suppose.

PREMIER TOBIN: Well, Jack, I can only tell you that -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

PREMIER TOBIN: - I would welcome the question being re-asked.

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Premier, I will repeat the question.

Back some fifteen months ago, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians went to the polls to vote for a better tomorrow. You, Premier, promised them hope and opportunity. I ask the Premier: What real words of hope, and assurances, can he provide to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians today who are out there struggling to try to earn a decent living for their families?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, the fact of the matter is that we cannot tell people who are struggling today that their struggles will all be over by 5:00 p.m. today, or by 5:00 p.m. tomorrow or the day after, and the member knows that. The fact is, the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador has been going through one of the most extraordinarily difficult times in our history, going back to the collapse in particular of the fishery in 1992.

MR. E. BYRNE: And the federal cutbacks (inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, if members want to have election rhetoric exchanged on the floor of the House we can do that.

MR. J. BYRNE: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, it is a difficult time for the people of our Province, there is no doubt about it, but I submit to the member opposite if he is asking the question, asking for a genuine answer, that there has never been - notwithstanding the size of the problems today, and they are large and difficult for government to deal with - a time of greater opportunity, if we do the right things today, for Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, the offshore oil and gas sector will move from zero per cent of Canada's light crude supply to some 35 per cent or 40 per cent over the next twenty-four months. That is a sector that is seeing, for the first time in five years, two exploratory wells this year, seeing a seismic program which is the largest that has ever been conducted in the east coast offshore, seeing within a few days the christening of the GBS which is going out to begin the first production of oil by the end of this year, 1997. Mr. Speaker, the Province is seeing the beginning of a multi-hundred-million-dollar construction project on the Trans-Labrador Highway and thousands of jobs associated with that construction project.

Mr. Speaker, the Province is going through an environmental review process both at Argentia and in Labrador for the start up of a mining project that will create thousands of jobs for Newfoundlanders both in Labrador and on the Island portion of the Province. Mr. Speaker, this Province is seeing the IT sector taking off in a very substantial way and indeed, next year, Newfoundland and Labrador will be the host for Soft World 98, giving the IT sector of Newfoundland and Labrador a chance to show their wares.

Mr. Speaker, there is no question that there is much frustration and real suffering today in Newfoundland and Labrador, but there is equally no question that if we put our minds on building this economy, there is a far brighter day for Newfoundland and Labrador.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Bonavista South, a supplementary.

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Premier, the latest statistics indicate in excess of 17,000 Newfoundlanders have recently left this Province. Most of those Premier, have been our best educated and our brightest, many of them from my own District of Bonavista South. I ask the Premier: What does he or his government plan to do about this haemorrhaging of young people from rural Newfoundland and Labrador?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, it must be clear to anybody who is listening that he is not up today asking specific questions, the member is up giving political commercials and I suppose we, on this side of the House are as capable as members on that side of engaging in political commercials.

Newfoundland and Labrador, Mr. Speaker, is challenged in a very substantial way today to deal with the circumstances that are now in front of us. Those are difficult but, Mr. Speaker, Newfoundland and Labrador also has an incredible opportunity.

Now if the Opposition wants to make constructive suggestions and work with members on this side of the House to realize our potential, we are quite happy to do that, but if all the Opposition wants to do is to stand and make statements in the hope that somehow they will resonate in the middle of a federal election campaign, that is predictable and not worthy of a serious response.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Bonavista South, a supplementary.

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Premier, yesterday hundreds of angry and frustrated laid-off Newfoundlanders marched through our federal fisheries minister's office in Bonavista to vent their frustration of being unable to find employment. 2,500 people were out to a meeting on the West Coast last night Premier, venting their frustrations with anger on the erosion of our health care. These are just the latest numbers, Mr. Premier, just the latest incidents and many more about to happen.

Premier, isn't the real reason that you have not stood up and fought for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador is because you were the federal minister who was part of the plan to reduce transfer payments to this Province, to reduce UI payments, to cut a full year off the TAGS program, the very plan that is now cutting the guts out of rural Newfoundland and Labrador?

AN HON. MEMBER: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, as I was suggesting and of course the member opposite did not disappoint me, this is not about asking questions concerned about the future of Newfoundland or Labrador, this is about election commercials from the other side of the House.

Mr. Speaker, when it comes to standing up and fighting for Newfoundland and Labrador, we on this side of the House have no lessons to take from members opposite.

Mr. Speaker, in the last federal election campaign, and I challenge the media to go back and look at the files, the current leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, Jean Charest came to St. John's to tell the people of Newfoundland and Labrador that the Liberal policy of dealing with foreign overfishing on the high seas would never be followed up because it could not be done, came to tell the people of Newfoundland and Labrador that the reason a Conservative government presided over the collapse of cod stocks, a Conservative Minister of Fisheries waved the white flag, was that it could not be done. Well, Mr. Speaker, we took on the problem of overfishing and we put an end to it and I tell this member we will take on this Party in this election and we will see positive results in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. FITZGERALD: Mr. Speaker, my final question to the Premier.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Bonavista South, a final supplementary.

MR. FITZGERALD: My final question to the Premier.

The Premier just stated that he put an end to foreign overfishing. I would like to ask the Premier if he would inform the House today as to the number of boats that are actively fishing on the Nose and Tail of the Grand Banks, today. Tell the truth.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I have not checked today before I came in to see how many boats are out there today, but what I can tell him is there are a lot less boats, the minister is telling me sixteen boats and every boat that is out there as an observer aboard the boat and they are fishing according to their quotas.

Now, Mr. Speaker, let me tell you something else, for years when the people of Newfoundland and Labrador said that the foreign fleets were destroying our fish, at a time when our own fishermen were tied up, this party opposite said nothing can be done, you cannot go into the high seas, you cannot put an end to it -

MR. TULK: That is what they said, you said it.

PREMIER TOBIN: - and Mr. Speaker, when conservative fisheries ministers in Ottawa said, my hands are tied, there is nothing I can do, the trained seals opposite, flapped their flippers on their desk and sat their and did nothing. It was the Liberal government that stood up and put an end to this foolishness on the high seas.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Question Period had ended.

Order, please!




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

MR. MERCER: It is my pleasure today to present a petition on behalf of some 1150 petitioners from the District of Trinity-Bay de Verde, representing the communities from Islington to Bay de Verde.

The prayer of the petition reads as follows: To the hon. House of Assembly of the Province of Newfoundland in parliament assembled:

WHEREAS the provincial government, through its appointed Avalon West School Board has made a decision that negatively impacts the quality of education for many students in our district; and

WHEREAS an option to improve the quality of education for said students could be imposed for relatively equal implementation cost; and

WHEREAS we have no avenue to appeal to the trustees regarding this unjust decision;

THEREFORE be it resolved that this decision be reviewed by the Minister of Education and discussed with the board trustees and the stakeholder; that is the concerned citizens and elective representatives.

Mr. Speaker, as I said this petition is signed by some 1152 petitioners and at the very outset I would like to make it very clear that this is not a petition protesting school closure, it is not a petition specifically stating that certain schools should be kept open, at all. As a matter of fact, the petitioners quite clearly recognize that in this age of declining student enrolment, there is a need of school restructuring, that there is a need for some school closures.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. MERCER: As a matter of fact, within the area to which these petitioners are from, two elementary schools, one at Old Perlican and one at Hants Harbour, have been closed. The petitioners understand the rationale for these closures and frankly they support it because they believe it is in the long-term best interest of the education of these children.

The petition is not about school designation. It is not about whether is should be an interdenominational or a uni-denominational school, that is not the issue. The petition is very clear, Mr. Speaker. The petition speaks to obtaining for the children, within the area of the petitioners, providing them with the best possible education that can be afforded to them. That is what the petition is speaking to. It is speaking to the petitioners ability to converse with their school board officials, to be able to sit down to explore options, to point out that the options that they have are at least as cost effective and better from an educational point of view then some other options which have been considered. It is about people obtaining a partnership with their school boards, being able to sit down, discuss their various options and at the end of the day, being able to go out and advocate for the decisions which are being made. That is what the petition is all about.

Unfortunately, the petitioners inform me that their attempts to arrange meetings with the school board, the Avalon West School Board, have been unsuccessful. They have tried on several occasions, they have been allowed to meet with officials of the school board, but they have not been allowed and permitted to have a meeting with the school board itself.

Therefore, Mr. Speaker, the petitioners have asked me to ask this hon. House to use whatever devices that might be available to it to promote a meeting between the petitioners and the Avalon West School Board. At that meeting, they would hope to be able to put forward their options and to be able to resolve the issues which now confront them.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

In response to the points raised by the hon. member opposite, really in an effort to somewhat soften what the intent of this petition is, he has not in my view, voiced the concerns of the petitioners.

What the petitioners are saying - and it is a matter of reading the prayer of this petition: We have no avenue to appeal to the trustees re: this unjust decision. What that means is that their hands are tied. The people in this area, the 1,150 petitioners in the District of Trinity - Bay de Verde, have no recourse. That is what this petition is about, and that is why, Mr. Speaker, the Opposition suggested in this House approximately two weeks ago that the government give serious consideration to the appointment of an independent education ombudsman, an individual who could listen as an independent and impartial person.

The prayer of the petition also states that the decision be reviewed by the Minister of Education and discussed with board trustees and the stakeholders. The petitioners in this district, 1,150 of them, are asking this gentleman over here, the Minister of Education, who is ultimately responsible for education reform in this Province, to intervene, become involved, and listen. That is what this petition is all about.

The hon. member opposite can skate around it all he likes, but this petition is clear in what it reads and what it says. Mr. Speaker, these people want answers, these people want involvement. That is all they are asking for and that is essentially what the people in this district seek in this petition.

I received yesterday faxed documentation from individuals whose, I'm sure, names are listed in this petition, who used statements similar to the following: that the Avalon West school board trustees were misinformed on busing and renovation costs. An independent assessment is strongly recommended. It states on page number one, the petitioners, the people of these communities, demand answers, seek the truth. Informed decisions cannot be based on misinformation. That is what is being stated in this petition, that is the thrust of what is behind this petition, and that is essentially what the people of these communities are asking for.

I've spoken with a number of communities throughout Brownsdale, the Bay de Verde area, and they have told me directly what their concerns are. They are asking for one man to get involved. The man sits directly opposite from us, he is the Minister of Education. Get involved. Assist the parents of this area and try to intervene and try to prevent the board from making, in the minds of most people who have signed this petition, an inappropriate decision. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Education.

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I will just take a couple of minutes to make a few comments with respect to the prayer of the petition.

I just want to point out that in the preamble to the actual resolution that is presented in this petition, that the minister actually review the decision and discuss with the board and trustees, there are a couple of points that I would like to clarify.

One is a reference to the fact that this is an appointed board. Again, this Legislature and this government debated a year ago - actually, last June and July when we were looking at putting these ten new boards in place - whether or not we would have an election at that time, which would cost the people of the Province $1.8 million, or whether we would appoint people who were already experienced school board members and who had, in most cases, gone through previous elections for school boards in the past. The decision was made to have the elections this year in concert with the municipalities as always, and to appoint people who had past experiences in the interim, and that is what has been done. We decided not to have an election at that particular point. There will be an election in September of 1997.

Also, there is a reference to the idea that the hon. member just mentioned that there is no appeal process. Regardless of how many appeal processes, boards, panels, ombudsmen, whatever you might call it, that you set up, at the end of the day somebody makes the final decision. No matter what system you put in place, whether it is one appeal, two appeals, ten appeals, at the end there is a final decision. In this process, and here is the point I would like to make because the member opposite makes such a big deal of it, the final decision rests with the school board.

Just last December in this Legislature the member opposite, who just spoke so eloquently about the idea of appeals and hands being tied, supported the piece of legislation that put these decisions in the hands of the school boards. He did not introduce, Mr. Speaker, an amendment. He introduced twenty-six amendments. He did not introduce an amendment that said there should be an appeal to the decisions of the boards, there should be someone else to look at it and so on. No such issue, Mr. Speaker, was raised by the members opposite. It is now convenient to do so, Mr. Speaker. It is not a point that we are going to entertain.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

On a point of order, the hon. the Member for Kilbride.

MR. E. BYRNE: The Minister of Education, Mr. Speaker, can dance around all he wants but when he talks about the Member for St. John's East supporting what this minister has done and what this government has done with respect to school boards in the Province, he knows full well it is wrong. That member asked two weeks ago for that minister to appoint an educational ombudsman, it is not done. He should at least acknowledge -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. member to take his seat.

MR. E. BYRNE: - he should at least acknowledge what the member did, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: No point of order, I ask the hon. member to take his seat.

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I am glad the hon. member raised his point of order because he acknowledged just exactly what I was saying, that during the debate last December when there was a proper opportunity to put amendments to this legislation, no such mention was ever made by the member opposite, who is the education critic. We entertained and listened to twenty-six different amendments from the hon. member, not one of them, Mr. Speaker, mentioned that there should be somebody put in place to actually give a second opinion or review or judge the decisions of the boards. The legislation clearly stated, Mr. Speaker, that these were board based decisions and the members opposite supported that in this Legislature at the time.

Mr. Speaker, we will, as requested by the petitioners, pass along the concerns to the school board. We will make the views known but it is and everybody should understand, there is no role for me as the minister or for anybody in this Legislature, to make the decision instead of and in the place of the school board. We will pass along the concerns to the school board itself, Mr. Speaker, and I have stated publicly, the only time any school board should expect the Minister of Education to intervene is if they are making decisions that actually contravene and violate some provision of the legislation, otherwise, Mr. Speaker, there is no basis. No proper basis for the Minister of Education to be second guessing or trying to suggest to school boards, who are mandated to do so, which educationally based decisions they should make in their ten jurisdictions in the Province.

So I appreciate, Mr. Speaker, the petition being presented. I encourage again the member presenting it and yourself, Mr. Speaker, to pass along a copy of Hansard and the remarks made to the school board. We will forward the commentary to the school board for their consideration and I would hope as always, that they will be able to convince the people in the area that they are making the decisions in the best educational interest of the students that they are appointed at this point to serve and will be elected to serve in September of 1997. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to present a petition on behalf of a number of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who are petitioning the House of Assembly in parliament assembled as follows:

WHEREAS poverty and its effects are serious problems for so many in this Province that things are getting worse, that now more than one-third of Newfoundland and Labrador children live in families on social assistance; and

WHEREAS child poverty and child hunger are a sad reality which hurts children today in their chances for the future, in education and in life and that hungry children cannot learn; and

WHEREAS a universal school lunch program would provide a stigma-free way of ensuring every school child a good nutritional meal every day; and

WHEREAS school reform in the Province will result in very significant savings in education costs, thereby making funds available to improve the quality of education and the quality of children's lives;

We the undersigned petition the House of Assembly to direct the government to establish a universal, comprehensive school lunch program for every school in Newfoundland and Labrador to help end the child hunger and to give our children the better chance.

Now, Mr. Speaker, this is one of a series of petitions that have been presented in the House. The issue of child poverty has been, I understand, discovered by the federal Liberals recently. The Province is contributing a small amount of money to a school lunch program based on a volunteer model. The situation however in this Province is far beyond the capabilities of a volunteer effort to address. The situation in this Province is, as the petitioners state, getting worse. In 1989, according to the Canadian Council on Welfare, approximately 18 per cent of children in Newfoundland live below the statistical poverty line. That figure was raised in 1995 to 26 per cent. An increase of over 50 per cent, Mr. Speaker, in a mere six years and that is the (inaudible) for 1995, the latest year for which statistics are available. Now this just happens to coincide with the six years of the commencement of the Liberal government, Mr. Speaker, it just happens to coincide with that but the fact of the matter is that the child poverty situation in this Province is getting indeed worse.

The situation for children of single parents, Mr. Speaker, is far worse. The worst statistics in the country, Mr. Speaker, are for this Province at 77 per cent of the children of single-parent families, families of single mothers live below the poverty line. We are talking, Mr. Speaker, about a group of people who do not have the means to provide adequately for their children. Some of them, Mr. Speaker, are in the gallery today; some of them are the people whom the Minister of Human Resources and Employment are forcing to go and borrow money to go and feed their children, borrow money and pay interest on that money to feed their children who are now living below the poverty line. To borrow money for child care, to borrow money for clothing, to borrow money for the very essence of life for these children who are living in poverty today. That, Mr. Speaker, is the government's plan for these people. If they want to get out of poverty, if they want to go to university, you have to borrow your way out of poverty because the government is not going to borrow money, the government wants to reduce its deficit and throw the deficit on the backs of poor people who cannot afford the prospects of going into debt because the prospects of employment are not there at the end of the day.

Now, Mr. Speaker, this is one small program that would address some of the needs of school children in our Province. The sad reality, you know, we use statistics to talk about the extent of a problem but it is really a human problem, Mr. Speaker, a hungry child going to school, unable to pay attention to what is going on because the pangs of hunger are more important than the thirst for knowledge, Mr. Speaker, when it comes down to a school child trying to pay attention, trying to get the most out of a school education it cannot happen when the child is a hungry child.

Now the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture spoke compassionately the other day about this circumstance but based on his own experience in his previous role as Minister of Social Services, he knows and I think all hon. members know that there is a real difference to be made to hungry children in school performance when you provide them with a decent meal and an opportunity to have a full belly and to participate in education. The minister knows, other ministers know over there, the people in the back bench know over there that this is the case and I ask for the support of hon. members for this petition so that a universal, comprehensive School Lunch Program can be implemented in the Province especially in the areas where it is most needed, areas which will not be addressed and can never be addressed by a volunteer program.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. H. HODDER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today in the few minutes we have before the beginning of the Private Members Motion for this afternoon, to comment on the petition that has been raised by my colleague from Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi and has been raised by him on a number of occasions and almost the same number of occasions I have stood in my place and supported it.

Mr. Speaker, a few days ago in this House, on the same petition, the former Minister of Social Services told the story of how he went to a school in St. John's and how he monitored several children and after they had been given a good lunch in that school under the School Lunch Program, he went back to that school six or seven months later and he told of the tremendous change that had occurred in these young people.

The teachers told him that these young people were far more attentive; they told him that they wanted to be in school, they looked happy, there were smiles on their faces and, Mr. Speaker, when that former minister made that commentary here in the House, I was one of those who applauded him vigorously because we wanted, for some time, to have some indication from the government side, that the pleas of the children of this Province were not failing on deaf ears. Mr. Speaker, we were happy to know that at least one minister on that side has the experience, has seen and witnessed in the school system the kinds of things that are going on, the kinds of problems that we have in the school system, the real faces associated with child poverty.

Mr. Speaker, I want to say today that child poverty has a host of problems associated with it. What we are saying to the government time after time after time is that we must do more. We cannot improve the educational levels of this Province if we are going to say to children that because you were born into poverty you are going to be in poverty all throughout the school system. If we don't change the way we are going, these children will grow up to be teenagers in poverty and they will stay in poverty all of their lives. We must break the cycle.

Mr. Speaker, when you have poor parents, parents who live in poverty, you can be assured of one thing; their children also, in all probability, are living in poverty as well.

We have spoken here many times about the relationship between achievement in school - it is well researched - so we are not saying anything to anybody today that has not been said 100 times before. While we on this side of the House raise those issues, we are hoping by doing it over and over and over again that the members on the government side of the House will start to listen and be prepared to adopt the real, bold measures that the Minister of Finance talked about when he gave his Budget Speech on March 20, because a bold measure would be to say that we are going to eradicate child poverty.

Mr. Speaker, in 1986 in this country we said that by 1996 we would have eliminated child poverty in Canada. Sadly to say, in 1996 there were more children in poverty in this country than there were in 1986. In spite of what efforts that might have been thought about, they obviously did not work.

The Minister of Finance federally, in the federal Budget, again spoke about the measures that his government was going to take to try to address child poverty. Just a few days ago the Liberal government, trying to again, I guess, make sure they were on the right side of issues, further announced more money to try to combat child poverty.

Mr. Speaker, we cannot just tinker with this problem. We cannot do it just before an election, on a budget a week before the election. We have to have a consistent, long-term policy. While what the government is doing federally and provincially are steps in the right direction, the monies given to the School Lunch Program a few months ago by the then Minister of Social Services, now the Minister of Human Resources and Development, these are positive steps; however, they are just drops in the bucket. They won't solve the problem.

We know that in this Province 40,000 children are saying to the minister, `We need help.' We know from research that that help will help these children have a better tomorrow, have a better today, and have a better future, because they will have a better education and have the skills that are necessary to propel them and put them forward into a lifestyle they will be proud of and will do them justice commensurate with their levels of ability.

Mr. Speaker, I support the petition somewhat enthusiastically.


Orders of the Day


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

It is now 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday and we will move on to Orders of the Day. I believe it is Motion 4 and stands in the name of the hon. Member for Waterford Valley.

The hon. the Member for Waterford Valley.

MR. H. HODDER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to put forward a petition, the prayer of which is quite straightforward.

AN HON. MEMBER: A petition?

MR. H. HODDER: I am sorry, not a petition, a Private Member's motion, the prayer of which is quite self-explanatory.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. H. HODDER: Well, I can tell the members that the petition I was just talking to is directly related to the issue that is on the Private Member's motion today, because this particular Private Member's motion deals with primarily people who are at risk in our society. It deals with the people who are fundamentally marginalized by government action, and we are talking here today about the people who are on social services, who want to get off social services. They want to get away from dependency, to be independent. They want to have lives that are fulfilling, lives that are commensurate with their strengths and their ability to be able to complete a post-secondary education, and they have placed in front of them many barriers. Some of them were born in homes that did not have the means to send them off to university or to any other post-secondary school.

So, Mr. Speaker, this particular private member's motion today is asking the government to try to do their best, to be bold and be aggressive, to try to get those people who are on social assistance out of the dependency model into an independency model. Mr. Speaker, before this present Budget, the people on social assistance who wanted to go to post-secondary were able to get their social assistance and they could still then qualify for student aid. So, most of those people who got their social assistance could have gotten that by staying at home. They could have stayed at home and said: We will not do anything at all. But, no, they said: We want to take charge of our lives; and they said: We will take student loans for the extra money. We have to pay tuition, we have to pay for our books, we have to pay to get to and from the University, we need some special clothing. We will borrow from student aid to do that.

So, they had a choice: they could stay at home and get their social assistance and live their lives on the dependency model, or we could say to them: We are going to give you whatever we can give you to get you into a new life, a life that is fulfilling. So, we said to them: Yes, if you want to go to the University and you are student-parents, we will keep supporting you, and you will be required to borrow the amount of money for the extras that you want, the actual cost of going to University. But the Budget was brought down in March, and we were told today that because of budgetary measures we are going to say to the very poorest of the people in this Province, the very poorest of the people who go to university, we are going to take away that window of opportunity that you have.

Now, Mr. Speaker, anybody in this House who believes that is a sensible measure should really examine their conscience - not alone their government policy, they should examine their conscience, because that says to me that everything I stand for, in terms of trying to provide for equal opportunity for everybody to get a post-secondary education, I see this as counter productive. It is negative, it is absolutely the wrong way to go.

So, Mr. Speaker, I say to the government today in this private member's resolution, we had better listen to what is being said by some of those student-parents. They tell me, they are so discouraged that they will now have to ask themselves: Is it worthwhile? Before this particular restraint measure, they were borrowing $20,000 to $25,000 in total upon their graduation. Now, they will have to borrow maybe $30,000.

Let us look at a practical example, let us talk about a mother of three children. And that mother is in the gallery right now listening to this particular debate. She is a mother of three children, and she has gone through a change of circumstances brought about by divorce. She was middle-class, she never, ever through the day would come when she would be on social assistance, but because of her change of family circumstance, that is where she finds herself. She has three young children and she is asking herself: What can I do? She has a choice: she can stay in her home here in this area and she can say: I am victimized; I am a poor victim of circumstance. But no, Mr. Speaker, she does not do that. She asks: What can I do? And she decides that she is going to go to university. And she is prepared, as a mother of three children, to say: I am going to borrow for my tuition, I am going to borrow for my books, I am going borrow to get myself to and from the University and I am going to do all those other things, but would you, as a society, keep supporting me for those four years, I am going to be a Memorial University? I know, at the end of that day, I am going to have to pay back $25,000 or $30,000 in tuition, but would you please take me along here, come with me, walk the walk with me?

All she is asking for is a bit of help. She is saying to us: I want your support for four years, so you do not have to support me for the next twenty-five or thirty years.

Mr. Speaker, that is what this motion is about today. It is about asking the government to help those people who need help. It is saying to the government: Look at the faces of reality. Go and see those people, have compassion, have understanding, reach out a helping hand. The limit of our outreach should be going to those people on social assistance, who want to change their lives, who want to do better, who want to be independent. That is what we are talking about here today.

All of these comments that we make here, you know, all of them have real people. They have real faces, there are real children, there are real mothers. We said here in Question Period today that 80 per cent of those people who are involved in this kind of program of social assistance and wanting to be going to the University, maybe 80 per cent to 90 per cent, are females. We know the sad story of single parents and what it means in terms of poverty.

I want again to say to hon. members, if we can, in any way possible, we should be looking out there and saying to everybody in this Province who wants to get ahead: Let us give a helping hand, let us reach out. But in particular, if you have people who have the ability - and also, of course, it is an investment. Just imagine the investment in the particular instance I mentioned just now. We can help this single mother for three or four years and then she can be off the dependency model for the rest of her working life. And that is positive. What a return on that investment! This woman will probably work for the next twenty-five or thirty years. I do not know how long she would be in the workforce, but certainly, it is a very positive investment. That kind of investment is but one example of all of the others that we have represented by this particular private member's motion here today.

The second part of the private member's motion talks about making university more easily accessible to all students in the second `Therefore be it resolved'. It says: "Therefore be it resolved this Honourable House urge the Provincial Government to undertake greater efforts to make post-secondary education more accessible to all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians."

We hear every day that the enrolments at Memorial are going down. They going down for a couple of reasons, one of which, of course, is the declining enrolment in the school system. But it is not only that - it is because we have elitism coming into the school system, or into the university and post-secondary institutions now. You have to have money. You have to be prepared to do one of two things. You have to be prepared to enter into a lot of long-term debt, or you have to be born into a family circumstance which means that you do not have the need to have any debt whatsoever.

Mr. Speaker, we know that the largest single impediment to meeting the demands of our society today is the restrictive access in our Province to post-secondary education. Many of the business leaders are now saying: We have to reduce those barriers, and, of course, we have to reduce them for everybody. Even moreso should we reduce them for people who are not able to pay their own way to university. We have to have an overall comprehensive policy that is more like some of the other countries of the world, whereby we are saying the way out of our situation in this country, the way out of persistent unemployment, the way out of having a 40 per cent illiteracy rate, is through the educational system.

We have to do that by a multi-faceted approach, some of which my colleague, the Member for Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi, talked about a few minutes ago, about child poverty and the school lunch program. That is part of it. In fact, we have to look on post-secondary in the future as simply an extension to the secondary school system.

When I was a student in school in the 1950s, most people dropped out at Grade IX. Most people were gone by that time. In fact, I was a student in Grade I or Kindergarten, one of eight children. By the time I was in Grade IX in my little small school, I was the only student, and that is a sad commentary. What happened to the other eight? Well, the other eight were drop-outs and, Mr. Speaker, that is a very, very sad reflection. That is the road we are going on today if we continue with the attitudes we have towards post-secondary education. You are only going to be able to attend school if you have a tremendous drive or if your families are well-situated. Mr. Speaker, so today we have to look on post-secondary as a minimum.

When I was leaving school in 1960, Grade XI was considered to be an achievable objective, something that not everybody did, obviously, but some people who were aggressive enough or whose parents pushed them enough - in my case, my parents pushed me enough - got to Grade XI. But nowadays we have to change that. We have to look on post-secondary as almost a minimum standard that we need for our society. We have to stop this attitude of saying we are going to have free access to the high school system. Then we are going to say, when you get beyond that, it is going to start costing you big dollars - it is going to cost you a fortunate to go beyond that. We have to say, as the leaders in our society are saying today, we have to make post-secondary a fundamental right of every Newfoundlander and every Canadian.

Mr. Speaker, we know that we cannot do it all. I will just go back to when I was in university, back to the 1960s. I am one of the ones here who will tell you, I know what it is like to go to university as a parent. I know what it is like to be a married student going to university and to have family to support. It is not easy. I did years of that. So I have some idea of what that is like. But I will also tell you that in 1967 and 1968 when I was finishing up university, I did not pay any tuition. If there was one step that was maybe a half-century ahead of its time or at least a quarter of a century ahead of its time, it was that policy of Premier Joseph Smallwood and the Liberal Government. It was a step in the right direction, and the sooner we can get back to more of that approach to access to post-secondary, the better will be society.

Mr. Speaker, all I am saying today is, let us go back to examining our values. Let us go back to the times when we, in this Province, had objectives that said that post-secondary would be more easily accessible, because many of us in this Legislature today, those who are of my age, we probably would not have been here if it had not been for the opportunities given to us by our political leaders of that day. If we were able to avail - I was able to avail of free tuition for two years. Not only that, I got a salary of $100 a month when I went to university. How regressive we have become! Therefore, we have to examine -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time has elapsed.

MR. H. HODDER: - our approach because, certainly - I want to say in conclusion, Mr. Speaker -

MR. SPEAKER: Does the hon. member have leave?


MR. H. HODDER: I want to say in conclusion, Mr. Speaker, there are models out there for us to follow and we should be looking for alternatives. We have to stop trying to balance our budgets on the backs of the university students, the post-secondary students and particularly upon the backs of those people who are most at risk in our society, namely those people who depend on the Public Treasury for their support and for the maintenance of their families.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Human Resources and Employment.

MS J. M. AYLWARD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to start by saying, if this Province, if this government had access to the money, we would like to provide free tuition for everybody. But I think it was quite clear to all of us that we had some very difficult choices to make, and we have been very honest and up front about those choices right from day one when we met with students. We believe, as we have said time and time again, that these students, like any other student, has access to many programs that will help offset the costs and difficulties that single parents have when they go back to school, when they make that very difficult choice.

I would like to commend single parents for going back to school, and even married parents for going back to school, to try to further their education - but clearly, single parents, because we do know it is a sacrifice. That is why we have tried to meet those needs by providing the programs and services that we have available in our Province.

I mentioned earlier about the provincial Loans Remission Program. We all know that if a student is able to complete university education in four or five years, an average student will borrow $35,000. If that program is completed within four or five years, the student will have to pay back $22,000 because of the Loans Remission Program. This certainly is of benefit to students who are undertaking student loans.

Under other initiatives, such as the labour market development agreement, we have access for students who have an attachment to the workforce, who have done work over the last number of years, within the last thirty-six months, or have had a child within the last sixty months, to have access to some of the programs that are available under the new labour market development agreement.

With the new $4.5 million SWASP program this year, $2.5 million of that provided by the Province, matched by $2 million federal money, we have access to a record number of jobs this summer. In particular, we are hoping that 3,100 students will find employment and this will help offset some of the costs that we know students are facing.

With the National Child Benefit next year - and we have made this, as well, very clear - we will be working towards putting more money into prevention, namely, children's programs and services to assist students and other low-income families who are acquiring, or who need, services, to have those services from the National Child Benefit monies. These programs will focus on prevention and early intervention, whether they be assisting with child-care initiatives or with nutrition programs. Again, while these programs are not developed, certainly the direction we are heading towards is prevention and early intervention.

Students who are on social assistance and who are going to Memorial or other post-secondary schools will not realize a lower funding level while attending school. Certainly they will have a higher debt load when they complete, just like other students. I think it is important just to paint a picture of a low-income student who may be a single parent and compare that student with a student on social assistance, and how they have access to various programs and services.

If you look at, for example, the 200 students in Memorial who, we have been able to find from statistics, are single parents or married students with dependants and they are not receiving social assistance. They have no choice but to borrow maximum student assistance, and they will live on that student assistance. What we are asking is that single-parent students who are receiving social assistance, in addition to borrowing student aid, still have access to other monies and services through either child-care initiatives or other programs and services, as we have mentioned. We believe that by asking the single-parent students who are on social assistance to, I guess, operate in the same manner as single-parent students who are not on social assistance is a fair request to make. We also believe that our new initiative of $300,000 that we have given to MUN to assist particularly single parents who have special needs, will begin to address some of the problems and issues that they have raised over the last number of weeks since we have made this announcement.

Again this is, I guess, a menu of options for students. One would be an option for a full-time summer Student Work and Services Program where students would work the regular number of weeks, eight weeks, and they would receive a $1,400 tuition voucher in addition to their weekly stipend.

Another new component is the ability of a part-time SWASP program, which was an initiative that was of some concern because, again, not every student can work on a full-time component even if it is for only eight weeks. So this initiative is also available where the student will still receive a tuition voucher for the part-time study.

The third component of this new initiative is a double-tuition voucher system whereby a student can receive up to $2,800 in a tuition voucher and we believe, again, these are some ways that will help address the concerns that have been raised.

We recognize that when a student decides to go to university, there may not be any particular guarantee of work or employment at the end of their course of study, but we still believe, as do most people, that with a higher education you have a better opportunity of moving off social assistance and going into the workforce. What we have asked students who are on social assistance, is that you borrow, we will pay the amount of money that you have been receiving in the past so that you are not receiving less money as you are going through, but you will have to pay back more money when you complete your study, as do the other single-parent students who are not receiving social assistance and who are attending post-secondary school.

We also believe that with the same amount of money that students are receiving that they will still be able to continue to work towards their post-secondary education and that they will continue in the same way that they have. Because we are providing programs, and we are providing the opportunity for child-care initiative and trying to make some of the necessary changes to address some of their needs. Mr. Speaker, I guess I will conclude my remarks by saying that we have asked students on social assistance to borrow in the same manner as other single-parent students have to borrow and, whether they are receiving social assistance or not, many students going to university these days are single-parent students and they are borrowing the maximum social assistance without any assistance at all from social assistance or the government in that particular manner.

We have met with students and we been honest with them from the very beginning about this initiative, about why we have completed this initiative and that we would work with them in ways to explore options we can, to address their needs. That was one of the reasons why we worked with MUN on this $300,000 pilot project, to assist in some of their special needs. We do support higher education, we do support students going back, and I understand, in the federal budget, there has been some re-allocation of the payment schedule so loans can be paid back over a longer period of time. Again, I think this will also assist students in their attempt to achieve a higher level of education. I would also say that under the Student Loans Remission Program, that students who are able, particularly single parents who are able to attend on a full-time basis,if they are able to complete their studies in four or five years, will have access to a significant loan reduction program as was initiated and explained by the Department of Education.

The Budget decision, as announced, is not intended to be reversed. We have met and we have been very up front on that decision from the very beginning. We will assist in whatever way we can; we will continue to meet to address the specific needs and we look forward to working through this initiative with the students particularly through this $300,000 initiative and through any other programs and services that we do have available under the social assistance programs and hopefully, in a more, I guess, comprehensive manner when we start accessing the funds under the National Child Benefit, which we hope will also help the students who are attending university in other post-secondary education, who do not have access to social assistance. We hope to be able to provide them many of the services, particularly child-care programs and other supports that may become available under that new program.

I would like to finish by saying, if we were in a position, Mr. Speaker, we would be only too happy to provide free tuition for everyone, but we had to make some very difficult choices, and in this particular Budget, under my department in particular, when we looked at the money that we are paying to child welfare programs, when we are looking at the money we are paying to income support, I guess we traded off choices and one of the choices was to begin this initiative as opposed to rolling back basic social assistance rates and we believe this is a workable initiative in that these students are being treated in the same manner as other single-parent students who have to borrow, they have access to other programs and services that could help them address their needs.

Mr. Speaker, thank you very much.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is my pleasure to speak on this motion today, presented by the Member of Waterford Valley, the Opposition House Leader, concerning the budgetary measures taken by this government, which has the effect of forcing people on social assistance, primarily women, to borrow the full extent of the maximum student loan available before having access to social assistance benefits.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I just heard the minister speak and I heard the ministers response to questions in Question Period in an attempt to try and soften the blow that she and her government has placed on people in the situation of being social assistance recipients because they have no jobs, they have no income, they have dependents and they do not have the ability to earn an income to support themselves and their children.

Now, that, Mr. Speaker, is the situation that forced these people on social assistance in the first place and what this minister and her government fails to realize is that there is a terrific disincentive of going to university or other post secondary institutions for people who have to borrow vast amounts of money. That presents a different level of access to post secondary education for people based on the ability to pay.

Now, I have no real doubt that my children, my two girls who are both under three years of age, when the time comes will have an opportunity to go to university or to post secondary education and that will be because, I hope, that my financial circumstances and that of my family will permit me and my wife to assist them to go to post secondary education because if we cannot the prospect of borrowing the kind of money that students have to borrow today and will likely have to borrow in the future will be terrifically daunting and will be an absolute deterrent to so many people to taking on a post secondary education.

Mr. Speaker, the member for Waterford Valley referred to his university days and the fact that he was the beneficiary of free tuition for two year, I believe I was the beneficiary of free tuition for one year, I was also the beneficiary of happening to live in St. John's, living at home, to walk back and forth to university, did not have any dependents, I had very little money, but I came away from university also, with very little debt.

The job prospects now seem to be worst then they were five, ten, fifteen years ago and students now, even students who do not have the additional burden of dependents, of children to raise, find the prospect of going to university and borrowing money to a large extent a serious, serious problem.

Yesterday, we had a seminar, a round table discussion with the federal leader of the New Democratic Party and there were four students involved in this discussion, one of whom talked about the fact that she, many times, had considered quitting university because the debts that she was incurring and continuing to incur were representing a serious psychological barrier for her to complete her education because she had no, not only no assurance, she did not really have much hope of getting a job, a meaningful job when she finished. If that is the case for ordinary, intelligent young people who do not have additional concerns and problems, then surely that is a far more serious deterrent for students who have children and particularly, single women with children. I know that the Student/Parents For a Better Tomorrow want to be inclusive, they want to include the men, but lets face it, Mr. Speaker, we are talking here primarily about women who end up with the burden of raising children alone far too often. When their financial circumstances force them on social assistance, the very real prospect is that they may be there for a very long time. Those students, those individuals, who have the courage, ambition, desire, and willingness to go and attend post-secondary education to try and build a better life for themselves and their children are now being threatened with a very serious deterrent to continuing.

It is no good to try and gild the lily or pretend that the blow is softened by various programs here and there. The reality is that the individuals who we are talking about - and the minister has met them, and I've met them, and other members have met them, and perhaps we will meet them in the future - are very seriously affected by the policies of this government. They are frightened by the policies of this government, by what affect it will have on them and their families. They are clearly going to be deterred from continuing, in many cases. Not only that, the ones who aren't there now who are now on social assistance, who are looking for an opportunity to better their lot, they will not pursue the course of action because of the terrifically daunting prospect of serious debt.

When you are asking someone who is living from hand to mouth, living below the poverty line on social assistance, to go into debt of $20,000, $30,000 or $40,000, someone who is getting by, if that, from cheque to cheque, then that is not something they can face as a realistic prospect, as a realistic way for them to get from the stage of being on social assistance to be self-supporting.

Constantly government has to be reminded of the disincentives that exist for individuals on social assistance to go from that state of dependency on the public resources to self-sufficiency, that taking that step is a very difficult one, that there are barriers in the way, that there are disincentives there. Whether it be claw backs from government, whether it be taking back the drug card, whether it be the need for child care and the total absence of adequate child care in this Province. All of these barriers represent a sentence, in many cases, to a lifetime of social assistance for people. We have to find a way to ensure that those who can make the transition, who can take this step, are able to do so and to be successful.

The minister just talked about some of the programs. She talked about the remission program for student loans. That isn't one that readily fits with the circumstances of many single parents or many student parents, because the time it takes for them to complete a university education, for example, may well be in many cases longer than the conditions of that program permit.

It is well known that mature students, for example, don't do a full course load. Whether they are parents or whether they have dependents or whether they don't, mature students do a course load of approximately 3.5 courses per year. Single parents or student parents are often, when they are the sole support or care giver for dependent children, only able to do three courses per semester. That will stretch out their attendance at university or school perhaps a little longer than many students, but it will also put them outside the remission program. So it isn't a viable solution to the crippling debt load that they are going to be facing.

I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether you think it is fair, and whether hon. members think it is fair, for a person on social assistance, living below the poverty line, to be required to borrow money to feed the child, and then pay interest on the money that you are using to feed your child for maybe ten years or fifteen years. Pay interest on the money that you are using for child care. Pay interest on the money that you are using to feed your child, for maybe ten or fifteen years, pay interest on the money you are using for child care, pay interest on the money you are using for clothing for that child for so many years.

The whole purpose of student loans is to pay for the cost of the education, not to pay for the cost of raising your family or supporting your family while you are doing this. And you cannot compare other people in the same situation who may well be students and parents at the same time but do not come from the same route to that student status, from social assistance to being a student.

There are probably many people, school teachers for example - and I know the Member for Waterford Valley was one of them - who, having been a school teacher, having had a child, went back to university for more education, for further education. They are in a totally different circumstance than someone who is on social assistance, a totally different circumstance than someone who has taught for three or four years and has a teaching job to go back to, goes to university, along with a spouse perhaps, and has dependent children. They borrow student loans. They have no problem because they know they are going back to that teaching job and they are going to be able to pay off those loans, and they are going to be able to live comfortably for the foreseeable future.

That is not the situation of someone on social assistance, who is on the outside of the job market looking in, who does not have a prospect of a steady job to comfort them in terms of going to university and taking on a serious debt. So it is not fair to compare students who are coming from the social assistance circumstance to other students who are parents who may well be borrowing student loans. It is not reasonable.

I remember in my own neighbourhood, as a child, we had a neighbour who was the head of a family, a woman whose husband had died, I believe - in any event, he was not present in the family - and there were four or five children, all of them quite young. That woman spent several years pleading, cajoling, lobbying, fighting, with social services to allow her to go to university and continue to receive social assistance. She fought for years - several years in fact - and finally they said: Yes, you can go to university and we will continue to provide you with social assistance.

That woman became a social worker, a registered social worker, worked for the Department of Social Services afterwards for many years, supported her family, paid her taxes, was a contributing member of society and was a very good social worker. That is the kind of example of what can happen, when the alternative for her would be to spend the rest of her life and her children's lives on social assistance. But she had to fight back in those days, fifteen or twenty years ago, to be allowed to do that.

You can go to university if you want now, as long as you are prepared to take on $4,400 of debt per semester, $8,800 a year if you go two semesters. If you go for four years, that is a lot of money. You are looking at $40,000 for four years. If it takes you five years, and in many cases it does, you are looking at nearly $50,000. That is not something that a person on social assistance can contemplate, it is not something they are prepared to take on, and it is not something that can be taken on by someone who may be in an older category.

One of the people who has come to see me, and some other members, has three children who are quite young. This woman has already been in the workforce for many years, was forced into social assistance, is now trying to better her life, cannot finish her degree without going another $30,000 into debt, and cannot face the prospect of having a mortgage-like debt for the remaining years of her working life. That would be a deterrent. She won't be able to do it. That is a tragedy, and I don't think that the minister recognizes what a deterrent to the completion of an education her policy is causing to these individuals. Saving $2 million to the taxpayers, she thinks. Passing that $2 million on to the students, let them have the debt. We will download the deficit now. The federal government is downloading to the Province and the Province is now downloading to the students. We will pass the debt along to the students. People on social assistance will take responsibility for the debt instead of the government. That is what seems to be happening here, Mr. Speaker, but I don't think it is going to work.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. HARRIS: If I may have thirty seconds to continue, Mr. Speaker.


MR. SPEAKER: The hon. member has been denied leave.

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. LUSH: Mr. Speaker, this is a very sensitive issue to speak to. It is very easy for people who don't have to make policy to speak to this particular issue and to advance a strong position in favour of the resolution. It is very easy to do, Mr. Speaker, when one is not in the position of having to develop the policy that establishes this particular procedure. All very easy, Mr. Speaker.

I want to tell hon. members that I am quite certain that all of the sensitivity, all of the caring, all of the compassion is not on that particular side of the House. Mr. Speaker, this is, as I said, a very difficult proposition. As a matter of fact, the resolution itself addresses the complication, the complexity. It addresses it in the two resolves. After stating a number of `WHEREAS' the resolve says, "THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT this Honourable House urge the provincial government to restore its post-secondary funding arrangements for students with dependents to those that were in place immediately prior to the 1997 Budget." Now, Mr. Speaker, if one were looking at all of the `WHEREAS' one would think the resolution would end there. The resolution would end at that point. "THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT this Honourable House urge the provincial government to restore its post-secondary funding arrangements for students with dependents to those that were in place immediately prior to the 1997 Budget."

I believe hon. gentlemen who designed this resolution realized that to stop there was creating an unequal situation, the very reason the policy was made. That it was not establishing a level playing field, that it was not addressing equal opportunity in education or equal access to education, otherwise, Mr. Speaker, the resolution would have stopped there but realizing that in doing that, as badly needed as the finances to assist those people, we realize that there are other students in similar circumstances, Mr. Speaker, who are finding it very, very difficult. To address that completes the resolution, "AND BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED THAT this Honourable House urge the provincial government to undertake greater efforts to make post-secondary education more accessible to all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians".

Now, Mr. Speaker, it is a wee bit short I suppose of advocating free education. Mr. Speaker, this is a party, this is a government that believes in free education. We tried it. The party which I represent tried free education, as the hon. House Leader addressed so eloquently but we found that it was too big a proposition for this little Province to deal with. We found out that we could not handle it. We could not carry on with free education but that is the answer and it is a policy to which I personally subscribe but I believe it is the wrong time. We are in the wrong economic climate to be advocating free education or certainly to execute any form of free education.

Mr. Speaker, so the resolution itself recognizes the complexity and the sensitivity of the problem here. The resolution itself demonstrates why the government was forced to do what it did, and as I indicated, that the government changed its policy with respect to single students with dependents on social services, to the current policy for what it believed were all the right reasons. It may be wrong, it could be that we are wrong but the government did it sincerely for all the right reasons. What were the right reasons? Two categories, Mr. Speaker, two categories: 1). It was an attempt to establish a level playing field for other single students with dependents or married couples with dependents who were not on social services, who too, find it very difficult to go to university or go to any post-secondary institution.

To hear hon. members talk, you would not know, but some of these students were filthy rich, and, Mr. Speaker, it is true that we have some rich people going to university there is no question about that, but I can tell hon. members that there are some students, in all categories, single students, who are making a great sacrifice to go to university today. They are middle-income people, Mr. Speaker, and hon. members know them, middle-income people who just fall over the line of not being able to access student loans, having to pay and their students having to get into debt or their parents having to get into debt, Mr. Speaker, we all wish that none of our students had to incur any debt to go to university but, we have to consider the fiscal ability of the Province and I am sure these students would attempt to understand that the fiscal ability of the Province -

Now, are hon. gentlemen opposite saying that this is our policy, that when we get in government that we will reinstate this policy, are they saying that? Are they saying that they are going to bring in free education because, the last resolution is really not firm in what it says, Mr. Speaker, it is not really clear as to what they want; they are just saying: "THAT this Honourable House urge the provincial government to undertake greater efforts to make post-secondary education more accessible to all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians."

Now, Mr. Speaker, that is, I suppose, a harmless resolution because it really does not say very much and I do not want to trivialize the importance of this particular resolution, but hon. members know that I have spoken to many Private Members Resolutions and tried to guide and direct if you will, and educate members as to what kind of resolution they should submit - or not what kind, I wouldn't be so presumptuous - but to talk about its wording, a wording of a resolution and, Mr. Speaker, a resolution should be clear in what it wants, clear in terms of its results, in terms of its actions; `urge' is hardly very clear.

So I will urge my government to do all of those things but -

AN HON. MEMBER: You will?

MR. LUSH: And I will. - but, Mr. Speaker, what the resolution is asking, the resolution is asking the government to change a policy that was annunciated in the Budget, and as I have said there were two reasons for it. 1), was to equalize, to make consistent the funding that is available to all students and that is what the resolution asks, that was the last part of it, for all students, and that is what we attempted to do, Mr. Speaker, rather than trying to create an unequal group as opposed to an equal group, the government, in its wisdom, tried to equalize. As I said, it may be wrong but, Mr. Speaker, I believe that there are students present in that group who are going to capitalize on the programs that are available to them and that they are going to educate themselves like all Newfoundlanders have in the past and they are going to become productive citizens of this Province. I am sure they will respond to the challenge. There are others.

The second reason, Mr. Speaker - I know the hon. member is waiting for it - why the government accepted this policy, the second reason why it changed its policy, was for fiscal reasons. Of course for fiscal reasons. An educational policy can't ignore the fiscal ability of the Province. Health can't ignore the fiscal ability of the Province, forestry policies can't ignore the fiscal ability of the Province. No policy in government can ignore the fiscal ability of its people to pay.

One doesn't need to be ashamed of that. Every policy of government, every initiative we take, is based upon the fiscal ability of the Province to do it. To do otherwise is irresponsible. I heard somebody say, I think it was the Member for Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi, I think he said that if we were to carry out this program it would cost the government $2 million. Or to put it another way, by eliminating the program we save $2 million. That makes sense, doesn't it? We save $2 million.

I ask hon. members, if they were on this side of the House today, where would they find that $2 million? Where would they find it? Would they close more hospital beds, would they reduce salaries to doctors? Because I think they have taken the position we should increase the salaries to doctors. Would they increase taxes? What would they do to find that? Because you have to find it. It can't go like cherries and pull it off a tree. We have to find it. You have to find it. Then, where would they find the money for the last part of the resolution? Where would they find the money for that? To treat all students equally, is what we are saying, and this is why this government has accepted the approach that it is accepting, so that we can treat all students equally.

That is a hard objective, that is a hard goal, that is a hard aim to accomplish, to try and treat everybody equally. It is a hard thing to do. But the government in its wisdom figured the way to do it was to try and get everybody to access student loans rather than being sponsored by the public's dollars, by the taxpayers of this Province. We thought that would be the most equitable way to go. That would be the most reasonable way to ensure equal opportunity of education and access to education. It has been pointed out very eloquently by the minister that these students will not have less money. They will not have less money, it is just that they will have to go and access student loans like all other students in this Province.

I believe the people of this Province will believe that that is a fair and just approach. I believe they will. Certainly as opposed to doing the things I mentioned we would have to do to find that extra $2 million. Increase their taxes. Ask the public of this Province whether they are prepared to do that, to have their taxes increased, or doctors to have their salaries reduced.

The hon. gentleman mentioned, again the hon. Member for Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi, it was a different procedure altogether for married couples like teachers and people on social assistance.

Mr. Speaker, I am not at all trying to minimize the problem of people on social assistance. I am not trying to minimize it at all. I know it is a very difficult problem. I went to university as a married person. I taught for three or four years, and if anybody thinks that I had enough money to pay when I came back to university, they are dreaming. I never in my lifetime had the money to go to university when I decided to go. I was married. I had to pay off debts that I had accumulated my first four years when I was there. I went back and borrowed again.

When I entered, as a member of this House, like some hon. members here, I owed a student loan. When I ran for my first time I was still paying off a student loan. As a matter of fact I got a nasty letter at one point from the university, because back in those days we didn't borrow from the banks; we had some kind of a plan established that was called a bursary and I borrowed from it. I assumed that they would never come after me for the money until I was finished. I got a couple of letters, and I said I wasn't finished yet; I only have a Bachelor of Education degree and I am going on for a Bachelor of Arts.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. LUSH: If I could just finish that thought, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Does the hon. member have leave?

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MR. SPEAKER: By leave, the hon. the Member for Terra Nova.

MR. LUSH: I just want to finish.

AN HON. MEMBER: You got the nasty letter.

MR. LUSH: (Inaudible) my last letter, when I had finished my Masters degree. Now I wanted to say I was going on for a Doctorate but I was here as a member of the House.

I got this nasty letter and I figured: Who in their right mind would send out a letter like that to a graduate, a young Newfoundlander who worked so hard to get where he was, and send him out this nasty letter. They were going to refer it to the Credit Bureau or something, so I thought I would speak to the Minister of Education, who is now deceased. I called him aside. I didn't ask him a question in the House. I called him aside, behind the curtain, to find out that he had received the same letter.

Mr. Speaker, none of us Newfoundlanders are in a position of wealth. University is a sacrifice and a commitment for us all. I believe that this government is going to remain committed to equal educational opportunity and equal access.

We believe that the time is going to come when the economy of this Province is going to turn around and we are going to be able to help all of the students in this Province toward a more affordable education.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. E. BYRNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am not going to belabour the issue too much. I will take a few minutes to speak to the Private Member's resolution, and in particular to some comments the Minister of Human Resources and Employment mentioned, and the Member for Bonavista South.

This member knows full well, as a former Minister of Social Services, that nobody in this Chamber, no single member, no matter what side of the House you sit on, has a corner on compassion. The member has put forward an argument that government did this for two reasons. One was to create a level playing field between students who find themselves in similar circumstances, single or married parents; and, two, on our ability as a province to pay. I would like to deal with two of those, because I don't think the argument holds any water whatsoever.

First of all, if you are talking about 300 - 400 students who are at university, who are not on social services, a fundamental question must be asked: If they are in similar circumstances, why aren't they?

Government has not tabled, and the minister through her department has not tabled, any information that would explain that reason. Is it because married couples, one may be working, while we have two children? Certainly many situations exist at Memorial like that. Is it because they have other resources available to them, where they did not have to go to social services because they had no other choice but to go to social services? Certainly there are situations that exist like that.

The minister has not said at all that there are 300-and-some-odd students at Memorial, single parents, the majority of which are single moms, who are on social services and there are another fifteen or twenty or another 200 that should be that are not, she has not offered that, she has not because what we are talking about and there are good reasons why she has not, I say to the member from Terra Nova, very sound reasons because if she did table that information then clearly we would know that the argument she is making is without merit.

The reality is that if we take the member for Terra Novas argument and we talk about access and equal access, then we should not have taken that portion away. If we are going to treat every student equally in terms of the student loan program, then every student should have the ability, in terms of tuition, the same amount provided, the same amount provided for living away from home allowances, the same amount provided depending on the course of study for books, the same amount provided for transportation to and from, but I am not so sure that the hon. member is saying and if he is please clear it up for me, I am not so sure that the hon. member is saying and the minister is saying, that we should in this day and age tell single parents to borrow money to pay for child care, students in particular, to borrow money to pay for children's clothing, which this government increased by fifteen per cent, they talk about where we would find the money, I will get to that argument because I have some concrete suggestions for all the members.

The reality, Mr. Speaker, is that what this initiative has done, it has put up a road block, it has offered a deterrent to education. There are those who are in the gallery today, I say to the member, that you should sit down and speak with because if your argument was true, then every person who was in that gallery today would be able to afford to go to university from here for the next five or six or seven years, but the reality sir, is quite different and I would suggest that you take the time to meet with some of these students and hear their stories and let them tell you what this initiative by your government will do.

I have heard lots of wonderful stories about my colleague when he was in university and when this gentlemen was in university and about what was available and how they had to borrow and all that sort of stuff. It pales by comparison to what students had to borrow in the last fifteen years and I am one of them, I was one of them and still am.

I left Memorial and I am glad I left when I did and I finished when I did. I would not want to be a student today. I left Memorial in 1988 with a $27,000 student loan, $410 a month, nine and a half years, four years left I have. So, I understand fully. If I had to do the exact same program today in the exact same time, I would have had to borrow $44,000.

The Minister of Human Resources and Employment stood up today and said, but we have other programs that will assist, let me go through them: the Loans Remission Program, I will leave for last because that is important. Labour Market Development Agreement that is available to everybody, whether you are a single parent or you are not a single parent, the trick is you have to meet the criteria, that is the trick. Meeting the criteria, now that is a different set of rules and regulations. Student Work and Services Program, available to every student, irrespective of what their background situation is. Child Benefit Programs, next year we are going to be introducing Child Benefit Programs that focuses on prevention. Who would disagree? Nobody. How does it help the 355 people a day or so that are in the position? It does not.

Single parents on social assistance, equal treatment for those who are not. If I have ever seen a blatant attempt and an argument that does not hold water in pitting one class of people at Memorial at another class of people, I am shocked that you would even mention it, shocked, but here is the real kicker, that government saved $2 million under - we will use the members argument, under financial ability to pay, $2 million and then the minister says, we are working with Memorial University, now get this, we are working with Memorial, she made an announcement today about a program that she did not provide any details to the House, that is going to put $300,000, that is going to be available to all those people. They just saved $2 million on those individuals' backs, and now they are going to turn around and offer $300,000 on the other hand in a new program, if they qualify.

This must be the new Liberal way. They have done it on the Canada Health and Social Transfer act, which is the root of the problem where we are today. In the last three years over $160 million has been taken out in transfers to this Province by the federal government for health, education, and social services. That is the problem. Alexa McDonough, the national NDP Leader, said, and I will quote her because it was a good argument: The minister's argument today is like saying that they stole your purse and offered you bus fair back home.

That is what it amounts to, and that is all that it amounts to. I say to all hon. members, if we would like to find $2 million I would like to offer you some constructive solutions. If we are talking about revenue generation and we are in a revenue crunch - and there is no doubt, I say to the hon. member, that we are. All of us, irrespective of what side of the House we sit on, must understand that reality. But it is a question of will on one side, and it is a question of government priority on another side.

I would like to talk about the Harmonized Sales Tax. At the end of four years, government will have to come up with $110 million in extra and needed revenue as a result of the Harmonized Sales Tax. What did that do to single parents, and all parents? First time tax on children's clothes, no matter what their age, 15 per cent. What did that do to student aid? Was student aid upped proportionately to help or assist? No. Was social services upped proportionately to help or assist or reflect that reality? No, it was not. Want to talk about mismanagement? We can go on and on, but I'm not going to do it, I'm not going to delve into that today.

The only point I would like to leave today is this. If we are talking, members, about equality, then we have to recognize fundamentally that this decision that has been made has affected a particular group of people that is in a particular set of circumstances that are unique. You cannot compare, as hard as it is for other single parents, or other married parents at University who are not on social assistance, you cannot compare those who are on them. Because they are unique and separate circumstances unto themselves. It is a moot argument, and what we would refer to, in courses that I did at University, as the introduction of a red herring into a debate that has nothing to do with the debate in the first place. That is what it is.

I think we have to recognize today that if we really want to acknowledge and provide equal treatment in this particular set of circumstances this private member's resolution describes, then we have to come to it with some honesty and some recognition that there is a group of people who have been affected differently than all other people who may be around or in similar circumstances. Just because you are a student and a single parent doesn't mean you are like a student who is not a single parent. Just because you are a student on social services attending Memorial University doesn't mean you are like a student who is married, or like two students who are married with two children. It does not mean that at all.

What we have done, in effect, is we have made a policy that does not deter the cycle of dependency but increases it, and ensures it will continue. Unless we recognize that I doubt any resolution will be made to this particular problem based upon the particular set of circumstances that have been put forward.

I will sit down by saying that I support the hon. member's private member's resolution. I wish those who are affected well. Keep up the pressure, because it can work. There is nothing wrong with sitting at the table and working with government and offering other concrete solutions. If government wants to know from you where it can save $2 million elsewhere, ask them for fifteen days to twenty days to provide it for them. That is what you should ask. Ask them for fifteen days or twenty days to go through their Estimates to look at other government programs where they may be able to find $50,000 there, $150,000 here, $200,000 there. Is government willing to open up that process to that group? That is for government to answer. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Burgeo & LaPoile.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RAMSAY: Mr. Speaker, it gives me pleasure to rise in debate today on this resolution put forward by the hon. Member for Waterford Valley.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) last night?

MR. RAMSAY: Partially yes, I was involved with the organizers.

Mr. Speaker, the resolution that is put forward, I would suppose is based on a premise that the decision government has taken to bring the educational funding of students who receive social assistance in line with those students who don't, first and foremost. Not that they would be penalized in any other way but that they would receive, first and foremost and take into account the full student loan prior to receipt of any other funding.

I know I have dealt with a number of people, some of them relatives of mine, some of them constituents and some both, who had attended university and college of various programs under the previous student assistants program. Some of them were successful, some of them were not successful. Some found it too difficult to bear the burden of education and raising a family and the difficulty associated with trying to accomplish the task while, I suppose, not only being in an economic situation, where they were in receipt of social assistance but also being in a situation where the difficulties of family and other things made it too difficult to continue. Others were successful. One, who I know in my own family had a difficult time. She is now a qualified nurse and is working full time supporting her children and has since gotten married but at the very least was successful. So there are two examples, Mr. Speaker, of a situation under the previous regulations where the social assistance was the first order of payment and the student loan was secondary where someone received the funding. A success story and one that was not as successful.

Now, Mr. Speaker, if we are to look at some of the arguments that come forward as to why we should not maintain the policy as we have brought forward in the budget. One of the key arguments that is made is that to allow a person who is in receipt of social assistance benefits to take on the debt burden, that is a maximum debt burden as opposed to a limited or a smaller debt burden under the previous system, is somehow or other going to be more of a burden. Of course it will be more of a burden but will, in some cases, prevent them from continuing on and finalizing their education.

Now I think the difficulties that people face involved in education I think occur regardless of where the money comes from. The debt burden of course is something that is significant and the debt burden is something that following the graduation of the student, would have to be taken on. Now the question then is, once two people graduate, one who is a social assistance recipient prior to graduating and one who is not, does the person who has been receiving social assistance carry a heavy burden from that point forward? Now maybe they do because of their background, because of the fact that they have had a more difficult time leading up to that point but there are still the eligibilities in place for the remission program for student assistance under the student loans program. All of the programs from employment assistance that are available to all graduates are available equally to both, the student who is in receipt of social assistance and the student who is not.

I only have to look I suppose into my own family background and speak about my wife. When I first met my wife she was a single parent raising two children and she was in receipt of a social assistance supplement at that time. I don't know if other members here in this House have that experience to live with, but I experienced that. I experienced dealing with her involvement in post-secondary education, and her eventual starting of a business which was successful. It was from the single-parent side of things that I saw ingenuity, I saw the ability to deal with very little money in raising a family. As the hon. the Member for Kilbride, opposite, said: none of us hold the franchise to life experience over and above any other member. We all have the experience that we draw on in reaching our own conclusions about what is and what is not good government policy.

I would suggest that the hon. member's resolution, however well intentioned, is an unacceptable resolution at this point. Because, in my estimation, the hon. member's resolution is one that does not fully address the issue at hand. The detail of it is not clear, the situation is one that is not adequately addressed, and it does not really reach the facts of the situation.

It must be fun, at times, to be in the Opposition. I know this is a very serious issue. But since this previous Budget, the one that we are now dealing with, has come in, it seems that they are opposed to everything. If we talk about measures we have taken, difficult choices that we make, in cases like this - I mean, sure, it would be nice to have a free education, and probably an admirable thing to offer to the people of the Province, but not to the exclusion of fiscal responsibility.

The hon. members opposite, during the election campaign, were speaking of balancing the budget in an amount of time, similar to the approach this government has taken, over the course of about a four-year period, to reach a balanced budget. The hon. members opposite, since the Budget came in - we bring in any measures to try to save money and they say that is wrong. We implement a parks privatization policy. They say: That is wrong, you should not do that. Okay. They say: The education policy you have undertaken where you are trying to maintain a specific student-teacher ratio and allow the number of teachers to be maintained in accordance with the number of students - they say that is wrong. We make changes to other policy areas. We maintain equivalent funding in health care, and even have a small increase this year in health care funding. They say we have to put more in there.

In the things we do and the choices we make, such as this particular choice of deciding that students should borrow on an equivalent basis with all other students, the Opposition suggests we should not do that, that we should offer education of the utmost to everybody.

It is a very honourable offering, but we are also in the business of being practical about how we intend to pay for the public policy that we implement on behalf of the people of the Province.

In the Blue Book - the infamous Blue Book from the previous provincial election - the Opposition stated, `Governing involves making choices.' Words very similar to the words of the government in power now. They said, `Often these choices are difficult.' This is one of them. This is an area that is difficult, along with a lot of other areas. None of these political decisions are made by three-headed monsters in the government who want people to dislike us. We make these decisions because we feel they are the right decisions, taking into account our fiscal ability to pay, taking into account the overall fairness in the system between those, in this case, who receive social assistance, and those who are either working poor or other students.

Mr. Speaker, if you were to look at it, and to look at the students who would get out of post-secondary institutions and go off into the job market, there would be an advantage conferred upon the student who had less to pay back. Now, maybe a student who was in receipt of social assistance should have a small advantage, or a large advantage, but could you say that to the person who was borderline social assistance, was not making a small enough amount to receive social assistance? Should that person then be denied the right to have a lower amount of a student loan because of the fact that they just happen to be one step over where the other person is who is in receipt of the social assistance benefit?

To say that on a socio-economic basic the person who is receiving social assistance is going off into the workforce and should be afforded a better opportunity and therefore be afforded the right to pay less for their student loan, there is a good argument for that, I suppose, but on the overall weighing it out, the government, the Cabinet, through the study and the analysis that was done, and the discussions of all members here, we have concluded that really this is an issue of making it equally fair for all concerned.

The fact is that the social assistance recipients are able to maintain a certain level of benefits while they are attending university or college or other post-secondary institution. They are able to maintain and receive remission, and the other programs that the minister mentioned; also, under the SWASP program, certain things are available to them. There is tuition credit. And the forthrightness, I suppose, to coin a word, of the minister in bringing it forward and discussing it with representative groups of the students on an immediate basis, as soon as the issue was raised as being a concern - maybe not to the point of satisfying all the concerns of the students, but at the very least a willingness to attempt whatever flexibility is possible in making the policy work.

It is an issue that I feel strongly about. I know what it is like for someone to be there who has received social assistance. I also know what it is like for someone who, just a little bit above that, is what is sometimes referred to as `the working poor'. I think we have to start shifting our concerns to make sure that social assistance is less likely to perpetuate itself, and those who are the working poor receive the equivalent or maybe even sometimes an incentive to continue on with work. Work is something that we all aspire to, regardless of our socio-economic background, and it is certainly, in this case, a bit of a side issue on who can afford and who cannot afford to go forward with a post-secondary education.

Mr. Speaker, I just want to conclude my remarks by congratulating the hon. member on bringing the issue forward. I think it has been very well discussed here on both sides. I know some other members want to have an opportunity to discuss it, and with that, I will allow the hon. members opposite to come forward.

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It cannot be easy for an adult who has been out of school for a number of years to go back to school after that period of time. And, you know, I think it must be even more difficult for a single parent with dependants to be a full-time parent and a full-time student. It cannot be easy. When I hear a parent, a single woman with three children tell me that she had no other choice but to further her education in order to eliminate the poverty that she and her children were in, knowing that this was the only way out of poverty for her and her children in the future, it must have taken some strength and a lot of courage for individuals like that, to go back to school and to pursue an education. And you know, they do not need to have the support mechanisms that are in place for them, pulled out from under them just when they are able to start that process.

I feel that the Provincial Government should restore its post-secondary funding arrangements for students with dependants, those that were in place prior to this Budget coming down, and I support the member's resolution that he has put forward today. I have not heard any substantial arguments against it. I have heard an argument here that we have all had to borrow for our education and yes, maybe we have all had to borrow for our education and maybe some of us are still paying for it, but that does not make it right, does not make this decision right and it does not validate this decision. These people, these parents, these single people with dependants are looking for an opportunity. They are willing to invest and they are investing. They are borrowing to pay for their tuition, to pay for their books, to help offset the cost of their education. They are borrowing today up to $2,500 a semester but, Mr. Speaker, they are asking for some income support to help them support their family.

We should not be asking these people to borrow to put food on their tables to feed their children while they further their education, upgrade their skills and better themselves in society. I feel that this is a regressive decision of government. Do you know what it says to me? It says to me that we are telling people in this Province: You have to be in a certain financial income bracket in order to be able to get a post-secondary education. You have to be able to care for your children on your own before you can get an education, and this is not acceptable. I do not see this as being acceptable.

I think that, as a promise, we should be more progressive in post-secondary education. We should be putting in place more programs and support mechanisms to help offset the social and economic crises we are in, the difficulties we are in, in this Province. Even today, I heard people in this House - and I have heard it time and time again from the government side of the House - talking about the new sector of growth in this Province, the strides that they are making in creating new development, more innovative opportunities for the people of this Province. When I think about that, it says to me, that with these new opportunities, there come more jobs, there come new jobs, technologically advanced jobs in science, in engineering, in all different fields and, at the same time they are saying that they are progressing towards that, they are taking out support mechanisms that allow people to become educated, to become trained, to be able to take advantage of these jobs. I do not see that as right. I do not see that as being a move in the right direction.

Even more reason is, when we look at the competitiveness in society, the competitiveness in the job markets today. The demand is there; employers are demanding people who are well-trained, well-skilled, are professional individuals, and if these people are going to be able to compete, if they are going to be able to work in the new global economy that we are envisioning in this Province, they have to be educated in order to do so.

I think that to expect single parents to borrow to pay for their child's needs, to put food on the table for their children and to clothe them while they are in school is absolutely ridiculous. I think that what we are asking is for them to mortgage themselves for life, and that is really unfair to them as a parent and to their children.

When we look at whom this program really affects, it affects single parents yes, but moreso than that, it affects women in society, and I think most people would agree that the majority of single parents are probably women. When you look at the statistics - and there were statistics put out by the Canadian Labour Congress, I think it was in 1994. At that time it said that of all the provinces in Canada, the highest unemployment rate for women was in this Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. At that time it was at about 26 per cent. I can only assume it has grown higher since then.

I think what this government is doing is asking these parents to mortgage their lives in order to better themselves, in order to upgrade their education, in order to care for their children while they do it, and to provide their children with an adequate standard of living, and this is wrong. It does not seem acceptable, it is certainly not applaudable, and I think it is something that should be changed, and more programs should be put in place to help these people.

We talk about an investment of $2 million. I want to say that what you are investing into these single parents with children is an investment for life. You look at that $2 million and it is a drop in the bucket compared to what this Province is going to have to pay out in income support for these same people over a fifteen- or twenty-year period. I think that what we should be doing is putting in place programs where we are willing to invest, we are encouraging, we are asking people to go out and get a proper education. By making that investment as a province, it will pay off for all the people of Newfoundland and Labrador at the end of the day.

I find it discouraging, you know, because in this Province we realize we are facing some tough decisions economically, and this government feels that yes, we are in a fiscal crisis, and the need to do something about that. But at the same time that it is trying to solve the fiscal crisis of the Province, of the government, it is forcing the people of this Province, the people who can least afford it, and in this case we are talking about the single parents who want to pursue their education, it is forcing them into a fiscal crisis themselves.

It sees it as alright for those single parents to be in a fiscal crisis, to mortgage themselves to the hilt, to dig a hole so far that it will take them about twenty years to thirty years, probably forty years, to crawl out of it again. It sees that as alright as it slashes its way to fiscal prosperity in this Province. To me, Mr. Speaker, that is cutting off your nose to spite your face and it doesn't make any sense. We are creating a cycle of dependency in this Province and we are not encouraging people to be all that they can be. We aren't encouraging them to move on, to get a better education, to beat the system, to make a better life for themselves and their children. I think that is what this resolution is asking, and I support it 100 per cent. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. H. HODDER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I want to first of all thank the members who participated in the debate this afternoon. I certainly appreciate their coming forward and sharing their opinions with the members of the House, and also with the student parents who were able to be present. I note that many of the student parents have had to leave during the debate, and that is for a very good reason. That is because they are parents. They have had to leave to go to their homes or to attend to what parents have to attend to in the late afternoon (inaudible) children are coming home from school, and doing the regular things that all parents do in making sure their young children are looked after.

A year or so ago the Premier of the Province said he couldn't cut, cut, cut his way to prosperity in this Province. These student parents who are represented in this motion, and those who were present here today, they wish that the Premier would have listened to his own advice, that he wouldn't have tried to cut $2 million from this particular program. Because for these student parents it certainly has meant that for them he has cut, cut, cut, and he has barred the door to any future hopes of prosperity that these people might have.

I want to make a couple of other comments. The minister noted today that she has had some discussions with the Student Parents for a Better Tomorrow, and I'm encouraged by that. I've known about the meetings for some time. She made several announcements today that I would like to react to in the few minutes before we call the vote.

She made mention of the Loans Remission Program. Now, Mr. Speaker, my understanding is that, to be able to access the Loans Remission Program, you have to do a complete loan of course work. Now, that would be five courses at the university and it might vary somewhat at some of the other post secondary institutions. However, many of the student parents are not able to take the full load of courses. That is because they have to be parents during the evening and on weekends, they have to be students during the day and there is just so much time that you have and they also have the mundane things of looking after children, they have to be there for them. They cannot neglect their children because they happen to be university students, so therefore most of them do not take the full load of five courses per semester. Therefore, the Loans Remission Program is not tailor made for them.

Also, the minister mentioned the Student Work and Service Program, SWASP program. Well, there is a couple of things there we should note, one is that, if they participate in that particular program and they might compromise again, their accessability to the Loans Remission Program. Also keep in mind that they compromise it because you have to have access to the total amount of student loans which is $4400 per semester.

So, the bottom line is that all of these programs are only available to these students if they have indeed accessed the full amount. So, basically what the minster is saying, is that, if you have taken on the full amount $4400 per semester, then you will be able to have some help with some of these other initiatives. Of course keep in mind, as well, that up to this point these students have not accessed the full amount of student loans, so therefore some of these programs that the minster announced today are of little or no value to the student parent group that we are talking about.

Also, the minister mentioned the EI Reach Back Program, that again is not necessarily accessible to the student parent because of course, it does not apply to MUN students anyway and you must be graduating within twelve months and you must have an active EI claim. So, if you do not have an active EI claim, you are not graduating within twelve months, the EI Reach Back Program does not apply to you.

So, Mr. Speaker, there is room for discussion with the minister. We are encouraged that the minster said today that she will meet with this group again to see if there can be any solutions. I read from the comments that have been made that the government is not going to go and approve this particular private members resolution. I am sorry about that, that is regrettable. It reminds me of a commentary that was made in the local press by one of the university students, David Cochrane, who writes for The Evening Telegram in the on campus column. He compares this particular initiative to government denying student-parents access to social assistant programs as being more akin to the reform party program than it is to what traditionally has been Liberal Party philosophy. Certainly it is very right-wing so therefore I note that this particular program certainly does not show the kind of sensitivity to human need that has been traditional Liberal values. I tend to agree with the student, David Cochrane, when he stated that this particular program initiative has seen this government waiver greatly towards right-wing kind of initiatives and certainly that is something that the members of that party will have to be answerable to the general public.

Mr. Speaker, again the minister said that the main focus was a financial matter. Now I have been doing a lot of talking in the House lately about being pro-active, about being interventionist, about trying to prevent things. I am talking about particularly, as it relates to health care. Well where could you invest this amount of money and be able to recover this amount by way of an investment return? We know that yes, it means that we have to support some of the poorest parents in this Province to get them out of the cycle they are in but the returns are just astronomical. If you can support somebody for a few years and then they could be qualified to be able to get out of that cycle of dependency to one of independency, that is a good investment. That is being interventionist, it is being pro-active, it is being preventative and that has to be the overall goal of any government policy. The idea is to solve this problem now so that we don't have to solve it in the future years and certainly what these parents are trying to do is get themselves into a good financial situation so that they don't be any longer dependent on the public treasury.

Mr. Speaker, I thank again hon. members for their comments on the resolution and I would ask all hon. members if they would vote in the affirmative. Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair is going to call the question now.

All those in favour of the motion say, 'aye'.


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


MR. SPEAKER: I declare the motion defeated.

AN HON. MEMBER: If you had your members here you would probably win this vote.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Are the hon. members asking for Division?




MR. SPEAKER: All those in favour of the motion, please rise.

CLERK: Mr. Hodder, Mr. Fitzgerald, Mr. Jack Byrne, Mr. Osborne, Mr. Ottenheimer, Mr. Harris, Ms. Jones.

MR. SPEAKER: All those against the motion, please rise.

CLERK: The hon. the Minister of Forest Resources and Agrifoods, the hon. the Minister of Justice and Attorney General, the hon. the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, the hon. the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs, the hon. the Minister of Education, Mr. Lush, Mr. Penney, Mr. Langdon, the hon. the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation, the hon. the Minister of Environment and Labour, the hon. the Minister of Development and Rural Renewal, the hon. the Minister of Government Services and Lands, Mr. Noel, Mr. Oldford, Mr. Canning, Mr. Smith, Mr. Ramsay, Ms. Hodder, Mr. Woodford, Mr. Mercer, Mr. Reid, Ms. Thistle, Mr. Sparrow, Mr. Wiseman.

Mr. Speaker, seven `ayes' and twenty-four `nays'.

MR. SPEAKER: I declare the motion defeated.

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, tomorrow we will be doing the two remaining heads that are referred to a Committee of the Whole in the House, Executive Council and Consolidated Funds. I would like to inform the Opposition of that. If we should get through that then we may have a concurrence report some time tomorrow that we can get through on Friday.

I would like to inform the hon. member that we will not be sitting tomorrow night. There is a great event taking place and we intend to go to it.

Mr. Speaker, having said that, I move that the House adjourn until tomorrow at 2:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER: It being Wednesday afternoon, I declare the House adjourned until tomorrow, Thursday, at 2:00 p.m.