The House met at 2:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Snow): Order, please!

Before we begin the routine proceedings, the Chair would like to welcome to the Speaker's Gallery today, five members of The Combined Councils of Labrador, who are in St. John's this week attending meetings with the various government departments.

They are Messrs Graham Letto, Phil Earle, Ford Rumbolt, Wayne Broomfield and Cecil Davis.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: I would also like to recognize today and welcome to the House of Assembly, on behalf of all members, Mayor Augustine Rumbolt, and Deputy Mayor Pius Gould from the community of Bird Cove, in the District of St. Barbe.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

I have leave of the House, this afternoon, to pay tribute to two former members of the Legislature.

Mr. Speaker, In the first two months of this year, our Province lost two well-known sons who served this House and the people of Newfoundland and Labrador with distinction.

Senator Gerald Ottenheimer passed away on January 18, and Garfield Warren on February 12. Both men fought relatively brief but courageous battles with cancer and both men died long before they had reached what we regard as a normal life expectancy.

I had the privilege, Mr. Speaker, of knowing both gentlemen at the community level. In the case of Gerry Ottenheimer, I also had the privilege to represent his old district of Waterford - Kenmount in this Legislature from 1993 to 1996. Gerry, as we all knew him, was first elected to the House of Assembly in 1966, in the district of St. John's East.

The very next year he became Leader of the Opposition. In 1969 he temporarily left political life to study in England. Returning in 1971, he was re-elected to this House and continued to serve here until his appointment to the Senate in 1988. As a politican, Gerald Ottenheimer served in the various Cabinets of Frank Moores and Brian Peckford, holding a wide array of portfolios including Minister of Education, Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Minister of Energy, and, for some time, he served as a Government House Leader.

Perhaps, however, the role that most suited his personality and was of great interest to him was his tenure as one of the distinguished line of Speakers of this hon. House of Assembly.

In the Senate of Canada, Gerald Ottenheimer served on the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, Committee on Energy, Committee on Natural Resources. For some time, he also served as Deputy Speaker of the Senate. His contributions to the Canadian Parliamentary Association and the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association did much to promote the Parliamentary system of government, not just in his own country, but throughout the whole democratic world. Gerry was highly regarded internationally throughout the Commonwealth and left his mark with his excellent advice that he was able to give to many of his colleagues and to many of his peers who came to value his contribution to development of democratic principles worldwide.

Gerry Ottenheimer, always a gentleman, whose soft spoken wit and a great sense of humour, wrote his pages in the history of this Province and this nation. To his wife Alma, and four daughters, Geraldine, Suzanne, Bernadette and Ann Marie, and to his brother, John, who now represents the historic district of St. John's East and to his son-in-law, Ed Byrne, who now serves as Leader of the Opposition, we wish to record in the official record of Hansard, our collective condolences and we ask that the Speaker formally convey our thoughts to the family.

Mr. Speaker, today as well, we also wish to pay our tribute to Garfield Warren, another servant of this House who passed away on February 12. Garfield had the distinction of serving both as a Liberal and as a Progressive Conservative in this House. He also served as City Councillor for the City of Mount Pearl from 1993 to 1997. Although Garfield was born and raised in Chance Cove, Trinity Bay, he spend most of his working life, before entering politics, on the Coast of Labrador. Whenever the issues of Labrador came up in conversation, as they did quite often with Garfield, both while he was actively involved in politics and in the years thereafter, he spoke with great sense of passion and caring for the people of that part of the Province.

It is a great deal of credit to him that the people of the District of Torngat Mountains gave him their vote of confidence four successive times. Garfield was elected in 1979 and continued to represent the same district until he retired from provincial politics in 1993. Garfield Warren served as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and following his appointment to Cabinet, he served as Minister of Northern and Labrador Affairs, Minister of Northern Development, Minister of Forestry, Wildlife and Parks, and Minister of Native Affairs.

In the city of Mount Pearl, Garfield was best known for his work with the Church of the Ascension, and later with the Church of the Good Shepherd. As a member of the city council he earned a fine reputation for his advocacy of citizen rights and for his ability to assure the ordinary voter's voice was heard at City Hall.

Mr. Speaker, I ask that you, on behalf of all members of the House, convey to his wife, Marie, and to his daughters, Angela and Valerie, our condolences, and assure the family of our thanks for the considerable contribution to the political life in this Province and to the Province in general.

Thank you very much.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I want to, on behalf of all members, thank the Member for Waterford Valley for rising today and paying tribute to both of these gentlemen who were former colleagues of all of us in the public life of this Province.

Mr. Speaker, indeed on behalf of all members of the House, and indeed the people of the Province, I was able to express condolences to the family of the late Senator Ottenheimer on January 19th.

I want to say to my colleague that I think it is appropriate and fitting that Hansard should record the appreciation of members on all sides of this House for the tremendous work that Senator Ottenheimer, both as a member of this House, as a minister of the Crown, and as a member of that other place, had always consistently brought to his duties as a representative of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. May I say, with equal passion, as a representative of the people of Canada as well.

Senator Ottenheimer, as has been pointed out, was a gentle man. He was a distinguished citizen of this Province, learned. Mr. Speaker, he was one of those who was always able to persuade by the force of his argument, by the clarity of his logic and, Mr. Speaker, one would make a great mistake to misunderstand the gentleness of his ways, in the quiet tone that he brought to public debate, for a lack of force and conviction for those causes which he espoused.

Mr. Speaker, he was a great citizen of Newfoundland and Labrador, and I am pleased to stand today and to associate myself and indeed all of my colleagues on this side of the House with the warm words which have been spoken today by the Member for Waterford Valley. We, too, want to again officially, here and now in this place, express our condolences to his wife Alma and to all of the members of the Ottenheimer family, including, of course, his brother John who sits amongst us today.

Mr. Speaker, I want to join as well in expressing our condolences again, as we have done on February 13, to the family of the late Garfield Warren. Garfield Warren was an extraordinary character who graced both sides of the Chamber, as has already been noted, and brought with equal enthusiasm to both sides of the Chamber his passion for the people he represented on the Labrador Coast.

Garfield had a wide and varied career, both as a civil servant, as a member of the House, as a municipal councillor, and always had a capacity to reduce sometimes even the most complex issues in a manner that spoke very powerfully and very well for the average person on the street. He, as a consequence, introduced to a lot of our debate and deliberation, whether it was in caucus, in the House of Assembly, or elsewhere, a measure of common sense which is always fundamental in the exercise of good judgement in coming to good decisions.

I had an opportunity to see Garfield in hospital just days before his death. I stopped by to say hello to him. I would relate this one small story because it captures, I think, in essence, the spark that drove Garfield Warren. I told Garfield, on behalf of us all, that I thought he had served with great distinction and with great integrity. I can tell you, just days before his death he was in good humour, he had a sparkle in his eye, and he had a quiet acceptance of his circumstance. I told him at one point: Garfield, you are a great son of Newfoundland. He reached out and grabbed my hand, and with a twinkle in his eye said: And Labrador. I said: Yes, Garfield, Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, we are pleased to associate ourselves with both these messages from the House to the families affected.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I want to join on the record to publicly acknowledge the contribution of Senator Gerry Ottenheimer and Mr. Garfield Warren to the Province, and certainly to this House, amongst other places. I want to join with the Member for Waterford Valley and the Premier in expressing the thanks of the people of Newfoundland for the contribution these two individuals made.

The late Senator Ottenheimer I first encountered as a student in high school when, I believe it must have been his term, he attended a youth leadership conference that was at my high school. I remember him then coming across as a very erudite, well-educated individual with a tremendous amount to offer. He must have been a young man then.

He has served as a member, as a minister of the Crown, as Speaker of this Assembly. I have had dealings with him as a minister of the Crown and found him to be most courteous and helpful; as a Senator as well. He also has an international reputation in the Canadian Parliamentary Association and the International Parliamentary Associations. He is one of those individuals who, as well as being a politician and an actor in public life, can truly be called a gentleman and a scholar, for he did have an international education as well, and had a tremendous amount to offer to the people of this Province.

I want to offer my condolences, publicly, to all of his family, including the two members who sit in this House, the Member for St. John's East and the Member for Kilbride.

Garfield Warren: I served as a colleague of his on this side of the House, although in different parties. I know Garfield as having had a terrific sense of humour and a great interest in the ordinary people and how they were treated by government and by society. I think he brought, as the Premier has alluded to, a special eloquence in talking about the issues as they affected the people in his district in Labrador, and also to bring the mighty, I suppose, to account in a way that was humorous and, at the same time, direct.

I had the privilege of attending his funeral service, and I must say I was very impressed by the words that people had to say about other parts of his life that I didn't know much about: his work in the church, his work in the community and his work as a civil servant.

I think that the public acknowledgement of their passing and the condolences to their families are well deserved, and I want to be fully associated with all of the remarks here this afternoon.


Statements by Ministers

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

MR LANGDON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of my colleagues in the House of Assembly, I wish to express condolences to the family of the late James Mercer of Bay Roberts. Mr. Mercer died as a result of a fire and explosion at the Come By Chance Oil Refinery.

As well, I wish the other two men who were injured in the accident a safe and speedy recovery.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to advise the House of Assembly that the North Atlantic Refining Company has suspended operations at the Come By Chance Oil Refinery, effective immediately.

This shutdown advances a scheduled retro-fit which was due to begin in May. The company has decided to shut down earlier than scheduled. Mr. Speaker, in light of the circumstances, government welcomes this move by the company.

Meanwhile, government is taking steps to investigate the tragic accident of last Wednesday. The Fire Commissioner commenced his investigation into the fire and explosion immediately. This is continuing. As well, the Fire Commissioner has engaged the firm of A.D. Tupper and Associates to undertake a Fire Life Safety Audit. This audit will address a number of issues, including: the current conditions of the physical plant; policies and procedures relevant to fire protection, and those used during fires or explosions; an examination of quality control and safety training procedures; staff training for fire prevention and life safety; and, a review and inspection of all fire safety equipment.

Government expects the Fire Commissioner's investigation to take from four to six weeks. We will await the results of his investigation. We will make his report public after it has been received and reviewed by government.

At the same time, Mr. Speaker, my department, with its responsibility for workplace safety, as well as Government Services and Lands with its responsibility for pressure vessel inspections, will conduct safety audits. These safety audits will examine other aspects of the refinery's operation beyond those being dealt with by the Fire Commissioner. These audits will be conducted in cooperation with the Fire Commissioner.

Thank you.

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

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to thank the minister for providing me with a copy of his statement. Minister, we, too, of course, join with you in expressing our deepest condolences to the Mercer family.

I would also like to say to the minister that one of the gentlemen who is in very serious condition is a constituent of mine. Over the past weekend I have had several conversations with his family. He is going through a pretty tough time, and he is in very serious condition at the Health Sciences Centre right now.

We welcome this move, as you do, Minister. We can only hope, as I asked the other day, I think, when the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs first mentioned the Fire Commissioner going in there, that maybe it is time we took this refinery from top to bottom and turned her inside out and really did what I would consider to be a first-class safety job, not only in this particular area but on the whole refinery in general.

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

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I want to take this opportunity today to update hon. members on the status of the Public Tender Act consultation process. Last fall, I undertook a commitment to consult with industry groups regarding the way government procures goods, services and construction, with a view to strengthening our legislation, encouraging innovation, and providing a fair opportunity for local business and industry in our Province. I am pleased to report today that this review process is now complete.

I have attended a series of information sessions around the Province, in Happy Valley - Goose Bay, Labrador City, St. John's, Gander, and Corner Brook. The high level of interest in this review process is encouraging. Approximately 100 individuals representing a variety of organizations and interests ranging from construction, manufacturing, suppliers, municipalities and various government-funded bodies attended these information sessions. In addition, my department has received twenty-five written submissions and we have heard eight individual presentations. I want to thank all of those individuals and organizations for their interest and input into this review process.

Our challenge now is to incorporate all of the views and concerns expressed by these various groups and individuals and make sound legislative changes based on recommendations we have received. We have achieved consensus on some issues but clearly not on all issues. We have heard throughout the process that there is a need for change, but we have also heard a desire to keep the integrity and transparency of the Public Tender Act.

I remain committed to making legislative changes which will give the public the best value for their money. I am also committed to preserving the basic principles of the Public Tender Act, which are fairness, competition and transparency. I am pleased to report today that the process of making legislative changes is under way and I expect to introduce at least some of the proposed changes in this sitting of the Legislature.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

I would like to thank the minister for a copy of his statement a few minutes before the House sat today.

The minister should be standing in his place today basically thanking the Members for St. John's South and St. John's East for their input into those changes that would be forthcoming, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. J. BYRNE: I would like to applaud the minister, just the same, and tell him that the consultation process is a good idea. It is a good move, there is no doubt about that, but I would like to also remind him that it is because of the violations and abuse of the Public Tender Act by this Administration and the previous Administration that these actions have to be taken. I would like to say that we should not weaken the Public Tender Act in any way. We should strengthen it, if possible, any way at all, and we will be very vigilant in scrutinizing the changes that will be forthcoming before this House of Assembly, Mr. Speaker.

Again, I say to the minister, he should be thanking the Member for St. John's South and the Member for St. John's East.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


Oral Questions


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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

Yesterday I asked some questions to the Premier with respect to the Lower Churchill development and I would like to continue with that today. In the information that government tabled to the public, it said that this program would proceed and be developed on a limited partnership basis: 65.8 per cent owned by Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, or the people of the Province, and 34.2 per cent of the project being owned by Hydro Quebec, or the people of Quebec.

Could the Premier elaborate, or provide some explanation on how that formula was arrived at? Why was it not 70/30 or 60/40 or 80/20 or 90/10? Could he elaborate and explain in more detail on what sort of discussions, negotiations, and what led to that sort of breakdown with respect to the development of the resource in Newfoundland and Labrador?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Well, Mr. Speaker, the ownership or equity position in CF(L) Co, which is the current operating arm for the Upper Churchill, is 65.8 per cent Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro and 34.2 per cent Hydro Quebec.

If the member looks carefully at the information that was provided with respect to both the diversion projects, the 1,000 megawatts of new power to be generated at the Upper Churchill, and I would ask the member to bear in mind that in the case of the diversion project, the entire project cost is going to be borne either by Hydro Quebec or from project revenues. Not a nickel of project revenues come from the Province, but nevertheless we end up with 65.8 per cent ownership of a project in which we do not invest a nickel; 65 per cent ownership of 1,000 megawatts of power forever!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, if the member is asking us how we managed to get such a good arrangement, the answer is quite simple: We insisted on having an ownership position which was no less than that currently available to us on the existing CF(L) Co arrangement.

Mr. Speaker, with respect to the Lower Churchill, where the ratepayers of Quebec are going to pay up to $3 billion of cost of building new transmission facilities both in Quebec and in Newfoundland and Labrador, and where the Globe and Mail, incidentally, my favourite newspaper, pointed out that they believe that the ratepayers of Quebec were not getting a good deal, that the deal was too sweet for Newfoundland and Labrador, even in that circumstance, where Hydro Quebec and where Quebec-based ratepayers are taking the cost of that roll-in fee, again we insisted upon a 65.8 per cent market share.

Mr. Speaker, when you consider that the vast majority of the cost - the project guarantees, the floor price, the roll-in, the diversions and the full cost, $1.3 billion of the diversion projects, the $3 billion cost of the transmission construction - is all being borne by Hydro Quebec, a two-thirds ownership position by Newfoundland and Labrador is, in my judgement, and in the judgement of all those who have looked at it... And I am confident that as the Leader of the Opposition has an opportunity to look at it, in his judgement as well it will be seen as the good deal that it is.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, for the record - because there are people here from the combined councils today, and I welcome them to the gallery - as the Leader of the Opposition, I said yesterday, I said two weeks ago, that I am not today prepared, and I am not today prepared, to condemn this deal outright; neither am I prepared to embrace it yet.

The Premier did not answer the question. He did not answer the question at all. I will ask it again. I understand all of the sort of explanations that he has provided around the deal. I understand generally what he has talked about, because he generally understands it as well, but specifically I asked him: How was it arrived at that 65.8 per cent of the project belongs to us? Why was it not 70 per cent belonging to the Province and 30 per cent for Quebec, or not 80/20? A very simple question: How was that percentage of ownership divied up and arrived at between the talks and discussions and negotiations that went on between both Hydro Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, members opposite are getting very excited for a party that does not have a position on the deal. I think that the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, I say to the Leader of the Opposition, understand full well the discomfort that the Leader of the Opposition feels, perched as he is on a very sharp fence; neither for nor against a deal which has been negotiated, made public, details out there available for everybody to comment on. By the way, everybody who has commented, including all of the former Chairs and the former Presidents of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, have commented extremely positively on this deal, saying that it is a good deal for Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, we have the spectacle of the Leader of the Opposition - even though everybody else could examine it, even though everybody else could come to an opinion, even though everybody else could make some measure of judgement - after a month of study, wanting to know what the deal was, and in several more months he will tell us what he thinks about it.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I say to the Leader of the Opposition, if there are any factual questions that he would like answered, we will answer them, but to nit-pick, to ask questions for the sake of trying to cast doubt, without a clue as to where the Opposition stands, this is not responsible Opposition.

The fact is, Quebec is taking 90-plus per cent of the risk and getting only 35 per cent of the equity. I think that is a good deal for Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, let me assure the Premier, not even the Premier, but the people of the House, that this Leader of the Opposition is not in an uncomfortable position at all, that this is only the second opportunity that this leader has had to question this Premier with respect to Lower Churchill. When all of the questions that I have are answered, all of them, I will be prepared - that could be by next week, it could be by the week after - but we will clearly tell the people of the Province where we stand on this deal.

All we are attempting to do, Premier, because we have not had the luxury of negotiating twelve months behind the scenes with Hydro Quebec, is try to come to some understanding of how decisions were reached. That is all.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, to give you an example: Yesterday, I wrote the CEO of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro requesting a meeting. Yesterday he phoned back and said: Could you come over at nine o'clock to my office, because it would be more accessible. Any questions that you may have, I will be able to answer because my staff will be at my disposal. That is what he told us, that is exactly what he told us, I say to the minister. An hour before Question Period, the CEO of Hydro phoned back and said: Look, I don't think I followed proper protocol. What we have to do now, according to his discussion, is we must now go to the minister's office to sit down and discuss the situation and the questions we have, in view of the minister.

Is all information now that we are requesting as an Opposition, legitimately, in a very responsible, straightforward, forthright manner, to be filtered through the political process, Premier?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, if the Leader of the Opposition, and I would say this to the Opposition, has any questions he wants answered, I would say to him, the best place to put factual questions... By the way, for all of the members of the Opposition, starting today - in fact, we are prepared to extend the Question Period by unanimous consent today. Ask all the questions in front of all the public, and we will give all the answers in front of all the public.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, we know where we stand on this deal. We are quite prepared to answer all the questions, not behind closed doors but publicly.

Mr. Speaker, if the Leader of the Opposition is intimidated because such a shy, gentle, caring, thoughtful and deliberate minister, like the Minister of Mines and Energy wants to offer him a cup of coffee, while he briefs him, all I can say is that I will have to find a more gentle minister for him to deal with.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. E. BYRNE: I have been accused of many things, but being shy and intimidated by anybody or by any process, certainly has not been one of them. I would like to ask the Premier this.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: We will get to it. Yesterday he did not want me to ask questions, he threatened an election. Now today, he is saying we will let Question Period go because you are going to ask all the questions you want to ask. Let me ask him this. About two weeks ago, an article appeared in The Financial Post that said, the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, as result of this agreement, must enter into the financial situation of their own, must borrow $960 million - that is what was in The Financial Post. The question is that the Province's financial commitment to this project will be to the tune of $960 million. Now there was not a lot of information provided on the financing details, that is why I am asking now. Can the minister elaborate, if that figure is correct, if it is not, what is correct. Where did that information come from and what are the financial obligations of the people of the Province with respect to this deal?

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

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The financial matter is very forward. It is difficult to say right now, what exactly the total obligation of the Province would be because it depends on how much is actually built. As it is out in the media, if the line is built to the Island, it would be approximately another $2 billion and, if the Muskrat Fall Development goes ahead, that is about another $2.2 billion as well.

As it stands right now, there is a development in the range $7 billion to $8 billion. That will be financed - the Province's share of that, we will do our debt financing. The amount the hon. member is referring to is the equity portion which is 75/25. The portions we build, we take our share, we finance the debt which is guaranteed by Hydro Quebec and we finance the 25 per cent equity through Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: I understand the Finance Minister's response but what I asked was, what was the sum that we would be obligated to guarantee or borrow, or some combination of both, with respect to the development of the Lower Churchill. Is The Financial Post right, in terms of $960 million, or is it wrong?

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

MR. DICKS: Mr. Speaker, To answer the question right, I will give the hon. member all the figures if he wants them now.

The Gull Island project will cost $3.2 billion. Newfoundland Hydro's equity share of that will cost $637 million and Hydro Quebec's share will be $331 million that it will have to raise, and that is relative portions of equity ownership, ours being 65.8 per cent and Hydro Quebec's being 34.2 per cent. That is the equity portion. The debt, the remaining amount of that money, the non-recourse financing, is $2.23 billion. So, in other words, if the hon. member understands it - I do not understand his question.

The question is: How much do we borrow? I will let the hon. member put the record -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MR. E. BYRNE: I understand that it might be easy for a backbencher to understand, who says nothing in the House, but I am asking the Minister of Finance a question. When you get to the front benches, I will have one for you, too.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Two-part question: The Financial Post reported that the Province would have to borrow $960 million. Now, the question I ask the Minister of Finance is: Is that the correct amount, is $960 million what the Province has to borrow? If so, is that complete borrowing by the people of the Province or is it a combination of borrowing by the Province and guaranteeing debt of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro?

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

MR. DICKS: No, Mr. Speaker, it is not money that the Province of Newfoundland will borrow, it is money that Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro will borrow, and the figure is - presuming that the total cost will be $7.5 billion or $7.478 billion, the Province's obligation through Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, because essentially we guarantee that indebtedness - is $.962 billion. The other amount -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. DICKS: That is right - essentially. The Hydro Quebec equity portion is $1.289 billion and the non-recourse financing for which the lenders will have no recourse against the Province or any of its assets, is $5.227 billion.

AN HON. MEMBER: Who are the source?

MR. DICKS: But technically it is not the Province, it is Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro through whom the money will be arranged.

PREMIER TOBIN: Now, more questions on -

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

AN HON. MEMBER: Little bits and pieces. (Inaudible) The Globe and Mail.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair has recognized the Member for Baie Verte.

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

My question today is for the Minister of Education.

PREMIER TOBIN: (Inaudible) more questions.

MR. SHELLEY: As we talk about in this House very often, there are lots more questions on Churchill Falls, I say to the Premier.

MR. J. BYRNE: You will get them in due course, and on schedule.

MR. SHELLEY: But there are other concerns in this Province that we are going to address in this House, too, I say to the Premier.

Mr. Speaker, some time ago, I raised questions in this House of Assembly concerning The Newfoundland and Labrador Paralegal Institute.

Of course, we all talk about economic recovery in this Province. We all know that we must encourage and make sure that people in this Province, younger and older people these days, continue in training and so on. That is what we talk about every day in this House.

Mr. Speaker, the last thing we want to do is turn them off from that.

Mr. Speaker, as we know today, The Newfoundland and Labrador Paralegal Institute have closed their doors and, as of today, there are some ninety students, and their staff, out on the street.

Mr. Speaker, the first question I want to ask the minister is: What is he doing today and what is his department doing today to address the number one issue of this whole mess?

What is he going to do with the students who are about to graduate in two to three weeks from now, to make sure that they are able to finish this course - that they have spent thousands of dollars on and a lot of time to be able to finish the course? What is the minister going to do about that?

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I appreciate the question and I am glad to see that the hon. member's concern is exactly the same concern as that of the Department of Education, first and foremost for the students themselves, to make sure that they do get the training they have been paying for and that they are accommodated in some other facilities that offer the same course, Paralegal Training.

Of course, that is the issue on which our staff, actually, Mr. Speaker, went to visit the facility, visited with the students this morning and have assurances from the other institutes that are members of the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Career Colleges, the private training institutions, that in the shortest possible time, most likely this week, they will have accommodated each and every one of the students into a similar program or another facility that offers it.

No student will lose any money or lose any opportunity to complete the program.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. SHELLEY: Well, Mr. Speaker, I say to the minister, Bravo, too, because that is my first concern and it was a concern that I raised in this House of Assembly, some four months ago. As a matter of fact, to be exact, on December 11, I started to ask questions of this minister on what was happening in that institution. It has gone on for four months now and what we find today - I am glad to hear first of all the priorities to take care of the students today, that can graduate. Thank God we can do at least that.

But, Mr. Speaker, there is a bigger problem here, the minister, knows full-well. He was doing an investigation, he told me, back then four months ago. Everything was fine. I had concerns raised by fourteen students who as of today, have gotten compensated, because they were silenced, to make sure they did not raise their concerns again. They have been compensated. But the bigger question to the minister today in this House of Assembly is: that investigation that was done by your department, are you satisfied that all concerns that were raised, were addressed, and that this is not going to happen in this Province again, where the students have to go through what they have gone through in this last little while?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker

There are two issues with respect to the question. One is the specifics of the investigation done into this particular training institute, as to whether or not, Mr. Speaker, the institute had lived up to the terms and conditions of its licensure that was granted.

Mr. Speaker, that investigation was concluded before Christmas and it was verified that the particular training institute had been living up to each and every one of the terms and conditions for which it had been granted a license to operate in the Province; no question whatsoever.

Mr. Speaker, the issues that caused the closure of the institute today have nothing to do with whether or not they were offering a quality program, whether or not they had quality instructors, or whether or not they were in the appropriate facility, as provided for by their license to operate in the Province. It had to do with the fact, Mr. Speaker, that the company ran short of money, and the Department of Education does not monitor on a daily basis any of the financial circumstances of the 100 or so private training institutions. They each post a bond, Mr. Speaker, that indicates, if they have difficulties like the one we are experiencing today that that makes sure students are not disadvantaged, that they can be accommodated and trained out, as the phrase goes, in other institutions.

Part of the difficulty as I see it, in this particular instance, might be the fact that the negative attention brought to this particular institute by members opposite may have caused some of the cash flow difficulties they experience today.

MR. SPEAKER: A supplementary, the hon. the Member for Baie Verte.

MR. SHELLEY: Mr. Speaker, it is a real shame to stand in the House today and hear the Minister of Education, the minister who leads this department, who is supposed to protect the students in this Province, now admitting that he went through an investigation and everything was fine? I can tell the minister that this member, or these members on this side, were not the people who brought it to the forefront. Thank God, it was the fourteen students who have already been compensated. They were the ones who raised concerns that the books were not being used that they paid thousands of dollars for, that there was no final exam in their first term, they were told to walk out the door and so on.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please! Order, please!

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

MR. SHELLEY: The Speaker has called me to order to ask the question, because I could go on with a long list of things that were wrong in that institution, and the minister knows full well. The truth is, my next question is for the Premier of the Province and I will ask him this directly.

Will the Premier make sure there is a full investigation done outside of the Department of Education on this particular institution and how they got their licence, and how Mr. Woodrow came through this whole process and set up an institution in this Province which put a lot of students through a lot of hardships? Finally, at the end of the day, the students are out on the street and the institution is closed down. How could that happen with this department, and should there be a full investigation into the Department of Education on this institution?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The question itself actually betrays the hon. member and the Opposition for exactly what they have been at since December. It gives credence totally to the point I just made in answering the last question. He is not interested at all in terms of what has happened in this particular institution. He continues again today to try to suggest, as he has now come closer to publicly saying then he ever has before, that there is some suggestion of impropriety in how the individual who was granted a licence to run the institute in the first place acquired that licence.

That particular institute went through the regular process of the Department of Education. They were granted a licence. There was an investigation. They lived within all the terms and conditions of the licence. I say again that maybe one of the contributing factors to the fact they are closing today, due to a cash shortfall, is the fact that members like the member opposite continue to slur the operator and slur the institution, and therefore damage their credibility to the point that they cannot attract students and they run short of cash.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My questions today are for the Minister of Health. Last Friday in this House I raised the issue of poor management practice at Western Memorial and at the Western regional community health board. I asked the minister for the department's reason in delaying the transfers of responsibility for Child Welfare to the Western board and to the Labrador board. The minister admitted that Child Welfare was not transferred because of financial difficulty being experienced by these boards.

The Auditor General has reported that the Central Newfoundland regional health board has inadequate management, and the preparation of a strategic plan was abandoned. There is only a lukewarm commitment to having this revived with that Central board. I ask the minister: What steps are you taking to have this activity revived?

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

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

I would ask the Opposition House Leader to be more specific in the strategic plan he is talking about with respect to the Central board.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the minister if she has read -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. SULLIVAN: I would like to tell the minister that the Auditor General's Report has addressed it, starting on page 163. I am very surprised, Mr. Speaker, that the Minister of Health has not read the Auditor General's Report dealing with the inefficiencies in the management of institutions under her care, I say to the minister.

I will ignore that remark and move on to another question, Mr. Speaker, if she does not want to answer. That same minister stated in Hansard on Friday and she stated publicly to the media outside: ... and until we are confident - that is the Western and Labrador boards - that they are able to manage the financial end of it, we do not want to put that added stress on the boards. That is what she stated.

The Auditor General went on further and commented and since you have not read the report, maybe I will be a little specific since you are not aware of what is in it - she said, `... there is a lack of operational plans at the Central Newfoundland health care board.' Now,the board in response said - it indicates it will take some time to prepare these plans because of transferring to that Central board those social services programs. Now, Minister, you have already transferred Child Welfare and other programs to the Central board and they are stating that they need time to put together a plan because of these transfers. Minister, was the board in Central Newfoundland prepared to accept the transfer of these programs from social services? Furthermore, is it capable of carrying out the functions that are already being delegated to the board? The Auditor General does not think so. Minister, could you tell us?

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

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

The answer is yes and yes. In fact, they are prepared and they are willing. We have spent the last year dealing with the administrative details. I have already offered to give the member opposite a full briefing. Obviously, he is not aware of what has been happening this year. The employees know - we all came together yesterday, Mr. Speaker. I said the employees of the Department of Human Resources and Employment have come together because I will say once again, this is not about the government pushing the employees of the Province or pushing the staff. This is about responding to what the staff of the Department of Human Resources have asked for and the staff of the Department of Health, for over twenty years, Mr. Speaker. It is reflective of the new social policy changes that have been read out in our Budget, the new social policy that has been asked for by the employees of this Province and yes, Mr. Speaker, they are all ready. The only person who is not ready is the person who is asking the question, to accept it.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Minister of Health had her knuckles rapped by the Chair of the Western health care board in the media because she said they are not in financial - the minister now is being rapped on the knuckles, I can tell you. The Central Newfoundland board states that the reason they cannot produce a plan is because they are transferring programs on us and we are not able to do it. The minister is afraid that at the Central board she will get the same medicine she got at the Western board.

Now, it is becoming quite clear, I say to the minister, that the Auditor General's Report is telling us that the conditions in the health care boards in this Province is shabby at best. Now, I say to the minister, there are daily announcements of management changes or evidence of a system that is under stress here in our Province and into this troubled system, that is already there, the minister and this government have transferred programs that the boards are saying we are not ready to accept. I ask the minister, will she explain to the people of this Province how she plans to reform an obviously very sick system?

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

MS J. M. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, there is no need to shout, I say to the member opposite, I can hear perfectly fine. No need to shout.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS J. M. AYLWARD: As the Minister of Health, Mr. Speaker, I am concerned for his health. He is shouting. He does not need to shout.

What I will say, Mr. Speaker, is that again, I will give some information to the member so that he has an understanding. Right now, we have made administrative changes so that the employees who are currently employees of the Department of Human Resources and Employment will become employees of the various boards as of tomorrow, Mr. Speaker.

The legislative requirements, the responsibility of the department, has not changed. What has changed is that these employees now will become employees of the boards, with the exception of the two we outlined: meaning Health Labrador, and Western. We gave those reasons very clearly. As people responsible for public funds, safeguarding public programs, we want to be certain that before any additional responsibility of a financial nature is added to the boards, that they have the financial capability to do that.

Mr. Speaker, I will not support what this member said in Hansard the other day, about weak management at the board level. I will say again, Mr. Speaker, I support the management at the board level, I suppose the volunteers at the board level, and I support the staff at the board level.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, those people are ready to embrace change. They have asked for it and they are ready to embrace the change. Get with the program.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The time for Oral Questions has elapsed.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The time for Oral Questions has elapsed.

PREMIER TOBIN: A point of order, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier, on a point of order.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, as a measure of this side's confidence in the Minister of Health, by leave ask another question. We are enjoying the answers you are getting.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Does the hon. member have leave?


MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Opposition House Leader, by leave.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I can see why the Minister of Health is standing today and going to support the management, when the board out in Western rapped her knuckles for a statement she made. They said: We are not having financial problems. That is the minister, except she wouldn't pinpoint -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: I have your quotes, Minister, from the media, a direct clip. I will give the minister a copy, and a copy of Hansard, if the minister wants it.

I would like to ask the minister: In the first full year of operation - we will look at the Central Newfoundland board - the Auditor General said, there is no written explanation of variances between their budget and the actual expenditures incurred by those boards. In other words, there is no method to identify and explain any material variances within that budget - and that is in the Auditor General's Report, I say to the minister - between the budget estimates and actual expenditures.

I want to ask the minister: Is she satisfied that that board, which has not been able to show the variances between budget and expenditure, now have new programs there? Are you satisfied with that response? And would she not agree that this is just another example of weak and poor financial management in the operation of the Central regional health board, that they have admitted they are not prepared to carry on with certain jobs because of the transfer of programs that you gave to them?

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

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I am satisfied, and no, Mr. Speaker, I am not ready to denigrate the board at Central West or any other board. I have already explained, Mr. Speaker, that this is an administrative change. Legislatively and in every other way, Mr. Speaker, we as a government are maintaining the responsibility as social policy makers.

They have asked, Mr. Speaker, to do the delivery of the services in an integrated fashion, in a way, I might add, that the former House Leader stood up and congratulated government for this direction and how we are going and, in fact, urged us to rush into it.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS J.M. AYLWARD: It is in Hansard, Mr. Speaker. Let me read it. Dated March 12, 1997: In fact, I believe this is a positive step. It is very progressive, Mr. Speaker. Put it back, I say. Put them back, Mr. Speaker, put them back.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, let the record show that was a grand slam by the Minister of Health.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


Presenting Reports by
Standing and Special Committees


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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

I rise today as the Chair of the Select Committee appointed by this Legislature on December 2, 1997, to inquire into the arming policy of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary. Today I am ready to submit a report to the House, but before I do that I would like to ask leave of the House to say a few words.


MR. SPEAKER: The hon. member has the floor.

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

First of all, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the members of the committee for their non-partisan approach and in-depth deliberations on such an important issue: the Vice-Chair, the Member for St. John's East, Mr. Ottenheimer; the Member for Waterford Valley, Mr. Hodder; my colleague on this side of the House, the Member for Humber East, Mr. Mercer; and my colleague, the Member for Labrador West, Mr. Perry Canning.

I would also like to thank the members of the staff for their very efficient and excellent job in handling their responsibilities. They would include the Assistant Clerk of the House, Elizabeth Murphy, research assistant Debby Jamieson, and of course Kevin Collins, recorder during the public hearings.

The committee took into serious consideration all information presented during the public hearings, including phone calls and written submissions. We looked at the complete evolution of the current firearm policy, from having them stored at police headquarters, to having an armed response vehicle and tactical response unit, a TRU team, which was established in 1979, with many changes since, to currently keeping their arms in the locked trunk in a locked box of a patrol vehicle.

The current policy was established as a result of the Picher arbitration in 1991. It required that police officers call into headquarters for permission to arm, then proceed to a safe area, unlock the car trunk, unlock the security box, remove the gun from the holster, load the gun with ammunition, remove the holster, remove his or her belt, place -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).


MR. WISEMAN: With all due respect, Mr. Speaker, this is a serious issue.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: I might say that it took much deliberation on behalf of the committee to reach a decision, and I can say that it was a unanimous decision.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: I would like the former Leader of the Opposition to offer me the same courtesy that I always offer him when he is speaking.

Anyway, as I was saying, Mr. Speaker, they remove the gun from the holster, load the gun with the ammunition, remove his or her belt, place the holster on the belt, attach the belt to their person, place the gun in the holster and secure the same, then re-enter the police car and proceed to the scene. I might add, at times when these actions are taking place, the red lights are flashing. It is a serious situation in which they are involved.

Since 1991, some 6,500 requests to arm have been recorded. In 1993, there was an incident where a police officer, Constable Anthony, while being dispatched to a domestic dispute, requested to be armed. His request was refused. Subsequently, the officer refused to enter the dwelling without a firearm. The officer was disciplined for his action and he subsequently appealed to the Labour Relations Board. The Board upheld the officer's right, based on Section 51 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

Mr. Speaker, an employer is obligated to ensure that an employee is protected as much as reasonably possible while engaging in their particular occupation.

We received a brief from Chief Leonard Power of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, who spoke to the effect of the Anthony decision on the arming policy of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary. I might add that Chief Power has some thirty-five years' experience in the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary. He came up through the ranks as a constable, and today is the chief operation officer, I guess we would call it, of that particular force.

I quote what Chief Power had to say about that particular decision. He said: "That decision (the Anthony Decision), from the perspective of management, reduced our options to refuse a member's request in any situation to access the firearm. It was, I believe, that decision, at least from my perspective, because I was in management, I was a commissioned officer... at that time - that was the beginning, at least in my own personal view, that we had evolved in policy development with respect to accessibility that was not working. We had a situation that in my view was just not acceptable."

He goes on to say: "I was aware of the total rejection of our policy by the rank-and-file members, and I was aware that a considerable number of commissioned officers and management of the force were also of the view that the policy needed to be changed, that we had reached a point where there was no returning to a period in the '60s, and that the next logical step was for members to carry firearms...

"It was 1994 I believe, that I first recommended...that we move toward total accessibility for firearms for members operating in the field...

"We have now come to what I believe is a turning point. The policy is not working. Without exception, this policy is opposed by members of the force for sound, legitimate reasons. They have time and again submitted reasonable concerns about the inadequacies of the policies. I recognized that personally, as I indicated, in 1994, and recommended that it be changed."

On December 29, 1995, the then the Minister of Justice, Ed Roberts stated, and I quote: "The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary is an armed police force. Its members are highly trained in the use of firearms and are authorized to carry them in appropriate situations".

In the past year, Mr. Speaker, some 848 requests to arm have been recorded. All situations have been resolved without incident. The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary is a highly trained force and has been for many years. They continue with regular firearms training, re-training and qualifications since 1979, in the new headquarters which was established at that time, which also had a complete firing range.

The committee visited the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Headquarters and viewed their training, as well as their gun retention techniques. We also met, at that time, with Deputy Chief Oliver and range master, posing questions of interest to the committee.

Taking into consideration the precedent-setting Anthony case to the Labour Relations Board, the request by Chief Power and his executive, the question to the committee was: Did the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary have reasonable access to firearms while responding to an emergency situation?

Mr. Speaker, the unanimous conclusion of the committee was: No, they did not.

Therefore, the number one recommendation of the committee is: Whereas the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary is an armed force and has been an armed force since 1991, and whereas the existing policy limits access to firearms, which are now kept in a locked box in the locked truck of a police patrol vehicle, the committee hereby recommends that the arming policy of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary be amended to permit its members on operational duty to wear sidearms as part of their regular uniform.

The second recommendation, Mr. Speaker, is in four parts. The committee further recommends that:

(a) the Chief of Police have discretion in the administration of the policy, including discretion in assigning officers to operational duty, and that in exercising this discretion the Chief of Police may take into account the wishes of members of the Force who prefer not be to be armed;

(b) police officers' sidearms be stored in a secure locker at the station when they are not on duty;

(c) a firearms audit acceptable to the Minister of Justice be performed annually and submitted to the House of Assembly and that;

(d) the arming policy be reviewed at the end of five years by a Select Committee of the House of Assembly.

Now, Mr. Speaker, just in case, on the second recommendation (a) where, "the Chief of Police have discretion..." I might want to make a comment. The last part of that recommendation says, "...that in exercising this discretion the Chief of Police take into account the wishes of members of the Force who prefer not to be armed."

Now, Mr. Speaker, some people may, in some way, misconstrue what is being said here. So to clarify what is being said - this is the first time that a Select Committee of the House has reviewed the complete policy of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary.

What we mean by that section of the recommendation is this: that there may very well be, although we are being told by the Police Association that 100 per cent of the force want to carry firearms for their protection, and protection of the public in general, that there may be - there just very well may be - one or two members who do not feel comfortable wearing a sidearm. So what that particular recommendation means, Mr. Speaker, is that he will request to the Chief, so that the Chief can determine in his own mind whether he wants to reassign that officer. We don't want some officer being fired over this particular recommendation because he chooses or prefers not to wear a sidearm; but just in case there are one or two officers, just a correction.

The other section on the audit, Mr. Speaker, is a checkpoint where the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary will have to put in place, in conjunction with the Minister of Justice, an auditing system where all guns and ammunition are accounted for, but much broader than that, where they can review the responses of the members themselves to get a feeling of how they feel about the whole process over the year, to see if the techniques they are using are adequate, and just so that they can report back to the Minister of Justice. And, of course, the Minister of Justice will certainly table that report in the House, I would assume.

Mr. Speaker, thank you for your time. Anybody who is listening on the speakers to that raspy voice, it is laryngitis; so don't adjust your set.

Mr. Speaker, I now table that report.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My comments will be very brief. I would just like to support the words of the Chair of this committee. It was indeed a very interesting exercise. We had an opportunity, as a committee, to listen to a variety of opinions and presentations, both in oral presentation throughout the various meetings that were conducted throughout the Province, by telephone, by correspondence and so on. There was a significant amount of material and information that had to be reviewed by the five members of this Select Committee.

It is important to note that this particular finding was unanimous, and it was a result of a lot of discussion and deliberations by all committee members who found it necessary to take into account all of the information and to essentially make a decision, and perhaps a difficult decision at times, but to make a decision as to what was in the best interest of the public at large and in the best interest of the individual police officer.

When one takes into account that analysis, it appears that when one reviews the history of the force and takes into account the fact that today, and for the past number of years, the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary is an armed force, and when one takes into account the fact that we are looking at the question of accessibility - because the present policy is simply the firearm in a locked box in a locked trunk -, and when one analyzes that particular situation and that scenario, it appears the only logical conclusion was to amend the present policy as it exists to the firearms wearing of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary.

I, too, as vice-chair of the committee, want to thank my colleagues who sat on the committee, and once again reassure all members of the House that this was a unanimous determination as a result of a very interesting and most complex variety of positions that were presented.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I have Special Warrants for tabling in accordance with the Financial Administration Act. There are eight warrants totalling $36,867,000.

There is one here for the Department of Education, $21,800,000, to provide funding for the implementation of the Newfoundland and Labrador Education Investment Corporation which we announced in the Budget; and a further $4 million Special Warrant for my hon. colleague to provide funds for the provision of scholarships for needy students.

There is an Executive Council Special Warrant of $2,300,000 to cover the ongoing development and implementation of the new Financial Management Information System. For the Department of Finance, there is a Special Warrant of $2.6 million to cover the capital grant to NMFC, to assist municipalities with their refinancing and debt assistance toward their obligations.

For the Department of Tourism, Culture and Recreation there is a Special Warrant of $200,000 to provide funds for the Newfoundland Heritage Foundation. For the Department of Health, there is a Special Warrant of $3 million for hospital equipment. For the Department of Municipal and Provincial Affairs there are two warrants, one in the amount of $2.6 million to provide funds for the 1997-1998 employment program, and $367,000 to provide additional funds to cover the provincial contribution toward the City of St. John's Outer Battery stabilization project.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


Answers to Questions
For which Notice has been Given

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

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

A couple of questions were raised on two separate days last week relating to the Newfoundland Hardwoods divestiture. I am giving these answers on behalf of our department and the Department of ITT, which were both involved in it.

The proceeds the Auditor General referred to have been realized. As I mentioned last week, the pension plan wind-up and the surplus storage are the ones remaining. There was a question raised about the $1.4 million of the $6.7 million. It has not been received. All the money has been received with the exception of the pension plan. This has to be authorized by Revenue Canada and the Superintendent of Pensions for the Province, and that is the only amount outstanding, as the receivables issues has been addressed.

Financial statements for 1996 have been received. The amount the Province received from that was 10 per cent of their net income, and we received a cheque on October 31, 1996, in the amount of $29,587.10. The department is now following up to find the statements for October 31, 1997.

A question was asked, who the consultants were. There were three consultants: Ernst & Young, accountants and management consultants; French Browne, who were the lawyers; and Acres International, who were the environmental consultants. One of the reasons the consulting fees increased from $39,000 to over $900,000 was that there was a substantial environmental assessment cost, I am told.

The environmental assessment was necessary because Newfoundland Hardwoods had creosote and storage tanks used to treat wood, and for that reason substantial assessment was necessary.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.




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

MR. T. OSBORNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I am presenting a petition today to the hon. House of Assembly of Newfoundland in legislative session convened. The petition of the undersigned residents of Newfoundland;

WHEREAS public service pensioners who spent their lifetime contributing to their society are now slipping deeper and deeper into poverty;

WHEREFORE your petitioners urge the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to ensure public service pensioners receive a raise in their pension whenever public servants receive a raise in pay, and to reverse the policy of claw-back of Canadian pension plan benefits from public service pensioners and, as in duty bound, your petitioners will ever pray.

Mr. Speaker, the public service pensioners have not received a raise now in almost a decade. The cost of living for the public service pensioners has increased, yet they have not received any increase themselves. Many of these people now, Mr. Speaker, are living below the poverty line. For many of them, their pensions are below $11,000.

Mr. Speaker, with the implementation of the HST they are now paying additional tax on their home heating fuel, electricity, gasoline and so on. So government themselves have implemented an increase in the cost of living for pensioners, yet have not allowed for an increase in their pension benefits.

Many of these people are single, widows or widowers, and they have homes to keep up. And after devoting a lifetime working for the Province, and working as public servants, they deserve a raise. Yet, the government themselves, Mr. Speaker, have clawed back the pension that they have paid into because of the fact they are receiving Canada Pension which they have also paid into. When these public pensioners reach the age where they are receiving Canada Pension benefits, the government sees fit to claw back the provincial pension to compensate for what they are receiving in Canada Pension.

Mr. Speaker, this is not only unfair, it is unjust. At least if government are not going to give a raise in the public service pensioners' benefits, the very least they can do, Mr. Speaker, is to discontinue clawing back their provincial pension as a result of these pensioners receiving Canada Pension.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I am supporting this petition which I was asked to present to the House of Assembly today.

Thank you.

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

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

I want to rise today to support the prayer of the petition put forward by my colleague from St. John's South. I was somewhat encouraged the other day in some comments made in the House by several of the ministers opposite when they mentioned the fact that they may not be able to do anything for all of the pensioners because of the fact that all pensioners may not be in the same state of need. However, there was an indication from some hon. ministers that they might be willing to do some measures for those people who are most in need.

So, Mr. Speaker, while the prayer of the petition is that we would discontinue the integration principles between the Newfoundland Government pensions and the Canada Pension, we recognize that these steps of integrating the two pension plans cause greatest difficulties for those people who are getting the lowest incomes. Therefore, I wanted to ask the ministers opposite if they were serious about looking at some measures to address those who have the greatest need, those pensioners who retired ten to fifteen years ago and today are trying to make do on pensions that are less than $1,000 a month, and in some cases as low as $250 a month. What do they intend to do to try to make life a little bit more bearable for the sixty-, seventy-, and eighty-year-olds.

Mr. Speaker, I remember, during the 1996 campaign, going to a gentleman's home on Jersey Avenue in Mount Pearl. He was telling how he had retired after thirty-five years in the provincial civil service, and that he had retired on what he thought was a very good pension - it was $12,000 - but that happened to have been in the early 1980s.

Now he was trying to make ends meet with the help of his old age pension and his Newfoundland Government pension. As he and his wife were getting older and their medical bills were adding up, and they were beyond the age when they could expect to be able to get insurances and that kind of thing, because of circumstances, he was spending $500 or $600 a month in medical bills and he and his wife had been reduced to a very subsistence living.

Mr. Speaker, when we have these kind of circumstances, I think it is incumbent upon government to take a number of measures. These measures might include some assistance with the medical care of people who are on very low incomes. People will appreciate the fact that they can have help with their medical expenses. In some cases, when people are trying to live in their homes - and we all have had applications or calls from seniors who do not want to move out of their own home - we know it is a lot cheaper to assist these people to live in their own homes than it would be if they were to go out into some kind of seniors' accommodations.

We call upon the government to live up to the comment made the other day by one of the hon. ministers, and to find creative ways and bold ways to assist those seniors who are finding the going a bit rough. These seniors are very often people who have given their time in the public service of this Province.

It is not because the pension plans they had were all that inadequate. It is not because they are inadequately funded, because the inadequate funding is not the central issue here. The issue is that they worked all their lives for the government and because of inflation, because of the time that they retired, and that kind of thing, and because there have been no increases for nearly ten years, these people are not able to make ends meet. They have had their incomes erode by inflation, by the high increases in the cost of fuel and the cost of accommodations, in some cases the cost of rent, or the cost of maintaining their home if they live independently.

So we challenge the government: Please do not ignore the situation faced by many of our seniors. Try to find alternate ways, if you cannot give them an increase directly.

We heard the Minister of Finance say, the other day: No way, he was not going to recommend any general increase for those receiving pensions.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. H. HODDER: I say to the government: Try to find alternate ways to address the real needs of many of the seniors in our Province.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to present a petition, and I would like to read the prayer of the petition. It says:

WHEREAS the government has had in its hands for some time the recommendation of the Statutory Review Committee on Workers' Compensation, as well as another study on how to implement the recommendations on deeming; and

WHEREAS the government has failed to take timely and appropriate action to implement the sound recommendations of the report; and

WHEREAS the government's failure to act on the report leaves all workers in this Province vulnerable and leaves injured workers in particular to suffer great injustice at the hands of the Workers' Compensation system;

WHEREFORE your petitioners urge the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to implement without further delay the recommendations of the Statutory Review Committee on Workers' Compensation.

Mr. Speaker, today I present this petition with pleasure. I believe that the injured workers in this Province have suffered long enough and often enough.

I had a fax today from a gentleman on the West Coast of the Province who is involved over there with the Injured Workers' Association. He is writing today on behalf of many injured workers in Corner Brook, Bay of Islands, Stephenville, the South West Coast, the Northern Peninsula, and Labrador, all voicing their concerns about the Workers' Compensation review which has been done now, I think, for some eighteen months. We now call upon this government to act on the recommendations that are in the report.

We have all watched, and some of us have attended hearings on behalf of injured workers in this Province. Sometimes we have watched the committee on deeming, or the commission, deeming employees to have certain jobs. I have seen people deemed to be car salesmen, people who can hardly walk. The excuse was: Well, you can go and talk to your customer, and then you can go over in the corner and sit down. If your customer decides to buy the car, then you can go back and talk to him. What nonsense, Mr. Speaker.

I guess the most hypocritical one of all was one I read where an injured worker could lie on the broad of his back and perform his duties. Just imagine some genius - I have another word for it but unfortunately in this House I am not allowed to use it, so I use the word `genius' - at Workers' Compensation saying you can lie on the broad of your back and use the phone, and you can be a salesperson. Imagine, what nonsense! Yet, this government sits on this report for eighteen months and does nothing.

MR. TULK: You could use the word `asinine'.

MR. FRENCH: I would be more colourful than that, I say to the House Leader. As a matter of fact, if ever there was an organization that should be stripped from top to bottom, turned inside out, and half that is down there given a lesson on how to win friends and influence people, it is the Workers' Compensation Commission. If ever in this Province there was something that should have something done with it, it is the Workers' Compensation Commission.

Do not send down now, as we were going to do... Now we are going to give them more work. Now we are going to send down the inspection division. At the length of time and the deeming that goes on down there, Mr. Speaker - I have attended many of them and I have represented my own constituents, and I have had the opportunity to talk to members opposite who have attended Workers' Compensation Board appeals, and I have had to sit sometimes and listen to some of the things that our constituents have been deemed to be able to do - to me it is nothing short of ridiculous.

I say to the Government House Leader, it is not funny and it is not joking.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

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

MR. TULK: Let me say to the hon. gentleman that I was not considering it to be funny. As a matter of fact, it is one of the most hated words in the English language as far as I am concerned. It has to do with a lot of stuff that has gone on at the Workers' Compensation Board.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. FRENCH: Can I have a second by leave, just to clue up?


MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

MR. FRENCH: Today, Mr. Speaker, I present this petition on behalf of injured workers in this Province. As I have said, a fax came into my office from Corner Brook. A piece of paper came down this morning from my own district, from three constituents over there.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FRENCH: Pardon?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FRENCH: I know you did, because everybody's name is on it, I say to the Member for Humber... Everybody's name was on that. I think it is time, and I urge the minister to act today on that report. Let's not wait a moment longer. The time has come, the time is past, that we now do something with this particular report.

I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for giving me leave to clue up.

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

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

I stand to support the petition today, as presented by the Member for Conception Bay South and the critic for Labour, as somebody who has long stood in this House and asked many questions with respect to issues affecting injured workers in this Province.

It is again my pleasure today to stand and talk about the statutory review committee, and the recommendations contained within that report. As somebody who made a presentation to that committee, I was in Placentia with the spokesperson for the Injured Workers' Association who is in the gallery today.

I was the last presenter to the committee when they were winding up their trip. I recall vividly that morning in Placentia the presentation I made got more into a discussion in a philosophical bent of what the commission is all about, what it should be about. I was there for some three hours, I believe, if I am not mistaken, dealing with the committee appointed by government, and concentrating on and dealing with the issues.

As to the issue of deeming, I know the minister has dealt with it, or is in the process of dealing with it. I guess he will have the opportunity to explain in due course, whether that be today when he gets to his feet to respond to the petition, or at some other point under questioning or in a Ministerial Statement, in whatever form the answer will come out. The answer will come out in terms of what has been government's response to deeming, itself. Because, as the Government House Leader said, if there is one issue that sticks in the craw of injured workers, and if there is one issue that the Workers' Compensation Commission and its staff should be taken to task for, it is the issue of deeming.

People who find themselves, through no fault of their own, injured in the workplace go down to a system that has been set up - that they themselves have given up their right to sue individually, collectively - a system that is supposed to ensure that financially some measure of lifestyle can be maintained. People should not lose homes, should not lose cars, should not lose relationships, as a result of being injured in the workplace. And they bump into a system that at this point in time introduces them to a concept called deeming.

Deeming was set up first and foremost to do one thing and one thing only. It was set up to ensure that those people who are on the system who should not be there could be deemed off it. Pure and simple, end of story, that is what it was set up for. It was not set up, I say to the minister, for what it is being used for today. It was not set up to be used as a baseball bat to knock all of those people who should be on the system off it.

I do not want to get into the stories, there are too many, because I only have about five minutes with respect to supporting this petition. But they are numerous, many of them personally known to me, of people who find themselves in a situation that they would not want to be in, that had they had their own choice in the matter, would not be in, that had they had their own choice in the matter, would still be working; but find themselves in a situation where a system that is set up that is supposed to take care of them, in fact is set up not to take care of them. It is set up to deem them off a system, set up to limit the financial ability or the financial responsibility of the Workers' Compensation Commission.

That is just but one of the recommendations contained in that report. Eighty-five per cent or ninety per cent of the recommendations in that report do not require legislative changes. They require a change in thinking. I have said it before in this House, I have talked about it with the minister in this House, both in a public way and in a very private way, that what is required is a change of thinking - in many cases, to precipitate a change of thinking; what is required is a change of personnel from the top. And I have not changed my opinion on that today. Nothing that has been demonstrated to me has changed my opinion on what is required at the Commission at its most senior levels.

Let us talk about Canada Pension. The minister certainly has indicated, but I hope and I trust that before this spring Legislature closes that the words in the Throne Speech do not ring hollow - not for people in this House, but do not ring hollow for injured workers in this Province, and that some measure of justice will be found in legislation changing or impacting on the rules and regulations as it relates to Canada Pension with respect to Workers' Compensation, and that the recommendations -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. E. BYRNE: By leave, just for a couple of minutes?

- and the recommendations contained in that report with respect to Canada Pension which say clearly, which articulate loudly, which go to the point that would introduce some measure of justice with respect to injured workers that would allow some 50 per cent of Canada Pension contributions to come back to injured workers without being clawed back dollar for dollar.

I hope and I trust, we will see legislation coming into effect in this House that will implement that recommendation, because if it does, I can say to the minister that this Opposition and this caucus here will not delay it, not by one hour or by one minute, will not delay it by one second. If that legislation comes before this Legislature in the form of a piece of legislation, then it will be my recommendation that we introduce first reading, second reading and third reading immediately; with leave of the House, that we suspend debate and we move immediately to moving that legislation through so it can be brought into law as quickly as possible so that the impact of it, the positive impact, can be realized as quickly as possible by injured workers.

The last thing I want to say, Mr. Speaker, is with respect to specialists, that the practice - and I was at the PO hearing not five days ago, with a constituent of mine - actually, it was not a constituent of mine, it was somebody from another district - and the issue that it came down to the appeal, like so many other appeals that I have done and others have done, the issue came down that before the Chief Review Commissioner, who was sitting there with a body of medical evidence presented by two separate specialists who supported this injured worker with respect to his claim for compensation, and those two medical specialists' reports were consistent over time, a period of four years, consistent from the first specialist who saw this injured worker on day one and consistent four years later, that a general practitioner at the Workers' Compensation Commission saw fit to overrule the weighted opinion of two separate, independent and credible specialists.

Now, how we in the House can sit here without bringing any legislation in to limit - that allows that sort of situation to take place, I say to the minister, that is still a situation that exists. It is still a situation that must be corrected and it is still a situation that not only I, as Leader of the Party, but this caucus and in particular through our critic, the Member for Conception Bay South, will continue to be vigilant in asking you. Because that situation cannot continue to exist and we must not allow it to continue to exist.

I thank my colleagues opposite for giving me leave just to speak a little longer than usual with respect to this petition and I look forward to the minister's response.

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

MR LANGDON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

One of the first things, I guess, that confronted me when I became minister back in July, was a statutory review report that had been done for the Workers' Compensation Commission, which is now called Workers' Safety, Health and Compensation Commission, and that, of course, we transferred the Department of Health education from the department to the workers' workplace at the Commission, so that has already been done.

Considering the other things and the number of recommendations that were in the report, it took some time to do it all and I guess, if we had nothing else, in a sense, to do, then we could have expedited it and it could have been here a month or so previous to what is here. Because, like the Leader of the Opposition and the Member for Conception Bay South, I, too, share a lot of the concerns of the injured workers and when you do, obviously you must have compassion and understanding for the person who is there; and I guess, really, in a sense, it is hard to do sometimes when you cannot walk in the shoes of a person who has been injured, but you can have compassion and understanding.

I guess, from my perspective as minister here, we want to look at the fiscal integrity of the plan, that a few years ago was back to 40 per cent of (inaudible) liability. There were some drastic measures that were taken in a sense to make sure that the plan itself improved and to put it in good standing so that at the end of the day the injured worker could avail from the funds that were there for his protection in the first place.

I can say to the hon. the Opposition Leader that this morning I presented the department's final recommendations to the social policy of Cabinet. I intend to take that to Cabinet on Thursday and verifying the Cabinet decision, I would hope that by next week we could bring this to the House, and tell, not us in a sense, the people here, but people like Mr. (inaudible), and people who are injured workers, the recommendations we have brought forth. As I said right from the beginning, I have said it here in the House, probably because of what had happened, the plan itself, we might be able to see some equity and balance that can go back to the injured worker and hopefully at the end of the day they can say that we have done that. I think - without disclosing anything, because it has not gone to Cabinet yet for the final recommendation - I think at the end of the day that we will be fiscally prudent but in a sense to also be able to put a human face on a commission for the injured workers that are here in this Province.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I stand today to present a petition on an issue which was raised last week in this House concerning our public service pensioners. This is a petition signed by a number of residents of the Province. I will just read the prayer of the petition: To the hon. House of Assembly of Newfoundland in legislative session, the petition of the undersigned residents of Newfoundland:

WHEREAS many public service pensioners, who have spent a lifetime contributing to their society, are now slipping deeper and deeper into poverty;

WHEREFORE your petitioners urge the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to ensure that public service pensioners receive a raise in their pensions whenever public servants receive a raise in pay and to reverse the policy of clawing-back Canada Pension Plan benefits from public service pensioners.

Mr. Speaker, a number of people have signed this particular petition. However, as we know, there are indeed 11,000 pensioners in this Province who have been caught by this government's policy of simply disregarding the concerns of our public service pensioners in the fact that there has been no increase with respect to their benefits since 1989. We are talking, Mr. Speaker, about a ten-year period which has elapsed in this Province with absolutely no recognition being given to those individuals who have served the Province, to those individuals who have worked their years as loyal public servants and now the government, Mr. Speaker, is simply turning a blind eye to their needs. The government fails to recognize the fact that these are people who are in need, that these are people who are living, in many cases, at a poverty line subsistence and it is simply, on behalf of these petitioners, Mr. Speaker, being said loudly and clearly that this is not good enough.

Mr. Speaker, a private member's resolution was introduced in this House on Wednesday of last week and yet, despite the plea of these thousands of people in our Province, these senior citizens who rely on the good will of this government to assist them at this particular time, despite their plea, Mr. Speaker, that particular resolution was defeated. Mr. Speaker, that is most unfortunate because the message it is sending to our pensioners is that this government does not care. The message is quite simple. The message is: This government does not care about the welfare of those individuals who are now retired, who are pensioned and who have worked long and hard on behalf of various governments throughout this Province for twenty, thirty and in some cases, even thirty-five years.

So, Mr. Speaker, when these petitioners say that they want a raise in pensions equal to a pay increase given to public servants, that is only a reasonable request. Requests are not being made that raises be above and beyond what other people receive. They are simply asking that they be treated equally and fairly, and along the lines of other public servants in this Province.

Secondly, Mr. Speaker, the practice of clawing back Canada Pension benefits from public service pensioners is well within the discretion of this government to change. All this government has to do is seriously review the policy with respect to the claw-back provisions and allow the people of this Province, the public service pensioners, to simply enjoy the benefit of hard-working contributions made to both the Canada Pension Plan and their particular provincial government pension plan. Why take away the benefit of one just because another plan is intact?

This petition is one which is being presented, granted only by a few in this instance, but it is on behalf of thousands of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who feel their rights are being overlooked and their privileges are being denied. They are simply asking this government to take a good hard look at the circumstances in which they now live, and hopefully to have the good common sense to listen to what is being said, and to hopefully accept their representations and make changes to a pension plan which is in bad need of repair.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise to say a few words in support of the petition so capably and ably put forward by my colleague, the Member for St. John's East, as it relates to senior citizens' pensions in this Province.

This is one of many petitions that has been brought forward by this side of the House since we came back to sit just last week. Those petitions are in response to the seniors out in this Province today who are contacting their members - and I am sure members on the opposite side have had many letters as well - asking them if they would be kind enough to look at offering them a raise. The plea is to ask if government would look at what they are receiving in pension, some of them as low as $3,000, I say to members opposite. I spoke to a gentleman the other night down in my district who worked twenty-eight years with the Department of Works, Services and Transportation. He asked: Do you know what my pension is? My pension is $7,000 a year. Now, if something should happen to me -

MR. TULK: You have not had (inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: The minister knows what he is saying is wrong, and I should not even react to it, but I will, just to correct it in case it is recorded.

The senior said to me: My pension is $7,000 a year. Granted, I had a little interruption in time when I worked with the Department of Works, Services and Transportation. My wife is with me here tonight. What happens if I die tomorrow? How much money would my wife be entitled to? Sixty per cent of his $7,000, Mr. Speaker, $4,200 a year.

That is shameful for somebody who worked twenty-eight years for this government. Twenty-eight years and entitled to $7,000 a year. Yesterday or a couple of days ago, when the first petition was brought forward here, I think it was the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board who got up in response to the petition and stated something to the effect that: Do you honestly believe that people who are leaving this House of Assembly, or other institutions here, with their big pensions, should be entitled to their 2.5 per cent up to 7 per cent in the thirty-eight or thirty-nine months as was negotiated with the NAPE union?

No, I do not think they should. I do not think that is the spirit of this particular petition. What we are asking, and what those seniors are asking, is to have their case made a special case. You can put a minimum income there if you want, and say: If your income or your pension is below a certain amount, then you are entitled to this amount of a raise, or you are entitled to this amount of a refund.

What happens if the senior's wife passes away? Maybe, in some cases, the spouse might be getting a spouse's allowance, might be getting the senior's assistance allowance. What is going to happen if all of a sudden there is only one income to look after the cost of running the household? Those people go out and they pay the same price for a loaf of bread, I say to the Government House Leader, they pay the same price for a car, they pay the same price for their hydro bills as you and I or anybody else -

MR. TULK: And I do not need you to tell me that.

MR. FITZGERALD: - and you do not need me to tell you that, you are 100 per cent right, but you need me to remind you, I say to the Government House Leader. Obviously, you do, because you have had no doubt, some influence on the Budget that is being brought forward here by this government. You are the one who stood up to congratulate the Minister of Finance; you are the one who stood and applauded him when he brought forward his Budget; you are the one who reached out your hand and said: `Congratulations'. So, obviously, you did have some influence on the Budget, and it is sorrowful, Mr. Speaker, it is sad, when you see members from the rural areas of this Province, with people out there struggling today, to keep body and soul together; people who have worked all their lives for this government, people who have contributed immensely to the welfare of this Province; some people who have never collected an Unemployment Insurance cheque in their lives but still, this government looks and says: You do not need a raise, you are alright with what you are getting, and you are forgotten about because that is what is happening here today; seniors in this Province are forgotten about.

Do I believe that people leaving this House of Assembly or leaving the teaching profession or leaving any other profession, who are getting $30,000, $40,000 or $50,000 a year in a pension, do they deserve a raise? No, Mr. Speaker, they are doing very well, they are not the ones who are looking for a raise. But when you see seniors in this Province living below the poverty line, when you see seniors in this Province, Mr. Speaker, having to go to food banks in order to put food on the table; when you see seniors in this Province having to sell their houses and move in with their sons and daughters, then that is shameful and that is wrong; and for anybody to sit here and condone that, Mr. Speaker, I am not so sure who they are listening to, or where they are coming from.

Mr. Speaker, the prayer of the petition is very simple. The seniors who are asking for a raise are not asking that they be granted a 20 per cent raise or a 50 per cent raise or to bring them up to the minimum MHA's pension, all they are asking, Mr. Speaker, is for them to be included in a cost of living - to have their pensions indexed and have them included for the same rate of increase as the other unions and the other people in this Province have just negotiated - I think it was 7 per cent over three years, and that is not too much to ask for. I do not think it will break the Treasury of this Province; I do not think it will throw the Department of Finance all out of kilter, Mr. Speaker. They are asking for something very simple, there is a need there and I would urge the government to respond to that particular need and to allow those seniors to live in some degree, Mr. Speaker -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. FITZGERALD: - to allow the seniors of this Province to be able to at least purchase the basic necessities of life.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I present a petition today on behalf of residents of St. Shotts in the District of Placentia & St. Mary's.

Actually, people utilize and go through my district to come to St. John's and this petition, Mr. Speaker, is regarding a Goulds bypass road. I will just read some of the aspects of the petition and in particular the Whereases where they pertain to the reasoning behind wanting a Goulds bypass road.

WHEREAS the construction of a Goulds bypass road has been identified as a priority for development under the Canada-Newfoundland Transportation Initiative; and

WHEREAS the construction of a Goulds bypass road has not begun despite repeated promises from government; and

WHEREAS the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador has indicated that construction of the Goulds bypass road will not begin this year; and

WHEREAS significant opportunities for development in the region are contingent on the completion of the Goulds bypass road; and

WHEREAS the viability of our communities and businesses is dependent upon adequate transportation infrastructure that allows our region access to the opportunities and markets of the capital region; and

WHEREAS the growth of our communities is closely related to the ability of our citizens to commute to work within a reasonable time each day over highways that are in good condition; and

WHEREAS the financial resources to begin the Goulds bypass road have been identified under the Canada-Newfoundland Transportation Initiative;

WHEREFORE your petitioners urge the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to begin construction of the Goulds bypass road this coming year.

Mr. Speaker, this is just one of many petitions that are filtering in each day. I have already presented on a couple of other communities that are coming into my office. People in the area believe strongly in having a good system of roads, a proper network to be able to move back and forth to the city. In particular, and as I mentioned before, I live over 90 kilometres from Confederation Building and I can travel 80 kilometres of that in half the time. The remaining 15 kilometres through the Goulds, through the city of St. John's and so on, takes the other half of the time and that in itself is indicative of the bottleneck. The only real exit in case of diaster is being discussed in - especially with all of the activity, the offshore, off the Avalon, through that route. It is bottlenecked elsewhere it is true, up through Bay Bulls, the Witless Bay Line and out through the Trans-Canada. It is an avenue to access getting out of this particular area. Lots of people like to get out of the city, Mr. Speaker, to get out to the country.

We have a budding tourism industry in our area. Boat tours have increased in very great numbers over the past number of years. It moved back from several years ago into a blossoming industry in the area. A bird sanctuary there, whale watching, iceberg watching from boats - it is a tremendous growing industry.

Now we have the East Coast Trail Association bringing tourism in from all over the world. I am hoping the Minister of Development and Rural Renewal - that we will hear a big announcement in the next few days on over $1 million-worth of funding, we hope, for the East Coast Trail Association. I am sure, $1.1 million will be forthcoming soon. In fact, it has been estimated that the tremendous tourism potential in that area, even the figures that this department have worked out, have been even several times what the federal people have worked out in figures in spin-off effects it could have. So even the Province has great hope and promise in the numbers that are going to utilize this.

To add to this, take in the St. Shotts area, the Member for Placentia - St. Mary's, in his district there is a proposed Caribou interpretation centre. When they rated it as tourism utilization -the department had ratings on all different projects - it received in the highest ratings of any, in potential to bring people into the area. The recovery of jobs, the total aspect impact on tourism, it rated right up on top. So it has great potential but we have to be able to get people to our area. We cannot have people driving for an extra forty-five minutes over a distance that only requires five minutes. So the Goulds bypass road connecting onto the Pitts Memorial Drive, bringing into Bay Bulls, Big Pond, at least will be a first step in opening up that particular area, not only to tourism development but significant development associated with the offshore.

We have a beautiful area in Bay Bulls now where hundreds of thousands, if not in the millions, have been expended by a developer, by a business person who wants to expand and employ people there and develop the area. A bypass road will be a sign that government is committed to keeping rural Newfoundland and Labrador alive; they are willing to invest dollars into rural Newfoundland and Labrador and enable businesses to come in there and help an area that has been struggling since the downturn in the fishery, in an area that was heavily dependent upon the ground fishery in this Province and did not have as much diversification as some other particular areas.

So I know the Minister of Development and Rural Renewal, D2R2 -

MR. TULK: No, that is not right.

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes it does, it sounds -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. SULLIVAN: By leave, to finish up, Mr. Speaker.

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

By leave.

MR. SULLIVAN: It sounds like one of those WD40, is it? One of those names. I never call it D2R2, actually. I call it Development and Rural Renewal. I could see, though, why they want to call it D2R2. They are so ashamed of their performances in Rural Renewal in the Province, they did not want to get that name out there, for fear they might think the minister is not committed to Rural Renewal.

I know the Minister of Government Services and Lands is holding up a picture of something, I cannot make it out. No, if I had your glasses - I just want your paper to see what is there. Would not that be easier? A picture of whom? Pardon? Oh, sports - sports are good.

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: No, I think you missed the first part of my comment on this. I said a Goulds by-pass road would help bring in - to be able to spend that $1.1 million we are hoping to hear announced next week, that is needed to revitalize an area on the East Coast Trail Association. Maybe we got more than $1.1 million to develop what has been identified as an excellent investment into the future of rural Newfoundland and Labrador. I am sure the Minister understands that.

In this particular area here, St. Shotts, and I am sure the Member for Placentia & St. Mary's can certainly attest to that, represents these people also, the overlap with people in my district, basically in Trepassey, the impact of a road system to bring people to that new cargo interpretation centre, that is going to be approved, we hope, in the next year, to enable the people in Trepassey and St. Shotts and surrounding areas here, to have a fighting chance.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

I want today to rise in my place and support the petition presented by the Member for Ferryland.

I have a question for the Minister of Education but we shall see - that will come later; a very serious question.

Mr. Speaker, this petition - all the names on this are signed by the people living in St. Shotts, presented by the Member for Ferryland. Why is that, I ask you?

MR. SULLIVAN: I look after the people from the Southern Shore.

MR. J. BYRNE: He is looking after the people from the whole Southern Shore, Mr. Speaker, not only his own district. But a good question: Why is not the Member for Placentia & St. Mary's presenting this petition?

These people travel through the Goulds, down through the Southern Shore and require and need a Goulds by-pass.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: When we see him it shall be asked. In the meantime, Mr. Speaker, the Goulds by-pass, why is it needed? It has been a priority, apparently, by the Committee and the Canada Newfoundland Roads Agreement Committee basically agreed that this issue is a priority. Why is it a priority? It is because of the amount of traffic that is on this road, that travels through Kilbride and the Goulds each and every morning and each and every evening, through all kinds of weather. Of course, the condition of the Southern Shore highway, if you have travelled it - and I have travelled it a number of times, not nearly as often as people who live in that area, of course; but it is travelled every single day by thousands of people. The condition of the road is ridiculous, especially up through Kilbride area and the Goulds, where the water and sewer was installed. There are ditches across the road every few feet.

It is a desperate requirement by the people on the Southern Shore, not only the people in Kilbride and the Goulds. Now, this has been promised by this Administration, and I was under the impression from being in this House of Assembly and listening to the minister speak on this issue, that the Goulds by-pass would be started this year.

Again, we saw in the announcement by the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation that it is going to be delayed for at least another year. We know from the minister's statements in this House of Assembly that the Budget for road work in this Province this year is apparently higher than ever before in the Province. I find that hard to believe, but I take him at his word, the Budget this year for the work on the highways of the Province, and the Trans-Canada Highway.

I have a few questions, by the way, Mr. Speaker, about the Trans-Canada Highway, for the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation, in due course.

I see the Member for Placentia & St. Mary's over there. I expect he will get up and speak in favour of the petition presented by the Member for Ferryland for the people who live in St. Shotts. Every signature on the paper is from people living in St. Shotts, I say to the member. So I expect he will get up and say a few words in support and request the Minister of Works and Services and Transportation to put money into the Goulds by-pass this year. Now, I was listening to the Member for Ferryland when he was presenting the petition. I

made a few notes that I should highlight.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Take my time? But I have so much to say and I know that the Member for -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: The Member for Labrador West is quite anxious to hear what I have to say, and I only have five minutes to speak.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. J. BYRNE: There it is - time is up, Mr. Speaker. By leave I can go on now, Mr. Speaker, no problem there.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. J. BYRNE: I just want to encourage the Member for Placentia & St. Mary's to get up and say a few words.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!


Orders of the Day


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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, Motion No. 1, the Budget Speech.

MR. SPEAKER: Motion No. 1. I believe the hon. the Member for St. John's East adjourned the debate.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Mr. Speaker, I just want to add a few comments, to my comments yesterday, in response to the Budget and in response to the overall reception that this Budget document has received in this Province over the past number of days.

Yesterday, when the debate adjourned, Mr. Speaker, we were talking about the so-called Social Budget and the impact, or the lack of impact, that this Budget has had on our young people, in particular our children. At the time of adjournment we were talking specifically about the change which was taking place between one department and another as it relates to child welfare issues and child protection issues in our Province.

As we now know, the Department of Health, the large Department of Health, which has a total budgetary impact of approximately one-quarter of the total of the provincial Budget, as now been given the responsibility of Child Welfare and child protection issues.

The question has to be asked is that department in a position, Mr. Speaker, to adequately deal with concerns and issues that have been raised in this Province and have been particularly noted in the Select Committee on Children's Interests.

Because if we look at some of the recommendations which are found in the Select Committee on Children's Interests, we see, Mr. Speaker, that there are very many concerns as it relates to young people, particularly those children between the ages of sixteen and eighteen. And as I mentioned yesterday, Mr. Speaker, these are the very children who are overlooked in our Province because of that gap which exists where child welfare legislation ceases to have jurisdiction over children beyond the age of sixteen.

So you have many seventeen-year-olds and eighteen-year-olds who are simply lost and fall between the cracks. So, Mr. Speaker, the question has to be asked as a result of last week's Budget: This change and shift in policy on youth diversion, child welfare, child protection, and open custody issues, how will it benefit our young people when it is going in fact from a smaller department, to a larger department?

A greater bureaucracy, more people perhaps having say and opinions as to what should be done and what should not done - one has to question, I guess, the wisdom in such a move.

Mr. Speaker, the issue of closed custody remains within the jurisdiction of the Department of Justice but all issues with respect to open custody - a child who in youth court is found to be an open custody, for example, may go to a group home, maybe under supervision, maybe under probation and maybe under the guidance of a probation worker. This new social responsibility is now under the jurisdiction of the Department of Health.

So one has to question the wisdom of this move in view of the bureaucratic impact this obliviously could have on children who already, according to the report of the Select Committee on Children's Interests - what impact will this have on children, for which there seems to be no remedy? These children are lost, Mr. Speaker, and they are seeking some assistance from this government to deal in a very real way with their concerns and their problems.

Also the issue of youth diversion, Mr. Speaker - it is an interesting concept because youth diversion generally, is an option which is available to a young person who is charged for the very first time and usually it is a very minor offence. And often what the court system or the diversion office, upon the recommendation, usually, of the Crown prosecutor - what usually happens is rather than have that young offender in youth court on what is relatively considered to be a minor charge, and rather than have that young person become involved in the criminal justice system, there is an opportunity for that young person to go through the Youth Diversion Program. And essentially, what that program involves, according to my understanding, is that a diversion worker or a social worker will sit with that young person, try to get an explanation as to exactly what precipitated the incident, and very often the victim is then the recipient of a letter of apology or a letter of understanding, or some form of community service very often is an option that may be considered in the youth diversion process. But basically, that responsibility as well, now shifts to the Department of Health, and again, the question has to be asked: Are the resources in place? Are the personnel in place? Are our health boards now equipped to deal with these somewhat quasi-judicial issues? Time will tell, Mr. Speaker, in terms of whether or not this particular budgetary initiative, in fact, is in the best interests of our young people.

Mr. Speaker, the recommendations themselves - this is a lengthy document, this particular report on the Select Committee on Children's Interests. In fact, one-third of the total text deals with specific and general recommendations as found by the members of this particular Select Committee. And where do we find in last week's Budget, Mr. Speaker, recommendations that deal directly with the interests of our young children? They seem to be hidden, Mr. Speaker. The Budget does not address any of the recommendations other than that cosmetic shift, other than that bureaucratic shift to which I just referred.

One recommendation which it becomes obvious that certainly this government paid no attention to in its preparation of last week's Budget as it relates to social reform, and one would think, children, is the fact that the recommendation of a Child Advocate has not been addressed. The Child Advocate, Mr. Speaker, is essentially an ombudsman for young people, an independent person who can voice the concerns and the opinions of young people. I will give an example of where a Child Advocate is often a part of the judicial system.

Often in very difficult custody and access cases, the judge of the Unified Family Court may find it necessary to have appointed an independent Child Advocate, and this can be done. A Unified Family Court judge, Mr. Speaker, has the discretion to appoint an Advocate for a child if it is felt that in that particular case in a Family Court dispute, a child's interests are not being met and a child's interests are being lost perhaps in the very difficult dispute between the two parents.

Often, what happens in many Family Court disputes and in litigation involving a mother and father, sometimes the best interests of the child in the pleading of the case and in the presenting of the evidence of the case get overlooked, and what happens is that the best interests of the parent is often presented to a judge of the Unified Family Court and a child's interests are often overlooked.

The role of a Child Advocate, therefore, is where an independent person is appointed, and that person has no other interest, does not care about the mother, does not particularly care about the father, does not care about institutions but looks at what is in the best interests of that particular child, and in dealing with custody cases or access cases, or in dealing with issues of wardship, for example, or in dealing with issues such as housing, or dealing with issues with respect to the health needs of that child or the social needs of that child, or the schooling of that child, or the special needs of that child, the child advocate can be called upon to render his or her opinion as to what should be done.

Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, that very important role, which was one of the primary recommendations of the Select Committee on Children's Interests, has been overlooked. This concept of the independence of a child advocate, I would suggest, is a very important one, and it is most unfortunate we do not see any recognition or reference to the institution of this particular office being considered. I might add, in most other jurisdictions, and certainly in other Canadian provinces, the office of the child advocate is a very prominent office, and one which plays a very important role in judicial and social systems.

Mr. Speaker, there has been much discussion, particularly by social service recipients, with respect to the national child benefit claw back. My colleague, the Member for St. John's West, has certainly spoken of this issue frequently in the House, and in fact in yesterday's question period she questioned the minister as to directly what is the amount that a child in particular circumstances can expect to receive under certain circumstances. The question was skirted, the issue was avoided. Why, Mr. Speaker? Because the Budget, on this particular issue, did not do justice to those very children who are in need in this Province.

The fact that there is a claw back of any kind which impacts, as a result, on the most vulnerable people in our society is a disgrace. The fact that our government, Mr. Speaker, would even entertain the idea that a national child benefit claw back would be part-and-parcel of last week's Budget is most inappropriate, and certainly unfair to those children and those families who rely on a very basic income as a result of their social assistance benefits.

Mr. Speaker, according to government statistics there are some 32,000 people in this Province that live on social assistance, and that's just the caseload. There are indeed, perhaps depending on the size of the family, many more people. We know there are many more people in our Province who rely on social assistance benefits. In fact, some statistics suggest that figure is indeed double. We may have 65,000 to 70,000 people relying on social assistance. That is close to one-eighth of our population. One out of every eight people in this Province, in one form or another, must rely on social welfare benefits or social assistance benefits. Where was the help for these people, Mr. Speaker? Where was the recognition that one-eighth of our entire population must rely on one form or another of social assistance benefits? It simply wasn't there.

There was some petty attempt to deal with the school lunch program. It's true, there was an attempt made, and I'm sure some of the advocates of the school lunch program are indeed pleased that government has, at long last, seen fit to recognize that a school lunch program is a necessary part of school life for children in our Province. We all know, and we hear it so often, how an undernourished child cannot perform academically in our classrooms. We all know that a child going to school hungry cannot perform to his or her expectations.

At least the government did recognize that a school lunch program of some form or another is appropriate. Let's hope, Mr. Speaker, that there will be initiatives brought forward by this government which will do nothing only enhance that program.

My colleague, the Member for Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi, has presented a variety of petitions supported always by members of the Opposition, my colleagues on this side of the House, who agree fully with the position that a school lunch program is an integral part of a child's ability to be able to perform successfully in an educational setting.

Mr. Speaker, we have the recommendations of the Williams' Commission, the recommendations of Dr. Patricia Canning in her report on Special Matters and we see similar statistics where they quote, for example, that tens of thousands of our children are living below the poverty line. So not only do we have a statistic showing one out of eight persons in this Province relying on one form or another of social assistance, we have some tens of thousands, in fact, the Special Matters Report uses the figure of some 40,000 children living below the poverty line; when we compare the poverty line in other provinces of our country.

So, Mr. Speaker, it is essential that government recognize that if it is not prepared to invest in the interests of our school children at an early age we have very little in store in terms of a successful and productive society in the future. Our future is dependent upon, I would suggest, a strong child, a healthy child, a child with a full belly, a child that can perform in school and can reach his or her potential and not have to go to school hungry on a day-to-day basis.

Sadly, Mr. Speaker, we are becoming a society of volunteers, and if it were not for our volunteers, if it were not for the people who contribute to the volunteer run food banks, which enable families to eat more, where would we be? Because government has failed to recognize the needs of our young people. It is the volunteer programs, the parent initiatives in a variety of schools, the school councils who work hard to support school programs, as it relates to the health of their children, parent and teacher associations, all volunteers, all people who are prepared to work, obviously in the best interests of their children, because they perhaps, Mr. Speaker - volunteer may not be the appropriate word because perhaps they have no choice. They have no choice but to realize that if they don't do it their government will not either, and that is a sad reality, Mr. Speaker.

We are fortunate at least in this Province that we have the spirit amongst us that, when the going gets tough the tough get going, Mr. Speaker. What we need are people who are prepared, I say to the Minister of Justice, when times are hard, to roll up their sleeves, and when government fails them, to at least be prepared to do what is in the best interest of their families and their children and, I suppose, by extension, the best interest of their community.

Mr. Speaker, I would certainly encourage government to have a good hard look at this particular Children's Interests Select Committee and its recommendations. It is filled with what is wrong with our society, it is filled with what our children need and request, and it is filled with some answers; but the answers have gone unnoticed. The answers have not been addressed and again, in last week's Budget, it only confirms for me, as one member of this House, that the government appears to have little concern with respect to what is in the best interest of the most vulnerable people of our Province.

Mr. Speaker, I touched, to some extent yesterday, on the topic of education. We are going through, I guess, historic times in many ways, Mr. Speaker, with respect to education. We have gone through the very difficult and rocky road of reform. It was necessary in this Province to subject the people to two referenda but that particular time in our history is now complete and, Mr. Speaker, we are left with the consequences of reform, or the fallout of reform. We are at a period of time in our history when it is now necessary for all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to find ways, Mr. Speaker, to work together in the best interests of their children, but that cannot be done and that cannot be achieved without government help.

Again, I have to remind members of this House that when we see a figure of $50 million in two instalments of $25 million each being attributed to education in this Province, and when we closely scrutinize where this money is going, the direction of this money, how these resources are going to be used, we find out, Mr. Speaker, that it does nothing only clean the air. It cleans the air of schools which have been subject to neglect and abuse by government over the years.

We have $50 million. It sounds good. It certainly sounds good. The people of the Province are being fooled perhaps, Mr. Speaker, by the fact that there is a $50 million contribution under the guise of school construction, new schools, new facilities. But what it is, in fact, Mr. Speaker, is nothing more than cleaning a problem which has existed in this Province for goodness knows how many years.

Mr. Speaker, if it were not for members on this side of the House, who provoked government into releasing a report, we perhaps would not even have that money. The report was released, the problems were identified, the parents and the citizens of our community revolted, and government had no choice but to invest significant amounts of money to remedy the problems that exist in our schools, as a result of government's neglect over the years.

Mr. Speaker, again we are not looking at $50 million going into program development. We are not looking at millions of dollars being put forward to curriculum changes. We are not looking at monies being spent on new initiatives in education. We are looking at significant amounts of money to clean our schools, which in and of itself is fine. We have to clean our schools, there is no denying that. But let's not try and camouflage the real reason. Let's not try and do that, Mr. Speaker. It is essential that this government be honest with the people of the Province and tell the people of the Province that the vast majority of these funds will be used for a purpose contrary to what they may think.

Mr. Speaker, money in this Province is being spent in many ways. For example, we have excursions for trade missions in Asia and South America. We have the redecoration of ministers' offices. We have the stringing of lights along the parkway at Christmas. Do you remember the parkway last Christmas, the stringing of lights? I thought, Mr. Speaker, I was in San Antonio, Texas. It was amazing, the lights, the decoration, the money that was spent, the cost to the taxpayer last Christmas, when in fact we have children in this Province going to school hungry, when we have programs that are simply not available for members of society who require these programs most.

Mr. Speaker, an issue of standardized exams: I remember approximately a year ago, this was an issue that was brought forward. The concept of standardized exams has simply been erased by this government. It was always felt, Mr. Speaker, that a standardized, public examination was critical in terms of the ability of a post-secondary institution to assess whether or not a particular person met the minimum requirements. In fact, some provinces, Mr. Speaker, adopted a policy of doing away with standardized exams, only to find that upon reflection it was necessary to reintroduce standardized exams. Where is government's position on this issue?

We had Memorial University last year stating to this government that it was indeed felt that the standardization of public exams was an important ingredient in terms of that institution, or any post-secondary institution, in determining who is and who is not a credible person, or a credible graduate, to be accepted into their particular program. Mr. Speaker, again, we see no reference as to the government's, and in particular the Department of Education's, position on standardized exams in our Province.

Of course, there are other reform recommendations of the Williams and Canning reports. The debate about the length of the school day and the length of the school year, what is the status of it, I ask the minister? We hear nothing about it. What about the refocusing of the curriculum on the essentials, on the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic? What about our special needs children, as I referred to earlier, as found in the Special Matters report, Mr. Speaker? Again, there is no reference, no indication that government is even prepared to consider in any serious way the recommendations that were found in either the Williams commission or in the Canning report.

I would just like to make a few comments, as well, Mr. Speaker, this being the so-called social budget, about the health initiatives which have been brought forward. We see an attempt by government to fund and to help a number of communities with respect to new health care facilities. Mr. Speaker, we also realize that the funding for these facilities is a result of the immigration investment fund program. The question has to be asked: Is it in the public interest that funding from this source be used?

Where is the rationale, Mr. Speaker, put forward by the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board, that such a program and such an initiative be used to fund the health care system in this Province? We do not know what the interest rate will be, and in these investor programs, Mr. Speaker, it is always imperative that the money which is borrowed as a result of this investor program, that interest obviously be repaid at the end of the day. What is the interest rate? What is the cost, Mr. Speaker, to the taxpayer of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador? What benefit does using this particular investor program have over ordinary government spending that one would see in a traditional budgetary initiative? We don't have an explanation, Mr. Speaker. There is nothing in the Budget to indicate that this particular decision is, in fact, in the best interests of the people of our Province.

Mr. Speaker, overall, one has to question the accountability of our government. Is the money being spent wisely? Is the money being spent in the best interests of our Province? We can see very quickly, when we review the Auditor General's Report, that the money is not being spent wisely, and that public funds are being misused. Let's just go through a few examples.

First, we have $18.7 million in the Health Care Corporation for accounts receivable, $7.9 million dollars - almost $8 million - of that from patients, of which $5.6 million is thirty days overdue, and $1.6 million uncollectible. This is right out of the Auditor General's Report. There is $7.6 million from the provincial government and $3.2 million from other sources; significant amounts of money, I say, that the Auditor General in her report have found simply not available, monies uncollected from the Department of Health.

There is $1.2 million from the Western Memorial Hospital Corporation - again, accounts receivable - $600,000 over thirty days, $430,000 uncollectible. There is almost $1 million in the cancer foundation deficit. There is $36.7 million from public tender exceptions, $2.8 million of that for lease of space, and $3.9 million for Government Purchasing Agency.

The issue of vehicles, Mr. Speaker - again, this is all found in the Auditor General's Report which was tabled just over a week ago - light vehicles down to 869 but government cannot justify the number, Mr. Speaker; $2.1 million in new light vehicle acquisitions - comment: unjustified; $600,000 in vehicle rentals, not inclusive of all costs, so certainly one is led to believe that, in fact, that figure is certainly much higher; $15.6 million of annualized debt savings if amounts owed to government had been collected; and the list, Mr. Speaker, goes on and on.

We see the privatization of Newfoundland and Labrador Computer Services Limited, and the issues that have been raised by the Auditor General: Foregone benefits of the agreement; and the Auditor General lists the deficiencies as they relate to Computer Services.

The Treasury Board officials indicated that $3 million of the surplus in the teachers' group insurance plan is attributed to excess government contributions and should be refunded to government. Again, government's inability to do a proper accounting, to do a proper reconciliation of the books, again, Mr. Speaker, all at public expense.

School boards, Mr. Speaker: Seven of the ten new school boards directed the Department of Education to pay some of the executive staff a total of close to $160,000 above the salary levels as approved by government. Mr. Speaker, we heard in exchanges in this House last week, and in comments made by the Minister of Education: We will wash our hands of that, Mr. Speaker. The school boards are a separate legal entity, they made do as they wish. Mr. Speaker, whether the school board does it or whether it is government that makes the decision, it is still public money, it is still public funds. We are still talking, Mr. Speaker, about the public purse. Therefore, I say to the Minister of Education, he has -

MR. GRIMES: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Education, on a point of order.

MR. GRIMES: Mr. Speaker, a point of order with respect to the response to the Budget being made by the Opposition Finance critic, because I have been following the debate intently throughout the afternoon. I have been riveted to my seat because of the presentation being made.

With respect to school boards and the issue just raised, Mr. Speaker, I would like to know - maybe the Finance critic or the Education critic, one of the two Education critics, can tell us - if it is the position of the Opposition Party, the Official Opposition, that we should not have any school boards? Because that seems to be what he saying, Mr. Speaker, that the minister should do it all. That happens in other provinces, by the way, and I would like to know if that is the position that they would like to propose here.

Secondly, Mr. Speaker, maybe we could get advance notice from the hon. member, the Finance critic, because I want to be here when this happens. Is he going to move the motion of non-confidence in the government, based on the Budget, this afternoon or will I have to wait until Thursday or Friday, Mr. Speaker?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

There is no point of order.

MR. J. BYRNE: A point of order.

MR. SPEAKER: A point of order, the Member for Cape St. Francis.

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

Mr. Speaker, I wanted to respond to what the minister said but -

AN HON. MEMBER: There is no point of order.

MR. J. BYRNE: I have my own point of order.

AN HON. MEMBER: Sit down.

MR. J. BYRNE: Take your time, don't panic.

Mr. Speaker, I was driving across town this morning in my car and I just happened to turn the radio on and I got a sentence. It was the Minister of Education and he made this statement, that he was trained by Memorial University to teach Math and Sciences, but he taught sex in the classroom and he was not a master of anything sexual. Could he explain that?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

There is no point of order.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, it is clear, when we look at many of the so-called social reforms, that on the issue of education the Budget has been a disappointment. On the issue of many of the omissions with respect to health care in this Province, the Budget has been a disappointment. On the issue of social assistance benefits and social reform, as it is called, the Budget has been a disappointment.

Mr. Speaker, I referred yesterday to what are perhaps the two single most serious problems facing Newfoundland and Labrador today: Number one being the issue of out-migration, and number two being the severity of the impact of student debt.

Mr. Speaker, where has this government recognized or addressed that these problems even exist? The word `out-migration' is hardly found, Mr. Speaker. It is so obvious and so much of a reality of the people of our Province that one would think, Mr. Speaker, that problem would be addressed and dealt with head on; but no, Mr. Speaker, it simply was not found.

The issue of student debt, as I referred to yesterday, Mr. Speaker, was simply not addressed. Yet, we have thousands and thousands of young people who find it impossible on a day-to-day basis to cope with the stresses related to the financial burden which they experience.

So, Mr. Speaker, overall the Budget has not - despite the gloss and despite the fluff - the Budget has not presented the people of this Province with real options in terms of their future in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. The public of this Province have heard, in last week's presentation, a series of commitments and promises which really do not directly impact upon the well-being of our people.

Mr. Speaker, just a couple of other points, just to give and further the point I am making; the royalties, no mention of the word in last week's Budget. We are still waiting for a royalty regime as it relates to our principle mega-project in Northern Labrador, on the Coast of Northern Labrador. It is not mentioned, Mr. Speaker, no reference to it. In its attempt, Mr. Speaker, to deal with these social issues, our mega-projects have been completely ignored and overlooked.

Public sector pensions: We have heard a lot about this in the last few days but, Mr. Speaker, again on Budget Day, when we had perhaps twelve or fifteen of our public service pensioners up in the gallery, they were, I would suggest, a pretty disappointed lot. They were hoping for some attention being given to them at their particular time of need.

We have brought petition after petition on behalf of the public service pensioners of our Province. We have made representations on their behalf. We have tried to show members opposite that the pensioners in this Province simply cannot cut it financially as it relates to their day-to-day needs. They see their colleagues in the public service getting increases - low ones mind you, but at least they are being ratified and being agreed upon - but the pensioners have been overlooked. Was there any word or recognition of their problems in last week's Budget, Mr. Speaker? No, there was not.

We see a structural deficit resulting as a result of the sales taxes transitional assistance and the Term 29 transfer. Mr. Speaker, what that structural deficit means to the people of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador is that next year in excess of $100 million will not be available to this government because of the nature of this structural deficit. The actual figures are: Term 29 was some $40 million last year and will be reduced accordingly this year; and the sales taxes transitional assistance some $127 million.

The question has to be asked once again, Mr. Speaker: Where will government find the way next year, in its budgetary planning for next year, to deal properly with the affairs of this Province, when in fact these significant funds, in excess of $100 million, simply will not be made available to the government of this Province?

In the operational grant to Memorial University, Mr. Speaker, we see what can only be referred to as a breach of commitment. When in fact a commitment, a three-year plan, was to be the way for our Memorial University of Newfoundland, we see the operational grant reduced from 1997 to 1998, and in fact in actual dollars from $102.5 million now to $99 million, when those in administration at the University keep saying: We cannot operate this institution without the appropriate funding being made available from the government of our Province.

When we look at the issue of education, and we look at the fact that a number of teachers have been provided with respect to meeting the recommendations of the special needs report, we look, as I have said before, at simply too little too late. When we look at the fact that the government has found it necessary to simply reinstate some 200 teachers, it is not really reinstating. It is simply paying recognition to the fact that the teacher allocation and the teacher formula must change.

We are using a teacher formula in this Province which is archaic. It is a teacher formula which has been in existence in this Province for many years. It was at a time when our student population was significantly higher; it was at a time when our enrolment figure in our primary schools was at a steady pace. Now there are different kinds of needs. We cannot rely on those formulae which may have been appropriate fifteen, twenty, or twenty-five years ago.

We are talking about schools in the more remote areas of our Province with a significantly reduced pupil population. Does that mean that the teacher population must decrease as well? I say it does not mean that, because with those special circumstances come special needs. If we have a small school, or what the minister sometimes refers to as a necessarily existent school, in remote parts of our Province, does that mean, if we only have fifty children from Kindergarten to Grade IX, that we can only have, in accordance with the pupil-teacher formula which has been devised by government, only maybe 2.5 or 3 teachers? Hopefully no.

There must be recognition given to the fact that different times mean different formulae. What the minister, I would suggest, ought to do is to seriously scrutinize and analyze the changes which are taking place in Newfoundland, particularly rural Newfoundland, and make the necessary adjustments to that formula to ensure that the children of our rural communities are given the same standard of education as are given in our larger communities and in our cities.

There has been no recognition of that fact, Mr. Speaker, other than the fact that this year, because it is a transitional year, there will be only one-half of the teachers cut. Maybe that is a start, but it does not address the real problems of real changes in rural Newfoundland.

Mr. Speaker, I would certainly advise the Minister of Health to pay close attention to the recommendations as they are found in the Select Committee's Report on Children's Interests. Mr. Speaker, there is now an opportunity for the Minister of Health, in conjunction with the hospital boards, to review these recommendations and to make some real, sound improvements and adjustments as it relates to the young people of our Province.

This report has been getting dusty, I say, Mr. Speaker. This report has been simply standing on shelves, has not been given the attention that it deserves, and here is an opportunity for a minister to take it upon herself, now that this shift has been made, to recognize that this is a need which must be addressed and, Mr. Speaker, that opportunity is there. As I have indicated, child protection issues have gone unnoticed, have been neglected, the opportunity is now there for her.

In terms of rural revitalization, Mr. Speaker, let us hope that the government will pay tribute to rural Newfoundland in a much greater way than it has simply by listing the six or seven examples of our development associations. Let us hope there is some real funding being given, Mr. Speaker. Let us hope there is some real funding being made available to our zones and our zone boards so that they can properly appropriate and they can properly deal with the concerns of rural Newfoundland.

Mr. Speaker, as I have indicated, a Budget which identifies itself as being a response to the social needs of our Province, needs a lot of work. It requires, Mr. Speaker, an ability to simply review where socially we are in this Province, and to ensure that resources and funding are put in place so that the very infrastructure of our Province can remain intact, so that our communities can remain alive, and so that, Mr. Speaker, people will choose Newfoundland and Labrador as a place in which they want to live.

Mr. Speaker, the employment rate is still the highest in Canada, out-migration remains a serious problem, and student debt must be taken seriously by our Minister of Education to ensure that for those young people who want to stay, they will stay here knowing full well that if the concerns and addresses of student debt are recognized, they can at least be on solid footing, and they can begin a career and hopefully begin a family in the community in which they want to live.

So, Mr. Speaker, with these few comments I will adjourn debate and we will take up again on Thursday, halfway down through page 3.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House adjourn until tomorrow at -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. TULK: Pardon me?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. TULK: Oh, I move that the Committee rise and report progress. Is that it?

AN HON. MEMBER: He adjourned debate.

MR. TULK: Before we move to adjourn, tomorrow is the government Private Members' Day. I want to thank the Clerk for reminding me of that. Tomorrow is the government private member's motion, and we will be debating the motion put forward by the Member for Twillingate & Fogo. It is the motion reminding the federal government again that they are responsible for the devastation that has taken place off our coast, and that indeed they have to support Newfoundlanders and Labradorians in their attempt to get out of that devastation.

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

On motion, the House at its rising adjourned until tomorrow, Wednesday, at 2:00 p.m.