The House met at 2:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Hodder): Order, please!

SERGEANT-AT-ARMS: Mr. Speaker, the Justices of the Supreme Court have arrived.

MR. SPEAKER: Admit the Justices of the Supreme Court.

SERGEANT-AT-ARMS: Mr. Speaker, His Honour the Lieutenant Governor has arrived.

MR. SPEAKER: Admit His Honour the Lieutenant Governor.


Mr. Speaker, leaves the Chair.

His Honour the Lieutenant Governor takes the Chair.

SERGEANT-AT-ARMS: It is the wish of His Honour the Lieutenant Governor all present please be seated.


Mr. Speaker, Members of the House of Assembly:

A bold new attitude has taken hold in Newfoundland and Labrador - an attitude that considers a challenge an opportunity for triumph, not an omen of defeat.

Nowhere has this new attitude manifested itself with more fire than on the icy rinks of Pinerolo, where our Province's Olympians have spun granite rocks into gold. The passion that lived there at the Torino Games was born and nurtured right here in Newfoundland and Labrador, and in that international arena, it burned with searing intensity in the gold medal performances of Brad Gushue, Mark Nichols, Russ Howard, Jamie Korab and Mike Adam. Newfoundland and Labrador salutes the first Newfoundland and Labrador based team to stand atop the Winter Olympics podium.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: They are the torchbearers of a new generation of heroes whose sights are now set on Vancouver and Beijing and a thousand other arenas of endeavour: athletic, academic, artistic, technological, commercial. Newfoundland and Labrador is not intimidated by any competition because we are confident in our capacity to shine like gold among the very best.

My Government entered office in 2003 facing challenges of Olympic proportions: public sector debt, unfunded pensions, poverty, an aging populace, outward migration, unemployment, deteriorating infrastructure. To those of the old attitude, these challenges were omens of defeat, harbingers of disaster, reasons to give up. But to those of the new attitude that now fuels the fires of optimism in our Province, they have become opportunities to prove ourselves capable of turning the corner towards a new era of sustainability and self-reliance today in Newfoundland and Labrador.

My Government took the initiative beginning in 2003, by building a partnership with the people of Newfoundland and Labrador to implement a comprehensive and far-reaching eight-year blueprint for economic and social development. People embraced the opportunity to work with My Government to pull our Province from the quicksand of decline and to ground ourselves firmly on the bedrock of growth based on a new approach to governance.

By working together as a government and a people with a common vision, a common plan of action and raw determination, Newfoundland and Labrador has made significant progress to date. The people of our Province are to be commended for participating in the hard work required to subdue the fiscal dragon that was threatening to consume us all. The tremendous fiscal progress we have made together is among our greatest achievements - an achievement that will allow My Government to reinvest back into the Province rather than be overwhelmed by debt and interest. My First Minister is to be commended for taking the lead in fighting relentlessly for fairness in the allocation of offshore revenues and returning home in triumph many arduous months later with a monumental new agreement on the Atlantic Accord.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: Newfoundland and Labrador is today celebrating the black-gold victory that has provided to our Province a fairer share of the return on the oil and gas that saturates the caverns of our continental shelf. My First Minister has also been successful in bringing home new agreements to strengthen our health care sector, the equalization program and our Province's Aboriginal communities and in many other initiatives that have made Newfoundland and Labrador stronger than it was. Together, these gains will enable investments that will strengthen health care, education, justice, rural communities and public infrastructure and will lay the foundation for further economic growth.

While the challenges are not yet behind us, the light at the end of the tunnel is today brighter and nearer than when My Government began. And perhaps more importantly, there is at play in our Province today a new way of thinking - bold, proud, confident, ready to compete and ready to lead. My Government will be delivering early this year on many of the planning exercises initiated two years ago as part of a comprehensive prosperity agenda - specifically, the Innovation Strategy, the Infrastructure Strategy and the Poverty Reduction Strategy - and, having already delivered the White Paper on post-secondary education, will be advancing work this year on the Immigration Strategy and completing the Energy Plan. Great things are happening. Newfoundland and Labrador will make further significant progress on its eight-year blueprint for sustainability and self-reliance. The gains we make together will greatly benefit, not only our people today, but also our children tomorrow. Together, we can build a bright future for our children here in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Knowledge and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly:

My Government entered office with an agenda and a mandate to promote economic development. Without question, the cornerstone of a thriving economy is a well-educated workforce. Starting in childhood and continuing for life, we must ensure our women and men are well-prepared with the knowledge and skills they need to enable them to seize the awesome opportunities that currently exist and those that, through innovation and ingenuity, we will create. This year, as we set our eyes on the future and continue to progress this economic platform, education will be a primary focus.

No Newfoundlanders and Labradorians were more enthused and inspired by our curling team's Olympic performance than the young people who cheered on their heroes from homes and arenas in communities throughout our Province. They cheered, not only to celebrate their team, but also to celebrate themselves and this reaffirmation of their capacity, as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, to take on the most formidable challenges and succeed.

It is vital to cultivate in young Newfoundlanders and Labradorians both the attitude and the aptitude for success so they are prepared to sustain the growth we are working hard to nurture. We owe it to them to teach them and prove to them that success is not something they have to leave to find. We are spawning success right here in Newfoundland.

An ideal arena in which to prepare our young people for success is the classroom. During the past year, My Government consulted with numerous stakeholders in our education system to better understand the obstacles standing in the way of success in the classroom. The obstacles are great, but greater still is My Government's determination to work with our teachers and other key stakeholders to build on our new success.

One concern is the teacher allocation formula, which does not appear to work well in current circumstances. Firstly, the formula leads to automatic reductions in teaching resources that are difficult to manage in a way that does not affect program delivery when there are small, marginal changes in enrolment. Secondly, the formula does not harmonize well with My Government's efforts to add back teachers to the resources base in order to target specific priorities, such as reducing class sizes, promoting physical education and wellness, and supporting cultural studies beginning last year and a skilled trades and technology route to graduation for young men and women beginning this year. In this light, the existing formula for distributing teaching resources may not be optimal. Accordingly, to take proper account of demographic changes and changing priorities, My Government will review and if necessary revise the teacher allocation formula to ensure schools have the teaching resources they need to deliver the programs our students need. We must do even more to ensure our schools are resourced adequately so teachers and students are working with the proper educational tools.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: Teachers are motivated to help all students to develop the knowledge and skills they will need to be successful in school, and in life, regardless of their relative abilities. However, many teachers find it difficult to achieve these goals because of the substantial demands placed on them in today's classroom environment. Inclusion strategies, such as the Individual Support Services Plan, or ISSP, are admirable in their intent, but sometimes the implementation causes an undue burden on school staff. The current model of administering ISSPs imposes significant red tape and documentation requirements on teachers. My Government will review this program in order to make it easier for teachers to deliver inclusive education to children with complex and divergent needs.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: Non-teaching supports are also important to strengthen education delivery and ensure students receive the well-rounded and well-grounded education they need to succeed. It is time to take optimal advantage of school councils to enable parents to work collaboratively with schools and with their Government in ways that will enrich the school experience.

Students are best poised for success when they are healthy and physically fit. Healthy living habits learned early will deliver a lifetime of benefits. It is time to build on last year's investments in physical education by further promoting healthy living among our young people.

As Newfoundland and Labrador's economy grows and large new projects come on-stream, particularly in the energy and mining sectors, the demand for workers with specialized skills will increase. In order to address skills shortages and ensure that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are well-prepared to reap the benefits of the opportunities at their doorstep, My Government will make further investments in programming and planning under the guidance of a Skills Task Force with expertise in market needs.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: This initiative is in addition to the investments My Government have already announced through the White Paper on Post-secondary Education, which stabilized funding and froze tuition fees to promote program growth and student access. Further initiatives to be outlined in conjunction with this year's Budget include literacy support, adult basic education, the skilled trades and technology route to high school graduation, women in apprenticeship and new programs at the College of the North Atlantic and Memorial University. Together, these initiatives will revolutionize the delivery, scope and quality of post-secondary education programs in our public college and university and give our people access to the exceptional opportunities that are available to graduates with prized skills in critical trades and technologies.

My Government will also ensure that students in high school have access to reliable information about the wide array of worthwhile career opportunities available in Newfoundland and Labrador to graduates of programs at the College of the North Atlantic and at the Grenfell and St. John's campuses and other locations of Memorial University. This information benefits them, and it also benefits the rest of us. The choices our graduates make in large measure determine the degree of benefits our communities and economy derive from the economic diversification and industrial expansion that Newfoundland and Labrador is working hard to develop.

My Government will also, as a beginning, press the Government of Canada to restore post-secondary funding to levels comparable to those of the mid-nineties before deep federal cuts began obstructing growth in our Province's public post-secondary system. Ensuring our young people are prepared to lead the world in knowledge and skills development is a national responsibility that our people encourage their new national Government to embrace. My Government will work constructively with the Government of Canada on a wide range of initiatives important to this Province, not the least of which is education.

Education is the key to a brighter future. Without question, all of our teachers are windows of opportunity for the students they teach. They reveal to their pupils the kaleidoscope of experience that has shaped who we are and what we face in Newfoundland and Labrador. Since last year through the new Cultural Connections strategy and starting this year through the new history curriculum, we are providing teachers with new opportunities to develop in our young people a deep fascination with our Province's unique character. One of the people who inspired and motivated My Government to develop and apply the Cultural Connections strategy was a young music teacher at Ascension Collegiate in Bay Roberts named Heather McDonald. Ms McDonald was passionate about amplifying the role of music in the classroom. She not only taught and inspired her students to love Newfoundland and Labrador's cultural opportunities but enabled her students to discovery their own hidden talents and to showcase them beyond our shores in Toronto, England, Cuba and the Dominican Republic. She led her students in producing an album of Irish and Newfoundland and Labrador music in anticipation of a class appearance in Ireland. Tragically, Ms McDonald passed away in December, far too young, but having left an incredibly powerful legacy, a legacy that endures through her students and the many who have been inspired by her dedication. She reminds all of us of the supreme role that our teachers play in discovering and developing the individual talents of our young people - talents that they, in turn, can build upon for the rest of their lives.

Innovation and Infrastructure

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly:

Education is at the foundation of the research and development revolution that is spawning incredible new opportunities on the cutting edge. Newfoundland and Labrador is swiftly earning a reputation for gold, not only in the athletic arena, but in the technological arena as well. C-CORE at Memorial University recently won a key contract from the European Space Agency to lead a large multinational network of companies and institutes representing Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom in a special homegrown initiative, the "Polar View" program, that will extensively monitor by satellite the sensitive Arctic and Antarctic regions for environmental, economic and security reasons. Similarly, many private companies in our Province are also making phenomenal progress, advancing and commercializing new technologies that, in many cases, were incubated in the laboratories of our post-secondary institutions. Rutter has designed ‘black box' data recorders for ships. ICAN has developed marine navigation software and charts. Genoa Design has produced new architectural software via the internet. Cathexis is advancing radio frequency identification technology to revolutionize merchandise tracking. Consilient has pioneered the mobile computer technology that the New York Fire Department began using after 9/11. Northstar Technical has developed its Netmind wireless system as well as consoles that Lockheed Martin is using. Blue Line Innovations has developed the PowerCost MonitorTM, a powerful real-time direct feedback display device for domestic energy consumers that tells them at a glance, in real-time, how much electricity their homes are using in dollars, cents and kilowatts - information that consumers are using to reduce their energy costs by 10 to 20 per cent. North Atlantic Biopharma has developed a seal oil-based bio-pharmaceutical product used for the medical industry. NewLab Clinical Research conducts research to isolate genetic markers for common human disorders. NovaLipids has developed technology to improve the way medications are processed in the body. Natural Newfoundland Nutraceuticals is bringing together technology in support of the agrifood sector that is not presently available in Atlantic Canada, to develop and produce a range of natural health products. Wholesome Dairy has developed exciting new Good Natured yogurt products. These are just a few of the gold medal successes Newfoundland and Labrador has already achieved.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: This year, My Government will introduce an Innovation Strategy entitled "Innovation Newfoundland and Labrador: A Blueprint for Prosperity", with initiatives to advance the next wave of success on several frontiers: engineering, information technology, life sciences - key sectors in which innovation means opportunity. Nurturing success means investing in key post-secondary programs in which our Province is poised for global leadership: for example, marine, environmental, genetic, geriatric and earth sciences. It means identifying and investing in opportunities to harness scientific and technological advances for commercial and public economic gain. It means marketing our products, our services, our people and our ideas effectively at home and abroad. It means generating the expertise that enables success in key industries such as petroleum engineering, mineral refining and industrial fabrication and design. It means creating a business climate that encourages and rewards investment, diversification, modernization and inventiveness. The new Innovation Strategy will address these opportunities in such a way to foster a culture of entrepreneurialism and to act as a catalyst for new businesses and careers and so give our people a powerful future firmly grounded right here at home.

My Government's Innovation Strategy is a framework to support strategic high-growth sectors of the economy, such as marine and ocean technology - an area where Newfoundland and Labrador is excelling on the world stage. Supported by world-class R&D infrastructure and unique expertise in areas such as ocean engineering, marine communications and integrated navigational systems, this sector is demonstrating innovation in product development and international markets.

To build on this momentum, My Government will help fuel growth in the Province's ocean technology cluster by enhancing leadership and advancing our capability to develop and to commercialize offshore technologies, including the development of a highly technical, integrated Ocean Observing System in the North Atlantic. In collaboration with Rhode Island and other New England States, Ireland and other parts of Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador will play a lead role in developing observing systems that support efforts to improve maritime defence and security, marine weather forecasting and warning, environmental conservation, and pollution control.

Innovation in the public sector will be a prime focus of My Government's approach. Already, new ground has been broken through innovations in telemedicine and distance education. Through the new Office of the Chief Information Officer, My Government will continue to streamline the flow of information both through and from the public sector, coupling the goals of enhanced efficiency and enhanced openness in order to meet better the needs of our people. Sound investments in information technology will be complemented with sound investments in information management and to make the most of that technology. Through enhancements in efficiency, people and businesses will benefit from greater ease in dealing with their government. Furthermore, investments in training through the Public Service Secretariat will also do much to promote a strong professional public service in Newfoundland and Labrador. The Office of the Chief Information Officer will also work with the private information technology sector to ensure the benefits of public sector IT initiatives are spread among many local enterprises. These initiatives will bring tangible benefits to the Province by stimulating private sector technological advancement, private sector job creation and economic development. We are proud of our Province's technical industries, whose ingenuity is the major reason Newfoundland and Labrador is today a leader in information technology.

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House:

Newfoundland and Labrador is poised to become a leader in energy supply. No area of our public sector is better positioned to harness economic opportunities for the enduring benefit of our people than Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro. My Government are pledged to expand Hydro's mandate so as to encompass the broad array of energy sector opportunities that have drawn international attention to our Province: not only hydro energy and wind energy but also petroleum energy. Hydro has the ability to harness these resources in ways that will return to our people the kind of benefits that energy corporations in other jurisdictions have returned to their people. In order to make our Crown corporation a competitive player in the international marketplace, My Government will invest in Hydro's financial health, and thereby giving it the leverage and the liberty to pursue opportunities that will bring new industrial developments and economic wealth to Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: Hydro's work, in concert with the work of the Department of Natural Resources, will facilitate many of the initiatives that will be identified in the new comprehensive provincial energy plan.

The proposed Lower Churchill hydro development has the potential to benefit Labrador and the entire Province significantly. Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, as directed by My Government, is reviewing the feasibility of development options for this significant clean energy resource. This is phase two of a multi-phase program that was initiated in 2005 with the international request for Expressions of Interest and proposals, "the EOI process". The objective is to identify all our development and market options, including a Newfoundland and Labrador led project, and then gradually narrow the field to the best options. Work is underway to ensure that all decisions are made from a thoroughly informed perspective. As part of this process, in January Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro made an application for transmission service with Hydro-Québec's transmission division. This application will provide important cost and technical information about accessing electricity markets.

Hydro potential in the Big Land is one of its many strengths. Labrador also faces unique challenges, but again, these challenges are opportunities to prove ourselves capable of turning the corner toward a new era of sustainability and self-reliance. My Government will continue to consult with and work hand-in-hand with the people of Labrador's communities to build on their strengths. Our Province's Aboriginal heritage is among its greatest strengths. We congratulate the Inuit people of Labrador as they work to build a brighter future for their communities through their newly-established Nunatsiavut Government - Our Beautiful Land, for those of you who do not speak Inuttitut. Newfoundlanders and Labradorians likewise wish the people of the Innu Nation tremendous success and a brighter future as they work with My Government and the Government of Canada to achieve their own land claims agreement. Our people also support the desire of the Labrador Métis Nation to access federal programs and services for people of Aboriginal descent. There are golden opportunities for Labradorians of all heritages to work together for the greater benefit of all. As our Province sets its sights on the many possibilities for progress in Labrador, one significant development opportunity that is a priority is the potential development of the Lower Churchill hydroelectric resource. My Government will continue to consult with Labradorians as they work towards development of this resource.

In Labrador and on the Island, the energy sector is one of the many industries that promise strong economic and employment returns on investment. Others that predominate in rural communities and promise significant growth in many regions are aquaculture, agriculture, forestry and mineral development. My Government will promote sustainable growth in rural Newfoundland and Labrador by investing strategically in these sectors to advance the development of new opportunities and optimum resource utilization.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: We will promote strategic growth opportunities in partnership with the private sector and other community stakeholders in rural areas of our Province based on the strengths of each region. In many rural areas of our Province, value-added wood production, agrifoods, aquaculture and small-scale manufacturing offer solid potential. In other areas, opportunities for four-season tourism development and knowledge-based services are areas for further development. Using our natural resources and innovative approaches to maximize the potential for each region, My Government will promote development opportunities beyond local and provincial markets. Together, we will also work to ensure that we benefit from our natural resources, particularly our important fish resources, through increased investments in resource, product and market development. We shall also contribute to the recovery and future management of cod, which have been, and will continue to be, vital to our Province's future prosperity. We will build upon our commitment and actions further to protect and sustain our natural resources. And we will continue to promote the development of long-term visions and priorities for sustainable regional development - economic, social, cultural and environmental - through the work of the nine Regional Councils and the Provincial Council of the Rural Secretariate.

Innovation is also promising new returns from other age-old endeavours, particularly in our cultural industries. For centuries, our people have told stories, made music, crafted art and performed plays for one another's enjoyment and enrichment. This heritage that defines us also empowers us to reap economic returns. The global music, publishing and film industries generate untold billions of dollars each year, and we are beginning to get a sizeable piece of the action as our musicians, authors, actors and artists become more widely recognized for their artistic expression and more inventive in capitalizing on their skills. My Government this year will build on last year's cultural initiatives through further strategic investments in our cultural sector and by adopting the Province's first Strategic Cultural Plan. This Plan will provide a foundation for the sound preservation and management of our cultural resources and strategic support for the further development of the Province's cultural sector. Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are particularly proud this year to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council, our Province's leader in representing, promoting and nurturing the many artists who call Newfoundland and Labrador home.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: A thriving cultural sector is one of the many attractions that lures tourists to our shores, but so too is our scenic beauty and our vibrant lifestyle. Effectively promoting our strengths means aggressively promoting our uniqueness in a competitive marketplace. To that end, My Government will bolster the provincial tourism marketing budget and promote tourism growth through initiatives that identify and employ our strengths for maximum effect.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: The goal is to bring even more visitors to our communities to enjoy the wonderful hospitality and exceptional experiences that so many have boasted about in the past. Enhancing the Province's lure also means investing in historic sites, natural heritage parks, environment and conservation initiatives, recreational opportunities and various events to make the visits all the more rewarding.

My Government initiated a number of important strategies that involve participation and physical activity. An important part of addressing these challenges is how we increase and encourage recreational activities and sport participation. My Government will develop a Recreation and Sport Strategy this year that will look at the issues, the opportunities and the directions we must take to support recreation and sport throughout Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: Not only tourists but also investors are lured to our shores by the promise of opportunity. It is to our advantage to lure more and retain more of those whose presence will make our Province stronger. My Government's branding initiative is a business-savvy means of melding our diverse voices into a uniquely powerful voice for maximum effect in the crowded and noisy international marketplace. The brand is not only a convenient bandwagon on which smaller players can hitch a ride in national and international circles, but also a vehicle for attracting new investors to the local scene where their money can fuel the growth our Province is seeking. A brand will enhance our Province's professional image and do a great deal to position who we are, what we are offering in tourism, culture and business, and where we are going in strategic sectors including fisheries, the environment and many others. Understanding that investors are also attracted by a friendly business climate, My Government will continue over the year ahead to identify innovative ways to streamline the regulatory process and cut red tape in ways that enhance the attractiveness of a province that is already winning accolades in national circles for its attitude and approach to business.

Our attractiveness to investors is enhanced even more through strategic investments in infrastructure. Existing infrastructure, including roads and public buildings, has been eroding throughout Newfoundland and Labrador for decades. Addressing the wide assortment of costly needs responsibly over time requires expert information and careful fiscal balancing. For this reason, My Government initiated a comprehensive infrastructure strategy to evaluate the needs and identify ways and means of meeting them. Last year, My Government made a record investment in the Provincial Roads Program, negotiated an expansion of the National Highway System in this Province and moved the Trans-Labrador Highway nearer to completion.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: This year, My Government will continue to invest strategically in transportation infrastructure, municipal capital works initiatives and improvements in government services that together will reinforce our province's commitment to nurture stronger, more sustainable rural communities. Enhancements in education and health care infrastructure will promote the delivery of strong social programs. The magnitude of the demand is such that meeting it will take some time, but My Government will move ahead boldly with a keen understanding of the relationship between reliable infrastructure and our attractiveness to investors, and also, of course, with a clear appreciation of the capacity of infrastructure work to generate strong economic activity on its own and to improve the lives of our people in numerous ways.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: Including the $41.7-million commitment this year to continue work on the Trans-Labrador Highway -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: - My Government will proceed this year with a wide range of initiatives to strengthen Labrador totaling some $47.3 million in this year's budget with new infrastructure commitments totaling over $175 million.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: These include a $1.9- million provincial contribution to proceed with a performance space in Happy Valley-Goose Bay; money to help improve facility arrangements for the College of the North Atlantic in Labrador West and to extend the College's campus in Happy Valley-Goose Bay; planning for a new $25-million health centre in Labrador West and a new $17.5-million long-term care centre in Happy Valley-Goose Bay -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: - and, last but not least, improved kidney dialysis services in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Social Sustainability


Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly:

Strong economic growth enriches a government's ability to invest in our provincial health care system. In our Province today, we are faced with an aging population, outdated health infrastructure and growing public expectations, resulting in increased demands on our health care system. Over the last two years, My Government made strategic health care investments that will not only address future infrastructure needs, but also help to address new health care demands. They have improved access to key health care services, and they will continue to respond to the health care needs of our seniors, our children and youth, and all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

Statistics Canada estimates that by 2021, Newfoundland and Labrador will have the highest proportion of seniors in Canada. My Government will plan now to ensure the needs of our seniors are anticipated and met. Ongoing consultations with seniors will result in the development of a new Healthy Aging Framework for our province.

My Government recently launched a new Provincial Wellness Strategy, a plan which focuses on educating the public about the benefits of an active and healthy lifestyle and supporting them in improving overall health and wellness. Our new Mental Health and Addictions Policy framework sets out My Government's long-term commitment to create a more-responsive system, one that focuses on the importance of prevention of addictions and other mental health problems.

My Government will act on their commitment to continued health promotion, disease prevention and protection of the public. Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are being diagnosed with preventable diseases that could be avoided through early detection. My Government will continue to educate the public on the importance of screening and will invest in new technology to detect diseases before they spread.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: The threat of a potential influenza pandemic is a public concern worldwide. My Government's planning is now underway to increase public health capacity and our ability to respond to the potential implications of an influenza pandemic, should the need arise. New investments will enhance capacity at the regional level and throughout government to ensure that our population is protected.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: The well-being of women, children, Aboriginal women, youth, seniors and other vulnerable populations is compromised not only by health challenges, but also by the violence they experience in their homes and in their communities. New investments this year will strengthen and broaden My Government's commitments to violence prevention with the implementation of a six-year plan, Taking Action Against Violence - 2012. This plan has been developed by the Women's Policy Office from consultations with community groups that deal with the effects of violence on individuals and families. The plan of action includes strategies to enhance the work of community groups, Aboriginal organizations and women to prevent violence. It is our collective responsibility to ensure that those vulnerable to violence feel safe and protected in their homes and communities.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: My Government's commitment to advancing the status of women in Newfoundland and Labrador will ensure that they share equitably in the social and economic benefits of our society. My Government will integrate women's voices and perspectives, including those of Aboriginal women, when formulating public policy. Beginning this year, special measures will increase women's opportunities to acquire positions in trades and in nontraditional occupations and sectors of our society. Women's participation in leadership and decision making will be advanced.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: As our Province turns the corner economically, we must empower people to realize their full potential. We cannot forget those who need help most. Poverty often engenders a lower quality of life, poor nutrition, poor health, poor educational opportunities, poor employment prospects and a feeling of being excluded from society. Reducing poverty and its effects on children in particular has been a key goal of My Government. Guided by a strong social conscience, My Government will advance a poverty reduction agenda by implementing a range of initiatives that are designed to address both the consequences and the causes of poverty. These initiatives will flow from a long-term poverty strategy that includes policies and measures that will have the greatest impact on those living in poverty and work in the longer term to prevent poverty throughout Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: All of us benefit when poverty is reduced. Reducing poverty is not only about improving the well-being and quality of life of those who currently struggle to afford basic necessities. Poverty reduction is also about ensuring a strong and prosperous future for our Province. Addressing poverty is necessary to improve our economy and to promote an inclusive society. All men and women must be able to participate fully in the social and economic benefits of Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly:

We cannot forget those people who rely on the social safety net because they cannot work due to disability or other circumstances. My Government's poverty reduction strategy will include measures to ensure that these residents of the Province receive services in a dignified manner that will help enable them to participate in society.

The poverty reduction strategy will also help those who are eager to become more self-reliant. The best long-term solution to impoverishment for many people is a good job, and the best way to get a good job is to get a solid education. However, there exist in our society many structural disincentives and barriers to employment for those who rely on social assistance. Reducing the disincentives to employment and increasing the inclusiveness of our education system will enable more people to enter the workforce and become more self-reliant. Youth, women and other vulnerable groups are a particular focus. Sadly, last year, 47 per cent of new applicants for social assistance were young people. For many of them, one of the main barriers is the lack of an adequate educational foundation. My Government will build upon measures designed to encourage students to stay in school and will find ways to help them further their education and develop skills that will enable them to find good jobs and become self-reliant.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: While most of these initiatives will also benefit the Aboriginal people of our Province, My Government will continue to recognize that Aboriginal peoples and their communities have particular needs and that the Government of Canada has a special role to play in addressing those needs. As already stated, My Government will remain committed to the settlement and implementation of land claims and self-government agreements that will provide Aboriginal peoples with the tools and the resources they need to enable them to develop healthy and self-reliant communities.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: My Government will also work with the Government of Canada to ensure the Aboriginal peoples of this Province receive maximum benefit from the initiatives arising from the historic meeting among First Ministers and national Aboriginal leaders in Kelowna last November. My Government will continue to assist people of Aboriginal descent to gain full access to federal Aboriginal programs and services. My Government will advance issues of importance to Aboriginal women as identified at the recent Aboriginal Women's conference in Happy Valley-Goose Bay and as my First Minister did in Kelowna. My Government will also continue the process of addressing issues identified in the federally commissioned report on Innu education, a report commonly known as the Philpott report.

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly:

Education is the foundation of personal self-reliance just as it is the foundation of our collective self-reliance. The bold new attitude that is driving our citizens and My Government to take on Olympic-size challenges with confidence can also enable individuals to face personal challenges and to achieve personal triumphs. We must all work together to help to empower our poorest citizens to share productively in the rewards of success. We all must work together to help remove the obstacles that stand in their way, to inspire them and to enable them to seize the opportunities around us. Success may not come without an Olympic-size effort, but when we really understand what we are truly capable of achieving and helping others to achieve, we no longer see that effort as an exercise in futility. We see clearly the possibility of victory. We catch a vision of triumph. We glimpse the glitter of the gold, and we know the dream that drives us is worth the effort.

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly:

Estimates of expenditure will be laid before you in due course and you will be asked to grant supply to Her Majesty.

I invoke God's blessing upon you as you commence this new Session.

May Divine Providence guide you in your deliberations.

His Honour the Lieutenant Governor and the Vice-Regal party leave the Chamber.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Government House Leader.

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

I give notice that I will ask leave today to introduce a bill entitled, "An Act To Amend The Hydro Corporation Act." (Bill 1)

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that the hon. the Government House Leader shall have leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Amend The Hydro Corporation Act. (Bill 1)

Is it the pleasure of the House that the hon. the Government House Leader shall have leave to introduce said bill?

All those in favour, ‘aye'.


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


Motion, the hon. the Government House Leader to introduce a bill, "An Act To Amend The Hydro Corporation Act," carried. (Bill 1)

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

MR. E. BYRNE: Now, Mr. Speaker.


CLERK: A bill, An Act To Amend The Hydro Corporation Act. (Bill 1)

MR. SPEAKER: Bill 1, An Act To Amend The Hydro Corporation Act, has now been read a first time. When shall the said bill be read a second time?

MR. E. BYRNE: On tomorrow, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: On tomorrow.

On motion, Bill 1 read a first time, ordered read a second time on tomorrow.

MR. SPEAKER: His Honour The Lieutenant Governor has been pleased to make a Speech to the members of the General Assembly. We shall take a few moments to distribute the Speech to the hon. members.

While that is being done, I think members would deem it appropriate if I were to recognize Brad Gushue and Toby McDonald, who are seated in the Speaker's gallery this afternoon.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you.

[The Pages distribute His Honour's Speech to all members]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SKINNER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is an honour to stand here amongst my colleagues in the House of Assembly and speak to the Speech from the Throne on behalf of the people of St. John's Centre. I would like to thank His Honour The Lieutenant Governor for his delivery of an uplifting speech. Great things are indeed happening here in Newfoundland and Labrador.

In the District of St. John's Centre, for example, Mr. Speaker, the Department of Education has provided funding to support and encourage literacy programs at neighbourhood schools. The department supports recycling initiatives by educating children in environmental and conservation issues, and the department supports the work of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and school officials by promoting the drug awareness and resistance education program.

There are also challenges that we are prepared to address. In the District of St. John's Centre, for example, we need to continue our work to increase the levels of literacy in the Province. We need to continue to promote an awareness of our environment, as it is key to our sustainability, and we need to educate our youth in the dangers of drug and alcohol addiction.

During our first two years in office, Mr. Speaker, we have done a great deal to move our Province forward towards a new era of prosperity, sustainability and self-reliance. This year, we are preparing to build on those commitments and set to work implementing some of the key strategies that we have been developing since taking office.

No range of initiatives is more important to our government than our education initiatives. Education is the key to a bright future, a bright future for individual young men and women, a bright future for families and communities, and a bright future for Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SKINNER: Education, fundamentally, is a co-operative initiative among a great many people whose sole focus is to bring out the very best in people and help them make the most of their potential for the greater good of all. Education begins in childhood and continues for a lifetime. It focuses energy in a positive direction, harnesses talents and puts them to good use, develops new skills and instills a new knowledge, stimulates an eagerness to learn and a willingness to work together co-operatively to seize new opportunities and bring dreams to reality. Education is the way we help one another grow and prosper.

At school, education is teachers, principals, staff members and board members working together co-operatively with students, their parents and their community, in order to bring out the best in every pupil. That goal is what motivates students to become teachers. It is the driving force that propels teachers into the classroom each day. The opportunity to change a life and help lay the foundation for a bright future is a strong motivator that lies at the heart of the teaching profession.

I want to celebrate on behalf of our government the work that all of our teachers do, day in and day out, to shape the lives of our children. There is no greater calling.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SKINNER: Many teachers and others in and around our education system have expressed a strong desire to make our education system work better. No system is perfect, but we will not allow that fact to excuse us from working to make it better. There is much that we can do together to improve and strengthen our education system, and one of the most fundamental is to open up a dialogue among all stakeholders. Communication is at the foundation of co-operation.

I was deeply impressed by the Premier a few weeks ago when he encouraged teachers to raise their concerns and suggestions for making the education system work better. The Premier and our government are interested in making the system work better, so we have no interest in silencing those who have suggestions about ways to strengthen our system.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SKINNER: That is why, Mr. Speaker, our government has been consulting with stakeholders in the system and considering specific things that we, as a government, can do to advance education for the greater benefit of our students and our entire Province.

This year's Throne Speech made education the primary focus. It set the stage for an exciting array of education initiatives that will form the centerpiece of the government's agenda for the coming year. It tackles the big issues, the ones that have caused a great deal of discussion over the years. It tackles the teacher allocation formula. It tackles the administration of the individual support services plan. It focuses on making better use of non-teaching support so as to engage community stakeholders in ways that will enrich the school experience. It tackles the health issues that are challenging many of our students. It tackles the need to ensure that we give our graduates the skills they require to seize the employment opportunities in emerging industries and to help us become leaders on the world stage, innovators and go-getters. It helps to lay the foundation so that our young people, who have so often moved away to find opportunity, can instead lay down solid roots here at home. That is the real solution to out-migration. It is about attracting investment, building industries, harnessing our resources, diversifying, modernizing, innovating and growing, and ensuring that we have the skilled people who can take these opportunities to the next level.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SKINNER: That is the mix of circumstances that grows opportunities and jobs. We are ready to create that growth in Newfoundland and Labrador by building on many opportunities in oil and gas, hydro, mining, aquaculture, agriculture, tourism, culture, recreation, all of the traditional sectors along with the cutting edge sectors that build on innovation such as information technology, marine engineering, environmental technology and a whole range of other opportunities that we have only begun to envisage.

Mr. Speaker, education is at the root of all of them because it gives our people the tools and the confidence to participate in these sectors and become leaders in stimulating the growth that will turn things around in our Province. Education is the means of making our people ready to seize these opportunities. That is why we are continuing to move forward in implementing our White Paper on post-secondary education and continuing to strengthen the opportunities for our young people to get the skills they need to compete and succeed.

We are telling our high school students about the extraordinary range of opportunities open to them in a wide range of trades and disciplines that maybe they had not considered before. There are exciting things on the horizon for Newfoundland and Labrador, many of them closer than many people realize. We want our young people to be a part of it so they can build a bright future right here at home, and that is the reason education is the primary focus of this year's agenda. It is fundamental to growing our economy in ways that will help communities grow and sustain the social programs and infrastructure we rely on. This is the right approach and I am proud to be a part of a government that is doing what needs to be done to usher in a new era of prosperity, sustainability and self-reliance in Newfoundland and Labrador.

So, I proudly move, Mr. Speaker, on behalf of my constituents in St. John's Centre, that a Select Committee be appointed to draft an Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS S. OSBORNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am pleased to rise, representing the people of the great District of St. John's West, to second the motion that a Select Committee be appointed to draft an Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne.

I, too, would like to thank His Honour The Lieutenant Governor for eloquently delivering the program of action that will guide our government's action over the coming year. I, too, am excited about the wonderful things that are happening in Newfoundland and Labrador. We are making tremendous headway on our eight-year blueprint but there remain challenges that we are prepared to address. This year's Throne Speech includes a wide range of initiatives that will go a long way in addressing the challenges and promoting the growth of opportunities in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Let me focus today on our approach to combatting poverty. In last year's Budget Speech the Minister of Finance said, " challenges are not the only barriers to opportunity that many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians face. Poverty is another barrier that we have an obligation to address. We must find imaginative and effective ways to lift people from poverty so they can pursue their goals under their own steam. The Department of Human Resources, Labour and Employment will support our government's goal to reduce poverty in Newfoundland and Labrador by leading the development of a Strategic Poverty Reduction Plan. The department will take a comprehensive integrated approach that will address the connections between poverty and gender, education, housing, employment, health, social and financial supports, and tax measures, as well as the link between women's poverty and the increase vulnerability to violence."

We have already introduced several measures to combat poverty and follow through on our Blue Book commitment to do something significant to address child poverty. For example, we announced a low income tax reduction starting in the 2005 tax year. In 2004, we invested in indexing the Newfoundland and Labrador Child Benefit for low income families. In 2005 we increased the first child benefit rate to further improve the situation of low-income families with children and we also increased Income Support benefits for couples without children and single individuals. Measures also included in improved earnings exemption for working income support clients, additional funding to increase the number of low-income families who can access the Child Care Services Subsidy program, a new pilot program to help single parents gain employment, a high school completion incentive, and additional funding for adult basic education.

What our goal was, was to develop a comprehensive and strategic approach to poverty reduction based on public consultations and expert advice on the best ways to reduce the level of poverty in Newfoundland and Labrador. In June of last year, the Minister of Human Resources, Labour and Employment released a working document entitled Reducing Poverty in Newfoundland and Labrador: Working Towards a Solution. The report was the result of consultations and input from the Departments of Health and Community Services; Justice; Education; Innovation, Trade and Rural Development; Finance; Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs, as well as the Women's Policy Office; the Rural Secretariat; the Labour Relations Agency, and the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation. This was the first time a Government of Newfoundland and Labrador had embarked on such a project. Only one other province in Canada had a strategy in place to address the issue of poverty; we were paving the way.

Among other consultative initiatives, our government announced a series of workshops around the Province to engage those working in community-based labour and business organizations in the development of a new poverty reduction strategy. There was also a tremendous response on the toll-free feedback line, and about sixty detailed written submissions. In addition, discussions were held with people living in poverty as well as government front-line workers.

In December of last year, the minister released the report on workshop sessions on the development of a poverty reduction strategy which was prepared by management consultations, Goss Gilroy. Today, through this year's Speech From The Throne, our government has announced the beginning of efforts to put our new poverty reduction strategy to work for the benefit of the most vulnerable citizens in Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS S. OSBORNE: Detailed initiatives will be announced in this year's Budget, which will be brought down on March 30, just over a week from now.

When our government moved forward with developing this strategy, we made clear that this is not a simple issue that can be addressed easily or swiftly, or with any one measure. We were open and up front about the magnitude of the challenge, but we did not shy away from tackling it just because it was a tough problem to face. We set to work on a plan to tackle poverty because it is the right thing to do.

As we made clear from the beginning, researchers and advocacy groups have come to view poverty not simply as a lack of financial resources, but as both the cause and consequence of social exclusion. A lack of money prevents individuals from fully participating in the social and economic activities of their communities. It is directly related to poorer outcomes in health, education and employment, and it increases women's vulnerability to violence. These outcomes limit people's ability to fully participate in their communities and to contribute to a productive and prosperous society.

There are many indicators of the human cost of poverty, such as increased illness, more violence against women, lower labour force participation, and more family disintegration. Poverty also results in increased costs to the health care, education and justice systems. Groups most impacted by persistent poverty include women, single mothers, and children, persons living with disabilities, and Aboriginal persons. For many, poverty is temporary and may be linked to periods of study, job loss, divorce, or flight from a violent partner. Some people living in poverty, such as post-secondary students, will likely move out of poverty quickly because they are developing skills and knowledge to help them earn good incomes. On the other hand, people living in poverty who have minimal education and great difficulty accessing educational training are likely to suffer prolonged periods of poverty.

For some people, access to education will play a major role in helping people achieve a greater measure of self-reliance. For others who face even greater challenges, the approach will be different. For many in Aboriginal communities, where there are particular needs requiring attention, we are looking to the Government of Canada to work with us in developing approaches that work, but the bottom line is that we are committed to tackling the problem of poverty and reducing poverty because it is the right thing to do.

I want to compliment my government, and all of the ministers, departments and agencies that have worked so hard on developing this strategy. I also want to thank the people throughout our Province who have participated in the process of ensuring that we develop the best and most effective strategy we possibly can. Their participation demonstrates the depth of their commitment as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to helping the most vulnerable among us to rise up out of poverty and enjoy a higher quality of life, full of opportunities and optimism for the future.

Once again, it is a privilege to represent the people of St. John's West, and it is a great honour to second the motion that a Select Committee be appointed to draft an Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. REID: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Official Opposition, I want to thank His Honour the Lieutenant Governor for the speech he made today in this House, in which he outlined the government plans for the coming year. I am sure that he appreciated it, and enjoyed it tremendously, having spent most of his entire adult life in politics and most of it in this House of Assembly. I think it is probably one of the first speeches that he gave where he heard applause and no heckles, so I think he really appreciated that today.

I would also like to welcome members, hon. judges, members of the clergy, members of the Armed Forces, the RCMP and the RNC, as well as special guests. Again, I thank you for coming and I appreciate what you have contributed to the decorum in the House of Assembly today. I wish that you would come more often, because it is not normal for us on both sides of the floor to be so quiet for such a long period of time.

Mr. Speaker, this is the eleventh Throne Speech that I have listened to in my political career. I have come to realize that the more things change, the more they remain the same. New faces come, old ones leave. Seats in the House of Assembly are often rearranged; Opposition parties become governments, and governments become Oppositions. For the most part, the only thing that changes here is the point of view from which the speech is being made. When you are in Opposition, things are bad, they are terrible. When you are in government, they are good, they are great. When you are in Opposition, the future is bleak. When you sit on that side of the floor, the future is bright. We talk a lot, we make lots of great speeches, but little seems to change.

To exemplify the point that I am making, Mr. Speaker, I want to refer to some of the remarks the Premier made when he stood in this position as Leader of the Opposition three short years ago, and I sat in the seat directly behind him. In his response to the Throne Speech at that time, he mentioned a number of things and I will quote some. With regard to our resources, the Premier said: Too many of our resources are used to benefit people outside of Newfoundland and Labrador. That is wrong and that must be stopped.

Mr. Speaker, what have we seen happening in the Province in the last few weeks? What news have we learned about the largest fish company in our Province? That they are taking our fish resource, they are shipping it to China to create jobs for the benefit of the Board of Directors and the shareholders of FPI, none of whom, I am aware, live in this Province.

Mr. Speaker, with regard to health care, the Premier at that time said: The people of Newfoundland and Labrador deserve timely access to doctors and nurses, access to hospital beds and diagnostic services. Last week, the Minister of Health announced that we are going to be sending patients with cancer to Ontario for treatments.

Mr. Speaker, with regard to education, three short years ago in his speech the Premier said: Children should not have to travel to school on buses that are in need of maintenance to such a degree that they have to be taken out of service. Just last week, we heard of an incident in Mount Pearl where children were lucky enough to get off a bus before it burst into flames.

Yes, Mr. Speaker, the more things change, the more they stay the same; but some things have changed, because at this time in our history we are in a financial position and in such financial shape as we have never been in the past. We are in great financial shape. We have more money now than we have ever had since Confederation.

Mr. Speaker, we have to give thanks to some things and some people for that. We have to thank previous provincial governments, both Tory and Liberal alike, for having the insight and the wherewithal to come up with the Atlantic Accord, do the Atlantic Accord back in the early 1980s under a Tory government, to do projects under a Liberal government during the 1990s and into 2000. I also have to thank the Premier and the minority government in Ottawa - I forgot the minority government in Ottawa - for the part that they played in our bright future and I also have to thank the Premier for recognizing an opportunity last year with a minority government and taking advantage of that to benefit Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to a greater degree than we had been on the previous Atlantic Accord.

Today, we hear the Premier and the Minister of Finance on a regular basis talking about surplus budgets. We hear economists from across the country telling us that this Province will lead the country in economic growth next year. We heard the Minister of Finance just yesterday talking about employment levels rising. But, Mr. Speaker, what I have to ask is: What has it really done for the people of this Province?

Mr. Speaker, since the last Throne Speech we have seen devastation in Harbour Breton, where more than 350 people were left without work and prospects for their future a year ago today, where today is no brighter than it was a year ago. In the fall of last year, word came out of Stephenville that Abitibi was closing its mill, a mill we were told would never close. The economy of that entire region, the Bay St. George region, has been devastated. By comments made by the Minister of Mines and Energy, the Government House Leader when he spoke in the fall, that would impact 900 people, jobs directly and indirectly.

Mr. Speaker, just before Christmas we heard the news that FPI were going to do layoffs in Fortune. Three-hundred-and-fifty people are going to be without work; 300 in Marystown as they downsize that plant. Mr. Speaker, to top it all off, the fish that was traditionally processed in those three plants that I just mentioned, we now hear is going to China to benefit the people of that country and not to the benefit of the people of this Province. Devastation is not confined to the areas that I just mentioned on the Burin Peninsula, on the South Coast and in the Bay St. George Region. All we have to do is look up the Northern Peninsula, where plants in Englee and New Ferolle did not operate this year. All we have to do is look at the town in which the sawmill burnt this year and that jobs were transferred from that region to Eastport. All you have to do is look at the number of jobs that were lost on the Northern Peninsula when Abitibi announced their closure in Stephenville last year of woodcutters and truck drivers. We heard this morning that Kruger has just announced that they will not be cutting wood in areas seventeen and eighteen on the Northern Peninsula, which is going to throw more and more people out of work.

Mr. Speaker, in Grand Falls-Windsor, in the Central region, people are still living under a cloud as to what their future holds with number seven machine that Abitibi operates in that town. They are waiting to see if indeed that will remain open, and we have no answers. The Minister of Mines and Energy, the Minister of Forestry, is nodding his head. I am not sure if he is telling me that it is not going to close or it is not going to remain open, but we will discuss that on another day.

Mr. Speaker, all along the Northeast Coast of our Province we see devastation. My district is no exception. I just spoke to an individual this morning who owns a small trucking company on Fogo Island. He tells me because of the state the fishery is in this year his son has moved to the mainland and he is tempted to sell it himself and move there himself to Alberta, so that at least he could pick up a job and leave the worries and the headaches of the business behind and let somebody else worry about it.

Mr. Speaker, we are seeing out-migration, the likes of which has never been seen. That same individual on Fogo Island told me they have never witnessed out-migration like they have in this past year, and it is not confined to Fogo Island, it is all throughout rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, there used to be a time when all we exported, in terms of out-migration, was our youngest and our brightest, our young people who we educated and sent elsewhere to make a living, but now what we are seeing is not only our young leaving, not only are the sons and daughters leaving but their fathers and mothers and to some extent, grandfathers and grandmothers, because it is happening, Mr. Speaker.

I had a call in the fall from an individual who was sixty-four years old, a man who prosecuted the fishery his entire life and always made a living for his family. This year he could not do that, and as a result, he had to haul his boat ashore and he left for Alberta just before Christmas. He left for Alberta where he was going to work in the bush cutting survey lines; a man sixty-four years old. He thought he would be able to stay in the fishery until he retired next year but he could not do it. He thought he had an enterprise that he could leave to his sons but he said that enterprise, which was worth $500,000 two to three short years ago, today he cannot even sell.

Mr. Speaker, I had a call as well from an elderly gentleman. Actually, he wrote the Premier a letter and he sent me a copy - from Durrell on Twillingate Island - in which he said: It seems that the oil in Alberta benefits rural Newfoundlanders and Labradorians more than our own oil off our coast. I think we are going to see more of that unless something is done to curb our out-migration.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I know that I sound negative but -


MR. REID: I thought I was going to be able to sit down like the Lieutenant Governor without being heckled but, obviously, that is not going to be the case.

Mr. Speaker, that is the reality. So you have to ask yourself, with this new found prosperity that we have: Who is benefitting? Is it the cleaner? Is it the cleaner who will come in here later today or tomorrow morning and clean the floors here, who make $6.50 an hour, $6.50 an hour with no benefits, no benefits? Those individuals have told me that if this building gets closed because of a storm they lose a day's pay. Is it the individuals who drive to St. John's from the area that I am from, Carbonear, Harbour Grace, Bay Robert's area, each morning, have they benefitted when all they see is higher gas prices on a daily basis? Is it that senior in Twillingate who said that oil in Alberta does more for him and his family than oil in Newfoundland and Labrador?

Mr. Speaker, I know I sound negative but I do not really want to, but sometimes negativity is like Buckley's Mixture: It tastes bad but it is good for you. Without pointing out what is wrong, the wrongs will never be righted. Without pointing out if something is broken, it will never be fixed. We are members of the Opposition on this side of the House. The taxpayers of this Province pay us to be Opposition members, to oppose, but we will not always oppose. If we see something that is right, we will applaud the government for doing it. We will keep the government's feet to the fire and if we see something that is broken that needs to be fixed, we will certainly tell the government members.

Mr. Speaker, again I would like to thank His Honour for his speech today and I would like to thank all of our invited guests for attending, and with that, I will sit down.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is my pleasure today to join in the motion before the House to, technically speaking, strike a committee to draft an Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne.

Like the Leader of the Opposition, I have been here for many speeches. This is my sixteenth Speech from the Throne that I have heard in this House, and the tradition is that after the Speech from the Throne the Opposition members, as well as the Premier, get a chance to reflect on what we have heard from the Lieutenant Governor on behalf of the government, and also to thank the Lieutenant Governor for delivery of his speech and welcome him and the dignitaries, the Justices of the Supreme Court, the representatives of the police forces and the armed forces, our special guests here on the floor of the House, and with them a former Lieutenant Governor of Newfoundland and Labrador, Mr. McGrath, the Chief Judge of the Provincial Court, and other representatives of church and state who we welcome to be present in the House to hear the plans of the government.

We do have special guests here today in the Speaker's gallery who have been introduced a little earlier, Mr. Brad Gushue and Toby McDonald, our Olympic gold medalists. I think they are very special attendees here because they have done something for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador that is very important. They have added, Mr. Speaker, to our sense of pride and eliminated what may be the last vestiges of any inferiority complex we may have had as being Newfoundlanders and Labradorians by showing young people, especially in the case of Mr. Gushue -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HARRIS: - and even us adults, in the case of Mr. McDonald, that we can, even at this advanced age, go off to the Olympics and show the world that we are better than anyone in the world in a particular sport. Congratulations to our gold medalists, and thank you on behalf of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians in showing us that we too can be the best in the world if we work and try and do our best to achieve whatever we can with our lives.

We are approaching, Mr. Speaker, over what I have seen in the last sixteen years, a very special time in our history. I want to take you back to the time when I came here first and heard my first Speech from the Throne and listened to then-Premier Clyde Wells. When he came and took office he talked about the big, black cloud hanging over Newfoundland and Labrador economics and finances. He may have been the first person I have ever hear talk about this, something called unfunded pension liability. Does anyone remember that that was talked about then when no one else was really talking about it very much because we did not really have significant pension funds. Unfunded pension liability was something that was going to drag down the Newfoundland economy and maybe prevent the government from doing the things that it should be doing for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

While we had a whole series of budgets and issues throughout the 1990s, it was almost ten years before the unfunded pension liability in the Public Service Pension Plan was addressed, and it was done so during negotiations between the government and NAPE and CUPE in, I believe it was, 2000 or 2001. At that time a plan was put in place to address that most significant liability. A plan with a little bit of tweaking will solve that problem.

When this government came in, in 2003, all of the sudden we had another black cloud hanging over our head. In addition to the unfunded pension liability, there was a new concept. It was called accrual accounting. Remember that? Nobody heard of it before. Accountants all knew about it, but the public was not a part of this little thing that the accountants talked about, accrual accounting. That means if you make a plan today that might cost you some money in thirty years time, then you have to put it on your books today. All of the sudden the cash surplus that we thought we had was really a deficit of $600 million. When this government came it, we had a deficit of not $600 million but $900 million. We were way up there, almost $1 billion in deficit the first year in office.

Now something has happened. They might take credit for it, I do not know. Maybe they have some influence on world oil prices that we do not know about.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HARRIS: I do not know, Mr. Speaker. I know we did not put the oil in the ground, but the oil is there and world oil prices have made a big difference. I will give them credit, Mr. Speaker, as this is the second Throne Speech, by the way, that has praised the success of the Atlantic Accord. I do not mind joining in, once again, and saying that is important. It is a very significant step, the improvements that have been made in the Atlantic Accord, and the Premier deserves the congratulations of each and every Newfoundlander and Labradorian for taking advantage -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HARRIS: - of the opportunities that presented themselves during the minority government of Paul Martin, and in the lead up to that election when commitments were made from the New Democratic Party and from the Conservative Party to seek changes to the Atlantic Accord that eventually the Premier and his government and the other parties in Parliament were able to achieve by changing that rule.

We do have that situation, Mr. Speaker, and not only do we have that, we have a situation where the newest oil project off Newfoundland and Labrador, the Husky project, with that coming on stream in November, we are now in the position of producing 50 per cent of the Canadian production of conventional light crude. That is a very substantial milestone for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, and it is a milestone that speaks to the value of our resources. It speaks to the position that we are now in compared to five years ago, to fifteen years ago. In 2005 alone, Mr. Speaker, the value of oil production off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador is nearly $7.5 billion. I think $7.3 billion is the latest number coming from the government for last year's production, $7.5 billion, an increase of nearly 25 per cent over last year, over the year before. With that, we expect to see another balanced or surplus Budget in the coming days when the Premier and his Minister of Finance, actually, produces the Budget on March 30.

We know that a Throne Speech talks about generalities, the ideas that are most important in the minds of the government, and we do not necessarily expect a lot of detail in terms of programing. I am concerned, Mr. Speaker, that although this Throne Speech has a very high number of positive things for the future - and I recognize the announcements that were made in the last few weeks and reiterated in the Throne Speech, the very positive expenditures on infrastructures, on needed hospitals, roads, educational facilities in Labrador, extremely important for the future of Labrador and for the future of our Province, the initiatives, the specific initiatives and the strategy for innovation and the future, the need for us to ensure that we have sufficient teachers to teach in our schools - when we talk about the future of young people in Newfoundland and Labrador, and the need for us to have a society directed towards the future of our young people, there is a glaring gap that I think not enough attention has been paid to in the Throne Speech and by this government.

We heard the Member for St. John's West talk a lot about the poverty strategy and, of course, it was mentioned in the Throne Speech along with the issues related to education. While, of course, we need to have new educational money to ensure that we have adequacy of teachers, we also have significant, serious problems in our school system that have to do with poverty, Mr. Speaker, that have to do with the fact that we have a significant number of poor children, poor families, the highest level in the country. We cannot have, for example, a sports and recreation strategy that does not recognize the fact that many people cannot participate because of poverty.

In the City of St. John's, Mr. Speaker, there is something called the R.E.A.L program, sponsored by the City of St. John's. I have been very anxious to see that program develop and be available because it is a program that says, if you do not have the money, if you want to participate in hockey and you cannot afford to buy the equipment, if you want to be in soccer and cannot afford the fee, if you want to play a musical instrument and cannot afford the lessons, that there is a program there to assist people to participate in the things that are available to people who have the money.

We cannot have equality in our school system, Mr. Speaker, as long as we continue to have the burdens placed on families of school fees. They were eliminated by the last government just before the election. This government thought it could not afford to eliminate school fees and cancelled that initiative. We are in a position now, Mr. Speaker, that we can eliminate school fees, we can eliminate textbook costs, we can have a school meal program in every school in the Province, not just for the 15,000 or 20,000 out of the 79,000 students we have in Newfoundland and Labrador. We need greater family incomes to be able to support our nutrition programs. It is all very well, Mr. Speaker, to talk about wellness strategies, educational programs, and teach people the importance of all of these things, but they have to have the ability to be able to participate.

These are the kind of things, Mr. Speaker, that I want to see some detail on, in the Budget. There is a broad indication that we will see, in our Budget, some programs to address a poverty reduction strategy. I would like to see us go further, Mr. Speaker, and not just talk about reducing poverty. We need to go further and say that we are in a position, as a Province, with the prosperity that we have, to eliminate poverty.

I wear a band, Mr. Speaker, we are not supposed to show things in the House, but this is a band similar to the one that has been promoted by an athlete, Lance Armstrong, about living well and living healthy. This says Make Poverty History. It was given to me by an engineering student at the university, Mr. Speaker, as part of a program called Engineers Without Borders. They are talking about eliminating world poverty through technological assistance.

Mr. Speaker, here in this Province, with our oil dollars, with the money that is now available to us, we have a challenge before us to attempt to eliminate and make poverty history in Newfoundland and Labrador.

I gave a speech yesterday, Mr. Speaker, talking about one of the most significant elements of unfairness, social unfairness in our society today, and that is the fact that 35 per cent to 40 per cent of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador do not have access to a drug program. If they have an illness and a doctor prescribes a drug, they go to the drug store and they ask the druggist how much the prescription costs before they can decide whether they can fill it or not. That is wrong, Mr. Speaker. We have the means to start the development of a pharmacare program that is going to make equal access to that kind of medical treatment available in Newfoundland and Labrador, the same as it is for doctor services.

These are the kind of things, Mr. Speaker, that I think we need to address as a matter of urgency. There needs to be an urgency about it, Mr. Speaker, because we are now in a position. I say that going back sixteen years we had this big cloud; we cannot do this because we have this overwhelming burden. We had that overwhelming burden, Mr. Speaker, and through the efforts of various people over the years, through luck and good management, in the case of the Atlantic Accord, we are now in a position where we should be able to address those issues.

Yes, Mr. Speaker, we will continue to address these issues in the House of Assembly. The things that the government are doing that are good, we will support as we have in the past. The things that the government are not doing, that we want to see happen, we will challenge the government to introduce them.

We have the means, Mr. Speaker, to bring about greater social equity in our Province, to make poverty history, to, in fact, deal with the inequities brought about by poverty. We do have issues with the federal government. This Throne Speech talks about dealing with the federal government on the issue of post-secondary funding. Well, what about child care? This government had a deal with the Government of Canada for $55 million of new money to support child care in this Province. Where is that, and where the talk of pursuing that deal with the Government of Canada so that we can have more women and more families able to go to work and participate in the economy and build a better life for their families? That is one of the initiatives that we have not heard from this government in the Throne Speech, that we want to see happen because it is important for families, it is important for women, it is important for young children who need the kind of support that they would get from that kind of program.

Mr. Speaker, there are lots of issues that we will continue to address in this House of Assembly as we go forward. We look forward to the Budget and to the sharing of that prosperity, to the social dividend, I call it, that it is time that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians received from our offshore oil wealth. I know things are getting better, and I know the government is making announcements that they feel are necessary to make, and many of them are good and excellent announcements. I do not think any of the announcements for spending that have been made in the last number of days or weeks have been something negative. In fact, they have all been positive.

My colleague from Labrador West is one of the first to acknowledge the benefits of the spending announcements that this government has made - a long overdue announcement for a new hospital in Labrador West, the recognition of the need for a permanent home for the College of the North Atlantic in Labrador West. These things are all very positive. The work to complete the Trans-Labrador Highway - extremely important for Labrador as a whole and for the Province as a whole.

These are things that we will continue to support, but we believe that the returns from our offshore oil and gas are strong enough and are sustainable enough to be able to make some very significant changes, and I would like to see a greater sense of urgency from this government in dealing with those issues.

Having said that, Mr. Speaker, I will take my place and look forward to the debate as it continues throughout this session of the House.

Thank you very much.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, fellow Members of the House of Assembly, I rise this afternoon, first of all, to thank His Honour the Lieutenant Governor for his usual impassioned and very eloquent delivery of the government Throne Speech today. I chuckled for a moment when he broke into a smile as Her Honour, Mrs. Roberts, actually joined in the applause on the women's initiative which our government had initiated. It was a really nice, genuine moment.

I also want to extend my personal thanks to the mover of the motion of the Address in Reply, the Member for St. John's Centre, and the seconder, the Member for St. John's West. These two individuals are representative of all members of this hon. House who work tirelessly, tenaciously and effectively on behalf of their constituents.

I also want to thank the Leader of the New Democratic Party for his usual gracious and constructive remarks and acknowledgment of some of the initiatives that our government has taken, particularly in recent weeks. He has responded to many Throne Speeches during his tenure as Leader of the New Democratic Party, Your Honour. I wish him well on behalf of all members and all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians as he prepares to pass the mantle of leadership to his successor.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: I also want to thank the Leader of the Opposition for his comments. As I sat there I was reminded, for some reason, of SchlepRock and comics I used to read as a child, Sad Sack comics and that, but, unlike the Leader of the Opposition, I like to take a positive and optimistic and forward-looking attitude which our government will continue to take in the future.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: I would also like to extend a warm welcome to our distinguished invited guests, some of whom, actually, have taken leave due to other commitments, our special guests and our guests in the gallery, which include, of course, some of the mayors of our cities in the Province, and, of course, our heroes Brad and Toby, our Gold Medalists. Thank you very much for coming today.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Finally, I guess, and most importantly, Mr. Speaker, the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, who are with us in this Chamber today and viewing us through our televised proceedings.

I would also like to acknowledge the loved ones of the late Heather McDonald, the music teacher who was lauded in the Throne Speech for her dedication and the inspiration she gave us to proceed with a cultural connection strategy in our schools. I remember when she came with Noreen Greene Fraize to my office to talk to me about the importance of music in the schools, and the importance of culture in our schools, and the importance of history in our schools. She was a young women; I think she was probably in her thirties, or less than thirty. She had a huge impact on me, both of them did, and I think it had a huge impact on our government in order to put our cultural policy and our music program in place in the schools. During her life she made a tremendous contribution to this Province, and I just want to thank her family and all her friends for that contribution. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

As we focus on education this year, may we acknowledge the efforts of many teachers who put their hearts and souls into helping our young people become all that they can be. Our attitude makes all the difference to our approach and to our success. Two years ago we entered office with an eight-year prosperity agenda, a blueprint for sustainability and self-reliance, and a new approach that was based on confidence in our ability to make it happen. Two years in, and not only are we reporting significant progress but there is a new attitude at play in Newfoundland and Labrador as people see things begin to turn around. There is increasing confidence and growing optimism, and that optimism is generating momentum that is driving further growth.

Just listen to this piece in last Wednesday's Globe and Mail report on business, March 15. Headline: Revival on the Rock. The opening line reads: It has been a good year to be a Newfoundlander - we could add to that, and a Labradorian, but this is a verbatim quote, Your Honour, Mr. Speaker. It goes on to state and quote: A recent report prepared for Petroleum Research Atlantic Canada, funded in part by the oil companies and the Newfoundland Government, concluded that Newfoundland's economy isn't just surging; it has been transformed. Companies are now more ambitious, more competitive, and more confident.

This is the kind of story that is being repeated across Canada and beyond, about our Province. People are finally talking about how good it feels to be a Newfoundlander and Labradorian. Our Province is now seen as a place on the move, and an ideal place to do business. People want to come here. People want to invest here, and we are doing things to bring them here and to fuel this momentum. That new confidence and pride in who we are is what motivated our people to stand firm in seeking a fair agreement on the Atlantic Accord. It is what motivates our people to stand up for the sealing industry. It is what we feel as we celebrate our team's Gold Medal victory at the Olympic Games.

As a government, we are ready to harness that confidence in order to bring new opportunities to Newfoundland and Labrador. Our goal is to transform Newfoundland and Labrador into a repository of energy projects. We want to harness power from wind and hydroelectricity and natural gas. We want to make Newfoundland and Labrador known as an energy warehouse throughout the world. We have already moved to restructure and expand the mandate of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro. With Ed Martin at the helm, we are now reviewing the feasibility of various development options for the Lower Churchill. Our goal is to make a great deal more money and create value for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, who are Hydro's shareholders at the end of the day.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: We are not approaching Lower Churchill negotiations with a defeatist attitude, worried about a repeat of the Upper Churchill fiasco. We are moving forward to develop this gem of a resource with the same confidence that is driving a resurgence of optimism in Newfoundland and Labrador. Our government is working diligently and sincerely to make this Province a better place and I would like to ask you to bear with me for just a few moments as we reflect on what we have accomplished in the past two and half years.

One of our greatest achievements was taming the fiscal giant that was threatening our Province's social programs and, frankly, our investment reputation throughout North America. Two years ago budget surpluses and solving the unfunded pension problems would have been absolutely unthinkable. I want to thank our people, and particularly our public employees, for working with us to put our finances on a more secure footing so that we can afford to invest -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: - so that at the end of the day, Mr. Speaker, we can afford to invest in infrastructure and strategies to get things really going in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The next step was laying the foundation for economic growth. We created new sources of capital for investors, including the Small and Medium Enterprise Fund, the Regional Sectoral Diversification Fund, and we have made important new investments in the Industrial Research and Innovation Fund. We set to work on a Red Tape Reduction initiative, a branding strategy and a comprehensive review of government's business development programs and other initiatives designed to make Newfoundland and Labrador an attractive place to do business.

We have nurtured important relationships with Ireland and the United States, and especially New England. We have moved forward with a broadband infrastructure for government programs and established the Office of the Chief Information Officer. We have established a Rural Secretariat and set to work on a comprehensive regional diversification strategy to bring new opportunities to rural areas. We understand the role of infrastructure and we have been determined to address the sad state it had been left in over the years. So we have been developing a comprehensive infrastructure strategy and we are funding it, more importantly.

We increased the Provincial Roads budget significantly, proceeded with the Trans-Labrador Highway, worked with Ottawa to expand the National Highway System to include the Trans-Labrador Highway and moved forward with multi-year municipal capital funding.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: We created a new Seafood Diversification and Development Division; established a Sustainable Fisheries Resource and Oceans Policy Division; developed a renewed fish processing policy framework and set to work to enhance the Quality Assurance Program. Sure, we had a setback last year. We did, Mr. Speaker, when a bold new initiative like RMS was launched, but we heard the objections and we listened and we moved on, and we look forward to finding solutions for that industry.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Despite the allegations from the Opposition, when communities were in trouble we intervened to help the people in those communities, including in Arnold's Cove and St. Alban's, in Harbour Breton and Stephenville.

An important part of this has been identifying and realizing opportunities for exciting new growth in areas like the aquaculture industry. We invested in the agrifoods sector to increase its value. We have invested in silviculture, provided support for value-added wood products manufacturing, expanded forest resource roads and developed new five-year forest ecosystem management plans.

We have significantly increased our tourism marketing budget and made strategic investments to enhance the industry. We completed a strategic cultural plan which will be rolled out very soon, and made investments in our cultural industries and cultural education. We know that the most precious resource of all is who we are as a people. It is our essence. It is our being, Mr. Speaker. As John F. Kennedy appropriately said: We celebrate the past to awaken the future. And so our government is investing to ensure that we never loose it. Indeed, we celebrate it.

We also established a ministerial council for early childhood learning and a division of early childhood learning, and invested in school buildings and buses and physical education equipment. We have introduced a Newfoundland and Labrador history course, expanded cultural curriculum and support, supported a safe and caring schools policy to combat bullying and cap class sizes beginning in kindergarten and Grade one. We invested in adult basic education, released and began to implement the White Paper on post-secondary education, invested in studies to establish a new centre for environmental excellence at Grenfell and maintained a tuition freeze for students at Memorial University and the College of the North Atlantic.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, my colleagues and I fought for and got significant new health funding at the First Ministers' level. As a result, we were able to invest in significant new health equipment and improve services across the Province and this helped to reduce wait times in several key areas. We have invested in mental health services and addictions support. We provided coverage for more medications and invested in various measures to support rural practitioners. We established a provincial advisory council on aging, a ministerial council for aging and seniors, and a division dedicated to aging and seniors.

We are moving forward with badly needed long-term care facilities for Corner Brook and Clarenville and Happy Valley-Goose Bay and renovations at Grand Bank. We provided cash for low-income seniors and we have indexed the seniors' benefit. We indexed the Newfoundland and Labrador Child Benefit, introduced a low-income tax credit, provided a child care services subsidy, raised the minimum wage and increased home heating rebates.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, we have also proceeded with dramatic and meaningful insurance reform that was unique in Atlantic Canada by protecting people's rights but still giving them the desired savings at the end.

We have invested in women's centres and set to work on a violence prevention strategy. We expanded the Victim Services program to cover children and young people. We have invested in court infrastructure and provided funding for new police officers, which we began to train here at home, at Memorial University.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: We worked with our Province's Aboriginal people on several important initiatives, including working side by side with them at the First Ministers' meeting on Aboriginal issues in Kelowna.

In Labrador, we have improved the costal ferry services, announced our plan to complete the Trans-Labrador Highway and did an aggressive job of marketing 5 Wing Goose Bay in Canada and abroad.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, we told Labradorians we would meet their needs and we are proving that we are year after year. We are investing in Labrador in a manner and quantity unlike any previous government.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, in the interest of time, I could go on, on that list but I will not. Those are just some of the things that we have done in the past two years.

Our approach on a go-forward basis is a new approach that plans for the future because it is based on the belief that Newfoundland and Labrador has a tremendous future. We are not waiting for a brighter future to fall out of the sky. We are working strategically to build that future from the ground up, to be masters of our own destiny at the end of the day.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: When we started, Mr. Speaker, we anticipated needing eight years to implement our blueprint and see results, but in just two-and-a-half years we are beginning to see such a turnaround that even we are surprised by how much we have accomplished in such a short period of time.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Our Opposition terms this as lucky, but we attribute it to strategic thinking and to hard work.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: This is the difference that planning and confidence and optimism can make. This new approach is all about having the vision, the strategies, the leadership at every level and the co-operation required to turn our opportunities into success stories.

His Honour has outlined today just some of the many initiatives we will be undertaking this year as we continue to follow through on our mandate to usher in a new era of strong and sustainable economic growth throughout Newfoundland and Labrador. More details will be announced in the Budget and fleshed out in the weeks and months that follow.

We are preparing to move forward this year with several initiatives that will continue to build upon our successes, initiatives that will build our dreams and our vision for the future. We will move forward with our infrastructure strategy, innovation strategy, cultural strategy, immigration strategy, provincial wellness strategy, a healthy aging framework, a new mental health and addictions policy and a poverty reduction strategy.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: I know, Mr. Speaker, that this may sound like an awful lot of strategies, and sometimes our critics complain that we do too much strategizing and not enough doing. Well, let me tell you what good strategizing does for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, Mr. Speaker. Good, well thought out and executed strategy brings home the Atlantic Accord.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Smart strategy gives you a multitude of options for developing the Lower Churchill as opposed to just one strategy. Good strategy and a lot of talent takes a kid from Burlington and propels him onto the Canadian pop music stage.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: And good strategizing brings home Olympic Gold to this Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: There is no luck in all of that, Mr. Speaker. So, I do not think our government will ever apologize for being strategic in our thinking. I do not want to steal too much of the Finance Minister's thunder next week as he prepares to bring down this year's Budget, but we are bursting at the seams with new initiatives and already we have rolled out some of them.

In Labrador, we announced a range of initiatives totaling some $47.3 million in this year's Budget with new infrastructure commitments totaling at least $175 million.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: These include money for health care, education, culture and transportation.

One main focus of our Budget this year will be education, and you have heard it time and time again this afternoon, Mr. Speaker. We know that education is at the very foundation of our future; at the foundation of our economy; at the foundation of career growth and investment potential; at the foundation of innovation, diversification and rural development; at the foundation of self-reliance and sustainability, and at the foundation of the attitude that will advance our prosperity agenda. It all begins in the classroom, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Henry Ford once said: If money is your hope for independence, you will never have it. The only real security in this world is a reserve of knowledge, experience and ability.

We are laying, Mr. Speaker, the foundation in knowledge and skills development in order to ensure that our students are optimally prepared to seize the opportunities that are before us, and while government can provide the money only our teachers can get the job done.

Yesterday, the Minister of Education announced initiatives designed to address the critical issue of teacher workload. We know that our teachers have our children's best interests at heart, and every day we send our children off and entrust them to our teachers. So, it is absolutely vital that we ensure that these hard-working men and women across this Province have the tools necessary to succeed in their classrooms.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Leaving teachers in our system and reviewing burdensome daily work is a first step to ensuring that our teachers have the time and energy that they need to educate our children to embrace the bright future we are building for them.

Throughout the past few months we have been consulting with stakeholders at the grassroots level in the education system. We have endeavoured to get a solid understanding of the circumstances, the challenges, the opportunities, and the solutions. We are moving forward this year to make the system better, stronger, and more effective, Mr. Speaker.

We are also taking steps now to address a challenge that is looming on the horizon, and it is indeed an exciting challenge to have to face, and that is a skills shortage. It is something that is being faced in many areas of our country, and indeed around the world. With many potential major new industrial developments in the future, this Province may very well face a shortage of workers. We must prepare now to turn the challenge into greater opportunities for our people. We must ensure that our people have the proper knowledge and the right skills, and we will very soon be announcing a plan to address this very issue.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: My personal motto, Mr. Speaker, has always been, if you do not anticipate the future then you will not be a part of it. Your government is anticipating the future, and your Province will very much be a part of it.

It promises to be another exciting year that will move us closer to achieving the goals that we, as a Province, have set for ourselves. Since forming government in 2003, we have successfully passed 140 pieces of legislation in this Legislature. We anticipate another significant number of bills to be tabled in this session, and I look forward to another productive, worthwhile, energetic and constructive session of the House of Assembly.

Our government and our Province have made substantial progress in the past year. We have also faced many challenges, and the people in many of our communities have faced challenges and will continue to face challenges, but, as our Minister of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development said so eloquently yesterday: We will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with these communities to find solutions, to find opportunities and hope. It will not always be easy, but it will always be our number one priority, and I believe -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: - and I truly believe, that there is a great reason to be hopeful in our Province. It has taken a great deal of work and effort and co-operation, and some pain along the way, to get where we are today; however, we are getting there.

I want to thank all stakeholders, the public sector, educators, health care workers, business, labour, the cultural community, the voluntary sector, community groups, and my caucus, each and every one of them, and each and every individual citizen of this great Province, for your co-operation and your patience and your sacrifice as together we have built the foundation for our Province's success.

I would like to close with another quote from JFK. He said: It is our task in our time and in our generation to hand down, undiminished to those who come after us, as was handed down to us by those who went before us, the natural wealth and the beauty which is ours.

That is the legacy, Mr. Speaker, that I hope our government leaves for the children and grandchildren of this great Province.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that a Select Committee be struck to draft an Address of Thanks to be presented to His Honour the Lieutenant Governor in reply to the Gracious Speech From The Throne with which he has been pleased to open the present Session of the House of Assembly.

The members of the Select Committee will be: the Member for St. John's Centre, the Member for St. John's West, and the Member for Bay of Islands.

All those in favour, ‘aye'.


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

I declare the motion carried.

Motion carried.

Notices of Motion

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I give notice that I will on tomorrow move that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole on Supply to consider certain resolutions for the granting of Interim Supply to Her Majesty. (Bill 2)

MR. SPEAKER: Further notices of motion?

The hon. the Government House Leader.

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

I move that the House now adjourn and return tomorrow at 1:30 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that the House do now adjourn until tomorrow, Thursday, March 23, at 1:30 p.m.

This House now stands adjourned until tomorrow at 1:30 of the clock in the afternoon.

I want to thank visitors, special guests and former members. I did note that Mr. John Butt was in the gallery earlier, and I believe Mr. Kevin Alyward is in attendance as well. I want to thank our special guests and all of the people who graced our House this afternoon, particularly our visitors.

I am pleased to invite members of the House, together with our visitors, to a reception immediately following the closure of the House, in the parliamentary precinct in the lobby.

This House now stands adjourned.