May 2, 2012                        HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS                    Vol. XLVII No. 25

The House met at 2:00 p.m.

Today we are very pleased to welcome to our Speaker's gallery from Saskatchewan, the Minister of Social Services and Minister Responsible for the Status of Women, Public Service Commission and the Housing Corporation, the hon. June Draude.

Welcome to our Chamber.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: We are also very pleased to welcome back, this time though to the Speaker's gallery and not to the Assembly, the former Member for the District of Port de Grave, Roland Butler, and his wife Maude and grandson Justin.

Welcome back.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: We are also quite pleased this afternoon to have in our public galleries five Grade 9 students from St. James Regional High in Port aux Basques, located in the District of Burgeo – La Poile. The students are accompanied by their teacher Joann O'Brien. This morning the students participated in an event by the Occupational Health and Safety, sponsored Safework Newfoundland and Labrador, and they won the trivia game competition.

Congratulations to the team and welcome to our Assembly.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Statements by Members

MR. SPEAKER: Today we have members' statements from the Member for the District of Lake Melville; the Member for the District of Lewisporte; the Member for the District of St. Barbe; the Member for the District of Cartwright – L'Anse au Clair; and the Member for the District of Terra Nova.

The hon. the Member for the District of Lake Melville.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in this hon. House to recognize several residents of Sheshatshiu who participated in the Penote Ben Michel Hockey Tournament in Sheshatshiu earlier last month.

The annual memorial tournament is named for the former President of Innu Nation the late Ben Michel, an Innu leader whose life's work was to preserve the culture and way of life for the Innu people, and create a better future for them through partnerships with the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and the federal government. In attendance were family such as his grandson, Zach Pastiwet, his brother Simon Michel and wife Janet Michel.

Of the four teams in the competitive division, Team Sheshatshiu placed second in a hard fought championship with Labrador City resulting in a final score of two to one. Team Sheshatshiu are: Atshapi Andrew, Jonathon Andrew, Matthew Andrew, Sheldon Nui, Tyson Russell, Kilibuk Qupee, Owen McCarthy, Jeremy Andrew, Mike Ward, Muakuss Fontaine, Chris Holden, Lee Bellefontaine, Steve Power, and Adam Thrasher.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all hon. members of this House to congratulate these athletes from the Community of Sheshatshiu for their hard work and great effort at a tournament in honour of a great man.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today in this hon. House to recognize a recently retired RCMP officer, Mr. Harold Nippard of Embree.

Harold grew up in a family of ten children where he was taught the value of hard work and the need to be successful. Shortly after graduating from high school, Harold began his training in Regina and started to fulfill his lifelong dream of becoming a police officer.

Harold spent his entire career within the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. He started out on Bell Island and had postings in Labrador City, Trepassey, Springdale, Bonavista, Flower's Cove, Carmanville, Port aux Basques and Grand Falls - Windsor. Harold worked his way up the ranks, becoming a Corporal in 1988, a Sergeant in 2003, Operations NCO in 2004, and Staff Sergeant and District Commander in 2008.

Harold's philosophy has been to become an integral part of each community in which he was posted. He believed in serving people and helping out wherever he could. Reflecting back, Harold says, "I would do it all again".

Colleagues please join with me, and also with Harold's wife Elizabeth, in congratulating and thanking Harold Nippard for his thirty-eight years of serving and protecting the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise in the House today to pay tribute to Mrs. Evelyn Rose who recently passed away at the age of ninety-six in L'Anse Amour, Labrador.

She was the oldest resident residing in my district and had moved across from Flower's Cove five years ago to live with her daughter Rita Davis and the Davis family in L'Anse Amour. Mrs. Rose grew up in a family of sixteen children; she was the fourth youngest sibling. She had twelve children, forty-two grandchildren, fifty-three great-grandchildren and seven great-great-grandchildren.

In August of 2011, she celebrated her ninety-sixth birthday and was featured in the Northern Pen sitting atop a motorbike in a leather jacket and a helmet. She told the reporters that she never felt better and that the highlight of her year was her birthday because her family was all together. She was a very honourable woman who worked hard for her family and who uplifted people with her beautiful smile, her insightful view of life, and her unconditional love for God and all of those around her. She was a true example of one never being too old or too wise to learn new things and to have fun. After all, Mr. Speaker, she was the only ninety-six-year-old who I ever saw on a three wheeler.

I ask the members of this House to join me in paying tribute to a wonderful lady, Ms Evelyn Rose, and to offer to her family our condolences at this time.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The Member for St. Barbe.

MR. BENNETT: Mr. Speaker, I rise in this hon. House today to commend the work and dedication of two development associations in my District of St. Barbe.

Local groups enrich our communities and the work carried out by the St. Barbe Development Association and Central Development Association is immeasurable and commendable. Our local economy and culture have benefited from their efforts for many years. The work these two associations and their employees undertake not only benefits the local economy; they also offer leadership and advocacy in many communities within my district.

The St. Barbe Development Association's mandate is to strengthen our region by building partnerships that enable our communities to grow and prosper. The Central Development Association works in much the same way in the development of the local economy and in the advocacy for communities in the area.

People who offer their time, energy, and commitment to ensuring the betterment of their communities are people who should always be recognized for what they do. Mr. Speaker, every day associations in all our districts make a difference.

I would ask all members to join me not only recognizing the St. Barbe Development Association and the Central Development Association, but to also express my gratitude for all that they have done and continue to do in the future for our communities and our Province.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. S. COLLINS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Today I rise to commend a young woman from my district, Ms Chelsea Harris. Ms Harris is a kinesiology student at the School of Human Kinetics and Recreation at Memorial University.

Rewarded for her hard work and dedication, she was one of four recipients of the Director's Award for an Exemplary Work Term. Chelsea completed her work term with Dr. Michelle Ploughman as a research assistant, where she recruited and conducted in-depth interviews with Multiple Sclerosis patients. She also worked directly with patient rehabilitation as a therapist assistant and as a group exercise instructor for people with disabilities.

Dr. Ploughman described Chelsea as having excellent organizational and time management skills, and as a critical thinker and problem solver. Mr. Speaker, while on work term, Chelsea was also successful in winning a $5,000 research studentship from the Atlantic endMS Regional Research and Training Centre at Dalhousie University, out-competing medical and graduate students from across Atlantic Canada. This studentship would see her working with neurologist Dr. Stefanelli conducting further MS research. Chelsea Harris is a fine example of the extremely bright and energetic students MUN is turning out. Mr. Speaker, I ask all hon. members of this House to join with me in congratulating Chelsea Harris on her recent accomplishments and wishing her every success in the future. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear! MR. SPEAKER: Statements by Ministers. Statements by Ministers MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board. SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear! MR. MARSHALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. In 2008, Mr. Speaker, this government announced a Parental Benefits Program consisting of the Progressive Family Growth Benefit and the Parental Support Benefit to help offset the high costs associated with the first year of parenting. The program provides$1,000 for every child born or adopted in the Province, as well as an additional $100 each month for the first twelve months for the child. I am happy to report that as of April 30, 2012 almost 12,000 applicants have availed of the program through approximately$26 million provided by the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Parental Benefits Program, Mr. Speaker, is designed so that the benefits are not taxable and that any parent who gives birth or adopts a child can avail of the program regardless of employment status or income. I would encourage anyone who has recently had or adopted a child and has not already applied for the program to do so. The deadline for filing an application is three years after the baby is born, or in the case of adoption, three years after the child has been placed. The complete details can be found on the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador's Web site under the Department of Finance.

Mr. Speaker, the Parental Benefits Program is just one example of this government's efforts to put more money back into the hands of the residents of this Province to spend on what they deem is important. Residents are saving in such areas as personal income taxes, home energy, and insurance premiums. All told, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are currently spending approximately $500 million less in taxes and fees annually as compared to 2006. Mr. Speaker, for too long the population of this Province was in steady decline as residents left for opportunities elsewhere, but we are finally beginning to see a reversal in that trend. A strong, healthy province is one in which families and children have an environment in which they can thrive, Mr. Speaker, and this government continues to work on creating such an environment. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear! MR. SPEAKER: The Leader of the Official Opposition. MR. BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I thank the minister for his advance copy of the Ministerial Statement. I certainly was surprised to get this statement today, as this was a Budget announcement of 2008. I guess within the year or so a lot of those kids – at least the first recipients will be in kindergarten next year. Nevertheless, it is coming a week on the heels of the 2012 Budget. Congratulations to the new parents who have taken advantage of this. Of course, this money I am sure helps the new parents in the early days, either after childbirth or after adoption. I can assure the minister he need not get his pen and cheque book out, because this is not a program I will be taking advantage of anytime soon. Thank you. SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear! MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Leader of the Third Party. SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear! MS MICHAEL: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I, too, thank the minister for the advance copy of his statement. I would like to point out to the minister that this grant may help in the first year – I know it helps in the first year – but young families face serious barriers in this Province after the child has reached his or her first year, because we have no universal child care program. Quebec saw twice as many women entering the workforce once they introduced universal child care. Studies show 40 per cent of the cost of the Quebec program are covered by the increase in taxes generated by more women in the workforce. If government is really trying to help families, that is the better way, Mr. Speaker. SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear! MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Education. SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear! MR. JACKMAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. This morning I had the pleasure of joining students and staff at Bishops College in St. John's as they were presented with an Inclusive Education Award from the Newfoundland and Labrador Association for Community Living. As a government, we support the philosophy that all students should attend school with their peers, and receive appropriate, quality programming in inclusive school environments. We have, in fact, invested millions of dollars in teachers, teacher training, additional support staff, as well as the latest technologies to make this possible. Bishops College, under the leadership of Principal Bridget Ricketts, is one school which has truly taken the inclusion message to heart. Its students and staff have gone above and beyond to ensure all students are involved in a range of school activities and that all are recognized as valued, contributing members of the wider school community. I was proud to be with them today, Mr. Speaker, and to see some of their inclusive activities in practice. I also offer my congratulations to six other nominated schools: Fatima Academy in St. Bride's; Roncalli Central High School in Avondale; Coley's Point Primary; Menihek High School in Labrador City; St. Matthew's Elementary in St. John's; and Sacred Heart Academy in Marystown. Mr. Speaker, the Association for Community Living also honours an individual educator each year, and this year's recipient is Mr. Bill Chaisson, principal of St. Gerard's Elementary in Corner Brook. Mr. Chaisson has demonstrated both a professional and personal commitment to making inclusion work in his school, making him most worthy of this provincial honour. Mr. Speaker, I ask all my colleagues in this hon. House to join me in congratulating and thanking schools throughout Newfoundland and Labrador, especially the staff and students of Bishops College, and to St. Gerard's Elementary for showing us each and every day how inclusion can be a positive experience for all involved and for society at large. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear! MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Burgeo – La Poile. MR. A. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I thank the minister for the advanced copy of his statement. I wish to congratulate Bishops College for receiving this award; it shows the great work that they have been doing. I guess we should give kudos to the Newfoundland and Labrador Association for Community Living for everything that they are doing to promote inclusion. It is encouraging to see students, teachers, and staff co-operating together to make sure that inclusion is a part of everyday life, and again, it starts at the top. Ms Ricketts is to be commended for everything that she is doing to make sure that this philosophy, this priority, starts at the top and is going throughout the entire school, so a very good job to them. What I would say is that again, all the schools that were involved here deserve commendation. My alma mater, St. James Regional High, is another school that does take an opportunity to practice inclusion every day. I would like to congratulate Mr. Chaisson for everything he is doing out in St. Gerard's Elementary. He is doing a great job. This is a good message for us to be passing on, and there is no better place to pass messages on than to our youth. They are going to make sure that the message lives on and grows. Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear! MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for St. John's North. MR. KIRBY: Thank you. I, too, thank the minister for the advanced copy of his statement. I congratulate Mr. Chaisson and Bishops College for their awards and for working hard to make inclusion a reality. I would like to hear more about what was done at these schools, Mr. Speaker, and to see how the department plans to disseminate these best practices throughout the school system. Parents and teachers are telling us that they need more resources and more frontline specialized supports in schools, such as autism support workers, so that parents do not have to go bankrupt trying to pay for these services themselves, Mr. Speaker. Thank you. SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear! MR. SPEAKER: Oral Questions. Oral Questions MR. SPEAKER: The Leader of the Official Opposition. MR. BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. There have been almost sixty claims presented to the Workplace Compensation Commission related to asbestos and multi-chemical exposure at the Marystown Shipyard in the late 1960s to the 1980s. Families and individuals involved are saying many of these claims are being rejected without adequate analysis or explanation. I ask the minister: On what basis are these claims being rejected? MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Service Newfoundland and Labrador. SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear! MR. DAVIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The circumstances at the Marystown Shipyard are significant circumstances. I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, the House of Assembly, and the people of Newfoundland and Labrador that we take these matters very seriously. We take the matters of the shipyard workers, former shipyard workers and their families very seriously. In fact so, Mr. Speaker, after the last statutory review in 2005-2006 that was conducted, that normally takes place, there was the formation of what is known as the ODAP, Occupational Disease Advisory Panel. The first order of business the Occupational Disease Advisory Panel conducted was to retain the services of the IRSST, a very well-respected institute out of Quebec to conduct a piece of research on shipyard workers. In fact, the document they produced compiled over 350 reports involving shipyard workers. It is a piece of work that has never existed before. That piece of work is now being used in adjudication of these - MR. SPEAKER: Order, please! SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear! MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Leader of the Official Opposition. MR. BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would like to remind the minister, what we understand is that was primarily a literature review and there have been no specific visits to Marystown. Mr. Speaker, Dr. Noel Kerin, an occupational disease specialist in Toronto, says exposure to cancer-causing chemicals was much higher in Marystown than in other shipyards in the world. I ask the minister: Given the comments by this specialist, will this government stop dismissing these cases and conduct a proper investigation into the specific situation related to asbestos and multi-chemical exposure at the Marystown Shipyard? MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Service Newfoundland and Labrador. SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear! MR. DAVIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The adjudication of occupational disease that is conducted by the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission of Newfoundland and Labrador for all workplace occupational disease is adjudicated on a case-by-case basis. The report from the IRSST is going to be used to assist in adjudicating the cases specific to Marystown, but this report also will assist adjudicating cases that involve other occupations such as painters or welders who may work in other industries. I am familiar with some of the comments that Dr. Kerin has provided as well as some other people who say that they have expert evidence to support their claims. What we do is we have invited Dr. Kerin to provide medical and scientific evidence to support his allegations. If he was to submit such information and wanted to submit it, we would readily accept it and we would help to utilize that as well in adjudication of cases. MR. SPEAKER: Order, please! SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear! MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Leader of the Official Opposition. MR. BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I understand today there are about 100 people in that database. Mr. Speaker, the Marystown Shipyard Family Alliance is concerned about the number of deaths and the number of people diagnosed with cancer in their area. They are asking for assistance from government in monitoring the health of former workers who have potentially been injured by asbestos and multi-chemical exposure. I ask the minister: What assistance is government willing to provide to these former workers from the shipyard to monitor their health? MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Service Newfoundland and Labrador. SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear! MR. DAVIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. As I mentioned, the circumstances in Marystown are very serious I know to the people of Marystown as well as the family members of the Marystown Shipyard workers and former workers. We have in place the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission in Newfoundland and Labrador that is put in place to adjudicate these cases and provide compensation when so required under the rules and the procedures and policies of the Commission. A person has to file a claim - we use all of the scientific and medical evidence that is available to the Commission in the adjudication of these cases, and that is the right process to follow. We will invite any new evidence that is available to us, we will utilize that information in the adjudication of those cases, and when so, the Commission will support those families under those circumstances. SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear! MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Leader of the Official Opposition. MR. BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Well, I will remind the minister, too, that with workers' compensation there is a quite a backlog in the review division right now. On another question, Mr. Speaker, an energy expert from Maine was in the media today and stated several important things about the US energy market. Number one, they are focused on the shale natural gas; number two, they prefer energy closer to home; and three, they are not willing to sign long-term contracts. I ask the minister: Given these facts, where is the market for Muskrat Falls power in New England? MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Natural Resources. SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear! MR. KENNEDY: Yes, thank you, Mr. Speaker. Shortly after I became minister we met with groups in New York, Wood Mackenzie and PIRA, and talked about the energy markets in the Northeastern United States, Mr. Speaker. We are aware of the influence of shale gas and how it is affecting the energy markets, but, Mr. Speaker, let's be clear on why we are developing Muskrat Falls, if we develop it. It is to satisfy our need at home; to allow for a link to Maritime and Eastern US markets; and to provide electricity for mining developments in Labrador. So, essentially, Mr. Speaker, what will happen is that we will use the energy we have available, until we need to recall, on the spot markets. We are not looking, Mr. Speaker, for power purchase arrangements. There is, by the way, as Mr. Weil said in the CBC interview, markets in the Maritime area. SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear! MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Leader of the Official Opposition. MR. BALL: Thank you. Well, I am happy to hear that the minister is actually talking now about Labrador, but let's not forget that the early days it was always about 40 per cent export, 40 per cent here on the Island, and 20 per cent to Emera. New England States have a renewable energy requirement, meaning that a certain percentage of their power must come from renewable resources. Generally, for energy to be considered renewable in New England, it has to come from a source less than 100 megawatts capacity. This is designed to favour local energy generation. As you know, Muskrat is 824 megawatts. How are you going to sell Muskrat energy where it does not even meet the Northeastern US renewable criteria? MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Natural Resources. SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear! MR. KENNEDY: Yes, thank you, Mr. Speaker. Again, Mr. Speaker, I do not know if the Leader of the Opposition did not hear the interview or if he simply does not understand what the gentleman said. What the gentleman said, Mr. Speaker, is that renewable energy credits in the New England States are under a certain amount to encourage wind projects, for example, in New England, where they are not as connected to the gas markets. He did not say there were no markets, Mr. Speaker. In the summertime now, Nalcor sells the energy that is available – it could be up to 220 megawatts – into the spot markets, going through Quebec and New Brunswick into the United States. There is always a market, Mr. Speaker. The price of the energy being sold will determine what is going on at any given hour and any given minute in any given day. There is a market, Mr. Speaker. The price is another thing because, remember, the Emera link gives us transmission access to the American markets without paying undue tariffs. SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear! MR. SPEAKER: The Leader of the Official Opposition. MR. BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I will remind him that Hydro-Quebec sold for 5.8 cents and Muskrat power is hardly going to be competitive in that market. Mr. Speaker, the Division of Lifelong Learning offers courses and programs to people in the Province and provides a valuable public service. We have received notice today that the division is closing. I ask the minister: How long have you been aware of this? Is there any way of avoiding this loss of these valuable services? MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills. SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear! MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, Memorial University has decided to close their Lifelong Learning centre. I only learned about this recently. It was not something from the Budget or a decision that involved the Department of Advanced Education and Skills. It was a decision made by the university based on the fact that they had opened that centre on a cost recovery basis and had been running about a$700,000 deficit. The university decided to close that institute.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, last week I met with the Minister of Education with regard to the Charlottetown school and he told me that the government would be deliberating with regard to a solution. We know that the school is forty-seven years old, that it has oil and mould contamination, and we just received a recent report that outlines structural, mechanical, and electrical problems.

I ask the minister today: Will the government now move to replace and build a new school in Charlottetown?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, the bottom line, as I have been saying right from the beginning, is that the environment these students, these teachers, and the community are served by in the form of a school will be a safe one. I can assure all of the people involved of that.

We have had an independent consultant that has gone in, as the member indicated. The report has come back. We have done some review of it and are continuing to do a review of it. The Western School District now is reviewing it. We will consult with them and ultimately, Mr. Speaker, a decision will be made.

I reiterate, the facility that these students go back into will be safe, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I guess my question would be: At what stage does a school no longer become viable in terms of saving, when you have an aging school?

I have two studies that I have completely read, one that outlines extreme quantities of mould in the school, very deadly forms of mould that have affected the health of children. We also have another report now that tells us that we have significant and serious problems with structural, electrical, and mechanical.

Minister, you, yourself, have a docket in your office of letters from students and parents outlining illness and sicknesses that these children have experienced in that school. I ask you if you can make a decision very quickly and move forward with a new school for the children of this community.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, I cannot stand here, commit, and say that within a week or so we are going to commit to a new school. I simply cannot do that. We have a report, and based on the expertise that has been provided to us, an analysis is being done, and then we will make a decision and a determination from that point.

Mr. Speaker, all I can say, and I reiterate it, is that whatever facility these students go into, it will be safe and I will assure the community as well.

I met with Ms Dempster just last week, and the member opposite. I then expressed to them that we will move on this in a timely manner, Mr. Speaker. As quickly as we can get this moving we will, and we will inform the community.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for the Bay of Islands.

MR. JOYCE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, once again the ferry service to Fogo Island and Bell Island is in a state of turmoil. Budget 2012 indicates that the provincial vessel replacement program is still in the design stage, including the replacement of the Captain Earl Windsor. Design, for this government, means stall.

I ask the minister: When can the residents of Fogo Island and Change Islands expect to see a permanent, reliable service and replacement for the Captain Earl Windsor?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HEDDERSON: Mr. Speaker, in response to the question from across the House, obviously we as a government are on track, making sure that we are moving forward with the vessel replacement strategy as quickly as we possibly can.

Beginning in 2006, we indicated that Phase I would involve two medium-sized ferries, Mr. Speaker. Those two ferries are now in the water. We are very much satisfied with them. As we move into the next phases of our strategy, we have in the works six under design; that design will be finished and ready for tender as of the end of November. The replacement of the Captain Earl Windsor for Fogo, that is currently at the last stages of design and in early summer, we should be able to go to tender on that as well.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The Member for Bay of Islands.

MR. JOYCE: Thank you.

I say to the minister: Too bad that paper cannot float; they would have a good ferry, so many designs.

Mr. Speaker, the Nonia has been taken off the Bell Island run and sent to replace the Beaumont Hamel on Fogo Island leaving Bell Island with only one ferry: the Flanders. The provincial ferry service has become totally unreliable. The Member for Conception Bay East – Bell Island must agree with me.

I ask the minister: Why has your vessel replacement strategy announced in 2003, nine years later, fallen off the rails leaving residents who depend on the service without reliable vessels and no firm commitment of a new replacement date?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HEDDERSON: Mr. Speaker, it is interesting that the member opposite would mention 2003, because that was the year that we took over from the previous Administration. It is also interesting that he mentioned the Nonia because in the fifteen years that they were in, that was their vessel replacement strategy – fifteen years.

Mr. Speaker, that is what we are dealing with now, but I would reassure the people who we serve through our ferry services that our vessel replacement strategy is moving along as expected, and that we will continue to provide what services are necessary in order to keep those services going.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The Member for St. Barbe.

MR. BENNETT: Mr. Speaker, earlier today when I questioned the Fisheries Minister in the Estimates Committee on how many fish plants he foresaw in this Province five years from now. The minister responded that there would likely be 20 per cent fewer plants than the current 114.

I ask the minister: Is government consulting with processors, and is there a comprehensive strategy to address dying plants in vulnerable communities?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KING: Mr. Speaker, we had a great discussion in Estimates this morning as a matter of fact. The short answer to the question is yes, we are absolutely consulting with the industry; we consult every single day. I spent fifteen minutes or so yesterday reminding the minister of our view of consultation with the industry versus his view of simply writing a report and writing a plan and telling people what is going to happen. We do not operate that way on this side of the House.

We are consulting; we will continue to consult. As a matter of fact, I left Estimates today and had a meeting with a processing operator in the Province to talk about their plans for the future, and we will continue to do that.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The Member for St. Barbe.

MR. BENNETT: Mr. Speaker, also in fisheries Estimates today the minister stated that a multi-species model would be ideal for the plants of the future – something that I had proposed as a fishery development tool.

I ask the minister: When will his department produce a multi-species strategy and action plan to facilitate and support processors and help move this industry forward?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KING: Mr. Speaker, if the critic opposite wants to take ownership for the idea of the multi-species plan, then he better be sure to own the kipper plan for the Province too that he proposes as a salvation of the fishing industry.

I say to the member opposite, first of all the fishing industry in Newfoundland and Labrador is a business. It is a business operated by independent companies that have quotas and they go out and harvest the quotas and they bring them to market and they market it.

Mr. Speaker, our role, as I explained as clearly as I could to the member opposite this morning, is to support the industry. We do that in a lot of ways. One of which is our Fisheries Technology Program. We are investing in companies all the time, Mr. Speaker, to put in new equipment to help them better their operations and improve the product that goes to market. Perhaps, with another question, I will tell you some more.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The Member for Bay of Islands.

MR. JOYCE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, it has been five years since the government announced the construction of the Corner Brook hospital. Your government has committed $1 million for the planning for the Corner Brook hospital in this year's Budget. I asked the minister yesterday and the minister would not answer. The people of Corner Brook want to know and deserve to know. I ask the minister: Will the$1 million be sufficient to complete the design work of the hospital so that construction can begin on this hospital in the next construction season?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, the design work is ongoing. We are committed to seeing that all of the design, all of the functional planning, is done and we will pay the cost, whatever those costs are going to be. I do not have an exact figure as to what those costs are going to be, Mr. Speaker, but I know we are committed to getting that design work done and I know that is going to happen. We have spent, to date, $17.7 million. We are committed to this hospital in Corner Brook. We are going to have the best hospital we can possibly have out there. SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear! MR. SPEAKER: The Leader of the Third Party. MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills said she was not aware of any penalty low-income recipients who applied for CPP at the age of sixty would face if they wanted to take advantage of the new rule by rescinding the CPP application they were forced into making. There is in fact a penalty. People have only a six-month window to opt out of CPP after they make application at the age of sixty. As well, they have to pay back any money they received during that time. Mr. Speaker, I ask the minister: Did she not study the potential implications of the new regime they have put in place and plan for such a contingency? MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills. SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear! MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, this government, as part of our Budget process and part of our Poverty Reduction Strategy, has developed a policy that people who are receiving Income Support will no longer have to apply for CPP when they turn sixty. Mr. Speaker, what that means is that on a go-forward basis people who collect their CPP when they turn sixty-five as opposed to sixty will have 30 per cent more of their pension, their CPP, as they retire. This is a penalty that was imposed on people when they applied for Income Support, and based on our Poverty Reduction Strategy, to try to meet the needs of people between sixty and sixty-five, and into their older years, Mr. Speaker, we felt that they would no longer be required to apply for their CPP. However, it will still be their decision if they wish to do so. SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear! MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Leader of the Third Party. MS MICHAEL: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. The minister said yesterday that if there were a penalty creating financial hardship for individuals wanting to rescind their CPP benefits until they reach the age of sixty-five, they could expect her and her department to do due diligence in assisting them. Mr. Speaker, what is the minister's plan for helping people face the financial hardship that would be caused by the payback that is part of the federal procedure? MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills. SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear! MS BURKE: Mr. Speaker, the Department of Advanced Education and Skills, and in our Income Support Program, do due diligence every single day when we deal with individuals who receive Income Support. A lot of times there are anomalies, situations, or circumstances that nobody has planned for and they have to deal with their case workers on a case-by-case basis to deal with these issues. Mr. Speaker, this policy we brought in is to address people who are sixty years of age and older who no longer will have to, as a requirement of receiving their Income Support, apply for their CPP when they turn sixty. Mr. Speaker, this policy we felt would address poverty issues for people in their older years, and something I am sure benefits Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. It is also an investment of$500,000 that we have put into our Poverty Reduction Strategy to assist these people, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Leader of the Third Party.

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Cold comfort, Mr. Speaker, cold comfort.

Mr. Speaker, all Legislatures in Canada have permanent, all-party standing committees that deal with serious public issues. Newfoundland and Labrador does not. Standing committees through public sessions and other consultation give people the opportunity to have input on policy changes and legislation, whether it be something like Muskrat Falls or changes to income assistance policies. Consultation is a basic component of democracy in every other Legislature in Canada.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Minister of Natural Resources: When will this government begin the process to bring the democracy of this House of Assembly up to a national standard?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I say to the member, the Leader of the Third Party, when will her questions come up to a national standard, Mr. Speaker?

Mr. Speaker, we have committees in place, Standing Committees in this House: we have the Resource Committee, we have the Social Services Committee, and we have Government Services Committee. They meet, they go through the Estimates, Mr. Speaker, and they deal with these issues. There is the House Management committee that governs the House.

We then have, in our Cabinet procedures we have Treasury Board, we have Social Policy, and we have Economic Policy Committees. Those are the committees where Cabinet papers and Cabinet decisions are looked at, Mr. Speaker. For example, if there is going to be an expenditure of money it goes to Treasury Board and or Economic Policy, Mr. Speaker. We have those committees. They inform the government process. They make recommendations, and Cabinet then considers those recommendations.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Leader of the Third Party.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

Mr. Speaker, standing committees also give all parties in the House of Assembly time to examine and discuss legislation before it is presented for debate. All-party standing committees across the country regularly seek input from people about draft legislation and policy changes through public sessions and real consultation. This government only gives Opposition MHAs a cursory look at bills before they are presented to the House.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Minister of Natural Resources: When will government catch up to the basic democracy that other provinces have and let our all-party standing committees do what they are supposed to do?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, we have been here in the House since March 5 now. A number of bills have come before this House. There are various stages, Mr. Speaker, with the bill. After second reading there is debate and that debate can go on forever, Mr. Speaker, as long as the Opposition wants it to go on. So there is lots of opportunity for discussion, but the main process in determining government policy, having been elected as the government in an election that took place in October of last year, Mr. Speaker, is to determine where we are heading as a government. As I indicated, we have main committees that look at all of our policies and our economic spending.

Mr. Speaker, the members opposite are quite welcome to form coalitions and to have whatever policies they want. We see, Mr. Speaker, that the Member for St. John's North had a travelling sideshow earlier this year and they can all do the same.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. KIRBY: Last month the Minister of Education attended the Federation School Councils AGM where he asked school councils to help his department to make our schools safe and positive learning environments. Mr. Speaker, despite the fact that school councils are established through legislation, this government provides no direct annual funding to them.

I ask the minister: How does he expect school councils to carry out their statutory responsibilities and help his department when they are not provided the basis resources they need to operate?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

School councils are established so that we can have more of a parental role in the school system. We work very closely with them, Mr. Speaker. As a matter of fact, I have a request from the new executive to have a meeting with them; I am in the process of setting that up now. We will work jointly with the school councils to see what it is we can do to strengthen their role, Mr. Speaker, that role which is very, very important in our school system.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. KIRBY: Mr. Speaker, the reality is that many school councils do not have funding for basic supplies like paper and photocopying. They have no direct funding that is provided by government. The Federation of School Councils that the minister referenced has not seen any increase in funding in over a decade. This year's Budget also directs school districts to trim tens of thousands of dollars from their operations, so that bodes poorly for school councils.

I ask the minister: How does he justify this lack of funding for school councils? Why are school councils such a low priority for this government?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, I can assure that member there has not been a government who have committed more to education than this government.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, you would be up and having me sit down before I could get through one tenth of what we have committed to in education. I can sit down with him anytime and list them out, because as far as I am concerned, he has not done enough research to find out what we have invested in. I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, school councils, I will commit to meeting with them to see what it is that we can do to further their cause so that their role is strengthened within our school system.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for The Straits – White Bay North.

MR. MITCHELMORE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, the 2011 Budget promised to provide more staff so the St. Anthony dialysis unit could operate five days a week. Now, more than a year later, there is enough trained staff, but the unit has not been expanded and people are waiting to get into this unit.

Could the minister tell us: Why the delay in expanding the St. Anthony dialysis unit, where the staff are trained and are ready to go?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, the dialysis unit is very important right across this Province and that is why we have expended so much money into dialysis right across Newfoundland and Labrador. In fact, in this Budget we expended another \$1.9 million to improve dialysis services, Mr. Speaker. The services that are offered in that particular community are up to par for the time being; we are looking to do more work in the area.

Mr. Speaker, I should point out as well that the member opposite asked me that question in another setting here in this House, and I did invite him to give me some opportunity to arrange a meeting. That meeting time is still open.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. MURPHY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

In the news this morning, a retired public servant was quoted raising affordability issues, along with concerns that any further increases to her municipal taxes will create severe hardship for her and other seniors on fixed incomes. Such increases are likely, Mr. Speaker, given the fact that this government is delaying negotiations on a new municipal funding arrangement, even a short-term arrangement to rebate the provincial portion of the HST, as Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador requested in January.

Mr. Speaker, can the minister please tell this House when we can expect to see a new funding arrangement with municipalities, so that they do not have to pass on these extra costs and financial shortfalls to their taxpayers?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Municipal Affairs.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. O'BRIEN: Mr. Speaker, it is easy to know that the hon. member is not connected to MNL and not connected to municipalities in Newfoundland and Labrador at all, for the simple reason that they are in the media saying that they do not expect a new fiscal arrangement for at least a year-and-a-half, if not two years. I have made a commitment to MNL to review the formula, develop a new formula when it comes to MOGs, which is a component of the fiscal arrangement, by this November to inform next year's Budget. If you were listening to the news at all or connected to MNL, you would have had that information before you came into this House.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

Presenting Reports by Standing and Select Committees.

Tabling of Documents.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

Notices of Motion.

Answers to Questions for which Notice has been Given.

Petitions.

Petitions

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for the Bay of Islands.

MR. JOYCE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I stand here again today on a petition that was sent up from the Ferryland district, Mr. Speaker, concerning the Animal Protection Act. I will read the petition:

WHEREAS the current Animal Protection Act was enacted in 1978 and is woefully inadequate; and

WHEREAS it has almost been two years since the Animal Protection Act was passed in the House of Assembly but yet not proclaimed; and

WHEREAS the inadequacy of the current animal protection law is of grave and immediate concern to the SPCA; and

WHEREAS the new Animal Protection Act would ensure much more severe punishment and ultimately reduce instances of these crimes;

WHEREUPON the undersigned, your petitioners, humbly pray and call upon the House of Assembly to urge the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to immediately proclaim the Animal Protection Act.

Mr. Speaker, I am after standing here numerous times on this petition. I urge the Speaker to urge the government to get this done, because we are all involved with the protection of the animals that cannot speak for themselves, that cannot stand up for themselves. It is a big issue all across, and we see it.

I just want to give an example, Mr. Speaker. Years ago, probably about a few years ago, just down my way, there was an animal that was tied on, on a regular basis. It was out mostly twenty-four hours a day, wintertime, it was not fed properly, it was very small and lost a lot of weight, and it was not getting a lot of water.

Mr. Speaker, a lot of people around the area used to come in and feed the dog, and we used to get told off. I was one of the people who used to come on the property and feed the dog and give him water, and I would always be told off. You would stay long enough so you could feed the dog, and you would get told off.

It was a husky mix, and a lot of people used to think the dog was a bit wild and a lot of people were scared of it, but it was just not used to anybody.

The SPCA called upon the people on many occasions, but it was just to the point where they never had the legislation to do much. It was right at the point where if you did not feed it, it would be a bit too hungry, or a bit too small. You would have to take it, or you do not feed it.

Mr. Speaker, I saw that day after day, week after week, month after month, just down at the bottom of my road.

This dog, eventually, because of other circumstances, has found a home. It has been given a home now. This dog is a very loving husky mix that sits down with the cats, lies down with the cats. Mr. Speaker, I know personally why we need this legislation, because this dog, Kilo, lives at my house. We need to bring in this legislation so we can stop other animal abuses like Kilo went through for two-and-a-half years of his first three-and-a-half years of life.

So, Mr. Speaker, I ask the House to urge the government to proclaim this act, so we can all get what we need to get done to protect the animals of the Province.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The Member for St. Barbe.

MR. BENNETT: Mr. Speaker, I rise again today with a home care petition.

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

WHEREAS home care allows the elderly and people with disabilities to remain within the comfort and security of their homes, home care also allows people to be discharged from hospital earlier; and

WHEREAS many families find it difficult to recruit and retain home care workers for their loved ones; and

WHEREAS the PC Blue Book 2011, as well as the 2012 Speech from the Throne, committed that government would develop a new model of home care and give people the option of receiving that care from family members; and

WHEREAS government has given no time commitment for when government plans to implement paying family caregivers;

WHEREUPON the undersigned, your petitioners, humbly pray and call upon the House of Assembly to urge the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to implement a new home care policy to cover family caregivers.

In duty bound, your petitioners will ever pray.

Mr. Speaker, this is from people from the Towns of Port Saunders and Port au Choix. This is a really difficult issue for people who find themselves particularly in a rural setting. I am certain it is similar in urban settings, but in rural settings where communities are small and the number of people who they can select from is rather limited, it is difficult to get home care in the first place. To have trained family members who are properly trained, equipped, and able to care for loved ones who are elderly, infirm, and unable to look for themselves is critically important.

Mr. Speaker, just to give you an example, earlier this year a gentleman was telephoning my office and really hoping to get additional home care. This is a man who did not get enough work this year and who is working on a project in another town. He is able to get home care to look after his wife when he is working on a project. When he comes back home, he cares for her himself, which he is happy to do, he can do that; however, this is a man who is pleading for more home care so he has an opportunity to go and cut firewood. He needs extra time to cut firewood while he is caring for a wife who has had a stroke and is infirm.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. BENNETT: Mr. Speaker, these are difficult situations and tragic situations. It would be so easy for the government to make such a difference. This petition is from my district asking for the same.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The Member for St. John's North.

MR. KIRBY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

This is a petition I have spoken about a couple of times before in the Legislature regarding needed changes to the Department of Education's school bus transportation policies. This is a petition that has been circulated throughout Newfoundland and Labrador, and there are thousands of people who have responded to this petition. It reads:

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

WHEREAS school district restructuring has resulted in longer bus travel times and more hazardous winter travel for rural students of all ages; and

WHEREAS due to recent school closures, children living within –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MS MICHAEL: A point of order, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The Leader of the Third Party, on a point of order.

MS MICHAEL: Mr. Speaker, shouts are coming across from the other side, from the Government House Leader with regard to the fact that our person here is standing and presenting a petition on behalf of people of this Province. There is nothing in the Standing Orders that says how many times petitions can be presented as long as they are new petitions, new sheets presented. I really ask you, Mr. Speaker, for a ruling on what is happening here in the House at this moment.

MR. SPEAKER: There is no point of order.

I ask the Member for St. John's North to continue with his petition.

MR. KIRBY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I will just start the petition from the beginning, I think, because of the interruption that is coming from across the way.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. KIRBY: WHEREAS school district restructuring has resulted in longer bus travel times and more hazardous winter travel for rural students of all ages; and

WHEREAS due to recent school closures, children living within 1.6 kilometres of school face increased barriers of congested streets and busy intersections in the walk to school, and parents without cars are having more difficulty getting children to different schools on foot; and

WHEREAS only those child care centres outside the 1.6 kilometre zone and directly on bus routes are included in kindergarten noontime routes, causing hardship for working parents; and

WHEREAS the 1.6 kilometre policy has been in place since 1975, and student transportation policies have not been reviewed through public consultation since 1996; and

WHEREAS parents are expressing the need for more flexible policies for student transportation and school restructuring to meet the current needs of school children.

We, the undersigned, petition the House of Assembly to urge the government to conduct a review of school bus transportation policies and school restructuring to ensure safe and quality education for all school children in the Province.

And as in duty bound your petitioners will ever pray.

Mr. Speaker, as I said, I have these petitions coming in on a weekly basis and I continue to get up and read out the petition on behalf of constituents from across the Province who are petitioning the government. I had a call this morning from a constituent of mine who is having some difficulty getting busing for the fall for a child who is moving from child care to daycare. The other night I had an open house in my district where I had a parent who has three children, in fact she has triplets, she has had difficulty getting child care; two children in kindergarten in the morning now in the fall, and another one is in the afternoon. She is having difficulty having them bused to child care facilities in my district. These are serious problems and I urge the government to look at this before long.

Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Your time is up.

Thank you.

Orders of the Day

Private Members' Day

MR. SPEAKER: This being Wednesday, Private Members' Day, I now call upon the Member for Burgeo – La Poile, if he would introduce the motion that stands on the record in his name.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

I am pleased to stand today and speak to this private member's resolution which I will read into the record:

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that this House of Assembly calls upon government to provide for a fixed House of Assembly sitting schedule by introducing amendments to the House of Assembly Act as follows:

Section 3 of the House of Assembly Act is amended by adding immediately after subsection (2) the following: (3) In 2012 and every following year, except years in which there is a general election under subsection (2), there shall be a sitting of the House of Assembly (a) commencing on the second Monday in March and adjourning on the Wednesday before Easter Sunday; (b) commencing on the third Monday after Easter Sunday and adjourning on the Thursday before the Victoria Day holiday, and (c) commencing on the third Monday in October and adjourning not later than one week before Christmas Day.

Subsection (4) In years in which there is a general election under subsection (2), there shall be a sitting of the House of Assembly (a) commencing on the second Monday in March and adjourning on the Wednesday before Easter Sunday; (b) commencing on the third Monday after Easter Sunday and adjourning on the Thursday before the Victoria Day holiday, and (c) commencing no later than 30 days after the general election day and adjourning not later than one week before Christmas Day.

Subsection (5) Nothing in subsection (3) prohibits the House of Assembly from sitting. Subsection (6) Where the Lieutenant-Governor in Council intends to adjourn the House of Assembly earlier than the sitting dates referred to in subsection (3) or to cancel a sitting referred to in subsection (3), the Government House Leader shall (a) table a report in the House of Assembly stating the reasons for the early adjournment or cancellation, and (b) on the first day of the next sitting of the House of Assembly, give notice of a motion to debate the report referred to in paragraph (a) and this motion shall have precedence over all other substantive motions on this Order Paper.

Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to stand and speak to this first private member's resolution that I have had the honour of entering into this House. It is a bit different in how it is laid out compared to the normal private member's resolutions in that we are urging government to take action here but we have laid out specifically what we would like to see government do in the form of a bill. The fact is that in this jurisdiction –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. A. PARSONS: – as a private member we do not have the opportunity to introduce bills for debate, whether they could be passed or denied. In this case, the only thing we have is a private member's resolution that I can urge the government to pass this bill. Again, there is one reason here, and that is for a fixed House of Assembly schedule that will have some stability and some semblance of regularity.

I guess the reason for this comes back to the election on October 11, Mr. Speaker. Again, all of us were very happy on election night. We all won our seats and were very happy to have this position, but there was another announcement that night we had not heard of before. That was when the Premier announced that the House would not be opening in the fall. That was a bit of a shock to just about everybody. Again, this was an issue that was talked about a lot all throughout this Province. You had protesters talking about it; you had media talking about it. Certainly, a lot of us new members obviously wanted the opportunity to get in this House and be able to do our job and represent the people that put us here in this great House.

I guess one of the reasons for that, Mr. Speaker, is that as it stands there is no legislation governing the House of Assembly in terms of when it shall sit. What we have are Standing Orders, Standing Orders that give out sort of a ‘what we should do', but there is nothing to stop the Premier from not following those Standing Orders. It is a thing where it is honourable to do so, but you do not have to do that.

What I would say is that in many cases, if it was not for us having to pass a Budget in the spring of every year, perhaps the House would not sit. There was an announcement. The Premier was on the media saying why she was not opening the House of Assembly. One of the main reasons was there was no legislation ready to pass and therefore there was no need to open the House.

I have not sat in this House as long as Mr. Speaker, and certainly as long as many members in this House, but I have been here long enough to know that legislation is just one important aspect of what we do here in this House. There are many, many other issues and applications that this House has, which is why we need to have a regular House schedule.

One of them is the thing that we go through every day: Question Period. That is just one aspect of how important this House is. There may be some arguments that Question Period is not long enough. Certainly, when I hear the groan from the members opposite every day when our questions are done, I think that perhaps they would want some more questions asked every day, but we have thirty minutes and we are stuck at thirty minutes.

Again, in some provinces – actually, I believe there is one province that has twenty-five minutes, unfortunately. There are many provinces that go up to sixty minutes for Question Period. That would just be hard to imagine, doubling this here, how much fun – I do not know how the media would handle that every day, having a full hour of Question Period to try to listen to and get ready for the media that night and for the next morning.

Question Period, I think, is of prime importance, because it is our opportunity as members in the Opposition – our job as Opposition is to hold the government accountable for their actions. One way we do this is by questioning the members of government that are helping make these actions happen. This is how we do that.

It was suggested, I believe, at some point, that there is plenty of debate on the go otherwise, other than the House of Assembly. I think there has been some suggestion – well, listen, there are Open Line shows every day that you can get on and talk about. Now, what I would say is that in this Province, obviously, there is a keen interest in politics; there is no doubt about that. We have three Open Line shows; we have the other talk shows, the morning shows. The media are very interested in it. We have the House of Assembly channel, which is watched by a number of people; certainly in my district I know they watch –

AN HON. MEMBER: Joe and Martha.

MR. A. PARSONS: Uncle Joe Chesterfield is watching us every day to make sure that we are asking the questions, Uncle Joe Chesterfield, but you know what? There are people that are taking advantage of something that was not there before. Technology allows us this opportunity to see what our members are doing in the House every day; wait until I get cellphone and broadband, that is going to be a whole different world there. Anyway, I digress, Mr. Speaker.

What I would say is that Question Period is essential to the proper functioning of a democracy. Question Period is fundamental to that. Now –

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. A. PARSONS: I am going to get to petitions, I would say to the member. That is just one aspect; I am going to cover them off today. I know the Government House Leader is not going to be happy to hear about petitions. He does not like to hear the petitions, but again, I feel that I must address that while we are talking. I guess we are going to have an opportunity to talk about the House of Assembly in general, so I am going to use my seven-and-a-half minutes that I have left to address these issues.

Now, again, I would come back to what I was talking about, which is Open Line shows, social media. These are just supplements to democracy; they are not a substitute to democracy. It is great that there is so much interest. We know there is a lot of interest out there on Twitter, but again, we are not going to allow Twitter to run our Province. That is just not going to happen. That is not going to happen. I would say that there are members on all sides here that have used Twitter back in the period leading up to when the House actually opened to convey their thoughts, perhaps convey their policies. There are some members that do not, and I am just wondering if they have broadband.

Again, Mr. Speaker, I would go back to a background on why we are here in the first place and that is to talk about parliament in general. Now, the fact is, parliament comes from the French parler, to speak. Parliaments as political institutions have developed over hundreds of years. Again, we are very lucky to live in a part of the world where we do have a democracy that is – we have evolved over time and we have gotten better.

Now, the Westminster system, which we have here in Canada – again, we come from the British system of which we evolved there. We have a series of procedures that are characterized by an adversarial procedure. We have a government, we have an opposition; the opposition has to question the government. Sometimes the government does not like answering those questions, but that is just the nature of the game. That is the nature of how our system works. What I would say, though, is that there are other practices in many legislatures, some of which we have, some of which we do not have. This Province, Newfoundland and Labrador, we are often at odds with the rest of Canada in that we do not have functioning aspects of democracy that other provinces do have, Mr. Speaker. I am going to get into that a little bit later. We are lacking in certain areas and there have been questions on these areas where we are lacking.

One way in which the government can limit the role of an Opposition is to limit the time in which a Legislature is open. The fact is the Standing Orders are there to provide us a forum which grants us certain rights and privileges. When we are outside the Legislature our abilities – we are severely disadvantaged and we are limited in our resource, in our ability to challenge government. The fact is when the Legislature is open we are more able to do our job effectively, which is another reason why we need the House open and why we need it open on a regular basis.

The House of Assembly should not be closed on the whim of a Premier or a government; it should be there. This is what my private member's resolution is suggesting. It is suggesting that, look, if you do not want to open the House, you are going to have to stand up here and explain to the people why you chose to close the House. Not just a case of we are going to close it, you have to stand here and table that and show why you did it.

What we will go to next, Mr. Speaker, is we have taken the time to look at the amount of time that different Parliaments and Houses of Assembly and Legislatures are open, which would involve an examination of the number of sitting days that the Legislatures are open. I have a little table that we have compiled here to compare that; compare when there was an election and then when the Legislatures actually reopened.

We had a number of elections in the year 2011 in different provinces and certainly the House of Commons had their election. They had an election on May 2, 2011. They opened June 2; one month later they opened. In PEI, they had an election on October 3; they were open less than a month later. Ontario had an election on October 6; they opened November 21. Manitoba, October 4; they opened October 20, so it did not take long for them to restart. Saskatchewan, November 7; they opened the House December 5. In Newfoundland, we had an election October 11; we did not reopen until March 5. Actually I am sorry, we opened for one day so we could all sit and be sworn in. Actually, some members stood and said we are going to adjourn the House until March. If we get rid of that ceremonial day, the fact is our Legislature has sat shuttered since October.

I am going to continue on, Mr. Speaker. I am not getting into party politics here. I think that we have a duty together to work constructively to make our democracy better so that we can better represent all the people of this Province, no matter where they reside. The thing is we just cannot accept or settle on what we have. Democracy can always work better; we can make things better. We need to look at a number of things: how questions are dealt with in this House. We have put questions on the Order Paper; they have been there for over a month. We have laid them out, put them there, and they have not been answered. In some provinces they actually have legislation and rules to say you must answer those questions. We do not have that in this Province. They have sat there for a month. Every day, they are not getting looked at and they are not getting answered.

Committee structure – the Government House Leader actually stood up and answered a question in the House today and said we do not have a need for committees here, but my point or view, my opinion, is that I am in disagreement with that 100 per cent. I think a committee structure could help us do our jobs better, each and every one of us –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. A. PARSONS: A committee structure allows us – sometimes the Legislature in trying to discuss certain issues it can be very cumbersome and allowing committees made up of all the parties to sit and look at these issues can help everybody to have constructive input on the different issues, whether it be social services, whether it be legislative. It is a good chance for everybody to get together. At the end of the day, the government has the majority. They are going to figure out what it is they want to do and not do. Again, a committee would allow us the chance to all get together in a smaller setting and look at these things and dissect and analyze them, especially when it comes to legislation. Now, again, we have had legislation in the past. We get a chance to debate that, no doubt. I think that we would bring a better piece of legislation forward if we sit down and give it some analysis and perhaps hear what some of the other members of this House have to say.

Again, another issue of democracy is we have members' statements. The practice in this here –

MR. SPEAKER: I remind the member that his resolution deals with the parliamentary calendar and not the Standing Orders. The member is starting to examine Standing Orders, so I remind the member of the focus of his motion and if he could make his comments relevant to the motion.

MR. A. PARSONS: Certainly and I digress, Mr. Speaker.

Let's come back to the big issues. Maybe we will look at these small issues later on; let's get rid of the big issue here first. Again, I see some nodding over there. They are saying: I like what you are saying. I like that.

What I would say is we have a system where we have to have checks and balances. This is a government that ran on transparency and accountability. One way to maintain transparency and accountability is to have an open, functioning, effective Legislature, a House of Assembly. If we have the ability to close the House or keep the House closed without having to provide any explanation whatsoever, then that is not just good enough, Mr. Speaker, is what I would say.

My time is running short. I am very much looking forward to hearing what the other members of this House have to say, and I will have another opportunity to speak to this. I am hoping that members will take the opportunity to speak to this, and give me your points of view on this. Perhaps we can form a committee and we can discuss this, if you want. I see the Member for Terra Nova likes what I have to say.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I look forward to the next opportunity to speak to my private member's resolution.

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

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Yes, Mr. Speaker.

First, to the point of order, the member opposite referred to something that the Member for Terra Nova had to say. He has no way, Mr. Speaker, to answer at this point. Essentially, what he is doing is attributing comments to the member that there is no way to verify or to establish.

MR. SPEAKER: There is no point of order.

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Since there is no point of order, what I would say to the member opposite is that we were not agreeing with you; people were laughing at you.

Mr. Speaker, the resolution presented by the Opposition proposed scheduling that is actually weaker than what we have now. What you are doing, Mr. Speaker, we have a member opposite who wants to bring in a piece of legislation that would restrict the sitting of this House. For example, Mr. Speaker, the member opposite has suggested that we not sit after the Victoria Day weekend. That is what his proposed legislation says, Mr. Speaker.

If you go back, this government has sat, Mr. Speaker, after Victoria Day, at least for the last number of years, and up until June 24. This year, Mr. Speaker, we will sit longer. The member opposite has suggested that we only sit until a week before Christmas in December. I think the wording is actually the last week before Christmas. We would not want to interfere with his Christmas vacation, Mr. Speaker. What the member opposite is proposing is restrictive legislation.

Now, Mr. Speaker, if we look at the number of sitting days, which I will do in a second, as will my colleagues, you will see that the shortest sitting schedule, other than an election year, was in 2000. Who was in power in 2000 when they sat a total of thirty-three days? That is how long they sat in 2000.

Mr. Speaker, another aspect of this is that this government, there are a lot of night sessions. For example, in 2004, 2005, and 2006 the night sessions were fourteen, eleven, and ten nights respectively. So you are getting a minimum of three hours in a night sitting. That is equal to a day.

Mr. Speaker, when you add that on to the actual sitting days, what you will see is it increases the number. I can assure the members opposite, if you want to sit, you will have the opportunity to sit in the next month, there is no question about that.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: We will be sitting in the nighttime as soon as the Estimates Committees finish, Mr. Speaker. My guess is that we are going to set a record in this session in that we are going to be here longer than June 24, which we were here last year.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Mr. Speaker, I certainly do not want to interfere with the Member for Burgeo - La Poile's Victoria Day weekend. Maybe he has a reservation at Butter Pot Park, I do not know. I will say, Mr. Speaker, make no plans for the May 24 weekend, as he suggested legislation would allow.

Mr. Speaker, since 2004, we have sat beyond the May 24 weekend every year. In 2010, we sat on June 24, Mr. Speaker. As I have indicated, this sitting of the House – a session is a number of sittings – we started on March 5, a week before the member opposite would have us sit, and we will sit, Mr. Speaker, until at least the middle or end of June. It will probably be the longest, single sitting of this House in more than twenty years, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: What we have is a government that is open to sitting, that wants the House open, and, Mr. Speaker, we will keep the House open. We have to remember one basic principle in keeping the House open, it is the Opposition who keeps the House open, Mr. Speaker. The Opposition do not have to agree to legislation. When we get into debate on the second reading, Mr. Speaker, they can go, they can ask questions, and they can continue.

Last year or the year before, Mr. Speaker, we sat through the night. There was one session we sat through the night. I have not seen the members opposite, other than the Member for the Bay of Islands who kept it open one night, Mr. Speaker, according to him, by speaking beyond 5:30 o'clock. If they want to do that, we will sit every night also. Mr. Speaker, if they want to come back next week after Estimates, we are willing to do that, too. You can do your Estimates and if you want to come back 10:00 o'clock at night, no problem.

So, Mr. Speaker, what we have, quite frankly, is that this resolution is a bluff. It is a bluff on the part of the Member for Burgeo - La Poile, trying to make it seem that he wants to keep the House open. Well, what it really is, Mr. Speaker, he wants to close the House. He wants to close it on the May 24 weekend, Mr. Speaker. I would suggest to you that is not the way that this government is going to operate.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Mr. Speaker, if you look at the proposed legislation, he would commence on the third Monday in October and adjourn not later than one week before Christmas. Because I guess he has Christmas shopping to do. I am not sure why one week before Christmas. There is no minimum session, but not more than one week. So if you sit a week, you will be happy with that?

Mr. Speaker, then he would break on the Thursday before the Victoria Day holiday. Now, there is a catch-all phrase there that says, well, it does not interfere with sittings. Why identify the Victoria Day holiday? What do you need that at all for if you are going to sit?

So, Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills will look at part of this, as will the Minister of Fisheries. As I said, it is up to the Opposition when to close this House. All they have to do is, to 5:30 every day, keep on their feet, and this House will stay open. So I welcome them to it.

Mr. Speaker, the length of debate is dictated by the members opposite, but we cannot simply bring in legislation for the sake of keeping the House open. Legislation has to be focused; legislation has to be on issues that are relevant to the people of this Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Come the first of June, Mr. Speaker, we will see what the member opposite is made of when we bring in the ATIPP legislation. There will be amendments in relation to Nalcor and Muskrat Falls. There will be significant bills here. They will have the opportunity to go right into July if they want. We will see if they will do that.

Mr. Speaker, also, it is not enough for the House to be open. People have to participate; people have to be in the House. They have to participate in debate. So, Mr. Speaker, it is not simply a matter of we want the House open. The Third Party were the ones that wanted the House open. Well, what have we seen from the Third Party today? What have you seen?

AN HON. MEMBER: The same petition.

MR. KENNEDY: Yes, what have we seen? That is right, Mr. Speaker. What have we seen? A petition on school bus safety, twelve times. That is the Member for St. John's North; that is his claim for fame in this House of Assembly in this sitting so far, except if he is on the Twitter box, as the Member for Gander would say.

Now, let us just look at some of the details of the sitting days, Mr. Speaker, from 1995 to 2011. If you go back, and we are looking at what we have in terms of the sitting days, in 2007 we left this House on June 14. In 2008 we left the House on June 4. In 2009 there was a short sitting in September, and in November there was a three week sitting, and from March 25 to May 28; in 2010, from March 22 to June 24, and December 6 to December 16; in 2011, from March 21 to April 21, and May 9 to May 31.

Mr. Speaker, in each one of these sittings we have gone until the end of May. We have Budget debate and Estimates. Then, if you look at the actual sitting days, there will be reference again by my colleagues in terms of the actual number of sitting days. One striking – and I do not know if we can set this record; I am certainly going to try, Mr. Speaker - the longest night sittings we had were fourteen in 2004. I am going to do what I can to make sure the Member for Burgeo – La Poile is here more than fourteen nights in this next two months. He will be very happy that we are sitting every night and that he is able to do his job, because that is the way we are going to approach this.

In 2005, there were eleven sitting nights, but there were fifty-nine sitting days in 2004, Mr. Speaker, and fourteen nights. If you add the nights, let's say they are a minimum of three hours. They could have been through the night, if you come here at 7:00 o'clock and if you stay beyond 10:00 o'clock, but 7:00 o'clock to 10:00 o'clock is usually a night sitting. I can assure the members opposite, if they want to be here, we are going to be here, because this is something we are going to do. The members on this side of the House are anxious to speak; they all want to get up.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: They all want to get up, Mr. Speaker. We have a good story to tell and they want to tell it. The members opposite, they will all get their chance on the sub-amendment, the amendment, and the motion in relation to the Budget. They are going to run out, Mr. Speaker, and then get ready, because we are going to go down these roads one after another; everyone is going to have a good story to tell about the Budget and how it affects them and their districts.

What are you going to have, Mr. Speaker? There will be times when there will be three and four hours of nothing but members on this side of the House getting up twenty minutes at a time.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: If they want democracy, they are going to get it, Mr. Speaker: the people in this House standing up for their constituents, standing up for the people of the Province, and telling the good story that we have as a government to tell, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: I will say to the Member for Burgeo – La Poile, I will offer him his first sitting through the night session next week or the week after when Estimates finish, Mr. Speaker. If he wants to sit through the night, all he has to do is let me know and I will make sure that we will sit right through the night for him if he wants to get a taste for that.

The former Member for Burgeo – La Poile could do it. Does the new member have it in him, I wonder?

AN HON. MEMBER: He is a lot younger.

MR. KENNEDY: Yes, well, certainly not as experienced. Mr. Speaker, what we have here is a situation where the member, in trying to make a point, trying to be a lawyer, trying to use legislation to his own advantage, did not think it through. That is the problem with lawyers who do not think things through: they make mistakes.

Whether that is a lack of experience as lawyer, whether it is a lack of experience as a politician, I do not know. What he is trying to do is embarrass the government, and all he has done is embarrass himself. He has embarrassed himself, because he wants to get home for Christmas and he wants to get home for the May 24 weekend, Mr. Speaker. Well, we are going to make sure that he is not able to take advantage of that.

Mr. Speaker, I do not know if I am hearing echoes in the Chamber or if it is the Member for Cartwright – L'Anse au Clair. Mr. Speaker, when you go to the appendix there are practice recommendations that deal with sittings of the House. Those practice recommendations, Mr. Speaker, are essentially the same – the pot calling the kettle black. The pot calling the kettle black, Mr. Speaker –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. KENNEDY: Is that you flapping your gums over there?

MR. KENNEDY: Mr. Speaker, you go to the appendix and the practice recommendations there is a parliamentary –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: The Speaker has recognized that the Government House Leader has the floor and I would ask members if they would refrain from making commentary across the floor of the House of Assembly.

MR. KENNEDY: Mr. Speaker, in the appendix there are practice recommendations. The practice recommendations outline the proposed schedule. There is a parliamentary calendar during a session of the House of Assembly. As I have indicated, we have not been following that calendar because we have been sitting longer than what the calendar requires. The practice note is not something that we have followed because we want to be in this House to raise the issues, but it is up to the Opposition to raise the issues and keep the debate going. Quite frankly, Mr. Speaker, we have not seen much of that so far. Other than the one night when they had an audience here is the only night that there seemed to be any will to debate into the night. That quickly ended when we started speaking one after the other.

Mr. Speaker, if we are going to bring in a piece of legislation, then the legislation has to be enforceable. All of a sudden, we are in the middle of a piece of legislation and the Member for Burgeo – La Poile's legislation requires us to leave: We have to go now. Sorry, cannot continue it. The twenty-fourth of May is here and we have to go celebrate the Queen's birthday. That is essentially what he is asking. That is not the way this government is going to operate, Mr. Speaker. What we are going to do, we will bring in the legislation that is required by this House –

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

MR. SPEAKER: The Member for St. Barbe, on a point of order.

MR. BENNETT: The Government House Leader has spoken in what I would say a very contemptuous manner toward the Queen's birthday. I would like a ruling as to whether it was parliamentary or unparliamentary for him to say that.

MR. SPEAKER: There is no point of order.

The Speaker acknowledges the Government House Leader.

MR. KENNEDY: My contemptuous comments are not directed towards the Queen, Mr. Speaker; I can assure you that.

Mr. Speaker, if you look now at what this motion is really about. It is about sitting after an election. The Minister of Advanced Education and Skills will deal with that issue. I cannot see what else it could be about here when we already sit longer than the proposed legislation. It is about sitting after an election. My colleagues, Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Fisheries and the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills, will certainly outline in detail their perspective on this.

The best I can say, Mr. Speaker: If you want to sit, we are here. If you are ready to go, then we are more than ready.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The Member for St. Barbe.

MR. BENNETT: Mr. Speaker, we are truly the most favoured forty-eight people in this Province – and I say that truly. We are the most favoured forty-eight people in this Province because we have been elected by our fellow citizens to govern them for a four-year period. Imagine, Mr. Speaker, the people of our Province have said to us – each and every one of us – by marking an X, that I trust you to represent me to my government. I want you to listen to me, to advocate for me, and even govern me. Mr. Speaker, it is an honour and it is an awesome responsibility. I am not sure all members share my view, but I certainly hope they do.

Now, how did we get to this situation whereby fellow citizens say to us: I want you to govern me? Mr. Speaker, the Greeks got it started a couple of thousand years ago. The Greeks are not doing so well right now economically, but the Greeks started democracy. That is why we call it democracy, because it is from a Greek word.

Mr. Speaker, the Romans followed up. The Romans had a representative form of government, but not a democracy. The Roman Republic was not a democracy; it was a form of republic. Then the Roman Republic fell and then for a millennium there was a dark age. For a whole millennium, people had no way to govern themselves. People were governed basically by the rule of force.

Mr. Speaker, even when people were governed by the rule of force, they had an opportunity to go before their monarch for a boon. Mr. Speaker, that is a petition. When I hear commentary that petitions should not be heard in this House or maybe it is enough of petitions, are we saying to the people of the Province you cannot have your elected representative come before this House and present a petition? Mr. Speaker, as long as petitions are always of an acceptable format to the Officers of the House, then clearly our petition should be heard by this House.

Mr. Speaker, in 1215 we decided to get back on track with democracy and we had the Magna Carta. It was a representative form of government but it was not a democracy. In 1215, we tried to get back on track. I would say that at that point they were probably governed by –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. BENNETT: - an individual, Prince John and then King John who may have had some of the attributes that we see regrettably displayed sometimes by certain speakers. However, after another few hundreds years, in the eighteenth Century democracy began to take hold again. We saw a series of revolutions. We saw a period of time when people wanted to be able to govern themselves. We saw it in the United States. We call it their revolution because they rebelled against what was our monarch. They call it their War of Independence. We saw it in the French Revolution. We would certainly hope the attitude that says do not bring a petition for home care, do not bring a petition for people who are advocating for animals that are being treated cruelly, do not bring petitions for school buses, do not bring petitions because people have needs and wants. I hope that never evolves into a situation displayed by a French queen.

AN HON. MEMBER: Mr. Speaker, relevance.

MR. SPEAKER: The Speaker has recognized the Member for St. Barbe, if you would continue, please.

MR. BENNETT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, there have been statements made of an alleged democratic deficit. I do not agree that there is a demographic deficit. People have the right to vote and people can elect the people who they want to elect.

This is a motion which has been brought, not to shorten the sitting day. I know the Government House Leader, probably one of the first courses that he took in law school was on statutory construction, and the law students struggle and try to figure out: What did the Legislature mean?

Under sub (5) it says, "Nothing in subsection (3) prohibits the House of Assembly from sitting." In my interpretation it would mean that we can sit for as long as we want but we cannot sit for less than is set forth in the private member's resolution. What the Member for Burgeo – La Poile has set forth is the minimum sitting days for the House of Assembly. I am encouraged to know that the Legislature over the last several years has had night sittings and that the days have been longer than it appears to the public, because, Mr. Speaker, there is a perception that we are only working when we are here. All of us know that we are working other than when we are here; we are working for our constituency work. In fact, I think that a person needs to be an elected representative, a member of the House of Assembly or of any Legislature to get a real feel for the whole myriad of concerns and issues and wants and needs that people have.

People generally only see us when we are here. They see us on the House of Assembly channel and they see us in the Legislature. When a whole season goes, when a fall goes, whether it is an election year or not an election year and they see us not in the House, clearly there is commentary. People feel they are being neglected, and there are talks of a democratic deficit. If people believe there is a democratic deficit, then there may well be. I do not think that there is.

Mr. Speaker, this Province began its own self-government more or less around 1832, and we have a wonderful Confederation Building with all sorts of photographs. Yesterday, when I was having the skin cancer checkup, I looked at the old mace, the very first wooden mace that we had here. It is with a deep sense of honour that I realize the place that we occupy, and maybe it is because I am really new here but, Mr. Speaker, I hope that never goes. I hope that never leaves, whether it is one term or more than one term.

We have been given a great trust by our fellow citizens, and this is the only democracy recorded that ever gave up democracy. We willingly gave up democracy from 1934 to 1949 and allowed ourselves to be ruled. We allowed ourselves to be ruled and governed by others. We got back our democracy in 1949 and we voted to join Canada. We have been self-governing ever since, and hopefully we will continue to be self-governing.

Mr. Speaker, whether we have evening sittings or do not have evening sittings, some of the commentary that I thought I picked up from the Government House Leader was that if you think we were not keeping you in long enough, we will stay longer. In my view, we should work when there is legislation, but if a government is going to be elected in the fall of the year – and now we have fixed-term elections, and I am pleased that we have fixed-term elections because that takes away some of the uncertainty. It is a four-year term and that is it. If a government is going to be elected, they generally campaign on a platform. If they campaign on a platform then clearly that must mean that they have some legislation in mind.

So, Mr. Speaker, I cannot accept that we cannot sit in an election year; we certainly should sit in an election year. If it is an abbreviated session of only three or four weeks, then so be it. An election year is when people have elected us, they have gone through an election campaign, many of them have voted – maybe not enough have voted, but enough have voted that we are here and we are elected, and they expect something. They expect us to come here, they expect legislation, promises are made, and then the people who have elected us in our Province say you said you were going to do such and such, now you did not go into the House until March and we elected you in April. Mr. Speaker, it certainly causes a lapse in the way that we are viewed. So, clearly, we should have a fall session, even in election years, and maybe we should have a fall session certainly in election years.

We know that there is considerable work that is done, other than the handful of hours that we spend here in the afternoons. There is committee work – there was committee work for me this morning, and I saw an example of what I felt was democracy being abbreviated or curtailed or shutdown. In fact, I felt, in committee, that I was not given enough time to pursue –

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

MR. SPEAKER: The Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, on a point of order.

MR. KING: Mr. Speaker, we accept and apply a fair degree of latitude to the debate at hand. In my view, the member has clearly strayed away totally from the topic when he is talking about a different sitting of this House. There is nothing relevant whatsoever to fixed sessions of the House that we are debating when he is referencing a Committee of the Whole this morning.

MR. SPEAKER: There is no point of order, but I do remind the member of the focus of the private member's resolution, which is the parliamentary calendar.

MR. BENNETT: Yes sir, thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

That was by way of giving an example – when people talk about a democratic deficit, if we know what the democratic deficit is, if there is such a democratic deficit. If the people who are watching us can see us only when we are in the House, we know that in the legislative calendar we have various types of committee work that fits with the legislative calendar. The legislative calendar that deals with the Budget, which is what we are dealing with, clearly falls within the same period. So, it is important for us to have our committee work, pursue the committee work properly, and it is done within the context of the legislative calendar.

Mr. Speaker, in reviewing more closely the proposed private member's resolution, I see absolutely nothing wrong that this Legislature would actually say to the people who we govern, who have elected us to govern, that we give you a commitment and we give you a statutory commitment that we will sit not less than these days. The days that are put forth in the private member's resolution by the Member for Burgeo – La Poile says that we will sit these days in every year, these days in an election year, and then it goes on to say nothing in subsection (3) prohibits the House of Assembly from sitting – that is at any time.

Mr. Speaker, clearly, we can sit as much as we wish, but the Member for Burgeo – La Poile has put forth a private member's resolution which I am sure in the public at large, the people who have elected us and the people who are concerned that they live in a healthy democracy, would be encouraged if this House of Assembly said we agree, we hear you, we will sit not less than these days, this will be an absolute minimum, and we will sit for as long as it takes to get the job done because we are here working for you. We are the most favoured forty-eight people of the Province. We are honoured that you have elected us. We accept an awesome responsibility and we are here to do the job.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Like previous speakers, it is indeed a pleasure for me to have a few moments to speak to this important motion that we are talking about today, which is really whether or not we move off from a current practice, as defined in Standing Orders that govern the House of Assembly around the opening and closing dates of this particular Legislature, or move towards a fixed date, fixed schedule I should say, as outlined in the member's motion. I would like to make a number of points, as I see it that are relevant to this particular motion, and highlight some concerns that I have with the motion as presented and why I do not feel that I can support it.

By way of overview, Mr. Speaker, I see three points outlined very clearly as the intent of this particular motion. One, as I said a few moments ago obviously is to set a fixed schedule in motion, but perhaps most importantly what we need to remind people of is that it is a fixed schedule in law, Mr. Speaker. Once it passes through the Legislature, it becomes the law of the land, and we can no longer change it or alter it without changing the law. Mr. Speaker, as I might say as an aside, the law that is being proposed is not a lot different than what we currently have in our Standing Orders, which poses the question really of why we need to even look at legislating something we already have there in the Standing Orders that govern this Legislature. The Standing Orders governs how we operate, when we operate, the kinds of things we do, and the kinds of committees we have.

Secondly, Mr. Speaker, there is an expectation in this particular piece of legislation that the fall sitting of the House of Assembly would start, as I read it, thirty days after the completion of an election, thirty days after an election has ended. Mr. Speaker, while I do not think any of us have any great difficulty with sitting after an election period, it appears to me that the motion does not consider a number of points relative to a fall sitting of the House after an election period. For example, immediately after an election period, there is a time frame in law in this Province that must elapse in order to allow for the official counting of ballots. All of us, when we run in an election for public office, hear our results on election night. Some of us celebrate and others unfortunately do not succeed. Mr. Speaker, those are not the official results of the election. There is a time period that has to elapse in order to get the official counting done, and in some cases recounting, Mr. Speaker.

Secondly, once it is officially determined that a government is to be formed, Mr. Speaker, you have to allow an opportunity for the newly elected or re-elected Premier of the Province to select a Cabinet, and that is not something that is normally done overnight. There has to be an assessment of the structure of government, the organization, and whether there is an opportunity or a desire, even, to change the structure of government and to introduce new departments as this government has done on any number of occasions. Mr. Speaker, in some cases, as our Premier did recently, it may be an exercise where you are going to reduce the number of Cabinet portfolios and Cabinet ministers, in which case there is indeed a far amount more work that needs to be done. So you have that particular process, and then, Mr. Speaker, you have to look at a Speech from the Throne.

There is a fair amount of work that has to happen after an election period before you come into the Legislature. It could be a case that the motion has not really thought through the implications of that or perhaps in fact had not anticipated that government will ever change. I am not sure. The fact of the matter is, as I see it, the particular point on thirty days after an election might be a rather ambitious statement to put into law, in particular, that we would be obligated to follow.

The third thing, Mr. Speaker, is it gives some indication that there is flexibility because as I read it, it indicates that in the event that the schedule is not followed. I am a little bit confused by that statement to be honest. It appears that there is a law to be established, but then it says if it is not followed. I am not sure how you would do that, but it indicates there would have to be a special debate of the House to talk about why the law is not being followed.

I see, as an overview, three points to the motion, Mr. Speaker. In considering whether we move away from the current process as outlined in the Standing Orders to fixed sittings of the House of Assembly, it is very important for us to consider the whole purpose of the Legislature and what it is that we do here, Mr. Speaker. As all of us know or ought to know, the primary purpose here is to enact laws.

We bring in legislation that will govern many aspects of life for people in our Province, Mr. Speaker. Many aspects, whether it is to do with animal welfare or whether it is do with health care services, or education in the Schools Act, or transportation and laws that govern highway safety. All sorts of things, Mr. Speaker, we consider on a regular basis in this Legislature. That is the purpose of the Legislature. When these pieces of legislation are brought forward, members of the House have the opportunity to debate. You have the opportunity to ask questions, you have the opportunity to raise points of clarification or points of order. You have the opportunity in committee stage in particular to talk at length, Mr. Speaker, and to debate at length.

My point in highlighting the process is that in my experiences in this House, it has never been the government that has brought in a motion to close the House. The House is always closed when the debate of the legislation has been completed, not only by members of government but members of the Opposition party as well. If it is the desire to prolong debate, Mr. Speaker, as I see it that opportunity exists. You do not need to make a law saying that you have to sit starting on this date and finish sitting on another date. The opportunity is there to sit longer if in fact there is real, meaningful and contributing debate that will enhance the legislation that is being considered before the House.

I have never seen personally, Mr. Speaker, where debate has been shut down and there have been members in this House wanting to make a contribution, but someone said: no, I am sorry, because we have to close today, we are going home. It has always been by consensus and by bringing a closure to the debate before the House.

Mr. Speaker, having said all of that, if in fact the legislation that is before the House is debated and the House is still not sitting long enough, are we asking in this particular legislation that we artificially generate legislation? Are we asking, and saying to people of the Province, that while we recognize all of the work that you do is important as members – not just in the Legislature – are we saying through this that we feel, though, that you should sit in the House of Assembly more? It makes no difference what you do in there, as long as you sit in there. Are we saying to government, then, that because we are going to conclude debate on pieces of legislation at a certain time, you have to sit longer than that?

We want you to generate new laws in the Province. They might not be important. They may be frivolous, they may be meaningless, or they may be very serious and have dire consequences for people, but we want you to go away; we want Cabinet ministers to go away in their departments and tell their officials to generate new legislation simply because we believe that this Legislature should sit longer.

Mr. Speaker, I personally have great difficulty with that, because I believe the legislation that we bring before this House – legislation that is going to have a direct impact, a significant impact on people's lives – ought to be legislation that is brought forward after careful consideration, careful public input, and a meaningful dialogue about what it means, and ultimately should be making a contribution to improving the quality of life for people in the Province. I have great difficulty on that particular one.

Mr. Speaker, it has also been talked about, terms like accountability and whether or not the Legislature in Newfoundland and Labrador is actually doing as much as other provinces and other jurisdictions. If we are going to make blanket statements that compare our Legislature to other jurisdictions across Canada, it is very important that we consider, or use the analogy, to compare apples and apples. For example, the number of hours that we sit in a particular day, is it equivalent what other legislatures across the country sit? We often sit night times here; is that considered as part of the debating time of other legislatures? The calendar year, Mr. Speaker; when we talk about the number of days, are we talking about the calendar year from January to December, or are we talking about a legislative year, where you start with a Throne Speech and you end with the Prorogation? It is very important, Mr. Speaker, that we consider making comparisons that are comparing apples to apples.

I am going to offer a couple of things; on the House of Commons Web site in Ottawa, they offer some statistics about Legislatures across Canada. I am going to offer you a couple of numbers. My colleague, when he introduced the motion, the hon. the Member for Burgeo – La Poile, shared some statistics, and I am going to do the same thing.

In 2008, for example – there are eight or ten listed here – Newfoundland and Labrador sat, according to these stats, fifty-two days. Now, those higher than us at the time would have been Quebec, Alberta, and Saskatchewan, with the highest being fifty-seven days. So, we sat five days less than the highest ranked. Mr. Speaker, below us there was forty-eight, forty-one, thirty-nine, and thirty-eight days sitting, respectively in the Northwest Territories, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and Nunavut. Now, I will stop there; I will not go on. Just to give you that comparison, Mr. Speaker; we are higher than the average. We are higher than the average of all of those jurisdictions identified.

If we go to 2009, Mr. Speaker, it is much the same. We sat for forty-five days, there were two provinces who sat forty-seven and forty-nine, and there was a thirty-nine and a thirty-two. Finally, not to belabour the point, but in 2010, Newfoundland and Labrador and the Northwest Territories each sat for fifty-one days. Below that, we have fifty in Alberta, forty-six in British Columbia, forty in Prince Edward Island, and thirty-three in Nunavut.

So, Mr. Speaker, if we are going to talk about the number of days that we sit in this Legislature, versus the number of days they sit in other Provinces, I think it is very important that we continue to compare apples with apples. Mr. Speaker, I humbly submit in my comments that the assertion that we are a lot lower than other parts of Canada is just totally false. Newfoundland and Labrador is certainly in the middle or above average when you compare the number of days that the legislature has been sitting.

Mr. Speaker, I want to touch on a couple of comments presented by a number of previous speakers as well, before I conclude my comments. There was reference to the committee structure in the House, and the fact that people are not happy with the current structure because it does no allow an opportunity to contribute. Mr. Speaker –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. JOYCE: We cannot hear, Mr. Speaker.

MR. KING: Mr. Speaker, very clearly, we have committees of this House; first of all, in recognizing how government operates in generating work for the Legislature, you have departments and you have Cabinet ministers, and you have committees of Cabinet: Planning and Priorities, Treasury Board, Economic Policy, and so on. That is one level or one structure, but in the House of Assembly there are also committees for Estimates; Social Services, Resource Committee, and Standing Orders Committee, those are committees that this legislature has the full ability to direct to do the work that members opposite are asking for. That exists, Mr. Speaker. So, to stand up and to make the representation that we do not have the ability to use committees, I think is not being fair to the truth of the matter. Those committees exist and this Legislature has the ability to delegate and to direct those committees to do work on behalf of this Legislature. I just want to point that out because we have heard on any number of occasions that there are challenges with the committee structure.

Mr. Speaker, the other comment I want to make just before I conclude is that one of the members, the last speaker, talked about petitions and talked about democracy deficit or something along those lines. Mr. Speaker, there has never been any intent whatsoever in this House to thwart democracy. Debate is alive and well; we hear it in Question Period. Members have an opportunity at any point in time – sorry, not at any point in time, but a scheduled time in the day to stand up and present their petitions and to represent the views of constituents. It is very unfair and a little bit off the truthful track, shall we say, to stand up and to suggest that that is not happening and members do not have an opportunity to do that.

Mr. Speaker, mindful that I am down to less than twenty seconds, I want to conclude by simply saying that I have great difficulty with the motion as presented. I think it is more about showing a political statement to the public that we will have fixed sitting dates and less about doing the people's business, which is bringing in good legislation, developing good, sound, logical arguments that can be presented before this Legislature to assist all of us in making the appropriate decisions that we ought to make, as we have been elected to do on behalf of the people of the Province.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

The Leader of the Third Party.

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

I am very pleased to be able to stand here this afternoon and speak to the motion which has been put forward by the Member for Burgeo – La Poile. I think it is an extremely important motion. I think it is about time that we have had this discussion here in the House of Assembly because we have seen this issue raised by the general public, the issue of how often we sit in the House of Assembly. We have had the issue raised in the public. We have had the issue raised through the media. Many times over the six years that I have been here in this House, I have heard this issue raised many times. That was why the NDP had as a part of their platform that we would increase the minimum number of days the House of Assembly must sit each year to sixty. We did not, in the platform, put in a schedule of how that would happen, but we believed, looking at the average of what was happening across Canada, that sixty was a very –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

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

I appreciate your interrupting there so we can get some silence as I continue. I appreciate that. Thank you very much.

It is important that we look at what is happening across the country. When we chose sixty as part of our platform, it was because that was the average about of what was happening across Canada. When we looked at our own Standing Orders because our own Standing Orders do deal with the issue, and our own Standing Orders allow for four weeks in the fall and then in the winter-spring session starting on the second Monday, I think it is, in March and going to the May 24 weekend, which is closer to the average than what has been the main practice here in the House over the last number of years. I am going to deal with that later: the issue of our own Standing Orders.

What I find very interesting is that when we raise this issue here in this House, it is like we are raising something that is completely bizarre and something that just is an anomaly. Whereas what we are saying is why is it that we sit so infrequently in comparison with the majority of the other Legislatures in this country? Why is that? There is work to be done. We are continually bringing issues asking government to deal with, yet we go year after year after year with the same issues being on the plate and not being dealt with. If we were to put in a schedule, as other places do – not all have schedules, they have different ways of dealing with it but quite a number do have schedules. If we put in a schedule, I think it actually helps a government become accountable – any government, it does not matter which government is there. If you know this is the schedule then you are going to be under more pressure to make sure that you are dealing with changes that are being asked for, that you are dealing with issues that need to be dealt with in the House of Assembly.

Mr. Speaker, because of something that has been said here in the House today, I would like to point out – I could be wrong, but I do not see; well, yes, I do see - I think it is asking for the House of Assembly Act. I think the spirit of the motion is that the mover wants something that is going to be paid attention to, because right now what is in our own Standing Order is not paid attention to.

I have been in the House of Assembly since 2006 and I think only one fall did we sit for the number of weeks that our own Standing Orders tell us to sit. Now, I do understand that we do not even have it in our Standing Orders, let alone in a piece of legislation. We have it in the appendix, which is a practice. We did not even put it into the Standing Orders, which really says to me: Why such a weak commitment to how long we sit in the House of Assembly, especially when we look at other Legislatures?

Who, for example, in the fall, as early as October, whose Web sites can you open and see their schedule for the whole year? You can open up the Web site for Nova Scotia and see their schedule for the whole year. You can open up the Web site of New Brunswick and see their schedule for the year. Ontario, Manitoba, British Columbia, they make their decisions early in the fall so that the public knows when the House is sitting, when the Legislature is sitting. I find that a model for us to look at, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MS MICHAEL: There is so much practice out there that we could be learning from. I do not know why the government side of the House is being so defensive around this issue. Why don't they want to be here in the House doing the work with the other parties in the House who are also elected, Mr. Speaker? As long as we are all elected to do the work together, we need to be in here together doing it. Yet, what are they afraid of? There is something they are afraid of. Putting down a schedule that we commit ourselves to, Mr. Speaker, we are all willing to do it. Why is the government not willing to do it?

Mr. Speaker, there have been references to the fact that the government side of the House is willing to stay here all night and work, and, yes, we will stay all night and we will debate. If you want to be in the House, we will stay here in the House, and we will debate. We all will, Mr. Speaker, but it depends on the government bringing legislation into this House, bringing issues into the House so that we can do that work. It is very disingenuous of members of the government side of the House to say that the House is open as long as the Opposition wants it open. I just consider that so disingenuous.

The House is open as long as we have work from the government side of the House to do. If they are not coming up with adequate legislation and dealing with the issues of the people of this Province, then they are the ones who are responsible. I am willing to stay here every night too, but I want to make sure that the work we are doing –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

Several speakers this afternoon have already been talked to about the whole idea of relevance. The Speaker cannot preside over debate if he cannot hear what the person who has been recognized is saying. That is just one example. The Speaker will call order when I cannot hear the speaker who has been recognized to speak. So, I would ask all members for their co-operation please.

I will go back to the Leader of the Third Party to continue with her debate.

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

When I look at other provinces, and when I look at what is happening in other provinces, I wonder why we say that we are different. One of the issues that has been brought up is the issue of how can we open the Assembly a month after an election, for example. That is one issue that has been brought up. Well, Mr. Speaker, last fall there were a number of provinces that had elections. One of those provinces opened their Legislature two weeks after their general election. Another opened it three weeks after their general election. Mr. Speaker, I have to say, to us in this House, if one jurisdiction can do it, if two jurisdictions can do it – actually, the three of them did it. We were the only one who did not open up in the fall. W\hat was wrong with us that we could not open up after the election?

When a government is in government, as our colleagues across the way were, they were pretty sure that they probably were going to end up in government again. They were not starting from scratch when they became elected, work had been going on in all of their departments, but they act as if it was a brand new thing for them to be elected. They act as if there were no issues that were out there being dealt with, and so they could not possibly come into this House until March, which is what happened. All other jurisdictions that had elections in the fall came back into their Legislatures before Christmas. They all sat before Christmas and worked. They all had work to do. They had legislation that was carried on; they had legislation that had been prepared. They, too, had to choose Cabinets. Those premiers had to make sure they had new Cabinets in place, et cetera.

I do not understand why we keep coming up with the fact we cannot do it here. If a government is planning, if a government has plans in place, if it has long-term planning going on, then the moment of the election is not going to stop them from being able to open a Legislature and be able to be held accountable as early as possible into the new life of a government. It is not acceptable that we do not open the House for the six months after an election. We have to have something written down which says that is not what we are going to do, that we recognize the need. If we have the hours set, if we know when the House is going to be open, if we know that the Standing Orders – and I suspect they are not going to change after today, not after what I have heard – but if the Standing Orders say four weeks in the fall, then why are we not open for four weeks in the fall? Because even at the time of an election, four weeks in the fall still means not opening up until towards the end of November. The last week of November up to the Christmas break gives you four weeks. When we have our elections the second Tuesday of October, that is giving government about six weeks to get their act together before they come into the House. That is more than any of the other governments took last fall in this country.

Mr. Speaker, we are not talking about doing something that is not the norm. We are not talking about doing something that others are not doing. I really invite people in the Province to go look for some information; we can offer it to them.

To hear one of the speakers from the other side of the House choose, very selectively, information about how often we are open as it compares to other parts of Canada, it really, really bothers me. When I look at the last six or seven years, and I look at them in terms of where we stand with regard to the other jurisdictions in Canada, just about every year – not all, but just about every year – we are in the last three or four with regard to how often the House is open. That is the fact, not the way it was interpreted; I have never heard such selective interpretation of facts before as I have heard today of statistics, just choosing parts of the statistics. Well, the statistics are that we are usually in the bottom three or four of how long the House is open, when we compare ourselves to the rest of Canada.

Mr. Speaker, one of the things I think has to happen with regard to the content of this motion, because I know that it is going to be voted down, I think this issue has to be sent to the Standing Orders standing committee. I want to make a point about that, because one of the ironies is that the standing committee that is called Standing Orders, which is a committee in our Standing Orders and is a standing committee, that committee – I am supposedly on it – has not met since some time in 2010. In the fall of 2010, we actually received a review of the Standing Orders from the Clerk of the House and the review was done by the staff that worked with the Clerk. That review came to us in November of 2010 for the committee to look at –

I would ask the member to keep her comments relative to the debate which we are doing today.

MS MICHAEL: Okay, will do, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: This is not a debate about the Standing Orders.

MS MICHAEL: Will do.

What I am saying is, I want the content of this motion, the spirit of this motion, the issue that we are dealing with, with regard to how often the House is open, to be an issue that goes to our standing committee called the Standing Orders Committee.

As a member of that committee, I commit myself to communicating with the Chair of that committee and to see, number one, if we can get a meeting so that we can deal with this issue in the Standing Orders. We have a number of issues that need to be dealt with in Standing Orders, but this is one that we have to deal with. I think that is where this discussion should happen next, in the Standing Orders, because it is going to be dropped here on the floor today because the government is going to vote against it. The issue cannot be dropped. I commit myself to make sure that the issue goes to the standing committee called Standing Orders Committee.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

I recognize the hon. the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS BURKE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I certainly want to speak in this debate today, as being a former Government House Leader, and certainly have some views I would like to share and express, and some concerns about this resolution that we are debating today.

I do want to make a few comments about the debate so far and some things that we are hearing that I would like to address. One is: we should do this because other legislatures are doing it. We need to do what is right in Newfoundland and Labrador for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador based on what we do. We do not do something just because another province or Canada itself does it. We can look at them, but that should never be our reason, whether we are talking about how often we sit in the Legislature or anything else we do as a Province. I just want to make that comment that I think that we are unique in many ways and that I would like to always make sure that we feel comfortable in being unique.

I also heard the Leader of the Third Party indicate that they would have had a minimum in their platform of sixty days sitting in the Legislature. That was her platform; it was put forward. Mr. Speaker, the people of this Province spoke. They elected who they felt had the platform that they wanted. Government was formed, Opposition was formed, and then a Third Party was formed.

Mr. Speaker, I actually see that as a moot point here in the debate today. It is not about opening the House and how often and how many days sometimes. We have heard from the Third Party quite often about how they wanted the House open and they had things that they needed to address in the House. When you have the same petition in the House at least twelve times, that could be done in one day, Mr. Speaker. You do not need twelve parliamentary days to deliver the same message day after day after day. It shows there is nothing new, there is nothing different, there is nothing creative, there is absolutely nothing coming. I am referring right now to the Member for St. North delivering the same petition twelve times, Mr. Speaker.

We can keep the House open until this time next year without a day closed. If you keep bringing the same petition in day in and day out it certainly shows absolutely no creativity, nothing original, nothing different, or nothing new. You just do not keep open for the sake of keeping open when you are doing absolutely nothing different day in and day out.

I do want to speak about being the House Leader and some of the issues that I feel specifically to the part of the resolution that would address whether or not the House would open thirty days following a general election. If we look at the practice guidelines or the recommendations in our Standing Orders, they are typically followed. Although not necessarily to the letter, but we do follow that schedule, Mr. Speaker.

This year we have opened earlier, when we opened on March 5, then we have in any time since I have been a member of this government back in 2003. I do not have all the Budget dates but I would assume or probably think that delivering the Budget on April 24 was probably the latest we have delivered a Budget since 2003. In saying that, it only makes sense that we will probably sit later in this sitting than we have probably sat in any other sitting. So not only did we open earlier, we will sit later.

When we look at the resolution, it indicates that the House would close on the Thursday before the long weekend. Not saying it should, it will close, but we cannot; and traditionally we do not close that early. When I look specifically at the clause that would say that the House has to open thirty days following a general election, I tend to think that part of the resolution shows that the thinking behind it may be somewhat naïve or that somebody probably truly does not understand or does not care probably about how government operates. That is the part that I want to focus on.

After you have an election, Mr. Speaker, when we open our House of Assembly, at that point we have our Throne Speech where we lay out the plans. We lay out the priorities, the legislative plans, the program plans for the government, and tied very closely to that Speech from the Throne is our Budget, Mr. Speaker. Because our Throne Speech has fiscal implications to it, it is only appropriate that we deliver the Budget in the same time frame. As we do that, Mr. Speaker, we lay out our Throne Speech in conjunction with our Budget. Again, that makes good sense to deliver both those pieces, those documents in that same time frame because there is no way you can lay out your goals, your aims, your objectives of government without basing that in the fiscal realities. Therefore, to open in the spring following a general election makes perfect sense, Mr. Speaker. We also realize that our Throne Speech and our Budget Speech are not at cross patterns with each other. They certainly have to be delivered together.

In saying that, once a general election has been finalized, to say that you could have a full legislative and fiscal agenda ready in thirty days is really not possible. Due diligence is required. We set goals of how much legislation and what we want to accomplish in the House of Assembly. As a House Leader, I really would not have wanted to come into the House without a full legislative agenda of what I would like to have accomplished at any given session.

Once we have an election, we bring in legislation into this House of Assembly that affects people's lives. We heard the Minister of Fisheries talk about that earlier today. It is very important, no matter what we bring in. Sometimes our legislation affects many people. Sometimes it is only a few people. Despite that, any legislation and any effect it has on the people of this Province is certainly important and it needs due diligence before it is brought to this House and debated. If you understood the process of what we go through in order to create the legislative agenda, you would certainly see that thirty days would not give us enough time to do that. In saying that, I just want to walk through some things that have happened since I have been in government, to explain what I mean when I talk about this.

When we formed government in 2003, the election was on October 21, 2003. I think Cabinet may have been sworn in probably around October 31 or November 1 of that year. We were completely new. It was a new government. At that time I believe there were five members who were elected, who had never been elected before, and who went directly into Cabinet. If I am not mistaken, that would have been the Member for Conception Bay East - Bell Island at the time, the Members for Virginia Waters, Humber West, St. George's - Stephenville East, and Topsail. That would have been the five members. Then everyone else would have been a Cabinet minister for the first time in 2003.

What you need to do at that time is learn about the department you are in. You certainly need to be briefed. You need to meet the staff and understand the issues. You also have to familiarize yourself with the process of government, the different committees that you are going to serve on, how these committees operate, and you need to also ensure that the platform you put forward is integrated into the new department that you will now manage. You cannot expect that if it takes at least two weeks to do a swearing-in of ministers that in the next two weeks they would have that groundwork done and be on their feet on this House of Assembly debating in the Legislature.

If you make the assumption – as the Leader of the Third Party seems to make – that you can do that and it is no problem, you are actually making the assumption that the party will remain in power that is in power going into the election. You cannot govern like that; no one takes anything for granted. I can tell you, the members of this government never went into the election in 2007 or 2011 with any assumptions that they were going to be returned. They went out, they did their work, they knocked on doors, and they had the support of the people.

The other point was when we first took government in 2003, we appointed PricewaterhouseCoopers to do an assessment for us on the fiscal situation of the Province at that time. We asked for that review in November, and it was delivered to us on December 22. Until we had that review, Mr. Speaker, we were certainly unable to make any decisions that would affect legislation, or how we would govern the Province. We really needed to see the fiscal situation of the Province at that time. So, we had to wait for that. If we had to open and try to debate, not even understanding the finances of the Province at that time, it would not have been responsible actions for a government.

If there is legislation that is on the books that we can debate thirty days following an election, no doubt, it is the legislation from the former government that was sitting. It could be the same government, if re-elected. There may be a bill or two. I know when I was the House Leader when we closed the House last spring I made sure that every piece of legislation that was on that Order Paper was dealt with before we closed the House. That was because I made no assumption that we would be returning to government and I felt that if this work was done it was certainly my job to see it through the Legislature at that time.

What we would expect by saying that the Legislature should open thirty days following a general election is that we are making the assumption that a new government would carry on the agenda of the previous government. That is exactly what we are saying here. We are also saying that we would expect ministers to carry on and work as if they were going to be re-elected. There are many issues that have to go through an election. Before we make legislation, before we write it, before we discuss it in our departments, we want a mandate from the people of the Province to be able to do it. If we went on the assumptions that every time we went into an election we could have our work done because that is exactly what the people wanted, I do not think that would be responsible, Mr. Speaker. It would be asking the officials to do the work without the consent of the people for us to go ahead and do that. We need to make sure we address that as well. We never would want to move ahead without a mandate of the people.

The other thing, Mr. Speaker, is that we did nothing different following this election than we did in 2003 or 2007, or now in 2011. It is a pattern, we feel, that it is not just about having the House of Assembly open, it is about being ready for the House of Assembly, it is about having legislation ready, and it is about being ready to come in here and have our debate. I know as the Government House Leader, I used to set many targets, what I would like to meet in the Legislature at any given sitting. One was never how many days we would sit; the legislative agenda would take care of that itself. What I found important was how many pieces of legislation we would have ready. I always felt, in a spring sitting, to get between thirty and thirty-five pieces of legislation along with the Budget would be an adequate amount of work in any spring session, and that is what I would set the agenda from, Mr. Speaker.

It is not about having the House open, it is about having work, it is about having quality work, and it is about having the issues here to debate. We do not open just for the sake of opening. We can come in day after day – we can stay open now until next Christmas, like I said, and every day the Member for St. John's North can get up and deliver the same petition over and over and over. It is not about just keeping the House open, it is about being vibrant, it is about having legislation, and it is about being able to have healthy debate in the House of Assembly, Mr. Speaker.

We have to have a purposeful agenda that is laid out. To think that you can do that thirty days following a general election to have a full session – I agree there could be a bill or two that you could do probably that has been on the books or that you could do easily. To think that you could have a full legislative agenda ready thirty days after a general election, and in particular in years when the government changes, is just not being reasonable, Mr. Speaker. For that reason, Mr. Speaker, I will not be supporting this resolution today.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

I recognize the Opposition House Leader.

MS JONES: Yes, thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am certainly pleased to stand today and speak to the motion put forward by my colleague, the Member for Burgeo – La Poile, and to say right off that I support the motion that my colleague has put forward and I will tell you the reasons why. Mr. Speaker, I listened to the debate today by the members opposite on the government side. It is quite obvious that when you do not want to support something, you can find any arguments to justify it. They know as well as we do that any motion that comes to this House of Assembly is open not only for debate, but also open for amendment. If the real fly in the ointment here has to do with the thirty-day rule after the election, well, any member over there could have stood up today and amended that and given the justification for doing so, but we did not see that.

Mr. Speaker, let us cut right to the chase, because the only reason this motion is on the floor of the House of Assembly today is because of the public outcry in the fall after the election, when the House of Assembly did not open. That is the only single reason that this motion is here today. It is here because the public had an expectation of every single one of us, as elected members, to open the House of Assembly, the people's House, and debate the issues that were of concern to them.

In October, Mr. Speaker, we sailed through communities across this Province. We knocked on doors, we looked people in the eye, and we talked about representing them. We talked about being their member in the House of Assembly. We talked about standing up for them and standing up for the issues that were of concern to them. Then what did you do? You formed the government, and for 207 days you kept the locks on the doors here to this place. You did not open the House of Assembly to do the debate, to raise the issues, and to speak for the people that you said you were going to speak to in October when you were knocking on those doors. That is the only reason this resolution is here today. That is the only reason. It has nothing to do with when it closes or how long we are here or how many nights we sit. I listened to the babble, Mr. Speaker, by the Government House Leader today; that was all it was, a tirade of it, a whole tirade of it –

I would say to the hon. Member for Cartwright – L'Anse au Clair, the Opposition House Leader, the use of the word babble is unparliamentary, and I would ask you to withdraw it.

MS JONES: Well, Mr. Speaker, I do apologize and I do withdraw. I did not know it was unparliamentary. I listened to the pontification here today by the Government House Leader, Mr. Speaker, some nasty comments made in a very grumpy tone – directed very personally, too, at my colleague here, the Member for Burgeo – La Poile, questioning his ability and his profession as a lawyer and everything else because he brought forward a motion, the most ridiculous thing I have ever seen; I would expect much more, actually, from the Government House Leader, Mr. Speaker.

One thing I can say, in all the years that I have been here – and I am one of the longest-serving members in the House of Assembly, myself and my colleague for St. John's South – Mr. Speaker, I have certainly seen the level of decorum in this House drop to probably some of the lowest levels I have seen in the over sixteen years I have been here. A lot of it is due, Mr. Speaker, no doubt to the fact that we have comments and behaviours like we have seen here today in the House of Assembly by people like the Government House Leader.

Mr. Speaker, I am going to move on to talk about the motion, because that is why we are here. Sometimes, when I hear the government speak, I start to wonder if they are starting to think that democracy is just too inconvenient for them some days; it is just too much of a messy business, too inconvenient. Let's shut down petitions, let's shut people down. Oh, you want to stay in the House? We will keep you here all night, every night; we will break the records, we will do whatever we have to do, Mr. Speaker. What kind of an attitude is that for a government, I say to you?

My God, you should be ashamed of yourselves. We are in a democracy here, a democratic process where people have the opportunity to propose new ideas, new ways, new standards, look at new options, how do we do something different. We are not doing this to be an inconvenience to the government, to mess up your schedule that you might have so you can throw a tantrum, fire rocks back across and say: I will put a noose around your neck; if you want to stay in the House, you will stay here, by golly, and I will keep you here. What kind of behaviour is that, I say to the Government House Leader? What kind of behaviour is that, Mr. Speaker?

When they sit down, Mr. Speaker, and they say, oh, I am fed up with petitions; oh, I have heard enough petitions, oh my, I am fed up. I heard someone here say today on the government side – I believe it was one of the ministers – they said: the petitions are not creative. Petitions are not supposed to be creative. They come from the people, they come from the public. It is their issues. Mr. Speaker, look, this is a folder I have right full of petitions. I can imagine me calling back those people and saying: Your petition was not creative enough so I am not going to present it in the House of Assembly. It is not creative enough. You must have a more creative issue than that, that you could bring to the government. They are not going to like that one; they like it frillier.

I remind the member that the resolution is on the Parliamentary Calendar.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Yes, I was just responding to a comment made by the last speaker on the Government side. I thought it was in order because they were not ruled out of order.

Mr. Speaker, as I was saying, the petitions that we bring are petitions that come from people. They have signatures from real people, breathing people in this Province. It is their issue. Whether you think it is creative or not is irrelevant. It is their issue. If I get ten petitions from ten different communities on the same subject, I will present them. I will present them unless the government is going to stifle us and shut down the Opposition from bringing forward the views of the people of the Province. Well, we will see what happens.

Anyway, Mr. Speaker, the motion here today is about opening the House of Assembly and allowing for a democratic process for debate on behalf of the people of this Province. I heard a couple of people get up today to speak and say thirty days is not long enough after an election. Well, that is fine. Do you need sixty days? Do you need ninety days? Why didn't you bring forward an amendment and suggest that?

I do not think you needed 207 days. You had 207 days and you walked in here with a Throne Speech that said absolutely nothing, absolutely no vision in it, and no direction in it. The commitments that you made to people on things like home care you did not even deliver on, and things like family caregivers. I do not know why you needed 207 days to decide that you were not going to make good on those promises.

In addition to that, Mr. Speaker, after 207 days, we not only walked in here without a Budget, we had to go and pass Interim Supply for three months. In over 200 days, the government did not have time to get a Budget in place. We had to come in and pass Interim Supply for three months and ended up not getting a Budget, Mr. Speaker, until late April. That is what happened, so there is no wonder we are bringing this forward.

Politics, Mr. Speaker, is a funny piece of business. I can see why people look at politicians and say: You say one thing and you mean something else. Mr. Speaker, there is no doubt about that. In 2003, in the PC Party Blue Book, the government opposite, the members who were elected and sat in the government of 2003, Mr. Speaker, wanted a family-friendly Legislature. They did not want any more of these night sessions. The Government House Leader was a part of that government, Mr. Speaker – no, he came in right after, the next time. He did not get in that time. He had to run after in a by-election.

Mr. Speaker, in 2003 they wanted a family-friendly session. They did not want any of this here all night. People had families, people had children, and people had lives. This was the big issue. Guess what they wanted to do? They wanted to bring in timetables and work schedules. Oh, yes. They wanted members to combine their work more easily with their family and their child care responsibilities. That, Mr. Speaker, would have included – guess what? – fixed legislative calendar with a fixed sitting, an adjournment date, and an end to legislation by attrition. They wanted a fixed Budget Day and they wanted workable timelines to ensure a proper balance between the member's responsibility to the Legislature, their constituents and their families. Imagine! This was you people over there, the people today who stood up in the House and said you did not want it.

In 2003, you knocked on doors, you promised people in the Province, and you put it in writing. You put it in writing and you said we want a legislative calendar. We want fixed dates. We want a date when the House opens, we want a date when the House closes, and we want a fixed date for the Budget. We want members to balance their constituents, their family, and the House of Assembly. We want to be a family-friendly Parliament, and we want to make sure that we schedule it that way with timetables and work schedules. This is what you committed to, not us, not the NDP, not anybody out there in the public. That was you guys. You stood up, you knocked on doors, and you said elect me because I am going to do this. This is in my Blue Book; this is what I am going to do for you.

Mr. Speaker, I am shocked today to find out that the government members are not going to support the motion put forward by the Member for Burgeo – La Poile. I am shocked, because how can you blatantly make a commitment to the people of the Province that you are going to do that, put it in writing, circulate it, print several thousand copies, post it on-line, tell 500,000 people you are going to do it, and then walk in here and say: no, no I do not support that now. It is no wonder, Mr. Speaker, people think skeptically of politicians. This is the reason why, because you have members like that, Mr. Speaker, and governments like that who set bad examples and make it bad for all of us when you make commitments and you do not honour those commitments afterwards.

Mr. Speaker, that is what the take of the PC Party is, and I could go on, because they supported legislative committees. They supported everything under the sun. They wanted to have regular committee meetings. They were going to travel around the Province. They were going to have standing committees of the House on every single major issue, every bill. They were going everywhere. They were moving it outside of St. John's. It is all in here; it is in your Blue Book. Everything is in the Blue Book, everything you committed to. I was absolutely blown away when I came in today and knew you were not going to support the motion.

Anyway, Mr. Speaker, the reason we are bringing this forward is because we want to ensure that the House of Assembly opens and runs as effectively as possible. I know the Government House Leader made a big deal out of the fact that we cannot have fixed closing dates; I agree with him. There is a time when we are going to have to debate legislation and that is why section (5) is in this bill, which says that "Nothing in subsection (3) prohibits the House of Assembly from sitting." Therefore, Mr. Speaker, at any time there is legislation that needs to be debated, you stay and debate it. At any time the House needs to open outside of those dates, the government can open the House. This is not tying the hands of people; this is just putting things in a nice, family-friendly, orderly fashion, like the Conservative government promised to do in 2003. That is the only thing that this is doing.

In addition to that, Mr. Speaker, we feel that the public has a right to know what the calendar of the House of Assembly is. I do not mind the Government House Leader talking about you will be here all night and you will be begging to get out. Well, Mr. Speaker, the reality is this: when there is legislation that has to be debated, we all have a responsibility to stay here and do it. If that takes us all night, it takes us all night. If it takes us all summer, I guess it takes us all summer. That is what we are getting paid to do. There is not a whole lot we can do about it, but we are not going to get up in this House and talk to legislation for the sake of talking. We are going to say what we have to say. We are going to outline the facts. We are going to lay out our case and we are going to push the government for changes if we want changes. We are not going to come in here, Mr. Speaker, and just stand up and make ill use of our time. We have lots of great time that we can spend doing other things, but when there is work to be done here we will be the first people here. We will be the last people here if there is work to be done as well, Mr. Speaker. We have absolutely no problem with that. We will do whatever it is we have to do to raise the issues and debate the issues of the people of this Province, and we feel that there is nothing wrong with having the democratic reform at a time that benefits the people of the Province. That is all we are asking the government to do: Make good on their own commitment, their own promise they made to the people in 2003.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The Member for Burgeo – La Poile.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Sorry, I had already recognized the Member for Burgeo – La Poile.

The Member for St. John's South.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. OSBORNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I was first elected in 1996. The Member for Cartwright – L'Anse au Clair, who just spoke, was elected at the same time. We are two longest serving members in the House. Some of us need a history lesson here because there were times, under the former Premier, between 1996 and when former Premier Tobin – I apologize, I know I am not supposed to mention names, but the former Premier who retired, that this House sat into the wee hours of Christmas shopping. We could almost hear Santa's bells ringing over the House of Assembly. We talk about a family-friendly Legislature; we have not done that as a government. I remember sitting here into the wee hours of December 23 hoping that Santa's bag was full because I knew I did not have time for shopping because we sat nights for days and days leading up to that. We are focusing on a family-friendly Legislature.

I remember, Mr. Speaker, debating for thirty-eight hours, I think it was, straight, on the Shops Closing Act. This Legislature did not close its doors for thirty-six or thirty-eight hours, whatever it was, continuously, on the Shops Closing Act. I was in Opposition at that particular time and that was something that the Opposition chose to do. Government did not choose to debate for that long, so Oppositions do have the ability to keep the House open to debate and to continue to keep debate going on a piece of legislation they do not agree with. Oppositions have that ability. Oppositions choose when to keep the debate going and when to let it go. The government of the day brought in a closure motion on that because we continued debate so long – there were ten of us in the Opposition at that particular time. We managed to keep debate going for almost three continuous days – non-stop.

The previous member who spoke talked about the public pressure, which is the reason this motion was brought in. Are we to keep the House open because of public pressure, or because there is legislation to be debated? Because, under this particular motion we could have the House open without any legislation to debate, but because we brought this amendment in, if we were all to vote in favour of this amendment, we would be sitting here wondering what to debate if there is no legislation on the floor and ready for debate.

You have to be practical as well, Mr. Speaker. It is not about deciding to open the doors of the Legislature, call all of the members in, and not know what we are going to talk about. The House does not sit much differently in the number of days under this government than it did under the former Premier who I just spoke about. It is a similar number of days, but some of the rules have changed. I remember the Finance critic back in those days being able to speak for three, four, and five days, unlimited time. That is no longer the case today. Some of the rules have changed, which means that some of the reasons the House would sit longer in those days or should have sat longer are no longer in place; yet, there is not that great a difference in the number of days, I would be willing to guess, if you go back and look at some of the days. There was very rarely a May 24 weekend that we had not adjourned the House for the summer back in the 1990s and the early part of the 2000s. The last two or three years, Mr. Speaker, I was wondering if we were going to be closed before the end of June.

The motion that is brought in here, we have to be cautious what we wish for, I say to members. I am speaking from experience. I have been here now - I am into my seventeenth year. I know how the House operated in the 1990s and I know how it operates today.

We can talk about family-friendly, but this is a more family-friendly Legislature today, Mr. Speaker, than it was in the 1990s. I can guarantee you that.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. OSBORNE: Mr. Speaker, there are things that we debate in this Legislature, and I know because when we were in Opposition we used every trick in the book, legislatively, to keep the House open. We used every legislative tool in the tool chest to be able to keep the House open on pieces of legislation we needed to debate.

Mr. Speaker, you can say what you like, but the Opposition does have the ability to keep the House open on pieces of legislation they disagree with. There is time to scrutinize and debate legislation. You do not need this particular motion to be able to do that, and I speak from experience.

I see, Mr. Speaker, that it is 4:45 p.m. and the time for me to speak is concluded. I thank you for the time to speak.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Burgeo – La Poile.

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

I appreciate the opportunity to conclude the debate on this private member's resolution that I brought here today. I do appreciate the comments that have been made here to this resolution by all the members, regardless of their side. What I think I am going to do, Mr. Speaker, is just touch on some of these that have been made and sort of give my rebuttal, why I think that what I am suggesting is something that the government should consider.

To the Member for St. John's South, I appreciate his comments, and I appreciate the fact that he has been here a long time. He certainly has a lot of experience, as does my friend from Cartwright – L'Anse au Clair. What I would state is that it is not just about legislation, it is about the appearance of accountability and transparency. There is a Question Period that people like to see and people need to see. If there was no legislation ready, then that simply is not good enough. I would suggest that is not a good excuse, especially for a government that is going into a third term. So, that is my position on that.

When we talk about the term family-friendly, I do not think that was mentioned by me anywhere at anytime. I know it was in the Blue Book from 2003. It was mentioned by Cartwright – L'Anse au Clair, but that is not my concern. The intent of this PMR, this private member's resolution, was to remedy an issue that we saw, which was that this House of Assembly did not open in the fall of 2011. That was the purpose. That is why it was brought here today. It has been sitting here since, I believe, March 6, the day after we first opened.

What I would say to the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills - again, this is somebody who has been around since 2003, and has served as a Government House Leader. Her first comment I agree with. Her first comment was: we need to do what is right for Newfoundland and Labrador, not what other provinces do. My belief is that this is right for Newfoundland and Labrador. The appearance of democracy is important. Again, sometimes it is not just to be done, but it has to be seen to be done. That is why I am saying that the House of Assembly needs to be open here. Maybe you have heard that term before, it is certainly true. What I would say is that other provinces have seen that this is a useful practice, actually coming in your Legislature asking questions, answering questions, debating. What I would say is that maybe we should follow the lead here.

I understand the minister's comments on the thirty days after the election. I can understand how that might be a concern, but what I would say is that this calendar year alone, 2011, we saw other provinces that had elections with new governments elected, that managed to open their Legislature within that period of time. It is being done elsewhere, it has been done elsewhere.

Again, I am going to go back very quickly to 1989. In 1989, the former Premier, after fourteen years of Progressive Conservative government, he was elected on April 20, and actually on May 25 the House reopened with a Throne Speech, and then a Budget was delivered on June 6. This can happen; it is not impossible. So, just to say, look, thirty days is an issue – I do not think we can just say no, cannot do it. We have to look at that. Why can we just discount it for no reason whatsoever? I do not quite agree; she said she did not understand, but I think it is a case of being unwilling and unable, simply not wanting to do this.

We do have a pattern that we have seen since 2003. I am not sure if in 2003 there was a fall Legislature or not, but either way, I believe in the years preceding that there was a fall Legislature; the House did open in the fall. This is a pattern that we are seeing here. My concern is that this is something that should change and it is for the good of all the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

I would say to the Minister of Fisheries – and I really appreciated his comments, because he stood up and he had some very, very good points about this – what I am putting forward is a private member's resolution and it is like any bill, legislation, or anything; it is subject to amendment. If there is something that is wrong with it, you can suggest it. That is what democracy is all about, and in some cases you do have to work together.

He suggested: I have some concerns with this particular resolution, why I cannot support it. I think I am going to try my best to address these concerns. His concern was, do we move from the current practice and move to a fixed schedule. I am not saying fixed schedule; it is more of a legislated schedule. We need to make sure that this House opens at least twice a year. The reason we need to do this, have a fixed or legislated schedule, is because we have to avoid what has happened in the fall, especially after an election. This is why we have to legislate it, in my mind. We cannot rely on the fact that we have to hope the House opens. We need to ensure that the House does open and must open.

I would suggest that if there was any will or desire there, you could have suggested these amendments. You could have suggested these and said, instead of tossing the whole thing out: We have a concern there. This is just a blanket statement of, we do not want this. That is what it sounds like to me, Mr. Speaker.

I agree with the minister's comments about the artificial generation of legislation and issues. I agree with that, but that is not the point here. There is more to this process than legislation and we all know that very well. I would come back to the point that when we have a third-term government coming in, there should be legislation ready that can be debated and discussed – a good point. That is the thing; we are allowed to go back and forth on these points. That is the purpose of constructive debate, and I like that.

I think, though, that the members do understand the intent of my private member's resolution. Some of them might, say, discard it and not listen to it, not want to hear about it, or just say whatever they want, but they understand the intent. It can be spun any number of ways, but they understand where I am going with this. This House did not open in the fall, the people of the Province were upset, and we are asking, look, let us make this place more transparent, more accountable. That is the message that has been coming out a lot since 2003, so why don't we continue on with that?

What I would say, I believe the minister did make a comment about the House not closing abruptly. It has closed abruptly. The previous Government House Leader, I believe he was the Member for Ferryland, I think back one time in a winter session in December he did shut down the House very abruptly when there were still pieces of legislation that were to be debated and possibly passed. That did happen, so we need to avoid that. That is another reason why I have put this forward.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. A. PARSONS: It would not happen on your watch.

AN HON. MEMBER: No, during my tenure I have experienced it.

MR. A. PARSONS: During your tenure.

Again, I would say to the current Government House Leader – and he made some good points –

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. A. PARSONS: No, no. That is the thing here; I am going to address the good points he made. He mentioned the May 24 weekend and camping. I am sure there are lots of members here that want to go camping, but the reason –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. A. PARSONS: One of the members of the NDP wants to go camping.

The reason that it is written out in this resolution like it is, is because it is adopted from the appendix, the practice recommendations. It is adopted directly from there. He should have known that. He should not be going on about, oh, they are trying to go on vacation. He knows full well that is not true. That is foolishness – or gibberish, sorry.

This was taken directly from the Standing Orders that have not been followed, Mr. Speaker. These Standing Orders are not being followed, which is why we are saying they should be legislated. That is why it is written out as it is.

The fact is the Government House Leader likes to talk about, oh, we are going to sit here all day and all night. That is fine. Let us sit here all day and night. I do not care; that is what we were elected to do. That is not a threat that I am actually worried about, or anybody who should be elected. We will stay here as long as we need to, to get the job done that has to be done for the people of this Province. To throw out that threat means absolutely nothing.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. A. PARSONS: My young fellow is not old enough to get in minor hockey, so I have lots of time to stay here, and I will stay here all summer.

What I would say is that the member tries to spin it. He tries to spin it to make it sound like we are trying to make it weaker when the fact is, we are just trying to put into force, to legislate something that is recommended but has not been happening. He can spin it all he wants, but that is not how it is, and they know that this is the case here. The reason we are putting this forward is so we can have the fall sitting and we cannot close this House down on a whim – because that is what it was, on a whim. It was not mentioned at all during the election. There was no mention whatsoever that this House was going to shut, not open after the election, but on the night of the election it was announced and that was not part of the new energy platform at any point in the Blue Book; I do not think it was referenced.

What I would say is that the reason, if we get into the legislation here, we have a subsection (5), "Nothing in subsection (3) prohibits the House of Assembly from sitting", that is the whole point of having this specific section in here in this legislation, so that if we need to sit longer, let us sit longer. That is not an issue.

What I would suggest is if what I put forward is wrong, and being the legal mastermind that he is – I know I did not do much and I know you had lots of comments on that – what I would say is suggest an amendment. You are sitting over there as a Government House Leader – even though sometimes I wonder because I think the former Government House Leader does the job most of the time. What I would I suggest here is that you are free to suggest an amendment. Come out and suggest an amendment.

I am not going to devolve. The fact is there is a term that has been brought up here: dysfunction in the House of Assembly. That was brought up by the Premier as one of the reasons not to open. What I would say is you are contributing to that dysfunction. I am trying not to get there. The fact is that I am not going to get into the personal comments. I do not think there is any need of that in this House. I think we can stand here and represent the people of this Province without getting into that gibberish. I think that term is parliamentary. There was a term used previously that was not acceptable, but gibberish is right.

I am going to continue – you mentioned ATIPP legislation. I look forward to seeing that, having an opportunity to review that, and having an opportunity to debate that. There are a lot of things I need to discuss here.

Again, the member gets into these personal comments. He gets into these little low – I am not going to go there. The majority of members in this House do not want to go that level. The majority of people in this House want to rise above that and they want to contribute to what is democracy. I think the Member for Cartwright – L'Anse au Clair really co-opted – I was hoping to use that term. Democracy sometimes can be a very messy affair. It can be time-consuming, but it is what it is. It is democracy. That is part of it. We cannot just throw it off when we see fit. We have to follow the rules. The rules are there to be followed because at the end of the day, we have to make sure that democracy is followed here for the people of this Province. That is why we need to keep the House open.

The member, and some members, can spin this all they want about actually weakening what is there. To coin a phrase, nothing could be further from the truth – nothing could be further from the truth. The fact is, Mr. Speaker, we are trying to ensure this House sits twice a year every year, no matter of an election or no election, and no matter of a new government or an old government. The fact is that the people of this Province are entitled to stability. They are entitled to know that their House is going to sit, they are going to get an opportunity to bring their concerns to their represented official and that person can bring it into the House, and bring it forward, whether it is in the form of a petition or in the form of a question. They are entitled to that. That is a part of what we subscribe to here.

Again, I am going to continue on very quickly. I guess this is the way I am going to end off here, Mr. Speaker. There is a novel concept – I sat and listened to what the Government House Leader had to say. I did not say a word. I listened to him. Now, it is my turn to speak but obviously the same courtesy is not extended to me. I am going to continue on and I am going to close this here, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. A. PARSONS: What I would say is I would call upon all members. I believe you do have the right to vote your conscience here, the right to go how you want on a private member's resolution. I would call upon all of you to do what you think is right; to do what is best for the people of this Province. That is to have a democracy that is open, transparent, and accountable, a democracy that is in the form of the cornerstone, the House of Assembly, which sits here twice a year; one that cannot be wiped away at the whim of the person in charge.

I am hoping we get support. I appreciate the support of the Third Party. I appreciate the support of my colleagues. I am going to leave it here. I appreciate the opportunity to stand in this House and debate this bill. It is my first one, it certainly will not be my last one, but I appreciate this opportunity today.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

The House has heard the motion. Debate is now concluded.

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

All those in favour, ‘aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Nay.

MR. SPEAKER: Motion defeated.

AN HON. MEMBER: Division.

MR. SPEAKER: Division has been called.

Call in the members.

Division

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

All those in favour, please rise.

CLERK: Mr. Ball, Ms Jones, Mr. Andrew Parsons, Mr. Joyce, Mr. Bennett, Ms Michael, Mr. Kirby, Mr. Murphy, Mr. Mitchelmore.

MR. SPEAKER: All those against, please rise.

CLERK: Mr. Kennedy, Ms Burke, Mr. King, Ms Sullivan, Mr. O'Brien, Mr. Jackman, Mr. French, Mr. Hedderson, Mr. Felix Collins, Mr. Dalley, Mr. Verge, Mr. Kent, Mr. Forsey, Mr. Granter, Mr. Hutchings, Mr. Davis, Mr. McGrath, Mr. Sandy Collins, Mr. Brazil, Mr. Kevin Parsons, Mr. Little, Mr. Hunter, Mr. Osborne, Ms Perry, Mr. Dinn, Mr. Cornect, Mr. Littlejohn, Mr. Crummell, Mr. Pollard, Mr. Cross, Mr. Peach, Mr. Lane, Mr. Russell.