December 7, 1993             HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS          Vol. XLII  No. 30

The House met at 2:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Dicks): Order, please!

Oral Questions

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

MR. SIMMS: On Monday of last week, I think it was, I asked the Premier a series of questions about job losses that could result from the merger of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro with Newfoundland Power. The Premier said, the President of Hydro estimates the number would be at most 150, and when on then to say it might be 130, or whatever, it might be 160, or it may be 170, and these are at Hydro I presume because the next day in a bulletin to the employees David Mercer the President and CEO of Hydro said that that estimate - this was in response to the Premier's statement the day before, that estimate was not derived from detailed discussions with Newfoundland Power. According to Mr. Mercer the number of 150 was a preliminary estimate. I would like to ask the minister how may job losses are estimated to occur at Newfoundland Power, if a merge occurs, and how many spin-off job losses would occur indirectly in our economy as a result of these direct losses that the Premier has already admitted to now?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Mines and Energy.

DR. GIBBONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

As the hon. member said the number that was given by the Premier last week, and by Mr. Mercer to the Premier was an estimate of the total between the two corporations, not at Hydro or at Power but between the two corporations in total. The total between the two corporations is 150, not assigned to either one because at this time we have not had the detailed assessment to see how it would break down between the two corporations. As part of the estimate it was estimated approximately what proportion would be in the union ranks and what proportion would be otherwise, but that is irrelevant. I have not done any calculations and I do not think anyone has done a calculation as to what the spin-off numbers might be. I think personally they will be quite minimal.

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

MR. SIMMS: I think we heard that somewhere before, Mr. Speaker, when they privatized Nova Scotia power. The government up there said there would not be any job losses and a couple of months ago they laid off 400. What has happened here today is that the minister has now admitted in a public forum that the government has absolutely no idea how many jobs are going to be lost through this Hydro deal, so I want to ask him this question, why in the world would the government proceed with such significant talks as merger talks without first having had done some kind of a competent study of the impact of employment at Hydro and Newfoundland Power, as well as the impact of job losses indirectly in our economy, because that would have an affect on our provincial economy? Should not the people of the Province expect their government to have such basic information available to give to them when they ask these questions?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Mines and Energy.

DR. GIBBONS: Mr. Speaker, this decision is not being driven by the number of redundancies that might occur between the two corporations. It is being driven by other reasons.

There would obviously, as part of the merger, be some efficiencies by bringing the two companies together, and part of that would be the redundancies that occur by bringing two companies together; but we said from the beginning, as the Premier announced last week, that the approximate number is about 150, plus or minus a few. We do not have exact numbers until we get into detailed discussions between the two corporations as to what the exact numbers might be.

At this time we are discussing the possibility of a merger, and we have not yet reached a final decision on that, and if there is no merger, there will be no privatization in a merged way.

MR. SIMMS: A supplementary.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MR. SIMMS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

On a supplementary, since the minister just said we are discussing merger talks, I would like him to clarify something for the House, and probably for the public.

The Premier told the press, in an interview outside the House, I think about a week ago, that there had been no talks with Fortis for several days. Now that is about ten days ago, so I would like to ask the minister: Have these talks then resumed? Is that what he is suggesting, that these talks have resumed; and if they have not resumed, perhaps he could tell us the date of the last meeting. So one or the other - have they resumed? If not, tell us the date the last meeting might have been.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Mines and Energy.

DR. GIBBONS: Mr. Speaker, the talks never ever broke off, and talks are never continuous. What the Premier said was that there had not been a meeting for a few days, which was correct. There had not been a meeting for a few days, because they do not meet every day, but the most recent meetings were this weekend. On Saturday there were meetings, and on Sunday there were meetings, and when there is a need to have more meetings there will be more meetings, but we have not reached a conclusion yet as a result of any of the meetings.

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

MR. SIMMS: Mr. Speaker, obviously the minister does not know what is going on; he is not involved in it. The Premier certainly gave the impression, outside this House, that there may have been an impasse. That is what all the news stories talked about, and all the rest of it, so now the off again, on again, off again talks are on again. So the minister has now confirmed - for those out there who might have thought that this was somehow going to be put aside and so on, they can forget that.

I want to ask the minister: Considering the fact that the government seems to be rushing ahead, and moving ahead, on this issue without knowing the facts, without considering the consequences, without being able to provide the answers to the public, I want to ask him: Will the government at least give consideration to formally suspending these talks with Fortis until you are able to get some credible answers to all the questions that the people of this Province have been asking for the last two months? Will he consider that and make that representation to his colleagues?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Mines and Energy.

DR. GIBBONS: Mr. Speaker, we are not rushing ahead at anything. As a matter of fact, we are taking all the time that is necessary to try to work out a merger. If we do work out a merger, then we will move into the next phase which means getting into all these details, but right now we are still having discussions related to a merger and because that is the recommended way to go with a privatization, the preferred way to go.

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

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Thank you very much.

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Fisheries.

In the last week or so, the federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans has made a couple of alarming statements. First of all he said that any additional fishermen and fish plant workers who were going to be out of the industry because of the recent closures recommended by the FRCC, that their benefits would have to come from the existing pool, which means that everyone would get less. Within the last twenty-four hours, the minister has very strongly indicated that the old question now of compensation for fish plant workers and fishermen, is certainly in jeopardy. I am wondering, has the minister or his officials been in touch with the federal minister within the last twenty-four hours, to determine exactly what this means for the 30,000 or so Newfoundlanders who are dependent now upon the NCARP benefits and the TFAA Program on the South and Southwest Coast. Could the minister inform the House if he has had any discussions with the minister and what the implications are for the Province?

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

MR. CARTER: Mr. Speaker, no, I have not talked to the minister in the past few days but I can only repeat what I told the hon. gentleman in the House just a few days ago that, during my meeting with the minister, two weeks ago tomorrow I believe, two Wednesdays ago, the minister then expressed the wish that he would be able to harmonize the various compensation packages to bring them in line with the NCARP package that is now in place on the Northeast Coast, and I have no reason to believe that the minister has any other plans but to do that. As to the availability of money, I know that he is going to have to get additional funding to harmonize the programs and to provide adequate compensation for those affected by the moratorium, but certainly I am confident that the minister will find the money and will be able to make good on that promise.

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

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

A supplementary for the minister. I am not sure if the minister - I would not say I don't know if he knows what he is talking about because that would be unfair, but the minister just said that in his meetings with the federal minister, they discussed the possibilities of harmonizing the South and Southwest Coast package to bring that in line with the NCARP package which really, what the minister has said the federal minister has indicated, that he would like to improve the South and Southwest Coast program to bring it up to the NCARP level because everyone knows, those of us who live on the Southcoast that the Southcoast package is less lucrative than the NCARP package, so is the minister saying today that the federal minister indicated to him that he is looking at improving the South and Southwest Coast package to bring it up to a level that the NCARP benefits recipients are now receiving, is that what he said?

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

MR. CARTER: Mr. Speaker, I am not here today to speak for the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, he is quite prepared to speak for himself. I can only inform the House and the hon. gentleman what transpired at a meeting that I had with the minister two or three weeks ago. I can only tell you that the minister - I don't think the minister needs the hon. gentleman for Grand Bank or the provincial Minister of Fisheries to convince him that there is a need to harmonize the programs, and that, in fact, it is not fair to expect the people of the South Coast to accept one amount, or the people on the West Coast, with the people on the Northeast Coast being paid another amount. I think the minister is well aware of that.

I can't speak for him as to what, precisely, will be done in the final analysis. I can only say that I sensed a very strong desire on the part of the new minister to harmonize the programs and to make sure that they are done in a fair and equitable way.

MR. TOBIN: (Inaudible) up.

MR. MURPHY: You would be up if your buddies didn't (inaudible).


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. SIMMS: Order, please, big mouth, maw mouth!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

A supplementary, the hon. the Opposition House Leader.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

What we need to convince the federal minister to do now, I say to the provincial minister, is to continue with the compensation program, because if ever there was a backing off, we have seen it within the last twenty-four hours.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. W. MATTHEWS: My worst fear, Mr. Speaker, is that the thousands of Newfoundlanders who are out there receiving benefits now are going to be slashed in May. The worst I thought was that the benefits would be reduced, but now, listening to the minister in the last twenty-four hours, I won't be surprised if the benefits are cut totally, eliminated. I ask the minister: Will he today undertake, on behalf of the thousands of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who are receiving benefits on either NCARP or the South and Southwest Coast package, to immediately get in touch with the federal minister and implore that an adequate compensation program be kept in place after May 15th? Will he do that?

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

MR. CARTER: Mr. Speaker, the hon. gentleman is about -


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I am having trouble hearing the hon. minister.

MR. CARTER: The hon. gentleman, Mr. Speaker, is about three weeks late, because I said those very words to the minister when I met with him in Ottawa three weeks ago. I don't have to do this. I'm sure the minister is well aware of the need for a continuation of the compensation package after May of 1994 and I think he has said that. It might be in a different form, I don't know, but certainly, the minister doesn't need me, or the hon. gentleman, to convince him of the need for a compensation package post-May 1994. I leave it up to the minister and I think he will come through.

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

MR. WOODFORD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My question is to the minister responsible for Municipal and Provincial Affairs. Just a couple of months ago, before October 25th, there was much talk about the great $6 billion infrastructure program that was supposed to be instituted by the new federal government to provide jobs for pretty well everybody in Canada. Mr. Speaker, will the minister now tell the House if he has met with his federal representative concerning this so-called infrastructure program? Can he inform the House what process his department will be following to initiate the particulars of this program, and will the municipalities be contacted individually or will the minister be going on their five-year plan that has already been submitted?

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

MR. REID: Mr. Speaker, it is the intention of a committee of Cabinet, headed up by the hon. the Minister of Finance, which includes the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology, the Minister of Forestry and Agriculture, the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations and myself, to have ready for the Premier - when he visits the Prime Minister along with his other provincial counterparts - an agreement whereby this Province can set out what we suggest to be the best possible method to accomplish the aims and objectives of the infrastructure program.

The reason why there are other ministers on that committee, basically, is that we feel, along with other provinces in Canada, that the infrastructure program can also be channelled towards things other than municipal infrastructure. An example of what we are looking at - and I emphasis the fact that we are looking at - is a silviculture program which would create a sizeable amount of employment in this Province. We are also looking at dealing with the problems that we have in certain areas of the Province as it relates to aquaculture and sewerage outfall, sewerage waste management. There are a number of other areas, towns and communities in the Province that want us to look at the possibility of recreation facilities and my hon. colleague knows that that list goes on and on and on. We have already met on a number of occasions. My hon. colleague, the Minister of Finance, met last week, when he was in Halifax at his finance meeting, with Mr. Dingwall, who is responsible for Eastern Canada, for that particular program. We have had discussions with our counterparts - I have with mine, for example, in Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick - and basically, just about every province in Canada are coming at the federal government with different proposals pertaining to this infrastructure program. We are working on ours right now. We should have it ready, hopefully, to give to the Premier on - I think December 21 he is meeting with the Prime Minister. We should have it ready by that time.

After that time, if the federal government will accept our recommendations, then I will be able to come back and actually make some announcement publicly on what direction we are taking, and then decide what method I will be using in regard to notifying various communities around the Province.

MR. SPEAKER: A supplementary, the hon. the Member for Humber Valley.

MR. WOODFORD: A supplementary, Mr. Speaker.

In view of the fact that municipalities in the Province can now just make ends meet, with regard to their capital funding, and in view of the fact that a large number of municipalities could not even take the provincial capital funding last year because of their current debt, will the minister inform the House how many municipalities, if any, in the Province today, will be able to take advantage of this particular program?

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

MR. REID: Let me correct a misstatement there. The hon. member said that there were a large number of communities in the Province that could not afford to avail of the capital works program last year. As far as I know, Mr. Speaker, there were eleven who actually wrote the previous minister back and said that they could not afford it. Now if that is a large number out of 284, there was not a large number.

The question of what communities can afford and what communities cannot afford, I really cannot answer that either because it is a situation whereby the Province, first of all, will have to determine where they are going to find their one-third. Whether or not the Province will be able to provide, let us say hypothetically, guaranteed loans to municipalities, I do not know. I really do not know. I cannot say at this particular point in time whether the wealthy City of St. John's will be able to come up with their one-third of the project. It is hypothetical. It is a hypothetical question at this particular point in time.

I am hoping, and I have said this before publicly, and I say this to the hon. member, Newfoundland, in the situation that we are in - and I believe the idea was tossed around on the other side some while ago - with the high unemployment rate that we have at the present time, and the economic conditions in the Province, I am hoping - it probably will not happen, but I am hoping - that maybe some special deal could be arranged for Newfoundland in regard to that one-third that the Province has to put in, or that one-third that the municipalities have to put in.

What the Premier has said, and what I have said around this Province, is that if a municipality is looking to take advantage of that infrastructure program, I will do, and I am certainly sure this government will do, everything it possibly can do, within its power, to accommodate that community.

MR. SPEAKER: A final supplementary, the hon. the Member for Humber Valley.

MR. WOODFORD: A final supplementary, Mr. Speaker.

Would the minister then inform the House, if the Province does take part in this infrastructure program, that they will be putting new money into the program and not use the same amount of funding that was used last year for capital programs in the Province?

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

MR. REID: Mr. Speaker, I cannot make that commitment. I am sorry. We have not gone through our budgetary process yet. I do not know, quite honestly, as a minister, what will be in the capital works budget next year. We have to deal with social services. We have to deal with Health. We have to deal with education. When the budgetary process begins I will have some idea. I will probably be in a better position then to be able to at least guess the amount that will be in the capital works budget next year.

I cannot answer that question because honestly I do not know what this Province will be able to afford in 1994 for municipal capital works.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for St. Mary's - The Capes.

MR. MANNING: Mr. Speaker, my questions are for the Minister of Tourism and Culture.

In May of 1991 the federal and provincial governments signed a $20 million Tourism and Historic Resources Co-operation Agreement to develop Newfoundland and Labrador's tourism potential. I understand that cuts were made in February of this year, by both governments, to the tune of $1.18 million. I have also learned that the federal government has now advised your department that they are now reducing their share by another $1.5 million.

I would like to ask the minister: Will the provincial government also be slashing their 30 per cent share in proportion to the latest federal cut; and when all the cuts have been made, what will be the new bottom line?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Tourism and Culture.

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

First and foremost, let me correct the first statement the member made. The provincial government did not cut its share of the monies that were allocated for that subsidiary agreement. The federal government, in actual fact - the previous federal government, that is - actually cut their numbers.

The plan that they had in place at that time was to reduce that budget by yet another $1.5 million. That is still under negotiation and at this point in time no firm decision has been made as to whether or not that $1.5 million will be reduced. I will say to the member that representatives of the management committee representing the federal government in particular are still insisting that that amount will be reduced but we have not agreed that it should be yet, and we are still negotiating. So the second $1.5 million may not be reduced.

MR. SPEAKER: Supplementary, the hon. the Member for St. Mary's - The Capes.

MR. MANNING: My, question, Mr. Minister, concerned the 30 per cent share that the provincial government has in the program. If the planned cuts are made I would like to ask the minister how his department is planning to manage now with significantly less money. Will all the projects and programs initially scheduled for funding receive a proportional cut or will some be dropped altogether?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Tourism and Culture.

MR. WALSH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. In actual fact our department is in a precarious situation. We took for granted that the amounts that were there were going to be left. In actual fact, the department has virtually expended its share of that $1.2 million that you referred to earlier. We virtually expended our percentage of that. So our money is in there. We are now trying to convince the federal government to leave their money there.

With respect to: will our money be left if the additional $1.5 million is reduced?.. at this point in time we've not agreed that the $1.5 million will be reduced from our position. Our position is the federal government should leave that money there because most of the programs that are in place are ongoing. We have to date committed funds and have spent funds in terms of our share of that $1.5 million and we've not agreed to date that that $1.5 million should disappear. The hon. member is right, the federal government did and does have a policy that they want to reduce by that amount, but we've not agreed jointly at this point in time.

MR. SPEAKER: Final supplementary, the hon. the Member for St. Mary's - The Capes.

MR. MANNING: I would tell the minister that the fact that it is your cousins now that are in Ottawa, you should be able to convince them to keep the $1.5 million in. I realize it was our cousins who may have suggested the cut.

Mr. Speaker, when the agreement was announced the development of the Cape St. Mary's Ecological Reserve was highlighted as one of the major developments. Two major projects were to be put in place to enhance this world-renowned site. One was the paving of the access road, which was completed this fall; the other was the interpretive centre which is planned to be constructed next spring. Will the minister confirm today that this development at Cape St. Mary's that will enhance the entire tourism industry of Newfoundland and Labrador will be proceeding as scheduled?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Tourism and Culture.

MR. WALSH: Mr. Speaker, before the hon. member starts talking about friends in Ottawa today and friends in Ottawa before, allow me to assure the member that it was his friends who reduced the number by $1.2 million.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WALSH: Furthermore, it was his colleagues who all the way through the election campaign up to election day, when they were reduced to the perfect party in Canada, a man and a woman, bilingual and not bilingual - by the way, I should tell the member that I wrote Elsie Wayne a letter yesterday and suggested that she should stay with Jean Charest, because even he shouldn't be as lonely as the Maytag repairman - but it was his friends in Ottawa who sat on documents and refused to sign documents so projects in his own district could be up and running at the present time. They sat on the agreements, they wouldn't sign them, and they are still trying to hold them up. Fortunately at least now we have someone who is willing to talk to us about a project that his friends tried to cancel in his district.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My question is for the Minister responsible for the Status of Women. I want to ask the minister what she is doing to assist in the righting of a historic wrong in the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary? There is a recruitment drive on right now and up until 1980 only men were allowed in the force. There was a positive affirmative action program for men for many years. There are now twenty-three uniformed women out of 340. There is an opportunity now to try and right that so what is she doing to right that imbalance in the ten recruits that are being brought forward now? Is she doing anything at all?

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

MS. COWAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

That particular item does not fall within my purview directly. Certainly, changes that we envision in the women's community as being effected in society are taking place in the Women's Policy Office all the time, the type of policies that would encourage women to stretch beyond their traditional roles, but the question that has been addressed to me by the Member for St. John's East is not one that I would deal with directly.

MR. SPEAKER: A supplementary, the hon. the Member for St. John's East.

MR. HARRIS: Mr. Speaker, last week I had the opportunity to call her the Minister of Excuses and we are hearing that again. Does the minister not see affirmative action for women in the police force to make the police force more representative of the population that it protects and serves as part of her job? Does she not see affirmative action programs as part of her job as the minister responsible for the Status of Women?

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

MS. COWAN: We do not have a policy related to affirmative action. Certainly I would like to see, personally and as the government, we would like to see as many women involved in every facet of life, including the New Democratic Party, and would certainly strive in that direction.

MR. SPEAKER: A final supplementary, the hon. the Member for St. John's East.

MR. HARRIS: Mr. Speaker, out of the 2500 applicants that I am told there are for these ten positions in the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, can the minister satisfy herself that there shall be at least five of them superbly qualified women who should take their place as members of the police force?

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

MS. COWAN: Mr. Speaker, I am not involved in the hiring of individuals for the Constabulary or for the RCMP, or for any other enforcement agency of that nature.

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

MR. J. BYRNE: I would like to direct my question to the Minister of Environment and Lands. I asked her a few questions and one in particular was a rather simple and routine question but the response I got was tabled here and took seven pages, so for the sake of expediency I will keep my questions simple.

In response to a question put to the minister in the House last week concerning Come By Chance Oil Refinery emissions the minister said the department's responsibility is not to monitor but to check the monitoring. Could the minister tell the House why the government chose not to monitor but just to check the monitoring data? Why is that?

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

MS. COWAN: I did not quite hear all his question but I believe it was related to monitoring of Come By Chance and why the government checks the monitoring rather than the monitors themselves? That is a question that governments and industry wrestle with across Canada: Who should do the monitoring? In most provinces the monitoring is done by the industry itself with the government periodically checking the monitoring to see if it appears that all is going well. What we are doing now with Come By Chance is that we are able to do both -

MR. TOBIN: (Inaudible)

MS. COWAN: I would like to remind the member of the opposition who it was that opened Come By Chance, just another one of the multitude of problems left to this government by the former administration.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I cannot hear the hon. minister.

MS. COWAN: Mr. Speaker, our department has the computer capability to download information from the monitors at Come By Chance at will, so there are a combination of programs there. One a reporting to us by the company and we can also double check the monitoring. It is also checked by Environment Canada.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Question Period has expired.

On behalf of all hon. members, I would like to welcome to the galleries, four students and their instructor Scott Riley from Cabot College Adult Basic Education at Trepassey.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Presenting Reports by

Standing and Special Committees

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Burgeo - Bay d'Espoir.

MR. GILBERT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to report on the Social Services Committee. We have reviewed and approved for passage, without amendment, Bills 29, 35, 45, 38 and 55; and with amendments, Bills 41 and 47.

MS. VERGE: Explain the amendments.

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


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. WINDSOR: Thank you, Mr. Speaker

I want to table the report of the Standing Committee on public accounts respecting the report of the Auditor General for the fiscal year ended, 31st March, 1991. In so doing, Mr. Speaker, I would like to point out to the House that the committee conducted some thirteen meetings during the course of the year, and the report that I am tabling now, on behalf of the Public Accounts Committee, is in fact the committee tabling the report of the previous committee, since an election came in between and we have had a new committee constituted in the House just a few days ago, in fact, passed a motion which gives the present committee authority to deal with the evidence and information taken by the previous committee and to report thereon.

I want to, on behalf of the present committee and particularly on behalf of myself, thank members of the previous committee who are no longer with us, for all their diligence and their work in following out the work of the committee, and let me say, Mr. Speaker, that having attended a conference of Public Accounts Committees in Ontario this summer, together with my friend from Eagle River, that our committee I think, stands very well across Canada and that we are probably one of the most foremost committees, we probably progressed further than any Public Accounts Committee of Canada; we are probably far more mature in our approach to dealing with the business of the House that referred to the committee and, in fact leading the way in Canada as it relates to the work of Public Accounts Committee, and I want to say that that is due in a large measure to the attitude taken by members from both sides of the House who have dealt with their responsibilities I think in an extremely responsible and non-political manner, over the past couple of years at least that I have been involved, and I go back to 1976 when the committee was first formed, I was one of the members of the first Public Accounts Committees and it was a highly political animal at that point in time.

MR. ROBERTS: (Inaudible) 1978 or '79 (inaudible).

MR. WINDSOR: No, it was not that late, it was before that, in 1976 the -

MR. ROBERTS: (Inaudible).

MR. WINDSOR: Well, it changed. Once we got rid of the present federal Member for Burin - St. Georges, whatever his name was, who was the first Chair, Mr. Speaker. Anyway, Mr. Speaker, I want to pay compliments to the members of the previous committee, some of whom are no longer with us, such as the Member for St. John's South, and a couple members who are no longer here; the Member for La Poile was a member of that committee, and the Minister of Tourism of course, and the former Member for Torngat Mountains who was a member of that committee and Placentia. All the members, Mr. Speaker, have done an extremely good job in fulfilling their responsibilities in the committee, so I table that report on behalf of the Public Accounts Committees.

But, Mr. Speaker, having said that, if I might, while I am on this topic, I would like to raise a point of privilege relating to the business of the Public Accounts Committee, but it is a point of personal privilege as members of the House of Assembly, who have had their basic parliamentary right, that being the right of privilege to speak freely, taken away by actions of the committee, and the only recourse that I have, of course, is by way of a point of personal privilege in this hon. House, and ask, you, Mr. Speaker, to deal with the issue.

The issue arose, Mr. Speaker, when on October 12, we had a verbal request from the Minister of Social Services, through the Member for Eagle River, not to continue with hearings scheduled for October 13, relating to the award of public tenders or proposals relating to three health care clinics around the Province, an issue of which all hon. members are aware.

Your Honour will recall that last year, the previous committee I think it was, agreed not to proceed at that time because it was a matter before the courts and the committee in its wisdom decided at that point in time, not to proceed. That arises from a convention, Mr. Speaker, that has been recognized in the British Parliament, in the Canadian Parliament and in this hon. House over the years. I will give some references to that in due course, the purpose being - and perhaps it is set down best, Mr. Speaker, in some of the references that I wanted to refer to. Actually, the first reference I will give you, Mr. Speaker, comes from Beauchesne, Section 505, it says, "Members are expected to refrain from discussing matters that are before the courts or tribunals which are courts of record. The purpose of this sub judice convention is to protect the parties in a case awaiting or undergoing trial and persons who stand to be affected by the outcome of a judicial inquiry. It is a voluntary restraint imposed by the House upon itself in the interest of justice and fair play."

Mr. Speaker, there are many distinctions drawn on matters that can be resolved, particularly civil matters that can be dealt with, by a monetary award. Your Honour will recall that when this dispute between the various contractors who bid on that particular proposal and government arose, the matter was referred to the courts in this Province, and it was at that time that the former committee decided we should not proceed with the matter as it then stood. That court, Mr. Speaker, ruled eventually, and rightly so, I think - the matter that was referred was seeking an injunction that government not be permitted to award that contract because of some alleged irregularities; that is all very well and good - that court eventually ruled, Your Honour, that the court could not deal with the issue because it was not a matter of such urgency that recourse was not available. In other words, the plaintiff could receive recompense by way of a monetary award. So the courts ruled that there was no reason to stop the proceedings, to stop the award of the contract, to stop the health clinics from being built and that if the claim was a valid one, those contractors or those bidders who had filed a statement of claim could be recompensed by way of a monetary award. So we are talking a civil matter.

Now, Your Honour, I want to make several references to the very clear distinction between matters for which this convention has been held, that is, matters that are before the court, particularly where a person may be found guilty, may be sentenced to court - we are the ones whose reputation is in danger versus civil matters where we are simply making the argument of whether the matter is an accurate one or it isn't, whether or not somebody has a claim for monetary reward in lieu of damages that might or might not have been done against that person.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to give Your Honour some references. These references come from the Parliamentarian Magazine, with which we are all very familiar, but they are references to procedures in various Parliaments and studies that have been done on this particular issue. I would like to read a number of references, Mr. Speaker, that I think are very appropriate. `It is accepted practice that in the interest of justice and fair play, certain restrictions should be placed on the freedom of members of Parliament to make reference in the course of debate to matters awaiting judicial decision and that such matters should not form the subject of a motion or a question to a minister. The interpretation of this convention is left to the Speaker. The word convention is used advisedly, as no rule exists to prevent Parliament discussing a matter which is sub judice.' Now, that is very important, Mr. Speaker, that there is very clearly, no rule. It is left to the discretion, in the first instances, of members, themselves, who have a responsibility, as hon. members, not to bring a matter before the courts which would unfairly prejudice the basic rights of individuals. Secondly, Mr. Speaker, the onus is on Your Honour, or on the Speaker of whichever Parliament is appropriate at the time - on the Speaker - to decide if permitting debate would, in fact, prejudice the rights of individuals.

Mr. Speaker, the second reference I want to give is the question - the same question has been a matter of debate in many cases, but was debated in the House of Commons on May 2, 1966. Speaker Lamoureux, at that time, gave what has been referred to as probably the most definitive ruling on the matter. He says, and I quote: "When there is doubt in the mind of the Chair, I believe there is an obligation on the part of the Speaker to give the benefit of whatever doubt there may be in his mind to the hon. member who wishes to discuss such a matter in the Chamber."

In other words, Mr. Speaker Lamoureux, at the time, was clearly stating that the rights and privileges of members of their freedom to speak in Parliament is paramount, and that only in the most extreme cases should a Speaker rule in favour of a member not being permitted to speak.

The most recent statement in this article, or a later statement from the Chair, emphasized the need for clarification of the practice, particularly in relation to civil proceedings. Again, we get the clear distinction between criminal matters, where a person could be found criminally liable, or a civil matter.

The issue arose from a question to a minister relating to a matter which was a subject of a police investigation. The member asking the question, Mr. Elmer MacKay, had previously been served with a Civil Writ of Summons and a Statement of Claim, alleging libel by a company which was associated with the matter under investigation.

The Speaker expressed his reservations with regard to the question, as it concerned a matter before the courts, but on February 10, 1976, a discussion took place in the House, at his invitation, which amounted to a review of the practice both in Canada and Great Britain.

Mr. MacKay contended that his question was admissible because the libel suit had not been set down for trial and that, in any case, the question fell outside the narrow context of the action itself. He maintained that `a member of Parliament, I submit, has a right and a duty to pursue investigations and ask questions on behalf of his constituents and the general public, and any interference or obstructions in this respect must be undertaken very carefully and supported by citations and precedence of the greatest weight and substance.'

It goes on to say that the opinions expressed by those who participated in the discussion largely supported these contentions. The majority of members of the House of Commons, at that time, supported those contentions.

The Progressive Conservative House Leader at the time, Mr. Gerald Baldwin, went to some length to review Canadian\British precedence and concluded, and I quote: `That it would be invidious and a great disservice to the political life of this country, and to the affairs of this Parliament, if it were possible to prevent an honourable member from discharging his duty and continuing an enquiry into a matter which needs enquiry merely by issuing a Statement of Claim against him.'

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I am having difficulty hearing the hon. member, and I want to clearly understand his argument, so if members could hold down their conversations a bit, please.

AN HON. MEMBER: Both sides of the House.



MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I just pointed out that I am having trouble hearing the hon. member, and I want to make sure I understand his argument in full. The hon. member may continue.

MR. WINDSOR: Thank you very much, Your Honour.

In other words, Mr. Speaker, what the hon. member was saying at the time was that it would be a great disservice to our rights and privileges, as members of Parliament, if, at any point in time, an issue were before the House to be debated, and if any individual could simply go to a court in the land and lay a Statement of Claim - simply a Statement of Claim - saying, `I think that something is being done improperly'.

Now, that court might take some time before it decided if that Statement of Claim was a legitimate Statement of Claim that the court would even bother to hear, let alone set down a court date, let alone have evidence presented and finally get to a trial; but obviously, if any member of the general public, or any member of this House - and I might use an example: the issue being debated on the sale of Hydro, if hon. members opposite didn't like the debate in this House, any hon. member could go to the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and make some Statement of Claim of some sort of a civil action - not even a criminal action, even just a civil action - and because that Statement of Claim was simply filed with the court, that this House could be precluded from debating that question.

So there is a very important issue here, Mr. Speaker. It is just what is it that can possibly result in the rights and responsibilities of members of this hon. House to speak at a particular issue being taken away? It is a very, very important and basic issue - a difficult issue, Your Honour, which has been debated at great length in many forums.

Now, where was I? The New Democratic House Leader - I say to my friend for St. John's East, who is not here - Mr. Stanley Knowles, at that time, submitted that: `of the two absolutes, freedom of speech is superior to the dictum that there cannot be reference to a matter that is sub judice'; a very wise and very astute observation. He pointed out: `if the convention were applied too rigidly where civil proceedings were concerned it would be possible to prevent a member from pursuing an issue for months or even years.' There is the whole point again, Mr. Speaker, as I have been pointing out.

On February 10, 1976, arising from the same debate, a former Speaker, Mr. Marcel Lambert, wound up the discussion with a short speech in which he stated, quote: `I suggest, as other Speakers have, that every exception placing limitations on the right to ask questions must be interpreted narrowly. It is not the right which must be interpreted narrowly, it is the exception or derogation of the right which should be interpreted narrowly.'

On the following day, the Speaker at the time ruled: `No restriction ought to exist on the right of any member to put questions respecting any matter before the courts, particularly those relating to a civil matter, unless and until that matter is at least at trial.' A very important aspect - Except, unless and until, that matter is at least at trial. In other words, if the issue is now in the court, if the trial is proceeding. Examples are available here where, in fact, even then Speakers have ruled that the line of questioning is not something that can take away from the case. In fact, in a case of a civil case it is very rare indeed that anything has been ruled out of order. In other words, very rarely when a civil matter is before the courts, even before the courts, have the rights of members been taken away to speak to or question matters relating to that issue in Parliament.

A resolution of the British House of Commons on July 22, 1963, makes a careful distinction between criminal and civil matters and it is very precise in its determination of when the sub judice convention should begin or cease to apply. `The essence of the problem is the need to protect the interests of individuals to the extent that it is consistent with the protection of the national interest. In the final analysis, it is on the discretion of the Speaker that the House of Assembly must rely, aided by whatever guidelines the House might choose to lay down. It is on him, or her, that the ultimate responsibility must rest as the traditional protector of the rights of members, and in this context, of the rights of those outside Parliament as well.' In other words, what that is saying, Mr. Speaker, is that we have a responsibility here to speak on behalf of our constituents. So it is their rights, in fact, as well as our own that are being taken away if members are not permitted to proceed to speak.

On December 13, 1976, the House of Commons of Canada appointed a special committee to deal with this very issue. The committee held three meetings during which it studied how the rights and immunities of members were affected by the sub judice convention. I will give you just a few extracts from the report.

`The freedom of speech accorded to Members of Parliament is a fundamental right without which they would be hampered in the performance of their duties. It permits them to speak in the House without inhibition, to refer to any matter or express any opinion as they see fit, and to say what they feel needs to be said in the furtherance in the national interest and the aspirations of their constituents. This basic parliamentary freedom is to some extent limited by the sub judice convention.'

Later on, they go on to say: `The purpose of the convention is to protect the parties in a case of waiting or undergoing trial, and persons who stand to be affected by the outcome of a judicial inquiry. It exists to guarantee everyone a fair trial and to prevent any undue influence prejudicing a judicial decision or a report of a tribunal of inquiry. It is important to emphasize that it is a convention and not a rule.'

Again, later, they say: `What effect a parliamentary discussion may have on the court, the jury, the witnesses, and the parties to an action is not easy to determine. One thing that can be stated with certainty is that courts in interpreting statutes have no regard for anything that might have been said in the course of parliamentary debate', a very, very important observation of that special Select Committee of the House of Commons.

MR. ROBERTS: (Inaudible).

MR. WINDSOR: The hon. House Leader will have an opportunity to speak later, Mr. Speaker. I am on a point of privilege and he knows full well that interruptions are not acceptable, but I will say to him as a response to that, that we don't know if it is true or not. We can only assume that our Justices of the Supreme Court and juries - juries perhaps may be influenced by news media, but we have to have confidence in the hon. judges of our courts in a civil matter, that they will look at the fact of law that is presented to them by both the plaintiffs and the defendants and not be unduly influenced by effects outside, and that is what the Parliamentary Committee here has concluded. They say that with certainty, courts in interpreting statutes have no regard for anything that might have been said in the course of parliamentary debate. In essence, they have gone a little further and said that the House of Parliament, the House of Commons, or House of Assemblies, as the case may be, in passing a statute or a bill, enacting a law of the land, no matter what might have been said in the debate, whatever the intent of individual members might be, no matter what the understanding of individual members might be, that the courts interpret the letter of the law; the words that are in that legislation, in that act, that is what the courts will interpret as they see fit, and are not influenced at all by anything that might be said in this hon. House or any other House that may be considered.

Mr. Speaker, later on the committee goes on to conclude, `The committee has not been able to determine a rationale for the sub judice convention other than the prevention of possible prejudice. It is very unlikely that a judge will be influenced' - it goes on to say what I had just mentioned - `that a judge would be influenced by what is said in the House. Presumably the convention is concerned with the protection of juries and witnesses from undue influence.' They concluded, `In the view of your committee, the justification for the convention has not been established beyond all doubt, although it would not go so far as to recommend that it be totally abolished. Your committee believes, however, that any modification of the practice should be in the direction of greater flexibility rather than stricter application.' In other words, their finding is that we should be more flexible in allowing members to speak, and again, that it should be only in the most extreme cases that the rights of members should be taken away. `It is not possible to determine whether or to what extent comments made in Parliament might affect the outcome of a trial or an inquiry. The Chair is seldom in possession of the necessary information to determine whether or not a prejudicial effect is likely. It follows that the House should not be unduly fettered by a convention, the basis of which is uncertain.' In other words, it is saying that Your Honour, in deciding on such an issue, would very likely not be in possession of sufficient information to really determine if the debate that is about to take place, if what Your Honour might think members are about to say, or what the results might be, might in any way be injurious to the rights of individuals who are involved in any kind of a trial. Certainly, as it relates to a criminal trial, Your Honour, I think, might tend to lean a little more towards the benefit of the individuals who are on trial, but in a civil matter it has been clearly accepted that such is not the case. To conclude: `On no account should the convention, which has been applied infrequently in years past, come to be regarded as a fixed and binding rule. It is not unreasonable, for example, that Parliament should be any more limited in its debate concerning judicial proceedings than is the press in reporting on such proceedings.' Mr. Speaker, here is another important point: unless the courts have issued a ban on publication of any evidence that is being presented so that the news media are still quite free to deal with any information that is coming from the courts, to publish it in newspapers, to make whatever comment, editorial or otherwise, they see fit, what the committee is saying is, why indeed, should members of the House of Assembly who are protected by parliamentary privilege, right and responsibility, to speak on an issue - why should the rights of individual members, Mr. Speaker, be taken away from them?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. WINDSOR: Mr. Speaker, I will conclude very soon. I know hon. members opposite don't like what they are hearing, but nevertheless, Mr. Speaker, they are going to hear it.

Mr. Speaker, referring again to Beauchesne -


MR. SPEAKER: May we have more quiet in the House. I have trouble hearing the hon. member's argument and I think it is important to get all his points. Please continue.

MR. WINDSOR: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Section 507 of Beauchesne, subsection (2) says again: "In civil cases the convention does not apply until the matter has reached the trial stage."

So again, here not only is that a reference to parliamentary practice that I have given you and precedence that had been given, Beauchesne basically says very clearly, that convention does not apply until the matter has reached the trial stage. Some of the precedents, some of the rulings by Speakers that I have referred to, say that, even then, it is not clear and, in fact, many examples exist, that matters have been debated even during the trial stage on a civil matter in particular.

Section 509 states: "the Speaker should remain the final arbiter in the matter but should exercise discretion only in exceptional cases. In doubtful cases the Speaker should rule in favour of debate and against the convention." That is Beauchesne, very clearly saying that Your Honour, if he has any doubt at all, should err in favour of freedom of speech.

Section 510 says: "the House has never allowed the sub judice convention to stand in the way of its consideration of a matter vital to the public interest or to the effective operation of the House." And finally, Section 511 - this is the basis of my whole point, Mr. Speaker:

"The freedom of speech accorded to Members of Parliament is a fundamental right without which they would be hampered in the performance of their duties. The Speaker should interfere with that freedom of speech only in exceptional cases where it is clear that to do otherwise could be harmful to specific individuals."

Now, Mr. Speaker, I could go on and give Your Honour other references that I have here before me, but I think I have clearly established a number of points here that I want to emphasize very quickly: first of all, that the paramount right, is a right and responsibility of members to freedom of speech in the House. Clearly, in civil matters, there are very clear precedents and examples showing that the rights of individuals cannot be taken away by that, that they will not be adversely affected, and in this particular case, by the ruling that was brought down in the reference for an injunction, His Honour at the time, the judge in the case, basically replied that there is a monetary manner in which the plaintiff can be accommodated, therefore, there was no reason to issue an injunction at the time; clearly here, as well, what we are talking is simply a monetary issue, a civil matter, and that the rights of individuals cannot be prejudiced by the Public Accounts Committee, continuing on with the responsibilities that they have to deal with this particular issue.

So, Mr. Speaker, I will stop there and I will say to Your Honour, that if Your Honour finds that this is a valid point of privilege, and I submit that it is, I submit that the rights of individual members -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. WINDSOR: Thank you. My friend reminds me, one aspect that I didn't deal with was the procedures that were followed in the Public Accounts Committee, Your Honour.

On receiving the verbal request from the Minister of Social Services on October 12, late in the day, the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation, Mr. Speaker - a verbal request, and I might simply point out as well, Mr. Speaker, that, that minister knew for many weeks, several months, in fact, that these hearings were scheduled; indeed, the hearings were rescheduled to accommodate the assistant deputy minister who was the prime witness called before the committee. So there was ample time for the minister or his deputy or any officials who were called, to advise the committee of the House, that they would not be available, or that they did not wish to be here.

Late in the day, after hearings were scheduled, witnesses called into St. John's to conduct hearings, we received this verbal request, through the Deputy Chair or Vice-Chair of the committee. The committee considered it late in the day and it was decided, because we had no written request, we had no detailed information on which the minister was basing his request, we decided that perhaps we should give the minister the benefit of the doubt and find out at least if he had any valid arguments that we were not aware of. So the committee sought to do that.

I wrote, on behalf of the committee, and received a response from the minister which basically provided no new information that the committee was not aware of, and no valid arguments, in my view, that would preclude the committee from hearing the matter.

The matter was then brought before the committee, Mr. Speaker, but the majority of members of the committee, of course, voted not to hear the issue, so, in fact, the only recourse left to me, therefore, was to advise Your Honour, by way of a point of personal privilege, that my privileges, as a member of that committee and as a member of this House, have been prejudiced by the fact that I, and other members of the committee, have not been given an opportunity.

Now, Your Honour, as Chairman of that committee, of course, it is for me to replace Your Honour in committees. The Chairman of the committee basically acts as Mr. Speaker and chairs the committee, and when a question arises it is my responsibility, of course, to determine, if I can, what the legal implications are. I have to advise Your Honour that I did consult the Clerk of the House on that occasion and was given considerable references to the issue, some of which I have quoted to Your Honour here today, and referred to Your Honour here today, and it was the clear understanding from the Clerk, at the time, the Law Clerk who also advises committees, that there was no reason whatsoever that the committee should not proceed.

Admittedly, that is the advice of the Clerk, and the House or committees are not bound to take the advice of the Clerk, but we had a very clear opinion from the Clerk and, in the face of that, the committee voted against proceeding with this particular matter.

So, Your Honour, I submit that my rights and privileges as a member have been severely hampered by this procedure, as they have been of other members, and if Your Honour is prepared to find that I have a valid point, then I am prepared to enter the appropriate motion and to continue debate.

Thank you, Your Honour.

MR. SPEAKER: If I may, I might ask the hon. member a few questions so I understand exactly the detail we are dealing with before I hear from the hon. member.

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, I would like to say a few words if I might.

The hon. gentleman has obviously done a great deal of exhaustive research. Now, I had no notice this was coming up, nor to my knowledge, did any member on this side. I am certainly completely unable to respond to any of what he said in the sense of dealing with the endless, exhaustive and exhausting citations and so forth.

I am not sure, with respect, it would be proper for Your Honour to enter into a discussion by means of question. I am not sure that is the function of the Chair in this situation.

Your Honour, my understanding is that the procedure with respect to privilege is that one makes a brief statement and asks if it is a prima facie case. We have had about a half-an-hour-worth of speech which I didn't interrupt. I am not sure whether I should have, or could have, but I chose not to; but I must say, I do think it is an abuse of the privileges of all of this House to subject us to half-an-hour of this kind of material when a brief statement is what is required. I would like, though, to say one or two things in response to some of the points made by my friend.

First, let me tell him that my comment with respect to that statement made, I believe, by a Committee of the Commons, that judges never look at what is said in Legislatures, was that it was a statement that was made by that committee, presumably believing it was true, but the statement is false. I need go no further than an act passed by this House in 1980 called The Upper Churchill Reversion Act. I may have the name of it wrong, but when that act was tested on a reference made by the then government led by Mr. Peckford, in the Court of Appeal and eventually on appeal in the Supreme Court of Canada, in each case, the judges who heard the matter not only referred to the debates in this House, and material produced by the government, but used them as the basis to destroy the act.

Brian Peckford destroyed the Upper Churchill Reversion Act by his own words here in this House of Assembly, so if the hon. gentleman - he was, I think, part of that government - thinks for a moment that courts do not make reference to what is said in legislatures, he is living, I fear, in a fool's paradise, but that is really by the bye. Let me just come back to the substance of it.

I know nothing of the proceedings of the PAC. I am not a member of the committee and I have not sat in on any of its hearings. I will leave it to my friend for Eagle River, who is the Vice-Chairman of the committee, to address what went on or what didn't go on. But I can make two points: the first is that my advice to my colleague was that, as this matter was before the courts, it would have been inappropriate for the committee, in my judgement, to enter into a discussion of it. That is my advice, be it right or wrong. I took the advice, not on my own, I took the advice, obviously, after consultation with my solicitors and the lawyers who are addressing these matters for me; but let there be no doubt, my colleague was acting on my advice. That is one of my roles around here, to provide advice to the members of the government. Secondly, I can say a word about the sub judice rule: it is only a convention, as my hon. friend for Mount Pearl quite properly said, nonetheless, it is one that must be taken seriously in both criminal and civil matters. I am not able to get into the merits of it now because I haven't done the research on it. I am not going to try to scrabble around in Beauchesne or in these other authorities and find references at this stage, but it is a rule that must be taken seriously, all the moreso because we, here in a Parliament - and this is a Parliament in the eyes of the law - because we, here in parliament, have a protected privileged right of speech. It is sometimes abused, in my view. If the hon. gentleman for Grand Bank had said outside the House what he said inside the House, on statements of fact, he could have been called to account before the courts of the land.

MR. TOBIN: Maybe you will have to explain your actions (inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: I am sorry, I would gladly explain my actions, Mr. Speaker, anywhere, anytime, any place.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. ROBERTS: Let me say that the sub judice rule is one which, in my judgement, ought to be taken seriously.

Now, Mr. Speaker, let me go on to deal with the matter of privilege, which is the matter before the Chair now. Beauchesne attempts to define privilege - the citations are 24 and 25, on pages 11 and 12. I am reading, of course, from the current edition, which, if memory serves me, is the Sixth, by Allister Fraser, an old colleague of mine, and Professor Dawson and Mr. Holtby. "Parliamentary privilege is the sum of the peculiar rights enjoyed by each House collectively as a constituent part of the High Court of Parliament, and by Members of each House individually, without which they could not discharge their functions and which exceed those possessed by other bodies or individuals." They are the same theme, that we must treat these rights with great care.

I will go to the end of the second paragraph I cited, Mr. Speaker, on page 12. I am citing here the Speaker in 1971, Mr. Speaker Lamoureux, if memory serves me, but memory may have failed me. Anyway, whoever was the Speaker of the Commons in 1971 said, `In my view, parliamentary privilege does not go much beyond the right of free speech in the House of Commons and the right of a Member to discharge his duties in the House as a Member of the House of Commons.' Now, that is what privilege is. We all have highfalutin knowledge, we sometimes get carried away with our own importance in this House, not realizing that we are only here for a short time and for a specific purpose. There is nothing in what was done by the PAC, in my understanding, Mr. Speaker, that amounts to a breach of the privileges of either an individual member of the House or the House as a whole. What the committee did, in my understanding, is vote by a majority; having heard advice tendered by my colleague, the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation, they voted by a majority not to deal with a certain matter at this time.

Now, Mr. Speaker, in my submission, the committee have every right to make such a motion if they wish, and the members have every right to adopt it if they wish, and it then takes the status of any other motion adopted by the majority acting within their proper parameters of authority. My friend for Mount Pearl made the point that the committee is master of its own affairs, and here, of course, his argument collapses completely because he simply meets himself coming around the corner and he doesn't like what he should see.

The role of the Chair is to decide if it is a prima facie point of privilege, in my understanding. There isn't, because all that happened was that the committee decided not to deal with a matter. That doesn't affect anybody's privileges. My hon. friend gave us a long disposition on the sub judice rule. The disposition may be valid or it may not be valid, but it is irrelevant to the point before the Chair. If my hon. friend wants to comment and wants to submit that the committee had no business adopting such a motion - if he said the motion were out of order or it were beyond their authority as a committee then, Mr. Speaker, there might be a matter of privilege, but in my submission, the committee was acting squarely and clearly within its authority and, as my friend for Mount Pearl said, the Committee is master of its own affairs, as is each committee of this House.

I might not like what a majority of a committee do. I have had an example today of something a committee does that I may find a little difficult to accept, but committees have the right to do these things.

AN HON. MEMBER: Do you go along with (inaudible)?

MR. ROBERTS: I beg your pardon?

AN HON. MEMBER: Do you go along with (inaudible)?

MR. ROBERTS: I will go along with any proper advice by the Committee, but advice that is ill-founded I will not accept, nor will the government.

Mr. Speaker, in effect, what my hon. friend for Mount Pearl is doing is asking the House, in the guise of a privilege motion, to decide a matter of policy, not one of privilege. He is simply challenging the decision of a majority in the Committee. He has every right to do so but there are proper means to do it. When the Committee's report comes before the House, as it will and must, there will be an opportunity to debate it, if he wishes. We do not debate the committee's report, as a rule, but there is a motion to deal with a committee's report, and we can deal with it. There is the supply procedure. There are any number of ways that my hon. friend, within the rules, can challenge the decision of a majority of the PAC.

The way he cannot challenge it, in my submission, is by raising a point a privilege, or seeking to raise one. In my submission, Mr. Speaker, without getting at all into the merits of the sub judice rule, or anything else, the matter can be decided very simply by looking at the pith and essence of what went on. The Committee, by a majority, decided not to deal with a topic of this kind. That is my understanding. My friend for Eagle River, the vice-chairman of the Committee, confirms that. That is not a matter of privilege, Sir, that is a matter of debate, a matter of policy. It doesn't affect the privileges of my friend for Mount Pearl, any other member of the Committee, the Committee as a whole, or the House as a whole.

I accordingly, Your Honour, would request and submit that you rule that my hon. friend has not met the hurdle of establishing that a prima facie point of privilege exists and that the matter ought to be allowed to go forward.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Eagle River.

MR. DUMARESQUE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I think it would be useful for all members of the House to understand the proceedings of the committee and how this issue came to be as it is today. I want to submit at the outset that there is no point of privilege. I would use the words of the Chair as the basis for that submission, and that is that the committee does have a mandate to be master of its own affairs.

I was a member of the committee, and so was the Member for Mount Pearl, who was actually the chairman of the committee, when I was an ordinary member a year-and-a-half or so ago, when the committee met to discuss this very issue. This chairman of the committee, and the committee itself, unanimously decided that while this issue was before the courts, the committee did not have the right, and certainly made the decision not to proceed with any public hearings on the issue. That was a decision that was made for all the right reasons at that particular time and endorsed unanimously by the committee, obviously with the consent of the chairman.

In June of this year, we met again and decided to map out a schedule for our hearings, and we put this issue back on the agenda, because, at the time, the court ruled on an injunction. Therefore, it was assumed at the time by members of the committee on our side, and I assumed, for the members on the other side, that because the injunction was out of the way there were no further legal proceedings on the matter before the courts. Therefore, we proceeded to schedule a public hearing on this issue.

It wasn't until a short while before that public hearing was scheduled that the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation notified the committee, through me, that yes, indeed, he had been notified by the Department of Justice that there were two outstanding matters before the courts, and therefore, I had the responsibility, as a member of the committee which made the original decision, to then go back and say that we would follow the same rules. There was nothing different, at that point in time, from what it was the previous year when the issue first came up. Then we made the appropriate motion - not to say that this issue would never, ever be discussed, but we said, in line with the precedent that we had established unanimously by the committee, we would now follow the same logic and not have any public hearings on the issue until the proceedings were finished at the court level.

Mr. Speaker, that is the position that we have taken. We have certainly done nothing to interfere with the privileges of the Member for Mount Pearl, or any member of this House. Any member of this House may get up at Question Period, or at any time during the proceedings of the House, and indicate his feelings on this issue, or ask questions of the government on this issue, so we have certainly done nothing to that. All we have done is abide by the precedent that we established unanimously by the committee, follow the same logic today, and the reason that we did schedule the hearings, Mr. Speaker, was because we had assumed, and were not told, that there were any proceedings before the court.

So, Mr. Speaker, there is certainly no point of privilege and we fully intend to have this issue heard at the appropriate time. I am sure that the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation will be only too happy to co-operate with us when the time comes to do this, in line with the advice that the Department of Justice has given him and his ministry.

Mr. Speaker, with that background, I would hope that all members would understand that we have certainly done nothing, as members of the committee on the government side, to circumvent the rules and take away any of the privileges of any members of the hon. House or members of the Public Accounts Committee.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. WINDSOR: Could I just make a very brief response, Your Honour?


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. WINDSOR: Your Honour has been very patient, and hon. members, and I just want to very briefly respond to the point the hon. the Member for Eagle River and the hon. the Government House Leader have made - the matter before the courts.

The original decision by the committee to defer, because the matter was before the courts, was one that I agreed with at the time, even though, in cases of civil matters, even when the issue is before the courts we don't necessarily have to preclude ourselves from speaking.

At this particular point in time, Your Honour, there is no matter before the courts, and Your Honour is learned in law and knows more about these issues than I do. The matter is simply a Statement of Claim made. No court date has been set. We don't even know if the matter, in fact, will ever come to trial, and I sought legal advice on that, Your Honour, so there is a clear distinction here about the fact that this matter is not before the courts, nor will we expect it to be before the courts for some time.

That is precisely why we have so many references here in Beauchesne, saying that in civil matters, members should not be precluded from debating those issues at least until - and even then not necessarily so, but at least until - the matter is before the court, and actually in court, on trial, Your Honour. This matter is a long way from coming to trial.

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

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, I will be very brief.

Because the hon. gentleman did not -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I am having a little trouble hearing the hon. member speak.

MR. ROBERTS: Because the hon. the Member for Mount Pearl did not give me notice of this matter - and he has no obligation to do so, it is only a courtesy that one would expect, and there is no obligation, but because he did not, I have no detailed knowledge of this. It has been some time since I saw a dossier dealing with this file. I don't know the status of the pleadings, to use the technical term.

I gather, from what he said, that a Statement of Claim has been issued. I don't know whether a defence has been filed. I know nothing at all except I have a recollection that the advice I gave was as I told the House earlier.

I am not sure what turns on that, Mr. Speaker, because the important point here is not the sub judice rule, I suggest. The important point is the fact that the hon. gentleman simply doesn't like a decision of a committee of the House - a decision which, in my submission, was properly taken and within the parameters of the authority of that committee.

Should, however, something turn on this question of the status of pleadings I would suggest, with respect, that Your Honour make enquiries, either through Your Clerk or by means of members, as you prefer. I would point out there is nothing before the House, Mr. Speaker, with respect to that matter at all, the status of the pleadings. I am told, for example, by my friend for Eagle River, that the status of the lawsuit is precisely the same now as it was a year ago.


MR. ROBERTS: Well, I get two members, neither of whom is a lawyer, making comments on legal matters. If something turns on it, let's get the facts and let's deal with it. In my submission -

MR. WINDSOR: (Inaudible)!

MR. ROBERTS: I'm sorry?

MR. WINDSOR: (Inaudible) Chairman of the Committee, I got the facts and (inaudible)!

MR. ROBERTS: The hon. gentleman, Mr. Speaker, gets sullen, surly and difficult. I listened to him with great patience. Let him listen to me with patience, or impatience, as he might prefer to do.

What I want to say is I, with respect, will not take my legal advice from the gentleman for Mount Pearl. I may or may not take advice from him on other matters, but I certainly will not take my legal advice from him.

Mr. Speaker, my submission again is that the matter is simply a complaint about a decision of a committee rather than a point of privilege. I will let the matter stand there, Sir.

MR. SPEAKER: If I may -


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

MR. SIMMS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I just wanted to make a brief submission in support of the argument put forth by my colleague, the Member for Mount Pearl. Especially in view of the fact there have been three submissions by that side, so I thought I would try to even it off.

I just want to make a brief comment on the issue of matters that are sub judice. I know I'm not a lawyer, but I know from past experience in the Chair when I was Speaker that there was always a convention about not allowing questions that were perceived or were in fact sub judice before the courts, and as Beauchesne says, in the 6th edition himself, paragraph 505:

"The purpose of this sub judice convention is to protect the parties in a case awaiting or undergoing trial and persons who stand to be affected by the outcome of a judicial inquiry."

I always interpreted that to mean you need to take a look at the specific topic or the specific issue that is being raised. Whether it is a matter of a criminal nature is one thing, but if it is not, and it is a civil case, then as Beauchesne again says in paragraph 507, "... the convention does not apply..." in the case of civil cases, at least "...until the matter has reached the trial stage."

I think the point of privilege raised by the Member for Mount Pearl deserves, and I'm sure it will get, serious consideration. Considerable thought will be given to it. Because it is a serious matter that he has raised. Not simply the question of the privilege, but the question of the issue itself is a matter that we have been trying to get at for quite some time, as Your Honour would know, observing, but which we have had a lot of difficulty with. We've not been able to get answers on this issue that have been satisfactory. In recent months the reasons for not getting those answers given to us by the government, the Ministry, have always been: because the matter is sub judice and we can't respond to those kinds of questions.

We would argue that is not a strong argument, and I hope that Your Honour will give serious consideration to the point of privilege put forth by the Member for Mount Pearl.

MR. SPEAKER: If I may say, I think the hon. Member for Mount Pearl raised an important question relating to the matter of freedom of speech of members. I point out that, as the hon. Government House Leader says, that because of the nature of the sub judice convention I would want to have exact knowledge of what the status of the pleadings were.

I take it from hon. members that there were proceedings. The question of injunction appears to have come up sometime in the last year and a half and was resolved before October. Injunctions are preliminary matters in courts of law. I presume what the hon. member says is correct, but the Member for Eagle River says as well that there were two matters before the courts touching on this, and I presume they are civil, or whatever. The problem I have is that I have to presume, I don't know. I think for me to make an appropriate ruling I would need to know, because of the points the hon. member raised with respect to the distinction between civil and criminal. There appears to be a different test.

The other thing as well, and I think it is an important issue here, is that most of what you have cited relates to matters in the House itself, as opposed to matters in committee, and I will also have to consider what if any direction I am able to give to committees, and as the hon. Government House Leader says, whether or not the Committee has jurisdiction solely in these matters and so on.

This is a substantial matter. By Standing Order 15 I am directed to take into account matters of privileges immediately., However, I think in fairness to all parties I need to know the exact state of the legal matters, and I think the rest of it seems fairly clear after that. So if I could leave it perhaps to the two House Leaders to advise me - I don't think it is proper for me to go on a fact-finding mission - but if you could take it and maybe -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) Your Honour.

MR. SPEAKER: Yes, that is just a matter of fact. It could be resolved between the two sides I should say and then from that point, I will take it and certainly -

AN HON. MEMBER: A point of order, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: At that point, I will then take it under advisement and will advise the House accordingly.

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. ROBERTS: Thank you, Your Honour.

For our part, of course we consent to your taking whatever time you need to deal with the matter properly and I am sure my hon. friend opposite will.

Mr. Speaker, the government is party to these proceedings. I will get copies of the pleadings and submit them to you and -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: Fine. My hon. friend can submit them too, but I will get copies of the pleadings and have them sent to you and Your Honour can then take such further steps as you deem appropriate.

MR. SPEAKER: Yes, and as I say, I think I would need to know the status of the pleadings at the time that decision was made, which is really the point on which the question arose and that appears to be October 12 or 13 of this year, so -

MR. WINDSOR: I can give you copies of these. These were provided by the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation, to me, Your Honour, in response to a request.

MR. SPEAKER: Well, I think just sending the copies of the pleadings would not be entirely helpful, I think we need to know from the court record where matters stood at that point in time, because as the hon. Member for Mount Pearl suggests, there may be a different application rule depending on whether or not the matter is at trial.

MR. WINDSOR: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Okay, thank you.

Answers to Questions

For which Notice has been Given

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations.

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would just like to table, in response to a question yesterday from the Leader of the Opposition, with respect to the planning for the Strategic Social Plan for the government. I have the list of names of the planning group. They have been meeting regularly since they were constituted just about a year ago and they are following a parallel process to what was done to develop the draft of the Strategic Economic Plan, which will then go out for public discussion.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Social Services.

MR. LUSH: Mr. Speaker, I want to table the answers to a couple of questions raised by the hon. the Member for Bonavista South specifically relating to investigators, questions relating to what numbers of charges, I think, were fraudulent charges; also, questions relating to whether there was a code of behaviour for investigators and a couple of questions I think relating to some other matters. In any event I table the responses.


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

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, I should like to present a petition that has been signed by 1,773 citizens of the Upper Lake Melville area. Hon. gentlemen and ladies will acknowledge that this is a very sizeable proportion indeed of the residents of the communities of Happy Valley - Goose Bay, Sheshatshu, North West River and Mud Lake. I understand that similar petitions will be coming from other places in Labrador. I suspect my friend from Menihek has one signed by many people in Western Labrador. I know my friend from Eagle River and my friend from Torngat Mountains, had petitions -


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. ROBERTS: - signed by their constituents, all relating to the same subject.

The prayer of the petition, Mr. Speaker, is succinct and it sets out the position of the petitioners very clearly, so if I may, I shall simply read it:

To the hon. House of Assembly and Parliament assembled, the petition of the undersigned residents of the District of Naskaupi, humbly showeth:

WHEREAS health care services which are a provincial government responsibility are below the provincial standard in Labrador as compared to health care services provided on the Island;

WHEREAS Labrador residents are transported by air at considerable expense to health care facilities in St. Anthony and St. John's for most surgery and specialist care and treatment; and

WHEREAS Labrador residents have only approximately 250 of the approximately 800 positions under the Grenfell Regional Health Services Board, - I add the word 'Board', it is not there but it should be - and obviously are not receiving their fair share of health care tax dollars from government;

Wherefore, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador begin immediate development of a Regional Health Care Centre for Labrador residents to be located in Happy Valley - Goose Bay, and government appoint a health care board from amongst Labrador residents, separate completely from GRHS Board and as in duty bound, your petitioners will ever pray.

It has been signed as I said, Mr. Speaker, by 1,773 and of course I have signed it in the appropriate fashion and made the appropriate certificate in accordance with the rules. If I may say a few words, Mr. Speaker, both as a member of the ministry and as the Member for Naskaupi. First, Mr. Speaker, I want to say very clearly that government are determined to improve health care services in Labrador, as throughout the Province. We acknowledge readily there are deficiencies and we are trying to address them. Only a fool would pretend that things are perfect and there are no fools on this side of the House, Mr. Speaker. There may be one on the other side as the hon. Lady makes clear.

Secondly, Mr. Speaker, the governance of health care institutions in Northern Newfoundland and Labrador is a matter that is very much current. My colleague the Minister of Health has addressed that in recent days and if he chooses to speak in this presentation, as I hope he will, I would ask him to address that matter again. Thirdly, Mr. Speaker, we acknowledge the need -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: I am sorry, the Member for Grand Falls is being -

MR. SIMMS: Shut up I am not talking to you.

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, the hon. gentleman from Grand Falls -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. SIMMS: There is nobody talking to you.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, the hon. gentleman for Grand Falls is being rude as well as dyspeptic. Mr. Speaker, the hon. gentleman from Grand Falls has sat in this House for seventeen undistinguished years and he now feels he can interrupt somebody who has the floor. Mr. Speaker, we expect better than that from somebody who has been Speaker -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I am having trouble hearing the hon. member.

Order, please!

On both sides of the House.

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, let me carry on without the rudeness of the gentleman from Grand Falls, which is one of the reasons he is where he is and will be there. Mr. Speaker, we in the ministry acknowledge the need for the new Melville Hospital, have identified it as a priority and intend to provide it.

Let me conclude, Mr. Speaker, by saying that I can assure all of those who signed the petition, and anybody else who lives in Labrador, that there views will be taken into the balance in coming to this decision. We are committed to consultation and again I will ask my friend the Health Minister to address it. I recently met - together with two of my colleagues - with a group in Labrador West to talk about governance. The committee representing the Jackman Hospital Board - they subsequently sent me a brief, or they gave us a brief. I believe my friend from Menihek has seen a copy of it. It is a very good brief. We consult widely and this petition, Sir, is part of the process and I have no doubt will make a substantive contribution to it.

Thank you, Sir.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for, Menihek.

MR. A. SNOW: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

The original name of course of the electoral district was Labrador West. So the Speaker can be forgiven for making that slip of the tongue.

Mr. Speaker, I speak in support -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. A. SNOW: Maybe, maybe. Small `l' Liberal, it won't be a capital `L' Liberal coming from Western Labrador for many, many years to come as an elected representative here in the Provincial Assembly, I don't think.

But anyway, Mr. Speaker, speaking in support of this petition that was signed by some 1700 residents of the electoral district of Naskaupi, mainly residents of Happy Valley - Goose Bay, Sheshatshu, North West River and Mud Lake. Mr. Speaker, I support the petition and as the Government House Leader has suggested, the residents of Western Labrador - the residents of Labrador City and Wabush - they too have requested that a petition be presented in this House on the very same issue. I will be presenting that particular petition but all the residents of Labrador are very concerned about the reform of the health care system that is occurring throughout the Province and more specifically, in Labrador, Mr. Speaker.

The prayer of this particular petition suggests that one of the things that should be done, Mr. Speaker, is that a recognition be given to the amount of the economic package that health care pertains to, be considered, Mr. Speaker, in other words, along with health care. While we must be concerned about the quality of the health care that is being delivered to the people, the people of Western Labrador also recognize - or the people that signed this particular petition recognize that it is an economic input to the community derived from having health care facilities located within certain jurisdictions, Mr. Speaker.

Witness what is occurring here in the employment levels in St. John's because of the regional nature of the services provided by the Capital City, whether it be health care, education, policing or whatever, Mr. Speaker. So that is what some of the residents of Naskaupi that signed this particular petition were concerned about, the economic accrual that could benefit the people of Labrador. The people who will be receiving the medical care that is necessary, they also want the economic benefits that accrue from it, whereas now they see the economic benefits being spun off onto the Island portion of the Province, i.e. St. Anthony, Mr. Speaker.

People in my particular district, I would think, also think in a very similar fashion. They are also very concerned, in my district, with the amount of consultation that has been taking place, and they want to have more consultation. I understand that the hon. the Government House Leader did meet with representatives from the hospital and it was a very frank and open discussion, and it was a good meeting. I understand from the other people who attended the meeting that they were pleased with it also.

Mr. Speaker, I just today had a discussion with some of the media in Western Labrador with regard to when the Department of Health is going to move on the reorganization of the health care in Labrador. They would like to see this issue resolved, and they are very concerned about the quality of health care - not just the economic accrual to the area, but how the quality of health care is going to be improved in Labrador, because we definitely do not want to see - while the administration is important, the quality of health care is what we must ensure has to be improved.

So I support the petition and I look forward to the minister urging his colleague, the hon. the Minister of Health, to move on this particular matter and ensure that the residents of Labrador get fair treatment and consideration when they talk about delivery of government services to Labrador people.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

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

DR. KITCHEN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The issue here is governance of the health care system in Labrador, and is part of a province-wide discussion that is ongoing as to how best to govern our very complex health care system in the Province, with its twenty-five or so hospital boards, and its twenty-five or so nursing home boards, and its eighty-odd personal care homes, and its multitude of organizations.

We are looking at all of this, but in the reorganization of hospitals and nursing homes we set out a pattern, and the pattern is fairly clear. We wanted to do St. John's and get it over with first because of the rather large obstacles that might be here. We are at that. We have decided to set up one board to govern the health care institutions in St. John's, which also provide tertiary care services to other parts of the Province.

We have decided to set up two boards in Central Newfoundland. Our next move is to another area which desperately needs attention, and that is the eastern region. We have had proposals from the western region of the Island, and our plan is to then hold further discussions in Labrador and the rest of the northern region, which includes the northern part of the Northern Peninsula.

I have had very preliminary meetings with people in Labrador during my visits to the hospitals there, and discussions with boards in Labrador West, and officials and other people in the Goose Bay area and in St. Anthony. I realize the issues that are there, but I certainly want to hold further discussions at the appropriate time, and the appropriate time will be probably early winter.

That is the way it looks at the moment, so we are looking forward very much to holding these discussions and receiving input from the people of Labrador on this point.

Thank you.

Orders of the Day

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

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, before we go any further, I move that the House do not adjourn at 5:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER: All those in favour of the motion, `aye'.


MR. SPEAKER: Contra-minded, `nay'.


MR. SPEAKER: Carried.

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, we had originally arrived at an order in which we would ask the House to address bills, but my friend from Ferryland, who speaks for the Opposition on health matters, I understand, has run into some health problems himself. I hope he is better at solving these than he is at some others, so we will certainly agree to accommodate the hon. gentlemen opposite.

I will suggest that we first deal in the order with Bill No. 38, which is Order 23; Bill No. 40, which is Order 24; and Bill No. 35, which is Order 26. When that has been dealt with by then my friend for Grand Bank and I will have met behind Your Chair, Sir, and we shall then either do the three bills that are health related or we shall ask the House to address a number of the Committee stages. Members of the Opposition may want to be here because we will deal with these amendments that went through the Government Services Committee today. We will be happy to address those here.

Before we go on though, Mr. Speaker, may I ask if you would first call Motions 1 and 2. When they are disposed of would you be good enough please to call Bill 38, Order 23, for a second reading debate.

Motion, the hon. the Minister of Justice to introduce a bill, "An Act To Amend The Automobile Insurance Act," carried. (Bill No. 58)

On motion, Bill No. 58 read a first time, ordered read a second time on tomorrow.

Motion, the hon. the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations to introduce a bill, "An Act To Amend The Occupational Health And Safety Act," carried. (Bill No. 59)

On motion, Bill No. 59 read a first time, ordered read a second time on tomorrow.

MR. SPEAKER: Order 23.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Repeal The Youth Advisory Council Act". (Bill No. 38)

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

MR. DECKER: Yes, Mr. Speaker. This is simply a minor bit of house keeping. The Youth Advisory Council has not been receiving any funding for a number of years and for all intents and purposes it has become inactive, so it is rather useless to have the Act on the book if it is no longer being used. The Bill is very self-explanatory. I move second reading.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Waterford - Kenmount.

MR. HODDER: Mr. Speaker, I just have a few comments on the Bill. I think it is regrettable that the Youth Advisory Council has become inactive. I think that it calls into question the government's commitment to youth. I do believe that we have to seek every opportunity we can have to involve youth in the governance of youth affairs. At a time when there are profound economic and social changes occurring in Newfoundland society I do believe that we should be doing more to find ways in which we can access programs that will permit youth to be involved in youth related affairs.

The message that this repeal gives to the young people of this Province is that they don't seem to matter, that they don't have a voice, and in a way this repeal is the final insult that comes after some years of inactivity on behalf of the Youth Advisory Council. Certainly it is contrary to the thrust and to the theme of the Royal Commission on Education where we have Our Children, Our Future. In that connection we should make a commitment that we should find ways in which we can access the talents that our young people have.

For example, in the City of Mount Pearl, where I served as mayor for some years, we have a youth advisory council that functions quite well there. The members are elected from among their peers, an open election conducted with notice. Many of these young people go to various civic events. They advise the council on youth related activities and they represent the voice of youth on recreation matters. These are leadership roles in the community and certainly in this particular case we find that the involvement of these young people adds an extra dimension to the quality of life that the people of Mount Pearl enjoy. They actively participate in running the youth centres, the Reid Community Centre, the Kenmount Park Neighbourhood Centre, just to name two.

In our school system we have youth councils and when we talk about youth councils we talk about democracy, we talk about involvement, we talk about role models. These are all roles and avenues where young people can show examples to their peers. A very important role in the school system is that of peer counselling, and certainly if we were to look at the Youth Advisory Council, and look at its potential for peer counselling alone, this would be a good reason why we should keep it going.

We all know that each year the provincial government receives approximately $80 million from its taxes on alcohol but in this particular case we find that none of that money, or very little of it, is used to help those young people who have alcohol and drug dependency problems, and if there is one great, tremendous, overwhelming problem in schools today, particularly senior high schools and other institutions where you find great numbers of young people, is the problem of alcohol. We have to encourage young people to continue to be volunteers in the community. We have to find ways in which we can access their talents, and by not activating the Youth Advisory Council for some years indicates a change of commitment. You see, Mr. Speaker, the true spirit of youth lies in the respect we have for our children. In this particular case children deserve involvement, they deserve a chance to participate, and perhaps we should not be communicating that we do not really care about their voice or their opinion by simply putting in place institutions like the Youth Advisory Council and then not giving it the support it needs to make it function properly.

Mr. Speaker, for the young people of this Province the lack of action in the Youth Advisory Council is a regressive step, and at a time when young people are looking for ways in which they can be positively and actively involved in their communities we have to find more ways not to close off avenues of participation.

Thank you, very much, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. W. MATTHEWS: I thought the minister was going to give some explanation to the member.

MS. VERGE: He is getting up to bow.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: I just want to make a few comments because this Act To Repeal The Youth Advisory Council is most regressive, as the Member for Mount Pearl said. It is quite ironic for me, I guess, to be here today to speak on An Act To Repeal The Youth Advisory Council Act, being a former Minister of Culture, Recreation and Youth, a department that had the Youth Services Division, a very positive pro-active division for youth in this Province. Every day when I was Minister of Culture, Recreation and Youth I was doing something positive for some group or youth organization throughout the Province. I remember very well serving in the government benches as a minister and the questions and attacks that used to come, particularly from the Member for Stephenville at that time who was the critic for that department. It is too bad he is not here today. I do not see him here. Because almost every week that member would be up in his place talking about youth unemployment, talking about the need for more dollars to fund youth organizations and agencies throughout the Province, and what a strong advocate he was of the Youth Advisory Council.

The other member back in those days who used to rise very regularly to speak in support of youth was the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology. Almost every second day the same line. There were two members in the Opposition at that time who consistently talked about the needs of youth in our Province, and how that terrible government of the day was not doing enough for youth in our Province.

I say, Mr. Speaker, how ironic, and how regrettable, that the minister, when I asked him, when he got up to introduce the Bill, I asked him when he said: funds have been cut to the Youth Advisory Council now for a number of years. I said to the minister: how many years ago was it that funding to the Youth Advisory Council was cut? As a matter of fact, I think the Member for Mount Pearl might be very right, that in 1989, in the first Budget, when this Party came to power -

MS. VERGE: They had a surplus on current account.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Yes, a $5 or $10 million surplus they doctored the books to show, as we now know. At the same time, they cut funding to the Youth Advisory Council, and here we have the minister today now coming in here with An Act To Repeal The Youth Advisory Council Act.

I just say those few words just to refresh the memories of the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation who sat in the Opposition benches in those days, and to refresh the memory of the Member for Fogo, who used to so loudly applaud his colleagues, the Members for Stephenville and St. Barbe, and the Minister of Social Services, who was then in Opposition, and of course the Minister of Education himself. He was there. How concerned they were then for youth in this Province, how the hundreds of thousands of dollars that the then-government budgeted to youth was not enough.

Now what have they done? They've given youth the boot. Youth unemployment in the Province is at an all-time high. Unemployment in the Province - my God, what was the figure? It was so frightening it....

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Over 60 per cent.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Sixty per cent unemployed in the Province. But now everything is alright. It is quite alright now to do away with the Youth Advisory Council, to shut down the youth services division. Quite alright. How the tune has changed, Mr. Speaker.

I just wanted to make those few remarks because as minister of the day at the time I can remember so well the attacks from members opposite when they were the Opposition, how we weren't doing enough for youth. At those times we were going through hard financial times as well. But here we are now repealing the Youth Advisory Council Act. I just wanted to make those remarks to put them on the public record, to just remind members opposite how much they change when they become the government.

As I said today on the public airwaves of the Province, in reaction to what the federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans said yesterday, that how Liberals say one thing during an election campaign and do just the opposite once they are elected. That means all Liberals. They preach one thing during an election campaign, but give them a month under their belt in power and they go in the opposite direction. They are doing the same thing now with the youth of the Province, I say.

MR. SPEAKER (L. Snow): The hon. the Minister of Education if he speaks now will close the debate.

The hon. the Minister of Education.

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, I wish to thank hon. members for the stimulating debate, for the fantastic, overwhelming recommendations that have come from the other side of the House. I wish to assure them that all of their suggestions and all of their moaning and groaning and complaining, all of that, will be taken into consideration.

I want to especially thank the hon. Member for Waterford - Kenmount for giving us a history lesson in the way he ran the council in Mount Pearl. That is extremely relevant to this Bill and I would certainly make arrangement for the hon. member, if he so wished, to maybe teach several seminars, so that all members of this House

can learn about the great and noble way that he ran the City of Mount Pearl when he was there as the mayor, and I would certainly like to have him take advantage of signing up in advance so that I can attend these seminars.

The hon. Member for Grand Bank gets up and obviously confuses the Youth Advisory Council with the Division of Youth Services in the Department of Education - two totally different things, Mr. Speaker. Grants are still being given out left, right and centre. All over this Province youth associations are receiving funding. As a matter of fact, I just signed a letter to someone - where was that - in Upper Island Cove, I believe -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. DECKER: Is that your district?


MR. DECKER: Just signed one for Upper Island Cove, telling them that a grant has been approved for the Boys and Girls Club. So every day when I am sitting here, studiously going over my affairs, I am signing letters to the various youth organizations throughout the Province, advising them that grants have been made available - $1,000; $2,000; in some case $15,000. We do not have to take second place to anyone when it comes to caring for the youth of this Province, Mr. Speaker. I will tell the hon. member that, and I will advise him not to get confused with the Youth Advisory Council and the Division of Youth Services in the Department of Education.

Mr. Speaker, there are a lot of other things I could say, but I will spare the Opposition the embarrassment as to getting into all the reasons why we cannot make more money available to the youth. I will spare them today. I happen to be in a good mood.

Having said these few words, I move second reading.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Repeal The Youth Advisory Council Act," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House on tomorrow. (Bill No. 38)

AN HON. MEMBER: Order 24, Mr. Speaker.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Repeal Certain Obsolete And Spent Statutes". (Bill No. 40)

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

MR. EFFORD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

This is going to bring the Opposition to their feet when I am finished. I am glad to see my hon. friend from St. John's East back in the House of Assembly, because after I spend a few minutes explaining this Bill he is going to be caught up for the rest of the afternoon in this particular Bill.

Bill No. 40, An Act To Repeal Certain Obsolete And Spent Statutes - it is complicated, and difficult to understand, but I am sure the hon. the Member for St. John's East will absorb it as we go along.

What it is, Mr. Speaker, is just basically house cleaning on this particular Bill. There were a number of committees, corporations, set up during the 1960's when they were building different hospitals around the Province. For example, Bell Island Hospital Corporation Limited set up in 1963, BLC Building Corporation Limited, 1965, the Grace Hospital Extension, Northern Hospitals Building Corporation Limited, 1963 and so on. The St. John's Infirmary Building Corporation Limited was set up in 1963 also. All of these particular corporations were set up through the fund-raising for these particular bills.

These buildings have been built back in the sixties. The mortgages have been paid off, and now we are asking permission to repeal all of these pieces of legislation.

As I said, Mr. Speaker, it is just basically house cleaning in the Department of Works, Services and Transportation.

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

MS. VERGE: What I cannot understand is why the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation allowed his name to be printed on this Bill under the heading, under the label `obsolete and spent'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS. VERGE: Mr. Speaker, that label would have fit perfectly the Government House Leader.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS. VERGE: But the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation, while he has been rather silent lately, when he was on the back bench, was outspoken and feisty. He was speaking out from one end of the Province to the other on behalf of the downtrodden fisherpersons. When he came to the House of Assembly and served in Opposition, he was on his feet every day lambasting the government, speaking up for the oppressed young offenders. Now, Mr. Speaker, he has been reduced to admitting defeat and calling himself 'obsolete and spent'. What a downfall, Mr. Speaker, I cannot understand it. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation.

If the hon. the Minister speaks now he will close the debate.

MR. EFFORD: There goes my weekend in Corner Brook. There goes all my dreams, my plans and my fantasies all gone down the drain. I will only ask the hon. Member for Humber East one thing, to wear your red dress tomorrow night at the party and I will be there. I will be there with you. Total disappointment - I am soon going to be middle aged, total disappointment. I can't take this.

Anyhow, Mr. Speaker, I won't take up any more time in this hon. House. I admit to saying that. The next time I will bring in some better information but I do move second reading on this Bill.

On motion, a Bill, "An Act To Repeal Certain Obsolete and Spent Statutes," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House on tomorrow. (Bill No. 40).

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

MR. DECKER: Order 26, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Did I understand the hon. Minister of Education, Order 26?

MR. DECKER: Order 26, Bill No. 35.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Department of Social Services Act". (Bill No. 35)

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Social Services.

MR. LUSH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Bill No. 35, "An Act To Amend The Department of Social Services Act." Mr. Speaker, this Bill deals solely with the establishment and operation of a single appeal board for all matters which fall under the legislative responsibility of the Department of Social Services. I think up to this point in time maybe there are three boards; The Social Assistance Appeal Board, the Rehab Appeal Board and the Adoptions Appeal Board. The effect of this act is to have one appeal board. There will be future legislation which will put into effect legislation which will bring in other appeals but they will all come under this appeal board and I am talking about the child welfare, particularly. All of these things, under the Department of Social Services, will fall within the one appeal board.

Everything here is pretty much the same as it is under the previous act with the exception of a couple of amendments here and there which are there to enhance and strengthen the act. We think, Mr. Speaker, by having one board that it is going to make things more cost efficient and is also going to be more effective. It is going to result in a consistency of decision making. So we think one board is going to be very efficient and very effective. We will leave it at that for now, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to respond to the hon. minister's bill - Bill No. 35. As the Social Services critic, Mr. Speaker, I would suggest that most of the people on the other side of this hon. House should hang their heads in shame and be particularly displeased with the number of people we are finding in this Province on social services today. The cost of social assistance will exceed Budget estimates by about $15.8 million. The cost will go to approximately $191 million from estimates of $175 million. In 1989, Mr. Speaker, this Province spent $113 million on social assistance and just four years later the cost is up by nearly 70 per cent. If we look at the cost of benefits that social services recipients are getting, we will find there is not much of an increase, certainly not enough to reflect the 70 per cent increase, but the cost is certainly borne by more people on the social assistance rolls. In 1989 we had fewer than 45,000 people receiving assistance compared to 68,000 as of April this year. More and more of our young people, Mr. Speaker, are finding themselves on social assistance. I know of cases where people are graduating from post-secondary institutions, university, the Cabot Institute, coming out owing $20,000 and $30,000 and finding themselves on the social assistance rolls.

Child poverty in the Province, Mr. Speaker, is 25 per cent higher than the national average, mainly because of high unemployment insurance rates and low family income. The Department of Social Services caseloads have doubled and, in some cases, tripled the recommended levels, and it has been suggested in a recent study by the Child Welfare League of America - and I stand to be corrected on this, but I think I am correct in saying that they suggest something like 163 more child welfare staff are needed now in this Province. The number of child protection referrals, Mr. Speaker, have increased by 734 per cent in just nine years, from 544 in 1984 to 4,538 in 1992. I might add that the large increase in referrals has not been accompanied by an increase in treatment for children and their families. I understand that the Department of Social Services has a policy manual that is considered to be a highly confidential internal document. Mr. Speaker, I thought if government departments had a policy then we should be letting other people know what our policies are and let them guide themselves accordingly. I phoned the office of the Department of Social Services several times trying to get hold of the interdepartmental manual and I am told it is not to be given out, it is highly confidential and should stay in that particular office.

The need for more counselling services is evident, Mr. Speaker, rather than passing out social assistance cheques. In conversation one day, with a social services worker in my district, when I brought forward the concern of a constituent, I was surprised to hear the social services worker reply: `We are not going to give this particular individual any more jobs because he doesn't know how to spend his money - he wastes his money.' Mr. Speaker, that is a prime example of somebody needing counselling. I think those people should not be pushed aside because they don't know the value of money, or know how to keep a budget. That is no reason why we should deprive them of a job and say we are going to turn our backs on them and leave them on the social services rolls forever and a day.

I understand, a couple of weeks ago - I commend the minister for this, for going out and meeting with the staff. I understand he took a trip across the Province and met with many social services offices in the Province, but I think he should also have had time on his journey to meet with some of the people who are receiving social assistance. The recipients are very, very important and I am sure the minister must realize this because the district he represents here in this House, I am certain, is no more prosperous than the one I represent.

Mr. Speaker, in the wake of the 1989 Hughes Inquiry, the Department of Social Services began a thorough review of the child welfare system. The review produced two complimentary reports which were submitted to the Department of Social Services. About a year ago, the Child Protection Services Evaluation Report, prepared by the Child Welfare League of America, analyzed trends and issues in child protection and suggested ways to deal with the problems identified.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to read a couple of excerpts that we have taken from that Child Welfare Report, and there are some pretty alarming statistics. The report documents a large jump in reported cases of child abuse and neglect, especially in the last four years. The rate of increase is the highest in North America, Mr. Speaker, the highest in North America for child neglect and abuse. Most of the increase is attributed to greater public awareness in reporting but the Child Welfare League of America concludes, some of it is due to an actual increase in child abuse and neglect.

Reported cases of child abuse and neglect increased from 544 in 1983 to 6,199 in 1992, a jump of 1,040 per cent in just nine years - shameful, Mr. Speaker! About 40 per cent of the annual referrals are for neglect, 30 per cent for sexual abuse, 20 per cent for physical abuse and 10 per cent for emotional abuse. Total child protection referrals, Mr. Speaker, increased by an average of 280 a year from 1984 to 1988, and since then, the referrals have increased by an alarming total of 1,130 a year. About 40 per cent of all referrals are substantiated as valid incidents that require intervention and many other cases, the evidence of the neglect or abuse may not meet legal standards, but are nevertheless serious and may require intervention at a later date if immediate assistance is not provided to the families.

Distress, associated with poverty is strongly believed to contribute to many situations of child abuse and neglect. Newfoundland's child poverty rate, and I will repeat again, is 25 per cent higher than the national average, 30,000 Newfoundland children under eighteen years of age live in poverty in this Province. It goes on to say, Mr. Speaker, that social workers are well qualified academically, have a positive philosophy and are open to change. They want to do a good job but they are overburdened by the problems of rising poverty, larger numbers of single-parent families, massive increases in child protection referrals, inadequate budget and community resources; inadequate case management processes and training, frequent changes of assignment and these conditions, Mr. Speaker, have caused many other serious problems.

Caseloads among child welfare workers are three to four times the levels recommended by the Child Welfare League of America. Feelings of isolation, stress and burn-out are a common occurrence, according to a recent study done by this department. Caseload sizes must be reduced and more support services are essential if social workers are to be more helpful to Newfoundland's most troubled children, youth and their families.

From 1986, Mr. Speaker, to 1992, child abuse and neglect referrals grew eleven times faster than the child welfare budget. The Child Welfare League of America said the department will remain unable to do its job without substantial increases in funding for staff treatment services and prevention services.

The rapid increase in reported incidents of child sexual abuse has not been accompanied by an equal increase in treatment for children and families who are in criminal prosecutions. Resources are inadequate to seriously address the issue; consequently, some children who have been victimized remain in their homes with the alleged perpetrator.

Mr. Speaker, Bill 35 suggests that we do away with the boards, as we presently know them today, and that we combine and have one board dealing with the arms of Social Services. There are many arms of Social Services; it is not only social assistance, as we know it, but there are also social services, rehabilitation, and adoption of children.

I fear, Mr. Speaker, in light of the unfortunate circumstances and the serious situation that we are finding here as we review the Child Welfare League of America presentation that was passed to this government, that instead of combining boards and cutting back, maybe we should be looking at making sure we have very knowledgeable people, well-versed on the cases that might come before them.

In view of the history of this government, with patronage appointments to some of those boards, I fear that a lot of those child cases and a lot of those families may be lost in the shuffle. That is the concern that I wanted to express in the House today. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I rise to speak on this bill, firstly, with respect to the amendments themselves. I have no great difficulty with the notion of setting up one board to look after all of the appeals from Social Services. I think it will make for greater accessibility to the process and will allow this board to handle the various appeals, without the cumbersome notion of having a board that might only have one, two or three appeals a year, and the Social Assistance Board, for example, which has many each month. The one board can be more easily accessible to various regions of the Province that might not get a visit so very often from an appeal board if there were three or four small boards only meeting very irregularly. So I think that particular part of it is a good thing.

I was curious about the amendment in Clause 2. I wonder if the minister can address this. It is an amendment allowing the regulations to prescribe "...qualifications of persons for appointment as members of the appeal board, and different qualifications may be prescribed for different persons for appointment to the board." I thought for a moment that was the Ambrose Stoyles amendment to allow for the appointment of certain people who didn't have any qualifications to be able to join boards, but I was told by an official of the department in the committee that this might have something to do with making -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: I am sorry that the former Minister of Social Services is not here. Perhaps he might be moved to respond and tell us what is really going on.

But I wonder about that. We were told some sort of rationale having to do with the possibility of making one of the qualifications to be a person with disabilities, for example, in the case of the rehabilitation appeal board. Perhaps the minister can confirm that. I see him nodding his head, and maybe that is the case. It does look rather curious in an act to see that, having different qualifications for different persons. Because one would hope that all persons appointed to boards would be equally qualified. But if we are talking about special - a particular circumstance of individuals, then I can see where there may well be room for that.

Generally speaking, on Social Services, while I am on my feet - I'm not going to go into a big lengthy speech about the inadequacies of the assistance that is being provided to people in this Province. We know how serious they are and they are growing. The minister has a very difficult time dealing with a limited budget in approaching these problems. I understand that. But his budget is part of the overall government budget, and he has to go to bat for his department just as other ministers have to go to bat for the needs in their departments.

The Member for Bonavista South, the Official Opposition critic for Social Services, has referred to two reports which the minister has received in the last - well, since he has become minister, he has received them. But they have been made available to the Province, one more than a year ago now. I guess it was in early December of 1992, the Child Welfare League of America Report was presented to the previous minister. The former Director of Social Services made a report himself shortly thereafter. Both of these reports - the minister has had time to get this feet wet, he has had time to consider these reports, he has had time to look at them. I want to ask the minister quite sincerely, when can we expect a detailed response by the minister to both of these reports.

They have exposed a great many inadequacies in the system, and far better than we, in the opposition, can do by bringing cases to light. These people who have, both of them - both the Child Welfare League of America, and they are responsible individuals, and the former Director of Child Welfare, very knowledgeable, very experienced, very thoughtful and committed people - have made reports on the state of this department's ability to handle the problems with which they are faced.

I think it is fair to say that both of these reports paint a very, very unfortunate picture of our government's response. When I say `our' I mean our Province's response, their government's response, to the needs of social assistance recipients, whether they be individual recipients, but in particular in relation to child welfare needs, paint a picture that is a recipe for continuing pain and suffering and disaster and potential problems down the road.

I met with the American author of the report when he was here recently and we talked in terms of the needs that exist there. Particularly in the child abuse sector, we have a situation where there are the equivalent to 500, 600, 700 cases of child abuse and neglect. We have on our hands the potential for another - I suppose, if you look at Mount Cashel, as an example, we have the potential here, in scale at least, another fourteen or fifteen Mount Cashels in scale, when you measure the numbers of people involved.

The numbers of people involved in child abuse and neglect in this Province -

MR. MURPHY: That is foolishness!

MR. HARRIS: The Member for St. John's South says that is bullshit. I understand that is an unparliamentary word, Mr. Speaker.

MR. MURPHY: I didn't say that, I said it was foolishness.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. MURPHY: I am sorry the hon. member's hearing is as bad as his thoughts.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. HARRIS: Mr. Speaker, I say to the hon. the Member for St. John's South that we are talking here in scope. If we are talking about 700 abused children, we are talking about the equivalent of almost fourteen Mount Cashels.

MR. MURPHY: Well, why don't you leave it at 700 abused children. We all understand that.

MR. HARRIS: Mr. Speaker, if we all understand that, we have two reports sitting on the minister's desk. One of them has been there for almost a year. Now, he wasn't the minister for a year, but I am asking the minister whether or not we are going to get, and when we are going to get, a detailed response from the ministry to these two reports. They are very significant and very important reports, and if they are left neglected, I say to the Member for St. John's South, like the young boys at Mount Cashel were left neglected by the government of the day, we are going to have, in the future, a very, very serious problem on our hands, and the 700 individuals who are victims of child abuse and neglect are going to suffer for their lives as a result of the neglect and the inability of this government to take action to deal with this.

I say this quite seriously to the minister, and not to make partisan points or respond to the kind of partisan gibes the Member for St. John's South likes to throw out. I say this quite sincerely, that we have a very serious problem. It has been identified by experts. We have a blueprint in the minister's hands, from the former Director of Child Welfare, who didn't stay there - he couldn't stay there, because he wasn't given the support that he needed to do a proper job. He wasn't given the support that he needed to do a proper job, that is why he is no longer there.

I say to the minister, some of the things that he recommended, for example, cost money. Some of them cost nothing. Some of the changes that are recommended are not expensive, will not cost the Treasury any money at all. Some of them have a price tag attached to them. I believe, Mr. Speaker, that the price tag attached, even by the former director himself, was $10 million over a period of five years.

Now, Mr. Speaker, in the grand scheme of things, with a budget being brought in of $2 billion, if you take the needs of these abused and neglected children and compare them to the other demands on the government treasury. I say to the Minister of Social Services that he has an obligation to go to bat with the members of the Cabinet and insist that the needs of his children - and I say that pointedly, Mr. Speaker, they are his children because he is the minister responsible for abused children. He is the minister responsible to look after them. There is a director of child welfare but he is the minister responsible to look after those children and to see that when it comes around to the Cabinet table at budget time, that his children get sufficient funds to be able to be helped by the Department of Social Services.

I think if he took that approach with his ministers, Mr. Speaker, and went to them and said my children need to be protected and I need the resources to be able to do it. That is more important than roads, that is more important than other aspects of government expenditure, my children must come first. Families say that all the time, Mr. Speaker, if the choice is being made as to whether or not a child is going to get a winter coat or the parent is going to get a pair of skis, what decision gets made, Mr. Speaker? The decision gets made to give the child a winter coat.

The same analogy must take place, Mr. Speaker, when sitting around the Cabinet table when the Minister of Social Services must go there and say: my children's needs must come first. I have a responsibility, as the Minister of Social Services, for the wards of the Director of Child Welfare. They are under my control, they are under my care and I must look after them. That is the message that has to get to the Cabinet table, to the president of Treasury Board and to the other ministers who are also looking at the same pot for money for their programs.

I want to ask the minister: Can he commit today when he will put on the Table of this House a detailed response to the report of the Child Welfare League of America and a detailed response to the report prepared for him or for his department by the Director of Child Welfare, Terry Stapleton? Will he do that? Will he file or prepare a detailed report? He has had these reports, one for six months and one for a year - his department has. Will he table that on the Table of the House of Assembly for all of us to see? So that when he goes to bat with his ministers and says: I need to look after my children, the public will know what he is asking for and the public will support him when the time comes. Those are my remarks, Mr. Speaker, on this bill and I look forward to the response of the minister when he concludes debate. Thanks very much.

MR. SPEAKER: If the hon. the Minister speaks now he will close the debate.

The hon. the Minister of Social Services

MR. LUSH: Mr. Speaker, I want to address some of the remarks made by my hon. colleagues opposite. First, the Member for Bonavista South presented quite a litany of gloom and doom with respect to child protection services and with respect to social assistance in this Province.

Let me first of all, Mr. Speaker, deal with social assistance in this Province. The hon. member mentioned something to the effect that hon. members on this side of the House ought to hang their heads in shame because of the numbers of people on social assistance. Let me tell the hon. member this, that I am as concerned about the people on social services as he and I do not hang my head in shame when I realize the economic malaise that Canada is facing or when I realize the financial problems faced by Canada today. To hear that hon. gentleman get up and dismiss it as if to think nothing was wrong shows how the hon. gentleman is thinking.

The hon. gentleman has to get his head wrapped around the problems in this Province before he can get up here and make such negative statements and condemning his hon. colleagues in terms of hanging their heads in shame when he realizes the kinds of problems that we are dealing with. Now I will tell the hon. member here that I have no negative attitudes. I am concerned and I have positive attitudes and I am doing everything that I can to help the people of this Province. That is my attitude, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. LUSH: And I can tell the hon. member that everybody on this side of the House is not dedicated to promulgating gloom and doom, but we are here to spread positive attitudes and to do something for the people of this Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. LUSH: We are committed on this side of the House to improving the economic lot of the people of the Province. That is the commitment of this side of the House. The hon. member gets up here and quotes statistics from the Child Welfare League of America and anything else without showing any kind of understanding. Did the hon. member in talking about the statistics in this Province, in talking about the increase in child welfare referral, did he say that in Canada in a period less than the period he referred to with the increase in child protection services, did he say that reports of child sexual abuse allegations in Canada increased by 2000 per cent between 1982 and 1987? Did he say that, Mr. Speaker? No, he did not say that. In talking about child poverty did he say that there are still more poor children than there were ten years ago throughout the nation? Approximately one in six despite a 3.7 per cent decline in the total child population. Now, Mr. Speaker, the hon. gentleman seemed proud to be able to pull out these statistics and to paint a black, bleak, dismal picture of Newfoundland. Why did he want to do that about his own fellow Newfoundlanders? Why did he want it to appear that they were worse than others throughout the Canadian nation?


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair is having difficulty hearing the hon. member speak so I ask hon. members for their co-operation.

MR. LUSH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I am not only having difficulty hearing I am having difficulty in speaking. Mr. Speaker, when we are talking about these statistics it is only right and proper to put them into their proper perspective as part of the problem of the whole Canadian nation and that is how the problem is going to be solved. This problem is not only a problem for the Department of Social Services. Child protection services go well beyond the Department of Social Services and its proper solution rests not only with the country, but rest with the community, rest with our people, and that is why I have been going around the Province meeting people in our offices and meeting people, as the member suggested, meeting people from all walks of life. How could you go visiting Newfoundland and not visit other people? How could you go visit social services and still not talk to other people? What does he take me for, some kind of a pervert or some kind of a strange individual? Mr. Speaker, when you are going around visiting Department of Social Services you do not only visit people within the Department of Social Services. Mr. Speaker, I talked to people from all walks of life and tried to impress upon them the necessity for all of us getting together to correct the problems of child welfare.

Now, the hon. member did mention a policy manual that he could not get and I find that hard to believe. I do not know if there is a special manual. I remember in the Estimates Committee the Member for St. John's East asked if we would publish the policy manual and I told him I would take it under advisement. I thought we would and on the day that I presented these two documents - this one, and the one by the Director of Child Welfare, I also made public the policy manual; at that time made public three documents - this, the one by the Director of Child Welfare, and the policy manual - so the policy manual is public. I do not know what the hon. gentleman is talking about. The policy manual is public. As a matter of fact -

MR. FITZGERALD: I called to your office, Mr. Minister, and they told me that they could respond to any parts of the manual that I wanted, but they would not release the manual to me because it was highly confidential material within your department.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. LUSH: Well, I tell the hon. member that when I made this public I also presented the policy manual for the department, so I do not know what the hon. gentleman is talking about. He can see me privately, but to my knowledge the policy manual is also public.

MR. FITZGERALD: Can I get a copy of the manual?

MR. LUSH: Well, see me after. I cannot see any reason why not, if there is -

I also said to the member today, in his question he wanted to know what the procedure and code of behaviour was for the investigators. That is in a manual and he can have that as well. He can have that manual. There is nothing, Mr. Speaker, that I know of, that are public documents, that hon. members cannot have. I made that clear a couple of weeks ago.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. LUSH: The press asked the same kinds of questions, and I told them that I am opening up this department, and if there is anything in it that is for the good of the public, that hon. members opposite want, they can have it. Now if it is a confidential document, that is a different matter.

I just want to conclude my remarks to the hon. Member for St. John's East, who asked the question about 2(c), -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. LUSH: - what exactly that amendment was, prescribing qualifications of persons for appointment as members of the appeal board and different qualifications may be ascribed to different persons, he was right. That particular amendment is there for - as I have said, there is going to be one board, and there are going to be cases where we are going to want to appoint somebody with a specific expertise, so we will say that one member should have this particular expertise. There are qualifications that may be for rehabilitation; it may be for child welfare, but because it is the one board, we would like to have that right to specify that we should have some special expertise, and that is why that particular clause is there.

Mr. Speaker, we are committed, on this side of the House, to improve the level of social assistance in this Province. We are committed to improving child protection services, we are going to move on all fronts to try and improve the lot of all people in the Province.

Thank you very much.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Department Of Social Services Act," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House on tomorrow. (Bill No. 35).

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

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, my friend from Bonavista North has done so well, not surprisingly, his normal, brilliant performance, that I am tempted to suggest that we should immediately give him eight or ten more bills and ask him to bring them forward, but instead, we are going to go on to even greater heights and ask the Minister of Health to deal with three bills. The first, Mr. Speaker, Order 20, Bill 41, the Chiropractors Act and we will see just how many pretzels people could twist themselves into, but my friend, the Minister of Health, will straighten them out, Mr. Speaker.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Chiropractors Act." (Bill No. 41.)

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

DR. KITCHEN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, this amendment which we are proposing to the Chiropractors Act has to do with the period of registration. You may remember, Mr. Speaker, and hon. members that when we introduced the Chiropractors Act and proclaimed it on July 1, 1992, we put in a grandfather clause in the Chiropractors Act which read - let me just read you what it was so we will follow along here - that the board, that is the board that registers chiropractors, shall register as a chiropractor and issue a license to practice chiropractic to a person who does three or four things, pays the prescribed fee, holds a degree or diploma in chiropractic from the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College or a university or college outside Canada recognized by the Council on Chiropractic Education Canada, has passed Canadian Chiropractic Examining Board examinations and meets those other requirements which may be prescribed by the regulations. That is a class who will be registered.

A person who is issued a licence under this act shall, within thirty days after being granted a licence, become a member of the Newfoundland and Labrador Chiropractic Association, and so on.

Now that is the normal way by which a chiropractor would register, but in the meantime we have chiropractors out there, so we brought in Article 10: The board shall, for a period of one year after the commencement of this act, register as a chiropractor, and issue a licence to practice chiropractic to every person who fulfils the requirement of paragraphs 9(a), (b) and (d), that is, pays the fee and holds the degree or diploma, and meets other requirements, but not necessarily passing the Canadian Chiropractic Examining Board examinations.

So, for a period of one year after the commencement of the act, the board shall register as a chiropractor, and issue a licence to practice, every person who fulfils these three requirements, and can demonstrate to the board that he or she has practised chiropractic in the Province for not less than one year immediately prior to the coming into force of this act.

Mr. Speaker, there were fourteen such people in the Province who were affected by this, and they had one year in which to register, but unfortunately, due to some mix-up or other, six of them, not realizing they had to register, did not register. So there were six. Two of them were not members of the local Chiropractors Association, and there were four others who had not filed by the appropriate time. So what we agreed to do was give them another three months - the same people - so they could get this done, because of this mix-up. They thought that the regulations had to be approved, some of them did, before (inaudible).

So what we are going to do - it is an honest mistake - we are going to give them another three months now after this. So the purpose of this new bill is to bring in another subsection and say that the board shall, for a period of three months from the date this subsection comes into force, register as a chiropractor, and issue a licence to practice chiropractic, to every person who would have been entitled to be registered and licensed under subsection (1) if he or she had applied during that one year. So that is those six people, or whatever number of them are left out there who want to apply, can still come in. So we are giving them another three months' grace.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MS. VERGE: (Inaudible) say about this Bill in the absence of the official Opposition Health Critic, who is today home sick. Mr. Speaker, I serve as Vice-Chair of the Social Services Committee of the House which has examined this Bill, which met with officials of the Department of Health, the President of the Newfoundland and Labrador Chiropractic Association and two chiropractors, who are not members of the association, who have been practising in the Province for years, who were eligible to take advantage of the grandfather/grandmother provisions of the act but who did not register within the time limit prescribed by the act.

The two chiropractors who met with the committee said that they failed to register on time because they were advised by a lawyer, then working for the Department of Health as a policy adviser, that they would not have to register until the regulations under the act were in place. In effect, they were misled by that official of the Department of Health. We were told by the other presenters, the staff of the department as well as the president of the association, that there are in fact four chiropractors currently practising in the Province who have not met the registration requirement of the act. The minister mentioned the figure six, there seems to be some discrepancy but the principle is the same.

Mr. Speaker, after having worked with the committee to consider the bill - I was part of a unanimous committee decision to recommend to the House that, with one amendment, that I will mention now in a minute - that we recommend passage of the bill as it was drafted. The change we are recommending is because of a desire to make certain that any chiropractors grandfathered or grandmothered under the three month extension provision of the bill are subject to scrutiny of the board with respect to complaints made relating to malpractice or alleged malpractice, from the date of the coming into force of the act. In other words, we would not want the act amended to extend the period of registration in a way that would allow late registrants to avoid the scrutiny of the board. After all, one of the principal purposes of the legislation is to protect the public, and the committee unanimously recommended in a report presented today by the Committee Chair, the Member for Burgeo - Bay d'Espoir, that a simple amendment be made to the Bill to establish clearly that the Chiropractic Board established by the act to govern chiropractic, be able to deal with complaints against late registrants relating to alleged misconduct from the time of the coming into force of the act.

Mr. Speaker, I have four or five related points that I want to make very quickly. Number one, where are the regulations under the act? The act has been in force now for about a year-and-a- half, it was passed by the House of Assembly two or three years ago after lengthy hearings conducted by the Social Services Committee. The regulations were promised, in fact it was a statement about the government's intention to bring in regulations that partly misled chiropractors and caused them to miss the registration deadline. Where are the regulations?

Mr. Speaker, next, in the deliberations over the original act, the act as it now exists, many members of the public, as well as members of the Opposition recommended that the legislation be broadened to give chiropractors the privilege of accessing directly institutional diagnostic services, of allowing chiropractors to access directly hospital lab and X-ray services. As matters stand now, when chiropractors conclude that their patients need to be X-rayed or have lab tests for proper diagnosis, the chiropractors have to refer the patient to a physician to simply arrange for the hospital diagnostic service. The middle person physician is really unnecessary and the requirement for the physicians referral to the hospital simply drives up public cost, simply adds to MCPs cost burden. So I ask the minister to tell us if he and his government are now willing to make this sensible change to allow chiropractors to access directly hospital lab and X-ray diagnostic services, to cut out the duplication involved in having to go through a physician and to eliminate that extra cost?

The next question, Mr. Speaker: Studies done in other jurisdictions have proven the cost-effectiveness of chiropractic services in fast rehabilitation of injured workers. Why is this government not yet directing that the Workers' Compensation Commission pay for chiropractic services?

A final question, Mr. Speaker: Again, studies have demonstrated the worth of and the cost-effectiveness of chiropractic. Why is the government not extending MCP coverage beyond physician services, which are so expensive, to include services by chiropractors and other health professionals?

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: If the hon. the Minister speaks now, he closes the debate.

The hon. the Minister of Health.

DR. KITCHEN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


December 7, 1993         HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS           Vol. XLII  No. 30A

[Continuation of sitting]

DR. KITCHEN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

There are a couple of points I would like to respond to. Concerning the amendment, we will take that under advisement; we will discuss it when we get into Committee of the Whole.


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

I am having difficulty hearing the hon. minister.

DR. KITCHEN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

As far as the proposed amendment from the Committee, I will be studying that now and see how we will treat it during Committee of the Whole. As far as the regulations are concerned, the act is rather interesting; it says: `the board may with the approval of the minister make regulations'. Now, the board proposed a series of regulations and there is quite a bit of dispute about two of them. One concerned advertising, the way chiropractors should advertise and the other concerned who bills the chiropractor's patients when they go to the hospital for X-rays, and we were unable to resolve these two points, so I proposed to the chiropractors that we will get on with the regulations and leave those two for the time being, at least they will have their regulations in place but so far the chiropractors have not responded positively to that point and that is where the hold up is now.

The hold up is actually with the chiropractic board who have not yet agreed to this suggestion about deferring this issue of the billing of patients. The hospitals are not particularly fussy about collecting the chiropractors bills for X-rays from patients and it will take some time I think to resolve this question to the chiropractors' satisfaction, so my proposal is that we go ahead with the other regulations and leave them for further discussions, so that is where that is at the moment. I do not know when we get into Committee of the Whole whether the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations would like to respond to your question about workers' compensation or not but that is about all I have to say, Mr. Speaker, and move second reading.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Chiropractor's Act," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House on tomorrow. (Bill No. 41).

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, could we now ask that the Minister of Health be allowed to move second reading of Bill No. 44, which is Order No. 21, "An Act To Amend The Nursing Assistants Act."

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Nursing Assistants Act." (Bill No. 44).

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

DR. KITCHEN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The purpose of this bill, "An Act To Amend The Nursing Assistants Act," has a number purposes, one of which is to define Nursing Assistant. It was not defined in the other act, and it has required quite a bit of discussion between the nursing assistants group and the registered nurses group, but now we have finally agreed on consensus as to what a nursing assistant is, and that is there now in the bill.

The other issue that is here is a decrease in the size of the council. The original council had fifteen members, and it has been downsized to ten - from fifteen to ten. The original council had fifteen members appointed by the minister. Three shall be registered nursing assistants appointed at large, two nominated by the minister and one by the Minister of Education, one from a list of two nominees supplied by each of the schools providing instruction to nursing assistants, two from a list of four supplied by the Association of Registered Nurses, two from a list of four nominated by the Newfoundland Hospital Association, one to act as chairperson and one to represent the general public.

That is what it was, and now there are to be ten - five nursing assistants appointed at large, instead of three, so that there are more nursing assistants on this council, and then two nominated by the Ministers of Health and Education rather than two and one, and then one from a list of two from the ARNN - the nurses - one from a list of two rather than two from four, and one from a list of two from the NHA, rather than two of four, and one appointed from the general public as chairperson rather than one and one.

That is the composition of the council, giving the nursing assistants more to say in their own council. Then some minor amendments respecting the educational program evaluation and the composition of discipline committees, and an amendment to allow the Council of Nursing Assistants to adopt a code of ethics and professional conduct, and another item to remove ambiguity concerning mandatory registration.

Mr. Speaker, if there are points to be raised opposite, I will try to answer them. Thank you.

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

MS. VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I have some concerns about this bill. I have not had very much time to consider it. The minister presented it only a week or so ago.

I am a member, as I mentioned in the debate on the Chiropractor's Bill, of the Social Services Committee of the House, which is responsible for examining draft legislation from the Department of Health. The Committee advertised the fact that we are looking at this bill, and invited submissions by yesterday, Monday, December 6. That gave the public approximately a week to respond.

The Committee's secretary heard from four people, three of whom requested to be heard by the Committee at a hearing in St. John's, and the fourth, who lives in Corner Brook, asked to submit something in writing.

Mr. Speaker, the committee hearing is being scheduled for the Colonial Building later this week - I believe it is tomorrow night, actually - which isn't giving very much notice to the people wanting to make submissions. At any rate, when I look at this bill I think of the implications for quality of patient care, and also the impact on public expenditure for delivery of health services.

Our health system, as I've discussed with the minister before, is the Western medical model. It is dominated by and driven by physicians. Physicians run the show. Not the minister, not bureaucrats working for the government, but physicians have the power in our health system. Physicians have a monopoly on the provision of many health services and functions, not all of which require physicians of education and skill to perform, not all of which are worth the fees that physicians charge.

There is a pecking order under the domination of physicians. There are registered nurses and there are registered nursing assistants. It seems to me that we would all be better served if physicians were to narrow their scope, if registered nurses were to be given a broader expanse, and again if registered nursing assistants were able to expand their activity. This bill I'm afraid unduly restricts the ambit of registered nursing assistants. The minister pointed out that one of the new features of the bill is to set out a definition of a nursing assistant. That definition clearly subordinates the nursing assistant to other health professionals. I will just take a minute to refer to it.

It begins by saying, in section 1(b.1), nursing assistant means A or B. A: "... a person who undertakes or performs duties or services relating to the care of patients that is consistent with his or her training...," et cetera. Or, B: "... a person acting under the direction of a registered nurse, a qualified medical practitioner or a member of a health care profession approved by the minister, who..." - so it is A or B - who do one of the following three functions. In section 1 (b.1)(i): "performs procedures or treatments prescribed or ordered by a registered nurse, medical practitioner or member of a health care profession approved by the minister," and (ii) and (iii) are similar. Then, there is a qualifier to underline the fact that nursing assistants are definitely subordinate to registered nurses.

I at this stage don't claim to know enough to be sure of what registered nursing assistants are capable of doing properly, safely and effectively. But I have heard people working in institutions, and I have heard patients of, residents of, long-term care facilities say, that nursing assistants now are unduly restricted. For example, nursing assistants are not allowed to pass out prescription drugs without the express direction of a nurse or a doctor. Nursing assistants are not allowed to hook up patients to respirators.

The fact that nursing assistants are so narrowly restricted means that higher paid professionals have to do some of this routine work. I ask, is this really necessary? Are not nursing assistants educated and trained to distribute prescription drugs, to pass out pills that have been already prescribed by a doctor? Are not registered nursing assistants, as they visit room after room and see patients or residents, capable of hooking up a patient to a respirator?

These are questions that I hope we will all have more time to examine. I think it is the kind of question that is fundamental to the overdue reform of our health system. The cost of our present health system has outstripped the rate of growth in the economy, so we are going to have to make some changes in our health system. It is just a question of what kind of change and what impact the change will have on the quality of patient care.

Mr. Speaker, my other comment now has to do with the composition of the council. The minister proposes reducing the number of the council down from the current fifteen to a maximum of ten. He provides in this bill for five of the ten being nursing assistants, half of the ten being nursing assistants, the other half coming from the nursing profession, from institutions, and from the general public. How does this compare to the governing bodies of other health professionals? I ask the Minister of Justice, the Government House Leader, who served for a time as chairperson of the Waterford Hospital Board, whether he knows how the proposed composition of the nursing assistants' board compares to the composition of the governing body of the Newfoundland Medical Association of physicians, or the governing body of the nurses association.

We just a few minutes ago talked about the proposed changes to the chiropractors act. Interestingly, the chiropractors board, under that legislation, has a membership of five of whom a majority, three, are chiropractors, and only two come from other walks of life. Why the double standard? Why are we giving the nursing assistants only 50 per cent membership on their governing body but we are giving the chiropractors 60 per cent representation on their governing board? Is it because most chiropractors are men and most nursing assistants are women? Is the health pecking order a sexist ranking? Is that part of the explanation for the division of power in the health system?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

Now, Mr. Speaker, the Government House Leader has not really outgrown the petulance of boyhood. He has a stock repertoire of insults and put-downs that he trots out whenever he gets in a bad mood or whenever anyone on this side says something that irritates him or perhaps makes a comment that is close to the mark, so I say to the minister, cool it, I was just about finished. As usual the minister cannot help himself from needling and irritating. I was about to sit down when he just spoke up. I have said everything that I want to say about this bill. Mainly I have concerns - the committee will be holding a hearing later this week, I believe it is tomorrow night. With the benefit of the submissions at the hearing perhaps I will come to a better understanding of the issues involved in this legislation. I would hope at a later stage, at Committee of the Whole stage, we will be able to have a more in-dept discussion of this bill. Thank you.

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

MR. HARRIS: Mr. Speaker, I wish to speak briefly on second reading on this act. It is an act that the minister has introduced suggesting that the definition of nursing assistant for example, represents a consensus of the parties involved in the nursing assistant field. I know not a lot about the whole issue but I do know that nursing assistant groups are not very happy at all with the definition that is contained in the act. So I think before passing any judgement on the definition that is contained there, I think we really ought to hear from the individuals and groups who wish to be heard by the Social Legislation Review Committee.

The concern that I have heard expressed, Mr. Speaker, is that the former nursing assistants council - which the minister is changing and I think he is modifying it in a positive direction - was not representative of nor did it represent the views of the nursing assistants as a group but more so represented the views of other professionals, the registered nurses association, other health practitioners as to what their role should be. There is a fair degree of debate, as I understand it, within the health profession; nurses, nurses assistants and others, as to what the respective roles ought to be. Some may be legitimate debate, Mr. Speaker, regarding the respective training and abilities of the various professions. Some of it I am convinced is merely looking after your own nest, Mr. Speaker, trying to maintain your own bailiwick.

I will give just one example, Mr. Speaker, and I am sure the Minister of Health may well have heard of this but there are circumstances such as - for example in nursing homes where an oxygen machine or a machine which is really not an oxygen machine although it does concentrate the oxygen in the air. It is a mechanical machine that you turn on and off with a little switch and the individual patient or resident of a home can actually, literally turn it on and off his or herself if they wish, and they do, but if they are not able to do it and need someone to do it, a nursing assistant is not permitted to do it, you must call upon a registered nurse in order to be able to turn on or off this machine, which any ordinary person can do themselves if they have the physical ability.

It is just one example of the kind of demarcation lines that are being staked out in the health care field, perhaps because of the Minister of Health's plans of downsizing and laying people off and having less hours for nurses who work part time, and less jobs for registered nurses who work full time, but there seems to be something going on where one group is trying to protect its territory and another group is just trying to do a job and make sure patients are looked after. So we do have that issue going on.

The minister says this represents a consensus. If that were the case we would not have heard so quickly from two or three groups of individuals who wish to challenge the definition as contained here, and who also say - some of whom say - that the former Nursing Assistants Council was not at all representative of the interests of nursing assistants, and I see that the change that is being made does not give the nursing assistants a majority on this council. They are 50 per cent, but not a clear majority, which you clearly see in all other health professionals, or all other professionals indeed, whether it be lawyers, such as the minister. The Government House Leader and I are members of that organization, the Law Society. The Benchers are, by far, a majority of lawyers. The chiropractor's bill which, as the Member for Humber East has said, shows a majority of chiropractors on their governing board. The same is true of the engineering society's act. The same is true for other legislation of the so-called self-governing professions.

So I do not see, at this stage, any reason being given by the minister as to why that should not also be the case with nursing assistants. They have a clear level of training that is required for their work, and the power to discipline their members, and they ought to have the same authority granted to them in terms of their council to govern their profession, just as the nurses do.

The ARNN is composed, by far the majority - I do not know how may lay people are on that board, perhaps not any, but by far the majority of that board are nurses, just as is the case with the other health professionals.

Those two points, in terms of the make-up of the board itself, and secondly the issue of the definition being a consensus, I think that is in question. I would suggest that perhaps the minister has relied for the former nursing council as part of that consensus, and I do not see how that could reflect the full wishes of the consensus if the nursing assistants themselves are not a majority of that board.

I do not know what the rush is. Perhaps there may need to be more time for the various groups to be heard by the Social Legislation Review Committee. I am sure the Chair would be happy to schedule adequate meetings to give public input over the next while, and perhaps bring the bill back for third reading after Christmas some time, and perhaps the minister can commit to do that in his response to these remarks.

The Member for Burin - Placentia West I think, would like to speak on this bill so I will take my seat. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: If the hon. minister speaks now he closes the debate.

DR. KITCHEN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I do not have much to add to what has been said. The Member for Humber East raised a question about the subservience of nursing assistants to other health care professionals. I do not see that necessarily there because the nursing assistant, as indicated in the definition, is permitted to carry out duties consistent with the training, but there is a fear by a number of people in the health professions, not a fear, but the desire to keep the quality of care as high as possible. Physicians, for example, are very reluctant to pass over some of their functions to other health care professions for fear that the lack of training of other people may interfere with patient care, and nurses too are a bit reluctant.

Nursing assistants basically have one year training; nurses have three, physicians have seven or eight or whatever, so there is this, I think, legitimate fear that you have to be rather careful about passing over responsibilities from one professional group to another. I don't think that means that it shouldn't be passed over though under certain circumstances. The question of medications, particularly in nursing homes, where prescriptions have already been devised, who passes out the pills? Maybe that is something that could be looked at and is being looked at but the making up of these things is something entirely different, so with these few comments, Mr. Speaker, I will leave further debate to Committee of the Whole. Thank you.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Nursing Assistants Act," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House on tomorrow, (Bill No.44).

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, we had hoped to do another one today, but given the extraordinary length of time that the gentleman from Mount Pearl took and the lady from Humber East took on nothingnesses, I -

MS. VERGE: I am a lady?

MR. ROBERTS: I beg your pardon?

MS. VERGE: You think I am a lady?

MR. ROBERTS: Yes, I think the hon. lady is a lady, I will do her that courtesy. I think she is a lady, I have no reason to think - Does the hon. lady not think she is a lady?

AN HON. MEMBER: Why is she blushing when someone calls her a lady?

MR. ROBERTS: I think her colleagues got my question, I will leave them to explain it to her at the appropriate time.

Mr. Speaker, in this aura of bonhomie and so forth, I will suggest to the House that if we are so minded, we will adjourn. I may be overruled of course by my colleagues here who are having such a good time listening to hon. members opposite. What was it I said the other day, it is like getting a root canal done without an anaesthetic, but I want to amend that. Having heard the hon. lady speak, it is like getting an anaesthetic without getting the root canal.


MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, before I move the adjournment, on Thursday -

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

I cannot hear the hon. member.

MR. ROBERTS: On Thursday, I am going to suggest that we deal with Bill 45 and Bill 55, both of which are major pieces of legislation that should no doubt provoke prolonged debate in the House and then we will address all of the bills that are ready for committee stage, so members would be well-advised I guess, to make arrangements for supper on Thursday evening.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: I am sorry?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: My understanding is the Liberal caucus party begins when the House adjourns on Thursday, and of course all hon. members are asked. The NDP one is being held in a - but if we have the PC one tomorrow and the Liberal one on Thursday, it should be a very merry Christmas and my friend the Minister of Finance will be back and he will be glad to hear that the exchequer will be benefitting so extensively from what's going on because I have no doubt all the liquor at both the PC and the Liberal parties will have tax stamps on it.

Anyhow, Mr. Speaker, on Thursday, we will deal with Bill 45 and Bill 55 and then we will do committee stages. With that said, Mr. Speaker, I move that the House at its rising adjourn until tomorrow, Wednesday at 2:00 and that the House do now adjourn.

AN HON. MEMBER: Do you need a seconder for that motion?

MR. ROBERTS: No, I think it will probably carry.

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