May 5, 1994                   HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS             Vol. XLII  No. 37

The House met at 2:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Dicks): Order, please!

On behalf of hon. members, I would like to welcome to the Speaker's gallery the well-known Newfoundland musician, Mrs. Minnie White, who was a recipient last year of the Order of Canada.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Statements by Ministers

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker, within the last three weeks or so the two Canadian bond rating agencies and the two American bond rating agencies have released their ratings on the Province's long-term debt issues. Three of those rating agencies reaffirm the Province's existing ratings with them. They did, however, make other significant comments in the process.

Unfortunately, the one rating agency with which the Province had an A credit rating, Standard and Poors of New York, today downgraded the Province's A- credit rating to a BBB+.

With this downgrade, the Province no longer has an A rating with any of the recognized credit rating agencies. This will no doubt create difficulties for the Province in borrowing on the world capital markets as some large investment funds require their investments to be at least A rated. Also it will have some effect on the Province's cost of borrowing. It could also have significant impact on the Province's borrowing flexibility in that we may have to borrow in smaller amounts more frequently and indeed there may be times when it would be difficult to go to the market at all.

It is noteworthy that Standard and Poors, and for that matter, all the other credit rating agencies, have expressed their approval of the government's management of the Province's finances. In the words of Standard and Poors, "the Province has displayed impressive fiscal performance in recent years generating operating surpluses after adjusting for sinking fund earnings and posting moderate deficits". They note that in spite of these efforts there has been a deterioration in our debt burden situation due to the problems in the fishery, the sluggish economic growth and the unfunded liability in the public sector pension plans. In particular, the closure of the groundfish fishery causes a significant reduction in our gross domestic product figures because the compensation payments are not taken into account as the income earned from the fishery would have been. This resulted in a significant deterioration in the debt to G.D.P. ratio.

Mr. Speaker, I should advise the House that there is also some indication that things economically are starting to improve but I am not in a position to make any significant statement on that now. Over the next few days, a more detailed assessment will be made and the government will develop a long-term policy to deal with the consequences of this. A fuller statement will be issued early in the coming week, either by the Minister of Finance or by myself.

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

MR. SIMMS: Mr. Speaker, this certainly is not good news. It is nothing to gloat about and we certainly don't take any pleasure in hearing this kind of statement being made here today. It will significantly impact on the Province. Any time you lose or drop from an A rating - that is the significant thing for Newfoundland and Labrador, in particular, if you drop from the A rating. You always try to maintain at least one A rating, and having lost that, it is extremely serious for the Province.

Mr. Speaker, notwithstanding the comments made in general by some of the credit rating agencies - we have not seen their full statements yet and we look forward to getting copies of them - I have to say this: For the last five years, we on this side of the House have been preaching over and over again that it is one thing to have fiscal policy, but you can't maintain a good credit rating by fiscal policies alone. We have always said what you have to have on the other side of the equation are policies that deal with stimulating economic growth.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Leader of the Opposition's time has elapsed.

MR. SIMMS: If I may just conclude, Mr. Speaker, because I think it is an important point, and I would like to make it again.

If you are continuing to simply take money from the economy through cuts in wages, taxes, and those kinds of things - and in fact, I believe the Premier himself mentioned the last day or so, one of his greatest regrets is the government's failure to be able to do more to stimulate economic growth. Well, I agree with him, and we have been saying it for a long time. I hope they wake up now to the realization that some significant effort must be put into that side of the equation, Mr. Speaker. As much as he doesn't like to hear it, I think that is the problem.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Does the hon. the Member for St. John's East have leave to address the House?

MR. ROBERTS: By leave.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is with regret we learn that one of the number of bond rating agencies has reduced the credit rating. I suppose the good news is that the others haven't, and I don't think we should get overly excited about it. Of course, we regret that. I think the good news is that there is no evidence of a deteriorating financial economic situation in the Province, and what we have to do now is, instead of talking about negative things, emphasize positive things that can be done. In a sense, it is a report card, but maybe a report card on some mismanagement as well.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Oral Questions

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

MR. SIMMS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I just have a quick question for the Minister of Education, if I may, before I move to my questions for the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations. I understood the Premier wasn't going to be here today.

PREMIER WELLS: I have to leave shortly.

MR. SIMMS: I have no questions so you may be excused.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WELLS: I am grateful to the leader for his consideration.

MR. SIMMS: Mr. Speaker, on another very serious matter and issue that's facing our Province today, the issue of this teachers' dispute with the government or the government's dispute with the teachers, whichever way you want to put it -

I heard a news story just before I came to the House, so it's a very quick question. I think it's the Minister of Education's responsibility in this, I'm not sure, but I presume it is. I want to ask him, first of all, if he can confirm that this news story is accurate - it may not be - that the government has directed either the school boards or whoever, if necessary, to order students to vacate the schools, stay home from school or whatever, either tomorrow or Monday in order to allow the teachers to compile this evaluation data or whatever you wish to call it and do nothing else on that occasion. Can he confirm if that is an accurate news story?

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, we were talking with the superintendents yesterday and some of the superintendents have been telling us some of the complaints they have been getting back from their principals. Some of the principals have been saying they don't really have the time - it's so busy in the schools these days - they don't really have the time to formulate that. So to address that specific item we have given the superintendents the authority to do one or two things. One would be to have some substitute teachers come in to cover the place of the principal. We have also given them permission, that in extreme cases they could actually close the school, the classes that the principals are teaching. So we're making sure that there's no reason in the world why principals don't comply with this directive. So I suppose there is a measure of truth in the news report, in an extreme case you could well see some children sent home if no substitute happens to be available at that time.

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

MR. SIMMS: Mr. Speaker, I must say, it's astounding, really, because after the conciliatory statements - I suppose some would have thought they were conciliatory statements made by the President of Treasury Board yesterday in an attempt to try to get things back on track. To me this seems like a very provocative - it almost seems like the government can't get a strike fast enough with the teachers.

Anyway, let me move on to the Minister of Employment. We'll follow up on this particular issue because we only heard it a moment ago. There was no statement made in the House about it so we weren't informed and knew nothing about it. The Minister of Employment on Tuesday, I think it was, a couple of days ago, tabled the 1993 Annual Report of the Workers' Compensation Appeals Tribunal. Now, if you look at page 1 of the report, you'll note that there were 310 appeals requested last year in 1993, compared to 293 the year before, 1992, which is only about a 6 per cent increase; however, the number of formal hearings increased 118 per cent, from 108 up to 235, so I would first of all like to ask the minister if he can explain why hearings would more than double - increase by more than 100 per cent - when the number of appeals actually increased only marginally. What would have caused that?

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Actually, it was a matter of the Compensation Appeals Tribunal doing a very good job. We appointed some additional vice-chairs and additional sides people as representatives, because one of the complaints from the previous year was that there had been a backlog of cases from earlier ones, and if you track back the reports from 1992, 1991, you will see that the number of cases dealt with were much smaller each year and there were a lot of people having to wait into the next year.

What we were asked to do, and what the Appeals Tribunal agreed to do with the sitting days that they used, was to catch up the backlog of cases from previous years and to try to get current with the cases that are filed in the year in which they were dealing with, so a lot of those cases were ones that were filed in the previous year, hadn't been heard, and they did a good job of trying to clean up the backlog and keep pace with the current caseload.

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

MR. SIMMS: I thank the minister for his answer, Mr. Speaker. This is a significant issue now because there are two things here. One is the appeal - having an appeal - the other is having a formal hearing to hear that appeal. You don't always have to have a formal hearing, so I would like to ask him in a supplementary: Can he tell us how it is decided to refer the appeal, or move the appeal along, to a formal hearing? Who actually makes that final decision?

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

MR. GRIMES: It is my understanding, Mr. Speaker, that when an application is filed with the Workers' Compensation Appeals Tribunal, in each case - unless there is some investigation of file that shows an extenuating or extraordinary circumstance - that in each case there will be a formal hearing, that that is why these people apply to the tribunal, so that they can have their case heard before the three-person panel, and that every single time, unless there is a withdrawal or some investigation of the file shows there is no need to have a hearing and it is disposed of in some other fashion, that it will lead - the actual placing of the application - will lead to a hearing at some point in the future.

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

MR. SIMMS: Mr. Speaker, a supplementary to the minister.

In 1992 the Appeals Tribunal spent, according to their budget on page 7, $165,000 on Professional Services. In this report in 1993 last year expenditures for Professional Services more than doubled to $355,000. Could he now tell the House why that cost has gone up 116 per cent? More interestingly, could he tell us specifically what Professional Services were purchased under this $355,000 and to whom it was paid?

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The budget for the Workers' Compensation Appeals Tribunal is relatively straightforward compared to many departmental budgets and so on. There are basically fundamentally just two major headings. One is for the permanent support staff of the Appeals Tribunal itself, the office manager and the stenos, clerks and the file clerks and so on, the people who duplicate the records and prepare them for the actual people -


MR. GRIMES: That is the salaries for the full-time staff. Then the hearings activity doubled this year as was pointed out in the report. There was a significant increase. The Professional Services budget head is the budget heading under which the per diems are paid to the chair or vice-chair, whoever is chairing the actual Tribunal, and the sides people who represent the employer representative and the employees representative. In fact, if the activity of the Tribunal doubles or triples then the amount of money paid under Professional Services to the individuals on a per diem basis would be expected to double or triple.

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

MR. SIMMS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. On a final question. As the minister points out, all formal hearings of the Appeals Tribunal are chaired by either the chairperson, Mr. Gordon Seabright, or one of the four vice-chairs listed in the report. If you look at Table 6 on page 12 you get some idea of how busy these chairs are. Of the 162 decisions brought down in 1993 more than half of them were held or heard by two people. Forty-three by Mr. Seabright, forty-five of them by Mr. Brace. Can the minister tell the House how much each of the chairs were paid in 1993 out of that $355,000? What the actual breakdown was. If he doesn't have the information at his fingertips will he table it?

Could he also tell the House, does the chair or any of the other four vice-chairmen, or chairpersons, receive any other sort of income, salary, retention? Is there any other payment paid to Mr. Seabright, for example, other than his per diems for the hearings and so on? Does he receive any other kind of income - a retainer, a salary? You know what I am trying to get at, I guess.

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Again, with the Chair, Judge Seabright, and also with the Vice-Chairs - Mr. Seabright and Mr. Brace are not involved in any other full-time jobs that I am aware of. Mr. Brace was recently elected to city council, which takes some time. Prior to that, when he was serving, he was available five days a week if there were hearings to be held, to actually chair hearings; the same is the case for Mr. Seabright - they are available because they don't have other jobs.

The other Vice-Chairs are lawyers who are involved in other practice and, in fact, when they accepted the appointment they indicated to us that they would only be available to hear tribunal hearings and to chair them maybe two days a week some weeks, three days other weeks, so they were only available on a part-time basis. So, in fact, when the workload is shared out, it is because those two people, due to their availability, the fact that they, through most of that last year that was reported, were not working at other jobs, and were available more often than the others, that the others gave the commitment they did.

Others would know that many times in these quasi-judicial type of boards and panels, when lawyers are used they will only dedicate so many days a month from their practice to these particular jobs; therefore their availability is limited.

There is no other payment other than in the case of Mr. Seabright. In the description of his position, he is Chair of the Tribunal and CEO - Chief Executive Officer; that is what the legislative description is. In this past year as well, we used to have an executive director who is no longer with the commission, has been gone for a year, and the CEO worked at the office maybe about the equivalent of half-a-day to do the other duties that were being done in place of - paid on the same rate as if he were chairing actual hearings.

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

MR. SIMMS: Just a quick, final question.

First of all, maybe the minister knows and he can confirm: Has Gordon Seabright resigned as whatever it is he is with Newfoundland Capital? He is the Vice-President of Newfoundland Capital, as we understood it, a full-time job with Newfoundland Capital as vice-president, but maybe the minister knows he has resigned or something and can tell us that. Anyway, that's kind of an aside, but I would like to know the answer.

A more important question is this: When he tables the information I have asked him for here today, to give us an actual breakdown of how much each of the Chairs received, will he also tell us if any of those five persons that we are talking about receive any funding from his department's budget, aside from what is contained in the budget of the Tribunal?

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

MR. GRIMES: By all means, Mr. Speaker, we will gather the information on the individual basis for the Chair and the Vice-Chairs, and if there are any other fundings that were dispersed to them through any departmental budget, we will table that as well.

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

MS. VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I have questions for the Minister of Justice, the minister with responsibility for ensuring provincial laws comply with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Why is the government forcing its own Human Rights Commission to spend scarce public funds to go to the Supreme Court to overcome charter violations in the provincial Human Rights Code, when all the government has to do to correct the Human Rights Code is bring a simple amendment to the House of Assembly and get it passed in a couple of days? Why is the government allowing public money to be wasted on an expensive court case when there is absolutely no need of spending any money to achieve the same result, and achieve that result much faster?

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

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her question, which was read in admirable fashion. Let me try to answer it, although I have not had the opportunity to write anything out.

I may say I had no advance notice of this move. When I went home last night I asked the Chair of the Human Rights Commission when they decided to do this, and she told me, some time ago - talk about keeping Chinese walls.

The position, unfortunately, or fortunately, as may be the case, is not as the hon. the Member for Humber East would have us believe. There has been no determination that the Human Rights Code of this Province is unconstitutional. In fact, my understanding - and this comes from the -

MS. VERGE: What about the Ontario Court of Appeal (inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, let me say two things. First of all, I did not interrupt the hon. lady when she spoke. She might do me the same courtesy. Secondly, the decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal, I suggest to her with all respect, are not binding upon the courts in this Province.

I have made enquiries of the Chair of the Human Rights Commission, who tells me that the commission, as they had announced earlier, are proceeding on the basis that the law requires them, or authorizes them - the commission, which reports to my friend, the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations, either authorizes or requires them, pursuant to the line of reasoning which the Ontario Court of Appeal found persuasive, to read into it discrimination provisions other than those written in the statute. A judge of the Supreme Court of Newfoundland, Mr. Justice Woolridge of the Trials Division has taken a different position. Now, that's what the courts of Newfoundland have said in my understanding. Accordingly, the commission has decided to take the matter forward by means of an originating application; my officials would be served pursuant to I think it is section 51 of the Judicature Act which requires any such matter to be served upon us, we will then deal with it. So that's the answer to her question, but in a phrase, her question sounded on a faulty premise, her logic is equally flawed, and so we will simply say, given that the Human Rights Commission, doing what it is authorized to do by law, is taking an appropriate course - it is not wasting any money in my judgement - we shall let the courts decide this issue and then deal with it.

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

MS. VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

A supplementary to the Minister of Justice or perhaps the minister now responsible for the Human Rights Commission.

What about fairness and balance? What about Human Rights protection? Why force the provincial Human Rights Commission to go to court and waste provincial public funds when all that is necessary is for the government to bring to the House of Assembly, a simple amendment to the Human Rights Code and we can pass it in a couple of days? Why not co-operate for the sake of fairness and balance and human rights protection and save ourselves some provincial public funds?

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I can only answer that to my knowledge, government is not forcing the Human Rights Commission to do anything, absolutely nothing. They are mandated, they are in place, they are doing what they think is right under the circumstances, with no pressure from government, no force from government, no interference from government because we wouldn't think about doing that. I don't know if the hon. member opposite would, and I don't know why the changes that she talks about weren't made when she was the minister responsible, some time ago.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My question is for the Minister of Health.

Will the minister explain why, last month, about two months after the tragic death of Mr. Sylvester Lynch, the Witless Bay Fire Department were told that henceforth no medical emergencies will be directed to them by 911?

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

DR. KITCHEN: Mr. Speaker, I have asked for a report on that one and I have had a preliminary report which was sent back to be enlarged upon. When that is returned, I will be glad to answer the member's question.

MR. SPEAKER: A supplementary, the hon. the Member for Ferryland.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

That has no bearing on why they cannot now perform the service at all. I ask the minister: What assurances can he give that the 3,500 people in the Witless Bay area, who now have trained personnel there, will be able to get response to emergencies in the area, and not have to wait forty minutes for emergency services to arrive from St. John's?

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

DR. KITCHEN: Mr. Speaker, my understanding of it at the moment is that the Witless Bay Fire Department is a volunteer fire department which means, that there is not necessarily anyone there at all times, or properly trained people there at all times, and it has been the policy that, where there are volunteer fire departments, they are not to be used for health purposes because there is no guarantee that they are appropriately trained people or even indeed that anyone would be on the premises.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

When the City of St. John's have properly trained people, and people in the Witless Bay area are trained by the same individuals and have the same status, I ask the minister, why can't these people perform the same service available there in the area? It has nothing to do with the volunteer aspect, they have 911, they have pager systems and they are always available with seventeen trained personnel.

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

DR. KITCHEN: Mr. Speaker, thank you.

The St. John's Fire Department, at all times, is fully staffed. The volunteer fire departments are not at all times fully staffed. People are scattered wherever they are and they have to be summoned, so whatever we have has to be as reliable as possible and for that reason, volunteer fire departments are not, generally speaking, a reliable way that you can count on to be able to respond to emergency calls of a health nature.

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

MR. WOODFORD: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation.

The minister is fully aware, Mr. Speaker, and especially the residents of Pasadena are anyway, that attempting to try to divert the new T.C.H. from the southern bypass route to the transmission line route in Pasadena. The minister is fully aware also that back in 1989 the town of Pasadena, when they incorporated their new municipal plan in conjunction with the Department of Municipal and Provincial Affairs, incorporated the southern bypass route into their plan. Would the minister tell the House today if he has taken any action - for instance, approached his Cabinet colleagues - or made a request to his colleague, the Minister responsible for Municipal and Provincial Affairs, to have this particular plan changed?

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

MR. EFFORD: Yes, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. WOODFORD: Supplementary, Mr. Speaker, to the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs. Everybody knows, and surely the minister knows, that in order to change the municipal plan, what the regulations are for a municipality - mainly it is approached and instigated by the municipality. Would the minister tell the House now if he is going to agree with the request from the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation to unilaterally - I make reference to that, the word "unilaterally" - change the town plan in the town of Pasadena to accommodate, and in doing so, I say to the minister, that he has admitted today that government has made a decision to change the southern bypass route to the transmission line route. Would the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs confirm to the House that he will go along with that request from the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation?

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

MR. REID: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It is not often that a minister gets a request from a fellow minister that crosses boundaries between two departments. When I saw the letter from my hon. colleague the other day I said, well, this is one for sure that I will have to investigate and pass back to my committee which looks after changes to town plans and to my staff. I can honestly say that I'm dealing with that particular question now.

If it becomes a question of making a unilateral decision, well, so be it, if it becomes that - if that is the answer to your question. I'm not sure at this particular time that we are in any position to make a unilateral decision until both my hon. friend for Port de Grave and myself have a chance to discuss it with our staffs. Then at that particular point in time, Mr. Speaker, I will be glad to stand in the House, and if the answer is yes I will say yes, and if the answer is no I will say no.

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

MR. WOODFORD: Final supplementary, Mr. Speaker, to the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs. Would the minister agree then today that if he does this, if he agrees with his colleague the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation to unilaterally change the municipal plan in Pasadena, wouldn't this be setting a very dangerous precedent in the Province, and would be dictating to municipalities in the Province? Something that now the councils have jurisdiction over, they can initiate a municipal plan and call public hearings and so on. Wouldn't this be setting a very dangerous precedent in the Province for all other municipalities?

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

MR. REID: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Setting a precedent? If it means - quite honestly, and I'm going to try to answer my colleague's question, if it means saving millions of dollars for this Province that the hon. Ministers of Health, Education or Social Services would have access to from those savings to open hospital beds in the Province, to possibly put some more money into an education system, I will certainly unilaterally do it, with no problem whatsoever.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I want to ask the Minister of Finance whether he is ready today to answer my questions concerning the taxes on the St. John's Transportation Commission. In particular, is he prepared to advise the House that his government will consider removing the road tax on diesel fuel to the St. John's Transportation Commission and the licence fee on transit coaches, which together involve around $300,000 in taxes to the St. John's Transportation Commission? Is he prepared to have this treated as other municipal services are treated?

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

MR. BAKER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Since the hon. gentleman asked his question yesterday I've checked into it and he provided me with some information himself. When this request came into my office I immediately had sent it to officials in the department for an analysis and when the analysis comes back then we will decide whether we'll make a recommendation to Cabinet or not.

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

MR. HARRIS: Mr. Speaker, the issue raised by the brief put forward by the City of St. John's indicates that Newfoundland is one of only two provinces which doesn't provide any assistance to urban transit inside a Province and in this case the taxpayers of St. John's must pay the total subsidy for the St. John's Transportation Commission. Will the minister consider, in his review, bringing Newfoundland into line with the other provinces, at least to the extent of removing an additional burden that the Province places on the St. John's Transportation Commission?

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

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I don't accept the premises of the hon. member's question at all. We have to make our decisions in light of the circumstances in this Province and not in the circumstances of Ontario, BC, Quebec or any other province. Mr. Speaker, our decision will be made in the light of what this Province can best do and not what some other province can best do.

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

MR. HODDER: Mr. Speaker, I'd like to direct a question to the Minister of Education. While all parents are pleased with the decision of the NLTA in the Province to resume negotiations, parents have some concerns with the contingency plan for potential graduating students announced by the minister on May 2. Mr. Speaker, specifically the in-school evaluations have historically shown great inconsistencies in marking patterns among different teachers and different schools. How does the minister plan to accommodate these variations in a manner that will be fair to all students and consistent throughout the Province?

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, I would not go as far as to say great inconsistencies, no doubt there are some inconsistencies. We would prefer that there would not be a strike, that the students could write their exams and that the process could work as it normally does. However, in the event that there is a strike that nobody wants, in the event that there is a strike we have to make some provisional plans. The plan that we have put forward will work, I would think, probably in 98-99 per cent of the cases. There is provision already under the public exams regulations that any student who feels that he/she did not get the proper mark, there is an appeal process there. We will pay particular attention to making sure that any student who says, look, on the day of the mid-term was a bad day for me. I had a headache or something, I didn't perform at my best or that they disagree with the evaluation. We will certainly make sure that there is a process put in place. Remember now the intent is to try to protect the graduating class from any action over which they have no control.

MR. SPEAKER: A supplementary, the hon. the Member for Waterford - Kenmount.

MR. HODDER: Mr. Speaker, while the minister has received confirmation of acceptance of his contingency plan from post-secondary institutions in this Province, can the minister today confirm that his dialogue with other Canadian post-secondary institutions have resulted in their acceptance of these evaluation procedures as meeting their admission criteria?

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

MR. DECKER: No, Mr. Speaker, I can't confirm that and as the hon. member points out, the best solution is no strike.

Now, the hon. member will know that in many cases post-secondary institutions on the mainland admit students based on their mid-term exam anyway, so that happens quite often. In our discussions with the registrar's office at Memorial, they pointed out that once the Department of Education makes a statement on the level of achievement of a particular student, that is good enough for them. Now we're going on the assumption, Mr. Speaker, that when Memorial University - which is probably one of the top institutions in all of North America today - when Memorial University accepts a status report on a student, in all likelihood most of the post-secondary institutions across the country would accept that same authorization.

MR. SPEAKER: A final supplementary, the hon. the Member for Waterford - Kenmount.

MR. HODDER: Mr. Speaker, since the House opened this afternoon I've received a copy of a memo from President Peter Sutherland to all branch presidents of NLTA in which the association advises all teachers and administrators to, and I quote, `do not supply marks for potential graduating students. Do not work to accelerate teaching or complete work not normally done this time of year.' I ask the minister, does he have a further contingency plan to deal with the pending situations that many students in this Province expect to face?

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, for the benefit of hon. members I should explain just what has happened to date. Number one, in the estimation of the Department of Education there is a possibility that there might be a strike. Nobody wants a strike. The parents do not want a strike, the students do not want a strike, the President of Treasury Board does not want a strike, nobody wants a strike, but in the event that there is a strike the department had to make some contingency plans, so here is what we did. We sent a memo to all superintendents in the Province and said to them, in the event of a job action we would like for you to collect in your office all the midterm results of the graduating classes, plus an evaluation of the year's work to date. Make sure that is available for us. We have been talking to the superintendents.

Now, the Department of Education does not have any right whatsoever to go to the principals, the teachers, or whatever. However when we say to the superintendents that we want something done the logical thing would be, and the superintendents did, send their requests to the various principals. Now, a red herring comes in all this, a particular person in the Province advises the principals of the schools not to comply with the order which came to them through their superintendents. I cannot, for the life of me, Mr. Speaker, think of any single principal in this Province, who in the interest of the graduating student, would refuse to comply with that order.

I certainly would not want to be the principal to look in the eye of a Grade 12 student who I have taught all year and say, son, I am not going to do anything to help you to get into some post-secondary institution. I would not want to be the principal to do that. I do not know of any teacher in all the world, Mr. Speaker, who would be able to look a student square in the eye and say: I am going to make sure, sonny, that you are not going to get into an institution.

MR. SPEAKER: Question Period has expired.

Presenting Reports by

Standing and Special Committees

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Under Presenting Reports by Standing and Special Committees, I have an opinion of the Commissioner of Members' Interest dated May 5, 1994, which pursuant to section 44 of the House of Assembly act I hereby table.

The hon. the Minister of Mines and Energy.

DR. GIBBONS: Mr. Speaker, I Am pleased today to table the 1993 annual report of the Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro Corporation.

Notices of Motion

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

MR. REID: Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will on tomorrow ask leave to introduce the following bills, entitled:

"An Act To Amend The Municipalities Act". (Bill No. 17)

"An Act To Amend The Assessment Act". (Bill No. 18)

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

DR. GIBBONS: Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will on tomorrow ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, "An Act To Amend The Mineral Act."


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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I rise to present a petition on behalf of people in Central Newfoundland, the Gander - Botwood area.

AN HON. MEMBER: How many names?

MR. SULLIVAN: There are twenty-six names on this petition. I fully support the petition that says: `The undersigned residents of Newfoundland and Labrador wish to avail themselves of the right thus to present a grievance common to the House of Assembly in the certain assurance that the House will therefore provide a remedy.'

I will get to the wherefore: `Wherefore the undersigned, your petitioners, humbly pray and call upon Parliament to demand the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador not privatize and sell Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, to ensure that Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro remains a Crown corporation.'

Mr. Speaker, I rise and support that. I think there are very important reasons why it should be supported, very compelling reasons why, and the reasons are of a financial nature. Because the financial returns to this Province will be minimal and the cost to taxpayers and to ratepayers will be enormous. That is a very simple, straightforward reason why we should report it.

Today we've heard in the House of Assembly on the credit rating of our Province. While the outlook was independent of Hydro, this government has been spreading the news that privatizing Hydro will improve the Province's credit rating or keep it from being downgraded. Now, there is no direct link at all to the credit rating. In fact, on April 20, a finance analyst indicated that the rating outlook is negative for this Province. The reason why it is negative, and maybe why it was downgraded slightly, is because, as our leader indicated, the opportunities to promote economic development have failed, or there has been no program to do it.

Another reason why is because the Federal Government are going to eliminate $262 million of U.I. in this Province. There are less dollars coming into the economy. Other reason why is that the new TAGS program is going to dump, before the end of year two, 12,000 to 13,000 people from the program. These are some of the reasons that are going to impact more upon the credit rating of this Province than Newfoundland Hydro - they are the real reasons why.

Hundreds of millions of dollars are being pulled out of the economy in this upcoming fiscal year. The $262 million federal U.I. program and the tens of millions of dollars pulled out under this new TAGS program are going to have a negative impact on the dollars coming into this Province and into the economy. No one doubts at all for a moment that privatizing Newfoundland Hydro will enhance the immediate fiscal position of this Province in terms of immediate borrowing. No doubt about it, it will save us $25 million maybe during the life of our debt - which may be forever - but it will save $25 million.

That hasn't been factored in the direct debt of this Province and it has not been a factor by bond rating agencies, and they state, as late as March, that it is not going to have an impact. Other bigger issues are having a direct impact here on this Province. Once this short-term fix in selling Hydro is over we are always going to have to deal with the problem of the fiscal responsibility and proper economic development of this Province. We have seen a management of fiscal decline in this Province. Anybody can come in and manage with a decline in the spending of dollars; that doesn't take any great expert at all - what it takes is a person who is able to stimulate the economy and promote economic development, and that is important.

Now, there are a lot of untruths that have circulated about Hydro, not the least, the Premier's statement. If this is not complete fabrication - another word was used here for that, that we can't use. If a person goes on public television and states, `If, in the end, the majority of the people of the Province are opposed to Hydro, I will not ask the members of the Legislature to proceed with the legislation for privatizing Hydro,' and his quote: `because I do not think any government, no matter how strongly it feels about an issue, should use its majority in the Legislature to cause something to be done that is contrary to the wishes of the people of this Province, and I will not ask the members of the Legislature to do that.' Now, that is what he stated on March 24th.

He stated in the House, too, in the past, that he is going to proceed, so he has made contradictions.

AN HON. MEMBER: It is misleading.

MR. SULLIVAN: It is misleading the people, no doubt about it. He is misleading the people of this Province.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. member's time has elapsed.



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

MR. WOODFORD: Mr. Speaker, I would like to support the petition presented by my colleague, the Member for Ferryland, and to say at the outset that it again shows another example of people who are against the privatization of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro. The issue seems to have somewhat quietened down over the last two or three weeks, and even with it quietened down, and with the announcements by Moody's, Standard and Poor's, and all the rest of the credit rating agencies with regard to lowering the credit rating of the Province, and the actual fact of that happening today, even now, Mr. Speaker, people are saying, don't do it. They realize they have an asset there that is theirs and there seems to be no amount of advertisements - advertising, or propaganda from government that will change their minds.

Now, Mr. Speaker, the minister just tabled the report of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro for 1993. I just opened it up, and there is very little reference made to the privatization of Newfoundland Hydro. However, there is one reference made to it, that possibly sometime this year there will be - `Studies relating to the possible privatization of Hydro are presently taking place and a decision is expected in the near future. I don't have time in the few minutes I have to read out anything else without getting into some of the headings.

I notice, Mr. Speaker, under `Financial Statistics', a change somewhat in current liabilities, current assets, and if you look through it rather quickly - I haven't had time to get the pen out yet to do some calculations with regard to equity, but it looks to me, in glancing at it, that the equity position of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro has gone up.

AN HON. MEMBER: The retained earnings.

MR. WOODFORD: The retained earnings of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro have gone up.

Without going into statistics, or without going into any figures, we look at the debt to equity ratio. I think it was 83.17 last year, 82.18 this year, and if you look at some of the stats under Financial Statistics, it shows that Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro is by no means a very poor company, and it is certainly not a burden on the Administration opposite.

The funny thing about this, Mr. Speaker, when you talk about the credit rating agencies and so on - why didn't they make some of the assumptions in the last five years when it came to Hydro? All of a sudden now, they're talking about what would happen to the credit rating if you privatized Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro. Where were they the last five or six years? Did I hear any of the credit rating agencies recommending that Newfoundland Hydro be sold so that it would improve the credit rating of the Province? Are they making a statement of what will happen next year after the $300 million is spent? What will happen then with a company with assets of something like - fixed assets, that's the one, gone up this year $20 million bucks - $2,545,000,000 from $2,525,008,000 last year - $20 million, the fixed assets of that company have gone up. The current assets have gone down a bit but there's an explanation for that. If you look at the current liabilities of this year, gone up to 183 from 169 last year, and looked at fixed assets, that's where it's covered off.

Now, if you go into the equity part of it - members opposite and I'm sure members on this side will be given lots of time to go through this report. Without even looking at that report, Mr. Speaker, without even looking at the report for last year the pros and cons of privatizing this utility - the long-term debt is down, it's down quite substantially, but yet the debt-equity ratio is a better position. It all looks good but yet -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time has elapsed.

MR. WOODFORD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

Today I am pleased to rise in this hon. House to present a petition on behalf of twenty-three individuals living in and around Corner Brook dealing with the privatization of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro. The petition reads:

`To the Newfoundland House of Assembly, we, the undersigned residents of Newfoundland and Labrador, who wish to avail themselves of the right thus to present a grievance, come to the House of Assembly in certain assurance that the House will therefore provide a remedy, we submit - ' then it goes on:

`WHEREFORE the undersigned, your petitioners, humbly pray and call upon Parliament to demand the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador not to privatize and sell Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro and ensure that Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro remains a Crown corporation, and in duty bound your petitioners will ever pray.' Mr. Speaker, I support this petition and I have signed it.

Mr. Speaker, over the past number of weeks and months we've heard a lot of debate on the privatization of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro and a lot of repetition on this issue but we haven't heard a lot about a cost benefit analysis being done or that one should be done. I really don't know if the Province have done one or not but if they haven't they certainly should do one and make the information public to the residents of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Among the things that we possibly should look at, of course, is the electricity rate increase. The government tells us there will be an electricity rate increase of approximately $25 million a year. Now, Mr. Speaker, will it be $25 million, will it be $15 million, will it be $50 million? We don't know. We haven't been told and we haven't been given the facts and figures to know which is which or what would actually happen in the future if Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro were privatized. Another factor, would government save $25 million a year, Mr. Speaker? Now, the government have been preaching the past six months or more that the sale of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro will save $25 million a year to the government but, on the other side of that, Mr. Speaker, we would lose maybe in the billions of dollars over ten years. The government thought it was saving $250 million in ten years - we would lose possibly $1 billion in ten years. It doesn't seem to balance out very well in my mind, Mr. Speaker.

Some of the costs involved in selling Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro - that's the factor we should look at. Already we know that if Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro is sold we would look at - well, the investors or the investing companies, of course, would make approximately $30 million if the government did get $300 million on the deal. So $30 million - that's one cost right off the bat.

We have the legal fees; we now know that the legal fees have reached approximately $800,000 and this is just for opinion and looking at the situation if we should or should not sell Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro. So if we actually made the decision and it was passed in this House to sell Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, how much money would be made by the legal companies in the Province and outside the Province? These are things that have to be looked at - accounting firms, already up in the tens of thousands of dollars. These are major factors that need to be considered and the people need to be informed.

Speaking of informing the public, I think we should have public hearings. A lot has been said about public hearings, so that people could have their say, but this government consistently refuses to have public hearings to inform the people of the pros and cons of privatizing Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro.

Mr. Speaker, there has been some talk, too, by the government and the Premier that if we privatize Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro it would strengthen our economy. It hasn't been proven to me, or to many Newfoundlanders, and most Newfoundlanders, that the economy will be strengthened by the sale of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, or the privatization of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro.

That is something else that we need to look at very seriously before any decisions are made. But the pity of it all is, it seems to me that government members opposite don't consider these facts and are not seriously looking at the negative aspects of the privatization of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro. They seem to be blinded by the Premier's speech on this issue, and they could very well be led down the garden path, they could be sorry for supporting this privatization in due course.

Mr. Speaker, will the local investors benefit - the people who have the money in this Province - if they invest in Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro? Mr. Speaker, there are very, very few people who do have the money to invest in a privatized Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, and I compare that to the investment in Newfoundland Power. How many people in this Province have the money and the cash up front to invest in Newfoundland Power? very few people, I am afraid. Those people who can afford it, it would be, of course, at the expense of the ratepayers and the taxpayers of this Province. The people who would be fortunate enough, or do have -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time has elapsed.

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

MR. SPEAKER: (Inaudible) petition?

AN HON. MEMBER: Supporting the petition.

MR. SPEAKER: We have had three speakers in support of the petition. Does the hon. -

AN HON. MEMBER: The hon. member just presented a petition, Your Honour.

MR. SPEAKER: I must have lost track here somewhere.

The hon. the Member for Waterford - Kenmount.

MR. HODDER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to rise and support the petition presented by my colleague, the Member for St. John's East Extern, and to say to the House that the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, over the last six to eight weeks, have consistently asked hon. members to represent their viewpoints in the Legislature by presenting petitions in which they pray that the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador will not proceed with the privatization of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro.

The people of Newfoundland and Labrador do not wish to pay higher electricity rates and higher taxes simply so that others who are much, more wealthy than they are would be able to make much more money on their investments. Regrettably, the great majority of those wealthy investors are out-of-Province.

The people of Newfoundland and Labrador have heard the government's propaganda. The Premier, acknowledging in late March that his public relations efforts were not going very well, decided that he would spend a great deal of taxpayers' money trying to convince the people of Newfoundland and Labrador that they should sell something they already own. So he embarked upon the expenditure of $150,000 directly in a propaganda campaign, and the Minister of Mines and Energy acknowledged that the Province had spent $1.5 million already on the privatization of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro.

Mr. Speaker, the Premier, in an address to the Province on March 24, said, and I quote: `If the majority of the people of the Province end up being opposed to Hydro, I would not ask the members of the Legislature to proceed with legislation privatizing Newfoundland Hydro, because I don't think any government, no matter how strongly it feels on an issue, should use its majority in the Legislature to cause something to be done that is contrary to the wishes of the people of this Province, and I won't ask the members of the Legislature to do that.'

Mr. Speaker, the people of Newfoundland and Labrador have shown the Province that they are irreversibly opposed to the privatization. They believe that this concept is not good for them, it is not good for their children, and it is not good for future generations.

Mr. Speaker, we say to the Premier, today, and to his government, it is about time you listened to the voices of the people as represented here by the many dozens of petitions signed by thousands of residents of Newfoundland and Labrador, and do the right thing, that is, withdraw the legislation and let's get on with other business that the people of Newfoundland and Labrador deem to be appropriate and needed in the Province at this time.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for -

Is anybody speaking in support of a petition, or a new petition?

MR. W. MATTHEWS: (Inaudible) support a petition. (Inaudible) supported it yesterday. (Inaudible) a new petition.

MR. SPEAKER: Yes, I just want to determine. I would let someone speak in support of a petition but if there were no third person then I would -

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I do want to support the petition and I think it is important for members to support the petitions that relate to the Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro issue. Because we've got to the point now where it is not very clear what the Premier's intention is.

I was there in the TV studio when the Premier told the people of this Province that before a decision was made on Hydro privatization an attempt would be made to find out the wishes of the people of the Province. What we heard in the House a couple of days ago from the Premier was that he has decided to proceed with the privatization plans and that he is going to continue to do that.

Now, Mr. Speaker, we had a `Clyde Lied' campaign in this Province a couple of years ago when certain groups in our society wanted to bring attention to the position taken by the government and the Premier on collective bargaining. If the Premier and the government propose to go ahead with the privatization of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro after what the Premier said on Province-wide live TV in March, there will be a bigger `Clyde Lied' campaign. It won't be one that is seen as symbolic but it will be one based on what everybody in this Province who was watching TV that night saw and heard the Premier say, and it will be in the face of the scientific, publicly disclosed opinion results showing that in excess of 79 per cent of the people who had an opinion on this matter opposed the privatization of Hydro.

Mr. Speaker, there has been nothing to demonstrate that that level of public opinion has changed one bit. In fact, in my own constituency, I provided a survey questionnaire, an opportunity to respond on the issue of Hydro, to all of my constituents. The Member for Terra Nova was not living in my constituency at the time and I welcome her to receive a copy. I will make sure she gets one. I'm sure I will hear her reply. She can send it in anonymously if she wishes. Because I know over on that side of the House one has to be careful what one says in public. I do know what some of the members over there are saying in private. Maybe they are some of the ones who are phoning Steve Neary.

The Member for Terra Nova - I will provide her with a copy of the questionnaire and she can send it in anonymously if she wishes. She may well be with the vast majority. In the case of St. John's East constituents who've sent back this questionnaire, in excess of 85 per cent are opposed to the privatization of Hydro, so if she is one of those, she will be in good company. Because that is the state of decision making and opinion making in this Province on this issue.

The people have heard both sides. They've heard the arguments of the Premier and they've heard the arguments of those opposed. They've had an opportunity to consider the pros and cons and they are opposed. Mr. Speaker, the government really has only one option and that is to abide by the wishes of the people and to indicate to this House that they are prepared to withdraw this bill and end the uncertainty about this public resource which the people of Newfoundland want to keep for themselves.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER (Snow): The hon. the Member for Menihek.

MR. A. SNOW: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I rise to present a petition on behalf of residents of Western Labrador who have signed a petition, some twenty-seven signatures on it on two sheets of paper.

The prayer of the petition is: WHEREFORE your petitioners urge the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to stop immediately the privatization of Newfoundland Hydro.

Mr. Speaker, the residents of Western Labrador who have signed these papers are very concerned about the privatization of Hydro because of the negative impact it is going to have upon them. They feel that it is going to have a very negative impact. As I have said many times before they know that - they've heard the Premier before saying how for sure it is going to be a 30 per cent, 40 per cent increase, and it could - without privatization, the Premier has stated this. They even had Cabinet ministers suggesting that it should go to as high as 500 per cent. They know it is going to have a negative impact on them and they - because they consume, they are the highest per capita consumers of electrical energy in this Province. They are very concerned about it.

To continue on with my hon. friend there for St. John's East who talked about how the people of this Province, including the people in my district, are very concerned - the Premier's commitment in a televised address was that if he didn't have the support of the people of the Province with this particular piece of legislation then he would withdraw it. He felt he would be compelled to withdraw it.

Now they find that the Premier is hedging. He is suggesting that no, he is not going to withdraw it, he is going to continue on with this. This is creating a tremendous amount of discussion out and about the streets of this Province. Not just of course in my district, but everywhere in this Province. Because the people are becoming very mistrustful of the Premier and what he says. You have to read the fine print when you are listening to Clyde. That is what they are saying out in the streets.

Because they say there have been provincial campaigns before this about - the `Clyde Lied' campaign, and I'm sure that if the Premier of this Province continues hell-bent for leather to sell this Crown corporation that a similar type of campaign is going to be launched again, and rightly so. Because he did say that he would withdraw the legislation. On provincial t.v. he said: I would withdraw it if I didn't have the support of the people in this Province for the legislation, for the privatization. Now we find that he is saying he is not going to withdraw it, he is going to go ahead with it. Because we know that the public support is not there for the privatization of Newfoundland Hydro. Polls have indicated, people out on the streets know it. Polls done by Decima, polls done by other professional research organizations. We know and the people of this Province know.

Maybe, as somebody suggested to me yesterday, the Premier seems to be very - that he is not spending much time in the House any more. He doesn't spend much time here any more. He is off to Calgary or off to Toronto, off to Ottawa, he is off to Halifax. He is always off to China or off to somewhere other than off to addressing the problems of this Province. It is becoming quite evident that we are not a poor province. We are a poorly governed and a poorly managed province. That is what we are. Part of the reason of that being a poorly managed and a poorly governed province is the fact that the Premier isn't here.

Even when he is here we've noticed - I didn't really notice it, because I guess I've become accustomed to it. Somebody pointed out to me last night that the Premier has become very testy. That he looks irritated all the time. That he can't be bothered with these silly questions and he roars at people and he has something on his mind, they say. There is something wrong. There is something occurring over there. I don't know what it is. Then, of course, you see, down on one end of the bench, a fellow who smiles from ear to ear. He stands up and gives just about a campaign speech. He just about has the buttons out already. You can almost see them being printed and distributed. Then you move down the bench a little bit further and you see people getting their hair styled, new suits, and all those things. You never know what they are looking at now days, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the member's time is up.

The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl.

MR. WINDSOR: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I want to respond and to support the petition so ably presented by my friend and colleague from the great District of Menihek.

The Minister of Mines and Energy, just a few moments ago, tabled the annual report of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro for the year 1993. Mr. Speaker, one simply has to look at some of the highlights of this report and see that what we are talking about here is a tremendously healthy corporation, a Crown corporation, one of the few bright spots in the financial statements of the Province this year. Why is this government, then, proposing to cut off their right arm just after winning an arm wrestling contest? That is what it amounts to. This report shows an extremely healthy corporation that is giving a real return to the Province. Simply look at some of the numbers.

First of all, CF(L)Co. Our investment in CF(L)Co gives us a net return of $11.2 million this year, to Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro. Hydro itself, on its own operations of generating and distributing electricity, made a profit of $13.7 million. That is after paying some $10 million in debt guarantee fees to the Province, and after transferring Philip Place, which was a corporate office structure owned by Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, that was transferred back to the Province for a nominal sum of $1.00.

Not a bad Crown corporation to have, Mr. Speaker. I wish they all were as profitable, and all contributed as well to the financial coffers of this Province, as should Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro. I wish Farm Products did and we would not want to sell that. I wish Computer Services did. I wish Marystown Shipyard did, and a dozen other Crown corporations that are receiving millions of dollars in subsidies every year from the taxpayers of the Province, but Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro is not, Mr. Speaker.

It also says here that the debt equity ratio has improved to 82.18 from 83.17, a remarkable increase in one year, so our debt ratio has decreased over the past twelve months, showing that not only are we profitable this year but we are showing real growth. Now, if you look over a bit further in the numbers, Mr. Speaker, you will see that the net fixed assets of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, I do not know if it is the book value, is $2,067,000,000. That is the value of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, yet government is talking about selling it so we can eliminate just a little over $1 billion in debt.

Now, Standard and Poor's did not stand up today and say, we are downgrading the credit rating of the Province because government might not sell Hydro, because they might not sell something that is worth $2 billion to eliminate $1 billion in debt. Now, how does eliminating $1 billion in debt improve the credit rating of the Province? The answer is, it does not, Mr. Speaker. In fact it probably will weaken the credibility of the Province if you sell Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WINDSOR: Now, here is another telling number, Mr. Speaker, shareholder's equity. Of course, who is the shareholder? The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, 100 per cent. The taxpayers, the people of the Province own Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, and our equity has increased this year from $544.9 million to $569.8 million. In other words $25 million and it happens to be the same amount the Premier says we will save on interest if we sell Hydro, so we are going to give away $25 million in growth on our equity to save $25 million on interest. What a wonderful piece of business that is, Mr. Speaker. What a wonderful piece of business.

And he is going to spend that interest, or the savings, what he doesn't have to borrow, in one year, or a year-and-a-half. Wonderful! What are you going to do the next year? What are you going to do then, when you are not getting your $10 million guarantee fee? When your equity is not increasing by $25 million? When you are paying out $40 million, $50 million, $60 million or $70 million in subsidies and tax breaks to the new Hydro corporation? And when taxpayers of the Province, rate payers of the Province, who are now the shareholders in this company, are paying out $30 million or $40 million or $50 million more in hydroelectricity rates? What is the logic in that?

The message on whether or not we should sell Hydro, and why the people of this Province have almost unanimously, overwhelmingly, said, `Don't sell it', is because it doesn't make any sense, and this proves it.

As I came into the House today, I looked out through the window and there was a CBC van parked outside the door. On it, it says, `Weather with Wells'. I am going out and repaint it, `Wither with Wells'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Orders of the Day

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

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, would you be good enough, please, to call Order No. 6, which is Bill No. 8.

MR. SPEAKER: Order No. 6, Bill No. 8.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Automobile Insurance Act". (Bill No. 8)

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

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, I shall be very, very brief indeed.

Essentially, this is the same bill as the one that was given second reading by the House in the First Session of this General Assembly. That is the session that ended just before the present session opened. The only changes between the bill that is now before the House for second reading, and the bill that was read a second time earlier, the only changes are those that were recommended by the Standing Committee on Government Services, if memory serves me correctly, but anyway, the Standing Committee that addressed the bill.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: I am sorry - social services. I thank my friend from Humber East.

They held hearings on the bill, made a number of recommendations which the Cabinet accepted and which have been incorporated into the bill now before the House. The bill went to the Standing Committee pursuant to the provisions of Standing Order 54.2, a new one which we adopted last year.

Mr. Speaker, the House leaders have agreed that we will put this bill through second reading and committee, and I would hope third reading stages, this afternoon, with the Late Show coming on at 4:30 p.m.

Now I understand my friend from St. John's East had a terrific struggle with his caucus to get them to agree to do that, but eventually I gather he did carry the day.

There is an urgency to the bill in this sense, and I think I heard my friend from Grand Falls ask why we were trying to get the bill dealt with. Well, there is a reason. The bill is expressed to come into effect on July 1, 1994, which is a little less than two months from now. If it is to come into effect, there must be some arrangements made. There is a need for a degree of certainty, so that is why we ask the House to deal with it on this basis. If the House accepts it, as we, the government, hope will be the case, then we will carry on and have it implemented in good time, and that is straightforward.

Mr. Speaker, I spoke of the bill in some detail on the previous second reading debate, and I will not repeat what I said there. The issue the bill addresses is the question of compensating a person who is injured by an uninsured driver, by a person who does not have the motor vehicle liability insurance that one is obliged by law to have in this Province. Although the law obliges one to have it, the fact remains there are people who drive without insurance, and therefore have no capacity to respond to a claim against them in damages. These people inevitably, of course, are the ones who have no means of their own that one could go to, so the injured person, then, has no recourse for compensation.

For several years, maybe forty, we have done that in this Province by means of Judgement Recovery Limited. All concerned, the regulatory authorities who report to the House through me, the policy people who advise me, the insurance industry itself, all are of one mind, as are the committee of the House which heard the matter, that the present bill is a significant step forward.

Essentially, what it will do is replace the judgement recovery system with a system whereby one looks to ones own insurer. If I am run down by the hon. lady from Humber East, assuming there's no intent sufficient to land her in the criminal courts, assuming it's simply a matter of negligence and that would be a matter she will acknowledge to be addressed at that time -

MR. WINDSOR: (Inaudible) hypothetical.

MR. ROBERTS: I would say to my hon. friend from Mount Pearl, that what is hypothetical is the hon. lady running me down. What is not hypothetical is my colleagues back here running me down when we have some of these late nights -

MR. WINDSOR: I stand corrected.

MR. ROBERTS: But, if I am run down by my hon. friend from Humber East or sat upon by my hon. friend from Mount Pearl, either which would do roughly the same damage I predict, then I would look to my own insurance.

MR. WINDSOR: I think you should look in a mirror, I'd say.

MR. ROBERTS: The hon. gentleman's insurance company would compensate me, no doubt handsomely for what he had done. So that's all the bill does. Provision has been made for the case of a person who is uninsured, himself/herself. There one looks to the facility association which essentially is an insurance company run by insurance companies for the betterment of these people and most of the bill in fact, is addressed to the situation proposed by the person who must look to the facility association.

One of my hon. friends opposite, the gentleman for Waterford - Kenmount, has just asked me a question with reference to a precise portion of the bill. I will have the answer - I don't have the answer now but I would ask the law clerk to get the information. I will have the answer either when I speak to conclude second reading or during committee. I am sure there is an answer. If it's acceptable fine, if not then we'll have to address that at the time.

With that said, Mr. Speaker, I shall sit down and hear what members have to say. I understand several want to speak on it and in the hope of getting this through in accordance with the agreement; I'll refrain from any further comments until I've heard what members opposite wish to say. I move second reading of the bill, Sir.

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise very briefly today, in fact, to speak on Bill No. 8, an Act to Amend the Automobile Insurance Act and I commend the government and the member for bringing this bill forward. It certainly does a lot to adjust all the cares and concerns that were there in automobile insurance in the past. I'm not so sure that the bill goes far enough, Mr. Speaker, but it's certainly a beginning.

I have a great problem with the minimal limit on Section (a) of an automobile policy. Public liability right now here in this Province, the minimal amount of automobile insurance is $200,000. I believe and I stand to be corrected but I think the facility company which has been put together by the different insurance companies, which right now they use to put business that is of high risk, that they all use this same company and the rates are no different no matter who uses them. It's a holding place for all high risk businesses. I think the minimal limits of facility is also $200,000. I would suggest that we should seriously look at making at least $500,000 as the minimum public liability that we should be purchasing here in this Province. $200,000 sometimes doesn't go a long way when you're looking at dismemberment, Mr. Speaker, and sometimes if a lot more than one person is involved in a single accident.

At one time, Mr. Speaker, Section (b) of an automobile insurance I think was mandatory here. It would cost us six and two, it would cost eight dollars and at that particular time the coverage that you would get would be a thirty-five dollar weekly benefit, $2,000 for medical payments and $5,000 for death, dismemberment or total disability. Right now in Section (b), Mr. Speaker, it is not compulsory as far as the statutes of the legislation, even though it costs approximately forty dollars the coverage is much, much greater. I think right now you'll get something like $140 as a weekly benefit, $10,000 for health costs and $25,000 for death, dismemberment or total disability. Some companies - if it wasn't compulsory - and I add that some companies made it compulsory in order to access their business or in order to be covered by a particular insurance company it was compulsory to have section B.

In section C of our automobile insurance policies, Mr. Speaker, we usually see C1, 2, 3 and 4. C1 is usually an all-perils coverage where somebody is purchasing public liability, which is compulsory anyway, but would also purchased collision and upset and comprehensive, as well as fire, glass and theft. The rates in those particular areas vary from company to company, the type of vehicle you drive, your driving experience, et cetera.

One other SEF - standard endorsement form coverage - is SEF 44 which is family protection coverage. This today ensures a person -

MR. ROBERTS: SEF 44 is the underinsured motor coverage.

MR. FITZGERALD: Is the underinsured motor coverage and it gives the protection to the person who is buying it, Mr. Speaker, to be covered up to the value of their insurance rates should they be involved in an accident with somebody who is underinsured or not insured. That is an option that is available. I personally don't see why anybody should be allowed to drive in this Province today without insurance. This has always been a thorn in my side and I raised it here with the gentleman, Mr. Hussey, who represented Motor Registration at the government Estimates Committee of Works, Services of Transportation. He didn't have any great problem with some of the things that were suggested to him at the time and didn't see any great problem of why it wouldn't work.

Today if you go to apply for auto insurance, living in the computer age that we are, it takes very few, brief minutes to get a driver's abstract. It will tell you the whole record of the driver once his driver's licence number is put forward. A complete print out of all his speeding tickets, driving infractions, parking tickets, the whole thing. I don't see why we can't use that in maintaining a record of people who cancelled their insurance policy. Today many people come in, purchase driver's automobile insurance. When the first payment is due they finance it over an eight month period, or whatever the case might be, or provide a down payment to the sub-agent. When the next payment is due sometimes you never ever see it. The person them is provided with a policy number, take it to Motor Registration, get his driver's licence and his auto licence. The only people who will suffer because of that will be the innocent third party who is sometimes involved in an auto accident or some other infraction that costs money, and when they go to collect they find it virtually impossible.

I welcome the change. I'm not so sure how many people out there in the general public were aware of the judgment and recovery process that was available to them. I think it was, but I don't know how many people ever used it, Mr. Speaker. Maybe the minister can expand on that when he gets up to speak. From what I understand it was always there.

MR. ROBERTS: It has been there for forty years.

MR. FITZGERALD: Yes, it has been there for quite some time. That is something I would like to see the minister take and bring forward. I fail to see today why somebody should be allowed to drive without auto insurance, or once they go through the process of cancelling it or allowing it to lapse why Motor Registration can't be notified immediately and have the plates taken off the car, if that is what it means. There should be no reason whatsoever why people today - some people go out and pay very high premiums, Mr. Speaker, to be responsible, to have insurance, to protect themselves and their families. I don't see why they should have to go out today and realize the hardship of paying insurance premiums while other people are allowed to go out and drive in a lackadaisical way.

Speaking of insurance, before I sit down, I would just like to add, the unfair premiums charged to male drivers in this Province. I think it is right across Canada. This was always a pet peeve of mine as well. Where the male - if you have a son and you go and you put coverage on your vehicle for them, you will find that it costs you a tremendous amount of money. If you have a daughter - and I've been fortunate enough to have two, so I'm not complaining about that - you will find that you will go from - sometimes your rating won't even change. You will go from an O1, if you don't drive your vehicle to or from work, up to a maximum of an O3.

Your driving experience will come into a little bit, but sometimes many of those young gentlemen don't have a chance to prove themselves as drivers. They automatically fall into a category because they are male, and they automatically fall into a category where the father's or mother's insurance premiums are pretty well doubled just for allowing them the privilege of driving the family car.

Those are some of the things that I think we should seriously look at. I welcome the changes to Bill No. 8, and I say to the minister that I think everybody on this side of the House applauds this piece of legislation, and I am sure we will be there to support it at the end.

Thank you.

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

MR. WOODFORD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would just like to take this opportunity to make a few comments on this particular piece of legislation. I agree with and echo the comments made by my colleague. I, too, don't see anything wrong with this particular piece of legislation, except for the fact - and I stress that, except for the fact - that it doesn't go far enough. Then again, I talked to the Minister of Justice one time before on this, and some of the concerns that I had in other areas are covered under the Highway Traffic Act and would have to be done through certain different pieces of legislation and so on.

Some of the comments made by my colleague, and the minister who presented the bill, the Minister of Justice, their points are well taken. This judgement recovery that the minister said has been there for the last forty years has worked, I suppose, to a certain extent, but it has become very, very -

MR. ROBERTS: It is very cumbersome.

MR. WOODFORD: Yes, very cumbersome.

The few cases that I had with constituents, some of them now are into the third year with absolutely nothing - no word back. It is something like the Workers' Compensation Commission. You go from their doctor to the client's doctor, back to the workers' compensation doctor.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. WOODFORD: Yes, exactly, and come from their lawyer, in this case, back to the lawyer responsible for judgement recovery.

Once the decision does come down, it is not always in favour, and it is minimal. Considering some of the damages, and some of the injuries caused in those cases, when they go to judgement recovery for it, what they get back is minimal - nothing only enough to cover the phone bill.

In this particular piece of legislation, that is one good thing about this, and I don't think it was in the judgement recovery part, but the minister can clarify this when he gets up later on. Page 8, section 7: A payment made by the new facility association under subsection (6) shall not bar the person to whom it is made from making a claim against the person's insurer for damages in excess of the amount of the payment made by the facility association.

If that is the case, even though the facility association may rule in favour of a certain injured person, the option is still open here for the individual to claim against the person's insurer for damages over and above what damages were given by the facility association. So that particular clause, in this particular piece of legislation, is a good one, as far as I am concerned, because it certainly doesn't close the door after the injured person has gone through the facility association for damages.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. WOODFORD: Section 7, page 8. I wanted you to clarify that for me, because what I read there is that -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. WOODFORD: Second last paragraph. You can clarify that later on, but it looks to me like we will have that option.

One of the other concerns that I have with this, and I suppose it can't be helped if the facility association, especially with the insurance companies, go together on it, and that is the price increase. I don't know if the minister has had any - I am sure he had consultation with someone from the industry, but have they given any indication of what kind of price increases would be incurred, or would be necessary, to bring this particular facility association on stream?

It would seem to me, and it would be obvious, I suppose, that there is going to have to be a price increase in insurance in general. Now that, to me, then, is unfair also, because really we are dealing with people who go out and buy liability insurance, enough to get their vehicle licensed, and ten, twenty or thirty days after, cancel it. The whole general insurance industry would have to pay the bill for those particular so-called, I suppose, crooks to a certain extent, lawbreakers, or whatever. Somewhere along the way we have to bring in a system. If I go down to get my license I cannot get it if I have an old fine, a speeding ticket, or anything like that, that shows up on the screen. If I do not have insurance I cannot get my license. Why cannot there be a mechanism whereby insurance companies in this Province and the Motor Registration Division, with all the new information highways we have, and talk about in this country today, as soon as a person cancels his or her liability, in this case liability because it is mandatory, cannot they not notify the Motor Registration Division and have them cancel their license? There should be something, somewhere, somehow, soon, that has to be done.

Usually, at the press of a button we can bring up something from New Brunswick, or bring up something from some other part of the world on a computer screen, so there should be some mechanism in place, with the onus put on the insurance companies, because the rates they are charging today as far as I am concerned are unconscionable. As far as I am concerned they have a monopoly on insurance in this Province but we have to have it. There are different names, there is Johnson, there is Prudential, there is every kind of an insurance company in the world, but we have to have it. We cannot get a mortgage without insurance. We cannot drive a car without liability. We cannot do anything without it.

To a certain extent we have to put an onus on there because I am driving on the road with full coverage, the ordinary, honest citizen is driving with full coverage, and then you have a crowd of people out there who do not give a darn for nothing or no one. They get on the road, they drive recklessly, they drive without concern for other people, and those other people we have to protect. I think that can be done in conjunction with the insurance companies and the Motor Registration Division.

If the Motor Registration Division can take enough interest in me to check with my insurance company to see if I have coverage before they issue my license then surely God they should have enough interest after to make sure that I keep it. I think somewhere along the line we have to make accommodation for that.

I do not like to be repetitive, and it is not in this particular piece of legislation, but again, I am a firm believer that a $200,000 liability coverage in this Province, or any province in Canada today, is ludicrous, it is crazy. You see small private businesses today that carry $1 million worth of liability, and $2 million worth of liability just on the premises, then you are allowed to take a vehicle which is, as far as I am concerned, equal to a weapon, you put someone behind the wheel of it, and they are allowed on the road for $200,000 coverage, especially with the medical expenses and so on in this country today, I think is ludicrous.

I thought that other provinces had higher coverage, but they haven't. We are among the highest in Canada. In fact Quebec only has $50,000. All the rest have the same as us, except for Quebec which has $50,000.

AN HON. MEMBER: The American states have only $35,000.

MR. WOODFORD: That is right, and not all of them have that. That is the minimum in the States. They do not have it real high at all.

The other one that should not be optional for anybody who drives a vehicle today, as far as I am concerned, is medical insurance. They do not tell you about it until after the fact, some insurance companies may mention it to you when you are getting your license, but other than that they do not mention a thing. Medical bills today, as far as I am concerned, are just out of whack and people who all of a sudden find themselves in an accident with a disability have no UI, no recourse, absolutely no income, and they lose everything.

Mr. Speaker, one other note I would like to make is that accidental benefits coverage is compulsory except in Newfoundland. I did not realize that. We are the only province in Canada which does not have accidental coverage, compulsory. I think that is for another time, but it is an opportunity to make the point in any case. If we had accidental coverage compulsory in the Province it would cut down on a lot of the other things. The insurance companies I think should make that quite clear when an individual goes to get the insurance.

Mr. Speaker, 54 per cent of all the insurance sold in Canada is automobile insurance. Liability comes in third. Auto insurance is $7.5 billion but yet liability insurance comes in third at $1.2 billion. The total of the insurance coverage in - 54 per cent is just automobile insurance.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) Newfoundland and Labrador.

MR. WOODFORD: No, in Canada. That is in Canada. In Newfoundland and Labrador it breaks down to... in ninety-two, I think it is 1.6, or something like that, in Newfoundland and Labrador. It is still the highest. Automobile insurance is still the highest in the Province as well.

One of the other things that I didn't know before and somewhere in this - the minister could probably, when he gets up, clarify that too. The setting of the rates. The government has a say in the setting of certain rates for insurance companies. Setting of the premiums, is that the PUB?

MR. ROBERTS: PUB. Well, I can explain it, yes.

MR. WOODFORD: However, the provincial authorities predominate in the supervision of the terms and conditions of insurance contracts and (inaudible) companies and so on, but some provincial governments also review auto insurance premiums before companies may change them. Is that applicable to us, I wonder?

MR. ROBERTS: (Inaudible) I can explain it.

MR. WOODFORD: Okay, go ahead.

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

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, the automobile insurance act has in it a number of sections; they are near the end of the present act. I don't have a copy of it before me. Essentially, the mechanism that has been in place for, say, fifteen years, that kind of time frame, is that the Public Utilities Board, which is a quasi-judicial board operating at arm's length, sets bench marks within which automobile insurance rates may be charged. There is an upper and a lower range, if you wish, say for $200,000, the minimum policy permitted by law. No insurer may write a policy for third party section A coverages for less than $200,000.

The PUB sets these rates after getting requests or representations from the industry and after an actuarial study which it has made. The industry comes in and says: This is what we are going to need in our estimation to service the claims that we can anticipate on the actuarial basis and to make a reasonable rate of return, a profit. The reason that actual rates are not set of course is this is a competitive industry. My hon. friend would know that you can shop around for insurance and you may get a wide variety of rates among the different companies.

The other point I would make is that the operation is self-financing. The insurance companies sometimes complain - in fact, I have a letter of complaint on my desk now - but the PUB charges back the cost of the regulation to the insurance industry, much as it charges back the cost of its electrical rate-setting regulatory process to the electrical industry.

The government does not review the rates but there is a public review process through the PUB, and I believe there is provision that if anybody wants to have a hearing, including a consumer, that one could go in and the Board would address that. There is a control mechanism but basically it is a competitive industry. That is the other control.

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

MR. WOODFORD: If someone wanted to intervene there they could.


MR. WOODFORD: At a hearing.

MR. ROBERTS: I will look up the section.

MR. WOODFORD: A couple of other things. Other members want to speak and we want to try to get this through. But each provincial or territorial government however sets its own limits with regards to liability. That is right, regards to the liability.

MR. ROBERTS: The Legislature accepts them here.

MR. WOODFORD: The $200,000.


MR. WOODFORD: Yes. Just one comment on the profits by insurance companies in Canada last year, Mr. Speaker. There was $7.5 billion in auto insurance sold in Canada last year, off which there was a 22 per cent profit. Seventy-eight per cent of that particular $7.5 billion was paid back in the form of claims, which amounted to $5.8 billion, but there was a 22 per cent profit margin by insurance companies in Canada last year on auto insurance alone.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. WOODFORD: Yes, that's a very lucrative business, Mr. Speaker, in this case now, I'm only talking about the automobile insurance. I can go on to the other stuff but it's not necessary at this time.

So, Mr. Speaker, having made a few comments on this particular piece of legislation - like I said from the onset, it's a good piece of legislation. It should help people, injured people, to be satisfied faster and quicker - and try to get their claims settled and so on because a lot of those people, through no fault of their own, Mr. Speaker, have incurred an injury or someone else has hit them and so on and I think that this piece of legislation will rectify a lot of that. I say to the minister that the faster it is brought in the better. Apparently from July 1994 will be the date. Now if we pass this today - I don't know, it usually takes two or three months to get something proclaimed but I suppose the minister and his department can make sure that that's proclaimed a lot faster. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

This afternoon I have the rare and very special pleasure to say that I agree with a bill presented by government and -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS. VERGE: - and furthermore I agree with the process the government used to present the bill. The government, through the Minister of Justice, came to the House of Assembly last fall with a bill to amend the Automobile Insurance Act. There were brief speeches on second reading at the time and then the minister referred the bill to the Social Services Legislation Review Committee. Now I think all members realize that's a committee comprising members of the three parties. It's Chaired very ably by the Member for Burgeo - Bay d'Espoir and when the House was recessed early in the winter the Committee had a couple of meetings on the bill. As it turned out, two members of the Committee, at least, were quite familiar with this general subject. They had had quite a bit of personal familiarity with the judgement recovery system. The Chair himself, the Member for Burgeo - Bay d'Espoir and the Member for St. John's East, those two committee members in particular made a very good contribution to the committee's deliberations over the bill.

The Committee published notices inviting the public to comment on the bill. As it turned out the only taker was an insurance industry representative who came to the Committee and gave us a background paper and an analysis of this legislation. We found out from the insurance industry representative and also an official of the Department of Justice that it was the insurance industry which took the initiative to encourage the Newfoundland and Labrador government to bring this type of law reform forward to the House of Assembly, similar legislation is now in force in New Brunswick.

Mr. Speaker, this then has been a very satisfactory instance of collaboration of members of all three parties in bringing about needed law reform. Mr. Speaker, the Committee suggested some improvements to the bill and I think all the recommendations or most of them, were incorporated in this revised version of the draft act, this Bill 8. Some members, including two of my colleagues, the member's for Bonavista South and Humber Valley in participating in this debate have not only expressed the support of the Official Opposition for the bill but they've gone on to make some constructive suggestions for other improvements in the law requiring that drivers have insurance.

So, Mr. Speaker, I trust the Minister of Justice and his colleagues will take those suggestions seriously and maybe make appropriate legislative or administrative changes to ensure a fuller compliance with the current legal requirement that drivers have insurance. Mr. Speaker, I expect that this legislation will provide much better coverage for victims of uninsured drivers and see that people who are injured or whose property is damaged at the hands of uninsured drivers get appropriate and fair compensation, and get it reasonably quickly.

Again, I praise the government both for the contents of this bill and also for their approach to having it enacted. The committee system works well. I only wish that the committee used the committee system and the consultative process for other legislative initiatives. Sadly, we aren't seeing that democratic approach for the most important bills now before the House of Assembly, Bills 1 and 2, the Hydro privatization act and the electrical power control act.

MR. EFFORD: (Inaudible).

MS. VERGE: I say to the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation, if he has something to contribute to this debate, let him get on his feet and say it. I've said everything that I had intended and I await now the contribution of my colleague, the Member for St. John's East.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise to speak in the debate on Bill No. 8 concerning the amendment to the automobile insurance act. It does provide a new scheme to look after the situation where an automobile accident occurs and the person at fault is uninsured or underinsured.

There are some problems with the current system and this is a new system. Some lawyers have been complaining about it, other lawyers have been making money on it, because they represent the previous organization which is being continued for a brief time here, Judgement Recovery Ltd.

MR. ROBERTS: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: As the Minister of Justice quite rightly says, both schemes will exist in sort of a grandfathering situation where existing claims or existing accidents that are being dealt with under the old system would continue to be so, and that makes administrative sense.

This is not a piece of legislation to make it easier for lawyers to operate within a system. Lawyers, as the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation well knows, can operate in any system. In fact, the more complicated the system, sometimes, the more lawyers like it, because they are more necessary to sort things out. I say to the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation that a lot of people might be able to sort out their problems without lawyers, under this legislation. In fact, that is probably where the most benefit would come from this legislation, in accidents that are not huge and do not require a lot of litigation to sort out the damages.

Insurance adjusters, under this legislation, would be able to resolve the smaller sorts of claims very quickly, whereas under the Judgement Recovery system, almost always there was a need to have lawyers involved, in part because the system was so complicated, but in part because it could not respond without having a number of actions take place under the legislation that inevitably involved lawyers. Therefore, the reforms that are contained in this legislation are helpful in that regard.

We do have here, as the Member for Humber East mentioned in her remarks, an example of the committee system working to improve legislation. We didn't have, I might add - and this is probably a negative reflection on the legal profession - input from the legal profession in a formal way, although it was -

MR. ROBERTS: You should have suggested we (inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: We did make available copies of the legislation to the Canadian Bar Association, Insurance Section, and to the Law Society, and asked for input from practitioners who, after all, are the ones who have to operate within the system.

I am sorry to say - and I am not saying this on behalf of the legal profession - I am sorry to say, as a member of the legal profession, we didn't get the kind of input that you might have expected. I know the chairman was quite surprised. He thought that the lawyers would have a look at this legislation, look for pitfalls, look for loopholes, look for ways that the drafters of the legislation might have missed the boat. I have to say that my own modest contribution was along those lines, looking for areas where the system was being changed and might not work in a practical way, and a couple of suggestions came from those queries - suggestions which, I might add, were adopted ultimately by the government in revising the bill.

There was an inadequate setting forth of the duties and obligations of this organization known as the Facility Association. The government responded by outlining the responsibilities of the Facility Association, the requirements to make sure that this organization had an agent for service in the Province, so that people who wanted to process claims against the Facility Association, which was looking after the uninsured motorist coverage, would know where to go and what to do, and you would have no problems in that regard.

There were some other technical difficulties with the legislation in terms of responsibilities for damages, claims by governments other than Canada and the United States, and that was fixed up. In general, those technical areas were resolved by discussion between the members of the government, bureaucrats who came to the committee to help explain the issue.

The one outside person who -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I wonder if the hon. member would just take his seat for a moment while I inform the House of the questions for the Late Show.

The first question is from the hon. the Member for Baie Verte - White Bay: `I am not satisfied with the answer to my question from the Minister of Fisheries concerning non-commercial seal licence.'

The hon. the Member for Kilbride: `I am not satisfied with the answer to my question to the Minister of Health concerning registration and fees being required of nursing assistants.'

The third question is from the hon. the Opposition House Leader to the Minister of Fisheries concerning the Fisheries Observers Program.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The one representation that the committee had on this bill from members outside of the committee and outside of the bureaucrats was a representative of the Insurance Bureau of Canada. After awhile it became fairly apparent that the change in the system for uninsured motorist coverage was, in effect, a project of the Insurance Bureau of Canada. They had this proposal that they were bringing around to various provinces, trying to get the provinces to go along with their version of how things could be.

Although there are certain beneficial aspects to this legislation, and the system is a little bit more palatable, it became pretty clear after awhile that there were good reasons why the Insurance Bureau of Canada wanted to promote this, because all of a sudden uninsured motorist coverage became another piece of business for them. Instead of being an expense, which the judgement recovery was - they had to share in the cost of judgement recovery - now, all of a sudden, this was a piece of business, and the uninsured motorist coverage for which they are going to charge a premium on each and every insurance policy issued in the Province, this was a piece of premium business on which they, of course, expected to make a profit. It was they who drafted the legislation and provided that draft to government, they who promoted it to government and to the ministry, and they who were behind the idea of bringing this piece of work before the Legislature. It was there, of course, because they thought they had a better way that provided them with an additional amount of business instead of just another expense. The way the judgement recovery system worked, and works, is that whatever the costs that Judgement Recovery pays out must be paid, and the expenses borne by each of the insurance companies doing business in the Province, prorated to their cost, or their share, of the premium income. So when the insurance companies at the end of the year look at their financial statements they see an expense for judgement recovery, the cost of uninsured motorists, and they don't see any corresponding benefit. So it became fairly clear, Mr. Speaker, that this was really the insurance industry promoting its own business by saying, we have an idea as to how to do this better - and to some extent, and I have to say, to some extent only, the problems of judgement recovery were slightly exaggerated as part of the selling job.

In the end, the major reason being, I suppose, because of lack of public interest, and lack of public understanding, perhaps, of the whole process of what was going on, the committee didn't see any reason really to oppose it, and the Insurance Bureau of Canada, with its legislation, with the modifications that were made, have been successful in getting their way of doing things to the Legislature.

What I did ask and what I didn't really get an answer to was whether or not other schemes had been considered. I asked a few questions. I was trying to find out whether the judgement recovery system was an old system that was being replaced everywhere in the country, and the answer was, no. There were four or five different ways this was done across the country. Judgement recovery was one way, the uninsured motorist coverage which is being proposed here was another - a couple of provinces accepted that - and still other provinces had public insurance systems which included in them a provision for uninsured motorist coverage.

What was done here, not necessarily by a choice of policy, but in essence by default, was that only one option was considered and that was the one proposed by the Insurance Bureau of Canada which was accepted by the government, I have to say, Mr. Speaker, almost without any real question, or without any comparison being done of the alternatives. In fact, in most of the questions that were asked as to the technicalities of how this worked, the government's own insurance people deferred to the Insurance Bureau of Canada consultant as to what the answers might be.

I find that disturbing, Mr. Speaker, because I have to say that I don't have, as one hon. member - without any research staff or ability to analysis and cover all the issues that are before me, I don't have the ability to represent the alternatives, to study the alternatives, and to determine what they are, but I would expect that the government, with its full-time resources of staff, bureaucrats, and people who are assigned, experts in the insurance field who are hired by government to monitor and examine the policy considerations, and to look at the various choices and options as to how this can be done - I would have expected those people to be able to tell the committee: Well, yes, we have reviewed this system used in Ontario, and that system used in Manitoba, and the other system used in New Brunswick, and we have looked at what the Insurance Bureau of Canada has come forth with, and we have decided that this is best.

I don't think we had that, and that's a criticism of the government. It's a criticism of how the government is really allowing large corporations and industry to dictate to them, either by massive lobbying, or policy lobbying, which we see in the soft drink beverage container issue. We see it here; I think we see it here. I think we see it in the suggestions that the Minister of Environment and Lands is so happy to accept, that it is the response to a lobby - and here is the response to a lobby by the insurance industry.

What I see is a government - I have no objections to business, and people investing in business, and having good ideas that they can take and make money from; what I object to is having companies come and influence government to do things just because it is good for a particular set of companies or a particular operation. So I am not sure this is the best way to do it. I have to say that. I have a partiality to government-run insurance schemes when it comes to automobile insurance, because it is one of those things that is compulsory and amounts to a monopoly-type industry where it is required to have insurance. It is a kind of situation which lends itself to government regulation and government offering the service. I have a partiality to that, but I haven't done any analysis in this Province as to what the pros and cons might be of assuming or taking on a different type of automobile insurance.

There haven't been, I have to say, an awful lot of complaints about the insurance industry, other than the one mentioned by the Member for Bonavista South, and that is something that perhaps the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation would like to look at, not in the sense of telling the insurance companies what rates to charge, but perhaps in finding ways of having fewer accidents amongst young males.

We have complaints, as the Member for Bonavista South said, that a young man who gets a driver's licence at age seventeen or eighteen all of a sudden has to pay a huge premium of insurance. We have a huge premium for a young male as compared to a young female. Now, we may have a lower rate of accidents, on the whole, either among young people or whatever, than in other provinces, but the experience rating is what determines the insurance rates. So I have to say to the Member for Bonavista South, that the reason that the premium might be ten times as high for a young man than a young woman is because there are probably ten times as many accidents, and that is in Newfoundland as well as in Ontario or P.E.I., because the experience rating is a Newfoundland rating, not an Ontario rating or a British Columbia rating.

What I would think the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation could do to assess this problem is consider - and I am only saying consider, because you have the analysts, the government has the analysts to look at this - consider a new form of driver's licence for young people. It doesn't have to be the same as the ones that other provinces have, but I know the Province of New Brunswick has introduced a graduated driver's licence. Whether it is practical or not, that is something that the minister might be able to analyze, as to how it could reduce the cost.

I am no expert on the New Brunswick system. It has only come in recently. Perhaps the minister can make available to hon. members a briefing note on the New Brunswick system for consideration. As I understand it, some of the features of this system are that it is a graduated licence. When you get your licence, for the first year you're only allowed to drive with a licensed driver in the car. You're not allowed to drive after a certain hour at night and there's some sort of a zero tolerance for alcohol for younger drivers and for the first two or three years there are certain restrictions on younger drivers that don't exist for the regular adult population. I think, Mr. Speaker, that that might be necessary in some cases. I think the Member for Bonavista South was saying that the careful, prudent and responsible young male driver is getting dinged, as it were, getting to have to pay the costs for those who are irresponsible, reckless, careless and imprudent and go out joy riding, drinking or are so inexperienced as to not be able to handle emergencies.

Now there's not as much drag racing or serious speeding around these days as there used to be, Mr. Speaker. My impression is that it's not as much the macho thing to do as it was one time to go and drive cars at exceedingly high and reckless speed on the highway as it once was. It's no longer considered as macho as it once was. It's considered to be the foolish thing that it is, Mr. Speaker. That's not as big a problem but I think that there is a difficulty with younger drivers - I wouldn't say younger drivers - with inexperienced drivers that a new driver without the kind of driving experience is not as able to respond to emergencies that occur on the highway in particular, as an experienced driver would be. They don't have the level of confidence that's required to handle a vehicle.

The Minister of Works, Services and Transportation can do the public a favour, not only the driving public, but the public who might be victims of these accidents a favour by considering the safety aspects of a graduated program for newer drivers. It would give younger people in particular an opportunity to obtain driving experience and hopefully have the experience rating down so that the costs of obtaining insurance for young males would be considerably less. Prudent, careful, responsible young drivers would not have to pay the costs incurred by those who are reckless, careless and imprudent and that would be a positive benefit. I look to the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation to bring about such a change.

The government could also, while we're considering insurance, Mr. Speaker, look at the issue of Section (b), what's known as Section (b) or accident benefits. The accident benefits portion that have to do with medical treatment and loss of income. That is not compulsory in this Province, Mr. Speaker. It is not compulsory and one of the difficulties that occur when it is not compulsory is that there are a number of people who do suffer as a result.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: I hope so. What I want to ask the minister, is he prepared to consider making accident benefits compulsory? I think, based on the Insurance Bureau of Canada report, that of the 11.2 million private passenger vehicles in Canada, only 7 million have accident benefits coverage. Not only that, for commercial vehicles, only about two-thirds have accident benefits coverage.

I'll give you an example of the kind of problem that results when they don't have accident benefits coverage, Mr. Speaker. A young man who did not have any insurance of his own, was a passenger in a taxicab and several seconds after he gets into the cab there is a head-on collision between the cab that he is riding in and another vehicle. Both drivers deny liability for the accident, and this individual who requires physiotherapy, and who can't work, is all of a sudden out of an income and can't get physiotherapy because he can't afford to get it. The taxicab in which he was a passenger had no Section B coverage, no accidents benefits coverage, yet was carrying around passengers that it was not able to look after in the event of an accident for which no liability could be determined.

That is one thing, if the government is interested in reforming automobile insurance, or making uninsured motorist coverage compulsory, and allowing the Insurance Bureau of Canada and its members to obtain premium income and profit on that, I would ask that the minister consider making accidents benefits, or Section B coverage, compulsory as well - at least for commercial vehicles which are carrying passengers for hire.

MR. EFFORD: (Inaudible) done.

MR. HARRIS: The Minister of Works, Services and Transportation says he has that done. I invite him to rise during the debate and tell us where that is done, and I would be quite happy to applaud him for it.

Those are my comments on the bill, Mr. Speaker. I think it will bring about an improvement in the system for uninsured motorist coverage and provide, I would hope, a better system - at least as good a system as we have now for other insurance, to provide opportunities for people who are injured as a result of accidents where there is inadequate insurance to obtain redress.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Justice. If the minister speaks now, he closes the debate.

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, I think it is the wish of the House that we close the debate. I will be very brief.

The accident benefits coverage issue is one that we are looking at. There are mixed views. I won't express a personal view, but there are mixed views because there would be an extra cost. The accident benefits, the Section B benefits, were increased in the last couple of years, and that has increased the cost.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) commercial vehicles.

MR. ROBERTS: Well, commercial vehicles, generally the occupants of these would be covered by workers' compensation.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: Well, commercial vehicles shouldn't be carrying passengers.

AN HON. MEMBER: Taxis don't have Section B.

MR. ROBERTS: Taxis would be covered under the third party liability coverage. Their passengers would sue the driver.

My friend from St. John's East talked at some length about what the IBC said to the review committee. I wasn't there; I don't know what it said, but I can tell the House that this is a bill that I brought forward because I have long been convinced that this is a better system than judgement recovery would be. If the insurance industry welcomes it, as I understand would be case, then so be it, but we brought it forward because we believe it is an improvement on the situation that exists under the judgement recovery.

I thank my friend from Humber East for her comments. I would say that since she said she and I seldom agree, and this is one where we do, that she and I should be concerned and worried, and I have no doubt we are, but not as concerned and worried as her colleagues are when she and I fall to agreeing. Her other remarks I think I can deal with in the course of dealing with points made by my friend from Humber Valley and my friend from Bonavista South.

The price increases I dealt with when my friend from Humber Valley allowed me to respond to a question during his speech. I would simply remind the House that the Automobile Insurance Act provides that the Public Utilities Act provisions can be brought into play, and those include the right of consumers, in certain cases, defined cases, I think five have to make an application, to bring on a hearing or to cause an investigation. Insurance prices are regulated in that sense and in that context, and it is a very competitive industry in this Province, as elsewhere.

I am rushing, because I do want to come to what I think is the most substantial point in a moment.

My friend from Humber Valley asked about 45.1(7) of the proposed legislation, which is found on page 8 of the bill. My understanding of the bill is the same as his, that what it says is, if a person claims from Facility and gets only the $200,000 maximum, that injured person may claim against the tortfeasor, to use a technical term, the person who wrought the harm and that would be meaningful if the person has some money. The difficulty is that so often the person does not have the money or the injured person says: look, I can't put the fellow in bankruptcy. I won't take his house or what have you, but the right is there should the injured person choose to pursue it and we believe that's a fair and appropriate provision to make.

A number of members, Mr. Speaker, asked about the differential in the premiums charged to under twenty-five male drivers and those charged to young female drivers. This is a matter which has caused a great deal of trouble across the country. There's no doubt the driving record or the accident rate of an under twenty-five male driver is catastrophically higher then that of a young woman. In fact, as I recollect, it's the unmarried male under twenty-five who is the real disaster on wheels waiting for an opportunity to happen. The rates, the premiums are charged more or less on the acts and experience. They're not precise but more or less.

There's been an awful fuss in Ontario which, I believe with the Supreme Court of Canada, as to whether this was discriminatory under the provisions of the Charter. My recollection, it's only a recollection, is at the end of the day the court said that it was not discriminatory but the industry had to make some adjustments. I understand these were made and they are in effect here in Newfoundland and Labrador and throughout Canada. Our rating practices I think are comparable to those in use throughout the country. That's the way of the business. It's a very competitive business, as I've said before. Not only that, most of the insurance companies operating in Newfoundland and Labrador operate across the country. We have some that operate only here but we have one or two that are headquartered here that have quite a large business outside Newfoundland and Labrador. The Unifund, which is a company owned by the Johnson family or the Johnson Group, operate across the country or deal in four or five provinces to my knowledge. I think ICON which is the one owned by the Anthony Group also operate outside this Province.

A point made by my friend from Humber Valley and I'm not sure if it was made as well by my friend from Bonavista South - although I think it may have been looking at my note - is the issue of people who drive without insurance. Now this is really very troublesome. It is quite technically easy, quite feasible I'm told to require the insurance companies to notify the Registrar of Motor Vehicles whenever a policy is cancelled. Now there's a fair amount of work in it because there's a certain number of them. The problem comes what does one do next? How does one enforce that? Do we then have to hire a staff of three, four, five or whatever or sent it to the police to go around and pick up the persons plates or what have you? I mean that is the problem. I have never gotten a fully satisfactory answer, I'll tell the House, when I've looked into it but what I am told is that the problem is relatively small in that the number of people who have accidents, that are injured by uninsured drivers, is not so large as to justify making the kind of effort that would be required but it is troublesome and it is something that we keep under review.

Finally, let me address the point made by my friend from Bonavista South about the Section (a) coverage being limited to $200,000. That is the case in Newfoundland and Labrador. It was increased about ten years ago because I was in the House at that stage and took the point then that it was too low. I was told then that we were among the highest in Canada, that was correct and it is correct now but it's something we should continue to keep under review. My own opinion, as a driver, as a lawyer with some experience, Mr. Speaker, in the insurance field is that a person is crazy to be driving without at least $500,000 in coverage and preferably $1 million or $2 million in third party coverage for two reasons; number one, the extra cost is very little. You may pay an extra eight, ten or twenty dollars for the increase from $200,000 to $500,000 in coverage. It's insignificant because what the companies charge on is the likelihood that you'll have an accident, not the amount at stake. Secondly; it is not difficult to conceive a situation where a judgement goes over $200,000. It's not at all difficult to conceive of that kind of situation in this Province.

I saw a story in the newspaper the other day where, I think, Mr. Justice Wells gave a judgement in the order of $700,000. Now, the fact remains that if the insurance does not pay that, if I only have $200,000 insurance and I have a judgement like that against me it is open to the judgement creditor to take proceedings, and if I have won the lottery, or have a house, the judgement creditor can come against me for that because I am responsible. All the insurance company does is agree to indemnify one within the limits of the policy.

MR. HARRIS: (Inaudible)

MR. ROBERTS: My friend for St. John's East has the latest IBC hand-out but I have not looked at it. It came in the office, but the $200,000 is comparable across the country. I am not sure it is high enough, and it is something we keep looking at. Some insurance companies, as the gentleman for Bonavista South told us, correctly, will not sell a policy for $200,000. They say, if you are going to buy it from us we will not sell you less than $500,000.

With those remarks, Mr. Speaker, I move second reading, and I wonder if we may have the indulgence of the House to put this through the committee stage and start the Late Show a few minutes late, with the understanding that the House would sit a few minutes after 5:00, if that is necessary, to accommodate the three questions on the Later Show.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Automobile Insurance Act," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House now, by leave. (Bill No.8)

On motion, that the House resolve itself into Committee of the Whole, Mr. Speaker left the Chair.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please!

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Automobile Insurance Act."

(Bill No. 8)

Motion, that the committee report having passed the bill without amendment, carried.

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Chairman, I move that the Committee rise, report progress and ask leave to sit again.

On motion, that the Committee rise, report progress and ask leave to sit again, Mr. Speaker returned to the Chair.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Trinity - Bay de Verde.

MR. L. SNOW: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole have considered the matters to it referred and has directed me to report Bill No. 8 without amendments, and ask leave to sit again.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Automobile Insurance Act," read a third time, ordered passed and its title be as on the Order Paper. (Bill No.8)

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, I thank Your Honour and my colleagues. I assume we are now in the Late Show.

Debate on the Adjournment

[Late Show]

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Baie Verte - White Bay.

MR. SHELLEY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I thought I would rise today to expand on a few points made earlier in Question Period yesterday. Before I go into too much detail - this is not official, and again I ask the minister to check into it, I have sources that tell me some 400 people who retired their license through NCARP, retired fishermen, are basically the only people in the Province who right now have what we call an non-commercial seal license, and they have been given a bag limit of six. Now, that is unofficial, of course, and I would like the minister to check into that. I have called the DFO to check that out and in essence they say the 400 people who retired from NCARP, all their licenses - initially the seal licence was also taken back. Since then there has been a change in policy where it says that those 400 people now do have a non-commercial licence.

Now non-commercial - there have been four names I have seen stuck to it so far, because really nobody knows what this is, I guess. A non-commercial licence, a subsistent licence, recreational licence - whatever the licence is, basically it is for food consumption.

Now, of course, there are some comments made inside and outside, talking about what do we mean by non-commercial, and it is exactly that. It is for people to go out and shoot seals, and I will stretch that in a second, too. It is just to shoot seals. They say the only humane way to hunt seals now is to shoot seals for their own consumption, for their families or for themselves.

Now there have been some bag limits mentioned, and I am not sure - on any of those I will ask the minister later to see if he can confirm those, but some said four, five, or even six - the number has been six. I am not sure about that, so maybe he will be able to confirm those.

Very simply, I guess this all arose through conversations. The first person who mentioned it to me was a retired fisherman who said it really bothers him to sit on the shoreline, now retired, with nothing to do basically, and really, basically, a forced retirement when we talk about fishermen in this particular situation, because of the cod crisis, sit on the shore and watch seals in my district come up into the salmon river. We have heard in other districts as well around the Province, actually seals up in the salmon river, to just watch them go by and because a licence is given up they can't go out - and, of course, many parts of rural Newfoundland like the seal, the seal flipper meal especially. They can't go out and actually shoot a seal. I think it is ridiculous; it is ludicrous.

That is the whole reason behind the line of questioning yesterday, and I am hopeful of the support of all members of this House to support any Newfoundlander - and that is the point that has to be stretched - any Newfoundlander, anybody here in this House of Assembly, who has never had a licence before -

AN HON. MEMBER: I got one.

MR. SHELLEY: Yes, and I am glad the minister has one, but you are one of the lucky ones. My whole point, and I think the minister supports it, is that any Newfoundlander or Labradorian who wants that option of the bill, to go out and shoot a seal for his own consumption and that of his family, all the logistics, or any common sense used here will allow for that.

First of all, we have a seal herd that is exploding, as we all know, day by day, although I read some articles here that were put out awhile ago with the International Marine Mammal Association, and of course back in our debate some time ago in a private member's bill moved by the Member for Eagle River -

AN HON. MEMBER: Did you ever shoot a seal?


AN HON. MEMBER: You never?


The Member for Eagle River, we talked about - these surveys talked about here, about no cod in the seal's stomach, in the digestive tract, and we brought that up during the private member's bill, so as far as these go, but the whole point is the exploding seal herd, the crisis in the fishery, the retired fishermen, or anybody for that matter who sees a seal just floating across in front of them in the bay, his family likes to eat them - but he can go in the woods and have a rabbit, or go in and have a moose, but he can't go out and shoot a seal for his own family consumption.

Some people brought up the point about being worried about protest groups and everything coming into the Province or whatever. Any protest group, there is no comparison - I say no comparison - to the protest that went on here years ago with the white coats and clubbing seals. I don't think that is any comparison to talking about going and shooting a seal - not clubbing a seal - for consumption of food. There is no rationale for that.

I think the minister mentioned that in his answer yesterday, talking about the rationale for that, so I would like to see support from all members in this House to use logic and let common sense prevail when we talk about any Newfoundlander or Labradorian, with the exploding seal population, to assist in this cod crisis also, so that anybody who wants to go out and have that option to have seal for the consumption of food for their family can certainly go ahead and do that.

I would like for the minister, when he stands, to confirm if there is any truth to the 400 people who have already been given back licences, who retired under the NCARP program all the rest of their licences.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Before I recognize the hon. minister, I would like to welcome to the public gallery representatives of the Falkland Islands.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. CARTER: Mr. Speaker, it is my understanding that the people who have been denied a licence by virtue of having relinquished their groundfish licence under the first NCARP, that those people will get their licenses back. That is what I have been told. In fact I had somebody this morning check it out and I haven't reported back to that person yet, but I'm told that the licenses will be reinstated.

It certainly makes all kinds of sense to reinstate the licenses because as the hon. gentleman said we have an exploding seal population out here now. In fact I was just reading here that I believe back in 1971 the estimated herd was around 1.5 million animals, and in 1991, twenty years later, it is estimated to be close to 4 million. The seal population of course increases by about 560,000 animals per year.

Interesting to note too, Mr. Speaker, that when you hear people talk about the impact the seals are having on the fish in the ocean, the food fish, a harp seal's diet consists of twenty-seven species of fish. Caplin is their main source of supply, main source of food intake. Based upon the current estimated population it is suggested that the seal herds consume - just listen to this - 1.840 billion metric tons of fish annually. Just incredible!

Harp seals spend four to five months a year in the NAFO 2J-3KLNO area. They consume large quantities of caplin and groundfish. I haven't got any statistics on groundfish but I'm told that they eat about a certain percentage of their body weight every day. It is suggested that even at a very low estimate they will consume probably 100,000 metric tons of fish a year. That's more than Canadians and I suppose all of the international community has caught in Newfoundland in the past number of years. There is no doubt about it. The problem with the seal population, the explosion of the seal population, is a very real problem and one that the federal government must address.

Let me give the House a short briefing on what has happened to date in terms of the Newfoundland seal fishery. I take some pride in this because my department has worked steadily with the promoters of the seal fishery for about a year identifying markets, identifying new and different types of products, to the point where now we have a reborn seal fishery. Mind you, it is not harvesting too many animals at the present time but this is the first year that we've had a properly organized seal harvest and seal processing operation.

This year a Newfoundland company, Terra Nova Seafoods, entered into a joint venture arrangement with the Shanghai Fishing Company in China and between them they are this year harvesting 50,000 seals. That is only a fraction of what the sustainable yield could be. For example, they tell me that you could quite easily take 500,000 seals a year out of the herd without interfering at all with their reproductive biomass. So 50,000 seals is only a drop in the bucket.

Mr. Speaker, I'm happy to tell you, by the way, and I don't say much about this publicly for obvious reason - in fact, I haven't hardly mentioned it in public, because I don't want to arouse the curiosity of the so-called animal rights people - but I can tell you that in 1995 I predict there will be a seal hunt of no less than 200,000 animals.


MR. CARTER: Two hundred thousand. These are not just figures I'm plucking out of my head. They are estimates that have been given to me by people who are involved in the fishery. I predict that we will have three or four plants operating on the northeast coast. We have two now in the hon. gentleman's district, one in Fleur de Lys and I believe another, the co-op, in Wild Cove? Yes. Employing about, I'm told, sixty-five people - gainful employment. There was a large number of fishermen benefiting from the harvest. I have been told and I'm happy to tell the House that next year we should have probably three such plants along the Northeast Coast. We should have a harvest of 200,000 animals, which is getting close to what the sustainable harvest can be, and there will be an infusion of many millions of dollars into the economy of the Northeast Coast fishermen and plant workers. So I believe we're getting there. Now, I'm not against fishermen going out and killing seals -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time has elapsed.

MR. CARTER: - but I can only caution the people who - and I can understand their exuberance and their anxiety to try to remove as many seals as possible, of course we all do. But I can only tell you that the eyes of the world are on us, especially the international community, the animal rights people, and the first time we step out of line, I can tell you now, they'll come at us. So we're trying to conduct a hunt humanely, utilizing the entire animal in a way that causes no problems to anybody. I believe if we can keep on that track and keep doing it in the right way, within a few years the seal fishery will become one of our most lucrative industries in this Province - certainly that's our aim.

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

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

Last week I asked the Minister of Health a question dealing with amendments made to the Nursing Assistants Act and the Council of Nursing Assistants in their money grab, Mr. Speaker - the seventy-five nursing assistants, many of whom live within my district, in requiring them to pay dues to that association back to 1985 when they were not members until 1994. Now, I asked the minister that day and his response was that he couldn't confirm it. He said he was aware of certain things, and he was not aware of other things, I believe he said. It was a very flippant and irresponsible answer, in my opinion.

Mr. Speaker, what has taken place with this particular issue is simply this: In the fall of 1993, the government passed Bill 44 introducing amendments to the Nursing Assistants Act. Those amendments, among other things in that piece of legislation, made mandatory that all nursing assistants in this Province be registered with the Council of Nursing Assistants. Prior to that, there were some at the Waterford Hospital who were not part of the council, but as a result of the legislation passed, Bill 44, it was mandatory that they become part of that council and pay dues as members of that council, which none of them, Mr. Speaker, have had any problem in doing. What they have had difficulty in doing, Mr. Speaker, certainly in these tough economic times - nursing assistants, people who have just become members of the council, have been required by that council to come up with between $300 and $800 apiece to pay back dues to an association back to 1985 which they were not even members of.

Now, the Nursing Assistants Act clearly sets out the rules and regulations by which the council can regulate fees, or request fees, or demand fees from its membership, and it says specifically in the act that the council, subject to the approval of the minister - there must be ministerial approval - may require fees to be paid above and beyond the normal fee if the council decides it is necessary for them to have those fees to continue to operate. Now, I asked the minister last week if he could confirm that was done. He couldn't confirm it. I asked him why he gave approval to the council. He couldn't answer that either.

So there are two questions today that must be answered. Number one, if the minister did not give approval to the Council of Nursing Assistants to require dues to be paid back from new members coming in to 1985, then the council, according to the act, has no legal ground whatsoever to demand those dues, and if that is the case, I request the minister and the government today to act immediately to suspend that decision of the council to ensure that those people do not have to pay that money.

The second question that must be asked today is this: If approval was given by the Minister of Health to the council to request people who now become nursing assistants to pay dues back to 1985, why did he do that? He must explain that here today - why, as a result of his decision, nursing assistants who can least afford, in these tough, economic times, who make $24,000 or $25,000 or $26,000 - unlike $100,000 like the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation - who can least afford to come up with $800 in their back pocket, then why did he make that decision and cause them to do that?

Those are the two issues here, and I ask the minister today to seriously answer the question, not be flippant, not be irresponsible, and answer the questions as I put them.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

DR. KITCHEN: Mr. Speaker, thank you. I will attempt to clear up some of the confusion.

I might point out that the member is not quoting the act correctly. Nowhere does it say that the minister must approve -

MR. E. BYRNE: A point of order, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: That is not right. I can quote the act. I have it before me.

Let me quote the act for the Minister of Health so that I may make him aware of legislation that he should be governing.

AN HON. MEMBER: That is not a point of order.

MR. E. BYRNE: It is a point of order.

The act states this, that the council may, subject to the approval of the minister, make regulations prescribing the registration fees payable, including fees for the renewal of registration, and prescribing other fees that the council considers necessary to defray its expenses. It is indeed part of the act, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: It is probably part of the act, but it is not a point of order.

The hon. the Minister of Health.

DR. KITCHEN: Mr. Speaker, the hon. member has changed his tune a little bit there. It is true that regulations under the act must be approved by the minister, but I am going to tell him this: the Council of Nursing Assistants has been changed as a result of the new act which this government brought in. We are now operating under regulations which the former government brought in, and that is the whole problem.

The new council has not yet been appointed. We are operating under a council that was appointed earlier. In the new Council of Nursing Assistants, not yet appointed, five out of ten will be registered nursing assistants. There is a tremendous amount of interest among nursing assistants for getting on this council. In fact, there have been dozens and dozens of people who want to get on that council and we are having a hard time trying to figure out who should be on it, and who shouldn't be on it.

As far as authority is concerned, the authority that is now operative are the regulations that were in place for some time. The authority that is there indicates this - here is the authority which is there. It is regulations which were in effect and approved in 1988 by the previous administration.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

DR. KITCHEN: I don't know who was there. It could have been if he was Minister of Health. `A registered nursing assistant whose name has been removed from the register pursuant to Subsection 6, for registration not paid in full, and who has been employed as a nursing assistant at any time since the time of such removal may be reinstated by fulfilling the requirements of certain paragraphs and shall pay the annual registration fee for each year since removal from the register in which the nursing assistant was employed as a nursing assistant, and in addition shall pay a reinstatement fee as prescribed by council.

Mr. Speaker, I didn't approve that regulation. Somebody over there approved it! As long as the Council of Nursing Assistants is operating within the law they will have no problem. I don't know what the hon. member's problem is, but it certainly isn't with me.

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

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I want to follow up on a question I asked the Minister of Fisheries yesterday and earlier in the week. The Minister of Fisheries. I see the Minister of Finance looking at me. He is close to the Minister of Fisheries but it is to the Minister of Fisheries. It is not about teachers or NAPE or CUPE, it is about the fisheries observer program.

They are all pretty testy over there today. I think it all stems from the irritation oozing from the Premier these days. He is continuously running away from the House and the Province and it is all oozing from the ministers. The `run away Premier,' he is now called all over the Province.

I want to ask the Minister of Fisheries and follow up on the fisheries observer's question. Some very serious concerns being experienced in that particular program. It is because of a reduction in dollars, a dollar squeeze by the federal government. We have boats leaving port without observers, Newfoundland vessels. In late March-early April there were, as I said, fourteen vessels in zone 3O fishing. The only two boats with observers were the two Newfoundland boats. The Grand Banker had to leave the zone because it exceeded its by-catch of cod. The limit was 5 per cent; they were catching up to 11 per cent. They had to move out of the zone, stop fishing. The Nova Scotian vessels stayed and fished because they did not have observers on them.

To me that is incomprehensible with the crisis that we are now facing in our fishery, the problems of our people and our communities, the billions of dollars that are being spent by the federal government - the former government and now the present government - $1.9 billion announced a few days ago to keep people alive in our communities, to put food on their tables. Yet, we are not serious about conservation.

The observer program is the only real conservation measure inside the 200-mile limit. If we haven't got the foresight, the political will and the financial wisdom to spend a few dollars to have an observer on every vessel that is fishing inside of the 200-mile limit, then all of this talk about the fishery of the future - all of the efforts of the Minister of Fisheries and his officials and his department with the papers that they've put out, and the direction the fishery of the future should follow - is all in vain, because there will not be a fishery of the future if we don't put conservation first. I have grave concerns about that.

Then, after the story yesterday, an official from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans confirmed that indeed it was because of a cutback in expenditures, and that is very alarming when you have billions of dollars spent on compensation programs, they can't find the dollars to put an observer on every vessel that is now fishing off our shores.

I raise that. I know it's not in the hon. minister's jurisdiction. I raised it out of concern, and the minister has responded on both occasions with concern, and I appreciate that. It was so important to the fishery of the future for this Province that the only forum that I had to raise it, and with the federal party system the way it is, where there is really no opposition in Atlantic Canada, I guess this House is really the only forum to raise the concerns, so I wanted to address it in the Late Show today and I am thankful to the minister for coming back, because I understand he was over to his office somewhere and had to come back for the Late Show.

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

MR. CARTER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I realize I did undertake to provide some information for the hon. gentleman on the observer program, or the lack thereof. My request for the information has gone in, but it hasn't been responded to yet.

Mr. Speaker, it is quite obvious, given the state of the fishery and what has happened to it in the past few years, that there is a desperate need for more and proper observer action or activity on board all fishing vessels - not just foreign vessels, but domestic vessels as well.

I realize, and the hon. gentleman pointed out yesterday, that the Nova Scotia vessels in many cases do not have observers on board, and that is unfortunate. Some Newfoundland vessels have them. I believe once in a blue moon there is 100 per cent coverage, but very rarely does that happen. I understand they are having some problems now with respect to Nova Scotians in that the contract for the observer core has changed. The company that had the contract were a well qualified, quite capable company, employed a lot of good people, did not succeed in getting the contract this time, and now they have to start pretty well from square one, and that is causing a lot of concerns.

The contract in Newfoundland comes up for renewal, I am told, in 1965 with a one year extension.

MR. ROBERTS: 1965?

MR. CARTER: 1995, with a one year extension. In 1996 the contract will be up for renewal, and I am only hoping then - I suppose you have to pay your money and take your chances, but it certainly would be in our best interest if the current company were to be the successful bidder.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: (Inaudible).

MR. CARTER: Well, I'll tell you it's certainly in our interest to make sure that the seventy-two people who are presently employed as observers remain in that position because it's all important.

The incident the hon. gentleman referred to yesterday or this morning, this afternoon, about the sea of dead red fish, that's absolutely unacceptable. In fact, it's almost a crime against humanity that that sort of thing would be allowed to happen. I think the people responsible should be taken to task and given prompt and severe punishment for doing that sort of thing but it's only when you have observers on board, good observers, that that sort of thing can be detected and the proper action taken. So, Mr. Speaker, I can only tell the hon. gentleman that I share his concern. We have made representation to our federal counterparts pointing out the need for more observers, better coverage and they keep telling us that they are going to be doing it but obviously they haven't and I think we'll have to keep the pressure on.

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

MR. ROBERTS: Your Honour, let me move that the House adjourn until tomorrow, Monday at 2:00 p.m. If that's agreeable, that's the understanding I think members have and with that said, I would ask Your Honour to put the motion that we do now adjourn.

MR. SPEAKER: All those in favour of adjourning -

MR. ROBERTS: If I may Your Honour, my friend from Grand Bank has asked what we are doing Monday. That is a very good question. I will undertake to let him know, I assume he will be out in Gander tomorrow. He probably won't want me to come along.

AN HON. MEMBER: We have an open party.

MR. ROBERTS: I understand it's an open party if only you had an open mind but with that said I will let him know. I will be in touch with his office and let them know. In all likelihood the Electrical Power Control Act.

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

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

We do have an open mind, I say to the Government House Leader. Why else would I invite him? Why would I invite him if we weren't totally open minded? We know what he's all about and what he stands for, Mr. Speaker. But I want to try and get some verification on the continuation of the estimates committee, the Department of Mines and Energy, has that been settled because my colleague from Humber Valley is on his way home? Has that been set for Monday morning?

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

MR. ROBERTS: My understanding is the committee will meet at 9:00 Monday morning and the minister will be at the meeting.

My understanding is that all of the other estimates have been addressed?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: Okay. Well, in any event the committee will meet at 9:00 a.m. on Monday. There was some problem with the Public Service Commission estimates and we will have to address that, but since that doesn't take three hours off - anyway, we will deal with that, but the Mines and Energy estimates will be dealt with and I would hope disposed of one way or the other on Monday morning, and then we will carry on from there, if that's in order.

I would say to my hon. friend that when he was inviting me to come to Gander, with his open mind, one of my colleagues here couldn't resist using the familiar line that if I were to leave this party and join theirs, the intellectual level of both would be improved as a consequence.

MR. SPEAKER: The House now stands adjourned until tomorrow, Monday, at 2:00 p.m.