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January 22, 2015                HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS                Vol. XLVII No. 61


 

The House met at 1:30 p.m. 

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

Admit strangers. 

 

Statements by Members

 

MR. SPEAKER: Today we have members' statements from the Member for the District of Humber Valley; the Member for the District of Virginia Waters; the Member for the District St. Barbe; the Member for the District of Baie Verte – Springdale; the Member for the District of Trinity – Bay de Verde; and the Member for the District of Bonavista North. 

 

The hon. the Member for the District of Humber Valley. 

 

MR. BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I rise in this hon. House today to recognize Angie Parsons of Deer Lake on being named the 2014 Community Impact Award winner by the Newfoundland and Labrador Organization of Women Entrepreneurs – NLOWE.  The award is given annually to an entrepreneur whose business has had a significant social and economic impact on their local community. 

 

Mr. Speaker, Angie Parsons is the owner and operator of Royal K-9 Spa, Resort and Training Facility in Deer Lake; her business offers grooming, training classes and boarding for dogs, as well as a retail store. 

 

Angie is a devout advocate for pets and pet owners throughout the Province.  Along with her business, she is involved with the local SPCA, the Deer Lake Chamber of Commerce, and Junior Achievement. 

 

Mr. Speaker, NLOWE continues to support and encourage women entrepreneurs to pursue growth opportunities, with programs and services which are offered all across the Province.  Small businesses continue to be the backbone of many local economies in Newfoundland and Labrador. 

 

I ask all members of this House to join me in congratulating Angie Parsons on her Community Impact Award and wish her success in her future endeavours.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for the District of Virginia Waters.

 

MS C. BENNETT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I rise in this hon. House today to recognize the recent recipients of the Silver Level of the Duke of Edinburgh Awards in December 2014.  In December, seven students from the District of Virginia Waters were presented their award by the Hon. Frank Fagan, Lieutenant Governor of Newfoundland and Labrador.

 

To achieve this, participants completed a balanced program of leisure-time activities and met the prescribed standards in four important areas of self-development, including community service, adventurous journey, physical recreation, and skill development.

 

I extend congratulations to Bobbi-Glenn Butler, Nicholas Henderson, Leslie Jamieson, Mark Oake, Logan Slade, Clare Snow, and Zhang Zhipu on their achievement.

 

This program helps to shape the lives of young Canadians as they take on new challenges, giving back to their communities and achieving success while developing self-confidence, motivation, and life-long friendships.  The Duke of Edinburgh Award began as a program to help young people develop a sense of responsibility to themselves and their communities.

 

Mr. Speaker, I ask all hon. members to join me in congratulating these individuals who are making a difference in the lives of their communities, and to the many young Canadians who achieve milestones through personal discovery, self-reliance, and perseverance in a non-competitive format.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for St. Barbe.

 

MR. J. BENNETT: Mr. Speaker, I rise in this hon. House today to commend and thank all members of Come Home Year committees for the committed effort they make to organizing, fundraising, and carrying out Come Home Year celebrations in their respective communities.

 

The degree of effort and the lengths to which these often unrecognized people, who still live in our rural communities, go to host family and friends who have moved away is remarkable.  The efforts they expend to keep alive our traditions, as well as our friendships, deserve commendation.  Come Home Year celebrations do more than just bring our people together, they also inject badly-needed private money into our rural communities, many of which have limited economic bases.

 

Come Home Year celebrations for 2015 and 2016 are planned in many of the three dozen communities in the District of St. Barbe, as well as throughout our Province.  I thank all volunteers for their work, and I look forward to attending several Come Home Year celebrations, just as other members will be attending in theirs.

 

Mr. Speaker, I also ask all members of this hon. House to join me in recognizing Come Home Year committees on the commitment they make to their respective communities.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. POLLARD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

As a teen she wanted to be a missionary, but due to World War II, chose instead to become a Salvation Army Officer.  Stationed in many small communities, she performed both clergy and teaching duties in one-room schools.  Over the years she added town clerk, President of the local Women's Institute, running a homeless shelter in Toronto, volunteer chaplain at the Valley Vista in Springdale, and an author to her long list of leadership roles and achievements.

 

Upon her official retirement, Dr. Gladys Osmond turned to writing.  From a few letters to a young member of the Armed Forces, her efforts grew to writing over 500,000 letters to soldiers wherever they were stationed all around the world.  Her home was filled with letters and photos from the men and women serving on land, sea, and air. 

 

She has received numerous awards for her efforts, including the Caring Award, the Canadian Forces Medallion for Distinguished Service, Honorary Doctor of Laws from Memorial University, and the Order of Newfoundland and Labrador. 

 

On Wednesday, January 14, 2015 Gladys passed away suddenly at the age of ninety-one.  Without the advantages of power, position, or money, Gladys truly made a lasting impact.

 

Honourable members, please help me celebrate the life of Dr. Gladys Osmond.

 

Thank you very much.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Trinity – Bay de Verde.

 

MR. CROCKER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I rise in this hon. House today to recognize two members of the Pharmacists' Association of Newfoundland and Labrador who are residents of the District of Trinity – Bay de Verde. 

 

Mr. Kevin Banton is a pharmacist who lives in the Town of Heart's Delight – Islington where he owns and operates Welsh's Pharmacy. 

 

At this year's PANL Annual Conference, Mr. Banton was presented with the 2014 Pharmacist of the Year Award.  The nominees for this award come from the public and are given to pharmacists who go above and beyond their regular roles in providing extraordinary services. 

 

At the same conference, an Honorary Lifetime Membership Award was presented to Mr. Dave Dawe in recognition for his long service to the pharmacy profession.  Mr. Dawe is a resident of Heart's Content where he owned and operated Dawe's Pharmacy until retiring in October 2014. 

 

While Mr. Dawe is now retired, Mr. Banton continues to exhibit the qualities that earned him this award in providing admirable service to local residents.

 

I ask all hon. members to join me in congratulating Mr. Banton and Mr. Dawe on these well-deserved awards and wish them all the best in the future.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. CROSS: I am very proud to rise today, Mr. Speaker, to recognize Blake Welcher, a remarkable young man of thirteen years from Valleyfield, Bonavista North and commend him for his very thoughtful and humanitarian action.  If I may, Mr. Speaker, I would like to use Blake's words in a letter to a young girl, Abigail Winter, who is afflicted with Cerebral Palsy.  His short letter is self-explanatory and his words are more appropriate than mine.

 

Merry Christmas Abigail, I have collected squares from all over the world to make a blanket for you!  I mentioned you to some of my online friends and they wanted to help do something special for you, and so it began.  We started a projected called “Let's make Abigail a blanket.”  They were so happy to make blanket squares and send them to me to make your blanket.  We hope you enjoy the blanket and know that it was made with love.

 

He identifies squares from Massachusetts, England, Texas, Missouri and Michigan among other places.

 

Blake Welcher, you are proving that a spirit of compassion, love and respect is alive in our next generation, and I am sure all members will join me in saying you are and will be an inspiration for others.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

I would like to take a minute to welcome to the gallery, the former Deputy Premier of the Government of New Brunswick, Ms Aldιa Landry.

 

Welcome to the House of Assembly.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Statements by Ministers.

 

Statements by Ministers

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. GRANTER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Mr. Speaker, I rise in this hon. House to recognize the important contributions of people working on coastal management area committees throughout the Province.  Earlier this week, these talented and dedicated individuals came together for a workshop in Corner Brook to share ideas and generate new initiatives, and their efforts are greatly appreciated.

 

Mr. Speaker, these valued volunteers have played a key role in advancing our government's Coastal and Ocean Management Strategy and Policy Framework from the time it was established in 2011.  Our collaborative efforts fall under six main areas of activity: maintaining healthy marine environments; promoting social, cultural and economic sustainability; monitoring coastal land use; balancing competing needs and interests; managing coastal and marine infrastructure; and addressing climate change.

 

Our government is very pleased to partner with members of the five coastal management area committees located throughout the Province.  These individuals work with government representatives to increase knowledge and public engagement on issues that affect their local coasts.  Examples of initiatives supported by these coastal management area committees include community beach cleanups, youth education projects, and World Oceans Day celebrations.

 

Mr. Speaker, I want to take this opportunity to extend special thanks to the Humber Arm Environmental Association, known regionally as ACAP Humber Arm, for hosting the coastal management area committee workshop I mentioned earlier in my statement.  Led by Executive Director Sheldon Peddle, this group has spearheaded many important projects.  They have supported our government's efforts to monitor and mitigate the impact of green crab.  They have also created unique youth engagement initiatives like Trading Books for Boats, which gives junior high students an opportunity to take to the open water to learn about coastal and ocean ecosystems.  This work is a fine example of how our coastal management area committees are using creative approaches to increase public awareness about the importance of ocean environments off our coasts.

 

Mr. Speaker, our government has made coastal management a priority because we appreciate the fact that the ocean environment is deeply linked to our Province's culture, heritage, history, recreational enjoyment, and economic prosperity.  On behalf of the provincial government, I thank everyone playing a role in advancing the importance of marine stewardship, and look forward to continued collaboration in the future.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Carbonear – Harbour Grace.

 

MR. SLADE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for an advance copy of his statement.  More than ever, proper coastal and ocean management is needed to ensure our waters and ecosystem is safeguarded.  I express gratitude to all of those in our Province who have shared their ideas on how to achieve a balanced approach to responsibly sharing our shores and our waters.

 

Mr. Speaker, I have no confidence that this government is dealing with the more serious issues which affect our coastal areas.  I think of the Manolis L, the purpose of changes to the Placentia Bay pilotage requirements, and even the aquaculture challenges faced on the Province's South Coast.  No leadership by this government.

 

Also, I remind the minister that a core part of managing our coastal areas is to safeguard our wild fish, which has dropped of this government's agenda long ago.

 

I call upon this government to step up its game on the coastal ocean management and, since it has been over five years, it is time government produce a strategy report on the coastal and ocean strategy.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

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

 

I, too, thank the minister for an advance copy of his statement.  Of course I agree that marine stewardship and coastal management are vital to the interests of this Province, and I congratulate the commitment of the many volunteers working on the coastal management area committees. 

 

I would like to point out to the minister, however, that towns on the South Coast of the Island portion of the Province have waited for years to set up a marine conservation area.  Three years ago, government refused to approve a feasibility study that the federal government was willing to pay for.

 

Government made this decision without consulting with interested groups; another example that although this government talks a lot about consultation, they do not understand what real consultation entails.  I also question their commitment to the coastal preservation when they would not do that study. 

 

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. CRUMMELL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I rise today as the Minister Responsible for the Office of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency to provide my hon. colleagues with an update on the excellent progress made as part of the HotShots initiative. 

 

Mr. Speaker, our government launched the HotShots initiative in October 2014 to raise awareness about the importance of energy conservation among students in Newfoundland and Labrador.  I am delighted to confirm that this initiative has been rolled out to all 263 public schools in the Province. 

 

As part of the initiative, resource packs have been provided to all schools, including French versions to schools within the French school district.  This resource includes facts about where energy comes from in Newfoundland and Labrador, the benefits of saving energy, and how students can reduce the amount of energy they use.  All of these resources are also available for download online.

 

We have also launched a new curriculum-based Web site as part of the HotShots initiative.  Mr. Speaker, this Web site provides teachers of Grade 6 and 9 science with links to online resources about energy conservation.  These resources link directly to curriculum outcomes for these courses, equipping teachers with exciting new tools to teach students about the importance of saving energy. 

 

Mr. Speaker, through an innovative partnership with Newfoundland Power and Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, we are also delivering presentations to primary and elementary schools.  These presentations provide students with tips to save energy and empower them to take action within their homes.  Over 140 classes have received these presentations since October. 

 

Our partnership with Newfoundland Power and Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro also includes two contests for students to communicate the importance of energy conservation, through which they can win prizes for their schools.  Mr. Speaker, I would like to encourage students through our Province to enter these contests and help raise awareness about saving energy. 

 

More information on this initiative, including the resource packs, presentations and contests, can be found at HotShotNL.ca. 

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. MITCHELMORE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for an advance copy of his statement.  Climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time.  Incorporating this into the grade school curriculum is crucial to raising young people to become engaged and responsible citizens.

 

I wonder, though, if they are telling these students about all the vacant schools throughout the Province with the heat and lights left on.  This government has done a woefully inadequate job of securing buy-in from the public at large in energy conservation.  Incentives are needed to encourage homeowners to make energy efficient choices.

 

It is ironic the minister is not standing in the House to read a statement of how the ENERGY STAR window rebate program was cancelled as of just three weeks ago.  It is shameful I say, Mr. Speaker.  As per usual, this government's failure to lead by example is evident in their piecemeal and inconsistent approach to tackling climate change.

 

Thank you.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. MURPHY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I thank the minister for the advance copy of his statement here today.  It is good to see government promoting the conservation of energy.  The reality is, though, that this government cut financial initiatives like the EnerGuide for Houses Program that would have allowed people to conserve energy rather than just talk about it. 

 

We do not know the future, Mr. Speaker.  Energy efficiency was cut before.  Programs like REEP may be at risk of government cuts again, considering the fiscal situation we find ourselves in as a Province here today.

 

Thank you very much.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

Before Question Period, I would just like to take a moment to also recognize the Mayor of Grand le Pierre.  His Worship Paul Bolt is in the gallery today.

 

Welcome to the House of Assembly.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Oral Questions.

 

Oral Questions

 

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

 

MR. BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

The federal government has said that the Budget is delayed until at least April, 2015.

 

I ask the Premier: Does this mean that you will not bring down this year's Budget until the end of April at the earliest?

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. WISEMAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

The timing of a Budget on the calendar is not as important as ensuring that the Budget is informed.  There are a number of things that impact our Budget in a big way.  One of them is obviously the price of oil.  There is a high degree of uncertainty of what that will look like for the next twelve months. 

 

The second thing, Mr. Speaker, in as much as we no longer receive equalization payments from the federal government, there are significant transfer payments from the federal government that still comes into our revenues.  Obviously, whatever the federal government does in their Budget forecasting will have a huge impact on us. 

 

Some of the commentary that they may have about the economy moving into next year and other financial implications for the current spot we find ourselves in as a nation, that all of that will have an impact on our Budget process.  So, being informed, Mr. Speaker, is much more important than the calendar date.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Well, I doubt any of the variables that you just mentioned to the minister, not much of that is going to change.  Keep in mind in last year's Budget we forecasted over a $500 million deficit, and at that point, right up until September, the price of oil was fairly stable.

 

Mr. Speaker, with the required time to debate a Budget in this House, it is likely that this year's Budget will not be passed until June.  Meanwhile, the Premier refuses to immediately cut the size of his Cabinet and his five parliamentary secretaries; a move that would save almost $500,000 over the next five months, something that this Premier can do right away.

 

I ask the Premier: Why do you not have the courage to cut your Cabinet and cut those parliamentary secretaries today?

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

PREMIER DAVIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

As the minister has referenced, and I have referenced myself throughout the last number of days in the House here, and publicly as well, and as they have thrown back at me many times.  So I know they are getting it, because I have said that everything is on the table, Mr. Speaker.  I can continue to say that. 

 

There are positions that are held by members of my government and my caucus that include that review.  Mr. Speaker, I would trust that the member opposite would be supportive of looking at their own positions in their own party, in their own Opposition, as the opposition group of Opposition House leaders and Whips and so on.  I would expect all of us to have a review of all those positions, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I know the Premier understands or should understand the role of the House Management Commission in this House of Assembly, and of course the Green Report that will review compensation, benefits for all MHAs, which comes after the next provincial election.  I am sure the Premier understands all that.  Probably what he does not understand is he does not need any permission from either of those groups to do the right thing.  Cut the size of Cabinet; reduce your parliamentary secretaries like all other Maritime Provinces have done.  They have none at all, yet our Province continues to have five.

 

Mr. Speaker, with everything on the table, I ask the Premier: With everything on the table, is the Muskrat Falls Project on the table?

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

PREMIER DAVIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

To his point on positions in the House, I think it is important that we identify that there are number of roles within the House that both parties have that give them opportunities.  They do extra functions and roles in the House, but they also receive extra compensation.  For example, House Leaders receive extra compensation, caucus chairs –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

PREMIER DAVIS: – party Whips, Deputy House Leaders, all receive extra compensation, have to –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

PREMIER DAVIS: I have struck a chord over there, Mr. Speaker. 

 

So, members of their own caucus –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

PREMIER DAVIS: – all receive extra compensation for some of their roles –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

The hon. the Premier, to continue.

 

PREMIER DAVIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Members opposite have roles and functions that they carry out while they are in the House that they receive compensation for in their roles throughout the year that they receive extra compensation for.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

PREMIER DAVIS: Mr. Speaker, my point is that when we are going to do a full and complete review – I have said I am willing to review the roles and functions and additional duties that members of my caucus have and have been assigned to them, and I would certainly expect members opposite to do the same thing.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. BALL: Absolutely, Mr. Speaker, the Management Commission is a great group of people, controlled right now by government.  The cutting of Cabinet members is not controlled by people in the Opposition, so I would expect the Premier to stop really dodging the issue here; that is all you are doing.  The issue at hand is reduce the size of your Cabinet; do the right thing.  Have the courage that you say it takes to make those tough decisions.  Cut those parliamentary secretaries, I say Premier.  Why aren't you doing this? 

 

Mr. Speaker, the Province has also several equity investments in our Province right now.  These range from offshore oil developments to aquaculture initiatives. 

 

I ask the Premier: Are the Province's equity investments on the table? 

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. WISEMAN: Mr. Speaker, I hate repeating myself and I do not always like quoting other people either frequently, but let me try it again.  The Premier has said numerous times in this House and outside the House, I myself have said outside this House and here in Question Period, that as we go through the Budget process we are examining all aspects of government's operation, all aspects of the boards and agencies that do work on behalf of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.  We are examining all of the revenue streams.  We are examining all of the expenditure items.  We are looking at how we are going to manage our way through this difficult time we find ourselves in as a result of world oil prices.

 

We need to map out a way forward to get us through not just this year, but we need to map out a plan to get us through the next five years, Mr. Speaker.  That is what the Budget process will be involving itself in this year.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I agree with the Minister of Finance; no one likes to repeat themselves.  So, this is a question you will not have to repeat the Premier; because the Premier did not answer this question when I asked is Muskrat Falls on the table. 

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. WISEMAN: Mr. Speaker, as we examine all the aspects of government's operations together with its boards and agencies, as I have just described, one of the things that we need to make sure that we do is we make strategic decisions, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. WISEMAN: We look at the kinds of investments we have made into our future because we need to be careful, Mr. Speaker.  Whatever we do today, recognize this is just not going to have an impact on the next twelve months because that is the Budget cycle.  We make decisions in this House and as a government we make decisions every day that affects the lives of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, not just today but well into the future.

 

So, any decision we made during this Budget process will be of the view – not just look at this year's fiscal cycle, but for the long-term sustainability of programs and services, all in the best interests of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians for the long term.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I asked that question to the Premier.  I asked that question to the Minister of Finance.  Now I am going to ask this question to the Minister of Natural Resources because he likes hat tricks.  I know this guy likes hat tricks.

 

I ask the Minister of Natural Resources: Is Muskrat Falls on the table?

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

PREMIER DAVIS: Mr. Speaker, I never like to interfere with a good hockey game, I can tell you that.

 

Mr. Speaker, as the member opposite is asking this question, it comes to mind a very important consideration that we are making that I think it is valuable in discussing here today.  It has to do with infrastructure investments because we have made commitments on projects.

 

We have plans that are at various stages in projects.  There are projects that are very, very early in concept and thought and idea.  There are projects which have had an amount of engineering and design work completed on them.  There are projects where tenders have been issued, inviting tenders.  There are projects where tenders have been awarded and waiting for the work to get underway.  There are projects that are in some stage of completion.  Some, where the current contracts have been completed and where more need to be done.

 

Mr. Speaker, we have to be cognizant of all of those factors as we made our decisions and move forward.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Well, I guess I got the hat trick all right; the hat trick was there was no answer by either one.

 

Mr. Speaker, the Province is a 4.9 per cent equity shareholder in Hebron.  The project has seen its budget balloon to $14 billion.

 

I ask the Premier: How much money will there be in next year's Budget for the equity position in Hebron?

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. WISEMAN: The process has already started, Mr. Speaker, for the Budget process.  Every year in the House, regardless of what government is here and what time the House sits, every year the Opposition stands well in advance of the Budget and starts asking questions: What will be in the Budget?  What will not be in the Budget?  It is standard.  Go to Hansard.  It has been there for decades.  We are now starting the process again.  I suspect over the next while as we sit in this House, members of the Opposition will raise and lobby for things to be in the Budget and will ask questions about what will be in the Budget.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. WISEMAN: As always, Mr. Speaker, the Budget is read into the House of Assembly by the Minister of Finance. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. WISEMAN: It then provides a proposal as to what is going to happen over the next twelve months.  The only thing different this year is we are going to lay out what it is going to be in this Province and what the fiscal position will be over the next five years.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I really find that question very difficult to take.  I asked about a Budget process.  Prior to that Budget process there is a construction schedule that would outline well in advance of this project how much money would be required.  All I did was ask the Finance Minister, does he know that answer. 

 

Do you know how much you have to put into Hebron this year as part of the Budget process to meet the construction schedule for Hebron?

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. WISEMAN: Mr. Speaker, Nalcor, as a corporate entity, has many interests.  They have interest in oil and gas.  They have revenue generation from its power generation.  It has an investment in Muskrat Falls.  It creates an opportunity to return dividends to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. 

 

What we are trying to do, Mr. Speaker, given what has happened with oil and gas – because they have a revenue stream, because they have an interest already in an oil position in the Province.  They have a revenue stream from their equity.  What we are trying to do is to understand clearly over the next five years what Nalcor's earnings will be from its revenue-generating operations, what an equity requirement will be, whether it is Muskrat Falls or oil and gas.  That will factor into our forecast.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Virginia Waters.

 

MS C. BENNETT: Mr. Speaker, the Finance Minister has said that he will release his Budget after the feds release theirs in April because of the uncertainty about transfers; however, it is not necessary to wait.  Last year, New Brunswick released their Budget before the federal government.

 

I ask the minister: Why can't we do the same?

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. WISEMAN: Mr. Speaker, just think for a moment.  Just look at the world global economic position today versus twelve months ago.  Look at where we were as a Province.  Look at where we were as a nation.  Look at the stability that existed last year and some degree of predictability that existed last year, and look at where we are today.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. WISEMAN: Let me quote from the Governor of the Bank of Canada a couple of days ago, “Given the speed and magnitude of the oil-price decline, there is substantial uncertainty around the likely level for oil prices and their impact on the economic outlook for Canada.”

 

You could not quote him last year for saying that because there was a lot of stability.  We have a very different time today.  Circumstances in this Nation, circumstances in this country are very different.  So the degree of predictability is different today than it was yesterday. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

The hon. the Member for Virginia Waters. 

 

MS C. BENNETT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

I realize that the minister has admitted to an issue with math, so let me help him.  Last year, for every dollar the federal government gave Newfoundland, they gave New Brunswick $4.  New Brunswick got millions more than us, yet they do not have to wait for the feds. 

 

I ask the minister: Why can't you release a Budget on what the Premier called yesterday his government's financial crises? 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. WISEMAN: I think the member finally gets it.  I think she finally gets it.  What she is finally recognizing and acknowledging, if you are a province that is receiving a lot of equalization payments, then you have a stable income. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. WISEMAN: We have, however, graduated to a point where we are now generating most of our own source revenues.  As she would know, as an entrepreneur who has had some degree of success, there are risks when you rely on your own revenue generation and not relying on handouts from somebody else. 

 

Mr. Speaker, we will reap the benefit of having high oil prices like we have and we will get the value of that, but there is a risk associated with that.  When oil prices drop, we find ourselves in a spot we are now, but when you are receiving continuous payments from the federal government, there is no risk. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

The hon. the Member for Virginia Waters. 

 

MS C. BENNETT: Mr. Speaker, let me make this really simple for the minister.  Muskrat Falls is the biggest capital investment this Province has ever made.  When people make the biggest purchase of their lives, a house for example, they have to put away money to make sure they can pay the bills.  This government did not, and now you want to do a five-year plan, now you want to be accountable. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I ask the minister: What are you trying to hide by not releasing this Budget?

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. WISEMAN: As she is making it abundantly clear to all of us, who obviously in her mind do not understand anything, let me try to slow down a bit.  Let me try to be very deliberate in my explanation, because clearly, Mr. Speaker, if you think about what has happened in this Province in the last ten years, when she says about putting money away, we have put money away.  We have put $6 billion into infrastructure. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. WISEMAN: Six billion dollars into infrastructure, critical investments for the future, and have not had to borrow for it.  We have returned, on average, $700 million a year in tax returns back to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. WISEMAN: – contributing $3 billion to the economy.  That is what we have done, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. A. PARSONS: I ask the minister: What is our deficit this year?

 

Mr. Speaker, we asked yesterday for public Mahoney Commission documents that are relevant to the Bill 42 debate.  The Government House Leader said he would look into it.

 

I ask the Government House Leader: Where are they?

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

PREMIER DAVIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Mr. Speaker, the Mahoney Commission in 1993 was a commission that looked at electoral boundaries, and as I looked into this yesterday, I learned that the government of the day, which happened to be a Liberal government, did not disclose the documents that had been directed by Mr. Mahoney.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

PREMIER DAVIS: In fact, when we went searching for the documents, we found that they had been transferred to a long-term storage facility outside of Confederation Building.  I can tell you the minister worked very hard with officials to find those as quickly as possible.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

PREMIER DAVIS: Mr. Speaker, all this happened –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

PREMIER DAVIS: All this happened, Mr. Speaker, the first request was made, as I understand, around 10:00 a.m. yesterday.  By 12:30 the documents were located and they had to be transferred here to Confederation Building.  They arrived around 2:00 p.m.  Just a few minutes before, the members opposite went on the attack as if we were trying to do something to protect those documents, Mr. Speaker.  It is a large number of files –

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

PREMIER DAVIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, the first thing I would say is that the Premier is factually incorrect in much of the answer that he just gave.

 

The second question is: Where are the documents now?

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

 

PREMIER DAVIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

It was yesterday morning, as I understand, the first request was made.  I do not know if I can say if I am factually incorrect that efforts were made yesterday.  I could tell the member opposite efforts were made yesterday to locate them as quickly as possible.  The documents were brought here to Confederation Building around 2:00 p.m. yesterday.  I can tell you that the Government House Leader is in a position today to be able to table some of those documents, and he will be doing so this afternoon, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, I am glad to hear that they will be tabling some of the documents.  I wonder what will happen to the rest of the documents.

 

Mr. Speaker, there are some serious rumours about significant cuts coming to health care boards in this Province.  There are thousands of people working in our health care system and they are worried about their future.

 

I ask the minister: Will he confirm that each of the health care boards is being notified that significant cuts are coming?

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. KENT: Mr. Speaker, it does not come as any surprise that members of the Opposition will be trying to instill fear in public servants and the public as well.  Of course we are having ongoing Budget discussions with the four regional health authorities.

 

We are into a Budget process that is clearly a tough Budget process, given the financial situation that we face.  That is going to require tough decisions.  It means that we are going to have to make tough choices, and I am working closely and my officials are working closely with our regional health authorities as we work through that process.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance said that the Budget is going to be delayed; however, people within the health care system know now that the cuts are coming. 

 

I ask the minister: Will you be keeping these health care workers in limbo until after you introduce the Budget, or will you be making the cuts earlier? 

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. KENT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I can assure the member opposite and I can assure the public that no decisions have been made about any potential changes or cuts to any of our services within health care.  Clearly, we are going to have to do things differently.  Our level of spending around health care in this Province is not sustainable; forty cents of every dollar is being spent on the delivery of health care services and they are important services that impact everybody in Newfoundland and Labrador, but we have to find new ways forward.  We have to find better ways to deliver services.  We are going to work closely with staff within the health care system to find some of those solutions. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. JOYCE: Mr. Speaker, in this time of fiscal restraint, the Premier says everything is on the table; yet we see a former Premier who was in the office for only eight months, can pay his secretary for three years at a cost of approximately $275,000 to review his files as a minister, and that he will keep as his personal collection – his quote.

 

I ask the Premier: How can you justify keeping Tom Marshall in a suite of offices while the current Member for Humber East has to rent office space in Corner Brook? 

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

PREMIER DAVIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

There has been a long-standing policy in government –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

PREMIER DAVIS: – whereby certain benefits were afforded to Premiers once they left office, Mr. Speaker.  They have been around for a number of years, but I can assure you and I can assure the member opposite that even that is under review, and that is on the table as well.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. JOYCE: I hear the Premier saying it has been around a long time, but you are the one saying this is a crisis, so it is time to look at every possible avenue.

 

Mr. Speaker, government members are paying rent in Corner Brook – myself included.  The Member for Humber East is renting office space in Corner Brook, who was not allowed to move into the office of the Member from Humber East who just resigned.  A former Premier for eight months now has a three-year option for suites in Corner Brook. 

 

I ask the Premier: Do you think the former Premier requires a suite of offices for one secretary, costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars? 

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. WISEMAN: Mr. Speaker, the Premier, I think, answered the first question, which was all aspects of government's operations are under review.  Whether it is the benefits that are being paid out to former Premiers – and as the Premier said, this is a benefit.  It is nothing new.  There is nothing cynical about this. 

 

Former Liberal Premiers have had this.  I suspect that all Premiers since the beginning of time have had this.  I remember going back to comments in the media when Premier Moores left, Premier Peckford left, and Premier Wells left.  Every Premier who has left has had this same benefit.  Premier Grimes was the last Liberal Premier to leave –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. WISEMAN: – and those benefits have been extended to all former Premiers, but this is the first Premier who has ever said that it is under review and we are going to give it a very sharp scrutiny in this Budget process, Mr. Speaker. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. JOYCE: I say to the minister, this is the first Premier who has ever been in the office less than a year to receive it, Mr. Speaker. 

 

I ask the Premier: If you want to save money, why don't you ask the minister to get something less affordable and let the Member for Humber East move into a suite of offices, which was renovated for the member himself in Corner Brook, so that you save taxpayers' money in the interim?

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. WISEMAN: Mr. Speaker, I would not stand in the House and say this was the first – I assume that the member opposite has checked to ensure that Premier Tulk did not get this benefit when he left.  I am sure he has checked that.  He would not get in this House and say something unless he had verified it; I am certain. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. WISEMAN: I say, Mr. Speaker, he is obviously speaking with some confidence and that is all the more reason why the Premier is adamant and has been clear that he is prepared to look at everything and all things that we do including the size of Cabinet, including the members who have extra pay in this House, whether it Committee Chairs and other sorts of stipends they get paid in the House.  He has put everything on the table for review, including what Premiers get when they leave office. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

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

 

In the last few weeks we have seen in the media and heard from constituents about problems with the care of residents at the new St. John's long-term care facility.  We are hearing about residents being bedridden or not receiving adequate personal care due to lack of staff and supplies.

 

I ask the minister: Is his department doing a study of all the staffing needs at this facility?

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. KENT: Mr. Speaker, we are certainly proud of the investments we have made to improve long-term care in Newfoundland and Labrador and we recognize there is still more work to do.  The facility in Pleasantville is a beautiful new facility and we believe that residents are getting excellent care there. 

 

However, the concerns that have been raised recently are of great concern to us.  I have spoken personally with the CEO of Eastern Health who has taken it upon himself to arrange meetings with people involved to investigate all of the concerns that have been raised.  He does also intend to meet with the resident council, which contains family members and residents, to ensure that any concerns about patient care are adequately addressed.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

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

 

I ask the minister: Is he going to get a full report from the CEO about these consultations?

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. KENT: Mr. Speaker, I am in constant communication with our regional health authorities, as are officials at the Department of Health and Community Services.  We will ensure that any concerns that have been raised here are followed up. 

 

In terms of the staffing shortages, I have spoken to those issues in this House on several occasions.  We have plans in place to ensure that we attract the staff we need.  We are pleased that new LPNs have arrived and are completing their orientation and training.  We look forward to opening up even more beds at the facility.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

The minister has just now given me the answer to my two questions – one is, give us an update on how many vacancies are still there in staffing, and tell us how many beds are still empty?

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. KENT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

A number of the beds have already been opened.  There may be several more that still will open in the weeks ahead.  I will get the exact numbers and certainly provide them to the hon. member.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

We are still hearing of patients lying in hallways because hospital beds are not available.  Much of the backlog is due to patients waiting for long-term care.

 

I would like the minister to tell me: What is the current wait-list for long-term care under Eastern Health?

 

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

 

MR. KENT: Mr. Speaker, the precise numbers on the wait-list, I would certainly be happy to provide to the hon. member.  I know that the opening of the new facility in Pleasantville has made a positive difference.

 

We are exploring other solutions as well to address the waitlists, because the reality is in every one of our hospitals in Newfoundland and Labrador we have long-term care patients who are tying up acute care beds.  That is a concern for government; it is a concern for our regional health authorities.  We are striving to find solutions, because it is not just a problem in Eastern Region.  In fact, one of the longest waitlists we have in the Province is actually in the Central Region.  So we are working to explore solutions for each region of the Province when it comes to long-term care.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. MURPHY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Mr. Speaker, government has taken the position that a reduction in the number of sitting MHAs can address part of the dire fiscal situation in the Province.

 

Is the Premier telling the people of the Province that democracy is tied directly to the price of a barrel of oil?

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. WISEMAN: That is a ludicrous question when you stop and think of it for a moment.  There is no price on democracy, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. WISEMAN: Men and women have given their lives for democracy, and to try to trivialize that by talking about a democracy and the cost of democracy and what we are trying to do as a government to ensure that the size of this House of Assembly needs to be appropriate given the population that we have.  We look at that in relation to other parts of the country and the representatives that they have in their Legislatures. 

 

Mr. Speaker, we support the notion that every person in Newfoundland and Labrador needs to be appropriately represented in this Legislature.  Leaders of all parties – well, except the Leader of the Third Party –

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

The hon. the Member for St. John's East has time for a quick question.

 

MR. MURPHY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

This House used to have fifty-two seats before a drop in oil revenue hit the provincial piggy bank, and now we find ourselves in this situation all of a sudden.

 

What makes the Premier think that less representation is going to be better representation in this case?

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Finance has time for a quick reply.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. WISEMAN: I will be quick, Mr. Speaker.

 

The fifty-two seats had more to do with the 560,000 people than it had to do with the price of oil, and today we are talking about Newfoundland and Labrador with about 515,000 people.  It is a very big difference, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

The time for Question Period has expired.

 

MR. WISEMAN: Mr. Speaker, a point of order.

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Finance on a point of order.

 

MR. WISEMAN: Mr. Speaker, as a former Speaker, I am somewhat sensitive to this. 

 

During Question Period, the Leader of the Official Opposition, in standing in preparing for a question, indicated to the Premier that the Management Commission was controlled by government.  I just want, for the record, to clarify and ask the member to stand and apologize to you.  Because clearly, the Management Commission is made up of equal representation from the Opposition and from government, and you, as the Chair, are the other person on that.  So, to suggest that government controls the Management Commission is to suggest that you are not independent and you are controlled by the government.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. WISEMAN: I say, Mr. Speaker, your seat, your position in this House is as an independent.  You are elected by this Assembly and you have that independence.  I ask the member to stand and withdraw.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

There is no point of order.

 

The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services standing on a point of order.

 

MR. KENT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Very quickly, just to the question the hon. Member for Signal Hill – Quidi Vidi raised in Question Period.  The number of beds currently not open is thirty and they will be open in April.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

There is no point of order.

 

Presenting Reports by Standing and Select Committees.

 

Tabling of Documents.

 

Tabling of Documents

 

MR. SPEAKER: Pursuant to section 8 and section 10 of the Public Tender Act, I hereby table the report of Public Tender Act exceptions for the month of October, 2014, as presented by the Chief Operating Officer of the Government Purchasing Agency.

 

Further tabling of documents?

 

The hon. the Government House Leader.

 

MR. KING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Members would recall, yesterday I was asked in Question Period, by the Leader of the Opposition, a number of questions around the request for documentation relative to a previous review of electoral boundaries.  I am pleased today to be able to table a number of documents for members to peruse at their leisure.  There are two boxes here which represent presentations and audio tapes.  Further documentation should be available within a couple of hours, later this afternoon.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Further tabling of documents?

 

Notices of Motion.

 

Answers to Questions for which Notice has been Given.

 

Petitions.

 

Petitions

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Virginia Waters.

 

MS C. BENNETT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

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

 

WHEREAS the electoral boundaries commission was legislated to be appointed in 2016 to determine any changes to electoral districts in the Province; and

 

WHEREAS the undersigned agree with a reduction in the number of electoral seats; and

 

WHEREAS the appointment of the electoral boundaries commission in 2016 would have allowed the time necessary to properly carry out the necessary public consultations; and

 

WHEREAS the appointment of the electoral boundaries commission in 2016 would have allowed sufficient time necessary to properly evaluate the population and demographics of each district and properly calculate the necessary adjustments for the change in the numbers of electoral districts; and

 

WHEREAS the appointment of the electoral boundaries commission in 2016 would have allowed sufficient time necessary to properly evaluate the geographical implications of the change in the number of electoral districts; and

 

WHEREAS the government is attempting to change legislation to appoint the electoral boundaries commission early;

 

WHEREUPON the undersigned, your petitioners, humbly pray and call upon the House of Assembly to urge government to ensure that, with or without the completion of work of the electoral boundaries commission as a result of appointing a commission early, it will not interfere with the legislated and mandated requirements to hold a provincial election in 2015.

 

Mr. Speaker, earlier the Finance Minister said being informed is much more important than a calendar date.  Mr. Speaker, in the Province of PEI it took 970 days from the completion of the report to the general election.  In the Province of Nova Scotia it took 380 days.  In the Province of New Brunswick it took 517 days.  In the Province of Quebec it took 791 days.  That is just from the end of the report to the election. 

 

In Ontario it took 1,050 days from the completion of the report to the general election.  In Manitoba it took 1,418 days from the end of the report to the general election.  In Alberta it took 665 days until the end of the report to the election; 551 days in British Columbia; 627 days in the Northwest Territories, and 870 days in Nunavut.

 

Mr. Speaker, today is January 22, and we have 246 days before this government has to complete a report and get the work done to get an election called on September 25.  Mr. Speaker, the people of the Province do not want this legislation to delay a general election. 

 

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

 

MR. KIRBY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

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

 

WHEREAS people with disabilities in Newfoundland and Labrador especially those who have mobility issues or use wheelchairs face particular difficulties during times of significant winter snowfall; and

 

WHEREAS persons with disabilities who have low incomes, who have no one to help clear their snow and no opportunities for assistance face isolation and frequently are prevented from going to work, attending school, keeping medical appointments, shopping for groceries and carrying out other necessary responsibilities because accumulated snow at their place of residence impedes pedestrian and wheelchair access; and

 

WHEREAS the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador supports access, full participation, and equal opportunity for all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, regardless of ability;

 

WHEREUPON the undersigned, your petitioners, humbly pray and call upon the House of Assembly to urge government to work with the City of St. John's and other municipalities in Newfoundland and Labrador, as needed, to create a volunteer matching service or other low-cost solution to snow-clearing problems faced by persons with disabilities. 

 

As in duty bound, your petitioners will ever pray. 

 

Mr. Speaker, this petition is signed by constituents of mine in the District of St. John's North.  I had a call from a constituent just after the Christmas holiday, as I have had every year since I got elected in 2011, about her difficulty getting out of her home as a result of the snowfall.  My constituent is an amputee who has other health issues, and she basically has significant disability and significant mobility problems. 

 

I looked around, searched the Internet, looked at what other jurisdictions were doing across Canada and a lot of municipalities in Canada have services that are volunteer services.  Some of them are called Snow Angels.  There is a similar service that is co-ordinated by the Seniors Resource Centre here in the Province, but there is really nothing in this Province and in the City of St. John's in particular, at least, for persons with disabilities, to help them pair up with somebody to help them clear their snow. 

 

In this instance, my constituent's nine-year-old son was out trying to get the snow cleared out so his mother could get out of the house.  I do not think that is sensible at all in this day and age. 

 

I urge the minister responsible to take a leadership role here, to be proactive and not reactive to the problems faced by persons with disabilities, to reach out to the City of St. John's and to see if something cannot be done in co-ordination with the city, through the Province, to help these people who clearly need help with snow clearing. 

 

Thank you. 

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

The hon. the Member for The Straits – White Bay North. 

 

MR. MITCHELMORE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.  

 

We, the citizens serviced by Curtis Hospital located in St. Anthony, Newfoundland and Labrador, petition the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and Labrador-Grenfell Health to retain the midwives and allow them to continue to perform all of their duties at Curtis Hospital. 

 

Our midwives offer services that cannot be duplicated and which cannot be replaced.  The level of care they offer and the knowledge and training they have in the area of obstetrics is immense.  It will be a great disservice to the people of this area if our midwives are no longer available to care for the people here.  Privatizing midwifery or waiting five to seven years for regulation, as stated by government, is unacceptable.  We have an operational model of midwifery here in St. Anthony that has been delivering outstanding care for over ninety years. 

 

We, the undersigned, petition the House of Assembly to urge the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and Labrador-Grenfell Health to preserve our midwifery services at Curtis Hospital.

 

Mr. Speaker, this petition is signed by residents of Savage Cove, Green Island Brook, Flower's Cove, Green Island Cove, Bird Cove, and Plum Point.  This is a matter that when we look at primary care and we look at a number of issues of where we are moving forward with health care – because I know the minister had talked about spending forty cents for every dollar on health care in the Province.  If we look at the health care professionals and allowing them to practice the full scope, there are ways of which we can have smarter spending in health care and providing better health care outcomes for the people of the Province. 

 

In St. Anthony, this hospital is providing midwifery services for almost 100 years.  For over ninety years this service has existed.  If we look at where the service could be expanded when you look at the recruitment and retention of obstetricians, general practitioners, there are ways in the system of which, with the proper regulations, we could offer midwives not only in St. Anthony but in other areas in a publicly-funded setting.  We could also have private midwifery in larger metro areas. 

 

The safe delivery of health care can be provided, but also all the other work that midwives do in terms of the prenatal and postnatal services that they offer families, not just the women who are pregnant but the whole family in terms of helping and making sure that those who are pregnant get the proper adequate care and that we are able to meet the health care needs of people.  This could be done in an efficient way and it should be done.  This is something that the Minister of Health should focus on in making sure that those regulations are in play and that we do not lose midwifery in St. Anthony on the Great Northern Peninsula.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity to present this petition on behalf of my constituents.

 

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

 

MS ROGERS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

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

 

WHEREAS the Family Violence Intervention Court provided a comprehensive approach to domestic violence in a court setting that fully understood and dealt with the complex issues of domestic violence; and

 

WHEREAS domestic violence continues to be one of the most serious issues facing our Province today, and the cost of the impact of domestic violence is both great economically and in human suffering; and

 

WHEREAS the Family Violence Intervention Court was welcomed and endorsed by all aspects of the justice system including the police, the courts, prosecutors, defence counsel, Child, Youth and Family Services, as well as victims, offenders, community agencies, and women's groups; and

 

WHEREAS the recidivism rate for the offenders going through the court was 10 per cent compared to 40 per cent for those who did not; and

 

WHEREAS a budget for the court was only 0.2 per cent of the entire budget of the Department of Justice;

 

WHEREUPON the undersigned, your petitioners, humbly pray and call upon the House of Assembly to urge government to reinstate the Family Violence Intervention Court.

 

As in duty bound, your petitioners will ever pray.

 

Mr. Speaker, I am not exactly sure how long I have been presenting this petition.  It is pretty well close to two years now.  With our new Premier, whose background is policing, if anybody in this House should know the effects of domestic violence, if anybody in this House should know how important the court system is, how important the police system is, how important the support systems are in the area of domestic violence, it should be our current Premier.

 

Mr. Speaker, the police fully endorsed the Family Violence Intervention Court, because often they are the first responders and they know, they see, the devastating effects of family violence.  The Family Violence Intervention Court was a court that really fully dealt with the root causes of domestic violence.

 

It reduced recidivism – which is exactly what we want to see happen.  We want to see the rate of recidivism reduced, and that means that people will not reoffend.  That is exactly what we wanted to see happen, and that is exactly what this court did.  For $500,000, that is what this court did, and it did it protecting the people, the women and children of this Province.

 

Mr. Speaker, the current House Leader, he will go down in history to be known as the one who cut this court for no good reason, for $500,000, when it served such a vital function in terms of addressing the root cause of domestic violence in this Province.

 

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

 

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

 

MS DEMPSTER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

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

 

WHEREAS most communities in the District of Cartwright – L'Anse au Clair do not have adequate broadband services; and

 

WHEREAS residents –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MS DEMPSTER: – businesses, students, nurses, and teachers rely heavily on the Internet to conduct their work and cannot afford to wait until 2016 or longer to access a potential plan in partnership with the Muskrat Falls development; and

 

WHEREAS there are a number of world-class tourism sites in the region, including a UNESCO site at Red Bay, Battle Harbour Historic Site, and the Mealy Mountains National Park;

 

WHEREUPON the undersigned, your petitioners, humbly pray and call upon the House of Assembly to urge the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to work with the appropriate agencies to provide adequate broadband services in communities along the Labrador Coast.

 

As in duty bound, your petitioners will ever pray. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I have presented numerous petitions in this House on the need for an increase to the broadband service in the district and I will continue to do that.  We have twenty-two communities in the area and we have at least half, or more than half of these communities that have exceeded capacity.  They are closed to sales, several of them with major tourism sites.

 

Mr. Speaker, as we look at this technological age that we are now living in, everybody likes to be connected.  We certainly see indications of that here in the House every day.  I do not think there are too many who go without their devices for very long periods of time, unless they are sleeping.

 

Mr. Speaker, even for fisher people in the district, they are more and more having to rely upon Internet to renew applications and licences.  Professionals who are there, schools, the streamlining is very, very slow.  Every single day I receive e-mails, or posts to my social media, people are not able to access until after midnight or before 5:00 a.m.  I would urge the government to continue to work with service providers.  There was $305 million in the federal budget.  I am not sure what portion of that was coming to Newfoundland and what it was earmarked for. 

 

Mr. Speaker, we are talking about a fiscal crisis here a lot.  Sometimes with a tiny investment – and when you are drawing tourists to the area, 450,000, I believe it was in this Province who visited National Historic Sites last year.  Sometimes we have to put a little bit of money in to expect a whole lot of money back. 

 

I will continue to stand and petition and draw attention to the serious broadband need in an area where, I might add, there already is a very, very small cell service.  These people are left in a very difficult situation.  Businesses to do their work are hurting, individuals, and students.  I hope we will hear some news that some improvement is coming very soon. 

 

Thank you.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

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

 

I have a petition to the hon. House of Assembly. 

 

The petition of the undersigned residents of Newfoundland and Labrador humbly sheweth:

 

WHEREAS the electoral boundaries commission was legislated to be appointed in 2016 to determine any changes to electoral districts in the Province; and

 

WHEREAS the undersigned agree with a reduction in the number of electoral seats; and

 

WHEREAS the appointment of the electoral boundaries commission in 2016 would have allowed the time necessary to properly carry out the necessary public consultations; and

 

WHEREAS the appointment of the electoral boundaries commission in 2016 would have allowed sufficient time necessary to properly evaluate the population and demographics of each district and properly calculate the necessary adjustments for a change in the number of electoral districts; and

 

WHEREAS the appointment of the electoral boundaries commission in 2016 would have allowed sufficient time necessary to properly evaluate the geographical implications of a change in the number of electoral districts; and

 

WHEREAS the government is attempting to change legislation to appoint the electoral boundaries commission early;

 

WHEREUPON the undersigned, your petitioners, humbly pray and call upon the House to urge the government to ensure that, with or without the completion of the work of the commission as a result of appointing a commission early, it will not interfere with the legislated and mandated requirement to hold a provincial general election in 2015. 

 

As in duty bound your petitioners will ever pray.

 

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to stand here for the first time this week and enter a petition on this matter, and happy to enter one that is signed by members of my constituency who have some concerns about this whole thing that was sprung on this Province roughly a week ago.  It was very quick, and a lot of people – it is taking them back, and we are back here in an emergency session to talk about it. 

 

They have no problem with a reduction in seats in general.  That is not their issue, but they are worried about the possibility that this stretches out an election which this government made legislation to ensure would happen this year in the fall.  It was the will of the people.  That is what they want to make sure happens.  They do not want this commission to be done as a means of delaying that election. 

 

Again, that is what is out there.  That is what people think, and that is their concern.  We have to ensure that does not happen because that is not what people want.  That is the purpose of this House, to ensure that we do the people's will.  That is why we were elected here.

 

I am happy to stand here and present this petition on behalf of my constituents.  We hope this matter which we are about to debate today is done properly.  I also look forward to having the rest of the documents we requested to ensure that we have an adequate, full and informed debate.  We have asked for documents that probably should be considered when we get into this matter.  We look forward to hopefully getting them and that the minister did not redact them too much along the way.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

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

 

WHEREAS the electoral boundaries commission was legislated to be appointed in 2016 to determine any changes to electoral districts in the Province; and

 

WHEREAS the undersigned agree with a reduction in the number of electoral seats; and

 

WHEREAS the appointment of the electoral boundaries commission in 2016 would have allowed the time necessary to properly carry out the necessary public consultations; and

 

WHEREAS the appointment of the electoral boundaries commission in 2016 would have allowed sufficient time necessary to properly evaluate the geographical implications of a change in the number of electoral districts; and

 

WHEREAS the government is attempting to change legislation to appoint the electoral boundaries commission early;

 

WHEREUPON the undersigned, your petitioners, humbly pray and call upon the House of Assembly to urge the government to ensure that, with or without the completion of the work of the electoral boundaries commission as a result of appointing the commission early, it will not interfere with the legislated and mandated requirement to hold a provincial general election in 2015.

 

As in duty bound your petitioners will ever pray.

 

Mr. Speaker, I, too, am proud to stand here this afternoon and bring forward this petition on behalf of people from the beautiful District of Conception Bay South, all signed, the correct address and properly indicated.

 

Article 3.1 of the House of Assembly Act talks about, the resignation of a Premier indicates that within a year we should have a general election.  Mr. Speaker, there are people in this Province now who feel that we should be having a general election based on that article.  The Official Opposition has not taken that stand.  

 

Mr. Speaker, last winter and spring with the non-crisis of DarkNL and the Humber Valley Paving fiasco, we had a large portion of the population of this Province demanding that we hold an election.  Mr. Speaker, at that time the Official Opposition took the stand that we would not be expecting a provincial election.

 

Mr. Speaker, in the fall, when we ended up with a new Premier and the fiasco that went with his appointments and so on, there was a significant portion of the population of this Province calling for a provincial election.  The Official Opposition at that time did not take that stand.

 

Four, five, six, seven resignations and subsequent by-elections, Mr. Speaker, a significant portion of the population of this Province was calling for a general election.  The Official Opposition at that time chose not to.

 

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition, my colleague has a petition.  My colleague earlier had a petition.  We are supporting the people of this Province who are now calling for an election.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

I remind the member his time has expired.

 

The hon. the Government House Leader.

 

MR. KING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I move, seconded by the Minister of Municipal and Intergovernmental Affairs, that we move to Orders of the Day.

 

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that we move to Orders of the Day.

 

All those in favour, 'aye'.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

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

 

Carried.

 

Orders of the Day

 

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

 

MR. KING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

First of all, I move, seconded by the Minister of Municipal and Intergovernmental Affairs, Motion 3 of our Order Paper for today, under Standing Order 11, that the House not adjourn at 5:30 this afternoon, Thursday, January 22, 2015.

 

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that this House not adjourn at 5:30 o'clock today.

 

All those in favour, 'aye'.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

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

 

Carried.

 

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

 

MR. KING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Again, I move, seconded by the Minister of Municipal and Intergovernmental Affairs, pursuant to Standing Order 11, the House not adjourn at 10:00 o'clock this evening, Thursday, January 22, 2015.

 

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that this House not adjourn at 10:00 p.m.

 

All those in favour, 'aye'.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

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

 

Carried.

 

The hon. the Government House Leader.

 

MR. KING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

I give notice, under Standing Order 11, I shall move that the House not adjourn at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, January 26, 2015.

 

I further give notice, under Standing Order 11, I shall move that the House now adjourn at 10:00 p.m. on Monday, January 26, 2015. 

 

Mr. Speaker, as per Standing Orders, I would like to inform the House that the –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. KING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

As I was about to say, as per our Standing Orders I would like to inform members of the House that the Striking Committee has met and the following members will be appointed to the Standing Orders Committee of the House: the Member for Trinity North; the Member for Grand Bank; the Member for Signal Hill – Quidi Vidi; and the Member for St. John's South. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure of the procedure if I need to make a motion or just inform the House of that.  Perhaps you could advise. 

 

MR. SPEAKER: Just give the Speaker a minute.  I am just going to check that. 

 

MR. KING: Do you want a motion? 

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Government House Leader, yes, a motion will be in order to that effect.

 

MR. KING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

It is so moved by myself as Government House Leader, seconded by the Member for Burgeo – La Poile. 

 

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that the Standing Orders Committee is to be comprised of the members mentioned by the Government House Leader. 

 

All those in favour, 'aye'.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

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

 

Carried. 

 

The hon. the Government House Leader.

 

MR. KING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

At this time I would like to go back to our Order Paper and call Order 3, second reading of a bill, An Act To Amend The Electoral Boundaries Act, Bill 42.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Bill 42.

 

The hon. the Member for Cape St. Francis. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. K. PARSONS: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.  

 

It is indeed another privilege to get up here today.  First of all, I know on behalf of a lot of people on this side of the House, and I am sure everyone in the House, it is nice to see the Member for St. John's East back here.  My condolences to you and your family.  I know it is a hard time to be going through, but I am sure all of our prayers and thoughts are with your family.  It is nice to see you back here. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I always get up and I always start off my speech by saying the beautiful District of Cape St. Francis.  I do not know, if I get elected the next time, if I will be using the beautiful District of Cape St. Francis.  It may be some other name.  I saw a couple of ones out the other day when people had it done up, it was called Torbay and some other names that they had there also.  Whatever it is, it will be. 

 

I do believe in the amendments that we are bringing here today.  I am going to give you the reasons why I believe it is important for us to do this.  I look back and I look at my district and the historic years of my district, I look back at the people who represented it and I always get up and I always speak about it because I am pretty fortunate.  I know there are some other members here in the House who had their fathers represented in certain districts. 

 

When I look at the people who came before me, I get the privilege every now and then to speak to Mr. Tom Hickey who represented the area.  Tommy is an interesting character.  He is a hard fellow.  I always see him; I meet him at a lot of funerals.  If he can get a hold to you and hold onto you, he will talk about politics, the district, what it meant, how it was years ago, how things have changed, what they were like in his times, and what they were like today.  When I do speak to him, Mr. Hickey is a wonderful man.  I am proud to be able to be the fellow who followed him.

 

Then I go back and I look at when I first started in politics.  When I first started in politics the district that I represented was called St. John's East Extern.  St. John's East Extern took in, I think, almost nearly all of Virginia Waters.  It went right up to Airport Heights, it went right down to Wedgewood Park, and it went right around the whole area.  It went down as far as Virginia Park and that area.  It was a huge, huge area. 

 

I can remember being a young fellow from Flatrock not knowing many townies at the time and it was a new area for me.  It was a new area for my father actually too when he first got involved.  Back then I think a lot of it, PCs, Liberals, NDP, everyone had their thing.  As the election came forward, people came out and we met wonderful people.

 

I remember one gentleman in particular – he is deceased now – was Mr. Paul Reynolds who happened to be the Mayor of Wedgewood Park.  He was the mayor at the time and that was part of St. John's East Extern.  He became a very good friend of mine, a very good friend of our families and everything else, but that was all through politics.  When I look at being a politician, I look at the responsibilities of what it takes to be a politician.  I really believe every person in this room here – it is a privilege.  It is something that people gave us a privilege to be here. 

 

I listened to the Open Line host and one day I him talking.  He said those bums in there do not want to be in there.  If they do not want to do the work, then get rid of them.  Yes, you get rid of us.  If you do not want it, get rid of us.  If we are not doing what you elected us to do, that is what you are supposed to do.  Do you know what?  We should all take the privilege that they gave us and make sure we do our work.

 

Mr. Speaker, I look at an MHA like myself, I came into this fully aware of everything was in front of me because I was fortunate enough to be in a family who had a father who was an MHA and I saw what he did over the years.  We, as MHAs – and I am sure that there is nobody in here who wants to lose their district; nobody in here wants to say I am going to lose a certain part of my district or whatever.  I know in my area I enjoy the events that I go to.  Since I was elected, I have been here now probably six-and-a-half years, I would say I am after meeting more people – in Bauline, for example, the smallest community in my area, I would say in Bauline before I was elected I might have known twenty people.

 

Bauline has a population of 400; I know over 200 of them and call them by name now because of this job that I have.  That is a privilege to me to be able to know these people, know that I am working for these people.  I do not want to lose Bauline.  I do not want to lose Pouch Cove.  I do not want to lose Flat Rock.  I do not want to lose any of them, but that is not my choice.  That is not my choice. 

 

It will be a commission that is going to be set up that is going to be independent, that is going to look at everything, and it is not going to be about Kevin Parsons.  It is not going to be what Kevin Parsons wants.  It is going to be what is best for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. K. PARSONS: That is what this is all about.  This is not about – and I heard members get up here and they talk about their districts and they talk about everything else and how they want to maintain what they have, and I respect it.  I do not want to lose anything that I have now.  I figure I have a bond down there with the people who elected me. 

 

Now, they can get rid of me.  That is no problem at all.  I have no problem, but I can assure them that I am doing the best I can for them.  I think that at the end of the day when they come down and mark their X or whatever they have to do that hopefully they will see the same thing, and that is why we are all here.

 

If someone says to me listen, we do not want to bother you; I say, do not be so foolish.  What are you bothering me about?  You are not bothering me.  You are my boss.  You are the person who put me where I am.  As long as we all keep that in the mind that we are here, that our bosses are the people that elected us. 

 

It is not what we want.  It is not what I want.  It has nothing to do with everybody in this place.  This is for the betterment of Newfoundland and Labrador.  I listened to the Member for Cartwright – L' Anse au Clair today when she talked about technology and I look at her over there today and she is on her device, and we all are – do you know what?  When my father was the MHA for St. John's East Extern, he had one of those bag phones.  I do not know you if remember them.  They were the big old phone; it was like you took it out of your – that is what he used. 

 

Technology today, he never had that.  When he went down in the district and he had to go get a letter off somebody or a picture that somebody had, he had to go get it right to their houses.  I received more messages yesterday on Facebook than I did on anything else, than I did by e-mail, by text or anything else.  There were messages given to me on Facebook.

 

Technology has changed, everything has changed, and the way we do our jobs has changed.  I answered all of them on Facebook.  A friend of mine he calls it 'bookface'.  He does not call it Facebook.  Are you on that 'bookface', he says.  I say, I do not know.  Do you know what?  He texted me about three weeks ago, and I never ever thought he had a cellphone.  I did not know he had a cellphone. 

 

So, as times change, we have to change.  That is my whole point here today.  Technology is a fantastic thing.  Sometimes I think it is a little bit too much sometimes, because I like to do the personal thing myself.  I like to be able to go to the person and talk to them.  A lot of times when people send me this big, old long e-mail, I will just send it back to them and say give me your number.  I would just as soon talk to them as get into the – and that is the way I like doing things.  Now, some other people like doing it in different ways.

 

Today, technology has changed.  When you look at forty-eight members for 500,000 people – and listen, I am not going to get up here today and tell the commission, or the people who are on this commission, how to cut things up.  That is not me; that is not the way I am.  I think if there is a judge who is appointed to this, I am sure he will have the best technologies in the world to be able to do what he can do, and he will have the people on the commission who will do it properly.

 

I am not going to question them, and I am not going to question – but the only thing I do question.  I heard today, and a lot of times you get up and people are, oh, you cannot do it in time.  Well, do you know what?  Let's give them a chance to do it in time.  I am going to state here today in the House of Assembly that I want to see an election in 2015.  I do not want to wait until 2016.  I want an election this year, and so does everybody here.

 

All we heard today on the petitions, a couple of them: You cannot do it in time.  The rest of them: oh, they are going to try to drag it out to 2016.  I spoke to a lot of constituents this weekend, talked to a lot of people in my area, and that is the one thing they do not want.  Honestly, they do not want to see an election in 2016.  They want an election in 2015, and so do I, and so does our Premier, and so does this government; and I am sure, so does everybody on the other side of the House.  It is not about us trying to drag anything out here.  This is all about one thing, doing the right thing, and this is the right thing to do.  There are a couple of reasons why it is the right thing to do. 

 

I listened to the Minister of Finance the other day as he stood up and spoke.  He said, okay, we will wait until 2016 to do this.  So it gets done in 2016, and we are all in the House.  Everybody here is in agreement that it should be reduced.  It should be reduced, no doubt about it.  There is nobody in this House who does not believe that this Assembly should be reduced to a certain number of seats. 

 

We have different values, but they are pretty close.  I heard the Leader of the Opposition say forty; I heard our leader say thirty-eight.  That is not too far off, as far as I am concerned.  We all agree to that.  We all agree that it has – but if we wait until 2016, Mr. Speaker, we are waiting until 2019, at the end of 2019, almost to 2020.  We are waiting too long.  If this is done in 2016 and we cut this back to thirty-eight seats, what do you do?  What do you do with the ten other seats that are left there? 

 

Cape St. Francis is gone.  I am joined with my friend from Conception Bay East – Bell Island, say for example.  We have one district there, and he is representing that district.  That is the district he is going to represent.  We are wasting people's money, and we will be wasting people's money.  This job should be done before the election.  It should be done so we do not wait three or four years for it to get done after an election.  I believe it should be done now.  All I am saying here today is give the commission that is going to be set up time to do it.  They will have the time to do it.  We all want an election in 2015. 

 

Today's technology is amazing.  I was looking at a Crown land issue with a guy.  He came into my office and we just went on Google map, went in and googled.  The piece of land stood out, and we even went down as much to see where the boundary lines and everything else was on the piece of land.  Technology has changed. 

 

This process can be done in the time frame that we are allowing.  It can be done, and it will be done.  We will have an election in 2015.  That is what the people want, and that is what we want in this House.  It is so important.

 

Another thing that people say to me all the time is, why are you doing it?  Well, the number one reason is because it is the right thing to do.  Number two is I look at the financial situation of the Province today.  Yesterday, the big shocker was the interest rate dropped by a percentage in the Bank of Canada.  Nobody saw it coming.  This time last year nobody saw the price of oil at $47 a barrel.  We never saw it coming. 

 

We have economists all over the world looking at the situations.  They are in Alberta, Canada, Russia, you name it.  Any oil producing country in the world is really scrambling now because of the revenue they are losing.  We are no different.  We have to have a look at what we are doing. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I explained to a guy on the weekend a reason why you do it.  Sometimes we all get in situations – some of us now, not all of us – where your family, probably it could be a layoff, it could be a death, it could be a divorce, it could be anything, and the household income changes.  When the household income changes, you cannot expect – if I am in my household and I am used to driving the biggest truck, burning all the gas and everything else, and all of a sudden the money that I had in my household has shrunk by a large margin, I cannot expect my children to take all of the cuts and cut it down.  I have to lead by example, and that is what our Premier is doing. 

 

People say, oh, everything is on the table.  Yes, it is all on the table.  Why are you doing it now?  It has to be done now.  In order for us to be able to do this before the next election, this is the time we have to do it.  This is not a rush.  This is just saying listen, we had better get back in the House.  This is what we want done and this is the reason why we are doing it.  It is the same thing as your family.  It is the same thing as what you do in your family.  You have to make decisions that will affect your family because you want the best for the Province.  That is what we are doing here. 

 

I laugh; it really, really gets to me when people say it is only $2.5 million.  Wow, $2.5 million.  Okay, if you do not do it – how about if a person gets laid off, that is only $50,000?  Is that what you say to the person who is getting laid off?  If there is something that we have to do as a government to all the different organizations that we help, okay, last year we gave you $10,000, this year we may only be able to give you $5,000.  Do we say it is only $5,000?  It is not $5,000 to those groups; $2.4 million, $10 million savings is huge.  It is huge. 

 

Whatever the deficit is this year, if it is $1 billion, you are not going to find $1 billion in one smack just like that.  There are going to have to be different things.  That is like the Premier stated in this House day after day since we got here.  Everything has to be on the table.  Everything has to be looked at.  That is the reason why we have to start with this.  This is a start.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER (Cross): Order, please!

 

MR. K. PARSONS: This is what this is, a start.  It is pretty amazing when you think about it.  Here we are, we are in here voting to eliminate ten jobs among ourselves.  I do not think there are many organizations where everybody would sit down and think about eliminating ten jobs.  Do you know what, Mr. Speaker?  It is the right thing to do.

 

The reason why it is the right thing to do is because we are responsible to the people who elected us.  They are our bosses.  Like I said earlier, my boss is the people from the District of Cape St. Francis, the people who elected me.  My job every day is to serve the people from Cape St. Francis, the people who elected me.  I believe this is the right decision to take.  I think we have to do it.  I think it is important that we do it.

 

Do I want to lose a part of my district?  Like I said earlier, I love the community of Pouch Cove.  I always tell everyone – and they all know this anyway down our way.  Everything you do in Pouch Cove is about a grub job, about a feed.  Every time I go down there they want to feed me.  You can tell by looking at me that I enjoy it a lot. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. K. PARSONS: Do you know what?  I do not want to lose any of my communities, but I have no say in that.  That will be up to the commission.  That will be up to them.  

 

I am sure everybody in this House has people who they have met through politics that means a lot to them.  I have a lot of seniors.  I love going to seniors' functions.  I think they are the people who did so much for us; it is time for us to do it for them. 

 

There are so many different programs that you can help people out with.  That is what we are about as politicians.  We should be here for the right reason.  The right reason is to help the people who elected us.  That is why this is important.

 

Mr. Speaker, I just want to talk about the reasons why we have to do this.  It is important.  I know everyone, as they got up today, were talking about time.  Let's give the commission – I do not mean to take my full twenty minutes here today, but I probably will.  Let's give them the time to do their work.  I am sure they can come back, with the technologies of the day, and they will be able to do it.

 

The last time I heard it took about nine months to do it.  I am sure with what we have today and the technology, we can cut that down because technology has changed like you would not believe. 

 

I have watched, a couple of people are after sending me – I have done it myself, looking down at different districts, looking at the population of districts and everything else.  I know everyone has their own conclusion of how this is going to work.  I am not saying take seats away from anyone.  No one wants to see their district lose, but my point today is it is something that needs to be done; it is the right thing to do, and give the people who are going to do it the opportunity to try to do it.  Do not just cut it down right off the bat.  Let's see if this can be done.

 

Everyone in this House, like I stated earlier, I have heard it so many times and you hear it in the media, they are only trying to drag themselves on.  They are trying to keep themselves in power more.  Not so, Mr. Speaker.  I can tell you right now, Kevin Parsons, the Member for Cape St. Francis, wants an election in 2015.  So does everybody else on this side.  So does the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador.

 

Mr. Speaker, by eliminating whatever number of seats, ten seats or whatever we are going to do here, it not only takes members.  There are people we feel loyal to.  It is the loyalty you have to your staff who work for you.  It is not only ten members in here who will lose their jobs.  It is also the CAs from everyone.

 

I know the Member for Torngat Mountains stated the other night, he said, it will affect you more than it will affect us.  Obviously, there are twenty-nine of us over here on this side of the House and there is a less number over there.  This move is going to affect a lot of people.  I personally do not like to see anybody lose their job.  I hate to see anybody lose their job.  I would rather see taxes go up or whatever, but I do not want to see job losses.

 

Do you know what?  Reality is not what you want sometimes.  Reality is do the right thing.  You have to make sure that whatever is happening, that you are the person who is leading.

 

I have to give our Premier – he is pretty strong on this.  For him to come into the House and do this, it shows great leadership on his behalf.  I must say, as a new Premier, he is not here very long, but I have to say I support him 100 per cent.  I think he is doing a great job.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. K. PARSONS: Yesterday was a great example in this House of Assembly.  I applaud the Member for St. John's Centre.  This was a great day in the House of Assembly yesterday.  I was very proud to be here, as to be part of what we did here yesterday.

 

Mental health is a huge issue all over this Province and we, as parliamentarians, came together yesterday and we made a decision that will affect them for years to come.  It will affect all of us, because one in five – but that is what we are here for.  We are here to make the right decisions.  Mr. Speaker, the right decision is to have the number of MHAs reduced before the next election, and the right decision will be to have the election in 2015.

 

Thank you very much.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

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

 

I am happy to stand today to speak to Bill 42.  I did have the opportunity to speak to the hoist amendment that was introduced by our leader in a previous debate on Tuesday, and now this is my first opportunity to speak to the entire bill.

 

I believe, Mr. Speaker, that in some ways the direction of the debate in this House has been skewed, and that in fact what we should be talking about is not the number ten, not how many seats will be cut, not about our economic situation due to the price of oil, but what we should be talking about in this House is how do we achieve the best possible governance for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.  That is the main question.  That should be the directive to the electoral boundaries commission.

 

We do not know, Mr. Speaker – I am very, very disappointed in the Premier for (a) having just pulled – what it seems to be – the number ten out of the air, because he still cannot explain to us, or refuses to explain to us, or is unable to explain to us how he reached the number of ten.  He has admitted that there was no consultation outside of his own, perhaps, Cabinet, or his own caucus.

 

Mr. Speaker, the decision on how we govern ourselves as a people is one of the most fundamental decisions that we can make as a legislators.  Our governance does not belong to the forty-eight members here in this House of Assembly.  Who we are, as a people, and how we decide to govern ourselves, is a decision that is made by the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

 

The results often of those decisions result in elections and the choosing of the representatives who come and do the work on behalf of the people in this House.  I am very concerned, extremely concerned that this Premier has, again without any sense of transparency or accountability, decided that ten seats must be cut.  Maybe he is right; I do not know.  Maybe he is wrong, I do not know – but to have pulled that number somewhere and then he will be giving instruction to the electoral boundaries commission to cut ten seats from this Legislature. 

 

Mr. Speaker, it is very interesting to see what the possible ramifications of this are.  Before I get into that, the Premier himself and his Minister of Finance has stood up in this House in the past week and several times talked about how vulnerable we are right now in our Budget, how precarious our economic situation is, yet he has also said that Newfoundland and Labrador has a strong economy.  I am not quite sure how we make sense of all that.  They seem to be conflicting messages.  Perhaps they are not, but they seem to be in some ways. 

 

If, in fact, we are in such a precarious economic time because of the price of oil, then one would think what we need most is stability.  What we need most is to know that we have the people we need in order to do the governance that we need, particularly in a time of precarious economic times.

 

The other issue is that we know that the government has said repeatedly in the past three days, the Premier has said in this House, he has said it in the media, he has said it in public meetings that everything is on the table, and what he is signalling is that we are going to see cuts.  The Minister of Finance said here today we must make strategic decisions, and the Minister of Health said we must make tough decisions. 

 

In this time again of economic vulnerability, precarious economic times, where tough decisions supposedly will have to be made, now more than ever do the people of Newfoundland and Labrador need to have ample representation in this House because if tough decisions are to be made, we need to make sure that everybody is represented in this House. 

 

I am not so sure that is going to happen in an adequate fashion with the time frame that government has laid out for an electoral boundaries commission and in order for all of the work that has to be done to reduce this House by ten seats. 

 

The issue is not about whether ten MHAs are going to lose their jobs.  The issue is not about whether or not ten constituency assistants who work really hard, Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the constituents – that is not the issue about who is going to lose their jobs.

 

Again, I believe that what should be foremost in any direction from this government to an electoral boundaries commission is how we can best achieve governance in our Province in this particular time in our history.  Particularly, keeping in mind our precarious economic situation, the tough decisions that have to be made.  Tough decisions which the Minister of Finance said he will make strategic decisions that will affect people twelve months down the road – decisions that will not just affect people today, but decisions that have long-term sustainability. 

 

To rush into something like this in this time when we need stability seems foolhardy to me and to our caucus here.  I think many of the MHAs who have stood up, many of my colleagues who have stood up today and in the past three days have shared similar concerns.  Not only do we hear those concerns here in this House, we also hear concerns from experts in the area of constitutional law, experts in the area of legislative laws, and in governance.  They also are raising red flags and saying this is not the way to do it. 

 

Mr. Speaker, we have had a history with this government of rash decisions, tough decisions that they have had to reverse.  Decisions, for instance, in 2012-2013, rash Budget decisions that affected particularly the Department of Justice, where the Crown experienced deep cuts, where the sheriff's office experienced deep cuts and many of those cuts had to be reversed. 

 

We also saw the knee-jerk reaction, the decision to name the Department of Justice the Department of Public Safety and that decision had to be reversed.  Decisions that seem to come out of the blue.  If we actually used our legislated committee structure, this kind of legislation would have gone to committee.  It would have been much more thought out.  There would have been discussion which would have affected the quality of debate in this House as well.

 

This is a major decision.  This is just not a tough Budget decision.  This decision should not be about a deficit.  Again, it should be about what is the best possible governance that we have.  I believe, in fact, what is happening today is a decision about communications.  It is a decision that is pandering.  It is decision that is pandering in the same way by changing the name of the Department of Justice to the Department of Public Safety.  It is that same kind of decision.  It is a decision that government hopes will pander to a notion that government is overblown and that MHAs are overpaid. 

 

I believe that the people of Newfoundland and Labrador will not be fooled by this.  The people of Newfoundland and Labrador have been forewarned that we are in such tough economic times.  The people of Newfoundland and Labrador know how important, particularly at this time, it is to be fully represented, to have their voices in the House of Assembly.

 

When I did speak to the hoist motion, Mr. Speaker, I talked about the possibility of looking at a reality check.  What I was looking at was, really, how possible is it to do the work that government is going to task the electoral boundaries commission with?  I have found my papers here and I would like to take a look at that again.

 

Mr. Speaker, before going there, I believe that some of the decisions that are going to be made here, possibly tonight – maybe we will have to go at this again next week; I do not know.  If, in fact, the Premier directs the electoral boundaries commission to cut ten seats that will violate our elections act in some cases.  We may see court cases.  We may see people of Newfoundland and Labrador bringing the government to court because they are not adequately represented.

 

In our current electoral act it says that there is a tolerance for a 10 per cent variance in population rates in the city areas, in more municipal areas, and a tolerance for up to 25 per cent variance rates in coastal communities that are not connected by roads.  The possibility of fulfilling the directive by this government will violate those variances, which may enable districts to go to court and to challenge the decisions that this government is making about electoral boundaries.

 

For those reasons I think that this cannot be done as quickly as government thinks that it can be done.  The process of governing this Province does not belong to elected officials.  The process of governance and how we live our lives together as a people belongs to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.  To do this process without extensive consultation would be a violation of that principle.

 

Mr. Speaker, I am not so sure that the directive this government is giving to the potential electoral boundaries commission is in the best interests of democracy.  This directive has to be in the best interest of democracy and it has to be in the best interest of good governance.  Those must be the guiding principles, not about saving money by cutting ten seats. 

 

Perhaps that is what the commission will come up with.  For the commission to truly be an independent commission whose sole purpose is to ensure the best possible governance that we have, then they must be unfettered and they must be allowed to do their work from their seats of expertise.  To do anything else is tying the hands of the commission.

 

I think it would be very interesting to see in fact, once the commission is appointed, whether they accept that they will do this within the time frame given, and whether they will accept the directive and the number ten.  They may not.  They may refuse to do that.  One would hope that what they would take as their guiding principle is to ensure that we have the best possible governance available to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. 

 

We all know that our governance is about how we live our lives together, how we make our laws, how we use our resources, how we plan our resources, how we ensure that our economy is strong and vibrant, how we make sure that we have proper health care, that we teach our children, that we care for our seniors, and that everybody has a place to live.  That is what our governance is all about.

 

The reality check, Mr. Speaker – I would like to take a few minutes to go back over that again.  January 19-22 – this week – we in the House of Assembly will debate and possibly the changes to the Electoral Boundaries Commission Act will be passed.  January 13, the Chief Justice has thirty days to appoint the Chair of the commission.  Government has already said that the Chief Justice said he can do it faster.

 

So, say, that appoints somebody by January 30.  There are then five days for the Speaker of the House of Assembly – no more than five days after the Chair is in place – to appoint a Chair.  Then by May 31, the commission will submit the report to the Department of Justice and Public Safety – 120 days.  Four months after they are appointed, they will submit their report to the Department of Justice and Public Safety.

 

The month of June, the minister presents the report to Cabinet, tables it in the House of Assembly, which will pass or not the amendments to the House of Assembly Act specifying thirty-eight districts, if, in fact, the commission follows the directive from the government.  That gives from June to September.  Elections Newfoundland and Labrador says it must have four months in order to prepare the maps, the districts – in order to prepare everything for an election. 

 

That brings us to the end of September.  That is if there is no glitch in the system, that is if the commission can, in fact – and again I said a few days ago, Mr. Speaker, just as sure as the sun rises every day, just as sure as the sun sets every day, commissions take longer than their allotted time.

 

I also spoke with an expert in this area of political science and he said never, ever has this ever been done in under a year in the history of the country.  It has never, ever been done in under a year, particularly because the public, the people of the Province, have to be consulted – and they have to be thoroughly consulted.  He said this was never, ever done under a year.  We are talking about a few months here, Mr. Speaker.

 

So, the last legal date to drop the writ for our election is September 25, because of the election of a new Premier.  So it is not possible; the days are simply not there.  We know, unless the process is even more truncated than what it is, that it is not possible to meet the date of September 25, the last legal date to drop the writ. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I find it astonishing that this government would do this at this time.  They have been in power for how many years, ten years?  The current Premier has been the Premier for how long, six months?  Has it been that long?  I am not exactly sure.  To do this now, to put everything under the gun, to put everything up against the wall on one of the most important decisions we can make as to how we govern ourselves as a people, I believe this to be foolhardy.  I believe this to be a travesty in many ways.

 

Perhaps what will happen because of the directive to change the boundaries, to reduce representation by ten seats – again, which the commission may find is an appropriate thing to do; I do not know.  Perhaps this government will become known by the people – perhaps in The Straits – White Bay North and St. Barbe, will they become one district?  Perhaps this government will become known as the government who took away representation from the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.  I dare say that many, many people of Newfoundland and Labrador will see that. 

 

All of us, every MHA in this House, was sent a paper from Professor Russell Williams about his understanding and the possible scenarios of what will happen if, in fact, ten seats were cut.  He looks at the legal acceptable variances and he is forewarning what may happen and I encourage – I am sure every one of my colleagues here in this House has looked at his paper and looked at the graphs that he has presented for us.  I am sure people will have questions about it.  Again, I feel that it is unfortunate what this government has done.  I do believe that it is the same kind of pandering as naming the Department of Justice, the Department of Public Safety. 

 

I do not believe that this is in the best interest of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. 

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

The member's time has expired. 

 

MS ROGERS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Seniors, Wellness and Social Development.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. JACKMAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I am always amazed when I listen to, I will not say all members of the NDP, but some of the members of Third Party, Mr. Speaker.  There is always a tone that we are tearing the world apart, or we are making decisions that are going to be totally detrimental to the world.  There is never enough of anything.  There never seems to be anything right. 

 

I have been here now for going on eleven years and I do not think I have heard – there might have been one or occasions, but, my gosh, it is demoralizing.  I find it just demoralizing.  Just listen to some of the words that the Member for St. John's Centre just talked about: that we are making a decision that is foolhardy; this is a travesty that we are taking away representation of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. 

 

Mr. Speaker, does she think that any of us on this side as members are going to sit and support a decision that takes away the representation of people in the Province?  That we are going to, somehow or another, take away democratic rights of the people of this Province?  I, for one, would not ever sit as part of a decision that is going to take away the democratic rights of my constituents.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. JACKMAN: Never.  We will debate – and there is no doubt about it, I have gotten some e-mails from those who are in political science fields.  Some people are going to offer opinions.  Democracy, Mr. Speaker, that is what that is.  That is democracy, that we have the right to send something on these, or to send something in writing.  We will make those decisions.

 

If you look at other jurisdictions in the country that have decided, based on the numbers, these are the numbers that an MHA or an MLA represents, and if the geography comes into play and the numbers are a little higher than we have in the Province, is she saying then that democracy may not be working in Nova Scotia, or New Brunswick, or Ontario, or Quebec?  That is what she seems to be saying. 

 

Another one that has bothered me, Mr. Speaker, she is saying that we retain the number of seats.  Somebody mentioned here earlier today, I believe, there was a population of 560,000 people in the Province and there were fifty-two.  What she is professing is that no matter if the numbers drop or not, Mr. Speaker, we maintain.  That is what she is saying, it does not matter.  If the numbers go down, no matter what the dollars are that we spend, we maintain status quo.  Mr. Speaker, the logic of what she is saying in any case –

 

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

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for St. John's Centre on a point of order. 

 

MS ROGERS: Mr. Speaker, I believe that the hon. member across the floor is actually misrepresenting what I said.  I said that the commission should decide the number.  I did not say what he said I said, Mr. Speaker, no way. 

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

There is no point of order. 

 

The hon. the Minister of Seniors, Wellness and Social Development. 

 

MR. JACKMAN: There is no point of order, Mr. Speaker. 

 

I am actually impressed she got up.  I am actually impressed.  The logic, Mr. Speaker, just escapes me. 

 

Mr. Speaker, we look at the numbers.  We look at the dollars, and the dollar savings that have been talked about is $2 million or $2.5 million.  I do not want to misrepresent the NDP, but I thought the issue was raised the other day, this is minimal savings. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I would ask them to go and speak to some group who is looking for $3,000, some group who is looking for $100,000, or some senior or some low-income person to say that a savings of $2 million is somehow trivial.  It is not in my books, Mr. Speaker, and not in a lot of the constituents that I speak to and the groups who are seeking dollars. 

 

Anything, Mr. Speaker, that we can do to save dollars we should be looking at, and where should we start?  We should start with ourselves first.  We start with ourselves.  Mr. Speaker, we can come in this House and we can get up and say, well –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. JACKMAN: We can get up in this House and say, when is the right time?  We can go and set up consultations, go for the next while, talk about it, and we are often accused of doing that, Mr. Speaker, time and time again. 

 

Mr. Speaker, we as a party, this Premier is making a decision that is in, yes, dollars, but he is not an individual who is going to compromise democracy, as the Member for St. John's Centre has been saying on several occasions when she has gotten up to speak.  I am going to use a word now.  I think it is absolutely ludicrous what she is saying, that we as members of this House will debate.  We will debate, Mr. Speaker, but there is no one on this side who is willing to sit in their seats and come in here day after day and say that we are going to compromise the democratic rights of the people in this Province, Mr. Speaker, absolutely not. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I have been following some of the e-mails that have been coming, and I have to tell you, I have not – I have been in, like I said, for almost eleven years.  We have had many issues that have come to this House, and I have had representation on many occasions from my constituents about issues we have made decisions on, numerous ones, and I can go back to the first or second year I came into the House, some of the challenges we faced and the decisions we had to make around public service and fishing and everything else, and I have gotten e-mails and calls and requests for meetings.  Mr. Speaker, I have to tell you, I have not been swamped from my constituents to say that this is not the right thing to do; I have not. 

 

I have gotten e-mails from some people, as was mentioned, from a professor who sent us and another individual who said these are the recommendations I would give to you on dividing the boundaries.  Of course, Mr. Speaker, they have taken my district and reconfigured it in different ways.  I do not know, Mr. Speaker, I might have to run against the Member for Grand Bank.  I would not mind that myself, to tell you the truth. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, I am only joking, but if I look at how my district might be structured or restructured and coming down the peninsula, if things are changed, I can assure you that the representation of the people who will be in that new revamped district, on my part, will not be any less. 

 

If they increase my numbers by, I do not know, a couple of thousand or whatever, Mr. Speaker, I can assure you, and I can assure any of those, that the representation they would get is the same that I have always provided in this House and on behalf of my constituents.  I can assure you, and I think I speak for the people across the way, you are going to give them the same representation, Mr. Speaker.

 

The numbers in other jurisdictions across the country, someone said in the House here yesterday, we are on the lower end of the scale.  Should we take a look at it?  Certainly we should.  Is a decision being made?  Yes, it is.  It is a decision that is being made by this government, this Premier, and it is one I think that people think it is the things that we should be looking at.  The time is right to do it now, Mr. Speaker. 

 

I can get into speaking about the composition of the committee, the chief justice from among the judges in Supreme Court, the four other members who are going to be in there, and the resources that these members are going to need.  We have set a timeline on it.  Why shouldn't we, Mr. Speaker? 

 

We are often accused of lingering things out.  Maybe the time is right that we put in place and we set the time that this decision be made, and that we go into the election this coming fall, in 2015, with fewer seats, and that the people of the Province know that coming out of the next election, yes, there will be fewer members.  We will assure them that the representation will still be good, but there will be savings. 

 

As I have said before, go and speak to some of the seniors groups that I have submitting applications to me on a regular basis.  To the groups, the 50 Plus Clubs, the people on low income, the sport and rec groups, the people from the disabilities community, Mr. Speaker, all looking for money.  We may not sometimes look at it that yes, we are dealing with millions and millions of dollars, but when it comes to divvying up $2 million between groups within the Province, that is a substantial amount of money.  Accumulate that over the number of years, it turns out to representation we can give to various groups and community organizations across the Province that benefits them.  That is democracy at work, and those are decisions being made. 

 

I know I have eight minutes, Mr. Speaker.  I am not one who intends to get up here and ramble on, but I have to point out – I am going to take my seat a bit early.  I would ask the people not to take the doom and gloom world that I often hear from the Third Party.  I have never been a part of it, Mr. Speaker.  I cannot operate that way.  There is always the positive side to look at.

 

Mr. Speaker, I will end by saying this.  We on this side are never going to make decisions that will compromise the democratic right of the people of the Province.  No matter how much the NDP profess that, it will never happen. 

 

We are elected here.  As the Member for Cape St. Francis said, do not forget who put us here and they will decide whether we get back here again or not.  Mr. Speaker, our decisions are always made in the best interests of democracy in this Province.

 

Thank you.

 

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

 

MR. HILLIER: Yes, Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to speak on this bill.

 

Before I get started, I sat here this afternoon and we have listened to three people speak.  I will not get into all three at this point in time, but they impressed me or they impressed upon me in different ways.  I go back to the first speaker this afternoon, the Member for Cape St. Francis.  It is almost like he is throwing in the towel and he is ready to give it all up. 

 

He said three times, Mr. Speaker, I know I have no say in all of this.  Things are going to come out as they are and I have no say in it.  Well, I am going to have my say this afternoon.  I had a class of geography in 1983.  The same thing worked for them as worked for these people this afternoon. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I find it surreal just to be here this afternoon.  You can only say you are new for so long, but I still call myself relatively new.  When we broke in December, I said to somebody who had been around a little bit longer, now what can I expect as the winter goes on?  You have your Christmas holidays, then you take January and February to do some work in your constituency, get your feet under you, and get your office set up and so on.  In March we are back in the House again. 

 

I will tell you a story, Mr. Speaker.   As you are aware I have been wearing a sling for the last couple of days.  Knowing my schedule for the winter I elected to have elective surgery on Friday.  I went under at the Health Sciences knowing that I had two months to recuperate.  When I came out of recovery, my wife was with me – and if anybody has every come out of anesthesia you will know that you are a little bit confused. 

 

I went in knowing that I had two months and when I came out the first thing she said to me was you are back in the House on Monday morning.  I said no, don't you be so stunned.  I am not reading this correctly because it is not possible for us to be back in the House on Monday morning.  It is like the Premier woke up last week at one point in time and somebody said the sky is falling, the sky is falling so he put a piece of paper over his head to protect himself and said I have to cut ten seats. 

 

It has been like that as we move forward all week.  We had, we are going to cut the seats, we are going to cut to thirty-eight seats, and we are going to move this forward as quickly as we can.  Mr. Speaker, why did we need to be called back in two days?  Is it a political piece to catch us off guard, or it is just another example of this government not being able to plan more than two days in advance? 

 

I was just one person who was put out.  We had people out of Province; we had people out of country.  We had people getting on planes to be called back in here to do this on a two-day notice. 

 

Mr. Speaker, this is Bill 42, An Act To Amend The Electoral Boundaries Act.  Our take on this, as we have said in recent days we are looking at three amendments: one in the range of seats, one dealing with the 120 days and that if it is not done it will trigger an election, and of course then the other issue are the seats in Labrador.

 

Mr. Speaker, it is almost like a rush-in government, alright, it is almost like a rush-in government.  They rush here, they rush there, and they rush everywhere.  I want to take a minute and go back over some of the issues that this government has rushed through.  I will start with the expropriation of the Abitibi mill in Grand Falls.  They rushed in to the House, the sky is falling, the sky is falling.  We have to expropriate the mill in Corner Brook.  Everybody has to vote for it before the sky falls in.  What do we know is that we own a mill. 

 

We lost two court cases to NAFTA.  Currently the Department of Finance has recognized potential environmental contingent liability of $265 million. 

 

MR. KING: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.

 

MR. SPEAKER: The Government House Leader on a point of order.

 

MR. KING: Mr. Speaker, we have called from the Order Paper Bill 42 to talk about electoral reform.  There is absolutely no connection to previous decisions around the Abitibi mill in Grand Falls-Windsor, or any environmental issues.

 

MR. SPEAKER: The Opposition House Leader to the point of order.

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I certainly see the relevance when we talk about previous rushed legislation in this House.  This is what the member is referencing.  I certainly think that is relevant, even though the other side might not want to hear it.

 

MR. SPEAKER: To the point of order, there is no point of order.  I would declare that in a debate in this House, what is relevant may be a personal issue.  The Speaker at some point extends that level of discretion, but at some point the members do need to speak to the general intent of the bill.

 

MR. HILLIER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I did not realize we would get things stirred up this early and I still have thirteen minutes left.

 

Mr. Speaker, the other issue –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. HILLIER: Obviously, Bill 29, which will lead to relevance again –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. HILLIER: We rushed in.  We have to get this straightened out before we close in June.  Now, two years later, we are waiting for an inquiry to come in to say exactly what went on with Bill 29.

 

How many do you want me to give?  Mr. Speaker?  We can go into cuts in the Justice Department, sheriffs.  We had nobody to lead people into the courthouse, brought them back in.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

Order, please!

 

I would remind the member that we are speaking to this bill.  The general intent of this bill is what we should be at.  I would ask to speak with relevance.

 

MR. HILLIER: Mr. Speaker, getting back to Bill 42, we have been given 120 days for a commission to do a piece of work where nowhere in Canada has it been done in less than 185, and most have gone over one year.  My colleague from Virginia Waters in her petition this afternoon talked about how long it took for all of these other commissions on boundary issues in other provinces and in other jurisdictions in this country to come back with their decisions.

 

That is why, Mr. Speaker, I really have a concern with this government giving the commission 120 days when we have so many of these examples where they have done it wrong in the last two years.

 

Mr. Speaker, let us move on to a little more benign maybe, topic, and that is Labrador.  Since I retired as an educator I have had the opportunity to do some tour work with a local tour company.  Labrador is a big place.  Each of the last three years I have taken a group of people from out of Province into Southern Labrador.  I just wanted to take you through a little bit of our experience, first of all, on the one-day tour of the section of Cartwright – L'Anse au Clair that we did. 

 

We get up at 5:30 in the morning in Plum Point.  Mr. Speaker, right away you realize there is something wrong with the ferry service when you get up at 5:30 in the morning and you drag thirty-five people, average age seventy-five to ninety, out of bed and put them on a bus to catch a ferry to Labrador. 

 

You pick up your tickets at 7:00 o'clock and you realize there is an issue with the ferry in Labrador.  When I walk in, I have my reservations because my company has been working on this since last February.  I have my reservations.  I walk in and I get the evil eye from fifty local people sitting there with their numbers on a wait-list trying to get on the ferry.  It is a typical day in Labrador. 

 

It is not all doom and gloom as the Minister of Seniors, Wellness and Social Development seems to think.  We cross on the ferry and there is no doubt that Southern Labrador is a unique part of this Province.  We stop at the Northern Lights hotel, we have breakfast, and then we are on down towards Red Bay. 

 

Mr. Speaker, it is unique, one of the biggest tourist areas in our Province is at L'Anse Amour.  Has anybody been to L'Anse Amour?  There are a few people who have been to L'Anse Amour.  L'Anse Amour has a population of eight people.  In L'Anse Amour you have the oldest lighthouse in Canada on that coast, you have the wreck of a British frigate right there in the harbour, and you have a National Historic Site of an indigenous teenager going back 7,500 years, maybe the oldest native burial ground in the country. 

 

As you move on down the coast, Mr. Speaker, it continues that way.  It is a fabulous part of this Province.  We get down to the Pinware River and everybody has to stop for pictures obviously of the gorge.  Then it is up over the hill into Red Bay which is a World Heritage Site.  My tour group, I guess the most impressive part of that is the interpretation which is done by the local people of Red Bay.  Then it is back on the bus, beat it back to L'Anse au Clair.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) get to Battle Harbour.

 

MR. HILLIER: No, we are not even going to Battle Harbour.  We get back to L'Anse au Clair.  The next morning we are up at 5:30 again.  That is two mornings in a row that I have dragged a group of eighty-year-old people out of bed to get them back across on this ferry.  I go through the gauntlet again of the evil eye of the local people looking at this guy from St. John's, dragging a crowd of Mainlanders going ahead of him on the bus, because they are sitting there with their waiting list.  Mr. Speaker, that is Southern Labrador.

 

I spent time in Western Labrador.  I have been there a couple of times as an athlete and as a coach.  The people of Western Labrador are fabulous people, but what impressed me there obviously are the mines and the impact that these mines have on the rest of this Province.  The people who I met there – I met one lady and she sent me a Christmas card in 1971, and we are still exchanging Christmas cards.

 

I have never been to Lake Melville.  I have landed at Goose Bay.  I have landed at Churchill Falls, but I am aware of what goes on there and the impact that these areas make on the rest of the Province.  I have never been to my colleague in Torngat Mountains – I have never been to that district.  I know of Voisey's Bay.  I listen to him talk about the size of his district and having to campaign in boat and on ski-doo and being probably the only politician in the country who campaigns with a .22 on his back. 

 

The reason I am going there, Mr. Speaker, is people talk about going to Labrador or people talk about sitting here and understanding Labrador.  I had a gentleman from Alberta visit me here.  We came to St. John's.  He looked down at St. John's Harbour and he said: I am okay now I have seen the Atlantic Ocean.  As if to say that looking at St. John's Harbour is the same as seeing the Atlantic Ocean.

 

I had a friend of mine who drove to Holyrood on the four-lane highway and said: Boy, your roads are some good in Newfoundland.  I had a gentleman come to my house in Conception Bay South and said: Boy, it is sunny here every day.  Newfoundland's weather must be fabulous.  Mr. Speaker, that is the same as me going to any place in Labrador or you going to any place in Labrador or either one of these people going to either place in Labrador and understanding Labrador, because we do not.

 

Now that we move on from something that I do not understand, let me talk a little bit about something I do understand and that is beautiful Town of Conception Bay South.  The Member for Cape St. Francis, the Member for Gander yesterday and several others have talked about technology and the difference now than it was in 2006, and the fact that we can do things quicker now because we have the technology to do things – and there is no doubt.  We have talked about Facebook and we kid each other and so on; but, Mr. Speaker, when we talk about computers and we talk about technology, there is always one pure fact: that garbage in, means garbage out.

 

Mr. Speaker, we are going to use the census data from 2011.  We are going to use the census data from 2011 in 2015, and that data is going to establish our electoral boundaries until 2026.  That is a fifteen-year fallback on data.  That is garbage.  Let me show you some garbage.  Mr. Speaker, I have here from the Conception Bay South Town Plan, which was approved maybe by the Member for Gander in his day – I am not sure if you were there at the time –

 

MR. O'BRIEN: (Inaudible).

 

MR. HILLIER: You were never there, okay.

 

Anyway, it was approved in June 2012.  The piece of information I have here now goes back to April 2011, which was after the last census.  This is what has happened in the Town of Conception Bay South, demographically, since.  In April, 2011, in the Town of Conception Bay South there were 517 active building lots.  There were eighty-four developments.  Not eighty-four building lots, not eighty-four houses being built, but eighty-four developments for 517 active lots.

 

Proposed lots, there were 412.  That is a total of over 900 lots – almost 1,000 lots.  Let us put three people in each of those houses since 2011, since the census was done, that is 3,000 people.  That is the garbage that is going to go into the system to create these boundaries.  It is not only Conception Bay South, it is Paradise, it is Torbay, it is Mount Pearl, and it is St. John's, and I cannot speak for those outside of the metro area because I am not as familiar with that.  I am familiar with this because of my time on council in Conception Bay South. 

 

I will give you an example of the impact of that.  I ran a by-election in November.  We had a new voter's list.  Invariably, I knocked on the door with my voter's list and I said: Mr. Granter, my name is Rex Hillier, I wonder if I could count on your support? 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. HILLIER: We have Mr. Granter's in Conception Bay South.

 

Mr. Granter said, I am not Mr. Granter, I am Mr. Kent.  I finally found Mr. Granter somewhere up the street.  That went on over and over and over again.

 

Mr. Speaker, on Middle Bight Road – and a lot of the people here helped me in my campaign.  They know where Middle Bight Road is, where you had a bunch of large lots, traditionally.  So you go to number eight Middle Bight Road and your next spot is number ten Middle Bight Road, but there is a house in between.  That is the garbage you are going to have if you select the census data from 2011 instead of the census data from 2015. 

 

We went on streets that did not exist at that point in time, full streets, Tangier Place, Peacock Place.  They all exist, but they do not exist on the voter's list and they will not exist in this census data.  That is the garbage in and the garbage out that you are going to expect.

 

Mr. Speaker, people of this Province are tired of this fiasco.  You fed the fuel earlier this week when you had three members from government petition the House of Assembly to urge the government to get this done.  It is ludicrous to see this done.  Two hours after those petitions were presented, I had five pages of petitions.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: From where?

 

MR. HILLIER: From Hermitage, from the fish plant in Hermitage, from the District of Fortune Bay – Cape La Hune.  They are not happy down there, and the people are not happy across this Province. 

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

I remind the member his time has expired.

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. KING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

I move that we adjourn debate on Bill 42. 

 

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved that we adjourn debate on Bill 42. 

 

All those in favour, 'aye'.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

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

 

Carried. 

 

On motion, debate adjourned.

 

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

 

MR. KING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

Earlier today I gave notice to the House of the formation of a striking committee, seconded by my colleague, the Member for Burgeo – La Poile.  With his consent, I would like to update. 

 

We left a member off that committee, and that would be the Member for Lewisporte, the Speaker of the House of Assembly.  So with your concurrence.

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Yes.

 

MR. KING: So moved by me, seconded by the Member for Burgeo – La Poile, that member –

 

MR. SPEAKER: Moved by the Government House Leader, seconded by the Member for Burgeo – La Poile. 

 

All those in favour, 'aye'.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

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

 

Carried. 

 

MR. KING: Thank you. 

 

I say to the Member for Conception Bay, there was no rush, no intent to deal there, hon. member.  The Clerk outlined to us that it was procedurally something they would prefer for the record.  There is no rush, and I do not appreciate the comment, to be fair. 

 

Secondly, Mr. Speaker, I committed earlier today that I would table documents for my colleague, the hon. Opposition House Leader, who is going give up his salary, I understand, as a gesture of good faith.  I would like to table documents today now for the House from the previous boundary commission.  I will do so right here. 

 

Consider the documents tabled, Mr. Speaker. 

 

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

 

MR. KING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

I would like to now call from the Order Paper, Bill 42. 

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. GRANTER: Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to stand in the House today to speak to the amendments to the Electoral Boundaries Act, Bill 42.

 

Before I get into that, I have been listening attentively this afternoon, and first I want to speak to a couple of points that were brought to the floor of the House by the Member for St. John's Centre.  I was very pleased in this House yesterday to support her private member's motion.  I think it was a very valuable motion, Mr. Speaker, that all members of this House thought that we should support and we did, but I heard from her today talking about the election of 2015, or the election of 2016, and wanting to do things right. 

 

Just a couple of days ago in this House, there was a hoist motion that was tabled in this House and it was defeated by the members of the Opposition; it was also defeated by us.  She stood in the House today, Mr. Speaker, talking about doing things right, but as the Opposition said a few days ago, and as our members said a couple of days ago as well, by approving that hoist motion in the House it would have potentially guaranteed that the election of 2015 would have been moved into 2016.  That is why it was defeated here in the House. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I want to stand on my feet, just as my colleague did today, as my colleagues here on this side of the House, and I want to say categorically that as the Member for the District of Humber West, I, too, look forward to the election of 2015.  We want the election of 2015 on this side of the House.  We will have an election in 2015 on this side of the House as well.

 

Before I get into some of the crux of the debate here this afternoon, Mr. Speaker, in the twenty minutes or eighteen minutes I have left, I do have to address one of the points by my colleague from Conception Bay South.  I know he is only new in the House, and we all talk about things in the House.  We all make mistakes from time to time. 

 

I want to remind the Member for Conception Bay South that when you knock on the doors of residents in your district, when you take on the role and the responsibilities to represent the people in the district that you proudly represent, when you knock on those doors and you campaign in an election, you take on the responsibility twenty-four hours a day to represent the people of the district who so proudly elected you to the House of Assembly.

 

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

 

MR. SPEAKER (Littlejohn): On a point of order, the hon. the Member for Conception Bay South.

 

MR. HILLIER: Mr. Speaker, I understand everything the hon. member is saying, he just still has not gotten to the point of my mistake.

 

MR. SPEAKER: There is no point of order.

 

The hon. the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. GRANTER: I would say to the Member for Conception Bay South, just give me a couple of seconds and I will get there. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I said to him when I met him on the elevator the other day, I wished him well with the surgery that he had on his arm.  I know coming out of surgery you are a little bit under anaesthesia, that you are a little bit in and out and you do not understand.  He also said that – talking about times that you have to get back to the House, whether it is one day, or one hour, or two days, or three days.  The point is, when we sign on as MHAs to represent the people in the districts who elect us, we are with them twenty-four hours a day.  It is important that many of us – I heard my colleague from Southern Labrador, L'Anse au Clair, talking about the distance and time. 

 

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

 

MR. SPEAKER: On a point of order, the hon. the Member for Conception Bay South.

 

MR. HILLIER: In the preamble here, the hon. member stood up and said that I had made a mistake.  I am still not sure where that mistake is.

 

MR. SPEAKER: There is no point of order.

 

The hon. the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

 

MR. GRANTER: Mr. Speaker, as I was about to say, the hon. Member for Cartwright – L'Anse au Clair talked about the time that it is to get about her district.  It is so real, and it is so true. 

 

AN HON. MEMBER: The Northern Peninsula.

 

MR. GRANTER: And the Northern Peninsula, I say to my colleague. 

 

We have colleagues on this side of the House, Mr. Speaker, who have driving distance as well.  I look at Fortune Bay – Cape La Hune, I look at my colleague from the other side of the House as well from the Port aux Basques area, the vast distances that they have to travel. 

 

We commit ourselves in this House when we get elected by the people.  We knock on their doors, and we commit ourselves twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, to represent them the best that we can do on the floor of this House for all of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. GRANTER: Mr. Speaker, that is the crux of this debate in the amendments to Bill 42.  I am going to take a few minutes this afternoon to try to put it as best I can in the perspective that I have.  I want to talk a little bit in the beginning about motivation.  So that people do not stand up and talk about whether it is a valid point or not a valid point, I am going to talk a little bit about motivation, what motivates us as members in this House of Assembly, and what motivates us as representatives for the people of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

 

Mr. Speaker, I know every member in this House of Assembly.  I have known some of them on my side of the House for many years. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. GRANTER: I have known some of them for a few years, and I have only known some here in the House, Mr. Speaker, just for a few months.  Our paths have crossed down through the years, as with my colleague from Conception Bay South, who I have known for years.  We have crossed our paths as professionals in similar circumstances, or through engagements in social and community networking across this beautiful Province. 

 

I can say to the people of this Province, like all of them who sit on that side of the House, and us who sit on this side of the House, I believe we are motivated with the proper directions to do for the people of this Province what is the right, and as former premier used to say, the responsible thing to do – to do what is right and the responsible thing to do, Mr. Speaker.

 

Let's not fall short, I say to the people of this Province.  Let's not fall short of that valuable instinct that we all must need to step up to, Mr. Speaker.  That is the goal from all of us on this side of the House, as I know it is from those on the other side of the House as well.  That is what we do when we knock on the doors, and that is what we do when we get elected and asked to come and sit in the seats in this House.

 

Mr. Speaker, every one of us sitting in this House comes from all over the Province.  They come from beautiful towns, beautiful valleys, bays, coves, inlets, and the Big Land of Labrador, too.  Prior to coming here we all held different positions in the workplace.  Some held positions with unions, some are educators, some here were in the field of health care, some here worked in industry, some held positions in private business, some were involved in forestry, some were involved in the fishery, and others were entrepreneurs. 

 

One thing I can say for sure is that many of us in this House were mothers and fathers.  Make no mistake about it, Mr. Speaker, no matter what our background, no matter what our cultural upbringing, no matter what part of the Province we are from, no matter the years of experience we had in professional lives or in our workforce, we all come to this place with a capacity to embark upon change. 

 

The ability to use our talents that we fostered down through the years, no matter what kind of life we led before we came here, the ability to take those talents that we have fostered, we have learned and we have grown down through the years to invoke our beliefs, our understandings, debate across the floor of this House, and to accept things they say and try to convince people what we say is the right thing and the most appropriate thing to do, Mr. Speaker, that is democracy in action.  That is what we are doing today and this week as we debate the amendments to the Electoral Boundaries Act, Bill 42.

 

Mr. Speaker, the ability to listen to others and learn from them as well, that is what this place can do.  That is the important thing about this place, the ability to listen to others, to change opinions, and to try and have other people to come on side with your beliefs. We saw a good example of that yesterday when all of us here in the House came together to support the private member's motion from the member opposite.

 

Mr. Speaker, it will be four years since the good people of Humber West elected me to come to this House.  Since it is early in the new year still, it is still in the month of January, I want to take this ten-second spot of my twenty minutes to wish everyone in my District of Humber West the very best that 2015 can offer.  I wish them very well in 2015, as I know all of the colleagues will do to the representatives in their districts as well. 

 

For the benefit of those listening at home, in this House when we are not on our feet, Mr. Speaker, speaking to a particular bill, we get a chance to do a whole lot of observing how the system of democracy works.  We get a chance to look across the way, as they are doing right now and as members from my side of the House are doing, looking at me speaking.  Or at least some of them are looking at me speaking and listening to what I have to say.  We get a chance to look across the way at the Opposition.  The opposite parties, Mr. Speaker, they do the same to us.  It is a chance to see really what motivates us, really what motivates parliamentarians when we are in this particular place. 

 

Mr. Speaker, there has been much said and written about motivation.  Journals of scholarly research have been written on that topic.  Articles down through the years have been bound in magazines on that particular topic on motivation. 

 

I do not plan on getting into a debate here on all of the theories, or the motivational theories that exist out there in research, but just to say that every decision we make in life is preceded or proceeded by a motivation or a motivational thought.  In simplest terms, Mr. Speaker, let's put it out there the way it is, motivation is characterized by a need.  There is a need there for something.  It is followed by a behaviour and equates or is followed by some form of satisfaction.  That is the basic principle of what motivation is all about. 

 

In other words, Mr. Speaker, a person or an organization has certain needs or wants.  It causes a person or an organization to do certain things.  That is the behaviour that satisfies those needs which is a satisfaction.

 

Mr. Speaker, whether we are talking about someone in a personal life, whether we are talking about a business or a corporation, governments are no different, provinces are no different, and governing a nation or governing in a province is no different at that.  We are all motivated by doing something to satisfy that particular need. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I believe all of us who put our names forward to serve in one of the current forty-eight districts throughout Newfoundland and Labrador, who get elected to this Chamber, who come in here to represent the people, all of us, all forty-eight of us sitting on this side of the House and that side of the House representing three parties in this Province, do so to the best of their ability.  Do so to the best of their ability and make sure that they do things well for the residents in which they represent. 

 

Mr. Speaker, this is the highest and most fundamental principle that should motivate all of us and one that I and the members of this House take very seriously.  I do not think we would get any argument with that.  Motivation is the force that initiates.  It guides and maintains goal-orientated behaviours.  It is what causes us to take action.

 

Mr. Speaker, as I said a few minutes ago there are many theories of motivation, but I believe the forces of motivation in Legislatures like this make it better for the people we represent. It is not about the worth of one's self but about the value of those who place their trust in you.  It is a responsibility that I take very seriously.  It is the responsibility placed on the legislators of this country and the people who represent the people of the Province in this Legislature in Newfoundland and Labrador. 

 

Mr. Speaker, over the past four years we have been called upon as a government to make many decisions.  Some of them have been pretty easy to make, some of them have been very tough to make, and some of them have been very perplexing.  We tackle it as a government.  The pension liability issue and the pundits out there, when we tackled or leading up to tackling the pension liability issue, said it was a ball that kept being kicked down the road, that no government would ever tackle the issue of pensions in the Province. 

 

This government stood strong with the unions and worked with the unions, collaboratively, Mr. Speaker.  We delivered and we moved the pension issue and dealt with the pension issue.  This is the same thing today.  We are charged today to look at the Electoral Boundaries Act, and that is what we are doing in a debate in January month in 2015 in this House of Assembly in Newfoundland and Labrador.

 

It is not about an individual who represents a district, Mr. Speaker.  It is not about you and you and you and you or me.  It is about the collective population of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.  This is what electoral boundary amendments are all about.  As my colleague from Cape St. Francis so eloquently said today earlier, and I guess it was referenced by others, it is about representing the people of the Province.  It is not about me from Humber West or my colleague from Cape St. Francis.  It is not about that.  It is not about you and you and you and you or me.  It is about representing the people of the Province in every region of the Province.  That is what these boundary changes are all about.

 

Each day we walk down this corridor coming to the House of Assembly – and I say to the people at home who have never been in the Confederation Building, outside the wall right here behind me there is an old list of frames right back prior to Confederation.  There are all kinds of names on the lists.  The names on the lists as you go from frame to frame to frame are different.  On some lists there might be ten or twelve or fourteen, some might be twenty-five or thirty, leading right up to today, Mr. Speaker.  They all represent the number of members who sat in this House, elected members who sat in this House down through the years because they were the ones who represented the people in the districts of Newfoundland and Labrador in a time that was different then.  Now, Mr. Speaker, we are moving into a time that is very, very different.  Our population has decreased.

 

We are here today to make amendments to the Electoral Boundaries Act.  I listened to my colleagues.   I sat attentively today to listen to the colleagues opposite.  I have had numerous conversations, both formal and informal, with my colleagues from Labrador West and Lake Melville, Mr. Speaker, over the last number of days.  I sat listening to what they have to say.  I have listened this afternoon to my colleagues on the opposite side of the House and I intend this evening, and as we move into debate tonight and continue to move into debate, to listen to the valuable information that my colleagues on both sides of the House have to say.

 

I do not think there is one person in this House who believes we cannot have boundary changes and a reduction in the overall number of representatives in this House of Assembly.  I do not think there is one person in this House who would stand on their feet on the floor of this House and would say such a thing.  I believe we are fundamentally there together.  I also believe that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians also believe that the overall numbers should be changed, that the overall numbers should be reduced.

 

Mr. Speaker, I was in my district last weekend and I chatted as I was out and about in the community at the grocery stores last Saturday listening to what some of the people had to say in my district.  They also said it is time to make changes and let's do it in 2015, let's move on with it.  That is what I heard in my district as I went about my district last week. 

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Were you talking at Coleman's? 

 

MR. GRANTER: Yes, indeed.  My colleague opposite just referenced the fact that would I have been at Coleman's?  In actual fact, I was at Coleman's.  I was also at Dominion, Mr. Speaker.  I might be campaigning in a larger geographical region come later in 2015.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. GRANTER: Mr. Speaker, for the benefit in the last two or three minutes for the people listening at home, I just want to talk for a few minutes about what is actually in the act.  The act establishes a mechanism, in other words, a means for the review and amendment of electoral boundaries of Newfoundland and Labrador. 

 

The act, as we all know, sets out the particulars for the establishment of a commission to be comprised of a chairperson who is appointed by the chief justice of Newfoundland and Labrador, an office I would put out there that for the sake of a better word I would say it is sacred.  It is an office that is sacred for sake of a better word, the chief justice of Newfoundland and Labrador. 

 

The act also goes on to state that the chief justice shall select a chairperson from among the judges of the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal, and the Trial Division.  The act also states as well that four other members shall be appointed by the Speaker of the House of Assembly from among the residents of the Province.  Four other members will be chosen by the Speaker of the House from all of the residents of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. 

 

It is customary that the Speaker gets co-operation from the Opposition parties.  They put names forward.  The governing party puts names forward as well.  The Speaker of the House chooses from the entire population of Newfoundland and Labrador to choose those four.  From the very beginning, it is a very independent look at the boundaries.  It is an independent commission from the chief justice to the four representatives who are appointed by the Speaker of the House.

 

Mr. Speaker, in order for the independent commission to do its work –

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

 

MR. GRANTER: I know there are people over there heckling.  I hear them over there heckling.  Remember a few minutes ago I was talking about people paying attention, listening to what is happening.  We get a chance to see what motivates one person and what motivates another person.  Oh, Mr. Speaker, a lot of different motivations in this House.  I see some very active over there this afternoon. 

 

Mr. Speaker, in order for the independent commission to do its work the act gives the commission the power to employ such resources as may be required, including the employment of technical and professional staff as considered necessary. 

 

I can go on in length about this particular act, and I am down to about forty-five seconds, but I may get an opportunity again in the debate tonight or tomorrow morning, or whenever next week, to come to my feet again, but I will say this: As the Minister of Finance said when he brought in the bill a few days ago, resources, if needed, will be made available, Mr. Speaker. 

 

I know in the private industry in the Province we have the technology today in the Province, we have the skillset, we have industrious people in the Province who can provide the resources to this commission as they go about to do their work over the next 120 or so days to deliver that particular report to you, Mr. Speaker, in the House of Assembly so that we can move on with the amendments and have an election in 2015 with new boundaries for the people of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. 

 

Thank you very much. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

Just before I recognize the next speaker, I want to remind all members on both sides of the House the Speaker has heard much over the last number of days in regard to relevance.  I want to remind all members that we are speaking to amendments to the Electoral Boundaries Act and I would ask all members, the Speaker is more than prepared to give some leeway but at some point, you need to tie in where you are going back to the Explanatory Notes.  I ask that members try to stick to that.  It is an important debate and in no way, shape, or form is the Speaker trying to stifle debate because this is a very important discussion. 

 

Thank you very much, and I ask all hon. members for their co-operation. 

 

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

 

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

 

I would be remiss today if I did not recognize the role of members.  This is a little bit upsetting.  I want to recognize you all first of all for the kind words that you had to say for my father and on his passing. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. MURPHY: The cards and the comments were literally in the hundreds and they will be long remembered by my family.  I do know that it was a very emotional time this past week, but I guess as dad would probably have told me: Boy, it is time to get on with it.  He was a man who was very direct sometimes.  I guess the TV movie of the week has yet to be screened, but he led a very interesting life.

 

I just wanted to pass along to all members here it is very important to me, because I treat you as family too, that your comments and your cards and your handshakes did not go unnoticed.  They meant a lot to me and family, my brothers, and my sister, as everybody else who was there, and I want to thank you for all that.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. MURPHY: Anyway, be that as it may, Mr. Speaker, in that spirit I rise today to speak to Bill 42.  This is my first time speaking since dad was sick, so excuse me if I am off a little bit on my timing, but I did have to come out and say those comments.  In spite of what has been happening over the last week, like I said, it meant so much.

 

Mr. Speaker, I rise today again, like I said, to speak to Bill 42, and this is a bit of surprise to be back in the House in January.  I want to welcome all members back, I wish them all a happy new year, and at the same time as wishing my constituents a happy new year as well.  It is going to be a good year, an election year, and hopefully we will get on with in 2015.

 

Mr. Speaker, when I first got a look at the bill, I thought to myself that the situation that is unfolding in the Province fiscally had a lot to do with government pushing this piece of legislation this way; and I thought that, number one, the first word that popped into my head when I was looking at the piece of legislation was panic.  There has been an awful lot of talk since the price of oil has slipped the way it has that we are into a panic mode, and we are looking at making cuts everywhere.

 

The least, I think, that we have a right to actually be talking about is the number of seats that this House of Assembly should have.  I get to thinking sometimes that I do not have the right to talk about that at the same time as regards to fixing a number.  Do I agree that something has to be done?  Yes, Mr. Speaker, I do, because there is a process that is already in place.  The pertinence of having that particular commission in place, it has a role already.  It already has a fixed timeline, and there is a reason why it has a fixed timeline.

 

If I can go into that a little bit, Mr. Speaker, when it comes to that, because this piece of legislation talks about changing that timeline – government is talking about changing that timeline and moving it ahead of the scheduled 2016 time frame.  Just to quote the federal act, Mr. Speaker, if I can touch on that for a minute, because the federal act also deals with changes to electoral districts.  Of course, they just finished their process.  Now that they are finished their process, we find that the federal government is getting ready to call a federal election.

 

We also have something else that is ingrained in our minds, everybody here in this House, and ingrained in federal legislation.  It is called the Terms of Union between Newfoundland and Labrador and the Government of Canada.  It guarantees us something.  It guarantees us a minimum number of seats in the federal Parliament of Canada.  It guarantees us seven. 

 

Mr. Speaker, the whole point about that is let's just imagine for a second that the federal government wanted to change that piece of legislation because the population dropped a little bit, because there was something happening within the country of Canada because the price of oil was slipping, and all of a sudden the bottom was falling out of the population, for example, of Alberta.  Let's go to the Province of Alberta now that they have lost about 150,000 people because all of a sudden everybody is gone, the price of oil has collapsed and what do we see?  We do not have to have the need for those two particular seats now in Alberta so we are going to redraw the lines.  We are going to reduce the number of seats that are actually in the House of Commons. 

 

Let's imagine, Mr. Speaker, that because the price of oil is gone and all of a sudden the population is on decline here in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, that for every 75,000 people here in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador because we have lost 75,000 people since the mid-1990s that the representation that we have in the House of Commons is all of a sudden going to be reduced by one member.  What does that mean for the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador and representation when it comes into the House of Commons?  It means a heck of a lot less.  That is something we can do without when we are asking for better and more representation in our own House of Commons; we look at getting more seats in there so that we can have a stronger voice within our own House of Commons.  That deserves thinking.

 

What does the federal act say?  Let me read it to you.  It is much the same as the Newfoundland and Labrador act as it is now: “For each decennial census, the Governor in Council shall establish by proclamation, published in the Canada Gazette, an electoral boundaries commission for each province before the earlier of (a) the expiry period of 60 days after the day on which the Minister receives a return certified by the Chief Statistician under subsection 13(1), and (b) the expiry of a period of six months after the first day of the month that is fixed by the Governor in Council under subsection 19(1) of the Statistics Act as the month in which the census is to be taken.”

 

That is very important.  They do not do this without having a solid statistic around them for changing the law.  In other words, Mr. Speaker, my interpretation of that is if they go past the most recent census and they do it within sixty- to ninety-day time frame, they start their work after the census and then their work carries on between elections, but it happens very quickly. 

 

We have known now for I guess probably about a year-and-a-half or over the last year certainly that redistribution in this country was happening.  We knew that there was going to be an addition to thirty-eight extra seats in the House of Commons – I think it was thirty-eight.  One of the members across the way could probably correct me on that.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

 

MR. MURPHY: Well, somewhere in the thirties anyway.  We knew it was happening, particularly in BC and in Ontario. 

 

Either way, Mr. Speaker, this Province here is guaranteed a minimum amount of representation under the federal House of Commons, under federal Parliament.  Here in Newfoundland and Labrador we are talking about changing that number.  The arbitrary number that government has picked out is ten.  They are proposing to reduce it from forty-eight seats down to thirty-eight seats.  It is not my call as regards to the number of seats that the commission should be reducing things by. 

 

The commission may very well come back under the right auspices when it has the proper statistics in hand in 2016 and say listen, we are looking at –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

Thank you.

 

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

 

MR. MURPHY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

The simple fact is that the committee could go and end up doing its work and say listen, in spite of the drop in population we find out at the same time that there are more people scattered in further regions of the Province.  Let's look at Labrador.  Labrador is the stark, staring example of the possibility of what could happen because we have all seen – and I do not agree with any cuts to Labrador, by the way, by the number of the members who are there; let me get that one perfectly straight and it is out there now.  Under the plan that was put out by one particular political activist out there, it shows one area, one district, that would go pretty much from Cape Chidley down as far as the ferry in Blanc Sablon.

 

You are talking about an absolutely huge district that is going to have very poor representation, because it is simple; based on geography and the possibility of bad weather or anything, you are going to have problems getting around that district, and it is going to cost the taxpayer as a result of that.  It is going to cost dearly.

 

I wanted to bring that out.  The simple fact is that this has to be given careful thought under what government is asking here right now.  Government is footing a number here that the federal government will not even dream of lowering for the simple fact that, number one, we have an agreement; and number two, I think the federal government believes in effective representation. 

 

If we are going to affect representation from the people who are out there and put more of a workload on some of the members – it is great, for example, when they look at it and they say that the City of St. John's or the City of Mount Pearl might have less numbers because of less distance travelled.  That is not the only consideration that you have to make. 

 

Let's go to Mount Pearl.  Does Mount Pearl need two members?  For example, if the commission suddenly decided to come back and say that Mount Pearl only needs one.  Mr. Speaker, the simple fact is everybody has a right to equal access to an MHA.  We cannot say that modern times and the use of the Internet are going to speed things up.  We have areas of this Province that are not even close to getting Internet capability yet.  They do not even have access.

 

Mr. Speaker, the federal government already set an example here where there are additions made.  We have a fixed number that is guaranteed under the Terms of Union here in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.  We do not want to see that lowered, do we?  Do we really want to see that lowered?  The answer is no. 

 

I do not think that when the people of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, Mr. Speaker, think about the number of seats that could be potentially lost and effective representation affected – I think they will probably think twice and say I do not think thirty-eight is a good number, maybe two, maybe three.  It is going to be up to the commission to decide. 

 

Right now we are affecting the commission's work in itself by basically taking the most modern tool away.  One of the most modern fixations that they would have, one of the most modern tools that they would have in making a decision is the Statistics Branch and the statistical numbers of what is going to be coming out in 2016 that would form the basis of their work.  That is what we are doing. 

 

We do not know how many people.  We have rough estimates right now over the last couple of years from 2011 to right now 2014-2015.  Sure, we have rough estimates on how many people have actually left the Province or how many people have come in.  That is a basis to work by but it is not a solid statistic.  It gives you better demographic numbers, for example, from Statistics Canada than what we have in just bare rough estimates from the Newfoundland and Labrador government's Statistical Branch, for example. 

 

I think we have to wait.  We have to wait and let this commission do its work on its proper set timelines.  There is a reason why they have proper set timelines.  One of it right now is in the federal act when it comes to that.  I do not see why we have to deviate from that. 

 

We know that if the next election happens this fall of 2015, right off the bat the first thing that could be done by the commission that is going to be put in place – the commission that will be agreed to of course by, not only the Speaker, but I guess from all parties concerned.  One of the first things they are going to have to do is population.  They are going to have to do that by accurate numbers and they are not going to have those until 2016.  That is one of the reasons why we should wait.  I think the census will be done in the spring of 2016.  We will have the first accurate numbers from Statistics Canada that are released usually in the fall of 2016.

 

Mr. Speaker, do we have that right here to determine what democracy is going to be?  Do we have that right?  Does government have the right to determine that thirty-eight seats is the proper number to have in the House of Assembly?  To me it is picking a number out of a hat.  It was an arbitrary number.  There has been no evidence placed on the part of this House of Assembly or in the media of why thirty-eight is the right number.  We do not have that evidence yet.  It has not been presented to the public in this Province.  It has not been presented to the voter yet.

 

Is less more?  Are we going to have a better democracy because we have less representation in the House of Assembly?  Now that is an interesting question.  We still have not heard that from government as regards to what our roles are going to be in the House of Assembly.

 

If you would simply look at the electoral process, if we are going to have thirty-eight seats in the House of Assembly, you have less varied thinking, for example, when it comes to speaking on a piece of legislation.  You do not get all points of view.  You have thirty-eight legislators who are in here, fine and dandy.  One would be the Speaker.  He would be impartial.  You have thirty-seven others.  That is great.  How about the mixture and the dichotomy of views that are out there?  How about the views of the fisherman versus the views of the lawyer, or the views of the teacher versus the views of the doctor?

 

We are going to be missing something here by not having that difference of opinion that is out there.  I would ask that government would consider that in their thinking and in their further deliberations on this.  Of course, that will come out later on.

 

Like I said, Mr. Speaker, when it comes to what we are talking about here, I believe this is coming out of a notion of panic out there because everything is on the table.  We have been told that a thousand times now.  Everything is on the table.  Democracy should never be put on anybody's table.  Not at a price that it might cost us in representation.  Let's let somebody outside determine what that democracy is going to look like in the House of Assembly when they do the report in 2016 and have it out for 2017.  There will be plenty of time to repair. 

 

Government has already fallen down.  Even on things like basic addressing for voters, Mr. Speaker, or basic addressing, for example, when it comes to 911.  Look at 911.  We are so far behind now on 911 it is not going to be ready to be set for the next phase, for example, because we do not have proper addressing.  How is Elections Newfoundland and Labrador going to look at that particular challenge if we have not addressed the challenge yet when it comes to simple addressing?  I will say that to government. 

 

We are not ready for even something as simple as an address change and getting a notification out from Elections Newfoundland and Labrador, out to the voter who is out there.  It simply cannot be done.  The challenges are too great so they need to reconsider that.  Besides the simple aspect, of course, of special ballots and that sort of thing, we need to look at it all.

 

You look at recognizing the role of the MHA in rural Newfoundland and Labrador, for example, Mr. Speaker.  It has changed greatly.  It has changed greatly on their part simply as a reason that in some ways government has cut other things too on the outside. 

 

Let us look at the example of a rural MHA.  Does he have a role, for example, in economic development?  Hey, he sure does.  He absolutely does.  Do you know why?  His role has been laid on.  His work has been laid on a little bit more heavily because government decided to cut RED boards a number of years ago, and somebody has to pursue economic development opportunities in rural Newfoundland and Labrador. 

 

Part of that work is usually done by an MHA when he identifies an opportunity and lobbies, maybe, for government money for the set-up of a business in rural Newfoundland, for example.  That is there.  He or she is the one who is recognizing the opportunities here in Newfoundland and Labrador, in rural Newfoundland.  Our responsibility as legislators is to try to grow the Province, not put it in decline.  It is an important point to remember.

 

Everybody in this Province of Newfoundland and Labrador has the right to vote.  They have the right to go and support a business or call an MHA and have them on the line.  Not to have to travel a huge, long distance to be able to do it, to have access.  I will leave that with the government to think about.  That is something else; they are going to have to. 

 

Simply put, like I said, they cut RED boards.  The role of an MHA in rural Newfoundland and Labrador has expanded an awful lot.  They are also economic development officers, like I said.  They have severe challenges.  When districts become bigger, access becomes not so easy.

 

I look again at the case of Labrador.  I know, for example in Torngat Mountains there might be about 3,500 people up there in the district.  You cannot tell me that the Member for Torngat Mountains does not hop into a speedboat to go from community to community.  If he has to manage a district such as is being presented in one of the proposals that I have seen as regards to electoral and district changes, he is not going to be hopping into a boat.  He is going to be hopping into a helicopter, and his work is going to be times three for the population that they have in Newfoundland and Labrador.  It is necessary that we keep the number of seats in Labrador as to what we have right now.

 

There are also economic development opportunities coming up in the future for Newfoundland and Labrador.  Everybody believes that in Labrador, Labrador is one of the most promised pieces in our economic pie that we have.  We are depending on growth in Labrador in the future.  With the drop in the Canadian dollar, those opportunities, all of a sudden it makes it a little bit more attractive for some of the resources that we have up there because the Canadian dollar is after sinking a bit more. 

 

It is a very volatile marketplace that is out there, I know.  Things can change overnight.  Already the economic conditions are changing as such to the Province that if we are going to see people stay in Labrador at the same time, we also have to have effective representation. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I hope to stand on my feet again later on to talk more about this bill.  I presented some of my views.  I am not finished with this one yet.

 

Thank you very much.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Placentia – St. Mary's. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

It is a pleasure today to be able to offer some comments on Bill 42. 

 

During our tenures as MHAs, and sitting in this Legislature, we get the opportunity to participate in the making of laws for the Province.  We have had an opportunity to participate in numerous debates regarding issues that affect this Province.  A lot of them, the issues or bills are routine.  A lot are really only housekeeping items, but there are several very significant bills and some very significant debates that occur in this House. 

 

They are not all significant debates.  Some of them are political.  Some of them drag on.  Some of them will get through rather quickly.  Some really are not even very contentious.  All parties agree on a lot of them, and it does not take very long to get them through.

 

There are others where, while the Opposition members might agree with the basic tenet of the bill, they will attempt to amend in some way, or change or modify.  Sometimes these amendments are legitimate, and sometimes they are accepted, sometimes they are not.  Not all of the time are they controversial.  Sometimes they can be very controversial, and we have been involved in these debates and opportunities for discussions over the years.  That is the responsibility we take on as MHAs.  Some of them can drag out, we have had filibusters in this House. 

 

Regardless of the significance of the bill or the issues, this is the place where the laws of the land are made.  For that reason, when we are elected, we are elected as lawmakers.  If you think about that, that is a significant responsibility.  We are in this House as lawmakers.  It is not only an honour and a privilege, but a tremendous responsibility as well. 

 

As I said several times, not all debates are significant, but some stand out more than others.  Some are more important than others.  Some are more significant in terms of the issue and the future of the Province.  This is a debate we are in today.  This bill is one of the most significant debates we will have in this House for some time.  That is why it is such an honour and a privilege to be part of it.  That is why we are elected as MHAs, to take part and participate in that discussion.  We are lawmakers and we make these decisions.  That is why this House is such an hon. House for us all to be into. 

 

This is an important bill and an important debate.  I do not intend to take up a full twenty minutes, unless I get carried away.  I do have a few points I want to make with respect to this particular bill.  We are not reinventing the wheel here.  We are not doing anything drastically different.  This is going to happen anyway.  In 2016, this is going to happen. 

 

In 2019, the boundaries are going to be changed and the election is going to be determined accordingly.  All we are doing is moving it up a year so that it can take place in this election.  That is all we are doing.  The only difference is in this case we are dictating the number of seats or a range of seats, whatever the amendments show that is going to happen in the boundary changes, and we are giving the commission 120 days to do the job.  Nobody objects and nobody has any difficulty with the numbers.  Opposition has no difficulty with the numbers, so that is not an issue.  The 120 days has been raised as an issue. 

 

The Member for Virginia Waters mentioned in Question Period today a whole list of statistics with regard to provinces where this was done before and the length of time it took.  For example, she mentioned New Brunswick, Quebec, and Ontario.  PEI, she mentioned it took over 900 days I believe for the commission to do its work.  My God, what was the commission doing in PEI, 900 days?  If you give a commission open-ended time, take all the time you want.  Sure, take 900 days.  Take nine years if they wanted to. 

 

MR. CRUMMELL: Send the bills. 

 

MR. F. COLLINS: Yes, send the invoices back to us. 

 

If the parameters are set, and we are setting the parameters at 120 days, you do not have eight months, you do not have six months, and you do not have a year.  You have 120 days to do this work.  The parameters are set.  It can be done, and it will be done.  Commissions can drag things out.  This happens all the time for any number of reasons, but the parameter is set.  We have four months to do it.  It can be done. 

 

The Member for Virginia Waters also mentioned in Question Period today that the New Brunswick government is bringing down its budget at a certain date, and why can't we do the same thing.  We are not bound by New Brunswick.  We are not bound by PEI or Quebec, or any other province.  We are not leading from behind.  We are not chasing these provinces.  We are setting a precedent here that we think can be done.  It is reachable and attainable.  It is a gutsy move by the Premier to do it, and I think everybody in the Province wants it. 

 

The Member for CBS, by the way, also suggested that time was an issue here.  I should mention here with regard to the Member for CBS.  He mentioned he had some surgery prior to the opening of the House.  You will see he had his arm in a sling for a few days.  He was called in the House in a hurry, I believe.  It must have done him a world of good, Mr. Speaker, because the sling is gone, all the movement is back in his arm.  He is waving his arms over there and hitting his desk.  The best thing that ever happened to him was to come in the House in a hurry. 

 

We are not bound by what happens in other provinces.  We do our own thing here. 

 

The big argument that the Opposition is putting up here, Mr. Speaker, and the only argument they are putting up, they think we have an ulterior motive in doing this.  We want to delay an election until 2016.  That is what they are talking about.  That is the only argument, because there is no argument for anything else.  This is what they are saying, we want to push out an election.

 

Well, here is one fellow who does not want an election in 2016.  I want an election in 2015.  So does the Member for Cape St. Francis, so does the Member for Humber East, and so does every member on this side of the House, so does every member on that side of the House, so do the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, and so does the Premier.  They do not want an election in 2016.  So that is a silly argument. 

 

This can be done, Mr. Speaker.  It should be done, and it will be done so we can have this election in 2015 in accordance with the new determination by the boundaries commission.  I want it, everybody here wants it.  The Opposition wants it.

 

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

 

MR. SPEAKER: On a point of order, the hon. the Member for Torngat Mountains. 

 

MR. EDMUNDS: I have been listening to the hon. member talk about one move, but we have two moves, Mr. Speaker.  We have three moves.  We have four seats in Labrador involved.  I just point that out to the hon. member. 

 

MR. SPEAKER: There is no point of order. 

 

The hon. the Member for Placentia – St. Mary's. 

 

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

 

Let me tell you, Mr. Speaker, I have every appreciation for the needs and concerns of the people of Labrador. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. F. COLLINS: Not to do this now, Mr. Speaker, drags us into 2019.  Not next year, not 2016, but 2019.  You have to wait five years to get this done.  It makes sense to do it now.  In the interest of good fiscal management, in the interest of fairness and courage on the part of the Premier let's do it now.  There is no reason why we should not. 

 

Mr. Speaker, when I was elected to this House in February 2006 as the Member for Placentia – St. Mary's, it was a winter campaign.  When I was elected I took my seat right there, the last seat in the House, because I was the last one to be elected, right next to the Member for Exploits who had been elected only months before me.  We cut our eyeteeth together back there.  My district at that time went from St. Shotts on the Southern Shore to Ship Harbour in Placentia Bay, taking all of St. Mary's Bay, all the Cape Shore down to Placentia, Ship Harbour and Long Harbour – Ship Harbour to Fox Harbour. 

 

I thought that was a gargantuan district.  How in the name of God do you ever represent a district this size?  I remember my first trip to St. Shotts.  I thought at the time I would never get there.  I said if this is what my tenure is going to be, I have my work cut out for me. 

 

I had my hands full obviously, but that is what I was elected for.  I took it on and I said there are only two years left in the by-election, and if I like this well then I will run again in the next election.  Anyhow, before the next election came up in 2006-2007 the new electoral boundaries came out.  The commission at that time was chaired by Mr. Roger Grimes.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: A good fellow.

 

MR. F. COLLINS: A good fellow, a friend of mine from way back.  The changes that were made in my area dropped off St. Shotts, which I most graciously gave to the Member for Ferryland who has represented it very well I might say ever sense, although I miss the good people out there. 

 

Then it was extended to take in Long Harbour, Mount Arlington Heights, Whitbourne, and all the cottage communities along the Trans Canada from Long Harbour to the Salmonier Line.  I asked myself, my God how am I going to do this?  I already have my hands full as it is.  How am I going to represent this area?  It is just not possible. 

 

I was not a happy camper let me tell you.  I did everything to influence people not to do this. I did everything to put my two cents worth in there that this cannot be done, it is too big.  It is just not manageable, cannot handle it.

 

Do you know something, Mr. Speaker?  I am delighted now that it happened.  I picked up a couple of great areas, great people, and made some great relationships, great contacts.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. F. COLLINS: They are the best parts of my district.  I would not want to lose them for the world. 

 

Long Harbour has grown as an industrial hub as a result of the Vale project.  It is a very prosperous place.  I knew nothing about Whitbourne.  I knew Long Harbour.  I knew something about Long Harbour because, as someone living in Placentia and being a school board official, I visited Long Harbour on a regular basis.  I had not been there for twenty-five years.

 

I recall driving down there – because I had moved out of the area – for the first time to get used to the new part of my district before the election came up.  The roads were so bad going into Long Harbour, I said holy mackerel, what do I have myself into?  I had my priorities set for my roadwork in my district, and now that I am taking on Long Harbour they all changed in a hurry.  They had the potholes circled with luminous paint so you would not run into them in the night.  Incidentally, their previous representative was the Minister of Transportation in the Liberal government.  That was the Long Harbour that I took over.  The Long Harbour today is a different Long Harbour than it was then. 

 

Whitbourne on the other hand, I knew nothing about.  Most people, I learned after, know very little about Whitbourne.  You pass by Whitbourne on the Trans Canada and you stop for gas or a snack, but Whitbourne is inside.  You have to go in Whitbourne to see it.  I had not been in there in my life.  I did not know what was in there. 

 

Mr. Speaker, Whitbourne today is one of the most rapidly growing municipalities in Newfoundland.  It is a great town, great governance, and great amenities and services that the town gives.  It is growing like a weed.  Subdivisions are all over the place and strategically located to grow even more.  It is a half an hour from Argentia.  It is a half an hour from Long Harbour.  It is three-quarters of an hour from Bull Arm and three-quarters of an hour from St. John's.  It is an half an hour from everywhere, I like to say.  It is strategically located to grow even more.  It is a great community with all kinds of potential.

 

Mr. Speaker, looking back now I am absolutely delighted that the boundaries commission change was made and I took them.  I would not want to give up Whitbourne now, today.  Although, I am sure with the new boundary changes that will come this year, my district will change again.  It might even disappear.  It might be split between other districts.  It certainly will change.  If we are going to find ten seats or eight seats or nine seats, it is going to change.  The point I am making is we should not be afraid of change.

 

Change does not mean we cannot represent the people any more.  Change did not mean that in the last electoral boundaries, and change will not mean it this time.  With today's technology, with today's advancements, we can represent districts in different ways.  We do not have to be on the scene all the time, although as the Member for Cape St. Francis said – and I agree with him completely – he likes to be there, personally, face to face with people because that is what politics is all about. 

 

Mr. Speaker, today in hindsight, having gone through boundary changes, I have no problem facing boundary changes again, no problem whatsoever.  I miss the good people from St. John's, but as I mentioned, they are well-represented by the Member for Ferryland.  I am delighted with the relationships that I have made and I will always remember and always cherish any new sections of the district.

 

Mr. Speaker, I have experienced change in electoral boundaries.  I had no choice but accept it in the beginning, but I am absolutely delighted now that we did.  It is a great district, Placentia – St. Mary's, but undoubtedly the face of it will change again sometime this year.

 

As the Member for Humber East said –

 

AN HON. MEMBER: West.

 

MR. F. COLLINS: Was it Humber East or West?

 

AN HON. MEMBER: West.

 

MR. F. COLLINS: Humber West.  The Member for Bay of Islands gets confused about it so I can too.  The Member for Humber West has said this is not about us; this is not about me or any member of this House.  It is not about that at all.  It is not about us.  It is not about you.  It is about dividing up this Province and districts so that it adequately represents the people of this Province, as I mentioned, instead of waiting for 2019. 

 

In the interest of good fiscal management the Premier has made a gutsy move here in suggesting this.  There is absolutely no reason why it cannot be done.  The government wants it.  The Opposition wants it.  The people want it.  Let's do it.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. KIRBY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

It is good to be back in my place again and to have an opportunity to speak on legislation.  I wanted to comment first on the speech given by the Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development when she was up speaking.  I guess that was the day before yesterday. 

 

She talked about what a privilege it is for us to have seats, to get elected to seats in this House of Assembly, and to be able to be here and represent constituents.  I completely agree.  It is also a great responsibility to sit here, to stand here, to work in this House of Assembly, and take on the role that we have all chosen freely to do. 

 

I think I might have mentioned one time before, but I think it is particularly important with this debate, several years ago I had the good fortune to go to Belgium and France to visit World War I battlefields at Ypres and Beaumont Hamel.  The one thing, every Remembrance Day and every Memorial Day in the Province, it always comes back to me when I look at all the images on TV, those hundreds and hundreds and thousands of white headstones in Flanders Fields, but also the headstones in Beaumont Hamel as well.  It is an image that will stick with me for the rest of my life.

 

We all realize that more or less the battlefields of Europe, and battlefields around the world where Canadian men and women, servicemen and women, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who wore the uniform, those battlefields are stained with the blood of our youth, of our young people – and I guess, in some cases, our not so young.

 

It really brings it back to the importance of the positions we hold, because people died.  It is not rhetoric, and it is not overly dramatic to say that people died so that we would have the opportunity to sit here and make the sorts of decisions that we are going to make before the next few days are up.  I know we all agree on that.

 

With this privilege comes great responsibility, that we have the power in this House of Assembly to shape our democracy.  To form it and determine what it looks like for the next decade – and that is very, very significant.  So, I wanted to say that off the top.

 

So, it is funny, I was joking with my colleague, the Member for Torngat Mountains, about what word jumped into your mind first when we all heard that this was coming, because I guess it was really Monday last that the trial balloon was sent up by the Premier's office about this particular legislation, Bill 42, to redraw the boundaries now instead of waiting until the legislated time frame, which is next year.

 

It is interesting, because I know that the Premier had already been nominated in Topsail, the Deputy Premier had already been nominated in Mount Pearl North, and the gentleman who has the misfortune of running against the Leader of the Official Opposition, the Leader of the Liberal Party in Newfoundland and Labrador, the Member for Humber Valley, that he is already nominated.  So it seemed, up until the Christmas holiday, at least, that everything was moving along on the established time frame that is already in the statutes as the government is to abide by as the government of the Province. 

 

The thing that came to me – it was not one word; it was two words.  It was: Why now?  Why is this coming forward now?  There has really been only one rationale – I say to the people who are watching – only one rationale that has been provided to date.  I have not heard any other argument yet.  We have a long time left to go before we are finished with this.  One argument, and that is about money.  That this is somehow going to save money. 

 

There have been sort of general arguments made but no real specifics I think, nothing that is really solid.  As the Leader of the Official Opposition has said if everything is on the table, if everything is on the chopping block, one way to save money would be for the Premier to reduce the size of his Cabinet, to follow the lead of other Premiers of the shade of the government across the way, like Danny Williams, and reduce the size of the Cabinet back down to what it was before, and to eliminate these five parliamentary secretary positions.  Those are two ways to save money and to, if you will, stop wasting money, if that is what you believe you are doing, by having additional members in legislative roles and other roles in government. 

 

It is interesting because the Premier has talked about going from forty-eight to thirty-eight, but it was only a few months ago after he assumed his duties as Premier of the Province when he was elected by 381 people at the PC Convention here in St. John's that he increased it from forty-eight to forty-nine because he added an additional member: the unelected Minister of Justice.  He went from forty-eight to forty-nine, so he has shown no inclination previously.

 

I think, really, we could reduce the size of this Cabinet very easily.  When the Premier came in, he created this new Department of Seniors, Wellness and so on.  It sounded great, but do seniors in Newfoundland and Labrador really feel any better off today than they did six months ago after adding this position?

 

MR. SPEAKER (Verge): Order, please!

 

MR. KIRBY: There is no statement on the hon. minister who has this position. 

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

I would ask the member to make his comments relevant to Bill 42. 

 

MR. KIRBY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

As I was saying, the members across the way, all of them when they have gotten up and spoken, and they have all talked about how this is going to save the Province money.  That is the only argument that has been put forward so far, that this is somehow going to save the Province money.  If the Premier saw fit to eliminate the five parliamentary secretary positions, we do not have any of those in the other Atlantic –

 

MR. SPEAKER (Verge): Order, please!

 

I would remind the member that his digression on ways in which he figures the Province might save money is not part of Bill 42.  You will make your comments relevant to the bill. 

 

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

 

MR. KIRBY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I will take that under advisement.  I will certainly be paying attention to the government members when they are speaking to see if –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. KIRBY: Just because maybe I misunderstood the direction that they were going in.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. KIRBY: Mr. Speaker, you would say that this is not really that much of a significant change at all.  Really, it is tinkering at the margins, if you will.  If we are in such financial trouble, last year when oil was at $100 a barrel or so, or whatever the exact figure was, we are in a whole lot more trouble now when it is down to $60 and going lower. 

 

One of the other things, as I was saying about this interest in saving money, I have said in the House of Assembly time and again that there are vacant schools.  I do not know how many there are across the Province that are vacant.  The lights are on.  It reminds me of this government in terms of the lights are on, but nobody is home.  We are spending over $1 million a year to keep schools going and there is another way that we could save a significant amount of money.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

I will remind the member for the final time to make his comments relevant to the bill.

 

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

 

MR. KIRBY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Basically, the Leader of the Opposition has been on record now I think a number of times.  Everybody across the way has had an opportunity to hear what he has had to say.  There are basically three problems with this legislation that is supposedly intended to save money, and that is the only reason we have heard from members opposite so far. 

 

One of them is the whole question of timing and whether or not this can be done within the time frame that the legislation suggests.  What we have said is that we really do not believe it is possible that you are going to be able to forge ahead with this and ram this through in the time frame that you have suggested.  If you think you can, we will give you the opportunity to prove that that is possible; though, no jurisdiction in the country and I would hazard a guess no jurisdiction south of the border has ever been able to achieve this sort of work in that time frame.  There are a number of very good reasons for saying that, Mr. Speaker.  Because seat redistribution, the redrawing of the boundaries, is a considerable undertaking.  It is a considerable undertaking; it takes a lot of time. 

 

I know one of the members for Placentia – St. Mary's just said that they took 900 days and maybe that was excessive in Prince Edward Island, but it takes significant time.  It is difficult to do and also to then call an election.  Elections Newfoundland and Labrador has very clearly said that they need about a four-month window to get things done.

 

The boundaries need to be drawn, all the polling areas need to be cut out, all the logistics of that need to be worked out.  The public needs to be informed of what the boundaries are.  Somebody said to me the other day, my parents do not even know what district they are in half the time, because half the time they are getting junk mail, at least in the Northeast Avalon, from MHAs who are adjacent to their district, so you have to make sure that the whole public education angle is done.

 

Then there is a whole question of the timing of the federal election and all of the confusion that goes along with that.  This is not something that is incredibly easy to do.  If you think it can be done in 120 days, that is fine.  We will go along with that, but the cherished fixed election date that this government brought in shortly after the 2003 election I believe, that fixed election date they have harped on and harped on and harped on, that should be adhered to.  How many laws do we really need to change to suit this government to get a timing of a general election that is good for you?

 

So, I think that is one thing.  Now, another thing that we have talked about is the whole question of Labrador.  It has been interesting sitting here hearing a Cabinet minister who is responsible for major financial decisions, or at least advising on that in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, to stand there and say: I do not know Labrador.  What a thing to say: I do not know Labrador. 

 

To have another member stand up and say: Well, there is nothing unique about Labrador.  What is unique about Labrador?  I thought it was very interesting when the Member for Torngat Mountains got up and spoke in his native tongue and demonstrated just one way that Labrador is uniquely different and separate in a lot of ways from the rest of the Province.

 

Labrador has been protected in this legislation in previous years, but now they want to open it up for some reason.  Now they want to open it up, and I would certainly be interested to know how the two members for Labrador, the Member for Lake Melville, and the Member for Labrador West, how they feel about that, and what they are hearing from their constituents in Labrador about that.  It is an incredibly important aspect of what we are doing here.  It is a significant departure from what we have seen in the past.

 

The other thing that is of significant consequence here is that we have been given a number, we have been provided a number, the number is ten.  That is the number of seats that the Premier, and his Cabinet, and his caucus, his government, his party wants to cut.  Cut ten seats.  On no occasion since the trial balloon went up last Monday has there been any explanation given as to why.

 

It is not sufficient enough to punt it back over here and ask questions about well, where are you – look, you are the government, you make those decisions, you make those recommendations, you draft this legislation, it is our responsibility to ask questions about it.  That is our role.  We ask the questions, and every now and then we get something approximating an answer from the other side.  Not very often – occasionally we do.

 

So we do not know where the number came from – ten, but that is the number we have.  We believe that that unnecessarily hamstrings, boxes in, the independent boundary commission when they are going to be making determinations about what we really need here.  We have all said we agree that we can get this work done with a smaller House of Assembly.  I agree with that, our caucus has said that, and our leader has said that.  Our leader said that almost two years ago.  It certainly adds fuel to the fire, Mr. Speaker, that there are no new ideas, because there is nothing new about this idea.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. KIRBY: Two years ago the Leader of the Official Opposition said we could have a smaller House of Assembly.  Now, the Deputy Premier and the Premier, when they were busily trying to get themselves elected to the positions they hold today, there was nary a word, not a word about this ten.  We never heard a word about it, not a thing.  They travelled the Province, Mount Pearl and what have you, we never heard a word about this ten.  We never heard a whole lot about parliamentary reform, democratic reform, not a whole lot about anything.  We certainly never heard about this ten.

 

The one thing we are suggesting we do, instead of this ten, the number that was pulled out of the air somewhere over the Christmas holidays, that we give the commission a bit of leeway.  Give them some flexibility in determining what number of members we should have in the House of Assembly, whether it is ten fewer, nine fewer, a different number.  They are an independent commission.  They are going to have terms of reference to deal with.  Give them a bit of flexibility to make the determinations that they need to make.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

 

MR. KIRBY: More or less.  Give them some flexibility.  They may come back with a decision that is not entirely consistent with the ten the Premier wants to cut out of here, but give them an opportunity to make that decision independently.  Because if you do not do that, in the end it is really not an independent commission at all.  It is something that has been set up from the beginning.  It is a sham, and we do not need a sham.  We want something that is credible. 

 

The other point in all of this that I see, when I saw the trial balloon going up over the Confederation Building Monday last was, why now?  This government does not want an election this year.  I heard members get up and say I want an election this year. 

 

We had one member get up and say he has no problem changing the boundaries at all.  He has already been on the record saying he is not going to run.  So, of course he has no problem with it.  He has no problem with it at all.  He is not even going to run in the election.  It is inconsequential to him.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: What about the other member?

 

MR. KIRBY: The other member, we do not know what she thinks because she does not speak in here.

 

I have not heard anybody say anything to the effect of, well, I will definitely run in the next election with these redrawn boundaries.  We never heard anybody say anything like that at this point.  We never heard anybody really say anything about what they think it should be.  Here is some advice.  Here is the research we have done.  We have thought about this for some time and here are the reasons why we are doing it, not a word.  It is like this number was pulled out of thin air, something that is purposely restrictive, and for what reason?

 

On the surface, the immediate thing that people are thinking – and it is not me.  Certainly, that is what I was thinking, but I have been talking to people about this.  I have been talking to my constituents.  People are saying, sure, they are only doing that because they do not want an election.  They do not want an election.  They will do anything they can to prolong the period in which they have to govern between now and the next election. 

 

We know – well, some of us know – they know, constitutionally, they can continue to sit there and actually deliver a budget in 2016 if they like.  That is entirely possible.  That appears to be the plan, to delay everything as long as possible so they can continue to be there until, please God, the polls come around and they have some opportunity, because the writing is on the wall.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. KIRBY: The writing is on the wall.  They just have not gotten it yet, Mr. Speaker.

 

Thank you.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

The hon. the Government House Leader.

 

MR. KING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

With agreement from the Opposition House Leader and the Leader of the Third Party, we will break for supper now and resume at 7:00 o'clock.

 

MR. SPEAKER: This House stands in recess until 7:00 p.m.


January 22, 2015                HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS               Vol. XLVII No. 61A


 

The House resumed at 7:00 p.m.

 

MR. SPEAKER (Verge): Order, please!

 

The hon. the Government House Leader, I assume we are resuming debate on Bill 42.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. FORSEY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity to speak again on this piece of legislation.  I feel privileged any time to be able to get up in this House and speak on behalf of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, and especially the constituents of the District of Exploits.  I had the opportunity to speak on Tuesday, but it was to the amendment that the Third Party put in, so this evening I am speaking on Bill 42. 

 

When you are up and you are trying to explain what the boundary changes are, what you are trying to do here and bring in such an important and progressive piece of legislation and you listen to some of the comments made by the people across the way there, but I would like to start by saying that I think every one of us who are elected feel privileged to be here and we all have a passion for our Province.  I think we are all very proud Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, and we certainly take pride in our own districts.  The Member for Cape St. Francis, when he gets up, he prides himself in his district, as do I.

 

When I spoke on the amendment that the Third Party put in on Tuesday, it was An Act To Amend The Electoral Boundaries Act be not now read a second time, but that it be read the second time six months hence.  There was nothing there to say anything about the boundary changes and even though it seems like everyone is in favour of it, if you listen to the Member for St. John's East when he gets up and he is talking about, well, we should not be doing it now; we should wait until 2016. 

 

Unfortunately, when you get up the second time to speak on a piece of legislation you are probably going to be a little bit repetitive, and that is not my intention.  However, it was said back on Tuesday, and a couple different speakers here in the past couple of days, that even if we did wait until 2016, the census probably will not be ready until 2017, which is going to delay it until 2019.

 

So we are basically not getting anywhere with the piece of legislation; it is not going to happen.  It seems like the majority of the members in this House are in favour of reducing the number of districts.  We have all thought about it.  I have thought about it; I have considered it.  I have talked to some of my constituents, I have talked to some of my colleagues, and we feel that now is the time.  We want an election before 2016 because it will be four years, and that was what the legislation was calling for previously.

 

When you talk about boundaries and you talk about districts – I made a comment here on Tuesday regarding the boundaries and the districts and the challenges.  I stated that the Big Land has challenges.  Everyone has challenges, but I did not say anything about the Torngat Mountains not being unique, because I think they are.  I have a lot of respect for the Member for Torngat, and I have a lot of respect for the challenges that he faces.  Most of us can drive to our communities – most of us.  Some of us still have to go by boat, some of us have to go by helicopter, some of us probably just do it by phone, whatever; but the Member for Torngat cannot do that.

 

If you went back and checked what I said on Tuesday, I was talking about Cartwright – L'Anse au Clair, I was talking about Placentia – St. Mary's, I was talking about Baie Verte – Springdale, and I was talking about their challenges.  Are they unique?  Maybe they are unique, but they are just not unique unto themselves.  A lot of districts have the same challenges as Southern Labrador.

 

Mr. Speaker, in my previous career, I travelled right across the Province many times: the Northern Peninsula, Southern Labrador; yes, I land in Blanc Sablon when I go across the boat and I travel right on up through to Red Bay and Lodge Bay, and I would go through the rock cuts there in Lodge Bay, St. Mary's.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Tell us about the rock cuts.

 

MR. FORSEY: Well, we will not go there.

 

I have travelled up to Charlottetown and I have been in Cartwright many times.  They do very well.  I believe there is a new school being built now in Charlottetown.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

I would ask the member to speak to the bill.

 

MR. FORSEY: I apologize, Mr. Speaker, I thought I was, but sometimes I guess I get just carried away a little bit – my apologies.  I guess what I am trying to do is explain how we can represent the districts now today compared to ten, twenty, forty years ago and how we have advanced. 

 

I said it before, today's communications and transportation systems enable us to represent the districts that much better.  With these changes, I think it is time; the changes need to be made.  I think for the Premier and his Cabinet and his caucus to be able to take this on – we support the Premier in this move.  Sometimes you have to bring in progressive legislation and it is what we are doing now.

 

We are changing the boundaries and we want to change the boundaries.  Who knows what the districts are going to look like?  I do not know.  That is up to the commission.  We have no influence on what the commission is going to decide in regard to boundaries.

 

I have said it before, not wanting to be repetitious, but in 1975 the District of Exploits, that is when the district became Exploits.  Before that, it came under Lewisporte, Mr. Speaker, which you are very familiar with.

 

Who knows where the boundaries are going to go this time?  Who knows where they are going to go, but when it comes to representing your district, especially out in the rural areas – and that is probably where you would find some real concerns is in the rural districts, wanting to be able to be on the ground representing your communities in your district like the Member for Cape St. Francis. 

 

My colleague from Cape St. Francis stated people want to see him out there to an anniversary.  People want to see you out there representing them at the firefighter's banquet.  You have to represent them in their applications to the government for roadwork and for municipal infrastructure.  You need to do that as well.  In the rural areas we all have challenges, Mr. Speaker.  We know that.

 

Out here in the city, in St. John's, it is different.  We have to represent communities because they have aging infrastructure.  I recall when I was elected back in 2005 there were a lot of requests for municipal infrastructure that needed to be done, roadwork, but because this government was able to do it, that enables us to do our job a little better as a member.  We can expand our boundaries because it is getting that much easier to do it.

 

Mr. Speaker, I wanted to just touch on a couple of things.  Back on Tuesday I think I explained why we need to do this, how we can do this, and the opportunities we have.  When you listen to some of the speakers across the way, they want to compare when it is convenient.  I think it was made today that the budget process in one province is different than ours. 

 

MR. KIRBY: A point of order.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

The Member for St. John's North on a point of order.

 

MR. KIRBY: I am wondering what the budgetary process in another province has to do with Bill 42, Mr. Speaker. 

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

Again I would ask the member to confine his comments to the principle of the bill.

 

MR. FORSEY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

Yes, I appreciate that, Mr. Speaker.  I will try to stick to it.  I was trying to make a comparison that now that we are talking about the electoral boundaries, we should not be compared to other provinces.  When the legislation was brought in and introduced, we were talking about other provinces.  It has been mentioned many times today on this legislation by different members.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. FORSEY: The size of the boundaries, the population of the districts; there were some –

 

MR. PEACH: References.

 

MR. FORSEY: – references.  Thank you, I say to the Member for Bellevue. 

 

AN HON. MEMBER: He is standing behind you.

 

MR. FORSEY: Yes, he has my back.  Thank you.

 

In order to do it, sometimes it is nice to check what other provinces are doing.  It is like forming an opinion.  It is like voting on this.  When you listen to other people's opinions, sometimes you pick up something that you did not think of maybe. 

 

There is nothing wrong with that.  That is why we debate legislation.  That is why we had a unanimous decision yesterday in this House, Mr. Speaker.  That is what makes the difference.  When you can do that in this House of Assembly with all parties, I think it is a wonderful thing.  What is wrong with it?  Nothing.

 

In this particular piece of legislation we are talking about today, Mr. Speaker, we all agree over here and some of them agree over there.  Until I listen to an argument that I can think about and say, well maybe, I never thought of that, but I have not heard it, not in the past couple of days.  I have not heard it. 

 

Mr. Speaker, it seems like the other side – when you are trying to speak and talk about a very important piece of legislation, there seems to be some type of squawking going on.  I do not know why, but I will try to continue on with what I was trying to explain about the boundaries.

 

I listened to all the members.  They are all very important issues that they talk about.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Honourable.

 

MR. FORSEY: Yes, and they are honourable, absolutely.  To be in this House you are.  We are all here for the same reason. 

 

I am speaking from experience of the districts and the challenges.  I listened to the Member for CBS.  He did a very good job.  I am sure he is very passionate about his district.  He spoke yesterday.  He did a very, very good job, as a matter of fact; however, like he said, he touched down in Lake Melville and Goose Bay, and he touched down in Churchill Falls. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I just did not touch down in these areas.  I travelled these areas so I know the challenges and I know the geography.  Some of it is not easy, but when we take on a district, to be a representative of that district as a Member of the House of Assembly, then you know what you are getting into, or I would like to think you know what you are getting into. 

 

I think this piece of legislation is progressive.  It needs to come.  It needs to be done.  I applaud the Premier for taking the lead on it.  We are, right now, getting ready for an election for 2015, but we want to get this done.  It says that it will take 120 days to get it done once the commission is formed and the chair is put in place.  They will bring back their requests, Mr. Speaker. 

 

Whatever the recommendation is, when it comes back we have to live with it.  Even though it says 2016 that the next review is supposed to be done, we are getting it done a few months earlier.  Then it will be reviewed again in 2026, and ten years from there on, every ten years. 

 

Mr. Speaker, the last time the boundaries were done I believe the Chair was the former Premier.  I am not sure if he was the Chair, but he was certainly on the committee and I thought he was the Chair. 

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible). 

 

MR. FORSEY: He was not the Chair?  He was a committee member. 

 

He was certainly used to rural areas because my district is a rural area.  Then again, the former Premier, who was a part of that committee, was also the MHA for the District of Exploits, which I represent today. 

 

MR. S. COLLINS: (Inaudible).

 

MR. FORSEY: Thank you very much, I say to the Member for Terra Nova. 

 

Anyway, Mr. Speaker, I will finish by saying we do support this piece of legislation.  It is time to move forward and make the changes that need to be done.  The commission will make their report.  We have no influence on what they are going to come back with.  We will move forward progressively and do what is right for the Province.

 

Thank you very much.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

The hon. the Member for St. George's – Stephenville East.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. REID: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

It is indeed an honour to rise in this debate and to speak on this important debate.  It is interesting to listen to other people speak and give their perspective on this issue as well, because if there is anything good that is going to come of this rushed debate I think it is the fact that we will all think a little bit more about this important issue of how we organize ourselves in the House, how we determine the boundaries and the rules for how we elect MHAs.  It is a good process to go through a debate like this and give everyone an opportunity, a chance to have a good constructive debate and to listen to what everyone has to say and get their perspective.

 

Of course, just for the people who may be watching, we are in the second reading phase of this bill now.  This is the stage of the bill where we talk about the principle of the bill, do we agree with the principle that is espoused in the bill?  This is what we determine here.  We have a bit of a wider ranging discussion in the second reading stage of the bill than we would in the committee stage of the bill where we have to be more specific and where we have to focus directly on the clauses in the bill.

 

Mr. Speaker, the types of amendments that come forward in this stage I guess are usually related to the hoist or to send it to a committee, but there are also some reasoned amendments.  I may move a reasoned amendment to this bill as I progress.

 

As I was saying, this is an important bill.  It is about how we govern ourselves, how we set the rules for how this Legislature operates.  It is going to be in place for a number of years, so I think it is important that we get it right because it is very difficult to go back over it again to change things if we get it wrong.  It is important that we get it right when we do it this time, Mr. Speaker.

 

What we decide here today will have an impact on other things in the House as well.  For example, the Premier, I think, has announced that he is going to – the committee was struck today, the Standing Orders Committee.  The number of legislators we have in this House sort of influences the nature of the committee structure we could have in this House.  It is all sort of related as to how this House operates and what we can do.  It is a very important act that we are dealing with here today.

 

We should not look at it from, how does it impact us individually in our seats?  A number of people have said we should be looking at it as, what is best for the Province?  What is the best way we can set it up to govern ourselves?  So, those are some of things we should be taking into account.

 

Also, Mr. Speaker, when you look at elections acts or electoral boundaries acts, or acts to appoint the Chief Electoral Officer, there is a lot of sensitivity around this type of legislation because it relates to fairness and the legitimacy of the government.  In that regard, usually governments when they bring in legislation to change these things, they do not use a heavy-handed method.  Usually they allow for a fair and open debate where people can have lots of opportunity and lots of time to have their say.  For example, it is very rare for a government to bring in closure on this type of legislation related to an elections act because it sort of recognizes that to do so would be heavy handed.  That is sort of an aspect of this type of legislation. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I want to talk a little bit more about a concept in the study of politics or political science that people use.  It is the concept of a level playing field, or fair play some people call it.  It is a very simple concept and it is a concept that is used in sports.  I know a number of people around here in the House have participated in sports, and it is sort of the same thing. 

 

The idea is that the field is level and one team is not playing uphill and the other one coming down.  It is that everyone has a fair chance to participate in an election and they have a fair chance of winning.  That is an important concept, because at the end of the day whoever becomes government has to have legitimacy in the eyes of the electorate.  They have to say things were done fairly here; whoever won is legitimate.  When a government brings forward amendments to make changes they have to be sensitive to that fact, Mr. Speaker.

 

We need to be very careful about the way we chip away at our democratic government.  We have to be very careful and very protective about the democratic system we have.  We all are aware of countries around the world where the governments use the power of the government to perpetuate themselves in power.  Many people in these countries look to Canada, look to places like Newfoundland as an ideal, as a way that they should be doing business and running their governments.  We should be very careful if we chip away at the type of democracy we have here that is the envy of the world. 

 

Mr. Speaker, this piece of legislation has come forward very quickly.  Just last week this started to be floated around.  Just on Thursday or Friday we saw the legislation, the initial piece of legislation, and knew what we would be dealing with.  Here we are in the House, Thursday, a few days later making decisions about it.  Some people have raised the questions about fair play.  Do we have the time to examine this piece of legislation in a responsible manner?  Do we?  I am not sure.  I am not convinced that we have. 

 

Mr. Speaker, in that limited time frame, one of the things I have tried to do is talk to as many people as I can about this piece of legislation, to get their views on it, to find out what they are thinking.  Many people have sent e-mails to me.  I have talked to a number of people in person.  Facebook messages, all kinds of things like that – I have had discussions with people that way.  I have read commentary in the newspaper that people have brought forward as well, so we have had a lot of discussion. 

 

Some of the things I have been hearing, Mr. Speaker – the first thing I want to mention because I guess this is an interesting piece.  It seems to be the agreement of all parties, maybe all members – I am not sure – in this House that we agree on reducing the number of seats.  Where we disagree is the process for doing that.

 

We have all seen the polls that have been sponsored by various media outlets that seem to indicate that as well, Mr. Speaker.  I think parties in the House support some form of reduction in the number of seats.  Others, while they support the reduction, they want to ensure that it is done in the proper way and that the proper process is followed and that it is done in a timely fashion.  People have been telling me that.

 

Mr. Speaker, others are very skeptical about what is happening here.  They think it is sort of a very heavy-handed way by a government to sort of try to perpetuate themselves in power by manipulating the system.  Some people have told me that is their view on it.  Others have made the case that we do not need to cut any members at all.  Some have gone so far as to say that we need to add members.

 

For example, Kelly Blidook, a political science professor at MUN – by the way Kelly Blidook is an expert; he spent his life studying Legislatures.  He has written several books, presented at international and national conferences, speaking about Legislatures.  So what he thinks is important; I think it is worth listening to what he has to say.  We may not agree with it, but it is worth listening to what he and others have to say on this topic.

 

His comments are that if we reduce the number of legislators, it makes it more difficult to put in place a workable committee system.  The other thing with committee systems is the ratio of so-called private members or backbenchers to Cabinet ministers in a Legislature.  Those are other things that impact on the ability of a Legislature to put together good working committees of the Legislature. 

 

That is one of the concerns that I have and that Kelly Blidook has as well about the way we are going about cutting these seats, Mr. Speaker.  The Leader of the Opposition has proposed that we look at cutting the number of Cabinet ministers and parliamentary secretaries.  I think that is directly related to lowering the number of seats because, unless we do that, the possibility of putting in place workable committee systems in this House is very difficult to achieve. 

 

Another professor at Memorial, Chris Dunn, has studied Legislatures as well.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Relevance.

 

MR. REID: Relevance? 

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

 

MR. REID: Okay.

 

Mr. Speaker, another professor at the university, Christopher Dunn, he is another person who has studied Canadian Legislatures.  He talked about this difficulty as well.  He spoke out on Open Line shows and talked about the problems that it may make in having a workable committee system.

 

Another professor at the university, Russell Williams, has sort of indicated the possibility of court challenges to what we are doing here today.  That is another possibility that we should consider as we are looking at this legislation. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I have had a number of people contact me as well; former students have contacted me.  For example, one –

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

 

MR. REID: Yes, you should tell us what he said.  I do not know if you read any cartoons recently.

 

One former student likened this case to what happened in the 1930s and 1940s.  We were in a financial crisis then.  What happened then was a little more dramatic than what we are doing here today, but the person who contacted me to express his opinion said that what we are doing here today is very similar to what we did in the 1930s and 1940s when they voted to do away with politicians in this Province all together.  Some people are likening this situation to what happened then.  I am not sure if it is similar, but it is an idea that the democracy is being traded off for some sort of financial savings. 

 

Those are some comments I have heard, and there is a divergence of views on this issue, of course, Mr. Speaker.  I also get the sense that public opinion on this issue is still fairly volatile.  People are beginning to focus on this.  They are beginning to become more informed and to get a better idea of exactly what is happening.  So, this is a very important topic.

 

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance, when he introduced this legislation, talked about the process.  He talked about the history of the legislation.  It was an interesting read, but he left out a number of important points I believe. As I listened to him, I was sort of compelled to sort of say, so how long did – he was telling about the 1996 process.  I asked him, how long did that process take?  Does anyone know how long that took?  It was not within the 120 days.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

 

MR. REID: Pardon?

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Clyde Wells.

 

MR. REID: Yes.

 

It was not within the 120 days.  It was not even within twice that, Mr. Speaker.  It was close to three years that it took to bring about the report – three years.

 

How many hearings did they have?  They had about thirty hearings in the first round.  They presented a report, went back and did further hearings, another forty hearings.  The process is very important, and it links back to the fairness.  It links back to the idea and the concept of a level playing field, Mr. Speaker.

 

So, I guess the question is not whether or not we can do the consultations within 120 days.  The important question is can we do it properly within the 120 days?  That is the important question.  On an important issue like this with the sensitivity around it, the question is can we do it properly within 120 days?

 

Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier, this is the stage where we introduce amendments that sort of allow us to have a little more debate on this topic.  So I want to move an amendment to the legislation, move an amendment to this bill at this stage, seconded by the Member for Humber East. 

 

The amendment reads: That all words after the word “That” be deleted and the following be substituted thereafter:  “This House declines to give second reading to Bill 42, An Act To Amend The Electoral Boundaries Act because the commission has not been provided with a potential range for the number of districts, a matter best left to the commission's discretion after research, examination and meaningful public consultation, to provide for fair distribution of electoral representation.”

 

Seconded by the Member for Humber East. 

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

The House will take a brief recess to consider the amendment. 

 

Recess

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

We have considered the amendment put forward by the Member for St. George's – Stephenville East.  It is a reasoned amendment and, as we know from past experience in this House of Assembly, many reasoned amendments are found not to be in order, as is the case with this one.

 

I would refer the member to O'Brien and Bosc, page 750.  In one of the sections it states a reasoned amendment “must not relate to particulars of the bill if what is sought may be accomplished by amendments in committee.”  It is on that rationale that we have declared the amendment not to be in order; however, the member has speaking time left.

 

The hon. the Member for St. George's – Stephenville East.

 

MR. REID: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Thank you for the rationale for the decision on the amendment as well.

 

I just wanted to say that I think the Opposition has been reasonable in their approach to this debate.  We have presented a number of reasonable amendments.  We have not been obstructionist in terms of allowing this debate to happen in a timely manner.  We have been reasonable in the approach we have taken.

 

We have put forward a number of amendments and ways that we are going to approach this bill, but we have concerns about issues related to protecting the seats in Labrador.  The members on this side of the House from Labrador have spoken on these issues and made their case.  We think there should be a range of seats, rather than an arbitrary thirty-eight.  We also think there should be implications if the 120-day time limit is not met.

 

We have been reasonable on our approach.  I thank the House for their attention and consideration of the amendment.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. CRUMMELL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Mr. Speaker, it is certainly a privilege to stand in the House this evening to debate Bill 42, An Act to Amend the Electoral Boundaries Act.  Before I get into the meat of my discussion here, I would just like to comment on what the Member for St. John's North talked about earlier this evening, before supper.  He was talking about how looking at the history books and images in his mind of those who came before us and sacrificed their lives for democracy, to put us in this position here tonight to be able to debate about democracy in a meaningful way.

 

I just want to let him know that those haunting images, we have those images as well over on this side of the House.  I have them on my wall, Mr. Speaker.  Both my grandfathers fought in the First World War.  One of them was one of the ones who answered roll call the morning after Beaumont Hamel.

 

We are all here in this place to carry on from those who came before us, to stand on their shoulders to make sure that we do protect democracy, not only for ourselves but for our child and our children's children.  The blood of these people runs through the veins of everybody in this House, I would suggest.  We all have those images and all of those pictures on our walls.  We are all here for the right reasons.  Mr. Speaker, there is no monopoly on that.  We all feel that way, and I just wanted to make reference to that.

 

Mr. Speaker, the amendments to the Electoral Boundaries Act, for the people at home, I just want to get into it.  I will stick to the text that is important to what this debate is all about.  It is important to understand what we are doing and why we are doing this and why government has brought this forward at this place and time. 

 

The Premier has been on record supporting reform in the House of Assembly.  Last year, during the leadership race that we had within our party, he talked about that many times openly, and so did the other party leaders as well.  They talked about reform within the House of Assembly.

 

The reform that was talked about over the last twelve months is something that many of us – again, it resonated with many people, not only here in the House but people in the Province.  The three areas of reform in particular our Premier talked about were modernizing procedures in the House of Assembly – again, not unique, no monopoly around that.  There were thoughts around committees in the House, more committees.

 

Yesterday was a prime example of moving forward on that agenda, and I think it was great co-operation that we saw in the House of Assembly happen yesterday.  I give credit to the MHA for St. John's Centre for bringing that motion forward.  It was very meaningful.  I think it is certainly representative of how we are evolving as a Province and a Legislature.

 

Most of the people here on this side of the House have only been recently elected in the last term or two, Mr. Speaker.  So a lot of us are relatively new to politics and we like to see things evolve and change and we are all part of that, and that is what this is about.

 

So, modernizing procedures in the House, Mr. Speaker – he also talked about the review of the MHAs' pension reform.  Mr. Speaker, again, this is something that needs to be done.  We have heard from the people –

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

I would ask the minister to speak to Bill 42.

 

MR. CRUMMELL: Absolutely, here we go.  So my next line, Mr. Speaker, was reduction of electoral seats with fewer MHAs.  That is where I was going with this, Mr. Speaker.  I will stick to the bill and make sure that I do speak directly to it, going forward.  If I stray a little off, please feel free, as you will, to come to me and let me know.

 

Again, all political parties agree that reform is important, if not desirable.  Feedback from the people of the Province has been consistent around that as well.  I heard a member opposite earlier talk about he is hearing from people that they are not onside with these changes.  Well, we are hearing it out there, Mr. Speaker.  I have to be honest with you;  I believe that the people of the Province like what we are doing, the majority of the people agree with what we are doing, and certainly again the other House Leaders have talked about making sure that happens as well.  So, Mr. Speaker, the political will exists within the Province to make these changes, and we are here to make those changes through this bill.

 

The Premier has taken leadership on this issue, and our caucus and our party are behind him 100 per cent in making this happen in this time and this place.  We believe that all three areas of reform are achievable, and they are achievable in a timely way.  I will get into that more in a few more minutes.  So the question is: Why wait?  The question is: Why not get on with it?  That is why we are here.  Everybody pretty much supports it.  Everybody pretty much supports reform.  Everybody is on that page.

 

The first step would be to reduce the number of electoral districts.  This is something that was going to happen in 2016 anyway.  Mr. Speaker, it is not unusual for a statutory review to take place before the set date.  We are just going through an ATIPP review of our legislation.  That stat review was scheduled to be in 2016.  We pushed it ahead approximately a year, Mr. Speaker.  That is not unusual.  That happened on numerous occasions in the past.  We are not setting any precedent by doing that, and moving forward on this stat review is important as well.

 

If we make changes now we can save millions of dollars.  We talked about the financial implications about what that could have.

 

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

 

MR. SPEAKER (Cross): The hon. the Member for Bay of Islands, on a point of order.

 

MR. JOYCE: Mr. Speaker, in this Legislature we always try to put the facts forward.  The minister just mentioned a statutory review under the Freedom of Information.  It is because of how the government fooled up Bill 29, not because it is part of the mandatory.  It is because they were forced to do it, Mr. Speaker. 

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

There is no point of order.

 

The hon. the Minister of Environment and Conservation.

 

MR. CRUMMELL: Mr. Speaker, as I was so rudely interrupted a minute ago on a non-point of order, this brings us to what we are doing today.  In order to facilitate electoral reform before the 2015 provincial election –

 

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

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Opposition House Leader, on a point of order.

 

MR. A. PARSONS: I believe it is any member's right in this House to stand on a point of order.  Even if it is not a point of order, it is unparliamentary for the member to suggest that he was rudely interrupted.  I would ask that he withdraw the comment.

 

MR. SPEAKER: There is no point of order. 

 

Order, please!

 

The hon. the Minister of Environment and Conservation.

 

MR. CRUMMELL: Mr. Speaker, I did not mean that in a condescending way.  I meant it in a jocular way.  I hope you take it that way.  If you take any offense to that, Mr. Speaker, I do apologize to the member opposite.  It was more in a jocular sense, not in an emphatic sense.  I did not know he was so sensitive. 

 

Again, the act provides for the Newfoundland and Labrador electoral boundaries commission to be appointed every ten years.  Under that current act, the next commission again is due in 2016.  In 2016 they were told to look at forty-eight districts and divide the Province into forty-eight districts. 

 

The amendments that our government are bringing forth here today are proposing to divide the Province into a specified number of districts in 2015.  So we are going to do it this year.  It will require the commission to begin its work as soon as possible.  Mr. Speaker, we think this can be done.  Again, I am going to get into that in further detail in a few minutes, but the required present report within 120 days after the appointment of the chairperson here.

 

Mr. Speaker, the reality here is that we are following a well-established process.  This process is established in law.  It is established in legislation, and we are following exactly that process.  We are changing a few things.  We are moving this review forward by several months from 2016 to 2015, but the process itself is intact.  The integrity is there and the intent is there, Mr. Speaker. 

 

The commissions have been given similar direction in the past, exactly what we are doing here now.  In 1973, in 1983, in 2003, 2006, direction was given through legislation to direct a commission to a specified number of seats.  So we are not setting precedent here.  Although other people do say that we are, we are not.  We are following convention.  We are following practice.  This is nothing different than has happened in the past.  It is important that people at home understand that and get that. 

 

In 1996, actually, Mr. Speaker, is another story.  I might get a chance to get into that.  Something different happened then, but I am not going to go down that road for now. 

 

With regard to the commission, it will be independent.  That is important to note.  It is going to be arm's length from government.  The commission – as it has in the past – will be comprised of a chairperson.  That chairperson will be appointed by the Chief Justice of Newfoundland and Labrador from among judges of the Newfoundland Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal, and the Trial Division, as well as four other members will form that commission. 

 

These four members will be nominated from the three parties in the House who will be appointed by the Speaker.  To complete that work the act will give the commission the ability to employ such resources as required.  Technical and professional staff will be employed.  The work will be done.  There will be a cadre of learned commissioners and highly skilled staff doing this work. 

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

 

MR. CRUMMELL: Like a cadre.  No, cadre.  Cadre, Mr. Speaker, is c-a-d-r-e. 

 

We have an independent commission.  We have direction for the commission as to the number of seats, as well as direction that will be given to the amendment as to the timelines. 

 

We talked about timelines.  I have heard members opposite talk about timelines at length.  Can this be done in the right way in this amount of time?  The amendment is proposing a time frame of 120 days after the chairperson has been appointed. 

 

The members on the opposite side say that is ambitious.  We have heard that.  I say it is reasonable.  I think everybody over here thinks it is reasonable.  It can be done within that period of time.  With five capable people on the commission, supported by a team of professional people as well, we think this work can be done within that time frame.  It is a four-month period.  A lot of work could be done in four months with five people and the number of people supporting it. 

 

Members opposite have cited other jurisdictions in Canada where at times it took longer; but, do you know what?  We are in Newfoundland and Labrador.  We can be up for challenges here to get things done; set some deadlines, get things done, and do it right.  We have the competencies right here in this Province, and I have full confidence that we can pull this together, do it right, and do it in a timely way. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I spent twenty-five years in private business.  I was a senior manager with a major corporation.  We did a lot of work here in this Province.  We had distribution systems set up.  I was the sales marketing manager for that.  I was also responsible for profit and loss with the company.  I had major responsibilities for the last ten years that I was with the company. 

 

We were a major manufacturing company and we distributed goods throughout the Province, Mr. Speaker.  There were times we were given our marching orders by our corporate headquarters to say we want you to do this, big projects that needed to be executed on in terms of distribution, in terms of how to change our business to be more efficient, more cost-efficient, more effective.

 

Mr. Speaker, this is no different.  When you are challenged to do the work – I look at private business, for example.  There are many people on the opposite side of the House who come from that sector, who come from the private sector.  When you are challenged in private business with timelines and work that needs to be done, you are professionals, you make sure that work gets done.  You do it in the right way.  You get the team around you that is required.  You do the work that needs to be done.  You do the due diligence.  Timelines are there for a reason, Mr. Speaker, because it will make sure that people have a goal and that goal is set.

 

Look at other jurisdictions in the country.  We heard 900 days, 600 days, 400 days, and 500 days.  Listen, do you know what?  If you do not put timelines in place, some of these projects could go on forever if you wanted to.  In business, you have timelines set.  You can be efficient on how you spend your money.  You can meet those timelines. 

 

If I was told in business today that you have four months to come up with a plan, you have another five months to execute it, you have nine to do that.  I would be shocked if I would look at my boss and say it is not doable.  It cannot be done.

 

Mr. Speaker, it is just an analogy I would like to use around that.  I think it is an important analogy to understand in this context, that we are running government.  This is an important decision for the people of the Province.  There are some understandings there, is this possible?  Is this doable?  It is absolutely possible.  It is absolutely doable.

 

Mr. Speaker, let me talk a little bit about representation by population.  The Member for St. George's – Stephenville East, I believe it is.  Am I correct?

 

MR. REID: Yes.

 

MR. CRUMMELL: He was talking about representation by population.  The basic democratic principle in any western democracy, and certainly in Canada, is one person, one vote.  All votes should be counted equally.  That is the basic premise of any democracy in the western hemisphere, for sure, and everybody understands that equality.

 

Mr. Speaker, this concept has evolved.  It has evolved in Canada – right back to the 1850s, as a matter of fact, if anyone wants to check out exactly the evolution of how one person, one vote evolved into what it is today. 

 

In Canada today we have a different system of voting that allows for geographic considerations, Mr. Speaker.  It allows for specific community considerations.  We certainly see that in Torngat, in Labrador; we certainly see it in rural parts of Canada when we look at the House of Commons and where we have a disproportionate amount of voters in one district, and then you go to the urban districts, there are more voters there.  People in Canada accept that.  They do get that.

 

By reducing the number of seats in the House of Assembly, I think the people in Newfoundland and Labrador will understand that as well.  As an urban politician, as a politician that represents constituents here in St. John's, the needs of my constituents are definitely different than the needs in Torngat Mountains, are definitely different than the needs in Gander, and are definitely different than the needs in rural communities out around Newfoundland and Labrador.

 

We totally get that over here, and I know that the commissioners will totally get that.  There is going to be leeway, and the direction will be given by convention to allow them some leeway – 10 per cent, 25 per cent, but in other instances they can go even above that.  The constitutional challenges that we referred to earlier go down that road. 

 

We know, for sure, that examples have been set in the rest of Canada.  In terms of the Supreme Court decisions that have been met, challenges that have been met in the past, and all have failed, that allows for representation for rural districts with fewer people, and representations at different levels.  So, Mr. Speaker, this is allowed in our democracy, this is allowed in Canada, and in Newfoundland and Labrador this has been recognized in the past.

 

So voters in this Province get that; voters in this Province understand that.  We know that we are going to have discrepancies within districts.  There are discrepancies now.  There are some districts that have 3,000 people, and some districts have 15,000 people.  My district has 12,000 or 11,000, Mr. Speaker.  So we have that range right now, that variance now.

 

When you look at the other parts of Canada, when the average in New Brunswick is 15,000 people, when you look at other parts of Canada, when in Ontario it is 100,000 people for the provincial Legislature, we are talking about representation here at a different level.  We are still going to be one of the highest rates of representation, or the second highest anywhere in Canada for a province.  So it is not changing much from that respect.

 

In terms of the work that we do as MHAs, I am a minister of the Crown and also I look after my district.  I know that some of the people who sit in the backbenches here are also parliamentary secretaries.  We all have extra work, but we still look after our constituents.  I think we all do a very good job, Mr. Speaker.  So we are up for that challenge.  I think everybody in this House is up for that challenge –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. CRUMMELL: – and listen, if you want to get something done, you find a busy person.  I am a firm believer in that, and I think we are up for that task, and I think the competencies and capabilities of the people of this House are there.  So that can happen very easily, Mr. Speaker.  So when it comes to that district breakdown, I think we are on safe ground.

 

So, Mr. Speaker, I am not going to take too much more time.  I have a couple of points that I want to get out there, but there are a few important things that I want to get there just in closing.  Again, we are simply expediting a process that was supposed to happen in 2016.  We are going to do it in 2015.  That is simply what we are doing here, Mr. Speaker. 

 

Reform of the House of Assembly will have benefits for the people of the Province for many reasons, and financial certainty is an important one.  It is setting an example for other work that we are going to have to do over the next few months, and this is where it has to start.  That is one of the reasons why we are going down this road, and financial reasons is an important one, but it is just one of the reasons of many. 

 

The people of the Province will continue to have fair representation, like I just alluded to, and will still measure among the best in the country in terms of the number of residents per member. 

 

All political parties will be impacted by the reduction of seats.  There is no benefit to the people sitting over here – as a matter of fact, there are going to some tussles before this is all said and done in terms of nominations, I am sure, when everything fleshes out at the end of the day.  So we will be impacted as well, Mr. Speaker.  We will have impact in our jurisdictions, in our districts, going forward and there is no doubt about that.  Impacts will be happening to ourselves as members as well.

 

Again, Mr. Speaker, just to close, all political parties here believe that reform is important.  That is the place we are right now.  That is the place where I think the people of the Province are.  Why not make it happen now?  I think we are ready for it.  We are up for the task.

 

Thank you very much, and I am going to be voting for this amendment.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Virginia Waters.

 

MS C. BENNETT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I am honoured to stand in the House tonight to speak to Bill 42, An Act to Amend the Electoral Boundaries Act on behalf of the District of Virginia Waters.  As many people in this House of Assembly know, the District of Virginia Waters I believe is actually –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MS C. BENNETT: – the third largest district in the Province as it sits today, so it gives me great pleasure to stand here and speak on behalf of every one of the constituents who I represent.  I am very humbled with that opportunity.

 

I think, Mr. Speaker, one thing that is consistent without a doubt from our side of the House, the government side of the House, and it has been referenced here in many speeches that have already been made as part of this debate, is that part of why we are here is to ensure that the Province is provided and the people of the Province are provided with the best governance possible.

 

That governance certainly cannot come unless you have a very in-depth discussion and dialogue when you are making changes or suggesting making changes to the boundaries of the Province and, more importantly, the representation of the people of the Province.  I think it is a very humbling experience, as the Minister of Education mentioned earlier.  It is humbling to stand here in the House and speak to that.  I think many of us, as parents, understand that the laws that we make in this House of Assembly and the decisions we make affect those of us who are coming in the future, and I am very humbled to stand here and speak to this bill tonight. 

 

The democracy that is intended to happen in this House of Assembly is very important, and as an MHA I take that responsibility very seriously.  I have a tremendous amount of respect not only for my fellow colleagues, but certainly for the ministers of the Crown who wear a heavy burden, and certainly all of us in this House of Assembly understand that the work that is done here, while oftentimes can be humorous as we have our debate, the seriousness of the work I do not think is lost on any of us.  It has been referenced many times in the House. 

 

I am also very confident that the members on both sides of this House are listening intensively to all of the discussion that is happening around this debate.  I think the members of this House of Assembly on both sides understand that these discussions will have important and impactful ramifications on the people of the Province, and this is something that we take very seriously in our responsibility here as forty-eight elected members. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I have to reference back to the beginning of the debate when my hon. colleague for Burgeo – La Poile suggested that the discussion on this bill and government's action appear to be rushed.  One of the things that certainly has happened since last Thursday when the Premier made his announcement about his intention to reopen the House, invite the MHAs to come back in and debate this important piece of legislation, was that it required all of us, all forty-eight of us, to spend a tremendous amount of time preparing for this debate. 

 

Like my colleagues on this side of the House of Assembly who have spent hours and hours with our researchers pouring over information and trying to get an even better handle on the historical implications of what has happened in the past around boundary changes, I am confident that the members on the opposite side of the House, I am sure, have represented their constituents with that same due diligence. 

 

As we have gone through that process over the last four or five days I can certainly speak to – as a Member of the House of Assembly who is going to celebrate her anniversary in a couple of months as being a first-year MHA, I can certainly say that in the last number of days I have been even more educated myself on the Electoral Boundaries Act.  I have a much deeper appreciation.  I believe, Mr. Speaker, those listening at home tonight would expect me to have a much deeper appreciation for not only the changes that government is proposing today, but also the implications of those changes, and that I should have a deeper understanding of the original bill that we are talking about amending.  Also, they would expect me to have, and all of us to have, a much deeper appreciation for the operational implications of the changes that we are talking about today.

 

I listened earlier in the debate and feverishly took notes.  I know many of my colleagues in the House of Assembly on both sides of the House listen and take notes as we have discussions.  I listened to the Minister of Finance talk about this legislation and amendment, and what Bill 42 is intent on doing is not really fundamentally changing the process.  He mentioned that this process – it is my understanding that it has been done six times before, and now this is the seventh time. 

 

With all due respect to my hon. colleague across the way, I would suggest, though, and certainly feedback from people who have reached out to me, is that the seventh time is actually being done in an election year.  For that reason people have questions because that is a fundamental change to the process.  People are questioning what government's intention is and why they want to change it in the middle of an election year. 

 

The minister, as well as the members opposite, who, I am sure, have done all their homework in prepping for the debate, have assured us on this side of the House that Elections NL would have sufficient time to do this debate; however, my question – and I would hope that at some point during this discussion the Minister of Finance, or the Premier, or the House Leader may be able to answer this question.  I would hope that as we work through – assuming government uses its majority to make these changes – that the operational implications at Elections NL will not be so large and create such discord that the people of the Province who we represent here today will be impacted when they actually go to vote.  I think that is a very serious consideration when we talk about changing the rules in how people are represented. 

 

As I said before, this has never happened in an election year.  It is interesting.  I want to make it clear, and certainly many members of this House of Assembly, including my hon. colleagues on this side, including the Leader of the Official Opposition, have made it very clear that we support a review that would lead to a reduction in the number of MHAs who are sitting in this House.

 

As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, I had the distinct honour to represent the people of the Province on a committee after Judge Green's report, the Members' Compensation Review Committee from May 2009 to October 2009.  We had, as a committee, the opportunity to have consultations around the Province on the benefits package that MHAs are required to have here as part of their work in the House.  I can tell you, even though it was not in our mandate at the time, the number of MHAs in the House of Assembly came up in almost every single one of those presentations at that time. 

 

This discussion about reducing the number has been something that has been talked about in the public for a long period of time.  The Leader of the Official Opposition has talked about it for over two years.  The people of the Province expect us to make decisions in this House doing the appropriate due diligence.  It is our belief on this side of the House that the current proposal, as it is presented in legislation in Bill 42, really is setting the boundary commission up for failure with unprecedented deadlines and a predetermined ten-seat reduction.

 

The original legislation called for the boundary commission to begin its work in 2016.  As has been spoken about many times in this House of Assembly already, the 2016 date would have provided an opportunity for the boundary commission to be able to avail, my understanding is, of the most current census information.

 

It was interesting, as I was doing my prep I came across a submission that was made to a former committee that said – and I could be wrong, but yes, my understanding is this was a submission made on behalf of the City of Mount Pearl.  The submission says it would be more timely and effective if the timing of the review was to happen eighteen months after a census has been carried out by Stats Canada, and the new information from the census will be as current as is reasonably possible and would assist in determining more accurately the population of each district.

 

Mr. Speaker, I believe it was the deputy mayor at the time who said that.  I do not have the exact quote here but I am sure people can check that out themselves.

 

MR. J. BENNETT: The deputy mayor or the Deputy Premier?

 

MS C. BENNETT: The deputy mayor. 

 

MR. J. BENNETT: The Deputy Premier. 

 

MS C. BENNETT: Oh yes, okay.

 

Mr. Speaker, I want to take up the last couple of minutes of my speaking time here tonight to talk about the comments that I have heard most of the members on the government side make.  Many of them stood up with great confidence and talked about the fact that they believed the commission could do its work in a timely matter, and that the amount of time that was prescribed in this legislation will be sufficient.  I would argue that this precognition, or this future sight that the government members have on the other side, the ability to know the future, quite frankly is flawed. 

 

I would argue that the members seem to have an incredible ability to be able to see into the future.  The people of the Province, when they think about issues like the expropriation of Abitibi and Humber Valley Paving taking place in one day, really question what happens when this government rushes. 

 

One of the things I have learned as part of studying for this legislation is that every single jurisdiction in Canada that has been through a boundary change – the province that took the least amount of days to get their reports done was Ontario at 185 days.  The province that had the highest duration of days just to complete the report was Quebec with five years.  The numbers range from 275 days in PEI; 695 in Nova Scotia; 284 in New Brunswick; 185 in Ontario, as I have mentioned; 265 in Manitoba; 186 in Saskatchewan; 325 in Alberta; 275 in British Columbia; 275 in the Northwest Territories; and 250 in Nunavut. 

 

Mr. Speaker, earlier the Member for St. John's West spoke about the nine-month timeline being reasonable.  I would argue that in business, tight deadlines can be achieved by buying them and buying the results.  As many members on the opposite side of the House have said many times, government is not business.  Those numbers I just read out are the other provinces' amount of days they used to get the report done. 

 

In addition to that, the days between when they had their election and when the report was finished, the lowest one is 380 days.  That is Nova Scotia, a combined 1,000 days in Nova Scotia to finish this work.  Because it is not just about making sure that the boundaries are drawn correctly, as I mentioned in my earlier comments, it is about making sure that, operationally, Elections NL can do its work. 

 

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance said earlier in this House being informed is much more important than a calendar date.  I would argue that when you are speaking about democracy and you are trying to jam a schedule in such a short period of time, I think it is legitimate that constituents question why the urgency.

 

I understand that members on the opposite side of the House are all going to wave at me and say that this is about money and this is about the amount of money that we can save.  Well, Mr. Speaker, I am also getting legitimate questions that members of the public are saying, well, why isn't the Premier able to take action on things that he can do right now, which is the parliamentary assistants? 

 

Bill 42 is really about changing how fast this work is done and people of the Province – and it is okay, the Minister of Child, Youth and Family Services can laugh all he wants there about this, but this is quite a serious issue.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Seniors and Wellness.

 

MS C. BENNETT: Seniors and Wellness; oh right, he has been changed.  That is right; they have changed a lot over there in the last year.  The amount of money this government has wasted on changing Cabinet ministers and changing departments is something that we should be discussing.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

I remind the member to keep her comments relevant.

 

MS C. BENNETT: Mr. Speaker, this is a 20 per cent reduction in the seats in an election year.  This is unprecedented.  In addition to the work that I have done on the numbers, I am sure other members of this House of Assembly – I know for sure that members on my side of the House have taken the time to actually speak to people who have done this work.  I have spoken to representatives of commissions in other provinces.  As we have heard earlier this week, a former commissioner from Newfoundland said it was highly unlikely that this work could get done in time.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MS C. BENNETT: I spoke to another commissioner who said that to try to complete this work in this short period of time fundamentally means that government is disregarding the ability for people to have consultation and input into this discussion.

 

Mr. Speaker, let me be clear, I stand behind my leader and support him, as we all do, and everybody in this House, with the exception of the Third Party at this stage, has supported that we need to reduce MHAs; but how we do it is equally as important as the decision we are making.  My constituents and people who have been talking to me are very concerned about this government's ability to get this done.

 

The Member for the District of Terra Nova said that this debate was about efficiency.  I can tell you that my eleven-year-old son, when he heard that, said: Mommy, isn't this debate about democracy?  I said: Yes, it is.

 

MR. S. COLLINS: (Inaudible).

 

MS C. BENNETT: The Minister of Child, Youth and Family Services can certainly mock the fact that my eleven-year-old is interested in politics, but I think it is very important because quite frankly when you look at the math, the changes we are making in 2015 will affect the boundaries that he will be voting in.  We are making decisions today, as part of this House of Assembly, that will affect voters in this Province for eleven years.  While it is important to take action, it is equally important to make sure that those decisions are done and done in the right way.

 

This government is grossly underestimating the operational work related to these changes.  I would argue like they grossly underestimated the operational work when they laid off over 1,200 people several years ago. 

 

Mr. Speaker, there are a litany of lists that we have asked questions about over the last couple of days regarding finances.  I certainly will not waste my time this evening talking about that because I understand the members on the opposite side are very interested in continuing this debate. 

 

I can certainly say that when a constituent talks about – and I go back to the parliamentary assistants and the number of ministers in Cabinet.  I had to say to the constituent – I cannot imagine that what he said to me was right.  That constituent said: Do you think this is the Premier trying to make sure that there isn't a caucus revolt?  I said: Look, I cannot imagine a person who sits in the Premier's seat would make a decision not to reduce parliamentary salaries –

 

MR. SPEAKER: I will ask the member to make her comments relevant to the Bill 42.

 

MS C. BENNETT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

The Deputy Premier and the Premier have spoken about better governance.  The people in my district are questioning the motive.  They are questioning whether it is better governance, good governance, or quick governance.  Mr. Speaker, people in the district, people across the Province, have grave concerns about the ability for us to get this work done and the government to get his work done. 

 

So let me be clear.  Mr. Speaker, the people of the Province expect this government to keep its word.  Every single one of them stood up today, and in the last couple of days, and agreed and said that this was not about pushing off the election date.  I hope when we come back in the House of Assembly the next time after we close from this session, I will be able to look across the hall and say that every one of them kept their word. 

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Harbour Main.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. HEDDERSON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I would like to assure my colleague across the way that I, for one, will be true to my words. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. HEDDERSON: I speak for everyone on this side as well; what we say, we will accomplish.  Let me tell you that.  You have rhetoric coming out of your mouth, that is fine and we can deal with that.

 

Like I said, Mr. Speaker, we are here tonight debating a tremendous change in the landscape of political life here in this Province.  The agent of that change is our Premier.  I would say to the people opposite, be careful what you ask for, because I have been listening and I heard – tell me I am wrong – that the Leader of the Opposition had called for this.  I am told maybe two years ago, I do not care when it was, but he asked for it.

 

I understand that the Leader of the Third Party was supportive and asking for it – even though I am not sure about that.  I am wavering a little bit on that one.  We have a Premier who has gaged support for this throughout this Province.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

 

MR. HEDDERSON: Let me start with the Leader of the Opposition, the Leader of the Third Party, people in my district, and people in districts throughout this Province – tell me that it is not wanted.  Stand up and tell me it is not wanted.  I challenge them, Mr. Speaker.

 

Again, I go back to our Premier who looked and listened, heard and acted.  A bold move, a very bold move, but one that I believe honestly the people of Newfoundland and Labrador support 100 per cent. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. HEDDERSON: The majority – obviously, there are petitions coming forward from staffers and others.  I know there are people in this Province, there are people in my district, who are questioning this.  There is no question about that.  I say to the people of this Province, you have to –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. HEDDERSON: – in a leadership role – it is all right in Opposition, you can say anything, you can think anything; but when you are in government, you have to find a way to get things done that the people of the Province need to have done.  I do not think there is anyone who can stand up and make a good argument that we cannot reduce this House and still be an effective House, a democratic House, a House that represents every person in this Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. HEDDERSON: I have gone through, myself, one of these exercises and let me tell you, it is not easy, Mr. Speaker.  If everyone thinks that I am going to give up part of my district willingly, forget it.  I value each and every one of the constituents that I have in my district.

 

In 1999, I was elected to represent Harbour Main – Whitbourne.  In 2006, a decision was made to change the boundaries.  I was disappointed, I was apprehensive, I was not accepting of the results, because I had worked very, very hard to represent Whitbourne, Makinsons, Clarke's Beach, and Brigus Junction.  In 2007, I had to go back and I had lost those communities.  They were gone elsewhere to two other jurisdictions.

 

So, Mr. Speaker, to stand here and say, oh, it is going to be easy and so on and so forth, it is not true.  I feel for the MHAs, I feel for the constituents, but guess what?  It came to pass; I got over my fit.  I realized that those communities were well-represented elsewhere, they were accepting, and life went on.  No different than what is going to happen when the boundaries are reset and we do have a general election in 2015.  We are going to have that.  It is going to pretty much fit into the original mandate of this government, which is four years.  Whoever wins is going to be guaranteed four years – whether it is September 1, September 20, whatever it is, and life is going to go on.  There are going to be less members in here, and that is what we are debating now.

 

I believe, honestly, that each and every one of us knows that is the right thing to do.  So the problem is the timing.  I heard some colleagues on both sides talking about the money part of it and the savings part of it, the efficiency part of it and that sort of thing, but the time has come in this Province for us to get this Legislature to a size that truly fits the population of our Province.  It is something like, on average, 10,000 now.  We want to get it up to 15,000, give or take 25 per cent or 10 per cent.  So there is going to be great flexibility.

 

The debate now is that where will we lie after this, the number and so on.  Then we are going to get a commission that is independent that is going to carry it out.  I will tell you, those commissions work.  I am sick and tired of hearing from the Opposition about New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and other jurisdictions.  This is Newfoundland and Labrador.  We are in control.  We should know what we can do.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. HEDDERSON: There is no way – if a Newfoundlander or Labradorian says they are going to do something and takes on that task, and it is the right person with the right qualifications, the job will get done.  I can guarantee that.  I will stand by that because the people will come from all the political parties –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. HEDDERSON: Yes, jabber away because I have faith in you over there, believe it or not.  You are Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.  You can talk about things that were not done, but you are not talking about things that we did accomplish in ten years.  I am very, very proud of what was accomplished in the ten years or eleven years that we were here in Newfoundland and Labrador.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. HEDDERSON: I do not want to go down through the list because when I go down through the list, you say that is that and that and that, but that is not where I want to be.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. HEDDERSON: I do not care what happens to me.  Whether I get elected the next time, whether I do not run the next time, whatever, I will go out of this Legislature with my head held high, very proud of the accomplishments of this government.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. HEDDERSON: Very proud.

 

I remember standing here one day, it was a stormy day in Labrador, December – I do not even know the date; I am not good at dates – and announced the Trans-Labrador Highway, be it under extreme conditions, was going to be opened.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

I ask the member to keep his comments relevant to Bill 42.

 

MR. HEDDERSON: I closed it shortly after because of the weather.

 

I understand, Mr. Speaker.  What I am saying is that you can accomplish great things with the numbers that we have; but whether it is forty-eight, forty-six, thirty-eight, if you have matched it up to make sure that everything is represented, every person in this Province is represented, you can accomplish great things as the government has done, like opening the Trans-Labrador Highway.

 

All I am saying is that we have laid out – and I have trust in this Legislature; at the end of this debate, I firmly believe that we will come to a consensus as to the number, as to the conditions, as to how we move forward.  Then we will place it into the hands of what I believe will be a truly independent committee, headed up by an independent Chair who is going to look at the boundaries.  The boundaries, once you get to that number, you will be able to, with the modern technology and so on, carry out what needs to be carried out, Mr. Speaker.

 

Again, the debate continues.  I am very, very proud to say that I am part of it and that I will be fully supportive of it as we move through.  Again, to get back to – and I sort of got sidetracked there, Mr. Speaker, and I certainly apologize for that; but you have to have a bit of passion in your body and you also want to make sure that you stay awake and I hope I woke up someone there, or got you on your toes. 

 

Again I go back to changes.  Since 1999 to this present day I have seen such a tremendous change in how we do business.  Basically in 1999 when I came in, my ear was rang off in the sense that all contact just about was with a telephone.  Now if we get two or three calls a day, that is about it.  Everything else is in e-mails or Facebook or whatever the case might be.  Communications have changed.  The ability to get around this Province is getting better with each passing year.  We have the opportunity here to make sure that we take in all of those variables and continue to bring Newfoundland and Labrador into the twenty-first century and beyond. 

 

During the last decade or so, we have led the way in Canada in many other ways, and I certainly would hope that what we do here will also make us a leader in parliamentary reform.  Not only are we looking at the numbers, but also how we do business here, Mr. Speaker.  It is very, very important, I say to you. 

 

I hear from the other side that they are touching base with their constituents.  I have to admit that there is not much discussion in my district concerning this.  It is almost like a given.  I have rooted around here and there as you usually do when you have anything on the floor of the House.  I have gotten some e-mails on both sides of it, but it worries me to some degree.  You often wonder is there some degree of apathy out there because even in the media and that it does not seem to be a contentious issue.  It is just one that is moving through the books as it is almost a given. 

 

I say, Mr. Speaker, that I have said my piece.  I think I have gotten everything that I wanted to say.  This Province has had a very rich history.  I also would like to mention that I am old enough to remember when there were dual ridings here in this Province.  One of the first campaigns that I worked on was Doody and Dawe out in the dual riding in, I think, Harbour Main – Bell Island.  That was in my lifetime, obviously, in the early 1970s.  I think there were a couple of others around the Province.  I am not sure, but I think that was the last one of them. 

 

We have gone from less numbers to more numbers.  We are starting to slide backwards now.  This Chamber is dynamic in that we have to be able to accept change, and not only accept it but make sure it happens at the most appropriate time.  I like the timing of this one, by the way, Mr. Speaker, I really do. 

 

The variable that is not talked about too much is the fixed election.  I served from 1999 to 2003, about four-and-a-half years, and after that now it has been steady four years, four years, and four years.  If you remember, there was an election in 1993, 1996, and 1999. 

 

The fixed elections came in not so much, I guess, for any other reason but to make sure that no government had that control that they could politically call.  I hear people talking about we brought fixed elections in for this reason, but my understanding was that it would take away the power of the government to call an election after three years or let it go to five years.  You have to have your plans in place and so on and so forth.  Any argument otherwise is really off the mark, I believe.

 

With the fixed elections the ten years must fit into it.  That is something we have to consider now as we go forward to make sure that our review – is ten years going to be the one, or is it eight years or nine years?  You know what I am saying.  You need to do it and set it for the next time. That is something else that should be given some consideration.  Like everything, you have to build into this Chamber the opportunity for periodic reviews to make sure. 

 

The timing of this I like because I think, first of all, there is an appetite out there in the general public and in our political parties to get this done.  Secondly, we can get it done within the period of time that has been mapped out.  Obviously I will admit it is going to be pretty tight, but with regard to that I still believe firmly that with the co-operation of all and perhaps even a little bit of luck – because you always have to throw that in there.  As we have learned even this January, you never know what is going to happen today in politics.  The unexpected is the norm rather than the expected; there is no doubt about that.

 

I say, Mr. Speaker, the timing is good.  We will get this done.  A general election will be called, a new Chamber will be assembled, and for four years then we will go on.  Naturally, you have to look at the fact that, yes, there are going to be some savings financially.  I believe there are going to be more efficiencies.  You are going to have to work on what kind of committee structure you have and that sort of thing to match up with those numbers.  I am sure all that will fall into place.

 

Mr. Speaker, I am going to leave it at that. I thank the House for giving me this opportunity.  I will again reiterate my support for Bill 42.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Carbonear – Harbour Grace.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

First of all, Mr. Speaker, I would like to say that it is indeed an honour for me to be here representing the beautiful and historic District of Carbonear – Harbour Grace.

 

I have sat here, Mr. Speaker, and I have listened to the members opposite and I listened to the members on this side.  Of course we all have points to make here.  Like I said, I am indeed very proud to stand on my feet and bring some issue to Bill 42.

 

Mr. Speaker, Bill 42 is a piece of legislation that is meant to rearrange our political structure by changing electoral boundaries across our Province on both the Island and Labrador.  It is important to point out the process is already in place that ensures electoral boundaries are reviewed and readjusted every ten years to reflect changes, if any.  The next review was supposed to take place in 2016, only next year.

 

I did hear my colleague here earlier tonight from Virginia Waters.  She was talking about a piece of work that came out of the 2006 district boundaries committee.  It was about the same things I am going to say to you now.  The process was supposed to happen in 2016, and of course it needed to happen.  I heard the Member for Virginia Waters saying that at one point in time the deputy mayor of Mount Pearl put a submission into that committee. 

 

He was saying at that time you need to be eighteen months out or whatever.  In fact, he was not in favour of having it prior to the time.  That is the point I am trying to make on it.  He was not prepared to do that at all, just for the simple fact that it was scheduled for the next year and he felt strongly that you will get better information.  Mr. Speaker, 2016 is a census year, so then you would have the absolute truth on the numbers that actually are there.

 

Mr. Speaker, these reviews are meant to examine, amongst other things, whether or not reductions or an increase in the seats are needed based on many factors, especially our population.  Given that our population is dropping, the general consensus seems to be a seat reduction for our Province would need to take place.  It is not the merits of the seat reduction that is being largely debated.  Not many disagree with at least an examination of reducing the seats, and therefore the members in the House of Assembly.

 

Mr. Speaker, it is not a debate really about reducing the seats.  As members opposite would point out, they agree with it.  We agree that there should be some seat reduction, or at least let it go to the commission and try to see if indeed they can do that.  The other part of it is, of course, why would you put an arbitrary number on it of thirty-eight?  Maybe it needs to be forty-two.  Maybe the commission would come back and say less than thirty-eight.  That is the other thing, but at least we gave that committee a broad, broad scope to be able to work within that, some being an arbitrary number, and I do not know why. 

 

I would like to ask the question, why the number thirty-eight?  Was there a reason for that?  What was that based on?  Mr. Speaker, I would certainly like to know why that was done, indeed. 

 

Most boundary reviews are often described as a difficult undertaking, challenging and complex.  The new legislation permitted this review is dictating the number of seats that should be reduced, rather than allowing the commission to do this flexible work in coming to an appropriate seat number after they had consulted and studied the issue more carefully. 

 

Mr. Speaker, we have seen some of the work here by this government.  I will just mention Humber Valley, Bill 29, and things like that.  It is important to have the consultation process.  It is important that we use every avenue we can as MHAs and legislators in this process.

 

What is troubling about this new legislation is that it only states public consultations will be limited.  Now, Mr. Speaker, I have a problem with that.  We are here on behalf of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, and I am of the understanding there was going to be one public consultation down in Labrador and there was going to be one here on the Island. 

 

There are many, many people in each and every one of our districts here who would like to have that opportunity to have a public consultation.  I can assure you of that, Mr. Speaker.  I will tell you I am very big on the issue of people not only in my district but in the districts of Newfoundland and Labrador, all over Newfoundland and Labrador.  It is important we allow people an opportunity to have a public consultation with them.  People have something to say here, Mr. Speaker.  The forty-eight of us should not determine that these people not have the opportunity to have a chance to have that consultation. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I am after hearing from a lot of my constituents, and some are in favour.  Most are not in favour because it is the timing of it.  What people are asking, of course, is why now?  Why didn't you leave it until 2016 when you had the census for that time period?  Why did you not do it at that point in time?  People do not understand that.  Mr. Speaker, I am after having many, many e-mails on the subject – many, many indeed. 

 

When we talk about Bill 42, there are a lot of issues there.  One, we want public consultations, certainly allowing people to have a say into what happens in this House.  This House belongs to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.  You and I, Mr. Speaker, are only sent here to represent those people.  What an MHA basically is, we are a servant of the people.  That is what I intend to stand here as, Mr. Speaker, and every chance to have a public consultation should be given to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. 

 

Our democratic system is one of the most precious things we have to safeguard.  Safeguarding it means we have to be watchful of the ever most subtle forms of subverting our democratic system.  First of all, by holding the review process early, the electoral reconfiguration is cutting short a normal non-partisan process for determining electoral seats. 

 

The biggest problem I have, of course, is the – the minister who is supposed to be leading this file is supposed to be Minister Manning.  I do not understand how this can be actually going ahead, Mr. Speaker.  People have a right to have a say.  People simply have a right to have a say. 

 

Further, Mr. Speaker, democratic representation should not be based on old data.  That is what I was referring to on the very first of it.  Like the Canadian census –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. SLADE: Mr. Speaker, the census would take place in 2016 also, giving us fresh, new information on exactly what the population of Newfoundland and Labrador actually is, and does it need to be rolled back.  Do the seats need to be rolled back? 

 

Again, like I said, everybody in Newfoundland and Labrador probably has an appetite for cutting and reducing the MHAs.  This party over here is not disagreeing with that.  It is the process that we are coming to, Mr. Speaker, because I firmly believe we need to take our time to do it, and do it properly.  That is my firm belief. 

 

As I said, I have had many, many conversations over the past week or so with many of the constituents in my district.  Actually, some of them in yours, or close by yours.  People do not understand why this government at this point in time – maybe the House should have been called back for an emergency meeting talking about the Budget, the shortfalls we are going to have in the Budget.  The price of oil is dropping, and has dropped.  Maybe we should have had that conversation.

 

Mr. Speaker, a bad process means bad results.  A good process means good results.  A bad process means hasty conclusions, very limited or no conclusions, limited examinations of the issues.  A good process means deliberations, detailed consultations, and issue examination.

 

Mr. Speaker, others question whether the timing of this has something to do with the government, whether it is to their advantage or it is not to their advantage if an election was held.  I am after being questioned on that.  We just do not understand where this is going.

 

Anyway, Mr. Speaker, I am not going to speak my full twenty minutes.  I will sit down now.  Mr. Speaker, I can assure you the people in Newfoundland and Labrador do need those consultations.  They need the opportunity to have those consultations.  Anything less than that is simply not good enough, Mr. Speaker.

 

Thank you.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER (Littlejohn): The hon. the Member for Fortune Bay – Cape La Hune.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MS PERRY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

It is certainly a privilege and an honour for me to rise tonight and speak to Bill 42.  I am very pleased to say that I strongly support Bill 42. 

 

I have heard a lot from members opposite tonight about why has this come about now and why the sudden rush.  There is no sudden rush.  As members from this side of the House will speak in turn tonight, we are going to talk about what has happened in other provinces as well.  What can be achieved in Newfoundland and Labrador by our strong, intelligent people is anything that we set our minds to, Mr. Speaker.

 

I am going to start out talking about – we heard tonight the Member for St. George's – Stephenville East.  I was a little confused because he seemed to be arguing somewhat about whether or not fewer seats are even needed.  One thing I was absolutely certain of last week, based on the media coverage, was that all three parties were indeed in support of a seat reduction.  In fact, I have right here a copy of a CBC News clip on January 12 that says “Slash 8 House of Assembly seats, says Dwight Ball”.  We just listened, it said Dwight Ball – and it is right here on January 12 on CBC, “Liberal Leader… says he loves the idea of reducing the number of seats…”.

 

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

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Burgeo – La Poile, on a point of order.

 

MR. A. PARSONS: I just ask that the member use the Leader of the Official Opposition.  We know that we cannot use names.

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Fortune Bay – Cape La Hune.

 

MS PERRY: My apologies.  All right, thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

He said, “…he loves the idea of reducing the number of seats…”.  So we are all very much in agreement with that, Mr. Speaker.

 

One thing that has baffled me in the debate, and we just heard it again from the Member for Carbonear – Harbour Grace, why put an arbitrary number on it?  Why the number thirty-eight?  To that question I counter, why the number forty – because their leader had obviously stated forty seats.  So the difference between forty and thirty-eight is two.

 

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

 

MR. SPEAKER: A point of order.

 

The hon. Member for Burgeo – La Poile.

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Again, I would just ask that if the member is going to refer to comments by the Leader of the Official Opposition, that she use the entire quote and saying that it could be forty, it could be more, it could be less, and it should be done by an independent commission.  I just hope that it can be quoted properly here in the House.  That is all.

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Fortune Bay – Cape La Hune.

 

MS PERRY: I am not quoting that quote verbatim (inaudible) verbatim starting at the opening of the quotation, “'I've been on record as saying that I believe we can do it with 40 seats or less,' said Ball.”  It is a direct quote from the article, Mr. Speaker.

 

MR. SPEAKER: I remind the hon. member to not use proper names.

 

MS PERRY: I will put away the reference to the quotes now, Mr. Speaker, but I just wanted to indicate that was indeed a factual media report from January 12.

 

So why is it okay for the Leader of the Opposition to say forty or less, and they do not argue, but if we say thirty-eight they argue?  I just find it a little bit baffling, and I am at a loss to understanding some of the logic there.

 

Moving on, all political parties are going to be impacted by the reduction of seats in the House of Assembly.  This is not about politics; this is very much about the fiscal situation that we find ourselves in in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador today.  It is not a fiscal situation that any of us saw coming.

 

As the Minister of Finance eloquently pointed out today, this time last year our economy was doing very well.  This time last summer our economy was doing very well.  No one, globally, saw the fall in oil prices coming to the extent that it has.  As a government, we have a responsibility now to address the shortfall that we are going to be finding in our Budget.  To do anything else, Mr. Speaker, would be completely irresponsible, in my opinion.

 

The Member for Virginia Waters, during her speech, questioned what the intention is of moving with this bill now.  I would say, Mr. Speaker, two, three months ago we were all here, and I will bring everyone's memory back to sitting in the House and the constant, frequent calls for when is the financial fiscal update going to come.  We were not able to deliver that until we could really pin down what was happening.

 

We delivered the update in early December.  The oil prices continued to slide past that date, Mr. Speaker.  Now we are in even a more dire fiscal situation as the price of oil continues to plummet.  We have to address that shortfall.  I personally and strongly believe the very best place to start is to look at ourselves and to look at the efficiencies that have to be found.  Why not start with ourselves, especially when everyone is in agreement?

 

This would not have come about, Mr. Speaker, probably with such urgency if there was not a severe Budget deficit problem that we face.  The member indicated, do not do it now; it is an election year.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MS PERRY: Do not do it now because it is an election year, but that is what is probably bothering them, I do not know.

 

It is not about it being an election year, Mr. Speaker, as I said just now.  This will impact all of us, all parties, and probably not in good ways.  We have a responsibility to the people of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador and $10 million is no small chunk of change; $10 million on the face of it, and we have not even factored in what the cost of the accrued pensions would be, so I would venture to say $10 million is a very conservative figure in terms of the actual savings that will be realized as a result of the cost-saving measures.  We are sure going to be looking at all aspects of the House of Assembly and all aspects of government, as our Premier has clearly indicated to us.

 

The severe Budget deficit is the reason this has come about, Mr. Speaker.  In order to have this in place in time for the next election, we must address getting the committee in place today, because there is time to do it and we can have this done in time for October 2015.

 

When I look at all the hoist motions that have already taken place and will continue to take place, and as the Member for St. Barbe told us in our last sitting, it costs $22,000 a minute, I shake my head at why are we continuing to drag it out.  To me, there is an intentional effort to drag this out through the hoist efforts.  That, in turn, is maybe their intention, to slow down the committee process so it cannot be done before the next election.  I do not know.  We are all trying to figure out angles.  What is their angle?  I do not know.

 

I have to say that I cannot figure out why all of a sudden now they seem to be opposed to cutting seats.  The global challenges that are facing the world as a whole makes it absolutely imperative in my opinion that we find cost savings, and that includes the House of Assembly.

 

Mr. Speaker, when we look at workloads for MHAs across the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, I think probably that is one of the reasons why maybe all of us agree there is recognition that there is a difference.  I look at the Member for Cartwright – L'Anse au Clair and the Member for Torngat Mountains, and I consider them similar to myself in terms of the geography that we have to cover, the vast number of communities that we have in our various districts.

 

For example, my former colleague, a former minister in the House, Dave Denine, him and I would often chat about the difference in our workloads; the difference in his district versus mine; how much he had to do versus what I had to do; how long it took him to travel his district versus how long it takes me to travel my district.  He could walk, Mr. Speaker, he told me, from one end of his district to the other in one hour. 

 

In contrast, if you look at Fortune Bay – Cape La Hune it takes three days to travel my district and then I am only in and out; I am not spending any amount of quality time with people because the geography is so very spread out.  Another difference that I would say that we face, as rural members, we do not have the Confederation Building within walking distance or within a half-an-hour drive. 

 

A lot of people in cities, in my opinion, are quite capable and do come directly to the various government offices and resolve problems on their own.  In contrast, in rural areas like where I am situated, we are government, we are the Department of Health, we are the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services, and we are the Department of Education.  Any person who has an issue with any department often comes to our door.  We are very happy to help them in any way, shape, or form we can; but my workday, I would challenge, is much longer.

 

When the House of Assembly is open, Mr. Speaker, myself and I am sure members from other rural, remote areas like me, we go home on Fridays.  It takes us all day to get there.  We spend Friday nights travelling our district, meeting with constituents.  We spend Saturdays and Saturday nights doing the same thing.  We spend Sundays driving back to town.

 

I have, in the last seven years, often worked eighty consecutive days straight, Mr. Speaker, something I thoroughly enjoy doing, something I hope to continue doing for a great deal of time longer, because I really enjoy the difference that we make in people's lives by helping them resolve their individual problems.  I am sure that my former colleague would say to me, I could take 5,000 more people easily and my workload would not change significantly. 

 

Do I think there is room for fewer seats?  Absolutely.  Do I think we should look at urban areas as well as rural?  Absolutely.  Now, of course, we have to factor in all of the constitutional issues and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which guarantees every citizen the right to vote.  As the Minister of Finance talked about the other day, parity of voting power has been found to be of prime importance for effective representation as required by the guarantee under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. 

 

There is a provision for a 10 per cent variance and in some cases a 25 per cent variance.  Of course, in the case of Torngat Mountains it is closer to 50 per cent.  There is recognition of geography.  There is recognition of unique histories, cultural differences, historical ties, and community interaction, Mr. Speaker. 

 

When I look at how some of the boundaries are lined, it baffles me how some members in the same town – one member has this side of the street, another member has that side of the street.  Certainly, more efficiency can be found and we can look at ways of grouping those populations to be better served, Mr. Speaker, by the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. 

 

The question I would ask when the members opposite say to us, why rush?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MS PERRY: The question I would challenge and counter to that, Mr. Speaker, is why wait?  We know we are in a dire financial situation.  We know we are going to be looking for about at least half a billion probably in savings that have to be found to make things more efficient. 

 

You might say, puff, $10 million across the way.  They say what is $10 million?  You do not need to save $10 million.  Yes, we do, Mr. Speaker; $10 million saved from salaries and pensions in the House of Assembly is much better spent in my opinion, and I feel quite strongly about it, on lifesaving cancer drugs.  It is much better spent on keeping our community youth networks in place, Mr. Speaker.

 

MR. SPEAKER: I remind the member to speak to the bill, please.

 

MS PERRY: All right.  I am tying the boundary seat back to the Budget.  Because the reason we are here today discussing the boundary change prior to October 2015 is because it is very important, one of many very important cost-cutting measures that have to take place if we are going to guide our Province successfully and prosperously through tough fiscal times.  That is the situation we are in today, Mr. Speaker, tough fiscal times. 

 

Every penny we can find that will have minimal impact on the services to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador is where we are going to look first, Mr. Speaker.  We know we are all strong people on both sides of the House; everyone here is a good representative for their district.  We know that as our districts grow and change we will continue to be excellent representatives for our districts, Mr. Speaker, so this will have very minimal impact on the services to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.  We will continue to excel in the service we provide to them as MHAs.  In my opinion, this is one of the very best places to start looking for some of these cuts. 

 

The longer we stay here in the House of Assembly, the longer it is going to take to get the committee in place.  I do worry sometimes that there may be an intentional hoist to keep us here longer to slow this down.  That I think is very irresponsible.  The people of this Province are entitled to have a government that is efficient and effective and gets down to business and focuses on the task at hand, and I for one strongly believe –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

I ask all hon. members on both sides of the House if we could have some attention to the speaker.  The speaker has something important to say, and I ask all hon. members to give her the respect she deserves.

 

Thank you.

 

The hon. the Member for Fortune Bay – Cape La Hune.

 

MS PERRY: I was told I was going to get heckled a lot before I stood up, Mr. Speaker.

 

I strongly believe that we must do this before the election, Mr. Speaker, because if we do not, who is to say when it will get done.  In 2019, hypothetically, yes, but a lot of things can happen over that time.  Do you know what?  Maybe by 2019 oil prices will be back, we will have identified new industries, and our economy will be stronger than ever.  If the public of Newfoundland and Labrador at that time come to government and say we want more representatives, I am sure the government of the day will certainly contemplate that, Mr. Speaker. 

 

From the discussions I have had with most people, there is absolutely full agreement.  Do you know what?  There is probably a little bit of room to save some money in the House of Assembly.  When we get to the Budget, Mr. Speaker, talk about it being an election year; do not do this in an election year.  A lot of times you hear in an election year that there is going to be an election Budget.  This year, Mr. Speaker, I do not think we are going to see an election Budget.

 

MR. SPEAKER: I remind the hon. member we are speaking to Bill 42.

 

MS PERRY: Back to the Budget again, okay.

 

I tie my comments back into Bill 42 again, Mr. Speaker, because this bill and why we are here today has come about in large part because we are attempting to tackle the Budget in the most prudent, fiscally responsible way.  We believe we can start doing that right here in our own House.  To do anything else, Mr. Speaker, in my opinion, would be totally irresponsible. 

 

I am absolutely strongly in support of this bill.  I am absolutely confident that thirty-eight representatives in the House of Assembly will represent the constituents of Newfoundland and Labrador to the very best of their abilities and the people will see no decline in services.  They will, however, have the opportunity to hopefully argue to be able to keep something in health care or keep something in another area of the Budget because of the savings we will be realizing from these thirty-eight seats. 

 

Bearing in mind of course, like I talked about a little while ago, workload and efficiencies, right now I do believe there is a disparity.  Rural members I think sometimes have a much heavier workload.  Looking to my district, I have fourteen municipalities, I have fourteen fire departments, and I have three ferries, for example.  Again, being the one person who represents all departments in a region, as compared to some urban members who have no fire departments, no potholes, and no roads.

 

All of this needs to be taken into consideration, I believe, by the commission.  Workloads, population, and cost are all very important.  We will find efficiencies in the House of Assembly.  There will be more to come in terms of efficiencies in the House of Assembly.  This I do believe is a great start, very responsible. 

 

We are listening to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador who have long talked about there probably being too much fat in the House of Assembly.  We are tackling that issue, Mr. Speaker.  We are doing it responsibly.  We look forward to the support of members opposite to make sure that the people of Newfoundland and Labrador do not have to suffer unnecessarily with Budget cuts because we are looking at our own House first.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. MITCHELMORE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I listened quite intently to the Member for Fortune Bay – Cape La Hune in her debate and what she had talked about.  It sounded like she felt she had an overburdened, heavy workload representing the people of Fortune Bay – Cape La Hune.

 

I represent a rural district as well.  I have thirty-five communities that I represent; eleven municipalities, fourteen unincorporated communities, and ten local service districts.  It is scattered over a large geographical area, but I am very happy.  I am very proud to represent the people, and that the people of The Straits – White Bay North selected me to be their voice.  I am the youngest Member of the House of Assembly, still in my twenties.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. MITCHELMORE: I think we have a lot of diversity in this House, spanning a lot of years, urban, rural, gender, and culture.  That is what is really important.  We all bring differing views sometimes because we are representing different geographical areas.  We are that voice from that particular area.  What I bring forward today will be speaking from the perspective of the district, from a caucus perspective on what we have put forward.

 

I was in the building in the early hours on Friday – before this announcement came down that Bill 42 on election boundaries would be put before the House of Assembly – not knowing I would be returning in just a few hours after I had left.  This is the commitment that you take as a member.  You are representing the people.  No matter how short the notice is or what the call, you have to rise and answer that call. 

 

A lot of members here have talked about social media, talked about technology, and how technology improvements can help us do our job better.  Those who know me know I like Twitter.  On Friday morning I found out that the House of Assembly would likely open next week, Friday morning on Twitter through a news outlet saying that the House would likely open and we will have legislation on this.  I was on an airplane at the time I got that message.  I managed to get off that airplane so that I could be here and represent the people of The Straits – White Bay North and put forward that view.

 

Technology is a wonderful thing.  I remember having conversations with past members who represented my district, Ed Roberts being an example, and how back in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s the population was higher on the Great Northern Peninsula.  We have seen a lot of poor policy decisions made by this particular government that have not created the economy that is needed to bolster that population growth.  It is not just the Great Northern Peninsula; there are many other areas of the Province.

 

Getting back to technology and how it has changed, the former MHA, Mr. Ed Roberts, used to draft letters and sometimes that would take days.  Now things are communicated pretty instantaneously.  People want access to their MHAs more and more and so they should. 

 

We have e-mail, we have Facebook, we have Twitter, and we have other alternatives of which we reach out.  By doing that and by the technological advancements that exist, the expectation of being able to respond quicker is there as well.  That also increases the expectation of the constituent.  Whether you have a small number or a large number, that workload is there.  With the technology advancement or not, you are still going to continue to see an increased level of work that is going to be put forward by an MHA, all MHAs, whether they represent a rural district, or whether they represent an urban district, or whether they represent Labrador.

 

Some of the biggest challenges that we still face, though, when it comes to technology is that technology is not equal.  You can look at some of the rural districts very close to the metropolitan area that do not have cell coverage.  There are areas very close to the city that do not have high-speed Internet.  There are over 200 still in Newfoundland and Labrador that do not have that access right now.  There are a lot of people.  There are limitations. 

 

I can go into the community of Conche and be unreachable for that day because there is no cell coverage.  There is no way for people to reach me or if I go into Croque.  You are off the grid and that happens for other people.  That was something that was talked about.  I wanted to put the technology piece out there.

 

The Member for Fortune Bay – Cape La Hune said we are debating this legislation, Bill 42, and it is going to impact all parties.  Her words were: probably not in good ways.  Those were her words.  That is what she said.  She is going to vote for a piece of legislation that is probably going to impact everybody, but not in good ways.  When we are in this House of Assembly we look at good legislation.  That is why we have looked at what we have had –

 

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

 

MR. SPEAKER: A point of order.

 

The hon. Member for Fortune Bay – Cape La Hune.

 

MS PERRY: I was referring, Mr. Speaker, to us from a political point of view in that we, as colleagues, may have a divide against each other for the same areas because there would be thirty-eight seats instead of forty.  That is what I meant.

 

MR. SPEAKER: There is no point of order.

 

The hon. the Member for The Straits – White Bay North.

 

MR. MITCHELMORE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I have no problem with seeing a reduced number of seats in the House of Assembly, but I think the issue that we have is how this has come forward.  The Member for Fortune Bay – Cape La Hune has said this is budgetary.  She went on quite lengthy in her conversation around the Budget and how there has to be at least $500 million in Budget cuts. 

 

Yesterday the Premier confirmed that Newfoundland and Labrador is in a financial crisis and recalled this House.  It was done in haste so that it could deal with this one single matter which is Bill 42.  It was further announced that the Budget would be delayed. 

 

Last year, and when the mid-year financial update came in, it said that the Province is facing a $1 billion deficit and had to borrow $1 billion.  You can only borrow and have deficits for so long before you do really have a real problem.

 

MR. SPEAKER:  I ask the hon. member to speak to the bill please.

 

MR. MITCHELMORE: Sure.  Instead what we are seeing here today in this House of Assembly is Bill 42, which is presented in a real dictatorial fashion where it asks MHAs to support cutting this House from forty-eight to thirty-eight.  Whereas our caucus has made very clear that a better approach, if this is going to be done – because this government has the majority.  It brings the legislation in and it can pass whatever rules and laws it likes.  It can use its majority.  If it wants to, it can.  Members like the Member for Fortune Bay – Cape La Hune say this can have a negative impact; it can impact her in not good ways.  That is what was just said. 

 

MS PERRY: Mr. Speaker, a point of order.

 

MR. SPEAKER: A point of order, the hon. the Member for Fortune Bay – Cape La Hune.

 

MS PERRY: As I clarified, the point I was making was, are they worried about political concerns?  From a political point of view the only worry we would have, and impact, would be that there will be thirty-eight or us instead of forty-eight of us.  In some areas we may have to vie against each other for the same seat.

 

MR. SPEAKER: There is no point of order.

 

The hon. the Member for The Straits – White Bay North.

 

MR. MITCHELMORE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I certainly must be striking a nerve with the member opposite on all of these points of order.  I only have twenty minutes in debate.

 

I will continue to make my points, though, that we as a party had put forward a range because a range is not dictatorial.  It allows the commission to look at the geographical nature of our Province.  It also looks at the variance in population.  It also looks at differing changes.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. MITCHELMORE: Just for the record I will read out what the population census of Fortune Bay – Cape La Hune is.  It is 7,375, basically half of what the Premier is proposing for an electoral district. 

 

If we look at where we are right now, and the Finance Minister had talked about this, our population density per square kilometre, we are only 1.4.  We are more similar to Saskatchewan, which has 1.8.  Well, let's put in context that we have 1.4 people per square kilometer based on the census of 2011.

 

On the South Coast of this Province we only have a population density of 0.8, very few people, a huge geography.  On the Northern Peninsula it is the same thing, 1.2, very small. 

 

If we look at the other Legislatures in the country that have less members, they are at 24.7 in population density.  If we look at other areas of Newfoundland and Labrador based on census divisions, the Avalon Peninsula fares above that average for Prince Edward Island and it is 28.5 in population.  In other areas it ranges between 0.1 in Labrador, all the way up to 4.0 in terms of population.

 

Newfoundland and Labrador certainly does work with challenges and I think that is important to recognize.  I would not want to discredit the work that members in urban areas do, even though they would be close to the vicinity of access to this building and to other offices.

 

For the Member for Fortune Bay – Cape La Hune to say that her office or an MHA's office in a rural area is the Health Department, is the Justice Department, it is every department, it shows that certainly there is something wrong in the system.  It is pointing blame, basically, that those who are doing the work, those civil servants, she is basically saying they are not doing their job.  I have more faith in the public –

 

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

 

MR. SPEAKER: On a point of order, the hon. the Member for Fortune Bay – Cape La Hune. 

 

MS PERRY: Again, I have to clarify.  I was referencing the fact that we do not have as many government offices in our rural areas.  We have some, but certainly not every department of government is located in every rural region of the Province. 

 

MR. SPEAKER: There is no point of order. 

 

The hon. the Member for The Straits – White Bay North. 

 

MR. MITCHELMORE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

I say the member opposite had her twenty minutes; I hope she will give me the courtesy for mine.  She could have clearly said that in her twenty minutes. 

 

Getting back to this piece of legislation that has been put before the House, there was little evidence that there has been any research, or very little, on this matter as to when the idea came down.  The legislation was not drafted on Friday because it was not available.  Then it came with an error, and now we are here.  We have been debating this in the House throughout the week. 

 

The unelected Justice Minister noted that presentations – and boxes that we finally received after being requested from the Mahoney Commission were in storage, and they were not reviewed by the Justice department.  It certainly was not twenty boxes. 

 

AN HON. MEMBER: How many did you get?

 

MR. MITCHELMORE: We got a couple of boxes.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Two.

 

MR. MITCHELMORE: Two boxes.  So it is certainly not a thorough process.  I believe in the philosophy that if you do not know where you came from, you do not know really where you are going, so you need to look it. 

 

There is no evidence to support the particular number of thirty-eight to show that you can have a fully functioning House of Assembly supported by committees and other related works.  Obviously, this was done in haste.  That is why we, as the Official Opposition, our caucus, took time to review the legislation and see how it can be improved. 

 

We put forward a couple of reasoned amendments thus far and we will continue to put forward amendments to enhance this legislation, because hastily drafting legislation makes way for errors.  I only need to mention Bill 29 and the Abitibi bill expropriation. 

 

MR. SPEAKER: I remind the hon. member to speak to the bill, please.  

 

MR. MITCHELMORE: Sure.  Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

There is a due process, and this was scheduled to occur in 2016 when there would have been updated census information.  It is clear to the public that this is not really about saving $2 million a year; it is really just desperation. 

 

As I said earlier, I support a reduction in seats in the Legislature.  I believe it can be done.  I do not believe, though, that an arbitrary number can be dictated is the best approach, as presented by this government.  It is certainly not very democratic.

 

Back to thirty-eight MHAs, and I have been conducting some research on this.  Let's look at the history.  From 1962 to 1972 there were four general elections, and the seat count at that time was forty-two members.  I go back to the last time the census was done prior to those elections.  In 1971 – now I hope people are listening to this.  In 1971, with forty-two seats, our population was 522,100.  It is very similar to what we have today.  Prior to 1962, less than 460,000 people lived in Newfoundland and Labrador, with representation of thirty-six members. 

 

Looking at turning back the clock almost fifty years, this is what this government is looking at doing, turning back the time about fifty years in the Legislature when we had a population much smaller, with a number like thirty-eight.  I do not feel that number could be – and as the Member for Fortune Bay – Cape La Hune talked about the Leader of the Official Opposition and used a statement. 

 

Well, you can use a statement, and you can use the context of what was said based on the interview, but the Leader of the Official Opposition has said, and has said since March: Personally, that number could be forty.  It could function with forty, but it could be more or it could be less.  I do feel that number should not be – and that is why this draft legislation can be improved, but this government has a majority and will choose to use it however it wants. 

 

We have seen it before where bills have been passed where people of the Province do not want them, like the monopoly bill, the monopoly bill we passed that limits innovation to energy such as wind and feed-in tariffs and all these types of things.  It is a little bit draconian, actually.  In the last three years I have seen a lot of poor policy come from this government.  As the Member for Conception Bay South said, I believe it was: garbage in, garbage out.  We need to see better policy.

 

The Office of Public Engagement which, when we look at a technology perspective, released a lot of datasets today.  They released datasets about population, population projections.  Now, that is something that is important.  If we are projecting population, we are making decisions based on a quotient of the population and geography. 

 

I took some time as the MHA for the Official Opposition responsible for the Office of Public Engagement, and I downloaded that dataset.  The dataset goes to 2035.  Now, if anybody is interested in looking at that dataset, they will find it is the most useless piece of information that government has put forward on that Open Government Initiative.  It has 368,000 lines on it, 368,000 lines in an excel spreadsheet.  It is not in useable format. 

 

This government is clearly not listening to the people when it says it is making things more available.  Well, you can make things available, but if it is garbage information out and it is not in a useable format than groups are not going to be able to use it.  If you look at the other datasets that were put forward, it is completely put in a way that is not user friendly and it will be irrelevant. 

 

I hope the Minister for the Office of Public Engagement, the Deputy Premier, will certainly listen to my commentary because I look back and I look at this presentation that was put forward back in 2006 about information.  This was submitted by the City of Mount Pearl on electoral boundaries –

 

AN HON. MEMBER: What?

 

MR. MITCHELMORE: Yes, submitted by the City of Mount Pearl, put forward by the deputy mayor at the time.  I think he has moved up to another deputy position here in the Province right now.  It states: It would be more timely and effective if the timing of the review – talking about the electoral boundaries – was to happen eighteen months after a census. 

 

The last census happened in 2011.  We got the information a little bit later, so eighteen months after that.  That is when this review should take place, not just months before an election.  It says: The new information from the census should be as current as reasonably possible and would assist in determining more accurate population in each district – because people do move around and things really do change.  Having good information is really important. 

 

One thing I have a big concern about is getting this work done in the timeline.  This government says it can do it in 120 days.  It says the commission can do it in 120 days, when everywhere else in the country it has never been done in an election year.  It has never been done in 120 days, and every other province has done this. 

 

Other provinces, like Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, have done electoral boundaries.  Some of them have faced court challenges.  In the case of Nova Scotia, the New Democratic Party did not agree with the commission.  They rejected their report and sent it back.  There are processes in place where they can say, no, we do not agree.  We want it our way.  That is what the government says. 

 

I would hope that this government can live up to its word and get this work done in the timeline so that it does not delay the general election, which there is supposed to be a fixed election date.  This government put forward the legislation, so let's see if that will happen. 

 

I only hope that they can live up to their words because there are a lot of other promises and a lot of other words that they have said for the Great Northern Peninsula and the other people of the Province that they have not kept.  They have been poor fiscal managers and they have been poor leaders of this Province.  This year's Budget will clearly show that. 

 

I have a lot of opposition right now to this legislation, as it currently is. 

 

Thank you for the time, Mr. Speaker. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. POLLARD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

First of all, I am certainly delighted to stand in this hon. House to represent the people of the Province and represent the people for the District of Baie Verte – Springdale.  I always consider it a privilege and an honour to do so. 

 

Mr. Speaker, the Premier is on record that he would do three initiatives or three things to initiate House of Assembly reform.  One of these he said already is the review of the MHA pension plan – to my knowledge, it has been started – two is modernize the procedures to make the House of Assembly proceedings more effective and more efficient; and, of course, the third one, which we are here this evening debating, he would take immediate review and reduction of electoral districts from forty-eight seats to thirty-eight seats.  Hence, we have the bill, Bill 42, An Act to Amend the Electoral Boundaries Act. 

 

Mr. Speaker, not only will this step be huge savings, these three initiatives will be huge savings, but equally more important is that this reform will ensure that the House of Assembly will be more effective and more efficient in the service of the people of the Province. 

 

Saving $10 million over four years is not insignificant.  I submit to you, Mr. Speaker, that it is very significant, especially in this fiscal climate in which we all face, over which we never had any control over.  This move shows strong, prudent, bold leadership, that it is not afraid to act when action is required.  When tough times come, you cannot hide behind a rock; a leader has to stand up to the plate.  Everyone appreciates strong leadership; everyone in this Province expects strong leadership.  Anyone can lead when times are good.  We still do have a strong economy, Mr. Speaker.  We have a robust and a vibrant economy. 

 

This Premier demonstrated already that he is prepared to lead by example – how?  Well, he is not going to wait to see which way the winds are going to blow first and then take a stance.  We are not prepared to lead from behind.  This Premier, this government, is prepared to look internally first, look at our own house, and take care of our own business first; like the hon. the Member for Terra Nova, lead by example, look inward, and then we take some action outward as well.

 

That is what good leadership is all about, Mr. Speaker, when there are tough times.  You assess situations from all angles; you then assume a position.  You stick to your guns, especially when it is the right thing to do, it is the prudent thing to do, and it is the most responsible thing to do. 

 

In my six years – I am going on seven years now, basically, this summer, as an MHA.  Every now and then I hear throughout the district and, of course, all around the Province, cut the number of seats they say in the House of Assembly; too many MHAs in there.  Well, now that the Premier is taking action because now is not in line with their philosophy, the Opposition is saying no, no, hang on a second now; that may not be the right thing to do.

 

It was the right thing to do two weeks ago, three weeks ago, a year ago, and two years ago.  That is fickle, Mr. Speaker.  We cannot have it both ways.  We cannot have our cake and eat it too, so we cannot have that both ways.  I would submit and ask the question: Why not now?  They ask: Why now?  I ask: Why not now?  What precipitated this move in this first place, Mr. Speaker?

 

We all know, number one, representation is very important to each person in this Province – no doubt, Mr. Speaker, it is very, very important.  Compared to other provinces, we rank very, very well.  Some provinces have 16,000, 17,000 average in their districts; in our case, we have an average of 3,200, 5,000, 6,000, 8,000, 9,000, 10,000.  In my district I believe it is somewhere around 11,700. 

 

Even after reducing the seats, Mr. Speaker, we still have only 13,000 or 14,000 on average per district, so that is not an overwhelming burden and overwhelming task.  Yes, it is added responsibility.  We all know that, Mr. Speaker.  We all knocked on doors, we all put up our hands to do this job, and I am sure every MHA here is going to be willing to step up to the plate and do the work that is required.  I have no doubt, Mr. Speaker. 

 

This still leaves us, as a Province, ranking very well.  I would have some grave problems if every MHA is going to represent 100,000 people, but we are still only averaging 13,000 or 14,000 per district.  This still leaves us, as a Province, ranking very well compared to the rest of Canada. 

 

All political parties are going to be impacted by this, there is no question, by this reduction of seats.  This is not self-serving.  How is this self-serving?  Ten of us, basically, are going to lose our jobs.  It is simple, Mr. Speaker.  I do not want to lose my job.  It is not easy.  Some of us will lose our jobs.  They love their job.  I love my job.  We all love our jobs, Mr. Speaker. 

 

I have no idea how the electoral boundaries commission will carve out the Province into thirty-eight districts.  They are independent.  They will do their work, so why not now?  Why wait?  If not now, when is a good time?  If you wait until 2016, as they espouse and propose, reduction would not occur until 2019.  That makes ten MHAs in here redundant, Mr. Speaker.  Imagine, in here for three years, redundant, laying ducks, Mr. Speaker.  What influence are we going to have?  What are the constituents – how would they look at you, me, or anybody else if we are considered redundant? 

 

This sudden drop in oil prices blindsided everybody.  This is not a Newfoundland problem; this is global.  Iraq, Iran, Venezuela, Russia, all oil exporting countries, all the experts could not predict this sudden nosedive in the oil prices, causing instability and you name it and speculation all around the world.  This is not unique just to Newfoundland and Labrador; this is a global issue.

 

MR. SPEAKER: I remind the hon. member to speak to the bill, please.

 

MR. POLLARD: Yes, Mr. Speaker. 

 

In times like these a responsible, prudent government takes bold action.  Government leads in times of instability.  We are required to make adjustments right now.  We are required to take bold steps to sustain a good, strong economic stance.  We are accountable to the people of the Province.  People in tough times expect and demand strong, smart, prudent management of all the resources. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I do not want my District of Baie Verte – Springdale to be carved up, but I have no control over that.  I am sure every MHA feels the same way about their respective districts because they love their districts; they made relationships with the people that they have been representing the last one year, two years, three years or ten years. 

 

It has to happen for the good of the Province.  I am ready to take on more responsibility, should I be fortunate enough to win the PC nomination again and ultimately be the MHA for that new district, which I have to fight for, like everybody else.  I am ready to do that.

 

What is the motive?  They say, well, it is an ulterior motive.  I submit to them, the motive is just strong, prudent management, strong leadership, fiscally prudent, and just fair representation for the people of the Province, Mr. Speaker. 

 

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

 

MR. SPEAKER: A point of order, the hon. Member for St. John's North.

 

MR. KIRBY: Mr. Speaker, if this government wanted fiscal prudence, they would cut the size of the Cabinet, not increase the size of the Cabinet.  They would get rid of those five parliamentary secretaries that we do not need, Mr. Speaker.

 

MR. SPEAKER: There is not point of order.

 

The hon. the Member for Baie Verte – Springdale.

 

MR. POLLARD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

The Premier does not appoint the commission or the chair of the boundaries commission.  The government does not appoint any commissioners.  If the government did, we certainly would be skeptical, Mr. Speaker.

 

The commissioners will be independent.  I take comfort in that, Mr. Speaker.  We feel that, again, 120 days is ample time for the job to be done.

 

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

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Burgeo – La Poile on a point of order.

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, I just have to point this out to the member opposite.  I hope he is clear that the government does actually appoint people to the commission.

 

MR. SPEAKER: There is no point of order.

 

The hon. the Member for Baie Verte – Springdale.

 

MR. POLLARD: Mr. Speaker, there is nothing sinister here going to take place.  This is the seventh time a commission has been struck to work on electoral boundaries.  In 1973, there were fifty-one seats.  In 1983, there were fifty-two.  In 1993, there were forty-four.  In 1995, there were forty-eight seats.  In 2003, there were forty-eight seats.  In 2006, there were forty-eight seats.

 

The precedent is already set, Mr. Speaker.  There is a process already laid out in legislation so it is not a sinister process.  In order to complete its work, the act gives the commission the power to employ the resources that they need, whatever they require.  Any technical expertise, they can have it. 

 

For example, this was the composition of the commission in 2006.  The legal counsel to the commission was one, technical support.  Then you had an administrative officer.  That is two.  Then you had a cartographer, number three, to provide mapmaking services.  Then you had one from the Newfoundland and Labrador Statistics Agency.  That is where the extra staff was, Mr. Speaker.  Then you had the five members who comprised the commission.

 

I am confident that 120 days is ample time because that commission will be given all kinds of expertise and resources to do their job well, Mr. Speaker.  There is nothing sinister going on here.  The act is simply a mechanism for the review and amendment of the electoral boundaries in Newfoundland and Labrador.  The act lays out a process to follow.  It is quite clear. 

 

The chief justice selects the chairperson and the Speaker appoints four other members.  They will be qualified, professional people, Mr. Speaker, like the 2006 commission which was comprised of the hon. John O'Neill, who was chair.  The vice-chair was Robert Aylward.  Then we had three commissioners: you had Julie Eveleigh, you had Roger Grimes, and you had Cle Newhook.  These were the five people who comprised the commission in 2006, chaired by the hon. John O'Neill, a chief judge.

 

I have no problem with the number as well, Mr. Speaker.  The commission needs some boundaries.  The commission needs some information, a framework to do their work.  You have to tell them is it thirty-eight seats, is it forty seats, is it forty-two seats, is it thirty seats, or is it twenty seats? 

 

Since 1973, every government gave a commission a number that the commission could use as a template to work with, Mr. Speaker. There is nothing sinister there as well.  I have no problem with the number.  The precedent is already set with other previous governments and previous legislation.

 

Mr. Speaker, just to give you an example of some of the things that could take place when it comes to a district and how it could be carved up – I just went out on the highway here.  In 1952 in my district, for example, in years gone by, White Bay had a member and Green Bay had a member.  In 1957 it was then carved up into White Bay North, it was carved up into White Bay South, and Green Bay.  That was three members.  Then in 1972 it was renamed Baie Verte – White Bay, and then Green Bay.  That was two members. 

 

In 1996 you had another district called Baie Verte only, and then there was another one called Windsor – Springdale.  Then in 2007 you had Baie Verte – Springdale.  I said that to say that I have no idea which district is going to be carved up.  That is an example right there.  All we have to do is just have confidence in the independent commission, Mr. Speaker

 

Before I conclude, I want to ask one question and I will give the answer, Mr. Speaker.  How will these amendments change the process from the last commission in 2006?  Number one, first under the current act the next commission would be appointed in 2016 and would provide their report by the end of that calendar year.  These amendments would require the commission to report in 2015. 

 

Secondly, the commission will be required to divide the Province into thirty-eight one-member districts as opposed to the current forty-eight.  Thirdly, once the chief justice has appointed a chairperson, the Speaker will be required to appoint the four remaining members within five days as opposed to as expeditiously as possible under the current act. 

 

Number four, the 2015 commission will be permitted to use the latest available census population figures from Statistics Canada regardless of when they are taken, as opposed to data available as of March 31 as required by the current act.  Fifthly, the commission will be required to report to the Minister of Justice and Public Safety within 120 days from the appointment of the chairperson as opposed to reporting by the end of the calendar year, as was required by the current Act. 

 

Mr. Speaker, just before I sit down, I heard the hon. member over there saying that it cannot be done because it was never done before.  If Thomas A. Edison, or Alexander Graham Bell – or if Neil Armstrong said I cannot land on the moon because it was not done before, he would not have had the vision. 

 

Mr. Speaker, we were leaders.  I thank you very much for the opportunity to speak to this bill. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. FLYNN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

Back some years ago I had the privilege to serve on a health board.  We had made some decisions that drastically affected patients in the system.  To be quite honest with you, I was rather concerned about the decisions we made and how it affected the people we were put there to hopefully support to the point where I actually went and saw a friend of mine who looked at me one day said: Stelman, if you were given all of the information at that time that was available, if you had that information at your disposal, you based your decision on the information that was given you, and there was no personal gain in this for you, then you had made the right decision. 

 

Mr. Speaker, as I look around at some of the decisions we are hearing today – and I will touch on them as I go through.  Some of the decisions that we are making here today are awfully rushed decisions for the price that democracy costs us in this Province and indeed this country. 

 

If we look at Bill 42 and the implications that it has on the democracy in this Province we have to be concerned about where we are going.  I know there were opportunities this week to point out some of the rushed decisions that have been made here in the House and the cost it has been to the Province.  I will not touch too much on that.  I think what we have to do here is talk about how this represents the Province as a whole and the effects that it can have on the Province. 

 

The key to, I believe, true democracy is that we have a meaningful, thoughtful, well-thought-out, planned debate, and what we are doing here.  That cannot be defined with one criterion.  That cannot be defined in 120 days and thirty-eight seats, because we have to take into consideration other aspects about living in this Province. 

 

Now, listen, I know we are smart people.  I know we are brighter than any other Province that we have.  To think we can actually do this in 120 days, we probably think we are miracle workers here.  I can accept the fact that we are really smart, on the ball, but I really think we are pushing the opportunity here to do something right.

 

We have basically one mandate in this piece of legislation, and that is to cut the number of MHAs in this House.  Do you know what?  I have no problem with that.  I listened to the leaders of three parties, and they have no problem with that.  It is just the way this is being done. 

 

When I hear ministers come forward and say we have put a lot of consideration into this, I really have to question what some of those people really think a lot of consideration is.  Considering it was only a few months ago that the Premier secured his own nomination for the district in which he ran. 

 

Yesterday, I heard my colleague from Labrador get up and speak in the House.  I was really impressed with what he had to say.  Except the first part of that speech I had no clue what he said, because he spoke in his native tongue.  I think it is important to remember that, and I will come back to that later.

 

I also heard yesterday from members on the opposite side of the House say how they loved their visit to Labrador.  They really understand Labrador, and they understand the people who live there.  Well, Mr. Speaker, I lived in Labrador for over fifty years, and to be quite honest with you, I do have a strong connection with the people, with the circumstances in Labrador.  I served many volunteer hours, taking time away from my family to get out and do volunteer work in Labrador and throughout the Province.  It is always a struggle to make them understand, to make the rest of the Province understand unique circumstances – yes, unique circumstances – that are in Labrador.

 

When I heard some of the ministers say, oh yes, we have been in Labrador, I wonder what announcement they were making or if it was indeed just a fishing trip.  We did not mind taking your money back then either.  Maybe you came down berry picking, I do not know.  In any case, I am rather disturbed by two colleagues of mine from Labrador West and Lake Melville who are actually not speaking out about this – 

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

I would ask the member to speak to the principle of the bill.

 

MR. FLYNN: I am speaking about the members being, I guess, muzzled and not being able to speak –

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

The member has to speak to the principle of the bill.

 

The hon. the Member for Humber East.

 

MR. FLYNN: In Bill 42, right now it is saying three seats for Labrador, or fewer, and I am concerned with that from a number of perspectives, given all the resources that are coming out of Labrador and what the Province has gained from Labrador and the need to have a voice to be heard here in this House.  I think every constituent from any district across this Province has a right to have a timely meeting with their representative in this House. 

 

In many cases, if you have to travel on ski-doos or if you have to travel by helicopter, that is not timely fashion to have meetings with your constituents.  When I look at areas like Black Tickle and Nain, how many of you can actually say you have the same challenges in your district? 

 

A few days ago when my colleague from Torngat Mountains spoke in his language, I had no idea what he had to say.  That points I think to the differences we have in this Province, that we do have in this Province a diverse cultural background, and we have lots of transportation issues.  When we make this decision on how many seats should make up the Legislature in this Province, all of that has to be taken into consideration. 

 

As I travel around my district of Humber East, I run into, many times, people from the Mi'kmaq group.  There are 25,000 registered; there are 11,000 approved.  We really have not given them the opportunity to be able to have input into this. 

 

The legislation calls for, in Bill 42, to have two meetings in the Province.  One of them has to be in Labrador and the other somewhere on the Island.  Is that going to be St. John's?  I do not know.  I have nothing against the people in St. John's, but what I will tell you, people in Humber East are going to want to make their voice heard to the commission as well.  I think by putting time frames on the commission to do its work, none of those considerations will be put in place.  I think that is dangerous to democracy.  It is certainly dangerous if you want true reform in this House, if we start cutting the numbers down.

 

If we look at the pure numbers across this Province, right now the Avalon Peninsula, as it looks, will get between eighteen and nineteen members.  The Avalon Peninsula will have 50 per cent of the elected officials sitting in the House of Assembly.  I believe that is a pretty lopsided representation in this Province. 

 

I know there are alienations on the West Coast, particularly in Humber East.  I just went through an election there.  I heard it at the door, and I am not putting one area of the Province against the other.  My point here, Mr. Speaker, is just to point out to this House what is being said on the ground in the districts and there are grave concerns what this legislation may do if it is adopted as it presently reads.  We have a responsibility to all of the people in this Province to ensure that we have balanced representation and under this proposed legislation there is, as far as I am concerned, no balance, and I think that is a very dangerous threat to democracy. 

 

One of the ministers said yesterday that we had to look at the boundaries in each of the cities because there were some streets you go on, one side of the street was in one district, the next side of the street was in the next district.  So we are going to throw that to the commission and expect them to hear from the people of this Province, have all of this ironed out and unless they are miracle workers, they are really going to run out of time. 

 

In addition to that, we want this done right, yet we are working with numbers that are basically more than four years old.  Can we really call this due diligence if we are working with numbers that are that old?  I remember going on streets in Humber East when I ran there, when I went to the door with the list and knocked on the door.  Is Mr. So and So there?  Oh, no, he died four years ago.  That is how outdated the numbers we have are.  I think that is pretty demoralizing when you do that.  How do you explain to the family, I am sorry, this is information that was given to me by the government of this Province and it is that outdated?

 

Someone said geography does not affect the population.  A few members here would agree with that, but as we talk to the Member for Cartwright – L'Anse au Clair, who, if the road is open, will take at least seven hours in good weather to travel from one end of the district to the other.  I am fortunate in Humber East that I can do that within a half an hour, but all of the members are not that fortunate and they sit on both sides of the House.

 

We do have to take that into consideration because I believe it is my responsibility, as an MHA, to see that the voices of the people are heard back here in this House.  I think it is sad when we kind of say to these people no, you are not as important any more.  I think that will come back to kick us in the behind as we move forward with this.

 

We have said that we have listened to the people.  It was interesting because CBC had done a poll on what we are discussing here tonight.  Pretty much that poll was split 50-50, down the middle, on the need for four seats in Labrador as an example.  I consider that remarkable growth.  I can remember being President of Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador where they left off Labrador so often that they would put a quarter in the jar every time they did it, and my colleague across the way can contest to that and I guarantee you I never ever let them forget it. 

 

If we take politics out of what we are discussing here tonight and use this as an opportunity to really make changes to democracy in the Province that is where the real gain will be to.  We should not be afraid to let the commission once more take all of this into consideration rather than rush this through the House.

 

We have to study the impacts of the decision that we are making here tonight because, if we are wrong, it will have a tremendous negative impact on the Province.  Maybe we are right; maybe you are right in saying that it can be done.  I am not arguing that, but I think we have to have the full information; we have to give the people who are tasked with this job the opportunity to be able to take that and go with it. 

 

I will not go into the reason why we should not rush Bill 42, because we have seen what some of these mistakes have made in the past and they have been referenced here tonight, plus the fact the Speaker will ask me to get back to the bill we are discussing.

 

I think that it is important, Mr. Speaker, that we really give the opportunity to have the right work done for the right reason.  The right reason is not my seat.  It is not his seat, or his seat.  The right reason is for the people of the Province.  It is for the constituents that I represent in Humber East.  I want to make sure that their voice is heard here in the House, and I think we have to take due diligence in making sure that it is done. 

 

The public hearings, again, if I might refer back to it, we are basically saying to five people: here, you go out, have two meetings, you can have more, but we are only still going to give you 120 days.  Does that mean the voice of someone in St. Anthony is not the value of someone in Labrador, or the voice of Humber East is not as valuable as a voice from someone in St. John's?  Unfortunately, this is where I believe this debate will end up going as we move through the process. 

 

When we talk of reform here in the House, is really cutting the numbers that are actually sitting in this House reform, or is it just standing up and saying, for political reasons, this is what we have to do to save money because we really have to cover up some of the mistakes in the past?  I really think that we are talking about reform here.  We are really trying to masquerade mistakes that have happened in this House in the past, but I believe that due diligence has to be played, and should be played; take away the partisan politics of this and make sure that due diligence and the voices of the people across the Province are heard because this has insurmountable effects that we will not be able to correct, if we are wrong with this. 

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

Just before I recognize the next member, I would just like to pause for minute and ask people to reflect on their twenty-fifth birthday.  We have with us tonight a Page who is celebrating her twenty-fifth birthday here in the House of Assembly with us all night.  We want to say happy birthday to Fatimah.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. OSBORNE: One of my colleagues just said they wanted to sing Happy Birthday.  If that is the case, I give leave on my time if the House wanted to do that; otherwise, I will continue to speak.  I guess that is off the books, Mr. Speaker. 

 

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak on Bill 42.  We have all heard from our constituents and from people around the Province, I am sure, on this bill.  I would say probably 90 per cent of the people in the Province would agree with reducing the number of electoral districts in this Province, Mr. Speaker, especially in today's climate where government is looking at fiscal restraint.  There are a number of concerns that are raised. 

 

I have gotten numbers of people over the past week since government announced their intention to look at this – and it was before that trial balloon word, if you want to call it that, was leaked to the media.  Government was considering this move and the media reported on it.  Immediately I think the people of the Province looked at it with some optimism that the number of electoral districts would be reduced and the cost savings as a result of that.

 

As people started to digest what this meant and started to look at what it meant, there are two avenues that people are looking at in regard to what this actually means.  One of them is the actual reduction in the number of electoral districts and the fact that people are happy with that.  The other is the reason behind the timing.  I heard one media report saying it was the same as changing the rules to football the night before the Grey Cup.  Mr. Speaker, that is truly a factor.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: The third quarter.

 

MR. OSBORNE: The third quarter was it, the media report said.  It was something to that effect.

 

That is essentially what is happening.  The rules for the next election, if you want to call it that, are being changed because the number of boundaries, the number of districts is being changed.  Each political party was preparing for game day based on the rules that were in place, including the government party, because they had nominations in place as well. 

 

There is a great deal of wonderment, curiosity, questions, and concern about what is actually happening here.  Based on some of the comments I have received, Mr. Speaker, they wonder if this move is more political than a cost-saving measure.  I have had a number of people say that.  A number of people have said to me that, yes, while they agree with the reduction in the number of electoral districts, are there politics behind this?  Is the motivation for this move purely political?

 

People want the reduction.  They want an election this year.  People have been very clean on that.  With or without the work of the commission, they do not want the fact that government is now going to put a commission in place to look at and study the number of electoral districts and make changes to be a reason to push the election out. 

 

One person who signed one of the petitions we put forward, Mr. Speaker, said to me that government knew if they called an election today they would not win the election.  They knew if they stretched it out to the very last day before they could call it, they would not win the election.  If they called it any time in between, there is no way government would win that election.  The polling has been consistent over the past couple of years to say that.

 

Part of the reason Bill 42 is being debated in the House today, I would contend – I would agree with the person who spoke to me about that – it is because government had to do something to better their chances at the election.  I believe that is part of the reason for this.  It is not simply a cost-saving measure.  If it was, Mr. Speaker, without delay, the Premier would cut the number of Cabinet.  He does not have to send that to an electoral boundaries commission.  He would cut the number of people sitting in Cabinet.  That can be done today. 

 

Mr. Speaker, they do not want to enforce or cause conflict in their own party at this particular point.  They do not want to cut the number of Cabinet at this particular time.  The Premier even said in the media he will reduce the number of Cabinet when the number of seats is reduced.  He has since made a statement in the House that all things are on the table.  He is going to look at that along with other Budget items. 

 

If the reason for cutting the number of electoral districts by eight was a cost-saving measure, as was said by the Premier, he would look as well at cutting the number of Cabinet positions.  There are five parliamentary assistants.  If the reason we are debating this bill, if part of that motivation was not political, Mr. Speaker – I submit that if the Premier was absolutely sincere about his motivations and the reasons he has put forward for the motivations for Bill 42, An Act to Amend the Electoral Boundaries Act, and cutting the number of seats by eight, he would cut the number of parliamentary assistants by eight as well – or sorry, the number of parliamentary assistants, there are five of them; he would cut those five positions.

 

Other provinces have parliamentary assistants –

 

MR. SPEAKER (Verge): Order, please!

 

I would ask the member to make his comments relevant to the bill.

 

MR. OSBORNE: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I will do that.

 

We are looking at cutting the number of electoral districts, Mr. Speaker.  As part of that debate there has been a number of things talked about.  As part of that debate we have talked about the parliamentary assistants.  If we look at other provinces –

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

I would ask the member to make his comments related to the principle of the bill.

 

MR. OSBORNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Mr. Speaker, we are looking at cutting the number of electoral districts by eight in this Province.  That is what has been put on the table.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: By ten.

 

MR. OSBORNE:  By ten.  Sorry, Mr. Speaker, by ten from forty-eight to thirty-eight seats. 

 

Mr. Speaker, part of the petition that we put forward, respecting this particular bill that we are debating now, is the fact that people are concerned as to whether or not the commission will have enough time to sufficiently consult with people around the Province.  They are concerned as to whether or not the commission will have enough time to properly evaluate the geographical implications of reducing the number of seats by ten, whether or not they will have enough time to properly review the population implications and the population shift. 

 

Mr. Speaker, the census is out next year or going to be done next year.  That was part of the reason for the timing of the electoral boundaries commission for 2016.  Will they have the proper information to base their population counts on? 

 

There has been a great deal of discussion about Labrador, Mr. Speaker, and the desire of the members on this side of the House of Assembly and the members of the Liberal Party to protect the number of seats in Labrador, four seats.  There is a very valid reason we are looking at doing that.  The geography of Labrador is better than two times the size of the geography of the Island.  Currently, there are forty-four seats on the Island and four in Labrador. 

 

So, Mr. Speaker, that part of our Province, with such a huge geography, some of the seats there only have 3,000 or 4,000 people.  The reason for that is the complications and the challenges of travelling throughout those districts.  If we were to go simply based on the formula that the Premier was suggesting of 13,000 people per seat in this Province, you would look at a reduction of at least one seat in Labrador, probably two, probably one-and-a-half – you put part of one of the Labrador seats with one of the Island seats. 

 

If you did that, Mr. Speaker, the challenges in the MHA for those districts in Labrador to properly service those districts, to be able to travel those districts reasonably and have people from those districts visit their MHA's office reasonably, is seriously impeded.  So one of the amendments that we are putting forward on this particular bill is to protect Labrador as having four seats.  We would like to see Labrador seats protected for that reason. 

 

One of the other amendments that we are looking at on this particular bill is to put a range of between thirty-eight and forty-two seats, so that we as legislators are not dictating to the boundaries commission the number of seats that should be in place while they do their work so that they can look at different seats and different areas, different regions of the Province, the challenges in different regions; if they were able to properly carry out their consultations, their work, look at different regions of the Province, and say we cannot do it with thirty-eight seats reasonably, we need thirty-nine or we need forty, or maybe we need the full forty-two. 

 

We are not suggesting that it has to be thirty-eight seats.  We are not holding the boundary commission to thirty-eight seats.  We are giving them some flexibility to be able to say yes, we agree.  We will have a reduction in a number of electoral districts in the Province.  We agree with that, but give the commission enough latitude that after their consultations, and after looking at the geographical implications and the population implications, and after looking at the demographics – because it is not just population count, the demographics of some of those populations, Mr. Speaker. 

 

If you have a district where the population is aging – and some districts in the Province are.  Some districts in the Province, the population is aging, and you have schools where there is only three or four people in a classroom, three or four children.  That means that if you based their population at 13,000, the number of people eligible to vote in that district could be significantly different than a district where the population is considerably younger.

 

It is not just geographical implications, it is not just population implications, but perhaps the demographical implications as well.  For a boundary commission to properly carry out their work and to look at all aspects of what would affect the ability of a Member of the House of Assembly to carry out his or her duties and to look at the implications of how the population in a particular district might be best represented, we want to give that commission a range.  A range of somewhere between thirty-eight and forty-two seats, so that they are not handcuffed in carrying out their duties to just simply thirty-eight seats, and the people of the Province are best served.  They are best served by a boundary commission that can look at and properly evaluate each and every district and determine whether thirty-eight is the best number or forty-two members is the best number, or somewhere in between.

 

Another amendment that we are looking at putting forward to this particular piece of legislation, Mr. Speaker, is the fact that we want to ensure that the election actually takes place this year.  Carrying out the work of the commission should not be an excuse for government to delay the election; it should not be an excuse for government to be able to push the election into 2016.

 

Some of the people who I have had sign the petition have said to me that we have had three-and-a-half Premiers since the last election.  They say three-and-a-half because we have had Premier Dunderdale, we had Premier Marshall, we have had the almost-Premier Coleman, and now Premier Davis.  So we have had three-and-a-half Premiers since the last election.

 

Mr. Speaker, those individuals who have raised that particular concern with me – because I have spoken to many people about this; people are paying attention to what is happening here on this particular piece of legislation and what government are trying to do.  People are paying attention.  They have said we will give Premier Davis – sorry, I realize I am not supposed to mention the name of the sitting member.  We will give the current Premier the latitude to say that he can carry on until September of 2015, but many people do not feel that he has the mandate to do that.  He was not elected by the people, only by the members of the PC Party. 

 

MS PERRY: Roger Grimes (inaudible).

 

MR. OSBORNE: The legislation, Mr. Speaker – and yes, I heard the Member for Fortune Bay – Cape La Hune shout out Roger Grimes.  That is exactly the reason that party brought legislation in so that you could not have – not only for fixed elections, but you could not have a particular Premier who took over after an election – and it is all part of this legislation.  It is all part of the legislation, but you could not have a Premier take over – it is part of the Elections Act and, in fact, a part of Bill 42.  It is all a part of that, but you could not have a Premier take over and hold office for two years or even a year-and-a-half.  It is supposed to be done within a year. 

 

If the election is pushed out beyond 2016, then not only did they not have the mandate from the people to govern, only from the party, and while the legislation allows them to continue to govern while they are preparing for an election, they do not have the mandate to go beyond September of 2015.  So, that is an important part of this.  The amendment that we are putting forward is to ensure that with or without the work of the boundary commission being complete, with or without that work, the election will be held in 2015. 

 

Mr. Speaker, that is a reasonable amendment, it is a just amendment, and it is an amendment that the vast majority of people in this Province – just as many as would support a reduction in the number of electoral districts, would support ensuring that the election take place in 2015. 

 

We need those assurances; the people of this Province need those assurances.  If we are truly here to serve the best interests of the people of this Province, we would make sure that the election is not pushed out because of the work of a rushed – and while the Premier is saying that the work of the boundary commission can be done in 120 days, we are not convinced that they can do justice to the work that they need to do, looking at the geographical implications, the population and demographic implications to determining the new boundaries.  One hundred and twenty days is considerably less than it took similar commissions in every other province to complete their work.  It is considerably less than previous commissions in this Province did to complete their work. 

 

In fact, in 2006, Mr. Speaker, there was not a reduction in the number of electoral districts in this Province, but because of population shifts there was a change in some of the boundaries.  They took considerably longer.  Without reducing the number of electoral districts, they took considerably longer to simply change the boundaries because of population shift than we are allowing with the 120 days here.

 

Now, the Premier is telling us be assured, they will get the work done.  We are not convinced, but we are giving the benefit of the doubt and saying if you believe you can carry out this work in 120 days, so be it, carry out the job in 120 days.  If it is not done in 120 days, you do not have the ability to push the election out to 2016.  We will put the work of the commission on hold, continue their work after the election, and carry on with the election.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. LITTLE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

It is a privilege to rise in this House to speak to Bill 42, a very important bill.  I have listened attentively to all of the speakers previously.  I must say, our Premier has been on record in relation to supporting reform in the House of Assembly, and this government, everyone on this side of the House, are in support as well.  The Opposition and the Third Party actually spoke in public and is on record in relation to supporting this particular piece of legislation.

 

Our Premier, a great leader, has committed to reduce the number of seats in the House of Assembly from the current number of forty-eight.  He has asked that this process start immediately, Mr. Speaker, with a goal to complete work in advance before the next general election in 2015.

 

I have talked to a number of people in the District of Bonavista and listened to what they had to say about the reduction of seats in the House of Assembly.  I had some discussions about what is happening in the global economy as well, Mr. Speaker, and what we are faced with as a government as we speak on this important bill tonight.  The people I had discussions with actually approve and agree with a reduction in the House of Assembly and we, as a government, have a responsibility to lead by example. 

 

This government, people on this side of the House, all of the MHAs, my colleagues, have made a decision that we will lead by example.  There are many difficult challenges we will have to face as a government as we go through the global economic challenges that we face today.  We will definitely reduce the number of seats in the House of Assembly, Mr. Speaker.

 

The Premier and our government do not appoint the boundaries commission.  By law, a Chair is a judge named by the Chief Justice of Newfoundland and Labrador, and four other members of the commission are picked by the Speaker of the House of Assembly.  To me, this is a process where government officials are not making the final decisions.  We have an independent body, a group of independent people who will make the decisions on the final boundary changes to the electoral process in Newfoundland and Labrador. 

 

Bill 42 is most likely one of the most important bills that we are faced with in relation to changes in this House of Assembly.  Every member on each side of the House of Assembly are speaking to this bill with good, strong points of views, Mr. Speaker, views of concern, views that will affect each and every member's district in the House of Assembly.  We are all concerned.  We are all faced with those challenges, and we, as a government, will make the decisions.  We are responsible.  We will make the decisions in the best interests of the people who elected us to the House of Assembly.

 

I remember a time back in 1997, I was a councillor, and we had to make tough decisions, similar to what we are doing here today, based on some fiscal realities we faced as a council.  From time to time as a family we have to make difficult decisions, similar to what we are doing here tonight.  The debate that is taking place in this House of Assembly is very prudent, very responsible.

 

We, as a government, are not rushing this process in the House of Assembly here tonight.  I have heard on a number of occasions from members opposite that this process is being rushed.  This process is not being rushed, Mr. Speaker.  We are allowing each speaker to speak for twenty minutes at a maximum.  Some are speaking less than twenty minutes, but everybody in the House of Assembly here tonight, each member has a right to stand on their feet and have discussion around this important bill, Bill 42 that affects each and every district, each and every boundary in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

 

Any time there is an independent review like this it shows leadership.  It shows leadership from a governing party that we agree with a system of democracy, Mr. Speaker, because it is democracy when you allow a review like this to happen.  I am so delighted to be able to be part of this great government that can stand on its feet and support such an activity in the House of Assembly here in Newfoundland and Labrador. 

 

I have heard some of my colleagues and some members talk about technology change.  We talk about the time that would be allowed for this event to happen and decision makings of the independent review.  Time is always a factor, but as a government going into an election – and our members on this side are affected the same as members on the opposite side with a boundary change.  No one knows what the outcome will be, Mr. Speaker. 

 

The independent process, the review, will take place.  As I said earlier, no one knows the outcome.  It is a process that is very democratic because I have heard some comments about democracy and stifling democracy.  That is not what anyone in this House of Assembly is doing, Mr. Speaker.  We need to have discussions around that particular issue.  It is important that we listen to what people are saying in our districts.

 

I am sure each and every member on each side of the House had major discussions around this issue with constituents in their districts.  I know I have had a number of discussions, and I can safely say, by far, the majority of people who I had discussions with in my district, the District of Bonavista South, agree with a reduction in the number of seats in the House of Assembly – they agree.

 

They agree that this move is being fiscally responsible, something that we should do at this point in time in our history, not only based on finances but based on population, based on what is happening in other provinces around Canada.  Similar, in some cases, to population decline and, in some cases, because of technology change and so forth, it makes a lot of sense to do House of Assembly reform, House of Assembly changes, that will be prudent and fiscally responsible.

 

I would like to say there is nobody flip-flopping on this side of the House.

 

MR. KENT: Not today.

 

MR. LITTLE: Not today, as the Member for Mount Pearl North just said.

 

Anyway, we, as a government, will continue to listen to the people of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.  Our Premier definitely showed strong leadership in making a bold move like this, Mr. Speaker.  We, on this side of the House, are united.  We support our leader, our Premier, we support our Cabinet, and we support the decisions that are made to bring about changes to the House of Assembly, to bring about a reduction in the number of the House of Assembly.

 

This move shows a long, hard, thought-out process, and strong leadership and action.  We mean action.  This is why Bill 42, we came back to this House to present Bill 42, to have discussion on Bill 42, and definitely have Bill 42 in place prior to the next general election.

 

We have nothing to hide, we listen to the people, and we are realistic, we are very responsible, and we know what is happening.  No one could predict what happened in the world markets.  No one could predict what happened to the lower oil prices.  No one can predict what is going to happen in the future, really.  We, based on what we are faced with at this particular time, had no other choice.

 

Now, some people look at this and say $10 million savings, some members will look at it, but every dollar counts, every dollar from $1,000 to $10,000 to $100,000 to $1 million, and cost is part of what is going to be the outcome of seat reduction in this Legislature, Mr. Speaker.  Definitely we, as a government, will make sure the process is very, very transparent, very, very open, and very, very committed to making sure the final outcome occurs in the timeline that is set. 

 

At this particular time, I would like to close by saying that I appreciate all of the comments made on each side of the House.  Each and every comment is important, it is the freedom of speech, and it shows that democracy is taking place in the House of Assembly.

 

With that, thank you very much.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Trinity – Bay de Verde.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. CROCKER:  Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I was just thinking, the last time I was in this Chamber at 11:00 in the evening it was during the Newfoundland Hydro debate back in the 1990s.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

 

MR. CROCKER: No, it certainly was not. 

 

I am going to focus first of all on the timelines, Mr. Speaker, the 120 days.  It is like when we were all students and if you had a paper due and the paper was due on a Wednesday, we would always wait until Wednesday night to get it done, but we would get it done. 

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

 

MR. CROCKER: Maybe not the Member for Humber West, but myself, yes.

 

It is interesting, Mr. Speaker.  I have confidence that the report will be delivered in 120 days, but I caution in that.  Will the report be rushed?  I have rushed a lot of reports and lots of times when you rush a report, you do not get the best paper, the best grade.  We have to be very cautious that we do not rush this; it is too important.  If you look at other jurisdictions in the country that have completed reviews in recent history, the shortest review in the country from beginning to end was 380 days.  The longest review was 1,126 days.  That is the timeline from the beginning of the review until election day.

 

Mr. Speaker, if you look at our fixed election legislation here in Newfoundland and Labrador, an election is supposed to be called September 25 or September 26, 2015.  If you back that up from today, we have 246 days – 246 days.  The closest to that was Nova Scotia who completed a report and went to an election with 380 days – one year, Mr. Speaker, a lot more than the 120 days that we are allowing for this report to be completed.

 

That is one of the concerns and that is one of the amendments that we, as the Official Opposition, have put forward to Bill 42.  It is an amendment hopefully we will get an opportunity in the coming hours or the coming days to debate here in the House.

 

Mr. Speaker, I will move from the timeline for a moment and just go to parliamentary reform, which the members opposite have referred to, and I think here on this side of the House we have often referred to parliamentary reform and the need for parliamentary reform in the Province, and maybe even the country.  Parliamentary reform is a lot more than cutting the number of seats.  Actually, parliamentary reform may require this many seats or a different number of seats.  So we may be putting the horse before the cart, or the horse may get out of the barn.  Sometimes once the horse gets out of the barn, it is hard to get it back.

 

So if we go to a committee system and realize, wow, we have not got the numbers to have an effective committee system, that is something that we have to bear in mind, that we do not get ahead of ourselves.  I understand the savings and I understand savings are very important, and it has been referred to a lot by members opposite over the last two or three days of debate about the savings.  Yes, there will be savings.

 

Mr. Speaker, let us bear in mind, this government has the ability to bring in savings today.  We do not need Bill 42 to start savings.  No other Atlantic province has parliamentary secretaries; we have five.  That could be resolved tonight.  We need to bring our Cabinet back that reflects our Legislature and the tough times.  These are decisions that do not have to take 120 days or even 246 days.

 

These are moves that the Premier could make tomorrow morning.  Members opposite talk about the bold moves the Premier is making.  Well, let's take some of these bold moves and get it done, and get it done now.  As the previous speaker said, every dollar does count, and nobody on this side of the House would argue that every dollar does not count.

 

Mr. Speaker, one thing that Bill 42 does, it is going to rush a decision.  Back to the timelines, no other jurisdiction has come even close to completing this type of reform in the timeframe that we are being given, Mr. Speaker.  At the end of the day we too, here, have to realize that these changes need to be made, but is this the time or do we have the time to properly make the changes? 

 

We have made mistakes in this Province, Mr. Speaker, when it comes to rushed decisions and decisions without due diligence. 

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Really?

 

MR. CROCKER: Yes.  Just back in September, Mr. Speaker, there was a by-election here in the Province.  The by-election was delayed and delayed and delayed, and due diligence was not done.  I believe the first day this House came back in this fall sitting the first piece of legislation that had to be passed that afternoon, job one, was to fix a typo because something did not get done.

 

Mr. Speaker, I know exactly because it was my district that was affected by this typo.  It did not get gazetted.  We could have lost the by-election on that if the parties, the Opposition, would not have gone along that day.  We would have lost that by-election.  It would have just been null and void and we would have had to start over again with the cost already incurred.  The cost would have been incurred.  That is why when we sit here or stand here tonight and debate Bill 42 –

 

MR. LANE: They did not want to go through that again.

 

MR. CROCKER: I say thank you to the Member for Mount Pearl South. 

 

Mr. Speaker, we have to be cautious – due diligence.  Yes, is $2.5 million or $10 million over a four-year period important?  It sure is, but once that horse is out of the barn can we get it back in? 

 

Mr. Speaker, there were other rushed decisions in the Province; the Abitibi mill, Bill 29 –

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

I would ask the member to confine his comments to the principle of the bill.

 

The hon. the Member for Trinity – Bay de Verde to continue.

 

MR. CROCKER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I will get back on track.  Mr. Speaker, our second amendment as the Official Opposition is the amendment surrounding range and the fact that we are asking this commission to go out and do a job.  In Bill 42, it is prescribing that the number is thirty-eight.  Why thirty-eight?  I think listening to the Minister of Finance it is a workable number; 13,500, 13,800, 13,600, whatever the division is.

 

When you ask five independent people in an independent commission, why can't we have them make an independent decision of how many seats this Province requires?  Why do we need to say thirty-eight?  Give them a range.  I remember, Mr. Speaker, back in 1993 when Premier Wells sent out the commission at that time, the Mahoney commission, back in the early to mid-1990s.  It went out and it came back.  Yes, we had a range of fifty-two to forty-four.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: What happened when it came back?

 

MR. CROCKER: Exactly.  What happened when it came back?  I thank the member for bringing that up.  What happened when it came back?

 

What happened when it came back was they realized that this is not going to work because square hole, round peg; forty-eight.  Mr. Speaker, back at that time it went back out and we did it again.  If you were to ask the people today in Harbour Grace, or the people of Upper Island Cove, or the people of St. Mary's, or Spaniard's Bay were they beneficiaries of those reductions.  There were reductions. 

 

We lost the District of Harbour Grace.  The District of Harbour Grace was removed.  Similar to what is going to happen with Bill 42, there will be districts that are going to just disappear.  Bonavista South disappeared, Mr. Speaker.  St. Mary's disappeared.

 

Mr. Speaker, there are challenges that are brought into this system.  I am sorry if I am boring somebody.

 

MR. KIRBY: That is okay.

 

MR. CROCKER: You are okay, Dale?

 

Mr. Speaker, we just came through a period of review with the federal electoral boundaries commission.  There were some interesting things.  I actually took some time.  I was involved a little bit in the federal boundaries commission, involved in a presentation. 

 

Some of the things the federal commission looks at in their guidelines as they go into boundary redistribution, Mr. Speaker; not only do they look at the parity of voter, which is very important, but there has to be some historical and manageable geographic issues.  Transportation links are considered, access to government services and commercial and social recreation amenities, existing municipal boundaries, and the boundaries of regional planning and economic development.

 

In a rush decision, Mr. Speaker, are we looking at what is happening in the future when it comes to population trends and population growth?  I believe the Member for Mount Pearl North made a presentation to the electoral boundaries commission back in 2006.  I think I have the direct quote here.  What the member did say at that time was we should be doing these reviews eighteen months post-census.  We are doing this review twelve months before a census report is released.  We are going to see changes again in that census of 2015 or 2016. 

 

Another concern, Mr. Speaker, is that if you look back through the previous commissions, the guidelines in Bill 42 allow for two hearings: one hearing in Labrador and one hearing on the Island.  If you live in the District of St. George's – Stephenville East, or the District of Trinity – Bay de Verde, or even the Member for Torngat Mountains' district, how accessible are those public hearings going to be? 

 

There has been reference made throughout the week of the use of technology.  Mr. Speaker, the use of technology is a wonderful thing.  I live one hour and ten minutes from the city.  When I go home I have no worries about anybody bothering me on the cellphone because it does not work.  We still have challenges that close to the city.  Imagine the challenges and the boundaries that people from other parts of the Province will have when they want to have their input on Bill 42. 

 

Mr. Speaker, a lot has been said in the last two or three days with regard to the Official Opposition's other amendment, the amendment of protecting the four seats in Labrador.  The federal electoral boundaries commission said: the continuance of the separate electoral district of Labrador; the population is greatly below the electoral quota, but it received unanimous support to continue with the seat in Labrador. 

 

Mr. Speaker, in our caucus we have two members from Labrador who sit around the table every day.  Let me assure you they espouse support and they are committed to their part of our great Province. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. CROCKER: We should protect that, Mr. Speaker, as we go forward. 

 

Mr. Speaker, there is another part of Bill 42 that concerns me somewhat.  Kudos to the Government House Leader and the Minister of Business, Tourism, Culture and Rural Development.

 

MR. LANE: Justice.

 

MR. CROCKER: Justice – actually, to the Member for Mount Pearl South, that is where I am going.  It is his role as the Chamber Justice Minister.

 

In Bill 42, or the Electoral Boundaries Act, “The commission shall be responsible to the minister.”  Ironically, Mr. Speaker, the minister is not responsible to this House.  All forty-eight of us in here put our names on a ballot.  Some of us recently, some of us quite some time ago, but we have all done it.  We have all knocked on the doors.  I can assure you, as I said in my maiden speech yesterday, I am confident that every single member of this House is here for the right reason. 

 

Mr. Speaker, we have knocked on the doors.  We have asked for people's support, and we are here to ask questions.  The minister who is responsible for this act, for this legislation, is not here to answer the questions on Bill 42.  In a democracy, is that correct? 

 

Mr. Speaker, we have seen that before.  Every time we have seen that before in the parliamentary system we are in, Mr. Speaker, that minister ran at the first opportunity.  The minister responsible for Bill 42 has had ample opportunity to have a seat in this place.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Relevance.

 

MR. CROCKER: It is relevant to the simple fact that the Minister of Justice is responsible for Bill 42.  So there is the relevance.

 

Mr. Speaker, I have enough notes here to go on all night.

 

Mr. Speaker, to summarize my three points, number one, I am not confident we can do this in 120 days, and if we make the wrong decision it is going to be a long time before we get the opportunity to fix it.  I have heard comments from the other side that practically tie the number of seats to the price of a barrel of oil.  Is the next Premier going to bring in a bill – we have Bill 42 here right now, Mr. Speaker, but we have a ten-year period of electoral boundary review, and we have changed that.  So, does the next Premier change it again? 

 

There was a reason we picked the number ten.  As we go forward, it just cannot be at the whim of a Premier.  The next Premier wants to increase it if the price of oil goes up or if the price of oil continues to go down.  What is the right number?  I think our commission should be given a range to come back to the powers that be, to the Minister of Justice, and say listen, this is the number and here is the reason why – round hole, square peg. 

 

MS DEMPSTER: (Inaudible).

 

MR. CROCKER: No, I say to the Member for Cartwright – L'Anse au Clair, round hole, square peg is not difficult at all; chip a bit off. 

 

Transportation in rural areas – actually, Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for bringing up a point.  I will go back to my own district and look at the services that are provided by my constituency office, and I am new, Mr. Speaker.  It is interesting because people who live in local service districts and unserviced areas rely on the constituency office for a lot of their services.  It surprises me, Mr. Speaker, because I am new to it and I am really surprised at some of the services we have been asked to provide.  There are people in my district who have to drive two hours to get to my constituency office, and I assure you there are people who have a lot farther to go. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I am assuming or guessing that I will get an opportunity to speak to this legislation again and I will take my seat.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Service Newfoundland and Labrador. 

 

MR. CORNECT: Merci, Monsieur le Prιsident.

 

Ce soir ηa me fait un grand plaisir de me prιsenter dans cette Chambre d'assemblιe et de participer dans le dιbat pour amender les circonscriptions ιlectorales dans la province de Terre‑Neuve‑et‑Labrador.

 

Monsieur le Prιsident, moi aussi je suis trθs passionnι comme dιputι d'avoir le privilθge de prendre part dans ce dιbat. C'est vraiment un honneur, Monsieur le Prιsident.

 

Mr. Speaker, like the hon. Member for Torngat Mountains, I too represent a district that is very rich in culture.  The French, the Acadians, the Irish, the Scottish, the Mi'kmaq, the American influence have all woven the wonderful, warm, and hospitable fabric that the District of Port au Port and our Province has to offer.

 

Mr. Speaker, we talk about the uniqueness, the people, the coastlines, the natural beauty, our dance, song, music, and storytelling tells a story of a people who are strong and resilient and proud to be called Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.  The whole Province, like Port au Port, is steeped in a unique culture and a very intriguing history.

 

So, Mr. Speaker, as I said, I am honoured to be standing in my place representing the great people of the great and cultural District of Port au Port in this debate, Bill 42, An Act to Amend the Electoral Boundaries Act.

 

As legislators, parliamentarians, it is our task and our responsibility to make laws in our Province.  The amendment to this bill is just that: we are making a law in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.  We are making our Parliament, our House of Assembly, efficient and effective.  It is amending a law, a bill that will make our House, like I said, more efficient and effective. 

 

What we are debating this week, Mr. Speaker, is to review and amend the Electoral Boundaries Act to reduce the number of seats in our Legislature.  There are currently forty-eight parliamentarians who represent forty-eight boundaries carved out in our Province.  We were, and we are, elected by every person nineteen years of age or older, or the legal age to vote.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Eighteen.

 

MR. CORNECT: Eighteen. 

 

MR. MITCHELMORE: Nineteen is a majority.

 

MR. CORNECT: You had your chance to speak, I tell the Member for The Straits – White Bay North, now give me my chance to speak.  As he told the Member for Fortune Bay – Cape La Hune, give me that respect.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: I remind the hon. the minister to speak to the Chair.

 

MR. CORNECT: Donne-moi le respect.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

I remind the hon. minister to speak to the Chair, please.

 

MR. CORNECT: Mr. Speaker, we were elected, and are elected, by the people of the Province of those districts to represent them in this hon. House, the people's House.  What a privilege, what an honour it is to stand here talking, speaking, acting, and making laws on behalf of the people of the Province who elected us.

 

Mr. Speaker, as I go about my district, how many times have I had the comments mentioned to me: The House is too big; get rid of MHAs.  Those are some of the comments I hear.  We need to reform our House, they tell us.

 

My comment to them would be: Well, the act says that in Newfoundland and Labrador there is a Newfoundland and Labrador Electoral Districts Boundaries Commission appointed every ten years to look at exactly that.  According to the current act, the commission is due to be appointed next year in 2016 to do this work.

 

Mr. Speaker, when our Premier travelled throughout the Province during the summer, during the leadership campaign, he made it a part of his platform that our Legislature needed electoral and parliamentary reform.  That is what we are doing, Mr. Speaker.  This is the first step of reform: to reduce the number of seats in the House of Assembly.

 

Mr. Speaker, as I said, the commission was to be appointed in 2016 and whatever decisions made from that review would come into effect at the general election of 2019.  What our Premier and our government is saying is let us amend Bill 42.  Let us amend it now, and which we are debating this week.  When that is done, when it is amended and passed unanimously, I hope, the process starts.  When the election is held in the fall of 2015, there will be reduced seats in our Legislature.

 

After this, the Chief Justice of Newfoundland and Labrador will appoint a Chairperson for the commission.  So once the process is done, we have amended the legislation, the Chief Justice of the Province will appoint a Chairperson for the commission.  This person will come from among the judges of the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal and Trial Division, as well as four others.  The hon. Speaker of this House will appoint four members who will sit on this commission.  The four members who will sit on this commission, that will be appointed by the Speaker, will be citizens of Newfoundland and Labrador, which I have great confidence in to do a great job for the people of the Province.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. CORNECT: Then, Mr. Speaker, the commission will be given the resources – whether it be employment, technical, or professional staff – as it is deemed necessary, to carry out this work efficiently and effectively.

 

Now, Mr. Speaker, what our Premier and what our government has done and said and proposed is to have this commission be appointed this year.  They will have 120 days – that is four months – to do the work.  Then this will allow the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer to do their work to make sure that this is prepared for the election in the fall of 2015.

 

The commission will go about and do its work.  They will do the research.  They will travel the Province.  They will speak to people.  They will hear the views, like in past commissions, past consultations, past reviews, and they will do that.  According to section 15 of the act it requires that the commission be guided by “the principle that the vote of every elector in the province shall have a weight equal to that of every other elector.”

 

So, Mr. Speaker, when I listen to the Opposition argue their points why we should not do this and why we should not reduce the seats, they are making it sound that if we expand boundaries the communities that will be coming into existing boundaries now will not have a voice, will not be heard.  We are legislators and if we are elected to represent that district, it is our parliamentary legal right and duty to represent those people in a new district.

 

The commission will determine the proper division of the Province and the boundaries of electoral districts.  I am very confident that the work can be done in time for a fall election, which everyone in this Province wants.  They want a fall election.  Our Premier stood up in this House and said there will be a fall 2015 election.  Everyone in this House wants to reduce the seats in our Legislature.  Our Premier is on record for saying it, the Leader of the Opposition is on record for saying it, and the Leader of the Third Party is on record for saying it. 

 

Mr. Speaker, we had the analogy earlier about a football game.  If we are all committed to the same goal, let's get started with this process so that we have the 2015 election, with reduced seats, for a more cost-efficient, cost-effective Parliament in Newfoundland and Labrador.

 

Because we will have less seats does not mean the people will have less representation, as I said earlier.  That is what the Opposition will make you believe.  I do not know about you and the members opposite, but I am sure the realignment of boundaries in the next general election – I do not know, like I said, about the members on the opposite side, but members on this side will campaign door to door, every door, in the new district that he or she will represent our party with, asking for their support to represent them in the Parliament of Newfoundland and Labrador.  A good, effective, caring, concerned, and compassionate MHA will work hard to represent every person of the district no matter where the boundary is. 

 

Mr. Speaker, my District of Port au Port will probably expand.  It will require me to represent everyone in the district.  What we are doing is about the people of the Province.  The people have asked for this.  We, as representatives of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, have every right to do what they ask us to do, and that is to reduce the seats in the House of Assembly.  They want this change, and we should deliver and we will deliver. 

 

Whatever the number of seats are it is indeed, as parliamentarians, a pleasure, a privilege, an honour to represent people.  Mr. Speaker, they place their trust and confidence in us to represent them.  So when they ask for this electoral change, why shouldn't we deliver and deliver now for the election of 2015?

 

I am so humbled, Mr. Speaker, to represent the great and cultural district of Port au Port.  Many friendships have been made over the years.  If the district, let's just say, were to expand, new friendships will be made.  There will be new challenges, new responsibilities, new successes, new working partnerships, and relationships.  All of this will happen because of our commitment and concern to work for the people of our districts and our Province. 

 

Je suis trθs sympathique de reprιsenter les citoyens et les citoyennes de la circonscription de Port-au-Port. Je suis trθs fier, Monsieur le Prιsident, de nos cultures, non seulement dans la circonscription, mais aussi sur la cτte Ouest, et oui partout dans notre province culturelle et historique – Terre‑Neuve‑et‑Labrador.

 

Mr. Speaker, when the Member for Trinity – Bay de Verde was up on his feet just a few minutes ago he talked about the famous 1993 Mahoney commission.  Then there was a report.  A report that then Premier Wells rejected.  Who did he hand appoint?  Who did he hand pick to do the next report, to do the next commission?  What was the mandate?  What parameters were set for that commission?  Silence in the Opposition. 

 

AN HON. MEMBER: We have not read the report yet to get it. 

 

MR. CORNECT: Ask Mr. Wells.

 

Mr. Speaker, there is an evolution of seat changes or electoral boundary changes in our Province.  I look at my district.  In 1952 it was called St. George's – Port au Port.  In 1957 there were two districts, Port au Port and St. George's.  In 1975, there were three, Port au Port, Stephenville, and St. George's.  In 1996, after the famous 1993 commission there were two districts, Port au Port, which takes in half of Stephenville and the other half of Stephenville is now in St. George's – Stephenville East. 

 

Mr. Speaker, when the commission has completed its work it will then submit their work report to the Minister of Justice and Public Safety, who must in turn submit the report to the Lieutenant Governor in Council.  The report must be tabled in the House of Assembly within fifteen days of giving the report to the Lieutenant Governor in Council if the House of Assembly is sitting.  Or it has to be brought to the House of Assembly fifteen days after the beginning of the next session if the House of Assembly is not sitting at the time the report is received.  The commission will be required to submit its report to the Minister of Justice and Public Safety within 120 days after the chairperson is appointed and selected. 

 

Mr. Speaker, getting back to the bill, the proposed amendments will be examined in 2015, again in 2026, and every ten years after.  The Member for Trinity – Bay de Verde when he was up on his feet also said: What is stopping a future government from changing it again?  That is so true.  There may be a need.  It may be necessary to change the commission date.  The population could decline more.  The population could grow. 

 

What we are saying today is that the people have been asking for a reduction of seats and we as a government are responding to the request of the people of the Province.  I think that you should do your due diligence as Opposition members and join us in supporting this unanimously in the reduction of seats in our Province. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. CORNECT: Mr. Speaker, time is getting short on my speaking duties here tonight.  I am very privileged to be up on my feet, and very privileged to have the opportunity to speak in my maternal native tongue here in the House of Assembly. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. CORNECT: It is a great privilege, Mr. Speaker, to represent the great people not only in my district, but the great people of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

 

Mr. Speaker, parliamentary reform is good.  An effective parliament makes for good government.  Involved parliamentarians make good MHAs.  Hopefully this will also probably spark the necessary interest in getting our voting population interested and involved in the political process as well.

 

Mr. Speaker, I ask all parliamentarians here in this hon. House to let's do this, let's do the boundary changes, and let's go to the fall election of 2015.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER (Littlejohn): The hon. the Member for St. Barbe.

 

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

 

We are here this week debating Bill 42, which proposes to change the Electoral Boundaries Act.  In changing the Electoral Boundaries Act it is a little bit premature because, properly speaking, the current legislation says we should do it in 2016.  In 2016 we would have the benefit of a current census.  The census we are going to be using is four years old.  By the time we get around to doing it the next time, that census will have been fourteen years old and we will have had who knows how many elections on a census that will end up being fourteen years old.

 

Mr. Speaker, two of the issues that are important to people who are watching – one is how do we determine how many people should be in an electoral district?  Do we decide it is simply based on votes as some people would say?  Do we say that a vote is a vote is a vote no matter where you are to such a fine point that maybe you would divide a household to have the precise number, one district versus the other district?  Clearly that would be ridiculous.  That would not make any sense.  We do not need that much precision, or so we say.

 

Furthermore, if members do nothing more than vote, then I suppose we could have a precise number of electors per Member of the House of Assembly.  If that would mean that we would only come here and debate legislation, and pass or defeat legislation, amend legislation – if we have no other work other than to come here – then probably we could have the same number of voters regardless of geography.

 

Mr. Speaker, if we have decided that what the role of a Member of the House of Assembly is today – if the role of the Member of the House of Assembly is to deliver government services, then clearly some areas take a larger amount of effort to deliver the same amount of services as other areas do.  Does that mean, for example, if somebody is in a rural district, in order for them to be able to provide the same level of government services, then they should represent a smaller number of people?  If people who live in an urban area where people are more compact, there is less travel time and fewer communities, maybe only one community, then maybe they should be able to represent a larger number of people.

 

Maybe in a geographically large district somebody would have a smaller number of people, and in an urban district someone would have a larger number of people, keeping in mind that people in St. John's, Corner Brook, Grand Falls, or Clarenville, any of the larger centres, Labrador City even, they would tend to have more government services accessible to them close at hand so they would not have to travel to visit their member at extended distances. 

 

What is the goal?  What is the job description of a Member of the House of Assembly today?  I say there are forty-eight people in the Province who should have no say in the job description.  The forty-eight people who should have no say in the job description are the forty-eight Members of the House of Assembly.  Who gets to go to work and tell their boss: I think this is my job, I think this is what I am going to do?  Well, doesn't it mean we are doing the same thing? 

 

If the voters have elected us to come here and represent them, and then so far through the term that we were elected to represent them, we say: By the way, we think this is what our job should be, we do not really care what you think anymore.  There is an election coming some time in the next year or so and –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. J. BENNETT: – we have decided we really do not care much about what the voters think.  We are not going to bother to consult with you.  We are going to say this is the number it should be, and, by the way, the number is thirty-eight.  If the number is thirty-eight, we are going to impose that number.  Historically, Labrador was given a certain preference, preferential treatment in the number of members who would represent Labrador, and that was based on geography. 

 

If you look at Labrador, Labrador has four very distinct areas and a population of 26,000 or 27,000 people, according to the numbers we will be using.  The numbers we will be using are the 2011 census numbers.  It really does not matter how many people are there today in 2015 because we are going to use numbers that we know are four years old anyway. 

 

Labrador West is very distinct in that geographically it is remote.  It is a mining centre with a relatively compact population.  There are all sorts of similar issues, but remote from any other areas. 

 

Labrador Centre, or the Goose Bay area, it is also geographically distinct.  It has a relatively compact population but a whole range of different social issues than Labrador West would have, and it also now is the site for or adjacent to the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric development.  So that is clearly its own distinct area. 

 

Then north of Goose Bay, north of Lake Melville – in fact, Lake Melville includes Sheshatshiu.  Maybe Torngat Mountains should include Sheshatshiu because the split we have now actually divides two Innu communities into two districts and maybe they should be in Torngat Mountains alone. 

 

The Member for Torngat Mountains, my colleague, needs six days to travel to every community within his district because no community in his district is connected by a road.  Is it fair that he should have to represent the same number of people as somebody in an urban area who may be able to walk across their district in an hour, and in some districts probably walk across their district in half an hour, or maybe walk the full length of their district in an hour?  Somebody can walk a district in less than a day, whereas somebody else needs six days to travel by boat, snowmobile, or airplane to work for one-quarter of the population of an urban centre. 

 

Then there is the Southeast Coast and The Straits area, which also has a relatively small population.  A small population but a spread out population, a population that borders on the Province of Quebec and is also separated by The Strait of Bell Isle, so people they would not have what you would call reliable transportation generally in the wintertime, unless you think an occasional trip to Corner Brook a couple of times a week by ferry – if you have to make medical appointments in St. Anthony, you take a twelve- or fourteen-hour ferry ride and then you drive back northward 500 kilometres or so.  They have distinct issues and challenges. 

 

Traditionally and historically, we have, in this Province, decided that Labrador should have four seats, but one part of the amendment to Bill 42 takes away that protection.  It takes away that protection, based on the formula that is in another piece of legislation, based on the formula which says there is a certain tolerance that the legislation allows which says that we provide a 10 per cent tolerance. 

 

Mr. Speaker, that means in the case of your district, you have somewhere between a 12,000 and 13,000 population, according to the numbers we are looking at, and if we take away a seat from Labrador then we need to represent, we need around 13,500, plus or minus 10 per cent, then that means your district should be intact.  Your district should be fine.  There should be no change at all; however, is it fair to put into place legislation which the formula will require the commission to take away a seat? 

 

There is absolutely no way, with this change in legislation, that Labrador does not lose at least one seat.  I have heard the Premier commit publicly to say that north of Lake Melville he is willing to agree there should be one seat.  I am not sure how he can agree publicly unless we deal with it legislatively.

 

If you assume that Torngat Mountains should be its own seat, then that leaves approximately 23,000 people in the rest of Labrador.  What do we do with the rest of Labrador?  That means 9,000 or so from Lab West, we would need to add a couple of thousand from Goose Bay, a four or five hour drive.  We need to add a couple of thousand from Goose Bay and put them with Lab West.  We take the rest of Goose Bay and all of the Southeast Coast and The Straits, now we have Labrador with three seats. 

 

The member who represents part of Goose Bay would also represent Lab West.  The other member who represents part of Goose Bay would also represent the Southeast Coast.  That does not seem fair, and the logic of the cost saving that we are talking about simply is not there. 

 

If you look at what we are dealing with, with Labrador – let's say Labrador was a nation on its own.  If we were to say Labrador was a nation on its own – and I do not mean a province and I do not mean a territory.  If Labrador were a nation on its own, by geography it would be the sixty-eighth biggest country in the world, behind the Philippines.  By population, it would be sustainable.  It would be sustainable because it would be a little smaller in population than Monaco and it would be a little bit bigger than the British Virgin Islands.  Clearly, Labrador does not need Newfoundland.  Newfoundland needs Labrador.

 

If Labrador were a nation on its own, it would have all of the minerals of Labrador West.  It would have a road to the rest of Canada, so it would not need a fixed link.  Why would it want a fixed link to an island that they are alienated from?  Why would they need a fixed link if they can drive to the mainland?  They are the mainland.  They do not need to drive to the mainland.  They can drive from Labrador West, from Goose Bay. 

 

They would have Lake Melville.  They would have the Upper Churchill.  So why would they not charge an export tax on electricity, a couple of cents a kilowatt, and be the richest people not only in North America, but the richest people in the world?  They would be the richest people in the world if Labrador were to receive – the 26,000 or 27,000 people were to receive the royalty value they could have for the resources that are in Labrador. 

 

They would also have Muskrat Falls.  They would have Muskrat Falls because they would be Labrador.  They would have shipping through Lake Melville.  They would have a fishery on the coast.  So why wouldn't this Province want to preserve four seats for Labrador in this legislation?  Why would any government want to go down in history as alienating Labrador?  Who would want to be the Benedict Arnold that would split up this Province, who would take the first step to go that far?  Hopefully we will never go there.  It is certainly not to be advocated, but it is certainly to be considered, because people in Labrador are – and I would encourage all members to spend some time in Labrador.  Not just flying through and not just dropping, but meet and visit and talk with some people in Labrador.

 

Mr. Speaker, I have a son in law from Labrador, and I have visited Labrador a fair bit.  Not the North Coast of Labrador, but certainly Sheshatshiu and all the of the other communities on the South Coast of Labrador.  The first time I visited there was in 1969 on a motorcycle, and the road would only go to Red Bay.  I did business there in years after that.  So I would urge this Legislature and this government to preserve Labrador's four seats, regardless of whatever you do to the rest of rural Newfoundland.  In Newfoundland and Labrador, keep Labrador's position in place.

 

Now, if we come to the rest of the Province, how do we deal with rural districts like my district and like the eight or nine other districts that have between 8,000 and 9,000 people?  We have eight or nine districts that have between 8,000 and 9,000 people, and in the case of my district – and I will speak only about my district; I will not speak about the district for the Minister of Natural Resources, or for the Minister of Tourism, and a whole bunch of other jobs – and to be fair, he is doing a pretty good job because he is handling about three ministers' jobs up to now, plus House Leader.

 

So we have a number of seats in this size.  In the case of my district by the time I get off the plane in Deer Lake – I am not complaining.  This is not the best paying work I have ever had, to be perfectly frank.  It is about the third-best paying work I have had, but it is the most rewarding work that I have had.  I signed on for the work, and I am going to sign on for it again if my seat is still around.  If my seat is not still around, I am going to come looking for one of your seats.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. J. BENNETT: So you are on notice.

 

Not the Member for Cape St. Francis, because he has been there too long and it is too blue from Tom Hickey's days.  No, no, no – but I might go after the Speaker's seat – and I do not mean this Speaker, I mean the other Speaker.  Lewisporte is a pretty good place.  I could go out to Twillingate.  I have clients in Twillingate who I have defended, and I have relatives in Change Islands, so I am redistributing – so I am telling you we are coming after seats.  We are coming after seats.

 

In my district, by the time you get off the plane it is 425 kilometres to drive from one end of my district and go out through all of Gros Morne National Park.  It is thirty-five communities, it is fifteen incorporated municipalities, and it is eighteen local service districts.  It is two hospitals, two police stations, and thirteen volunteer fire departments.  That is in one district.  The problem is there are only 8,500 people.

 

Ideally, you will give me a little more ground, a few more people, and keep the seat relatively intact, but there is no guarantee of that because just north of that is the Member for The Straits – White Bay North.  He has to push southward so he can pick up another couple of thousand people or so, because even on the 25 per cent tolerance of 13,000 people, if you take away one from Labrador, which you really should not do, if you do not take away one from Labrador and leave Labrador with four then we have almost 14,000 a piece we have to represent, so you have to give him around half of mine and then the Leader of the Opposition, I guess he would get the other half of mine and go in with Deer Lake. 

 

I am going to be coming looking for a seat.  I like Baie Verte too, I like Springdale, and I like La Scie, all the places where I have represented the fishermen over the years on the food fishery and the whole works, more than happy to be there.  Leading Tickles – all of the fishermen in Leading Tickles who I represented, so incumbents will be coming looking for your seat. 

 

Mr. Speaker, you can see the issues that we are faced with in rural parts of the Province.  In rural parts of the Province we have large geography, many needs, many communities and high expenses.  The government is saying that the reason that they need to do this redistribution today is because of the big drop in oil prices.  Mr. Speaker, I ask the people who are watching at home – if some people are still watching at home – I have a list of oil prices and oil prices – I understand what the minister is saying that everyone is going along fine until the price of oil just sort of fell in July. 

 

The price of oil fell in July from $105.22 to December, $60.55, which is 32 per cent.  It fell $44.67 and that is a