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June 8, 2015                HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS                Vol. XLVII No. 27


 

The House met at 1:30 p.m.

 

MR. SPEAKER (Verge): Order, please!

 

Admit strangers.

 

I am pleased to welcome to the public gallery this afternoon several members of the Newfoundland and Labrador Foster Families Association, along with the Executive Director, Diane Molloy.

 

Welcome to the House of Assembly.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

Statements by Members

 

MR. SPEAKER: Today we will hear members' statements from members representing the Districts of Conception Bay South, Port au Port, Bay of Islands, Carbonear – Harbour Grace, Mount Pearl South, and Bonavista South.

 

The hon. the Member for Conception Bay South.

 

MR. HILLIER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Every day in Newfoundland and Labrador, two young workers aged fifteen to twenty-four are injured on the job; the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission's goal is to empower workers, especially youth, to take action and to help foster a culture of safety throughout our Province.  The Commission firmly believes that fostering a strong safety culture among young workers builds a foundation that will lead to less workplace injuries.

 

Today I would like to congratulate Holy Spirit High School from the District of Conception Bay South and the school's Occupational Health and Safety team on recently winning the seventh season of Who Wants to Save a Life?, a gameshow sponsored by WHSCC.  The team became Provincial Health and Safety Champions by defeating a strong team from Indian River High School in Springdale.

 

Members of the winning team are Oliver Barnes, Tanisha Fleming, Chelsea Hounsell, Megan Coles, Mark Hemmings, and teacher sponsor Mr. Tony Pretty.  Each member of the winning team received $1,000 scholarship and the school received a prize of $5,000.

 

I ask all members to join with me in congratulating Holy Spirit High School and WHSCC in helping prevent workplace injuries among our youth.

 

Thank you.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Port au Port.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. CORNECT: I rise today to recognize and congratulate all of the Level III students in the District of Port au Port.  During the past number of weeks the graduating students of Stephenville High, Piccadilly Central High, and Ιcole Sainte-Anne have had the opportunity to celebrate the many years of memories and experiences that moulded their lives.  This is an important milestone – one that will lead them to new and exciting experiences as they prepare to either enter the workforce or continue on to post-secondary studies. 

 

Mr. Speaker, these schools have prepared the students well for a world of opportunities.  They have worked arduously to reach this goal, and realize that no matter what career path they choose, their training and education will play a very important role. 

 

I would like to commend the school principals, staff, parents, guardians and graduates who deserve the highest accolades on the success of your accomplishment.

 

Je demande ΰ tous les honorables membres de se joindre ΰ moi pour fιliciter tous les diplτmιs rιcents et leur souhaiter nos meilleurs vœux alors qu'ils prιparent leur avenir. 

 

I ask all hon. members to join me in congratulating our latest graduates and wish them well as they prepare for their future endeavours. 

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. JOYCE: Mr. Speaker, I rise in this hon. House today to recognize the Level III graduating class of St. James All Grade School in Lark Harbour. 

 

On May 22, I had the pleasure of attending the graduation ceremonies which began with a church service followed by a dinner, presentation of scrolls and a dance later in the evening.

 

The evening was filled with tears, laughter and joy as they spoke of the bonds of friendships formed from a young age and the memories and experiences they shared together which they will now take with them as they begin the next chapter in their lives. 

 

The students were very appreciative of the guidance and support of their families, teachers and each other for helping shape their lives and making them the individuals they are today. 

 

The twelve graduates include: Leah Callfas, Cheyanne Lushman, Monica Rotchford, Christian Payne, Dylan Larkin, Nicholas Skinner, Kennedy Sheppard, Courtney Pennell, Zachary Sheppard, Jonah Sheppard, Tyson Hoskins, and Nathan Sheppard.  This is a gifted group of young adults and I am confident our Province is in safe hands. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I ask all members to join me in congratulating the 2015 graduating class of St. James All Grade and wish them every success in the future. 

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. SLADE: Mr. Speaker, I rise in this hon. House today to recognize Alice Blundon for her outstanding commitment for over twenty years as the founder and volunteer leader of the St. Paul's Fun and Fitness program in Harbour Grace. 

 

Alice has an outstanding history of volunteerism serving over twenty-five years with the CBN Figure Skating Club and heavily involved in the Carbonear Recreation Commission.  She was a director of the 1992 Summer Games and a volunteer with the 2012 Summer Games. 

 

As the leader of the Fun and Fitness program, Alice leads by example; her physical strength is matched by the strength of her character.  The main focus of the class is the performance of a comprehensive routine of exercises to help improve strength, flexibility, endurance, bone density, et cetera. 

 

Alice's Fun and Fitness class also provides a supportive social environment.  Besides being a wonderful health care provider, she is an outstanding teacher who demonstrates infinite patience and camaraderie.

 

Mr. Speaker, I ask all hon. members to join me in congratulating Alice Blundon on receiving her outstanding achievement award for everything she has done for more than twenty years in physical fitness and overall wellness in the Town of Harbour Grace.

 

Thank you.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. LANE: Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege to stand in this hon. House to speak about a great event which will be taking place in my district this coming Sunday evening.  Celebrity Karaoke is being hosted by the Kinsmen Club of Mount Pearl of which I am a proud member and will be raising funds for three great charities: the K-Rock Children's Trust, the MS Society, and Cystic Fibrosis. 

 

A big thank you to some wonderful corporate partners: Steele Communications, Tol's Time-Out Lounge, and Browning Harvey Limited, as well as to the many community-minded businesses who have donated prizes for ticket draws and the silent auction.  Also, a special thank you to all of the local celebrities who will be taking part in the entertainment, including a number of media personalities, local entertainers, city councillors, community activists, as well as a number of members of this hon. House. 

 

Finally, a huge thank you to the members of the Kinsmen Club of Mount Pearl for the significant role they play in my community.  Their efforts certainly do not go unnoticed and they are community heroes, each and every one.  I encourage the general public and all members of this hon. House to head out to Tol's Time-Out Lounge this coming Sunday, June 14, at 7:00 p.m. for what promises to be an awesome time for some great charities. 

 

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: Mr. Speaker, hon. colleagues, I rise today to pay tribute to the late Captain Morrissey Johnson who was a Master Mariner from Catalina.

 

I had the privilege of knowing Captain Johnson over the years.  He was certainly a true Newfoundlander and Labradorian who loved this Province and its people dearly.

 

Captain Johnson's career as a sealing skipper spanned over several decades.  He was a champion of the seal hunt who employed hundreds of people.  Captain Johnson's vessels were also a mainstay on the Coast of Labrador for many years transporting salt fish to the mainland markets in Quebec and overseas.  Captain Johnson and his boat, The Lady Johnson II, were involved in seismic activity on Canada's East Coast.  Johnson's vessels were chartered by national and international oil exploration companies.

 

In 1984, Morrissey Johnson was elected as the Member of Parliament representing the riding of Bonavista-Trinity-Conception.  He was a remarkable man who always spoke highly of Newfoundland and Labrador and our people.  Captain Morrissey was also a successful entrepreneur who operated a tour boat business from St. John's harbour.

 

Mr. Speaker, hon. colleagues, please join me in honouring Captain Morrissey Johnson.

 

Thank you.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Statements by Ministers.

 

Statements by Ministers

 

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 in this hon. House today to recognize a number of this Province's environmental leaders.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. CRUMMELL: The Newfoundland and Labrador Environmental Awards is an annual celebration of environmental achievements in our Province that raises awareness of the individuals, groups, and businesses that are taking action to protect and sustain our environment.  It is a joint initiative sponsored by the Department of Environment and Conservation, the Multi-Materials Stewardship Board, and the Newfoundland and Labrador Women's Institutes.

 

Mr. Speaker, I had the pleasure last week of presenting these awards to the following recipients: Bethany Downer of St. John's in the Individual Category; Restoration of Labrador Exploration Sites Project of St. John's in the Community Group or Organization Category; Macdonald Drive Junior High in St. John's in the School Category; Brendan Kelly of Paradise in the Youth Category; the Town of Carmanville Habitat Committee in the Municipal Category; Newfoundland Power Inc. in the Business Category; and Robert Schmiedendorf of Flatrock for the Lifetime Achievement Award.

 

Mr. Speaker, each of these winners received a $1,000 honorarium from the Multi-Materials Stewardship Board to go towards furthering our own environmental projects, or to donate to an environmental cause of their choice.

 

These individuals, groups, and businesses are truly environmental ambassadors for our Province.  They have demonstrated tremendous ingenuity and determination, along with an impressive passion for our environment.  It is important to recognize their great accomplishments and encourage others to follow their example.

 

Mr. Speaker, a healthy and sustainable environment yields healthy people, a stronger economy, more vibrant communities, and a legacy for which we can be proud.  We will continue to raise awareness about sustaining our Province for generations to come not only during Environment Week, but every week of the year.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. OSBORNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I thank the minister for an advance copy of the statement as well.  We, on this side of the House as well, would like to commend and congratulate the individuals, schools, community organizations, municipalities, and businesses who won awards.  As well, Mr. Speaker, I think it is only fitting to recognize those who were nominated but did not win awards.

 

All of these individuals, organizations, businesses, and schools certainly contribute to helping sustain our environment and adding to ideas and innovation that can help our environment and help to lead to new ideas on how we make sure that the place we live in is a better place when we pass it on to the next generation.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. MURPHY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I, too, thank the minister for the advance copy of his statement here today.  Congratulations, Mr. Speaker, to all who have been recognized this year – organizations or individuals.  Congratulations, as well to all the unsung heroes who work every day to ensure this beautiful Province is preserved for future generations.  We know the work they do.

 

To mark the day, World Oceans Day, I salute the winners, I salute their environmental achievements, and I encourage each and every person to –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. MURPHY: – reflect on what they can do to preserve our environment and make ours a beautiful Province.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Child, Youth and Family Services.

 

MR. S. COLLINS: Mr. Speaker, I rise in this hon. House today to recognize the annual Newfoundland and Labrador Foster Families Association symposium which took place in St. John's this past weekend. 

 

The theme for this year's provincial symposium was Fostering Well Being and brought together foster parents, social workers, representatives of foster care associations, and community partners from across the Province to participate in workshops.  It also provided an opportunity for foster parents to network with their peers, share experiences with one another, and celebrate being foster parents.

 

The Newfoundland and Labrador Foster Families Association plays an extremely valuable role in our child protection system, facilitating safe and supportive environments for children and youth in care.  Mr. Speaker, I want to take this opportunity to thank the association for its dedication to this vulnerable sector of our population, and all foster parents throughout the Province for opening their hearts and homes to the many children and youth in their time of need.  Nurturing, advocacy, teamwork, training, and support are all key to the fostering experience and to the work which is undertaken each and every day to support children and youth who are in care throughout our Province.

 

Mr. Speaker, I am also very pleased to acknowledge the official launch of the Foster Care Handbook which took place at the symposium.  It is important that foster families are recognized and supported for the significant role they play in the lives of children and youth who have been welcomed into their homes.  Developed through a partnership between the Foster Families Association and the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services, the handbook is designed to help foster families understand the policies and procedures that govern the important task at hand – namely the care and protection of youth entrusted to their care.

 

Our Foster a Future campaign has been very successful since its implementation, and continues to create awareness surrounding the need for more foster parents.  To date, the campaign has resulted in the approval of 175 new placements in 115 foster homes.  Our government will continue the campaign this year through an investment of $150,000.

 

Mr. Speaker, I commend the Newfoundland and Labrador Foster Families Association for their tremendous contributions to our Province, and I look forward to a continued partnership built on the best interests of children and youth in care.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

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

 

I thank the minister for the advance copy of his statement.  I would also like to thank the Member for St. Barbe who is the Opposition MHA responsible, but let me speak to this very important statement today.  I had the pleasure as well of being at the symposium on Friday night.  I can only say what a profound effect that meeting had on me and absolutely everybody in that room when you hear of the stories of foster parents and foster children throughout the Province and the good work that is being done by foster families across the Province. 

 

There was a story told by a young man about his journey going into foster care and the light at the end of the tunnel and the great upbringing that he had because of foster parents.  There was not a dry eye in the room. 

 

Again, I want to congratulate the Foster Families Association for the great work they do.  I also want to commend government on their campaign Foster a Future.  It is a good campaign and it is working, and I hope we can see more there because there is still a need for more homes for children in this Province.

 

The one thing I would say to the minister, unfortunately – we had a great turnout but we could see more there.  If we could find a way to make it easier for foster families and parents to come to St. John's to be a part of this meeting, because it is important.  It is basically their professional development and a chance to sit and talk to parents all across the Province. 

 

Again, I commend the association for a great meeting and I commend foster families all across this Province.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

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

 

I, too, thank the minister for the advance copy of his statement.  I am very pleased to recognize the symposium the Foster Families Association holds every year, and did once again this weekend.  It is such an important opportunity for doing face-to-face training, for networking, and also for finding and giving support to foster families for the challenging role they have taken on, and it is a challenging role.  Because of their important role, these families need the best resources we can give them. 

 

Certainly a handbook is a key resource, but there will always be a need for various types of in person training as well as continual support from social workers to ensure the very best outcomes for the children.

 

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Further statements?

 

Oral Questions.

 

Oral Questions

 

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

 

MR. BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

The Premier said last week that oil prices are higher now than they predicted in their Budget.  He said this could allow some flexibility, but on Budget Day oil was trading at $67 a barrel, today it is $63.

 

I ask the Premier: With oil trading lower today than on Budget Day, why are you now claiming that you have Budget flexibility? 

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

PREMIER DAVIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

When we approached our Budget this year we knew we had very difficult, challenging decisions to make, Mr. Speaker.  There have been some very hard decisions to make, but we were willing to do that.  We made the decisions that we felt we needed to make.  As well, we brought forward a five-year financial plan.  We have a five-year attrition plan.  We have a five-year plan for infrastructure as well, but also with looking – very early, is what I said.  Very early the oil prices had been higher against what had been anticipated, yet we have a long period of time ahead of us before we can make any changes or rash decisions, Mr. Speaker. 

 

My comment is that I am encouraged by that, and if it were to stay that way for the rest of this year then it will put us in a position where we could revisit some of those very difficult decisions that we made. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

This government is quite used to and accustomed to revisiting every plan they put out there, because every plan that we said ends in failure. 

 

The Premier says he will consider reversing his regressive HST hike if oil rebounds but this regressive tax should not be dependent on where oil prices are each day, each week, or each month.  This is not the way to manage government finances. 

 

I ask the Premier: Your Budget was tabled just thirty-nine days ago; based on your comments, have you already lost confidence in that document? 

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

PREMIER DAVIS: No, Mr. Speaker, not at all.  I have not lost confidence in the document. 

 

What I said and I stand by is that we do not control the world oil prices, Mr. Speaker.  We do not control them.  We rely on a number of factors, assistance and supports for us to make our projections and to lay out our Budget, and we have done that, Mr. Speaker.  Over the last decade or so, most years we have done very, very well, very closely, but in the last year the unprecedented drop in oil prices has had a significant impact on many jurisdictions in Canada, and it is no different here in Newfoundland and Labrador. 

 

Talk about revisiting decisions, Mr. Speaker, because the member opposite knows a lot about that.  We know time and time and time again he revisits decisions, changes his mind, and changes his position, Mr. Speaker.  I will be glad to speak more about them when I get the next chance to get up. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

We have not even seen this Budget voted on in this House of Assembly and already this is a Premier who is looking at changing the contents.  I remind the Premier, I would ask him if he is in touch with Ms Judy Manning lately. 

 

The Premier is governing based on the price of oil, which he acknowledges he has no control over.  Instead, the Premier should be focused on growing our economy. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. BALL: With all economic indicators pointing in the wrong direction, this is not the time for a regressive HST hike, but the Premier now says he can decide this fall if he will impose the increase or not, clearly electioneering.

 

I ask the Premier: When exactly will the people of the Province know if your planned HST hike will actually come into effect or not? 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

The hon. the Premier.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

PREMIER DAVIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I see I will have to take this in very small steps and explain it to the member of the Opposition.  I would be quite willing to do that.  As I have said, if these trends continue throughout the year, Mr. Speaker, then later in this year we will be able to review, if that is what continues to happen.  We obviously cannot make decisions or changes on a very short period of time and I have been very clear about that.

 

The member opposite accuses us of changing our position.  Mr. Speaker, just today we announced the boundary change, a boundary change which he agreed with.  No, no, wait now, he did not agree with.  Oh no, he did agree with it because he continued to change.  He agreed that there could be an election in November.  As a matter of fact he said he was quite clear it would not matter to him if we had to move the election to November so we could have an election in 2015, he was fine with it.  He has changed his position on that again.  That is just a matter of topic that is being in discussion (inaudible).

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

One thing that has clearly changed as a result of this Premier is the fact we now are borrowing at levels never like before in the history of this Province.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. BALL: We are now at the highest deficit than ever.  That is what has changed in this Province since this Premier has come into office.  Government uses an IQ score to determine whether or not to provide services to youth and adults with autism.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. BALL: There are no services offered to a youth or adult with autism who has an IQ score of more than seventy, not even respite care.  Both the Autism Society as well as Families for Effective Autism Treatment adamantly disagree with this outdated policy.

 

I ask the Premier: Why do you continue to enforce this exclusionary IQ policy?

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

PREMIER DAVIS: Mr. Speaker, one of the things we do over here I can tell you is that we make great attempts to work very closely with stakeholder groups throughout the Province that have an interest in a number of varieties of areas.  One of the things that we have done this year in our Budget, despite the fact that we are facing very challenging times, is that we did not want to have a significant hard, fast impact on large numbers of public servants.  We know that when you do that, the first thing that is impacted is the delivery of programs and services. 

 

Members opposite know about that because they did it back in the early 1990s when 2,000 people were sent to the streets and there were significant impacts ––

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

PREMIER DAVIS: – to programs and services in the Province.  We are certainly not going there. 

 

While we have had difficult decisions to make, Mr. Speaker, while we have had challenging decisions to make, we are continuing with the programs and services.  We are going to continue to provide best value to the people of the Province.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I would think that the Premier, when I asked about the families affected by autism in our Province – he opened his comment by clearly saying that he is listening to people.  He did not even address the question, I say, Mr. Speaker.

 

I ask the Premier again: If the Autism Society as well as Families for Effective Autism Treatment disagree with this outdated policy, why do you continue to enforce this exclusionary IQ policy?

 

I ask the Premier: Stand on your feet and answer the question. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

The hon. the Premier.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

PREMIER DAVIS: Mr. Speaker, one of the great things that happens when you work with specialized interest groups, especially those that are very close to matters very important such as autism, is that you learn of the evolution of new policies, new ways to do business.  It is constant, it constantly happens, and we look at that all the time, Mr. Speaker.  We constantly look at: Is there a better way to deliver programs and services?  Is there a better method of assessment?  Is there a better way so that people can benefit better from it?  We are all for that, Mr. Speaker.  There are no two ways about it.

 

Services and programs to autism, how they are delivered, how they are assessed are all part of that, Mr. Speaker, and I can tell you we are very open to look at better ways to provide those services.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

The hon. the Leader of the Official Opposition.

 

MR. BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Well, the Premier clearly articulates, he talks about those words, those things of listening to people but when those people are coming with solutions, the Premier is certainly dismissing the advice that they are giving him.  Government uses this policy to deny services such as home support, residential options, and behavioural intervention services.  Just imagine a fourteen-year-old who is exceptionally bright is challenged by behavioural issues, not getting the support needed, and therefore not being permitted to attend school.

 

I ask the Premier: Do you think it is appropriate that you are denying this youth and their family any level of support simply because they happen to have an IQ higher than seventy? 

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

The hon. the Acting Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. DALLEY: The Leader of the Opposition referenced school-aged children, Mr. Speaker –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. DALLEY: I think we have had a lot of discussion about autism and the acknowledged increase in autistic students in our school systems.  There are a variety of methods through the student support services, educational planning, different accommodations for curriculum, as well as student assistant supports, as well as itinerants for autism.

 

There are a variety of supports, but I certainly acknowledge there are many challenges out there.  I would say to the member opposite if we have a student who is not in school, there may be multiple reasons, but I will certainly gladly take the name, try to work with the family, encourage the school district and the schools to work with families, because it is about kids.  We do not want them home.  We want them in school.  There are a variety of supports available for autism, but we have to continue to work together to make the best of those supports.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

The hon. the Leader of the Official Opposition.

 

MR. BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

This outdated policy assumes that an IQ over seventy is a predictor of a person's adaptable skills and how they can perform and function within a community.  We know this is unfair, we know this is untrue.  Results of an IQ test do not reflect the severity which an individual may be affected by autism.

 

I ask the Premier: Will you finally stop using this antiquated policy, instead use an adaptable, functioning assessment?

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Child, Youth and Family Services. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. S. COLLINS: Mr. Speaker, if I can echo the words from the Minister of Education, the autism spectrum disorder is a very wide spectrum, and there are obviously challenges inherent to that, but I am happy to say the department is committed to reviewing best practices, and certainly that is one. 

 

It was only a week or two ago that I met out at the front steps with a group out there.  They had some issues with regard to the IQ and the testing for that.  I had very frank discussions with them.  We are always looking at ways to improve services, and certainly if that is one we can do, that is something we are going to review and look at. 

 

Again, we are always open to reviewing best practices, and that is a big one for this government and certainly something I support as well. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Torngat Mountains. 

 

MR. EDMUNDS: Mr. Speaker, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released its final report this past week on Canada's long, sad, history with Aboriginal children attending residential schools.  The report contained many recommendations that Prime Minister Harper has not committed to implementing. 

 

I ask the minister: What will he do to ensure the federal government supports and implements the recommendations of the report so Aboriginal victims in this Province receive fair and appropriate compensation? 

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

PREMIER DAVIS: Mr. Speaker, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission have been watched very closely by many throughout Canada and the work they have done has resulted in ninety-four calls to action. 

 

It was very interesting that when you read the report how it acknowledges, identifies the difference of Newfoundland and Labrador versus the rest of the country.  Currently, members of the House are very much aware that there is still an action before the courts.  The federal government has now taken steps to actually cause us to be included in that action as well, Mr. Speaker, but we would look for a fair and equal treatment to all people, not only of Newfoundland and Labrador but all persons of Canada, and including our Aboriginal people from Labrador. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Torngat Mountains. 

 

MR. EDMUNDS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

The Aboriginal victims of residential schools in this Province were not included in Prime Minister Harper's apology and compensation package in 2008.  They have been shunned by the Prime Minister and they want to make sure it does not happen the second time. 

 

So I guess I ask the Premier: What correspondence have you had with Ottawa in support of Aboriginal victims of residential schools in this Province?

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

PREMIER DAVIS: Mr. Speaker, I can tell you that to ensure, as I mentioned, a fair treatment to Aboriginals in this Province and ensure that they are treated fairly as they are, and the same as all Canadians and all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, as I said, is very important to us as well.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

PREMIER DAVIS: I can tell you the minister has been engaged in this file.  He is working with counterparts and engaged with other stakeholder groups, Mr. Speaker.  We want to make sure that we have fair and equal treatment of all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. 

 

The matter here, Mr. Speaker – just for a point of clarification on this, is that the matters predate Confederation.  It is one of the legal discussions that is taking place through this entire process, but it is puts us in a unique circumstance from those in the rest of the country. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Torngat Mountains.

 

MR. EDMUNDS: Mr. Speaker, the last residential schools closed in 1979.  The Premier said the TRC report contains ninety-four recommendations, twenty-four of them require action from provincial governments across the country. 

 

I ask the Premier: What plan do you have in place to address the recommendations in the Truth and Reconciliation report that require action from this provincial government?

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

PREMIER DAVIS: Mr. Speaker, we have been taking steps in reconciliation since the early 2000s, as a matter of fact since 2004.  In 2005, as a result of that, the Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement was reached with us here in the Province. 

 

As well, there were processes that led, a very difficult process, to the New Dawn Agreement.  We have reached agreement there, Mr. Speaker, with our Innu partners as well. 

 

So we have already taken steps on reconciliation, Mr. Speaker, and we will continue to that.  We are assessing the report and the recommendations, as the member opposite has indicated.  There are ninety-four calls to action within the report, and many of them do have impacts on provinces and territories.  We are continuing to review and assess all those recommendations.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. REID: Mr. Speaker, since 2013, residents of Port au Port in the Bay St. George area have been raising concerns about oil leaking from Port au Port from abandoned oil drill sites on Shoal Point.  They had no answers from the federal government or the provincial government, but recent pictures distributed through social media show oil leaking into the bay. 

 

I ask the minister: Who is responsible for cleanup of these sites and what immediate actions will be taken?

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. CRUMMELL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Mr. Speaker, we are certainly aware of the situation.  Any time that we hear reports of oil out there, our officials get on that right away, our department gets on it right away.

 

Even though we did not receive a complaint directly or any information directly, we heard about it on social media.  We heard about it on Thursday, June 4.  We took immediate action.  We sent an official out to the site to have a look.  We received a report on that over the weekend, Mr. Speaker.  We need more information.  We sent the official back to the site again today of where it was reported.  We are actually going out with the individual who reported that on social media.  We contacted that person directly through social media.

 

So we are on top of this.  We are looking into it.  We need to determine how this is happening, if it is a natural occurrence or if it is coming from former oil drill sites.  Mr. Speaker –

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. REID: Mr. Speaker, residents of the area have been raising these concerns since back in 2013.  There have been stories about this in the newspaper.

 

I want to ask the minister: How did this situation get so bad, and what is he going to do right now to clean up that situation?

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. CRUMMELL: Again, Mr. Speaker, just to clarify and get the facts on the table.  Oil seepage in that area has been documented since the early 1800s.  Shoal Point was the first report –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. CRUMMELL: There was oil documented there in the area since 1874; J.P. Howley documented it as well.  The first drilling occurred in 1898.

 

So we are finding out exactly where this oil is coming from.  That is exactly what we are doing.  We are doing the work that needs to be done.  We are going to find out the extent of the problem, where the oil is coming from.  We will determine then exactly what the next steps are.  We are confident in our abilities to find out what is going on and to address the issue, Mr. Speaker.

 

Thank you.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. LANE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

A recent CBC story chronicles the struggles of Mr. Pat Dunphy of Bay Bulls and his ongoing struggles with workers' compensation.  In particular, this recent story shows the totally inadequate transportation being provided to Mr. Dunphy to attend required medical appointments.  The video footage shows that the vehicle being used does not have the appropriate tie-downs and leaves Mr. Dunphy bouncing around in his wheelchair, thus placing him at significant risk to his fragile health.

 

I ask the minister: Besides simply making a phone call and asking a service provider if they have accessible transportation, what specific measures does the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission take, such as inspections, to ensure that accessible transportation provided to injured workers is safe?

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister Responsible for the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

While I cannot speak to individual cases – I, too, saw the story to which the member is referring to.  I cannot speak to individual cases; however, I can say that cases are very complicated.  Not only with regard to the services that are provided, for example, with Metrobus and public transportation, but also medical files and what has gone into a person's injury and how that is accounted for.

 

So while I cannot get into specifics, I would be more than happy to have a discussion around what is done.  I know again getting back to the geographical area where you live in, if there are other opportunities to avail of public transportation that would be something that is taken into account as well.  Again, I cannot really get down in the weeds, as I cannot discuss individual cases.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. LANE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I appreciate that, but I was not asking about a specific case.  I was asking about what the government does to ensure that accessible transportation is safe for people to use, so I ask the minister again.

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister Responsible for the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

First and foremost, I would say to the member, we look to see if public transportation is accessible.  That would be the starting point, but again, that is just one piece of it.  Assessing the person's injury and how that came about, that is another part of the work that the Commission does as well.  So it is a multi-faceted approach.  There is not one simple answer, but like I say, one of the starting points would certainly be the accessibility of public transportation in that person's geographical area.  Again, I do not want to add commentary to the story, but I think that was done in this case.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. LANE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

It may have been considered accessible, but the question is, was it adequate, and was the vehicle safe, and it should be inspected.

 

Mr. Speaker, in addition to the transportation issue, Mr. Dunphy has been fighting with workers' compensation for the past seven years to get modifications made to his home in order to make it accessible – seven years, I say.

 

So I ask the minister: Don't you think that having an injured worker wait for seven years to have accessibility in his home is unacceptable, and what do you, as minister, intend to do about it?

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister Responsible for the Workplace Health, Safety, and Compensation Commission.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

I am not aware of all the individual pieces of this case.  I do know if the member across the way is – he is talking as if he is, because, of course, as I said before, cases are very complex.  To be able to stand in the House and speak to an individual case, obviously there are huge challenges around workers' compensation commission and the types of people we are dealing with, vulnerable people, and people who have gone through rough bouts in their life, and that is why we want – people look at workplace health and safety as challenges.  I look at it as opportunity.  Places we can improve, and we have been doing that the last number of years, and certainly we will want to create positive change in all aspects.

 

So again, I cannot speak to the specific case, but I feel for the gentleman as well.  I want to make sure that all services that are able to be provided to him certainly are.  I think that is the case, but I would be more than willing to take a look into it.

 

Thank you.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

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

 

Stats Can labour force survey shows the Province is in its nineteenth consecutive month of year-over-year job losses.  There are 2,300 fewer people working this May than last May.  Our unemployment rate is over twice the national average.

 

I ask the Premier: You try to blame this economic mess you have created on falling oil prices, but this job-loss trend started in November 2013; now what is your excuse?

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, everyone recognizes as projects develop and scale down, there are going to be some changes in the workforce within the Province.  A very interesting stat, the past three years have been the highest terms of average annual employment since at least 1976.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, the indicators show that the Province has been very strong in that regard.  As we look forward to other projects coming on stream, we look for the same results.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

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

 

Government promised an era of prosperity, but there are fewer people working today than when they were elected in 2011.  On March 10, the Premier said he would release a workforce development action plan in the coming weeks.  That was three months ago.

 

I ask the Premier: Why aren't you treating this job crisis with the urgency it deserves?

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. JACKMAN: Let me continue with a few other stats.  Mr. Speaker, 2013 and 2014 showed the lowest unemployment rates in this Province since stats have been recorded.  That speaks to it. 

 

We have job vacancy reports that are out there, the labour market information, all which help to inform individuals, businesses, and companies on the way to move forward.  It is all about developing a positive work climate within the Province, Mr. Speaker

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. SLADE: Mr. Speaker, last week in the House we debated a PMR on the Northern cod fishery, which our people fished for over 500 years until the 1992 moratorium.  I was informed by the former Fisheries Minister in a letter last June that a draft rebuilding plan for Northern cod would be completed by the end of 2014.

 

I ask the current minister: Has this plan been drafted?  If so, when does he intend to release it?

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. GRANTER: Mr. Speaker, we all know the history of the Province and how important the cod industry was in the past.  The cod industry, as we debated in this House last week, is extremely important to the economy today.  It is not as important as it was in the past, but extremely important as we move back into the groundfish sector. 

 

In answer to the question from the hon. member, I will get the answer to that and I will report back to him.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

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

 

Serious concerns have been raised by Municipalities NL, the Mayor of Corner Brook, and the mayors and councils of many towns across rural Newfoundland about the negative impact removing seven electoral seats from the Island of Newfoundland outside the Northeast Avalon will have at a time when residents are facing an economic and social tsunami.  I wish I could ask the Opposition Leader as well, but House rules do not permit that.

 

So I ask the Premier: Will he pull back from putting into law the recommendations of the Electoral Boundaries Commission? 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

The hon. the Premier.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

PREMIER DAVIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Sorry, I did not hear you recognize me. 

 

Mr. Speaker, we have gone through a process in the last several months, since January, and brought a bill to the House of Assembly here.  There were amendments to the bill.  It was debated here in the House.  It was passed in the House.  Members opposite, including the Member for the Third Party, were in support of reducing the number of seats in the House of Assembly, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

PREMIER DAVIS: We have gone through a process in bringing a bill forward and passing legislation in the House, as we do with every other piece of legislation. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Signal Hill – Quid Vidi.

 

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

 

The Premier certainly has a wonderful imagination.

 

I ask him: Why did you and the Liberal Party conspire in the middle of the night of January 22 to cut democratic representation for rural Newfoundland at a time when its residents are facing such serious socioeconomic troubles?  

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

The hon. the Premier.

 

PREMIER DAVIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I am not sure what the member opposite is referring to.  If she is referring to my comment about her public comments that there should be a reduction in the House of Assembly, I could gladly remind her – well, I can remind you because it was in March 2013 when CBC reported that the member opposite had said the number of seats can be eliminated without hurting democracy. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

PREMIER DAVIS: She said she looks at places like Nova Scotia, Ontario, and other provinces, that MLAs have much more people in their ridings than we have here in Newfoundland and Labrador, in districts of Newfoundland and Labrador.  The member opposite has spoken publicly before about reducing the number of seats in the House of Assembly, Mr. Speaker, as has the Leader of the Opposition.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

PREMIER DAVIS: The difference in her and I, is I took action to correct it, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. MURPHY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

The difference was they put a number on it when they did not have the right to do it. 

 

Mr. Speaker, today finds word that an environmental disaster involving abandoned, orphan wells in the Shoal Point area of the Province is underway.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. MURPHY: Still we have government doing nothing about it.  The capped wells are leaching oil and other chemicals into the ocean environment.

 

Mr. Speaker, I ask the government: What is the department doing to address the situation? 

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. CRUMMELL: Again, Mr. Speaker, further to the answer that I gave earlier, we need to find out exactly what is going on there.  So we are on the site, we are looking at what is happening.  If there is a cleanup required, we will clean it up. 

 

I have seen the video on social media.  It does not look like a widespread environmental problem, but we need to determine exactly what is going on, what needs to be done, where it is coming from, and, Mr. Speaker, we will take action then.  We are still in the preliminary stages of finding out what is going on, and when we do, we will take action. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

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

 

MR. MURPHY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

How much time has to pass before government acts on this, I wonder?  How much is this clean up going to cost the taxpayer?  Because that is who it is going to come back to is the taxpayers' pocket.  Who is going to be liable for a spill where there is no ownership that exists right now? 

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. CRUMMELL: Mr. Speaker, we are very proactive with regard to this problem.  We jumped on it right away.  Before anybody even reported to us, Mr. Speaker, we had people in the field looking at the problem, trying to find out exactly what is going on.  We are gathering information, like I say.  We do not know the extent of the problem or where it is coming from. 

 

There have been natural-occurring seepages in that area for over 100 years and probably since the beginning of the ice age, Mr. Speaker.  So we need to find out what is going on.  We do know there has been exploration going on there over the years.  Where is it coming from?  We will determine that, and we will make decisions then based on that information. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

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

 

MR. MURPHY: Mr. Speaker, it is obvious that this government does not have an answer.

 

So I will ask the minister again: How much is the taxpayer going to be liable for in the cleanup of this mess on the West Coast? 

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

The hon. the Minister of Environment and Conservation for a very quick answer. 

 

MR. CRUMMELL: Yes, Mr. Speaker. 

 

It is way too early to even have that conversation.  We do not even know the scope of the problem.  We have seen a little bit on video, on social media, Mr. Speaker.  It does not look that extensive right now, but we need to find out what is indeed happening. 

 

Mr. Speaker, we have taken responsibility getting out there and finding out exactly what the problem is.  So we are taking a lead on this.  We will get the answers to the questions when the time is right.  Mr. Speaker, we will report back to the House and certainly to the people in the region who are most concerned about this issue. 

 

Thank you. Mr. Speaker. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

The time for Question Period has expired. 

 

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

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Signal Hill – Quidi Vidi, on a point of order. 

 

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

During Question Period the Premier was talking about the debate on Bill 42 and said clearly that all parties in this House had supported that bill. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MS MICHAEL: The record will show that our party did not support Bill 42.  We voted against it.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

There is no point of order.

 

Presenting Reports by Standing and Select Committees.

 

Tabling of Documents.

 

Notices of Motion.

 

Notices of Motion

 

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

 

MR. KING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I give notice that I will ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Amend The House Of Assembly Act, Bill 13.

 

As well, Mr. Speaker –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

I ask members for their co-operation.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

Further notices of motion?

 

The hon. the Government House Leader.

 

MR. KING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I give notice that I will ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Amend The Health And Community Services Act, Bill 11.

 

Also, Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Amend The Legal Aid Act, Bill 9.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Further notices of motion?

 

The hon. the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board.

 

MR. WISEMAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I give notice that I will move that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole to consider a resolution relating to the raising of loans by the Province, Bill 10.

 

Mr. Speaker, I also give notice that I will ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Amend The Income Tax Act No. 2, Bill 12. 

 

MR. SPEAKER: Further notices of motion?

 

The hon. the Minister of Municipal and Intergovernmental Affairs.

 

MR. HUTCHINGS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Amend The Regional Service Boards Act, 2012, Bill 14.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Further notices of motion?

 

The hon. the Member for Labrador West.

 

MR. MCGRATH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I give notice that I will move the following private member's resolution, seconded by the Member for Port au Port:

 

BE IT RESOLVED that this hon. House supports the government's decision to invest in the Province's thriving tourism industry through initiatives that include providing for a $2 million increase in the tourism marketing budget, bringing the total budget for tourism marketing to $13 million.

 

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

 

MR. KING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I give notice that the private member's motion just introduced will be the one that we will debate this coming Wednesday, Private Members' Day. 

 

As well, Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask leave of the House – I missed a step in the proceedings where I would like to table the Electoral Boundaries Commission report, with leave of the House.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Leave.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Leave.

 

Tabling of Documents

 

MR. KING: Okay.  I so table that document now.

 

Thank you.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you.

 

Further notices of motion?

 

Answers to Questions for which Notice has been Given.

 

Petitions.

 

Petitions

 

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

 

MR. CROCKER: 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 humbly sheweth:

 

WHEREAS motorists travelling Routes 70, 74, and 80 in the District of Trinity – Bay de Verde have difficulty seeing line markings at night; and

 

WHEREAS motorists travelling on Route 70, 74, and 80 fear for their safety; and

 

WHEREAS government has failed to address this problem;

 

WHEREUPON the undersigned, your petitioners, humbly pray and call upon the House of Assembly to urge the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to ensure line painting is complete on Route 70, 74, and 80 in the District of Trinity – Bay de Verde without further delay.

 

As in duty bound, your petitioners will ever pray.

 

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to stand this afternoon and enter that petition on behalf of the constituents of the District of Trinity – Bay de Verde.  This issue arisen two or three weeks ago when the plants started day and night shifts in Old Perlican and Bay de Verde, and Winterton in some cases.

 

What is happening – as we have seen outside yesterday and earlier today – is fog is a major issue.  When you go to the tip of the Bay de Verde Peninsula, it is a common occurrence.  Coming off shift in the early mornings and the late evenings, it is very hard to distinguish the lines because the line markings are just totally gone from the winter season. 

 

Mr. Speaker, my office has been in contact with the department and we urge the department to have the line paintings done, specifically in these areas, without further delay.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Further petitions?

 

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

 

MR. REID: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I have a petition again today related to health care in the St. George's and surrounding area. 

 

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

 

WHEREAS there is not a permanent doctor in the Town of St. George's; and

 

WHEREAS this absence of a permanent doctor is seriously compromising the health care of people who live in the town and surrounding area causing them undue hardship; and

 

WHEREAS the absence of a doctor or nurse practitioner in the area leaves seniors and others without a consistency and quality of care, which is necessary for their continued good health;

 

WHEREUPON the undersigned, your petitioners, humbly pray and call upon the House of Assembly to urge the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to take action which will result in a permanent doctor or other arrangements to improve the health care services in St. George's and surrounding area.

 

Mr. Speaker, as members of this House know, I presented this petition a number of times.  I am going to continue to present this petition until something is done to solve this problem.  The people in St. George's have been without a permanent doctor in their community for about half a year now.  The neighbouring clinic in Jeffrey's has not had a doctor in about a year-and-a-half now.  So it is a serious situation, caused the people of those communities a lot of problems, a lot of grief, and a lot of problems with their health.

 

Also, it causes problems in Stephenville.  Because these people do not have a doctor in their community, they end up going to the emergency room in Stephenville.  That has caused a lot of problems in that facility, as well as people have had to wait long times to see a doctor there in the clinic.  People have told me that they have had to wait all day to see a doctor.

 

So it is a serious matter when people cannot get the basic medical care that they need.  They cannot get prescriptions filled, they cannot get medication they need or treatment they need for minor illnesses, which sometimes become worse because they do not get immediate treatment.  So it is a serious problem.  I would say it is a crisis situation for the people in St. George's and Stephenville.  Concerns are also being raised about the overall level of service that people are getting in the Bay St. George area.

 

So I just want to raise those concerns on behalf of those people, and I am going to continue to raise them until something is done to address this situation.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Orders of the Day.

 

Orders of the Day

 

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

 

MR. KING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I would like to now call from the Order Paper, Motion 1, that this House approves in general the Budgetary policy of the government, the Budget Speech.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Resuming debate on the Budget Speech.

 

I recognize the hon. the Member for St. John's East.

 

MR. MURPHY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

This is my first opportunity to speak to the Budget.  I know it was some time ago, and I want to thank all the members for their concern and everything.  When you have a bit of a health concern, it kind of distracts you away from the topic at hand.  So this is going to be my – I think it is probably my first or second time to actually talk to the Budget.

 

Again, an awful lot of time, it seems like, has passed by since the Budget was presented.  I think earlier in the House we heard that it was somewhere in the order of thirty-nine days.  So, Mr. Speaker, I guess I will be on my feet this time around talking on behalf of some of the issues in St. John's East and what my constituents have been telling me over the last couple of days, and in particular what I have been hearing around the district.

 

So that would be number one, and number two, my own views as to the reasons how come I cannot support this Budget because I think that this Budget is really quite disturbing and it has taken us on a completely different path than what we were several years ago in this Province, Mr. Speaker.  The simple fact is the numbers tell it for themselves, where we have gone and where we have been and probably where we are going to be going over the next five years. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I wanted to quantify my remarks basically by starting off talking about 911, because the 911 system in this Province that everybody have requested is simply not the system that we are going to be getting.  I have asked the minister this on several occasions and he says that because it is a budgetary requirement, we are not going to exactly know how this money is going to be spent in the future nor should we be really concerned about it, knowing that we have a constant ask on this side of the House.

 

Mr. Speaker, there is a reason why we have a constant ask on this side of the House is because everybody deserves fair treatment when it comes to the 911 system in this Province.  We find, of course, in this Budget that there is no initiative on the part of government to lead on this particular issue. 

 

I also found that in my conversations with people out there that it is completely different when you pick up the phone in St. John's and call 911 looking for assistance and if you happen to be out in Gander or some other rural municipality out there when you call for help.  There is a difference between a call taker, Mr. Speaker, and a dispatcher.  In St. John's, you will a true dispatching system.  In St. John's, you will get somebody who will follow up that phone call and still check back with you and see if you are in trouble.  If you are in the rural part of the Province, you do not get that.  Sometimes you may get the call back afterwards just as a bit of a follow-up, but other than that you do not get it.

 

Mr. Speaker, it is our belief on this side of the House that because the people of the Province are going to be paying for this system, it is not going to be run out of any government money at all.  It is going to be paid out of seventy five cents per phone call.  The same people who are paying that seventy-five cents should have the rights to deserve exactly what kind of system that they are going to be getting in the end. 

 

Mr. Speaker, why not give consumers what they deserve when it comes to this?  I believe that government while they will be fronting an initiative like this, we know that the money is going to be forthcoming from consumers to help pay for this system.  So it should be the consumers that should have the final say, and right now we do not see that final say, for example, when it comes to the representation that is even on the board.  Several questions still arise from it. 

 

When we got down through the Budget documents, in particular through Estimates, I also was shocked to learn that funding for something near and dear, I guess, was going to be pulled.  I am talking about the Culture and Heritage Estimates and I am talking about the money that government had set aside for the placing of the Caribou Memorial at Gallipoli.  We know that anniversary is sadly coming upon us very soon.  I figured that government would have done the right thing in this particular case, and they would have left the money in there in perpetuity if it had to be, to help pay for the Caribou Memorial.  I would certainly hope that government would still be fronting an effort, giving it 110 per cent to make sure that this Caribou Memorial is going to be erected down at the Gallipoli site knowing that we lost thirty or forty of our boys down there, men at the time, the cream of our youth in helping to build this Province. 

 

We lost a generation of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians down there who were down there to do good.  Unfortunately, we do not have a proper memorial down there.  Right now the government of Turkey says that there is going to be a system of plaques set up, Mr. Speaker.  I would hope that for the other sites that we have around this world where the caribou is displayed, that one of these days the caribou symbol will be there to be displayed again.  So I encourage government to pursue that, but I certainly had wished that government had left the funding in place for this caribou to happen one day in the future rather than to have it lost. 

 

Mr. Speaker, over the last couple of weeks of course I have talked to an awful lot of people as well when it comes to health care.  It is here I think that government is going to be having an issue.  Of course, well whenever you are sick or whenever one of our viewers may find themselves sick you get the opportunity, in some cases, to get out there and talk to their health care provider.

 

In my case, I have had several conversations with my doctor over the last little while.  One of the things that he tells me right off the bat is that there is not enough money right now in the system.  He is a doctor who is operating out of a medical clinic with about 31,000 clientele.  For the number of doctors who are there, they tell me that the more doctors they even add, the more clientele they are going to have, and there are not enough doctors at any one time to particularly handle the caseload that they have now. 

 

He tells me right now that one of the most important issues that they are dealing with that they keep asking themselves over the last ten, twelve years or so that he has been in the medical system is the amount of representation, for example, that you would get from the provincial government in its argument, and it should be carrying forth the argument to the federal government.  Over the last couple of years – and I am pretty sure that our viewers would certainly know this – there has been in the order of $36 billion in cuts that the federal government made to our health care system.  Right now we are the ones who are paying for it.  We pay for it in longer lines, longer wait times, less time to see a doctor and, in some cases, a rushed health prognosis. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I wanted to bring that forward to encourage government, to demand of government that they bring forth our argument as a Province, that there is a need for more funding for our health care system and to make sure that these arguments are carried forth on their behalf because, of course, I hear it every other day. 

 

One of the things that I will note in the Budget talking about health – and it only takes you to get sick before you actually notice it.  Mr. Speaker, I guess in some ways there is some guilt on the fact there that I am a smoker over the last three weeks since I took sick.  Of course, there is plenty of opportunity to quit so basically over the last little while we have managed to keep that pack of nails away from us, and I am feeling a little bit better for it in spite of sounding a little bit better for it. 

 

Mr. Speaker, one of the things that I have note comes from the Budget document itself, that this government collected $157 million in tobacco tax last year.  They are also projecting this year to collect $157 million in tobacco tax as well.  I had somebody ask me about that and I told them I really do not have an answer for you, but the obvious sense to me is that there has been no lessening of the amount of smokers that are out there.  It is obviously a better case for government to get at the arguments against smoking and take some of that money and put back into the initiatives against smoking too at the same time.

 

It was an interesting number, Mr. Speaker, when I saw it; $157 million in tobacco tax collected last year against $157 million-plus that is projected to be collected for this year.  The question has to be asked about the strategies to help quit.  Again, there is no change in the number from last year when it comes to that. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. MURPHY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

It does get a little bit loud in here. 

 

Mr. Speaker, when it comes to health I also have to ask a question about government, about where they are going with P3's.  One of the things that was most alarming that we found in the Budget was in Transportation Estimates, and of course I hear this from my constituents from time to time, it is about the future tax load that the government is taking on. 

 

One of the things that we found in Transportation and Works Estimates was the simple fact that this government took our membership in the Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships.  There is an interesting name that we found out – I think it was in this particular department that it was something in the order of $35,000 to $40,000 that they paid out in their membership here through Transportation and Works.

 

Mr. Speaker, we all know, we have read so many of the reports now when it comes to the various Auditors General reports out there that talk about P3's, the true cost of what happens when government invests in public-private partnerships.  In the end run, any of the Auditors General in this country that have done reports on this, they would all tell you that it costs the taxpayer more in the long run than what it does in the short term. 

 

What are we telling the people of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador when we are talking about government sinking its money, for example, into long-term care?  What are we telling them?  Well, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, through this Budget, is telling you right now that it does not look like it is going to cost you very much money upfront; however, the payoff for the infrastructure and the services that you are going to be getting in the long-term care home in the future, it is going to cost you.  It is going to cost you a lot more than what government can actually provide for right now. 

 

Government really needs to think about the amount of debt load that it is taking on, Mr. Speaker.  In this particular case, they are taking on a debt load for a generation.  We have an older population in this Province.  We have an aging population in this Province, but we have a government who ignored the situation for so long now that age of the population has finally caught up with the expenditures that the government had in the first place; and now government, seeing that it has a problem that it does right now, has no other choice but to spend the money upfront, find some way to get it done and to cost the generation in the future.

 

Mr. Speaker, I do not think it is acceptable for this government to be coming out and saying just like the Harper Government did that it is okay for your grandchild to be looking after it when their generation comes along because that is essentially what we are saying with P3's, and that is unacceptable.  That is another reason why I will not be supporting it.

 

Mr. Speaker, in itself, it was troublesome to find out that the Department of Transportation and Works had paid for membership in the Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships too because at the same time it begs the question exactly where the Department of Transportation and Works is going to be in the next little while.  Are we going to end up having toll roads in this Province – I will ask the minister.  Perhaps he can answer that question in the House: Are we going to end up having toll roads?  Are we going to end up seeing services for the Department of Transportation and Works privatized in the long run as well because they took out the membership in this Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships?  

 

Again, this is going to cost us, as taxpayers, more than what government is actually letting on because right, up front, it sounds like it is such a little cost, but later on it is going to cost the generations dearly. 

 

Mr. Speaker, in my door to door adventures over the last couple of weeks since the Budget – like I said, it seems so long ago now, thirty-nine or forty days ago.  One of the things I did hear about is anger, of course, over the HST off heat and light.  It is one of these initiatives that consumers of Newfoundland and Labrador had signed on too many years ago, presented a petition in this House to have the tax on heat and light removed.  What did this government do?  They removed the taxation several years ago in one of the budgets, and only this year decided to reinstitute the tax on heat.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. MURPHY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

It is getting a little bit loud in here.  I do not know if the members across the way like my remarks or not, but either way it is my chance to speak to it, so I will.

 

Mr. Speaker, there is plenty of anger and angst over the re-addition, if you will, of the tax on heat.  The people of Newfoundland and Labrador thought they had signed a contract with this government when it came to the removal of the tax on heat.  Mr. Speaker, this is disposable income that was going directly back into everybody's pockets.  It was going back directly into the economy again, because we all know this money was being re-spent again.  Everybody knows the money was out there actually generating jobs.

 

Mr. Speaker, if you were an oil heat user or if you were an electricity user, either way, it was only measured by your consumption of how much money you were going to be getting back.  It begs the question about the agreements, if you will, that we have with our Province, with the people who govern us too, what right have we in the form of taxation that we are getting right now.

 

It is my belief that the government should reverse its decision on this reprehensible tax.  They should go back to the way it used to be with no tax on heat or light, on a basic necessity of life.  Mr. Speaker, it is the same as taxing food, in my eyes.

 

Mr. Speaker, the question still revolves around fair taxation levels versus road and bridgework, for example.  Another thing I certainly heard about was the amount of money that was actually going into roads.  A lot of people I talk to certainly know the state of our highways, they certainly know the state of the bridgework.

 

We heard government last week put a little bit of money back into, for example, the putting down of asphalt on some of the bridgework.  We know government has ignored this problem too long.  The Auditor General has already stated – he put the number, I think, at close to $900 million in his report last year talking about the state of roads and bridges.  The people of Newfoundland and Labrador, now getting ready to enjoy the summer holiday travel season, will certainly get to know intimately our roads, our highways, and our bridges as regards to the state of the asphalt. 

 

We certainly know the $66 million back into roads that we are going to be seeing this year does not match, in no uncertain terms, Mr. Speaker, the almost $3 billion in money, in gas taxes, for example, that have been collected in various Budgets since, probably about 1997.  You can put pretty much close to $3 billion on that, but again only $66 million back into roads.

 

Mr. Speaker, we thought this year we would also see a plan for roads.  We thought we would hear about that in the Budget.  We were really let down about that.  One of the things this party pressed for was a plan for roads. 

 

The Auditor General commented on the simple fact that there were no plans for roads.  He could not find any evidence of a plan for roads.  Hence, we ended up about $900 million in the hole when it came to road and bridgework maintenance that still has not been carried out.  Government now has to find a way of catching up on that particular amount as well.  We paid for it already.  We gave the money to government upfront.  Government did not invest it back into it. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I want to talk a little bit about environment and conservation as well in the short time that I have left.  I keep saying this line, and I keep saying it as a reminder to government.  Today, of course, we get another reminder when it comes to environment and conservation.  Never in our history has the environment of our Province been under so much pressure as what it is right now. 

 

As evidence to that, one of the reasons why we, on this side of the House, asked for a moratorium on fracking, number one, and asked for the panel to start taking submissions, was a case that we are seeing today.  One of the inherent things we found wrong with fracking, not only does it damage water supplies, but people tend to walk away from the mess they leave us.  Mr. Speaker, today is evidence of that fact.  I think everybody in this House should be absolutely shocked and absolutely abhorred with the simple fact of the pictures we saw this week. 

 

What we had was capped wells from many years ago that were abandoned, orphaned, as they are known in the industry, that are now leaking.  What had happened to those wells – what I am told happened to those wells is simple, the land eroded to the point where these wells ended up out in the water.  Of course, Mr. Speaker, with no protection around them they corroded.  It is going to make no difference whether they are on land or on the ocean, they still would have corroded in the first place. 

 

What we have here now is an unmitigated disaster off our coast over on the beautiful Port au Port Peninsula.  The oil is still flows and government still has not acted on it.  They came out the other day with legislation, Bill 2, that we can comment a little bit more on later on when that piece of legislation comes up again in Committee, but it begs a lot of people to ask, when it comes to fracking, why should we say yes to it if we are going to be left with a future disaster like this fifty years down the road?  Because that is what this disaster left us. 

 

What we need to see from this government, Mr. Speaker, in this Budget, it certainly would have entitled government to seek more protection for water resources.  We would have loved to see source water protection legislation or at least money put aside for that.  We would have liked to see government put more money into the protection of caribou herds.  We have the red wine herd in trouble. 

 

We would have loved to have seen more enforcement and monitoring.  We know government is starting to take steps here but it is still not enough.  We would certainly like to see government put more money into environmental liabilities and included as part of debt.  We know we have an awful long future for us to worry about when it comes to fracking, mine waste, holding ponds, and closed mills.

 

Mr. Speaker, I see my time is up.  Again, I cannot support this Budget based on this, certainly not with the financial mess that we are left right now.

 

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

The hon. Deputy House Leader 

 

MR. HUTCHINGS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I would like to call from the Order Paper, Motion 7, to move pursuant to Standing Order 11 that the House not adjourn at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, June 8, 2015. 

 

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that the House not adjourn at 5:30 p.m. today. 

 

All those in favour, 'aye.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

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

 

The motion is carried. 

 

The hon. Deputy House Leader. 

 

MR. HUTCHINGS: Mr. Speaker, as well, I call Motion 8, to move pursuant to Standing Order 11 that the House not adjourn at 10:00 p.m. on Monday, June 8, 2015. 

 

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

 

All those in favour, 'aye.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

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

 

The motion is carried.

 

The hon. Deputy House Leader, we will resume with debate on the Budget?

 

MR. HUTCHINGS: Yes.

 

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

 

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

 

When I first began to speak to Budget 2015, Mr. Speaker, I was going through a list of items of discretionary spending department by department where this Budget actually increased the spending from last year.  The bottom line of this discretionary spending, which means the minister is calling the shots in each particular department on what they will spend money on, the top levels at or near the minister's office, and there were 106 items. 

 

This is a Budget; it is the largest Budget in our history, over $8 billion.  It is the largest deficit in our history, over $1 billion, and it seeks to increase the HST to be the highest in Canada, at not just 15 per cent, but because of the way we compound tax on tax in this Province, we will end up with the highest harmonized sales tax of all of Canada as a result of this Budget.  So when government talks about the tough times there is, I thought it would be useful to go through the Budget to just see what they are doing to restrain themselves.  None of these increases are absolutely necessary if the ministers would simply hold the line on these discretionary expenses.  The total of 106 of these expenses comes to more than $30 million a year.

 

We are seeing the boundary debate being rushed through.  We are seeing boundaries being changed and the Premier said this is so we can save – the Premier said $10 million, but I understand that was when he was talking about getting rid of ten seats.  Getting rid of eight seats, the amount of money that we are going to save would be even less, yet on this increase in discretionary spending – and I will go through this momentarily – this government preaches one thing and then practices another.  It preaches restraint and then it practises waste.  It preaches personal responsibility and then it takes no responsibility for everything that has happened to us.  It did not happen to us.  It was caused to us by the management or, more accurately put, the mismanagement of this government.

 

To take up where I left off – since I only have a couple of pages of these left, that will leave enough time so I can review the building maintenance or the lack of maintenance of the public buildings in this Province, which is even more timely today with the CBC report, which talks about the tens of millions of dollars that we are spending on rent, primarily in the Avalon Region.  Rent on real estate that maybe if we were maintaining our own buildings more properly, we would not need to rent this real estate.  We would not have vacant building owned by the taxpayers in this Province littered all over the place, as the Auditor General pointed out in 2011, four years ago.

 

Mr. Speaker, in the Minister's Office in Early Childhood Education, page 16.3.  The minister – who I understand is going to follow me, so this will give him a launching point.  In the Minister's Office, the budget was $272,000 last year.  It is going to go up to $322,000.  So the minister has decided that he needs an extra $50,000 on $270,000 to run – that is a 20 per cent increase in that particular line item.

 

In Executive Support, the minister has decided that he needs to go up from $870,000 to $939,000.  So that is $69,000.  In Corporate Services, the minister has decided that he needs to go up from $1,393,000 to $1,448,000.  That is an extra $55,000. 

 

In policy – why on earth would this government, a dying government in the last year and in the last six months of its mandate, need to spend an extra $43,000 on policy for early childhood education?  It is not that they are not spending enough already – the budget for policy alone is $364,700, and that is going to be ballooned up to a bloated $407,500.  That is in that department, Mr. Speaker.

 

When we get to Health and Community Services – and health care is critically important.  Health care consumes nearly forty cents of every dollar that we spend in this Province, and health care is very important to people, but on the top end – this is not front-line workers, this is not providing medication, this is not providing additional doctors or nurses or support staff.  This is on the top line in administrative and corporate spending.  So, Health and Community Services on administrative salaries we are going to from $1,667,000 to $1,731,000.  So that is another $60,000 to $70,000.

 

Corporate Services is going to go from $4.8 million to $5.03 million; that is an extra 5 per cent in Corporate Services.  In regional administration, from $1,238,000 to $1.8 million; that is $600,000 more discretionary spending that we have, even though we have consolidated health boards, so we are supposed to realize savings.

 

Mr. Speaker, in Population Health we are going to, on the top end, we are going to spend from an increase of $1.38 million to $1.53 million.  So that is an extra $150,000.  If we look at the government's results in the health of our population over the last twelve years it is absolutely deplorable, and the only time that we really seem to get worked up about is when a travel writer writes about people in St. Anthony and the Jungle Jim's being overweight, so that gets everybody absolutely worked up into a lather, and meanwhile what we should be doing, we should be paying more attention to population health over the last twelve years.

 

You do not get an instant result when you improve population health through exercise, weight control, smoking, drinking – it takes a few years – but it does not take twelve years.  Certainly after three or four, five or six or seven years there should be some benefit.  We are seeing no benefit in the overall health of our population from all of the spending that this government has been doing.  That is because it has been misplaced spending.  It has been administrative spending.  It is not focused on an area to get us the best results.

 

Mr. Speaker, in Justice, we know that crime is literally out of control, particularly in St. John's.  We saw waves of impaired drivers just this past weekend, two here, and three there, and one someplace else on a fairly small population.  Yet we see Justice spending more on Executive Support.  We see more for lawsuits – legal fees for lawsuits going from $4.8 million to $5.1 million, an extra $300,000 budgeted for lawsuits this year for this government to presumably defend itself.  We see an increase in the expenses for fish and wildlife, $3.6 million going up to $4 million.  That is $400,000. 

 

Mr. Speaker, it was only a handful of years ago that this government decided to take on certain federal responsibilities.  The federal government is responsible for fisheries, for the salmon, for the trout, and for our waterways.  So it is not good enough that we would take over fisheries research – which we do not do anything with in any event because we say the feds are not doing a good enough job – we have to take over fisheries enforcement when really that is a federal responsibility.  The feds ought to have been made accountable and held accountable for us. 

 

Why should we be taking our valuable hard-earned taxpayers' dollars to pay for something that Ottawa should be paying for in the first place?  We do not hear a squeak from this government to force Ottawa to live up to their constitutional obligations to us as a Province, Mr. Speaker.

 

We also see an increase in spending – and this is at the top level, not for any front-line workers, not for any benefits to anybody.  Executive Support for Labour Relations is gone up $50,000.  Administrative salaries have gone up another $25,000. 

 

Then we get to Municipal and Intergovernmental Affairs, a strategic plan going from $934,000 to $1.2 million.  That is around a quarter of a million dollars.  Local Governance has gone up from $371,000 to $523,000; policy from $560,000 to $634,000; infrastructure and waste from $452,000 to $516,000.  Mr. Speaker, it goes on and on and on.  It is almost like a tsunami of spending with this government.  It seems like they cannot find an idea that they cannot spend money on – anything that happens, anything that is available. 

 

Mr. Speaker, these numbers over a period of time – this is not to say that government does not waste money in huge gobs, $10 million or $12 million on the Roddickton pellet plant, like huge mistakes.  This is the incremental waste, the erosion of the dollars of the taxpayers.  So this comes out to more than $30 million a year of additional discretionary spending.  It did not create a single job.  It did not save a single dollar.  It did not improve people's health.  It did not improve the status of education in our Province.  It did not improve tourism in our Province. 

 

These are top-line dollars, $30 million a year on a bloated $8 billion Budget.  It is really tragic that we have cut through more than $20 billion in oil royalties, mineral royalties.  We have seen the best of times and now we are facing the worst of times, because we were wasteful.  This government was wasteful during a time when we had money.  If all of the money had gone into infrastructure as this government says it has, which clearly it has not, then we would not have the situation we find with our public buildings. 

 

Mr. Speaker, the very first Auditor General's report I reviewed was the one from 2011, not long after being elected.  One of the areas that really attracted my attention was the public buildings owned by the people of this Province and how they are not being maintained by this government.  The Auditor General said in his 2011 report that the people of the Province own 854 buildings in 385 sites.  So most places have one building, some have two, some have three, and the replacement cost of those buildings was $1,940,000,000.  Roughly, the same amount of money as this government put into the pension plan they got from Ottawa.  Then the stock market crashed, and we lost a third of it overnight. 

 

Of the 854 buildings, the Auditor General – he did a review since this government came to power.  The Auditor General looked at the 2000 report.  This government came to power in 2003.  So the Auditor General did a report in 2004.  This was the report in 2011, which is seven years later.  It is like a comparison, a before and after, and say: What did we recommend in 2004?  I believe it was Mr. Noseworthy who was the Auditor General in 2004. 

 

The AG said in 2004 that, “Government owned buildings are in need of significant repairs.”  He also said department officials “have expressed concern about the lack of funding provided to maintain Government's buildings.”  This was in 2004 when we had no money.

 

They also said, the required maintenance and capital alterations and improvements were not being performed and government buildings were deteriorating – 2004.  Also, the Auditor General found the government's “ … database of buildings is not complete …”.  The database was not complete, so we did not know what we had and where we had it.  This is being managed by Transportation and Works.  So Transportation and Works is in charge of these buildings, of looking after them. 

 

At that point the Auditor General said, “The Department does not use a risk based system to identify and prioritize its maintenance work.”  So, Mr. Speaker, that could mean you are going to mow the lawn instead of fixing the roof.  It is kind of nice to mow the lawn but if the roof is leaking, why wouldn't you fix the roof first?  If the windows are gone, then fix the windows that are gone, do not paint the fence.  You need to prioritize your maintenance program. 

 

Mr. Speaker, the ordinary homeowner can easily understand this.  You have repairs that need to be done to your home, you have a certain amount of money.  Where am I going to spend it?  I am going to spend it in the most important areas where it is going to get me the best result.  You need to know what is more important.  This government did not know in 2004, what were the most important areas to fix up and what were the least important.

 

The AG also said, the Department of Transportation and Works “does not have the information necessary for a comprehensive plan to address the nature, amount and timing of future capital expenditures.”  They did not know what was going on in 2004. 

 

They also said, “The Department does not have a plan to devolve Government of its vacant buildings.”  That means we do not know how to get rid of the ones we are not using anymore because we do not know where they are, we do not know what they are worth, and we do not know what they are costing. 

 

That was the background to the 2011 report as reported in 2004.  Seven years later, what do we have?  Seven years later the AG said the department had taken some action on the concerns raised in 2004.  One of the more troubling areas was that in 2011 the Auditor General said there are twenty-five vacant buildings that require maintenance service, vacant.  Eight of them require a utility resource despite being unoccupied.  The building is vacant and the lights are on. 

 

Wouldn't an ordinary consumer, if you are going to move away from your home, even for the winter – for your summer home, you are likely going to drain it all down.  You are probably going to get some windshield wash or anti-freeze and put it in the toilet bowls.  You are going to shut off the water.  You may not turn off the electricity completely but for sure you will stop spending money when you are not using it.  Why doesn't ordinary common sense in maintaining buildings apply to this government?  I do not know.  I do not know if anybody knows why.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible). 

 

MR. J. BENNETT: It does not apply. 

 

One thing which is really staggering in the amount of repairs and maintenance that was required – in the 2004 Auditor General's report, the AG said the deferred maintenance, what you need to do to fix up the buildings, comes to $261 million.  You have $2 billion worth of buildings, you need $261 million in 2004 to fix them up.  So you would think with all the money we ran through in the next seven years, we would have the buildings all fixed up.  Not true! 

 

In 2011, there is over twice as much remaining to be done.  It is going to cost half a billion dollars.  That is $549 million now to fix up the buildings, when it was only $261 million seven years earlier.  Not only did they not maintain the buildings, they did not fix them up.  They let it continue to run down. 

 

In the 2011 report, Mr. Speaker, the Auditor General was even more precise.  The AG said in 2011, over the next five years there are $306 million of maintenance you need to do on these buildings.  You need to do $306 million in the next five years.  One would think you would take maybe the $306 million, probably divide it by five, and that would be like $60 million a year.  So you would average your maintenance over the next five-year period. 

 

What did they budget instead?  In 2012-2013 they budgeted $43 million, in 2013-2014 they budgeted $43 million, and in 2014-2015 they budgeted $44 million.  That is not to say what they actually did, that is what they budgeted.  This year they have budgeted $43 million.  It is almost like this department has a fixation to say: well, pick a number, guess a number.  Let's go with $40 million, $43 million, or $44 million.

 

Doing the math, Mr. Speaker, this means of all of the maintenance that was required from four years ago, being $306 million, in four years, including this year, the government has budgeted only $175 million.  So now we have a shortfall on maintenance.  Surely, everybody understands that if you do not fix up your home – if you do not repair the leaks in the roof, if you do not repair the leaking waterlines, if you do not maintain the home properly, windows broken – you are going to get more and more deterioration.  This government has not done a very good job of managing the economy generally and certainly has done a very poor job of managing our public buildings.

 

Mr. Speaker, it is almost like there is nobody in charge.  It would be absolutely encouraging to find a single department where the government had a plan, where the government had a budget, where somebody was actually in charge, and when they said at the end of the year this is what we decided to do, this is what we got done.  We fell a little bit short, it cost a little bit more, but at least you would know where you wanted to go. 

 

If you do not know where you are – which the AG showed they did not know where they were in 2004.  They did not have a strategic plan.  If you do not know where you are, if you do not know where you are going to go, and you underfund it in any event, this means that $2 billion worth of real estate on replacement costs in over 800 buildings is literally going to waste.  There are twenty-five of them empty, eight with the heat and lights still on. 

 

Then we get a report from the CBC today which says how much we are leasing.  We are leasing buildings all over the place when we are not maintaining our own.  I understand it is not that glamourous to fix up buildings.  It might not be a photo op for the minister.  I understand that coming in on budget might not be that glamourous.  It is nice to do the photo ops and it is nice to cut the ribbons, but it is also nice and it is absolutely critical to maintain the people's money, maintain the people's buildings, and have some sort of a comprehensive plan which says this is our fleet of buildings.  We have 800 or 900, whatever it is.  Now we know where all of them are.  We have a list.  We know this one needs this much maintenance.  This one needs this much maintenance.  This one needs to be attended to maybe for winterization.

 

Somebody needs to start running the show.  It seems like we are going from day to day spending money like crazy.  Now we are facing the highest deficit we have ever had, we have the largest Budget that we ever had, and the oil money is all gone.  That is the situation we are left in.  It is no good for the Premier or the Minister of Finance to say: Well, everything is going to be just fine.

 

Well, I do not think so, not going in the direction we are going.  We cannot pray to the god of oil and hope that everything works out.  We have to start managing our own affairs.  For sure, we can manage the expense side.  If we cannot manage the expense side, we should not ask to be rehired in November.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. JACKMAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

It is a great honour to speak anytime in this House.  There is no doubt about it.  I have been here twelve years.  I know sometimes people outside look at this place and they see what is happening in here and sometimes it can be a bit rambunctious or whatnot, but I have certainly come to appreciate this particular House of Assembly that we sit in.

 

It is where the business of the people of the Province is done.  It is where laws are proclaimed.  It is where laws are adjusted.  It is where regulations are changed and all aimed at doing betterment for the people of the Province.  There is no doubt about that.  Whenever I get the opportunity to stand on my feet here, I appreciate that opportunity and recognize that when we look at other parts of the world – I was to a forum recently where one of the countries in the session commented they had 400 terrorist attacks on their schools in one year – in one year.

 

The thing that struck me is that these radical groups, in order to control their masses, one of the first places they hit are schools because they know that an educated population are the ones who can turn things around, who will question, who will challenge, and eventually make change.  So it is a sad situation.

 

I know when we talk about our own education system in this House, there will always be challenges.  We heard the question on the Autism Spectrum Disorder today.  There are many other things.  We need to continue to work towards those, but recognizing that where Canada is and where Newfoundland and Labrador is, we are in a good place compared to many of the jurisdictions who faced issues – just imagine having one of our children, one of our students sitting in the classroom and all of a sudden a terrorist attacks and destroys the school, or in the nighttime destroying the school.  We have to put things in perspective, Mr. Speaker.

 

I was listening to the Member for St. Barbe – and it is not always that I will get up and revert to the things that we have done in the past and that kind of stuff but when a member gets up and he raises certain issues, I think the onus is on me to counter some of the commentaries that he has made.  He talked on the discretionary spending.

 

Well, we went through a Budget exercise here just a while ago and as departments and as ministers, we looked at places where we could save – and here I am going to commend the bureaucrats because under the headings we have expenditures for Transportation and Communications, Supplies, Purchased Services, and all these kind of things, and we have to commend the people that work in our departments because what they did is they recognized the challenge and they came forward with suggestions and then let's say they travel a little bit less.  They spent a little bit less on supplies.  They made honest efforts to assist in the situation that we find ourselves in.

 

He talked about the boundary changes.  I do not know, maybe I am misinterpreting him, but he seems to be now questioning whether the boundary changes are the right things or not.  It was referenced today by the Premier that the Leader of the Opposition is not sure.  My take on his commentary today is that he seems to have changed his mind a little.  I guess the thing is that we can stand here and listen and one thing about it is you cannot change your mind from day to day.  I do believe he was a member that stood up and voted.  He voted to support it and I am not quite certain but I guess we will see what tomorrow will bring and what the opinion is, and we will see what next week and the opinion is, and next month we will see what the opinion is. 

 

He talked about Population Health and the spending in the wellness of our population as being money misplaced.  Now I take exception to that statement.  If you look at the phenomenon of people being overweight and the obesity rates, it is not unique to Newfoundland and Labrador, it is not unique to Canada, and generally, in North America we see the challenge.  A lot of it comes from the different type of lifestyle that we now live.

 

There are people of my age who we have talked about it from time to time – and like I said, I do not want to go there too much, but when you were kids, dare I say, fifty years ago – now, everybody is looking at me; dare I say fifty years ago – it was certainly a different lifestyle.  I can remember mom or dad singing out to you it is time to come in.  Now we are battling with kids, it is time to go out.

 

They have become very much a sedentary lifestyle.  The iPads, the phones, the TVs.  Just look at anybody's home today.  At one point you were lucky if you had one TV in your house, and people gathered around to watch it.  I doubt if there are very many homes in this Province now with only one TV.  The amazing thing that I noticed a little while ago – I went into a house where there were three people, three people lived in this one house – I did not make commentary to the individuals there – and I counted seven televisions, seven TVs in a house where three people lived.

 

So it tells you the different type of lifestyle that we are leading.  The kids today are not as active.  So what do we do?  It is not misplaced money, Mr. Speaker.  Now, one thing that I will agree with the member on, he mentioned to change an attitude, to change a lifestyle, is not something that you are going to snap a program and it happens.  Just look at the anti-smoking campaign.  Look at where they have come in thirty years.

 

Think about anybody who went on a plane or elsewhere, you sat up and you smoked.  One of the strangest things I have seen – and I tried to pull it out of the wall, but I could not do it – I went into this one particular place where a piece of furniture is still left.  It was in the bathroom, I will say that.  Right above the toilet paper roll was an ashtray.  Now think about where you would see that today – absolutely not.

 

If you look at the people like Kevin Coady and those people are doing around smoking, man, we have made major gains – major, major gains now.  Even your most prolific smokers, many of them now you see them pull off on the side of the road.  They do not smoke in their vehicles.  They purchase the vehicles; they will stop on the side of the road, get out, have their cigarette, and get back in.

 

If you think about that and think about the individual who, twenty years ago, driving down the road and said no, sorry, you cannot smoke in my car, but I will stop and let you out.  That person would have been seen as a bit unusual.  Today, even the most prolific smokers are people who will step outside. 

 

If we look at some of the spending that we have put into recreation, we have the physical activity and the community investments, the recreation supports that we put $1.5 million a year into.  We have our community capital grants, and all MHAs would practically recognize them.  They range from $5,000 up to $15,000 that people can avail of.  Oftentimes, the good thing about those grants is that the people and the groups who come into the communities and put in applications for those grants often have partners with them so that if they are given $15,000, they may have raised $20,000 or $30,000, then you might get some corporate support for them and on from that. 

 

The Seniors Community Recreation Grant, we put $200,000 in programs that support provincial recreation sports strategies around provincial healthy aging policies and programs.  I will say that I met this morning with the advisory committee on aging and seniors.  Again, we talked about the challenges that are going to be facing our senior population – not only facing our senior population, Mr. Speaker, facing the children of those who are aging. 

 

For example, in my family, my mother passed away just a couple of years ago, but there were ten children, ten of us, and we are lucky enough that eight of us still live in the Province.  So we could provide for her and keep her in her home as long as we possibly could by all of us, brothers and sisters taking shifts; but, think about today, the family sizes are certainly not of eight, ten and twelve children, so the responsibility that is going to fall on one child or two children is huge and we are going to have to somehow find another way to address it. 

 

Even in the provision of home care we are having difficulties.  I know in rural parts of the Province, in areas of my district we are finding it a challenge – some people are – to get health care workers.  Again, we keep supporting seniors to the tune that we can. 

 

One of the programs as well we launched – and this speaks to what I was talking about before – Participation Nation Unplugged.  If there is one thing that I have had some commentary about recently are the ad campaigns that are on TV.  We have a group of kids who are playing or something, and the screen gets smaller, smaller, and smaller.  It is interesting they put on the ad and the brochure that this is our website, please do not call us, or please do not contact us.  Stay active, stay outside, and lead a healthier lifestyle. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I am going to speak on one thing as well that the Member for St. Barbe raised.  He used again – and I have heard it said several times from people across the way, he uses the word “wastage,” that this government has wasted money.  He talks about our lack of spending in infrastructure.  I have to take some exception to that because I came from the school system before I got into politics.  There was an issue around our schools, around maintenance that needed to be done, extension upgrades that needed to be done, air quality issues, and construction of new schools. 

 

Mr. Speaker, if I look at health care, ever more demanding.  If you look at the investments in wait-lists – and he also mentioned that we failed in tourism.  I have to again take exception.  If we look at our TV ads for tourism, all we have to do is look at the number and the increase in the number of people who have travelled to our Province over the past number of years.  We have to say that our investment in that field has been unsurpassed. 

 

Secondly, I think at one point that we saw a quaint type of tourism establishments.  Now what we have, I feel, in the Province are tourism establishments that are second to none anywhere in the world.  People in rural parts of the Province who own bed and breakfasts take their quality of service very seriously.  They are offering a service, like I said, second to none. 

 

If I look to my district and speak to some of the initiatives that have come to my district since I came in 2003, I am telling you, the people in my district will not say that these projects were wasted funds.  They will not.  One of the first things that we did was to put in place a CT scan.  A CT scan where they would often have to travel maybe to St. John's most times to get that service.  That was put in place.

 

Another thing that has happened down there is dialysis.  If there was one piece of equipment or service that I feel that we need to do as much as we possibly can in the Province that is with that dialysis unit.  Here is an example, I would have people – and many of us who are in from rural parts of the Province can attest to that.  We would have people who were on dialysis who would travel three times a week.  I would have people who would leave Burin, would travel to St. John's and back three times a week to receive dialysis. 

 

Now, to a normal, healthy person travelling to St. John's and back in a day can be draining.  Just think of someone who as a health problem, a kidney problem, a dialysis issue, who would travel to St. John's and back three times a week.  Just think of the drain that it does on the body.  When I walk away from this political arena, that is one of the things that I will proudly say was one of the moments in politics that I was most proud of is that now we can provide twenty-four people a day up there on dialysis.  It is something that will be a crowning moment.

 

Secondly, two things that have been announced in the Budget around the –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. JACKMAN: – adult protection units, around dementia.  Second, a clinic what people will call in the northern part of our district.  Down in the area where I live, Mr. Speaker, there is a clinic down there now that provides services.  People have pushed a doctor service is lacking in a particular area, and I know because in working on this clinic, moving this clinic forward, I met with  Eastern Health and they are finding it more and more difficult to recruit doctors.  In particular case, what we had was a doctor who was travelling to clinic A, B, C and doing some other work. 

 

What they did, in this particular case, the communities came together and said we will close out our smaller clinics and we will create one centralized clinic.  They agreed as to where it would be and now a doctor visits there and the patients go to him. 

 

There are ways that we can make inroads but it means that we, as politicians, have to bring some things to our constituents and say now is this a possibility.  We work with Eastern Health, is this a possibility, and in the end we arrive at a solution.

 

I heard an interview today that talked about the size of the public service.  It says that one in every five people in the Province work in the public service.  So we have almost 20 per cent of our population, including children and adults, who work in the public service. 

 

The other commentary was that per capita, Newfoundland and Labrador has more public servants than any other jurisdiction in Canada.  Now I am assuming – I will not take it at face value, but the reporter, that is what they said.  There are a couple ways to do it, and I know we have thrown shots across.  Members opposite have said: We are going to cut, we are just not sure where yet.

 

The Minister of Finance, and we as a government, decided here is the way we will tackle the size of the public service.  We want it to be more efficient.  We want more use of technology.  So rather than massive layoffs, how we have decided to do it is through attrition.  Each of our departments has identified a number through attrition, and as retirements take place, we will not refill all of those positions.  Making sure core front line services are still in effect so that the people of the Province get served more equitably. 

 

Now I know the Minister of Transportation and Work, we have been looking at something down our way for a while, just as an example of a means of efficiency.  We are looking at a piece of equipment that simply will print out licences; whereas before, I think the people down my way would have to travel to Clarenville or St. John's.  If somebody offers that service in St. John's, we travel to them.  Well, maybe what we can do is identify a piece of technology that once you pay your fee, that piece of technology will spit that document out.  It is a cost-saving measure, but it is also a way to do it more efficiently. 

 

Mr. Speaker, it is amazing.  I had four piles.  Everything from Newfoundland and Labrador Housing to more seniors' issues, the OrgCode report around homelessness, but my twenty minutes is down to forty-one seconds now. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I will close by saying this, the final word.  The one thing I will say to the Member for St. Barbe is that the people in my district who have seen investments will not use the word that it was wasted money.  There was no spending that went on in my district that was not required.  I can tell you that I am not someone who is going to spend frivolously.  It is something that was needed in the area.  We worked with our constituents to make sure things were done, and, Mr. Speaker, my last word, it is not wastage.

 

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. SLADE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for an opportunity once again to rise in this hon. House to speak on Budget 2015.

 

First of all, Mr. Speaker, I stand here very proudly today to represent the constituents of my District of Carbonear – Harbour Grace, and it is a privilege for me to do so.

 

I want to touch on a few issues that are taking place in my district, and if it sounds like I am being repetitive, it is because I am being repetitive, for the simple fact that things did not get done.  Of course, when you are up here on your feet and you talk about the Budget, you sit here and you wonder the reason why it did not get done.

 

So, Mr. Speaker, the first thing I would like to say is the mayor and councillors in the Town of Victoria, many mayors in the past, and right up until this point in time, mayors and councillors in Victoria have worked very hard on behalf of their community to bring it forward.  Of course, as you well know, we all need infrastructure in our communities.

 

Mr. Speaker, it is said around circles that the federal government is the first level of government.  Then it comes down to the Province, which is the second level of government, and then of course it comes down to municipalities.  I think a little bit different than that. 

 

In my past life as the Mayor of Carbonear, my thought was the federal government downloads on the provincial government.  The provincial government downloads on the municipalities.  Of course, the municipalities have no other choice but to download on its residents.  So from my point of view, the first level of government is municipalities.  Of course, as you know, they are the front line workers because those ladies and gentlemen are always there and it is very easy for people to approach and get at them from the front line.  So I just wanted to pass that along to you.

 

Like I just spoke about Victoria, these folks work very hard in their communities.  They love to see their communities build.  By the way, Victoria is one of those communities that is growing.  It is coming along very nicely.  Of course, as I just said, all those communities that I am going to refer to here today all need infrastructure.  As they grow, they will look at government to make sure government is there onboard with them and all the time looking for infrastructure.

 

What I found over the years as it pertained to infrastructure, you applied for the funding and then, of course, usually early in the spring of the year Municipal Affairs comes out with what is passed and what is not.  Anyway, that is not done up to this point in time here right now.  It was always a problem for me, as the Mayor of Carbonear, for the simple fact that you applied for it, it would go before the Department of Municipal Affairs, then it would come back, and then you had to go out and get the work done on the project. 

 

By time it went back to the minister's office and sat on his desk for five or six weeks, all of a sudden, Mr. Speaker, you are up late in the fall of the year.  It is not a time certainly to be laying water and sewer lines in the ground because it is too cold.  So that gets postponed to another year.  Then when you come back to the House and ask them for the projects for the following year, oh, no, no, hold on here a second.  You cannot do that now, because that project is not completed yet.  That is a problem.  That is a serious problem. 

 

Mr. Speaker, when I was mayor, I remember coming to St. John's and sitting with –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. SLADE:  – the Minister of Municipal Affairs, and they were trying to do things better.  At that point in time we were told, we are going to get it out through the door quicker.  There is going to be less red tape. 

 

Mr. Speaker, the plan they came up with was worse than the one we had before.  It was more red tape, it was far worse.  I just wanted to say that.  I take note, and I am very glad to say this – but, Mr. Speaker, the job is not done.  I do not want you to ever think the job is done, because we saw it last year. 

 

I am going to talk about the lines over by the TC Square.  I have to commend the minister.  I would like to commend the Minister of the Department of Transportation, at least right now the dots are put on the road and the directional arrows.  They are only sprayed on with a spray gun, but anyway that is a start.  I would hope to think it will not be there like that until the end of October, I say to the minister.  I do indeed hope the Minister of Transportation takes care of that issue over there.  It is a very treacherous place. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I do not want to sit in this place, and I am sure the minister does not want to sit in his place while we increase the risk of an accident and possibly a fatality.  Again, the Town of Carbonear is no different than any other community.  The mayor and councillors out there have done great work for the Town of Carbonear, and I certainly commend all of those folks.

 

Mr. Speaker, I have a concern in Bristol's Hope.  Bristol's Hope cannot be a local service district.  We are after being in to meet with the minister on that.  They are not inviting anyone else to create local service districts.  I believe the last one that was done was in 2010.

 

I have a concern about the people in Bristol's Hope.  The people in Bristol's Hope right now because they are not a local service district – they have folk in place that looks after the community.  They let the community know what this group is doing in the community, but I will tell you the problem I have with that area there – guess what?  Those guys are not eligible for any funding that the government puts out.  Now, they are taxpayers of Newfoundland and Labrador.  They deserve the same recognition, we say, as other communities.

 

I tell you, Mr. Speaker, we are going to have to do something here that gives them either special recognition or something because they cannot apply for it.  They are down there now trying to patch together a bit of money so they can put a playground down there for the kids.  They are not eligible for a recreation grant.  That is not fair, that is not right, and that should not be like that.

 

The Town of Harbour Grace – and I am going to say this, Mr. Speaker, you travelled into Harbour Grace the other night.  What did you think of the road from Riverhead down to where you were to the other night, Mr. Speaker?  That road is gone.  I tell you something, in my grandfather's day, he would say this: My God, that road was that bad you would not put a horse and cart on it.  That is the truth; you would not put a horse and cart on it. 

 

That road needs attention.  This government has a responsibility to make sure that road is done.  The Town of Harbour Grace have been pushing for that, and that was supposed to be done two years ago.  It is simply not good enough.  You come into a community like that – and I will tell you something.  We talk about our tourism.  My God if a tourist ever goes down over that, they would turn around and go back to St. John's as quick as they can.  They would say my God, we are after coming to a third world country or something. 

 

Mr. Speaker, it is simply not good enough.  I say to the Minister of Transportation, Mr. Speaker, through you, please, Sir, have a look at this, get this corrected.  A wonderful a fellow I know you are and I am sure you will have a look at it.  Thank you.

 

Mr. Speaker, in Riverhead I have two problems; one is in Bryants Cove and one is in Riverhead.  Now the Department of Transportation when they take the time to do a road or anything, I am always hoping that it is engineered or something.  In Riverhead there are six houses on the right-hand side going up through Riverhead.  The Department of Transportation took the time to go up there and put a bit of asphalt on it, which was appreciated, by the way, Mr. Minister, by the people in Riverhead, but the drain is on the high side of it and the road is elevated opposite.  You have six homes down there now with a simple rainfall that are flooding out. 

 

When you go to the Department of Transportation – when you contact the Bay Roberts area in the Department of Transportation the first thing they say is we are not responsible.  These people did not have that water before I say, Mr. Speaker.  It is not good enough.  Whether it is the Department of Transportation going back there or whatever to put in some curb to pick up this water to put it into the drainage system on the other side of the road, that is what needs to be done.  That is what should be done.  That is right by the people of Riverhead and it should be right by this government.  It should be righted by this government because you were the ones who did it.  We talk about all the good things you did – there are certainly things that you did. 

 

I have a gentleman in Bryants Cove, Mr. Speaker, there was a culvert put across the road up there.  He is down behind the town council office there and the culvert was put across last year.  When the ground is frozen of course the water is coming out through this here and it is travelling over the top of the ground.  Guys, the man's property down there, he put up a brand new garage there, it is destroyed by the water that is coming from this culvert.  Again, it is simply, simply not good enough. 

 

Mr. Speaker, the Town of Spaniard's Bay of course is also a growing community.  Here in this hon. House we have a duty and a responsibility to the people.  I am going to tell you something, it is not often you hear this said here, it is really not – guys, we are here to represent people.  It is about the people of our districts.  It is about the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.  We should be doing better by them. 

 

Mr. Speaker, on that note there, we talk about the government and our seniors because our seniors are very important to us.  These are the people who brought us where we are today.  They have had much, much to do about that.  They have paid their dues to society and these are the people who brought us where we are today.  I hear it said here now, Mr. Speaker, all the time, well, I mean, it is on the computer.  You can pull it off the computer.  I would just like for people to understand, these seniors they recognize things there that you and I probably would not recognize right away, but they are right.

 

We are living in a computer world.  Not every senior citizen out there got a computer.  Not every senior citizen out there knows how to use a computer.  Mr. Speaker, the people who we talk about in here every day, morning, noon and night, are the people who we are leaving behind.  They are the ones who are less informed because the only way we can do it – I heard it said there about the Budget.  They are not going to send out the glossies in the mail this year, the details of the Budget.  Mr. Speaker, these people expected that.  That is the only way they are going to get informed.  I do not understand, and I do not think government understands that part of it.  Anyway, that is very important.

 

Just to flick back to another community in my district, as it stands today anyway – somebody is going to deal with it in the near future I am sure – that is Point Road in Bryants Cove.  Now, Mr. Speaker, I do not know if you have ever had a chance to drive out over it.  I certainly have.  It is in terrible condition.  Like I said, if it had to be tack coated last year, you guys over there – the guys and the gals over here they could have probably saved Point Road, but after this winter there is no saving it.  You know that and I know it.

 

What was ironic about it is – just get a load of this now, guys.  I am just going to tell you something.  Government recognized how bad it was.  Government plows that road up there from what I can understand.  I think they do it through the council or whatever, or the council pays them to do it or whatever – I am not 100 per cent on that – but get a load of this.  I will tell you how bad it is.  School buses do not want to go out over it anymore.  It is about the safety of the kids on the bus.  They do not want to go out over it any more.

 

Mr. Speaker, it is kind of ironic.  The Department of Transportation gave the town council in Bryants Cove sixty bags of wet patch.  Mr. Speaker, you would want sixty bags of wet patch to go into the first ten feet of it.  Just imagine when a government recognizes – do you know the reason why they gave it to them?  The road is that bad that the equipment that was going out over it was getting beat up.  It is absolutely amazing when you sit down and think about it.  My God, where are we after going?  In the name of God, where are we after going?

 

Now, Mr. Speaker, this next issue I am going to bring up is indeed an emergency.  I have brought it here in a petition.  We know there are 150 boil orders across Newfoundland and Labrador.  We know that. 

 

The local service district in Freshwater has been in contact with the minister's people, and I want to talk about the arsenic in the well down there.  Now, there is a piece of equipment we can purchase that can take care of the arsenic in that well.  We do no not need people sick in these communities.  There are eighteen families on that well.  Eighteen families is what is on the well.  That is the count.  I got that directly from the chair down in Freshwater.

 

Mr. Speaker, at what point in time do we say to the people of Freshwater, pay your 10 per cent – which they have – and let's see if we can correct this problem?  Guys, you have to pay attention to what I am saying here.  We have people in Freshwater who are in a lot of trouble with their water system, and we need to do something about it.  Not next year, not six months' time, not two months' time, we need to do it right now.  That is what we need to do. 

 

We need to make sure that the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, not only Freshwater, but the people in Newfoundland and Labrador have decent drinking water.  That is a God-given right.  We need to do it.  We need to address that issue.  I am just hoping the Minister of Municipal Affairs over there now, I am just hoping he is listening to what I am saying, and I hope he does something for the great people in the community of Freshwater.  Now, that is what I am hoping he is doing, that is what I am hoping he is going to do.  I do not see too much response over there, so it kind of worries me a little bit.

 

I will tell you something, Mr. Speaker.  I will be on my feet here again, you can rest assured, about the people in Freshwater.  These people need a little bit of protection and a little bit of support from this government.  That is enough of that foolishness.  I am after bringing that issue here many times in petition, and it is simply, simply not good enough.

 

We talk about the government and all they do and all they – well, you know, we are fine fellows, and they pat themselves on the back, Mr. Speaker.  In some regard, yes, they are, but when you talk about arsenic in people's wells and the survival of a community, and you are not out there supporting it, it is simply not good enough.  It is not good enough.

 

I am going to tell you something, this government has to go out to the electorate now, and I am going to tell you something right now, they better be very, very careful.  I will tell you something right now, there is no good for them to go down to Freshwater.  They can forget Freshwater, it is no good for them to go down there.  These people have been ignored down there for so long. 

 

I am going to tell you, the mentality over there is, well, you have the long-term health care facility.  I take notice that the – I am not even sure which minister it is.  They change over there that often, Mr. Speaker, I am not even sure what minister it is any more.  Minister Dalley, I take notice he is over there now and –

 

MR. SPEAKER: I ask the hon. member to withdraw; you are not allowed to name members. 

 

MR. SLADE: I withdraw, Mr. Speaker, I withdraw.

 

Anyway, I will not go there now, Mr. Speaker.  I changed my mind.  I will not go there. 

 

Anyway, Mr. Speaker, I am going to tell you something.  It is not funny.  I can assure those guys over there, they are going to be tried and tested, I am going to tell you that, Mr. Speaker, because some of the things going on in this Province may seem simple, and in a lot of cases they are simple.  I will say this, Mr. Speaker, for me, for this group over here that I stand behind, it is about the people.  It always has to be about the people. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SLADE: It has to be about the people, because all we do here, we are only going to give the people – here is what we are doing, Mr. Speaker, we are only servants of the people.  That is all we are in this House, servants to the people.  When we turn our backs on people, we will certainly know it. 

 

By the way, Mr. Speaker, I am just going to clue up here now.  I do not have much time left here.  I will just say this, when we come in here and we become so complacent and it is about ourselves, we should not wait for an election.  We should walk through the door, Mr. Speaker, and never look back, because we failed the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

 

Thank you very much.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. BRAZIL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

It is indeed an honour again to be able to stand and speak to the Budget as we wind down to the last number of hours around a great debate about a Budget that was presented a number of weeks ago, that presented based on a balanced approach to addressing the needs of the people here. 

 

Mr. Speaker, as I begin, I want to acknowledge – the hon. Member for St. Barbe had spoken, and while I respect the man, he frightened me.  He frightened me to stay in this building because I thought this was going to collapse around us.  He frightened me to go in any other government building because I feel they are going to collapse and it is not safe to be in there.  I am afraid to go outside in the parking lot because I do not know if I will fall in a crater or something will happen out there.  I am terrified. 

 

When I look at the $10 billion we have invested, Mr. Speaker, in infrastructure – and people say they do not know where it went.  Well, I explained the last time – and I do not want to get into that same approach of where a lot of money went in different districts, but I will get back to that later on. 

 

I must acknowledge, to the Member for Carbonear – Harbour Grace, he had me when he called me honourable and doing a great job.  He had me, but then he took the road the hon. Member for St. Barbe took.  He went down that slippery slope, Mr. Speaker, where it is all negative, it is all falling apart, and it is all doom and gloom.  There is nothing good out there.  Citizens have nothing to look forward to.  We have not moved forward.  There is no reason to take pride in this great Province of ours. 

 

There is no reason to believe we offer quality education and quality health care; that we look at safety as paramount.  That the 1,700 staff who work for the Department of Transportation and Works and the 46,000 civil servants do due diligence every day, take pride in their work, and make sure that people are serviced the way they should be.  The thousands of partnerships we have with the private sector out there and the not-for-profit sector, how valuable they are to supplying services and providing those properly needed supports in this Province. 

 

I am frightened to death, totally terrified at the end of the day.  I am almost thinking that I wasted thirty years working in the civil service, working to try to benefit people's lives, working with other people who have done some great work in this Province, being mentored by hundreds of those and figuring we have done some good, but apparently not.  If you listen to the members on the other side, apparently it was all for not.  It was a waste of our time.  It was a waste of the civil service time.  It was a waste of our investments, Mr. Speaker. 

 

Nothing has worked.  We have done everything wrong.  It is time for us to give up, pass over the keys.  Mr. Speaker, I guarantee you the keys will not be passed over on my watch, or this Premier's watch, or this side of the House's watch to the members over there, because there is too much doom and gloom.

 

If you want to see the exodus we had in the 1980s and 1990s, Mr. Speaker.  They will be taking buses, ferries, and planes as quick as they can get out of here, if it is turned over to members like that with the doom and gloom.  It is not going to happen here – not going to happen. 

 

Let's just talk about a lot of the good things that are going on here, Mr. Speaker.  Let's talk about all the good things we have done.  Let's talk about the civil service, very diligent, very highly professional, very well trained, and a very engaged group of supportive citizens.  That is what they are.  They are not just employees of this government.  They are the same citizens who travel our roads, our volunteers who are engaged out there.  They are the ones who set the policies. 

 

We get to pass the legislation.  It all gets voted on.  Everybody in this House gets an opportunity to vote on that based on what those civil servants have seen, the dialogue they have had with the general public, and the partnerships they have developed.  They develop that dialogue.  They set the policy.  They move it up through the ranks so that it is something we can present because it represents the needs and it is the best return on our investments, Mr. Speaker.  That is what we continue to do.  That is what this Administration has done for the last twelve years.  We have every intention of continuing doing that after this fall. 

 

I also want to touch around some of the things – and I know the emphasis has been around TW, no doubt some challenges coming off a winter season, 10,000 kilometres of roads, some challenging areas, Mother Nature.  The only group that I would not take on, I would rather try to partner with her.  Mother Nature can be very forgiving also.  You just have to get her in the right mood, get her to support what we are doing, and get her to work with us.  We do that, we know, we have learned from that, Mr. Speaker.  We have learned our harsh environment.

 

Let me tell you what we have done to partner with Mother Nature.  We have done our winter maintenance schools where we bring in professionals who know about the weather conditions, how they change, know about the flow of rivers, know about how snow is formed –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. BRAZIL: – and our wind, and our tides, worked around that so our staff are qualified, they are trained, and we better can approach how we deal with the challenges of Mother Nature.  That is what we do here.  We plan.  We open up dialogue exactly with the right people and we address that.

 

Are there needs of all kinds in the Province when it comes to road conditions?  Sure there are.  That is why over $100 million will be going out the doors over the next number of months to very qualified contractors out there from the tip of Labrador to Conception Bay centre, around all of those.

 

The hon. member talked about it; he knows there are roads out there now in the midst of being repaired.  Our summer maintenance program is rolling out as we speak.  Hundreds of our employees are out there now.  You can see them on the roads, doing their maintenance work, putting things in place to make sure people travel safely, putting up signs so they can get prepared to do the proper scoping on exactly what needs to be done then preparing to do that.  We have our contractors out there, contracts going out, and new contracts going out again today in all the districts around this Province, Mr. Speaker.  We continue to do that. 

 

Our first process here is to assess.  All our crews are back.  They are all trained.  All of our managers, we went to talk again about it being assessed, how we can deal with the challenges in this Province.  We had all of our senior managers and our supervisors in to talk about how they can better do scheduling, how they can better mobilize crews in various areas to ensure things are done better and there is a better economy of scale, that what we get back from our investments is much more than we have in the past because we have to make an ability, or find an ability to get more out of what we are spending, Mr. Speaker.  We are going to do that, and we are going to do that with the help of the people who are trained to do that.

 

The hon. member talked about engineers.  Well, our engineers are second to none, Mr. Speaker.  They have spent their formative years, they have been trained, they have done their work terms, they have their experience, they know about the flows of water, they know about site lines, they know about challenges on hills, they know about slopes.  So when they get criticized, there is another challenge there, and it is Mother Nature.  What happens one year compared to the next year is totally different, but we are finding better ways to address that and make that work.

 

Let's talk about some of the things they say we have not done.  We have 1,300 bridges.  We have addressed over 100 bridges only in the last couple of years, either replaced or did repairs.  This year alone, we are now looking at another twenty bridges that we are going to repair or replace.  We continue to do that. 

 

We have engineers, as the hon. member talked about, qualified trained people who go out and inspect them.  Every two years every one of our bridges is inspected.  If there are some challenges, they are inspected even more often than not.  They are looked at.  If there are any immediate things that need to be repaired, they are immediately repaired or they are shut down and an alternative is done until those repairs are made, Mr. Speaker.

 

We constantly want to ensure that people are safe, and that is what we do.  We have made some major announcements about major thoroughfare bridges, particularly around the Bond Bridge, Mr. Speaker, where we are about to move very –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. BRAZIL: The contract is ready to be done, ready to go. The contractor will be on site in only the next couple of weeks to move that forward, Mr. Speaker.  A great link for people right across this Province, and in a great district I might add also. 

 

Let's talk about some of the other things that we are responsible for here.  Apparently the things that we do not do, things that do not get done.  Talk about twenty-one airstrips, eight on the Island and thirteen in Labrador that we maintain.  In some of the harshest weather in the world, we manage to maintain them.  Thousands of landings and takeoffs every year –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. BRAZIL: Tens of thousands, Mr. Speaker, we manage to do that in a safe manner.  We work with the proponents, we work with the contractors, we work with agencies who are bringing in freight, passengers who are flying in.  We work with our professionals who have to get into these remote areas to provide services to the people, be it medical attention, be it social services, be it employment initiatives, whatever services, be it education.  We provide those services and they are provided because the people of this Province and the civil servants and particularly those at TW ensure and they work in some of the most adverse conditions.

 

When it is ninety-five kilometre winds and it is forty centimetres of snow, Mr. Speaker, they are ones who are out there.  They are the ones who are putting their lives sometimes at risk to make sure that we are safe when we travel and that people can get to and from where they need to get to, particularly when it comes around being open for health care and being able to have that access for emergencies.

 

We have seven aircrafts, air ambulances, fire suppression, two air ambulances, five water bombers, all very important to ensure safety in this Province and also building our economy.  Our forest industry is very valuable to the people of this Province.  We want to ensure that if there is an issue that it can be dealt with before it causes a financial burden for people; but, particularly around safety, if there are forest fires in certain areas or if there are issues around that need to be addressed immediately we have state-of-the art, five top-of-the-line water bombers at a value of almost $250 million.  There is where the money is gone, Mr. Speaker, money invested back for the people particularly around safety. 

 

TW is particularly around that, it is about safety first, the optics second, and that is what it is all about – safety is the primary objective here.  Our buildings – is there a lot of work to do on a number of them?  Sure, we have almost 2,000 buildings that we are responsible for, Mr. Speaker.  We maintain those buildings in a safe manner.  Would we like to have more money to be able to do them aesthetically, continuously changing things, updating, and all that?  Sure, we would, but then we would be challenged about making sure that we have better equipment on our roads, ensuring that we make sure that our airstrips are comparable for the landings of new aircraft that are being built.  Ferries – making sure our docks and that are ready for our ferries so that we can improve our transportation services for the people of this Province.  That is exactly what we have. 

 

Talk about the eighteen ferries, Mr. Speaker, that we have valued at a billion dollars; a billion-dollar investment there that we spend nearly $100 million a year maintaining and running.  There is the investment for the people.  While on the economy of scale for the number of people it serves it may not be the same as if you offered service in a bigger urban centre, but it is very important to the people in remote isolated areas, particularly on those Island areas.  They do deserve access to transportation, and they do have the ability to have a reliable, affordable service.  That is what we provide. 

 

We get criticized on the other side when one little thing goes wrong.  Nobody talks about the 99.9 things that go right because of how the staff do it, the services we have in place, the equipment, how we upgraded, and how we immediately address when there is a challenge.  We asked people to tell us about those challenges because we have, as our foremost objective, to improve things, to provide better services, to make sure that people have access to the proper services.  That is what we do, Mr. Speaker.

 

Let's talk about 872 buildings that we now have people in on a daily basis that we own and maintain; billions of dollars' worth of assets there, Mr. Speaker, billions that we have accumulated over the years by all Administrations.  Over the last twelve years think of what we have improved on, think of the buildings we have built.  I have already outlined the new schools and that and I will not go through that again.  We know where that is up in the $500 million, $600 million value, probably closer to a billion dollars just in that alone, but all the other ones that we renovated. 

 

Let's get away from the education institutions.  We have already acknowledged the fact we are sold on it.  It is one of our big priorities.  We have invested in that to make sure people have accessible education.  It is safe, it is engaging, and it is a healthy environment for them to learn.  We have done that.  Accolades – we have been acknowledged by national and international what we have done.  We are going to continue to do that.  Is there more to do?  Of course there is. 

 

Our other buildings where our civil servants work in or where our citizens go to get the services, Mr. Speaker, we have made them engaging.  We have made them accessible.  We tried to make sure that they are in areas where there is less travel on people if we have a suburb and area where it is a catchment area for people so that people can come and get the services.  We tried to bundle services so that people are not having to go to four or five different buildings.  We are trying to do that, Mr. Speaker. 

 

In some cases we spend money in leases, a very valuable way.  We look at the economy of scale, what is a better investment for the people if it is only a small service we need, or we only have a small number of civil servants we need to house, isn't it better to lease those properties in an area?  That then is a reinvestment back into the economy, because those are taxpayers who own those buildings.  That also might provide an opportunity for that landlord to ensure that other services are offered. 

 

In some cases you can note where we lease opportunities.  There are not-for-profits who also have services there.  We gather certain clients who are looking for services.  So we have an all-encompassing process there, Mr. Speaker.  We are very diligent in how we do that.  It is planned.  The Premier has always talked about the strategies we have, the plans we have, the five-year processes here.  So people know where we are going.  We can plan that.  That is what we do, and we do it very diligently. 

 

Mr. Speaker, we have 300 leases.  We talked about that.  We want to ensure our investment is the better service for the people of this Province, and we do that.  We do it through private companies.  We do it from multinationals.  We do it from individuals in certain communities.  We want to ensure, where possible, we can offer services to people in that community, but we do not want to have a big building. 

 

We will get criticized for: why don't we build more buildings?  You are paying x-number of millions of dollars in leases.  Because the investment and the return on that, Mr. Speaker, is not to the best interest of the people of this Province.  We want to make sure we work with the business community out there to provide a service that our taxpayers can afford, but more particularly that they can avail of.

 

Let's talk about the different things in my department, and very unique, the different branches we have.  It was a bit surprising to me when I came in realizing that the mailroom is part and parcel of what we are responsible for.  Also the air ambulance, making sure they are fitted out and are ready to go.  That they have a place where maintenance can be done on them, from our water bombers to everything else that you would think are related to transportation, and we have done that, to leases on all of our buildings, the hundreds of leases we have.

 

It is a very open-minded, very complex department, but with a simple theme.  The simple theme is to be able to offer people proper services in a safe manner.  I have to give credit to our staff.  We do that very diligently, Mr. Speaker, and we do it with the best thought of the people who are being serviced.

 

Are there challenges?  Of course there are.  There is no doubt, when we are dealing with some of our buildings, nearly eighty or ninety years old in certain areas.  We are trying to see, how do we maintain those?  How do we bring them up to standard, or how do we offer better service for people?

 

Sometimes we are criticized about the blue zone parking.  We have gone ahead light years in the last number of years, particularly around our provincial buildings, of ensuring people have proper access, those who have mobility challenges.  Ensuring that people should be – and this is not a necessity.  This is a right to have access to those buildings, Mr. Speaker.  We spent millions, because it is the right thing to do and we have a responsibility to do that.

 

Look around.  Look at the Citizens' Rep's recent report.  He outlines only a couple of nuances there where we need to improve on.  I have ensured that our staff are working on that immediately, and we are making changes on a daily basis to ensure – if there are areas here where the blue zones are not being adhered to, we want to ensure we do that here.  We work very closely with the Minister Responsible for Service NL to ensure that works out there in the private sector also. 

 

We have taken a role and a responsibility here to ensure that the people of this Province get what they pay for, Mr. Speaker.  Do you know what they get?  They get the proper services.  They get an opportunity to tell us how we better improve it.  Do they get the best of the world?  Mr. Speaker, we would love to be able to do that, but we need to have a balanced approach here and we have been doing that as an Administration. 

 

Particularly this Budget, Mr. Speaker, talks to a balanced approach when you have to be fiscally responsible.  You want to get over that hurdle.  You want to get over that hump.  You want to make sure you get to the other side of the road so that on the other side you are ready to open up again, offer more services, improve on what we already have, but to get there you have to make sure you maintain what you have.  There is an expectation, but there is a right of people to have services, and we have done that. 

 

One of the key things we did, we did not cut any core funding to the not-for-profits that we support, because they are too valuable to us.  The services they offer, the partnerships they have with us, what they offer to our ability to redesign policies.  More importantly, in some cases it is to identify that we have dealt with a situation and now we can move on to something else that is a challenge and reinvest the money there and find another partnership to make things work as part of that process. 

 

We have looked very closely at exactly what it is we need to be doing in this Province for the people, Mr. Speaker.  We have talked about, we have done it on a balance, but we have done it on a balance in a number of cases.  We did it because we just did not focus in one area.  While education, health care, and infrastructure are all very important, we have done it – I suspect there is no program or no process or no group that we have not developed, partnered with, or offered services to address their needs. 

 

Now, it may not be the perfect process.  It may not be the perfect investment, but I can guarantee you we have gone out of our way to ensure that through dialogue and through partnerships, those issues are being addressed.  If there is more we need to do, that is what we are doing.  We are trying to find ways to do that and improve on it. 

 

If there are things we have already done that we think have completed the challenge, we will take those resources and move them somewhere else where there are additional challenges, and I think we have done a great job of that.  We have done a great job because of the dialogue between our civil servants and the partnerships we have developed.

 

This Premier here has opened up that dialogue.  He has made the doors open: come on in, tell us what your challenges are and we will work with you.  We will tell you what we can do.  You tell us what we can do better, and we will make sure we do that.  That is how we have moved those forward, Mr. Speaker. 

 

We have come a long way in the last number of years around how we improve people's lifestyles; but, again, that is particularly around our infrastructure.  You cannot base programs and services unless you have the proper infrastructure to address those, to engage those, to be able to offer them.  So we have invested, we have invested a lot of money upfront.  It may not be directly as much into some programs that people like, but it is there now. 

 

Now we have the ability.  As you noted, the five-year plan on infrastructure, where we will be in five years, now we have the ability.  Through the Minister of Finance, the Premier, and this Administration, we will carve out exactly what programs and services we can better support, we can partner with, and that we can move to the next level. 

 

Mr. Speaker, this is not about addressing issues.  This is about eliminating issues, challenges that people have.  Other Administrations talk about, well, we can deal with this.  We do not want to deal with that stuff, we want to eliminate it.  There are too many good things going on here.  We would rather eliminate the struggles that people have, challenges they have, or things and services they cannot get, so at the end of the day they are good.  They become the next part of the citizens who we partner with to address the next issue that somebody else may have.  That is how we work this out. 

 

Mr. Speaker, as my time winds down, I want to reiterate at the end what I started at the beginning.  The sky is not falling, as it has been noted by the members opposite.  There is light at the end of the tunnel.  There is a bright light out there.  This bright light is there because this Administration and this Premier has opened up an opportunity for everybody to be engaged here, for everybody to have a say –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. BRAZIL: – for us to improve people's lives in Newfoundland and Labrador. 

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER (Verge): The hon. the Member for St. John's South.

 

MR. OSBORNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Mr. Speaker, I have asked questions in the House this week and last week as well on the issue of homelessness and the amount of rental subsidy provided to those on Income Support.  This gives me a little bit of opportunity to elaborate on that issue somewhat.  I am going to take the opportunity to do that.

 

When we talk about the amount of rent that is provided to those on Income Support, we know the maximum family allowance is $522.  That is the maximum amount.  It does not matter how large your family is, that is the maximum amount of rent that is provided as a rent supplement through Income Support. 

 

A single individual is $299, Mr. Speaker.  That is whether you are single, adult under thirty, employable or non-employable, or a single adult over thirty, or a couple without children – sorry, the couple without children gets $372.  There is another $150 that can be added to that.  It is discretionary.  It is the choice I guess of the intake worker or the supervisor at the office of Social Services. 

 

When you look at $299 as the amount that an individual can receive, or $522 is the maximum amount a family can receive as rental allowance, this is the concern that I have raised.  If you do not have an address, you do not qualify for Income Support.  You can go to a shelter – and I am going to talk a little bit about that as well – but, if you do not have an address you do not qualify for Income Support.  If you cannot afford to pay your rent, it is pretty hard to have an address.  So anybody who is receiving $299 a month as rental allowance, if they cannot afford to pay their rent, then they do not have an address.  Without the address, they do not get Income Support.  Without Income Support, you are homeless.  That is the reality of that particular situation.

 

Under the Poverty Reduction Strategy government has been saying that the number of people on the caseload for Income Support has dropped, and so it has.  There has been some good things happening under the Poverty Reduction Strategy.  Although I believe over the last three or four years or so that the Poverty Reduction Strategy has showing less signs of success than it did in the first four or five years that it was there. 

 

We know that if somebody is homeless, the cost of somebody going into a shelter per day is $703.  We know that – and I am getting this from the OrgCode Consulting report that was done for Newfoundland and Labrador Housing.  These are the statistics that OrgCode has provided to government, has provided to Newfoundland and Labrador Housing.  The cost per day in a shelter is $703.  For hospitalization – if somebody finds themselves malnourished or whatever, the cost of hospitalization is $1,564 a day.  The cost of detox, $257; psychiatric in-patient is $1,898; addiction treatment is $72; police detention is $261; or prison is $311 per day. 

 

When you look at those costs and weigh it out against the fact that a single individual is getting $299 a month to pay their rent, it does not take long to figure out that there may be cases – and in fact there are, because it is identified in the report – where it is actually cheaper to give somebody a higher rental supplement than to have them stay in a shelter. 

 

If we know – and we understand because the statistics are there that a shelter is $703 a day.  So if you put somebody in a shelter for five or six days, it does not take long to figure out that it is actually less expensive for government to pay more than $299 and allow that individual to be housed.  Because if they are not housed and they are homeless, they are probably going to a shelter, and it is costing the taxpayers, it is costing government more money to deal with them in a shelter or to deal with them in a psychiatric unit or to deal with them in prison because they were caught shoplifting or break and enter because they do not have any other source of income.  So, the statistics here, according to the OrgCode Consulting report, speak for themselves.

 

We do know that – and I am quoting from the OrgCode Consulting report – “At present, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador invests approximately $15.3 million annually in response to homelessness, however, 58% of this investment is dedicated to the provision of emergency shelter options.”  So almost 60 per cent of the $15.3 million is emergency shelter.  So if we were able to be proactive in providing housing for people, as opposed to reactive and providing shelters, I am guessing – and it is more than just guessing, again, because it is here in the OrgCode Consulting report, that government could save a lot of money.

 

It says, “With limited resources available, a system primarily focused on managing homelessness” – which is what is happening, because the population of those who are homeless, who find themselves without an address, while the number of people on the caseload for Income Support has dropped dramatically, according to government – and there has been a drop; we all recognize that.  I do not know if you would say it has dropped dramatically, but it is a significant improvement in the number of caseloads.  On the other side of that, the ugly side of that statistic is that the number of people who are homeless has increased dramatically.  In fact, it has doubled every two years over the past six or eight years.  Every two years, the number of homeless people in this Province has doubled.  That is a concern; it is a huge concern to me.

 

I know in my district you can see people sleeping under bridges, you can see people sleeping in alleyways, you can see people sleeping in parking garages.  I am not satisfied with the statistic that social services recipients are dropping if you weigh that against the fact that homeless statistics are increasing by leaps and bounds.  That is not a statistic that government brags about, because it is not a statistic that they should be proud of.

 

So it says, “With limited resources available, a system primarily focused on managing homelessness through investment in emergency support provision will not end homelessness.”  That, my friends, is a fact.  Responding to homelessness will not end homelessness.  Providing emergency shelters will not end homelessness. 

 

If we in this Province are going to get serious about this issue, if we are truly going to focus on this issue, we need to be proactive and we need to look at a housing first strategy.  If we were to be proactive as opposed to reactive when it comes to homelessness, we would reduce the numbers of people who are homeless; my guess is reducing it by half every two years as opposed to doubling it every two years, with a focus on the elimination – ending homelessness in this Province.  That is what we should be focused on.  Not focused on emergency response, we should be focused on housing first. 

 

“Obviously, a realignment of resources will be needed to increase focus on housing with supports and decrease the need for long-term shelter stays.”  That is right in the report.  So that is the basis of the questions that I have been asking.  Three days in a row I believe I have asked – or three different Question Periods I have asked questions of the minister on these statistics on the fact that the rate of homelessness in this Province has doubled every two years over the past six or eight years. 

 

“When investigating the current cost of homelessness in Newfoundland and Labrador, it is also helpful to create costing estimates using the average interaction with health and correctional services of residents who are experiencing homelessness … .”  Now I have outlined the cost of these services, emergency shelters, or incarceration for an individual who finds themselves homeless and commits crimes to feed themselves, or whatever the case may be.  We have looked at the cost of those shelters, or detox, or incarceration for those who are homeless and it is staggering.  Those costs per day, a cost to the taxpayer of this Province – those costs are staggering. 

 

“ … the annual total cost of homelessness in Newfoundland and Labrador is $26 Million … .”  Mr. Speaker, $26 million a year to deal with homelessness.  I am going to point out that I believe it is much higher than that and I will tell you why, because these statistics look at the years 2003 to 2009.  It is now 2015.  If the statistics are showing that the number of people who are homeless in Newfoundland and Labrador has doubled every two years over the past six or eight years – and this is a 2009 statistic, the $26 million annually is the cost of homelessness to this Province, then it is considerably higher than that today – considerably higher.

 

They say that it is approximately $15,400 per person.  That is the cost of homelessness: $15,400 per person annually in Newfoundland and Labrador.  Now if you divide $15,400 by twelve, it works out to a whole lot more than $299 a month rental allowance – a whole lot more.  If we were truly to get serious about ending homelessness in Newfoundland and Labrador, very quickly government would realize that $299 a month for a rental allowance on Income Support is creating homelessness not correcting it; and that $299 a month for rental allowance for those on Income Support is considerably less than the $1,200 or $1,300 that it costs per individual annually because they are homeless. 

 

It says for individuals experiencing chronic homelessness – that is individuals who are either in a psychiatric ward, individuals who are incarcerated, individuals using drug rehabilitation from time to time, whatever the case may be – estimate cost is approximately $45,000 per person per year.  Is the answer reacting to homelessness?  It is not.  Is the answer emergency shelters?  Now, emergency shelters are needed, and nobody on this side is saying to do away with emergency shelters – definitely not, but are we better off providing rental allowances higher than $299 per month and reducing homelessness?  Will that be more cost effective for the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador?  Will it be more cost effective for the taxpayers in Newfoundland and Labrador?  Absolutely. 

 

That is one way, Mr. Speaker, I think that the Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador, that our caucus are more prepared to govern.  Because we will make the right decisions and we will make smart decisions that actually help the people, as opposed to reactionary.  We think that housing first, that finding housing and providing housing, and providing the proper rental allowance so that those people who need it can find housing, as opposed to finding a pillow to put under their head at an emergency shelter night after night is far more cost effective for the people of this Province and for government.

 

Mr. Speaker, the OrgCode report, again, that was done for Newfoundland and Labrador Housing, provided to the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, should be used as a guide to help end homelessness.  They say the total cost of reacting to homelessness is $26 million a year in this Province.  Again, that is 2009 statistics.  It is considerably higher than that today is my guess.

 

That is the total cost of reacting to homelessness – over $26 million a year.  The total cost of pro-acting to homelessness, which means finding shelters – long-term housing, rather, not shelters – but finding long-term housing, providing a better rental allowance than the $299 a month, allowing people to find housing where they can live and be safe; and potentially then, once you find housing and once you know you are in a safe environment, as opposed to shopping around for a shelter every night, once you know you are in housing, in a unit, then you can focus on your health, because you cannot focus on your health when you are wandering the street every day.  You cannot focus on your health when you are sleeping under a bridge or on a park bench.  You find a bed for somebody, a permanent bed, in a home that they can call their own, and they can focus on their health.  Then they can focus on contributing back to society, as opposed to being a drain.

 

So, again, I want to go back to the cost of reacting to homelessness, based on the 2009 statistics – it is $26 million a year.  The cost of pro-acting to homelessness is $14 million a year – well, $14,620,000 – so, $11,400,000 cheaper to be proactive when dealing with homelessness.  That is $11,400,000 less – based on 2009 statistics – so we are probably $16 million or $18 million or $20 million today.  We do not know for sure what the figure is today based on 2015, but we do know that the number of homeless in this Province, the population of homeless in this Province, has doubled every two years over the last six or eight years.  So even based on the 2009 statistics, it is $11,400,000 in savings to government to be proactive to homelessness, as opposed to reacting by providing shelters.

 

Mr. Speaker, we have already discussed the fact that anybody who is using drug treatment or in a psychiatric award or in hospital, as a result of being homeless, as a result of addictions issues, which stem from homelessness, are considerable higher.  That is $45,000 per individual per year.

 

Mr. Speaker, when we talk about this issue, again I just want to reiterate that you look at the number of people who are homeless in this Province, at any given point on any given day, based on 2009 numbers it is about 1,000 people – over 900 people.  At any given point on any given day, on average it is over 900 people every single day.  I think there were 5,500 people who were affected by homelessness.  That is the number they use on an annual basis; 5,500 people, but over 900 at any given point on any given day.  That is an awful lot of people, Mr. Speaker. 

 

If you look at the cost of providing shelters – again, I am making the argument that we are better off to be proactive.  We are better off to look at government's own consultant, the former Auditor General in this Province, the former Auditor General who was hired by government to provide advice.  He had indicated that to have a single rate, whether you are a single individual receiving $299 or a family receiving $522 for rent in this Province under Income Support, that rate is the same whether you are in St. John's – or the example he used – in Piccadilly.  We do know that rental rates in St. John's and in Piccadilly are considerably different.

 

On this side of the House, we put forward a private member's resolution eighteen months ago.  We were hoping that in last year's Budget it would be addressed, but it was not addressed.  Again, hoping in this year's Budget, but in this year's Budget Estimates when we asked about that, our side was told government are still studying it.  That private member's resolution was voted on unanimously and it would have dealt with the rental allowance rates in this Province.  Government have still not addressed that issue, Mr. Speaker, have still not addressed that issue.

 

I see the Speaker indicating to me that the clock has run out.  I thank you, and I will have another opportunity to speak.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Port de Grave.

 

MR. LITTLEJOHN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I understand we are planning to recess in about ten minutes, so I will have a few words for ten minutes and then I will ask for a motion to recess the House until later this evening. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I wanted to stand up and just have a few words this afternoon.  It is my second chance to speak to the Budget.  For the people at home, we are discussing the main motion of the Budget.  Each individual member gets an opportunity to speak if they so choose to the Budget and the main motion of the Budget.  I am very pleased to stand here this afternoon and have a few words.

 

I know earlier today the Minister of Seniors, Wellness and Social Development got up, and in response to some comments by the hon. Member for St. Barbe, was talking about some of the initiatives and some of the things that were done in his district that were needed.  Between it all, Mr. Speaker, I would like to speak a little bit about my district and talk to the people in my District of Port de Grave this afternoon.

 

Mr. Speaker, I guess for many of us, the District of Port de Grave is the beginning of Conception Bay North.  Conception Bay North would stretch all the way along Conception Bay, but when I was growing up playing softball we were known as Conception Bay North.  The District of Port de Grave would probably be the beginnings of Conception Bay North, going all the way to Carbonear and probably even down the North Shore. 

 

Mr. Speaker, the district starts in Makinsons, a small local service community.  When I inherited it in 2011 I had some issues, and I will speak to them a little bit.  It takes in the communities of Clarkes Beach, North River, and the largest municipality in Conception Bay North, Bay Roberts, a town of 5,800 in a service centre.  I see my hon. colleague smiling at me across the way from Carbonear – Harbour Grace.  He calls his town the hub of the bay, I call mine the engine of the bay, but anyway that is between us. 

 

Again, the community of Bareneed and Port de Grave, going down the Port de Grave Peninsula.  I share the Town of Spaniard's Bay with my colleague across the way, and we have talked about that from both ends on many occasions.  As well, Mr. Speaker, the Town of Bishop's Cove going down the shore, and I have 99.5 per cent of Upper Island Cove.  I share the other piece, again, with my hon. colleague across the way.

 

Mr. Speaker, that area, Makinsons to Upper Island Cove, takes in some 12,000 hard-working people.  Most of those people you would consider as skilled tradesmen, people who have worked at painting, plastering, electricians, plumbers.  A lot of them have worked on the major projects not only in Newfoundland and Labrador, but throughout the country. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I could say that a large portion of my working population is transient.  We have a large segment of the population that still commutes on a regular basis out of the Province for work, whether they are in Alberta, whether they are in Ontario, and some even in the United States and the Caribbean.  Again, they are hard-working people who work in the trades and are very proud.  We also have a segment of our population who are professional people, lawyers, doctors, teachers, professionals; a large segment of that.  Those people, as well, work very hard in my district. 

 

I would be remiss if I never talked about the fishery.  We get up here and we talk about the fishery on many occasions – the Minister of Fisheries.  Mr. Speaker, I can honestly say the fishery is probably the economic engine that drives my district.  When the fishery is good, we know it.  We know it in our shops, we know it in our car dealerships, and we know that retail sales are up. 

 

This year has been a good crab season.  Many of our crab fishermen have had very successful early catches –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. LITTLEJOHN: – some are doing very well.  There are some challenges, Mr. Speaker, but this year has been a good crab season to date for the people who are fishing out of Port de Grave and out of Upper Island Cove. 

 

Mr. Speaker, as well, these people, these harvesters – and I have somewhere close to sixty or sixty-five harvesters in my district on sixty-five footers and less who employ a large number of people.  The average number – and my hon. colleague across the way can correct me – is about five people per boat.  They produce significant economic benefits. 

 

All these people, Mr. Speaker, have been doing very well this year in the crab fishery.  Are there challenges?  Sure there are, the fishery will always be a challenge.  It is a renewable resource.  We have all talked about the management of the fishery in this House, the lack of management, the lack of the need for new policies, and new direction.  That challenge is coming again because members in this House last week debated the private member's resolution on the cod fishery.  We know the cod is coming back and we are going to have to be ready for that.  There is going to be a challenge to that as well, Mr. Speaker, because we need our fishermen.

 

I was talking to a couple of our harvesters last week.  If we are going to go back into the cod fishery it has to be economically viable for those people who equip their boats and get their nets and do all that.  So they are going to have to have a certain quota.  I know the hon. member talked about allocations last week.  Maybe it might have to be allocations, but I think for an individual harvester to go back in the cod fishery and gear up for the cod fishery, I think we are going to have to look at some kind of quotas and reasonable quotas that make it economically viable for those harvesters to go back into the cod fishery.

 

So, Mr. Speaker, the fishery is an important part of my district.  It drives industry, it drives commercial interest in our towns, and it drives our retail sector.  We have a large volume of retail sector in the Port de Grave district that is dependent on the success of the fishery, because we certainly know when the fishery is well.

 

As well, in recent years, particularly in the last two censuses, we have had population growth.  I would consider my district, the District of Port de Grave, an urban-rural district.  It has some urban-rural characteristics.  If you look at the Town of Bay Roberts, roughly around 5,800 people, that is a large town in our Province, and I would consider that fairly urban in nature.  If you go to a community like Makinsons or Bishop's Cove, it is more rural in nature, a little older in population, but again, we have features of it all.  So my district I would consider urban-rural.

 

Mr. Speaker, we have all talked about it, and every time someone gets up we talk about our seniors.  I have always got to be aware in our district as well, because 40 per cent of the population in my district are seniors on fixed incomes.  When we make changes in HST and add back, that has impacts.  So you have to do something to balance that.  I believe in this Budget we have done some things to balance some of the impact of the increase in HST and the additional 8 per cent on our electricity bills.

 

Those are challenges that we all face, but again, when I sit in this House, or my hon. colleague got up today and he talked about people – well, it is people; it is all about people.  When I got involved in public life when I was the Mayor of the Town of Bay Roberts and a councillor, or I am here, it is all about people, and the people coming first.

 

Mr. Speaker, we always have to remind ourselves of the impact on those who are on fixed incomes, because they are the ones that are challenged.  They are the ones that are challenged when we have to pay their oil bill, or they have to go out and put groceries on their table.  We have the oldest aging population in the country, so we have to be aware of that.  We have provided some balance in our Budget and we talked about the seniors' tax benefit and some of those increases earlier when I got up earlier to speak. 

 

I would probably argue – and I would probably get some good discussion with my hon. colleague opposite if I called the District of Port de Grave the commercial centre of Conception Bay North.  We could argue that back and forth until the cows come home, but I consider the District of Port de Grave probably the commercial centre for Conception Bay North, and we share that distinction.  We may be able to share that distinction, but again, we have thriving population.  We have had a lot of new young people come in and build in our area.

 

Mr. Speaker, seeing the clock and it being 4:40 p.m., I ask if we could recess debate and come back again and begin debate at 7:00 this evening. 

 

I ask that the House go to recess. 

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

We have a Management Commission scheduled for 5:00 p.m.  Management Commission meetings have to take place in camera – in the House rather, on camera.  We need a little time to set up, so I would ask members' co-operation if we could adjourn debate until 7:00 p.m.  If that is good with everybody, the House will recess until 7:00 p.m. 

 

The Management Commission will meet at 5:00 p.m. and we will return 7:00 p.m.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Yes.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you. 

 

The House is in recess until 7:00 p.m.

 


June 8, 2015                HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS                Vol. XLVII No. 27A


 

The House resumed sitting at 7:00 p.m.

 

MR. SPEAKER (Cross): Order, please!

 

The hon. the Member for Port de Grave.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. LITTLEJOHN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

We continue the debate tonight on the main motion.  I was speaking just before we recessed the House earlier this afternoon.  Mr. Speaker, we were talking a little bit about the fishery and the economic engine that the fishery is in my district, the importance of the fishery in the district. 

 

Mr. Speaker, in the last ten minutes or so I just want to talk about some of the other things that are going on in my district, referencing them to the Budget.  Many of us have gotten up and we have talked about our infrastructure needs.  There is always going to be infrastructure needs, no matter whether you are on this side of the House or on the other side of the House.  There is not going to be a community in this Province that is not going to have some type of need, an infrastructure need of some kind. 

 

When I came to office in 2011 in our district, all the communities, all eleven of the communities had infrastructure needs.  Mr. Speaker, trying to organize and formulate a plan and request – like us all, we go in and we make our case and towns and municipalities make their case for their infrastructure requirements.  What I have tried to do is support those requirements and support those needs and wants.

 

Mr. Speaker, we all talk about our roads.  We have made some significant progress in the District of Port de Grave with road construction.  One of the roads that needed a lot of repair when I first came to office in 2011 was the main highway.  I call it the main highway.  I think it is Route 70 through many of our communities.  That highway had not seen a whole lot of work done for a lot of years.

 

I have been very pleased to work with various ministers and various municipalities.  We have done a significant amount of roadwork and new pavement and construction along Route 70.  That starts in Clarke's Beach, runs through Bay Roberts, runs through Spaniard's Bay, and it also runs through, what I consider an extension, Cranes Road.  We also got some work done on Cranes Road.

 

Mr. Speaker, when we were doing this, we wanted to make sure we had some type of plan.  We wanted to look at high-volume traffic roads first.  As well, when I first came to office in 2011, the road to Port de Grave – and as I said today, the plant and the harvesters in Port de Grave are very important; they drive our economy in the region to a great degree.  It was a constant theme that some work needed to be done on Bareneed Road, and we got some of that done.

 

Mr. Speaker, is there more work to do?  Sure there is.  That is no different in my district than any other district on either side of the House.  In Port de Grave itself, the road going into Port de Grave, Happy Jacks Hill, it needs some work.  I am working with the Minister of Transportation to see if we can get some work done there. 

 

Mr. Speaker, there is some work that needs to be done in Makinsons.  We got some work done, but there is some work that needs to be done on Juniper Stump Road.  I can go all the way through the district.  In the Town of Clarke's Beach there are certain sections of highway there that needs to be done.  So when members opposite talk about their needs, there are still lots of needs on this side as well.  We are all trying to make progress.  We are all advocating for the people in our districts and our communities. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I would remiss if I did not talk about something that is important and something that has been growing.  I call it the arts, but I guess you can call it tourism as well.  Ten years ago in my district there was very little reason to come and stay in my district, but working together in the region in general, taking in from the Member for Harbour Main to the Member for Carbonear – Harbour Grace and some of the co-operation that has taken place, we have developed a pretty good tourism industry with things for people to see.

 

I will speak about some of the things that are going on in the Town of Bay Roberts.  Like this weekend, there is a Songs, Stages, and Seafood Festival; a great weekend using homegrown Newfoundland and Labrador seafood, bringing people into the region, and bringing in some of the best chefs from across the Province.  I look forward to Friday night, to the kick-off event.  I have been there now for three years where eights chefs from across the Province will be doing eight different food choices.  It is a wonderful event, hosted by the Royal Canadian Legion; they do a great job.

 

I understand that there will be some members opposite and members of government at the big BBQ on Saturday at the Bay Arena.  It is a big event.  It is growing, Mr. Speaker, using sustainable seafood from Newfoundland and Labrador.  That is in partnership with the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture; I want to thank the minister, also the Minister of Business, Tourism, Culture and Rural Development, and the fishermen's union.  They are all playing a large part in it and they are developing a great, sustainable product. 

 

When we get into some of the events that are held, the shoreline walk in Bay Roberts – there is a great walk in Cupids and Brigus area in Harbour Main.  I am trying to think of the name, but it escapes me.  We have developed a tourism industry.  We have developed something where people can come and stay – whether they stay in the District of Port de Grave or whether they stay in the neighbouring District of Carbonear – Harbour Grace, or Harbour Main, you can make a week of it now with the various events going on throughout all of the communities.

 

You could argue, Mr. Speaker, you could take in the Trinity Shore; tourism is becoming a very good industry.  We have a very unique art gallery in Upper Island Cove; it is called the Grumpy Goat.  Mr. Speaker, if you have not seen the artwork that these young ladies produce, it is worth your while to come to our district and go to the Grumpy Goat art gallery in Upper Island Cove.  It is a wonderful place to go, two young ladies, great artists, and now, on Saturdays, they have a local lunch and brunch type thing and have expanded their business even further.

 

Mr. Speaker, I would be remiss if I did not talk about the art gallery in the east end of Bay Roberts; it is called waterworks.  Mr. Jackson took a local garage, an old garage – he bought the saltbox house, lives in the saltbox house, uses the old store shed, and he has turned it into an art gallery.  Not only a place where you will see him doing his work, but also displaying his product.  One of the cool things is he has kind of themed it on the tourism ads for Newfoundland and Labrador.  He has the clothesline, and he has the waterworks on the clothesline in the summertime blowing in the wind.  It is pretty cool. 

 

Mr. Speaker, all that comes back to something else that is a great thing in my district, and that is the volunteers.  None of this happens without the volunteers who drive all these different community events.  Whether it is the Canada Day BBQ in Port de Grave or the Upper Island Cove Days in Upper Island Cove, the Lassie Days in Spaniard's Bay or the Klondyke Days in Bay Roberts, or the Clarke's Beach Days, none of these events would be possible without the great volunteers and the great pride that these volunteers have in their communities.  We need to pay tribute to them tonight as well, because without these great volunteers taking pride in their communities, Mr. Speaker, none of these events would be possible.  I want to take my hat off to them tonight.

 

As well, Mr. Speaker, we have four volunteer fire departments in my district: in Bay de Grave, Upper Island Cove, Spaniard's Bay, and Bay Roberts.  Combining the four fire departments, there are over 100 volunteer firefighters serving our district.  These people are totally unselfish.  Day and night, twenty-four seven, 365, they are on call. 

 

I was sitting the other night with a volunteer fireman in the Town of Bay Roberts, and his beeper went off.  We were at the Health Foundation auction, along with the hon. member opposite, and he was gone.  No questions asked, gone.  His wife was sitting next to me, and she said, Glen, can I have a ride home?  That is the way they are.  That is the way volunteer firefighters are, they go.  When a call comes out, it makes no difference the time of day or night or where they are, Mr. Speaker, they go, and I want to commend them.

 

Mr. Speaker, I want to commend our town councils.  Our town councils in our districts and the people who lead communities, whether it is a town council or a local service district, a garbage committee, whatever it is, Mr. Speaker, I want to commend them tonight as well because they do yeoman's work.  They do it in a lot of times when people do not realize the amount of time and effort that goes in. 

 

Being a former municipal leader myself, I know.  I used to work here in the day.  You do your 9:00 to 5:00 job here in the day and you go home in the evening, and there was a lot of work to do.  There are many members on both sides of this House who has given unselfishly to their communities to make their communities a better place.

 

We talk about heart, that is the heart and soul of it right there, Mr. Speaker.  It starts with municipal leaders on councils and local service districts, or garbage committees or water committees, whatever it may be, but they are the heart and soul of your community.  It is not from the federal to the municipal, it is the municipal.  That is where it starts and that is where you get to know your people.  I want to commend them tonight.

 

If I had another hour, Mr. Speaker, I could talk about all the other wonderful things in education and agriculture and all the rest.  The people in my district, in the District of Port de Grave, I want to thank them for the opportunity to serve, and, Mr. Speaker, I speak to them every day.

 

Thank you very much.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

It is a privilege for me to be able to stand and speak to the motion and Budget 2015 tonight.  There has been a lot said; a lot of hours have been spent in this House debating the Budget currently, but when you look back at it, this is really a Budget of about $8 billion in expenses with about $6.9 billion in revenue that will be generated.  So it leaves us currently at a $1.1 billion deficit.

 

When you put that in perspective and you look back at the history and the hundreds of years that we have been as a people in Newfoundland and Labrador, going back for many, many years since Confederation in 1949, you ask yourself one question.  We have seen some very challenging times and years in this Province – $1.1 billion.  Of all the difficulties we have had, if you go back to 1992 and the cod moratorium, and all the subsequent years that followed that with all the difficulties this Province has faced, have we ever had a deficit of $1.1 billion?  The answer to that is no, we have not.

 

When you think about where we are at our current point in our history in our Province, $1.1 billion deficit, it is really unprecedented.  It is unheard of; it is something we have never seen in our history.

 

We have seen this budget, Budget 2015 – there has a lot been said in recent years by this Tory government about what they have inherited, what it is they have inherited.  We have often heard them speak about the infrastructure issues that have been inherited.  There is no question about it, there were certainly infrastructure deficits.  There still are infrastructure deficits in our Province.  The Member for Port de Grave just mentioned it as he spoke.  I can go around my own district, and there is no difference. 

 

We can talk about roadwork.  If I go into White Bay in my district of Humber Valley today, I can tell you there are kilometres and kilometres of road that are in desperate need of repair.  You go into communities and we still have boil water advisories.  It is prevalent, no matter where you go throughout Newfoundland and Labrador.  I have travelled this Province extensively in the last three-and-a-half years as Leader of the Official Opposition and people tell me this.  It is evident.  You can see it as you travel our Province.

 

They talk about what has been inherited by this government, you talk about debt.  Net debt at the end of 2015-2016 is $11.5 billion – $11.5 billion of net debt at the end of 2015-2016.  So you go back and say: What did we inherit?  What did this government inherit in 2003-2004?  Net debt at that time, guess what it was?  It was $11.487 billion.  That was the net debt.  So what we have seen over the last twelve years is really no change at all. 

 

When this government talks about reducing the net debt in our Province over the last twelve years, that is not the case.  The numbers speak for themselves.  At the end of 2015-2016, the debt in our Province will be $12 billion.  That is after $25 billion in oil money which has come from oil royalties and the Atlantic Accord.  About $4.5 billion in Atlantic Accord money I say, Mr. Speaker. 

 

Then what we have seen – how did this government respond to the 2015 Budget?  This is what happened.  They took out ads; ads that were paid for by the taxpayers of Newfoundland and Labrador to promote this Budget, to promote what they wanted to say about this Budget, but they left out the glaring facts that were there.  They left out the fact that there was an HST increase.  They left out the fact that it was the highest deficit in the history of our Province, I say, Mr. Speaker, a $1.1 billion deficit.  That was all left out of the ad campaign that was paid for by the taxpayers of this Province, an ad campaign that really did not share the facts. 

 

If it is taxpayers' money going to be paid for at a taxpayer's expense, if you are going to take this out of the pockets of seniors and families in our Province, well, then at least tell the facts.  Tell the full story.  Just do not take what you want to take from your Budget and talk about things that were announced many years ago, the things that have been advertised that have been done a long time ago, but the facts about the increase in the HST, the fact about the highest deficit in the history of our Province, the fact about borrowing levels like we have never seen before; $2 billion this year and an extra $4.85 billion in the subsequent years to come. 

 

This is after having $25 billion in money from oil royalties and the Atlantic Accord.  The ad campaign paid for by the taxpayers of Newfoundland and Labrador did not tell the full story.  This was money that was paid for out of this year's Budget, I say, Mr. Speaker. 

 

We all remember back a few years ago when a past Premier – it was Premier Dunderdale who made a commitment over a ten-year plan of reducing the net debt per capita.  That is the debt that every man, woman, and child in Newfoundland and Labrador would be responsible for.  Their target there – this was another plan that was announced back in 2012.  It was at a board of trade dinner here in St. John's.  The net-debt per capita – what this government's objective was and what the plan was to get the net-debt per capita at the Canadian average. 

 

What really happened since that point?  What has really happened?  Are we moving any closer to that?  Mr. Speaker, the ad campaigns did not say it.  The ad campaigns of the 2015 Budget did not say this, but these are the facts from what is happening based on the levels that we have seen in this year's Budget.  The net-debt per capita will be almost $22,000, and that is an increase of about $7,000 in the last five years.  It has increased from $14,863 in 2011-2012 up to $21,907 in 2015-2016. 

 

Mr. Speaker, when this government makes a commitment like that, I wish that was a commitment they would not make.  Because when you make a commitment, you must have a plan to get you to where you expect to be; but clearly, what they have done since that, they have actually added to the net-debt per capita of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians: $7,000 more in the last five years, I say, Mr. Speaker. 

 

The national average in ten years right now is certainly not a target, under the current plan of this government, that they will ever reach.  There is no plan to do that.  Then when you talk about planning, when you talk about the sustainability plan that was announced by this government just a couple of years ago, what happened to that?  It was plan that they walked away from; this government has walked away from.

 

It really was not a plan.  It was announced in a Budget, but really no long-term plan, no sustainability plan, it was never clearly there.  No different than when you look at the plan for the fisheries fund.  We all know in recent months about what happened to the fisheries fund.  This was negotiated – or they thought there was a deal.  No doubt, I am on record as saying that the principles of the deal were certainly within the CETA negotiations; they were there.  The framework was there, but what happened is they never concluded the deal.  The never concluded the negotiation.

 

At no point will you ever see a federal minister, the Prime Minister, ever come out publicly and say yes, we have a deal, and the deal is around a $400 million fund based on $280 million from the feds and $120 million in provincial funding.  We saw a lot of federal announcements in this Province over the years. 

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Earle thought there was a deal.

 

MR. BALL: Yes, and the current Leader of the NDP, as my colleague remind me, thought they had a deal too because they were in on some of the emails that were back and forth. 

 

Getting back to the negotiations and how you finalize a negotiation, what happened in this particular case they went to The Rooms, got together, invited a few people, and they went in and had their little party, thought they had a deal – but who was not there?  The federal party was not there.  There was no document.  No photo opportunity.

 

Mr. Speaker, clearly when many federal politicians are about to announce a $280 million deal, typically what happens is they actually show up.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. BALL: They will show up.  They want to be there because they want to be part of it.  It is something they would be proud of, but in this case they did not show up.  Even though they thought they might have had a deal, it was never concluded.  We will not see one piece of paper that puts a federal signature onto the CETA deal which says there was a deal that was struck by this Province and by the feds, I say, Mr. Speaker.

 

So now what we do is we found ourselves – this Province, this government, was actually planning to spend the fisheries fund, planning to spend $400 million; $280 million of it from the feds and $120 million from this Province.  What have we seen?  We have now seen them, in the last few months, move away from agreements –

 

MR. J. BENNETT: (Inaudible).

 

MR. BALL: There we go.  My colleague for St. Barbe reminds us of the Humber Valley Paving contract and how they quickly moved away – they thought they had a deal there too.

 

Nevertheless, back to the CETA deal, the feds did not show up and now we have removed ourselves from significant trade negotiations.  Now we find ourselves having to move back, as a government, move away and now find themselves – as a matter of fact, I think we have a minister representing the Province at one of these negotiations even tomorrow, Mr. Speaker. 

 

So these are the types of plans – the infrastructure plan.  I want to remind the people of Newfoundland and Labrador just a few years ago about a multi-billion dollar infrastructure plan that the Auditor General went looking for.  The news came back and it was kind of like a back of the napkin, back of the envelope, kind of a deal that really was not a plan at all.  It was an infrastructure plan – we were told this is a revolving plan.  This is really not a plan that the Auditor General, in his office, can go and actually do the audit, just to see if you are actually sticking to you plan at all.

 

So we had no sustainability plan that was announced.  The CETA fund did not have the signatures that were required to make that stick, no remedies, so when it failed, it actually failed.  There was no solution to that.  The infrastructure plan that was announced many years ago – well, it really was not an infrastructure plan at all.  It was just some document that was evolving over time.

 

Mr. Speaker, this is the reason why we find ourselves in a situation of a $1.1 billion deficit.  This is a government that has really failed to plan, failed to manage the affairs of this Province, failed to put aside money that is required to get us through the challenging times that we face today.

 

In 2009, there was also this celebration of now becoming a have Province.  I know when I talk to people in the Province, they really do not feel – there is really not a sense that they belong to a have Province.  At this particular point, they would expect that they would not have to be fighting for the things that we normally do.  In the last twelve Budgets by this current government, we are looking at six deficits when we have had unprecedented levels of oil royalties, the Atlantic Accord money – six deficits in twelve Budgets.  Without the Atlantic Accord, which we knew was coming to an end – everybody knew that the Atlantic Accord was coming to an end.  Nine deficits of the last twelve Budgets, if we took out the Atlantic Accord money, Mr. Speaker. 

 

This should not have been any news to this government that the Atlantic Accord money would end.  This was, as we know, scheduled to expire or terminate in 2017, but instead what happened there was $2 billion cash in advance and the Atlantic Accord was 2012.  Everybody on the government side had to know that the Atlantic Accord was coming to an end; $4.5 billion later, the Atlantic Accord would come to an end.  These are the sort of things that lead into the current deficits that we have had.  Nine out of twelve Budgets would have been deficits if it was not for the Atlantic Accord revenue, Mr. Speaker. 

 

It is hard not to think about what it could have been for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians and what should have been, Mr. Speaker, with proper planning and with proper management of the affairs of our Province.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible). 

 

MR. BALL: Yes, with the Population Growth Strategy too, my colleague reminds me. 

 

Budget 2015 unveiled what we consider to be a financial crisis that has been years in the making.  Since this government took office in this particular Administration, we have seen, certainly, a downturn in our economy.  The economic indicators that we are seeing in the next few years are certainly all pointing in the wrong direction. 

 

This Budget unveiled the impacts of what is nothing more than a Tory Administration, a PC government, under planning and fiscal mismanagement that has been brought on our Province; $1.1 billion deficit, with unprecedented amounts of borrowing.  What was the solution to all of this?  The solution for this government is let's increase the HST, let's take that from 13 per cent to 15 per cent, let's do that, and, as I said, let's borrow more. 

 

HST – now, we all know in tough, challenging, economic times – your own budget documents support this – one thing that you should not do, one thing you should never do is, take money out of the pockets of the consumers. 

 

Just this morning as we were coming back into St. John's, there was a gentleman who came up to me, he said to me as Leader of the Opposition – and he has been around.  This is a person who has been around our Province for quite some time.  He has made some significant investments.  His comment to me was this: no matter what you do, Dwight, make sure that this HST gets overturned.  It is a job killer and it will stunt the economy. 

 

When you have economic indicators in our Province all going in the wrong direction, the last thing you want to do is take money out of the pockets of consumers, take money out of the pockets of seniors, take money out of the pockets of our young families, and that is what our HST does.  That is the solution this government has had.

 

Mr. Speaker, we have already made the announcement.  We have already said that if we get the support after the next provincial election, the HST will be (inaudible). 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

HST places undue burden I say, Mr. Speaker, on our young families, on our seniors.  It destroys consumer confidence.  This was part of the conversation again that we had this morning.  Key to a sustainable economy is that there must be a consumer confidence.  Right now it is something I have not seen in this Province for many, many years.  This is the lowest consumer confidence we have seen in our Province for quite some time.

 

Investors from outside, investors from within are having second thoughts about making the necessary investments that will actually fuel our economy.  I know this is a tough pill for people of our Province to swallow right now.  This after coming from a government that has not been able to demonstrate the ability to effectively manage or even follow through on their own plans, let alone ones set out in this Budget.

 

Mr. Speaker, I have mentioned the solutions of this government by increasing the HST, taking the money out of seniors, taking the money from our young families and our youth, but then what happens is we have a Premier who says, well, do not worry about this.  As a matter of fact, last fall we had the Premier and the Minister of Finance saying we are not overly concerned about this because the price of oil – we did not really see this coming but things will be okay. 

 

Now, Mr. Speaker, simply someone saying it will be okay does not necessarily mean it is going to be okay.  Things do not get better because a Premier or a Minister of Finance says: Well, do no worry about it.  We should not be worried about that, things will be okay. 

 

This is like win your lottery; buy your lottery ticket attitude that we see from time to time.  We see this from this government.  If a Premier says it is going to be okay, it does not necessarily mean it is going to be okay if you do not have sound management and proper planning to back up those words.  So you have to make things better.  How do you make things better, Mr. Speaker?  Well, you plan for it.  You manage better.  You consult and you listen to the people. 

 

Just today in the House of Assembly during Question Period we talked about certain ideas that came through with parents and groups who have some of our children affected with autism.  The Premier said, well, we are consulting; we are listening to the people.  The people came back with some clear solutions to the issues that were facing them.  None of that exists; none of that this government has heard.  So you have to do something about it. 

 

Just listening to people and not taking action on it really means you have been dismissed.  There has been nothing done constructively about your input.  When that happens – and we hear this on a daily basis – when people reach out, they offer solutions, and they are not listened to.  What happens is this, they just go away.  They tune out and they feel they have not been listened to.  They feel their input has not been valued.  When that happens they just want to give up. 

 

I know my colleagues here; we have been reaching out to people all across this Province.  People are coming with solutions and people feel they have some value.  This will be reflective – and I am really looking forward to the election when these things can be discussed where it needs to be.  I am optimistic about the future of our Province but it requires hard work.  We challenge our members on this side of the House, it will require hard work. 

 

It will require listening to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador because many of their ideas, many of the solutions required to restore consumer confidence, to restore the investor confidence in Newfoundland and Labrador will be there.  The solutions are there.  Many of them are within our front-line workers who exist within our health care system, who exist within our education system.  These are people working in our public service.  These are people who are working in our communities right now.  They are coming forward with many great solutions, simply because they feel valued.  They feel part of where we are today, Mr. Speaker.

 

When it comes down to it – one of the other things that has been mentioned to me over the weekend is when we hear the minister and we hear the Premier talking about those famous words: Well, no one saw this coming.  Of course we are referring to the oil prices.  No one saw this coming.  Well, Mr. Speaker, what we know about commodity prices, they are volatile.  They are very cyclical when you look at this. 

 

In the history of commodities – if it is oil, if it is mining, no matter what it is – the values will rise and they will fall.  Sometimes many events that lead up to this is out of the control of governments but what we do know, it is volatile.  They do rise and they do fall.  The fact that you did not see it coming does not mean you do not put contingency plans in place to prepare for it, because it will happen.  Prices will fall and prices will come around. 

 

Despite the rhetoric, the core problem we are facing right now with this government has not changed.  That is simply the fact that it has become completely focused on any budget money, any revenue stream that is generated from oil.  They refused to create the economic diversification that is required in our Province to make sure we are prepared to meet the challenges that we have to deal with in Newfoundland and Labrador right now, Mr. Speaker. 

 

The Auditor General has identified it, others have identified it.  The track record is they cannot effectively plan or manage the provincial affairs of this Province right now is evident.  We see this; it is easy to see, Mr. Speaker, because it is a $1.1 billion deficit and unprecedented levels of borrowing. 

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

 

MR. BALL: Thank you, I say to my colleague.

 

Then we hear about bold and making choices and balance.  Mr. Speaker, bold decisions does not necessarily mean they were the right ones.  What is the difference between making a bold decision and making the right decision?  What happens with a right decision is the research is done, the analysis is done, Mr. Speaker.  We have seen examples of that in the last few weeks from this government. 

 

They call it a bold decision, but when you go looking for the information, when you go looking for the analysis, when you go looking for the research to support what they call a bold decision, it is non-existent.  It is not available, Mr. Speaker.  The research and analysis to support what they call bold decisions does not exist.  That is because they have not consulted, they have done the due diligence.  This is what gets us in the position that we are into today, Mr. Speaker. 

 

Let me remind the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, when you hear a Premier, when you hear a minister, when you hear a member of this government talk about the bold decisions, the balance, the choices, and all that, do not mistake that for it to be the right decision.  There is a big difference. 

 

AN HON. MEMBER: The infrastructure program, $5 billion.

 

MR. BALL: Yes, like the $5 billion, as my colleague just reminded me, of the infrastructure spend that we would save when we went looking for that. 

 

I would say a closer example that we could use for that would be the privatization of long-term care.  When they announced this, there was not one shred of evidence produced to support the fact that this could be delivered cheaper – not there, not there at all. 

 

They have underestimated the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, because they see it for what it is.  The people understand that the economy right now, what this Province needs now like no other point in our history is better planning and better management.

 

Throughout the Budget debate, my colleagues have been focused on drawing out the details of this Budget, not just listening to an ad campaign that was paid for by the taxpayers of this Province.  Let's bring out the details, let's talk about the increase in HST, let's talk about the levels of borrowing, and let's talk about this government's inability to create new sources of revenue from many of the traditional industries that we see in our Province.

 

My colleagues on this side of the House, their job has been to draw out, to focus on what has been missing from the actions of this government.  I would say we should not jump to a solution until you have determined the extent of the problems that we are facing in our Province right now.  As I mentioned, making announcements on long-term care and those sorts of things without putting the proper planning measures in place is an example of poor management. 

 

I can give you another example when we talk about long-term care.  We had seven years to construct a long-term care centre in Pleasantville – seven full years.  Today, we have thirty beds in that long-term care centre that are currently empty.  Why are they empty?  Seven years to plan for it –

 

AN HON. MEMBER: No HR plan.

 

MR. BALL: No Human Resource plan, none at all.  We are there now, the beds are empty, the rooms – there is no one in those rooms simply because they could not find the staff.  Seven years to find staff.  What have they done?  They went out and they have leased beds in another centre that they do not even own, in a private centre, going out now and leasing beds somewhere else when we have thirty of our units that are empty – thirty that are empty – and we still have a waiting list.

 

We ask ourselves: Where are those seniors who are on the waiting list?  What happens, they are now in an acute care centre, in a hospital, between $50,000 and $60,000 a month simply because this government had seven years to find people to work in a centre.  What would you think was happening for seven years when that construction was ongoing?  Many people drove by this, you could see this happening, this is not something that crept upon you, this is not something that you did not see coming; seven years to find staff to staff a long-term care site, could not do it and response is let's go out and rent rooms, let's go out and lease rooms, and let's leave seniors in an acute care centre when the rooms are there, the units are there, thirty units are there, Mr. Speaker.  Their answer to that is let's go and build more, let's go and privatize it, Mr. Speaker. 

 

AN HON. MEMBER: The beds are blocked. 

 

MR. BALL: The beds are blocked, and obviously it is really not good use of our human resources, Mr. Speaker. 

 

Budget 2015 paints a bleak picture for our Province in all of the provincial economic indicators, Mr. Speaker.  People will look at me and say well, okay then, what is the source.  The source of the economic indicators is this governments' own Budget documents. 

 

Our population will shrink.  We all know the challenges of growing a population.  We all know what a growing population means to an economy.  We need just to look to PEI, a small province, and they will tell you that the economy in the Province of Prince Edward Island – they will tell you that the reason why they are growing is simply because they have been able to grow their population. 

 

In our population, the Province will shrink from 527,000 in 2014 to 520,000 in 2018.  That is not growth, that is not a growing economy, that is a shrinking economy, that is losing people, Mr. Speaker, many of those are Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who are moving to other provinces – a loss of 6,400 Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to other provinces.  

 

Just a few days ago we saw the latest job numbers that have been released.  The unemployment rate in our Province, according to the economic indicators that just came out a few weeks ago by this government, this is what was supposed to happen.  The unemployment rate was 11.9 per cent in 2014.  This is what Budget 2015 said, that it will grow to 13.3 per cent in 2018.  It was going to go from 11.9 per cent in 2014 to 13.3 per cent in 2018.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: I did not hear that in the ad.

 

MR. BALL: Well, that was not in the ad, my colleagues said, but I will tell you what was in the announcement that came just a few days ago when we saw the latest numbers from Stats Canada – guess where it was?  It was 13.8 per cent in May.  In 2015, if you look at the economic indicators just released by this government a few weeks ago, we were already at and surpassed the levels they thought we were going to be in 2018, Mr. Speaker.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: We will be fine.

 

MR. BALL: Yes, the Premier says everything is going to be okay.  The ministers are saying that everything is going to be okay.  Trust me; we know what we are doing.  We have a plan for this.

 

One of the plans they talked about, as I said, was increasing the HST.  Then in recent days, it was mentioned by the Premier there a few days ago that since the price of oil has been rallying – and indeed what we have seen, since the Budget, is prices drop by $3.  I say, Mr. Speaker, that is not what I call a rally.  Now we are going to base the HST – we are going to take another look at that.  Forgetting the fact that it takes 120 days to put this in, just because of the mechanics around HST – we are going to take another look at that, because oil is rallying.  Even though it is gone down $3, oil is still rallying.  So we might be able to revisit our HST.

 

Well, Mr. Speaker, that is clearly electioneering.  If you put a Budget out just a month ago, not even passed in this House of Assembly yet, we are still debating the Budget, and there is the Premier out, just a few days later, simply because he knows this is a bad decision, trying to distance himself from a decision that they know is wrong, that they know will kill jobs in our Province, they know it will stunt the grown in our economy – now we are going to take a look at the rallying price of oil, which is down $3.  We are going to take another look at that.  That is the type of management that we are seeing from this government.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) while you are up in Lab West.

 

MR. BALL: Yes, there you go.

 

Mr. Speaker, clearly that is not the way to manage a Province.  Increase HST, announce it in your Budget, four weeks later think that oil is rallying, that oil has rebounded, when clearly it has not, and now we are going to adjust the HST. 

 

So when you look at that, a Budget is supposed to be a plan.  Here we are, it did not even see passage in the House of Assembly and this government is trying to distance itself from its own Budget.  It has nothing to do with the decisions, the bold choices, as they say they have made.  It has all to do with the feedback they have been getting from the people of Newfoundland and Labrador because they know that this decision is wrong, Mr. Speaker.  It is wrong. 

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) five-year plan. 

 

MR. BALL: It is part of their part-time plan. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I want to talk a little bit about disposable income.  That will also decrease for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.  Real change in household disposable income will decrease in 2015, it will decrease in 2016, and again through to 2018.  These are right from this government's own Budget documents, yet clearly left out of the ads that this government paid for at taxpayers' expenses. 

 

The retail sales will also decline.  So when you look at consumer confidence, this really goes back to if retail sales is declining, it really speaks to the fact that the consumer does not have the confidence.  So what they do, you have heard people say, they pinch their pennies and that is exactly what has happened.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Save it for a rainy day.

 

MR. BALL: They save for a rainy day, my colleague reminds me. 

 

Retail sales will decline.  This is the reason why we see unemployment rates that are continuing to rise, Mr. Speaker.  Real change in retail sales will decrease in 2015, 2016, 2017, and again in 2018.  This is this government, I would say, painting a very bleak picture for Newfoundland and Labrador.  That was not –

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) housing starts.

 

MR. BALL: Housing starts again, clearly we are going to see housing starts – and I can tell you if there is one industry that will feel the impact of the increase in HST, it is the housing industry in this government. 

 

Where will the future be on our GDP, the size of our economy?  That too will continue to fall.  So, we have seen unemployment numbers grow; we have seen disposable income, that will decrease; retails sales will decrease; GDP, this government's own documents, they can read it themselves – maybe some ministers will get up after and read from a different page, but I tell you, go to your own Budget documents, read it yourself, the GDP will also continue to fall.  GDP will decrease in 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018.

 

Keep in mind; this is all at a time with three megaprojects are on the go in our Province.  We are seeing decreases in disposable income, our economy will shrink, and our population is falling, all at a time with three megaprojects occurring in our Province, Mr. Speaker. 

 

What about our labour force?  That also will continue to decline, Mr. Speaker.  In 2014, our labour force was almost 271,000; in 2018, it will be down to 257,000.  These are people ready and willing to go to work.  We are seeing people in Newfoundland and Labrador who have just given up and they have just removed themselves from the labour force.  Some have left the Province altogether, I say, Mr. Speaker.  That is a decrease of 14,000 in the labour force in five years.  How can you grow an economy when you have a shrinking population, you have your GDP declining, you have disposable income declining?  Mr. Speaker, that is not economic growth.  With housing starts, capital investment, and the Consumer Price Index dropping, your cost of living in Newfoundland and Labrador, that rises. 

 

Mr. Speaker, this government's solution: Let's increase the HST, let's increase borrowing – and we do not even talk about the number of fees that have been increased by Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.  No sign at all of economic diversification in this Budget at all.  It is barely, barely mentioned. 

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

 

MR. BALL: Yes, moose licence and the rainy-day fund, Mr. Speaker, all kinds of comments right now as my colleagues are reminding me of all the fee increases that we have seen in this Budget.

 

Mr. Speaker, taking a real honest look at where we are today is important.  We have had nineteen consecutive months of year-over-year job losses in our Province.  Twenty-three hundred job losses in the last year alone.  Three megaprojects – we have Muskrat Falls, we have Hebron, we have Long Harbour, and we are still losing jobs.  What does that say for the rest of the economy, Mr. Speaker?  No economic diversification at all. 

 

Government forecast another 12,000 people will be out of the workforce by 2018.  Mr. Speaker, this is their own Budget documents, and I know that this government – this will not be part of a marketing campaign.  This is not something that they will want to discuss on the election campaign, I assure you of that.  The response is: Do not worry about it.  You should not worry about this.  We really do not need to plan.  We really do not need to manage.  Everything is going to be okay, I say, Mr. Speaker.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) clean up the environment.

 

MR. BALL: Yes, that is right.  That is not talking about, as my colleague mentioned, all the environmental liabilities that this government has taken on and really has not even documented yet.  Mr. Speaker, this government's solution is increase HST, borrow, and everything will be okay.  That is what we hear from this government.

 

Now, Mr. Speaker, the other thing I think that is worthy of note is that there has been a lot of commentary around how do we get here, how did this happen.  We did not see it coming, number one, but let's not forget the fact that this government was forecasting a deficit of $500 million to $600 million when oil was at $105.  It is not all about the price of oil. 

 

Again, that was not something that was in the government ads.  Did anyone hear that in the government ads this year that were paid for by the taxpayers of Newfoundland?  No, it was not about that; it is we did not see the drop in oil prices coming.  They are not talking about a $500 million to $600 million deficit when oil was at $105, Mr. Speaker, so it is not just all about the drop in oil prices.  That is what this government would like you to think about when clearly that is not the case, go back to Budget 2014 and just look at the deficits. 

 

What do we have facing our future?  We have $1.1 billion this year and deficits in the next four years to come – just constant, constant deficits.  What do they do; what is the solution?  The solution is to be able to say that at some point we are going to get out of deficit.  As a matter of fact, in 2020 we are going to come out of deficit.  How are we going to do that?

 

They are going to predict the price of oil into the future in 2020 –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. BALL: So they have a crystal ball – they could not predict it for one year and now they are going to predict it for the next five years.  Now we are going to get out of deficit and come back in surplus.  No sign at all of economic diversification, clearly all about oil, but it seems like almost drawing straws, pick a number, the number in 2020 will be $90 – $62 this year, could not predict it for one year, and five years it is going to be enough to take us out of this deficit, Mr. Speaker.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: It is going to rally.

 

MR. BALL: It is going to rally.  We are in for a rally yet.  We might even reduce the HST at that point, Mr. Speaker. 

 

Accepting the responsibility for the actions is not something that this government has done a very good job at.  Meanwhile, as I just mentioned, it was this government who was planning for 58 per cent of last year's, almost $1 billion – this before the oil prices were starting to drop at all.

 

Today, we are in this situation because they have managed the economy really in what has been a reaction mode, no planning, not being proactive at all, never taking anything proactive to prepare for our Province when we meet the challenges that we face today.  The actions of this government and those actions they failed to take is now what has gotten us into the situation that we are in today with $1.1 billion.  Mr. Speaker, never before in our history have we seen deficits like we have seen in this Budget.  This in what is supposed to be the good times, the golden age. 

 

We have seen a former Premier, a former Finance Minister say just a few years ago, we are flush with cash.  Mr. Speaker, if we were flush with cash, why are we now having a $1.1 billion –

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Two billion dollars.

 

MR. BALL: – and having to borrow $2 billion?  We are flush with cash. 

 

AN HON. MEMBER: We flushed the cash.

 

MR. BALL: We flushed the cash, my colleagues are reminding me. 

 

Mr. Speaker, this is indeed a very serious issue when we look at how you prepare for things.  There has been a lot said about the levels of borrowing, the deficits, the amount of deficits and what we are passing on to the next generation. 

 

Now, Mr. Speaker, I will tell you it will require a lot of hard work.  The solutions for this will require a lot of co-operation and collaboration with communities, with associations, with businesses, with people across Newfoundland and Labrador, and clearly this is not happening.  We are hearing this every day when we talk to – groups are telling us right now that they do not feel like they have been listened to by this government.  They feel they have been left out of the discussion, Mr. Speaker, and why is that? 

 

In a lot of cases we have had a government that has not been able to focus, when you look at the amount of Cabinet shuffles we have seen in recent years.  Mr. Speaker, seven Finance Ministers in four years – seven Finance Ministers. 

 

AN HON. MEMBER: How many Premiers?

 

MR. BALL: A colleague just asked me, how many Premiers?  Well, some would argue, it is about 3.5 some people are saying.  That is what they say.

 

Mr. Speaker, seven Finance Ministers in four years.  Eight ministers responsible for economic development in seven years.  You wonder why we cannot get focused; we cannot get disciplined on trying to create economic diversification in our Province – eight ministers responsible for economic development in seven years.  Six ministers for workforce development in seven years.  Seven Ministers of Transportation and Works in seven years, and fourteen Health Ministers we have had in the last twelve years.

 

Mr. Speaker, these are a lot of changes in key portfolios in our Province.  What is this government doing about it?  How do they propose to fix the financial situation they have now put us in?  Mr. Speaker, it has been tax and borrow, increase fees, and take money out of the pockets of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, our seniors; many of our seniors who are out there now struggling to make ends meet.  What you do is increase taxes, increase fees.  That has been the response of this government.

 

I want to talk a little bit about Labrador.  Mr. Speaker, people in Labrador have been promised – there was a commitment made for two ferries for Labrador.  What happened here?  There was an RFP that went out for planning.  Now we have seen the people in Labrador – once again they are left to wait because this government did not follow through on a commitment that was made. 

 

On top of that, they really have not thought through what is going to happen, because they have not planned for this.  We already know the current vessels that are being used are clearly not ready to support the services that are required up there.  The ferries were delayed, both on the North Coast and The Straits ferries.  Mr. Speaker, the people of Labrador – I was there just a few weeks ago – feel they have been shut out by the government of this Province.

 

We see the people in Fortune, as an example, where we have seen commitments that were made just a few years ago and not being followed through on.  Government is not holding the companies and the industries that are responsible for the decisions and the commitments that they have made, this government is not holding them at task.

 

Mr. Speaker, we have seen the same in Harbour Breton, and the people in Lab West and Wabush with the recent closure of Wabush Mines, and what we are seeing in the disruptions at IOC.  People in Central Newfoundland have been promised a commitment for the use of its fibre resources there.  Clearly, that is not happening.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Roddickton.

 

MR. BALL: Yes, my colleague reminds me of what is happening in Roddickton.  We have seen the Roddickton pellet plant with $10 million of taxpayers' money into a pellet plant that is not producing one single job, Mr. Speaker – $10 million.

 

What are you doing now?  They are going to create a new business plan, I say, Mr. Speaker, another $185,000.  They are going to do a new business plan.  The first business plan was virtually non-existent.  They needed a new wharf; they could not ship it out.  The budget on that was about $5 million.  They put in $10 million, clearly without a business plan that was structured for success. 

 

They are still paying insurance on things they will not even get back.  Someone else has funded that.  There is insurance to cover a kiln and certain components of that, but now what they have done is put insurance around –and this government is calling it protecting their assets, when clearly they did not even know what their assets were.  Mr. Speaker, the plan is not focused on growing the economy.  It is really just taking it down and taking money out of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. 

 

We will speak to the HST.  Why we do not support the increase in HST is it will have an impact on every single economic sector that we see in our Province.  It will impact tourism.  It will destroy consumer confidence, retail sales, spending power of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians from our youth, from our young families, from our seniors, people who are struggling to make ends meet – less people in the workforce. 

 

Mr. Speaker, when you look at it, it is just not me as Leader of the Official Opposition.  When we speak out about the increase in HST, I am not the only one saying that.  We had the Retail Council of Canada that has spoken out about that.  We have had boards of trade and chambers of commerce across our Province that has spoken out against this.  We have had the Employers' Council; we have had the Federation of Labour and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.  Many people have spoken out against the increase in HST. 

 

Think about the effect it will have on the first-time homebuyers, Mr. Speaker.  That is an increase of $9,000 on an average family home.  This in the backdrop of a Premier who said that one of the objectives, one of the commitments he was willing to do was make it easier for that first-time homebuyer to purchase their first home.  Well, Mr. Speaker, increasing the HST certainly does not do that.  In fact, what it does is it makes it much more difficult. 

 

In their own Budget documents we have seen examples where they are not doing their due diligence on things like that, the impact that it will have on our young families, Mr. Speaker.  What it requires will be better management.  It will require new jobs, not less jobs, and it will require growth. 

 

Mr. Speaker, there has been a lot said of where a government needs to be focused, about managing expenses, about reducing waste.  As an example, we heard the Minister of Transportation and Works say about two other ferries.  We were told they were going to negotiate the reduction of tariffs.  This was going to happen because maybe they thought the relationship with Ottawa was much better than they thought, but they were going to get that money back in the tariffs.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: How much?

 

MR. BALL: Around $24 million.  They went ahead, they finalized that deal, but they did not have the negotiation on the tariffs.  They did not have the tariff exemption.  They did not have that part of the deal.  They did not have that finished.

 

So, Mr. Speaker, what happens?  It is an extra $24 million that will now have to be spent, will now have to come from this year's Budget, money that could have went towards health care services, money that could have went towards roads and water.  There are many places where this money could have been spent; but, instead, because they did not have this exemption on those tariffs negotiated, we now find ourselves having to come up with an extra $24 million.

 

The other thing I want to talk a little bit about is the inability of this government to collect fines.  Unless you are $400 or less than $400, we know there is really not a lot of effort into collecting those fines from people who actually break the law.  Let's think about those people for a few minutes, the people who really did not break the law.  Of course, what I am referring to are the over 400 seniors in our Province that saw overpayments.  This government has no issue at all of going out and collecting that money.  The seniors who are not responsible for this at all, this is all due because of this government.

 

Now they are going to go out and they are going to collect the overpayment from those seniors.  Guess what?  Some of those are $300, less than what you have just given up on people who have actually broken the law and you do not even bother to go looking for that.  If we remember just a few years ago, we actually laid off some of the people who were actually responsible for collecting that.

 

Mr. Speaker, there are so many things we can talk about when it comes to growing the economy.  I want to talk a little bit about some of the Crown land from within our communities.  Just recently, I met some people, as you know, on the West Coast of Newfoundland.  We find many people who make a living from the agricultural industry out there.  They have told me – and not just on the West Coast, they have told me on the East Coast and in Central – about how difficult it has been for people to get Crown land transferred for agricultural use so they can actually increase the size of their agriculture and their farms and grow more and create employment.

 

Mr. Speaker, taking six and sometimes nine years – just think about it.  If you are forty years old and you are working hard and you go looking for Crown land, by the time you are forty-nine years old you can expect to have that completed.  That is not co-operating and not working with people who are looking to create partnerships with this government. 

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Lost opportunities.

 

MR. BALL: Lost opportunities when it comes to creating economic diversification, creating a new source of revenue for people in our Province.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: The Corner Brook hospital.

 

MR. BALL: Yes, the Corner Brook hospital too is something that has been promised and really has seen little commitment from this government.

 

I am going to finish up my remarks in just a few minutes, but I want to look back at the history of where we are when it comes to deficits and surpluses.  I think this is something that has really been lost on many people in our Province because what they have done is they have listened to some of the comments, the ads that have been paid for by this government; but if you go back, as an example in 2002-2003, we saw a deficit of $644 million. You can imagine what a different place this Province was back in 2002-2003.  It was a much different Province and here we are with deficits about one half of where they are.

 

With all the oil royalties we have had, all the negotiated – this is a government that talked about how Voisey's Bay was not even good for this Province.  We should not do that.  Now we see the minister, we see the Premier, celebrating the impact of the Voisey's Bay mine on Newfoundland and Labrador.  I can tell you –

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (inaudible).

 

MR. BALL: Yes, the Baie Verte Peninsula, the mining conference, and our colleagues were there for that.  That is an area I will say, Mr. Speaker, when you look at where you see communities, where you see industry pull together, working in co-operation that they can actually make a difference, creating hundreds of jobs in that peninsula.

 

In this year's Budget of 2015 to see a deficit of $1.1 billion, it is unprecedented.  It is not the way you want to be remembered in history.  On top of that, borrow $2 billion – that is not the mark or the legacy you want to leave to the next generation.  All those deficits and the deficits that they are predicting for the future, Mr. Speaker, when you really think about it, the challenges that we are passing to the next generation, it takes better management and it takes better planning. 

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Hard work.

 

MR. BALL: It is hard work, I say to my colleagues, it does require hard work, but I can assure you that our members on this side of the House are willing to put in the hard work that is required to do that.  We are concerned about health care.  We are concerned about education.  We are concerned about creating jobs.  What I know, Mr. Speaker, in my own experience of over thirty years in business – and we have had the privilege of hiring many people – the best thing that you can do for somebody is help them get a job.  They feel like they can contribute, they do contribute, and they increase the tax base in our Province.  Mr. Speaker, finding employment, fostering employment, facilitating and growing businesses in our Province right now is what gets us in the position to be able to deliver the services that people so rightfully deserve in our health care system and in our education system. 

 

Creating employment in all areas of our Province, including rural Newfoundland and Labrador, it will mean working with our fishery, it will mean working in forestry, it will mean extra work in tourism, making sure that we work closely with our small business operators where one job, two jobs, and three jobs makes a difference – we have seen that.  People are there willing to make the investment to help grow our economy.  This is where it works.  It only works when you are willing to create the meaningful partnerships, the meaningful dialogue, that is non-existent right now in our Province.

 

I was speaking – I am going to finish up – when we talk about education and we talk about marketing, I would challenge anyone to go where I have seen, just recently, where we have taken an instructor at one of the College of the North Atlantic, where there was no marketing that went into this, and they decided that they were keenly interested enough in their own program.  The teachers and the students are going to start it on their own.  That is the kind of vibrancy that we are seeing.  That is happening; people are taking this on their own.  They see where this government has let them down, where we have had valuable programs that they want to promote because the jobs are there, and this government has not supported that. 

 

I can tell you right now, Mr. Speaker, you just go to the Facebook sites and you look at it, you can see the enthusiasm and the energy that is on the faces of those young people as they are enjoying what they are doing.  They do feel like they are left out.

 

Mr. Speaker, I am going to conclude my remarks right now by saying that I do believe the future of Newfoundland and Labrador is bright.  It will require hard work, it will require co-operation and strong partnerships with our industries and our communities, Mr. Speaker, and we look forward to working with them. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER (Littlejohn): The hon. the Member for Exploits. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. FORSEY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

I have been very fortunate to be able to speak on the Budget, on the amendments and sub-amendments, Mr. Speaker.  I have discussed different parts of the departments including agriculture, agriculture in the classroom, fire and emergency services, municipal affairs, and I wanted to talk about health care tonight. 

 

Mr. Speaker, when they get up, like the Leader of the Opposition did, and cherry-pick – because anybody can cherry-pick, and that is what he did.  He took a full hour and I never heard one recommendation. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please! 

 

The hon. the Member for Exploits.

 

MR. FORSEY: I never heard one recommendation or one idea for the night.  At the end of it, I realized he was talking about something we had already started, and that was with regard to Crown lands.  He had spoken to people across the Province this past couple of months about Crown lands.  Well, I guess he forgot, Mr. Speaker, that we are doing a Lands Act review.  We have already done the consultations.  Thanks to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and lands for the job he is doing.

 

What did he say?  Here is what is in our Crown lands, in our consultation, “identifying ways to improve Crown lands service delivery.”  We are already being proactive in doing this.  We are doing this, but we talked about this particular act, what we were doing with it and the review.  We talked about this quite a bit actually. 

 

He wants to talk about trying to stay on track.  Well, anybody who was listening to VOCM the other morning – and these are people and leaders who figure they have the ideas on what they should be doing and focusing on what you need to do.  This is a political scientist who says the Leader of the Opposition went off track – again, went off track – more time spent on financial interest of the party and responding to questions rather than focusing on setting policies.  That is a political scientist saying this and he is getting up talking about what he wants to do. 

 

A funny thing, it was only a couple of days ago we were talking about the election, and today talking about the election and having the election in November.  Well, in January he was in favour of moving the election ahead.  Now he wants to move it back.  They have to make up their minds what they want to do.  To me, it sounds like whatever the flavour of the day is.  It is the flavour of the day, that is the only thing.  If there is a little bit of public pressure out there on an issue, that is what they are for.  That is exactly what they are doing. 

 

I will say I am not the only one.  Other people out there are picking up this kind of stuff because the other day I said, I do not know, maybe I should go back and have a look at what – because Hansard is a wonderful thing.  We have all said certain things, and I am sure we all mean well when we are in here, both sides of the House, Mr. Speaker.

 

I think we were talking about – there was a private member's motion that was brought in and the Member for Signal Hill – Quidi Vidi seemed to be onside with the political scientist and seemed to be onside with a couple of other people.  She got up and started talking about the Opposition.  She said, “I find it rather ironic coming as it does from a party that has a history of mismanagement in this Province.”  That is what she said about the Opposition.  That is what she said. 

 

“In the 1950s the Liberal government spearheaded an industrialization strategy which cost the people of this Province a fortune and failed.”  See, short memories, short memories.  “While they stand and try to score political points here today claiming they are better managers of the Province's money their long political legacies say otherwise.”

 

Then the Leader of the Opposition, who would like to be Leader of the Province –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. FORSEY: The Leader of the Opposition who would like to be Leader of the Province gets up and talks about the leaders of our party.  He gets up and talks about the leaders of our party.  He says: I am glad my colleagues reminded me.  Well, I say to the Leader of the Opposition, your colleagues should have reminded you about the other Premiers in the 1990s.  It was Wells.  No, it was Tobin.  No, it was Tulk.  No, it was Efford.  Oh, no, that is wrong.  It was not Efford.  He wanted to be.  Then it was Grimes.  My goodness, that is five and a half, because if Efford had to get there it would have been six.  So there you go.  They forget.

 

Then he gets up and says: Well, you laid off a few people.  I really do not know where we laid off a few people.  I cannot, right now, put my finger on it, but I can guarantee you one thing, I know they laid off thousands in the 1990s.  They are the same crowd who tore up the contracts and laid off 2,000 workers and put a wage freeze on for eight years, besides the rollback. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I will tell you what this government did.  They wonder what we did with the money.  Because our public service – and we had the respect for the public service, which we always did and always will.  We are not tearing up contracts belonging to them.  We gave them back 21 per cent.  That is where a lot of the revenues went to.  It went into the pockets of the hard-working people in the public sector, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. FORSEY: That is where that revenue went to. 

 

Mr. Speaker, when we did have the money and the money was coming in and oil prices were good, because we were right.  Who could predict it?  They could not predict it in Alberta either, Mr. Speaker.  We could not predict it in Newfoundland and Labrador, but when we did have the revenues – talking about disposable income – we put $620 million back into the pockets of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, $620 million.

 

Now, I did want to talk about health care because it is near and dear to me.  I will say in some of the other initiatives we took when we eliminated school fees and we brought in free textbooks, I can remember talking to a parent in my district, it was in September, and she said: Clayton, this is a wonderful program.  Do you know how much I do not have to come up with? 

 

They did not want us to eliminate school fees.  They did not want us to bring in free textbooks.  They did not want us to have the lowest income tax bracket in the country, Mr. Speaker, but, $467 to that mother on free textbooks, that was a lot of money.

 

I will talk about something that I do know a little bit about and none of us –

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible). 

 

MR. FORSEY: – a little bit more about – okay, how is that?  A little bit more about. 

 

Everyone is touched, Mr. Speaker, with sickness of some kind, and I am no different than anybody else.  I did listen to some conversation today and the Ministerial Statement on foster children, what we are doing in the Foster a Future.  It is a good program.  Even the people on the Opposition side said it was a good program.

 

My own father was a foster child.  When we do things for foster children – and I had a very good friend, a young person, who became a foster child and the foster parents in my community really, really did a lot for that particular student, graduated high school – and guess what?  Never got past twenty because of what happened in the years prior to, she just could not handle it anymore.  That is a sad thing to happen, but that is the kind of stuff that goes on. 

 

We did the same thing in health care, Mr. Speaker.  It was only a few days ago there was a gentleman here – because we keep talking about culture and we keep talking about diets, part of the reason that we are probably the way we are is because our diet is our culture.  There are a lot of things that are genetic as well and there are a lot of things we cannot do a lot about, but we can certainly try to help ease the problem when we get these problems. 

 

It was only a couple of days ago when a gentleman left St. John's to ride on a bike across Canada to make awareness for dialysis and kidney disease.  The other part that really touched me, I listened to him that morning on the radio when he was getting ready to leave and that he lost his kidney through Alport disease.  Well, so did my brother-in-law, the very same disease.  You can lose a kidney and lose the use of it through different reasons, but what we can do as a government is certainly try to make these people more comfortable and be able to lead a half decent life.  That is why when we came in here we went from seven dialysis sites to sixteen.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. FORSEY: That is where the money went, Mr. Speaker. 

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

 

MR. FORSEY: Yes, it comes across as being wasted.  It is wasted.

 

Now, they are not going to raise taxes, but they are not going to get the loan of any money.  So the only other things I see they are going to do is cut because that is the only other way to save money.

 

Just let me say that just the dialysis units alone – and I know the Member for Burgeo – La Poile and the members over there on the West Coast, they know how much their constituents who are on dialysis had to travel.  They know the distance they had to go, three and four hours to and three and four hours back.

 

Well, Mr. Speaker, we do not have to do that today, thank you very much – thanks to this government.  We do not have to do that today because now they do not have as far to travel.  We put sites in Bonavista, we put sites in Port aux Basques, and we put sites in Harbour Breton so they could stay closer to home. 

 

Now, in the meantime, I will say there is such a thing as home dialysis because I witnessed it.  This gentleman is promoting that as well.  You can get home dialysis.  It takes longer.  You are on a machine nine hours every night, or you can drive to the hospital and you can be on a machine probably three times a week for four hours a day.  You can do that if you want, but you have choices. 

 

That is what we were doing.  We were investing.  We were spending the money that needed to be spent in order for people to have better lives in this Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.  All of a sudden there is a downturn and oil revenues are not as great, but they are not as great across the country either.  We cannot do a lot about that.  Even the Leader of the Opposition said it was volatile.  It is, we all know that, but I would like to think – I did make a note of the Member for Carbonear – Harbour Grace.  He said: If you do not have an interest in this place and if you do not have your heart in the right place, then you should walk right out the door, if you do not care.

 

Do you know what?  He has a point.  He is right.  There is nobody on this side who is going to walk out the door because they do not care, I will guarantee you that.  That is not the way we came in here and that is not the way we are going to leave.  I bet you, every one of us, including everybody over there –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. FORSEY: Boys, give up the jollies and the laughing because I would like to think that they came in with a little bit of respect of who brought them here and why were are here.  I know the Member for Carbonear – Harbour Grace was very passionate about it when he spoke about it.  He had his heart in the right place. 

 

I know by the way – when it comes to the fishery, I grew up in the fishery, in the traditional fishery when we did have a few weeks in the spring where we were catching lobsters and then we used cod traps.  I spent a couple summers on the Labrador, too, I say to the member.  In Packs Harbour, actually, and the family used to go down there back in the 1960s.  There were people who used to go down there from Bay Roberts.  People went down there from all over the Province because Fishery Products sent them down there and set them up down there.  That is why I was there, but then we did not even have the luxury of talking about fresh fish and how much money you were going to get for it because it all salt bulk.  That is what you had.  The member knows.  He is nodding his head.  He is right.

 

We all came in here with the same thing on our mind: There is something that we can do; there is something that we can offer.  We offered ourselves and our service to this lovely Province that we have.  They can get up and make fun at a couple of leadership whatever – the thing we had.  Sure, they can.  We can go back to the 1990s and do the same thing they did.  We can all do that, Mr. Speaker, but I am going to tell you something, the money that we spent on diagnostic equipment and skilled trades in high schools and fixing all the roofs on the schools and building new schools, every bit of it was needed.

 

That is what we are about.  That is what this government is about.  That is what our members, the members over here, are about, Mr. Speaker.  Under the new leader we have here, our Premier, we are staying on track.  I am satisfied to stay here as well and give it a shot with that Premier because we are on the right track.  Did he say we were going to be okay?  Yes, Mr. Speaker, we are going to be okay.

 

Now, that might sound like a word that sounds like okay – everybody uses okay, but do you know what?  Okay means you are going to be all right.

 

You have to make the right decisions.  You have to make the right choices.  That is what we are doing, making the right choices, but you cannot flip-flop, Mr. Speaker.  You cannot flip-flop.  You cannot go with the flavour of the day.  You have to go with what you believe in.  That is why I think we are on the right track.  I think the people are going to realize that the investments that we made were for the benefit of the Province and for the benefit of all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. 

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. JOYCE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

I am just going to have a few minutes to speak on the Budget.  The Member for Exploits did make some good points on dialysis and other points.  There is no one on this side ever going to disagree with making someone's life easier by accessibility to health care.  I do not think you have ever heard a member on this side criticize that, Mr. Speaker, not one that I heard of in this Province – even from the Third Party, they support that also.  To stand up and try to say that there are people on this side criticizing dialysis, it is just not becoming of a member in this House, Mr. Speaker. 

 

When he stopped trying to criticize the leader, he made some good points about health care.  He made some good points about accessibility, people travelling, and people should stay close to home.  I heard the member just say that.  I was proud of him.  I was proud of you saying that. 

 

I cannot wait for him to support radiation in the Western Memorial Regional Hospital so people can stay on the West Coast and they do not have to travel to St. John's. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. JOYCE: If the Member for Exploits really feels that people should be closer to home for health care, let him stand up right now, take my next nineteen minutes, and support radiation in Western Newfoundland, Mr. Speaker.  Here is the opportunity because what you are saying about dialysis, I agree –

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Exploits – on a point of order?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. FORSEY: Thank you very much. 

 

MR. SPEAKER: On a point of order? 

 

MR. FORSEY: No, he asked me to take his nineteen minutes. 

 

MR. SPEAKER: I am sorry; the hon. member cannot speak because he has already spoken to the main motion. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. JOYCE: If the member thinks radiation is a joke for the people of Corner Brook, ask the Member for Humber West.  If thinks it is a joke for people in Corner Brook who have to travel for radiation, it is time for him to take the smile off his face.  He should go through it, Mr. Speaker.  Ask the Member for Humber West what it is like with people he meets. 

 

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

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Exploits, on a point of order. 

 

MR. FORSEY: Mr. Speaker, what I said, I believe in, that people should stay as close to home as possible. 

 

MR. SPEAKER: There is no point of order. 

 

The hon. the Member for Bay of Islands. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. JOYCE: That is what I find, Mr. Speaker, when you get an issue that this government committed for eight years, when they finally approve that there should be radiation, they want to interrupt you because they do not want to hear the truth.  They really do not want to hear the truth.  So if the member really feels that, when the vote comes up, I hope he is going to vote against the Budget because there is no money in it for radiation for the new hospital in Corner Brook for the construction – let's see if the member is going to stand up and stand by his words he said here tonight. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I am going to speak on the electoral boundaries commission that came out today and just have a few words.  I made a presentation on behalf of the people of Bay of Islands.  As you know now, we all know, and all of the Province knows, the Bay of Islands will stay intact with a part with of Corner Brook, which was recommended.  I just want to thank all of the councils and the fire departments.  I always said if I am representing the people of Bay of Islands, I am going to do it to the best of my ability. 

 

When I went around the Bay of Islands to the fire departments and other parts they all said no, we should stay together.  I just wanted to thank everybody for all of their support, thank all of the fire departments for all of the –

 

MR. GRANTER: (Inaudible).

 

MR. JOYCE: I hear the Member for Humber West, and I have that on my notes, the Member for Gander here – a fire truck in Cox's Cove that was brought out last week, myself and the Member for Humber West are going to go out and deliver the keys on Friday to Cox's Cove because it is the need of the people out there in Cox's Cove.  This is what our role is, every MHA in this House, to advocate on behalf of their districts.  I know in Cox's Cove – I called the minister and gave him the time that we are going to have the community celebrations, we are going to go out together – and this is the way governments should work with Oppositions, with the Third Party, with anybody in this Province, work together. 

 

I just wanted to recognize Wayne Payne, the town council, and the firettes for raising the money in Cox's Cove.  It is a job well done. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I will get back to a few of the issues I was speaking to, and I know the Member for Exploits had a big joke about radiation.  He had a big joke about radiation; he was going to stand up on a big point of order, Mr. Speaker. 

 

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

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Exploits, on a point of order. 

 

MR. FORSEY: When I stand up, Mr. Speaker, I do not stand up on a joke when it comes to radiation or anything to do with diagnostic equipment. 

 

MR. SPEAKER: There is no point order. 

 

The hon. the Member for Bay of Islands. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. FORSEY: (Inaudible).

 

MR. JOYCE: Mr. Speaker, the Member for Exploits is telling me to sit down.  The only people who are going to make me sit down are the people from the Bay of Islands.  If they tell me to sit down, I will sit down.  If the Member for Exploits wants to stand up and interrupt me all the time when I am talking about radiation, he can go ahead, Mr. Speaker. 

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Shameful. 

 

MR. JOYCE: Shameful is right. 

 

He is talking about his big Budget for the last eight years, the government – it was 2007 they committed to the hospital.  The hospital was supposed to be built in 2012, yet it is a big joke.  Oh yes, all of the money, Mr. Speaker. 

 

Just think about the radiation out in Western Newfoundland, think about the long-term care.  Our leader got up today talking about long-term care, there are thirty beds not even open – not even open – thirty beds in St. John's.  Guess what, Mr. Speaker?  They were talking about the long-term care beds in Corner Brook.  When they put in the long-term care beds in Corner Brook, the long-term care facility, the infrastructure was in place, the plan was in place, this government cut it by 100 beds – 100 beds.

 

I advocated at the time.  The Member for Humber West who was not in government at time, he heard me, as principal of the school.  He heard me.  We spoke about it when he was principal, about the 100 beds cut.  Guess what, Mr. Speaker?  Now they are going to build a new one with 120 beds.  Can you imagine that, Mr. Speaker? 

 

You are talking about where does the money go.  I just want to give you a little – the hospital out in Corner Brook that is supposed to be built, which some infrastructure is done, some roadwork is done – not a lot to say it was done.  According to the government, there was $40 million spent out there.  To build (inaudible) beds, it cost $52 million.  Another $12 million and we would have had another long-term care facility, and there is nothing to show for it out in long-term care.  Is that good planning? 

 

Now the hospital will not be built at least until 2021-2022, and it is going to be put radiation in it, Mr. Speaker.  Guess what?  By 2022-2023, by their report, they are going to need a second radiation unit in Corner Brook.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) obstetrics stuff. 

 

MR. JOYCE: Obstetrics stuff, cuts in beds – obstetrics is cut, Mr. Speaker. 

 

That is the kind of things that we have to stand up and support.  Do I think government did good things?  Definitely.  Do I give praise to ministers in government when we work together when you are improving the lives?  Definitely, 100 per cent.  I have yet to not work with a minister in this government, the government before, back in 2007-2006, not once, when there was recognition that should be given, that I never gave recognition and worked with a government. 

 

I will give you a prime example, two examples, and there is no one who can take it away from us.  Myself and the leader, when we dealt with Corner Brook Pulp and Paper, we were given all the information.  The Member for Humber West brought us in on it, and we worked as a group to solve that problem.  Radiation in Corner Brook, we worked as a group to solve that problem also, Mr. Speaker.

 

So, to think we are just over here to oppose, we are not just here to oppose.  We are here to offer solutions.  What we are going to do, what I am going to do, I am going to advocate on behalf of the people who elected me.  I represent the people of the Bay of Islands, Corner Brook area, and I will do that.

 

Now some members opposite do not think that is fair.  They think we should always say everything is rosy when it is not.  It is just not in my nature.  If there are good things happening, I will be the first to stand up and say it, Mr. Speaker.  I have always done it.  I respect when people work with you.  I respect when there are good things done for any district, anything across the Province, Mr. Speaker.  I respect that.  I understand the constraints a government has, I understand all the constraints.

 

If we are ever lucky enough to get in government, do I think we can solve all the problems in Newfoundland and Labrador?  Of course not.  Do I think the government opposite should be able to give everything we want, everything we ask for?  Of course not.  It is impossible to do, and I do not expect it.  I definitely do not expect it, Mr. Speaker.  I would not ask any minister to do that because it would not be fair to put them in that position.  What I do ask is work with the Opposition, work with the members who are elected, and work with the individuals across the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.  That is how we provide good government.

 

When I look at Muskrat Falls, as another example – and we heard the minister.  I have all due respect for the Minister of Natural Resources.  I think he is a great guy.  I think he works hard.  I have all due respect, but I remember when this Muskrat Falls debate was on the go.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

 

MR. JOYCE: Yes, I was here for Voisey's Bay.  I might be the only one in this Legislature who voted for Voisey's Bay.  I am probably the only one in this Legislature who voted for Voisey's Bay. I actually voted for that.  I stood here and I did my due diligence on it.  What now?  It is one of the greatest projects in Newfoundland and Labrador, the government is touting it as something.  Am I proud of it?  You better believe I am proud of it, Mr. Speaker. 

 

I will get back to the minister.  Before the minister took – this is not on the minister one bit.  When we were having the debate about Muskrat Falls, we had this odometer where we could call over to Nalcor and they could tell us how much our electricity was going to be.  Where is it now?  It is gone.  It is actually gone because it was such a joke to tell the people of the Province you can dial into this number, punch in how much you are making, and they will tell you have much you have to pay for your heat and light in the next little while.  You can actually do that, but what a joke.

 

Mr. Speaker, we heard about Muskrat Falls, the hundreds and millions of dollars that is going in this year.  I do not know $600 million or $700 million – $670 million I think it is – this year gone into Muskrat Falls.  Again, this is no knock on this current minister because he was not there.

 

We are talking about all the New England states, all in the agreements – produced one agreement.  Then we had one purchase sale for the New England states for Muskrat Falls, just one.  The purchased one we had from Nova Scotia, just one, and just one from New Brunswick.  It is just not there, Mr. Speaker.  So all this hype about all of these agreements we had with the New England states that they are dying for power, they are crying for it, asking us to go ahead with Muskrat Falls.

 

Where are all the agreements?  If we have such good planning here and Muskrat Falls is going to be on in 2017, you have to have agreements in place if you are going to sell the power.  Show us the agreements.  We are spending; I think it is $670 million this year gone over to Nalcor for Muskrat Falls.  Where are the agreements if you are planning so well?  Where are they?  It is just not there.

 

Mr. Speaker, here is another question.  We are selling the power to Nova Scotia.  How much are we selling the power for if we are such good planners?  How much is it per kilowatt?  It just cannot be done, Mr. Speaker.  There are the types of questions we have.

 

I am glad this party here, our Leader and the Opposition – one of the policies we made is that if we make money on the sale to Nova Scotia on Muskrat Falls, we are putting it back to reduce the rates in Newfoundland and Labrador.  I am proud of that.  Do you know why I am so proud of that, Mr. Speaker?  It is because Newfoundlanders and Labradorians will pay for Muskrat Falls.  When I hear the minister and the government over there saying we have money coming in, we are always going to have it.  We are, but it is Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who are paying it. 

 

One of the points on Muskrat Falls that was overlooked, there is a fifty-year band on any new technology in the Province.  We have to buy power from Muskrat Falls.  It is a monopoly.  These are all the questions we need answered.  These are all the questions people need answered. 

 

Mr. Speaker, when you want to talk about some issues – I will use the Bay of Islands for example.  I will use water and sewer, and I know the Minister of Municipal and Intergovernmental Affairs is very open.  He is very approachable.  You can sit down and at least have a frank discussion with him.  Mr. Speaker, this is how we get results.  This is how people get results, when you sit down and you share ideas.  You say, okay, what is the priority?  What is the need?  You have the officials who sit down and do the analysis of it.  Then you discuss what needs to be done. 

 

I look at some other ministers; there is not a minister over there, I do not think, who would not try to do the best for the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.  I do not think that.  I honestly do not think that, Mr. Speaker.  I think we have some who get carried away, absolutely, no doubt, but most of the ministers I deal with, and even a lot of the backbenchers, are there for the people. 

 

Just because we raise issues, that does not mean everything is bad, everything is gloomy.  That is our role.  When I bring up radiation in Corner Brook, that is my role.  That is what the people are asking me to do.  When I bring up the long-term care in Corner Brook, that is my role.  That is what I want to do, because that is what people need.  That is what they expect. 

 

Sometimes, sure, we have a difference of opinion.  Sometimes we have a debate, but that does not mean I am wrong or the Member for Humber East is wrong.  That does not mean it is wrong, not one bit, as we bring this up.  It is absolutely not wrong.  It is because the issues are being raised to us. 

 

Mr. Speaker, all across the Province – and I know the minister is working on this, I know he is working with MNL.  Safe drinking water all throughout the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador is a priority for any government.  Do I honestly think that problem can be solved overnight?  Absolutely not, Mr. Speaker.  Do I think there are ways we all could work towards it?  Absolutely.  What we need to do is make a concerted effort, set out a plan with MNL, with all the municipalities in Newfoundland and Labrador through MNL, and set out a plan that we can start bit by bit to get safe drinking water.  That is what we need to do, Mr. Speaker. 

 

We just cannot stand up and give out platitudes.  Platitudes do not bring safe drinking water.  What brings safe drinking water is money to help to invest in the towns.  A lot of the towns – and I give the minister credit on the fiscal framework with a lot of the towns.  That is going to help a lot of towns.  I supported that, Mr. Speaker – a bit late, but I supported that because that will help the towns in rural Newfoundland and Labrador.  That will definitely help the towns be sustainable.  I know when the minister was bringing that up and I was down to the press conference, I supported it.  Anything that you are going to do to improve the lives of people in Newfoundland and Labrador, I will support.  I will not criticize for the sake of criticizing, and no one on this side will criticize for the sake of criticizing.  It just will not happen.

 

Mr. Speaker, we heard all the members and they stood up – the hon. Member for Exploits just got up and started naming a few, money that the government spent.  It was good ventures; but do you expect us to believe that spending $30 million down in Parsons Pond to try to drill a few holes – do you think we have to support that because of this government?  The $10 million in the pellet plant which was doomed to fail before it even started, are we supposed to stand up and say oh yes, that was a good investment?  Are we supposed to do that?  Of course not, Mr. Speaker.

 

One day I stood up here, Mr. Speaker, I was up to $380 million that was wasted, and I mean wasted.  I can stand up here – but just because you do what the government is supposed to do and serve the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, the minute we come up with another option or can we look at something different, we are bad.  It just does not happen that way, Mr. Speaker.  It just honestly does not happen.

 

I have a few more minutes left, Mr. Speaker.  I am going to speak on the District of Bay of Islands just for a little while.  At St. James All-Grade – I was here today speaking about the graduation – they are cut two teaching units.  At Sacred Heart, three teaching units.  When the government stands up and talks about the priority for the government is education and then we hear all these cuts, which no one ever said was going to happen – they always said no, education is sacred, it is not going to be touched, yet now we see these teaching units being cut. 

 

I look at the road going out between Frenchman's Cove and York Harbour.  I know we are going to have a meeting with the minister on some roads in the Bay of Islands.  That road is deplorable.  It is deplorable.  It was so bad – there is still damage that happened through a flood, three years ago, that is still not fixed.  It is still not fixed.  I know the Member for Labrador West helped out and there were some priorities there with the damages.  I remember I went to that minister and that minister went out and said okay, we can fix things here.  I remember that minister, the Member for Labrador West, did that. 

 

Mr. Speaker, that helped a lot, but since then there has been hardly any – and the former member there was a great help too, I have to say, especially with the long-term care.  I just want to say I will sit down and I will have my opportunity again.

 

Thank you very much.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

PREMIER DAVIS: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.  

 

It is a pleasure to rise tonight and use my time in the Budget debate.  Before I get too deep into my notes, I think it would be good to acknowledge the Member for Bay of Islands because he is a veteran, in his own right, in the House.  He has been here for many years and sat in government for a long time.  When I was listening to him speak tonight actually, I was thinking: Is he going to use some of his time to talk about some of the projects that were completed on the West Coast, in the Corner Brook area, while he was in government?  I was thinking about some of the good things that have happened on the West Coast in the last decade or so.

 

He referenced health care and long-term care.  There is a brand new long-term facility built in Corner Brook, Mr. Speaker, by our government since we came in.  I know he was delighted when that happened.  We built it.  We did it.  A new City Hall in Corner Brook, we built that.  I know he was delighted one as well.  A new addictions centre, a very important facility – there had been an addictions centre in Corner Brook for a number of years.  It was actually originally housed in the former CNIB building out in Corner Brook.  We built a brand new addictions centre out in Corner Brook.  I know the member opposite is very proud of that as well.

 

A new courthouse in Corner Brook, a state-of-the-art courthouse in Corner Brook as well; money for new roads; a new state-of-the-art school in Corner Brook.  Just last year $110 million to Kruger, Corner Brook Pulp and Paper, to keep that very important industry alive. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

PREMIER DAVIS: Fire trucks and equipment in support of modernizing and updating the new city's fire service, and support and assistance there as well, Mr. Speaker. 

 

I know the member opposite is quite aware that in the last decade, there has been a lot of great progress in Corner Brook.  He does advocate on a regular basis for his district and for the region of the Province.  I am very pleased he has done that.  We responded to that by significant investments in the West Coast of this Province, Mr. Speaker, the West Coast of the Island. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

PREMIER DAVIS: Mr. Speaker, I thank him for his comments, and I also want to thank the Minister of Finance.  It goes without saying – this year, seeing this first-hand like I have never seen before, and that is the amount of work that goes into the Budget planning process, the delivery of the Budget, and laying out the Budget for the public.  I can tell you that the Minister of Finance has my significant support and backing because he did a masterful job, a wonderful job, and we owe him a great level of gratitude and appreciation for the work that he has done –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

PREMIER DAVIS: Also, Mr. Speaker, for the staff that work in his department and other departments, I know there was endless hours punched by so many people in government.  One of the biggest matters, I guess, or issues or comments you hear that sometimes really strikes me the wrong way is sometimes people are critical of public servants – sometimes they are; they are critical.  Sometimes I come to work very early in the morning and there are lots of nights I am here late and I tell you that there is very, very few times – I do not know of any – where a public servant has not been here before me and a public servant has not been here after I left in the evening.  During the Budget process, that is especially true –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

PREMIER DAVIS: That is especially true during the Budget process.  Not only for our staff in the Department of Finance but also in departments who work very hard with ministers, senior executives, as they plan and do their work.  So I want to extend my appreciation to all of them. 

 

We know, Mr. Speaker, this year the circumstances we faced was the unprecedented drop in oil prices, and it was not an easy challenge to face.  It was not an easy challenge to face at all and we had some very difficult and hard decisions to make – we did.  That probably, in some ways, added to the amount of time, the amount of thought and deliberation.  I know, as a Cabinet, we met – it seems like endlessly, some of them will tell you, and seems like at sometimes we would discuss matters and discuss matters and we would work on them and we would seek out alternatives and better ways to do it; and after several hours of discussion, we sometimes came back to where we were and then went off in different directions.

 

It was important as a team effort that we have those concerted discussions.  We certainly had those as a Cabinet and also with the people of the Province.  We had consulted with people in our own districts.  As well the minister and his team consulted with the people in the Province. 

 

Mr. Speaker, you do not choose the obstacles that fall in your path.  What you do choose is how you are going to deal with them.  That has been my attitude and my approach, and that is the approach that we have taken.  Very frankly, we laid out the facts.  We consulted widely.  We deliberated very carefully.  We put everything on the table.  We took many, many months of long hours to arrive at what is a very fine balance.  Our theme this year, Balancing Choices for a Promising Future, I think we have achieved a good balance after much work and dedication. 

 

As a government, and different from the Opposition, we simply just cannot sit on the fence.  We have to make decisions and we have to make choices.

 

When you face a loss of than more than a billion dollars in revenue on a Budget that is less than $10 million, it is a significant impact and it is an enormous task to overcome.  When you put up your hand and you say you want to sit at that table, you want to sit at the decision table and you are dealt a hand, you have to play that hand.  It is as simple as that, and that is what we have done. 

 

We have not run from our responsibilities.  We have not tried to escape from the responsibilities we were given.  We have stayed here and we are facing them head on.  We are here in tough times as well as good times, and we are willing to face those tough times as well.  Ignoring those challenges was simply not an option.  Putting off making choices was simply not an option.  Playing our cards close to our chest, like members opposite quite often do, Mr. Speaker, that is just simply not an option.  We had to deal with it decisively, and that is what we have done.  We have made choices. 

 

When it comes down to choices, Mr. Speaker, there are essentially three choices to be made.  It is one of three choices.  That is you have to increase your revenue, you have to reduce your expenditures, or you have to borrow and increase your debt.  They are three very simple choices that you have. 

 

It is interesting, on Budget Day when the media is set up out in the lobby and members of the House are going out and talking to the media, it was really interesting to watch some of the dynamics that played out, because we heard different versions of what they feel we have done or should not have done.  They never tell us, members opposite will never say what their plan is or what their solution is.  They will never offer a solution.

 

Even tonight when I was listening to the Leader of the Opposition, while he questioned and discussed the decisions we made and what we did as a government and what we did as part of our Budget, at no time, no time, did he offer what their solution would be or how they would do it differently.  Now we have heard members opposite say, well, we have not seen the books so we do not know.  They know enough to say what we are doing is wrong but they do not know enough to say how they would do it differently. 

 

Mr. Speaker, there are three options: you reduce services, you increase your borrowing, or you increase your revenue.  What we sought out was balanced choices.  That is what we looked for, we looked for balanced choices.

 

MR. HILLIER: (Inaudible).

 

PREMIER DAVIS: Now I hear the Member for Conception Bay South over there, he wants to wade in on the debate.  I know he has already done that, but he must not like what I am saying because he usually does that.  He usually starts to speak up and talk across the floor when he does not like what he is hearing.

 

Mr. Speaker, the truth of it is that one of the very basic and first principles we looked at was about public servants and the impacts of laying off large numbers of public servants.  The Member for Exploits referred to this earlier.  He talked about public servants and he talked about job cuts and what happened back in the early 1990s, because the Liberal government of the day chose to lay off large numbers of public servants.  They laid off about 2,000 direct employees; 10 per cent management staff, and eliminated a number of vacant positions besides that.  The numbers were up around the 3,000 level in total. 

 

They came into the House of Assembly – they negotiated a contract.  At the time, I was actually on the West Coast, living in the Bay of Islands district.  I remember when we were awarded and negotiated, and the government of the day had agreed on significant increases.  At the time I was a police officer, and I can tell you we were very low paid compared to other police services in the country.  We were delighted when we negotiated an increase of more than 20 per cent.  We thought it was wonderful.  We thought we had struck the jackpot.  Finally, finally, we are going to have a standard of living.  Finally, we are going to be able to live our lives a little bit more comfortably and we are going to be able to enjoy our lives a little bit better. 

 

They negotiated agreements, and they came in here in the House of Assembly, and gone.  They wiped them all out.  They did not wipe out what we had given up to achieve those gains, because that is what happens in negotiations.  We will give up two people in a police car, as an example.

 

The Member for Conception Bay South looks for more policing all the time.  What he does not realize is that it was their government who eliminated two police officers routinely in a police car.  We gave that up.  Two police officers in a police car, we gave that up to get these significant increases, because at the time police officers could not afford to eat.  They could not afford to feed their families.  They were very low paid for the jobs they did.  It is not that way today, Mr. Speaker, I can tell you.  It is certainly not that way. 

 

What they did is when they went into the Legislature, you still had to give up those two officers in a car but you also lost your raise besides.  That is what the Liberal government did of the day.  They did that in the day, and I know public servants remember it. 

 

I was talking to a public servant, a friend – I know him for many years – just a couple of days ago, who I had not seen for some time.  In the conversation he was reminding me about: do you remember back in those days?  I said, yes, I certainly do; I certainly do remember.  I remember what happened and I remember how public servants were treated. 

 

We have a long history on this side, Mr. Speaker, of treating public servants with respect.  We have a long history of it, and when we announced our –

 

MR. J. BENNETT: (Inaudible).

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

PREMIER DAVIS: Yes, Mr. Speaker, there you go.  The Member for St. Barbe over there, I guess we struck a chord with him when we talk about respecting public servants.  We struck a chord with him when I talked about respecting public servants. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

PREMIER DAVIS: He is over there with his hand up to his mouth now shouting at me, Mr. Speaker, because we know the history of respect, or lack of respect that member has for public servants.  We certainly know that, I can tell you now.  I must have struck a chord with him, Mr. Speaker.

 

Mr. Speaker, one of the first principles we wanted to do, one of the very first principles was that we did not want to eliminate huge numbers of public servants just for the sake of reducing our expenditure.  Just to say out the door you go, big numbers of you, 2,000 of you go out the door and we will find a way to continue to deliver programs and services. 

 

Also what happened, Mr. Speaker, is when the government opposite did that, when you look at all the economic indicators, all of a sudden back then it dropped.  Because the spinoff effects are huge, they are significant.  So you laid off a couple thousand people, you impacted a couple thousand families.  Then what happens is, well, they are not buying their groceries the way they used to.  They do not shop at the mall the way they used to.  Maybe they do not buy the car they were going to buy.  They do not take the vacation or the trip.  They do not go camping like they used to.  They do not buy supplies and items for their children.  They do not go to a restaurant like they used to.

 

Mr. Speaker, the economy just takes a dive.  That is what happened back in the 1990s, and I certainly did not want that to happen as well, because with the unprecedented fall in oil prices – 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

PREMIER DAVIS: Because with the unprecedented fall in oil prices our economy is very fragile, there are no two ways about it.  Members bring that up opposite, and they are right, it is fragile.  We did not want to do that.

 

I will tell you what we do not know.  We do not know what they are going to do.  Mr. Speaker, we do not know.  The members opposite have said until we understand the complexities – the member opposite, a Liberal member said this – we cannot tell you what part of government we will eliminate.  We cannot tell you what part of government we will eliminate.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Who said that?

 

PREMIER DAVIS: The Member for Virginia Waters, the Finance critic said that.  We cannot tell you, we will not know what part of government we are going to eliminate. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

PREMIER DAVIS: Mr. Speaker, they do not like it because they are getting noisy over there again.  A telltale sign, they get noisy over there when they do not like what you are saying. 

 

Mr. Speaker, that tells you, and it should tell people of the Province, that is what they would do if they were government today.  They would eliminate part of government.  Now, the Liberal government of Nova Scotia just did it.  We know the Member for Virginia Waters is close to some of the other governments and some of the members of other governments, and Nova Scotia just did it.  They eliminated a whole department, wiped it out, gone.  Mr. Speaker, that is what member's opposite said they were going to do to Newfoundland and Labrador. 

 

Now that is not only laying off public servants, Mr. Speaker.  You have to think about it now, think this through.  That is not only about laying off public servants.  When you do that you eliminate a whole section of government, a whole department.  If you eliminate a complete department, then the programs and services being delivered by that department are gone with it. 

 

You have to wonder, well, what department would they eliminate?  Because they do not know yet, they have not decided, but they are going to eliminate a department.  What department are they going to eliminate?  Are they going to eliminate Child, Youth and Family Services?  I cannot see how they can do that. 

 

Maybe they will just eliminate tourism.  The great work we have done, as a government, in promoting the Province, and the tourism operators in this Province have done fabulous work in creating and growing the tourism industry that is driving our economy.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

PREMIER DAVIS: Maybe they will eliminate that department, Mr. Speaker.  We do not know what department they are going to eliminate, but they are going to eliminate a department.  It is clear and simple.

 

They are going to take shots at health care.  We know this too.  The evidence is mounting.  I say to you, I say to Members of the House of Assembly, I tell you now the evidence is mounting on what they are going to do, because they are also going to go after health care.  The Leader of the Opposition has said he is going to make nurses work harder.  He said it.  He said it on On Point.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

 

PREMIER DAVIS: No, I am not.  He said it.  He is going to make nurses work harder.  He said that is what he was talking about.  He was going to make nurses work harder.  We know they are going to go after it as well, Mr. Speaker.

 

There is evidence around – when we came into government back in 2003, there was work underway and being done to start to eliminate some of these rural clinics.  You take some of these smaller clinics in rural parts of our Province, they are all over the place.  Work was underway to look at: Where can we start eliminating these clinics in rural Newfoundland?  Where can we start centralizing health care?  That is what they are talking about doing, but they will not tell us if that is what is on the radar today.

 

I have said, Mr. Speaker, fear those who are peddling change just for the sake of change, when they will not tell you what that change looks like.  They will not tell you.  That is right, Mr. Speaker.  That is what they do.  Beware of those peddling change just for the sake of change.

 

MR. HILLIER: (Inaudible).

 

PREMIER DAVIS: Again, Mr. Speaker, I have struck a chord opposite because the Member for Conception Bay South cannot resist.  That is what he does.  He does it here in the House, but that is okay, he can go on.  He can continue on.  I sat here quietly.  I did not interrupt them, but that is fine.  They can continue to do that, Mr. Speaker. 

 

Members opposite talk about plans.  We have had lots of plans over here, Mr. Speaker – lots of plans.  We have a provincial healthy aging plan we have done.  We have a cancer control plan that we have done.  We have our Close to Home strategy – we announced a ten-year strategy there.

 

One I want to talk about here, if I can for a few minutes, is Caring For Our Future.  It is a provincial strategy for quality, sufficient, and affordable child care in Newfoundland and Labrador – 2012, ten-year plan, Mr. Speaker.  A great plan because members opposite talk about child care.

 

Just to let you know, Mr. Speaker, through that plan that started in 2012, we have grown the number of seats.  We have made efforts around growing child care and we have grown the number of child care seats in the Province.  It is about those three pillars.  It is about quality, it is about affordability, and it is about sufficiency, making sure there is enough.  We have taken big strides in doing that.  If you listen to the people opposite, they make it sound like we have not done anything with it.  Very simply, they talk as if we have done nothing.

 

The Member for Bay of Islands when he spoke earlier – and I referenced this when I started – talks as if nothing has happened in Corner Brook.  I just listed a whole number of things that have happened under our government in Corner Brook in the Western part of the Province, great success stories, but you will never hear him say it. 

 

Under the child care strategy, back in 2003 there was 4,600 regulated child care spaces in our Province – 4,600.  In 2014, we have reached 7,850 – 7,850.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

PREMIER DAVIS: That is regulated child care spaces in regulated child care centres.  Not only that, because we have also brought forward family home-based child care – 146 homes up to 2014, 822 regulated spaces; that is almost 8,700 spaces created.  That is a plan that we developed.  That is a plan that we are executing. 

 

Through that plan we are doubling the expenditures, the investments, being made in child care as part of that plan.  As you grow programs and services – as a matter of fact today if a person is in a neighborhood somewhere in the Province – and I met these people from time to time: I cannot find child care.  In my neighbourhood, my town, my community, I cannot find regulated child care.  The answer is: We will help you with that.  Pick up the phone and call the office, and we will meet with you.  We will provide you with funding to hire a co-ordinator to do an assessment and analysis of what you meet for child care –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

PREMIER DAVIS: We will help you do that.  You can determine what is it you need, how many spaces do you need, what are the age groups that you are going to require, what do you project it will be in the coming years, what kind of staffing are you going to require, how many trained staff are there in the area who could work at the child care centre.  If there are no people there who could work in a child care centre who are qualified, well let's talk about how we are going to get them qualified and get them trained so that when you develop your child care centre, open them, you will have qualified staff to work there.

 

The department will work with a community group, a not-for-profit group – it could be a group of neighbours.  It could be just a group of interested neighbours who say we need child care and we do not have child care.  It could be a service organization.  It could be faith-based.  It could be any group who has an interest in child care or in their community and they feel there is a need.  We will help them with that; we will help identify it.  They are happening all over the Province, Mr. Speaker.  There are great success stories that are happening.  I tell you, they are doing great work in developing more child care.

 

You cannot go from here to here overnight.  You cannot do it.  It takes time.  You have to work through it.  You develop it, you grow that service, grow that opportunity over a number years, and that is what we have done from 4,600 in 2003 to about 8,700 today, Mr. Speaker.  That is growth. 

 

Mr. Speaker, while I am talking about children, we can talk about the schools as well.  Let's talk about schools.  Let's talk about other plans, like our five-year plan.  In this year's Budget, we did a five-year infrastructure plan as well.  It is contained in our Budget information, our Budget packages that are available.  You can go online and see it.  You can go on the government website and there is a book in there about infrastructure.

 

Quite often the members opposite will talk about what have you done with the money.  Well, have a look at this document, Mr. Speaker.  Have a look at this one.  It is the infrastructure book from 2004 to 2016.  It talks about investments in infrastructure; listed in there are long lists.  It talks about infrastructure investments in forestry and agriculture, post-secondary education, fisheries and aquaculture, roads, highways, transportation, the Trans-Labrador Highway, municipal infrastructure, health care, health care equipment, addiction treatment centres, Muskrat Falls, K-12 education, housing, tourism, environment, justice, public safety, emergency services, and rural broadband.

 

Mr. Speaker, there is a full list of them there, of all areas, of what we have made investments in in infrastructure.  When we came here in 2003, the infrastructure was crumbling, it was falling apart, and it needed investments. 

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) oil money.

 

PREMIER DAVIS: That is right, oil money.

 

Also what is contained in here is our five-year plan for infrastructure.  What we are going to do in the future is laid out here.  Schools are laid out here, what we are going to do.  Back in 2003 a common discussion in the Province at the time, a very common discussion that was happening at that point in time was the mould in the schools.  The schools were not fit to put children in; a common daily discussion: schools were not fit. 

 

Our problem today, Mr. Speaker – do you know what we talk about in schools today?  We talk about capacity.  We talk about the population growth in certain areas is so rapid and so fast we are challenged to keep up with providing the schools a sufficient number of seats to put the students in.  I think that is a much better problem to have than it is to have mouldy schools.  We have come a long way in the last decade or so, in the last twelve years.  We have come a very long way, and members opposite seem to forget that.  They forget we have come a long way.

 

We have transformed this Province.  This Province is different today than it was before, and it does have a lot to do with oil, I say to the member opposite.  It does have a lot to do with oil because oil has helped us along; there are no two ways about it. 

 

Members opposite have talked about a Generations Fund.  Members opposite have talked about, well, why are you doing that now?  Why didn't you do that before?  You did not plan for the eventuality of the collapse of oil in the world oil prices. 

 

Mr. Speaker, they quite often will talk about Norway.  You can talk about Norway, because Norway has their sovereign wealth fund that they created in 1990.  Norway was producing oil, at the time, for about twenty-five years.  For the first twenty-five years they did not have a sovereign wealth fund.  In 1990, they started the sovereign wealth fund. 

 

Do you know why they did not have a sovereign wealth fund for the first twenty-five years?  Because they had to invest in their infrastructure; because they had to develop an economy and grow an economy; because they had to grow in the provision of services and programs for their citizens.  Does that sound familiar, Mr. Speaker? 

 

It is the same thing we were doing here in this Province – the same thing.  They did it for twenty-five years in Norway before they developed that sovereign wealth fund, which is treating them very, very well.  They have done that.  They improved their economy.  They grew industry.  They grew programs and services.  They rebuilt their infrastructure.  That is exactly what we are doing, Mr. Speaker. 

 

When members opposite ask: What did you do with the money?  Well, that is what we did with the money.  They ask: Where is the money?  It is everywhere.  It is everywhere throughout this Province.  People are benefiting from it from coast to coast to coast.  From Labrador and the Island as well, people are benefiting from that. 

 

Mr. Speaker, we still have a five-year plan.  We have stated out a five-year plan for attrition on our staffing.  Instead of laying off people and dropping the economy like the Liberals do, we have a five-year plan.  Every year hundreds of public servants leave the public service.  They leave for many reasons.  Sometimes they leave because they are retiring.  Something they leave to go to private service, or they do not want to be in government.  They leave government.  Hundreds of people do it every year.

 

Our five-year attrition plan is instead of paying big money to people who leave government, paying big severance packages to people leaving government in big numbers, having a negative impact on the economy, our attrition plan is to slowly ratchet down spending.  I am using the words now of the Minister of Finance, these are his words: ratchet down our spending.  Ratchet down our cost of operation.  Ratchet down our public service over a five-year period, very gently and smoothly.  It is planned out to do that.  In five years we are going to do that, Mr. Speaker, and we are still hiring Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to come to work in public service. 

 

I will use this as an example now.  Back in the 1990s – again, I will go back to my policing days when I was a public servant.  I joined the RNC in 1985.  We were the fifth new class that the PC government had hired for police officers back in the 1980s.  They started hiring and sending them to Holland College in PEI to train.  That is where I went and trained, in Holland College.  I was like the fifth class.  I think there were one or two classes behind us, so six or seven classes.  They were all hired early in their career and then they started to progress through their career. 

 

When 1989 and 1990 came along, the Liberal government came in and stopped hiring.  They stopped hiring police officers.  So all of these people started to go through their careers.  There was nobody behind them, nobody coming behind them.  People were retiring, moving off.  They were going through their career, Mr. Speaker, in the middle of their career, this group of people were coming through, getting close to the end of their career, and in 2003 we came back in government. 

 

The government of the day, the members of our Party who were running the government of the day said we have a problem coming here.  I remember I was a member of the Police Association executive, which is essentially the union, the bargaining unit.  I was a member, and we were lobbying government.  We said we have to fix this because in a few years' time these people are all going to retire and you are not going to be able to hire them, train them, and get experience quick enough.  You are not going to be able to do it. 

 

We started in 2003-2004.  I remember I worked regularly with a fellow – I will not name him – he had several years less experience than me, about eight or nine years less experience than I did.  If I remember correctly, between my level of seniority and his there were about fifteen officers in that period of time, because that is all that was hired.  There was nobody hired.

 

So what happened, in 2004 our government, the PC government started a new training program at Memorial University.  I say, and I stand by it, the best in the country today.  Bar none, the best in the country today.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

PREMIER DAVIS: It is the most comprehensive police training program in the country today.  It takes a full year to be trained.  Most police services are five months, six months, and so on.  The RCMP is about six months, many of them are around that period of time, but we put them through Memorial.  They do a couple of formal semesters at Memorial. 

 

This program started in 2004, graduated in 2005.  Now what we have is a new crop of officers, because we have been hiring every year ever since then, every year trying to keep up.  Ever since then we have been hiring new officers. 

 

So we have this big group of people who are now at the end of their careers and leaving.  A lot of them have already left.  I think most of them have already left.  They are ready to go.  We have very few in the middle, and now we have this crop coming behind them. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I did not want to see that happen in the public service.  Because if you lay off large numbers of people like the Liberals did back in the early 1990s, that is what you do.  You cut it off; you just cut it off. 

 

What our plan is, it is to allow people to leave, and we continue to hire year after year in the public service.  We will hire young Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, Memorial University graduates, post-secondary, the College of the North Atlantic, private school graduates, people who want to come to work in public service, from engineers to accountants and everybody in between, Mr. Speaker, support staff and so on, social workers, doctors, nurses.  There are more doctors and nurses in this Province today than there ever has been before, more than ever before, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

PREMIER DAVIS: We are going to continue to hire them, Mr. Speaker, so that we have a solid base of public service.  We have people who are senior in their careers, we have people in the middle of their careers, and we have people who are early in their careers.  That is what the RNC lost for many, many years, because of the actions of the Liberal government that was in power of the day.  That is what is what happened.  So we want to continue to do that. 

 

We have an attrition plan, but we ask members opposite: What are you going to do?  They will not tell you.  The simple reason why they will not tell you is because if they tell you, you will not vote for them.  People will not vote for them.  If they told you all the facts, people are not going to vote for them.  That is why they will not lay it out, Mr. Speaker.  They just will not lay it out.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

PREMIER DAVIS: Mr. Speaker, members opposite will talk about – and I heard them over there calling across the floor a few minutes ago.  I will take a drink and let them get it out of their system over there, Mr. Speaker.

 

Mr. Speaker, they talk about, oh, you have not planned.  Well, in the couple of weeks following the Budget, we came in here and we had four days.  The first four days of Question Period were focused mostly on the Budget.  After that they just went off and stopped asking questions about the Budget, but they get up every day in Petitions, they get in Petitions – and Petitions are generally, we ask the government to do more of this, we ask the government to do more of that.  They do it in Question Period and they also do it in debate.

 

Within a couple of weeks, two, two-and-a-half weeks after the Budget, Mr. Speaker, I started adding it up.  I started looking.  How much are they asking for?  How many hundreds of millions do you think they asked for?  Do you think it was $100 million they asked for, $200 million?  Do you think they asked for $500 million?  Do you think the members opposite asked for $500 million, $800 million? 

 

AN HON. MEMBER: More.

 

PREMIER DAVIS: How about a billion?  How about $2 billion?  In the couple of weeks following our Budget, while they are over criticizing us for the moves we made – $2 billion.  They are in the $2 billion range of ask, Mr. Speaker, right here in the House of Assembly, $2 billion.  Then they criticize us for the decisions they made. 

 

They stand up and say, what did you do with the money?  They got up and started saying, what did you do with the $10 billion you got from oil?  What did you do?  It was not long, what did you do with the $12 billion you got for oil?  What did you do with the $15 billion you got for oil?  Where is that $18 billion you got from oil?  Now they are up to $25 billion. 

 

Now they seem to be capped out at $25 billion lately, Mr. Speaker.  They seem to be capped out at $25 billion, but for a while there it was a running total.  It continued to grow and grow and grow.  We did not know where it was going to stop, Mr. Speaker.  We did not know where it was going to stop.

 

MR. HILLIER: (Inaudible).

 

PREMIER DAVIS: There is the Member for Conception Bay South over there.  I think he is talking about his new highway that just got opened.  No, maybe he is talking about the new arena that is being built and paid for by government.  Maybe he is talking about the new town hall that is being built in Conception Bay South, Mr. Speaker.

That is it.  Oh no, Mr. Speaker, I know what he is talking about.  He is talking about the tens of millions of dollars being spent on waste treatment, sewage treatment, up in Conception Bay South – tens and tens of millions.  Maybe he is talking about the beautiful T'Railway that is up in CBS.  Oh no, it is the Manual's River building, the new Manual's River building that government has contributed to.  That is what he is talking about. 

 

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

 

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

 

MR. HILLIER: Mr. Speaker, everything that the Premier suggested was done by council after he left. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

There is no point of order.

 

The hon. the Premier.

 

PREMIER DAVIS: Yes, they have their heads down over there now, Mr. Speaker.

 

Mr. Speaker, there has been significant investments, significant work done, and significant improvements to the Province over the last twelve years.  Despite what members opposite like to talk about from time to time, sometimes it is good for us to remind them of the investments that have been made because, essentially, they are endless – they are endless. 

 

We have created plans, Mr. Speaker.  We have created substantial plans.  I have just laid out some of them for you and I have shared some of them with you here that I have brought with me today.  I have a long list of plans that have been done by this government and a long list of strategies that have been done: Skills Task Force; Northern Strategic Plan for Labrador, significant plan for Labrador, a big piece of work; Poverty Reduction Strategy, one of the most successful in the country. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

PREMIER DAVIS: For people who do not know what that means, it very simply means this: We have fewer people relying on social programs today than ever before in the history of Newfoundland and Labrador.  We have taken people who have struggled to live on their own and to pay their own way, they have gained better education and better opportunities.  They have moved off of social programs and now they are self-supporting and they are now contributing to the economy.  They get up every morning and they go to work.  They earn a living and they feed their families.  They live their lives and they look for better opportunities for themselves and their families and they work hard – hard-working Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who, not too many years ago, were relying on social programs for their own existence and for that of their family.

 

Through our program, we have been very successful in helping those people to give them opportunities so that they can be contributors to the economy, Mr. Speaker.  They are all better off for it, we are better off for it, and I congratulate each and every one of them.

 

Some of them have worked very hard to move from social programs to being able to fend for themselves and earning a living that they can pay their own way.  Even some of the supports we have given along the way, one of them always was about – you remember when people had to move from social programs to working, one of the first things they lost was their pharmacare, their own programs.  They would be cut off.  So you stop receiving benefits for drugs, as an example.  We changed that, Mr. Speaker.  So now there is a transition.  So instead of just cutting them off, as time goes on they can now transition from social programs to working.  It is a very successful program, one of the best in the country.

 

Violence Prevention Initiative: The next phase is soon to be released.  The members opposite asked, and as one of my colleagues said today it will be coming soon.  We look forward to that one as well.  Mr. Speaker, Climate Change Action Plan, and Energy Plan – the Energy Plan, a big one.  My colleague and my friend, the Minister of Natural Resources, likes to talk about the Energy Plan on a regular basis.  I tell you what, it has had great success in this Province.

 

As I have said, what we see in our Province is about oil.  The transformation that you see in our Province is about oil.  You can drive around this Province and you will see new homes and you see people going around in their pick-up trucks.  They have their winter gear; they have their snowmobiles.  They have their motorcycles and their boats in the summertime.

 

There are lots of people in the Province who are doing so much better now because of oil than they ever did before.  All you have to do it drive from community to community and look at the homes that are there.  Look at the homes that are now being built in communities.  Some communities that were struggling not so long ago have beautiful, new homes – people building homes in communities, small towns.  Some of those beautiful towns that have beautiful seascapes and landscapes where they want their second home, a cottage or summer home and they want spend time there, Mr. Speaker, all because of oil.

 

We are not finished with energy.  The minister will talk about that in great detail, I am sure, because Muskrat Falls is the other project that they are not in favour of across the way, Mr. Speaker.  They do not support Muskrat Falls.  We know there is one over there who does, who supports Muskrat Falls.  They do not support it.  If you think about the high-paying skilled jobs that people have had through Muskrat Falls, thousands of jobs that people have had just in the construction of Muskrat Falls, thousands of jobs through Muskrat Falls, thousands of high-paying jobs that are being created through the investments in Muskrat Falls.

 

Mr. Speaker, I know some media like to say: There he goes again.  He is talking about the Hoover Dam.  He is talking about all the power and everything, but it is important to think about it.  It is a really good reference because the Hoover Dam is well known.  It has been producing power for eighty years.  The Upper Churchill has been producing power for forty years.  Muskrat Falls will do the same thing, Mr. Speaker.  It will produce power for 100 years to come.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

PREMIER DAVIS: Clean, green, renewable electricity, Mr. Speaker. 

 

One of the big benefits – I mentioned climate change.  It is a very important matter, climate change; not only just for Newfoundland and Labrador, worldwide.  We know that we have pristine waters and clean air here in this Province, Mr. Speaker.  We do.  Just Muskrat Falls alone will reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 10 per cent.  It will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, our carbon emissions, by 10 per cent because of Muskrat Falls.  Muskrat Falls will allow us to take out – I have to see which direction I am; it is over that way.  It is out that way.  Out in Holyrood, where the Holyrood generating plant is, that will come off line. 


If you ask people in Holyrood and Seal Cove – ask the Member for Conception Bay South, I am sure he will agree – one of the big benefits that people in Conception Bay South, Holyrood, and the Conception Bay area will all agree that Muskrat Falls is shutting down Holyrood, that dirty polluter – one of the worst polluters in Canada, Mr. Speaker –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

PREMIER DAVIS: It provides supplementary power to the Northeast Avalon.  It has been a huge polluter, a desperate need for significant upgrades and so on; but instead of putting our money into that dirty polluter, we are going to build Muskrat Falls.  The Holyrood plant will be taken off line through Muskrat Falls and 10 per cent of our carbon emissions will be gone.  We will have cleaner air for it and we will be better off for it because of Muskrat Falls. 

 

People do not talk about that very often.  I know members of the NDP are very high on the environment, as many of us are.  They talk about it on a regular basis, more than the members from the Liberal Party, but the members of the NDP will talk about the environment much more.  I am sure that the Member for St. John's East or the Member for Signal Hill – Quidi Vidi would be more than happy to talk about the benefits of shutting down Holyrood, getting off of Holyrood and, instead, having to produce power through a clean, green process. 

 

Just think about it, Mr. Speaker, we get a lot of rain here in Newfoundland and Labrador and every time it rains that is money falling out of the sky.  When Muskrat Falls comes on line that is money that is going to be falling out of the sky. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

PREMIER DAVIS: I have been talking about plans, Mr. Speaker, and some of the strategies that we have had and some of the ones that we have done.  I am going through a long list; I do not want to go over all of them: the Agriculture and Agrifoods Action Plan; the strategic culture plan; tourism strategy, a great success story.  When I speak to other Premiers in the country, they quite often ask: What is your secret?  Mr. Speaker, we can do beautiful, colourful ads, great promotions, very well managed and strategically delivered. 

 

MR. OSBORNE: (Inaudible).

 

PREMIER DAVIS: The Member for St. John's South is over criticizing our tourism plan, Mr. Speaker.  I think that is what he is doing.  Is that what you were doing, criticizing the plan? 

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible). 

 

PREMIER DAVIS: Yes, he is criticizing the plan, but this year there will be $1.1 billion in tourism spending in our Province – $1.1 billion in spending right here in our Province.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

PREMIER DAVIS: Mr. Speaker, we can bring all the people here all we want through these great commercials in tourism, but I have had a couple of experiences with people in the last number of years.  I was with the Member for Port au Port and we were doing a tour in his area and I said: I want to down to the alpaca farm down there.  Some of you may have visited there.  The operator there is a former police office, former RCMP officer.  The consistency assistant for the member is a former military police officer.

 

I said: Let's go down and see him.  Ed Hutchings is his name.  He is the operator out there.  I worked with him when I was on the West Coast actually; he was police officer on the West Coast for many years.  We went down to stop in to see him.  When we pull up, outside there was a smart car parked; a smart car with a Texas licence plate on it.  I said: That is a long drive in a smart car from Texas to Newfoundland and Labrador.  I go inside and there is a man and his wife in there.  He is fairly blocky, husky fellow – I am thinking that is a real long drive in a smart car.  Ed Hutchings says: Let me introduce you.  So he introduces me to the guy.  He just retired as a police officer in Texas.

 

So we have a retired police officer from Texas.  We have a retired RNC officer.  We have a retired RCMP officer.  We have a retired military police officer.  We could have had a police convention, I suppose, for that matter, and the only other one there was Tony – I am sorry, the Member for Port au Port.  Sorry, Mr. Speaker, I apologize.  The Member for Port au Port was the only other one who was there.

 

So I said to him: That is a long drive in a smart car.  He said: Yes, it is.  I said: Did you come here from Texas in a smart car.  He said: No, I will tell you now.  I retired last year, so we bought a motorhome and we decided we are going to tour Canada.  We are going to go all the way from BC right over to Nova Scotia.  That is what he was going to do.

 

When he got to Nova Scotia, he learned about Newfoundland and Labrador.  Then he said: Let's go the rest of the way.  So they packed up their motorhome.  They came across on the boat.  He said: We were a bit tight on time so we came over for a couple of days to have a look around.  I said: You cannot see a lot in Newfoundland in a couple of days.  He said: No, I have been here for three weeks. 

 

So he came over for a couple of days, but he just absolutely loved the place.  He did not want to leave.  They were doing that much driving, he parked the motorhome and started to use the smart car because he wanted to tour and he wanted to drive.  He was driving long distances.  It is much more economical to drive a smart car than it is a motorhome.

 

He raved about our place, but what he really raved about, as so many people do, is he raved about the people. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

PREMIER DAVIS: He raved about our people in our Province.  He raved about how you can walk in a community, you can go to a community and it is like you lived there all your life. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

PREMIER DAVIS: People are so welcoming and open to you.

 

While we can do all of the finest ads and promotion that we want about Newfoundland and Labrador, we can bring all the people here that we want, attract and draw people to our Province, it is our people who keep them here longer and it is our people who bring them back.  There are lots of stories I could share, success stories, of tourism experiences that I have had with meeting people from away who have come here and have enjoyed that.  Hats off to our tourism operators and not only to them, but all the people of the Province because they always do that; they always make our visitors feel welcome and they bring them here. 

 

A lot of that, Mr. Speaker, has to do with pride.  In policing and military they call it esprit de corps, pride in your unit.  It has to do with pride in your unit, your unit being the Province.  It has a lot to do with attitude as well because we have an attitude over here in the House that we are the best.  We have the best people in the world.  We have the best landscapes and seascapes.  We have the best opportunities for visitors to come here.  Members opposite do not have such a positive attitude, and it is really unfortunate.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

PREMIER DAVIS: No, you do not.  Least, lowest, and last, is that a positive attitude, I say to members opposite?  Least, lowest, and last, is that a positive attitude? 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER (Verge): Order, please!

 

PREMIER DAVIS: Mr. Speaker, we like to think here that the glass is half full.  That is the attitude and that is the position I would like to take.  Things are not all bad – and the Member for Bay of Islands said it.  They have a job to do over there.  He said it when he was up just before I got up tonight.  He said they have a job to do.  They have a job to do the things that they do in the least, lowest, and last kind of attitude, things are all bad and things are no good.  They have that job to do.  So members opposite have to take some responsibility for it; they do.  They have to take some responsibility because things are not all bad in the Province.

 

Things, Mr. Speaker, are actually very good.  It is kind of like Buddy Wasisname and the Other Fellers, when they do their routine.  Boy, it is not very good, is it?  No, boy, some bad.  Yes, it is the worst I ever saw.  Then they go from –

 

AN HON. MEMBER: She is gone.

 

PREMIER DAVIS: She is gone – that is right; she is gone, some bad.  Within a couple of minutes they go back to well, it is not that bad.  Actually, it is pretty good.  They go from that to it is pretty good to boy, she could not be any better.  She is some good, she could not be any better. 

 

We see that here on the floor of the House of Assembly sometimes, Mr. Speaker, and we know members opposite have a responsibility to try to hold our feet to the fire and question what government does, but really they should think about it because Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are not the least, lowest, and last; they are the best – they are absolutely the best.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

PREMIER DAVIS: Now, Mr. Speaker, I was going to go through some of the other strategies that are here from chronic disease management, long-term care, and social housing – and when I see long-term care, I cannot help but respond to comments by the Leader of the Opposition that he talked about earlier.  I was listening to him when he was on his feet earlier tonight and he was talking about long-term care and what we are going to do with long-term care. 

 

It was really interesting because a lot of the members opposite talk about their business backgrounds.  A lot of their businesses were partnered with government.  They do that.  They partner with government.  They provide programs and services on behalf of government.  In everything from health care to repairing ships and vessels, they partner with government in providing those services.  Government provides and buys services from people of the Province all over. 

 

I am of the belief that instead of government being the primary employer everywhere, we need to create an environment where businesses can thrive.  I believe that.  Also, we should utilize businesses and services from businesses.  Because, quite frankly, quite often private business can deliver programs and services more effectively, more efficiently, for better value than what government can.  In those cases, we have a responsibility.  We have a duty to find the best ways to provide those services and those programs.  Long-term care is one of them.

 

Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition said earlier tonight: Oh, the Premier said it was bold and it was innovative.  Well, it was because nowhere has this Province ever said we are going to go out and engage with private business and we are going to seek out best value for long-term care. 

 

For generations and generations, as long as I can remember, when I was a young fellow – I grew up in St. John's – when I was a young fellow growing up in St. John's my father was on the board for the Agnes Pratt Home, for as long as I can remember.  I was not unusual on a Sunday afternoon that dad had to go down to the Agnes Pratt Home.  Either he had to sign some cheques or sign some approvals.  He had to do some work down there.

 

I remember they were building a big extension down there at the time.  I remember him talking about how challenging it was for the church to work and partner with government and the health care of the day and so on, but it was a faith based, long-term care home.  The church ran it.  The church owned it and the church ran it.  It was not only the Agnes Pratt Home.  There was Saint Luke's, St. Pat's, the Glenbrook Lodge, they were all faith based, long-term care homes that for as long as I can remember existed in St. John's where I grew up.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

 

PREMIER DAVIS: There are others, yes, absolutely.  There are others around the Province. 

 

Mr. Speaker, that was not a bad arrangement.  It was not.  Over time there was an evolution of health care having heavier and bigger roles and responsibilities in managing and owning and operating those facilities, but it was not a bad arrangement.

 

So having faith based, not for profit, long-term care is not new, but what is bold and innovative and different is for us to go out and engage with private business to create those homes and do it in a way that we are approaching it, because there has been great success around the country with private business in long-term care. 

 

Now, members opposite get up and say, but you do not know how much it is going to cost.  Now the Leader of the Opposition has been in business long enough to know that in order to determine what someone is going to charge you for the service you have to go through a process to say, what are you going to charge us for the service?  That makes a lot of sense I think, Mr. Speaker.  If you are going to ask someone what are you going to charge or what the service is going to cost, you have to go through a process to ask them what it is going to cost.  We have to go through a competitive process. 

 

You do not know what company A may provide, or company B or company C.  You have to go through that process, and the member opposite knows it all too well.  Until you go through that process –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

PREMIER DAVIS: What we have done is we have looked at the experience we currently have here in this Province, because we also partner with a private business, Chancellor Park, that provides long-term care beds to government, to the Province, and we pay them.  They have trained and qualified health care people, professionals who work in their facility, who provide the same training, same qualifications as you would find in a provincial health care facility.  They provide those services, but for substantially less cost, Mr. Speaker. 

 

We do know that by partnering with private business, we can create and provide long-term care services at less cost.  Yes, we do know there are acute care beds that cost $50,000 a month to operate, that have patients in them waiting for long-term care. 

 

Our plan, Mr. Speaker, is to build 360 new long-term care beds; 360 through partnering with private business and not-for-profit.  Let it be a competitive process.  Allow that to be a competitive process.  Allow those private individuals, those private companies, those not-for profit based groups to come to us and say, we want to compete for that service.  We want to compete to provide that, and here is what our proposal is.  That is the process.  Members opposite know that, Mr. Speaker.

 

For them to say, oh, you do not know what it is going to cost.  Mr. Speaker, that is smoke and mirrors.  It is nothing more than smoke and mirrors.  It is rhetoric from the Opposition to try and take away from the fact – because one thing the Opposition have not told you is how they are going to build long-term care.  Again, no solutions, no plan, no answers to the problems, because they do that.  That is what they do, Mr. Speaker, that is what they do.

 

Whenever they speak and they ask questions – if you ask them a question, how are you going to do that?  How are you going to do this differently?  They will say, well, what the government is doing is wrong.  Yes, the government is wrong, absolutely wrong.  So what are you going to do?  Well, we are not going to do what the government did.  What are you going to do?  Well, what they did was wrong.  We are not going to do that, but they will never tell you what they are going to do, Mr. Speaker.  That is why I say the people of the Province should fear those who are peddling change simply for change.  They should do that.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

 

PREMIER DAVIS: Yes, and I am going to say it a few more times yet.  Between now and the election, I tell you, I might say it a couple of hundred more times.  I will say it over and over because people need to know the truth, Mr. Speaker.  They need to know the facts and to know the truth.  That is what they need to know, Mr. Speaker. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

PREMIER DAVIS: Mr. Speaker, for government to build 360 long-term care beds today it is going to cost hundreds of millions of dollars that government simply does not have.  If we can find a way to create those long-term care beds without having to find –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

PREMIER DAVIS: – the hundreds of millions of dollars to build them, we are better off as a Province.  That is what we are doing. 

 

There are success stories right across Canada.  In Ontario, 60 per cent of long-term care beds are privately owned – 60 per cent.  They have a lot more long-term care beds in Ontario than we have here in Newfoundland and Labrador, I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, and most provinces do. 

 

In Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, they are still building them.  The Liberal governments in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

PREMIER DAVIS: – are continuing to build private partnership, long-term care beds.  The Liberal governments of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick are continuing to do it, Mr. Speaker.  As I said, the Liberal government in Ontario, 60 per cent are private business. 

 

In BC; we are actually partnering with Partnerships BC.  The Liberal government out in BC have a Crown corporation, PBC or Partnerships BC, and we are partnering with them because they have a tremendous amount of experience and success in building private-public partnerships, Mr. Speaker.  They have a good record.  They have a solid record.  We are partnering with them because we do not have that same experience.  So we are going to where the experts are; the people who have those experiences.  They have that knowledge and they know how to do it, Mr. Speaker.

 

Mr. Speaker, I only have a few minutes left, but I mentioned a little while ago about how we have laid out plans.  I have talked about that.  Much of my theme tonight has been talking about the plans that we have.  People of the Province – because I believe the people of the Province will make the right choice this fall.  They will look at our plan versus what members opposite have.  They were starting to talk about: oh, in a few weeks we are going to announce our big plan. 

 

They were going to announce their big plan, Mr. Speaker.  That is what they were going to do.  Then they came out and said: Well, we have two of our supporters here, two St. John's business people –

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Not elected.

 

PREMIER DAVIS: Not elected.  Yes, they would not throw that at us, that is for sure.  They would not throw the fact at us that they are not elected. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

PREMIER DAVIS: Two unelected St. John's business people who are going around the Province to talk to people.

 

Let me tell you what is happening, Mr. Speaker.  The people they are talking to are picking up the phone and are calling us, and they are saying: Do you know what they said to us?  So the picture is starting to be painted as to what is happening.  I tell you now, Mr. Speaker, the picture is starting to be painted. 

 

We are starting to find out what their plan is all about, because they said they do have a plan.  They actually have a plan but they refuse to share it.  They are not going to share it. 

 

Do you know what they are saying, Mr. Speaker, what the Liberals are saying?  It is no one's business what our plan is.  That is what they are saying, we are not telling you.  It is not your business for us to tell you what our plan is.  We are going to continue to slide along.  We are going to duck and weave the best we can, because we are not going to tell you what our plan is.  We are not.  We are going to go out and talk to people but we are not going to tell you what our plan is, Mr. Speaker, because they cannot tell us what the plan is – they cannot.  If they tell us what the plan is people are not going to be happy with them.

 

When they go out sometimes, and they do that.  We know that on election day, and I talked about it when I started – on Budget day, sorry, I said that earlier too.  On Budget day they went out, the Leader was out on one side of the lobby giving one answer: here is what we are going to do, we are going to raise the deficit, and we are going to have a longer deficit for a longer period of time.  At the same time, the Liberal Finance critic was on the other side of the House saying we are going to reduce spending and we are going to increase revenue.  That is right, we are going to reduce spending and increase revenue – at the same time. 

 

Mr. Speaker, it was either strategic on their part – they had all the bases covered, so no matter which way they go now they have themselves covered – or they really did not know what one person's position was going to be or what the party's position was supposed to be, Mr. Speaker.  That is what happened. 

 

Mr. Speaker, they talk about openness and transparency.  They had their secret millionaire dinner up in Toronto.  That is what they had, Mr. Speaker.  They had that.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible). 

 

PREMIER DAVIS: No, a million.  No, no, you had to be –

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

PREMIER DAVIS: It did not cost $10,000, I can tell you that. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

PREMIER DAVIS: Mr. Speaker, it certainly did not cost that. 

 

Do you know what?  All of the people who financed our campaigns, Mr. Speaker, we made it public, not like members opposite.  We released them, Mr. Speaker.  That is what we did, unlike the members opposite. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

PREMIER DAVIS: Members opposite are going to say the rules do not allow us to say it.  That is what they say, Mr. Speaker.  The rules do not allow us to release that information.  It does, Mr. Speaker, but members opposite choose not to share it.  It is their choice.  They choose not to share it. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I want to tell you – I am going to wrap up in a few seconds – that the Budget we have brought down is one of balanced choices.  They were tough choices, they were hard choices, Mr. Speaker, but we are willing to stay at the wheel and stay at the helm.  We are ready to stay the course, Mr. Speaker.  Newfoundland and Labrador has had a great decade. 

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

PREMIER DAVIS: The last ten years for Newfoundland and Labrador have been phenomenal, better than it has ever been before, Mr. Speaker.  Even though we are in a tough time right now, I can tell you with our party at the wheel, with our party in charge of this Province, the future is bright for Newfoundland and Labrador.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MS DEMPSTER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

I am happy to stand and speak to the Budget again.  Mr. Speaker, I am always happy to stand and be a voice for the people of Cartwright – L'Anse au Clair, the people who elected me, and it is always a pleasure to bring forth the issues – and lots of issues.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MS DEMPSTER: I was happy tonight to listen to our leader for an hour as our leader raised the issues and the concerns from all around the Province again and again and again.  He spoke very eloquently to this government and the money that they have had since they have come into power since 2003, the $25 billion in oil money, and now we are facing the biggest deficit that we have in the history of the Province – touched on real issues.  Despite all the money, now we see a Budget that was brought down which they are going to tax us back to prosperity, as my colleague likes to say. 

 

Then we listened to the Premier get up and what a contrast.  When the Premier gets up and he imitates a bit of Buddy Wasisname and the Other Fellers and he wonders for the first few minutes he is up, what we would do.  Well if he wants to see what we would do, I say drop the writ and we will show him what we will do.  Drop the writ.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MS DEMPSTER: Mr. Speaker, my colleague for Torngat sometimes he jokes and says it is not easy to run the government from this side, but we are not doing too bad.  The few ideas that we did let out, they were happy to take them and implement them –

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Full-day kindergarten.

 

MS DEMPSTER: Full-day kindergarten; Bill 29, we said a first order of the day we would repeal Bill 29; bicycle helmets – so we cannot give away all of our good stuff.  Show us an Opposition that will, before the writ is dropped, come out with all their policy.  I guarantee you – I have an uncle, and I thought about him here tonight, that says you can fool some of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.  This government is going to find out that they did not fool the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.  They have bungled and mismanaged over a decade, and now they are saying stick with us.  We have a plan.  We did not have one for the last ten, twelve, fourteen years, but stick with us.  We have a plan. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I am going to be talking a little bit about tourism tonight.  When you get up and your time is limited, you hardly know where to start because there are so many issues.  Tourism is something that sometimes when I think about tourism and the lack of a tourism development officer, a product development officer in Labrador, it saddens me.  Sometimes, Mr. Speaker, it really infuriates me. 

 

The Premier, when he was speaking, said what would you do in Opposition, what would you guys do, what would you cut, and he went through a number of departments.  He said: Would you cut tourism?  Mr. Speaker, if he cut tourism we would not see or feel the difference in Labrador because it is non-existent there today right now – non-existent.  That is what I am going to talk about for the next few minutes and how sad that is. 

 

Just a few years ago we had two or three people who were working in tourism in Labrador.  When I came into the House of Assembly in the fall of 2013, there was a position that had gone – the guy had retired and it had not been filled for months and months.  One of the first things I did, I was pushing for that tourism position to be filled in Labrador, in the fall of 2013.  I was told it is coming soon – it is coming soon.

 

It is like many other things, Mr. Speaker.  I could talk for the remainder of the evening on all of the wonderful things that are coming soon, like the adult literacy plan that we have been waiting on since 2007; the Poverty Reduction Strategy the Premier mentioned, one of the best that they have in the country – one of the best in the country.  This was an office that was created in 2012 and four years later, we are still waiting for something concrete on the Population Growth Strategy. 

 

I sat in Estimates when some questions came up about the Population Growth Strategy.  The minister responsible, just a couple of weeks ago in Estimates, said he has learned not to commit to dates when asked about timelines.  I thought to myself how is that for accountability.  After four years of waiting the minister says: Well, I have learned now in this business not to commit to dates.

 

Mr. Speaker, I say the people of the Province are watching and they understand much more than we give them credit for understanding, I can tell you that.  I hear it all of the time when I am out in all of the four corners of the Province. 

 

Back to the tourism, in the fall of 2013 the position was going to be filled.  We waited and nothing happened.  Here we are, we are moving into the summer of 2015.  We are coming into tourism season, so that is why it is prominent on my mind. 

 

Last week we celebrated Tourism Week in the Province.  Mr. Speaker, I represent a beautiful, beautiful part of this Province.  It would take me more than twenty minutes to talk about some of the places that we have in the district.  We have the oldest funeral monument in the New World, with the Maritime Archaic Indian burial site.  Mr. Speaker, that happens to be out in Point Amour where we have the tallest lighthouse in Atlantic Canada and the second tallest lighthouse in the country, standing thirty-three metres, I believe it is 132 steps, and you can go and you can have dinner in that lighthouse. 

 

I am going to talk about some of these beautiful sites.  The other day, my colleague for Humber East was in Estimates.  He could not get any satisfaction from the minister.  He said: Why can't you commit to filling the tourism officer position that has been vacant in Labrador for two or three years?  Why can you not commit?  He did not get any satisfaction, so he asked questions here in the House of Assembly.  I was absolutely astounded, Mr. Speaker – we hear lots of excuses, lots of excuses, but I was astounded after sitting here in the House for two years, almost two years, to hear the Minister of Tourism stand and say: I am certainly quite happy with the level of service that we are providing regarding tourism in Labrador.

 

Well, Mr. Speaker, I have a message for the minister of tourism; the people in Labrador are certainly not happy with the level of service.  Here is another example of a government blatantly not listening, when we have endless, beautiful tourist attractions and yet nobody marketing. 

 

The Premier can get up and talk about oh, they ask for money, they ask for money, they ask for this and that; but sometimes you make a small investment and you get a huge return.  We are looking at little communities that we are trying to make viable, that we are trying to make more sustainable, and you make a small investment and you get a big return; but we have not seen very many good examples of that this government can show, Mr. Speaker.  We have seen where they have squandered tens and hundreds of millions and have gotten nothing back, but not to put a little something into places where they can get something back.

 

Mr. Speaker, I mentioned the Point Amour Lighthouse.  I can come on down to Red Bay, the UNESCO World Heritage Site – I was pleased to have the Lieutenant Governor and his wife come into the district a couple of weeks ago.  They were very impressed with the Basque whaling site and the majestic beauty that surrounds Red Bay, and I am only just touching on some, Mr. Speaker, to build my case. 

 

Then you come on down to Battle Harbour, Mr. Speaker, and you will have an experience like none other, a step back in time to when cod was king.  Many people from the Island, many people I would say sitting on the other side, their forefathers and their grandfathers have come to Labrador, they fished and they had the experience.  You visit Battle Harbour and it will take you back to a time when that was happening. 

 

Mr. Speaker, you come on down, we have the Mealy Mountains, the beautiful, majestic Mealy Mountains and Cartwright about to become a gateway to the Mealy Mountains Park; another example of how this government is stifling, is crippling, holding back Labrador from progressing, from being able to make it on their own, holding them back – a file since 2007. 

 

We have Parks Canada – we have the federal government that wants to, is ready, is waiting to put $35 million into an area and they got a file that is sitting on their desk since 2007 and you wonder why it is so infuriating and so upsetting.  They will not give the communities a chance to help themselves.  Yet, they will get up and they will talk about the things we are finding problems in.  Stand up and tell me if I am wrong, Mr. Speaker. 

 

Right around the Mealy Mountain Park, we have the beautiful Wonderstrand.  I was reading an article from a tourist lately that said with a bit of luck and some cards that all lined up just right, I found my way to one of the most beautiful places in the world: the Wonderstrand. 

 

Why is it, Mr. Speaker, that a bit of luck and a lot of cards got to line up right for a tourist to find her way to a beautiful place in Labrador?  Why is it?  It is because we have a $13 million marketing budget and guess how many ads were in it from Labrador?  One ad from Labrador.  There are so many beautiful sites, yet with a bit of luck – the Tourism Industry Association of Canada talks about two things.  When they talk about tourism, they talk about two things that you need: You need marketing and you need access.

 

Here we are, Mr. Speaker, and I have just touched on a few – I live up in the bottom of St. Michaels Bay.  The bay that I live in has 365 islands, fascinating coves; you could not stay there long enough to explore it all.  How do people know about it?  This government has not seen fit – we have had several people who were working in tourism several years ago, we had a person who retired, and over the last two or three years they have not seen fit to fill the position when we are sitting on a gold mine with so much to market.

 

These people will come, they will spend their money, they will go back and they will tell other people because word of mouth is the strongest form of advertising, Mr. Speaker, but this government has not seen fit to do it.  It is very disappointing.  It saddens me when we are not being given a chance.  So we need the marketing and we need the access.  Mr. Speaker, we are stifled.  We are crippled in both areas.

 

Access – the people watching tonight know all about the difficulties that there are in access when it comes to getting to Cartwright – L'Anse au Clair or getting to Labrador.  I am not making it up.  They live with the woes every day.  I cringe every time I hear somebody get up and talk about the provincial ferry strategy.

 

It is good that some areas – I would never not wish for somebody to have good, adequate transportation to and from an area where they live.  It is a necessity.  It is important, but every time I hear about the provincial ferry strategy – and I realize that myself and my colleague for Torngat, what we got out of the provincial ferry strategy was a piece of paper.  We got a piece of paper and that makes it difficult when you are talking about tourism and you are talking about marketing, it makes it difficult to access the area when we still do not have a new ferry that is so desperately needed.  We do not know when we are getting a new ferry.  We have no idea when we are getting a new ferry.  Once again we see that they put out the RFP and they did their homework after – they did their homework after.  There are many examples we could give of where they have bungled things so badly there.

 

Mr. Speaker, I will continue to advocate for the people, but every time I am back in the district I hear from tourism operators, establishments in the area, some beautiful establishments that you could stay in, starting at the Southern part of the district in L'Anse au Clair, the Northern Light Inn.  You can come right on down Sea View cabins in Forteau.  There is the Oceanview in West St. Modeste.  There is Whaler's Restaurant and Cabins in Red Bay.  There is Riverlodge Hotel in Mary's Harbour.  There is Alexis Hotel, and I mentioned that.

 

There are so many beautiful establishments, but they are not getting their fair share of this billion-dollar industry.  They are not getting their fair share because this government, while they can put out a Budget that talks about balancing choices and a promising future, they have not balanced their choices.  There is a huge inadequacy.  There is a big imbalance in the scale.

 

I talked earlier about the difficulty of getting across just on the ferry and the other issues that the businesses are dealing with: broadband.  Many, many times I stand on my feet and I advocate here for improved broadband services in the region.  In this technological age when tourist establishments need to be checking online to see what groups are booking to come, the speed is so slow that government should be intervening and saying service providers are not allowed to charge individual residents in communities for a service that they are not getting.  Every single day I hear from businesses who cannot even use an Interac machine in their business.  Imagine if it was like that here in the city for a day and people had to experience what we do in that area. 

 

Mr. Speaker, the bad roads – I had quite an email a little while ago from an individual and it was in capital letters, three words, it was called: FIX THE ROADS.  It was a very, very upset person.  I could not blame them for being upset.  He said: Southern Labrador, you have a beautiful part of the Province where you live; you have beautiful people; but if you want tourists to come, if you want them to bring their motorhome, if you want them to spend their money on the lovely crafts that you have in your store, fix the roads. 

 

I have stood many times on my feet and petitioned for improvements to Route 510 from L'Anse au Clair to Red Bay.  Mr. Speaker, I am very, very concerned that it is only a matter of time and a life will be lost on that road because it is in such a deplorable condition.

 

I believe seven-and-a-half tractor-trailer loads were the amount of cold patch – imagine, last year.  I do not know what the cost is of a tractor-trailer load of cold patch, but I know that there is only so far that goes.  As the road continues to be built – I mean, I know members opposite get up and they tout the millions of dollars that they are investing in a road through Labrador, investing in a road through Labrador – you tell me a more basic piece of infrastructure that you can get than a road.  While most of the rest of the Province and the country is into getting their road improved for the second time, we are still trying to get our first one, and a slow process it is I might add. 

 

Here we are now on the Goose Bay end and we are going to see some asphalt this year and it will be a reprieve for the people; but, on the Southern part, it is going to take a long time at the rate they are going and at the rate that they are getting tenders out the door.  We are going to be a long, long time still driving on gravel road, Mr. Speaker.

 

Here we are, we are talking about tourism, we are talking about marketing – we have the sites, Mr. Speaker.  We do not need to build it and they will come.  We do not need to do that.  Anybody would come – you can put our tourist attractions up against anywhere in the world.  I did not even touch on my colleague's area, the majestic Torngat Mountains and so many beautiful areas as you go further north, Mr. Speaker. 

 

I cannot believe – and I would love for someone to get up after I sit down and give us an explanation on why they do not see fit to have anybody marketing the tourism potential and helping the industry in Labrador.  Just imagine, Mr. Speaker.

 

We hear it all the time about all of the money that is coming out of Labrador and nothing coming back.  Mr. Speaker, people are justified a lot of times when they say that.  I cannot disagree with them.  I cannot disagree when you talk about tourism and you talk about marketing and you talk about access.  We do not have the marketing piece and we have so many issues around the access.  How can you disagree with the people?  It is so true what they say.  The delayed roadwork and the bungled RFP for the new ferry, Mr. Speaker, so much beauty but no marketing and no access. 

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Talk about the ferry.

 

MS DEMPSTER: Oh, there is so much I could talk about the ferry.  I get tired of talking about the ferry because the minister accused me the last time I was up talking about the ferry, he said she likes to get up and stand on her soapbox and beat the drum.  Now I was a little bit offended by that, Mr. Speaker, because as my colleague from the Bay of Islands said, we have an obligation in this House.  We have an obligation in the Opposition to democracy, to stand and to raise the issues. 

 

When they table a piece of legislation, Mr. Speaker, we have an obligation to the people who elected us, to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador to tear that up, to propose amendments so that at the end of the day the legislation that the people of the Province have to live under is the best that it could be.  Although, I have to say, a lot of times we are not given much to work with. 

 

We heard from our Premier earlier tonight.  I am talking about tourism and I am talking about small communities, but, Mr. Speaker, it crossed my mind as I was listening to the Premier, one of my little communities, many of my little communities, the population in one community is more than what elected that man to be Premier.  Just imagine that, the people in one of my little communities are more than the population who elected that man to be Premier; yet, he saw fit to interfere with the electoral boundaries process.  He saw fit to interfere to save a couple of million dollars he said.  My colleague from the Bay of Islands said it was up to $400 million in wastage the other day when we debated in a private member's motion. 

 

Now he is interfering with the by-election.  He has a mandate.  We thought we were going to the polls in September, and now we are going November 30.  Mr. Speaker, people see through it, and everywhere I go people are sick to death of it.  They are saying get on with the day, drop the writ.  Let's have an election, it is time for change.

 

Mr. Speaker, one of the other issues – and I was not going there tonight, I was not, because I do not want to talk about Muskrat Falls every time I stand, but the Premier talked about tonight what Muskrat Falls is going to do for them.  I just want to close by telling him, we are still going to be left with a dirty diesel, unreliable generator.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MS DEMPSTER: We are still going to be left with that, Mr. Speaker, no different.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

The hon. the Minister of Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. RUSSELL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

As I do each and every time I get on my feet in this hon. House, I would like to say thank you once again to the great people of the District of Lake Melville.  Thank you for your continued support.  It is my honour and privilege to represent you every single time I stand in this House and every day I go to work.  It is a rare and wonderful privilege indeed, Mr. Speaker, that we all share on this side of the House.

 

I would just like to say a little bit about my district, of course, as I always do before I get into the politics of what we are seeing here tonight.  The banter back and forth and the rhetoric, if you will, is always interesting, but I just want to talk about Friday night in my district, in the Innu community of Sheshatshiu.

 

Mr. Speaker, I would just like to say, to watch the largest graduating class in the history of Sheshatshiu and all the glory of the wonderful show, if you will, the event they put off was simply breathtaking.  I will say to the teachers, to the parents, to the guardians, the Innu took over their education and they work closely with the Province from time to time.  They know what it takes to get the job done in order to make their kids succeed, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. RUSSELL: Absolutely, give them a round of applause.  Seventeen, Mr. Speaker, the largest graduating class. 

 

We had one young Innu lady by the name of Sarah Nuna who never missed a single day since kindergarten all the way to Grade 12.  It was wonderful to applaud her and give her some special recognition there, Mr. Speaker, and, as well, announce a few dollars to give specifically to snowshoeing, floor hockey, skiing, and some miscellaneous funds that I think may be used for mixed martial arts with a good friend of ours, Collin Baikie, who lives just across the river in North West River.

 

It was a wonderful evening, but I just want to tell the students of Sheshatshiu, no matter what you do and where you go, you have that large circle of friends.  You have everybody in government.  You have everybody who represents you and all the leadership within the Innu community and outside.  We are here to support you in whatever you choose to do, whether it is the trades, whether it is university, whether it is political, whether it is going into leadership.  Whatever it is, the sky is the limit.  You can do it.

 

With that message, Mr. Speaker, I will move on to my Saturday night, which was – I am looking for words here, I will go with – breathtakingly inspirational.  I hear the banter and everybody joking around in the House, but I spent the evening with the Happy Valley-Goose Bay Howling Huskies.  They are our Special Olympians.  That is our team.  To see them get their awards for all the events they take part in over the year and to see the pride on the faces of the moms and dads and the guardians there, Mr. Speaker, the reason why I say inspirational is because that is what it is. 

 

We think about what we do in our daily lives.  We think about all the problems and the trials and the tribulations in our lives.  I will simply say it is absolutely nothing compared to what these young adults and these kids are overcoming, and to let them know just for that one night at their banquet, that we are so proud of them.  All of Lake Melville, all of Labrador is so proud of them for representing us at every event they take place in.  It was truly a wonderful event.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. RUSSELL: With that, Mr. Speaker, to know that our government programs contributed to, just a few months ago, $10,000 worth of equipment for our Happy Valley-Goose Bay Howling Huskies, and to know at that event I was able to kick in another couple of thousand dollars to help them in terms of making sure they look sharp, they have the uniforms, that they are ready to go and they have the training gear necessary in order to do the very, very best that they can do every time they compete. 

 

To Susan and Jody, and everybody who allowed me to come and participate, I just want to say thank you very much.  It means a lot to me.  I would like to say to all of the athletes, thank you for representing us so well.

 

With that, Mr. Speaker, I am going to go real quickly back to a little bit of the government stuff here.  Estimates, of course, for those just tuning in here tonight, we go back and forth across the House.  People get a chance to critique us. 

 

I will thank the Member for St. John's East.  He had some wonderful commentary and questions about Labrador.  We had a great back and forth, answering some questions.  The one thing I never got to, because of time limits and the way it went back and forth, was to talk about some of the grants and subsidies within the department that I represent, being Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs. 

 

On the Labrador Affairs side, in terms of some of the grants, I just want to talk about the $351,000 that we – again, in this Budget – are putting into the trail grooming subsidy, Mr. Speaker, connecting all the isolated communities.  As the Member for Cartwright – L'Anse au Clair talked about her communities being very isolated, beautiful – the people, wonderful people.  That little bit of money is making sure that trails are marked, trails are groomed, and that we have groomers, operators on standby.  It is a wonderful program.  

 

I agree that the tourism potential in Labrador is simply untapped, it is unlimited; but, in the same note, a lot of the ads and a lot of the marketing we have done were specifically about Labrador as well.  We understand that it takes money to connect these communities, especially in winter in Labrador with our climate, Mr. Speaker, and I will say that subsidy goes a long way. 

 

Later on this week I will be attending Combined Councils of Labrador.  Year after year we put $100,000 – again this Budget does that as well in the Combined Councils.  That is to get all the municipal leaders together to talk about common issues.  It is certainly a well-planned event and a worthwhile event too, and I look forward to participating in that. 

 

Again, to the Member for St. John's East, we had a great little chat about the Air Foodlift Subsidy and about what we have to do in terms of mirroring Nutrition North programming in order to make sure that the intended value that is put into that program gets to the end-users in those isolated communities when we subsidize things like milk and eggs and produce.  That is something we are going to be looking at.

 

In terms of departmental grants, we put $43,000 in to assist youth from Labrador to get out to attend our annual youth conference out here on the Island portion of the Province, to bring their experiences, to learn some new things about the Island, to meet some great people, and to share in what it means to be a youth in Labrador because it certainly is a little different. 

 

There are other miscellaneous grants, small amounts, we give to things like running clubs and we give to groups that do great work in our community.  Some of them could be church groups, could be the Salvation Army, or could be groups like the SPCA.  Every little dollar matters, and I think everybody can say that is the true fact when you are giving out amounts in communities to those volunteers and those people who need every extra dollar in order to get the job done.

 

With that, Mr. Speaker, I will just move on really quickly with Aboriginal Affairs.  We do a lot of stuff – and we never got into this.  I will talk about $382,000 that goes towards – you look at the Nunatsiavut Government, the Government of Canada, and our government doing things like Torngat Wildlife & Plants Co-Management Board, joint fishery boards, joint secretariats, all of these tripartite, if you will, boards and organizations that help facilitate the implementation of land claims.  It is something we do in Aboriginal Affairs.  We do a great job of it.  We have staff that are second to none when it comes to dealing with the implementation of land claims, I will say.

 

Dispute Resolution Boards, Land Use Planning Appeal Boards, and Aboriginal grants – I just want to get into that, Mr. Speaker, because during Estimates you never know how the flow of the dialogue is going to go and I just never got to that particular part of it.

 

With that I will move on, with my last few minutes here, and just talk briefly about some of the things I have been hearing.  Of course, I will say, with beaming pride, that I am a Labradorian and I am a native Aboriginal Labradorian, Mr. Speaker, and I have a father from the Island –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. RUSSELL: – I have said it many times in this House – and a mother whose roots go up to the very top of the Northern parts of Labrador, and I am so very, very proud of where I come from on both sides of my family, Mr. Speaker. 

 

When we talk about Labrador, you can see the emotion in the faces of the two other representatives across the way, and in my colleague for Lab West as well, when we talk about Labrador; you are darn right we are proud, Mr. Speaker.  I know there is a game going on here and there is a lot of negativity, and I hope the people at home realize that is their job and it is our job to defend.  We have the responsibility to govern and put the money where it needs to go.  I guess at all costs they have to tell us how wrong we are and how bad a job we did in order for you at home who have supported us in the past to get their support.  That is the back and forth of it, Mr. Speaker. 

 

When it comes to Labrador, I listened to some of the commentary – and I will talk very quickly about something that the Leader of the Opposition said during his one hour.  It was great and I really hope the people at home really got to say do you know what, there is one hour from the Leader of the Opposition and one hour from the Premier, hold them up, side by side, and see what you have.  You have doom and gloom.  You have negativity.  It is depressing.  It is sad is what it is, Mr. Speaker.  Then, you look at our leader and what you see is you see that plan.  You see the positive energy, you see the charisma, you see a vision, and you see a path.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. RUSSELL: A path forward through this bump in the road that I will refer to when we talk about this oil pricing.  You go back to one thing that the Leader of the Opposition said – and I wrote it down because it struck me – he said: It was a complete failure to diversify, which led us to this point we are at right here.  That is funny because thirty kilometres from my doorstep is a project called Muskrat Falls.  I hope that is the precursor to something called Gull Island, Mr. Speaker.  That is what I hope.  We talk about it – we got up during many Budget speeches in this House.  I got up time and time again and I said this: We are going to become an energy super warehouse. 

 

I talked about increasing the number of revenue streams into our coffers and diversifying our economy.  I talked about that time and time again.  If you talk about moving away the royalties and the volatility of the oil markets, Mr. Speaker, and you talk about then getting into green, clean energy – and there was even commentary across the way there tonight saying: Oh yes, what did you sell it to Nova Scotia for?  Well, that link, that $2 billion link, is an investment in our future. 

 

What we are going to do is become that energy super warehouse and, hopefully, this project right now is going to lead to Gull Island, which has, I believe, almost triple the megawatts, Mr. Speaker.  It puts us into a place where – and they said: Well, this year what is it, $730-odd million that we are going to invest in Nalcor?  What you are going to see back is by 2025, around that time period, is every dime and more back to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. RUSSELL: Some people talk about even getting to 2041, like we always talk about getting our rights back from the Upper Churchill – those rights revert and we become a power player, an energy broker in this part of the world.  In this part of the world, we are going to be something to behold.  I say to the people at home, come with us, have pride in where we come from, who we are, and what we have available to us; enjoy our vision, take part in our vision, and get to a point where we are going to be a powerhouse.  We are on that path right now.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. RUSSELL: I tell you what, I will say again, and I said it before, it needs to be said right here today again.  That is a vision for my children, for my grandchildren, for your children and your grandchildren out there, I say to the people at home – that is a vision.  What do we get from across the way?  They never wanted it to happen.  They did not want Muskrat Falls to happen.

 

So where do you stand on Gull Island then?  What about the next phase?  What about the real prize in this whole thing?  I guess all the engineering guys, they said, you have to do Muskrat first, then you can look at Gull, maybe.  So if you do not want Muskrat and you do not want the prosperity and the thousands of jobs that come with Muskrat, then get up and stand up and tell us right now that you do not want Gull Island either.  Because this is part of the package.  This is part of us redefining who we are.  Having oil is one thing, but having the ability to wheel electricity, Mr. Speaker, wherever we want, to be able to not let anybody hold us back, that is what vision is, that is what leadership is, and we have that on this side of the House.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. RUSSELL: I have family and I have friends over there, and it is not going to be easy, you are not going to make everybody happy, because there are union components, there are contractors, subcontractors, and not everything is going to go exactly perfect – especially when you are in the biggest megaproject in our Province's history, Mr. Speaker.  You can expect there to be little bumps here and there. 

 

The bottom line is this government is willing to work with anybody who has concerns about the project.  That is not the issue.  All I am asking is for a little co-operation from the other side to just get up and say where you stand.  Just tell us where you stand when it comes to the biggest project in our history.  Instead, do you know what they are going to say?  They are going to say: Oh, we did it wrong – we did it wrong.  I tell you what, if they had the opportunity to do it, they would have been front and centre trying to pull it off.  This government, this side of the House, we pulled it off.  I am very proud of where we are headed with that project.

 

With that, Mr. Speaker, with my last my few minutes, I have got my Muskrat Falls, I guess, airing of grievances off my chest.  I will move on.  I am going to talk about a few of the little things that were said during the debate here, and I will talk about some of the comments from the Member for Cartwright – L'Anse au Clair.

 

I am absolutely blown away that she got up and talked about some positive things.  Of course, it is not hard to do when you talk about the beauty and the type of people that you have in your own district. 

 

I have been in her district, I acknowledge that fact.  What people, I say, what opportunity there.  She talked about some of that, and I hope we will work together to do whatever we can to better the situation for anybody who is living in the great District of Cartwright – L'Anse au Clair.  I will do what I can as well, and I know we all will, Mr. Speaker. 

 

I have to have one bit of commentary here, because we heard some commentary earlier from the Member for Bay of Islands and then we go back to the commentary from the Member for Cartwright – L'Anse au Clair, and it goes back and forth.  At one point last week they were up talking about our $10 billion in squandered oil revenues.  Then that became $15 billion, and then it was $25 billion.  I think the Member for Cartwright – L'Anse au Clair ended her commentary on that – $30 billion I think it was, Mr. Speaker.  Again, $15 billion, up it goes, up it goes. 

 

We have all had one of those stories where you haul that fish over the side of the boat and it was pretty good.  By the time you got back to talking to your buddies in town about that fish, it was a whale, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

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

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Cartwright – L'Anse au Clair on a point of order. 

 

MS DEMPSTER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

It must be the time of the night, 10:30 and we are still going strong in the House.

 

I ask the member – Hansard is a wonderful thing – table the document where I said $30 billion, but they did squander $25 billion in oil; $25 billion they squandered.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

There is no point of order.

 

The hon. the Minister of Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs.

 

MR. RUSSELL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.  

 

I guess I could have gotten up and tried to make a big show of everything and do that while she was speaking, but I do not do that, Mr. Speaker. 

 

The bottom line here is –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. RUSSELL: I listened intently to everyone over there making their commentary on the Budget and I, please, would ask for the same respect in this hon. House, Mr. Speaker. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I just want to talk about one more of her comments too.  It was simply saying that this government is holding Labrador back from progressing.  I have often shared in this House, memories of my childhood being raised in Labrador, and I tell you what, I come from a home I am very proud of, where my mom was a secretary and my dad was an electrician.  So I did not have a silver spoon in my mouth, Mr. Speaker, but I had the wherewithal to know what my surroundings, what my community, and what our infrastructure was like even in those early days. 

 

When you talk about holding Labrador back, I will say it one more time, they said that the Trans-Labrador Highway would never be paved, Mr. Speaker.  This 2015 Budget has $55 million earmarked in it for work on the Trans-Labrador Highway.  What we are going to see is one of the most beautiful towns – also in my district is Churchill Falls.  What you are going to see is the final eleven kilometres done and over with.  I am so happy to see that.  It is going to be a monumental occasion. 

 

What we are also going to see is on the far end of the District of Cartwright – L'Anse au Clair we are going to see, I believe, two eighty-kilometre contracts put into motion in order to widen that road.  When you widen it, Mr. Speaker, you are getting ready for blacktop.  On the other end up around Muskrat Falls, what you are going to see is we are going to push for that eighty kilometres of blacktop there too.

 

So from those two parts of Labrador, which even in my childhood up only until recently, until we got here on this side of the House, until we took power, Mr. Speaker – so the project for widening and the one on my end up near Lake Melville for blacktop, they were not even connected.  You could not even go from one end of her to the other.  Now we are holding Labrador back from progressing. 

 

What we did – and they say we have squandered, we have squandered.  What we did – we have heard the Premier say it.  We have heard every minister over here say it.  We have heard everybody in the backbench say this, is that when the times were good – and they were when the royalties were rolling in and the price of oil was comparable to that success.  What we did is we invested.  We invested in our infrastructure, Mr. Speaker. 

 

They talked over there across the way about: well, you need a solid foundation for education and all that.  You look at the infrastructure that we inherited.  You let it rot.  It is as simple as that.  What did we do, Mr. Speaker?  We put our money where it needed to go.  We put it in the schools, in the hospitals, in the pavement.  You look at our children now, they are connected.  They are connected from one end of the Province to the other.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. RUSSELL: From one end of Labrador to the other.  They have some of the best teachers and the best schools to go to, Mr. Speaker.  We have health care, which is always going to be a challenge by the way.  I will say we are doing a wonderful job, second to none. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. RUSSELL: We are going to keep investing in these areas, Mr. Speaker.  All I am asking everybody out there in TV land to do is recognize where we were in 2003 when we took government and remember what it was like before, what it was like after, and recognize the game that is being played in this House. 

 

It is not all doom and gloom.  The sky is not falling.  The glass is half full or more, Mr. Speaker.  We have a lot more work to do on this side of the House and I am proud to be a part of it.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

The hon. the Member for Burgeo – La Poile.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

I am very happy to stand and speak for my third time to this Budget 2015, the main motion.  I have taken two opportunities to speak.  I can hear heckling from the other side.  I say let me get started; it is only ten seconds in.  I have not even said the controversial stuff yet.

 

I will continue on, Mr. Speaker.  This is my fourth Budget since I have been elected.  It is probably the last one before the next election, whenever that happens to be.  We have been hearing dates, but anything is possible I am sure.

 

This Budget is unique.  It has been a bit different than the Budgets I have seen previously.  Now I am sure members who have been here longer, maybe the Member for St. John's South or the Member for Harbour Main, they have obviously seen a lot more, but in my short time this Budget has been different than the three others. 

 

Number one, it was much later presented in this House.  I think the reason was that it might have conflicted with the federal governments or they had to wait for that, or something to do with the price of oil.  We all know how the price of oil affects how this government operates.

 

The second one is there has been a lot less speaking to it by members on the other side.  Again, I may be wrong.  I know more members have spoken to the main motion, but I think in years previous – because it never changes.  The Opposition always puts in amendments and non-confidence motions.  That happens every year. 

 

Every year the Opposition stands up and we speak to the Budget, but in other years the members on the other side have taken an opportunity to speak to those motions but this year they never, in many cases.  I have the charts there.  Many have not taken the opportunity to speak to it.  For that I say, why?  Why haven't you spoken to your own Budget?

 

They might prove me wrong.  They might all stand up tonight and speak to the main motion and they may prove me wrong.  I hope they speak to it.  It is their document.  They should speak to it.  They should have some ownership.

 

The third thing that I found the most interesting about this Budget is that we are not even done voting and they have already talked about changing it.  We are not even done voting.  It comes out on Budget day and they talk about HST and we are going to up the tax on people.  We all know the seniors are going to feel that in January. 

 

We are not even done voting, we are not even done speaking to the Budget, and the Premier comes out and says: Well, the price of oil – we may change that.  So sometimes we wonder why we are in the situation we are.  Why we are in the mess that we are in.

 

Now government would have you believe that they couldn't do anything, it was the price of oil.  It is not our fault.  They say it is unprecedented.  The Premier's words tonight: this is unprecedented.

 

So it is funny, because we have this thing called the Internet and you look at it, and we look at the price of oil.  It is funny because in November 2008, oil was at $54.  December of that year it went to $41.  In January it went back up, $43, but in February it went back down to $41. 

 

Now, maybe somebody could correct me.  What is the price of oil today? 

 

AN HON. MEMBER: It is $63.

 

MR. A. PARSONS: It is $63, and this crowd on the other side lead us to believe they could not handle this.  God forbid, we cannot deal with this fluctuation – but they have been there before. 

 

Again, when you say unprecedented, I say to the Premier quite simply, there is no other way, you are wrong.  You have no idea what you are talking about.  That might be the fact that there has been eight Finance ministers in the last seven years, or maybe I am wrong, there might have been seven Finance ministers in the last eight years.  Sometimes it is hard to keep track, my math is not good. 

 

There are a couple of other things that have been interesting.  There are these things called trends.  It is funny because these mixed messages that we get from the other side – I have sat down, I have listened to the majority of the Budget Speech.  The different messages that you hear are interesting, because at different points during this Budget, one member, the Member for Bay Verte – Springdale stood up and said: well, that crowd on the other side, they only go back to the past.  They always go back to the past.  They do not talk about the future.  They only go back to the past. 

 

Then I think the next speaker for the other side stood up and said, look where we were when that crowd was there.  Look where we were, what we had to take over.  Again, I am getting a mixed message from the other side. 

 

Then it is funny, because I heard the Premier stand up and say – because we asked a question, it might have been Question Period during the Budget.  He said: well, I cannot take responsibility for that, I was not here then.  In tonight's speech the quote was: When we came to government in 2003. 

 

Number one, I do not think a lot of them came to government in 2003, but they like to take credit for it.  I am sorry, because I get confused.  They do not like the message that we seem to be giving, which is you have had more revenue come in than any government precious and you are in a worse spot than you were when the crowd came in, in 2003. 

 

The Leader of the Opposition stood up tonight, and I do not know about the speaking notes that some people get, there was a deficit in 2003.  Look at the deficit in 2015 and look at the revenue had in between.  That is why we say you squandered it, because you had more given to you from the resources of this Province than any government before and we got more in debt.  There are more people in debt, higher levels than ever before. 

 

I think the member who just spoke, the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs said: Well, it is all doom and gloom over here, all doom and gloom versus sunshine and lollipops over there.  What I would say is we are only looking at your Budget.  We are looking at the facts and figures.  This is just the Estimates book here.  We are looking at what you gave us showing the household disposable income going down, housing starts going down. 

 

I am starting to sound like a member opposite, I cannot remember who – down.  The only thing going up it seems is unemployment.  Unemployment is going up.  Again, I am sorry if we get confused when we say we cannot understand how you can talk so highly about this, the few on the other side who are speaking, but at the same time the book you gave us and the people say otherwise – mixed messages.

 

I wanted to talk about a few other things from this Budget, and my time runs short, so I will try to get in as much as I can.  A couple of the other interesting things we have seen during the last little while, during this debate and brought up by the other side is we hear – well, one thing I found very interesting was, we talk about – I think the Premier, again I get confused because he says: well, I was not here so I do not take responsibility, but the Liberals back in the 1990s, all the jobs they laid off.  Now back then I was in junior high, so sorry.

 

The Premier talks about all the jobs laid off, but the Premier was actually there two years ago when you laid off almost 2,000 – laid off almost 2,000 two years ago.  The majority on the other side were there.  Two years ago everybody over there on that other side were there when they laid off over 1,000, and this year there are more.  We could talk about the teachers they are cutting, especially out in rural Newfoundland and Labrador.  We could talk about that.

 

Again, they want to take credit when it is good but when it is not good, well, look at those Liberals back – look at what Sir Richard Squires did.  I mean they cannot go back any further.

 

Now, I am going to continue on to a couple of different topics in the Budget, topics that I speak to a lot of the time which are health and which are justice.  One of the things – actually, the Member for Exploits said it tonight, and I agree.  He talked about dialysis.  We have a disagreement sometimes in theory or opinion, but he talks about the value of dialysis.  I certainly know the value of dialysis, especially for those who have to travel.  I do not agree that it is a fix to the problem, though, because the fix to the problem is to deal with people getting diabetes in the first place.  That is the problem, is there is no plan there.

 

Sometimes he tries to misconstrue my words and say, well, he does not like dialysis.  I love dialysis for those people who need it.  I raise money for those people who need it.  The problem is we cannot keep putting dialysis units up.  We have to stop the root cause, and we have not gotten there. 

 

The government right now still does not know how many people get diagnosed with diabetes every day, every month, every year.  They have no idea.  They cannot measure it, they cannot manage it.  That is the first thing.

 

The second thing is the members say, well, you have dialysis out in Port aux Basques, so you should be happy.  What I would say is, unfortunately, we have three new people who are travelling to Corner Brook to get it because there is not enough room and because there are two nurses who have not been replaced; two.  Those people are travelling 216 kilometres to get dialysis because we do not have enough. 

 

What are we going to do, put another dialysis unit in Port aux Basques?  I would love to see the beds go out.  In fact, I would like to see the nurses there use the beds they had, that they fundraised for.  I would like to see that but the bigger problem is the cause in the first place, which this government has done very little about, and which we, led by our leader, have said we will bring in a strategy.  We will bring in a registry.  We said that two years ago.  We will bring in a registry because if you cannot measure it, you cannot manage it. 

 

There are so many other things when it comes to health.  I just had a chance to speak to dental hygienists the other day.  They want to practice to the full extent of their abilities.  They would like to see it.  Unfortunately, they have not had a chance to have a meeting with the department after five tries.  They are still not getting through.  They could be contributing more.  They want to, but they are not being listened to. 

 

We could talk about autism.  Again, we asked questions in the House today.  I will give the member opposite – the Minister of CYFS stood up and answered the question today.  The Premier tried first –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. A. PARSONS: No, but he provided an honest answer.  The problem was that we asked three questions and he only got to answer the third one because the Premier had to stand up and make a mess of the first one, and tried to stand up and put a political spin on a growing issue in this Province.  It is a huge issue.  I am glad to see the minister opposite stood up and tried to answer, and admitted this is an issue, and it is. 

 

Now, I want to continue on here.  We could talk about justice.  In justice there were a lot of things that were brought up.  I know there has been a new judge promised.  We are waiting anxiously to see when that new position out in Clarenville gets filled.  We want to see that new position out in Clarenville, we want to see when that gets filled.  I know they have been advocating for that. 

 

We could talk about HMP, the Waterford's decrepit younger brother, sister, or whatever.  It is another old building.  The good news is the prisoners will be wearing, hopefully, the outfits.  Again, it is something I called for.  I cannot criticize.  It is a great thing.  We asked about it, but we did get criticized asking about it before.  I know the Member for St. Barbe asked it, and the previous Minister of Advanced Education said: How dare you ask a question on that.  That is an insult to their dignity.  It is funny; it is better this year.  It is good. 

 

The other thing that we brought up – and this was an important thing; I got a lot of calls on this.  It is funny because we talk about the fines outstanding, there is $37 million in fines – and I know the Member for Cape St. Francis was on the Public Accounts; he knows the problem.  There is $6.3 million owing in fines less than $400 that government does not go after.  They do not go after.  CRA does not go after anything less than $300. 

 

They can try to say it is an issue, or that we are trying to fix it – New Brunswick got it fixed.  New Brunswick goes after you for $84.  Do you know what?  It adds up; it is $6.3 million.  When the seniors in the Province get overpaid because of government screws up, well don't you worry, you might owe a dollar and we are coming after you for that.  We are going to come after you.  In fact, we are going to hire one of our buddies to go get you. 

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

 

MR. A. PARSONS: I have no idea what the payment is there.

 

So here is the issue: $6.3 million owing in fines, doing nothing to collect and, in fact, laying people off versus $935,000 in a government mistake and we go out and hire our buddies to go after them.  No matter what the amount, we are going after you.  That is an interesting contrast.   To me, the logical implication that I would take from that is we are not going to go after offenders, but we will go after seniors.  That is unfortunate.

 

Now, I am going to continue on here.  There are so many things to speak to and one of them, again we talk about legislation.  Back to health, just for a second, e-cigarette legislation, I asked about it.  I would like to see it.  Unfortunately we likely will not see it this session, which means we will not see it at all.  That is an unfortunate thing that I was hoping to see, but we will not.

 

I think I actually heard the Premier tonight complain about petitions – complain about petitions.  He said we hear the members on the other side – they are standing up with those petitions –

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Again.

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Again.

 

Notwithstanding the fact that is our job as representatives of people to stand up and represent petitions – and again I have seen members on the other side do it on one occasion – one occasion.  So we present petitions – and the thing is I know what they are trying to get at.  They are trying to say you tell us not to spend and then you ask for more money.  The problem is it is how you spend.  You spent over $50,000 –

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

Is the member standing on a point of order? 

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

 

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

 

MR. A. PARSONS: No problem, I was waiting for that point of order.  That would have been interesting. 

 

Over $53,000 spent on promoting this Budget, yet when we ask for money for things like cell service or roads that do not have craters in them, what are you doing asking for it.  As I said then and I will say now, that is our job to represent the people.  I would rather spend money on a service for people than spend it on your self-serving, gratuitous ads that are absolutely misleading and no need – absolutely misleading.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. A. PARSONS: If the Premier does not want us to represent those people, I do not know what else to say.  Maybe we can change the rules to not have petitions, but that is our job to represent people and pass petitions, and petitions do get things done.  Again, we are asking for those things that we should not have like cell service and roads. 

 

I can continue on – I have to go back to this because our leader tonight stood up for an hour and spoke to, again, the Budget and all the things in that wonderful document.  He referenced the different things; $1.1 billion in deficit – that is this year – but that was criticized.  They keep coming back and they want to talk about fundraising.  They brought it up again tonight, loves to bring it up.

 

I say it was funny because on the same day that the Leader of the Opposition was up in Labrador standing shoulder to shoulder with the members of Lab West, where was our Premier?  He was not in Lab West.  He was fundraising.  So if you want to talk about it one way, it can go the other way too.  I know the Member for Lab West was up there.  I saw the video, it was not so pretty, but he was up there.  Where was the Premier and where was the minister?  They were not there because I think they were fundraising.  Again, if you want to talk about fundraising, that is how it goes. 

 

We will continue on here because there are so many other things that we have in this Budget and I only have two minutes left here.  The Budget shows that essentially – it is funny; they are treating the Budget like a living document.  It can change on a day-by-day basis depending on oil, or how they feel, or what they think is a priority the next day.  That is the problem with this Budget.  That is not the only problem with this Budget, that is just one of the main problems with this Budget. 

 

The member said it right; in the next ten minutes, there might be another announcement so we will change the Budget again.  That is the unfortunate part because the one thing that this crowd on the other side forgot is that it is not about what they want, it is about what the people want.  It is about what the people need.  That is why we criticize the self-serving ads.  At a time when teachers are getting cut, you find a way to go out and spend over $50,000 in ads.  We find that unfortunate.  We talk about the misplaced priorities, we talk about the fact that depending where the price of oil is tomorrow who knows what else is going to happen because it could change, and that is why people do not trust exactly the direction of where we are going.

 

I heard somebody on the other side tonight talk about we have been accused of squandering fifteen, twenty, twenty-five, thirty – I think it is between $20 billion and $25 billion.  I had somebody say to me: The crowd on the other side spends like drunken sailors.  I said: That is an insult to drunken sailors.  Drunken sailors spend their own money.  Let's keep that in mind. 

 

That is what the crowd on the other side tend to forget.  The other side tend to forget that this is the people's money, this is the people's Budget, this is the people's House, and that is why we have continued to speak out against it.  With this last thirty seconds, I will say again we will not be supporting this Budget because we want to support the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. 

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

The hon. the Minister of Natural Resources.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. DALLEY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I appreciate the opportunity to I have a few words.  I was not sure if I was going to, but I was inspired by the speech from the Member for Burgeo – La Poile, absolutely inspired to get on my feet and talk about the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and making decisions, what is in their best interest.

 

If you listen to the speech, there was quite a few shots at the Premier and trying to discredit the Premier every chance he gets.  That is understandable, Mr. Speaker.  In Opposition, he did that; that is fine.  Not much of that happened all night, but this hour of the night I guess he figured there were not too many people watching –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. DALLEY: – but that is fine, we will get to that in a minute.

 

Mr. Speaker, they are talking about the Budget and we are going to make a vote on a Budget here now shortly, and I am pretty confident the Budget will pass because there is a lot of good stuff in the Budget.  I think it is important – and you can listen to the Opposition or you can listen to any of us.  There is not everything in the Budget, Mr. Speaker.  No one Budget can solve every one of the problems; that is reality.  They have things they wish they would have done.  I can tell you there are things over here that we wish we could have done as well, but that is the reality of a Budget.

 

You can stand on the other side and complain and criticize, but the reality is there is a lot of good decisions made in this Budget.  One of the things – we are going to head into an election in a few months.  It is probably the last Budget, no question.  So, the rhetoric is ramping up.  The leadership issues are ramping up.  They are taking shots at the leaders where they can, Mr. Speaker.  That is all fine and it is all part of the game if you call it politics or whatever you want, but let's get right down to some of the things that are happening.  The comments that they are making have been made many times.  The media is picking up on it.  The public are picking up on it.  They are criticizing.  That is their job; that is fine.  What are they backing it up with when they criticize? 

 

We all know they are backing it up with very little, without question.  They are not backing it up with anything.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Drop the writ.

 

MR. DALLEY: We will drop the writ, not to worry, but let's talk about backing it up, Mr. Speaker.  I want to use Muskrat Falls.  I want to talk about Muskrat Falls to back it up.  They give you a picture of what is being presented to the people of the Province and the choices they have to make, because they will choose one of the three parties in this House, but I would encourage people to have a listen.  We have heard talk about peddling change for the sake of change.  Basically saying we can do this better, but we are not going to tell you how.

 

We see that, but that is fine.  That will unfold, but what are you backing it up with?  Let's talk about Muskrat Falls and what we have seen from the Liberals on Muskrat Falls.  They are not all Liberals over there, Mr. Speaker, because there are three people over there sitting down who have supported Muskrat Falls.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: At least.

 

MR. DALLEY: I will get to that in a minute.  We have some more who are flip-flopping and we have some more who do not know if they are going or coming on Muskrat Falls.  They cannot figure it out.  They are waiting to see which way the wind blows, or which way the people of the Province decide, and that is where they are going to land.  We are seeing that, Mr. Speaker.  I am not going to make this stuff up, I am not going to stretch it, and I am going to tell the facts as they are.  We can go back and find it.

 

Let's talk about Muskrat Falls and what you back it up with.  We started this project years ago, Mr. Speaker.  The Churchill River has been studied for thirty years.  When we started about Muskrat Falls and all the studies that were done with respect to our energy needs, recognizing – and I will get to that whether we needed energy or not and obviously we do; we need more power.  We studied all kinds of options and the least-cost option was Muskrat Falls, Mr. Speaker.  I think it was $2.4 billion cheaper than the next option.

 

All of the independent studies, all the information out there – and the Liberals argued that day after day, but do you know what?  They did not back it up.  They did not bring anything into the House, they did not present anything to the public to back up a different decision, but they just argued against it.  Pure politics – pure politics – that is it; nothing about whether it is the right decision for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.  So, what did they do?  Then they took it on and they argued in this House, and some of the members were over there arguing – some more of them are new to the House and they were not a part of that debate so they know, people sitting in front of them, come into this House and they argued, but they did not back it up.

 

Mr. Speaker, they said very clearly in this House that rates are going to double.  They are wrong, and they did not back it up.  The Liberals came into this House and argued that we could not sell any excess power; nobody wants it.  We could not get out of Nova Scotia and they wanted our power.  They argued that we could not sell the power, but they could not back it up – a point of order over there, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

The hon. the Member for Cartwright – L'Anse au Clair, standing on a point of order.

 

MS DEMPSTER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


I just wanted to remind the minister the Liberals at the time were asking questions because the PUB and the Joint Review Panel, the only two independent groups, were not even given time to do their review, so we had concerns – we had concerns.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

There is no point of order.

 

The hon. the Minister of Natural Resources.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. DALLEY: Here you go again, Mr. Speaker; don't let the facts get in the way.  The PUB had Muskrat Falls; they had $2 million of taxpayers' money.  They had a right to make a decision that their own company that they hired, the company that the PUB hired to deliver and research and make a decision around Muskrat Falls could make the decision, but the PUB could not. 

 

Even though they had time, they had money, the company they hired could decide, but they could not.  So I appreciate the point of order, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. DALLEY: Let's get back to backing it up, Mr. Speaker, because this is what the theme is going to be about as we head into election.  We are going to define one party to the other.  We are going to define the leaders.  We are going to define the Leader of the Opposition, the leader of government, and the Leader of the Third Party.  How are we going to define them?  We are going to talk about backing it up.

 

Rates are going to double; they could not back it up.  We cannot sell the power; they could not back it up.  Mr. Speaker, they went so far as to say –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MR. DALLEY: – we do not need the power.  Yet when the power went out a couple of years ago, all we heard for weeks is it is not reliable.  You did not plan.  You do not have power.  So, Mr. Speaker, proved wrong again. 

 

Mr. Speaker, what else did they say?  Each time we went through and they could not back it up, where did they go next?  Next they said: You will never get the loan guarantee.  Stephen Harper will not give you the loan guarantee.  You will never get it.  This project, you are never going to be able to pay for it.  You are never going to get the loan guarantee: $5 billion.

 

Mr. Speaker, they could not back it up, and they were wrong.  We got the $5 billion loan guarantee, and it is equivalent to a billion dollars for the people of the Province.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. DALLEY: Mr. Speaker, it did not stop there.  Then they said: Do you know what?  You will never get financing for that. You will not get the financing.  We sat in the House, the Liberals argued it, and I can tell you there are three members over there, two in particular, who sat on this side of the House and heard the arguments coming across: You will not get your financing.  Mr. Speaker, almost every large bank in North America put a bid in to get the deal to be able to provide the financing for Muskrat Falls. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. DALLEY: They did not back it up, and they were wrong. 

 

Mr. Speaker, the point I want to make about not backing it up and being all over the place – and that is what we are seeing: all over the place on the Budget, cut the HST, borrow more money, government is borrowing too much money – you are all over the place.  They are trying to find their way and depending on what the people want to hear, that is where they are landing.  They are not backing it up; they are playing politics.  That is the Liberal way, and I will get to that in a minute. 

 

When we talk about Muskrat Falls and the benefits of Muskrat Falls, whether it is stabilizing rates, whether it is reliability, whether it is getting rid of Holyrood, whether it is being 98 per cent renewable energy, whether it is creating an export market where we can sell our excess power for revenue for as long as the river flows so that every time it rains, we make money for the people of the Province; or maybe because we can develop all of this and then we can tap into the rest of the energy resources we have, the potential for 5,000 megawatts of wind, or the potential to build Gull Island – our government made the bold decision that was talked about earlier by the Leader of the Opposition, the bold decision that we can do this, we can do it right, and we can do it to benefit generations of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, Mr. Speaker. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. DALLEY: Mr. Speaker, let's switch gears a bit.  Talking about backing it up, the Member for the Bay of Islands – and he can correct me – if memory serves me right, he was elected previously, sat in this House, and I know he mentioned earlier tonight that he was probably the only one in the House that voted for Voisey's Bay.  He is probably right.

 

Four or five amendments later, we got a great project.  Yes, they did start it and I can tell you when the Long Harbour facility was opened up, I know the Premier personally called Roger Grimes and invited him to come because he was the one who started the project.  Class, Mr. Speaker – that is class. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. DALLEY: Mr. Speaker, the Liberals also tried – and here is where I have a problem with everything that goes on over there about backing it up and not sure where they sit with Muskrat Falls. 

 

The Liberals tried to develop the Lower Churchill Project.  Brian Tobin and Roger Grimes, leaders of the day, felt there was a need to develop Muskrat Falls.  I am not sure, but I would suspect at the time the Member for Bay of Islands was in this House sitting on the government side supporting the government that tried to develop the Lower Churchill Project, but today he cannot support it, just like some of his colleagues, because it is pure politics, Mr. Speaker.  It is pure politics. 

 

Let's take a look at what else is going on over there with respect to Muskrat Falls.  The Member for Virginia Waters served on the Nalcor board for five years –

 

AN HON. MEMBER: How long?

 

MR. DALLEY: Five years, and took on chair of the board.  Now, Mr. Speaker, I commend her for that.  I congratulate her.  It is a public duty she took on.  She did a great job.  Her and her colleagues on the board, a very, very important job, Mr. Speaker, the Board of Directors of Nalcor; making some key decisions, planning, direction and competence with respect to the future of Newfoundland and Labrador.  Do you know what, Mr. Speaker?  I give her credit.  She did a good job, and I know the people who served on the board with her would say the same thing. 

 

Mr. Speaker, here is where everything crosses up.  It is important for the people of the Province as we try and back up – you have to be able to back it up.  The Finance critic over there, leader number two, firmly believes in Nalcor, in Muskrat Falls and the future of the Province.  This is not a nice project to do, this is a must to do, was her comments, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. DALLEY: Mr. Speaker, she is absolutely right.  There are other comments she made to support Nalcor and their ability to manage the project and manage the risk.  Because that is what we do, she said at the time when she was the Chair of the Board of Nalcor, or when she sat on the board.  She believes in that. 

 

We have three members over there who supported Muskrat Falls.  We have some people who supported it back when it was convenient but not convenient now, and then we have the Leader of the Opposition who cannot make up his mind whether he supports Muskrat Falls or not. 

 

In March of last year he said: Of course I support the Lower Churchill Project.  He said it here in the House.  The other day when I asked a question in the House: Muskrat Falls is costly, and I would build it if it was the right time.  It should be built when it is the right time. 

 

Mr. Speaker, when is the right time?  Was it the right time back when the Liberals wanted to do it for political reasons, when we had no money, when we were not sure if we needed more power?  The reality is, Mr. Speaker, it would have been done then if people like the chair of the board at the time an