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June 6, 2016                     HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS                     Vol. XLVIII No. 39


 

The House met at 1:30 p.m.

 

MR. SPEAKER (Osborne): Order, please!

 

Admit strangers.

 

Today I would like to recognize in the Speaker's gallery, Mr. Charles Hapgood – most of you know him as Chuck – he was a Commissionaire here for many years. Mr. Hapgood retired from the Corps of Commissionaires at the end of April.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: He joined the Commissionaires in 1991 following a 28-year career with the Canadian Armed Forces, where he served at various bases in Canada as well as Cyprus and Germany.

 

In 2001, he was assigned to the House of Assembly and became the Commissionaires' site manager here in 2007, a position he held until his retirement.

 

We'd like to extend thanks to Mr. Hapgood for his years of service to the House of Assembly and we wish him well, him and his wife, Patricia, a happy and healthy retirement.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

Statements by Members

 

MR. SPEAKER: For Members' statements today we have the Members for the Districts of Lewisporte – Twillingate, Cartwright – L'Anse au Clair, Conception Bay East – Bell Island, Placentia West – Bellevue, Virginia Waters – Pleasantville and Topsail – Paradise.

 

The hon. the Member for Lewisporte – Twillingate.

 

MR. D. BENNETT: Mr. Speaker, this past Saturday, I had the privilege of attending the official opening of the Twillingate, New World Island, Dinner Theatre with other Members of this hon. House.

 

I have to commend Ernie Watkins and Cathy Brown for the beautiful job they have done in creating a first-class theatre and on the construction of their new cottages.

 

It was a full house with 180 people in attendance. There were tourists from six different provinces, various parts of the United States, and other countries. Patrons attending the dinner theatre were served a home cooked meal, choosing from lobster, chicken, salmon or cod.

 

The Twillingate – New World Island area has some of the greatest actors and singers in the province, and this theatre had everyone tapping their feet, clapping their hands, singing along and laughing throughout the evening.

 

It is through the creative thinking and financial investment of tourism operators in the area that the industry continues to grow and they have been successful in extending their tourism season.

 

Mr. Speaker, I ask all hon. Members to join me in congratulating Ernie, Cathy and all the tourism operators in the Twillingate area for helping to promote and preserve our great culture.

 

Thank you.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MS. DEMPSTER: Thank you. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I rise in this hon. House to recognize three individuals from my district who have made the most of a valuable opportunity for personal growth.

 

In September 2010, the first karate club in the Labrador Straits region opened in Pinware. Since that time, a devoted core of students have participated in karate training, attending local tournaments and a competition in St. John's at which they garnered 22 medals for their region.

 

On May 30, three students of Pinware Karate School were awarded a black belt – a very big achievement within the sport of karate. To earn this honour, they had to demonstrate a high degree of skill and fitness. The three students were subjected to an arduous serious of workouts, and had to demonstrate eight katas.

 

They passed this examination with flying colours, demonstrating determination, willpower and devotion to the sport. They made us proud. Obtaining black belt in karate is a prestigious honour, and it is the first time such recognition has been bestowed in the District of Cartwright – L'Anse au Clair. 

 

I ask all hon. Members to join me in congratulating Kyle O'Dell, Colton McClean, and Sarah Pike on their remarkable achievement and their noteworthy first for the district. 

 

Thank you. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for the District of Conception Bay East – Bell Island. 

 

MR. BRAZIL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Mr. Speaker, I stand today to recognize and thank the Kiwanis Club of Bell Island for taking a leadership role in supporting local and provincial organizations. This past weekend the Kiwanis Club on the island took the lead to support the Janeway Telethon by co-ordinating the community's ability to donate to the Janeway. The organization with support from students of St. Augustine's Elementary and St. Michael's High set up hot dog stands where for a donation individuals were given a hot dog as a thank you. The community supported the project by coming to the high school or the ferry terminal to make donations.

 

I have to note a special 10-year-old young man, Mr. Cody Newell, who for the past number of months donated all the money he received as gifts or chores he had done. Cody arrived at St. Michael's high with a bag of money he had collected in the amount of $340. The total collected through the hot dog donation stands amounted to $6,200.

 

I ask all Members to join me and thank the residents of Bell Island, the Kiwanis Club and Cody. 

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Placentia West – Bellevue. 

 

MR. BROWNE: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to the lives lost and families left behind as a result of one of Canada's worst bus crashes, some-36 years ago.

 

On May 28, 1980, a bus travelling in Saskatchewan carrying CP Rail workers met a tragic fate. While in transit, the bus was side swiped by a car, falling on its side and then struck by a tanker truck. Twenty-two young men lost their lives, many of them from the Burin Peninsula.

 

Each year, the community of Rushoon hosts a memorial service and wreath laying in memory of those who lost their lives and in honour of the eight men who survived. Again this year, I was moved to participate in this annual service of remembrance. I thank the organizers and the town for taking on this difficult task to ensure that the memory of these men are never forgotten.

 

I ask all hon. Members to join me in thanking the organizers of this event and, indeed, in sending our love and prayers to those who survived and the families of those left behind.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. B. DAVIS: Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise in this hon. House today to recognize Rodney Drover, Principal of Virginia Park Elementary School. He has the honour of being selected as one of four educators to represent Canada, the Canadian Teachers' Association, Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers' Association and the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador in Sierra Leone this summer.

 

Principal Drover will depart, along with the rest of the Project Hope team, for Sierra Leone on July 1, and will spend the month of July working with approximately 250 teachers. He will facilitate literacy development, helping to provide direction to an educational system that has been devastated by the country's ongoing turmoil.

 

As part of the team's work in Sierra Leone this summer, they have been trying to figure out a way to honour each and every teacher for their amazing courage, resiliency and optimism they bring to teaching. Their plan is to hand every teacher that participates in the program a written letter offering them hope and support. This project will be called Project Hero.

 

I ask all hon. Members to join me in congratulating Principal Drover, who is in our gallery today, for his hard work and wishing him safe travels in his journey this summer.

 

Thank you.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for the District of Topsail – Paradise.

 

MR. P. DAVIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I rise in this hon. House today to recognize the Rotary Club of Avalon Northeast. This club, Mr. Speaker, serves the Towns of Conception Bay South and Paradise and was founded in 1989 and currently has a membership of 38 women and men.

 

As a result of its collective efforts, this dedicated group has earned a reputation of doing more than expected for a club of its size. The Rotary Club of Avalon Northeast has been instrumental in making significant contributions to the development of Manuels River Hibernia Interpretation Centre, the Topsail Beach Rotary Park, the Rotary Paradise Youth and Community Centre, the Richard Parsons Memorial Park, as well as a number of other very important community projects including the CBS Monument of Honour, CBS Library Early Literacy Program, Lifestyle Clincs, Choices for Youth Momma Moments, Chamberlains Park, Parson's Field and many more.

 

Mr. Speaker, this club provides the local community with a variety of projects, also including high school scholarships, the junior achievement and DARE programs.

 

Mr. Speaker, in reflection of all this, I ask that all hon. Members join me in congratulating and thanking the Rotary Club of Avalon Northeast on its continued efforts and contributions to our communities.

 

Thank you.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

The Commemoration of the First World War and the Battle of Beaumont-Hamel

 

MR. SPEAKER: Today for Honour 100, we have the Member for the District of Torngat Mountains.

 

MR. EDMUNDS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I will now read into the record the following 40 names of those who lost their lives in the First World War in the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, the Royal Newfoundland Naval Reserve or the Newfoundland Mercantile Marine. This will be followed by a moment of silence.

 

Lest we forget: Denis Tucker, John Charles Tucker, Joshua Tucker, Walter Tucker, Frank Paine Tuff, Jabez Tuff, James Roy Tuff, Ralph Tulk, Leonard John Tupp, John Turpin, Herbert Twiner, Abram James Twyne, Pearce Upward, Hemnon Vail, Francis J. Vaughan, Joseph Vaughan, Oscar A. Vaughan, John Francis Viscount, Leo Michael Voisey, Richard Patrick Voisey, Herbert Vokey, Philip Vokey, Edgar Wade, Albert F. Wagg, Henry C. Wakely, Douglas Walsh, James Walsh, Michael Walsh, Michael Francis Walsh, Patrick Walsh, Thomas Walsh, Gilbert Walters, Garland Warford, Albert J. Warren, John Henry Warren, Joseph Ross Waterfield, Jonas Watkins, Robert James Watkins, James Pittman Watts, Rupert King Watts.

 

(Moment of silence.)

 

MR. SPEAKER: Please be seated.

 

Statements by Ministers.

 

Statements by Ministers

 

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

 

MR. TRIMPER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I'm pleased to rise in this House today to recognize June 5-11 as Canadian Environment Week.

 

Mr. Speaker, a healthy environment is essential to the physical, social and economic well-being of all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

 

The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador is firmly committed to protecting the environment and my department is undertaking valuable work on many fronts.

 

Our comprehensive approach to the challenges facing our environment today includes action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, protect natural areas and wetlands, and ensure the sustainability of our flora and fauna, while finding opportunities to capitalize on the emerging green economy.

 

Mr. Speaker, I know that the people of Newfoundland and Labrador stand behind us in our efforts to protect the environment, and in fact, this morning I met some very inspiring young people who will carry that commitment into the future.

 

The students at Beachy Cove Elementary School in Portugal Cove-St. Philip's, are future leaders in the field of environmental stewardship, and this morning we signed a proclamation together to launch this special week.

 

Mr. Speaker, I invite all of my colleagues here in this hon. House to join me in celebrating Canadian Environment Week.

 

Thank You.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. PETTEN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I'd like to thank the minister for the advance copy of his statement. We join with the government in recognizing June 5 to 11 as Canadian Environment Week. Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have always had a close connection to the natural environment. We have a keen appreciate for the land and its well-being. We know that its condition and strength will help determine our physical, social and economic well-being. It's all interconnected, Mr. Speaker.

 

I encourage everyone, not only during this week, but all year round to find ways to create positive change, inspiring increased environmental stewardship in your own communities and provinces.

 

This past weekend I had the pleasure of participating in the 3 Hour Challenge in CBS which had a great turnout in protecting our environment.

 

Together, Mr. Speaker, we can make a difference.

 

Thank you.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MS. ROGERS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I thank the minister of an advance copy of his statement. The word environment wasn't even mentioned in the budget, nor was a climate change plan or carbon pricing. The new plan to cut large industry emissions won't come into effect for years. Rare plants are threatened by the layoff of wardens to protect the plants and their habitat. The laws around Muskrat Falls prevent anyone from producing green energy for sale on the Island. A backward move certainly.

 

I thank environmental activists for their leadership.

 

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Further statements by ministers?

 

The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services.

 

MR. HAGGIE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I'm pleased to rise in this hon. House today to recognize yesterday as National Cancer Survivors Day. With advances in cancer prevention, early detection and treatment, more people are recovering and living longer lives following a cancer diagnosis.

 

Cancer survivors and their families joined representatives of Eastern Health, the Dr. H. Bliss Murphy Cancer Care Centre, the Canadian Cancer Society, Young Adult Cancer Canada and others at a community walk to celebrate the day.

 

Our government continues its work in close collaboration with the regional health authorities, school districts and community partners to support programs and policies aimed at prevention. This includes smoking cessation programs, sun safety campaigns and other healthy living initiatives under the Cancer Control Policy Framework. Eastern Health's Cancer Transitions: Moving Beyond Treatment Program and the Canadian Cancer Society's Defy Cancer Program are two more examples of meaningful efforts to support survivors.

 

National Cancer Survivors Day is a celebration of life. It is an opportunity for survivors to celebrate and acknowledge those who have supported them along the way.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. P. DAVIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I thank the minister for an advance copy of his statement today. Mr. Speaker, we share in the government as well in congratulating all who have won their battle with cancer. Also, for those who are continuing through treatment and dealing with cancer, we give them our greatest encouragement.

 

I say to all cancer patients or survivors that once you've been diagnosed, every day after that you are a survivor. I continue, and I encourage them to continue their battle.

 

I also want to take a moment to thank the Canadian Cancer Society, also the Dr. H. Bliss Murphy Cancer Care society and all other groups that represent and support cancer patients in our province. Mr. Speaker, we know that one particular group, those who represent breast cancer patients and survivors, are very troubled by the recent cuts to the Breast Screening Program. We hope that this is not going to be a new trend for this government.

 

Thank you.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MS. ROGERS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I thank the minister for an advance copy of his statement. As a cancer survivor, I am very thankful to all those in the medical field, including doctors, all levels of nursing, lab techs, researchers, home care workers and more, who have dedicated their lives to treating and curing cancer patients and preventing cancer with passion and compassion.

 

I also thank all those agencies and groups who have dedicated their work and volunteer time for the same. I thank our families and friends who care for us during these tough times.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MS. GAMBIN-WALSH: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize June as Seniors Month in Newfoundland and Labrador. It is a time to show our appreciation for the many contributions older adults have made, and continue to make, in our province.

 

My mandate from the Premier includes the development of legislation to create a Seniors' Advocate Office. I am pleased to say that Budget 2016 provides funding to establish this office. It will be independent of government to report to the House of Assembly, and be a strong voice for seniors and their families as we look to address system-wide issues which impact older adults.

 

Budget 2016 provides $63.7 million for the Newfoundland and Labrador Income Supplement to help eligible low-income seniors, individuals, families and persons with disabilities. We have also increased the Low-Income Seniors' Benefit by $12.7 million in Budget 2016, bringing the total annualized investment in the Seniors' Benefit to $57.9 million. Many seniors in our province will benefit from these two programs.

 

We continue to support seniors to live healthy, independent lives while participating fully in their communities.

 

I ask all Members to join me in celebrating June as Seniors' Month and recognizing the many contributions of seniors throughout our province.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Fortune Bay – Cape La Hune.

 

MS. PERRY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I'd like to thank the minister for an advance copy of her statement. We join with the government in recognizing June as Seniors' Month in Newfoundland and Labrador. We all appreciate and recognize the tremendous value of our seniors' contributions in our communities and province.

 

While Seniors' Month is to be celebrated, Budget 2016 is definitely not. It is through the actions of this government and their choices, seniors will be negatively impacted. The elimination of the adult dental program, the axing of coverage for over-the-counter medications, increased taxes, higher insurance premiums, increased fuel costs – the list goes on and on.

 

It's the height of irony that this government would slash funding and programs for seniors while at the same time create an –

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MS. PERRY: – office to advocate for them.

 

They won't listen to anyone else; I don't know why they think we should believe they'll listen to their advocate.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MS. ROGERS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I thank the minister for an advance copy of her statement. We have the fastest aging demographic in the country. We have the highest percentage of seniors on OAS, GIS living in poverty because with rising rents, they have little left to live on. We have seniors begging – begging – for rent supplements. Government has taken away seniors' access to many over-the-counter medications. I am surprised the minister can stand and say we should appreciate seniors, considering what her government is doing to them.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Further statements by ministers?

 

Oral Questions.

 

Oral Questions

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. P. DAVIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Mr. Speaker, the Premier stated last week that he would release the Justice report on Nalcor's severance issue.

 

I ask the Premier: Will you now release all of the documentation related to this matter here in the House of Assembly?

 

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

 

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

 

Certainly, there was an opinion put together by the Department of Justice and Public Safety, which was provided to the Premier's office. That, in turn, led to the involvement of the Auditor General. At this time, the decision will be not to release that opinion due to the implications it may have on solicitor-client privilege.

 

That information has been provided, along with everything else, to the Auditor General for that review, which we're looking forward to the conclusion of.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. P. DAVIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

Another day in the House and another day we get a little bit more information. 

 

I'll ask the Premier this: All of the documents you provided to Justice, which led to the opinion, will you now table that in the House as you committed to do? 

 

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

 

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

 

Certainly, I think that a number of documents have been released to the public now. I'm unsure as to what remains, but the important thing to remember here is as we go through this matter where we're investigating the payment of severance to Mr. Martin, all information has been provided to the Auditor General so that we can have that report done, and that we look forward to the release of to see what happened there. We look forward to that report. Any information that the AG requires will be provided as soon as the request comes in.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. P. DAVIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

The Premier has said he'd release the documents here in the House as soon as he could. The Auditor General is on the record as saying that it doesn't interfere with his work that he is doing.

 

I'll ask the Premier this: You said earlier all of the documents have been provided, then you said they hadn't, and now we're hearing today from your minister they have. Premier, can you confirm that all of the information has now been provided to the Auditor General? 

 

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

 

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

 

All information has been provided to the Auditor General, but again, the important thing to remember is if there is other information that the Auditor General requires, he'll certainly make a request for that. Again, this is a process that will take some time.

 

One of the things that the Auditor General also has the power to do is to question individuals through subpoenas. There are a number of things that will happen throughout this process and if any information is required – I do want to reiterate to the Member opposite that it was certainly never a case of the Auditor General being influenced, but it is certainly a matter of the process being prejudice by the release, especially of the opinion. That's certainly I don't think something that anybody wants, including the Auditor General.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. P. DAVIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

We know the government has chosen to release certain pieces of information and certain parts of the documentation, but they certainly won't release it all so the people of the province can have a clear understanding about exactly what had taken place here, and now they are saying they're not going to release the information. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I'm going to ask the Premier this: We're told that just days before Mr. John Green was appointed by you as interim chair of the board, he created an agreement on Mr. Martin's severance for the Nalcor board. So I ask the Premier: When did you find out that Mr. Green was actually involved in the severance? When did you find it out, Premier? 

 

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

 

MS. COADY: Thank you very much for the question, Mr. Speaker. 

 

Mr. Green is a knowledgeable, dedicated, experienced board of director. He was on a subsidiary board, the Nalcor Energy Marketing Board. We asked him if he would come from that board to rise to the Nalcor Energy Board, in an interim basis of course. We want to go through the Independent Appointments Commission, which we are in the process of doing, to ensure we have a very full board of directors for Nalcor. He's very experienced. He was working with McInnes Cooper; however, Mr. Speaker, he stepped down from his role with McInnes Cooper to take on this responsibility. As an experienced board member, he would know all about the conflict of interest rules.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. P. DAVIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

We know the minister now is going to answer for the Premier, but I asked the Premier and we still don't know the answer.

 

So if the Premier won't answer, maybe the minister will tell us the answer to the question: When did the Premier find out that Mr. Green was involved with the severance agreement?

 

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

 

MS. COADY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Mr. Green's involvement in any of this work with McInnes Cooper is – with McInnes Cooper and with the board of Nalcor. It wouldn't be with this organization. It wouldn't be with the government.

 

As I've said, Mr. Green is an experienced, knowledgeable member of the board of directors. He knows what his role is. He took on this responsibility on an interim basis as chair of the board of Nalcor Energy. We're very thankful that he has done that. We look forward to having a new board in place once the Independent Appointments Commission has the opportunity to do its work.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. P. DAVIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

The minister, who's very quickly gaining the reputation of not answering questions, again has not answered the question. I'm certainly not questioning Mr. Green's qualifications or abilities, Mr. Speaker, to be on the record. I'm certainly not questioning that.

 

Maybe the Premier can tell us or confirm for us that the interim chair of the board of directors was the individual who provided the legal opinion and wrote the settlement agreement regarding the former CEO of Nalcor. Maybe the Premier can confirm that for us.

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

 

PREMIER BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Well, it was subsequent to the appointment of Mr. Green that there was information provided. Mr. Green, as the interim chair of the board of Nalcor right now, certainly he was working with the law firm that was providing advice to the former board of Nalcor at the time. That information was part of the process that he was involved in, as the minister said. He was working with the firm that had been providing advice. We are very pleased that he was able to step up to become the interim board of Nalcor. It's a role that he's played with some of the affiliates and subsidiaries, boards of Nalcor. He's now involved there and is doing his job as interim chair of that board.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. P. DAVIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

The Premier's question and answer is not completely clear to me, so I'm going to ask him again.

 

Are you saying that you didn't find out or you did know that he provided the advice at the time that you appointed him as chair?

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

 

PREMIER BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

The appointment of the – I have not spoken to Mr. Green prior to his appointment or since his appointment really. This is an appointment that actually occurs that we allow and of course we expect our ministers to occur – to be involved in. This is what happened here.

 

I was not directly involved with Mr. Green before or after and I have no intention to be. He now sits as the interim chair. We look forward to the Independent Appointments Commission to get the new board in place as quickly as possible. This will be on a permanent basis.

 

That's the process that's been outlined there in his former capacity as a lawyer that was providing advice to the former board of Nalcor. That is what he did. We have reached out to government to ask and invite Mr. Green to come in an interim role. That is exactly what he's done.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. P. DAVIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

The Premier says he leaves it with his minister, so I'll ask the minister if she knew that Mr. Green had created the agreement and provided the legal opinion before he was appointed as interim chair of the board.

 

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

 

MS. COADY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

On April 21, we were pleased to be able to put in place an interim board of directors with Mr. Green as chair. We've all recognized, including the Leader of the Opposition, that he's an experienced, dedicated board member.

 

His role with McInnes group or what he had done previously to that, we did not discuss it. Obviously, we discussed the fact around the conflict of interest. He stepped down from his role at McInnes Cooper and we are very pleased to have him as the interim chair of the board of Nalcor Energy.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. P. DAVIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I'm sure the Auditor General will look deeper into that matter.

 

Mr. Speaker, at 3 o'clock this morning posters asking for the resignation of the Premier were removed from the Parkway.

 

I ask the Premier: Were employees of the provincial government instructed to remove these posters calling for your resignation?

 

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

 

MR. HAWKINS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I thank the Member for the question. Obviously, this morning it was an operational decision to remove those signs. It's certainly not something that we – as a minister, I had discussion with. There are hundreds of operational decisions made on a daily basis throughout the Transportation and Works Department.

 

Obviously, Mr. Speaker, as well, the first that I noticed that it had happened was through a media inquiry this morning. Immediately we checked into that situation. Obviously, the direction did not come from me as minister. Had it come to my level, the decision might have been different than what it was.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. P. DAVIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I thank the minister for his answer.

 

So, Minister, are you confirming that taxpayers' dollars were used to remove these political posters in the middle of the night?

 

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

 

MR. HAWKINS: Mr. Speaker, as I said, it's an operational decision. We make hundreds of operational decisions on a daily basis. There is money expended on operations.

 

In this particular case, there have been signs that had previously been put around the park area in the past that has been removed. So this is not different. As a matter of fact, it was contracted out with a different contractor to remove them.

 

Again, as I said, it was not a decision that came from me as minister. Had it gotten to my level, the decision might have been different, but it was removed. It's a practice that has happened in the past, so that is no different today than what happened in the past.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. P. DAVIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I'll ask the minister: Who made the decision and who gave the direction?

 

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

 

MR. HAWKINS: Mr. Speaker, I think it was pretty clear where it came from. It was an operational decision. We made hundreds of operational decisions in Transportation and Works on a daily basis. Many of them, unless they are of a high-level nature, never, ever get to the ministerial level. I have to tell you, Mr. Speaker, this one did not get to a ministerial level. It was a decision that was made – it's an operational decision.

 

If I remember correctly, I have not been around this table for very long, but I know in the past there have been decisions made, there have been signs that have been put around the park area that have been removed. I would suspect this was no different. It was a decision that non-executive level members decided last night to have those removed.

 

Again, it was not a ministerial decision, neither was it a Premier's decision. It's a decision that was made on an operational level. That's the way it is.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. HUTCHINGS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Mr. Speaker, according to the Canadian taxpayers' association, Newfoundland and Labrador is the most expensive place in the country to drive.

 

I ask the Minister of Finance: What is the maximum price you're willing to allow the people of Newfoundland and Labrador to pay?

 

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

 

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

 

As we discussed in this House last week during the debate around the changes that were made to the gas tax, we are faced with an unprecedented situation in this province, a $1.8 billion deficit that would have been $2.7 billion had we not taken any action. It was the decision of this government to implement gas tax changes.

 

As I mentioned in this House last week and actually shared with Members opposite, we have a system in place in the Department of Finance to provide information to me on a weekly basis. Last week when the prices were changed, my understanding from officials is that the price actually was a half a cent higher than the five-year average, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. HUTCHINGS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Mr. Speaker, the minister indicated last week in debate there was discussion about a regulatory regime put in place to cap gas price. What process was looked at and why, at the end, could it not be implemented?

 

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

 

MS. C. BENNETT: Mr. Speaker, when I spoke here in the House last week and as I will certainly say here in response to the Member opposite's question, our government made the very difficult decision to increase gas tax. It is our intention to monitor the situation throughout the summer. This was always a temporary decision, as we announced in the budget. We have made it clear to the people of the province that we will review where the tax increase would put gas prices as a whole in the province, and we would look to make changes hopefully in time for the supplemental budget in the fall.

 

However, I had also confirmed in this House that should we see something unprecedented happen with gas prices, Cabinet holds the accountability to be able to make a decision and we will.

 

Thank you.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. HUTCHINGS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Mr. Speaker, again to the minister, I just want to clarify, last week in debate she said they viewed a regulatory regime to cap gas price, but she said the process couldn't be implemented. I ask her what was the regulatory regime you looked at and why couldn't it be implemented?

 

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

 

MS. C. BENNETT: Sorry to the Member opposite, I was having difficulty hearing you when you asked a question a couple of minutes ago.

 

What I referred to last week was we had actually looked at whether or not we could create a mechanism inside the legislation or in regulatory terms where we could have a gas tax that would float as the foundational price of gas changed. As the Member opposite may know, gas is actually a combination of a number of items, not the least of which is the price of crude.

 

We looked at that alternative and from a legislative perspective, we were told that that wouldn't be a feasible option so we made sure we put other mechanisms in place, which is confirming that Cabinet can make a decision. As long as we reduce the tax under 16½ cents, we have the ability to do that, Mr. Speaker.

 

Thank you.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. HUTCHINGS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

Mr. Speaker, federal Minister Foote suggests that negotiations on the deferral of the equalization payments started merely a week before the announcement, but the Minister of Finance publicly stated that it began in December.

 

I ask the Premier: Who is correct and when did the actual negotiations begin?

 

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

 

MS. C. BENNETT: Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned in this House, we had discussions that I was present for with federal Minister Morneau back in February. I can provide the Member opposite with the exact date. It would have been during the Northern Lights Conference.

 

During that conversation, we had a discussion with him on a long list of items that are very important to our province. We were very pleased with the federal government's decision to defer the equalization repayment, one that the former government saw fit to take that obligation on this year and we didn't agree with that. We'll certainly be looking forward the fruits of the other conversations we've been having with our federal counterparts.

 

Thank you. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. HUTCHINGS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

Mr. Speaker, I say to the hon. minister – I may be incorrect – I thought I heard her on a night line show indicating that in December there were meetings and in January there were meetings as well, and that's when the actual negotiation began.

 

I ask the Minister of Finance: How much was paid on the equalization repayment loans just negotiated and started with the federal government to defer the payments? 

 

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

 

MS. C. BENNETT: Mr. Speaker, I can provide the Member opposite with the exact amounts. The payment structure is such that I understand that payments are retained by the federal government from other funds that we pay the federal government. There have been two payments, my understanding is. Those payments will not be reimbursed to the province, but the federal government has pushed forward the remaining amount, and we are certainly going to be taking advantage of that extra cash.

 

I'm really pleased that we are able to put in that Deficit Levy and respond to the needs and concerns of the people of the province, Mr. Speaker. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. HUTCHINGS: Mr. Speaker, if the Premier and Minister of Finance knew they were negotiating with Ottawa to defer payments, and they've made payments since, why would you have gone through that process? Why wouldn't you have included that in your budget if, in fact, the discussions started back in December and January? 

 

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

 

MS. C. BENNETT: Mr. Speaker, the answer is quite simple. We wanted to make sure that we weren't counting our eggs before they hatched. It is important that in a negotiation you make sure that you have the details completed. And in this particular case, as soon as the information was confirmed through the federal government and in communications with the provincial government, we were able to act on it.

 

When we completed the budget, at that time, we did not have clarity, nor did we feel it would be prudent to reflect anything like that in the budget. That's why we were very pleased, as soon as we found out the information, that we went to the people of the province and shared the information with them. 

 

Thank you. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Fortune Bay – Cape La Hune. 

 

MS. PERRY: Bill 35 will be debated in the House of Assembly this afternoon.

 

I ask the Minister of Seniors and Wellness: Based on research, is vaping a safe alternative to smoking that actually can help people quit smoking and reduce their risk of illness?

 

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

 

MS. GAMBIN-WALSH: Mr. Speaker, we don't know the long-term effects yet. There's been a significant amount of research done. Our objective is to protect the public and protect the health. We're putting in place a bill that is going to do just that. The research will be completed and continue to be completed. This will also be debated later on today.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Fortune Bay – Cape La Hune.

 

MS. PERRY: Last year, the House of Commons received a report on vaping. It recommended collaborative action between Ottawa and all the provinces.

 

I ask the minister: Can you provide an update on what action has been taken to date with this report?

 

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

 

MS. GAMBIN-WALSH: Mr. Speaker, we are going to continue to work with the federal government as we move this legislation forward. In actual fact, on May 19, 2015, the now Leader of the Opposition said that their plan was to bring this legislation to the House of Assembly. They also did a comprehensive review, so we've continued with that review.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. KENT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I ask the Minister of Transportation and Works: What private contractor was used for his Parkway poster patrol overnight?

 

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

 

MR. HAWKINS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I thank the hon. Member for his question, even though it was a little bit slighted and slanted. As I mentioned previously, our workers, following practice – it is within a park. They were following practice as been – historically they have removed signs. It's not something new.

 

So what they did last night, Mr. Speaker, is what they've done previously as a practice in removing signs within the park. I understand that there are other signs throughout the city that are still on the posts. It was removed in the park.

 

As I said before to the hon. Member, there was nothing that came to my level on that as a decision. As I said before, if it had, it might have been a different decision. I don't know really the policy, whether they should be removed or not, but that's something I will look into, Mr. Speaker (inaudible).

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. KENT: Mr. Speaker, the minister is saying it's a historic practice to hire a private contractor in the middle of the night to go out and remove posters on the Parkway. There are still some of those signs up at the top of Allandale Road in the park. Prince Philip Parkway is maintained by the City of St. John's.

 

Why would government hire a private contractor that remains unnamed to remove posters in the middle of the night?

 

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

 

MR. HAWKINS: Mr. Speaker, again, as I said, this was an operational decision that was made on an operational level, and they were following what they have normally followed. It is not uncommon to have contracting to do some of the work.

 

Last night, the same thing happened with regard to this particular situation. My department, the officials within that department making operational decisions on a daily basis, not uncommon to do that, decided that would be a course of action they took. They did not move it up to the level of ministerial, which I'm assuming they would have thought they were doing okay because it was practice in the past to be able to do that.

 

So as a result of that, Mr. Speaker, when it came to my attention this morning from the media request, it was an area I wanted to look into. And as a result of that I am answering today as truthfully and honestly as I possibly can.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. KENT: So, Mr. Speaker, the minister is throwing officials under the bus, or in this case, under a white van.

 

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Premier: Who in your office directed that the posters come down? Was it Kelvin Parsons, or was it someone else?

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

 

PREMIER BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Well, as was previously mentioned by the minister, this was an operational issue. I can assure Members opposite and Members in all parties of this House of Assembly, as the minister just mentioned already, there was no one from the Premier's office that was involved in this at all. Simply, it was an operational issue.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl North.

 

MR. KENT: Mr. Speaker, as of this morning, over 12,000 people have signed a petition calling for the Premier to resign immediately. Due to antiquated rules in this House, an online petition cannot be presented.

 

Will the Government House Leader commit to addressing this issue when our Standing Orders Committee meets this summer?

 

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

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Yes, certainly, Mr. Speaker, I look forward to changing a number of the Standing Orders to allow the Member opposite to tweet freely in this House of Assembly –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. A. PARSONS: – and certainly we look forward to making a number of changes that the previous administration had 12 years to do and did absolutely nothing about during their 12 years in government.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MS. MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I want to come back to the Minister of Transportation and Works with regard to this work in the middle of the night. We can't even get our roads plowed in winter in the middle of the night.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MS. MICHAEL: I ask him: How can he justify this action happening in the middle of the night?

 

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

 

MR. HAWKINS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I thank the Member for the question. As I said, and stated before, this was an operational decision that was made last night.

 

Subsequent to the question the other hon. Member made in reference to the fact that we're throwing our workers under the white van. That is totally uncalled for, totally inappropriate. We respect and we regard our workers, whether they're our employees, whether they're our contractors who are doing work on our behalf. They are number one, Mr. Speaker, and we certainly recognize them.

 

So the decision that was made was an operational decision. As I said before, it did not come to a ministerial level. As a result of that, Mr. Speaker, I did not make that decision, nor did the Premier's office make that decision. If it had come to me, Mr. Speaker, I might have made a different decision.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

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

 

I say to the minister, what's disgraceful is people's freedom of expression has been taken away from them. That's what's disgraceful.

 

I ask the Minister of Transportation and Works: Will he tell this House what company was contracted and how much did it cost in the middle of the night to have those posters taken down?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. HAWKINS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I will certainly answer the question. We did have a contractor. It is a contractor that does work for us on a regular basis. The cost was somewhere around $200 to remove those signs. That's the amount that was expended on that last night, Mr. Speaker, or early this morning.

 

Again, from my department, from where I'm looking at it, my understanding is there's not a policy we have within government. That's something we need to look at. I know previously, and I think that's why the employees reacted as they did, because it has been past practice that when signs have gone up around the park area, they have removed them. I think it's a practice they've done in the past.

 

With all due respect, Mr. Speaker, I think the employees acted on what they did before. I respect that decision and I will certainly work with them as we –

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MS. MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I ask the Minister of Transportation and Works: Will he bring into this room and table the receipt that shows the name of the contractor, the bill and the receipt showing how much money was asked for and paid?

 

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

 

MR. HAWKINS: Mr. Speaker, I don't think that's going to be a big issue. I think we are transparent. We are open. We make sure that any expenditures are there. I, personally, have absolutely no problem with doing that.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

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

 

I'm asking the Premier now: Did he or anyone involved in any way with his office direct or have anything to do with the removal of protest signs from light poles early this morning in the vicinity of the Confederation Building?

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

 

PREMIER BALL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Obviously, I just answered that question to some Members opposite. No, no one was involved from the Premier's office in the poster removal on the Parkway or in Pippy Park last night. That was not a decision that came from the Premier's office. It was an operational issue, as the minister just clearly pointed out. So the answer simply is no one from the Premier's office was involved in the removal of those posters last night.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

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

 

I ask the Premier: Does he not have a problem with an order to have work like this done in the middle of the night when we can't even clear our highways in the middle of the night in winter?

 

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

 

MR. HAWKINS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I don't know why it's so difficult in the middle of the night. I mean work is done in the middle of the night all over the province. As a matter of fact, with the 24-hour snow clearing –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

I've ruled in the House on several occasions that the only Member that I wish to hear speaking is the Member recognized to speak.

 

The hon. the Minister of Transportation and Works.

 

MR. HAWKINS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

With regard to the 24-hour snow clearing, that's an implementation that has not happened yet. It's something that will be happening next winter. Again, it's measures that are taken. We have been very clear in this House, and given the rationale – and we've been open and we've been clear and we communicated that. We realize there are only certain areas of the province that had 24 hours. I'm sure the hon. Member opposite will be concerned about rural Newfoundland, and all the other areas of the province that don't get 24-hour snow clearing. I'm sure she's speaking about that.

 

So, Mr. Speaker, that's just an area we're looking at and we will continue to follow through on that commitment.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

Presenting Reports by Standing and Select Committees.

 

Tabling of Documents.

 

Notices of Motion.

 

Notices of Motion

 

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

 

MR. FINN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I move, seconded by the Minister of Natural Resources, the following private Member's resolution:

 

WHEREAS Terry Fox began his Marathon of Hope on April 12, 1980, in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador with a dream of creating awareness of cancer and raising $1 million to find a cure; and

 

WHEREAS Terry Fox at the age of 21, and having had a leg amputated due to bone cancer, endeavoured to run across Canada covering 5,373 kilometres over 143 days, the equivalent of a 42-kilometre marathon each day until he was forced to stop due to a recurrence of cancer; and

 

WHEREAS after the first 25 days, and with growing encouragement from residents along the way, Terry Fox stopped in Channel-Port aux Basques where that town alone raised $10,000; and

 

WHEREAS the generous people and response from the people in Port aux Basques fired his imagination and a new fundraising goal of $1 for every Canadian was set; and

 

WHEREAS in the past 36 years, more than $650 million has been raised in Terry Fox's name to support cancer research; and

 

WHEREAS Terry Fox and his family continue to be an inspiration to school children and communities throughout Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada and the world; and

 

WHEREAS Terry Fox's courageous journey began in Newfoundland and Labrador and gave his dream a momentum that endures;

 

BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED that this hon. House supports the second Sunday after Labour Day in each year throughout Newfoundland and Labrador to be proclaimed as Terry Fox Day.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

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

 

Pursuant to Standing Order 63, the private Member's resolution just entered by the Member shall be the one to be debated this Wednesday.

 

Also, pursuant to Standing Order 11, I move that this House do not adjourn at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 7.

 

Further pursuant to Standing Order 11, I move that this House not adjourn at 10 p.m. on Tuesday, June 7.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Further notices of motion?

 

Answers to Questions for which Notice has been Given.

 

Answers to Questions for which Notice has been Given

 

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

 

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

 

I'm not sure this is appropriate, but the Member opposite, the Member for Ferryland asked me a question during Question Period and I just had the information now. The amount of the equalization repayment that was paid in February was $4.5 million. I wanted to provide that information to the Member.

 

Thank you.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Further answers to questions for which notice has been given?

 

Petitions.

 

Petitions

 

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

 

MS. ROGERS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

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

 

WHEREAS a Deficit Reduction Levy is an extremely regressive surtax, placing a higher tax burden on low- and middle-income taxpayers; and

 

WHEREAS surtaxes are typically levied on the highest income earners only, as currently demonstrated in other provinces, as well as Australia, Norway and other countries; and

 

WHEREAS government states in 2016 provincial budget that the personal income tax schedule needs to be revised and promises to do so;

 

WHEREUPON the undersigned, your petitioners, humbly pray and call upon the House of Assembly to urge government to ensure that the Deficit Reduction Levy be eliminated and any replacement measure be based on progressive taxation principles, and that an independent review of the Newfoundland and Labrador provincial income tax system begin immediately to make it fairer to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

 

As in duty bound, your petitioners will ever pray.

 

Mr. Speaker, I have at least 300 signatures again here on this petition that people have filled out and that they have mailed to our offices. Here we have people from Bay de Verde, Botwood, Peterview, a number of places here in the province – Westport.

 

Mr. Speaker, people are saying that they want an overall review of our taxation system and of fees that are levied against the people of the province. People know that the levy that government put through this budget was a knee-jerk reaction. It wasn't well thought out because we can see how government has partially repealed some of that levy; that they've moved up the income ladder in terms of who now will pay the levy.

 

It's not now until you reach over $50,000 a year as an earner that your amount for the levy will be reduced. It just goes to show how ill-thought-out the whole approach to progressive taxation was for the people of the province, how ill-thought-out the levy was, and now government is just going to take parts of the levy away. Really, what they're doing is tax reform on the fly.

 

Mr. Speaker, that's not what we need as a province. We all know how incredibly difficult the fiscal situation is for the province, nobody is denying that, but to do this piecemeal in this way now is showing that government has no control, no plan and no strategy (a) on how to deal with the revenue crisis that the province has, which also part of this revenue crisis is an employment crisis because we have the highest unemployment in the whole country and it's growing. 

 

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

MR. PETTEN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

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

 

WHEREAS the education of our children is the most important and vital investment that can be made in the success of our children; and

 

WHEREAS the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador should be choosing educational options that will provide all students of our province with a higher standard of education and enhance learning for our youth; and

 

WHEREAS the government's decision to make cuts to teachers and to our educational system will have a negative effect on the students;

 

WHEREUPON the undersigned, your petitioners, humbly pray and call upon the House of Assembly to urge government to reverse this decision effectively immediately.

 

As in duty bound, your petitioners will ever pray.

 

Mr. Speaker, that's a portion of the petitions I received from my district, various school groups, addressing their concerns. They come to me and they brought me in ever so many petitions, so I've presented a chunk of them here.

 

Their concerns, I narrowed it into a broader comment, because their concerns are Intensive Core French. It's the cutback on teachers; the implementation of full-day kindergarten where schools in my district are struggling with capacity issues wondering if they're going to be ready; multigrade teaching – the full gamut of educational costs and effects to education are being expressed by concerned parents and educators in my district.

 

Colleagues of mine have presented similar petitions from their districts. So this is not just a certain area, this is across the province that people are speaking out, and they're speaking out en masse. This is a fairly large group – CBS is a fairly large town, one of the largest towns in the province. So you're looking at even a larger subsection and this is right from one end to the other, and it includes the Member for Harbour Main's District, people from her district, and as well as my colleague, Topsail – Paradise.

 

These cuts, people have a lot of concerns. We get up in the House day after day after day and express those concerns. They seem to be going unanswered or on deaf ears, but people are speaking out. We're bringing their voice to the House of Assembly, which is never a bad thing to do. Unfortunately it seems like a lot of it is going on deaf ears, but I don't really believe, regardless if they decide to ignore us, the voice of the people overrules all the rest of our voices.

 

My one voice here today, Mr. Speaker, is speaking for hundreds in my District of Conception Bay South, so I do call upon government to start paying attention to these individual concerns throughout the province.

 

Thank you very much.

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Cape St. Francis.

 

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

 

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

 

WHEREAS for 70 years, the Pouch Cove library has been the centre of the community; and

 

WHEREAS the Pouch Cove library offers a variety of services in addition to loaning books; and

 

WHEREAS the services are used by a large portion of the residents of Pouch Cove, many seniors and young families;

 

WHEREUPON the undersigned, your petitioners, humbly pray and call upon the House of Assembly to urge the government to immediately direct the Provincial Information and Library Resources Board to reverse the decision to close the Pouch Cove library.

 

And as in duty bound, your petitioners will ever pray.

 

Mr. Speaker, the Pouch Cove library is, like the petition says, a central part of the community. The council in Pouch Cove saw the value of the library and for the last number of years has been putting resources into the library for extra hours because they realize that there is so many people in the community using it. They had an after-school program that the town itself gave the money to keep the library going, just to pay for that.

 

This library is in the municipal building, so they don't pay any light. They pay no snow clearing. Like I said, it's in the building, so the town already pays for all this. It is a very small cost but a large cost to the Town of Pouch Cove to continue to keep it going.

 

I spoke to people in the library area there and they tell me that it's not only the people, young people, but they find that there are a lot of seniors that come in there and they need some direction. Today, we know that there are a lot of things done online and you can get a lot of information. Seniors want to know how to do this and how things can be done, and they use the library to get this information and to just navigate through the different systems.

 

The librarian is there all the time to assist. It's a huge part of this community. There is also a program there for preschoolers, grandparents and parents and they take their children there in the morning to go through a program where they read to the children. This library is one of the more used libraries in the whole province. The community really uses it.

 

I can't understand why government are doing this to the province for such a small cost. I urge government, please, to reconsider what you're doing to rural Newfoundland and these small libraries that are so vital to our communities.

 

Thank you very much.

 

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

 

MS. MICHAEL:  Thank you very much, 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 government has once again cut the library's budget, forcing the closure of 54 libraries; and

 

WHEREAS libraries are often the backbone of their communities, especially for those with little access to government services where they offer learning opportunities and computer access; and

 

WHEREAS libraries and librarians are critical in efforts to improve the province's literacy levels which are among the lowest in Canada; and

 

WHEREAS already strapped municipalities are not in the position to take over the operation and cost of libraries;

 

WHEREUPON the undersigned, your petitioners, humbly pray and call upon the House of Assembly to urge government to keep these libraries open and work on a long-term plan to strengthen the library system.

 

And as in duty bound, your petitioners will ever pray.

 

Mr. Speaker, today, the petition I have in my hand has been signed by petitioners from CBS, from Torbay, from the Southern Shore, Mount Pearl, Portugal Cove, all over the greater St. John's area and beyond, Flatrock as well. People are concerned at the really backward move this government has taken.

 

Mr. Speaker, in developing countries they put so much effort into having books available and library services available to people. In many places they have little trucks that go around with mobile libraries because they consider libraries so important, especially for literacy and for growth of their economy, growth of who they are as a people.

 

You also have in small villages, from village to village, carts drawn by animals. I've seen them. I've seen the stories in some of the organizations that raise money for developing countries. The effort they put into having books available to their people is unheard of. Here we are doing this backwards step of closing libraries.

 

In debate the other night when a lot of people may not have been following, I quoted from an article that was in The Globe and Mail by Professor Riddell from Queen's University where she talked about libraries today are not being closed because of –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: (Inaudible).

 

The hon. the Member for St. John's East – Quidi Vidi.

 

MS. MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I appreciate that as I try to bring forward concerns of the people of the province.

 

Professor Riddell pointed out that the new age we're moving into is not a reason for closing libraries. As a matter fact, they have a role to play in our digital literacy and that as individuals and as a society.

 

She actually says in the article that it is absolutely wrong. It is erroneous to indicate that libraries need to close because they are no longer needed. They are needed even more so now because of many people in rural areas not having access to Internet and to the digital life they have to take part in.

 

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: The hon. the Member for Conception Bay East – Bell Island.

 

MR. BRAZIL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

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

 

WHEREAS the current 2016 provincial budget impacts adversely and directly the education programs of Beachy Cove Elementary in Portugal Cove-St. Philip's; and

 

WHEREAS parents request a delay in the implementation of full-day kindergarten at the school until September when, at such time, the new five to nine school in Portugal Cove-St. Philip's will be open; and

 

WHEREAS the student population of Beachy Cove Elementary is growing exponentially and this growth is sustainable into the future; and

 

WHEREAS parents request the reinstatement of the previous teacher allocation formula for Beachy Cove Elementary for this year and subsequent school years to service the growth in enrolment and to be able to provide all students with equal opportunity to enrol in the French immersion program;

 

WHEREUPON the undersigned, your petitioners, humbly pray and call upon the House of Assembly to urge government to reinstate the previous teacher allocations and delay the implementation of full-day kindergarten in order to provide the children of Beachy Cove Elementary the right to a quality education.

 

And as in duty bound, your petitioners will ever pray.

 

Mr. Speaker, I've presented this on numerous occasions, and had the privilege of a number of parents and some of the students from Beachy Cove being in this House of Assembly and being part of the protests for the I love education process. They continuously outline the fact that this is going to be detrimental to the education process, not only in Beachy Cove Elementary, because they realize they're speaking for all students in this province.

 

They're outlining the concerns that parents have, educators have and former educators have. They're asking about a number of things here; one, the delay of implementing around issues because of the costing. Being able to use that money to be better invested in reducing the class caps, and ensuring that access to specialized programs, particularly around the intensive French immersion, is part and parcel of it and that, as a result the use of gymnasiums and cafeterias then could be freed up for proper use; also around busing issues and the challenges around that being added.

 

They've even in the discussions – and I've had the privilege of talking to some of the people connected to the School Lunch Program and the challenges they're going to face. So we're going to impose an added number of students in the school system with an expectation that parents have and the school system have that these kids for lunchtime are taken care of. Now there are no resources for a volunteer organization – and I have to stress that, a volunteer organization – which took a lead in this province over the last decade to ensure students, no matter of their economic situation, had nutritious foods while they're in school.

 

We all know, and every bit of research will tell you, that if a kid is hungry in school there are challenges around their education. There are challenges for them because they can't focus. It makes every sense in the world. As part of that process, we're encouraging – and the students and the parents at Beachy Cove Elementary are noting that.

 

There are also a number of issues – and I read a piece in the paper this past weekend from a former superintendent of a school board where he questions the integration of classrooms. He talks about are we now going to base the scoring achievements on the present system where it was a one-grade system or is it going to be changed and lowered. That's not acceptable here. I'll have an opportunity to speak to this again in the future.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Before I recognize the hon. the Government House Leader, we had a message sent up from the Broadcast Centre. Some Members apparently when they're speaking are stepping slightly away from their mics, and it's not possible for the Broadcast Centre to pick up the volume and have it properly broadcast. So I remind Members to try and speak toward your mic.

 

The hon. the Government House Leader.

 

MR. A. PARSONS: I was going to say – thank you, Mr. Speaker – certainly no complaints from us, depending on who that speaker was.

 

I would call from the Order Paper, Order 3, third reading of Bill 23.

 

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that Bill 33 be now read a third time.

 

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion that Bill 33 be read a third time?

 

All those in favour, 'aye.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

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

 

Carried.

 

MR. A. PARSONS: If I could just clarify, I think I called Bill 23.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Sorry, Bill 23. Order 3, Bill 23, you're correct.

 

Bill 23.

 

CLERK (Barnes): A bill, An Act To Amend The Revenue Administration Act No. 6. (Bill 23)

 

MR. SPEAKER: Bill 23 has now been read a third time and it is ordered that the bill do pass and its title be as on the Order Paper.

 

On motion, a bill, “An Act To Amend The Revenue Administration Act No. 6,” read a third time, ordered passed and its title be as on the Order Paper. (Bill 23)

 

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

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, I call from the Order Paper, Order 4, third read of Bill 33.

 

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that Bill 33 be now read a third time.

 

The hon. the Government House Leader.

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Yes, thank you, Mr. Speaker. I just want to speak to this just for a second.

 

During Committee on this bill last week, the Opposition House Leader asked a question. I think the question was: Do you have any data regarding the number of infractions? Have they gone up on handheld devices? Have we seen an increase or a decrease? At that time I undertook to get the information and provide it.

 

What I can say is what I've heard from the RNC is that in 2013 there were 715 infractions. In 2014 there were 556. Unfortunately, from January 1 to December 31, 2015, there were 1,352 summary offence tickets issued to operators of vehicles. Obviously, it's our hope that this number will decrease during the calendar year of 2016. I think that those individuals who do so will see increased penalties as a deterrent. That's the goal we set out, and that's what we wanted to see and achieve.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Is it the pleasure of the House that Bill 33 be now read a third time?

 

All those in favour, 'aye.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

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

 

Carried.

 

CLERK: A bill, An Act To Amend The Highway Traffic Act No. 2.

 

MR. SPEAKER: This bill has now been read a third time and it is ordered that the bill do pass and its title be as on the Order Paper.

 

On motion, a bill, “An Act To Amend The Highway Traffic Act No. 2,” read a third time, ordered passed and its title be as on the Order Paper. (Bill 33)

 

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

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the Minister of Education, for leave to introduce a bill entitled, The Schools Act 1997, Bill 38, and I further move that the said bill be now read a first time.

 

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded by the hon. the Government House Leader that he shall have leave to introduce Bill 38, An Act To Amend The Schools Act, 1997 and that the said bill be now read a first time.

 

Is it the pleasure of the House that the minister shall have leave to introduce Bill 38 and that the said bill be read a first time?

 

All those in favour, 'aye.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

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

 

Carried.

 

Motion, the hon. the Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development to introduce a bill, “An Act To Amend The Schools Act, 1997,” carried. (Bill 38)

 

CLERK: A bill, An Act To Amend The Schools Act, 1997. (Bill 38)

 

MR. SPEAKER: This bill has now been read a first time.

 

When shall the bill be read a second time?

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Tomorrow.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Tomorrow.

 

On motion, Bill 38 read a first time, ordered read a second time on tomorrow.

 

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

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the Minister of Natural Resources, for leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act to Amend The Income Tax Act 2000 No. 5, Bill 17, and I further move that the said bill be now read a first time.

 

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded by the hon. the Government House Leader that he shall leave to introduce Bill 17, An Act To Amend The Income Tax Act 2000 No. 5.

 

Is it the pleasure of the House that the minister shall have leave to introduce Bill 17 and that the said bill be now read a first time?

 

All those in favour, 'aye.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

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

 

Carried.

 

Motion, the hon. the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board to introduce a bill, “An Act To Amend The Income Tax Act 2000 No. 5”, carried. (Bill 17)

 

CLERK: A bill, An Act To Amend The Income Tax Act 2000 No. 5. (Bill 17)

 

MR. SPEAKER: This bill has now been read a first time.

 

When shall the said bill be read a second time?

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Tomorrow.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Tomorrow.

 

On motion, Bill 17 read a first time, ordered read a second time on tomorrow.

 

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

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills, for leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Amend The Income And Employment Support Act And The Student Financial Assistance Act, Bill 37, and I further move that the said bill be now read a first time.

 

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded by the hon. the Government House Leader that he shall have leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act To Amend The Income And Employment Support Act And The Student Financial Assistance Act, Bill 37.

 

Is it the pleasure of the House that the minister shall have leave to introduce the said bill and that it now be read a first time.

 

All those in favour, 'aye.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

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

 

Carried.

 

Motion, the hon. the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills to introduce a bill, “An Act To Amend The Income And Employment Support Act And The Student Financial Assistance Act”, carried. (Bill 37)

 

CLERK: A bill, An Act To Amend The Income And Employment Support Act And The Student Financial Assistance Act. (Bill 37)

 

MR. SPEAKER: This bill has now been read a first time.

 

When shall the said bill be read a second time?

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Tomorrow.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Tomorrow.

 

On motion, Bill 37 read a first time, ordered read a second time on tomorrow.

 

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

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Yes, I call from the Order Paper, Motion 7. I would move pursuant to Standing Order 11 that the House not adjourn at 5:30 p.m. today, Monday, June 6.

 

Further, Mr. Speaker, I would move Motion 8, pursuant to Standing Order 11 that the House not adjourn at 10 p.m. today, Monday, June 6.

 

MR. SPEAKER: It has been moved that the House do not adjourn at 5:30 today.

 

All those in favour?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Those against?

 

Carried.

 

It is further moved that the House do not adjourn at 10 o'clock this evening.

 

All those in favour?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Those against?

 

Carried.

 

The hon. the Government House Leader.

 

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

 

I would call Order 6, second reading of Bill 35.

 

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

 

MS. GAMBIN-WALSH: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the Minister of Health and Community Services, that Bill 35, An Act To Amend The Smoke-Free Environment Act, 2005 And The Tobacco Control Act, be read a second time.

 

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that Bill 35 be now read a second time.

 

Motion, second reading of a bill, “An Act To Amend The Smoke-Free Environment Act, 2005 And The Tobacco Control Act.” (Bill 35)

 

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

 

MS. GAMBIN-WALSH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I am pleased to stand in the House today to open the debate on these important legislative amendments. The proposed amendments to the Smoke-Free Environment Act, 2005 and the Tobacco Control Act will further protect the public, in particular, children and youth, from the harms of flavoured tobacco products including menthol and hookah smoking and the potential harms of electronic cigarettes and e-cigarettes.

 

Our government has committed to preventing and reducing smoking and to promote healthy living throughout our province. I believe that legislation and regulation that helps to reduce the prevalence of and prevent smoking throughout our population is certainly a step toward a healthier Newfoundland and Labrador. Successive governments have taken a comprehensive approach to reduce smoking over the years. As a society evolves and attitudes have changed, our legislation and regulations around smoking have changed, Mr. Speaker.

 

Since the introduction of the Smoke-Free Environment Act and the Tobacco Control Act in 1994 that prohibits smoking in indoor public places and workplaces and prohibits the sale of tobacco to persons under the age of 19, several other key actions have been undertaken. Smoking has been banned in bars, including patios, decks and bingo halls. Restrictions have been placed on how tobacco products can be displayed, stored and promoted at retail. Smoking has been banned in motor vehicles while persons under the age of 16 are present. Designated smoking rooms have been removed from workplaces.

 

Those efforts have seen very positive results, Mr. Speaker. Overall, smoking rates have decreased in Newfoundland and Labrador from over 28 per cent in 1999 to just under 20 per cent in 2013. The news is better for those aged 15 to 19. Smoking is down from 30 per cent to 12.4 per cent, Mr. Speaker. For young adults aged 20 to 24, it is down from 37 per cent to 28 per cent.

 

While much has been done in the last 20 years to restrict smoking in public places and to discourage young people from taking up smoking, we can't let down our guard. We are concerned about the potential harm to public health, particularly relating to children and youth resulting from e-cigarettes, the availability of flavoured tobacco products and the impact of smoking other products like hookah.

 

The amendments we are debating today mark the next step in the evolution of Newfoundland and Labrador's efforts to prevent and reduce smoking. Preventing and reducing smoking remains a priority. Government is of the view that the advent of flavoured tobacco products, e-cigarettes and the use of hookah could lead to more young people taking up smoking. 

 

According to the World Health Organization, all tobacco products are harmful and are a leading cause of disease and death worldwide. Our Health Canada reports that each year smoking kills an estimated 37,000 Canadians, making smoking the country's leading cause of preventable disease and death. Unfortunately, Newfoundland and Labrador continues to have among the highest smoking rates in Canada, at approximately 20 per cent for those aged 15 years and older. We know that despite past and ongoing efforts to curb smoking, children and youth are still experimenting with tobacco and starting to smoke. 

 

I would like to take a few moments to walk through the changes we are proposing in this bill. Amendments to the Smoke-Free Environment Act, 2005 and the Tobacco Control Act will strengthen measures to protect people from the harms of flavoured tobacco products and hookah smoking, and the potential harms of e-cigarettes. These amendments will prohibit the sale of flavoured tobacco products including menthol. The ban will apply to cigarettes, cigarillos, fine-cut tobacco and smokeless tobacco that have a characterizing flavour such as candy, bubble gum, fruit, menthol or represented as being flavoured.

 

With respect to e-cigarettes, proposed amendments will prohibit the sale of electronic cigarettes to persons under the age of 19. It will prohibit the sale where the sale of tobacco products is currently prohibited. It will prohibit use in indoor public places, workplaces and in motor vehicles when occupied by a person under the age of 16 and regulate the promotion, including advertising and display of e-cigarettes, in the same manner that the province currently regulates tobacco promotion and display.

 

Our amendments related to e-cigarette aim to strike a balance between minimizing potential health risks from these products, while acknowledging the same individuals seek to use these products to quit smoking.

 

With respect to hookah, proposed amendments will prohibit the sale of non-tobacco shisha products to persons under the age of 19; prohibit the sale where the sale of tobacco products are currently prohibited; regulate the promotion, including advertising and display, in the same manner that the province currently regulates tobacco promotion and display; and prohibit hookah smoking of non-tobacco shisha products in indoor public places and workplaces, including any existing hookah establishment.

 

Coming into force dates, the following changes will come into force upon the amendments receiving Royal Assent: prohibition on the sale of e-cigarettes and non-tobacco shisha to persons under the age of 19; prohibition on persons under the age of 19 from entering or working in a hookah establishment; and prohibition on the use of e-cigarettes in indoor public places, workplaces and in motor vehicles when occupied by a person under the age of 16. All other changes will come into force on July 1, 2017.

 

We have delayed the implementation date for several of the amendments in recognition that businesses will need time to adjust to the new legislation. The changes we are making to our legislation are closely aligned with several other jurisdictions in Canada, including the other Atlantic provinces. We will be joining with Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Alberta, Quebec and Ontario in banning flavoured tobacco.

 

Our amendments respecting e-cigarettes will make our legislation similar to that of seven other provinces, including the Atlantic provinces, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba and British Columbia. In 2015, the other Atlantic provinces banned the use of the hookah water pipe in indoor public places as have several Canadian municipalities, including the cities of Toronto and Vancouver.

 

We realize that e-cigarettes are often promoted as a device to help people quit smoking, but we also realize they also hold the potential to have the very negative consequence of introducing the smoking culture to young people who wrongly assume there are not negative health effects.

 

The truth is we don't really know what is in the vapour that people are inhaling. There is no regulation and no substantive research as to the long-term health effects. Having said that, we recognize that adults may wish to use the product to help them quit smoking traditional cigarettes, and so we are balancing the rights of those individuals against the need to minimize their accessibility to children and youth.

 

Vaping e-cigarettes look an awful lot like smoking and could serve to normalize smoking again. That's something we've worked very hard to stop over the years. Regulating e-cigarettes, as we do cigarettes, and regulating their sale and promotion is the latest step in this effort.

 

In Newfoundland and Labrador and other provinces, most licensed tobacco retailers, such as gas stations and convenience stories, sell e-cigarettes. There are also several speciality stores, vape shops, where e-cigarettes and nicotine e-juices are sold.

 

Under the proposed amendments these specialty stores will be treated similar to tobacco shops, provided the only business conducted is the sale of e-cigarettes and associated products. By regulating and not banning e-cigarettes, this approach balances the need for adults who want to access e-cigarettes to help them quit smoking, or as an alternative to smoking tobacco with the need to minimize concern over their easy accessibility to children and youth, their potential to re-normalize smoking and undermine smoke-free policies in indoor public places, workplaces and motor vehicles.

 

Adding flavours to tobacco products makes them less harsh and more attractive to young people. They're often packaged in brightly coloured scented packaging, again appealing to young people and increasing the possibility that they will experiment with this product. For these reasons, we are concerned about them serving as the gateway to tobacco addiction for youth.

 

Tobacco smoking during youth increases the likelihood youth will become regular smokers at some point in their lifetime. Research shows that menthol cigarette smoking is how many young people are introduced to smoking. Research also shows that menthol cigarette smokers find it very hard to quit smoking.

 

Hookah smoking uses water pipes to smoke specially made tobacco and non-tobacco products called shisha. Shisha is a sticky, sweet mixture of tobacco and/or other plant material, molasses and other flavours. The mixing of tobacco and non-tobacco products with flavours like fruit, chocolate, cherry and bubble gum have made hookah smoking more palatable and popular.

 

Shisha is heated with charcoal in the head of the hookah. The smoke passes through the base to the water bowl and is smoked through an attached hose or hoses. Hookah tobacco shisha smoke contains many of the same harmful toxins as cigarette smoke and has been associated with lung cancer, respiratory illness, low birth weight and gum disease. Smoking non-tobacco shisha products is not a safe alternative to smoking shisha products that contain tobacco.

 

Madam Speaker, the availability of non-tobacco shisha to youth is a cause for concern as smoking non-tobacco shisha increases the risk for smoking related cancers, heart disease and lung disease, as well as infectious diseases such as meningitis, hepatitis and influenza, if smoking is shared. Second-hand tobacco smoke from hookah pipes is also a risk for non-smokers, including employees of hookah establishments. The permitting of smoking any product in indoor public places sends an inconsistent message regarding smoking inside business establishments. Therefore, it is time to address the issue, as many other jurisdictions have, and ban the smoking of all shisha products from all indoor public places.

 

Madam Speaker, I know that other Members of this hon. House will be speaking to this legislation today as we move through the second reading and Committee stages. I encourage all Members to support these amendments which are designed to prevent and reduce smoking, particularly among young children and youth throughout our province.

 

I will have more to say when the time comes to close debate on the second reading. 

 

Thank you, Madam Speaker. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MADAM SPEAKER (Dempster): The Speaker recognizes the hon. Member for Fortune Bay – Cape La Hune. 

 

MS. PERRY: Thank you so much, Madam Speaker. 

 

I'm pleased to have an opportunity to lead the debate on behalf of the Official Opposition on Bill 35, An Act to Amend the Smoke-Free Environment Act, 2005 and the Tobacco Control Act.

 

As the minister has outlined both here and in the news conference earlier today, Bill 35 is a sizeable piece of legislation that attempts to address several issues at once. And it is unfortunate that we are not dealing with those issues individually because they are not the same, Madam Speaker. As I get into my speech, I will elaborate on why I'm making this commentary.

 

The vaping issue should certainly stand alone because it raises unique issues that we need to be addressing, not just provincially but as a country and a nation as a whole. Madam Speaker, Opposition Members received a briefing on this bill which, as I stated, is quite comprehensive, just Friday, and here we are today in second reading and perhaps Committee of the Whole. So we do feel like it is being rushed through fairly quickly. And over the course of this weekend, in addition to the briefing we had on Friday, we received a lot of emails, both from people who are in support of the bill and people who had some questions and concerns about the bill, Madam Speaker, and it is our view that all voices and all concerns need to be considered. We have heard, as I've said, that the bill has its supporters but we also know that there are others who believe strongly that this particular bill, as it is presently written, doesn't really strike the right balance that some people feel it should have.

 

Then there are the vast majority of the 530,000 Newfoundlanders and Labradorians that we all represent here in the House of Assembly. The vast majority of the people who we represent and who will be impacted by this bill do not yet know the details or implications of this legislation because they have not had the opportunity to hear about it or to talk about it or to have input into this legislation.

 

So like so much legislation in this sitting, it was rushed into the House, out of the blue, by a government that is saying to us trust us; we know what we're doing. We all have apprehensions about that, particularly in light of things these last few weeks. That's, of course, absolutely not the way that the Legislature is supposed to work.

 

The government departments may have been consulted but we, as legislators, must also be provided with the opportunity to do our own due diligence and consultations. Rushing through legislation without proper scrutiny and public consultation is not always the responsible way to make laws in the province – not on any matter, but especially on a public health matter.

 

The government gave the Opposition parties a briefing on the bill this Friday. It gave a press conference on the bill this Monday morning, and it expects the Opposition parties to vote in support of the legislation on Monday afternoon. Does that sound like due diligence? It certainly doesn't sound like due diligence to me, Madam Speaker.

 

If it were a simple housekeeping legislative measure, then maybe this approach might be appropriate. For some bills, that is the case, but this is absolutely not such a bill. This is a bill that may have health implications if we go too far in one direction, and it may have other health implications if we go too far in the other direction.

 

This is one of those bills that demand that we strike a very fine balance. There is another reason that we need to be sure we get this right the first time because similar legislation in other provinces, which they have modeled this legislation after, is now being challenged in the courts. The question that none of us know the answer to is: Will those pieces of legislation actually stand up in court?

 

What would the implications for us be if certain provisions in this legislation are struck down? What are the legal opinions on what the province is doing? I think certainly for all of us, as legislators here in the House, we feel like we should and need to see these legal opinions.

 

Here is another concern that needs to be addressed: Where is Health Canada on all of this? I've spent the weekend reading through the report done by the Standing Committee on Health, which has taken some time to review this matter, and it's quite a comprehensive document that has many questions as well, Madam Speaker.

 

Here, we have a matter that crosses jurisdictional lines. Health Canada definitely has the role and probably should be taking the lead role. Last year, the House of Commons received the report of the Standing Committee on Health regarding vaping. It recommended collaborative action by Ottawa and the provinces.

 

What has become of that? I asked the question today, Madam Speaker, during Question Period, but we never got an answer. We really would like to know, what is the status of the report? What has been done with the actions and recommendations coming out of that? Why are the provinces acting individually and bringing in a patchwork of laws and regulations when it makes much more sense for us to be working together? Those are just some of the many questions, and these questions are merely about the process itself.

 

Under second reading today, we will be proposing an amendment to send this legislation to a legislation review committee for proper public consultation and analysis. Because we have an obligation as legislators to do our own due diligence, and a process of public hearings is the means by which legislators all across this country, and federally, and in other countries, normally arrive at decisions on important and contentious matters like this one.

 

The Liberals promised legislation review committees in their 2015 red book. In fact, here's what the red book actually said, “A New Liberal Government will make better use of existing committees and seek opportunities for further nonpartisan cooperation.” Another quote, “Legislative review committees are well-established in Canada at both the provincial and federal level. These committees review proposed legislation, offer amendments, and call expert witnesses to provide information. They are an effective way to strengthen the role of elected members and reduce unnecessary partisanship in legislative debates.”

 

So far, we have not seen this government keep that promise, and hopefully this is going to be the place they make good to start on that commitment, and it would be nice to see a commitment actually brought to fruition.

 

This is certainly a bill that warrants broad consultation and review. Even if it doesn't result in any changes to the legislation as it's currently written, such a process will open up a wider public debate about vaping and smoking, and that is something that is badly needed in the province.

 

I think that one thing we all agree on, on both sides of the House, is working toward a smoke-free environment is the ideal type of situation we would all like to have for our loved ones.

 

It will raise public awareness of the new restrictions that government intends to impose. That, we feel, is very important as well, Madam Speaker. The public should be aware of what are in these bills before they are passed here in this hon. House.

 

It will educate parents and youth, smokers and others about vaping. It will help us, as legislators, to strike the right balance. That is particularly important when it comes to vaping.

 

Here is why the vaping issue is particularly important and here's the crux of the issue in the simplest of terms. On one side of the debate are those who are saying that vaping leads to smoking. On the other side of the debate are those who are saying that vaping helps people to quit smoking, but the issue is far more complicated than that. It is something we need to be talking about.

 

Should vaping be more or less accessible? Where is the greater harm? I believe the vaping aspect of this bill is the most significant and controversial, but as I said, it's not the only provision.

 

Before I address the vaping aspect in greater detail, let me mention the other provisions of the bill which also raise some questions. I'll start, Madam Speaker, with menthol cigarettes. This bill will allow the sale of certain flavoured cigars, but prevent the sale of menthol cigarettes. The rationale is that menthol is a flavour that appeals to youth, but the cigars tend to appeal more to adults. Is that the right judgment call? I think we should ask the public about that, or at least let them know that as of July next year they will not be able to buy menthol cigarettes in Newfoundland and Labrador.

 

Menthol cigarettes have been around for decades and, no doubt, there are smokers who use them regularly. Come next year, people may be able to buy marijuana cigarettes – and, of course, that's yet to be seen – but they won't be able to buy menthol cigarettes. Some people may question why that is the case. We know that banning things doesn't make them unavailable. We certainly know that, Madam Speaker. It just opens the door to an underworld.

 

Will the measures to ban flavoured tobacco products fuel a black markets in products that won't be sold or taxed in retail stores? Is that something we should be concerned about? Do law enforcement officials have a view on this? That's something we don't know as legislators, Madam Speaker, and something we would like to have some consultation on. Will this approach have its intended effect, or will it actually result in quite another unintended opposite effect?

 

The second issue that I'd like to draw some attention to is the hookah lounge. Another aspect of this bill is the ban it will impose on hookah lounges in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. There is only one such lounge in the province at present and it's in downtown St. John's. It was set up legally. This bill will essentially drive it out of business, at least as a hookah lounge.

 

We realize that the cities of Toronto and Vancouver, along with some provinces, are also banning hookah lounges. Hookah use is prevalent in the Middle East and North Africa. The patrons of the local hookah lounge are not exclusively from these regions, but for some people from these cultural communities, that lounge may be a cultural haven, and removing it may be viewed as culturally insensitive. We certainly would like to do some consultations with these people to find that our firsthand, Madam Speaker.

 

In Toronto, some lounge owners have raised objections about insensitivity. Public hearings would give the operator and the patrons the opportunity to make their case publicly. If in the end the decision to close the lounge is the same, at least they will have had the opportunity to make a public case and be heard by the legislators who will ultimately be making the decision. It is not just what we do, but how we do it, that is important. So by all means, let's give them the opportunity to be heard by sending this bill to a legislation review committee for public hearings.

 

Another issue, Madam Speaker, is marijuana legislation. It is impossible to talk about smoking legislation without considering what may happen next year when Ottawa is expected to bring forward its own legislation with respect to marijuana. This bill does not even deal with that, nor should it be expected to, but people are talking about it and we need to be listening. It's one more issue, similar to the issues in this bill, that we really need to open up a public dialogue about.

 

I do not envy parents whose children are struggling with all these issues. It must be very, very confusing for young people. We certainly empathize with them. Opening up a dialogue will help us identify the issues on which people need clarity.

 

Now, we're back to the issue of vaping, where clarity in this bill is desperately lacking. Governments in this country are all over the place – taking steps forward, backtracking, undecided on what to do.

 

A House of Commons Report of the Standing Committee on Health was issued in March of 2015. It was entitled, Vaping: Towards A Regulatory Framework For E-Cigarettes. It's an excellent report that everyone involved in this discussion should read from front to back. It calls for concerted federal-provincial action, with Ottawa taking the lead. That's certainly not the approach we see here in the form of Bill 35.

 

Let's consider where that report came from. On September 29, 2014, a letter from the Minister of Health to the Chair of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health stated: “Due to a lack of evidence on the benefits or harms of e-cigarettes, it would be helpful for the Standing Committee on Health to study their potential risks and benefits, seek advice from a variety of health stakeholders, and provide a report.”

 

So the Committee – on October 7, 2014 – adopted the following motion to set out its terms of reference for such a study: “That, immediately following the Committee's consideration of the draft report on marijuana's health risk and harms, the Committee undertake a study of no fewer than five (5) meetings on e-cigarettes beginning with a briefing from government officials and that this study focus on the following areas:

 

“(a) The potential risk, benefits and challenges associated with these products domestically, including the renormalization of smoking, and use as smoking cessation aids;

 

“(b) The pros and cons of ways in which different jurisdictions both domestically and internationally have chosen to regulate these products; and

 

“(c) Options for realizing any benefits and addressing any significant health and safety risks.

 

“While recognizing that business referred to the Committee by the House such as Government legislation or Estimates will take precedence in scheduling over this study. And that the Committee report its finding to the House.”

 

So the Committee went about and did its business. “The Committee held eight meetings with 33 witnesses, including federal government officials, health officials from other levels of government, manufacturers of electronic cigarettes and related devices, users of the devices, stakeholder organizations, and medical experts.

 

“The Committee heard from several witnesses that electronic devices intended to replace combustible cigarettes are not new, having first been introduced in 2007. However, as also described by witnesses, the technology surrounding these devices has changed over time, and continues to evolve rapidly.

 

“Health Canada officials told the Committee that although these devices are not regulated, those that contain nicotine have not received the necessary approvals from Health Canada. A warning from Health Canada to consumers to avoid the use of such devices was issued in 2009.

 

“The Department reported that 741 shipments containing electronic cigarettes were 'recommended for refusal' at the Canada-United States border between 1 April and 30 June 2014, while many retail outlets received 'cease and desist' letters related to the sale of such devices from the Department.

 

“In recent months, however, there has been increased attention given to electronic cigarettes, with a number of provincial and municipal jurisdictions having considered regulation, some legislation having been introduced and/or enacted, and data suggesting that use of these devices is increasing, including by young Canadians.

 

“In addition, the World Health Organization (WHO), of which Canada is a member, reported on an October 2014 Conference of the Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, inviting members dealing with electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) 'to consider taking measures … in order to achieve at least the following objectives, in accordance with national law:'

 

“(a) prevent the initiation of ENDS/ENNDS by non-smokers and youth with special attention to the vulnerable groups;

 

“(b) minimize as far as possible potential health risks to ENDS/ENNDS users and protect non-users from exposure to their emissions;

 

“(c) prevent unproven health claims from being made about ENDS/ENNDS; and

 

“(d) protect tobacco-control activities from all commercial and other vested interests related to ENDS/ENNDS, including interests of the tobacco industry.

 

“The WHO also issued an invitation to the signatories of the framework convention 'to consider prohibiting or regulating ENDS/ENNDS, including as tobacco products, medicinal products, consumer products, or other categories, as appropriate, taking into account a high level of protection for human health.' In their appearance before the Committee, Health Canada officials suggested that current research results are not sufficient as a basis for determining appropriate regulatory responses.

 

“Witnesses before the Committee addressed the issues identified in the original motion, covering the effectiveness of the status quo in Canada and in other countries with respect to regulating electronic cigarettes, the extent to which these devices are known to put users and others at risk in health terms, the extent to which they are effective in reducing harm to users and others, whether and to what extent they may serve as a 'gateway' for users to combustible tobacco, concerns with access to the devices by youth and other non-smokers, and whether they may be effective in reducing or eliminating the use of combustible tobacco now and in the future. Additional issues raised frequently by witnesses were the need for more extensive research to provide sufficient evidence on the impact of electronic cigarettes, and how electronic cigarette use could impact tobacco control, particularly on whether it would 'renormalize' smoking.”

 

So here are some of the things that the Commons committee reported. “While there was widespread agreement among witnesses that insufficient evidence exists to reach a clear conclusion with respect to health risks or benefits associated with the use of electronic cigarettes, there were different interpretations of the limited evidence available.

 

“Differences of opinion about health risks or benefits included risks imposed on users and upon bystanders.”

 

“Witnesses also discussed risks to individuals who are in close proximity to users of electronic cigarettes. Opinions varied in terms of what those risks might be and the appropriate response to them. While there have been significant restrictions on the use of tobacco where bystanders might be exposed to 'second-hand' smoke, no such restrictions exist with respect to electronic cigarettes. As Dr. Milan Khara pointed out, protecting bystanders from the effects of second-hand vapour was one of the recommendations made by the WHO.

 

“The Committee heard that there is not sufficient evidence about what impact, if any, electronic cigarette use might have on bystanders. Some witnesses cited research demonstrating only a minimal impact, while others raised concern about possible or probably negative impacts.”

 

“Virtually all witnesses identified the apparent reduced harm to the users of electronic cigarettes containing nicotine compared to the users of combustible tobacco cigarettes. As discussed in the previous section on health risks, however, there were concerns about whether the reduction in harm for smokers justified the risks of introducing a new product with nicotine. For example, the Committee heard from one witness:

 

“Although (electronic cigarettes are) less risky than tobacco, this is by no means a harmless product. Although we believe it should be made accessible to all smokers who look to reduce the harm they might suffer from their addiction, it should definitely not be a way to banalize nicotine addiction or nicotine use.

 

“Other testimony suggested the substantial costs to the health care system related to the results of smoking are sufficient reason to consider the substitution of electronic cigarettes for conventional cigarettes, regardless of the impacts on reductions in nicotine consumption or ultimate cessation of use of either device:

 

“Tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause of disease and premature death in Canada … and approximately 85% of lung cancer deaths. International models have shown that by getting tobacco users to quit, cancer mortality can be significantly reduced…. Emerging evidence suggests that nicotine-containing e-cigarettes may be a less harmful nicotine product containing fewer carcinogens than combustible cigarettes and other tobacco products. As such, nicotine-containing e-cigarettes may be a product that could help smokers reduce their health risks, and may help them to quit.”

 

“Witness before the Committee suggested that electronic cigarettes are effective smoking cessation devices. In addition, the Committee received letters from users of these products indicating that their use has resulted in a reduction or elimination of smoking tobacco cigarettes. Still other witnesses and other stakeholders identified the potential of electronic cigarettes to support smoking cessation.”

 

“The testimony before the Committee on the 'gateway effect' focussed largely on the extent to which electronic cigarettes are being used by individuals who have never smoked, including youth, and by youth more generally.”

 

“Data on youth experimentation with electronic cigarettes were provided by witnesses. For example, Health Canada officials said that an Ontario study showed in 2013 'nearly 15% of students in grades 9 to 12 were reported to have tried e-cigarettes.

 

“Witnesses identified advertising of electronic cigarettes targeted to youth as a significant concern, often citing candy flavoured electronic cigarettes as being particularly appealing to youth. Other witnesses have told the Committee that such flavours are not intended to target youth, and that the availability of a variety of flavours is important in encouraging smokers to switch to electronic cigarettes. For example, one witness expressed the opinion that flavourings are not being used to target youth, noting that 'we have evidence that demonstrates that the flavour of descriptors of our products do not appeal to non-smoking teens, but do appeal to smoking adults.' Finally, one witness expressed the importance of flavours: 'banning e-liquid flavours represents an effective ban on e-cigarettes, as all e-liquid is flavoured, including tobacco flavours.' ”

 

“The Committee heard much testimony on the role that an electronic-cigarette use could have on undermining the gains made by tobacco control efforts, both in Canada and internationally. This phenomenon is referred to as the 'renormalizing effect' ….”

 

“The extent of youth experimentation with electronic cigarettes varied across provinces and countries; however, almost all witnesses agreed that all such experimentation should be discouraged and that sales of electronic cigarettes, with or without nicotine, be prohibited to people under the age of 18.

 

“Daniel David (Chair of the Board, Electronic Cigarette Trade Association) told the Committee that most electronic cigarette shops require proof-of-age identification for people who appear to be under the age of 25, and Boris Giller (Co-founder, 180 Smoke) explained to the Committee that for Internet purchases, Canada Post and other couriers can verify age at delivery.

 

“A dissenting opinion on this age restriction was offered by Dr. John Britton who added the following caveat: '[w]hilst I entirely agree that limiting access to young people is probably a good thing, particularly if we have young people who are otherwise going to smoke, it would make far more sense to have them use an electronic cigarette.' ”

 

“At the same time, witnesses told the Committee that harm reduction for current smokers could be hindered by overly restrictive access to electronic cigarette and that making electronic cigarettes less accessible than tobacco products would deter smokers from choosing this less dangerous alternative. As described by one witness, steps to make these devices less accessible than tobacco products would 'provide a competitive advantage for tobacco cigarettes.' Another witness said I think that if you're really looking at it from a public health standpoint and you want consumers of traditional tobacco products to have access to electronic cigarettes, they need to have as much access as they have to tobacco. My feeling is that if a smoker can walk a block to get their pack of cigarettes, they should be able to have access to electronic cigarettes within that same distance.”

 

Another witness has made more comments, Madam Speaker. Among witnesses and stakeholders who supported access to electronic cigarettes for current smokers, there were bringing forward varying approaches and identifying varying approaches.

 

So you can see from just the witnesses I have mentioned so far to the World Health Organization, there is certainly a lot of variety in people's opinions on this whole issue. In fact, many witnesses propose that devices with nicotine should be available without a prescription. So you have many varying opinions and points of view.

 

“Others suggested that to be effective in reducing harm or supporting smoking cessation, the sale of electronic cigarettes should be accompanied by expert advice and training in the use of the devices and other related products, including nicotine-containing liquid.”

 

“The Committee heard from Health Canada officials, public health officials, and other witnesses that there is a paucity of scientific evidence on many aspects of electronic cigarettes, including the following issues identified in this report: health impacts on users and bystanders; the gateway effect (particularly for youth); the renormalization effect; and smoking cessation. The Committee heard that requirements imposed by Health Canada for the authorization of electronic cigarettes with nicotine for sale in Canada, and similar requirements in the UK, are too onerous on producers, and that further research on the health effects of electronic cigarettes, possibly independent of the manufacturers or distributors of electronic cigarettes and related products, is needed. Therefore, the Committee recommends:

 

“RECOMMENDATION 1: That the Government of Canada financially support research through existing channels, and that these funds be allocated to independent research on the health effects of electronic cigarettes and related devices, and their impact on the uptake of nicotine products by youth and on other tobacco control efforts.”

 

“All of the witnesses who raised the issue of regulating electronic cigarettes agreed that some type of product and industry regulation is needed.” So, Madam Speaker, even though there are differing points of view as to how we move forward, everyone does agree that some type of regulations are needed. What exactly these regulations should look like, I think the argument is strong that we still need more time and more research to be undertaken.

 

A variety of approaches have been taken around the world “with respect to regulating electronic cigarettes including regulating them as tobacco products, regulating them as therapeutic products, and regulating them as consumer products. Some witnesses stated that provisions relating to federal tobacco regulation should apply to electronic cigarettes, while one witness suggested that regulating them as therapeutic products would be appropriate.” So, again, you can see the many differing points of view.

 

“The majority of witnesses who spoke on the subject of regulation, however, felt that regulating them as tobacco products or as therapeutic products would be problematic for a number of reasons because electronic cigarettes are unique products that fit neither the tobacco nor the therapeutic regulatory model. A regulatory model designed specifically for electronic cigarettes would therefore be appropriate.”

 

“The majority of witnesses who spoke about how electronic cigarettes should be regulated expressed the opinion that none of the existing frameworks (tobacco products, therapeutic products, or consumer products) would be suitable for regulating electronic cigarettes, and two of the witnesses who proposed regulating them as tobacco products suggested that that approach only be an interim solution until a new regulatory framework is established.”

 

“Many witnesses expressed the opinion that the regulatory approach needed to be proportionate to risk; as one witness pointed out, electronic cigarettes have a 'hugely different risk profile' than combustible tobacco. One witness expressed the opinion that forcing electronic cigarettes into the tobacco regulatory framework would make electronic cigarettes less accessible and appealing, and another noted that 'we want the less hazardous products to be the more available products.'” So, again, you can see how those who believe that electronic cigarettes will minimize the number of people who actually start smoking cigarettes, from their point of view, the more access you have to the e-cigarettes the better to prevent them turning to the real cigarettes.

 

As you can see from their consultations that they've had, there's still much work left to be doing and still a great deal of varying opinions out there and so much that we really don't know. “David M. Graham expressed the opinion that requiring a prescription for electronic cigarettes makes little sense: [T]he comparison between electronic cigarettes and combustion cigarettes is unavoidable. If combustion cigarettes are limited to access only by prescription, then perhaps it may be appropriate to think about similar restrictions on e-cigarettes. But it's perverse in the extreme to believe that a product that is so harmful, that kills half of its long-term users, is widely available and that a product that is a magnitude of difference in risk would be more highly restricted. It's an upside-down logic ….”

 

Here's what the House of Commons Committee recommended. They have a number of regulations, Madam Speaker, and I'm going to read into the record what the House of Commons Management Committee has stated.

 

“RECOMMENDATION 2: That the Government of Canada work with all affected stakeholders to establish a new legislative framework (under the Tobacco Act, new legislation, or other relevant statues) for regulating electronic cigarettes and related devices.

 

“RECOMMENDATION 3: That the Government of Canada consult with the public, provinces/territories and stakeholders with respect to the regulation of electronic cigarettes with a view to protecting the health of Canadians.” And at the end of the day, that's what we all want to do is protect the health of Canadians and do what is in the best interest of all the people we represent, Madam Speaker.

 

“Many witnesses also spoke of the need to establish product quality and safety standards. The use of electronic cigarette flavourings was also a frequently-raised subject, but there was no consensus as to whether these flavourings should be restricted as they are in tobacco products.”

 

Here's what the House of Commons Committee recommended. “RECOMMENDATION 4: That the Government of Canada work with all affected stakeholders to establish a new legislative framework (under the Tobacco Act, new legislation, or other relevant statutes) for regulating electronic cigarettes and related devices and that this new framework address both electronic cigarettes that contain nicotine and other substances and electronic cigarettes that do not contain nicotine.”

 

They also considered the appearance of e-cigarettes and recommended this. “RECOMMENDATION 5: That the Government of Canada work with all affected stakeholders to establish a new legislative framework (under the Tobacco Act, new legislation, or other relevant statutes) for regulating electronic cigarettes and related devices and that this new framework require that electronic cigarettes be visually distinct from other tobacco products.”

 

They considered the importance of ensuring the level of nicotine in the products is regulated, so they made these following recommendations. “RECOMMENDATION 6: That the Government of Canada work with all affected stakeholders to establish a new legislative framework (under the Tobacco Act, new legislation, or other relevant statutes) for regulating electronic cigarettes and related devices and that this new framework establish maximum levels of nicotine contained in electronic cigarette liquid or vapour.”

 

“Many witnesses spoke of the need to establish reporting mechanisms to gather data about the safety of electronic cigarettes, the need to require manufacturers to disclose ingredients in the electronic cigarettes, and the need to establish certain manufacturing and safety standards for electronic cigarettes.

 

“With respect to the importance of gathering data, Dr. Peter Selby suggested that 'we need to have a detailed surveillance and monitoring system that can tell us what people are using and what harms they're coming to.' Another witness noted that smoking uptake should be monitored, and then regulations should be modified if there is an increase in uptake.

 

“Other witnesses mentioned that manufacturers should be required to publicly disclose ingredients in electronic cigarettes, or to disclose the contents and emissions of the products to the government.”

 

The Commons Committee in Recommendation 7 stated: “That the Government of Canada work with all affected stakeholders to establish a new legislative framework … for regulating electronic cigarettes and related devices and that this new framework establish standards relating to the safety of all components of electronic cigarettes, and also require manufacturers and importers of electronic cigarettes to disclose information relating to ingredients.”

 

They also had recommendations on packaging and labeling. Recommendation 8 states: “That the Government of Canada work with all affected stakeholders to establish a new legislative framework … for regulating electronic cigarettes and related devices and that this new framework require that electronic cigarette components be sold in child-resistant packaging, and that all packaging clearly and accurately indicate the concentration of nicotine and contain appropriate safety warnings about the product.”

 

“With respect to claims that electronic cigarettes could assist smokers in quitting, a few witnesses stated that manufacturers should be prohibited from making unproven health claims about their products. As one witness mentioned, '[e]-cigarette manufacturers should be required to comply with the same stringent criteria as other manufacturers of smoking cessation aids before being allowed to make such claims.'”

 

The Committee therefore recommended this for Recommendation 9: “That the Government of Canada work with all affected stakeholders to establish a new legislative framework … for regulating electronic cigarettes and related devices and that this new framework prohibit electronic cigarette manufacturers from making unproven health claims.”

 

There was also, Madam Speaker, “broad agreement that the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors should be prohibited. Rob Cunningham stressed the importance of enforcing any prohibition against selling electronic cigarettes to minors that might be established in legislation: [B]anning e-cigarette sales to minors by itself is insufficient to protect youth. We know from long-standing experience with tobacco legislation that sales to minors laws are notoriously difficult to enforce. The most recent Health Canada evaluation found that fully one in six stores sold tobacco illegally to youth. Kids find and know the stores that are willing to sell illegally.”

 

The committee recommended this as Recommendation 10, “That the Government of Canada work with all affected stakeholders to establish a new legislative framework … for regulating electronic cigarettes and related devices and that this new framework prohibit the sale of electronic cigarettes or other electronic nicotine delivery systems to persons under the age of 18.

 

“… concerns about 'renormalization' of smoking were expressed by several witnesses, as were concerns about potential health risks to bystanders. Of the witnesses who raised the issue of where the use of electronic cigarettes should be permitted, the majority told the Committee that their use should be prohibited in indoor public spaces, where smoking is prohibited, and in workplaces and public spaces that are under federal jurisdiction where smoking is already banned. A few witnesses suggested there should be greater latitude with respect to where electronic cigarette use should be permitted. For example, Dr. Ostiguy suggested that exceptions should be made to allow the use of electronic cigarettes in certain public spaces such as in prisons and in palliative care facilities. Dr. Britton also mentioned that allowing electronic cigarettes to be used in mental health facilities 'would make sense.'

 

“Boris Giller stated that a number of smokers switch to electronic cigarettes because they can use the products indoors: '[i]t's one of the top reasons why people do it. We ask that you don't ban indoor vaping as long as there's no proof of second-hand vaping harm.' With respect to proof of harm, Mr. Giller stated that '[air quality research] shows that e-cigarette second-hand vape is well below the occupational hazard threshold in air quality, so we would ask you to allow indoor vaping at the establishment's discretion and not send ex-smokers outside to breathe second-hand smoke.' ”

 

So in response to his witness testimony there, here what's the Common's committee recommended in Recommendation 11. You will see, Madam Speaker – I'm going to come back to this as well – every recommendations has the same opening sentence: “That the Government of Canada work with all affected stakeholders to establish a new legislative framework ….”

 

There is a reason I point out that emphasis because I'm drawing close to wrapping up soon. There is a theme in every single recommendation that calls upon the Government of Canada to establish a new legislative framework and in this recommendation, “… for regulating electronic cigarettes and related devices and that this new framework prohibit the use of electronic cigarettes and other electronic nicotine delivery systems in federally regulated public spaces.”

 

Then of course there's the issue of advertising. “Advertising of electronic cigarettes was the issue raised most frequently by witnesses. Every witness who spoke to this issue noted that some type of advertising restriction would be required for the marketing of electronic cigarettes.

 

“Many witnesses who discussed advertising indicated that electronic cigarettes should be subject to the same advertising and promotion restrictions that are in place for tobacco products, or that advertising should be strictly regulated. As Dr. David McKeown stated:

 

“Federal regulation is also urgently needed to address […] e-cigarette promotion and advertising. We've been disturbed to see that e-cigarettes are marketed, particularly in the United States, in similar ways that cigarettes were promoted before most tobacco advertising and promotion was prohibited through federal tobacco legislation. This includes strategies such as free product offers, celebrity endorsements, overt lifestyle advertising, and attractive product packaging and flavours. This type of promotion influences the perceived acceptability of e-cigarette use and smoking, and I'm particularly concerned about its impact on youth.”

 

So that was one of the concerns expressed by Dr. David McKeown.

 

“Other witnesses recommended a less comprehensive approach to advertising restrictions. Daniel David indicated that he 'would support some very specific marketing restrictions,' particularly with respect to marketing to individuals who have never smoked or to youth, but also stated that 'it is important to have some aspect of marketing to let current smokers know that [an alternate] product is available.'

 

“David M. Graham echoed that opinion: We believe that advertising is critically important to raise awareness of this new class of products, but unfettered advertising with no restrictions, no rules, and no limitations is entirely irresponsible. Therefore, we support restrictions on advertising that allow it to take place with appropriate rules that are enforced by an appropriate body.

 

“Boris Giller was concerned about the potential impact advertising could have on the electronic cigarette industry: '[it] would kill competition. It would reduce the appeal, compared to cigarettes. It would harm innovation and limit the recruitment of smokers....'

 

“Given that protecting youth from becoming addicted to nicotine is of great concern to the Committee, and given the concerns that have been expressed by witnesses that non-smokers who start using electronic cigarettes may start using tobacco products (the “gateway effect”), the Committee recommends:

 

“RECOMMENDATION 12: That the Government of Canada work with all affected stakeholders to establish a new legislative framework (under the Tobacco Act, new legislation, or other relevant statutes) for regulating electronic cigarettes and related devices and that this new framework restrict advertising and promotional activities for these products.”

 

The Committee also discussed the role of the tobacco industry with respect to electronic cigarettes, and the issue of cross-branding or co-branding, which involves tobacco industry logos being used on electronic cigarettes. “To address the concern that cross-branding could contribute to the renormalization of smoking and increased take-up of tobacco products, the Committee recommends:

 

“Recommendation 13: That the Government of Canada work with all affected stakeholders to establish a new legislative framework … and that this new framework prohibit cross-branding practices, which can involve tobacco industry logos being used on electronic cigarettes.”

 

The Committee also made a recommendation about flavours on its electronic cigarettes and it said: “That the Government of Canada work with all affected stakeholders to establish a new legislative framework … and that this new framework prohibit the use of flavouring in electronic cigarette liquids that are specifically designed to appeal to youth, such as candy flavourings.”

 

There was a news story on Global News in January about vaping, among many other news stories on the subject of late. David Sweanor, an adjunct professor of law at the University of Ottawa, has spent 30 years as a public health advocate and he sees e-cigarettes as an alternative to cigarettes.

 

He is quoted as saying: “We've ended up with an industry that is largely self-regulated … But it's becoming a more controlled market over time. If anything the products have become much better.” He said: there is “no question” that e-cigarettes can be a helpful smoking aide.

 

He said: “The reality is 37,000 Canadians are going to die this year as a direct result of cigarette smoking, most of them are saying, 'I wish I didn't smoke,' but they are dependent on nicotine …. The whole idea of alternatives to cigarettes as a way of getting rid of cigarettes has absolutely enormous public health potential.”

 

David Hammond, a professor in the school of public health at the University of Waterloo, is quoted as saying: “E-cigarettes almost certainly have some health risk, but that risk will be substantially lower than smoking cigarettes.”

 

Madam Speaker, that brings us back to this bill. You will notice in all of these recommendations, some of which may have seemed repetitive, as I read them out, the Standing Committee clearly called upon the federal government to enact a new regulatory framework and that the provinces work in partnership with the feds to bring that about.

 

That brings us to the bill we have right here in the House of Assembly, a standalone bill in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador and it leaves us with the question: Does this bill, as its currently written and presented to the House, and given to us just last Thursday, does this particular bill strike the right balance? Are we moving forward with enough information? Should we be taking a closer look of what other provinces and Ottawa are doing or intending to do? Should we listen to people, informed people, and engage people in this discussion?

 

We need to open up the discussion and bring people to the table in a public forum. And that, Madam Speaker, I guess is where the view of the Opposition is, that if we're going to have true consultation and if we're going to develop a bill that truly meets all the needs of the people in our province, we really need a broader discussion and we really need a public forum.

 

We need a legislation review committee, and as I said in my opening remarks, Madam Speaker, the legislation review committees were a promise of the Liberal red book and this is a great opportunity, we feel, for the Members opposite to honour that commitment to the people of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

 

So I therefore propose the following amendment, seconded by my colleague the Member for Cape St. Francis: That the motion for second reading of Bill 35, which is now before the House of Assembly, be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following therefor: “Bill No. 35, An Act To Amend The Smoke-Free Environment Act, 2005 And The Tobacco Control Act, be not now read a second time, but that the Order be discharged, the Bill withdrawn and the subject-matter thereof referred to the Social Services Committee of the House for public consultation and review.”

 

Thank you, Madam Speaker. 

 

MADAM SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

The Member for Fortune Bay – Cape La Hune has put forth a motion and this House will now take a brief recess to consider the motion.

 

Recess

 

MADAM SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

The amendment put forward by the Member for Fortune Bay – Cape La Hune, seconded by the Member for Cape St. Francis, the Speaker has found to be in order.

 

The Speaker recognizes the hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. HAGGIE: Thank you very much, Madam Speaker.

 

This reminds me very much of the situation I watched as a teenager unfold in the UK House of Commons when you had these Fabian tactics by ministers and members who essentially represented the tobacco lobby and the manufacturers of these products.

 

The approach they took was simply to delay. We've seen a masterful obfuscation of the entire debate around vaping, around e-cigarettes, blowing smoke, if you like, over the whole issue. I think really this amendment is just a ploy to remove from this House the ability to make decisions about its own future and to steer its own course.

 

The Member opposite referenced extensively the Government of Canada having to do this, and the Government of Canada having to do that. The facts of the case are that the committee in question was a committee of the Government of Canada and was not actually in a position to make recommendations that were realistically going to be enacted by anybody else. So I think that argument fails simply at that level.

 

The rest of the debate, really, has not really been a debate as yet; it's simply been extensive quotations from one or two documents with the aim of muddying the waters and, as I say, blowing smoke of a kind over the whole issue. I would urge Members on both sides of the House to take their future into their own hands and to vote on this. The due diligence has been done, and I would vote against this amendment.

 

MR. SPEAKER (Warr): The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl North.

 

MR. KENT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I'm pleased to get an opportunity to rise and speak to Bill 35. We're now debating an amendment, and for those that might be just tuning in to the House of Assembly this afternoon, it's a hoist amendment. I'll read it for you, and then I'll explain why we're bringing this amendment forward today:

 

That the motion for second reading – which is what we're doing right now – of Bill 35, which is now before the House of Assembly, be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following therefor: “Bill No. 35, An Act To Amend The Smoke-Free Environment Act, 2005 And The Tobacco Control Act, be not now read a second time, but that the Order be discharged, the Bill withdrawn and the subject-matter thereof referred to the Social Services Committee of the House for public consultation and review.”

 

So that motion was presented by the Member for Fortune Bay – Cape La Hune and seconded by the Member for Cape St. Francis. We believe it's important to delay, not because of some kind of conspiracy theory as suggested by the Minister of Health and Community Services, but because there's still work to be done on this legislation. Beyond attempting to present amendments in Committee, which may or may not be in order and may or may not address all of the concerns, the hoist amendment is a mechanism that allows us to do that. We're saying let's create an opportunity for the public to have input on some of these issues.

 

I suspect that most of us in the House agree with the vast majority of what's proposed in Bill 35. I know I do. I don't have a problem with much of what's presented in Bill 35, but we're talking about a sizeable piece of legislation that covers a number of issues and it's really come out of the blue. I know that government, past government and current government, has been trying to figure out how to tackle these issues for some time, so it hasn't come out of the blue in that sense; but it has come out of the blue in the sense that the first time the bill was presented to us was Thursday, there was a briefing on Friday and now we're into the debate.

 

Mr. Speaker, I'll acknowledge that's not uncommon. It's not uncommon at all. However, we're talking about issues that aren't quite clear cut. We're not talking about straightforward legislation. We're talking about legislation that contains some provisions that are in fact somewhat controversial.

 

So we haven't had a lot of time to consult with various people out there who may have strong opinions on this. We need time to understand the full implications of the bill and the public needs the chance to do the same, and also provide feedback.

 

I think there needs to be more opportunity to consult with those that the legislation impacts, not just health advocacy groups, not just industry, but people, people who are going to be immediately and, in some cases, significantly impacted by this legislation.

 

I think sending the bill to a legislation review committee and holding a series of public meetings to gather input makes sense. And in fact, in the red book of 2015, filled with election promises, the Liberals promised legislation review committees. So here's a perfect opportunity to give that a whirl and see if that approach will work, because I believe in this instance it will work. I think creating more opportunity for public consultation on matters like this makes sense.

 

So while the Liberals haven't yet kept that promise, this is certainly a bill that warrants further review and if nothing else, Mr. Speaker, it would open up a wider public debate about vaping and smoking and I don't think that's a bad thing. I don't smoke, I don't vape, I have no intention of doing either, but there are people out there who do vape. There are many people out there who have used vaping as a way to stop smoking. I believe that when we're talking about public health, when we're talking about the health of our population, there is a role for legitimate harm reduction strategies. I think that vaping can contribute to that.

 

The minister was a little critical of my colleague for talking about the federal government, but I think it is relevant to ask the question: What's going on federally? Last year the House of Commons did receive a report from the Standing Committee on Health that was about vaping. It recommended collaborative action by Ottawa and the provinces. So we have to ask the question, Mr. Speaker: What has come of that? Why are provinces forced to act alone because the federal government isn't providing leadership on this issue?

 

Now we're going to see across the country a continuation of a patchwork of laws and regulations when we all ought to be on the same page on a matter of public health that affects all Canadians, and not just people in Newfoundland and Labrador and not just people in any one particular province or territory.

 

Another concern that I think the Member did a good job raising earlier is that some of these laws are now being challenged in the courts. So will they stand up, and if not, is there legal advice that government has obtained on whether we're on solid ground when enacting similar legislation? Those are legitimate questions that I'm hoping we'll get answers to, if not during this debate on the hoist amendment maybe in the overall second reading debate or maybe when we get into the Committee stage of debate, whether that's this afternoon, this evening or on another day.

 

I know there's much debate out there about whether or not vaping is a safe alternative to smoking but – and I'm not a medical expert, not a doctor, I'm not a pharmacist, I'm not a smoker. So I'm not the most qualified person to stand in this House and speak on this issue, but there are a number of people in my life who have given up smoking and have switched to vaping and swear by it and say that it's made an amazing difference in their lives.

 

I know there's lots of research on both sides of this debate. There is no doubt about it. As Members can tell, I'm focusing very much on the vaping issues in this bill. There are a lot of other elements of the bill that I don't have a lot of questions about and I don't have a lot of problem with, to be frank, but I think there are some concerns being expressed by the vaping community that are worth discussing further and worth considering further.

 

I know lots of people who swear by vaping and believe it can actually help people quit smoking, it has helped them, and reduce the risk of illness that is caused by smoking. There are some studies out there overseas, across the pond, that suggests vaping is actually 95 per cent safer than cigarettes. Now, there's probably evidence to refute that point as well, Mr. Speaker, but the point is there's not clarity. There's an overwhelming amount of evidence on all sides of the argument and I think for that reason we need to give this some further consideration.

 

We don't want to do anything that normalizes the activity of smoking. To the minister's original comments today, but if vaping is used appropriately as a means of harm reduction, then it can be offered in a way, it can be provided in a way that doesn't encourage young people to partake. It's why some of our vaping shops, which have largely been self-regulated to date, don't allow minors in their stores for that very reason. That's a choice they've made themselves. This bill will actually allow minors in those stores. So there are some legitimate concerns being brought forward that I think are worthy of further discussion rather than having this bill rushed through today.

 

I think vaping products do need to be regulated. I do think there's risk. I do think there needs to be better regulation and that is the responsibility of the federal government. We need Health Canada and other federal agencies to step up in that regard.

 

One of the big concerns that's been expressed by some local retailers, local businesses and people involved in the vaping community is will vaping retailers be able to promote their products through online sites, through Facebook groups and pages. There's not consistency across the country. I think we need some clarity on the language that's actually used in this bill here. It's another example of an issue that warrants further consideration and review, and is a reason why we should delay and take more time to get public input and address some of these issues.

 

If most of us in this House agree with most of the things that are in Bill 35, it probably wouldn't take a considerable amount of time and effort to get to a point where hopefully more of us at the very least agree with, if not all of the things, most of the things that are in the bill. I think we can build greater consensus by allowing for more public input on some of these issues.

 

Under this bill, another concern is that vaping retailers won't be able to show their customers how to use vaping devices without breaking the law. I recognize there are lots of products and services we buy where we don't get an opportunity to test them out in store, but in this particular case there is a real safety issue.

 

We've all seen the horrific picture – I assume we've all seen the horrific pictures of these e-cigarettes exploding. Part of the challenge is if the products are used incorrectly and if the wrong products are combined with one another, there can be risk. So knowing how to use these products for those that are using them is incredibly important and being able to test those products in store is incredibly important.

 

The legislation as proposed actually restricts that. Whereas there are other jurisdictions in Canada that have taken a more progressive approach – I almost used the word “liberal.” I'll use it; they've taken a more liberal approach – small l, not big L. I wanted to say that, Minister, but it would be unparliamentary.

 

There's an opportunity here for us to do the same, to take a more balanced approach, to take a more progressive approach and to look at what other jurisdictions, like Manitoba, have done. I've wrongly several times today – I need to apologize to the people of the Prairies. I've, at several points today, said Saskatchewan when I've meant Manitoba. So I want to clarify that and apologize.

 

The legislation that's in Manitoba is actually far more progressive than what's being proposed here. So why not delay and take the time to actually have a look at all of that and figure out if we can adopt some aspects of that legislation to make ours even better.

 

So I commend government for bringing this bill forward. It's been in the works for a while. I think that addressing some of these issues is critical, and anything we can do to discourage people from smoking and to prevent young people from taking up smoking to begin with, those are good things.

 

When it comes to flavoured tobacco, you won't hear any arguments from me. There are lots of things that are in this bill that make perfectly good sense and that I think we can all agree on, but there are some areas that are not so clear cut that require further consideration and consultation. I think reasonable people in the vaping community will acknowledge that.

 

Nobody is saying don't regulate. There needs to be regulations in place. It is a matter of public health, so it makes sense to regulate, but this could open up a whole host of other issues as well. There are other implications. How do people feel about the province banning menthol cigarettes? Did people know before today that this would be happening next year under this bill? Maybe it's the right thing to do, but I think there's an opportunity for the public to be more engaged in what's going on here.

 

Another point that my colleague raised earlier is around the potential for a black market. Will the government be creating a black market for products that will be distributed but not taxed based on some of the measures that are proposed here? I think that's a real possibility if we can't fix this legislation.

 

What happens next year, Mr. Speaker, when the federal government changes marijuana legislation? Does the bill anticipate the changes that might happen at that point in time, or will we be back to the drawing board and required to do more amendments? I think that's an issue that's on the horizon that's worth talking about as well while we're having this debate.

 

It came up in the news conference this morning that I had the opportunity to attend along with my colleague from Fortune Bay – Cape La Hune. There is a business in St. John's that will be shut down as a result of this decision, or what's proposed in this legislation. That's not in itself a reason not to proceed, but it has to be a consideration. I was pleased to hear the minister say in the news conference that contact has been made with the owner of that business and steps are being taken to help that individual transition to a modified business, a new business. So that's important, and I don't want that to get lost in the course of this debate as well.

 

I have a few minutes left, so I'd like to share with you some of the feedback I have received from the public on this issue. We're speaking to the hoist amendment right now. There are lots of people out there who agree that we should take more time to consider this matter. I will have another opportunity during second reading debate to speak further to some of these issues I hope, but I do want to share some of what I've heard so far.

 

Many MHAs – I think all MHAs – received a note from a gentleman named Andrew Wilkins this weekend. He says: I've been vaping for just over two years. Vaping has become a lifesaver for me and has helped with my health tremendously. I was borderline COPD and vaping has prevented this from progressing, and not to mention the rest of the things it changed in my life: taste, smell, breathing, et cetera, the list goes on.

 

I understand that vape shops are about to undergo some changes if the bill goes through. Not being able to vape in a vape shop testing flavours, et cetera, is not fair to the customers nor to the business or the industry as a whole. Second-hand vapour is no worse than the air you breathe in walking down a busy street. I was in Toronto last week and I found it harder to breathe walking down Yonge Street than it is to sit home or to be in a vape shop chain vaping.

 

People have a passion and have made some serious life changes because of this industry. Why ruin the experience of going into a vape shop and hindering the industry as a whole. We are a community that are helping to save lives and to bring a healthier alternative to people's lives. I can go on and on about how this will affect the industry, but at the end of the day it's up to you guys to make this decision that will affect the industry and life-changing experience for newcomers that want to quit smoking.

 

I'm happy to put that on the record on behalf of one citizen of our province who is concerned. I don't necessarily share his views completely. Personally, second-hand vapour is not something that I'm interested in breathing in. In my home, in enclosed places where I am, I don't let my friends smoke – or not smoke, sorry, vape around me. That's a matter of personal choice. I know that some of the science and some of the research are inconclusive. What I do feel confident in saying is that second-hand vapour is a heck of a lot less harmful than second-hand smoke, so I'll agree with Mr. Wilkins to at least that extent.

 

I do see merit in allowing vape shops the ability to have their customers test products and use products in their stores. I do think that makes sense. I don't think restricting advertising and promotion, exactly the same way that it's restricted as the tobacco industry, is reasonable and fair. I think we can take a more progressive approach than that would satisfy some of the concerns of the vaping community and the vaping industry.

 

I believe I have time for at least one more note, so I'll share this with you, Mr. Speaker. I look forward to further opportunities to take part in the debate. One of my own constituents has been sending emails for some time to, I think, Members of government but certainly Members of the Opposition, and has been a real advocate for sensible regulations when it comes to vaping, when it comes to e-cigarettes because he knew that it was inevitable this issue would come up. Many jurisdictions in Canada have regulations in place. Many jurisdictions in Canada are waiting for the federal government to show leadership and collaborate with the provinces and territories, which I think is what's needed at this point.

 

He says: This bill is just awful and a terrible disappointment in the Liberals, but the disappointment in the Liberals is nothing new. I think he probably voted for me as well, Mr. Speaker, so I'm thankful for that. I don't know that to be sure.

 

You may recall, I sent a series of about a dozen or so emails to both yourselves and the government regarding electronic cigarettes linking approximately 100 studies, expert opinions, et cetera, in favour of vaping. I did so because e-cigarettes are much safer and they work. I have researched them extensively. Much of what I sent has been completely disregarded by the Liberals in Bill 35. E-cigarettes have basically been equated with conventional cigarettes by this bill.

 

The most disturbing piece of the legislation is the inability for responsible vape-speciality shop owners, like Avalon Vapor, to allow vaping within their establishment. This will impede the ability of their store to demonstrate products and makes about much sense as not allowing people to drink in bars or test drive a car at a car dealership.

 

The most compelling part of this gentleman's email, Mr. Speaker, is that final lines. He says: When I was sending you emails a few months back, I was cutting down on vaping. Last week, I purchased my very first zero-nicotine juice, further evidence that vaping works. Not bad for a 32-year smoker. Why would government discourage this? Shameful. Please stand up for vaping.

 

What I'm trying to do this afternoon is provide a little bit of balance to this debate. It's easy for us to all rally and say smoking is bad; therefore, e-cigarettes are bad and hookah loungers are bad and it's all bad. I think a lot of people would agree, but I think we need to be fair and reasonable and balanced. I think we need to look to other jurisdictions and we'll find there are better answers out there about how to address some of these issues. That's what we're attempting to bring to this debate.

 

I want to commend government Members who have been listening attentively. They're actively engaged in the debate. I acknowledge that and appreciate that. I look forward to further opportunities to discuss these issues later today.

 

Thank you.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

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

 

I'm happy to stand and to speak to this amendment. It's the motion for the second reading of Bill 35, which is now before the House of Assembly. Of course, Mr. Speaker, on this side of the House, particularly with our caucus, we have consistently and constantly talked about the need to be able to bring legislation before the appropriate committees, legislative committees.

 

It helps us to limit the time that we would need to spend in the House on particular legislation if we could work out some of the legislation beforehand and come to agreement on certain aspects of legislation, or also strongly indicate any opposition to certain aspects of legislation that a lot of work can be done at the committee structure.

 

To not use the committee structure – and although this government has said that they are going to use a committee structure, they've been at the helm now for six months and we're not seeing it being used, which I think is really unfortunate. Also is that yet another promise that they are breaking?

 

We need to be able to use every democratic tool at our disposal when we are looking at legislation, when all of us in this hon. House are doing the work that we have been elected to do. Imagine Bill 29, Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, imagine if that had gone to a committee structure. Imagine if the Independent Appointments Commission had gone to a committee structure, where we would have looked at the whole issue of gender inclusion and whether or not any of the bills had gone through a gender lens perspective.

 

How important it is – this is a tool available to our democratic process, a tool that is available to our parliamentary process, a tool that enables us as this House to come out with the best, responsive, most progressive and timely legislation that is in the best interest of the people. That's what committee structure legislative reviews and committee structures are able to do, and I believe it is a shame at this point, Mr. Speaker, that once again we see that government is not allowing – not only are they not using it, but they are prohibiting the democratic tools that are available, at our disposal, from being used.

 

What it does is it impoverishes the work that we do together, all of us in this House. It cuts off possibilities, possibilities of coming up with the best legislation possible. So that then when we come to this House the meaningful debates that we undertake, becomes that much more enriched and informed, and that it also enables the possibility of working together and coming at some of our legislation in a more consensus-based way. Why government would not use that, but not only just use it but encourage that, is beyond me. It's a valuable tool that should be made available to us. I believe that in light of that I would support this hoist amendment.

 

Also, Mr. Speaker, I'd like to speak to the main issue that we are debating here today and Bill 35. Many of us in this House were smokers. I bet you at least half of us in this House have been smokers. Many of us, because we're over a certain age, can remember times when you could smoke on airplanes.

 

I can remember when you could smoke on airplanes. Eventually then, what would happen was that only the front half of the airplane could smoke and the back half would be relegated smoke free. So here you are hurdling through the air in a tin can and half the people could smoke, the front half of the airplane couldn't smoke, as if that really protected anybody.

 

I can remember when you could smoke on buses. I can remember when there were ashtrays on buses. I can remember when you could smoke on trains. We used to have trains. Not only could you used to smoke on trains, we used to have trains. I can remember –

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Remember we could smoke in bars.

 

MS. ROGERS: What's that?

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Remember we could smoke in bars.

 

MS. ROGERS: Yes, I can remember when you could smoke in bars. I can remember when –

 

AN HON. MEMBER: In hospitals.

 

MS. ROGERS: I was going to get to that. I can remember when bank tellers used to smoke. I can remember when you could smoke at work. I can remember sitting in boardrooms with about 12 people and 10 of them smoked and two of them didn't. I can remember at times the two people who didn't smoke, how ill they felt because of us smokers.

 

I can remember hospitals at a time when anybody could smoke in a hospital. Then it changed and only the patients could smoke in the hospital, not the visitors. Then nobody could smoke in a hospital and everybody would smoke outside in front of the hospital. Then the perimeter around the hospital just became further and further away when and where you could smoke. I can remember so many changes around the area of smoking.

 

I was a filmmaker for over 30 years and I was once contracted by Health and Welfare Canada to do a film around women and smoking. At that time, a wonderful sociologist in the UK wrote a book called, Smoking is a Feminist Issue – I can't remember her name, specifically. So I was tasked with looking at what kind of audiovisual – because we could see that the number of women who were smoking was growing. There's a reason for that, because the tobacco industry was a multi-million – probably multi-billion dollar industry worldwide now. When you look at the history of the commercial introduction of smoking into North America and in Europe, it's very, very interesting to see how that industry worked.

 

Once it got to the point that the male market was saturated, because the male market was saturated – I mean, whose dad in this House didn't smoke. Almost every man in North America smoked. Not because it was natural to smoke, but because there was an effort by tobacco companies to get people to smoke. There was advertising, there was a time when – when my dad was in the Armed Forces he was given cigarettes as rations.

 

I had friends who worked for tobacco companies and part of their pay was they would be given every payday cartons of cigarettes along with their pay. Sometimes they were given more cigarettes than they would actually smoke themselves, so they would give cigarettes to their friends. There was also a time when cigarettes were handed out freely in bars or hotels or at special kinds of marketing events that had absolutely nothing to do with cigarettes, but cigarettes were part of that.

 

I had a friend in the film industry who was not a smoker and he worked for the National Film Board of Canada and he was tasked – he was a staff filmmaker at the National Film Board of Canada and he was tasked with making an anti-smoking commercial. He was dressed as a vampire – some folks here in the House may remember that particular NFB ad and short film about smoking and the bad effects of smoking. He acted in the film as well, as one of the animators in the film. So, on the set there were cigarettes everywhere, because that was part of the film. As a matter of fact, he was in his thirties and he started smoking doing that particular ad. Imagine, how ironic is that?

 

The tobacco industry saw that the male market for smoking was saturated, and then they figured, what's our next targeted area? The next targeted area was women, because women at that time weren't smoking. It was seen as unseemly for women to smoke, or only harsh, certain types of women smoked. So what happened then is that the tobacco companies decided to target women to try and get women to smoke, because they wanted to expand their sales.

 

Do you know how they did that, Mr. Speaker? Lucky Strikes, for instance, the man who was the owner of Lucky Strikes, or certainly one of their top executives, was being driven in his limousine one day. He was driving through a certain part, it was in the Southern States, and he saw two really large women sitting outside their door on a door stoop, and he thought: grab a Lucky instead of a sweet. He started correlating women with smoking and losing weight. So that's kind of interesting.

 

Women in movies were then paid to smoke so that it could show that it was okay for women to smoke. Again, until then it was only women of certain ill repute who were smoking. Movie stars, female movie stars were actually paid to smoke in their movies. That was one way of getting women to smoke.

 

This is very interesting, doctors were paid to get women to smoke as well. As a matter of fact, you can see ads around the '50s – in women's magazines in the '50s where doctors recommended women to smoke for their nerves. Imagine, doctors actually prescribed that women should smoke. It's good for your nerves, it'll calm your nerves, and particularly women who were pregnant to help you through pregnancy.

 

As the Minister of Health and Community Services mentioned earlier in our debate, the strength of the tobacco lobby and then also the lobby now around the issue of e-cigarettes and vaping, that the strength of that lobby – because let's not forget what this is. This is a multi-million, perhaps multi-billion dollar industry, and as we see more and more people quitting smoking, we do see this movement and this lobby towards vaping. What does that mean for us?

 

The other interesting thing is that in different parts of the world tobacco advertising was prohibited, particularly in some Third World Countries. In fact, what would happen is that the tobacco company – say there was a little cantina somewhere in a small, rural area, tobacco companies were not allowed to put up signs advertising tobacco, and the stores weren't allowed to put up signs. So what would happen is that tobacco companies would offer to paint the outside of the store in the colours that represented a certain brand of cigarettes – very ingenious. So let's not forget really what we're dealing with, with the tobacco industry and also with this whole industry when we look at vaping. It's a powerful, powerful industry.

 

Now, the other thing about tobacco and cigarettes was that if used as intended, if really used as intended, it's one of the few products that will actually harm you that are allowed. It will actually harm you. We know that. There's no if, ands or buts. There was a time, let's not forget, in our history when not only was it permissible, but it was even encouraged by the medical establishment, before we knew the full range of health risks around tobacco.

 

One of the very unfortunate things is that people who smoke cigarettes, many of us in this House or family members or friends or community members, started very young because we could, because it was cool and we didn't really know the health effects.

 

The other thing is we know that heart disease and lung disease, for a number of years, was a disease among men, but we do know now, too, that once you start tracking when women started smoking full-time because of all the – it didn't just happen again; we're not natural smokers. You have to learn to smoke. The first few cigarettes you're coughing and hacking and it's not enjoyable, but it's the whole lobby, the whole tobacco industry. We'll see this with vaping as well, that – I've lost my train of thought on that. Anyway, it's a very concerted effort. This is about industry as well.

 

We worked so hard on the issues of smoking. How hard did we work on those issues? We can remember the push back against regulating whether or not you could smoke in public places, at a time when we could smoke on planes, boats and trains, restaurants, movie theatres. Remember when there were little ashtrays on the arm of your movie theatre?

 

We were smoking everywhere, even in hospitals, because there wasn't a whole lot of research on the health effects of smoking. When there was, it took so much lobbying by people in the health profession, by anti-smoking groups, how hard people had to work to get us to the point where we are today. I am so grateful that we are where we are today because of regulations around smoking. But it took so much work and, again, it was activists who led us to this point, who pushed government, who pushed municipal leaders, federal leaders and provincial leaders to enact the type of smoking regulations that we live with today.

 

There was so much resistance. How many bar owners, other people and smokers were saying that bars will close down if you ban smoking in bars. We can all remember that. To remember the fear about that – bars will close down; restaurants will close down. The pushback was incredible.

 

I know that the bars now – the other thing that's very interesting is that it took a while for legislation to see that bars were also not a place of entertainment, but they were workplaces as well for people who were working as waiters, people who were working in the entertainment industry. It's very interesting the research that has been done around people who were waiters in bars and restaurants and who suffered the effects of the smoke in their workplace – sometimes they were smokers themselves, but also the second-hand smoke.

 

This really is about saving lives, the whole issue of making smoke-free environments. So bars did not close down and restaurants did not close down. As a matter fact, there are more people who stopped going to bars because – I can remember going to bars where there was so much smoke that you were so hung over from the smoke the next day.

 

There were these half-hearted attempts of smoker eaters in half the bar. Maybe you could only smoke – I can remember going to the Ship Inn where you could only smoke in half the bar, and then there was so many of us that were smokers that it was so crowded in that half of the bar and the other half of the bar there was hardly anybody. Then some of the people who didn't smoke who wanted to be with us cool and groovy smokers would come on over to our side, regardless of the fact that all the smoke was happening there.

 

We also see that we do not know, the same as we didn't know how bad smoking was for us – and the chemical soup that's not only in the tobacco, but it's in the paper for the tobacco, we didn't know how bad it was for you. We know now, but people still have their free choice to smoke. People can get cigarettes. They're really expensive, but they can get cigarettes, they can get cigars and they can smoke.

 

There are restrictions on where you can buy tobacco, where you can buy cigarettes, how it can or cannot be promoted and also who can buy them and who can't buy them. People who are smokers can get cigarettes, so I believe that the extension now to looking at the whole issue of vaping – vaping has been seen as a harm-reduction approach to smoking. I firmly believe there is some truth to that. I firmly support that as well. Many of us have family Members or friends who have found it so incredibly hard to give up smoking. Many of us have gone through that in our own lives here in this House. Quitting smoking is really tough. It's not an easy thing.

 

Some people have graduated – moved from actually smoking cigarettes to vaping. For some people, it has made the process of stopping smoking easier. That's a good thing. That's really a good thing.

 

Harm reduction, basically, is not about making something easier in case you want to start doing it. When we look at harm reduction in the area of drug addiction or in the area of alcohol addiction, what we're doing is looking at what's the best way to help people who are already dealing with an addiction.

 

That's what harm reduction is about. It's not about making it easier for someone to start; it's about making it easier and more compassionate, and looking at the best way to help improve someone's health who is dealing with addiction or substance reliance. That's what harm reduction is about. We have to look at that in terms of vaping. Absolutely, I agree with that. I totally agree with that.

 

This legislation is not doing anything to stop that. They're not doing anything to stop the issue of access to reduce that.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MS. ROGERS: I'm going to wrap this right up, Mr. Speaker.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MS. ROGERS: Mr. Speaker, I look forward to continuing to speak about the issue of harm reduction and this bill.

 

Thank you very much.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Topsail – Paradise.

 

MR. P. DAVIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Thank you for acknowledging me this afternoon so I can rise and speak to the hoist amendment that's before the House. The hoist amendment is essentially an amendment to a bill to take it off the floor of the House of Assembly, and to give direction for the Social Services Committee of the House, which is made up of Members of the House, to take the bill, take the implications of the bill, the desired changes that the government has put forward today, and to take it outside the House and take it for public consultation.

 

Mr. Speaker, we can't forget this bill is more than just an amendment that would be procedural, or sometimes we will get bills come here that are changing a comma or where it's putting an extra section or clause, or small types of amendments that are maintenance on bills because there's some kind of legal technicality with it and that type of thing. That's not what this is.

 

This is a fairly comprehensive bill, An Act to Amend the Smoke-Free Environment Act, 2005 and the Tobacco Control Act, which is a fairly substantial, important bill because it's really about people's health and well-being. The hoist amendment is to say, look, let's take this out and bring this to consultation; that's what this is about.

 

The reason why we brought this forward is because we've had a fair bit of interest from the public on this particular bill. Both people who call or email or say, look, this is a good thing, and those who are critical of the bill. Even when we had discussions in our caucus, if you nail down to it in our initial discussions, we had some that were in favour of some parts of the bill, didn't understand or know the implications of other sections or had some concerns about it – some did and some didn't. Some that felt there are parts there that shouldn't go forward at all; others weren't so much.

 

So even our own caucus felt that it's necessary for us to have a more in-depth discussion about the implications of each part of the bill and I think our caucus is reflective of what we're hearing from the general public. That's what the hoist amendment is about that we're now debating, is to pull it off the floor, send it out for consultation.

 

Let's not forget, Mr. Speaker, this is a government who had prided itself, and over and over again in the days and weeks and months leading up to the election last year, on saying that they're going to consult with the people, they're going to contact the people, they're going to speak to the people of the province and they're going to lead by listening and listen to what the people of the province have to say.

 

Now, in our previous time in government – the minister referenced this earlier today – we were going to bring forward a piece of legislation, and we were. Still hadn't settled on the work for it – I know they've worked towards it, because they're six months now in office and it's the first time we've seen this legislation come forward. I would expect that they were still doing more work on it. We know that consultation needs to be done, not just internally with government departments, but broadly with stakeholder groups and with individual citizens who feel very strongly about something as important as smoking, because that's what this is about. This is about making amendments that relate directly to smokers.

 

For anybody who has ever quit smoking, we know it's hard to do. I have often used – in my younger years (inaudible) smoker now in my younger years as a smoker and I've told people lots of times, anybody I see smoking, I say, look, quitting smoking is easy to do; I've done it hundreds of times. I meant it, because I did. And I know lots of people who've quit hundreds of times, unsuccessful, went back and tried again, tried again and tried again. Anybody who has ever quit smoking knows that. That's why this is so important because as my colleague for Mount Pearl North referenced he knows people and I know people as well who say well I've switched from smoking tobacco to vaping. I feel healthier, I feel better, and I feel my overall health has improved.

 

I heard a number today that something like 80 per cent of people who vape, with the idea and concept of quitting smoking, actually do and are successful in quitting smoking. So it's an important bill from that perspective, but there are those who are saying well part of the culture – and I don't know anything about the culture of vaping, but I can only go by some of the things we're told is that some of the amendments here are going to have a negative implication on the number of people who vape and how they use it to the best of their ability. 

 

My understanding is you can go into a store today; you can pick and choose, look at the different products, test them and so on and find the one that suits you best. If that's the way it is and that helps you decide what is going to work for you best and leads to you quitting smoking, then that is probably a good thing. But we don't know that until we talk to people, Mr. Speaker. When we talk to people, we find those things out.

 

Just last week, the Minister of Health made an announcement regarding lifeguards, about increased access to trained lifeguards. In his release – and this speaks to consultation, Mr. Speaker, before the Members opposite start saying what is the relevance of that, but it speaks to consultation. In the minister's statements – and I'm sure he read them with full belief that they were true and accurate – he said these changes come at the recommendations of Recreation Newfoundland and Labrador, the Lifesaving Society and the Canadian Red Cross.

 

Well, I've received a copy of the letter to the minister that was sent over the weekend from the Lifesaving Society, the Newfoundland and Labrador branch, the president of the Newfoundland and Labrador branch, who says that they are not in agreement with this change. They say no, no, hang on now. What the minister said last week is not correct. We're not in agreement with the change on Canada's lifeguarding. They quote themselves as Canada's lifeguarding experts do not agree with the addition of second standard lifeguarding qualifications. The letter actually goes on to say that we did not approve the introduction of a second standard for lifeguards.

 

So they didn't approve, they don't agree with it; however, the information that the minister had was that they did. That's an important matter too; life safety and water safety is an important matter and the minister was advised that three significant organizations that operate in our province were all in agreement, and one of them says now – and copied me on a letter – no, we weren't in agreement. That's not correct.

 

So when you have something as important as people's health – and I'm sure the minister would agree – it's important that the right considerations and the right things be done. That's why we believe it's important to listen to what people have to say. And we know that there's still tons of evidence that is mounting for and against, and giving you different opinions on is vaping a good thing or a bad thing.

 

I think it would be worthy for this to be passed off to the Committee, to the Social Services Committee of the House of Assembly to conduct a consultation process with Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, with those who have a vested interest in this, and stakeholders involved with the smoking. There are lots of smoking groups and so on, retailers and so on that would be impacted by this legislation. I think it's important to talk to all of them. That's why we have the hoist amendment to take it off the floor and to do that consultation. We'll support that amendment which is now being debated.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

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

 

MR. LANE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

It is certainly a pleasure to stand in this House today to speak to Bill 35, An Act to Amend the Smoke-Free Environment Act and the Tobacco Control Act. Mr. Speaker, I guess I would say off the get-go that I will be supporting the amendment; but, that said, should the amendment fail, which I suspect it will fail – I'd be surprised if it went through. But if it did fail, I would be supporting the bill. The reason why I'm supporting the bill is because there are important things in the bill that I believe need to be supported and I believe that we all agree with.

 

It's almost like an ominous bill, to some degree; there are good parts in the bill and then there are areas where there are concerns. There are areas where people have expressed concerns to me and there are areas where I share those concerns. But looking at the greater good, I would have to support the bill because I do agree that we need to regulate this industry, we need to regulate vaping and we need to have legislation in place to deal with hookah and all those other things. We need to regular the flavoured tobacco, menthol cigarettes perhaps, and all those things because we all know – and it's been proven through science – the damage, the harm, that smoking causes to people.

 

I think we also know – through the information I've received at least – that while there is a much lesser degree of harm with vaping, it is still inconclusive and there could be some degree of harm. The number I've heard is 95 per cent better than cigarettes, and again that is up in the air. So there is still that 5 per cent. So I understand why we would want to regulate and the industry understands why we would want to regulate.

 

I actually took it upon myself on Saturday to visit a vape shop in the St. John's area to talk to the owner and go into the shop and see what it was all about, because I had no idea what vaping was all about. I have seen a couple of people with those e-cigarettes or whatever but I didn't really understand it other than you're blowing out vapour instead of smoke and it is supposed to, I guess, simulate smoking but not be as harmful.

 

I wanted to educate myself a little bit more on it, so I actually went to a vape shop and went in, like I said, talked to the owner, looked at some of the samples and the set up. I didn't try it. I didn't try the vaping. I will admit that, but I did want to educate myself on it.

 

In speaking to the owner of that particular establishment, the owner quite clearly indicated to me that he had no problem with much of the legislation. As an industry, they had no problem with it. I said, well, are you just speaking for yourself or are you speaking for others? Is there like a vaping industry association or whatever? Is there like a group that gets together of all the owners and so on?

 

There is no official organization here in Newfoundland, but he said that all the vape shops are part of some group. They have like this website or whatever, Facebook or whatever, that sort of – they all feed into and they all communicate with each other. They all know each other. They have communicated with each other over Bill 35. According to him at least, they're pretty unanimous in their views on this whole Bill 35 legislation.

 

Actually, at the government news conference that happened today, I think a number of them, they indicated to me, were actually going to go to the news conference, sit in on it and see if they could figure out what the implications would be. Now, I did get contacted after the fact. They said a lot of the questions they had certainly were not answered in that news conference. So they do have some questions and concerns.

 

The main issue they have, at least has been expressed to me – first of all, they have no issue with the fact that children should not be vaping. Even though there is no regulation in place, they do regulate themselves. The owner I talked to said, listen, if you're not 19, you're not allowed in my shop; I actually ID people. They will not let them in.

 

Now, I'm just taking that man's word for it. I had no reason to not take him at his word. He said we regulate ourselves. If you're under 19, you're not coming in the shop. We don't let anyone in the shop. That's been their own practice. They do not believe that minors should be vaping. That's one thing they agree with.

 

The same as with cigarettes, they agree you shouldn't be allowed to vape in your car if you've got children in your car. The same as you're not allowed to smoke in your car if you have children in your car. They agree. That should be the same. No issue there.

 

They agree with the fact that you shouldn't be allowed to vape in public places. Now, I'm going to get to the definition of a public place in a second because that's where we do get a little bit of concern, but in general they agree with the fact that you shouldn't be able to smoke in public places.

 

In other words, if you go into a bar and you're not allowed to smoke in a bar, then you shouldn't be allowed to vape in a bar. If you go to the mall and you're not allowed to smoke in the mall, then you shouldn't be able to vape in the mall. If you go to the hospital and you – anyway, you get the picture.

 

If you go in any of these public places or what have you, they are agreeing – at least the owner I spoke to – saying the same rules should apply as cigarettes, because people shouldn't be exposed to the vapour. Even though the vapour – they believe or a lot of people believe – is harmless and a lot of the evidence suggests it's 95 per cent less harmful than cigarettes, but they still believe you shouldn't be able to vape in a public area where someone would be exposed to it.

 

Which is why they also agree that you shouldn't be able to test the different – what do they call it? I think the term is vape juice. You shouldn't be able to test vape juice at a retail location where there are other products being sold. In other words, if you could buy – I'm not sure where you can buy this stuff to be honest with you, besides a vape shop. I think you can buy it in other stores, but if you went up to Marie's Mini Mart – I will just use that as a random example – and there are cigarettes there, so now I'm guessing you can buy vape juice and vapours and all that stuff at Marie's Mini Mart.

 

What they're saying is they would agree that you shouldn't be able to test those juices and blow the vapour around in Marie's Mini Mart because there are members of the general public coming in and out of the store. Maybe they're buying a loaf of bread or a quart of milk, or maybe there's a gas bar and they're paying for their gas. As a member of the general public I shouldn't be exposed to – I shouldn't have to walk into the store and there's someone testing this and blowing this vapour around. Now, I'm being exposed to it. They agree with that part of the legislation that you shouldn't be allowed to do that.

 

So far, as you can see, they're pretty much on board with all the legislation. The part where they have the concern, and I know this has been raised, or I think it's been raised, is if you go into a vape shop and it is just that, a vape shop, there's nothing else. Nobody would have a reason to go in there only to buy or try or whatever the vape cigarettes and the juice or whatever the case might be. There's no other reason to go there. Nobody would have a reason to go there. It's a separate business.

 

The only purpose to go there is I'm going there to get my vapour cigarette or get my juice for my cigarette, or whatever the case might be. Then their concern is, if the only people going there are people who are going there for that specific purpose, then why can't they sample the different juices while they're there in order to decide what they're going to purchase, and why can't they be shown how to use it.

 

Now, that's not saying they're promoting – or certainly I don't agree with we're promoting, let's get kids, let's get people hooked on vape. Let's get them vaping instead of smoking. They're not saying that. I'm certainly not saying that, but what they're saying is that a lot of people who vape are doing so because they want to quit smoking. That's the purpose. They're there to quit smoking, and this is no different than the patch or nicotine gum or whatever the other things that have been used over the years to try to quit smoking.

 

So, people go there. They're telling me all their customers are smokers or people wanting to quit smoking. Again, I was told, that's 100 per cent of our customer base. Now, could somebody go there out of curiosity? Is that possible to say, yeah, I'm going to make a trip to a vape shop to see what this is all about. Is that possible? I suppose anything is possible, but as a general rule the people going there are smokers, and they're going there because they want an alternative to smoking because they know smoking is going to cause them irreparable harm.

 

The evidence shows that, whether it's heart disease or cancer or different lung diseases, whatever the case might be, we know that with cigarettes. They're looking for an alternative. They go to the vape shop for the alternative that's much safer for them to use, much safer. So, if somebody is going there, there's an obvious benefit to that. They're saying why would you want to regulate a way or to discourage, at least, somebody trying to get off the cigarettes? Why would you want to do that, particularly if in the process of helping that person, you're causing no harm to anybody else, because there's nobody else going in there, only the person who's a smoker for that specific purpose? So why would you do it?

 

The other thing is that – again, what they told me was that – when you go to a vape shop and you're testing the different flavours to see which one you like or whatever the case might be, the sample flavours they use when they're testing the flavours or whatever, there's no nicotine. There's none. The juice has different levels of nicotine in the juice.

 

If you're someone who's a heavy smoker, when you first start, you start off with a juice with a flavour and it's got like a higher proportion of nicotine. Then eventually, you get like the next bottle of juice or maybe 10 bottles of juice later, I don't know, it's less nicotine, less nicotine, less nicotine. Eventually, you get down to zero and that would be the ultimate goal.

 

When you're actually going in to simply test the flavour, when you're going in to get someone to show you how to use the thing, the sample that they use is zero nicotine – zero. There's nothing there at all. What is the harm in allowing that practice to happen? Who are you hurting? All you're doing is helping somebody and you could argue you're hurting nobody.

 

The only thing, the only argument that held any water with me when I went to a little briefing this morning, which I initiated myself – the only thing that could possibly hold any water that I could see in that argument would be what about the staff because of occupational health and safety and if someone is exposed. That was one of the reasons why we cut out smoking in bars and all that kind of stuff because if somebody works in a bar as a waitress, a bartender, whatever the case might be, and they're exposed to all this second-hand smoke, that's not fair. They shouldn't have to be. The only argument at all would be that staff person.

 

You could certainly make the argument – I know the one that I went to, all the people working there were all ex-smokers and they vape anyway themselves. I suppose someone could choose to work there who didn't smoke and didn't vape, but I suppose there's always a choice. They don't have to go there to work either. It's only a few shops and I guess they don't have to go there to work if they know that vape is there.

 

The other thing that is a possibility, maybe – I know that when it comes to other types of chemicals and smoke inhalants and so on in a workplace, a lot of times there are engineering controls you can put in place to mitigate against the risk. I don't know the exact piece of equipment or if it is cost-prohibitive or not, but, in theory only, maybe somebody when they are actually testing the thing and the vapour comes out, maybe there is a fan or a little hood or something that you stick your head in there and you suck in the smoke and it goes through a hose or something and out through the side of the building somewhere, up in the atmosphere so that there is no vapour because it is just getting sucked through a fan or something.

 

Maybe that's a possibility. I know it's used. It's used in workplaces, paint shops and sign shops – they are huge industrial ones, so you wouldn't want to go with anything that is going to be cost-prohibitive. But there is lots of technology; maybe there is some little device that could work.

 

The point is, whether that's an option or not, the problem we have, Mr. Speaker, is that these options were never explored. The reason why they were never explored is because there was zero consultation – zero. When I went down there and I asked them, I said well, surely, somebody from the department or the departments involved must have contacted you. I mean, they are regulating your industry. They must have contacted you and you must have had some feedback into this. They said: Paul, as God as my witness, nobody contacted me. I said: Well, maybe you're out of the loop; maybe they contacted the other shops and they missed you. Paul, I have spoken to everybody; nobody contacted us.

 

So I went to a briefing this morning and I asked the question: How many people in the industry did you contact as part of your public consultation – these are stakeholders involved in this industry, when did you contact them? When did they have their input? I was told they didn't have any input. There was no consultation. It didn't happen.

 

There in itself lies a big problem because had there been some consultation with the people in the industry and some other, perhaps, public consultation, maybe the legislation could have been tweaked a little bit so that it could work for everybody. That is all they are saying. That is all I'm saying. I think that's all everybody is saying, to be honest with you. I think that is all everybody is saying, is that if there had to be more consultation, it could have been tweaked to have better legislation, which ties into what has been said about the whole concept of an all-party committee or whatever.

 

I understand, like government would say, my God, we'd never get any legislation through; we have to go to all-party committees, delay everything. No one is saying delay everything, but while this legislation was being developed over however long a period of time, that could gone through a committee by now.

 

By the time it got to the House, it would have gone through. You could have done some public consultation and perhaps we'd have a piece of legislation that works for the public, works for all Members in the House, works for the industry and something that we can all agree on.

 

Like I said, Mr. Speaker, at the end of the day, I will vote – I'm going to vote in favour of the amendment because I really think we need to tweak this. I think that we need to make a few improvements here that obviously are not going to happen here today, but perhaps through that process it can be done. In the absence of that, even though I'm voting for the amendment, as I said, I'm also going to vote for the legislation because I believe the greater good that even the industry – the vaping industry agrees with the greater good of all these measures.

 

I can't vote against all the good stuff because there are a couple of things that I disagree with or I think are bad or ill thought out, ill-conceived and not thought out properly. I can't go against all the good stuff because of that, so I'm going to vote for it. Again, I feel like it's almost like an omnibus bill, to some degree, where you're being forced to vote for stuff that you don't agree with because there's stuff there that you do agree with.

 

So that's kind of where I'm at with it. I would say to the government, to the ministers involved, I think you should have a serious look at the amendment which has been brought forward. I think that we could do a review; you can consult with the industry, consult with all the other stakeholders and come up with something that's going to be more palatable and sensible for everybody. It's a great initiative to stop the smoking.

 

Maybe – just a thought – as an amendment you proceed with all the stuff on the flavoured tobacco and the menthol cigarettes, all that part, put that through as is. That's all cigarettes and tobacco, put that through as is and just simply let's take out the vaping piece even, and let's review that part with the industry first. The other stuff, I think we'd all agree on the other part. I think that's what we can do.

 

With that, Mr. Speaker, I'm going to take my seat. When we do get to Committee of the Whole, I have a couple of specific questions that have been given to me by people in the industry that I will be asking the minister on. For now, I'm going to take my seat and see what everybody else has to say about this matter.

 

Thank you.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Seeing no further speakers, there is a motion for an amendment on the floor that was moved by the hon. Member for Fortune Bay – Cape La Hune and seconded by the hon. Member for Cape St. Francis.

 

All those in favour of the amendment?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

MR. SPEAKER: All those against?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Nay.

 

MR. SPEAKER: The motion for amendment has been defeated.

 

The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl North.

 

MR. KENT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I'm glad to have another opportunity to speak to Bill 35. Now that the hoist amendment has been defeated, we are back to the main motion here in second reading.

 

Later this evening, in the not-to-distant future, I suspect we'll go to the Committee stage where we can ask the minister more detailed questions and provide more detailed comments on the various pieces that are in the legislation. As the previous speaker highlighted, there are lots of things in this bill that we do support but there are some legitimate concerns that we feel haven't been adequately addressed and we have a responsibility to bring those things forward to the House of Assembly and make sure they are heard.

 

I've heard directly from, not only some people who have used e-cigarettes or vapours, as they are often called, but also I have heard from some people in the industry who operate businesses. A number of them have said to me, they are all for fair regulations such as age restriction, use in public places, use in vehicles with children. They agree that those things make sense and they should be included in regulations.

 

That's not at all what we're talking about here this evening. Those are provisions and those are steps that need to happen and make good sense. It's good that government is moving on those aspects of the legislation; however, there are a number of areas in this bill where the legislation just goes too far.

 

Some of the advocates for vaping drew my attention to a 200-page report from the United Kingdom on e-cigarettes from the Royal College of Physicians. It's a fairly credible, objective report as opposed to one that's been paid for by industry or is being driven by industry. When it's the Royal College of Physicians, I think it deserves a little bit more attention than some of the other studies that are floating around out there.

 

I guess what it highlights to me is that this really needs to be a debate about harm reduction. Simplistically put, based on everything we've seen so far, many of us believe that vaping is far less harmful than smoking cigarettes. So if you accept that logic, then there are elements of this bill that just go too far in making it difficult and potentially even unsafe for people to vape. That's why we need to raise concerns.

 

I encourage people to think about this issue from a harm reduction perspective. Ideally, everybody who smokes would quit cold turkey and that would be great, but that's not realistic. As the Leader of the Opposition outlined, that's just not practical, it's not sensible. It doesn't work for a lot of people. So that needs to be considered in all of this.

 

We shouldn't be putting up roadblocks that will inhibit smokers from switching from tobacco to an electronic cigarette product, because we want to reduce harm and switching to electronic cigarettes is not cold turkey but it's an incredible risk reduction. It goes a long way to reduce harm. So that needs to be considered as well.

 

I'd like to highlight some of the other concerns that have been brought forward by industry to express concerns about this legislation. Not allowing customers to vape in shops means shops can't allow customers to sample products or try products which would be a deterrent, and it's not good for harm reduction. It's also an inconvenience to customers who need to experience the product in an effort to quit or to stay away from tobacco.

 

Again, Mr. Speaker, as I said the last time I spoke on this legislation, I don't speak from first-hand experience, which puts me at a bit of a disadvantage, but I've talked to multiple people who are telling me the same thing. So if multiple people that I've had contact from, and had contact with, are expressing very, very similar concerns then it tells me those are concerns that need to be brought forward as part of this debate.

 

Businesses that are involved in this sector are concerned about some of the advertising restrictions that seem to be proposed in this bill. They're concerned about their website and their social media accounts, Instagram and Twitter, which there was some discussion about in this House last week. Even Facebook groups and Facebook pages, there are support groups and advocacy groups online for people who are involved in vaping. These are people who have quit smoking.

 

My view is that vaping should only be used as a form of harm reduction. For the vast majority of people that I've encountered, that's in fact the case. So those social media channels have been a prime way for these businesses to reach the customers, provide important information on products, on legislation, on various pieces of research that are out there.

 

It appears the advertising laws that are in Bill 35 could effectively shut down these modes of communication and conversation and limit the information these businesses can actually provide to their customers. Again, from a harm-reduction perspective, I have a hard time with that, which is why I'm speaking again to this legislation.

 

If educating customers on the proper use of electronic cigarettes is considered advertising, that's a real challenge, because there could be risk to customers. Incorrectly using these devices that have a high-powered battery attached to them can obviously be dangerous. That goes not only for the in-store education, but on Facebook, communication via email, on the web, or whatever the case may be.

 

Another concern I have overall about this bill, Mr. Speaker, is that in many cases the bill references smoking when talking about e-cigarette use. E-cigarettes don't create the by-products of combustion. They don't produce smoke. They produce an aerosol vapour mist that is not a result of combustion, and thus can't be called or considered smoke. So I think that needs to be clarified before this bill becomes law, as smoking and vaping is not the same thing. They may look the same.

 

The minister in her opening comments today, I was amazed to hear her say, well, they look the same. They may look the same, but they're entirely different actions and they can't be treated as the same. By lumping smoking and vaping together as one action it brings up the perceived effect that both items have the same risks, but that is not the case and it shouldn't be reflected in this bill. So I believe that point needs to be made.

 

I'd like to highlight some other concerns I have with this legislation in the time I have left.

 

The bill talks about regulating the promotion and display of vapour products and non-tobacco shisha in the same manner that the act currently regulates tobacco promotion and display. I think that's extreme, Mr. Speaker. I understand there's a need to regulate. Everybody I've talked to in the industry supports regulation, that's not what we're challenging here, but consumers have the right to information about vapour products. Regulating promotion of those products as harshly as tobacco I think is an impediment to harm reduction, and I think that needs to be considered.

 

Making online sales and social media interaction with customers unlawful would actually restrict access to rural areas as well. There aren't vape shops in every corner of the province. These products are not available in physical locations in every corner of the province. So that online component is really important.

 

If it means that fewer will smoke and people will transition to vaping as a means of harm reduction and hopefully, ultimately, not do either – and I know of lots of people where that's been the case – then that's a good thing. We need to have sensible regulations that allow for that transition to happen.

 

Mr. Speaker, vapour products are not tobacco products. Maybe there's an argument to be made that there should be different sections within this bill that address vapour products exclusively. Maybe it should have its own legislation or be covered through its own bill. I really think through what's proposed here in this legislation, it will harm those businesses that are running reputable, reasonable businesses. It will prevent them from using social media to communicate with and educate their customers.

 

I also take exception, Mr. Speaker, to the definition of e-cigarette. I think that e-substance should be substituted perhaps with e-liquid. The way it's worded right now it appears that – and we'll get more into this in the Committee stage of course, but it appears that a fog machine would be considered an e-cigarette the way it's currently outlined. So there's a need to really delineate between the issues here and make it really clear that vaping is not smoking. They're very different, the apparatuses are different and the regulation needs to be somewhat different as well.

 

Even the definition of smoking in this legislation is troublesome: “to inhale or exhale vapour from an e-cigarette or to hold or otherwise have control over an activated e-cigarette …” – it's just something along those lines. There's no combustion, so there's no smoke, so it can't be considered smoking. If there is no smoke and no combustion, then it's clearly not smoking.

 

There's also talk in the legislation of smoking rooms. I think absolutely forcing vapours into smoking areas, one of the advocates said to me today that's much like having an AA meeting at a bar. It might be okay for some, but I think to define it that way and to restrict it in that way is not a sensible approach. I think there's a more progressive more balanced better way of tackling that issue as well.

 

Even the definition of e-cigarette in the legislation, Mr. Speaker, it's a broad definition and also includes devices such as marijuana vaporizers the way it's presently defined. Well, that's not what we're talking about here. I think there's more debate and discussion required to get this to a sensible place.

 

One of the things that are positive in the legislation is that it's going to be an offence for not only retailers but anyone to sell products to a minor. So those are common sense changes that we support and nobody is going to argue against that, and I think industry and the vaping community would support those kinds of changes as well. So again, it is not all bad. There are lots of good things in Bill 35, but there are also some major issues that we think should be addressed.

 

There is another area where tobacco vapour products and non-tobacco shisha include the package in which the tobacco vapour products or non-tobacco shisha are sold. There's a challenge around not allowing these products to be tested in stores. If those operating these stores can't teach a customer to use the product correctly, to use the product properly, then there could be a risk. There could be a safety risk to those customers and a liability risk to the business as well.

 

I think customers need to have a right to view the product before purchasing. I think some of the language in the bill, there is an argument that vapour products should be exempt in certain sections. Again, it needs to be more clearly defined how the two are different.

 

The point about advertising, I'd like to touch on again. The bill suggests there be no advertising outside of the shop, and that implies that online – and some provinces have gone this far. It implies that this would block the ability to have an online store which could serve rural areas and meet their harm-reduction needs. Social media – I've gone and checked it out myself; I encourage others to do the same. Social media, by some of these businesses, is being used as a means of educating customers and providing information. That issue of access I think is an important point as well.

 

Those are just a few of the concerns that I have. I think I've highlighted the main issues that I've heard about in recent days since this bill has come to light. Again, as I said earlier, I'd encourage people to actually look at the legislation that exists in Manitoba. I won't read the entire bill to you or the entire piece of legislation. It started as Bill 30, The Non-Smokers Health Protection Amendment Act and it relates specifically to e-cigarettes. The definitions seem to make a little more sense. The legislation is more specific to vaping.

 

Just to give you some language from the bill to show that it is more progressive and does distinguish between smoking and vaping. There's an exception here for group living facilities. “The proprietor or board of a group living facility, other than a facility operated exclusively for children, may subject to subsection (2), designate a separate room in the facility as (a) a smoking room; (b) an e-cigarette use room; or (c) a combined smoking and e-cigarette use room.” So it clearly acknowledges that forcing e-cigarette users all into smoking rooms might not be the right approach.

 

I'm not going to read the entire legislation to you, but let me just give you some other examples. There's an exception here for vapour product shops. “The proprietor of a vapour product shop and his or her employees and customers may use e-cigarettes in a vapour product shop to test or sample a product for the purpose of sale of the product for use elsewhere, but only if the shop is fully enclosed by floor-to-ceiling walls, a ceiling and doors that separate it physically from any adjacent area in which the use of e-cigarettes is prohibited.”

 

So that makes a lot of sense, but what we're doing in Bill 35, with the changes to our Smoke-Free Environment Act and the Tobacco Control Act is preventing that kind of common sense approach from occurring. It's happening today. Like another Member who spoke today, I have visited one of these shops to see first-hand what's going on. I think this approach by Manitoba makes really good sense.

 

Here's another clause from the Manitoba legislation. “The proprietor of a place where smoking or e-cigarette use is permitted under this Act or the regulations must take reasonable steps to minimize the drifting of smoke or vapour, as the case may be, into areas of the premises where smoking or e-cigarette use is prohibited.” So that makes good sense.

 

There's a clause on prohibiting supplying vapour product to a child, which I just spoke about. I think that's a good addition in Bill 35. “No person shall supply or offer to supply a vapour product to a child.”

 

In fact, I've talked to vapour shop owners who don't allow people under the age of 19 into their stores today, and this legislation will allow that. So they're saying that's not a sensible approach. They're saying we should go further than this legislation proposes. We shouldn't let children into these stores, because if you're allowed to test the products in the stores, which this legislation, as proposed, doesn't allow, but if we do make that change and you are allowed, then we don't want to expose minors to vaping, and we don't want to do anything that could possibly encourage young people to take up smoking or vaping.

 

I think those involved in the business community here in this sector seem to taking a reasonable, balanced approach, and one that's supportive of a degree of regulation that makes sense.

 

There's also language in the Manitoba legislation about product and price lists. So this addresses the concerns around advertising. It highlights that you need to allow some amount of signage and some amount of information to be shared. I would encourage people to have a look at the Manitoba legislation.

 

We're going to soon, I suspect, go into Committee stage where we'll debate the various clauses of Bill 35, but it's not too late to get this right. Previous speakers have highlighted why not create the opportunity for people to have more input. The vaping community has not had an opportunity to have input. Those running businesses that are involved in vaping have not had an opportunity to have input, and they're not taking an extreme obstructionist kind of approach. They are putting forward some logical suggestions on how to make this legislation better.

 

All we have to do is look to the Province of Manitoba and we'll see that some jurisdictions in this country have taken a more reasonable approach to dealing with all of these issues. So I would encourage that. I would encourage government to slow down. We don't need to rush through the Committee stage tonight. We don't need to finish debate on this tonight.

 

There will be time for even government to prepare the appropriate amendments and bring them in, in the Committee stage. We'd be happy to work with them on that because we're talking about several changes that are probably relatively minor in the grand scheme of things that would make this bill a success story for everyone. That's not to say that everyone will be happy at the end of the day. I doubt the owner of the hookah lounge downtown who is having their business taken away from them is very happy with this legislation, despite the offer by government to try and assist with that transition.

 

There are lots of things in Bill 35 that are necessary changes that we need to move forward with. Let's try and address these concerns that are coming from the vaping community, and let's look to other jurisdictions, like Manitoba, to try and make this legislation even better. 

 

The way the legislation is written, it would difficult to introduce all of the specific amendments this evening to address all of these concerns, but we'll still try and raise the issues and we'll urge government to pause. Even if you are not going to establish the committee as we're suggesting and do the consultations, at least pause, gather the input from the community and try and make the minor adjustments to the bill that would allow this to move forward without opposition from us and opposition from stakeholders out there in the community.

 

I see my time is up, Madam Speaker. I look forward to the Committee stage of the debate.

 

Thank you. 

 

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

 

MR. HAGGIE: Thank you, Madam Speaker. 

 

It's a pleasure to stand today to speak in support of this bill. Having spent several decades before my career change last December as a physician, preventing and reducing smoking and its damage is an issue that I've spent a lot of time on. I've seen first-hand the damage that smoking has caused, both to people's health and their overall quality of life.

 

The key objectives in this amendment to these pieces of legislation are firstly, to prevent the uptake of smoking by children and youth; secondly, to prevent exposure to harm from second-hand smoke and the potential harm from second-hand vapour; and finally, thirdly, overall to reduce the prevalence of smoking. I believe these amendments to our legislation are the appropriate next steps in an effort to improve the health of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

 

These issues have been a priority in many other provinces in Canada. Our proposed legislative changes, despite what's been referenced earlier on, are actually very consistent with what's going on elsewhere. Combined with our existing regulatory environment for tobacco products, these measures will result in improvements to our health and, over the long term, reduce the costs of providing health care.

 

We're all aware of the harmful effects of smoking – such as coughing.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Are you still a doctor on call?

 

MR. HAGGIE: Not anymore.

 

Smoking increases our risk of cancer, heart and lung disease amongst other ailments. Non-tobacco products can still produce tars and chemicals which over time can lead to the development of cancer as well as lung disease.

 

If we want to have a smoke-free society we really have to stop people from smoking in the first place. This, of course, is critically important for our children and youth. Flavours such as menthol, mint, candy or fruit added to tobacco products makes them less harsh and more attractive to younger people. They're often packaged in brightly coloured, scented packaging. Again, appealing to young people and increasing the possibility that they'll experiment with the product. For these reasons, we're concerned about them serving as a gateway to tobacco addiction for youth.

 

Research has shown that menthol cigarette smoking is how many young people are introduced to smoking and that menthol cigarette smokers find it much harder to quit. In Newfoundland and Labrador, just over 4 per cent of adults use menthol; however, according to the 2013 Youth Smoking Survey, youth tobacco users, grades nine to 12, 53 per cent of them have used flavoured tobacco in the previous 30 days, and 36 per cent of them had smoked menthol cigarettes in the same period.

 

E-cigarettes hold the potential to introduce a smoking culture to young people who wrongly assume that there are no negative effects. Vaping e-cigarettes look a lot like smoking and, again, serve to normalize this. I would argue that vaping is just a (inaudible). What you're actually doing is not inhaling vapour, you're inhaling an aerosol and I'll come to that in a moment. 

 

We have tried over the years to reverse this normalizing effect, this cultural acceptance of smoking. That is what took six decades to turn that wheel around, turn the ship around, if you like, from the previous culture with – if you like combustion cigarettes, conventional cigarettes.

 

There is no regulation and no substantive research about the long-term health effects of vapour products. We are starting however, to get research that gives us a clue as to what might be in these aerosols. It is not a vapour, that's a misnomer. An aerosol is a mixture of gas, liquid and solids.

 

A California Health Officer issued a report late in 2015 identifying at least 10 substances within this aerosol. A list of some of these is lead, nickel, acetaldehyde and formaldehyde. This is what you're inhaling in this aerosol either directly or second hand. Just as an aside, formaldehyde and acetaldehyde, when I was a young fellow, were actually part of the constituents of embalming fluid. So that's what you're putting in your lungs. It hasn't preserved good health; I don't think it's going to either. 

 

Having said that, the argument opposite that this has some therapeutic use in terms of transitioning hard-core cigarette smokers off the weed, as it were, and back to non-nicotine products and then hopefully cessation all together is not a door we're closing. There is no evidence one way or another, but it's not a door we're closing.

 

There is also some evidence, antidotal reports are coming out about an association between vaping and pneumonias of unusual natures. Again, right at the beginning of cigarette smoking, as the member opposite pointed out, there were people in reputable professions who were promoting this as a healthy activity. We've seen the same kind of slant in the Opposition's discussion of vaping, that somehow this is less unhealthy than smoking, when in actual fact there really isn't an awful lot of evidence to support that. It hasn't been around a lot.

 

What you hear repeated in the quotes from various parliamentary and standing committees are in actual fact marketing from vested interests who want to promote the apparatus and the juice.

 

Juice sounds such an innocuous title, but really it isn't, because you really are only starting now to find out what's in it once you heat it and turn it into an aerosol, and those are not substances that anybody in their right mind wants to put anywhere near their body directly or have others, who have the choice, should not have to have the choice as to whether or not they are in a public place because of exposure to this, and certainly the issue of minors is well dealt with in the new legislation.

 

So to go back to this transition approach, we're certainly in this legislation not prohibiting e-cigarette products at all, but we're going to regulate them in exactly the same way as we regulate tobacco. That will help minimize their accessibility to children and youth.

 

In 2014, the World Health Organization's report, Electronic nicotine delivery systems, or ENDS, states that whilst e-cigarettes represent an evolving frontier, filled with promise and threat for tobacco control, additional research is needed on multiple areas of e-cigarette use that regulations are required to address health concerns. We're not waiting 60 years for the problem to appear; we're actually acting proactively as a public health measure.

 

The report concluded among several of the recommendations that regulations were required – this was from 2014 – in the areas of advertising and promotion, the use of e-cigarettes in public place, and sale to minors – exactly those areas referenced in this legislation.

 

To move on to the issue of hookah smoking, our actions are also consistent with legislation in a number of other Canadian provinces and municipalities – Toronto and Vancouver have been mentioned, and they're supported by recommendations from other leading sources around the world.

 

Hookah is really simply another form of smoking. Many users feel that it's somehow less harmful than cigarette smoking because the smoke passes through water in a hookah pipe. All that water does is it doesn't filter it out, any of the chemicals, it simply cools it down, moisturizes it, and makes it far less irritating to your air passages, and therefore much more tolerable to new users. It hooks them on the hookah.

 

Studies show that smoke from both tobacco and non-tobacco preparations contains carbon monoxide. In actual fact, from clinical experience, carbon monoxide is probably more associated with cardiovascular and lung disease than nicotine – and that should never be underestimated. It's a product of combustion.

 

Other toxic agents are also in this soup. Identifying the constituents of cigarette smoke has taken 40 years and the list, the last time I looked, was 3,000 items long. To do research on each of those, while it may be necessary, is really dealing with the issue of a stable door and a bolted horse.

 

The toxic agents within these non-tobacco and tobacco-containing shisha products, we know already, increase the risk of smoking-related cancers, heart disease and lung disease. Second-hand tobacco smoke from hookahs is exactly the same as second-hand tobacco smoke or shisha smoke from any other source.

 

The Centers for Disease Control in the United States has reported that on average a typical hookah smoking session lasting an hour involves 200 puffs compared to about 20 for a conventional cigarette. The volume of smoke that you inhale from a hookah is about on average 90 litres compared with 500 to 600 millilitres inhaled when smoking a cigarette. The average human being has a tidal volume, the air they move each breath, of around 450 millilitres. Ninety litres is a hell of a lot of breathing.

 

A 2013 study out of the University of Alberta published in the journal Tobacco Control found that smoke emissions of herbal shisha a water pipe user would inhale contains substantial amounts of toxins which were equal to or greater than those from tobacco-based shisha. The study also looked at the constituents of second-hand smoke which was produced from burning either the herbal or the tobacco versions of shisha in a water pipe.

 

The analysis showed the ultra-fine particle levels were similar. Those are those fine little bits that stick in your lunges. If you ever have the opportunity to go into an operating room and look at someone whose lungs have been exposed from those of a smoker, they are the colour of this jacket. Normal healthy lungs are a real nice pink, something along the lines of the tie that the Member for Mount Pearl North was admiring at the sessions at lunchtime. Similar to his shade in the middle of his stripe as well, nice pink healthy lungs. That's what the particles do. They turn your lung into a gritty sponge.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

 

MR. HAGGIE: Yes. The other existing thing was that they found a slight increase in a substance called benzopyrene in herbal shisha. That is something that when it gets on your skin, in actual fact, will produce skin cancer.

 

So we believe the time has come to ban the smoking of all shisha products from indoor public places and workplaces. The amendments we're debating here today to these two pieces of legislation are not just in line with other municipalities and with other provinces and jurisdictions, they're actually evidence based, therein keeping with research and recommendations from recognized sources in Canada and around the world. There's the 2013 Canadian Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey, there's the World Health Organization, there's reports from the US CDC among others.

 

I'm interested in hearing what others do have to say about these amendments during our debate and when we get to the Committee stage, but I believe that all Members of this House understand the real dangers of smoking. We must continue to look at improving our legislation and regulations to make sure they keep up with new products that come on the market. Trying to find a gap between vaping and smoking is artificial. It really is. Flavoured products and hookah products are actually no different anyway, than conventional tobacco smoking.

 

Above all, we again must try to ensure that our children and youth do not have the opportunity to take up smoking or vaping in the first place. So I believe the amendments that we're debating here today will help accomplish this.

 

I hope that all Members in this House will support this legislation. I don't propose to speak any longer; I've made the points I want to.

 

Thank you, Madam Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MADAM SPEAKER (Dempster): Order, please!

 

The Speaker recognizes the hon. the Member for St. John's Centre.

 

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

 

I'm very happy once again to stand and speak to Bill 35. I was very happy to be able to speak and give somewhat of a thumbnail sketch of really what the tobacco industry has done, particularly in North America and a few other places in the world in terms of expanding their reach and growing their clientele for smoking for tobacco products, and also to reiterate once again how little we knew about the harmful health issues of smoking.

 

So many of us know about that and so many of us have even experienced it in our own lives or in our families or our parents who are a little bit older where it was – the goal of the tobacco industry was to totally saturate the market. They basically saturated the market for men and then they had a very targeted campaign to get women to smoke.

 

It's very interesting how they targeted women: “Reach for a Lucky Instead of a Sweet.” So they made a correlation between slimness and smoking. They also made a pitch to get women who were working in the home who were sort of the traditional housewives: To help your nerves, grab a cigarette. They used words such as: Make your disposition sweeter, or calm your nerves.

 

Also, they recommended it for pregnant women to calm their nerves during their pregnancy, or if you had a crying baby. All of this, they knew exactly what they were doing. The tobacco industry knew exactly what they were doing. This was a multi-million dollar industry, or a multi-billion dollar industry and their outreach was very targeted, was very deliberate, was very specific.

 

I believe there is some correlation between vaping and the tobacco industry. Again, it's about that inhaling – but I want to speak as well, I do understand some of the components of the harm reduction, but on the flipside of that, what we are looking at in this regulation is not prohibiting vaping but because vaping is also about that experience of inhaling a substance, exhaling that substance, normalizing smoking, it's sort of like, okay, if I can't smoke tobacco, if I can't smoke that cigarette, maybe I can do the vaping. Maybe that's going to be less harmful.

 

The fact is when we look at the history of tobacco smoking, cigarette smoking, cigar smoking, pipe smoking –we haven't even talked about pipe smoking and the effects that had on public health – we also have to use a precautionary principle. Extensive research has not been done around the potential harmful issues around vaping.

 

Now, I had a family member who was a smoker and who had a heart problem. So what she did is she started vaping and eventually she ended up – a young woman – in the hospital, had never had pneumonia before, but ended up in the hospital for six weeks with pneumonia. She was a voracious 'vaper'.

 

What you see is when people are vaping – because you don't get the same nicotine hit that you would get with cigarettes and because there is this mythology that it's harmless compared to tobacco and cigarettes, people may vape more often than they do a cigarette. You just kind of drag it right into your lungs to try and get that hit because you don't really get the same kind of hit.

 

So we did a lot of research. She ended up in the hospital for six weeks with pneumonia, and a very specific type of pneumonia. We did a lot of research online. If people do research online they can see where there are links that are to the point of almost causal, the number of people who can get this particular type of pneumonia from vaping.

 

What it is, as well, is there's an oily substance within your vaping instrument where bacteria can collect. Then, also people may not handle their vapour in a very sanitized way, so bacteria can grow within your instrument. So you are taking that directly into your lungs.

 

There's also been some research on some of the vaping instruments that come from certain parts of the world. Again, the regulation around safety – we are really concerned, for instance, around the production of food. We have very specific regulations about the production of food to ensure there aren't bacteria in our food, listeria in our food, but we don't quite have that around vaping. It hasn't been regulated enough.

 

What we're seeing is that certain vaping instruments coming from certain parts of the world, in fact those bacteria are already in there. So people are breathing that and dragging it right down into their lungs. There are concerns about that.

 

Now, my particular family member who was in the hospital – young woman again – for six weeks, her doctor believes the vaping was related. We did a lot of research online, and I invite people here to do the same. She almost died. Then, after six weeks in hospital – and I know this is anecdotal, but as the Minister of Health and Community Services has stated, there is some very interesting research looking at the issue of the potential for pneumonia from these vaping instruments. I'm not totally against vaping, but I do believe that putting regulations and restrictions in place similar to cigarettes is not a bad thing.

 

There's a thing in health, particularly in the environmental area and in the health area, called the precautionary principle. So we don't yet know for sure, but from the research that has been done to date from some anecdotal evidence, and also by making extrapolations from what we do know about health, from what we do know about science, that it's reasonable to think there is a problem, although more research has to be done. So then what is applied is the precautionary measure, the precautionary principle. I believe that's what we have to do in the area of vaping.

 

People are free to vape, but to have it regulated in the same way that cigarette smoking is regulated, I believe is the responsible thing to do. In fact, what we're doing because there's not enough research to do absolutely evidence-based pronouncements, we can use the precautionary principle around this issue.

 

The harm reduction; harm reduction is about helping people who have substance abuse issues, who have addictions, to do – okay, what is the best way to help folks so that they can live with the addiction they have and that they avail of whatever programs we have available to help them live as safely as possible with their addictions issue.

 

Some doctors have recommended to their patients, try vaping instead of cigarette smoking because we know for sure what the issues are on cigarette smoking. As the Minister of Health and Community Services has said – and I use this word as well – there's a chemical soup that is tied up with cigarettes like the number of chemicals in the paper itself.

 

I had a friend who was a chemist. She worked with a tobacco company in Montreal for over 30 years. The work she did was only around the papers used in cigarettes. So it's about the slow burn, it's about the taste and it's about the efficacy of the papers. There was a real science to that, but the number of chemicals that are just used in the paper itself.

 

That kind of work hasn't been done around vaping. I believe that we can look at the precautionary principle in terms of the potential health effects and do regulation around vaping in that same vein. I also believe that because we don't have absolute science that shows absolute causation, there needs to be more research in this area. We can look at vaping as a potential harm reduction.

 

Let's remember, harm reduction isn't about let's make something that is not as harmful, so for when people start. Harm reduction is to be able to work with and help folks who are already dealing with substance abuse, with an addiction. It's not about is this a better thing to start with or not. Of course the concern is the normalization of smoking.

 

We still are dealing with – when we see the number, particularly of young women who start to smoke, because again there is this mythology about correlating smoking with slimness and being able to keep your weight down. So you smoke instead of eating a sweet or grabbing a sweet.

 

The other thing is the mythology of people who believe that smoking will calm their nerves. Really what happens is when you smoke a cigarette – and I believe that's what's going to be happening with vaping as well: It calms me nerves.

 

Well, in fact, what happens with cigarettes is that when you smoke a cigarette, you get your hit of nicotine. Each time you finish your cigarette, then the nicotine levels in your body drop. So, in fact, what you're doing is your going through a period of withdrawal. Then the reason smoking seems to calm your nerves is not so much that smoking is calming your nerves, but having a cigarette then gets that nicotine into your system again. So, in fact, what you're dealing with is not calming your nerves. You're dealing with the process of withdrawal from nicotine.

 

So it's kind of funny. In fact, smoking causes this feeling of discomfort and this anxiety because you've developed an addiction to nicotine. Again, the cigarette is about re-entering and re-establishing the levels of nicotine in your body.

 

Will vaping calm your nerves? I believe it's that same kind of cycle. Although for the most part, it doesn't always involve nicotine.

 

I believe that looking at this particular issue we use the precautionary principle. There is some evidence there to show about very specific types of pneumonia that can be linked to vaping. Again, (a) because some of the vaping instruments are not clean and have bacteria, then also the way people use this.

 

I want to see regulation around vaping. I've received a number of emails from people, some of them in my own district who've said, I voted for you but I'm really concerned about Bill 35. When I look at Bill 35, anybody who wants to vape, 19 and over, they can go to an establishment that sells the equipment. They can vape in the privacy of their own home or in other private spaces. I believe their rights are not being limited at all. In fact, this falls in line with how we deal with any other kind of tobacco product, although this is not a tobacco product, but the whole issue of inhaling smoke in whatever form.

 

The other thing is when we go to our places of work, we can see all over the place signs that say this is a scent-sensitive area or there are people that are sensitive to different scents who have allergies, but the signs basically are saying, all over the place, this is a scent-free area. Vaping, even though somebody may decide to have a different flavour in their vaping and there is a whole plethora of flavours that you can have – but again, we've made so much progress in the whole area of scent-free environments.

 

So if I'm in a restaurant or a bar, I don't want to be smelling bubble-gum vape. How does that go down with your Black Horse? I don't know; I don't want to be smelling –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MS. ROGERS: I don't want to be smelling bubble-gum vape smoke when I'm having my Black Horse or my YellowBelly Wheat Ale or any of those wonderful things. Or if I'm having a nice seared scallop at one of our fabulous local restaurants, I don't want to be smelling –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MS. ROGERS: I don't want to be smelling bubble-gum –

 

MR. SPEAKER (Warr): Order, please!

 

MS. ROGERS: – vape, no siree, and I don't think any of us do.

 

I believe that the regulations that are set forth here, I think that they're fair and, again, it allows people who want to vape and the industry, the vaping industry, to be able to sell their wares. As a matter of fact for vape stores, for shops that are dedicated to vaping and e-cigarettes, they can even have all of their wares displayed as well. They can have all of their flavours as well. They are not inhibited from having flavours.

 

Now, the thing is some people say, well, that means that you don't have the chance to taste the different flavours. Well, I don't know, the last time I went to a grocery store I wasn't allowed to taste the cookies or taste the flavourings that you use for baking.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

 

MS. ROGERS: If you could taste all the different beer or whatever in the store, my hon. Member across the hallways says.

 

I understand some of the concerns. I understand the industry wanting to be able to make as much money as they possibly can. I understand all that. There is a whole culture around vaping as well and, again, I have family Members who have been able to quit smoking. Quitting smoking is really tough; I know that. Most of us have been there; most of us in this House have been there. I understand there are some who haven't. They are the lucky ones. They are very, very lucky ones, but I understand how hard it is to quit smoking.

 

For those who want to use it as a harm-reduction issue, I understand that. For those who want to use it as one step towards quitting smoking, I understand that, but let's not be fooled. We know that there are some dangers associated with vaping because, again, what you're dealing with is another chemical soup. The health benefits have not been proved, but again, I understand the harm reduction.

 

We don't want our kids vaping. We don't want our young people vaping. We don't want them saying, well, vaping is not as bad as cigarettes, so I'm going to vape. So I believe the regulations around vaping –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MS. ROGERS: – are responsible. I believe, in fact, that this is a proactive measure by government. I can totally support that. For the folks in my district who are really concerned about what it means for them, I understand; but again, I'd like to refer us back to the whole history that I did when I spoke earlier about the tobacco lobby, about the industry lobby, about the very targeted, very, very targeted messages to saturate because it's an industry to get as many potential clients as possible. 

 

We do have really strong food regulations. We have a lot of regulations about what comes into our bodies around food. I want to see strong regulations about what we take in our bodies in all kinds of ways. It's about water. It's about meat, fruit and vegetables, about our agricultural industry as well.

 

I believe that indigenous people, when they use tobacco in ceremonies, when they use a peace pipe in ceremonies, that those rights are protected. I believe that is really important. I want to see us beef up our smoking cessation programs. It's not enough just to have a phone line. I want to see smoking incorporated into all of our addiction programs. There are so many people out there who are smoking who don't want to smoke. They really don't want to smoke but who don't know how to quit.

 

The thing is none of us were born smokers. Again, it was so hard to smoke, to start smoking and it was so normalized and it was such an acceptable thing to do. Now there are many people who are so hooked on tobacco and nicotine, I get it, I know how hard that is and I want to see more money poured into programs that will actually help people who want to quit to quit. It takes a lot to quit. We had to learn how to smoke and then we had to learn how to quit.

 

So I believe that it's an absolute shame that government did not choose to use every democratic tool at our disposal and did not take this to committee first, because we would have been able to work out some of the issues that are raised by the Official Opposition party. I rely on some of the great work that's been done in Manitoba, in Quebec, in New Brunswick, in Nova Scotia. The world hasn't fallen apart because of the way they are regulating e-cigarettes and the whole industry.

 

Mr. Speaker, I will now take my seat.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

I remind the hon. Member her time has expired.

 

MS. ROGERS: Thank you very much.

 

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

 

MR. LANE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I'm not going to take a long time here, but I do want to reiterate a couple of points now that we're speaking to the main motion. Again, as I said last time when I spoke to the amendment, I agreed with the amendment. Unfortunately, it was voted down, as I predicted, but I will be supporting Bill 35. I think it's important to say that.

 

I just heard the hon. Member for St. John's Centre talk about she doesn't want to go out to a restaurant and taste bubble-gum flavoured vape smoke and all this. I don't either. I don't think anybody on this side is saying they want to. I don't vape, I don't smoke. I used to smoke years ago. I have nobody in my family who smokes or vapes, not a soul. So there's nothing in this for me to raise any of these issues, not a thing.

 

I know the majority of people are against smoking, and I'd say the majority of the population are probably against vaping. They're certainly against being exposed to somebody else's vaping. I'm against it. If someone comes over to my house and if they had a vape, they'd have to go out on the patio the same as someone with a cigarette, the same thing. So there's no argument, not one bit of argument in that regard at all.

 

The only issue that's been raised, certainly with me, and I know others have raised it – now, the Member for Mount Pearl North raised some issues about being able to advertise on the Internet and all that stuff. That concern wasn't raised to me, so I can't speak to it. He has, and that's good.

 

The big one that I've heard from people with vaping shops is they agree with all the legislation. They agree with the fact that you shouldn't be able to go to a restaurant and vape. You shouldn't vape in your car with a youngster. There shouldn't be people under 19 years old vaping. You shouldn't be able to go to Marie's Mini Mart and test the vaping while there are people going in there to pick up a loaf of bread and be exposed to it. They agree with all that.

 

The only part they're saying is when you go into a vape shop – and that's the sole purpose, is the vape shop. Nobody else has any reason to be in there. That when people go in there they need to – they're going in there because they're smokers and they want to stop smoking. They want to use this as an alternative, which I think admittedly, whether it's 95 per cent or 90 per cent or 50 per cent, it's less harmful than cigarettes.

 

They want to wean themselves off tobacco, off nicotine, which is what this is meant to do. If they want to go in there so that someone can show them how to use the device properly, so that they can test the different flavour of juices or whatever you call it, and there's nobody else in there only people who are going there for that purpose, than what's the harm? That's the only issue. What's the harm in doing that?

 

That's the concern they are raising. As a government, as society, what is the goal here? What is the goal of this legislation? The goal of this legislation is to prevent harm to the public. I would argue that if this testing is not being done in public – it may be in public by definition, that definition could easily be amended, but if it's not harming the public, then there's no harm there.

 

If somebody is going there so they can get off the cigarettes, and this helps them get off the cigarettes, sure that's a good thing. The purpose of the legislation is to protect the public and it is also to prevent health care costs that we are all going to have to pay for. So if somebody gets off cigarettes, they don't get lung cancer and all the costs associated with that, sure that's a good thing isn't it? I would see that as a good thing.

 

That's the only point. That's really the only point. Certainly, that is the salient point that has been communicated to me. I don't understand why we would be against looking at that. Why would we be against exploring that? I don't understand.

 

That doesn't mean we're promoting vaping as the new thing, because kids can't buy it. You can't go buy it at a retail store. Kids can't buy it. We are not advertising it. It's not going to be on signs outside the thing, try vaping and all that; none of that. It is simply a place for a smoker to go to get off the smokes. It's as simple as that. A minor amendment in that regard could work for everybody. So that is the main point.

 

Mr. Speaker, before I sit down, I do have a couple of emails that were sent to me and I want to just put it into the record as well. My colleague from Mount Pearl North read the one from Mr. Wilkins, so I won't read that again, but he sent that to all Members. I did have three sent to me.

 

The first one, I'm not going to use his name because I don't know if he wants me to use his name. His first name is Steve, but I won't use his last name to identify him. It's not Steve Crocker either.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Steve Kent?

 

MR. LANE: Not Steve Kent either.

 

Oops, I apologize, Mr. Speaker, I can't use names. Forgive me. That was a mistake.

 

Anyway, his name was Steve. He said: I'm writing you today with my concerns about Bill 35. If Bill 35 is passed we will no longer be able to try e-juice before we buy it. The e-juice that we can sample contains no nicotine.

 

That's an important point too. When they're doing the testing of the e-juice to get the flavour, there's no nicotine. You can get the e-juice with nicotine. When you go on these e-cigarettes you start off – if you're a heavy smoker you start off with a high amount of nicotine. Eventually, you wean down the amount of nicotine, hopefully to zero at some point. When you're actually testing the flavours, of which all they're saying here, there's zero nicotine – zero, none, nada, not a thing.

 

New people will no longer be shown how to use their new device and learn the safety of it right there in the store. That's the other point. Part of it is if you're trying to use this for the first time, somebody shows you how to actually use the device and use it safely. To me that would be an important point.

 

Vaping is helping a lot of people quit smoking. People have smoked for tens of years, and get healthier by no longer inhaling the millions of chemicals that's produced from tobacco consumption. I, for one and many people I know can now breathe better, run or do activities without getting short of breath. E-juice has nothing to do with tobacco. The nicotine used in e-juice does not come from the tobacco plant – now, I don't know if that's true. I'm only reading what he has here. That may or may not be accurate, but that's what he's saying.

 

There are many plants and vegetables that contain nicotine. Maybe the Minister of Health would know this being a doctor. He says: Many vegetables contain nicotine like tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants used in juice, peppers, cauliflower, plus more. I don't know if that's right or not. He's saying it is.

 

The same ingredients that are in e-juice are the same that are being put into our food. Every ingredient is food grade. I have smoked for 12 years and quit instantly when I started vaping. The shops are doing a great job and not selling to minors, persons under 19. There is no need for this bill. Can you please do some research about vaping and show how much safer this is. That was one person's perspective.

 

The next one I have here is a gentleman by the name of Andrew. It's not the same Andrew because I have the other Andrew here that the member read. This is a different Andrew.

 

Hello, my name is Andrew. I want to tell you what I think about Bill 35. I'm a 15-year smoker. I started when I was 15 years old – so he's 30 now – which quit thanks to vaping. Vaping was a lifesaver from staying away from smoking. If I was not vaping, I would be smoking which I don't want. Vape is cheaper and 95 per cent healthier. In Europe, they are allowing vaping in hospitals – that shows how safe it is. Now, this is what he is saying. I don't know if that's true, but he is saying in Europe you can actually vape in hospitals. The glycol is the same they put in air in hospitals.

 

If they pass Bill 35, it definitely shows how uneducated our government has gotten about world issues and how they make it that tobacco companies will win and get more money. I wish it hadn't gotten like that. The only thing they should pass is it should be 19 and up at all stores, as they are doing already, and the only reason younger teens are getting it is the same as they do with tobacco. I hope you read this and turn down Bill 35.

 

The final one I have – this is from the owner of a vape shop. This gentleman who owns a vape shop says: Numerous studies have surfaced in the last few months that have proven that exhaled vapour in the air is no more harmful than the air we breathe that contains no vapour. The last thing the vapour community wants is to renormalize smoking. In fact, it has been my belief that we are more anti-smoking than people who have never smoked.

 

Then under his summary of Bill 35 and the amendments, he says: Section 4.2 and 4.3 discuss the displaying of products, sampling of products and keeping merchandise from the public view. It does not state in – actually, Mr. Speaker, what I'm going to do is I'm going to wait until I get to Committee of the Whole because these would be questions. I'll skip that part.

 

The only points of contention are the dedicated vape shops must be allowed to operate as we currently have been. A customer needs to be able to view the products, touch the products and sample the products in order to make a decision that will be a health benefit to them. We are not claiming that vaping is 100 per cent safe. We are not doctors or scientists, but no one can argue against the studies that state vaping is at least 95 per cent safer than traditional cigarettes.

 

A report by the Royal College of Physicians in England, the same group that claimed cigarettes were linked to cancer, this group claims the same results in a 200-page report. As for vaping being some backdoor into leading people to smoke, that seems like the strangest thing we've heard as an industry.

 

Of the thousands of customers myself and my staff have pushed through the doors, I have never met someone who entered the store as a non-smoker looking to blow clouds. Every single customer is either a smoker or somebody looking at quitting traditional cigarettes. I'm a little caught off guard this morning with this news briefing today, but I will send you more info that I may have forgotten. Thanks again for your attention.

 

So this is from a vape shop owner. Again, the point here, Mr. Speaker, is that nobody is against the legislation around tobacco. Nobody is against that. Nobody is against not allowing the flavoured tobacco, the kids, the advertising and the methanol cigarettes – not methanol, the menthol cigarettes. What they are trying to do there is cut all of that out.

 

Nobody is against that and nobody is suggesting that you should be allowed to go vaping in a public area, or vaping around kids, or kids should be able to do it. Nobody is saying any of that. All they are saying is someone trying to get off the smokes, they go into the vape shop and they are able to test it, taste it, whatever, shown how to use the thing so that they can get off the cigarettes which will be better for their health, and will help cut down the expenses on the health care system. That's all they're asking for, a simple amendment.

 

With that said, Mr. Speaker, I'll take my seat and I'm hoping, beyond hope, that maybe all of this debate will spark a change of heart and maybe we'll see some amendments.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

MR. SPEAKER: If the hon. the Minister of Child, Youth and Family Services speaks now, she will close the debate.

 

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

 

MS. GAMBIN-WALSH: Mr. Speaker, the previous administration worked on Bill 35 and did some comprehensive work leading up to this day, and I thank them for their work. This bill was not rushed, Mr. Speaker, as the Member for Fortune Bay – Cape La Hune said earlier.

 

For the Opposition briefing, one staff member from each party showed up and the MHA for Mount Pearl – Southlands was also briefed.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: He was not invited.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MS. GAMBIN-WALSH: He was briefed.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

 

MS. GAMBIN-WALSH: Health Canada issued an advisory in 2009 advising Canadians to not use these cigarettes because safety and quality was unknown. Mr. Speaker, on May 19, 2015 the MHA for Topsail – Paradise said government is keeping the health of this province's population as a priority, as are we, Mr. Speaker.

 

Regarding consultation, input to inform the proposed tobacco control amendment was obtained through a jurisdictional scan of other PT legislation, meetings and review of evidence, correspondence, physician statements and media coverage. Additional information is that meetings were held with the following stakeholders and groups to provide the opportunity for these groups and individuals to share their position on the issue: the Newfoundland and Labrador Alliance for the Control of Tobacco, the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of School Councils, the owner of Aladdin's Hookah Lounge, the Atlantic Convenience Stores Association and the Canadian Vaping Association.

 

The Department of Health and Community Services ministerial Cancer Control Advisory Committee submitted recommendations. The Atlantic Convenience Stores Association and the Canadian Vaping Association supports amendments related to age restrictions to minors regarding the sale of e-cigarettes.

 

Local vapour shops have publicly stated that they support some industry regulation and that they currently have policies in place to not sell to minors.

 

Mr. Speaker, with regard to legalizing marijuana, there is much left to discuss. The federal government is considering developing legislation to legalize marijuana. The legislation and any implications it may have on provinces and territories from a number of perspectives will be discussed between the provincial and federal government.

 

Government's view is that the public health benefits of this legislation is very important to the health of the residents of our province and, in particular, our youth. Tobacco companies Imperial Tobacco and JTI-Macdonald have filed lawsuits in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec and Alberta against legislative measures to ban the sale of flavoured tobacco; therefore, there is a risk of a similar legal challenge being brought by tobacco companies against a ban on a sale of menthol tobacco products in our province as well.

 

We have sought legal advice from Justice and Public Safety in the development of these amendments and we are confident in the amendments and are prepared to defend them if challenged, Mr. Speaker.

 

We recognize that there may be benefits to e-cigarettes. We are regulating, not banning e-cigarettes. The sale of e-cigarettes will be limited to people age 19 and older, as with tobacco products.

 

The Member for Mount Pearl North read an email that many of us received from Andrew. Andrew can continue vaping if he is 19 years or older. Mr. Speaker, employees in vape shops should not be forced to be exposed to second-hand vapour all day in a public place.

 

The Member for Mount Pearl North spoke about social media and advertising. The only thing we are regulating is point-of-sale advertising at the retail level. We are not – and I repeat, not – regulating promotions from Internet, email, social media, TV, radio, et cetera. 

 

E-cigarettes do not emit a harmless water vapour but an aerosol that has been found to contain at least 10 toxic chemicals such as formaldehyde, lead and nickel. The aerosol contains high concentrations of ultra-fine particles that are inhaled and become trapped in the lungs.

 

The bill has allowed for designated e-cigarette rooms in long-term care homes and remote work sites, underground mines and offshore platforms. We are amending the Smoke-Free Environment Act, 2005 and the Tobacco Control Act to further protect the public, in particular, Mr. Speaker, children and youth, from the harms of flavoured tobacco products including menthol and hookah smoking and the potential harms of electronic cigarettes.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. SPEAKER: Is the House ready for the question?

 

The motion is that Bill 35 be now read a second time.

 

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

 

All those in favour, 'aye.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

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

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Nay.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Carried.

 

CLERK (Murphy): A bill, An Act To Amend The Smoke-Free Environment Act, 2005 And The Tobacco Control Act. (Bill 35)

 

MR. SPEAKER: This bill has now been read a second time. When shall the bill be referred to a Committee of the Whole?

 

MS. COADY: Now.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Now.

 

On motion, a bill, “An Act To Amend The Smoke-Free Environment Act, 2005 And The Tobacco Control Act,” read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House presently, by leave. (Bill 35)

 

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

 

MS. COADY: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the Minister of Child, Youth and Family Services, that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole to consider Bill 35, An Act To Amend The Smoke-Free Environment Act, 2005 And The Tobacco Control Act.

 

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that I do now leave the Chair for the House to resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole to consider the said bills.

 

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

 

All those in favour, 'aye.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

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

 

Carried.

 

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

 

Committee of the Whole

 

CHAIR (Dempster): Order, please!

 

We are now considering Bill 35, An Act To Amend The Smoke-Free Environment Act, 2005 And The Tobacco Control Act.

 

A bill, “An Act To Amend The Smoke-Free Environment Act, 2005 And The Tobacco Control Act.” (Bill 35)

 

CLERK: Clause 1.

 

CHAIR: Shall clause 1 carry?

 

The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl North.

 

MR. KENT: Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

I'm glad to see Members of government are taking this debate seriously.

 

We have raised many concerns in second reading debate this afternoon. Now in committee we have an opportunity to raise some issues specific to the different clauses of the bill.

 

There have been concerns pouring in from people in the province who feel there are problems with parts of this legislation. Overall, there are lots of things in this legislation that make sense, but there are some specific things that are problematic that we've highlighted today. I just want to share with you some comments that I received late today since this debate has been taking place.

 

Regardless of the safety, long-term effects of vaping, I don't disagree with vaping and e-cigarette usage being banned in public places and the workplace. If you smoke you would need to go to designated areas, but also there are scented products and have chemicals that could affect other people. Personally, I don't mind it but I know people with allergies to scents and it could be an irritation for those people at the least. Yes, it helps a lot of smokers quit and that is good, but there should be regulations in place for it – and we agree, there should be sensible regulations in place for it. The flavouring that's used in some of the cigarette products is actually food grade flavouring. So there are many people in the vaping community who would suggest that the product is not harmful.

 

Someone goes on in this discussion to say: I'm not disputing the product; I have friends that use it all the time. When it comes to vaping in public and/or workplace areas, I feel it should respect others and be regulated – again, we agree. I believe there should be age restrictions to be able to purchase and use the product – again we agree, the vaping community agrees. If you are in a store that is exclusively a vapour store, go ahead and sample. People are there for that reason. If they advertise, fine.

 

I think that's kind of a common sense view of the arguments that we've been trying to make this afternoon during this debate. Should some marketing and promotion be permitted if it's educational and if it's a discussion through social media channels? I would argue yes. Despite the minister's comments in the closing and second reading, I would argue that that should be acceptable.

 

Should vaping shops be able to demonstrate the use of their product and allow people to sample their products? I think yes. Based on safety concerns alone it makes sense. Should people be able to vape in institutions? Well, that's an interesting point that has come up today that warrants further consideration. So I think these are matters that make sense for government to look at and further consider.

 

Consumers have a right to information about vapour products. This bill is going to unfairly restrict that information. Vapour products are not tobacco products, and categorizing them the same way is unreasonable and unfair. Regulating promotion as harshly as tobacco is absolutely a safety concern.

 

So, Madam Chair, I would ask government once again to look at what other jurisdictions like Manitoba are doing. There is a better way forward here. There are simple changes that can be made to this bill that would address the concerns we've raised this afternoon. It's really unfortunate that the minister and government are unwilling to listen.

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl –Southlands.

 

MR. LANE: Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

I have a couple of questions for the minister. So I guess I'll just read them and maybe she can respond to them at once or one at a time. Anyway, hopefully she will respond to them. These are not my questions. These are questions that were given to me by the owner of the shop.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: A constituent.

 

MR. LANE: No, not a constituent but the owner of a vape shop.

 

Section 4.2, 4.3 discuss the displaying of products, sampling of products and keeping merchandise from the public view. It does state in 4.6(2) that 4.2 and 4.3 do not apply to a tobacconist shop or a vapour product shop but we would like to ensure that these amendment stay true and exclude existing businesses that sell only these products, unlike gas stations and convenience stores. That was one question they had, Madam Chair.

 

Under section 3, the section on a designated room, the commentary here is the wording is vague but seems to be talking about a ship, a vessel or a mine. It states, an employee may designate a room or rooms that could be used for e-cigarette use. We need to know whether or not the entire vape shop can be considered a room since there is no reason anyone who isn't one of the following to be entering the vape shop.

 

Now, I'm pretty sure the answer to that is going to be no, they can't do it; but, they're saying anyone entering the shop is going to be a current smoker looking for a safer alternative. A vaper looking for a new product. A vaper looking for a staff member to fix an existing problem with the device. What they are saying is under the section that talks about creating a separate room where you can vape, could the vape shop be considered that room? Hence, that's a way they could continue to allow people to test their products in the store.

 

The other question which was sent, says here: I would love an answer from the Minister of Child, Youth and Family Services whether or not the government has referenced the report of April 28, 2016, from the Royal College of Physicians in the UK that states that vaping is at minimum 95 per cent safer than cigarettes. This is the same group that made it publicly known about cancer being linked to cigarettes. Putting regulations on a safer alternative is not only harsh, but affects the overall well-being and health of the community.

 

The final question which I had here myself for the minister would be: Why did you choose not to consult with the people who own the vape shops here in Newfoundland and Labrador? Why was there no consultation with them seeing as how they're one of the major stakeholders?

 

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

 

MS. GAMBIN-WALSH: No, vape shops cannot be a designated e-cigarette room. We are not preventing people from over the age of 19 –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MS. GAMBIN-WALSH: – from smoking. We did consult with organizations and groups.

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl – Southlands.

 

MR. LANE: I understand, Madam Chair, that the minister said she's consulted with organizations and groups. I'm asking her specifically why she did not consult with the owners of the vape shops here in Newfoundland.

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl North.

 

MR. KENT: I was just rising to allow the minister to have a chance to answer the question. It looks like she's going to answer the question so I'll sit and let her do so.

 

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

 

MS. GAMBIN-WALSH: There wasn't direct consultation done, you're correct. As I said before, input to inform the proposed tobacco control amendments was obtained through a jurisdictional scan.

 

We followed what was done by other provinces across Canada. The previous administration had a significant amount of work done on this piece of legislation.

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl – Southlands.

 

MR. LANE: Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

Again, I'm not disputing that there was work done. I'm not disputing that there was a jurisdictional scan done. The question is we have vaping shops. That's what they do. They're here in our province, not somebody else's province, our province. Why would you not consult with those stakeholders?

 

CHAIR: Seeing no further speakers, shall clause 1 carry?

 

All those in favour?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: All those against?

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Nay.

 

CHAIR: Carried.

 

On motion, clause 1 carried.

 

CLERK (Barnes): Clauses 2 through 20 inclusive.

 

CHAIR: Shall clauses 2 to 20 inclusive carry?

 

The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl North.

 

MR. KENT: Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. KENT: Madam Chair, I can't hear myself.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. JOYCE: Madam Chair, a point of order.

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Municipal Affairs on a point of order.

 

MR. JOYCE: Madam Chair, by section 49, the hon. – I think it's Mount Pearl – Southlands was singing out shut up. As he asked the Member the other day to apologize, I ask that he apologize and just move on with it. He can't go telling people to shut up. There's chatting here, chatting about this very serious bill.

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl – Southlands.

 

MR. LANE: I withdraw my remarks.

 

CHAIR: Thank you.

 

The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl North.

 

MR. KENT: Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

The points I wanted to raise in the Committee stage on these clauses – it's 2 to what number? Sorry, Madam Chair.

 

CHAIR: Clauses 2 to 20.

 

MR. KENT: Clauses 2 to 20. I'm not going to repeat everything that was said this afternoon. At length for 40 minutes this afternoon I went through all of these points and arguments, so I'm not going to repeat it all this evening. There are some questions that do need to be asked at this stage of the debate.

 

I'm curious why government wasn't willing to create more distinction and separation between vaping and tobacco. It feels like those issues should be dealt with separately. I'm looking, for instance, at clause 5 at the moment. I think that challenge could be addressed through a legislation review committee.

 

I guess my first question to the minister is – and I'll allow her to respond – why are you so opposed to allowing for the public to have input? You did the jurisdictional scan, you've talked to the hookah lounge downtown, but the vape shops haven't been consulted. The thousands of people in this province that use vaping as a form of harm reduction haven't been consulted.

 

Minister, why are you so opposed to allowing the public to have input? I'd like to hear the minister answer that question, Madam Chair.

 

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

 

MS. GAMBIN-WALSH: We're not opposed. Local vapour shops had publicly stated that they support some industry regulation and that they currently have policies in place to not sell to minors. So they've had input in this legislation.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: As the Member opposite knows.

 

MS. GAMBIN-WALSH: Yes, as the Member opposite would know. As the previous minister of Health and Community Services, there was a significant amount of work done on this bill prior.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl North.

 

MR. KENT: They weren't consulted, Madam Chair.

 

In the response the minister gave to the Member for Mount Pearl – Southlands she made it clear that they weren't consulted. They weren't consulted when I was the Minister of Health and Community Services, at least not by the department that I was working for. When I left office, there was still further work to be done on this legislation by Seniors, Wellness and Social Development.

 

There are stakeholders in the community that are very concerned about what government is doing here and, unfortunately, this could be a good news story for the government. There are lots of things in this bill that we can all get excited about and agree upon. It's unfortunate that because the minister is not willing to press pause on the issues that people are upset about at this stage, that they won't have an opportunity to have input. It just doesn't make any sense.

 

I'll jump to clause 7. One of the concerns I have, which I raised earlier but it's important enough to highlight again, relates to the definition of e-cigarette. The way it's laid out, there are thousands of products in that category so it shows the disregard for the vaping industry and for the vaping community. I don't know why the minister would be unwilling to consider making changes that would address these concerns. Further down there's a definition of vapour products.

 

Again, based on the way it's described, that could apply to thousands of products. I don't think that's the intention. I think this is poorly written. I've highlighted in the House today that there is legislation out there that better addresses the issues that government is trying to tackle through this legislation. So I don't understand why government is unwilling to listen to that input.

 

I'd like to also jump to clause 11 and highlight that there are good things in the legislation, even when it comes to vaping. Under clause 11, it will now be “… an offence for a retailer or other person to sell, give or furnish, directly or indirectly, tobacco, vapour products or non-tobacco shisha to a minor.” That's positive. Even when it comes to vaping, there are some elements of this legislation that make reasonable sense. Unfortunately, though, there are some holes in the legislation that government is not willing to address.

 

I'll jump to clause 13, Madam Chair. I think this is an important point related to the distinction between tobacco and vapour products. These products are not like cigarettes. This is about the opportunity for customers to see the products in the shop and be able to experience the product in a shop. Customers have a right to view the product and make sure that it's a fair purchase. It makes sense to give them an opportunity to be shown how to use the product, taught how to use it safely. I just think that's responsible.

 

I'll as the minister: Why are you unwilling to allow vapour shops – why can't we make some kind of modification to this legislation to allow products to be tested in store by trained staff of vapour shops? Why won't we make a change so that the legislation is similar to the legislation that exists in Manitoba that would allow customers, as they can do today, to test products in vapour shops?

 

It's a simple change. It would make a huge difference to the vaping community. It would make a huge change for the businesses that are affected. So if I can ask for anything at the Committee stage of the debate, Madam Chair, that is it: Will the minister entertain a change? Will she press pause and entertain a change that will allow for products to be tested in vape shops?

 

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

 

MS. GAMBIN-WALSH: First, given that the Member is talking about the definition of e-cigarettes and talking about Manitoba and what Manitoba are doing, I would just like to read out the Manitoba definition of e-cigarettes: “a product or device, whether or not it resembles a cigarette, containing a power source and heating element designed to vapourize an e-substance for inhalation or release into the air.” I think that's exactly like ours.

 

Second of all, regarding sampling, we cannot go into liquor stores and sample beer. We cannot go into tobacco stores today and sample cigarettes, different types of cigarettes –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

I have recognized the minister and I ask Members for their co-operation to let her speak while she is on her feet.

 

Thank you.

 

MS. GAMBIN-WALSH: We cannot go into tobacco stores today and sample different types of cigarettes.

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl North.

 

MR. KENT: Does the minister at all acknowledge that there's a role for vaping to play in harm reduction? Because this legislation goes too far and there are some sensible changes, like the ones I've just outlined, that would allow for the vaping industry to function better as it does today. Testing the products in the store is a safety issue. Does the minister not acknowledge that this is about harm reduction and allowing people to understand how to use the products they are using could actually be helpful in that harm-reduction journey?

 

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

 

MS. GAMBIN-WALSH: In reference to harm reduction, people will still be shown how to use the cigarette; they just won't actually be able to use it in the store. So we understand the harm reduction and showing the people how to use the product.

 

CHAIR: Seeing no further speakers, I'll ask the Clerk to call ….

 

CLERK: Clauses 2 through 20.

 

CHAIR: Shall clauses 2 to 20 inclusive carry?

 

All those in favour, 'aye.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: All those against, 'nay.'

 

Carried.

 

On motion, clauses 2 through 20 carried.

 

CLERK: Be it enacted by the Lieutenant Governor and House of Assembly in Legislative Session convened, as follows.

 

CHAIR: Shall the enacting clause carry?

 

All those in favour, 'aye.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: All those against, 'nay.'

 

Carried.

 

On motion, enacting clause carried.

 

CLERK: An Act To Amend The Smoke-Free Environment Act, 2005 And The Tobacco Control Act.

 

CHAIR: Shall the long title carry.

 

All those in favour, 'aye.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: All those against, 'nay.'

 

Carried.

 

On motion, title carried.

 

CHAIR: Shall I report Bill 35, An Act To Amend The Smoke-Free Environment Act, 2005 And The Tobacco Control Act, carried without amendment?

 

All those in favour, 'aye.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: All those against, 'nay.'

 

Carried.

 

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

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

 

MR. A. PARSONS: I move, Madam Chair, that the Committee rise and report Bill 35.

 

CHAIR: The motion is that I do now the leave the Chair and report Bill 35.

 

All those in favour, 'aye.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: All those against, 'nay.'

 

Carried.

 

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

 

MR. SPEAKER (Warr): The hon. the Deputy Chair.

 

MS. DEMPSTER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

The Committee of the Whole have considered the matters to them referred and have directed me to report Bill 35 carried without amendment.

 

MR. SPEAKER: The Chair of the Committee of the Whole reports that the Committee have considered the matters to them referred and have directed her to report Bill 35 carried without amendment.

 

When shall the report be received?

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Now.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Now.

 

When shall the bill be read a third time?

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Tomorrow.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Tomorrow.

 

On motion, report received and adopted. Bill ordered read a third time on tomorrow.

 

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

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, I call from the Order Paper, Order 7, second reading of Bill 36.

 

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

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the Minister of Environment and Conservation, that Bill 36, An Act To Amend The Victims Of Crime Services Act, be now read the second time.

 

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that Bill 36, An Act To Amend The Victims Of Crime Services Act, be now read a second time.

 

Motion, second reading of a bill, “An Act To Amend The Victims Of Crime Services Act.” (Bill 36)

 

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

 

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

 

I'm happy to stand here and speak to Bill 36, which is another important piece of legislation that concerns the Department of Justice. It's a fairly simple change to a pre-existing piece of legislation.

 

The technical side of it is that: “Subsection 11.1(1) of the Victims of Crime Services Act is repealed and the following substituted: 11.1(1) Where a person is convicted of an offence under an Act of the province and a fine is imposed as a penalty for that conviction, that person shall, in addition to the fine, pay a victim fine surcharge that is 30% of the fine imposed on that person. (2) This Act comes into forces on September 1, 2016.”

 

Quite frankly, what we're doing here, Mr. Speaker, this province has had existing now for over a decade a victim fine surcharge. When the matter goes into court, if there's a provincial offence, whether it's – it can be something that deals with wildlife. It could be something that deals with fisheries. It can be something that deals with a number of provincial pieces of legislation as well as the Criminal Code.

 

The fact is that there are a number of penalties under sentencing that a court can impose. There are things like probation, things like actual imprisonment. There are a number of prohibitions that can be put on a person. Another thing that can be put on a person also is a fine.

 

In this case, what we're saying here is that there's already pre-existing a victim fine surcharge. That is a surcharge that is put onto an already existing fine. That money goes into the Treasury. In our case here in this province, that money goes towards paying for a number of things within the Department of Justice, primarily the Victim Services Program.

 

Up to this point, that fine has been 15 per cent but this year, and with this piece of legislation, we are amending that to 30 per cent. Again, this is a fine surcharge that will only be put on those individuals that are convicted of breaking the law. I think that we need to note that. This is not something that anybody – nobody is going to have to pay this if they didn't do something wrong. That is the basic point that I want to make sure that we get out there.

 

We have in this province a Victim Services Program, a bunch of great individuals across this province. They work both with the criminal justice system usually. They also work with people within the justice system, and work with justice partners out there in the province. One of the things that we often hear about – and again, I think it is something that we see on the news on a daily basis actually – is the role of a victim within our system.

 

In many cases we know that people who are involved in the system, if you are the accused, if you are the defendant, you have a lawyer. That lawyer helps navigate through the system for you. We also have, especially when we are dealing with these offences, a Crown prosecutor. A Crown prosecutor's job is to present evidence on behalf of Her Majesty. Their job is not to get a conviction; their job is to present the case in front of the court. Usually again, it seems that their job is to get a conviction, but that's not the case. It is not a personal matter; it is a matter of laying out the evidence in front of a judge, in front of an impartial trier of fact, in order to establish whether a finding of guilt should be put forward.

 

They often deal with the victims in these cases, but that's not their primary job. Anybody in this province, anybody in this House that has actually spoken to a victim will tell you that in many cases, they feel lost or disadvantaged at some points in the system – in many cases, through no fault of their own. They are here going through this matter. They may have been the victim of a violent crime, it could be a less violent crime, it could be a financial crime, it could be anything; but anybody who has had something like that committed upon them or alleged to have been committed upon them, that is a difficult thing. It is difficult to deal with the facts of an offence. Especially we've all seen very, very serious cases – it is hard.

 

So in many cases, these people feel like they have no one. They don't have a private lawyer. They are not going to go out and get a private lawyer to defend their interests because that private lawyer has no role to play in the court system, per se, that's what the Crown prosecutor does; but the Crown prosecutor is handling the case and the fact is that the Crown prosecutor is handling multiple cases with multiple victims and multiple witnesses. So the ability that they have to deal with each individual and provide the attention that the individual often needs is just not there. That's normal, not just in this province, it is normal throughout the system.

 

What we have here in this province is we have a Victim Services Program and these individuals work with victims. They help guide them through this process which, in many cases, can seem intimidating, can see invasive; it's certainly very difficult.

 

In fact, I can remember actually having cases where I was practising – I would have been on the defence side, had my accused that I was representing and dealing with that; but you also feel for the victim who is sitting there and in many cases didn't have that support, didn't have that individual and you feel for them. It is small-town courtrooms and you're trying to pass along what information you can about what is going to happen next. What happens next in this matter? When are you going to have to show up? What do you have to say? How does this all work?

 

It's scary and anybody that's ever actually – not even if you're the victim; anybody who has ever been a witness in a matter can tell you it's quite intimidating to get up in that witness box and have a judge ask you questions. I've done it once and I can tell you it's a different story being the person down there asking the questions and the person that is sitting up there getting asked, especially when you throw in the fact that you have a victim.

 

Again, you have the defence counsel; their job is to cross-examine that individual. You're there to work on behalf of your client. It's a trying process. This program – they've done a great job. I've met a number of people who worked through this program. They support the victim in their critical time of need, especially when it deals with the trauma, the victimization and help them navigate their way through this system.

 

Under section 11.1, the surcharge that we previously had was 15 per cent of any fine ordered; that came into effect 2006 – 15 per cent of anything, that was added on, and that money would actually get paid first before the fine, all of it goes back into the system that helps pay for the Victim Services Program. It doesn't come close to covering the cost of what that program is. I have some statistics here that I will provide for the information of Members.

 

Revenue from the surcharge is used to cover the cost of providing services to victims. No one is going to argue about the importance, the purpose and the necessity of this. The problem is, though, that we need money to help pay for this service. I think the budget runs into the $2 million to $3 million range, but we don't recoup anywhere near that. We get some federal investment, but again, it can cost money. So in this case what we're suggesting is that we should increase that to 30 per cent. This handles the Highway Traffic Act; it can handle the federal matters, forestry, wildlife, anything.

 

One thing I will note is that individuals have a right – there is ability for the judge in these matters to exercise discretion to exempt an individual from paying the surcharge, if they can satisfy the court that paying it will create an undue hardship to the individual or their dependants.

 

So let's keep in mind first of all, if you're paying a surcharge, you were convicted of breaking the law. That's the first thing to keep in mind here. The second thing is that this service helps provide for those individuals that are wrong because of the breaking of law.

 

What we're saying here is that we feel, given the fiscal circumstances that we find ourselves in, given the fact that the surcharge revenues never come close to paying off the amount, we think that we need to do more to make sure that we have these individuals to provide the service. We're suggesting that it go up to 30 per cent.

 

The next part of it, though, is that there are individuals that go into court, there are individuals that are convicted of fracturing the law, but in many cases the fact is that imposing this fine will carry with it a legitimate hardship. Not everybody has that case; some do. It's up to that individual or their solicitor to argue in front of a judge and to show proof, I would suggest, that the imposition of this fine and the payment of this fine are not possible. It will create undue hardship on them. Maybe they have dependants. Maybe they have situations that to do this will not do justice to where we need to be. So it does give the judge the discretion which is something that I've liked that I've seen in the past.

 

The anticipated increase in revenue – and it's hard to tell where it's going to be, but it would be anticipated to be in the range of $700,000 per year with money collected being used to offset the cost of the program. The fines, we get roughly around the range of $800,000 per year. Right now they're averaging a collection rate of about 80 per cent.

 

The judge has the discretion under 11.1(3) to not impose the surcharge, again, a critical aspect of this. The staff of Victim Services is dedicated to the provision of client-centred services which foster the promotion of personal safety. To break that down to its most basic, if you're a victim going through this system it's daunting, it's hard, it's difficult, you've already suffered enough and the fact is that we're trying to make it easier on you. We're trying to make sure that you have supports there.

 

I did get some information provided by my staff, who I appreciate the staff to take the time to make sure this information is available to individuals. The province budgeted approximately $3.1 million to operate Victim Services this year. So you're averaging about $800,000 received; it's costing you $3.1 million to run. That's offset by the feds coming in with $750,000 annually from a federal funding agreement. Last year, there was $754,000 in revenue from these victim fine surcharges which was both federal and provincial.

 

There's always a little bit of discrepancy in the budgeted and actual revenue, given the fact that there's obvious uncertainty around the imposition and the collection of this. Last year saw approximately $1 million in victim fine surcharges with an $800,000 collection rate. So the fact is it's easy to see there that even with this increase we are still not recouping the total cost of victim services programs. We are just not recouping it.

 

I think I'll stop at that point there. I know the Opposition has had an opportunity to be briefed on this legislation and to meet with staff. I know some of the researchers are taking the time to reach out to my staff, and I think they've had their questions answered.

 

Before I do, just some stats put out there. In 2012-2013, there was just over a million dollars imposed, $1.078 million, $812,000 collected. The year after, $908,400 imposed, $851,000 collected. In 2014-2015, $851,200 imposed, $806,700 collected. So there is a pretty good collection rate on this, which is nice. This money is all going to what I would deem – unfortunately, we wish it was an unnecessary situation. We wish we didn't have to use this money, but the fact is we do.

 

So on that note, I look forward to the debate by my Members opposite and answering questions during the Committee stage.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

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

 

MR. HUTCHINGS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to stand and have a few words on Bill 36, An Act To Amend The Victims Of Crime Services Act. I appreciate the details and some of the statistics the hon. minister just mentioned that time in concluding his remarks.

 

I want to mention as well – he mentioned in regard to staff of the department and giving a briefing. I certainly appreciate that as well, in terms of the work that was done and answering questions that may have existed, and work through the bill. As we go to Committee we'll have probably a few more questions as well.

 

From the information we got when going through this, the bill amends the Victims of Crime Services Act to increase the victim fine surcharge from 15 to 30 per cent. This would include all provincial offences, except parking offences and municipal bylaws. This rate is consistent, my understanding, with federal offence surcharges as well. A cross-jurisdictional scan of provinces, I don't think shows consistency between all provinces, and I don't think there was information on the specific rates of all provinces when we went through the actual information from the department.

 

The minister also referenced all funds raised through surcharges go back into Victim Services programs, which we know are vitally important. Services provided would include counselling, assistance in preparing statements, advising of rights, and other such functions.

 

The only ones negatively affected by such charges are those being charged with an offence and required to pay a fine. In regard to Victim Services programs, the minister also referenced the fact that there's also joint federal-provincial partnerships in regard to providing those services that are needed.

 

From our perspective, obviously, this is an amendment that is required. We certainly recognize and support it. Things that we may look at when we get to committee, some of the things that came up: How much additional funding will be anticipated through this amendment? All the additional funding go back to Victim Services programs. I think he indicated it may have but we could certainly confirm that when we go through committee.

 

He also talked about, from a provincial budgetary perspective in terms of what's estimated and what the actuals really are at the end of the year. Also, there's often discrepancies for various reasons and what that would be. So we may talk about that as well.

 

We will talk about department Estimates. Victim Services programs are located, I think it's section 4.2.01 in the budget. I don't know what cuts, if any, were made this year in the Victim Services program in Budget 2016. We want to talk about those in regard to what the impact of those may be. As well, how does this 30 per cent surcharge stack up against other provinces in their surcharges on provincial offences?

 

Those are some of the things, as we move into committee, we want to ask. The minister may be able to answer those when he gets up at the end of second reading. We'll leave it for there and listen to what other Members of the House have to say in regard to the bill.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

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

 

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

 

I'm happy to stand and speak to Bill 36, which is Victims of Crime Services Act.

 

We know how important Victim Services is, particularly when we see in the media in the past few weeks, court cases that have been delayed sometimes for years and victims of a crime having to wait for a few years before they get to court. Having to relive an experience of being victimized, of being violated and having to wait and wait and wait for their day in court and waiting then so that they can have closure on this.

 

This is really tough; really, really tough. Especially in situations where people may have been sexually violated, who may have been sexually assaulted and how tough that is. They wait and they wait and they wait. So we know in situations like that how important Victim Services is.

 

We know the Victim Services for Newfoundland and Labrador is a free and confidential justice service for victims of crime. It is their principle that all victims are treated with courtesy, compassion and respect. We all know how incredibly intimidating the court experience can be for a victim of crime, that it can be for the average citizen.

 

Oftentimes, within our judicial system, antiquated words or very complicated words, complicated phrases are used that are really inaccessible to the average citizen, often inaccessible to even people here in this House. Sometimes the wheels of justice (a) move ever so slowly, and (b) it seems very, very complex. So we know how important and crucial the role of Victim Services is in supporting victims of crime.

 

Supreme Court Justice Derek Green has often spoken out. He speaks annually to the Rotarians through the Rotary Club about his issues about access to justice, and access to justice on a whole number of levels, whether it be the cost, whether it be understanding how the justice system works. We know how difficult that can be and how very difficult it is for victims when they have to wait years and they cannot have closure on what has happened to them.

 

One of the things that Victim Services does is provide general information about the criminal justice system to help you understand how it works. For most of us, unless we've somehow been swept up into the criminal justice system, we don't know how it works. Many of us are just happy not having to know how it works.

 

The other thing that Victim Services can do is they can provide you with information on what is happening with your case. How many times family or friends or constituents say they don't know what's happening with their case. There can be all kinds of delays. It's hard to know how come those delays are happening or how long the delay will be or how come something is caught up in the justice system.

 

They can do pre-court preparation so you can participate more meaningfully in the court process. We know how intimidating it is to sit in a court of law, particularly if you have to be a witness and how difficult that can be. It's so incredibly intimidating. That's probably not the intent, but particularly when you look at our judicial system, often it's so very adversarial. So (a) if you've been a victim of crime, and (b) then you have to somehow defend – seem what might be defending yourself. The role of Victim Services is so very important there.

 

They also can help with preparing a victim impact statement if you wish to complete one. Again, depending on the type of crime you have been a victim of, that can be a very, very difficult procedure because you almost relive whatever has happened to you. It's a particularly important part if you're seeking justice. If you're wanting what has happened to you to be authentically witnessed and if you want to go through a court procedure, that's a difficult one.

 

So having Victim Services with you through that, to help you through that purpose – these are people who are trained to help victims, who are sensitive to the possible effects of having been a victim of a crime. They can help identifying referring you to specialized community resources, if you need them. We know particularly for folks who may have been sexually violated, Victim Services can recommend you to the sexual assault prevention and crisis team.

 

There are a number of community services that can help you or there are also other community groups that deal with specific types of crimes, people who have been victims of crimes. They can also provide emotional support and short-term counselling as you prepare to go through court, because that is such an intermediating process.

 

We know that Victim Services does such a crucial job, such an important job and can help to mitigate some of the impacts of having to wait so long for your court case to go through the justice system, and also how confusing and inaccessible that may seem to the average person, the average citizen.

 

I also want to thank the staff from the Department of Justice and Public Safety who gave us a great briefing. I was able to stay afterwards and ask some particular questions. They were great. We also sent questions to the department and we were able to get them answered in a timely manner. I really appreciate that work. This is a bill that we can support because it's doing the right thing.

 

The bill would amend the Victims of Crime Services Act to increase the victim surcharge from 15 per cent to 30 per cent. All the proceeds go to Victim Services program, which is run by the Department of Justice and Public Safety. Their folks are really good at the work they do. We've checked that out. We've spoken with people.

 

Victim Services, in fact, is funded by money made available from surcharges from criminal code and other federal offences, as well as the surcharges from provincial statute offences. That doesn't include parking municipal offences, but bylaws. Money is used to provide those services to victims. It can involve short-term counselling, preparing statements for court which can be such a difficult process.

 

The other issue I would like to address, Mr. Speaker, is for judges to have discretionary powers to look at – they can exercise their right to exempt an individual from paying if undue hardship to individual or family is possible. I think that is very, very important because the purpose of our justice system is not to knock the feet right out from under people.

 

If we have someone who has broken the law, in these particular areas, in the area of the Highway Act or the Wildlife Act, all these are important issues but we don't want our justice system to act in such a way that people cannot come up from under what they have done. They need to be able to provide for themselves. They need to be able to provide for their families.

 

So I am totally in support of the fact that judges will have the discretionary power to exercise the right to exempt someone from a fine or to reduce – I imagine, I will ask the minister, too – aside from exemption perhaps, reducing the amount of fine or surcharge. So maybe we can talk about that in committee.

 

Again, I believe this is a piece of legislation that we certainly can support. It's important. It's supporting the very important work that Victim Services does.

 

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

 

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

 

MR. LANE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

I am pleased to stand on my feet once again, this time to speak to Bill 36, An Act to Amend the Victims of Crime Services Act.

 

I'm going to keep it very brief, Mr. Speaker. The bottom line here is what we're seeing is legislation that is going to support the victims of crime and they are going to be supported at the expense of the perpetrators of that same crime. As far as I'm concerned, it's the way to go and I support the legislation.

 

Thank you.

 

MR. SPEAKER: If the hon. the Minister of Justice and Public Safety speaks now, he will close the debate.

 

The hon. the Minister of Justice and Public Safety.

 

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

 

I want to thank my colleagues for their contributions to this debate. I appreciate their support as well. I just wanted to go back through some of the questions asked. If I don't provide the proper answer, right answer, I still have the Committee stage to try and get it right the second time.

 

To my colleague for St. John's Centre who asked about the fine and can the judge reduce the fine; the judge is the one giving the fine. The judge will give what they feel is an appropriate fine based on case law, based on the circumstances of the matter, based on a number of factors. What I would suggest –

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Yes, they have the ability to waive it, to apply it or to alter it. I would also suggest that I think they have – when they give their penalty, they would be cognizant of that.

 

The way it goes is that, just say you apply a fine of X number of dollars and then the 30 per cent surcharge. That surcharge actually gets paid first and goes towards Victim Services. The fine then goes into – I don't want to say to the Treasury, but the fine goes wherever fines go. That one gets paid first.

 

Whenever judges do sentencing they're cognizant of the factors that are put in front of them. In many cases they'll often just waive it; sometimes they keep it in full. The good news is – and I've seen judges do this before – it's their discretion. We trust our judges to make these decisions and so I'm happy that – obviously I wasn't going to make a change like this if you couldn't keep the same discretion.

 

To my colleague from – the Opposition House Leader, I think you wanted to know the provincial rates. I'll go down through them. Each one is different. There are as many changes and differences here. BC is 15 per cent on a provincial fine. Alberta is 15 per cent on a provincial fine. Saskatchewan actually has a sliding scale that's done in dollars. So it's $40 where the fine is $99 or less, $50 where it's – whatever.

 

When you get down to subsection (e) it's 40 per cent of the fine imposed where the fine imposed is greater than $500. When the fine is at $500 or greater, it's 40 per cent, which is a pretty substantial amount. They also have one there if there's no fine imposed, they actually have a $50 victim surcharge. So even if there's no fine, that surcharge comes on.

 

Manitoba has 25 per cent. Ontario also has a sliding scale here based on the fine range. The surcharge is as low as $10 on a zero to $50 fine, but when you get up to over $1,000, it's 25 per cent of the actual fine.

 

Quebec's changes; Quebec's has a percentage as well as a dollar, depending on the fine. New Brunswick is 20 per cent. Nova Scotia is 15 per cent. PEI is actually a flat rate of $25. I'm not sure what they take in, but I'm willing to guess it's much lower than every other province and jurisdiction. The Yukon is 15 per cent and Northwest Territories is 15 per cent, or if there's no fine, it can be $25. So we really are all over the place. It can be all over the map there.

 

Any money that is raised – and they are anticipating, say it's $700,000 – every bit of that goes right into Victim Services programs to offset the cost. That's where all the money goes. It goes right into that cost that's already there.

 

I can say to the Member opposite, there was no job loss in this particular aspect of justice. I don't recall hearing the Leader of the Official Opposition ask any questions on that during the Estimates. It didn't pop up to him when he was going through the line by line.

 

You will also notice we put in a date of September 1. September 1 was what we felt was best to capture that extra revenue but, at the same time, provide at least basically three months' notice so people can be aware and judge themselves accordingly.

 

We didn't want to wait until December. We thought that was a bit long. So we went with a September 1 date, which we think is ample opportunity to advise people of this change and tell people if they were to break any of our laws, they may be subject to a doubling of the victim fine surcharge. I hope we don't have to take any, but the fact is that's not how it works.

 

Thank you so much for the opportunity. If there are any questions, I'll answer them during the Committee stage, Mr. Speaker.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Is the House ready for the question?

 

The motion is that Bill 36 be now read a second time.

 

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

 

All those in favour, 'aye.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Against?

 

Carried.

 

CLERK: A bill, An Act To Amend The Victims Of Crime Services Act. (Bill 36)

 

MR. SPEAKER: This bill has now been read a second time.

 

When the shall the bill be referred to a Committee of the Whole?

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Now.

 

On motion, a bill “An Act To Amend The Victims Of Crime Services Act,” read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House presently, by leave. (Bill 36)

 

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

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the Minister of Municipal Affairs, that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole to consider Bill 36.

 

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that I do now leave the Chair for the House to resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole to consider the said bill.

 

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

 

All those in favour, 'aye.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Opposed?

 

Carried.

 

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

 

Committee of the Whole

 

CHAIR (Dempster): Order, please!

 

We are now considering Bill 36, An Act To Amend The Victims of Crime Services Act.

 

A bill, “An Act To Amend The Victims Of Crime Services Act.” (Bill 36)

 

CLERK: Clause 1.

 

CHAIR: Shall clause 1 carry?

 

The Chair recognizes the hon. Member for St. John's Centre.

 

MS. ROGERS: Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

 

I have a question for the minister that, in fact, the budget for Victim Services, the provincial allotment, was $564,000 in 2013; $564,000 in 2014; and in 2016, it's $563,000. Now, we have seen an increase of the surcharges being doubled. Will we see an increase in the money allotted to Victim Services due to that doubling of the surcharge?

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Justice and Public Safety.

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

I'm not going to commit here on the record that there will be a doubling of this, certainly not. I think what we've looked at here is that the cost for running this aspect is about $3.1 million. Again, anything that we get will go towards that but, even with this, I still don't know if we're going to be able to cover off the cost of that.

 

It is one of those things where you have to judge it on an annual basis. This is the first year that I've had experience of doing this process. I'm always willing to listen to people to see are there changes that need to be made. Are there more investments or different investments that need to be made? So I don't want to say that I'm not open to change or to considering that – everything that you do in light of the fiscal circumstance that we find ourselves in.

 

I'm not one that, in tough times, thinks that we need to forget these individuals who, through no fault of their own, find themselves in this position; but I don't want to sit here and commit that with the doubling of the surcharge that we will see a doubling of the amount allotted for that.

 

CHAIR: The Chair recognizes the hon. Member for St. John's Centre.

 

MS. ROGERS: Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

 

Just for a point of clarification, can the minister tell me for the budget for the Victim Services, where that money comes from? I assume some of it is a provincial allotment. Is all of it simply from the surcharges? If so, if we are doubling the surcharges, has the budget for Victim Services increased? I can see that there appears to be an increase of almost $500,000. Is that a budgetary increase for Victim Services in '16-'17 over '15-'16?

 

So is there a decrease in general revenue going to Victims Services, but an increase in surcharges, some of the money from surcharges going to make up any kind of difference?

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Justice and Public Safety.

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

This program is funded, obviously, through the budget process. There are two sources of revenue. So last year it was $499,900 from the feds; $754,000 from victim fine surcharges. The 2016-2017 budget, the federal revenue went to $750,000; and again, it is the same, $754,000 allotted from victim fine surcharges or anticipated to get there. That still doesn't cover off the cost of what it costs to provide this program.

 

What we do know is that even if double this up to the $1.5 million, we're still not going to be there. The budget has increased this year – revenue received will be used to offset it, but again, it will not exceed what our costs are.

 

I don't know if I quite answered it, but I'm certainly willing to take another question.

 

CHAIR: Seeing no further speakers, shall clause 1 carry?

 

All those in favour, 'aye.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: All those against, 'nay.'

 

Carried.

 

On motion, clause 1 carried.

 

CLERK: Clause 2.

 

CHAIR: Shall clause 2 carry?

 

All those in favour, 'aye.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: All those against, 'nay.'

 

Carried.

 

On motion, clause 2 carried.

 

CLERK: Be it enacted by the Lieutenant Governor and House of Assembly in Legislative Session convened, as follows.

 

CHAIR: Shall the enacting clause carry?

 

All those in favour, 'aye.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: All those against, 'nay.'

 

Carried.

 

On motion, enacting clause carried.

 

CLERK: An Act To Amend The Victims Of Crime Services Act.

 

CHAIR: Shall the long title carry?

 

All those in favour, 'aye.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

All those against, 'nay.'

 

CHAIR: Carried.

 

On motion, title carried.

 

CHAIR: Shall I report Bill 36 carried without amendment?

 

All those in favour, 'aye.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: All those against, 'nay.'

 

Carried.

 

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

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

 

MR. A. PARSONS: I move, Madam Chair, that the Committee rise and report Bill 36.

 

CHAIR: The motion is that the Committee rise and report Bill 36.

 

All those in favour, 'aye.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

CHAIR: All those against, 'nay.'

 

Carried.

 

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

 

MR. SPEAKER (Osborne): The hon. the Deputy Speaker. 

 

MS. DEMPSTER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

 

The Committee of the Whole have considered the matters to them referred and have directed me to report Bill 36 carried without amendment.

 

MR. SPEAKER: The Chair of the Committee of the Whole reports that the Committee have considered the matters to them referred and have directed her to report Bill 36 carried without amendment.

 

When shall the report be received?

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Now.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Now.

 

When shall the bill be read a third time?

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Tomorrow.

 

MR. SPEAKER: Tomorrow.

 

On motion, report received and adopted. Bill ordered read a third time on tomorrow.

 

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

 

MR. A. PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board, that the House resolve itself into a Committee to consider a resolution respecting the imposition of a Deficit Reduction Levy on taxable income, Bill 14

 

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole to debate Bill 14.

 

All those in favour, 'aye.'

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

 

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

 

Carried. 

 

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

 

Committee of the Whole

 

CHAIR (Dempster): Order, please!

 

We are now debating the related resolution and Bill 14, An Act To Amend The Income Tax Act, 2000 No. 2.

 

Resolution

 

“That it is expedient to bring in a measure respecting the imposition of a temporary deficit reduction levy on taxable income.”

 

CHAIR: Shall the resolution carry? 

 

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

 

MS. C. BENNETT: Thank you, Madam Chair. 

 

I am certainly going to stand here for a few minutes and speak to Bill 14, which is An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act, or as I'm sure people in this House and people at home would be aware, this is the piece of legislation that will allow the temporary introduction of the deficit levy.

 

Madam Chair, I call Members of this hon. House to note on page 3 of the bill, under section 2, the language that says, “An individual shall pay a deficit reduction levy in accordance with subsection (3) for each of the taxation years 2016 to 2019, inclusive ….” The bill further goes on to explain the amount of tax that will be applicable in those years.

 

Madam Chair, as we have said during the budget and as we've said in this House, particularly through the budget debate as well as in the Budget Speech, the temporary deficit levy was required for us to bring financial stability back to the province, particularly when it comes to our ability to borrow. The decisions in Budget 2016 were very difficult for the people of the province who after many, many years of being told that everything was okay and that everything was great, we were now in a situation where we had a significant deficit.

 

I'd remind Members of this House that having attained peak oil in 2007, peak oil production in 2008, the province saw some of its highest revenue for a period of years –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MS. C. BENNETT: Thank you, Madam Chair, for asking people in the House to make it easier for me to hear you. I appreciate that.

 

As we've talked about in the budget debate, the very serious fiscal challenge that we had facing the province, we had to look at ways of increasing revenue while we continued to look at the other ways that we need to implement to be able to get the very significant deficit that we have under control.

 

It's interesting, Madam Chair, as I've sat here and listened to the debate over the last number of hours on a number of different topics that – and the debate over a number of weeks – the deficit levy has consumed so much of the dialogue, which I have a tremendous amount of empathy for. I understand why people of the province are angry about paying this paying this deficit levy.

 

Quite frankly, as the minister responsible for Finance, I'm angry that we had to bring it in as part of our budget. We have a $1.8 billion deficit that would have been $2.7 billion had we not undertaken some actions. The fact that we've been able to, unlike Alberta, maintain what is a very low rating in the rating agencies to further protect the cost of borrowing, when we have so much borrowing to do, Madam Chair; while I'm certainly frustrated with the situation that we find ourselves in, just like every Newfoundlander and Labradorian, I can say that I'm very pleased to stand today and speak to this bill which clearly outlines in legislation that this tax is temporary.

 

The changes that we announced will be effective January 2016, with administration starting as of July 2016, which means that the effective rates for 2016, as we have said repeatedly in this House, will in fact be half of the full year implementation rates for this tax year of 2016.

 

Madam Chair, as we notified the people of the province, we were able to make some modifications to the temporary deficit levy as soon as we had access to cash that we could put into the deficit levy, which is something we said all along we were going to do. That redesigned temporary Deficit Reduction Levy now is expected to generate approximately $42 million in 2016-17 and annualized to $61 million.

 

Recently, our government, as I've said, made these very positive changes based on feedback from people in the province to the temporary deficit levy that was originally announced in Budget 2016. These changes will have a positive impact on residents of the province, especially for low-income residents, which is an important priority for this government, I'd add, Madam Chair.

 

We have increased the threshold from a taxable amount of $20,000 to a taxable amount of $50,000, meaning that people with taxable income of $50,000 or less will not have to pay any levy. Further to that, we are changing the amounts of the levy for those with taxable income of more than $50,000 and we are making the distribution even more progressive.

 

Those with taxable income between $50,000 and $100,000 can expect to pay less under the redesigned temporary levy, with an estimated 74 per cent of tax filers – 74 per cent, Madam Chair – paying no levy. That will be three of four Newfoundlanders and Labradorians that will not be paying the deficit levy.

 

This is in response to the concerns that we heard from people of the province about the levy. As soon as we were in a position to make changes, we made them. Madam Chair, as we said when we made the announcement about the changes, we intend to make changes to this piece of legislation as soon as we are in the financial position to be able to do so.

 

Madam Chair, we have been open and transparent about the necessity of the budget decisions and the costs for all residents if we did nothing. This doesn't change the unprecedented fiscal situation we are facing. We are facing a $1.8 billion deficit. We have the highest net debt per capita of any province in Canada, and in some cases we are double what many other provinces in Canada are, per person in our province.

 

Revenue from the levy is going to reduce the deficit. If not for the introduction of this levy the 2016-17 deficit would have been $74.8 million higher than the current projected deficit of $1.8 million.

 

Madam Chair, we looked at other jurisdictions, our government did, and used –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

I ask Members for their co-operation to keep the noise level down a bit in the Chamber.

 

Thank you.

 

MS. C. BENNETT: Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

Government looked at other jurisdictions and used the Ontario's health insurance premium as a model to develop a Deficit Reduction Levy for Newfoundland and Labrador; but, unlike Ontario's health premium, the Newfoundland and Labrador temporary deficit levy is not permanent. This legislation proves that, Madam Chair.

 

We have been very open and transparent with the people of the province. I had people come up to me, Madam Chair, and say, why didn't you call it a health care tax. Quite frankly, we felt that would be disingenuous. We wanted to be transparent and open about the purpose for this levy. We wanted the people of the province to know what the truth was about the levy, and we are committed to eliminating the levy as soon as possible.

 

Madam Chair, unlike Ontario's health premium, the Newfoundland and Labrador levy is specifically to address the unprecedented deficit that we are dealing with. The legislation as it is presented requires, as it should, great detail as to the implementation of this temporary deficit levy, and I look forward to the discussions in this House as we debate this important piece of legislation.

 

As I mentioned in the beginning, Madam Chair, a piece of legislation that no Member on either side of this House could stand here and proudly say that we are implementing, but can certainly say that without it our province would be faced with some very serious financial challenges that could, and would, impede the ability of our province to be able to provide health care and education in the future.

 

Madam Chair, I remind the Members of this House not to forget – as I'm sure they won't – the fact that we are spending more on debt expense. To those members of the public who have emailed me and asked me this question, when we say debt expense, we don't mean the interest and the principle; we mean just the interest on debt. No principle payment, Madam Chair. We are spending more on debt expense than we are on educating our children. Quite frankly, I believe that for every hon. Member in this House that is a very serious situation for our province to be in.

 

Madam Chair, the other thing I would like to say before I sit down is I understand why people of the province have had such a strong reaction to this budget. They were told for years and years and years that finally we were in a position of have and things were going to be all okay from a revenue perspective.

 

Instead, we've seen with the increase in spending by the former administration, as well as the significant change in oil price that we continue to experience, the revenue of this province, the revenue of this provincial government was severely impacted. As a result, it made the programs that were in place and the services that were in place cost more this year, by $1.8 billion, than the revenue we actually had to spend.

 

Madam Chair, I thank the Members of the House for quieting down when you asked them to while I spoke. I look forward to continuing to hear this debate as we progress through this evening.

 

Thank you.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

CHAIR: The Chair recognizes the hon the Member for Ferryland.

 

MR. HUTCHINGS: Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

It's a pleasure to rise tonight to speak to Bill 14. I know for the next few hours or maybe longer we'll have some time to have further discussions on the bill. I'm sure everybody on all sides will stand and have their thoughts, no doubt, on the actual bill, Madam Chair.

 

This certainly is one of a number of pieces of enabling legislation related to Budget 2016. This is probably the one that has caused – one of many. There are many issues in the budget that cause concerns to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. No doubt, this one was the lightning rod in regard to what it represented. Some have called it a levy to live in Newfoundland and Labrador, just an outright tax for people in Newfoundland and Labrador of all ages, demographics.

 

The minister referenced the fact that there were some adjustments made to the levy in regard to some changes that were made, and I'll speak to that shortly. As I said, overall this is one of many components of the budget that was brought down by the Liberal government. As we talked about over the past number of weeks and number of months, it was about choices. The fiscal situation that was available, how would you deal with that? This was one component that was decided on and something we wouldn't have done. This was one element that was suggested by the Liberal government on how they would deal with some of the issues that were being faced.

 

It's very different from what we heard in the fall when they were running for election. When they indicated things like there would be no HST, no layoffs of the public service. Then after the election we saw a pretty abrupt turn in what their policy was and what they were going to do. One of them was the levy. The Liberal levy was laid out in the budget and is part of what we're discussing here tonight.

 

As part of that, the minister referenced some changes that were made, that looked at the original range of $20,000 to $50,000 that originally was included in regard to that particular levy and who had to pay it. She referenced the fact that there were discussions with the federal government and they were able, through that, to get some relief on an outstanding loan related to equalization from a number of years that they wouldn't have to pay. Due to that, they had put in their budget dollars to pay that, as if they would have to pay it.

 

We have found out that the Minister of Finance herself, on a public airwave, indicated that in December they had started talking to the federal government about changes that could be made in regard to the equalization loan that was outstanding. She indicated there were meetings in December, and also in January and further on, up to a few weeks ago, when the federal minister in the cabinet for Newfoundland and Labrador, Minister Foote, brought everybody in and announced they weren't relieving us of any of the loan that was outstanding, but they were pushing it down the road. They were going to push it down to 2022.

 

So really no big benefit to us, but for the minister, they had indicated they put money in the budget to pay for it. With that, they would have money they could put towards the overall revenue they had indicated for the levy.

 

It's interesting to note, that through the fall, in the early first quarter of any particular year you're going through a budget process. So usually you'd look at all avenues for expenses, all avenues for revenue generation. In that, obviously, you'd look domestically around the province and things you're doing here in regard to public policy, but you'd also look federally. What programs, federally, do we draw on during the year? What programs haven't we drawn on? What programs could we expand on to increase our revenues?

 

Interestingly enough, while the minister says they were meeting in December and January on getting relief, there was no evidence of it in the budget – no evidence whatsoever. It was interesting that when Minister Foote came here, she indicated they had been negotiating for the past week or so, yet we heard something different from the Minister of Finance. So if you're negotiating or you're going through a process with the federal government to try and relinquish or reduce some payments on an outstanding loan, why wouldn't you include that in your budget when you're going through? I think it was approximately annually this year would be $27 million and $27 million for future years. So that's a bit interesting. There seems to be some discrepancy in that.

 

I asked today the minister in Question Period about that discrepancy, what the federal minister had said and what had been said in regard to when negotiations started. I understand it's a negotiation, but really it's a loan that's been set up to be paid on. The question would be, I guess, to the federal government. It didn't relieve any of the actual amounts you had to pay back; it just said we're going to push it out. So there's not a huge negotiation going on there; it's can we do it or can we not.

 

I guess they decided at some point, yes, we would relieve you of that for a period of time until 2022 when you wouldn't have to pay it back. Because of that – getting back to what we're talking about here tonight, the levy – they announced that they could reduce the levy because some of that money they allocated to put towards that loan they would now use to offset what they expected to raise in the actual levy.

 

Inherent in that is an issue we've talked about and questioned the Premier on and the government on in the past number of weeks here in the House, dating back to when the House opened. The whole issue of equalization, the stabilization fund and what happens in Canada, the particular provinces, in regard to getting access to funds when the revenues decline and when, comparatively, their services and programs they're delivering can't be delivered comparably to other provinces in Canada.

 

We had asked why wouldn't you go back and revisit with the federal government, recognizing that we've had a substantial decline in our royalties over one year, the stabilization fund with equalization says a 50 per cent reduction. We got that.

 

There's $18 billion being paid out this fiscal year by the federal government – $18 billion. Newfoundland and Labrador, I think, in the last fiscal year is getting $32 million. That's $18 billion being paid out across Canada and Newfoundland and Labrador got $32 million.

 

So we asked the Premier why not go and argue that we're a commodity-based economy, oil and gas. Why not go back and say let's make a case, let's make an argument. Let's make an argument to help us out.

 

Alberta, Saskatchewan, they've made the case. They continue to make it. As I've said, $18 billion. Who made the case for us? We've got seven Liberal MPs in Ottawa –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. HUTCHINGS: We've got a Premier here that says – I think he said when he came back: It is what it is. Well, that's not good enough. It's not it is what it is. In Canada, as this federation, we get an opportunity to reach out in time of need and to get access to equalization.

 

Now, we know there is a formula there; indeed there is. Right now, currently, it is a three-year period and after that, there is a review. I think there's two years again after that before it can be readjusted. But we all know in Parliament there is legislation; there are regulations that go through the Lieutenant Governor in Council. There are all kinds of methods or interventions that can be made to assist any particular province.

 

We've seen it in our history. Certainly nothing against Quebec, but Bombardier in Quebec from time to time has gotten intervention and other industries in Canada as well when things drop off. So that's all we're asking for that a particular time, we have some intervention by our government by the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador to intervene and ask for that assistance.

 

Some would say, well, you're getting a handout. Well, no, that's what equalization is about, providing assistance. That is what the Federation of Canada is all about. That is one of the benefits of being part of the Federation of Canada, that there is that help there and assistance in time of need. That's what it's about.

 

For the past number of years, we haven't availed of equalization. Ontario has, and that's good. Quebec has and Nova Scotia has – various jurisdictions like that. And that's fine; that's what it is there for. When times when industry or actual activity in your economy through world – we will say what's happening around the world or other things that are happening that's causing revenues to fall, especially related to commodities and natural resources, that that ability is there to reach out and get access to funds that are available.

 

As I said, that's what's been part of the Canadian Federation is all about. But for some reason, we didn't do that. The current government didn't do that, didn't fight for it. This fiscal year, as I said, we have $18 billion being distributed through equalization and Newfoundland is getting $32 million.

 

With that as well, that's for delivering of programs and services, which is very important when you think about it because for equalization, to receive that money, it helps with delivering an average or a certain level of program and service throughout Canada.

 

So what this budget is doing is a lot of taxes, a lot of fees on that side of the ledger, just generating it right out of people's pockets, but to do what? To maintain program and services – well, that is what equalization is there for. In times of need, when a province would need it, the federal government would partner with you to make sure that you can maintain that level of service that is consistent with other provinces across Canada.

 

So instead of taxing and feeing and certainly having a dramatic impact on the economy that's slowing already, we didn't go look – we said, no, it is what it is – for a program that's there for that sole purpose, to assist us through a year or two in rough times to get us through that period.

 

It's important to this whole budget discussion; that's what it's about. It's about how do we get through a difficult period. How do we continue to provide that consistent level of programs and services to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, all over Newfoundland and Labrador?

 

We know we're dispersed; we know at times it's difficult. Everybody understands that in terms of delivering programs and services in our various parts of the provinces, certainly on the Island, to remote areas and remote communities, in Labrador, whether that's schools, health care services, all of those things, whether it's getting there by ferry, whether by transportation, whether by roads it's very important.

 

So providing those services takes a lot. This year we're up to, I think, maybe about $8.4 billion in regard to our budget this year, which mind you is I think up to almost $400 million from what it was last year. So the budget hasn't gone down; it actually has increased a little from what it was last year, which is interesting as well. We've always heard from this government that when your budget has been too high, you're spending too much. Yet, from last year to this year, the budget has gone up. That's something as well to consider, Madam Chair.

 

As we get into discussion tonight, I mean this is about the levy, but obviously it's broad based. It's a money bill. So we can talk about all aspects of the budget, about the economy of Newfoundland and Labrador, or anything that's really important to Members in the House here and how it relates to continuing to grow our economy and do the things we need to do, from an economic perspective and as well from a social perspective to make sure we're doing and delivering those services.

 

It will be a good debate because there are differing views from both sides in regard to what has transpired in the past, what's been done today in this budget and what our vision or direction is to the future and how we're going to do that. That's really important too.

 

In our term in government, we certainly invested heavily in infrastructure. We needed to build and rebuild what we needed to do to drive the economy of Newfoundland and Labrador, whether that's reduced taxation to put money in people's pockets to make sure that they're able to spend, drive small business, drive activities in the economy. That's very important.

 

What we've seen with this budget calls into question. Even economists say you can't tax and fee yourself back to prosperity, but that's what this budget is all about. That's really a concern for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. This budget, in a slowing economy like ours, we need incentives to get the economy going, to get small business, to get at least maintained. To do that, people have to have money in their pockets.

 

We understand, too, everybody has to give a little bit, but it's about the threshold. It's about the balance of how you do it. You do it over a period of time, and you have a plan laid out. If you have targets and you can show people what direction you're going in and give people confidence that you're on a plan, you know what you're doing and people have hope that there may be some tough days ahead but at the end of that road we're in a good place.

 

I think the province is well-grounded today. Over the past number of years we've created a good balance in the province, but it's very important in the next couple of years we're able to maintain that. We're able to maintain our people and continue to grow our population.

 

In terms of our youth, the demographics we know in our province, where they're headed. We need to have our youth stay. We need new people to come to our province, to grow our province, to grow our industries. That's what it's about. It's about current dollars for driving in the revenue and the economy. There's also new dollars driving the economy, new money, through diversification and other activities we need to do.

 

So, Madam Chair, I look forward to the debate tonight and maybe later on in the morning as we proceed here. I look forward to all Members engaging and all Members giving their thoughts as we move forward.

 

Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Municipal Affairs.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. JOYCE: Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

I'm just going to stand for a few minutes because, obviously, the Member for Ferryland – who I have a lot of respect for and the Opposition House Leader – has no idea about equalization. He has absolutely no idea. For that Member – 

 

MR. HUTCHINGS: Here we go.

 

MR. JOYCE: He says, here we go. Yes, because I have to give you the lesson on it.

 

For that Member to stand up here in this House of Assembly and say how there's so much money spent on equalization, we only have $30 million-something. I have to remind that Member, twice when equalization was up for renewal, they didn't even ask for any changes to it. The next change is in 2019. For that Member to stand in his place, either he doesn't understand how equalization works, or he has done no research and just standing up going on with all his political rhetoric.

 

Madam Chair, for him to stand in this hon. House and say the reason why we're in such a financial shape is because we didn't go ask for equalization when that government, that government had two opportunities –

 

AN HON. MEMBER: How many?

 

MR. JOYCE: Two opportunities to go for equalization changes and refused to do it.

 

Now, that Member should stand and apologize for the things he just said. Because if he doesn't understand, just say I don't understand, fine, but I refuse to stand here and sit here and listen to that Member tell us that we wouldn't go for equalization, that's why we're in such a poor financial state.

 

Let's talk about Nalcor this year; $1.3 billion gone into Nalcor – $1.3 billion cash this year alone, Madam Chair.

 

Madam Chair, Cartwright – L'Anse au Clair, when is the last time you saw capital works spent up in your district? When is the last time? Do you know what they used to do? Pick and choose where they were going to spend the money. Now they're talking about economic diversification; $63 million on the Trans-Labrador Highway. That's a waste of money. That's not economic diversification. That's a waste of money to do the Trans-Labrador Highway. That's a waste of money, according to the Members opposite. 

 

Madam Chair, I'll ask you a question. I heard them talking about, where was the government? How come you didn't do your due diligence? I ask the Members opposite – five of them who are sitting there now were in government. When Astaldi put up that dome and took down that dome, where were you asking questions: Why are the taxpayers of the province paying for it? Where were you?

 

So don't stand here in this House of Assembly and say every problem we have here is because of us and our budget. Where were you when you should have asked Nalcor the tough questions? Where were you? You never opened your mouth, never asked a question.

 

Do you know what they were doing, Madam Chair? They were writing a blank cheque; here you go, keep her going. This is the result of the negligence by the previous government. No questions asked.

 

I remember when the former minister, Derrick Dalley, stood on his feet – I like Derrick Dalley, a great guy, a very nice guy – and we asked, who paid for the dome? Who paid to put the dome up and who paid to take the dome down? He said Astaldi paid for all of that. We said, well, did you ask any questions. Nah, they're taking care of all that. Now we see the result of letting the ship go without a captain at its helm, Madam Chair.

 

Now, all of a sudden you say but it's all your fault because you didn't ask for equalization. When that government had two opportunities, Madam Chair, not only that – I like the Member for Ferryland, I have to say. I respect him, but, Madam Chair, do not stand in this House and ask us why we're not doing things for economic development when you had a $34.9 million agreement from the federal government sitting on your desk and you wouldn't even take the pen to sign it and send it off to Ottawa – $34.9 million.

 

The money that was announced two weeks ago, myself and Judy Foote announced money two weeks ago, that was the same agreement they wouldn't even sign – $34.9 million, and wouldn't even sign. It's signed. The projects now are sent off, Madam Chair, yet we're doing nothing for rural Newfoundland and Labrador, nothing for diversification.

 

Now, that's the kind of things, Madam Chair, that I tell you is hard to stand and listen to anymore. No doubt, we're in a financial situation. Absolutely no doubt, but they say, well, let's not talk about the past. Let's not talk about the $200 million boondoggle out in Grand Falls. Let's not talk about $30 million where they wanted to become Jed Clampett down in Parsons Pond somewhere drilling oil. That's $30 million. Let's not talk about any of that.

 

Madam Chair, let's not talk about the $180 million capital works for the province, spread out all around Newfoundland and Labrador. Oh, we can't talk about that. Let's not talk about how Judy Foote, all our MPs, seven MPs and the federal government came and stood up and said we're going to help rural Newfoundland and Labrador. We're going to help Labrador. We're going to help Newfoundland and Labrador. They came through with the Canada Build Fund; the new Canada Build Fund. But we can't talk about that.

 

We can't talk about that, Madam Chair, because all we have to talk about is equalization. The Member opposite, who I have a lot of respect for, obviously don't understand equalization. I'm sorry to say, you just don't understand it. Because you sat in that chair when you had an opportunity to stand up and fight for Newfoundland and Labrador, ask for changes, and they didn't do it.

 

Just like Nalcor. What did they do? They kept on writing blank cheques. The project of Nalcor, Madam Chair, has gotten so large now – this is the other part that we always hear. We're going to bring in billions of dollars from Muskrat Falls, billions of dollars.

 

Madam Chair, do you know where the money is coming from? This massive project, cost overruns, do you know where the money is coming from? It's coming from the taxpayers of Newfoundland and Labrador who are forced, absolutely forced to pay the rates because of the deal that this government struck. This government, when they struck this deal here, they turned around and what did they do? They said you can't have any more technology in Newfoundland and Labrador. You can't have any more technology because you have to buy the power of Newfoundland and Labrador, Muskrat Falls.

 

If any new technology is in this world, absolutely any more in this world, Madam Chair, we can't use it. When they talk about the billions of dollars we're going to get, it's from the taxpayers with their rate increases, and they know it. They know it. Then you want to talk about responsible government, absolutely we're in a tough bind. We're in a tough bind.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Why are we?

 

MR. JOYCE: We're in a tough bind because we inherited the tough bind, Madam Chair.

 

I heard speakers talking about the $27 million from equalization – oh, we knew that before the budget. We knew that. We shouldn't have put it in the budget. Yeah, we knew all that.

 

I ask the Member – he was the minister of Fisheries I believe he was and he was in Intergovernmental Affairs. How long did it take you to sign the CETA agreement? How long? You knew it was coming; how long did it take you to sign the CETA agreement?

 

They were at it for over two years, still not signed. We were sitting down with Ottawa and said: What ways can you help us out? They came up with some ways. We agreed upon it. It wasn't signed until two weeks ago, Madam Chair.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. JOYCE: I don't blame them for not listening, Madam Chair. It wasn't signed until two weeks ago. When it was signed two weeks ago, we lived up to the commitment that we would reduce the levy and that's what we did, the temporary levy.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. JOYCE: The same thing with the gas, it's temporary.

 

Are we in a tough bind? You better believe we are in a tough bind. We better believe we're in a tough bind. I can tell you when you're talking about economic diversification; we're working now with three different departments to get Crown lands opened up for agriculture to become sustainable, five or six, seven years.

 

Guess what, Madam Chair? The last 12 years that same land was still there, not touched, not used. Never even put aside Crown lands for agriculture use. Not even looked at. Yet we do it, oh no, we're not doing it fast enough. It's only five months. We're not doing it fast enough.

 

Then they want to talk about spending money in rural Newfoundland and Labrador, the infrastructure funding. It is the most infrastructure funding going to be spent this year in Newfoundland and Labrador in memory, Madam Chair. They know it.

 

Each Member is working with the government. I have to give everybody credit; that's what we should be doing, working together, Madam Chair. I'm not standing here anymore – I understand that we are in a tough fiscal situation and I thank the people of Newfoundland and Labrador for understanding.

 

I can tell you, Madam Chair – I have 30 seconds left. I heard the Members opposite talking about, okay; go out in your district. I was to the Greater Humber Joint Council this weekend, myself and the Premier. We went to the Greater Humber Joint Council. Do you know their biggest issue down there? It's waste management that this former government put in, the cost of waste management that every town in this province is going to pay because this former government put in waste management. That was the biggest issue at that. The levy wasn't even brought up. The temporary gas tax wasn't brought up.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. JOYCE: The waste management was the biggest issue, Madam Chair. I'll be back again, because I'm not standing for this anymore. If the Member wants some –

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. JOYCE: – some education on equalization, I'll definitely give it to you.

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

I remind the hon. Member his time for speaking has expired.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

CHAIR: The Chair recognizes the hon. Member for Cape St. Francis.

 

MR. K. PARSONS: Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

 

I'm sure we'll hear from the hon. minister again because he'll probably be the only one get up on the other side. He'll be up several times; you needn't worry about that.

 

There was a word used here tonight that –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. K. PARSONS: The word that was used tonight really hits home to everyone here in Newfoundland and Labrador, and it is what this government is saying and it was said here tonight again: You don't understand. No one understands this.

 

I just looked there a little while ago at Question of the Day on VOCM from last Friday; 28,000 Newfoundlanders that don't understand, voted on it. It's worth your while to go in and have a look at it – 28,000 Newfoundlanders.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. K. PARSONS: That's an insult to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. It really is because do you know what? We all get the opportunity on the weekends to go do things with our constituents.

 

I'm going to talk – I'm going to be up a few times tonight myself, I would imagine. I'd like to get up as many times as I can because I have different topics I'm going to do. I was at a function down in the Lions Club on Saturday night. I spoke to a lot of people. It was a real nice birthday party. It was a surprise really for the gentleman's birthday. It was one of your typical Newfoundland and Labrador good times. All hands out having a dance and everything else.

 

Do you know what the number one discussion at that was? It was this budget.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: The levy.

 

MR. K. PARSONS: The levy was part of it – everything in the budget.

 

If you go and look at it, I can remember only a couple of years ago Newfoundlanders and Labradorians – I stood in this House and I talked about it, how proud we were. We've come a long ways. I can remember going to training courses when I worked with a company. You'd sit down and someone would tell you a Newfie joke. I used to be rotted. Is that all you think about Newfoundlanders is a joke?

 

Do you know what? Over the last 10 or 15 years, that's changed. Our attitudes have changed. We're not going to put up with it anymore, for one thing. Do you know what? Our whole attitude changed from being laughed at in the rest of Canada to being looked upon as leaders. I really believe our whole attitude changed as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. I know mine did and everybody else.

 

I'm very proud to be a Newfoundlander and Labradorian, very proud of this place. Like I say in the House every time I get up, it's the greatest place in the world to raise a family, to live. We probably don't have the best weather in the world, but we take advantage of what we have. If it's a rainy, drizzly day, we can take advantage of that. If it's snowing we take – we have great weather. We have all kinds of seasons and everything else. It's great weather. It's a great place to live.

 

Do you know what this budget has done? This budget has taken away that pride. It's taken away the feeling – I know the hon. Member for CBS says everybody had a bounce in their step. That's after being taken away because everywhere we go – and I know Members opposite, you're feeling the same way. Unless you're living in a bubble when you go back to your districts, I know that everyone in Newfoundland and Labrador, this is the discussion everybody is having. Even friends of mine say Kev, b'y, it's amazing – I go into someone's house or I go to a restaurant and the number one conversation in this province today is the budget, by far. It's the number one conversation and all of you are hearing from it – and don't tell me you're not.

 

You're hearing from it in Bonavista. You're hearing from it in Terra Nova. You're hearing from it in Labrador.

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

I remind the Member to direct his comments to the Chair. 

 

MR. K. PARSONS: Okay, Madam Chair, I'll direct my comments.

 

You're hearing it from down in Cartwright. Everywhere you go, you're hearing it. We are, but just look at what we've done, your choices.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. K. PARSONS: The choices you've made are the wrong choices.

 

There's nobody in the province that is disputing that we're not in a financial situation. There's nobody in this province disputing that, but there are people like – yesterday I was down to a banquet in Pouch Cove. Wicked, beautiful banquet, Girl Guides, all the young girls, there were all the cookie award winners for selling all the boxes of cookies. I think I'm after eating a bit too many of the cookies myself. I buy a fine lot; if any of them come along, I'll buy a box or two of cookies off them. But it was a real nice award. One of the little girls got up and gave a speech yesterday. It was about a leader – she's giving up this year, and just told what an inspiration she was to her. It was so remarkable. It's unbelievable.

 

But do you know what? The same thing at that banquet yesterday was the talk about the budget. The people around the table that I was talking to were talking about the budget and the effects it's going to have on the young people, the effects it going to have on education.

 

I believe that government thought first that people were going to just get up – because the first month we were here all we heard was the blame game, but I think that backfired on them. I really believe that backfired on them because people in the province are looking and saying, listen here, this is what you chose to do. Forget the blame game. The blame game, I think, is gone out the window for you guys.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. K. PARSONS: It's all about the choices you made. I'm sorry to disappoint you. I'm sorry to disappoint the people in Newfoundland and Labrador. When you can go and take $1 million and cut 54 libraries, that's sad. That is very, very sad. That's a choice you made. You made that choice.

 

Look at people in Newfoundland and Labrador, what they're saying today. We never saw people come out and protest before like they are. People are out protesting. That's not funny.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

 

MR. K. PARSONS: No, in your district. There are people all over this Island.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. K. PARSONS: Can't you remember in your district? Just think about your own district, Madam Chair. I can remember lots of years. I can never remember what I'm hearing these days. I can never remember going to – every function you go to and people are talking about devastating this budget is on them, how hard it's going to be on them.

 

I can never remember an 85-year-old senior telling me what am I going to do now, I have to go pay for a shot that I used to get for nothing over the counter. You're attacking the wrong people. You attacked the wrong people. You're attacking poor Newfoundlanders. You're attacking people that are students.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: They're hard workers.

 

MR. K. PARSONS: They're hard-working Newfoundlanders and Labradorians that have been working all their lives to get where they got to. Remember this province in 2003 had the highest poverty level in all of Canada – the highest in all of Canada. Within 10 or 12 years, what did we do as a government? We brought it down, so that it was the lowest, the least number of people in Canada in poverty.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Per capita.

 

MR. K. PARSONS: Per capita, yes. Just think about it. Those are good moves. Those are great moves. You could see it in the people of Newfoundland and Labrador because they had that jump in their step. They had that confidence in people. They walked around with pride.

 

Today your budget is after taking that all out, taking out the pride that people had. Fear is the biggest problem now in Newfoundland and Labrador. Fear of how we're going to survive, how are we going to do this, how are we going to pay our bills. What choices are we going to have to make? Seniors making choices, whether they turn on the heat or they go buy groceries or they have to go pay for a drug that they used to get before, but now they have to pay for it. It's all about choices. There's a lot of fear. There's a lot of fear out there with our seniors. There's a lot of fear out there with our students.

 

I know in the area I'm from, the last 10 years it was fantastic, the growth, I know in the Town of Flatrock. I never saw the growth before in housing starts and stuff like that. That's all changed in the last year or so. It's changed big time. It's not all because of your budget. The economy is not doing as good as it was doing and the oil industry is not – and people from Alberta are not getting jobs and there are some people coming home.

 

There was a sense in all these communities right across – and not only in my area, I'm sure in every area in the province that people had this real good feeling, a real feeling of proud Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. This budget has taken away that. Right now, the fear is whether my grandmother or my grandfather, my father or my mother, my child, how are they going to get by? What's going to happen?

 

What you're doing, the money that you're taking out of the economy, you're taking it right out of their pockets – right out of their pockets. I spoke to a lady the weekend and she talked about her car insurance coming up in August. She said now I'm going to have to pay an extra 15 per cent extra on my car insurance, aren't I? I said, yes, that's comes in July 1, I believe, and you're definitely going to have to pay more on your insurance.

 

But that's what you did. You're taking money out of their pockets, and people do have that fear out there. Their fear –

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

 

MR. K. PARSONS: Yes, it was you. Minister, it is your budget. You take responsibility for your own budget, Minister, because it is your budget that brought in the 15 per cent on insurance. Don't say it wasn't us; it was you –

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. K. PARSONS: Thank you.

 

CHAIR: I remind the hon. Member his time for speaking has expired.

 

The Chair recognizes the Member for St. John's Centre.

 

MS. ROGERS: Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

 

I'm very happy to stand and to speak to this resolution. Over the past week and a half, two weeks, I have had the honour to stand in this House and to speak specifically about a presentation done by the esteemed economist, Toby Sanger. His presentation is called: Two budgets, similar circumstances. Which would you choose?

 

What he's doing is comparing the situation of Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador. Again, Madam Chair, I would like to make the caveat, we know that it's not comparing apples to apples, but there are some glaring similarities in terms of what is happening in Alberta and what is happening in Newfoundland and Labrador but also some very divergent ways of dealing with some of the glaring similarities.

 

Again, neither Alberta nor Newfoundland and Labrador have control over the price of oil. We do not have control over the price of our commodities, or the price of our natural resources. What we do have control over, to an extent, is the way in which we address them, what our reaction is to it, and how we are going to deal with the incredible challenges that face us.

 

The two particular similarities that I would like to draw again, as I move on, just to contextualize it, both Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador are experiencing an extreme financial crunch because of the fast decline in the price of oil and also, in general, other natural resources.

 

It's thrown both provinces into a tailspin. We also know that Alberta does not have the same debt level that Newfoundland and Labrador has. We all acknowledge that. We know that. So does Toby Sanger who is the economist I'm quoting right now.

 

We also know that Alberta suffered incredible job losses because of this, as has Newfoundland and Labrador. Alberta has a lot of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians and so does Newfoundland and Labrador have a lot of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. Both provinces have a lot of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians out of work. We have the highest unemployment rate in the country. That's something we are facing.

 

Also, in both provinces there are a lot of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who are resilient, who are willing, who are knowledgeable, who are aware of the financial crisis that each province is facing and who are willing to roll up their sleeves and get to work, to get back to work. It's what they want. They want to get back to work. They are also willing to be part of the solution.

 

However, what we have seen is that both provinces had recent elections. Alberta elected an NDP government. Newfoundland and Labrador elected the current Liberal government. Both of our budgets came down on exactly the same day. How likely was that? April 14, 2016, both budgets came down the same day. That's where the similarities stop because the approach of Alberta has been so drastically different compared to the approach of Newfoundland and Labrador.

 

I looked at the issue of jobs. We looked at the issue of education and health care spending. We looked at issue of infrastructure spending. Alberta has injected more money into infrastructure spending to make their community stronger and also to create jobs. Newfoundland and Labrador has actually cut back on their infrastructure spending, which is not the thing to do during a time of financial crisis because we know what's happening. Alberta is calling their budget a job's plan. That's not the direction at all this government is going in. We know what this government is doing is cutting jobs. What's the result of cutting jobs? More unemployment.

 

We do have a revenue problem in Newfoundland and Labrador that's not only revenue based on the price of oil. We have a revenue problem based on the fact that we don't have enough people working. There's been nothing done by this province to look at growing the population. We do not have a population growth strategy. People are talking about having to leave because of the high rate of unemployment, because of a budget that lacks vision. A budget that lacks saying: We're all going to work together. We're going to pull ourselves through together on this. That is what's missing in this budget.

 

It's not just about feeling good. It's not just about giving people a false sense of hope, but it's actually about having a plan that will put people to work, that will diversify the economy and that will give people a sense that they are a part of the solution. That's what Alberta did. Newfoundland and Labrador did the opposite of that.

 

I'd like to look at the wages. In Alberta, their minimum wage is at $11.20 which is the second-highest province in the country. The NDP government in Alberta has committed to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2018. It's a responsible, doable raise in minimum wage, gradual, here we are in 2016. So they're going to raise it to $15 an hour by 2018. Now let's compare that to what this government is doing in Newfoundland and Labrador.

 

The Newfoundland and Labrador minimum wage is $10.50 and it's the second lowest in Canada. Although a lot of our cost of living is much higher in many ways when you look at the cost of food in Newfoundland and Labrador, particularly in Labrador.

 

Also the budget expects – and this again we can find on page 5 of the budget. The budget expects that real wages, compensation of employees to decline by 22 per cent over the next five years. That's a scary figure.

 

So, in fact, Alberta is going to generate more jobs. They're going to increase the minimum wage. Newfoundland and Labrador is cutting jobs. They're not making any promise at this point for the increase in minimum wage, although the cost of living has gone up significantly. People's buying power where they have to pay their rent and their car payments and put food on the table and pay their heat and light, and their cable and their phones, those are all necessities. That in fact is not going up. There's nothing in this budget that says they are going to aim to help increase minimum wage in the province, but actually the opposite of that.

 

Newfoundland and Labrador in this budget – in the Liberal's budget – says and the Minister of Finance has said that the budget expects that real wages, the compensation to our employees, will decline by 22 per cent over the next five years. That's not growth. That's not something that will help us weather the storm because that's really what government should be doing.

 

Government should be shoring up the private industry. Government should be shoring up our public service to help people weather this storm. What they have done is they've done an accounting exercise. It's a knee-jerk reaction that we have such incredible debt and so what we can only do is just really choke the people. We can do our P3 plan, which is picking people's pockets, so that somehow we get to a balanced budget.

 

To what end? I keep saying, Madam Chair, I've asked that a number of times, to what end? If we cannot strengthen our people, if we cannot strengthen the public services that people need in order to be able to go forward, then what is this budget doing. This budget has no vision. This budget has no commitment to the people, that it will help the people weather this storm. 

 

If we look also at the area of fair taxes. Alberta has no new taxes or fees in this budget except a carbon levy. They've also done a progressive carbon levy rebate of $300 per adult. Now, I know Alberta is much more resilient financially because they didn't have the same debt load and they also had saved. They saved money over the years from their oil industry. They've increased the top income tax rate from 10 per cent to 15 per cent and the corporate tax rate from 10 per cent to 12 per cent in 2015.

 

What the Conservatives did, who are part of the architects of the mess that we're in right now, is they cut a number of those taxes.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MS. ROGERS: Oh yes, we know that.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MS. ROGERS: We know they were part of making this catastrophe that we face right now. However, what we have to do is strengthen the people, strengthen our public service, make sure that people can get back to work, make sure that people are able to survive financially, and also to build our province. Because if we don't do that, what is it that we have? We have a government who's gone line by line by line and have not come up with a vision to help us weather this storm and to help us strengthen our province and our economy.

 

This government instituted regressive tax measures of $629 million, including HST, gas tax, RST, deficit levy – although that's been amended – and fees.

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

I remind the hon. Member her time for speaking has expired.

 

MS. ROGERS: Madam Chair, I look forward to standing again to speak to this.

 

Thank you very much. 

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

The Chair recognizes the hon. the Member for Stephenville – Port au Port.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. FINN: Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

Thank you for the opportunity to speak this evening. For those tuning in at home and for those who may be listening right now, we're discussing Bill 14, An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act. I guess to kind of deviate from that a little, essentially we're discussing our temporary deficit reduction levy.

 

I want to preface for a moment, just to put this into context. I'll certainly come to the figures around the levy. I only have a short 10 minutes to speak. I wish I had longer and I believe I certainly will throughout the course of the evening.

 

However, it's important to mention the bill itself, but in order to give a bit of context behind the necessity of this bill and this piece of legislation – certainly not one that we're proud of to introduce in the House this spring sitting. There have been many pieces of legislation we have been proud to introduce. Just this afternoon and this evening the victim surcharges, as well as the Highway Traffic Act among others, we're certainly proud to endorse. This one being a bit more difficult, and as I think the Members opposite mentioned, perhaps a lightning rod, if you will.

 

I don't believe we'd be at the point to introduce this bill had we not inherited 12 years of deficit. I want to give credit where credit's due, and I believe I've done that before. I certainly have the utmost respect for all the Members opposite. I honestly do. From the bottom of my heart, I have the utmost respect for every Member over there for the job they've signed up to do. I will not personally attack them. I have yet to do that. That's not my intention, but there are some decisions they've made for which I have a lack of understanding and some limited respect for.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

MR. FINN: I've yet to heckle any of you, as well, by the way. So I'd appreciate it, as you listen here, and we'll get into some figures.

 

The Member for Cape St. Francis just mentioned, of course, per capita, the poverty rates. That we were at some of the lowest in the country and that sort of thing. Now we've turned a corner, if you will – and certainly so.

 

The Poverty Reduction Strategy, what a great strategy the Members opposite put in at the time. There's a lot of good things that they did do. Again, the Member for Topsail – Paradise, the Member for Ferryland the other evening – the Member for Topsail – Paradise, the official Leader of the Opposition, on Thursday evening, I believe, rhymed off all the investments they made year after year after year dating back to 2003, all the way on through. So be it, I've given credit where credit is due. Name a school you shouldn't have built. Name a hospital you shouldn't have built. I can't; I certainly can't.

 

What I'll turn back to is some decisions that they did make. I want to specifically reference them in terms of some of the tax breaks we've seen over the years. The Member for Cape St. Francis, the blame game backfired. The choices you made, that's sad. Those were direct quotes from all of 10 minutes ago. The blame game backfired.

 

Well, I'm going to be here to accost some blame. Again, I've said it before. We're not playing any games here. We introduced a bill last week to borrow $3.4 billion, the highest amount we've borrowed in our provinces history. So there are no games here. There's certainly blame to be put around on either side and here, there and everywhere, but the choices we've made, that's sad. Well, we weren't left with many choices, okay, and this is a direct result of some of the tax decreases that took place during the years the Opposition was in power.

 

I'm going to quote them again, because these are certainly important figures to note. In 2007, the highest earners in our province were being taxed at a personal income rate of 16.5 per cent. It dropped 1 per cent going into 2008 to 15.5 per cent. By 2010, it was down to 13.3 per cent. Now, in that same three-year span, we saw the elimination of the retail sales tax on insurance, we saw the elimination of that tax as well and, meanwhile, our lowest income earners, with exception to a reduction of 1 per cent going into '08, the lowest earner brackets remained the same.

 

I just want to point it out because it is important to note we have now brought our highest income earners back to the levels they were prior to 2007. In fact when it comes to income taxes – and this one is noteworthy as well because we're talking about being competitive with Atlantic Canada. I have a document here; no trouble tabling it. I can quote for you specifically that any taxable income level up to $60,000 of taxable income – that's not gross income, taxable. Let's assume a gross income for someone with a taxable of $60,000 maybe around $63,000, $64,000. We are less than Nova Scotia, less than PEI, and, with the exception of New Brunswick, we are in the difference of just about $250 in one tax bracket.

 

We are competitive with personal income tax levels all across Atlantic Canada. Also noteworthy is that the HST right now in Atlantic Canada, we're tuning up to 15 per cent July 1. We have another province in Atlantic Canada doing the same: New Brunswick. And in the fall everyone will be in line with the 15 per cent. So we're competitive all across Atlantic Canada. I just hope that message certainly doesn't get lost.

 

Now, with respect to the levy – and this is certainly important because we've stated all along it was temporary. I believe there is nothing further from the truth and it speaks volumes when we said as soon as we have an opportunity to adjust this levy, we will, as soon as we have an opportunity. That's why we called the measure temporary.

 

The word temporary doesn't give a lot of comfort to the citizens of this province. I completely respect and understand that. I completely do. I can only ask that you bear with us, as the first attempt we had to reduce the levy, we certainly did.

 

To put it into context, the levy starts at $51,000 a year, taxable income. Anybody who makes $51,000 a year, makes roughly $28 an hour and their levy from $51,000 to $55,000 – you're making between $28 and $30 an hour – your $100 levy this year divided over 26 pay periods or even half a year, either way 13 or 26, equates to about $3.85 per pay period.

 

Now, I'm not a fan of taking $3.85 from anyone, supposing it from the Member for Fogo for a cup a coffee – $3.85. Am I still taking money from your pay cheque? Yes, absolutely we are, but to put into context where the levy lies.

 

As we progress up the scale, when you get to $61,000 a year of taxable income – I repeat the word taxable; this is not gross income we're talking about – you're looking at about $11.54 per pay period. We get up a little higher, anybody making $66,000 to $71,000 – these are citizens of our province that make approximately $36 to $38 an hour. These individuals will pay $15.38 per pay cheque for their levy.

 

Then we get up to the $71,000 range, you're looking at about $20 a pay period; $76,000 range, you're looking at about $23 per pay period. These are adjustments that aren't going to be easy for anyone. We completely understand that, but just to put into context the exact figure that you'll pay.

 

Now, we come to $80,000. He's the interesting note because we've been hearing all along that we should have done things a bit differently and taxed the higher brackets. I wish to quote an article written by David Cochrane: Tax the rich? There just aren't enough of them.

 

In his article – of which, by the way, he sat down with the Department of Finance and some of the officials there to obtain information with respect to the tax filers in our province, and this is exactly where he got his information from. “There are just over 50,000 people in the province who earn more than $80,000 a year.” Those 50,000 people are going to pay anywhere from $26 per pay cheque upwards to $35 per pay cheque, if you're making over $100,000. The rest of this is spread amongst 374,000 people in the province. That's the rest of the people who pay the remaining tax in our province. Noteworthy is that 74 per cent of people in this province will not pay a levy.

 

This measure is a very difficult measure to implement right now. I can only tell you we are looking towards our future. You've over there talking about seniors – I know my time is running short. You're over there talking about the burden we're putting on people right now.

 

I will tell you. We are spending more on debt servicing than we are on education. We spend 40 cents of every dollar on health care. Our aging population right now, the demographics are going to balloon. They're going to balloon to an extreme that if we are not prepared financially, we will never be able to handle it. We'll never be able to provide the level of health care needed to the people of our province. We're taking measures now that you didn't take the opportunity to make when you had 12 years to do so.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

I remind the hon. –

 

MR. FINN: Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

The Chair recognizes the Member for Conception Bay South.

 

MR. PETTEN: Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

That was an interesting 10 minutes, as usual. I'll be honest about something here. Do you know what? I've been sat here all evening under e-cigarettes and all the things and you almost feel in the doldrums. You're there listening to everything and it's an important topic, but you're sat back, taking it all in. So you need someone to get up to kind of get your juices going to get you back on your feet again to feel alive.

 

When I listen to comments like that, how someone got up on prepared text, whoever made it up for you, and bantered about the good points of the levy and cherry-picked again – you cherry-picked the levy. You've made improvements, I congratulate you. You cherry-picked how much it's going to cost a pay cheque. Did you take the insurance tax out? Did you take your gas tax out? Did you factor everything in or did you just take the levy?

 

Taking these numbers, we all have them. I have the same sheet you have. I respect you've made improvements, but I have a problem when you get up in this House and you talk to the camera –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. PETTEN: You talk to the camera and you cherry-pick. I have to say – well, in the meantime I guess I'll give you thanks for getting me alive again. That's a good thing anyway.

 

Madam Chair, speaking of this tax, the minister stated earlier 74 per cent of our residents are no longer going to fall under the levy. I think that's an alarming statement. I guess it draws into question again why you even went down that road in the beginning to touch that 74 per cent. As the list goes on ,we have lots of emails we can read and people, even with this adjustment, these levies on this budget is having a detrimental impact with or without these changes.

 

The question that rises now – and I just heard the Member get up and we'll hear other Members get up too. They'll point fingers and all that. That's fair game. I understand that. That's part of politics and that's what you expect. It's getting more and more difficult every day to listen to that criticism, whether it's right or wrong. You earn your criticism, I guess, good or bad.

 

When I'm looking across the way and I hear those comments, it's an integrity problem going on across here. You just have to flick on the radio, flick on the news, we have the top five stories and every one of them questions integrity. So who are you guys to be lecturing us? Seriously, at our worst times, we never had that much.

 

I'll point out something else, too, I heard opposite –

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

 

MR. PETTEN: And I sat quietly, by the way, when it was said.

 

You were pointing out about – I heard comments come across the way, oh, when ye were there, it was bad. I'll say this again and I want to point out again. I've been around this party for a long time. I was not in this Chamber, but I was close to this party during a lot of rough times. Once again, they were pockets of groups of people. It was the public sector, it was the fishermen and it was the media I'll go to on Bill 29. Every one of those issues was centered around core groups. This budget affects every single person in the province.

 

So when you point over here again – you can make blame all you want, that's fair game, but when you do the pointing game, I question sometimes – we faced, as a party, as a government, certain hot-button issues and groups of people. Trust me; you're facing it from all ends of her.

 

As Members who get up and my colleague got up and said it – I went up to the local cleanup on Saturday. We done the cleanup and went up and there was a crowd at the stadium. It was unbelievable the number of people that came up to me – I was there with my wife and daughter, and it actually got to the point that I just spent my time just one after another after another. That's fine, I don't mind that, but their topic again was the budget and aspects of it, which is fine.

 

One of the most passionate people to come up – and my colleague for Cape St. Francis pointed out about the bounce in your step. It was ironic. He came up to me and he was very passionate. He moved home two years ago. He moved his family home, it was all kinds of promise and he was happy to – which is all a great story. Then he was there, but I've got no hope left. What are we doing here? Every sense of hope has been sucked out of me by this budget, but the government, by the messaging. When he said it I said that's strange you'd say that, because that's basically what I keep saying.

 

I'm not saying we're not in a financial crisis; I never said that. I do feel on a day-to-day basis when you get up and you think about it and you sit down, it's a down feeling. It's a feeling over everybody. The economy is starting to become depressed and we haven't even implemented our budget measures. Wait until the insurance kicks in July 1. As you all might recall, last week the gas tax was going on, passed through the House. I sensed there was going to be some outcry, we saw it. The insurance tax, we'll see it. The levy when it kicks in, you'll see it. Your income tax, you'll see it.

 

This is just going to be one thing after another – wait until the winter comes and heating bills go up, on top of everything, wait until the Christmas season hits. Unfortunately, as individuals, it doesn't register with most people until it hits them. But this guy really hit home to me. I said it's funny about it; I've said that in the House I don't know how many times. I should have counted them, but I've done it a lot of times.

 

Because there are times I feel like that. And should I feel that way? Maybe I should; maybe I shouldn't. Maybe I should be out spreading good news, and I'd like to be able to be that way because there was a time not too long ago that everything was good. We were feeling good. That feeling is gone. Unfortunately, it's a sad statement, but it's true.

 

To get to the insurance tax – we talk about the levy, we talk about the levy, and we talk about gas tax. July 1, the vast majority of people will get their insurance renewals. So if there is any luck for ye at all, I'd say you'll be lucky to be out of the House. I think the public will, when they get their insurance renewals in the next week or so – and I'll be getting my own, like I'm sure a lot of ye will too – it is going to be big jolt.

 

There is going to be some increases, no doubt, plus insurance on it. There don't be a lot of talk about it and I make a point every time I get up to bring it up because I think it's very important. It's probably not talked about a lot because it's been overshadowed by the – the levy has took over a lot of our conversation, and rightfully so. But there are other measures – this budget, you can look anywhere, you can pick anything out of this budget and go on forever on.

 

We've been so consumed as a group about the levy and the other things. I keep saying about the insurance tax; it's a huge issue. I think that July 1 there is going to be a lot of public outcry. It's something that you guys have to face as a government on top of everything else.

 

I want to go back and I keep saying it and I will continue on because I believe it's very important. It's very important – the feeling – I guess consumer confidence. I've always said about the bounce in your step. You don't have to go too far to see the effect this is having on consumer confidence. That's not a party or criticism of any one.

 

If you go out to the Avalon Mall or you go out to the store, you go talk to a car dealer, you go talk to a home builder, every single one of them will tell you the same thing. It's happening now and we haven't seen the effects of the budget. It's unimaginable I guess what you're going to see as the fall progresses and things don't improve. Then you have next year. You have a lot of investments; you have a lot of people with money tied up, everywhere really.

 

We, not so long ago, had a booming economy. People were spending money and they were planning for the future. A lot of big developments now – if you go look you see a lot of subdivisions, a lot of developments, you'll see they're slowed back. The site work is done, the curb and gutters in, but there's nothing happening. I've seen it throughout Mount Pearl, St. John's and up in CBS; I've seen those areas.

 

That's just housing. There are a lot of other developments; other proposals being done that are also being stagnated. That list will only grow as times goes on because right now they're only going on speculation. People are pulling back instantly because – lacking consumer confidence. This will get bigger. As time goes on, this will become a bigger problem. My fear is as the full budget starts to have its effects, which could take – well, you know, it'll kick in another few months, but you're looking at six or eight months. This time next year I expect our economy will be flattened.

 

Revenues in government will be down because people are not going to be spending. It's going to have a trickle effect on everything. Consumer confidence does spur your economy.

 

We'll have lots more time to speak on this as my time runs out. I'll be back.

 

Thanks.

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

CHAIR: I remind the hon. Member his time for speaking has expired.

 

The hon. the Member for Labrador West.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. LETTO: Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

I, too, want to have a few words tonight. It's hard to sit over here being lectured by the Members opposite and not be able to react.

 

This bill that we're debating now is about the levy. I'll start my remarks by saying that we've heard our residents, our constituents loud and clear as well. Contrary to what people opposite may say, we're not afraid to go back to our districts. I go back every weekend and I engage in conversations.

 

Nobody likes the levy. Nobody likes to have this levy imposed on them. We had several discussions of course around the caucus table which included the Member for Mount Pearl – Southlands at the time.

 

We looked at different ways to how we could possibly make this better and we had several discussions – and the deficit that we were dealing with. When the time and the opportunity presented itself and the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board, after several discussions with her federal counterparts and along with the Premier, did find some extra funds. We were able to adjust the levy from what it was in the beginning. Of course we would have liked to have seen the levy gone all together. Absolutely, but we have to deal with reality. We have to be responsible. We didn't cause the problem but we have to fix it.

 

Moving the threshold from $20,000 up to $50,000 – and my colleague, the Member for Stephenville – Port au Port has really conveyed that well, what it means. You know what, given the situation, we were pleased with that. We would like to see it gone all together.

 

I've heard the conversation around the table many times, which included the Member for Mount Pearl – Southlands, that if we could get the threshold up to $50,000 we could live with it. We could live with it.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: It's still temporary.

 

MR. LETTO: And it's still temporary, that's right.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. LETTO: I have to say, sure, we would like to have seen it gone, but when we can improve it we will, and we did. It's still temporary. We will improve it further as time comes on and we find new opportunities to reduce that.

 

We have reduced it, and we have increased the threshold to $50,000. I won't go through the same figures that my colleague, the Member for Stephenville – Port au Port said. He's given out all the numbers and the figures, so I need not do that.

 

I want to have a couple more words on the – the Member for St. John's Centre, every time she gets up she talks about comparing us to Alberta. Well, I'm going to tell you a little story about Alberta. When I came into this House of Assembly I said I would not bring my family into this, but I'm going to tonight. I'm going to get a little personal, and forgive me if I do.

 

I'm going to tell you a little story. Last year my son, who lives in Edmonton, his wife and three little grandchildren came home. They came back to the island to work, both had good jobs. They came back on New Year's Day, I think it was. Both of them had good jobs here in the city and were quite prepared to stay, but as time went on they saw that things were getting more difficult and they couldn't stay.

 

It was not because of the economy in Newfoundland and Labrador, the reason they couldn't stay. The reason they couldn't stay is because the economy was so bad in Alberta that they couldn't sell their house they had in Edmonton. A brand new house worth $700,000, they couldn't sell it, because the economy was tanked in Alberta.

 

For the Member for St. John's Centre to get up and talk about how great things are in Alberta. Well, I can tell her, because I witnessed it – and now they're back in Edmonton – that it's not that great in Alberta, no more than it is anywhere else in the country today. It's not because of the levy in Alberta; it's because of the commodity prices.

 

I see it every day. Every time I go back to my district I see it. The commodity prices have killed this economy. Until we get off the reliability on non-renewable resources, we are at the mercy of the economy. I see it every time I go back to my district.

 

Wabush Mines is shut down because of the economy and the low prices in iron ore. So don't try to lecture me on how good things are in Alberta when I've witnessed it, I've seen it. I've had a personal experience with it. So don't lecture me on how good things are in Alberta because they are not good in Alberta, no more than they are in Newfoundland and Labrador. We've just decided to deal with it in a different way. Time will tell, Madam Chair, that we will be the winner in this one – time will tell.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: We're going to be the winner.

 

MR. LETTO: Yes, we will be the winner, because we're dealing with it responsibly. We're dealing with the mess that's been left with us. We're dealing with it. We're dealing with it in a responsible way and the best way that we can.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. LETTO: I don't see any suggestions from the other side, what to do. All they can tell us is we shouldn't have done this, we shouldn't have done that, we shouldn't have done something else.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. LETTO: I don't see any suggestions of what we should do.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: You're not listening.

 

MR. LETTO: Oh, I'm listening. All I hear is lecture on what we shouldn't have done and how we're going to kill the economy in Newfoundland and Labrador. I don't see any suggestion from the other side on what we should have done differently. It's all the right choices is all they say. It's all the right choices.

 

Well, we made our choices. Unfortunately, they're not good, but they're choices we've had to make to deal with the mess that we've been left with. They talk about the blame game. The blame game is no longer a story.

 

Well, I can tell you it is a story because it's reality. It is the blame game. We've been left with a mess. We have to deal with it. We've made our choices and we'll live with them, and we'll live with the consequences. We're not in this work as a popularity contest. We're in this looking at the long term for our sons and daughters and grandchildren who want to stay here.

 

My son and his children would love to have stayed here, but they couldn't because of the great Alberta. That's where they had to go back to. Not because they couldn't stay here. It was because they couldn't carry another $700,000 mortgage and they couldn't give away their home. That's why they went back, because the economy wasn't there to support it.

 

Madam Chair, I could go on and on. I cannot sit down without having a few words on the fixed link and the feasibility study because if I did, my conscience wouldn't allow me.

 

We keep hearing people talking about we have no diversification plans. We have no diversification in this budget. I don't hear you from the other side, but I can guarantee you the study is a diversification, yes –

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. LETTO: – because the fixed link across the Strait of Belle Isle is great for the future of this province, not only for Labrador but for the Island portion as well. They stand to gain more from it than anybody else, probably in the country.

 

So every time we try to do something that will promote diversification – sure, we're not going to see the benefits by doing the study but we will see the benefits after the study is done and we can find a way to build the fixed link across the Strait of Belle Isle.

 

Madam Chair, my time is running out. Hopefully, I'll have a chance to get up again before the night is over. It's only so much you can take without being provoked to give the real truth.

 

Madam Chair, thank you for your time.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

CHAIR: The Chair recognizes the hon. the Member for Mount Pearl – Southlands.

 

MR. LANE: Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

I'm glad to be able to stand and speak to Bill 14. Of course, this refers to the levy. There are many things about this budget, and this is just one piece of it. I would say, Madam Chair, that I will be taking this opportunity, and I will be taking every opportunity I can to speak to this bill and to speak to the budget in general. I would recommend, certainly to Members opposite, that they may want to go on a coffee run, get their slippers and get nice and comfortable because we're going to here for quite some time as far as I'm concerned.

 

Madam Chair, I have to say, ever since we started talking about this budget I have done my very best to be straightforward about it and to be respectful of my former colleagues and everyone in this House. None of us are perfect but I've certainly done my best to keep it professional and so on.

 

I can tell you one thing, Madam Chair, I am not going to sit in this House of Assembly and hear yarns about things that happened and things that were said that are inaccurate. I'm certainly not going to do that, I can guarantee you that. I could tell many a yarn. If I wanted to go down that road, I could tell many a yarn with many people about how they felt about this budget, but I'm not doing it.

 

I'm not going down that road because I have respect for the Members of this House and I'm not attacking people personally. I'm not going down that road, but I will say this, to suggest that I said if we were to raise the levy to $50,000 I'd be okay with it. Really! Where did that one get dreamed up? The vast majority of my constituents make more than $50,000. This announcement did nothing, little to nothing for many of the people I represent. Now, I'm glad there were some people who did benefit. There are people in my district who did benefit and I'm glad they benefited.

 

Yes, I say to the Minister of Fisheries, make your notes. You got your big aha moment. Yes, make your notes, fine.

 

There are many people in my district who did not benefit from this announcement, or they benefited very, very little. I'm glad for the people who did benefit. I'm glad it happened. I support it. I will say, though, there was certainly no discussion that I was aware of that any of this was going to happen, I can guarantee you that. That didn't happen either. That just came out of the blue somewhere.

 

If there were discussions going on it certainly wasn't shared with me and it certainly wasn't shared with the caucus, I can guarantee you that. I'm not saying there weren't discussions that happened at the Cabinet level, but nobody knew it. Even if I had known it, it would not have made a difference because the vast majority of my constituents are still stuck with the levy and every other tax that we can come up. The cumulative effect on the people of my district is going to be devastating, and not just the people in my district but the people of all the districts when you look at the cumulative effects of all this taxation.

 

I stood in this House time and time again and I have said – and I'm saying what the people are saying – we understand we are in a tough financial situation. Nobody is denying that. There is nobody denying it. We all know that. Everybody expected that there were going to be tough times, we expected there would be cost-cutting measures and we expected that government would have to raise revenues. Everybody knew that. Everybody was expecting some degree of increase, but it's a matter of degrees. It's the cumulative effect on people. That is the big issue.

 

There are also issues with education and so on which I could get into, and I will when I speak another time. One of my maybe 10 or 15 or 20 times or however long, how many times I'm going to speak.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Oh yes, as many as you need.

 

MR. LANE: As many as I need, absolutely.

 

I will say the salient point in all this that I've heard from my constituents is the cumulative effect of all the taxation. When the Government Renewal Initiative took place and when those sessions took place in different parts of the province, they were done on a regional basis.

 

Certainly, I did one. As an MHA, I did one in my district. Granted there wasn't a big crowd of people who came, but the people who came, we went through the exercise. I did attend one in the St. John's West area as well. Sat in, went around to the tables, as did the minister and so on. It was all good stuff. I applauded it at the time. I still applaud the concept. I absolutely do, nothing wrong with it. It's the right thing to do.

 

The problem is that if you listen to what the people were telling you, sure, there was somebody who said, do you know what? We might have to raise gas tax. That's a way we can raise revenue. Guaranteed someone said that. I know people said that. Someone said we might have to raise income tax. That was said. Somebody said do you know what? Maybe we need that HST increase that you promised you weren't going to do it because it was as job killer and so on. Maybe you're going to have to go back on that and increase the HST. That was said. I'm not denying that. That was absolutely said by people.

 

I can guarantee you there was nobody, that I heard at least, who stood up and said let's raise the HST. While we're at it, let's raise gas by 16½ cents and tax that. Let's tax insurance companies, raise that. Then after we tax the insurance companies, then we're going to put 15 per cent on the tax that you're going to pay on your insurance. Let's introduce a levy, let's up the income tax. Let's up every fee that exists and let's create a whole bunch of new fees.

 

Nobody – I challenge anybody on the other side to get up and point out where somebody said to do all these things and do them all at once. I can guarantee you it didn't happen. It did not happen. To suggest that we're only doing what the people told us, I think it's disingenuous to say that. It really is.

 

Yes, someone said do this, someone said that, but nobody said do all of it the one time. Again, that is the problem. We know we're in a tough financial situation as a province but there is no point – I've said it before and people have said it. There's no point in saving the province from financial ruin while at the same time you're going to place its residents in financial ruin. That's not going to work, and that's all people are saying.

 

I will say again, it is still not too late. It is still not too late. We had the budget vote. So what? You're the government, come in tomorrow – well, maybe not tomorrow because we'll probably still be here, but the next sitting once this bill is decided, come in with a few amendments. That's all anybody is saying. Just be reasonable. It doesn't have to be an us and them; this doesn't have to be an us and them thing.

 

I know tonight on the e-cigarettes it was like – and Bill 1. You make suggestions, whatever, and it's almost like well no, no, no, we can't make any changes. We can't make any changes because we don't want to be seen as giving in or whatever. We can't do that. So we're going to just push it on through as is. That's what we're going to do. We're going to push it on through as is.

 

It seems like we're doing the same thing with the budget. I don't understand why, and it's not me. I'm not the one saying this. It's what the people are saying. That's what the people are saying. That's what they're saying. That's absolutely what they're saying.

 

The Minister of Municipal Affairs, he has an awful lot to say. He really does. Yes, he absolutely does. He can go ahead and say it but I'm not going to be bullied by anybody, I can tell you that. I'm not going to be bullied or intimidated.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. LANE: Now that might be the modus operandi over there but it's not working on this guy, I can tell you that. It's not going to happen – not going to happen.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

 

MR. LANE: Yes, I did vote for the bill. I say to the minister, I did vote for Bill 29.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. LANE: I did vote for Bill 29, and I stood up in this House after the fact. Well, I tried to get it changed. Then we know what happened. I stood up in this House when we had the new bill and I admitted that I voted for Bill 29. That's one of the biggest mistakes I made. When I cut the puppet strings I said, never again will I just go along with the crowd for the sake of going along with the crowd and toe the line. I will do what I think is the right thing to do. Voting for this budget in its current form is not the right thing to do and I'm not supporting it, and neither are the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. Now that's the bottom line. That's the bottom line.

 

I would say, Madam Chair, there are many things in this budget that need to be discussed– many things – and that could be as it relates to this bill here, the levy, which we'll be talking about, the gas tax, the HST, the education cuts that were totally unnecessary. All of these things we can talk about and we will talk about as the night goes through.

 

I intend on standing up as many times as I need to, to get the message across. It's not personal. It's not personal with me.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: No, b'y.

 

MR. LANE: No, it's not. I have nothing to gain by this, not a thing –

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

I remind the hon. Member his time for speaking has expired.

 

MR. LANE: – only to do what was right.

 

Thank you. 

 

CHAIR: Thank you. 

 

The hon. the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills. 

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. BYRNE: Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

 

If a visitor were to come into the gallery without having any exposure or past experience to the debate that is occurring tonight, I think the visitor might come to the conclusion that there are two very stark realities and two very stark differences of opinion about the circumstances of our province right now. The hon. Member for Mount Pearl – Southlands repeated again, and again, and again, as if it were internalized to be true and unavoidable that we are in an incredibly tough financial circumstance.

 

There seems to be a message that is easily spread by anyone who stands in his place and expresses the point of view that we are in an incredibly tough financial circumstance and action, Madam Chair, is the order of the day. But beyond that, that's where the commonalities end. If a visitor to this Chamber were to listen to the debate here tonight – and quite frankly, the debate since April 14, since the budget day – you'd come to the conclusion that there's really absolutely no certainty that we're in a tough financial circumstance. Because if you look to the opinions that have presented by the Members of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition, and to the Members of the New Democratic Party, the other Opposition Party, you would come to the conclusion very quickly that the solution here can be no tax increases – I'm very concerned, Madam Chair, what you're pointing to the Member for Mount Pearl – there seems to be another message going on here. We'll leave that to another time.

 

But, Madam Chair, if you were to rely on the debate and the discussion that occurred, you'd come to the very obvious conclusion that while we're in a very dire financial circumstance, there can be no tax increases – according to the Opposition – there can be no program cuts, no budgetary changes to programming. And I guess you'd have to come to the conclusion, because there really hasn't been much of a discussion about this, the answer to this is simply to borrow. All you have to do is borrow. We'll just whistle past. We'll think of a better day. We'll think happy thoughts. Borrow, borrow, borrow, borrow and whatever happens, we'll just leave it to the kids to resolve because that's what we do. That's what our generation does.

 

The generation that's coming forward will make a very passionate plea and an argument that we are the generation that has poisoned the water. We are the generation that has polluted the land. We are the generation that has destroyed the atmosphere. We are the generation that has destroyed the future generation in terms of the environment. They make a very strong and passionate case about this.

 

Madam Chair, you'd also have to come to the conclusion that simply borrowing and borrowing and borrowing without ever reflecting on any sort of reality that, at some point in time, somebody is going to have to start paying that bill.

 

Well, you'd come to the conclusion as well, Madam Chair, there is not much of an eye, not much of a leadership, being viewed towards the future. Because if you have zero tax increases, you have zero program budget cuts, how exactly do you solve this incredibly tough financial circumstance the Members opposite keep referring to? They appear to understand we are in an incredible financial circumstance. They appear to understand that this year alone, without any mitigation whatsoever, we would have accumulated an additional debt load of $2.7 billion. If we were to keep going without any mitigatable action, we would increase the total debt load of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador from a little under $14 billion to just over $27 billion in six short years.

 

So, Madam Chair, what this debate here tonight is all about is not about the levy, per se – it is about that – but really the identification is: Is there actually a problem that needs to be resolved? Because any visitor to this Chamber would come to the conclusion, there really is not a problem, if you listen to what is being voiced on the floor of this Chamber. Because there should be no tax increases, there should be no budgetary cuts, and there is no need whatsoever to borrow any money and worry about the future generation. It's status quo, whistle past and hope that things work out. Because that's what we've done, that's what the previous administration, that's what the PCs did before.

 

Do you know what? It doesn't work. If there is not that recognition or realization that it doesn't work, I tell you what, any time that the Opposition wants to stand up and say, oh and by the way, we will reverse every decision that has been taken in the first 100 days of forming a future government, if that indeed is the will of the people, I haven't heard that once. Not once. I have not heard any Opposition Member, it's leadership, whether it be from the NDP or the PCs, say, you know something, we will revert taxation back to the 2014-2015 levels. No questions asked. I have not heard any Opposition Member say, you know those program cuts that we're so angry about, in the first 100 days of taking office of a future government, we'll reverse every one of those decisions.

 

The NDP, for example, has called for the resignation of the Premier of the province – and guess what? That would trigger an election. By law, if that were to occur, there would have to be an election within one year. So that bears a responsibility. That bears a responsibility on the part of the Opposition. Come forward with your platform right now. Be honest. So you wanted clarity about whether or not there's a problem and what the Opposition would do about that problem, come forward with their proposed budget in reply.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

Order, please!

 

MR. BYRNE: You don't see that happening, Madam Chair. Do you know why? Because they're whistling past, they just simply want to just forget about their responsibility that they have a $2.7 billion dollar problem.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

Order, please!

 

The Chair has recognized the minister to speak, and I ask Members for their co-operation.

 

Thank you.

 

MR. BYRNE: Thank you, Madam Chair; I appreciate that.

 

If they want to present themselves as a credible Opposition, they can start by doing the following. This year alone there is a $2.7 billion problem. If there were no amendments, no changes that were taken through Budget 2016, there would be a $2.7 billion problem on the books this year alone. How would they fix it?

 

Don't talk to us about some changes to the Legislature; don't talk to us about a couple of little changes about speeding tickets or a little bit of this or a little bit of that – $2.7 billion; how would you resolve it? Would you borrow $2.7 billion and keep income tax and taxation and program spending exactly the same? Would you cut some programs? Increase a little bit of taxes, cut some programs and borrow a little bit? If so, define what exactly that would be.

 

Do you know what? The way to focus this debate, the way to actually create an accountability process, the same way the government has created an accountability process, by putting the books on the table and allowing everyone to have a look and have a say and actually having the debate on the floor of this Chamber, is to actually provide transparency of where you stand. Sometimes where you sit is where you stand and where you stand is where you sit.

 

Madam Chair, we have not heard one word out of the Opposition as to whether or not they would dramatically increase the borrowing portfolio of the province and increase the debt load of the province in perpetuity so that generations to come would have to pay for that. They have not said they would reduce program expenditures because quite frankly they have said in no uncertain terms that any budget cuts are just a non-starter. Any revenue increases are a non-starter, except for a few little tinkering here and there.

 

Madam Chair, do you know what? There's a reason why they don't want to do that, because they'll be accountable. They'll actually be questioned on their judgments. They will have to stand in their place and explain to the province, to all of the stakeholders, why they chose the path that they would take.

 

Guess what? They've already pronounced it. Whether they admit it or not, they've already pronounced where they stand on this, and that is ignore the problem. They have not provided any constructive criticism, any alternative approach to this, but just simply say, you know something, the levy is wrong, we wouldn't do it.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. BYRNE: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

CHAIR (Warr): The Chair recognizes the hon. the Member for Conception Bay East – Bell Island.

 

MR. BRAZIL: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

It's indeed an honour to stand in this House and talk about the challenges that the people of this province are facing. The Minister of AES did say one thing that I think hit home. Everybody realizes that we do have some challenges in this province. No doubt about it, some fiscal challenges.

 

The thing I think he's missing here, and the thing he didn't share with people, is their solution is on the backs of the people of this province. There's no thought to this process. There's no planning. There's definitely been no consultation. That's evident in the documentation that over the next few hours I'll allude to and touch on. This part of it here is about the levy itself.

 

I'll just tell you a little bit about the levy, how foolish it seems to the taxpayers here. Nobody can get their head around it because nobody can understand how you can just have a head tax, where your plan is on that.

 

My colleague from the Third Party mentioned earlier that it was just an exercise in a calculator on one end adding numbers and a calculator on the other end taking numbers off, and that what it appears to be people out there. If you see the letters coming in from people who have no background in economics, no understanding of the budget process but they are saying the same thing. There doesn't seem to be a plan in what we're doing here.

 

I just want to share something; May 23 I had a public meeting on Bell Island around this budget; May 24 I spoke in the House; and May 25 the levy got changed. I'll just read some of the excerpts of what I said in the House that day: I had the privilege last night of holding a public meeting on Bell Island, one of the parts of my community that is dramatically hit by this budget. The 300-plus fee increases were dramatic to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and particularly in my district. Radio Bell Island broadcasted to 700 listeners.

 

What I thought would be the ultimate discussion around the levy didn't take place, as one person got to the microphone and said it's such a foolish tax. It's such a way of punishing everybody in our society. It's such a process of having no plan, no outline of how they're going to deal with our deficit. That people just assume, somewhere along this way in the next week or two, they're going to drop it. That the Members over there will see the light of the day and they will back off and respond to the emails they are getting from their constituents, from other people in the province and from those who know about economic planning.

 

I give credit, maybe the people of Bell Island are a little bit more trusting or giving too much faith to the Liberal Party because they just assume they're going to take care of the people and do the right thing and reassess the levy and make tax cuts.

 

While all of this is being discussed, the levy isn't a priority on Bell Island because they feel the other taxes will be more detrimental. I have to give credit for 90 per cent of my population on the Bell Island part of my district; the $50,000 change does alleviate one of their concerns. I have to give credit to the people over there that they saw something I guess the rest of us didn't see, and I know Members over there didn't see at the time because this only came because of the pressure that was being put on people, your own constituents, and people out in the general public and, no doubt, the discussions here.

 

So there was a bit of vision to do that, which will impact one part of my district. Unfortunately the other part is going to take a major hit because they are in that middle income. The Portugal Cove-St. Philip's part of it and the Paradise part, they are the middle-income working people. So now they have to, in some cases, take the brunt of some of the other non-planning processes that were here.

 

The whole issue here is solely about not having a strategic plan about what to do. I think one of the Members across said earlier about being open and transparent and including people. Well, every piece of evidence that I have from the NLTA, from members of the media to the Federation of Students' councils, the economists to the vice-president of Memorial University, there has been no inclusion. There hasn't been any consultation. Wherever consultation took place, the Liberal administration went the opposite on the recommendations that they had made.

 

People have asked, well, why have consultations? I attended one of the consultations and thought it was very enlightening. There was a great discussion around the table. There were some great pieces of information given to the minister. I thought they'd take that, they'd mould it, they'd work it into existing policies to see which ones were immediate and could be implemented, see which ones that would be long term, but none of that took place.

 

So it gives people an opportunity to really think about what's the objective here. I thought the objective was to get financial stability and set a plan that would be positive for the people of the province and not detrimental, but that didn't seem to occur.

 

One of the other things that was discussed in our sitting there was around long-term planning. It wasn't that things had to change overnight, or that you had to deal with the deficit immediately. There was nobody in that room blaming the Liberal administration for the deficit that was there. What they were saying was, you've been elected to government, now we're giving you an opportunity to set the right path forward so the people in this province can still keep the hope – that my colleague for Cape St. Francis talked about – and still be able to move the economy forward and still have the business community invest in it.

 

If you want to talk about one of your big pillars was diversification, a great pillar to have, a great process to move forward on; but you've also got to have an understanding of what that means and how you're going to do it, and what part of that whole pillar is going to be the driving force behind it. And none of that was shared. None of that was shared with people. So that's fine if you don't have the answers, but then ask the people who do – and that was the general public and that was the intent of your consultations, but none of that was reflective in this budget process.

 

I wasn't to them all, so maybe I thought I missed it. But if you look at the thousands of emails and letters that I've received, and no doubt my other colleagues have received here, not one of them talked about these are the things we suggested. They talked about things that they suggested that haven't been implemented, that would be positive, that would be a financial savings; or at least move us to the next level over the next number of years to ensure that people weren't stifled when it came to investments here, that people weren't hurt from this, and that people didn't start thinking about moving out of this province.

 

That's where we are right now and that's the unfortunate part about demoralizing our society now. We have students who are talking about, when they graduate, getting out right away. We have middle-aged families now who are talking about uprooting and moving. Some people are going to start again. That's how much fear has been put in this province right now.

 

I had one of the RNC officers outside – I spoke to him when I came in – telling me that he has added up and it will cost him an extra $8,000 next year. He said he's just getting started. He's only into the RNC this year. He doesn't have the ability to do that. He has to change what he needs to do in life to be able to stay here. He wants to stay here obviously. He's got a career to do that and, no doubt, one day he'll be fairly successful when it comes to his income and that, but right now he's going to struggle. That's going to have an effect on everybody else in this province, obviously.

 

The Minister of AES asked the question that we never told what we would do. Sure we did. We said it in our Blue Book. We said it last year. When I sat in Cabinet, we went through our budget lines and we knew that we had to make some fiscal decisions. We looked at rightsizing government spending.

 

Don't forget, the difference here now is we had it out there. The HST would have been implemented July 1. That would have given us an extra $94 million to $100 million. That would have offset some of these other major impacts that they're going to have on people. It would have ensured that people on low incomes and middle incomes would have it, that our education system would still be viable.

 

We talked about attrition and how we were going to do that. We'd already have so many people out, who were retiring out of the system. We would have reorganized how we offered services to people. It wouldn't be just about slash and cut and take services out of rural Newfoundland and Labrador and have that as our focus, and make people be so inconvenienced that they'll actually give up on a service because it's not going to be viable for them to get to it. Those were some of the things we had talked about.

 

We talked about all-day kindergarten. A very important program and a process that one day when we're ready to be able to do it, we'd put it in place. So that same amount of money would be put back either in our education system, our health care system or the reduction of one of our taxes to do that.

 

Under the gas tax, we talked about we would implement it over periods of time, so it wouldn't be a major impact on our society. It wouldn't stifle tourism. It wouldn't have companies saying they're going to have to get rid of machines or layoff people because that impacted what the extra costs on the fuel was going to do. They're just some of the simple off-the-cuff ones. Not counting the process you guys had in place, the hundreds of people, maybe a thousand people or more that you got to meet with from all different backgrounds, all various parts of this province who gave you great ideas, exceptionally good ideas. Not one of them did I see reflective in that budget line.

 

Add in the fact there's a half a billion dollars extra money being spent – a half a billion. You're telling me that's being fiscally prudent? I can't figure that out at all. The economists can't figure it out. When I explained that to people and I took the Estimates and I had copies of it in my meeting, people couldn't believe it. They had to go down and look at it and see that, yes, signed off by the respective minister.

 

So we're spending more. We didn't take any prudence at the beginning. We made all kinds of promises that there was no way we were going to be able to keep it. The faηade that we didn't know how bad it was, we didn't know any of those things, people don't believe that anymore. That went by the wayside when they saw what you put out as a budget. They realized then there was no planning, there was no concept.

 

It was a simple solution. Let's put it totally on the backs of the citizens of Newfoundland and Labrador. Let's try to push them as hard as we can. Then when they push back, we'll try to figure out which ones made the most noise and we'll try to take care of them to see if that alleviates the noise again.

 

I want to make it clear, again as I mentioned, the thousands of emails and correspondence from people. The people of Newfoundland and Labrador are not going to let it go that easily. They have ideas about how this province should move forward. They elected a government on a premise that they would have a plan to move this province to where it needed to go to continue the growth that we had, but to be fiscally responsible. Unfortunately, that hasn't happened. That's reflective in, no doubt, what you guys have seen in your own responses from your own constituents and what we're hearing from every other level, professional levels and from the media.

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. BRAZIL: Mr. Chair, I'll have an opportunity to speak again before the night is out.

 

Thank you.

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

I remind the hon. Member that his time has expired.

 

The Chair recognizes the hon. the Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MR. KIRBY: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

It's an honour for me to get up and participate in the debate again this evening on the budget. It was interesting to hear some of the comments made already. I think one of the things that makes the hair stand up on the back of everybody's head is the fact that we passed a bill here in the Legislature just a few days ago authorizing government to borrow $3.4 billion again this year to address the mess that we have on our hands.

 

You know, it's interesting. I remember what the hon. Government House Leader had to say about this whole debate. It's like the guy who says, you know, I'm here cleaning up your mess, and the other side saying: oh, you're holding the mop wrong. Don't hold the mop like that. You're holding the mop wrong. Use it more this way. Mop the floor more this way. Clean up more mess this way. I say grab a mop and start mopping and help us to clean up the mess you made.

 

The Member for Ferryland stands up and says, oh, you hear it out in your district. The Member for Cape St. Francis said you hear people talking about it in your district. Of course we hear people talking about it in our district, the mess. It is a fiscal nightmare. We are spending more on borrowing in debt servicing than we are on all of K to 12 education and everything in the Department of Education, Early Childhood Development. More than that on servicing the debt that that crowd managed to rack up. I'm hearing a lot about that.

 

People say what a mess we have on our hands. I wouldn't want to be you crowd. That's what I'm hearing an awful lot of, and of course nobody likes to pay more tax, of course not, but where's the money going to come from? We're not hearing a lot of solutions.

 

The Member for Ferryland got up, he talked about equalization. It seems his strategy is beg and borrow I call it, because there's really not much of anything else. Go to Ottawa; see if they'll give us some more money – with your cap in your hand and go.

 

They talk about pride as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians at the same time advocating that somehow we go and get them to break the equalization formula. He said, who advocated for Newfoundland and Labrador? Who advocated for Newfoundland and Labrador the two occasions that they had to negotiate legitimate changes to equalization? They did nothing. There was nothing done. So it certainly wasn't them.

 

Then they talk about diversifying the economy, diversifying our sources of income. Under that crowd, their idea of diversifying the economy was to borrow a little bit from Scotiabank, and to borrow a bit more from TD Bank, and to borrow a little bit more from somebody else and borrow and borrow and borrow. You can't borrow your way out of this hole. It's just creating a deeper hole. They don't seem to get that.

 

I remember the second filibuster I participated in here in the House of Assembly when I was sitting over on the side. The first one was the time that crowd shoved Bill 29 down the province's throat, more or less, invoked closure to ram that bill through the Legislature. The second time was Muskrat Falls. Again this year, over a billion dollars, basically, we're borrowing to hand over to Muskrat Falls, a project just ridden with problems.

 

Not just that. Initially, they said the person who sat right here, who was Minister of Finance at the time, said there was nobody on the other side who is even intelligent enough to have a debate about Muskrat Falls. So there was no point in even having a conversation with us about it. That's what the Minister of Finance said of the day. We weren't even worthy of a debate. People can accuse us of a lot of things but I have not witnessed that kind of arrogance since that government left office. That's what we were dealing with. We weren't smart enough to have a debate.

 

You can smirk over there all you want, I say to the Member for Conception Bay East – Bell Island, that's what he said. That's what the Minister of Finance said to the Opposition.

 

Then they said there would be no debate in the House of Assembly whatsoever. We are not going to do it. On Private Members' Day, a day that we know the scheduled debate happens between the hours of 3 p.m. and 5 p.m., two hours would be sufficient to debate this project that has done nothing in my view than drag us down.

 

Then we finally managed to convince them that, yes, it was worthy of having a debate on a project that was going to cost us billions and billions and billions of dollars and all of the arguments for Muskrat Falls were questionable. They did not do what Nova Scotia did which was to allow their public utilities board to actually do a thorough examination on whether or not this made sense.

 

We finally had a debate here in the House of Assembly and they put clauses into that legislation so as to prohibit us, as a people, from even going out and finding alternative sources of energy. They basically chained us to this project.

 

Like the minister said earlier, when that dome, that thing that they were trying to – how foolish to go and try and build a bubble over the top of a falls, a river in the deep interior of Labrador and to have that somehow stay up through the winter. No feat of engineering would accomplish that, as we saw, because it all blew down. We don't know how many tens of millions or whether it was $200 million that that mess cost Astaldi. But when the minister of Natural Resources who sat over there, their minister of Natural Resources stood up, he said, who is going to pay for that mess? He said, oh no, the contractor will cover all the costs.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: Oh yeah, how'd that work out?

 

MR. KIRBY: We'll see how that's going to work out, Mr. Chair. We'll see when the adjusted schedule and costs for Muskrat Falls, the project that crowd shackled us to, we'll see how that's all going to turn out for the province.

 

Then there was, at the end, like Bill 29, they shoved it down our throats, they invoked closure; and after several days of debate, they found a way to get around continuing the debate and shut it down, and that's where we are today. The project continues to go behind schedule and cost millions and millions and millions of dollars' worth of money, and it has been nothing controversy associated with that project from day one, and a project they never wanted to have any debate on.

 

Now, the other thing, it's interesting, I heard some stuff over there from the Member for Conception Bay East – Bell Island that I never heard before about their plans for higher income taxes. He said they were going to do higher income taxes and do it further off or different taxes. I'd like to hear more about that, because that's the first time anybody said that. We have heard they would have increased the HST. We know that. Leaders of both of the Opposition parties have said they would have laid off people. The Official Opposition said they would have laid off more people. I don't know if they're talking about a hundred more people, hundreds more people, thousands more people. They haven't really said.

 

They said no seniors' advocate – they don't want to do that because that's a luxury, they called it. They don't want to do the feasibility study for the link to Labrador, and they don't want full-day kindergarten. So that's about $15 million more. I don't know where you're going to get the rest. The Member for Conception Bay East – Bell Island said in here one day he wanted to eliminate multigrading in the province. That's going to affect 170 classrooms, somewhere between $45 million and $50 million extra. So he just negated a whole bunch of everything that he's said so that we can have classrooms in the province that resemble tutoring rather than classrooms. That's one of the things that they're on the record on.

 

We hear a lot of criticism – don't do this and don't do that – but we don't hear a lot of, well, constructive solutions that have real figures attached to them. Other than the HST and laying off a lot more public servants, the three things I listed off there, there's not a whole lot else that we're hearing.

 

It's $1.83 billion remaining. Mr. Chair, $1,830,000,000 is the deficit that remains, even after all this hardship, even after this budget that most of us, if given a different opportunity, would not have to initiate. We don't hear a lot of solutions, like I said.

 

Hopefully we can stay here long tonight. I'm interested in hearing solutions because we just have not heard any. I've certainly not heard a lot of talk about Muskrat Falls from them either. As far as I'm concerned, that's the originator of much of our fiscal problem today.

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. KIRBY: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

CHAIR: I remind the hon. Member his speaking time has expired.

 

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

 

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

 

I'm very happy to stand in the House and to continue to speak to this bill, the Liberal levy bill. As we've heard tonight, people are speaking to a much broader aspect of the budget in its entirety.

 

Members on the other side, I've taken time over the past two weeks to speak to the similarities between Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador and then also the different approaches. I find it very interesting how Members on the other side, on government's side, in fact, twist and torque the words that I have spoken. I'm not quite sure why they're doing that, maybe because they feel threatened by the truth with which I'm speaking.

 

Never once, Mr. Chair – I never once said that they're exactly the same situation, but the similarities are that both provinces are facing incredibly devastating fiscal realities because of the sudden drop in oil and because both provinces rely very heavily on income of oil. Of course, I've also said a number of times that Alberta is much more fiscally resilient because they don't have the same depth of debt.

 

Alberta may have a better chance because, in fact, what they're doing is they're harnessing the energy of all our good Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who are in Alberta and who are willing to roll up their sleeves and get to work in Alberta, doing everything in their power to make sure that those people can get back to work. Whereas, in fact, what this government is doing is cutting jobs, cutting jobs and cutting jobs. They haven't done a thing in their budget to talk about – no plan or strategy to create jobs to get people back to work.

 

Because part of our revenue crisis right now is the fact that we have such a high level of unemployment. And this budget, this government itself, in their very own Budget Speech talked about how their Government Renewal Initiatives, which come with measures, their grim approach – the G-R-I-M approach, in fact, is going to increase unemployment. Mr. Chair, that is not a solution.

 

What one would hope from the government is that the government, during this tough time, would in fact stabilize the economy. And what this government is doing is destabilizing the economy because there is no solution. All they are doing is an accountant's approach to cutting the deficit, to cutting the debt. They are not doing anything to propel people forward; they are not doing anything to strengthen the economy, to strengthen the people, to strengthen our infrastructure so that, in fact, we don't just come up with cutting, cutting, and cutting, but in fact building, which is what we have to do.

 

Economists the world over have said again, again and again – and I look forward to speaking to that – that austerity measures do not work in a time of fiscal crisis. We know that the folks here in the Official Opposition, when in power, that there were billions of dollars of revenue in oil, yet here we are still, with all that prosperity, in absolute crisis situation in terms of the budget. But if government has the will, government, in fact, can help us weather the storm and can help stabilize the economy. That's not what their budget is doing.

 

So what would we do differently? Let's take a look at a few of the things that we would do differently, Mr. Chair. We would build a budget based on values and principles. We absolutely wouldn't put everything on the table because not everything should be on the table. If government role is to strengthen private industry during these times, and strengthen our public services, it's not the time to put everything on the table. Not everything should be on the table.

 

We need to make sure that our people are educated. We have years ahead of us to try and get out of this debt situation that we're in, so we have to make sure people are as educated as we can possibly make them so that they are able to contribute to society. We need to make sure that our people are healthy, that they are vibrant, so that they too can contribute to our economy.

 

We have to build a budget around clearly, articulated values. That's not what this budget did. We do not see any clearly, articulated values. Again what we see is cutting line by line by line. We do not see an overall vision, an overarching vision that says together we are going to strengthen our communities so that they can bear the difficulties and challenges that the province faces because of the fiscal situation.

 

We would do what the NDP in Alberta did. Again, we are not comparing apples to apples. We know there are very great differences. What would we do? As Alberta did, we would invest in Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. We would invest in jobs. This government is not investing in jobs. This government is cutting jobs. They are destabilizing the economy rather than stabilizing the economy.

 

We would have replaced bogus consultations with meaningful debate and we would give citizens the information they need to make informed input. Mr. Chair, I went to some of these community consultations that this government did. What did they do? They gave people three options of where they would cut. Where this government should have been starting from is, what do you think we need in order to strengthen our economy, to strengthen our people to help us weather this storm? That should have been the starting place, not where we can cut and cut and cut without any overarching and articulated values.

 

We'd analyze the overall impact of the budget on the people. How is this budget going to affect people? We would put a gender lens – the gender lens was never applied to this budget. We know that was a required activity, that the Women's Policy Office should have been able to apply their gender analysis tool to the budget. That was never done. We would have put a disability lens, a youth lens, a seniors' lens. How is this budget impacting people's lives?

 

The more we impoverish people, the more we impoverish our communities, the further we are behind. To impoverish our own people does not make sense. To have more people unemployed, to have more people who can't afford to their medication, to have more people who can't afford their rent does not help us at all. As a matter of fact, it holds us back. What they're doing is they're squeezing the life out of people.

 

We've all heard people talk about maybe I have to leave because there's no hope, there's no vision on the horizon. We would have scraped the levy. We're sure that nobody in these bogus consultations that this government did said let's put a levy; let's put a head tax on everybody in the province. Nobody would have recommended that.

 

I would love to see where in those consultations there were people who said let's do a levy. I would love to see that. We haven't seen it anywhere online. Maybe there were lots of people who said let's do this levy. I'd love for government to prove that, to, in fact, show us where people recommended the Liberal levy.

 

We would have incorporated needed revenue into personal income taxes and corporate income taxes and our platform said that. That's what we said in our platform, that we would increase corporate income by 1.5 per cent to try and bring it back to levels that were not so long ago.

 

We would replace the doubling of the gas tax, which has a disproportionate impact on rural people and communities. Because it affects rural communities much more so than people in urban centres, and that's indisputable. We wouldn't have done that. What we would have done, we would replace that with a measured carbon tax based on polluter-pays principle and following through on a thorough public debate on the options. We need to be talking about those things.

 

Now the minister announced a $570 million infrastructure; however, the minister didn't announce $138 million cut to infrastructure spending. So we would reinstate that, and we'd also focus on green technologies. I think I mentioned this in the House before. There's a fantastic new group here in town, in the province, called Iron and Earth. These are folks who have worked in the oil and gas industries and in the mining industries who are well-trained workers, plumbers, electricians, pipefitters, scaffolders, who have lost their work, have lost their jobs because of the drop in the price of oil, because of the drop in commodities in the minerals industry, who are willing to ply their trade, who are willing to use their expertise and their skills to get to work in the area of green technologies.

 

We haven't seen anything like that; we haven't seen a vision like that in our budget. These are people who want to stay in Newfoundland and Labrador. These are Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who are willing to roll up their sleeves and do innovative and creative work. There's been nothing in this budget that would facilitate that, that would encourage that. That's a shame. That's a missed opportunity.

 

When we look at this budget, Mr. Chair – I see my time is almost up – this budget is riddled with missed opportunities. With missed opportunities of harvesting the energy, not just the energy whether it be from the sun or the wind or our water energy, but the energy of the people, the people who are well trained and who want to work.

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

I remind the hon. Member her speaking time has expired.

 

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

 

I'm looking forward to speaking again.

 

CHAIR: The Chair recognizes the hon. the Minister of Transportation and Works.

 

MR. HAWKINS: Can I just have a five-second recess on that one, Mr. Chair?

 

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

I'm going to try to temper my passion and my emotions from what I would consider to be my last rant that I had in the House on the budget that I went about 20 minutes. I know that I was very passionate about that. I am very passionate about this too, Mr. Chair.

 

I made a statement at that time and I'll make the statement again. All of us on this side of the House, we fully understand this was a tough budget. We had to take measures that none of us really wanted to make. I just want to clarify a couple of comments the Members opposite made tonight.

 

One of them we need to clarify is the fact they tend to say we did nothing with expenditures. We just increased expenditures again this year. Mr. Chair, while that is actually true, there is a real reason for that. Part of that, there is over $400 million in new spending for debt servicing. There is in excess of $200 million that went to the teachers' pension fund. Really, Mr. Chair, we did not have control over that expenditure.

 

One of the other things I also wanted to clarify. We've all heard from Members opposite that people in Newfoundland and Labrador had a bounce in their step and all that sort of thing because of the conditions the province was in. Well, let me clarify. If, for example, I knew, as an individual, that we have a $23,000 debt per capita, I don't think I'd have a very good jump in my step. They don't point these things out, Mr. Chair.

 

One of the other things that is a sad commentary that we've been hearing around: It seems like status quo is acceptable. Status quo is not acceptable to this side of the House. If, in fact, we did go with the status quo and we did nothing, before the end of this four-year mandate, that $23,000 per capita would raise to about $54,000 per capita debt. Mr. Chair, that's not something I'm proud of. I don't know if there's anyone else in this House who would be proud of that. It's certainly not something I'm proud of.

 

As my good colleague said earlier, what are we doing? We're passing it on to the next generation. That's not something I want to be proud of. That's not something that I stand and was elected to do. I was elected to make responsible decisions. Unfortunately, Mr. Chair, because of the mess we're in, we've had to make these choices. They are tough choices, but we are looking at a direction we want to put this province, in going forward, that we don't make the same mistakes.

 

Another interesting piece of information, Mr. Chair, is the fact that if we continue to borrow and borrow and borrow at the rate that we were going – I know it's very difficult for me to get my head around it, I'm sure Members in this House on this side have difficulty as well. If we did nothing before the end of this mandate we would be paying $2 billion a year debt service – $2 billion a year debt service. Think about it.

 

A lot of people around here have been criticizing the fact that Muskrat Falls is probably going to cost us $10 billion. You know, Mr. Chair, I would hope that with that investment there would be a return sometime, whether it's 10 years or 20 years or 30 years or 40 years. Just think about this, if we did nothing this year or we did nothing in the next three years, just think about it, every five years we will be paying in interest a Muskrat Falls. Every five years – $2 billion a year. Now that's totally irresponsible. That's not something as an MHA or a minister that I could be proud of.

 

Mr. Chair, one of the other things the Members opposite keep talking about is they keep going back into their districts and talking about the fact that everybody is talking about the budget, everybody is criticizing the budget. They've also said that people on the government side are afraid to go back in their district on weekends. I don't know where that's coming from, because I believe everyone in this district, we go back.

 

As a matter of fact, Mr. Chair, I attended three functions on Saturday, three functions. One of the functions I attended was in the beautiful community of Twillingate – great place, I grew up there, know a lot of people. I went to an event. There were about 180 people there, and I went to practically every single table, every single table. I might have missed one or two.

 

One table, out of everyone I spoke to, had a negative thing to say. Just about everybody – and of course, that's the good people of Twillingate. That's just the way they are, I guess. They talked about, I cannot believe what you guys got to do. I would not want to be in your shoes. I would not want to have to make the decisions that you have to make.

 

Ironically, while we were attending the function, one of the waitresses dropped a glass and it broke on the floor. Somebody came up with a mop and one of the guys at one of the tables made a comment to me. He said: That reminds me of what you guys have to do. You're cleaning up the mess. I said, well, that's a good way of putting it because we do have to make tough decisions. These are decisions that we have not taken lightly and these are decisions that we had to make.

 

Mr. Chair, one of the other points I wanted to make – and I know my good colleague alluded to the fact that as adults we don't have a good record of looking after our environment and looking after where we are, the circumstances. We have not had a good record of looking after our finances. We haven't had a good record. It's not a good record.

 

I've got difficulty. How can I get my head around the fact that in the last 10 years we have $25 billion in royalties –

 

AN HON. MEMBER: How much?

 

MR. HAWKINS: Twenty-five billion, and we had debt in half of those years, when all the money was flowing in, when all the oil money was flowing in, when all the royalties were flowing in. They were coming into our coffers and we incurred debt.

 

Mr. Chair, I'm hoping this side of the House will make some provisions going forward that at least before another election comes up at least every government and every person will have an understanding of where we are financially. There won't be any questions. There won't be any doubt. We won't have to wonder where we are. There will be an update that will be distributed so people can fully understand where we are.

 

Mr. Chair, that really concerns me because of the fact I've mentioned before, having all of those resources and all of those royalties come in. The money has been spent, yes. The infrastructure has been there, yes; however, we have to be prudent. We have to be fiscally responsible for what we're doing. We just can't spend and spend and spend and borrow in order to spend. We have to make decisions that are responsible. We have to make sure that we have the financial mechanism in place whereby we can adequately pay for the debt that we're incurring.

 

I know my time is going. I'll probably get a chance later on to speak, Mr. Chair. I just have to add this one, I mentioned it before. I have two grandchildren in this province and it's sad. I never, ever thought I would live in this province long enough that we would be paying more in interest than we would be paying for the education of my grandchildren and the children in this province. It's a sad situation. It's a sad commentary for this province. We must make changes to ensure this never happens again. That's important. We cannot pass it on to our children. They will not have a future. We cannot do that.

 

We have to make the measures. We have to take the steps to make sure we protect the future for our young people and that we have a province for our young people so they can find employment so they can have a future. I believe we can do that, Mr. Chair.

 

Thank you.

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

I remind the hon. Member that his speaking time has expired.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

CHAIR: The Chair recognizes the hon. the Member for Topsail – Paradise.

 

MR. P. DAVIS: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

Thank you for recognizing me this evening and giving me a chance to enter into debate on Bill 14, which is the levy bill. Mr. Chair, it's just after 10 o'clock in the nighttime. Normally, the House would close at 5:30 p.m. or 10 p.m. Now we are beyond 10 o'clock, and I suspect we're going to be here for a long time yet debating the levy.

 

The levy is somewhat symbolic, as we know, because the levy is the bill and the decision, the choice the Liberal government made in this year's budget that caused the most outrage and upset by people in the province. There are other parts of the budget that also upset people because we know they had a number of, what they referred to as, revenue actions that took place in this budget.

 

Now, I listen to Members opposite, listen to what they say. They say we had to make changes. We had to do things. I certainly agree with that, Mr. Chair, because that's exactly what we did last year in 2015, in my first and only budget as Premier. We said we have to do things differently because the economy is changing, the price of oil is dropping and, as a government, we have to take steps to rectify the difficult circumstances we're going to face if the price of oil continues to decline. It did. That's exactly what it did.

 

Predictors and those who look at the oil industry around the world tried to get out ahead of it and say what was going to happen. They were wrong. They were wrong and they're still wrong. The volatility continues. Now they're all playing safe and a lot of them are saying it's going to stay down. Prices have gained some ground recently, up to about $50 a barrel. It's something to celebrate compared to where we were in January, but it's pale in comparison to where we've been historically in recent years.

 

We began that process. We said we have to increase taxes. People find it sometimes amusing. They found it amusing sometimes last year. They said, hang on now. They said, Davis, what are you doing? You're going into an election and you're saying you have to reduce programs and services. You have to continue to reduce the public service because that's been ongoing since before 2010, where there has been slow and continued reduction. Slow in a way that a lot of people haven't even noticed reductions in public service, but done in a way that doesn't shock the system. Done in a way that doesn't shock the economy, doesn't have a big, significant strike to the economy.

 

We were going to raise taxes and we said, yes, we have to make changes in how we're doing business. We have to find more effective ways to use taxpayers' dollars. We got to continue to work and work harder to find more efficient ways to operate line departments and agencies, boards and commissions, or commonly known as ABCs.

 

Even in government, we had EY working with departments, to come into departments and work with the executives and those who manage and run the departments and say: well, how can we find a more effective and efficient way to do our business, do that work? Can we do it with fewer people? Can we do it effectively and so on?

 

All that work was underway, and we went to an election on that. We went to an election on that to the people last fall. In comparison, we know what the other platforms were. Some of them we've heard a lot about it. I'm sure we'll hear more about it tonight because very quickly, last year in the budget the Premier went on the record and said we will not increase HST. HST is a job killer – and even went to words to say, not on my watch.

 

As the price of oil continued to fall – we all saw it happening. Every one of us saw the price of oil continue to fall. We talked about the difficult times ahead and the things we needed to do – not on my watch, is what the Leader of the Liberal Party went to an election on last year. He even talked about streamlining taxation and so on.

 

We are where we are today. The people of the province have made their choice based on the promises and the campaigns that Members opposite made. Mr. Chair, those saying you're going to do things and not doing them hasn't stopped. It has continued.

 

Even during recent debates right here in the House of Assembly, we've talked about the handling of the matters at Nalcor and the departure of the former CEO. We had commitments and promises from the government opposite that they're going to release and provide certain information. They released little bits of information. They encouraged others to release information they do; yet, they go back on the commitment and the promise to release those documents.

 

Then the Members opposite, during Question Period, now have gotten into the habit – they're trying to use up time, I suspect, Mr. Chair, because they all stand and applaud long and hard. Every time a Member opposite, a Liberal frontbencher answers a question they applaud long and hard.

 

The other day the Premier gets up and talks about he's going to provide the documents right away. We asked him would he table them. He doesn't answer that. He won't do it now. He changes his position, and they applaud long and hard. Members opposite support that. Members in the caucus support it. They all voted for the budget. They stand by their leader, and they applaud long and hard when he changes his position.

 

That's what's happened since a year or more ago. That's what happened a year or more ago, Mr. Chair. He said he didn't hear the details of the severance until May 5. That's what he said. If you listen to him, he's probably right in what he said. He didn't know the details. It depends on what he wants to determine the details of, that's what the Premier said – the details of May 5.

 

Some people call that being too cute by half. That's the phrase. We've heard that before. Some use the phrase too cute by half because when you're asked the question: When did you know about the severance. The answer is I didn't know the details until May 5. Oh, so you didn't know about the severance until May 5. Well, that's not actually what he said; he didn't know the details because we find out now he did know the details on April 20.

 

That's not a way that the people of the province expect a government to do their work and speak to the people. When we come to the House here, and as an Opposition we ask questions of the government during Question Period, we're not just asking for our own benefit. Well, we have an interest, so we'll ask a question. That's not what it's about. We ask on behalf of the people of the province.

 

They have a role in government. They have a role, elected and given a role by the people and given a mandate to lead and govern. We've been given a role by the people of the province as well. Part of that role is to come to Question Period every day and asking questions for clarity and information and details on matters that are important to the people of the province, and we've been doing that.

 

That's where we are, Mr. Chair. Members opposite say they're going to do one thing, they do something else. Here we are today debating a levy and debating a budget when they're on the record as saying that increased taxes are job killers. It crushes the economy, is what they said. They said it's not good on the economy.

 

The Premier is on the record, as a matter of fact – and if I can find it here because I have a stack of material ready for debates that we're going to have over the next several hours. He talked about HST: “It will also negatively affect people on fixed incomes, including seniors, who cannot afford price increases for everyday goods and services.” So it's not just about giving you a rebate and a refund if you're a low-income earner. It's also what the impacts were on HST.

 

It says: “Liberals understand that this increase” – the increase in HST is what it's referring to – “will hurt consumer confidence and hurt business.” Mr. Chair, that's right out of the Liberal red book. That's a part right out of the Liberal red book of what they said was wrong with the HST. Yet, if they only implemented the HST, I know people would be quite accepting of that. I know they would, but it's everything else that goes on top of it that's causing a problem.

 

The levy is one. They didn't change it. By the way, if you look at the releases, when they say they changed it they didn't change it because they felt it was an important thing to do. They changed it because the federal government allowed them to do it by giving them the funding. By giving the funding back from the loan payment, by deferring the loan payment, by kicking that can down the road.

 

Members opposite get up here tonight, and we've heard some of it – I won't name them, because that's not the intent of tonight, but get up and they say, we got to stop putting off the debt to our grandchildren and to our families and the people down the road. Yet, they just did that with the repayment to the federal government. They put it down the road tax free for another five years, and then pay 10 years after that. It's kicked down the road to 2022, and then for 10 years after that. So while they tell us it was wrong for us to do it, then they do part of it themselves. It's really interesting how it's wrong for us to do certain things and it's okay for them to do it.

 

Now, Mr. Chair, I also want to talk about tax reductions over the last 12 years. I've got a minute left in this time. What happens in this debate and while we're in committee is we get to speak for 10 minutes. We go back and forth across the House, generally is what happens. I suspect when we get later in the evening Members opposite will stop getting up and we'll get up more. When people are going to bed and they're turning off their TVs and stop watching, it will be left for us to carry the night overnight while people sleep, or most people sleep. But we're okay with that, we're going to do that.

 

I also want to talk about decreased taxes. Members opposite have talked about that; I suspect they'll talk about it more. I can't remember a time from my time being here in the House since 2010, or even before that. I can't remember a time when a Member from the Opposition party or the Opposition as it was at the time, the Liberal Party, I don't know if I can remember anybody in the House ever criticizing government for lowering taxes. Now, if someone over there said, yes b'y, back in 2010 I got up and I said, look, that's a wrong thing to do to lower taxes, b'y, correct me. I can't remember a time when a Member did that, and we're going to talk about more of that over the night.

 

CHAIR: Order, please!

 

MR. P. DAVIS: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Harbour Grace – Port de Grave.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MS. P. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

Well, it's always an honour to stand here in this hon. House because, as you know, we represent our constituents. Again, it's very important to recognize our constituents who put us where we are to represent them.

 

Well, needless to say, like all of us here in the House on each side, we hear a lot about the budget. There's a lot of concern. That's certainly a given. A lot of people are concerned about the levy, but I will talk about a big concern that continues to dominate discussion in my District of Harbour Grace – Port de Grave.

 

There are 15,000 constituents that I represent in my beautiful, strong District of Harbour Grace – Port de Grave. As we know – and we're going back to 2007 when there was a promise made by the previous administration in the heyday, in the golden years when we were flush with oil cash. A promise made to the people of Coley's Point Primary school, the young students there, their parents.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

 

MS. P. PARSONS: Absolutely.

 

As we know as well, the student population at Coley's Point Primary is 350-plus. This school is situated in an area where population continues to grow in Conception Bay North. This school services children from Port de Grave, from Bareneed, from Shearstown, Butlerville, Bay Roberts of course and Coley's Point. It's essential. They need a new building. It's a 60-year-old-plus facility.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

MS. P. PARSONS: Absolutely.

 

I want to reflect on a letter that with some research we found. This is dated back to October 30 of 2015. I just want to reflect on the date of this letter of October 30, 2015. It was just before the election that we had – a month before actually – on November 30. It is addressed to the Mayor of Bay Roberts. It's written by then Education minister, Susan Sullivan.

 

I will read this letter because we want to get this out. We want to get this on record: Dear Mr. Wood, I am writing you at this time to confirm the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador's commitment to the new school to replace Coley's Point Primary. To date, we have made progress in moving this project forward.

 

First of all, I ask, Mr. Chair, where is the progress? There's a sign, but the last time we checked students can't go to school in a sign. That was always put there.

 

This past summer a site for the new school adjacent to Amalgamated Academy was expropriated on behalf of Newfoundland and Labrador English school board. In addition, a floor plan and concept design has been completed and detailed design work is currently underway.

 

We saw the sketch, but after some research as well, the Minister of Municipal Affairs had found out that this in fact wasn't true.

 

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

 

MS. P. PARSONS: That's right.

 

It is anticipated this school will be tender ready in 2016. What year is this, Mr. Chair? It is 2016.

 

Attached, please find an architect's drawing depicting the appearance of the building. Again, I would like to reiterate that this project is included in government's multi-year education infrastructure development plan released in Budget 2015 and remains a priority. Thank you for your support – and God knows there was a lot of patience – for this important project.

 

I want to say, again, we know that this is not simply a priority today; this was a priority when the previous administration was still in power. In three past budgets, three consecutive budgets there was money allocated for Coley's Point Primary School. Money was allocated in that budget. At the time, there was a Member, of course, on the government side. Where's the school? Where's the start for the school, Mr. Chair?

 

Well, as we know, the times that we're in are ugly. I'll say they are ugly, the financial time, absolutely; this is a difficult time, the most challenging time facing Newfoundland and Labrador in all of our history. It still rema