May 22, 1991                HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS                Vol. XLI  No. 54

The House met at 2:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Statements by Ministers

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

MS. COWAN: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased today to be able to announce the appointment of the first full-time Chair of the Newfoundland Labour Relations Board. Ms. Linda Black, LL.M., currently the Assistant Deputy Minister of Labour will take up the duties of Chairperson of the Labour Relations Board effective the 1st of August this year. Ms. Black has been Assistant Deputy Minister of Labour since 1988 and prior to that was a solicitor with the Civil Division of the Department of Justice and with the Office of the Legislative Counsel. Ms. Black received her legal training at Dalhousie University graduating in 1975 and received her Masters of Law Degree from the University of Ottawa in 1977. Ms. Black brings with her a great deal of experience and commitment as she assumes the duties of her new position.

I am also pleased to announce that Mr. Dennis Browne, currently part-time Chair of the Labour Relations Board, and a partner with the Law Firm of French, Browne and Dodd has agreed to continue to provide his expertise and experience to the Labour Relations Board as Vice-Chair. Ms. Black's and Mr. Browne's appointments are both effective August 1, 1991.

In addition to these appointments I am also announcing the appointment of a second Vice-Chair to the Labour Relations Board. Mr. James Oakley, a partner with the Law Firm of Noonan, McGrath, Oakley and Orr, has been appointed as Vice-Chairperson of the Labour Relations Board. Mr. Oakley has considerable experience as an Arbitrator within the Province and is well known to the labour relations community. His appointment is effective immediately.

These appointments to the Labour Relations Board occur as a result of recommendations from the labour movement and employer organizations within the Province. The Legislative Review Committee which has recently concluded a review of various pieces of labour legislation in the Province has also recommended that a full-time Chair be appointed to the Labour Relations Board. I believe these appointments indicate the importance attached by this Government to improving the quality of labour relations services provided by the Labour Relations Board.

I am confident that with the appointment of these three individuals, the Labour Relations Board will be well equipped to render a timely and effective service to the community it serves.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Harbour Main.

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

First of all, let me thank the Minister for the advanced copy of her statement and secondly, let me say to her as well there is very little criticism I could offer on this particular statement. It is a positive move and Ms. Linda Black certainly brings to that position a lot of experience especially on two fronts, one being a very experienced lawyer and secondly, of course, being the former Assistant Deputy Minister of Employment and Labour Relations, which will, I think, enable her to carry out her duties in a most effective and capable manner. The Minister points out as well these appointments come about as a result of recommendations that were made to Government from the unions and from employer groups as well. However, there is one thought I would leave with the Government for future consideration. Maybe the time has now come in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador to give consideration to giving tenure to the Chairperson of the Newfoundland Labour Relations Board in much the same way as the Auditor General functions in the Province so that there can be no doubt that the individual functioned with the same judicial objectivity that is appropriate to the position, as the Auditor General functions in the House of Assembly, especially when an individual has to deal with public service and public sector unions whose employees are largely employees of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. Mr. Speaker, it is a positive move and I will say that we now have two positions, in black and brown, but if Government continues its assault on the public sector unions of the Province it will not be long before the Government will be black and blue.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Oral Questions

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

MR. SIMMS: Mr. Speaker, yesterday in my absence I understand that the Minister of Health showed very little concern for the exodus of doctors that is taking place all over this Province. It is fair to say also, I think, that we have always had a problem attracting and holding an adequate number of medical specialists. There is no doubt about that. Over the last nine months it appears that since this Government announced its intention to freeze budgetary spending for health care nine months ago the problem seems to have become extremely critical. Now, the Minister would know, I suspect, that the recommended minimum ratio of private practice psychiatrists to population is one in ten thousand and that would require in Newfoundland fifty-nine full-time psychiatrists in private practice. Can he tell this House whether it is a fact, or not, that we are now down to a total of thirty-four psychiatrists and that in fact we have the equivalent of only twenty full-time psychiatrists in private practice which means we are meeting only one third of the minimum need, and the problem appears to be worsening? Can he confirm those numbers and can he tell us what he intends to do about it?

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, not exactly. It is even a little worse than the hon. Member suggests. We are down to thirty-three

psychiatrists in the Province. I cannot confirm how many of them are full-time or how many are half-time but he was close with his thirty-four so he is probably close with his twenty.

Now, Mr. Speaker, the hon. Member suggests that there is no concern on the part of Government for this; I think the hon. Member is misreading what the Government is saying. We are not trying to use the situation in this Province to make any political gains, we are not trying to act like alarmists, we are not trying to panic; the fact of the matter is, that over the years it has been extremely difficult to retain psychiatrists in this Province.

There is a programme at the University where we try to train fourteen people at a time and hopefully have them stay on, but the whole issue is larger than just psychiatrists; there is the whole issue of mental health which includes psychiatrists, occupational therapists, nurses who are trained in psychiatry and social workers. The whole issue is under review by this Department; there is no point for us to get our fifty-nine or sixty psychiatrists unless we have a backup in place, whereby we can assist those people; Mr. Speaker, the whole issue is under review and it is an issue that Government is gravely concerned about, but, we are by no means going to panic, we are going to deal with it in the same, methodical, reasonable approach that we take in dealing with all the problems we found when we took over this Government.

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

MR. SIMMS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Well, finally we got the Minister to admit that there is a problem, at least with the psychiatry specialty. May I ask him about some other specialty and see if he can confirm this for us as well.

Until recently, we had two orthopaedic spinal surgeons in this Province, one in St. John's and one in Corner Brook; can he confirm now that the orthopaedic spinal surgeon for St. John's, Dr. Perkins, has in fact, left this Province and what is he doing about that problem?

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, we live in a democratic country and if a-

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. DECKER: - doctor or an engineer or a nurse or a janitor or anyone wants to pack up and leave this Province, there is no mechanism in place whereby we can force people to stay here. You cannot go to an orthopaedic surgeon and say: you are forced, you are sentenced now to spend the rest of your days in this Province, so, Mr. Speaker, we cannot force people to stay; we try to make available to our doctors various perks and we try to pay them as best we can, however, I can tell the hon. Member, that if we ever get into a price war for doctors, we will lose, because the fact of the matter is, this is a poor Province, this is a have-not Province and if it becomes a price war, we cannot compete with Nova Scotia, let alone Ontario, let alone Florida, let alone New York.

MR. SIMMS: A supplementary, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Opposition House Leader on a supplementary.

MR. SIMMS: Mr. Speaker, I remind the Minister this serious situation, a critical situation really has occurred during the last nine months when this Government announced its policy back last September or October.

Now let me ask him this if he is not concerned about that area of specialty, can he confirm that the only paediatric heart surgeon in this Province left the Province just a couple of months back and he is, in fact, being flown back to this Province to hold clinics, and presumably that is extremely costly. I can tell him why he left, he left because of what this Government is doing in health care, that is why he left.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SIMMS: Can the Minister tell me I am wrong? I will quote the gentleman's name shortly and then the Member for St. John's South can tell me if we are wrong. Mr. Speaker, can the Minister also tell us that in this particular kind of a situation the paediatric heart surgeon, the only one in the Province is gone - if a child needs to have any kind of emergency heart surgery, presumably he or she, that child, must be sent outside the Province. Who pays for that cost? Can he tell us if it is the patient who is expected to pay or is MCP going to pay?

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, any service which the Province is not capable of delivering at a given time, there is a provision made for Medicare to pay the expenses of the patient who has to be referred out of the Province. The paediatric heart surgeon recruiting is continuing, to have that person replaced. Hopefully in the not too distant future we should be able to recruit someone.

Now in the case of an emergency - a severe emergency, it is desirable and it is good to have paediatric heart surgeons who specialize in operating on children, however the fact of the matter is that a heart surgeon who does adults, in an emergency could certainly attend to children, so there is no point for people being overly alarmed. The normal surgery will be done either by some other doctor in the system or someone is going to be sent out. But I would tell the hon. Member that contrary to what he would like for people to think, the fact is that it has not been proven yet that we have lost a single GP or a specialist because of the cutbacks in the health care system, Mr. Speaker. If the hon. Member has any doubt about that I would suggest he talk to the Newfoundland Medical Association, because, even if a medical doctor were going to leave this Province, it would take anywhere from six months to two years for him to make the move. So the people who have moved now obviously must have started to prepare for their move maybe six or eight months or a year ago.

Now, I cannot guarantee that as a result of what is happening in health care, we will not lose some people. I cannot guarantee that. I can say, categorically, that up to this present minute there has been no conclusive proof that any doctor has left because of the restructuring of the health care system.

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

MR. POWER: Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the Minister of Health some questions along the same lines, as well. And I can not believe the Minister, in his answer to the Member for Grand Falls, still will not acknowledge that we have doctors leaving this Province. I am not sure the wording is parliamentary, Mr. Speaker, but this morning we had a doctor call our office and say that the Minister, in his statement yesterday, was lying through his teeth, that doctors are leaving this Province because of the health care cuts.

I want to quote the Minister, yesterday, because some days I think the Minister forgets that what he said yesterday can get back to us through Hansard and through videotapes of news telecasts and what have you. Yesterday, the Minister said the following: I suppose there could be many solutions to doctors leaving the Province, but one thing we are not going to do is guarantee people that they can make $500,000 a year. We have a limited amount of money and we simply cannot pay extremely high, exorbitant amounts of money to any professionals in the Province.

Mr. Speaker, this is really cheap politics on behalf of the Minister.

AN HON. MEMBER: That was `Winse'.

MR. POWER: That was the President of Treasury Board. Well, I will ask the President of Treasury Board to answer that question. Will he confirm - if he does not know he should find out from the Minister of Health: Here are the average salaries of general practitioners in this Province. The average is $130,000 to $140,000, the overhead is approximately 30 per cent of that amount, and, on average, they clear around $98,000 to $100,000. Those are the figures given to us by the Newfoundland Medical Association.

Will the President of Treasury Board acknowledge that yesterday he was absolutely wrong, and, by giving the impression that doctors were making $500,000 a year, he has, in effect, maligned all doctors in this Province?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Health.

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, I do not know where the hon. the Member for Ferryland was yesterday when my colleague, the President of Treasury Board, made the statement about the $500,000. I understood it perfectly well, and I was not even in my seat, I was coming into the House after being interviewed.

What the President of Treasury Board said was practically the same as I said, we cannot get into a price war, and if we have to guarantee a specialist $500,000 or $600,000, in order to keep him, then we cannot enter into that league. That is what the hon. the President of Treasury Board said. I understood it; it was perfectly clear, and to every single Member on this side of the House, it was perfectly clear. Now, if the hon. member did not understand it, it must be the hon. member's problem.

Mr. Speaker, the doctors' salaries in this Province were tabled in the House of Assembly about a month ago, in the Newfoundland Medicare Report. Some doctors make as low as $50,000 or less in this Province. Two or three doctors make in excess of $500,000. I think the highest is $640,000. There are 900 doctors who make somewhere in-between the $640,000 and the $50,000. If someone says $130,000 to $150,000, I will not deny or admit right now, but it is only a simple matter to set down; I think, probably, the take-home pay, after expenses, is somewhere in the $135,000 to $150,000 range.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Ferryland, on a supplementary.

MR. POWER: Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the Minister of Health does he know the answer to this simple question: This Province has had a very major problem in psychiatry over the past couple of years. Psychiatrists, on average, gross about $220,000 and they net about $150,000. Why cannot this Minister, to solve this serious health problem, have a recruitment program that does not require $500,000 a year guarantees, as the President of Treasury Board said yesterday? Why can we not have a recruitment program to get psychiatric professionals in this Province at a lot less than $500,000?

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, it is a good suggestion. The unfortunate thing is, it is two-and-a-half years late, or however long we have been here. As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, we had people recruited last year, twenty-eight psychiatrists, Mr. Speaker, people ready to move to this Province to take up practice, for reasonable salaries, too, I would tell the hon. Member.

Now, Mr. Speaker, we have an Immigration Department which this Province has no control over. That became a problem. We have a Newfoundland Medical Board which has to license physicians who practice in this Province. Over a year and a half we were able to license and get through immigration two psychiatrists, out of twenty-eight we got two, so it is not a simple matter, Mr. Speaker. It is something that we have been trying to do, but I am becoming more and more convinced that recruitment is not the way to do it. We have to continue the program which was in effect even when the hon. Member's party was in power, we have to continue the program at the university whereby we are training our own people who are prepared to stay here. Even in doing that we are still having problems with retention. So it is not a simple problem. We are working on it. It is a broad problem as I said in my earlier answer which was in answer to an earlier question which was quite similar. We had to also deal with the support staffs, support services so that when we recruit we have to be able to retain the psychiatrist, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Ferryland on a supplementary.

MR. POWER: Mr. Speaker, a final supplementary to the Minister. He is now sort of blaming the fact that we have a shortage of specialists on our Immigration Department and on anything that is outside of his control. One of the reasons that we have a shortage of some specialists in this Province has to be the rate of remuneration given to those specialists. Will the Minister confirm that we do need more specialists in this Province and will he go back to his Cabinet colleagues to try and get some extra money before the health care system in this Province is totally devastated?

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, I am sort of amazed at the lack of knowledge that the health critic has of the way that doctors are paid. Let's hope that the day never comes that if they ever do get Government let's hope that Premier Verge will not put him in the health portfolio, Mr. Speaker.

Now, Mr. Speaker, doctor's salaries are paid - the Newfoundland Medical Association decides which particular sector gets an increase.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, in a given year the Newfoundland Medical Association will negotiate with Medicare for their increase in pay, ultimately Government will decide. Last year the increase in pay was in the vicinity of 3 - 5 per cent or something like that. So the Newfoundland Medical Association then decides which particular group of physicians need a larger increase. I think last year it was psychiatrists. Their increase was 6.8 percent and I stand to be corrected on that. But there were other physicians who got an increase which was less than 1 per cent. So over the years that approach has been used as well, Mr. Speaker.

But the fact of the matter is, as the President of Treasury Board has said and as I have said, and as many people have said before, that it is more than a matter of throwing money at the problem. That is not the total solution. And if that is the solution then we have a real problem. Because once you start a price war, once you start a money war, we are doomed to lose. The solution is to train more of our own people, to try to get the support services in place, which we have been working slavishly at. There was absolutely nothing in place when we took over. And we have been trying to put those support services in place. It has not been easy. Because in addition to the difficulty we are having recruiting these people, we also have a Province which was practically put bankrupt by the previous administration and that is making our task even more difficult.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Harbour Main.

MR. DOYLE: I have a question for the President of Treasury Board. The Sunday Express this weekend reprinted the text of the Minister's speech in January to the St. John's Board of Trade where the Minister talked about the Provincial Government's dependency on the Federal Government for transfer of payments. And the Minister said, quote: we must never forget that when you depend on someone else to give you something there is always the possibility that they will take it away.

Now the Minister should know that it is more than provinces that depend upon Government to live up to their word. My question for the Minister is: will the Minister now tell the House of Assembly how dealings with the public service unions have been going since the Government under Bill 16 took away what the public employees depended on from the Provincial Government to give them?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the President of Treasury Board.

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, the hon. Member when he quotes what I said in that speech obviously is telling the truth, he is absolutely right. That is the situation. And the situation very simply put is this: over the past - ever since Confederation, I guess - we have developed too great a dependency on outside sources of funding. We have not developed in this Province the proper infrastructure to provide for our people what our people deserve. We have grown year after year to be more and more dependent on money from outside, and Members opposite have to take some of the blame for that. They were there for seventeen years.

So when the screws are put on the funding from outside we have no choice. At that point in time we have no choices. We then are not getting the money coming in, therefore we cannot spend the money. We cannot go out and borrow any more than a minimal amount because our credit rating will drop and then we probably will not be able to borrow any money. So we are in a bind. What the hon. Member says is absolutely right. If we do not get the money coming in then we have no money to spend.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: A supplementary, the hon. the Member for Harbour Main.

MR. DOYLE: My question to the Minister was: how is Government getting along with the public sector unions now? And the Minister chose to ignore my question. On a supplementary: Having implied at a recent Rotary luncheon that NAPE president Fraser March had lied to the people of the Province, and in light of the more recent revelation that the unions were not leaked Budget information, that the layoffs and wage freezes were a fait accompli, will the Minister now admit that an apology from him to Fraser March is very much proper and a reasonable prerequisite to healthy union negotiations in this Province.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the President of Treasury Board.

MR. BAKER: I would like to confirm for the Member opposite, and for all Members opposite, of course, that the description of the process that took place leading up to the Budget was accurately given by this Government and we stand by every single word of it. Since that time, I believe, we have signed a couple of union contracts. We have reached agreement with one major union in particular since that period of time and -

MR. SPEAKER: I must remind the people in the gallery that they are not to participate or to demonstrate in any way, nor to show their approval or disapproval of any proceedings in this House. Should this continue then the Chair will have no alternative but to ask the people who are in the gallery to leave.

The hon. the President of Treasury Board.

MR. BAKER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

To conclude, we have been absolutely truthful every step of the way.

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

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Opposition House Leader on a point of order.

MR. SIMMS: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if Your Honour could tell the House what Your Honour is talking about. I mean to interrupt Question Period because there were disturbances in the gallery, is that it?

MR. SPEAKER: Yes, there was a disturbance.

MR. SIMMS: We are not aware of any disturbance in the gallery.

People have a right to sit in the gallery and attend the House, do they not?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

There is no point of order raised by the hon. Member. The Chair had noticed what had taken place in the gallery and the Chair made the decision that it was not to continue.

AN HON. MEMBER: What was taking place?

MR. SPEAKER: Hon. Members on this side all know what has taken place.

The hon. the President of Treasury Board.

MR. BAKER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

To reiterate: our description of the process leading up to the Budget was absolutely accurate. We told the truth every step of the way and we make no apology for it. Since that time we have reached agreement with at least one major union in this Province and the contract will be signed within the next couple of days. Time will tell what relations with the labour unions will be like in this Province.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair is going to have to ask the people who are in the gallery, carrying out this display, to please leave the gallery.

MR. SIMMS: On that point of order, Mr. Speaker, I think Your Honour might wish to reconsider that direction. I do not believe Your Honour has the authority to order certain people to leave. He has the authority to clear the gallery if he wishes but that is not what he did.

MR. SPEAKER: Well, the Chair will ask the commissionaires to clear the gallery, please.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Harbour Main on a supplementary.

MR. DOYLE: Will the President of the Kremlin confirm that the Government is already in the process of developing a priority list for future cuts in the 1992 Budget? Will he at this time before the process goes a little bit too far work with the unions instead of throwing them out of the galleries of the Province, work with the unions on alternatives to layoffs and salary rollbacks?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the President of Treasury Board.

MR. BAKER: Now, Mr. Speaker, we know what the silly little game was. Now, we all know.

Mr. Speaker, just about everything the hon. Member said is not true. He is trying to create some kind of a scare now. Trying to create the situation or trying to pretend that Government is now in the throes of another major cutback and layoffs, he is trying to create that scare in the Province. Well, Mr. Speaker, let me assure this honourable House that we are not in the process of any such thing. Now, Mr. Speaker, this is all just a part of the hon. Member's silly little game that he has planned for today. I congratulate him. It will probably get him some coverage in the press, and I am sure he is starved for that kind of coverage.

Mr. Speaker, what is happening with the public sector unions in the Province, which was really the crux of his question, is that as I have indicated we have just completed negotiating a contract with a major public service union, this contract will be signed at the end of this week, I believe on Friday. Mr. Speaker, we have announced in the Budget that sometime soon we have to sit down with the unions to discuss the indexing of the pension plan, that we have plans to consider to look at the possibility of indexing the public service pension plans and I am sure, Mr. Speaker, at the appropriate time we will start these negotiations and everybody will work for the betterment of the public service workers of this Province. I am absolutely certain that will happen.

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

MS. VERGE: I have questions for the Minister of Health.

Doctors usually have not charged for services that are not insured under MCP. Can the Minister confirm that this practice has been discontinued, that doctors, in order to make up some of their lost incomes, are now billing patients directly for these uninsured services? Has the Minister's Department reviewed this NMA, Newfoundland Medical Association, fee schedule? Has he estimated the annual cost of these services to senior citizens and other individuals?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. DECKER: I brought a note and pen, I wonder could she speak a little more slowly so I can write them down because I want -


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

There is no point of order.

The hon. the Member for Humber East.

MS. VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I am sure the Minister knows full well what I was asking; he might have needed a bit more time to collect his thoughts. I am asking him about doctors charging patients and third parties for services that are not insured under MCP, I am asking him about this Newfoundland Medical Association publication with a suggested C range, and I am asking him about the impact on patients, particularly, senior citizens, of these new charges. Is he concerned, for example, that these charges may prevent senior citizens from obtaining adequate health care?

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, I have most of them down, I think, and I will try to address them. Now, the uninsured services that the hon. member is talking about - I am appalled at their lack of knowledge of what is going on in the House.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, when a medical doctor is running his practice, oftentimes, someone who wants to have life insurance comes in, a perfectly health person, all he needs is a medical for his life insurance to prove that he is a healthy person; that is an uninsured service and the doctor deals directly with the patient. Drivers licences - some drivers licences require a medical, the senior citizen one is paid for, but there are a lot of things outside which are uninsured services.

Now, Mr. Speaker, the hon. member has come up with some copy from the Newfoundland Medical Association, which I received, I think, a month ago. I also tell her, there is a big sheet posted in some doctors' offices, which makes it perfectly clear as to the system, just what is paid for and what is not.

Uninsured services is not new; I remember having medicals, myself, for insurance, twenty years ago -


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. DECKER: - twenty years ago, Mr. Speaker, and I had to pay for the medical, so there is no change in that. There is no great impact on senior citizens. Senior citizens are only required to have the driver's licence. I remember, when I was in Opposition, the previous administration was charging for that inspection; and the Minister of Social Services and I kicked up one heck of a racket and forced them into changing it so that senior citizens get a free examination. There is no major impact on senior citizens, if there were, this listening Government would sit down and try to work something out.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Question Period has expired.

Notices of Motion

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

MR. HARRIS: Mr. Speaker, I wish to present the following motion:

Whereas Canadians consider our Medicare programme the centrepiece of our social programmes and central to our national identity, and it is viewed worldwide with respect and envy; and

Whereas fundamental to the national medical care programme are the five principles of public administration, comprehensiveness, universality, portability and accessibility; and

Whereas the national medical care programme is under threat through deteriorating financial and political support from the Government of Canada and some provincial governments;

Be it resolved that the House of Assembly affirm the principles of the national Medicare programme and direct the Government to take such active measures as may be required to protect these principles from erosion, including resisting changes to the Canada Health Act and the promotion of appropriate amendments to the Constitution of Canada that would guarantee the five principles.

Answers to Questions

For which Notice has been Given

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

DR. KITCHEN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Last Friday, the hon. the Opposition House Leader asked me a question relating to a pension policy in the Government by which a redundancy pensioner who accepts contractual service, continues to receive the redundancy pension, as well as related employment benefit. He wondered about a recent letter that the Minister of Education had sent out to the chairpersons or presidents of provincial institutes and community colleges, which in effect suggested, or told them, that employees who are in receipt of redundancy pensions should not normally be re-engaged in any capacity to undertake work on behalf of a college or institute. He asked me if there was a conflict between the Minister's letter and the pension policy of the Government. I would like to respond, Mr. Speaker, that there is no conflict, whatsoever, between the two positions.


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

MR. SIMMS: Mr. Speaker, I rise to present a petition on behalf of approximately 570 public servants who work in the Confederation Building, both the east and west wings. They number nearly 600. Now, I do not know how many employees work in Confederation Building, in total, maybe the President of Treasury Board knows.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SIMMS: A couple of thousand, I suppose?

AN HON. MEMBER: About that.

MR. SIMMS: So, it is a significant number of those who work in the building, here and in the other building, east and west.

The prayer of the petition, Mr. Speaker, is as follows:

Whereas smokers always had a right, in the past, to free access to smoking in the work place, and whereas most smokers recognize the rights of non-smokers to a smoke-free environment, therefore be it resolved that our employer recognize that smokers have rights, too; and be it further resolved that in the interest of satisfying both interest groups, the employer establish smoking areas within the work place which have ventilation to the outside.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I know that this is a contentious issue, those who are non-smokers and smokers. But I must point out, for the benefit of all members on both sides of the House, that this petition has been signed, not only by smokers, but by many non-smokers, people who understand the rights of other people. So, it has been signed by non-smokers as well as smokers.

MS. VERGE: Such as yourself.

MR. SIMMS: I am getting to that.

Mr. Speaker, I want to say, also, since this is a non-partisan petition, it has been signed by a number of MHAs on the Government side. I cannot call them by name. I will mention them by district. The Member for LaPoile has signed this petition.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. SIMMS: Well, there is a Bill Ramsay that signed it, I am sorry, but I will assume he did. The Member for Placentia signed it.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SIMMS: Now, I say to the Member for LaPoile, he did not sign it as the Member for LaPoile, there is a Bill Ramsay's name there, that is all I am going by.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SIMMS: Well, if you want to, that is fine, but the Member for Placentia admits he signed it. The Member for Harbour Grace signed it. The Member for St. George's signed the petition, and I am told the Member for Mount Scio - Bell Island signed it.

MS VERGE: What about the Member for Bellevue?

MR. SIMMS: Of course, on this side of the House, the former Minister of Education, the Member for St. Mary's - The Capes, signed it. I have signed it. I do not know if anybody else on this side has signed it.

MS VERGE: Not me.

MR. SIMMS: Mr. Speaker, the issue here, as the petition points out, is one of rights. Now, I am a reformed smoker. I am fifty-three days, now, Mr. Speaker, without a draw.

MS VERGE: Who is counting?

MR. SIMMS: But who is counting? Your Honour knows the importance of the issue, because Your Honour, I believe, has the odd puff from time to time.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) pounds.

MR. SIMMS: No, twenty-six pounds later, half a pound a day, Mr. Speaker. Nevertheless, I intend to try to pursue the objective of giving up smoking, as I believe the President of Treasury Board intends to, but I do not know. There are those on his own side who confide in me and tell me they are very suspicious of the President of Treasury Board. They do not think he has the guts and the stamina to be able to hold out like the Opposition House Leader has been doing for the last fifty-three days. Anyway, Mr. Speaker, all jokes aside, it is a fact that smokers have rights, as well as non-smokers. Now, what is really, I think, degrading in what has transpired since April 1, is seeing public servants out front on the steps of Confederation Building, out back on the steps of Confederation Building, and at the front entrance of the west wing. I think they have been driven to look unprofessional. I do not think they want to do it. They do not want to do that; but people who smoke need their fix. They have a right to smoke, as much as those of us who do not smoke would like to see them give it up, and maybe they will, one of these days. No doubt, eliminating smoking in the offices has helped a lot of people. There is no question about that. But, right is right, and I think, in support of the petition, that the Government would be well-advised, for the sake of morale and everything else - people feel silly going out on the steps to have a cigarette. The Government should ask the Minister of Public Works to have a hard look at trying to identify a room, perhaps in each of the buildings, somewhere, where they can smoke. I know, down in the cafeteria in this building, for example, the chap down there who runs the CNIB canteen would love to see smoking permitted again. Business has fallen apart down there since they cut out smoking and since taxes went up on cigarettes, and everything else, so maybe that room, I do not know. I will leave it in the hands of the Government House Leader who is responsible for personnel matters on behalf of the Government. Perhaps he could have a chat with the Minister of Public Works, who is an avid non-smoker, and maybe he might be able to convince him to treat the petition seriously, because I think it should be treated seriously, and I support it.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. R. AYLWARD: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of the petition so ably presented by the Member for Grand Falls. I was not one of the MHAs who signed the petition. I did not see it around, actually. I knew it was around but I did not go looking for it.

Mr. Speaker, I support the petition for one very good reason. If we had designated a smoking area in this building, both members of our caucus and members of that caucus probably would not have had to go through a month-and-a-half of pure torture, trying to work with both House Leaders.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. R. AYLWARD: That would certainly have been a benefit of having a smoking room. Mr. Speaker, besides the jokes, I am quite proud of the President of Treasury Board and the Opposition House Leader actually for giving up smoking. I am a smoker actually, I have been known to hang on to the other end of a pipe every now and then, and continue to do so.

Mr. Speaker, not because I am a smoker but because I believe it to be reasonable and fair to allow people who do not wish to give up smoking an area in which they might go for once a day or a couple of times either in the morning or afternoon, and have it properly ventilated so that it does not interfere with those people who are irritate by cigarette smoke or pipe smoke. I think, at least for the 570 people who signed that petition, it would make the workplace a little more pleasant for them to go each day, they would probably be a bit more content and probably be a little bit more productive, and increase productivity a little bit. These are all probabilities, Mr. Speaker, but the important thing with it all is to be fair to people who do not wish to interfere with anyone else, but who wish to have a place to themselves properly ventilated, so that if they want to go down and have a cigarette and give the Minister of Finance, the Province, and Canada, exorbitant amounts of tax money, then it is certainly up to them, Mr. Speaker. They are not interested in interfering with anyone else, they just want some place to go where they might have a cigarette from time to time during the day. I am sure it would make the workplace at least for those people a little more pleasant.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the President of Treasury Board.

MR. BAKER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

There are two issues here. First of all, I am very pleased that the Members who have spoken so far are in agreement with the fact that it is better in the workplace if there is no smoking, if smoke is not being circulated and so on. That is the first issue and obviously the main issue. The inhalation of second hand smoke is a very serious problem and I am glad to see that all Members agree with getting rid of it.

The second issue, however, is quite a different one. That is the providing of special places for people who wish to smoke on their coffee break or whenever it happens to be, lunch hour, or whatever. Mr. Speaker, that was dealt with when the original announcement was made and the reason that has not been put in place is because of money. It is very simply money. It seems to me it would be expensive, first of all, to designate space, to try to find the space and set it aside, and with 600 signatures there are probably 400 smokers there, a room big enough to handle let us say one-quarter of them at a time, to get that size of a space would be expensive. It would also be expensive to remove that space from the general recirculating system in the buildings and to put in their own system in that one room.

So, Mr. Speaker, essentially that was the reason why the smoking rooms were not set aside. I would like to indicate to the Member presenting the petition and through him to the people who signed it, I would take the petition have a look at it again, go back over it and see if we can find out how much it would cost to provide this service and think about it again. We have no problems with doing that.

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


MR. SPEAKER: Does the hon. Member have leave?

MR. HOGAN: I apologize for not getting to my feet earlier but I thought the previous speaker was going to speak in support of the petition and not against it.

Mr. Speaker, I also question the wisdom of the previous speaker in saying that second-hand smoke affects people. It is not a proven medical fact. I think research will tell you that over in southeast Asia somewhere there was an experiment carried out whereby it was determined that second-hand smoke could affect the health of others; however it reminds me of the story that seven tons of baking soda eaten by a seven ounce mouse would cause cancer or possibly cause cancer. It is a popular story that is told in the health circles as it regards to smoke.

Anyway, Mr. Speaker, just to ease the minds of my hon. colleagues across the way, not only did I sign the petition, I went and looked for the petition and it took me three weeks to find it so I could sign it, if they have any hesitation about announcing my name in signing the petition. I urge the Government House Leader or whoever else there is to search out a way of alleviating the problems and the rights of smokers in the building or in all buildings as far as that goes where they could have their occasional smoke. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Orders of the Day

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

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, this is Wednesday and at 3:00 on Wednesday we are supposed to get into a Private Member's resolution. I would like to ask leave of the House to forgo Private Member's Day and to continue on with Motion number 4 which has to do with the amalgamation issue.

MR. SPEAKER: Does the hon. Member have leave?

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

MR. HARRIS: Mr. Speaker, if the Government has no motion to bring to the House. I have given notice of a motion and I would ask whether there is leave to have this motion debated this afternoon.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. Opposition House Leader.

MR. SIMMS: Mr. Speaker, the hon. Member's resolution has not been given adequate notice so I mean it is pretty difficult for Private Members to have a chance to debate a resolution without even having seen it. It is a little bit difficult, but we might consider having a look at it for next Wednesday or something like that. You know, that might be something we could consider as a caucus and maybe talk to the hon. Member about it. But I mean the whole purpose of giving notice is so that Members have a chance to do some research and do some preparation and all the rest of that, and I did not quite hear the resolution. I heard some bits and pieces of it and it sounded fairly important and fairly significant so one might want to take some time to think about it. So it is not that we would oppose it or anything of that nature, in fact we might even, if we looked at it, agree to pass it without debate. You know, it might be as simple as that. But, I mean, you do need notice and that is the purpose of notice in the Order Paper. In terms of the official request from the Government House Leader, which is the one that we are dealing with, he rose so we are dealing with his request. We would say that we have no difficulty with this, the Government, as it has in the past - it is a Government day for Private Member's Day today. This particular Wednesday is the Government Members motion. There is no motion on the Order Paper. The Government wishes permission of the House to carry on with debate on Bill 4, the amalgamation bill which is an important issue and we have no difficulty with that bearing in mind, of course, that today is Private Member's Day and there would not be a night sitting, it would adjourn at 5:00 p.m. That is the only thing I would have to remind the House of.

AN HON. MEMBER: That is what has happened every other time.

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

MR. HARRIS: Mr. Speaker, the motion of which I gave notice is almost in the nature of an emergency resolution, although it may not qualify under parliamentary procedure as an emergency resolution, because it deals with the whole issue of Medicare and the deterioration of Medicare in our Province. Now the Opposition has raised all day today and yesterday the issues of the deterioration of the medical care system here in Newfoundland, and the motion is presented for debate for this afternoon. Now, what the hon. Member has suggested is that perhaps this could be debated next week if the Member can confirm that he would be prepared to - instead of having an official Opposition Private Member's Day next week, then I would consider granting leave today for the Government to withdraw its motion, but I am constantly being reminded in this House, Mr. Speaker, that I am not a party, that I am only one person, I am only an individual Member. But this is one of the occasions, Mr. Speaker, in which a single Member is required to - whose consent is necessary for unanimous consent. I am prepared to give it if there is an agreement that there will be an opportunity for this to be debated before this session closes for the summer.

I know that the Government may not be in a position to do that because the House may not be open for more than a week. Indeed it may even be closed this week. But if there is an opportunity to give unanimous consent I would certainly be prepared to do so if I can be assured that this very important resolution, which is in a nature almost of an emergency resolution, had an opportunity of being debated. Not next fall but this spring. So that is my point of order. I do not know if the Government House Leader would like to have a quick look at the resolution, but it has been given to the Clerk for distribution, so -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

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

MR. SIMMS: Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Opposition House Leader on a point of order.

MR. SIMMS: (Inaudible) to that, I do not want the hon. Member to get the wrong impression. I mean, the hon. Member never even really spoke to us about it. We did not see the resolution.

AN HON. MEMBER: No one spoke to me about it.

MR. SIMMS: No, I know. But you are asking us. With respect to the issue you are raising here, asking us if we would be prepared to allow that resolution to go on next Wednesday's Private Member's Day, I say to him, we have not even seen it. Number one. Number two, that would be a caucus decision but I would be quite happy to take it to the caucus and discuss it. The hon. Member is a private Member and we realize the situation he finds himself in from time to time, you know. So we have no problem in discussing that kind of an issue and raise it before the caucus, no problem at all. See if we can come to some arrangement.

But in terms of the original point of order, which is what we are debating, is the request from the Government House Leader. And I think I have made myself clear on that.

MR. SPEAKER: So as the Chair understands it, has the request made by the hon. House Leader for leave been granted?

MR. SIMMS: Mr. Speaker, there seems to be some misunderstanding. I indicated that we would agree to leave as long as the House adjourns at 5:00 p.m.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SIMMS: Yes. I mean, I said that. This is twice I have said it. So that is the condition.


SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: So we have leave to continue on the debate of Motion 4, is it? Until 5:00.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

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

MR. HARRIS: No leave.

MR. SPEAKER: No leave.

MR. SIMMS: (Inaudible) that is the case there is no leave from us either, and the House has to adjourn obviously. There is no resolution before the House.

MR. SPEAKER: If there is no leave of the House there is no business before the House. Then I guess the House has no alternative but to adjourn at this point.

This House now stands adjourned until tomorrow, Thursday, at 2:00 p.m.