March 24, 1992                HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS            Vol. XLI  No. 12

The House met at 2:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

On behalf of hon. members, we would like to extend a cordial welcome today to sixteen Level III students from Templeton's Collegiate, Gillams in the district of Bay of Islands. The students are accompanied by their two teachers, Ms Michelle Genge and Mr. Stephen Pafford.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Oral Questions

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

MR. SIMMS: Mr. Speaker, I have a few short questions for the Minister of Mines and Energy. I ask the minister if he can report to the House if there is any progress that he is aware of in the search for new partners for the Hibernia project.

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

DR. GIBBONS: No, Mr. Speaker, I will not be having any report on that at this time.

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

MR. SIMMS: I am sorry, Mr. Speaker, I misunderstood the minister. I asked him if he can tell us if he is aware of any progress in the search for new partners for Hibernia. Is he aware of it?

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

DR. GIBBONS: Mr. Speaker, I think we are all very aware that the consortium is out doing a vigorous campaign right now around the world to search for new partners, and I wish them good luck in that. I want to see that concluded as quickly as possible. I think it is i the interest of everybody to have a successful partner found as soon as possible. I know they are out there vigorously doing it but other than that I have nothing further to say at this time.

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

MR. SIMMS: Mr. Speaker, I am trying to find out from the minister, does he know if there is any progress being made? Can I put it that way? Does he know if there is any progress being made?

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

DR. GIBBONS: Mr. Speaker, I am aware that there are meetings being held. There have been meetings held over the last few weeks and there will be more meetings held with potential target companies. Other than that, that is all I have to say.

Thank you.

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

MR. SIMMS: The Minister of Mines and Energy reminds me of the Minister of Finance, except he is saying a bit more than the Minister of Finance, but not much. A supplementary, Mr. Speaker, to the minister. Is the minister aware whether or not contractors have called a meeting at the Bull Arm site tomorrow for all the workers and if so, does he know what that meeting might be about?

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

DR. GIBBONS: I am aware that there is a meeting tomorrow. I think it is Mr. Kimberlin who is going to be out there tomorrow having some discussions, but there has been a lot of speculation raised to me that there is going to be an announcement made at that time.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

DR. GIBBONS: No that is not the answer, Mr. Speaker, I think it is just a discussion.

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

MR. SIMMS: Thank-you, Mr. Speaker.

We are just trying to get some information for the Newfoundland public. I think they are entitled to it. The minister, in fact, has done this House and the Province a great service by denying that rumour, because that rumour was floating around for the last day or two, as he knows, and that is one of the reasons why I asked the question, Mr. Speaker.

Now, let me ask him this: Is the minister aware of any plans to remove materials from the Bull Arm site? Has he heard rumours to that effect and can he deny those, please, as well? For example, and more specifically, has he heard that there had been tractor trailers hired in order to take steel away from that site to bring it back to the mainland, has he heard that rumour and can he deny that one, please?

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

DR. GIBBONS: Mr. Speaker, this is the first time that I have heard that rumour and I am not aware of any such thing.

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

MR. SIMMS: Mr. Speaker, I have a final supplementary. It is a rather slight deviation from the line of questioning to the Minister of Mines and Energy, but somewhat related, and it is a supplementary to the Minister of Forestry.

I ask the Minister of Forestry whether he has been monitoring the financial situation of Olympia and York, who own Gulf Oil, and who recently pulled out of the Hibernia project, but also owns 82 per cent of Abitibi-Price, as we all know. I want to ask the minister if the financial trouble plaguing this particular company, can have any serious implications for Abitibi-Price in this Province, does he have any concerns about that and can he tell us what they might be?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Forestry and Agriculture.

MR. FLIGHT: Mr. Speaker, as the member would well know, we would have concerns at any time the owner of a paper mill, or two paper mills, in this case, in Newfoundland, or a great majority holder, is having the kind of speculation that is rampant - not only speculation, facts, I guess. This past month there has been speculation about O and Y; and, of course, they own Abitibi-Price and, of course, they own Gulf, and there is always the concern that if that parent company gets in trouble or is in trouble, then it could have negative effects, obviously, on Abitibi-Price. There is concern in Grand Falls, itself. I have just come back from attending a forestry seminar, where the management was represented and the mill unions were represented, and that was the topic of conversation.

Yes, there is concern, obviously, but I have no reason to believe, at this point in time, that the company is concerned that whatever the Reichmanns or O and Y are going through will have a direct effect on the operations in Newfoundland.

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

MR. DOYLE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I have a question for the Minister of Health. The Minister of Health is aware of the very serious case -


MR. DOYLE: Mr. Speaker, I'll start again. I have a question for the Minister of Health. The Minister of Health is aware of a very serious case involving a fifteen-year old girl -


MR. DOYLE: Mr. Speaker, I will start again. The Minister of Health is aware of a very serious case involving a fifteen-year old girl from Grand Falls who is extremely ill, and who, for the past seven weeks, has been on a waiting list for admission to the Janeway Hospital. Now, I ask the minister: Why has this child, who has been identified as a very serious case by her doctor, had to wait so long for admission to the Janeway?

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, I am not aware of a specific case in the Department of Health who is waiting to get into the Janeway Hospital, nor should I be aware. That kind of political interference does not exist in this present administration.


MR. DECKER: We have made available $840 million to the Department of Health to run a health care system in this Province. It is being run by professionals who know what they are doing. All the specific cases are handled in a proper way where people are treated fairly, depending on the needs that they have. If the hon. member has some suggestion that something is being done that is wrong here, I would be quite willing to take the name of the person and have the matter checked out. But there is no reason why the Minister of Health, in any government, should know what is happening in a specific case unless someone has an accusation to make that something being done is illegal, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. DOYLE: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Health is very much aware of this case, and later, I will give him the name of the individual who brought it to his attention.

Now, this child has been diagnosed as having anorexia nervosa. I hope I have the correct pronunciation. She has attempted suicide; she has had other psychological, very traumatic experiences; she has gone from 118 pounds down to 85 pounds - 80 to 85 pounds, six of which she has lost in the past two weeks. She cannot be adequately treated in Grand Falls. Now, I ask the minister: Are there more serious cases? Is it believable that there could be more serious cases than this particular case that I am bringing to his attention, and that has been brought to his attention before.

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, I can only reiterate what I said in answer to the first question. I am not aware of any specific case. Unless I have lost my memory over the last few weeks and months this specific case does not mean a thing. But, Mr. Speaker, if I were aware of such a specific case I would not stoop as low as to try make political points out of somebody's afflictions.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Harbour Main.

MR. DOYLE: Mr. Speaker, let me say to the Minister that the child's doctor has been told by the Janeway that there are only thirteen beds available on the psychiatric ward and there are twenty-three cases on the waiting list from St. John's alone. Now God knows how many more cases are waiting from all around the Province. How long is this child going to have to wait for proper psychiatric care?

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, I cannot answer that question because I do not administer this Department by getting involved in all these cases. We have professionals out there who deal with each individual. I have absolute confidence in the medical doctors, in the psychiatrists, in the people who are dealing with these matters, Mr. Speaker, and I can assure the people of this Province that it will be done in the proper way.

If, however, the hon. Member wishes to give me the name of this individual I will have officials in the Department of Health investigate the specific case, but I want to reassure the people of this Province that we are not running a health system whereby we have political interference in saying this person is going to be treated or this person is not going to be treated. We have had too much of that in the past both in the health system and in the justice system, and we are going to have it again if ever we get a Tory government in power, as the Leader of the Opposition said the other day, Mr. Speaker. At least for the time being that kind of interference does not exist, thank goodness.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. DOYLE: Mr. Speaker, let me say to the Minister that the information I have, and I will check it again, but the information I have is that the Minister was called by the President of the Newfoundland Psychiatric Association about this case, and he was told by the Minister - I have a quote here. Again I will check it for accuracy. Quote, "Ask me for anything, but do not ask me for money," said the Minister. Now is that the callous response of the Minister of Health to the tragedy of this young girl and dozens of other young people who are waiting to get into the Janeway Hospital who need critical care right now? Is that the type of callous response that the Minister is getting involved in, in making these kinds of statements?

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, I stand to be corrected, but I have no knowledge of the President of the Psychiatric Association calling me and discussing an individual case. I would be extremely surprised if any professional physician in the world were to call a Minister of the Crown to discuss a specific case.

There are examples of ministers in Ontario and ministers in Nova Scotia who had to resign their positions for simply mentioning an individual who was receiving a certain kind of care. I would consider it to be improper and inappropriate, and for the life of me I cannot recall having the discussion that the hon. Member is talking about. But I certainly will go back through the things that I have done in the last few weeks - because I might be having a lapse of memory - but I cannot recall discussing a specific case of a young fifteen year old person in central Newfoundland. One of us has either a selective memory or is trying to make political points on someone's affliction.

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

MR. DOYLE: Well, Mr. Speaker, again I will check it out and we will see what happens, but it is a little bit unbelievable that the Minister of Health should be above somebody contacting him -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. DOYLE: - to let him know about their condition in this Province!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair has reminded hon. Members on several occasions about our Standing Orders with respect to asking supplementary questions. In particular Members know that they ought not to get into preambles, but ask the question. I have exercised a great degree of leniency with the hon. the Member, and I would ask the hon. Member please to get to his question without any preamble. Hon. members know that Question Period is not for debate, but for soliciting information and holding the Government accountable.

The hon. the Member for Harbour Main.

MR. DOYLE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Let me get the Minister's opinion on this. Is the Minister aware that doctors we have spoken to - not only on this case, but on a variety of different cases - have said that if a patient should die in these types of circumstances, it is the doctor who is held responsible and not the Government. Does the Minister have any idea of what he is doing to the morale of the medical profession in this Province who cannot cope with the life and death situations that they are being asked to make on a daily basis? Is he aware of that, or is he above that as well, Mr. Speaker?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, for seventeen years we had a Government where, the way you got into an old age home was to call up your member and say: jump the line. For seventeen years, Mr. Speaker, we had a government where, if you wanted justice, you phoned up your member. For seventeen years we had a government, Mr. Speaker, where, if you wanted to get a road done you called your member and said, forget the road here and do that one because so and so has it.

Now, the news to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians today is this: We have a Government which practices fairness and balance. We do not open our hospital beds to someone who happens to know or not know the Minister. We have a group of competent professionals in the health care system who admit people into hospitals, who prescribe a treatment, Mr. Speaker, based on whether or not that treatment is needed. Gone forever are the days when you got into a hospital because you knew the minister or because you had a contact. If this is what the hon. Member is insisting that we do, I am sorry, we are not going to do that. I don't believe the people of Newfoundland expect or want us to do that, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Burin - Placentia West.

MR. TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, it is hard to take that from a Minister who has jumped every line he could, ahead of poor people in a hospital waiting line.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I recognized the hon. Member for a question.

MR. TOBIN: My question, Mr. Speaker, is to the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation. I want to ask the Minister about a public service competition for the position of Regional Motor Registration Deputy Registrar located at the Registration Office in Grand Falls, Windsor.

Will the Minister confirm that Mr. Wilson Wiseman was selected by the Public Service Commission as the top candidate for that position, and will he also confirm that Mr. Wiseman was informed by the Department's Director of Human Resources that he had been selected for the job?

AN HON. MEMBER: I know he ran.


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

I ask the hon. the Minister to take his place, please. I would ask hon. Members, please, to refrain from making unnecessary and provocative interjections. Question Period, as I have said, is for soliciting answers. Members decide the decorum in this House and I would ask for hon. Members' co-operation. It is the Chair's job to enforce the rules, but it also requires the co-operation of hon. Members.

The hon. the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation.

MR. GOVER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, that position to which the hon. Member refers became vacant and after analysis of that position within the Department, it was decided that rather than fill the position a savings could be affected by putting a person in there in an acting capacity and saving the other salary unit, effecting savings to the Government. That is the situation right now. In order to effect savings for the Government, to economise and have an efficient operation, there is a person in the position, acting at the present time. The position was not filled.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Burin - Placentia West.

MR. TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, the Minister did not answer my question. The question quite simply was: will he confirm that Mr. Wiseman was selected by the Public Service Commission, and was also informed by the Director of Human Resources? That is the question I want answered. Let me also ask the Minister in that case, why did Cabinet overturn the Public Service Commission's selection and the decision of the Department to appoint Mr. Wiseman?

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

MR. GOVER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. There was no decision to overturn. This was a decision that was made by the Department to effect savings. It was not a Cabinet decision. There was no overruling. There was no position to fill because the position is filled on an acting basis, and another position is frozen, thereby effecting savings. Therefore we do not need any candidate who competed for that particular position.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Burin - Placentia West.

MR. TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, why did he advertise the position? And why doesn't he answer the question as to whether or not the Public Service Commission had indeed recommended the hiring to your Department of Mr. Wiseman as the number one candidate? Why doesn't he answer those questions? Isn't it a fact that the person who has been appointed to the position is a former campaign worker for the Minister of Forestry and Agriculture? Isn't it a fact that this Minister helped have Cabinet reverse the decision to hire Mr. Wiseman?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. GOVER: Mr. Speaker, there is no need to confirm anything with respect to the public service competition because the position was not filled on a permanent basis. The Department decided to effect savings to save money in these tight fiscal times so that we can open more hospital beds! So that we can give more money to education! Every dollar I can save in my Department so that we can direct it to the social recipients and health care of this Province, every dollar which is needlessly spent in the Department of Works, Services and Transportation, will be saved. So who competed and who came out on top is totally irrelevant because the position has now been frozen. There is a person in there acting. The Department is effecting savings. Until such time as the position needs to be filled on a permanent basis it won't be. And, Mr. Speaker, there was no decision for the Cabinet to reverse.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Supplementary, the hon. the Member for Burin -Placentia West.

MR. TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I can tell the Minister what the Public Service Commission said and who they recommended as number one in the position -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Table it! Table it!

MR. TOBIN: Yes, I'll table it! There it is right there. Mr. Speaker, I would suggest the Member for Carbonear answered the question -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. TOBIN: - when he said he was a Tory!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. TOBIN: That is why he did not get the job!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

I make the same ruling to the hon. the Member for Burin - Placentia West, that he is not supposed to be into debate. I have recognised him on a supplementary and that is what the Chair wants to hear.

MR. TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, based on what the Minister just said about the Government saving money, the Minister said that the Government did not fill the position because they wanted to save money. Since that person who was hired in an acting position, and the position will not be filled, was a person who gives driver examinations, will the Minister now confirm that as a result of the person filling that position in a temporary capacity, or an acting capacity, that the people in the Grand Falls - Windsor area served by that office will now have to wait longer to have their driver's test and examination given?

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

MR. GOVER: Mr. Speaker, as I indicated we are effecting savings by having the examiner's position frozen. If at such time in the future it is determined that the volume of examinations warrants the unfreezing of that position and the filling of that position, that action will then be taken at that appropriate time. Then the public service will be instructed to hold a competition. I will remind the hon. Member: we tell the Public Service Commission which positions we want filled and for how long. They do not tell us which positions to fill. They only hold a competition.


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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. In the absence of the Premier I would like to ask a question to whoever is speaking for the Minister of Justice. Despite a number of requests in this House as to information concerning an investigation by the police into allegations against the former Minister of the Environment there is yet to be provided an explanation as to why a complaint that was made in August of 1990 was apparently not investigated for more than a year. I wonder if the House could be provided with an explanation? Surely, enough time has passed, since the Premier and the Minister of Justice were made officially aware of this in the first week in March, to have found the answer to that question.

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

MR. BAKER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Member for St. John's East obviously must have been absent from the House because if he would check his Hansard he will discover that the Premier gave a detailed answer to that question. I cannot recall the exact date off the top of my head but the explanation was that there was an investigation done into the complaint that was lodged, that attempts were made to set up meetings with the individual involved, and eventually the individual indicated that she had got a lawyer and her lawyer was then going to provide extra information, then the thing sat for a number of months. Now, that is my recollection of the Premier's answer. In his answer he gave quite a detailed list, giving dates and so on concerning what happened during that period, so, Mr. Speaker, I ask the hon. gentleman to go back and read Hansard.

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

MR. HARRIS: Mr. Speaker, not only have I read Hansard, I was present in the House when the Premier gave the explanation. They were in response to questions by me but the explanation was not a full explanation and did not involve the fact -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. Member is on a supplementary.

MR. HARRIS: The question, Mr. Speaker, is when will a full explanation be given based on the real facts and not the facts that the Premier has been assuming are the facts, but based on an investigation by his Department, or by the Government, or by somebody in whom the public might have confidence as to what really happened? Can the Minister say that his Government will give a full explanation of this matter immediately, and if not give a full explanation itself, provide some independent person to provide that explanation because it appears, Mr. Speaker, that neither the Government nor the Minister of Justice may be independent in this matter.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the President of Treasury Board and Government House Leader.

MR. BAKER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I will attempt to ignore the slur at the end that was totally inappropriate. What is happening in this case I will go over again for the Member, slowly, because he has a poor memory. Right now there is a police investigation ongoing. The Premier has answered questions in the House concerning the events that have happened to date based on what he has been told by the RNC, or that came up from the RNC. The Premier himself does not personally investigate every case that comes before the RNC, so he can only rely on information that he receives from the system. When the current investigation is complete then, I suppose, Mr. Speaker, we can comment on it. A police investigation is ongoing and I do not know what the hon. Member is hoping to accomplish by trying to get answers to things that are currently under police investigation. I refuse to even discuss it any further.

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

MR. HARRIS: Mr. Speaker, in the House on Friday, March 20, the Premier said that he was aware that the original complaint was of another matter, the full complaint, and that he undertook to find out whether or not the full and proper investigation was done. Now, Mr. Speaker, if the Government is prepared to insist in this House that they have already given a full explanation can they not acknowledge at least that the public needs to have more satisfaction than what has been given to this House, and that in fact an investigation into a complaint that was made was carried out properly, was carried out promptly, and because it was a complaint against a Minister of the Crown that the public must have confidence in the administration of justice. Can the Minister assure the House that that will be done?

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

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, it is obvious from his question that the Member is simply grandstanding at this point in time. A police investigation is ongoing. The House has received assurances that what knowledge we have of the investigation to this point in time that can be stated publicly has been stated, that when the investigation is completed it will be handled in the proper way by the people who should be handling the situation. Everything will be done properly, but, Mr. Speaker, we cannot prejudge a police investigation. We cannot prejudge what recommendations may come from that police investigation, and we cannot even comment on what recommendations we think should come from that police investigation.

What the hon. Member is asking me to do, himself being a lawyer, is totally outrageous.

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

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

Today down in Conne River there is an agreement being signed between the Innu people of Conne River and the Federal Government concerning direct funding. Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the House Leader. Some time ago the President of the Innu Nation, representing the Innu of Davis Inlet and Sheshatshit, suggested that they would prefer to have direct funding from the Federal Government. I would like to ask the Minister: has the Province made a request to the Federal Government agreeing that they would go along and agree with the Innu Nation that direct funding should come from the Federal Government?

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

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, my understanding of that situation differs from the hon. Member, and maybe we better get that straight. My understanding was that the request was that the Innu Nation deal directly with Ottawa and not deal with the Province. Therefore, they are not coming through the Province and requesting that we do anything. So my understanding is that that is the statement that was made by the representative of the Innu Nation.

Mr. Speaker, I would not want to comment on that today. I will check into the situation and perhaps provide the hon. Member with a more complete answer or attitude or opinion a little later, but I would not want to comment on that today.

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

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

My question to the Minister is if the Innu Nation requests that they want direct funding from the Federal Government instead of going through the provincial bureaucracy, does the Minister agree and would this Government co-operate with the Innu Nation in having this direct funding become a reality? That is my question to the Minister.

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

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, that is something obviously we would be willing to discuss with the Innu Nation, our attitude towards it, and I am not prepared to say at this point in time what it would be. However, Mr. Speaker, what we have attempted to do in the last two years is to try to speed up the process of land claims settlement, and our objective is to try to get that process settled as quickly as possible.

I say in all sincerity to the hon. gentleman, maybe this situation is very closely tied to that.

MR. SPEAKER: Question Period has expired.

Notices of Motion

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

MR. HOGAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

In response to the queries from the hon. Leader of the Opposition yesterday -

AN HON. MEMBER: This is Notices of Motion.

MR. HOGAN: Oh, I am sorry. I thought it was 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 Municipal and Provincial Affairs.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HOGAN: Could I have the protection of the Chair, Mr. Speaker?

AN HON. MEMBER: You don't need the protection of the Chair, Bill.

MR. HOGAN: I need protection, Mr. Speaker.

In response to the query from my hon. colleague from the District of Grand Falls - Windsor, I would like to respond to his queries yesterday regarding assessment in the municipality of Grand Falls - Windsor.

Prior to the 1992 re-assessment, the Town of Grand Falls assessed values were established using July 1985 as the base year. These values were adjusted to base year January 1, 1991 which reflects a five and a half year increase in values. The Windsor portion of the municipality prior to re-assessment was assessed using January 1989 as the base year. This was also adjusted to 1991 figures. Thus, with the amalgamation of Grand Falls and Windsor there was a three and a half year spread at that time between the base values in both municipalities.

With the amalgamation of Grand Falls and Windsor, the new town in 1991 used a split mil rate. The Windsor portion was charged at eleven mils based on 1989 values, while the Grand Falls area was charged with eight point nine mils based on the 1985 values. With the 1992 re-assessment, all properties were adjusted to the new base year of 1991 and the municipality established a mil rate for 1992 at eight point nine mils.

This new mil rate reflects a two point one mil reduction for property owners living in the Windsor area and no reduction in the mil rate for property owners who resided in the Grand Falls section of the municipality. This, of course, combined with the five and a half year spread in assessed values created a large tax increase within the Grand Falls section of the new municipality. All properties in the municipality have been assessed at fair market value based on 1991 values as determined by an in-depth sales analysis on all property transactions within the municipality.

During the twenty-one day appeal period in the municipality of Grand Falls - Windsor, there were three assessors assigned to the town office every working day to answer any inquiries by property owners, for which the town and municipalities were very grateful, Mr. Speaker.

Over the past years, the assessment division has been faced with a six year re-assessment cycle. Due to the large numbers of new municipalities requesting initial assessments in recent years, plus the maintaining of the existing assessment rolls, the division has been unable to shorten this cycle. At present the assessment division is in the process of installing a computer assisted mass appraisal system, and once all conversion is completed, which is estimated to take from three to four years, it will be possible to reduce the re-assessment cycle from its current six year spread to three years, or even lower if necessary.

If my hon. friends across the way cannot understand that, I will reduce it to baby talk on the next answer.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. SIMMS: I thank the Minister for what seems like an extract from one of the books over there - the departmental manuals or something. I knew all of that information. My question was, will he send his Director of Assessments out to meet with the committee? That was my question.

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

MR. HOGAN: Mr. Speaker, I though the question was for an explanation of the vast differences and changes in the increased assessment. That was one.

The second -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HOGAN: I will start again, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. HOGAN: The question that was asked of me yesterday was of the vast differences in the assessments that were made this year in the new municipality of Grand Falls - Windsor, and I thought I explained that in that.

The second part of the question was: would we send someone out there? We have had, in fact, somebody out there now for two to three weeks - three assessors working in the council office at the request of the council.

The third part of the question, which the hon. Member just reminded me of - if he wants someone else sent out there, I will do that for him too.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

There is no point of order. The Leader of the Opposition just got up on a point of clarification, and the Minister responded accordingly.


MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for St. Mary's - The Capes.

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

I have a petition from the residents of Mall Bay, and from looking at the signatures, I would say, all of the residents of Mall Bay, to the hon. House, requesting upgrading and paving of a stretch of road leading from the main road through St. Mary's Bay to the community of Mall Bay.

Over the last month or so, since we have had some mild weather, the road to Mall Bay has become practically impassable. During one period last week, the school buses could not travel, the school children could not get to school in St. Mary's; the ambulance could not travel over the road, the mail could not be delivered. On top of that, the community, itself has no post office, the mail is rural delivery and there are no stores in this small community of Mall Bay, presently, so anything at all that the people need, from school, to church, to medical assistance, to the post office, to the average need from the general store, the people have to travel over the four-mile stretch to the main highway.

The road, itself is a relatively solid road, ordinarily, it is over dry barrens so it is not through bog land; however, where we had a fair amount of snow in that area during the winter and a quick thaw a week or so ago, as the snow banks melted on the side, the drains were all blocked, of course, and all the water ran back onto the road, causing the road to become extremely soft. Since then, we have had a colder period of weather and the road has dried up somewhat. It is still extremely rough, but as the frost starts going out of the road in the next few weeks, as it does every spring, that road will once again become practically impassable or impassable.

For the last three years, we have requested from the Department of Highways, that this be our priority for road work in the district. It is not a great hardship on either the local unit or the department, generally, to maintain the road, because right now it is the only piece of road in St. Mary's - The Capes that is not paved, with the exception of the piece that is under construction or being paved, actually, between North Harbour and Branch, the road across the country, but every community in the district of St. Mary's - The Capes, except Mall Bay, now has a paved road to it, and for the past three years, no capital funding at all has gone into the district.

Now, the minister, in his response, might say, That is true, but you can't complain because in the previous x number of years you did very well, and I would say to the minister, that is so. However, I would also say to him that, preceding the coming of the Tories to St. Mary's - The Capes in 1971, in a district where the near end is only about forty miles from the capital city of St. John's and going the other way, up the Southern Shore route, perhaps about eighty miles from St. John's, it was not until 1971, following the coming of the Tories into power, that one inch of pavement was laid in St. Mary's - The Capes. So don't give me this: You know, you got a lot - that doesn't make any difference. And I am not pointing any fingers, all I am saying is that for the past three years, not one cent has been spent on capital funding in St. Mary's - The Capes.

Maybe, in the allocations, it was determined that that road was not a priority compared to others in the Province, but somewhere along the line, it has to fit into the scene. Certainly, somewhere along the line, the district has to fit into the capital funding scheme of the new administration. So, what we are asking now, is that in the present Budget that is coming up, and in the minister's present allocation, that he consider for funding - not only consider but have on his list of projects for this year, the upgrading and paving of the main road through River Head in St. Mary's Bay down to Mall Bay, a solid community where people work hard; they fish and they work in the fish plant. They ask very little from government, in fact, the only thing they ask for is to have their road upgraded and paved.

So I present this petition and a covering letter to the minister on behalf of the residents, and request that the minister, in his planning, consider this to be one of his priorities for the capital works program for this coming year.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Burin - Placentia West.

MR. TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, thank you very much. I would like to speak in support of the petition presented by my colleague for St. Mary's - The Capes regarding the condition of the road in Mall Bay.

I am familiar with the area, know where Mall Bay is, and have great respect for the men and women who live in that community. I feel they are deserving of having road improvements made. It is unfortunate that for three years this government has not seen fit to spend one cent of the Provincial budget in the St. Mary's - The Capes district, almost as bad as in Burin - Placentia West district.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. TOBIN: Not one cent in St. Mary's - The Capes. Mr. Speaker, I want to say that I believe there is a fair amount of pork barrelling going on as it relates to the allocation of provincial funding. I believe this minister has the potential to be an expert in pork barrelling. We saw today a prime example of what happens to someone they do not want to get a job. The interference in that department today, the interference by the Minister of Agriculture, is no different from the interference by the Member for Port de Grave when he was Minister of Social Services. There is no difference. It was political interference in both cases. He gave up his seat for the Premier, he will survive. The Member for Port de Grave didn't, and he got kicked out of Cabinet. There is no difference in what is happening in terms of the pork barrelling that is going on in this government.

I hope the government will look very seriously at the need for road improvements in this Province, and do it in an extremely fair and balanced way in terms of the allocation of funding. It is extremely important that the government look upon the needs of all the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. Included in that would be the people of Mall Bay. It is alright -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of -

MR. MATTHEWS: The Maw Mouth, call him. Say it, say it. Say: What's wrong with Old Maw Mouth?

MR. TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, we are talking about Mall Bay, not Maw Mouth, so I would ask the member to be quiet.

Mr. Speaker, there is a great need for road improvements in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, and I join with my colleague for St. Mary's - The Capes, and, as the official spokesman for transportation in our caucus, ask the minister if he will give every consideration in the upcoming Budget, to looking after the needs of the people of this Province who need road improvements, including the petition so ably presented by my colleague.

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

MR. GOVER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I don't think the hon. the Member for Burin - Placentia West, the transportation critic, should be so quick to criticise the Minister of Finance with respect to his concern for Mall Bay. In fact, the Minister of Finance advises me that the first time Mall Bay actually had its name read on the radio in Newfoundland and Labrador was by the Minister of Finance back in 1968, when he was advocating road repairs for that particular community - way back in 1968. Now, unfortunately, he advises me -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. GOVER: - that at that time - yes, that's the Minister of Finance - yes, he was still a Conservative at that particular time. That was before he had -

AN HON. MEMBER: What? No! (Inaudible).

MR. GOVER: Yes, before he had seen the light.


MR. GOVER: So he has been pressing this issue since that particular time way back in 1968, as a Conservative. Of course, I am sure the hon. Member for St. Mary's - The Capes when he was a member and a minister, advocated the need of that particular community, and I guess their administration must have found that the need for Mall Bay was not as great as the need in other areas, considering the road had not been done under their administration.

But as the hon. Member for Burin - Placentia West indicated, the principles of this administration are fairness and balance, and it really makes no difference whether the district is represented by a Conservative, a Liberal, a New Democrat or any other party, the roads in that particular district will receive the same treatment regardless of the stripe of the member they send to the House of Assembly.

I can assure the hon. member that every consideration will be given to this particular section of road, as to its need in relation to the needs of the other roads in the rest of the Province. Every consideration will be given to it, and we will know those conclusions shortly. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Orders of the Day.

Shall we revert to Petitions? The Chair called and nobody stood. The Chair cannot wait, obviously.


The Chair has called for petitions.

MR. SMALL: Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. SMALL: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of 106 people of Great Harbour Deep, I present this petition -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I think maybe the hon. member may have - I ask the hon. member to take his place, please. The hon. member presented a petition to the Clerk this morning for his approval of the petition, because the petition is not according to the format required by the House. I say to hon. members that the petition is not according to the format designed by the House, that it petitions the government as opposed to petitioning the House of Assembly, and the subject matter relates to inadequacy of bursaries for students in certain communities. I ask whether the hon. member has leave.

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MR. SIMMS: I think Your Honour is saying it is not according to Hoyle, it is according to Noel. If that is correct, then that is fine with us.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Baie Verte - White Bay has approval, and we will not take that time out.

The hon. the Member for Baie Verte - White Bay.

MR. SMALL: Mr. Speaker, 'We, the undersigned, humbly petition the Government of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador to increase the provincial bursary for high school students forced to live in communities other than their own communities on the present $235 a month to $400. We feel that the current amount is inadequate for even the board of these students, excluding other expenses such as transportation to and from isolated areas, and telephone bills which are excessive, due to loneliness of very young students, sometimes as young as fourteen years of age.'

I support this petition, Mr. Speaker, because Grades IX, X and XI students, through no fault of their own, have to move away from Harbour Deep to attend high school because there is no high school in Great Harbour Deep. This is a great cost to their fathers and mothers, and it is very difficult for students to get back and forth home. So I support them in asking for an increase in the bursary to these students. Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for St. Mary's - The Capes.

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

I stand in support of the petition so ably presented by the Member for Baie Verte - White Bay. People who live in areas where they are not accessible to certain things such as schools, go through tremendous trauma. Young children - even though you might say they are not young when you are talking about high school, they are still young children. And when they have to leave their homes to go away and board, then it has a tremendous amount, I suppose, of concern that goes along with it. They, themselves do not like going away from home. The parents are concerned about their future, wondering about their kids and how they are going to do away from the home environment.

One of the other problems besides this, which is probably the main one, is the ability of parents to fund their children to be able to stay away from the home in other areas. Years ago when you could go somewhere and get board for a couple of dollars a day, you would get your room and meals, that has changed considerably. A lot of people in this day and age, number one, do not want to take in boarders, and number two, will usually do it only if it is monetarily worth their doing it, and it is hard to blame them for doing that. With the cost of books, tuition, travelling, telephone calls, and what have you, it is an expensive proposition to send your child away from home. Consequently, I do not think we have tried to increase the bursaries over the years, and certainly I do not think we have kept up at all with the escalating costs associated with such travel and having to leave home to go to school.

However, there is another side to that, in this day and age in most parts of the Province thank God we have good transportation and communication systems, and most people who years ago had to do such travelling to go to high schools or even to travel to write exams, etc., all that has been eliminated by our more modern and upgraded modes and means of transportation, so there is a flow back and forth from the small community to the centralized school, etc. There are still some areas where that is impossible and maybe this is the type of situation that should be looked at in relation to the distance education programs which have been and are being developed.

I understand the program that was started a couple of years ago in math, then physics, has caught on tremendously well. The success rate has been fabulous. The children who have taken the courses have done better than the average child in regular schools across the Province and that says a lot for the people in the Department of Education. I also understand, however, that perhaps the Minister and his Department may not be putting enough money into that to keep up with the demands and the expansion because of the different years that are now involved. I suggest to the Minister, in light of the coming Budget, and in light of places such as Round Harbour, Harbour Deep, and other areas that are involved for the children - along the Labrador Coast is another example where the children have to travel to go away to school, perhaps with our modern day technology and a few extra dollars we can address the needs of these children right in their own community where they are under the watchful eyes of their parents. The costs that are associated here will not be a concern and the provision of education to the children will be there for them as it should be anywhere in the Province.

I certainly support the petition, Mr. Speaker. Anyway at all we can assist in furthering the education of our children, I think we should look at. I agree with the Members's statement and I know the Minister is going to say that if we have a future in the Province then the best investment we can make is in our children.

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

DR. WARREN: Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate the hon. Member for Baie Verte - White Bay for his presentation and thank the hon. Member for St. Mary's - The Capes for his very appropriate comments on that petition.

In the last decade or so we have done a great deal to promote greater equality of educational opportunity in this Province. We have bigger schools for a variety of reasons and we have achieved a great deal but there are still some students, Mr. Speaker, who do not have equal opportunity and we must find every way possible to help these students. In fact there are going to be small schools in this Province for a long time, small and necessary schools. Perhaps fifteen or twenty years ago we had as many as 1200 schools and we now have 515 or 520 but there are going to be a number of areas where we cannot centralize schools, we cannot provide bus transportation, so we must look at other means.

I compliment the Member for St. Mary's - The Capes on his comments on distance education. It has tremendous potential to help students who want to remain in their community and who must remain in small schools. I am looking forward to expanding that in the future. I cannot comment on any expansion this year, or when it will come, but we must expand that program. Now, having said that, Mr. Speaker, there are some students who will still need bursaries. I think the number this year is about eighty-three. If I recall correctly, and perhaps the President of Treasury Board can - the Minister of Finance is gone, but I know in our first year here, Mr. Speaker, we increased the amount from $175 a month to $225. I think in 1987 it was put to $1750.00 a year for ten months. That is not a large figure and that was the figure when I became the Minister. The first year I remember distinctly arguing for a major increase, a 30 per cent increase, in that bursary. It went to $22.50, if I recall. Then the next year we added another ten dollars, a year or so ago we added another ten dollars. Not enough, perhaps, Mr. Speaker, but we did make a genuine effort to increase.

I thank the hon. Member for his comments and we will do everything possible to respond to that request. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Orders of the Day

MR. BAKER: Order 1, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order 1.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act Respecting Elections, Controverted Elections and Election Financing." (Bill No. 1)

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

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MURPHY: It is nice to have an opportunity to continue, Mr. Speaker, to say a few words about a piece of legislation that is now before this hon. House. For some reason our hon. friends opposite haven't participated in this debate. I would suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, and this hon. House, that this is a very, very good piece of legislation, well documented, well written and well put together, even though we have had some presentations at Committee level that some people wanted to add to and/or delete. But, by and large, this piece of legislation, Mr. Speaker, is a landmark. Now, it may not be seen as a landmark by some people.

AN HON. MEMBER: But it is.

MR. MURPHY: But it is. Of course it is. It may not be seen to be a landmark because of, I suppose, the old practices that went on years ago, what was done at elections and things that were accepted that can no longer be accepted. The public of this Province and/or any other province would surely not tolerate some of the things that were -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. MURPHY: Well, we will talk about that now shortly.

Mr. Speaker, if I might refer the hon. members to the proxy area of the legislation. I think this is an exceptionally good idea. It gives the individual -

AN HON. MEMBER: Where is that?

MR. MURPHY: Section 86, page 37, I say to the hon. Member.

MR. WINSOR: (Inaudible).

AN HON. MEMBER: Don't be distracted.

MR. MURPHY: Let me say to the hon. Member for Fogo - he needs to be reminded - I know he is a rooky. I understand this is the hon. Member's first term, as it is this hon. Member's first term.

AN HON. MEMBER: And he is lost.

MR. MURPHY: Yes. I just want to remind the hon. Member that your colleagues had seventeen consecutive years to bring in this type of legislation but did not have, as your former, former leader said, the political courage. Okay? So, the best thing for the hon. Member to do is sit in his place and say nothing or leave the House, one or the other. All right?

The proxy section, Mr. Speaker, obviously gives those who, through no fault of their own cannot be present, an opportunity to participate in an election and vote for the candidate of their choice, regardless of what political party they are affiliated with. I think this is a refreshing part of the electoral process in 1992 and it shows that this caring Government has delved into this kind of thing and brought forward this type of legislation.

I refer hon. members to section 105. I think this is a section that needed to be inserted. Over the years it has been my experience, Mr. Speaker, that there have been many occasions when one would sometimes question, in a polling station, the right of persons. Section 105 deals with that. The thing I like in here, Mr. Speaker, is, for the first time ever anybody who is not on a voter's list, still have to swear and they also have to provide appropriate identification. What it is worth, I would say, to the hon. member is this. It means that you can be sure that those who vote in that election have a right to vote. We all know they have a responsibility to vote. That is the democracy we all belong to, but they have a right to vote, and I have been informed - I do not know, Mr. Speaker, but I have been informed - that this may or may not have been abused over the years. It may have been abused.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. MURPHY: Well, I will tell you what. Let me suggest this to the hon. Member. Not only would I be elected, but I would be elected by a much greater margin.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. MURPHY: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. Or probably three. I am going to deal with that, I am going to talk about that, if the Member will only hold his patience. Somebody told me that the land is on the shore and there are a lot of seals to be seen, and one thing and another. I am surprised that the hon. Member is in his place. I figured he would be out today looking for a licence to kill his seal. He would be looking for a licence to kill his seal. He would have a pier head jump on a punt, with his kit bag over his back, looking for somewhere to build his bunk. However, I will leave the hon. Member to his own way to solve the problem.

Now I am not disagreeing with him. I think there is a lot of merit in what the hon. Member said. Putting it in place is where I might disagree with him. It is very difficult to get everybody to get a seal.

Now there are hon. members on this side who are totally competent and capable - all hon. members on this side are totally competent and capable - but I would be very leery about some of my colleagues on this side jumping on an ice floe and trying to get that seal that the hon. Member suggests. With a background in occupational health and safety, I want to tell the hon. Member for St. John's East Extern that there is nothing in this Act that protects him. There is nothing in any act that protects him but I, somehow or another, have great problems with the Member for Pleasantville jumping on the ice floes trying to capture a seal.

MR. NOEL: Is that right?

MR. MURPHY: He may very well capture the seal, and he may very well have the seal and have it prepared. Now he might have some difficulty getting ashore with it.

AN HON. MEMBER: He is insulting the great Province of Newfoundland.

MR. NOEL: That is right.

MR. MURPHY: I am not insulting anybody.

AN HON. MEMBER: Oh yes you are. You are making fun of (inaudible).

MR. MURPHY: No, I am not making fun of anybody. I just want the hon. Member to know, as I said, that his idea had merit. His idea had merit, but the problem -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. MURPHY: I said no such thing, and the hon. Member should be reminded that Newfoundlanders are probably - not probably - are the most skilled fisherpersons in Newfoundland.

MR. NOEL: I should hope so.

MR. MURPHY: In Atlantic Canada, in Canada, if not the world - including the Member for Pleasantville. That is right - including the hon. Member for Pleasantville. Before I was sidetracked, and that is what the hon. Member is in the House for - trying to sidetrack all the time.

There is a whole section here, and I refer hon. members who are interested to Section 138 on Counting, Reporting and Security of Votes. We all remember, and the hon. Member for Humber West, and the hon. Member for St. Barbe and that area, remember the days when there was nothing obviously defined that a returning officer who had all kinds of election experiences decided to put a match - like they do in the papacy - put a match to the ballots after the decision has been made. So that could not happen any more.

Just a small interjection of what that caused at that particular time, it was a tremendous embarrassment to everybody, and this piece of legislation looks after entirely the securing and counting of ballots.

Again there are other areas throughout this piece of legislation that take away the questions that have never been answered before, that take place on election day. When you go through the type of election that I went through, you do not need these kinds of problems during election day.

There is another one here I like, Mr. Speaker, on recounts. Now this piece of legislation defines it takes the cost away from those candidates who have elections that are very, very close and, "a judge shall, within two days after the recount or a final addition, certify the result to the returning officer." Subsection two, 'In the case of votes, the seat is vacant and the provisions of the Act,' and section three, "An election held under," and it goes on, "The costs of the recount or final additions are at the discretion of the judge." So if some hon. member should be in a close election, by the way this particular legislation also decides on when a recount should take place. So there is no need of an application of cost and what have you. So that is certainly another step in the right direction.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. MURPHY: Well I know who is on my side, Mr. Speaker. I know who is on my side, but little did I realize how much.

AN HON. MEMBER: Let there be light.

MR. MURPHY: Let there be light.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. MURPHY: I did not realize -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. MURPHY: I am glad to see the hon. member. I miss his melodious voice. It is nice to see he is here in the House with us today, and I am sure that hon. member is very interested in this piece of legislation. I think he spoke, actually.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. MURPHY: Was the hon. member in Grand Falls yesterday? Well it just goes to show you that the hon. member is also doing business outside the city. He was in Grand Falls yesterday.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. MURPHY: And so you should be. Well, that is business. But I am sure that the hon. member, the only sitting member for the NDP party, is very, very enthusiastic about this piece of legislation because what this legislation does is it gives his party an equal footing, and, Mr. Speaker, we all know that his party certainly needs an equal footing. There may be one small problem for the NDP, they must disclose where their money and where their funding comes from.

AN HON. MEMBER: They will never do it.

MR. MURPHY: Now, you know, when you think about that you may find that some of the work - the rank and file people in this Province who pay union dues, Mr. Speaker, will find that some of their union dues are going in a direction that they did not know, but this piece of legislation will clear that up.

AN HON. MEMBER: It will correct it.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. MURPHY: Yes. Well it should, and if it does not I refer hon. members to section 192 where a person is guilty of an offence. So I would suggest that all those people who run, have campaign organizations and receive funding and/or monies from wherever will have to ensure that the funding and money is receipted, duly noted, and audited. Now that may present some problems to some hon. members who are affiliated with some parties. They may not want to disclose where cars come from, they may not want to disclose where gasoline comes from.

AN HON. MEMBER: Where what comes from? Cars?


AN HON. MEMBER: Why cars?

MR. MURPHY: Well, it has been suggested that these are the types of things that have been left out and no longer does this legislation give the room for that to be left out. It is contribution in services and/or in coin. So some parties and some candidates - What?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. MURPHY: Some parties and some candidates maybe, even though on the surface this legislation looks good to them, they may find that it is cumbersome. They may find that it is not easy to explain where certain groups of people who may need to go to the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations and receive certification documents to become recognized through another piece of legislation in this House that certain parties might find that contributions from that end of the world will have to be audited and will have to be shown.

So, even though this piece of legislation should be attractive to the NDP party, it may be somewhat of an embarrassment to the NDP party if they do not do what every other large party has done historically over the years.

Now that brings me, Mr. Speaker, up to an area of financing. Election Finances, section 265, it talks about the district association....

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. MURPHY: NDP? I am afraid that I would be chastised by the Chair if I responded to the hon. Member's question. So I will have to hide -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. MURPHY: Yes, it is over my head. The hon. Member for St. John's East is dead right, it is over my head. As a matter of fact the hon. Member was not here yesterday, and I remember distinctly the other day he asked me - it wasn't dealing with this. But just as a point to answer him, he said: was this hon. Member afraid of the NDP Party? I want to openly admit that this Member is terrified of the NDP Party. I refer the hon. Member to an article in The Globe and Mail of a few weeks ago where it talked about the NDP Party and their billion dollar move last year in Ontario and the impact -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. MURPHY: Pardon? Yes. The public is terrified, Canada is terrified. Subsequently, that move - and the hon. Member knows this - they are sliding. The Tories were bragging about the slide that the NDP was taking in the polls. So everybody has to pay very serious attention to election finances.

Now for the first time ever this Government has the courage. We will issue receipts. I want to say this to all hon. Members, both in the House and out of the House, we will have to issue receipts for political contributions. Now these contributions of course, Mr. Speaker, for the first time ever will be tax free contributions. There will be -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. MURPHY: Where do the NDP get their money? Well, I have no idea where the NDP gets their money. Perhaps the hon. Member will stand in his place and tell us where the NDP gets their funding. It will be very interesting to find out where they do get their funding. Extremely interesting.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. MURPHY: Well, the Party may not have any money, but that is not the word about the hon. Member. The word on the street is the hon. Member is loaded. He is loaded. The reason being, the other statement is that the hon. Member, as we used to say when we went to St. Bon's, still has his Holy Communion money. Now that is not suggesting that the hon. Member is thrifty or tight or anything of that nature, but the hon. Member is loaded. I do not mean that in a derogatory way but in a monetary sense.

AN HON. MEMBER: Does he have more money than John Efford?

MR. MURPHY: No. There is no question. I want to inform the hon. Member for Carbonear, there is no question. The hon. Member for Port de Grave is supposed to have a few dollars. But he would never come close to the Member for St. John's East, Mr. Speaker, not even close. I would suggest to the hon. Member that the Member for St. John's East pays more income tax than the hon. Member receives.

AN HON. MEMBER: I doubt that.

MR. MURPHY: Well, I have only been suggesting.

AN HON. MEMBER: The only difference is (Inaudible).

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. MURPHY: Now there is the second, now, the second runner-up. Now, here is the second runner-up, Mr. Speaker. We know who is first. The undisputed winner is the Member for St. John's East. Absolutely. I mean, the hon. Member for St. John's East could contribute the maximum amount to every Member in this hon. House and would not even miss it.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. MURPHY: Well, I do not know. The hon. Member would have to answer that himself. I have no idea if he has a lot of property, or he does not have a lot of property. People say that the hon. Member has houses and houses. People say that he has property. Well that -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. MURPHY: (Inaudible).

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) most of the people are tenants.

MR. MURPHY: Yes. Somebody said that the only reason the hon. Member got elected in St. John's East, was that 90 per cent of his vote were tenants. Now that could be or could not be.

But however, Mr. Speaker, I think what we have before us in Bill 1 is a piece of legislation that will forever in time give all hon. Members, regardless of political stripe, regardless if they have a political party to want to affiliate with, whether they are on their own or whatever, they all have the opportunity to have fairness and balance associated with their run to the House. Now, Mr. Speaker, a lot of time and effort went into the preparation of this document, and I don't know, in three years, if we have seen a piece of legislation as large or as comprehensive as this piece of legislation. A lot of time and effort have gone into it and I want to congratulate the Table, not only in Committee, but in preparation. There have been people at the Table who have put a lot of time into this document. There have been all kinds of people who put time and effort into this document. And there have been some abrasive members in this House, who have tried to tear down this document, who, in between planting and picking, found a way to this House, to try to disrupt and discourage and torment and tantalize.

MR. R. AYLWARD: (Inaudible).

MR. MURPHY: If he is, he is getting paid for it, but I remind the hon. the Member for Kilbride, I am working on that, too. I am working on the healthy community situation; we will change that very shortly. There will be no retainers, I can assure the hon. member. His time is nigh, because, Mr. Speaker, like this piece of legislation, the hon. member needs to know - there is an old saying: 'What goes around, comes around,' and when you stand in this House, when you are elected, you stand in this House with the protection of this House, Mr. Speaker, and you take shots, you take cheap shots and you take political shots at hon. members opposite, who, have worked just as long and just as hard to try to come in here to represent their districts, and without one ounce, not one piece of proof, only an accusation, and try to make brownie points - trust me, and I know the hon. member for St. John's East Extern knows where I am coming from, because he is a Christian gentleman. I have nothing but the most respect for him and I know he agrees, what goes around comes around and the day is not far away, Mr. Speaker, when this hon. House will see those who have tried to take political advantage of situations in the last couple of days, will pay the piper. And trust me, Mr. Speaker, just as surely as we are all sitting and standing here - just wait and see; the hon. member may smirk and laugh, but when the smirk is on the other side of his face, he won't be so great.

AN HON. MEMBER: Sit down and don't be so foolish!

MR. MURPHY: Oh, don't be so foolish! He will find out who is foolish. He did the same thing with another hon. member, but that will be cleaned and cleared up very soon, so the hon. member should find his way up over Shea Heights tonight -

AN HON. MEMBER: Is that a threat, Tom?

MR. MURPHY: No, it is not a threat, it is a promise. It's a promise, no threat. I wouldn't threaten the hon. member, I wouldn't want him staying awake for twenty-four consecutive hours.

AN HON. MEMBER: He looks bad enough now.

MR. MURPHY: That's right. I wouldn't want to do anything to his appearance - he needs all the help and sleep he can get.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time has elapsed.

MR. MURPHY: Anyway, Mr. Speaker, let me say in conclusion, that this is a landmark piece of legislation that will go down in the history of this House as being one of the best pieces of legislation associated with elections, not only in Newfoundland, but across the country. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

I would like to have a few words on this elections act, but before I do so, Mr. Speaker, with your indulgence, I would like to address something that the hon. the Member for St. John's South said. I know perhaps it was said in a jovial manner, and we need a joke every now and then, but there are things out there that some of us joke about that are not funny, and I know the hon. the Member for Port de Grave will agree.

He mentioned the seals. Seals have always been a traditional food for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. I want to remind the hon. gentleman that if the hon. the Member for Pleasantville wanted to go today to get a seal license - and he can bowl, so he can throw a rock on the ice and perhaps kill the seal - it would cost him twenty-five dollars to get that license. He can only go in the boat if there is a bonafide fisherman with him.

Now, what I am talking about is very simple. Do you think that people out there, who are in need of this food, should have to pay twenty-five dollars to get a license to go out and kill the seals that are really close to our shores, that are part of our history, part of our tradition? What I am saying is there is a need out there, and no matter the need, it just can't be accommodated. That is all I am saying and I will repeat that over and over.

MR. MURPHY: I am only talking about seals, boy.

MR. PARSONS: Yes, and I am sure the hon. the Member for Pleasantville is as nimble on his feet as the hon. the Member for St. John's South. Now, I don't know what that is saying about the poor Member for Pleasantville.

Mr. Speaker, I do want to say a few words. I think there was certainly a need for a new elections act. I think there were a lot of discrepancies and I think there are still some discrepancies here, but I suppose, through committees and whatever, some of these discrepancies can be ironed out.

Mr. Speaker, I am not going to speak for very long, it is only going to be for a few minutes. I was surprised because of the initiative taken by government in this new elections act, which will govern all elections and electoral districts, whatever, that there wasn't some provision - I was surprised and really disappointed, Mr. Speaker - that a committee be struck to determine if the number of members in the House really addresses the need.

Mr. Speaker, in 1949 we had thirty-six members, I believe, and in 1992 we have fifty-two. Now, Mr. Speaker, if some government, looking at it from a political point of view, wanted to create another district then I think there should have been a committee appointed, struck from the House, to oversee this provision. Now, Mr. Speaker, I could certainly entertain a change to have a lesser number. I am not sure that we need fifty-two members from this Province. I am not sure at all. But, Mr. Speaker, there is no way if, tomorrow, this government or the governments in the future wanted to, that they could not increase that number.

Mr. Speaker, it is done again on most occasions - and perhaps the party that I am a part of is just as much at fault as anyone else. I think there should be a committee of this House struck, perhaps even with some outside intervention, to make sure that at least we do not go any further, at least fifty-two would be the status quo for not only the immediate future but for many, many years to come. In fact, Mr. Speaker, I would recommend strongly that this committee would look into and debate whether or not it is necessary to burden the people of Newfoundland and Labrador with the cost of running this Assembly with the present fifty-two members.

Mr. Speaker, I hope there will be some provision. I hope the House Leader is listening to what I have to say, to the recommendation that a committee be struck, and that it would be advantageous for this House to remain stable and the numbers not go beyond the realm of sanity.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Mount Scio - Bell Island.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WALSH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am going to have only a few words on this bill, as well, along with my colleague and, someone told me, my cousin from St. John's East Extern.

A lot of things have been said about the bill, itself already, Mr. Speaker, in terms of the fact that it is a new and major initiative of this government. It is something that has been talked about, not just by the previous government, but by governments prior to them. It takes a while for a bill to come together, but I think all hon. members will be pleased with the new legislation regardless of where it started from or who initiated it. I think it has been talked about for years and years and it is good to see it has finally reached the floor of the House of Assembly,

Mr. Speaker, there are a couple of areas of the bill that I would like to touch on. One in particular is candidate endorsements. Far too often, and in the last election, I found myself trapped in a situation where people were not quite sure who the candidate was. I knew that I was the candidate for my party. I believe my friends in the NDP ran a Tim Walsh because they could not find a Jim Walsh. I do not know if there is any truth to that but some hon. members on the other side mentioned that to me. There was an independent candidate as well, Mr. Speaker, who ran at the time who had been a prior member of the House of Assembly. He ran as an independent and I found it a little difficult because his literature and mine were very much alike and the impression was left that he was the candidate of my party, and there was no such thing as an official endorsement so that people would know the difference.

Now, there was no trouble knowing who the PC candidate was. That was a chap by the name of Merle Vokey, although I have seen documentation lately that said otherwise, but I believe it was a Merle Vokey, an honourable gentleman and a pleasure to run against, not necessarily a pleasure to have defeated in the election, but he ran a very good and clean campaign. I think it is very important that endorsements by the parties you are representing will be a part of it, and I think that is something that is not just innovative but something that we should have in the Bill and I am glad to see it is there.

In terms of the parties endorsement a registered party may with respect to an election give its endorsement to only one candidate in each electoral district. Where a candidate has been given the endorsement of a registered party that also means that the candidate has the opportunity of having that endorsement on the ballot itself so that we can stand behind not only the campaign in the election we are running but also stand behind the history and the deeds that our parties have put forward. I can say, Mr. Speaker, without any degree of question that I am looking forward to having the name of my party behind my name in the next election, so I think those endorsements are very important. The fact that a candidate will stand up and declare that he represents a party regardless of what party it is, I think, is important as well.

There are a number of areas in there also, Mr. Speaker, in terms of the rights of the candidate, and I think, although in previous elections most of the rights were similar to what they are here, but it defines very clearly for all of those, in Section 101, that a candidate may personally undertake the duties that his or her scrutineer, if appointed, might have undertaken, or the candidate may assist his or her scrutineer in the performance of those duties and may be present at a place at which his or her scrutineer is authorized to attend. I think it spells it out very clearly because in the last election a number of candidates I know were having problems as to whether or not they were permitted to enter polling stations, and whether or not they could spend time in the polling stations, and whether they could even represent themselves at the end of the day for the count of the vote. In some particular polling stations where things may not have been exactly the way they should have, or in areas where throughout the day the candidate, or his people, may have been concerned about some of the activities that took place. I think it is important that the candidate himself may have the opportunity to enter that polling station and be there and act as his own scrutineer so that he can get a better understanding.

Again I reflect on my own election. In one particular polling station during the recount - and it was actually the very first poll that we counted, my opponent had sixty-odd votes and I had seventy-eight and there was some question as to whether or not the votes had been counted right and whether there had been some irregularities that day, to find that after counting the vote they had my numbers reversed. Instead of having actually seventy-eight votes I had eighty-seven votes, and instead of winning the election by twenty-seven votes it actually went up to thirty-seven so those kind of things can happen in the run of a day. We were aware right from the time the polls opened, within two hours, that there were apparent problems in that polling station, and sure enough we found that the numbers we had acquired at the end of the day were not exactly what they should have been. We had every right to have concern because there were ten votes there that we had missed. One of the other aspects of this Bill that other speakers have mentioned that is also important is the fact that the automatic recount is there and that a candidate and those who have endorsed him within his party, and those who have worked for him during the - well, twenty-one days at that time, now an expanded mandate - will know that they do not have to be concerned that if the vote was ten or less whether or not there will be a recount or whether or not their candidate has to force the issue. It will now be automatic.

Some people might wonder why ten votes, I guess, was a number that the Committee selected, or appears in the Bill. Mr. Speaker, historically we know of no election that has been overturned where there were more than ten votes acquired by the winning candidate. Rarely has it occurred where there have been less than ten. My hon. friend in St. John's South actually doubled his vote in his recount. He went up by 100 per cent, albeit, he went from a one vote to a two vote victory. But victory is sweet even at the count of two.

But those kinds of recounts will become automatic. I think that becomes important too, so that you do not have to wonder about should I or should I not do it, or pressure from people outside. Again, the number ten being selected mostly because of the fact that no one has lost an election on a recount with ten or more votes.

Something new and something a little different also that appears in this particular piece of legislation is the proxy vote. When a person produces to an election officer a proxy certificate entitling him or her to vote on behalf on another elector, under Section 86, at the polling station, that person may vote for the elector in the same manner as the elector could vote. Now under Section 86 they are allowed to do that for one person. So we will not see someone at the polling station with nine or ten proxies in their pocket so that they can vote for a group. They will be there to represent either someone in their family who, on that particular day, through illness or, as the Act says, a fisherman who, pray God, will be on the water trying to derive a livelihood for him and his family, that they may not be there. They tend to go out early in the morning and they come back late at night. Sometimes they actually miss a vote because of that.

Well, the spouse now or some member of their family can represent them at the polling station. That would allow that vote to count. The irony of it is, as I said, that that proxy vote becomes very important. I think the other thing to understand too is that that vote is simply there for one person.

One of the areas that I think is extremely important in this legislation is the expenses that politicians and candidates have to go through. One of the areas that has caused great concern is the election expenses itself. More particularly, the amount of funds that candidates and their representatives have to spend in terms of advertising and being able to promote themselves during a particular election. I was absolutely amazed in the last election that our companies -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. WALSH: Oh, a nominal amount.

AN HON. MEMBER: Three thousand dollars?

MR. WALSH: Less than $3,000, I believe, somewhere in that area, to win my seat. Less than that. I did not really need it. I suppose if I had spent more I probably would have gotten more votes. But I spent the required amount and -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. WALSH: No, no, didn't need any more money than that.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) votes?

MR. WALSH: Oh, only twenty-seven, but -

AN HON. MEMBER: Oh, that's not bad. I would have called it close (Inaudible).

MR. WALSH: Well, basically my heart went out to my opponents and I did not want the victory to be that large. I felt that it would be better to win it by a marginal vote than to devastate anyone's feelings or ego, and -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. WALSH: Oh yes. But next time I will probably spend an additional $100. Mr. Speaker, in terms of rates of advertising, I saw rates in the last election that my people were telling me about in terms of monies that were being spent. Two weeks before that we had purchased advertising with a particular media at a rate that was virtually less than half of what candidates had to spend all of a sudden because there was an election. Not only that, prior to the election all candidates know that if they wish advertising, it is cash up front. So not only were they paying cash in advance, they were also being penalized simply because they were supposedly one time candidates or one time rate payers so they were paying the highest possible rate that the medias: radio stations, television stations, and newspapers could take from them. That in itself, Mr. Speaker, cost, at no great benefit to anyone because we were not creating jobs by it, but thousands and thousands of dollars more than it should.

Well I am pleased in particular with section 303, the rates for advertising, and that charges and fees for a registered party or registered district association or a person acting on their behalf will not have to pay rates higher now than those that were posted by that particular media for twenty-one days prior to the election call so that the rate cards that existed twenty-one days prior to the writ being issued will now not have to pay any greater amount than someone who had been in business.

One of the other strange, and I guess different things that we ran into in our election was there were some people who wanted to donate space to us. By that I mean someone who had committed themselves to advertising in the newspaper for fifty-two weeks of the year were more than willing to donate to us their space. We found that when we inquired as to whether or not we could lift out that corporations ad and drop our ad in we found that no, that was not acceptable unless we paid the higher rate. That, Mr. Speaker, was a gouging of the system.

We found the same thing when we talked to other advertisers who were willing to donate radio time to us. They had committed themselves to fifty-two weeks of advertising with so many commercials a day, and they were willing to donate their time in particular to my own campaign only to find out it was not acceptable. They could not do it. I had to pay the much higher amount. The same thing happened in TV and in other medias.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to see that these rates and those kinds of actions cannot be taken by a company or a media. I am not saying this in order to zero in and to attack the media. Those were the rates, and that is the way they worked under those rates forever and a day because there really was not any guidance, there was not a direction being set for them that says: here is what you should be doing. Here is the direction you should be taking. No, you cannot bleed that much more money out. You could at least control some of the costs.

Under this Act where the amount of money that can be spent by each candidate is limited, it becomes very important that all of those who are seeking public office, that all of those seeking public office will know that not only are they controlled in terms of the monies they are allowed to spend, but that they are working from a level playing field; that individuals out there cannot gouge their campaigns for thousands and thousands of dollars that are not required to be paid.

We all know that elections become a real boom for the media because it is the best method for reaching the population of the Province or the population of a district. The section that we have now put into the legislation to offset that, I think, is something that is going to be welcomed by all candidates. It also allows an opportunity for people either seeking nominations, or for minority groups, to again be working from a level playing field - that the rates for them are no different than the rates for people who have been around for years and years and years. So I am pleased with that one in particular.

Another part of the legislation that I think we should be pleased with is the fact that there are adjustments and formulas in there to one, ensure that no more funds than have been allocated are being spent. Other members have touched on the amounts in question that are allowed to be spent, both in general elections and in by-elections, but those numbers - we know now that they are maximums. That makes it a lot fairer, and it also makes it a lot easier for again people who have a desire to be in politics but are afraid of the cost.

There are some people sitting in this hon. House who, in their own district, spent $30,000 or $35,000. Their campaigns were that high - yes - and it is very difficult for someone who may spend $30,000 - $35,000 to win a seat. For someone who is running against them to have maybe $5,000 or $10,000 to operate from, it becomes extremely difficult. Money becomes the focal point of whether one can win or lose. So the limits have now been set. You cannot exceed them, and should someone wish to exceed them, there are penalties there that would make one think twice as to whether or not they should or whether or not they would exceed the limits that have been put forward. I am pleased to see those limits, because expenses can creep up on you during an election. There are a lot of times when even campaign managers will pass down responsibilities, and people who are responsible for your funds transfer responsibilities to other people within the campaign. Some people tend not to be conscious of the budgets with which they have to work. Now not only do they have to be conscious of the amount of funds being spent, but they had also better be very aware of the problems that they will enter into, and also the fines and other things that may be dropped on them if they are not within the limits as set forward.

There is a concern that I have in part of the legislation that says that if there is a concern about the time limits - the time limit in terms of if more money was spent than should have been spent, or whether or not a person is aware of irregularities that took place - that an application shall be made within two months after the day on which the polling day was held for the election to which the application relates. Two months afterwards for someone to, I suppose, question that particular election could in itself cause a lot of problems. I am not sure if that is the outside date or not, because if something should happen within three months, should it then be brought before the chief returning officer or not? I think we are facing a situation where after two months, needless to say, after a general election, one can be absolutely sure that the House has been called together. One can be quite confident that a Cabinet has been formed, and that the Government members have taken their places and the direction has been set for that particular term of office for that Government. Likewise in Opposition, duties of the Opposition have been spelled out, that people have been appointed as shadow ministers, people have been appointed as opposition critics and are currently then very active in their roles. Well, within two months they could very easily find themselves either in court, or if they have not followed the guidelines of the Act, up to that point in time, they could very well find themselves being turfed out of the House and that is under Section 231. Some of the areas where questions could be asked, is, when an applicant questions the return of an election upon an allegation of a corrupt practice or an illegal practice and rightfully so, in those cases one should ask questions, or whether or not specifically, allegations are made that a payment of money may have been made outside the confines of the budgets that have been laid, or where a member, whose application or his return and his disclosure of funds spent are outside the parameters and have not been included.

I am not quite sure when the audit is finished whether or not, someone who may have gone over budget, which can happen, that this particular Bill does not allow for even a variance. If $20,000 is the amount that is allowed to be spent per district, what happens if the provincial party goes above what they are allowed to spend or through no fault of the candidate, those who are managing his campaign, because anyone in this House or anyone who has been involved in election campaigns knows that any candidate who hangs around his headquarters during an election has an excellent chance of losing, so, you have a candidate who is out, going door to door and attending meetings and meeting with the municipal officials and town officials, that his future is left in the hands of those who are managing his campaign, but the onus and the problems of any discrepancies that may occur, if I am interpreting the Bill correctly, falls on the head of the candidate, who is the individual who probably spends the least amount of time managing the funds that one, are coming in and two, are going out.

Mr. Speaker, we all know that during an election campaign, people working for their particular candidate can be a little more enthusiastic than they should be, can find themselves doubling up on certain expenditures and if that happens on a $20,000 campaign, if there are ten different groups out there and each of them has even a $4,000 budget apiece, if those ten groups were to go over budget by as little as $400 each, you would find that there was $24,000 spent on the campaign.

For us to believe that there are not going to be bills left over after a campaign, are only kidding ourselves, and by the time an audit is finished and by the time that is submitted, the chief electoral officer, the majority, no not the majority, all of those who would have been declared elected on election night would have now taken their seats in the House of Assembly, so that is an area that - I am not sure if it should be looked at, but I think it is an area not in terms of changing the Act, but I think it is a section of the Act that all those who wish to participate in public life should be very aware of because the onus is on the person elected, and that is something you have to be very careful of, and so I stress that, the Act is new, the Act changes dramatically a lot of the old rules which we are so used to. The rules under which we have been operating for - I guess since, 1949, I am groping but I think since 1949, and we are about to make major changes as to how elections are run, and I believe the onus is probably even so far as on this House of Assembly, to send, when appointed, our chief returning officer across the Province. Make them available to either recognised parties, so that they can hold seminars in various parts. Regardless of which party he meets with on one night, he should meet with the other group on another evening to make sure that everybody fully understands this Act, simply because it is new.

One would think that going into our fourth year as a Government that chances are sometime in the next eighteen months there would be an election. I think the onus is on this Legislature to make sure that not simply do we educate a half a dozen or so, or not that we take it upon ourselves that the candidates or the Members of the House of Assembly are familiar with it, but that every district association which have registered themselves with the chief returning officer should have an opportunity. They should land in Stephenville. The chief returning officer and his people should land in Stephenville and meet with people from that portion of the island. From LaPoile, Port au Port, Stephenville, St. George's. Meet with those district associations so that they fully understand. Then, move across the Province.

Now yes, we are talking about an expense, and yes, we are looking to incur costs. But I think also that the onus is on this House to ensure that as many as possible are fully aware of the implications of this Act. If there is anything I would ask this hon. House to do it is to ensure that collectively Members on both sides do everything they can to make sure that those people out there who are carrying our party banners - regardless of which party it is - or those who are keenly interested in elections, should make sure that the general public, to the greatest extent, is aware of this Act. Because the repercussions on anyone who wishes to offer themselves are tremendous. Second to that, the repercussions on the people who are elected are also significant.

So I conclude my remarks today by saying that an important piece of legislation, one that I believe will govern us probably for the next, maybe, ten, twenty elections. It has taken us since 1949 until now to see major changes in the Elections Act, and I tend to think that we could be well into 2040 before someone takes a decision to take a look at it again.

AN HON. MEMBER: You don't expect to be seeking nomination then?

MR. WALSH: No, I am going to retire I think around 2020. I do not see any need to spend more time in public life than....

AN HON. MEMBER: You will have a pension by then.

MR. WALSH: No, in actual fact I should say to the hon. Member who said to me that I will probably have my pension then, that what it has cost me in payments that I would normally make to my RRSPs, this pension is not going to help out at all, I can assure you of that. So it is costing me far more than I will gain from the pensions.

But again, Mr. Speaker, in closing I will simply say that the Bill is important. It is an important new Act. But I emphasize again that the onus is not simply on the Members of this House to be familiar with it. The onus is going to be on the new chief returning officer who I believe will be approved by this House of Assembly. The onus is on that particular group to make sure that over the next twelve to eighteen months, whatever it is to the next election, to visit as many areas of this Province as possible so that all those who are involved in elections will have full and thorough knowledge of this so that they do not find themselves within a month or two months after an election having either: one, charges pressed against them because of contravention of the Act; or two, being brought to task because of irregularities that may have come about simply because of their knowledge of the history as opposed to the current Act.

So, Mr. Speaker, I conclude my remarks by saying that all of us should be familiar with it and all of us should recommend that the new chief returning officer tours the Province so that as many people as possible in Newfoundland can be familiar with this Bill.

Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Green Bay.

MR. HEWLETT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I just want to have one quick word on this particular Bill. I was around in the days, as an employee of the former administration, when some of the rough drafting of this final product -

AN HON. MEMBER: Nonsense.

MR. HEWLETT: Oh yes, you will find the rough drafts in the files. Don't worry.

I would like to pick up on a point that the Member for Mount Scio -Bell Island just made. That is the administration of elections at the local level, at the district association level, at the campaign headquarters level, is done by volunteers. I agree with him wholeheartedly, and I think this House should seriously consider his remarks in that regard in that volunteers are going to have extra responsibilities put upon them, and there should be an educational program to ensure that the new Act is complied with and people do not accidentally get themselves into trouble.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

It is a pleasure again to rise and make a few comments in the debate on this very significant piece of legislation that is before the House of Assembly at this time.

Certainly I am delighted that the hon. Member for Green Bay did interject for a few seconds, because it reminded me of a couple of things that I otherwise might have forgotten to say about where this came from, how important it is, how long it has been around, and what kind of an initiative it is and so on. I am sure that he will get wind of my comments at some future time.

Certainly it has been interesting from the point of view that - before I deal with three or four items in the actual legislation, in the Act itself, in the Bill itself, that I would like to refer to, there has been a small bit of politics played with this piece of legislation so far. I would like to just go on record as re-affirming and making sure that it is clear that this is, without apology to anybody, a Liberal initiative; and that the group on the other side - the members opposite - have, on a number of occasions, either by raising sort of silly little questions about who drafted this kind of stuff to try to suggest there was something wrong with who drafted it and how it got drafted, or to make suggestions like the hon. Member did today before he left the legislature on other business, which I am sure occupies his time a lot, to suggest that this drafting was done and started a long time ago. I guess it was. That shows why it is such an important initiative for this group and this Government to bring forward.

In fact, ever since the early seventies, when the previous group were in charge of the administration of Government in the Province, they had an opportunity, and even spoke out loud from time to time about the need for significant electoral reform within the Province. But on balance, every single time they looked at it, for their own self-preservation, and no other motive that anybody can actually pin down with any degree of certainty, they decided, each time when they looked at it - there are drafts around - I am sure there are drafts around twenty-five years old, but each time as soon as they drafted it they came to one conclusion - that the legislation as it is gives a decided distinct advantage to the party in power. Their objective was not the objective that is being presented in this legislation now, to have a fair, open, clean, clear, electoral system that gives the people of the Province a choice in a proper electoral setting. Their choice each time was to look at it on balance and say: we know that fundamentally some of these things are wrong. We understand that. There should be changes, but if we change - if we make the change - then the other crowd over there in Opposition, who happened to be Liberals at the time, sure they will have a better chance of actually competing on a fair basis with us. Therefore, we do not want that, because we want to stay in and we don't care if they ever get back in, and we don't want the people to have a fair chance or a fair choice or anything else. We want to stack the cards in our favour, which was certainly possible under the existing Act. They could use the briefest possible time lines, sneak in sudden snap elections, allow practically no time for nominations, have no control over funding and financing, do all kinds of strange and wonderful things that always, because of the element of surprise and so on, worked in the favour of the party in power.

Every now and then there would be a little sort of twinge or pang of conscience. Somebody would look at it, maybe even someone who was affiliated with the Progressive Conservative government at the time, and they would say: you know, we should go back to our draft because there are some things here that are not fair. There are some things here that are just not right. There are some things here that are absolutely wrong. There are some things here that should be corrected.

But I am sure that in their own caucus meetings that would come up for a little while, and maybe the hon. Member for Green Bay is right. I am sure he is right. That there were times when he sat as an advisor in the Premier's office, to the former Premier Peckford, that he may have even been involved in conversations where they might have sat down someday, probably with a cigar paid for by the people of the Province, probably with a cucumber hanging out of their hip pocket, and saying: you know, that Election Act, you know, there's something wrong with that, that should be fixed. That's not fair to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. Not fair to the electorate. There are really things in there that are fundamentally wrong. Then they would sit back again probably late on a Friday afternoon with their legs up on a desk or something, chatting away. They would say: now boys, we know its wrong but, you know, we want to get back in here. The best chance we have of getting back in is leaving it just like it is, warts and all.

So they can talk about drafts and so on, and I am sure that they existed. They probably existed ever since 1971 or 1972, because I am sure there are some fair-minded people who just happened to be Conservative who also just happened to get elected to the House of Assembly. I do not know how it happens, because the fair-minded people that I know of have always been Liberal in persuasion. Or at least even when they have had other persuasions in their life previously, they have seen the light and become Liberal. So there is no question of that.

But on balance every time the other group would come to the conclusion that: no, we will leave in place an act respecting elections that gives favour to the governing party. That the idea of fairness for the electorate so that they would make an educated, intelligent, unbiased, unpressured decision as to who they want to put into office to run the affairs of the Province, that that was not the consideration. The consideration was: let's leave the thing as it is so that we can do things on as short a notice as possible, catch the other crowd with their trousers down as often as possible, keep them at a disadvantage, and try to win another election before their crowd even wakes up and knows what they are entitled to under the Act.

So we recognise that as much as somebody certainly probably discussed it, on balance fairness did not rule the day at all with the previous administration. This group, having looked at it for a couple of years, and having talked about it in the previous election as an issue, that the people of Newfoundland and Labrador actually deserved better. That the people of this Province in dealing with elections, their democratic right to choose who is in here making laws, rules and regulations on their behalf, they deserve better than to have a piece of legislation in place that allows them to be manipulated.

There are a number of changes in this Act, significant, while they may have been drafted before, this time drafted by a group of committed Liberals, committed to the idea that these fundamental changes would be put in place. No question about it. That these changes would be brought forward. The whole notion, the whole genesis of it would be that a commitment to fairness and balance for the electorate would show itself through the initial discussions and would come through all of the drafting stages, and would show up as a Bill that would actually govern the way that future elections in the Province will be conducted.

We are convinced on balance, while there are some things in here, as other Members have pointed out in their addresses to this Legislature, that still need some scrutiny and attention. Because there are some things that put some pressure on volunteer representatives in local riding associations and so on. It was pointed out by the hon. Member for Green Bay. There are other things that are going to be significant changes that will take a period of time for people to get used to the new structure and the new way that things are going.

But the driving force behind it is the notion that there has to be an electoral system put in place that respects the integrity and the right of the electors to go to the polls without being manipulated and to be able to openly and freely express their choice as to who they want representing them in the House of Assembly in a Legislature. There are a number of things I would like to look at for a couple of minutes, Mr. Speaker, if I could. Probably first and foremost is the notion of changing the amount of time required for actual notice of an election, because everybody knows in the past that with the twenty-one day notice, that twenty-one days, when taken to advantage by a governing party, becomes much less than that for anybody that does not know when the call is going to occur and then has to scramble and try to get candidates in place. Then the next thing you know you only end up with five, six, seven, or eight days to actually have candidates going around the district trying to contact constituents, trying to contact the residents of the area to try and present to them reasons why they should vote for one candidate or the other, one party of the other, and so on.

By moving to a more reasonable time of twenty-eight days there is a significant move to show the people that there is going to be respect shown for the point of view that they should be given - not the parties or not the candidates, but the people should be given adequate time to see these candidates on display so that they can arrange to see them either at the door, in rallies, at meetings, in debates, or whatever might have to occur in that period of time. It had occurred in previous elections that it was almost impossible sometimes for even interest groups and so on in a constituency, in a riding, to even find a way to get the candidates together because other than the party in power, of course, that had total control over calling it, and maybe even had their nominations in place months and years before, and those kind of things which could still happen, I suppose, depending on how well you plan.

AN HON. MEMBER: In 1985 the Government changed (inaudible) three weeks and gone to four weeks.

MR. GRIMES: There is no question that if people had that time to have access to the candidates so that they could make a fair assessment as to which candidate in an individual riding was offering the best leadership that would reflect the views of the constituents, and which party was offering the best platform, and those kind of things, if they could be actually considered and thought about in a reasoned and rational way, probably the experience in 1985 when everybody in this House - and people on the other side never got such a fright in their lives as to what happened in 1985, that with all the controls and manipulation they had to their advantage with the current act they recognized in every poll, they told them, that had this thing gone another few days you people were sunk. The only thing that saved you was the fact that you rushed this thing in, squeezed it in, jammed it in, gave the minimum time lines, and just barely got in under the wire, absolutely finished there was no doubt about it. With those kind of things it was clear that when you are committed, as this particular party is, and this Government is, to a fairer system, a fair electoral system, even a change such as that which guarantees that even with the notice of twenty-eight days that there is going to be two and a half or three weeks where the electorate in a district are going to know who the candidates are, they are going to have a chance to confront them on issues, they are going to have a chance to meet them at the doorstep, they are going to have a chance to question them, and they are going to have a chance in a reasoned fashion to make a real determination as to who they think is the best candidate and the best party to represent them following that election.

The other item which may be minor by way of comparison from many other things is the whole notion that in this Province as elsewhere a number of factors seem to have something to do with how people vote. The person is certainly one of them, although I suppose all of us in here would be too modest to suggest that the people in our district thought we were the best people, but the person himself has something to do with it. The leader of the party has something to do with it. People make their decision as to who they would like to be Premier of the day and those kind of things. The burning issues of the day certainly have something to do with it, but there are still a certain portion of people who vote because they are committed to a certain party affiliation.

There have been times in the past with the kinds of things where there were names involved. Even in a by-election just recently, two people with the same family name. That there needs to be some time - for people for which the party affiliation is one of their major considerations -, there needs to be a way to indicate the official party affiliation of the people who are involved in the electorate. The opportunity of course would be there for that to occur so that people will know that if that is important for them. They will go in and look at a list of names. Even if they were not that interested in the people running, or the issues of the day, or the leaders, if they are interested in voting for the party then they need to have a way so that they know where that is clearly designated. Even small changes like that are a great help to people who want to make that one of their major considerations in elections and how they vote, and their determination for what is going to happen at the end of the day, and what will be the decision making group for the next three or four years following.

You notice there has always been in the past a lot of concern, a lot of effort put into organizing people who are outside of their normal district but would like to vote in the district of their home origin. We have all kinds of special polls that we currently have available under the existing legislation. The focus of attention lots of times occurs at our institutions, such as the University, the community colleges and so on, where a lot of effort goes into making sure that these young people are given the opportunity to vote for a candidate of their choice back in the district where they ordinarily live.

Everybody on the opposite side knows, for example, how very pleased again back in 1985 the current Leader of the Opposition was that somebody had done a good organizational campaign for them at the campus. The Leader of the Opposition retired for the evening having gone on the public airwaves of central Newfoundland, ready to concede defeat.

MR. MATTHEWS: Not so! Not so! He called the NDP candidate (Inaudible)!

AN HON. MEMBER: Tell it like it is!

MR. GRIMES: And indicating, and everybody in the public being aware, that the counts known to that point in time indicated that the Member there had gone down to defeat. The news in the morning was that: oh, there had been a great change overnight, because the special poll from the University had been late coming in.

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

MR. GRIMES: There had been a good job done by the organizers.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. MATTHEWS: Yes, point of order, Mr. Speaker. The point of order being that I enjoyed for the most part the hon. gentleman's speech, but I mean he cannot get away with fabricating the truth. What he is saying now is not the truth. That indeed that night the now Leader of the Opposition knew before he went to bed that the result was in from the University and that he had defeated the NDP candidate, Mr. Blackmore. He had called Mr. Blackmore before he gave a speech to his workers who thought he had won. Mr. Blackmore ignored the advice that he had lost the election, went in front of his people and told them he had won, knowing full well he had lost. Now, that is the truth of the matter. So I wanted to go on record as -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. MATTHEWS: Well, but it is a truthful story!

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

AN HON. MEMBER: That's not true!

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

To that point of order. There is clearly no point of order. The hon. Member is using the point of order, I guess, to clarify an issue.

The hon. the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations.

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It sounds good enough to me. So just to continue the publicly accepted and known version of what occurred in the district of Grand Falls in 1985 versus a private version that Members opposite might like to spread around because it makes them feel better.

I am talking about the news media in central Newfoundland, the members of the general public in central Newfoundland, all of whom were following this particular election in that area with some interest. Because here was a leading Cabinet Minister of the then government of the day going down to defeat by the upstart NDP, which nobody thought had a chance to do anything. One of their main star players who they now, for some reason - and I have to refer to this again. I guess when nobody else wanted the job, when nobody wanted the job to be the Leader of the Opposition, they went around - I have to throw this in as just an aside - for three or four months with no leader.

They had a leader in place who had retired. They had a leadership contest called; in which nobody would run. Even the current Leader of the Opposition called a press conference and indicated: I am not running, I am not interested. Believe me, I do not want this job. I am not interested, I do not want it. This same person, who then for some reason - and we understand now, by the way, we understand now that the same thing applies, that any time he is uncertain as to anything he should say or do, he goes home to check with his son, because the only reason he ran, was because his son said: Dad boy, there is nobody else who is going to run, you should do it, and then he came out and told the world at another press conference: I went home and my son told me yes Dad, you should be Leader of the Opposition, you know.

I mean he had checked with family, friends, party workers, comrades and colleagues in the House of Assembly and told the world, no, no, we are not interested, I do not want this job; you know, I am too tired here, I have been elected ten or twelve or thirteen years, I have had enough of this kind of stuff and I might not even run in the next election, so I certainly do not want to be your leader, I just do not have the spirit and the get up and go for it. I would probably rather spend some more time home with the family and those kinds of things, those things are important because it has been a long, rough hard ten years and all of a sudden, when nobody else came forward, not another soul in Newfoundland and Labrador, not one, I could not believe it, not a single soul out of 560,000 - now I understand that some of them are under the age of eighteen and probably were not allowed to be leader, but out of the rest of them there had to be 250,000 or 300,000 who could have come forward, met all the residency requirements, even under the new Act or whatever act, they could have met every requirement and they could have run for leader of that group. Not a soul, so upon a quick re-assessment, the family was called together again, and I do not speak lightly or downplay anyone having his family involved in those kinds of decisions because they should be, but certainly goodness, if his young son is going to determine whether or not - is going to be the deciding factor in whether or not he should be leader, maybe he should have let his son run for leader-

AN HON. MEMBER: Yes, hear, hear!

MR. GRIMES: - because at least he was interested in the job and I am sure that if his young son was over there as Leader of the Opposition, he would not be running home saying: Dad, what do you thing I should say about this boy, what do you think I should say about that? But we are not sure now based on the record so far, probably is the fact, that that is how the opposition decides their strategy from day to day.

What I have been told - and I will admit before I say it, I do not know if this is true or not - but it has been repeated to me that after the Opposition holds a caucus meeting and decide on a certain course of action, the Leader says: okay, provided my son agrees. He goes back makes a quick call and he says if he thinks it is a good idea, we will probably go ahead with it, and that is the kind of thing that we have.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. GRIMES: I am sorry about that, Mr. Speaker, because it was a slight diversion and a little bit of a detraction from what I was getting at. I was getting at the publicly known account of what happened in 1985, because I want to talk about these proxy votes and so on.

In 1985, whether what occurred in the version presented by the hon. Opposition House Leader is accurate or not, this thing about people went and talked to people and certain speeches were made, the public version is that the ordinary residents, the voters of Central Newfoundland went to bed to newscasts saying: One big shocking upset, that a Cabinet Minister, and at that time, a seven or eight time Member of the Cabinet of the Government of the day, had gone down to defeat at the hands of the NDP, and the morning news came on and said: No, we have a change. A late poll came in, which happened to be the poll from the University, and it flipped the results - no, no, it was all fair and fine, I understand all that, I am just getting to the point- that it is important that these people be organized so that they can vote in their district and in fact, the members opposite and their leader are certainly delighted that that provision was there and is there.

Now, it is there this time in a much fairer way, because we have the system where everybody, not only students on a campus, but any Newfoundland resident eligible to vote anywhere, who is not able to vote in the district, but would like to, can use the proxy system to do so and because it will be organized and structured and done in advance and so on and counted at the time, we won't have those kinds of twists occurring, that you won't have the Leader of the Opposition going to bed defeated and waking up elected or vice versa. It will be organized and structured such that all this information will come in at the appropriate time, and people will know the outcome of the election as the evening finishes. But, certainly, Mr. Speaker, it is a significant change again to move away from special ballots in special locations to having a proxy system. Once all of us get used to the system and learn how to organize properly under the new rules, I am sure that, on balance, most people will say this is a much better system.

A couple of other items, Mr. Speaker. Some of these I am just saying out loud so that the members opposite - the leaderless members opposite - will make mental notes of them and see whether or not it makes sense for them.

One of the issues that arises from time to time - it almost arose for that same member back in 1985 - was the idea of recounts, when matters were really close and we needed some recounts.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. members if they have to engage in conversation that they do so outside the Chamber. It is very difficult for the Chair to hear the hon. minister, and I ask all hon. members to co-operate so that the hon. member can make his presentation.

The hon. the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations.

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

I appreciate that, because actually I was just about to get to the two most significant points I was going to make in my short few minutes.

One, very briefly, is the whole issue that has arisen from time to time and comes up in most elections, and very important, actually, in the last election. Many people will recall that in the election of 1989, a number of seats were decided by rather narrow margins. I had the great fortune of winning by the massive total of forty-one. It was very, very refreshing and so on to know that there were that many people above and beyond the other crew that had not got totally enlightened at the time that recognized that this was the right group to support. Maybe they will be as kind as those forty-one, and a few others might even vote the same way again next time. We don't know yet. We never know because it is a secret ballot. But there was even consideration, in that case, of a recount, because candidates who had not been successful were considering a recount. I mention that to the point that the onus though was on the candidate. As has been pointed out here before, by a colleague of mine from St. John's South, who knows quite a bit about recounts, and is actually probably a much better man for the experience and now ready to face anything that happens because he recognizes that under the current system, while it had to be initiated by someone else, it is a fair process. It did show that if there were any difficulties and so on they would have been ironed out, and he was satisfied that justice was done, and so on. Now, the notion of an individual who had gone through an election campaign then having to initiate that process will, of course, disappear. The Chief Electoral Officer, using his or her best judgement, will determine on what basis recounts should occur, if necessary. Of course, knowing full well that this House of Assembly will only appoint a proper, impartial unbiased person to the position, then you know that you are going to get fair and proper treatment in terms of the Chief Electoral Officer. So the recounts will become automatic. They will be handled as a matter of course, and we won't have to go through this idea of petitioning the courts, and this and that and something else, which adds a tremendously onerous burden to the candidate involved.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, a couple of comments about the fact that this time, as well, in this new bill, there is an outright, unabashed, unapologetic attempt to make sure that there is some proper control and documentation, and so on, of spending in elections. Many times you will have members opposite, in particular, trying to suggest - and I want to conclude with these few remarks, because they try to suggest many things, because they suggest it based on their experiences and how they had operated. They often suggest that there are irregularities in terms of how money may have exchanged hands, or how money may have passed from a person to another, or from a party to another. The only thing I have ever been able to conclude from that is that they would only suggest that there was some impropriety in how money was transferred from one person to another, or from a person to a political party, because they were involved in it and engaged in it. They must have known of it from some kind of experience because certainly, to someone like myself, that is pretty well a foreign concept. The thought really wouldn't cross your mind to have any money involved in an election campaign other than what was spelled out by the terms and conditions in the Act. And for the group opposite, on a regular basis in the House of Assembly, and outside from time to time, to suggest that elected members engage in some kind of funny manipulation of money other than what was permitted and required in the Act, can only lead you to conclude that they must have been involved in that kind of stuff, that it was normal for them, and that they would assume that everybody else was at it because it seemed to be a natural thing to do. I can only suggest that I find that a little bit strange and sometimes offensive, because it is, to a normal fair-minded person and to most Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, something that they wouldn't even consider being involved in. And this new Act, Mr. Speaker, goes a long way towards making sure that the rules are clear, open, above board for everybody to see, and that that kind of innuendo and accusation should disappear from the election scene so that everybody is convinced they are operating in a fair, unbiased, proper system.

I will conclude my few remarks with that comment, Mr. Speaker, and commend everybody's attention to the bill and hope that it gets the support required at the appropriate time. Thank you very much.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. DICKS: The hon. members opposite are in the habit of asking rhetorical questions, Mr. Speaker, which, by definition, do not need to be answered.

I want to first of all commend my colleagues who spoke immediately preceding me, the Member for Exploits, as well as the Member for Mount Scio - Bell Island. Having listened to them and the benefit of it, the Opposition, I noticed, have not risen to speak. I think they have very little left unanswered or unaddressed with respect to the bill before us.

I note a couple of comments by the Member for Exploits and the hon. minister that probably need a degree of correction. The first is with respect to how the Opposition caucus runs its business. To start with, I am told - and, of course, I don't know the young man.

MR. TOBIN: (Inaudible).

MR. DICKS: Well, Mr. Speaker, the idea of a beard is a very Shakespearean notion, one that the hon. member may be given to using, but not myself.

May I say, Mr. Speaker, that with respect to the manner in which the Opposition caucus runs its business, we are told by the Member for Exploits, the hon. minister, that at one point they consulted the Leader of the Opposition's son. I don't know the gentleman in question, but I am told that practice is now abandoned because they found it somewhat slim pickings.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. DICKS: With respect to how they now manage it -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. DICKS: I think so, yes.

With respect to how they now manage it, I am told that because of the fear and trepidation that the Member for Exploits identified, that the Opposition House Leader feels for the NDP, he now generally sends the emissary from Humber East to the Member for St. John's East to make sure that the policies are in accordance with the Loyal Opposition and the notable Opposition.

Mr. Speaker, it is always a pleasure to rise in the House. I do it very rarely and only on occasions that seem to demand some attention, but the question of the elections act and the reforms that this new Act brings into being are ones that most people in this Province will welcome. The hon. members have identified the issues that it does address. The whole question of election finances is one that has been in need of some clearing up in quite some time. Those of us who had the opportunity to work on the Act and review it can appreciate the degree of improvement it makes with respect to current procedures that are in effect.

The first of these, and most noticeable for members, is that the time period is lengthened from twenty-one to approximately thirty days. That will give us all a little more time to prepare and to meet our constituents when we are looking to receive their support. Too often in the past, it has been the case that members were not nominated until they were well into the election.

MR. TOBIN: (Inaudible).

MR. DICKS: Well, I am being encouraged. I don't know what it is I am going to say that so concerns the hon. member opposite, but should the House wish to move to vote on the bill, I am certainly prepared to do so.

MR. TOBIN: Okay. Question! Question!

MR. DICKS: Well, I will certainly put it to the hon. House Leader that should he want to bring it to that point, we certainly can. I don't know what it is the members opposite are seeking to avoid. I mentioned watching finances and that seemed to trigger this response, so perhaps I should continue on for a minute or two with the leave of the hon. Member for St. John's South.


MR. DICKS: Mr. Speaker, I just wanted to give the hon. members time to canvass their vote counts and otherwise strut their electoral stuff. The question,I think, that will be answered by this Act is the extent to which election finances will be improved. As it stands right now,the reporting requirements simply aren't there. There are no limits to contributions made by individuals, corporations, or trade unions. What this Act will do, I think, is regularize the monitoring of election finances, prevent political parties from being owned by any particular individuals, corporations, trade unions, or employers' associations in the Province. The result of that, I believe, will be, Mr. Speaker, that those of us who are involved in the political process can do so freely without feeling that we have any particular debts to pay through any great contributors, and that, on the one hand, while some individuals and parties may find it more difficult to raise money because of the limits that are set, others will feel a certain freedom in not being beholden to any particular group or individuals within the Province. These limits, Mr. Speaker, are quite adequately set forth. There is an aspect to which, and by which, one can make cash donations but the limits in the case of an individual of $2500 and in the case of a corporation or a trade union in the amount of $10,000 are, I believe, more than reasonable to accommodate reasonable political contributions to any party within this Province. Goods and services have, of course, to be valued. The system, itself, is very closely patterned after that of the federal government and,on a provincial basis,that which was brought into effect in New Brunswick some time ago.

Mr. Speaker, with respect to the offenses that are in the Act, I believe people will take comfort from knowing that they have been broadened, that electoral practices which seem to be corrupt or illegal will be prosecuted in a more forthright fashion. One difficult aspect to avoid is the use of the word 'knowingly' in these charges. That particular word makes it somewhat more difficult to prove charges in court but yet, on the other hand, it is perhaps not fair to individuals to prosecute them for technical infringements of the Act, of which they may not have been aware.

What we have to remember in the Province, Mr. Speaker, is that we have a lot of people who are involved in the electoral process who do not have a lot of background in the management of political campaigns nor of monitoring contributions and we have to make appropriate allowances for honest mistakes. I think the Act has struck a good balance between deliberate non-compliance or contravention of the Act and allowing for a degree of appropriateness with respect to the individuals we expect to see in our parties helping us put our issues before the electorate.

MR. TOBIN: (Inaudible).

MR. DICKS: I am working on three.

The other thing we might note, Mr. Speaker, that is of benefit to all of us in the House, is that there is a limit to the amount of money that can be spent in any particular district, based on the number of electors. The principle behind this is that no one should be able to buy an election and I believe the amounts that are reasonable, considering the current cost of running elections, procuring advertising, and making it fair, is between individuals. The other aspect that I think is equally fair and which has been done for quite some time by the federal government, is to allow for a refund of amounts spent by political parties in having their candidates elected. If, on the one hand, we are to limit contributions to political parties, the offsetting public policy decision is to allow some of those expenses to be refunded to the candidates who often are put through that expense themselves, and as well as to political parties. Any monies raised in excess of the amounts allowed have to be refunded or passed over to the electoral officer at certain times.

We might note as well that the limits that are given in any particular year are in effect doubled if an election is called. This as well allows for the proper running of an election campaign which, as we all know, can be quite expensive.

The Act, as you are also aware, provides for the setting up of an advisory committee which is going to be representative from every registered party that fields at least 50 per cent candidates, taking into account the total number of electoral districts in the Province. Those individuals who will sit on that committee will persist over a period of time, and will have the right to make recommendations to the chief electoral officer for reform.

AN HON. MEMBER: Call it five o'clock, Paul.

MR. DICKS: You want to call it five?

Mr. Speaker, I guess the only thing one might say in reviewing the Act as a whole is that what is implicit in the Act, and which is now being done by the electoral office, is trying to bring the whole electoral process in the Province up to modern standards. On the one hand that consists of reform of the current Elections Act to bring it into keeping with modern political theory, both with respect to the running of elections and also with respect to contributories to the political process. Those should be appropriately monitored and controlled, both in terms of the limit of donations, and also as I mentioned earlier, the counter principle that the public as a whole bears some responsibility in the process and should thereby contribute back some amount to the individual parties in running the election.

The other part of it that is integral to the proper running of elections is the proper preparation of polling information. As many of us found in the last provincial election, the polls that were done were not very accurate. As much as 25 per cent of the poll information that we had in the district of Humber West simply did not reflect the people in the district - where they lived, the number of people in a household. What is being done in the electoral offices, for which I was responsible when I was Minister of Justice, is to try to bring that information current. Computers are now being used to put that information on a regular basis so that, if and when an election is called, that information can be immediately provided to members, and perhaps in computer form so that it can be used by them in running their own individual offices during the campaign. That, I think, will assist us all.

What we sometimes forget, in the heat of partisanship and putting our issues before the people of the Province, is that we as members owe an obligation to our constituents. First of all, to contact each of them to put our positions forward as to what we think of what is happening - what our party policies are - and to try to solicit from our constituents what their views are as well. If we are unable to identify who our constituents are, that whole process will simply not take place. Therefore, I think it is to be welcomed that provisions for the electoral preparation, the list of electors in Division B, and Division C, the preparation of the polls have been improved and now in a more administrative rather than a formal level in the Act will be brought into the computer age at this somewhat late date.

Mr. Speaker, the other thing that would concern us as well, there is a provision for proxy votes. This is a provision that the Federal Government has used very effectively in the past, and I think to some extent has not been sufficiently defined in the Province. We have many people from time to time who are hospitalized and may be absent who would wish to vote but cannot, so that the provisions respecting that, I believe, will help their ability to vote when they otherwise could not.

Mr. Speaker, just in closing I believe it would be clear to all who peruse the Act that there are some, what would be called housekeeping provisions of the Act, that have been updated and improved. We should expect to see from this a better running of the electoral office based on sound or more explicit principles in the Elections Act. Beyond that, Mr. Speaker, in point of political principle, the whole aspect of election finances in part three, which comprises approximately seventy sections of the Act will only serve to make our political process more open, more aboveboard and more beneficial to the people of the Province who can expect that political parties will not be beholden to any particular interest group, but will try to fairly address the concerns of the Province without any undue partisanship.

For these reasons, Mr. Speaker, I would commend this Act as being a significant and acceptable advance on the Acts that we have had in this Province prior to this time, and I think that we would all welcome it and hopefully vote for it. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

If he speaks now, he closes the debate.

MR. BAKER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, it was not very long ago that I introduced this particular Bill for second reading in the House. At that point in time I described the process by which the Bill was developed. I described the commitment that we have had to producing this Bill in this House, and since then I have listened to comments, mostly from this side of the House and a few interjections from the other side of the House, it seemed as if the interjections from the other side of the House dealt with the fact that somehow in the far distant past, the dark and distant past, that they had a hand in this piece of legislation.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. BAKER: Now, that seemed to be, Mr. Speaker, their contribution to this debate, that they had a hand in this piece of legislation. They are trying to somehow get themselves tied to what is happening here today. Somehow, they want to make it clear that they too thought of electoral reform; that they too put together documents, that they too recognized that what we are doing here is something that had to be done and would improve the electoral system in this Province. And, Mr. Speaker, I am suspicious about what they are saying because I believe that their ulterior motive was also to, in a kind of backhanded way, say that I was not telling the truth when I introduced the Bill. Now, Mr. Speaker, I just want to reiterate what I said at that point in time, because it is important to make that point again.

Mr. Speaker, this Bill, this piece of legislation is a Liberal Bill, no doubt about it; it is a Liberal Bill. Granted a few years ago, when we were planning for the last election, one of the things we discussed in the back rooms and discussed in our little cubbyholes of offices that we were given, Mr. Speaker, two people in an office - one of the things we discussed was the need for electoral reform -

MR. DECKER: Clean up the Government, clean up the elections.

MR. BAKER: - clean up the process. Clean up the electoral process, Mr. Speaker, and we made a vow at that point in time, when we had the opportunity, we would do it. So, the idea was conceived by a group of Liberals, not a single Tory there at that point in time when the idea was conceived, not a single one. This can be verified by the Minister of Health, not one.

Now, Mr. Speaker, we put it to the people in the Liberal Party and it became one of our main planks in our platform in the last election, and it was accepted by the Liberal Party and as far as I know, when it was accepted by the Liberal Party, I didn't see any Tories around. It was a Liberal idea nurtured and brought forth by a Liberal Party. Now, Mr. Speaker, we won the election. It was a squeaker, but we managed to win the election. Well, this is one of our main planks. Now, Mr. Speaker, what did we do then? Did we then search back through the dusty old files of eight, ten, fifteen, or seventeen years before? Did we go and search through those files, Mr. Speaker? No. These files were covered in dust. There are many files filled with dust, Mr. Speaker. And there may, indeed, be some good ideas in there that were shelved by hon. gentlemen opposite. We didn't go back through the files. We didn't need to go back through the files. All we needed to do, Mr. Speaker, was start to put together a piece of legislation to reform the electoral process in this Province. We didn't have to go back through the old files. Mr. Speaker, I suspect if we went back through the files, what we would find wouldn't be satisfactory, anyway.

Mr. Speaker, a committee was put together, and this committee was a committee - there were two committees, really. There was a committee of officials, and included on that committee of officials was the Chief of Staff in the Premier's office, Mr. Edsel Bonnell. On that committee there were public servants. These public servants are neutral. Even though they were appointed by members opposite, they are neutral, not a Tory amongst them, and the Chief of Staff, Mr. Bonnell.

AN HON. MEMBER: That great Liberal.

MR. BAKER: That great Liberal. Mr. Speaker, there was another committee, and the other committee was made up of Liberal Party people. You may recognize some of the names: Norm Whalan, who was President of the party a couple of years ago, was on the committee, and another great Liberal, also a lawyer, Ed Roberts, the current Minister of Justice was on that committee. And, Mr. Speaker, there was a party committee that also worked on the bill. And when they put things together, then we brought it to Cabinet and caucus, and, as I pointed out, there wasn't a single Tory laid an eyeball on it, as I described it. Not a single Tory laid an eyeball on it.

So, it is a Liberal bill, conceived, developed, and refined by Liberals. We make no apology for that. Then, of course, once we had that process in place and once we developed the bill, and once it was accepted by caucus, and once it was accepted by the Cabinet and the Liberal committees working on it, then and only then did we bring it to this hon. House and put it before a committee of this hon. House - the first time Tory eyeballs were laid on this bill.

The committee has done its job. The committee has gone around the Province. They have distributed copies of the bill all around this Province.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. BAKER: Well they have had public hearings. They distributed the bill around the Province, had public hearings, received input, and we fully expect that when we get along to further debate on this bill later in the session, in the Committee stage, we fully expect that this Committee will report back its findings and perhaps suggest some changes. Who knows? There have been a lot of changes in the process. There has been a lot of valuable input by the committee, by caucus, by Cabinet, and there have been changes; but it is a bill that is designed solely to make the electoral process a better one in this Province.

Now, Mr. Speaker, one of the members opposite on the committee that was examining the bill, the hon. the Member for Kilbride, I believe, tried to get a little bit of coverage in the media. What he did was, he wondered if somehow this bill was associated with Liberals. Who was associated with the bill, and is there some nefarious scheme here? Could this possibly be a bill that was developed by Liberals? He made a great show of wondering. He wanted to know the names of the people on the committee, because it should have involved, I guess, members opposite is what he was considering, or members of the Tory Party. It was carried in the press a number of times, as if there were some nefarious scheme here to develop a Liberal bill.

Well, Mr. Speaker, the main point of my presentation is that we are proud - extremely proud -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. BAKER: - that this is a Liberal bill, developed by Liberals and nobody else.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Burin - Placentia West, on a point of order.

MR. TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, the information that the hon. minister has given to the House this evening is not correct. It is not correct. The minister is going around saying there wasn't a Tory in sight. Mr. Speaker, the minister, himself is a Tory. He worked for the Tories. His brother ran for the Tories. His other brother is President of the Tories at university.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. TOBIN: So he was there. The Minister of Fisheries is a Tory minister. The Member for St. John's South is a Tory and he was there, Mr. Speaker. Then, there was the Member for -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

There is no point of order raised by the hon. member. It is now 5:00 p.m.

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I adjourn debate.

I move that the House at its rising do adjourn until 2:00 p.m. tomorrow and that this House do now adjourn.

On motion, the House at its rising adjourned until tomorrow, Wednesday, at 2:00 p.m.