May 22, 1992                  HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS              Vol. XLI  No. 42

The House met at 9:00 a.m.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

It is a pleasure for me this morning to bring to the attention of hon. members the presence in the Speaker's Gallery of the Ambassador of Hungary to Canada, His Excellency Dr. Kalman Kulcsar, accompanied by his wife, Elizabeth.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Oral Questions

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

MR. DOYLE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I have to follow up on a question with the Minister of Health. After the Minister's statements of yesterday regarding heart patients in this Province, I believe he has been compared, by the media today, to Dan Quayle.

In the minister's interview yesterday with the media, he made the statement that anyone on a waiting list for heart or bypass surgery for a fifty-two week period - and I, myself, heard him say this - that he would question whether or not they should be there on that waiting list in the first place, whether or not surgery was necessary.

Isn't the minister aware that in order to get on a waiting list for heart surgery, these people have to be seen locally by their own physicians first and referred to specialists at the hospital? Does the minister think that this is a situation like Canadian Tire where you walk in and take a number? Isn't he aware of that?

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, if I am compared to Dan Quayle, the hon. member reminds me of Stormin' Norman this morning. I don't know what he has been doing overnight. Waiting lists are not a simple matter. As a matter of fact, one of the things which the General Hospital is doing, as I tried to explain to the hon. member - but it is extremely difficult, you know, to get the truth out when there are so many people with other agendas. The media want to sensationalize, the Opposition want to make political points, and it is so difficult to get the truth out of that.

The truth is, though, Mr. Speaker, that on the waiting list for various kinds of heart surgery - not all open-heart surgery either - don't be confused that all the people on the waiting list are going to have open-heart surgery. There are various kinds of valve replacements. There is a whole list of things which could be done. Many of them are determined by physicians - not by me; I'm not a physician - and many of them are determined to be elective.

I tell the hon. member, Mr. Speaker, that there are people on the waiting list in excess of three years. I also tell the hon. gentleman that some people have been phoned at various times and have been told there is a bed available, and the person said: 'Well, I really can't take it today, maybe I'll put it off for a little longer.' So it is not all a matter of the hospital system. In some cases, the people, themselves, are going about a normal life, and they are questioning it. So one of the things the hospital is doing in an attempt to deal with this problem, is 'culling'. The word is not mine. It is the word used by the administration at the General Hospital. They are culling the waiting list to reassess the people who are on it and see just what is going on.

At the risk of being the callous, cold-blooded person that I have been accused of being, there is a possibility that some of those people might have died for other reasons, or they might have died because of their heart problems. So the whole matter of the waiting list is one that I would tell hon. member not to get too excited about, not to make too many political points about. The reality is that the hospital is culling the list to see just what is going on, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. DOYLE: As usual, Mr. Speaker, the minister did not answer the question. Now I am going to give him another opportunity to answer it, because I am going to ask it again. Did the minister make the statement yesterday, or did he not make the statement yesterday, that people who are on a waiting list for fifty-two weeks for heart surgery, bypass surgeries and what have you, that he would question whether or not these people should be on that waiting list in the first place? Did he or did he not make that statement?

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, I have to refer the hon. member to Hansard, or if he is asking the same question I am going to have to give him the same answer.

The answer is, as I outlined to the hon. member, that there is a waiting list which is somewhere between ninety and one hundred people. There are people on that waiting list who have been there in excess of three years. The administration at the General Hospital said, 'Surely goodness, if there are people on a list in excess of three years, we are going to go back and talk to these people, talk to their physicians, and see just what is going on, and see if it is an accurate waiting list or not.'

Now, if the hon. member wants to read the rest of the answer, which I thought was a good one, I would suggest that later on today Hansard will be printed, and he can sit down and read the answer to the question, then he might be able to understand it.

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

MR. DOYLE: Mr. Speaker, let me set the minister straight. He did not make that statement in the House. He made it on tape with the media of this Province yesterday, and they have the tapes to prove it.

Now, is the minister not aware that people have been on a waiting list for heart surgery for so long, they have experienced such severe damage to heart tissue that surgery was no longer possible? And the minister then has the gall and the audacity to make such callous statements as that there are people on the waiting list who should not even be there. Is he not aware of that?

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, tapes or no tapes, media or no media, Stormin' Norman or no Stormin' Norman, the reality is this: As I have said repeatedly over the last few hours, over the last few days, there is a waiting list of somewhere between ninety and one hundred people. The administration at the General Hospital discovered that there were people out in excess of three years.

Now, among other initiatives that the hospital has been taking to deal with the perceived or the real problem with a waiting list - among other initiatives that they are taking, they are culling the list to see just what kind of a - maybe there are more than 110, I don't know, but I doubt it very much, Mr. Speaker. The list is being culled and if there are people on it over three years, and if, for some reason, they really should not be on it, then that will be dealt with, it will not be dealt with on a political basis. I don't have the expertise or desire or the will, nor should I be determining who is on that waiting list. It is being done in a very meticulous, professional manner by people who are qualified to do it, which does not include me, nor does it include the hon. member from - where is he from? wherever he is from.

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

MR. DOYLE: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Health must surely be aware of the statements of the nurses' union over the last twenty-four or forty-eight hours with regard to the minister. Now, will he immediately do the honourable thing and withdraw these statements that he has made, apologize to the nurses' association, apologize to the nurses, especially, who are working in the Intensive Care Units in the hospitals and apologize, especially, to the critically ill of this Province, who are waiting for heart surgery, or else, do the honourable thing and submit his resignation to the Premier?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, somehow, the logic of this line of questioning escapes me. Yesterday, the president of the nurses' union, referred to me as a cold-blooded, callous, hard-hearted person -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DECKER: - and the hon. member is suggesting that I apologize to the president of the nurses' union for making that statement, Mr. Speaker? The logic escapes me.

The reality is, there has been no layoff of nurses at the General Hospital this year or last year, no layoffs whatsoever. There are more nurses than ever before in the history of this Province working in the General Hospital at this moment. Forty-six to fifty beds are dedicated to cardiac patients. The idea of going out and hiring a few nurses off the street. It is simplistic and anyone who makes that statement does not understand the realities that exist, Mr. Speaker. As I pointed out yesterday the ICU at the General Hospital is probably the most complex unit in this Province and maybe one of the most complex units in all of Canada. You cannot rush out on the street and bring in a few casual nurses to fill in when a nurse is off sick. What the hospital is trying to do is to put in place a casual pool for the ICU and that is not as simplistic as the hon. member would have us believe.

The reality is, Mr. Speaker, that because of the economy we find ourselves in and because of the fact that there is a surplus of nurses it is extremely difficult now to get nurses to stay on a casual pool for anything. Whenever a full-time job becomes available nurses grab that job, Mr. Speaker. However, bearing that in mind the hospital is still trying to put in place a pool, and it is going to take six to eight weeks to train one nurse to go on that pool and even after these six to eight weeks are finished it then takes a considerable amount of experience before that person is qualified to perform in one of the most complex ICUs in all of Canada. Mr. Speaker, it is not as simplistic an issue as hon. members would have us believe. They must recognize that they tried for seventeen years to deal with this problem. We today are performing more cardiac surgery than in the history of this Province. There are more nurses in the General Hospital than ever before. For the first time in the history of the Province all the beds in the General Hospital are open, all the operating rooms are open, all the intensive care units are open and everything that can be done is being done, unlike when the previous administration were in and there was a wing perpetually closed in the General Hospital which we, Mr. Speaker, opened.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

It is nice to see the Minister of Health admitting that the President of the nurse's union knows him quite well. My question is for the Minister of Social Services, the other social department in this Province that is in a complete mess and people are suffering, Mr. Speaker. Let me ask the minister if he can confirm to this House that there is a committee set up, struck by his department that is making recommendations for a total re-organization?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Social Services.

MR. GULLAGE: Mr. Speaker, I can confirm that such a committee exists. We are looking at the structure of the department, both in the field and here at the executive and head office level, if you like, looking at our district and regional offices. We have started a computerization program which I explained to the House some weeks ago which involves an expenditure of some $2 million over the next couple of years to fully computerize our systems.

Yes, that committee is very active and, in fact, it is a broad-based committee with representation from all five regions in the Province.

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

MR. TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, let me ask the minister if there are any recommendations, suggestions or moves afoot to totally reorganize the regional offices and to have the program consultants and positions such as these removed from the regional offices?


MR. TOBIN: The program co-ordinators. If these positions are about to be eliminated?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Social Services.

MR. GULLAGE: No, Mr. Speaker, I have seen no such recommendation and the deputy certainly hasn't advised me of any recommendation like that being considered by the regional offices for recommendation to us. We have received a substantial number of recommendations from the regional managers, but no recommendation dealing with removal of program co-ordinators has been received.

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

MR. TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, will the minister confirm that his department is looking at the elimination of offices in this Province, the rearrangement of offices, moving them from one area to the other, such, Mr. Speaker, as closing down the office in Fermeuse? Would the minister confirm that that is one of the things his department is looking at?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Social Services.

MR. GULLAGE: No, Mr. Speaker. I might say to the member, first of all, that the answer is no. There has been no recommendation to close down any offices or, in fact, to relocate and change locations of office in any region of the Province.

I might say this, though, that as caseloads change from district office to district office changes in location can happen at any time. If the caseloads increase dramatically in one district versus another, it is very logical that you would expand a given office and probably downsize another one, which would just simply mean a rearrangement of staff. But as far as actually closing a district office, no, no such recommendation has been received by me. Certainly if it was received by the deputy I would know about it. We don't contemplate, particularly now at this time with our ever-increasing caseload, I certainly don't contemplate or foresee closing any district offices.

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

MR. TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I was delighted to hear what the minister had to say in terms of the latter part of his answer. I was somewhat disappointed in his statement regarding the ever-increasing caseload, and it is all a result of the lack of economic direction by this government.

Will the minister make a commitment to this House right now that the office in Fermeuse and other offices around this Province, particularly in rural Newfoundland, will not close nor will their location change?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Social Services.

MR. GULLAGE: No, Mr. Speaker, I think I would be rather irresponsible as a minister to make such a commitment about any office in the Province. Because as I mentioned, we could see a situation - particularly now with the problems in the fishery - in given areas of the Province where, with population shifts and so on, that the demand for a given office may not be there. The caseloads may drop to the point where it does not make sense to have staff located in that vicinity. Maybe the staff should be located where the caseloads have been greatly enhanced. So I cannot make a promise like that. All I can say to you is I do not foresee, in the immediate future, the closure of a district office. But I cannot promise that it will not happen.

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

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I have a question as well for the Minister of Social Services. I am wondering if the minister could inform the House of the situation at present with the home support requests that are going into his various district and regional offices around the Province. I think it falls under the special needs program of his department. Could the minister inform the House how that program is working? Government said that it wants to keep people in their homes for a longer period of time, and in order to do that they say that they have implemented home support programs. Could the minister inform the House how that program is going, or if there are many requests?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Social Services.

MR. GULLAGE: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I can say that we have had a considerable number of requests. It is an increasing number over previous years. The fact is that the program has been made available and it has become widely known throughout the Province now. People are accessing that program in increasing numbers, I might say. That puts pressure on the budget that is available. We are trying to monitor it as best we can, and we do have, as you know, in Social Services a situation where many of our programs are open-ended and it is very difficult to deny access to our programs. We have to provide the service.

In this particular case we are trying to monitor it with making sure that when we provide services that they are on the basis where the need is urgent, the need is required. The difficulty always of course is determining whether it is an urgently required need or whether the service can be provided, as it was provided, by the family unit. So it is a difficult decision and we are having great pressures in delivering these services with the limited funds that we have available.

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

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Supplementary to the minister. Is the minister then informing me and the House this morning that applications for funding under that program are still being processed and still being approved by his Department? Is that what he is saying?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Social Services.

MR. GULLAGE: Mr. Speaker, at this point to my knowledge we do not have anybody who has been denied service. We are trying to provide it on an emergency basis, on the basis of most urgent need. I cannot say that we will not find ourselves in a predicament as time goes on, because as I say, the service is available, and people are coming forward looking to avail of it. We are providing to this point. We have not denied anybody who has asked for the service and can justify the need for the service - and the alternatives are not available, and we have deemed that they are not available - we have not denied anybody. I have had a few cases where I've had to - with the executive staff - make a decision that we do proceed and provide the service. Even though we are limited by way of budget.

So we make those decisions as they do in the health care system. You can't deny people the services if they are justified and if they can make the case, and we deem that the service is necessary and has to be provided. I do not know of a case where we have denied service where it is has been deemed that it is justified.

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

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Final supplementary to the minister. I was interested in the minister's answer, and I say this for a good reason. I have visited four homes in my district of elderly people. Some single adults and one married couple. Who have requests to the Grand Bank district office for home support services. There is no question the need is there.

In one case particularly there is an elderly lady living by herself, has vision problems, on medication. Her daughter-in-law had to come from the mainland to spend a couple of months with her. Right? She had to go back because of family commitments. I have talked to the Grand Bank district office on all of these four situations. They tell me that there are six or seven requests in in total. I have talked to the regional office in Harbour Grace myself and I have been told that that budget has been frozen.

So I want to ask the minister - I mean, obviously if the budget is frozen there is no further processing or approval of legitimate requests - would he seriously have a look at that because there are some very legitimate cases out there? If government is sincere in wanting people to stay in their own homes to reduce the pressure on nursing care homes and so on, then won't he take a serious look at that situation with a view, particularly - because I know in this one instance with this lady that she certainly needs home support? In other cases, as well, people have said that they are willing to cost-share the home support, even though they are living on fixed incomes such as old age security and so on. Their income is very limited, but because they need the support so badly they are willing to cost-share it even though it might affect their groceries and their light bills and so on. Would the minister have a look at that?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Social Services.

MR. GULLAGE: Yes, Mr. Speaker.

I think, as I have already said, that even though budgets are frozen, and this budget amount is frozen, we do have to deal with cases over and above that if it is deemed that they are justified and we have to provide the service. In that case, we have to provide it and decisions have to be made.

I would be more than willing to sit down with the member and go through those particular situations he speaks of in the Grand Bank area, review those cases and see whether or not we can provide the service.

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

MR. WOODFORD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My question is directed to the Minister responsible for Municipal and Provincial Affairs, Mr. Speaker, but whoever might want to answer it.

In the past two or three years, Mr. Speaker, municipalities in the Province have been hit very hard with drastic cuts and regressive steps, especially pertaining to the municipal operating grant system. Could the minister, whoever it might be, tell the House this morning - I asked the minister responsible the other morning in the estimates if there was a committee set up - could someone tell me what the real purpose of that committee is, what is its mandate?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Social Services.

MR. GULLAGE: Yes, Mr. Speaker.

The minister has struck a committee to look at the grants program. It is in transition now over a three-year period, as the member is aware, I believe. The new grants program is being phased in, with the old one being phased out. We are in the second year of that phasein.

The minister felt it wise to have the program looked at and examined as far as the four components are concerned, to see whether or not they are delivering the right programs as far as communities are concerned. He has the Federation of Municipalities involved as well.

The difficulties with the grants, Mr. Speaker, are not with the grants per se, it is with the fact that we have asked the municipalities to share a greater burden as far as their budgets are concerned. Over the same three-year period we have deceased the amount of money flowing to the municipalities from the Province into the grant structure. That decision was made about a year and a half ago. It was communicated to the Federation of Municipalities and to the municipalities themselves. I did it as the minister at the time. And they were well aware that they were asked to take a greater share of the burden as far as taxation was concerned, and that the grants would be phased in at the same time.

So the difficulties they are having, particularly with the last couple of components, roads and population, deal with the fact that at the same time the grants are being phased in, the three-year phasein period, they are also being asked to accept a greater share of the burden as far as taxation is concerned by way of a reduction in the overall dollars going into the grants program.

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

MR. WINSOR: A supplementary, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to remind the minister, Mr. Speaker, that there was no phasein on the components. The only phasein was on the repayment of the capital debt. The Federation of Municipalities, Mr. Speaker, has already done an assessment of municipalities in the Province and found that a high number of the municipalises which they represent were cut drastically and were hurting from the municipal operating grant let alone the new formula for repayment on capital debt.

Could the minister now tell the House what he expects that committee to find that the Federation didn't, especially with a Federation member sitting on the committee?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Social Services.

MR. GULLAGE: First, Mr. Speaker, let me correct his statement that there was not a reduction in the capital grants. In the amount of money that was flowing from the Province into the capital grants, there was a reduction of some $7 million over a three-year period. So there was a reduction in the amount of money available, globally if you like, into the grants program.

Now also, of course, they were asked with new debt on capital to share a burden there as well; to do more for themselves than they were doing in the past. So with both the grants program and capital debt, municipal capital debt for roads and water and sewer, both items were involved.

My understanding of the committee was that they were asked to examine both the grant structure and the impact on the communities, and of course the impact of adding new debt to their existing debt. I believe they were asked to look at and examine, and make a recommendation to the minister on both items, because the grants and the debt that they take on each year, and the existing debt - in many cases some communities have a large amount of debt already in place - those two factors have a great bearing on the operation and the costs of running any given municipality, whether it be small or large.

The committee, I understand, has that mandate. Whether or not the Federation of Municipalities can add anything to it - because you are right, they were part of the process throughout the revision of the grants, and the change in the debt repayment structure - I do not know. But certainly the new minister has asked them to be part of the process and I would hope that they can add something new to it that would, if they are having difficulties that can be identified with the grants program or with the repayment of debt, I am sure that the minister is willing to look at those difficulties and address them.

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

Oh, I am sorry. I did not recognize the hon. member. It looks like the Member for St. Mary's - The Capes has yielded.

The hon. the Member for Humber Valley.

MR. WOODFORD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. A final supplementary to the minister.

It is only obvious that the committee is certainly going to find that municipalities in the Province are hurting. I would like to ask the minister now, through his colleagues: It is obvious that the recommendations are going to be that some changes be made to the municipal operating grant, and quite possibly to the repayment on capital debt. Will the minister make a commitment to the House today that if they do find that municipalities in the Province are hurting, that the changes and recommendations will be brought in and instituted before municipalities bring down their budgets in the fall? They have to have their budgets submitted by December 31. They cannot submit a deficit budget. Would the minister make a commitment to the House that those changes will be made and instituted before they do?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Social Services.

MR. GULLAGE: Mr. Speaker, the member knows of course that I cannot make that promise, not being the minister responsible for the department, simply an acting minister, and certainly I cannot speak for government on any changes in the grants program or the repayment of debt.

I can say this. I do feel confident that the major problem that the municipalities are having is because many of them have not responded to the grants program, particularly in the incentive component, have still not done enough for themselves so that they can access the grants program. Many of them are below the minimum level where they can even be part of it, and that is their problem. I do not know whether that would be identified as a problem, because I do not know whether their study is going to be broad enough to include enough municipalities to find out the ones who are having difficult, and those who are not. I hope it is, but if they find difficulties with the grants program, and I personally have difficulty with that, because that program was worked on over a year and a half period, with a consultant working on it. They did a good job. We have been told that it is the finest in the country.

I do not think the problem is with the grants program. I believe the problem is with a given group of municipalities that still have not become fiscally responsible enough to do more for themselves and thereby get more from the grants program, which is really an incentive driven program.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HEARN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My question was to the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs, but seeing neither he nor any of the important ministers are here, I will ask the omnibus minister, the President of Treasury Board: Is he aware that changes to the payroll regulations have negatively affected town councils throughout the Province? And is he aware that many of them, already hit hard by the new grant structure, cannot afford to pay the taxes and have to lay off people? I will ask him: Is this typical of the government's attitude of downloading, the Pontius Pilate attitude of washing their hands and passing it along? And does he know, or does he care, that the taxpayers in the Province are once again being crucified by this government?

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

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, that is quite a question that the Member for St. Mary's - The Capes is posing.

I would like to remind the hon. member that for the past two years - year and a half - we, as a Province, have been going through very difficult times. Last year, we found it absolutely necessary to not only freeze wages, but to eliminate close to 2,000 positions, 1,700 or 1,800 positions in the public service of the Province. There is simply, at this point in time, not enough money to go around.

Now, Mr. Speaker, the member should accept that reality because it is a reality. It is unfortunate that we do not have enough money to hire and keep working every single citizen of this Province, I would love to be able to do it, but, Mr. Speaker, the money is not there, it cannot be paid, I would ask the hon. gentleman to examine that little bit of logic.

MR. SPEAKER: Question Period has expired.

On behalf of hon. members, I would like to welcome to the public galleries today, thirty-two students from Beaconsfield High School accompanied by their teacher Mrs. Crawley and a parent, I do not have the name, but who is nevertheless very welcome.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Burin - Placentia West on a point of order.

MR. TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, since this session of the House has started it is obvious that government is not taking the responsibilities of ministers as extremely important. The Premier has been here probably three or four days, and I realize he has a significant amount of business to do, but every day there are at least four or five ministers that are continuously absent from the House and we are trying to get answers. Mr. Speaker, I am just wondering if the President of Treasury Board can bring it up at the next Cabinet meeting and make Cabinet aware that they should probably set some priority for the House of Assembly. Since the Royal Commission on Education came down the Minister of Education has been conspicuous by his absence and we have a lot of questions.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the President of Treasury Board.

MR. BAKER: To that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I believe there are ten ministers out of fourteen here today, which is not too bad. Mr. Speaker, it is an indication that there are many things going on in this country that this Province is taking an extremely active role in. When a minister is absent there is always a minister assigned to keep an eye on the department and to answer questions in Question Period. I would suggest that the members of the Opposition recognize that if they ask a question to government they cannot chose who answers the question, that the question is asked to government and an answer is given, either by the minister who is directly responsible or by the person filling in for that minister so there is no interference at all with the smooth running of the House because Ministers of the Crown are working hard and doing their job on behalf of the Province, Mr. Speaker. I would also suggest that they look around at their own benches once in a while.

MR. SPEAKER: To the point of order there is no point of order. The member used a point of order to make a certain point of view. Indeed the lack of presence of members is not a point of order.

Presenting Reports by

Standing and Special Committees

MR. SPEAKER: The Minister of Mines and Energy.

DR. GIBBONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is my pleasure today to table the 1991 annual report of the Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro Group of Companies. In tabling this report I would like to mention a couple of points that may be of interest to members. For example, despite the recession, energy sales continued to rise in 1991. Energy sales to island interconnected customers rose by 1.7 per cent above 1990 and energy sales to rural interconnected customers on the island and in Labrador increased by 0.6 per cent, and energy sales to rural diesel and other isolated customers rose by 3.6 per cent. Also, the staff complement of the Hydro Group at year end stood at 1239 people, virtually the same as it was ten years ago. Relative to the Churchill Falls area an interesting point here, there was an increase of 0.5 per cent over the previous year in the production of electricity but precipitation in the water shed at Churchill was 7 per cent below average making 1991 the eight consecutive year when inflows into that reservoir were below normal.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. RAMSAY: Mr. Speaker, I did not think you would forget me.

I have the report of the Social Services Committee on Estimates. The committee has considered and passed without amendment the estimates of expenditure for the Departments of Social Services, the Department of Education, the Department of Health, the Department of the Environment and Lands, and the Department of Justice. All of these expenditure sub-heads were passed, Mr. Speaker, without amendment. I submit that on behalf of the Chairperson of the Committee, who is not here today, Walter Noel, MHA for Pleasantville. Furthermore, Mr. Speaker, I would like to report on the Estimates of the Government Services Estimates Committee. We have considered passed without amendment, the following estimates of expenditure:

The Department of Finance, Department of Works, Services and Transportation, Department of Employment and Labour Relations, Department of Municipal and Provincial Affairs and the Estimates also, of Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation. I submit these, Mr. Speaker, on behalf of Paul Dicks, MHA for Humber West.

I might add, Mr. Speaker, the committee system this year was very successful. We had a lot of co-operation from the Opposition, a lot of co-operation from government members, and also, I would like to thank the Clerks at the Table and the Pages here in the House and our recording people, as well.

Thank you very much.

Orders of the Day

MR. BAKER: Motion 3, Mr. Speaker.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Before calling Motion 3, the Chair would like to bring to the attention of hon. members, the presence, in the public galleries, of fifteen students from the Avalon Community College of Bell Island, accompanied by two instructors, Ms. Miriam Bartlett and Mr. Lester Rose.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Motion 3.

On motion, that the House resolve itself into Committee of the Whole, to debate certain resolutions, Mr. Speaker left the Chair.

Committee of the Whole

MR. CHAIRMAN (Barrett): Order, please!

Bill No. 16.

The hon. the Opposition Party Whip, the Member for Harbour Main.

MR. DOYLE: Mr. Chairman, I am very pleased to have a few words to say on this bill. I am given to understand that there was approximately $25 million collected last year from this tax and it is hard to believe, Mr. Chairman, that there is any money being channelled into the health care system in Newfoundland and Labrador, as the result of the implementation of this legislation. It is hard to believe, given the fact that the health care system in Newfoundland and Labrador is in a complete and total mess, a complete and total shambles.

It seems that we are getting calls on a continuous basis from people all around the Province and a prime example of it is yesterday - the number of calls that I am getting from the people of Bell Island with regard to the cold and callous treatment these people on Bell Island are getting over the last month or so. They are supposed to have three doctors at the hospital on Bell Island, now we only have one doctor servicing approximately 4,500 to 5,000 people.

Two doctors retired roughly about a month ago and the Minister of Health, yesterday, did not even seem to know what is going on, that the people of Bell Island have not had a clinic from these two extra doctors now since, May 1st.

Mr. Chairman, it is absolutely unbelievable, that the health care system could be in the shambles it is in, and some of the callous, blunt things that are going on. And the Minister of Health is not even aware of the fact that the people of Bell Island, 4,500 to 5,000 people, don't have the type of health care system that they deserve and should have? - that the existing doctor over there is finding it very, very difficult to cope with the number of individuals whom he has to serve on a daily basis?

So, I make no wonder, Mr. Chairman, that the health care system in this Province is the total, complete, mess it is in. Mr. Chairman, I found it absolutely unbelievable yesterday, listening to the Minister of Health in a feature length interview, I call it. It might have only got a minute or so on television, but I listened to his entire interview for a full fifteen to twenty minutes outside the House of Assembly yesterday.

I was absolutely appalled, absolutely amazed, Mr. Chairman, to hear the Minister of Health responding to such a very serious question about people who are waiting for heart surgery in this Province for a period of fifty-two weeks, that the Minister of Health could actually say: Well, if anyone in this Province is waiting for a period of fifty-two weeks for heart, bypass, or open-heart surgery, I would question whether or not these people should be there in the first place.

Can you imagine a Minister of Health actually making that type of statement? Did the minister think that the Intensive Care Unit, the cardiology unit, over at the Health Sciences Complex, operates like Canadian Tire? - that you go over, walk in off the street, grab a number, and stand in line and wait for something like heart or bypass surgery? Is it possible that the Minister of Health could be so ignorant and incompetent that he could make that type of statement, that he would question an individual who is critically ill and waiting for a period of fifty-two weeks, forty weeks, and forty-five weeks, to have heart surgery done, that he would question whether or not these people, if they are waiting that long, should be on a waiting list at all.

Can you imagine a Minister of Health making that type of statement? It is almost inconceivable. I can't believe that anyone could be so cold, callous and cruel.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. DOYLE: I say to the Minister of Forestry and Agriculture that he should be in our offices up there. We have had people call from the Health Sciences Complex - I had a person call, and the Member for Kilbride had a man call from his hospital bed, saying he was admitted for surgery five or six weeks ago. The surgery was supposed to be performed the following day, after he had been admitted to hospital. He was lying in his bed for about six weeks, waiting for somebody to schedule it - again.

MR. R. AYLWARD: Four cancellations.

MR. DOYLE: I don't doubt that the people over at the Health Sciences Complex have a very good reason for it, because they are certainly not to blame. The doctors and nurses are not to blame for it. It is not a scheduling problem, as the Minister of Health would have everyone believe, and he need not blame it on a lack of nurses in the Intensive Care Unit. He knows very well what the problem is. He knows the state that this government has the health care system in over the last three-year period, in particular.

So it is unbelievable, totally unbelievable, that the Minister of Health could make such cold and callous remarks to the people who are critically ill in this Province. It is almost unbelievable that a minister could make that type of statement. Doesn't the minister realize that anyone who gets referred to the Health Sciences Complex or any other hospital in this Province for something as serious as heart surgery, has to go through his own local physician and get referred and get tested, and all kinds of work done before he is actually placed on a waiting list? The minister says: Well, if you are on a waiting list for fifty-two weeks, I would seriously question whether or not you should be there. What a cold and callous statement, Mr. Chairman!

That is one indication as to why the health care system in Newfoundland and Labrador is in the state it is in today and getting worse. These are not statements that are coming from politicians like me or members on this side of the House. You hear it on a daily basis in the open forums we have been going to, that the Leader of the Opposition has been conducting around the Province, from Labrador to the West Coast to the bottom of Carbonear the other night, people saying the same thing, people coming forward and saying: 'Surely, there must be something you can do, as a member of the House of Assembly, to try to bring the minister to task for some of the things he is doing in the health care system in Newfoundland and Labrador.'

I would make no wonder, Mr. Chairman, that the president of the nurses' association would actually say - it is not very often that you will hear professional people like that vent their frustrations in that way. But I can easily understand where the president of the nurses' association is coming from, since the health care system is in such a state in this Province that they have to take out full-page ads in The Evening Telegram to make people aware of what is going on. I can easily understand president of the nurses' association saying that the Minister of Health is - I think the statement was, a coldhearted individual. I can easily understand that, when the Minister of Health shows such an abysmal lack of knowledge with respect to what is happening over at the Intensive Care Unit and the Cardiology Unit in the hospital, to say that if you are on a waiting list for fifty-two weeks for heart surgery, that he would have to question whether or not you belong there in the first place. You know, that is totally unbelievable.

MR. FLIGHT: That is twenty times now.

MR. DOYLE: Yes, and I am going to say it twenty times more, let me say to the Minister of Forestry. I am going to say it twenty times more or fifty times more and probably 100 times more over the next number of months. I will make sure that every individual in the Province hears it.

MR. FLIGHT: You are more interested in politics than you are in the issue.

MR. DOYLE: Not the politics of it, Mr. Chairman, but to make people aware of what an incompetent minister they have in this Province presiding over the Health Department, one of the most, if not the most, important portfolios that any individual could have, that we have an individual with that type of callousness and arrogance and incompetence at the head of such an important department as the Ministry of Health. He thinks it is run like Canadian Tire, where you go in and grab and number and stand in line and wait.

These are statements, Mr. Chairman -

MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please!

The hon. member's time has elapsed.

The hon. the Member for Mount Scio - Bell Island.

MR. WALSH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I would like to start by saying that I am pleased to hear the Member for Harbour Main is concerned with the problems that we are encountering currently at the hospital on Bell Island. I am pleased to see his caring attitude towards the hospital and the needs on Bell Island. I guess, I am more pleased than anything else with his keen interest in what is happening with the hospital on Bell Island. The only thing I regret is that he never had the same interest when he represented the area, when he represented the Dr. Walter Templeman Hospital, when he worked actively to have the hospital closed, shut down, closed up, boarded up and all the patients who were there and all the medical staff there moved to St. John's.

Now, Mr. Chairman, during his tenure of four years not one dollar was spent on paint, not one dollar spent on a nail, not one dollar spent on a door, not one dollar spent on a bed, not one dollar spent - I was going to say food, but, yes, he was compelled, as the member, to at least provide food.

Now, Mr. Chairman, when the hon. member stands here and talks about the Dr. Walter Templeman Hospital, as I said, I am pleased with his interest. I regret that we couldn't convince the husband or the wife, the two doctors who retired, we couldn't convince the husband to move away and the wife to stay. We couldn't convince them to divorce, separate, break up their marriage after giving many, many years to the community. As a matter of fact, the hon. member represented the area so long I doubt if he could even tell us the names of the two doctors who retired. I won't provide the information to him because one day he will actually visit Bell Island to see what it looks like as opposed to doing his business in Portugal Cove. Mr. Chairman, with respect to what is really happening over there it is very simple. One, there is a very good, solid, dedicated group of people on Bell Island who are recommending the things that should be done at that hospital, so much so that they laid down the names of the doctors that maybe we should be interviewing. They have been helping us that way. They have been there to support our efforts in finding doctors. They have been there in our support of what the hospital should be. Now, when we converted the Sir Walter Templeman Hospital over from the hospital that it was to chronic care it was based on their recommendations.

The hospital is being administered by St. Clare's and I guess anyone in their right mind knows that, the Templeman Hospital is being administered by St. Clare's. We were told the other day that a doctor has been hired and will be arriving in July and taking up his position. We have been told that the search is on for a second doctor and that we as a government and as a Department of Health are actively pursuing finding that second doctor and it will not be long, please God, and we will have one. This situation is not just unique to Bell Island, it is unique to almost every part of rural Newfoundland. There is a shortage of doctors in most parts of rural Newfoundland. There is an abundance here in St. John's unfortunately but they prefer to live here, they prefer to be here and as much as we tried, and I give credit to the previous government, as much as they tried to convince doctors to move and go to other areas they will not do it.

We are fortunate as well that the current deputy minister of Health, Dr. Bob Williams, worked on Bell Island, served in the area and understands the needs of the community. Now, we leave the impression also that there is one doctor over there trying to cope with everything, and that is not really true. St. Clare's have made it a point to make sure there is someone there to cover for the weekends, someone there to meet the needs. We all know also, unlike the grandstanding the Member for Harbour Main would like to leave us to believe, that there is no interest, no care, and nobody really wanting to do something. He is wrong, he knows he is wrong, but it is an opportunity for him to grandstand. Unfortunately he usually does his grandstanding when the media leave the gallery. He usually does his grandstanding when there is nobody here to listen. He usually tries to do his grandstanding where he can get the weekend publicity but unfortunately this weekend he will not get it.

Now, let us look at what has really happened in the medical profession in this Province. There have been more hospital beds re-opened under this administration than the previous administration. There have been more commitments made to hospital construction in the three short years we have been here than in the seventeen years that our friends on the other side were here. Our system of administering medical services to this Province is being held up as a model in all of Canada. We have opened more beds and we have hired more staff. We have committed between $50 and $100 million more to medical services in this Province than the previous government. We as a government apologize, I suppose, because we do not have the number of nurses we need in certain areas and the number of doctors we need in certain areas but those people in a lot of cases are just not available.

At Estimates last night we heard about the Anderson Centre and the need to meet the psychiatric needs of children and their families as well. We have money allocated for thirteen professional people we want to hire. We would take them tomorrow if they would come but we can only find five. For the last two years the highest we have gotten up to is seven. We have even re-classified their salary structure so that we could bump it up to a higher degree so that we could hopefully attract people but it has not happened.

Now we will do everything we can to meet the needs, not only of one given area of this Province, but in any area of this Province, and to try to single out any one area where there are problems that are existing, and they are not problems that we have created. It is not a problem of wanting to hire people. It is a problem of finding people who actually want to come here. I would say, on a per capita basis, we probably have more Irish and English doctors, and foreign doctors who have been recruited throughout Europe to come here to practice, because we just do not have the medical staff that we are looking for. Our medical school is just not churning them out fast enough, and when we do, and when they do become qualified, unfortunately they move away, or they move to the big cities.

We are trying to address the problem, and I have absolute confidence in what the Minister of Health has attempted to do over the last number of years. I show my appreciation also of the fact that he spent, in my own district, in excess of $250,000 to refurbish our hospital on Bell Island.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. WALSH: We will talk about tourism at another time.

Let us not single out, and let us not try to take advantage of a situation that has occurred through no fault of ours, to even go to the point of trying to cast aspersions on the two doctors who retired, who gave good parts of their lives to a community that I represent, the community of Bell Island. As I have said, these people have worked very hard in that area. They deserve their retirement. They have taken their retirement. They have left us; but our desire to find people to replace them has carried on, and I will tell you not to be concerned, and the hon. Member for Harbour Main should not be concerned about our fight and our efforts to find the replacement doctors that we need for the Walter Templeman Hospital. Do not be concerned, and do not worry about it.

We are doing that all across the Province. We are doing it in northern Newfoundland. We are doing it in western Newfoundland. I was talking earlier about some of the hospitals, the fact that we are looking to open more hospitals; we are looking to upgrade existing facilities, such as, as I mentioned earlier, the Sir Thomas Roddick Hospital in Stephenville. We are looking to upgrade that facility, as we have done with others, including our own on Bell Island.

So allow me to say to the hon. member, I appreciate his interest and I appreciate his concern. I only regret that he never had the same interest and concern when he apparently represented the area and wanted to close the facility.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

It is ironic to listen to the hon. member when yesterday when the hon. Member for Harbour Main brought up this issue, the hon. member was not even aware of it. It is only since the hon. Member for Harbour Main brought up the issue that he became aware of it.

MR. WALSH: A point of order, Mr. Chairman.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Harbour Main on a point of order.

MR. WALSH: A point of order, Mr. Chairman.

The hon. gentleman again is casting aspersions. When the question was asked in the House of Assembly yesterday, the Minister of Health - and Hansard will show - is aware that I made him aware of this subject weeks and weeks ago, maybe a month or month and a half ago. He also made the hon. members on the other side aware that I have had meetings and discussions with Sister Elizabeth Davis at St. Clare's Hospital about this exact same issue. In actual fact they are aware of that, but again I suppose if you are a strawberry picker you try to pick whatever you can, but you will not pick me today, I am sorry.

MR. CHAIRMAN: There is no point of order.

The hon. the Member for Kilbride.

MR. R. AYLWARD: The hon. member is wrong again. Every time he stood in this House since he was elected on a point of order it was always ruled that there was no point of order. I should get Hansard one of these days and add them up. It has probably been a couple of hundred times since he got elected that he has been ruled out of order. Maybe he will learn. Eventually he will learn.

Maybe he was aware of it. Maybe when the hon. Member for Harbour Main mentioned it yesterday he was aware of it, and he was so embarrassed that he did nothing with the Minister of Health, and he did not emphasize the importance of it to the Minister of Health, and that is the reason why there was nothing done. Maybe that is the reason he is so upset over this now, because he was aware of it and he did not do his job. The Member for Harbour Main, by raising it yesterday, got some information to the people of Bell Island who have been phoning him. He cannot help it. He answers his telephone. He is the one who is receiving the calls on this issue. He cannot help it if the people from Bell Island phone him, asking for assistance.

He raised it, and there was some little amount done of it. There is supposed to be one doctor recruited now already, and you only raised it yesterday, I believe, was it?


MR. R. AYLWARD: There was one doctor recruited already to serve in the Bell Island hospital, Mr. Speaker, and I think that is great. Now the hon. member has the opportunity to ask questions in this House. He can raise it publicly. I did not see him stand in his place to raise this issue in the House of Assembly, as the Member for Harbour Main did.

It is ironic to listen to the Minister of Health here this morning when we talk about Bill 16, our health and education tax, I believe it is referred to. Our payroll tax. It is supposed to be a tax to improve our health system. We always hear when the Minister of Health stands up that there is no problem in the health system. He will not admit there is a problem. There is no problem, he says, it is only organizational. It has nothing to do with money, it is only organizational. Seventy or a hundred people on a waiting list for heart operations is not a problem. I do not understand.

Here is what in 1989 when this group of people and Premier Wells were trying to get elected, these are some of the promises that they made in this Campaign '89 manual put out, Liberal, a Real Change. Here is what they said about the health system in 1989 when they were looking for government, when they were not expecting at all that they would ever be elected. Here is what they said about the health system, on page 18, in this campaign manual: the health system in Newfoundland and Labrador is in turmoil. That is what they said about the health system in 1989. Hospital beds remain close while patients wait for months, sometimes in pain and anguish, to be admitted. A hundred people on a waiting list for heart operations, if they are not in pain and anguish, I do not know who is.

It also says in here: doctors and nurses and support staff are overworked and in many cases underpaid. What did this government do? Pay doctors less last year. They are paying them for 75 per cent of the work that they do now. That is what their answer to it is. But in 1989, when they wanted votes from the people of this Province, they said doctors, nurses and support staff are overworked and in many cases underpaid. Since they took over, what they did about that problem that they recognised in 1989 is lay off 2,000 people in the health support sector, 2,000 less people in the system two years ago, and they have frozen their wages for two years. So that is how they looked after the problem that they identified, that doctors, nurses and support staff are overworked and in many cases underpaid.

If that is not a down and out lie in this document of what they said they would do, the problem that they announced, and what they are doing, I do not know what it is.

They go on to say that: facilities and services are strained beyond their limits. Yet they close a hospital in Port aux Basques, they cut the services in Port aux Basques;, they cut the services in Placentia; they cut the services in St. Lawrence; they cut the services in Baie Verte. That is what they did since they got in. Yet in 1989 when they wanted votes from the people of this Province they said that facilities and services are strained beyond their limits.

Here is what they go on to say: yet the Tory minister has consistently refused to admit that there is a problem. I believe the person who wrote this must have been a prophet, but he was talking about our present Minister of Health, not the Tory minister of health in the last government. The Tory minister of health has consistently refused to admit there is a problem. That is exactly what the Minister of Health is doing today with our health care system. He does not admit there is a problem. 'There is nothing wrong with the health care system, we are improving it. It is a better system now,' he keeps saying. Yet there are 2,000 people laid off, there are hospital beds closed, and there are hospitals closed throughout the Province. Yet in 1989 that was not a problem.

It goes on here to say that: it is not possible to correct the problem until you first admit it exists. I say that the Premier and his Cabinet should dig this out, this 1989 policy manual. They should take it out and dust it off a bit. Because there must be a lot of dust after accumulating on it since they got elected. Because obviously they have not read this since 1989. They certainly have not done anything about it since 1989. They have done the opposite. The Minister of Development and Tourism, would be interested in this next line in the policy manual. I brought it to his attention yesterday in another matter; here is the next line:

This critical situation must be alleviated immediately. That is the word that is in this, Mr. Chairman, 'immediately', it must be alleviated, not if we get some money in the future, not if we bring in a payroll tax, not if I get a chance, it must be alleviated immediately, it is truly a matter of life and death and what have we heard in this Province ever since this crowd of people have been elected? We hear the hospital support union NAPE, suggesting that all of our health care systems are understaffed, the support staff in our health care systems are overworked, they are underpaid and they cannot keep up with the demand.

We see the nurses' union, which ordinarily is not a very militant union in this Province, they have spent a tremendous amount of money to try to inform the public of what is happening in our health system and have gone to the extreme of even taking out ads in our public media and on television, a very expensive operation, but they, the nurses' union in this Province, think that the issue was so important that they have to spend this money to inform the people of the Province of the problems that are in the health care system, particularly the problems that the nurses are experiencing.

Mr. Chairman, they are not asking for more money all the time, they are asking for improvements to the health care system, that is what the nurses' union wants, they are not looking for raises and more benefits, that is not what their ads say.

Mr. Chairman, the Liberal Health Policy dictates that as long as the demand exist, hospital beds must be kept open. I am sure they appreciate that in St. Lawrence, where you closed that hospital and, where was the other one? Grand Bank, I believe was one you closed, Port aux Basques you tried to eliminate it. Placentia was supposed to be closed except the member for the area at the time, did nothing about it, the Liberal member, but the people came in here in force and forced the government to reconsider, yet the hospital is operating at about 10 per cent of what it operated before this government took over, yet we have in this manual, Liberal Health Policy dictates that as long as the demand exists, hospital beds must be kept open; institutes must not be understaffed and compassion must always take precedence over business administration.

Now where is this policy now that you are making decisions in Cabinet, where is this policy form? Is it only the Member for Eagle River who has a copy of it left? He is the only one who seems to want to live up to the promises that he made in 1989. Certainly, not one Cabinet Minister in the government has ever read this policy manual since the election. If they have read it, Mr. Chairman, they are certainly deceiving the people of the Province when they make decisions that are completely opposite to what their Policy Manual said.

It is alright to say this kind of stuff when you are looking for votes, but when you get in and make decisions, you have to stick with it, you cannot just go around this Province promising the sky- that is what the NDP does in every Province. They go around promising everything because they never expect to be elected and you see in Ontario and in BC and other places, you see in other -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) we shut Sprung down (inaudible).

MR. R. AYLWARD: Yes, you shut Sprung down. Yes, you said you shut Sprung down but it is not in this, your policy manual. There is nothing in your policy manual about Sprung, that is the only one you kept, is that the only promise you kept since you were elected?

There are policies in here on every issue. Mr. Chairman, the Minister of Agriculture - I might want to read out some of the forestry policies that we have here to see what promises he has broken. There are promises here on many issues, but none of them is Sprung, I do not see anything in its contents that mentions Sprung, so what the administration actually did, was, waste more money on an inquiry into Sprung then wasted a fortune of money hiring accountants, lawyers and having a judge spend months and months on this, when they knew there was nothing illegal with it, and now they are afraid to table it. They will not table the report that the commission did. Put it on the table of this House and let us have a debate on it. I would debate it any time at all. I certainly would stand up to my decisions on Sprung as compared to the Liberal health policy and what you are after doing. I would be pleased to stand here and debate my decisions on Sprung when I look in this and see: the Liberal health policy dictates that as long as demand exists hospital beds must be kept open - and that is exactly the opposite of what you did. At least I stuck up for Sprung, Mr. Chairman, whether I made wrong decisions or not. I did not go around promising people one thing and then come in here and lie to them and do the opposite.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible)

MR. R. AYLWARD: It is all public. The inquiry that you paid a fortune for, hundreds of thousands of dollars to get the inquiry, said it is all public. There is nothing wrong with it. It is your inquiry and not mine, so Sprung is a dead issue. You can keep bringing it up as long as you like. Mr. Chairman, this is not a dead issue. The Liberal health policy in this Province, Mr. Chairman, is not a dead issue. This critical situation must be alleviated immediately.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible)

MR. R. AYLWARD: Yes, I say about the NDP. The NDP do the same thing as the Liberal administration in this Province did in the last election. They go around promising the sky, expecting never to be elected in a hundred years, Mr. Chairman, then when they get elected it frightens the life out of them the same as happened to this government. Now, we have to live up to some of these promises but the Premier we have in this Province is a lawyer and the way lawyers are trained, the whole training of lawyers in the profession is that two lawyers go into a courtroom, and as the Member for Humber Valley said one time, one of them has to prove that the other fellow is a liar. That is what lawyers do, so the Premier has no trouble saying one thing one day and then the complete opposite thing the other day.

It is like he is going into a courtroom today to defend me and he is saying what a great fellow I am and then the next day he is hired by the Crown and goes into the courtroom and says what a crook I am. A lawyer has no problem with that, that is his job. This is the first time in history that we have had a lawyer elected as Premier of our Province. The unions did not call him a lawyer. There was a campaign that went around a little while ago that did not call him the first lawyer in our Province. Probably he was not the first what the unions called him who was elected in our Province, Mr. Chairman.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Time is up.

The hon. the Minister of Development.

MR. FUREY: Mr. Chairman, the hon. member refers to the Liberal document that we published during the last election which we laid out for the people to see. All things being equal here is what we would like to do, that is what we said to the Province. It is pretty honest. I think the document went on for some forty pages. It was a blueprint that was laid before the people of the Province in various departments and various sectors: here is what we would like to do all things being equal. Now, on the other side as I recall during the election there were no policies. There was no policy manual, there was no blueprint, there was no direction.

AN HON. MEMBER: They never had one to deceive the people.

MR. FUREY: Well, therein lies the deception in itself, to have none and to say, to articulate as candidates that you have one when it is invisible. So what did we say we would like to do, all things being equal, and not knowing what the Treasury was like, because as we sat on that side in Opposition, we had no way of knowing what state the Treasury was in. We could only ask questions and get kind of clouded, hazy and foggy answers - when the Legislature was open. It was closed for nearly -

AN HON. MEMBER: Most of the time.

MR. FUREY: Yes, most of the time it was closed. I remember having a press conference outside of the old Legislature upstairs with our former leader, demanding that the people's House be open. We couldn't even get it open. So, all things being equal, what did we say we -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FUREY: Be quiet now, because you weren't even here.

What did we say we would like to do? We would like to see people have good-paying and productive jobs. Surely they are not against that. We would like to have seen that. We would like to see equal access to educational opportunities for our children; not a bad policy; not a bad blueprint; not a bad game plan. We would like to see a standard of health care equivalent to everybody else in Canada. You cannot be against that. We would like to see good municipal, social and transportation public services for our people everywhere. We would like to see that, and an opportunity for our children to grow up in a healthy environment, and to be happy.

That was the general context of what we laid out for our policy development. Then we went into some specifics. We talked about Churchill Falls and how we would like to see that altered through the intra-provincial barriers, and free flow of power. We talked about that. We were not dishonest. We didn't hide from it. We talked about it. We said in education that a Liberal government would abolish school taxes.

MR. DECKER: And we did, and you are not getting them back.

MR. FUREY: What did the Liberal government do? We wiped out the school tax. Now, the hon. member doesn't like that. He doesn't feel good about it. He would like to be able to criticize us and say, bring back the school tax, but we ain't gonna bring back the school tax. It is history - gone. We said we would do it. We did it.

It is interesting, because the school tax before was set up in such a strange way that children in rural parts of the Province, for example, St. Barbe, would only get something like $90 per pupil in their grants, and children in St. John's and Corner Brook were getting $300 and $400. That was wrong, and it was wrong for the seventeen years that the hon. gentleman on the opposite side occupied the government; and we pointed it out many, many times. Did they have a policy to correct the Margaret Thatcher-type tax?


MR. FUREY: No, they did not, but we did, and we delivered. And we are delivering on our Royal Commission on Education. 'Our Children, our Future' - a brilliant document which is bold and innovative, which has been laid out for the people to look at. The recommendations are all clear. There is nothing hidden, and we seek input now from the churches, and from the parents, and from the students, and from everybody in our society who wants to effect real change - real change. Do you remember that - real change? That is what we promised, too. We promised real change, and we are going to see some innovative things.

If you turn to the next page, Mr. Chairman - I hope this is not backbreaking for you to listen to - you will see electoral reform. The Conservative government promised for years and years and years, even in the four years we sat in Opposition, that they would bring in an Elections Act which would control spending; which would control who could donate to a party and to a person and to a candidate; which would put all of those controls in place. I think - and the hon. the member for Grand Bank can correct me if I am wrong - I think you put a select committee of the House in place, led by Mr. Carter of Mount Scio. Then they came up with some kind of very shallow report, as I recall, and it fizzled.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FUREY: You are going to say the contribution to the Liberal leaders -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FUREY: Again, he was up-front, honest, and straightforward about it.

AN HON. MEMBER: That is why (inaudible).

MR. FUREY: Well, you can play tricks with language all you want. I have never seen a more honest leader in my life in this country. Why do you think he is so popular in this country?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FUREY: Because he is honest. Now, honesty is a tough one to take in the gut for the Opposition, because they do not recognize it. They don't even know what it means. They wouldn't have a clue, not a click, what it means.

We promised an Elections Act. Well, guess what is on the Order Paper in this session? - an Elections Act.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FUREY: Then we go on to talk about the environment, and we have a terrific Minister of Environment and Lands, who is very sensitive to what is happening in this country, very sensible, too, to what is happening in this country. You would have been proud, as I was, to read the clippings coming out of Globe '92 and out of Toronto and out of her presentation to the Senate committee and the House of Commons committee in Ottawa. She did a terrific job. Because you know something? It is about time we started talking about the fishery in environmental terms, and this minister has done a superb job in that regard.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FUREY: Mr. Speaker, we are talking about cleaning up pollutants and hazardous wastes, and again they are moving in that direction as the policy manual talked about.

We laid out a policy for fisheries. We asked for shared management. Unfortunately, we cannot unilaterally take control of our future and our destiny when it comes to the fishery. Because, as you know, under the Terms of Union and under the Constitution, the fishery jurisdiction when it leaves land into the water, is clearly and fully a federal responsibility. And we have seen how the federal government has screwed that up over the years. That is why we asked for shared management and shared jurisdiction. That is something that we are working on. We cannot be held accountable because your Conservative friends in Ottawa don't see the merits of shared management. But we would like to do that.

Forestry and Agriculture: The minister is moving ahead with some of the policies in here that we have talked about. The Agricultural Department did a major study on farming and how we can rejuvenate and become self-sufficient - some interesting concepts and ideas there. We have lived up that.

Now, I come to health. What a Minister of Health! I have heard people attack this Minister of Health all morning - somebody asking him to resign. The fellow who asked him to resign should resign in shame for asking. We have a terrific minister of health - taking bold decisions, moving health care into the 21st century. It would do your heart good to see The Globe and Mail - not a Newfoundlander - The Globe and Mail examining the health care systems across the country. Which minister and which department in which province did he rate the highest? This minister, in this department, in this Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FUREY: Mr. Speaker, I can remember sitting over there and talking to the government of Mr. Peckford, at the time, and pointing out that there was an old bunch of lumber camps stuck together in Port Saunders. What a poor excuse for a hospital - asking 4,000 people to come into old woods camps that were joined together almost like trailers. That is their hospital. I asked for help and I was ignored. I asked time and time again for help, and I was ignored. I asked this minister to come into my district and take a look at it first-hand. Within two months there was $250,000 for planning, because it is the right thing to do, not because it is a Liberal district. I am proud to tell you that this minister allocated $8 million. There will be a new hospital built in Port Saunders, and 4,000 people will have a decent place to come and get decent health care.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FUREY: Mr. Speaker, not because it was a Liberal district. Because the district switches back and forth. It is because it's the right thing to do. The people in St. Lawrence needed a new and decent hospital in the hon. the Member for Grand Bank's own district. They are getting it because this Minister of Health saw it to be the right thing to do, an $8 or $9 million hospital.

Down in Burgeo, where they were ignored for years, and where my hon. friend, the former minister of transportation, and the Member for Burgeo - Bay d'Espoir, stood time and time again as the Liberal member in the Opposition, asking the government for a decent health care facility for Burgeo, he was ignored year after year. This Minister of Health has $10 million going in down there to put a decent health care service in an isolated part of the Province because it is the right thing to do.

Resign? This minister should be kept on for a long, long time, because he has some more important changes to make, and he has really proven himself with respect to our policy manual.

I can go on and on.

AN HON. MEMBER: Auditor General's Act.

MR. FUREY: If the hon. member wants - the Auditor General's Act, of course.

MR. CHAIRMAN (Tobin): Order, please!

The hon. member's time has elapsed.



MR. CHAIRMAN: Does the hon. member have leave?


MR. CHAIRMAN: No leave.

MR. FUREY: A little bit of leave just to conclude?


MR. CHAIRMAN: The hon. member does not have leave.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I want to speak to this bill which is ineptly named the Health and Post-Secondary Education Tax. It is not clear that any of this money is actually doing anything to improve the situation with respect to post-secondary education or health. We have a very serious problem in the health care field in this Province. Not much different, Mr. Chairman, although some changes have been made. Then it was described by the Liberal party in its platform as being the health care system in turmoil. We do have a very serious situation with respect to that and I am afraid that the minister responsible has been contributing to the problem by the kind of statements he makes about health care issues, particularly in the last few days, Mr. Chairman. To treat issues of waiting lists for serious surgery with the kind of attitude that the minister expresses is only causing great concern to people in this Province as to whether or not government seriously cares about dealing with the issues up front.

Similarly, dealing with the issues of mental health and the provision of services through the Thomas Anderson Centre in the Janeway Hospital once again, Mr. Chairman, people are given to wonder whether this minister is serious about delivering services or whether he is more anxious to score political points or try and rebuff suggestions that the Province is not doing enough. What the Liberal policy paper said was that institutions must not be understaffed and that compassion must always take precedence over business administration, but what we have had in the mental health field during the last two years, at least, has been exactly that, an understaffed situation where business administration takes precedence over compassion and over the needs of young people, and particularly in this instance, for mental health services.

Attempts were made through the Estimate Committee to get the answers as to what was going on at the Thomas Anderson Centre, within this House and in the Estimates Committee, but no real answers were forthcoming. We have a serious crisis, Mr. Chairman, in this area in the Province. Mental health issues are coming much to the forefront. The serious and long-term impact of situations such as child abuse and such as other mental health issues with young people are coming to the forefront because people are starting to recognize that there is an necessity for intervention by agencies of government and health care in this field. The working group on child sexual abuse in a final report on therapeutic intervention in sex offense cases in Newfoundland, December 1991, says that it is essential that people working with offenders understand the impact of violence on victims, recognize their powerlessness, and also recognize that the development of services for victims and families needs to be made a priority.

Mr. Chairman, I have difficulty with the government's commitment in that area, when we have had the Thomas Anderson Centre understaffed for two or three years. There is a suggestion there is difficulty with hiring yet last May the minister was asked about this and at that time there had not been a recruiting program for a year before that. Now we are told that sometime between May and now there was some effort to recruit but no details could be provided. Mr. Chairman, that is not good enough. If there is a problem in recruiting the proper people for a service of this nature then government has an obligation to do something about it.

For many, many years before we had a medical school there was a problem recruiting doctors to practice in this Province and what did government do? They went and actively recruited. I remember the former Minister of Health back in the 50s and 60s, Dr. Jim McGrath used to go off to Ireland every year on trips to recruit doctors. Gargantuan efforts were made to bring doctors to this Province and ultimately the decision was made to start a medical school to produce our own doctors, as we now do, not only for this Province but for other parts of North America and indeed the world.

Mr. Chairman, when a matter is given a priority it deserves government takes action to do something about it. We do not see that action in this area. We see a slack approach by the government, lollygagging about for two or three years, using excuses, trying to blame it on the unions, talking about labour disputes, and talking about disagreements between unions. These are the kind of excuses government and the minister have been giving to hide the real issue which is they are dealing more with business administration than with the real needs of the people that are trying to be served. The minister comes in this House and talks about the thing not being successful, well, Mr. Chairman, there has not been the effort required to make it successful and to ensure that this service is adequately provided.

If the issue was understaffing, why didn't the director of the Janeway Hospital - who spoke on this issue this morning, was interviewed at length on CBC radio - mention a thing about not being able to get the people? He did not say anything about not being able to recruit. He did not talk about that problem at all. He said: they were assessing this and they were looking at how they were going to approach this in the future, and after all, we are a provincial hospital, et cetera.

Last year the minister was saying: we have a definite plan. Once this thing is up and running we are going to put these centres in other parts of the Province. We are now being told that the excuse is: we cannot get people on the one hand, by the minister, and on the other hand by the administrator of the Janeway that: we are assessing this, it is an ongoing process, and this takes a long period of time.

What is the real answer? Is the minister telling us the truth? Or is the administrator telling us what is really going on? We are being asked to support this measure to provide increased funds for post-secondary education and health, but we are not being given any answers by the government as to where they are placing the priority when it comes to mental health. Whether for teenagers and adolescents, or for adult survivors, for the mental health issues that are so clearly prominent in our society today, many of them as a result of sexual assault on young people, on children, which has come to the forefront. We have the statistics released from the Department of Social Services indicating that the reports of child sexual abuse have doubled from approximately 650 last year to over 1,200 in the following year.

That is a very serious increase. There needs to be an understanding that these have very serious impacts for the mental health of people. If we do not do something now to help these young people, these people who are suffering from this, we are going to be doing something later when they get into other problems. Whether they be mental health problems, education problems, unemployment problems, health problems, such as potential suicides. We may see them later on in our psychiatric wards, we may see them as burdens to society in many other ways. Also, that is not obviously the point, although we are talking about finances here, the real point is that there must be services available to prevent these very serious impacts on the victims of this kind of abuse.

That is what is required. I am quoting here from the working group on child sexual abuse: there must be a recognition that the present gaps in services pose tremendous hardship for victims, and stress and strain for the professionals and care givers trying to respond to their needs. That is what is happening now. It is a very serious priority. I do not get any sense from the statements of the minister other than trying to rebuff criticism, not deal with the problems. I do not get any sense that the government is taking this as a serious priority and has an actual plan that it is prepared to implement, prepared to say; here is what we are doing now, here is what we are going to do in the future, and people can make their plans accordingly and have some indication at least from this government, and some confidence, that their government is going to respond to those needs on a priority basis.

That is what is lacking, Mr. Speaker, and that is what I would like to see before we can support this Bill.

MR. CHAIRMAN (Barrett): The hon. the Member for St. John's East Extern.

MR. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I would like to have a few comments on Bill 16. The Minister of Development gave a very fine speech and talked about all the good things that his government had promised, and all the good things that had been accomplished. I suppose he is right in some respects. There have been some positive happenings over the last three years. I suppose that for every time the sun shines we expect a little rain, and I suppose there were some negative aspects of government policies over the last number of years as well.

I would like to speak specifically about this new tax measure. it is a tax to aid education and health. It is a tax on the backs of people who are already taxed to the hilt. I was speaking to one of the town councils in my district only a week ago. Because of the lowering of the amounts from $200,000 down to $100,000, where any small company, town council, or whatever, will have to pay this tax. Where town councils are certainly restricted now in their spending, because of the changes in the grant system, and because of the absence of the road component, which is gone, that they are having a great problem financing the daily routine of their councils.

Like Torbay. When there was a level of $200,000, Torbay did not reach that level. But now, with the $100,000, Torbay, with a small group of people employed, will reach up to $180,000. So again, it is a harsh reality on councils that do not have the dollars to do the necessities of everyday running at councils, such as Torbay. Torbay is only one that I mentioned, because the same situation is existent in Outer Cover, Middle Cove, Logy Bay, Pouch Cove. I suppose you could go right across the island. Carbonear, Harbour Grace. Any of those areas that - we are not speaking of St. John's, Mount Pearl, or Corner Brook and Grand Falls. But the other areas that are being hurt by the changes in the grants system.

My two colleagues across can laugh all they like, but wherever they come from, whatever part of Newfoundland they come from, and if councils are coming across to them loud and clear, telling them the same things they are telling me, that they are hurting because of the changes in the grant system. Here is another problem that was not existent a year ago but is there staring them in the face now.

Also, we see the day, and it is no secret to anyone, it is perhaps more in the media than anything else. Sometimes I look at it and say: they are all Johnny-come-latelys. They did not see a problem there a year ago, but these past eight months everyone seems to be jumping on the bandwagon about the fishery, and the problems that we are having in the fishery. In fact, I saw a piece in the paper yesterday evening, where one of the Liberal backbenchers, an ex-Cabinet minister, said that one of the plants in his district would have to look at some down tuning as it pertains to salaries and negotiations. I think that the plant is closed now because of a labour dispute.

In the same token, that plant that did not have to pay this payroll tax last year will now be subject to the payroll tax. I think that the government should take a hard, real, conscientious look at each fish plant and see if it is viable, see if they are making any money but just don't do it on an overall basis because some of those plants are hurting now and I do not think that this is going to do any good, in fact it is going to put them farther in the hole and you will see more plants closed because of this tax.

Now I know that taxation is necessary. Governments must have money to survive and the Minister of Development and Tourism certainly shouted loud and clear that the school tax is gone, he is right, the school tax is gone. I am one of the people who was a member of the St. John's Board when the school tax was brought in, and I had misgivings, mixed feelings about the tax from day one, but, Mr. Chairman, the school boards needed additional money and that was one way that they could acquire the money they needed. Perhaps now, this government finds itself in a position where they are going to make the situation better for school boards; I hope that that will be the end result.

Our personal income tax has gone up 4 percentage points, so, while dissolving the school tax, we certainly did not do anything great. The monies are still needed; the school tax used to pay out to school boards about $30 million a year, and the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations certainly can register his 'ayes' to that, we certainly need it in many of the schools, just for incidentals, for everyday needs of the schools and I hope that the government will fork over that amount of money to the boards.

The Minister of Education has guaranteed us in this House that it will happen.

I have been speaking to some of the chairmen of the school boards in the St. John's area and it certainly has not happened to date. They are hurting in every respect and hopefully government will find a way to rectify that situation. Also, Mr. Chairman, the Minister of Development and Tourism spoke about the House closing, the closing of the House, and I am sure that the Minister of Development and Tourism today would love to have the House closed, but when he was on this side it was a different situation. He was always out there before the media saying that the people's House is not open, that the people want access to what is going on, but, Mr. Chairman, when you change sides that changes as well and I am sure the Minister of Development and Tourism will agree with that.

Mr. Chairman, we find so much negativity as far as our educational system is concerned and today we have before us, Dr. William's report and his recommendations. I have said it before, Mr. Chairman, and I will say it again, that, although Newfoundlanders are unique in our educational system, we take an awful lot of ribbing from our own people as to how many people in Newfoundland are ignorant, how many people in Newfoundland are less educated than the people in the rest of Canada and indeed in this part of the Americas, but I say now and I have said before, that our best export is our expertise.

There is a great number of Newfoundlanders right across North America, in every town in every place that you will go with high paying positions. Positions of trust, and you name it, Mr. Chairman, because we just did not have the technical facilities or we did not have the hospitals, we did not have the universities, but you go right across North America and you will find Newfoundlanders in some very, very responsible positions and we call it the brain drain, and yes, it is a brain drain. But we just do not have the wherewithal for our students to apply themselves in this particular Province, but, Mr. Chairman, I do not mind that, because if you go to Boston or go down to any part of the United States and you meet some people there - they come from Florida; they come from New York State; they come from Pennsylvania - you never hear those people say that they had to move from one area to the other. It is all the United States of America, and the same thing with Canada. It is all Canada, so if you have to move from Newfoundland to Ontario, so what? It is all part of a great country.

We talk so much about having to go to the mainland. It is a privilege to have such a country so diversified, so many employment opportunities, that we can go to other parts of the country; that we can find work in other parts of the country. So I really have a job with that.

You will hear people saying: The illiteracy rate in Newfoundland, how do you compare it with other parts of the world?

MR. CHAIRMAN: Does the hon. member have leave of the House?

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MR. PARSONS: Mr. Chairman, I always have to go back and relate to an old gentleman I knew down in Port de Grave. His name is Aubrey Penton. I saw many boats, long-liners, which that gentleman built. If he was in some parts of the mainland, or the states, he would be grabbed up by some shipyard. That man today perhaps would be classed as having no education, but glory be to goodness, Newfoundlanders are such that they have done such great things in just being able to do what they have to do, and do it in a righteous manner.

We have experts in all fields of endeavour. Granted, our educational standards perhaps could be increased. Our educational standards could be improved upon. I do not think there is anyone who will deny that, but in what sphere of action? In what area of life can you not improve upon? Improvements can be in every part of one's livelihood, every part of one's living, in government, business, or anything else. But I am reluctant to say: Take the religious aspect out of the schools. I am certainly reluctant, as I read the recommendations. I certainly agree with sharing our educational facilities. I have always agreed with it, but I am not - I will not - stand by and see the denominational educational system torn apart, as is recommended in this, because I see this as a black spot. I see this as a dark area for Newfoundland.

We talk about having all the polls done. What we have to do - we are free on this side, and I will always be free. What I am saying is that the people of Newfoundland and Labrador have to be educated in all the facts of education, because this is a media deal. This is a media thing. All that the people out there are being told about, all that is being said is: Look, we are doing things over and over, and it is costly.

AN HON. MEMBER: A point of order, Mr. Chairman.

MR. CHAIRMAN: The hon. the Minister of Development on a point of order.

MR. FUREY: I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member's speech, because I really enjoyed listening to his speech. He is one of the better speakers over there, and a thoughtful speaker.

Now the hon. member says that he is against the report 'Our Children, Our Future', and I would be really anxious to hear why he is against it. Obviously he has done some thinking about it, and he is obviously very concerned, and he and I share similar views in another arena. I would be very anxious to hear why he would be against it. Obviously he has thought it through. It has only been out a little while. But before public debate happens, or anybody has had input, you want to take that definitive position at this time?

MR. CHAIRMAN: There is no point of order.

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

MR. PARSONS: In answer to that point of order, Mr. Chairman, I said that I agree with some of the recommendations. I do not agree with taking the church out of the schools. That is the part. The denominational educational system as we know it now, there has to be some changes, but to take the church from the schools in an overall way - I am not saying that there should not be changes -

AN HON. MEMBER: No, and he is not saying take them all (inaudible).

MR. PARSONS: No, but the recommendations here say that as far as administration is concerned, remove the churches' status as it pertains to administration. I say to the hon. House Leader, I say to the Minister of Development, that they should take it easy. What we are seeing out here is the aftermath, as far as I am concerned, of Mount Cashel and other situations that have occurred. Some of this, I read it in these recommendations.

I think that the people should be educated in what is necessary for them to know, and that is overall. What they see here is some person who writes an editorial to the paper saying that there is a duplication of effort out here. The duplication of effort is very minor. The only way that we are going to get a good educational system in Newfoundland is if we resettle it, if we go back to what Joey did and bring them all into the large areas and have great schools for the greatest majority. Otherwise we will not.

I am saying to the government now and to anyone who wants to listen that we should step very carefully as it pertains to the changes in the denominational educational system. There have to be changes. I agree and have always agreed with sharing the facilities. That day is gone when we can afford not to share the facilities. The religious aspect of it, as far as I am concerned, is gone. My children, my grandchildren, played with all religions. No difference. All my friends are not Catholics.

So why do we have a distinction as far as the schools are concerned? I do not see any reason for it. I believe that schools should be economically viable as far as education is concerned. I do not think there should be any dispute on that whatsoever. But when they talk about taking the administration out, that is where my line of thinking is different than Dr. Williams. I think that we have to be very careful in taking out that portion of it, the administrative portion. I think that we should step very carefully in that respect.

I think that some of the changes are good for education in Newfoundland. Some of the changes will have to come about. What I am saying is, we look at our own educational system and think it is the worst there is. But you ask some of the people down through the States, ask some of the people on mainland Canada, where they have the private schools, and they will tell you perhaps that we have one of the best educational systems in all of North America.

Granted, like I said before, and I will stick by it, if we are to equate ourselves with other parts of the Americas, as far as people are concerned, we are going to have to take the people out of the smaller communities, bring them in to the larger communities and give them schools with the necessities that are necessary today for the students to get that type of education.

AN HON. MEMBER: Which recommendations have you read?

MR. PARSONS: I've read them all.

AN HON. MEMBER: Which ones are you (Inaudible)?

MR. PARSONS: The only ones I am talking about concern administration. Taking the churches - because I feel that if you take them out of administration it will only be a stopgap for the elimination completely of the denominational educational system.

AN HON. MEMBER: What do you mean, "administration"?

MR. PARSONS: Administration. Like there is an RC school today, or a Pentecostal school, or a Church of England school. The people who are running those schools are the churches, are people from the churches. The RC board. I do not see anything wrong with the churches being involved in the schools. I do not see anything wrong with it. I was on the school board for fourteen years, perhaps longer than any other one here in the House. I did it for free. There was a great number of people like myself there working for the community, for free. We did our best. Perhaps our best was not good enough, but we did our best.

All I am saying to the hon. minister, and I'm saying it to him over and over, that we have had a lot of controversy over the last three years as it pertains to our educational system in more spheres than one. I say to him that out there now there are a lot of people just thinking along the lines of the - well, the RCs, the way Mount Cashel acted, and the other problems that we had in other schools, I think that is there and that the people are thinking about it, especially when people are polled. What I am saying to the government is, if they are going to spend any money on this, they should educated the people as to exactly what is happening, not going along with some myth or someone who writes a letter to the editor saying, This is the way it should be. They know it all, just give them the facts, tell them how much over-straddling is done in the schools. Tell them how much emphasis is being placed -just explain the situation to them; and perhaps, we will see a good - all the recommendations won't be accepted but some of them will. With that said, Mr. Chairman, I thank you very much for the leave of the House.

MR. CHAIRMAN: The hon. the Member for LaPoile.

MR. RAMSAY: Mr. Chairman, I want to comment on Bill 16, the Act To Amend The Health and Post-Secondary Education Tax Act, which, I understand, is what we are on here. Also, I will follow up on the comments of the hon. the Member for St. John's East Extern, speaking about the Royal Commission Report on Education.

I must say, I was very impressed with the professionalism shown in this document by Dr. Len Williams, brought forward by the Royal Commission on Education, the way in which it was presented, the thought and the depth to which he and the Royal Commission went to study and to determine a plan for the education of the children of this Province in the future.

First and foremost, with respect to the Health and Post-Secondary Education Tax, I just want to point out that I do agree in full with the provisions of this tax. I think, in places where it replaces the school tax and ties in with that, insofar as the removal of school tax from businesses is concerned, this, in turn, will provide the extra revenue necessary to accommodate the lost school tax revenue for the government, and thereby, I fully support this change that is being made to the Health and Post-Secondary Education Tax Act.

Insofar as this ties into the school tax and educational funding in the future, it is certainly prudent to mention the initiatives that are suggested by the Royal Commission on Education. It is a very forward-thinking document, a document, I think, on which I would support the government taking an all-out approach.

The recommendations of the Royal Commission Report on Education, to my mind, in spite of the fact that there are 200-and-some-odd, will act, in a manner, as one. I think the overall approach taken by the Royal Commission is that these recommendations should be implemented conclusively, including all of the recommendations or, at least, a lot of consideration given to the mechanisms required to put forward all of these recommendations.

I note for the record the idea of removing the denominational administration of schools; I think it is a good move. I feel that the provisions in there for regular upgrading, the creation of a professional development institute for people in the teaching profession, is something that is very necessary.

Mr. Chairman, as all hon. members here are aware, with the bringing in of Bill 17, with reference to the restraint of compensation for teachers, as well as all other public servants, we, as members on the government side, anyway - I am not so sure about the Opposition side - were asked to meet with our respective Newfoundland Teachers' Association executives in our districts. And I sat down and met with the teachers on the local executive of the NTA, and was very impressed with their concern for students, in spite of the fact that we do disagree on some of the philosophy on how to deal with educational issues.

The big concerns they had were the incentive and the overall morale of teachers and how this will play itself off in the classroom and in the school system, and again, I have concerns for that, as well. Prior to that meeting, I wished that the Royal Commission Report on Education had been out, but it was just following that, on the end of that same week, that the Royal Commission Report did come out - sorry, it was the week following. And to see some of the things that were suggested: It did address some of the problems they had raised to me, problems of teachers not really knowing what to do in certain cases, wondering how do they reach out to the students they are teaching who are in any way difficult. The issues we have to deal with in this day and age, how do they address these issues in a manner that brings them onto the mainstream the way that students these days think and understand the situation to be in the world.

There is a lot of despair and negativity associated with the media. One teacher said he found, when he was asking his own son about the future, the son had a very, very distraught view of the world and what the world would be like in ten years because of environmental problems, because of nuclear warhead problems in the Soviet Union, where, without the solid control of a USSR central government, there is now a fracturing of the Soviet Union.

These are the concerns that our children these days have because they are inundated with a huge amount of information. The information they are receiving now is 100-fold compared to what we were receiving, in my age group when we were going through school. I remember we had one TV channel, CBC. You got a good semblance of the news and so on, but you didn't really get a full broad view until now with what some sociologists and future thinkers have called the information revolution, where every year, now, we are doubling the amount of information available for consumption.

If students of the day have to deal with this then teachers have to be able to teach and deal with the students, and the Royal Commission Report on Education, I think, addresses this. Now, it would not happen overnight. If the recommendations brought forward in the report were implemented immediately, it would take some three to five years, I would suggest, for the report, as written, to have an impact on the next generation of students. But, as we see with the strategic economic plan development we have initiated, it seems that overall, the business people, social development agencies, and others in the Province are certainly concerned about education and education's effect on the overall approach that the Province is taking to economic development, and to the Province's own future - whether it be the economy or other matters, it is through education that we have to address these problems.

Now, through education, hopefully, we can effect a change in the attitude of the Province, because what we, as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, think of ourselves, is essentially what we become in the future. The future of our Province is in our own collective self-esteem, it is in how we view ourselves. If we view ourselves as never being able to get ahead, then, essentially, the Province as a whole will never be able to get ahead, but if we feel that there is, Mr. Chairman, a certain element of hope and desire to better ourselves and to achieve in the future, then we will get ahead. We will maintain and have some vision for the future. We have to have this through measures that this government has taken some fiscal sobriety that we, in the past, have not had; the sober attitude of this government in comparison to previous governments of all colours, federal and provincial. We have to pay the piper.

The day of a huge amount of spending is over. Even though spending is increasing as a percentage of our overall gross domestic product, it is not. We are lowering what government is. I would even suggest, as hard as it may be, some time in the future we may have to get away from debt as a percentage of the overall provincial gross domestic product, and rather than having debt increasing in spite of that, I think maybe we have to get the debt cut down. So instead of having 5.2 increasing to 5.3, but satisfying ourselves to the respect of saying: Well, it is a smaller percentage, maybe we have to say: Look, we have to get that debt paid off. Operate government back to the cash can - what you put in, you have to take out. There is x amount of dollars to operate it on. Government cannot be all things to all people. Government has to become a servant of the people, and not a people serving government. It has to reverse the way that it has grown huge in magnitude.

We have to come up with better and more efficient ways of spending the money that we have available for the public services of the Province. We have to address the areas of efficiency in government. The way in which we deal with education is so important, and the ways in which we deal with our health care, with a population that is getting more aged. The demographics of our population are - and I suppose the baby boom generation is making a time shift. Now the baby boomers are getting, the oldest of which now I think are forty-three or forty-four years old, and the younger people are just around my age or a little older. So that baby boom is moving through the population of the Province, and we have to come up with ways and means to support this older population - the overall demographics.

The Royal Commission Report -

MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please!

The hon. member's time has elapsed.

MR. RAMSAY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

First of all, I want to compliment you on doing a fine job as Chairman this morning, filling in for others who have other duties. It is good to see you in the Chair.

AN HON. MEMBER: Very dignified.

MR. MATTHEWS: Very dignified. The only thing is, I do not know why they do not provide the capes, or the Batman capes as my colleague for Humber Valley said. Everyone should have to wear that, but then it reminds me of the graduations in school when I was teaching. Well I guess it is appropriate because it is a post-secondary education tax, so it is relevant. It is relevant to talk about education. When we had graduations that for years in the staff I was on all the teachers would wear their gowns and stuff. I used to often times feel like the Count on Sesame Street, or whoever he was.

I wanted to have a few words on this Bill 16, An Act To Amend The Health And Post-Secondary Education Tax Act, a new tax that was initiated by this government. At the time they introduced the tax, I thought really that we would see improvements to health and post-secondary education in the Province, but we have not seen that. As a matter of fact, we have seen just the opposite.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. MATTHEWS: What is that?

AN HON. MEMBER: Call your buddies in Ottawa.

MR. MATTHEWS: Call my buddies in Ottawa. There you go. See what I mean? That is all you get out of them. Call your buddies in Ottawa. The Member for Stephenville, now I would say he calls his buddy in Ottawa a lot more than I call my buddies in Ottawa. He is always calling for advice. Of course, he has a lot to be thankful for, for his buddy in Ottawa too, I say to him, that we know about. He has a lot to be thankful for.

Having said that, in the 1989 election campaign, in the Liberal election manifesto, as has been referred to, there was a fair bit of attention paid to health care in the Province. I remember during the campaign, the visit by the now Premier to my area of the Province, in the bus. He stopped in St. Lawrence. The Premier, the Leader of the Liberal party then, stopped in St. Lawrence on the bus, and this huge crowd of fifteen people came out to see him. A huge crowd of fifteen people came out to welcome the Premier to St. Lawrence, and they stood up on a little soap box there, with the Mayor of St. Lawrence who was with them at the time. The Mayor of St. Lawrence was there with them at the time, the Premier and thirteen or so others, and the Premier talked about how he was going to open all those hospital beds. They had no worry about the US Memorial Hospital closing in St. Lawrence, because prior to that, the Royal Commission Report into hospitals and nursing homes costs, had recommended the closure of that facility and then the Nycum Associates Bed Study had recommended that, but as the member for the district representing the Town of St. Lawrence and Grand Bank, both of whom had hospitals and being in the Cabinet at the time, that I had enough influence and support at the Cabinet table, that both the Royal Commission recommendation and the Nycum Associates Bed Study recommendation were rejected, but the Premier shows up in St. Lawrence at election time and he says you have nothing to worry about with your US Memorial Hospital, once I become Premier, if I become Premier and he did become Premier, but what did we see?

I remember very well the first Budget. I went down to the lockup to have a look at the Budget and my colleague for Mount Pearl, a former Finance Minister was there with me, and he being more familiar with the Budget document than I was, flicked through it and he said: Bill, he said, your two hospitals are gone; and I said: what? He said: Yes. So, sure enough, the same Premier who just a few short weeks before stood on a soap box in St. Lawrence, announced the phaseout of in-patient services at the US Memorial Hospital and the Grand Bank Cottage Hospital, the very same Premier.

Then I head the Member for Stephenville, wasn't it, going on this morning about the number of hospital beds that they have opened?

AN HON. MEMBER: You should have done that.

MR. MATTHEWS: I should have done what?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. MATTHEWS: No, I should not. I say to the President of Treasury Board and I want to say this to him very sincerely that the pressure that the Regional Health Care Centre is under in Salt Pond, is unbearable. You see, you closed out the in-patient services at St. Lawrence and at Grand Bank and at the Old Cottage Hospital in Burin, so you had about seventy-five to eighty beds in those three facilities. You opened up the new facility in Salt Pond of which sixteen I believe were designated for chronic care, extended care or whatever they referred to it as, and there were another fifty or so beds for acute care, we will call it, alright, so you went from eighty down to about fifty in acute care -

MR. BAKER: (Inaudible).

MR. MATTHEWS: Ah, yes but let me say to the minister that they had to be accommodated somewhere else and there were not enough nursing homes to accommodate them, so what have we found at Salt Pond now, the place has gone just like the other facilities, in that beds are being now taken in the Regional Health Care Centre in Salt Pond by the same kind of people, I say to the minister, the same kind of people. The conditions there, there are people on little cots and stretchers, seriously, and in corridors and inappropriate rooms for days and weeks sometimes. I mean, the pressure on that facility is unbearable, so to say that they should close down the others is not true.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. MATTHEWS: Oh certainly, it would certainly relieve some of the strain, but all I want to say again to the minister is that when you look at the waiting list that is at the Blue Crest Interfaith Home in Grand Bank itself, that you will need four facilities, the equivalent of what is going in to St. Lawrence, even to reduce that list, and of course we all know that we are aging and every day there are more and more people who are getting to the stage where they have to be cared for, so having said that, I want to say that if there is one nightmare, and one problem that we as a people, as a people - I mean care for the elderly, I do not know how in the Name of God we are ever going to cope with it, and I say that for all the right reasons because I am dealing with it on a daily basis as are other members.

Someone calls you up, they cannot get into a place, they have to get into a place, there is a waiting list, you talk to the administrator, you talk to the Chairman of the Board, we all know the problems, very legitimate cases cannot get accommodated. It is like my question this morning to the Minister of Social Services about home support which everyone is encouraging, but if you are going to have people stay in their homes for longer periods of time when they need some sort of a level of care, four hours, eight hours, twelve hours, that there has to be some kind of assistance to those people to keep them there, and as I said, I visited four cases, personally visited their homes and they are four legitimate cases but you cannot get any home support for them so what is the choice for them now? They cannot look out for themselves, they need the care so what do we do for them, what is the answer for them, is the question?... so it is all related.

But what I am saying is that when this Health and Post-Secondary Education Tax was introduced, I thought that I was going to see an improvement. There was a dedication of that money to improve health care and post-secondary education in the Province. That has not happened. That has not happened, Mr. Chairman, and I am a little bit disappointed at that because most of us I think, would be quite willing to pay a little bit more for improved health care or maintenance of standards of health care because we all need it, we all have parents, most of us have parents and grandparents and relatives who need good health care, and to see the behaviour of the Minister of Health in the last two days pertaining to the cardiac unit and the intensive care unit at the Health Sciences Complex and so on is totally alarming. Because I want to go on record as saying here, Mr. Chairman, again on that issue, that I know of a number of cases of people from my own district who have seen their local physician; who have been diagnosed at the regional health care centre in Salt Pond; who have been referred to St. John's for a dye test, because they have artery blockages; the dye tests have shown that these people have blockages; they need bypass surgery.

I do know cases, I want to say, and it is too bad the Minister of Health is not here, that I know of one case particularly where a young man, early thirties, had a problem. He was diagnosed as having blockages and he had to wait so long for surgery that he had a very serious heart attack that did so much damage to his heart that they can now not perform surgery on him. As a matter of fact he called me last week. There is so much damage done to his heart that they cannot operate on him.

I had another case. A couple of months ago another gentleman, a very serious situation, who was diagnosed as needing bypass surgery. He called me and said: I have been waiting now for months to try to get in to get this surgery. I'm worried to death, my family's worried to death. His wife called me. So I called over to the admissions officer at the Health Sciences Complex. She told me that the waiting list was unbelievable. Everyone there was an emergency. She would try and do the best she could. That is all I could ask the lady.

So it didn't happen. A number of weeks went by and he did not get in. We called back again. So she said: he is sort of on the short-list emergency list now, and eventually, thank God, the man got in and had surgery and is doing okay. But the same thing could have happened to him as happened to the other gentleman. That is how serious it is.

I am sure members opposite must have the same kinds of calls. Their constituents I am sure call them to express their concern. How do you deal with someone who needs bypass surgery? If it was me, I think I would go out of my mind if I had to wait months knowing I needed heart surgery. How do you handle something like that? Someone tells you you have blockages in your arteries. You know what the consequences are if you are not done. How do you handle it? It does not do much for him to call him back and say: you are on the list, that they don't know when they are going to get you in, then they schedule you, and then you get postponed, and they schedule you and you get postponed. I talked to a nursing friend of mine a few weeks ago who works in the Intensive Care Unit at the Health Sciences Complex. She told me that they had postponed one person over there who needed delicate, important surgery. That the doctor says he just would not postpone it any more. Because this person needed that surgery pretty badly or it was going to have dire consequences.

So that is how serious it is. There is no point in saying things are not that serious, because they are. You may as well recognise it up front, be honest. There is a very serious problem. It has to be dealt with. I thought this health tax would take care of some of those problems, but it has not.

Post-secondary education is another story. We could go on for three or four days about that. Today my colleague for St. John's East Extern talked about the Williams report, mentioned some aspects of the Williams report. A very important report, what I consider to be an excellent report, having had a quick chance to look through some of it, having been briefed by Dr. Williams for a couple of hours a couple of days ago. I have to say that I was totally impressed. One excellent report. He did a first-class job of giving a briefing in a couple of hours, which was almost impossible on such an important and comprehensive issue.

But I have to say that I think what he is recommending is just what the doctor ordered, tying it to health care. I think what he is recommending is just what the doctor ordered for education in this Province. As I said to the Government House Leader a few minutes ago up behind here, I think it would be really fitting if we had a chance to debate the Commission report right here in this legislature, that we should all have a chance to express our opinions on it. Because it is so important.

We are talking about - more than anything else, we talk about the future of this Province. Our young people. We are talking about education. Just for the record, and I will say it again if I have a chance to debate it. I hope we are. I am sure the Government House Leader will give it serious consideration.

What is most important to me is that we improve the quality of education in the classrooms in this Province. Everything else is secondary to that for me. Denominational education and all the other stuff is secondary. What is most important is what happens inside of those classroom walls. That is what it is all about and we have to take whatever steps are necessary to improve the teaching, to improve what is offered and presented to our children, improve the quality of education. We have to take whatever steps are necessary because if we do not we will miss the boat, a golden opportunity. There are going to be some noses out of joint but we have to make a decision, I think, as legislators, as government, as to what we are going to do about this issue. We have to consider, Mr. Chairman, who and what is most important. Is it the young people of this Province, the students, the children or is it some other interest groups?

MR. CHAIRMAN: Does the hon. member have leave?

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MR. MATTHEWS: That is what we have to make a decision about here. What is most important? What is the priority in this Province? That is what we have to decide in addressing the William's Report. Everything else is secondary. Some people think we start at the top and go down but I say, no, we start at the bottom and come up. We start in the classrooms of this Province and go up. We start in the classrooms and take whatever actions are necessary to improve the quality of teaching and education in this Province. Whatever they may be, regardless of how annoyed some people may get about what we have to do, it has to be done. It has to be done, I say. I am glad the minister came in because I do not want to see any old wishy-washy type stuff coming out of this. It has to be dealt with I say to the minister. I hope he has his mind made up because it has to be done. The quality of education has to improve in the classrooms of this Province. That is what is most important. Everything else is secondary.

AN HON. MEMBER: Even the minister.

MR. MATTHEWS: Even the minister, as important as he may be at this time, even the minister but everything else has to come after that. We have to deal with it and I will be most interested in hearing members of the House have a chance to express their views on it, the different aspects of that report. I am sure it will be given due consideration because with something as important as this we should have whatever time it takes for us all to speak our mind on the issue. We should have the opportunity to do it right here. There will be division of opinion on different aspects of the report, sobeit, but I am convinced that by far the majority of members here will endorse that report because I think to do anything else we are not only asking to stand still in education in this Province, we are asking to fall further behind.

I will talk about that another day. Like I say, I just hope we will have the opportunity to debate it and I thank the hon. members for giving me leave. This health and post-secondary tax has not proven to be as beneficial to the people of the Province as I thought. I did not like the tax but I thought we would see a significant improvement in health care in the Province, we would see a significant improvement in post-secondary education in this Province. We have not seen that as a result of this tax, I say to the Minister of Forestry and Agriculture. People thought they would see it though but they have not seen it.

I will have some more to say about this bill another day and look forward to more debate from all members on the Royal Commission Report on Education.

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

MR. BAKER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I just want to take a few minutes to respond to some of the comments made by the Member for St. John's East Extern in his speech a few minutes ago. He dealt with a number of things but the thing I want to spend a couple of minutes on is his comments on the Royal Commission on Education. I personally would have to support, I guess, the thrust of what he had to say in terms of the education system. The greatest need out there, as the Opposition House Leader has pointed out, is some change in terms of the education of the students in this Province, and we have to make sure that is done in the best way possible to give the best possible education to our students.

The Member for St. John's East Extern asked, why should his grandchildren have to go to a specific school? Why can't the kids who play together also go to school together? I think that is what he was saying. I believe, the hon. member misunderstands, or at least has a different understanding, of the recommendations of the Royal Commission than I do. I just wanted to point out the difference in understanding.

I believe that the Royal Commission Report is saying to the denominations, 'You should have more input into the schools' - more input'; not removed from the schools; that you should have more input into the school in terms of the religious education courses that are taught in the schools; in terms of pastoral care, counselling and all that kind of thing, that the denominations - that is this recommendation. Whether I agree with it or not is a different matter. But the recommendations, it seems to me, are pointing out a much larger role for the churches in the schools with the students, but a smaller role in determining which buildings are going to be built and where they are going to be built. So there is a shift in emphasis. It is not, in my way of looking at it, a destruction of the denominational system, unless you believe that the main function of the denominational system is to decide which buildings are going to be built and where they are going to be built.

I think there is a difference in understanding between the hon. member and myself concerning the intent, or what that report says. I just thought I would take the opportunity to point that out. I have not expressed my opinion one way or the other, except to say that we must improve the quality of education in this Province.

I look forward to the Member for St. John's East Extern having another look at the recommendations, and seeing if he agrees with my interpretation as to what the Commission is recommending, the fact that they are recommending a greater role for the churches in education, not a lesser role in terms of what goes on in the classroom.

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

MS. VERGE: Thank you, Chairperson.

I am glad the subject of the Report of the Royal Commission on Education has arisen here this morning in this debate on the payroll tax, since the tax is supposed to fund, or improve the funding, of education and health.

I am also glad to see that the Minister of Education is in the House, after a conspicuous absence -

DR. WARREN: I was on Open Line.

MS. VERGE: - of the past week since the report was issued.

The minister indicates that he was on the Open Line show this morning. Of course, being in the House this morning, I was not in a position to listen to the Open Line program, but I am sure there was some interesting discussion.

Chairperson, I issued a news release last Friday morning, within an hour or so of the release of the Royal Commission Report, to say how pleased I am with the thrust of that report. I said, I particularly welcome the recommendations calling for what I termed 'the democratizing' of our education system, for the recognition of everyone's human rights - the human rights of all parents and all students and all teachers; the recommendations calling for personnel decisions to be based on the merit principle, regardless of religious or denominational considerations. I like, particularly, the recommendations calling for neighbourhood or community schools for children of all denominations.

I represent the district of Humber East, which includes part of the City of Corner Brook, and the Town of Pasadena. In Pasadena, ten years ago or so, because of the initiative of parents, the Integrated and Roman Catholic School Boards serving that town came together and provided one high school for all the young people in Pasadena. Since then, Pasadena Academy has delivered high school programming for all young people in Pasadena, people who are Catholic, Anglican, United Church, Salvation Army, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, and people who do not subscribe to any of those christian denominations. The experience has been very satisfactory. People in Pasadena express one regret, and that regret is that they did not insist on a joint arrangement from Kindergarten all the way through to Grade XII.

MR. DECKER: Are they all in the same classroom?

MS. VERGE: The Minister of Health is asking whether the students are all in the same classroom. Yes, of course they are. All the students in the senior high school program who live in Pasadena go to the same school, they are in the same classrooms. There is just one provision for separate instruction based on religious affiliation, and that is religious education instruction.

There are two religious education programs offered at Pasadena Academy. One is the Integrated program and the other is the Roman Catholic program. Students are free to choose either or opt out of both. Because, of course, our schools act, all along, or at least since the reform in the late 1960s, has entitled parents to opt their children out of religious education instruction, since our schools, which are denominational, are the only schools which are publicly-funded, and the legislation recognises that there are people who do not subscribe to any of the denominations with rights or operating schools. But the schools have to accommodate everyone.

In Corner Brook over the past several years, as with other parts of the Province, there has been enrolment decline. That has prompted the school boards operating schools there to consolidate. Corner Brook is a sprawling municipality. It is the product of the amalgamation of four communities back in 1956. Because of the topography, the city naturally falls into four fairly distinct areas which correspond with the original four communities that came together in 1956. With school boards having to close schools, there has been considerable controversy and debate about people in one neighbourhood losing their neighbourhood primary or elementary school.

The Integrated Board, a couple of years ago, closed their primary and elementary school in the Town Site area. The school was called S. D. Cook School. In that same neighbourhood, very close to the S. D. Cook building, is a Roman Catholic school, St. Gerard's School. When the Integrated Board closed Cook, it said children formerly accommodated there would have to go to Humber Elementary School, which is the other side of a four-lane arterial road and more than a mile from the homes of many of the Town Site children.

Some of the families in the Town Site area wanted to have their children go to the Roman Catholic school, which was much closer to home, rather than having them bused to Humber Elementary. But the Roman Catholic board refused to take those children, and one family appealed the refusal to the Minister of Education. Much to my disappointment, and more importantly, to the disappointment of the family, the minister refused to support the family in their choice. The minister washed his hands of the matter and the family was left with the choice of contesting the refusal in court. That could not be arranged and they have had to have their child bused to the integrated school.

Chairperson, very few people in Corner Brook are satisfied with this arrangement. It seems to me, most of the people in the district I represent very strongly believe the time has come - in fact, the time has come for many years - to have interdenominational, all-inclusive schools serving neighbourhoods or communities. The recommendations of the William's Report would allow for this arrangement. The recommendations would provide for regional public school boards serving all people regardless of religious denomination for the public election of school board members with everyone eligible to participate in provincial elections being able to run for election to school boards. Right now we have blatant discrimination. Right now there are a considerable number of people in our Province who are not allowed to participate in school board elections. They are not allowed to stand for election and they are not allowed to vote. This discriminatory restriction has gotten worse over the last few years.

Back in the early to mid 80s when I was Minister of Education we tried to provide for a greater degree of democracy in the composition of school boards. The churches reacted by retrenching and that retrenchment had the effect of excluding people who had served in leadership positions on school boards before that. In the case of the Bay of Islands, now Western Integrated School Board there were two past chairpersons who are Christians but do not belong to any one of the eight Christian denominations who have constitutional rights in our Province.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS. VERGE: Chairperson, the Minister of Development could not have been listening when I began my remarks. I began by saying that I very much like the report of the Royal Commission on Education. I issued a written news release to that effect last Friday morning. Now members opposite have been strangely silent. The Minister of Education privately gives the impression that he is a reformer, that he respects the human rights of everyone, that he wants to have a public education system that will include everyone and give everyone equal opportunity and equal rights, but when the Minister of Education has had the chance to improve the system, to put into practice some of those principles he has weaselled out.

Now, this Minister of Education and this administration has a golden opportunity, armed with the Report of the Royal Commission on Education, equipped with the knowledge that people are ready for major change, to move on it, to do something about it. Now, they have allowed more than three years of their term in office to elapse without doing anything.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Order please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MS. VERGE: Thank you, Chairperson.

MR. CHAIRMAN: The hon. the Member for Fortune - Hermitage.

MR. LANGDON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I would like to take a few minutes to speak on Bill 16. I was listening with interest a few moment ago when the Member for Humber East said that the Minister of Education had a golden opportunity to make some major changes in the Newfoundland education system. I would like to go back and review a few of the things that have happened to show that the golden opportunity has already begun. When the government took office they realized the inequity in educational funding in the Province and there was no more blatant example of this taking place than it was in my own district where we have very small schools and sparse population and the school board was unable to raise the necessary funds to really provide the educational opportunity that was necessary and that one found in Corner Brook, Gander, Grand Falls, and St. John's. I think the statistics will prove that local contributions of money in the district for education came to something like $86 per pupil, whereas St. John's averaged around $400 per pupil. The school board had argued long and strenuously for a change in that particular policy. That has been changed, and the school board is delighted, even though probably for a short time that this particular equal funding in education is made available to them it will, for the first time, enable that board to see programs implemented in the school that they could not otherwise have implemented without the necessary funding.

Also, when we look at the elimination of the school tax, and the imposition of an additional income tax - I happened to serve as a Chairman of the Exploits Valley School Tax Authority for four years. It was really I suppose with some pity, a lot of pity really, when you realize that people making less than $8,000 a year had to find the same monetary contributions as a person making $100,000 or $200,000 per year. That was not right, and the government has recognized that and imposed the income tax to, in a sense, make it more equitable, because the school tax was certainly a very regressive tax.

I realize that the government also, through the opportunity presented to them, conducted Dr. Len Williams to do a task force into the education system in the Province. Like the Member for Grand Bank and the Opposition House Leader said: The paramount importance for us in the Province is the quality of education, and that particular quality of education, if we look at statistics, has really, I suppose, been lagging because of the fragmented approach that we have had to education in the Province.

The fragmentation that we have, and the lack of quality courses that we could put in the schools, in my opinion has been detrimental to many students. Where we could not offer honours math, and we could not offer the full science programs like chemistry and physics and so on, I believe that through this report, which has been well researched and documented by Dr. Williams, will be I suppose in a sense the channel and the lighthouse whereby we can implement that in the Province and provide that quality education, an opportunity for the students that was not there before.

When I think about the situations in my own district this year, a lot of the things that are happening, that have been proposed by the Royal Commission Report. Honours Math, Physics has been introduced to the schools in Harbour Breton and both schools are taking advantage of that and then of course, the distant education, like a small school in Rencontre East, one of the students there, doing the physics program, through distant education has one of the top marks in the Province, so really that particular student would not have been able to avail of that opportunity had it not been for the introduction of distance education.

I also see the report in a way probably different than has been expressed by some people, and I think the Government House Leader expressed that very well a few minutes ago when he said that there is a different role, it is a changing role for the church in education, whereby the church, regardless of its faith will have an opportunity to do its pastoral care within the school system. We see that happening in the hospital system across the Province, where each church assigns a particular clergy to visit the patients, to pastoral care them, but that has not happened within the school system.

Now I do not know if it has been a fault of the church or a fault of the system or whatever, but it has not been done in the way that it should have been and I believe that now is an opportunity for us to make sure that that happens, that the students can get the pastoral care from their church, from their clergy that is needed to really I suppose in a sense, make sure that the spiritual part of the student's education is not being left out but is fully integrated with the academics that we have carrying on in the school. Therefore, there is a greater emphasis and there is a greater challenge not only for the clergy but for the parents as well, because I believe that if the Royal Commission Report is adopted, that you will see the local schools in the community, the community schools, being under more scrutiny by the parents and they will have a greater input than is there now, therefore the school belongs to the parents and they will probably also make sure that the teachers and whomever else in the school, really do a first class job so that their students education quality can be not only the best in the Province but probably also the best in Canada and be on top with other leading countries in the world and that to me, is very, very important.

I also support, as I said, the bill when it comes for the health care for the Province. Now, there is no doubt about that, that there is a tremendous strain being put on the health care in the Province, not alone to the acute but also to the chronic care and because we are having an aging population, that particular financial burden being placed on the government is going to be even more severe within the coming years and by the turn of the decade than it is now, therefore, there has to be some planning. The government has already done that. They have already outlined, as the Minister of Development said, they are putting a new hospital in Port Saunders; they are improving the health care in St. Lawrence; about to do the same thing, expansion, in Grand Bank; to put a new hospital in Burgeo; and I am sure that there are also plans to improve the hospital in Happy Valley - Goose Bay. There are so many others.

The government, to make sure that this happens in an orderly way, is going to come forward with a five year plan that will be announced shortly so that this can be done in an orderly way and take the political partisan politics out of it, and to make sure that this thing is done on need.

One of the areas that this is needed is the Connaigre peninsula, the area that I represent. We have a cottage hospital in the town of Harbour Breton that was constructed in 1935. Even though the building itself has been kept and looked after as far as the maintenance and the appearance of the building, the building itself does not cater to the needs of the area, an aging population. We have the acute care beds and the chronic care beds all intermingled one with the other, and that is not the proper situation that we would find.

So we are looking forward, within that five year plan, to have a structure on the Connaigre peninsula in Harbour Breton that would be two-fold, that would take care of the chronic and acute care needs of that particular area of the Province. Right now a lot of our people go to Grand Bank and that is about a ten hour drive. You have to drive down through the Trans-Canada up to Goobies, up to the Grand Bank area. Because we do not have the facilities there. So we are looking forward to doing that.

Also, as a part of the planning that has gone into the health care in the Province, in my area, in the Harbour Breton area, and in the Bay L'Argent area, we are building the seniors' cottages. So that in the sense when the aging population cannot take care of themselves, they can go from their homes into the cottages and from there into the chronic care and to be taken care of.

So, Mr. Chairman, there is without doubt a sincere need in the area for health care. I believe that the minister and the government are moving in the right direction, and are going to, through the planning and extra money that's been raised, to put to good use. To make sure that our people do indeed avail of the opportunity to have good health care in the particular area that I represent.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. LANGDON: Thank you very much.

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

MR. HEARN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Certainly not the question. In fact, so many things to be said on this Bill that undoubtedly it will take us several weeks yet to get through it.

The health and education tax, payroll tax, we have gotten carried away perhaps with what it was suppose to do and what it is doing, certainly just a money grab again from government and not being put into either health or education as we can see. What it has done, Mr. Chairman, is it has severely crippled economically a number of agencies throughout the Province.

It was bad enough when the tax was on payrolls in excess of $300,000 but now by dropping it to $100,000 and putting it on resource sector payrolls it has severely damaged economically a number of our small industries. The Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs, as I mentioned this morning, is getting letters now from town councils all around the Province, many of whom if they are any size of a community I would say with a population of probably 1500 or more would have a payroll now in excess of $100,000. These communities and towns are now being forced to pay the payroll tax. They have already been hit by government by the changing grant structure. They have had to increase their taxes to pay their debt charges and now they are faced with another increase to pay the payroll tax or eliminate some of the positions.

Number one, if they are close to $100,000 they will eliminate positions to drop under that so they will not have to pay the tax and even if they are not, if they are well over it, they will have to eliminate positions so that they will be able to pay the tax to government. This is an extremely serious situation and the minister is being asked to exempt councils from paying the payroll tax. What is probably more damaging right now by placing the tax on the resource sector we are hitting a number of -


MR. HEARN: Mr. Chairman, there is an awful racket.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please!

MR. HEARN: We are hitting a number of small fish plants who over the last few years have managed to stay alive, unlike some of their larger counterparts. They have managed to hang in there perhaps by not taking any profits themselves and now they are being hit severely with the payroll tax. You might say it is only $4, $5, $6, $8 or $10,000 but that is probably the profit these smaller fish plants are making.

There are a number of things we have to raise but our time is running short. I just want to commend briefly on the Royal Commission. I was listening for a few moments this morning to the Minister of Education on Open Line. The minister is a great fellow, as we always said, because he disappoints nobody. It did not matter what any caller said the minister would agree with the caller, whether the caller was for or against the Royal Commission the minister agreed. I caution members not to get carried away too far with the Report of the Royal Commission. It is a good report. It has some solid recommendations; but in order to achieve some of the aims which, if you look at them carefully, are a bit idealistic, it is playing right into the hands of this government by sloughing off responsibility for education to boards and committees and councils. That may be a lot easier to put on paper, that you can organize down the line, than to achieve in reality.

To achieve the quality of education that we need in this Province we have to look directly in the classroom. I ask that if a hockey team does not perform well, do you build a big new stadium? Or do you bring in video machines to show them their mistakes? Or do you buy them new hockey equipment? Or do you try to amalgamate them with the team next door? Or do you fire the coach? The answer is probably that you fire the coach, because he is the one who is supposed to teach them to play hockey properly. If our kids are not performing, we have to look a lot closer to home than the outside influences on education. We have to start looking right in the classroom. Hopefully that will be done, but that is not the thing that is zeroed in on in the Royal Commission. I suggest that we not throw out the baby with the bath water; that we look at it very, very carefully, and not jump to conclusions just because they look good on paper.

I adjourn debate, Mr. Chairman, and will get into it again next week.

On motion, that the Committee rise, report progress and ask leave to sit again, Mr. Speaker returned to the Chair.

MR. SPEAKER (Lush): Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Bellevue.

MR. BARRETT: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole have considered the matters to them referred, have directed me to report progress and ask leave to sit again.

On motion, report received and adopted, Committee ordered to sit again on tomorrow.

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker it is my intention, when the House sits again, to call this bill. The immediate legislative plans for the next number of days would be to get into concurrence debates as well as the Estimates of the Executive Council. These are the plans for the immediate future.

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

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