November 13, 1992              HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS        Vol. XLI  No. 63

The House met at 9:00 a.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Lush): Order, please!

Statements by Ministers

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, in view of recent statements by the Roman Catholic Church I would like to clearly state government's intention regarding the Royal Commission Report on Education. Government has completed its analysis of the Report, and I am pleased to inform the House today that the following position will be taken on the recommendations of the Royal Commission.

Firstly, government is in substantial agreement with the Report's direction for education, but acknowledges that implementation of certain structural recommendations will require constitutional amendments while many others can be implemented within the current denominational framework.

Secondly, Mr. Speaker, government prefers to reach a consensus with the recognised denominations on implementation of those recommendations which affect the constitutional role of churches in education. Let me clarify what we mean by recognised denominations lest someone misunderstand what we're saying. At the time of Union some denominations had special rights which were written into the constitution when we joined with Canada. It doesn't mean that we don't recognise the Baptist or the apostolics as denominations. But we're talking about the denominations that are recognised with educational rights.

As a result I wish to inform the House that government has appointed the Planning and Priorities Committee of Cabinet to initiate discussions with the appropriate denominational authorities with the goal to reach a consensus on the churches' role in a reformed education system.

Mr. Speaker, the Committee has been further directed to report back to Cabinet as soon as possible with an assessment of whether a consensus has been reached, or is achievable with further discussion.

Thirdly, Mr. Speaker, government will proceed with substantial implementation of the remaining recommendations of the Royal Commission within the current denominational framework while discussions are ongoing with the recognised denominations.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Mr. Speaker, the minister stated he would like to clearly state the government's intentions. I'm still not very clear. He indicated that there are changes that would require constitutional amendments, and others could be implemented within the framework.

He indicated that he prefers to reach a consensus, and their goal is to reach a consensus. He has not indicated what the government position is. In fact, he has not made it clear today, and he has not made it clear in the media. In fact, on October 22 he stated that it should not be forced - the churches are into the business of education as much as governments and it should not be forced.

On November 1 he stated that he would like for his grandchildren to know that when their grandfather was minister there was a denominational system and eventually there was no system based on segregation. He stated there are recommendations which require changes to the constitution - changes that could be made through consensus or by force.

He still has not made it clear today if it is the government's intention to force the issue. They prefer to reach it by consensus, and that is their goal, but we are still no clearer than his initial opening statement: 'I would like to clearly state the government's intention'; and that has not been done to date.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Does the hon. Member for St. John's East have leave?

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I want to thank the minister for making available a copy of his Ministerial Statement prior to this morning. I want to say that in general we support the position taken by the minister, that they are following the direction of the Royal Commission.

I do have some concern with the approach taken in having a Cabinet Committee deal with this issue without clarifying up front what the government is trying to achieve. In saying that they would like to achieve a consensus, they have not made it clear on what they wish to achieve a consensus.

If they think that they are going to get the churches to all agree to diminish their constitutional role, prior to seeking a constitutional amendment, I think they may be whistling in the dark. I think they should make it clear where exactly they intend to take the constitutional amendment so that we can have a debate about that in this Province as quickly as possible.

I do commend the government on stating its firm intention to move quickly to implement the other recommendations of the Royal Commission study.

MR. SPEAKER: Before proceeding to Oral Questions, on behalf of hon. members I would like to welcome to the public galleries today Mayor Gary Pittman of Rocky Harbour.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Oral Questions

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WINDSOR: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance's statement of yesterday has sent shockwaves across the business community of this Province and through employees and public servants as well, they are in fear of what is about to come in two or three weeks time. Will the minister assure businesspeople in this Province, and the people of this Province generally, that the action he will be taking will not be more massive tax increases, layoffs in the public services, continue the freeze on public service salaries? Will the minister tell us how he proposes to deal with the very serious financial situation that we are faced with?

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

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, we will inform the House and the public of the Province sometime before the end of the month as to what our plan is. Please be assured, Mr. Speaker, that we will deal with the situation in a way that is best for all citizens of the province.

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

MR. WINDSOR: Mr. Speaker, will the minister tell me this: Years ago when the former minister introduced the payroll tax he made great to-do about the fact that he will be raking millions of dollars from the federal government because federal services and employees will be taxable under the payroll tax. Will the minister confirm that, indeed, from the $68 million that was collected last year from that tax only $5 million actually came from the Government of Canada, as compared to what the minister yesterday said we lost $80 million from what was projected to be received from the federal government this year? Clearly that is not a very good source of revenue. Will he also confirm, Mr. Speaker, that it is the private business sector of this province that is paying almost $40 million of that tax? Will he not admit that that now has been a serious detriment to this Province, it is a serious disincentive to employment, it is seriously hampering the economy of this Province? Will he immediately eliminate the payroll tax?

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

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, first of all his original number is incorrect. The number he is using in terms of the payroll tax includes money that the government is paying to itself, therefore the amount is not the $68 million that he refers to. Secondly, I would confirm, Mr. Speaker, that in the vicinity of $5 million to $6 million is the amount of money that is obtained by this Province from the federal government activity in the Province. Thirdly, Mr. Speaker, we raise money in a variety of ways, and the money is spent to provide services to the people of the Province. Our job is to provide services. We have to find the money somewhere, and it is a trade-off between these services and the raising of money. That is something that we have to struggle with during the next two to three weeks.

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

MR. WINDSOR: Mr. Speaker, we appreciate the problem that the minister is facing. Will he take his own advice, perhaps, will he look at the great Strategic Economic Plan that this government waves forward? You know, we all look at it and we see words such as pursue, recommend, investigate, review and consider. Will we now see some action? Will the minister take some action? Will he specifically, Mr. Speaker, take some action as it relates to corporate taxes, as recommended by the Strategic Economic Plan? Will he reduce the corporate tax rate on small business from 10 per cent to five per cent as suggested by the plan? Will he reduce the manufacturing tax from 17.5 per cent to 7.5 per cent and the corporate tax rate from 17 per cent to 16 per cent, put it back to where it was when this government took office? They raised it two years ago. Will he reinstate, Mr. Speaker, the three-year tax holiday for small businesses to try to get some new small businesses started in this Province? Will he take the bold step of reducing retail sales tax to try to stimulate consumer spending immediately?

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

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I see things from other parts of Canada: 'Reversal of fortune'. 'Ontario has to dig deep as tax revenues dry up'; 'BC cuts back spending despite high growth rate'. Statements from British Columbia such as: 'If we closed every hospital in British Columbia, laid off every nurse in British Columbia, we would not balance the budget', statements like that, Mr. Speaker. We are in a very serious situation. The whole of the country is in a very serious situation.

I can't, on the spur of the moment. announce tax changes, as the hon. member knows. Any changes that we contemplate will be made in the normal course of events, and it is one of the things that we obviously have to consider.

I would like to conclude, Mr. Speaker, by thanking the hon. member for his reference to the Strategic Economic Plan. Indeed, that plan is a plan for the future of the Province. We will attempt to follow that plan, and if we can follow that plan, then ten, fifteen or twenty years down the road the people of this Province will never again be faced with the situation they are faced with today.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. WINDSOR: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

On a final supplementary: Let me say to the minister, let me refer to the plan and let the minister refer to the plan and let's take the motherhood statements that have been pulled out of so many plans that have been on the shelves for years and let's turn them into action. Let's do what the Economic Plan says should be done. We agree with that. But in the interim, Mr. Speaker, let's deal with this emergency situation.

Let me refer to the same article in the Globe and Mail from last Friday that the minister referred to relating to Ontario and BC. Let me refer the minister to the statement from Ontario that says, 'Decline and expenditure is considered bad news for the economy, because capital investments, by boosting the construction industry, are a major spur to growth.' And, Mr. Speaker, a statement by the Liberal leader of British Columbia says: Economic growth could be hampered by cuts in areas such as forestry and highway construction, which provide jobs and build the infrastructure for new investment.' Will he take the advice from these two provinces, Mr. Speaker, immediately move ahead, and put some confidence back into the economy by announcing that the proposals announced as a capital works program last week - which was no more than announcing that consultants would be retained to start design work - will the government immediately announce that that $214 million, or whatever it was, of capital works will begin? Will they move ahead from the engineering stage to the tendering stage so that the business community will have something to look forward to in the spring?

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

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, nobody in this Province would like more to be able to stand up in this House and announce huge spending increases, huge tax cuts. There is nobody, I say, in this Province, who would like to do that more than the Minister of Finance of this Province.

Mr. Speaker, we have to face the realities, and over the next two to three weeks, we will be facing these realities and making decisions within the limits that we have facing us. The country has a serious problem and all parts of the country have to deal with that problem. Some will deal with it in ways different from other parts of the country, simply because their situations are much different. We would handle the situation much differently, if we had a AAA credit rating, from the way we can now, hanging on by our fingernails with, of the five rating agencies, one rating at the A level.

So, Mr. Speaker, all of these things will be taken into account in the next two to three weeks and we will deal with the situation in the best interests of all citizens of the Province. I would say to the Finance critic of the Opposition that any other ideas he might have, I would be only too willing to listen to.

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

MR. SIMMS: Mr. Speaker, a question for the Premier. On November 3, not quite two weeks ago - the Premier may remember - I questioned him on the Atlantic Provinces Procurement agreement. At that time, I was making the case, or the argument, that Newfoundland companies would be at a disadvantage because of our high taxes and other costs, and that some would probably set up operations in the Maritimes in order to take advantage of this new Atlantic Provinces Procurement Agreement. At that time the Premier said I was wrong, and he bragged about a Newfoundland contractor that had come in at the lowest bid in Halifax, or in Nova Scotia somewhere, on a major contract. I wonder if he can tell us who that contractor was and what the project was?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: I'd be happy to, Mr. Speaker, as soon as I get the permission to do so. I don't know yet if the contract has been awarded. The last time I spoke to the gentleman he was absolutely delighted. It was a major contract, I think, an $11 million or $12 million contract. So it was very substantial. But I will get the permission. If I can do it this morning, I'll try and do it this morning, so I can advise the House this morning. I don't know yet whether or not the contract was awarded. I know he came in at the lowest tender.

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

MR. SIMMS: On a supplementary, just a quick supplementary. I can appreciate and respect that he would want to get the permission of the contractor. Could he tell us, however, whether or not the contract was for work to the infirmary hospital in Halifax? Would it be that project?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker, when I have spoken with the contractor concerned I will advise the House of everything to which the contractor does not object.

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

MR. R. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Premier. Sometime during the 1992-1993 budget year there was a bill paid on behalf of the Premier's office for $7,500 worth of liquor. I wonder would the Premier tell this House of Assembly what subhead or what part of his budget that $7,500 was paid out of?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: I didn't hear the year he was talking about.

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

MR. R. AYLWARD: I mentioned this fiscal year, Mr. Speaker, but if there are other $7,500 bills in other years I would appreciate that information also.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker, I don't know. I'll get the specific information and give it to the House. But I should tell the House, lest the member attempts to mislead people, as he did in the last couple of days, with his $600 doorknobs and his $70,000 vinyl. I mean, such fabrication -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible)!

PREMIER WELLS: - is beyond contempt and speaks only to the lack of credibility of the member. Mr. Speaker, as all hon. members know, when the new government took office we cut out the expenditures that were taking place in the den down on this floor called the Premier's private dining room, supplied with food, liquor, cigarettes and so on. I did all of the entertaining that was done by the Premier's office - I do it from my home or my office, one or the other. It's done either from my home or my office, Mr. Speaker. That involves expenditures, it involves the supply of alcoholic beverages periodically as well, but I don't know anything about this number. I will certainly get the information and advise the House of exactly what was involved. As a matter of fact, if I look in my desk I may be able to find some information and table it shortly.

MR. SPEAKER: A supplementary, the hon. the Member for Kilbride.

MR. R. AYLWARD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It's easy to know where the $75,000 for the dining room went. Ten thousand dollars, or $5,000 more, went into wallpaper. The $75,000 plus $5,000 was $80,000. Would the Premier find out for us when he's getting that information - and I imagine he should know this right now - the Premier does get a $20,000 allowance from the taxpayers of this Province to do his entertaining. Would the Premier tell us if that $7,500 liquor bill came out of that $20,000, which is his own money? He would have to write the cheque on it, so he would know if that $7,500 liquor bill came out of his money.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker, I now have more detailed information, ready at hand. I will table it. It spells out - and maybe I should tell the House - here's the expenditure. The last fiscal year of the former government: on official entertainment, $45,314. This is official entertainment here, by the premier.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible)!

PREMIER WELLS: Mine last year was a total of $16,584. Official entertainment during travel: mine was $1,317.80; the former premier's, $10,971. Salary, dining room chef: $28,878. Official entertainment -

AN HON. MEMBER: How about the liquor?

PREMIER WELLS: It's all included. Everything is included in that figure.

AN HON. MEMBER: We will see.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

PREMIER WELLS: Official entertainment: cigars and cigarettes, mine nil; the former Premier: $7,457.73. If you want these figures now, Mr. Speaker, I will table them.

AN HON. MEMBER: Stay tuned.

PREMIER WELLS: Advertising and Promotion: mine, nil. The former Premier: $53,100.68; mine, nil, mine, nil. Flowers etc. mine: $1,118.09; the former Premier: $21,526.75. Aircraft charters, fixed wing: Mine, nil; the former Premier: $68,868 going back and forth to the west coast, taking ministers back and forth from St. John's to Corner Brook and Stephenville and so on.

Aircraft charters, helicopters: $2,000. Mr. Speaker, I will table the list. It shows that the Premier's expenses in the last fiscal year, 1991-92, were $94,015.48 -

AN HON. MEMBER: That is yours?

PREMIER WELLS: That is mine. The last fiscal year for the former Premier - $309,631.20. Here is the information.

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

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

I thank the Premier for the history lesson, Mr. Speaker, but the fact of the matter is that he did not answer the question. Obviously, when he comes out with answers like that he is caught again. He forgot to mention $600,000 in his expenses, in renovating two floors that had already been renovated. I ask the Premier again, did the $7,500 come out of the $20,000 allowance that you received from the taxpayers of this Province to entertain on behalf of the taxpayers in this Province, that you do not have to show any receipts for?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: No, Mr. Speaker. Whatever was paid, if anything, whatever was paid for liquor in the entertainment, did not come out of that, I can assure the House.


PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker I am the only Premier since Confederation who has not had a House provided for him -


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

PREMIER WELLS: - has not had the staff provided for him; has not had the grounds taken care of totally for him; has not had everything done for him.

The former Premier, after he moved out of Mount Scio House, when his own circumstances changed and he moved out - the members Opposite maintained the position, they did it, they authorized it, they authorized it; they did it; the members Opposite authorized it, they did it - had payment of $15,241.35 in rental, payment for electrical services of $2,244.35 and I must explore what others were paid and I will get some more detailed information on that. That is roughly the equivalent of an allowance of about $32,000, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SIMMS: (Inaudible) but answer his question.

PREMIER WELLS: Now, that is roughly the equivalent - I am answering the question and I know the members are very uncomfortable with the answer. They can dictate the questions but they cannot dictate the answers -


PREMIER WELLS: They are stuck with the answers and here are the answers, Mr. Speaker. Here is the equivalent -

AN HON. MEMBER: No, we are not.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

PREMIER WELLS: That, Mr. Speaker, is the equivalent of a $32,000 allowance for housing minus $20,000, and I use mine to entertain for the people. I closed out the $75,000 private dining room. Now, Mr. Speaker-


MS. VERGE: How much did you pay for the liquor out of the $20,000?.

PREMIER WELLS: Now, Mr. Speaker -

MR. TOBIN: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

PREMIER WELLS: Now, Mr. Speaker, I am quite prepared to revert to the standard of the former Premier, if that is what they endorse. I am quite prepared to do that and I will be infinitely better off but the taxpayer will not, but the taxpayer will not. Now I know they do not like the answers but they have asked the questions and they have to suffer the answers.

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

MR. R. AYLWARD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. A final supplementary.

Mr. Speaker, I love the answers, unlike what the Premier just said but, Mr. Speaker, will the Premier tell us then - he does receive a $20,000 allowance from the taxpayers - will he tell us how much it cost Pippy Park to look after his lawn, and set flowers, and cut his lawn and look after his property, which is again another expense above and beyond the $20,000? As he said in this House before, Pippy Park works on his lawn.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Yes, it was tabled last Spring. The hon. Member for Grand Bank remembers.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) you said that you did not have it done.

PREMIER WELLS: No, no, no; I did not say any such thing. It was tabled in this House last Spring - the information. The detail was tabled last Spring.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair has recognized the hon. the Member for Kilbride to ask a question. Hon. members will get a chance to question, but we cannot tolerate questioning consistently; otherwise the Chair cannot decide what is going on. I would ask hon. members to please try to keep their questions for when they are recognized.

AN HON. MEMBER: And short answers.

MR. SPEAKER: Exactly.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My question is for the Minister of Social Services.

Can he confirm that an internal caseload analysis has been done of the child protection services for the Province, revealing a shortfall of sixty-seven workers in child protection, including 10.6 shortfall in the St. John's West child welfare unit alone? Can the minister confirm that?

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

MR. GULLAGE: No, Mr. Speaker, I am not aware of those statistics, but I will check it out and report back to the House.

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

MR. HARRIS: Would the minister undertake to table in this House these internal caseload analysis, which I have been informed have recently been completed?

We have a concern that if these figures are true, that the children of this Province are endangered. We would like the minister to tell the House that he is going to do something about the shortfalls in caseload and the shortfalls in child protection workers to prevent children in this Province from being harmed by a lack of support from this government.

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

MR. GULLAGE: Mr. Speaker, I can confirm that we have done a detailed analysis of all divisions of the department, including the area that he mentioned. I do not have it with me today, but I will table that information showing the caseloads and the comparisons with prior years and so on, for all divisions of the department, including the one he mentioned, and the stats that he mentioned as well.

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

MR. WINSOR: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I have a question for the Minister responsible for Works, Services and Transportation.

Recently, because of heavy traffic volumes in the Fogo Island run, the department found it necessary to extend the two ferry system to November 15. In light of the continuing heavy traffic volumes, is it the minister's intention to continue on with the two ferry system past the November 15 date?

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

MR. GOVER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

In the budget that was brought down, provision was made to extend the operating time for two vessels on that particular run. I believe the termination time was supposed to be September 15. Demand was such that the vessel has remained on now to November 15, which is an extension beyond the extension.

Obviously, as the Minister of Finance - President of Treasury Board, said yesterday, we are in difficult financial circumstances. Resources are very tight. We are monitoring the demand and the situation to determine what measures will best accommodate the residents of Change Islands and Fogo Island.

We are monitoring the situation, and I will look into the matter and report back to the House. I cannot give any definite commitment as to how long two vessel service will last, at this time.

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

MR. WINSOR: Mr. Speaker, since this is November 13, and the schedule is to come to an end on November 15, I think it is time that the minister informed the people. When is he going to inform the people what kind of ferry system is going to be in place?

More specifically, with respect to the ferry, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology indicated that a tender was being prepared by the Marystown Shipyard for repairs to the Beaumont Hamel. Let me ask the minister: How much longer can we expect that vessel to be out of service?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. WINSOR: The minister did not hear the question.

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

MR. WINSOR: I am asking him: How much longer is the Beaumont Hamel expected to be out of service, in light of the minister's statement last week, where the minister's comment in the House was that the tender was being prepared to repair it. How much longer is it going to be out of service?

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

MR. GOVER: I will take that matter under advisement, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. WINSOR: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Another question for the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation. Yesterday the Minister of Finance said there was going to be an immediate freeze on hiring and they would achieve a 1 per cent reduction in the salary budget. Let me ask the minister, does this apply to the seasonal workers who get hired by the Department of Highways for snow clearing and ice control? Will these people fall into this category of an immediate freeze in hiring or will they be rehired as usual?

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

MR. GOVER: Mr. Speaker, as was indicated yesterday by the government, any and all options are being considered, and we are reviewing presently the manner in which targets can be achieved without compromising service to the public.

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

MR. HEWLETT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. A few days ago, the Minister of Forestry and I discussed the matter of importing wood from PEI with regard to the mill in Stephenville. I am wondering if the minister could indicate in his discussions with the company, these actions of importing the wood, did they have to do with the mill's immediate short-term wood needs, because they certain cost some immediate job losses in the province, or was the company testing the waters or testing various supplies of wood to meet some future requirements that they might have?

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

MR. FLIGHT: Mr. Speaker, I can tell the hon. member that I am not aware of the exact motivation, what motivated the company to import that 12,000 meters of wood. There was some reference in the local media, and they were quoted as saying it had to do with their desire for fresh spruce. There were other references that said that it had to do with their concern about a wood supply, and obviously any wood brought in from offshore would positively affect a wood supply problem they may have in the future. But I really don't know exactly what motivated the company to import that 12,000 meters of wood, because our position officially is that there was no reason, no motivation and no justification for there importing that wood.

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

MR. HEWLETT: Mr. Speaker, I find the minister's comments somewhat passing strange. This particular matter was subject to some controversy. Why they didn't sort of pound out of the particular company exactly why they did it is beyond me. The comment with regard to fresh spruce, Mr. Speaker - I have a number of loggers in my area who have lots of fresh spruce, and if it is left on the ground much longer it is going to be stale spruce. Would the minister undertake to check with the company to find out why they embarked on this particular course of action, because I know he has indicated to them that they shouldn't do it again, but obviously they didn't check with him before and they just may do it again. Could he undertake to find out why they did this so that our logging industry can take appropriate action?

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

MR. FLIGHT: Mr. Speaker, for the purpose of record I might point out that the reasons I just gave were not my reasons or this government's reasons, they were the reasons given by Abitibi-Price through various spokesmen. In as far as determining why they did it, Mr. Speaker, I don't know that Abitibi will be any more forthcoming with why they did it other than they have already indicated. Number one, it was a concern they felt would help address their long-term perceived wood supply. Number two, it was in keeping with their desire to have fresh spruce. But the member is obviously right. There is lots of fresh spruce at this point in time, in some cases sitting on the ground.

So, Mr. Speaker, it was both from the workers point of view and from our point of view regrettable that Abitibi-Price chose to import that particular shipment of wood at this point in time, and I can say with confidence that they will probably think long and hard before they would do the same thing again in the future.

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

MR. HEWLETT: A final supplementary, Mr. Speaker. Could the minister indicate from the point of view of the estimates of his department and their overview of the wood situation in Newfoundland, do they anticipate a shortage of wood to keep three mills going somewhere down the road in the future?

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

MR. FLIGHT: Mr. Speaker, shortly, I will be tabling in the House of Assembly, the government's approved 20-year operating plan, which will outline the wood supply situation today and what we see for the forest industry by way of a wood supply in the future and the kinds of management plans that we will try to implement to guarantee there will always be a supply of wood that will sustain the operations of the three mills. But I don't, at this point in time - if he has a specific question with regard to specific quantities of wood, or a specific year, there might be a difficulty. If he were to direct those questions to me, I will answer them.

MR. SPEAKER: Question Period has expired.

Notices of Motion

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

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will on tomorrow ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, "An Act To Remove Anomalies And Errors In The Statute Law".

Answers to Questions

For which Notice has been Given

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

DR. KITCHEN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I'd like to respond to the questions raised by the hon. the Leader of the Opposition on November 9, 1992, regarding cancer services in the Province.

His first question had to do with the outreach clinics that have been operating in the Province for twenty-one years and which he said had been shut down for the last two months. It is true that outreach clinics have operated since 1971 when the Newfoundland Cancer Treatment and Research Foundation was created. Since that time, these clinics have had attached to them cancer care nurse co-ordinators. These clinics have evolved over the years with these specialist nurses co-ordinating activities in consultation with local physicians and physicians from the Newfoundland Cancer Clinic.

The regular activities of these clinics, where patients receive chemotherapy from physicians, will continue. The clinics have not shut down. However, regular visits by radiation oncologists will be curtailed for November and December due to manpower and work load considerations at the clinic. But, in line with that decision, the Cancer Clinic has reviewed all the records of patients who have normally been seen by these specialists while visiting the outreach clinics to ensure that their current status is fully determined. The Cancer Clinic has assured the department that any of these patients who need to be seen by a radiation oncologist during this period will have appropriate arrangements made for them to be seen.

Another question he asked was: Would the minister table the report of the review of the Newfoundland Cancer Treatment and Research Foundation? The report, which was carried out by three specialists in cancer care from outside the Province, provided an objective review and some very sound recommendations for the organization and delivery of cancer care services in the Province. This is especially valuable, given the developments that are under way to have a new facility for cancer care established in the Province.

I am not prepared to table the report. Because of its in-depth nature, and the relatively small size of the Province and of the cancer program, one could easily identify individuals from reading the report. In my view, this would be an unnecessary infringement on their privacy.

Another question he asked: Can the minister confirm that this external review, the report done for his department, has told government and his department that the cancer clinic operations in this Province, in fact, need ten oncologists - cancer specialists - five radiologists, and five chemotherapy specialists? Can he confirm that? Is he aware of that? That was the question.

The answer: All I can say in relation to this question is that the hon. the Leader of the Opposition has misunderstood this reference, or the person or persons advising him have misunderstood the reference in the report. The report, in addressing caseloads and staffing norms, indicates that 1,000 new patients for radiation oncology per year would be consistent with five active, full-time radiation oncologists, per 1,000. Similarly, based on a level of 200 to 250 new patients per specialist, 1,000 medical oncology cases would require five full-time medical oncologists.

However, the facts are that in Newfoundland and Labrador the current number of new cases per year is not 1,000 but approximately 500 for radiation oncology, and 500 for medical oncology. This means that if we strictly adhere to these norms we would have two or two-and-a-half specialists in medical oncology, and the same number in radiation oncology.

Presently,we have three radiation oncologists. Our approved complement is four, recognising that some outreach services are provided. The Foundation is recruiting a fourth radiation oncologist. The Foundation is also recruiting an internationally known medical oncologist and expects to have him here early in 1993. Having this person on staff will help them in recruiting another medical oncologist.

In any discussion of cancer care services in this Province, it would be a fundamental error to restrict one's focus only on the cancer specialists working directly in the cancer clinic. There are a number of other physician specialists with capabilities in cancer care in the Province who are playing an integral role in the Province's Cancer Care Program, working co-operatively with each other and their physician colleagues who work directly with the Newfoundland Cancer Clinic. For example, in addition to our current three radiation oncologists, we have two paediatric oncologists, three haematology oncologists, one gynaecological oncologist and a number of other medical and surgical specialists who have expertise in oncology and who have a valuable role in the cancer care program in the Province.

In summary, I believe the Newfoundland Cancer Treatment and Research Foundation is appropriately dealing with the recruitment issues related directly to the cancer clinic. I might add that this is no easy task, given the recognized shortage of specialists in this field throughout Canada.

One more question, Mr. Speaker: Is the minister aware that the three remaining cancer specialists wrote the Executive Director of the foundation on September 11? I am aware that the letter was written to the foundation, or I became aware when the member passed over the letter. I have discussed this matter with the interim Executive Director of the foundation, Dr. Carl Robbins, who is a family physician and a faculty member of Memorial University Medical School. I am satisfied, following my discussions with Dr. Robbins, that the contents of the letter are being appropriately reviewed and dealt with by the foundation.

Mr. Speaker, we have called tenders for the first phase of a new state-of-the-art facility to house the Cancer Treatment and Research Foundation, an extension to the Health Sciences Centre. That facility will have the best equipment available. We have made the administrative changes recommended by the External Review Report I just referred to. The medical staff we now have are highly competent. Our technical and support staff are superb. In a few months we shall have a full complement of radiation and medical oncologists. Attached to a great hospital and to a first-class medical school with strong reputation for research, our facility may not be the largest in Canada but it will be one of the best.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

DR. KITCHEN: Mr. Speaker, as Minister of Health, I am proud of the measures this government have put and are putting in place to strengthen greatly the ability of the Cancer Treatment Research Foundation in dealing with this very serious disease.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker, I was asked a couple of questions this morning, one of which related to the contract. I now have authorization to release the name. It is a bid tendered by Cahill State Atlantic Limited, a Newfoundland Company, 50 per cent owned by a Newfoundland shareholder, who is the managing partner, and 50 per cent owned by a Toronto company, State Electric. That company was awarded the contract for $12 million -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WELLS: - directly as a result, Mr. Speaker, of the signing of this agreement. Because, Mr. Speaker, what hon. members may not know is that Cahill State Atlantic was prevented from even tendering. The Nova Scotia Government refused to accept their original bid, because Newfoundland was not, at that time, part of the agreement. When Newfoundland signed the agreement the Government of Nova Scotia issued a change order saying: Accept bids from Newfoundland. And directly, as a result of that agreement, this contract is now awarded to a Newfoundland company, directly as a result of it.

I sat with Premier Cameron and said to him, `Here is an example of what you are doing to Newfoundland.' He said, `I will issue a change order immediately,' and he did, directly, Mr. Speaker, as a result.

Mr. Speaker, the Member for Kilbride asked if it were true that a bill for some seven thousand-odd hundred - he had a number -

AN HON. MEMBER: Five hundred.

PREMIER WELLS: - $7,500 worth of liquor delivered to me in this fiscal year, I think is what he said.

AN HON. MEMBER: He did, he said 1992.

PREMIER WELLS: Paid for on behalf of my office.

MR. ROBERTS: This year.

PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker, in fact, there was liquor paid for on behalf of my office, between April 1, 1992 and November 13, 1992, total $975.03. Now, Mr. Speaker, you should also know that on April 10, 1989, there was an order to issue an outstanding offer for liquor to be provided to the Premier's private dining room - $20,000 for the calendar year; but the more interesting thing was the direction for delivery to various areas. What are the various areas? Why was it not delivered to the private dining room? Where are the various areas to which it was delivered?

Mr. Speaker, they don't like it, but the truth hurts.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Orders of the Day

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. the Opposition - and members on both sides of the House, to please acknowledge that I have the Chair.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair has called Orders of the Day.

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, now that the hon. the Opposition House Leader has contained his ire, he doesn't have the courage to say openly what he says covertly here.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. MATTHEWS: Mr. Speaker, I don't need lectures from the Duckworth Street lawyer on having courage to do things openly.

I say to the Government House Leader that when my privileges are being questioned, and when I am being singled out, when there was a two-way debate from our seats between me and the Premier, it is unfair, and I don't care who that affects or how they take it!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. ROBERTS: To that point of order, Mr. Speaker, I will again say that the honourable gentleman from Grand Bank does not have the courage to say openly in the House that which he says covertly in the House. He knows full well what I mean, and I will leave it at that. He does not have the courage.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair is ruling on a point of order, and there is no point of order.

I call on the Government House Leader. Orders of the Day.

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, Order No. 20 is the Workers' Compensation Amendment Act.

MR. SPEAKER: Order No. 20.

Somebody adjourned the debate yesterday. Is there a present speaker?

The hon. the Member for Fogo.

MR. WINSOR: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Yesterday, the minister took quite some time introducing this bill into the Legislature. In his opening remarks, to quote him exactly, he said: This bill contains some very tough measures.

Indeed, it does contain very tough measures, because the impact of this bill will affect every worker and their dependant, as well as the vast majority of business in this Province for some years to come.

Yesterday, I was telling the minister, in his analysis of benefits, how it would impact on individuals. He used a base figure of someone who made $26,000 a year - or $25,000. It was just a coincidence that last night I happened to visit an individual who was working at a local fish and chips store here in town, and was being paid $4.75 an hour, and worked thirty-seven hours a week at that particular store.

Mr. Speaker, the result of this bill will reduce that individual's salary from 90 per cent - I think she said, she took home about $150 a week. In the best of times when she was working that was not very much money - $150 a week. Ninety per cent gave her $135. I worked it out last night; I don't have the figures. Now, you are going to, with one stroke of the pen, reduce these benefits, as of January 1, to about $125 a week or less.

In addition to that, if an individual sustained a very serious injury that left him permanently disabled, it would entitle him to receive Canada Pension Plan benefits, as quite often happens. Under the old Act, the direction was that a worker who has been injured, 'may' have Canada pension applied against that benefit. This regulation, this bill will say, it 'shall' be applied and, Mr. Speaker, that may work fine for an individual who is making the maximum amount that he could make as prescribed under this legislation.

For the individuals who are at the lower end of the scale, the combining of Canada pension benefits and workers' compensation will ultimately mean for that worker, that they will receive no workers' compensation benefits at all, quite likely, because the pension they would receive from Canada pension will, in these cases, probably be as high as, or higher than the individual would normally receive from workers' compensation. Mr. Speaker, I ask the minister, when he speaks later, does he think that is fair? Is that a fair assessment? What the minister has done is, he has applied the standard right across the spectrum and it has impacted severely on those who are most affected, at the lower end of the scale.

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, when this bill was - I think it was Tuesday it was introduced, the Leader of the Opposition asked if they would reconsider and give the bill to the Government Services Committee because it hadn't had adequate public hearings. Now, I know the minister did a study based on a report done by three individuals. There were two reports, one, a majority report and one, a minority report. Mr. Speaker, I want to take a second to read for the minister - I will summarize. I can't seem to find my report now. But the minority report said it was a very tight time frame associated with this report; members didn't have adequate time to address it. Most of the recommendations that came out of the report were rushed; he also says: 'Recommendations in both review committee reports should be read with an understanding of how the committee had to work.' And this is the committee that did up the report for the minister, that he acted on. 'There was a tight time frame given for the production of the report. There was no independent or outside staff assigned to the committee; the committee did no independent financial review. Review committee members were only able to devote part of their time to the task, therefore, what was done was done in a brief time period, was unfortunately, superficial in many respects, and more work needs to be done.'

Now, Mr. Speaker, that is what one of the commissioners, appointed by the former Minister of Employment and Labour, had to say about the report. It said: 'Recommendations in this report are meant to regain the trust of working people of this Province by upgrading the prevention programs, improving the delivery of service and retaining the present level of benefits. The financial mess of Workers' Compensation is not forgotten, but will require much more investigation before proposals in this area can be made.' Mr. Speaker, that is what the Leader of the Opposition was referring to.

One of the commissioners said this report was flawed because of inadequate preparation time and the minister, last June - May, maybe, said, 'We are going to have legislation.' When the House closed in July, the 2nd, I think, the minister announced what it was going to be. Mr. Speaker, why did he not prepare his bill then? Government legislation, Social Services and different committees have already travelled throughout this Province this summer with various other bills. Why wasn't the same opportunity afforded to members on both sides to have this bill debated? What does it say for the Government Services Committee? Why wasn't it done? Mr. Speaker, haste, the minister might say: I want it introduced by December 31 or January 1. Mr. Speaker, there was still sufficient time from July 2 up until the implementation of this bill to have done so.

Yesterday, members on the other side tried to say it has been the mess they inherited. Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the minister admitted that most of the financial difficulties of the Workers' Compensation occurred in the past two years. Two things have happened, he said. I am quoting from the minister. He said: Over the last couple of years in particular, the annual monies collected by the Commission, through their assessment process, have not paid for the annual expenditure of both injury claims and administration, and the commission had to dip into their reserve funds that had been put aside to pay for future costs.

Now, Mr. Speaker, he said that has happened during the past two years of this Administration, not the previous one. He says most of the problems have occurred during that period of time. If we look at how it occurred - Let's just look at how the benefits were paid out. Mr. Speaker, of the $80 million in 1991 that were paid out, $37 million came from TEL (temporary earnings loss), $10.5 million from rehab, and $15 million of that, Mr. Speaker, is in medical. These reflect increase nearly doubling what it was back in 1989 when this Administration took office.

Mr. Speaker, what has caused these problems? Why is it, for example, that rehab is now costing $10.5 million, and in 1988, the last year of the PC Administration, it cost $4.1. What has caused this? What has happened? Mr. Speaker, the reason is, because the economic situation of this Province is such that workers are unable to find jobs, they are going into longer rehab training processes. Many people have been forced to go on two or three rehab programs to see if they can get back into the work force.

Mr. Speaker, the economic prospects for injured workers in this Province today is abysmal. There is virtually no chance for them to get jobs, so they opt to stay in rehab programs for an extended period of time.

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, I mentioned briefly the focus that should occur on Occupational Health and Safety. I believe that is the area where we can reduce significantly the number of injuries that occur daily. Mr. Speaker, all of us are a bit guilty. Just last week, I was using a skill saw at home. The safety glasses were hooked on the nail behind, and I didn't take the effort to put them on. That is what I did, personally, at home. Mr. Speaker, the same thing occurs in the.

AN HON. MEMBER: Is the worker covered?

MR. WINSOR: Yes, the worker is covered. If I do it at home, that is okay, I am responsible myself. At the , the worker who is careless still receives the benefits despite the fact that it was because he didn't wear his safety boots at work, he forgot to wear his hard hat, and he didn't wear safety glasses.

MR. ROBERTS: He probably couldn't be bothered.

MR. WINSOR: He couldn't be bothered, Mr. Speaker. I tell the minister, since he talks about being bothered, in 1973 I went to work in Labrador City as a university student and I had to work in a remote area and hardly ever saw a foreman for a day. I didn't have a very demanding job, just a two shift hopper loading silos. The temperature was about 90 degrees, and those god awful heavy hats - I mean, the sweat rolled down over you. I didn't wear glasses at the time, and you had to have safety glasses, as some members might know, with wings on the sides of them. It was almost like you were in a steam bath all the time.

MR. ROBERTS: Side shades.

MR. WINSOR: Yes, side shades. That is what they were called. Then, of course, you had to wear your safety boots. The job I had wasn't very demanding. I sat down, I took my hard hat and put it aside, I took my safety glasses off because I hated wearing them.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. WINSOR: No, it wasn't Safety John, it was the foreman. He sent me to Safety John. But, Mr. Speaker, that company was very concerned, and often gave infractions and would fire people who engaged in unsafe labour practices. Now, Mr. Speaker, we somehow have to start to educate people in the need to be safe in the workplace. We haven't started to educate them.

AN HON. MEMBER: Ask the minister how much safety training (inaudible).

MR. WINSOR: I know how much safety training. The minister announced yesterday, he hired six more people, Mr. Speaker. But that doesn't do anything. How often have the Coast Guard or Transport Canada in the last few days - every spring they run this commercial about the need to wear life vests and life preservers in fishing boats. You check most of the boats and they're not there. We can say we're doing an education program, but we have to test it. Is it working.

I have to be frank with you and say that our occupational health and safety has not been an overwhelming success. Because we're still having far too many injuries on the job. In fact, last week, I heard the manager of Abitibi for Canada talk about the number of deaths they have had occur in the workplace this year. They have had three across the country, one in Newfoundland. He said: We have to make our people become more aware of the need to practice safety in the workplace. Three deaths, he said, were too many.

In my own district this year, in the forest industry, two individuals have had trees fall on them. One of them resulted in a serious back injury, the other in a head injury, and the individual has not returned to work since May. That is because unsafe practices are taking place in the industry. That is where the minister should have focused his attack, into cleaning up what is going on in the workplace.

The minister said yesterday that we are paying the second highest rate in the country now for premiums. Employers are having a rough time with Workers' Compensation. In difficult economic times the rates that we're charging in this Province are quite high. The report that the minister had done recommended for the next three years, if I remember correctly, a 7.5 per cent surcharge for each of the three years. Last year, we began I think it was 7.5 per cent or 8 per cent was increase. Can we look forward to that same kind of increase again this year? And what is it going to do to employers?

MR. ROBERTS: If we don't pass this bill, it will be ten times as high, that's the problem.

MR. WINSOR: If we pass - pardon?

MR. ROBERTS: If we don't pass this bill, it will be (inaudible).

MR. WINSOR: Perhaps we should look at other things, I tell the minister. Perhaps we should focus on some other things. Because there is a belief out in the community - and I have no doubt it is true - that some of the problems with Workers' Compensation are related to abuses in the system.

MR. ROBERTS: There is that belief. Does the hon. member believe this?

MR. WINSOR: The hon. member believes there are some abuses in the system, as well, yes.

MR. ROBERTS: The belief is certainly widely held. I don't know how much validity there is in it.

MR. WINSOR: There is certainly a belief out there. In fact, the minister's own department has hired, I think, about four or five investigators who actually go and check into the reports that they have of injured workers who are claiming they are injured, and they find them doing other things, and many of them have had benefits terminated as a result. So there is certainly a belief out there that there is a fair amount of abuse, and I think the minister should have, if he hasn't, calculated - because I am sure they do random samplings, they check on random cases to see if an injured worker is actually injured to the extent that he can't return to the work force. Because that is all Workers' Compensation does.

MR. ROBERTS: The difficulty, as the hon. gentleman would acknowledge - the belief is there - the difficulty is determining the validity, because there are many injuries that are valid but have no subjective symptomatology.


MR. ROBERTS: That is the problem - with backs, in particular. If you have ever had a bad back you know what hell on earth is. But how do you measure a bad back? You can measure a broken leg, you can see it.

MR. WINSOR: Exactly.

MR. ROBERTS: That becomes the problem.

MR. WINSOR: That is the measure. So someone who can't work, the minister - a constituent of mine was off work with a bad back and an investigator found the individual riding a trike.

MR. ROBERTS: That leads one to believe the back wasn't that bad.

MR. WINSOR: Exactly. The individual's benefits were terminated, and rightly so. Now, Mr. Speaker, we all know that there is a fair amount of this going on. But what we are doing here is we are attacking every injured worker to perhaps recover some of the benefits. Because, frankly, I believe it is much more widespread than we believe it is. I think we are attacking the wrong people. The injured worker who cannot work, I think we have to protect him. This bill doesn't do that.

AN HON. MEMBER: How do we (inaudible)?

MR. WINSOR: How are we going to - we are going to have to do a number of things, and the minister wants to know. A constituent of mine has been waiting seven months to get to see an orthopaedic surgeon - seven months. He has made three trips to St. John's, only to find that the orthopaedic surgeon was not there, and go back home again.

AN HON. MEMBER: Did he have appointments?

MR. WINSOR: Appointments.

AN HON. MEMBER: There is something wrong.

MR. WINSOR: Exactly. I am glad the minister said that there is something wrong, because something serious is wrong.

Despite the fact that the minister said on July 2: we are going to fast track or whatever it was - I cannot remember the term he used - the rate at which injured workers are able to see doctors and get treatment.

MR. ROBERTS: (Inaudible) three appointments, and the guy was not here. That is not the minister's fault. It is the orthopod.

MR. WINSOR: That is what is going on with workers. It is a tremendous cost because the injured worker, number one, cannot receive surgery. Number two, he cannot get treatment after - physio - particularly from physical therapists in private clinics. They hate the sight of seeing an injured worker coming who is going to be paid by workers' compensation, because they are so slow in making their payments.

MR. ROBERTS: Now they are much better. They used to be terrible.

MR. WINSOR: No, they are still terrible.

MR. ROBERTS: They are getting better.

MR. WINSOR: I will tell the minister, I had a constituent about a month ago, who needed therapy. I said: Let me call and see if I can get in. I called the clinic - no problem. They asked how I was paying - private insurance. They took me right away. I said: How about an individual on workers' compensation? - three months before they could see a therapist.

MR. ROBERTS: (Inaudible) General Hospital Board, the biggest delinquent debtor we had was the Workers' Compensation Commission.

MR. WINSOR: And they still are today, the medical practitioners who do this kind of thing.

MR. ROBERTS: (Inaudible) the general; I have been out of that for a bit. The administration was (inaudible) getting an awful lot better.

MR. WINSOR: In continuing on, we have a serious problem and there is -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. WINSOR: We have serious delays, as the minister said yesterday when he spoke.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. WINSOR: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Justice will be able to take part in this debate. Now he wants to dominate it. I do not mind a little exchange, but -

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, I apologize to the hon. gentleman. His colleague is leading me astray. I apologize.

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

MR. WINSOR: Mr. Speaker, yesterday the minister, in speaking, said that all of us - every MHA - receives numerous calls from clients who are having trouble with workers' compensation. In fact, I had a call last night - and if the Minister of Health has not had a call already, he is going to get one shortly - from a constituent of his who called. I do not know how I ended up with the call, but I referred him to you anyway. He was having trouble with workers' compensation. I gave one to the Member for St. John's North the other day. I get all kinds of them - calls looking for advice, because they are having trouble with workers' compensation.

I try to direct them to their members. Usually they tell me that they have already called them and they could not do anything for them.


MR. WINSOR: Usually they say their members could not do anything for them because it was outside the confines in which they were allowed to operate.

Mr. Speaker, the minister said that it takes inordinate long times, and it does. Whatever goes on in that system - and I do not know what happens down in that building - we have gone through it in estimates committee here. I think the minister was here last year when I gave him some specific names of individuals whom it has taken inordinate long times to get a cheque processed. The worker who has not had any income for six or seven weeks finds himself in a pretty precarious position out there.

Then you start to call in, and they send you to the claims department. The claims department will send you to medical. Medical will send it back to claims again, and say that the cheque is being processed.

That is hardly ever the case until you get really upset, sometimes even belligerent, and have to ask to get the Chairman. That is about the only time you can get some satisfaction. Things seem to accumulate and pile up down there, and there has been a great delay in processing claims.

Mr. Speaker, one of the factors is certainly the length of time, if we looked at the length of time that people were on workers' compensation. It seems to be ever increasing. It could be because of two things. One is that the injuries are more severe. Two is that medical treatment is slower in being provided. We have to improve on that - on both.

We can reduce the number of injuries by practising safety in the workplace. Mr. Speaker, it has to improve and I believe one of the things we can do to make workers aware of it is: If an individual becomes injured because of some unsafe practice that he or she has been responsible for, then perhaps they shouldn't be entitled to as much benefit. If a worker, for example, gets a piece of steel in his eye and safety equipment was provided but he chose not to wear it, maybe, Mr. Speaker, he shouldn't be entitled to full compensation benefits. Maybe he shouldn't, Mr. Speaker.

MR. MURPHY: You don't know what you are talking about.

MR. WINSOR: The Member for St. John's South says I don't know what I am talking about. Mr. Speaker, we have a serious problem here. You can have all the occupational health and safety in the world, but if we don't have mechanisms to enforce it - we have got to make people aware, Mr. Speaker. We have traffic laws in this Province that say you can't, for most of the highway, exceed 90 or 100 kilometers, and if you don't obey them you get fined. Now, Mr. Speaker, I hear of companies being fined because they didn't put a guard around a ditch. But what about the worker who does an unsafe thing? It goes on time after time after time, where workers commit unsafe practices, and who pays? The employer and Workers' Compensation. Mr. Speaker, it needs to be addressed and we need to do some enforcement at the worker level as well.

Mr. Speaker, there are several reasons - and I have alluded to some - why we have such problems. Delays in getting claims processed: If an injury occurs on November 1, most likely that claim won't be heard until at least December 1, a thirty-day period. By that time the person should have had medical treatment, ongoing rehabilitation if it was necessary, and see how fast we can get the injured worker back in the workplace.

Mr. Speaker, government cutbacks have had a two-fold impact on workers' compensation, especially as it relates to the health care sector. It has caused two things: It has slowed down the treatment process and, secondly, it has increased the number of people who are receiving workers' compensation benefits because the workplace in now more dangerous. That is one of the larger areas.

We heard the nurses' union yesterday or the day before, Joan Marie Aylward, in a press release talking about the pressures that are being placed on the nursing profession, tremendous pressures, Mr. Speaker. What we have done by reducing the number of people in the health care system has a double impact. It has reduced the amount of care that the injured worker receives and, secondly, because there are not enough of them - everyone heard the lady tell the story about how she was trying to move a patient who had just came out of anaesthetic. The patient didn't want to co-operate and for three years now this individual, this nurse, has been on workers' compensation because of a severe muscle pull or some kind of a twist in her spine that resulted from the injury. Mr. Speaker, these things are going to occur, but we can reduce the number of them by increasing the number of hospital staff who have to deal with them.

Mr. Speaker, another area where -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I think the hon. member was aware that I might be going to interrupt him. We have a group of students here. The member has longer time than usual. We wouldn't do this, but since he has longer time I appreciate the fact of the hon. member yielding the floor. I would like to welcome to the public galleries today fifty Grade VI students from St. Kevin's School in the Goulds in the District of Kilbride. They are accompanied by the following teachers, Ms. McDonald, Ms. Howard, Ms. Condon, Ms. Williams, and Ms. Galway. So, on behalf of members, we extend to them a warm welcome.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. WINSOR: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, one of the areas that we are going to have to improve on as well is the retraining program for injured workers, so that we can get them back into the work force, so that they will want to go back. Mr. Speaker, the present method, the Ease Back Program, the Rehab Program do not work well and let me tell you why they do not work well.

An injured worker who lives in Carmanville where I live, is told to entertain or take part in a job search, and, Mr. Speaker, there are about three businesses or four potential businesses in the community; that is all. So he has to go to the next large town which is Gander, some forty miles away, sixty-five kilometres. He goes in and goes through all the business complexes one day, now he has to go back and do five more the next day, and he has to do five more the next day and five more the next day.

Now, besides the cost of his getting in to take part in this job search, sometimes he can get paid for by workers', sometimes he cannot. If he had previously worked in Gander and that was the normal place of work, Workers' Compensation will not pay the benefit, the travel costs. If he had been injured on the job where he lived then they will pay the transportation. Now, Mr. Speaker, he goes in and he goes back and forth, there are no prospects of him getting any job there; there was no job opening but he is being made to go there day after day after day after day, when there is not a chance in the world there is going to be any employment and all it is doing is, frustrating the injured worker and costing the government a substantial amount of money. It is as simple as that. If they have to pay for these transportation costs, every injured worker will tell you it is a farce. They just go in and do it because the regulations require them to do it in order for them to get continuous rehab benefits, that is what they have to do.

Now, Mr. Speaker, the minister has to change this program, it has not worked; we have to be able to get the injured worker back into the work force, in an area where he can find employment, and do not just suggest imaginary things to him. Go out on a job search? Maybe that is where we have to do retraining and I think a major part of the rehab program should be retraining. Not send someone out because he was a carpenter and he injured his back and he cannot do carpentry work anymore and send him to every store in Gander to see if he can find something. If he was a carpenter use to climbing, maybe furniture making or something like that would be a logical thing to put him into so he could -

AN HON. MEMBER: The Premier's office.

MR. WINSOR: Yes, the Premier's office. Now, Mr. Speaker, what does this bill do, does it solve the problems, Mr. Speaker? There are some positive aspects to this bill; some of them are quite positive.

The clause that requires compensation to be paid to an individual entitled to a PFI because of an injury that has resulted in no loss of earnings, that is a positive move. Somebody worked in an area where, because of excessive noise levels they lost their hearing or whatever and it could be demonstrated that the injury occurred as a result of something in the work force, that is a positive move. The clause to take into account annual inflation and the amount of compensation paid to the workers' survivors, very positive.

Mr. Speaker, clause 12 of the bill will amend the act by removing the section which disentitles the surviving spouse on remarriage to workers' compensation. I assume from that, that once a spouse remarries now, they will be entitled to the same benefits as they had previously. I ask the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations, again, if he could listen for a second, maybe when he speaks he might be able to address this clause 12, the one that gives the surviving spouse compensation on remarriage. Is that the same entitlement to which she was previously entitled? Is that what that clause is going to say, that someone who remarries will be entitled to the same compensation?

AN HON. MEMBER: Good question, he will answer it in Committee.

MR. WINSOR: He will answer it in Committee? Okay.

Again, clause 13, is one that I like particularly. It is a clause that will amend the act to ensure that payments under the act shall continue to a child of eighteen. Mr. Speaker, that is a very positive move. I think the original sixteen was there because at that time we did not have Grade XII in the school system and most students finished school at sixteen. Now, because of the changes in the education system in the Province a large number of students are still in school at eighteen, and I think that's very positive.

Mr. Speaker, I'm not sure about Clause 15 of the Bill. Clause 15 is the one that reduces the amount from 90 per cent for the first thirty-nine weeks to 75 per cent. For that injured worker that 15 per cent is going to prove to be most devastating. That's an immediate loss of 15 per cent. All of us stop for a second and think: if our salaries were reduced tomorrow morning by 15 per cent we would find it a bit disconcerting. In fact we would find it mighty tough financially, if our salaries were reduced by 15 per cent starting January 1.

Then - I've already alluded to it - it's going to go to 80 per cent after thirty-nine weeks. That's going to have a tremendous impact, more particularly for the low income worker. The minister hasn't thought of it. The minister thinks that every person in this Province makes $25,000 a year. If that was the case this bill, the ramifications would not be quite so significant. But for the low income worker this is just devastating.

Again, Clause 17, the one that changes to the Canada Pension Plan Act. I think the minister should have another look at it. I think it's unfair. A worker who's entitled to workers' compensation, but because he has for a number of years paid in Canada Pension Plan, in an injury that results in his being permanently disabled, that he'd have no right to workers' compensation. I think it's unfair. That's what this Bill does. It says that all benefits received from Canada Pension Plan shall be included and deducted from the amount that a worker would get in workers' compensation. That's pretty unfair.

Whereas the old Bill said it may be applied. If the amounts in workers' compensation benefits weren't excessively high, then they would allow them to get Canada Pension Plan benefits and workers' too. What this Bill will do: an injured worker who gets the minimum wage in this Province will have to go to social assistance - under this provision - to bring it up to a standard that a family of four would be allowed to live on. Injured worker will have to go to social assistance to give them - a family of four on social assistance would be entitled to approximately, during the winter months, a little better than $600 a month.

Under this Bill he will not get that much and he or she will have to go to social assistance. Now I ask the minister, does he think that's fair? A worker who was injured on the job -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. WINSOR: You can answer now or later.

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I appreciate the hon. member yielding the floor so I can have an opportunity to address it. While I recognise that there is validity to the point he's making, I think it begs the question that he's missing the fundamental point in the whole necessity for the changes.

That is, that if we don't make the types of changes that are being made to have direct, immediate financial impact on the money at the Workers' Compensation Commission, we will not be talking about reductions of any benefits from 90 per cent to 75 per cent or 80 per cent, but from 90 per cent to zero. I tried to make that point clear yesterday in the introduction. The finances of the Commission are in such a precarious position that these moves have to be made to maintain any type of payment, because the other option, beginning in 1996, is zero benefit for every injured worker regardless of their income levels.

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

MR. WINSOR: The minister did very little to address the question that I raised. I asked him did he think it was fair that an injured worker would have to resort to social assistance as a result of this. I think it's most unfair.

With respect to reference to the other thing, the minister has got two things to obviously do. He's got to reduce the number of injuries and speed up the length of time it takes for the injured worker to get back into the workplace. Maybe we won't have all this unfunded liability that we have. If the minister had done these things in the past three years -

Mr. Speaker, he announced on July 2 he was going to spend $850,000 on occupational health and safety. If he just got these people in place yesterday, what's happened in the intervening three or four months? Have the rest been put in place?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. WINSOR: Have the rest - that was a $250,000 portion

with the five or six Occupational Health and Safety inspectors? Have the other parts of that July 2 recommendation been put in place now in total? Because if they haven't, the minister has been negligent, because he has identified potential sources of problems at Workers', he has had the opportunity to do something about it, and he didn't do it.

Mr. Speaker, the minister just said that if we didn't do something by 1996, there would be nothing for no one. Let me ask the minister will he address this, then: Why did the minister then eliminate through this Act the topping up provision for employers? Because it has absolutely nothing to do with Workers'. It doesn't take one cent from Workers' Compensation. It comes from employers of the Province, whether they be government or whether they be private individuals. It doesn't cost Workers' one dime more than it ever cost. That is an agreement that a company gives Workers', or they can negotiate it through collective bargaining - not one penny comes from Workers' Compensation as a result of this.

The Minister of Municipal Affairs obviously doesn't know what he is talking about, and he should stay quiet, Mr. Speaker. I am referring to the top up provision that presently exists in collective agreements. It doesn't cost Workers' Compensation one cent, and the minister knows it. So why is this being addressed in the bill? If the intent is to put some order into Workers' Compensation, why are we attacking injured workers who had found some kind of redress outside of Workers' Compensation to bring them to full entitlement? Why is it there? What is the purpose of it? The minister hasn't satisfactorily explained it. The minister said he thought it was unfair that an injured worker would be entitled to as much as, or more, in some cases, he said, than a worker who was working.

Mr. Speaker, if a worker could find that benefit through collective bargaining, as a former labour union leader, the minister should well know that these things are won at the bargaining table. Concessions have been given in many cases. Other things have been given up so the worker could have that right. Now, Mr. Speaker, with one stroke of the pen when this is proclaimed, that right is going to be taken away. It has nothing to do with Workers' Compensation, absolutely nothing, and there is no reason why the minister included that in this piece of legislation. Mr. Speaker, the minister should have to explain to this House why that particular clause has been included in this bill. He hasn't done it satisfactorily in his opening remarks. When he closes debate on this bill some time later in the month, maybe next month, I hope the minister will tell us why he is including it.

Mr. Speaker, I have some thoughts as to why the minister is including it.

MR. HOGAN: (Inaudible).

MR. WINSOR: Mr. Speaker, could you silence the Minister of Municipal Affairs. He is sounding just like a little crackie there: yap, yap, yap.

AN HON. MEMBER: A big crackie.

MR. WINSOR: Mr. Speaker, I can agree with some portions of this bill, recognizing that we have serious problems with Workers' Compensation. Some of the things that are in the bill, I like, I think they are positive. But I see two areas in the bill that are wrong. One is the attack on the injured worker and the reduction in his benefits. I think the minister has moved too far without examining the impact it is going to have on workers in this Province. Secondly, I see no place in this bill for the elimination of the top up provision. Mr. Speaker, it has nothing to do with Workers' Compensation, absolutely nothing. It doesn't take a dime from the pool of money that is there. It doesn't take anything from it. The minister had no reason and he hasn't satisfactorily explained to this House why he chose to do that.

Mr. Speaker, with these few brief remarks, I will yield the floor to somebody else.

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

MR. R. AYLWARD: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I am disappointed to see that there is nobody on the other side - I suppose I should understand it, especially the backbenchers - nobody wants to get up and defend this drastic piece of legislation that is going to hurt injured workers in this Province. I shouldn't be surprised that none of them would stand up. The gutless wonders across the way will not get up and speak because they figure they are getting too close to an election, and when election time comes around they can walk around it because they won't be heard on this record in this House as to what they are going to say.

Before I have a few words on this Bill 48, "An Act To Amend The Workers' Compensation Act", I want to personally welcome to the House of Assembly, the Grade VI students from St. Kevin's School. I visited their classrooms a couple of weeks ago, and had a chance to speak to them. I found them to be certainly very inquisitive young people, and very well informed of what is going on in this House of Assembly. I might say to them that this bill will affect them for some time in the future.

I hope when they finish their education and get to work that there is enough health and safety, especially safety, practices in place that they don't get injured, because if you do get injured, with this Act in place you will have very little chance of surviving, or continuing the lifestyle you presently have.

Some of the members over there shake their heads, but I have some examples here of constituents of mine, on whose behalf I have worked for the past year-and-a-half or so, and I have permission from them to tell their story.

It is alright for members of this House of Assembly to stand up here and talk about Bill 48, and clause such and such, and amendment such and such; but you are talking about people. You are not talking about bills and clauses, and you are not talking to desks and floors, and you are not talking to only the people who are sitting here looking back and forth at each other. You are talking about people who have been injured, through no fault of their own, most often, through an accident in the workplace.

I always understood, when I started work at surveying, that I would be working - and that is a fairly dangerous job. I used to do a lot of chain saw work, out in the country, away from convenient transportation. Injuries that happen in the survey business, although they are very infrequent, are oftentimes fairly severe, mostly because of the chain saws.

I always understood, if I were injured on the job while I was working, that at least I and my family would be able to continue into the future, with a similar lifestyle. If I did cut my leg off, which would not be unheard of if you are using chain saws, if I did happen to damage my arm so I couldn't use it, obviously I could not survey anymore. If you can't walk, you can't survey. If you can't use both arms you can't work in the woods and you can't survey. I always understood - I knew I couldn't sue the employer. I knew this was a no-fault insurance, so I wasn't getting anything except maybe the medical insurance that we had at work. I couldn't sue that company to look after my family from that day on, so I always assumed, not knowing much about it, that Workers' Compensation would provide for me and my family to live at least that modest type of lifestyle for the rest of our lives, or until I could get retrained, or until maybe my spouse became the full-time worker, at the time.

Mr. Speaker, I have found out, to my surprise, since becoming a Member of the House of Assembly for Kilbride, that is not so. Workers' Compensation, particularly in the last year to two years, are doing everything in their power to disqualify people from receiving benefits. They are not there working on behalf of the injured worker, they are working on behalf of the credit agencies, or the loan companies, or maybe the Department of Labour, who are telling them: You are spending too much money.

I understood Workers' Compensation should be working on behalf of injured workers. That should be their job, to help injured workers continue in a lifestyle that they had. They shouldn't get rich on it, obviously. They should not get any greater benefits than they ever had when they were working. And members are over there, like the Member for St. John's South, smiling, with the big grin on his face now, that this is going on. This abuse of Workers' Compensation is rampant. That is what he is insinuating with his cough and his big grin, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for St. John's South, on a point of order.

MR. MURPHY: I can't understand how, if you change your expression, Mr. Speaker, in this House, the hon. the Member for Kilbride assumes all of these terrible things. Now, he was doing alright, he was doing fine, and he was making some sense. Then all of a sudden, because this hon. member responded to something that this hon. member says, he turns around and talks about something of which he knows naught. So stay to the subject of the Act, talk about the Act. We are all listening and when our time comes we will respond to the hon. member. But to assume things is totally wrong. The member should apologise.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

There is no point of order.

The hon. the Member for Kilbride.

MR. R. AYLWARD: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. The Member for St. John's South is put in his place again and I appreciate that.

What I was saying is that by the reactions from - he wasn't even looking at the Member for Eagle River next to him, so what he said on his point of order obviously was completely wrong. But by the expression on his face you could see that he was insinuating that Workers' Compensation is being abused. If he knows of any abuse of Workers' Compensation then it is his duty to inform Workers' Compensation of the abuse. Anyone else in this House of Assembly should be doing the same thing, and anyone in the Province who knows that Workers' Compensation is being abused should report it. Because it is your money that is being spent, and money you make for an employer that goes into this kitty that is being abused. So if any members in this House of Assembly think that Workers' Compensation is being abused, they should report it to Workers' Compensation. They should let the inspectors know what happens.

I haven't, in my thirteen years in the House Assembly, come across any abuse of Workers' Compensation. I've come across abuse of workers, because of Workers' Compensation. I've come across it quite often. I had a case early on, when I became a member of the House of Assembly, of a young man who was a heavy equipment mechanic, who worked on all kinds of heavy equipment. He was working one Saturday, when somebody phoned him at his home to do some work on a rock crusher. They didn't phone his company. They phoned him at his home - because they knew where he was - to say there was an emergency, the rock crusher had shut down. He went out and worked on that rock crusher, on behalf of his company, but the company didn't know about it, and he got his arm caught in the machine, almost pulling the arm off. He couldn't get satisfaction from Workers' Compensation until I became involved, because of some foolish technicality, that the company didn't know about it.

That is not fair. He was injured on the job, working for his company. It happened to be on a Saturday. He had to go through - we were six months trying to get that straightened out. Finally, we got him retrained. He couldn't use that arm anymore for any heavy equipment work. He had to get out of that business.

I say that even in their old system it isn't fair. When I was in Cabinet I spoke very strongly in favour of the revisions we made to Workers' Compensation. I was very supportive of it. I knew it was going to be expensive, I knew it was going to cause some problems, I knew we would have to increase premiums. But I figure Workers' Compensation should be there to work on behalf of injured workers, not on behalf of the bottom line. If the bottom line doesn't work out then you have to increase the payments. That is a problem. And you will have people like Bill Barry around this Province who say that they shouldn't be paying anything.

Well, Mr. Speaker, if they don't pay anything, then the no-fault part of it goes and the companies will be in bigger trouble. If there is no Workers' Compensation and someone is injured, and if trends go as they do down in the United States, companies in this Province would have bigger problems - not only companies, but governments and hospitals and everyone else.

So if Workers' Compensation is going to exist - and I hope it will, on a no-fault insurance basis, as I understand it does; and this is going to be changed in some of this legislation now - then it should be working on behalf of the injured workers. That should be its function. The first line in this bill should be that Workers' Compensation's number one responsibility is to act on behalf of injured workers. Because when you become injured, that is when you become most - it is harder then to fight back.

If you are injured, your back is hurt and you are laid up, you can't get around too easily, and you have to go on job searches, you have to go for rehabilitation, you cannot be going back to workers' compensation all the time to say: this is wrong, you are treating me wrong in this. I have one instance here, a person from Kilbride, a woman, who went to work for the Department of Social Services actually; she was looking after some - I do not know if they were delayed children or they were young people who were in detention for behavioral problems. They were behavioral problem children anyway.

She was not a big, strapping strong bodyguard type, she is a kind of a frail but very energetic woman, so she went to work for the Department of Social Services to look after some behaviourially upset children, I guess is what they call them. While she was working there, looking after one of these children in particular, something happened as she tried to restrain the child, a seventeen-year-old person it happened to be, and bigger than her, and she got a serious back injury, a terribly serious back injury. So, initially things worked out, she reported it and the process started off reasonably well; she got the initial workers' compensation payments.

After she was receiving those payments for a while, she wanted to be retrained, she does not want to be on workers' compensation, it is the last thing that she wanted. So, after being on compensation for a while, they said: Okay, you are supposed to be doing rehabilitation - after many, many delays in trying to get to see specialists by the way, through no fault of her own she had to wait and wait and wait and the injury did not get any better, it never does while you are waiting, it got worse. Anyway, she was going for physio and then she started to be retrained, but her back - now I am not a doctor, I do not profess to be a doctor, I do not even profess to have a good first aid course, but, Mr. Speaker, if I go to a person's house and they are humped over like this and they cannot walk, they cannot sit down or they cannot stand up for more than five minutes at a time, and that is continuous after four visits to that house, I can assume that that person is not faking.

When I went to Workers' Compensation appeal with this person, Mr. Speaker, there were the same symptoms. It was obvious to the layman's eye that this person was injured and what Workers' Compensation said was: No, you are okay, you can go back to work. Then they had a medical person, I do not know who the person was, a doctor obviously, it had to be, who said it was okay. They had another one who Workers' Compensation said it was not okay, her doctor said it was not okay and a fourth doctor got involved and said it was not okay, so we had one saying she could go back to work and three saying she should not go back to work and what did Workers' Compensation read into that? That she should go back to work. Now, that is not fair. Whether there is money there or not, cut it off and cancel it so people's expectations that when they are working that they are not going to be covered, their expectations are not so high, at least they will know there is no coverage for them.

This woman is now physically impaired to the point where she cannot sleep a full night, not that she cannot work or that she cannot do her housework or that she cannot do any physical work, she cannot sleep for more than two hours a night, any night. Now, Mr. Speaker, she is not getting any assistance from Workers' Compensation. It was a well documented case that she was injured on the job, there is no doubt about that. It is just that Workers' Compensation and the appeal - it was not an appeal tribunal, there was a one person inquiry when we went down to do an appeal and the appeal was done by Patrick Brace, the hearing officer.

Now you know a thing that is even more serious in this particular case? Workers' Compensation had difficulties with her husband on workers' compensation five or six years before this. They had a problem with her husband. He was pretty frustrated and probably did not conduct himself too mannerly; I will put it as kindly as I can, but that was mentioned in her file. That was in her file, which is illegal, I would say. I do not know why, as there is absolutely no reason for that to be in her file, that they had trouble with her husband. Now when I explained this to the appeal person, he said: yes, that could be the case, there could be a bias here because of her husband, but I asked: why is it in her file? I do not care about the biases, I do not care about anything, why would someone put it in her file? There was no answer. To this day there is no answer. This was in October of 1992 when I received the report from this Commission.

Mr. Speaker, again, that is not only unfair, I believe that to be illegal. Her husband was off work, he couldn't find work. A big strapping man can't find a thing to do. Works in the construction industry. Nobody's doing any great amount of construction activity, especially around this area. But he'd work anywhere in Canada. It doesn't matter to him. So he couldn't find work. She was off injured getting no income. Workers' Compensation tells her to go to a lawyer. Go to a lawyer and then you'll see if this is illegal, see if we're treating you fairly.

That poor woman had to settle for me. I pity her, to tell the truth, because I do not know the legal ramifications of what Workers' Compensation are doing for them. She couldn't afford a lawyer, and I'm not a lawyer. I told her right off the bat, if she assumed that I'm a lawyer and that I would do as good a job. I try harder. I give her more time, and it'll cost her nothing. Well, it cost her whatever taxes she's paying, whatever part of my salary it is. But I said: I am not a lawyer. Finally after this final refusal she went to Legal Aid, and we haven't heard back from that since.

How is it possible that Workers' Compensation cannot look at this person - some medical doctor can't look at this person and see that their back is completely out of whack? It's visible. If you saw the person walking in there right there and then you'd say: there's something wrong with your back. Now you mightn't know if this happens twenty-four hours a day or it's just something when you tripped on the way into the building. But it is not fair that this person receives no workers' compensation.

Another person: I have permission to use this person's name, Paulette Griffiths, who was under a similar circumstance. Worked for the Department of Social Services, looking after children again, or young adults, big people. She hurt her back on the job. Again, she's in the same position. She can't look after her own six-month old child, to lift that child around, and Workers' Compensation says: you have to go back looking after these young adults. Because you don't have a back injury.

If you look at the people they can't stand up straight. They can't carry on a full day's activity at home. They can't do the housework in the house. They can't look after the six-month old child properly, just changing diapers and feeding it, without extreme discomfort. Yet Workers' Compensation tells this person: you go back to work in the system looking after young adults and you'll have no problem. I don't understand it. I really do not understand it. It's getting worse, it's not getting better.

This Bill is certainly not going to improve. it. There's nothing in this Bill that will help any of these people who are legitimately injured on the job from work-related injuries, and obviously injured. There's nothing in this Bill that's going to help any of them. So I don't know what the great hullabaloo is from the government if they have to pass this Act. It's certainly not an act to help out workers. It is not going to benefit injured workers.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. R. AYLWARD: No, nothing in here is going to fix it. That's the problem, it's down at Workers' Compensation, if Workers' Compensation is there to look after injured workers. But they are not there to look after injured workers.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. R. AYLWARD: No, but you can do something to help. If you are finding - obviously I'm not the only MHA on this side, because I asked my colleagues if they're finding more instances lately then we had in the past. Every one of them said: yes, there are more instances.

What you need to do, one of the problems I see, and two of the people - not these two people here - but two other people who I worked on cases for Workers' Compensation, one was a nurse. Big problem in the health industry in injuries, because the health industry is strained beyond capacity right now. There's not enough people there to look after the people that they have to look after.

Apart from the problems in the health industry, what happens with a nurse now today?... and there was an example in yesterday's paper that I gave the Member for Fogo, and I do not know if he is around - what a nurse will lose - just a cutout of yesterday's Telegram. It showed an example yesterday of what a nurse is going to lose under this new legislation.

Now if a person is injured and they are receiving compensation at a certain rate, and they cannot go back to work to get any more increases or raises or promotions during their working life, or their near working life, the last thing they need is to be cut back 15 per cent to 20 per cent in workers' benefits. The last thing they need is that. That is not going to help the injured worker, if that is what Workers' Compensation is supposed to be doing. If Workers' Compensation is supposed to be helping injured workers, which I understood it to be, then they are not doing the job.

In yesterday's paper we had an example of what money - I think it was done in a press release from the nurses' union - Aylward said that injured nurses with benefits of $996 every two weeks, workers' compensation currently accounts for $682 of that $996, and the remaining $314 coming from employer top up, in the nurses' union collective agreement. Under the proposed amendments of the act, the $314 top up will be lost in a new collective agreement.

Why are you doing that? What benefit is that to Workers' Compensation for you to take away that $314 from the nurse? You will not retrain that nurse. You will not do anything to help her, apart from a bit of physio, until that is no longer required - maybe an operation or so, if you want to completely disable the person. But you are taking away $314 from that person in the health care system, that does not cost Workers' Compensation anything.

So I do not know what the purpose of Workers' Compensation is, taking away this top up. This is just one instance, the $314 top up. Amendments would also mean that effective January 1, 1994, her remaining $682 biweekly benefits would drop by 2.5 per cent a year, until it reaches $606 every two weeks.

Now a person is going from $996... If this is a single parent; we will use an example of a single parent who has one, two, or three children at home, or dependents, or whatever we are supposed to be calling them now. If this is a single parent who cannot be retrained, who cannot go out and find other work - there is no work around to find, but you cannot go out and find other work if you are injured anyway - that family, especially that single parent family, will have their benefits cut from $996 every two weeks, which is not a big deal - I could not live on it; my family could not live on that - but they will have their benefits cut from $996 down to $606. Is that fair? Is that what Workers' Compensation is supposed to be doing with that injured worker? Or is Workers' Compensation supposed to be looking after the companies who are paying the bills?

The companies who have to pay the bills should be responsible for putting in place the proper safety training courses so that you would not get injured workers. If these companies want to save money on workers' compensation, put in practices so that people will not be injured. Put safety practices in there.

There are two members in this House of Assembly who are very familiar with occupational health and safety - especially the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs. He should have had input in this legislation when it was coming before the House. The benefit of his knowledge should have been used a lot more, if he stood up and fought for it. He can have it when I am finished with it, it was on page 2 of yesterday's Telegram, if he is interested.

Mr. Speaker, this reduction to this one nurse - that example was in the paper - this reduction is a 39 per cent reduction in salary. That could very well be. It wouldn't be unusual for that to be a single parent with dependents.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. R. AYLWARD: You sit down. You will have your time to answer this. Sit down. Sit down, you were up three or four times. You have an hour after this. I will get you in Committee. I am being kind to you here today so far. I will get you in committee when the time comes. You can answer all these questions, but you won't have answers, that is the problem. You dance around them all then you will avoid the questions and you will avoid the issue where Workers' Compensation is working on behalf of the employer, not the injured worker. That is what you want to put in place in this Province.

Mr. Speaker, the workers, it will never be reported, you will never hear anything coming out of this House of Assembly. Workers will not know this until it is too late. If someone goes and breaks their leg, or a surveyor goes and cuts his arm and he can't go to work anymore, a nurse ruins her back so she can't even look after her own personal needs at home, that is when people will realize what the government is doing with this, because when you are healthy and you are active and you are not worried about this, you are trying to put food on the table for the day, you don't think about workers' compensation and you don't think about pension plans, and you skirt around insurances sometimes to try to make ends meet for the day. Now, Mr. Speaker, when the people in this Province get injured, it is too late then. It is too late when you are laid up and you can't get up and fight for yourself. You can't fight as hard. I know that the two examples I gave here, these two people, as hard as it is, they are determined not to give up until Workers' Compensation comes across with a fair settlement and fair treatment of them because they were injured on the job.

Mr. Speaker, this also will interfere with the collective agreements of certain Public Service Unions that I know of. This is not Bill 17, it is not Bill 18, this is Bill 19. You are taking away more benefits from people who worked hard to negotiate these benefits. They gave up something else years ago to get this benefit for their injured workers. Certainly I am glad that the unions are thinking about the injured workers. At least somebody is interested in them. The Minister of Labour is certainly not interested at all in injured workers in this Province. Workers' Compensation is changing its mandate so it does not have its prime mandate of helping injured workers, legitimately injured workers in this Province. Workers' Compensation has changed its mandate now to obstruct as much as possible anyone receiving benefits. That is what Workers' Compensation seems to me to be doing now.

Mr. Speaker, one of the major delays that injured workers find is getting therapy. They can't get to see the specialists. The specialists are too busy. Most of them left the Province since the former Minister of Health was here. But it is difficult. We don't have enough specialists in this Province to treat the injuries, particularly back and bone type injuries and joint injuries. We don't have the specialists here. So Workers' Compensation will let them stay on Workers' Compensation month after month after month without treatment, waiting to get to see a specialist, and they are paying out all this money. This is where the money is going. This is where the bottom drops out of her down at Workers' Compensation needlessly. If they put that person on a plane and sent them to Nova Scotia, if they can't do it, New Brunswick, if they can't do it, Quebec, Ontario, right across Canada, wherever it is, if you sent that person out there and got him or her treated then you would save, in the long-run, in benefits if you had the person cured and back in the work force. If you can't get it done in Canada, why not ship that person down to the United States and have them treated? Expensive as it is, it would save Workers' Compensation money.

Now I brought that up in committee hearings in the Budget last year when the Minister of Labour was here. We got some kind of a wishy-washy answer on it that they won't send them down to the United States because it is too costly. But it is not too costly to keep someone on Workers' Compensation for months and months waiting to see a specialist. You would save money in the long run. The trouble with this government is they won't look ahead a bit. If you are going to spend $5 here now to save $10 in six months time they won't do it. They would save the $5 and then it would cost them the whole $10 by the time the year is over.

So, Workers' Compensation has to look at its physiotherapy department and look at how people are sitting around waiting to see the medical experts. If they can't see them here in this Province, if they can't see them in the Atlantic Region, ship them right across to anywhere in Canada. And if that is not possible, get them back into the work force. You should be trying to treat people, cure them and get them back into the work force because that is where the injured worker wants to be. The injured worker does not want to be sitting around on workers' compensation, they want to go to work.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

AN HON. MEMBER: Carried, carried!

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

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

Members opposite would like for it to be carried, but I can tell them that it is going to be a while yet before this is carried. They will sing out carried a few more times yet before this -

MR. ROBERTS: (Inaudible) to get them on their feet.

MR. MATTHEWS: I say to the Government House Leader, it probably would be nicer if he got to his feet more often, Mr. Speaker, rather than speaking from his chair. He should get up and participate in the debate.

Mr. Speaker, it is a pretty serious piece of legislation that we are dealing with here with a lot of implications. The minister himself, of course, said that it contains some very tough measures and indeed, Mr. Speaker, it does, some very, very tough measures, measures that will affect nearly every worker, every employer and every family throughout this Province.

I am not sure that the minister who introduced this piece of legislation, really knows the implications of what he is doing here. I say, it is quite ironic falling on the heels of Bill 16 and Bill 17, to see what this particular minister, who used to be, or at least wanted people to believe he was, a defender of labour in the Province, to see what he is doing again with this piece of legislation. A minister who was a former President of the Newfoundland Teachers Association who, just a few short years ago, would be out on the stumps around this Province knocking -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. MATTHEWS: No, I say to the ITT minister. Yes, it is the issue. The issue is this piece of legislation that is being brought forward here today by this particular Minister of Labour who, just a few short years ago, would have been very critical of any government who even thought about bringing in those amendments to the Workers' Compensation Act. Who would have even thought about it, I say to the minister.

Mr. Speaker, another concern that we have is: There has been very little effort by government to give people out and about the Province a chance, particularly people who are going to be affected by this bill, an opportunity to make their views known and to have a voice in this reform. Now, it is a very valid criticism, I say to members opposite. Why don't you put the bill on hold, send the Legislative Review Committee out and about the Province to hear what workers and other interested people out and about the Province have to say about it? Why not do that? Take a month, two months, to do it and, then, come back next Spring and let the House know what the committee has found, what the feelings of the people of this Province are on this very important issue.

Another thing that is worthy of note, Mr. Speaker, is that this particular piece of legislation was sent to the Government Services Committee on the day it was distributed in the House, the very same day. We heard the Premier and the former Government House Leader talk so highly about Legislative Review Committees. It was a plank in their platform in the last election, how they were going to establish those Legislative Review Committees.

MR. DOYLE: What a farce!

MR. MATTHEWS: What a farce it is. The Member for Harbour Main says, `What a farce!' The very same day this piece of legislation is tabled here in this House, the Legislative Review Committee that should be analyzing this piece of legislation received it at the same time. Now, what is the function, then, of the Legislative Review Committee? What is the purpose of the Legislative Review Committee? Absolutely none, because all of us in this House, as members, got a copy of the legislation. So there is no function for them to perform with this particular piece of legislation, which I think is regrettable, very, very regrettable.

Now, the minister admitted Thursday, yesterday, that most of the financial difficulties of the Workers' Compensation Commission have occurred in the past few years. I think he apparently even mentioned the last two years. Now, two things had happened, he said. First of all, over the last couple of years, in particular, the annual monies collected by the Commission through their assessment processes have not paid for annual expenditures of both injury claims and administration and number 2, he said: the commission has had to dip into the reserve funds that had been put aside to pay for future costs, that is, of course, future liabilities.

Now, Mr. Speaker, if ever there was a recipe for disaster, I say to the minister, if ever there was a recipe for disaster, it has occurred over particularly the last two or three years, despite the fact that employers in our Province pay the second highest rates in the country. The second highest rates in the country, now, why is this happening, Mr. Speaker, why is it happening?

The major reason in the dramatic decrease, is payrolls; decrease in payrolls in this Province over the past two years. Workers' Compensation charges an employer so much as we know, for every $100 of the payrolls businesses have in the Province. We all have known that businesses have been particular victims of this administration; particular victims of this government's economic and fiscal policies, and we all know of the bankruptcies, businesses have been falling like flies around this Province. Those that have survived this far have done so by cutting employment and cutting payrolls, and what has that meant to workers' compensation?

Well, we all know what it has meant, Mr. Speaker, that revenues are down to the Workers' Compensation Commission as a result. On the cost side, the duration and therefore the cost of claims are up because there are no alternative employment opportunities for injured workers who are unable to return to their former jobs. The Member for Fogo made some excellent points in debate this morning, excellent points, when he talked about the duration of claims, and any of us who, as members have participated with our constituents in dealing with Workers' Compensation, know full well that it takes an awful long time to get the process completed and the medical side of it has been a big problem. Getting a client referred from his own personal doctor, his local doctor out and about the Province to a specialist, takes an unusual length of time and of course that is impacting upon the cost to Workers' Compensation.

Sometimes, as the Member for Fogo said, it goes on for months getting to see a specialist and after they do see a specialist, getting surgery or whatever other treatment is necessary, and after that is the rehabilitation process, so yes, and we brought that to the minister's attention several times in the last number of years, that the process had to be speeded up, that the medical end of things was a big factor in the rising cost at Workers' Compensation, and I am sure that members on both sides, who have had dealings with constituents in trying to get them through the workers' compensation process have found that. If they do not know that, they have not dealt with constituents going through the system.

Another reason of course that I mentioned, is the long delay in getting medical assessments, which have increased both the cost and the duration of claims and that as well has been worsened by the actions of this particular government because of this cut in health services. Cuts that have put so much pressure on the health care system that it can no longer respond promptly and efficiently to any of our health care needs, and, Mr. Speaker, that is the truth of the situation. There are other reasons that are worthy of note.

Increases in injuries because of cutbacks which now create too many situations where, one worker is performing now, tasks that would normally be performed by two workers and of course a glaring example of that, are the nurses throughout the Province. Of course the nurses have highlighted that over the last number of months and particularly yesterday in their press conference where they outlined their concerns about this piece of legislation. Many times now, where ordinarily there would be two nurses involved in a task such as lifting and so on, there is now one and that is leading to more injuries, which makes the workplace more dangerous, more injuries and so on, consequently, more injuries mean more cost to Workers' Compensation. So the government and the minister has to take a lot of the responsibility for what has happened to the Workers' Compensation Commission, the situation in which it finds itself.

Failure of the government to implement effective health and safety programs that will reduce injuries in the workplace, that is another situation worthy of note. Inadequate retraining programs; inadequate rehabilitation programs and on and on the list goes. I am hoping that members opposite - some of them do not seem to be too concerned about this particular piece of legislation. I hope they realize full well what their government is doing with Bill 48. I do not think a lot of them do realize, because I am sure a lot of them have not taken the time to even read the legislation, to compare Bill 48 with the other piece of legislation dealing with workers' compensation, because if you compare a number of the clauses you will find that what government is proposing to do in this legislation is quite startling. It is quite startling.

The other question you have to ask is: Will the remedies in this bill solve the problem? I suggest that none of these problems, which are at the root of the difficulties experienced now by Workers' Compensation, are addressed in this bill. Instead, the government is doing what it has a record of doing, and that is cuts. Cut it back.

AN HON. MEMBER: Being responsible.

MR. MATTHEWS: Yes, the Minister of Education says: being responsible. Well I tell the Minister of Education that government has not been responsible for a lot of its actions in the last three-and-a-half years, and with this particular piece of legislation. For the minister to say they are being responsible makes one wonder really if the minister understands himself - if the Minister of Education himself knows what is contained in this bill.

MR. TOBIN: That is some responsible.

MR. MATTHEWS: Yes, they are being responsible, as the Member for Burin - Placentia West points out. Yes, they have been responsible. When you see a contract for furniture for the Premier's office for $80,430.43 on the eighth floor, is it?

MR. R. AYLWARD: One hundred and eighteen thousand for furniture.

MR. MATTHEWS: One hundred and eighteen thousand for furniture? No, $118,000 for furniture on the eleventh and eighth floors - sorry. It is $38,405 for the Premier's office. Yes, that is being responsible.

Here you are, asking employees in this Province, and as the Member for Kilbride said today, nurses, to take a 39 per cent decrease in benefits. Is that what the Minister of Education calls responsible? Someone who has gone out and naturally planned their financial affairs - mortgages, car payments, education for their children - on and on it goes. They have made plans, and now this government is going to cut back their benefits by approximately 39 per cent? I say to the Minister of Education: I do not think that is being responsible. That is going to inflict a lot of hardship upon a lot of people, a lot of families in this Province, and I think the government should seriously reconsider what it is doing - really consider what it is doing. There are some very, very serious implications.

When you peruse through the bill -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. MATTHEWS: I can understand members opposite being bored and yawning, and making strange noises, because they do not want to hear the truth.

MR. R. AYLWARD: That was Murphy again, was it?

MR. MATTHEWS: Someone in the back over there. I do not know who it was. I know the area it came from; I do not know what member did it - one of them over there in the back. It was either the Member for Port de Grave or the Member for St. John's South, one of them.

MR. TOBIN: It is not the Member for Port de Grave.

MR. R. AYLWARD: It must be South again.

MR. TOBIN: South it is.

MR. MATTHEWS: Having said that, there are a couple of positive things in the bill. There are some positives. It is not all negative. Most of it is negative, but there are some positives. I want the minister to take note of the few questions I have so that when he responds, particularly in Clause 44.1 it says: Section 44 shall not apply where the worker is injured or killed.

It talks about transportation: (a) while being transported in the course of the worker's employment by a mode of transportation in respect of which public liability insurance is required to be carried.

Then, of course: (b) as a result of an accident involving the use of a motor vehicle by the worker or another person, in the course of the worker's employment.

I would like for the minister, when he reacts to some questions and criticism of the bill, to answer this. What really are they saying here? If a person is driving, say from the Grand Bank fish plant to Fortune fish plant, a worker of FPI - well was FPI, just to use an example - and the foreman says: Go to Fortune and work on one of the trawlers for me. And something happens to that worker while driving, in his or her own car, what are the implications of this for that worker? What happens - there are two situations - you have a collision with another vehicle, which causes injury or death, or the person goes off the road themselves in their own car, because there are slippery conditions, and gets injured or killed. What does this mean to -

AN HON. MEMBER: Or hit a moose.

MR. MATTHEWS: Yes, or hit a moose like the Member for Port de Grave did. The Member for Port de Grave hit a moose, and it was not thirty days after the Member hit the moose that we had all the brush clearing projects announced throughout the Province from the Department of Social Services, of which he was then minister.

AN HON. MEMBER: In Liberal districts.

MR. MATTHEWS: In Liberal districts, yes. Of course, you wouldn't know but it was only Liberals who ran into moose, I say to the member. But there are others that do. But that's an important question that I noted in going through the Bill for the minister that I'd like him to answer for me, because I did have some concerns when I read it.

Another question for the minister here is in section 9 when they're talking about election. I'm sure the Member for St. John's East will zero in on this as well.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. MATTHEWS: Mr. Speaker, could you ask the Minister of Education to control himself? Because I consider this to be serious. We're talking here where -

SOME HON MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. MATTHEWS: Mr. Speaker, just listen. Can you believe who's talking about putting us bankrupt? In three and a half years you have put this Province on the brink of a situation seen in the 'thirties, I say to the Minister of Education. That's why you're here today doing what you're doing. That's why the Minister of Finance had to stand up yesterday and bring in a mini-Budget by the end of this month, the first time ever in the history of the Province, I say to the Minister of Education.

Do you know what? The president of NAPE hit the nail on the head yesterday and this morning. When he said: it is nothing short of total incompetence. Total incompetence by this government. He said that they have said before, the labour movement and leaders of this Province: that the Premier should be home minding the shop, and now we see the consequences. The president of NAPE is right.

Everything else has been so much more important than running the affairs of Newfoundland and Labrador in Newfoundland and Labrador. He's been more concerned with national press and national profile, the national stage. Now the workers in this Province are expected to pay the consequences. That's what we're seeing. I would say that the chickens will come home to roost on this and other issues with the Premier and his administration in the next five or six months, I say to the Minister of Education.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I was raising a point here. Where now a worker or his dependents -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. MATTHEWS: Mr. Speaker, I believe the minister is dreaming now. It's an important question. Section 9(2)(2): "The worker or his or her dependents shall make an election under subsection (1) within 6 months of the injury and an application for compensation is a valid election for the purpose of this section."

Now we're talking a very serious situation here. If someone gets injured or killed, and the injured worker or family goes to Workers' Compensation for compensation, then they are deemed to have made an election, and they can't go any further than that. Or, if they elect to go to the courts to seek legal action, then that's the end of it. The question for the minister is this: what happens if someone travelling from or to employment, and gets killed in a bus or an airplane, or whatever -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. MATTHEWS: Never was. Never was covered.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. MATTHEWS: Never was covered. No, you're not the minister, I don't think. I don't think, now. Not unless there's been a shuffle this morning. But that could be. What happens in the case where you could have a number of employees killed in a plane crash, alright? The family doesn't have any money to live on. They need compensation to survive. But yet there may be a case where the accident or the death was caused because of a fault or a failure or mechanical problem or company constructed problem, and they decide to go seek legal advice and sue the company.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. MATTHEWS: No, I'm asking the question. Sue the company. We all know - yes, the manufacturer, or the airline company, or whatever could be responsible, whatever. Okay, they go to sue. As a consequence of electing to do that there could be two, three or four years before there is an award.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. MATTHEWS: I don't have to use anything. I just asked a sensible question. I think I am asking a sensible question, and I would like to be able to do it.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. MATTHEWS: How are those people expected to live, to survive to put bread on the table if by doing that then they cannot get workers' compensation. What is going to keep them alive?

What is going to keep them alive, I ask the Member for St. John's South. It might be fine for him. Perhaps he has all kinds of RRSP's put away. I don't know. Perhaps he has a big stash somewhere. I don't know, perhaps he has money. Most of us don't have that luxury.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).


AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: The member has asked a very good question, but I would ask him what would be the alternative? There are other choices available, but what alternative would he recommend?

MR. MATTHEWS: The alternatives would be that the Workers' Compensation would view the claim and allow compensation to be paid to the worker or his or her dependents.

MR. ROBERTS: Would one prohibit the person from suing?


MR. ROBERTS: Would the law then prohibit the family of the -

MR. MATTHEWS: Certainly not.

MR. ROBERTS: So they could have it both ways.

MR. MATTHEWS: The question that I raise here is how is someone expected to stay alive, live, buy food, pay for light and heat if by going to see the Member for St. John's East or the Government House Leader to seek legal council to sue, that they then cannot - they have made an election, they can't get compensation from Workers' Compensation? How are they expected to survive for the three or four years, which it would normally take, to get an award from the court?

MR. R. AYLWARD: They can't.

MR. MATTHEWS: That is the question.

MR. R. AYLWARD: They have no money for the lawyers.

MR. MATTHEWS: Now I say to members opposite, that is a concern that I have about this, and I am sure other members as well have the same concerns and they will raise them. And the minister, when he stands to respond, can give the answer or give his interpretation. But there are things that I flagged as I went through it, there are a number of them. There are a number of them there that I have noted. Of course, I think, Mr. Speaker, that the section 15 dealing with the rate for calculating the workers loss of earning capacity, the reduction from 90 to 75 per cent for the first 39 weeks, that is going to be real pain for a lot of people, real pain.

The Member for Kilbride said the nurses yesterday have outlined some of their concerns. Their people will lose about 39 per cent which is going to be staggering. That is a staggering reduction in benefits: 39 per cent for the first thirty-nine weeks, and then, of course, after thirty-nine weeks it will be 80 per cent. Of course, as the nurses so rightly pointed out, there is a clause in there as well that will reduce benefits by 2.5 per cent a year until it gets down to 80 per cent which will be four years. These are concerns that I have, Mr. Chairman, about this piece of legislation. Real concerns.

There is another reference in the act, subsection 8.2 clause four, the act is repealed and the following substituted: All expenses incurred in the administration of this act shall be paid out of the injury fund. I hope the minister is listening to the question. It says: All expenses incurred in the administration of this act shall be paid out of the injury fund. Now is that something different than what is currently being done? Is all the administration coming from somewhere else other than the injury fund now? If so, isn't that going to further reduce the injury fund and further reduce the amount of money that is left there for the protection and for the benefit of workers, I ask the minister, and I want him to respond to that? What really does this clause do? Is it different from what is now being done, and what are the implications to the injury fund if the administration of this act is now going to come out of the injury fund? That is another question I have for the minister.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. MATTHEWS: There is a positive here, Mr. Speaker, in clause seven, section 3, where the commission talks about paying interest on compensation for loss of wages to a worker or workers dependents where the payment of that compensation is delayed for more than thirty days. We all know in our dealings with Workers' Compensation that quite often it is more than thirty days before people actually get benefits. Of course, the minister and the drafters have been kind of cute in this one in that they say: for more than thirty days as a result of circumstances that are in the control of the commission.

AN HON. MEMBER: Who determines what?

MR. MATTHEWS: Yes, who determines what circumstances are in the control of the commission, and what they might be? We all agree that getting through the medical process usually causes the greatest delay, so what is that all about? Is that just a camouflage again?

As well, they talk about the Board of Directors - very little difference in that.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. MATTHEWS: Mr. Speaker, I wish that members, if they have things to say about this bill, that they would do it at the appropriate time when they get recognized. When you are trying to deal with a serious piece of legislation like this - very serious, a lot of implications - it is hard to -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. MATTHEWS: See what I mean?

If members find it difficult to defend what their own government is doing, then they should say so, or they should remain quiet while someone else is trying to explain to the people of the Province what the implications of this bill are. If the bill is so difficult to defend, if the amendments are so difficult to defend, and you feel uncomfortable about it, then I think you should undergo the process with your own caucus and your own ministers to try and make some changes, because it is not too late.

Yesterday the Leader of the Opposition asked the Premier if he would consider putting this to the appropriate, proper, Legislative Review Committee, to go around the Province. The Premier flatly refused. I do not know why. It was a good question, a reasonable question, to let people out and about the Province have some impact, to have a look at this bill, to express their opinions and observations to the appropriate committee of this House. But the Premier flatly refused because he is going to go straight ahead. He does not listen to anyone else. Do more damage to workers out and about this Province; not really attacking this problem from the right angle; dealing strictly with those who can least afford to be attacked, that of injured workers in the Province. But that is what the Premier has continued to do in the three-and-a-half years he has been in office - attack those who can least afford to be attacked.

I think that members opposite should, if they have not already done so, read this piece of legislation over the weekend. They should compare it with what is in effect now, and make an honest judgement on it. I think that once members opposite do that, they will have some serious reservations about this - about what their government is doing.

Mr. Speaker, I have a minute or so left, so I am going to conclude and say that we, as an opposition, intend to highlight this piece of legislation. We intend to try to make the people of the Province aware of this piece of legislation - to make the workers particularly, out and about the Province, aware of it. We are not going to give up on it easily. We are going to debate it for as long as we feel necessary.

We are delighted to see that the labour movement in the Province is going to take up the issue as well, and do education programs for their membership, because they really need to be educated and informed on this piece of legislation, because government cannot be let away with this. You cannot take office in this Province and slash and butcher everything - and particularly slash and butcher those who can least afford it in this Province. Injured workers, I say to members opposite, are not a very good target. That is what you are doing here. You have targeted injured workers, and you are trying to take it out on them. They are not the fault - injured workers in this Province - and I ask the minister to reconsider.

Before I conclude, I would like to move the following amendment: That the Bill, An Act To Amend The Workers' Compensation Act be referred to the Government Services Committee of the House for public hearings throughout the Province, and that debate on the bill be suspended until after the Government Services Committee has completed public hearings and has reported to the House.

Seconded by the Member for Burin - Placentia West.

MR. ROBERTS: Is the amendment in order, Mr. Speaker?

MR. SPEAKER: I am waiting to see a copy of the -

AN HON. MEMBER: Perhaps we could recess for a minute.

MR. SPEAKER: Yes, we will recess for a couple minutes.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, I don't know if Your Honour would entertain a point of order. I wish to make a submission that the amendment, in the words that I understand were used by the gentleman for Grand Bank, is out of order.

MR. SPEAKER: The Chair is ready to rule on the amendment.

I refer hon. members to page 202 of Beauchesne, paragraph 676: "An amendment to defer second reading of a bill until the subject-matter has been considered by a committee is out of order in that it does not oppose the principle of the bill but merely attaches a condition." So I rule that the amendment is out of order.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I have recognized the hon. the Member for St. John's East.

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to speak in opposition to Bill 48, "An Act To Amend The Workers' Compensation Act", at second reading. I am opposed to this legislation in principle, I am opposed to the legislation in detail and I am opposed to the legislation because it does not address the real problems in the Workers' Compensation system, but rather, picks one group of players in the system to take and bear the financial responsibility for the failure of Occupational Health and Safety in Newfoundland, and the failure of the system itself.


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

I hate to interrupt the hon. member, but I am having difficulty hearing the hon. the Member for St. John's East - I don't know about other members of the House. But I ask hon. members to refrain from shouting across the House.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


MR. HARRIS: Mr. Speaker -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair has already ruled and I would expect that hon. members would obey the ruling of the Chair.

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

MR. HARRIS: Mr. Speaker, the situation that the Workers' Compensation system finds itself in, results from a series of issues that are outlined in the report and I am looking at the majority report now - not the minority report, but the majority report of the Statutory Review of 1991.

The Committee decided that the major reasons for the increases in costs during the period under review were as follows: The increased duration of the claims; the higher health care costs; delays in obtaining medical assistance; several rate groups such as hospitals and nursing homes not paying their respective share of Workers' Compensation costs; the indexing of benefits; the increases in the cost of the Commission; the increases in delays at the Commission in processing claims, and the low economic activity in the Province resulting in high unemployment and limited alternative employment for injured workers.

These problems, Mr. Speaker, aside from the indexing of benefits, do not directly relate to the fault of having the system in place in the first place, or the fault of workers receiving adequate benefits when they suffer from an injury at work. These are faults of the system, itself. They have been outlined by other members in speeches here today and yesterday dealing with the problem.

So the question then becomes, not as the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations said the other day, whether or not we are going to have a system at all. You notice how this government always goes on with that - like Medicare, for example.

MR. ROBERTS: If I may, a point of order, Sir?

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

MR. ROBERTS: The hon. gentleman from St. John's East is now into his remarks. This is my point of order, Sir. I would ask the hon. gentleman whether he is aware of the provisions of Section (4)(1) of the Conflict of Interest Act. My submission is that he ought to make a declaration, because I understand he is a member of a law firm which is drawing - properly drawing remuneration from the Workers' Compensation Commission.


MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for St. John's East, to that point of order.

MR. HARRIS: To that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am an employee of a law firm that is -


MR. HARRIS: The minister has raised a point of order and I will respond to the point of order. I am not a member of a law firm drawing an income from the Workers' Compensation Commission. The law firm of which I am employed does have a retainer from the Workers' Compensation Commission, and does advise the Commission on numerous matters. I believe the Conflict of Interest Act merely requires that that be disclosed. I don't think that is a secret. I know the hon. the Government House Leader is well aware of that.

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

MR. ROBERTS: I have no desire to cause any embarrassment to the hon. gentleman -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FUREY: Oh, there's a 'beaut' now talking!

AN HON. MEMBER: Listen, who's talking!

MR. ROBERTS: - because I don't think he is doing anything improper. But the statutes of this Province, Mr. Speaker, require in Section 4(1)(A) of the Conflict of Interest Act that a certain declaration be made.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: The hon. gentleman for Kilbride, Sir, ought to observe the rules of the House. If he doesn't know how to observe them, then perhaps he will have to be taught how to observe them.

Mr. Speaker, all I want to do is to draw the hon. Member for St. John's East's attention to it. All that he has to do, as I read the statute, is make a declaration where there is a conflicting interest in respect of the member of the House in relation to the matter. I just simply say to him, he had not made that declaration. I asked him whether he thought he would or not. If he wishes to make a declaration, that would bring the matter to an end. If he does not wish to make the declaration, then I guess, Mr. Speaker, we will have to have a ruling in due course on whether there is, in fact, an interest, in respect of which I accept the hon. member's explanation that he is not a partner in that firm but that he is an employee. But I used the word "a member," and not - a member of the law firm.

I have no desire to cause him any trouble, but the law is the law and we should follow it. Even the hon. the Member for Humber East should be aware of the conflict of interest rules, given the number of exemptions that were granted to her over the years.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for St. John's East, to the point of order.


MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

The Chair is trying to hear submissions. If we have this talking across the House, I have difficulty trying to hear, particularly the Member for St. John's East. He speaks low, or he is further away from me, I don't know what the reason is. But I would like to hear what the hon. member has to say.

MR. HARRIS: Mr. Speaker, as I understand the Conflict of Interest rules, I don't believe they apply in this particular case. I don't perceive a conflict of interest between my speaking on this bill and the fact that the firm for which I am employed - I am not a member of the firm, I am not a partner of the firm and I do not derive any income from legal services being provided to the Commission. So I don't think that I am in a conflict of interest.

The declaration of which the minister speaks would perhaps apply if there were a conflict of interest. Nevertheless, I have advised the House, in response to the question raised by the minister, that -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: I have advised the House, Mr. Speaker, that there is a factual circumstance which I don't believe the Conflict of Interest Act applies to. But there is a factual circumstance that the law firm -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

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

I am trying to hear the hon. member's submission.

MR. HARRIS: that the law firm which I have an employment relationship with does also work for - I don't - but the law firm, and members of the law firm, do work and give legal advice from the Workers' Compensation Commission, a fact that has been the case for many years, Mr. Speaker. I, personally, am not involved with that in any way, so I do not see a conflict; but the declaration is there for members to be aware of, and for the Speaker to be aware of, and I think that should settle the matter.

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, all that the act requires is a declaration. Now that the hon. gentleman has in fact made the declaration I, for one, and I speak for my friends and colleagues on this side, I am quite sure in this matter, am prepared to accept it and get on with it. But the rules, I say to my learned friend from St. John's East, do require any of us with an interest, as defined in the act - well he may want to have a look at sub (2) of Section 4 - but they require the declaration of interest. Once one makes the declaration, that is enough. I am certainly quite prepared for my part to settle it, unless some other hon. member raises a question.

I would go further. I would be prepared, Mr. Speaker, to ask Your Honour to extend the gentleman from St. John's East an extra three or four minutes to end his remarks to make up the time.

The fact remains, while the gentleman from Kilbride does neither care for, nor feel that others should care for the law, -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, the hon. gentleman from Kilbride has to learn that simply repeating something ad nauseam does not make it true. Dr. Goebbels tried that. It was not true for Dr. Goebbels, and it is not true for the new Dr. Goebbels over there.

The point I make is, I would say to Your Honour that it would be entirely reasonable to give the hon. gentleman from St. John's East another four or five minutes, if Your Honour were so minded. We on this side would certainly raise no objection.

I do say to my hon. friend from St. John's East that he should have a look at the act, because I do, in all modesty, suggest that he is required to make the declaration, which he has now made.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

As I was saying, the difficulties that are disclosed in the report by the Workers' Compensation Statutory Review Committee are difficulties that show a failure of the system to be very efficient in dealing with problems. Now every member in this House is aware of that situation. Every member in this House has been consulted by constituents looking for assistance with workers' compensation claims, and is aware of the problems that occur - the delays in getting rehabilitation, the delays in getting medical assistance, the delays in finding out whether their claim can or cannot be dealt with. Will they or will they not have a proper assessment? All of these delays have resulted in increased cost to the system - so much so that the government itself has recognized that there ought to be a disincentive placed in the Commission to prevent it from causing further delays by having to pay interest on claims that ought to have been paid.

I don't know whether that would have any serious affect. It may end up in fact costing the Commission more money if they don't solve the delay problems. We may be back here next year - as this government has a habit of doing - coming back next year and taking more out of the workers, in this case injured workers, to make them pay for the faults of the system and the faults of the government in not taking a proper route to correct it.

These difficulties are the ones that should have been corrected and not the financial benefits paid to injured workers. We have other problems, pointed out not only by the Committee itself - in particular, the minority report - but also by the Newfoundland Federation of Labour and by other employee groups which made representations to the Committee, that had to do with occupational health and safety in the Province.

The minority report clearly points out that the occupational health and safety budget - the prevention arm of the occupational health and safety budget - was underspent by 50 per cent. That half of the money wasn't even spent in dealing with a most important aspect of workers' compensation, that is, the prevention of accidents in the first place.

More money and more misery can be saved by taking a proper approach to workplace health and safety. The cost of workers' compensation in Newfoundland, as pointed out, has gone up by 100 per cent. The employer contribution has gone up by 100 per cent in five years, increasing approximately 20 per cent per year. Why is that? The reason for that has to do with the rate of accidents in this Province and with the cost of providing the compensation that workers are entitled to, not with the fact that they're properly being compensated for injuries occurring at the workplace.

Mr. Speaker, it being close to the hour, I would adjourn debate at this point in time, to continue on tomorrow.

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

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

For the benefit of members: A, the puffin will fly again, I say to my friend for Grand Bank, notwithstanding his attempt to hit it on the wing, he did not even manage it. Notwithstanding my hon, friend's attempt to hit it on the wing he did not even come close.

No. 2, Mr. Speaker, on Monday, we shall be calling the Workers' Compensation Bill since we are making such good progress with it.

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