November 16, 1992           HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS           Vol. XLI  No. 64

The House met at 2:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Lush): Order, please!

The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker, before we embark on the routine Orders of the Day I want to take this opportunity, I am sure, to join with all members of the House in wishing the Member for St. John's East success in his new position as Leader of the NDP party; but he will understand, I am sure, if we wish him a much greater level of success in the administrative side of that task than we would wish him in the political side of the task. I am sure he understands that it is not ill will that causes that. It is just that conflict of interest prevents us from wishing him too much success on the political side.

It is all very well to josh and joke about the thing, but I understand from news reports that the hon. member has decided to terminate his law practice and phase it out, and give full time to public life. I know what a commitment that is. I know the financial burden of it, and I can only say that I commend the hon. member for his dedication to public life, and I wish him all the success in the world on the administrative side of his position as Leader of the NDP, and I am sure the House does.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. SIMMS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would concur with some of the comments that the Premier made. Certainly I can tell you, without equivocation, that I hope that the Member for St. John's East has some luck and good fortune in raising the fortunes of the NDP, and I say that from a purely partisan political point of view.

In a serious vein I would say to him that it is very, very difficulty to be the leader of a political party anywhere these days, whether it is on the government side - I can assure him that being Opposition Leader is no easy chore, no easy task, but it must be very, very difficult to become the leader of a party in which you are the only occupant, or the only person in the Legislature, and I am sure he intends to try to change that.

We have worked with him from time to time as an opposition member on this side of the House, and I can understand his great obsession that he has espoused publicly over the past few days about wanting to become the Leader of the Opposition in the next opposition party, because he knows that he would much prefer to face me on that side of the House rather than face me here on this side of the House; but we congratulate him too, Mr. Speaker, and wish him well administratively, as the Premier says.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I want to thank both the Premier and the Leader of the Official Opposition for their warm words of congratulations. Of course it is not easy to lead any political party whether it be in government, in opposition or in my case as a person who has been tagged as the 'lone ranger' but one who is determined to -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: - well someone said the lonely ranger. I think the first comment was the lonely ranger. That was last Thursday. By Sunday I was a lone ranger. At least I'm a good guy and not Black Bart or something like that. I have announced my intention of not for very long being the lone ranger, so while we are very friendly in debate here, it is from both of your parties, of course, that we hope to increase our numbers, that is the nature of politics. But I thank you for the warm words and look forward to continuing to engage in all of our legitimate and honourable concerns for the best interest of the people of this Province here on the floor of the House.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. MURPHY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It is a good news day, obviously, and the news just keeps getting better. Today, Mr. Newman Bartlett, President of the Newfoundland and Labrador Soccer Association, announced the induction of four soccer contributors over the years into the Newfoundland Sports Hall of Fame.

I might add, Mr. Speaker, the reason I rise is that one of the hon. members of this House, the hon. Member for Grand Bank, the Opposition House Leader, Mr. Bill Matthews -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MURPHY: - will be inducted on Friday into the Newfoundland and Labrador Sports Hall of Fame. I wouldn't dare try to read all his attributes and his qualities. He was a player, a coach, and an executive member for years. He had an outstanding career in soccer along with a young chap by the name of Bob Breen, who belongs to that great Breen family where five young men played with Newfoundland in 1980 and won the Canadian Challenge Cup. Young Bob has passed away tragically and he belongs to that great family. I might add that they are residents of St. John's South. I would also like to announce that Mr. Ern Foote, who is a world class soccer referee will be inducted, and Mr. Bruce Power, who has been the backbone of soccer in Stephenville for a number of years.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. SIMMS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. We wish to be associated with the remarks of the Member for St. John's South in expressing congratulations to all four inductees, nominees. Undoubtedly, he would be more familiar, perhaps, with some of their expertise, except for one person. I can assure him I am fairly knowledgeable about the expertise of the Opposition House Leader, not only his ability to play soccer. He was a great soccer player.

MR. MATTHEWS: Former (inaudible).

MR. SIMMS: Former soccer player. But he has been able to carry on playing, using the political football from time to time over the last ten or twelve years since he became elected Member for Grand Bank.

We are very proud of the fact that the hon. member has been nominated and we wish to join with his friends, his family, his colleagues on this side and, I am sure, everybody in the House, in congratulating him and wishing him well. We look forward to his acceptance speech, whenever that time comes.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. HARRIS: Mr. Speaker, I would also like to be associated with those remarks. Whenever people are inducted into the Hall of Fame, it is obviously in recognition of their great skill in sports, but also their leadership qualities in inspiring others by their sportsmanship and by their talent. I, of course, include in that the talents of the hon. the Member for Grand Bank who, as the Opposition House Leader, has brought to the House of Assembly his skills in football and other sports, which we enjoy here from time to time.

Oral Questions

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

MR. SIMMS: Mr. Speaker, some questions for my friend, the Minister of Finance, related to his statement last Thursday, I believe it was, in the House, with respect to the drastic change in the Province's deficit position.

In the minister's statement on Thursday, he blamed most of the dramatic change, I think it is fair to say, in the deficit position, on a shortfall in revenues from the federal government. In fact, I quote from his statement when he said: "For the current fiscal year, the federal re-estimates mean a decline of $80.4 million. Coupled with a decline in provincial own-source revenues of $16.1 million, this results in a total revenue shortfall of about $96.5 million." That is from his statement.

Now, if you look at the tables, though, that were attached to the minister's statement, they tell a completely different story. In an attempt to be certain that the minister didn't mislead this House, I want to give him a chance to clarify something and I want to ask him this question: Is it not fair to say, and would he not agree, that the personal income tax, which is down by $47.6 million, is, in fact, a provincial own-source revenue, not a federal source revenue as he implied in his statement on Thursday, and publicly afterwards?

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

MR. BAKER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. As the hon. member knows, at the end of the six months there are new figures available from Ottawa concerning the equalization payments, concerning the established program financing and concerning the personal income tax revenues. The Province of Newfoundland has a personal income tax regime which returns to the Province a percentage, in this case I believe it is 64-66 - 64 per cent of the federal tax revenues. The estimates that we use to determine revenues at the beginning of each year are based, to a large extent, on the estimates of federal revenues, because we do not have our own tax scheme but we tax as a percentage of federal revenues. The federal government has determined that the federal revenues are down, therefore our percentage is down, but also that the equalization component has been cut by some $49 million.

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

MR. SIMMS: Mr. Speaker, I am not quite sure if the minister clarified it or not. He does agree, then, that the drop in the provincial personal income tax of $47 million is, in fact, a provincial source revenue, not a federal revenue source, as he implied last week. Now, the reason I am asking that is because I think it is important to get the proper news story out there, because when you now add that $47.6 million, which is a drop in provincial revenue, to the $16.1 million that he already identified in his statement as other provincial revenue drops, it is true now, then, that the provincial revenues are, in fact, down by $63.7 million, not $16.1 million, as the minister had us believe last Thursday. That is the reality and that is the truth.

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

MR. BAKER: No, Mr. Speaker. I can't answer for the clarity because the clarity is in the mind of the receiver. I can only answer for the fact that I am telling the truth.

The provincial-own source revenues, as they always have, refer to taxes that are - the regime is controlled and put in by this government and we alone have the responsibility of assessing the effect on our economy. If we put in a payroll tax, then we alone estimate the effects that will have in terms of money revenue to government. If we put a tax on cigarettes or a tax on tobacco or anything else, then we alone estimate the effect that will have on our revenues. So, in terms of what we alone are responsible for estimating, the provincial-own source revenues that come directly from the provincial sources to us, we are out about $16 million. We have since been told, very recently, that the personal income tax levels - which again come from this Province, no doubt about it - that the federal government estimates, in collecting that particular tax, have now had to be adjusted downwards. Therefore, if we operate as a percentage of the federal revenues, then we have to be adjusted downwards by some $46 million.

As well, in the midyear recalculation of equalization payments based upon the economic performance of the five-province average as compared to the performance of Newfoundland, we all lose another $49 million. That, Mr. Speaker, is the exact truth of what happened and, as to whether it is clear to the hon. member, I have no control of that.

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

MR. SIMMS: Mr. Speaker, I am just trying to get the proper and correct message out to the people of the Province because they are, at this point in time, believing that the federal revenue shortfall from federal sources - and that was the news story - was $80.4 million. That is not accurate, and that is the point I am trying to get the minister to clarify.

Even in their own budget documents, personal income tax is identified as a provincial source of revenue. So what I am asking the minister to clarify, in fact, is, whether the reality is that there is a shortfall in provincial revenue of $63.7 million, not $16.1 million as the story said over the weekend? The reality is, therefore - let me ask him if he can confirm this, then - that the shortfall in federal revenues really, if you look at the minister's table, shows that equalization payments, as he said, are down by $49 million and the EPF program financing is up by $16.2 million. Therefore, to be perfectly true and accurate and honest, the revenue shortfall from federal sources, is $32.8 million and not $80.4 million as the news media, at least, carried over the weekend. I don't know if that is what the minister tried to imply or not.

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

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, it is rather interesting that in the tone of the questioning the Opposition Leader is trying to imply that somehow we have not been telling the truth about the situation, and trying to imply that somehow now he is getting something on me, when the figures he is quoting come from my statement, the figures that were released with my statement.

Mr. Speaker, there is no hiding anything. Our equalization payments are down $49 million. Because of that, the EPF payments are up a certain amount, $17 or $18 million, whatever it happens to be, and the income tax revenue is down. As well, the Province's own source revenues are down and, as well, there is an over expenditure in terms of the expenditure side. So all of these things were laid out by the government a few days ago. Whatever spin the Opposition Leader wants to put on it, he can put on it with the press people and with the press people he has working for him. All I can tell this hon. House is the truth.

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

MR. SIMMS: Mr. Speaker, the only spin I want to put on it is the truth, and I am trying to get the message out to the people of the Province.

The reason I am asking the question is this: According to the minister, the government, in fact, will overspend its own budget by $28.3 million, added to the revenue shortfall of $96.5 million means that his budget deficit position has worsened by $124 million, in addition to the twenty-nine he had already predicted.

Would the minister now then tell the people of the Province the truth, after the earlier questions I have asked? Is it not a fact that $92 million of that amount - 75 per cent - is due, in fact, to a dramatic drop in the Province's own source revenues, and the government's own expenditures, and is therefore a reflection on the policies this government have had on the people of the Province? That is the point we are trying to make.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker I have, in my statement, told the truth. In the explanation today I have told the truth, and I resent, frankly, the implication that he is calling on me, as Minister of Finance to, now for the first time, tell the truth. I resent that implication. It is a little trick that the Leader of the Opposition uses to try to cast aspersions on people. He assumes it is a cute little trick, and that is his way of operating; but the fact remains that - and I will go over it again - the revenues that we have direct control over, of estimating the value of, like the tobacco tax, like the cigarette tax, like the payroll tax, like the other taxes that we ourselves are responsible for estimating, we are down about $16 million.

On the other side, we accept estimates at the beginning of the year from the federal government with regard to equalization payments, EPF, PIT revenues and so on. We accept, by and large, the numbers they give us to do our budget, and that is what we have done. All I am informing the hon. House of, and the people of the Province at this time, is that there is going to be a shortfall, an overall shortfall, in these numbers that ultimately were the responsibility of the federal government to provide the estimates for.

Number one, the personal income tax will be down by some $46 million. This is personal income tax from people in the Province. Number two, the equalization payments will be down by $49 million, and that is what is creating the very serious problem at this time, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. WINDSOR: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It may be the federal responsibility to estimate, but it is the minister's responsibility that the results are less than he had been predicting.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WINDSOR: Mr. Speaker, let me deal with a similar sort of question. The minister has told us that our deficit is going to some $155 million this year. One of the immediate actions that he has not proposed, but that he has announced, is an immediate cutback of 1 per cent on public service payroll for this fiscal year.

We all know that there are less than four months left in this fiscal year. Therefore, to save 1 per cent we are talking a 3 per cent reduction in the payroll for the balance of this year. Does the minister think that is realistic, and how does he propose to achieve that?

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

MR. BAKER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

First of all, the comment that was made first - the Province of Ontario is also getting less personal income tax than they had expected - many hundreds of millions of dollars. The Province of Alberta is finding itself in difficulty - much greater difficulty than the Province of Newfoundland.

All of the provinces base their PIT estimates by and large on the federal figures. They all find themselves in the same situation, and it is something that has been going on for years and years and years. So the hon. members need not be amazed at what has happened.

The 1 per cent reduction in the payroll that we are calling for now over all departments, the hon. member is quite right. What we are saying is that we would like to reduce the payroll by 1 per cent for the whole year, and in fact there are four months left. Therefore, that, I suppose, during that four months would be equivalent to the 3 per cent.

We believe that by taking certain actions, by being very careful of salary expenditure, by being very careful in terms of replacing people at this point in time, and delaying replacing people and so on, by doing that we believe that we can achieve upwards of a 1 per cent reduction in the salary budget for this year. There's always a certain amount of flexibility built into any such number. What we're asking the public service to do is to achieve a 1 per cent reduction by being extra careful this year.

Now of course the 1 per cent does not apply to the teachers' salaries, or the salaries of the front line social workers. Number one, the front line social workers because of a tremendous need, and the teachers because of the 2 per cent rule that's still in affect.

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

MR. WINDSOR: Mr. Speaker, yes, to get to the minister's first remark, let me say that I'll give him this much credit. The policies of this government are not as bad as the socialist governments in Ontario and British Columbia, or we'd be in much worse shape than even we are now. But that does not excuse the minister, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: You woke him up.

MR. WINDSOR: I woke him up. Mr. Speaker, I woke the new member of the NDP up.


MR. WINDSOR: The new leader, I should say, Mr. Speaker. (Inaudible) the minister's comments. We all know there is a vacancy rate in the public service at any one time. The former minister announced in his last Budget, I believe, that the vacancy rates would be increased from what they normally were and would be enforced. What we're talking about now, I suspect, if the minister's talking about an increased vacancy rate, the minister will confirm that 1 per cent of the public service payroll is approximately $20 million. In order to achieve $20 million in savings over the next third of a year, or quarter of a year - third of a year - the minister is talking about some 2,000 less jobs. That's what it will take to achieve $20 million in saving over the balance of this fiscal year. Does the minister honestly ask us to believe that he can find 2,000 more vacancies than are normally held in the public service?

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

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, the numbers that the hon. member is using in terms of the salary budget are in the first place exaggerated and rounded off, and in the second place would include the social workers, teachers and so on, which is quite a substantial portion. So the first amount comes down.

Secondly, we feel that we can achieve in the remaining of the fiscal year savings in the vicinity of $7 million to $8 million, $9 million, in that range. We haven't had the feedback yet. What we are saying is that this saving should not directly result in sort of a lot of layoffs in the public service. That it shouldn't result in deputies going out and laying off a certain number of people to try to meet their quota. That's not the way this operates. Specific direction has been given in that regard. So it should not result in the layoff of people.

MR. SPEAKER: A supplementary, the hon. the Member for Mount Pearl.

MR. WINDSOR: Mr. Speaker, does the minister honestly expect us to believe that he can achieve those types of savings simply by larger vacancies? Is he not really looking at a second or third round of layoffs, and his second round (Inaudible) of wage rollbacks? If not now, certainly in his mini-Budget.

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

MR. BAKER: Yes, Mr. Speaker. As to the details in the hon. member's question, what we did was what we feel was the direction we felt we could give immediately. We now have a period of time - and I believe I indicated in my statement that by the end of the month I would like to make another financial statement to the House. If indeed there are to be measures taken that affect the staffing levels or affect salaries or whatever else they may affect in the public service, these are the kinds of measures that will be announced in that statement. The four things that we wanted to get started on immediately do not involve layoffs of people.

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

MR. WINDSOR: One final, very brief, supplementary to the minister. He's telling us that in his own estimates he's looking at $8 million or $9 million, by that particular measure. That will take the deficit from $155 million to $145 million, $146 million. How does the minister propose to decrease it more, and more specifically, what is the target? The minister I'm sure doesn't expect to get the deficit back to the $28 million, $29 million he

projected, what is the target for the end of the year, is it $100 million, is it $50 million?

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

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, the measures that we announced immediately, hopefully will cause a saving of somewhere between $15 million and $20 million; the four measures that were announced immediately, between $15 million and $20 million. We have to, in the next week or so, come up with measures that protect our financial integrity certainly, and we have a lot of very difficult decisions to make in the next week or so. I cannot, at this point in time, give the hon. member a target. All I can say is that we projected a $29 million deficit this year; if measures are not taken it will be over $150 million, we have to take measures to solve that problem, we cannot go and borrow the whole $150 million. There are three sources of revenue; one is extra borrowing; the other is reduction in expenditures and the other is in increase in revenues, Mr. Speaker, and we are looking at these three methods of coming to a satisfactory conclusion in the statement about a week and a half down the road. So all three are being looked at, that is all I can say to the hon. gentleman at this time.

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

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

Mr. Speaker, my question too is to the Minister of Finance, and I am sure he is familiar with the second quarter economic review and it says: that consumer spending in the Province contributes about $6 billion to the economy each year here.

Mr. Speaker, the review also says that the value of that total retail trade is about 1.5 per cent. Will the minister confirm that this is the fourth consecutive year in a row, that retail sales are down by 3 per cent?

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

MR. BAKER: No, Mr. Speaker. Right off the top I cannot, but I will certainly have a look at that and see if in fact it is correct. I assumed the hon. member is reading from a document and if that document is correct then the figures are correct.

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

MR. A. SNOW: Yes, Mr. Speaker, it is his document that I am quoting from. Would he also care to comment on the fact that this is attributed to be about $200 million a year?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. A. SNOW: This loss.

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

MR. BAKER: If the hon. gentleman is asking, does that contribute that much of a loss to government or - I do not understand the nature of his question.

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

MR. A. SNOW: The decline in retail sales, represents about a $200 million figure annually; a decline.

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

MR. BAKER: Well, Mr. Speaker, if the numbers the hon. gentleman is using are correct, then I cannot dispute that a certain percentage of another number is another number, I cannot dispute that. If the numbers he is using - he is asking me: are the numbers I am using correct, in essence that is what he is saying to me. Mr. Speaker, I do not know right now if the numbers he is using are correct and I will find out.

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

MR. A. SNOW: Mr. Speaker, again, the Minister of Finance is telling this House that he is not exactly sure of what is occurring in his department. He does not know what information his department puts out under his signature or above his signature, Mr. Speaker. But I will quote from this report that this minister sent to people in this Province, and it says: Declines in employment in the trade industry during the first six months of this year were consistent with the decline of 1.7 per cent in the value of retail sales during that period. Can the minister now tell me then, how many jobs have been lost in the trade industry so far this year, and how many jobs have been lost in that industry since 1988?

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

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, if the hon. gentleman expects me to remember every single number that has been put out by: Number 1, the Department of Finance; number 2, the Statistics Division of Executive Council; number 3, Treasury Board and so on, if he expects me at any given moment to remember every single number, then, Mr. Speaker, I am flattered; I really am flattered. I did not think there was a single person in this Province who expected me to be such a superman, so I thank the hon. gentleman for his confidence and his trust.

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

MR. A. SNOW: He said that he could not remember what he had written and what he had stated. What I am asking is: if, when he drew up his policies if he really understood how many people he was putting out of employment? I asked him a very simple question. How many people did he feel lost their jobs? How many people were unemployed? That is a very simply stated question. I would expect an answer, if he developed the policies.

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

MR. BAKER: Another superman question, Mr. Speaker!

Mr. Speaker, I can't speculate on that. I don't know if people lost their jobs because of that and, if there were jobs lost, how many. I don't know if anybody knows exactly how many. I guess a statistician or somebody at the Economics Department at MUN could take a stab at it, but nobody knows the number that the hon. gentleman is talking about. It is as simple as that.

MR. A. SNOW: Mr. Speaker, if the minister doesn't know how many -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair has to recognize the hon. the member.

The hon. the Member for Menihek.

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

If the Minister of Finance doesn't know how many people have lost their jobs and he doesn't seem to care about it - he thinks that is just a problem that Memorial University should worry about and he doesn't have any concern for it.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. A. SNOW: Mr. Speaker, does the minister, then, see any relationship between the tax burden that this government has placed on individuals and companies and the employment and unemployment figures in this Province, Mr. Speaker?

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

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, the member can take all the cheap shots he wants and he can make all kinds of comments about whether I care about something or not. Again, that is his prerogative.

I would like to tell the hon. member that during the last couple of years in this Province and in this country we have been through some rather difficult times and there are difficult times ahead as well. I would suggest to the hon. gentleman that every time a tax is put on a business that indirectly that has some effect on jobs. I mean, that is accepted. I also say to the hon. gentleman, any time a tax is put on goods or a tax is put on individuals in the Province, that that has an effect on the activity in the Province. I would say that unequivocally, without any problem.

I agree to those things, Mr. Speaker, but I will also tell the hon. gentleman that if we are to have a medical care system in this Province, if we are to have schools in this Province, if we are to have money to help the less fortunate in our society, if we are to provide the social net that we have in this Province, then we are going to have to collect some taxes. We have to have money. We receive taxes from people and businesses in this Province and then distribute them for the good of the people and for the good of the businesses in this Province. Without that, we would have to close down the hospitals, close down the schools, and let people starve.

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

MR. DOYLE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I have a question for the Minister of Environment and Lands. I was a little bit surprised to hear a news story on CBC Radio recently that CBC had been denied information on the emission readings at the Holyrood generating station. They were apparently told that they will have to go through the Freedom of Information Act in order to get that information.

Now, it seems to me, Mr. Speaker, that information of that nature should be freely available to the people of the Province, especially people who have a direct interest in their own health and safety. Can the minister tell me if what CBC said about that issue is true? Did they have to go through Freedom of Information to get that information?

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

MS. COWAN: I am not here, Mr. Speaker, to justify CBC's actions. Whether what they say is true or not true is certainly not my responsibility. I will leave that with CBC.

That is a policy of our department, to refer to the Freedom of Information Act when we receive questions such as that. I, myself, have wondered if we have been over-zealous in that department and am looking into the matter.

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

MR. DOYLE: Mr. Speaker, I would ask the minister why her department has that policy. Surely, if the people of Holyrood and Seal Cove area feel that their health and safety might be in jeopardy that the news media have a duty and an obligation to report that.

Well, since they couldn't get that information, maybe the minister can tell us now what the emissions are and what the rates are so that the people around Holyrood and Seal Cove can be assured that their health and safety is not in jeopardy. Also, while she is up, maybe she can tell us the number of days that emissions at the plant have exceeded acceptable environmental and health and safety levels.

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

MS. COWAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I can take those questions under advisement and see whether it is right and proper for me to bring that information to the House. But let me tell this gentleman over here that we do not in my department do anything to deliberately hide what would bring any harm to a citizen of this Province or to the environment.

I am not satisfied myself, again as I said with his question on always going forward to the Public Information Act. I am not pleased with what is going on at Holyrood, and have initiated a number of instructions to the department and to the - I guess he doesn't really want to know what is happening because it is positive. But, Mr. Speaker, directions have gone out to the Holyrood station as to some corrections they must make. I might add that it has only been since our government came into power that there has been personnel released to deal with that particular plant.

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

MR. DOYLE: Mr. Speaker, I would say to the minister, it is very serious indeed if the news media can't have access to that type of basic information that affects the health and safety of people in the Province. That is a very, very serious issue, and her department has an obligation to make that available.

The minister is aware that houses and cars and properties in the Holyrood and Seal Cove area have been damaged by the residue from the emissions that fall around the plant in neighbouring communities. Now if cars and houses sustained damage, then it is reasonable to assume that lungs are no less vulnerable to it all. Now can the minister give any information on what the effect on the health and safety of the people is? Has her officials briefed her on that, and could she tell the House about it.

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

MS. COWAN: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I didn't answer the gentleman's first question in the last round of questions which is why the department has the policy on not giving forward information. It is a policy we keep in case there is legal action needed down the road, so we always have it double checked to see if, indeed, there is something that might jeopardize some sort of legal action in the future. We usually find there isn't, and are only too happy to release it to the public.

I do not believe that I have the duty to inform the media when I have not thoughtfully and carefully looked at the situation. If I did, it would probably give rise to undue panic, which might be unjustified, and often is unjustified, I might add. As far as your other question, I would have to say that is a health matter, and is not one that can be directed to the Minister of Environment.

MR. SPEAKER: Question Period has expired.

Before proceeding to other routine matters, the Chair would like, on behalf of hon. members, to welcome to the public galleries today ten students from Adult Basic Education Level I at the Cabot Institute campus here in St. John's, accompanied by their instructor, Patricia Ralph.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Notices of Motion

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Government House Leader and Minister of Justice.

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, notice of two bills, if I might.

I give notice that I will on tomorrow ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, "An Act To Amend The Law Society Act."

I give notice that I will on tomorrow ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, "An Act To Revise The Law Respecting The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary."

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Eagle River.

MR. DUMARESQUE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Before I ask leave to introduce a motion I would like to ask the unanimous leave of the House to take a resolution off the Order Paper and to proceed with this one that I have, because it is very similar but more relevant now than it was when the original was put. Mr. Speaker, have I the unanimous consent of the House?

MR. HARRIS: Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. HARRIS: A point of order, Mr. Speaker. I no doubt would have been happy to give unanimous consent. I understand that the Opposition House Leader was consulted. If I knew what the member was doing I'd be quite happy to give unanimous consent.

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

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, the hon. gentleman from St. John's East is quite correct. I inadvertently - and the responsibility is mine - neglected to ask him for his consent. So I hope he may, at the very least, allow the hon. gentleman from Eagle River to read the amended motion, or the new motion. I think it will become clear. If the hon. gentleman is not prepared to consent to it, then he will withhold his consent, as he has every right to do. But the responsibility is mine. I can only tell him I regret -

MR. SIMMS: Resign, resign.

MR. ROBERTS: It is a dull day when the Leader of the Opposition, dull fellow that he is, doesn't ask me to resign, Mr. Speaker. So I suggest to my friend from St. John's East -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: - maybe if he could let the gentleman from Eagle River read the -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: Well, he has to give notice now, that is the problem, or we miss the point in the Orders of the Day.

MR. TOBIN: (Inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: Yes, I thank my hon. friend from Burin - Placentia West, who has never in his whole life made a mistake.


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

I gather the hon. the Member for Eagle River is asking two things: firstly, to withdraw a motion that is presently on the Order Paper, and secondly, to proceed with a new one. Does the hon. member have leave?

The hon. member has leave.

The hon. the Member for Eagle River.

MR. DUMARESQUE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will on tomorrow ask leave to introduce the following resolution:

WHEREAS a national highway policy is currently in the process of development; and

WHEREAS the national system as presently defined does not include the Trans-Labrador Highway; and

WHEREAS any funding under the policy must be incremental to the Roads for Rails agreement; and

WHEREAS the completion of the Trans-Labrador Highway is essential for the economic development of Labrador and greatly beneficial to all the Atlantic Provinces and Quebec;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that this House of Assembly call upon the federal government to support the inclusion of the Trans-Labrador Highway into the national highway system; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the federal government provide sufficient funds in the national highway policy to complete the Trans-Labrador Highway.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. HARRIS: Mr. Speaker, I would be happy to grant leave to the hon. member to replace the previous motion with this one.

MR. SPEAKER: I was assuming the leave was granted.

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. ROBERTS: A) I thank my hon. friend, and B) may I inform the House that is the motion we shall be calling on Wednesday for debate.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: My hon. and learned friend. There are no gallant members in the House.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Answers to Questions

For which Notice has been Given

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

MR. GOVER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, on Friday, the Member for Fogo asked a couple of questions related to the Fogo - Change Island ferry services. The first question was: How long will two-vessel service be in effect, and what are the government's plans with respect to two-vessel service?

Two-vessel service will be extended on that particular run to the end of November, and then the situation will be reassessed.

The second question was: When can we expect the Beaumont Hamel to return to service from refit?

That should be sometime around mid-December.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HODDER: Mr. Speaker, before I present the petition, I would like to point out that the petition is signed by the residents of Lourdes, and it was presented to me to present it to the House of Assembly. I checked with the Clerk, but it doesn't formally say: To the House of Assembly, so I ask leave of members opposite to present the petition in this format.

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

The hon. member may proceed.

MR. HODDER: Mr. Speaker, the petition is from the community of Lourdes, concerning a bridge that runs through that community, which is on a main road that runs through other communities in the district. The petition is signed by 616 residents, and the prayer of the petition is:

WHEREAS, The Mill Bridge in the community of Lourdes is in a state of disrepair, we feel the Department of Transportation should take steps to remedy the situation, as this bridge is used constantly by traffic to and from outlying communities.

THEREFORE, The undersigned petition government to take steps to this end.

Mr. Speaker, the residents of the community have engaged a private firm from the area, Campbell Engineering, to have a look at the bridge, and the firm felt that the bridge was, indeed, unsafe.

As well, the mayor of the community, or the then mayor of the community, had written the Minister of Transportation about the bridge, and in his reply of May 21, last spring, in the letter he said: 'My Deer Lake officials inform me that there is no immediate danger from the bridge. My officials have identified the need to have the bridge replaced, but unfortunately, funds were not allocated in this year's Capital Works Program.'

Mr. Speaker, this letter clearly shows that the department, itself has problems with the bridge. They have slated it for repair, although they feel there is no immediate danger. Now, that was in May. That particular bridge now has deteriorated somewhat more. There are now some wrinkles, bumps, in the bridge. As well, this particular bridge, whether it were a dangerous bridge or not, is very narrow. It is at the bottom of a hill, and it is very, very dangerous in wintertime.

I saw it myself, this summer. I looked at it and it does look like it is very bad. It is a big issue with the people there. They have had an independent firm look at it.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the minister if he would reconsider. The bridge is slated for replacement. I would suggest to him that the bridge not only needs to be replaced, but it needs to be widened. The traffic that goes through that particular area as well goes to communities of Winter House and Black Duck Brook, and to the communities of Three Rock Cove and Mainland. So there is a tremendous amount of traffic covering that bridge. It is very dangerous. It is very narrow. We have school children passing over it, and it is structurally unsound, both from the Department of Works, Services and Transportation's view, as well as from an independent assessment of this.

Mr. Speaker, I implore the minister, and tell him that the residents of the area are concerned, and I ask him to do everything in his power to see that the bridge is replaced in this coming season.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. GOVER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

As the hon. member has indicated, an assessment was done on the bridge, and the department does recognize that there is a need with respect to that particular bridge.

Every year the Provincial Roads Program is broken down into three components, and one of the components is the construction of new bridges and the rehabilitation of existing bridges.

Mr. Speaker I will, if the departmental officials have not already done so, instruct the departmental officials to go out and reassess the bridge. I can assure the hon. member that the bridge will be given consideration in the upcoming Capital Works Program for the department. However, at this time, no commitment can be given with respect to that. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Orders of the Day

MR. ROBERTS: Motion 1, please, Mr. Speaker.

Motion, the hon. the Minister of Justice to introduce a bill, "An Act To Remove Anomalies and Errors In The Statute Law," carried. (Bill No. 54).

On motion, Bill No. 54 read a first time, ordered read a second time on tomorrow.

MR. ROBERTS: Order No. 20.

MR. SPEAKER: Order No. 20, Bill No. 48, a continuation of an adjourned debate.

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. ROBERTS: I am not rising to seek leave to speak on it. Before we go let me note that my colleague, the minister, is absent from the House today. He is in Ottawa for meetings with another minister in Ottawa, Mr. Crosbie. So I shall be doing my best to keep track of points opposite. We shall respond to them in due course whenever our turn comes in this debate.

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

MR. HARRIS: Mr. Speaker, at the adjournment on Friday I was speaking on this bill. During the course of my remarks the Government House Leader, the Minister of Justice, had cause to interrupt to read out certain sections of the Conflict of Interest Act. I didn't have it in front of me at the time, so I wasn't able to properly respond other than to agree with him on one thing, that certain members of a law firm where I was once a partner and had been employed, and am now employed or in a relationship with, did do some work for the Workers' Compensation Commission. The minister suggested that this was a conflict of interest within the meaning of the act and required a declaration.

Well, Mr. Speaker, I have since had time to look at the Conflict of Interest Act, and I have to say that the minister is mistaken, although I thank him for bringing to my attention the provisions of section 4 of the Act. Section 4.1 of the Act refers to a conflicting member of the House of Assembly or an agency with a conflicting interest. Then, it goes on, and often, even well-experienced lawyers don't read all of a section. But Section 4, subsection 2, talks about a conflicting interest and says there shall not be considered to be a conflicting interest for the purposes of the section in relation to matters of wide, general, public application including matters of general taxation. So while there may be an interest - and yes, I have an interest of employment in a law firm of which some other members do some advising for the Workers' Compensation Commission from time to time, and I am told only sporadically. Nevertheless, that may be an interest of some sort, but certainly not a conflicting interest, and not in any conflict with any opinions or interests that I might have.

It is no more a conflict of interest, Mr. Speaker, than the Member for Port de Grave might have if he were speaking on a matter involving the fisheries because he happens to be the Chairperson of the United Fisherpersons of Newfoundland. Does that mean that every time the Member for Port de Grave gets up and speaks and has something to say on the fisheries that he has to declare at the beginning: I, Mr. Speaker, am the Chairperson of the United Fisherpersons of Newfoundland and Labrador? No, Mr. Speaker, that is not the case at all. So there is a difference between having an interest and having a conflicting interest, and the Act takes care of that.

Now the Minister of Justice and I may have some academic discussion about that afterwards.

MR. SIMMS: (Inaudible) in court. (Inaudible) any lawyer I ever saw.

MR. HARRIS: The Leader of the Opposition is referring to the legal practice of the Member for Port de Grave. I wouldn't want to have his practice. He proved himself to be a failure as a lawyer.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HARRIS: I am not surprised his brother didn't pay him for representing him in court. I wouldn't have paid him either.

So, Mr. Speaker, it is one thing to talk about conflict of interest but it is another thing to actually have one. And I think hon. members in this House do each other and do the public interest a disservice when they talk about conflict of interest because it is only encouraging the kind of cynicism that the public is being encouraged to have about politicians by blasting about conflict of interest every time they think they can score a political point. That should be saved for when there is a real conflicting interest, when there is a real difference between a member's personal private interest and his public position on a matter or a position in government. I think we should be fair about that.

It is not something that we should easily bandy around, so, all joking aside, I ask the hon. the Member for Port de Grave, to curb his tongue at times, to not be so quick to jump up and accuse another politician, to try to throw some mud, because the person who throws mud often gets splashed with it, you know, and that is something that we should all keep in mind when we are trying to do our jobs as hon. members. So I will leave that, Mr. Speaker, and say that, yes, I have a very great interest in this bill.

It is a matter of wide, general public application because it affects all workers in this Province and all employers, too, and Members of this House and members of the public who are affected by this because the employers have to pay the cost and that is only right, but the workers and their families have to suffer from the eventuality of workplace accidents and the consequences of that on their families, on their incomes, on their futures and their health primarily, Mr. Speaker, first of all and most importantly upon their health and that is why I have a great concern when the government while faced with the report, which criticizes it for not taking sufficient action to spend even the budget that it had on Occupational and Health Safety in workplace accident prevention, it did not do that, Mr. Speaker.

Now, I give them credit, they made some changes in that in the last while. They appointed people in these jobs that were gone undone; they have beefed it up, they are continuing the inspections. They are taking a different sort of attitude than they had before, and I think, unfortunately it may have taken some very sad accidents to let the government recognize and pay attention to the responsibilities in the field of Occupational Health and Safety and reporting of accidents and to straighten up their procedures on that. It is unfortunate that it was the most serious accidents that occurred that caused the government to stand up on its hind legs and take some action that people had called upon the government to do before but had not been done.

So, Mr. Speaker, it saddens me to see the government, when faced with this kind of a criticism, the criticism about the delays in attending to Workers' Compensation, claimants' needs for medical attention, for rehabilitation, for a decision and a quick decision from the Compensation Commission about their cases and for some attention to be paid, it saddens me to see that when that is identified as the cause for the expenses and the increases in assessments that the government's response is to say: Well, this is inefficient; this is a terrible situation, we will have to fix it up by reducing the benefits to workers. Now that is not fair, Mr. Speaker. That doesn't come under the heading of the statement that the Premier of this Province tries to continue to regard as the watchword of his administration, fairness and balance. If that is fairness, then the word fairness has no meaning to the Premier of this Province, because we have the unfortunate circumstances of the government taking it out on the beneficiaries of the system, not cleaning up the system, itself.

MR. FUREY: How do you clean up the system?

MR. HARRIS: So we have unfunded liabilities - and the Minister of Industry, Trade and Commerce, or Mr. It, now has responded by asking: 'How do you clean up the system? Well, Mr. Speaker, the problems were identified in terms of the cost and the cost to the system. What the minister, I think, is referring to is the unfunded liability, not necessarily a real problem today but maybe a problem in five or ten years time. The efficiencies to be gained, Mr. Speaker, by taking proper and appropriate action now to clean up the system would be able to postpone those realities and find ways of doing that without having to make the workers pay an unfair burden, Mr. Speaker. If the system has failed the workers, then fix the system. Don't make the injured workers and their families pay.

Now, Mr. Speaker, there are a number of provisions in this Bill. Where this is second reading, this is a question, on principle, of whether we support or not support this legislation. I can't support this legislation, in principle, Mr. Speaker, because it takes such a swipe at injured workers in this Province. There are one or two provisions of it that are, no doubt, beneficial and I have no real difficulty with some of them.

There is one I want to point to, Mr. Speaker, that I see no reason for. The Government House Leader said that he would be making note of what people have to say. He is no longer in the House. I don't know if the Deputy Government House Leader is going to be taking notes from here on in and letting the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations know the problems. I don't understand why, Mr. Speaker, significant changes are being made to Section 45. Now, they are complicated, they are not easy to understand. Even a lawyer might have difficulty trying to figure out what the government is trying to do in reading this legislation. It is complex.

MR. REID: (Inaudible) a lawyer would have trouble with it?

MR. HARRIS: Many lawyers would have trouble with it. Lots of lawyers are not as smart as the hon. Member for Carbonear even. Being a lawyer does not mean you are smart.

AN HON. MEMBER: Well, you got that right!

MR. HARRIS: Just because you attempt to practice law doesn't mean you have a clue either.

Mr. Speaker, it is a complex section. What it is all about, Mr. Speaker, is whether or not there is an opportunity for an injured worker to pursue both a legal action against a third party and, at the same time, obtain the benefits of workers' compensation.

AN HON. MEMBER: What section?

MR. HARRIS: Clause 9 of the bill, Section 45 of the old act. Now, the workers' compensation scheme, Mr. Speaker, is designed to provide benefits to workers injured on the job, without having to get involved in all of the ins and outs of litigation, the cost, the expensive lawyers' bills, the problems of having lawyers who don't necessarily know what they are doing from time to time, people making mistakes, having to pay those costs, and going to court getting judges decisions which may or may not always be correct and may have to be appealed.

Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, prior to workers' compensation coming in, having judge-made rules, particularly in the common law jurisdictions of England and Canada, which really prevented an individual from being successful in suing his employer. There are all sorts of legal doctrines. One is called the voluntary assumption of risk. Now, Mr. Speaker, that is the judge saying: Well, you came to work in this dangerous factory, you knew you were taking the risk, so if you get injured, well then that is not the employer's fault, you voluntarily assumed the risk. Or they said: Well, this was your fellow employee, it was his negligence that caused your accident, not the employer. So you can't sue your fellow employee either because they developed this thing called the Doctrine of Common Employment. So you were taken to assume that you go to work with an employer, you know that you are going to be working with people who might be careless or might be drunk or might be unable to do the job that has been given to them with dangerous equipment, so there is a voluntary assumption of risk.

What we have, Mr. Speaker, is a situation where that was wiped out. None of these judge-made rules were going to apply to prevent people from suing, so we will give you compensation. But that didn't affect third parties. There is a manufacturer - and I think the example was used by the Opposition House Leader the other day,the example was given of an airplane crash. Workers returning from Labrador after fishing. There's been a couple of them. An airplane travelling from Greenland bringing back fishermen from Labrador crashed, and a number of employees were killed.

The employees' dependents can collect compensation and, until now, they could sue the owner, the operator of the aircraft. Perhaps the manufacturer of the aircraft, who may well have been at fault, and perhaps collect more than the workers' compensation benefits would allow.

Now, Mr. Speaker, the legislation is going to say to the family of that worker, who may be desperate for the next month's rent payment or grocery bill, to say: you have to elect. If you're going to sue you can't collect compensation. Why are they saying that? I don't think any real explanation was given by the Minister of Employment when he introduced this Bill. I read through his remarks. There's nothing there that provides a decent explanation as to why they're doing this.

It doesn't benefit any of the employers which are covered by this Act. In fact, it may be detrimental to them. Who are they trying to protect here by saying: you have to exercise your right to either sue or collect compensation. Not only that, that the moment you make your application for compensation, you lose your right to sue. Why? You lose it. The moment that this family of a deceased worker applies for compensation to put bread on their table or to pay their rent, they lose the right to sue. Somebody who's not even covered by workers' compensation anyway. Irrespective of the outcome. There's no rationale for that.

The minister did say the other day that he's prepared to listen to what people have to say and look for solutions. Maybe the solution, since such drastic changes are being made, is to send this Bill out on committee. We know we've had the Workers' Compensation Review. We know that certain people are going to be objecting to it. But this is not an unimportant issue. This issue was brought to the Supreme Court of Canada from this Province in the last five years, because there was an individual who wanted to bring an action against an employer as well as collect compensation. It ended up being in the Supreme Court of Canada. The workers' compensation system was, by the Supreme Court of Canada, recognised as being a comprehensive scheme that protected workers, and that therefore this individual could not sue the employer. Nothing about third parties.

Yet, this administration, this government, seems to want to prevent employers from having their options, to take away what was known as the Ocean Ranger amendment, which gave employees and their families the right to both sue and claim for compensation in the meantime, and if successful, pay back the government what they had obtained from the lawsuit, or in other cases, where Workers' Compensation Commission itself goes ahead and sues to pay the balance to the individual.

Now there are some administrative problems in figuring out when an election could be made or should be made, because there is a need for the Workers' Compensation Commission to know whether an employee is going to sue or not, because the Workers' Compensation Commission itself may wish to sue, to recoup the amount of compensation that they're paying out, and that's something that the Commission would want to do, but not at the expense of preventing an individual from suing, because once they do that they of course take on a responsibility to do their very best to win that case. They may have, in fact, some fiduciary or legal obligation to the claimants in those kinds of situations.

So I think we have a situation where for some reason, and it seems to be purely administrative, the government is taking away substantive rights from workers and their dependents in the case of third party liability and third party accidents.

Now I know I've gone over the time that was allotted, Mr. Speaker, and I understand that I was given indulgence by the members opposite because of the matter raised by the Government House Leader on Friday, and I thank them for it.

I will conclude now by saying that I think this is a piece of legislation which is one more example of this government, while saying it has no choice, really exercising its choice to do something that they really do not have to do, and that is make the workers pay.

I just had something given to me today which seems to be an excuse that this government has quite often, and it is a play on words. We have all heard the phrase 'The devil made me do it.' This government's major excuse for everything now, and the worse kinds of oppression of people is, 'The deficit made me do it.' That is what this government says: 'The deficit made me do it.' Well that is not good enough as an excuse.

They do have choices. They should not be doing the things they are doing to workers. There are other ways to resolve these problems, and I want to see this resolution debated further, and I hope that some other hon. member on this side of the House gives the six month hoist motion so that we can debate it more fully. I think it deserves further debate, and I think it deserves being sent out to a committee to have hearings around this Province before such drastic changes are made in the workers' compensation, and hear what injured workers and this families have to say about how this will affect their lives.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

Before recognizing the Leader of the Opposition, although I have recognized him, on behalf of hon. members I would like to welcome to the galleries twenty Level II students from Little Heart's Ease School, in the district of Bellevue, accompanied by their teachers, Mr. Cyril Rogers and Mr. David Peach.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. SIMMS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I just wish to speak to this bill for a short period of time, to make some points. Fortunately, when you are fourth or fifth or sixth in the speaking order, most of the points have already been made, and most of the defences to the arguments put up by the opposition are addressed by somebody on the government side at this stage, normally; but I do want to have my say on it.

I listened, or at least I tried to listen, with some interest to the Member for St. John's East putting forth some of the arguments he was trying to put forth in this debate. I have listened to earlier parts of the debate from my office upstairs where I have been carrying on matters of public urgency, and have heard some of the debate.

Basically the essence of it, of the argument, is the same. First of all, the minister began the debate last - I forget when it was now - Tuesday or Thursday last week. When he introduced the legislation he pointed out at the beginning that the legislation contained some very tough measures. Indeed it does. The measures that are contained in this legislation will affect nearly every worker and their dependents, and will also affect nearly every employer, businessperson, in this Province.

I think it is also fair to say that there has - and I say this honestly - there has been little effort, or little interest on the part of the government to give the people who are most affected by this legislation the opportunity to make their views known publicly, and to have a voice in the reform of workers' compensation legislation.

I do not think in principle too many people would disagree that there needs to be some reform. There is debate and argument as to which type of reform is best, and I guess from the government's perspective their argument is: Which type of reform is necessary to cut down on the costs? And that is basically the only thing the government seems to be looking at.

I say again that the thing that really bothers me about this is that if there is a piece of legislation at all ever dealt with in this Province that should have input by the people, then it is surely this kind of legislation that should go to a public hearing.

I think that the government actions have really made a farce of our committee system because the Bill itself, as I understand it, was only sent to the Government Services Committee on the day that it was distributed in the Legislature - just a few days ago - and the government a few years ago brought in this new process of having committees of the House representing all parties; hold public hearings; travel around the Province. Surely, Mr. Speaker, surely, if our Legislature and our House can send the committee around the Province to listen to what people have to say and to get the input of people on an issue such as changing the name of the Province from Newfoundland to Newfoundland and Labrador, as important as that issue may be, then surely this Legislature has an obligation and indeed a responsibility to the people of this Province to allow them to have a say on this extremely important legislation here, because this is legislation that will affect people and their dependents, people's lives and will affect just about every business, entrepreneur and business person in this Province.

And of course last week I asked the question of the Premier: would he consider deferring debate on this legislation for a while, it would not matter all that much if we did not deal with this until next February or March when the House opens in two or three months time, and take the time during the interim to give this legislation to a committee, bring it around the Province and let the people who are going to be affected by this do two things. One, have some input into the reform they would like to see at Workers' Compensation because I am sure, people, all of us as MHAs deal with, every single day, I know I get calls all the time. People who are involved with Workers' Compensation through no fault of their own have lots of problems with it, I am absolutely certain that the public out there have some good ideas as to how Workers' Compensation process, the process at least can be improved. I have no doubt in my mind that the ordinary person out there who has been affected in one way or another over the years, through no fault of his own, can offer some input, so I would like to see that opportunity afforded to the people of the Province, who are going to be mostly affected by this legislation so that they can have a chance to have some input.

The other thing it would do by having some kind of a public process, public hearing process, and as I said, we do it for bills like changing the name of the Province, then surely this legislation is one that requires input from the people and something to give the people a chance to think about, but more importantly, it will give the people an opportunity to understand what it is the Legislators, we, the elected representatives of the people, the Legislators are attempting to do, because we all know, no matter if you are on the opposition side or on the government side, it is very difficult to get your message out there. To be able to get the message out to the public as to what it is exactly that you are saying, what you are advocating in the case of the government, what you are opposing or criticising in the case of the opposition, very, very difficult, so my suspicion is, that an awful lot of people in this Province really do not know precisely what is being proposed in this Legislature.

Sure, they have heard some media coverage about it and heard this being said, that being said but for the most part people really do not have a full understanding of it. So with that in mind, Mr. Speaker, and earlier on in my comments, I prefer to do it now that later on, because of our belief that our people should have some input and should have a chance to understand exactly what is happening, I am going to move an amendment, which, if passed, would give the government the opportunity to take some of the advice that has been offered thus far in this debate, and so, I would like to move, seconded by the Member for Kilbride, that all the words after that be deleted and the following substituted:

Bill 48, "An Act To Amend The Workers' Compensation Act", be not now read a second time, but that it be read a second time six months, hence.

MR. SPEAKER: All those in favour of the amendment -

MR. SIMMS: No, no, Mr. Speaker, I am waiting for Your Honour, to rule the amendment in order.

MR. SPEAKER: I am sorry, the amendment is in order.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SIMMS: No, Mr. Speaker, we will not put the question in. Mr. Speaker, I will debate the amendment -

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order.

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

MR. ROBERTS: The motion is dilatory. It is not debatable, it is to be put to the question.

MR. SIMMS: Mr. Speaker, is the resolution in order?

MR. SPEAKER: The Chair will take the amendment.

MR. SIMMS: Yes. Well, Mr. Speaker, I will continue on with my comments -

MR. SPEAKER: The Chair will take a look at the amendment.

MR. SIMMS: That is the ordinary six-month hoist amendment.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SIMMS: Well, I mean I was only going to speak for ten minutes, but I will speak for two hours if you insist. It does not matter -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible), get.

MR. SIMMS: Pardon me?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) hours.

MR. SIMMS: No, you are incorrect again, as usual. You have been out of the House for so long you forget, 'Ed', you forget; any debate, the Leader and the Premier - any debate, during an amendment or during the -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair rules the amendment in order.

MR. SIMMS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


MR. SIMMS: Now, Mr. Speaker, as I said, the reason for -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The six-month hoist is a debatable motion and the hon. member is debating.

MR. SIMMS: Absolutely.

MR. R. AYLWARD: Wrong again.

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

MR. SIMMS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My friend, the Government House Leader -

MR. R. AYLWARD: Send Winst back.

MR. SIMMS: Yes, he will have to get some advice from the Minister of Finance, who is experienced in these matters in recent years. Maybe things have changed.

Mr. Speaker, again I say, the reason for the six-month hoist is to try to get the government, particularly the leader of the government, the Premier, who, a few days ago was adamant that he would not allow public hearings on this legislation, to give them an opportunity, should they agree to pass the amendment, of course, to reconsider the possibility of giving the people of the Province a chance to have some input into the legislation.

Mr. Speaker, the minister, when he made his few remarks last week introducing the legislation, admitted that most of the financial difficulties of the Commission have occurred in the past two years, according to the minister's commentary. He said two things have happened over the last couple of years: " particular, the annual monies collected by the Commission, through their assessment process, have not paid for..." all of the expenses, obviously. The annual expenses, including expenses for injury claims and expenses for administration. In fact, Mr. Speaker, that is a direct quote from the minister, from Hansard, page 2271, when he spoke last week. So, over the last couple of years, in particular, the monies coming in, collected by the Commission through the assessment process that they use, has not been enough to look after injury claims and administration of the Workers' Compensation Commission.

That is not really startling news. That is one of the things he said. He also made the point that the Commission has had to dip into the reserves that they have, that have been put aside to pay for future costs. That is, future liabilities. So he made that point in the speech he made a few days ago in the Legislature.

Now, Mr. Speaker, if that approach continues, as we all know, that would be a recipe for disaster. The problem is, and the point that I would make, is that this has occurred over the last couple of years, in particular, according to the minister, himself, despite the fact that employers in this Province pay the second highest rate in the country. Despite that fact, this has still continued to occur.

Now, what has happened? Why has this happened? I guess there probably will be as many guesses or suggestions put forward as there are members in the Legislature, depending on their own point of view. I can only make observations based on what the minister tells us from time to time, which he has done in this House. But there is no doubt about it, one of the major reasons why this has happened is because of the dramatic decrease in payrolls in this Province over the last two years, in particular - a dramatic decrease in payrolls.

We all know how the process works. Workers' Compensation charges so much per every $100 of payroll that businesses have in the Province. That is how the process works. We all, personally, know businesses, small business entrepreneurs, who have fallen by the wayside, who have gone under, over the last couple of years, because of economic situations, and because of particular circumstances.

I think, as an Opposition member, a lot of it is as a result of this government's economic and fiscal policies. I think that is one of the real problems. They have been falling like flies, Mr. Speaker, and there are examples here in the Legislature, I guess, as well as outside. But those that have survived have done so thus far by cutting their payroll, i.e., by cutting employment, by cutting jobs. For the most part, many of those that have survived these last couple of years are those that, among other things, had to take drastic action like cutting out employees, laying off people - there's no doubt about that - and that means, therefore, obviously, the payroll has been cut. So they have less of a payroll for which - the Workers' Compensation would normally get more money if they had a larger payroll.

So it makes genuine sense, and it is simple from that perspective, that that is one of the most dramatic reasons for the problems and the decline in revenues at the Worker's Compensation office over the last couple of years, in particular, taking the minister at his own word when he said himself last Thursday that the problems that exist there now have really been exacerbated over the last couple of years. So I think that is one of the main reasons why revenues are down. Payrolls are down. There are less payrolls because businesses have had a lot of difficulty, a lot of businesses have gone under. All you have to do is look at the personal income tax revenues that the Minister of Finance tabled a couple of days ago. They are down dramatically.

On the other side of it, Mr. Speaker, another reason for some of the problems on the cost side, the duration period through the Workers' Compensation process, and therefore, the cost of claims, are up. That is very well known, I think, today. One of the reasons for that is that there are no alternative employment opportunities for many of these injured workers who are unable to return to their former jobs, and the government hasn't done enough to try to find these alternative employment opportunities for these injured workers.

Mr. Speaker, I know of which I speak. I know of which I speak, because I deal with Workers' Compensation problems of people all over the Province, not just in my own constituency. I hear stories after stories, time and time again from people who are suffering because of the way the process works and the system works. That is why I said at the outset, nobody is opposed to legitimate reform of the Workers' Compensation system - certainly, it needs reform, but I am not sure that the process that is being suggested by the government is going to be the best one that serves the people of this Province.

Another reason for the decline in revenues and so on, and the problems down there is because of the long delay in getting medical assessments. Surely, all members in this House have had that kind of situation brought to their attention by constituents. I certainly have on many occasions. If the medical assessments are being delayed, then, obviously, the cost increases. The cost to the process and the system increases and the duration of the claim increases, and that makes the problem even more difficult. I think that this situation has been worsened by the actions and policies of this government in cutting back on health care, acute services in health care, in particular. So I think that is another reason, and that is why the government is narrow-minded and not looking at all these other reasons or not prepared to accept any criticism in this regard, or not prepared to even consider that maybe some of the suggestions being made are correct. Because cuts that have been undertaken by this government over the last couple of years have put so much pressure on our health care system that I think it can't respond efficiently and effectively anymore, and that really adds to the cost once again. So there are lots of reasons why all of this has happened.

Mr. Speaker, in fact, the committee that had been set up by the government to look into this issue, chaired, in my view, by a very capable individual, the former deputy minister, I don't know if he is still deputy minister or not, is he? - Mr. Randell -


MR. SIMMS: - the deputy minister. The committee, chaired by him - as capable as he is and for all the respect I have for him, I do think that the perception would be out there that it was a bit of a whitewash for the government to have this committee, even though the other two members on the committee represented employers or employees, the committee was chaired by the minister's own deputy minister. I think there is something wrong with that. Perception-wise there is a lot wrong with it. Members over there can shake their heads and say, don't be silly, that is not true, but I am telling members opposite that it is true. That is a reasonable criticism. It is a fair criticism, and it is better for members to accept that kind of a criticism rather than just slough everything off and shake their heads, because it is true. It looks like a bit of a whitewash. There are people who have said that 'it came in and it is being recommended because Mr. Randell chaired the committee. What did you expect?'

DR. KITCHEN: Did he whitewash it or didn't he?

MR. SIMMS: I am not making any accusations.

DR. KITCHEN: Yes, you are.

MR. SIMMS: No, I am not.

DR. KITCHEN: Yes, you are.

MR. SIMMS: No, I say to the minister.

DR. KITCHEN: He certainly is.

MR. SIMMS: No. I say to the minister.

MR. DECKER: What a slimy way, Mr. Speaker -

MR. SIMMS: Now, now, I say to the Minister of Health.

MR. DECKER: (Inaudible) hide behind (inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. SIMMS: Mr. Speaker, best, I think, left unsaid to respond to the Minister of Health. He describes what the perception might be of me. I can tell him - well I won't say it. I think I will avoid getting into any kind of a match with the Minister of Health.

Anyway, the points I am trying to make are legitimate points, and criticisms that are made by people around the Province. And if people like the Minister of Health do not want to listen to those criticisms, then that is fine. I have no problem with it. But I am certainly entitled to express views that have been expressed to me by people whom not only I represent, but people who are represented by members on the other side, people who have some really legitimate, serious concerns about what is happening with the Workers' Compensation system and what is being proposed here. People have reason to be concerned, I believe, because this will affect not only everybody in the Province who are workers and might have access to this system, but every employer in the Province, because of the changes being proposed by the government.

There are other reasons for the problems that have existed here - increases in injuries because of cutbacks, which now creates situations where one worker is performing tasks that maybe in the past would have been done by two workers, particularly in the public service. Members know that is accurate. Nurses is a good example, as a matter of fact.

The workplace now, I venture to say, is perhaps more dangerous than it ever has been in the past, in terms of health and safety. I have heard members opposite say that, by the way, that the workplace these days is perhaps more dangerous in terms of health and safety than it ever has been in the past. It puts people in a place of being more prone to injury, probably, than they ever have been before, because they are working longer hours, there are less people in the public service, in particular in hospitals and so on, so there is more work being put on the backs of individuals who perhaps were not doing that much work before, in that sense.

There is an argument also that the Workers' Compensation Commission has failed to implement any kind of effective health and safety program that might help reduce injuries in the workplace in the long term. That is a criticism, and a fair criticism. These are criticisms made by workers, as well as by employers, as well as by medical people. I have heard it many times. There is not really a good, effective, and adequate health and safety program in place that might reduce injuries, or help reduce injuries in the workplace.

There is a criticism that the training programs in place now for injured workers, to help them find alternative employment, are inadequate; and there are many charges that the rehabilitation programs that could help speed up an injured worker's recovery and reduce the duration of their claim, are inadequate.

So there are all kinds of areas that need to be addressed and considered and looked at; but I guess the question, simply put, is: Will the remedies proposed in this Bill 48 solve the problem? I doubt it. I truly doubt it, because many of the problems which exist, and which are at the root of the difficulties experienced by the Workers' Compensation Commission are not really addressed in the bill, such as those that I pointed out. Instead, the government has decided to do what it always does when it finds it has some kind of a problem. It cuts and it taxes.

Now, in this instance, they are going to cut the compensation for workers from 90 per cent of net income down to 75 per cent of net income for the first thirty-nine weeks, which is a cut in income of nearly 20 per cent for the vast majority of Workers' Compensation claimants. Then, after thirty-nine weeks, an injured worker will get 80 per cent instead of the 90 per cent that they are now entitled to - a further erosion of their income.

The first thing the government does is cut - cut. Their favourite policy is 'cut and tax'. They are going to cut the workers' benefits considerably, and I can tell you there are an awful lot of people out there on Workers' Compensation who are absolutely scared to death by what they are hearing here, and what they hear. That is another reason why I think public hearings would be valuable. Because it would give the proponents of the legislation, the government members in particular, but the legislators, an opportunity to try to explain to people why this has to be done. Because just saying it in the Legislature, the message is not getting through. The message isn't getting out there.

On the other side of it, the tax part of the government's policy - which is what they love to do, cut and tax - on the tax side of it they're going to increase the rates for employers who already pay the second highest rates in the country for workers' compensation. Way above the rates paid, by the way, in the other Atlantic provinces. So what will be the impact of that?

In addition to all of the other effects that the government's policies have had on employers in this Province over the last couple of years, businesspeople and so on, now with a further increase in workers' compensation this is going to lead to more layoffs. It will eventually lead to more layoffs. Because people will attempt to make their payrolls smaller, because workers' compensation is assessed on the amount of the payroll, for every $100 of payroll. So you'll have more layoffs, you'll have smaller payrolls, you'll have less income therefore to the Workers' Compensation Commission. So it seems to me like there's a really vicious circle here. Smaller workforces will then contribute to more injuries.


MR. SIMMS: Because you'll have less people doing the work that - if you only have five people doing the work that ten should be doing, it could possibly create more injuries. Even the member, who's an expert in health and safety, or at least safety, should recognise and acknowledge that. I'm sure he does. He's not going to do it here, but I'm sure he would privately. He may do it here. God knows. We may be surprised. I'd be interested to hear what he has to say in this debate a little later on. I might not be here in the House to listen to him but I assure him I'll be listening whenever he speaks.

All I'm saying is that with the increase in employers - first of all, the taxation method the government employs is to decrease the benefits paid to people who legitimately need some income. Then on the other side of it is the taxation end of it. That's the cutting side of it. On the taxation end of it they intend to increase the rates for employers and that's going to lead to further layoffs, because people are going to try to bring their payroll down to smaller amounts. It means there is going to be less income to the Workers' Compensation Commission. It means there is potential for more injuries because there will be less people in the workforce to do the jobs that more people probably should be doing. Nurses is the example I used earlier, in the hospital system. So there could be fewer opportunities for alternative employment because of it, for injured workers. Therefore, that means higher costs again for workers' compensation.

I think that the government's policies - cutbacks, taxes - which has been the government's policy direction over the last three and a half years - have worsened an already weak economy. I think the remedies for the Workers' Compensation Commission will make the problems worse there, also. I think what we need to look at is - the problems, I think, associated with workers' compensation are really related to the problems in the economy, in my view,. The problems in workers' compensation are really, when you look at it in its larger context, related to the overall problems in the economy. Because when the economy improves, when the economy recovers, then you have more jobs, then you have larger payrolls, and you have greater revenues to the Workers' Compensation Commission.

I think what the government should be doing is first of all giving the people a say. I want to see the government give the people a say. I want to hear what people have to tell us. Because whether we believe it as politicians, I can tell you there's a lot of wisdom out among the people. They have some good ideas. They can give you suggestions and ideas for reform to a process and system that needs reform, no doubt about that. I'm afraid that we haven't really heard from the grass roots. I know this committee that was set up had some meetings with union and employer representatives, and so on, but I'm talking about the people. Giving the people a chance to have their say.

I think what they should be doing, and what we should be doing, is trying to spend a bit more of our energy and time in trying to figure out ways - and I'm sure the Minister of Finance would love this - to stimulate the economy. Ways to create some jobs and maybe increase the payrolls, increase the workforces, thereby eliminating potential for more difficulties and problems with injuries, rather than sitting around all day long and wasting our time and energy in trying to find ways to take money from injured workers and from the employers as well. There has to be some other answer.

I know there is no other quick answer, and I am not suggesting there is, but I do believe that by waiting for a few months, under the six month hoist, if we were to wait, it would give the government a chance to have, through whatever process they want to use, the legislation put out to the people, to give the people a chance to hear what is going on, what is being proposed, and more importantly, to listen to what they have to suggest, and listen to their wisdom, because they do have some good ideas. There are more people out there experienced with workers' compensation problems than there are here in this Legislature - let me tell you that. So I think it would be wise of us to do that.

I know I had a call from a person just a few days ago who was worried about this, and I asked for some suggestions. I said: What would you do? What kind of things would you suggest? Their argument was that there was not much of an educational program in existence. There was not a big enough incentive for employers to try to bring in significant health and safety educational programs.

They were saying: Maybe if you offered employers or businesspeople a rebate, or some kind of an incentive to encourage them. That was from the people. That was from a grass roots person who was trying to offer some creative ideas and some creative thinking, who did not know what is in existence there now, and not everybody does. Very few do, unless you are associated with it from a professional point of view, like the Member for St. John's South or somebody else, you would know just about every detail. The minister should know, I guess, a fair bit of the detail, but the average person out there on the street does not know what is involved in it.

This person who called me, who was really concerned because they are going to lose benefits - really bothered about it, because there is no opportunity for a job for them for at least another few years because of the nature of their injury - and they said: Well how about some incentives? How about getting the employers to promote health and safety in the workplace and offer them some kind of a rebate on their payment if their safety record improves - something along that line. This was the idea that was tossed out, and is often tossed out.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SIMMS: Pardon me?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SIMMS: Yes, there is room for it. I agree, and that is what this person was saying.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SIMMS: Yes, okay, but there needs to be more specifics is all we are saying here. What I am saying is that these kinds of ideas merit and demerit is pretty broad; but I think that this person I was talking to, for example, was offering something specific - a specific item that could be done.

All I am saying is that if you travel around the Province with a committee to hear what these people have to say, they might give you some really good ideas, some good, specific ideas developed from some creative thinking.

Mr. Speaker, again I just wanted to have a few words on the legislation to express some concerns that I have, and concerns that I have received from people around the Province, as I have travelled around over the last year or so - people who have experienced workers' compensation difficulties; people who through no fault of their own have been injured in the workplace; and people who do not understand the process; people who have difficulty cutting through red tape; people who have to call on all of us, Your Honour included, I am sure, has problems such as this to deal with from time to time. These people need help with the system.

Now, in addition to their difficulty with the system in cutting through the red tape and the bureaucracy, they now see the system going to fail them again, because the system is going to take a sizeable bite out of their income. They do not understand why, but that is not what is most important to them - whether they understand why or not. All they know is that it is going to happen to them, so how are they supposed to survive? A man off work now for a year and a half or something, probably could be off for the next five years, or the rest of his life for all he knows. All he knows is that his benefits are going to be cut by 20 per cent or whatever the case might be. Now if that wouldn't put the fear of God in people I don't know what would.

So we have a very serious situation on our hands with respect to workers' compensation. I hope that the government might, instead of wanting to just ram this through and push it through, there's no reason that we couldn't do this in February when the House reconvenes, or whatever. There's no reason, absolutely none whatsoever, why that couldn't be done. I know it's a problem there, and it's existed. The government has talked about it itself, so two more months is not going to make a hell of a lot of difference in my view.

I would like to really see the government reconsider the idea of giving the people of the Province a chance to have their say, a chance to understand what's happening. It's for that reason that I move the amendment, the six-month hoist, in the hope that the Legislature might see fit to agree. I somehow doubt that they will, but maybe they will. Who knows?

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. ROBERTS: Speaking on the amendment (Inaudible)?

MR. MURPHY: Yes. Because if I don't I won't get a chance to speak on (Inaudible).

AN HON. MEMBER: Sit down!

MR. SIMMS: He is allowed to speak.

AN HON. MEMBER: You have every right.

MR. MURPHY: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. After a little concurring with my learned colleague, the Government House Leader.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. MURPHY: Yes. I intended to speak, Mr. Speaker, to the main Bill, but now that the Leader of the Opposition has given me an opportunity I will have a chance to have something to say on a couple of occasions.

First of all, I don't know, after following the brand-new, shiny new, right out of the box leader of the NDP Party, and the almost new, slightly little bit rusty, tarnished Leader of the Opposition, it's a pleasure for me to stand up, because between the two of them they didn't make any sense. So it is very gratifying indeed.

First of all, let me correct a whole lot of misconceptions that the Leader of the Opposition got on with. We all know that workers' compensation is a no-fault system paid for by the employers in the Province. Now if you were to do a summary and say: what is workers' compensation, and where does the funding come from?... the funding comes from the employers in the Province. There is no other place, outside of a bit of interest years ago when we had a former Liberal administration. We used to do very well with the interest.

After our friends opposite took over of course it was all downhill. I will have the figures by Thursday to show the hon. gentlemen and lady opposite just what has transpired to necessitate this particular Bill, this piece of legislation.

Now this piece of legislation is not in my opinion the greatest piece of legislation that has come into this House, nor will it be the greatest piece of legislation to come into this House. But what we need to realise is that like all things in 1992, we have to have a look at, the bottom line is the dollars versus the number of people who are injured trying to use what's available to have a standard of living.

There are seven classes in the Workers' Compensation Act. They go from number one, which is fishing, to number seven, which is construction. Every other class of employment throughout the Province is covered under the Workers' Compensation Act. Let me just give you a quick evaluation of what the fishing industry, before the fishing industry was shut down, what kind of assessment it was paying to workers' compensation versus the need for dollars to make sure that those in the industry were covered.

If you were in the processing industry, if you were processing fish, and you were an employee of FPI or National Sea, the company had to pay $3.90 per $100 of payroll to look after compensation - I'm going back to 1988 now - probably more like six dollars now.

In 1988 also, harvesting which was another sector in the fishing industry was not just $6, harvesting, Mr. Speaker, was $12. $12 per $100 of payroll so for every $100 payroll that was made on a trawler or out on the Virgin Rocks or wherever, to an employee, $12 had to go down to the Workers' Compensation Commission and the last year that I was an employee with Fishery Products International, that particular company sent over $12 million down to workers' compensation.

Now the reason that that assessment is put there, Mr. Speaker, is very simple. The reason that is there, is the experience in the fishing industry; in other words, if in 1986 and 1987 the need was that the processing part of the industry was having an experience to cover that experience in three facets: Medical, to pay the doctors because all the doctors associated with workers' compensation do not come out of MCP. Some of the members Opposite might be a little set back on hearing that, I saw one member draw his head back, you do not realize that workers' compensation, the medical end of it has to be paid by the Workers' Compensation Commission.

The other area is the rehabilitation area. There are a tremendous number of people involved in rehabilitation in the private sector with people in workers' compensation and that has to be paid out of that assessment and the employees themselves - now when the hon. Member for Grand Falls, the Leader of the Opposition, stood in his place and talked about this terrible lower percentage of payroll going out to people on workers' compensation, what he is saying in essence is, that the dollars at workers' compensation right now are not adequate to pay people 90 per cent of net, which is the legislation that is now in place, unless you happen to be fortunate enough to be in a negotiated situation where a top up is in place.

And let me remind hon. members that if you are receiving a top up and you are getting your full salary, then in essence what happens what kicks in, is that you, as somebody on compensation with a top up, would receive more net money by being off than you would, if you were in the workplace, okay?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. MURPHY: No but it still costs the taxpayer. I remind the hon. member that it costs the taxpayer -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) agreement.

MR. MURPHY: - it costs the taxpayer.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. MURPHY: I have nothing to say. The hon. member is correct, he is right, that it is part of an agreement, but it is still fact that somebody who is in a top up situation and off for two years, is better off than if they were working! Now that is the system that is in place right now because the 90 per cent of net is not taxable income, so what happens in the long run is that somebody who is off -

AN HON. MEMBER: What is your point?

MR. MURPHY: - I am just making the point. I am just trying to explain to the hon. member the horrendous cost in negotiated contracts -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) top up.

MR. MURPHY: Now, I am going to just very quickly because you know, the hon. member needs to understand that if somebody who has a top up, who is receiving the same salary that they would be if they were working, and are off on workers' compensation, that 90 per cent of that income, the net income, is nontaxable income. If the person is working all the income is taxable, so that the individual who is involved in a top up situation is financially better off to be on workers' compensation than they would be if they were working.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. MURPHY: I know the hon. member does not understand a lot of things.

Now the committee went around the Island. The hon. the Leader of the Opposition wants an additional six months on the Bill. Well, I suggest to the Leader of the Opposition, that is like saying that the fellow who had cancer, the doctor gave him six months to live but he told the doctor: I cannot pay my bill, so the doctor gave him another six months to live. That is what the hon. the Leader of the Opposition is saying. He is getting on with gobbledegook and he knows it. Full knows it to debate it, because the situation related to workers' compensation, and the situation related to the new Bill, are something that this government really doesn't want to do, but is forced to do. When I stand to speak on the Bill they may be a little bit startled to see the statistics, how they have evolved over the years. As a matter of fact, there won't be - there are six of them over there now. I would suggest when I get halfway through when I'm speaking to the Bill I doubt if there'll be any of them over there. They'll be ashamed. You'll be ashamed to sit in your place. There's no question about it.

MR. TOBIN: (Inaudible) attacking the trawlermen.

MR. MURPHY: The hon. Minister of Health was correct. To infer that a senior civil servant, a man with a background unblemished, went out with a committee and listened - with an employer representative and an employee representative - to the employer groups and the employee groups, and two submissions were made. I think all that can be said on behalf of both groups - that covers everybody - is contained in the Committee report. So there's no need of washing this all over the place any more. It's only a waste of time and effort.

The safety education and the inspection. Let's have a realistic look at it.

MR. TOBIN: (Inaudible)!

MR. MURPHY: The minister - Mr. Speaker, can you protect me from the barrel from the Burin Peninsula? Is there any chance of protecting me?

MR. TOBIN: What about the trawlerman (Inaudible)?

MR. MURPHY: The last time he shouted that loud was when he told Premier Peckford that the fellow with the gun was only there to welcome him.

MR. DUMARESQUE: That's the welcoming committee.

MR. MURPHY: The last time he roared that loud that was what he said. Don't worry, Premier Peckford, it's only a gun to welcome you. When Mr. Peckford got out of the bus he wasn't long getting back on the bus. Because it's a poor way to welcome somebody, with the barrel pointing at you.

However, if the Chair will protect me I will carry on and bring some light to the hon. gentleman, because obviously what I've heard from the shiny new leader of the NDP and the slightly tainted, unshiny leader of the PCs was nothing, absolutely nothing. They don't know what they're talking about.

Safety education and inspection. Let's talk about it. He made some comparisons to other provinces. Per capita we have as good a safety education - as a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, let me say this - hon. members forget that the hon. Minister of Employment and Labour Relations not too long ago hired on four new people. The most people that were ever employed in occupational health and safety education are now working for the government. Right now. So another fallacy.

Safety education works both ways. The hon. Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs knows this. It works both ways. You ask the employer for the time, and convince the employer that it's good business to train and educate your employees in how to work safely. The employer agrees with you. It only becomes a reality when the employees take advantage and come in and not only listen to what's being said in the seminars, but also put into practice the education rules that are being conducted in the seminars. Subsequently what we have is an educated workforce who are not stood up at a grinder grinding something with eye protection next to them, provided by the employer, and all of a sudden we have an accident and somebody loses an eye.

Then that's the no-fault system that we have in front of us right now. That employee is covered, that employee is protected. Now perhaps considering the circumstance that we have facing us now, the hon. members opposite would like to go over to Great Britain where we have a fault system.

MR. TOBIN: What about the letter you wrote to the trawler captain advising him on the (Inaudible)? What about that one? (Inaudible) $12,000 (Inaudible).

MR. MURPHY: Mr. Speaker, can you protect me from the barrel from Burin? Is there any chance of being protected?

AN HON. MEMBER: The what?

MR. MURPHY: The empty barrel from Burin. Every time I say something logical -

MR. ROBERTS: A puncheon, not a barrel.

MR. MURPHY: A puncheon. Well, the House Leader says a puncheon. I don't know. Puncheon! Puncheon! But every time you start making a good point you will notice the hon. member starts roaring, shouting and bawling.

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

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

MR. TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I don't think it is parliamentary to refer to another member by anything other than the hon. member or the member for such and such a district. If I upset the hon. gentleman, I apologize for it. All I asked him is, if he wrote a letter to a trawler captain and advised him, when he went on compensation, about the annuity program, and he has since paid in over $12,000, and he is going to lose it at the end of this month. That is all I asked him, if he would address that.

MR. SPEAKER: To that point of order, I don't think there is anything in our Standing Orders or Beauchesne which refers to being called a puncheon or a barrel as being unparliamentary. Probably we need a Newfoundland edition of Beauchesne. Hon. members are supposed to refer to other hon. members by their district and not by any other name.

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

MR. MURPHY: I withdraw the statement. The hon. member is definitely not a puncheon or a barrel. I don't know what he is, but he is definitely not a puncheon or a barrel, because a puncheon is worth fifteen dollars and a barrel is worth twenty-five dollars.

I have no recollection of what the hon. member is talking about, about writing any letters to any trawler captains. However, I had a lot of correspondence and I helped a tremendous number of not only captains but mates, boatswains and, as the hon. member well knows, a lot of fishermen. In my years as a professional safety engineer I helped a lot of fishermen.

However, back to where we were. Now, you know, Mr. Speaker, what happens when you don't have sufficient education and you don't have sufficient inspection. Now, it is too bad that the brand new, shiny, spanking new, right-out-of-the-box leader of the NDP is not here, because what has happened in Ontario is what we have to be extremely careful of and what we are trying to avoid here. What I hear coming out of Ontario right now is that the new Director of Employment Relations, the new Director of Hiring for the City of Buffalo is Mr. Rae. With silly laws that only protect one side of the fence, he has driven business out of Ontario. As a matter of fact, it is only today that we heard, on the radio, that people in Ontario are leaving to go look for work in Alberta.

AN HON. MEMBER: I thought you were going to say Newfoundland.

MR. MURPHY: Newfoundlanders never, not even in the good days of my friends opposite, stopped going to Alberta and Ontario looking for work and the hon. member knows it because the hon. member comes from a community where safety is so important, where the severity of work-related safety practices is extreme. When you look at iron workers up eight, ten, twelve, fifteen, twenty-five and thirty stories on a four-inch steel beam or what have you, if one of them falls, then obviously - so, education is extremely important.

Here is what the hon. the Leader of the New Democratic Party killed in Ontario. When the inspectors went out and found a worker, an employee without his personal protective equipment on, such as his hard hat or his pressure goggles or his safety footwear, he issued that worker a citation. The worker, just the same as illegally parking somewhere, had a ticket which he had to pay. He broke the law. The worker had to go down and pay twenty-five dollars. The next safety violation and/or unsafe act that was committed by the worker, it cost him more. I would suggest, Mr. Speaker, that that is the way the system should work because, if we are going to have a system in place that draws every dollar from the employer to look after the employee then, obviously, if we are going to continue with funding, both parties must accept the liability of safe work practices.

It doesn't matter who you are. If there is somebody working for IOC and the company spends $5,000 or $6,000 a year per employee for the employee's education and protection in the work place, then surely, you would put some onus on the employee to work safely.

So, when the Leader of the Opposition was talking about safety education and inspection, again he didn't realize he didn't know what he was talking about. He rambled around, and, of course, my colleague, the brand shiny new leader of the NDP spent twenty-five of his thirty minutes addressing whether he was in conflict or not.

Now let's go back to the no-fault system. This is what the members opposite are going to get themselves into in this situation. This is what they are going to get themselves into if they are not very careful.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. MURPHY: Mr. Speaker, let me just give you some facts about Great Britain, where there is a fault system. If an employee trips or falls in the employers workplace, then he has the right to go to the courts, he gets a good professional attorney to represent him, and he sues his employer.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. MURPHY: That is right. And the backup, I would suggest to hon. members, is somewhere in the vicinity of three to five years. That is the back up in the courts with Workers' Compensation. Now, what happens to the employee during those three years while he is waiting to see the judge about whose fault it was. He lives just a fraction above social assistance, through no fault of his own, maybe. Now, if he has not taken the glasses and put them on, then he is wasting his time going to the courthouse. He is wasting his time. But now under this system, the fault system, if he hasn't done it, then he is still protected. He is still protected. If he slips on the parking lot of the employer's premises he is protected. But over in Great Britain - and of the cases under the fault system that get to court, of the 100 per cent, there is about 15 per cent that are won in favour of the employee. Is that what the Opposition wants to throw on the workers of this Province? Or do you want to save Workers' Compensation, as we know it?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. MURPHY: Do you want to save Workers' Compensation, as we know it, or do you want to destroy it? Do you want to destroy it? Is that what you are up to? You know absolutely naught of what you talk, the brand spanking shiny new leader of the NDP or the 'go ahead, Dad, run leader of the Tory party'. Those are the facts.

MR. TOBIN: (Inaudible).

MR. MURPHY: The hon. member doesn't like the facts. Then he got in his place and he talked about something new out there, employees have something new. I saw my colleague, the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs, smiling when he said somebody brought up a brand new good idea - how to save the employer some money, and he danced around. I finally said: 'Len', merit and demerit. Oh, merit and demerit. What he is saying is - and this has been on the go for years and we have tried it. We have tried it in class four. Class four of Workers' Compensation is construction. So if hon. members listen they will learn. We tried it and what happened was - and I used it as a round example - if you were paid a million dollars, if you were Mcnamara Construction and you paid a million dollars into Workers' Compensation - because it is all paid up front.

MR. WOODFORD: That's ridiculous!

MR. MURPHY: You paid a million dollars - I tell the hon. the Member for Humber Valley he is being ridiculous, when they were seventeen years in government.

MR. WOODFORD: (Inaudible).

MR. MURPHY: Well, don't call it ridiculous now. You should have changed it when you were the minister.

MR. WOODFORD: (Inaudible) ridiculous.

MR. MURPHY: Okay, well then fine. I am glad to see - I have a lot of respect for the hon. member but he always speaks from his head and not his heart, or from some other part of the anatomy. Let me say this, that if that million dollars went out from Mcnamara and Mcnamara's experience was only in direct payments of $180,000 or $200,000 back to the employees on their behalf, then put on a 15 per cent administration cost, you would say that Mcnamara were $750,000 in the black last year at Workers' Compensation. So Workers' Compensation said to Mcnamara: 'You have made a concentrated effort. You have your employees working safely. You are doing a good job. You have a good safety professional in place. You have good education. You are taking advantages out there, and your workers are staying at work,' then they would give back to McNamara a proportion of that extra money. Now, that is the system of merit and demerit.

Mr. Speaker, there are a lot of things that can be said about Workers' Compensation over the years. Some people - remember, I want all hon. members to remember this. When an employee walks into a doctor's office and says: 'My shoulder, or my elbow, or my back or whatever,' it is the information given by the employee to the medical doctor that subsequently says whether or not that individual becomes a compensable case or not. Form seven is the employer's report of an accident. Form six is the employee's report of the accident, and form eight is the doctor's and if they don't all fit, then, obviously, the worker is not compensable.

So, because of the tremendous amount of pressure that has been put on Workers' Compensation over the years, and I, as like the leader, as I am sure the members opposite, all members on this side, every single, solitary day we have to go, or write, or knock on the door of Workers' Compensation on behalf of our constituents who are having a difficult time trying to get their compensation payments -all kinds of problems.

What I say, Mr. Speaker, in all honesty, is that we have something here in front of us that is not a delectable document. This is not sweetness; but this is what this government is all about. We are not in the position of bluffing the employees. We are not in the position to bluff the employers. We are not running off to the United States, signing bonds and hauling back money and destroying the future of the people of this Province. What we have here in front of us is a bill that is addressed, to the best ability of the employer, to provide funding for injured workers, and the government happens to be the biggest employer in the Province - the biggest employer in the Province. So we need to understand the yokes that are around the necks of certain individuals.

Today - and I talked, and the hon. the Member for Burin - Placentia West knows, in 1988, $12.2 million worth of assessment went to Workers' Compensation from one company - the biggest employer in the Province, Fishery Products International - over $12.5 million. Today, this very day, that same company are not harvesting, not producing one pound of fish - not a pound.

AN HON. MEMBER: Not true.

MR. MURPHY: Not one pound.

The hon. member, when he stands up in his place, can tell me what vessel is at sea. He represents the last plant; it is down now, and every single, solitary FPI plant in this Province is down. There may be a few fellows working in maintenance, a few fellows down in secondary processing, taking out of the freezers, some things to do; but what I am talking about, and the hon. member knows, is the ships departing for Northern cod. This was the great time of the year. This was it. This was the time of the year, the beehive of activity.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. MURPHY: Well she has started now. We can argue about that, but right about now she has started to get going, and there is not one vessel. Let me say this to you: The assessment from Workers' Compensation that was $12 million is now, next year, January, maybe $500,000 for fellows to keep the vessels going, and secondary processing people, and whatever little bit of TAC that Mr. Crosbie gives them - and I doubt if it will be very much - and they have to maintain all those vessels and what have you.

What we have is a situation where there is no funding coming from employers, we still have the tremendous number of injured workers out and no money coming in and we have dried up the system. We have dried it up. We have dried it up, that is exactly what happened. If you are an insurance underwriter and you do not charge enough, that is all workers' compensation is, Mr. Speaker, it is a glorified insurance company and when the funds dry up, you do one of two things. You drive up the rates or you drive down the experience, the negative experience and you go out of business. There is nothing hard about that, that is exactly what happens. Only one of two things can happen and what has happened to workers' compensation in this Province is, we have gone out of business almost, almost. And if this government did not take the responsibility, the corrective responsibility that the hon. Roger Grimes, the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations, if he did not bring this Bill to this House, we could conceivable destroy workers' compensation within a couple of years as we know it.

Now, what would the people say to us? What would the opposition members then ballyrag about? You have destroyed workers' compensation, there is nothing left; if you get injured, you are history. If you get injured, you are history and, Mr. Speaker, I say to you, this is what faces the people and that is why this Bill is here and hon. members can get up and rant and rave and pound and shout and bawl and do it all, this Bill is a bill that is totally necessary and hon. members opposite can get up and bring up all kinds of gobbledegook and whatever, but they are not going to change, this Bill is here to protect the workers of this Province. It may not be all that it needs to be, it may not be as good as B.C. it may not be as good as Alberta but I want hon. members to think about workers' compensation in the provinces such as B.C. and Alberta. There is no comparison because we do not have the assessment, Mr. Speaker, to fund the system; we do not have enough, the rates are not there -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time has elapsed.

MR. MURPHY: By leave? One second?

MR. TOBIN: No, Mr. Speaker. Any one attacking the work force like that, there is no leave.

MR. MURPHY: I am not attacking any work force. I am attacking nobody, I am telling the hon. member the truth and let me say this in closing, Mr. Speaker, that when I correlate all my figures and I have all my facts and everything is in place, I am glad to have this opportunity just to -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member does not have leave.

MR. MURPHY: I shall be back, Mr. Speaker to put these gentlemen in a comparison -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member does not have leave.

MR. MURPHY: - to put these gentlemen in a comparison, Mr. Speaker, and there will not be one of them left in the House, not one.

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

MR. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, sometimes it is hard to follow the hon. Member for St. John's South, because today, there is no mistake at all about it, he has experience in that field and some of his suggestions are worthy of comment and some of them have some merit as well.

Mr. Speaker, workers' compensation is a right that the people have and although it is a right - everything is a right. You have a right from companies who are making fortunes to pay into a system which helps the worker when he is in need. It is very simple. We can talk about England and what those people have in place, it is immaterial and has no basis at all for any kind of comment. What they have in England is immaterial, we are not in England, we are in a part of the Americas, which is by far leading the rest of the world -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. PARSONS: - nothing about workers' compensation? I want to tell the hon. member that he as well as I, when he was in business paid workers' compensation and in that respect we know something about it and we also know that the minister, when he brought in this Bill to the House, he said it was going to be very, very tough, and it has to be very, very tough. I for one, have always maintained that changes had to be made to the Workers' Compensation Act.

Mr. Speaker, I know that each and every member of the House of Assembly has calls from their constituents - sometimes from people who are not their constituents - who are having problems as far as the workers' compensation is concerned. Workers' compensation has been abused and will be abused, and I do not know how to police it, but there is a lot of money being spent that does not need to be.

After saying that, there are a great number of people out there who receive workers' compensation and need it. It is legit, Mr. Speaker, that they receive that workers' compensation.

I have had experience over the years in the work force, in the workplace, to see a number of people injured, and in many respects the injury was sometimes devastating - devastating to the individual, devastating to his family. It was great to be living in this part of the world and have something like workers' compensation which would come to the aid of that person and their family.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, if those hon. members are going to stay speaking, then I shall take my seat. If either one of them wants to get up, either from this side or from that side - either one - then, Mr. Speaker, you ask me to take my seat and I will certainly do it.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. PARSONS: No, no. Do I have it? Do you want to get up? Is there anyone on this side who wishes to get up?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. PARSONS: Well then, okay. Let me do it. Let me finish my remarks.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. Member for St. John's East Extern has a good point.

MR. PARSONS: There was a point made today about annuity. Now the hon. Member for St. John's South stayed away from it, but I am going to ask the minister responsible today - I am not sure if he is aware of it or not, but he can perhaps find out from his colleague when he returns - about this annuity. I have had calls on it.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. PARSONS: I will explain it to you now, what he told me, and if it is wrong, well...

He told me that when he was being paid workers' compensation, there was a percentage - I am not sure, I believe it was 2 per cent - that was paid out of workers' compensation - not taken from his money, so actually it did not cost him anything; but that annuity was there for him at retirement age. Twice a year he would be sent out a statement explaining where the annuity came from and how much the annuity grew over the last six months. The gentleman who called me the other day from Torbay said that, without notice, he did not receive this statement. So he checked with Workers' Compensation, and Compensation told him that it was gone. It had been taken away - no longer there. He said: But it was my money. They said: No, it was not your money. But they said in the meantime there was going to be some kind of a program to replace it.

Now I want to ask the minister if he knows what that is - is there any program? I know there is no program to date, Mr. Speaker.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) if it is his money.

MR. PARSONS: It is rightfully his money.

MR. TOBIN: Tom Murphy just said (inaudible) supported it, despite the fact that he advised (inaudible).

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

MR. MURPHY: Mr. Speaker, I do not know if it is a point of order or not, but every single, solitary day - the Member for Burin - Placentia West is stating an untrue fact constantly about this particular member, other particular members, bawling and shouting across the floor, things that get into Hansard that are totally untrue - that are not true - and I think that is a point of order. Constantly - and it is time for the hon. member to stop.

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

MR. TOBIN: Very briefly, Mr. Speaker, I have never stated an untrue fact. As a matter of fact what would an untrue fact be, Mr. Speaker? I think if the hon. member is going to get up on points of order he should know what he is saying - an untrue fact?

The bottom line is that if I was the Member for St. John's South, I would squirm too over the point that was just made by the Member for St. John's East Extern.

You support gutting the $16,000 to the people who have paid into these programs. You supported them and yet you advised them. Shame!

MR. SPEAKER: There is no point of order.

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

MR. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

No matter what kind of bickering we do, the point remains there were a great number of people out there who were placing their hopes and aspirations on this annuity, and it is no longer there. Mr. Speaker, the plans that they made to utilize, to use this for their families after they retire - I mean, it is gone. It should be explained.

This gentleman told me that he called Workers' Compensation on several occasions and just couldn't get answers from them as to why it was taken away, only that it was gone. Mr. Speaker, that is one aspect of this that is not right, that is not fair to the people.

When our leader, the Leader of the Opposition, suggested today that we have public hearings, Mr. Speaker, I see no problem with public hearings. You know, with something of this magnitude, of this importance, I believe there should be public hearings. I really do, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, as was stated before, when we can hold public hearings on the changing of the name of Newfoundland to Newfoundland and Labrador, when we can spend monies going around this Province to see if the people want to change the name - I am not sure how many attended those meetings, but they were costly because every time members moved around to hold those meetings they had to rent offices to hold the meetings in and they had to fly in and fly out, Mr. Speaker - to change the name of Newfoundland to Newfoundland and Labrador. Didn't we all know that in the first place? We knew it was Newfoundland and Labrador. A waste of money!

Now, Mr. Speaker, when we get something as important as workers' compensation, the Premier says: There will be no public hearings. Mr. Speaker, I asked the minister responsible today, in the other minister's absence, to explain it to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. We have spoken to labour unions and spoken to other professional people. Why not have some input from the people themselves, from the workers, from the people who are receiving compensation or the people out there who have, perhaps, worked in the work place and were lucky enough not to ever have to accept or apply for workers' compensation. Those are the people we need speak to. Those are the people who would address the situation. Those are the people who would enlighten us. I was covered by workers' compensation when I was in the work force. I have some knowledge of it. There have to be changes, there is no doubt at all about it. But before the changes are made, I think there should be public input.

We have committees set up, Mr. Speaker, to deal with this type of thing. We have committees set up that can go around the Province, no more costly than the committee that went around to change the name from Newfoundland to Newfoundland and Labrador. So, why don't we utilize those people that we have to go out and listen to the people and hear what the people are saying? Perhaps then, Mr. Speaker, we could take this bill and bring it back before the Legislature and perhaps there might be no changes. I don't know. Perhaps with the input from the ordinary Joe, from the fellow on the street, shall we say, we might come up with some new ideas, some new plans to make workers' compensation more equal, more beneficial to the person who needs it.

Mr. Speaker, I said in my opening remarks, that in some instances workers' compensation was abused, and there is no doubt at all about that. I think that is a foregone conclusion. Mr. Speaker, I don't think there is any real way that you can fleece it under the conditions that we have at this time.

Mr. Speaker, I was speaking to a gentleman the other day and he had to see a specialist, but he couldn't see the specialist for nine months. Mr. Speaker, in that interim he has to receive workers' compensation. Perhaps if he could see a specialist, perhaps if he were receiving treatment, going to a physiotherapist, and perhaps he could be back in the work force within a month or two. Can you imagine the savings on that one person? Mr. Speaker, there are hundreds and hundreds of people out there who are now on Workers' Compensation who are waiting to see a specialist and it will take them anywhere between six to eight months to get in there. Then after he gets to see a specialist he is sent on this training program, physiotherapy, whatever, and for the next month or two months he can't get back to see the specialist, and, Mr. Speaker, it goes on. Sometimes something that could be curtailed or eliminated in two months would go on practically for a year, again, all this money being paid out by Workers' Compensation.

Mr. Speaker, it was touched on by several of the members speaking today that the reason there is such a drain on our specialists is because specialists have decreased in number in Newfoundland and they can't keep up with the workload. They are just not able to work twelve to fifteen hours a day. They just can't attend to the people who need their help.

Mr. Speaker, you are going to have to go back and look at the layoffs, look at the curtailment in the Department of Health. He has left now, but the Minister of Health will realize, too, that the Department of Health has been severely curtailed, especially in nursing and nursing assistance where you need people, you need extra people. As the work force ages, especially in the nursing homes and the hospitals, there shouldn't be a reduction in staff, but rather an increase, to help the older nurses, the older aides to do their job. Now, Mr. Speaker, because of elimination, because of seniority, you have many of the older nurses, the older nurses aides attending to people now and they are just not capable of doing it. They are not able to do it, Mr. Speaker. Their backs are being hurt. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it, Mr. Speaker, it is out there to be seen. You can look at the statistics and you will find out, in the nursing profession alone, I don't know what percentage it is, but there are a great number of nurses who have to rely on Workers' Compensation - again, certainly not abusers of the system, but because of the workload, the lifting and other things they have to do in hospitals and nursing homes which is part of their daily routine.

So it is not just something you can put out in Bill 48, it is something that has to be addressed by government. I will repeat myself, I know, I am not foolish enough to think that the Workers' Compensation Act doesn't have to be changed, it does. But, I mean, call a spade a spade and just say to the people: The layoffs and the restraints have a role in the problems that we are having with Workers' Compensation.

The other thing I would like to address, Mr. Speaker, is I don't know if anyone - I have asked, I think, on occasion, How much does it cost to collect the monies? Say, that monies are being collected - Say I am paying $7 a $100, how much of the staff is involved, how much does it cost material-wise, labour-wise, to collect that money? Because I look at that big building down there, and I look at a tremendous staff, and I am just wondering, because I don't see it anywhere in the bill, what are the operating costs. What operating costs does Workers' Compensation have? What does it cost to supply the compensation package and to collect the monies for the (inaudible)? That is it. I hope the minister will address, when he rises, what the costs are. No one has ever told me. No one has ever said to me: Yes, it is an astronomical amount that has to be taken out of the funds that are paid by employers to pay just for the costs of delivering the service.

Again, Mr. Speaker, we often look at the deficit, and we know ourselves that we are paying out now, perhaps 40 cents of our dollar, and we can't go much farther. I am saying the same thing about Workers' Compensation. I think administration has to be looked it, as well as the worker and the employer. I think then, perhaps, we can come up with a better financial system, a better way, certainly, in which we can deliver the program necessary for the injured person and whereby we can, perhaps, not subject the employers to any more cost.

Mr. Speaker, the cost to employers now - you take Worker's Compensation. The hon. Member for St. John's South touched on McNamara. He said that McNamara often pays out $1 million to Workers' Compensation and, because of their safety factor, that could be reduced. But let me remind the hon. member, who is not in his place now, and let me remind the hon. House, that that is fine when you are as big as McNamara, where you control the base. In many instances, with small companies, they are in a certain group. Now, you could have 500 small businesses in that group. There could be 400 of those small businesses that are very, very safety conscious but, Mr. Speaker, the other 100 need not be spending the necessary money for education, for training or whatever. But you are in that group and if the cost to Workers' Compensation is greater than that group pays in, then that group - usually a lot of small businesses pay anywhere from $5.50 to $7.00 on $100. Mr. Speaker, that can increase if, within that group, the cost exceeds what is paid in.

How do you do it? What is the answer to it? It has to be done with individual companies. It has to be done on an individual company basis. When you are grouped in you don't have a chance. I mean, you could be operating a business and not -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) demerit system at work.

MR. PARSONS: A demerit system? That demerit system is fine for McNamara, they are the one conglomerate. The small business should have the same as McNamara. That is what I am saying. The small business, if they don't have an accident, if their workplace is accident-free, then their fees should be reduced. Now, if they are not conscientious enough about what takes place in the workplace, then they are the people who should pay the shot, not the fellow who tries to keep his place clean, not the fellow who tries to make sure that his workers are doing the right thing, and it is costing him money to do it. I mean, it is costing the employer money to make his employees conscious of the workplace and conscious of what can happen.

I see the Minister of Finance coming in now. I say to the Minister of Finance, who certainly foots the bill, that he perhaps can say to his colleagues, there should be a different system, a demerit system.

The hon. Member for St. John's South mentioned that McNamara could pay in $1 million and then, if they had a good record, they would be forgiven x number of dollars. What I am saying to the minister is, there are a great number of small companies in the same grouping. You can have ten companies that are excellent, accident-free and you could have three companies who, through carelessness or whatever, are not, but if you are in that group automatically your fees go up, which I think is wrong. I think the demerit system should be basically the same, no matter how large a company is. I don't think the cost would be astronomical to implement that type of demerit system or merit system, whichever one. I think it should be taken into consideration, Mr. Speaker.

I asked before what was the cost of the services supplied by compensation, what is the cost of the building, how much money is spent to collect the money, and how much money is being paid out to the individuals. Again, Mr. Speaker, I hope that the annuity aspect of workers' compensation, the cancellation of the annuity clause, can be addresseed when the minister rises in his place.

Certainly, Mr. Speaker, you are going to have to implement a better educational program for the people who are out of the workplace. It is fine to say you are going to train people. In this Province today and in many other provinces, I suppose in all of North America, you have to train people in something whereby they can get a job. You just can't train people for the sake of training. You have to train people, and that may take them out of their sphere, out of their profession, perhaps change their trade or whatever.

What the bill really says, Mr. Speaker - for the last couple of years the monies taken in can't even cover the expenses of the Commission. An answer to that is very simple. Because of layoffs, because of bankruptcy, a lot of small companies are not paying that much of money. I know through personal experience where employees are laid off, you don't have to pay workers' compensation. In hospitals and in the public service sector, terrific layoffs play a major role in the decline of funding to Workers' Compensation.

Again, we have to go back to the subject of the people who are prone to accidents, prone to back ailments or whatever, such as nurses, nurses' aides. Sometimes people who work at labour-intensive programs, like in the workplace. Those people encounter an element of danger every time they go to work. We have to be conscious as legislators to address the problems of those people in need, people who are not as well off as we are.

The other thing is that once a person is laid off now, or is finished with workers' compensation, there are no alternatives. There is no place to go to work. There is no work out there. I am sure that every member here receives dozens of calls a week from people looking for work. But what do you train people for? If you take a person from a fish plant now, with no fish plant to go back to, for what do you train him? Where, in the economy, can his situation be addressed? I don't know. I certainly don't have the answer.

But I don't think layoffs are the answer either. I don't think layoffs are necessarily the answer to all our problems. I hope the government will be in a position to provide that there will be no more layoffs for the foreseeable future. Layoffs, added stress and strain on people, all have an effect on workers' compensation.

Mr. Speaker, again our Leader of the Opposition asked today for public hearings, and I am going back to it again because I do not see any reason why we cannot have public hearings. I feel that was a good amendment. It is certainly not going to break anyone's back to have this hoist for six months - a six month delay. We could go out and speak to the people. The hon. Member for Eagle River over there is rearing to go. You could go around Newfoundland and Labrador; speak to the ordinary Joe; find out what his problem is as it pertains to workers' compensation; speak to groups who feel perhaps the same way that I do, that workers' compensation has to be changed, and changed a lot.

I know there is only so many dollars. There are only so many dollars that can be spent anyway. The point remains, we want to keep workers' compensation. There is no doubt about that, but what I am saying is that perhaps we are going at it in the wrong way. Perhaps we are going at it in the wrong direction.

Two years ago when the layoffs started, when the public service sector took a deep decline, nurses were laid off, other people in the sectors were laid off, then workers' compensation could not take in the funds necessary to run that establishment.

AN HON. MEMBER: The nurses were not laid off.

MR. PARSONS: The nurses were not laid off, but in the hospital today, you go in and you will see a shortage of nurses. Nurses that retired were never replaced. I am telling the hon. member that I do know what I am talking about.

MR. GRIMES: There have never been more in the system.

MR. PARSONS: There were never more in the system?

MR. GRIMES: There are more now than ever before.

MR. PARSONS: You are talking about a different - that might be true too, but you are talking about a different age, a different era. You are talking about an era now of unions, where people are only obligated to work a certain number of hours, where years ago they were working many more hours. Now the people are on shift work, and I claim that there are a great number of nurses - stick to nurses - out there now, because of new nurses not going in the work force, the young people out there just cannot find work - that the nurses themselves are aging, and they are prone to accident, and that is why they too rely on workers' compensation.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. PARSONS: Oh, I have no fear in saying anything. A person gets hurt. That is legitimate. That is an accident or whatever, and he or she should have workers' compensation. That is what it is there for; but all the layoffs created by this government over the last two years has placed extra burdens on workers' compensation. You do not need to be a mathematician to come up with that one. People are laid off, and it is said here about training, yes I agree, but I perhaps -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. PARSONS: What? Oh, poor management by government. If it were never taken into consideration when the hon. Minister of Finance - he can say what he likes but the point remains, he never took into consideration what the layoffs were going to do; the backlash, he never realized it, he never took it into consideration, the implications of these layoffs.

You know, Mr. Speaker, the other day, the hon. Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs got up in his place - I want you to hear this one now - he was asked a question by someone on this side and he stood up and said: I am Snow White, so I sent him over a note and I said: that is quite possible, you might be Snow White but you would never pass for one of the dwarfs.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. PARSONS: So with that said, thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

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

DR. KITCHEN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

DR. KITCHEN: Mr. Speaker, I had not intended to speak to this Bill because the hon. minister who introduced it did such a fine job, but a number of things have been said here, in the Chamber, by members opposite and I felt it very important that I address these points.

In the first instance, the Leader of the Opposition stood in his place today and said that it was generally perceived that a highly respected public servant did a whitewash for the government. Now that is something that should not pass unchallenged. We have no right to cast aspersions on public servants unless we want to make the charge and let it stick. We cannot say it is 'perceived that' because that is exactly the same as saying that he is doing it. Now that is really what it amounts to; if it is just perceived, leave it alone.

The other thing I want to comment on is the last member who spoke and what he in effect did, was say, that there are workers out there who are fraudulently filling in forms. I heard him say that. The Member for Fogo also said that. Now, I do not know about his constituents or Fogo's constituents but I know about my constituents and they are not fraudulently taking money from the Workers' Compensation Commission, and I question whether the people in Joe Batt's Arm and Fogo are doing it? I do not believe they are and I do not believe the people in Flatrock are doing it, so the problem is that when they say -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, that cannot go unchallenged because the Member for Fogo never once, nor did the Member for St. John's East Extern, but the Member for Fogo never once in his speech said that the people of Fogo or any other part of this Province were fraudulently obtaining money from Social Assistance, or from Workmens' Compensation. That was not said and a minister of the Crown should know better than to say that.

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, that's such a pathetic interjection. Even the hon. gentleman for Burin - Placentia West ought to know there's no point of order there.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

There's no point of order. The hon. member used the point to make a clarification.

The hon. the Minister of Health.

DR. KITCHEN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It ill behooves members of this House, such as myself, and yourself, and other members, to insult the electorate. Because I tell you this, the day will come when the electorate will darn well remember what the Member for St. John's East Extern said, and what the Member for Fogo said, about the electorate.

Now I will admit that sometimes people get confused with forms, all these government forms that have to be filled out. People can make mistakes. That's natural. Who hasn't made a mistake? Who in this Legislature hasn't made a mistake in filling out a form, whether it be for some tax matter or something else? Just look at it.

Look at another point as well. The government bureaucracies are extremely complicated. Another thing we have to remember is that everyone should try to get what he's entitled to under the law. I don't blame a person for pushing to get what he does. But to say that a person who makes a mistake is abusing the system - that's the phrase he used - abusing the system.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible)!

DR. KITCHEN: Now that's not appropriate! You can't say that people are at that.

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

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, I want to remind the hon. minister that I did say the system was being abused. No problem with me saying that. You needn't get up and elaborate on it. I said it. So you needn't get up and elaborate on what I said. What I said I stand by. I don't run for anything. But I said the system, I didn't say the people, the workers, I said the system. I said from the doctors I mentioned -


MR. PARSONS: From the doctors - oh yes, there's abuse out there. There's abuse out there too, from the workers. If you don't think so, then boy look, it's time for you to give up, go home.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. TOBIN: Kevin, his minister said the same thing!

MR. PARSONS: His minister said the same thing, by the way.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Again, there's no point of order. The hon. member used the point to make a clarification.

The hon. the Minister of Health.

DR. KITCHEN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The hon. member has admitted that he is insulting his constituents, and that's fair enough. If he wants to do it, let him do it. Enough of that tack. I want to make two more points.

MR. TOBIN: Be careful now the Premier doesn't make you come in and apologise again!

DR. KITCHEN: I want to make a point, Mr. Speaker, having to do with - steps must be taken -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

DR. KITCHEN: - steps must be taken to protect the fund from which the payments are made. Steps must be taken.

The deficit in the unfunded liability in the workers' compensation fund - I cannot remember the exact amount - I believe it is over $100 million.

AN HON. MEMBER: $160 million.

DR. KITCHEN: $160 million. This means that if everybody stopped now paying into workers' compensation, and we had to pay the people who are on workers' compensation, we would be $160 million short.

AN HON. MEMBER: Bankrupt.

DR. KITCHEN: Bankrupt.

The fund would have no money in it. The only thing that keeps it going is that people are paying into it continuously, and there is always a little bit of money to pay them off; but it is going to run out. So what the minister is doing is protecting the workers' compensation for the people who are out there, protecting them so they can get their cheques every month while they need it. If he does not change the system, then there will be no money for anyone, and that is basically what he is trying to do.

Now there are many ways of doing that. One way is a very positive thing that was done by the hon. Minister of Health, in co-operation with the hon. Minister of Employment and Labour Relations, in setting up the Back Program, by which people in hospitals and nursing homes, where a lot of the injuries occur, have been educated to work in such a way so to lift patients properly, to get the appropriate equipment into those nursing homes and into the hospitals so that patients are appropriately lifted so that a person does not throw out their back and be off. Nurses throw out their backs. Nurses' aids throw out their backs. Lots of people have been throwing out their backs; and in the many visits that I have been having recently in nursing homes, I asked them about the Back Program: Well we have not had an injury here for the past year or so, because this new thing is in place, and similarly in some of the hospitals.

What is happening is that the injuries in hospitals and nursing homes are going right down because of this very positive program that this government introduced to cut down on workers' compensation claims.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

DR. KITCHEN: Now that is a very positive measure.

Mr. Speaker, it being 5:00 p.m., I will adjourn the debate.

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

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

In making the motion, may I say that the debate has been so very spirited today that we shall certainly carry it on tomorrow.

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