November 17, 1992          HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS            Vol. XLI  No. 65

The House met at 2:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Lush): Order, please!

Oral Questions

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SIMMS: Mr. Speaker, I have some questions for the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation.

Over the last day or so, unfortunately, there were three tragic deaths, I understand, and apparently several injuries, resulting from accidents on the highways in the Province. One on the Baie Verte Highway, I believe, one out on the Trans Canada Highway on the West Coast near Pinchgut Lake, and one out in my area, just west of Badger.

I want to ask the minister: Have the police confirmed to the minister that these accidents were the result of treacherous highway conditions from the accumulation of snow and ice?

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

MR. GOVER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I have reports on two of these accidents. I must confess I don't have a report on the third accident, the one in the hon. Leader of the Opposition's area. With respect to the accident in LaScie, which occurred on November 16 at approximately 2:15 p.m., apparently the driver of the vehicle was fatally injured.

Weather conditions at the time of the accident: It was snowing and the road was snow-covered. We checked, and learned that a department sand truck left the LaScie unit at Brent Cove intersection at 12:30 p.m. and was proceeding towards LaScie, sanding intersections and steep grades.

Our truck did arrive at the Shoe Cove intersection before the accident, so that particular accident area was attended to by the department before the accident occurred.

With respect to the other accident, that area, as well, was being sanded. Units were dispatched, and it is my information that that area was again attended to by department equipment and personnel before the accident happened.

I can say at this time, Mr. Speaker, that it appears these accidents were not as a result of negligent operations on behalf of the department.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MR. SIMMS: Mr. Speaker, the weather forecasters, I think, had forecast a storm for the area long before the time that the minister refers to, so obviously, the department had a lot of time to prepare. I want to ask him: Why wasn't the snow clearing and sanding equipment sent out prior to this 12:30 period that he mentions?

Secondly, I want to ask him this: Had the winter shift been called out in anticipation of that particular storm so there could have been an even more prompt response than the one he tries to describe here today?

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

MR. GOVER: Mr. Speaker, it is my information that the department has been on winter status for at least a week - full winter status. Equipment has been available; personnel has been available. The operation and status is on full winter conditions. It has been for a week prior to these incidents.

As the reports indicate, the department was engaged in operations before these incidents occurred. Equipment had arrived on the scene. Work was being done on the scene before the accidents occurred.

Mr. Speaker, as all hon. gentlemen are aware, the cause of an accident can be for many reasons besides negligent operations of the department. That is an unfortunate fact of life. To the best of my information, the equipment was attending to these scenes. We have been on winter status for a full week. I don't know what the hon. member is trying to insinuate - is it that the department should be on winter status in July?

MR. TOBIN: It isn't July, boy, it is the middle of November.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MR. SIMMS: Mr. Speaker, my question was this: Was the winter shift schedule in place, and in effect? He is now trying to imply that it was - the winter shift schedule being the 5:00 a.m. schedule instead of the 8:00 a.m. normal schedule. Is he saying that was in place all over the Province and has been for a week? Is that what he is trying to tell the House?

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

MR. GOVER: Mr. Speaker, to the best of my information and knowledge and the advice I have received, the department has been on winter operations, winter status, for the last week, and we are attending to the roads in this Province the same as we would for the past week, this week and the same as we will be doing until winter status terminates. The operations have been put in place, the reports indicate the department attended to the situation, was attending to the situation; and we are fully prepared for a snowfall at any time and have been for at least a week.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. SIMMS: A supplementary, Mr. Speaker.

Can the minister advise the House whether or not, in many of these depots around the Province, equipment that is used for snow clearing and sanding, is leased on tender to private operations and so on? In many cases, we understand, the equipment has not been in place and is not there, in many places. Is he aware whether or not that is accurate or is his information different, that the snow clearing and sanding equipment that is required in every area of this Province is there, is all there, and is he saying that the winter shift schedule, which is a 5:00 a.m. shift schedule, is in place - that is the question I am asking him - rather than the ordinary 8:00 a.m. schedule? Is that what he is trying to say here today?

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

MR. GOVER: Mr. Speaker, my understanding is that the department is on winter status. I will investigate the matter to determine if there are any variations between the status that is currently in place and the status that was in place last year. My understanding is that the department is on winter status. If there is any variation in that I will report that back to the House, but that is not my understanding, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. SIMMS: Mr. Speaker, can the minister tell the House, if the winter shift schedule was in place and in effect, why did the crew then, in Baie Verte, not leave until 12:30 p.m., instead of 8:00 or 5:00 or 6:00 in the morning, when the forecast had been well-known? Could he answer that question?

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

MR. GOVER: Mr. Speaker, I will take that question under advisement. The truck left at 12:30 p.m., the accident didn't occur until 2:15 p.m.

MR. MATTHEWS: The truck wasn't there, boy - the ambulance couldn't even get there.

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

MR. GOVER: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The truck was there.

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

MR. SIMMS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, is the minister aware that the ambulance that had been sent to the site to investigate the accident and address the problem, itself, was not able to get to the site because it went off the road? If the roads were cleared, why did that occur? Can he answer that?

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

MR. GOVER: Which -

MR. TOBIN: In Baie Verte.

MR. GOVER: In Baie Verte. No, I was not aware of that, Mr. Speaker. I will have to investigate that.

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

MR. SIMMS: Just one final question, Mr. Speaker. I want to ask the minister seriously here today, has he put off implementing the proper techniques that should be imposed, including the winter shift schedule? And has he delayed bringing about some of the equipment that is tendered because of instructions received to cut back on the expenses incurred by his department? In other words, is he prepared to put the people's lives in jeopardy in this Province as a result of government cutbacks? Is that what he is attempting to do?

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

MR. GOVER: My answer to that, Mr. Speaker, is a categorical no. I have instructed my officials to evaluate the restraint objectives with a view to achieving that with the minimal impact on service, and, in particular, with the minimal impact and, hopefully, no impact on snow and ice control operations.

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

MS. VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS. VERGE: Mr. Speaker, my questions are for the Premier. When the Premier met with the public service union leaders yesterday, did he give them a tour of his lavishly renovated suite of offices and penthouse Cabinet room? Was the Premier really so boldfaced as to ask public servants to make sacrifices in part to pay for his extravagances? Are we to conclude that this Premier expects the public service to do as I say, not do as I do?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker, one of these days if the hon. member and I are in the House long enough, there will undoubtedly be a question come from her that lacks some of the political venom that we just witnessed. It is too bad that her questioning is so motivated in that way that it destroys the credibility of it, and really makes it unworthy of an answer.

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

MS. VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Frequently when the Premier is uncomfortable answering the substance of my questions, he resorts to this kind of personal attack, showing his own venom.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS. VERGE: Mr. Speaker, under this Premier's Administration, a quarter of a million dollars of taxpayers money was spent this year to renovate the offices of the President of Memorial University. Two million were spent to provide new offices for the Minister of Fisheries. Did this Premier, then, find it necessary to assert his own superiority by outdoing them and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars of public funds to spiff up his own offices?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker, let me say again: Because in the former administration they jumped the gun, wasted $650,000 renovating the office, because they did that and wasted it, they got ahead of the adjustments and changes that had to be made in the building. Then, Mr. Speaker, when the Works, Services and Transportation Department got up through the eighth floor, they told us what they were going to do and the extent to which they were going to alter partitions and ceilings and gut out portions of the eighth floor. And they said to us: If you are going to make any changes in the future in the layout now is the time to do it, because these changes have to be made. There is no alternative but to make these changes. So we added on some additional things that were desirable to be done.

Now, I greatly regret that the hon. member doesn't like that answer. She somehow has to try and tie it into a $2 million renovation for the office of the Minister of Fisheries. The extent to which that is a complete fabrication, unworthy of being listened to by anybody in the Province, can be made clear, Mr. Speaker, from the fact that what it means is the renovation of the Exon House building to provide new facilities for the whole department, to use the building that was vacated, Mr. Speaker. Monies put to good use, Mr. Speaker, a sensible management of space needs for the government. It is too bad hon. members don't appreciate good, sound management.

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

MS. VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Last week this Premier petulantly complained that he didn't like the oak latticework in his offices that was installed in 1985, and that he was having difficulty seeing. Instead of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayers' funds to install stylish new fixtures, did it occur to this Premier to go to Woolco and buy a study lamp for $29.99?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker, the bright people who did the office before did the lights and then they covered them with pinewood. It wasn't oak. I mislead the House. They covered it largely with pine wood to make sure that -


AN HON. MEMBER: Not true!

PREMIER WELLS: - only 50 per cent of the light got through. No wonder he could sign deals like Sprung and waste $22 million. He couldn't see what was happening in the office!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WELLS: No wonder those kinds of things could happen, Mr. Speaker.

Now when the changes were being made by Works, Services and Transportation to the floor, and they asked us if any more were necessary, I said yes. We've got to do something with this lighting situation in the office. They did. I didn't design the ceiling. I had nothing to do with it. It wasn't to my personal specifications. The light was below standard. People weren't supposed to be working in that level of light, it was that low. That's the level of light that was there. It was below standard. Mr. Speaker, it's no wonder they made such a mess of governing the Province. They put themselves deliberately in the dark.

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

MS. VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. How does this Premier have the gall to excuse his obscene spending of hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayers' money on unnecessary redecorating of his office suite when so many thousands of people in this Province are needy and hurting? Is the Premier installing $600 glorified doorknobs throughout his office suite to prevent the angry, teeming masses from getting in and having a look at his $80,000 worth of new wallpaper, his hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of other stylish new fittings, and his $120,000 worth of new furniture? Why won't he admit that he's become the Marie Antoinette of Newfoundland politics?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker, the only thing obscene about all of this is the lack of intellectual honesty in any of the comments that have come from the opposite side. That is an obscenity of incredible proportions. That they could stand day after day and talk about $600 doorknobs because the Member for Kilbride fabricated it and put this out. Now he sits there and laughs at it. Mr. Speaker, if they think that the people of Newfoundland are so stupid as to believe that kind of bunk, then let them stay in the dark and the electorate will take good care of them when the election is called.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS. VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Why did the Premier think that the people of Newfoundland and Labrador were so stupid as to believe that he didn't see the recession coming, he didn't realize that things were going to be as bad as they are now, or otherwise he would have stopped the lavish redecorating of his offices?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

I have a question as well for the Premier. The Minister of Employment and the Minister of Fisheries have been in Ottawa the last short while negotiating an early retirement package for fishermen and fish plant workers. I am wondering if the Premier could inform the House if indeed now the Province will be participating in an early retirement program for fishermen and fish plant workers between the ages of 55 and 64, and when we might expect an announcement on that particular package?

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and again I thank the hon. member for the question.

In the meetings that were held yesterday with the federal minister, we had a very useful, pointed exchange. We did point out at that meeting the position clearly of the Province that would be the preferred position of the Province to enable us to participate in such a program. The federal minister relayed to us information in terms of the terms and conditions under which they would like to see the Province and the federal government jointly share in such a program.

We have reported briefly today to the Premier. We need to take the matter up with the rest of our colleagues, and we expect to be in a position to make an announcement relative to that matter later in this week.

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

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. A supplementary to the Premier, again.

Can the Premier confirm that the Province insisted on certain conditions different from what the federal government had offered as part of the retirement package - that the Province insisted that certain conditions be applied to the early retirement package for fishermen and fish plant workers, or else the Province would not participate. Can the Premier confirm that?

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

MR. GRIMES: Mr. Speaker, I point out to all hon. members that in the nature of the discussions we were not talking about putting conditions on anything. We were talking about the circumstances under which we would prefer to see the program operate versus the circumstances under which the federal government would prefer to see the program operate.

We are now in a position where they have information from us, additional to what they had before; we have information from them. We will be discussing later this week as to whether or not, with the information that we now have, we will agree to participate in a jointly funded program.

So there have not been any conditions or any ultimatums issued to anybody. We are trying to reach agreement on the conditions under which we can participate in a program that will help these older workers who are displaced in the fishery.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Opposition House Leader and Member for Grand Bank.

MR. MATTHEWS: A supplementary, Mr. Speaker, to the minister.

Can the minister confirm that indeed the Province has proposed, in order for them to participate in the early retirement package, that there be a clawback provision in this particular program - that this is a condition which the Province has insisted upon as part of this package, that there be a clawback provision as part of the package? Can he confirm that?

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you again, Mr. Speaker.

I have been involved in times before in terms of negotiating the final stages of federal/provincial agreements. We are having discussions in which we have spelled out to them our point of view and our preference. They have pointed out to us their point of view and their preference. We are in the position now, knowing fully, exactly, what each of the two levels of government would prefer to happen to make a decision jointly as to what can happen under the circumstances, and we expect to be able to give that level of reassurance and comfort and relief to the older people involved in this fishery problem later in this week.

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

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The minister refused to answer the question, but I think by refusing that he really has answered it. It seems to me that indeed the Province has insisted that there be a clawback provision as part of the early retirement package.

I want to ask the minister, since the Premier has referred the questions to him: Why would the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador be negotiating benefits away from fishermen and fish plant workers in this Province when the federal government made it quite clear what they were willing to offer in the package? Why would the minister and the Wells' administration be negotiating benefits off the table, out of the pockets of Newfoundland fishermen and fish plant workers, that the federal government were quite prepared to put in the package? Why would you now, as a government, want to negotiate these things away from Newfoundlanders and Labradorians?

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

MR. GRIMES: Mr. Speaker, I think the context and the manner in which the hon. member presents the question speaks volumes for the type of thinking that occurs with members opposite. We are not trying to negotiate anything away from anybody. We are in the final stages of trying to negotiate a benefit for fish plant workers, fishermen and trawlermen that will be in place consistent with benefits for people under the PWAP program and the POWA program, and also consistent as we have always operated with the kinds of provisions that would be available for any other older displaced worker in any sector in this Province.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My question is for the Premier. At a fisheries forum in Gander on Sunday with over 200 people present and participating, the Member for Baie Verte - White Bay joined with those fishermen and other workers present in calling on a program for older workers and early retirement in the fisheries for those age fifty to fifty-five. Now the Premier has resisted suggestions from fishermen, from the fishermen's union and from this side of the House. Will he now listen to his own member for Baie Verte - White Bay, a man with great experience in the fishery as a fisherman and as an operator, and now as the representative of a fishing district, and change his mind about this policy, listen to his own advice from his own members and change his policy on the program for older workers, and go for this early retirement from age fifty to fifty-five?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker, it is a good sensible question, but there is also a good sensible answer. First, it is not my policy, it is the government's policy decided upon by government.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WELLS: That laughter displays all the intelligence they are capable of so I understand it. It is not my policy, Mr. Speaker, it is the policy of the government. The government considered the issue, and we have explained to this House time and time again why the government has maintained its position on that. Now I don't know what the hon. the Member for Baie Verte - White Bay said. I don't necessarily accept that it is as it has been represented, but whether it was or whether it wasn't the mere fact that it happens to be someone who is a Liberal who says it doesn't alter the fundamental unfairness that would be in it for the government to do that, and the government is not prepared to do that. The position isn't altered merely because somebody who happens to be a Liberal also expressed an opinion in that direction.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The Premier in his statements to the House on this issue referred to the fact that he wasn't prepared to see other workers, loggers and other workers discriminated against, and it was based on this principle that the Premier felt he could not support a program for older workers, for fishermen. Given his strong statements on anti-discrimination can I ask the Premier whether or not he would apply the same level of principle of anti-discrimination to the Human Rights Code and change his mind on that and tell the people of this Province that he will not allow discrimination against gays and lesbians, or for people who are now permitted by the Human Rights Code and not prohibited from discriminating against them in Housing, employment and access to public services. Will he tell the House now that when Bill 25 comes before the House he will go along with a second amendment to the Human Rights Code to change the Human Rights Code and prohibit discrimination against gays and lesbians. Will he do that?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker, gays and lesbians have precisely the same protection as all other citizens of this Province - exactly the same protection as all other citizens - protection against discrimination on any of the bases spelled out in the act. There is no discrimination authorized in the act because you are gay or lesbian. Gays and lesbians are treated the same as all citizens in the Province.

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

MR. HARRIS: Mr. Speaker, the Premier purposely tries to confuse the issue, Mr. Speaker. The basis of the question is whether or not the Premier is prepared to amend the Human Rights Code to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

That is not a prohibited ground in the Human Rights Code, and that is something that a number of provinces of Canada have already undertaken. The Supreme Court of Ontario has determined that it ought to be in these codes. Will the government acknowledge that this is a human rights issue that this government has not addressed, and that under the current legislation the Human Rights Code does in fact not prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and will he agree to amend it to prevent discrimination?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker, he's asked the same question and he now makes another argument in support of his view of the same question. The answer is exactly the same as it was before.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I'd like to direct a question to the Minister of Education. In light of the federal government's northern cod adjustment recovery program, a commitment of approximately $800 million, and approximately $300 million being allocated to training and to increase skills both within and outside the fishery, and also to promote literacy within the fishing industry, and the strategic economic plan that indicates the Province will initiate a fisheries action program to revitalise and diversify both within and outside the fishery, and education and training of industry participants will be an integral part of the entire fishery revitalisation program. I'd like to ask the minister: is this provincial government participating in the funding in this program by the federal government or is it 100 per cent funded by the federal government?

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, there's a committee in place made up with representation from provincial and federal governments. To date, as far as our position is, the funding is totally coming from the federal government.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Where would we be, I guess, if it wasn't for $300 million in training by the federal government? Was this Province asked to participate? If it was, in what way, and how much?

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, the Province recognises, as does the federal government, that the federal government had the role to manage our fishery. Now as we have said on previous occasions, maybe had it been our responsibility we probably would have had the same scientists who would have done the same thing.

The reality is that the federal government had the responsibility and they have been very responsible, and have recognised the responsibility. We are cooperating with them every way we can to deliver the education. We're making available 7,000 or 8,000 seats in our community colleges to do that. There are ongoing talks. I should tell the hon. member, he'll be pleased to know, that the whole thing is progressing quite well. I have every confidence that when the time comes and we have to go ahead with some literacy training, some professionalization of the fishery is going to involve some work on the Department of Education's part. I have every confidence, Mr. Speaker, that this is going to proceed quite smoothly for the benefit of all the people in Newfoundland and Labrador.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. So I understand that the provincial government is not participating at all in the training outside the fishery. That's strictly a provincial responsibility. That's what I gather from the minister's statement. I've spoken with CEIC and it's my understanding that money is not being contributed provincially. If the minister is concerned about training, what are the minister and his department doing to accommodate those 20,000 or more people who need training, in addition to the waiting lists now, at provincial post-secondary institutions across the Province, and in addition to high school graduates and so on who will be coming on-stream this year, to accommodate that overflow?

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, I can't help the fact that the hon. member doesn't understand an answer when I give it. I can't help that. Now maybe I can arrange for some seminars for someone to explain to him how to listen. I can't help that.

The reality is that the Province is working very closely with the federal government. We have a contingency plan in place to deal with the numbers of people who are on the moratorium. I told the hon. member that he will be quite pleased, as will the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, to know that we are making great strides in this. We are also pleased to know that the federal government is living up to its responsibility, Mr. Speaker, and is paying for the lion's share of this.

MR. SPEAKER: Question Period has expired.

Answers to Questions

For which Notice has been Given

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

MR. BAKER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Yesterday, I indicated that I would look up some information for the Member for Menihek and I am pleased to report to the House.

Mr. Speaker, the question was: 'Will the minister confirm that this is the fourth consecutive year in a row' - a bit of redundancy there - 'that retail sales are down by 3 per cent?' I couldn't give the answer off the top of my head and indicated that I would look up the information for the hon. gentleman.

The information is, Mr. Speaker, that retail sales in 1992 are projected to be down by .7 per cent, but in 1991 they were up .2 per cent; in 1990 they were up 5.1 per cent; in 1989 they were up 5.9 per cent. So, Mr. Speaker, the answer to his question, unequivocally, is no.

Orders of the Day

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, motions 1 and 2, please.

MR. SPEAKER: Motions 1 and 2.

Motion, the hon. the Minister of Justice to introduce two bills entitled, "An Act To Amend The Law Society Act," carried (Bill No. 55), and a bill entitled, "An Act To Revise The Law Respecting The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary," carried. (Bill No. 56).

On motion, Bill Nos. 55 and 56, read a first time, ordered read a second time on tomorrow.

MR. ROBERTS: Order No. 20, Bill No. 48.

MR. SPEAKER: Order No. 20, Bill No. 48, continuation of the Workers' Compensation Act. I don't know whether somebody adjourned the debate at the time or -

The hon. the Minister of Health.

DR. KITCHEN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

DR. KITCHEN: Mr. Speaker, we are debating whether or not we should give this bill a six-month hoist. Your Honour, ruled that the motion was in order and I have no quarrel with the ruling. Technically, it is in order, but substantively, to defer the implementation of this bill by six months would definitely be out of order. It would be out of order not to take measures to cope with the problems we are having with the Workers' Compensation fund which is $160 million, I believe, of unfunded liability. And just to recap what we were saying last day, for the member, if we stop paying in workers' compensation today, and the people who had entitlements under the Act were to draw them out, we would be $160 million short.

That is the serious question we are here to address today, and the bill sets forth procedures by which we can cope with this problem. Benefits are reduced, collections will be increased. I don't know what else - there is only one other way that I know to come to grips with this severe problem, and we are coming to grips with the problem in the long term in other ways. We will have to come to grips with it in terms of prevention, and I want to have a few words about prevention of injuries in the workplace.

As I was saying last day, just to say a few words about that again, in the health care sector, the previous minister introduced, in collaboration with the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations, a program by which people were taught to avoid back injuries. And as I travel around the Province meeting with the administration and visiting and going through nursing homes and talking with the staff, and in hospitals, they tell me that the back injury prevention program is working quite well. I think we should give credit to the people who are implementing this back injury prevention program, because it will have tremendous implications for the Workers' Compensation fund. If people do not get injured in the future, then we won't have to take further steps with the fund.

What we are trying to cope with now is the actual amount of the unfunded liability. Let me say that the whole future of expenditure control lies largely in prevention. Think for a moment of smoking in the workplace, any effect that has had, or smoking anywhere has had, on the health of the people of Newfoundland and of Canada.

Let me give you some figures as to the cost of some of the problems we have with respect to smoking. I asked the other day to have some statistics brought up. What does it cost for a person to have a lung transplant? We send lung transplants to Ontario because we don't do transplants in Newfoundland. It costs $152,320 to get a lung transplant, plus the surgeon's fee of $1,440, plus the cost of bringing the patient back and forth, that the government has to pay. Now, that is what government pays, in addition to the suffering and misery that that person has to go through. A heart transplant: $111,350, plus surgeons' fees, plus transportation.

So many of the costs in the health care system and many of the costs in Workers' Compensation are due to life-styles and work-styles which are inappropriate. Injuries must be prevented and other forms of sickness must be cut down. The cost of sickness in the workplace has to be addressed. In this Province, we have to get into a prevention mode. If we can prevent injuries, if we can prevent people from getting sick by taking the appropriate health steps we can save a great deal of money and that will go a long way towards balancing our budgets.

Take the whole question of alcohol and drugs - this is Drug Awareness Week - think of the misery that is caused by the excessive use of alcohol and drugs, both on families and, again, in the workplace, and the cost that is to the provincial treasury and to the individuals who are affected. If we can come to grips with our drug problem in this Province, our tobacco, our nicotine and our alcohol, I believe we will go a long way towards solving our budgetary problems and our workers' compensation unfunded liability problems.

Similarly, with respect to this terrible scourge that seems to be coming over parts of the world now, this scourge of HIV/AIDS, which has crept up through life-styles which are probably inappropriate, life-styles by which a disease is spread through sexual promiscuity, basically. This is a life-style which is portrayed through television and wherever you look. Many of our laws, I wouldn't say encourage it, but certainly don't inhibit it. Unless we can prevent the spread of this disease we will have a very serious budgetary problem. But I don't know what we can do. If we can't control alcohol, tobacco, and sex, what is left? But each of these, inappropriately handled, leads to very serious budgetary problems, and we have to come to grips with that.

Relating that back to the problem of workers' compensation - workers' compensation has to be addressed. We have no choice but to address it. We have to address the whole question of lifestyles. If we are to survive, in a budgetary sense, and governments have to survive, we must come to grips with these deficits. We must to come to grips with unnecessary expenditures. We must keep our people healthy - prevention through exercise.

Just to give you some other figures on health care. I didn't realize that we had 120 persons on dialysis in this Province, the cost of which is now $40,000 per year per person - $40,000 per year per person for 120 people on dialysis. In addition to that, 75 per cent of them have to be on a special drug costing $9,000 per year. That is about $50,000 a year. So the question we have to come to grips with here is: Are there ways that we can keep our people healthy and avoid this expensive long care?

The other point I want to make is this: I asked for the cost of nursing homes in the Province. You know, it costs government $37,000 to keep one person in a nursing home for a year - $37,000 plus the amount that person, himself, must pay, in Old Age Pension and Canada Pension. It is about $47,000 a year, on average. Now some do it cheaper than others, but that is the average cost to government of running our nursing homes in this Province - $37,000, plus what the person pays from Old Age Pension.

If we can put in place a system by which people can stay in their homes and receive some home care, we could cut down on that, as well. What we really must do is keep -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) home care now.

DR. KITCHEN: No, no. We must keep people healthy. The message has to be, in the workplace and in the whole of life, that people must change their lifestyles so that they will be healthy and stay healthy, stay firm as long as they possibly can, and that will help us - help government and help themselves live a long and -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

DR. KITCHEN: Now, of course, the member opposite would like to stick everybody in a nursing home. Stick them all in a nursing home, and he will be broke before tomorrow morning. If he had to pay for it himself he wouldn't be talking stocks and bonds to the Member for St. John's East.

MR. DUMARESQUE: He would probably be buying all the nursing homes.

DR. KITCHEN: He will probably be out in a few minutes to buy up a few nursing homes, realizing that he can get $37,000 from the government, plus the $10,000 he gets from the rest.

MR. MURPHY: His eyes opened up as big as saucers.

DR. KITCHEN: His eyes opened up, did they?

Now, we realize that if a person is sick, he should be looked after in the best way we possibly can do it, either through home care or by the family or the nursing home. We don't begrudge them. But when I go into nursing homes, do you know what I find?


DR. KITCHEN: I find a substantial proportion of people there - not the majority, but a substantial proportion of people - who have virtually nothing wrong with them. They just packed up their suitcase when they turned 65, trotted into the nursing home and said: 'Here I am; look after me.'

AN HON. MEMBER: Shameful!

DR. KITCHEN: That is true - and they were encouraged to do so. This is the foolish part about it - people built nursing homes and they said: 'Come in.' The person came in, and through CMHC, which is another program - and it is our fault, too, because we bought into that program. CMHC was saying a few years ago: 'Come in, we will provide the money for most of it for you to build this home, and then people can walk in with their suitcases and have their room and have their meals cooked and their beds looked after and there's nothing to do but drive your car up by the door, if you have one, or whatever.

The thing they forgot was that people don't stand fixed in time. As they get older, they get more feeble, they get sick, they have to be in wheelchairs, they have to stay in bed. And when the wheelchairs started moving around those little narrow corridors they couldn't move. So we have half-a-dozen nursing homes out there now which are uninhabitable, virtually, by the people who are now in them, because they have deteriorated to the point where they have to be either renovated or new ones have to be built, because of, in my view, stupid long-term thinking.

Can you imagine somebody building a facility for sixty or seventy people and thinking that no one would ever deteriorate physically in that home?

MR. MURPHY: John Collins.

DR. KITCHEN: I don't know where it came from. It was done in - I suppose it was done under the regime of the people opposite, or perhaps even before that. I don't know. It doesn't matter who did it.

MR. MATTHEWS: Joe Smallwood.

DR. KITCHEN: No, it wasn't all Joe Smallwood. In any event, we are stuck with that situation out there now. What we're confronted with is a situation in which we are spending money where we don't really need to spend money. If a person is not sick or not very sick, then he shouldn't be in a nursing home. There are personal care homes for people who need minimal types of care, and they are much cheaper to operate.

The industry around the Province that people are thinking about now is this: If only I can get a nursing home, we can hire half the population and look after the other half who are inside, and that is the way we are going to bring ourselves into prosperity.

It is not the way to operate. I believe the way to operate, whether through workers' compensation, or otherwise, is to prevent injuries. If we can prevent injuries, we don't have to pay out workers' compensation. If we can keep people healthy, we won't need the nursing homes. If we can keep people from smoking, we don't need heart transplants very often. That is what we have to do - we have to keep our people healthy, and, in that way, I believe the long-term future of workers' compensation and of the health care system is keeping people healthy, making the workplace safe, putting in place programs by which workers can be trained, or taught, or think about the safe way to do things.

It is very easy to have an accident. Accidents usually happen foolishly. Let me give you a little illustration. A month before I came here I used to work up in another place.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

DR. KITCHEN: Up in the hallowed halls, right? There we have a beautiful library, the Queen Elizabeth II Library. As part of my role, I used to go the library fairly frequently, looking up various documents. There in the library was a ceiling that was called the stacks, almost as high as the ceiling in this room, not quite as high, up as far as the clock, anyway. These were the stacks where all the journals would be placed. You know how the journals are, a book as big as this - a monthly publication - and they get a dozen of those and put a cover on them. It is a fairly hefty volume. They put them on the bottom shelf, the second shelf, the third shelf, the fourth shelf, and the twelfth shelf.

Now then, you try to get something off the twelfth shelf. If you had a long arm you might be able to reach up to the eighth shelf. So there would be a little stand there for you to stand on. That will get you up to the eleventh step. But if you wanted to get up to the top one, you would have to get the ladder and climb up. I remember one time trying to get one of those things off the top shelf. I got it off. I was on the little stool. I hauled the thing off. I had it alright. But somebody had piled on top of it, unbeknownst to me, a whole set of unbound books. So down they came, plunk on my head, and back I fell.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

AN HON. MEMBER: No hard hat!

DR. KITCHEN: No hard hat. I threw out my neck or something like that and wasn't off for a week. But I could see that if I was in an occupation that - the neck doesn't matter when you're a professor, it's the tongue that counts. Now if I had bitten my tongue, that would have been an industrial accident, but as it happened I was able to move around for a week or two until the back injury disappeared. Now that is the kind of foolish thing that goes on in work places that can be avoided. This is the kind of thing that the minister under whom occupational health and safety falls is concerned about in the long run.

Now in the short run, Mr. Speaker, we have no choice but to stop this six months hoist, this out of order six months hoist. Then once we defeat that, we have then to pass the minister's bill. I would suggest if there are any points that members opposite, any serious points they have about individual parts in that bill that can be improved, I am sure that the minister would take these into account. But I think the point should be made as specifically and as clearly as possible rather than just the usual ranting and roaring about a bill. We have to improve that bill if it can be improved so that when we pass this bill we will have come to grips with this unfunded liability of the Workers' Compensation fund. Then in the long term we can continue our efforts to build a safer work place and a healthier society. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, thank you very much. After listening to the Minister of Health give his speech, particularly as it relates to teaching at the university, one could readily conclude that the next ad for a professor at the university would require steel

nosed boots, a hard hat and a good tongue.

Mr. Speaker, I don't know where the Minister of Health was coming from on most of what he had to say as it relates to the six month hoist on Bill 48 that was introduced. But some of the statements that were made by the Minister of Health I think have to be taken to task. For example, the Minister of Health said most of the people today who are in nursing homes are there because they wanted to go there, or there because they walked in with their suitcases and said: here I am. Make room for me. Now I don't think that is true. As a matter of fact, I know that it is not true.

So how could you have a minister of the Crown, particularly the Minister of Health, who is responsible for health care and nursing homes in this Province, to make such a statement as that? I don't think -

AN HON. MEMBER: He hasn't been the same since the books hit him.

MR. TOBIN: I don't think that anyone on that side of the House should agree with the minister to make that statement because there are nursing homes throughout the Province, and there are people today from one end of this Province to the other begging to get in nursing homes.

AN HON. MEMBER: They need to get in too.

MR. TOBIN: And for this minister to stand up today and say that the only ones - most, he said, most of the ones that are in nursing homes today are there because they left home, took their suitcase, went to the home and said: here I am. Now is that a view that is shared with everyone over there, I wonder? Or is it a result of the books hitting the minister on the head that caused him to make that statement? Probably that is what it is. Probably as a result of those books hitting the minister on the head, Mr. Speaker, that he made that statement.

He goes on to say that if people didn't smoke in this country there would be no need for heart transplants. That is what the Minister of Health said.

AN HON. MEMBER: And said lifestyles contribute to people on dialyses.

MR. TOBIN: If people today did not smoke, we would have no need for heart transplants. Is that a factual statement, I ask the Minister of Health? You said that people today would have no need for heart transplants if people did not smoke. I would say to the Minister of Health that there are many people in this country who have had heart transplants and who need heart transplants who never smoked. I don't think the Minister of Health should make that type of statement. To go on to say that the reason why people are on dialysis is because of their lifestyle.

AN HON. MEMBER: That is what he said.

MR. TOBIN: That is what he said. Now maybe the minister can be forgiven because he also told us that he was hit on the head with books.

AN HON. MEMBER: They fell on him.

MR. TOBIN: The books fell on his head. So maybe these statements that he made today are a result of being hit on the head with the books.

AN HON. MEMBER: What a way to gain knowledge, trying to get them into his head.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, the hon. gentleman had the good fortune of attending Memorial University, but was blessed by never having the Minister of Health as a professor. Never had the Minister of Education as a professor. The only man I know who came out of university with a pension, collected another salary on behalf of the government, and who said the requirements to be a professor were hard hats, steel-toed boots and a long tongue. I would suspect that most professors would need some brains, I would say to the Minister of Health.

Yesterday I heard the Member for St. John's South get up in this House defending this piece of legislation that is now before him. He took the opportunity to go to great lengths to boast of his association with Fishery Products International as a manager or supervisor over safety. He was in charge of all the safety people in this Province. I will give credit, Mr. Speaker, that Fishery Products in the past few years have indeed put in place some really good mechanisms in terms of dealing with the safety issues. I would suspect that the Member for St. John's South played a role considering the capacity he was in.

Mr. Speaker, representing a district in this Province that depends heavily on the industrialized aspect of employment, namely the Marystown Shipyard - well, they don't need much now anyway. This government has brought them down from 600 to 29 employees, so they don't need much safety in terms of a program. Nor does Fishery Products right now. One of the things that happened with Fishery Products is that there were some people who had to go on long-term disability, people who were making very good money. As a result of going on disability, they were no longer paying into the pension plans that they had, and there are people in other fields as well who are no longer paying into pension plans. So there was put in place, I believe it was 1987, by the former administration a program of annuities whereby people could pay a portion of their pension into an annuity program. Because they weren't working they hadn't gotten anything and they were advised to do that, Mr. Speaker, to put in place - and I will get into this letter in a minute.

There were people in this Province who went around and told other people that this program that the government had brought in in terms of the annuities: Well, you will no longer be contributing to a pension plan because you are incapacitated and will be incapacitated probably for the rest of your lives and will not be able to go back to work. So we will give you this opportunity to pay into an annuity program and when you come of age to draw that out you will at least have a pension. It is not your fault that you can no longer work. The government has put this program in place. Let's deal with it.

So some of these people, employees, not necessarily union people although there were some of them too - but the companies had people explain what this was all about, Mr. Speaker, and people were advised of the tremendous benefits of this program as it relates to the future retirement plans.

There are people in this Province today who have paid somewhere in the area of $16,000 into that annuity program, and when their statements did not come a few months ago they called Workers' Compensation to see what was wrong. They never got a satisfactory answer, Mr. Speaker, so they called back again. As a matter of fact one of the people who called me is from the District of Fortune - Hermitage. I checked it out and I was told that under the proposed legislation that was to be brought before the House this fall session, which we are now dealing with, that if you are not sixty-five by December 31, every single cent that you have paid in is gone.

I want the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations to tell me when he gets up, when he gets the opportunity to speak in this debate again, what plans he has for these individuals who have banked their whole lives, had banked the past number of years as they paid in this annuity, knowing that when they reach a certain age that they had something to fall back on, that they would have an income, that they would have enough to take care of themselves. They may not, like the Minister of Health said, probably they could change the cycle if one is to listen to him, have to go to a nursing home and drop their suitcase and say: someone look after me. But I was told by Workers' Compensation that as of the 31st of December these few gentlemen on whom I checked, will no longer have the annuity program because the Wells administration, once again, once again, has socked it boots and all, to the people who are disadvantaged in this Province.

I do not know and I cannot understand how the Member for St. John's South, can stand in this House and talk about this good act, when at the same time people with whom he worked, people with whom he spoke and people he advised, are no longer able to be part of this program.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. TOBIN: Yes, I know exactly what he is saying.

AN HON. MEMBER: You do not understand it.

MR. TOBIN: I do understand it. I do understand it.

AN HON. MEMBER: You read it but you do not understand it.

MR. TOBIN: I do understand it. You do not understand it, that is the problem. The problem is that there are too many Duckworth Street lawyers making the decisions on the lives of the people who depend on trawlers.

MR. ROBERTS: Kick the lawyers, kick them again.

MR. TOBIN: I do not have to kick them. There are some of them, their mouths can kick themselves enough.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. TOBIN: I am saying to the Member for St. John's South that he has nothing to be proud of in this piece of legislation with regards to people who, particularly from FPI, are paying into an annuity program.

MR. MURPHY: I never said I was proud of it.

MR. TOBIN: Well okay then. Now he is not proud of it; well I am delighted and I can tell the person who mentioned his name to me yesterday, as to how he discussed it -

MR. MURPHY: I spoke to the amendment, not the bill.

MR. TOBIN: You were the one who talked about your years with Fishery Products International -

MR. MURPHY: I spoke to the amendment.

MR. TOBIN: - yes you spoke to the amendment. What is going to happen to somebody who has paid in $6,337.66, what happens to that money, I ask the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations? I take that very seriously and I will tell you something else: there are an awful lot of people in my district and I am sure throughout this Province who have contributed to this annuity program, an awful lot of people.

The Member for St. John's South says he knows what is in the bill. Does he realize what this annuity program is going to do to these people? But you do not support that portion, I hope? That is what is happening in this Province as it relates to the bill and yet they are going to cut back; they will be cutting back, Mr. Speaker, in the Province, cutbacks to the people who depend on workers' compensation. Some may even reach 40 per cent and they will cut back that funding to people in this Province when at the same time the Premier will spend $598,200 on his office and his Cabinet room - $598,000. They talked about Peckford spending $300,000. It took thirty years in this building for $300,000 to be spent on the eighth floor, and it took this Premier three years to spend $598,200.

Now, was that enough before he socked it to the people on workers' compensation; to the nurses; to the civil servants; to the teachers; to the firemen; to the policemen? Was that enough? No, in 1986 when this whole thing was retrofitted, the eighth floor and the eleventh floor, which is the Premier's office and the Premier's cabinet room, there was all new furniture - a brand new cabinet table, new chairs, and new office furniture on the eighth floor. Now we have the Premier today saying that they have awarded a contract for $118,835.43 for furniture.

Yes, Mr. Speaker, they should cut back alright. They should cut back the compensation package on the people of this Province who are home sick and injured. They should cut it back.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. TOBIN: What is that?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. TOBIN: I do not know what you are saying.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. MATTHEWS: New table and new chairs.

MR. TOBIN: Yes, new table and chairs. $118,835.43 for new furniture, and every one of these offices had brand new furniture, spick-and-span new, in 1986. I can tell you one thing, when it was done before in 1985, or 1986, it was when we were bringing in balanced budgets. It was when the budgets in this Province were balanced. That is when it was done, not when you are asking the civil servants of this Province to go out and cut their wages; not when you are running $154 million deficits do you turn around and spend $118,000 on doorknobs and chairs and desks. Is that what this government is proud of?

The Minister of Finance, old stonewall, comes in here, and himself and the Premier go down yesterday evening and meet with the unions and say: We may have to cut your wages. He is not cutting the wages when they are spending $600 for doorknobs, and $80,000 for wallpaper. There are a lot of homes in this Province -


MR. TOBIN: That is not lies. It is the truth.

AN HON. MEMBER: That is lies.

MR. TOBIN: Is that parliamentary, Mr. Speaker?

MR. R. AYLWARD: That is what the Premier said it cost.

MR. TOBIN: The Premier said what it cost.

MR. R. AYLWARD: I said it only cost seventy. He said it cost eighty.

MR. TOBIN: I will tell you what the Premier said. It cost approximately $80,000.

AN HON. MEMBER: Wallpaper?

MR. TOBIN: Wallpaper for his office.

AN HON. MEMBER: That is for the whole building.

MR. TOBIN: That is not all over the whole building; and I will tell you something else. Eighty per cent of that $80,000 worth of wallpaper is on the Premier's office, and the other 20 per cent is on his office on the eleventh floor, in the cabinet room. That is where it is going on - and the people in this Province have to starve to death.

I had a call today. As a matter of fact, I had an interview with CBC Radio, where a person who has not got a door in their home, who had two windows with snow blowing through it, and could not get help.

MR. GRIMES: That is not true.

MR. TOBIN: Well I have the letter.

MR. GRIMES: What you just said is not true.

MR. TOBIN: I got a letter today, and I did an interview with CBC regarding a person who -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I would not expect the Minister of Employment to understand a whole lot about that, because he is a living example of a two-legged hypocrite.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. member to withdraw that statement.

MR. TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I'll withdraw it, but I can tell you one thing: When this minister, on the steps of Confederation Building, can stand in front of a group of teachers and cry, looking for a pack of tissues to wipe the tears from his eyes because government was only going to give them a 4 per cent increase, and then he can come into this House and cut their wages for three years in a row, you can't call him a hypocrite, I know that, Mr. Speaker, and because you can't call him that, I won't say it.

AN HON. MEMBER: But that's what he is.

MR. TOBIN: That is exactly what he did. Yet the people today who are on compensation in this Province, are going to have it cut up to 40 per cent.

AN HON. MEMBER: Are you talking to that gentleman like that?

MR. TOBIN: Are you making your speech?

AN HON. MEMBER: Are you talking to that gentleman?

MR. TOBIN: Now, Mr. Speaker, you have the Minister of Health standing up in this House today saying that the only people in nursing homes today are those people who went there and dropped their suitcases and said: 'Here I am; take care of me.' That is not going to do anything, I say to the Minister of Health and to this government, for the people of my district in particular. They are the people who elected me and the people I am most concerned about. While I am concerned about all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, my first obligation is to the district that elected me.

I say to the gentlemen opposite and to the lady, particularly those in Cabinet, that your decision to attack the people on workers' compensation, while it may be consistent with your attack on people by closing down hospital beds, while it may be consistent with reducing the Budget last year by $5 million for the Department of Social Services, while it may be consistent with all of that, there are men, women and children in this Province who are hurting, who are suffering.

Mr. Speaker, it is not easy today for somebody on workers' compensation to try to survive on what they are getting. It isn't easy for someone working today to survive, in most cases. You have the civil servants in this Province who have had their salaries frozen for the last three years, have had their contracts ripped up, and yet you have a Premier who is going to spend $119,000 on new furniture. No wonder this Province is in the mess it's in. No wonder the Member for Baie Verte - White Bay was out in Gander the other day fighting the Premier.

I say, Mr. Speaker, with all the sincerity I can muster, to this government, for God's sake, go out and get a social conscience - that this government do something for the people of this Province who need support and assistance, the families in this Province today - and I spoke to the minister about it, and I know the minister is going to do his best, I said that today, as well - who have no doors to their porch, who have no windows in their living rooms, and Scotch tape trying to cover up holes, and the wind and the snow and the rain beating through it. When you have that kind of situation in this Province today it doesn't warrant the Premier spending $600 for doorknobs.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. TOBIN: It does not warrant the Premier spending $600 for doorknobs, I say to the Member for St. John's South.

MS. VERGE: That's per door.

MR. TOBIN: Per door - that's for one knob, $600, one knob, and he bought several. It does not warrant $118,000 for new furniture for the Premier's office.

MR. R. AYLWARD: Where did the old stuff go? What happened to the old furniture?

MR. TOBIN: That's a good question. What happened to the old - I tell you one thing: The Premier said it wasn't bamboo, it was oak, and then he said it wasn't oak, it was pine. I say to the Minister of Social Services that there is a lady in my district today who has no door to her porch, and a few pieces of matched board and a thumb latch is all she's asking for, to make the door. Sir, I can tell you, she doesn't want $600 for a doorknob.

MR. EFFORD: Go buy her a door.

MR. TOBIN: She doesn't want $600 for a doorknob, she doesn't want $1,000 per chair and she doesn't want $80,000 worth of wallpaper. How many homes in this Province didn't cost $80,000? How many homes in this Province today have leaky roofs and have wind blowing through them? Yet, this government during this past year, Mr. Speaker, would not put in place a program to deal with it.

I would say to the former Minister of Social Services, never to be a minister again with this Premier -

MR. EFFORD: I won't argue with that, I agree with you. Why did they fire you when you were there?

MS. VERGE: What is he doing sitting behind the Premier over there supporting all this extravagance?

MR. EFFORD: I have no choice. (Inaudible).

MR. TOBIN: And we won't accept you. So you have no choice. That's right.

Now, Mr. Speaker, that is what has taken place. How can you, Sir, support this government that spends $600 on a doorknob, that spends $80,000 on wallpaper for the Premier's office, that spends $14,000 -

MR. EFFORD: (Inaudible).

MR. TOBIN: What is that?

MR. EFFORD: You supported a government that spent $10,000 on cigars.

MR. TOBIN: Spent $10,000 on what?

MR. EFFORD: Spent $10,000 on cigars.

MR. TOBIN: Well, Mr. Speaker, all I can say to the Member for Port de Grave is, if any government spent $10,000 for cigars it is wrong. I would say that, Mr. Speaker.

MR. RAMSAY: Do you smoke?

MR. TOBIN: I don't smoke, I say to the Member for LaPoile. I don't smoke. $10,000! That is wrong. That would be wrong.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. TOBIN: No, Mr. Speaker, I do not smoke, I say to the member. I would say to the Member for Port de Grave, that does not justify this Premier spending $118,000 for chairs and wallpaper and desks and a few other things.

DR. KITCHEN: Watch out for your heart.

MR. TOBIN: I say to the Minister of Health, yes, I will watch out for my heart. Knowing that the health care of this Province is in your hands, we should all watch out for our hearts, Mr. Speaker, because if you continue to treat health the way you treated finance we will all be in trouble.

Now, as I said, he may be excused. He told us a few minutes ago how the book fell on his head and I think, Mr. Speaker, quite honestly, that the book had an effect on his head and I am not sure if that was in terms of brilliance or knowledge. But I will say to the Minister of Health: How can the Minister of Health look at the nurses today in this Province and slash, Mr. Speaker, rob, gyp, steal - whatever he wants to call it - the bit of compensation that these nurses are getting and, at the same time, be part of a Cabinet that permits the Premier to pay $600 a doorknob and $80,000 for wallpaper? How can he be part of a Cabinet that supports that?

I say to all of the members opposite: How can they support, in tough economic times, in rough economic times, when we have a $154 million deficit, spending $275,000 for renovations plus over $500,000 on his Cabinet room and, in addition to that, $118,000 for new office furniture, and take the unions of this Province into a back room yesterday evening and say, `You have to do something'? How can you justify that, I ask the members opposite?

The Minister of Fisheries says he is not going to do anything for the people of this Province, and he has done nothing. This government has turned its back on the fishermen and fish plant workers in this Province from day one. They have turned their backs on every one of them, including the ones in Labrador. Yet, Mr. Speaker -

MR. DUMARESQUE: How many times have you turned your back on the people in Labrador? I ask the member.

MR. TOBIN: Actually, the Premier turned his back on you when he said you were too immature to put in Cabinet. So if you are too immature to represent the people in Cabinet, indirectly, you are too immature to represent them in the House. That is what the Premier was saying.

MR. DUMARESQUE: (Inaudible) we will see the pork barrelling.

MR. TOBIN: I don't know. Pork-barrelling. Mr. Speaker, this government -

MR. DUMARESQUE: We will find out what happened to the fish plants on the Southern Shore. We will find out.

MR. TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, fish plants - I will tell you about a few fish plants on the Southern Shore if you wants to hear of them. I will tell you about a few of them, Mr. Speaker. I have some material here in my briefcase. The Trepassey fish plant was open in this Province as a deep-sea plant for fifty years - was fishing in this Province for fifty years when the closest plant was Job's in St. John's, and Burin on the South Coast. What did they get from the Minister of Fisheries the other day, those who were proposing to go in there? They got a letter - they got two, the first, given permission to go in there, and then they got the second letter from the Minister of Fisheries: 'In light of the current resource shortages, measures must now be taken to evaluate the processing sector. The provincial government has therefore imposed a moratorium on the issue of groundfish license, primary processing license, at facilities which are now inactive, including Trepassey.' That is what Trepassey got after fifty years of hard work in the fishing industry. A Minister of Fisheries who made his living representing the people of the Southern Shore who supported him when he was a federal member, has now turned his back on them and said: 'Close your plant. It is dead. Move.' It is part of a resettlement program, I say to the Member for Eagle River. When somebody has worked the deep-sea fishery in this Province for fifty years -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) see you on Thursday.

MR. TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, sure they will see me on Thursday. Not only will they see me, they might hear me on Thursday. They might hear me on Thursday as well, Mr. Speaker. But I will say to them before I sit down - I have two minutes left - that my constituents and, indeed, all the people of Newfoundland -

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. Member's time has elapsed.

MR. TOBIN: - expect better from the government. And I think, Mr. Speaker, that the least that government can do is refer this piece of legislation to a Legislative Review Committee so that the people of the hon. minister's district, of my district, of the Eagle River district and of every other district in this Province will have an opportunity to tell the people of this Province and government what they want in terms of changes to Workers' Compensation, and this government forget their callous attitude towards the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, and put the safety, the financial, and the social lives of the people of this Province ahead of $600 door knobs and $80,000 wallpaper. Thank you.

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

MR. DUMARESQUE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I am pleased to rise and speak in this debate, today. I rise and speak in support of this and the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations because I do have a social conscience. That is why I am here today, to say that I support this legislation, Mr. Speaker. I support this legislation because I want to see something that is going to be in place for my children and the generations after.

Mr. Speaker, I do not want to be a part of an administration or be in support of a minister who would allow partisan politics to be the order of the day, who would allow the fact that there can be taxpayers' money paid into a fund, as they have allowed it to be in pension funds, either the teachers' fund or the other civil service pension funds, Mr. Speaker, to allow that money to be put in there that has been worked hard for and paid there with all the intentions of having it used in the right way. But, Mr. Speaker, what has happened up to this point, if there is any consistency that has ever been applied in this Province over the last fifteen to twenty years, it has been that it is the partisan political benefit that is the order of the day when it comes to making decisions that are in the interests of the people.

Mr. Speaker, when these pensions funds were put there, were they allowed to be left alone to give the people the security that they wanted, that they worked for and they honestly felt was being put aside for them? No, Mr. Speaker, these pension funds were used to make sure that there was an extra road built down in the hon. member's district because he was supporting the PC Party. It was to make sure that there was extra pavement put down into the hon. member's riding either on Round Pond Road or any other place in this Province that it called for. If it was close to election time, it didn't matter. As in 1989, it didn't matter that the Workers' Compensation fund, if it were allowed, would, in five years, be bankrupt.

What amazes me, as a member of this Legislature, who tries to observe and acknowledge what the hon. members are saying from time to time, is that they have this unbelievable mind-set, this blockage, a total blockage in front of them. Don't they understand what bankruptcy will mean? Don't they understand that when you send in a cheque and there is no money there and it bounces, no benefits will accrue to that family? Don't they understand that the widow whose husband was in the Workers' Compensation program is expecting that cheque to come for the rest of her life so that she can provide for herself and her family, and that cheque would be worthless, the numbers on it would mean nothing?

That is what amazes me, that you can stand up there with all kinds of gusto and say: Let her go, let her go. Newfoundland and Labrador, who cares, if at the end of the day, the widow or the children or the injured worker goes to the bank to cash that cheque and they said: No, I am sorry, Sir, there is no money in that account. How can you come into this hon. House and stand up and be prepared not to support and encourage but to destroy the initiative of any minister here to add protection to that very important social program? Do they want to turn this over to private industry? Do they want to give people no other recourse but to go to the courts to get a settlement if they are injured on the job? Do they want to do that to the person down in L'Anse-au-Clair - who happens to be a person I know very well - who had an industrial accident and is impaired for life, a very, very unfortunate industrial accident, Mr. Speaker.

Do you want me to go back and tell his family and others in this Province that in the future he has to hire a lawyer, he has to go and sue a company, he has to pursue litigation in that way in order to get his rights? Mr. Speaker, they would be thrown to the dogs and that is not acceptable. And let there be no misunderstanding, what the hon. members want is to destroy the very essence of workers' compensation. I mean, don't believe us, don't believe that minister, don't believe that Premier, don't believe me - go to the chartered accountants firm, go to the independent assessor and ask them in all honesty, If we continue on this path, will the fund exhaust itself? Will there be any money in five years? And, Mr. Speaker, they will find the answer to be an unequivocal yes; that if you don't do something, if you continue taking out money as you are doing today, and pay, in the same way, into the fund, that it will be bankrupt.

I can't believe the intellectual dishonesty that is displayed time and time again as we have seen the debate on this particular bill come to the floor and continue, as they talk about how we have no social conscience. Surely, there is no greater social conscience than that of protecting the generations above and beyond your own personal situations. Surely, there is no greater social conscience than that of putting the people before your own partisan political interest. That is what is happening in this hon. House, Mr. Speaker. We have a government that took up its responsibilities after election day and said: We are now the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, not the Liberal party of Newfoundland and Labrador. We are not going to operate and be programmed on gallop polls, or be programmed because the member for a particular district that happens to be on the Liberal side is saying: If you do not pave another road in my riding I am going to lose the election. And he says then: Okay, we are going to see that it is done.

Well, there is no money for it. The Minister of Finance would say there is no money for it. But the mentality before: if there is no money in the direct current account, let's go and take it from the pension funds. That is what was done. Hundreds of millions of dollars - $165 million now in the deficit position in the workers' compensation fund.

That money was taken from these funds to make sure that their colleagues were brought back here into the House of Assembly. That is what I find so shocking, so intellectually dishonest, so much of a flagrant misuse of their position in this hon. House - that they would have to tell me to go back into my riding and say to my people, who are desperately in need of this kind of security, that what we are advocating is that you can have a survival of the fittest attitude; you can have a program where you are going to have to bring together your resources, and you are going to have to go out and make your case to a court; you are going to have to pursue that legislation.

Mr. Speaker, we have an entrepreneur in the Province today who is quickly trying to lead a charge against this particular legislation; who is trying to get out in front of the bandwagon and say: We have to get around this. We have to eliminate this, because he has a certain profit margin to protect.

We know. That is the philosophy of the Tory party. Apart from the political interest, there is an overriding philosophy, and there is a real difference, and there can be no more a piece of legislation to illustrate the difference in philosophy than what we have before us today. We have liberalism that believes that we must have a social conscience, we must have fairness in a system. We must have protection to assist those people who, through no fault of their own, are in this position; and if it was left to them to be able to challenge the system and access the courts and get that benefit, that they would not be able to do that. That is where liberalism is here, alive and well, and I am proud to be able to support it, Mr. Speaker.

What has been advocated over there is the traditional philosophy of conservatism - the traditional philosophy that says that there should be no protection; there should be survival of the fittest; there should be, as we have in the United States, that the benefits will only accrue to those who have the money to be able to hire the lawyers to be able to beat the system. Only those people will be protected under the philosophy that is espoused by members opposite.

Mr. Speaker, we are not only here taking the steps that are necessary to see that the workers' compensation fund will be there for generations to come. We are not only saying that there has to be increases and adjustments in the system to make sure that it pays. There has to be other changes.

We see a number of changes that the minister is talking about bringing in place that can only be acknowledged as very responsible, positive changes. The age limit for dependent children will be raised to 18, and dependent children will receive a proportionate death benefit of spousal entitlement if they are sole survivors of deceased workers. This is a very important adjustment.

A new provision will be added to allow payment of permanent functional impairment, even if there is no loss of earnings.Section 59, which eliminates compensation upon remarriage, will be repealed. A new provision will be added to broaden the application of rehabilitation programs to dependent spouses. A new provision will be added to stipulate interest for delayed compensation beyond thirty days, where circumstances arise over which the commission has control.

These are examples where we have seen thoughtful, conscientious, rational assessment of some of the faults of the program, outside of the financial. These are amendments that will make that particular social program, that social safety net, that much more secure for the people. They will know that they are being treated fairly.

Another element of it, and I know some hon. members opposite have raised it, that has illustrated the type of thing which we are talking about when it comes to being fair with people. Is the Opposition, Mr. Speaker, saying that a worker on workers' compensation should receive more benefits when they're on workers' compensation than they would if they were working?

AN HON. MEMBER: No, but ten per cent less is not more.

MR. DUMARESQUE: Mr. Speaker, we have in our system today workers who are taking home more money as a result of being on compensation than they would if they were actually working. People out there would recoil if they thought this was true. They would recoil at the fact that we have a system in place, and we have made contracts, and we have gone out there and pursued collective agreements that will see more money accrue to an individual who is on workers' compensation than if they worked their forty hours a week and if they got all the benefits that they did in the work place.

I can't believe that the members opposite would come in here and say that that is right, that that is fair. Is that fair to the person who is out there working on the construction job and who happens to have lost his legs or limbs, but because he isn't part of a collective agreement, he's not a part of a system, and he's not a part of some kind of a written contract that will guarantee him extra, above and beyond his net wages, because he or she does not have that then they are going to have to suffer for it. I can't believe that members opposite would want to stand up and say that this is right, this should continue because it is in the best interest of the people of this Province. It is not.

When it comes to seeing that expenses are put into check there's no doubt that we have no lessons to learn from the members opposite. We have no lessons to learn from hon. members opposite when it comes to expenses, and seeing that the expenses of hon. members or hon. ministers are kept in check. I'm sure that hon. members would know that in 1988 when the Cabinet was sworn in and the hon. Member for Torngat Mountains was sworn into the Cabinet, I'm sure that the members opposite would not stand up and support the kind of extravagance that was put into place for that hon. member.

AN HON. MEMBER: It wasn't!

MR. DUMARESQUE: It was not done, he says, it was not done. The marble bathroom was not built, he said. It was not built. The $125,000 bathroom was not installed, he says.

AN HON. MEMBER: Not done! Not done!

MR. DUMARESQUE: Was not installed. Mr. Speaker, I have to admit that I am the living proof that it did exist. I have to admit, because when we were sworn into office, and when we were told to occupy office space in this particular government, I was given access to take that office and to try and make some use of it until we found proper accommodations. I have to attest that yes, I did see the $125,000 bathroom that was put in place over there for that hon. minister.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. DUMARESQUE: Oh yes. There was certainly a lot of very glossy furnishings there, Mr. Speaker. There were a lot of brass things associated with that bathroom that I would not want to have everybody see in this particular Province. But the point has to be made that we have no lessons to learn.

In May of 1989, just a year after, after April 20, after the election was over, and there were fifteen days in between the time the government was gone - the gauntlet was down, the game was over, they were gone - fifteen days after that was all over the Minister of Forestry at the time would not accept it. He said: it can't be. The people of this Province did not throw us out, they did not cast us out, they did not say begone. He said: it can't be! So in order to try and find the truth, he went out to Corner Brook and hired a chopper.



He said: I have to find out if this is correct. I have to find out if, in fact, there has been a declaration that the Tories are no more. So he said: I am going to hire a chopper - $700 an hour.

AN HON. MEMBER: Who was that, now?

MR. DUMARESQUE: The Minister of Forestry, in 1989, the Member for Torngat Mountains. This was April 20. The election was over. It was all done - gone. They were banished. They were told they were no longer responsible agents of the government; they had to be dismissed. But it would not be accepted. The Minister of Forestry at the time could not accept it, so he went out and hired a charter, a helicopter, in Corner Brook.

AN HON. MEMBER: Where did he go?

MR. DUMARESQUE: He took off right up straight, as far up as he possibly could get, on the helicopter - right up straight in the air - and said, at $700 an hour -

AN HON. MEMBER: Still going.


For five hours, right up straight, saying: Please God, please tell me it is not true. After $3,500 of taxpayers money, the message came over: Go down, my son, it is over. No more can you take the $5,000 on helicopter time and be able to squander it just to seek some kind of thing that can never be back again, and that is, Mr. Speaker, having a government in place that has no social conscience; that has operated on a day-to-day basis for pure political gain. They have made decisions, accessed funds that were put there, paid for, duly paid for, by the workers of this Province, to be able to secure their futures, whether it was in the teachers' fund, or in the general civil service pension fund, or whether it was in the workers' compensation fund. They pursued, with zealous pursuit, to see that the application of these scarce funds were done so that they could secure another member's re-election to their side of the House; but that is not what the people wanted.

On April 20, 1989, the people had a chance to have their say, and they said, loud and clear: We cannot accept this kind of philosophy. We cannot accept this kind of management; and they obviously elected the members on this side of the House to carry out the duties of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, that is why I am proud to be here today, to say to these people who have given their trust to us, that we are doing what we have been mandated to do - to carry out the duties of a government on a fair and balanced program; to carry out the taxpayers trust on the basis that we are going to be fair to all people in this Province, and we are going to give them the security that, at the end of the day when they go down and try to get their workers' compensation cheque cashed, in five or six years, that they will not be told: Sorry, there is no money.

That is the challenge that we have now. We have, as members of this hon. House, on this side, to make some tough decisions, and we do not want to be doing them. We do not want to be doing any adjustment to a program if it is not going to be in the best interest of all the people. Nobody takes any pride in having to make any kind of adjustments for people who have been living on it and adjusting to it in previous years.

What we have been confronted with is not a question of whether it can continue and be able to come out with the same kind of benefits that it has in the past. We are not given the luxury of that. We are being told, and they are being told, that what we have in front of us now is a clear, black and white situation. We have a fund that is going to be bankrupt. We have a fund that will not be able to entertain a cheque in six years time. We have a fund that will give to the widows of this Province, to the workers who have no other contracts, to the people who have no ability to fight the courts, that there is going to be something there for you.

That is our responsibility, and I commend the minister for taking this courageous step. I commend the minister, after three-and-a-half years, as we have operated in this Province as the government, for having the political courage to be able to say to the people, honestly and fairly, that we are doing this because we want to see your future secured. He is not doing it, Mr. Speaker, in the first six months of the term of a government and be able to run away from it, and hopefully the people of the Province will forget if there happens to be some pain. This minister is saying to them honestly: we have to do it. The time has come that if we don't do it - and he's saying to them: if you don't re-elect me, I can go out knowing that I did what was right. I believed in what I was doing, and I did what I believed.

He can go out there with full satisfaction knowing that he played no partisan politics with this particular issue. He executed his responsibility as a minister of the Crown. He took that responsibility seriously. He didn't say, before he was sworn in as minister, that: I'll have to sign my Liberal card or my PC card. When he signed to illustrate that he was going to accept the duties as a minister of the Crown he did it as a legislator, as somebody who was committed to the future of this Province, to the future social and economic justice of all workers in this Province. He did so by raising one of the tenets of Liberalism that all people in this Province have been so proud to support, and that is to support the people -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible)!

MR. DUMARESQUE: - who through no fault of their own - and I'm not surprised that the Member for Kilbride would say: well, what are you talking about? It is quite obvious, Mr. Speaker, as a former minister of the government, that he would not know what I am talking about. As a former minister of the government who operated on pure, crass politics, he would not know anything about a philosophy of helping those who through no fault of their own cannot help themselves. He would not know anything about that principle. He only knows the principle of survival of the fittest. That if you can't pull yourself up by your own bootstraps then you should be banished from society. That is the principle, that is the philosophy that the hon. member operated with. That was the order of the day.

So I am proud to stand here and support this legislation, and conclude by saying that I would hope that as hon. members rise they would have the intellectual honesty to say - and not go out and mislead the people of this Province to say that there's nothing wrong in the workers' compensation programs. That there is an endless supply of money, that you can continue to draw on it and continue to take from it, and it will continue to say: write more cheques. That is dishonest, and I believe that all hon. members should at least show that much understanding and be able to take their positions that much more seriously. Because I don't believe that in this day and age the people are willing to accept anything less. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I speak in support of the amendment for the six-month hoist. In fact, I think it's only proper with any bill - especially one of this significance - that the public should have an opportunity to be able to have input, and there should be a little more time for people to assess exactly the implications that may occur.

Basically the workers' compensation Bill shouldn't be used as an economic measure, I think basically $160 million unfunded liability, most of it in the last two years, has escalated considerably. Part of it is because of a declining workforce, lower payrolls and less contributors into it, a lack of effort by the government to stimulate the economy and get things moving. To generate more employment, higher payrolls, more people working, the unfunded liability of workers' compensation would be much less. I think we have to look at the overall implications and give this Bill more opportunity to look at aspects that haven't been addressed to date.

We looked just briefly at a few clauses in the Bill. The appointment by the board of a CEO. Actually, the board does not have any new authority in this bill. It indicates that prior approval of Cabinet, if the Cabinet does not agree with whom the board appoints, he does not get appointed; it is only a little window dressing, so if the Cabinet says no, this person cannot be appointed, he cannot be appointed. In other words the Cabinet is saying you must agree with the person who is selected or we will select somebody else, so there is no real teeth in that clause at all. I think it is just a waste of paper and time.

Also, Clause 8 in the Bill says that section 44 shall not apply where a worker is injured or killed while being transported in the course of the worker's employment by a mode of transportation in respect of which public liability insurance is required to be carried. Does that mean, and I ask this of the minister: that if a person is commuting from one work site to another, or from a different location on that same work site, where there is liability and an injury occurs, the liability of the vehicle would not cover that individual, it would cover somebody who may be involved in the accident with that person. Is that person covered currently under workers' compensation or is that person without any coverage as a result?

Also, currently 90 per cent of the net is received by a person on workers' compensation. I think it is very irrational on the part of the government to rush in a bill without having an opportunity to assess the impact on individuals who are struggling to live on 90 per cent of net, not say 75 per cent or even 80 per cent and those who may, of a long term, have their amount reduced by 2.5 per cent each year until it gets down to 80 per cent over a four-year period.

With inflation and the consumer price index, which may be very low at this time but it is an inflationary factor and individuals are being asked to survive on less next year, less the year after and less for four years until it gets to 80 per cent and basically these rates are based upon their incomes I guess, when they went on workers' compensation. It is very unfair and I think it is very unfair too that people who have been on workers' compensation for five and six and ten years and have paid into an annuity, and now the annuity is discontinued and is put into the injury fund, these people could have seven and eight and ten and fifteen years contributing to a pension plan in which they would have a decent income when they retire.

AN HON. MEMBER: Your wrong.

MR. SULLIVAN: I am indicating that if these people had not been on workers' compensation and they were working -

AN HON. MEMBER: Who is paying for annuity, does the hon. gentleman know?

MR. SULLIVAN: The point I am making is that had these people not been on workers' compensation they would be out today as productive members of the workforce and would be making some provision for their own future. That is the point I am making. And also, I think it is important to certainly address. I think it has hired five or six occupational health and safety people, I think it would have been nice to have five or six occupational health and safety people two years ago when everybody was working and now today, we hire them when there are less people working. In an expanded work force we need more people, in a reduced work force we need less people. We may have been understaffed before, it is nice to see them there but it is a little late to react to situations when we have an unfunded liability of $160 million. It is a little late acting and that is one of the reasons why we are in the part of this problem as we are now. Had the steps been taken earlier, it could have alleviated some of these problems and also-

AN HON. MEMBER: Is your system (inaudible).


AN HON. MEMBER: Is your system in the fish plant covering injuries to your own employees?

MR. SULLIVAN: I can tell you that in the last ten years there have been two workers days lost; two man days lost in ten years in the fish plant that I administer and we pay up to $60,000, and that brings me to my next point on performance and accountability within the system. I think this legislation should include not only accountability, it should not only include performance and accountability over an entire industry, it should provide specific incentives for operations to have low injury rates and those that have higher ones -

AN HON. MEMBER: You said that yesterday.

MR. SULLIVAN: I will say it again today.

AN HON. MEMBER: You will say it again next week.

MR. SULLIVAN: If I had to say things that everybody else said, I guess almost every word that has been printed in the dictionary I would not get to say anything so, basically I am saying that, there are, yes, abuses out in the system. No doubt about it.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: No, there's always been abuses in the system. There will continue to be abuses in the system. I understand that people are swamped with calls and complaints of abuses. The people are overworked, they haven't got an opportunity to check out these abuses. They're overworked. That's contributing to abuses. I think an effort should be made in the direction to cut down on abuse and make the system more effective. That's one way that would help the unfunded liability in this particular program. Also, you cut down on abuse by investigating out in the field, checking people who are on compensation. The same as an RCMP officer, a police officer, gets out in the field and checks speeding.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible)!

MR. SULLIVAN: If a system is wrong, the system is wrong because of people. The system didn't get wrong on its own. It's up to people to correct it.

MR. MURPHY: (Inaudible) you're accusing the people of committing fraud.


MR. MURPHY: Yes, you are.

MR. SULLIVAN: I'm saying there are abuses in the system.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible)!

MR. SULLIVAN: There are abuses in the system.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: No, not at all.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. MURPHY: (Inaudible) say abuse, you're saying people are frauds.

MR. SULLIVAN: If the hon. Member for St. John's South wants to speak I'll gladly give him an opportunity out of my time. I will gladly give him the opportunity.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

It might be an appropriate time to remind hon. members about the correct procedure when they're interrupting a person. First of all, there's no correct procedure for interrupting somebody, because we're not permitted to do it. Practice and tradition in this House and other Houses is that if a member wants to ask a question he might do that, but if the hon. member doesn't agree to give him the time, or to yield to him, then he can't proceed with insisting upon asking the question or insisting upon interrupting.

So I ask hon. members please to keep that in mind.

The hon. the Member for Ferryland.

MR. MURPHY: Mr. Speaker, if he does give me time I'll be happy to answer his -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. MURPHY: I thank the hon. member. The hon. member has offered the time and I take the opportunity.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair is not aware of what's going on now. Is the hon. Member for St. John's South on a point of order?

MR. MURPHY: I'm accepting the offer of the hon. member, Mr. Speaker, to respond.

MR. SPEAKER: I wasn't aware that the hon. member had given him some time. Did the hon. member give him time?

MR. MURPHY: Yes he did. He said he'd relinquish.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Mr. Speaker, thank you. If he would like to ask the question I'll entertain one question in my time allotment, if he wishes to do so. With a one minute time limit.

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

MR. MURPHY: I want to thank the hon. member. I want to remind the hon. member: when an employee of any company goes to see a doctor to complain about an accident or an injury he says: I was injured on the job. He shows the doctor where his injury is and/or he complains of that injury. The doctor must respond to that. So you can't say it's a situation of fraud. You cannot say that. Would the hon. member explain in more detail what he means by abuse?

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Mr. Speaker, I understand that Workers' Compensation has discontinued compensation for people that they considered abusing it. So they themselves have admitted there is abuse in the system. Because I know of an individual who had it discontinued because of complaints that he was doing things that didn't fall within the limits of their injury. Workers' Compensation has admitted that by cancelling claims that affect it; that's an acknowledgement that they must have seen abuse in the system,.

If someone has an injury, the nature of the injury and an explanation and so on must be provided at the work place. Also, I think a key point I'd like to mention is that - and I'll ask the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations to pursue the performance and accountability aspect of businesses that have a high rating within a specific industry - not just industry-wide - and that some incentives must be put in place to encourage people to work and have greater incentives not only to remain within the workplace, traditionally it has been shown that in areas of inconsistent employment, that there has been higher rates of injuries than in areas that have high peak seasonal employment.

I would ask that the minister implement and bring in some changes to ensure that performance and accountability are parts of the workers' compensation, and that is something that is lacking in our system.

If we do not do something to correct the root of the problem, it is going to grow. We cannot expect to use it as a means to achieve economic means, solely. It is brought in as a program to assist people who really and genuinely need that level of assistance. I know that people receiving 75 per cent of an income, when they were injured on a job that they were performing to the best of their ability, and have to settle for 75 per cent of net is unsatisfactory, and is not capable of these individuals of achieving a decent living, especially in light that a bill has come to this House without having sufficient time to have this debated fully, and have the public input, and hear presentations by different sectors of the workforce in this Province to address these concerns.

I thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. RAMSAY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

With regard to the Bill which we are now debating, and the six month hoist that has been put in place as far as the amendment to the Bill, I wanted to make a few comments.

The Workers' Compensation Act probably, along with certain other social areas of government policy, has taken up more time of my tenure as a member of this House than any other single area.

It is not a social area as such, and this is to get into the problem associated with the ignorance of even the bureaucracy that exists at times. The majority of people you speak to who have association with workers' compensation think that this is another social safety net. They feel that it is a social entitlement, and therefore the kind of problem arises that we see today, wherein the pressures are put on the workers' compensation system that should not necessarily be there - pressures because of financial circumstance, and not necessarily pressures that exist as a result of the said injuries.

Now again this in the rehabilitation side of the area of workers' compensation, and the inability to rehabilitate some people because of lack of job opportunities, the inability to rehabilitate them because of a variety of reasons, some of which are in the area of training and determining just what it is that some people may need to retrain themselves for.

The problems that we encountered with the Workers' Compensation Commission have to do with the framework, I would suppose, of legislation that was in place prior to our arriving here in government. The framework is such that the commission operates under the legislation passed by this House, and from there you have a certain element of that legislation, which is the statutory review.

This statutory review, I understand, is completed every five years, and the one previous to our most recent statutory review of last year, there were a number of recommendations made, very few of which were acted on, Mr. Speaker.

Again, I feel that the opposition, who were in power at that time, chose to take the political route. They chose to play the politics of avoiding that which was necessary to be done with the Workers' Compensation Commission at the time.

I do not know. If they had done some of these things that they were so scared to do as government, I wonder, would the Province be in a better state, or would they possibly have been out of office a lot earlier, because they avoided dealing with so many things. They avoided dealing with the pension issue, with the issue of the unfunded liability of the pension plan. They avoided dealing with the workers' compensation issue. They have avoided dealing with the issue of top ups that have to do with workers' compensation.

As much as they dislike the idea that the top up issue had been something that they agreed to in the collective bargaining process, yet they felt they had no choice but to get rid of it because it was a total disincentive to workers to improve their situation and be more prompt to get back to work. As a disincentive it was certainly an element of the problem and it had to be addressed. Now this government has taken the - I suppose one could say in one respect the politically astute course. Others would say that it is politically dangerous to try to go after the problem of the top ups to workers' compensation. Now if you are going to deal with the financial integrity of the workers' compensation fund, then I think you would have to decide on the politics being the politics of caution in making sure that you protect the integrity of the fund, therefore to act on it in such a way that you plan to try to prevent the unfunded liability of the workers' compensation fund from growing, thereby you are doing the right thing. In this day and age it seems like the right thing is becoming more politically acceptable, to take the immediate pain for a long term gain as opposed to taking no immediate pain whatsoever for a short term political gain. It is the total opposite of the way the opposition used to run the Province when they were in government, but it is the kind of thing that we have to do now.

Now the bureaucracy that exists in Workers' Compensation, and I speak of bureaucracy in the broad sense, the Workers' Compensation Commission have developed systems over the years and they have grown from the adaptation of the old system of payment for loss of use of limbs where the people were compensable based on the percentage of loss they experienced in their own physical situation. Then it evolved into a system of payment for the loss of wages. So as it evolved, these systems that were in place were adapted and not necessarily totally changed and revised to accommodate the new system that is in place now.

Now this is information I have gained in working on certain cases for individuals who are having problems with the workers' compensation system. People within the higher ranks of Workers' Compensation over there have told me that the problem is they have a lot of outdated and ineffective systems of dealing with the problems associated with workers injuries. So what we end up with then is we are effectively not assisting the workers by having a system in place that through the process that they have evolved with is not as effective as it needs to be. So we have to be able to do an effectiveness analysis of the systems that are in place there, and this is the kind of thing they are undertaking now.

Through the process of the statutory review they were able to come up with a lot of suggestions as to how they might restructure, which they are now doing. They are doing some restructuring over there hoping to go on a client based system which will lower the overall cost of the operation in so far as the cost of the bureaucracy goes. So that would be a key element to expediting the claims, in seeing to it that people are treated more fairly and are not held at ransom because of the bureaucracy that is in place.

Now another factor that is in that, and I note in the Bill clause number 7(2) is a very key element of this, and that requires that the commission pay interest on compensation payable for loss of wages to a claimant where payments have been delayed for more than thirty days as a result of circumstances that are in the control of the commission. Therefore they are owning up to a responsibility that they have to the worker who is injured if they happen to hold up the Workers' Compensation for any period of time by having to pay the cost of the interest associated with the injury, with the delay in paying the worker the money that they were due.

So this is a key element in the, I suppose, what one would call the effectiveness, improving the effectiveness, but also a key element in having people own up to their responsibility of having the Commission own up to its responsibility to the injured worker.

Now, another area I want to touch on, Mr. Speaker. It's a newly developed area. I suppose you could say newly developed. It's an area that will come into being a lot more over the next little while. During the last number of years whenever involved in hearings and that on the Public Accounts Committee with institutions that are backed by government - and also the health care sector, educational, whatever - I usually question them as to what could be done as a single thing that could be done for you - as an agency or a commission or whatever - that would improve your overall effectiveness.

In the area of health care - in the area of injuries and this sort of thing - the key element that has been identified by administrators of hospitals and nursing homes throughout the Province, is the area of preventive medicine, of preventive health care, getting into the wellness area. This is a key element where Workers' Compensation is going to be able to focus on the wellness of individuals in the future.

Now again, the incentive has to exist on the part of the employer. If the incentive is there the employer will implement a wellness program that of course will benefit them in the provision of the health care benefits that are part of their collective agreements with their unionized employees, the cost to the employer is of course based on the experience. So the cost to government, as an example of an employer, is based on the experience of government in the overall administration of an individual health care plan, like the Blue Cross system that's in place for government now.

Likewise, if we improve the wellness of employees, and improve the chance and opportunity for them to participate in a wellness program, we will all be the better for it down the road, if people are involved in physical activity that'll benefit their health care and wellness in the future. Likewise, as far as improving their situation so that in the work place they're less prone to injury, they're less prone to health-related illness, and also would become better and more productive workers. If in fact they're healthier and happier on the job, then the productivity of these individuals will improve on the job as well.

So that's a key area and it's something that Workers' Compensation is exploring now. It will I think be an element of the future of Workers' Compensation which will certainly allow us to get the costs associated with the unfunded liability.

Now it's a long-term thing. It's not the kind of thing that has any great immediate results. I do feel that it will certainly have an affect in the future as to what the problems associated with the workers' compensation unfunded liability bring about.

If we look at the accountability of individual businesses as opposed to select groups. If you look at a group of employers, say in the fishery or forestry sectors, or what have you, there is a classification there. There will as I understand it be a minimum -maximum type assessment. I feel also there has to be - and it will take a while to develop this, because we're getting into a new area, the area of risk assessment and the area of experience ratings being put on individual employers is of course a new field insofar as workers' compensation goes.

There are underwriting risks associated with insurance companies that get into the area of assessing risk, and likewise underwriting risks associated with general insurance - as far as liability and that goes. It is a new area I would think in doing a thorough assessment of the risks associated with an individual employer the kinds of incentives that you can offer, and you would have to offer incentives that are certainly based on some formula that is a reasonable formula for incentive and not unreasonable in either way. Either unreasonable in being too small an incentive or unreasonable in being too large an incentive, again to a point of causing more problems for the unfunded liability if in fact you give too much of an incentive, you would be cutting off your nose to spite your face, in saving the businesses some money, when in fact they are not paying the true risk assessed to their situation, so that is another part of the overall equation that has to be taken into account.

Now, hon, members opposite, getting away from the substance of the Bill were often noted to comment, through this debate, on some of the expenditures of this current government in comparison to others. One would only have to think about some of the expenditures which were made for all of the best reasons. Expenditures such as the expenditure on Long Harbour which is, you know, an honourable thing to keep people employed in provision of some subsidies through the Hydro system to Long Harbour. But again, the costs were extremely high and we have to take into account the overall cost that had accrued to government. I know in the Baie Verte situation, St. Lawrence and a lot of others, it kept our people employed but again, at what price?

If there was ever an analysis done of the amount of money per job that was supported by the former government, it would just amaze people. The figures of which they speak, of $600 doorknobs et cetera, are just a pea in a pod in comparison to the kinds of expenses that were made. I say to them: they were made for all the right reasons, but again they were made without a total analysis of exactly what the cost per job was. I think if we did an analysis of our investment in the last three years this government has invested monies into job related activities, through Enterprise Newfoundland and other areas in which we have invested, I think the cost per job, according to my understanding, has certainly gone down and this is something we have to take into account.

Is it right for a government of the day, at any cost, to support employment for the people of this Province? And again there comes a point when you have to do an analysis and say: listen, it is costing us $100,000 a job to maintain this situation, we have to get smart with the money that the taxpayer is putting into this. On the one hand I suppose this is a key of being in opposition, and when in opposition you can tell the big lie, you can criticize for criticism sake and you can do these things, they are not referring to anyone and speaking in terms that are unparliamentary at all. But the big lie can be told and hopefully, if you get the right kind of press co-operation, the big lie can be perpetrated upon the public. Maybe it has been done in the past as well about limousines and cigars and liquor and fish and dry-cleaning services and these sorts of things and like you say, maybe it is all a big lie at times and if the public buys into it, then okay, we have to take a chink in the armour as the hon. members opposite had to take their chink in the armour of their limousines.

But again, we have to roll with the punches and these guys I suspect from now on until the next election, the only thing they will be able to speak of is the $600 doorknob. That will be their platform. I can see the ad now; a security lock ad on the tv, and you know this is the way they will be trying to sell themselves as the purveyors of the public purse, as the protectors of the people, as the people people. These members of the opposition will stand proud on the $20 million warehouses that were converted into hydroponics and they will stand proud on the revelation of three floors of Confederation Building requiring $80,000 worth of wall coverings, three full floor, as we stand in their $8 million monstrosity here, that was not necessary to have been built, but it went ahead.

They have the gall to criticize us afterwards for not stopping this, for allowing this to proceed - a decision which they had made, and for us to allow it to proceed was a terrible thing, but for them to award the contracts and to get into the mode of saying that we need a new Legislature with ornate appointments - and we need the solid oak this and that, and the sealskin covered leather chairs, and the opposition who had planned this - and, of course, we only have to look at the changes that had to be made. I think they felt that the government was going to be forever, and the opposition was going to be for a very short period of time, and probably even less, according to the number of offices that they had developed up there on the floor where the government members now sit. They were certain to have made a decision that they would be in government forever, and the opposition, as it stood at the time, would certainly maintain their position as an opposition, and the Liberals would be in opposition forever.

AN HON. MEMBER: Until next year.

MR. RAMSAY: Next year, is it?

Anyway, on the bill itself there are a few things here that I did want to comment on even more.

Some of the very much needed changes with regard to spousal benefits is something of a key area to be making note. Another thing is having to do with the ability for spouses to retrain if, in fact, it is required that they do so. I note in Section 21 (2) (d): To assist a surviving dependent spouse by providing the same counselling, academic and vocational services as provided to an injured worker where, in the opinion of the commission, those services are required by the dependent spouse.

That is a kind of thing that I think comes from a very sensitive government. It comes from a government which is very sensitive to the needs of the people.

You understand that when you make decisions that are very difficult to make, most of which you have had to make because the hon. members opposite failed to make the decisions when they were in power - they failed to make the decisions that were necessary - therefore we are left with the cleaning up. The big broom that we have had to use - it is a huge broom, Mr. Speaker - it is a broom that we have had to sweep away the casualties of the economic policies of the former administration - economic policies which nearly bankrupted the Province, and may yet succeed in bankrupting the Province.

I submit that the policies of the members opposite, when they were in power, are the main reason why we stand before you now with the dark cloud of a $158 million deficit hanging over our head. They contributed, in their term of office, to the overall element of the financial crisis which we now are going through, by virtue of their getting on the bandwagon. They chose not to pay down the debt. They chose, at the time when money was flowing in at an annual increasing rate of 8.6 per cent over their last four years of office - 8.6 per cent annual increase - they chose not to pay down the debt. They chose to spend, spend, spend, to go along with what was going on in the rest of Canada. The extra high inflation policies that certainly milked our country out of economic balance right now, when a place like Toronto, where a house that used to cost $60,000 to $80,000 grew to a $300,000 to $400,000 price tag. We wonder, when that falls back down, when we were living high off the hog back in 1986, 1987, 1988, and we were living high off the hog back then, as governments, out of touch with reality, Mr. Speaker, out of touch with the reality of just what would happen in the future, given the spending, spending, spending and that we now have to pay the piper, Mr. Speaker.

We only have to look at some articles from previous papers. I note here in the Sunday Express, February 22, 1987, the Premier of the day, the Hon. Brian Peckford, said that the Province was facing a financial crisis at that time. Now, this is when they were receiving increases, Mr. Speaker. They knew that it wasn't going to last forever. But they said, `Province facing financial chaos. Ottawa must make a new deal.' I note for you it says here, `In a wide-ranging interview with the Sunday Express, Mr. Peckford said, Newfoundland needs a new deal.' Now, we still don't have the new deal, Mr. Speaker, but at the time, in 1987, he said we needed a new deal on economic development, equalization payments, established program funding and fisheries jurisdiction, I note for the hon. members opposite. They were looking for jurisdiction when we couldn't even afford to pay for what we had.

Also, I quote the hon. Premier at the time. He said, `I would say that we are, in the full knowledge of every cent and dollar that is around that is going into our budget in the next two to three weeks, I would say that we have, at the outside, two years, and then it is 1933 all over again.' Now, in 1989 it didn't happen. We nipped it in the bud, Mr. Speaker. The people of the Province saw fit to elect us in 1989. At that time we chose to nip it in the bud. At that time we chose to take some of the bad medicine that was needed. We didn't go on a spending binge, trying to collect on promises made because, Mr. Speaker, this government made little or no promises in the way of the stadium-type finance package promises that were made by the hon. members opposite during the last election.

I, as one hon. member, made a promise to represent the people of my district to the best of my ability. I made no commitments as far as financial promises to them were concerned, if we should be elected. There was none of this pork barrelling and none of this kind of promising that, we are going to spend this here and we are going to spend that there. They were going to put stadiums in places, Mr. Speaker, where there was no water. No water, and they were going to put stadiums in.

Now, let's look. The Premier, back then, in 1987 - to get into some history here - said that if Ottawa was going to make a meaningful contribution to the long-term stability of Newfoundland, equalization payments and established program funding would have to be based on need and ability to pay rather than rough population figures. Because of a population decrease over the last few years, based on the continuing recession in Newfoundland, the Province would lose, at the time, $38 million. Now, this year, by virtue of the estimating system, a lack of effectiveness in the estimation and the guestimation, again we see a federal government out of touch. And because of that federal government's being out of touch, Mr. Speaker, we are now saddled with a $48 million bookkeeping error which we could have addressed back in March of 1992. But because of their being out of touch, through statistics and otherwise, with the financial situation of the Province of Newfoundland we are left to conclude that, well, you know, these are the federal government bureaucrats, they must be able to predict properly the performance of the economy.

Maybe we should have been a bit more cautious, Mr. Speaker, because at the same time we say to them, `You have estimated a budget deficit of $30 billion yourselves this year and we say you are off.' Maybe we should have been a bit more cautious, Mr. Speaker. They are out on projections for us by $48.7 million in the assessment of personal income tax and also the equalization factors.

So if we look at what the hon. Premier of the day had to say about it all back then, he said that he would go right back to the basis of Confederation and the statement in the new Constitution which says, `Reasonable levels at reasonable levels of taxation,' which is being violated. Now, he stated at the time that there is a violation. I would ask hon. members opposite to join with us in trying to effect change to the equalization and working closely with us in trying to assess the needs that we have to address over the next month or so with our very difficult problem.

The problem with workers' compensation, even though I went into that field, it has to do with the fiscal mismanagement of the members opposite, of not taking note of what the problems where with The Workers Compensation Act when the statutory review was done under their regime. I think now we again have to pick up the pieces of the past. I recommend to the hon. members of the House, Mr. Speaker, that they not support the six-month hoist, that we deal with it now, take the responsibility as it lay at our feet, and do the right thing, not vote for the hoist and support Bill 48. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS. VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The Member for LaPoile, the Member for St. John's South and other members opposite have been parroting the words of the Premier and the minister responsible for this bill. I listened this afternoon to both the Minister of Health and the Member for LaPoile saying with new-found fervour that the answer to our health and workers' compensation problems is better illness prevention, better occupational health and safety, more effort on promotion of healthy lifestyles. Mr. Speaker, I have been raising, in the House and in Estimates Committee meetings over the past three-and-a-half years, the need for a more vigorous effort in preventing illness.

Let's examine the record of this Administration. The Department of Health, which this year has a total budget of $850 million, is spending some $3.8 million on public health promotion and prevention, and that is down $100,000 from last year. This is a government that has cut spending on public health measures. Interestingly, perversely, Mr. Speaker, in their budget, they label this effort 'Health Prevention' on page 202 of their estimates. This year, the same as last year, they have a heading: 'Health Prevention'.

Mr. Speaker, we have a serious problem in this Province with our Workers' Compensation program. One of the manifestations of the problem is the alarming rise in the number of claims, and the sector contributing most to this increase in the caseload is our public health care institutions. The number and nature of hospital and nursing home workplace injuries suffered by nurses and nursing assistants has grown in a very disturbing way. The Minister of Health didn't address this fact.

Last spring while I was presenting petitions of injured nurses and their sympathizers in the Corner Brook area, I tried to find out from the government the statistics for workers' compensation claims by injured nurses. The Provincial Association of Injured Nurses - there have been so many workplace injuries suffered by nurses that they formed an association - that association, together with the nurses' union and the professional association, have tried to get from the Workers' Compensation Commission and the government the figures for the current Workers' Compensation caseload of injured nurses. The last I checked, they hadn't been able to get that information. Perhaps when the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations, who is responsible for Workers' Compensation rises to speak at the conclusion of this debate, he will address this question. How many current workers' compensation claims by injured nurses are there? How does that number compare with the comparable figure for last year, the year before, for the mid-1980s?

The Injured Nurses Association believe that there has been a drastic rise in workers' compensation claims by injured nurses. We have to ask, Why has this occurred? Why have so many more nurses injured themselves working in hospitals and nursing homes? Is it partly because the government hasn't made nearly enough effort to prevent these accidents and injuries? Is it partly because this government has cut staffing for hospitals and nursing homes, placing an unreasonable burden on the remaining nurses? Is it partly because of the current mix of patients with proportionately and absolutely more chronic care patients? Why has this government allowed so many nurses to be injured on the job? Why has this government not conducted a vigorous hospital and nursing home accident prevention program?

Mr. Speaker, the thought occurred to me a little while ago that today the most dangerous occupation in Newfoundland and Labrador -

AN HON. MEMBER: A politician.

MS. VERGE: - is not a politician, I say to the Member for St. John's South; it is not a fisherman, I say to the Member for Baie Verte - White Bay; it is not a miner, I say to the Member for Menihek - it is a nurse. Nurses are now involved in the most hazardous work.

Mr. Speaker, we do have serious problems with our Workers' Compensation program. Number one, there has been a sharp increase in the number of claims. As I said, a big contributor to that rise has been injuries in government hospitals and government nursing homes. There has been an alarming increase in the duration of claims.


MS. VERGE: Why? the Member for St. John's South asks. Is it because the injuries are more severe? Perhaps. Is it because the Workers' Compensation Commission has been inefficient in processing claims? I have seen some evidence suggesting that may be so. I see the Minister of Health nodding his head in agreement. The Member for St. John's South seems to grudgingly allow that that may be the case. After three-and-a-half years in office, this Administration is admitting that they have allowed the workers' compensation bureaucracy to become bloated and inefficient and unresponsive.

Is it because doctors and hospitals, lab technicians and technologists, are slow in treating claimants and diagnosing their problems? Is that possible? Is it because we don't have enough doctors and specialists, because the government has cut hospital x-ray departments and labs? Is that why? Probably.

Then, the premiums charged employers who fund the program have become oppressive. Mr. Speaker, it is just the employers in the Province, based on their payrolls, based on the nature of their workplaces, who fund workers' compensation; but, as we all know, employers have been hard hit over the past three-and-a-half years. They have had to lay off people. Some employers have had to fold altogether. Many have gone into bankruptcy. The number of jobs in this Province has shrunk. The size of a payroll on which workers' compensation premiums are levied has diminished.

When this government took office in May, 1989, the size of the Newfoundland and Labrador work force was 202,000. There were 202,000 people employed in this Province in May of 1989. Three years later, in May of 1992, that number had dropped by 20,000. This past May, there were only 182,000 people employed in this Province and, Mr. Speaker, that was before the Northern cod moratorium, which put over 20,000 more people out of work. These are sobering figures, Mr. Speaker.

The number of people on welfare in this Province has doubled since Clyde Wells became Premier. There are now 70,000 children, women and men in this Province getting social assistance, so, Mr. Speaker, there are serious problems with the Workers' Compensation program and there is a need for reform, but, Mr. Speaker, this government is going about reform all wrong - all wrong. This is another instance of bungling on the part of the Wells Administration. Early in their term, they set their sights on municipal amalgamation. With guns blazing, they set out to amalgamate about 150 municipalities around the Province. There are still dozens of municipalities on the hit list and they can't get a straight answer out of the Premier or the minister - can't get a straight answer.

This Administration has allowed dozens of municipalities and volunteers who make up their councils and their fire departments worry and wonder. Those councils are now struggling to put together their budgets for 1993 with time running out, and they can't get a straight answer from this government about whether the government will allow them to remain autonomous, and the minister is nodding in agreement. The minister must have a very frustrating job putting up with the likes of the Premier, who dithers and procrastinates, who can't accept responsibility, who resorts to blaming others.

The Premier has had an easy ride for the last three years, riding his constitutional horse across Canada. But now that the Charlottetown Agreement failed, the Premier has no choice but to stay home. Maybe that is why he is having $600,000 worth of renovations to his suite of offices. He is going to be using them for awhile instead of travelling the country.

The same as the Wells Administration bungled its handling of municipal affairs, it is now bungling reform to the Workers' Compensation Commission.

What is in the bill? Cuts - cuts to injured workers, and increased fees for the employers who are left.

Since taking office three-and-a-half years ago, this Administration has squeezed the private sector; has loaded tax increase after tax increase, after new tax, on businesses. The government imposed a tax on employment, called the payroll tax - a tax on the size of employers' payroll that has absolutely no connection to businesses' profitability.

Mr. Speaker, there is no such tax in the Maritime Provinces, yet our Premier rushes to enter into an agreement with the three Maritime governments to remove our local preference policy and open up the Newfoundland and Labrador market to Maritime businesses - businesses that do not have the tax burden of businesses in this Province.

This Premier has made it very, very difficult to do business in this Province. This Premier has made it very tempting for businesses to move their personnel to the Maritimes, or switch their base of operations across the Gulf.

What is he doing in this bill? He has had howls of protest from employers about workers' compensation premiums crucifying them; about trawler operators crewing in Nova Scotia, where the workers' compensation premiums are only half of what they are in this Province, instead of getting their crews from Newfoundland ports. What is he doing to address those legitimate complaints? Through this legislation he is going to be jacking up the workers' compensation premiums even more, squeezing the businesses even more.

Mr. Speaker, this becomes counter-productive. The more the Premier squeezes, the greater burden he loads on businesses, the fewer businesses will be able to survive, and the fewer workers they will be able to employ. The payroll diminishes, and the premiums get higher. Government is extracting more and more in levies, fees, charges, and taxes, from a smaller and smaller business base.

Mr. Speaker, the other part of the Wells Government's approach to reform, in addition to taxes, is cuts.

There is a great number of injured workers now drawing workers' compensation - people who work conscientiously and yet injured themselves on the job. Some of them live in the district I represent. Some of them are nurses who hurt themselves working at Western Memorial Regional Hospital because of unsafe working conditions. Some of them have come to me and told me about their personal plights. I will tell you about one of them.

She is a nurse. She is my age. Seven years ago, she injured her back working at the hospital in Corner Brook, because there were no rakes on a patient's bed. After her injury, seven years ago, she had surgery. She had a spinal fusion. The spinal fusion didn't succeed. She tried going back to work. She begged the hospital administrators to allow her to go back part-time, but no, it was all or nothing. She returned to work. She hurt her back again. She compounded the original injury. She had another spinal fusion. That didn't succeed either. Today that women is in a body brace. After about two hours of light activity she has to lie down. That woman and her husband have made their plans and plans for their family based on the workers' compensation scheme that has been in place, and on the benefits provided for in the nurses collective agreement. With this legislation she is now facing close to a 40 per cent drop in her income, income that she and her husband and their family have counted on for their future.

Now, Mr. Speaker, the members opposite -

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations on a point of order.

MR. GRIMES: Just on a point of order, Mr. Speaker, I hope that the hon. Member for Humber East - because I have been listening closely to her remarks - but with the example that she just gave I would hope that she does not misunderstand what is in this piece of legislation so badly that she would say what she just said and put it forward as being an accurate representation of the outcome of this piece of legislation, because that is the furthest thing in the world from the truth. If she doesn't know that, then maybe I would invite her to come over for a meeting so I can sit down and explain to her the impact of this bill.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: No point of order.

The hon. the Member for Humber East.

MS. VERGE: Of course there is no point of order. What I would like to arrange, I say to the Minister, is a meeting for my constituent, the woman I just described, so that the minister can look her in the eye and tell her that she will not be unfairly hurt by this legislation.

Mr. Speaker, one of the problems with the government's approach to reforming our Workers' Compensation Program is that they rushed it. Once again they haven't done sufficient research. They haven't done their homework. They haven't properly consulted the people affected.

Mr. Speaker, I support the motion for the six month hoist. By delaying consideration of these major changes, these increased premiums and these cuts of benefits we can get done the necessary research. We can obtain the benefit of advice from the people of the Province, from injured workers, from employers, from unions, and together we can come up with a better solution to the problems that have been identified with our workers' compensation program.

Mr. Speaker, with some effort we can improve occupational health and safety programs. With some effort we can stimulate the economy. We can expand the number of jobs. We can increase the size of the payroll so that workers' compensation premiums are not so disproportionately high as to be oppressive to doing business in this Province.

The last speaker, the Member for LaPoile, demurely said that when he sought election three and a half years ago he didn't make any promises. I don't know what was going on in Port aux Basques, but I can tell him that the Premier, when he campaigned across the Province and in Humber East, made several definite promises. The Premier promised to improve the economy, to create more jobs so every mother's son on the mainland could come home and work here at home. In a rousing speech in Corner Brook the Premier told everyone that a woman on the St. Barbe coast promised to kiss his feet if he would bring her sons home from the mainland. Wishful thinking on the part of the Premier.

The Premier promised to open more hospital beds, I say to members opposite. The members opposite condemned the previous government for what went on in hospitals and the Premier, as leader of the Opposition, promised to open more hospital beds.

But the topper of them all were his promises to build new university campuses. One university wasn't good enough for that Premier, then-leader of the Opposition, unable to scrimp by on $75,000 a year. A leader of the Opposition who had to have a $50,000 a year salary supplement. No sir, this Premier had to have several universities. He promised that if elected he would immediately expand Grenfell College in Corner Brook, that he would build a new university campus in central Newfoundland, then -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I remind the hon. member that there's a matter of relevancy. Maybe the Chair missed something. But we're debating an amendment, the six-month hoist. I've allowed the hon. member to go on for a couple of minutes. As I said, maybe I've missed the point, but I....

The hon. the Member for Humber East.

MS. VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I was simply rebutting remarks by the previous speaker, the Member for LaPoile, who couldn't have paid attention to his leader's campaign three and a half years ago.

Mr. Speaker, in conclusion, there are genuine problems with the Newfoundland and Labrador Workers' Compensation Program. There should be reform. This government is going about reform in the wrong way, as the government has bungled other initiatives. The government is bringing in legislation that offers no genuine solutions to the workers' compensation problems, just tax and cut, tax and cut.

Mr. Speaker, what we need instead are initiatives that are going to expand the economy, increase the payroll, add to the number of jobs, add to the base on which workers' compensation premiums are levied, and have effective accident prevention programs, and a much more vigorous public health effort, not the paltry effort provided for in the minister's budget, down $100,000 from last year, $3.8 million out of an $850 million health budget. Shame! His department should be called the department of illness, not the Department of Health.

It being 5:00, Mr. Speaker, I adjourn the debate for today.

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

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, I had hoped we would put the question, but Your Honour obviously is not minded to.

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

It will be no surprise to members on this side or the other side that we shall be debating the very excellent motion standing in the name of my friend from Eagle River, who no doubt will make another of his very good speeches. I commend it to hon. members opposite. They should listen, and maybe they could even learn. I move the adjournment.

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