November 30, 1992           HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS           Vol. XLI  No. 74

The House met at 2:00 a.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Lush): Order, please!

Statements by Ministers

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

MR. CARTER: Mr. Speaker, I take this opportunity to commend the leaders of the Province's five major churches for taking a pro-active and public role in nurturing more responsible stewardship of fish resources.

The formation of the Newfoundland and Labrador Inter-Church Coalition for Fishing Communities was officially announced in churches on the weekend by the five comprising denominations - the Anglican Church of Canada, the Pentecostal Assemblies of Newfoundland, the Roman Catholic Church, the Salvation Army and the United Church of Canada.

As material circulated by the churches points out, "For the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, living in this fragile economy, the only ethical course of action is to undertake an energetic and dedicated effort to rebuild the fishery - stock by stock, and species by species."

That message, Mr. Speaker, echoes the much repeated clarion call of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador for better management of our fish resources.

I point out that the five churches mentioned are circulating a petition calling on everyone to make the achievement of optimal sustainable levels on a stock by stock, species by species basis their highest priority for fisheries policy.

Mr. Speaker, the petition further calls for "the establishment of a form of joint management for the fishery, co-ordinated between the federal and provincial governments, which ensures a rational, non-political process, a process which strives for the full participation of the people of fishing communities in a transparent, accountable, decision-making process."

I do not need to remind this House that the Province has for years been seeking joint fisheries management. With the moratorium on northern cod, and other key groundfish stocks in serious decline, the need for joint management is more critical than ever before. I point out that joint fisheries management was a recommendation of Dr. Leslie Harris, who headed the task force on northern cod, and of Mr. Aidan Maloney, who conducted the Commission of Enquiry into the Erosion of the Newfoundland Fishery.

It is indeed encouraging that all of our major churches have spoken with one voice to call for more responsible fisheries management, and for shared management of fish resources. Again, Sir, I commend and support the initiative they have taken, and I strongly recommend and urge that hon. members also give it their full support.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I want to thank the minister for providing me with a copy of the statement. Of course, the news yesterday and today, all of the airwaves and the various media have been covering this issue - this initiative taken by the five major churches in the Province - the pro-active public role, I guess, in encouraging both levels of government to take a joint management role in our Province's fishery. It is a very, very important message, and one that we very strongly have supported over the years on this side; an initiative that we had hoped would have been taken before now, and that indeed this Province would have had a more major say in the management over our most important industry, the fishery.

As I said on occasion last week, I think, we missed a couple of good years. We really had an opportunity to put joint fisheries in the forefront of the nation, but we missed some valuable time and I guess the churches are concerned about that as well.

I want to commend the churches for taking this action. It is nice to see that they are calling upon both governments to get on with it because, as we all know, our fishery is in a critical state. The people about the Province are suffering. The Province's economy is suffering, and I guess we will probably be hearing a little more from the churches in the Province over the next number of weeks, particularly if this government continues on its collision course with the public servants of the Province. I expect that we will hear more statements coming from the five churches in the Province about action or inaction by the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador.

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

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

MR. HARRIS: I ask leave to address the minister's statement.


MR. SPEAKER: The hon. member has consent.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I also would like to join with the Minister of Fisheries and Opposition House Leader in welcoming the initiative by the church denominations on this issue of management of our offshore resource.

I would go further, as the Leader of the New Democratic Party, in saying that not only must there be a management of the resource that is closer to the Province in terms of joint federal/provincial management, but that there also ought to be a role for the communities who are dependent upon that resource to have a direct say.

I know the Member for Eagle River, for example, would support that in terms of the Labrador coastal communities. There are many communities around this Province, and regions, which are totally dependent on the fishery, and they themselves ought to have a say in how that resource is used.

I think, Mr. Speaker, mechanisms have to be found to provide some way for the communities themselves, and the participants in the fishery, to have a direct say in how that resource is used and how jobs are provided.

I believe, Mr. Speaker, as it was outlined to me by one of those involved, that the churches also see that as a way to go, and I am very delighted to see that kind of local initiative coming from the churches and I would like to see more support for that and some concrete mechanisms put forward by all parties who are involved as to how that might be accomplished, but there needs to be a say, a more direct say on behalf of the fishermen and the people who are participating in the fishery. If that was there, Mr. Speaker, twenty years ago, I do not think we would have faced the disaster we are facing now.

Oral Questions

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

MR. SIMMS: Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the Premier some questions.

I understand that he has now said publicly outside the House of Assembly, that it looks like it may be Monday of next week, the 7th of December when the government brings down its economic statement. I do not know, we have asked the question in the House several times as he knows and we have never been given an answer in the House, but the media are reporting Monday, December 7th as the date for that statement, and he has said that he was going to wait until after Mr. Mazankowski's statement I think which is this Wednesday.

May I ask the Premier first of all, to clear up when is it going to be, when are you going to do your statement, you must have a decision made by now? Why exactly would you have to wait to explain to the public why you want to wait until the federal minister's statement on Wednesday? What can possibly be in that statement that you do not already expect, and more specifically, in what way will it make a difference to the already difficult task that you have at hand in trying to reduce a $150 million deficit, to begin with?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Maybe I am mistaken or maybe the hon. member is mistaken. I do not recall being asked several times in the House what day it is going to be, but maybe I am mistaken; anyway, the record will show that. I suggested, Mr. Speaker, that we were going to try and aim for the 7th, but I also said to the media: if we do not make it on the 7th, don't say you failed to meet your commitment, it may be the 8th or the 9th, or it could be the 4th for that matter. We could do it ahead of time on the 4th.

We wanted to wait until after Mr. Mazankowski delivered the federal government's position, just in case. I do not know what is going to be in it. The Prime Minister did not confide in me and I would not have expected him to confide in me or any other premier for that matter, on what the federal minister was going to include. We though it wiser for us to wait, so if we had anything else to deal with, we would, at the very least be in a position of dealing with it all at the same time. We just think that that is a more sensible approach to it. But there may be absolutely nothing in the statement when it comes down, when Mr. Mazankowski's statement comes down. There may be absolutely nothing in it that would have directly impacted on the decision we have to make. I don't know that there is, but I don't know that there isn't either. It is erring on the side of caution that makes us take this decision.

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

MR. SIMMS: Mr. Speaker, if the statement is going to be brought down next Monday, December 7, 8, or 9 - and I can assure the Premier we have asked in this House on at least three occasions when the date is going to be. We may not have asked him specifically, but acting ministers or whatever. In any event, nearly a month will have passed from the time his Minister of Finance brought down his statement on November 12 to the time when he brings down his minibudget, December 7 or 8, whenever it is going to be.

Now, I have to ask the Premier this question: Doesn't he realize that all of the uncertainty associated with this time lag is putting a chill on consumer spending during a pretty high shopping season, the peak shopping season. It is also putting people through a lot of periods of anxiety. I am sure he is aware of that. Isn't he aware that businesses are complaining and are hurting, and isn't he aware that, because of all of the uncertainty, his own government's revenues are likely to erode even further? Doesn't he realize what all of this uncertainty is doing to the people of the Province?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker, maybe there is some additional uncertainty, I don't know. But everybody in the Province, as a matter of fact, just about everybody in the country, knows the difficult economic situation - not just the Province, but the entire country.

I was speaking last night with Premier McKenna in New Brunswick. They are running into exactly the same problems. Their problems are essentially of exactly the same proportions as ours are, the same kind, running into the same difficulty. It is happening in Ontario. I read the report in the Globe and Mail this Saturday, what is happening with the Government of Ontario. Everybody knows these circumstances.

Prudent managers, Mr. Speaker, don't rush at these decisions and implement decisions that may turn out to have been unnecessary or an inappropriate decision for the problem that we have to deal with. We also, Mr. Speaker, have followed the practice, since we have been in power, of letting people know as soon as we could what the circumstances are. We have been very frank and straightforward with people. We have not made any final decisions yet. We have some idea as to where we are going to go. We know, generally, some directions that we have to take. We are going to wait until we have everything done and make sure that we have to do all of the things or there is not some better solution.

In the meantime, discussions are going on with the union leaders, and hopefully those discussions will enable us to deal with the problem in such a way as to cause the lease possible adverse impact on employees or people generally who derive their income from the public sector and, in the end, the least possible impact on the overall economy. Mr. Speaker, it is a matter of prudent management, not just simply rushing at the problem.

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

MR. SIMMS: Mr. Speaker, I guess the Premier's definition of prudent management and the people's definition will be determined in due course. Let me ask him this: Every day now for the last three weeks or so there seems to be a new horror story about what the government plans to do in its minibudget; rumours are rampant. I am sure the minister can agree with that, and I am sure the Premier does. The latest public one is this story that some hospital worker in Corner Brook was told by some management personnel over there that severance pay would be reduced significantly or cut out altogether and that if people are thinking of leaving in the near future, they had better do it by Tuesday, I think, December 1st because if anything is going to happen, it is going to be effective as of December 1st and so on. That rumour is running rampant throughout the entire public service, by the way, according to the calls we are getting at our office, not just from that hospital worker in Corner Brook. So, I would like to give the Premier the opportunity to stand in the House today and at least put that rumour to rest.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: With respect to the first of the comments the Leader just made, Mr. Speaker, I would point out that the federal government knew days and weeks before we did what the overall situation would be, they knew days and weeks before they told us what the circumstances are, they are going to act by December 2nd. They are doing prudent management, I would suspect, preparing for it to put it in the right place, to do it in the right way. We were prepared to move rather more quickly until they stated that they were going to make their economic policy statement on December 2nd, so, Mr. Speaker, I think we are moving pretty prudently and moving expeditiously. I know the Leader of the Opposition would like us to move irrationally and rush at something and make a botch of it but we are not in the habit of doing that. Now, Mr. Speaker, the second part of it, horror stories are rampant, horror stories are not rampant, horror rumours are being generated and created, some of them by the very comments that the Leader of the Opposition is making. There is not one iota of substance to that, as far as I know. I mean, this is utter nonsense. There is no credibility to it whatsoever but I am not even going to try to give it credibility by pretending to deal with it in a serious fashion.

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

MR. SIMMS: Mr. Speaker, that is why I wanted the Premier to take the opportunity to clarify it, because I can tell him that these are not rumours that we are starting. These are people calling, worried to death, who are public servants, because they are hearing this rumour and they believe it to be true.

Now let me ask one final supplementary, Mr. Speaker, if I may. It seems as if we are really going through a replay of the 1990 Budget, because the same thing happened in 1990; the same thing happened in 1991, and now again in 1992, so the government has lots of experience in dealing with messes of this sort - there is no question about that.

I want to ask him directly a very serious question about this entire process: Was the Premier and/or the government informed by Department of Finance officials, back in March of this year, just prior to the finalization of their Budget, that the projected deficit this year was indeed going to be in excess of $100 million? And did the government, in fact, ignore and reject those facts that came from Finance officials and deliberately cooked the figures to show a $29 million deficit?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker, it is one thing asking the government to deal with rumours. It is another thing fabricating and spreading malicious, silly statements like that.

Mr. Speaker, what was in the Budget was exactly what Finance officials advised - not one iota different. For the Leader of the Opposition to stand in the House and make that statement is disgusting - disgusting.

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

MR. HEARN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

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

MR. HEARN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My question is to the Premier also.

I ask the Premier: Does he not think it is hypocritical for him to be espousing his support for a literacy movement while at the same time he is shutting down libraries in the Province? I ask him: Does he not feel like the Grinch when he is forcing library workers to take a week's unpaid holidays at this time of the year, just before Christmas?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker, that is another gross misrepresentation.

Two years ago when the government cut back on the public service generally, amongst others that were cut back were the libraries board. Last year they tried to put this money back in. They cut back on other things and hired in the public sector. Well that is up to them. They are running it; but do not come complaining to government if they make the decisions to run it in that way and say that government is closing the libraries. Government has nothing to do with closing the libraries. Everybody has had a reduced budget - the libraries board included. Their total budget this year is over $6 million - over $6 million - and what they have done is put in an additional $170,000 in last year's budget to replace the reductions that had taken place two years ago. The government could not agree with that.

Now they decide to run it in the way in which they did, but that is up to them to decide. We respect the independence and objectivity of the Public Libraries Board. What is happening now is that the union that represents the employees of the libraries are now organizing to try and make a collective agreement argument, and try and cause me to meet with them. Well I do not meet with employees and interfere with the collective bargaining process and with the procedures that occur in collective bargaining.


PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker, derisive laughter has never been a substitute for intelligence, and it is not today either. It never has been, and it will not be in years to come. It just displays a lack of intelligence to deal with it, Mr. Speaker, that is all.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker, the government has provided more than adequate support in terms of the financial circumstances in which the whole Province finds itself.

There was an increase of nearly $400,000 over the prior year provided to the Public Libraries Board. The figures I have here indicate that 1991-92 was $5,957,000. This year it went up to $6,400,000.

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

MR. HEARN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Well let me ask the purest Premier, who does not interfere with collective bargaining, if he realizes that there are many children throughout this Province who, due to the poor economy that he and his government are responsible for, do not have books of their own to read and have to depend upon the libraries?

And I ask him also: Does he know that this is examination time in many of our schools and universities? Our children rely - because they haven't got resource books of their own - on the libraries. What's he going to do to make sure that those libraries stay open?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: We could direct the libraries board to close them down at other than a time such as this. As I recall the statement that was reported in the news media, they were doing this deliberately to try and cause as much embarrassment and put as much pressure as possible on the government. Now, Mr. Speaker, if that's the way the Province's Library Board is going to be run by its executive director, or whoever is taking these decisions, than maybe we might well have to take it over more directly and run it more directly by Government.

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

MR. HEARN: Mr. Speaker, seeing the Premier is completely out of touch, I will go with a supplementary to the Minister responsible for Employment and Labour Relations, a former president of the NTA. I ask him if he realises that CEIC refer people who are looking for work - and of course that's hundreds and hundreds in this Province now - those looking for work outside the Province, they refer them to the libraries, because they have a source of national papers and job opportunities. I ask him: will he put pressure on his colleagues, and the minister responsible, to make sure that libraries are kept open, not only for the youth of the Province, not only for the workers who are out of work, but for those who are looking for work that they can't find in this Province because of this government?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker, I'll deal with that too, but let me just - because I may have been mistaken. The difference was $181,000 more this year than last year. That was the actual figure, of increase. But we didn't give them the money to do what they specifically wanted to do, because of the restraints.

Now if CEIC has been reduced - the great CEIC, Canada Employment and Immigration Commission - has been reduced to referring job applicants to public libraries to read newspapers, God help us, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. R. AYLWARD: This certainly shows a premier who's out of touch with what's happening, Mr. Speaker, when we see in this House of Assembly a premier who can't find enough money to keep a few libraries open when he can find $118,834 to provide furniture for the eighth floor and the eleventh floor.

MR. TOBIN: His office and Cabinet room.

MR. R. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the Premier if he could inform this House what happened to the furniture that was replaced on the eighth and eleventh floors? If it's in storage, would it be possible to make arrangements for me to go have a look at the furniture that was replaced?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker, I don't know that there's been any furniture replaced on the eleventh and eighth floor except: when we cut the size of the Cabinet from twenty-three down to fifteen we put in place the old Cabinet table that had been used for years and years. We brought it out of storage - where the former government placed it and put in place all these new expensive desks and equipment - and we distributed that around. I don't think it's in storage but I'll check on it. I believe it's being used generally in the public service - I don't know if the Minister -

MR. ROBERTS: Parts of it are in the Cabinet room.

PREMIER WELLS: I'll check and see. Some parts of it are still being used as tables in the Cabinet room. But we went back and used the old desks. There was a desk in my office that I gather the former premier used. I don't know why in God's name he ever got rid of the old furniture.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

PREMIER WELLS: - why he ever got rid of the old furniture.

MR. R. AYLWARD: He didn't!

PREMIER WELLS: I'm back using the old furniture.

MR. R. AYLWARD: He didn't!

PREMIER WELLS: I'm back using the old furniture that was there years and years before the former government took office. They put in place - I don't know how much money they wasted on it - this old furniture, and every time I moved I tore up my tie or my suit, because of the splinters coming out. So, Mr. Speaker, I went back and I got the old furniture. So I don't know that there's been any furniture replaced or in storage anywhere. The same furniture is still there as far as I know.

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

MR. R. AYLWARD: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. For $118,000 I would imagine some of it has been replaced. Certainly in the meeting room that the Premier is renovating. There had to be chairs in there that are being replaced. I ask the Premier to undertake to make arrangements for me to view what is in storage, if he could. I have another question for the Premier, the Premier who can't find money to keep libraries open in this Province. Would the Premier undertake to find out for this House if during the last month there have been ten desks, and during the last week ten chairs, delivered to the provincial courts in Atlantic Place, Mr. Speaker, at a reported cost of about $60,000?

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

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, I have no idea, but I'll take the question as notice. I do know we have ten judges down there who have managed to bring the docket in the provincial court up-to-date for the first time in many, many years - or more up to date. I'll take the question as notice and find out. I have no idea what's been delivered down there. There may well have been some furniture. I mean, there are people working there and they do need a place to work, I will let the member know.

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

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

Will the minister, while he is looking into this, find out what happened to the old furniture that was there, and if it is in storage, would he also make arrangements for me to view the old furniture that is now in storage, if that is (inaudible).

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

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, I will get an answer to both questions.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to direct a question to, I guess the acting Minister of Education, in the absence of the minister.

The minister has a letter from the chairperson of the Bonavista/ Trinity/Placentia School Board in which he says, and this is dated November 24th: It is now six months since the beginning of our fiscal year and we are still unable to finalize a budget because government has not yet announced school board funding for the 1992-1993 school year.

Would the acting minister tell us what is going on and how many school boards in the Province are in this position?

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

MR. BAKER: It is my understanding, Mr. Speaker, that the boards have been advised of the allocations but just in case, I will have that checked into in the next few minutes and advise the hon. member.

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

MR. TOBIN: Does anyone know what is going on?

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The board in the letter says, it has had to beg the government for interim grants to pay salaries, and spending on their maintenance and curriculum had to be curtailed and cancelled in some cases. I think it is shameful that this government is so incompetent that, after eight months of a year, the school board still does not know what level of funding. Could he advise the House, also, as to what level of funding they are to achieve for this year?

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

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, off the top of my head, I do not have the numbers for all the boards and so on. However, I can tell the hon. member that the amount of funds, the direct money that government gives to school boards in the Province for next year will be approximately, I believe, $8 million more than in the previous year. We have committed more funding, more money to the school boards in terms of funding than ever before.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

This problem seems to be related to the elimination of school tax. Can the minister explain why, after three years of planning to do away with school tax, the minister and his department have not yet figured out how they are going to fund school boards. I ask, is this gross incompetence?

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

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I would -


MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I would ask the hon. member to -


MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I would ask the Member for Ferryland to relax a little bit and I will explain to him exactly what happened in that regard.

The school tax was abolished, and I think people all over this Province are very happy with the fact that the school tax was abolished; number one.

Number 2: We have replaced the school tax revenue that would have otherwise been collected by the school tax, we have replaced it from general government revenues.

Number 3: We have, on top of that, added equalization. We have put more money on top of all that, on top of the school tax money, on top of the previous partial equalization, we have added an extra $8 million to pay out to the school boards of the Province. Mr. Speaker, there is more money in the budget now for the coming year and there will be for the coming year than there has ever been before, and I would like to point out to the hon. member that that applies to all, to every single school board in the Province, and not just to the ones outside St. John's. It even applies to the St. John's school boards, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Yes, I have been aware of the $10 million in equalization. The question I asked is: after three years of planning, does the government have a policy on how they are going to fund school boards, and furthermore, I will also ask the acting minister, will the minister answer a question referred to in a letter by the chairperson of that board that refers to clawbacks? Is it government's intention to claw back school taxes received by the school boards during the period April to June of this year?

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

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, there is no such thing as clawbacks in the context that the hon. gentleman is talking about. I can only say to him that the planning has been done. More money has been put into the school boards and to the school board system, in this Province and it has been distributed more equitably this time than ever before in our history -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. BAKER: - because we do not agree as members opposite did with providing differential funding around this Province and making school boards in the poorer parts of this Province suffer. We do not agree with that and we have corrected that inequity, we put more money in the whole system, and that is good planning, I say to the hon. gentleman.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Is the minister saying that after three years of planning to eliminate school tax, there is now no funding policy, as such, specifically in place? If it has been in place, why haven't the boards received their funding this year to date?

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

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, at this point in time the boards know exactly what funding they will have, and I said to the hon. member in the answer to my first question, in case he did not listen - he is not listening now, but in case he did not listen the first time, I will say to him that I have asked somebody right now to check on that, because it is my belief that they now know exactly what funds they will have for the next year as much as it is possible to do in any year, at this point in time. They now know, however, I have asked somebody to check to make sure and I will inform the hon. gentleman there is no need to get all excited about that. I will get back to him.

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

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

My question, Mr. Speaker, is to the Minister responsible for Employment and Labour Relations. I am sure he is familiar with the media reports concerning teachers in Western Labrador, having to withdraw their volunteer services last week, which has brought an end to practically all the extra curricular activities in schools in Western Labrador. Mr. Speaker, the teachers did this because they have acted out of frustration, anxiety and fear that a government is again going to be tearing up the collective agreement that they negotiated a couple of years ago. Given his portfolio as Minister responsible for Employment and Labour Relations and his past history in the labour movement, I wonder if he can guarantee the teachers in Western Labrador and, of course, the teachers throughout this Province, that in the interest of treating teachers and people in the labour movement with fairness and balance, treating them fairly and in the exercise of good labour practice, can he guarantee them that these collective agreements will not be torn up?

MR. SIMMS: A good question.

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

MR. GRIMES: Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question. It took him a little while to get to the question but in terms of the answer, to try to point this out, over the last couple of years, these particular teachers, because they have a separate bargaining unit, have taken upon themselves this particular action. They and only they will answer to the public for their actions. I cannot answer for their actions, nor can you, nor can anybody else in this House of Assembly, they will answer to the public for their actions. If you are proposing that they are taking these actions because something has happened to their collective agreement, then I do not understand the premise for that suggestion, because absolutely no decisions have been taken at this point in time with respect to teachers in Labrador West, teachers anywhere else in the Province or other members of the public service working in the Province. There are discussions ongoing, as has been pointed out in this Legislature today, there will be decisions taken at an appropriate time and announced, the unions are being involved, their leadership is being involved in the discussions. and only they can answer for their actions that they are now publicly taking and they must take responsibility for that.

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

MR. A. SNOW: Mr. Speaker, the minister may not know why they are taking their actions but I am sure that they will remember, the teachers will remember that he did not live up to his responsibility to their movement, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. A. SNOW: I wonder if the minister is aware of the fact that the teachers in Western Labrador are facing unemployment and cutbacks in their salaries, Mr. Speaker, because of the minibudget that has been announced by this administration? Does he also know that the mining companies have cut their grants to the school boards because of this infamous payroll tax reform that this regime, which you are a part of, has instituted, and that because of this, Mr. Speaker, they face layoffs and cutbacks in their salaries? Are you aware of this?

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

MR. GRIMES: Mr. Speaker, absolutely not! If anyone is portraying to the public in this Province, whether out of Labrador West or anywhere else, that this government has made decisions that will have that kind of an impact, that would have to be an improper representation of the facts that are before all of us, up to this point in time.

Now, there are discussions still ongoing. There are all kinds of discussions still ongoing that will become the full knowledge of everybody at an appropriate point in time. There are good discussions ongoing. A lot of people, by the way, are doing good constructive work to try to make sure that the best possible decisions, in everybody's best interest, are made at this particularly difficult time. If somebody wants to go forward and portray it as certain decisions already being made by this government, that is not true, that hasn't happened. The only thing is that the Minister of Finance has alerted the Province, generally, that we have a problem, that we are going to bring down some kind of a financial statement and a minibudget which was asked about today. It could be anytime, December 4, 8, 9 or 10. The decisions will be announced at that time.

Now, the rumours, the speculation and so on: If anybody wants to go around and take action, like the teachers in Labrador West are doing now, based on rumour, innuendo, speculation, that is up to them to decide. As I have indicated before, only they can answer to the public, to the students and to the parents for that, not I, not anybody on this side of the House, not anybody on that side of the House. The reality is, whether people choose to believe it or not, that no decisions have been taken that any teacher and/or any other public servant could say impacts in this way on me and my prospects for future employment, because it hasn't happened.

MR. SPEAKER: Question Period has expired.

Presenting Reports by

Standing and Special Committees

MR. SPEAKER: In accordance with Section 13 of The Auditor General Act, I hereby table a special report of the Auditor General regarding the audit of Memorial University of Newfoundland.


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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to thank the Government House Leader for consenting to the introduction of, and granting leave to present a petition which is not in the exact form that is recommended for petitions to government.

I have the honour today, Mr. Speaker, to present a petition on behalf of 4,000 residents of the Province of Newfoundland -

AN HON. MEMBER: And Labrador.

MR. HARRIS: - Newfoundland and Labrador, concerning the ...

I want to thank the Member for Eagle River, Labrador, for reminding me of that.

This petition is from 4,000 people who are concerned about libraries in this Province, and literacy. They say in their petition that libraries ensure that important information and knowledge is available to all. In smaller and remote communities, libraries are often the only place to get reading materials, news magazines, and research data.

This is a petition to the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador requesting that they provide funding to keep libraries open in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, this petition is from many of those small communities around the Province, from Embree, Twillingate, Pasadena, Codroy, Port aux Basques, St. George's, Cow Head, Lumsden, and many other places.

I do not see any specific petitions here from Labrador, but I know that particularly in Labrador, where the availability of access to particularly written information is very difficult, that these are of particular importance there.

Mr. Speaker, we have a crisis in this Province that is being addressed in the wrong way. As a result of the inadequate funding that the government has given to libraries; as a result of government decisions in other areas, employees are being asked to pay an extraordinary and unnecessary price for having jobs that happen to be in the public service or supported by public funds.

Today there are, in the House, library workers who are here to protest the actions of the government in providing inadequate funding to libraries. They are here because they are not working this week, as they have not been working another week this year, and neither are they getting paid. For two weeks out of the fifty-two week year these employees, as a result of inadequate government funding, are not getting paid. That is tantamount to saying that there is an additional tax on their income to support the library service and to support some of the government services. These people are being asked to suffer a loss of 4 per cent of their gross income because they are unable to work because of the inadequate funding that has been given to libraries.

Now, Mr. Speaker, you can cut it whatever way you want. The Premier can say what he likes about the operation of the boards, but these individual employees are being asked to bear a burden that no one else is being asked to share. They are having their incomes cut by 4 per cent in order to support the public provision of library services.

This is a terrible situation, and I hope that it does not foreshadow what actions this government is going to take in the next number of days and weeks in addressing the financial difficulties of the Province.

I hope, Mr. Speaker, that we are not going to hear about government workers being asked to forego income as an additional tax on their specific incomes, and that any hardships or any cutbacks that might occur be shared equally amongst the taxpayers of this Province.

We have a bad example being set here. Whether it is being set by the Public Libraries Board themselves or being forced on them by this government, it's something that we will oppose as strongly as possible. I know that the teachers will oppose most strongly and most vociferously and most politically actively in the coming weeks and months. If this government tries to impose this kind of additional taxation on people in the form of lost income and lost wages, there's going to be a very heavy price to pay at the polls come next election.

So I ask, along with these petitioners, that the government do provide sufficient funding to keep these libraries open so that the students, the public, and, as the Member for St. Mary's - The Capes pointed out, those looking for information about jobs and employment, can have access to public libraries which they deserve. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Tourism and Culture.

MR. WALSH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I just want to rise to address the petition that was presented and probably add some light to some of the statements that were given by the hon. member.

First off, I had the pleasure of spending Friday and most of Saturday in Toronto with tourism ministers. In private discussions with a number of ministers from Ontario they advised me at that time that they were getting ready to cut $600 million from their budget. They anticipated that not only would all government departments be affected, but also they anticipated that libraries as well would be included.

When the member talks in terms of the fact that we have forced people to do things, I should point out very quickly that this government forced upon the Public Libraries Board an additional $185,000. That was done in a time when most other government departments were being cut back. So an additional $185,000 was put into the Libraries Board.

Maybe the problem that we do have is that the Libraries Board themselves have been acting and have been operating independent of government. The Auditor General in their report for the last number of years, and in particular last year, submitted a very scathing report with respect to the Public Libraries Board for their tendering policies. I understand also from my hon. colleague for St. John's South that the Public Accounts Committee did likewise in a recent meeting.

I would say to you, Mr. Speaker, that if the Libraries Board was to adhere to the Public Tendering Act alone that they would have probably, in savings, netted enough money to keep the libraries open. I wouldn't say they would have done it entirely. I'll cite one example that was brought forward by the Public Accounts Committee or by the Auditor General. One in particular was the tendering practice to purchase two vehicles.


MR. WALSH: Three vehicles? The design was so specific that they got down to exactly what colour the vehicle should be on the inside. It had to have a red interior. Because there was only one person in town who could provide a vehicle right down to the final detail we probably - or the Libraries Board - probably spent thousands of dollars in excess of what was needed to purchase those vehicles, because the detail was so specific. I say to you that a lot of those dollars could have gone to keeping the libraries open.

Mr. Speaker, it's regrettable that the libraries have been closed for two weeks. In St. John's, as was pointed out this morning when I met with people who work there, in actual fact in St. John's the libraries have been closed for three weeks so far. In one week they were actually closed down while a new coding system was put in place, and regrettably people were unable to use the libraries during that coding process as well. That was something that was done to make the libraries more efficient; but in actual fact here, two weeks for budget reasons, they were also closed for one week so a coding process could take place.

What I'm saying is, when you look at the some $700,000 that was spent to purchase books last year, if that had gone through a proper tendering process we wouldn't be in the shape we're in today.

I want to say also that in October I met with the representatives of the Libraries Board and explained to them my concerns, and explained to them what I felt would be a plan of action that we could put in place to avoid this week's close down. I suggested a number of things, some of which included: 1) that we collectively appoint two independent groups to come together. Representatives of the Libraries Board, representatives of my Department, the possibility of some of the employees being represented. Then also, I suggested that we appoint an independent third person to chair the gathering to see how we could together, collectively look at the budget of the public libraries, to see where some funds could be saved and what we could do to avoid the closing that is taking place this week. The response I received from the Libraries Board was a letter asking me to define more clearly what my intention was and more clearly what it was that we were going to discuss. We end up here today, Mr. Speaker, with the libraries closed for yet one more week.

I am not sure what else we can do as a government or what I can do as the minister responsible than to ask the parties involved to come to the table so that at least we can have an opportunity to look at the budget process, so that we could avoid what is happening this week. We have done our part in trying to do that, but I can assure this hon. House and I can assure the people of the Province and I can assure the people who are working at the libraries, that as minister, I do not intend to see the tendering process abused in the future as it has been in the past, and that I intend to ensure that if the people involved are not going to follow the tendering process to the letter, so that we could get best value for the money that we are spending on behalf of the people of this Province, then I will ask Cabinet to put a group of people in place that will allow us to do that or ensure that we do that -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. WALSH: - and if I might, just in conclusion -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. WALSH: -and if I might, in conclusion -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

There are two members standing and we cannot have two, we can only have one standing. I will ask the hon. member to take his place as well.

I remind hon. members that when the Chair says the time is up, then the hon. member should sit down. If he wants to, he can ask leave of the House to continue but he should not carry on, so the minister's time is up.

MR. WALSH: By leave, Mr. Speaker?

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

MR. R. AYLWARD: No, Mr. Speaker, not while I'm standing he won't.


The hon. the Member for Kilbride.

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

Mr. Speaker, we have a petition here before this House with 4,000 signatures on it from all around the Province, at least from all around the Island part of the Province that we know of from what the member read out, and what do we have here but a weak-kneed minister who gets up here and attacks the Libraries Board because they have to close the libraries. The minister does nothing.

The first major problem that he has had in his department and he hides his head in the sand. Not only does he hide his head in the sand, he stands up here proud of the fact that the St. John's libraries had to be closed for three weeks instead of two weeks. Now, Mr. Speaker, if that is not the most useless thing you have ever heard from a minister, I don't know what is.

4,000 people petition this House of Assembly for our support in keeping the libraries open. Did they get the support from the minister who could do this with the stroke of a pen? He broke the rules of the House of Assembly by standing up here and not speaking in support of the petition as our rules say, he got up and spoke against it, which he is not supposed to do according to the rules anyway. He got up and spoke against it, he spoke of being proud that the St. John's libraries were closed for three weeks, how are the libraries in this Province supposed to benefit from a minister who is in charge of them if they cannot at least get the support?

The people who signed this petition can at least get his support to keep the libraries open in this Province, Mr. Speaker. We had 4,000 people sign this petition in this Province, some probably from Shea Heights too. I think there is a small library up there, I do not know, unless you have that closed down too since I have left, have you? I do not know if you closed that one down too, there was a small one up there at one time, but, Mr. Speaker, we cannot find a few dollars to open up the libraries in this Province yet we can find for the eleventh and eighth floors, $598,000 to make a few changes because it did not suit the Premier.

We can find half-a-million dollars for renovations to the eighth and ninth floors and included on top of that, we can find $118,834 for some furniture for the Premier's office and for the eleventh floor that already had the best kind of furniture that you could buy. He even supplied us with the cost of the furniture that was put in there before. There was $148,000 worth of furniture put on the eighth floor alone in 1985. But that wasn't good enough for the Premier, Mr. Speaker, he needed another $118,000 besides that.

AN HON. MEMBER: Lies! Lies!

MR. R. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, I don't know why the Premier would need that much money when we can't find a few extra dollars to keep libraries in this Province operating. Mr. Speaker, we all know the illiteracy problem we have in this Province.

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

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

MR. MATTHEWS: Mr. Speaker, I hate to interrupt the Member for Kilbride when he is responding to a petition, but on three occasions, heard by, I am sure, most everyone in the House, the Member for Carbonear has said, `Lies,' very loudly. We can't let that go on because that is not parliamentary and he must withdraw that.

I mean, what the member is referring to are figures that the Premier tabled in the House of Assembly, that he is reading from. They are not his own figures, they are the Premier's figures. The member must be corrected, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: To the point of order, on several occasions last week the Chair made reference to the fact that members are sitting in their seats and responding while other members are making a speech, shouting out lies. The Chair has said that this is unparliamentary. The Chair did hear the word, but I can't say who it came from. But an hon. member, if he said it, would stand and withdraw it.

MR. HARRIS: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the member for St. John's East, on a point of order.

MR. HARRIS: Mr. Speaker, I understand it is the duty of all members of the House, when unparliamentary language is being used, to advise the Chair of that. If the Speaker couldn't identify the member, I could. It was the member for Carbonear, Mr. Speaker, who on three occasions said, `Lies', in reference to the speech of the hon. member. I think the hon. member should be asked to withdraw.

MR. SPEAKER: To the point order, the Chair can't name a person at this point when, as I said, the Chair doesn't know. The Chair will check the Hansard. If the hon. member has said it, then he can clear the air very quickly and get up and make the withdrawal. If not, he can wait until I check Hansard.

The hon. the member for Carbonear?

MR. R. AYLWARD: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: I would ask the member for Kilbride -

MR. REID: He doesn't seem to be looking for an apology, Mr. Speaker, I don't think.

AN HON. MEMBER: It is not to him, but to the members of the House that the member owes an apology.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. REID: Mr. Speaker, yes, I don't have any problem withdrawing. I have been sitting in this House, Mr. Speaker, for the last two or three weeks listening to unadulterated mistruths.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. REID: I withdraw.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

All the hon. member is entitled to do, all he is supposed to do is make a withdrawal.

The hon. the member for Kilbride.

MR. R. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, it doesn't matter if he withdrew or he apologized or not. Nobody listens to him. The Premier doesn't listen to him, the people of Carbonear don't listen to him and, Mr. Speaker, I certainly don't listen to him.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. R. AYLWARD: Maybe, Mr. Speaker, he knows something more than I do. Maybe these figures are not true. He may have some more information that these renovations may have cost more. Maybe the hon. member would like to get up and tell us what he thinks the renovations cost and why we have the libraries in this Province closed down, when the Member for Carbonear keeps standing up defending the Premier's spending $750,000 on renovations to two floors that were done only four or five years ago.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time has elapsed.

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

Orders of the Day

MR. ROBERTS: Order 13, the adjourned Second Reading debate, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The adjourned debate, the hon. the member for St. Mary's - The Capes.

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

On Friday, I adjourned the debate on the Shops Closing Act. I was pointing out a couple of concerns, extremely important ones, in fact. I wonder if the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations shouldn't be called Roger Flutie because he seems to be pulling a quarterback sneak on this one, trying to get the stores open on designated holidays so that then they can say, `Well, everyone is working anyway. Look around you, everyone is working. So why shouldn't the public servants work on the same day.' The next piece of legislation we will see in this hon. House is a bill that eliminates the four days that have been taken away from the list of holidays. The people in the Province should be very, very concerned about this, especially the public servants.

We saw in the report - and I referred to that briefly on Friday - submitted by the Chairman the back-up information coloured so that it would appear that almost everybody is in favour of this legislation anyway. Those who came to the hearings, you know, supported it. Employers are all for it. CBC Crosstalk: A lot of calls were in favour of it. Look, if I wanted to doctor an open line show tomorrow I could easily do it. I know a few hundred, a few thousand people who could easily call in and stack any Open Line as all of us have done, I suppose, from time to time. It is quite easy to get a few to call in if you know an issue is going to be on Crosstalk or Open Line or anything else, and be all for it. Any politician worth his salt will never lose a poll on an Open Line show if he has any organization at all, and that is what we find in the report. What has Crosstalk got to do with the Shops Closing Act or the hearings? I didn't see Ann Budgell coming up to the hearings and telling us that she was in favour of the store closing days or that she had so many calls. It just added a little bit to the report which seemed to weigh it in favour of the minister because the government wanted to push through these holidays, the elimination of the four holidays, so then, they could eliminate them from the docket of the public servants of the Province and that next year or the year after, we will see that we have cut our statutory holidays down to the minimum and government is saving a lot of money.

Mr. Speaker, we saw the representatives of the largest unions in the Province come before the committee to say that they were not in favour of the elimination of these days as holidays for people who work in the stores. If we look at the larger centres, especially here in St. John's, most of the people employed right now are employed in the various stores. If stores are allowed to open on the four days designated, that means practically ever family is involved in having somebody going to work, whether it be the mother or father or whatever, you may say well what difference does that make, well it means that people who have holidays such as us and the public servants for this year can go shopping and enjoy ourselves but other people have to give up that day to go to work. What we are also forgetting are the days involved, now one of them I have no serious problem with and that is Discovery Day because the argument can be made, has been made and undoubtedly will be made again, that Newfoundland was not Discovered on June 24th, 1497, that John Cabot was only another visitor, we already know, have proof on the Northern Peninsula that the Norwegians were here years ago. When they came we had natives here to meet them and, of course, a recently discovered Irish manuscript basically proves that St. Brendan, in his voyages, as was always taught, came to Newfoundland back in the 6th century. So, consequently, Discovery Day means very, very little, except the time frame of the holidays. We had a gentleman who came before the committee, an individual who, on his own, came in because he felt strongly about the elimination of holidays and he made a few good points that nobody else did. He said, if you look at the time frame of our holidays, they fit in well with our overall scheme of things in living in Newfoundland and Labrador. We don't have the best climate, our geography is pretty rough, our terrain is rough and rugged, our transportation and communication systems, although they have improved, still have a long way to go - but the holidays that we get, give us that break, give us time with our families. Discovery Day is right at school's end, a good weekend to take off on a camping trip with the family, after the pressure is off the exams. The family can relax and go off for the extra day. We have St. Patrick's Day in the middle of March and what better time to have a holiday than in the middle of March? Then, you go on to St. George's Day at the end of April, a long drag before you get into May and so on. All of these holidays are little rewards, I suppose, that we have for living in the tough environmental conditions and tough overall economic conditions that we have in a Province like ours.

But there is also something else of extreme importance that I mentioned on Friday, and I am glad to see the Member for Harbour Grace is in his seat today because he was not here Friday, I do not believe when we debated this. What they are talking about here is really the eventual elimination of Orangemen's Day and St. Patrick's Day and St. George's Day but let's even up with Orangemen's Day and St. Patrick's Day. These two days in Newfoundland have a long history of tradition. For years people of different religious persuasions paraded, celebrated, historical events, religious events, that happened years ago.

I understand - I could be wrong on this - but I understand that perhaps outside of Ireland, Newfoundland is the only place where St. Patrick's Day is a holiday. For 37 per cent of the Irish Catholic population of Newfoundland, St. Patrick's Day used to be one of the three most important days of the year. You had Christmas Day, Easter and St. Patrick's Day, and I'm not sure which one came first. Because, up our way, the celebration of St. Patrick's Day took forefront over, I would say, certainly Easter, maybe even Christmas. Even today, all through my district, through Ferryland district, into Placentia, and I'm sure, in many other parts of the Province, St. Patrick's Day is a day when the Irish Catholics celebrate. We have our BIS here in St. John's, with the St. Patrick's Day parade, and, of course, we look to other places like New York and Boston and so on. So, these are extremely important days.

Now, you might say: What has that got to do with the bill? What we are seeing here now is that on St. Patrick's Day and on July 12, Orangemen's Day, and on St. George's Day, all the stores will be open. The malls will be open. So, number one, most of the people who live in St. John's, the larger centre, will now be working. And, as I said, it is undoubtedly the thin edge of the wedge. Because if all these people are working then why shouldn't everybody else? It would be just as well for everybody else to work then. We will see the minister coming in next year saying: Well, now we feel that these days are not important anymore, and we will eliminate them from our provincial holiday list, and the work force of the Province will also be forced to go to work on these days.

So, Mr. Speaker, I think we are setting a very dangerous precedent by toying with these days, especially the two that I mentioned, Orangemen's Day and St. Patrick's Day. Because a lot of people in the Province strongly celebrate Orangemen's Day, and you can't do it if half your membership is working, if you are involved with clubs and parades and everything else. Certainly, in my own case, to say that I know what St. Patrick's Day means up around - people would suggest -

MS. COWAN: Maybe they would rather be paid than parade.

MR. HEARN: The minister, who says very little when she is supposed to speak, the Minister of Environment, who says very little when she is asked a question, interjects from her seat: Maybe they would rather be paid than parade. Maybe you should take a poll of the workers of the Province and see are they willing to give up these days. They aren't paid holidays anyway, so it doesn't make any difference. They like the day off because it gives them time with their families to celebrate historic and religious events, which are extremely important to the culture and history of this Province we live in.

One of the strengths of this Province, if we are going to come out of the economic doldrums that we're in, one way to do it is through the field of tourism. We have in this Province a few specific days - forgetting our resources and our attractions. We have a few days in this Province, because of the way we celebrate them, we can draw people from all over. Two of them being Orangemen's Day and St. Patrick's Day. We have had people from all over who flocked to Newfoundland because of the way we enjoy ourselves and celebrate. We are getting away from the long, dreaded, dreary winter and having a bit of fun and relaxation. But most of these events can only take place because everyone is free to participate.

Mr. Speaker, I would suggest, and we will be suggesting, that the list of holidays be left as is. That is what our members on the Committee stated, that the list should be left alone. We agree, as I mentioned, with the omission of the clause regarding Sunday closing. Leave it as is. We agree with Thanksgiving Day going back, but the rider being the other days should also be put in. This government was taking out Thanksgiving Day. I know there isn't much in this Province to be thankful for over the last three or four years. There certainly isn't very much and maybe it would be just as well to eliminate Thanksgiving Day. But people still look beyond the fact - they are not thankful for this government, they are thankful for the free and open society that we live in and they would like to give thanks.

But I suggest to members that if you want to talk about history, if you want to talk about tradition, if you want to talk about culture, and if you want to talk about the way people feel - if you ask people whether they want to keep Thanksgiving Day, or Boxing Day, or Victoria Day, compared to Orangemen's Day or Paddy's Day, then I would suggest that both of these latter days will come certainly up the line ahead of many of the holidays on our list.

Mr. Speaker, I would suggest to the House, when we go to make final decisions on this, that we leave well enough alone. I would suggest to the people out there who are not aware of what is trying to be sneaked through here by the quarterback, that this is just the crack in opening the door which will now see the government eliminate forever, from the books in Newfoundland, certain days as holidays. To me, it is a shame that this be allowed to happen.

We have a lot of things here to be proud of, but if we start whittling away at our history and our tradition and our culture, then we are going to be just the same as everybody else, and that is one of the reasons they will give you. No one else in Canada has as many holidays as we have. Nobody else in Canada deserves as many holidays as we do. Nobody else in Canada has to go through the rough times that we do. So consequently, I don't apologize to anybody because we have a day or two more off a year than anybody else in Canada.

Is that why we are cutting out days, because we now have more holidays than anybody else in Canada? We have to be like every other Canadian? Whatever they do in Montreal we must do here? Whatever they do in Toronto we must do here? Mr. Speaker, we are different. We should be proud that we are different, and we should keep that proud feeling that we have, that we are different, because if we are going to attract attention here, if we are going to boost our tourism industry, then they are not going to come here if we are the same as everybody else.

Who is going to come here from Toronto if we are like Toronto? Who is going to come here from Montreal if we are like Montreal? Who is going to come here from - I was going to say 'Tickle Harbour'. Who is going to come here from Halifax if we are like Halifax? No one. We are different, we should remain different, and we are here on the verge of changing that difference, of eliminating that difference, so that now we are the same as everybody else. Mr. Speaker, when you look at everybody else, I would say to you, it is not a very pretty sight.

So, hopefully, before the day is over we will see some consensus in leaving well enough alone. Because I think the minister, getting all tied up in the pressures that he is facing with teachers and everything these days, really forgot the significance of the days that he is trying to eliminate, and will probably go to his colleagues and we will see the days that I mentioned added on to the list.

The other sections of the amendment we have no problems with at all.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I want to have a few words. I am certainly not going to be long-winded, but I would have a few words pertaining to Bill 22. I have no problem with Clause 3. I have seen, over the past number of years, where it was not lawful for stores to open, and they did open, and the fines were so minimal that they possibly made it in the first twenty minutes they were open. So the rest of the day was scot-free. I have no problem with increasing the fines in that area. If that is the law, then everybody has to abide by it, and if you are part of a conglomerate you have no more right than the ordinary individual.

The other thing I see about it, the present system where those big stores are closed, I have no problem with them staying closed. That gives the corner store people a chance to make a few dollars over the weekends and holidays and whatever. Those are the people who depend on those days when you can't go to the big store, so you go to the corner store. It makes for a better economy, especially in the rural areas - and not alone in the rural areas, I suppose, but in the urban areas, as well.

Mr. Speaker, I have a problem with the thinking of this government. There are two days there - my name may not suggest it but yes, my ancestors are Irish. I have great respect for them, but I have great respect, as well, for many other people, no matter what their religion, their history, or where they or their ancestors came from.

Mr. Speaker, this government seems to be taking away the bit of religious history that we always cherished and a day that we always looked forward to. I can remember home, as a boy, my mother making the shamrock. I can recall it. We were so proud to wear that shamrock and go to mass on Paddy's Day. I don't think that minister has a right to take that away. We still have Paddy's Day. But you can't do it if you're working. I don't think the government has a right to do that. This is our tradition, this is our history, be it English, Irish, Scotch, Welsh, or from the Scandinavian countries. A community that I come from, there were all sections there. People from Norway, that originated in the Scandinavian countries, Ireland, Scotland, England.

I'd have to be truthful, in saying to the hon. Member for Harbour Grace, he knows, and the hon. Member for Carbonear - there was a lot of animosity out there between Orangemen's Day and St. Paddy's Day. Look, that all went with the tide. There isn't any more of it. I now attend Orangemen's Day with the boys just the same as they come over and attend ours. It's a bit of a unification thing now. It's something that everyone looks forward to. It's a holiday, like my friend and colleague for St. Mary's - The Capes pointed out.

Those holidays are unique in different times of the year that respond to the needs of the people at those particular times. Mr. Speaker, I know that the Member for St. John's South will agree with me, that there were a lot of great things that happened on St. Paddy's Day, and so will the Member for Harbour Grace agree.

AN HON. MEMBER: You're against everything.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. PARSONS: The hon. Member for Eagle River. I told him before he was wet behind the ears and he's getting wetter. Wetter! If he keeps it up he'll never get beyond the seat where he is now. Never get beyond it. Instead of improving you're going the opposite way. I thought that when you came in the House, I said: you know, there's a fine young man now, perhaps the same age as one of my sons, one of my younger sons, in fact, and I said he perhaps has the credentials and perhaps the ingenuity, and the wherewithal to get - the Premier will make him a minister some day. But now I can see, no way. He even doesn't understand our religious history. He doesn't understand it. The little boy, he's only a boy, he never lived through it.

I heard the Minister of Environment today. It was pathetic what she said: wouldn't they want to get paid for the days rather than take them off? Mr. Speaker, I lived in an age when there weren't very many people out there getting paid. Very few getting paid. We always had St. Paddy's Day. I'm sure the Orangemen always had Orangemen's Day.

AN HON. MEMBER: You belong with Loyola boy, retire.

MR. PARSONS: They all had their fine days, and days that we all respected and cherished and looked forward to. The hon. Member for Eagle River, like I said, he's only a boy. He got up one day in the House, sure, and asked me what did I know about Goose, up in Labrador. I was in Labrador before he was born, before he was thought about. Now he's over there yakking away. It's just like a ripple, a ripple in a very small stream. The stream is not going anywhere.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible)!

MR. PARSONS: Yes. A little gurgle coming from over there.

MR. DUMARESQUE: That's Crosbie.

MR. PARSONS: Oh, glory be. Oh my. What you don't have to listen to. But, Mr. Speaker, the other part that frightens me about this government, and I want to say to the Minister of Labour now, he's part of this government, he's an ex-teacher, an ex-president of the Newfoundland Teachers Association. I'm very leery about some of the provisions they brought in too to do away with the denominational educational system. They're trying to do away with that - the religion in our schools. Now they're here today trying to take away the two holidays that we look forward to in a religious aspect, in a religious vein. They're doing the same thing with the denominational educational system, they are trying to get rid of that through the back door and my friends for Fogo and St. Mary's - The Capes, both colleagues said it right, they said: this is a thin edge of the wedge and that is what is coming.

The elimination of those holidays, the elimination of the holidays for poor people, for poor people, not for the people who can afford to take a trip here or a trip there, it is the poor working class and they are the people to whom we have to give some thought; they are the people who are making the bucks out there, who keep the country, the Province running. Those are the people who have every right to have that holiday and we should not sit here in our grand seats, in our grand offices and say: look, eliminate it.

Who are we eliminating or what are we eliminating, the rights of the ordinary people -

MS. COWAN: (Inaudible).

MR. PARSONS: The Minister of Environment and Lands may not understand, perhaps she did not come from an ordinary setting, but an awful lot of us here did. I do not know but she should be back in her seat -

AN HON. MEMBER: The little red hen.

MR. PARSONS: Yes, little red hen -

Back on her roost. But Paddy's day was a great day. I am very proud that I was part of it for a great number of years. I always had a lot of fun on it, but I have stated to hon. gentlemen here today that I had just as much fun up at the Masonic when we all went up there too, and had a spree -


MR. PARSONS: Oh, indeed we did -

AN HON. MEMBER: You were not let in up at the Masonic.

MR. PARSONS: Oh indeed I was, that old stuff went out years and years ago and I saw a lot of animosity, a lot of hard feelings when I was boy -

AN HON. MEMBER: All this happened when the new Minister of Justice arrived.

MR. PARSONS: All this happened when the new Minister of Justice arrived. Now I am not sure if he believes in anything -

AN HON. MEMBER: He is an Orangeman.

MR. PARSONS: He was supposed to be an Orangeman and I can't see for the life of me -

AN HON. MEMBER: An Orangeman?

MR. PARSONS: Yes, he was an Orangeman -

AN HON. MEMBER: They would not take him in, he said.

MR. PARSONS: They would not take him in. Perhaps this is where this is coming from, that is his way of getting back at the Masonic Lodge; that is the way for him to get back to the Orangemen; that is the way the Minister of Justice is getting back at the Orangemen: I am cutting out your holiday.

AN HON. MEMBER: He does not like anybody.

MR. PARSONS: The Minister of Justice does not like anyone. He does not like the Micks or the Orangeman, so there you are, there is the Minister of Justice. Do away with the holidays that will give both of them a bit of leisure time, both the Micks and the Orangeman, that is where it comes from. I did not realize until he walked into the Legislature that is why this legislation is before the House at this particular time. It is the new Minister of Justice.

AN HON. MEMBER: He is getting back at them.

MR. PARSONS: Oh yes, he is getting back at the Orangemen, they would not let him in. I don't know if I had been an Orangeman at the time if I would have let him in either, but I certainly would not allow him into the Knights of Columbus, I would be one person who would stand up and say: no, not him.

AN HON. MEMBER: They kicked him out of the Boy Scouts.


AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. PARSONS: I do not know if they ever kicked him out of the Boy Scouts, that is only a rumour. But, Mr. Speaker, going back to realism, I say to the minister that over a great number of years, even when money was as scarce as I suppose hens' teeth, there were always a few concerts on St. Patrick's Day and St. Patrick's Day was a holiday for us all and every one of us enjoyed it. We make up 38 per cent of the population of Newfoundland so why don't you leave it alone, why don't you leave it alone?

As much as big business would like to see all those holidays eliminated, we are not big businessmen, we are ordinary people who are here to serve the ordinary Joe out there, the working class. So I say to the minister: leave the holidays alone; you are not taking anything away from the elite but what you are doing is you are pushing down the people who make our Province work, the working class. They expect their holidays, that is all they have, a few of those days. Where you and I and a lot of us, not the elite, but a lot of us in the working class can take a holiday and go to Florida or some place. With those people, those are the few days they depend upon; those are the few days that the government should not have the right to take away from them, so I ask the minister -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. PARSONS: I thought that Murphy would be speaking on it, but I do not know if he is allowed.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. PARSONS: Oh, listen to himself. Oh, he has awoken from his slumber - the old ex-Minister of Finance. Oh, glory be! I think that this might be his idea, as well as the Minister of Justice.

AN HON. MEMBER: Grinches.

MR. PARSONS: The Grinch that stole Christmas - and now he is trying to steal away the couple of days that we have, that had religious value to a great number of us. Here he is trying to steal them away. He has stolen everything else from us.

MR. HEARN: Is the Member for Harbour Grace going to sit back and let them take those days?

MR. PARSONS: Yes. The Member for Harbour Grace and the Member for Carbonear - are those two hon. gentlemen going to sit back and let them take away those two days?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. PARSONS: That is what I am asking. At least I am up and doing my best, but I am in opposition. I do not mind the Minister of Justice. They would not allow him into the Orange Society. The Orangemen did not want him, and I do not know now if anyone wants him.

AN HON. MEMBER: They kicked him out of the Girl Guides.

MR. PARSONS: They kicked him out of the Girl Guides, my colleague says. I do not know. No, I do not think so.

Anyway, Mr. Speaker, I am dead serious in saying to the minister responsible: Look, leave the holidays alone, especially St. Patrick's Day and Orangemen's Day. Leave them alone. As far as Discovery Day, there are some people out there - St. Brendan really discovered Newfoundland in the sixth century, so that does not make one bit of difference to me, but St. Patrick's Day does.

Seeing that some of my colleagues would not be allowed to speak on it, I am sort of representing them as well in saying that -

AN HON. MEMBER: They have a gag order.

MR. PARSONS: They have a gag order, the same as all the rest.

I saw you today in Question Period when you were asked a question and the Premier stood up and answered, so it is sort of a gag order, yes. I suppose you could say gag order, yes.

In the meantime, representing even the other side of the House, I know the way those hon. gentleman feel, and I feel the same way. So I say to the minister, on behalf of all the members - most of the members on that side - even the Member for Bellevue, he certainly agrees with what I am saying, I say to the minister.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. PARSONS: That is right. He wears the ring, and I know it.

On behalf of all the members in the House, I say to the minister: You should be ashamed of yourself for bringing that legislation to the House. You should sneak out of here and say: Look, let's forget it. Let it die. You are insulting the greatest majority of people in Newfoundland and Labrador - the Irish and the English. Boy, come off it.

MR. HEARN: Why have committees if the unions are going to come and be against it and then to just ram it through anyway?

MR. PARSONS: Why? Why? What do you want committees for at all? The unions were all against it - taking away holidays. What were the committees for in the first place?

I must say to the minister that I never had very much faith in them in the first place. I never saw what good they really did do, because it was a foregone conclusion, with some minor amendments, that it was going through anyway. Here were all of those committees going around, and in fact made trips all over the Island, and the end result was the same.

The same thing about this shop closing act -

AN HON. MEMBER: Three amendments.

MR. PARSONS: Three amendments - but it did not change the body of the bill. I say to the minister now -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. PARSONS: I do not think he is a real bad fellow. In fact, I suppose in his heart he thinks as much about Newfoundland and Labrador, perhaps, as I do. I do not know.

In that light I say to the minister: Reverse your decision. Do not mind your colleagues. Do not mind the Minister of Justice. Look, I am positive the Minister of Fisheries agrees with me. I am positive. I would not even have to ask the Minister of Fisheries if he agrees with me. Even the old biologist - I cannot see why the old biologist who has a great lot to do with all those bills being brought before the House; he is the brains behind a lot of it - but I cannot see him doing something like this. He was never a mean man toward the populous. He was always out there saying, this was good for the poor person.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. PARSONS: It was him alone? Well the Minister of Finance is pointing to the Minister of Labour and saying that he is the one who instigated it; he is the one that brought it about; so it will have to lie at your doorstep.

But I say to you again before sitting down: Give it some thought. It is only a couple of days and it means an awful lot to an awful lot of people.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: If the hon. the minister speaks now, he closes the debate.

The hon. the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations.

MR. GRIMES: Thank you Mr. Speaker, just a couple of points before I move second reading of the Bill. A number of the speaker's opposite as they addressed this Bill did not express a lot of concern with the actual content of the Bill itself but stressed the point that they felt this was the thin edge of the wedge and that there was some other agenda here and this would lead to an erosion of some long standing and well respected holidays within the Province.

I will take just a couple of minutes to point out the distinction of difference that here we are talking about some amendments and some change as to whether or not the shops close on the particular day. I agree fully with the sentiments expressed by the members opposite because the same sentiments have been expressed by members on this side, that there is absolutely nothing, and I have this much faith in the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, there is absolutely nothing that we could do in this Legislature that will take St. Patrick's Day away from the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, absolutely nothing. There is nothing in the power of this Legislature that could take Orangemen's Day away from the people who observe and respect and want Orangemen's Day and so on. These holidays are alive and well in Newfoundland and Labrador and will continue to be alive and well and the people that are involved in shops, which is what this Bill is about, they will make their own arrangements to take their holidays on St. Patrick's Day if that is their most important day, they will take that day and celebrate it just like I do and regardless of whether it shows up as a shop's closing Bill or anything else, when St. Patrick's Day shows up I will be celebrating St. Patrick's Day in some way shape or form.

The same thing happens with those people who hold Orangemen's Day near and dear to their hearts, they will celebrate Orangemen's Day and if there are people involved that get impacted by the Shop's Closing Act who want to observe Orangemen's Day more so than any other day for the year they will find a way to observe Orangemen's Day regardless of what this piece of legislation says.

The holidays are well entrenched in Newfoundland and Labrador, everybody knows and understands that and the holidays will prevail. However, whether or not the government of the Province should declare that certain shops should close on that day is the issue for debate. We contend that there is no connection between the two. We do not subscribe to this kind of suspicious view that there is really another agenda, that will take care of itself in time to come. We are not stripping holidays, it is not a valid argument, we are realigning the opening and closing of shops to do business so that we will be in line with the rest of the country. The legislative review committee process has worked well in that there are three meaningful amendments that will come forward at the committee stage to be moved by my hon. colleague, the Government House Leader at that point in time, and we are convinced, as we were at the beginning when we introduced this particular Act, that the changes will make for a better situation with respect to people opening or closing shops and observing certain holidays and making sure that if the shops are supposed to be closed, that appropriate penalties are in place for people who violate those kinds of things. So with those few comments, Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to move second reading of the Bill.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Shops Closing Act", read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House on tomorrow. (Bill No. 22).

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, could we take order 20 please?

MR. SPEAKER: Order 20, Bill 47.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Co-Operatives Societies Act". (Bill No. 47).

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

MR. BAKER: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, this is a very simple Bill a very simple amendment to the Co-Operatives Societies Act, as all members are aware in terms of the credit union's in the Province, we have a number of credit unions scattered throughout this Province, the largest one being the Newfoundland and Labrador Credit Union and this government in essence guarantees deposits, there is an organization called the Credit Union Deposit Guarantee Corporation and it's function essentially is to oversee the guaranteeing of deposits in Credit Unions.

There are a couple of representatives from government which sit on this corporation, two, I believe, and three from the Credit Union Central. Credit Union Central's job is the development of Credit Unions throughout the Province. So Credit Union Central is responsible for the proper development and the spreading of the Credit Union movement throughout the Province. The Deposit Guarantee Corporation comes into play when a Credit Union is in the process of being formed, and it ensures that certain conditions are met in order for Credit Unions to be fully recognised and to have their deposits guaranteed. So that's the general set-up with regards to Credit Unions in the Province.

Unfortunately, when the original Co-operative Societies Act was brought into force there was an omission. This addition to the Act corrects that particular omission in the original Bill. At the time, government set certain regulations with regards to the operation of the Guarantee Corporation. There was never anything put in the Act to authorise government to do it. It was naturally assumed that government had the right to provide or to give them certain conditions under which they would operate, because obviously government is guaranteeing the deposits - is the actual guarantor.

So this was an oversight. We've since discovered that really there should have been in the original Act some kind of clause which simply gave the Minister of Finance the authority to make regulations respecting the organization, management, powers and responsibilities of the Credit Union Deposit Guarantee Corporation. That should have been actually stated in the original Act.

This Bill provides that amendment to correct an oversight. I should point out to hon. members that an unfortunate part of this particular piece of this legislation is that in the second clause, the commencement, the Act is considered to have come into force on July 12, 1991. It has a retroactive affect. Really, what that says is that the rules and regulations that have been used since 1991 are hereby legalized. So that's in essence what it's doing. Legalizing the mode of operation of the Guarantee Corporation that's been in existence for the last year or so.

Mr. Speaker, that's an explanation as to what this very simple Bill is all about.

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

MR. R. AYLWARD: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I thank the minister for his explanation of this part of the Bill. I'll speak a little generally on cooperatives before asking some questions on the Bill.

I was fortunate enough to be Minister of Rural Agriculture and Northern Development for a short time, and the cooperative societies, the Co-operatives Act, came under that department. I must say that before I went there I had very little knowledge of what cooperatives were or what they should be accomplishing. I, like a lot of people, figured they were more of a socialist tool to obstruct, to get a lot of people in one community to put pressure on to get their own way. Now I was educated fairly quickly while I was in that department as to the advantages of cooperative societies for particularly a province like Newfoundland.

Once I did get a good understanding of what the cooperatives were supposed to be achieving, and what their aims and goals were for the cooperatives, I happened to - my wife is a member of a consumer's cooperative here in the city, and I am about to become a member of the Eastern Farmers' Co-op.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible)!

MR. R. AYLWARD: I have come from a complete misunderstanding of what cooperatives are to the understanding that the cooperatives - especially the two that I mentioned - are nothing but good Newfoundland owned and operated businesses. That's their function, that's their intention, and that's what they should be able to achieve.

We have Credit Unions in this Province that have their board of directors in this Province. We're not paying out big fees to national banks or international bank managers and directors. We can operate a reasonable system in this Province under the Credit Union that's operating, and provide the board of directors from Newfoundland expertise and from Newfoundland people. All cooperatives should be able to work like that, Mr. Speaker.

One that I followed very closely over the last seven or eight years - it might be a bit longer than that now - is the Petty Harbour Fishermen's Co-op. It was not too long ago when people in Petty Harbour had big problems in the glut. Well, I guess all around the eastern Avalon, there used to be what was called the glut fishery. If we could only have those times back again, I'd say. Have them managed a bit better, but have them back. It would be very good.

The reason for the Petty Harbour Fishermen's Co-op was because of the glut fishery. It started temporarily for a while, the fishermen's union in bringing in offshore boats and trying to take care of it that way. But a group of fishermen in Petty Harbour, along with the help of the cooperative societies and the help of the Fogo fishermen's cooperative, actually, and the help of the provincial government at the time, a group of fishermen in Petty Harbour got together and made their own fish plant. They made their own business.

Every year in Petty Harbour it would seem to be always doubtful whether the regular business in Petty Harbour, the regular fish plant, the two that were there, were going to open. Whether the owners had enough capital to open up for the summer and that. There was always an air of uncertainty in the fishing industry in the Petty Harbour area. It became more certain I guess once the fishermen's co-op was open. At least they had a place to sell their fish. They even set quotas amongst their own members. Don't bring me in any more than 50,000 today, or 10,000 today, because we can't handle it. They worked hard. They made a lot of sacrifices to make a fairly successful business out of that.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. R. AYLWARD: Yes. Socialist plot is what I thought it was, there's no doubt about it. I told the people who were involved when I worked in that department that: I don't want to have much to do with this socialist type activity. Sam Kean is the actual person who educated me in this. I must say, he's quite an active, energetic young man and fairly business-oriented.

Co-ops are what co-ops are. They're businesses, Newfoundland owned and operated businesses. We should have more of them. The problem with co-ops is it's no good establishing a co-op from the top down. If the co-op doesn't start at the grass roots, if people can't convince themselves that they need a co-op - whether it be housing or fishing or consumer oriented - it's just as well not to have it. Because there are quite a few responsibilities that the board of directors take on themselves to operate any cooperative. There are quite a number of meetings, there's a lot of time that's required to keep these operated.

To get back to the Petty Harbour co-op. There was a lot of sacrifice, a lot of personal time and money invested in the Petty Harbour Fishermen's Cooperative. Right now the success or failure of that depends on our Department of Fisheries, our Department of Finance, our Department of Development, probably. Each of those people hold the guarantees that Petty Harbour Fishermen's Co-op got from government, the same as most other fish plants in this area. If government is not very careful of what they do with these guarantees, these government guarantees, we will have no more Petty Harbour Fishermen's co-op. It's a delicate situation whether they will survive or not. Without consideration of our Departments of Fisheries, Development and Finance the Petty Harbour Fishermen's co-op could quite easily be no more.

Mr. Speaker, as far as this Bill is concerned, I don't know very much of why this is made retroactive to July 1991 when the regulations which were gazetted in July 1992 were made valid. "This Bill would also provide that regulations which were published in the Gazette on July 12, 1992, were validly made." Then the Act is considered to come in place in July of 1991. I'm not sure if the dates on the explanatory note are the same as the date is supposed to refer to -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. R. AYLWARD: One is wrong? Oh. The minister might take that to his attention. I'm not sure what dates he's talking about. When he finishes debate, finishes his discussion with the member for.... The minister might take note of the dates that are in the Bill. In Section 2 it suggests that this Bill will come into affect on July 12, 1991, yet in the explanatory notes the regulations which were published in the Gazette were for July 12, 1992. Now I don't know if the two dates are a confusion. The minister might address that when he gets up to answer the questions. I know he's paying great attention there to what I said while I was speaking on it.

I would like when he gets up too if he would go over again the explanation that he made as to why this confusion or why the problem in the Co-operative Societies Act, and what affect it had over the past year - two years now, July 1991, July 1992, well, for a full year. What affect it had on the Credit Unions and the co-operatives that were operating in this Province. Does it do any damage to their business operations? Will it cost them any money to correct any mistakes or any problems that this oversight that was created and now is trying to be corrected?

The minister might get a chance when he - are you going to speak on this?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. R. AYLWARD: The minister might get a chance when he stands up to refer to the dates of this Bill coming into force and the dates of the regulations. He might give us some more explanations as to what problems this has caused for the co-operative societies and the Credit Unions. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. WARREN: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I want to have a few remarks on this particular Bill. I would hope that the minister who introduced this particular piece of legislation would be able to probably supply us with a couple of answers.

First and foremost, probably I should say that I've been associated with the co-op movement in our Province since 1973. In fact, I was a former president of the Terrington Co-op (?) in Happy Valley - Goose Bay when I was living there, and also served on the board of directors of the Newfoundland and Labrador Co-op Board the year before I entered the political scene. So I do have some time where I served in the Terrington Board and also with the Newfoundland and Labrador Board. Also at the same time I've been quite actively involved in the political field with respect to the Torngat Fisheries Co-operative. I have to say that the survival of the Torngat Fisheries Co-operative up to today has been due in a great measure to the support of the former government and the present government.

I have to say, in all fairness, that the government from 1979 to 1989 was very supportive of the Torngat Fisheries Co-operative. I understand that since 1989 up until now this government has been reasonably fair in making sure that there would not be too many obstacles in the way of the survival of Torngat Co-op. However, I'm left to believe that things may change and the belt is going to get a little bit tighter. I want to say to the minister that when you're dealing with a co-op that is geographically at a disadvantage, such as Torngat Co-op - which includes fisherpersons and fish plant workers from the district of Naskaupi, the district of Eagle River, and all of my district - it's very difficult to maintain the status quo.

So, Mr. Speaker, I would like to say to the minister, when reviewing the overall philosophy of the co-op movements in our Province, that the minister would be wise to take into consideration all these disadvantages that remote areas of the Province have with the co-op movement. At the same time, Mr. Speaker, I think it would be fair for me as the Member for Torngat Mountains, and I say this in the hearing confines of this building to the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology, that maybe it would be worthwhile for the minister to pay a little bit of attention for a minute or so, because we are talking about the co-op movement. At the same time I thought it would be an opportune time for me to say that I think the time has come for government to diverse the ownership of the government's stores. Let me explain to the minister, I will explain as I go through.

MR. FUREY: Mr. Speaker, a point of order.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology, on a point of order.

MR. FUREY: Mr. Speaker, could I ask the member to clarify what he meant? I think he meant divest of the Northern stores, is that what he meant? I am listening attentively and I will speak to the issue in a second, if he would like?

MR. SPEAKER: No point of order. The hon. the Member for Torngat Mountains.

MR. WARREN: Mr. Speaker, he can use both words if he wants to because both would go hand in hand, and I say to the hon. gentleman that I think it is time for - in fact, the government in the past couple of months has been looking at options. I want to say that those stores have cost the taxpayers on an average of about $400,000 to $500,000 a year; this is about how much the government loses on those stores. But the problem is, there is too much control of those stores from a few bureaucrats here in St. John's. This has always been the case, not just now, but those government stores are controlled by a few bureaucrats here in St. John's and they do not know how this works in the North.

That is the problem, Mr. Speaker, and I say to my hon. colleague, the Minister of Finance, that I think those stores would work more effectively and more efficiently if a consumers co-operative was formed in each individual community. I say this because I do not think it can work as one big co-op, as geography is a detriment to its working as one big co-op. I have to say, I may be a little bit off course, but I understand the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology - I would like to get the minister's attention on this particular suggestion I am going to make, because I noticed he shook his head just now when I said that the bureaucrats here in St. John's try to exert too much control.

I notice a few days ago, the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation gave a report in the Legislature, of public tendering act exceptions. Now, in this report the Department of Industry, Trade and Technology: the purchase of $8,400 worth of soft drinks, co-op soft drinks. Now let me just say to my hon. colleague, here are some of the problems we have when we are dealing with remote areas of the Province.

Not one manager in one of those five stores had ordered this product. This product was not ordered by one manager. The first thing the managers knew about this product was that they received an invoice from the St. John's office saying: This product has been ordered for you to sell.

AN HON. MEMBER: What is it?

MR. WARREN: It was soft drinks that were brought into the government store. I am just trying to tie all this in with saying to the minister that I believe a cooperatives can work. The people in the communities have always said to the managers: Here are some of the things that we should order, but that is as far as it goes. Then the managers send their requisitions out to their head office. But all of the sudden, things have changed, and they have been changed by the people at the head office who don't really understand the way it should function on the coast of Labrador. This has been going on, I say to the minister - I can't go back before 1967, but I can go back to 1967 when I managed a store in Nain, Davis Inlet and in Makkovik. The same thing happened then.

In fact, I say to my hon. colleague - he probably should go back and check the records - but I believe in 1968 in Davis Inlet there was about $17,000 to the good that year. I would say that might have been one of the depots that probably did make money, and probably because there was six-feet of snow and all the inventory wasn't counted. Again, this is just to show you an example of our last thirty-odd years. It is a business that government is not running properly. I say to my colleagues that I believe it is time to look at the co-op movement.

However, I was a little bit disappointed, I say to the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology, last week when I was in Hopedale. The people from the northern stores were there, I think three people from the northern stores, two from the Co-op Development and one private individual from the Island. The biggest complaint I got from the people was that there was nobody from the government there, from the minister's office, taking notes and listening. There wasn't one person there just listening to the propaganda that those individuals were giving to the people.

So I was curious. Now, the minister can get up and either confirm or deny it, but I am sure, knowing the minister, that he will confirm what I am saying. Halfway through the meeting, I decided to ask a question of a member from the northern stores. I asked was there any consultation with government. It was surprising that the member said, yes, there was. Government has been trying for years - in fact, I say to my hon. colleague, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology, a few years ago a famous person by the name of John McGrath came on the scene in Labrador.


MR. WARREN: A really famous person who was highly promoted to take over as ADM in Labrador. Mr. Speaker, I must say, I don't think we really saw eye-to-eye on all occasions. For some reason he was determined to get the stores transferred back to the Bay. In fact, there were many meetings going on because he was determined to get the stores transferred back to the Bay. However, I thought, Mr. Speaker, that I did the honourable thing when I was minister when I arranged for a one-way ticket to the mainland for the gentleman. So at least he is still up on the mainland. At the same time, he is still encouraging the northern stores to come back. So he is still trying to get the northern stores into operating as government stores. I say to the minister that I really think that people would seriously look at a co-op.

I think one thing is really needed before government makes a move on this co-op movement. I appreciate what has happened recently, consultation in the communities with the people. That is most important and it is a really integral part if you want to move those stores out of the hands of government, per se, into our cooperative movement.

There is a lot of education to be done, and I think that the people like Sam Kean and other people in the co-op movement here, and Jerry Stone and these kind of people are the kind of people who will help the minister to look at other ways of government not losing $400,000 or $500,000 a year.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. WARREN: I beg your pardon?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. WARREN: Mr. Speaker, I should say to my hon. colleague, yes, in fact our friend Mr. Parsons is the manager in Makkovik.

AN HON. MEMBER: Makkovik?

MR. WARREN: Yes, manager in Makkovik, and I am glad to announce in this hon. House today that it is quite possible - in fact I met with the individual only last week and it is quite possible he will be - at least he will be trying for the nomination of a political party in the district of Torngat Mountains in the next election.

AN HON. MEMBER: Oh, is that right?

MR. WARREN: Yes, Mr. Speaker, and surprisingly -

AN HON. MEMBER: Who is that?

MR. WARREN: No, he asked me a question about one of the managers in one of the government stores.

Mr. Speaker, I say to my hon. colleague -


MR. WARREN: No, Mr. Speaker. I know the hon. gentleman is as shocked as I am. It is for your party.


MR. WARREN: Yes, Mr. Speaker.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. WARREN: Yes, well it is very, very interesting.

By the way, I should say this to my hon. colleague. One of the most outspoken individual managers who ever served in a government store on the Labrador coast is the present manager in Makkovik. He has probably not followed all the rules and guidelines as government has set down, but one thing he has done is make government more aware of the problems that exist. I think you and I know the gentleman well enough that he is not afraid to stand up and say: These things are done wrong.

We have too many public servants today who are afraid to say anything. That is the problem, but unfortunately sometimes maybe this individual gentleman may say things where he does not necessarily have full support from his co-workers.

Mr. Speaker, before concluding my remarks, I just want to touch on the credit union. Again I think, during the last number of years, that I have had good conversations with the President of the Newfoundland Credit Union, Mel Strong, and they have started initiatives to get the credit union on the coast of Labrador.

If I resign today, or do not resign for the next ten years, there is one thing that I would like to see. Things have been done in the last number of years to get the ball moving. This Bill, I think, when it addresses the credit union, it is very, very difficult for the credit union to move into Nain or Hopedale, but I think it is more important today than ever, because banks do not want to move on to the coast of Labrador.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) Eagle River.

MR. WARREN: - and doing a good job. Yes, doing a good job from Eagle River, and they go to Cartwright and go to Mary's Harbour, and they are also in Goose Bay.

I understand now, talking to Mr. Strong, that moves are being made to get them coming out of Goose Bay office to go to Nain to start off with. I think it is a good move, long overdue, and this government will get full marks from this person here if they will continue to look in that positive vein of making sure that there are financial services available to the people on the coast of Labrador.

I say to the minister: I welcome anything, as pertaining to the co-op movement, that can encourage government number one, to divest, get away from, and take the stores out of the government's hands. I have always supported, and I will say this now, that I will not stand in this House; I will not go to the district and support those stores going into big business hands such as the Bay Stores, such as - well, to use any name - Lewisporte Wholesalers or TRA or any of those, I say Mr. Speaker, let the people in the communities decide. I have said that since 1967; it is the people's decision, those stores are built there by monies from the Federal and Provincial Government. It was built there under the Native people's agreement, and maybe it is time we could have a corporation such as the LIDC; LIDC would probably take it up as a corporation. It is in the people's hands so I suggest let the people decide. I believe I am fair to say, and I say this now in all due respect to the minister, I believe genuinely, he is on the right track; the minister is on the right track, Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, the bureaucrats are not. That is our problem, the minister is on the right track, the minister advocated what he would like to see done and I agree with that, but the unfortunate part about it is the bureaucrats in government, in Treasury Board, in particular. And it is no secret, I had my problems when I was minister and had these stores, because every year they want to get rid of the stores, that is, the bureaucrats in Treasury Board, because we are losing money. But we do not just get rid of them and let a big business take over which will go up there and make it worst than it is. Let's talk to the people and let the people decide.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. WARREN: The three years before, and maybe my hon. colleague from Kilbride, the three years before that, so it goes - and I say to the minister, you are on the right track, but keep consulting with the people and let the people decide. I would strongly suggest, Mr. Speaker, that I think the people want to hear from the minister - and I am not saying that the minister has to go to Nain with me or to have public meetings or things like that. But I think the time is about right now, where your staff have done their homework, and I think the people would like to see the minister coming up and showing them the positive attitude he has taken toward those stores and let that go into the community, as well.

But I have to say this, with all due respect to you bureaucrats, the same bureaucrats, by the way, that were my bureaucrats when I was there, it is very difficult to get them to say what the minister wants to see done. I can see that there is going to be money saved. The government can save money and we can definitely -it is as the manager of Hopedale, Ray Darby, said; and Ray Darby came on the Coast of Labrador the same year I did, in 1967. And at the Public Accounts Committee meeting in Goose Bay, I asked a question: 'Mr. Darby,' I said, 'can you tell us, have there been any improvements in the government stores since you came first on the Coast? And the answer he gave me - and I think you will get the answer right throughout the coast - was 'None; none and I think that is a fair assessment in cluing up twenty-five years of government work with the stores on the Labrador Coast. I think they want to see us moving in a different direction, and I think the people do, and they want a good service to be provided to those people. If the minister follows the intention he has outlined in this study on the government stores, I believe we will meet and achieve that goal. Thank-you.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology.

MR. FUREY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I don't know how to react to the hon. the Member for Torngat Mountains - he is killing me with kindness. 'The minister is on the right track' - I don't know how to handle that. That is quite a switch for the hon. member.

But the Member for Kilbride: we have a job for the member for Kilbride. He is not running again so we are going to put him in charge of the stores, particularly to monitor the inventory and to monitor door knobs, to make sure the right kinds of door knobs come into the stores.

The member raised a few important points. It is the government's intention, as he well knows - and it has been our policy to divest not only of the stores but to privatize that which belongs in the private sector and is better operated from the private sector. Now, the private sector, as he knows, can take on many forms. One of those forms is a co-operative model; with respect to the Marystown Shipyard, for example, we came very close to inking a deal to sell those assets off and we all know what happened.

MR. WARREN: (Inaudible).

MR. FUREY: That is right. So there is a whole range of things that we can do.

I should tell the hon. member that we are making considerable progress in our movement toward divestiture of the Labrador stores, and it is not because the government wants to abandon those stores. Let me be perfectly clear that the people of the Coast of Labrador will not be abandoned, and it will not be something where the government will arbitrarily come in and say: This is the way it is going to be. If you don't like it, you can lump it, and tough luck. That is not the way it is going to be done.

We have set out using the proposal from the Deloitte/Touche study that there are basically three options: either we can maintain the status quo, the current option, we can move those stores out into the private sector fully, or the third option is the co-operative model.

Now, I took a position, as minister, and I got concurrence from my Cabinet colleagues, that the co-operative model is the best option at this time; but to do that, as the hon. member knows, you cannot just arbitrarily, in cold turkey fashion, dump these stores as a co-operative -

Is there a fire alarm or something, Mr. Speaker?

DR. KITCHEN: It is pretty hot in here, but not that hot.

MR. ROBERTS: 'Garfield's' speech.

MR. FUREY: There may well be a fire alarm. I don't know if it goes off in here.

AN HON. MEMBER: Oh yes, it will go off.

MR. FUREY: Does it?

AN HON. MEMBER: Sure who cares?

MR. FUREY: The hon. member has a good point.

AN HON. MEMBER: There is music somewhere.

MR. FUREY: Christmas music? Okay.

So we opted for the co-op model, but we went a step further. We said, we are not going to do this just cold turkey, so we instructed the Labrador college, as you know, to have a series of conferences with proper translation and that kind of thing. You attended some of them, I think. They tell me those sessions went very well and I am waiting for a full report to come back.

That is not going to solve it and get it out into the co-operative model either. I see a period of time, considerable time, before we actually get -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FUREY: Maybe. It may well be two years, three years, I don't know, but the government is not going to arbitrarily abandon the people of Coastal Labrador and just leave those stores helter-skelter in their laps and walk away from it. That is not the premise or the foundation or the principle upon which we are operating.

So the Labrador Community College is helping us, Enterprise Newfoundland is helping us in the Labrador region, and, indeed, the government senior officials have been instructed to move in a very logical and methodical way toward the co-operative model.

We have saved, last year, $487,000 in the stores. The member was there for the Public Accounts Committee and he knows that. And we have instituted new things that the report has said. We should be redeeming coupons and those kinds of things, staggering hours for better access by people. So there have been a number of improvements, including taking the hon. the former minister's picture out of the stores. We have noticed our sales have gone up every since we have taken his picture out.

The first time I ever visited the stores of Labrador, I walked into the first one in Hopedale - I think the hon. member was with me - and just over the frozen turkeys was a great picture of the hon. the Member from Torngat Mountains, and it said: The hon. the Minister of Northern Development.

MR. ROBERTS: A special on turkeys, was there, that day?

MR. FUREY: No, but right under the picture was 'on sale' - I don't know if that meant anything, or whatever; but we did take those pictures down in all five stores. He looked like a little king of a fiefdom or something. We took all of the pictures down, and immediately the sales went up. It was just amazing!

MR. ROBERTS: Oh, you are kidding now. That is not true.

MR. FUREY: I am kidding.

But we have saved considerable money, and I just want to assure the hon. member and the people of Labrador, particularly those who are most affected, that the government (a) will not abandon; (b) will fully consult; and (c) will only move toward that model which we have directed, the co-operative model, when the time is right.

Let me add one further thing. I should say this to the House, as well. One of the problems we have - the hon. member said that we are not good storekeepers. You are absolutely right. The government, for thirty years, or twenty-five years, or whatever it is, twenty-seven years, have not been good storekeepers because we are bound by the Public Tendering Act, and we have to go through the central purchasing agency and therefore we cannot take advantage of sales and all of these bulk purchasing items that we would like to be able to do as normal storekeepers could.

For example, my friend from St. John's East Extern, if he were competing with us and there were sales, say, on twenty-five cases of beans, and he wanted them for his store and we wanted them for our stores, we would have to go through the rigamarole of going through public tender and going through the paper work, the red tape. By that time he has them all bought and taken to his store. It really puts us at a disadvantage. The hon. member knows that, being the former minister responsible for the stores, when his hands were tied, as well.

So we have to figure out a way to get around that. I am not sure what the answer is, because that is why you see my colleague, the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation, putting these exemptions in his public proposals that he has to table before the House showing exemptions. We don't want to be putting in these exemptions, but we are forced to do so many times, and it makes it look like we are doing something wrong.

The problem is that the stores are being operated through a line department. Now, we have to figure out a way to lift them out of the line department and perhaps the answer is to transfer full authority to the Crown under Enterprise Newfoundland and Labrador at Labrador. I am examining that option now, I can tell my friend. If we can get out from under all the red tape and regulations by doing that -

MR. R. AYLWARD: Sell them to the Co-op.

MR. FUREY: I don't know if my hon. friend was listening to the whole debate. He just woke up. He just had doorknobs and sugarplums in his head.

The whole debate has been about moving the stores into a Co-operative model, but you can't do it without proper education, training and consultation. That is the process that is underway right now in the five communities along the Coast of Labrador.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FUREY: You said that ten years ago, and you did nothing about it. My hon. friend just gave a speech saying how great things are going and how we are on the right track and how we are doing the right thing.

MR. R. AYLWARD: Have the training for Co-operatives.

MR. FUREY: We are starting consultation and training in the communities to move towards a Co-operative model for the stores. But my friend from Kilbride should know that before we get to that -

MR. R. AYLWARD: It has been going on for ten years.

MR. FUREY: Does my friend from Torngat want to correct him when he says it has been going on for ten years? Was it going on the year you were there as minister?

MR. WARREN: Twenty-five years ago.

MR. FUREY: Twenty-five years ago. Well, boy, I tell you, this government has made great strides in two-and-a-half years up there with those stores. Because we have built in more efficiencies in two-and-a-half years than any previous government ever.

MR. R. AYLWARD: (Inaudible) because we will be here in ten years time saying the same thing.

MR. FUREY: What is my friend saying? We should close the stores in Labrador?

MR. R. AYLWARD: (Inaudible) get on with the job.

MR. FUREY: But we are doing it.

MR. R. AYLWARD: (Inaudible).

MR. FUREY: Why doesn't my hon. friend just go back to sleep? Have a nice nap for yourself. Go back to sleep and enter the debate later on when you wake up.

So I should say that we are going to try to move the stores into the Enterprise offices and give full authority. We are examining the acts now, The Public Tender Act, The Department of Development Act, which, of course, will be called Industry, Trade and Technology, but it is under that act, and the Justice Department. My hon. colleague, who is the Member for Naskaupi and the regional Minister for Labrador, he is examining what the legal aspects for that are, as well.

I don't know if my hon. friend had any other comments. I wasn't sure if he made any other comments.

MR. WARREN: Could I ask a question?

MR. FUREY: Please do, yes.

MR. WARREN: The minister is going to allow a question, I think. Is he going to take a question?


MR. WARREN: So, does the minister believe that maybe those five managers, whom I think are very capable managers, if they are given the tools to do their job will be allowed to run their stores as managers should be allowed to run their stores? Would that be possible if the stores come under ENL?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology.

MR. FUREY: The hon. member reminds me of a point he made earlier. It is not a very good thing to have these stores run from St. John's by purchasers and buyers and people who are 500 and 600 miles away making decisions for local people. You are quite right, if we move under the corporation, depending on what my colleague, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General tells us with respect to the legislation and the required amendments and whatnot, if, in fact, we can move it to Enterprise I would fully expect that the people right there in the region, in those communities, will have a great deal of say on how things will operate.

One of my colleagues behind me said the management of the stores has improved considerably since twenty years ago. But my friend from Torngat told me he saved $17,000 one year when he was the manager of the Davis Inlet Store.

MR. ROBERTS: By resigning as manager.

MR. FUREY: What he didn't tell us was that half the inventory wasn't accounted for because it was under snowbanks.

Anyway, those are my comments with respect to the Northern stores.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Co-Operative Societies Act", read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House on tomorrow. (Bill No. 47).

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

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, in calling Order 23 which is Bill No. 52, which is one of the four that I mentioned to my hon. friend. May I make a declaration under Section 4, sub (1) I think it is of the Conflict of Interest Act? As my friend the minister will explain in introducing this Bill, it could confer a benefit upon a Newfoundland Corporation. I was a director of that corporation until November of last year or a day or two after it was announced by the Premier that I would be joining his Cabinet and subsequently seeking election to the House as I did.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: No, it is a corporation tax act, I think - a financial corporation tax act. I was a director of that for some time. I have taken no part in any of the discussion; I now ask that my declaration be recorded in accordance with the procedure and I shall withdraw from the Chamber until the House has disposed of the Bill and I shall neither speak nor vote on it, Sir.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it Order No. 23?

MR. BAKER: Order No. 23. Mr. Speaker.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Financial Corporations Capital Tax Act". (Bill No. 52).

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

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

Mr. Speaker, this is an interesting little amendment to the Financial Corporations Capital Tax Act. There are certain tax conditions that apply to the use of venture capital in the Province, and one of the conditions that was created was that there were certain levels of taxation set out for corporations that would get into the venture capital area and into investment and so on, capital investment.

There were certain limitations laid down in law under the Financial Corporations Capital Tax Act. These limitations were such that for large corporations it was easy to operate in the Province, very large pools of money, very large corporations and their tax level was set, but in essence there was a minimum tax set. Now what this in effect does is, kind of eliminates that minimum tax that would be paid for the smaller corporations or companies that were getting into the capital development field, the venture capital field.

What the Act itself does is prevents the development of corporations that want to invest money, small amounts of money. If a corporation is in terms of investing in activities in the Province to the extent of half-a-million dollars or whatever in terms of venture capital, it put the tax on them at such a level that it was prohibitive, and did not allow the smaller companies to get going and eventually develop into larger companies, so the tax system was restrictive on the development of small companies and then eventually becoming larger companies.

What this amendment does, is, it increases the existing tax free amount from $500,000 to $5 million in terms of capital. This allows the smaller amounts to come into the system and be used for venture capital without attracting that particular tax. Previously, the small amounts of capital that were coming in had to pay tax on a $10 million base rather than the base they were using, so they had to pay the full tax on a $10 million base so it did not make sense for somebody to come in and invest $3 million or $5 million, it did not make sense because they would have to pay a tax presuming a $10 million base. So what we are saying is, that below that base we will make these amounts - the original amounts - tax free. It affects only one venture capital corporation right now in the Province, and that is -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. BAKER: No, it is an offshoot - the Government House Leader is talking about, I believe, some work - I am not sure, but some connection with Fortis.

This is a trust company - a small company that is set up under Fortis. They have found it very difficult to develop and survive with the level of taxation. In terms of the money that was being put in, the taxes were eating up everything and more, so they could not develop beyond the stage that they were. It means very little in terms of revenue to the Province, because nobody else was getting into that field, in terms of small trust companies and so on. Nobody else was getting in there, simply because the tax regime was totally prohibitive. It was alright if you had ten or fifteen or twenty or fifty million, but if you wanted to start out with $5 million or $500,000 or $3 million, it is totally prohibitive to even start and set up a small trust company. It just was not worth anybody's time because the taxes were so totally prohibitive.

So we are removing the prohibitive tax on the small amounts of trust company money, and when they become a reasonable size - and the exemption applies, I believe, below $5 million -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. BAKER: Right, below $5 million. When they reach that size they can pretty well afford to pay the taxes that are due. But if the corporations only have half-a-million in, or $3 million, they can start, develop, and grow into larger corporations now without having to provide the tremendous amount of money to start.

Mr. Speaker, I was just checking to see if the commencement date - this action shall be declared to come into force on November 1st. - so it is not like the previous one I was talking about where it goes back to previous years.

- And shall not apply until the beginning of the next fiscal year, after October 31st. - whenever the beginning of that next fiscal year is. So that does not come into existence until the next fiscal year, in other words, of any corporation.

So, Mr. Speaker, the purpose of this is simply to encourage the development of small, very small, trust companies, rather than having the condition in this Province such that a trust company has to be large before it can even take part in investment in the Province.

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

MR. R. AYLWARD: Just a brief question, Mr. Speaker.

I will not pretend that I understand what the minister said, because I do not understand it. He tried to sum up what he was saying in that this change will now benefit one company in existence -

MR. BAKER: There is only one small company in the Province - yes.

MR. R. AYLWARD: That is the one that will benefit, and it is a trust company that is owned by Fortis - Newfoundland Light and Power?


MR. R. AYLWARD: Owned by Newfoundland Light and Power, in other words, indirectly or directly.


MR. R. AYLWARD: Fortis is a Newfoundland Light -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) stockholders.

MR. R. AYLWARD: Newfoundland Power - is that a Fortis -

MR. BAKER: I will answer that.

MR. R. AYLWARD: Okay, if it is the same Fortis that Newfoundland Power is involved with, one way or the other - I do not understand -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. R. AYLWARD: Yes, so it is their investment company and this will be a benefit for them. But what about if there was another one tomorrow? This is going to benefit anything from now on?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. R. AYLWARD: Who requested this change? Was it Fortis? Was it this small trust company that requested this change in order to survive in the business or whatever it was, or is this just a general government policy that we want to encourage more small trust companies? I do not understand, either way.

MR. BAKER: I wonder if I could answer the questions without - because I think somebody else will speak.

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

MR. BAKER: You are absolutely right. Right now there is only one company. It is called Fortis Trust. It is a subsidiary of the company you are talking about certainly. They had a choice at this point in time whether to close out that activity altogether because the taxes that they were paying was a prohibitive amount, it was absolutely impossible. If they built their cash flow up to $5 million then they could easily pay the taxes it would then attract on their revenue. As long as their investments were at low levels it was not worth doing, so they had to get out of it altogether, this was the point therein. The other thing is yes, this was a condition that was brought to our attention by that company because they are the only ones that small in the Province at this time but it would affect any other small trust company or trust organization that wanted to develop, it would still apply to that. The answer to your third question is yes, this will encourage the development of companies at that level and encourage more of that type of investment but when they reach the paid out capital amount of $5 million than they would attract the full taxes at that point in time.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. Opposition House Leader.

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, just a couple of things following on the question of the member for Kilbride. It makes you wonder really, you talk about this particular company, I was just wondering, a couple of questions come to mind, how much did they pay before and what will this change now mean to them, how much will they pay now? I have a little difficulty following it all and really what the implications of this Bill are and I just ask the Minister of Finance a question there on Section 3, it says: "For the purpose of subsection (1) or (2), where the aggregate paid-up capital of a corporation is $10 million or less, the taxable paid-up capital of that corporation is its aggregate paid-up capital less $5 million." So, what are you saying?... where aggregate paid up capital of the corporation is $10 million, the taxable paid up capital of that corporation is it's aggregate, which is really $10 million, less $5 million, is that what you are saying? I am having a little trouble following it. I do not know if the minister can explain, if he would. I just wonder if you can explain that to me, the first, how much did they pay before, how much will they pay now under the new arrangements and really what that Section 3 means.

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

MR. BAKER: There is a certain condition put on these companies that they are assumed to have $10 million in paid-up capital. That is the assumption that is made in the whole regulation in order for them to come into being, okay. The assumption is that they have $10 million in paid-up capital, alright, now in reality, they might have $10 million available to invest, they may only have a half-million invested. In that instance, if they have the $10 million paid-up capital and they only have half-a-million invested they would still have to pay tax on $10 million not the $500,000 thousand they have invested. The regulations are such that that provides a minimum tax based on the $10 million.

Now, what we are saying is that: for the purposes of subsection (1) or( 2), which has to do with striking out the comma and the words: figures less $500,000, and in subsection 6(2) in the Act striking out the words and figures less $500,000. "For the purpose of those two sub-sections where the aggregate paid-up capital of a corporation is $10 million or less, the taxable paid-up capital of that corporation is its aggregate paid-up capital less $5 million." So, in other words if they are between $5 and $10 million then the original $5 million exemption is an exemption that applies. So, in other words there is an exemption on $5 million if it is in fact $7 million that they have then the taxes brought in gradually, they pay taxes on the $2 million, if it is $8 million they pay taxes on $3 million, if it is $9 million they pay taxes on $4 million but if it is $10 million they pay the tax on the full $10 million. So it provides for a partial phase-in between $5 million and $10 million. So that's the reason for that.

Now, I understand it is difficult to follow, but let me just go over it one more time. The regulations themselves presupposed that there was $10 million capital available for a trust company. Now, if a trust company has $10 million available and they are starting out and they only have invested $500,000, the tax structure that we set up was such that they would have to pay the tax on the full $10 million, rather than the $500,000 that was active and they were using.

So it doesn't make it worth anybody's while to have $10 million available to invest and therefore be registered, and if they have only $500,000 or $2 million or $3 million of that $10 million that they are capable of investing, to have to pay tax on the full $10 million just doesn't make sense. That is the way our regulations read now.

Now the reason was that obviously, in order for the company to be formed, they have to have the capabilities of the $10 million. But that presupposed that they would get at least $10 million out in the field, operating, generating revenue for them. But that is not the case. There can be big corporations, I suppose, with their hundreds of millions, that would easily have the $10 million out in the field.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. BAKER: What I am saying is, it isn't worth their while to continue. However, what I say to the hon. gentleman is this: that in this stage, in the second reading stage, I didn't bring the details. I have them all. I didn't bring them with me. At second reading stage, what I am saying to you is, the principle of it is that the small companies, until they actually get the money invested, don't have to pay - what we are saying is they shouldn't have to pay the tax, assuming they had $10 million invested.

Now, I can provide you with the exact details over the last two or three years - the amount of tax due, and the amount that was actually in circulation, and so on - in absolute detail during the Committee stage, which is the detailed stage.

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

MR. HARRIS: Mr. Speaker, I am also struggling to figure out what is going on here. It strikes me, looking at section 9 of the act -which is the Financial Corporations Tax Act - it states that the tax payable by a corporation under the Financial Corporations Tax Act is 3 per cent of its amount taxable, which is defined as the paid up capital of the corporation.

If, as the minister says, in order to be registered as a trust company in Newfoundland, you have to have $10 million of capital, paid up capital, I suppose, to have a decent-sized company that you could rely on as being able to have a few bad loans or whatever, and still subsist, then I understand him saying that, yes, you have to have $10 million in paid up capital available in order to operate this company.

But what this legislation does is change the amount of relief for the payment of taxes from $500,000 to $5 million. Because removing this five - because until this amendment goes through the amount of taxable paid up capital, or taxable amount of money, is whatever it is minus $500,000. Now, what the minister is saying is that if you have less than $10 million, or $10 million or less, your paid up capital is going to be considered for tax purposes as being whatever it is less $5 million. So it is basically giving back to Fortis Trust or whoever else it happens to be, 3 per cent of $5 million per annum until they reach the $10 million of having it - presumably having it all invested.

But it doesn't really say that. Because if they have $10 million what are they doing with it? They haven't got it in a shoe. They are not putting it underneath the carpet to wait until they can invest it, unless they are fools. They can put it in Treasury bills of the Federal Government of Canada, or Newfoundland Government bonds, which I understand pay a very high rate of interest, according to the minister. They can buy and sell these things. These are instruments that a trust company can invest in under the trustees act and be in secure investments. Maybe they don't have it all out in second mortgages at 12 per cent or 15 per cent. Maybe they don't have it all out at first mortgages at 9 per cent or 10 per cent. But they are being asked by this legislation to pay 3 per cent tax on it, the same as the banks are.

So if the bank has capital employed in the Province under the Financial Administration Tax Act and they are paying 3 per cent tax on it, I am not so sure why that same rule ought not to apply to a company like Fortis Trust, whereas if they don't have it out in high ratio investments, whether it be first of second mortgages, they have to invest it somewhere. I mean, they can invest it in Treasury bills. I don't know what they are paying these days, maybe 3 per cent might be too high a tax for that kind of investment, I don't know, but the minister, presumably, is going to explain to us why they are essentially giving a tax holiday for $5 million of capital for companies that are in that circumstance. I guess we are talking about, well, 3 per cent of $5 million is $150,000 a year.

Perhaps it makes sense - if I am right in my interpretation of events, perhaps, I would like the minister, in his closing remarks in second reading, to give us an explanation of that. It may well be that $150,000 tax relief is required to provide an incentive to people to set up trust companies in this Province; that may be. If that is the argument, I would like to hear it, but I understand that if 3 per cent capital tax is obviously going to chop 3 per cent off your return on investment and make it less profitable to operate a business, and if the minister could tell us whether that is the reason why we have only one trust company incorporated in Newfoundland, I would be glad to hear that.

I know there are other companies that are operating - I am not sure what legislation they are operating under but there are some investment and loan companies operating - I won't mention them by name but there are some operating in the Province. Some of them have good reputations, some have bad reputations in terms of the kinds of credit relationships they have with their clientele. In fact, there have been problems with some of these companies and we have a legislation, the Mortgages Brokers Act, designed to try to curb some of that. What it has ended up doing, is it is providing all kinds of bureaucratic restrictions on everybody else, but I don't know if it has actually stopped the people from gouging individuals looking for money.

But I do see a value in having locally controlled funds of capital, whether they be in what the former Minister of Finance and I have talked about a number of times, organizations such as the Newfoundland and Labrador Credit Union, which has a substantial amount of capital, a capital pool which is controlled in this Province, one of the few large capital pool sources that are controlled in this Province by Newfoundlanders. I am not so sure, even though Fortis Trust is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Fortis Inc. as is Newfoundland Light now, I am not so sure that is controlled in this Province, although its resident head office may be here. Are we making special rules here, Mr. Speaker, that we don't want to discourage local Newfoundland-controlled pools of capital from operating, so I am prepared to consider what should happen at stage three of this bill, but I think it may well be a useful tool to encourage the development of Newfoundland-based capital pools. We seem to have lost all the ones we have had; they have been taken over by national corporations or by the banks such as has happened with the Newfoundland Savings Bank when it was taken over by the Bank of Montreal.

So I think there is a value in supporting that if, in fact, that is necessary. But we are, I think, perhaps down to the brass tacks in saying: this amounts to a tax relief or a tax holiday or a tax subsidy, if you will, of about $150,000 a year until that company or any other company has $10 million of its capital employed. But I would like to have that explanation because I think the minister didn't really fully explain that. I mean, all of the money they have is employed somehow or other, whether it be in the form of first or second mortgages or Treasury bills or Newfoundland Government bonds -

AN HON. MEMBER: Paid up capital.

MR. HARRIS: - all of it -

AN HON. MEMBER: tax on paid up capital (inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: Paid up capital would be employed. It is tax on paid up capital, whether they keep it in their sock or whether they have it invested. But what the minister is doing now with this bill, is giving them relief on $5 million of that, as long as they only have $10 million. If they have $11 million, they pay tax on $11 million, if they have $10 million, they pay tax on $5 million. So the bottom line is, it has nothing to do with whether the capital is being used or whether it is not being used, and that is what the minister said. The minister says that when they employ it all they will have to use it. So I think that the explanation hasn't really been complete, to my satisfaction, at least, and understanding.

What it appears to me is happening here is that essentially we are being asked to say to Fortis Trust, and to anyone following in their footsteps, we are going to give you a tax relief on $5 million of your paid up capital, and that also applies to the banks, if that happens to be their circumstances. Obviously it doesn't apply to the five major banks because all of them have more than $10 million, but we are going to give special relief to anybody who has $10 million or less employed in capital in Newfoundland.

Mr. Speaker, now that we are there, maybe I will be able to speak on it in principle. I don't think that the minister's explanation really washes, if it is that there is a loophole or a flaw or something in the regulations that we are just fixing up. What it is, in fact, is a request by a company to give it favourable tax treatment to increase the amount of tax free capital from half-a-million to $5 million. That is what they are asking.

I don't know what other information the government was giving to justify this request for a special tax treatment. They knew, presumably; this legislation has been in effect for some time. In fact, that particular section of the act, which is now being sought to be amended, was last amended in 1985. I don't think Fortis Trust was set up prior to 1985. Obviously, they set up since then. They presumably made their decisions about whether they were going to do this little fancy footwork on the Public Utilities Board without consulting anybody. They went in to the Public Utilities Board and said: Oh, by the way, Newfoundland Light and Power no longer has shareholders except for one, and that is Fortis Inc.; we just set it up.

They didn't even get approval from the Public Utilities Board when they did that, and there was a matter of controversy at the time. The company, Newfoundland Light and Power, sold all of its shares to Fortis Inc. and now they have these Fortis Inc. shares trading on the market. Newfoundland Light and Power shares no longer trade on the market and this big pool of Capital Fortis Inc., which lends all its money to Newfoundland Light, now has other branches. One of them is Fortis Trust. It's somewhat complicated, Mr. Speaker, but it's all designed to allow Fortis Trust to pay more healthy dividends to its shareholders and attract capital which builds up a big capital pool and profits in Fortis Inc.

One of the cash cows of Fortis Inc. is Newfoundland Light and Power. Newfoundland Light and Power goes off to the Public Utilities Board and gets whatever rate increases it can convince the Public Utilities Board it's entitled to as a cash cow for Fortis Inc. One of its other arms is this company, a poor company we are told, a small company, only a little company. It only has $10 million and we should give them tax relief on $5 million of that.

I'm not so sure that my heart beats with great sympathy for Fortis Inc. I'm not so sure the heartbeats of every Newfoundlander beats in many cases to supply money to Newfoundland Light, the cash cow of Fortis Inc., and this is another one of their investments, which I'm delighted that they're making, mind you. I'd like to be convinced by the minister, not just to say there's some regulations that we need to fix around, but to say why the taxpayers of Newfoundland ought to give $150,000 a year to Fortis Trust to help Fortis Inc. make more money. That's really what we're talking about here.

MR. TOBIN: Have they got shopping malls too?

MR. HARRIS: I don't know if Fortis Inc. or Fortis Trust has shopping malls. The building formerly known as the Royal Trust Building I understand is owned by either Fortis Trust or Fortis Inc. I know they've been making investments in the shopping malls. I've heard that -

MR. TOBIN: Marystown Mall.

MR. HARRIS: Whether it's the Marystown Mall, yes, I'd heard that Fortis Inc. bought that, or maybe it's Fortis Trust. I don't know. I don't know too much about their business arrangements.

I do know, Mr. Speaker, that Fortis Inc. got into the trust business because they thought they could make some money. They're not only investing their own money, they're taking deposits from people off the street. You walk down Water Street and you'll see the signs in the doorway offering to take investments from people and paying interest rates, and then they'll lend it out again in first mortgages, or perhaps second mortgages, whatever they do with it. They're also competing with the banks and advertising in the papers to attract investments and deposits.

I think that's a very good thing. I have no difficulty with that. I have had difficulty in the past before the Public Utilities Board figuring out exactly who was paying who's salary on the board of Fortis Trust and doing work for Newfoundland Light and three or four different jobs. Very often it is pretty difficult to figure out who is paying whose salary and who is paying what time. It is a rather complicated business enterprise, Mr. Speaker, and I would need to be convinced that Fortis Trust needs $150,000 from the taxpayers of this Province every year in order to operate. I would need to be convinced, and maybe the minister can explain how he was convinced, or why it was that he was convinced that there ought to be an extra $150,000 a year of tax relief given to Fortis Trust.

If we had four or five trust companies all coming to the government and saying: Look, we are in danger of closing down here -

MR. BAKER: With our present system we will never have four or five.

MR. TOBIN: Why should Fortis Trust get that kind of money?

MR. HARRIS: The minister says: With our present system we will never have that. I guess that is what Fortis Trust has told us.

Have we compared that to other provinces' legislation and tax regimes? Are we the only Province that has only one? Does PEI? Does Nova Scotia? Does New Brunswick? Does Saskatchewan have similar relief for trust companies, or smaller trust and bank corporations? These are questions that I had hoped the minister would be able to answer when he introduced the Bill, and when he was telling us that they are going to make special rules here to look after -

MR. BAKER: You do not understand the process, Jack. (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: The principle behind this is that we need to give $150,000 - that is the only principle in this Bill. Tax bills are not matters of principle. There is no principle in tax. Not even the Premier can make a principle out of tax. Tax is how much money will you get? How much money will you get is the issue.

We are talking about approval in principle here as to whether or not we will approve this measure to change one figure from $500,000 to $5 million. The only principle about that is how much taxes you are going to get. That is the only principle involved. Are you going to get an extra $150,000 or are you going to give it back to them?

The second principle involved is whether or not this measure is needed. Now if the facts are that this is a measure that is consistent with what is being done for small trust companies and small loan companies in Nova Scotia and PEI and Saskatchewan and other provinces, and it has been proven to be beneficial, then I will be glad to hear about it. That is not something that we need to save for committee when we are looking at Clause 1 or Clause 2 and whether or not we should change subsection 2 or subsection 3. The whole thing is only one principle involved. But will we give tax relief to small trust companies in this Province to the extent of $5 million of their capital? I am just asking, Mr. Speaker, are we just taking the word of Fortis Trust who say: look boy if we do not get this we are going to go out of business. I mean I would be very surprised if Fortis Trust is going to go out of business for the lack of $150,000, maybe they will make less money, they may decide they would rather invest their money in something else, in some other province. If that is what they are saying, that they will shut down Fortis Trust, that they will dispose of all their assets, that they will not operate a trust company in this Province unless they have $150,000 of tax relief, then Mr. Speaker, I would like to hear that evidence because we are talking about some pretty tough times in this Province and we are now going to have $150,000 less, now it is not a big amount of money but it will buy a lot of doorknobs even at $600 a doorknob. Mr. Speaker, we could buy $300 or $400 doorknobs out of it and at the rates that the Minister of Social Services pays people on social assistance who are single and able bodied, $130 per month, it would look after a lot of people. So, Mr. Speaker -

AN HON. MEMBER: You are getting silly now.

MR. HARRIS: It is not hard to tell Mr. Speaker, that the liberal party and the backbenchers are getting - we are getting to a little too sensitive points here now, we are making special tax arrangements for corporations with assets of $10 million, special tax arrangements. I see the member for Mount Pearl getting ready now, he is looking at his notes, he is going to speak on this now too because we have hit a nerve over there and the Member for Mount Pearl is going to get up and lambast the government now in its tax policy and maybe that is why they are upset, not because of me but because now they are going to have to hear from him to.

So, Mr. Speaker, this is not a simple measure, the Minister of Finance has tried to convince us that this is a simple measure, a simple measure having to do with just changing a few regulations but what it really is is a special measure to help a particular company and hopefully others. If I can be convinced, Mr. Speaker, by what the minister says in his final remarks after the Member for Mount Pearl has spoken and other members opposite have spoken about it, if the minister in his closing remarks can convince me that it is not just a simple request by the directors of Fortis Trust, one of whom used to be the - or maybe he still is -

AN HON. MEMBER: He's in the penalty box.

MR. HARRIS: He's in the penalty box, I understand that. He's not allowed to speak on this Bill. But if the Minister of Justice and his colleagues on the board of directors of Fortis Trust are making this request, is this just simply a response to this request, or do we have some further evidence to base it on other than the request and a brief submitted to the government on their behalf?

It is a serious issue, Mr. Speaker, because if this is really necessary to ensure that we're going to have local pools of capital developed and maintained in this Province and controlled in this Province, then I for one would support it, as I have supported by my own efforts the work of the Newfoundland and Labrador Credit Union in developing what is now a pool of capital of $120 million or $130 million, and growing, all controlled in this Province by a democratically elected board of directors, which I was happy to serve for seven or eight years.

So I'm in favour of measures that would maintain control in this Province of large pools of capital. If this will help then I will support it. But I still need to be convinced.

Mr. Speaker, it being one minute to 5:00 p.m., I would adjourn debate.

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

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, having returned from the penalty box I have to tell you, it looks no better from down there than it does from in here. I move the House at its -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: I'm sorry?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FUREY: We are waiting for the white smoke to bellow up.

MR. ROBERTS: My friend for St. Barbe, Mr. Speaker, is waiting for the white smoke. Let me say, Mr. Speaker in moving the adjournment that the House at its rising adjourn until, Tuesday, at 2:00 p.m., and that we shall carry on with the debate on this Bill. I'll go back in the penalty box. Perhaps tomorrow I can get the Class 1, (inaudible), my friend for Kilbride can come, and he and I can chat. We'll then carry on with the other bills I mentioned to my friend opposite, the gentleman for Grand Bank. I move the House do now adjourn.

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