March 11, 1993                   HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS           Vol. XLI  No. 5

The House met at 2:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Lush): Order, please!

Oral Questions

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

MR. SIMMS: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question to the Premier. A couple of days ago the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations said publicly that government was no longer planning to cut wages or benefits for public employees, or indeed ask them to take leave without pay. He said somehow, suddenly, that government had found another way. Can I ask the Premier if that other way was presented to the unions yesterday and did that other way involve the government not contributing to the public service pension funds for a period of six months while at the same time employees would be expected to contribute during that same six months? Was that part of the proposal?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker, I am confident that the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations said no such thing as the government is no longer asking the public sector to take a reduction in wages because we never were in the first place, so no longer wouldn't be accurate. He would have clearly said, government never have asked them to take a reduction in their wage rates or their salaries. I have been a lawyer too long to be misled by those tricky little words.


PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker, I am prepared to answer the questions but I am not prepared to tear my throat up shouting against the ceaseless babbling that comes from the other side. I am quite prepared to answer them but not in the face of this continual babbling.

Mr. Speaker, the government is in the process of conducting negotiations with the public sector unions and yesterday morning I know that the President of Treasury Board met with the leaders of all the unions and had a discussion with them about a particular matter. Until the matter is released by agreement or the President of Treasury Board is prepared to make a statement on it I do not think it is appropriate for me to attempt to conduct collective bargaining with the Leader of the Opposition in the House.

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

MR. SIMMS: A supplementary, Mr. Speaker.

It is rather surprising and ironic that the Premier would accuse me of using tricky little words, it is kind of interesting. Let me ask the Premier this: did part of the proposal that was presented to the unions yesterday also include the part that employees would be required to work and contribute to the pension plan for an extra six months beyond their retirement, in order to make up for the shortfall in governments contribution to the pension fund? Is that also part of the governments new found solution?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker, my answer to that question is precisely the same as the answer I just gave to the first question, it is all part of the same issue and I think I should leave it to the president of Treasury Board or the president of Treasury Board together with the leadership of the unions with which he is negotiating to make any public statement on the issue.

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

MR. SIMMS: Mr. Speaker, could I ask the Premier this question then: assuming that the government has looked at these kinds of issues, and I am sure they have because it has been mentioned publicly, I think, by one of the unions in weeks gone by, can the Premier indicate to the House if such a proposal or such a manoeuvre was implemented, how much would that save the government? I am sure that the government would have done it's homework on that particular issue. Would it be somewhere in the range of $50 - $75 million if such an idea was proposed?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: If, if, if, if a whole lot of things might produce a lot of different results depending on the circumstances. Is it one month, two months, six months, twelve months and there are a whole host of possible answers and if you want to break it down by days, there are 365 potential answers. So it is not realistic to ask that kind of a question and expect an answer in these circumstances. Perhaps the Leader of the Opposition would recognize the seriousness of the present financial situation and the importance of finding an acceptable resolution of a difficult problem, and I would ask them not to exacerbate an already difficult situation by these kinds of questions. I have answered the question I think in a fair way. These are collective bargaining endeavors that are under way at the moment, let the president of Treasury Board and the leadership of the unions deal with the issue appropriately.

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

MR. SIMMS: I appreciate the lecture from the Premier but of course he would know that I have a responsibility to ask questions dealing with issues that have come to our attention, this is one that has, we are asking the government if it is an accurate story or not. The reason we are asking, Mr. Speaker, is because the Premier himself for example has said publicly that the government would never roll back wage rates because of the impact it might have on employee pensions down the road, he has said that publicly. The Minister of Finance, pooh-poohed this very idea just a couple of weeks ago when it was proposed by one of the unions, I think. He did that and dismissed that issue and that idea publicly for the same kind of a reason, now it appears that they are doing a flip-flop and that is the reason I am asking the question. So I want to ask the Premier, once again, why is it, and it is factual and it is accurate, why is it that the government now is prepared to tamper with pension funds at this moment in time? That is what I am asking him.


MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

Order, please!

PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker, to the best of my knowledge it was never proposed publicly or privately, on the basis of the assurance of the President of Treasury Board, it was never proposed to him publicly or privately and he never commented on it, pooh-poohed it, endorsed it or otherwise, I accept his word, so the comments of the Leader of the Opposition are therefore without substance.

Mr. Speaker, the President of Treasury Board is, on behalf of government, looking at a variety of possibilities to deal with the problem and I would say again to the Leader of the Opposition, it is important that on behalf of all of the taxpayers of this Province we deal with this major financial problem in the most effective way we can with the least possible adverse impact on public employees.

Now please give the process a chance to work without trying to derail it for political purposes. Do not try to derail this now, let the process work and hopefully, result in a solution. It is important to all the people of the Province that it does.

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

MR. SIMMS: Yes. One final supplementary.

Mr. Speaker, I do not appreciate the lecture of the Premier telling me how we should do our jobs over on this side of the House. We are here, we have a responsibility to ask questions of the government. Now I do not expect the government to pat us on the back or anything like that which he has not been doing, but I do expect him to give us straight answers to good questions, and these are good, legitimate questions because they are factual. Now if he is not prepared to answer, let me ask my final supplementary to the President of Treasury Board.

Can the President of Treasury Board confirm in fact, that there is some potential tampering with pension funds going on as a result of a proposal put to the unions yesterday by the government?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker, the answer is still the same, and if I appeared to be lecturing, it was because the circumstances justified and, indeed, necessitated the lecture.

Now, I realize the role of the Opposition is to ask questions, to hold the government responsible, but the Opposition should not subvert the public interest in order to promote its own political interest. They should not do that! They should put the public interest first and they should be concerned about trying to find an acceptable and fair resolution to this difficult problem, not trying to exacerbate the problem.

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


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

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I am sorry, I couldn't hear you there with the other noise.

I don't know if this is on the Premier's list of public urgency or public business, Mr. Speaker, but in the Auditor General's report, page 12, in a letter to this very House of Assembly just tabled a few days ago, the Auditor General said that the government's statements of revenues, expenditures, assets and liabilities, do not present fairly the financial position of the Province -

MR. SIMMS: Do not?

MR. MATTHEWS: - do not present fairly the financial position of the Province as of March 31 1992.

MR. SIMMS: First time ever.

MR. MATTHEWS: Mr. Speaker, I think this is only the second time that an Auditor General, in the history of our Province since Confederation, has made such a strong statement.

MR. SIMMS: The second time in our history.

MR. MATTHEWS: I think it is the second time - once during the Smallwood era, and perhaps the Premier can remember that. I don't know if he was a member of the Smallwood Government at the time. The Auditor General, Mr. Speaker, is in effect telling you, the government, she is unable to certify the accuracy of government's statement of revenues and expenditures or to determine what government's true financial position is.

So I want to ask the Premier: How can you prepare a budget based on financial statements which the Auditor General says are seriously flawed?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: It is very simple, Mr. Speaker. The accounts are presented on exactly the same basis as they have been for the forty years that we have been a province - exactly the same basis, no change.

Now, three or four years ago - maybe longer, five or six or seven years ago - the then Auditor General said: The new thinking of the Committee of Public Auditors of the CICA, the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants - that is, a committee called the PSAAC, the Public Sector Accounting and Auditing Committee - feels that you should have an accrual system instead of a cash system of reporting. They told the present Leader of the Opposition when he had responsibility for Treasury Board. They told the former government numerous times: not value for money, but the accrual system of accounting.

Now, Mr. Speaker, the new Auditor General comes on board and they say: We agree that it should be the accrual system, so she writes this in her statement.

AN HON. MEMBER: Do you agree with it?

PREMIER WELLS: No, I don't agree with it. I do not agree with it. As a matter of fact, I am having it assessed now. The best information I can get is that the Auditor General's position will cause us to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars more in accountants' fees and expenses in order to create a set of statements that will be unusable by the financial community, because they will then have to redo it back to the form in which it is, in order for it to make sense to them. Now, that is what the Auditor General is proposing, to the best of my knowledge, at this moment. I am having it assessed and, Mr. Speaker, if anything is different I will report fully to the House.

I have asked the financial community to consider the Auditor General's position and tell me whether or not she is right - whether or not that additional expenditure of public funds to provide for the government's accounts on a accrual basis is justified in all of the circumstances. Because I am advised that the investors who buy our bonds - and those are the people who rely on the financial statements of the government - those are the people for whom it is vitally important. And if we have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars more to do what the Auditor General says, and then hundreds of thousands of dollars more to undo it, what is the Auditor General doing? She is causing expenses.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

PREMIER WELLS: Now, Mr. Speaker, the member read a selective statement. Let me read the whole paragraph. Here is what the Auditor General said: "I report that these financial statements present, in all material respects, information relating to the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Province as at 31 March 1992, in accordance with the accounting policies as disclosed in Note 1 to the financial statements" - in all material respects.

"Also, I report that such accounting policies have been applied after giving retroactive effect to the change in recording receivables from significant taxes as disclosed in Note 1(c), on a basis consistent with that of the preceding year" - everything done on a consistent basis. "However, these financial statements do not follow certain accounting policies recommended by the Public Sector Accounting and Auditing Committee of the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants as being appropriate for government financial statements."


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

PREMIER WELLS: "These financial statements do not fully reflect revenues and expenditures on an accrual basis".


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Premier has been rather lengthy. I know it has been an involved question, but it has been rather lengthy. I think it is only fair to go back to the Opposition. I am sure they have another question.

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

MR. MATTHEWS: Mr. Speaker, this is a very serious situation. Members opposite might not appreciate it, but when the Auditor General says that the revenues, expenditures, assets and liabilities of this Province do not present fairly the financial position of the Province then there's something radically wrong, I say to the Premier.

Mr. Speaker, I can understand the Premier not knowing. He's been away from the shop so long that he doesn't know what's happening around the cash register! He doesn't know what's happening around the cash register, that's the problem with the Premier. Like anybody who leaves the shop and goes away for months.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the member to get on with the question.

PREMIER WELLS: Is this a question?

MR. SPEAKER: The Chair is waiting for it.

MR. MATTHEWS: No, it's the equivalent of you reading the book.

MR. SIMMS: Hear, hear! Right on!

MR. MATTHEWS: Mr. Speaker, the Premier and the Minister of Finance have taken some very tough positions with public employees, based on the government's own assessment of the Province's financial position. Isn't the Auditor General telling the Premier, the Minister of Finance and the government, that you really don't know what the financial position is? The situation may be as you say, it may be better, it may be worse, but you really don't know. Isn't that what the Auditor General's telling the government?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: No, Mr. Speaker. You see, you can deceive more effectively with the truth than you can with a lie, if you only tell half the truth. Now what the member has done is only half the truth.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WELLS: Now, Mr. Speaker, here's the truth. The Member took one part of the Auditor General's sentence and didn't take the qualifier. Here's the full statement of the Auditor General: while prepared in accordance with the disclosed accounting policies, in my opinion because these financial statements do not follow certain accounting policies recommended by PSAAC, as summarized above and which I consider appropriate, they do not present fairly the financial position of the Province and the results of its operating. My reservations are explained in more detail in the following paragraph.

Now to select those half-dozen or so words, true though they are, and present them the way the hon. member did, is the greatest deception of all. It's using truth to deceive. Reprehensible, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Final supplementary, the hon. the Opposition House Leader.

MR. MATTHEWS: Mr. Speaker, a former member of this House once referred to the Premier as 'the master of deception.' How right he was, I say to the Premier.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. MATTHEWS: You can squirm all you like, but I'm as familiar with that report as you are. I think more -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. member to get on with the question.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. MATTHEWS: More, more, more!

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible)!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible)!

MR. MATTHEWS: I'll reveal more over the next few days, I say to the Premier. Squirm all you like. Squirm all you like.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. MATTHEWS: You don't know what's going on in the cash register, that's the problem.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask members on both sides to please cooperate. I'm sure at this stage they know what question period is all about. Brief questions followed by brief answers.

The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. It takes a little longer when you're continuously being shouted down by members opposite. Because the truth is cutting them to the bone.

The Premier and the Minister of the Finance have been constantly concerned with the opinions of credit rating agencies. They've expressed that ever since they've been in office, and for good reason, because they've mismanaged the economy. I want to ask the Premier: how will the credit rating agencies look at a serious reservation like that expressed by the Auditor General? How can they ignore her comment on the financial statement you present to them when it really doesn't accurately reflect the financial position of the Province? How are the credit rating agencies going to look upon this very strong langauge of an Auditor General?

Only for the second time in the Province's history that we've seen such strong langauge. The time before, I remind the Premier, it caused such an uproar that the Auditor General was brought before the Bar of the House. What are the credit rating agencies going to say about this statement by your own Auditor General?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: I don't know precisely what the credit rating agencies are going to say. I have, since this came to my attention... two weeks ago the Auditor General wrote me a letter about it. I spoke with the financial community and said: here's the Province's dilemma. We are given to understand that the financial community want the accounts, as they've been for all past years, as the former government did them, done exactly the same way, reported on exactly the same basis, and we understand the financial community want them reported that way. Now here's what the Auditor General says, and here's what it will mean: a great deal more accounting expenditures in order to provide it, and it will provide the statements on an accrual basis, with information on an accrual basis. Is that what the financial community wants?

The one advisor that I was speaking to said: no, but I will take it upon myself to do an assessment generally and get back to you on it. That was about two weeks ago, I think, I was speaking to the person, and he told me he would get back to me. The best information that I have at the moment is the financial community, and I believe the credit rating agencies, have total and complete confidence in the accounts of the Province as done by the government, and that they do not endorse what the Auditor General recommends - the additional expenditure that she recommends to produce the accounting in that way - because it would be unsuitable for their purposes.

Now that does not make sense to me to expend that extra money to achieve that merely because the Auditors General in the country, meeting together as the public sector's accounts and auditing committee, decided this is the way they should have it. I disagree. We cannot let them run the country's accounts in that way if it is not the appropriate thing to do.

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

MS. VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I have questions for the Premier. Yesterday the Leader of the Opposition took the Premier to task for his government's breaches of the public tendering and conflict of interest laws, and for his government's crass patronage in appointing people to high paying government jobs.

In his reply the Premier said, and I quote: "Mr. Speaker, it is inevitable that a number of people who are appointed will have a Liberal background."

I ask the Premier today: Is that inevitable because you have Liberal bag man Grant Chalker in charge of the Public Service Commission, at a salary of $80,000 a year?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: No, Mr. Speaker.

I say again, the government will not be goaded by the Opposition into refusing to appoint competent and qualified people in this Province merely because they have been supportive of, or even significantly involved in, the Liberal party in the past, any more than we would refuse to appoint somebody because they have been supportive of, or significantly involved in, the Conservative party. We are running a fair and balanced government for the first time in this Province's recent history, and the members opposite do not like it.

Now if they want me to, I will provide a complete list of all of the appointments that they made, and what the political affiliation was. I will dig that out and provide it - and they did it week after week after week after week.

She mentioned the Public Service Commission. I remember the vice-chairman being one Mr. Vince Rossiter. Does anybody remember the name Vince Rossiter and the connection? Does anybody remember that?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Humber East on a supplementary.

MS. VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Does the Premier not realize that I am not asking about appointments in the sixties or the seventies or the eighties? I am asking about his actions. I am questioning him - the leader of the party that got elected on a platform of fairness and balance and real change.

Let me ask the Premier: Did he appoint Grant Chalker vice-chair of the Public Service Commission as a reward for the money he raised for the eighty-nine provincial Liberal election campaign; or was it a payback for what Grant Chalker contributed to his $50,000 a year salary supplement when he, as Leader of the Opposition, could not get by on the regular salary of $75,000 a year, but had to have it boosted to $125,000 a year?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker, I say again: We will not refuse to appoint people because they have a Liberal background. Surely fairness and balance means being fair and balanced to everybody.

Here is what the opposition want. Put them in government, they appoint nothing but Tories. Put them out of government and the Liberals can only appoint Tories - fairness and balance, opposition style.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: There are other members who want to ask questions, I remind the hon. member, but I have not recognized them.

The hon. the Member for Humber East.

MS. VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Why has the Premier had Grant Chalker in charge of the Public Service Commission for a full year since Gilbert Pike retired? Why has the Premier had in charge of the government's agency responsible for enforcing the merit principle in hiring, an individual with no expertise in personnel, with no previous public service background? Why has he had in charge of the Public Service Commission a man whose chief claim to fame was raising money for the Liberal party?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker, the person who is presently 'in charge' as the member says, is the vice-chairman. He is there because he is vice-chairman. We have not yet filled the vacancy of the Chairman of the Public Service Commission. Now there is a good reason for that. We are contemplating possible changes in the function of the Public Service Commission to add to the responsibility of the Commission, and the chairman in particular, additional responsibilities. There is one in particular that will be added and that is responsibility for the implementation of the quality service management program that is going to be put in place. But we have been seriously looking at one other major responsibility that I am not prepared to discuss publicly now, of turning that responsibility over to the Public Service Commission instead of where it rests presently in government. This is one possibility that we are looking at. Before filling the appointment we want to make definite decisions as to what will be the job function. It is an eminently sensible approach and in circumstances where the government is doing very limited hiring we do not have to worry about making sure that we have a full complement at all times.

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

MS. VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. A supplementary to the Premier.

Why is it that the Premier exempted from the Public Service Commission the government agency that has done a lot of hiring and appointing, namely Enterprise Newfoundland and Labrador? Was it to ensure that ENL stands for employment for noted Liberals?

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

MR. WINSOR: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I have a question for the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation. Earlier this week, perhaps on Tuesday or Wednesday, the minister made public the result of a feasibility study into a causeway between Fogo Island and Change Islands. Let me ask the minister why he made this study public without at least first informing the transportation committee on Fogo Island and the council in Change Islands who had initiated it in the beginning? Why did he not inform them first?

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

MR. GOVER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Various groups have come to me since I have been Minister of Works, Services and Transportation questioning the feasibility of a causeway linking Fogo and Change Islands. There has been an ongoing dispute between the departments and the people of Fogo Island over the cost estimates that the department has worked up for the causeway. As a result of that, to put that issue to rest, government commissioned a study, paid for a study, to determine the social benefits and economic cost of a causeway versus a ferry, a causeway linking Fogo and Change Islands. As a result of trying to address the concerns of the people of Fogo Island and Change Islands the government commissioned a study. During the course of that study various groups, individuals and organizations on the two islands were consulted. As in all studies, before the study is completed all interested parties are invited to make submissions and are consulted, and this was done in this particular case. Government received the report and as opposed to keeping the report secret, confidential, government decided to release the report and to make it public for further discussion. The report has been released. The report will be sent to the interested groups and individuals and further discussions will take place on the report. That is the standard operating procedure of government, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. WINSOR: Mr. Speaker, let me assure the minister that the people on Fogo Island do not think so this morning. Since Cabinet has rejected the fixed-link idea what plans does the minister have to improve the transportation link to and from Fogo Island?

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

MR. GOVER: Mr. Speaker, obviously the member was not listening to the answer to the question I just gave. Cabinet did not pass its views on the viability or the benefits of a fixed-link versus a ferry. What Cabinet authorized was the commissioning of a study, the receipt of a study, and the release of that study. I anticipate meeting with the various groups who are interested in this and receiving their comments on the study before Cabinet makes a final decision on the viability of a causeway over other options.

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

MR. WINSOR: Mr. Speaker, I do not know if the minister is being misquoted but the minister is being reported in Central Newfoundland today as having rejected the causeway, the fixed-link, and he has also rejected the idea of building a ferry with icebreaking capabilities. That is the report out of Central Newfoundland this morning. Since these have been rejected let me ask the minister if it is now the plan of this administration to reconsider the building of an icebreaker ferry that has had plans drawn up for it since 1989? Is that now the plan?

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

MR. GOVER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I have not heard the media reports from central Newfoundland but I do recall the questions that were asked me and the answers I gave when I was interviewed in Grand Falls - Windsor about this particular report. The press asked me what was the conclusion that the report came to and I told them the conclusion that the report came to was that a ferry was more feasible than a causeway linking the two islands. That was the conclusion of the report. That is all I communicated to them. I did not say government had rejected one option over the other because government has authorized the release of the report and as I said I expected to see representation from interested groups and individuals on the report itself. The report is not the be-all and end-all. I was also asked the question: would a ferry be constructed in the upcoming construction season?... I said to the press in response to that, Mr. Speaker, that any decision on capital funding, be it a causeway or be it a ferry would have to await the budgetary process.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Question Period has expired.


MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Terra Nova.

MR. GREENING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present this hon. House a petition on behalf of 302 residents of the Town of Musgravetown. The prayer of the petition reads; to the hon. House of Assembly - in the interest of tradition and preserving our forest and wildlife for our continued use and enjoyment, we the undersigned are opposed to clear cutting within a five mile, eight kilometre radius of our Town of Musgravetown. Mr. Speaker, a couple of days ago I presented a similar petition to this House and I am not sure the minister understands what the people are asking for. They are not asking to stop clear cutting, they are asking for a mutual radius around the communities between Port Blandford and Winter Brook and in particular Musgravetown, today.

From listening to the radio, I understand that the minister sort of misled the people by saying that they want to stop clear cutting and how many jobs would be lost due to stopping clear-cutting. That is not the issue, the issue is we want a mutual radius around the communities and I ask the minister today if he would agree again and say when and where he will meet with the residents to listen to their concerns about the domestic cutting and the clear-cutting and stop putting the commercial operators against the domestic cutters. So, once again I will ask the minister if he will agree to meet with the residents in a public forum and discuss this situation. Thank you.

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

MR. HEWLETT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, I am in support of that petition. What is basically being asked of the government, in this particular case, is to be somewhat democratic and consultative with regard to cutting in and around communities. A petition which was given out the other day and this one expresses a concern that clear cutting is being carried out very, very close to communities which destroys wildlife habitat and is generally not very sightly, I should say, for tourist potential in the local area. So, Mr. Speaker, it is up to the minister to meet with the peoples concerned, their organizations, their public interest groups and come up with a situation that is acceptable to all concerned. A situation which allows for the cutting of wood for domestic and commercial purposes but also one that allows some safety to be given to the natural environment and to the look of the countryside in so far as people having to live there and people having to entice tourists to come visit. I support the petition, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. FLIGHT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, I will take a moment to address myself to the issues raised by the hon. member, both hon. members, in presenting the petition or presenting and supporting the petition. Mr. Speaker, the answer to the hon. Member for Terra Nova, is categorically, yes, I will meet with any group or any representatives of any group from the Bonavista Peninsula, anytime. All I would ask the member to remember is that I would have to do it at my convenience based on obligations in the House of Assembly or in Cabinet or whatever. So, Mr. Speaker, the answer is clearly yes and as a matter of fact I will ask my staff to start identifying a time when these meetings can take place. I will also make another commitment to the member, to the extend that we can accommodate the concerns of the people on the Bonavista Peninsula, we will accommodate their concerns to the extent we can accommodate.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FLIGHT: Now, Mr. Speaker, let me deal with the word misleading because I say to the hon. Member for Terra Nova it is he who is misleading the people of this House and misleading the people of Bonavista North. The fact of the matter is, Mr. Speaker, and he well knows it, that if I were to grant an eight kilometre buffer zone around every town on the Bonavista Peninsula it would mean the shutting down of the commercial harvesting of timber on the Bonavista Peninsula. It would mean 400 hundred jobs gone, Mr. Speaker, on the Bonavista Peninsula. Now, Mr. Speaker, I am aware that the twenty-eight commercial operators on the Bonavista Peninsula, most of whom, or a lot of whom are in his district, have been contacting me, their employee's have been contacting me, they are scared to death, Mr. Speaker, that the hon. member is going to get his way by making the case that he is making, and that I will concede an eight kilometre buffer zone around those communities. This would have the effect of shutting down the logging and sawmilling industry on the Bonavista Peninsula.

Now, Mr. Speaker, there may be an accommodation, and I tell you again that I will take the considerations and the concerns of the Save Our Forest Committee from the Bonavista Peninsula or representatives from any town on the Bonavista Peninsula, but everybody should understand, Mr. Speaker, that if I have to impose an eight-kilometre buffer zone around every community on the Bonavista Peninsula, it will effectively shut down the sawlogging and sawmilling industry on the Bonavista Peninsula and jeopardize anywhere from 300 to 500 jobs. Now, Mr. Speaker, that is the fact.

The other thing I would say to the hon. member is, that if I were to concede that on the Bonavista Peninsula, then by what right would I not have to concede it to the rest of Newfoundland, and that would almost have the effect of shutting down the pulp and paper industry in the Province, so, Mr. Speaker, there has to be an accommodation. I respect and I understand the concerns of the Save Our Forest Committee, of the representative who has written me with regard to clear-cutting on the Bonavista Peninsula, but there has to be an accommodation and we will work towards that accommodation, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. HEWLETT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise to present a petition from 733 residents of the Springdale area. A petition to the House of Assembly in which they are asking the government to reconsider the elimination or the possible elimination of the 2 per cent clause with regard to teacher allocations. The prayer of the petition indicates that Green Bay is a rural district, and has made concessions in the past with regard to their education program, and the elimination of the 2 per cent rule will lead to the possible loss of thirty-six teaching positions for the Green Bay Integrated School Board.

Mr. Speaker, there are any number of scenarios that have been coming out of the government with regard to how they are going to meet their budgetary requirements, one of which of course, has been wage roll backs or time off without pay, but the other, in the education system, is the elimination of the 2 per cent rule, a rule which basically says that no one school board can lose more than 2 per cent of its teachers in any given year, regardless of its enrollment. This particular rule protects the teaching work force of various boards in varying degrees.

In the matter of the Green Bay board, it will be one of the worst hit if this particular 2 per cent rule is eliminated, they will lose thirty-six positions. This would mean that in a school like Grant Collegiate in Springdale, the school from which I graduated, could lose a half-dozen teachers and would have nothing but a bare bones education program to offer as a result of such a loss. That would be rather sad, Mr. Speaker. Back in the days when Brian Peckford was the English teacher and Roger Simmons was the principal, that school was listed by Maclean's magazine as one of the best sixty-five schools in all of Canada, and here we are today, wondering, if indeed the 2 per cent rule is eliminated, whether or not that particular school will be just sent down to doing a bare bones reading, writing and arithmetic type of program. So, Mr. Speaker, these 733 people from the Springdale area are very concerned. I attended a public meeting that they had and they subsequently sent this petition around the town and got 733 names. I think their plea should be heard, I ask that the petition be tabled and referred to the Department of Education.

Thank you.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise to support my colleague and the petitioners from Green Bay district, with specific reference to the 2 per cent savings clause. I think it is very important, and the government must realize that in order to create an equality of educational opportunity, sometimes there must be an inequality of educational funding, certain rural areas are hard hit by a 2 per cent savings clause if it is eliminated. It is important to be able to maintain certain basic courses and course offerings to people in rural areas so they would have the same opportunities as in more populated urban areas that do not get the same economies of numbers in these areas to be able to offer a program that is equal throughout the entire Province. Eliminating the 2 per cent savings clause or a weakening of the 2 per cent savings clause, will result in less course offerings, less opportunity for people in these areas to be able to avail of a decent education, and today, especially some of the courses that would be eliminated would usually be a smaller selection of science courses, fewer opportunities to take advanced math courses and so on. They will be going with a general stream of courses, and these are the basic courses today that are important to building a foundation.

In view of the courses that are needed today in the job openings in technology fields, it is very important to have schools able to provide equality of programs so there is no discrimination occurring among people in different parts of this Province.

Recently - I know this government, over this past while in the mini-Budget, took $17.5 million out of current account expenditures in education. When money is removed from education, it hurts. Teacher positions are reduced.

The 2 per cent savings clause - we shouldn't be looking at elimination of the 2 per cent savings clause without any specific plan to be able to utilize those positions and those funds in areas where we can maintain programs.

It is not the elimination of the 2 per cent savings clause in a strict sense that creates a problem, it is withdrawing these from a system without doing an analysis of the effect it would have, so there could be a better reallocation of those 200-300 units in strategic areas around the Province so we can maintain a semblance of course offerings that is going to give equality of educational opportunity.

I think that is very important, and with the upcoming Budget, too, I think it is very important to consider that education is the underlying basis upon which our entire economies operate, and we have seen an assault on education over the past while. I think it has to stop and we have to look at the matter realistically. If we hope down the road that we are going to have a fair opportunity to obtain employment, a fair opportunity for young entrepreneurs to go out, be industrious, and have the training that they need to be able to create jobs and be productive members of the work force, that has to come through education.

I think it is very important that we consider the petition here, that government take heed, and the Minister of Education accordingly.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for giving me the opportunity to speak to this issue because there seems to be a considerable amount of confusion throughout the Province because of some statements about this particular problem.

Mr. Speaker, what is the 2 per cent rule? The 2 per cent rule refers to a covering letter which was attached to the last teachers' contract, and the one before that, and probably the one before that, as well, which said that no matter what happens to school enrolment, school boards can only lay off 2 per cent of the teachers. Now, push that to its logical conclusion, and if every man, woman and child moved off the Northern Peninsula, say, for some reason, then we would have to keep about 500 teachers employed doing nothing. Now, that is the effect of the 2 per cent rule which is covered by letter.

Now, Mr. Speaker, the result of this 2 per cent rule is that, come September, next year, there are 301 teachers in the system, at a cost of $17 million, who are not distributed with any rhyme or reason throughout the Province. They are, by sheer accident, attached to specific school boards.

Some boards have as many as thirty-five or thirty-six teachers on holdback. Other boards - for example the Pentecostal - don't have any teachers on holdback. So the 2 per cent rule is a clause in a contract which was put there with all the best reasons in the world, namely job security for the membership of the teachers' union, and I have no problem with that.

Now, there is some confusion on the part of the people of the Province with the needs of small schools. For example, Great Harbour Deep with thirty-five students from K to VIII. Now, government recognizes that there must be in place a formula to deal with the problems in Great Harbour Deep, or Conche, or Croque, or Red Bay, or Mose Ambrose. The list goes on and on, Mr. Speaker. There must be a formula in place which gives government the flexibility to address the problem where it is happening.

The problem with the present clause in the teachers' contract is that it interferes with the flexibility of government to deal with the specific cases.

If, per chance, a school board has some teachers on holdback, then they can address their problem. If per chance a school board has a small school with a problem, and does not have some teachers on holdback, then that board does not have the wherewithal to deal with the specific problem - and that is happening in the Province, Mr. Speaker.

Now, all government has been saying is that we want to take that $17 million and redirect it Province-wide, so that the people who live in Mose Ambrose have the same crack at getting extra teachers, if they are required, according to a formula which will be agreed upon by school boards and by all the stakeholders in education.

Mr. Speaker, I can assure the hon. member who brought this petition in on behalf of his constituents today, I can tell him he can go back to his constituents - he can take the excerpt out of Hansard and mail it to them. He can rest assured that we are talking about replacing a clause which, in effect, has hamstrung the Minister of Education, has hamstrung the ability of the Department of Education, to deal with specific problems that are out there in the system. So he can rest assured that we are concerned with dealing with the specific problems.

This I cannot do, because I am hamstrung by a particular clause in a contract, which is therefore, a perfectly valid reason to protect the jobs of people. There is nothing wrong with that. But government must have the flexibility to deal with the specific problems and, Mr. Speaker, we will do that.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Orders of the Day

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, Order No. 2, please.

MR. SPEAKER: Order No. 2.

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

Committee of the Whole

MR. CHAIRMAN (Barrett): Order, please!

A bill, "An Act To Amend The House Of Assembly Act (Bill No. 1).

MR. CHAIRMAN: Shall clause 1 carry?

AN HON. MEMBER: There is only one clause to the bill.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Yes, there is actually only one clause to the bill.

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Chairman, let me say a word.

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

MR. ROBERTS: As Your Honour has noticed, there is, in fact, only one clause in the bill. Because the bill simply adds a substantial number of clauses. Let me say, we could do one of two things as members, and may prefer, subject to Your Honour's direction - we could ask Your Honour to call each clause; I mean, there are thirty-some clauses in the one section that we are adding. Perhaps that might be the way to do it; or we could take them by 'chunk', to use a very imprecise word.

What I do want to say to the Committee is, obviously, there is no desire to restrict debate. If anybody wants to get into any part of it, we should deal with it. There are no amendments, as far as I am aware.

MR. CHAIRMAN: The Chair is open to direction from hon. members.

MR. HARRIS: Mr. Chairman.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Ordinarily, the procedure has been, in Committee, to have a general discussion on Clause 1, and if there are specific amendments, we will deal with them as they come.

MR. ROBERTS: That would be fine.

MR. HARRIS: I think that might be appropriate, rather than try to make individual speeches and grab the floor at the appropriate time. Because there are a couple of things that I would like to say, for example, and it may result in an amendment, depending on the will of the House. Perhaps if we could do it that way, have a general discussion on Clause 1, and if there are amendments to deal with, then we can deal with them, as well, if members want to speak on the first clause, and perhaps that might be the best way to do it. That would be my suggestion.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Any hon. member who wishes may make a comment, but we will take - if it is the wish of the House that we continue on with the discussion on it, or if we just take it as one clause, that is entirely up to the members.

MR. ROBERTS: Let's hear what the Member for St. John's East has to say, Mr. Chairman. We are all in good form and good humour. Let's get on with it. We will gladly hear what he has to say. The main thing is that nobody will be restricted in his or her right to say whatever one wishes, subject, as always, to the rules.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, I do want to make a few remarks today on the passage of this bill through the Committee stage and the purpose of my remarks today - I mean, I have reviewed the legislation and, as I said the other day, participated in a number of the amendments that were proceeding through the Committee and I want to make some comments on the end result of that.

I did have occasion, Mr. Chairman of Committee, to discuss the legislation with someone in the Province of Saskatchewan who had similar legislation going through their House and I was curious as to what criticisms might have been made to the legislation in the Province of Saskatchewan. The legislation was just introduced recently by the NDP Government in Saskatchewan, as Bill No. 1, in their House.

I was informed, Mr. Chairman, that there had been a Tory Government in office in Saskatchewan for some ten years which managed to do a number of very, very negative things to the financial situation in Saskatchewan. They managed to do a lot of negative things to the budgetary situation of Saskatchewan. They did promise for all of those ten years to bring in conflict of interest legislation but, of course, they didn't, and it was left to the NDP Government, which was just elected last year, to bring in a conflict of interest situation. As the Member for St. John's South says, yes, I do have some sympathy for what the current government went through in their first year but they are beyond that now. In their first year they probably had to go through a lot of things to deal with what the previous government left them in this Province, just as the Saskatchewan Government was left there.

To get to the point here, there was introduced by the Saskatchewan Government, a conflict of interest legislation, a separate act called, The Members Conflict of Interest Act. In that province there were some criticisms made of the Act, very similar to our own, but I wanted to pass on to hon. members some of the criticisms that were made by the Liberal Opposition in Saskatchewan to their act.

In Saskatchewan, of course, we have the reverse situation of here. There is only one Liberal member of the House of Assembly in Saskatchewan, and that is the leader of the Liberal Party, and there is an NDP Government in Saskatchewan. Here, we have only one New Democrat, the leader of the New Democratic Party, and a Liberal Government, but I should say, while I am at it, that the New Democratic Party Government in Saskatchewan looks after the Liberal leader a lot better than this government looks after the leader of the NDP, in terms of providing research assistants to allow that person to carry on their work. It is a subject that I can take up in another forum. But some of the criticisms that were made can apply here. Some of the criticisms of Linda Haverstock in Saskatchewan to the Saskatchewan legislation, is that it doesn't require disclosure of senior bureaucrats. I think some of our problems here are covered by the existing conflict of interest legislation but it doesn't require the same kind of disclosure that this legislation requires for members.

One of the other criticisms is that legislation in Saskatchewan does not provide that members of the House after they are defeated or retire, are not eligible for government appointments for a six-month period. Now, Mr. Chairman, the Liberal Opposition in Saskatchewan has criticized their legislation for not providing that; apparently, the Alberta legislation provides for it, the Ontario legislation and British Columbia legislation provide for it, that members aren't able to be appointed to government jobs, positions and appointments within a period of six months after ceasing to be a member.

I suppose, Mr. Chairman, if we were to propose such an amendment here, it would be called the Beaton Tulk amendment, so that if a Liberal member on that side of the House were defeated in the upcoming election, for example, if the Member for Eagle River were required to vacate his seat as a result of losing the election, that the government would not be able to give him a consolation prize of a position within the government, or the appointment to a particular board; that, Mr. Chairman, might be an amendment that we would like to see in this bill.

I only heard about this within the last the hour or so, so I have not yet had time to draft such an amendment, but if other members want to speak on this legislation, I will busily work out a draft for such an amendment to be included in the bill - and we could call it the Beaton Tulk amendment - that it would prevent a government from appointing their defeated members to the government after the election and I think that that would be an appropriate amendment to have here because we all know the folly that the government got into in 1989 after the election when Beaton Tulk was unable to maintain his seat, he was looked after by the government in a position, a very controversial position, as it turned out, within the Department of Social Services, a position to which he was appointed, as a political consolation prize for being a defeated Liberal candidate and Liberal MHA. So, while we are at it, while we are putting in force conflict of interest legislation, perhaps we should make sure that hon. members, particularly, Mr. Chairman -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: The Member for Port de Grave would not be entitled to a government position within six months after he is defeated in any event. I don't know the details of the severance package available to hon. members once they are defeated, I haven't bothered to look, because I don't think it would apply to me, but for hon. members who expect to be defeated or leave office, they may be very interested in the severance packages. I believe that after a certain number of years there is some sort of a severance package you can get for up to four or five or six months of severance pay if you are defeated as an hon. member.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) in Ottawa.

MR. HARRIS: That is what it is in Ottawa. I know what it is in Ottawa, I have only experienced it in Ottawa and I don't intend to experience it here.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) amendment.

MR. HARRIS: The Beaton Tulk amendment. This amendment would provide that Members of the House of Assembly, after they cease to be hon. members, are not entitled, are not eligible, to be appointed by the government in the public service or in a government appointment for a period of six months.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: For a period of six months. You can amend the amendment if the -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: That is the situation under the Alberta legislation, and I am told, B.C., as well. This is a criticism, and I think, you know, we are being non-partisan here and we are talking about legislation that would affect whatever government is in office. We worked very co-operatively, as a Committee, to come up with a piece of legislation that was as good as we could make it, but this issue wasn't brought forward by anyone, it didn't come to anybody's attention.

It was brought to my attention today as a result of statements made by the Liberal Opposition in Saskatchewan that that would be an amendment that ought to be made to their legislation, which is very, very similar to ours, sets up a commissioner that is separately appointed, I believe, similarly to ours, appointed by the House of Assembly, the commissioner in both places being an officer of the House of Assembly. I don't have the amendment ready yet, in any event, so when someone else will be speaking, I will be drafting the amendment while that happens, but I think it is one that might be appropriate.

One of the other criticisms of the Saskatchewan legislation is that it does not, as does Alberta legislation, prohibit a Cabinet minister from buying land except for personal or for farm use. Now, Mr. Chairman, in the Province of Alberta, their conflict of interest legislation provides that a member of the Cabinet shall not purchase land while he or she is a member of the Cabinet for purposes other than personal or farm use. That is what the Alberta legislation says, and this is obviously to avoid Cabinet ministers speculating on land or engaging in land development schemes while being a member of the Cabinet, because even though you may not be able to nail down or pin down what might happen, Cabinet ministers in there, in the course of their business, can have certain knowledge about what might or might not take place, or might have an advantage conferred upon them.

So that is a criticism brought forward in Saskatchewan by the Liberal Opposition there. I suppose that may well be covered by Section 23, with reference to insider information, but the legislation in Alberta goes further and prevents any possibility of there being a problem by ensuring that Cabinet ministers won't be tempted to engage in that. Mr. Chairman, I would suggest that members should consider whether that will be an appropriate change in the legislation here.

Another criticism of the legislation in Saskatchewan, brought forward by the Liberal Opposition there was that there ought to be a specific prohibition of Cabinet ministers holding publicly-traded shares in publicly-traded corporations without having them placed in blind trust or outside of their control. Under our legislation, of course, these are declared. There is a declaration made that an asset, liability, or financial interest must be disclosed as a private interest. Under Paragraph 20 (e) which describes a private interest. It includes publicly-traded shares, so they have to be disclosed. The question is, Mr. Chairman, whether or not a Cabinet minister ought to be permitted to be able to continue to trade in those shares during the course of being in Cabinet.

In Alberta and other provinces there is a prohibition of the Cabinet minister holding such shares except through a blind trust. I think that serious consideration ought to be given to preventing Cabinet ministers from engaging in that kind of public trading in shares. Once again, it is something that is potentially covered by the insider trading block in paragraph 23 of the bill, that the prohibition against using insider information is certainly available. But I think, once again, to be certain that a Cabinet minister is not engaging in a business, which they have spelled out here - it is very clear in section 27, that a minister shall not engage in employment or in the practice of a profession and a minister is prohibited from carrying on business. I would submit, Mr. Chairman, that it would be very easy to amend the legislation, paragraph 27, to prohibit a minister from trading in shares of a publicly-traded corporation except through a blind trust. That would mean that the minister didn't have control over the trading of those shares, because that would involve a form of carrying on a business, outside of the duties of a Cabinet minister.

I would submit, in the absence of a good argument from members opposite, that that would be not an unreasonable prohibition on a member of Cabinet, to prohibit a member of Cabinet from engaging in the trading of shares of publicly-traded corporations. Because that is very analogous to the carrying on of a business or a trade. At an appropriate moment, Mr. Chairman, I will be making an amendment to that section, in keeping with the suggestions that were made in Saskatchewan by the Liberals.

I say, by the Liberals, because I gather, in Saskatchewan the Tories aren't saying very much about conflict of interest. I understand there are a number of investigations going on right now and the Tories in Saskatchewan aren't saying very much at all about conflict of interest in the Province of Saskatchewan. I guess it is not surprising.

Mr. Chairman, those are my remarks. Today, at third reading, I will be seeking to make an amendment to section 27, with respect to what can be carried on by ministers, and also, to the section dealing with what shall happen to members after they leave office, a prohibition on members being appointed by the government for a period of six months to ensure that whatever arrangements are made by a political party with defeated members are really party business and nothing to do with government.

Given those remarks, Mr. Chairman, I will end here. As I said in my remarks the other day at second reading, I think this is good legislation. It is long overdue in this Province. It serves the interest of protecting - two interests here: number one, the public interest in knowing that this type of legislation exists to protect the public from unscrupulous individuals who might seek to use their office contrary to the public interest, and number two, to protect members, themselves.

I have to say that I had a certain amount of sympathy for the Government House Leader, last fall, when he was being criticized for conflict of interest, because there was no way, really, for that conflict of interest to be adjudicated upon. We had the Premier standing and saying there was no conflict of interest, and it really shouldn't be left up to the Premier to say that. But under the old guidelines, under the old rules, the Premier had the right to decide whether there was a conflict of interest or not. In this case, he decided there was no conflict of interest but he was wrong on that, despite the fact that he spoke with such great righteousness about the issue. He was wrong, because there was a conflict of interest, and a perceived conflict of interest, when a member of the Cabinet was receiving an income on a regular basis from a business whose financial health was dependent upon, in part, work with this government. I think that the public generally agreed with that, that this was a real conflict of interest.

The Premier was wrong. The Premier tried to defend it, but unsuccessfully. Eventually, I understand, the Government House Leader managed to get himself out of the conflict of interest by making sure that all the money he was owed was paid to him. I think it was a fortuitous outcome for the Government House Leader. I think he was probably very glad that the conflict of interest matter had been raised because it made him better off than he would have been before.

Under this legislation, Mr. Chairman, when an allegation of conflict of interest is being made, a member has recourse to an independent commissioner who can adjudicate on the matter and make an impartial - not a partisan adjudication such as the Premier made last fall, not a partisan evaluation of a potential conflict which the Premier made last fall in declaring there was no conflict of interest for the Minister of Justice. That was a partisan evaluation. We would expect that the commissioner, under this legislation, would make an impartial assessment of a situation and advise members how they should avoid conflicts, because it is important that members have a way of doing that.

So I support the legislation for two reasons, because it provides protection for the public, and it also provides protection for hon. members who are, in fact, honourable and who wish to have any allegations of conflict adjudicated by an impartial body so that scurrilous allegations cannot be made.

Those being my remarks, I welcome the comments of other hon. members on my two suggestions for improvement of the bill: number one, with respect to members taking government appointments, government positions, within a period of six months after leaving office as members of this House; and number two, a prohibition on Cabinet ministers engaging in the trading of publicly-traded stocks during the period of their being in Cabinet, unless such stocks are, in fact, being handled by a blind trust.

So I would welcome any comments any members opposite might have on those, but I intend to propose those two amendments in this Committee stage at an appropriate time.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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

MR. RAMSAY: Mr. Chairman, I would like to have a few words about this bill, following the hon. member's comments about a blind trust. It is something where, I would suppose, any member participating in business, and if that business could, in fact, do business with the government in any way, that would be a way in which financial aspects of it could be handled.

The other aspect of it that one might consider though, is that a blind trust does not necessarily mean arm's length. It may, to a point, but there is an aspect of -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. RAMSAY: Exactly, but the idea of a blind trust being at arm's length can, in effect, still allow the individual to have discussions and operations but, of course, then it gets into the broad interpretation of what 'at arm's length' would mean within the context of the law - I am not studied in the law, but from information that I have available to me in the study of this bill.

Mr. Chairman, the bill, itself, makes for clearing up a situation which has been a problem, I suppose, although with the lack of direct public input into the process, the lack of interest in the conflict of interest, I suppose we could say, one has to wonder if this is probably more a symptom of the problem of the way politicians are held in society today.

It could very well be that the lack of this kind of act which addresses the problems of conflict of interest in a very forthright manner is a possible responsibility for the low esteem with which politicians are held.

It is assumed by many in the public that a politician, just by virtue of holding the title, is, in fact, a person who has some kind of shade to their character - and that is wrong. It is the kind of thing, I suppose, for which politicians have no one to blame but themselves, for the lack of legislation and regulation that would prevent them from being held in low esteem.

If the rules are strict and the test is applied by not only the panels or whatever that are established in various things having to do with politicians, then that test, as well as the test of the general public, not only through the electorate, but the general public in general public opinion, is one which would certainly make for providing a general sense of satisfaction that politicians are in fact acting outside of a conflict of interest.

The specific parts of this Bill, Part II where it discusses the excluded private interest. Anything less than $10,000 in value is certainly a reasonable assumption to make that anything less than that could not really affect an interest in a manner that would affect a member's performance in his or her duties. Go down through real property for residents. Even though we currently place real property on our conflict of interest forms, we have to wonder as to whether that is in fact the case.

Mr. Chairman, I won't comment any more. I'll allow other members to have a chance.

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

MR. HARRIS: Mr. Chairman, I'm drafting an amendment to subclause - perhaps I could put the amendments on the floor. I'm drafting an amendment to subclause II 27(1), to add after the provision - and if hon. members want to follow it's on page 8 of the legislation. It would amend Clause 27(1) to add a new clause (b) which would say that a minister shall not: hold shares in publicly traded corporations except through a blind trust arrangement approved by the commissioner.

I have that in writing. I'll pass it up. So the amendment would be to amend Clause 27(1) to add a new clause (b), and renumber (b) and (c) as (c) and (d). The new clause (b) would read that a minister shall not: (b) hold shares in publicly traded corporations except through a blind trust arrangement approved by the commissioner.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: Yes. It was hold or trade, I think. I've got it written down: Hold or trade shares in publicly traded corporations except through a blind trust arrangement approved by the commissioner. That would, Mr. Chairman, answer the problems that the Member for LaPoile brought up in dealing with that. Then the renumbering or relettering.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: Relettering (b) and (c) accordingly. If that amendment could be brought to the Table, Mr. Chairman. I don't see a....

If I may speak briefly to that amendment, that amendment provides that - and it's consistent with the other items in Clause 27(1). A Cabinet minister is not permitted to: "(a) engage in employment or in the practice of a profession; (b) carry on a business; or (c) hold an office or directorship other than in a social club, service club, religious organization or political party...." It's analogous to that in that it would prevent a Cabinet minister from basically trading in publicly traded corporations, which is for some people a profession - speculation and stock-trading. For some people it's merely a source of income or a way of increasing the capital value of their investment portfolio. That would be appropriate for an individual to engage in that in private. To do that while being a member of the Cabinet would be analogous to the engagement in a profession or carrying on a business.

I think the provision of having a blind trust, such as the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology apparently has established for his winnings in the lottery. He advised the public that his million dollar lottery winnings, after looking after some personal matters and very kindly offering to send his mother on a trip anywhere she wants to go, he said publicly that he would take the rest of the money, put it in a blind trust, until he no longer is in public office. That, Mr. Chairman, is what we are suggesting here. If Cabinet ministers want to engage in, or have investments in stock markets, that is something they could continue to have and maintain, and have someone as a trustee to look after those investments while they are in public office, and as long as the arrangement is approved by the commissioner, and that would seem to be satisfactory to the commissioner, then it would certainly be satisfactory to this hon. member that that continue.

So I would propose that amendment to hon. members for their consideration. I would have been happy to do so at our legislative committee stage but it was not proposed by anybody and it had not come to my attention until I heard today that the Liberal opposition in Saskatchewan felt that this was a valid criticism of the Saskatchewan bill. I agree also that it is a valid criticism of our bill because it has not had it.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: Some of them enjoy trading and hon. members, such as the Member for LaPoile, could continue in his stock speculations. I do not know what ones he speculates in. I am sure, not being in Cabinet, he has lots of time for that - to engage in these things. Perhaps one day when he is a member of the Cabinet he will not have time to do that, but this is for Cabinet ministers only and it is in keeping with the provisions of Section 27.

When hon. members have a copy of it - I believe a copy is now being made for the opposition and for the Government House Leader -perhaps we can deal with it then.

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

MR. ROBERTS: The hon. gentleman has posed a problem. This Bill has been looked at for a fairly long time, as he would acknowledge, and it was dealt with by a select committee on which both he and I served, and has been here in the House for some considerable period of time. It is essentially the same as the bill that was introduced before Christmas, with some fairly minor changes reflecting the recommendations of the committee.

I gather what has happened is that he heard from some people in Saskatchewan earlier today. The fact they are Liberals, I admire his taste, but it not his taste, it is his timing that is causing the trouble because here we are now, at committee stage, and he is sort of drafting on the run and we are getting hand written amendments.

I must say to him, with all respect, that is not the way that we should be doing legislation. In fact, in a day or two or three we will get to the utilities taxation bill where the reason it is coming back in the House is that we fell into exactly the sort of trap that the hon. gentleman is saying.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: No, I say to my friend from Humber East, we did not create the trap, but amendments that had not been properly thought through were put through. It is not the policy. The policy of the bill, in fact, looks better and better all the time.

I say to my hon. friend, I am not prepared to ask my colleagues and friends on this side to support the amendment. Let me go on, though, to say two things.

I have some difficulty with the thought that a minister of the Crown, and Section 27 refers only to ministers of the Crown - I just turn it up here in my copy of the bill - it refers to ministers and that, by the way, includes Parliamentary secretaries. We only have one and are likely only to have one, but should there be more than one it would include more than one, that a minister of the Crown buying and selling shares is engaging in a business or the practice of a profession.

I do not know what kind of portfolios ministers have or may have had or may have in the future, but you have to have a pretty big portfolio and be at it a lot - you would be doing a lot of trading before it becomes carrying on the practice of a profession, or engaged in employment.

The danger with ministers holding shares is a different one and recognized, I suggest, by other parts of the Bill, and that is where a minister, or for that matter a member, has an interest in something and it is not properly disclosed or it is an improper interest.

I could say to my hon. friend that the Premier - he said this many times in the House and outside, and I know he intends to carry on the policy - as a condition of belonging to his Cabinet. Those of us who are in the Cabinet, the fourteen of us, are there only because the Premier has invited us to join his Cabinet, and we will be there only as long as he asks us to stay in his Cabinet, or until we leave of our own volition, or until the electorate takes us out. The point is that one is in the Cabinet because the Premier asks one to join the ministry and one accepts it. The Premier, as a condition has said, and we are moving to put into place the necessary paper work that there will be blind trusts, real blind trusts. I will not go into blind trusts in detail. In fact the blind trusts that can be put in place under the federal rules are not blind. They are not even trusts in most cases but they are not blind. There are all sorts of other problems that blind trusts do not engage. I have an interest in a business that I bought from my father many years ago, my brothers and I have it. A blind trust does not solve that. How do you deal with a private company for which there are no shares? If I owned 1000 shares in the Bank of Montreal that is easy to sell or easy to trade. Ring up your broker and they are gone tomorrow. You pay a bit of a commission, get your money in, and on you go, but if you own 1000 shares in the Widget Manufacturing Limited of LaPoile or the Cormack Strawberry Farm Limited of Cormack that is not as easy an interest to dispose of.

I say to my hon. friend that I do not think his amendment is necessary because the policy point he seeks to achieve will be addressed in another way, and in just as effective a way. I also say with respect that we are not prepared to have amendments dealt with in this way, handwritten amendments being brought into the House. When I say 'without thought,' I am not accusing the hon. member of anything devious or careless but as he himself acknowledged he had a phone conversation of some sort a little while ago and now it is leading to amendments here in the House. I have the Saskatchewan bill. I sent him a note he will recall on Monday of this week to say that I have it and if he would like a copy of it I would have been happy to send it to him. My officials have had it since August 17 and I can tell my hon. friend that this is one of the bills that my officials, Mr. Curran and Mr. Lake took into account when they drafted the Bill before us now. Mr. Curran met with the committee and participated in the discussions. He is a lawyer on whom I have relied and he has done a splendid job on this piece of work. Mr. Lake is the legislative counsel and does equally splendid work. It is our view that the Bill now before the committee is substantially better in policy, and if I may say in drafting, than the Saskatchewan one. Now my friend Bob Mitchell, the Attorney General in Saskatchewan, may not concur but I stand by it, that the present Bill is an improvement on the Saskatchewan legislation.

I must say to my learned that with respect, and with regret, I shall be asking my colleagues not to accept his amendment.

MR. CHAIRMAN: On motion Sub-clause 27 (1), carried.

Shall the amendment carry?


MR. CHAIRMAN: Those against.


MR. CHAIRMAN: I declare the amendment defeated.

MR. HARRIS: I am quite prepared to accept that the amendment is going to be defeated but I would like to have a vote.

MR. ROBERTS: Your Honour called -

MR. HARRIS: Your Honour asked whether it carried and someone said, yes, and someone said, no, and then you asked who was opposed to it. There has to be a proper vote, Mr. Chairman.

MR. CHAIRMAN: All those in favour of the amendment say 'Aye.'


MR. CHAIRMAN: All those against say 'Nay.'


MR. CHAIRMAN: I declare the amendment defeated.

On motion Sections 28 through to 58, carried.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Shall the enacting clause carry?

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Chairman, before we carry that. I did not speak in the second reading debate because I could not have added anything to the speech made by my friend for Gander, the Minister of Finance and the President of Treasury Board, but let me make a couple of points to deal with points which my friend for Kilbride made which in my view were made seriously, not all his points are but these were and I certainly want to deal with them. I agree completely with him that the committee stage was a very useful exercise and let me say here now that we shall be moving to see what we can do to revive the review committees, they got off track before Christmas, I accept my share of the blame for that and we will see if we can get them back on track.

The act is subject to proclamation, it is our intention, I say to the House, Mr. Chairman, to proclaim the act as quickly as we can, there may be a need to get some forms, we will have to get a commissioner in place but as soon as we can get it in place, we will. I agree completely the commissioner is the key and these are points I think which a number of hon. members made, the person who is to be the commissioner will be the key to this act. The commissioner as Your Honour will recall, is appointed by the House, and we wrote in a very unusual provision in this, that the commissioner shall be appointed by the House of Assembly on the motion of the Premier, following consultation with the leader of the Official Opposition and representatives of other registered political parties, which of course is the phrase from the Elections Act, other registered political parties having representation in the House of Assembly, and I think that is an earnest of how we intend to approach this.

I will make one other comment. Spousal interest, a number of members have spoken, I think my friend from Kilbride did. This act attempts to strike a balance between competing interests. We believe it is a good balance, time will tell whether it is or not, but it is an attempt to strike a balance between the right of a spouse to carry on his or her profession and on the other hand, the right of the public to be assured that the professional spouse is not improperly benefitting from the fact that the spouse of the professional spouse is a member of this House or a Minister of the Crown. With that said, Mr. Chairman, thank you very much.

A bill, "An Act To Amend The House Of Assembly Act." (Bill No. 1)

Motion, that the Committee report having passed the bill without amendment, carried.

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

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

MR. BARRETT: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole has considered the matter to it referred, has passed the bill, Bill No. 1, without amendment, and ask leave to sit again.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The House Of Assembly Act", read a third time, ordered passed and its title be as on the Order Paper. (Bill No. 1).

MR. ROBERTS: Order No. 10, Mr. Speaker, which is Bill No.2, in the name of my friend The Minister of Environment and Lands.

Motion, second read of a bill, "An Act Respecting The Reduction Of The Impact Of Packaging On The Environment". (Bill No. 2).

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

MS. COWAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am pleased to be able to bring this legislation before the House today. It is enabling legislation and I will give a bit of the background why this legislation is here and what we hope to accomplished by having it passed by this House.

The Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment brought together a national packaging protocol, to which we as a government are party. This protocol establishes targets for getting rid of waste, waste packaging - I just find it a little difficult, Mr. Speaker, to talk when there are so many other conversations around me. Anyway this Canadian packaging protocol establishes targets for packaging waste and it is hoped by the year 2000 that there will be a reduction of 50 per cent of the waste that goes into the waste fill sites and the litter and so on, in Canada. An industry has been involved in this and has volunteered actually to meet these requirements without legislation. However, at the same time they have encouraged us to put in legislation because of the fact that this establishes a level playing field across Canada. You will notice I think if you buy things that packaging is changing, a certain milk producing company here in St. John's is now putting their milk products into a plastic bag and their idea in that is that it will reduce what goes into the waste fill sites by 95 per cent, which is quite startling when you think there is that difference between a wax milk carton and the plastic bag that they are now using.

A variety in fact are, national, international companies complying with the federal target of reaching this 50 per cent reduction in waste by the year 2000. Each of the provinces is bringing in legislation such as I have today, not exactly the same but similar legislation, as I said to establish what we can see as an industrial level playing field acrose the nation. So this act will enable the minister to collect data on packaging by a company, institution or government department, or agency. It would enable the minister to undertake various research projects on packaging and it also provides for substantial fines up to $250,000 for contravention of the act or regulations thereunder.

As well, it will provide the minister with the ability to make regulations prescribing standards and codes in packaging, the minister will then be able to regulate content and composition of packaging, provide for reduction, reuse and recylying infrastructure for specific packaging types, require the development of packaging waste reduction and prevention plans, requiring periodiac packaging waste audits and requiring payment of a deposit on packaging. So this is why the legislation is coming, it enables the minister to set up regulations having to do with packaging in the Province. Beverage containers, for example, one of the issues we are working on now, this legislation will be of use when we put in place some regulations to in fact control the beverage container problem.

So, I am pleased, Mr. Speaker, today to be able to bring this Bill to the House for second reading.

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

MR. DOYLE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, I appreciate your recognizing me. Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have a few words to say on this particular piece of legislation, environmental issues are certainly at the forefront in the world today, all around the world environmental issues are getting a little bit more attention than they previously did and environmental groups in society generally are encouraging governments to be a little bit more environmentally friendly also, Mr. Speaker, because I am sure all of us from time to time have the opportunity to go into the country and to walk in the woodlands and you see the litter everywhere. The pop cans all over the place and the beer cartons and the empty beer bottles and you have to ask yourself, does anyone really, really care about the environment today. We talk about the environment and we say how very important it is to have a nice clean society and a nice clean environment, but still when you go into the country and you see what's happening all around us.... It's hardly believable when you see the amount of pop cans, litter and beer cartons and what have you all over the place.

I don't know where we stand in comparison to other provinces but it really strikes me that we here in this Province are not as environmentally friendly as we should be. We certainly have one of the most beautiful provinces in Canada -

AN HON. MEMBER: Enemies of the environment.

MR. DOYLE: - but we are, yes, we're enemies of the environment when you get right down to it. I don't know if there's a - I shouldn't say it but I will - if there's a sloppier or a dirtier bunch of people when it comes to walking in the country and throwing pop cans, beer cartons and bottles all over the place. Mr. Speaker, I think we all have to be concerned in that regard.

Now we've heard the minister on occasion talk about recycling. I've heard and seen the minister myself talking on radio and t.v. about the importance of the legislation that she was intending to bring in. I looked through this Bill today and I have some concerns about it, actually. Specifically I have concerns about Clause 5 in the Bill. It says that: "The minister may (a) undertake or support and encourage programs or research into...," and it goes on that she may do that with respect to "(i) environmental profiles of packaging materials..." and the minister may - again, may - undertake or support and encourage programs into "(ii) market development...." It keeps going on - may, may, may, may, may.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. DOYLE: May. I'm talking about what the minister may do but not what she shall do or what she should do or what she will do. It keeps saying "may."

Then you get down to Clause 6 in the Bill, the regulations. "The Lieutenant-Governor in Council may make regulations...." Now the Lieutenant-Governor in Council of course is Cabinet. So Cabinet may make regulations prescribing a whole bunch of things. We get down - one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten. "The Lieutenant-Governor in Council may make regulations (a) prescribing standards and codes in packaging..., (b) governing the content and composition of the packaging...." Again, Cabinet may provide for the reduction and recycling system. It's all "may," Mr. Speaker, and I have some real concerns about that.

Why didn't the minister come in with a bill saying: the minister will, or the minister shall, do it. Not the minister may. So of what purpose is the Act, I would ask the Minister of Environment and Lands, if it doesn't require anyone to do anything? Now that's what it amounts to. This Act doesn't require the minister, or it doesn't require the government, to do anything. I would like to see that changed, if we can change it or amend it in Committee, that the minister shall make regulations, the minister will make regulations. Not the minister may make regulations, or the Lieutenant-Governor in Council - Cabinet - may make regulations.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. DOYLE: Yes, Mr. Speaker. So I would like to see that changed in Committee. After all, if you look at the Highway Traffic Act it doesn't say that you may be required to travel ninety kilometres an hour. It says you will. I would ask the minister to give some serious consideration to these comments. Granted it is a good public relations document but it doesn't address the real concerns.

I would say to the minister, if she's not prepared to bring in a bill that has some teeth in it, and actually requires someone to do something, then there is really not much use in doing it. Because we've all seen the minister as I said on t.v. and heard her on radio talking about legislation and talking about environmental issues, and controlling the use of pop bottles and the importance of recycling. I think we were, in fairness to the minister, led to expect that the legislation would deal with these problems - that we would actually have an action plan; but when I see this Bill I am inclined to say that what we are getting is a couple of operational clauses there that say that government may or may not do something.

Mr. Speaker, I do not know what kind of a signal that sends to people out there who have been waiting for this type of legislation, and the various environmental groups who have been expecting the minister to bring in a bill that has some real teeth in it.

Then you get over to - and I do not know the significance of this one, Clause VIII. Maybe somebody with a legal background can tell me. Where a person has been convicted of an offence under this act, the courts 'may' - the whole Bill is all 'may', 'may', 'may'. The minister 'may' make regulations, and the Lieutenant-Governor in Council 'may' do this or do that.

I am just wondering if there are any concerns that I flagged for the minister, and if she can tell me why the act is worded in that particular way and why it would not give the act a little bit more teeth and give it more authority by actually putting in 'shall', or the government 'will' do it.

Mr. Speaker, these are all the comments I have to make.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MURPHY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker - just a few words.

I have to agree with the Member for Harbour Main that I think this particular piece of legislation -

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

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

After the minister had spoken, I rose and was recognized by the Chair and then deferred to the Member for Harbour Main. After having been recognized by the Chair I would have expected that after the Member for Harbour Main spoke I would be given the floor. Now the Chair has recognized the Member for St. John's South and I think as a point of order I should be recognized next.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. Minister of Finance on a point of order.

MR. BAKER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

To that point of order raised by the Member for St. John's East, it is practice in this House, Your Honour, for the Speaker to recognize individuals, members that the Speaker sees standing. The Speaker recognized the Member for St. John's East and then recognized that he had made perhaps an error and recognized the Member for Harbour Main.

The Member for St. John's East indicated that he would be willing to give up his turn because I believe he recognized that the Member for Harbour Main was standing first, so he sat down.

It is also another custom of the House, Your Honour, that where possible the debate goes back and forth. In fact, the Member for St. John's South stood up and Your Honour was following a time-honoured tradition in the House of going back and forth one side and then somebody on the other. If there is nobody from one side who stands up, then you get two speakers or more from the other side of the House.

Also, Mr. Speaker, I would like to point out that you are not depriving the Member for St. John's East of his chance to speak because he can speak as soon as the Member for St. John's South sits down.

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

MR. MATTHEWS: To that point of order, Mr. Speaker, I think the members have pretty well explained what happened. The Speaker recognized the Member for St. John's East in error because he should have recognized the critic, the Member for Harbour Main. With that, the Member for St. John's East gave way - gave leave to the member.

AN HON. MEMBER: Graciously.

MR. MATTHEWS: Yes, courteously, graciously. Even though it is right what the Minister of Finance says, that usually we go, if the Member for St. John's South would be as courteous now as to give way for the Member for St. John's East, then the problem would be resolved. We would not get into a wrangle. I am sure the Member for St. John's South is going to do that.

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

MR. MURPHY: I have no problem relinquishing to the member for St. John's East, as long as the Member for St. John's East understands that the clock started when he stood up on his point of order.

AN HON. MEMBER: What, give him time?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member was not recognized, so his time did not start. Is the hon. member giving leave to the hon. Member for St. John's East?

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I thank the hon. Member for St. John's South for his courtesy.

I do want to speak to this Bill and I am very sorry that the minister is not in her chair, although she is back in the Chamber now. I want to make some remarks on this legislation because I think what we have here is very unfortunate. It is very unfortunate, Mr. Speaker, that what we have now before us is the product of four years of this government dilly-dallying with the issue of beverage containers, containerization and packaging, four years of dilly-dallying, four years of promises that they were consulting, that they were thinking about the issue, that they were consulting with groups and it was a very complex issue. Everybody who criticised them for not having a piece of legislation were told to be patient because we are working on this, we are consulting with everybody, we are going to do this right and when we come forth we will have our policies, we will know what we are going to do and we will have our decision made.

Well, Mr. Speaker, what do we have? We have a public relations exercise, Mr. Speaker, the mountain laboured and brought forth a mouse because there is nothing in this legislation whatsoever indicating what the governments policy is with respect to containers. Nothing whatsoever indicating what policy the government will pursue with respect to the overwhelming dumping of containers in this Province and in particular beverage containers. Every day there are tons and tons and tons of beverage containers imported into this Province which contain fruit juices, apple juices or these speciality juices that are coming out, all being brought into this Province, Mr. Speaker, not one of them returnable, not one of them refillable, not one of them available for any real re-cycling and this government and this minister have stood by for three or four years telling us to be patient, be patient because we have a plan, we will have this figured out and we will present this to the House of Assembly, well, where is it, Mr. Speaker? All we have here is a Cabinet. The Cabinet may make regulations that is all.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: No, the minister is not allowed to make regulations. No, no, no the minister cannot make regulations. The minister may undertake a program to encourage research.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: Well, thank you very much. This, Mr. Speaker, after four years of government, the minister now may undertake and encourage programs on research into environmental profiles of packaging materials. Well, isn't that progress? The minister may require a corporation to collect data on packaging, well that is progress. What a substantial and humongous progress being made by this government. I am not attacking the Minister of Environment personally, I believe she is probably sincere. I know she was out in Salmonier Line two years ago when hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of bags of garbage were hauled out of the wilderness area.

MR. TOBIN: Who was on the Salmonier Line?

MR. HARRIS: The Minister of Environment and Lands was out in the wilderness area two summers ago, when helicoptors were required to take bags and bags and bags of garbage in the wilderness area of this Province. So she knows and she is sincere. I believe she is sincere and lots of people were volunteering to help to remove this garbage from the wilderness, this packaging material, these bottles, these containers, that have been dumped there by Newfoundlanders unscrupulous Newfoundlanders going into the wilderness area and leaving behind their junk, containers and their garbage. So, I know the minister believes. I suppose it is like persons going to church, Mr. Speaker, on Sunday morning when a person goes to church, they get down on their knees and they say they believe and in some places they have to stand up and say they believe. So, what we have is the minister constantly, for the past four years, testifying as to her belief in the environment.

Well, Mr. Speaker, that is what we have had from this government, we have had a lot of testifying about their beliefs but we have not seen any substantial action from this minister with respect to what the policy of the government is on beverage containers.

We know that the Conservative government in Ottawa through ACOA gave $800,000 in 1988 to build a bottling plant to make these two-litre plastic bottles to be spread all over the environment. We know that. We know what the Conservative government in Ottawa did. It gave them $800,000. Let's manufacture hundreds of thousand of plastic containers and spew them all over the environment. Fill up our landfills, fill up our environment. We know that, we know what they did. What we want to know is what this minister is going to do. We haven't heard that. There's not one ounce of policy in this bill, not one ounce. But there are a lot of things to worry about. There's not very much here but what we have gives us a certain cause to be concerned.

MR. TOBIN: What about the NDP (Inaudible) Hibernia?

MR. HARRIS: Let's look at the definition of "recovery."

MR. TOBIN: What about the NDP (Inaudible) provincially and federally?

MR. HARRIS: Let's look at the definition of recovery, Mr. Speaker. If the Member for Burin - Placentia West would listen instead of speaking he might learn something. The word "recovery" is defined in this Act as follows, in 2(d): "'recovery' means the process of obtaining and reutilizing material or energy from solid waste."

Now I ask you, what do we mean by finding energy from solid waste? Let's ask Long Harbour. What do they call themselves? North American Resource Recovery. They're going to change from solid waste to energy. The minister in her legislation recognises this as an environmental, apparently, as one of the environmental actions that she is going to be looking into and researching, collecting data on and promoting. The "reutilizing material or energy from solid waste." So the burning of garbage in Long Harbour appears to be one of the things that the minister in the new Act wants to deal with under the disguise of an environmental bill.

So what we have is after four years of inaction, of dilly-dallying, of making excuses, we don't have a policy. We have nothing. We have something that they can take to the electorate, Mr. Speaker -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: - something they can take to the electorate, I say to the Member for St. John's North. I know that the Minister of Environment, the Premier and the other people who are running - the Member for St. John's North has wisely decided to give it up - they'll be going out and saying: we have a bill. We passed legislation on containers. We've passed legislation to promote the environment, we've passed legislation to protect recycling, we've passed legislation to do something about beverage containers.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible)!

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

MR. HARRIS: But they won't have, Mr. Speaker. All they will have passed is Bill No. 2. So that they can say that they've passed legislation but there will be no policy to eliminate useless packaging. No policy. Only a bill to allow the minister to collect data. Now we don't have a time limit on this. I don't know how many years the government is going to give the minister to collect data. Perhaps another four or five. Why don't we have a policy statement from the minister as to what the government intends to do in terms of protecting the environment from packaging? Why don't we have something which says that we're going to have a policy that requires the refilling of certain kinds of containers?

When you have a certain number of bottles - I'm not saying that every single item that comes into this Province has to be refillable. But let's look at these juices. In the last three years there's a new juice industry in this Province, last three years. That have never been there before. We have these tall bottles of juice, they look like the old former Coke bottles. They're about eight inches high and you can open them with your hand. They don't even require an opener. Those did not exist in this Province before three years ago, but they exist now in the hundreds of thousands. They're all over the environment. You can see them in every corner store, every convenience store, and in every supermarket in this Province. Some of them are even bottled in this Province but not one of them is refillable, Mr. Speaker.

Maybe your memories are better than mine, or maybe they are worse than mine, but I suspect that everybody in this House knows that you could not buy a soft drink in this Province some time ago except in a bottle that went back to the bottling plant, was refilled and came back to the store again, but now you cannot buy a single soft drink in a refillable container, not one, and I challenge any member of this House or any member of the government sitting over there to bring in and put on the floor of this House one single soft drink product that is in a refillable container that is refilled in this Province.

MR. TOBIN: But that is life.

MR. HARRIS: You can do it with beer but you cannot do it with soft drinks. What has been happening in this Province is that the government - not only this government - I am looking at both sides of the House here, Mr. Speaker. It is not just this government but this government and the previous government. I am not saying this is a personal failing of the Minister of Environment and Lands so she does not have to get too worried, and the rest of you over there do not have to try and protect her. It is not a personal failing of the Minister of the Environment. It is a failure of policy by this government and the previous government. Not one single soft drink, Mr. Speaker, is available in this Province without it being in a bottle that is used once and then thrown away. Now some of them say they are recyclable. Some of the packaging material says, recyclable where available. Now, I do not know what that means. What I think it means is it is not recyclable. I think it means there are no facilities here to recycle those products and they put on it recyclable where available or where facilities permit. I suspect, Mr. Speaker, that every time a package says recyclable where facilities exist they do not exist here in this Province. I would suspect that where a package says where facilities exist they do not exist.


MR. HARRIS: Now, I know the Member for St. John's North is going to tell me they are studying it. We are studying it. We are going to have a Royal Commission. We are going to have consultation. We are going to have continued consultation. We might produce a three or four volume report. We have seen those before but what I want to hear is what the government is going to do. Where is the policy that says we are going to have refillable containers for soft drinks? Where is the policy that says we are not going to allow people to produce this kind of packaging without having refillable containers?

I went to law school in the province of Alberta and I know the Member for St. John's North is very familiar with the province of Alberta. I think he probably has a PhD or four or five degrees from there, I would not be surprised. He may have ten. He went to the same university as I did in the province of Alberta. When I was there in 1976, that is when I went to law school in the province of Alberta, they had in that province at that time a recycling policy for any container, not just the refillable ones, although most of them were. Mr. Speaker, wine bottles, and the product is not even produced in the province of Alberta except perhaps some blueberry wine or some kind of prairie berry. What would they be called? I do not know. Some Saskatchewan berry wine, Saskatoon berries, I think. They used to make wine out of Saskatoon berries. There were not very many wine bottles from Saskatoon berries, Mr. Speaker, but there were lots of wine bottles from French wine, Portuguese wine, Italian wine, and California wines out in Alberta and they were all returned because the government of Alberta had a policy.

I think it was a conservative government as a matter or fact who had a policy and a program so that you could bring all those bottles back to bottle depots. You did not get a lot of money for them but when I was a student the five or ten cents you would get back for a wine bottle, if you put them all together with beer bottles and various other things, you could go off to the bottle depot every Saturday, every three or four Saturday mornings and get yourself a few dollars back and you would be doing something for the environment. I do not know if these bottles were actually worth five or ten cents. They probably were not, Mr. Speaker, but there was a policy in place to ensure that there was something to provide that these bottles would be brought back. There was an incentive to bring them back.

The Member for Burin - Placentia West, the next time he goes into the pond in the country - what is the name of it?

MR. TOBIN: Garnish Pond.

MR. HARRIS: Garnish Pond. The next time he goes into Garnish Pond on his skidoo he will know that in Garnish Pond he could probably find lots and lots of bottles - lots of beer bottles, lots of beverage containers - if there was an incentive to bring them out.

AN HON. MEMBER: Beer bottles.

MR. HARRIS: Beer bottles. If there was an incentive to bring them out - there is already an incentive for beer bottles to get out - but if there was an incentive to bring the wine bottles and the containers and the other cans out, and bring them back, then he and his family and his friends would be loading up their skidoos and bringing them back out to Marystown and collecting the money for it, or giving them to the Boy Scouts or the Girl Guides, or the Boys and Girls Club, or somebody in their community would be doing that.

If we had refillable containers for soft drinks, the same way we do for beer bottles, we would have two things. We would have a better environment because we would be using less materials and those containers would be refilled again, and we would also have more jobs in this Province, because I will tell you, Mr. Speaker, if the beer companies had to bring the beer bottles back to Nova Scotia or back to Toronto to refill them and send them back here again - if they had to do that - they would not be moving their production to Toronto.

AN HON. MEMBER: They do it in PEI.

MR. HARRIS: PEI, Mr. Speaker, a little, tiny Province one-sixth the size of this Province, does not allow containers that are not refillable for soft drinks.

Our Province has participated in - has been cajoled and been convinced by the soft drink companies over the years, to allow them - and I think we have the worst record in this country - I think that would bear up under research, Mr. Speaker - the worst record in this country, for allowing the soft drink companies to move to non-refillable, non-returnable, non-refundable soft drinks - the worst record in this country.

Successive governments on the Conservative side and on the Liberal side have permitted these agencies to move away from returnable, refillable, containers and to move to the plastics and to the aluminum, and to the cans that have been spewing about and going into our environment.

I am not saying, Mr. Speaker, that every single container has to be refillable. I am not saying that every single container has to be of the type that is refillable. There are adequate methods to recycle certain kinds of containers. Aluminum can be recycled, I understand, very favourably if treated in a certain way, and there may well be appropriate ways of doing that.

I am not saying that you get rid of all of that, but there can be rules and regulations. Now this provides that there can be. This provides that we can have rules and regulations.

The Cabinet, not in public debate in this House but secretly behind the Cabinet boardroom, behind the Cabinet secrecy there will be a debate about what they will do. Will we have this legislation or will we not have this legislation? Will we hurt Browning Harvey or will we not? Will we hurt the breweries or will we not? Will we go along with their policies or will we not? Will we listen to talk about level playing fields, which I just heard the minister refer to? Are we going to be talking about level playing fields with the beer companies and the other companies? Are we going to be dealing with the business interests or are we going to be dealing with the environmental interests?

All that discussion is planned to go on in the Cabinet room, Mr. Speaker, not here on the floor of this House - in the Cabinet room. Then we will see - maybe we will see - some time down the road some regulations on some aspects of it. They will not be brought before this House for debate. They will not be brought before this House with the alternatives as set out to the members of this House. What we will have is some regulation appearing at some time, published in the Newfoundland Gazette, and no policy debates in this House because there will be no time for it. It will be done in the secrecy of the Cabinet room. We will have no policy that is going to be scrutinized by the public in debate in this House. We will have something done, a few regulations in the Cabinet room, and nothing for the public other than having to hear what the minister has to say in her public relations statements which she has been very good at - very good at. When she approaches this matter, when she speaks publicly about this, when she goes out to Salmonier, the wilderness park and -

MR. TOBIN: How do you know she was on the Salmonier Line?

MR. HARRIS: She was out to the Salmonier Line, I do not think she was fishing, I think she was there one Saturday or one Sunday afternoon and there were a lot of people volunteering, and I do not know why, why would you have to volunteer to clean up a wilderness area? If it is a wilderness area you would think the people of this Province would have some respect for the wilderness areas and not bring garbage and containers in there and leave them in there, Mr. Speaker, you would think they would, but unfortunately, that is not the case, and when we have the Minister of Forestry and Agriculture permitting the forests to be ripped up, the way he does, whether it be close to communities or not - the minister laughs, well I will ask him to table in this House, tell us how many acres of land have been clear cut in this Province in the last ten years and not replanted, table that in the House -

AN HON. MEMBER: The last thirty years.

MR. HARRIS: Go back thirty years, go back four years, how many acres of land have been clear cut in this Province in the last four years and not replanted? You can go back ten, go back twenty, go back thirty, yes, but when we see the destruction that has been permitted to our forests, I suppose one might be tempted to say it is no wonder the people of this Province leave their junk and garbage in the woods because it appears that the government does not seem to have enough respect for the land to make sure that it is kept in the proper way. There is enough blame to go around, there is enough blame to go around. I think the minister is just trying to spread the blame around. I am sure there is enough blame to go around, the former government can take some, each of us as individuals I am sure can probably examine our own consciences and remember some time that we might not have been totally perfect in our behaviour.

But, Mr. Speaker, we have to look to the future with respect to a policy on beverage containers, not a piece of legislation that is a shell, a shell, no policy, no determination, no commitment, no substance to this Bill whatsoever, it is what is called empowering legislation, that is all it is. It is known as empowering legislation, no substance, no policy, no commitment other than the platitudes of the hon. Minister of Environment and Lands.

That is all they are left with and I suspect that the only reason we have this Bill, is because the minister is afraid, is frightened to death to go into an election having had to admit that she has failed to produce a single piece of legislation on beverage containers when she promised them for so long and that, Mr. Speaker, is a travesty. Any friend, any true friend of the environment would have to agree that this piece of legislation is a travesty of environmental protection, a travesty in its lack of environmental protection.

That is why I felt it important to speak on this legislation because I think what we have here is a con job. A con job, Mr. Speaker, a total and unadulterated con job, and I say this with respect for the personal sincerity of the Member for Conception Bay South. She has been required by her government to perpetrate a con job on the people of this Province, a con job in this House, there is not one ounce of progressive policy in this legislation, it is window dressing. We all know what window dressing is, Mr. Speaker, somebody who is dressed up to make it look like there is something going on behind the windows, and they hope against hope that the voters of this Province are only going to go window shopping, that is all they hope. They hope and they think that their public relations effort will work, they think that having a little bit of window dressing will convince the voters of this Province to satisfy themselves with window shopping.

Well let us just go and look at the record of this government and see what they have in their windows. Have they a piece of legislation on the go? Oh yes, we have car wreck legislation. We've changed the legislation on littering. We're going to fine people a half a million dollars for littering. Isn't that wonderful. I'm sure that the people who litter, who may not have a cent to their name, are very worried about the fact that they might be fined half a million dollars for littering the public highways.

That's the window dressing, Mr. Speaker. Changes to the Waste Disposal Act, we'll fine people a half million dollars for littering. We've got a car wreck act. Not one that's going to really encourage people to bring back cars and bring them out of the woods, but one that's going to punish them if they don't. That's all.

MR. DOYLE: There are more car wrecks now (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: The critic for the official Opposition, Mr. Speaker, says there are more car wrecks since. I tend to believe him. Because I know the Member for Harbour Main has been very concerned personally about this issue even though his government was not successful in solving the problem either. If there are more car wrecks since - and if the member says that, I suspect that it's probably true.

What we have is window dressing. Another piece of window dressing. They hope that the voters of this Province are only going to go window shopping and see what they have. The minister will say with all the sincerity she can muster, she will say: we have a piece of legislation. She'll probably say: we're working on the regulations. For the last four years she's been saying she's been working on the Bill. She said that with great sincerity.

MS. COWAN: I haven't been there for four years.

MR. HARRIS: For all the time she's been there she's been saying: we're working on the Bill. Mr. Speaker, she worked on the Bill and this is what we got. A piece of window dressing for the election and we'll be hearing that they are working on the regulations. We won't hear any real substance. Because I don't think that this government is prepared to take on this issue. I don't think this government is prepared to take on this issue in a serious way and try and seriously do something about the proliferation of packaging, of garbage, of junk, of beverage containers, of milk containers, of other kinds of containers.

The minister said in her speech that progress is being made, that the milk companies are doing something. I hope they are. It seems to me the minister seems to be waiting around for other companies to go ahead and do something. Waiting around for something to happen just like the government is waiting around for economic development to happen. Waiting around for the private sector to somehow, magically, bring about the great transformation of the economy of Newfoundland. They're waiting around for that.

They're waiting around for that because they don't have a plan, they don't have a program. They're not prepared to challenge the status quo. They're not prepared to challenge the beverage companies. They're not prepared to challenge the people who have been successful for the last fifteen or twenty years in convincing successive governments of this Province that we in Newfoundland, after all, they say: we're different here. We don't need to have the same rules and regulations as elsewhere. I suppose it's like labour standards. Newfoundlanders aren't entitled to the proper kind of protections. In Newfoundland we don't have to have recyclable containers because we can produce plastic. In fact, we'll get a government grant and we'll produce plastic containers. Gee, we'll hire six or seven people and get government money to do it. We'll put plastic all over this Province.

That's the kind of policy that's been pursued. As a result, this Province has the worst record for beverage containers of any province of Canada. The worst record. This government has done nothing about it. Not one thing have they done about it. They praise some private company for taking on some minute change in their packaging. They say we will pat them on the back and wish them well.

That's all this government has done. That's all they have done. They've given lip service to the notion of protecting the environment. They've given lip service to the notion of eliminating packaging. All they've produced after four years in government is a piece of window dressing, a major con job. I don't think they can get away with it. I don't think they will get away it. Because there are enough people in this Province who are environmentally conscious, who care about the policy, and who expect more from government than the kind of window dressing, the kind of con job, and the kind of platitudes, which are all we've heard from this government since the day they got in office, when it comes to protecting the environment. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. MURPHY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

AN HON. MEMBER: Carried.

MR. MURPHY: No, it is not carried, and when I sit down you can carry.

I am glad I gave way to the hon. Member for St. John's East because it shows how shallow, negative-minded, no wonder... There is a billboard in Mississauga, a huge billboard, and it says: Buffalo's Man of the Year, Bob Rae - and rightfully so.

The hon. member jumps to his feet and criticizes an initial piece of legislation brought forward by this hon. minister to start attacking the environmental problems but no, he is not happy, he wants to nail it to the consumer. He wants to drive the consumer up. Change containers. Change everything. Who will pay for it? Will the companies pay for it - the milk companies? Will the orange containers, or will the bottles or the soft drink containers? They will all be passed on to the consumer.

The socialist is on his feet, driving mad. Pull down the blind! Shut down the industry! He will be up tomorrow accusing this government of not doing enough to generate work. This is the kind of gobbledygook you have to listen to from the socialist from the east. This is the man who stood and voted in the House of Commons against Hibernia. This is the man - and he stood up: I wonder is Audrey's policy to recover Canada recyclable? It had better be.

He was on the other night, Mr. Speaker, with his starched shirt. He looked lovely. I am sure his family was proud of him. He looked like a little boy just after getting his Holy Communion. He looked grand, but he said absolutely nothing. For thirty minutes this afternoon he spoke and said absolutely nothing - absolutely nothing. He got close to saying something.

Now if my friend from Humber East does not boil the water, she is slowly but surely going to go. Now boil the water and relax. No ranting and raving. I do not shout when the hon. member is up tantalizing the Premier. She cannot take all of the good answers that the Premier gives her so she gets up so high the windows are going to fall out of this place one of these days.

Now back to my hon. friend from St. John's East. He talks about good, sound, solid legislation. He is right, but before that good, sound, solid legislation comes into place we need this kind of legislation. He may think it is lukewarm, but does he understand the impact that it will put on the consumers throughout this Province, throughout Labrador and Newfoundland, and more especially in Labrador? Does he stop and think for a minute about all of the isolated communities around our coast? Does he have any idea of what it would cost to get materials and consumable products in there if all of these containers have to come out? Does he understand? Does he have any concept or conception?

The only thing he touched was the quality jobs that exist at the two breweries in St. John's and the one, of course, in Stephenville where my hon. colleague is. That may be a positive, where the Tory free trade bill, when Anhauser-Busch in 1995 buy out Labatt's and Molson's, and all the quality jobs in this Province in the brewing industry are gone out the window, gone - 800 or 900 jobs, plus all of their distributor's jobs, plus all the jobs associated with it - remember this, and I tell hon. members opposite, we know how many good jobs are left in this Province. We know how many good jobs are left in this Province.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. MURPHY: Well I don't care who supported free trade. I am telling you right now that the brewing industry is in serious trouble, but if we take the initiative to tell the breweries that if they are going to brew beer in Halifax or in Montreal for sale in this Province, that the bottles are refundable and they must go back, then they will keep the breweries open in this Province, because it will not be economically viable for them to take the containers and bring them back to Montreal or Halifax empty.

He only touched that. He only touched that area. He did not talk about the contravention and the fines associated with this particular piece of legislation. Does he give any credit to the minister at all?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. MURPHY: Yes, I certainly do, I certainly do. So the other thing that the hon. socialist should remember is, and it bothers me now and he should be bothered, because we are talking about car wrecks and when he brought up car wrecks, the first thing which came to my mind, was the item I seen on tv the other night with the Canadian Auto Workers disassociating themselves from the NDP Party saying: no longer, no longer will we support the NDP Party. Now, that begs the question, that the Canadian Auto Workers - who is their Newfoundland affiliate?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I want to remind hon. member that this is Thursday and it is 4:30 p.m., it is a little after 4:30 p.m. as a matter of fact and the Chair did not have any questions. Is it the agreement of the House to carry on as normally, until 5:00 p.m.?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Okay, alright.

MR. MURPHY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. So that begs the question of the Canadian Auto Workers, speaking of car wrecks, if the Canadian Auto Workers are pulling away from the NDP and the affiliation between Mr. White and Mr. Cashin, the hon. member's buddy, his friend, his cohort, his supplier of whatever, it begs the question, does the fisherman's union take away their support?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. MURPHY: Well, I just asked the question. I am glad to hear the hon. member answer it because it will be very interesting with the new electoral legislation, to see what the contribution is from the fisherman's union to the NDP which has to be filed. However, getting back to the issue of -

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Humber East on a point of order.

MS. VERGE: Mr. Speaker, (Inaudible) the fact that the Member for St. John's South has strayed completely from the subject of the Bill and before he strayed I had asked him to explain what he thinks the government and the minister have done to help the environment of the Province.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The member mentions that the hon. member has strayed. The present Chair just assumed the Chair, so I have not been following whether or not the member is - but I am sure if the member is that he will do what is proper and will address the question that the member put to him.

MR. MURPHY: Mr. Speaker, let me assure the hon. Member for Humber East that I am not the one who strayed.

MS. VERGE: (Inaudible).

MR. MURPHY: The hon. member should be careful. If she keeps baiting the Premier he may run against her and she will have a lot of time on her hands.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. MURPHY: No, no the Premier has no intention of wasting his time in Humber East. I advise the hon. member that there will be a candidate that will give her just as much trouble, if not more, let me say that to the hon. member and she knows it too well.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand. Mr. Speaker, this particular piece of legislation is obviously a good piece of legislation when you are talking about initiating an introduction to cleaning up the environment. The thing that we need more than anything else, not legislation, but education throughout our school system. I understand from the Minister of Education that forthcoming, there will be a program in curriculum to teach our young people to be more conscious and more cognizant of our beautiful streams, rivers and our countrysides and to bring back the containers. There is where the legislation is, in the minds of our young people, that is where it is.

I know this, after years and years of neglect, seventeen years of Tory neglect that the Waterford River, a beautiful - one time, Mr. Speaker, the Waterford River was probably one of the better salmon rivers in this Province and it is has deteriorated now so that you can almost walk on it. You can almost walk on it in July. Well, we are cleaning up that river, Mr. Speaker. We are cleaning it up because of the educational programming going on in such areas as Kilbride, in areas such as Grand Bank and Fogo. We have all of these young people now in school becoming more and more educated to look after the environment and to clean up the environment. The sad scenario is what is going on now in the city of St. John' s where we see garbage littered all over the place because of labour unrest. That is sad, extremely sad, and I think the day is not far away when we will have to do something about it, not only from its being an environmental problem, but a health problem, as the weather warms up. Already, the minister has had to go to City Hall and issue orders to pick up garbage.

Mr. Speaker, this is the introduction of a good piece of legislation. I have a little fear about a brewing industry and the containers associated with the same but, by and large, when somebody looks at section 7 and sees an offence, a person who provides the minister with false or misleading information, or fails to provide information, manufactures, sells or offers, distributes, exhibits or advertises for sale, packaging or a designated product in packaging that is in violation of this Act - and the fine, Mr. Speaker, is $250,000, so I do think this bill has teeth. It has impact. I congratulate the minister and I look forward down the road to seeing if this legislation does what needs to be done; if not, then, in two or three years time, this government will bring in legislation with more teeth in it. It is a pity that the hon. the Member for St. John's East won't be here to debate it.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS. VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, this bill, Bill No. 2, is aptly named. The long title is An Act Respecting The Reduction Of The Impact Of Packaging On The Environment and the short title is The Packaging Bill. It is packaging. As the Member for St. John's East aptly said, it is window dressing; it is part of the government's PR exercise leading into the election campaign. The minister, herself, introducing the bill, said it is merely enabling legislation. It simply gives the Cabinet and the minister power to do certain things. The Opposition critic, the Member for Harbour Main, pointed to the word 'may.' Clause 5 says the minister 'may' undertake or support and encourage programs or research into - and there is a list.

Mr. Speaker, the minister 'may' have introduced and enforced a program of recycling waste within government buildings, for a start, within Confederation Building. The minister 'may' have done that but she didn't, the government didn't. Under the existing law, the minister 'may' have regulated the use of all-terrain vehicles. In fact, a year ago, the government proclaimed their intention, through the Throne Speech, to prohibit the use of all- terrain vehicles in certain environmentally sensitive areas, in bogs and wetlands for a start. Now, in opposing, I am constructive and I praised the contents of last year's Throne Speech relating to environmental initiatives. I pointed to that as a positive sign. Now, Mr. Speaker, it is a year later and we haven't seen any action. This is a government that has given us fancy words, has given us reports, has given us recommendations, has stated some good intentions, and has given us a lot of fancy packaging but very, very little of substance. Mr. Speaker, it is a government with PR people, very, very prominent. The Premier's Chief of Staff, Edsel Bonnell, is a media man. It was Edsel Bonnell that the Premier had chairing the group which authored the Strategic Economic Plan and it is Edsel Bonnell that the Premier is going to have in charge of a new group -

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

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. MURPHY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I don't know what the member is talking about now. Edsel Bonnell and the Premier - I don't know what relevance that has with packaging and the environment. I would ask Your Honour, to ask the hon. member to talk about the bill, if she is going to talk about the bill.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Humber East, to that point of order.

MS. VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I was talking about packaging.

MR. SPEAKER: All hon. members know the rule with respect to relevancy and I ask hon. members to abide by it.

MS. VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

This packaging bill, in clause 5 says: The minister 'may' undertake or support and encourage programs or research, and, Mr. Speaker, that goes without saying. The minister and the government have had that power all along, they simply have failed to take any initiatives. Last year, they announced some good intentions - I gave them credit at the time. Where is the action?

Last year, when I had an opportunity to question the minister in some detail at the Budget Estimates Committee meetings, I asked her about her plans to regulate the use of ATVs and she said, she and her officials were in the process of working out a Province-wide scheme, designating zones, within which, ATV use would be prohibited. And I asked her: Why don't you make a start now in time for this summer by designating the areas you have already delineated? And she agreed with me.

It was one of those rare instances where members on opposing sides agreed that there is a problem, action is overdue, our bogs and wetlands are being damaged more and more and more, and if the Province-wide plan wasn't ready in time for last summer, it would be worthwhile to proceed with a partial plan. But, Mr. Speaker, nothing happened. We are approaching the spring of 1993 now, and there is no action for this spring and summer. During the same meeting and a similar meeting the year before, there was an exchange about the need for the government to lead by example.

If the government is serious about recycling, if the government wants people throughout the Province to recycle their newspapers, their other waste paper, their soft drink plastic containers, other goods for which we now have a recycling business willing to pay for used articles and process and package them for reuse and resale, if the government wants to encourage people to recycle by contributing to the business in our Province, why isn't the government leading by example? Surely, the government can make a small start by instituting within government buildings, a recycling program to recycle the masses and masses of paper that civil servants and politicians go through in the run of every day, but we still don't have that. There was a baby step taken with the addition of waste paper baskets in this House of Assembly, but still no provision for sorting the contents and sending our used paper to the recycling business.

So, Mr. Speaker, I have to agree with the comments made by my colleagues on this side of the House, the Official Opposition critic, the Member for Harbour Main, and the Member for St. John's East, when they point out that this bill is simply a sham.

After four years, all the Wells Administration, the 'real change' government, has to point to in the way of environmental improvement, is papers, words, a couple of shelves of Acts, but really, no progress.

Four years ago, our party included in our campaign platform, a commitment to put in place a Newfoundland and Labrador ranger force, a new agency of the Provincial Government, bringing together staff now scattered among several departments, officers of the Department of Environment and Lands, enforcement people with the Wildlife Division and enforcement staff of the Department of Forestry. As well, we were seeking an administrative arrangement with the Federal Government to give us the responsibility for policing inland waters. The idea was to combine and group in one agency, government personnel with the combined responsibilities of enforcing environmental regulations and legislation, forestry regulations and fisheries legislation. Now, this government has a penchant for mergers, for amalgamation, seemingly believing that in every case bigger is better. Now, I believe, on the contrary, that we have to be selective. We have to examine each proposal case by case. In some instances, smaller units work better, more satisfactorily, and give superior service, but there are examples where consolidation results in economies of scale and an improved service, and I happen to think that this is one of them - that we could have more effective environmental regulation enforcement, forestry enforcement, as well as fisheries enforcement, if we combined the responsibilities and gave the new merge force more status and better equipment. Mr. Speaker, why should we have one group of civil servants charged with enforcing wildlife regulations, who, in their travels in the woods, may spot littering and may see infractions of federal fisheries regulations without any authority to intervene. Why not give these personnel combined responsibilities? Would that not result in a better use of available personnel?

We all know that governments at the federal and the provincial level are strapped for spending - strapped for money. We all realize that it is difficult for government to add to its complement of enforcement personnel, so what we have to do is spend smarter. We have to make better use, wiser use, of available personnel.

So the proposal, and this is still part of the PC party platform, is to institute a high profile, high status, Newfoundland and Labrador ranger force with a multifaceted mandate of protecting our environment, our land base environment, with authority to enforce all kinds of land base environmental regulations.

Mr. Speaker, it is a pity that this administration over the past four years did not pick up on that idea and institute it. They set about amalgamating just about everything else, in some instances with very negative results. It is a great shame that over the last four years this administration, despite their word, in their actions have not improved environmental protection.

Over the course of the past four years damage to the environment has accelerated. There are more ATV's travelling throughout the countryside now, including bog lands. There are more people in every part of our Province, and unfortunately there is more littering because there are no effective sanctions. People are getting away with abandoning car wrecks, with dumping garbage in the wilderness, and with riding their ATV's back and forth, back and forth, over wetlands.

All this administration is going to have to show the people for their efforts of the past four years is words - not deeds. There has been no real progress.

This legislation may be well-intentioned, but it is really only a shell of an act. It does not obligate the government to do anything.

The last shell of an act that we passed was just before Christmas. It was the regional public health board legislation, I say to the Minister of Health. Those boards were supposed to have been in place starting last fall. We have still seen no action.

Mr. Speaker, I am just checking the clock there. I have a few more minutes.

I would like to reiterate my disappointment with the record of inaction on the part of this administration. The Member for St. John's South tried to make excuses suggesting that any effective environmental protection measures are going to jeopardize jobs. I say to him, that we could create jobs involving protecting the environment. Here we are in this Province, thanks to the members opposite, thanks to the Wells administration, paying $200 million a year in social assistance, double the amount paid a couple of years ago, at the same time the government has reduced spending on community development projects, on government sponsored employment projects but why not take $50 million or $75 million from social assistance and pay it out to properly planned and well supervised environmental protection projects, would that not be a better use of the money?

The members opposite have merely paid lip service to the need for environmental protection. The reports that they have churned out, authored by the PR expert, Edsel Bonnell, and the PR group, have noble sounding phrases. I was just looking at the annual report of the Economic Recovery Commission, one of their stated principles has to do with sustainable development: " Our natural resources and environment must be managed to ensure that development can be sustained over the long-term." Mr. Speaker, these are ideals that everyone supports, but where this government has fallen down is implementation. There has been no political will, there has been no action to make progress, to actually enforce these platitudes.

We have had a couple of pieces of legislation, we had announcements in last year's Throne Speech, we have various speeches by the minister and the Premier. The Premier made a passionate speech here just before Christmas about the need to crack down on people who abandon car wrecks, but what action has there been? Nothing, it is disgraceful. After four full years, the environment is in worse shape. Answer for yourselves the question: is the environment better or worse off now than it was four years ago?

What kind of a real change have we had for the environment? A change for the worse. This Bill perhaps has a good purpose. I can believe that there are staff in the Department of Environment and Lands who are serious about some of the initiatives authorized by this legislation but I am afraid with this government in power for another couple of months there will be no directive, there will be no action, there will be no resources allocated to actually implementing anything in this Bill. Mr. Speaker, people are going to have to wait for the next change, people are going to have to wait until after the mid- May election until the people on this side of the House are returned to power, a new team with energy and with a real commitment to improving the environment, a group that will not only say slick words, will not only package information with a media man in the Premier's office, but a group who will seriously set about acting and improving.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

I would like to call it five o'clock, if hon. members will, and start tomorrow. I will adjourn the debate, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. member adjourns the debate.

The hon. the Government House Leader and the Minister of Justice.

MR. ROBERTS: Notwithstanding the demands on this side I suggest that we call it a day. We were planning to do the Throne Speech in the morning but I had anticipated we would finish at least this Bill. Let us finish this Bill in the morning and then we will carry on.

MR. MATTHEWS: (Inaudible)

MR. ROBERTS: Well, if my hon. friend for Grand Bank can restrain those on his side I will try and restrain my colleagues over here.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible)

MR. ROBERTS: No, that is true, but when they bring back Baker this will not happen at all. There are those who say Baker is the leader of the Opposition today, Mr. Speaker.

On motion, the House at its rising adjourned until tomorrow, Friday at 9:00 o'clock.