June 16, 1993               HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS               Vol. XLII  No. 16

The House met at 2:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Dicks): Order, please!

On behalf of all hon. members I am very pleased to welcome to the Speaker's Gallery the Ambassador of France to Canada His Excellency Alfred Seifer - Gaillardin and the Consul General of Canada with responsibility for the Atlantic Provinces, Monsieur Gérard Perrolet.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: I am also pleased on behalf of hon. members to welcome to the public galleries of the House of Assembly thirty-five students and two teachers, Mr. Lester Green and Scott Collins from Bayview Heights Academy, Gambo.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Oral Questions

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

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

I have a question for the Minister of Fisheries. We all realize that conservation of our fish stocks of all species is a main priority and in view of the pressure on the survival rate of many species I wonder if the Minister of Fisheries has any concerns about the method that is being used in the Province now to extract the roe from the lumpfish species. It is a very lucrative fishery that has really taken off in the last few years. I know in my own area of the Province it has really meant the difference to fishermen and to some plant workers. It is what has kept them alive the last few years with the downturn in our groundfish stocks. I am wondering if the Minister of Fisheries has any concern about the way this fish is harvested and particularly the way the roe is removed? Really what we are doing is killing the fish. I am wondering if the minister has any concerns about that or if his department is taking any action on this?

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

MR. CARTER: Mr. Speaker, I think most people who watch the process being performed would have some concern because there is a big demand now for lumpfish roe. It demands a high price in the marketplace and consequently there is a lot of pressure put on that resource. Yes, I am concerned about it. I understand people are looking at ways and means of maybe extracting the roe without killing the fish. I do not know what success they have had but my department has been engaged in certain aspects of that study and it is something that we will certainly have to address.

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

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

The minister is correct and I want to say to him that we really cannot afford to eliminate another species looking at what has happened to all our fish stocks. My information is, I think, Norway has developed a technology where they can remove the roe from the fish and return it back to the sea to reproduce again. Is the minister's department actively looking at this concept? Has he appointed a committee or has there been any activity whatsoever to pursue this new technology to keep this fish alive in the waters and to reproduce. Can the minister explain that to us? I guess really what I am asking is: are we just paying lip service to this again or are we sincere about trying to keep this fishery alive in the Province?

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

MR. CARTER: No, Mr. Speaker, we are not just paying lip service, like I said a moment ago we are very much aware and concerned. We are aware that some countries, and I believe it is Norway, either they have developed a method whereby the fish can continue to live after the roe has been extracted or they are working on that kind of process. My department is also, Mr. Speaker, giving some serious thought to it. I will get the details if the hon. member wants me to, Mr. Speaker, and maybe tomorrow I will give the House an update as to precisely what is happening both with respect to the marine institute, my department and maybe the University in terms of dealing with that problem.

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

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, I say to the minister it is another situation where I think we have to take fairly quick action. We cannot wait for another three or four years until we get some kind of report brought back to the House to deal with this. I would like to ask the minister, if in his investigation he finds that indeed this technology is working elsewhere, would he and the government consider some form of assistance to fishermen to enable them to purchase the technology and to carry it out so that we can protect this fishery for the long-term benefit of fishermen and fish plant workers? Would he consider either a provincial government initiative or would he be interested in entering into some kind of provincial/federal initiative? What I am saying to the minister is that something has to be done about this or we are going to eliminate another very important fishery. It is becoming increasingly more important when you look at what has happened to our codfish stocks and our flatfish stocks. These kinds of fisheries have to be preserved and we need to take quick action or very soon we are going to find ourselves in the same state as we find ourselves in with the cod and the flounder.

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

MR. CARTER: Mr. Speaker, I am not able at this point in time to say what assistance, if any, would be available. I can only tell the hon. gentleman that if and when it is found, there is a method whereby lumpfish can survive after the lumproe is removed then we will be very interested in looking at it and working with fishermen to ensure that they take advantage of it.

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

MR. WOODFORD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, my question is directed to the Minister responsible for Mines and Energy.

Mr. Speaker, since 1989 Newfoundlander's and Labradorian's have been hit extremely hard with increases in electrical rates in the Province. It comes primarily from doing away with the $30 million subsidy on the PDD system and the 1 per cent surcharge to float Newfoundland Hydro's bonds back in the Budget of 1989. But to add insult to injury, Mr. Speaker, the utilities in the Province have been installing demand meters on churches, senior citizens homes, fire halls, all non-profit organizations in the Province, Mr. Speaker. Is the minister aware of the problem, and what action does he plan to take to relieve the burden placed on those organizations?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Mines and Energy.

DR. GIBBONS: Mr. Speaker, I am aware of the procedure by which Hydro and Newfoundland Light and Power both charge for the use of electricity in the Province. There is an energy component and a demand component, that is the standard as set by the Public Utilities Board, and I am not aware of any change coming in that. Hydro and Light and Power, as I understand it, are not going back to the PUB for rate hearings in '93 and Hydro is hoping that it will not have to go back to PUB for a rate hearing in '94, so that rates should not be increasing.

MR. SPEAKER: A supplementary, the hon. Member for Humber Valley.

MR. WOODFORD: Over the last eight months especially, Mr. Speaker, previous to that but especially over the last eight months or so, I have had all kinds of examples, primarily from the volunteer fire brigade in Howley - $300 a month for electrical bills, senior citizen's home in Cormack $225 to $280 a month and finally, Mr. Speaker, from the one I guess all members got this week from the diocese of Western Newfoundland. Archbishop Payne, talked about the $1,600 to $1,700 a month, where a demand meter on a church in Lower Cove in the Straits of Belle Isle for which he is responsible, and that to me, Mr. Speaker, is outrageous, not only that, it is all across this Province. The cost is unbearable and cruel, Mr. Speaker. Does the minister consider the demand meter to be a fair method of charging these non-commercial, non-profit organizations for electricity?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Mines and Energy.

DR. GIBBONS: Mr. Speaker, it is not for me to say whether it is fair or not. It is a system that was put in place many, many years ago, after public hearings before the Public Utilities Board in assessing how Hydro and Light and Power should charge to recover the cost of installing electrical equipment, electrical systems as well as charging for the energy component, and that is why there is a demand charge versus an energy charge. The demand charge is there to represent the cost of putting in the physical facilities to provide energy to these facilities wherever they may be located, and it would be up to the Public Utilities Board in any future review to decide whether there should be a need for a change or not.

MR. WOODFORD: A final supplementary, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: A final supplementary, the hon. the Member for Humber Valley.

MR. WOODFORD: Mr. Speaker, the demand meter is different from what the minister is talking about. It is supposed to be charged to commercial, not non-profit organizations. Because of the demand rates that these organizations are paying they are, in effect, paying for electricity they do not use and will not use. Will the minister direct the Public Utilities Board to change the way they charge community organizations for electricity so that it will more fairly reflect what they use, not what utilities hold in reserve to meet peak demand on non-profit organizations in this Province?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Mines and Energy.

DR. GIBBONS: Mr. Speaker, the demand charge is not there to represent what the hon. member was saying. The demand charge is there to represent the cost of installing facilities to recover the cost, and that is a part of it. I am aware that this issue has been addressed by the Public Utilities Board in previous rate hearings. I am sure that the next time there is a rate hearing it will be an issue again from the organizations that have concerns and it is their freedom to do so in such public hearings.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to direct a question to the Minister of Health. Last Monday, the Minister of Health admitted that committees were in place to restrict - or he would set up a committee to look at restricting doctors entering this Province. Why is the Province continuing the expense of training doctors, only to tell them after seven or eight years that they may be restricted in setting up practice? Wouldn't it be better to restrict the number of students entering the School of Medicine here in the Province?

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

DR. KITCHEN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. There are two points that have to be made. First, there is the long-term problem about the apparent oversupply of some physicians in Canada. This oversupply is being addressed in various ways across Canada by cutting back on the enrollments of some of the larger medical schools in some of the other provinces. It was decided that we wouldn't cut back Memorial at this time, on their enrollments. But we do have a study ongoing in the Province to look at our long-term needs with respect to physicians.

One of our problems is that while we have sufficient general practitioners in St. John's and in some of the larger urban areas, it is difficult to get practitioners to go into some of the more rural areas of the Province. So they are looking at that question. Some specialties are in short supply. So the whole question of physician resources is being examined, in the long term, by a committee.

In addition to that, there is a short-term problem, as well. The short-term problem emerges from certain steps that are being taken in other provinces to limit the fee schedule for physicians in certain urban areas.

I understand that the Province of Ontario has decided that new people starting off practice in Toronto will get - originally, they thought, 25 per cent of the fee schedule; now, I believe they are gone up to 75 per cent. But they will get a smaller proportion of the fee schedule in large urban areas. Other provinces are thinking similarly, and we were afraid here, at the time, this would mean that a lot of physicians would come to Newfoundland and set up in St. John's, where we don't really need them, and they would drive up the cost of health care more than was warranted.

So we thought we would set up a small committee now, a short-term committee, to come to grips with this and give us some advice as to what, if anything, should be done in the short term while we are awaiting this long-term physician resources study.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

There are currently 224 students in Memorial University School of Medicine, of which 160 are from this Province. They will graduate at the rate of about fifty per year over the next four years. Now, in light of the need for doctors in rural Newfoundland, as the minister indicated, how many of these new graduates does the minister expect to actually set up practice here in this Province?

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

DR. KITCHEN: Well, it is very difficult for me to answer that question. A number of those graduating doctors have agreements made with hospital boards by which they will, in exchange for some funding now, go and work in these areas for some period of time.

I don't have, at the moment, the exact figures on those who are under contract, so I don't know for sure how many will go, but it is expected, because of the supply of physicians being much greater than it was in the past, that our problems in rural Newfoundland should not be as serious in the future as they have been in the past.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The graduates from Memorial University School of Medicine are certainly not going to find jobs in other provinces. The minister said last week that other provinces are putting up barriers, and he has indicated this today, to discourage new doctors from setting up in these provinces.

It seems that we have too many medical students in Canada. Maybe we have too many medical schools in Canada. I ask the minister, in light of the exorbitant cost of running the school, is there a need to continue to operate the medical school here in this Province? Does the minister have any plans for shutting down the medical school here?

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

DR. KITCHEN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The answer to the question is `no`. The School of Medicine performs a number of services, perhaps the chief one of which is to train physicians, and not only graduating physicians who start to practice, but certain specialties are developed there for physicians. In addition, the University provides a very useful role in attracting people to the Province because of the teaching and research role that is there that would not normally come to a place so remote from the North American continent as we are.

So the School of Medicine is a very important part of the whole health care system in the Province for that reason, attracting people. As well, it conducts quite a large amount of research up there, from which we get grants from the Federal Government and the Medical Research Council and through various agencies, and that also have to be taken into account.

It is true that some discussion is needed. We should keep in mind the fact that we seem to be approaching a situation in Canada where we probably do have too many doctors graduating.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My question is for the Minister of Fisheries. I want to ask a question concerning the problems being experienced with a black market in cod fish being sold commercially.

I want to know whether the minister and his government agree with the efforts of the Government of Canada to solve the problem by restricting the recreational fishery for cod. Does the minister support these efforts to protect the fish stocks?

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

MR. CARTER: Mr. Speaker, what started out to be probably a sensible thing to do, namely, to allow Newfoundlanders to maybe catch a few fish for their own table, apparently was found to be abused, and I can understand now why the Department of Fisheries and Oceans are contemplating taking some kind of action to put a stop to it.

One thing about it, Mr. Speaker, if we are going to respect the restrictions that have been placed on commercial fishermen under the moratorium, we can't be expected to close our eyes to what is going on, because I am told, a lot of people are, in fact, fishing, selling it to various commercial enterprises, selling it from door-to-door, and that was certainly never intended. As I said at the beginning, it was intended at the outset to enable the fishermen who wanted to catch one or two fish to do it, but certainly, if the federal department find it necessary to take the kind of action they are contemplating, I don't see how the Province could do anything else but support it.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am glad to hear that. Would the minister agree to advise the Government of Canada of that support by his government and the official position of his government, because the Member for Eagle River takes a very different position and is busy attacking the government for introducing these measures to look after this problem. So I think it may be important that the Government of Canada know that the official position of the Government of Newfoundland is to support these measures. Will the minister advise the Government of Canada that his ministry does, in fact, support the measures being taken by the Government of Canada?

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

MR. CARTER: Mr. Speaker, the Member for Eagle River is a private member of this House, not a member of the government, and is certainly at liberty to express an opinion, which he has done in this case.

I can only repeat what I said a moment ago, Mr. Speaker. If it is found that restrictions are necessary because the practice is being abused then, of course, we will have to support it.

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

MS. VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I have a question for the Premier.

In the debate over the original budget decision to eliminate funding for the Daybreak Parent Child Centre in St. John's, the Premier spoke about the need to give equal treatment to the Dunfield Park Child Parent Centre in Corner Brook.

Mr. Speaker, I am glad the government reinstated funding for Daybreak, but very disappointed that the government failed to prevent the closure of the Dunfield Park Centre at the end of March, which was two-and-a-half months ago. I say to the Premier, in March, I wrote him and asked his government to provide the small amount of funding needed to keep the Dunfield Park Centre going until the expected Federal Government program, Brighter Futures, comes on stream shortly with the expectation that the Province would be able to recover its interim funding. The question is, will the Premier now respond to that request which, essentially, is just a request for a loan, for the sake of the children and families of Dunfield Park who have so much to gain from the renewed operation of the child parent centre there?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker, as to matters relating to the Daybreak or the child care centre, the minister can more appropriately answer.

As to the question about the letter, it wasn't a letter to me, it was a public statement issued to all of the news media, cast in the form of a letter to me. So, when somebody writes me a letter that is just distributed to the news media in that way, I treat it as a news release and I don't answer it.

Now, as to the other question on the details, the minister can provide the answer better than I can.

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

MS. VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, it was a letter to the Premier. I note, he is so thin-skinned that he can't handle the public knowing what members representing constituents put to him in letters. I would like an answer to the request in the letter. The request is an important one concerning a great number of families, and children, particularly. Will the government provide bridge funding so that the Dunfield Park Child Parent Centre may re-open, with the expectation that the Province would be able to recoup the interim funding from the new federal money expected shortly?

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

MR. LUSH: Mr. Speaker, the hon. member talks about providing bridge funding in the event that we would get monies from Brighter Futures. I can tell the hon. member two things, first of all that there is no protocol in place at this moment to receive the Brighter Futures funding and secondly, it is the opinion of government that daycare centres such as Dunfield Park would not qualify under Brighter Futures, that is the preliminary look. We cannot say that is definite, but as far as we know, we don't think that we could access funding from the Brighter Futures for the Dunfield Park. In any event, we are studying the situation. It has been assessed at Dunfield Park to see if the kinds of services offered there equate the services of Daybreak, and that assessment is not yet finished.

MR. SPEAKER: A final supplementary, the hon. the Member for Humber East.

MS. VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, a supplementary to the Minister of Social Services.

The minister's department is now providing funding to operate the Daybreak Parent Child Centre in St. John's, 50 per cent of which the Province recovers from the Federal Government under the Canada Assistance Plan. Will the Province do the same for the Dunfield Park Centre in Corner Brook, whether or not the Province may later recoup funding to Dunfield Park from Brighter Futures? Will the Province treat Dunfield Park the same as Daybreak in St. John's?

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

MR. LUSH: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the hon. member that insofar as both centres are providing the same services, we will treat them equally. That is the purpose of the present assessment, to determine whether or not Dunfield Park is providing the same types of services that are provided by Daybreak. With respect to funding from Brighter Futures, as I have said to the hon. member, it has not been determined yet whether or not we can assess that funding for a daycare centre of the nature of Dunfield Park, but hopefully, the assessment will answer these questions.

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

MR. MANNING: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology.

When Enterprise Newfoundland and Labrador was established, I believe the intent was to reach out to rural Newfoundland and Labrador, and to give these organizations and outlying communities access to resources here in St. John's and beyond. One of the major pluses that these organizations have enjoyed for the past couple of years - such as development associations, tourism associations, et cetera - was that they had access to ENL through a 1-800 number. I'd like to ask the minister: is he aware of the elimination of this 1-800 number at the end of April or early May for rural Newfoundland areas? If so, explain why the government took this action.

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

MR. FUREY: Mr. Speaker, I'll have to take that question under advisement. I'll report back to the House.

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

MR. MANNING: Mr. Speaker, I'm sure that the minister is aware that development associations and tourism associations, et cetera, play a vital role in the development of rural Newfoundland. With the crisis in the fishery now many associations are: number one, finding it very difficult to operate because of lack of financial resources; number two, finding it very difficult to develop new industries and ideas in rural Newfoundland. The 1-800 number gave these organizations an excellent opportunity to find information and access free of charge the many resources of Enterprise Newfoundland and Labrador. Will the minister when he's checking this out please, if he finds that this is the case, would he please reconsider putting the 1-800 number back in service to these organizations so that they can continue to develop these parts of Newfoundland that need this service?

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

MR. FUREY: Mr. Speaker, I'll certainly take that under advisement. I should say to the hon. member that when we came to power four years ago there were no services provided directly in the regions. It was this government that set up five regional offices, eighteen satellite offices, and allowed for authority with approval ratings of $100,000 per application, which we just increased to $150,000. So we're very sensitive to reaching out these services to rural Newfoundland.

As I said, there are eighteen satellite offices operating in very isolated areas. There are five regional offices fully staffed. We are hooked up to the ACOA enterprise network, which is the electronic highway which gives them a direct feed to our business services right here in the data banks in St. John's. So we're very sensitive, we're very cognizant. If the 1-800 number has been taken away, I said I'll take it under advisement. I'll review it and report back to the House.

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

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I have a question for the Minister of Mines and Energy. The minister met with a delegation from St. Lawrence a week or so ago. I'm wondering if the minister could update the House on the status of the St. Lawrence fluorspar operation, whether there's any possibility for reactivation? Really, what's the fluorspar scene like now?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Mines and Energy.

DR. GIBBONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Yes, I met with representatives from St. Lawrence and had a good discussion. The present situation is that our maintenance agreement with the receiver is eighteen months into its two-year term. It expires at the end of this year. In the next few weeks we hope to review that maintenance agreement and see where we go from here in the future, because presently the prospects for re-opening don't look very good. The world market for fluorspar is still quite weak. There's a huge oversupply. We don't see any great interest in anybody coming and re-opening at this time. There is one company that's looking at some fluorspar prospects in the area but purely from the perspective at this time I think of exploration. Not from the perspective of wanting to be immediately involved in a potential development.

MR. SPEAKER: Supplementary, the hon. the Opposition House Leader.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I say to the minister, I read a press clipping yesterday, I think, or the day before, from a representative who attended the meeting with the minister. They did express optimism. There was some degree of optimism expressed in the article. So I don't know whether that's accurate or not. So really, is the minister saying that for the foreseeable future the possibilities of reactivation of that fluorspar operation looks rather dim? That the prospects are not great for reactivation in the foreseeable future? Is that what he's saying?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Mine and Energy.

DR. GIBBONS: Yes, Mr. Speaker, that's what I'm saying. In the near future we really don't see an opportunity for a re-opening. I personally can't see anything happening in the next six months before the maintenance agreement expires. I see it more long-term than that. We do have a great resource in the ground at St. Lawrence. We believe there's enough fluorspar there to last for twenty or thirty years if mining were going on at the previous rates. But from the interest that we've been able to detect nationally and from international companies that are involved in the fluorspar market, we can't see any interest in an immediate re-opening.

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

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Final supplementary, Mr. Speaker. I'm wondering if the minister could inform the House whether or not government has undertaken a promotional effort or promotional package on that? He referred to the significant deposit in the ground there. Has government put forward a promotional package on that deposit throughout the world markets for possible mining companies to see if there might be some nibble of interest out there because I know previously that is what we did and we were lucky enough to find Minworth at the time? Has government undertaken initiatives such as that?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Mines and Energy.

DR. GIBBONS: Yes, Mr. Speaker, we have done that. We have advertised in news media, particularly mining industry related news media, but more than that we have done individual targeting of companies that we felt might be interested in this particular property. We have gone down the list of companies that are involved in fluorspar and other related commodities, nationally and internationally, and we really have not come up with any companies that have a significant interest. As I said earlier there is one company that has staked some claims in the area, and since that is known publicly it does not harm anybody for me to say that Phelps Dodge is that company and they have been doing some exploration down there, but at this time they are not showing any interest in taking over the mine for re-activation.

MR. SPEAKER: Question Period has expired.

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MR. SIMMS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I wonder if I could rise to express congratulations to Premier Klein and his government on their re-election in Alberta last night, a magnificent victory, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SIMMS: Obviously, the turning of the tide already is beginning in Western Canada.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: You waited for the Premier to get up as he has done on previous occasions.

MR. SIMMS: Pardon?

MR. W. MATTHEWS: You waited for the Premier but he didn't get up.

MR. SIMMS: Actually, I waited for the Premier, assuming he was going to get up to pass along congratulations, as he did, when Premier Callbeck was elected, I understand.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Yes, he did.

MR. SIMMS: I was out of the House on that day. Obviously, it must have slipped his mind, but I am sure he would want to. I am not sure if we congratulated Premier Savage, either, on his election.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Yes, we have.

MR. SIMMS: I certainly haven't, so I do it belatedly, of course, but ask that Your Honour write a letter on behalf of members of the House to all those new Premiers and congratulate them on their magnificent victories, Mr. Speaker.


MR. HARRIS: May I have leave, Mr. Speaker?

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


MR. SPEAKER: No leave.

Presenting Reports by

Standing and Special Committees

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Mines and Energy.

DR. GIBBONS: Mr. Speaker, the Canada-Newfoundland Offshore Petroleum Board, which is our joint management board with the Government of Canada for offshore oil resources, is required to file an annual report with the respect of ministers, and I am pleased today to table the annual report of the board for the last fiscal year. Thank you.

Notices of Motion

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

MR. BAKER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will on tomorrow ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, "An Act To Amend The Law Society Act", and lest I cause heart failure among my brethren and sisters at the Bar, let me point out that this is a minor amendment to implement a measure that was included in the Budget a year-and-a-half-ago - it is not Bill 55 from the last session.

Orders of the Day

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

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, could we first do Motions 5 through 11 and then,if we might have leave to do so, perhaps we could give first reading to the two bills of which notice was given today because they are ready and I hope to be able to distribute them to members in the House so that we could at least look at them before we debate them.

MR. SPEAKER: I understood it to be the intention of the hon. the Government House Leader to do third readings prior to the motions, is that correct?

MR. ROBERTS: Your Honour, I had called Motions but if you would prefer to do third readings, that is fine. I thought I had called Motions.

MR. SPEAKER: I am sorry, I misunderstood. I understood that you wished to do those, but certainly we will do the motions first, that being the order of business for the day. So, if you could just indicate them again.

MR. ROBERTS: Your Honour, perhaps then we could call Motions 5 through 11, and then, as well, by leave, give first reading to the two bills, one of which I gave notice and the other, of which my friend, the Minister of Finance, just gave notice.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Could you send us over a copy of that?


MR. W. MATTHEWS: (Inaudible) you know.

MR. ROBERTS: No, the Premier is going to talk - yes, the answer is ... There is the Law Society Act now - if a Page will come I will send this across.

AN HON. MEMBER: He wants to do five?

MR. ROBERTS: Yes, that is going on behind the Chair now. If a Page will come, please - one for Mr. Harris, and two for the Opposition. That is the Law Society bill there. It is straightforward.

Motion, the hon. the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs to introduce the following bills, carried.

A bill, "An Act To Amend The City Of Mount Pearl Act." (Bill No. 18).

A bill, "An Act To Amend The City Of Corner Brook Act." (Bill No. 17).

A bill, "An Act To Amend The St. John's Municipal Elections Act." (Bill No. 19).

Motion, the hon. the Minister of Finance to introduce the following bills, carried.

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Retail Sales Tax Act." (Bill No. 20).

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Financial Corporations Capital Tax Act." (Bill No. 21).

A bill "An Act To Amend The Teachers' Pensions Act." (Bill No. 11).

Motion, the hon. the Minister Justice to introduce a bill, "An Act To Amend The Insurance Adjusters, Agents And Brokers Act," carried. (Bill No. 16).

MR. ROBERTS: (Inaudible) further Notices of Motion, if we may have leave - and we would need leave to deal with them - just simply to give them first reading so the bills can be made available to members and we will deal with them from there.

MR. SPEAKER: Yes, I understand if the -

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MR. SPEAKER: It is by leave? Yes.

Motion, the hon. the Minister of Finance to introduce a bill, "An Act To Amend The Internal Economy Commission Act," carried. (Bill No. 23).

Motion, the hon. the Minister of Justice to introduce a bill, "An Act To Amend The Law Society Act," carried.

On motion, the following bills read a first time, ordered read a second time on tomorrow.

A bill, "An Act To Amend The City Of Mount Pearl Act." (Bill No. 18).

A bill, "An Act To Amend The City Of Corner Brook Act." (Bill No. 17).

A bill, "An Act To Amend The St. John's Municipal Elections Act." (Bill No 19).

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Retails Sales Tax Act." (Bill No. 20).

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Financial Corporations Capital Tax Act." (Bill No. 21).

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Teachers' Pensions Act." (Bill No. 11).

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Insurance Adjusters, Agents And Brokers Act." (Bill No. 16).

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Internal Economy Commission Act." (Bill No. 23).

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Law Society Act."

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, perhaps now I could ask you to call the third readings of Orders 3 through 8. These are the bills we dealt with yesterday.

On motion, the following bills read a third time, ordered passed and their titles be as on the Order Paper.

A bill, "An Act Respecting The Department of Tourism and Culture." (Bill No. 3).

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Taxation Of Utilities And Cable Television Companies Act." (Bill No. 5).

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Memorial University Act." (Bill No. 2).

A bill, "An Act Respecting The Department of Industry, Trade And Technology." (Bill No. 4).

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Municipalities Act." (Bill No. 6).

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Liquor Control Act." (Bill No. 12).

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

MR. ROBERTS: Thank you. Would you be good enough, Sir, please, to call Order No. 11 which is a bill, "An Act To Amend The Workers' Compensation Act." (Bill No. 8)?

Motion, second reading of a bill "An Act To Amend The Workers' Compensation Act." (Bill No. 8).

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I have a few comments by way of introduction.

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I have a few comments by way of introduction to this change, as was distributed in Bill 8. The explanatory note, Mr. Speaker, clarifies, I think, what exactly is intended here but, for the record, and to remind people again, it is not the intention of myself, as minister, or of the Workers' Compensation Commission, to make any public reference in terms of a press statement or anything else about this change. There has been some public notice of it.

The situation is one that has been known to members of this House since just before Christmas, that there are in the range of slightly under 400 individuals who are in receipt of workers' compensation and also by nature of the seriousness of their injury are also in receipt of Canada Pension disability benefits. The provisions of the legislation provide that the Canada Pension disability benefit payment be offset as income under the act and that that offset was always in place.

However, on January 1, 1993 the commission instituted an administrative change whereby the offset would be calculated in a different fashion. It would be calculated from the net earnings rather than the gross earnings which led to some changes in the actual cheque that claimants received from Workers' Compensation, in some cases ranging from $20 or $30 a pay period and, in other cases, to several hundred dollars, depending upon the amount that the person was entitled to. The government reviewed the position and it was clear that it was brought to the attention of the House. It was a question here that was raised by the Leader of the Opposition and others with respect to some of the 390 or so disaffected people who had found that they were impacted in a way different from what they were led to believe by the government. Because, in the public statements that were made by myself, as minister, Mr. Speaker, we made it clear that it was the intention of the government that anyone who was on claim for thirty-nine weeks or longer should basically be non-impacted by the legislative changes that occurred on January 1. And that again was the case except that those changes in concert with the administrative calculation change done by the commission caused these 390 or so people to have some fairly significant reductions in their cheques which were not contemplated by us at government. After we went back to the commission and we discussed the offset and the impact it had, they continued to argue for a period of time, Mr. Speaker, that their legal opinion was that they had to offset it in the fashion they now are doing and will continue to do for new claimants.

So the only way we could come to an agreement that they would feel comfortable as the commission in reinstating the people back to their previous condition, and their previous payment method before December 31, was if we would introduce a legislative provision to enable them to red circle those people who had been in receipt of workers' compensation and Canada pension disability prior to the legislative changes. We felt that was consistent with the approach that we wanted taken. We discussed it with the commission and they agreed that they would feel much more comfortable in having now two systems in place. For those 390 or so claimants who were receiving workers' compensation and Canada Pension disability benefits prior to December 31 they will be treated as they always have been, with no changes in respect to the offset of Canada pension disability. That is what this piece of legislation allows for.

Any other claimant who comes in receipt of Canada Pension disability after January 1 will be treated differently in a fashion which is now described by Workers' Compensation and which they feel is the most appropriate offset mechanism.

The offset mechanism has always been there, Mr. Speaker, but it now will operate basically in a two-tier system, one system for those who were in receipt prior to December 31 and another system for any of those receiving Canada pension disability benefits after January 1, 1993.

One last piece of information on introducing the bill, Mr. Speaker, so that all members know, in case they are still getting enquiries from claimants who are concerned about this matter. I contacted Workers' Compensation Commission again today to make sure we are on the same wavelength as to exactly what impact this will have and they assured me that they will individually contact each one of the claimants involved in this, some 380 or 390 or so, and they will be informed that they will be reinstated to their circumstance prior to January 1, 1993. It will take the Commission a little bit of time to check each case on an individual basis, but they fully expect they will have all the files done, checked, and returned to appropriate status by the end of July and that in fact any monies that were deducted from these people because of the change between January and the current date will be reinstated to those people and paid back to them retroactively in a lump sum payment that they should expect to get some time in July.

They'll get a lump sum payment for any monies that were taken in the January to June period in one of the July paycheques. Certainly the expectation is that the last pay period in July or the first pay period for workers' compensation in August that each one of these people would be back on stream in the appropriate fashion, and then only the legislative changes that have impact could possibly cause them to have some difference in their cheques, not any different treatment for the offset.

There will clearly be two different systems in place, Mr. Speaker. One for people who are entitled to Canada Pension disabilities since January 1; and those who were already in receipt of workers' compensation and Canada Pension disability benefits prior to January 1 will go back as if there was no change. They will be returned the money in a retroactive lump sum payment and then reinstated. The Commission hopes that all of that adjustment can be accomplished certainly before the end of July.

I'll entertain and listen to the other speakers and listen to the debate. Certainly if there are any questions I'll try to deal with them in closing debate, Mr. Speaker, or in Committee. Thank you very much.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The amendment respecting Bill No. 8 is a regressive amendment in my opinion. Under the old rules the Commission had some administrative leeway with respect to the deduction of Canada Pension Plan benefits. The amendments you brought in last November took away the flexibility the Commission had to decide whether they would deduct CPP benefits at all; or secondly, if they did deduct CPP benefits, that they would do so in a way that limited the impact of the net income or take home pay of the injured worker.

For example: Any worker who before January 1 - and this is an actual example from an actual case - received $824 gross workers' compensation, minus CPP benefit, which is $181.55, the net gross is $642.51. Income tax was deducted by the net gross. Now, under this amendment, income tax will be deducted by the gross. The same gentleman, $824.06, income tax $299 deducted, as opposed to $145.11. The net, the real figure, is the net take home pay. The gentleman, without this amendment, would have received $447, but as a result of this amendment will receive only $373.

I guess the real culprit in causing the massive jump in the unfunded liability of the workers' compensation fund is the economic decline I guess caused in part by this recession, and in part by the economic and fiscal policies - or probably more accurately, the lack of policies that this government has initiated. Workers' compensation is funded by employers based on the size of their payrolls. Hundreds of companies have disappeared over the last few years, and those that have survived have cut their payrolls. Fewer and smaller payrolls mean lower expected employer contributions to the workers' compensation fund, and a larger than expected unfunded liability.

In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, with respect to this Act, I would just like to suggest to the minister that he and his government should spend more time thinking about the ways to stimulate the economy and less time dreaming up schemes to shrink the incomes of workers, especially the incomes of injured workers. Thank you.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I certainly have no objection to this Bill. Unfortunately it doesn't go far enough. The minister in speaking didn't provide the house with the rationale for what the Commission is doing.

In my view, there is no proper rationale. In fact, as a result of this administrative change, which wasn't authorized by the Act or the legislation - and the minister knows this -, as a result of this administrative change there are now people in a situation that it's to their detriment to go and apply for Canada Pension Plan benefits, because of the difference in the one being taxable and the other not being taxable, an individual who obtains workers' compensation benefits then goes and gets the Canada Pension Plan by subtracting it from the net instead of the gross. It ends up costing people money as the minister knows, which is why he's bringing in this Bill.

He hasn't provided a rationale for what the Workers' Compensation Commission is doing. All he said is that they think it's the most appropriate method. I want to know what the minister thinks is the most appropriate method. Because in my view, what's been happening at the Workers' Compensation Commission, they've made this administrative change which they know will save money but at the expense of people who go ahead and apply for Canada Pension Plan benefits. What we have seen, as the minister said, is the effect, depending on your circumstances, depending on how many children you have and in some cases their ages, the effects can be in fact very significant. Twenty or thirty dollars in some cases and as much as $150 in others per month based on whether or not an individual has gotten Canada Pension Plan benefits.

I have had cases of people coming to me asking for my assistance and after they found out how the system worked, while in the middle of the process of applying for Canada Pension Plan benefits all of a sudden realize that they had better stop their application because it is going to end up costing them money, so they stayed away. The Workers' Compensation Commission is therefore now paying the full benefits as opposed to getting some relief by this person getting Canada Pension Plan benefits for which he may or may not have qualified.

In this particular case, there is some question as to whether or not he would or would not qualify. He would be expected, in order to qualify, to go through some fairly serious efforts to establish the basis of his claim under Canada Pension Plan benefits but for what purpose ?... to save the Workers' Compensation Commission the money and to take money out of his pocket and pay income tax on it to the Government of Canada but to no advantage to himself and his family. In fact, to a supreme disadvantage to himself and his family. So, if the Workers' Compensation Commission thinks that is most appropriate, Mr. Speaker, I think that they are wrong.

I do not think that the minister should be in this House defending that change without providing an explanation as to why they are doing it, why he defends it, why he supports it and why he is not bringing in legislation that is preventing them from making this administrative change requiring that any deductions from Workers' Compensation benefits be based on an offset of the gross, not an offset of the net. The minister knows the problems, he has had to understand the problem in order to be able to bring in this piece of legislation. He knows that what is happening is in fact depriving workers of money and in some cases substantial amounts of money. There is not a good reason for it and as a result of the change in methods, what you are saying is it is just an administrative change but it in fact deprives the workers of benefits.

If in fact, these injured workers are entitled to these Canada Pension Plan benefits than they should get them. It is saving the workers' compensation system money and it should not be out of their own pockets that they are applying for - they should not be deprived of one benefit, Mr. Speaker, in order to obtain another. The offset situation is fair enough, you cannot be compensated twice under two plans for the same injury but it should not come at the expense of the individual worker.

We are dealing here, Mr. speaker, with claims based on workplace injuries. We are not dealing here with a system that exists at the whim of the minister or at the whim of the budgetary allotments. This is a fully funded system, an insurance scheme to protect injured workers from workplace accidents. It is designed to offset and replace a tort base system where an individual would otherwise have a right to sue for full damages and full compensation but as a result of this workers' compensation system they are limited solely to obtaining benefits from the workers' compensation scheme. Under this system, Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations should be doing everything he can to ensure that they receive the maximum amount of compensation compatible with their previous income and in this case that requires that the CPP offset be from the gross and not from the net. What it results in, Mr. Speaker, is an injured worker being punished and being deprived by some administrative rule that is unfair and is arbitrary and that the minister and his government should not be supporting. This legislation only protects those who are already collecting benefits as of January 1, 1993, and deprives everybody else of the full benefit and the proper benefit of the Canada Pension Plan, which is a federal scheme designed to provide support to individuals, whether workers or not, who have a disability.

The government shouldn't be piggybacking on this program in order to save some money themselves at the expense of the workers who were injured. It's wrong, Mr. Speaker, to allow this. The minister knows it, and shouldn't be here justifying it by saying that the Workers' Compensation Commission think that's the appropriate administrative way to do it. That shouldn't be allowed and the minister should not be bringing in an act like this. He should be bringing in an act that ensures that all injured workers who are entitled to Canada Pension Plan benefits obtain the full benefit of them.

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

MR. A. SNOW: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I just want to have a few words on this particular Bill, Bill No. 8. The minister talks about this being an administrative change to allow for a smoother operation of workers' compensation. Of course what we're seeing here is an establishment of two types of payments to people who are injured on the job. This is tremendously unfair to workers. It's a discriminatory action on the part of this government, on the part of the department, and it's tremendously unfair to people who have already paid in the work place.

We see that what they're really attempting to do, it was pointed out last Fall, was to place the complete burden of these so-called reforms that the government brought in upon the backs of the injured workers who have already paid through the pain and anguish that they had to endure, and the loss of the ability of going to work for extended periods of time. They have paid and their families have paid.

We're expected to support this Bill. I find that I cannot support it because of what it does to these workers. This particular Bill allows a discriminatory payment to workers. It establishes two classes of people who are receiving workers' compensation, and that to me is tremendously unfair. What was fair before January to my mind should be fair after January. That's what should have been addressed. We all recognize in this House that there had to be certain things done within the workers' compensation system to protect the unfunded liability. I don't think that anybody wants us as legislators to promote that the way to protect this unfunded liability was to do it on the backs of the injured workers. We pointed out one of the things that would occur in this Bill back in last Fall, and we were told by government members that this would not occur. It wasn't there, they said, it couldn't happen.

It did happen. Now while they're correcting the mistake there - they said it didn't happen because they wouldn't do that - while they corrected so-called this mistake, they don't recognize that it shouldn't continue for the people who are injured after the date. That's what bothers me about this particular piece of legislation. It's something that we shouldn't be doing because we all expect that we would all be treated in a similar fashion, treated equally. Those injured workers shouldn't be treated any differently. If somebody is injured on the job after a certain date they should be treated exactly the same as those who were injured on the job or received compensation before January 1, 1993, Mr. Speaker.

That's why I find that I cannot support this particular piece of legislation, and I will not. Thank you very much.

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

MR. SIMMS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I want to have a few words to say on the legislation.

First of all, Mr. Speaker, I guess this is really a case of the minister wiping the egg off his face. That is what he is doing here today. He is wiping the egg off his face, and about time.

Seven months ago in this Legislature, November and December, during debate on this piece of legislation - seven months ago - we told this minister then that what he was doing to the people who were on workers' compensation was a disaster. All he was doing was inflicting more pain and suffering on those who, through no fault of their own, found themselves in this kind of a situation, having to access workers' compensation benefits. Yet he stormed on. In fact, this piece of legislation was rammed through the House of Assembly during one of those infamous all-night sittings when people do not properly scrutinize and pay attention to legislation, and when people do not get the chance to properly scrutinize legislation because the government continues to force closure or keep the House sitting all night long for twenty-four or twenty-five hours.

AN HON. MEMBER: Trying to wear them down.

MR. SIMMS: Trying to wear them down so that you do not pay attention; but, Mr. Speaker, in this particular instance the legislation - that draconian legislation - brought in by the Member for Exploits, the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations, he was caught then, that night, and he knows he was caught.

We said then that what he was doing with that legislation, the amendment he was bringing into the House in particular that dealt with the Canada Pension Plan benefits was a terrible thing for him to be doing. Oh no, he says, no, nonsense -

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Not true, he says.

MR. SIMMS: Not true. That is his famous expression. Not true, not true, not true. You can hear him shouting across the House, continuously interrupting members on this side when they were making terrific speeches in most cases, and he said: No, that is not true.

Now, seven months later he crawls in through the House, tail between the legs, head down, and makes this mild little speech to introduce this Bill No. 8, and he says - he tries to give the impression that oh, this is only a minor little change. It is something that came to our attention, and now we are the great people. We are going to change it to make a correction. Never mind the fact that they were told about it seven months ago. Never mind that. Never mind the fact that there were questions in this Legislature to the same minister, asking him to make the changes then, and he says: Oh, no, no, no.

Do you remember the answer? I still remember the answer. In case the minister forgets, I still remember his famous answer. He said: No, Mr. Speaker, this problem was not created because of the legislation we brought in. He said it was caused by the Workers' Compensation Commission. Remember his answer? It was the Workers' Compensation Commission, the bureaucrats down there. What nasty, dirty, rotten people at the Workers' Compensation Commission. That is what he said, in essence, in so many words. He blamed it all on the Workers' Compensation Commission. Now he will have to confess. He must confess, that was his answer then. It was not because of the legislation, he said. You said that. That is right. He nods. The minister nods in affirmation, just to get it in Hansard, and he said it was the Workers' Compensation Commission that made this decision.

We argued that it was because of this amendment, this change to the legislation, where it dictated that they must do this. No, no, no, nonsense, not true, not true, not true. That is all I heard him say for days.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: All night.

MR. SIMMS: All night long for twenty-four hours, not true, not true, not true.

We argued that under the old rules the Commission had the flexibility and the leeway to deal with problems with respect to the deductions of Canada Pension Plan benefits, and the amendments and legislation that the minister brought in last November took away that flexibility. Now he is coming back confessing - basically confessing - in his own inimitable way that he made a drastic error, a terrible mistake, an error in judgement. So, Mr. Speaker, it is a bit of a humourous way to describe what happened, but you know something, Mr. Speaker, as a result of that terrible mistake made last November and December, and we can joke a little bit about it now in attacking the minister, there was unnecessary suffering and pain inflicted upon a number of people. I think he says it is something like some 390 people, unnecessary pain and suffering and I hope when he gets up to speak to close this Bill, that he apologizes, apologizes in the strongest possible way that he could to those people, because the reality is he could have made those changes last Fall when we asked him to make them, he would not do it because it would have given the Opposition a bit of credit, so for purely political, partisan reasons, he would not acknowledge the case that we were making last Fall, he could not give in. There is no way -

AN HON. MEMBER: Hobnailed boots.

MR. SIMMS: Hobnailed boots are what my friend is referring to now. There is no way that he could have given in, I say to my friend the Opposition House Leader, there is no way that he could have given in to the case that we were making. He would not do it for purely political reasons -

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Well, but we have seen him having to back down before.

MR. SIMMS: - but, because of that partisan approach, there has been untold suffering and pain inflicted upon 390 people who unfortunately had a serious problem and their families have suffered and that is something that this minister will forever wear and I hope that when he stands to close debate he will apologize to all of these people.

Now, Mr. Speaker, what my friend from Menihek was saying -

AN HON. MEMBER: Where is your friend Garfield, I have not seen him for a while?

MR. SIMMS: My friend Garfield is not here today. What my friend from Menihek was saying, is that in essence and in principle, this entire legislation that the minister brought in last November and December, is legislation that we could not support then, basically it is what he is saying. As a result of this being a part of that, he has trouble accepting this entire legislation. That is what the Member for Menihek is trying to say. It is not that he opposes this specific amendment, because obviously we support the amendment, it is an amendment that we wanted brought in and asked for last Fall, but in terms of the overall legislation that you brought in last November and December, the Member for Menihek said it in the strongest, most passionate way I have ever heard anybody in this House express themselves.

He, as a member who represents a working constituency, a labour oriented constituency, knows that a lot of people, through no fault of their own have to access the social safety net that is available to them, in this case, the workers' compensation program, and the Member for Menihek is one who deals with people like that on a daily basis and he understands, he has more compassion in his little finger than the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations has in his whole hand; more compassion, Mr. Speaker, than anybody I have ever seen for people who suffer and have pain inflicted upon them, like the Member for Menihek often sees in his constituency. So what he is saying in the debate is that the changes you brought in in November and December, really are not acceptable because all they have done is hurt people, inflicted pain and inflicted suffering.

AN HON. MEMBER: Are you going to support the bill?

MR. SIMMS: We are all supporting the amendment -

AN HON. MEMBER: Just a minute now.

MR. SIMMS: I just - Are you deaf? Is the hon. Minister of Education deaf along with everything else, Mr. Speaker? The Minister of Education would be serving the people of this Province in a much better way if he went back to reading his newspaper. He has not even been listening to the debate and all he is trying to do of course, is get me to raise my voice knowing full well that I have a sore throat here -

AN HON. MEMBER: You have Kimmie Campbell laryngitis.

MR. SIMMS: I have Campbellitis, yes, Campbellitis. Anyway, Mr. Speaker, this is a serious piece of business. The government members opposite can sit back and laugh and joke and make fun of this all they want, but I tell them the reality is that in the last six months, in the offices of the Opposition, no one issue, honestly, quite honestly, no one issue has caused as many people to call our offices as workers' compensation. I say that quite honestly.

AN HON. MEMBER: There is one.

MR. SIMMS: There is one other issue?


MR. SIMMS: Which one?

AN HON. MEMBER: Housing.

MR. SIMMS: Housing?


MR. W. MATTHEWS: In St. John's.

MR. SIMMS: You get more calls on housing than you do on workers' compensation. The minister might, but I can tell you, while housing is a serious problem it's not the problem that we see and that we hear about in our offices in Opposition.

AN HON. MEMBER: You're out of touch.

MR. SIMMS: We're out of touch? No, Mr. Speaker, I say to the Minister of Finance, if there's ever a government out of touch it is this one over here that's out of touch. This one. There's only one government here. This is the one that should be there.

Anyway, the Minister of Finance, go back to Florida. Go back to Florida, I say to the Minister of Finance, that's where he does his best work, down in Florida. Stop interrupting a good speech when it's being delivered here in the House of Assembly.

MR. ROBERTS: It's only (inaudible).

MR. SIMMS: I don't expect the Government House Leader to acknowledge a good speech coming from this side of the House.

MR. ROBERTS: There are so few.

MR. SIMMS: He wouldn't know a good speech if he walked into one and heard it anyway.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SIMMS: Now, Mr. Speaker, he thinks he's given good speeches, but I tell you, if you go back through Hansard, read Hansard from back in the mid-sixties, the speeches the Minister of Justice has given, not only have they been boring, they've been absolutely the same speech decade after decade after decade. The very same speech over and over. I haven't heard any of his new quips. All I ever hear are the old ones. I'm hoping he's going to give us -

MR. ROBERTS: (Inaudible).

MR. SIMMS: You should know that, because you went through that route yourself, I think, yes.

MR. ROBERTS: (Inaudible) listen to it.

MR. SIMMS: No, this was before my days in the Chair. I'm talking about the days when Joey usurped power from the Minister of Justice. Remember that?

MR. ROBERTS: (Inaudible).

MR. SIMMS: I'm not talking about those twenty-two years, I'm talking about the 1975 election.

MR. ROBERTS: When the hon. gentleman was carrying bags for (inaudible).

MR. SIMMS: No, when the hon. gentleman approached me to run for him in Grand Falls, I'm talking about, (inaudible).

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SIMMS: Same period of time. Anyway, Mr. Speaker, I digress.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SIMMS: Yes, you can tell the people what I wanted.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: No, how interested you were.

MR. SIMMS: How interested I was? I can tell the people of the Province how interested I was. The minister knows how interested I was. I wasn't very interested at all. Let me tell you the tactics he used. He brought out - who was it? Freeman White and Roger Simmons. If ever I needed an excuse not to run for the Liberals, there it was.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. SIMMS: My cousin.

MR. ROBERTS: (Inaudible).

MR. SIMMS: No, that's not true.

MR. ROBERTS: Freeman got elected, he beat (inaudible).

MR. SIMMS: Yes, but I sat here a lot longer than Freeman did, and a lot longer than Roger did as well.

MR. ROBERTS: Yes, but he left voluntarily. The hon. gentleman hasn't done that.

MR. SIMMS: Who left voluntarily.

MR. ROBERTS: Freeman White.

MR. SIMMS: Left voluntarily?

MR. ROBERTS: (Inaudible).

MR. SIMMS: Oh, is that right? Why?

MR. ROBERTS: He didn't run (inaudible).

MR. SIMMS: Why didn't he run?

MR. ROBERTS: I can't tell you, ask him.

MR. SIMMS: You weren't talking to him either. You were the Leader of the Party. You weren't talking to him either, were you?

MR. ROBERTS: No, I wasn't.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SIMMS: Because he served for ten years. Why did Freeman White resign?

MR. ROBERTS: Freeman was here for ten years? Two terms?

MR. SIMMS: He wasn't here for ten years.

MR. ROBERTS: Eight years, whatever the two terms were. As long as Mulroney's been there.

MR. SIMMS: Anyway, Mr. Speaker, I digress. The important issue is workers' -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. SIMMS: The important issue is the issue of workers' compensation, Mr. Speaker. I wanted to make the point in the hope that the minister when he closes debate he will apologise to those people, those hundreds of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, who have gone through an unnecessary period of suffering and pain for them and their families, and it is no joke. The minister knows that, I'm certain.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. SIMMS: If the Minister of Mines and Energy doesn't know what we're talking about when we talk about the calls we get on workers' compensation, perhaps the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations could call the minister along down by his side, have a little chat with him, explain to him how much pain and suffering people are going through in this Province as a result of the changes that he and his own colleague, the Minister of Mines and Energy, made back in November when they brought in these original changes. Because it's caused nothing but grief and despair for a lot of people.

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

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Sorry, Mr. Speaker, I thought one of my colleagues back there wanted to jump into the fray here since the Leader of Opposition made such a great speech and a little history tied into it. A little history lesson, he did very well considering the state of his throat where he -

MR. SIMMS: - and the interruptions from members on all sides of the House.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: - where he was cheering wildly this weekend. I was a bit worried at times this weekend when I was looking down at the hon. gentleman afraid he might just end up on compensation, I say to members opposite. He was in such a frenzy with that thing –

MR. SIMMS: You think I was in a frenzy, you should have seen him!

MR. W. MATTHEWS: But having said that, the Member for Menihek, I think it was very appropriate that he spoke because he has a job to walk, his back is gone, I say to the minister. So, I do not know if this clause is going to apply to him or not. That is why he is so upset because he got injured since January 1st, 1993 so this provision will not apply to him. Of course that is one of the bones of contention about this Bill 8.

MR. TOBIN: Snow will find a way around that.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: We are pleased to see that the provision comes into effect prior to January 1st, 1993 but as the Member for Menihek said, the big problem is that you are really setting up two classes of injured workers. Those who were injured prior to January 1st, 1993 will be affected by this Bill and anyone who gets injured today, they will have a different equation. The other thing I want to say to the minister, the other alarming point about this is that if someone who was injured prior to January 1st, 1993 goes back to work and has a recurrence of the injury than this Bill does not provide for them.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SIMMS: That is not true, that is not true.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: No, really and I know that a lot of members opposite do not delve into the legislation -

MR. SIMMS: They do not even read it

MR. W. MATTHEWS: - they do not read it. The minister's over there yesterday -

MR. SIMMS: - let alone delve.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: There were ministers over there yesterday who got up to introduce their own bills, that really were not familiar with them. That is awful and very important pieces of legislation -

MR. SIMMS: Name one, name names.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Well, the auditor generals - MUN Act yesterday -

MR. SIMMS: From the Minister of Finance?

MR. W. MATTHEWS: No, the Minister of Education got up and he treated it so lightly that it was embarrassing.

MR. SIMMS: He did not have a click, I suppose.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: No but anyway, what I say is, you really need to read the legislation because one of these days - because you see, when we first brought this issue up to the minister, the minister denied that there was a problem and most members believed the minister because they did not know the implications. Now one of these days your phone is going to ring from a worker that has recurred an injury, there has been a recurrence of an injury - Pardon me?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. W. MATTHEWS: No, I was talking about him to give him time to get back. He wanted to know how long I was going to be, I said I will talk until you get back.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. W. MATTHEWS: So I said I will talk about him in a derogatory manner.

Just to get the point through to members, that before too long you are going to get phone calls from your constituents who were injured and went back to work and now there is a recurrence of the injury.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Yes and they are going to fall outside the provision of this Bill for something that happened to them -

MR. SIMMS: Tell him that is not true.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Okay now - I just hope members realize what I am saying here. How in the name of God are you going to explain that to them?


MR. W. MATTHEWS: Someone who has a recurrence of an injury that they may have had five years ago or a year ago or six months ago, who went back to work. That is pretty significant stuff. It is bad enough that someone who gets the initial injury after January 1st falls outside this provision, that is bad enough, but when you have someone who was injured prior to and there is a recurrence of the injury, how can the minister bring this in, I have to ask you?

MR. SIMMS: They are not covered, he said that.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: How can he bring it in? What are you going to say to them? Are you going to blame it on Roger Grimes?

MR. SIMMS: Keystone Cops Government.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: That is not going to resolve it because that is what we have here and right from day one when the minister made the initial blunder, which he would not admit, which he is now admitting today, he is now making another blunder I say to the minister. He should have gone all the way and cleaned up this mess. I do not know what he is going to do. Like the Leader of the Opposition said we saw him slip in today and try to get this through and repair all the damage he had done previously. I say this will be a bill that will be somewhat like that utilities bill, I suppose, we finished yesterday. Three times they brought it to the floor of the Legislature, Mr. Speaker, trying to make it right. I expect this will be back the Fall because like anything else that happens in this House it takes time before the impact is felt out and about this Province. Until the cheque is cut, until they get the cheque and see it is cut there is usually not much uproar about anything. We all know that, those of us who deal with the public. Until they are affected personally they do not get upset about it, but once they get the cheques and see what has happened, particularly those people who were injured before, all of us are going to try and answer for it. It is going to be easier for me than it will be for members on the government benches, I say. That is all we have seen from this government, this kind of action. The Minister of Finance over there is so gleeful about this again. I have never seen a man so gleeful as he has been during the last three or four months.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible)

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Not only does he have the boots, I say to the Leader of the Opposition, the big boots, but he has the long coat and the fur hat to go with it.

AN HON. MEMBER: Where is my pocketknife?

MR. W. MATTHEWS: I do not know where your pocketknife is, but do not go and get violent. I gave it back to you this morning. I am being distracted, Mr. Speaker. I was just paying a few compliments to my good friend, the Minister of Finance, who was a far better biology teacher, I say once again, than he is a Minister of Finance.

AN HON. MEMBER: He knew nothing about biology either.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Well, he did not know much about the spray but he knew a bit about biology. We all know in Opposition what a racket he kicked up. We used to call him Bt Baker for awhile. Remember?

MR. SIMMS: As if he knew something about it.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Now, he did know a little bit more about it than the Minister of Forestry and Agriculture, which I hate to mention because he is not here. He still knows a little bit more about it than him.

DR. GIBBONS: It is better to have no spray.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: It is better to have no spray I say to the Minister of Mines and Energy. He is certainly right about that.

AN HON. MEMBER: Walter wondered if MCP would pick up the tab for providing a caesarean on a lumpfish.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: The Minister of Fisheries is bringing up the lumpfish. It will have to be relevant, Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that. It would be no good of us debating compensation for the poor old lumpfish because it is game over for the lumpfish if we keep on doing what we are doing, because they are cut so deep, thrown overboard, they sink, and that is it.

MR. SIMMS: Just like the people on compensation.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Well, there is a similarity. It is a very serious concern. I am sure today was not the first time the Minister of Fisheries heard about that. It is something that has been bothering me for some time. I hope when the minister rises to close debate that he addresses at least those two points and trys to justify it. There is no way of justifying it. There were two points raised. The Member for Menihek raised one and, I believe, the Member for Kilbride mentioned the other, and those two points are very important I say to the minister. There is going to be a backlash about this. This is not going to go away quietly I say to the minister. We will be back here the Fall, I am sure, making another amendment to straighten this whole mess out once again.

MR. WOODFORD: Who is the chairperson of the Workers' Compensation?

MR. W. MATTHEWS: I do not know who the chairperson of Workers' Compensation is. Who is it?

AN HON. MEMBER: Penny Rowe is the chairperson.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: The chief executive officer, I guess, is the other. Is that the question you wanted? The executive director, I guess. He is acting, is he? Does the minister know when that is going to be filled? We should ask that tomorrow, I suppose, in Question Period and see if he has any candidates in mind.

AN HON. MEMBER: For what?

MR. W. MATTHEWS: For the executive director of Workers' Compensation. Maybe we should ask the minister in Question Period what is happening there. There are a lot of rumours rampant in the city, Mr. Speaker, about who might be filling that. I saw a gentleman a couple of weeks ago going through his hockey and baseball cards. I do not know if anybody saw that or not, a great collection of hockey and baseball cards. Did anyone see it? He said his mother found them up in the attic or something and called him and asked him what -

MR. TOBIN: A great Montreal fan.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Yes, a great Canadian fan.

AN HON. MEMBER: He was hurt on the job.

MR. SIMMS: The minister will have nothing to do about the appointment anyway.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: No, I am sure the minister would not even consider that, but maybe the minister might tell us, before we close on Friday, what is happening there and when we might expect that important position to be filled, because it is all related to what we are talking about today.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. W. MATTHEWS: What was the Member for Fogo swearing about? The Member for Fogo is cursing down there about something. I thought I heard you swearing down there then.


MR. W. MATTHEWS: I thought I heard you say `Liberal`. I thought you said `Liberal`. I thought you were swearing.

MR. SIMMS: They figure they owe Gullage a job at workers' compensation because he was hurt on the job.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Oh, that is terrible. You heard the line, did you?

MR. SIMMS: When is that announcement coming, tomorrow, or the day after the House closes?

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Well if that is the case, this Bill will not apply to him because it will be after January 1st.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).


AN HON. MEMBER: I was listening to your speech. Do you have a problem (inaudible)?

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Yes, I am really upset because you once told me that you listened to every word I said. I found that hard to believe, I say to the Member for Fogo.

I would like for the minister to address those points that have been raised by all of us here - very legitimate points, I say to members, and I am sure some of them have listened. They understand the concerns we have, and they are going to have to deal with it very soon because they are going to start getting phone calls.

I just want to say to the Minister of Mines and Energy, he mentioned housing. That is a very serious problem. I get a fair number of housing calls, I say to the minister, a fair number of them even from the district I represent, people looking for housing and not enough units available. In the city it must be one nightmare.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Yes, it must be one nightmare, and something that has not, I guess, been helped in any way with the recent budget cuts.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Yes, it is a very serious problem. As a matter of fact, just before I came to the House I had a call from a person who has a housing need. It is a very serious thing.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Yes, it is a very serious need, so with the workers' compensation and the housing, there are two or three main problems that you pick up as MHA's. Those of us who have fishing districts all know the nightmare that NCARP caused those of us who might have some people on it, and those who do not have NCARP and are running out of UI, we know the problems that causes.

AN HON. MEMBER: Do you also know that (inaudible)?

MR. W. MATTHEWS: They have cancelled it?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) 1-800 number now, so you cannot call them.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: That would not surprise me. Nothing surprises me. I say to the Member for Fogo, nothing surprises me because I have never been involved in anything - well maybe I should not say this, but it is very frustrating. It is a very frustrating experience for me, that process.

I had my first meeting last June, I say to the Member for Fogo - last June when this whole issue of fish problems developed, sort of, what are we going to do about it, and what is going to keep people alive? Back in early June was the earliest time that I ever had a meeting on the fisheries problems, because every year if the fish fails, you know you go looking for fisheries response in the Fall, but I have never had it as early as June.

I have been dealing with some people, seriously, who have been trying to qualify under the NCARP program since last June and some of them, I say to the member seriously, are not sorted out yet. It has been nothing but a... but I do not want to take away from the important issue we are dealing with here, and I look forward to the minister addressing some of -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) witch hunt.


AN HON. MEMBER: Something like trying to get into the hospital.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Something like trying to get into the hospital. Now that is a very good point. Can you imagine being an injured worker trying to get into the hospital? But that is another issue for another day, so I will finish my remarks on that and I look forward to the minister responding.

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

MR. TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I want to... What is that?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. TOBIN: Sure I could not care less if we are here until midnight or not. It does not bother me.

Mr. Speaker, I want to stand in this House to oppose this piece of legislation on behalf of the people of the district of Burin - Placentia West in particular. I cannot see how anyone in this Legislature - how any man or woman in this Legislature - can support a piece of legislation that attacks the sick or the suffering of their constituents. How can members opposite -

AN HON. MEMBER: You should read it.

MR. TOBIN: Yes, I can read it. It is correcting what we fought about last year, but where is it going? - back to January 1st. As my colleague pointed out, what about recurring injuries? What about everything else?

What is happening here is that every constituent in this Province who has to depend on workers' compensation will be attacked by this government. How can new members coming in this House, after going up and knocking on doors and asking people to give them their trust and confidence to represent them in the House -

AN HON. MEMBER: You're supporting this. Your Leader's supporting this.

MR. TOBIN: I know what we're saying, I know what we're saying. I know that it was our Leader last year who caused this to happen, as a matter of fact. This government brought in a piece of legislation that was a bad piece of legislation, and as a result of our Leader and this Party the minister has decided to change it. But he hasn't gone far enough, I'd say to the members opposite.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SIMMS: No, no, he likes that amendment, but it doesn't go far enough.

MR. TOBIN: It doesn't go far enough.

MR. SIMMS: Right.

MR. TOBIN: It doesn't go far enough.

MR. SIMMS: But we agree with this one.

MR. TOBIN: What's here is as a result of our Leader and our caucus. There is nothing here. This is only affecting a bungled job that he did last year. Someone had a picture the other day of a history book, and on the front page of the history book regarding the Second World War there was a picture of Hitler. I've never seen anyone looking more like Hitler than the Minister of Employment and Labour. I tell you something else. I've never read of anyone who acted more like Hitler than the present minister. Because what happens, as my colleague for Grand Bank pointed out, if there's a re-occurrence of an injury that goes back prior to that date? What happens? What happens to your constituents in this Province that goes back beyond that date, I'd ask members opposite?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, the only thing I can say about the member, he looks like a fellow who fell and hit his head. Why is the minister not going back and doing what we asked him to do? He's only gone part way, I'd say to the minister.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. TOBIN: No, Mr. Speaker, it's not next time. He's only gone part way and there's more work to be done. I would suggest that all of this is done for one reason, and that's the bottom line. The financial line. I would think that the Minister of Finance had his say in this. We always thought that the Member for St. John's West was the worst Minister of Finance in this Province.


MR. TOBIN: No, St. John's West. But he passed the -


MR. TOBIN: St. John's Centre.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, no, you were the former Member for St. John's West as I - you were the former Member for St. John's West.

MR. SIMMS: Hal Barrett was there for a month (inaudible).

MR. TOBIN: Yes. He was the former Member for St. John's West for a couple of months if my memory serves me correct.

MR. SIMMS: Would you mind asking him while you have the floor, the minister when he closes the debate, how much this is going to cost his department and the government now to compensate those 390 people? I forgot to ask that question. Roger, did you hear that?

MR. TOBIN: Okay, I'll ask the question. How much is it going to cost the government or his department to compensate these people who you made reference to? Who are in that, yes.

MR. SIMMS: (Inaudible).

MR. TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I don't know what the minister is doing with the workers' compensation. It's in a total mess. It's in chaos since this government - the whole compensation system. I mean, for all members it has to be frustrating, the whole division of the department, the compensation board. Now you can't even appeal a claim without waiting for months and months upon top of months. I saw my colleague the other day for Baie Verte - White Bay was up there and totally frustrated, trying to deal with the Workers' Compensation board on behalf of a claimant. All this minister and this government have done is throw obstacles in the way of people who are trying to get straightened away.

So I ask the minister to do something and to explain to this House what happens to people who have a recurrence of an injury prior to the date that's set out in this. Will they be taken care of? I'd suggest they won't, Mr. Speaker. They will not, as a result of this piece of legislation that's here. I ask the minister to deal with it, and I don't think that we should support it.

MR. SPEAKER: Before recognizing the hon. minister I would like to, on behalf of all members, welcome to our gallery today, the Mayor of Gambo, Mr. Peter Lush, and the administrator of the James Peyton Memorial Hospital in Gander, Mr. David Lewis.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: If the hon. the Minister speaks now he will close the debate.

The hon. the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations.

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I certainly appreciate the expression of support from the members opposite for this amendment, and I certainly do expect that it will receive unanimous consent in second reading and when the bill is passed in third reading. There are a number of points that were raised that I will try to deal with and if there are further questions, certainly at the Committee, if I don't give appropriate answers today or complete enough answers, we could deal with them then.

Mr. Speaker, it is clear, a couple of people have brought up the point again as to the legislation and the history of the development of this, and it is true, I am quite serious and I think all members should know that, when I do very seriously express regret at the inconvenience that this has caused these 390 people for the last six months. Because it was not intended to happen, and it was clear that when the question was raised in December, when the rest of the amendments and this one were introduced in the House, that we checked it out, and I think all hon. members opposite and everybody in the House recognize that the Workers' Compensation Commission sent a second letter to these 390 people explaining to them that the changes were not as a result of legislation passed by the government, but they were in fact, decisions taken by the Board of the Commission in the July previous to that, that they had delayed implementation of it until January 1st, because they wanted to bring in all the changes at the one time rather than have some changes in July and some in January.

Everybody knows - and we are not here to try to cast blame - what happened was that there was an unfortunate mistake made in which something that was not intended to happen and in the public announcements made, that we did want to show the compassion that people who were injured longer than thirty-nine weeks, who were in the position that they had gone through the workers' compensation system and the Canada Pension disability system - and members opposite, as well, would know that anyone who has to go through the Canada Pension disability system to qualify, goes through some rigorous testing and there are great demands to prove the severity of the injury and it often takes up to a year to qualify. So these are seriously injured people, with a long-term disability and for Canada Pension disability, the basic presumption is that you will not work again, otherwise, you don't get entitled to that particular benefit. You will not work again, certainly not at the job you used to work at when you were originally injured. So it was clear, Mr. Speaker, that we didn't intend for that to happen. But, the administrative change - one of the speakers, in speaking to the bill, I think it was the hon. the Member for St. John's East, said: rather than talk about why the Commission did what it did, how do I feel about it, personally?

There is no question in my mind that if the offsets were to be done as contemplated by the legislation which has been existing since 1953, with an offset provision always there, it would be done in a different way than is being done today. So it was being done in a certain way up to December 31st, it is being done in a different way right now, which the board decided. Because I will take the opportunity, Mr. Speaker, to point out to all hon. members again, that we respect the decision-making autonomy of the Workers' Compensation Commission Board of Directors.

There are two employer representatives, two employee representatives, two public representatives who debate the issues, and there is a Chair. They have debated the issue about offset. There has always been an offset of Canada pension disability benefits. They decided a year ago, in July of 1992, that it should be done in a different way, because they thought they were being overly generous. They delayed the implementation of the new system until January 1; but then, the other part that I regret is that, our powers of persuasion in talking to them and saying that the government understands what they are going to do - but the government's preference was that they would red circle the existing claimants and leave them as they were and introduce their new method of offset for new claimants.

We did not argue with their right to make a decision in terms of a new administrative method of offset, and I still don't. I still do not argue with their right, as the board, to determine the administrative method in which the legislated offset provision is going to be applied. If I were sitting on the board, I would argue a completely different offset than is there now because the intention, under the legislation, is that a long-term injured worker - and you would have to be injured long-term beyond thirty-nine weeks to be receiving, Mr. Speaker, both workers' compensation and Canada Pension disability benefits. You would be long-term injured before you qualify for both systems.

The intention clearly, is that, that person, by law in this Province, is entitled to, presently, 80 per cent of their net pay before they got hurt. That is the provision in existence today for long-term injured workers, those beyond thirty-nine weeks, 80 per cent of their net pay, and the thinking and the legislation that reflects it, Mr. Speaker, clearly says that if you get that money from somewhere else, if you have an amount of money that is equivalent to 80 per cent of your net pay, and you got it from other sources - one of them being Canada Pension disability - then the Workers' Compensation system doesn't owe you anything. You don't get money from three or four sources. You get a guarantee, by law, of 80 per cent of your net pay. If it comes from no other source, you get it all from Workers' Compensation.

If you earn some income - the only thing we didn't offset was private insurances that the person paid for themselves, and we contemplated that in our debate last year and decided not to proceed with offsets of privately purchased individual insurances. A group insurance plan like the Canada Pension disability, always has been offset and still is. The administrative manner is determined by the board and that is in effect.

The other serious question that was raised is the notion of making sure that everybody understands what would happen to a person who was injured some time ago - a year or two or three years ago - returns to work and then gets injured again. A recurrence is the phrase used in the legislation. If it is determined to be a recurrence of the previous injury, then, in fact, the legislation that we passed last December said that every single incident, regardless of what type, every recurrence will be treated as if it is a new injury. So you don't go back and get back as if you had gotten hurt in 1985 or 1989, even though the current injury might be related to your prior injury. Every recurrence, by law, will be treated as a new injury, which means you will start at 75 per cent of benefit, going up to 80 per cent. You don't go back to 90 per cent of benefit. Nobody goes back to that again. That is passé. That is finished in this Province. That is over and done with as a result of the measures that we had to take to protect the plan itself and to protect the compensation system.

So, Mr. Speaker, it is clear that the recurrences will be treated as new, and then those people - so that the members opposite understand Canada Pension disability - will have to go through a requalifying period for Canada pension. If they qualify for Canada pension they will be offset under the new administrative arrangement as a new injury, not as they would have been previously.

A final question with respect to cost, it is expected by the commission - we did a rough estimate - that they will be able to reinstate all of these people. It will take several hundred thousand dollars, but certainly, all of them will be reinstated.

AN HON. MEMBER: Seven hundred?

MR. GRIMES: No, several hundred, but they expect to be able to reinstate the whole works of them for less than $500,000, because there are six months of payments due. Some of them are only due $20 or $30 a pay period, but some are due as much as $300 or $400 a pay period, and for the 390, that payment will go back to those people.

With that, Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure for me to move second reading of the bill. Thank you.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Workers' Compensation Act," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House on tomorrow. (Bill No. 8).

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, before we call the next order, just so that there is no possibility I will forget, may I move that the House not rise at 5:00 p.m., and this reflects the understanding between the House leaders. Perhaps Your Honour could put the motion?

MR. SPEAKER: It has been moved that the House not rise at 5:00 p.m. All those in favour of the motion, `aye', those against, `nay', carried.

MR. ROBERTS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Would you please call, Sir, Order 12, Bill No. 9.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Schools Act." (Bill No. 9).

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, this is just a minor amendment to The Schools Act.

Now, hon. members will know that we are about to see some fairly major reforms to the education system in this Province, some badly needed reforms. I think one thing which all members will agree, and certainly the vast majority of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians agree, is that we do need some reforms to education and I am glad to announce them and reiterate that we are in the process of making these reforms which will, in the long run, benefit education for the children, the young people of this Province. That is what it is all about.

As a result of our desire to make these reforms, we will probably see a different number of school boards as early as September 1994. I say a different number - it could be more, it could be less; most likely there will be fewer boards in September 1994.

Now, Mr. Speaker, under The Schools Act, an election of school boards is due this November. When the municipal elections take place, the school board elections are to take place. So, if we are going to have a different number of school boards in September 1994, then it seems needless to waste the cost of running an election this coming November, only to have to do it all over again a few months later. So, government have received requests from the Newfoundland and Labrador School Trustees Association to defer the school board elections. We have also received requests from the churches, the denominational education committees, asking that we defer elections. The purpose of this bill is to allow me to defer the election of school board members. At the moment, we are required by the act to call the elections in November; this would allow the Minister of Education to defer the election, Mr. Speaker.

Now, I have received some complaints. If you are to follow the strict letter of the law of this amendment, we can defer the election for up to four years. I want to assure hon. members that we have no intention of deferring it that long but we are not sure if we have to defer it twelve months or thirteen months. So, what we have done is, we have given the flexibility there to defer it up to four years, if necessary. There is no intent on our part to go beyond a year or a year-and-a-half or whatever it takes, Mr. Speaker, but it would seem to be pointless to ask to have this amendment made, only to discover twelve months from now that we need fourteen months and then have to come back. So we have given ourselves lots of leeway in the event that we do. It is a very minor amendment, Mr. Speaker, and I ask hon. members to go a second reading of this bill.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Waterford - Kenmount.

MR. HODDER: Mr. Speaker, with the general thrust of the reforms that are taking place in education in this Province, in the primary, elementary, the junior high school and senior high school systems, we, on this side of the House, want to give our co-operation to the government so that they can more easily facilitate the changes that are going to take place.

Mr. Speaker, in doing that, the issue is not the deferral of the school board elections this particular Autumn. School board elections are held on the same day as municipal elections. Therefore, the cost of conducting the elections are relatively minimal. So this is not an issue of saving great numbers of taxpayers' dollars. In fact, I am told that the cost of conducting the whole school board elections for the whole Province is probably less than $50,000 in total.

So, Mr. Speaker, the issue is whether or not it makes good sense to give the government the authority to postpone the elections for a four-year term. We believe that a one-year postponement of the school board elections would be quite satisfactory. We have heard the minister, we have heard the Premier, we have heard other members of Cabinet, we have heard the comments of officials of the department, at the hearings we had, to say, in effect, that the government intends to move fairly quickly with restructuring and reforming the educational system. However, is it reasonable to give the minister the authority to double the mandate of the school board officials in this Province? We, on this side of the House, say that the mandate that the school board members have was given to them by the people, by the parents, not by the government. It was given to them by the people, by the electors and primarily by the parents. For the government to say that they are going to postpone that election for up to four years is in itself I think just too much to ask for our consent on this side of the House.

Mr. Speaker, we recognize the need for change. We recognize that the minister needs to have some flexibility. We recognize that the issue here is not primarily one of saving money, because money is not the big issue here. Although $50,000 saved is appropriate if we're going to spend it on education. What we have here is a situation where there is too much an infringement of the democratic process. There is too much of a compromise being asked. I just want to say that I cannot support the amendment as written. At the appropriate Committee stage I will be proposing an amendment to it.

We believe that the government can restructure the school board system of this Province in one year. If they can't do it in one year therefore they should come back to this House and ask for a further postponement, a further permission of the Legislature when there is a date certain. But to suggest that people who were elected in November of 1989 would hold office potentially until November of 1997, that becomes a bit outrageous, and very much is an offence to the democratic system. Members will note that when the Premier was elected in 1989 he made it quite clear that even though he was elected for a five-year mandate he had said that he would seek a mandate from the people after four years.

We have people who were elected in 1989 to the school boards of this Province in November of that year. They are due for re-election. They're due to go back to the people this November. Therefore to tell them now that they are going to be told that they may have to stay in office for one year, two years, three years, or maybe four years, in itself becomes anti-democratic and becomes an offence to what we believe to be proper procedures in a democratic Legislature.

Mr. Speaker, in conclusion, the government needs some flexibility, and we're willing to admit to that on this side of the House. However, we cannot support an amendment that takes away from the parents the right to pass judgement on their school boards and their school board elected officials and to postpone that judgement from the parents for a possible four years. We can't support that, and therefore at the appropriate stage I will be proposing an amendment to the Bill that's now before the House.

AN HON. MEMBER: Question.

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

MR. L. MATTHEWS: Mr. Speaker, I would like to speak to the Bill for just a minute or two -

MR. SIMMS: You can't control your own members, boy, you can't control your own members.

MR. L. MATTHEWS: Am I out of order, Mr. Speaker?

AN HON. MEMBER: No, sir.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible)!

MR. L. MATTHEWS: The minister will have opportunity to close the debate imminently.

MR. SIMMS: But you will cause more people to get up and speak (inaudible).

MR. L. MATTHEWS: Will I do that? We'll wait and see.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible)!

MR. L. MATTHEWS: I just -

MR. SIMMS: (Inaudible) see how nice you are.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Nice to see you up.

MR. L. MATTHEWS: Well, it's nice to see you down, Bill.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. L. MATTHEWS: I have to say that I do enjoy it when you're up. I just want to speak for a minute, Mr. Speaker, and respond in support of the comments that the minister made on this Bill, and also to a couple of the comments made by the education critic, the hon. Member for Waterford - Kenmount.

I guess I should support the Bill, number one, because at the time the request came from NLSTA, which is the association of all school boards, and I was vice-president of that organization at the time and I was party to the decision to make the request that the school board elections be deferred. It seemed as though it was the right and proper thing to do then and I am certain it is the right and proper thing to do now. In that context I want to support the Bill that is before us at the moment. Secondly, of course, as a member of this side of the House I believe it is the right and proper thing to do in any event. I thought it was right then and I think it is right now to ask for a postponement of school board elections.

The school board elections as contemplated by the NLSTA would be in the order of one year and that is what has been suggested by the legislation with the proviso that if it has to go slightly beyond that, of course, there is legislation in place to accommodate that type of thing. To answer the couple of criticisms, or veiled criticisms, because there did not seem to be much spirit to the criticism that the minister or the critic, I am sorry, for education was offering, to say that it is a hardship to delay the elections or to say that it is an infringement upon the democratic rights of the electors, I think, is stretching it a bit much beyond what the legislation envisages.

I am not aware of what his position was, Mr. Speaker, a couple of years ago when the same type of thing was done for municipalities when the amalgamation process was going through, but I can say this, that the mayor then of Mount Pearl, who is now the critic for education, did not resign from his council in Mount Pearl at that time in protest over the legislation which is very similar to this. If it is wrong today to extend school board elections then it was wrong then to extend the elections of municipalities. I do not think it was wrong then to do that and I think the mayor was happy to get the extra year on his mandate without having to face the electorate. I am not sure if he was really running scared because he resigned before he had to go again, but I do not think that was the reason why he resigned. I think he was popular and prominent and he would have been a successful candidate for the mayoralty.

In any event I want to add my voice of support, Mr. Speaker, to this. I think the point that should be made though, is that traditionally in school board elections it has been very difficult to get people to come forward and run for trusteeships on school boards. I think to ask the people of this Province who are interested in education to offer themselves for election, knowing full well that their term of office will probably just be a year and then they would have to run again for re-election, I think it would be a greater disservice to the people who have an interest in education to postpone the elections and ask the present trustees to serve an extra year. So, I believe, in all fairness and in all commonsense it is the right thing to do, to have this piece of legislation, to postpone the elections for a year, allow the trustees that are there to carry on, if they will, and not to put the people who are interested in education to have to run and then run again in a year's time.

Having said that, Mr. Speaker, I ask for the support of the House for this piece of legislation.

Thank you.

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

MS. VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would like to have a few words to say about the principle of this Bill, "An Act To Amend The Schools Act." When I first saw this Bill and discussed it with the Member for Waterford - Kenmount, the official opposition education critic, I felt and the Member for Waterford - Kenmount agreed with me, that there was an error in the drafting of the Bill and actually leading up to today I understood, incorrectly I now realize, that the government acknowledged the error. I heard about a discussion on the part of one of our members with the Government House Leader. I understood the government acknowledged the error and undertook to correct it.

Mr. Speaker, a number of questions are in my mind that I want to raise. First of all, the basic question of whether it is correct, by legislation, to extend the term of office of a school board, or a municipal government for that matter, of a local government. Is it acceptable for this Legislature to delay the election of a local government - in this case a school board?

I find arguments on both sides of that question, given the stated intention of the government to consolidate school boards and reduce significantly the number of boards. I believe the number is now twenty-five. It was thirty-five a few years ago when I was minister, and through co-operation of boards, church authorities and the government over the years since, the number of boards has been steadily diminishing. Of course, that has mainly been prompted by declining enrolments.

At any rate, the government appears to have made a policy decision to reduce the number of boards. If that is a safe assumption, then I can see the argument in favour of extending the terms of office of the current boards and delaying school board elections beyond next November, but it is not an easy decision because, after all, it is an interference with the democratic process.

The case in favour has to do with avoiding unnecessary cost, avoiding the administrative work involved with school board elections. Now the Member for Waterford - Kenmount has pointed out that the cost actually is very low. If the cost is that low - if the total cost of running school board elections is only about $50,000 - then really I do not think this interference is warranted.

Now the reason the cost is likely to be low is that through legislation which I introduced when I was education minister in the mid-1980's, school board elections are held concurrently with municipal elections, with voting on the same day every four years, in the same place. Sharing is built into the arrangement. That was intended primarily to induce more participation in school board elections, a higher voter turnout and more involvement of voters, but it was also designed to achieve economies of scale and keep down the administration costs.

So when I look at the arguments for and against a delay, I have to come down on the side of sticking to the original schedule and proceeding with a round of school board elections with municipal elections this November.

A delay by one year is not all that bad, but in the back of my mind I have the thought that this government has never done anything significant on schedule yet, so it is not likely to end up being a delay of just one year. It is likely to drag on for two years or three years.

I come back to my original observation about the way this Bill is worded. You see, originally I thought the government's intention was to legislate a one year delay, but the Bill is worded in such a way that the minister is empowered to delay school board elections up to four years from November 1993 to November 1997.

Mr. Speaker, I grapple with the issue of a one year delay, and as I explain concluded that that is unwarranted. The cost is not significant. The interference would be great. After all, voters elected school trustees, school board members, back in November of 1989 for a four year term. People offered to serve and ran in those elections for a four-year term. It is significant for the Legislature to interfere with that arrangement and to extend the mandate of school board members by one year. The possibility of a four-year extension is absolutely intolerable.

It seems as though the government set out to allow as much as a four year delay and that really shocks me. I knew they were bad. I knew the Wells administration has little regard for negotiated contracts, for tax legislation, for municipal funding legislation. I've seen much evidence of that. But this really is an unwarranted intrusion into the school board democratic process.

Having made those two points, let me go on to make some observations about democracy and school boards. The process of democratizing school boards has developed very slowly and incompletely in this Province. When school administration was re-organized in the late 1960s the government of the day - the government of which the Government House Leader was a member - legislated school boards being composed of a majority of appointed members, and allowed for a minimum of just one-third of school board members having to be elected.

Under that arrangement school board elections were held piecemeal at odd times with no synchronization. The result was that relatively few people ever knew about school board elections. There was a low turnout for public elections. Some elections weren't even held by general election. They were instead elections at public meetings poorly advertised. So from 1969 until the mid-1980s school boards really were not chosen through a democratic process.

In the mid-1980s as I mentioned I introduced legislation which was passed to try to more fully develop democracy in the process of school board elections. That legislation, which is still in force, provides that school board elections be held concurrently with municipal elections. It also required that a minimum of two-thirds of school board members be elected by popular vote, allowing for the remaining one-third to be appointed by the churches or handpicked. That was a compromise. My own personal preference would have been to have 100 per cent elections. The intention was to in later years amend the legislation to require that all school board members be elected.

The previous Minister of Education in the Wells administration indicated that the government would be legislating 100 per cent public election of school board members, but that has not been forthcoming.

In the mid-eighties, after the legislation to increase public involvement in school board elections, curiously the churches retreated. Evidently they felt threatened by the prospect of the general public choosing school board members. The churches asserted what they claimed to be their constitutional right to restrict eligibility for school board elections. Now previous to that, citizens who do not subscribe to any of the eight denominations who operate schools in the Province with negotiated or constitutional rights, had in fact stood for election and been elected but after the mid-1980's legislative reform, churches basically put on the clamps and refused to allow people other than adherents to their particular denominations, to stand for election to their particular board. That had the very regrettable result of excluding taxpaying citizens, people whose taxes are used to support the school boards, from even standing for election to those school boards.

We have a situation in the Province where christians of several denominations, Baptist, Unitarians, Lutherans are not allowed to stand for election to school boards. We have a situation where non-christians; Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists are not eligible to even have their name on a school board election ballot. Now, Mr. Speaker, that is not acceptable. Why has the Wells administration been slow in acting to correct that? There has been lip service paid to the discrimination. The previous minister at least voiced an intention to reform school board election law to allow everyone in the Province to stand for election, at least I thought I heard him say that but that reform has not been forthcoming.

We now witness the church leaders and an elite Cabinet committee meeting secretly, making decisions about administration of schools in the Province. Others involved, parents and school board members, school administrators, teachers, other taxpayers are not privy to any of those discussions. We have to wonder whether the end product is going to involve more discrimination instead of less discrimination. Whether the end product will yield a school board election process that will be less democratic, less inclusive, instead of fully democratic and all inclusive.

Mr. Speaker, the prospect of legislation which empowers the minister, just the minister not the House of Assembly, not even the Cabinet, simply the minister to delay school board elections, not for one year, which the government says is the period of time they will need to make decisions and implement school board consolidation and other administrative changes, but two years, three years up to four years is simply unacceptable. People now serving on school boards throughout the Province offered themselves for election back in the Fall of 1989 for a four year term. Citizens voted with the understanding that trustees elected would be in office for four years. Now, Mr. Speaker, having the Legislature interfere with that process and extend the terms for up to four years or empower the minister, that one politician, to lengthen the terms by up to four years is not good enough.

How can we in 1993, even entertain this possibility? Now, Mr. Speaker, I understood that the government were aiming to have all of this done in time for a round of elections for a smaller number of consolidated school boards by the Fall of 1994. Now as I said before, the Wells administration has never yet achieved a timetable it set for itself, it has never been on schedule yet. The worst deviation was the municipal amalgamation fiasco, a close second was the municipal financing mess, with changes and variations and upsets and cuts coming one after the other, after decisions communicated in good faith by the government to councils, after councils set their budgets and sent out their tax bills, so, Mr. Speaker, given the track record of the administration, it is not likely that they will meet their stated objective of having the school board consolidations in place and the new round of elections in the Fall of 1994, it is more likely that it will get dragged out a couple of years beyond that.

Mr. Speaker, I very strongly object to this legislation. If it were empowering the Legislature to extend school board trustee's terms by one year, I would struggle with the decision because of the cost and the duplication, but since the cost is low and it is important that school boards which exercise such a very important public trust, and to use the Premier's favourite verb, discharge, such basic responsibilities for so many people in the Province, on balance, I would have to come down against the one year extension but, Mr. Speaker, this Bill empowers the minister, that one politician, to extend the terms by up to four years, to delay elections by up to four years, and, Mr. Speaker, this is a time when, very sweeping fundamental changes are possible in education.

I am an advocate of fairly major reform myself, and I hope there will be very fundamental changes. The changes may turn out to be changes in the wrong direction, but make no mistake, there are major decisions about to be made for the future of education in this Province, so at a time like this it is even more important that the democratic process, to the extent that it has been developed for school board elections, be allowed to continue and specifically, that school board elections proceed on schedule this November as the voters and the candidates were led to believe in November of 1989.

Mr. Speaker, to pass this Bill, I think, will be a very bad mistake and I realize the Cabinet have their minds made up. It is doubtful by the look of the faces of Cabinet ministers opposite, that there was even much debate involved because now that they have their second mandate, they seem quite content to ride roughshod over people's rights, but I appeal to the backbenchers over there, especially the first time members, to think long and hard about this Bill before you support it. It is an unwarranted infringement in the democratic process of electing politicians, school board members, who run the schools and make basic decisions about education. It is an infringement at a time when major change is imminent in education and when I would argue the democratic process for school board composition is more important than ever.

The arguments in favour - avoiding cost, avoiding hassle, administration - really are minimal. The cost is negligible. Fifty thousand dollars is the figure cited by the Member for Waterford - Kenmount. I question, actually, whether it would be that much since people already on school board payrolls do the administration and there is the sharing with municipal elections. There are economies of scale.

Mr. Speaker, the reason that the current legislation makes school board and municipal elections concurrent is that that combination dramatically increases public participation. Essentially there is one-stop voting. On the same day, at the same voting location, people are able to elect members of the two types of local government - the municipality and the school board.

Mr. Speaker, people in this Province are not well informed about how schools are governed. Actually, members opposite seem to labour under some fundamental misconceptions about the power of the churches, and they are now acting to enhance and increase the power of the churches.

Mr. Speaker, many people in the Province do not appreciate the fact that school boards - the local government - largely elected now, have a major role in education. They are charged under legislation with the responsibility for setting most of the basic policies of allocating resources, teachers, operating funding within curriculum guidelines set by the Department of Education, of choosing programs. School boards are responsible for personnel decisions, for deciding how to use their allocation of salary units, what kind of teachers to employ, how many schools to operate, how to set attendance zones, how to provide student transportation. School boards have an extremely powerful and important role in education, and school boards are, and should continue to be, chosen through a democratic process.

Mr. Speaker, the Member for St. John's South seems to be quite impatient. Now he has an important and prestigious and higher paying job assisting the Premier. Prior to that he sometimes showed some independence of thought, but in the case of interfering with the democratic process of choosing school board members, he seems to be very touchy. I suspect maybe privately he has some problems with this, but he does not want to jeopardize his new cushy job by letting anyone know that he might have a slightly different point of view from his boss. I suppose it is like the old saying about power corrupting.

I would say to the members opposite, though, who are more independent, who may be more inclined to speak and act on principle, who do not have jobs and high salaries and perks at stake, why do you not have a look at this Bill? Why do you not exercise your own independent judgement? Why do you not stand up for the interests of your constituents - the same voters who elected school board members back in November of 1989, with the understanding that they would be in place for four years, the same people who were led to believe that there was a basically democratic framework in place for selecting school board members.

How would members opposite feel if some higher order of government, or some constitutional change, interfered with the process of electing members of this House of Assembly? Well perhaps members opposite would be quite glad if it served the purpose of extending their terms, but the infringement, I would suggest, is of a similar order of magnitude. An infringement in the process of electing members of Parliament at the federal level, members of this House of Assembly at the provincial level, or members of a school board, is a grave infringement in the democratic process.

Mr. Speaker, the Member for Port de Grave, the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation, when he was in the back row over there, would have been muttering about this bill. He would have done his muttering from his seat, but now that the minister is back in Cabinet, enjoying the perks and privileges and the higher salary of power, I notice that he is not muttering quite as often. I notice that he is smiling more often, and, Mr. Speaker, the member looks good with a smile. He is very charming when he smiles. He is very persuasive when he smiles. I wonder if the member used any of his persuasive powers to try to change the minds of the Premier, the Minister of Education, the Minister of Justice, the real heavyweights in the Cabinet. When that trio, that triumvirate, proposed this heavy-handed anti-democratic legislative measure, I wonder if the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation had anything to say in the Cabinet meeting when this was rammed through.

MR. EFFORD: That is for me to know and you to find out.

MS. VERGE: That is for the member to know. That is right. But, Mr. Speaker, the backbenchers, the private members over there, are under no such constraint. The Member for Fogo, for example, who was a teacher, the Member for Port au Port who was a principal - who else over there was involved in education? I would think every member opposite has had an involvement with education, as a taxpaying citizen, perhaps as a parent, and, in at least a couple of cases, as a professional educator. Mr. Speaker, I would think those members opposite have a fair appreciation of the value of the democratic process. After all, that is how we all got here, through a democratic process. How can members opposite sit silent and go along with, and even vote for, this offensive measure to interfere with the democratic process of choosing school board members?

Now, Mr. Speaker, members opposite may think that nobody is watching. After all, it is late on a Wednesday afternoon and the news media by now have probably got a couple of stories out of Question Period and have packed it in for the day. Nobody appears to be paying attention. The Summer holidays are approaching, so members opposite are probably thinking that they don't really like this but the people back home will never find out about it. The news media might not publicize it, and even if they do, word might never reach the voters back home in Hermitage, back home in Port aux Basques, or home in Lourdes. Members opposite may think they can just go along with this and the voters will be none the wiser, so, for the sake of expediency, for the sake of staying in the good books of the Premier, especially for those who are fervently hoping for a Cabinet appointment, or some other appointment that will bear a higher salary and some benefits, for the sake of keeping in the Premier's good books, they will just go along with this. They won't make much noise about it. The Member for Port de Grave won't even mutter about it. They will hold their nose. They will acquiesce. They won't say very much when the vote is called. They probably won't even say 'aye.' But perhaps we will have a standing vote. Perhaps we will call for division and make the members opposite take a stand one way or the other, and then we will know who is prepared to stand up for democracy; then we will know who is willing to use or abuse the Liberal majority in the House to ride roughshod over people's rights and to delay school board elections up to four years, to empower the minister, one politician, to empower that one single politician to decide at whim or will to allow school board elections up to four years beyond the scheduled time for elections.

Mr. Speaker, this bill reeks. It is anti-democratic, and there is no excuse for it.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. member's time is up.

The hon. the Minister of Education, if he now speaks, will close the debate.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, I thank hon. members opposite for their stimulating debate, for the suggestions they have made, and I assure them that they will get the attendance that they merit. With that, I move second reading.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Schools Act," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House on tomorrow. (Bill No. 9).

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, would you be good enough, please, to call Bill No. 10, An Act To Amend The Government - well, it is a very long title. It is Bill No. 10, Order No. 13, Mr. Speaker.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Government Money Purchase Pension Plan Act, The Public Service Pensions Act, 1991, The Teachers' Pensions Act, The Uniformed Services Pensions Act, 1991 And The Memorial University Pensions Act." (Bill No. 10).

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

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, thank you.

My colleague, the Minister of Finance, has had to leave to go to a meeting which he assures me will not be a long one, but rather than interrupt the flow of business in the House, he has asked if I would introduce the bill on his behalf and he will respond to it when he closes debate and will answer any questions in the interval.

Mr. Speaker, the bill is an enabling act. It enables the ministry to implement the arrangements that are now being made with the various unions representing -


MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, I can yell as loudly as anybody in this House, if I have to, but really, it doesn't help if, in fact, I have to.

Mr. Speaker, what I am saying is that this bill will enable the ministry to implement the arrangements that are now being made with the various employee representative groups, the unions. I can go through it in detail but I am sure that members of the House are familiar. The matter was discussed rather extensively throughout the Province in the election campaign, as it should have been. The people of the Province rendered their verdict on May 3 and we came back to the House believing - and I think with every right to believe - we have a mandate to implement the types of arrangements that we are now making with the union groups.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: A mandate to do what you like.

MR. ROBERTS: My friend from Grand Bank says we have a mandate to do what we like. I don't think that is so. We have a mandate to do what the people like. He is thinking of the days when he was in the ministry, when he and his then colleagues did what they liked, and eventually the people didn't like it and the people did what they liked to the gentleman from Grand Bank and his colleagues, and they were all relegated to Your Honour's right - and long may they reign in that position.

Mr. Speaker, I won't go through the bill in detail. The same provisions are repeated with respect to each of the four or five acts that this bill seeks to amend. Now, there is a common thread through it. The four or five acts - one, two, three, four, there are five, in fact - are the various acts under which pensions are paid to public employees, in a very broad definition.

The Government Money Purchase Pension Plan Act, The Public Service Plan, which is the big pension plan, the one in which the members of the public service are included, The Teachers' Pensions Act, which covers teachers, obviously, The Uniformed Services Pension Act, which is the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary and the staff of Her Majesty's Penitentiary and the correctional institutes, and the Memorial University Act. It does not include the Members of the House of Assembly Act, the other pension plan, because we have taken the hit directly in the form of a salary rollback, as I am sure hon. members have noted, probably to their chagrin. That was done by the House before the election.

Mr. Speaker, in each case, we are asking the House to give the Cabinet authority to reduce the contributions, or to authorize the reduction of contributions, not to exceed 4.5 per cent, and the various employee groups are now dealing with this. If memory serves me, the NAPE and CUPE groups are reported to approve the proposal. The teachers approved - no, NAPE and CUPE have had some units votes but not all. Am I correct? The teachers have voted, we understand, to approve it.

AN HON. MEMBER: 70 per cent.

MR. ROBERTS: 70 per cent, that is not a bad majority but certainly there will be no need for a recount and there will be controverted election like in Placentia district. The Uniformed Services have made an arrangement which, in fact, will be done without pension reduction. The police have given up some other benefits in their contract, but we can't do the same deal with the warders at the penitentiary, and the Government Money Purchase Pension Plan applies to a relatively small number of employees who, for one reason or another, have their own pension plans to which we contribute as opposed to being in the major, the government-wide pension plans. So, Mr. Speaker, that is essentially what the bill does. I could go on at considerable length but I sense the temper of the House, long speeches are even less welcome now than at most times, so with that said, I will simply move second reading and, in that sense, concur with my friend from Grand Bank; but I have no doubt, some members would want to speak on it, I will move second reading and we will see where we go from there.

Thank you, Sir.

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

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

Mr. Speaker, the hon. the Minister of Justice, when he spoke, in presenting the bill on behalf of his colleague, the President of Treasury Board, called this Bill 10 an enabling act, an act to empower the government to reduce the employer's contribution to a pension fund that would be contributed over the period of an agreement.

Now, Mr. Speaker, he also said that this was negotiated with the unions, NAPE, CUPE and the Police Brotherhood, although I don't believe that the Police Brotherhood's pension is being affected whatsoever.

MR. ROBERTS: The police have offered up contributions in another way, but there has been an agreement struck between Treasury Board and the RNC associations.

MR. A. SNOW: Yes, but what he failed to mention, Mr. Speaker, was that these unions negotiated with a gun to their heads, so to speak, because what basically happened the hon. Minister of Justice made reference to the fact that the people of the Province - this was an issue brought about in the election - the people of the Province had decided - they voted for the Liberal government based on the fact that they were going to roll back government pensions or roll back the compensation package to public employees. Now, Mr. Speaker, that was not the only question during the election.

One of the things that bothers me about this, Mr. Speaker - I recognize that you have sat down, negotiated with the unions and the unions have basically agreed, the majority of them have, NAPE and CUPE. As an employer you have settled this particular problem for this year but as a group of people, as a government that is establishing what is going to be occurring with regard to the general economy of this Province, you should have also looked at other options that could have been available, because this does not really solve the problem, Mr. Speaker, the fact that the employer will not be contributing 4.5 per cent to the pension plan because this merely solves the problem for this particular year. If we look at what is occurring in the general economy of this Province, of course not just this Province but the whole country -

MR. TOBIN: You are not allowed to be eating candy in the House.

MR. A. SNOW: - the whole country, Mr. Speaker. What is occurring is that we are not coming out of the recession as fast as we thought we were coming out. In the last budget brought down by the federal government, the federal government lowered the actual taxes paid by people who create this revenue to the governments, Mr. Speaker. When the federal government lowered their income tax and the corporate tax, we found that this particular administration raised their taxes, corporate tax and personal income tax, Mr. Speaker, and took up that so called incentive or that (inaudible) that the federal government had voided and that is basically what happened. Then we saw the provincial governments, not just here in this Province but the provincial governments in Ontario and Quebec specifically, when they brought down their budgets, they did the same thing, they created a huge tax grab.

Now, Mr. Speaker, what that is going to do next year is, it is going to create another problem in this particular Province. The economy in Central Canada is going to have a drastic effect on our budgetary process down here, Mr. Speaker. We are going to see fewer dollars flowing into the provincial economy because of these huge tax grabs created here in this Province and also of course in the larger provinces, Quebec and Ontario.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. A. SNOW: Send it over. I would like to see it.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. A. SNOW: Okay.

Mr. Speaker, these huge taxes, these taxes that have been imposed in this Province and other provinces, by the provinces, by the provincial governments, are going to create a further financial burden, or financial crisis, in this Province next year.

The problem with this particular piece of legislation, or this particular piece of methodology, if you will, the idea of just doing it with a pension plan process, is not going to solve the problem. Next year our problem is still there. What this particular Bill does is give a quick fix. It is a short-term solution. It does not solve the problem down the road.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. A. SNOW: Well you should have listened to my campaign speeches.

Mr. Speaker, while this may solve the problem for six to eight months, or the rest of this year, we do not solve the problem for next year.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) - for seventeen years.

MR. A. SNOW: The hon. Member for St. John's East suggests that the previous administration did that process for seventeen years and that is why they are in the mess today. Mr. Speaker, if he says that and believes it, why does he continue on with the same method of doing it?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. A. SNOW: Now he suggests that because they have the so-called Economic Recovery Plan, that they are going to solve the problem after twenty years. It is going to take them another twenty years to solve the problem.

Mr. Speaker, this $70 million problem that was solved this year through this quick fix, yes it solves the problem this year, but it does not do a thing in the long term. That is what bothers me, the fact that what I believe the government should be doing - yes you have to address your problems of today, but you have to be also concerned, when you are addressing those problems of today, that you do not create more problems for your people down the road tomorrow, and this quick fix does not do anything - does not do a thing, in my opinion.

It does not do a thing to help the crunch that we are going to face next year because the economic crisis next year is going to be even more devastating than this year. Now, I think the Minister of Finance agrees with me, that this does not do it. So what was necessary this year was to sit down and negotiate with the unions and have a long-term solution to this problem. The Member for St. John's South already stated that the solution to that is to continue along the way it has been going for another twenty years. Now, by twenty years - if you are going to ask the people for a mandate for twenty years - you want a twenty year mandate now, Mr. Speaker. Now, Mr. Speaker, I firmly believe, as I stated during the election that this was discussed quite freely in this Province, that there are other -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. A. SNOW: Yes, I turned my 750 vote majority into a 200 vote majority.

AN HON. MEMBER: As long as there is a majority.

MR. A. SNOW: Mr. Speaker, there are other ways to solve the financial problems of this Province and they are not just by attacking the employees of the Province, which has been the modus operandi of this particular administration. Mr. Speaker, I do not think that it can be solved that way. We must have public restraint and be aware of our debt and our deficit. We have to be cognizant of those two factors, Mr. Speaker, but we also must look at the other side of the ledger and look at methods, that is the revenue side, Mr. Speaker, and look at it so that we can think of ways and do things with our budgetary process or with our legislation that would stimulate the economy. I think that is where we are making a mistake. I have not seen any sign in the previous administration of this particular party and I have not seen any signs after just being given another four year mandate of doing things that would stimulate the economy.

This particular administration behaves as if it were a trustee in a receivership, that is the exact method that you are using, the way a trustee does in a bankruptcy of a property or a business, Mr. Speaker. In the Speech from the Throne, it was mentioned that you have to manage a declining economy. Now, Mr. Speaker, I believe that there is another role for government rather than just managing a decline. Quite often the receiver who takes over and manages the decline of a business, usually the operating procedure of most receivers, they will go in and operate for a period of time and after a period of operations what they then start doing is selling off their assets, and now we are seeing that is exactly what this administration is doing. They are going in taking over the operation of the government of this Province and now they are starting the process of selling off assets and that can be very dangerous and some people will say: well, at least we will get some cash to operate, but what about the damage that is going to be done to the economy? Will it be smaller, not just the government, the Province, and I do not mean in geographic terms, I am talking about the people living here in this Province?

Now, Mr. Speaker, that is what we have to be aware of and that is some of the things that we should be doing other than just looking at attempting to solve the problems, I believe, of this Province, the economic problems of this Province by -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. A. SNOW: No. But, Mr. Speaker, we have to be more aware of the economic problems and we have to solve them differently than just attacking our employees and that is what this particular administration has been doing and that is what they are doing with this Bill. I cannot support it, although I know that the unions sat down and negotiated in the collective bargaining process to do this, but, Mr. Speaker, I think they did it with a gun to their heads and that is tremendously unfair to the unions. Not only that, Mr. Speaker, by taking this approach, this administration is being very shortsighted and does not solve the long-term economic problems of this Province but merely postpones them.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.


June 16, 1993                HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS           Vol. XLII  No. 16A

[Continuation of June 16 sitting.]

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I want to speak to this piece of legislation which is a very important piece of legislation, because it affects the future of a great number of people in this Province, but it also affects potentially the future of all people in this Province. Because it marks a retrenchment of benefits for workers, for employees of government, and it marks a direction that this Province and this country are going in which I abhor. That's a direction -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I'm having a little trouble hearing the hon. the Member for St. John's East. If the people in the House could keep the noise level down a bit. Thank you.

AN HON. MEMBER: He's not saying anything, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. I'd certainly like to hear, in any event, before I pass judgement.

MR. HARRIS: Mr. Speaker, and I don't care what government moves in that direction, it's a direction that I abhor. It's a direction that says that we can no longer afford to ensure security for our employees. We are heading in a direction that says that the progress that has been made in providing benefits for workers, in increasing the standard of living, in moving forward not backward from generation to generation, that that direction has been changed and reversed. That this government and this generation of leadership that we are dealt with at this stage in our short history as a country are starting to turn back the clock on progress and saying to our children that you must accept less than our generation has enjoyed, not more. That you have no right to expect that the benefits of a country such as Canada, a peaceful country that doesn't spend 20 per cent of its revenue on arms, such as the United States does, a country that is a leader in the world in terms of education, a country that has demonstrated an ability to live in the world, contribute to the world, cannot look after its own employees and its own people.

It's a failure of Canada as a nation - and I don't blame it all on the provincial government. Whether it be the Government of Newfoundland, the current government or the previous government. But a failure of the Government of Canada and the people of Canada as a whole through their governments to insist on our right as a nation to determine our own fiscal policy, our own sovereign policy, and our own ability to govern our own affairs. It goes back not to the attempts by workers to improve their lot, but it goes back to the failure of the Government of Canada to insist that we in Canada pursue our own economic destiny and our own fiscal destiny.

We've seen the national debt grow along with the interest rate, go higher and higher. Not because money was tight but because the Bank of Canada determined that inflation and fighting inflation was more important than creating an economy that provided jobs. We've fought, we have managed to fight, through the so-called leadership of the Bank of Canada, inflation to the point where it hardly exists. It's old crow, it's a crow that should be gone and dead. That's the crow we're talking about. The crow that we're talking about here is a crow that was appointed by the federal Tories and who has followed a policy dictated by the federal Tories which is to keep our interest rates in Canada higher than in the United States. The spreads have grown. Not the historical two or three points that have existed for the last thirty years but five or six points. Why is that?

It's been done, Mr. Speaker - it's unnecessary. Our interest rates have been higher in this country than in the United States, Germany, Great Britain, France, than more than any of the other countries of the Organization of Economic Development. The organization representing all the industrialized nations of the world. That's resulted in the debt growing higher, the deficit growing higher, and the obligations of the fiscal decision makers grow more and more burdensome.

As a result of that we've been turned on ourselves. Canadians have been turned on themselves. We've been pursuing at the behest of the major corporations policies that are good for them but detrimental to the rest of the country. Detrimental to our sovereignty, detrimental to our control of our own economy. We've got a lot of people convinced. In the Province of Alberta they've got so many people convinced that the only issue - and this is a non-issue election in Alberta - is whether or not a good old boy, Ralph Klein, should be made premier of Alberta or not. The man who said, as mayor of Calgary twenty years ago, about kicking out these eastern people and sending them back east.

What they've done, what the corporate masters have done, is they've managed to influence public opinion to the point -

MR. BAKER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: - that the deficit - the Minister of Finance says that people who don't agree with him are wrong. I guess that's been the theory of his government ever since they started. Anybody who disagrees with the Premier is wrong, simply wrong. That's all. It's not a question of opinion. It's not a matter of choice. You're just simply wrong. Because whatever the Premier says is right, and I guess the Minister of Finance agrees to that, and he bows down, and he says: yes, if the Premier says it, it must be right. If this is the course of action it probably must be right and everybody else is wrong and nobody's entitled to an opinion.

If substantial members of the public have been convinced that the debt is the most important issue, all I say that means, Mr. Speaker, is that the people who believe that, the corporations who want there to be no government at all, if they can get away with it, so they can do exactly what they want, if they convince people that the debt is such an important issue that we should have no debt, then there'll be no government and the corporations will be happy. So they will have won.

That's what we're dealing with here. The tip of that iceberg. The tip of the policy and the future for the next generation in this country which says that we will tear down the pension benefits that have been fought for and won. We've already got this government tearing apart the workers' compensation benefits that have been fought for and won and put into place. It's already happening. The next step is Medicare.

Kim Campbell, who most of the Tories here went off to Ottawa to support, she has no great favour for Medicare. Neither did Brian Mulroney when he said it was a sacred trust. He went into power saying that the social programs were a sacred trust and spent the next ten years dismantling them piece by piece. It is certainly not sacred anymore and we are not completely sure whether it is a trust or not and Kim Campbell, the new Prime Minister elect, she is certainly prepared to look at user fees as a way of financing Medicare, that is the next step, we will see that coming in from the new Prime Minister and the new Tory government in Ottawa.

The Tories here want to shut down the medical school, there is a great idea. You should stay away from Ottawa fellows, you get some bad ideas up there, stay away. They come back from Ottawa and they want to shut down the medical school, that is what the Member for Ferryland wanted to do today, he was urging the government to shut down the medical school; what are we doing funding a medical school here? We do not need any doctors, we will go back to our old ways, he wanted to go over to Ireland and bring doctors over from Ireland like we used to, not that I have any major objection to doctors from Ireland; my father-in-law happens to be an Irish doctor but that is not the way -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) medical school?

MR. HARRIS: - but that is not the reason we have a medical school, Mr. Speaker. We have a medical school so that we can establish our own doctors, participate in the great medical education, medical research, the technology associated with that.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: Give them jobs; there is no trouble to have jobs. The Bonavista hospital is advertising in the Globe and Mail for jobs, where are they going to get them from? It is not a problem finding jobs, the problem, Mr. Speaker, is that we are not prepared to do what it takes to ensure that we build a country that makes jobs, that guarantees, that has a set of policies that looks after our country first and not the interest of international capital. It does not listen, it does not take direction from (inaudible) and the Business Council on National Issues. Satisfied that we should have our own national will, satisfied that we should cleave our own way to the future and not be someone else's policy puppets and that is what has happened to the Government of Canada and the provinces are falling into line, and I see this, Mr. Speaker, as a piece of legislation that is part of that process.

Now I will have something to say somewhat favourable to the position taken by the government after the election. I think it is fair to say that after the election, the government actually showed some flexibility in negotiations. Now that is true; I would have to say that that is true. Flexibility, they did not show before.

AN HON. MEMBER: Who didn't?

MR. HARRIS: Government.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: The government showed flexibility?



MR. HARRIS: They actually sat down and negotiated more than what they said they wanted before. They actually negotiated on some other items. They sat down at the bargaining table, they did show a little - because if they did not, they would not have gotten these deals and those proposals that were on the table, some of them were actually considered and the government did not make any moves prior to the election to show that there was any flexibility involved at all. Not one iota of flexibility was shown by the government prior to the election and I say that after the election, the government in fact -


MR. HARRIS: Mr. Speaker, can you protect me from the Member for Eagle River? He is feeling berated by the fact that the Minister of Fisheries did not agree with him and castigated him when he came into the House this afternoon, and I understand that, but I need protection of the Chair from the Member for Eagle River. He is sitting in the front row, Mr. Speaker, he is waiting for you, Mr. Speaker, to put a fifth row there so that he can go back to his seat, but he is temporarily in the first row, and I do need protection from him because I know he is rather upset this afternoon.

I have to acknowledge, Mr. Speaker, that after the election the Minister of Finance and his government did, in fact, show some flexibility in negotiating and did, in fact, agree to put something else on the table other than just the demands that the government had, and they were able to reach some agreement and some accommodations with the leadership of the unions - or at least some of the unions. I think the NTA went back with their tail between their legs, but other than that they reached some accommodation.

So that is a positive sign, but nevertheless this piece of legislation is the same as the workers compensation legislation that we were dealing with last Fall, the same as the legislation that I think we are going to be dealing with later on.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: During the course of this assembly. I will remind the Member for Eagle River when this legislation comes up. Bill 10, Bill 16, Bill 17, legislation to remove workers compensation benefits, eating away so that the Member for Eagle River can tell his children: I am sorry, you cannot have the benefits that my generation had, for which my father's generation fought, you are going to be denied these benefits. The standards are going to be lower. You are going to have to go out and get a McJob, a part-time job. A part-time job is all you will get in the new economy that the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology is trying to develop - the new economy of part-time jobs, low wage, part-time jobs.

Mr. Speaker, that is what we are heading for, because this government does not have the courage to challenge the assumptions under which federal fiscal arrangements are made, under which the Bank of Canada operates, under which the Government of Canada lies down and dies in the face of American requests and insistence upon a deal that takes away -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: I would be prepared, I say to the Member for Eagle River, to stand up and fight for the existence of this country, not roll over and play dead like this government is doing, and to go along with the changes in our economy that are taking place, taking away our ability to look after our own affairs, taking away our ability to develop a true industrial strategy for this country, because we now no longer have the means to because we have agreed, in a free trade deal, that we cannot have a ship building policy for Canada that is going to protect Newfoundland's interests. We cannot do that, Mr. Speaker, because that is going to be contrary to the Free Trade Agreement.

Meanwhile the Americans, under their Jones Act, can do whatever they like. All goods transferred from one port in America to another port has to be done on an American ship built in America and crewed by American citizens. Why is that?... because this is for defense purposes. Every ship would be commandeered by the Americans under their Jones Act during wartime, and is merely their way of protecting their own interests. Canada cannot do that now. That has been taken away.

This is all a part of that, I say to the Member for Eagle River. Until he understands that, until he understands that what this government is doing today -


MR. HARRIS: Until the Member for Eagle River understands that what this government is doing today is all part of giving up our future, giving up Canada as a nation, and giving up our chance to govern our own affairs.

We here in Newfoundland only joined Canada forty-three years ago. We only joined forty-three years ago. Canada is a young country, should be allowed to exist, and should not give up hope. In Europe people are lying down in front of tanks for their nationhood and here in Canada we will sign it away, or we will let the government in Ottawa sign it away on our behalf. Everywhere across the country the government will fall into line. I would say the same thing if I were in the province of Ontario, that all the government is doing is falling in line instead of standing up and fighting.

I say, Mr. Speaker, that we do not need to be tearing ourselves apart and taking apart the benefits that our people have fought for. This is the thin edge of the wedge. It is like the bill that government passed this afternoon, forced through the House this afternoon on workers' compensation. We will have a two-tier system. Those of you who are already on workers' compensation, we will give you the benefit of one administrative system, and those who come behind we will give another. That is what we are going to see, Mr. Speaker. We see it in industry where companies are trying to negotiate two-tier agreements with one set of union rates for existing employees, and any new ones coming on will be paid less.

That is the kind of thing that is going on, gradually eating away at the standard of living, tearing it down, taking away the standard of living, taking away the benefits, subtly at first and then as they gain momentum even more strongly. We see it with the Labrador stores, another action by this government eventually going to lead to privatization of those stores and the destruction of the full-time decent jobs and turning them into half-time, part-time, temporary, low wage, minimum wage jobs, non-unionized where there is no protection for workers. That is what we are moving to. There are going to be a few full-time jobs but they are going to be less and less.

Whenever you see the job statistics in Canada, I say to the Minister of Forestry and Agriculture, and whenever you hear the Tories in Ottawa bragging about the number of jobs have been created since the free trade deal came in, you ask them how many of them are part-time jobs and how many of them are full-time jobs. The next time you hear the Tories in Ottawa bragging about how many jobs came onstream in Canada since the free trade deal came in you ask them how many were part-time and how many were full-time jobs. When you talk about how many jobs left since the free trade deal came in you will find out that most of them, if not all, were full-time jobs, so we are getting out of the full-time economy and getting into a part-time, low wage, decreasing economy, decrease in jobs, and this is merely a part of that. It is a government money saving exercise and that is what it is called, amend the government money purchase plan, the various pensions acts, so that the government can save money right now. I hope they have not allowed them to do it generally, forever and ever. I hope it only allows them to deduct one year's reduction. Obviously, they may want to sneak in a piece of legislation that allows them to do it again next year without having to come to the Legislature. I do not know. I will have to read it very carefully. We are only at second reading right now and I have to oppose it in principle, and I will oppose it, but I want to have a good close look at it to make sure that they have not been trying to give themselves the power to do it generally from time to time as it suits them.

I would not put it past this government, Mr. Speaker, to slip that into a piece of legislation because I see it as merely the request for this year and next year we will have something else to take away, and the year after that we will want something else, and the year after that we will want something else, and we will try and create a crisis to do it. They are lucky this year they had an election as an excuse to get away with it. I say that is the only reason they are getting away with it. If they had not had an election they would not have gotten away with it. I say that this piece of legislation is bad because it sends out a signal to this generation, and to the next generation, that things are going to get worse and there is nothing that this government and this generation is prepared to do about it.

That is all I have to say, Mr. Speaker.

Thank you, very much.

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

MR. WINDSOR: Does the minister want to speak?

MR. BAKER: Only to move second reading.

MR. WINDSOR: I am not quite ready yet to move second reading.

The Minister of Finance wants to speak to this particular bill anyway so I have to keep going until he gets back. He could be gone for supper, who knows? The minister will be back very shortly, I am sure, but I want to take a few moments to deal with the bill. The bill is a fait accompli and the government has negotiated with some of the unions. I say negotiated but I should say perhaps his coerced has forced - has bamboozle has bullied the unions into submission. Give them full marks, they went into an election with this plan before unions and they, having been rejected by unions, have a mandate to deal with the unions and I guess the unions are now starting to respond and are starting to comply with the wishes of government.

So, Mr. Speaker, the bill now basically gives government the right to do what they have been negotiating with various unions to do. Let us have a look at what is the whole purpose - what is the whole purpose, Mr. Speaker, of the legislation. We are talking about - I am glad the minister is returning because I want to address a few questions to him.

Mr. Speaker, quorum call please. There is no quorum present.

MR. SPEAKER: I will count the members.


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

MR. WINDSOR: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. As I was about to say to the minister, what he is doing here is a one shot deal and I am more concerned about - not the fact that this bill is going to be put through the House this evening, because the government is going to do that anyway.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) chicken.

MR. WINDSOR: If I were offered some chicken I might sit down.

I would move second reading, Mr. Speaker.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) we did a small raid.

MR. WINDSOR: Mr. Speaker, I just want to take a few minutes to address a couple of questions to the minister because the bill will go through and we know what is taking place, to a large measure it's been negotiated with some of the unions. Presumably over the next number of days the minister will get some sort of an agreement, I guess, from the other unions, I assume tomorrow, that is his expectation. I hope the minister when he speaks, when he speaks in a moment to close the bill, will tell us how much the minister will save? Will this get him the full $70 million that he needs to bring his deficit down to $51 million this year? If not, how much is he missing? How does he propose to get the balance? What does he now predict the final Budget deficit will be for this year after these measures? I for one, do not believe that he is going to get $70 million from this mechanism. If I am wrong the minister will tell me.

More importantly, Mr. Speaker, what does the minister predict the deficit will be next year, at this point in time? He must now have some idea of what we are facing next year because we have a $121 million deficit at this point in time. Until this legislation goes through and these payments are deferred, we have a $121 million deficit. Now, this is a one shot deal, otherwise the minister has to come up with $121 million next year plus whatever additional growth we might have in the deficit over the twelve month period.

So let us say that we are $150 million in total. Now, how does the minister propose to find $150 million to balance his budget next year? That is a hypothetical figure but not an unrealistic one, I say to the minister. How does he propose to find that $150 million? Are we going to be saying to this same group of public service unions and employees: we need another $70 million from you next year? If it keeps happening every year - the pension keeps going down every year by 1 per cent, we are told - is the impact this will have on a person's pension when he/she retires unless he/she pays extra now, in other words puts in what government would have contributed on their behalf this year. Some of the unions are being offered the option, some are not. Some are being offered the opportunity to work an extra five or six months, so any way you cut it, it is a wage rollback. Employees will be taking home less pay this year, or less pension benefits - however you look at it. All the things that are negotiated in collective agreements, be they salaries, be they vacations, be they medical plans, dental plans, life insurances, pension plans, severance plans, all of these are benefits that are earned by the employees. They will be taking home 4.5 per cent less benefits this year. Now their take-home pay may not change, but the benefits down the road will have changed.

So if we are going to ask them to do that next year, and the next year, and the next year, and if our problem next year is $150 million instead of $121 million, what is the acceptable deficit next year? Is it $51 million next year, or are we trying to get to a balanced budget? Is the minister going to say next year that the most we are prepared to accept, the most that the credit rating agencies will accept, is $30 million? So that means we have to find $120 million from these same public servants, or some other (inaudible) next year. Now we are talking about taking twice as much away from them next year, in some way, shape or form.

So the real question here is: Is this a one-shot deal? I hope the minister can answer it, because if it is a one-shot deal, if the government's projections, and if they are confident of those projections, say we have a $121 million problem this year, but next year our problem is only $50 million, so if we get the $70 million through some mechanism such as this, in a one-shot deal, it solves our problem for this year only, but we only have a problem for this year, then maybe the concept is not all that bad. Maybe it is not all that bad, it said to the people: You ought to take a cut in pay, or reduce your pensions, or you work an extra week, or you take a week off without pay, which is the same as cutting pay - whatever. If it were a one-year problem and we were having a one-time solution, then maybe this is not such a bad idea, but if it is a long-term problem, and next year we have to find another short-term solution, then all we are doing is moving it further down the road, and maybe we should be dealing with the problem now. Maybe we should be fixing the problem instead of giving it an aspirin. If the leg is broken, set it. An aspirin only takes away the pain for the short term.

If that is what the minister is doing, then this plan is foolhardy and he will pay the price, because the wrath of public service unions will come down on him and his colleagues next year when he goes back and says: Thank you for the $70 million you gave me last year. Thank you for the wage freeze you have suffered for the last three years, but we have to freeze your wages again this year and we need $120 million from you this year. That is the real question here, Mr. Speaker.

The second question is: What is all of this doing to the economy of the Province? That is why I am asking the minister this question. This is critically important. We have seen so many examples over the past number of years where perception and attitude have had such a real, negative impact on the economy. There are thousands of public servants out there who are scared to death to spend a cent, and I spoke to dozens of them during the election campaign. How many public servants came and answered their doors when I went knocking? They said: You do not have to worry about me. I am a public servant. That was a good way to start out a conversation. It made it very pleasant from there on in, but we talked about the economy and the impact -

AN HON. MEMBER: They said that and voted Liberal.

MR. WINDSOR: Not in Mount Pearl they did not, my friend, I will tell you that. Not in Mount Pearl they didn't.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. WINDSOR: All you have to do is turn on your radio and you will find out who they voted for.

Mr. Speaker, I want to get on to this question to the minister again. So many of them said: I am a public servant. I said: yes, and I bet you are spending less money than you ever did, and you have more money in the bank than you have ever had. Almost to a man and a woman they said: You are right. We did not take a vacation. We did not trade the car. We are spending less, and we are poking away a little bit more because we do not know what's

going to hit us tomorrow.

We're talking about, what, 30,000 public servants? Is that a fair number, I ask the minister? I think around that. We're talking 30,000, 35,000 public servants who are affected by this attitude. If 30,000 or 35,000 public servants are all saying: I'm not going to spend unless I absolutely have to, you're going to find another 30,000 to 35,000 people out there in the business world who are going to feel the pinch very quickly,. Because that money is not moving. The banks will tell you there is more money on deposit now than ever in our history. We're not bankrupt, we're scared to death. That's the bottom line.

What I really want to get from the minister today is some assurance that this measure will improve the economy. That he can tell the people of Newfoundland and Labrador that next year will be better, and the year after that a little better again. That they don't have to be concerned about their jobs. This gives a trade off. It gives some job security for one year. But it doesn't say what will happen next year. That's what public servants are still asking out there. Is this a long-term plan that will mean next year we don't have to worry about our jobs, or the year after?

There used to be a time if you got a government job, if you got a job in the public service, you knew you were set until you retired. Money was in the bank. You were secure. You could plan. You could buy a house, you could buy cars, you could send your children to university. You could do a long-term personal financial plan. You can't bet on it today. That's what's causing the problem in the economy. There is so much uncertainty people are scared to death to spend. They're scared to invest. They're scared to take a chance. The private sector is following right behind. Because they don't know what's going to happen. You see?

So if the public sector is not going to spend it's money, and the private sector is not going to invest it's money to expand their businesses, the economy comes grinding to a halt, and that's what's happening in Newfoundland and Labrador today. We have to find a mechanism to assure the people of this Province that the economy will rebound and that this plan will have a desired affect. Not just to balance the budget for one year. Who cares? For one year. If the minister is saying that we're going to balance it next year, well, who cares if we've got a $120 million deficit this year? Not the end of the world. If you can prove that it's balanced next year. But I'm saying that you can't. I'm sure the minister will conform that he can't.

I'd like to know what his projection is now. We've talked about it in this House before. I'd like to know, what is the latest projection on that deficit? How do we propose to deal with it next year? Can the minister give the people of the Province some sense of security that they are in control of the economy, that they are in control of the deficit and of the provincial budget? That at the end of the year we're not going to have a recurrence of what we've seen over the last three or four years. Projected deficits increased by four and five times. That we're not going to have next year the Premier going on t.v. again, saying: fellow Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, come join with us, we have a problem, as we've seen now three years in a row.

A great state-of-the-nation address. Instead of coming on t.v. and saying: we have a handle on it, we know where the problems lie, we have the solutions, here's what we're going to do in the short term, here's what we're going to do in the long term, here is the impact, there is the projection, and we believe that they're good, and if we can prove it to the financial credit rating agencies and the money markets, our borrowing rate will not be affected. If they can prove all of that to the people, the people will rise up and support them. They've done it for three years in a row. But if you can't show us that this is part of a long-term plan that will have an ultimate solution, then you're going to leave the economy right down where it is now.

I'd like the minister to address some of those things when he stands, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: If the hon. the Minister speaks now he will close the debate.

The hon. the Minister of Finance.

MR. BAKER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I was unavoidably out of the House to do the introduction to the bill, so I thank my colleague the Minister of Justice, Government House Leader, for what I am sure was a brilliant introduction to the bill although I did not really hear what he had to say.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to comment on some of the things that have been said in this House in the last hour or so. I would like to thank the Member for Mount Pearl for focusing the discussion on the issues that are really important. He asked a number of questions that I would like to deal with.

First of all, he asked: how much will this particular measure save? Mr. Speaker, you have to understand that I have to point out what happened in the process before I can give an answer to that particular question. We started out last November indicating to the unions, public sector unions, that we would at some point in time require a certain amount of money from their total compensation package. We were faced in November with a projected $299 million deficit on current account, for this year that we are now in, a projected $299 million deficit. We took some steps in the December statement, we raised taxes, we cut some expenses and we indicated to the unions that we would be requiring - at that point we thought around $90 million from their compensation package before the Budget.

As things turned out, Mr. Speaker, we only needed about $70 million from their compensation package. That number was arrived at by assuming, and this was before we even thought of the pension possibility, this was assuming that we would remove compensation from the employees. We would have to remove it either through giving up some of the extras in their contracts, which meant that they would change their rates of pay for overtime and a whole bunch of things like that, so there would be less money being paid to the employees. This was the original assumption and our calculations were done on that basis. They were arrived at by taking into account some of the very things that the Member for Mount Pearl pointed out - when you remove compensation from employees there is a negative effect on the economy, a direct negative effect. In other words there is a certain amount of money that is no longer in circulation which means that affects your revenues. So, the $70 million figure was arrived at, assuming that by removing that amount from the compensation or the money that was in circulation in the Province, that in order to reach an acceptable current account deficit that there would be a reduction in our revenues.

Then, Mr. Speaker, after trying to find the one way that would avoid outright confrontation at this time, we eventually came up with the pension option which does not involve removing any money from circulation. So the pension option could be done by not removing $70 million from what was paid into the pension plan. All we would need to remove would be approximately $62 - $63 million from what was paid into the pension plan to have the same net effect, because now we could project increased revenues of about $7-$8 million because now we were no longer taking money out of circulation. So the advantage of the pension option was that it would not have that immediate effect on the economy. I know that the Member for Mount Pearl would say: but there is another effect that has to do with confidence and he is absolutely right but at least the immediate effect of taking money out of circulation would no longer be there, therefore our revenues would be higher and we could increase revenues. Therefore we would not actually have to take $70 million out of the contributions to the pension fund, so, in talking to the public sector unions about the pension option we indicated to them that we would not have to take a full half years contribution. That is what it would look like on the surface. That in actual fact, we would only have to not pay in less than our full years share.

In actual fact that's what happened. In actual fact, 4.5 per cent is not being paid in to the pension plan. Which does not amount to $70 million. It amounts to maybe $62 million. The other $7 million or $8 million comes from the fact that there is no longer now a decreased revenue effect by taking money out of circulation. That was one big advantage of the pension option, that it didn't have an immediate effect on the economy.

MR. SULLIVAN: (Inaudible) so that problem's corrected, is it?

MR. BAKER: I'll deal with that. The question wasn't raised but I'll deal with that as well. The Member for Mount Pearl is right, it is a reduction in benefits, it's a rollback in one sense, but it's not actually immediately taking money out of the pockets of the public service workers. So there are two advantages to the pension option.

We determined that using this option would not affect the unfunded liability in the pension plan, would not affect the stability of the pension plan and the funding in the pension plan. The pension plan liability has two aspects to it, it has an aspect of paying in, and the aspect of an accumulated, a credit into that pension plan, a credit that would then impact on the pension plan. That's the accrual rate that the people who are paying in would get.

In this instance, because the public service workers either would, if they retired at their normal retirement time, normal retirement age, would get less pension. Because they'd have less credit now, they'd have a half-year's less credit, or a little less than a half-year's less credit. They'd get less pension. Therefore the net effect on the unfunded liability would be zero. As a matter of fact there's a very slight positive affect. A very tiny positive affect in terms of the funding of the pension plan.

MR. SULLIVAN: (Inaudible).

MR. BAKER: Yes, but that's all calculated in, you see.

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes, but (inaudible) fifteen years (inaudible) that person retires, you've lost fifteen years (inaudible). If you wait to the end and you work longer you've lost growth potential for an average of fifteen years. That's how pension plans grow and develop. That's going to affect -

MR. BAKER: Yes, but don't forget now, if a person takes the option of paying back in our share that's going to be paid in at an actuarial cost. Which includes the assumption that if the money had been put in now it would have been gaining interest over those years. So the amount that has to be paid in is the actuarial cost, not the amount that they would have paid in at that point in time, this year. It's the actuarial cost. If they decide to pay the extra money in over this year then there's no extra cost of course.

MR. SULLIVAN: (Inaudible).

MR. BAKER: No, no. That's not what it is.

MR. SULLIVAN: (Inaudible).

MR. BAKER: Oh yes, I see, in their terms, you're right.

MR. SULLIVAN: In their terms, yes.

MR. BAKER: In absolute terms you're absolutely right.


MR. BAKER: Yes. But this is the effect the member is talking about. It is a cutback. There's no doubt about it. Either they have to pay in our share or they take less pension or the third way, the third option, is to work a half-year longer. In which case they won't lose any actual money but that's a half-year less time they'll be receiving pension.

MR. SULLIVAN: It could also affect -

MR. BAKER: These options are all there.

MR. SULLIVAN: It could also affect the health of the plan and stability.

MR. BAKER: Pardon?

MR. SULLIVAN: If the money is not in it's affecting the health and stability of the plan.

AN HON. MEMBER: No it's not.

MR. SULLIVAN: Because it's losing its growth potential.

MR. BAKER: What the member is saying is simply not correct. If all of a sudden there were no pensioners and no money was paid in, there wouldn't be a problem, would there? You see? The only thing that creates the problem is as the money is paid in there's a liability that's built up against that plan. Now if the liability is not building up - in other words if these people are not getting credit for that half year - then it has no affect on the plan.

MR. SULLIVAN: It has effect on their money they're going to receive at the end. Because they'll have to pay it in to receive it back if they work extra.

AN HON. MEMBER: And they receive less.

MR. SULLIVAN: (Inaudible).

MR. BAKER: Yes, they receive less.

MR. SULLIVAN: - or receive less, or pay extra in to receive more, basically.

MR. BAKER: They would receive less. I agree. It is a cutback. I mean, we've had this analyzed by all kinds of actuaries, and it does not have a negative effect on the plan. It has a slight positive affect.

MR. SULLIVAN: It's the same as a wage rollback really.

MR. BAKER: So I have answered how much it will save. The answer is yes, we will get the same budgetary position as we would have gotten - okay, we will get the same budgetary position, a $51 million deficit in current account and so on by doing this option but it is not actually $70 million that is not paid into the pension plan, it is around $62.5 million. I forget the exact number because of the economic effect that I mentioned.

The Member for Mount Pearl asked about the deficit for next year and the projections. I will say to him that it is still a little bit early. He knows what he is talking about, he knows that we are doing these things all the time but the numbers that we have now are to unreliable because the trends have not really been established. It is only three months, less than that, a couple of months and trends have not been established. I suggest that we would know by September or October but I will say to him that what it looks to me that - like last year we were looking at in November, a possible $299 million problem. It does not look anywhere near that. As a matter of fact, it does not look as if it is going to be $100 million, it might be $60 or $70 million.

That is what it looks like now but I say that very guardedly because we still have to wait for the six month figures from the federal government in terms of what is happening in the economy generally and any decisions they might make about transfer payments. So, we still have to wait for that but it looks as if there is not as big - not nearly as big a problem next year as there is this year. In spite of the fact that this is a quick fix, this is a one year fix and the beauty of the one year fix is that I believe it allows us an opportunity in this Province to do something that other provinces are trying to do, especially BC and Ontario, it allows us some time to do the real social contract.

We have spent three years now going to the union leadership and opening the books to them and saying: look, here is our situation, help us out, give us a hand in solving our problems. We have done that for three years and we have been rejected for three years, two-and-a-half to three years. We have been rejected because it is totally different from any type of collective bargaining that has ever been known before, totally different, not your normal collective bargaining. We have tried this year after year and I believe that we have now had some success. We have reached agreements with the leadership of all our public sector unions. The allied health professionals, the police and teachers have already voted on the options. The allied health professionals choosing the pension option, the teachers choosing the pension option and the police brotherhood choosing a different option that has to do with other extras in their contract. The voting has been happening with NAPE and CUPE over the last week and I assume it will be finished up within a day or so and then we will know the results of their vote. I cannot prejudge that but I am hoping that it will be positive.

The nurses have a different process in place where they require mail-in ballots so that will take a little bit longer but I am hoping that will work out. There is more happening here than that because the hon. Member for Mount Pearl is right, there could be other problems and there is a problem next year and the year after. We are probably going to be slower turning around than in other areas of Canada. We have big problems in the fishery so we will probably be slower than the rest - so we do have problems but I detect a willingness on the part of most of the public sector unions to sit down and start talking right away in September, some time in September, to try to work out some kind of an agreement or arrangement to change the confrontational nature of the collective bargaining process. A process that is confrontational from day one and never should be. Granted there has to be room for confrontation in that process but it should not be at day one of the process, it should be further down the road.

So, I detect a willingness to sit down and to forge a real social contract in this Province between the employer government and the workers represented by the unions. I see a real willingness to do that and a recognition that the problems that we face as a Province are everybody's problems. It is not enough to live in the dream world of the Member for St. John's East, that is simply not enough. It is not enough to get up and rant and rave and say that I am disgusted, I am bored about the direction - things are happening in Canada and these bad governments can no longer guarantee security to everybody and all of this kind of thing, as if there were something magic about having a particular number of public service employees providing the services that have to be provided and a lot more and guaranteeing everybody everything ad infinitum and that whenever you run into a problem and there are no revenues you have this magical pot of money that some leprechaun dug up for you that you can go and use and pay everybody, the dreamworld of the Member for St. John's East, who lives I guess in the same dream world that Bob Rae lived in a year-and-a-half ago but has very quickly come out off.

So it is not as simple as that, and I believe there is recognition amongst the union leadership that things are not that simple and that this is the real world and we all have real problems in this Province, that we all must work together to solve the problems. I believe there is that recognition there unlike the impression you get from the Member for St. John's East, so, Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to move second reading on this bill.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Government Money Purchase Pension Plan Act, The Public Service Pensions Plan Act, 1991, The Teachers' Pensions Act, The Uniformed Services Pensions Act, 1991 And The Memorial University Pensions Act", read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House on tomorrow. (Bill No. 10).

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker?

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

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, could the House go into Committee of the Whole, please?

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

MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please!

Bill No. 15, Motion No. 2.


"That it is expedient to bring in a measure to authorize the raising from time to time by way of loan on the credit of the Province the sum of $250,000,000 and the additional sum or sums of money that may be required to retire, repay, renew, or refund securities issued under an Act of the Province or that may be paid into the Newfoundland Government Sinking Fund."

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

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Chairman, my colleague, the Minister of Finance, has been called away from the Chamber on an urgent personal matter - there was, I think, only one chicken dinner left and if he did not go quickly he might not get it - but to be serious, I will introduce the resolution and we will have some debate.

This is the annual loan bill and it is a bill that authorizes - the resolution -

AN HON. MEMBER: Carried.

AN HON. MEMBER: Carried?

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Chairman, I am in the hands of the House, the bill requires a little explanation in that we see a similar bill every year. I was going to go on to pay a tribute to the Moores administration not the Peckford administration because they were the first people ever to bring in a bill comparable to this which in effect limits the government's authority to borrow only $250,000,000 this year without coming back to the House of Assembly, so with that well-deserved tribute to the Moores administration as opposed to the Peckford or the Rideout - well the Rideout administration never did meet the House, did it, it met its fate instead. The Peckford administration did nothing like this but with that said, I will simply commend the resolution to the House and if I need to say more in Committee, then I shall.

Motion, that the Committee report having passed a resolution and a bill consequent thereto, carried.

MR. ROBERTS: Bill 14.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Bill 14, Order No. 4.


"That it is expedient to bring in a measure further to amend The Local Authority Guarantee Act, 1957, to provide for the guarantee of the repayment of loans made to, and the advance of loans to certain local authorities."

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

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Chairman, again this bill is one of a type which we see every year and every member, other than those sitting in the House for the first time, will be familiar with it. Simply put, it authorizes the government to do what has already been done in these cases, namely to guarantee loans taken out by town councils to enable them to fund the various municipal improvement projects.

Now I do not have the list, but if we need one we will read it. If we do not need it, again the bill is one with which we are familiar. There has not been a year since Confederation that we have not had -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: I am sorry?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: Fourteen. Yes, it is The Local Authority Guarantee Act.

There has not been a year since Confederation without a similar bill being brought before the Committee in the House, Sir.

Motion, that the Committee report having passed a resolution and a bill consequent thereto, carried.

MR. ROBERTS: Bill 13, Mr. Chairman.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Bill 13, Order No. 3.


"That it is expedient to bring in a measure to further amend The Loan and Guarantee Act, 1957, to provide for the advance of loans to and the guarantee of the repayment of bonds or debentures issued by or loans advanced to certain corporations."

On motion, Clause 1 carried.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Shall Clause 2 carry?

AN HON. MEMBER: Mr. Chairman.

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

MR. WINDSOR: There are a few things that we should have a look at here. First of all, there are a couple of general questions that I want to ask the government - the Minister of Finance and the Minister of ITT particularly.

Prior to the election of this government the Premier, and the policy of the party, was that government loan guarantees would not be available. In fact, they had threatened to cancel many loan guarantees that were in place. Now they quickly learned that this Province does not operate unless government provides loan guarantees, particularly to fish plants.

If you look at the companies that are listed here, many of them are fish plants around this (inaudible) and I want to take this opportunity to say once again what I have said a number of times before, that the banks are very deliberately downloading the responsibility, the risk, for business loans in this Province to government.

Any fish plant today that goes to a bank to raise money, or even get a loan extended - in fact, many of them are having their lines of credit cut in half unilaterally by the bank, and they have to go and borrow more money to replace their line of credit, so they have to carry debt instead of having a floating line of credit. The banks are very deliberately and methodically saying to every one of these companies: No, we will not give it to you, but if you have a government guarantee we will think about it, and even then it is getting difficult. Those companies then are coming to government and getting a loan guarantee, which they should, but the banks are still getting their fine, fat, rate of interest, and that is what bothers me particularly.

It is one thing for a bank to take the risk on their own and give a company a $300,000 loan and charge them their 12 per cent interest rate, but when the company comes in with a guarantee from government, there is zero risk to the bank.

AN HON. MEMBER: We should share the profit.

MR. WINDSOR: You should share the profit - exactly. Of course they have to earn some money on the money they are putting out there, but if there is no risk involved, unless the company goes down the tubes, then the banks should not be reaping all that profit and that is exactly what has happened over the last five or ten years. It was happening when we were there. I was having these discussions with the banks when I sat where my hon. friend for Gander now sits opposite, telling them it is not realistic for them, and it is not reasonable for them to expect to get their full rate of interest. Government, if they are taking the registered charge, I do not know, maybe a 1 or 2 per cent interest rate, for those loan guarantees. Maybe the banks would not be quite so anxious then. Mow, on the other hand they are liable to tack it on the other end, but I am sure we can control that.

The bank rate is set. That can be controlled. That's one area, Mr.Speaker, that is of great concern.

The bottom line is, every loan guarantee that goes out is a contingent liability on the books of this Province. It's the same as if you provided the loan yourself. When the prospectus is put together, when the money markets look at it, they look at the loan guarantees as well. Maybe not quite as much as they would a direct loan or a debt or a deficit in a budget but it certainly has an impact. The banks are very methodically and deliberately downloading that risk onto the Province, off of themselves. The taxpayers of this Province are taking all the risk; the banks are taking very little risk and reaping all the profits.

That has an overall impact on the economy. Because if the debt burden, even it is only a contingent liability on the Province, as that grows that has an impact on the Province's ability to borrow, on our cost of borrowing, and on the overall economy generally. So that's one general point that I wanted to make.

I wanted to find out what the government's policy is now on making loans to companies. Some time ago there was a great debate in this House about providing loans for other than resource based industries, which is basically what the loan guarantee program is for. It's designed to provide funding for resource based industries, those that are not competing with somebody else. We don't provide loans for somebody who's going into a retail business, basically. It has to be a manufacturing, processing, based on raw resources. If you look at these, most of these are in that category. Most of them are fish plants, for example. By far the majority of these are fish plants. These are the same sorts of things that we have to deal with every day. Many of these are simply extensions of existing ones.

Atlific is a little different. That's a little different, but again that was a deal that was entered into some time ago. Not a bad deal, actually, at the time. At least we didn't give it away. We did manage to get some fine hotels built in this Province at a time when private enterprise was not about to come in and build them. We had them all built and built very quickly. They've been a great benefit to the tourism industry in this Province.

I'm a little concerned now, and I want to take this opportunity to ask the minister what has happened. Are we losing them for one dollar? As I recall the option - and I had some notes upstairs, I think, that I meant to bring down, I didn't realize this was on here today - we had to by the end of 1992, a certain date in 1992, the company had the right to exercise its option to purchase for the outstanding debt, I think. Did they exercise that right?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. WINDSOR: They did. Prior to 1992.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. WINDSOR: So in other words they exercised that right before we extended by one year and maybe another year the terms of the agreement. So they did. Based on that all the liability is gone, because the debt is not paid off yet. I know the courts have said they have paid $18 million over the life of the contract, but the buildings are worth far more than that.

MR. BAKER: (Inaudible) the amount of that debt plus any accrued interest and so on on the amount. We went to court and lost the case. We're now, I believe, appealing the decision.

MR. WINDSOR: You're appealing it because you lost it in the courts. Why did we provide a loan of $200,000 last year, in 1992, $200,000 loan guarantee? For what purpose did we provide Atlific with a loan guarantee in 1992?

MR. BAKER: There's a lot of peculiarities in the original contracts that I don't feel free to talk about because we're going to court to challenge it, okay?


MR. BAKER: However, one of the clauses in there was that when they went through a period where they were losing money we would provide loan guarantees to make up the other amount. That was a provision in the agreement. It was something we had to do.

MR. WINDSOR: Okay, I'll accept that for now. I will get back to that question in due course though, because there are other things that we want to know about that.

Other than that, Mr. Speaker, the rest of them, as I said, are for fish plants. The Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra strikes me as being unusual. That one almost slipped by me. I saw it earlier then I thought - it got squeezed in between several fish plants and it almost got by me. I have great respect and I support wholeheartedly the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra, but it doesn't appear to be the type of industry that we normally fund.

Let me get back to what I started to say a moment ago and got diverted by Atlific Inns. What is the policy now? The minister will know that I approached him a couple of days ago on behalf of a constituent or a company - no, it's a constituent. The company actually operates in St. John's. Here's a company that has done extremely well over the past two or three years, that is operating a business that has a cash flow of about $12 million a year. They have a line of credit of only $200,000. They're operating $1 million a month. You can't operate a million dollar business on a $200,000 line of credit. So they need a $500,000 line of credit, it will do them quite nicely. They will only need it for about two, maybe three months of the year, that they'll even dip into that additional $300,000 line of credit.

I can find no mechanism to help them. The banks have turned them down even though they're a quite solid company, making money. The future is good. Basically the bank said: you've expanded too quickly, we're scared of you. They're employing eight people here in the Province, five in New Brunswick, with all kinds of opportunity to expand. They basically are operating on a national basis and even exporting outside of Canada into a marketplace that people in the rest of Canada don't understand how they managed to have captured, but they did.

The point is that here is a company that is in great danger of folding because they just can't continue to operate on a $200,000 line of credit. There is no mechanism, and there is no mechanism within government that I can find to help that company operate. I spoke to the minister and his people phoned me on it. They've referred me to some federal agencies but I have some doubt if they can help either. They might.

I use this opportunity to raise a question. That's only an example. There are hundreds that I could give you. I'm sure the minister has them as well. It may not be a resource based industry but it's creating jobs. They're not competing with anybody else in the Province. There are only three companies in Canada marketing this product. Only three. They happen to have a very large share of the Canadian marketplace. So they're not competing with anybody. They're creating eight jobs with a potential to create more. There are many other industries such as that, many other businesses, which are not resource based, but which can create jobs in the Province. I see no reason why we can't help those companies if they're not competing with somebody else.

It doesn't make any sense to fund one grocery store to take business away from another grocery store. We should never do that. I can trot out the list that the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology provided us that ENL funded in their first year and we can have a look at the lounges, the chicken take-outs and the corner stores, and all of this foolishness, and the minister can't stand in his place and honestly defend it. I know him too well. He can't do it. There is no defence for that and I totally oppose that. I don't have a problem for somebody who is marketing or selling or in this case exporting a product that is not in competition with anybody else in the Province. There's nothing wrong with our government helping a local company compete with another province.

I'm aware of a situation recently - I won't give facts and figures because I'm not at liberty to yet - I'm aware of a business person in this Province who approached the Premier not too long ago with a proposition that would have created hundreds of jobs in this Province. He needed some financial help. The Premier said: I am not about to compete with other provinces in Canada. That business now is in another province of Canada employing hundreds of people. What would have been wrong with this government providing some help to that company?

We always used as a rule of thumb, if we can create a permanent job for $50,000 it is a good investment. In this particular case those jobs would have been created for about $3000 per job, $3000 to $4000 per job. I tell you anytime we can get permanent jobs for $4000 per job in this Province we should take all we can get and go back for more. I will bring that matter up again when I am at liberty to and have the freedom of the people involved to use the details of the information because I want to get to the bottom of that. The Premier and this government has to answer as to why that company did not get the assistance they needed to establish here in the Province.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible)

MR. WINDSOR: I have not used the name, but I said that I will in due course.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible)

MR. WINDSOR: That is fine. I do not expect you to answer specifically to that one. I am not at liberty at the moment to use that information, but I promise that I will get back to it if and when I get the liberty to do that. What I am asking about is the principle here, why that company and other companies like it, could not be given help to stay in this Province. I do not care who we are competing with. One of the most popular premiers in Canada today is Premier McKenna because he is in Toronto every month saying: come to New Brunswick, what a great place to do business. The welcome mat is out and we will provide assistance where it is reasonable to do so. The Minister of Industry, Trade & Technology should be up there every month, too, with his fancy briefcase, full of brochures about the Province.

AN HON. MEMBER: He is good at that, too.

MR. WINDSOR: Yes, he could be good at it. He is a capable minister but I have to say that I am a little disappointed in what he has produced. It is not a good climate but he should have been up kicking the Premier's door down when he was chasing that businessman away with 700 jobs. He should have been up kicking and screaming and saying, Premier, we cannot chase these away.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible)

MR. WINDSOR: Okay. You will. The point I am making is that we have to put the welcome mat out, and we cannot just put the welcome mat out and wait for somebody to ring the doorbell. We have to go lead them by the scruff of the neck and shove them in through the door in today's economy. It is a fiercely competitive world marketplace, as the minister knows, and he talks about his electronic highway and all the rest of it. Things have changed. Ten years ago we stood in this House and said we cannot be chasing after pie in the sky type industries that are not appropriate to Newfoundland and Labrador, that we do not have the skills, we do not have the raw resources, we do not have the technology, but that is all changing because technology is changing. The world is shrinking, the world marketplace is shrinking, and there are many things that can be done in this Province today that we would not have dreamed of five or six years ago even.

The minister mentioned Terra Nova Shores. I remember, as I think he mentioned yesterday, that I helped him a number of years ago when I cut a ribbon and started up the first machine that bonded the boots to the rubber soles in Harbour Grace. It did not make any sense. What are we doing making boots in Harbour Grace, Newfoundland out of rubber coming from Brazil and leather coming from New Zealand? The market is not here. We wear a lot of work boots but not enough to support a factory like that, but he had initiative, he had foresight, he had a lot of skill, he handled his people well, he had a dedicated workforce there, and he has taken over the marketplace in Canada and a large part of the marketplace in the United States, because we had some courage and some confidence in him.

If you wanted to sit back and look at it, and say: is this the type of industry we should be doing in Newfoundland?.... no, we should be building boats, making our own fishing nets, making products out of timber resources, we should be doing something with the minerals that we mine in the Province, but we cannot be making boots. Yes, we can. He is an anomaly. Not every industry of that type would be so successful, but we can get into the high tech industries, into the communications industry, into the computer industry, into the high value, low weight, low volume items where our transportation costs are not a major factor. That is the sort of thing we can start looking at.

We started out in the right thrust some time ago by putting a lot of financing into excellence in marine industries and into ice engineering. There are many companies in this Province now that are starting to export expertise and technology in these very specialized areas. There are a whole range of things, I could go on all day but I just wanted to get at the principle and ask one of the ministers to tell us, is the government prepared to look at any and all applications that come forward that will create jobs in this Province that are not competing with others, that is the bottom line?

Motion, that the Committee report having passed a resolution and a bill consequent thereto, carried.

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Chairman, can we rise the Committee, please?

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

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Bellevue.

MR. BARRETT: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole have considered the matters to them referred, have directed me to report that it has adopted certain resolutions and recommends that Bill's 15, 14 and 13 be introduced to give effect to the same.

On motion, resolution read a first and second time.

Motion, the hon. the minister to introduce the following bills, carried:

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Loan And Guarantee Act, 1957," carried. (Bill No. 13).

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Local Authority Guarantee Act, 1957," carried. (Bill No. 14).

A bill, "An Act To Authorize The Raising of Money by Way of Loan by the Province," carried. (Bill No. 15).

On motion, the following bills read a first, second and third time, ordered passed and their titles be as on the Order Paper:

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Loan And Guarantee Act, 1957." (Bill No. 13).

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Local Authority Guarantee Act, 1957." (Bill No. 14).

A bill, "An Act To Authorize The Raising of Money by Way of Loan by the Province." (Bill No. 15).

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

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Grand Bank and I have been together behind Your Honours Chair and we propose to ask the House to deal with three more bills before we rise - Bills No. 17, 18 and 19. These are the amendments to the three city acts.

I would suggest that perhaps we might begin with the newest city, the City of Mount Pearl Act, which is Bill No. 18. It appears on the Order Paper as a Motion, because we moved it forward with great alacrity today.

Perhaps if Your Honour would call Bill 18, which is a bill, "An Act To Amend The City Of Mount Pearl Act," my friend, the minister, will respond when called upon.

Motion, the hon. the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs to introduce a bill, "An Act To Amend The City Of Mount Pearl Act," carried. (Bill No. 18).

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs.

MR. REID: Very quickly, Mr. Speaker, basically what we are doing with Bill No. 18 is including into the bill, Bill 6, which is "An Act To Amend The Municipalities Act." It has to do with municipal elections.

I have no problems with introducing that, and that is all I need to say about it at this time.

MR. SPEAKER: Is the House now ready for the question?

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The City Of Mount Pearl Act," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House on tomorrow. (Bill No. 18).

MR. ROBERTS: Could we deal with Bill 17 next, Mr. Speaker?

Motion, the hon. the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs to introduce a bill, "An Act To Amend The City Of Corner Brook Act," carried. (Bill No. 17).

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs.

MR. REID: Ditto Bill 18, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Is the House ready for the question?

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The City Of Corner Brook Act," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House on tomorrow. (Bill No. 17).

MR. ROBERTS: Finally Bill 19, the St. John's Municipal Elections Act amendment.

Motion, the hon. the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs to introduce a bill, "An Act To Amend The St. John's Municipal Elections Act," carried. (Bill No. 19).

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs

MR. REID: Mr. Speaker, there are a couple of different things in this one - not a lot. It has to do with the elections act, but because it is the City of St. John's, there are a couple of clauses there that are not included in Bills 17 and 18, but basically it all relates to the election and the elections act and the municipalities act that was reintroduced under Bill 6.

MR. SPEAKER: Is the House ready for the question?

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The St. John's Municipal Elections Act," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House on tomorrow. (Bill No. 19).

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

MR. ROBERTS: Just settling in, Mr. Speaker, but not for long.

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank hon. members for the exemplary co-operation from all three groups within the House. Tomorrow we will ask the House to deal with the remaining legislation, and I will have a word with my friend opposite in the morning to see if there is any particular order in which we should address them.

By my count we have the Insurance Adjusters amendment bill. The RST bill is not yet in the House, I do not know where it is and we will see when we get it. There is the Financial Corporations Tax Act and I gather from my friends there may be some brief discussions of this. There is the bill to amend the Internal Economy Commission Act, there is the Teachers' Pension Amendment Act and then there is the Law Society Act, that minor amendment to it went wrong earlier today.

Assuming we finish those in Committee stage in third readings tomorrow and have any time left, bearing in mind my friends have another commitment which we shall help them to meet if they help us to meet ours, we would go on with the monetary, the fiscal legislation, the Budget legislation. If we do not get to the fiscal legislation tomorrow, we shall begin on Friday morning with the fiscal legislation and go on to deal with the remaining estimates and the Supply and the Ways and Means matters.

With that said, Mr. Speaker, I shall move that the House at its rising adjourn until tomorrow, Thursday at 2:00 and that the House do now adjourn.

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