November 30, 1993            HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS        Vol. XLII  No. 25

The House met at 2:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Dicks): Order, please!

Statements by Ministers

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker, I have to advise the House that an Order in Council has been passed that will move administrative and financial responsibility for the operation of the Electoral Office from the Department of Justice to the House of Assembly. This change will become effective on January 1st. Then, and thereafter, the responsibility for supervision and direction of the work of the Chief Electoral Officer and his associates - insofar as it is not directly governed by legislation - will rest with the House, and be exercised through the Internal Economy Commission.

This move has been made after consultation with the Chief Electoral Officer. As members will acknowledge, it represents the implementation of a policy adopted by the government some time ago, and approved by the House in the new Elections Act, which was adopted in June 1992. We have proclaimed major portions of the new legislation, and it is hoped that the remaining parts of the new act will come into effect in the near future. The Chief Electoral Officer has been working diligently to ensure that he is in a position to carry out the duties under the new provisions.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. SIMMS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, just a brief comment.

Mr. Speaker, we commend the government on this action and this initiative. It is one of the major initiatives of their five-year term in office and it is one that we supported a year-and-a-half ago when the legislation was passed. We think that it is the right thing to do, so we agree with it wholeheartedly and congratulate the government for finally issuing the Order in Council.

While I am on my feet, if I might mention another matter to the Premier that I wrote him about one time and that was the issue of the commissioner of members' interests, also being the person responsible for the elections legislation, in other words, the Chief Electoral Officer. Even though at the time the appointment was made I agreed with the Premier wholeheartedly in the selection of the individual, in hindsight, it appears to me that there may be occasions when that particular individual might be drawn into some controversy.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. SIMMS: I am hoping that the Premier might take the opportunity to comment on that. I think we should have another look at it.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time has elapsed.

MR. SIMMS: Pardon?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. member's time has elapsed and you appear to be raising a question rather than replying to the statement. I don't know if - under the circumstance I will just give the Premier a moment to reply.

PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker, it introduces a totally new matter. I don't know if the House wishes me to express an opinion on it now - I am quite happy to do so. In the context of the Leader's statement, it might be more appropriate to do it now than at some other time. It is just simply to say I disagree with his view. I respect it. I think he, I, and the Leader of the New Democratic Party made the correct decision in the first place. The Chief Electoral Officer is a servant of this House, answerable to this House; the new legislation will be fully in effect very shortly, and that is the way it ought to be. We have agreed that under the new conflict of interest regime we need somebody to whom we can report. If we were a large province like Ontario, or if we were the size of the whole of Canada, we could have a separate commissioner, but we can't afford to place that burden on the taxpayers of this Province, so the most sensible and appropriate way to approach it is to ask the Chief Electoral Officer to take that responsibility. Because, don't forget, between elections the Chief Electoral Officer will have a more limited responsibility. He will have greater responsibility now than before in terms of policing party financing and so on - he will have that duty - but between elections he will not be overburdened, so we have maintained that position and we feel that we should give this approach a test before any change is considered.

MR. SPEAKER: The only comment I have is that we appear to be in Oral Questions and replies rather than Statements by Ministers, and if we are going to do this, it seems to be something of a radical departure from the normal process of the House. If members wish to have leave to do it then it is fine with the Chair and I will put the motion.

MR. SIMMS: (Inaudible) to the Premier (inaudible) respond.

PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker, in effect, I have just responded to a statement by the Leader of the Opposition. He made his position and I made my response - it is done now. If we want to deal with it in Question Period we can, but not now.

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

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

MR. SIMMS: The Premier issued a Ministerial Statement and I responded to it. Now, he may not have liked the fact that I threw something else out, but that is another issue. He then stood up to respond to what I said - that is not provided for in the practices, the Premier doesn't get up again. But we allowed him to do it, and when he did, then there should be an opportunity for a minute or so since I would like to make a further comment to what he sugqested. If we let him speak then surely he is going to let us speak for an extra minute or so. It is not a big deal, is it?

PREMIER WELLS: Well, then you see, I will want to speak and respond again.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. SIMMS: I think the best thing to do, Mr. Speaker, is that none of us speak at all, including the Premier.

MR. SPEAKER: Either that or we can follow the rules we have in place.

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

MR. HARRIS: Mr. Speaker -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) leave.

MR. SPEAKER: Well, we were on a point of order for the moment. I don't know if the member is going to make a point on the point of order or not. The point of order is that we are out of order.

MR. HARRIS: I wasn't speaking to the point of order, it is just that when members rise, certainly when this member rises, the Speaker asks whether there is leave. I noticed the Premier speak and revising his speaking without such question being asked and I would expect the same courtesy to be granted.

MR. SPEAKER: Yes. Does the hon. member have leave to address the House on the Ministerial Statement by the Premier?


MR. SPEAKER: Agreed.

MR. SULLIVAN: No leave.

MR. SPEAKER: The Member for Ferryland says no leave.

MR. HARRIS: (Inaudible), no leave, Mr. Speaker?

MR. SIMMS: You are entitled to do that you know.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

On behalf of hon. members, I would like to welcome to the visitor's gallery, the former member, Mr. Robert Aylward and would also like to welcome to the galleries, seventy-five Grade XII law students from Queen Elizabeth Regional High School in Conception Bay South, Harbour Main, Mount Scio - Bell Island, accompanied by their teacher Darrell Cassell, and also, thirty students from Point Leamington Academy, Exploits District accompanied by Mr. Bob Elliott and Miss Burt.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Oral Questions

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

MR. SIMMS: Mr. Speaker, I want to return to a favorite topic of mine dealing with the privatization of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, and as each day goes by we are slowly dragging out the truth about this Hydro deal, unfortunately not from the Premier but from other sources, for example: the credit rating agencies, who clearly say it will not improve the Province's credit worthiness as the Premier says, and from a top Fortis executive who now says: the real logic behind this merger is to eliminate jobs, he makes it very clear, but there is another issue that remains rather foggy and vague and that is: who gets control over Hydro's $1.6 billion assets?

Now, if I understand it correctly, the Premier says that a new company will be formed consisting of Fortis with about 30 per cent of the assets, and of Hydro with about 70 per cent of the assets. Is it then the intention that government will sell its 70 per cent interest in this new company through a public share offering, is that what he has been saying, I believe it is, but I would like him to at least explain it for us clearly, and secondly, I believe he has also said something to the effect that the Province will limit the sale of shares so that no company or individual will be able to own more than - I think the number used is 15, he may have said 16 per cent - 15 per cent or 16 per cent of the new company. Is that what the government intends to do as well? Have I quoted him correctly?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker, we are going to get the truth out despite the misrepresentations of the opposition that has created such havoc in the Province as a result of their misrepresentations on this issue. The proposal is that the two utility companies be merged into a single one. Not that Hydro be sold to Fortis, or Hydro as is be sold to anybody else. That there be a merger.

Now whether that merger will be by means of creating a totally new corporation, transferring the assets from Hydro and the assets from Fortis or Newfoundland Power into that new corporation and then selling the shares in the new corporation, or whether it will be, say, the corporation that is Fortis and Hydro merge together as a single corporation by a statute of this House, all of those things are what are being explored. Nobody knows at this moment exactly how it is going to be or how would be the best way to do it. The proposal is to create a merger of the total electrical utility assets in the Province. If you take those ultimately owned by Fortis in the name of Newfoundland Power, and those owned by Hydro, give or take, Hydro is about 70 per cent of the total asset value. The Newfoundland Power - Fortis component is about 30 per cent of the asset value.

So those are where the figures seventy and thirty come from. They are rough working figures at this stage. The idea is to create a corporation, either by putting together two existing corporations, or by creating a single new corporation and putting the assets into that new corporation. The idea is to merge the two operations, the assets, the operations and the personnel. Bring it all together.

Out of the total the existing Fortis shareholders would hold, give or take, 30 per cent of the shares, the government would hold, give or take, 70 per cent of the shares. It is the government's intention then to sell that 70 per cent on wide public distribution. Not to sell it to Fortis or to anybody else. To sell it for the best price that we can get. So when those people, some members of the House, ask the question, if you're going to privatize why not sell to the highest bidder instead of to Fortis? Well, that is precisely what the government is doing. Putting it together and we will sell the shares for the best price that we can get in the general share market.

Now you can't call bids for individual shares, each individual share. Shares in the marketplace are sold, as hon. members know, through the financial institutions and the brokers and so on. These are the agencies that will sell the shares, but in the public market for the best price that we can get at the time. We don't know at the moment precisely what that price would be. If it is not a good deal there will be no deal. It won't go ahead. If it is a good deal for the people of the Province, we propose to go ahead with it and ask this House to approve it and proceed with it. If it is not a good deal, we do not propose to ask the House to do it.

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

MR. SIMMS: I am not quite sure what his answer was to the second portion, when I asked him about the 15 per cent limitation. I do not think he really alluded to that.

PREMIER WELLS: I can do it now.

MR. SIMMS: Yes, I would like to know the answer.

PREMIER WELLS: The government would propose that any privatization act that we pass would also contain limits so that no one person or corporation, or group of persons or corporations, associated together could hold more than 15 per cent. Maybe it should be 10 per cent - we are prepared to take the advice of the House on it - but 15 per cent was the number used, say, in the case of FPI, and it is the number, I believe, that was used in the case of Nova Scotia Power; but if 15 per cent is not the right number, maybe 10 per cent is the right number, that could hold more than 15 per cent of the new corporation is what we propose, and that would be done by legislation because the new corporation, we would hope, would be structured under the privatization act, and limitations on the voting powers and the share ownership and any other limitations on it would be set in a statute of this House.

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

MR. SIMMS: Yes. Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I thank the Premier for clarifying it. I wish he would get off this kick about accusing everybody who asks questions, or dares to criticize him or his policy. If I remember it all, first we had Cyril Abrey, who was incredible. I am irresponsible. The Leader of the NDP has a concrete mind-set, and then yesterday he tells us that the credit rating agencies are wrong and he is right. So get off that kick and just answer the questions with whatever facts you have.

Now let me ask him this, in a supplementary to the original question I asked. He confirmed the government, in fact, intends to sell off its 70 per cent interest through a public share offering, and he also confirmed there would be some limitation on the number of shares that any individual or company would be permitted to hold. I want to ask him this: Will that mean, therefore, that Fortis will start off, in fact, by owning 30 per cent of the new company? Will Fortis start off by owning 30 per cent of that new company, or will they be forced to reduce their ownership down to this 15 per cent or 10 per cent level that he just alluded to?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Let me deal with the first matter he raised first, Mr. Speaker. If he does not want me to comment on these other things, he should not ask questions or raise issues with respect to them.

My comment related specifically to his comment: finally we are getting at the truth. The comment was related to that, and his expansion of that. As long as he continues to do that I will be responsive to issues that he raises.

With respect to the question that he asked -

MR. SIMMS: Thank you.

PREMIER WELLS: I'm responsive to the issues the Leader of the Opposition raises.

In response to the additional question that he asked, it is not expected that Fortis would own 30 per cent of the shares. The expectation is that the corporation would be structured in such a way that the present Fortis shareholders would own 30 per cent of the shares, and they are already widespread. Nobody knows with certainty at this stage exactly how the merger can be best achieved for a variety of purposes. There are a variety of issues that have to be considered and the legal advisors, the tax accountants, the financial advisors and all of the others will, we hope, come up with the best recommendation.

In the end, however it is structured, no shareholder - whether Fortis is some kind of a continuing entity or not, and at the moment it is not contemplated that it would be - no shareholder would be able to hold more than 15 per cent of the shares, or vote more than 15 per cent of the shares. If Fortis continued as an entity and holds presently, say, 30 per cent of what would be the merged thing, even though it may have owned it it could not vote more than the 15 per cent. Those limitations would be passed by law in this House.

Now exactly how it is going to be structured is unknown for all of the reasons that I've given at this stage. This is a preliminary proposal. This is what is really wrong with the debate that has gone on over the last two weeks. You're trying to judge something that isn't put together and identified as a proposal yet. Wait until it is fleshed out and people know what it is, and then exercise your judgement as to whether or not what's proposed is acceptable.


PREMIER WELLS: No, no. It has to come to this House before that can be done, so this House will have ample opportunity to debate all aspects of it. For heaven's sake, wait until you find out exactly what is proposed and what will be the nature of it before you attempt to pass judgement on it.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MR. SIMMS: Final supplementary, Mr. Speaker. The more the Premier speaks the more confusing it gets. It is not because of us misleading the people, it is because he makes it totally confusing. I think I heard him say that Fortis might own 30 per cent of the company but they would only be able to vote 15 per cent of their shares. Now I mean what shareholder who is holding 30 per cent of a company is going to sit back and let somebody, a minority shareholder, call the shots? It just doesn't make any sense but maybe we will flush it out and we will see. We will get some advice on it.

I want to ask him a totally separate question related to something he mentioned in conclusion, in answering the last question. He says this whole issue, if there is an agreement in principle, will come to the House. We all know the government holds the majority, we understand how democracy works, and all that stuff, but in the end the government will have its way. But it will be too late, because it will be an agreement in principle. You will have to defend that agreement in principle in the House, no question.

I ask the Premier, would he consider, if it goes that far, making the agreement in principle available to a legislative committee to bring it around this Province for public hearings to let the people have some input before bringing it to the House? Is there a reason to rush it in the next month, two months, three months? Why can't we take a year, if we have to, to do it? I understand the financial situation in the Province, but it can be done properly if he cares to do so.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: On the first point the hon. Leader of the Opposition raised, it is not at all unusual that there should be limitation on voting rights. FPI is in that position today. A shareholder may well hold more than 15 per cent of FPI but they can only vote 15 per cent of it. That is not unusual. That has been structured before. Limitation on voting rights is not at all an unusual - it is not every company, or the majority, or a large number even, but it is not an unusual event.

MR. SIMMS: (Inaudible) 30 per cent (inaudible).


MR. SIMMS: Who owns the majority in the shares (inaudible)?

PREMIER WELLS: I don't know, but the limitation is there. The limitation is on the voting rights rather than ownership, as I understand it. That is where the real effective control is, in voting rights.

MR. SIMMS: (Inaudible) own (inaudible).

PREMIER WELLS: I don't know. There may be people -

MR. ROBERTS: The Bank of Nova Scotia recently did, I don't know if they do now.

PREMIER WELLS: The Bank of Nova Scotia probably - they did, they used to own more than 15 per cent. Whether they do now or not, I don't know. They used to own more than 15 per cent. They probably have sold them since. That is what deters people from wanting to own more than 15 per cent, is the limitation on the voting rights.

On the second issue that he raised, yes, the majority decides. It was so when the hon. members opposite sat in the majority on this side of the House. The majority decided issues, that is not at all unusual. I don't deny that that is what occurs and I don't deny that it frequently happens, usually for political reasons, that all or virtually all of the members on this side of the House will vote in support of a proposition and frequently all or virtually all of the members on that side of the House will vote against it. Not because all the members on that side of the House are intellectually so much brighter or have such a great understanding and such great objectivity that they all individually come of one mind but they vote as a political group against it for political reasons. That is not at all unusual. Our parliamentary tradition is replete with examples of voting in that way.

Now, Mr. Speaker, the reason for having a - it is not a deadline and there is no deadline. If this is not achievable by March 31, the world is not going to fall apart. The objective of the government, if it is possible to do so, is to try and achieve it by March 31, if it is going to be done, it is best that it be done by March 31. There are several reasons for that, first it is under debate and under consideration so it is best to have the issue determined one way or the other - be decided and get on with whatever the end result is going to be, either maintenance of the status quo or merger and privatization or whatever, so it should not be hung out there for an undue length of time. Secondly, March 31 is the end of the government's fiscal year. April 1 of course is the start of the new fiscal year and we would like to have the financial impact of the privatization of Hydro accrue to the benefit of the government by the start of the next fiscal year. It would be beneficial, and we believe in the interest of the people of this Province, to have the issue done and determined by that time, if at all possible. If for good reason it cannot be done by that time, then the world is not going to fall apart.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

PREMIER WELLS: (Inaudible) consideration of that, I am not going to pre-commit to that. I will give some consideration -

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

MR. HODDER: Mr. Speaker, about a week ago when the church leaders presented the government with their model for restructuring the elementary and secondary educational system, the minister and the Premier were quick to voice their disagreement and disapproval. Last night I am led to believe that the government presented its model entitled, `Adjusting the course of restructuring the school system for educational excellence to church leaders.' Can the minister today tell the House how its model was received by the church leaders? Is there hope for an agreement to be reached or are we facing deadlock and whether or not this proposal, by the minister to the church leaders, is indeed the governments bottom line?

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, I hesitate somewhat in explaining how the church leaders accepted the model because people tend to hear things in different ways. So if the hon. member wants to get exactly what the church leaders are saying, I am sure he has the right to talk to them directly. However, I think it is fair to say that the church leaders were not totally satisfied with the model. However, as the Bishop of the Anglican - Bishop Harvey said in the newspaper he is quite certain that as long as the good will continues to exist, which does exist between church and state at this time, he is confident that there is still the makings of a consensus there and I share the optimism.

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

MR. HODDER: Mr. Speaker, the government and the church leaders have been dealing with this issue for two years since the Royal Commission Report was brought down in March 1992. In fact the Royal Commission itself was in the process for two years before that. Now we have two concrete proposals on the table. Will the minister expand the negotiations to involve the direct participation of school boards, Parent/ Teacher Associations, teacher representatives and others who have a direct interest in the management of education and in the quality of educational services in this Province?

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, government is being criticized for doing two things. One, we are being criticized for moving too slowly. There are a lot of people in the Province who are saying that it is time to move government; it is time to move churches; the reforms are needed; let's do something about it.

Another criticism which we are getting is that we are not keeping people well enough informed, and government is very conscious of that, and we want to make sure that people are informed, so last night when we met we made a very conscious decision that we would let this particular model, adjusting the course, we would let this go out to the public until early in January. Now we will monitor the discussions; we will monitor the opinions and all that sort of thing over the next month or so. I am not sure it is going to be necessary at this time to go into a whole big amount of going out for public discussions with different groups. Remember now, the Royal Commission for almost two years did that, and did an awful lot of talking to different groups around the Province, but if that is the wish of the public, that we must discuss with more individual groups, we will make sure that this model is fully discussed.

What we are dealing with here is an attempt on the part of government and church leaders to reform the educational system of this Province, the educational system which has been underachieving for a number of years. Our goal is laid out here on the first page of this, Mr. Speaker. Our goal for education is to transform this society from one of persistent underachievement to one whose achievement levels rank with the best in the nation. That is our intent, and whatever it takes to do that, we will do, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

A final supplementary, the hon. Member for Waterford - Kenmount.

MR. HODDER: Mr. Speaker, a final supplementary.

A democratic society accepts the legitimacy of democratically elected leaders, and the classes of people who hold constitutional rights in education have elected leaders - they are called school trustees - and these leaders look after those rights and they represent them.

Does the government not believe that elected school trustees are as legitimate in their constitutional rights as leaders of the classes of people to which the minister has referred on occasion? And do you not believe that the elected school boards have as much right to be at the table and participate in these discussions as anyone else, and why will the minister not invite them now to be active participants?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker -

MR. TOBIN: He asked the Minister of Education the question.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

PREMIER WELLS: The government answers the question. Whichever person the government decides answers the question.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

PREMIER WELLS: Now if the member has not been in the House long enough to understand that, it is going to take him a long time to learn the principles.

MR. TOBIN: We know how a dictator works; that is what we know.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker, the hon. member raised a constitutional question, and I felt I should answer it in constitutional terms.

The rights, under the Constitution, are for the classes of people. The school trustees are not the elected representatives of those classes of people provided for in the Constitution. What are the classes of people? What does that phrase mean? Why did they use it?

The churches, in our discussions, have been very careful to use the phrase `classes of people' and not `churches'. There may be some doubt in people's minds. Maybe it will end up being a legal issue as to who are the classes of people but, I think in fairness to the churches, it has generally been understood ever since 1949 that what we were talking about were the rights of the different religious groups within the Province in their capacity as members of the Roman Catholic faith, as members of the United Church, as members of the Anglican church, as members of the Pentecostal faith or whatever, that those are the classes of people, not groups of school trustees. So those school trustees, I do not believe, have a right to speak for the classes of people as they are defined in the Constitution.

Now what government had to do when it got the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Education, we recognized that those recommendations could not be implemented without - could not be implemented fully - without having some impact on the rights of the classes of people as defined in Term 17. So, to whom should we speak - ignore the church leaders and deal with the school trustees? No, you can't do that. Mr. Speaker, I don't see any place at the bargaining table or negotiating table when we are talking about the government dealing with the rights of the classes of people under the Constitution for representatives of the school trustees. Now, that is not to say that there shouldn't be a major place for input into the proposal for representatives of the school trustees, the NTA, the Parent-Teacher Association, all other groups having an interest, and that is why, as the minister explained and we agreed last night, that the government's proposal is made known. It is a public document. The proposal put together by the group of church leaders is made known. It is a public document. It is available for public discussion and the government, and I am sure, for that matter, the church leaders, too, would be only too happy to hear from the school trustees. The Parent-Teacher Association called and asked if they could meet with us. We provided for a meeting and they met with us, and we are quite prepared, Mr. Speaker, to meet with any other group that wants to meet on this issue. If they indicate to us that they want to express their views, we would be happy to receive them.

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

MR. J. BYRNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

In the absence of the Minister of Environment and Lands - and I am wondering if that has anything to do with the demonstration outside today - I would like to direct my question to the acting Minister of Environment and Lands, whomever that may be. Could that person give us an update on the status of the Long Harbour, Schefferville, Baie Verte projects, and the situation at Come By Chance?

MR. ROBERTS: An update on the what?

MR. J. BYRNE: On the Long Harbour application, the Schefferville and the Baie Verte proposals.

MR. SIMMS: The garbage proposals.

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

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, the minister is ill, which is why she is not here in the House. I will take the question as notice and we will have an answer for tomorrow.

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

MR. J. BYRNE: Maybe the House Leader could answer this question with respect to the garbage. The minister must be aware of the growing opposition to the importation of garbage to the Province. Would the minister give this House the government's view and/or stance with respect to this growing opposition?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker, we have an environmental assessment process and so far it has worked very well. We can't take credit for it - we didn't design it and put it in place, the former government did. Now, there is a group called SNAGG, `Say No to American Garbage. They don't just want to say no to American garbage. I, on a personal basis, would want to say no to American garbage. I share their view. What I am not prepared to do is what they want to do, and that is prevent anybody else from expressing their view. They want us to pass laws to prejudice the points of view of anybody else. I don't think this House should pass laws that say people can't do this or can't have an opinion. There are people who feel that that is an appropriate course of action. Let the systems that are in place decide whether or not it is an appropriate course of action. That is what we are doing. The system is there. It will work. Give it a chance to work, don't prejudge it.

MR. SPEAKER: A final supplementary, the hon. the Member for St. John's East Extern.

MR. J. BYRNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Being a new member in the House, I was always under the impression that governments were to do the wishes of the people.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. J. BYRNE: I put this again to the Premier, seeing he answered the last question. When will the Premier put an end to the turmoil caused by the application for the importation of different types of garbage and hazardous waste by listening to the people and bringing in legislation banning the importation of garbage? When, and will he ever do that?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker, it is the responsibility of governments, and indeed, this House, to carry out the wishes of the people but it is an irresponsible government that allows itself to be pressured by a noisy group to do something against the overall interest of the larger majority of people and prevent their views from being heard. We are not prepared to do that. We will let the process work. The process is there and it will protect the interest of the biological environment, it will protect the interest of the social environment, it will protect the interest of the economic environment. The system is there. Let it work. What the hon. member wants to do is prevent anybody from expressing an opinion that doesn't conform to his own. That is what the SNAGG group wants to do, prevent anybody from expressing an opinion that doesn't conform to theirs. Let the system work and judge every case. Let the system work and judge every case on its merit. Don't prevent people from exercising their right to express their opinion in one direction or another by passing laws. What will you want to prevent by law, next - the manufacture of beer in the Province? There are many people who would like to that, too. Should we do that because a noisy group may want to prevent the manufacture of beer in the Province? I don't think so.

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

MR. WOODFORD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My question, Mr. Speaker, is to the minister responsible for Municipal and Provincial Affairs. In 1989, the department, then under a previous minister, changed the MOG, which is the Municipal Operating Grant governing municipalities in the Province - there were quite drastic changes, in fact - and every year since then, there have been changes made to the MOG, especially pertaining to the road component of the Municipal Operating Grant. Could the minister tell the House now if he is contemplating any changes in the near future, or this year?

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

MR. REID: Mr. Speaker, the hon. member knows that in the past three years, this Province has, because of financial restraint, had to limit our commitment to municipalities to $41.5 million per year as delivered through the MOGs. I am not at liberty, yet, to say, I suppose, and to be quite honest about it, I don't think the decision has yet been made, as to whether or not that cap of $41.5 million will be there for next year.

We are now in the process of doing the estimations and I think, to be quite honest about it, I should be able to release to the municipalities around the Province hopefully, within the next week, what, either cuts or gains, they will receive. I am hoping, my hon. friend, that we can at least maintain this year our level of $41.5 million and remember, with that then, there would have to be some changes within the system because of changes in the various municipalities; and I think you understand what I mean by that.

Last year, you mentioned the fact that we had done away with the roads component grant. We had a proposal made to us earlier this year from the Federation of Municipalities and from the administrators suggesting that we may make some changes to some other elements of the MOG, so that we can reintroduce some monies towards road component. We are looking at that particular option and hopefully, in the next couple of days, I will be able to either make an announcement in the House or, I will notify all the councils, individually, of the necessary changes.

MR. SPEAKER: Question Period has expired.

Notices of Motion

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

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, may I give a notice on behalf of my colleague, the Minister of Finance.

I give notice that I will on tomorrow move that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole on Supply to consider Certain Resolutions to the Granting of Supplementary Supply to Her Majesty.


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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise to present a petition on behalf of 286 residents of the Province of Newfoundland from the Deer Lake - Corner Brook areas, Steady Brook, also from Whitbourne and Placentia Bay area, as well. These petitions say as follows - they, the undersigned, are members of the Say No to American Garbage Group. They say:

Whereas the importation of garbage for final disposition in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador is an indignity to our people and should not be seen as a future growth industry for the Province, and that the final disposal of garbage in any quantity or form is destructive and hazardous to our biophysical environment, and with the exception of established reasonable obligations should not be undertaken on behalf of any jurisdiction other than our own; also, that the garbage import industry is considered to be detrimental to all other forms of industrial and economic development, including and especially, our tourism industry, the petitioners request that the hon. House take such action as may be necessary to enact or amend legislation to say no to industrial schemes which have as their objective the importation of waste and final disposal in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, these individuals - and I'm sure that this House will be receiving a number of petitions over the coming days and weeks -are from a group of people who have decided that this is a very significant issue for the future of our Province. They are not interested in suppressing the freedom of speech of those who wish to import garbage into Newfoundland and Labrador, as the Premier seems to think. They want the government to prevent the importation of garbage into this Province from America and other places.

If people who want to import garbage want to express their opinions they are free to do so. They can go on the radio, they can write letters to the editor, they can petition this House as they wish. What the petitioners here want is to say no to the importation of garbage as the solution to industrial problems. We are being picked on or picked off, or attempted to be picked off, by a group of people and individuals who have decided that Newfoundland is fair game as a waste disposal site for North America and other places, for industrial waste and hazardous waste, wastes that can't be disposed of in the countries from which they come because the people there don't want them.

Mr. Speaker, in Ontario over the last number of years, communities outside of Toronto were having great difficulty with the garbage from Toronto, which garbage companies wanted to dispose of in Kirkland Lake and other places in Ontario. The NDP Government of Ontario said to the community of Toronto and the City of Toronto: `You look after your own garbage and look after it within your own boundaries.' That is the kind of answer this government should be giving to the Americans and to the others who want to bring their garbage here: `You look after your own garbage problems.' Meanwhile, this government should start making sure that we look after ours, and not take the kind of approach that the Minister of Environment and Lands is taking, particularly when it comes, as an example, to how she and this government are handling the issue of disposable or non-returnable pop bottles and other soft drink containers.

Mr. Speaker, I support this petition wholeheartedly, I endorse the position, I have signed my name to the bottom of it, and I present it to the House for consideration. I think the simple solution to this dilemma right now is not to require this group and others to go through all this whole hearing process, to oppose it, but to have legislation in place that makes it clear to those business interests, mostly outside of this Province, that want to turn our environment into a garbage dump for the nations of the world. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. SIMMS: Mr. Speaker, I have a new petition to present.

MR. SPEAKER: A new petition. Are there any further speakers on the first petition?

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MR. SIMMS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to present a petition on behalf of 2,798 people representing mostly the constituencies or Districts of Grand Falls, which I represent, and Windsor - Buchans, which my friend, the Minister of Forestry and Agriculture represents, but it also includes a number of names from a number of other communities in the Exploits Valley - Central Newfoundland area: Badger, Bishop's Falls, Botwood, Leading Tickles, Joe Batt's Arm, Lewisporte and so on; representing several other districts, the District of Exploits, the District of Fogo, the District of Lewisporte -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SIMMS: Yes, I say to the minister, the Member for Carbonear, that is all they got, 2,798 names. I think that is a pretty significant number.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SIMMS: Mr. Speaker, the minister's response is typical of his government's response and his leader's response. Anytime anybody dares to open his mouth and oppose or criticize an action of this government they kind of try to play it down and minimize the voice of the people. That is their problem. They are not listening to anybody, that is their entire problem, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SIMMS: I would like to read the prayer of the petition. The petition of the undersigned, Say No To American Garbage Group states: Whereas the importation of garbage for final disposal in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador is an indignity to our people and should not be seen as a future growth industry for our Province; and

Whereas the final disposal of garbage in any quantity or form is destructive and hazardous to our biophysical environment and should not be undertaken on behalf of any jurisdiction other than our own; and

Whereas the garbage import industry is considered to be detrimental to all other forms of industrial and economic development including, and especially, our tourism industry; and

Whereas the adoption of such industry would signal the destruction of all that we would hold dear about our Province; and

Whereas the overwhelming majority of the people of this Province are opposed, in principle, to such industrial initiatives;

Your petitioners respectfully request that the hon. House take such action as may be necessary to enact or amend the legislation that says, `no' to industrial schemes which have, as their objective, the importation of waste for final disposal in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I had the privilege today to meet the group who appeared outside in the lobby of Confederation Building where this petition was presented to me and where I was asked to make the presentation in the House, and I told them I would be honoured to do so. One of the reasons I wanted to do it is because of the fact that not only has our party gone through the process over the last couple of years of having public hearings around the Province, of raising the issue at an executive council meeting of our party, of having it passed at a provincial convention of our party over a year ago, of having it endorsed by our caucus and having it in our policy blueprint which we took into the last general election, but now the Liberal Party has done something similar. I understand the Liberal Party has recently passed a resolution at its convention, 140 to 2 - and I know some people wonder who the two were - but the Liberal Party, itself now has seen the light and suddenly come out pleading with their own party, their own government. And I know that the New Democratic Party is opposed to such initiatives. So, Mr. Speaker, this issue crosses party lines.

For the benefit of those in the gallery who do not understand the process for debate in a petition, you are not really entitled to debate the petition, you are supposed to read the prayer and list the number of names, then you are given five minutes to say what you want to say. So it isn't possible to go into a great deal of debate under this provision in the House rules.

One thing is for sure, I heard the Premier say in response to a question from my colleague, our environment critic, the Member for St. John's East Extern during Question Period, that `the system is there, let the system work.' I say to the Premier that I believe what the people of the Province are saying, represented by SNAGG - I mean, they do represent the views of an awful lot of people; I just said 2,798 out my way, that is a sizeable number of people. So we shouldn't dismiss their efforts, they have made some significant efforts.

The point that has to be made to the Premier is, `Yes, you can say that the system is there but you are the government, you have the authority to change the system.' Most politicians look forward to the opportunity to change the system. So if you, as a government, took the initiative and made the decision that you do not want to even consider - don't even want to consider proposals such as these in Long Harbour, Schefferville, Baie Verte or wherever, if you didn't want to even consider them, that could be a decision of your government to make. I think that would represent the views of the people of the Province. In order to make that occur, you simply have to change this system - the legislation. You can do that if you have the political will to do it. I think that is all these 2,798 people are saying, that is all your own party is saying when it passed the resolution at its convention in Gander just a couple of weeks ago and that is what everybody else and all the other political parties are saying.

I see my time is up, Mr. Speaker. So I hope the Premier will take a little more consideration then he seems to have done thus far on this particular issue, maybe really give it serious consideration and change the system.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. J. BYRNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise in support of the petition, and I certainly don't mind saying why I support it. I was opposed to the importation of garbage into this Province long before I got involved in politics. I was involved with the group opposing the importation of garbage for burning at Long Harbour, and I still disagree with that.

I agree that the importation of garbage is an indignity to the people of this Province. Why should we want to take something that no one else on the Atlantic seaboard wants? Why should we be prepared to take it at all? Why should we even be considering those applications? I am of the view that we should be handling our own waste before we are prepared to take in other waste products.

There is a study being done now, actively being looked at, with respect to solid waste disposal on the Northeast Avalon, and here we are now, looking at our own situation, and we are prepared to take in other garbage. I think it is simply ludicrous.

Recently, I have travelled to Baie Verte to listen to what the people in that area had to say with respect to the Baie Verte project, and I came away with an armload of petitions of people opposing that project, and today out here in the lobby we had another group opposing generally the importation of garbage to the Province.

I don't know what it takes for this government to sit back and listen to what the people have to say. Do you have to beat it into your heads with a hammer? The same thing with the Hydro deal - people are not being listened to. Well, the time will come when they will be listened to, in due course, I would imagine.

With respect to tourism, the argument is being put forward that there will be negative impacts upon the tourist industry in this Province, and I honestly believe that there will be negative impacts. We hear that there will be jobs created, but how many jobs will be created versus how many jobs will be lost in the tourist industry? That is just one example.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Pardon?

AN HON. MEMBER: And for how long?

MR. J. BYRNE: And for how long, exactly right.

How many dollars will be lost in tourism over the period of time in the future? That is another major consideration.

With respect to tourism also, the government has been, in the past few years, putting good commercials on television, advertising and trying to promote the Province, to get people to come to this Province. What are we going to do in the future, promote the biggest dump on the Atlantic seaboard? `Come and see our big incinerators. Come and see our dump. Come and see our big pits being filled up with garbage.' Is that what we want to promote? I don't know how many people would be interested in coming to see that.

It is obvious, in my opinion, that the majority of people are opposed to this. You can look at the Letters to the Editor; you can look at the editorials; you can listen to just general conversation with people. I have yet, honestly, to speak with one person who is in favour of bringing garbage into this Province - even the editorials.

I noticed that the local newspaper - we have a person here who writes favourably for Newfoundland Hydro. This person is even against -

AN HON. MEMBER: Who is that, Bill Callahan?

MR. J. BYRNE: Whoever. He is even against the importation of garbage, I see from reading his editorials, so I don't know what it takes to get that into the government's head. I believe that the government should bring in legislation to ban the importation of garbage.

The Premier stated earlier, to my question in Question Period, that I was trying to - this Member for St. John's East Extern was trying to force or impose his beliefs on the general public. Well, the Leader of the Opposition mentioned a few minutes ago that SNAGG is a group that represents a large number of people in this Province. They have a lot of people signed up. They have the petitions coming, and I am not trying to impose my beliefs on the people of this Province. I am trying to put forward what I honestly believe the public wants in this situation.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. J. BYRNE: Before I sit down, Mr. Speaker, there will be a number of petitions forthcoming in the near future on this issue, and I stated publicly that in the long term, maybe, this issue is second only to the Newfoundland Hydro deal being generated in this Province at this point in time. This is the second most major issue in the Province today, and it will come to be the number one issue in the future.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker, I don't know why the hon. members opposite can't seem to understand this. Do they think they are the only ones who are opposed to American garbage - importing any garbage?


PREMIER WELLS: People here - there are all kinds of people on this side of the House who hold the same view. I can express the same view myself, on a personal basis - I have no hesitation. What I am not against, is fair opportunity to express an opinion, to take a position, to make an argument, to have your position heard on any issue in this Province. I am not against that.

Now, the hon. member talks about jobs and he tries to lead the people of the Province to believe that there is going to somehow be a big loss of jobs, because the government doesn't bring in legislation that absolutely bars any consideration of anything that might be described as importation and garbage.

MS. VERGE: What about the Hydro (inaudible)? Why don't you consider that?

PREMIER WELLS: If the hon. member will listen, she will hear what I have to say, then she can have her say afterwards.

Mr. Speaker, he talked about jobs and he tried to lead us to believe there is going to be a big loss of jobs, because we don't bring in laws that say you can't import or do anything that looks like importing garbage into this Province.

AN HON. MEMBER: When did he say that?

PREMIER WELLS: He just tried to lead us to believe there are going to be big losses of jobs because we don't pass legislation to prohibit the importation of garbage; it is going to affect our tourist sector and loss of jobs.

MR. SIMMS: I didn't say that.

AN HON. MEMBER: Did not say it.

PREMIER WELLS: Well, Hansard will tell us what he said. I will rely on what Hansard says.

Let me tell the House, Mr. Speaker, I just had lunch with the owners of the oil companies involved in Hibernia. I sat down and discussed it with them. We talked about a number of significant issues that were of concern to the government and the owners. It was a good meeting. During lunch we talked about the financial situation in Canada, the deficit situation, and we talked about what it is going to take to help get Canada out of these recessionary problems and be able to deal with the deficit, and how important it is to get the economy moving and going again; and two of them were Americans.

One of them said, as always, of course, with the impact of the size of the U.S. economy, if they can really get the U.S. economy going, that will have a significant beneficial impact in Canada. That is quite true; everybody agreed with that and I don't think anybody in this Chamber would disagree that, but another person made another significant point. The big problem with trying to get the U.S. economy going is they can't get California going, and California has always led the recovery in the U.S. economy. They can't get California going because the California Legislature, acting in response to groups like SNAGG and others, so locked up and tied down California that you can't do virtually anything there.

MS. VERGE: Sounds like we're taking your garbage!

PREMIER WELLS: I was just passing on to members of the House what a person who was a resident of California just said to me. Now, I don't know whether he is right or not. I accept his judgement of the situation far more readily than that of the hon. the Leader of the Opposition. And he said, you can't get California going economically because they have so brought in prejudicial regulations and laws that really prevent being able to get an economic impetus moving in California, and that is affecting the ability of the United States to get its -

Oh, I know the members' technique when they are faced with effective arguments, they make a lot of noise to try to prevent it from being heard. They are at it again now, Mr. Speaker, but, anybody who stops to think of it realizes -

MR. SIMMS: What about Malaysia? What did everybody do in Malaysia? (Inaudible) over there, too.

PREMIER WELLS: The hon. member could only hope that there would be the kind of technological economic activity here that is developing in Malaysia at the moment. We could only wish that were occurring here at the moment, Mr. Speaker. Now, the Opposition want us to bring in this kind of legislation to prevent anybody from proposing any kind of economic activity of this nature. They want to bring in legislation or they want us to stop immediately any consideration of privatization of Hydro; don't even develop a proposal to consider, stop it dead in its tracks. They want to bring the economy of this Province to a halt.


PREMIER WELLS: Yes, to bring the economy of this Province to a halt.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time has elapsed.

PREMIER WELLS: With the permission of the House, Mr. Speaker, I will finish now and sit down.

MR. SPEAKER: Does the Premier have leave to continue?


PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker, that is what they want to do, bring the economy of this Province to a halt.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The time is expired.

PREMIER WELLS: Fortunately, this government won't let them do it, Mr. Speaker.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Orders of the Day

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, could we start, please, with Motions 2 through 5?

MR. SPEAKER: Motions 2 through 5.

Motion, the hon. the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs to introduce a bill entitled, "An Act To Amend The City Of St. John's (Loan) Act, 1978," carried. (Bill No. 51)

On motion, Bill No. 51 read a first time, ordered read a second time on tomorrow.

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

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Act, 1992" (Bill No. 47);

A bill, "An Act To Amend the Electoral Boundaries Act" (Bill No 48); and

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Elections Act, 1991" (Bill No. 52).

On motion, Bill Nos. 47, 48 and 52 read a first time, ordered read a second time on tomorrow.

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

MR. ROBERTS: Your Honour, could we now deal with Order 10? That is the adjourned debate on An Act To Amend The City Of Corner Brook Act. I think my friend for Humber Valley adjourned the debate, if memory serves me correctly.

MR. SPEAKER: Order 10.

The hon. the Member for Humber Valley.

MR. WOODFORD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. We ended on the `Efford Memorial Wall' in Corner Brook yesterday evening. There is no question, there was quite a bit of fun, I suppose, and jest here yesterday evening about the suggestion by the Member for Humber East, pertaining to that particular rock wall or new road in the Corner Brook area.

We are talking about the City of Corner Brook Act, and this takes in the area between Corner Brook and Marble Mountain, more specifically, as it pertains to this bill.

Mr. Speaker, to be honest with the people in the House, and the minister, never have I seen in this Province, a highway job that lasted - really, it has now been going on for four years, a piece of road between Steady Brook and Corner Brook, the other side of Corner Brook, the Massey Drive one, we are talking about now. Never have I seen such a miserable and bad job, slow, agonizing for the people of the area, all up our way, Corner Brook area, down the coast and so on. I mean, it's terrible!


MR. WOODFORD: Now, the minister has no control over that right now, but I'm sure - I talked to him the other day about this year as it pertains to contract. This is an opportunity now to make a point on it, especially as it pertains to that piece of road between Steady Brook and Corner Brook - that next year, for the love of God, if there is any way of doing it, get the contracts out early -


MR. WOODFORD: - and yes, exactly. Kick some you-know-what and put them in their place. Because as far as I'm concerned they're getting away with blue murder. The people of the West Coast of the Province did not deserve what I and the people of my district and surrounding areas, have had to go through for the last four years, between there and Corner Brook.

They bid on jobs, they go out and bid on everything under the sun, they get them, there are deadlines on every one of them - it is usually September 30 or October 30 - and none of them complete their work. Very few pay any overtime to the workers in the summertime to try to do the job. Instead, they will bid on eight or ten and finish two and everything else is left in slings. Then, the minister, whether it is the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs or the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation, has to take the heat for the contractor. That is what happens and it is despicable!

You go down there now - I went down there on Friday night and again on Saturday and found parts of the road paved, other parts with a bump on it six inches, signs in disarray. I mean, it is terrible! If there is anything the minister can do to try to rectify that, especially now with the winter months coming on, he should do it.

Mr. Speaker, one of the concerns that I have - the minister when he gets up can clarify this for me. I realize that the City of Corner Brook wants to put a bus system on between Corner Brook and Marble Mountain but what bother me about it is it says: during the ski season. Now my understanding for the Marble Mountain resort, and even in a release from the minister's department just last weekend, a release by Dr. Sexton pertaining to Marble Mountain, everywhere in it referred to a four season resort, and rightly so. My question to the minister, and maybe he can answer it, is why just the ski season? I am not saying that to be critical of it.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible)

MR. WOODFORD: There is also private transportation in place now for the ski season and that is another point I will get to, but you know how it is for legislation in the House, maybe they do not understand it, but to try to get legislation through the House takes time and if next year they ever go to another part of the season where this is needed they have to come right back to the House of Assembly and put in, operate year round, or something like that. They cannot be licensed for it and so on because it says: ski season.

Another point I would like to make concerns the private operators in the Corner Brook area. What happens to those people? Do they realize what this bill will do to all taxi operators and all private operators who have those small buses and so on coming from Corner Brook to Marble Mountain? Automatically then, I would say, because of the public transportation sector that is always cheaper than the private sector, that is for sure, will probably be put out of business. If not put out of business their income, for sure, will be drastically reduced.

The other thing here, Section 227 of the act is repealed and the following substituted: the council may enter into an agreement with a person for a period not exceeding ten years, granting to that person an exclusive right to establish and operate a public transportation system within the city. Now I am sure if the union people in Corner Brook saw that, because the transportation system in Corner Brook today is a public transportation system, operated by the city, so I do not know.

MS. VERGE: It is in the act now.

MR. WOODFORD: It is in the act now but the only thing about it is it says it can be given to someone else. I do not know what the intent is here but it is something that should be looked at.

Mr. Speaker, pertaining to the explanatory note in the bill where they are looking for the right to operate a bus system between Corner Brook and Marble Mountain, if there is ever a time it is going to be needed it is now, because if nothing else Marble Mountain, as the minister knows quite well, is not developed to the extent of parking. That is one of the biggest problems they have up there, parking, and the bus system will negate a lot of the problems they have with parking because a lot of individuals will take the bus rather than take their cars.

AN HON. MEMBER: Where does Chris park when he is out there?

MR. WOODFORD: Well, there is no question that the Minister of Education is quite an avid skier and from what I have been told he is a good one. There is no doubt about that. But I hear that the Minister of Transportation was over last weekend and he has a feeler put out to the hon. Member for Humber East to check the weekend and see what the prices on ski equipment at Marble Mountain is. I heard the minister was taking up skiing. That is great for the area, it is good to see. You talk about spin-off when it comes to Marble Mountain. As I always said whatever is good anywhere in the Province is good for the surrounding area and whatever is good for Marble Mountain, I tell you, is certainly good for any part of the Humber Valley because I have some of the biggest rent-a-car operators in the Province. I am not going by name, I am talking now primarily about cars itself, volume. I have one operator in Deer Lake - I will not mention the name - one rental car operator, with 137 cars.


MR. WOODFORD: One hundred and thirty-seven cars, one operator, in Deer Lake, and the smallest one, I think, is a new one that came in there last year, twenty-seven or thirty seven. Now anywhere from that to eighty-five, to 100, to 137 cars, each operator - nowhere else in the Province. St. John's is the only one that comes handy to it at all with regard to the amount of volume, so just imagine what it is doing - what that airport, which employs 101 people directly, and then indirectly through, for instance, rental car companies, motels, hotels and so on, services to service sector, is really a spin-off from Marble Mountain. So anything that is good for Marble Mountain, Mr. Speaker, is good for everyone.

While I am on this subject now, I want to commend the minister responsible for Newfoundland and Labrador Housing for starting the grounds and the water services and so on, and getting ready for the lodge there at the base of Marble Mountain. That is an excellent idea, as far as I am concerned. It is one of the only ways that it will be developed, and developed properly, because one thing about Newfoundland and Labrador Housing, when they do something, whether it is a subdivision, or no matter what it is, they do a good job. Usually they do a good job, I must say, and any of the subdivisions around the city or around the Province today, when they are done, they have always done a good job, so once someone goes in to take it over, they usually take over something that is substantial and something that is of a great and good quality.

Mr. Speaker, I understand that this is due to be started during the winter months, but I do not know what they are going to do out at Marble Mountain this winter. As far as I am concerned, very little will be done this winter. They may do some clearing of brush and so on, but even that - even if they can get it to go for next spring it would be great, because last year...

I had to laugh at the announcement made by the new federal minister for the Province just a couple of weeks ago, and the Premier. He came to Corner Brook, great hullabaloo, a great announcement on Marble Mountain, but it was the same announcement and the same particulars and details that were announced last January or February. It is just that the money was not spent this summer, and one of the reasons it was not spent is because - ACOA was ready to go with their money; that came through ACOA at that time -

AN HON. MEMBER: Enterprise Newfoundland (inaudible)?

MR. WOODFORD: No, the Province did not put anything in. The hon. Minister of Tourism was called to the Bar last fall in Corner Brook by the present President of Marble Mountain Corporation, Dr. Sexton, -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. WOODFORD: I might not know everything, I say to the member, but there are a few things I do know, and I will tell you - there is the minister now. Yes, came out last fall and said: Now we cannot put any money into this now the fall. We cannot put any money into Marble Mountain in the fall, in the chair lifts or lodge or anything else. We will look at it later on because we do not have the money.

Now ACOA had the money. The great ACOA that members opposite criticized for years, that we had control over - we had a federal minister who had control over it - now we have not. It is outside the Province now. There is a Mr. Dingwall who has control of ACOA, so the problem is, Mr. Minister, that the money should have been spent last summer. We are over there now with a lodge that can accommodate 200 or 300 people and we needed the lodge, the one that is proposed now -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. WOODFORD: The member -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. WOODFORD: Yes, the money was there, but the Province's money was not there. The Province's share was not there to be put into that particular area - so the tenders were not called because of that reason.

Now the minister can say all he likes. That is the reason that particular job was not done this year. So the great announcement was made a couple of weeks ago. People have short, short memories. The same monies announced earlier will be spent - but granted, that money will be spent, and it is going to serve the people of the area well and serve the Province as a whole, because one of the things about Marble Mountain is that the great amount in total revenues brought in through Marble Mountain are substantial. The minister might have some figures on hand, but I heard the Premier say just about eighteen months ago, that within two years it would probably be self-sustaining just from the revenue coming in at the base in the wintertime.

AN HON. MEMBER: You are getting there.

MR. WOODFORD: We are getting there is right. After this winter or possibly next winter they probably could run that operation on the revenues that they are taking in there, the spin-off from the whole area, the hotels, the taxi companies. You talk to a taxi operator - when you talk to a taxi operator in St. John's or anywhere else around the Province, usually the summertime is their best season but out our way the best time is the wintertime. Talk to any operator, hotel operator, taxi operator or bus operator, the wintertime is their best business. That is the time of their best business and primarily because of Marble Mountain. I notice the government has backed a development now in Baie Verte, which is good. The White Hills one in Clarenville, is great, it is good stuff because the more people that get out to do something and get out to ski, the more people will be going to Baie Verte, going to Smokey Mountain and Marble Mountain. The more people get involved, the more interest you got -

AN HON. MEMBER: People staying home from Florida.

MR. WOODFORD: I look at the number of people that came across the gulf this year, Marine Atlantic, 14,800 and some odd more people crossed the gulf this year then they did last and that is indicative that people are staying home. People are travelling within the country, within the Province and so on, and that augurs well for the whole area.

Mr. Speaker, the only concern that I had, as I said to the minister, was pertaining to - I don't know, he can probably mention it to the powers that be in Corner Brook - why the ski season? They might want to be back here next year looking to operate it year round and maybe there is some flexibility - it could be put there now with regards to an amendment before it comes to committee or when it comes to committee. So I just say that to the minister. Other than that it is just housekeeping with regards to - not housekeeping really, I suppose it is a big change. That word housekeeping, we have to be very careful with it because housekeeping sometimes can be perceived as - we all, I suppose, are guilty of that at times and say that there are no problems with it but all it takes is a word. You often see it sometimes - I think we have seen it in a bill here today, fix and so on, just one word can make the difference in what the real intent of a regulation or an amendment is, especially as it pertains to legislation. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. HARRIS: Mr. Speaker, I want to say a few words on this legislation because I think this does differ from the other act that we passed second reading on yesterday. This particular act has to do with the provision of bus services outside of municipality. My concern here is that this is not just enabling legislation - it has to do with the transportation system in and around the area of Corner Brook. While I agree that there would be an interest in seeing the Marble Mountain area serviced by this particular bus service, I wonder how the people of Mount Moriah, Halfway Point, Steady Brook or other places around there feel that they are being served by the public transportation of the Corner Brook region? Is it something that a private operator would be able to operate?

I remember a number of years ago the Public Utilities Board used to take great interest in people starting to provide the services because they did not want to see someone making the investment. Some private individual making the investment, setting up and committing themselves to a service on a regular ongoing basis without - than rather have to be open to someone coming in for the short season, for a few months or for special events to take over the good business but not provide the service in the areas and in the time slots when there was not so much traffic for the business.

I see that the minister is not in his place in the House but I hope that when he rises he will respond to that concern. Has he considered what affect the provision of this particular bus service by the city council of Corner Brook might have on other transportation operators in the Corner Brook area, taxi services, other bus services that might impinge on the amount of business that is to be done? Will this affect negatively, anyone else who is providing a similar service, is there a commitment from the City of Corner Brook to extend their municipal transportation service to other areas such as were proposed to be amalgamated to Corner Brook but have not been, are they going to look after the area of Mount Moriah of Corner Brook or the Maple Valley area - I forget the name of the community there that resisted amalgamation - is Corner Brook transportation services going to start to become a regional transportation service or do they just want this one shot deal?

I think these are considerations that, from a public policy point of view, are potentially important to the residents of the Corner Brook area. I have very high regard for the facilities at Marble Mountain. I see the minister is back and I wonder when he rises to speak, can he address those points of what about the transportation around the area of Corner Brook, what about Mount Moriah and Halfway Point and other areas? Is the Corner Brook city council going to include them in the transportation expansion that they are proposing here, and are there other private businesses that might be pushed out of viability by the Corner Brook city council getting involved in this?

I have that concern here, although I agree with the minister's comments in introducing the bill that in general, the Province - and this hon. member has very high regard for the decisions of municipal bodies throughout the Province and we would like to leave the things that go on within their boundaries to themselves as much as possible within the framework established by good, sound planning. We ought not to let the City of Corner Brook perhaps interfere with the transportation, other transportation requirements of the Corner Brook area by just pinpointing this one, perhaps lucrative location or lucrative route for them without providing a general service to the region of Corner Brook.

As far as Marble Mountain goes, I am quite pleased with the development of Marble Mountain. I have high regard for Marble Mountain as a tourist destination, as a ski resort. It is a very nice hill, I have seen the Minister of Education out there skiing down the hill, he enjoys it very much as well and I have enjoyed that facility too, but I think we ought to be a little careful about our public enthusiasm, for we ought to make sure that we don't, for example with NLHC, have a new version of social housing, building condominiums for the wealthy. I think that that would be a very big mistake if that becomes the direction of our policy.

I know the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation has no shortage of funds, he says he is not even concerned with the prices out in Corner Brook, so I hope that this is not a new form of social housing, Mr. Speaker, no more co-op housing, no more monies available for housing for people who are desperately in need of housing, but the minister finds money for Newfoundland and Labrador Housing to develop a condominium project out in Corner Brook. Now, Mr. Speaker, if that is going to be the direction of social housing in this Province, I for one, cannot support it, and I say that with all great respect for skiers and those who want to ski, as I said, I skied there myself, it is a fine place to ski and more people should be encouraged to ski there.

So I hope that the minister in doing this, when he turns around the spring and sells this, that he is going to make money for the Province, that he is not just doing this to provide social housing for the condominium skiers like the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation plans to be, once he gets his skis wet up on Marble Mountain overlooking the John Efford Memorial Wall, so I know that he will be visiting many, many times. I suppose if he buys one of these condominiums, he will be able to look from his window at the John Efford Memorial Wall every day after he finishes skiing or before he goes in the morning.

MR. TOBIN: Jack, if it is a memorial wall, he won't be able to look at it.

MR. HARRIS: Well, perhaps there can be a memorial wall that would also have room for his ashes to be installed in between the bricks somewhere, as I have seen in some other places where they have memorial gardens and in the wall, they have little places for bricks - I do not know how the hon. minister plans to do his skiing, whether he plans to do it in this life or in the hereafter, but seriously, Mr. Speaker, I think the idea of a condominium project out in Marble Mountain as a new form of social housing really strikes me as a government that is out of touch with the real needs of the people of this Province.

When the minister gets up and responds I hope he will tell us that when he sells this land that he is proposing to develop, that he is going to make sufficient money to start a true social housing project and perhaps put some money into co-op housing, other forms of housing, that will benefit the people who need good, solid, low-cost quality housing to live in, and not a second home, or a condominium, or a ski resort for them to have a playground.

While I'm on that, let me sing the praises of Marble Mountain. If I sing them loud enough perhaps the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation will put on his skis and go over to Corner Brook and try it out. I'm sure the Minister of Education, over the Christmas season, will be sure to take him over and lead him down the trails and the paths of Marble Mountain, and enjoy a great deal of very interesting trails. There is a place called Garden Path. The Minister of Education I'm sure will be happy to lead you down the garden path, on the country roads, on the garden paths of Marble Mountain. I am sure that he will enjoy it very much.

MR. EFFORD: Oh, oh!

MR. HARRIS: I don't know if the hon. member skis.

MR. EFFORD: I am not concerned about skiing (inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: I don't know if the hon. member skis, but I suppose there are always a little après-ski activity that you might want to get involved in.

Mr. Speaker, I support the thrust of the legislation in terms of giving an opportunity for the City Council of Corner Brook to become more involved in the transportation of the region. I would like the minister to give us some assurance that they plan not to just high-grade the transportation needs by running a bus service to Marble Mountain, but also meet the needs of the Corner Brook region and the small communities around there which also have need of transportation services. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. EFFORD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I spent all night preparing for this afternoon. I never got an hour's sleep last night, I got that excited about the conversation back and forth from my hon. friend for Humber East that I spent all night preparing and have answers to the questions -

AN HON. MEMBER: Is that the wall? Is that the job?

MR. EFFORD: That is the wall. I have to get to the comments just recently made. I will take the last first and then I will get on to my hon. friend for Humber East.

Talking about the contractors out doing the contract work on the area out around Corner Brook, the four-lane highway. I can't imagine how he could possibly be so critical. It is going to be one of the best highways. Being critical of the contractors building the new highway across Corner Brook - I know there is some legitimacy in what the Member for Humber Valley was talking about. But if you look at the weather conditions and the conditions in which those contractors had to work under the last year, I think there is room to understand the reasons why they had some delay in their work. There is one contractor who sublet a part of the work in which he (inaudible) caused the main problem.

Looking at the amount of money that has been spent over there over the last few years and what is going to be spent in that area to complete the four-laning from Deer Lake to west of Corner Brook, I think it is going to be, as the hon. Member for Humber East suggested yesterday, it is going to be... I just forget the terminology she used.

MS. VERGE: A superhighway.

MR. EFFORD: Super. Super four-lane highway. She is quite right. It is going to be a super four-lane highway equal to those anywhere in Canada, and it is going to run from Deer Lake to west of Corner Brook. That super four-lane highway is definitely going to be second to none in Canada. She addressed some concerns about the highway and I just want to take a minute or two and address the concerns that she had.

One of the problems we've had to deal with out there is the effect on businesses and people located on the side of the four-lane highway because the idea of building this national transportation highway is to make sure that we do not have any obstructions on that highway from point A to point B, in order to go from point A east to west across Newfoundland and to get there at the speed limit which is 100 kilometres per hour and have no service on the highway. If you want to have services you take them off the main highway so that it is much easier to run on the highway.

In the Marble Mountain area going from Corner Brook, up by Marble Mountain and going back, there is going to be an underpass built there on that highway and it is going to be second to none in Canada. It is going to be the latest highway design in that particular section. There is going to be no obstructions whatsoever. There will be no obstruction turning off the highway, going onto the highway, and going back to Corner Brook.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible)

MR. EFFORD: I do not know what the hon. member said about the people in rural Newfoundland. The amount of money that is going to be spent on this particular part of the highway, as everybody knows, is a part of the Roads for Rails Agreement. The latest engineering design is going to be used on that highway. The other thing the hon. member pointed out yesterday concerned the rock grades on the side of the highway. When you build up a highway you have to leave a lot of rock. I have met with the individuals out in Corner Brook. I have personally met with four families in one particular instance and on another occasion I met with another couple of people in a different part of the town, and I understand exactly what they were talking about as far as the depreciation to their property and the rock walls placed right in their back garden. All of that will be taken care of. Once the highway is completed from Deer Lake to Corner Brook, the completion of the highway, all the paving, the guardrails, and whatever else needs to be done on the highway, then there is money there for the hydroseeding, not only the centre but all of the inclines and the grades off the highway. All of that is going to be just as the hon. member requested, and only because she has done a very fine job am I going to make sure that all is done.

MS. VERGE: What about the flowers?

MR. EFFORD: Well, we can talk about that when I come to Corner Brook on that particular weekend. We can discuss the flowers and all these other things that make you happy. We will see if we cannot find enough money to make sure that the hon. member is quite satisfied. Never mind Marble Mountain. I am not interested in Marble Mountain thing. That is something I will leave to the Minister of Education.

AN HON. MEMBER: The Minister of Education?

MR. EFFORD: The Minister of Education skis a bit.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible)

MR. EFFORD: The other concern are the contractors out there. Next year I am going to ensure that there is a time limit put on the contracts and that those time limits are kept. That is a responsibility of the department, too. If we do not get the contracts and the tenders awarded until the middle of June or July, or whatever, then it is pretty difficult for contractors, with the weather conditions they are working under, to get them completed by a reasonable time in the fall.

The earlier we get the tenders out and awarded, as soon as the frost comes out of the ground, those contractors can have all their equipment ready to start work early in the year, and get a better completion date. It is not just the fault of the contractors, but a little bit of fault on both sides, and we hope to be able to improve that next year. If there is any concern other than the design of the highway then they can talk to the engineers but we have not had any major problems except with a few of the people living close to where the actual construction is going ahead. Understandably, when you are doing any major construction in an area you are going to get some complaints, but we are very aware that these people have legitimate concerns, they have a right to be concerned, and we are going to address them, hopefully to the satisfaction of everybody.

MS. VERGE: What about the Lewin Parkway Interchange?

MR. EFFORD: No, it is not finished.

MR. SPEAKER: Does the hon. Member for Humber Valley have leave?

MR. WOODFORD: I have just a short question for the minister. He mentioned the hydoseeding when the road is finished between Deer Lake and Corner Brook. Usually in every contract there is money in for hydroseeding. On that particular contract, is there money in this one for that particular job?

MR. EFFORD: Is there money in the present contract?


MR. EFFORD: No. What we're saying is that after the work is completed then the hydroseeding will be done in all those areas out there. So it is not in this particular contract to do the hydroseeding and then do some more. All the work will be completed first, and then the hydroseeding will be done, and the flowers.

MS. VERGE: That might be seven or eight years.

MR. EFFORD: Oh no. No, it won't. We would estimate a completion date, three years. That highway will be completed.

MS. VERGE: All the way to Deer Lake?

MR. EFFORD: No, no, no, not all the way to Deer lake, out to Pasadena.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs if he speaks now he will close the debate.

The hon. the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs.

MR. REID: Mr. Speaker, I don't know if because of the long debate that some of my hon. colleagues sort of got mixed up with this legislation. I think probably that is what happened. Basically the legislation is giving the authority to the City of Corner Brook to hire or to contract or to put up on tender outside transportation services to places and areas. Mount Moriah happens to be one of those places I believe he was talking about.

What they are doing basically, under the Act it restricts all transportation in the Corner Brook area to their own transportation system. What they are asking is for us to give them the permission to go outside to contract out to private enterprise services that would be provided to Marble Mountain from areas around Corner Brook. I think maybe there has been a little bit of a misunderstanding. Some private companies will be accommodated, there are no two ways about it.

In regards to one comment made about the selling of Marble Mountain, or the selling of the land on Marble Mountain, and whether the Housing Corporation should be involved in that, it is the Housing Corporation through projects like Marble Mountain, through projects that have been going on in the Province and Stephenville and in St. John's over the last twenty-odd years, that the Housing Corporation generates its revenue so that then it can go back into social housing programs. Where I tend to agree with the idea of the profits from Newfoundland and Labrador Housing going into social housing programs, I'm not sure if my hon. colleague across meant to say that the Housing Corporation should or should not be in the business of development. I would think that being a member of the party that he represents he would be more interested in the Housing Corporation making money to put into social housing, rather than to hinder in any way the Housing Corporation from actually being out there and being involved in that type of scheme.

Mr. Speaker, that is all. My hon. colleague for Humber asked why they were only asking about ski time, or the time of the year and ski time. I can't answer that. I don't know but I will -

MS. VERGE: Oh, oh!

MR. REID: No, I didn't think it was. I don't think it was there and I think it is a misinterpretation. I can't really answer why they do or they don't, but I was led to believe - my understanding, as my colleague for Humber said - is that it is basically giving them an open door type of policy whereby they can do any time in the year, and they are not only restricted to the ski time of year. Which would of course accommodate, down the road, other development, the four seasons idea of golfing, and all that sort of thing. I don't think there is a problem with that.

I move second reading, Mr. Speaker.

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. 33)

MR. ROBERTS: Could we now have Order 11, Bill 32? My friend for Carbonear is on a roll down there, Mr. Speaker.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Mr. Speaker, before we move on, not wanting to take up time with moving on with the legislation we have. I just want to bring to the attention of the Government House Leader that the members of the Social Services Committee have just got a notice that there will be a meeting tomorrow at 2:00 p.m. There will be a short meeting of the Committee at 2:00 p.m. tomorrow, December 1, in the Government Members' Boardroom. I just want to alert -

MR. SIMMS: Misprint.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Well, no. We all know that 2:00 p.m. tomorrow the House convenes and I'm just wondering if there is something we can - why I do it now is because I want to get on with it and not wait till 5:00 p.m. to raise this and then we get into a bit of a snarl over it and so on, so I think we should deal with this and perhaps if we can - even if the meeting was rescheduled for three o'clock -

MS. VERGE: Or 1:30

MR. W. MATTHEWS: - or 1:30, if it is a short meeting, but not at two o'clock when the House convenes because, quite naturally it is Question Period, we consider it the most important time in the House and we would like to have our members here in the House and as well, we would like them to take part in the committee, which they should be doing, but they can't do it at two o'clock.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Burgeo - Bay d'Espoir.

MR. GILBERT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The reason for that, was at the request of the members of the Opposition on that committee, who wanted to have a meeting with the chiropractor, Dr. Goyeche, I guess, and when the Committee was raised this morning, it was with the instructions to the Clerk that the Committee would meet at any time that the meeting could be arranged with Dr. Goyeche. Dr. Goyeche is going out of town tomorrow and the only time that it could be arranged was at two o'clock, a short meeting then, if the Opposition members want to meet with Dr. Goyeche, if not, it is quite alright with us. We are prepared to forego that. That is not a problem at all, so the reason for it was that I told the Clerk to contact the members and see if it was alright that we have the meeting at that time because it is the only time that we can meet with Dr. Goyeche, and it was at the suggestion of the members of the Opposition who are on that Committee.

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

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Just further to the point of order. You know, with all due respect to the Member for Burgeo - Bay d'Espoir who Chairs the Committee, I think it is Dr. Goyeche - you know, while our members would like to meet with him, I mean, it is the most inconvenient time, two o'clock-




MR. W. MATTHEWS: It is a her. Okay, well it is a her, Dr. Goyeche.

AN HON. MEMBER: She is a her.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: She is not a he. It is not like the song, he is a she or she is a he. But the point is that this is a very inconvenient time and is there any possibility I wonder, that we could get the doctor earlier?

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

MR. ROBERTS: If I may, to the point of order, Mr. Speaker, first of all I am not sure that the hon. gentleman needed to have raised it in the House -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: No, out behind the Speaker's Chair is the place. The committees are masters of their own schedule, their own timetable. My friend, the Chair of the Committee, the Member for Burgeo - Bay d'Espoir has addressed it, let us just let the normal processes work and I am sure an effort will be made to accommodate the situation. There is no desire to restrict attendance of members, in fact to the contrary, but really I think it is a matter that can be worked out by the normal processes and my friend from Burgeo - Bay d'Espoir and the gentleman from Grand Bank or whomever is Vice-Chair on that Committee, perhaps could get together and work it out in the next little while, Sir.

MR. SPEAKER: The order 12 -

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

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

MR. HARRIS: Mr. Speaker, I am not sure whether it is a point of order or a point of privilege. As a member of that committee, I feel that there is a responsibility to be at meetings of the committee, but also I have a responsibility here as a member of this House to be here, to participate in Question Period at two o'clock when the House sits.

Now, I think it is something that ought to be dealt with here. You know, it is not fair to say that the Committee itself decided they wanted to meet with Dr. Goyeche, she may be available this evening, I don't know, but this meeting, being called at this time, and notice being given, is an infringement on members rights to participate in the activities of the House during Question Period and I think it should be ruled on, unless the Chair of the Committee is prepared to say that this meeting will not be called. I won't be there. I give him notice now I won't be there because Question Period is at two o'clock and that is where I should be.

MR. SPEAKER: To that point of order raised by the hon. Member for St. John's East, it is basically the same as the one raised by the hon. the Opposition House Leader, and as the Government House Leader pointed out, the committees are masters of their own houses and there is no Standing Orders or regulations under which the Chair can rule or set a time for meeting of these committees of the house. That is something that has to be agreed upon by the Chairman and the members of that Committee and the Chair cannot rule on that particular point of order.

The hon. Government House Leader called order 12?

MR. ROBERTS: Order 11, Sir, Bill No. 32. "An Act To Amend The Fire Prevention Act, 1991."

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Fire Prevention Act, 1991." (Bill No. 32).

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

MR. REID: Now, Mr. Speaker, I will say that this one is of a housekeeping nature. There are certain deficiencies in our Fire Prevention Act, and I want to present some changes to the House to accommodate some of these deficiencies by rectifying some simple little problems that we have.

Amendments to sections 8-12 are necessary to clarify the role of local assistants. The word `local' is not in the old act, so it leaves the impression that the fire commissioner's assistants from St. John's or Corner Brook are the only ones who can go out and actually investigate a fire, or investigate and do inspections pertaining to fire safety.

All we want to do, basically, is put the word `local' in there so that the fire commissioner has the right, then, to appoint fire chiefs, or people from the area, to do that type of work. In a lot of cases they have been doing it already, but doing it, I suppose, in relationship to the act, illegally, and we want to clear that up. That is all we want to do, to add the words `local assistants' there, and then local assistants will be the people who live in the communities around the Province and are fire-fighters themselves, chiefs, and so on.

Section 23(1), we want to change that because the mobile fire-fighting training program basically in Section 23(1), all it says is for volunteers, and there are a number of paid fire departments who have made requests to our department in the last year or so, saying: Why can we not avail of this particular volunteer service? And we are saying they can. We want to take that out, and make it available to paid fire-fighters as well as volunteer fire-fighters.

The amendment to section 24(1) would increase the maximum fine for offenses under the act from $1,000 to $5,000. We are running into some serious deficiencies out there, and when you think of $1,000 fine for someone who does not put in the proper fire-fighting protection equipment in a public building, in churches, in any buildings that are out there, in particular accesses to businesses per se, or any buildings out there, and they are not following the codes, they are not following the Fire Prevention Act by installing smoke detectors and this sort of thing, we feel that offence should be raised from $1,000 to $5,000 for a minimum amount. Maybe then that would encourage people to be more particular in the work they do in the construction of new buildings and, I guess the (inaudible) and renovations to old buildings.

That is basically all. I do not know if there are any questions on it. I would think that my hon. colleague across will probably make some comments on it, but I cannot see where there would be any problems. If there are any problems at all, I would think they would probably be in the maximum fine for offenses.

Mr. Speaker, I personally believe that if the general public are not made, and forced, into complying with the Fire Prevention Act, we will continue to lose lives in this Province. To be quite honest about it, the maximum fine of $1,000 for somebody who contravenes this act, and possibly could cause a death, is very little in regard to fines.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. REID: I am talking about the maximum fine for offenses under the act right now. Under our Fire Prevention Act the maximum fine is $1,000. What we want to do is raise that maximum fine to $5,000.

AN HON. MEMBER: In public buildings (inaudible).

MR. REID: Yes.

AN HON. MEMBER: That is for someone who violates the act.

MR. REID: Violates the act. Okay?

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

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

MR. WOODFORD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I have a few comments pertaining to the bill.

On that first one the minister, when he gets up to close debate, especially: 1. Subsection (8)(4) of the Fire Prevention Act, 1991, is amended by adding, after the words "need not be investigated by a" the words "local or" -

MR. REID: Need not be investigated by an assistant fire commissioner. Add the word `local' and it would mean, need not be investigated -

MR. WOODFORD: That is what -

MR. REID: Oh, my. You have me confused.

MR. WOODFORD: I know that is the intent, but -

MR. REID: Yes, it does not sound right, does it? It is ambiguous.

MR. WOODFORD: Maybe the minister could have a look at that. It does not sound right because it says right after that: "...and by adding after the words "Circumstances of the Fire" the words "or the fire commissioner considers an investigation is necessary."

That is okay, I suppose, but that: " a" the words "local or". Maybe I am missing something there but it seems to me - anyway the minister can take that under advisement.

Clause 3 of the bill would amend subsection 23 (1) of the act by deleting the words, `all volunteer.' I can see the reason for that because there is, I think, 95 or 96 per cent of all the fire-fighters in the Province are volunteer fighters. The other few percentage are - there are only a very few areas in the Province that have the paid fire-fighters. So they are mostly volunteers anyway and this mainly pertains to the mobile unit that is going around the Province with regards to training fire-fighters. On that note, I would say that if the minister can do it at all this year, that is a very, very - the regional office in Corner Brook I know goes out - they usually used to go out on Saturday's and help the volunteer fire brigades around the area, do some training. Especially as it pertains to - well they have that house, they used to call it the smoke house there in Gillams, and I don't know if someone was telling me here just lately that they are thinking about doing away with that. I hope they don't because it is a great thing - I visited it last year. I went down and spent a full day with all the volunteer fire brigades from around the area, around Humber Valley, Bay of Islands and so on, spent a full day down there along with the media. They went all through it, they had two sessions, one in the morning and one in the evening whereby people could put on the tanks and go right through the building.

They practised everything from taking bodies and finding people in burning houses. They do the real thing, let's put it that way. It is a very worthwhile training program for municipalities and volunteer fire brigades especially because they do not have the money to do it on an individual basis but by getting together and doing it collectively they can provide a very worthwhile service to all the volunteer fire brigades around the Province. So I say to the minister that if there is any way that he can do it - see any way this year of putting a few more funds back into that service, it would be greatly appreciated. Not only that, we will do a great service to the people of the Province.

Pertaining to the building codes, people not abiding by the rules and regulations in communities pertaining to the building codes - the fire codes I should say, building codes is another matter - because as far as I am concerned, in communities around the Province today, councils do not have enough backing to enforce, especially under the municipalities act, to enforce the building codes in those smaller municipalities. They are doing, in most municipalities, absolutely what they like. The council says no to a permit and then the next day or a couple of weeks after you will see the building go up. Now they have the right to issue a stop work order and even that is neglected. People have a tendency to say: to hell with that. The minister knows exactly what I am talking about and it is getting to be a real, real problem. I just had a call the other night from one municipality that the mayor in the municipality went ahead - the council turned down the permit and the mayor went ahead and put up a shed.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: The minister did not hear that.

MR. WOODFORD: Built a garage. Went ahead and built the garage anyway. After the council turned it down, the mayor went home, went down and got the building materials and whacked up the garage. Now if that is not a blatant disrespect for the council and for the rules and regulations of a council. I just said that 95 per cent or 96 per cent of the volunteer people - all of us members here in the House, most of us except members from the St. John's area, all of us out in rural Newfoundland knows all about the volunteer fire brigades and what they do for the community - and the councils are the same thing. In fact most of the councils have members of the fire brigade on the council. They are one and the same thing in a lot of small communities. The disrespect shown for them is unreal. It is unreal with regards to not respecting the rules and regulations pertaining to the council, especially when they are guided by the Municipalities Act. Every council in the Province except for the City of St. John's, the City of Mount Pearl and the City of Corner Brook, who are governed by their own acts, they have their own city acts and it is different from the Municipalities Act, everything else and everybody else are governed by the Municipalities Act.

They are all volunteers working all around the Province, working eight and ten hours a day. They come home in the evening and they go into a council office and they try to do their best for their community. Granted, you've got some areas in the Province where probably the council and councillors - maybe some of it is questionable.

Most of it, Mr. Speaker, is done in concert with the department, in concert with the people of the community, and for the betterment of the people of the community. I say to the minister - and I think he knows exactly what I'm talking about, through the Federation of Municipalities, and he comes from a rural area. He knows what I'm talking about, especially when it comes to volunteer fire brigades and councils, and the rules and regulations being adhered to.

I just forget now if the Municipalities Act hasn't been amended. There used to be a clause in the Municipalities Act whereby you could put a lien, if taxes weren't paid and so on, against an individual's property for six years, and you keep it there, and they could keep it.... I think it is still there if I'm not mistaken.

Something is going to have to be put in place to try to give the municipalities more clout. The bigger centres have no problem. St. John's, Corner Brook, Mount Pearl, Grand Falls, Gander, have no problem. They have all kinds of staff. They have city managers, they have town managers, they have full-time clerks, they have lawyers, they have accountants. All they have to do is phone and they can take the works for them. You take a small municipality which can't even collect the taxes, which has to go now - at least one good thing has come in the last few years, and that is the small claims court. That is excellent, that is doing an excellent job for municipalities. Especially last year since they raised the limits. I think now it is $3,000 that you can - I think it is $3,000. Maybe the Minister of Justice can - under small claims court now, is its limit $3,000?


MR. WOODFORD: I think it is $3,000. That is after doing a great service for small municipalities in the Province. Because they could not collect. They just could not collect, and now they can. I must say, it is working out fairly well, and it is the least expensive to the municipality. Because they used to have to go get lawyers and get accountants and so on.

AN HON. MEMBER: What does the hon. gentleman have against lawyers?

MR. WOODFORD: Lawyers. I remember back when I used to be on council in Cormack, having to go down - we used to be able to go ourselves then - and then say for instance you were taking down a company, a fair-sized company in the area - you couldn't afford anything. You had to go appear on behalf of council and here is the company there with their lawyer and their accountant. It was very intimidating. Especially when you first got on it. After you got your feet wet -

MR. ROBERTS: I don't believe the hon. gentleman was ever intimidated.

MR. WOODFORD: No. After you got your feet wet then you could handle yourself very well. Smaller municipalities can't do it, and I say to the minister: now, the $1,000 fine to $5,000 for anybody who doesn't adhere to the fire code in the municipality and does it, we will say, deliberately against the building regulations and so on in the municipalities, as far as I'm concerned I have no qualms with it. Because like the minister said, $5,000 is a small price to pay for someone who is putting up a new home, they build a new home or a new business, and they are not thinking about their families, they are not thinking about the worth of the building or anything else. They just go ahead, build a $100,000 home, and not even a smoke detector. Really.

The smoke detector is another matter. I would like to see a law - I don't think it is in the fire code now - but the minister I think will be getting representation on this. I don't think that under the fire code and under the building regulation that a home has to have smoke detectors.


MR. WOODFORD: Yes, that can –

MR. REID: (Inaudible) you must have smoke detectors or some sort of fire system in your house. There are towns that have introduced that as municipal legislation.

MR. WOODFORD: As a bylaw.

MR. REID: Yes.

MR. WOODFORD: I think that is one of the things that we should all be cognizant of, because I'm finding it funny that the insurance companies don't take it up. Some of them try it, but....

Mr. Speaker, while we're on this fire prevention act, I can't help but mention that usually every fall I get to as many firemen's balls as I possibly can. One of the ones that I went to this year they had the `Firettes'. Usually all those volunteer fire brigades have the `Firettes' involved in their community and so on. In Deer Lake this year the `Firettes' raised $1,500 for the fire brigade in Deer Lake. They passed them over a cheque for $1,500. Reidville did the same thing, $1,000. I went just the other night into Howley. You can believe this now if you like.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: What group gave the money? `Firettes'?

MR. WOODFORD: `Firettes.'

I went to Howley the other night - now, members opposite can just imagine that this is what can be done in a small community. They have a population of - well, there are 261 taxpayers there. The population, I think, is 432 total. I went there the other night and here was a volunteer fire brigade of eighteen members, and the `Firettes' alone, in that small community, raised $5,300, from that little community, the community of Howley, and passed it over to the fire brigade.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) now you want them out of your district.

MR. WOODFORD: I never said anything about taking the community of Howley out of my district, in fact, I'm the one who said: `Leave them in here, leave them in the district.' I just got up here yesterday and said that.

Now, there are some reasons in Howley - the Flights in Howley are good buddies of mine, and not only that, they're good PCs, close relatives of the Member for Windsor - Buchans. But they're a different family altogether, a different crowd altogether from the Flights.

MR. TOBIN: `Graham' is not a bad fellow, now, I have to say.

MR. WOODFORD: No, sir, he is not a bad fellow at all. I don't know how Liberalism got at him, to tell you the truth.

Mr. Speaker, what the government is saving on volunteer fire brigades around this Province, there is no way of putting a dollar value on it. Because there are millions of dollars involved in small councils and volunteer fire brigades around the Province that are not costing the government one cent, and not costing the municipality a cent, except for the fact they're providing some service.

Mr. Speaker, with those few short comments I would like to - the critic can go on for an hour, but I don't think in this case it's justified. The critic usually has an hour. I would say to the minister that the comment with regard to subsection 8(4) is the only thing I question. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. MANNING: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I welcome the opportunity to speak on Bill 32, "An Act To Amend The Fire Prevention Act", an attempt to clarify the role of local fire commissioners, fire chiefs, in conducting investigations and inspections.

This is a great step forward for government and I applaud their effort in doing so. We all will gain by more emphasis being put on inspections and investigations. We have to try to prevent as many casualties and damages to property as we can. The amount of fire-related debts in this Province is way too high, and I welcome any move by government to try to learn more about the cause of fire in Newfoundland and Labrador. The doors must be open so that local fire chiefs and assistants can conduct their investigations and inspections without any hindrance by the act. The education gained from these investigations and inspections benefits the whole Province.

Mr. Speaker, the importance of volunteer fire departments in this Province can never be emphasized enough. In my district alone, there are twelve volunteer fire departments with approximately 250 volunteer fire-fighters and the task they perform is crucial to the safety and well-being of the people of my district. I commend them for their efforts and I wish them all the best in their future endeavours.

I call on government today to do more for volunteer fire-fighters, especially in the line of proper coverage under the Workers' Compensation Act. At present, there are many questions and concerns being brought forward by volunteer fire departments throughout the Province. Our volunteers must be protected. They are parents' sons, brothers, fathers, and they need to be protected as they perform their duties for our citizens.

There was an example this past year in my district of a volunteer fire-fighter who was injured during time working on equipment for the fire department. There were no flames around him at the time, just nuts and bolts and wrenches, still he was performing his duty to ensure the safety of his fellow citizens; but when he applied for compensation, he was turned down because he was considered by the commission not to be in the line of duty. I was appalled by this decision and later I was very upset to discover that due to his injury, the Unemployment Insurance Commission, deemed him not available to work and therefore he was denied his U.I. benefits. He is a family man and this occurred almost a year ago just before Christmas. It took the goodwill and the charity of many people in our area to ensure this family had a happy Christmas, food on the table and gifts under the tree, as you understand, Mr. Speaker.

I therefore call on government to expand on the coverage of volunteer fire departments so that the unnecessary worry does not have to be with our volunteer fire-fighters as they perform their many duties in providing this service to us. A volunteer fire department in any community is a great asset and many people sleep easier knowing they are around to be called upon at any time - any hour, any day to protect them.

I would like to mention in section 3, the amendment concerning the mobile training units. These training units are a major asset to the education of our volunteer fire-fighters and to paid volunteer fire-fighters throughout our Province. Some cutbacks were made a couple of years ago concerning how much training could be done by these mobile training units throughout the Province and I believe government should find funds somewhere to increase the budget for the mobile training units so they can reach the far ends of the Province, especially those people who are not close to major training centres.

In closing I say to government that parts of this amendment are a positive step and I welcome the move. There is much room for improvement in the present legislation and room for new legislation to ensure that people who put their lives on the line for their fellow citizens in this Province are protected and the families that, God forbid, would be left behind in the case of a fatal accident will be secure.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Bonavista South.

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to refer very briefly to "An Act To Amend The Fire Prevention Act", Bill 32, and I would like to ask the minister: in section 4, where he is increasing the fine from $1,000 to $5,000, I am wondering what his record has been in collecting the $1,000 in the beginning? It was there in the bill as it exists today. There is not much point in raising fines and putting higher figures on things unless we put some teeth in regulations. I know full well after being part of a municipal government prior to my being elected here, and also being very involved in the fire-fighting service for twelve years, that it is sometimes very, very hard to go out and carry out rules and regulations, as the Member for Humber Valley referred to earlier there, in smaller communities. People seem to have the mind-set that because you are living in a smaller town you can go and do what you like because the person up the road or in the next town who is not incorporated seems to get away with that especially as it relates to private dwellings.

I remember being with a fire department and having a real tough time trying to convince our council to adopt a building code. Building codes in rural areas sometimes don't mean very much. I think, in our area alone, probably what it meant was for every private dwelling that was built there had to be a smoke detector go in it. It was a very, very hard time trying to convince council to adopt that and I think the fear of it was because it came in a book about that thick, Mr. Speaker. Everybody was scared of it because they thought there were all kinds of hidden things in there. I suppose we will never find a more committed, dedicated group of individuals in any community or in any town like our fire departments. They seem to be involved and they seem to be the people who take the lead roles in their community affairs. I was very disappointed during the last municipal election when I went into a town and the fire chief had put his name in to be a member of council. He had been the mayor of the town prior to now and all of a sudden he found out that because he was the fire chief he wasn't entitled to offer himself for municipal election. I think that should be changed, Mr. Speaker. In fact, I believe I heard the minister on the radio shortly after that saying that he also recognized that it should be changed.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: The fire chiefs not allowing to offer themselves, not being allowed to run for municipal government.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) he knows good honest individuals who -

MR. FITZGERALD: No, I am not talking about that -

MR. REID: You take care of the legal part (inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: Mr. Speaker, I am not talking about that. I tell the minister that I am talking about the fire chief. This particular fire chief was told in no uncertain terms that he could not offer himself for council, and it came from the minister's office that if you are a fireman you can run, but the fire chief could not offer himself for council. I think, Sir, you should look into that as well, because I believe some of those individuals have a lot to offer.

MR. REID: (Inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: No, but I ask you to look into it because I heard you mention firemen. And some of those individuals, in fact, all of the ones I know, have a lot to offer, I think they can bring a lot of credibility to their councils; and I am certain you will look after that. A lot of those individual firemen, Mr. Speaker, and fireladies - firepersons, I suppose we call them, because in some places now there are female firepersons and they do a commendable job. They go out and pick up where government leaves off. It is not uncommon to go into rural areas and see your local TV bingo game being run by the fire department and sometimes being shared with the Lions Club to put money back into the communities, and I commend them for that, Mr. Speaker. I commend them because they have to take the lead role to pick up where government leaves off.

Years gone by when somebody would go to fight a fire, Mr. Speaker, they would go in and all they would have to worry about was taking some water to put on the fire. There was no fear there of what might happen. They didn't need to wear breathing apparatus because it was only wood burning. Today, we live in a whole different world. If you go to a garbage dump fire now or even a fire in a private home, you can subject yourself to all kinds of chemicals and all kinds of lasting hurt when you inhale it, thus the need for better clothing, Mr. Speaker, and better breathing apparatus. I think it is incumbent upon our government to take the lead role and to increase funding to those responsible individuals.

The Town of Bonavista, Mr. Speaker, with a population of 5,000, had a telethon just Friday night past to raise funds to help buy a new fire truck. A town of 5,000 with one vehicle, one reliable fire truck to service the needs of the town and five other communities extending in a ten-mile line from the Town of Bonavista. Those other communities now, Mr. Speaker, are without fire-fighting protection, because in order for that truck to go en route there, then they must leave their own responsibilities behind.

So I ask the minister to make some funding available for places like Bonavista to be able to buy a new truck and give their residents the protection, Sir, that they need and deserve. So I call on the minister and say, if he is going to bring in fire prevention acts then he should also do his part, act responsibly and make sure that there is some funding from government brought forward so that those people can continue to carry out a degree of protection to people and their properties in the communities where they live and serve. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. J. BYRNE: I would, with pleasure, support this bill - of course, who wouldn't? Anything that is done or promoted in the Province to protect fire-fighters or protect the public with respect to fire-fighting, certainly should be supported. I agree with the minister that basically this is a housekeeping bill. There are a few concerns with the bill that I would like to address. The bill refers to volunteers and I would like to have the change to say a few words on volunteer fire-fighters. Basically, I believe that the volunteer fire departments within the Province, such as the Torbay Volunteer Fire Department and the Pouch Cove Volunteer Fire Department are doing a tremendous job to protect the people living in those towns and areas. The Torbay Fire Department is working now, a bit short-handed basically, because they are trying to get a new truck, and their finances don't permit that, and certainly the financial cutbacks of this Administration are not helping in any way, shape or form.

The volunteer fire-fighters - they say firemen, but fire-fighters today, put in long hours in all types of weather, to protect the public, and for what? Basically, for the satisfaction that they feel after having put out a fire or saving a life. What greater feeling could there be than saving a life? But with putting forward proper legislation to help the fire departments and fire-fighters, we play a small part in protecting lives and sharing part of that feeling.

Now, talking about improving the fire-fighters and fire departments within the Province, the minister has a major problem on his hands at this point in time, and that, of course, is the workings of the St. John's Regional Fire Department. This regional fire department was imposed upon various municipalities within the region, the Northeast Avalon. It has only selected certain towns to be involved, which isn't fair, basically, to my mind and, of course, because of that and other reasons, the St. John's Regional Fire Department is not really working properly, and it hasn't worked properly since it was first brought into being about a year-and-a-half ago.

At the time the St. John's Regional Fire Department was brought into being, I was mayor of a small town, Logy Bay - Middle Cove - Outer Cove, and we had meetings with the various municipalities in line with what the minister had asked us to do, to try to give it a chance to work. We had the meetings and, of course, the meetings broke down because of representation. St. John's had a major portion of the representation on that St. John's Regional Fire Committee.

We attended meetings where basically some of the councillors of the day made statements that we would listen to the smaller municipalities and then make decisions as to what was best for the City of St. John's. I didn't think that was fair and I left the meetings, followed by the mayors of three or four other smaller towns - and I don't think the meetings have been attended since.

With respect to the St. John's Regional Fire Department and the services, the response time to the smaller municipalities is a lot longer than in the City of St. John's, within the boundaries of the city itself. Some of the smaller municipalities don't have water or hydrants to fight fires, so the services that they receive are quite different. The further distance you are away from a fire department or a fire station, causes your insurance to go up on your property. That is a factor that was never considered by the city or the regional fire committee when they were setting the formula.

Now, the formula has to be based, or approved, by the Lieutenant-Governor in Council, and the smaller municipalities received bills from the St. John's Regional Fire Department ten times what they were previously paying. Some towns went from $15,000 to $130,000. Other municipalities went from $40-odd thousand to over $400,000 or $500,000 with no improved services. Of course, that was a major problem. It was one of the major causes for the breakdown in the St. John's Regional Fire Department.

In the media, at that time, there were some discussions and ideas being put forth that the smaller municipalities were not paying their way for fire-fighting but, of course, that was not the case. The smaller municipalities had increased, doubled, tripled, and sometimes paid as much as four times what they were paying previously, what was being requested by municipal affairs, and that was never brought to light, basically. So the smaller municipalities were paying their bills, and have been paying their bills. They have been paying more on their bills than was required, under the law.

The smaller towns did have meetings with the minister of the day. He is not sitting in the House at this point in time. We did have meetings with the minister, put forward our problems and we thought we had a sympathetic ear. Since that time, we have had meetings with the Premier and we put forward our case and the problems have not been solved to this day. I have had some discussions with the sitting Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs, and I believe that he understands the problems of the smaller municipalities and I hope in the very near future that problem will be addressed with respect to St. John's regional fire fighting.

The volunteer fire-fighters play an important role. Now, Mr. Minister, a regional fire department that is wholly representative of all the towns in say the Northeast Avalon, does not become a volunteer fire department any more now that it is completely paid for, it is going to be a phenomenal increase in cost to the taxpayer and if you do put in a regional fire department that is not volunteer in any way, shape or form, is fully paid for by the various municipalities, the problem still stands with respect to the services that would be received and the fire stations and the locations of the fire stations and the response time and the equipment and all that type of thing, the way it is being handled now.

There is equipment being used and utilized solely for the purpose of the City of St. John's because of the taller buildings and what have you, that the smaller municipalities would not and do not require, Mr. Speaker. I would have to say I do not envy the minister the problem that is facing him. I will certainly lend my support in any way, shape or form that I could to help solve the problem. I have had discussions with the smaller municipalities and with the City of St. John's, and I do represent a part of the City of St. John's, so I do have an interest or a concern there, but I believe the problem has to be solved in the very near future for one major reason, I believe there are two years gone by now, where the smaller municipalities and indeed the City of St. John's and the City of Mount Pearl, have to have their budgets approved and they are normally approved in December for the smaller municipalities and they are still waiting.

They do not know what is going to come down the road, what is going to hit them; are they going to be hit with $20,000, $40,000, $200,000, $500,000 and it is really stifling the municipalities if they do have any monies available, and believe it or not, some of the smaller municipalities may have some money available to do certain things, but it would not be fair to them to have to take those dollars they have available and pay it out for fire-fighting services, to a St. John's regional fire-fighting service, when they are not receiving the same services. In concluding, Mr. Speaker, I agree that the bill is housekeeping but it gave me the opportunity to say that to the minister in a public forum once again.

Thank you.

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

MR. TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I want to have a few words on this bill as well. Just a few seconds actually, it is not going to be very long, to be honest about it but -

MR. W. MATTHEWS: He cannot speak very long anyway.

MR. TOBIN: No, I just had a couple of question -

MR. W. MATTHEWS: (Inaudible).

MR. TOBIN: Now, Mr. Speaker, I will have to speak for half-an-hour. There are a few things I want to talk to the minister about regarding this piece of legislation. Unfortunately he has decided not to stay here.

There have been a few very valid points that have been raised regarding this act, and certainly in terms of the volunteer fire-fighters particularly throughout this Province that the minister and others -

Mr. Speaker, there are a few very important issues that I would like to address in this piece of legislation if the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation provides me with the opportunity to do so. I should think, Mr. Speaker, the minister today, as I understand it, was caught with his hand in the cookie jar, and now there is some kind of surveillance I think on everyone else who then speaks in this legislation, but I can assure the minister that-

AN HON. MEMBER: I could not let it go.

MR. TOBIN: Well I can't say that. But in any case, Mr. Speaker, this is a very important piece of legislation that has been brought before the Legislature today.

The amendment is something that I do not think any of us are going to quarrel with but at the same time it is an opportunity for us to speak on this Bill, on this piece of legislation. It is unfortunate that the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs decided he would leave the Chamber rather than sit in his place. I would suspect that the minister right now is involved in lighting a fire, starting a fire. There is no doubt about that. I would say where the minister is right now there is plenty of smoke, and where there is smoke there is fire.

There were a couple of issues raised by the Member for Bonavista South that have been raised from time to time, and that is regarding the Workers' Compensation Act for volunteer fire departments. I do not believe that anyone in this Province should be put in a situation as did the constituent of the Member for St. Mary's - The Capes. When somebody who is actively involved and volunteering their time as a fire-fighter in this Province is turned down by Workers' Compensation when he was involved in an accident, and then because he could not go to work in his real job in real life he could not get UI because he was not available for work, I believe the minister should deal with that. I really believe that.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible)

MR. TOBIN: Well, I said where the minister is you can be sure there is both smoke and fire. I think I was right. I think the minister should really look at that, regarding workers' compensation for volunteer fire-fighters. What happened to that gentleman there should not be allowed to happen.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible)

MR. TOBIN: Well, I say to the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation, unlike the minister, my hand is in my own pocket not in someone else's. There are a couple of more issues I would like to bring out in this Legislature today. I say to the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs that this government since they came in office some five years ago has drastically cut the budgets of municipalities in this Province and in doing so they have put a burden upon the fire-fighters of this Province as has never been placed on any volunteer group anywhere else in the county. The minister himself has not been around, the former minister, the Member for Placentia, and the other former minister, the Member for Waterford - Kenmount, the former Member for Waterford - Kenmount, Mr. Speaker, brought the destruction basically of municipal services to this Province. Now, I say to the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs that he should take a lesson from the two previous ministers because both of them are now history, and I think a lot of it had to do with the way they treated municipalities in this Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. TOBIN: One of them I use to refer to as my little buddy. He was a good friend of mine, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Hogan was a good friend of mine.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible)

MR. TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I suspect that when the minister had a bathroom that was too small to get into he did not have another choice. As a matter of fact I understand from this minister that the reason why the wall in the bathroom changed was because the minister got in there one day and could not get out. Whatever way he turned he could not get back out so as a result of that there was a hole in the wall or something. Anyway to make a long story short there is a message to this minister from the two previous ministers that if you treat municipalities in a way that is not right, if fairness and balance is left out, then let there be no doubt that the people of the districts will -


AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I think it was a long time ago the minister hit his head. I would not advise him to do it again today.

If there is any message that this government should pay heed to is the fact that both ministers neglected their districts and the Province's municipal fire-fighters, they should take heed.

Now in terms of fire-fighting, I want to say to the minister that back a few years ago - there is a community in my district that is called Jean de Baie, and I hope some time that the minister will really have the opportunity to come down there with me. They were trying to get money for fire-fighting. They did not have a lot of money themselves - it is a small community - but they raised so much money, and they went out to the Department of Works, Services and Transportation and got a three-quarter ton truck that was going up on tender. They brought the truck home, Mr. Speaker, and they got one of the - you can appreciate that in Marystown there are a tremendous amount of skilled tradespeople in terms of welders, but they made a fire truck.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) flight.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: The hog minister.

MR. TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I am not sure if that is the minister responsible for pigs or if it is the pig responsible for ministers. It is one or the other.

In any case, they made a fire truck; and I say to the minister that it did not cost a lot of money. Actually, they did it basically on their own, and all they got then was the fire package; but officials from his department, as I understand it, looked at it, had pictures taken regarding it, and it was a way that the department could do a lot of work in terms of providing fire trucks to a lot of places in this Province, so I would suggest the minister take a look at that.

The other area is in training, Mr. Speaker, and I do not think that the department is doing enough. The reason why they have not been able to do enough is because of the lack of funding provided by the government. What we have here is a government - no reflection on the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs, and I want to make that clear - but what we have is a government in this Province that is more concerned in looking after the shareholders of Fortis, more concerned with the fat cats -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. TOBIN: - in society than they are about the ordinary men and women who are fighting fires in this Province.

When a government can put more emphasis on giving a $2 billion or $3 billion operation to the shareholders of Fortis, then something is wrong. The priorities are wrong. Yes, and the Minister of Forestry and Agriculture should know that more than anyone, with the slashing and cutting that he did in his budget last year, yet there is no slashing and cutting to the shareholders of Fortis, I say to the minister.

How any government, how any ministers, can sit around the Cabinet table and make a decision not to give a fire truck to someone in this Province and, at the same Cabinet meeting, take the birthright of every man, woman and child in this Province and give it away to the shareholders of Fortis - many of them from mainland Canada - then what are we coming to?

The Minister of Mines and Energy is over there smiling. He should hang his head in shame. He should be ashamed.

AN HON. MEMBER: A $300,000 tax break last year.

MR. TOBIN: Yes, a $300,000 tax break last year.

MR. SULLIVAN: To Fortis.

MR. TOBIN: To Fortis.

AN HON. MEMBER: This year.

MR. TOBIN: This year.

MR. SULLIVAN: $150,000 a year.

MR. TOBIN: $150,000 a year, a tax break to Fortis. This government has given the taxpayers of this Province who contributed to Fortis Trust, $150,000 a year, and will not provide fire-fighting equipment to the people in this Province. That is what is wrong.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. TOBIN: Well I do not know what we are going to talk about, I say to the Minister, but I suggest to him one thing - that I hope when they get the phone call he is around to answer it this time and not his deputy minister. I hope when he gets his phone call he is around to answer it this time - when he gets the phone call from overseas, is it?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. TOBIN: He said: I am aware of the call, but I was in Cabinet and I did not get to take it myself.

Mr. Speaker, when this government is prepared to buckle on their knees to look after the fat cats of society, when this government is prepared to give tax concessions and tax breaks to Fortis Trust, when they are prepared to take the birthright of Newfoundlanders in the name of Hydro, worth billions of dollars a year and slip it off to people with the money, to the money men and women in this country and yet when someone wants money for a piece of hose, Mr. Speaker, money to purchase fire-fighting equipment, this government says, no. Well maybe they should register the fire departments in the name of Fortis, Mr. Speaker, they might get something then but this government has to start looking after municipalities in this Province. They have to start looking after the needs for fire-fighting equipment in this Province. They have to start and start now in closing the door, Mr. Speaker, on their buddies, slam the door on their buddies. This government cannot operate on the buddy system. This government cannot operate in sailing yachts in this Province.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Drinking wine and eating caviar.

MR. TOBIN: This government cannot and must not be allowed to continue to believe that there is only one class of people in this Province and that is the rich.

MR. SULLIVAN: (Inaudible) Fortis is over ninety - Hydro over ninety.

MR. TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I would say to the Minister of Forestry and Agriculture that between now and January enjoy your stay in the front benches of the House because the Member for St. George's is up there, Mr. Speaker, every day of his life itching and getting closer to that seat, every day of his life, Mr. Speaker. I would say to the Member for Exploits that the Member for St. George's is just as anxious and eager and working just as hard to get in your seat as the Member for Exploits is in trying to get into the Premier's chair.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I would say to the Government House Leader if there was a goner it was him. When the going got tough for the Liberal Party in this Province, there were some who stayed around, including the Minister of Forestry and Agriculture and the Member for Fogo, they stuck around but if there was a goner, Mr. Speaker, it was the Government House Leader in tough times. But anyway, Mr. Speaker, -

AN HON. MEMBER: Carried.

MR. TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, it is not carried at all. I would say to the Minister of Health, and with all due respect to the Minister of Health, I have to tell you something now.

AN HON. MEMBER: Okay, tell me.

MR. TOBIN: Yes, I have to. I disagree with some of his colleagues here. Everybody has to speak from his own experience, but I heard a colleague of ours saying, that he wrote the minister and all that but he could not get an answer from him. Well I did not have that experience with the minister, I will have to say it now and I wanted to say it for a long time but had not thought of it, is that, when I had reason, when he was Minister of Finance, to call him about a constituency problem, that minister worked on it and I say that with all sincerity -

MR. EFFORD: And you a Tory!

MR. W. MATTHEWS: What does that have to do with it?

MR. TOBIN: What does that have to do with it, what does that have to do with it, Mr. Speaker? Does not the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation realize that the Minister of Health still is a Tory?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. TOBIN: Doesn't he realize that, Mr. Speaker? He still is a Tory, Mr. Speaker. He was President of the Conservative Party when the Government House Leader was very active I would say and probably a minister in the Smallwood government-

MR. ROBERTS: Then my hon. friend joined us in the Smallwood administration and helped to bring in Grade XII.


MR. TOBIN: Yes he did, he did, after Bill Marshall and a bunch of them turfed him out in Corner Brook. He was turfed out in Corner Brook to a PC convention, Mr. Speaker. He was impeached, kicked out through the door and then he joined the Liberal Party after that, he had nowhere else to go, but he is still a Conservative; don't ever lose sight of that. All you have to do is look at the first couple of Budgets that he brought in; that was the beginning of the destruction of the public service in this Province when he was minister but I want to say, that as a minister, when I had a constituency problem, that minister did not bother about what partisan politics there was, like the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation, but he was there and worked on it and that is how I found him. Other people may find him different.

Mr. Speaker, the other thing I want to say to the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs, is that on the Burin Peninsula, there is a fair bit of fire fighting equipment and no one can argue with that. None has been put there, I don't think in the last four or five years, but there has been a fair bit of fire -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. TOBIN: What is that?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) blocked up (inaudible).

MR. TOBIN: Blocked? No, Mr. Speaker, we did not have it blocked up with fire-fighting equipment before, but I can tell him, with all the buildings that are around, there is neither aerial truck on the Burin Peninsula, and there has been one applied for for a number of years.

AN HON. MEMBER: They do not need it.

MR. TOBIN: No, but I tell you, in all sincerity, when you look at Marystown, for example, and Burin, with the hospital, and the Cow Head facility and the shipyard, and the fish plants and everything else, they are not totally equipped up there. All of the equipment necessary to fight a major fire, if it happens, is not there, and I take it very seriously, and I hope members opposite will, and I hope the minister will when he is divvying up his budget this year.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. TOBIN: What is that?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. TOBIN: Yes, I would say they are.

Mr. Speaker, those are some of the suggestions that I make to the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. TOBIN: Yes, I am about to clue up, I say to the minister. I am about to clue up, Mr. Speaker, unless someone says they want me to clue up quick.

I make those suggestions to the minister. I would hope that he would look very seriously at the requests that are in for my district for fire-fighting equipment. I would ask the minister to do that. There are requests in there from my district, and I would ask him to look at that.

Mr. Speaker, before I sit down, there are a couple of very important issues, I say to the minister. Number one, there are municipalities in this Province, in my own district, who cannot even get people to run for councils. They cannot even get people to offer themselves to serve on councils, and I have one in my own district where nobody offered to run on council. There are a lot of problems regarding that, but some of the problems is the lack of municipal infrastructure, fire-fighting being one, but there are a lot of other areas - with no roads fit to drive over, the only service they get is garbage collection - but fire-fighting is one of the areas that the minister should address in this regard.

My final words would be to the fire-fighters in this Province - the volunteer fire-fighters in this Province. I think that for those of us who travel throughout our districts, attend the various fire-fighter banquets, the firemen's ball every year, realize the tremendous job they do in dedicating their time and efforts in working as volunteers for the people of this Province.

I believe in my own district, for a number of years, Marystown and Burin, and Grand Bank, I think, have been involved over the past few years in receiving some highly recognized awards. I think Marystown has been voted the best fire department for a number of years. Burin, in their category, has received the same thing. In terms of fire prevention programs, again both Marystown and Burin have done reasonably well in terms of recognition and achievement, as have Grand Bank. I believe that it is these types of people who really assist municipalities, who really assist the minister and his department in going out and preaching the message and doing what needs to be done. I commend him and I am sure all hon. members of this Legislature do the same but I would ask the minister, Mr. Speaker, if he will try to do his part in ensuring that they have the necessary tools and protection to work with.

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

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I have a few words on this Bill, the act to amend the Fire Prevention Act of 1991. I guess most of it has been said already by members who have spoken. I think if there is one place that we all have a soft spot in our hearts for it is that of the fire-fighter, their purpose for being and the contributions that they make out and about the communities that they serve. I always try to get to as many of the banquets and functions that they have in the district. It is very difficult at this time of year because every weekend there are two or three firemen's balls on as they call it -

MR. FLIGHT: Fire-fighters.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Fire-fighters - I call them firemen's balls I say to the Minister of Forestry and Agriculture, now if he reads something into that that is not there that is up to him but when I get invitations around my district it is always to the firemen's dinner and dance, Mr. Speaker.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Oh I like feeling the few dollars I have left, I say to the minister. There are not very many so I am trying to hold on to them. There are very few dollars left in my pocket to hold on to, I say to the minister, and there is less of the other thing that I might hold on to.

There are a couple of things, Mr. Speaker, that I want to talk about here and one is in the area of inspections and anything he can do to improve that area certainly bodes well for the people out and about the Province. I have a question for the minister and that is in Section 4, subject to 24 of the act, where he changes the figure of the fine from $1,000 to $5,000. The minister said that was for anyone who violates the building codes, I suppose, really in violation of the building codes and the fire prevention act. This makes me wonder, what more serious violation can one create or make than to violate something that risks the lives of hundreds of people who go into those buildings, whether it is a club or a bar, whether it is someone who builds a service club building in the town. What more serious thing can they do than to be in violation of the building code or the Fire Prevention Act where you have congregations of people on a pretty regular basis who go into those facilities, where they are violating the act, and where the real threat of them not coming out alive exists, I ask the minister? So I am speaking in support of the increase in the fine but the question I have is, Why did you consider going further with it? Because I think there is one way of straightening out some of these problems and correcting them, and that is to increase the fines but, of course, having said that, if you increase the fine for anything then you have to be able to enforce the acts so that you can collect the fines. Of course, enforcement is a big factor in a lot of things these days.

It was only Saturday night that I attended a firemen's dinner at Fortune and I was very impressed at what took place there. They have a very good fire department there. They are very well trained and very professional for volunteers, but one thing that the President of the Fire-fighter's Association for Newfoundland and Labrador brought to the attention of the group again, was he pleaded with people to not cook - because fat fires, I think, are still the number one cause of fires and the number one cause of deaths by fire in the Province, the fat fires where they cook in the open pot, french fries and so on. Apparently, that is still a pretty common practice. And he pleaded with people, particularly leading into Christmas, to get away from that. I guess, what he was saying to people is, if you are going to buy a gift for yourself or your family for Christmas, then buy the modern fryers that are thermostatically-controlled and so on, which I thought was a very valid point.

I want to say one other thing to the minister that came to light on Saturday night at that particular function of the fire-fighters from Fortune. Apparently, the concern or the matter of liability is becoming a big factor right across North America where, I think someone said at one time, all you need is the water to go and fight the fire. Now, they can be well-trained and well-equipped but it is the things they do, say, getting into the home, the way they approach the fire, what happens after they get into the home and how the home is treated with the water and the chemicals, and particularly, if there is a loss of life involved, Mr. Speaker. It is becoming a big concern for fire-fighters and fire departments right across the country now, this matter of liability.

I am sure the minister is very much aware of that. I will be very interested over the next while, probably not now before Christmas, but in the spring, if there is a spring sitting of the Legislature, to see this issue fully developed and the minister bringing something forward because, to me, it is a big dread on fire-fighters and fire departments, this issue of liability and what they can really be getting themselves into even though they are going out for the common good of fire-fighting.

With those remarks, Mr. Speaker, I adjourn the debate for the day. I thought the Government House Leader probably wanted a couple of minutes, so I figured I could go on.

MR. ROBERTS: You don't want to finish the bill now, do you?

MR. W. MATTHEWS: No, no, I (inaudible) just one or two. I will just adjourn the debate.

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

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, we are, of course, in the hands of the House, but I hope that the debate will continue to move with the rapidity it has shown. I don't want to spend my evenings here, but we have to get out of here sometime before the new year.

I will move the adjournment of the House, but before I do so, tomorrow, I remind members, we will debate the motion that stand in the name of my friend for Fortune - Hermitage, which is a motion dealing with education. On Thursday, we will be back on legislation. I've already laid down the order that I'm going to suggest we follow, so we will get on with it on that basis.

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

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