December 1, 1993            HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS           Vol. XLII  No. 26

The House met at 2:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

On behalf of hon. members I would like to welcome to the public galleries a former colleague, Dr. Phil Warren, former Minister of Education.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: As well, seventeen students from the Central Newfoundland WISE Program at Gander together with their instructor and program coordinator Audrey Miller.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Statements by Ministers

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

DR. KITCHEN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, today is World AIDS Day, a very appropriate time for me to present to hon. members the strategy newly adopted by the Department of Health to combat the spread of HIV and to treat and care for individuals infected with HIV/AIDS.

Mr. Speaker, in early fall of last year one of my first decisions as the newly appointed Minister of Health was to commission the development of a comprehensive HIV/AIDS strategy for Newfoundland and Labrador. I want to thank the more than 90 groups and individuals who were involved - the community and advocacy groups, the health care organizations and professional associations, the educational authorities and institutions, the aboriginal groups, businesses, regional health units, the various levels of government, and especially the persons living with AIDS who shared their experiences. The task of providing a framework for exploring and resolving some of the complex issues surrounding HIV infection and AIDS was enormous. But this process of extensive representation and consultation was successful in producing a strategy to co-ordinate efforts in providing province-wide quality services. Their report was presented to me last spring, and action has been taken on a number of their recommendations.

The committee consisted of working groups set up to examine issues related to three key areas: Education and Prevention, Testing and Treatment, and Care and Home Support.

Education and Prevention: Education continues to be the best strategy available to prevent the spread of HIV infection. Education is also the best strategy to develop an understanding of and compassion for persons living with AIDS. The committee identified five key groups affected by HIV/AIDS each of whose educational needs about prevention have to be assessed and met: sexually active adults, youth in schools, youth outside schools, HIV infected persons, and adults, both as parents and professionals.

Mr. Speaker, educational programs targeting these specific groups are being enhanced through television and in a variety of other ways. The Department of Education together with the educational authorities in the Province have developed a plan whereby AIDS prevention will be part of the core curriculum in each of the junior high school grades. Regional and provincial staff of Community Health are collaborating extensively in this effort. The Department of Health is addressing also AIDS education in the workplace.

Mr. Speaker, an expert working committee is presently being constituted to develop protocols for therapies proven useful for the treatment of HIV/AIDS and other associated diseases.

Testing and Treatment: Persons who feel they may be at risk or who are concerned about contracting HIV must have reasonable access to testing. Testing will continue to be done on a voluntary basis, with the results confidential and anonymity protected. Counselling services and testing will be made more available.

In May 1991 the Department of Health announced an anonymous seroprevalence survey to determine the rate of HIV infection in pregnant women in Newfoundland and Labrador. Unidentified leftover blood samples were tested from a total of 14,000 pregnant women during the twenty-four month period ended October 31, 1993. Thirteen cases were found to be positive for HIV infection. Of these seven were from the Eastern Health Region, three from St. John's, two from the central region and one from the Western Health region.

Mr. Speaker, in response to these results the Department of Health's Advisory Committee on Infectious Diseases has recommended that the department issue an advisory to all physicians in the Province that women in the prenatal period be counselled and have HIV testing. The department will follow-up on this recommendation with the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association through the Joint Management Committee. Also, the department continues to encourage individuals at risk to seek counselling and testing.

As well, a Community HIV Prevention Project will be implemented by the Eastern Health Unit early in the new year. The project, funded by Health Canada and by the provincial Department of Health will be located in Conception Bay North and will focus on recognizing risk, providing accessible testing, and enhancing a support network for those who are HIV positive.

Care and Home Support. Mr. Speaker, the committee recognized that persons living with HIV/AIDS wish to live in their communities and have access there to necessary services. Government's decision to implement a single-entry system to access continuing care services throughout the Province through the medium of regional community health boards will assist in achieving this objective.

The Department of Health recognizes that some of the needs identified are more urgent than others, and will have a greater impact on our ability to prevent the spread of infection and improve the quality of life for people living with HIV. Therefore, the department, over the coming months, will concentrate on initiatives with greatest potential to achieve these objectives.

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pride that I table and make public the committee's report entitled Towards the Development of a Comprehensive HIV/AIDS Strategy for Newfoundland and Labrador. Mr. Speaker, again, this Province and this government are among the leaders in health care in this country.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I think it is very positive that emphasis is going to be placed on education and prevention, and certainly a compliment to ninety different groups of people who participated in preparing this strategy for Newfoundland and Labrador with reference to HIV and AIDS.

I think it is very important that the government continue to broaden the public awareness because in a disease such as AIDS where no cure has been found to date, where experts and scientists are still moving in that direction and haven't achieved any success at this point, the broadening of public awareness over and above what is happening today here in this Province is all the more important.

Now, recently, too, an international study showed that the spread of AIDS and HIV infection is not decreasing, in spite of the recent and, for a number of years, increasing public awareness and education. In fact, over 50 per cent of new cases today are in the fifteen to twenty-four age group and that is very alarming and sends a very bad signal regarding the future spread of the disease, and puts a damper on efforts to be able to educate this age group. So we have to target that age group, especially in high risk areas, and put forth increased effort and impetus to address it where it is in a most critical stage.

We must move forward in trying to educate people about carrying on lifestyles that are going to be more conducive to eliminating the spread of AIDS and HIV infection.

It is an interesting point here that pregnant women, I think, thirteen people, in a seroprevalence study indicated, were infected with HIV. It is important that the medical profession and doctors will take this seriously - I am sure they will - and counsel pregnant women as to the high risk and dangers associated with HIV and full-blown AIDS.

In giving assistance to people, it is important that government and the department accept a great responsibility, because an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. And, in providing assistance to families that were victims of blood transfusions, this government, through no fault of its own, dragged its feet for months and months, when Nova Scotia took a lead and gave a more comprehensive plan to assist people who were infected. People here in this Province had to go through a lot of anguish, affecting their families, and over half the people in the Province who were infected in this way, died in the process.

I hope the government will be very aggressive in their prevention education and will eliminate, in the future, at some point, HIV infection altogether, and eliminate that specific dreaded disease from the face of this earth.

We can do our part, and it is important that we take it seriously and show a little more compassion and a little more aggressiveness than we have shown in dealing with families who were affected by it through no fault of their own. I call upon the minister to do that, and to start today.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Does the hon. the Member for St. John's East have leave to address the House?

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

AN HON. MEMBER: No leave.

MR. SPEAKER: No leave.

MR. HARRIS: I would like to have it recorded, Mr. Speaker, that it is the Member for Ferryland, the Opposition Deputy House Leader, who has been denying leave on this matter.

MR. SPEAKER: Further Statements by Ministers. The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. ROBERTS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise to address an important issue which affects many residents of Newfoundland and Labrador; military training activities at Canadian Forces Base at Goose Bay, and in Labrador generally.

I am advised that the Environmental Impact Statement regarding military flight training in Labrador is likely to be released soon, and we can expect the low-level flying issue once again to emerge as a subject of public debate. I am speaking today in this statement to underscore the universal need for a debate which is both informed and balanced.

The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador supports military flight training in Labrador. Military activities are an integral part of the life of Happy Valley - Goose Bay, and are critical to the present and future livelihood of Central Labrador. Goose Bay's industry is the military base; its product is flight training. The base pays out more than $120 million a year on salaries and recurring operating costs, much of which stays in Newfoundland and Labrador. The government recognizes that military flight training is an important part of the foundation for Labrador's sound economic development, and that CFB Goose Bay is an integral part of the economic, social and cultural fabric of that area.

Mr. Speaker, it is the firm belief of the government that all reasonable efforts are being made to ensure that these activities are being carried out with due regard for public and environmental concerns, including the legitimate concerns of aboriginal peoples. We believe, too, that military training in Labrador represents an example of how one can balance economic development and environmental protection. While military training represents the economic basis of the Central Labrador region, as I have said, some people have raised concerns, legitimately, about the potential impacts of this activity, and a comprehensive environmental review is presently under way to address these concerns. This review is being carried out under the aegis of the Government of Canada and in accord with federal legislation. The review is being undertaken despite the fact that to date scientific analysis has identified no negative impacts associated with these activities that could not be addressed and alleviated.

Mr. Speaker, it is our hope, and our expectation, that the environmental impact statement will be comprehensive and balanced, and it is our hope and expectation that this statement will represent an adequate basis for the environmental review hearings that are expected to take place next year.

We encourage all interested individuals to review the environmental impact statement and to participate in the public review process. The government will be directly involved in the hearings, and we are committed to working closely, too, with the Town of Happy Valley - Goose Bay, and the other interested Labrador communities and organizations which want to become involved in the process. We shall assist them in whatever way we can in presenting their views during the review process. As well, the government is prepared to work with all interested individuals and groups to minimize the chances of negative environmental or socio-economic impacts, and to ensure the activity does not impact unduly upon any group or area.

Mr. Speaker, there is no doubt that there are many misconceptions about the activity, and the scope and form of military activities in Labrador are often misrepresented by those who would like to see this activity end.

I hope, while any qualified expert opinion is always welcome in the discussion, that the groups and individuals from outside our Province who believe they have something meaningful to contribute will do so, and I hope they do so in recognition of the needs and goals of the people of Goose Bay, of Labrador, and of all the Province, and not to further causes or agendas that serve another purpose.

We are committed, Mr. Speaker, to ensuring that the public is provided with accurate, factual information to assist in their review of this matter. In this regard, we are committed to meeting with interested groups and individuals, throughout the Province and throughout the country, and the Province will be circulating information to interested parties to assist them in this process, in their own review and assessment. We have prepared an information kit on this issue which I tabled today. The Clerk will have copies for all members, Mr. Speaker.

The Innu of Labrador and peace groups have stated their opposition to military training. This is a reality that we much acknowledge, and government bears a responsibility to understand and respect their objections. Nevertheless, it must be recognized that military training represents the lifeblood of the community of Happy Valley - Goose Bay and Labrador as a whole, and it is an important source of environmentally sound economic opportunity in an area where few alterative opportunities exist. Mr. Speaker, finally let me say that in the absence of the military, the community of Happy Valley - Goose Bay would likely not have been established. Were it not for the base and the military, the future of this vibrant community would be cast in serious doubt.

Government is committed to ensuring that the legitimate concerns of all concerned and specifically the Innu Nation who have taken a very active stand in this, that the concerns of all are addressed in the environmental review process. We do want to say though, Sir, that in our judgement it is a falsehood to suggest that military training will challenge the right of the Innu people to self determination, or their future. Let us be clear, this issue is not about land claims or other aboriginal issues. It is an environmental issue, it is about the future of Happy Valley - Goose Bay and Labrador as a whole. I have no doubt that the members of the House agree that the prosperity and future of one community cannot be undermined by another.

I nevertheless wish to assure all members that the government is committed fully to working with the Innu and other aboriginal groups to address the concerns and challenges which face their communities, and we must be firm in our resolve to work harder then ever to find solutions which are acceptable and which recognize the needs of all interested parties.

Mr. Speaker, the activity of military training and the concept of environmental responsibility can go hand in hand.

Today, I ask, on behalf of the government, that all of those who recognize the overall importance, value and benefit of military training in Labrador to join with us, and help us to ensure that this activity continues in a responsible manner. I also ask those who are compelled to oppose low level flying to please do so with fact and evidence, not fiction and emotion. Thank you, Sir.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. SIMMS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I thank the minister for sending over a statement a few minutes before the House opened. There is not much in the way of an announcement here or anything really specific to respond to other than that the government is making its position known on how it intends to deal with the issue over the next little while and giving members an information kit to have a look at the issue, that is fine and fair enough.

I can say on behalf of our party that we recognize the economic potential that lies in flight training for the area of Happy Valley - Goose Bay and the 8,000 or 9,000 people who live there. It has been ongoing for quite some time. When we were the government we supported it at that time. I guess the only thing that can be said at this date - I guess the minister wants to send a message out to people up in that area in particular. I presume that is the purpose of the statement because there is nothing else in the statement. I can only say to him that we all hope that the environmental review process which is underway will be comprehensive and any areas that are identified as areas of concern, as it might affect the cultural and social activity of the area, will be recognized by the government and any corrections that are required will be undertaken. Overall, in a general way, I think it would be kind of unreasonable to expect to close down or withdraw somehow that entire activity which has been so important to the economic foundation of Happy Valley - Goose Bay. We will see what happens and we hope that the environmental process works.

MR. SPEAKER: Does the hon. the Member for St. John's East have leave to address the House?


AN HON. MEMBER: No leave.

MR. SPEAKER: No leave.

MR. HARRIS: Mr. Speaker, I would ask that it be recorded that the Deputy House Leader for the Opposition is denying me, Mr. Speaker -

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. member cannot make comments without being recognized.

Further statements by ministers?

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

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Mr. Speaker, it is my belief that the rules of this House permit the opposition critic to respond to any ministerial statement. I do not outright oppose the hon. Member for St. John's East speaking on ministerial statements. In fact, if they wish to change the rules of the House to give that right, I feel every single member of our party has the right to speak on a ministerial statement. He is the same as any other member here in the House and the voters of this Province elected us as the official Opposition here and gave us that right. If the House wishes to change that to give any member who wishes to speak that right, I will certainly support that.

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

MR. ROBERTS: Briefly, Mr. Speaker, my understanding is that the rules of the House are silent on this matter. Ministerial statements are provided for in the regular daily routine of business and the custom has grown up that a spokesman or spokeswoman, as may be the case, for the members who sit to Your Honours right may respond. The difficulty I think is that the hon. gentleman for St. John's East represents a party that is not a party in the parliamentary sense and that is the problem. We on this side have no difficulty in allowing him to speak where he wishes.

MR. TOBIN: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. ROBERTS: Within the bounds which Your Honour has laid down, and I believe Your Honour keeps a count on time and there is a ratio of time that is observed. The difficulty, as I say, is that he does not represent a party in the parliamentary sense but the fact remains that the party of which the hon. gentleman is the leader, and in whose name he was elected, or on whose behalf he was elected, is a legitimate political party in this Province. Now, if we want to change the rules we are prepared to look at it but other than that we simply have to carry on as we are and hon. members will have to be guided by their conscience and their believe as to what is best for the public. We believe in debate.

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

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The rules provide that for Ministerial Statements and a reply by the official opposition critic for half the amount of time that the minister uses and then for half that amount of time for other members who wish to speak to a Ministerial Statement. Now, the custom has grown up in this House during the previous Speaker to allow this hon. member, as leader of a recognized political party, and I use that term because that is the term that is used in the Elections Act, if a recognized political party, the leader of that party to respond to Ministerial Statements. Now, there was a brief period of time when certain members of the then backbenchers of the Liberal Party were for their own reasons denying leave. I think that difficulty has been sorted out but it now appears that the official Opposition is taking the position as an opposition that they are going to refuse leave to a registered political party to respond in this House to Ministerial Statements, perhaps out of fear that this party will have more of a voice than they would like the public to hear from. Nevertheless the rules seem to permit them to deny leave. I would like it put on the record though that it was the Member for Ferryland, the Opposition Deputy House Leader, acting presumably on behalf of his caucus who is doing that. I would like the people of Newfoundland to know that it is them and that party that is trying to deny an opportunity for the New Democratic Party and its leader to be heard in this House.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

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

I have just a short comment. There are any number of occasions in the Legislature where leave of all members is required in order to pursue certain matters and any one member has a right to not grant that leave. That has happened on any number of occasions, not only with response to Ministerial Statements. What I really want to say is what a turnabout by the Government House Leader. The Member for St. John's South, the Member for Eagle River and the Member for Port de Grave continuously denied leave to the Member for St. John's East, but I want to say to the Member for St. John's East as well that he did not get up and want to put on public record then what members were denying him leave, so why the change from him?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

I point out that on the point of order it is 2:30 and we have to go into Private Members' Day at 3:00 so unless it is absolutely critical I would just as soon go with Oral Questions.

PREMIER WELLS: I have just one comment on the point of order.

The problem may be the making of the Member for St. John's East himself. I think most of us in the House recognize that while he is a lone member he does represent a political party in this Province but it is a political party that has a pretty low level of public debate in the Province. Perhaps it is really unreasonable for him to insist on responding to every statement in those circumstances. If he would recognize that there is an official Opposition, and times when matters are of particular concern and he wanted to address the thing, I am sure that members on both sides of the House would willingly give him leave.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WELLS: He has really been the author of his own misfortune, as members opposite have pointed out. Last year he got the ire up of members opposite because he abused the privilege, and this year he appears to have invoked the ire of the members on the opposition side of the House. Perhaps I could ask all hon. members to let us give him a fresh start and when it is reasonable and it is a matter of significance but not when it is responding to every Ministerial Statement, which is the role of the official Opposition.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

PREMIER WELLS: When there is a reasonable necessity for him to do it, if he requested it only in those circumstances, perhaps he will find the members more responsive on both sides of the House.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I will just deal briefly with this. There is no point of order here. The practice has been to allow the Opposition half the time the minister takes to make the oral statement and by leave to the hon member, since he is not an official opposition party, but no point of order here that I can see and I direct that we start Oral Question Period at this point.

o o o

MR. ROBERTS: May I make a -

MR. SPEAKER: Does the hon. member have a question?

MR. ROBERTS: No, I want to make a very brief statement out of respect -

MR. SPEAKER: Pardon me, is there -


MR. ROBERTS: I am not asking for leave. It is not -

MR. TOBIN: (Inaudible) on Wednesday.

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, I -

MR. SIMMS: I stand on a point of order.

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

MR. SIMMS: As you can appreciate, Mr. Speaker, members on this side of the House have several questions they want to ask of the government, so if the minister wants to make a statement, and is prepared to add the extra time on so that Question Period runs for thirty minutes still, then that is no problem with us and if you don't have any problem with that, that is fine.


MR. ROBERTS: It was simply the death of a prominent Newfoundlander which I think we should note.

AN HON. MEMBER: Go ahead, go ahead.

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

MR. ROBERTS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I wanted to bring to the notice of the House officially, that a very prominent Newfoundlander died earlier this week. I was not aware of it until I read today's paper, a man that many of us might not have heard of but we should remember him, a man named George Bernard Summers.

Mr. Summers was the Assistant Secretary for Justice in 1934 and became the Secretary for Justice in 1939, that is the equivalent of being the Deputy Minister under the Commission set up, and then joined the British Army and became a colonel during the war, served in Germany and in 1949 at the time of Confederation, entered the External Affairs Department and subsequently became the Canadian Ambassador to Iran and to Chile; and I would simply note that Mr. Summers was a distinguished Newfoundlander, a distinguished lawyer, a distinguished public servant and would ask that the appropriate letter be sent by Your Honour to his family, he was a brother of Dr. William Summers, the well-known geographer at Memorial University here in St. John's.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. SIMMS: Mr. Speaker, of course we would like to be associated with those remarks; while I did not know Mr. Summers and can't honestly admit to knowing much of him other than what the minister has just told us, whatever he has told us in that very brief moment has been very impressive and certainly, he obviously had a distinguished career and we would like to be associated with any sentiments of sympathy that might be expressed to the family.

Thank you.

Oral Questions

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

MR. SIMMS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, yesterday evening, in watching the news, I noted with some interest, statements at least attributed to the Premier, I am not quite sure if he made them or not so I want to give him an opportunity perhaps to tell us, but he has hinted on several occasions in the past that the merger talks with Fortis were not proceeding very well, and as I said yesterday, there were indications that he had told the press that in fact there hadn't been any talks for several days. I heard him say that myself and there is some indication that they may be at a stalemate. I do not know if those were his words or the press' words or what, but if so it would be highly unusual, at least in my opinion, for one negotiating party to make such a statement on speculation, so although the word on the street, I say to the Premier, clearly is that Fortis has been expressing dissatisfaction with the talks, I would like to ask: Will the Premier tell us the basis for his statement, and secondly, may I ask him if Fortis has indeed asked for any changes in government's position before they will agree to continue with the talks?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: No, Mr. Speaker, and this didn't sort of just happen in the last few days.

A circumstance of the same general nature had arisen, I think if I recall correctly it was early October, I am just sort of forgetting the date, or early November I think it was, I forget when it first arose. Anyway, I know that it was the situation before I addressed the Board of Trade on the issue and that is why there is a comment on it in my statement to the Board of Trade.

I didn't make a statement on the issue; I was asked to speak to the news media in a scrum yesterday and they asked some specific questions and I answered them as fully as I could and I had to frankly say: well, there is no agreement yet with Fortis as to whether or not we should even proceed with discussions of a merger. The fundamentals, the basic principles that the government had insisted on be followed have not yet been accepted by Fortis, so as far as I know there has been no change in that in the last few days, but I do not know, with certainty, what the situation is right at this moment.

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

MR. SIMMS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. A supplementary.

We have been hearing for some time now and, as I say to the Premier, it is on the street, so I do not know what he has been hearing, but we have been hearing for some time now that Fortis negotiators really have expressed astonishment at government's lack of preparedness for these talks. The impression is that they are suggesting that the government does not seem to know what it wants or how they are going to get there.

Can I ask the Premier: Is he aware, or can he confirm, or is it a fact, that Fortis negotiators have, in fact, told the government negotiators - Hydro negotiators; that team, whoever it is - in effect, that continuation of these talks is really pointless until government itself understands what it wants and can put that forth in a rational proposal so that Fortis can deal with it?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: No, Mr. Speaker, all of that is utterly false. It is `word on the street', as he says, and word on the street seldom bears any relationship to reality. That is utterly false. In fact, I think just the opposite is true.

One of the problems was that the government was well ahead of Fortis in terms of consideration of this issue, and to be fair to Fortis, that is not, in any manner, intended as a criticism of Fortis. They had not even though about it. This proposition originated with the government negotiating team, and they put the proposal to Fortis in the first instance and asked Fortis if they were prepared to consider it. So as far as I know, Fortis had no work done on considering it and needed some time to sort of get up to speed on the issues that would be involved. So far from the government not being prepared, just the opposite is true.

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

MR. SIMMS: Mr. Speaker - rather interesting.

On a supplementary, Mr. Speaker, he has confirmed once again that there is not even a proposal at this stage. He has confirmed that for us, that there is not even a proposal. Now what we understand is going on is that Fortis have been asked to try to develop a proposal. Now that is what is on the street, I say to him again, which would be a little bit like saying to public service unions, `Before we start negotiations we would like you to prepare our government's opening position', which would be rather strange.

Now he says, `as far as he knows'. I think those were his words. `As far as he knows', nothing has been going on in that respect. Now the Premier himself has friends at Fortis, or he knows people associated with Fortis, and we know of his association. I would like to ask him: Have any of them privately expressed to him their concern about the manner in which government has conducted the negotiations; because, as I say, I would be very surprised if the Premier has not heard it.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker, no, government has not asked Fortis to develop a proposal. I do not know why the hon. Leader of the Opposition keeps insisting on putting these unfounded proposals forward merely because he hears them on the street. It is totally incorrect to say that the government or Hydro asked Fortis to develop a proposal. We did not.

The government asked Fortis if they were interested in discussing with Hydro the possibility of a merger. The two would sit down and discuss it. In fact, the Hydro people were far, far advanced of what the Fortis people could ever have been. That is not a criticism of Fortis. They had no idea it was coming, so they would not have known; they would not have been prepared. The Fortis advisors did, so they were well ahead of the Fortis people in that circumstance.

Since the initial meeting which was, I believe, some time either August 31 or September 1, when the initial request was made of Fortis to ask whether or not they were prepared to discuss the possibility of a merger, I have spoken once to Dr. Bruneau, as the head of Fortis. I received a call from him one night at my house and, in effect, it was because he had received a letter from the Hydro negotiating team which said to him: Hydro is not prepared to continue discussions on the basis that you want to do it. So I assume that he concluded discussions would break off, and he called to see if there was some possibility of getting it back on track - could I meet with him and the head of Hydro.

I agreed to meet with him and the head of Hydro within a day or two. I met with them. We sat in my office for, I don't know, maybe a half an hour, and we talked. I re-affirmed for him that the proposition being put to him by Hydro represented the principles that the government had agreed upon and I would be very pleased if he and the Hydro people could work out a satisfactory basis for going forward. I haven't talked to Dr. Bruneau since. I don't know precisely when that was. My recollection of it is that it would probably be some time, maybe around November 10 or November 12.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) October.

PREMIER WELLS: I lose track of time. It was October 15. It was that long ago. In effect, they had come to an impasse as between themselves at that time and Dr. Bruneau called me at my home. Within a day or two I met with him and Mr. Mercer, as the head of Hydro, and we re-affirmed the principles that government would insist upon. I expressed the hope that Dr. Bruneau and Mr. Mercer and the negotiating teams would be able to work out a satisfactory basis for going forward with possible merger discussions. I haven't spoken to anybody at Hydro or at Fortis since that time.

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

MR. SIMMS: Final supplementary, Mr. Speaker. I must say I find this very intriguing. I think the Premier's words were that Fortis had no idea this was coming. So why would they have developed a proposal. Fortis had no idea this was coming.


MR. SIMMS: That's what you said! Fortis had no idea this was coming.

PREMIER WELLS: But I didn't say Fortis was developing a proposal.

MR. SIMMS: No, but you said Fortis had no idea this thing was coming.

PREMIER WELLS: So far as I know.

MR. SIMMS: Yet, Mr. Speaker - so far as you know. So far as he knows. He expects us to believe that, Mr. Speaker. When you look at what's happened, right back since May of 1989, in questions in the House of Assembly, the appointment by the government and the Premier of his five wise men, a couple of people who were involved with Light and Power, which is owned by Fortis, back on June 4, had no idea that this was coming? Why would they be prepared? That is just hard to believe, Mr. Speaker, and we will pursue it a bit further on another day.

I want to ask him one final question. It's related to something he is purported to have said yesterday, and I believe he said it in his speech to the Board of Trade, but I do want to get it on the public record here. If indeed Fortis pulls out of these talks, or the merger talks don't proceed or are not successful, is it the Premier's absolute intention to proceed with the privatization by other means, even over the massive outcry and objection of the people of the Province?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Let me try and correct some of this confusion the Opposition here keeps wanting to create. They talk about the intrigue. The only intrigue is in his mind, that which he is fabricating and trying to put forward. I never suggested that Fortis was developing a proposal. Never at any time. That came from the Leader of the Opposition. To the best of my knowledge Fortis couldn't possibly have known any of this was likely to come. To the best of my knowledge that caught Fortis totally by surprise.

What I find offensive - and I expect the people involved would find insulting, and is unfair to them - the five individual citizens that I asked to exercise judgement, one of them had a connection with Fortis seven or eight years ago, another one had a connection with Fortis twenty-five years or so ago, and his suggestion that somehow now because they were asked to give me their personal advice, that that caused knowledge to go to Fortis, is insulting to those, is insulting -

MR. SIMMS: (Inaudible) sworn to secrecy?

PREMIER WELLS: Yes, they -

MR. SIMMS: They had terms of reference?

PREMIER WELLS: No, there were no terms of reference. But it is insulting and offensive to those five men and I must come to their rescue against this unwarranted personal attack by the Leader of the Opposition.


SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WELLS: No wonder there is confusion out there, he has been spending a month at trying to fabricate confusion. He has done a good deal of it, a great deal of disservice to the people of the Province.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I will address the specific question that he then went on to ask. In the event that the merger talks do not continue, is it the government's intention to pursue on privatization against the wishes of the overwhelming majority of the people of Newfoundland.

First, there are a lot of wrong premises in that statement. The government intends to pursue consideration of privatization, yes. If it turns out on assessment to be the right thing to do, yes, government will come to this House and ask the House to do it. The problem with the position the Opposition has been taking for the last month is no proposal has even been developed that you can compare against the status quo to determine what is in the best interest. They just want to head off any consideration of any improvement. That is why their proposition is totally unacceptable, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for St. Mary's - The Capes has the floor.

MR. MANNING: My questions, Mr. Speaker, also, are for the Premier.

Almost five years ago, the federal and provincial governments signed a $29.5 million rural development agreement that revitalized and strengthened the Newfoundland rural sector. That agreement, as I am sure the Premier is quite aware, is due to expire in approximately four months. I would like to ask the Premier if his government, as of today, has requested funding from the federal government for a new agreement?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: The minister responsible, Mr. Furey, is not here today. He and the Minister of Finance were in Halifax attending national meetings of the Ministers of Finance and Development. I don't have the kind the detail, but I do know, from other meetings and discussions I have had with the minister, that steps are being taken to find ways to continue funding for rural development councils during the coming year that will start on April 1.

We are aware that the agreement runs out on March 31 and, in the meantime, while discussions are under way, the minister is endeavouring to find means of providing continuation funding to help the rural development councils in the meantime.

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

MR. MANNING: Mr. Premier, at present, one of the proposals being entertained is to have dollars that are now located in the project funding component of the agreement put into the administration component so that development associations and the rural development councils can continue their efforts for another year while they work on another agreement.

First of all, is the Premier aware that it would take $2.4 million to operate the Rural Development Association and councils for one year, and that if they take the money out of project funding, which is left - $1.2 million now - they will be able to operate only for six months? I ask the Premier: Will the government look at providing funding for the other six months so that the rural development movement in this Province will have the time to work out a new agreement and not have the door closed when they are halfway there?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker, the minister has the individual knowledge of this, I do not. I can only repeat for the member what I said to him just now. I know the minister is endeavouring to find a means of funding the continuation of the development councils and the rural development council for the coming year, when the agreement expires on March 31. As to the details, I will ask the minister, when he arrives, to answer the member's question. It is not an urgent matter that must be dealt with in the next twenty minutes, so we will leave time for the minister to answer it. I will take his question as notice and ask the minister to provide the answer.

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

MR. MANNING: Mr. Speaker, I understand that it can't be dealt with in twenty minutes but, as I stated earlier, we have only four months left before the expiration of the present agreement. Surely by now, Mr. Premier, you and your colleagues have talked about this, and you should have decided whether you will seek federal assistance either to fund the rural development movement under its existing structure or under a new plan.

I touch on the Strategic Economic Plan put forward by your government, which outlines seventeen economic zones. Many people in the movement throughout the Province believe that fifty-nine development associations that are now in place will be reduced to seventeen to coincide with the proposed economic zones.

I would like to ask the Premier if he would table in the House of Assembly the proposal that the Province will be putting forward to the federal government to fund the new rural development agreement; and is it his plan, and his government's plan, to reduce from fifty-nine to seventeen the development associations in this Province?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Four months will be more than adequate time for the minister to be back and answer the question on the funding, so I am going to leave it to the minister. He will probably be back tomorrow, or if not tomorrow, the next day, and he can answer the question at that time.

With respect to the seventeen economic zones, and the structure of rural development councils, we have to reorganize our efforts. The minister will demonstrate to the House that there are some 167 different organizations, federal and provincial, focused on development in the Province. They spend, all told, on administration alone, some $41 million - just on administration alone. Now, we have to come to grips with that problem, and it isn't really solving the economic problems, or providing adequately for economic development. We have to re-focus our efforts so as to get the maximum out of it.

It may not be the best thing to do to have seventeen rural development councils or associations coinciding with the seventeen economic zones. It may be that you may need two or three in some zones, you may need five or six in some other zone - that depends on the circumstances. You may only need one in some other zones. We have to spend the limited resources that we have more effectively, and we have to help the development associations, which, incidentally, Mr. Speaker, have served this Province well. I want to acknowledge the contribution that they have made over the years and are continuing to make, and the contribution that I think they can continue to make in the future.

What I want to do is work with them, work with the rural development council, work with the Federation of Municipalities, in order to make sure we put in place a structure that will give us the maximum benefit for the money that we spend and will be able to make the greatest possible contribution toward economic development.

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

MR. WOODFORD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My question is to the Minister responsible for Municipal and Provincial Affairs. Yesterday in the House, I asked the minister if he was contemplating any changes to the MOG - that is, the operating grants for municipalities in the Province - for the upcoming year, next year. The minister's response - he said a number of things - one of them was that within the next week or so, there is a possibility he may know what the new grant system is going to be. He also said that he would hope to at least maintain the $41.5 million cap that was on the MOG for last year.

Would the minister now confirm to the House that because of the fact that the road component is pretty well gone - very doubtful if they will touch the household components - that the only two components they can touch now are the equalization component and the local revenue component? Would the minister now confirm to the House that even if they keep the cap at $41.5 million, this is going to result in very severe cuts to municipalities in the Province?

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

MR. REID: Mr. Speaker, let me say first of all it is a pleasure for me as the minister to get up and have the opportunity to answer questions from a long-time friend and a person whom, I know, knows a lot about municipal government in the Province.

Let me say this to my hon. friend. Yes, definitely there has to be, because as my friend knows, as communities grow, more houses, as communities increase taxation, as assessment and values of properties go up and down, there is movement. The monies that we have to allocate to a particular town changes from year to year. The fact that last year there was a cap on it then we had to eliminate part of our road component grant, if you remember, and brought it down to something like $30, $33.

This year in our evaluations, we find that we have to go further than that. He is absolutely right. The road component grant now has disappeared. So we have to go into one of the other components.

I have recommended to my colleagues - and my staff at Housing have come up with a number of scenarios. And it is my idea and my intention, hopefully, that if we have to cut into, let's say, the local revenue incentive grant, that maybe we could cut into it enough so that we could give back some money to the roads component grant, which would ultimately mean then, the possibility that towns could gain a few dollars. Especially towns in the Province that are finding it very difficult to survive, as the hon. member knows, because of the reduction in the fishery, the closure of fish plants and the revenues being down.

I have to apologize I suppose, first of all, to the House, and to the hon. member: I said I hoped within a week or so - my staff told me this morning that they should be ready in the next couple of days, to let the councils know. I am very pleased, by the way, and I hope you are all listening to me, that I got word this morning that it will remain at $41.5 million, so the cap will be there.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. REID: So, as the hon. member understands, for us to be able to maintain at a time of restraint, and in view of the financial situation of this Province and country, for me to be able to stand here as a minister and say, `At least I held on to $41.5 million' -I feel darn good about it and I think everyone -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. WOODFORD: A supplementary, Mr. Speaker.

Well, the minister may be able to stand in his place and feel good about it but I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, and assure the minister and the rest of the ministers here, that the municipalities in this Province will not feel good about it.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WOODFORD: So the minister has confirmed that there will be more cuts to the equalization component and the local revenue component. He just confirmed that. Having said that, Mr. Speaker, let me ask the minister: Because of the new formula for the repayment on capital debt, that was instituted by this administration a few years ago, can the minister now confirm to the House - and I have heard the number 100, but let him confirm to the House, that there are over 100 municipalities in the Province now, because of this new formula on the repayment of capital debt, that cannot meet the requirements for the repayment on capital debt? And could the minister tell the House - and take it upon himself and his department, go to his colleagues and ask them to change the formula for the repayment of capital debt in this Province?

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

MR. REID: Mr. Speaker, it is not a question of changing the formula of the capital debt, because $41.5 million is $41.5 million. What we can do - maybe the hon. member is asking me to take money away from one community and give it to another or whatever. I don't know how else I could do it. $41.5 million - the only thing that you -

MR. TOBIN: Put it back where it was when the PCs were in office.

MR. REID: I think we have done very well in relationship to what the PCs did and what the PCs had. Mr. Speaker, in 1985, the PCs had $38,950,000 into the component grant under a different system. We are up to $41.5 million, so don't stand and talk to me about what the previous government did. The bottom line, I say to my friend for Humber Valley, is this, that we, as a government, in this Province, have a choice of what we are going to do with the limited amount of money that we have. We have a choice, and I have a choice as an MHA and a person living in the Province. When it comes to health care, when it comes to education and when it comes to social services, we have no other choice but to look at those things, and especially health care, as being more important than providing money to municipalities. I think this government has done an excellent job since 1989. Let me quote, Mr. Speaker, the water and sewage that this government has put in place in this Province since 1989.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I don't think there is an answer to it. I think you are gone beyond the answer to the question.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: A final supplementary, the hon. the Member for Humber Valley. I point out that it is almost 3:00 p.m., so you can make your question and - has leave been agreed to extend Question Period on Private Members' Day?

MR. ROBERTS: I understand we are to go to four minutes after 3:00 p.m. - that would be thirty minutes -

MR. SPEAKER: Okay, fine. I will allow Question Period to continue.

MR. WOODFORD: The minister didn't answer my question at all, Mr. Speaker, not at all, but because of the time restraint and so on, I will go on to my third supplementary. I will have other opportunities to ask the minister a question.

In relationship to the second supplementary that I asked the minister, I will go on to a third and ask him a question on another matter pertaining to capital funding. Could the minister now confirm to the House if he has written, if his department has written, to the some 100 municipalities in the Province who can't meet their requirements on capital debt - if that figure is true, I stand to be corrected on that, that could be a little less - if he has written to them telling them that if they don't pay up, there will be no capital funding for them in the next year's capital funding budget? Secondly, would the minister be able to tell the House if his department is taking from the municipal operating grant the monies that are afforded to municipalities under that grant and putting it towards their capital funding when the municipalities are supposed to be receiving their cheques? Could the minister confirm that?

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

MR. REID: Mr. Speaker, the policy of the Department of Finance in intercepting MOGs or local revenue grants and cheques from government departments going towards communities because of debt charges has been going on - I don't know when it started, the member knows that for years and years this has been going on.

The answer to his question, basically, is I can't see where we would be able to find more money for municipalities. Hon. members yesterday stood and talked about the fire-fighting package and every single one of you said, the minister must look at putting more money into the fire-fighting package, and now we are saying put more money into the MOGs. Next, I suppose, in March or April when we come out with our capital works someone else will be saying, you are not putting enough money into that. All I am saying to you is this, we have reached a point, I suppose, in our history where our revenues are no longer matching what we actually spend; therefore, we have no choice but to, I suppose, create debt, and the way this particular government has been handling the debt, the long-term debt, and I suppose the current account deficit as well, is the right way as far as I am concerned.

Now, in relation to your question about the 100 communities, you are absolutely right. I wrote a letter to over 100 communities, in fact, and I told them that they were behind on their payments to Newfoundland Municipal Financial Corporation, and I told them that in order for them to quality for capital works next year, they will have to try to catch up those payments. Now, listen, my hon. colleague, Mr. Speaker, let me say this to you: most of those communities early in 1994 when the taxes start to roll in, will start paying off that debt, and that debt, most likely, in March or April, or whenever we are ready to announce the capital works budget, in most of those communities that debt will disappear. It may show up again next year but it will disappear, and most of the communities, and I can assure you without any doubt, most of the communities, my hon. friend, will quality for capital works next year and they will not have anything to prevent them in regard to the capital debt.

MR. SPEAKER: We have time for one more question.

MR. WOODFORD: Mr. Speaker, the minister knows full well that those municipalities are not going to be able to take any capital funding next year. And, in view of the fact that it is because of the formula that only lets them go for two or three months, would the minister now tell the House he is going to go back to his colleagues and try to get that formula for the repayment of capital debt changed so that municipalities will be able to take part in these capital funding projects next year?

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

MR. REID: Mr. Speaker, this hon. minister - and I am hon. - does not need someone from the other side of this House to tell him that he needs to do something with the capital debt of this Province. I am familiar with the capital debt that municipalities have in this Province, and if, and when I do that, I will certainly let this House know I am going to do it. I am looking at everything in my department right now because of the economic condition the Province is in, and because the municipalities are in such a financial state as some of them are in, I am at present, currently, ongoing, on a daily basis, looking at new ways to help municipalities in this Province. I thank you very much for your suggestion and if, and when, I get around to coming up with a solution, I will certainly bring it to you, my friend for Humber Valley, and you will probably be the first person to know.

Thank you very much.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. ROBERTS: Motion 5 - which stands in the name of my friend for Fortune - Hermitage, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: I call Motion 5 and recognize the hon. the Member for Fortune - Hermitage.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. LANGDON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Before we begin the debate, I would like to recognize again the former Minister of Education, who is in the gallery today, a great Newfoundlander, a great educator, and a person with tremendous insight into education within this Province, who has played a leading role, no doubt, in educational reform in this Province over the years. With that, I salute the former minister.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. LANGDON: Mr. Speaker, I stand today in the Legislature and put forth this Private Member's resolution, knowing it is one of the most important resolutions that we have debated or probably will debate. The resolution says:

WHEREAS it is essential to our future that we transform the education system of Newfoundland and Labrador from one of persistent underachievement to one whose achievement levels rank with the best in the nation;

AND WHEREAS it is entirely within our capacity to make changes to achieve this goal;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that this House approves in principle the reform of the Elementary and Secondary education system of Newfoundland and Labrador set out in Adjusting the Course - Restructuring the School System for Educational Excellence.

What the government is proposing in Adjusting the Course - Restructuring the School System for Educational Excellence, is a simplified system for the governance or delivering of education in this Province. It is not an end, in itself, it is the beginning of a means whereby we can initiate a change that will lead to excellence in educational standards in the Province. Therefore, I must repeat, it must be a fundamental change to the way that we deliver education in this Province - a fundamental change in the governance of education, if we are to begin the change toward a system of excellence.

There is, Mr. Speaker, overwhelming support for substantive and substantial change to our education system, even though there is disagreement on what is to be done. I agree with the Royal Commission Report and the government's position that the fundamental changes that we will make must be done with the welfare of the child taking precedence over all others. Nothing can, or should blur our vision to the reality that the fundamental, pivotal person in the education process is the student, and with this goal in mind, we must and can work together to build a superb educational system which our children need and rightly deserve, if they are to compete globally.

I wish to say at the beginning, Mr. Speaker, that after the restructuring in the governance or delivery of education has taken place, the church will still play a major role in the Province's education system, and this is set out quite clearly in the government's document. However, there will be a major shift from deliverance of education to control and participating in, areas fundamental to the churches; and that is set out in the Adjusting the Course - Restructuring the School System for Educational Excellence", already here, and it must be stated unequivocally, that it is not the government's intention to create a secular, public system of schooling.

In our system, there is a strong emphasis on morals and values underlining the system; this should be retained, and it will be. It must also be understood, Mr. Speaker, that the proposed new structure is for the future and will affect only the new buildings to be constructed. The new buildings will be the property of the new school boards, just as they were under integration, but all present schools owned by the churches will be owned by the particular church after the restructuring just as it was when the United, the Anglican and the Salvation Army formed a partnership, integrated, some twenty years ago.

Mr. Speaker, as I have already indicated, government has recognized that there has to be a more streamlined approach and less governance, and to continue to pursue the present course will not work. Sharing and joint services among the churches will not see the desired result for our children. There will continue to be squabbling about jurisdiction to the detriment of the children in the system. The money needed to maintain the status quo in education is not there. We heard the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs, only a few moments ago, reiterate that. Today as we speak, the federal government and the provincial governments are in Halifax discussing the same thing, where the federal debt has ballooned from $36 billion projected to over $48 billion. We recognize that it is a Canadian problem, it is a provincial problem, and to some extent, a global problem.

So to continue on the status quo, the millions of dollars - whether it's ten, whether it's twenty, whether it is twenty-seven - in duplication of services can be better spent if it can be shown to improve the system in the classroom, to improve the delivery of education in the classroom. The classroom is where the real learning takes place and this is what this new restructuring is all about. It is a beginning to simplify the structure, the governance of education, so that we can begin to tackle the other problems to work toward creating a system of excellence.

The proposal that we have here, Adjusting the Course, in itself, is not the end, it is the beginning, the beginning to take the system, to improve the system, to improve the standards, to improve the quality of education that the student receives. Mr. Speaker, when this first initial step has been done, then I believe that we can work toward the goal of creating a system of excellence, and I believe this is where we have to start.

Let me reiterate that the change in the delivery of education in this Province will not automatically mean a higher quality of education overnight. We must remember that. It will, however, simplify the system, restructure the education system, and in so doing, as I said, will be the first step on the road to streamlining and refocusing the system to make it easier to attain the goal and that is, the setting of new standards. The accountability of the system will follow. To me that is what the essence is about.

After setting out the parameters for the debate, the question is asked then, Why is there a need for the major restructuring of the elementary and the secondary school system in the Province? There are - and let us not forget that - major forces for change in education in the Province, and the government is in tune with the forces for change and is acting to improve the system with this in mind. The government has recognized, I believe, Mr. Speaker, that education is the engine that runs the economy. Education is the key. We look at the social structure, we look at the economic structure, and if we are to make major improvements in our social programs, if we are to improve the level of standing that our people have, if we're going to restructure that, then obviously, the education system that we give our children is the key. It is, as far as I am concerned, the engine to propel it.

We can talk about economics, we can talk about whatever we like, but unless we have the educational programs in place where our students can avail of the educational opportunities out there to make the economy work, to have the private sector to drive it, then it will never be driven if the education is not there from the people who attend the system. Education is the key. If we had not had the proper education system, then we would not have had the invention of the wheel. Since the wheel we have had the invention of the nuclear age and the exploding of ideas continues at an alarming pace. We are looking at the increase in the knowledge that we learn as individuals, doubling yearly. Now, if our students in the small communities that exist within this Province are to achieve standards that will enable them to compete in the Province, in the nation, and in the world, then obviously, we have to be part of an educational program that is going to provide excellence for the people we represent.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to highlight three forces of change in education. There are many, many others, there is no doubt about that, but I would like to spend a few minutes talking about three of them. First of all, there is a need for higher educational standards. There are no two ways about that. After being in the education system for twenty-seven years, I recognize that. The system needs to be redefined. There needs to be new standards met. I said, a few minutes ago, that if we do not transform the educational standards, expect more from the students who go to the schools, the parents expect more, society expect more, the business community expect more, then obviously,there has to be a redefining. We have to set new standards.

Every aspect of the system needs to be addressed; there are no two ways about that. We have to have higher expectations from students and parents, and members of the community in general. I believe that we are constantly lagging behind in the test that is measured. Now, I know, when we talk about the Canadian Test of Basic Skills and others, we can talk about - as I did with the Member for Waterford - Kenmount yesterday; he said he was probably twelve years old before he knew what a caboose was. I understand that. So therefore, the nature of the test itself probably does show some indication that our kids - probably it is unfair when the test is being given, but accounting for these differences, we still do score lower. There are no two ways about that. There is indisputable evidence to show that.

Therefore, Mr. Speaker, if that is the case, then obviously the means to the end is to simplify the program so that there can be one simplified system that we are talking about here in `Adjusting the Course - Restructuring the School System', so that we can get at the nub of the progress that we want to make in education. So it is just the beginning.

I submit that we must redesign, reorient, our programs to make them more relevant, more efficient and effective. How are we to do that then, if we are going to do that? We, of course, have to involve the students more. We have to involve the parents more, and I recognize that, to some extent, there are parent-teacher associations where parents do have some input there, but not in the way to influence the curriculum. There has to be more local control. There has to be more local input into the education system, and the people who matter most are the parents who have expectations for their kids and for the community in general.

I heard yesterday the person who was Principal of Cabot Institute, addressing the Board of Trade in St. John's, saying: We would like to have input from the business community. If you want students coming to you who would be qualified - because now you are saying that they are not - then don't stay on the sidelines; give us some input. Let us have your input into the curriculum, and you be a part of the curriculum that will, in the end, be able to give us students who will be well equipped for what you would expect of them. Therefore, we have to do that.

So we have to redesign, we have to reorient programs to make them more relevant, more efficient and effective, and we have to work with parents to do that. We must identify and we must eliminate barriers at every level of the education system, to set educational standards second to none. That, I believe, is very important.

I submit to you, Mr. Speaker, that the system is failing the student; there are no two ways about that. I have already said that. We have students graduate from high school who are functionally illiterate - I wanted to say that - and I think that is a shame, in a sense, toward the end of the twentieth century, to have students coming out of the system who are functionally illiterate. The reason why they can do that, Mr. Speaker, is because of the choice within the curriculum itself. We probably need more vigorous standards.

Many of our students can come out of school, for example, and graduate with just one science, and that is all that is needed - one science. They can come out of school not doing chemistry, not doing physics, not doing the honours math, and to me, that is wrong. We have to make sure that the standards are there within the education system to protect students, to give them the opportunity. I honestly felt, Mr. Speaker, when I was a teacher in a school, that many of our brightest kids were given the opportunity, in a sense, to opt out of the opportunity to get a good education and were not even taking advantage of those that were there. Obviously, we have to evaluate that and I am sure that we will. That is the whole purpose of introducing this particular restructuring system, to get at and to give us a system of excellence. There has been, without question, a thorough analysis of the system. The high school program standards are sub-par and will have to be addressed.

Society has spoken and will continue to speak more forcefully than ever because they know the system. That is the point, the system itself. There has to be more accountability, because you have more and more parents out there who know the system, who have come through the system, and they will demand and expect more of their children. Therefore, that being the case, obviously, that is what we are getting at, and the whole purpose of this is to restructure the system to make it work. We know that the standards are too low and they are not prepared for what they see in the post-secondary institutions. Let me be fair by saying, though, that we have made strides in education, nevertheless, other people are making bigger strides than we are so we will never catch up.

After reading Adjusting the Course and much of the Williams Report and the idea in education, I see that there is another major need for what the government is doing here, and to me, it is the demographic changes that have occurred in Newfoundland. When we look at the demographics here, we look at Newfoundland's birth rate going from one of the highest to one of the lowest in Canada. We go back into the 1960s and we see that half the population was school-age or younger. Now, we have 16 per cent of our population that is school-age. Back in 1972 there were approximately 163,000 people in schools in this Province and by the year 2006 it is estimated that it will be less than 85,000. That, in itself, demands that there have to be changes in the way the system is delivered. There are no two ways about that. And if we look at the fact that in the system itself we brought in the Grade XII and, in a sense, reclaimed 10,000 of the students, if that had not happened, we would be looking at a decline of about 60 per cent of the school population. It is happening all over, therefore, there is a need to look at the system. It is fragmented. By streamlining it and making one agency responsible for the program, it will save dollars, as I said, and the intent is the first step in the beginning of the standard of excellence and in accountability to make the system work. We have to have this, here, first, and that is the beginning of it. I recognize that and all of us do, as well.

In addition to that, Mr. Speaker, there is also in Newfoundland a rural shift somewhat, a marked decrease in the number of children in the rural areas. The government recognized that, the former minister recognized that, therefore, that was the whole purpose of re-evaluating and looking at the school system to see a different way of delivering it. Without that, we are in for real trouble and are not spending our dollars wisely. I think the vast majority of Newfoundlanders recognize that.

The third point, as I see it, is accountability, and we see it permeating every facet of society: accountability in the quality of curriculum, accountability in the quality of evaluation -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time has elapsed.

MR. LANGDON: I just want to make one more point.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

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

MR. LANGDON: Just one second?


MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

MR. LANGDON: - accountability in the quality of teaching. And, in the last half of the few minutes I will have later on, I want to deal with that. Because the teachers in the school system are put in a particular predicament in the last half of the 1990s

that was not even recognizable ten years when I was in the classroom. I would like to deal with that and I see that also as one of the major parts of the restructuring that is necessary, accountability within the system. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. HODDER: Mr. Speaker, I am very happy this afternoon to rise and to speak on this particular resolution. I have to say first of all that I am rather surprised at the suddenness in which this resolution has been placed before the House. Members will note that it was on Monday afternoon, two days ago, that the member who presented the resolution, rose in his place and gave notice of the motion that we have before us. At that particular time nobody in the official Opposition had even heard tell of the title. We did not have a copy of the document and when the notice of resolution was read we did not quite understand why it was being brought forward at that particular time.

Also, Mr. Speaker, I want to note that we have before us two very distinct but very greatly different models. The minister rose last week in his place and mentioned the model presented by the church authorities in the Province. Yesterday he indicated or he rose in Question Period and drew reference to the model that the government has presented. This followed his press conference on yesterday morning.

Mr. Speaker, yesterday in question period I asked the minister the following, I said: 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 the quality of educational services in this Province? The minister stood and in part said: another criticism which we are getting - he mentioned the first criticism - is that we are not keeping people well enough informed and government is very conscious of that. We want to make sure that people are informed. So last night - meaning Monday evening - when we met we made a very conscious decision that we would let this particular model adjusting the course - we would let this go 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. Further in his comment he said: We will make sure that this model is fully discussed.

Now, Mr. Speaker, we have two very distinct divergent models. The minister has said that he would allow for people in the Province who have opinions to be shared, time to share them. But the day before he says that, his colleague rises and moves a notice of motion that he would introduce today a motion which would in effect bind the members of this House to agree to the principles outlined in the resolution and outlined in the document presented by the government. I find that very difficult to accept.

Our party on this side, to show the effort that we put forward, I want to inform the House that last evening this caucus met into very late in the evening, we met again this morning and we have been trying diligently to try to come to grips with some of the great issues that are here. I have to say to my hon. colleagues that it is not possible in twenty-four hours for members who do not have a great background in education and its governance or for any hon. members to be able to come to a decision as to whether or not they can accept the principles that are laid out in this document. So therefore our caucus finds itself in a great quandary.

We recognize that the church model focuses on the traditional principles of the church and on the perception of constitutional rights, but, Mr. Speaker, it is totally unfair, either directly or indirectly that we would place the blame of the - as the member says here: persistent underachievement - we will place that blame on the denominational system and that they would share the blame for all the ills and all the deficiencies in the educational system. Mr. Speaker, that is not only unfair, it is unjust and is not substantiated by empirical data, so in our restructuring we have to be aware of the fact that the role of the churches in education has changed over the last 270 years, set since 1723, the first church/school was built in Bonavista.

The role of the churches in education has changed dramatically in the past twenty or thirty years. We have seen a gradual change that is both positive and I believe has led to the betterment of a delivery mechanism in education. However, I have to say to this hon. House, in spite of the fact that I see in their document some very encouraging aspects, I like some of the principles that are here, I like the concept of neighbourhood schools, that is an encouraging strategy, I like the part that talks about school accreditation, it needs refinement and it needs definition; it needs an implementation structure but I am certain that will come with time.

I like the strategies for school improvement. School improvement is where improvements have to start. Every single principal wants his or her school to be the very best place it can be every single day, and it is an oversimplification for us to stand here and to say that changing the structure is going to change the school system. Now, Mr. Speaker, we have to address things like teacher morale. The teacher morale of this Province at the moment, is not very high. Teachers feel that over the years they have been put upon; they are facing classrooms of twenty-five, thirty, thirty-five - yesterday I talked to a teacher who was trying to teach thirty-nine chemistry students in one class, at one time with a lab equipped for twenty-four.

Now, Mr. Speaker, we have to talk about the fact that in St. John's alone, every single day, there are approximately 1,000 children going to school hungry. They are going to school hungry. Before we can go and fill their minds with information, we have to address the fact that these children have to have their stomachs filled first. I like the part in the report that talks about parental involvement, and that is a real issue in this Province today. We have too many parents who are leaving too much in education up to educators and probably up to the Legislature and the government as well. We have to promote active partnerships and we are not quite doing enough in that direction.

Another problem in education is the disruptive behaviour of students. A school board official told me as late as three days ago, that his particular school board has seven legal notices, directing the school board to implement ways in which one child can be moved away from another child because that child's education is being directly interfered with by disruptive behaviour on the part of another student.

Mr. Speaker, I like some of the things in this report. I like the parent councils. I think that the future strength of our educational system lies with the parents, and I like the fact that we are going to be promoting that kind of thing; but of the government's document I have to ask: Is this the bottom line?

I was very discouraged last evening to hear the minister say, on television, that he is prepared to change a few words here, dot a few `i's', cross a few `t's', and then the next thing he says is, `...but we are willing to negotiate with the churches'. You cannot have it two ways.

There is such a distance between the two models that it will take all of the ingenuity of all members of this House to come to a sensible conclusion and, Mr. Speaker, we, as fifty-two elected members of this Legislature, owe it to the children of this Province to do everything we can to make the best system that we can get for the children of this Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HODDER: Mr. Speaker, the question is: Can we reach a consensus in time for implementation in September, 1994? Is there room for compromise? How do we find a common ground? We have been four years into this process, two years of Royal Commission, and it has been a year and eight months since then. Then we have a document presented to us by the churches last week, a document by the government yesterday, and we are expected today to kind of say: yes, we agree; no, we do not agree. We find that totally unreasonable, particularly after the minister stood in his place and said that he would have consultation with all of the stakeholders.

Mr. Speaker, I take no joy in saying that this process is headed for a Mexican standoff. If it is, then all of the initiatives that we have made in the last several years will be lost. Make no doubt about it, the church leaders are going back to their perception of their rights that they brought into Confederation, as outlined in Term 17 of the Terms of Union, and in Article 93 of the Constitution of Canada. Make no doubt where the churches are headed. Make no doubt at all that the minister, in this particular case, has set up a conflict - and I do not think it would be deliberate; certainly it is not. The minister is a person, I believe, of great integrity; however, now is the time for dialogue. Now is the time for compromise. This is not the time for rigidity. This is not the time for inflexibility. This is not the time to see who can be the toughest. This is not the time to see who can be the biggest bully. This is not the time for people to be so fixed in their minds that we do not have any room to manoeuvre, because if we do, then I am telling you now that in 1998 the people who sit around this House will be having this discussion all over again.

So today I am saying to the hon. members: Begin the dialogue to involve all of the stakeholders. We believe in meaningful and constructive dialogue with the teachers, with the parents, with the duly elected school boards of this Province. This happens to be a constitutional democracy. I believe in the democratic process. It is our children; it is their future, and no less than 100 per cent effort by all the players will do justice to the children, and assure we do not get bogged down in years of finger pointing and the fostering of non-productive and non-educational strategies.

Mr. Speaker, I believe the government's whole process is rapidly running off the rails. It is running off the rails because the minister stands in his place on one day, promises dialogue, promises to talk to all the stakeholders, and then on the very same day we have a Notice of Motion by a colleague of his saying: but, members of the House, we want you to approve this in principle. So therefore, how can we reasonably go out today and say to our constituents: we want to have your input? But I want you to know before I ask you for your opinion that I am totally in favour of the government's proposal.

That is not a way to have dialogue. That is not a way to have compromise. So therefore I do believe that the private member's resolution today is non-productive. In fact, it may very well serve the purpose of de-railing this whole process. That I believe would be a disservice to our children. You see, passage of this resolution today may solidify the wedge which is already firmly planted between the government and the churches. If we're interested in reform, please be assured that we can do without a sledgehammer approach.

The current approach of the government by introducing this resolution, I don't believe is in the interests of anybody. It is not in the interest of the churches, it is not in the interest of the government's agenda, it is not in the interest of duly elected school boards, and right now it is not in the interest of the children of this Province. Because the potential, if it is passed, is for messages to be sent about the meaningfulness of dialogue that we might not want to send.

Mr. Speaker, when we had our lengthy discussions last evening and this morning, we had a quite a lengthy discussion on the merits, the principles, the process. At the end of our discussion there was great concern. There was a plea put forward that we would, on this side of the House, ask the government to involve all the stakeholders and to get back to meaningful dialogue, and not to do something which is going to be counterproductive to reform. Our caucus this afternoon will have a free vote. We will have a free vote on this particular motion. Some members are ready to make a decision, other members are not ready to make a decision. Therefore, given the fact that we do not have a guarantee of the dialogue that we would like to see happen, many members on this side cannot support this resolution today. They do it out of care for the system and care for the children of this Province. Thank you very much.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. L. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I appreciate the opportunity of engaging in this debate this afternoon, because I believe that the subject matter under consideration is concerning an issue that is immensely more important or of greater significance than anything that we have in a long time, or will in a long time to come, discuss in this Chamber. It is more important than the Hydro debate, whether we want to believe it or not. Hydro debates talk about physical assets. This debate revolves around the consideration of the greatest asset that any society will every have, or be known to have the responsibility to manage, and that is our children.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. L. MATTHEWS: They are our heritage; they are our future, and they are, and should be, I believe, our greatest concern.

This afternoon, Mr. Speaker, I bring, hopefully, a perspective to the consideration of the question of education, and the matter of the churches involvement in it, in a partnership with the state, from a parent's - and probably from a lay person's - point of view.

My first involvement in educational matters in the Province goes back to about thirty years ago when, out of necessity and because of increasing enrolments, I was asked to get involved in a local school committee and become the treasurer thereof, because we were in a situation of circumstance where we had to provide - as was and is the responsibility today of churches - for the education of children. So it was an interesting time because it involved, at the grass roots and at the local level, what education, for the most part, is really all about. We were involved in buying land, and developing plans, and going to the banks, raising mortgages, and then going back to the committee rooms and setting out a schedule of fee assessments, and then becoming bill collectors and trying to figure out how we were going to collect the assessments.

It is interesting that the activities of the local school committees twenty-five years ago, which disappeared substantially under the latest reorganization, it is interesting that the focus is now being returned somewhat to the involvement of parents - parental involvement at the local level. I guess it is déjà vu; it is back to the future, if you like, in some respects in the evolution of education.

Mr. Speaker, I enjoyed that time. I enjoyed my number of years involved as a school trustee with the school board that did me the honour of electing me for eight years to represent the constituents, but more particularly I think I appreciated and enjoyed my involvement as a table officer of NLSTA, the association of all the school boards, because it gave an opportunity to get a perspective on how all boards and all jurisdictions were discharging, and undertook and understood their responsibilities in educational matters. It gave an opportunity to meet with the various stakeholders - ministers, government officials, the NTA, the Superintendents Association, and on and on they go. I hope that I will not lose that perspective, but that I will be able to translate that into positive debate in this Chamber.

Now I want to say at the outset, or at this point at any rate, that all of the problems that are alluded to in education are not because wholly and solely the churches are involved in governance. The problems in education, contrary to what sometimes the negativity of the media and others would present, are not problems that are directly related to administration and governance, but they have more to do with some fundamental things that some agencies would like to shy away from but which I will take the risk of alluding to a little later as I speak.

What has evolved over the years then, Mr. Speaker, is a tripartite arrangement between parents, between churches, as representing the classes of people, and between government, who have gotten together to discharge the responsibility of education, and administering education, and organizing education. Education, in the first instance, fell into the lap of the churches, if you like, rather by default. It was not their choice in the 1800's, but governments did not have the money; governments were not very much the in vogue thing of the day, I guess, back then. I do not remember clearly, but my recollection, from reading history, is that they were forced into the enterprise of education, and over the years there has developed this tripartite arrangement whereby we have arrived, through an evolutionary process, that we are at today in education.

The last major restructuring, I guess, was attempted, and it was done, to the greater good, I would suggest probably, of education, in some cases through the Warren Royal Commission. I happen to know the gentleman who wrote the report. In fact, I happen to be looking at him. In fact, he was my predecessor in St. John's North and I am delighted that he is enjoying retirement and not anticipating coming back, I hope.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. L. MATTHEWS: At least not in the old North or the new North.

We are involved in this discussion in education for three primary reasons. First of all we have the situation of declining enrollments. Something that was new to us commencing in the '80's. As a consequence of that of course we have an overabundance of facilities in some cases. We have the realities of a new world out there in terms of what is being demanded of our students in order for them to be able to access employment opportunities. Of course, underlying all of this is the serious financial situation that all governments find themselves in today, in trying to address whatever area of jurisdiction that they are responsible for. So the enrollments are going down, the demands for higher education are increasing and certainly the dollars are less to meet the challenges. So then how do we go about it? I like the wording that is used on this government document and it says: adjusting the course. This is not a process of hi-jacking, usurping or unilaterally declaring jurisdiction in the matters of education.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. L. MATTHEWS: What is education all about anyhow? What do we understand education to mean? Well I happen to believe that education, Mr. Speaker, is more than literacy and numeracy. I believe it involves the whole person. I believe there must be a holistic approach and understanding of what real education is all about. It involves literacy, it involves numeracy, it involves the academics but make no mistake that from my perspective and judgement, it involves a clear understanding of moral values, it involves a clear understanding of accepted and perceived spiritual values in the Judaeo-Christian tradition in which we, I think, all recognize as being our setting and it involves young people coming out of a school with a good understanding of social graces. We do not want to graduate, I am sure in any sense, brilliant ignoramuses or people who do not have a good clear understanding of all of the requirements that will be accounted for of them in order to be successful in our society. So education is a big, big subject and I think we should understand that.

Now the Royal Commission on Education talks about 211 recommendations, and I am not getting into a lot of statistics, thirty-four of them have to do with governance. In that report it was recognized that there were seventy-four situations in the Province where across denominational lines could be some consolidation. It also recognizes, and it is a fact that in 85 per cent to 87 per cent of all of our communities, not withstanding that, there is only one system of education operating. Where there is only one board running a school system in those things. Of the seventy-four situations that were identified for possible consolidation, twenty-eight of them have already been addressed and others are ongoing.

So I say, Mr. Speaker, that this is not really so much a fiscal discussion as some people would like to make us believe. I was interested back in - I think it was 1986, the NTA put out the Exploring New Pathways document and there was much to do about $75 million worth of waste in the system. Two or three years later the Royal Commission comes out and says there is $14 million to $19 million worth of waste in the system and that intrigued me. So I took the opportunity in Gander one day, in dialogue with Dr. Williams, I said: where is the variance, where is the difference? All of this negativity about waste in the system has been put out and propagated and people are believing it. Who is right? His answer to me and I will quote him as close as I can, he said: the $75 million was a guesstimate and my figure is factual. So that is the type of negativity that has been created about the system that we have now as a result of the dissemination of incorrect information.

Let us look at some of the things that the two documents that have recently been exchanged between the church and government contain. I believe there is much in both documents that have to be given due consideration. I'm surprised quite frankly - and I'm pleased to say that I'm surprised - that there has been such significant movement on behalf of the boards in their position, if you like, in terms of governance. I see at least three major areas where six months ago I don't think school boards could have put that position on paper that they did the other day.

Number one is in the area of the reduction of the number of school boards. Number two is in the area of consultation with respect to the expenditure of the construction grant. The third one, I forget what it is, but I will find it here in a minute and tell you. There are three things there. The third one has to do with the processing of electing school trustees. The number of boards, the process of election, and the method of distributing construction funds are three areas that I don't think the government and the churches are really that far apart on. That is, to me at any rate, encouraging to see.

The churchs have received the document of course from the government. The government's position, as outlined in the restructuring thing that we have here, sets out some ideas, I would suggest, on which there can be further dialogue and development, leading to a consensus model for education. I want to be very clear, Mr. Speaker, in saying that this, at the end of the day, in my view may not be the final product. I want to be clear in saying that what the churches have given us will not at the end of the day be the final product. If it is, then we have no need to discuss what we're discussing here today.

MR. TOBIN: If that's the case you can't vote for this today.

MR. L. MATTHEWS: I will tell you what I will do at the end of the day, and you will see, my hon. colleague. I will give my reasons for what I'm doing.

Let me say also that all of the restructuring in governance and education, in and of itself, will not give us a better product necessarily in the classroom. There are other agencies involved in education that have to be consulted and have to come on side with significant changes. I make no apologies in referring to the organization that has a very legitimate and a very real and good interest in education, the NTA. That organization, however, has some fundamental flaws to deal with within its own organization. Because on the one hand they are a professional development organization and association, and they do some tremendous work in that area; on the other hand, they are really a labour union. I have seen from personal experience where these two areas of responsibility or interest work at cross purposes to the betterment of the educational system.

We have to deal with that, or somebody has to deal with that, so that at the end of the day we get two things into our classrooms. We have to get significantly probably improved and enriched and better programs put into the hands of the educators, and we also have to put the proper personnel in front of the student who can best do the job of educating in the subject area or in the discipline in which they are employed to do.

Mr. Speaker, we also have to take account of the minorities out there in our society who do not have rights in education, or at least do not have sufficient numbers to exercise rights today. We have to ensure that everybody - no one person in our society is more equal than the other, in my point of view. Every person must be brought into the discussion and into the decision making process.

I believe that at the end of the day we will develop a model that is acceptable to all and that will allow for the improvements we need and for the refinements we need in education, if all parties, principally however the church that is representing the classes of people and the government representing the people of the Province talk and dialogue and discuss and even negotiate with each other as long as it would reasonably take to achieve that model. We have to do that.

I want to be unequivocal and say this: that I have no stomach for the concept of having to go to courts and either enforce or justify or legalize over again, or otherwise seek to take away fundamental rights that are enshrined in the Constitution, and even if they were not in the Constitution, let us not forget that we are dealing with rights that have great historical roots and great historical depth and so there is the historical right, there is the Constitutional right, and, Mr. Speaker, I can support the exercise of dialogue, I can support the exercise of talking about revamping the system as long as at the end of the day, the rights of the minorities, the rights of every individual in the society in which we live, are protected and they have the opportunity to exercise those rights in an educational context that is acceptable to them and that will be acceptable to society in the improving of our system.

MR. TOBIN: (Inaudible).

MR. L. MATTHEWS: Mr. Speaker, too much good has been accomplished over the past 150 years to be destroyed by a confrontation or a perception of confrontation at this point in time and I am optimistic enough to believe, in fact I know, I will go that far, at least I think I know, that it is the intention of all parties to arrive at a model for the governance and for the operation of education that will be acceptable at the end of the day to all stakeholders. This whole thing is about dialogue. It is not about, as I said a few minutes ago, stripping rights and hijacking anybody's individual and vested interests in anything. I believe, Mr. Speaker, that the exercise that we are now involved in, as between government and churches, is an exercise and a dialogue that has to go forward, first of all without distrust.

I believe we can achieve what we have to achieve in developing a model through negotiation rather than through litigation. I believe that, and I commend the efforts of the churches and the government to get on with the job and these positions that have been put forward, it is my view that they are starting positions in the final negotiation of an acceptable model for all of us.

MR. TOBIN: (Inaudible).

MR. L. MATTHEWS: I have, Mr. Speaker, and I will tell my hon. friend that I have no problem with the principle of negotiating and restructuring and that is what the spirit of this motion is all about -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. L. MATTHEWS: - we are not dealing -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. L. MATTHEWS: Mr. Speaker, we are not dealing with legislation.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, if I may, on a point of order.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Justice, on a point of order.

MR. ROBERTS: All are agreed that this is even more serious than most of the matters which we deal with. Now we heard the gentleman from Waterford - Kenmount in silence; my friend from St. John's North is making a most excellent speech, I wonder if the gentleman from Burin - Placentia West could restrain himself. He may have strong views, I accept those, he will have an opportunity to speak and we will gladly listen to him in silence as well, Sir.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Burin - Placentia West, on a point of order.

MR. TOBIN: To that point of order, Mr. Speaker, perhaps my interjection was out of order and I will accept that, but at the same time, what I was pointing out to the Member for St. John's North, is that what we are asking this resolution to do this evening, is to approve in principle a document entitled, Adjusting the Course, and they cannot get away from that issue.


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

I remind all hon. members that it is certainly against our Standing Orders to interject and to interfere with any member who is speaking in this House. I ask all hon. members to restrain themselves and to let all hon. members be heard in silence as they speak in this particular debate.

The hon. member's time has elapsed.

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave?

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


MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

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

MR. L. MATTHEWS: Thank you very much. Let me conclude then, Mr. Speaker, by saying this. I don't think any of us - I cannot, and I don't think any of us - can accept the proposition of reducing everything that we do in society to the lowest common denominator, and in all too many instances that lowest common denominator is the almighty dollar. Rather, I believe that we have to respect the parental, the social and the moral values that we now have and that we adhere to. I believe that at the end of the day the discussion and the dialogue, proceeding on the principle of goodwill - which coincidentally coincides very nicely with the season that we are now entering upon. This is a season of goodwill. I trust that the goodwill of all of the stakeholders in this Province, as it relates to the development of an acceptable model for the governance in education, will not cease with the ending of the Christmas season. I hope that it will carry on.

We can be positive in our contribution to this debate, or we can be negative toward it. I believe as we proceed along the principle of ensuring that constitutional rights will be protected, that individual rights will be protected, that we will respect each other's view. While we may not always agree on everything, I believe that there is enough goodwill and enough agreement on both sides to come to the proper resolution, and the proper construction, or reconstruction, if you like, of a situation, a circumstance and a model that will allow all our people to follow and continue to be involved in the enterprise of education. And that the children will come out of the classroom a whole person, a complete person, a person who has the academics, a person who has the moral values, a person who has the social graces, a person who has the understanding of the big world, and above all a person who has the good decency and common sense to respect the values and the interests of others while they might not agree with them.

If we can produce that at the end of the day, by virtue of the construction of a model, I can support in principle, no problem, a document that says: let us reconstruct.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. L. MATTHEWS: It is not a `let us hijack,' it is not `let us take,' it is not `let us break,' it is not `let us usurp,' it is not let us do any of these things that the bogeymen would like to make us think we are trying to do. It is an exercise to develop.

MR. TOBIN: What a slight on the churches!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. L. MATTHEWS: This is the government document, Mr. Speaker, that I refer to, not the church document. The church document is equally -


MR. L. MATTHEWS: Let me, Mr. Speaker, clarify who the bogeymen are. The bogeymen are bawling, the bogeymen are shouting, the bogeymen are the mean-spirited people who won't let the poor guy from St. John's East speak. They're the guys that -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. L. MATTHEWS: They don't have a lot of heart, and I only hope, Mr. Speaker, that they have more substance. Mr. Speaker, thank you very much.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. E. BYRNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. As a former adult educator there is nobody, I think, more in tune - I shouldn't say more in tune, but in my opinion, our system needs to be reformed. I have witnessed first-hand and have worked with hundreds of adults who have borne the brunt of a system that has not been fair to them. Adults who are parents today of children who are going through a school system which is doing the same to their children as it did to them.

On principle, the motion - I must return to the resolution that the Member for Fortune - Hermitage put before us on Monday. The Member specifically said that:

"WHEREAS it is essential to our future that we transform the education system in Newfoundland and Labrador from one of persistent underachievement to one whose achievement levels rank with the best in the nation;

AND WHEREAS it is entirely within our capacity to make changes to achieve this goal;

BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED that this House approve in principle the reform of the elementary and secondary education system in Newfoundland and Labrador -

If he had stopped there I would have been prepared to support that motion, but he did not stop there. He went on to say, `as set out in adjusting the course.' Now, what I find somewhat reprehensible is that the Member for Fortune - Hermitage, referring specifically to this document on Monday - and as a member of this House I received it yesterday, on Tuesday - the spirit and the principles outlined in this document, which I may support at the end of the day, or which I may not support at the end of the day - I believe that I, as a member of this House, have not been given ample opportunity to support or not support the principles outlined in the government's own agenda here in `Adjusting the Course'.

MR. FLIGHT: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: I can assure the Minister of Forestry and Agriculture that it is not I who will sit on the fence at the end of the day in terms of issues. If government puts forth a issue that deserves attention and deserves to be supported and I believe that it should be supported, then i will stand and support that issue.

I want to say that in terms of debating the principles, the process which the government has put in place thus far is evident today by the resolution that the Member for Fortune - Hermitage put forth in this House on Monday. We have not been given ample time to discuss with our own constituents, to discuss with people who are affected by the principles outlined in this document, we did not consult in any way, shape or form, and I think that is the point.

While I can concur with the majority of the speech by the Member for Fortune - Hermitage in terms of what the goals and objectives are of education, in terms of what is achievable, what we should be working towards for our children, and while I can concur with the most eloquent statements of the Member for St. John's North, I will remind both of them that there are platitudes that nobody in this House, nobody in their right mind would disagree with. But I must remind the members of this House that we debating a resolution to support this document, not platitudes. We are not debating a resolution to support eloquent statements. We are speaking to a resolution put forward by a member of this House. Do we support a government document, `Adjusting the Course', or do we not? That is the question of the day. I believe it is premature and I find it highly unusual that a resolution is brought before this House to debate a document into which very few people have had input, government officials, church officials, not elected school boards, not parents. I find it highly unusual and premature that we are sitting today putting the motion, are we going to support this document or are we not going to support this document? I would find it much more usual if government said - or if the Member for Fortune Hermitage said, he put forward a motion that would see a Select Committee of the House travel the Province to gain input from duly elected school board representatives, from parents, from teachers, on the principles set forth in this document, and that legislation come back before this House so that we could stand and support what will be, as opposed to what may be, what we hope to be, what we really don't know will be.

MR. MURPHY: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Discussion is not here, I say to the Member for St. John's South. I also say to the Member for St. John's South that as a member of this House, I certainly would expect that a document such as this would be given a lot more time that twenty-four hours beforehand, so we could have a discussion on merit and not a discussion on platitudes, clouds, and other things.

MR. MURPHY: (Inaudible) to take twenty-four hours -

MR. E. BYRNE: No, I am not telling you that, Sir. I say to the Member for St. John's South that it does take longer than twenty-four hours for me to discuss with parish councils in my district, to discuss with teachers in my district, to discuss with the Parent-Teacher Association in my district, the principles that are outlined in this document. That is what I am saying to the Member for St. John's South, and this resolution introduced has not given me, as a member of this House, the opportunity to do that.

I want to say that this seems to me - I am suspect of the whole process of this resolution. It is yet another example of an attempt to hoodwink members of this House - hoodwink us - into clearly coming down on the government side or on another side. It is not a debate upon principle.

AN HON. MEMBER: Cheating.

MR. E. BYRNE: Some of my colleagues have called it `cheat' -

AN HON. MEMBER: Cheating.

MR. E. BYRNE: Cheating.

- that the resolution is attempting to cheat the people of the Province into not having adequate input into this.

Now, the government has said, and arguably - they can argue that much consultation has taken place in the Williams Report, and I agree that there has been much general conversation and consultation taking place with respect to changes in the school system, and many of the principles outlined in the Williams Report and the Williams Commission, that I have read over and over on numerous occasions, I support quite readily. However, there has been no specific consultation on the models outlined, or the model outlined by the Minister of Education and the government. There has been no specific consultation with people who are the stakeholders, with people who are directly affected by the model being put forward here.

I am not going to belabour the point any more, but I will clue up by saying this to the Minister of Education.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: I understand there is lots of time, but I am not in the habit of trying to waste the time of the House either, I say to some of my colleagues. I have said what I wanted to say, that I believe this document should be given fuller viewing by the public at large. I cannot support the resolution as put forward by the Member for Fortune - Hermitage, but that is not to say that at the end of the day I will not support the principles outlined - or I may not - but I need to be given the opportunity and the chance before I can stand up in this House and debate the merits of what is in this document.

I want to say to the Member for St. John's North, as well, that this document is not about restructuring. This document is not about the spirit of negotiation. Restructuring has taken place; negotiation has taken place. Right here are the principles outlined, the government's agenda, and the model it sees. Discussion is over; restructuring is over; the sprit of negotiation is over.

We are to debate today this resolution, and I ask the Member for St. John's North, Do you support the resolution? Do you, like myself, wish to have more debate by the general public on the document here?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

AN HON. MEMBER: You are being asked to endorse the document.

MR. E. BYRNE: What we are being asked today is to endorse this document, and we, as the House of Assembly today, are not prepared - now some of the government members may be prepared. Obviously, Oliver Langdon, the Member for Fortune - Hermitage, was prepared. Obviously, they were fully prepared, in putting forth a resolution that words exactly what is in this document, but I can tell you this: I was not prepared. I was not given the same opportunity as the Member for Fortune - Hermitage, and I think that is what is despicable.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, let me first of all say to all the people who participated in this debate, before I get into my few words, that indeed, this is perhaps the most difficult subject for most people to debate; but let me also congratulate the Member for St. John's North, in particular, on a very excellent speech. I think, Mr. Speaker, that the gentleman has put the whole issue in complete perspective.

Mr. Speaker, the Member for Kilbride, well-meaning as he is, I am sure, I believe that he believes what he says. I don't believe he is a member who will stand in this Legislature and say one thing and believe another. I think the Member for Kilbride believes what he says, but I have to say to him that I believe he is wrong. I believe he is wrong when he says he needs more time before he can vote for or against this resolution. I say to him that the time is now, to make up his mind and for the rest of us to make up our minds as to whether we believe in the principle that is put forward in this resolution. And what is the principle? What is the principle, Mr. Speaker, that is put forward in this resolution? Is it that there will be no denominational schools in Newfoundland? No. Is it that there will be all denominational schools in Newfoundland? No, Mr. Speaker.

The principle that is in this resolution, Mr. Speaker, I say to the Member for Kilbride, is the reform of education. Well, does he believe that reform, as contained in `Adjusting the Course' - the kind of reform that is contained in this document, the kind of reform that not even the churches basically disagree with. Basically, what we are saying is, that the education system has to be reformed for the benefit of our children, so that in our schools, there is higher achievement.

Mr. Speaker, the debate over reform in this Province has gone on for centuries almost, certainly for decades. I can remember as a young university student, as an education student in the 1960s, being engaged in this same kind of debate. I can remember as a school teacher being involved in this same kind of debate. I can remember as a principal of a school and as an assistant superintendent, being involved in this same kind of debate: Should there be reform of the school system or not? And the answer, Mr. Speaker, is obviously, yes. So I congratulate the Member for St. John's North.

I heard somebody on the other side accuse him of skating around the issue. No, he wasn't skating around the issue, he was expressing his convictions and his feelings for education in this Province, and I have to say to him that I appreciate, and I am sure everybody in this Legislature appreciates his dissertation on just what the role of the churches has been in education in Newfoundland.

Mr. Speaker, how important is it that we reform education in the manner that this document puts forward? How important is it to us? How crucial is it?

If you look, Mr. Speaker, at page 2 of the document, it says: `Our students also consistently perform less well than others on key measures of achievement. We cannot allow this situation to continue.' So, Mr. Speaker, it is crucial, that we, today, take a stand for our kids, take a stand for Newfoundland, I say to hon. members opposite - not that they play politics, not that they try to throw doubt. The time is long past in this Legislature for politics on this issue, and I understand the role of an Opposition member; I understand the role of the House Leader for the Opposition, I understand the role for the critic for the Opposition, and maybe, in the process, as part of the debate, it will work, but I think the time is long past for people to do those kinds of things.

Mr. Speaker, what kind of situation are our kids facing today? What kind of situation are our communities in this Province facing today? Let us ask ourselves the question. Mr. Speaker, I don't think it is any great secret that we are moving from a resource-based economy worldwide - that is being said wherever you look today - we are moving from resource-based economies into economies that have to do with information, with technology and with the provision of services. That is the type of economy that we will be moving into. And I think the Member for Grand Bank, in particular, will understand what I am saying, because he is a great proponent of the outport way of life in this Province, the Grand Bank way of life, of the Fogo way of life. And, Mr. Speaker, we face a crisis in this Province that is unparalleled, in that we are seeing people move away from those communities since the depression. Yes, we do.

We are seeing people move away from those communities and they are in the process of dying. And I say to that member opposite and to every member in this Legislature, that unless we can educate our people to solve the problems that we have, and if you look at them from where we sit today, us old fogeys, never mind the young guys who are in the back benches over there, but us old fogeys - I am not talking about you, `Rick' - If you look at the problems from the perspective from where we sit, they seem almost at times to be unsurmountable. I grew up in a community of 200 people. Two hundred and fifty was the population. Let me tell you, Mr. Speaker, today, there are four families in that community under the age of forty. If that doesn't mean that that community is dying, then I don't know what does.

You can go up and down the whole Northeast Coast and in many other outports in this Province, and you will find the same kind of thing. Do we want that way of life? I don't think we want to stay there if we're not producing. There is no reason for us to stay there unless we are producing. If we are going to solve that type of problem, if we are going to make those communities viable again, we need to educate our people with excellence. We need to take new looks at the problems that we have to deal with. That is the reason that you have, today, to say: let's get on with the job and let's see that the type of society that we want in this Province is forthcoming.

Mr. Speaker, standing here today, I don't believe that there is anybody against the present system just to be against the present system; neither do I believe that there is anybody for the system just to be for the system. I don't believe that at all. I don't believe that we are in a situation where it is a total impasse. I say to the hon. gentlemen opposite that if they carry on the same kind of behaviour that they have carried on with the Hydro deal - and I agree, it is a different issue - but if they carry on that same type of behaviour, of trying to play partisan politics, they may well do a disservice to this Province the like of which we have never seen.

AN HON. MEMBER: No comparison.

MR. TULK: No, there is no comparison. I agree with the hon. gentleman, there is no comparison. The import of this resolution, of this issue, far outweighs any Hydro issue, as the Member for St. John's North says.

MS. VERGE: (Inaudible) government's incompetence.

MR. TULK: Pardon me?

MS. VERGE: (Inaudible) the government's incompetence.

MR. TULK: The lady for, or the person for Humber East, would know a great deal about incompetence. She was the Minister of Education for years and nothing happened. She would know a great deal about it. She is an expert on incompetence, Mr. Speaker.

AN HON. MEMBER: Never got fired out of a department (inaudible).

MR. TULK: Pardon me?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. TULK: Talking through - what? A phone? Mr. Speaker, (inaudible) talking about, are over.

Mr. Speaker, is the government trying in any way to remove discussion and to remove parents or remove any other people from this debate? No. If you look at page 40 in this document, for example, you will see that this thing is designed so that there is a great deal more input at the local level.

Let's deal with some of the problems that are inherent in the present system. Again, I say to the Member for Humber East, she would know a great deal about that. She was the Minister of Education. Just let me give her a recent example about the intransigency of the present system, and that is in the area of school construction.

I just had - well, I don't know whether it is unfortunate or fortunate in the long run - in Gander Bay, an incident take place where the school had to be closed down. Maybe it was good in the long run, because in the final analysis the people will end up with a school which is suitable to their needs, as opposed to what their kids were going to before. The intransigency of the system led to a situation where, in order for the government to respond to what was an emergency situation, and I think the cost was - and the Minister of Education can correct me if I am wrong but I think the cost is going to be somewhere around $4 million. What that will mean is that the government itself in order to respond to that emergency will have to find somewhere in the order of $7 million because if they give so much money to the integrated system they have to give a corresponding amount to the other systems. Now, Mr. Speaker, that is unacceptable to me, I have to say to you that that is unacceptable to me.

Mr. Speaker, the administrative overload that is carried in the educational system, again I believe the former Minister of Education, the Member for Humber East, will nod her head in agreement again. The overload, the top-heavy administrative level that we find coming from all angles in the educational system, needs to be done away with or at least needs to be focused. Mr. Speaker, this system is designed to do that.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. TULK: No, wrong again, lower down the scale than that - never quite made it to the top.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. TULK: I was one of what they call Supervising Principal or Coordinating Principals.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. TULK: That is right. I agree with the lady. That was done away with, thank you very much, that was done away with.

Mr. Speaker, this system that we are now talking about focuses more on the classroom and that is the way it has to be. The bureaucracy is there, Mr. Speaker, and needs to be - and I am sure, as I said, the Member for Humber East will agree with me on that.

Mr. Speaker, there is much todo made about the fact that this government is trying to stop dialogue that this is laid down. I believe that what we need to solve this whole problem and I believe what we will see in the final analysis is a document that, as the Member for St. John's North says, does not reflect either what is in this document here - or is not the final word in this document here and is not the final word in the church's document. I believe you will see over the process, and surely this is a part of the process that we are now going through: do you agree in principle that we need to carry out the type of reforms, with all those principles in mind - one, two, three, eight of them I believe - to provide a basis for our expectations, standards and achievements, does the Member for Kilbride agree with that principle? Does the Member for Kilbride agree that we should provide for greater accountability to the public?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) document.

MR. TULK: That is what I am reading, the document. Does the Member for Kilbride believe that we should provide for church control of religious education and related matters, guarantee church access to schools for this purpose and give the church presence on school boards and provincial bodies?... I do and this document does that.

Even in the matter of school construction, which I talked about just now, the churches in this Province have the right to appoint three members to a provincial school construction body. Now if that is not input then I don't know what is. If that is not a presence on a board, then I don't know what is - to allow the children the opportunity to attend the school nearest their home.

Now, Mr. Speaker, as I said to you, I come from a rural district and I had a friend who was another Supervising Principal - for the Member for Humber East - who used to call the school buses the `yellow scourge' because when you got up in the morning, you met them going and coming. I can tell you now that in this Province there are kids being bused pass schools going to other schools, other kids are being passed this way and the irony of it is, Mr. Speaker, that when they leave school in the afternoon, you cannot tell one of those kids from the other. But, Mr. Speaker, the number of school buses in this Province is outrageous. The kind of money that we spend on school busing in this Province - somebody said the other day - and this is an important point - there is a measly amount of money that reaches the classrooms in terms of materials to teach children. If we could double that measly amount we would do wonders for the education of our kids. I believe it was Dr. Crocker who said that. Mr. Speaker, anything that saves that kind of money, and gets that kind of material into the classroom in the school, is welcome.

I asked the Member for Kilbride if he believes in the principle of facilitating greater parent involvement in the education of their children. That is one of the complaints that people have around this Province today - to improve school-based leadership and decision-making.

Mr. Speaker, today in Newfoundland we are still living under a system very similar to the old school inspector days - and the Member for Grand Bank is old enough to recognize that; I believe he is.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. TULK: You were? No you were not. No, you are much too kind a gentleman for that - and that is saying a mouthful, for the Member for Grand Bank; I can assure you of that.

Mr. Speaker, we are still living in that kind of system, in spite of the fact that we have people today, at the school level, who are more educated, better qualified, than some of the people who are trying to tell them what they should or should not do. Now, Mr. Speaker, that kind of reform has to take place as well, so I ask my friend from Kilbride if he is against that.

To provide for participation in governance for citizens who do not belong to the denominations now holding rights - Mr. Speaker, the Member for Humber East is a great believer in the rights of minorities, and I say to her that she has done a very good job in bringing some of those rights of minorities through this Legislature. She backed off a bit when they put her in the Cabinet a few years ago, but now that she is back in opposition, the free-wheeling bird again, she does a fairly good job of it, and she is to be commended for it. I am sure she will talk to the Member for Kilbride and tell him that he cannot be against those kind of principles.

MS. VERGE: (Inaudible) equal participation.

MR. TULK: The hon. lady should talk to her federal counterparts about equal participation - especially (inaudible).

To provide for school construction based on Province-wide priorities - Mr. Speaker, we dealt with that one, so I ask the hon. gentleman if he is against that one - if he is against that principle - to keep the number of decision-making and administrative entities to a minimum. Now, Mr. Speaker, I ask the hon. gentleman if he is against that one.

Mr. Speaker, it is obvious, before I clue up here, and I have to clue up because -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. TULK: Do I have a minute - a second?

MR. SPEAKER: Does the hon. member have leave of the House?

MR. TULK: I would ask the hon. gentlemen on the other side - they showed just now a very big problem with an emotional issue like this, and again I sympathize with the Opposition House Leader. Today we have heard them say they have to have a free vote. Now, Mr. Speaker, a free vote means - do you know what it means? A free vote on an issue like this, on a principle like this, means that the hon. gentlemen cannot get their act together.

Mr. Speaker, I say to them, in closing, it is time that they did, and we will look forward to them at six o'clock, standing up on their convictions and voting in principle for a very worthwhile resolution.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Fortune - Hermitage.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

I want to thank the other members who have participated in the debate - the Member for Waterford - Kenmount, the Member for Kilbride, the Member for St. John's North, and the Member for Fogo.

Obviously, before my time ran out the last time, I was speaking about three forces of change within the society in which we live, and the last one that I just touched on was accountability in the quality of teaching. We're talking here about a structure, a document, that we hope will streamline education and see the dollars that are saved go back into the system to make the system better for the people who matter most, the students.

Mr. Speaker, I began teaching in a three-room school back in 1965, I think it was, in Seal Cove, Fortune Bay. It is a long time ago. I grew up in a situation where the Member for Waterford - Kenmount - it was his father who built the school that I finished my education in in Seal Cove. We grew up in a system, and when I graduated we had Grades VII, VIII, IX, X and XI in one classroom. The community that I grew up in, I went back and taught for a year or two in a situation there. I taught for twenty years in the high school in Point Leamington. I said, if you can remember, earlier, that it was in the last number of years the situation has totally changed within the classroom. There are no two ways about that.

We have to have more dollars to go into the system to improve the product. Just let me give you a list of things that the teachers in the classroom are concerned with and have to work with day in and day out. Catherization. (Inaudible) tubal feeding. Postural drainage. Colostomy functions. Checking blood and sugar levels. Administering medication. Now, you tell me that the training that we've had for teachers and teacher assistants and so on prepared for that? We're not prepared for that system.

Yet, at the same opportunity, the people out there in this Province, are demanding excellence. Society has placed that demand on us. Regardless of what the physical disability may be, the social disability, or the intellectual disability, the teacher finds them in the classroom. As the Member for Fogo said, if you could only take some extra dollars and put into the teaching of the kids in the classroom to improve the situation, we could work toward that. If it is one dollar that we would save as a result of streamlining the system, one dollar, it would be worth it, but it's millions.

There are limited funds. I talked on that earlier. Limited funds, fiscal restraint. We don't have the dollars to do what we want to do. The Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs whom I alluded to earlier said that. We have declining enrollments. In my own community this past week the people in the community had to make a decision about what to do with their students in Levels I, II and III. They were faced with this scenario, stay within the school, stay within the system, lose three teachers, end up with a tri-level number of grades in a classroom, or to look at the system where you could get chemistry, physics, honours math, French, advanced writing and be bused ten kilometres down the road. The people looked at it and said: we do not want to get rid of our school. We want to maintain the presence of the school in the community but we understand that education exists for the kids, exists for the students. We want to make sure that our students when they leave school are prepared for the global economy, the communities out there. These kids have to be prepared and if they went to post-secondary education without the chemistry, without the physics, without the honours math, without the French, without advanced writing they would not be on the same level playing field. This is what education is about.

You can poke all these things across, hallelujah, amens, or whatever, it does not bother me, because what we are talking about is the fundamental right of the students in Newfoundland and Labrador to receive the best educational opportunity available to them, and that is what we are talking about. There has been a growing willingness on the part of denominations to share. I taught in a school where I used my own personal example where we had Catholic, Anglican, United, Seventh- Day Adventist, Salvation Army, Pentecostal, and Jehovah's Witnesses. I taught under that system for twenty years but the rights of the students were guaranteed. The pastor came to our school and did religious education. He did the assemblies we had. The same thing with the Seventh-Day Adventist, with the Catholic people. It was an open system. Nobody walked into the system and said, do you belong to the Anglican faith, or the United faith, or the Pentecostal faith?

We operated as a family and if you go back and look at that system, and I said it when the kids were here yesterday in this House of Assembly, look at some of the students who have gone through the system. Students with Ph.Ds, students with medical doctors degrees, physics, chemistry, and it goes across the religious lines. We are not talking about that. Under the proposal we have in front of us, and I want to say that, there is an opportunity for us to take the next major step to ensure further co-operation among the churches and share in the full interdenominational system. That is what we are looking at. This is what we are asking for here, a full interdenominational system among all churches. I believe that at the end of the day with the goodwill of everybody concerned that will happen. Within the proposed system that is here we have guaranteed the rights of churches to religious programs and religious practices. That is guaranteed. There is nobody denying that. The churches will play and will continue to have their rights guaranteed here.

I am an optimist and am always optimistic that we can have the best of both worlds, full integration of our churches in a full interdenominational system where we have excellence at the same time and have a strong program of moral and religious education. Now, isn't that what it is about? I believe that is the crux of it; full integration of all churches in a full interdenominational system where we have excellence and at the same time have a strong program of moral and religious education. How can anybody be against that? That is the principle under which we operate.

I am optimistic too, Mr. Speaker, that the people of the Province will support this proposal with full and open debate, and it will be accepted by the people of the Province, and I believe that will take place over the next little while, I believe that the churches will get together, and individually consult their people, and I believe at the end of the day they will do what is best for the system; to talk and to restructure and to dialogue, it is not a closed system, but all of us realize that the system we find ourselves in has to have major changes.

Let us not forget, Mr. Speaker, that at the end of the day, when it is all said and done, the real beneficiaries of all of this will be the children. If we forget that, if we forget that premise, Mr. Speaker, that what we are doing is not for the real benefit of the children of this Province, then I think all of us have to re-evaluate why we are here, if we are not prepared to do that.

The denominational system does not serve students' needs. I believe that. I said that a few moments ago. The present system as we are structured now does not serve the needs of the students, there have to be changes, and if I can use the expression that the former Minister of Education said in the House many, many times: we need more scholar for the dollar. We are looking at a rare resource, we do not have the money to do all the things that we want to do. More scholar for the dollar, and to me that is prudent, that is fiscal prudence, and if we come to this House, obviously one of the things that we must take into account, we must consider that it is the people's money that we are spending. It is the people's money it is not ours and we have been charged with that right to discharge that responsibility and I think that if any of us here, in the system did not do that, I think we would be wrong and certainly, I speak for myself, that if I were not here discharging my responsibility in that way, then I would not be here.

There are new duties as I said, placed on the structure, and I believe, Mr. Speaker, that in time, when this resolution is passed, that the people in this House, on both sides of the House, will see that we are supporting in principle the idea of restructuring elementary and secondary education in this Province. The people who administer the program in the schools, as I said, are under the gun, as is the government. We have to be accountable and if we are not accountable to the people then obviously we can see what is happening. This is why we need to deliver the system so that we can get the curriculum, the teachers, the students evaluated to approve the system. At the end of the day that is what we have.

We have no choice, Mr. Speaker, we can come to this Legislature and we can find excuses for not having the document or whatever the case may be, we can find that. We can stay in this Legislature for days and months and years on end but obviously we have no choice, we have to address the system, we have to address the problem that is facing us and we have to be man/woman enough to do that. What it says is to support in principle the idea and that is what we are doing here today. We are not asking to do anything other than that and I believe that it is incumbent on us to do so.

We, Mr. Speaker, politicians, are under the microscope and I don't need to tell the people here, we have all seen that over and over again. In the Western World - in the provinces that we see in Canada and it was evident in the last election, we are under the microscope and there is so much cynicism about us. The fact that we are here for our own political ends and so many other things. That is not why we are here. We are here because we believe that we are in the best position to represent the people in our districts on both sides of the House and that is what it is all about. I am sure that is what the people did when they elected the Member for Kilbride or the Member for Waterford - Kenmount. I believe that it is our responsibility to come to this House and to discharge the responsibility that has been given to us and that is what I intend to do and I am sure we all want to do that.

Mr. Speaker, I know that I could continue on for another eight or ten minutes but I don't believe there is any need to do that. I believe that we have discussed it, I believe that we know where we are going, we have the resolution in front of us, we are asking that this resolution be approved in principle so that we can restructure, start to restructure, start to begin the improvement toward excellence in the education system in this Province and with that, Mr. Speaker, I would conclude the debate.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

All those in favour of motion 5, the resolution of the hon. Member for Fortune - Hermitage signify by saying, `aye'.


MR. SPEAKER: Those against, 'nay'.


MR. SPEAKER: In my opinion the ayes have it and the motion is carried.

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. ROBERTS: The motion is carried - there is no other business. We do not want to start another private members motion at 4:53 p.m., I assume. Am I reading the temper of the House correctly? In that case I will move that we adjourn until tomorrow Thursday at 2:00 and that the House do now adjourn.

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