December 13, 1993             HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS        Vol. XLII  No. 34

The House met at 2:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Dicks): Order, please!

Statements by Ministers

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

DR. GIBBONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to inform this hon. House, and the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, that at approximately 5:20 p.m. on the afternoon of Friday, December 10, 1993, Dr. Angus Bruneau, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Fortis Inc., informed Mr. David Mercer, President of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, that the Board of Fortis has concluded that it would be inappropriate to continue discussions toward the establishment of a single investor-owned electrical utility to serve our Province.

I understand that this decision by Fortis reflects the fact that the parties have been unable to reach agreement on the fundamental terms of the proposed transaction, and they believe that it will not be possible to reach an agreement which meets government's expectations and is fair to their shareholders.

No further discussions between the parties are planned.

Mr. Speaker, in light of this development, government intends to pursue consideration of other alternatives for the privatization of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro.

Thank you.

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

MR. TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, first of all let me say that we are not overly surprised, on this side of the House, that Fortis has decided to discontinue discussions. We had heard that rumour shortly after the Premier announced that discussions were going to take place, that Fortis were not overly anxious in terms of the type of negotiations that were taking place.

The only thing that is surprising, let me say, is that it was last week in this House, after the Premier had given indication that the talks were broken off, that the Minister of Mines and Energy gave an indication, very strongly, that the talks were on again, negotiations had taken place over the weekend, and everything was up.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time has expired.

MR. TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, in conclusion let me say that again it appears, like the situation with the Minister of Fisheries, the Premier does not tell his ministers what is taking place.

Oral Questions

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

MR. SIMMS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, in view of the information that we now have, both from public reports earlier this morning and now by the minister's statement, can I ask the Premier if he could tell us a little bit more about why Fortis broke off the negotiations? What was it specifically that Fortis rejected?


MR. SIMMS: What fundamental -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I'm having trouble hearing the hon. Leader of the Opposition above some of the conversations taking place.

If the hon. Leader could continue.

MR. SIMMS: Mr. Speaker, I don't know if I need to repeat it. I think the Premier got the gist of my question. What fundamental terms did Fortis reject which the minister referred to in his statement?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: I wasn't at any of the negotiations so I don't know the detail, but I understand the circumstances to be this, or to be able to be reduced to essentially this.

Fortis viewed it from a point of view of really wanting to take over Hydro. The Province disagreed with that approach. When the initial discussion was held certain ground rules were laid out. The Province would insist that the executive management of the new company and the board of directors of the new company would be structured in such a way that they would be really subject to the Province's approval. Fortis were made aware that the Province was simply not prepared to turn over to a corporation managed by the existing management committee of Fortis the entire hydro-electric assets of the Province.

That has nothing to do personally with the individuals who are there. As a matter of principle the Province wanted to put together a corporation that would be genuinely a merger of the two, that would reflect the level of assets that the Province and its people were putting in it, and so the propriety of having the Province determine the basic thrust and executive management of the company. Fortis didn't see this as being in their interest, they didn't see it as being sufficiently beneficial to their shareholders, as they've said in their release. They of course have the right to decide that.

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

MR. SIMMS: Yes, thank you, Mr. Speaker. On a supplementary I would like to try to find out precisely and to get on the record how the government intends now to proceed, in view of this action taken by Fortis. Is it possible, for example, that the government might in fact revise its position in order to try to get Fortis back to the table, or is that off totally? Is it possible that the government might abandon altogether the idea of privatizing Hydro? Or will you be proceeding specifically, clearly, full speed ahead, on the idea of privatization on a stand alone basis?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Theoretically, I suppose, anything in this world is possible, so I can't say that any specific thing is not possible. I would say the government has no intention whatsoever of revising its basic policies. The government's decision at the moment is, if we are not able to achieve the fundamental objectives that we set out for merger, merger will not take place. We do not intend to pursue merger or to adjust, no intention at this stage of adjusting those fundamental objectives as far as merger is concerned. Again, it is theoretically possible that privatization could not take place, but our intention is to proceed with privatization of Hydro on a stand alone basis, and the committee has been directed to move along those lines. Now that means doing a full, detailed assessment of all of the pros and cons, doing an assessment of how much money we could get for the sale of Hydro, what would be the impact on hydroelectric rates and the relative pros and cons of it, and all of those things would be considered before any final decision is made.

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

MR. SIMMS: I presume all of those kinds of things were done before you looked at the merger as well, cost and all that kind of stuff, and it is with that in mind, that I would like to ask the Premier this: Now that these talks are off and Fortis has pulled out of the talks, will the Premier release the full report that was prepared by Hydro's, and government's own financial advisers for that matter, on the feasibility of privatizing Hydro, will he make that report public now, that information public?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: No, Mr. Speaker. We will not make that public while we are in the process of proceeding with privatization because I don't want to do anything that would prejudice the right of the people of this Province to get the maximum benefit of the privatization of Hydro.

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

MR. SIMMS: Mr. Speaker, I will just pursue the questioning briefly once more with a final supplementary for now, at least.

This pull out of Fortis I guess, the Premier chuckled, I guess -

PREMIER WELLS: This is a final supplementary for now is it?

MR. SIMMS: Yes, that means there will be more final supplementaries in the days ahead.

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the Premier or suggest to the Premier, first of all, that the end of these discussions and negotiations gives the government an excellent opportunity now to review its initial decision to proceed with the privatization of Hydro, and it gives government a chance to review all of that now. In light of public opinion, which is clearly against privatization, I want to ask him: will he take this opportunity to step back from this whole idea, which clearly is against public opinion, but if he is still hell-bent and determined to push privatization of Hydro, will he not consider using a better process, perhaps drafting a White Paper, perhaps having public hearings around the Province to give people a chance to have a say and to have some input into the whole thing, in other words, will he consider changing his attitude and his approach on this very important matter?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker, the government made its decision on the basis of the best advice it could get and in a manner consistent with the basic policy that was developed by the government. The government has been following, fairly firmly, the basic Strategic Economic Plan approach of getting government out of the commercial sector and giving the private sector of this Province a chance to succeed. That is fundamental government policy and we intend to continue with that. There is no reason to alter that policy so we intend to continue along those lines.

Now, Mr. Speaker, the people who were doing this are continuing on with the objective of putting together a proposal for the privatization of Hydro that will be beneficial for this Province. If, in the end, what they come up with is not in the best interest of this Province, we will not proceed with it. If it is in the best interest of this Province, we will most assuredly proceed with it. Now, I have to tell hon. members that we couldn't really proceed with that kind of endeavour without a full public debate in this House, but I have no intention of having the public debate carried on on an uninformed or an ill-informed basic. The work is going to be done to gather the appropriate information before ever the debate takes place. As and when that is done and an appropriate proposal is developed it will be brought before this House for full consideration.

MR. SIMMS: You would save the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars (inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Waterford - Kenmount.

MR. HODDER: Mr. Speaker, I wish to address a question to the Minister of Education. Recommendations 136 to 140 of the Royal Commission on Education deal with the prudent and wise use of valuable instructional time in the classrooms of this Province. These recommendations arise from numerous studies that show too much school time is lost in non-instructional activities and disruptions to teaching. Since all research logically indicates a positive relationship between time spent on instruction and student achievement, can the minister tell the House today what steps his department has initiated to implement strategies to increase on task time in the school system?

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member knows, government has appointed a person to oversee the implementation of the Royal Commission, the recommendation of the Williams report. Dr. Crocker and his group have put in place an action plan which they are using. Basically, it is divided into twelve different sections and one of these sections deals with time on task, as it is referred to, the amount of time being used in the schools. One of the things we are process of doing is determining how to deal with the recommendation that the school year be lengthened and that better use be made of the school year which we already have there, and we are coming at that problem from this angle: at the present time, there are 185 days allocated to the school system, and anything that goes on has to come out of these 185 days. We are looking at making the 185 days instructional time. We are trying to change around the way of thinking so that everything that happens in addition to instruction will be added on instead of being taken off. This is one of the ways we are looking at to get at that problem, Mr. Speaker, but it is an ongoing process being taken very seriously. The Royal Commission did tell us that that was a problem and it is being dealt with.

MR. SPEAKER: A supplementary, the hon. the Member for Waterford - Kenmount.

MR. HODDER: Mr. Speaker, we all recognize that the central goal of schooling is academic excellence; however, as the minister has indicated, there is a lot of time lost. For example, three studies indicated various amounts of time lost, one said forty-seven days and another said fifty-seven days. This is time lost for non-instructional activities such as inservice programs, absenteeism, bad weather, etcetera. Mr. Speaker, as the minister indicated, this indicates that our children are on task for about 120-130 school days a year. I ask the minister if he would broaden his dialogue to include the school boards of the Province, the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers' Association and the Newfoundland and Labrador Home and School Association, in attempting to find the resolution to this problem?

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, I should also point out, if the hon. member will allow me, another of the areas we are looking at is that of the public exams. As the hon. member will know, they are now part of the school year. We are also looking into the possibility of having the school exams after the school year as it used to be done when he and I were in school.

The involvement of interest groups, Mr. Speaker, we are doing that to the maximum extent, I suppose. The hon. member will know that I have an advisory committee which meets from time to time. We are meeting again, I believe it is on Friday of this week, for an all-day meeting. That group is made up of representation from the NTA, the Newfoundland and Labrador School Trustees Association, the Denominational Education Councils, the Parent-Teachers, it is a group made up of fifteen or twenty people which broadly represents all the various interest groups around the Province. In addition to that, the Newfoundland Teachers' Association and the Department of Education, itself, process, where once every month I personally, with my deputy and Dr. Crocker, sit down with the NTA to discuss whatever contribution they have to make.

Mr. Speaker, some would argue that that is not enough input, but now remember, the royal commission had in excess of 25,000 people who made their views known. We don't want to carry on another royal commission over and over, except to say that we have a group which is broadly representative of the various interest groups, and the department is wide open for letters or phone calls or whatever contribution other people would want to make.

In my opinion, I believe that it has been set out what we intend to do. We've spoken to the people, we've heard the reply. I think now we have to get on and do what the people have been asking us to do, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Supplementary, the hon. the Member for Waterford - Kenmount.

MR. HODDER: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to hear the minister's comments. Of course we want to draw attention specifically to recommendation 139 of the royal commission report. It calls upon the minister to "...implement immediately a comprehensive plan to monitor over a three-year period (a) the use of instructional time...." I ask the minister if the parameters for that monitoring committee have been established, and to indicate to the House and to the citizens of this Province what the general guidelines are for that monitoring committee.

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

MR. DECKER: Yes, Mr. Speaker. We haven't as such set the committee in place yet because we are thinking in terms of even broadening it to include accountability in a much broader sense as well. One of the weaknesses with the education system in this Province is that there is not a whole lot of accountability there. The instructional time is one very excellent example that the hon. member used. He says the estimate is anywhere from 120 to 130 days. He is quite right about that. It may be even worse. This doesn't take into consideration the amount of time which is used getting from one class to the other. Classes run back to back without a ten minute break in some schools to get from one to the other. That is all taken in. We are looking at that recommendation, but we are thinking we might broaden it so we can get accountability in general, because there are a lot of other areas which need some accountability.

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

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I have a question for the Premier. The Minister of Fisheries has consistently, I guess in the last twelve months, said that in dealing with the processing sector of the fishing industry it should be left to the marketplace to decide, the market forces. As recently, I think it was last Thursday, I questioned the minister on the Cashin task force report and asked him would the provincial government be supporting the concept of the fishing industry renewal boards, as recommended by Mr. Cashin. In the last couple of days the Premier is reported to support, I guess, the Cashin recommendation of fishing industry renewal boards to deal with processing capacity reduction and consolidation.

Could the Premier inform the House today what is the official position of the provincial government? Is it to let the processing sector fall to the marketplace, the market forces decide, or will the provincial government participate in the decision making process, and policy and criteria, for processing capacity reduction and consolidation?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker, what I said to the media when they asked me about it was that I had not had a chance to see the report, what I wanted to do was have a chance to look at. They said: the minister said this, and you think there may be a place for fishing industry renewal boards. I think indeed there may be a place for fishing industry renewal boards. I don't agree that they should necessarily make a decision that there is going to be a plant located here, and this one is going to close, and that one is going to close, and this one is going to be paid that, and someone else is going to be paid something else. I disagree, basically, with that recommendation. I've never agreed with it in the past.

Whether the government will alter its position - and that is what the Minister of Fisheries has said - now whether the government will alter its position and say: okay, we are prepared to have a fishing industry renewal board make these decisions, that is a decision that the government can only come to after we've had adequate time to assess the full impact of the recommendations made by Mr. Cashin. When that is done, either the Minister of Fisheries or I will state fully the government's position on the issue. As I told the media the other day when they spoke to me about it, I wanted to wait until we had an opportunity to see the full recommendations and consider their impact before we would state government's position on the issue.

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

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Reports again - and they are only reports - and I do not know if they are true or not, but apparently the Premier met with Mr. Cashin during the task force process; you met and discussed these kinds of issues with him.

Apparently the Premier, at that time, indicated support for the concept and, I guess, since the report has been released. Reports again are saying that the Premier supports the concept.

Mr. Cashin recommends a joint strategy by the federal and provincial government, that they develop policies and criteria, I guess, to give to the Fishing Industry Renewal Board to implement. So will the Province be participating in a joint strategy, let me ask the Premier.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Yes, the Province would be most anxious to participate in a joint strategy for the future management of the fishery - not just one selected aspect of it, who is going to pay who what, and how much for what. We want a joint management for all aspects of the fishery. We think that is crucial if we are to have a successful fishery in the future; so yes, the Province is most anxious to participate jointly with the federal government in all future aspects of the management of the fishery, but we are not prepared just to participate jointly on one selective little basis and then turn the rest of it over to somebody else, no, we would not.

If that is all the Fishery Industry Renewal Board are going to do, we are not interested, I can tell you that, unless the government changes its policy on the basis of some very persuasive argument; but the government's policy to date, and there is no change in it, from the minister's point of view or from mine, unless the Fishing Industry Renewal Board is going to do something other than make a decision as to where plants are going to be located. We are not interested in participating only in that.

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

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

I am sure, once the Premier gets a chance to look at the report, he will see that it is more wide ranging than that. There are references to harvesting and other things there that will have to be considered and dealt with as well.

Realizing that it is early, and the Premier probably has not had a good look at it, in talking about a joint strategy in policies criteria, there is also reference in the report to the Province participating financially with the federal government in a number of aspects. Does the Premier envisage that the Province might participate financially in trying to deal with the problems of processing capacity, harvesting, and other problems, early retirement and so on? Does he anticipate that the Province might cost share some of those programs?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker, I cannot say at this moment what the Province can or cannot do, financially. The Minister of Finance is going to make those decisions, or make those announcements, on behalf of the government, in the Budget. What I can say is, on a go forward basis, managing the fishery on a go forward basis, we are prepared to participate financially with the federal government in managing overall in the fishery.

That does not mean that we expect the federal government to take any responsibility for the kinds of things that generally fall within the Province's jurisdiction. We do not expect the federal government to expect us to pay for things that fall within their jurisdiction, but we expect to share with the federal government on a reasonable basis the cost of jointly managing the fishery and jointly making the decisions that are necessary.

We do not expect to share with the federal government the cost of policing the North Atlantic. That is for the navy. That is the federal government's responsibility. We do not expect the federal government to pay the cost of doing the monitoring and management of the fish plants. That is our normal expenditure. We will do that, but we will share with the federal government the cost of running a joint management board and share it on an ongoing basis.

Now in terms of programs, I have just been meeting with Mr. Axworthy. I had a very good meeting with him, incidentally. It went very, very well, and we have agreed that the federal and provincial governments must work together in order to develop the best possible solutions to the massive problems that have been caused to individuals who were engaged in the fishery, to the overall economy of the Province as a result of the closure of the groundfish fishery.

So I would expect that we will be participating to some degree with the federal government in some aspects of that, but I cannot pre-state to the House of Assembly now that we are going to put up this much money, or we are going to agree to take that portion of responsibility. We do not have very much in the way of resources to do it, and the hon. member will remember that I kept questioning their proposition that we should rush in and take this responsibility as a Province. I disagree with that approach, primarily because we do not have either the financial resources or the responsibility for the decisions that caused it.

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

MR. WINDSOR: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to revisit some questions I had for the Minister of Finance on Friday dealing with the amendments to the Tobacco and Gasoline Tax Act. The minister told us he is proposing to bring in some regulations to the amendments that were passed last year and to move that forward. Would he like to tell us: Why does he feel that government has a right to receive taxes in advance of them being collected at the retail level, thus in fact, forcing the private sector to finance government for that period of time? And would the minister like to tell us if he proposes to do that, is he prepared to pay government's bills on day one, as well, and stop using private sector money for thirty to sixty days?

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

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I don't know if the hon. member understands the situation.


MR. BAKER: His question indicates that he lacks a little bit of understanding in terms of the nature of the problem. When wholesalers sell to retailers, by and large, the money is due at that point in terms of the tobacco tax and the gasoline tax, so that money is due now. The wholesalers may extend credit to the retailers for a period of time and so on, but that tax is due, because of the nature of it, before it is actually collected at the retail level; that is the way things have been going and that tax is due at that point.

The tax is collected for us by the wholesalers, and all we are saying is, the wholesalers are collecting the tax for us at the point where they make their sale to the retailers and the tax is then due to them; at that point, we want the government's money to be set aside in a trust account so it then becomes the property of the people of the Province, that is all we are saying. It is not insisting on payment up front, that is the way things have gone on with that tax for a number of years. It is collected by the wholesalers, we are simply saying that should then be put in a trust account for protection, if the money belongs to the people of the Province at that point in time. This is not like a normal transaction where I go out and do some work and somebody just has thirty days to pay it, it is not the normal type of transaction. That money is collected for the people of the Province and we are saying that we, at that point, want it protected on behalf of the people of the Province.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl, a supplementary.

MR. WINDSOR: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I submit to the minister, it is exactly the same. The tax is collected by the retailer on behalf of the Province, eventually passed to the wholesaler, as the cost of the product is collected by the retailer and eventually passed along. The minister wants it in advance. Could the minister tell us then, if he is concerned, as he has just said, to protect the taxpayers of the Province from losing money in the event of bankruptcy or default - and that is a legitimate problem -if he is so concerned about that, why will he not consider accepting a bond, as is done in the Province of Quebec? That gives all the protection that would be needed to the taxpayer, it is acceptable in Quebec, why is it not acceptable to this minister, or is the fact, Mr. Speaker, the real reason this minister is so desperate for a few dollars that he wants to get his taxes a bit early?

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

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, there are two issues here. One is the issue that the hon. member deals with, but the other issue, is the issue of what is right. The money, at that point in time, belongs to the taxpayers of the Province. Now, I suppose the argument could be made that we should go to bonding or personal guarantees and all kinds of things to ensure that if a bankruptcy occurs, then we get our money; but the second issue is, what's right, and it is right that at the moment the tax, belongs to the people of the Province, at that moment it should be protected for the people of the Province, it is the right way to do things. I am sure the hon. member will struggle with that concept but it is the right way to do it.

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

MR. WINDSOR: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I say to the minister, I don't have a problem with protecting it, but the minister doesn't protect the private sector. He owes money to the private sector the minute government incurs a bill, too, but he chooses to take thirty or sixty days to pay. Would the minister tell me this, Mr. Speaker: Last year, during the debate on these bills, the minister told us that he was looking at RST, as well; is the minister now proposing to bring in similar amendments to deal with RST and are we now going to be faced with setting up trust accounts for tens of thousands of small businesses, store owners, corner stores, anything at all in this Province so that the minister could get his RST up front?

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

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, we are currently dealing with the Gasoline and Tobacco Tax, not the RST. We are currently developing regulations to allow for this collection and to do it in such a way that it will cause the least disruption. I would say to the hon. member that we are currently looking at the RST situation, certainly, and whereas we have not yet developed regulations and so on or gone that far, or even introduced legislation into this House yet, that is a possibility we are considering, but again, if we do that, it will be done in such a way as to cause the least disruption and the least problems for the businessmen.

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My question is to the Minister of Social Services. It is my understanding that the Salvation Army group home for young offenders in open custody at Corner Brook has been told to close its doors in the next few weeks. There are currently twelve open-custody group homes in this Province. I would like to ask the minister if it is government's plan to close at least seven of those homes before the end of the fiscal year?

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

MR. LUSH: I tell the hon. member that in line with the recommendations of the Hughes Commission, we give more emphasis to the community-based operation as opposed to the group-type custody home. Yes, it is the philosophy of the department to close many of these institutional type homes in favour of the more community based operation which is the recommendation of many people today in child welfare.

MR. SPEAKER: A supplementary, the hon. the Member for Bonavista South.

MR. FITZGERALD: The minister knows that it will be difficult to find foster homes for some of the young people who are now cared for in these group homes. Will the closure of more than half the group homes in the Province leave the courts with no choice but to sentence young people to closed custody at places such as Whitbourne?

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

MR. LUSH: No, Mr. Speaker, the department has been working on this. We have a plan and we are only closing in those areas where we know that we have the arrangements to take care of these people. I tell the hon. gentleman that it is not only foster homes we are looking at. The policy today and the philosophy of this department is to keep people at home, to keep young people at home, and many of these we find, with the supports we will give them, there will be no necessity -

MR. TOBIN: (Inaudible).

MR. LUSH: If the hon. the Member for Burin - Placentia West would like an answer he could listen.

MR. TOBIN: He is talking about the Young Offenders Act now.

MR. LUSH: I am talking about the Young Offenders Act, as well. We are hoping that by the supports we will set up, we will not have to send our young offenders to these institutional-type homes, particularly the home that the hon. gentleman mentions, the Youth Correctional Centre at Whitbourne.

MR. SPEAKER: Question Period has expired.

On behalf of all hon. members, I would like to welcome to the public galleries the Deputy Mayor of St. George's, Hazel McIssac, who is also a former member of this House.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HEWLETT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. A few days ago, I had the opportunity to attend an awards night at the R. W. Parsons Pentecostal Collegiate in Robert's Arm, and they have seen fit to send me the following petition:

`We, the undersigned, do hereby express our dissatisfaction with government's proposed model for reforming the education system. Specifically, we object to any means whereby our rights as citizens of the Province and this country, may be jeopardized. We believe that denominational education goes beyond the areas of religious instruction, and limiting the Pentecostal Assemblies in the manner described by the government, is an infringement upon our rights.'

Mr. Speaker, the core, I think, of this petition which was signed by 242 people, 243 including myself, goes basically to what we mean by denominational education. The proposal by government allowing for religious instruction by various churches living in an area would at best probably give a tenth of a constitutional right to the churches involved.

Mr. Speaker, the Pentecostal school system grew up out of necessity over the years. There was a shameful time, not that long ago in our history, when people of Pentecostal faith were denied access to schools run by other denominations. Fortunately, today, Mr. Speaker, such is not the case, but we have, instead, a Pentecostal school system, a system of which the Pentecostals, themselves, are rightly and justly proud. They feel that just allowing for religious instruction in a school is not in any way, shape or form actual denominational education. Denominational education involves the whole person, the whole community, it involves the setting of an ambience, a moral structure in a school system and this would not be the case under the government's new system.

Mr. Speaker, the Pentecostals feel that their rights have been infringed upon, that giving them just a religion class is, indeed, merely giving them a tenth of a right, and I don't really know if it is possible to give a tenth of a right. They call upon this hon. House of Assembly to change their point of view on this matter and give them back what is rightfully theirs under the Constitution. I thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. HODDER: Mr. Speaker, I rise to support the petition presented by my colleague and to offer congratulations to the 242 residents of Green Bay district who signed the petition. The petition asks this hon. House to reflect on the proposals to reform the education system and I do believe that process of reflection has already been noted in this hon. House in the past several days. The policy of the Progressive Conservative Party is outlined in our policy manuals and it was communicated to the citizens of this Province in the days leading up to the May 30 election. We recognize the desire for reforms in the education system, we recognize that there are great inefficiencies that have to be addressed and we fully support all the efforts of the government and the churches to promote efficiency and the sharing of services.

We note in the Province many excellent examples where services are being shared and we certainly want to encourage that. However, the policy of the Progressive Conservative Party, as I said in the House here on December 10, is that we will not support non-consensual changes to the constitutional rights enjoyed by the churches in this Province.

We believe that a consensual agreement is possible to be reached between the representatives of the churches and the provincial government on the restructuring proposals of the educational system. We believe that the proposals as they have been outlined now call on all of us to initiate meaningful dialogue, to recognize the traditional rights of all peoples, and also to ask the government to promote an active and positive partnership between the churches and the school system.

Mr. Speaker, I want to note as well that there are many other issues we should be addressing in education. The issue before us every day, the restructuring proposal, certainly is not the only issue that we have before us. We could talk about instructional time, the classroom size, modification to the curriculum, changes to teacher education, the condition of school buildings, the equipment and resources available in our schools, and the need to accentuate a positive relationship between the home and the school. It is crucial the minister not place all his focus on the restructuring model as the sole strategy for improving student excellence.

Mr. Speaker, as I said on Friday, I call upon the minister to open up the dialogue, to recognize the divergent opinions and the philosophical differences between all the partners to the educational system in our Province, and to try his best on behalf of the government to resolve the differences and to promote ways in which we can do it now, rather than having to have it prolonged over many months and many years.

Thank you.

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, I want to speak to this petition from the people of Green Bay and assure the hon. member that the petition will be taken, when this House sends it along, to the Department of Education, and it will be used. We will consider everything that is presented as we attempt to make these reforms in education.

However, I want to advise members of the House that nobody is talking about a public, secular system of education. From time to time I see this name turning up -


MR. DECKER: - and it is probably -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I'm having trouble hearing the hon. Minister of Education because of other conversations.

MR. DECKER: It is misleading, Mr. Speaker, because no one that I know of is talking about a public system of education. One of the principles on page 3 of the document, Adjusting the Course, says quite clearly that: this model will provide for church control of religious education and related matters, guarantee church access to schools for this purpose, and give a church presence on school boards and provincial bodies.

The rights of the church under education will in no way be taken away. One of the main bodies to hold those rights will be a provincial denominational committee. Each denomination which has traditional rights will sit on that commission. It will be a case of the Anglican people still continuing to hold their rights individually. The Roman Catholic people will continue to hold their rights individually. The Pentecostal people will hold their rights individually. But they will exercise them in general terms, they will exercise them collectively. What we are talking about is the rights will still be held, just as they are now - no one is going to touch that, these rights will be held - but they will be practised collectively, somewhat similar to what the Integrated people are doing at the present time.

The Anglican Church still holds the same rights that they held in 1949. The United Church people still hold the same rights they held in 1949. The Salvation Army people and the Presbyterian and Seventh-Day Adventists - save the Seventh-Day Adventists - the others are exercising them collectively, and this is what we would foresee, Mr. Speaker. So it is a red herring when hon. members try to pretend that we are talking about a public system.

One of the strongest opponents to a secular, public, godless system in this Province is me. I am deadly opposed to that, but this model that we have put forward allows the protection of term 17 to remain, which allows for all the church involvement even to a greater extent if the churches wish to use it.

So on the one hand we have this protection, where we could have the Lord's Prayer in our schools, where you can have preparation classes for the sacraments, where you continue to have Christmas programs, where you continue to teach religion, where you continue to teach catechism. It is all there and protected by seventeen, but at the same time this model would help to take out some of the duplication that exists, both on the school level, as well as on the school board level, as well as on the provincial level. So truly what we have put forward for the people of this Province to look at, is the best of all possible worlds.

I would say to the people of Green Bay, or any other people who are considering submitting petitions to this House, they really should get the model and read it themselves and come to their own conclusions. I say if, after reading it themselves, they believe in their hearts that this is wrong, well by all means say so, and by all means do not agree with it, but do not make your decision based on what you hear on the media, or based on what you hear an Opposition member say, or for that matter based on what I say.

Take the model yourself. Think about how important it is to all your children that we reform the educational system so that we can become an achieving society. Think about all of that, read it objectively, and after you have read it yourself, do not let Chris Decker tell you what to say or think; do not let the Member for Waterford - Kenmount, or the Member for Green Bay; do not let anyone else tell you what to think. Read the model, think about your children, ask what is in their interest, and make up your own mind. That is what the people of the Province should do, and then (inaudible).

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Orders of the Day

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

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, I would ask if we could deal first with Motion 1.

Before you call that, Your Honour, I wonder if I could have leave of the House to address a technical problem that has come up.

Order No. 8, which refers to Bill 52, is entitled, "An Act To Amend The Elections Act." That is the way the notice was given in the House by me, or whoever gave it, and that is the way it had been written out by whoever wrote it out, to give to me, or whoever did give it in the House.

In fact, the correct title of the bill is "An Act To Amend The Election Act And The Elections Act, 1991", and I wonder if we could have leave of the House simply to substitute the...

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: My friend from Grand Bank gives leave so I will take it then, Mr. Speaker, nobody speaking to the contrary, that the order can be amended as such.

With that said, Mr. Speaker, I wonder if we could deal with Motion No. 1 before going on to second reading debates.

Motion, the hon. the Minister of Finance to introduce a bill, "An Act To Amend The Tobacco Tax Act (No. 2)," carried. (Bill No. 60)

On motion, Bill No. 60 read a first time, ordered read a second time on tomorrow.

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

MR. ROBERTS: Thank you.

Mr. Speaker, before I go further, could I advise members opposite that on Wednesday, which will be a Private Members' Day, we propose to debate the motion that stands in the name of my friend from LaPoile, which was number 3 on the Order Paper of last Wednesday.

I say to my friend from Grand Bank, who is sort of smiling in a knowing way, that we on this side have decided that given a reasonable length to debate, we will still be able to -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I am having trouble hearing the hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. ROBERTS: I am sorry, Mr. Speaker. I could yell more loudly, if you wish.

MR. SPEAKER: No, I would rather (inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: Or my clients - my colleagues here could be quiet.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: They are my clients - the only clients I have are this crowd here now, Sir. In this respect I do not pay very well either.

Mr. Speaker, the point I was going to make, if it has not escaped me entirely, is that we now have all the bills in the House, they have all been distributed as far as I am aware.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: Bill 60 has in fact been distributed. The Clerks took the liberty - it was on my desk at least - anyway if it is not it is on the way around, it has been printed. They are all in the House so I see no difficulty in making the Friday target assuming members on both sides are minded so to do.

With that said, Mr. Speaker, I wonder if we could begin, first with Bill 58 which is Order No. 10. Should we get through that we will go to Bill 59 which is Order No. 11 and should we get through that we will do the massive piece of legislation which is Bill 50, "An Act To Remove Anomalies And Errors In The Statute Law", which is really one that will keep people up late at night.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: It may. In that case perhaps I should move the House - Mr. Speaker, I won't make the motion for the moment in any event. Would you be good enough to call Order No. 10, please, Sir.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Automobile Insurance Act". (Bill No. 58)

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

MR. ROBERTS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, the law in this Province, and I think the law generally throughout Canada, requires anybody who owns a motor vehicle to insure that vehicle against what we call third party claims or public liability and property damage, PLPD coverage. That insures that any person who is injured in the legal sense by the activities of that motor vehicle - it does not matter whether it is being driven by its owner or not - any person who is injured in a legal sense by that motor vehicle will have a fund against which he/she or it can look to an insurance company to look to a fund to compensate them for the damages that the law awards to them. The minimum amount, as we know, is $200,000.

Now that is the law but not everybody follows that law, Mr. Speaker. There are those who -despite the fact that they are aware of the law or perhaps because they don't care about the law - drive motor vehicles without carrying any PLPD coverage, any third party coverage. So then if those vehicles - remember the insurance attaches to a vehicle - the driver of the vehicle is covered by the insurance except in one or two very special situations, basically a stolen vehicle or without permission of the driver which amounts to a theft but is not quite a theft at law - in those cases the person injured does not have anywhere where he/she or it can look for recourse except to the individual. The trouble is, the kind of individual who drives a vehicle without insurance likely is judgement proof, there is no means to collect the judgement. You cannot get blood from a turnip is an old phrase but it is also a good legal maxim.

The system that was put in place in this Province many years ago to deal with this was Judgement Recovery Limited. This bill seeks to abolish judgement recovery and to replace it with a new venture. Before I go into that let me just remind the House there are three situations where a person may have to look to judgement recovery now. The first is where a person is injured in the legal sense. Now usually that is injured in the physical sense as well but where a person is entitled to collect damages from somebody who has broken the law by not having any insurance, in the sense that the owner of that vehicle has not insured the vehicle with an insurance company. That is one, that is by far the most common but there are two others. There is the case where a person is injured in the legal sense by somebody driving a stolen car or truck. In which case of course the insurer is not responsible for coverage. If somebody steals my car this afternoon or runs down my friend from Grand Bank, my friend from Grand Bank cannot look to my insurance company, he has to look elsewhere. In this case he would look to Judgement Recovery Limited.

The gentlemen in the backbenches on the other side, Mr. Speaker, are sort of tantalized by the thought that somebody may run down the gentleman from Grand Bank. I am reminded of the exchange between Gladstone and Disraeli - a little before I came into the House - in the latter part of the 19th century. Gladstone was a very precise grammarian. He used the English language with - he was a Liberal, of course. Disraeli was the Tory, and Disraeli and Gladstone were great foes, great rivals. Somebody came in to Gladstone and asked: `What is the difference, Prime Minister, between a catastrophe and a disaster?' `Well,' said Gladstone, `if I were to hear that Disraeli had fallen into the sea, that would be a disaster, but if I were to hear somebody pulled him out, that would be a catastrophe.' I leave that to my friend for Grand Bank to raise with his caucus.

The third situation, Mr. Speaker, is where a person is injured by a hit-and-run driver. The driver may or may not have insurance but the fact that one is not able to identify him or her means there is no way to have recourse to an insurance company, so there are those three situations in the legal context where a person may not be able to collect one's damages.

In the past, as I have said, we have used Judgement Recovery Limited which is a body corporate - incorporated by statute, if memory serves me, but perhaps incorporated under the Corporations Act - but anyway, a body corporate under Newfoundland law. And it is essentially an insurance company that is funded by the other insurance companies. It is run as an insurance company, more or less as an insurance company - it is run on the insurance principles. The board of directors, if memory serves me correctly, are nominated by the individual insurance companies doing business in the Province, and at the end of the year, the insurers pony up in proportion to their business in the Province what it cost to run judgement recovery, so if one does 20 per cent of the business in the Province, one pays 20 per cent of the cost of judgement recovery. That is very straightforward and so forth. It means, of course, that every one of us bears the cost of judgement recovery because the insurance company doesn't take this out of its profits, it simply builds it; it is a cost of doing business, and it is built into the rates we all go to pay by our insurance.

Mr. Speaker, the truth of the matter is that judgement recovery, while it has served fairly well for the thirty or forty years it has been in existence, has not served as well as it could. When it came about originally, thirty or forty years ago, there was no other mechanism that one could envisage; there now is another one. Judgement recovery is cumbersome. By definition, by its very name, one must first get a judgement against the person who injured you. You must sue, and if you can't identify the person, there is a whole complicated procedure in the act and you then go through and get a judgement. Judgement recovery pays that judgement and then because it is subrogated, to use a legal term, to your rights to collect it, if it can find the individual it goes against the individual and tries to collect. I, from time to time, hear from members whose constituents have been caught in this trap. I heard from a gentleman opposite recently whose constituent, ten or twelve years ago, was ordered to pay $10,000 under an insurance claim. The insurance company paid out $10,000. This chap was fifteen years old when he took his father's car, ran into another car and caused damage. The insurance company that insured the car that was hit, paid, came back against the other chap, the fifteen-year-old, and here he is, ten or twelve years later, still trying to struggle with the judgement and can't get his license, because, of course, if you owe a judgement, the insurance company is able to ask the registrar to lift your license, and they do, on occasion.

Secondly, not only is judgement recovery a fairly cumbersome process, it turns out, Mr. Speaker, when I began to look at it, to be a fairly expensive process. During 1991, Judgement Recovery paid out in this Province - and these are public figures, they come from the annual report of the company - $450,000, roughly, in claims. It was $449 and change, if memory serves me. They paid out $200,000 in what are called adjusting expenses. They paid out $450,000 and it cost them $200,000 in administration. Now, that included lawyer's fees and adjuster's fees. In 1992 the picture got a little better. They paid out $597,000, Judgement Recovery in claims, and it cost them an additional $208,000 to administer that. Now, Mr. Speaker, that, in our judgement, is too much and it is not necessary if we can find a better way to do it - and we can.

The new bill, which adopts a procedure that is becoming more or less standard throughout the country, puts in a new system: Instead of looking to Judgement Recovery when you are hurt by somebody who is not insured, you look to your own insurance company. And your own insurance company, in calculating the rates that they charge to their customers, simply builds in an amount that, in its judgement, will cover the cost of the claims it is likely to pay.

That is not dissimilar to what is called the underinsured motorist coverage, the SEF 44, whereby for an extra $10 or $20 or $30 , whatever, I can buy a coverage that will give me up to the limit of my policy - say $1 million or $2 million - the amount that I am entitled to get over and above the $200,000 that is the minimum the other driver must have. There are lots of drivers out there who are only carrying $200,000. That is what they are required to carry, but I can tell you that is not very much if one gets into a serious claims situation; the judgement can easily exceed that. So you can buy - it is called an SEF 44, a Standard Endorsement Form, I think it is. That is just an industry term. SEF 44. My friend for Bonavista South has some knowledge, I gather, of the insurance industry, he is nodding. The SEF 44 coverage means that my policy is at risk for everything above the minimum amount.

This new act, this bill, if we amend the act, will simply mean that my insurance company is at risk for any damage done to me by somebody who is not insured. If the other person is insured then, of course, his or her or its insurance company stands to get the risk.

Mr. Speaker, that still leaves the position of those who do not have insurance. A child, somebody not licensed to drive, or somebody who, for whatever reason, doesn't own a car. Those people do not have automobile insurance. They are protected under this new system by what is called the Facility Association. In fact, most of this bill - I think it is pages 7 through 23 - is given over to the operations of the Facility Association. If an insurance company or an insurance operation is run by the insurance industry it traditionally has taken only the bad risks. If you've had a whole bunch of claims and nobody will insure you and yet you must have insurance to be able to drive, you are put into the Facility Association. The premiums can be very high, but the industry acknowledges that it has a responsibility to provide insurance to everybody who is lawfully entitled to drive, so they do that with respect to the bad risks though the Facility Association.

The Facility will also then take up the case which we estimate to be less than 1 per cent of the situations where the person who is injured and entitled to claim damages at law does not, himself or herself, have an insurance policy in force, a motor vehicle insurance policy.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: Yes, Mr. Speaker, one can be denied insurance by one's own insurer, but then it goes to Facility. My understanding is, Facility will take any risk as long as one is lawfully able to drive.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: No, I say to my friend for Grand Bank, this bill has nothing to do with the denial of risk, that is a separate problem. If you have a license to drive you get insurance. You may pay an awful lot for it. If you have had twenty-seven claims in the last four years and you have been at fault in all of them, your insurance premium is going to be close to 100 per cent of the coverage.

The industry has responded. Given the obligation of people to insure, they have responded by making it possible for an individual to insure, but they won't give you a cut rate, nor should they. I mean, if you have that kind of record you should bear a fair rate. People who get hit badly on that are taxi drivers because they are, as a group, not a terribly good risk, although there are many taxi drivers who are just as good as any of us, or perhaps better.

Anyway, Mr. Speaker, that is the situation very briefly. I don't need to say much more about the bill. The cost impact will not be significant, I am told. I have a note here, if I can just turn it up, which says that in 1990, 1991, and 1992 the cost through the judgement recovery system has been of the order, on a proper insurance basis, of approximately $6 per driver. In 1992, my officials tell me, the estimate of what is paid and what has to be reserved, Judgement Recovery operates on a claims made basis but in a proper insurance accounting it would have the IBNR, the incurred but not reported, it would make a reserve for those. Judgement recovery for 1992 is about $1.8 million or about 305,000 vehicles licences in the Province in 1992, so in round numbers that is about six dollars each. The insurance industry's estimate is somewhere around seven dollars for this coverage, that is not materially different and I am also, of course, able to tell the House that the Public Utilities Board regulates insurance premiums in this Province, so if there is any concern that one's premium is unfairly high because of this, there is a remedy through the P.U. Board. But given that automobile insurance is a very competitive field, I don't think we need worry about any one insurer taking unfair advantage of this. If they do, they will a price in the market-place.

Mr. Speaker, the cost will not be significantly different in our view, and based upon what I am told, and those who look to the system will get much better service, much quicker results, because you will simply go to your own insurance company, which one assumes will settle fairly and promptly; that is a slogan some use. But they don't have to get into the question of liability. All they look at is, if you are injured, they pay, and then they settle out the liability issues later.

Now, Mr. Speaker, we have had full consultation, or my officials have, with the insurance industry through the Insurance Bureau of Canada. And the Insurance Bureau of Canada, I think it is fair to say, representing the insurers, supports this bill, but, and it is an important but, there are two issues of which we take issue with them. The Insurance Bureau of Canada has suggested that the government ought not to be able to claim under this system. We see no reason why not. The government has property like anybody else; the government has the right to collect damages in certain situations and we believe we should be able to claim for those damages and that is in this bill.

Secondly, the insurance bureau believes or suggests, and I accept they believe, that the government ought not to be able to recover the social costs; the hospital insurance bill, the medical care bill, the Workers' Compensation and what have you, even though, the law now obliges a lawyer who sues on behalf of a plaintiff, to include in the claim, the amount that has been paid out through hospital insurance or Medicare or what have you. We do not accept the insurance industry's submissions on that point. The bill, as drafted, the bill is before the House, Sir, would allow the government to reclaim those amounts as well. The issue can be simply put, should these be borne by drivers or should they be borne by all of the taxpayers in the Province; in our view, they should be borne by drivers, since they arise directly out of driving activity.

Mr. Speaker, the only other comment I will make is this: We have decided that we will ask the House to accept the bill at second reading; if accepted, we propose then to refer it to the appropriate Legislation Committee under Standing Order, I think it is 54.2, from memory, but the one we use, for example, with respect of the smoking bills that my friend for St. John's Centre, the Minister of Health, brought into the House last spring. So these, if accepted by the House, would go to second reading and then would be referred out to the committees so that will allow the industry to make their point again on these two issues, and will allow anybody else who wish to be heard to come forward and be heard, but the House would have approved the principle of the bill and then we would come back in due course with or without amendment for Committee stage in the third reading and be dealt with here.

With that said, Mr. Speaker, I move second reading of the bill.

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

MS. VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I will be very brief in participating in this second reading debate of this bill, "An Act To Amend The Automobile Insurance Act," first, because I have a cold and my voice is not at full strength. I see the Member for Harbour Grace smiling; second, because the minister has just indicated an intention to refer the bill to the Social Services Committee, following the same procedure that the government took with the anti-smoking bills. As a member of the Social Services Committee, I can say that the handling of the anti-smoking Bills 1 and 7, was quite satisfactory from the point of view of the Opposition. The third reason, on which I am not going to say very much at this point, is that I really don't know very much about this subject. I listened with interest to the minister's explanation.

When I was Minister of Justice, the Consumer Affairs Division was part of a different department.

MR. ROBERTS: It still is.

MS. VERGE: I thought Consumer Affairs was now part of the Department of Justice.

MR. ROBERTS: (Inaudible).

MS. VERGE: Yes, but what I said earlier is that when I was Minister of Justice, from 1985-1989, Consumer Affairs was not part of the Department of Justice.

At any rate, through good or bad luck, I have not had any involvement with judgement recovery, and quite honestly was not aware of the problems that the minister indicated, but I am quite willing to take his word for the fact that the judgement recovery process has been cumbersome and has cost more than it needed to.

The alternative that the minister is proposing in the bill, listening to his explanation, seems to me to be quite reasonable, and I look forward to participating with the other members of the Social Services Committee in examining the bill in detail and holding public hearings on it.

I notice that the concluding clause of the bill provides for coming into force on July 1 of next year, so that should give the committee plenty of time to examine it and report back to the House during the early spring sitting so that it is passed and receives Royal Assent in advance of July 1.

I would like to thank the minister for his initiative in putting forward this reform measure.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I want to make a few remarks at second reading on this bill, "An Act To Amend The Automobile Insurance Act".

I have, in my law practice, had some experience with judgement recovery and I am aware of some of the problems that have been encountered. I say it is one of those areas which, as the previous speaker said, it is probably your good fortune that you have had very little to do with judgement recovery because, for lawyers, it has been a bit of a pitfall, and all sorts of specialized rules that apply only to claims arising thereunder. I want to just tell hon. members that it is very important to have in place and, in fact, some of the problems with judgement recovery needed attention. I see one of them that seems to have been dealt with in this act, and I will just give you an example of the kind of things that have happened.

The minister, in introducing the bill, spoke of three situations which exist, where someone has no insurance at all, or it is a stolen vehicle, or a third one where it is a hit and run. There is a fourth situation which I have encountered. My law practice has existed only twelve or thirteen years, since 1980, and I have encountered, on two occasions, circumstances where the insurance companies, in fact, have gone bankrupt. So you are dealing with a question of -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: One of them was quite astounding in terms of the comedy of errors, if you will, or the compilation.

AN HON. MEMBER: Which ones?

MR. HARRIS: Well, Beothic recently.

AN HON. MEMBER: That is not bankrupt.

MR. HARRIS: Receivership, liquidation. In receivership - not bankrupt - but unable to sufficiently -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: I received a letter today, saying that they did not think there would be sufficient money to pay all claims. Now whether that bears -

MR. ROBERTS: I would put it in receivership, of course, under the act.

MR. HARRIS: There is another insurance company, Northumberland General Insurance Company, an Ontario company, but not incorporated in this Province.

I had circumstances where my client did not have a huge claim, but in the circumstances the company which owned the vehicle, and had it insured, went bankrupt. The insurance company was also placed in receivership and liquidation, having insufficient funds to pay its debts, and the driver of the vehicle died. So there was really no one to claim against.

If you approach the Judgement Recovery Limited, under the Judgement Recovery Act, they say: Well, I am sorry; this does not apply here because the person who you sued was, in fact, insured by a policy and therefore the judgement recovery does not apply. There inevitably resulted all sorts of legal wranglings back and forth, and the matter is still ongoing. In fact, there may indeed be full recovery from what is left over in the insurance company itself, but it just goes to show you that despite the fact that these things are quite complex, and try to cover every kind of circumstance, we are dealing with very technical legislation. We are dealing with very technical issues that arise in insurance matters and claims, and I welcome the approach being taken by the minister in seeing that there will be ample time for those who have an interest in these matters to study the legislation and to see how it might operate in their particular cases. Obviously the insurance industry has a great deal of interest in it and presumably have seen some drafts, or previous drafts, of the legislation.

I think this document should be widely circulated, particularly amongst the local insurance and legal profession, because it is both of those groups which have to deal with the problems that arise from time to time. The general public is interested in issues such as premiums and costs. I note the belief at least at this stage in the projection that the cost of this system will not be appreciatively greater. I gather from an initial, brief review of the legislation that the protection that it will afford is significantly greater, and therefore in principle it seems that this is a good step to take.

The minister said the existing system is cumbersome. It is. It also takes a lot of effort to work your way through it and to get a response on the other end from the judgement recovery principals. It will only be from a review, I think, by people who have a great interest in the workings of this type of thing, or people who have had experience in the past with the other legislation, that the bugs can be worked out prior to the legislation being passed. It is not the kind of legislation - I note anyone who looking at the Judgement Recovery Limited Act over the years will see that it seems to have been amended every couple of years to fix up this section or fix up that section or fix up the other section. Sometimes a result of a change in policy, sometimes the result of finding a problem that wasn't thought of when the legislation was put together.

I think this is the kind of legislation that really ought not to operate by trial and error if at all possible, because the trial and error, the error part of it usually means that some individual who has suffered a loss in an accident ends up not being able to succeed in a claim because of some inadequacy of the law or the act. I think that is a high price for an individual to pay at a later date for something that could be cured with the proper scrutiny at the time the legislation goes through.

I welcome the approach taken by the Minister of Justice. I only wish the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations was taking the same approach with this disastrous labour bill that he now has before the Legislature. I don't think he knows the full implications of it. I hope he doesn't. Because if he does he would be doing a dastardly deed. I hope over the next few days that we can educate him enough to realize that what he is doing is a negative thing. Before he takes the step of trying to get a third reading in this House that he similarly will send that off to a committee and allow that committee to travel across the Province to hear the full implications of how it would operate.

As a member of the Social Legislation Review Committee, Mr. Speaker, I look forward to an opportunity of hearing from the industry and others who may be interested in this act. Hopefully there will be sufficient time for, and sufficient scrutiny by, members of the insurance business and the legal profession to make sure that this bill will operate properly once it is put into force.

With those remarks, Mr. Speaker, I conclude my speech in this debate and say that I support second reading at this time.

MR. SPEAKER (L. Snow): The hon. the Member for Humber Valley.

MR. WOODFORD: Just a few short comments, Mr. Speaker. First of all, I would like to say to the minister, anything that the insurance companies agree with I'm a bit sceptical of. No question.

My exposure to the judgement recovery act - I've been in provincial politics now for almost nine years, and it is only the last couple of months, really, that I've had any constituents come to me pertaining to this particular act. One has been over eight months now waiting for judgement, and another one, when I enquired the other day, I was told by a lawyer representing those people that it could go over a year, and maybe eighteen months. Nothing less than that.

If this bill rectifies that particular part of the problem for a constituent of mine, or anybody in this Province, then I'm in favour of it. The only thing that I'm afraid of at the end of the day is that insurance companies today, as far as I'm concerned - I know there are a number of them around the Province - but they pretty well set their own rates whenever they feel like it.

It was only just the other day that they raised rates again, the insurance companies in the Province. You got to have them - I threaten time and time again to bring in a private members resolution pertaining to some changes to insurance companies in this Province. If you go for a mortgage, you have to have it, if you go for a car, you have to have it. You can't get a loan, you can't get nothing without it. They have you right where they want you. A lot of people today, especially young people, especially young men - women, not so bad today when they go to get their license and insurance, they are not so bad. They are hit hard but not as hard as young men. They are discriminated against as far as I am concerned until they reach twenty-five. There is a history, I suppose, of accidents and that is why there is such - well, I call it discrimination but I suppose it is based on facts.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. WOODFORD: Yes, cuts down on the cost so that they can pay it. Yes, that is right but something is going to have to be done because we have a lot of young people around the Province today who can't get their license.


MR. WOODFORD: Because of the cost. Young men in the Province today are being discriminated against - they can't get their license. A young girl of the same age, without given a chance to prove themselves, can go out and get their license and get insurance. If you have a daughter today you can get her insured fairly cheaply but if you have a son today that you want to put on your car - drivers license and you want him insured, you are in trouble. This day and age, more especially in those times, they just cannot afford it and that means they just don't drive. I am sure that the young people who act as our Pages today - the young lady may not, she may find it a lot easier to get her license than the other two gentlemen. Well I can assure you once they go to the insurance company in order to get their license, Mr. Man, they are going to pay and pay heavy or else they just don't drive.

Pertaining to the coverage, as far as I am concerned the liability in this Province anyway, I don't think there should be anything less than a $500,000 liability on any insurance claim. I say to the minister that if there is anything to be changed, that is one that can be made. The minimums are too low, the $200,000 figure is too low. It should be at least a minimum of $500,000 because people are deceived by that figure. They go in - and insurance companies don't tell you everything - they go in, sit down and everything is hunky-dory, you want insurance on a car, you want collision - okay, they mention a couple of things but they don't mention anything about medical expenses after. The first year you go in to insure a vehicle in this Province they are pretty good because they will put it on it. I just forget the one that the minister mentioned earlier. That is one that comes to mind because the first year -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: That should be mandatory also.

MR. WOODFORD: That should be mandatory. That particular clause should be mandatory - unless you ask for it they won't give it to you. They won't tell you about it. All of a sudden you are into a situation whereby there are medical expenses and everything else required when you have an accident and you don't know what the judgement is going to be - but $200,000, as far as I am concerned, is too low. We should have at least a $500,000 liability on every policy in the Province - every policy pertaining to a motor vehicle in the Province because as far as I am concerned it is not enough coverage.

Now the minister mentioned about the lawyers fees; no doubt in the two cases that I looked at, under the judgement recovery, the lawyers are having a field day. The individual automatically thinks that he/she has to go to a lawyer and then they in turn go to the lawyer who is representing the Judgement Recovery Act or whatever it is called or Newfoundland Limited and by the end of the day, when I looked at one particular case, I can see why the minister said there were $200,000 and some odd spent on lawyers fees last year. I can see where he is coming from because it is only in there for five or six months and in one particular case alone, on every phone call, every fax, every little thing a claim is put in. I can understand where he is coming from with regards to expenses pertaining to - almost 50 per cent of all the monies allocated and paid out for the last two years under judgement recovery is in lawyers fees, almost 50 per cent. The amount of monies that comes back to the individuals - the figure is not mentioned here. The totals are given but the total amount of individuals are not given that access that $300,000. I would submit to you, Mr. Speaker, that the number of people who claim under the total of $300,000 - that is left after lawyers fees - the amount of money that they got is very, very minimal.

I say to the minister, it is a good act, as far as I am concerned, based on the information I had this last couple of months. That is all I am aware of, and it is about time something was done. If you have to go to the insurance companies now you can rest assured that whatever expenses they pay out under this particular act, they will have back within a year or so, so I say to the minister that changing that judgement recovery act whereby people have to now wait eighteen or twenty months is a good thing and it will help the people who have to claim under this particular section.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. FITZGERALD: I just want to comment very briefly on Bill 58, "An Act To Amend The Automobile Insurance Act". I fully support the suggestion by my friend for Humber Valley that $200,000 being the minimum amount of insurance right here in this Province is much, much too low. I think it is human nature sometimes when we go out to purchase something, especially taking into consideration the nature of what we are buying - sometimes we go out and whatever it costs to allow us the privilege of driving that vehicle, then that is what we purchase. If you look at the cost of purchasing $200,000 worth of public liability versus $1 million you will find that it is very, very minimum, indeed. In fact, it is less than $20 from a cost of $200,000 versus $1 million in PLPD. The one thing that bothers me about auto insurance, it is compulsory here in this Province to have auto insurance, but you can go out today to any insurance company, purchase an insurance plan, and allow it to lapse within thirty days, or within sixty days, and nobody bothers you. Nobody bothers you until you go to insure your driver's license again or renew your license on your vehicle when they ask for a policy number. The RCMP or somebody else will show up at your door, Mr. Speaker, looking for a parking ticket summons that was issued when you went to visit a relative at the hospital or if you parked down on George Street somewhere illegally, but nobody will come looking for proof of insurance until the time comes when you go to renew your auto license for you car.

Mr. Speaker, I call on the minister to pursue that aspect of the bill, as well, and perhaps have it say that if somebody having insurance allows it to lapse, then Motor Vehicle Registration will be notified and that person, in turn, will be confronted by whatever law enforcement that would look after the issuing of tickets to make sure that the insurance is renewed and carried again.

Thank you.

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

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, if nobody else wishes to speak in the debate I will conclude it with a few brief remarks to respond to concerns raised by members who have spoken. I thank them for their support and for their contributions.

I say to my friend for St. John's East that the receivership situation is a little different but it should no longer be of concern if this amendment is adopted because then one would look to one's own insurer, unless one's own insurer goes out of business, which is a different quintal of fish altogether. But we have never had an instance here where a company subject to our regulation as opposed to federal regulation, has not paid its claims in full. Now, I am not aware of this letter about Beothuck of which he speaks, because other than approving a recommendation by the superintendent that we put it into receivership, which we did or which I did as the minister, I have had no involvement of any sort with what has gone on since then. The Northumberland General one is a separate issue and again it is a federally incorporated company.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: It could be, but my understanding is the insurance industry will make good the losses. That is only an understanding and I don't put it forward as knowledge.

My friend for Humber East spoke of the July start date, and she is right so to do. The intention is that any claims that arise after June 30, 1994 will be dealt with under the new legislation, if the legislation is adopted, and claims before that will be dealt with under the judgement recovery. It will take a number of years to run off judgement recovery but that is only a matter of time.

I acknowledge the points made by my friend for Humber Valley and my friend for Bonavista South about the need to revisit the issue of the $200,000. I feel, myself, that $1 million is the minimum anyone should carry. I have had, over the years, some involvement as a lawyer, with insurance; I did a lot of work for insurance companies when I was at the Bar, some for private individuals but mostly for insurance companies, and I can say that, in my judgement, anybody who has only $200,000-worth of insurance is just asking for trouble and the extra cost of going up to a million or $2 million is really infinitesimal, particularly, if you have a few dollars.

MR. FITZGERALD: (Inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: My friend for Bonavista South apparently has a few dollars. Well, I not only console with him but tell him, don't ever come into the Cabinet because you will be in endless trouble if you are in that position.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).


AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: I don't know what the costs are.

MR. FITZGERALD: The cost of $200,000 versus $1 million.

MR. ROBERTS: I don't know what the costs are, but I know the cost of the additional coverage is really very small, because what the insurance companies rate, is the risk of an injury, not simply the pay-out, so anybody who is not carrying it, in my opinion, is badly advised. I will ask my officials to have another look at this, too; there are a couple of other things we are going to have a look at in the Insurance Act, as well, but I want to have another look at this minimum coverage one. Ours is as high as there is throughout Canada.

MR. FITZGERALD: It was set one time, too, (inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: Yes. The section 2 coverage.

MR. FITZGERALD: It was accident insurance and health benefits where you got - at one time, it was thirty-five dollars weekly benefit (inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: That has been raised now, that is the Section B coverage, so-called.

MR. FITZGERALD: But it is not compulsory anymore.

MR. ROBERTS: No, and we have had a look at that and are still looking at it, there are issues either way, but the problem is, I say to my friend for Bonavista South, that, if we make the higher levels compulsory, it does have an impact on the amounts that people must pay, but I can tell him it is a matter that I have not come to a judgement on, much less Cabinet, so I could only tell him that it is a matter we are looking at, and we will have a look, as well, at the minimum coverage. Certainly, there is a lot to be said, in my view, for increasing it but there are arguments on the other side to be looked at. We are as high now as anybody in Canada, the $200,000. In fact, there are American states that have no minimum coverage, so if one is going to the States, one would be well-advised to make sure you are covered.

MR. FITZGERALD: There are few insurance companies here in Newfoundland that will allow insurance to be sold for $200,000; the most of these companies now, the minimum is $500,000.

MR. ROBERTS: I am not as close to the market as I was a couple of years ago when I was downtown working as a lawyer down there, but my understanding was, some companies would not sell less than $500,000 but there are companies who will sell a $200,000 policy and there is a demand for them.

The other point raised, Mr. Speaker is a troublesome one and we have no - `we' being either the government or my officials - have no easy answer. What do you do with somebody who gets an insurance policy, gets the pink slip and the number, and then cancels it? Now, he or she is breaking the law and they know full well what they are doing.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Could you monitor it?

MR. ROBERTS: Well, my friend for Grand Bank asks if we could monitor it. I keep asking my officials and I get back, that administratively, it is very difficult, because the insurance companies will then have to send in a notice and there could be a thousand reasons for sending in a notice. You sold your car, you have moved your address, you have changed insurance companies, it would be a big administrative job but, I mean, it could be done.

MR. FITZGERALD: But they do all that for driver's extracts. If you purchase auto insurance from me today, the first thing the insurance company will do is send on to Motor Vehicle Registration and get a driver's extract, right?

MR. ROBERTS: Yes, they get a driver's extract, but that doesn't show whether the insurance has been cancelled or not because the insurance companies are not obliged to let Motor Vehicle Registration know.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: (Inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: I hear what my friend for Grand Bank says and I have a lot of sympathy with him. All I can say to him is when I have asked my officials, what I am told is that administratively, it is difficult, but I will ask them to look at it again. It is not a large problem in the sense that one doesn't get a lot of people who show up with claims. Now, I mean, I look at it because somebody injured by a person who has no insurance would then go to Judgement Recovery, and the number of claims through Judgement Recovery doesn't seem to have changed greatly. What is happening, of course, is the cost per claim is escalating very rapidly.

MR. FITZGERALD: Somebody having insurance today, and they allow their insurance to lapse, they still go around with their liability card which they can take and show if they get stopped, right?


MR. FITZGERALD: Now, the insurance company that he purchased his insurance from certainly has access to Motor Vehicle Registration and it is only a matter of letting Motor Vehicle Registration know and can't you go through the process then, of notifying the RCMP or somebody to either have the plates removed from the vehicle, or whatever done in order to take away his right to drive?

MR. ROBERTS: Yes. That seems straightforward until one realizes that the chap may simply have changed insurance companies.

MR. FITZGERALD: But Motor Vehicle Registration would know that, as well.

MR. ROBERTS: Well, I am not sure that Motor Vehicle Registration has all the capability - or all the capacity, I should say - on their computers. The problem is not one of principal, or principle, for that matter, it is really one of technical ability to handle, the capacity to handle, quite a volume. We have over 300,000 drivers licensed in this Province today. It is quite a large operation. All I can say now is I will undertake to have a look at it. The hon. gentleman and I will be here for three or four years, if all goes well, so we will have an opportunity to talk again at an appropriate time and we will get back to it.

Mr. Speaker, with those remarks, I will move that the bill be read a second time.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Automobile Insurance Act," read a second time, ordered referred to the Social Legislation Review Committee, pursuant to Standing Order 54.2. (Bill No. 58)

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, would you be good enough to call Order 11, Bill No. 59, please?

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Occupational Health And Safety Act". (Bill No. 59)

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I might take a couple of minutes, if I may, to introduce Bill 59, "An Act To Amend The Occupational Health and Safety Act." As is spelled out in the explanatory note, there is an issue that, in the opinion of government, needs to be addressed and clarified at this point in time. I might, for purpose of explanation, just give the genesis of it and the incident that brought it to our attention.

All workers in the Province under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, under section 45, have the right to refuse duty if it, in fact, could be dangerous to the worker's health or safety, or to the health or safety of another person.

The particular incident that arose some time ago that gave rise to the need for this bill and this amendment was an incident where a member of the Constabulary used this section under the Occupational Health And Safety Act to refuse an assignment because it was deemed to be that the work was dangerous under the act, and that was upheld by the Labour Relations Board in the Province.

Upon study and consideration, it was found that really that was not the intent of the act in the first place, and it is not the intent of the act in the Canadian code or in several other provinces and the two territories. With respect to groups of workers in occupations where their work, itself, is inherently dangerous, such as police officers, fire-fighters, warders and other groups of people, who from time to time in performing their own duties will be in situations that are inherently dangerous by their very nature, it was never intended that they would be granted the right to refuse the performance of their normal duties on the basis of this occupational health and safety protection.

I understand, as well, Mr. Speaker, that there are certain trades and workers in the construction area, steel workers in particular, who operate at great heights and at considerable risk on a regular basis where there is some danger that is normally inherent in their job, that they would not have the right to refuse and they don't refuse, but if there are additional dangers and hazards that become apparent, they are still protected under this particular legislation in other jurisdictions which have similar wording to what we are proposing with clause 2 of the bill.

What we are trying to correct at this point in time - and because the matter has only been dealt with very recently by ourselves in government, we haven't had a chance to have full consultation and discussion of this item with the groups that may be affected, those I mentioned, the police, fire-fighters, warders and others, as well as certain aspects of the construction trades. What we think in terms of reviewing it from across the country and having this matter before the Labour Relations Board decided, a matter which, in our opinion, is clearly contrary to the original intent of the Occupational Health And Safety Act and this protection, that we should have this discussion and debate now, and pass the bill in principle at second reading. And, as was just done with the previous piece of legislation, we could refer the bill then to the appropriate committee of the Legislature to undertake public dialogue and discussion with the affected groups to see whether or not there is something in this amendment that we think clarifies the situation, to better spell out the original intent of the act. But if we have, in fact, inadvertently missed something, and if someone can argue that we are taking away the right of someone to refuse to work when it is dangerous and when they should be allowed to refuse, then certainly if that can be explained, we would look at further amendment or change that should be brought forward.

I offer those comments by way of introduction, and would certainly listen to representations made by other speakers in this debate, and then at the end of the period in time, would suggest that we would probably all be best served by referring the matter to the committee for further deliberation. We would probably be returning to the issue some time after Christmas, in the next sitting of the House, to decide exactly how this should be resolved so that the protections are there, so that workers don't have to imperil themselves. In the meantime, people whose jobs themselves, in particular, relate to the protection of other people, wouldn't be given the opportunity to refuse to do their jobs on the basis of this occupational health and safety protection clause.

With those few comments, Mr. Speaker, I certainly look forward to listening to the other participants in the debate and with the plan, as outlined, that we would, in fact, put the whole issue forward to the committee for further dialogue and discussion.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I have just a few comments. The minister's opening comments on what this piece of legislation would entail certainly are somewhat enlightening.

A worker's right to refuse unsafe work dates back many, many years in this Province, and in Canada. It is not something that governments automatically put in legislation or in law, but it is something that they worked hard for, and influenced legislators to put in law so that they would be safe in the workplace.

I concur with the minister that there are occupations that are inherently dangerous unto themselves, such as the ones he cited, the police force - constabulary, fire-fighters, wardens, etcetera, that may have exceptions to this act. I would agree that there would be exceptions, in particular, to those three mentioned, and that the bill he has presented and is before us today to debate, Bill 59, wants to correct and put into law that there are occupations that are, indeed, hazardous, and therefore, a worker's right to refuse work would not be warranted in that case.

I want to say that the bill, itself, under subsection (1.1)(a), which says: `where danger is inherent in the worker's work or is a normal condition of the worker's employment' is something that we should be more specific about.

An iron worker, for example, is his job or her job inherently unsafe when working forty or fifty stories high? An undersea diver, is his or her job, inherently unsafe? What we have to be careful with here, in my opinion, is that we do not open a back door for employers in the Province here to say to a worker who is working in an unsafe environment, `No, the legislation and law of the land is clear in that you cannot refuse this work because your job is inherently unsafe unto itself.' I think that is what we have to be careful of.

I applaud the minister in saying that he wants to accept wider consultation on this matter in referring it to committee and dealing with it in the next sitting of the House. I hope that the minister, in other legislation he is bringing forth this week, will also refer to wider consultation and to other matters of the House.

In wrapping up what I have to say, I thank the minister for his comments. He has enlightened me in terms of where government's intent is on this piece of legislation.

I would further point out to the minister that if, indeed, the government's intent is to be specific in dealing with the cases that he has bought to the attention of the House, and to the people of the Province, then let us be specific in law and in legislation to the occupations and specific cases that we are referring to so that we do not, in fact, open up the back door to unsafe work environment where workers would be forced, coerced, intimidated, to work in unsafe work environments where they do not have to.

With that, I thank the Speaker for the opportunity to speak on this piece of legislation.

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

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

Because of twenty-five years of experience in dealing in this particular field and seeing all kinds of circumstances that this particular part of the legislation - I complement my colleagues opposite because it was under that government that this piece of legislation came to be, `the right to refuse'. However, I have seen, through practical experience, this particular situation abused from time to time. I would concur with the minister that it is for sure, a situation where you see a constabulary individual in a circumstance, that the right to refuse is just not acceptable.

I would suggest to the Member for Kilbride that if you were in a situation where you had a fire and there was somebody trapped or people trapped, highly qualified skilled firemen with Scott-Air packs and the right equipment can enter that kind of an environment and successfully evacuate those who are down. Now the point that I would like to make - and sometimes it is rather difficult- and I think of one, as Occupational Health and Safety Director at FPI, when we had a chlorine spill or leak we had some people in this particular plant trained, at that particular time, to wear a breathing apparatus. A couple of those individuals, because of the concentration, where the parts per million of chlorine - that we knew were there because we had audible units to read it - was rather high to say the least. I was there and qualified to enter confined spaces with a breathing apparatus but it was very difficult to get some assistance. The real problem was that we did have an individual who was down on the floor and we had to get that individual out. Now somebody would say to me: well Tom, look we have one guy down, if we go in there and we are not sure of ourselves, we don't feel confident, et cetera, et cetera.

That I understand but there is always a fine line and sometimes the right to refuse is an instantaneous decision. It is a decision that has to be made where there is a possibility of loss of life or serious injury. I say to hon. members opposite, I don't think that this intent is here whatsoever. I have never, ever, ever seen a legitimate excuse for the right to refuse. I have seen the arbitration or the grievance procedure after, so forth and so on and it always came to a successful conclusion. I have seen 1200 people who were out for three days and the company paid them because yes, they did have the right to refuse because of different reasons.

Now let me say to you that - and the member uses by example - I have seen iron workers who classified on the tail-end of their job, they are called connectors. This time of the year with a little drop of drizzle or a little bit of rain or what have you, the steel on the ground could be clean and a connector gets sixty feet in the air and the conditions change entirely. He is standing on a two inch lug waiting for a crane to bring him in a beam and that lug has ice on it. The iron worker can come down and say to his supervisor: look, it is slippery up top, I can't go up there. Now I say to you in all honesty, these are things that vary and I have never seen a supervisor force an iron worker to go back on that column to go up and make steel if the situation is such. So I would not want hon. members to get carried away with it as such. There are many, many circumstances okay, that we would have to be there to see that circumstance but when you say to a police officer: there is somebody in that house and the possibility of a loss of life, then the officer has to make up his/her mind whether to go in or not.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. MURPHY: We are not creating a situation, I think these are extremes. If you have somebody, through no fault of their own - let me give the member another example - in his own district we have the Psychiatric Hospital and things take place in that hospital that would cause some workers to feel that they were in danger of their own health and safety by entering a ward because of an over zealous and/or excited patient who may or may not have some kind of a pipe or a stick in his hand or whatever the case may be -so you can't always be totally definitive. You can't always say no, it is not safe or yes, it is safe. Nobody gets in the constabulary without training, nobody gets to become a fire fighter without training, nobody gets to become a warder without training. All of these professions understand that there is an inherent danger associated with their jobs. They understand that. If you are an iron worker, you understand.

But the situations vary. If somebody, I say, in the hon. Member for Menihek's District, where you have a palletizing plant and you have dust situations and what have you. Over the years the member has seen, as I have seen, given the climate - a foggy day, a day with no wind or what have you, not recently, but years ago - and you could not see a hand in front of you. Workers, because of an irritation, they just wouldn't go in. Rightfully so, because the levels were too high. The same thing applies with certain gases, as I said. In the fishing industry we were always faced with the chlorine problem. It was a constant problem.

That is what the act is designed for, to ensure that no worker is forced into an environment. But when you get out into a specific, as the minister said, when you get out into a specific, for those professions and/or trades, that inherent danger is a part and/or a piece of that particular profession or trade. This is all the minister is saying. Sometimes, because of another situation - and I've seen this quite a bit, to be quite candid - that people would use the right to refuse to not go into the workplace. It was because of another labour relations problem, in a lot of instances. Not always, but I've seen that done too.

I would say that what we have to be careful of here is that we don't get carried away. This amendment to the bill is totally confined to specific professions and/or a specific circumstance or situation. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I want to speak on this bill to amend the occupational health and safety act because I have a grave concern with what the government is doing here.

The Occupational Health And Safety Act section that is being sought to be amended deals with section 45 of that act. The right to refuse work is a very important feature of all occupational health and safety legislation. The section that is being sought to be amended provides that a worker may refuse to do work that the worker has reasonable grounds to believe is dangerous to his or her health or safety, or the health or safety of another person at the workplace. Then there are a few `until certain things have happened.'

What this legislation seeks to do is to remove that protection for a reasonable refusal to work in any situation where danger is inherent in the worker's work. Not that particular danger but all danger is inherent in the worker's work, or is a normal condition of the worker's employment. I ask you, what work has the most accidental deaths in this Province? Fishing. So no fisherman, no trawler man, nobody on any ship or boat, will ever have after this legislation is passed - unless it is amended - the right to refuse work. Because there can be no such thing as a reasonable refusal to work if you are working in an industry where it is a normal condition of your employment.

I say to hon. members, and you have to have - and I understand the Member for St. John's South has a fair degree of experience in occupational health and safety - but I say to the hon. member that I have experience in how employers defend these cases. I have experience in how they defend them. This is going to be the new defence for any occupational health and safety claim where somebody has refused work. The new defence is going to be inherent danger in the work. You are a miner. Inherently dangerous work. Down underground, working with heavy equipment. Inherently dangerous. Out on the road, as a transport truck driver, inherently dangerous work. I tell you that that is what you are going to hear every time a case is brought to court.

I understand that the government has a disagreement with the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary about the conditions of their work. I understand that. I also understand that the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, the fire fighters, and the wardens, are subject to a form of - they are quasi-miliary, paramilitary operations. They are subject to a form of military discipline. They cannot be shot at dawn for falling asleep on the job or anything, but they are subject to a form of discipline that is very different from normal workplace conditions, and if the government feels that it wants to move its dispute with the police force, or the RNC, into the legislative field, then let them change the act. Let them change the police act. Let them change the act regulating the St. John's fire fighters, and let them say that a police officer shall follow orders, regardless of the danger to the health of an officer. Let them say that. Let them come right out and say it, and face it head on, and say what they mean.

They say: Well, we are not going to let you have guns, and we are not going to let you refuse to work. If that is what you want to say, well why do you not say that, instead of putting together a piece of legislation that seems to have enormous implications for industry as a whole.

You know, a linesman working for Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, or for Newfoundland Power - acting as a linesman is inherently dangerous work, and I have been in court arguing over cases where a worker refused to climb a tower when there were certain ice and sleet conditions, and it was work that did not need to be done. It was not reinstalling power. It was not trying to fix up a line to a hospital, or even to a community which had its power gone out. It was work that could have been postponed. The question was whether or not the individuals had reasonably refused to work, and the company fought that. They did not like the arbitration. They went to court, and that is the kind of situation with which we are dealing.

If that defence was available to them, you can be sure it would be said: Well, being a linesman is inherently dangerous work. That is a normal condition of that employment. Working as a lineman you are dealing with sixty-seven kilovolts or more, or whatever, of electricity, and that is inherently dangerous and therefore you cannot refuse to work.

I think the bill is misguided. It is aimed at the wrong target. If the target is, as the minister said, the decision involving the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, then fix it. If government believes that it wants to overrule the Labour Relations Board by changing legislation, well let them do it and let them have the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Association come in and lobby this group, or lobby the members, and have the debate about the real issue, but if they are trying to change overall labour legislation, then let them say that here.

I think what they are doing here is inherently dangerous to work people. It is inherently dangerous to workers in this Province to have a piece of legislation like that because it takes away the right to reasonably refuse work.

The question might well be answered on the basis of the legislation as it is. A worker may refuse to do work when that worker has reasonable grounds to believe it is dangerous. Everything turns on the work `reasonable' in that piece of legislation, and there may well be circumstances where someone's life is in danger that fellow workers there, if you can do something that can save that person's life, and you say: Well, I might hurt my arm while I am doing it; therefore I am going to refuse. It may not be reasonable to refuse to do something that might cause you slight injury but save someone's life in a workplace situation. I think that an arbitrator or court having to deal with that would say: Oh, no, you have to weigh up the danger with the consequences.

So the situation that the Member for St. John's South was talking about, if there was a fire, or there was smoke and fumes, if you had a pretty good chance of getting in, you might sear your hair or something like that, but if you could get somebody out and save their life, well it might not be reasonable to refuse in those circumstances. It might not be reasonable to refuse in the situation, so why take a blunderbuss and change all occupational health and safety - go backwards in time. When a stiletto can do the job, if the minister wants to do a job, why take a blunderbuss to do it?

The only redeeming feature of the minister's speech on this issue is that he is willing to hear what the people in the workplaces of this Province have to say about it. That is the only redeeming feature in what the minister had to say. I think he is taking the wrong approach, or the government is taking the wrong approach. I commend his decision to take the legislation to a committee and I think if they hear from people who are active in the occupational health and safety field, who know that field and who know what the consequences are going to be on the ground, then I think that the recommendations of that committee will probably be to do something quite different than what the minister is planning.

While I am speaking on this topic I want to ask the minister to take the same approach to Bill 49. You may have been thinking about it for a couple of years, as the story has been now put out that the government was thinking about it for a couple of years. That is the story they are now putting around, but they did not let anybody else know about that for a couple of years and we only found out about it a little while ago. We only saw the legislation a couple of weeks ago. I am going to give the minister the benefit of the doubt, I am saying he does not know what he is doing. I do not think he knows what he is doing in Bill 49, unless his intention is to make union organizing difficult in this Province. We listened to what the Premier had to say down in the USA there last week and maybe that is the case. Maybe we want to have the worse labour laws in all of North America. Maybe we want to be a right to work state, we want to compete with West Virginia or some place like that with our labour laws. If that is what the minister intends I say to him that is what he is doing, and I ask him when he is putting this bill off to the committee that he also allow the committee that is now considering the other bill to continue to hold hearings.

There are a number of organizations who want to make presentations to the Legislative Review Committee on Bill 49 as well. Some have already made representations and I do not think that the public knows the full extent of how this bill is going to affect the ability to organize. I read a book recently about labour law in the United States and one of the comments that this author makes - this guy is a labour lawyer - he would not be a mainstream labour lawyer, he sues as many unions as he represents so he is not exactly a mainstream labour lawyer in the United States. I guess if I were in the United States I probably would not be a mainstream labour lawyer either, but what he does say is when you take the effect of the US labour laws requiring votes in each and every circumstance where there is an application for certification, he says, this author says: Oh, Canada, I wish we were like Canada where if you provided proof of your membership you could get certified and try to make a collective agreement. What happened in the States is that it took the employers a few years to figure it out. They had to listen to the labour consultants and the labour consultants finally told them: if you want to stop a union organizing drive, as soon as you find out about it fire the ringleaders. That is the consequence of what has happened in the States and now when that happens the votes are lost.

I think if the minister is really serious about trying to change the labour laws to make them unfavourable to the workers in this Province both Bill 59 and Bill 49 will do it. If he wants to insist that the Government House Leader bring that other bill through the House through third reading this time he will confirm that what he is trying to do with both these pieces of legislation is make things difficult for workers as part of some scheme that he and the Premier have put together, but if he is really serious about listening to what the people have to say and trying to find out the full implications of legislation instead of taking a know it all attitude he will take both of these bills, both Bill 49 and Bill 59, and let the people of this Province understand the full implication of both these pieces of legislation so that public opinion has an opportunity to be informed and to make the proper representations lobbying to the government, to the backbenchers, and to the media.

As I say the only redeeming feature of what the minister had to say is his willingness to have this matter be fully examined by the public, fully examined by members of industry, by people who are active in the occupational health and safety field. I am convinced that this legislation ought not to be passed in its present form, that if there is a concern, then perhaps if they really want to say that the police cannot be covered by this, why don't they say this does not apply to members of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, why don't they say that, if that is what they want to say, and face the issue head on instead of trying some back-door approach which is going to tip the balance against workers. The more dangerous the industry I say to the minister, the more dangerous inherent in the workplace, the more need for section 45 of the Labour Relations Act.

If you have special circumstances where you want the boss, whether it is the Chief of Police, where you want the boss, to be able to order a worker to do dangerous work despite the fact that there is reasonable grounds that it might be unsafe, then you should say so, say when that is and not just give broad, sweeping categories. If you want to give the Chief of Police power to order his officers to take action then say so and then we will judge that on its merits and see whether or not the power being given to the Chief of Police is reasonable and should be supported, but to take it in a bill about something else, I think cannot be supported and I think the minister will come to realize this when he has heard from industry and from the committee.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

I just want to have a few words to say about Bill 59, "An Act To Amend The Occupational Health And Safety Act."

I represent a district that is very heavily industrialized, it is the most industrialized district in this Province, the heavy industry and the mining industry in Labrador City and Wabush. It is probably the largest industrial complex, I would suspect, east of Montreal.

Mr. Speaker, the unions in Western Labrador fought long and hard to include in their collective agreements the right to refuse work when the act was unsafe and they deemed it unsafe, and that was placed in collective agreements, but this act would supersede any collective agreements; this would become the law of the land. That is my understanding, Mr. Speaker, this would become the law of the land and because somebody, as an example, a blaster, whose job is dangerous and in certain cases other attendants, people working in the operations in the mining industry have to do certain tasks that may be deemed dangerous, or a certain amount of danger is attached to it because the danger is inherent in the workers work or is a normal condition of the workers employment, but, Mr. Speaker, in specific areas and at specific times that act of blasting becomes extremely, extremely dangerous because of a bridging in a pocket or pockets, and that makes it extremely dangerous when you are doing the blasting to clear that bridging, and workers have found it necessary to refuse the work.

In this particular case they would say, the company could say, well you have to do it even though it is a danger. Now, Mr. Speaker, if this government, this particular minister has a particular problem with a certain number of employees who work for the government, well they should solve that particular problem; sit down with the employer and employee in the normal fashion of working out the employee-employer problems; sit down and talk about it and discuss it and solve that particular problem. Let us not create a mammoth problem out of this small problem that has developed as the minister suggested, this small problem has developed in the case of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary I believe he suggested, in that they had a problem with asking a Royal Newfoundland Constabulary member to do a specific task and they felt the role that he was hired to do should have been performed and that he had accepted the danger.

I would also caution the minister, Mr. Speaker, to put into legislation that we, as lawmakers or we as a society, would expect the people in law enforcement to have to put their lives in danger when it could be necessarily protected if they had certain tools to do the job, Mr. Speaker. I don't think anybody in today's society expects a policeman, or a fireman, as an example, to fight a fire without the proper equipment to fight the fire. I don't expect we would expect a fireman to put out a fire on the tenth floor of this building by rushing up the fire escape with a two-gallon bucket of water, if the fire is up there and it is dangerous without the proper breathing material and the proper equipment to put out the fire.

I don't expect society would expect, or should expect, a policeman to enter an armed confrontation between combatants without the proper tools to protect himself and other people who might be innocent bystanders. I don't think we should be expecting that of policemen or fire fighters.

Those are specific problems that should be worked out between the employer and employee agencies. That can solve those particular problems. Let's not create more problems in other industries, other sectors, in our society. I specifically mention the heavy industries that I represent, the people who work in the heavy industries, in the mining industry, in Western Labrador. They will see that this could have tremendous effect on their working conditions. They have negotiated the right - and it is my understanding that this would supersede any collective agreement. So out the window goes anything that they have negotiated over the years, and they felt it necessary to negotiate over the years, because of things that were occurring on the job site. Albeit, those mines are the safest mines in Canada, probably in the Western world, to work. But let's not go taking a giant step backwards with legislation such as this.

I agree with the minister in taking it to a legislative review committee to allow people who will be affected by this piece of legislation to voice their views. The minister suggested that they've been considering this piece of legislation for a number of years, I believe he said. Suggested a number of years?


MR. A. SNOW: Oh, I'm sorry. You've been considering it for some time. I commend him for taking it out and allowing the opportunity for people to have some public input into what should be in this bill. Because I believe that in its present form it has very serious consequences for people working in heavy industry. Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the minister if he speaks now he will close the debate.

The hon. the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations.

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I certainly appreciate the comments made by the hon. Members for Menihek, St. John's East and Kilbride in addressing Bill No. 59.

There are two or three issues that they did raise in the debate that I think we would readily recognize on this side that, in the limited amount of discussion that we've had to this point in time, we don't foresee these as being issues of the major scope and importance that they suggested. However, I think it makes very well the case for why we in fact need to let someone have a further look at this, through the committee process and so on, and to see whether or not the bill as now written will address the problem that has arisen that needs to be corrected, or whether we need to be more specific with designations and so on. These are issues that I'm sure will be brought forward as the Committee does its review of the particular bill. I would imagine that the members who spoke, and other interested parties, when they become fully aware of the intention of the government in this respect, will make their case at that time.

Just to point out before I conclude. Certainly, in the instance of a steel worker, for example, it was never the intention that the steel worker would never have the right to refuse, but that they wouldn't be able to refuse on the basis of the nature of the work alone. They would have to point out that there would be some abnormal hazard that had been introduced to the job before they could refuse.

The same type of thing would apply in the case of fire fighters, warders, police officers and the like. That when public safety is at jeopardy they would not have the right to refuse, and that is the intent of this change. When they are doing training exercises and the like, if there were some hazards hat appeared at that point in time which could jeopardize the safety of the worker, but not jeopardize the safety of anybody else in the public, that that should be addressed by these amendments.

If it becomes known and is seen, Mr. Speaker, that the points raised by the speakers are legitimate and that the bill has some faults, I am sure this will be taken care of through any amendments that would arise through the committee process. So with those few comments, Mr. Speaker, I would thank the members for their interest in the bill and will take this opportunity to move second reading of Bill 59.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Occupational Health And Safety Act," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House now, by leave. (Bill No. 59)

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

MR. GRIMES: I would like to move, Mr. Speaker, that Bill 59 be referred to the Government Services Committee pursuant to Standing Order 54(2) and as seconded by the hon. Government House Leader.

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that Bill 59 be referred to the Government Services Committee, the Legislation Review Committee, carried.

The hon. the Minister of Justice.

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, could we call please, Order No. 5, which is Bill 50?

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Remove Anomalies And Errors In The Statute Law". (Bill No. 50)

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, perhaps it is symbolic that this bill is known as the Attorney General's Act because it cleans up all the missed commas, misplaced periods, misspelled words and suchlike flaws in the statutes that have been brought to the attention of either me or more likely my officials since last we did one of these bills, which was about a year ago. The explanatory notes are copious and complete and unless any hon. member has any particular question I would simply let the matter go by saying that it is all here in the bill. No doubt hon. members have been up throughout the weekend reading this bill, checking back against the original statutes and then going in detail - no doubt spending hours of caucus trying to decide how many angels could in fact dance on the head of a pin which is really what the principle of this bill is all about. I move second reading, Sir.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Remove Anomalies And Errors In The Statute Law," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House now, by leave. (Bill No. 50)

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, we have done so well, could we ask you to leave the Chair? We will go into committee and see if we can address some other bills.

On motion, that the House resolve itself into Committee of the

Whole, Mr. Speaker left the Chair.

Committee of the Whole

MR. CHAIRMAN (Barrett): Order, please!

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. ROBERTS: Thank you. Mr. Chairman, I will ask the committee if we could deal with three bills and then when we are done we will have been such good boys we can go home if you want. Order No. 2, Order No. 3 and then Order No. 5, Mr. Chairman, please - there are some amendments, I may say, to the Tobacco Tax Act when we get there we will deal with those.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Order No. 2, Bill 46.

The hon. the Minister of Finance.

MR. BAKER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, you called Order No. 3 first did you?

MR. ROBERTS: Let's do Order No. 2 first, Mr. Chairman.

MR. BAKER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Bill 42, "An Act Respecting The Newfoundland Volunteer War Service Medal." This is the one that gives a broader interpretation to those eligible to receive the volunteer service medal, opens it up to the members of the Forestry Unit, the members of the Merchant Marine and sets up a group of experts, Mr. Chairman, to deal with any disputes that might arise as to eligibility.

It is a bill that has long been awaited, especially by the Forestry Unit, and has been a long time coming. We have agreement of all groups involved, They understand exactly what is happening to this volunteer medal. There will be a bar attached indicating the nature of the service of each of the individual members.

Mr. Chairman, as I indicated before I'm very pleased to finally get this done.

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

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I guess all that was needed to be said about this was said on Friday. There were a number of interesting speeches on Bill No. 42 at that particular time, and a bit of history. Basically I guess we just conclude by saying we commend the minister for his initiative and support the legislation.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

A bill, "An Act Respecting The Newfoundland Volunteer War Service Medal." (Bill No. 42)

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

MR. CHAIRMAN: Order 3, Bill 46.

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Tobacco Tax Act." (Bill No. 46)

MR. CHAIRMAN: Clause 3?

MR. ROBERTS: We have an amendment to clause 3.

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

MR. ROBERTS: If my hon. friend for Gander would permit, because he is not allowed to amend his own bill. This was the typographical error. It is found in subsection 6(4), which is in clause 3.

Clause 3 of the bill, I move, is to be amended by deleting the figure "15" and substituting the figure "19".

This is straightforward, Mr. Chairman.

On motion, amendment carried.

On motion, clause 3 as amended, carried.

Motion, that the Committee report having passed the bill with amendment, carried.

MR. ROBERTS: Can we do Bill No. 50, Mr. Chairman, the one we just dealt with, the Attorney General's act?

MR. CHAIRMAN: Order 5, Bill No. 50.

A bill, "An Act To Remove Anomalies And Errors In The Statute Law." (Bill No. 50)

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

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

MR. ROBERTS: The Speaker will be back in a moment, rather than ask a member to take the Chair, perhaps I could simply take a moment while we are at stand easy. We have four bills left to deal with. I suggest that tomorrow we will deal with An Act To Amend The Electoral Boundaries Act, which was distributed this morning, so that members would have had a chance to look at it. The Election Act amendments, which are quite straightforward, and then An Act To Amend The Tobacco Act (No.2) which is the Labrador bill. That would be today's work and that would leave only An Act To Amend The Labour Relations Act which I understand members would like to have a few words on.

I notice Mr. Speaker is in his Chair so we will carry on.

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

MR. BARRETT: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole has considered the matters to it referred and has directed me to report having passed Bill 46 with amendment and has passed Bills No 42 and 50 without amendment, and ask leave to sit again.

On motion, report received and adopted. Committee ordered to sit again, presently by leave.

On motion, amendment to Bill No. 46, read a first and second time, ordered read a third time presently by leave.

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

A bill, "An Act Respecting The Newfoundland Volunteer War Service Medal." (Bill No. 42)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Tobacco Tax Act." (Bill No. 46)

A bill, "An Act To Remove Anomalies And Errors In The Statute Law." (Bill No. 50)

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

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, rather than consultations behind the Chair I understand there have been consultations across the House and there is a willingness to proceed with the second reading debate on Bill No. 54. The understanding is that the House will not sit beyond 5:00 o'clock this afternoon. We do so in the hope that this bill be adopted, so I ask that you call Bill No. 54 and that is Order 9 on today's paper, Sir.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Municipalities Act. (No.2)." (Bill No. 54)

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

MR. REID: Mr. Speaker, let me apologize to the House for running back and forth like that but I was talking to my hon. critic and the Opposition House Leader on this. I would not call it a very important bill as such but it is a housekeeping chore and maybe the most important part of the bill as far as I am concerned is the one that stipulates that permanent employees of municipalities which are amalgamated must be transferred to the new municipality. We have run into a serious problem with that with regards to a friend of one of my colleagues opposite, or at least a constituent, and we found that it has been challenged in the court, the previous act has been challenged, and a number of communities around the Province who have been amalgamated have been forced because of the old act, or the one I am wishing to change, when amalgamation takes place, to provide positions for all the employees of all the towns, within the new town. It is just impractical to do that.

In one particular incident I am dealing with right now, in and around the Central Newfoundland area, of amalgamation, the town was forced, under the act, to employ some eight or ten people over and above what they really needed, because it was stipulated in the act that they should do that. I am not sure what the outcome of the court case was - maybe my hon. friend across could tell me what happened there. But I am hoping that by making the changes then new municipalities will not be forced into doing something that is totally contrary to their economic plan.

Clause 6 basically would give the minister the right to direct transition teams on what they should and should not do.

Clauses 2 and 3 would basically give the minister permission to increase the number of commissioners around the Province who are dealing with the amalgamation question.

As most of you realize, we have reached a point where I am pretty well ready, early in the new year, to make recommendations with regard to more amalgamations, but I don't know where we will actually go with regard to amalgamation after that. It is a decision that the government will have to address, I guess, in the new year. Even though clauses 2, 3 and 4 are there, it might be insignificant after the new year, anyway.

Clause 1 basically allows for transition teams to be appointed properly by the minister and recommended by towns involved.

So I am going to leave it at that. I know there may be some questions on it, and I have no problem dealing with the questions.

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

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

I wasn't expecting this bill to come before the House today so I really don't have my thoughts prepared, but there are a few comments I would like to make, particularly with respect to clause 5.

A couple of years ago, when the amalgamation issue was at its peak, a number of the towns that were amalgamated were basically ordered to take the staff of various municipalities, and in particular the St. John's Metropolitan Area Board. Under that board we had an individual who has come to me with a complaint that basically the Town of Conception Bay South was - I think it was Conception Bay South, or Paradise; I am not sure which, now.

AN HON. MEMBER: Paradise.

MR. J. BYRNE: Paradise, yes.

Paradise was ordered to take this individual under its wing, as an employee, and basically they were forced into that situation. The next day, after he was hired, he was let go because of redundancy, or the duplication of jobs.

That individual consequently approached the minister of the day and asked that his job be given back to him, or that he should be found a job, because individuals who were under his direction, with the St. John's Metropolitan Area Board, were given jobs with the City of St. John's and\or Paradise.

I wasn't in the House at that particular time. After I got elected he came to me and asked me to make representation to the minister, which I did - I spoke to the minister on that very issue. We didn't seem to get very far with that because he was told there was no position for him. And that directly relates to this clause. I am fearful - just a question to the minister: I don't know if he can answer it now - will this act be made retroactive to when the amalgamation issue first came up, or the legislation went through the House?

If it is made retroactive, then obviously it is trying to take care of that situation with respect to not being responsible for that individual if it does go to court. Back to the issue of speaking to the minister, he asked to meet with the minister; he was refused. I met with the minister, and got the answer that it is a court matter and that they didn't want to speak to him. So I contacted the Premier's office, believing that the Premier might get involved, and the Premier came back with the same answer: it is a court matter. It was in the courts, and they didn't want to discuss it.

The fact of the matter was that this individual wanted to meet with the minister and the Premier to discuss it, to keep it out of the courts so he wouldn't be forced to go to court with this issue.

The individual, I am sure he would not mind my naming him, is Mr. Loder, he lives in Logy Bay; and he is very concerned. He has been doing some upgrading courses in the meantime. But he is not being treated fairly. He was offered a settlement by government at the time and obviously, if they offered him a settlement they were admitting guilt that he wasn't treated fairly; but the settlement that was offered was well below what he expected. All the man wanted was his job and this legislation and the legislation with respect to amalgamation was and is faulty. And I can see now why they are bringing this in. I would like the minister to address that here in the House and see if, indeed, we can do something to get this man's job back.

Thank you.

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

MR. WOODFORD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, a few short -

MR. J. BYRNE: By leave.

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


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

MR. J. BYRNE: The court date hasn't been set; it is not in the courts and would never have gone to court if the minister and the Premier had decided to meet with this individual.

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

MR. WOODFORD: Mr. Speaker, a few comments pertaining to this bill. The concerns raised by my colleague for St. John's East Extern - I think the minister is aware of that particular problem down there. I understood that court case was over, but I don't think it is. I think it is still in the courts. So, the fact that this case is still in the courts, although when I was talking to the minister earlier - this may have an effect, well, it will have an effect on that particular case, no question, if it is passed here in the House. But it might go through the courts before something is proclaimed, that is the only -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. WOODFORD: Yes, that is the only danger. But if it is not through the courts, I would say to the minister and members opposite, that this is one particular bill on which, if it is passed here in the next few days, there should be some amendment made to cover municipalities that have already amalgamated. Because we brought legislation into the House, we brought retroactive legislation into this House before; especially as it pertains to municipal affairs, it has gone back as much as two years. Just last year we had three bills in the House, retroactive pieces of legislation, so we can certainly do the opposite, whereby, if this particular piece of legislation is passed, anything up to a certain date, say, for instance, January 1, anything could happen, but previous to that date will come under the stipulation of the old act.

Now, I understand also, in saying that, Mr. Speaker, that there are municipalities in the Province - one municipality, I believe in the Wesleyville area of the Province, has ten employees to absorb into their council. So it is a great financial burden on the new municipal government in that area because of the amalgamation process. But the fact is, there is a case now, before the courts and there should be some - and I will say to the minister when he comes back - some latitude made there if this particular bill is passed and I don't see, really, any reason why it probably shouldn't, that that legislation - probably anything could happen -previous to January 1, for instance, should be left under the old act.

In the explanatory notes, clause 1 of the bill would amend the act in order to allow transition teams to be appointed. Mr. Speaker, as the minister knows, all this, really, is after the fact. Now the minister is new in his portfolio but I told Mr. Gullage, back in 1989 when he came in with the great change of the Municipal Operating Grants and his formula on repayment of capital debt - I told him at that time, that there were going to be a lot of problems with this. But just let me go back, Mr. Speaker - he brought it in in 1989, to change the MOG but that next spring of 1990, the minister went around the Province - and he brought it up in the House; there was legislation passed pertaining to the Regional Government Services Act, pertaining to regional government in the Province. Now, that was the big thing before the great amalgamation issue. And all the amalgamation - the commissioners, I think it is: "Clauses 2, 3 and 4 of the Bill would amend the Act by giving the minister greater flexibility in the number of commissioners that may be appointed to conduct a feasibility report."

The minister at that time appointed feasibility studies around the Province, appointed commissioners to go around the Province, and committees to do feasibility studies of the communities that were slated for amalgamation. Those committees all contained a person from the minister's department at that time. I remember the one out our way, I think Mr. Colbourne was the person representing government.

They submitted their reports to the minister at that time, but even after the reports were submitted and the recommendations made, either against or for amalgamation - and in my case, in my particular area, in the District of Humber Valley, we had a case just last spring where the minister said that the communities of Nicholsville and Spillway would be amalgamated with the Town of Deer Lake.

The minister at that time appointed a transition team, I think representing a member from Municipal Affairs in Corner Brook, and then people from the Town of Deer Lake, Nicholsville and Spillway. They were supposed to get together and see what kinds of terms and conditions were going to be met to come up with the final amalgamation on January 1. That will take place on January 1 now, no question. It is done, signed, sealed and delivered. Because the election is over with now, just this past November 4, that dealt with the election of a person in ward - one person for Nicholsville and one for Spillway. But nobody from Spillway ran in the election so I guess there is going to have to be a by-election in that particular area.

The transition team was supposed to make it easier but the council there now still doesn't know, I say to the minister, exactly what is going to happen. For instance, budgets have to be in by December 31. What do they do? The representatives from Nicholsville and Spillway can't take their seats until January 1. Really, the Town of Deer Lake will be making decisions pertaining to Nicholsville and Spillway, which will all come under the Town of Deer Lake on January 1, and the people elected won't have a say in it. I say to the minister that those people should be involved in the budgetary process in this particular council now that has to be submitted by December 31.

Now I would say, in this case, they have asked - municipalities in the Province have asked for it before, and they have gotten it - extensions to their budgets. In this particular case they would probably have good grounds for an extension for the time that they have to have in order to get their budgets in.

Clause 5 of the bill would repeal section 434 of the act, which stipulates that all permanent employees of municipalities which are amalgamated must be transferred to the new municipality. Now, as I said before, in some areas that is going to be a great burden on the municipalities that are amalgamated, because they may have ten employees originally, and the other municipalities may have ten. By amalgamating, they may only want twelve. Then the other eight have to go, and usually it is the eight or nine from the new municipalities that are amalgamated.

I do not know what can be done about that. There is no such thing as successor rights. I do not think any unions under NAPE, CUPE, or anything like that, have any successor rights when it comes to municipalities in the Province; I do not think. I know with Newfoundland Farm Products they have successor rights built into a union contract, but I do not think they have it with municipalities. I do not know of any, although they might, but this is a case where something like that would probably be applicable because all of a sudden municipalities amalgamate and then eight or ten people - and I say to the minister that although this may be correcting the problem under the old act, because of amalgamation. My colleague from Mount Pearl was just talking about it. I can see this particular part of the act causing some concern, and probably would hang up and block amalgamation in the future.

Say, for instance, a larger centre - take Mount Pearl - probably has 120 employees, and they are going to amalgamate with St. John's. Now can you imagine the uproar in Mount Pearl, or Corner Brook, when you have such a large number of employees who, threatened with the possibility of amalgamation, could be out on the street the next day? You can imagine what is going to happen in that particular area. So I say to the minister that it could backfire in certain areas in the Province, although I can see it correcting some problems with regard to places like, I think you mentioned Wesleyville, right now, that probably have a real problem with their budgets. Especially now municipalities in the Province are just straining under the burden of taxation and so on, and the services they have to provide in municipalities in the Province, so just a word of caution, I suppose. I do not know how the minister would address it. It is probably a bit too late here to try to get something in there, but municipalities that are burdened with those employees, whether it is two, five, ten, fifteen or twenty - whatever it is.

The other thing, Mr. Minister, I say, is that they are going to have to be notified. Municipalities around the Province that will be amalgamated - or if not amalgamated some other changes to be made with regards to regional services and so on - they are going to have to be told about any amendments to any act because before anything is done they will want to take a look at it. I always found in some of those cases, that we don't find out until five or six months or probably even after an election that new amendments come out to the Municipalities Act that we don't know anything about until it is too late. Now granted, I suppose, you have municipalities that have lots of staff and so on and they can keep their councils informed of what is going on but anybody who is coming in on a volunteer basis certainly does not take the time to read all the amendments to a Municipalities Act.

The only one I would have concern with is clause 5 of the bill and I think he has expressed some concern himself and my hon. colleague from St. John's East Extern. My colleague from Waterford - Kenmount mentioned that he probably has some concerns with that particular one. I am sure that the minister will take those comments under advisement.

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

MR. REID: Sorry, Mr. Speaker. On the retroactivity of the bill, no, it will not be retroactive. When the bill is declared that is when it will start. So it will have no bearing whatsoever on the particular case you identified or any previous cases. That was not the intent. The intent basically is to give the new municipalities a chance to determine their own futures and provide the ability for them to be able to come up with a better structure in a combined amalgamated community, economically more efficient. It won't cause any problems for that particular gentleman or anyone else who want to challenge the act.

Like I said, Mr. Speaker, the whole question of amalgamation is still ongoing. I still have a number of communities that have actually asked to be amalgamated and we are working on it. I made the statement earlier in the House, I believe to the effect that I wanted to actually deal with them myself and talk to these people. I really have not had a chance to do it and that is why we postponed some of them. We did not have the time to put them in place for January 1 but like I said I am telling the House now that I will be going out in the new year and meeting with the rest of the councils that have been recommended by commissioners to be amalgamated.

I suppose the final decision then will come at a later time when I'm ready to go back to Cabinet with the final decision. If we need to do that then I guess it will come up in the House in the spring.

I don't think there were any other questions that you wanted addressed. Mr. Speaker, I move second reading.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Municipalities Act (No. 2)," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House on tomorrow. (Bill No. 54)

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

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, before I move the adjournment, which I assume will carry, notwithstanding the reluctance of the gentleman for Bellevue, who obviously does not want to leave the House. I will leave it with my colleagues to reason with him in language that strangers do not understand that he may.

Tomorrow, Sir, we will begin with An Act To Amend The Electoral Boundaries Act, and then deal with An Act To Amend The Elections Act, 1991, and An Act To Amend The Tobacco Tax Act (No.2). If we get through that tomorrow before 5:00 p.m. we will adjourn at 5:00 p.m.

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

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