December 8, 1994           HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS            Vol. XLII  No. 77

The House met at 2:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Dicks): Order, please!

Statements by Ministers

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker, much has been said in the past several weeks about the operation of the Marystown Shipyard and government's role in the operation. The most recent incident which saw the Hibernia Management Development Corporation remove work from the facility because it would not be completed according to the schedule established by HMDC, impressed on government the urgency of dealing with the obvious shortcomings at the facility if we are to avoid similar situations in the future.

At the outset, Mr. Speaker, I must repeat what I have said on numerous occasions in the past, that no single person or group of people are to blame for what has transpired at the Marystown Shipyard. The blame must be shared by government, management, unions and workers to the extent that their respective actions or inaction contributed to the problem. In this regard, in October I announced government's intention to restructure Marystown Shipyard in order to make it viable. At that time, I indicated what would be required to accomplish this.

Starting with the Board of Directors, on November 10, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology announced the restructuring of the board. This move saw four new members appointed, Harold Duffett; Captain Sid Hynes; Don Warr and the Deputy Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology, David Oake, who will become the only public service representative on the board. These four individuals are well-known in their respective fields of expertise and I am pleased that they agreed to serve on the board. On November 10, Mr. Furey said that two other members would be named to the board at a later date. Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to inform the House today that Lloyd Hines of Grand Bank has agreed to serve on the board. Mr. Hines has worked for many years in the marine industry. For the past 20 years he has owned and operated Southcoast Marine Electronics Limited. Prior to this, Mr. Hines worked for 10 years with the Canadian Marconi Company Limited. I am confident that his experience will be an asset to the board.

The second individual is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Royal Oak Mines, Peggy Witte. Mr. Speaker, I think it is safe to say that there are not many people who have not heard of Peggy Witte, particularly in the financial community and in the mining community, where she has become a force to be reckoned with. Her competition in the mining industry has referred to her as an outstanding entrepreneur. She made her first mark in the mining industry by helping to introduce a new gold-recovery technology in Canada more that a decade ago, which made low-grade ore bodies more profitable to exploit. Since then, she has turned a collection of old mines that have poor, low-grade ore reserves into profitable operations. It is largely because of Peggy Witte and her efforts that the Hopebrook Gold Mine is operating today. I remind members, Mr. Speaker, that the great BP, a subsidiary of BP Oil, operated originally at Hopebrook Mines and ran into troubles and couldn't cope with the environmental or the financial problems they were having, but it was Peggy Witte's company that took it over and turned it into a profitable operation employing some 270 Newfoundland workers today. Ms. Witte's business acumen, particularly her reputation as a sound financial manager, will be invaluable to the board as efforts are made to have the shipyard operating as a viable commercial operation.

In addition, I am pleased to announce that Sir Graham Day has agreed to act as a consultant to the board. A well-known strategist, Sir Graham is well known for taking on troubled companies and turning them around. He really made his reputation in the U.K. - although his origins are Nova Scotia - when in 1971 the British Government invited him to become chief executive of Cammell Laird, a struggling shipbuilder on the verge of insolvency which he subsequently made profitable. Following a two-year stint with Dome Petroleum, he returned to British Shipbuilders and successfully returned what was left of the business to the private sector. At present, he is chairman or director of several international companies. Sir Graham has told me that he will make himself available whenever the board feels they could benefit from his advice and has insisted that he will not receive any compensation for acting in that capacity. With his background, the board will be well served by his input as they work to revitalize the yard. I should add, Mr. Speaker, that Sir Graham now lives in Nova Scotia, so travel would not be as difficult as it might otherwise be if he were in the U.K.

These new board members will join Thomas O'Reilly, who will continue as Chairman of the board, and Eric Jerrett, who will remain on the board. Max Ruelokke will sit on the board as an ex-officio in his capacity as President and Chief Executive Officer of Vinland Industries. In announcing these new board members, I must take this opportunity to express sincere appreciation to those individuals who served the board faithfully over the past several years. The challenges they faced were not easy and no doubt accounted for many sleepless nights as they dealt with some serious issues. I personally thank them for their contribution and thank them, as well, on behalf of the people of the Province.

Mr. Speaker, restructuring the Board of Directors was the first step in a three-step process. We must now ensure that the other two steps in the process are implemented. Restructuring the board will mean nothing if there is not a review of the management structure and the collective bargaining agreement. That, however, is a task for the new board. In that vein, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology and I met with the new Board of Directors on Friday, November 25, to inform them that in the future there would be no governmental involvement in the running of the shipyard. The exchange with the new board was frank in that there was considerable discussion about the level of financial support the shipyard received in the past from the Province and the recognition that this cannot continue. There was recognition as well, however, that government must continue to provide a reasonable level of funding to give the new board time to develop and put in place new strategies for the operation. While the government would like for the shipyard to be a profitable enterprise, and has made it clear that it cannot continue to subsidize it to the level that it has in the past, I have told the Board of Directors that a break even position would be acceptable, at least to start with.

Mr. Speaker, in handing over full responsibility for the operation of the Marystown Shipyard to the Board of Directors, government will not be meeting with interest groups as it has done in the past. Instead, should problems arise in the future, the board will be the arbitrator of these problems. Unless specifically requested by the board, government will not become involved in any aspect of running the facility.

It is unfortunate, Mr. Speaker, that we didn't take this step before. Instead, we continued the practice that had been established for many years, and it was clearly a mistake.

I realize this is a departure from past practices, but I believe that part of the problem has been the number of groups who have had direct involvement in the day-to-day operation at Marystown. The management and the workers at the shipyard must work together to make the facility a viable operation, and if there are differences there is a competent Board of Directors in place to deal with them.

Mr. Speaker, this government remains confident in the long-term future of the Marystown Shipyard. If this were not the case, we would take steps immediately to close the operation after the shipyard had met all of its contractual obligations. Instead, we have appointed a new Board of Directors to review the operation with a view to seeing the facility revitalized and able to compete for business with similar facilities throughout the world. The end result should be a sound financial operation offering jobs to those qualified to fill them.

The matter is now in the hands of the new board, and I am confident they will do the job.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

I want to say at the outset, we support any initiative that will be positive to the operation of the Marystown Shipyard, any initiative, whether it is a change in the board of directions, changes at various management levels, any changes.

MS. VERGE: Change of government.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Well, certainly a change of government. I would really support that. Anything that is of a positive nature we will support, but I want to say to the Premier that it is a little late in coming. What we see here is a government finally taking some action after losing a major contract, the MOF contract, a major contract that we could have achieved and could have obtained for Marystown.

In the past few weeks we have seen a loss of work to Saint John, New Brunswick, which should never have happened, Mr. Speaker. This has really woken up the government after about two years of procrastination, I say to the Premier. Eighteen months ago the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology said he was going to do what the Premier is announcing today. It is not all done yet because we still have to wait to see some changes to management, and the Premier has indicated they will want to talk to the union about the union contract.

Of course I am very much aware of that having sat in the Premier's boardroom a few weeks ago with a committee from the Burin Peninsula and really heard the Premier point the finger at the unions. He tried to put the blame on them, which, of course, was not the case in the loss of work to Saint John, New Brunswick.

Mr. Speaker, it raises some questions of really what we are about to see. I must say that I am impressed with some members, the new appointees to the board. I do not know much about Sir Graham Day but the Premier seems to be rather high on him.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible)

MR. W. MATTHEWS: No, a consultant. Not being compensated, I believe, the statement says. In this capacity now he is not being compensated which is certainly a very good gesture on his part. The present chief executive officer of Royal Oak Mines seems very credible, I must say. Looking at what the Premier said about her and what we know about her through public statements she seems quite credible and I am sure will bring a great deal of expertise to the board, which it needs.

There is an obvious absence here. I read no representation on the board from the union in any way and that is probably by design, from the community at large, I guess. I guess that is what the Premier means when he is getting away from interest groups, it is the union and the communities. I am really not sure what that all means and how it will all play out in the final analysis of the operation of the Marystown Shipyard, and whether or not that end result will make it more profitable. We will have to wait and see that.

Mr. Speaker, as I said at the outset I support anything that has a chance to make this yard profitable. We all know what the Marystown Shipyard does, not only to the people of the Burin Peninsula and to the economy of the Burin Peninsula, but to the provincial economy and to employment throughout the Province. We want to see it continue to operate, and I just hope that the new board does get on with some changes in its management which I, by the way, can support. I know there have been some problems in the various levels of management at the Marystown Shipyard and I said that in a meeting with the Premier a few weeks ago. I told him at the time: Do you want a list? There are some people there who should not have been there, as I guess in any big operation. If that is what it takes to make this thing profitable and to keep the employment levels up, then let's do so.

I find it quite interesting as well that the Premier says really that government sort of would be satisfied with a break-even sort of situation at the Yard.

MR. SIMMS: (Inaudible).

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Yes, well, I don't know how long that is going to take or what is involved in that, but I would be quite interested to see this thing develop within the next twelve to eighteen months. I really hope, my sincerest wish, Mr. Speaker, is that there indeed will be a profitable Marystown Shipyard in operation at that time.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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


MR. SPEAKER: No leave.

The hon. the Minister of Health.

MR. L. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I am pleased to advise the House of Assembly that earlier today Sister Marion Collins, Superior General of the Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy, on behalf of the Congregation, and I, on behalf of the government, signed an agreement respecting the future of St. Clare's Mercy Hospital. This agreement was negotiated over the past year by representatives of the Sisters of Mercy, the Board of Governors of St. Clare's, and senior government officials.

Under the agreement, the government has purchased the St. Clare's Mercy Hospital property which will be operated under the direction of the new St. John's Hospitals Board announced earlier in the year. The agreement provides for the Sisters of Mercy to continue to carry out their ministry of health care at St. Clare's. It also provides that the mission, philosophy, values and ethical principles of St. Clare's Mercy Hospital will be maintained within the new Board structure. The title to St. Clare's Mercy Hospital will be transferred to the Province, and governance of the Hospital will be with the new Hospital Board.

Mr. Speaker, the government has purchased the St. Clare's Mercy Hospital property for $6.5 million, which will be amortized as to principal and interest over a period of twenty years. The purchase price, while recognizing the value of the land and the direct financial input of the Sisters of Mercy into the St. Clare's property, cannot in any way be projected as representing the value of the significant contribution which the Sisters have made to health services in this Province, or the current replacement cost of St. Clare's.

Mr. Speaker, I believe that this agreement is in the best interest of the people of the Province, and I want to thank the Sisters of Mercy for the vision they demonstrated in their negotiations with government. Their willingness to relinquish the title and control of St. Clare's Mercy Hospital and allow it to continue as one of the leading health care institutions in our Province reflects their deep commitment to the health care system and to seeing St. Clare's continue as an integral part of the new regional board structure in St. John's.

At this time, Mr. Speaker, I would be remiss if I did not pay tribute to the Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy for the tremendous contributions they have made to health care services in this Province during the past seventy-two years. The people of this Province have benefitted immeasurably from that contribution. It is my hope and expectation that the Sisters of Mercy will continue to contribute to the health care system of the Province through St. Clare's Mercy Hospital and that the people of our Province will continue to benefit from their ministry in health care.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Firstly, I commend the Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy for their invaluable contribution to health care services in this Province. I say, the minister may have come out of his state of denial. Less than two weeks ago the minister stated, `absolutely nothing has been determined with any finality as to which facilities will remain open or be closed or if, indeed, any will be closed.' So I say to the minister: Will you tell the public that you know, as well as I do, that there will be two acute care facilities in this city, the Health Sciences and St. Clare's Mercy Hospital? Thank you, Mr Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Oral Questions

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

MR. SIMMS: Mr. Speaker, for several weeks now, since the House has been open, I have been asking questions on the Trans City Holdings issue, and up until now, the Premier has been trying to distance himself from this issue and from these hospital contracts. So far, his main defence has been his poor memory, his inability to recollect. Now, according to information that we received yesterday - which I am prepared to table and which I know the Premier is fully aware of - the Premier's schedule for Thursday, April 4, 1991, shows that he met with Bill Case, Tom Hickman and Joe Butler who happened to be the principals involved with Trans City, and the meeting convened at 5:00 p.m. Now, at that meeting he was accompanied by the Member for Humber West - the then Minister of Justice, and the President of Treasury Board - the Member for Gander. Would the Premier tell the House who requested this meeting and what topics were mentioned?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Last week or the week before I explained this meeting in the House when I spoke, I mentioned this meeting or I mentioned it somewhere recently.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

PREMIER WELLS: Oh, yes, I did.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

PREMIER WELLS: No, no, others remember that I mentioned it and have said so; as a matter of fact, I was asked about this yesterday by Mr. Wangersky from CBC.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

PREMIER WELLS: No, no, he reminded me that I have been talking about it for some time, including back in 1991 when I made a public statement on it at that time. My recollection at the time, Mr. Speaker, is that was being considered as one alternative to meet the library needs of the Law Society. They had to move out of the Court House and ultimately those library needs were met by renting space in Atlantic Place. An alternative was to build other facilities adjacent to the Court House or across the street from the Court House and that is what that proposal was at that time. Hence, the person who was Minister of Justice and the President of Treasury Board, the Minister of Finance, were present at the meeting.

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

MR. SIMMS: Mr. Speaker, if the discussion was about library services why would Bill Case, Tom Hickman and Joe Butler be there? Could he answer that?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker, it is quite simple. They were aware of the need for library space and were bringing forward a proposal to supply it, the same as numerous other people have proposed to meet government's needs in the Province and, Mr. Speaker, just so that there is no mistake about it, let me say, I encourage any entrepreneur or business person in the Province to take such steps in the future. It shows good sound judgement.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MR. SIMMS: Mr. Speaker, I didn't hear the Premier. Who requested the meeting?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: I will go back and check to see where the request came from. I don't know whether it came through the President of Treasury Board or the Minister of Justice, or from Mr. Hickman, Mr. Butler or Mr. Case.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

PREMIER WELLS: No, I don't think it originated with me. I think somebody would have asked me for the meeting - I think - but I will go back and check.

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

MR. SIMMS: A supplementary to the Premier, Mr. Speaker.

Could he explain on his schedule agenda what is meant by Duckworth Chambers, then, if that was the topic?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: I just heard the president say that was the name of the proposal. That seems to make sense, but I will go back and check that, too. I think that was the name of the building that was being proposed, and my recollection is that it was across the street from the courthouse and what they were proposing was a walkway over Duckworth Street or a tunnel under it - I have forgotten which - something like that.

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

MR. SIMMS: Mr. Speaker, on a supplementary then, to the Premier: Can the Premier confirm that it was also at this meeting on April 4, 1991, that he specifically discussed their original concept to design/build/lease, which they had proposed earlier on with respect to the courthouses, that he also discussed specifically their original concept, but this time it was for use in the upcoming tenders to be called on the hospital contracts?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: No, Mr. Speaker, I cannot. As far as I know, it had no connection with it; it had to do with that proposal, to the best of my knowledge. I will check and see whether there is anything in the records that indicates anything else was discussed. The only recollection I have at the moment is that it dealt with library facilities for the court.

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

MR. SIMMS: Mr. Speaker, surprisingly enough, things developed very quickly on another front, on the hospital contract front, shortly after that meeting on April 4, 1994. Shortly after the meeting, the government cancelled, at a cost to taxpayers of $400,000, a contract that had been awarded months before to Newlab Nycum to design and draw up specs for the new health care centres. I want to ask the Premier: Was there discussion at all at this meeting, and was that not the reason why the contract was cancelled shortly after his meeting, discussion about the hospital contracts?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: No, Mr. Speaker, as far as I know, there is no connection whatsoever, no discussion at the same time at all. To the best of my knowledge, nothing else other than Duckworth facilities for the courthouse was discussed at that meeting.

The minister tells me now, or reminds me, that the original discussions on leasing instead of buying or building directly by government originated with government early in 1990.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition, on a supplementary.

MR. SIMMS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I understand all of that. We heard that sworn to in the court as well, with respect to the courthouse. Let me ask the Premier this: Doesn't he find it a little bit strange that it was only about a little over two months after this meeting that he held with these three principals that, in fact, Cabinet passed a Minute-in-Council that approved the exact concept that they had proposed back in 1990, the design/build/lease/financing concept for the health care centres, and wasn't this exactly the concept that the principals of Trans City had proposed to the government?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board.

MR. BAKER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am answering because I remember the context in which it was done. We examined build/lease and that concept back in late 1989 or early 1990, and the reasons, I could go into and have gone into in the past, Mr. Speaker.

One of the examples we were using was the build/lease proposal done just a year or so before that by the hon. gentleman when, I believe, he was President of Treasury Board on, I believe, the Grand Falls Courthouse. That was a build/lease proposal as well, so the build/lease proposal, that process was the kind of thing that we were discussing. We didn't do it in 1990 because evidence indicated that at that point in time, with the spreads in the market, we could not do it at below our cost. In 1991, conditions changed drastically; we were into a recession. Our spreads went from about 90 basis points above the long-term rate to about 125 to 130 basis points above, and that was what made it possible then to re-examine the build/lease proposal, because then we could get it done more cheaply than we could it ourselves.

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

MR. SIMMS: This has absolutely nothing to do with my question to the Premier, but I thank the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board for the lesson, Mr. Speaker. Let me ask the Premier this question: Has the Premier ever discussed this hospital contract matter with any or all of the principals of Trans City?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker, I just listened to the President of Treasury Board and he reminded me that the original idea for doing these (inaudible) was copied from the Grand Falls courthouse, as I recall, built when the hon. member was President of Treasury Board - a similar approach. Wasn't that what was done at the time?

MR. BAKER: Except there was a (inaudible) -

MS. VERGE: That wasn't the question.

MR. BAKER: - 100 basis points above what we could have done ourselves (inaudible).

MS. VERGE: (Inaudible) question!

PREMIER WELLS: Now, the question. I just remind - because I just heard the minister say it, and I had forgotten that at the time. Mr. Speaker, as to whether that was ever - I can't say at this moment that I did or I didn't. I just simply don't recall ever doing so. Maybe I did at some time or other, but I don't recall ever doing so.

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

MR. SIMMS: Mr. Speaker, it is passing strange that the Premier would be so specifically mindful of what was discussed at this meeting on April 4 1991 - he just told us a few minutes ago in the House what it was, but now somehow he is not sure - is that he is saying? - if he ever discussed this with any of those principals. Surely he must remember that. Besides, with respect to the point he made at the beginning, the proposal for the Grand Falls courthouse was not the same as the proposal put forth by Tom Hickman.

MR. ROBERTS: (Inaudible) money! (Inaudible) lost a lot of money (inaudible)!

MR. SIMMS: Not the same proposal put forth by your buddies, Tom Hickman and the rest of them!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. SIMMS: Not the same at all!

AN HON. MEMBER: You cost the (inaudible) money.

MR. SIMMS: And you know it.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

PREMIER WELLS: Now, Mr. Speaker -

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: - I remember the meeting that took place in my office. It was recalled to my memory by Mr. Wangersky showing me a copy of a time sheet. I recall the discussion taking place and I recall the access overhead from the courthouse to the library. I recall it looked at the future needs for the court, too, so I do remember those discussions at the time.

Mr. Speaker, I remember discussions in Cabinet about this proposal for the health care facilities, and so I did - I was involved in discussions relating to the health care facilities, certainly in Cabinet. I expect I would have been involved with discussions maybe in P and P, too, for all I know. I don't recall specifically, but I expect that I was. I probably also had discussions directly with the President of Treasury Board on it, but I do not recall specifically discussing them with either Mr. Butler, Mr. Case or Mr. Hickman, but I can't say to the House with certainty that I did not.

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

MR. CAREEN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Today, my questions are for the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation. Mr. Speaker, there were four more tragic deaths on our provincial highways this morning, which bring the total of highway fatalities to nine in the past seven days. Anyone travelling the highway knows that highway maintenance and safety have deteriorated over the past two or three years. I ask the minister: Will he take action to ensure that the carnage we have already seen does not continue on our highways this winter?

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

MR. EFFORD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I realize what the hon. member is saying, that any death is a tragedy on our highways. I, as the minister of this department, take it very seriously when we hear about any tragedy, and especially nine in the last four days. Last year, between October and December, we had fifteen tragic deaths on our highways due to vehicle accidents. If I, for one second, thought it was through the neglect of the Department of Works, Services and Transportation I would resign immediately. I can tell you very clearly, there has been no downgrading in the services. We have continued to operate our service, put new vehicles, new ploughs, new trucks on the highways, and train our front line workers.

We have to remember that the condition of the highways in the wintertime and when it is snowing creates a hazard. You cannot drive in the winter with the slush conditions at the same speed as you would drive in the summertime. All too often, people get themselves caught in this type of situation. That is the reality of driving in those conditions, you must adjust your speed. The accident that happened this morning was in Terra Nova National Park, it was not on the highway for which our department is responsible, but that is not to take anything away from the service being provided by the snow-clearing efforts of those people in Terra Nova National Park. What it tells you is, that the highways are hazardous when it is snowing and slushy and you must adjust your speed. I wish I did not have to stand and respond to a question like that, an unfortunate case where we have lost nine people in the last four days.

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

MR. CAREEN: Opposition members, and I am sure government members have been flooded with complaints about snow and ice on the highways. The open line shows are choked with similar complaints. When is this minister going to stop blaming the victims? Minister, are you going to take the responsibility you have for your department, and ensure our highways are safe? When are you going to assume your proper responsibilities?

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

MR. EFFORD: I am not blaming victims; please do not insinuate or make the accusations that I am blaming victims.

What I am saying is the highway conditions in the wintertime do not allow people, all of us, to drive in the same condition as we do in the summer time. The other thing we have to remember now is driving conditions - adjustment of speed across the Province. Since the railway disappeared in our Province we have a tremendous amount of trucks that would not be on the highway as there are now; much more, heavy traffic as tractor trailers, it is something we have to contend with especially during the winter months when the snow-covered roads are there, and with the heavy traffic on our roads, that is another reason why we should adjust our speeds.

I cannot say how and why it happened; that the individuals who were in the accidents in the last three days was due to high speed, all I can say is, that the roads were not in good condition. Friday morning, I came in thirty minutes before the accident happened east of Roaches Line, it took me at least thirty-five minutes longer to drive from Roaches Line to St. John's that it ordinarily would have, so I adjusted my speed according to the roads. There were very bad conditions, the plow had made three trips, from Avondale to that section of road prior to the accident, but you cannot be in the one spot twenty-four-hours a day. It is moving and the snow falls and causes slush - it is a very unfortunate thing.

There has been no downgrading in service; there has been an increase. We spent $22 million last year in snow clearing and salting on our highways; we put 100 per cent salt on the highways, no mixture of sand and salt. There is no mixture of salt on the Trans-Canada whatsoever, there is no sand in it, and we are upgrading, new vehicles and new training programs; even the drivers are trained how to operate the new vehicles in the conditions we are operating under.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).


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

MR. CAREEN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

We just heard about the railway and extra pressure. Well, why don't you talk to your federal counterpart in Ottawa and support year-round service, probably for these trucks to come into some port into the Avalon Peninsula, particularly Argentia or St. John's or wherever if you want to get some of the vehicles off the road, particularly transport trucks.

Mr. Speaker, highway workers are telling people they are under direct instructions to make sure the piece of road the minister drives over every day from Port de Grave, is cleared of snow and ice from 5:00 a.m. every morning until he returns home in the evening.

Minister, shouldn't every Newfoundlander be entitled to the same treatment as you are being treated yourself?

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

MR. EFFORD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I will say that I was in Opposition from '85 to '89, and I put some loaded questions to the ministers on the other side, but I never ever once, stood in my seat and accused a minister of saying what you are saying.

Mr. Speaker, I challenge the hon. member to put that evidence on the table, that this minister, directed anybody - I will challenge the hon. member very clearly, Mr. Speaker, if he puts that evidence on the table with the proof that I did that, he can have my resignation immediately, otherwise, his resignation falls on the table. That is low and despicable.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl.

MR. WINDSOR: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I have some questions for the same minister and on the same topic. I find the minister's answer to my colleague from Placentia quite interesting.

On March 21, of 1994, this year, I asked that same minister if it was the policy of the department to have a different level of service on various sections of the highway, because it is obvious, in fact, that certain sections seem to be cleared better than others sometimes, depending on whichever depot is responsible. The minister's reply at that time, "Anyway there is a Liberal district." Would the minister now like to reconsider the answer he just gave my colleague?

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

MR. EFFORD: It is absolute nonsense for the member to get on with that nonsense. Mr. Speaker, the Trans-Canada begins at St. John's and goes right across to Port aux Basques. The hon. member knows full well that the trucks start to work at 5:00 o'clock in the morning. They leave their individual depots and they do the Trans-Canada with 100 per cent salt in the back of the trucks and the ploughs on the front of the trucks. The individual drivers are trained.

It is not a schedule that I create. It is a schedule created by the Department of Works, Services and Transportation. They operate until l:30 in the afternoon, depending on the weather, and if weather conditions dictate they continue on to work after that. Then they are on call in for the rest of that day until 5:00 o'clock the next morning. There is no discretion used as to any district except for the fact of where the snow and ice conditions are, and that is where the trucks go.

Everybody in this House and everybody in this Province knows full-well the procedure as to the operations of the department.

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

MR. WINDSOR: Mr. Speaker, exactly one year ago today, December 8, 1993 I put some questions to the same minister on this same topic. In fact I told him at that time there were six vehicles off the road between Butterpot Park and Mount Pearl that very morning. I asked the minister then why snow and ice control services had been downgraded, and the minister made a joke of it. He thought it was very funny at the time and he gave a similar answer as he gave today. He said sometimes the trouble is the cause of the people driving the vehicles.

Would the minister like to tell the families of those nine people who have been murdered on our highway in the last week that that is indeed the cause and that it was their fault those accidents took place?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister.

MR. EFFORD: I always knew the member was sick but I never realized he was that sick. I drove that particular stretch of the highway the day that the hon. member is referring to and two vehicles passed me and one of the pickups ended up on its cab in the ditch, so it was the condition of the road and the fast driving that caused the accident on that stretch of road. That individual passed me that day when I was going home to my own district.

The climate changes from time to time, sometime three or four times in a day. You could get a mild spell, two degrees above, and in the next hour or two it is two degrees below. You cannot drive the same speed under wintertime conditions as you would in the summertime. As far as the hon. member making reference to me causing the nine deaths, the murderer of the nine deaths on the highway, you can make all the accusations you want but I feel just the same as all hon. members of this House, I feel very sad and I feel burdened with it, because I am the minister and I asked myself the question: was there something else we could have done? I called the staff immediately and asked: are you sure the trucks were out that morning? I even came over the road three quarters of an hour earlier that morning and I had to adjust to the conditions. Even then questioning, making sure we are doing everything humanly possible to keep the roads clear.

I called officials into a meeting but you still ask yourself the same questions. It is not something easy to live with. I know what those family members are going through and I can bear some of the pain but not to the extend that they can. For you to point a finger at me and the staff of the department, that is your choice if you wish to do that, but I can assure you with respect to everybody in this Province we are doing the best job we possibly can. If we had five times as many vehicles on the highway you are still going to have unsafe conditions which will cause accidents. That is the reality of climate conditions that we experience in this Province.

The hon. member can make brownie points if he wishes but I tell you we take the job very seriously.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. WINDSOR: Mr. Speaker, obviously the minister takes it serious now. It is too bad he did not take it seriously a year ago when I told him that this situation was taking place on our highways. I told him then that I would hold him responsible if somebody was killed. It is too bad that nine people had to be killed before this minister woke up. Will he now do the honourable thing and resign, or will the minister get a flick out of Cabinet again before more people are killed on our highways this year?

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

MR. EFFORD: (Inaudible) but I have to under such despicable conditions and the words coming out of the hon. member's mouth but nevertheless, last year between October and January there were fifteen people who lost their lives. We know that there were slippery conditions when that happened. You cannot control the temperatures in this Province and have the roads in perfect condition, the same as in June, July and August, as we do in the winter months. It is impossible, the road conditions are slippery and they are going to be slippery. We implore everybody in this Province to use caution when driving their vehicles. We implore you to understand that snow does fall and ice conditions do take place on our highways and you cannot maintain a speed of 70, 80, 90 kilometres under those conditions. The public relations department is trying to get that message out over the highways. We cannot do any more than we are doing. It is absolutely impossible.

The hon. member can keep making all kinds of remarks across this House but we, on this side of the House and I am sure all members on that side of the House, understands the seriousness of the condition except when he wants to make some political points.

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

MS. VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I have a question for the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations, who is also the Minister responsible for Human Rights. With International Human Rights Day approaching, will the minister and the government mark this International Human Rights Day by introducing in the House of Assembly a simple but long overdue amendment to the Provincial Human Rights Legislation to extend human rights protection to gays and lesbians by prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation?

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

MR. MURPHY: Yes, thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

Let me say to the hon. member that this government recognizes human rights to its full extent. However, we are now discussing other areas of the human rights legislation and I cannot say to the hon. member that the question she asked will be looked after within six months or a year or whatever the case may be. She sat as the Minister of Justice for a lot of years and was responsible for Human Rights, Mr. Speaker, and I don't know that the hon. member did a whole lot in that area but we recognize the human rights aspect. We will be talking about it tomorrow and I say to the hon. member, over the year or years, we will certainly do what we can and do what is right, as we always have.

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

MS. VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I have questions following up to the Premier in his capacity as acting Minister of Justice. The governments own Human Rights Commission has taken the position that because the Provincial Human Rights Legislation fails to protect gays and lesbians, the code violates the constitution, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the commission has announced its intention of going to court with a charter challenge. Why won't the Premier and the government respect the legal advice of their own Human Rights Commission and spare the taxpayers the cost of an unnecessary court case by introducing a simple bill in the House of Assembly to rectify the Human Rights Legislation?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker, the commission is performing its statutory role as appointed under Statute. It is not a legal advisory body for the government. The officers of the Department of Justice, as the member well knows, are the legal advisors for whom the government takes its advice and will continue to take the legal advice from that source, not from any other.

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

MS. VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. To the Premier, what is the Department of Justice advising? Isn't the Department of Justice advising that the Provincial Human Rights Code violates the constitution by failing to protect gays and lesbians? Why won't the Premier spare the taxpayers the unnecessary expense of the court challenge?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker, the advice that officials give the government and Cabinet, as the hon. member knows, is confidential legal advice and the Cabinet would intend to treat it that way. I could ask the hon. member what advice they gave the hon. member when she was minister for so many years and took no such steps.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to direct a question to the Minister of Health. Since the death of Sylvester Lynch in January of 1994, the Witless Bay Fire Department still cannot respond to medical emergencies under the 911 system and since that time there have been numerous other emergencies and even deaths. When will the department enable the qualified fire-fighters at Witless Bay to respond to medical emergencies?

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

MR. L. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Frankly I hope we will be able to soon allow them or enable them to respond. There are a number of issues that still have to be addressed and sorted out. A tripartite committee from the Departments of Justice, Municipal and Provincial Affairs, and Health, who are all parties to the 911 system, have met. There is a final report now being drafted to provide some recommendations as to the issues that have to be cleared up before these people, who are quite qualified in many instances in a volunteer fire department system, can be brought officially on line as responders.

One of the biggest issues that has to be addressed, of course, is the issue of liability. There are three things really involved in terms of talking about bringing volunteer fire department people into the 911 system. We have to ensure that there is a need, we have to ensure that there is capability out there to respond, and we have to ensure that for purposes of liability they are covered, and that is one of the things that has to be addressed.

In terms of the Witless Bay situation we have taken some corrective measures. At the moment we have tied in as a responder Hickey's ambulance service from Holyrood. They can get there in fifteen or twenty minutes, which seems to be about ten or fifteen minutes better on occasion than the Health Sciences. We are also looking at the redeployment of the ambulance capacity on the Southern Shore. We have a situation up there where we have three ambulances within a five- or ten-mile radius, and we have a significant space where we have no ambulances. We have significant under-utilization in the capacity that we have there.

We are doing a number of things to ensure that people in the area of Bay Bulls - Witless Bay get responded to properly, efficiently and in a manner that will give them protection, assistance, and provide for health care for them on a proper basis.

AN HON. MEMBER: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Question period has expired.

On behalf of hon. members I would like to welcome to the public galleries Mr. Peter Peter Penashue, the President of the Innu nation.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Presenting Reports by

Standing and Special Committees

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

MR. EFFORD: Mr. Speaker, I would like to table the report of the Public Tender Act Exceptions, October, 1994.

Notices of Motion

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

MR. WINDSOR: I would just like to point out to the minister, Mr. Speaker, that under the act, these exceptions are supposed to be tabled within fifteen days of the House opening. It is a little bit late.

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

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, are we on Notices of Motion?

MR. SPEAKER: Notices of Motion, yes.

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will on tomorrow ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, "An Act To Remove Anomalies And Errors In The Statute Law". It is the one for which we have all been waiting - eighty-seven commas, four full stops and three dashes in that one.

Answers to Questions

For which Notice has been Given


MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker, I apologize to the House. I had some notes to provide information on a question that was asked yesterday, I believe, about the leave of Mr. Emmerson, a man in Corner Brook, to go to his wife who was dying, leave from prison. I apologize for having to give it as I remember reading it, because I left it in my office.

My recollection is that the Director of Penitentiaries, Mr. Marvin McNutt, will be issuing a release today which will provide the information he has on it, and that release will indicate that a call or calls had been received in the Penitentiary system and had not been followed up. One or two people in the Penitentiary system had not been diligent in following up the call on a timely basis. So, Mr. Emmerson, under the ordinary policy, would have been given escorted leave in those circumstances. The policy clearly permits that.

It appears as though there was a failure in the system. Mr. McNutt has indicated that the matter is being further investigated and steps will be taken to ensure that it does not occur again, but it was a fault that occurred within the system.


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

MR. CAREEN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to present a petition from the people of Southern Harbour who ask the House of Assembly to accept the following prayer:

`We, the undersigned, do hereby request the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations to immediately provide emergency funding to generate desperately needed employment in our communities. As in duty bound, your petitioners will ever pray.'

Mr. Speaker, since this House opened, this session, every day we have been up on petitions - petitions from people who need emergency work. Only twice have we heard any member opposite get up to support such motions. Don't tell me that members opposite don't get calls from their constituents. Their constituents are not living in a Utopia. We all share the same Province, we all share the same needs, and people do not have work.

The Placentia area itself, I have told you time and time again, is hovering around 70 per cent unemployment. It is not much better in Long Harbour, Mount Arlington Heights, Fair Haven, Little Harbour, or this community with their petition today, Southern Harbour, a prosperous little community, now on the rack.

Some people have managed some fishing efforts to qualify them for unemployment, others are on TAGS, and some of the TAGS people are going to be dropped just after Christmas. We have other people unemployed, construction workers, people who work at other seasonal trades. They are right in the shadow of Hibernia, and when Hibernia was starting they were saying that these people in a certain 60-mile radius would be given preference. They were not. There are some fifteen people from Southern Harbour working at Hibernia - far, far shy of what it should be.

I said to you before that work is good for your head - not only your pocket book, it is good for your soul and good for your mind, and what are people to do? What are women to do when all the men are home within their domain? How do they cope with the frustrations that go with unemployment? I know people who are getting money from TAGS who are not used to being home those hours of the day. They are used to being out working. They go for an early morning walk at 6:00, at 6:30, because they were never seen before out late in the day.

AN HON. MEMBER: You don't see them at 6:00 a.m.

MR. CAREEN: Well, if you ever saw anybody at 6:00 a.m. probably it was into someone's oil tank. Anyway -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. CAREEN: Oh yes. I sometimes lie down at 6:00 a.m.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. CAREEN: Yes. Anyway, it is a very serious matter. I know the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations - I've talked to him on the side about it. I say to the minister again: with both elbows, elbow your way into your Cabinet to get their support. I mean, the Province has to take the initiative. What Ottawa does afterwards is gravy. We can't always be waiting on Ottawa. We have a responsibility here, a prime responsibility to our own people. We shouldn't always let Ottawa come to us with its colonial attitude. Let us help our own.

Sinn Fein itself borders on - there is a dispute, an argument over Sinn Fein and its workings. But the words "sinn fein," do you know what they mean? It means: `we, ourselves' - `we, ourselves' or `our's alone'. Either one, take it or leave it. It is literally translated. Sometimes words translated lose their effect. We, ourselves, for starters, should start looking after our own, the people of this Province. It is our responsibility. But the nod has to come from the people across the way. I urge the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations to get in with his Cabinet friends again and give a nod to the people of this Province.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Baie Verte - White Bay.

MR. SHELLEY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

As usual, I will get up to support the petitions that have been presented over the last - I think this is the third week as of today that we started with these petitions. Sometimes we get criticized for the different petitions that we present, but we have to reiterate the point that it is the one way that people in the Province can get a direct line into the House of Assembly. So, Mr. Speaker, we feel it is very important that we take this opportunity to present the petitions. Also, as my colleague mentioned earlier in his remarks, it doesn't hurt at any time for anybody on either side of this House, including the ministers, including the back-benchers, this is your opportunity, at any time when a petition is presented, to stand in your place and turn to your Minister of Employment and Labour Relations and say: We support you also, we, too, are getting the calls and we understand the situation.

We are not asking for the political Brownie points that the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation related to the other day. It is certainly not - because I know, I've talked to the members over there. You get the same calls, you get the same situations come up in your districts. I think it was last Wednesday, I can't recall the day exactly, but the Member for Harbour Grace, a lady from his district called me, and she told me I could give her name to the media. I won't use her name here in the House of Assembly but she did say I could her give name to the media, and I think the media did talk to her. Here is a real situation, just an example.

She is a lady whose husband is disabled. She has ten insurable weeks and needs two more. She had four children coming home for lunch, and she said to me point-blank, she didn't know if she had anything to feed them for lunch.

The Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation said that we sometimes exaggerate the stories. Well, Mr. Speaker, if anybody in this House doubts that story you can ask me and I will give you the lady's phone number, you can call her and she will tell you the same story.

Mr. Speaker, they are not exaggerated stories. I tell you here today, that story hit me as hard as it would hit any hon. member in this House. We know it is true and the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations knows it is true. I can tell you more stories from my district, and I'm willing to bet that any member in this House can stand up and tell you stories they have heard that are similar. It is not an exaggeration, it is not a fabrication.

The point is, we will keep doing this every day, as the minister knows. And we have commended him for his efforts; I know he is going back and forth to Ottawa and everywhere else, if he has to go to Halifax or whatever he has to do. Mr. Speaker, all I am saying to the minister and to the Premier - I am glad the Premier is still here in the House today - is that, I'm sorry but that's not good enough. As late as 10:30 this morning, I had another call from a gentleman who went to Hopebrook, had ten weeks, his wife is on TAGS, she finishes December 31 - I can't remember the number of children, either two or three children in the family - she is off TAGS in December, he has ten weeks.

I know him personally, that's why he didn't want me to use his name. He was embarrassed to be calling me about it. But the bottom line, Mr. Speaker, is, that gentleman, as of tomorrow, will be going to the welfare office in Baie Verte to ask for social assistance for the first time; and if somebody wants that gentleman's number, I will give him that number. Mr. Speaker, they are not exaggerated stories, they are real, true stories, and I would like to see, as we continue with petitions in the next few days, some ministers, the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board, the Premier, any time we present a petition, just stand up and say this is not political Brownie points, we are crossing party lines when we are talking about real people with an urgent, urgent problem in this Province.

This is an urgent problem, Mr. Speaker, that should be addressed and supported by every single member, and the members on the opposite side who say they don't have opportunities, many times, read the House Orders; you can stand on any petition and speak to it, so for heavens sake, cross your political lines, look at your minister, look at your Premier and tell them: Yes, we do get the same stories, the real stories that should hit the heart, because there are people in this Province, going to welfare for the very first time, and it is really sickening, to me, Mr. Speaker, day after day.

Minister, I say to you, when you look at me - and I say the same thing to my callers - I am hearing it is going to be tomorrow; we are hoping it is going to be by Friday, we hope it will be Monday. Mr. Speaker, I don't know how many more times I will tell - as we all know, we get the same call sometimes from certain people; how many more times this week am I going to tell that same lady and that same gentleman that they have no where to go, that the government is not acting. They are not an organized group like the Hydro people or others. They cannot congregate here on the steps; they are in every nook and cranny in Newfoundland, one person at a time, too embarrassed to speak up in the media and say he has to go to welfare.

They are real stories, Mr. Speaker. So I say to the minister: Remember, this is a silent cry from every part of this Province, and I know it, because I have had the calls from every part of this Province; from Pouch Cove to Harbour Grace; those places are not my district, people saying that they need it and if the minister has been listening to Open Line, those are the people who speak very quietly but they mean a lot, Mr. Speaker. They may speak quietly but they mean a lot. So I challenge the members on the opposite side and the minister, any minister, any back-bencher, the next time we present a petition, stand; we don't have to ridicule the minister and we are not doing that.

To conclude, Mr. Speaker, just take your opportunity, it is a great opportunity to stand up and support your minister and the Premier and hopefully have something done on this very soon.

Thank you.

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

MR. MANNING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I stand today to present a petition echoing the comments of my colleagues. The petition reads:

`To the hon. House of Assembly in the Province of Newfoundland in Parliament assembled, the petition of the undersigned residents of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, ask for the House of Assembly to accept the following prayer:

We, the undersigned, do hereby request the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations to immediately provide emergency funding to generate desperately needed employment in our communities. As in duty bound, your petitioners will ever pray.'

This petition, Mr. Speaker, is among many, many petitions that have come to my office over the past several weeks, asking me to present them in the House of Assembly on the people's behalf. I am pleased to have the opportunity to do so, as several of my colleagues and, indeed, members opposite have touched on, when they spoke about the desperate need of some type of employment generation program in our Province right now.

I have people calling my office, Mr. Speaker, on a daily basis telling about the financial hardship they are in; I hear stories about children in this Province - it is hard to believe, but I have heard stories about children in this Province who are going to school hungry and without proper clothing. We live in Newfoundland and Labrador, Mr. Speaker, and it is hard to believe this is happening. I have received calls about families being on the brink of being evicted from their houses because of their financial difficulties.

Mr. Speaker, during the good years in our fishery, many people in our Province had what I like to call indirect jobs from the fishing industry. These are the people who worked in the stores, as baby sitters, worked at the local restaurant or whatever the case may be, and these people now, because of the shutdown in the fishery, find themselves with their backs to the wall. They could not be part of the NCARP package or the TAGS program because they were not directly involved in the fishery, Mr. Speaker. They were people who were left out in the cold, I would say.

I had a gentleman call me last week from a community in my district who told me that for the first time in his forty-eight years on this earth he had to turn to social assistance. He sat down outside the social services office in my district for two hours trying to decide whether or not he was going to go in, but he had no choice but to go in because he had three small children under the age of ten that he had to feed and keep a roof over their heads. Mr. Speaker, there is something to say about the dignity of Newfoundlanders, and over the past couple of years people have been losing their dignity because of the financial hardship they find themselves in.

Over the past several weeks we have presented petitions on behalf of our constituents. The minister has been in Ottawa and in Halifax and hopefully within the next few days, as every Newfoundland and Labradorian hopes, the minister will stand up in this House and announce something in relation to some type of job development program. I am sure that the minister would like to do that today but negotiations are still ongoing. Christmas is fast approaching and people are in desperate need of some type of assistance.

While I realize that the efforts of the minister are genuine I hope that his federal counterpart and indeed his colleagues within his own Cabinet understand the situation he finds himself in, and the situation I am sure he is hearing across this Province. I am sure the minister is receiving telephone calls the same as all members on this side of the House.

Mr. Speaker, these type of programs over the years have always had a negative light because of the misuse and abuse of them in some small communities. I said before, and I say again, that if you drive around my district, and I am sure every district in this Province, you will find worthwhile projects that came from those programs. It wasn't the programs themselves, Mr. Speaker, but the delivery of the programs that caused the problems.

I hope that whatever solution comes with respect to the emergency situation in our Province now, that there is some rationalization toward how those programs are delivered in our communities to make sure that we get the best bang for the buck. Over the years there have been many instances in our communities where people have found themselves in dire straits, but the government, whether this government, the previous government, or the federal government, always found the money to respond to what can only be called an emergency situation.

It is an emergency out in our district now and some type of emergency generation program should come forth. The government always responded in the past and I hope that the government will respond now in what is indeed an emergency, Mr. Speaker. I hope that over the next few days discussions will come to an end and something will be announced in this House of Assembly so that people in our Province can not only put food on the table but indeed keep a roof above their heads.

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to present this petition today. I have several others that I hope I do not have to present. I hope when the time comes the minister will stand in his place and announce something pretty soon.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I rise and support the petition that was presented by the Member for St. Mary's - The Capes. I believe that everybody on this side of the House supports the initiative that is being undertaken by the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations in the Province.

Let me say to him that all the details, and all of us on this side are aware of all the points the hon. gentleman has made in presenting his petition, that all hon. gentlemen on the other side have made in presenting their petitions. Let me also say to him that there have been representation made to the Minister of Labour in this Province by all of us on this side who represent the same kind of districts and who have the same kind of problems that he has. We have all pointed out to the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations that there are problems associated with the downturn in the fishery and with the people who are coming off TAGS.

I suppose the indirect employment that resulted from the fishing industry in this Province is no longer there, but let me also say to him that my supporting this petition today in no way shows a lack of confidence in the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations. The minister has been working diligently with his federal counterparts.

I want to take this opportunity to assure the people that I represent, the people in Fogo, that I believe and I hope that the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations will have something to tell us before Christmas. As he has said to me so often: I would love and I want to be able to give the proper gift to the people of your district - I am using the term Beaton - I want to be able to do that for your district and for other districts in the Province as well. So, Mr. Speaker, while I support the petition by the hon. gentleman I have to say to him - and while it is his right to present the petition - that I don't believe for a minute that he needs to remind the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations of his job.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. TULK: I agree, and he has to do that job, Mr. Speaker, he has to do it.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. TULK: I am not ridiculing the minister and I understand the hon. gentleman is not. I am just saying to the hon. gentleman, if you keep your cool over there, take a mouthful of water and cool down, that I believe that the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations will answer our problems within the next little while.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I say to him that I support his petition, I support the efforts of anybody who supports the efforts of the Minister of Employment and Labour to get jobs for people in this Province. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Where the problem lies with this emergency response program is that this government has lost the ability to govern. They want to run this Province out of Ottawa. This Province has every right, and they did it for the past several years, to bring in an emergency employment program to meet the needs of people in this Province. Now the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations stood up in this House and said: I am not going to take any approach that is going to impact upon and/or negatively affect the federal governments negotiation with this Province in addressing the whole social assistance program. Now I say to the minister, there are 12,000 - I will give you the page if you want to read it - less people in the workforce in this Province today. There are 19,000 more unemployed than there was four years ago and every government for the past several years saw fit to bring in an emergency employment program to put food really, on the table for people who were in dire straits. A lot of this money, I will tell hon. members, was not a waste of money.

In my district, the Southern Shore Development Association has improved - lighthouses have been taken from a dilapidated state into very modern and acceptable buildings; they have assisted in removing deadwood in forestry projects from an area; they have beautified and enhanced numerous things in the area that are conducive to the tourism industry in our area. Apart from that, they have given people a little income, some dignity and some food for people to put on the table because we have reached astronomical levels here in unemployment in this Province. I say to the minister, we do not need Lloyd Axworthy in Ottawa to tell us if we can go with an employment response program here.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SULLIVAN: The minister may be well intended but I think the government has lost the ability to take responsibility for their own affairs in this Province and they are afraid to do something with Ottawa. When we stop running this Province out of Ottawa - we should be fighting with the people in Ottawa to defend and to encourage them. If you want to take on Ottawa, ask them to put in funding to reduce regional disparities in this country. We have catered to Quebec and Ontario - they all get their per-capita share, we are getting a small pittance allowance under per-capita. We need more than a per-capita allowance to stimulate economic growth in this Province because we have greater problems. We have higher unemployment in this Province.

Here is a good example, I say to the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology, the development association in this Province has a total budget of only over $3 million and they run on $2.117 million, they employ coordinators in every single office for some $30,000. In my district they run an office, they hire a staff to run an office and they administer up to fifty students each year who look after projects and enhance the lighthouses and other tourist facilities. You get a better return for the dollar because almost 100 per cent of the effort is volunteer effort and here we are going to see large regional areas now that are going to ignore smaller geographical areas for the sake of some $30,000 dollars. We are structuring seventeen economic zones. We have been given notice the funding is going to end. It is extended -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Here is what I am against, I will tell you now - the minister would like to know. You cannot divide this Province geographically into seventeen zones unless you are going to subdivide certain zones that have a unique history and geography and that have been doing a tremendous job of serving people in these areas with adequate funding to operate. I am not opposed to structure if the funding is not going to be pulled out of those other specific areas, because for some $30,000, I tell the minister, you are not going to get a better return on the dollar than I have seen spent in my district by the development association than anywhere else in this Province.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) status quo.

MR. SULLIVAN: No, I am not saying the status quo. I didn't say that. The minister is making -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: I know what I want, and what you are going to give is not what the people want. I want to see some $30,000 continued, whether it is through the seventeen economic zones, to a geographical area that has been providing an excellent return in service, employment and enhancement of facilities from a tourism aspect. That is what I want to see maintained, and you will not get the return if it is gobbled up into a large infrastructure, and it won't be directed because you will lose the volunteer labour that is so vital to maintaining those specific areas.

Now, I say to the minister, go back to the Cabinet again to get the Cabinet to make a decision on the affairs of this Province, not to ask Lloyd Axworthy to make a decision on whether this Province should bring in an emergency employment program. I think they have abdicated their responsibility. This government has abdicated its responsibility to the people of this Province, and they should do something about it now and get off their butts and not wait for Ottawa to do something.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, we have had the two petitions. I understood from the Opposition that they were only going to have two, but I will make it certain so the Member for St. Mary's - The Capes doesn't need to worry. I move that the Orders of the Day now be read.

Orders of the Day

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

MR. ROBERTS: Thank you, Your Honour.

Before we call the order which will allow the Leader of the Opposition to speak, as was arranged earlier - the gentleman from St. Mary's - The Capes didn't seem to be aware of that - would you be good enough to call Motion 3 and we will move that bill forward one stage, please?

Motion, the hon. the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation to introduce a bill, "An Act To Amend The Department Of Works, Services And Transportation Act (No. 3)," carried. (Bill No. 62)

On motion, Bill No. 62 read a first time, ordered read a second time on tomorrow.

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

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, would you be good enough to call the adjourned debate on Order 23, which is the EDGE Bill, that is Bill No. 51. My friend, the Leader of the Opposition, adjourned the debate and has the floor when Your Honour calls it.

MR. SPEAKER: Bill No. 51, Order 23, the hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SIMMS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I welcome the opportunity, finally, to address this legislation in the House of Assembly. Members opposite, as well as members of my own party here, would know that immediately after the Premier released the White Paper back in June, I think it was, to the Board of Trade in St. John's, I held a press conference on behalf of our party to offer our observations with respect to what was contained in the White Paper and the draft bill, and we consistently pointed out, not only at that press conference that was held immediately after, but at subsequent opportunities where I spoke at a number of functions around the Province, as recently as just a couple of weeks before the House opened, to the St. John's Board of Trade, the Mount Pearl Chamber of Commerce, the Corner Brook Chamber of Commerce, the Grand Falls - Windsor Rotary. I held a press conference in Gander and I held a press conference in Stephenville.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SIMMS: Because there was no time to arrange it. There was no organization meeting at the time that I had designated the two days. I could have called you and asked you.

Nevertheless, Mr. Speaker, the point I am trying to make is that for a period of several months since the release of the White Paper we consistently pointed out what we humbly felt were considerable flaws in the draft legislation and in the White Paper. I have to say this. Quite often - and members opposite who served in the Opposition in days gone by would recognize this old myth, that the Opposition does nothing only criticize. It never offers alternatives or suggestions for improvement or anything of that nature. Members who served in an Opposition in previous political lives would be aware as we are now that that truly is a myth. If ever there was an example of that being a myth it is with respect to the role we played, the Official Opposition, as well as others around the Province, in ensuring that the flaws were correctly pointed out to the government and were eventually corrected.

It has often been said, and I've said it myself, that the role of the Opposition is to identify those flaws in any government policy or in any government legislation or whatever, bring them forward, bring them to the public attention, in the hope that the government will listen and eventually take some of them under consideration. That means in the end, if they do, and if we make some sense, that you have better legislation and better policy. That is what the process is all about. This is a good example I think of where that worked. Of course, there are lots of other examples where we have supported government legislation in the House. We've often supported government legislation in the House that never gets mentioned or anything else. We are quite proud, frankly, of the role that we have played in the development of this piece of legislation.

Before I touch on the bill itself, there were a couple of alternatives or other suggestions that we had mentioned, as well as pointing out the flaws and changes that we felt needed to be required in the bill itself. We talked about other alternatives to help the local business community in this Province create jobs. What we suggested and talked about were tax incentives of some sort or another, tax relief of some sort or another, that would be offered to a business in this Province for the creation of any new job. Not just ten jobs, as some magic number. Why ten? Why not five? Why fifteen? Why not one?, we say. What we proposed was that any established business that created new jobs, no matter what the numbers were, would have part of their corporate income tax or their RST rebated to them. There would be a formula obviously based on and related to the size of the business and the number of jobs created. This was another alternative that I know was not perhaps meant for this piece of legislation, but it was an opportunity for us to bring it forward as an alternative. I still think it is something that could be considered, perhaps in another piece of legislation or whatever.

The other area which we touched on quite frequently as we spoke on this piece of legislation had to do with the payroll tax. Everywhere I went around the Province I mentioned the payroll tax and how strongly we had felt about it for quite some time - and have said so on many occasions publicly - that we really think that this is a tax on jobs. It is a deterrent to creating jobs. Members over there know what I'm talking about.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) workers' comp.

MR. SIMMS: No. The difference with workers' comp, Mr. Speaker, is that it was there a long time. The payroll tax is something that you brought in only four years ago at a time when it was the last thing businesses needed.

Mr. Speaker, I finally got some information from the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board's department. I asked years ago - it seems like years ago; certainly months and months ago, and in another session - I wanted to know the breakdown of the payroll tax in terms of how many businesses are under that $200,000 threshold, how many are under $300,000, how many are under $400,000, and how much are they paying.

MR. BAKER: I (inaudible).

MR. SIMMS: The minister probably sat on it for months. Here is some interesting information that I want to put on the record in response, finally, to my request for this information.

Mr. Speaker, last year in 1994 - I guess that is up to the present time, or whatever the time I asked, I'm not quite sure now. In any event, in 1994 there were 1,245 businesses paying the payroll tax with payrolls of less than $300,000, and they paid to the government coffers $1.9 million. That was the revenue from the payroll tax. Now, to my way of thinking, that is a measly, paltry, scrawny amount of revenue to grab from 1,245 small businesses in this Province. It is hardly worth it. Then, I looked at 1994 also, the numbers for those between $300,000 and $500,000, and found there were 347 businesses in that grouping, and the government collected from them only $1.8 million. So, if you eliminated the payroll tax for those under $500,000, you are giving up less than $4 million in revenue, but just think of the positive that would come out of it.

MR. BAKER: (Inaudible) threshold you expect everybody else to go to the larger payroll?

MR. SIMMS: I'm using the numbers now that his department has sent me.

MR. BAKER: Yes, they are correct.

MR. SIMMS: They are correct, exactly. You've collected less than $4 million from businesses with less than a $500,000 payroll.

MR. BAKER: That's true.

MR. SIMMS: That's true. Of course - everything I say is true.

MR. BAKER: If you take the half-a-million dollar threshold -


MR. BAKER: - that would then apply to all the bigger ones as well. Because (inaudible) the payroll tax (inaudible) all the bigger ones.

MR. SIMMS: I'm sorry? What is the minister trying to say again? Go ahead. Would he like to stand and please explain this to us?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board.

MR. BAKER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I just wanted to point out to the hon. gentleman that what he is saying is correct.


MR. BAKER: But if you then take the $500,000 threshold as he is suggesting and say there will be no payroll tax on payroll up to $500,000 then the larger -

MR. SIMMS: Under $500,000 -

MR. BAKER: Under $500,000, okay -


MR. BAKER: - the larger companies would then have the exemption - the payroll exemption would be set at the $500,000 level and you would also lose a lot of money from the larger companies. That is the way it works. You have the payroll thresholds and you set those thresholds, it is as simple as that. So he is correct in saying that from these small businesses that is the amount we would lose, we would lose $4 million or $5 million or whatever it happens to be - somewhere around there - but then, if we used the $500,000 threshold for everybody else, we would lose a larger amount from everybody else.

MR. SIMMS: No, Mr. Speaker -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MR. SIMMS: Now I understand where the minister is coming from. That is not quite accurate because he doesn't have to do that. He can change the percentage if he wishes.

MR. BAKER: Okay, how do you do it?

MR. SIMMS: You can change the percentage. You've already done that before. You had no hesitation in bringing in a tax originally that was at 1.5 per cent with an exemption of $125,000 or less. Then in 1991 it remained at 1.5 per cent but you increased the exemption to $300,000 or less. Then in 1992 you lowered the exemption but you increased the rate to 2 per cent. So, I mean, there are all kinds of ways you can do it - and he knows what I'm talking about. There are a lot of ways to do it.

My whole point, Mr. Speaker, and I can tell the minister, not only from the speaking engagements I undertook, just a couple of weeks before the House opened, on this particular bill, but everywhere else I've gone, most places, talking with business people for the last two years, they hate it. It is dreaded. I have had business people come to me and tell me over the course of the last couple of years since this tax came in - and I'm sure the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology has heard this - businesses have told me they have deliberately laid people off in order to get down below the threshold.

AN HON. MEMBER: That's not done.

MR. SIMMS: Oh, yes, they have. They've told me, I say to the minister. He might not want to believe this is true. I can tell him this is a fact: business people have told me as well that they would have liked to have hired somebody but if they had done so, it would have put them over the threshold, whatever the threshold was over the last four years. You hear it all the time. So, for a measly, paltry, scrawny - paltry, scrawny, measly $4 million or less, you could make 1,700, 1,800, 1,500, almost 1,600 small businesses in this Province, pretty happy, pretty positive, and the outlook for them from a perspective of job creation might even be more positive -

MR. BAKER: Let's bring back the school tax.

MR. SIMMS: No, that has nothing to do with the school tax. Listen, you have made more changes in taxation than any other government in previous history in your short, six-year tenure.

MR. BAKER: Bring back the school tax.

MR. SIMMS: No, the minister can try to get us to say that but that is not true. In any event, if he doesn't want to listen to what I am saying, that's fine, I'm only telling him what business people have told me, for the last several years.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SIMMS: Yes, well, we won't get into that.

Anyway, Mr. Speaker, having made those few preliminary comments on some other issues that I would have liked to have seen addressed by the government during this process and in the midst of this White Paper, let me talk about the bill, itself, Bill 51. And I want to say to the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology, that, from the beginning of this process, if he had heard any of the reports on any of the statements that I made or whatever on this matter over the last four months, he would know that from the beginning, the Opposition supported the principle of this bill, this legislation, the principle of providing some tax relief, and any other incentives to try to encourage new businesses to create new jobs in the Province, Mr. Speaker. But we did always claim, at the same time while we agreed in principle, that the draft legislation, the White Paper, contained many, many flaws and that, in fact, it was too restrictive, so restrictive that many legitimate businesses and potential investors would not invest or even qualify for the incentives. And we are not the only ones who said it but I am speaking today for -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SIMMS: Yes. Well, I will get on and tell him a little more of what we said - I want to get it on the record of course. Mr. Speaker, we have not been the only ones to say it, but today I speak on behalf of the Opposition, so I just want to make those points, and I will say categorically up front now, that this revised bill, Bill 51, either fully or substantially, at least, addresses most of the concerns that we had addressed. But we said, first of all, that the very small number of business owners and operators and investors would be able to meet that required minimum investment level of a million bucks, that there wouldn't be too many who could address the million dollars in sales, and the ten permanent, full-time jobs became an issue unto its own, for a number of reasons, not to mention the fact that full-time was in the legislation.

Now, I am pleased to see the bill lowers the minimums to the $300,000 level, the half-million dollar investment and ten permanent jobs as opposed to full-time. Let me just make one passing point to the minister in having a quick look as this bill, section 14 (2) of Bill 51 still uses the terminology, permanent, full-time job. I think the minister's intent was to delete the wording `full-time'?

MR. BAKER: What section is that?

MR. SIMMS: Section 14 (2). Has he a copy of the bill in front of him? In any event, he can just make a note of it and have a look at it afterwards.

AN HON. MEMBER: Section 14 (2) is (inaudible).

MR. SIMMS: What about section 13 (2), maybe I am looking at - I'm sorry, it is section 13 (2). It was section 14 (2) in the old draft bill, I say to the minister, it is now 13 (2). It is a minor amendment that I am sure he would want to move during the Committee stage on that clause.

MR. BAKER: (Inaudible).

MR. SIMMS: Yes, and your intention is to eliminate that `full-time' wording. So, Mr. Speaker, I think the changes now, the lowering of the minimums that we talked about, will improve prospects, I hope, and also it will probably give the opportunity to local investors and local businesses, maybe, to be able to benefit more from this program than they would have under the higher numbers.

In particular, I commend the minister for dropping that definition, I guess, of full-time jobs because that, in fact, faces up to the reality that many of the opportunities for new investments and for jobs in this Province are obviously based on seasonal activities such as fishing and tourism and forestry, and all these other ones that we have often heard about, that these same seasonal industries are the backbone of our economy, and it is the rural economy of Newfoundland and Labrador that is urgently in need of new investment and new job creation. So dropping this requirement definition of full-time, ensures that this incentive program can be used to attract investment and jobs, particularly to rural Newfoundland and Labrador. So we commend the government for that, and the minister, for taking that initiative.

In addition to that, the definition of eligible corporations - we had some concerns about that, and I see now that it has been broadened to include co-operatives. I think that, too, will benefit rural areas of Newfoundland and Labrador by encouraging the formation of co-operatives as a way for communities to invest in their own future, so we are very pleased with that as well.

Secondly, we severely criticized the stipulation in the first draft bill that only companies that would not invest in the Province except for the special incentives could qualify for EDGE corporations.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) awkwardly worded.

MR. SIMMS: Very awkwardly worded, and could have been interpreted another way. We severely criticized that, but now we see that is modified to limit use of the incentives to attract investment that would otherwise go somewhere else, or might come to the Province but at a later time. I think that is a good change, but I want to say to the minister, I have to say to the minister, that though this revised wording is better than the original in the old draft, I still don't see the need for any kind of restriction, in fact, along this line. I still don't understand that. Perhaps when he speaks in the debate he will be able to elaborate, rather than interrupt my train of thought now. I would be interested in hearing, because I think it would be far better to make the incentives available to any business bringing new investment capital and jobs to the Province. That is my own view.

MR. BAKER: (Inaudible).

MR. SIMMS: I am really not sure why there should be any restrictions at all. There is nothing wrong with attracting businesses that might go elsewhere, I say to the minister.

MR. BAKER: (Inaudible).

MR. SIMMS: Yes, but you are only talking about and focusing on one area. I am not talking about the Hibernia situation. I am talking about broader areas, and I just don't think there should be any restriction in that regard. In any event, it seems that it would make far more sense, at least, to encourage businesses that want to be here in the first place, as opposed to having this kind of restriction on them.

In any event, thirdly, we also pointed out that under the rules of the first draft bill, big companies could make a relatively small investment in order to become an EDGE corporation, or to get EDGE status, but yet still get a ten-year holiday on all of its taxes. That is the way the bill was worded and the way it was interpreted, and that would not just be on the additional taxes they would generate as a result of all of the business expansion. So the revised bill, I am happy to say, closes that particular loophole, a very important loophole from my perspective. Maybe it was only a drafting error. I shudder to make any criticisms of the people who do the drafting of legislation. They can only do what they are told, and we have to assume that is what they were told to do. In any event, it is not much point to belabour it. It has been changed, and that is very, very important and certainly addresses one of the concerns that we had raised as well.

Fourth, we strongly pointed out that the first draft bill stipulated that an EDGE corporation could not be directly competitive with or have an adverse impact on the viability of other businesses. That was what was in the original bill.

Now we generally agreed with the need to protect existing businesses from unfair competition, from EDGE corporations, who would be operating with the advantage of the ten year tax break but the restriction in the first bill, in our view, virtually denied those EDGE benefits to investors and business activities that had any detrimental affect on any established business in the Province. So again, the revised wording in the new Bill 51 is an improvement because now these EDGE benefits will not be given if it results in a company gaining a direct competitive advantage. To me that wording provides adequate protection, I would think, for established companies in the Province without placing unreasonable restrictions on the kinds of business activities that could still qualify for the EDGE benefits.

Fifthly, Mr. Speaker, we were concerned about the process for screening and approving EDGE corporation applications. We were concerned about that, as were others I know. In the first bill the applicants would have been evaluated by a committee of Cabinet ministers who would make recommendations to Cabinet. We argued that the evaluation should be done by people who had some expertise in the field, who knew how to read a financial statement and all the rest of those kinds of things, people who basically were professionally qualified to assess applications on their merits without being subject to political, partisan influence.

Mr. Speaker, the recommendations we thought then of those experts should go to the Cabinet and not to a committee of the Cabinet or anything else. Now the revised bill accepts that proposal, those suggestions that we were making. So again, we have to say we are pleased with that particular change and I think it is a big improvement. A public and private board made up of people from all fields, still appointed by the Cabinet of course, not much other opportunity -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SIMMS: No, that is true. You have to be appointed by the Executive Council, the Lieutenant-Governor in Council.

Mr. Speaker, sixthly, the first bill proposed special labour legislation for EDGE corporations and we said, quite adamantly, that creating two sets of labour laws would be discriminatory, not just for workers or unions, as some people accuse us of defending the unions, but it would be discriminatory for businesses and companies. So it was discriminatory on all fronts and it could potentially lead to labour unrest, there is no question about that. We argued that the legislation also, as it was then drafted, was based on a wrongful assumption. I say to the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations, the original draft was based on a wrongful assumption that in this Province unions and management could not agree on items and matters that were in their own best interest. There are lots of examples of it occurring, recently Kruger in Corner Brook, Abitibi Price in Grand Falls, even the Marystown Shipyard eventually agreed with the Premier when he went down and met with them and asked them for concessions. So I think that is a wrongful assumption in this Province. As a matter of fact, I would go so far as to say that it is probably based on a prejudice. I say to the minister, it was probably based as well on a prejudice and that is unfortunate, Mr. Speaker.

So this revised bill drops all of the provisions that were contained in the draft legislation, Mr. Speaker, dealing with labour relations and now rightly so, EDGE corporations will have to live with the same labour laws as all other companies and businesses in this Province do, and so they should. So we are pleased that the government has made that change. Now I have to make this comment, just in passing, we are pleased that they made that change with respect to the labour issue contained in the bill. EDGE corporations will be treated like everybody else, and so they should be in my view, but I will say at this point in time, particularly to the labour movement in this Province, that they should not applaud too quickly, they should not jump up and down because let's not forget the government is also on another course and on another path reviewing labour legislation.

The minister I think tabled some kind of a document - several weeks ago - a White Paper and I would not be surprised if some of the things contained in this original draft could end up in there, we don't know.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SIMMS: The minister can't say no, it's the White Paper. He doesn't know what kinds of comments or suggestions he will get. He may be surprised, but it wouldn't be the first time the minister was surprised, I will say to the minister.

Anyway, I just want to put it on the record. I would suggest to the labour movement they had better keep their eyes open and not jump up and down too quickly because this is necessarily removed from this bill that it may never see the light of day again. I'm not so sure of some of that.

Mr. Speaker, there are a few other changes in Bill 51 which really clarify the intent and the meaning of some poorly worded clauses in the first bill. I wouldn't go so far as to call it poor drafting, I suppose, just occasional obvious drafting errors that we often see. Even the drafters would see that, I suppose, and might even admit to it and confess to it from time to time. In any event, virtually all of those changes now tidy up those problems that were contained in the first draft.

Those were the major criticisms and points that we made in response to the White Paper. Again I believe I can speak on behalf of my colleagues on this side of the House when I say that we feel very proud of the fact that this is a great example where an Opposition has been effective and has effectively brought to the attention of the government some major flaws contained in the original draft legislation. The government to its credit listened to those criticisms and those complaints, and again to its credit acted upon them and made the changes that were necessary.

If only they would do it on so many other things that come to the forefront from time to time, like the Hydro legislation. It is too bad that you've got to depend on unrest within the caucus to bring about changes in some other policies, but at least they get changed, and that is what is most important. All of the changes virtually in this new bill incorporate most of the criticisms, if not all, substantial criticisms that we had made.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SIMMS: I thank the minister. Yes, we believe they were constructive criticisms. We believe all the criticisms we make on government policy and legislation are constructive. The government may not agree and may not listen and may belittle criticisms that we make on many other bills, but on this one it is pretty obvious they did listen to us and others and made the changes.

Mr. Speaker, in short, what happened here is that we now have a piece of legislation that will not necessarily create miracles in the future from an economic perspective, but at least the new legislation will hopefully make it an important instrument for economic development in the Province. It won't create miracles but it will provide some opportunities. We hope that there will be some new investment attracted. We really hope that is the case, because we all know what the situation is like economically speaking in the Province. I'm particularly looking forward to some investment in rural Newfoundland which desperately needs a lot of help.

In short, these changes that have been made by the government in response to the criticisms have really turned a bad bill into a good bill. I can say to the members of the House of Assembly and the government members in particular that we in the Opposition will have no difficulty in supporting the principle of this bill, although a number of our members who have an interest in business and economics will want to have a few other comments, and maybe make some other observations. Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. RAMSAY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I want to have a few remarks today about the economic diversification and growth enterprises bill. I was very pleased as the legislative advisor to the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology to have played a role in some of the changes that were made in the bill subsequent to the release of the White Paper. I was also very pleased with this initiative coming forth from government to try to promote business investment in the Province, something that is needed, and I think we have to focus on the fact that this is a promotion of investment. It is a promotion for local firms to seek out investment capital, to expand, and to take advantage of the tax free status of this initiative to somewhat shelter their new activities and their expanse of activities from taxation. Hopefully the companies that have some profit - are generating profit here in this Province - can now expand further, creating further employment by virtue of the advantages of the EDGE corporation initiative.

The overall process is one that the government, I feel, also should be applauded for in consulting readily with the Chambers of Commerce, the Board of Trade here in the St. John's area, and many different interested groups not only here inside of the Province, but also in seeking the opinions of the Province's fiscal agents throughout the country and elsewhere, in New York and throughout the world. I know that Merrill Lynch and Solomon Brothers, our fiscal agents in the U.S., supplied some information, as I understand. As well, we received information from private business people who were interested in coming here in light of what they saw as a necessity for the stimulation of their interest to invest and to further their activities here in the Province.

Also, Mr. Speaker, as part of the overall analysis there was one entrepreneur who contacted site location consultants, who normally are used by large multi-national corporations, and these site location consultants gave their opinion on how the bill, in its current form, along with any other business incentives and land costs, et cetera, many of the different facets of the bill, compare with other locations in the United States. It concentrated primarily on other areas that may have some similarity to our area here in this Province, and the proximity, I suppose, of being able to deal with vessels travelling from Europe and otherwise being able to ship goods out of the Province, and other aspects where there are similarities in those economies down in the United States. That group was very favourably disposed to the White Paper but did make some suggestions that I might point out I think the government took into account in the redraft of the legislation, so the government is listening to the different input.

We have one role in this, I think, and that is to put forward public policy which will make Newfoundland and Labrador one of the best places in all North America, in fact, if not beyond that, in any place in the world, for businesses to locate. We hope it stimulates interest in local business, but we do know that part of the overall concept is to stimulate interest of business people outside to invest their capital here and assist in expanding existing business, but also to locate here and hopefully we can develop jobs as a benefit to the Province out of that concept.

Some other things came out of the process, of course, in the analysis of business proposals that are put forward, in the method of informing the public of any contracts entered into between government and the company that would be set up and given EDGE status. That would have to, of course, be disclosed publicly. There was a fear of the confidential nature of business information, and we wanted to make sure that information did not, of course, become part of the public domain. We wanted to maintain the confidentiality of the different business ideas and proposals that came forward.

The different measures that are included in the business legislation, I wanted to touch on a few of those, and things that I suppose over the years, if we look back on the way that Newfoundland and Labrador has tried, over many years, to become a good place to do business. Ultimately we probably, in looking at some of the results over the last number of years, may be able to suggest that the programs are working to a certain extent, but we are not developing along the lines that Southern Ontario has from an industrial and manufacturing point of view, and probably we will never do that, but there is a growing small business sector; there is a growing high technology sector. With Newfoundland, if you exclude the fishery and fishery related difficulties out of the statistics, we are growing at a faster pace here than any other part of the country.

Mr. Speaker, I think, the last statistic that came out was 4.3 per cent, our growth outside the fishing related activity, so there is a very strong growth. I see it regularly in my capacity in the Department of Industry and also I see it in my own district where we get people who are interested in starting their own business. The business ideas are coming forward fast and furious. A lot of them need some nurturing along, and a lot of them need some assistance with the planning process. They are good, sound ideas, good solid ideas, and they are probably, in a lot of cases here locally, ideas which are generated partly, I would like to think, because Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, the people of this place are an ingenious type of people.

They are people who perform in spite of the difficulty, people who manage to go beyond what a lot of others throughout the rest of Canada would. There are many success stories. We might point out that through the Ambassador Program we put forward information to people who we considered to be ambassadors to the Province throughout Canada and throughout the world, and provide them with information on some of the success stories here. That is the kind of thing that is stimulating more interest and input from people in the Province on some ideas they may have.

Now, we did some changing to the threshold section of the bill. Originally it was intended that there be a requirement for an EDGE corporation to plan to have $1 million in annual sales, to have a capital investment level of $500,000, and the intention to create at least ten new full-time jobs. We have adjusted that somewhat. We have brought the overall investment criteria down to a $300,000 level, which is a reasonable level given the amount of capital intensity needed in the majority of businesses of the nature that we feel would require EDGE status, that may require some variation as far as the tax goes.

Also, Mr. Speaker, the incremental sales requirement has been brought down to $500,000 which in turn will see a lowering of the overall sales figure. We are not shooting for the moon here. A $500,000 business is a good substantial business that will contribute significantly to the local economy. Also the ten full-time jobs has been redefined somewhat to make sure that it is ten person years, I think, is the idea we have come across, ten full-time positions that recur on an annual basis. They have based it somewhat now on the Statistics Canada basis for what constitutes a full-time job.

This will most certainly not be, I suppose, a be all and end all as far as the saviour to the Province's economy goes, but it is a part of the overall setup here in the Province that will allow us to attract new business investment. It is an experiment, it is bold, it is a new way of going about it, and maybe this will have some good results. I am very hopeful for it, Mr. Speaker, and hope to assist in the promotion of this legislation in the new year.

It seems that the Opposition is somewhat in favour of the initiative and I hope we can then go out and promote the Province well within the world business community, and through that promotion be able to attract some of the partners for local businesses, to attract some business dollars that will help the existing businesses to flourish, and find for the local companies that are established here, and the new businesses that come in to set up, find them markets.

The other thing with respect to the promotion, and maybe we could even put something in St. Anthony,

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RAMSAY: Maybe when some of these individuals who come to this Province with the interest - it is a different sort of business person who will come here in light of this -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. RAMSAY: Yes, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I wonder if the hon. member could just take his seat for a minute while I inform the House of the questions for our adjourned debate at 4:30 p.m.

The first question is: I am dissatisfied with the answer provided by the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board on the interest rates re: Trans City Holdings. That is from the hon. Member for Mount Pearl.

The second question is to the hon. the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation on highway maintenance and safety. That is the hon. Member for Placentia's question.

Question number three is to the Minister of Environment concerning government policy on the importation of garbage. That is from the hon. Member for St. John's East Extern.

The hon. the Member for LaPoile.

MR. RAMSAY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Just to build on where I left off. The fears were raised of course through the consultation process about the fact that - say for instance a number of businesses come in and they all have an interest in setting up in a specific location, be that location St. John's, Corner Brook, what have you. We want to see what we can do to stimulate their interest in other locations in the Province. If in fact all of them wanted to set up in St. John's that would be fine. The Province would benefit, but the regions of the Province would not.

There is some consideration given to making sure that every different location in the Province will have an opportunity to put their best case forward. The thing is, if a business decision depends on whether or not they will go to another location if - say for instance St. John's seems to be the best location for them to set up - if it means that they wouldn't set up, then I don't think we would stand in their way. We would certainly encourage them to establish here and allow our provincial economy to benefit, regardless.

The other thing I wanted to point out with respect to the kind of development we hope to see as a result of this bill is it has to be sustainable development. It has to be development of a nature that does not wreak havoc with the environment. It will have to be development that does not provide a competitive advantage by virtue of EDGE status to a company in competition with the existing business base here in this Province. It will have to be hopefully export-oriented business that will bring new dollars into the local economy, something in the new economy area that isn't necessarily, as some economists speak about, of the pig-iron variety.

I might also point out that we would hope that the establishment of EDGE corporations here will not invite businesses to seek out the possibility of sheltering tax only as their reason for establishing an EDGE corporation. We hope their intent is to make money and generate wealth through the economic activity that they foster by virtue of being located here.

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition did suggest something with respect to the captive business activity. We wanted to make very clear that our intent is not to preclude anything from the overall level of activity generated. It is just to be sure that business which is captive to the Province anyway - Hibernia was mentioned as a situation. One might also look at business that is generated say by a company that deals with companies that existed in the Province that would normally set up and deal with here anyway. They should in that event I would think be denied EDGE corporation status. Because if they are going to be doing business here anyway we would not necessarily want to give them the tax incentives. We would want it to generate new wealth, and not wealth that is (inaudible) to the provincial economy anyway.

There is just one thing I might point out that I feel the department is certainly in need of being commended for their efforts on this bill, they did turn it around once all the information was in rather quickly, and we have changed the legislation taking into account that the business community out there wants timely decisions. They do not want the process of bureaucracy to prevent them from being able to function properly.

I might also point out, Mr. Speaker, that the process of requiring a decision on an application for EDGE status, we have changed from a 60-day period in the White Paper to a 30-day period, so there is now a requirement that government does its analysis and gets the answer back to the applicant after we have received sufficient information, after we have a complete application with the full and thorough documentation requested being provided, we will respond to the proponent within thirty days, and that the 30-day time frame is the time frame which is bold in the government's sense because, normally, no government can turn anything around with the exception of emergency items and emergency decisions in less than thirty days and this government intends, as a part of this overall EDGE Corporation status, to turn that decision around in thirty days.

There are certain incentives available in the legislation, Mr. Speaker. The taxation incentives from a standpoint of forgiving them for a period of 10 up to 15 years, depending on the economic zone in question, we will forgive the provincial taxation in all forms over that period of time. The 10-year status is granted to any EDGE Corporation with a further remission over the period the year 11 on through to year 15.

Now the other things we might point out are that, in economic zones where unemployment rates are higher, and this has yet to be determined the exact way that it will function, but we intend to increase the EDGE status window to 15 years as a base amount and from that point on we would then have the decrease in the remission of tax.

Mr. Speaker, I also point out that we have provided some flexibility on the part of municipalities that are very strapped for cash but want to be able to make these incentives available by forgiving the property tax and also forgiving the business tax. They have an either/or ability in that way and we feel that it should be granted as an either/or function and we should not have municipalities out there working against each other.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RAMSAY: Also, Mr. Speaker, the labour relations parts of the legislation were put in in the White Paper; I might point out that we have removed those based on the input. It was one of the few times that we saw business and labour in agreement. They seemed to be in agreement with us with the overall proposal but the idea was, they did not like the labour relations component of the bill, therefore, some people often say that when business and labour don't agree, then obviously you are doing something right. In this case though, we took the other route and suggested to the government that they change this legislation in light of the fact that business and labour both, were pointing out that they did not like the labour section.

Private sector labour relations in Newfoundland and Labrador is generally very good, although Stats Canada will tell you that the labour relations climate in this Province is not that good, one has to look at the statistics as being not that accurate; the reason being that hospital workers, is an example of a group, a sector in this Province are deemed to be private sector workers under the current analysis that is provided by Stats Canada, so the segmentation or division of employees in this Province is not done very accurately by Stats Canada and is something that we will certainly have to look at in getting accurate statistics so that we can put our best foot forward in letting people know that labour relations in the private sector in this Province is not as bad as it may seem according to the statistical indicators.

The other point that I want to make note of is the productivity incentive. It is something that we see as a good benefit to this legislation. It is something which the analysts from outside the Province pointed out as being a very attractive incentive, and the $2,000 per job productivity incentive as proposed in the legislation is, in fact, equivalent to the tax amount that may be generated by that worker in a given year, so therefore it is almost like a reimbursement, one would say, of the tax that worker would generate to the economy. So we give it back as a productivity incentive to the business for creating the jobs in the first five years. We would prorate it over a five year period providing, I think it would work out to $400 per year per employee over that period of time, so it is certainly something that is seen as an added advantage.

Another point which we found is that the availability of land in a lot of other areas of North America is certainly a difficulty. Land is extremely expensive. Land is in short supply. There is no shortage of supply of land in Newfoundland and Labrador. The other things that we wanted to do in that regard was to find out, I guess, by providing this land, if, in fact, it would be an incentive that the business community throughout North America would look on in favour. We were told, through some of the analysis that was performed, they would indeed see this as a favourable part of the overall incentive package.

The facilitator section, of course, is something which is a very helpful part of the process, especially in light of those who may be coming here from outside of the Province, who require someone with the knowledge and expertise to deal with the local permitting and regulatory agencies to assist in the negotiation and furnishing of the different permits that are required. I point out also that with the advent of the White Paper there was a lot of activity that came about. We had a lot of enquiries.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. RAMSAY: They were trying to throw me off, yes, trying well.

You see I am concentrating, unlike some members here who don't concentrate well when they are on their feet. I am concentrating on it, and trying to do my part. I often have suggested, being the youngest member of this Legislature, I certainly may be one of the youngest members on the government side, I should say. I defer to the hon. member opposite.

Anyway, I and those younger than I will probably be the ones to inherit what we leave as a legacy for the rest of the people of this Province, and I hope that this legislation, indeed, helps bring us into the forefront of business in North America. It is a bold measure. It is a measure which certainly we have to take initiative with in promoting it, in seeing to it that in its application, in the people who approach the Department of Industry, Trade and Technology seeking EDGE status, that they are given all of the possible assistance and that we turn these applications around in a very short period, that we give them the due diligence necessary, but that we also take note of the fact that business decisions that are made quickly generally do much better for the business concerned, that they are not held up unduly.

Mr. Speaker, as the promotion of this legislation comes up, I also intend to, through the computer network services available here in the Province and throughout North America, and the world, for that matter - I intend to promote it on the Internet through the Compu-serve system.

I have, under my position as legislative advisor to the minister, undertaken to make an initiative in this respect and will be holding a forum sometime - I would think it will be in February - on the Internet for those people who want to know more about this piece of legislation, to receive copies of it, to receive our analyses of it through the Internet and also to have discussion with people here in government just by e-mail through their computer system. That, in turn, will help us reach many more people and many more potential entrepreneurs throughout the world and get them interested in Newfoundland and Labrador. The interest that that stimulates may not only be the interest of an individual who wants to start a business, it may very well be someone who would want to visit the Province. And we further help the tourism industry through this promotion of this rock, this place we call home, this place that this bold measure - we hope to secure a good economic future for the people of the Province through measures like this and the measures that have already been taken. We would hope, for the sake of our children and grandchildren in Newfoundland and Labrador, that this is the kind of measure that will allow us to give something back to the country of Canada, to our country, to give back what Canada has given to us over the years, some good strong economic activity that will generate wealth, not only for Newfoundland and Labrador, Mr. Speaker, but also for the rest of the country and ultimately, to provide for Newfoundland's place at the head table of the global marketplace. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. HEWLETT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to have a few words as a follow-up to the Opposition Leader on this particular bill. The bill, when introduced to the Newfoundland public some months ago by the hon. the Premier, was described by him as a piece of legislation that would ultimately make this Province irresistible to business. Now, Mr. Speaker, I realize it has been stormy outside today and you probably can't hear much, but I really haven't heard the pitter-patter of little feet by the thousands galloping down here from the mainland, from Europe and so on and so forth to take up the slack being offered by this bill.

As the Leader of the Opposition pointed out earlier, Mr. Speaker, our reaction to the initial bill was to bring about some badly needed improvements to this piece of draft legislation and a lot of those improvements were made and are indicated in the draft we have before us today.

Mr. Speaker, this government, I think, felt a need some time ago to indicate to the body politic that it was actually doing something with regard to economic development and job creation. At least, Mr. Speaker, probably better put, it had to create the impression that it was about doing something with regard to job creation and economic development. There was a need to be seen to be doing something and the hon. the Premier trotted out a piece of legislation very poorly drafted, very hastily put together, very poorly thought out - trotted it out before a public speaking engagement here in the capital city and described it as practically the be-all and end-all for economic development and job creation in this Province. As I indicated earlier, he described it as a bill to make this Province utterly irresistible to business. Mr. Speaker, businesses have not been lining up, as I indicated earlier, over the last little while. One would almost expect them to be straining at the starting gates for the actual passage of this legislation in the Assembly. By the way, it was heralded earlier, but as I indicated earlier, such has not been the case.

When we first saw this bill, Mr. Speaker, in its draft form, rather crudely put together with certain very negative aspects to it that we pointed out at the time, it reminded me somewhat of the bill that was brought in a year or two ago with regard to financial corporations. That bill was a bill of general application but once you peeled away the various layers, Mr. Speaker, it became obvious that it was a bill directed at Fortis Trust and the Financial Corporations Act was almost the Fortis Act. And when we saw this particular bill with the particular restrictions that were a part of it, we had serious concerns as to just what favourite project, just what favourite son, this particular government might have had in mind with regard to this bill of general application. At the beginning we had some serious concerns that this was directed towards some individuals or some corporations, and so on, that the government was smiling favourably on, but after our criticisms of the bill over the past number of months, it has been improved as regards its format and as regards the generality of its application.

Mr. Speaker, one other aspect of this bill in general that caused us considerable concern in its draft form were the provisions regarding labour relations. This bill set up basically two standards of labour relations in the Province, and that, we thought, was very bad policy from the point of view of business development. You can't have company A on one side of the road and company B on another side of the road operating in two totally different labour climates under two totally different sets of rules.

This weekend past, Mr. Speaker, I met with the head of the local labour council in my area and, at the time, he wasn't aware of the degree of change that would come about with regard to the labour issues in this bill, and speaking for labour, that particular individual was very, very concerned; therefore, it was a pleasant surprise to see all aspects regarding labour dropped from the bill. However, the labour clauses that were initially touted by the hon. the Premier in draft form do give an indication of the attitude and inclination of this government.

We have seen it from the hon. the Premier in his dealings with Marystown Shipyard. It is basically, blame the worker and blame the union, and one has to wonder as to what the government intends in the short, medium, or long-term with regard to laws of general application regarding the labour relations climate in the Province.

Having pulled in their horns on this particular bill, one has to wonder if the new Minister of Labour is actually holding things in abeyance for another time, another place, and another act of the Legislature that will bring forward the pronounced anti-labour bias of the hon. the Premier. That bias may exist among other members of the Cabinet but the hon. the Premier, over the last number of weeks and months, especially in the case of Marystown, has really indicated the anti-labour bias that he has, and one has to wonder if something is actually coming.

Another thing that generally caused some considerable concern on the part of the Opposition when this came out, and it related to the first concern I mentioned about to whom did this bill of supposed general application apply, and that was the way the EDGE status was to be arrived at, how a corporation was to be designated EDGE. The original concept had a committee of Cabinet making those decisions, so you had basically a law of general application relating to business and economic development in the Province but the status that allowed one to get the various tax exemptions, etc., were going to be decided on by a body of politicians in the first instance and reconfirmed by the entire Cabinet in the second instance.

I am glad that particular thing is changed because that was wide open for political abuse, political interference, and needless to say, having seen what we have seen in this Assembly over the last little while, this government is not above and beyond political interference in the conduct of the affairs of this Province in the disbursement of taxpayers' dollars. We had some considerable concerns about who would be EDGE'd and who would be EDGE-less and one would have to wonder, at that particular time, whether or not you really had to show up at the $500-a-plate dinner in order to ensure that the Cabinet committee made you EDGE'd -

MS. VERGE: (Inaudible) fifty tickets.

MR. HEWLETT: - or, yes, maybe instead of showing up at the dinner you could quietly sell fifty tickets.

Whatever the case, those three points that I mentioned, whether or not it was a bill of general application, the labour thing and the designation of EDGE status were wide open, political instruments to be used by the administration, and that caused us some considerable concern.

We are pleased, as the hon. the Opposition Leader indicated, that these matters were dealt with. Several other matters relating to threshold limits for businesses have been changed, and the bill becomes more acceptable to the general public. The bill becomes more applicable to a wider range of companies and corporations in the Province.

We still have some concerns, as an Opposition, from the point of view of what we have enunciated as our economic development policy that it is still somewhat restrictive. Government, as I said, has changed some of the targets and thresholds, but this government still appears to be somewhat fixated on the notion of revenue generation through the taxation of small and medium-sized business and that, I think, is a self-defeating attitude, certainly not productive in the long term.

This government would get far greater revenues from income tax on working people, and from retail sales tax on their expenditures as consumers, than it would get from taxing the life out of new and fledgling corporations. Yet, we see certain companies will not qualify for EDGE status even if they are new, and if they are expanding and creating new jobs and have a significant investment, because there is still too large a concern on the part of this administration with capturing corporate tax revenue from companies, when I think the Province and the government would be far better off if some of these companies were allowed to grow and prosper without excessive taxation burdens and the government, if it does so and it results in the creation of significant numbers of jobs, at least in the short to medium term, would be far better off garnering revenues from the income tax of the workers and taxes on their consumption of goods. Because what you are doing there is actually taxing real wealth, and there is nothing to be gained by taxing companies that are marginal. You get very little significant revenue into the provincial Treasury, and you have a net negative dampening effect on business growth in general.

Mr. Speaker, we are of the opinion, to a great extent, that really if you bring in a program of this sort, the main concern that government should have is whether or not a company getting assistance by way of either job subsidies or by way of tax breaks -whether or not such a company is put in an unfair competitive advantage with regard to other existing companies in the Province. If you mainly cover off that concern, some of the other concerns that are still existent in this piece of legislation, I think, are relatively incidental.

What is wrong with giving a tax break, a wage subsidy, to companies that create two jobs, five jobs, eight jobs, have smaller thresholds of investment, $50,000 or $100,000? If new jobs are created and those people have income - income that can be taxed, they buy things in the local shops that can be taxed, then the Minister of Finance is going to be satisfied, and if there are jobs created, the general public will be satisfied. So you have a two-fold effect. You do get revenue from the Treasury, but it is revenue from real wealth generation and not a heavy burden of taxation on the backs of small and marginal fledgling companies trying to get established.

The other thing that should have been wiped out in this legislation, or some legislation, is the payroll tax - a totally regressive, negative tax that really does absolutely no good to the generation of business activity in the Province. If anything, it really dampens business activity and we would be better off letting companies -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I wonder would the hon. member adjourn the debate?

MR. HEWLETT: I adjourn the debate, Mr. Speaker, thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: We will now commence the adjournment debate.

Debate on the Adjournment

[Late Show]

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

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

Mr. Speaker, on Tuesday, December 6, I asked the Minister of Environment a question concerning the new policy on the importation of garbage. I believe that it is a good first step, Mr. Speaker, at least the government now has a policy with respect to the importation of garbage. The minister says that the legislation is not needed and the new policy will actually stop garbage coming in from different areas around North America. I personally believe that the policy is too open-ended and actually sets down criteria that it would allow the importation of garbage into Newfoundland and Labrador.

Any business now, Mr. Speaker, in Newfoundland and Labrador, that would conform to the reuse, the reprocess and the recycling, recovery could actually start up a business in Newfoundland with respect to the importation of garbage. The NARR situation in Long Harbour actually, could still start up under this policy. Actually, government may now be required to approve certain applications that would be made to government for the importation of garbage under this policy, Mr. Speaker.

With respect to this policy, the talks about reciprocal agreements between the Atlantic Provinces and provinces outside of Atlantic Canada, I would have some concerns with that with respect to the volume that may be produced in other areas compared to, in Newfoundland and the types of garbage that would be traded back and forth under this agreement or this policy.

The minister referred to the Atlantic Accord on Environmental Co-operation. Now, I read that agreement and I find it to be a very general agreement and actually would open the door for the importation of hazardous waste into Newfoundland and Labrador. I believe that the people of Newfoundland and Labrador want legislation to ban the importation of garbage and I say that Newfoundland and Labrador should handle its own waste and let other provinces and countries do the same.

Will the minister introduce legislation to ban the importation of garbage into Newfoundland and Labrador?

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

MR. AYLWARD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I appreciate the question from the member and I understand his sincere interest in this matter, but I want to say to him, this: that this is probably the most common sense policy when it comes to waste importation that you can bring in as a government. We have looked carefully at the different options and this is a strong policy that we have put in place, but we cannot be going around with the Not-In-My-Back-Yard syndrome.

You know, we are shipping out some small types of hazardous waste to other provinces in Canada and if we are going to say to them: you take our waste, but if some time down the road we all decide at some site somewhere in Atlantic Canada that we are going to do this thing here, then we cannot close our doors because we are expecting other people to take our waste and then we are not going to bother to even listen, to sit down and work out a co-operative arrangement, so when we talk about the Atlantic Agreement that we have signed since '91, what we are talking about is common sense. We are talking about taking care of our waste in Atlantic Canada.

You know, if Alberta were to have that attitude about the PCB incinerator that they have up there, then we would have another problem. We have a problem with PCBs in this Province, we don't know what we are going to do with them, we are trying to figure out a solution for them, we are trying to figure out a solution in Atlantic Canada for PCBs and we still have not found a site in Atlantic Canada, that is in the four provinces, so we need to have a common sense policy when it comes to waste importation and what we try to do here, and this is an attempt to do it, and while there may be some people who say it was not strong enough, or it is not this or it is not that, we think that it is a policy that will protect the Province from the importation for final disposal outside of Canada, of a number of a variety of things that were on the table that we were considering coming to this Province, but we cannot, at the same time just say that we are not going to bother within Atlantic Canada at the very least looking at certain types of waste.

Mr. Speaker, as a result of this decision that has been taken and the announcement of this policy, I have sent letters to the three proponents who have had proposals in to this Province that we considered would not fit this policy, and the letters went out on December 5, to the proponents informing them of the fact that this policy is now in place and basically, that they would not fit under the criteria.

We've had a reply from Hollinger North Shore out of Quebec. They've replied and said that they accept the policy is in place and they've withdrawn their proposal. They understand the decision -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. AYLWARD: As a matter of fact, they think it makes pretty good sense. They've already accepted it. The other proposals that are on deck, the one in Baie Verte, there is some question in the mind of the proponent, but we are clearing that up again today. We have a letter going back out again today to the proponent informing him that we will not be approving that project under this criteria.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. AYLWARD: We have a strong policy in place that deals with - Long Harbour is not even a proposal. Under our criteria we will have to see what comes in, but there is no proposal. Secondly, final disposal with incineration is not going to be considered under this policy. Therefore, if we ever see one - which I don't know if we ever will or not, that is another question - but anyway, it applies to anything, so that fits under this criteria. The three proposals that are in here in the Province now that were under this criteria, the three proponents have been informed, they've been told of the facts, they've been told what the policy is.

We think this policy makes sense, we think it is going to help us in the future in this Province do the things we need to do. It also will help us with environmental policy when we are looking at re-use and recycling and so on. We just can't close our minds to different opportunities in the environmental industries. I don't think anybody is asking us to. I think what we've done is brought in a policy that makes some sense for the 1990s. I'm looking forward to seeing it implemented and carried out, and we are also looking forward to new policy initiatives that will be coming forward in 1995. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. CAREEN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today I was not satisfied at all with the answer by the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation regarding highway maintenance and safety. How can anybody be satisfied with such statements.

Last evening I went out to Southern Harbour to a wake. It took me an hour and a half from this building to Southern Harbour. It took me two hours and a half to come back. You had to judge the road and drive accordingly. You didn't want to put someone else in the hospital, let alone yourself. From Southern Harbour, part of the Trans-Canada, I never saw a vehicle, a plough, a truck, until I got nearly to St. John's. Since this session opened we've seen - and it has been spoken of here before - the suspension of mandatory inspections. Yesterday there was an announcement that from now on the travelling public will have to pay $0.75 for their calls about road conditions. In the paper today it quoted $45,000 to $50,000 it cost last year, but another source said that it cost $52,000 for about 70,000 calls.

We can't have a price sir, and it is not a great price, that amount of money, for safety. People have to be shown that they are getting some kind of a service from the government. They can't all be user-pay, especially such a paltry amount. The highway conditions concern us all. We can get into rhetoric here one way or the other, and we can point fingers. Any of us old enough to experience or see different sides of this legislation had to be concerned. What we've seen in the last two or three years is a downgrading, a difference, we've noticed, on our highways.

AN HON. MEMBER: Get your hands out of your pockets.

MR. CAREEN: I haven't got my suspenders on. We've seen the difference of highway maintenance, we've seen people laid off. Why, this past while there are people up the Southern Shore who were supposed to be called back. They've been hired on, interviewed, to go back and maintain highway maintenance. To date today they haven't been called. I don't know how many other places in this Province have experienced the same thing.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

I am not satisfied with the way the maintenance and the safety of our highways is being taken, and I am asking the minister - I asked him earlier today - to assume the responsibility that had been entrusted with him in the first place.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. EFFORD: Mr. Speaker, I thought for a few moments, when I was sitting down listening to the hon. member, that I wouldn't stand and respond to the points he was making. You have to stoop pretty low in the House of Assembly when you try to make political points on the death of other people.

I was shocked in Question Period by the questions put forth by two hon. members, and it was just after reading this, what I had just received in the mail. I am going to read it in this hon. House, and the hon. member's picture is there because he put the question about vehicle inspections. This was hand-written by somebody in the Province, as was incited by the Opposition:

`Dear Incompetent Mr. Efford, what sort of logic altering drugs are you taking?' - the drugs I am taking, the hon. member said in speaking. The bottom paragraph, `I hope it is your children, Sir, who are in the car when one of these pieces of junk loses its steering and comes towards you. You are a full-blown idiot.' That is hand-written.

AN HON. MEMBER: Who wrote that?

MR. EFFORD: I don't know. I wish I did know, but that is the type of stuff that is incited. Today in Question Period I was called a murderer by two members opposite. To me, when I have to sit in this House of Assembly and take this, incited by the Opposition, and verbal abuse, it doesn't deserve an answer, to stand to your feet and respond. I am totally ashamed that I am here.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. WINDSOR: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

A couple of days ago I asked the Minister of Finance some questions dealing with the Trans City contract to build medical centres in the Province. The minister gave me some answers that I don't accept. I point out to the minister that the range of interest rates that was quoted varied from 15 per cent to 11.125 per cent on the original bids.

Mr. Speaker, some time down the road the minister negotiated, or the government negotiated, or the committee - I won't get into that - a much lower rate than that, so the effective rate in fact turned out to be 9.41 per cent with Confederation Life. That was well down the road. At the time that the decision was made to proceed or not to proceed with this contract, the lowest rate on the books was 11.125 per cent. That was the lowest rate, a floating rate.

At the same time, Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance borrowed $200 million on the US market at 9 per cent, a fixed rate for thirty years. Now I am anxious to hear the minister justify that decision, particularly in view of the fact that the Deputy Minister of Works, Services and Transportation at the time, was quoted as saying, and the documents have been tabled in the courts, as saying the Department of Finance has consistently advised us that the rates being provided here in these tenders are higher than the governments borrowing rate, obviously they are, Mr. Speaker. The government could have borrowed the amount of money necessary. The liability would be no different. This is a liability on the government just the same as if they had borrowed the money. Government could have borrowed an extra amount of money, whatever they needed, to build these facilities themselves. I would submit, Mr. Speaker, had they done it by normal public tender processing they would have gotten more favourable construction costs in the beginning, the capital costs would have been lower than this particular cost.

Now down the road, Mr. Speaker, after awarding the contract to Trans City, after being accepted by Trans City, Trans City came in with Confederation Life and said we have offered you more favourable rates but we can only do that if we make certain changes, one of which is that you don't get it for a dollar at the end of the contract, you get it for 60 per cent of construction costs. Now we don't even know what 60 per cent of the construction cost is yet. The minister promised to tell the Leader of the Opposition that figure several days ago and he has yet to give it to us.

I ask him now, when he stands in his place, would he tell us what that 60 per cent of construction cost is and how will it be fixed? Who is fixing it? Is this a figure that Trans City says that they paid to Marco? What documentation is there? What is stopping Trans City from inflating that price and recovering a higher percentage? But at any rate, Mr. Speaker, 60 per cent of the construction costs is quite a bit higher than one dollar. Outside of the fact that we are paying a higher interest rate, higher than the 9 per cent that government could have borrowed and completed this contract on their own. They could have gone through a public tender process, as the minister in the appendix that he signed in fact, wanted to recommend to Cabinet and he tells us now that the committee did not agree with him.

The Minister of Finance, Mr. Speaker, knew full-well at that point in time, that this was the wrong way to go, and I question that, but the legal advice says it may not be strictly contrary to Public Tender Act but it clearly is contrary to the spirit and intent of the Public Tender Act. We had advice from the Department of Finance, the ministers own department, that the cost of borrowing was higher than what was being offered in these things, yet the minister went ahead with it.

Then they negotiated with Confederation Life after the fact. After the contract was awarded and accepted by Trans City, a week or so later Confederation Life came in and we now have a sinking fund with Confederation Life. Would the minister like to tell us how much we are paying each month into that sinking fund so that the 60 per cent will be there at the end of the thirty years to buy it?

I'm anxious for the minister to try to justify to me the differences in the borrowing rates, and the difference in a dollar and 60 per cent of construction cost at the end of the thirty years in order to get back that building. It is going to be interesting, Mr. Speaker. I will sit down and let the minister respond to those questions, if he would.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board.

MR. BAKER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I listened intently to what the hon. member had to say. The information that he wanted was provided, the process was explained. The reason I listened intently was to try to determine if there was any factual piece of information that the hon. member gave that bore any resemblance to the truth. I did not find one. It was all nonsense.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


On motion, the House at its rising adjourned until tomorrow, Friday, at 9:00 a.m.