May 10, 1995              HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS                Vol. XLII  No. 21

The House met at 2:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Dicks): Order, please!

Statements by Ministers

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

MR. AYLWARD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

May 7 - 13 marks National Drinking Water Week in Canada. The purpose of this week is to educate Canadians on the importance of having adequate supplies of clean drinking water, to heighten awareness of the fragile nature of our water supplies and to promote the role each individual has in protecting those supplies.

In this Province we are fortunate to have an abundance of fresh water. That abundance, however, does not mean we can waste these resources. In fact, we must be more vigilant to protect those supplies and to ensure their long-term viability. There are communities in this Province facing water supply issues such as availability and contamination. Through proper management, however, these problems can be minimized and corrected.

Mr. Speaker, water, like any other natural resource, is a commodity. It has a social and a commercial value. Many of our most important industries like hydro power, forestry and tourism depend on our water supplies. As well, emerging industries, such as bottling water and exporting water, are looking at our water resources to bring economic benefit to the Province. As these other demands on our water supply continue to grow they will require competent management procedures.

Mr. Speaker, my department is actively involved in assessing the status of our water resources and determining current and future demands and opportunities. In recent months we have carried out a number of studies funded under the Canada-Newfoundland Water Resources Management Agreement. These studies address, among other issues, the economic value of water to the Province, the value of protecting water supplies and the demands put on water in various watershed areas.

I would like to assure this hon. House during this National Drinking Water Week, that the Department of Environment is committed to the protection of our most important natural resource for the benefit of the people of this Province for generations to come.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

I would like to first of all thank the minister for a copy of his statement today before the House sat. The minister speaks of community water supply issues and water contamination issues. Mr. Speaker, I would like to mention to the minister that there is a community in my district that now has nine homes being serviced by wells which are polluted.

I contacted the Department of Municipal and Provincial Affairs, the Department of Environment, and the Department of Health and they did absolutely nothing to help the people in that situation, Mr. Speaker. We agree that it is important to protect the water supplies within the Province, not only for health reasons but for economic reasons, as the minister mentioned here today. The minister says that the Department of Environment is committed to protecting the water supplies of the Province.

I sincerely hope that is more than just water off a duck's back.

Thank you.

Oral Questions

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

MS. VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS. VERGE: Like a red rag to a bull, I say to the minister.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS. VERGE: Mr. Speaker, I have questions for the Premier. I say to the Premier, it is about time he showed up for the House of Assembly, to face the music on Trans City.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by asking the Premier about communications between his fall guy, the Deputy Premier, and himself.

Now, the Premier appointed the Deputy Premier to chair a special four-member Cabinet committee on the awarding of the lucrative hospital construction contracts. The Deputy Premier at the time was also President of Treasury Board, President of the Executive Council, and by the time the dirty deed was done, he was also acting Minister of Works, Services and Transportation.

Will the Premier confirm that the deputy minister informed him that awarding the contracts to Trans City involved violating the spirit of the Public Tender Act, and that the Deputy Premier recommended to the Premier that the projects be re-tendered?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker, before I address the many comments the Leader of the Opposition made, may I offer her sincere congratulations on her election.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WELLS: I not only offer her sincere congratulations, I say to her, having been in that role myself, I acknowledge that it is a role of great significance to the public governmental process, the political process of this Province, and I wish her well in that role for many, many years to come, but the congratulations are indeed sincere and I want to emphasize that.

Mr. Speaker, the comments of the Leader of the Opposition in leading into the question said something to the effect that it was about time I was in the House to answer for this. Well, I have been in the House all along except Monday. I had a meeting with three key federal Cabinet ministers in Ottawa to deal with a matter of major concern to the Province. With apologies to the Leader of the Opposition, I have to say to her that I felt that came ahead of the necessity for my being here to answer her questions right on that day. I will be happy to address them at any time in the future.

On the question itself, Mr. Speaker, we have no formal Deputy Premier position. The President of Treasury Board, the Minister of Finance, when the Premier is away, stands in and is Acting Premier. He performed the responsibility that he did in relation to these health care centres, not in any capacity as Deputy Premier or - what was the latest comment, some sort of fall guy or something? He did it in the normal discharge of his duties, and I have to say to the House, did an absolutely excellent job.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WELLS: He did a superb job for the people of this Province in relation to the matter. Not only is there nothing to justify, explain or apologize for, I can only express to the House great pride in the approach that the government took in relation to this matter. I am a little bit uncomfortable with some of the ineptness with which the approach was carried out, that has caused some of the problem. I am not terribly proud of that degree of ineptness in terms of calling for proposals in relation to it and it caused some difficulty with the process, but I am totally satisfied, Mr. Speaker, that it is only a matter of process, not a matter of anything else that was wrong in relation to this.

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

MS. VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. A supplementary to the Premier.

Nice try, but no answer. I will repeat the question: Did the Deputy Premier, the Acting Premier, the Member for Gander, now the Minister of Finance, did that minister advise the Premier that awarding the three hospital construction contracts to Trans City involved violating the spirit of the Public Tender Act? Did the Acting Deputy Premier, did the Acting Premier recommend to the Premier that those projects be re-tendered?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: No, Mr. Speaker, the answer is very clear on that. I think the - I am just trying to recollect now. The assessment done by the officials - as a result of a letter I received a short time ago from the Member for St. John's Centre, I had a full assessment done of it and I have just gotten the report. It came to me only this morning when I got back in the office and I haven't really had a chance to deal fully with it yet, but I will be able to answer the specifics of that in detail. As a matter of fact, I may well make the whole matter public, but in fairness, as I agreed with the Member for St. John's Centre that I would meet with him after I got the assessment and answered his questions, I will do that first. Then I expect I will probably make the whole matter public.

No, Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance did not advise me that this was contrary to the spirit of the Public Tender Act. My recollection of the assessment indicates that when Cabinet made the decision on October 17 to proceed with the matter, we had, in the same time frame, been dealing with a claim against the government in respect to the simulator, under a contract where we had awarded it to the lowest bidder and the other bidder was claiming we should have awarded it to them because they, on a fair assessment, were the preferred bidder, so we were aware of the possibility of claims being made, so we asked for a legal opinion with respect to the approach that we were taking under the terms of the Public Tender Act and we delayed the implementation of the decision of October 17 until we got that legal opinion, and that legal opinion confirmed that there was no impediment under the Public Tender Act but that we would have to report to the House an exception to the Act, and I believe that opinion has been tabled.

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

MS. VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

So I take it the Premier is now admitting that he was aware of a legal opinion of the senior government lawyer, John Cummings, saying that proceeding with the award to Trans City violated the spirit of the Public Tender Act, and went ahead and gave the contract to Trans City despite that legal warning.

Will the Premier admit, then, that he personally is responsible for giving the contracts to Trans City, and that he personally is responsible for the government breaking the law, as has now been ruled by the Supreme Court Trial Division, at a cost to the taxpayers of this Province of many millions of dollars?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker, as the Premier and as a member of the Cabinet, I am personally responsible, as all other Cabinet ministers are, for every single decision government takes. In this particular case I am quite proud of the decision that we took because, in fact, it got the best deal this Province has gotten in public works endeavours for quite some time.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WELLS: The best deal this Province has gotten for quite some time, so not only do I admit responsibility; I happily claim my full share of the responsibility, along with all other Cabinet ministers, for the decision.

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

MR. VERGE: Mr. Speaker, how can the Premier defend his responsibility for the government breaking the law, his responsibility for withholding vital information, including that legal opinion, from several ministers in his own Cabinet? How can the Premier answer to the taxpayers of this Province for the several additional millions of dollars that are going to have to be paid under the Trans City arrangement?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: There are two things, Mr. Speaker, totally wrong in the statement of the Leader of the Opposition. The statement: How can I justify breaking the law? We didn't break the law. The opinion said very clearly that proceeding in the way in which we did would be in accord with the Public Tender Act. I happen to share that view. I've had some background as a lawyer and I don't disagree with the opinion that was delivered to Cabinet, so I had no hesitation in moving in accordance with the recommendation.

The second thing that the Leader just raised was: How could I justify withholding information? I didn't withhold information. Nobody withheld information that I'm aware of, and the assessment that was done makes it very clear that no information was withheld from any member of Cabinet. Every member of Cabinet had all of the information that I had. Every iota of information that I had, every other member of Cabinet had it. So far as I know I had as much as every other member too, so nothing was being withheld from anybody.

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

MS. VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. To the Premier: Is the Premier admitting then that he and all of the Cabinet ministers knew that the Department of Justice's senior lawyer, John Cummings, advised the acting Premier, now Minister of Finance and Treasury Board, that proceeding with awarding the contracts to Trans City violated the spirit of the Public Tender Act?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker, now I can stand here in the House and read the five-page legal opinion (inaudible). I can take the time of Question Period to do that. Because what the Leader of the Opposition has done is misrepresented the position. The opinion dated October 21, 1991 has been tabled in the House, so I will not take up the time of Question Period to read it in detail, but I say to the Leader of the Opposition and the other members of the House, read the opinion that has been tabled and you will see very clearly that it does not say what the Leader of the Opposition represents that it says.

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

MS. VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I say to the Premier, I have not only read that legal opinion; I have also read the judgement of Mr. Justice Orsborn of the Supreme Court of Newfoundland ruling that the government, at the Premier's instigation he now admits, broke the law by violating the Public Tender Act.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS. VERGE: I ask the Premier: Is he now indicating that the Member for St. John's Centre and the other former ministers who claim that they were not privy to the information contained in Mr. Cummings' legal opinion are lying? Is that what the Premier is now saying?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker, I do want to correct some of the gross misstatements by the Leader of the Opposition that this was done at my personal instigation - this decision was taken by Cabinet at my personal instigation.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

PREMIER WELLS: Let me just tell the House... In fact, when this decision was, in fact, taken on October 17 I wasn't in the Cabinet. I was in the Cabinet for part of the meeting. I had to leave and go. It was after I, in fact, left the Cabinet, but I knew what the paper recommended. I supported it, it was the right thing to do, and if I had been in the Cabinet I would have spoken strongly in favour of it. So, for the Leader of the Opposition to make these outlandish claims in this way just demonstrates how lacking in credibility her total position is.

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

MS. VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Premier still isn't answering the question. He knows full well that the final decision to give that contract to Trans City was made after October 17, 1991. Now, I ask again: Is the Premier now saying that the Member for St. John's Centre and the other former ministers who say they didn't know about that legal advice are lying?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: No, Mr. Speaker; what I am saying is this: The decision, the review of the documents that has recently been completed by the officials of Executive Council, indicates clearly the decision was made on October 17, 1991. At the same time there was a discussion of another legal case going on involving the Can-Am simulator and Cabinet instructed that the decision not be implemented until we obtained a legal opinion because of the issue that had been raised in the Can-Am simulator case.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) the Cabinet?

PREMIER WELLS: Cabinet did that at the time. I didn't instruct Cabinet. I think that is the part of the Cabinet meeting I wasn't there for.

Anyway, they decided to do that and they waited and they got the legal opinion. The legal opinion was quite clear. A week or so later at the next Cabinet meeting the decision to proceed was reconfirmed. This is what the documentation indicates very clearly. So, Mr. Speaker, there is no question about it.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

PREMIER WELLS: Well, let's talk about the other paper for a minute. That other paper appears in three places. It was dated October 31, 1991 and it appears in the file of Cabinet papers of the former Minister of Works, Services and Transportation who had resigned ten days before. I started to wonder: How did that appear in the former minister's documents when he had resigned, hadn't been there for ten days before? That is a bit of an anomaly. Mr. Speaker, that Cabinet paper has no markings on it or no stamp on it. It is just a draft with the signature of the President of Treasury Board.

There is another copy of it that appears in a file of Cabinet documents that they keep for me in Executive Council. It doesn't appear anywhere in my office but it appears in my Cabinet papers file in the Executive Council office. No stamp on it.

MR. SULLIVAN: There is a stamp on the one we have.

PREMIER WELLS: Just a minute now. Members asked for an explanation, I will tell them what I know. No stamp on it. No markings of any kind on it.

The third place, and the only other place where it appears, yet another anomaly, is in the files of Treasury Board. Not the President of Treasury Board's personal files but in the files of Treasury Board. There, Mr. Speaker, it has the Executive Council stamp on it. It is the original document and it has the Executive Council stamp on it.

Ordinarily when a Cabinet paper is prepared and signed by the Cabinet minister it goes up to Executive Council and it is logged in the record - the date and time when it was received - and the Executive Council stamp is put on it. There is no record of it in the log. It was never received as far as they know in Executive Council office. There is no record of it ever having been logged in Executive Council. The original doesn't appear in the Executive Council files, it appears down in Treasury Board's files. Another anomaly.

MR. WINDSOR: Who sent it (inaudible) Executive Council (inaudible)?

PREMIER WELLS: I have no idea. I can't figure out, nor can anybody. So you have three anomalies.

AN HON. MEMBER: How naive do you think we are?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

PREMIER WELLS: The members asked for - what I know about it I'm telling them.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) a bunch of fairy tales.

PREMIER WELLS: What do I conclude from that? What does one conclude from...?

MR. WINDSOR: Who has been taken to task in Executive Council for letting that stamp out of the office?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

PREMIER WELLS: I can't figure out how it happened.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

PREMIER WELLS: All those who've looked at it don't know. Was it planted? I don't know. I have no basis for suggesting that it was. I just point out that those three anomalies exist. I don't know where or how it came. It was never seen by any Cabinet minister. No Cabinet minister had it or saw it. It was not the opinion of -

MR. WINDSOR: (Inaudible) who signed it!

PREMIER WELLS: I will let that minister answer for that.

MR. WINDSOR: He must have had his eyes closed when he signed it.

PREMIER WELLS: That was not the opinion of the committee. The opinion of the committee that went before Cabinet was attached to the Cabinet paper subsequently and that reflected it.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MS. VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I say to the Premier that the Minister of Finance does a better job as Acting Premier then the Premier does of acting.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS. VERGE: Now the Premier asked: What can one conclude about the incredible story of the paper signed by the Minister of Finance dated October 31, 1991? Well what one could conclude is that the orders to shred were not carried out totally.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS. VERGE: Elizabeth Marshall, the current Auditor General, testified in court that orders were given to shred documents, the Supreme Court Judge in his written judgement said information had disappeared.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I would ask the hon. Leader of the Opposition to get to a question and we should stay away from speculation of that sort.

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition, if she has a question.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: I say to hon. members, I am having trouble at times hearing from both sides of the House and I would ask that we ask one question at a time rather than when a speaker is on their feet to have more questions. So I would ask the hon. Leader of the Opposition to have the floor, please.

MS. VERGE: Mr. Speaker, won't the Premier confirm that a paper dated October 31, 1991 bearing the signature of the now Acting Premier, Minister of Finance, then Chair of the Premier's special committee, exists? Will the Premier confirm that in that document the Minister of Finance; (a) warns of legal problems with an award to Trans City, says pointedly that awarding to Trans City would violate the spirit of the Public Tender Act and would be difficult to defend; (b) that in that paper the Minister of Finance recommends strongly that the contracts be re-tendered so that all interested contractors would compete on a level playing field? Will the Premier indicate whether the information contained in the paper was conveyed to the Member for St. John's Centre and all the members of the Cabinet at the time in question?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Now, Mr. Speaker, I have to admit that such a document exists. I have no hesitation in saying it. As a matter of fact, I think we made it available. It was tabled in the court and it has the Executive Council stamp dated October 31 on it. It never went near the Executive Council office as far as the Executive Council records indicate. I have heard the minister say this was not his view, this is not the view of the committee. So how does it appear?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

PREMIER WELLS: I am prepared to answer the questions the Leader of the Opposition asked, Mr. Speaker, but I am not prepared to try and shout down the cacophony of noise opposite. If they want the answer I would -

MR. WINDSOR: You don't like the question.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

PREMIER WELLS: The answer is very clear, it is obvious that they don't like the answers and they are trying to prevent them from coming out, Mr. Speaker, but it is not working. Their fondest dreams are not going to come true on this, I can tell you.

Mr. Speaker, I asked the official to find out where this paper came from, who prepared it, how it got in the process and all of this. No civil servant remembers specifically preparing this paper. One civil servant says: That sounds like me, I might well have prepared that paper. It sounds like what I would (inaudible).

MR. WINDSOR: Are you telling me he does not remember writing a paper like that?

PREMIER WELLS: I can only tell you and you will see the full report when I make it available to everybody, Mr. Speaker, after I have had a chance to review it.

MR. WINDSOR: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker, I can only speculate. That is all we can do at this stage, speculate about how this came into being. As hon. members opposite who served in the Cabinet before will know, and all on this side who served in the Cabinet will know, frequently public servants, or a public servant will prepare a position paper that they think Cabinet, the committee, or the minister, may take as a position on an issue. This was prepared apparently after the opinion was received from Mr. Cummings, and whichever civil servant prepared this probably did so on the basis of what he felt might be judged to be a position the committee should take after receiving the legal opinion.

It was never the opinion of the committee. No member of the committee saw it or endorsed it. I will let the Minister of Finance explain how his signature appears on it. I can't do it. He has personal knowledge and I don't think my hearsay is the right thing to provide the House.

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

MS. VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

To the Premier: Is it not true that all that paper does, anyway, is summarize Mr. Cumming's legal advice which was that awarding to Trans City would violate the Public Tender Act and would likely generate a court challenge? And is not the recommendation of the Minister of Finance simply a logical step acting on that legal advice, namely, that the contracts be re-tendered so that all interested contractors could compete on a fair and balanced basis?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Here is what Mr. Cumming's opinion says. I will just read the last paragraph, but I commend the whole of it to members. `In summary, Cabinet does have the authority to award these contracts to Trans City Holdings under Section 8 of the act even though it is not the lowest or preferred bidder. However, this will require the tabling of the reasons for the contract award in the House of Assembly,' which, as all hon. members know, was done. `Therefore, Cabinet must consider whether or not it is appropriate to exercise its authority in this situation where the lack of precision in the tender call resulted in a complicated analysis process requiring considerable subjective judgement which is not readily explainable to non-experts.'

Now, there is the ineptness that I was talking about, the way in which the proposal was put out, the interchangeable use of tender and proposal, and so on. All of that ineptness, Mr. Speaker, caused this kind of complication, but portrays no improper act by anybody, and no improper motive by anybody. Everything was dealt with on a straightforward basis and that was the only complication. This summary position that some civil servants prepared did not reflect the opinion, so I say to the Leader of the Opposition, no, her position is quite incorrect, it does not do that.

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

MS. VERGE: I ask the Premier: Wasn't the improper act and the improper motive decided by the Supreme Court of Newfoundland this winter?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: No, Mr. Speaker, and about the decision of the Supreme Court of Newfoundland I will say no more until the Court of Appeal has rendered its judgement on it, except to say, no, Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition is not correct.

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

MS. VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I ask the Premier, why was he hell-bent on giving the three lucrative hospital construction contracts to Tom Hickman, Bill Case, and Joe Butler, despite the legal warning, despite the contents of that legal opinion, that he failed to heed the warning about violation of the spirit of the Public Tender Act, and despite the horrendous cost to the taxpayers of the Province?

Now, it is common knowledge that Tom Hickman was the major contributor to the Premier's $50,000-a-year salary supplement over the two years that he was Leader of the Opposition. That is a total of over $100,000. I ask the Premier: Just how much did Tom Hickman, Bill Case, and Joe Butler put in your pocket?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker, some people, when they can't deal with issues on their merits, will stoop to anything to further their political position or their political drive. I say to the Leader of the Opposition, it doesn't matter what kind of inane comments she makes or what kind of unfounded allegations she makes, she can't turn what is essentially a silk purse into a sow's ear.

Now the silk purse might be a little limp because of ineptness in handling it and presenting it, but I can say to the House, I can stand here with great pride and say: nobody on this side of the House that I know of, nobody had anything to do with this in any way that was in any manner incorrect. Now, Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition can make these kinds of statements, without any foundation whatsoever, for as long as she wishes. She can't make them true.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Before the hon. member proceeds with further questions, I refer her to page 142 of Beauchesne, paragraph 484, in which it says and I quote, subparagraph (3): "In the House of Commons a Member will not be permitted by the Speaker to indulge in any reflections on the House itself as a political institution;" and the part I want to quote is as follows: "or to impute to any Member or Members unworthy motives for their actions in a particular case;" I draw to the member's attention, I think the last question probably offended that rule and I ask her to refrain from imputing to any member unworthy motives.

Thank you.

MS. VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MS. VERGE: I have a final question for the Premier. He just -


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

The hon. member has the floor. I would ask her to ask her question.

MS. VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Premier just used the phrase -


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS. VERGE: - `turning a silk purse into a sow's ear.' I would like to ask him whether Tom Hickman turned a hefty contribution to the Premier's salary supplement into three lucrative hospital construction contracts?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I just read to the hon. member that that offends our rules of propriety here. The hon. member is not allowed to ask questions that impute that any member of the House has engaged in any form of corruption or anything of this sort and with all due respect, I think the hon. member should take a different line of questioning.

Question Period has elapsed.

Presenting Reports by

Standing and Special Committees

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

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, I would like to table the report filed by Mr. Justice Noel of the Trial Division in response to the commission given to him by Minute of Council 95-0153, which is Order in Council 95-082, and the Order in Council which was tabled earlier is dated 08 March. Judge Noel's report is dated 26 April. There are copies for members opposite and for the press. Members who sit on this side were provided with copies a few minutes before the House met, Sir.

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

MR. EFFORD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I want to table the C.A. Pippy Park Commission Annual Report for 1993-'94.

Private Members' Day

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

MR. ROBERTS: The motion to be debated today is Motion No. 5, which stands in the name of my friend, the Member for St. John's Centre.

MR. SPEAKER: Motion 5, the hon. the Member for St. John's Centre.

DR. KITCHEN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise to present this motion dealing with what is a very serious and pressing matter in St. John's, and in particular, in the district which I represent.

Last Fall, a resolution similar to this was approved by the Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador in session, and I am very grateful to members of caucus on this side for allowing this motion to be debated here today. I am looking forward very much to support from the side opposite, particularly from the Leader of the Opposition, who I know has a great social conscience. I remember, in Corner Brook some years ago when we were fighting the political campaign - she was neutral at that point - when she was representing women's rights, and she went to all the campaign headquarters and demanded to know where we stood on women's rights. Since that time, I have seen her operating in various meetings, the AIDS committee and so on, and I know she has a great social conscience. So I look forward to support from the other side of the House as well.

On the night of December 21, 1992, we had in St. John's a very serious fire. The fire broke out near the CLB Armoury and wiped it out. It wiped out the Dominion store on the corner of Parade Street there and also swept the Department of Social Services building on the upper side of Harvey Road, wiped out much of the lower side of Harvey Road and proceeded down Long's Hill. A number of houses were destroyed and quite a number of families were dispossessed. Mr. Speaker, the fear that arose in the city of St. John's, at that point, I think has not been surpassed since the fires of the last century. What we have in St. John's is a very serious fire problem which threatens us all the time and which must be addressed.

I remember, some members may not, but some members should remember the fire that devastated Harbour Grace on August 17, 1944. It destroyed the whole business premises of Harbour Grace and prevented that town from ever regaining its ascendency in that area. Fire presents an extremely dangerous situation.

I remember being in a fire myself, in a hotel in Winnipeg, when the Liberals had a convention, and we tried to escape down through the -people were burned in that fire and I remember the fear that was in everybody's hearts as we wondered if so and so was safe and somebody else was safe. Fire is something that we have to be very much concerned with. Every year in St. John's, people die, burned to death in fire - not many, but some, too many, and there is no need of it. There are situations which exist that must be corrected. I refer to houses divided up into bedsitting rooms where unrelated people are living, sharing a common kitchen, sharing a bathroom and very often pretty well unsupervised. I don't wish to castigate every bedsitting room arrangement but there are some in very serious situations.

Let me read to you something that came on my desk just before caucus, just before the meeting here. My secretary took a call from a constituent, and here is what the constituent said - I am going to have to go and see this constituent now after I leave here today - she says, `Wires hanging off the hall walls; holes in the walls throughout, especially close to the doorway; no cover on the heaters, space heaters; no smoke detectors; no toilet seat; no faucet handle; hole next to the bed; springs shot in the bed; fridge hasn't been cleaned, etcetera, etcetera.' That is not typical but it is not uncommon. We have houses divided up into one, two or three apartments where different people and different families are living. And people are afraid, in some apartments, as to what the people in the other apartments are up to. It is a very serious situation when you have somebody in an apartment situation where you cannot control a fire.

Years ago when we all lived in various parts of the Province, when we lived in our house, there were also fire hazards, but always somebody was there to keep control in the nighttime, to make sure that the fires were out or appropriately banked. But when you are living in a place where there are multiple family units and there is no connection, how can you be sure of your life?

In parts of St. John's there are a great many people who have not much money; my district has a great many poor people, people who are on social assistance, people who are not on social assistance but barely managing to feed their families, and sometimes they can't do that. The food banks are full - not full of food but full of people looking for food. I visited one last week and they keep telling me the sad stories.

I was visited by a delegation of nuns the other day who are very concerned about the fire in St. John's and the living conditions of so many people here; and it is not only people in St. John's, it is people from all over the Province who are taking up residence in St. John's. They are leaving the serious situations that occur in rural areas and moving into St. John's because they think there is something more here, and they end up, very often in my district, in bedsitting rooms or small apartments and trying to live.

Now, I don't wish to make a hard time for landlords; there are some extremely decent landlords in this Province, in this town. I came across a situation yesterday where somebody had a fire in their basement in an apartment house, and the upper people had smoke damage to their possessions and they wanted to move out. The landlord didn't have any obligation to return their damage deposit but the landlord did return the damage deposit and gave them their money back, even though the month was half gone and it was not the problem of the landlord. So there are decent landlords in the city but there are some who are not, just as there are tenants who are careless. So there are people all over the Province congregating on the City of St. John's.

Two young people were murdered downtown not long ago; they were from St. Brendan's, one and then another brother, murdered down there. There are many people from St. Brendan's in St. John's, I know lots of them, fine, good people and there are people from Trepassey in St. John's. A woman was in my office the other day - five children, living in a terrible dump downtown in the Member for St. John's East's district, actually, but she came to me because she knew somebody who knew me and we were able to talk to her about her problem anyway, and hopefully it will be looked at but it is not just there, where ever you go, you see people from all over the Province.

We have many health and social problems in that area. The John Howard Society operates a place and there are many parolees around, good people having met problems in the law but having a terrible time adjusting with this no-work situation. They are living in bedsitting rooms very often when they become released from the John Howard Society House. We have the Salvation Army operating a place on Springdale Street for people who are trying to get over their drinking habits and many of these are parolees, good people but trying to get over their problems and when they get out, they very often still have problems.

We have people who are discharged from the Waterford who are trying to make a go of it on their own and it is very, very difficult. They are in bedsitting rooms in many cases, unsupervised and unhelped and they are having a hard time, a very hard time. They phone me all the time telling me about their fears. A man was in my office the other day telling me how cold he was last winter, he was so cold and everybody in that house was so cold, that what they had to do he said, was take apart the stove and put the units in the side - he was a bit of an electrician - and he took this very dangerous action in order to keep warm.

Now, you may think I am laying it on a bit thick, and perhaps I am; perhaps I am, but not very thick. I see a lot of serious situations there, and we have to do something about the serious problem of fire. There are many vacant houses. I went and visited a house last weekend and he said: Look at those three houses, two across the street and one next to me which are vacant - this man owns his house - vacant houses at which children had thrown rocks through it and so on and there they are; it is almost unbelievable sometimes what people have to live -I don't want to downplay the city, because there are some really nice houses, family residences that have been in the downtown and in what are called `the higher levels', the Rabbit Town area. These are the areas that I am talking about, generally speaking, although they can be elsewhere.

Some of these problems are in St. John's North, they are in St. John's South, some are in St. John's West and many of them are in St. John's East but the majority are in my district, I think. One of the problems of living in this area is a very great difficulty of getting fire insurance. Some of the houses have space heaters and if you have a space heater in your house rather than an oil heater, rather than a furnace or electric heat, you are almost facing an uninsurable situation; the insurance companies don't want to insure you.

MR. ROBERTS: Particularly if you have them at the foot of a stairs, going upstairs.

DR. KITCHEN: That is the most dangerous one, yes, and that is how everything used to be heated at one time, but it is now a fire hazard.

The other problem you have has to do with wiring. Not all of the houses downtown have modern wiring. A lot of them are wired to take a 20 or 30 amp fuse, and with all the electrical appliances that are being used now, that is not enough, the wiring is insufficient. Insurance companies find it difficult to insure such houses, such apartments. Many insurance companies will take one house in this area, and another house somewhere else. They want to spread the risk. They will not take all the houses in a row and insure them. They map the neighbourhood and decide which ones they are going to do, or how many they are going to do in an area.

MR. ROBERTS: It is prudent underwriting, because if one of these houses goes, the nature is that the whole bunch of them (inaudible).

DR. KITCHEN: Sure, and it is good for the fire - it is the way they should be operating, but it is pretty hard for the person who looking for fire insurance and can't get it. Even when you get fire insurance, it costs more than it does in a normal house; they estimate perhaps 30 per cent more.

AN HON. MEMBER: Most of the time you can't get it.

DR. KITCHEN: And very often you can't get it at all - the hon. member is quite right.

I didn't realize until the other day that if a house burns, through no fault of the landlord, the tenant's possessions are not insured. You have to get your own fire insurance tenant's package.

MR. ROBERTS: The tenant should have his or her own policy.

DR. KITCHEN: Yes, they should have their own policy, but the problem is that very many people cannot afford to buy it. It is $10 or $15 a month to get tenant's policy insurance, and many people don't have it.

So, looking only at fire insurance, I believe if we can get good fire protection downtown where houses are upgraded and so on, we will be able to get lower fire insurance rates, and over time this will be very cost effective, property values should go up and so on.

What has to be done? I believe what has to be done more than anything else is that we have to get a good, solid, financial program in place by government. I know the Federal Government is pulling out, but that doesn't relieve the rest of us of the responsibility. My plea here now is that we take some time to think about how we are going to divert funds so that we can help the people who live in housing that needs to be improved, to find the funds to handle that situation. And I believe government has a responsibility to help out in this way, much more so than we are presently doing.

The fire department firmly believes in sprinkler systems. The problem with sprinkler systems is that they are expensive. If you have a sprinkler system in a house, as soon as the temperature goes up the sprinkler turns on and the water comes out, and the fire is put out with a minimum of damage, a little bit of water damage from the sprinkler. It is often forgotten - a fireman told me the other day that when a fire gets under way it can expand fifty times in a minute or two - as quick as that it can go - so it is very important, if you have a sprinkler system that turns on, that will quench it pretty well right away, or at least control it, and these are not too difficult to install in some cases. They say they can be hooked up to the domestic water line.

I believe we should give consideration to making it compulsory for sprinkler systems in certain types of houses, particularly those divided up into bedsitting rooms, four or five bedsitting rooms where different people are. Perhaps we should have a sprinkler system there - the landlord should be forced to do it. Perhaps we should help the landlord do it, in some cases, because we gain as well.

I believe every bed-sitting room should have someone in charge of it. Every bed-sitting room house should have someone in charge of that house, someone who is responsible for reporting to the landlord, or maybe the landlord should live there himself or herself. Because this is the type of accommodation where most of the fires occur. Some American states are making it compulsory for that type of accommodation to have sprinkler systems.

Even without sprinkler systems - because when this was brought to the attention of City Hall by former councillor, Wendy Williams and her committee, and more lately by Councillor Marie White and others, Council rejected the notion of making it compulsory because of the extreme cost. I believe government should be able to help out there with the cost so that it can be spread.

Another way is fire walls. They tell me that if you are living - two houses are together - I'm in one, Mr. Speaker, and you are in the next one, and they are joined - if you put five-eighths gyprock on the wall facing me and I put five-eighths gyprock on my wall facing you, we can retard the spread of fire by almost an hour. Now, many houses have wood panelling. If I have wood panelling and you have wood panelling and mine catches fire, you are gone.

MR. ROBERTS: There is nothing in between many of these except maybe plowed and tongue.

DR. KITCHEN: Plowed and tongue, perhaps. In some cases, it is plowed and tongue. Many people don't have gyprock or gypsum board in their walls. That is not as expensive to put up, and I believe that could be done and encouraged.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. member's time has elapsed.


MR. SPEAKER: The hon. member, by leave.

DR. KITCHEN: Thank you.

Another point I want to make with respect to that is that if the gyprock is put in it should go right up pretty well to the roof, because in some connected houses in St. John's you have what the firemen call cocklofts, where the attics are common - you can go from one house to the other in the attic. They were put up - not all, but a few are still there. They are still there, they tell me. I checked with the firemen the other day because someone said they weren't there. He said: Yes, they definitely are, not in every case, but in some, where you can go up in an attic in one and go over to the attic in the next. You can imagine what that does with a fire break-out.

Mr. Speaker, I am going to conclude these remarks now and I will finish up later on. Thank you very much.

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

MR. WOODFORD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I welcome the opportunity to have a few words on this resolution put forward by the Member for St. John's Centre.

Some questions that I would have to ask right from the outset, some of those questions that I would have for members opposite, and members of City Council in St. John's, and especially the Fire Commissioner's Office, building inspectors and so on: Who owns those houses? Who is collecting the rent from those particular houses? I have heard all kinds of comments over the past number of years, both publicly and privately, about those particular housing units in this particular part of St. John's, but I have yet to hear the name of one of the landlords.

Now, if I have to build a house, or one of my constituents has to build a house, in my particular area of the Province, we are put right through the wringer. First, Department of Health inspection, second, Environment has to come in. When you wire your house, you have to have three inspections before the final one is done. Before ever you put a sheet of gyprock on, there has to be an inspection. There has to be an inspection right after. Each receptacle, each light fixture, has to be put in a certain area, if not, you are turned down, there is no hook-up. Even for a temporary hook-up - people put right through the wringer.

Yet we have rental units in this Province today - and the member brings up a good point about his particular area down here in St. John's, a really serious problem, no question - but we have other areas of the Province as well where those houses and housing units and rental units are there and the landlord is doing absolutely nothing with them, only has his or her hand out at the end of the month for the cheque, spending absolutely nothing on those units. I think that something should be put in place, done through the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. I know he is responsible for the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation which comes under his department. But in conjunction with the Minister for Employment and Labour Relations - I think certain areas of the inspection division comes under his domain, and there are other regulatory parts of the building code that come under Newfoundland and Labrador Housing, especially as it pertains to anything in that department, and CMHC.

But with new homes and new housing we do not have that problem because those problems that the member is talking about, about the gyproc, about the asbestos, about the lighting, about the wiring, instead of 110 all 220 services coming into the homes. Down in his area and others areas we have 110 outlets through the whole house. Even if they wanted to put in an electric heater they cannot put one in unless they go down and take out the fuse and put a copper in behind it or a piece of file wrap. Now, that is what is being done around this Province, and people are doing that with those old fuse box type things and not the new units. They cannot handle anything. They cannot carry the load. They are in there with 12/2 wiring in most of the houses right on through. With the new minimums today when you doing wiring it is, I think, 14/2 or something like that now, that is the minimum requirement, and the minimum requirement for an entrance is a 220 line. There are no ifs, ands, or buts, 110 would not be hooked up to a residential house today and if you do you are asking for trouble.

I, first of all would like to say to the member, and the ministers that are responsible, if we have to go through City Hall - I know the City of St. John's is involved in this, and there are other councils around the Province as well, the City of Corner Brook, Gander, Grand Falls, Mount Pearl, or whatever, something has to be done with regards to the inspection services on those buildings. People are put into death traps. It is as simple as that.

We would not put people on a ferry unless it was inspected. We would not put them on an airplane unless DOT inspected it, or the Minister of Transport inspected it. We would not put anybody in a car unless they had their seat belt on, or something like that, but yet we have the Department of Social Services and other people paying $362 or $372, plus whatever the individual wants to pay on top of that per month, to a landlord who has his or her hand out at the end of every month picking up the cheque and saying, thanks and goodbye, and hoping and praying that nothing happens.

There is another thing I would like to talk about, Mr. Speaker, concerning those insurance companies. How is it that an individual who goes to get insurance on his house is questioned and asked, what type of heating do you have? Do you have oil? Do you have wood? Do you have electric? It makes a difference to your insurance policy. It makes a difference to your homeowner's policy, and the bottom line is that it makes a difference to your premium. It makes a big difference to your premium.

Is there any way to warn the people who are renting in this Province today that they have no coverage on their personal belongings in their homes? No. Usually it is in the fine print. Usually your landlord has insurance to cover his or her losses, the hell with the person who is renting.

Now, I say to the Member for St. John's Centre that he is going to have to get to his colleague in Cabinet. He knows it. He is well aware. He has read out a lot of the problems that his constituents are experiencing today down in that particular part of St. John's, and I totally agree with him. The thing I do not agree with is, not only this government, but any government, putting money into housing units around this Province that belong to fat cat landlords who will not do anything for the individuals in those particular areas. That I do not agree with, although I would like to see the safety of those people enhanced, the people who are staying in those apartments, but we have fat cat landlords around this Province, whether in St. John's, Corner Brook, Mount Pearl, or wherever they are. They should dig in their pockets, and they should be forced to carry out inspections - the government carry out inspections - and those landlords told in no uncertain terms, to fix it up or get out.

Now, there is one danger with that, and I am sure the hon. member will agree with me, and that is that the poor people who are staying in those rundown buildings will probably end up on the street. That is the threat. That is always the threat to come from a landlord - always - especially in an area like that where you have so many. If it is over in my area where you have two houses here, you have a house here and a house there, and a house over there, you can do something with them because they can always move out into a little better area, or move to another community because they are usually close. Down here in this particular area it is all sort of in a nucleus area, and where do the other people go to get the rent for that price. That is the problem. Now, that is what should be addressed, a little better housing for those individuals, and if social services is paying $372 a month - I think that is the maximum from social services, the rest comes from other people - then something should be done about the social housing policy.

I had a letter from the minister's department back on July 29, 1994, with regard to social housing consultation that is supposed to be carried out by Newfoundland and Labrador Housing. Now, in that there are some really good suggestions to do something with regard to social housing in the Province. It mentions about the consultation parameters, and in that I would like to put on the record at this time the second parameter is that most governments are not in a position to commit open-ended long-term subsidies for social housing, and they are not, but again, as far as I am concerned, the government is in a very good position today to say to the City of St. John's, or whoever, if they have to go through the City of St. John's - there are some areas where they may not have to - and go to those landlords and put it on the table in no uncertain terms that we should not have people living in this type of building any longer. They can do that with a stroke of the pen, and I say that if a piece of legislation is brought to this House tomorrow concerning those particular areas of the Province, and addressing some of the very serious problems in that particular area we will, without a doubt, pass it with very, very little debate.

This is an issue that should be addressed. It should be looked into. It is a very serious matter, because what is going to happen one of those days down in that area - and if this was located anywhere else but in the City of St. John's, if it was in Deer Lake or any of the outlying areas of rural Newfoundland today, if there was every a fire in any one of those buildings, she would be gutted; the community would be gutted. It just so happens that you are living in the City of St. John's. They have an excellent water resource. They have a paid fire-fighting department, and they have lots of water, and it is all in a close area. They can fight it very easily, and that is usually what happens. They have two or three fire stations they can call on. They get to the source fairly quickly, and it is put out.

I say, Mr. Speaker, that the government, and the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs in this case, probably should lead the way, through Newfoundland and Labrador Housing, and make sure that those people who are renting those units down in this particular part of the city are taken to task, because the regulations are there for individuals around this Province. They are there for me and everyone else, they should be there for them. Now granted those buildings were constructed years ago but that is still no excuse, there is still absolutely no excuse. If I have a building and I have the electrical service unhooked from it for one day or if I am only changing the name, Mr. Speaker - this is something the member probably knows but I will say to him now - even if they change the name on a residence in this Province or a commercial business in this Province, I have to have another inspection. How can someone down there get away with that? If I change the name on one of my buildings, if I change the name with Newfoundland Light and Power or Newfoundland Hydro, it is automatic, before that is hooked up, I got to have another inspection. Now how can people down in that part of the city get away with the likes of that?

My time is almost up, I only have another twenty minutes. It is a very serious situation and I say to the member again, a very serious problem. A good resolution, an excellent resolution but you can bring all the resolutions you like, Mr. Speaker, to the floor of this House and unless there is something done about it then we will be in here month after month, year after year with the same resolution and then it is probably going to be too late. Now is the time to do something about that particular part of St. John's. I say to the members opposite and to the ministers who are responsible, act and act now before it is too late and before there is another life lost. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Before I recognize the hon. Member for Twillingate I would like to welcome to the public galleries a former member of the House of Assembly for St. Barb North and Trinity - Bay de Verde, Fred Rowe.

The hon. the Member for Twillingate.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. CARTER: Mr. Speaker, there is a bad joke that tells of the Air Canada pilot who announced to his passengers: We are now flying over the Atlantic Provinces, you should set your watches back thirty years. There are areas in the City of St. John's, especially the area represented by my colleague from St. John's Centre, where that comment would be taken literally because in stark contrast to the more affluent areas in the city we continue to have neighbourhoods, especially again in the central part of St. John's, where poverty is visible in its rawest and ugliest form.

Mr. Speaker, in those areas there are no manicured lawns, painted fences or painted cottages to camouflage decades of neglect and economic depression. I say St. John's Centre but I should hasten to add that that description might very well fit a large number of areas in the Province. I can think of several in my own district of Twillingate where maybe not quite as decrepit or as run down as the area in St. John's Centre but we do have some very serious housing problems. I have people in my district living in homes that are clearly unfit for human habitation. During my frequent visits to the district I invariably am contacted by people who live in those houses and I have to say that I am not able to get much help for them.

Mr. Speaker, about twenty-five years ago the federal government commissioned a study into housing conditions in the country, in Canada. The commission was headed by the then Minister of Housing and Urban Affairs, the hon. Paul Hillier. I had the privilege of attending hearings of that committee when at the time I represented the federal riding of St. John's West. I invited the hon. gentleman and his committee to visit St. John's West and to see first hand some of the serious conditions under which people in that area have to live. I should point out that some of the areas that I showed to my colleague and friend, Hillier, are those situated in the District of St. John's Centre.

So things have not changed very much. Twenty-five years ago we had a very serious problem in that area and notwithstanding all that is being done, we still have a serious problem there, which tells me, Mr. Speaker, that while we have done certain things, we have spent certain amounts of money but certainly not enough. Rather ironic, Mr. Speaker, that in a country where twenty-five years ago, the government of the day officially adopted the principle that every Canadian is entitled to clean, warm shelter as a matter of basic human right, but we still have thousands of low-income families forced to occupy decrepit structures that are unfit and unsafe for human habitation.

For generations, Mr. Speaker, these people have been engaged in an ongoing struggle not simply to catch up to the income levels and social amenities enjoyed by their fellow-Canadians, but all too often they have had to struggle to catch up to retain a vestige of human dignity and self-respect. Mr. Speaker, it is unthinkable that in this day and age, living in a country like Canada, that we should have people who are denied one of their basic rights, namely, that of decent housing, housing that is wind and water tight; and in many cases in this Province, I can tell you that is not the case.

In the early 1970s, a well-known sociologist, Dr. Albert Rose, who was then the Dean of the University of Toronto's Faculty of Social Work said, and I quote: "The most important change that could be made in our National Housing Policy would be a formal declaration that all levels of government intended during the balance of this century, to discriminate in favour of families and individuals at the bottom half of the income ladder". That, Mr. Speaker, is a very thought- provoking declaration on the professor's part, but unfortunately it was ignored; his advice was ignored and as a result of course, thousands of families in this Province, indeed, in other parts of Canada, continue to live in structures that do not even come close to meeting the national standard; and I have to say, that the hon. gentleman's district, the man who introduced this resolution today, which is the central core of the old City of St. John's, is no exception.

We have people there, the working poor, who for generations have occupied and in most cases owned houses, who lack the financial resources to bring these houses up to an acceptable standard; consequently, they have been allowed to deteriorate to the point where many of them are now unfit for occupancy and I regret to say, in many cases have gone beyond the point of rehabilitation. Obviously, Mr. Speaker, time is of the essence if we are to retain these neighbourhoods and salvage what is left of the existing housing stock in those areas, we must act now while reasonable action is still possible. If we wait, if we procrastinate, Mr. Speaker, these neighbourhoods will have gone beyond the point of restoration and then of course, another problem commences.

In the words of Dr. Rose and in the spirit of true Liberalism, Mr. Speaker, which we practice on this side of the House, I call upon this administration to -

AN HON. MEMBER: What's that?

MR. CARTER: I call upon this administration, Mr. Speaker, to formally declare that during the balance of this century, it will discriminate in favour of low-income families and individuals who find themselves on the bottom half of the Province's social and economic ladder. Such a commitment should be taken in the spirit of economic, as well as social investment, whereby, the government and society will benefit significantly in years to come and at the same time save the present and future generations of low-income families from unbearable human misery and living hell.

Mr. Speaker, I had the privilege of representing that part of St. John's for three terms as the federal member; there is hardly a house in that part of old St. John's that I have not at some time or other visited. I concur with the comments of my hon. colleague for St. John's Centre that something must be done and something must be done right away.

I drive through the area frequently on a Sunday morning. If I have nothing else to do I usually get in my car and I drive around old St. John's and reminisce, look at houses that I've been looking at now for a large number of years. I'm flabbergasted that something doesn't happen down there. I'm absolutely amazed that we do not have a catastrophe in that area. I hope it never happens.

Many of these areas - we have houses that are joined together, no fire breaks between them, very thin walls. In most cases tongue in groove or square-edged board without even the benefit of insulation by way of gyprock. Very few of them have adequate insulation, very few of them have adequate wiring and plumbing. To put it bluntly, Mr. Speaker, these houses in many cases are unfit and certainly unsafe for human habitation. That seems to be the story in a large number of places in this Province, especially in the cities, in the urban areas, where urban blight has set in, and I regret to say very little is being done about it.

I think the time has come for all levels of government, not just the Province - maybe the Province should be the junior partner in this arrangement - but certainly I think the federal government has a responsibility, I think the Province has a responsibility, and I think the municipal council of St. John's has a responsibility as well. I think the time has come for those three levels of government to pool their resources, to get together, and to determine that something is going to be done about the problem.

I would strongly urge that as a forerunner to any such action the government should consider redefining the role of the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation, redefining it with a view to maybe privatizing its commercial and residential real estate holdings. I can't for the life of me rationalize the current role of the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation. I think that the projects that they undertake, the things that they are doing, could quite easily be done by the private sector, and that being the case then I think the private sector should have the opportunity to do it.

I think the new mandate of a reorganized Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation should include the administration of existing social housing units. I'm not suggesting that they privatize or dispose of, or whatever word you want to use, the social housing complexes within their jurisdiction. I think the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation has done a very good, an extremely worthwhile job, but I do believe that they appear to have lost sight of their true mandate. Instead of concentrating on providing housing for people who are unable to provide housing for themselves, low-income families, they have gone into developments that certainly could be handled quite adequately by the private sector. So I call upon the government and the minister to give serious thought to taking a look at the mandate of the existing so-called social housing agency we have and to streamline it where it will play a much more effective role in providing housing for the low-income families in this Province, and especially in this city.

It will be necessary of course for government to determine the magnitude of the problem. That has to be done. The Province, the federal government and the city must join forces and determine the magnitude of the problem that is associated with urban blight and they must determine the cost of effectively dealing with that problem. I would then call upon the government and the minister to give some thought to establishing a task force consisting of representatives of Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation, Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation, which is the federal government's housing agency, and of course the St. John's municipal council.

I am suggesting that our local Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation be the lead agency and that this task force would be required to systematically, thoroughly compile data and do an inventory to measure the state of housing in the defined areas. Now this problem cannot be attacked and resolved overnight. It is going to take time - it is going to take a lot of time - but I think we should identify areas where the need is greatest -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. CARTER: The minister will get a chance to speak, I presume, in a few minutes.

- and provide a survey whereby we can do an assessment as to precisely how many of these homes are fit to live in, and those that are not should be demolished.

We have a lot of people living in downtown St. John's, occupying homes. Some of them are there as tenants. Others as there as occupant/owners, but whatever, in most cases these people are absolutely incapable of providing the necessary wherewithal to attack the problem. Consequently, they have to continue to live under conditions that are substandard.

Another problem that we have, and I think the minister alluded to it, or the member, the business of absentee landlords, and landlords, wealthy businessmen, wealthy professionals, lawyers, doctors, wives of doctors and lawyers, businessmen, farmers, who own some of these houses and who couldn't give two hoots as to how they are maintained, or to what extent they accept their responsibility to ensure that they are properly maintained. I continue to get calls from around St. John's from people with housing problems, and I must say some of the comments that I am hearing would almost make your hair stand on your head.

Mr. Speaker, I am going to close my few remarks, but again I repeat that I believe the government, while I realize money is scarce, I don't expect there is going to be too much provincial money available to undertake this kind of program, but certainly we should make a start, and I strongly urge that we take a hard look at the mandate of the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing with a view to maybe privatizing it; and the revenue generated, by the way, from the sale of their assets could be used, could be applied, to address the problems that they should be addressing in the poorer parts of St. John's where you have a lot of low income families who are absolutely unable to do anything for themselves.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. HARRIS: Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have an opportunity to speak on this resolution today brought forth by the Member for St. John's Centre regarding the housing in the St. John's area. I congratulate him on bringing it forth, and bringing it to the attention of all hon. members, in particular members on his side of the House who have more influence on government policy than we do over here, and in particular on members of Cabinet, including the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs, who has the authority to do something about these problems.

Obviously the Member for St. John's Centre, who has had much more time to devote to his constituents in person since he is no longer in Cabinet, is well aware of the problems of his constituents, and in saying that I do not wish to cast any aspersions on his interest in his district before that. I know for a fact that he is in touch with his constituents on a regular basis and was so when he was in Cabinet, so it is not a new thing, and I have discussed with the Member for St. John's Centre on a number of occasions the kinds of social problems and financial problems and housing problems that exist in both his district and mine when it comes to the problems that are being brought forth here, so I want to say that I welcome the resolution being brought forth here today.

There was a time, Mr. Speaker, when governments in this Province and in Canada were very active in trying to do something about the social housing needs of the people of St. John's and rural Newfoundland. Up until the last few years, some great efforts were made in St. John's to try to improve the quality of the housing stock. The Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program was a very important contributor to that. The St. John's City Council, for a period of time, was very active in installing in-fill housing, an in-fill housing program in St. John's, and bringing about, and imposing, in many cases, standards that previously had not existed, standards of placing fire walls. Any new construction in downtown St. John's, particularly where row housing is involved, must have an adequate fire wall and fire separation. The CMHC, in approving residential mortgages for mortgage insurance, or improving projects under the Residential Rehabilitation Program, would insist on complete fire separation between units, even separate units of an existing house or property, as well as a complete fire separation from one house to the next.

They have been doing this, Mr. Speaker, under the understanding - and these programs, particularly the Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program, was offered to municipalities in Canada on the understanding that those municipalities would also, at the same time, put in place and enforce housing standards of a greater degree than they had in place, housing standards which would guarantee not only the houses completed under the program but that all homes or houses, or residential units, within these municipalities would have these standards applied to them.

It seems, Mr. Speaker, that is not being done in an adequate manner. If the enforcement were sufficient, the problems that the Member for St. John's Centre is pointing out in terms of fire safety and life safety would not exist.

There is a fear existing amongst people who are forced to live in residential housing that is inadequate, and that fear is that they will have no place to live, that their alternatives are grossly inadequate. If they are on social assistance and they go to the social worker, or if they go to the minister, they are told, `That is not our problem. You go find the house and we will see if we will pay for you to live in it.' The department takes no responsibility for ensuring that there is an adequacy of housing, or available housing. They say, `You find the house, you find the apartment, and we will go and approve it. That is a private matter.'

Mr. Speaker, any member of this House representing St. John's, a St. John's district, or the ministers who may get calls on this, know that housing needs are perhaps the most frequent and the most serious kinds of problems that are being brought to members of this House of Assembly by their constituents, and it is the most frustrating for members because dealing with the one agency in this Province who has to deal with those issues, the same answer comes back again and again: `Our waiting lists are so long, our waiting lists are impossible to meet, there are so many people on the waiting list, the amount of housing available is so inadequate that we can't deal with it.'

At the same time, Mr. Speaker, as the Member for St. John's Centre has pointed out, the housing agency of this Province, the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation, is concentrating its energies on new developments, not for social housing, Mr. Speaker, or finding ways of enforcing and bringing to the attention of the government and the public the housing needs of this Province. Instead they are out busy developing new subdivisions, banking land for new subdivisions, installing water and sewer for new subdivisions for the housing market and banking land, and providing that service, building condominiums and condominium developments for the private sector - spending their time and energy doing that.

MR. EFFORD: That is misleading.

MR. HARRIS: Now, the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation can speak if he wishes later on. They may at some point in time recoup this money from the private sector and get it all back, as they do in their land banking, but this should not be the job of the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation in a city and in a Province which has such a great need for social housing and housing improvement.

I have in front of me, Mr. Speaker, a letter from a constituent of mine, saying that she has her name in to the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation and put on a list. This woman lives in a private house with her ten-year-old daughter. She and her daughter share a bathroom with the bedsitters. This is a private home that has bedsitting rooms. This woman and her daughter live in this house and she says that she does not think it is proper and right - she says, `My daughter is ten years old, and I don't feel right about living here with the male bedsitters.' She doesn't know who they are. She has no control over who they are. She is on a list with Newfoundland and Labrador Housing and she is hoping to be able to get an apartment, a place to live for herself and her daughter. She has no other alternative, Mr. Speaker.

This is just one example and anybody who represents a St. John's district - and it is not confined to St. John's. The resolution is aimed at the downtown housing core in St. John's and I am addressing that, and this woman is from St. John's and lives there, but there are other problems across the Province in rural Newfoundland, as well as in St. John's.

The Member for St. John's Centre brings attention first and foremost to the issue of fire safety. It is a very serious problem. It is life-threatening, Mr. Speaker. But let me suggest to you how serious it is. It is serious enough that insurance companies won't insure houses in downtown St. John's. They are turning them down all the time, and all they are going to lose is money, Mr. Speaker. They are not talking about insurance for people's lives or their health. They are talking about property insurance. You pay a premium based on the risk and they are saying, `There is no premium, we won't accept any premium. We don't want to be in the business, the risk is too high. The risk of losing money by accepting a premium from a house is too high.' Now, Mr. Speaker, if that is a concern for an insurance company who knows what the risks are in terms of dollars and cents, then what kind of a risk is it to the lives and the safety of the people who are living in those houses?

So the minister has brought to the attention of this House a matter of supreme importance. There is an opportunity - it is all very well to say that there is no money for this, there is no money for that, but it is not always money that solves the problems. There is, within the Provincial Government, the power to take initiatives, to take the lead, to have the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs and Housing look at the mandate and the priorities of the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation and play a stronger role in insisting that it devote its energies and its time to trying to solve some of those problems and devise programs that help. It is not sufficient, in this recent announcement about providing some money to landlords to upgrade their properties. That is a minor intrusion into all of that. If there are houses that are unsafe, they ought to be ordered to bring them up to standard. And if the municipality is not properly enforcing its regulations, then the Provincial Government has the power and the duty to do something about that.

I say to the Minister of Social Services, that if her department is paying rent on houses - it is all very well to go and inspect them and say, `Yes, we will pay your rent here,' but if there is inadequate housing units that are inspected - if they turn them down what do they do? Do they go back to their office and wait for another call? If they go and inspect an apartment that is inadequate and improper, do they phone City Hall and report that? Do they play an active role in ensuring that houses or apartments units that they are aware of that don't meet health standards, that don't meet life safety standards, that don't meet fire regulations or electrical standards, if they are seeing it - if they walk into a house at the request of a social assistance recipient and look around and say, `I am sorry, we can't pay your rent here. The place is inadequate. This place is not fit to live in.' Do they walk away, Mr. Speaker, and let that landlord rent that unit to someone else? Is that what they do? I think so. They should be mandated, Mr. Speaker - if they are aware of housing units that are inadequate, that are unsafe, that are unhealthy, they should go back to their office, pick up the phone, phone the inspection authorities, phone City Hall, and say: I am an inspector for the Department of Social Services. I just visited a housing unit at a certain location. The place is filthy, the place is unsafe, the place is unhealthy, and I want to you to go and inspect that property and order that landlord to improve it or have that place closed.

That is the kind of active measures that officials of the government departments can be taking - it doesn't cost the government a cent. They are out there hiring policemen. The Social Services policemen are out there after welfare recipients. Why can't the inspectors who are already out there - they are already out there looking at houses - if they find a house and a housing unit that is inadequate, why can't they be asked - and I'm just asking a very simple request, very straightforward. Can they not be given a mandate by the Minister of Social Services, if they identify a housing problem, as housing inspectors, should they not phone and contact and write and follow up the relevant municipal authority to see whether that housing unit has been fixed or closed?

Now, there is nothing new about that type of approach. In the field of child welfare, not only social workers, but everybody, has an obligation to report if a child is being neglected or is in danger. It is not new to place those kinds of duties on welfare authorities and officials. Why doesn't the Minister of Social Services have a policy and pass the word on to the housing inspectors in her department to not only decide aye or nay with respect to whether the department will pay the rent for particular premises, but if they are saying nay because of inadequate conditions, then what they should do is follow up on that by making sure that that particular housing unit is reported on.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: The minister asks: What about the role of housing? I dealt with the role of housing. The Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation has a very big role. I'm just saying that there is more than one way.

MS. YOUNG: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: I say to the Minister of Social Services, if she had been listening, she would have heard the first part of my comments, which is that you don't always have to throw money at a problem to be able to be pro-active. The Minister of Works, Services and Transportation knows that. If he doesn't have any money, that doesn't stop him from doing things. I think he would agree with that. His department doesn't have to spend money in order to be effective and active, and this is one way that the Department of Social Services can play a role in improving the housing conditions in St. John's, by mandating the social workers who are in the inspection division to follow up on complaints of inadequate housing by reporting it to the relevant authorities.

The situation with respect to housing, the risks to life that are associated with it, all of that is not just a matter of rhetoric. I'm not suggesting that the Member for St. John's Centre is engaging in that. He has brought to the forefront very important points. I've tried to stay away in my remarks from rhetoric about the needs of poor people. These are not rhetorical needs, Mr. Speaker, these are real needs. When I, as a member, or the Member for St. John's Centre get a call from someone who says that they have no food in their refrigerator, and they are ashamed to go the food bank...

I had a call the other night from a woman whose brother is employed full-time by the Newfoundland Liquor Corporation. Last November she had to go and insist that this man and his wife go down to the food bank to get food. The man and his wife did not have, on the full-time income they were receiving, sufficient money to buy groceries and to feed their family of three children - didn't have it, couldn't do it. The woman who called me, her sister-in-law had lost twenty pounds, she was underweight. And this is not a family of people who don't have any money at all. The father of these three children, the brother of the woman who phoned me, is a full-time employee of the Newfoundland Liquor Corporation and doesn't have enough income to properly feed his family and himself and his wife.

Those are the kinds of situations that we are dealing with on a realistic basis. This is not a person who is drinking his wages, not as person who is wasting money. She gave out to me all the expenses. On another occasion I can rehearse them back to the House. It seemed very sad to me to hear that a government employee was unable to properly feed a family on the income being received.

I am told, Mr. Speaker, that I only have a very few seconds left to conclude my remarks. I will do so by saying, let's hear from people about some practical solutions, some practical things that government can do right now to improve this problem. It is a serious one, and I thank the member for bringing it to the attention of members of the House.

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

MR. AYLWARD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

This is a motion that I think deserves the attention of the House of Assembly. The Member for St. John's East has been an advocate for a long time, since I have been in politics. In my lengthy political career, the Member for St. John's East has been a strong advocate of St. John's, and especially of housing and of improving conditions for people who don't have the ability, or don't have very much ability, to improve it for themselves. So, first off, I commend -

MR. HARRIS: So has the Member for St. John's Centre.

MR. AYLWARD: I am talking about St. John's Centre. That is what I said, isn't it?

MR. EFFORD: No, you said St. John's East.

MR. AYLWARD: Did I say East? Oh!

MR. EFFORD: And I was telling you he was in conflict.

MR. AYLWARD: What a slip-up. I am sorry. I have to apologize to the Member for St. John's Centre - my apologies. The Member for St. John's East does have a conscience.


MR. AYLWARD: He does. Now, he is with the NDP and they are supposed to have a conscience.

MR. EFFORD: He is a landlord.

MR. AYLWARD: He may be a landlord, I don't know, but the thing is, he does have a conscience and he does advocate, on many occasions, for this issue, and that is welcome.

The Member for St. John's Centre has been doing this for some time, and I hope that we see some progress on it in the near future.

Part of the mandate of Newfoundland and Labrador Housing is to do a variety of things, really. It is to help develop housing in the Province - to develop industrial parks is another part of its mandate, but housing in particular - and part of the mandate, what they have been doing over the years, has been developing industrial land and residential land, and using the funds from that to help stimulate the non-profit housing sector. They have been trying to do that, making monies from the development side of putting together, say, the Mount Pearl land assemblies of the world and other types of land assemblies, using those revenues to then help develop social housing. There is always a need for more funding and more financial resources to be dedicated towards, in particular, social housing, and in particular areas that really have a crying need.

Identified in this resolution by the member is downtown St. John's, but the history of the development of the city in the downtown is definitely a particular problem. It is a problem that you really can't describe anywhere else in the Province. It is one based on historical development, and it is one that does need an attempt, and you need a realistic solution to it. Given the financial situation we have, you really have to try, I think, to keep pushing it to get more priority provided to it.

This year, I was talking to the Minister of Housing, and he was telling me that they have adopted a rooming house RAP program which is targeted exclusively at St. John's this year. This program providing $320,000 in funding, is targeted to operators of rooming housing, and is intended to operate these properties to today's health and safety standards. I think part of the reason that program was brought in this year - and it is not enough, mind you, I think it is a start - but the reason that it was brought in, in large part, was because of the efforts of the Member for St. John's Centre in detailing what the problems have been, especially over the last little while.

This is a problem historically, something that really hasn't been attacked, and I think that this program that was brought forward this year is one that will help make a start in dealing with the problem. You have to recognize a problem first. That usually takes a long time when you are in government, at times, because of the bureaucracy and so on, and how large that is. But in this case there is a recognition of a problem, there is now a particular attempt to start to deal with the problem. From what I hear of what the member is speaking, he is saying we have to devote more resources towards it and more effort. And we agree, we have to. It is a problem that will not go away, and there are some solutions to the problem.

The other part of that solution, I believe, is an amendment that the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs is bringing in on the fines for landlords in this city who are not following guidelines for fire protection, fire safety, and other safety measures. I believe that is going to be increased from I think it is about $100 or so, or $200, to $5,000. It is going to $5,000. When that amendment is through it is going to give the City Council of St. John's more authority to deal with landlord situations that have existed for some time, and give them some clout with which to exercise, and to hopefully see some improvements in the housing situation that exists in our historic downtown, the oldest city in North America.

That is a particular move being made. Again, too, I think very much credit should go to the Member for St. John's Centre for again bringing that issue to the minister, and for him to respond in quick order is something that is pleasant to see. Hopefully, as part of an overall package, it will see some improvements start to happen over the summer period, over the fall period, as the city will have an ability now further to enforce their laws. And now, with further directed funding being targeted towards the downtown St. John's area of three hundred and twenty-thousand, in particular, to the rooming houses and that situation that has occurred, we hopefully will see some further improvements.

The fire that took place only a short period of time ago downtown in which we saw the levelling of a number of buildings was a scary situation. It was one that - we've had some history in this city way back that could have seen a very major problem on our hands. So it is a serious situation, there is no doubt about that. It is one that needs that dedication of resources. There is a response starting to occur, and I think, over the next period of time, with the proper diligence and I suppose, the proper dedication of effort towards this problem, that we will see some improvements being made.

It is also going to take, though, too, an awareness of the landlords and the city downtown that they have to have also the ultimate responsibility. Enforcement and financial contributions to improvements can go a long way, but you also have to have landlords who have the concern to have their housing in the proper condition in order for people to properly live there. It is something that needs more attention. It is something that needs more attention around the Province, because there is a different type of situation around in rural Newfoundland. We have a lot of inadequate housing in some areas of the Province and that particular problem needs also to further be addressed, because really, what we are talking about here is inadequate housing, and in this situation, in one centralized location. We also have it in a lot of other rural areas of the Province and that needs to be tackled further.

The Federal Government back in 1993 cancelled the RAP program at the time and that created a problem. That created a problem for Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation, it created a problem in trying to deal with and tackle the many problem areas of the Province, rurally, where they have a pretty long list of people who are in desperate need of improvements to their housing be it the furnaces, the heating units and so on, the types of water supplies, the whole thing, there is a number of identified problems with some housing situations in this Province that we need to tackle, and what I see from the Minister of Housing is a strong attempt to try to tackle these problems dealing with the financial situation that now the federal government has, and putting forward a strategy for the Province, and I think there has been a good start to that, very much so, a good start by the minister responsible considering what he has had to deal with in a short period of time.

Right now, the Housing Corporation is working on a comprehensive provincial housing strategy and we welcome that, and I think that that is going to help establish priorities for spending. It is going to help establish the areas in the Province that are in higher need that we can dedicated the scarce dollar that is available at this point in time for government, there are not as many as there used to be but, it means wiser use, it means evaluating and making sure that you are getting the bang for the buck and that you are dealing with situations that are crucial to the people of this Province and the intent of the strategy is again to identify those groups with the greatest need and to develop programs and approaches.

The strategy will not be limited to government; it will also focus on opportunities for public and private partnerships in an effort to determine the most cost-effective methods to assist people. The strategy will be finalized in conjunction with the budget development process this fall so, I think the Member for St. John's Centre is hopefully going to have some input into that process also over the next few months, as again, the start has been made on it with a dedicated program especially here in St. John's, but we need a provincial housing strategy, a kind of updated, basically a further strategy and the minister and his officials at Housing are in the process now of carrying forward on that.

Again, it is a result too I think, of the changing role that the federal government sees or has seen early back in '93, where they were attempting to get out of all housing. I think they are back into part of it now, but we see that at the end of the day we have the responsibility to try to have a program that makes a contribution to helping people with their living accommodations to an acceptable standard. If we are in politics for anything, Mr. Speaker, trying to find that the basic needs of people and making sure that they are met is probably the biggest part of our mandate, and sometimes in the hierarchy of needs that we all aspire to and watch, the basic needs have to be met first before you can go and you get that education and then you reach higher for that position that you want to attain but your basic needs have to be met and housing is one of those basic needs and is something that we, as government, have to focus on as strongly as we can and I believe that part of the debate today coming out of it we will see further efforts made to try to deal with the problem, and I think it is commendable that the minister has been able to have a dedicated fund this year towards the downtown area. It is the first time I believe and I think it is a good start.

It is not enough but it is a good start and hopefully we will see some of the private sector participation in these projects start to get real; to see the private sector participate in doing this and if we have to give them a pat on the back or whatever we have to do, Mr. Speaker, then I am all for it but you know, it is also the private sectors responsibility. The private sector is saying let's do this for us and do that for us to help stimulate the economy. Well, they also have to help stimulate the economy by doing some things for people in this Province and we need to see more of that.

I was at the opening for the Home Show which opened last weekend and I was at the booths and walking around; that is a big industry in this Province repairing of homes and so on, and the private sector has been involved in a heavy way, but I think we need to see a closer partnership with government, with the private sector to see what we can do to maximize the value of the expenditures that are being made and we welcome the provincial housing strategy that the minister is bringing forward and getting developed.

The role of Newfoundland and Labrador Housing is always up for question, Mr. Speaker, it has been I think for the last ten or fifteen years. Since I have been a member it has been always one that I have wondered about. I think these days we have to also understand that what they are doing is really two things. You are trying to develop land assemblies in the Province, in communities that need them, where it is viable to do so and taking monies that are able to be - doing that because that is a need where there is no private sector - being able to do that and use those funds to develop your social housing, to put up units that we need for senior citizens in this Province, Mr. Speaker. There has been some excellent housing put up for seniors.

There has been some excellent housing put up for disabled individuals. I can tell you, out my way, there has been some superb housing put up for disabled individuals, accessible housing. The CPA have been involved in doing that, the Canadian Paraplegic Association has been involved in a major way in this Province in the last three, four, five years. We have seen some major good housing improvements made for people who have disabilities and are physically challenged. So we have seen some improvements that way, we need to see more and in particular in the downtown St. John's area. The present program that has been initiated by the Province, with the federal government, we need to see a further attack on the problem.

I think the Minister responsible for Housing has been able to get the efforts started in a major way. I think that working with the Member for St. John's East, St. John's Centre and the other members for the City of St. John's, and with City council, which is a major player, that we are going to see some improvements finally, further improvements and that with a collaborative effort we will see some substantial changes and improvements to the basic living arrangements for people in St. John's. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. WINDSOR: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to say a few words on this issue because the housing industry is an industry that I have been involved in for many, many years. I had the portfolio for, I think, seven years as Minister of Housing. So I have some background and some knowledge of the housing industry and also a great appreciation for the concerns of my friend from St. John's Centre. Having been born and raised in St. John's - in fact, lived for a short period of time in the downtown core and have seen some fires.

In fact, I should relate a story that some members might find interesting. When I was a very young child living in downtown St. John's I was awakened one night by fire trucks. There was a fire just a couple of doors away from me. I was not very old then, I may have been seven years old. The fire was in the home of a schoolmate of mine. At 1:30 a.m. I watched him coming out of his bedroom window in his pyjamas and come down over that ladder. Now that schoolmate turned out to be a colleague of mine, the former Minister of Transportation, the Member for St. George's, Mr. Dawe, who came out his window at one-thirty in the morning.

MR. EFFORD: (Inaudible).

MR. WINDSOR: I resist the temptation to give him another swat on the wrist, Mr. Speaker, it is not worth wasting time about. He contributes nothing to the debate. He just tries to be disruptive. It just shows what a complete imbecile he is and what a disgrace he is to the people of Port de Grave. We have 450, 950, several thousand people ready to put the Member for Port de Grave out to pasture in the next election, Mr. Speaker, whenever the Premier gets the intestinal fortitude to call it. I am not going to waste any more of my time. This is a serious issue. He may not think it is very important, Mr. Speaker, he might find it funny but the Member for St. John's Centre does not find it funny. He raised it quite sincerely and it is an excellent issue.

Mr. Speaker, fire safety in downtown St. John's is an important issue and the housing issue, as many members have said, is very, very important, probably one of the most basic and most important issues facing many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians today. I say to my friend from St. John's Centre that I support fully his concern for fire safety in downtown St. John's. Many of these older homes are certainly substandard. They were built long before there was even a semblance of a national building code or a fire code. So they do not meet any kind of normal standards by today's values. Now we must remember that a large portion of downtown St. John's is now part of the great heritage area. So they have, through municipal by-laws, forced owners or landlords to comply with very serious restrictions on what they can do in renovating their homes, and there is a good rationale for that. We are trying to retain the history and the culture of the city and the character of downtown St. John's which is quite unique. It is really quite unique, and I certainly support that, but we must recognize that if we are going to force these people to maintain these types of standards that we are putting a financial burden on them, and there has to be in place a program. There has been some funding in place but probably not enough to allow them to conform with the heritage guidelines, and at the same time upgrade the fire standards, the fire safety, and the life safety features of these homes.

We have all heard of the two great fires that destroyed St. John's, but we did not learn well by those great fires. We have basically replaced the city much as it was and used the same standards of construction that allowed the city to be destroyed in those two great fires. I guess we all do remember the great fire at the CLB Armory just a couple of years ago which threatened a large portion of the central core of the city. It was only by the grace of God and through the tremendous efforts of the fire department that stopped that fire from spreading. We lost a dozen houses as it was but it was very, very close to jumping across Long's Hill and getting down into the real core of the city. We could have lost many, many more homes the night of the CLB fire, many, many more.

MR. GRIMES: You could see it from the steps.

MR. WINDSOR: We were here on the steps and we watched it. The House was sitting that night. My friend for Exploits is quite right. Many of us went out to watch the fire from the front steps of Confederation Building. We were very fortunate, with the high winds and conditions that night, fire fighters did an incredible job of containing that fire and saving hundreds of other homes that could have been swept away that particular night, and that potential is always there.

I just want to point out, too, that the level of protection is not as great as we would like in the central core of the city. The water mains and the lines there are very old. Many of them need to be replaced. The city is doing its best to clean them and replace them but they are very old. I am aware that they had difficulties that night in maintaining pressure to the fire hoses, and there are many other areas of the city that may even be worse.

The CLB Armory was at a central point where many water lines came together so there were many directions from which water could feed to it. There are other areas of the city downtown where a major fire, a three or four alarm fire such as that one, could not probably maintain the kind of fire pressures that would be required to protect those homes, and fire can get out of control very quickly.

Now, I want to address some of the issues that were raised here, particularly in comparing private housing, public housing, and rental housing. There is an argument that needs to be considered between them. Let me first of all say that it does not matter who owns the house, or what the ownership is, the life safety is the important factor. That is the most important thing.

The Member for St. John's Centre, I think, is pointing his finger primarily at landlords who are not prepared to spend funds to repair homes. Well, that is certainly a valid case in point, and I think there is some argument to be made that when persons purchase homes and put them up for rental an occupancy permit is required but there can be some restrictions put in place to ensure that a level of improvement is put in place from a life safety point of view. Having said that we must always recognize the economics of the situation, that we do not want to put that unit outside of the economic market. We have to consider that.

Now, the Housing Corporation has been involved in downtown St. John's. I remember what old St. John's looked like. I remember some of the homes that have been taken down, particularly around the Queen's Road area where the Delta Hotel is now and City Hall is now. There were some very low standard of homes there, so there has been tremendous improvements.

The housing corporation has methodically from time to time purchased old homes that went on the market and have been replacing them with new modern structures that retain the character but have a higher standard of fire safety and meet the national building code. Bit by bit we are doing that and I have to say they have done a good job of that, particular when it refers to some senior's housing adjacent to City Hall. I think it is an excellent example of how the Housing Corporation can participate in urban renewal on an economic basis, because those are good units and I believe they are economic rentals.

They basically took people who were in some of the older homes in this area, who had spent their life living there and really did not want to move away from that area, the area where they had lived their own lives, with all of their friends and their places of doing business, their whole way of life centred around that area. Those units were built and people moved into them in favour of these newer units, and saw their old homes torn down, but it is an appropriate way of dealing with that problem. They may not be in their old home which was substandard. They are now in a new modern unit which is far safer for them, designed to accommodate their needs, but they are still in their area; they are still living in downtown St. John's.

Now, downtown St. John's is becoming a very popular area. People are moving back to the core of the city. My own daughter had bought a home in downtown St. John's a couple of years ago, has restored it, and is very happy and very comfortably living in downtown St. John's. Fortunately it is totally detached, but not by very much. It is still in great danger. The CLB fire could very well have taken her home.

We are seeing a lot of young professionals, a lot of artistic people, a lot of academics; these types of people find the downtown core an attractive place in which to live. A lot of university students find it an attractive place in which to rent accommodations and to live while they are attending university, and it keeps them close to the nightlife of George Street and so forth. So we should not look at downtown St. John's as being a liability by any means. There is an opportunity here to develop very high quality housing, very desirable housing, that will find a ready market available to it.

Let me address also, in the few moments I have left, the issue of where the Housing Corporation should be involved here. It has always been an argument, as long as I have been around, that the Housing Corporation should be providing social housing for the disadvantaged, those who are not able to look after themselves, and that is certainly an important mandate of the Housing Corporation, by all means; we have to do that.

We also need programs to allow those who are not quite able to look after themselves, to help them stay in their own homes as much as possible. It is far cheaper, I say to the minister, to do that than to say: Your house is substandard; we will build you a new one. It is far better to provide some senior citizens with a measure of funding to help them to upgrade their homes to a level where they are able to stay in their own home as long as possible, not only from a social point of view but from an economic point of view, because if they are no longer able to stay in a substandard house then they end up probably in senior's housing somewhere, a senior's home, something of that nature, which is far, far more expensive to the public purse. So sometimes a few pennies in the right direction will save many dollars in another by allowing people to stay in their own homes and their own environment as much as possible.

Social housing is a very important role for the government to play, and for the Housing Corporation to play, but I want to address the question, as well, of economic units, and of development of industrial parks. In the minister's own district, the industrial park in Carbonear probably would not be there except for the Housing Corporation. So here is a case where the Housing Corporation became the stimulant to industrial development there. I believe, in fact, there were some housing subdivisions built in Carbonear and in Harbour Grace by the Housing Corporation, and in many other areas of the Province where the private sector would not go.

Now the private sector will say: You should not be in that market. If there is a demand we will fill it. And that is a valid argument, but I say to the minister that there is always a role for government to play to control the marketplace. If you let the private sector go totally to fill the economic marketplace, then what control is there on the marketplace? There is always the competitive control, I suppose, but government plays an important role in acting as a break in controlling market values in those areas.

I also want to address the question of why is government spending money to develop these expensive building lots. The answer is very clearly, as the minister will confirm I'm sure, that a lot of money in many areas is made. Some of these housing developments in fact give a real return to the Housing Corporation, which in turn is rolled into social housing. Not only are we keeping the market level down so that those persons who are purchasing units on an economic basis are assured that rents or land prices are kept reasonably low, we are also in fact making money to put into social housing.

Elizabeth Towers is always looked at as a great pink elephant or white elephant or something, but Elizabeth Towers in fact makes a small amount of money for government over the year. It has cost us money in earlier years.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. WINDSOR: It didn't in the beginning, but market rents have gone up. The rents charged in Elizabeth Towers now -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. WINDSOR: I won't say to the minister that all of that capital cost, because of the poor construction, could be recovered in the short term, but in the long term. In Pleasantville, all those apartments that we inherited for a dollar from the United States government, they've made millions for the Province, and at the same time provided very good units at very low rental rates. Churchill Park still returns money to the provincial government through the Housing Corporation. So there is an argument there. It controls the rental rates in the marketplace and also provides some funding to the Province to put into social housing. I wouldn't dismiss out of hand government's role in the economic area.

By all means the key role is social housing. By all means we have a role to play in ensuring that every Newfoundlander and Labradorian has a reasonable quality of life, a reasonable home in which to live. I wish we had more funds available for rural RRAP, for urban RRAP, for urban renewal programs. These are great programs that have been in place over the years that have done tremendous work in our Province and in other provinces of Canada, that have upgraded our housing stock considerably, but we still have a long ways to go. Not only does it provide improvements in housing stock, but as the previous speaker mentioned it is a tremendous employment generator. The housing industry is a major industry in this Province, it is a major employer. Any funding that we can direct - and I realize the problems with finding funding - in that direction will be repaid many times over, Mr. Speaker, both in social benefits and in economic benefits.

I take pleasure in supporting the motion by the hon. member, but I want to emphasize that is not the only problem that we have. We face many housing problems. There are many areas that we can be involved in, in new innovative housing forms that I'm sure the minister has seen: in cluster housing that is being developed in many areas, in very innovative apartment-type settings designed for both the socio-economic situation, the age of the person, and the lifestyle of the person and so forth. There is a whole area that we need to look into, but certainly the member's resolution is an appropriate one, and I take great pleasure in supporting it, Mr. Speaker.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. REID: Mr. Speaker, I'm going to rise to speak in favour of my colleague's motion. I'm going to be honest and say to you that I'm rising in favour because I understand fully the situation that my hon. colleague is faced with in downtown St. John's. I can appreciate his concerns for his constituents, as I'm sure he feels the same about our constituents, other constituents around the Province, who are not necessarily in similar situations, but in just as critical situations.

I listened with interest to my hon. colleague from across the way, for Mount Pearl, a few minutes ago when he made the comment about Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation and what is going into the Province and what role Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation is playing in the overall social housing scheme in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Well, Mr. Speaker, the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador contributes $13.5 million each year, or at least this year, to Newfoundland and Labrador Housing. That $13.5 million generates over $200 million in fees and services, in commitments from the federal government on cost-shared programs, and numerous other programs and ways I suppose that the Housing Corporation can make money around the Province. In making that money around the Province, and getting such a good return on that $13.5 million, enables them, the Housing Corporation, to go out and take part in RAP Programs, urgent repair programs, seniors housing, rooming house RAP Programs, the one that is going on in St. John's this year; we were given some $300,000, $400,000 from the federal government in conjunction with the federal government this year for a program, and the total amount of that $400,000 is going into rooming house RAP in St. John's.

I will say, Mr. Speaker, that the ultimate responsibility - and I am not saying this to shirk the responsibility of the provincial government or federal - but the ultimate responsibility for the lack of adequate facilities in downtown St. John's rests solely in the City of St. John's Act. It is the City of St. John's, in their act that regulates the fire prevention, fire equipment, life and safety in these types of units that are found I suppose, not in all areas of St. John's but at least in the downtown area, and comes under the City of St. John's Act.

As most members know, from a question that was posed to me by my hon. friend from Humber Valley just before we closed about where was the bill to impose fines, to increase the fine from $100 to $5,000 for those slums - and I use the word loosely - slum landlords in St. John's who continually ignore rules and regulations when it comes to health and safety in some of their homes. I was informed a few minutes ago that I should be ready to introduce that bill to the House next week.

Now that bill basically gives the City of St. John's now, the right under their act to increase their fines for those people who break the law, those landlords who break the law, to increase the fine from $100, which of course, a hundred-dollar fine for somebody who has lots of money in their pockets, is not very much and they go out and break the law continuously for the sake of $100, but $5,000 may be a deterrent to them if they continue to break the rules of the City of St. John's and I am hoping that that is going to have a serious effect on the landlords and I suppose the overall condition of some of these apartments.

Mr. Speaker, it is too bad that every member of this House does not realize and does not know the list of names of those people who own apartments in this area of St. John's to which my hon. colleague refers. It is too bad that I can't, as the minister publish the list, because I think some of us would get quite a surprise to realize that some of the most affluent people in our community own large sections of buildings and apartments located in downtown St. John's, and have very little or any regard for life and safety for those people who live in those apartments and it is too bad that as the hon. Member for Humber Valley said, they are more interested in the dollar than they are in providing a decent, livable condition for some of our less fortunate people in the Province.

With that said, Mr. Speaker, the problem is not only in St. John's. I am sure a lot of members have had the opportunity to go into Labrador for example, in the northern parts of Labrador into some of our native communities and to witness some of the devastating conditions in which some of our native people live. I am sure that most of us can travel in places in the Island of Newfoundland and find living conditions that are more deplorable than some of the conditions that my hon. friend from St. John's Centre illustrated here today; so it is not only a question of safety in providing good accommodations for people in St. John's, it is a question that this government has to deal with and the question deals with all of Newfoundland, and I thank the hon. member for mentioning in his motion the fact that we, as a government, should be paying more attention to the total question and in particular his, and I hope we can do that in the near future.

The only problem that I have right now as the Minister responsible for Housing is that successive governments, both the former PC Government and now the Liberal Government, finding themselves in Ottawa in the financial situation they are in have basically told the housing ministers across Canada that there will not be any new funding for Housing for next year. This year we will be continuing with the RRAP Program that will be about a quarter the size of what it was in 1989, next year there won't be any program at all.

MR. TOBIN: (Inaudible).

MR. REID: We will spend what our hon. friend had left over from his campaign.

Right now, Mr. Speaker, the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation has put together a committee which is hoping to put together a Paper to present to the provincial Cabinet to try to convince the provincial Cabinet that there has to be a continued program in social housing in the Province and hopefully, if and when the report is done, we will be able to go to Cabinet to convince Cabinet that they must continue as a Province, putting a certain amount of financial support into public housing, knowing full-well that as of next year, the federal government will be withdrawing completely from the Housing industry.

I heard earlier a certain member mentioning about privatizing Newfoundland and Labrador Housing; they thought that by privatizing Newfoundland and Labrador Housing the private sector could do a better job.

Mr. Speaker, let me say this to you: If I had to rely on the private sector, knowing the construction companies that build houses around this town, if I had to rely on that group to build and provide decent shelter and housing in this city, or anywhere else in this Province, I do not think we would see much in the line of social affordable housing. If you look at the developers around the City of St. John's, and you know who I am talking about, they sell houses in this city for $160,000 or $170,000 or $200,000 or $220,000 or $250,000. Newfoundland and Labrador Housing provides housing - the same size housing, the same accommodations - for $40,000 less than what the private individual can provide it for, and still make a profit; and in making a profit, that profit then that we make - and Mr. Windsor said from Mount Pearl - from the industrial parks, the profits we make from selling houses, the profits that we make in selling buildings, all is turned back into social housing. If we do away with Newfoundland and Labrador Housing, if we do away with the role that Newfoundland and Labrador Housing is performing in this Province, basically what we are going to do is cut off all funding and all future development in social housing.

Now some of us, like my hon. friend over there, do not have to worry about social housing because everybody in his district own their own houses, and they are all probably millionaire fishermen, but I do not have that honour, I suppose, and opportunity. I am living in an area of the Province where people need social housing.

Mr. Speaker, Newfoundland and Labrador Housing and this government, if you drive around this city you can see what we have done. If you drive to my hon. colleague from St. John's Centre district, and you look at some of the work that has been done in the home improvement in certain areas, the beautiful facades of buildings that have been changed through heritage and all other programs in the last few years, we are getting there. We are starting to catch up.

Hopefully this motion today, and the energy, I suppose, that the provincial government as well as the federal government and municipal government puts into creating decent housing in and around the St. John's area, and then as a Province we take it beyond that and go into places like Grand Falls and Corner Brook, Carbonear, Nain - Labrador, Makkovik, areas like that, we have to continue. Our biggest problem is that we do not have the dollars to put into a massive program that could rectify all the problems at once.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. REID: We do not have any problems with social housing in Port de Grave; I will tell you that.

In closing, Mr. Speaker, let me say that there is - one member mentioned about Newfoundland and Labrador Housing compiling a list of all the problem areas that we have in the Province, and I apologize because I interjected to tell him that there is a list already compiled. Newfoundland and Labrador Housing can tell you exactly the number of housing units in the Province that we consider to be unsafe and not suitable accommodations. I have a list of - in fact, I have some of it right here. Right now in Newfoundland, Newfoundland and Labrador Housing and CMHC considers that we have 27,000 housing units in this Province that are inadequate or not adequate for living conditions.

MR. WOODFORD: Does that include St. John's Centre?

MR. REID: That includes St. John's Centre as well.

MR. WOODFORD: (Inaudible).

MR. REID: Newfoundland and Labrador Housing coming in from a number of municipalities. For example, the City of St. John's can tell you right to the number and I think the hon. member knows that. The fire department can also tell you through maintenance and inspections of all those particular houses for licensing reasons in St. John's more than anything else.

MR. WOODFORD: Would the minister permit me a question? Why don't we bring in regulations that would make those people maintain and renovate those buildings and make them liveable (inaudible) very basic (inaudible) that could be easily done.

MR. REID: Well, I think we are doing that. Wouldn't you agree? The City of St. John's is now increasing the fines from $100 to $5,000. Now, magistrates are going to have the authority to smack the individual on the hand with the gavel, for the first time. I think we are doing it, to be quite honest about it. I think this is a major step in increasing the fines. It is only one of a number of - I agree, it is only one of a number of steps that we can take. You are absolutely right. And maybe more changes to the legislation need to be developed, I agree with you. I absolutely agree with you. I have no problems with that, but then, in the same breath, if putting money into that sort of a situation - what do we do with areas of the Province where we are not talking about landlords, we are talking about people living in their own houses who don't have decent heating, don't have decent electricity, don't have decent food to put on their tables? You know what I am talking about, you see that on a daily basis. Even in your own district there are places like that.

So, Mr. Speaker, I am going to finish by saying that I do support my hon. colleague's resolution. I have no problem supporting that, it is a matter of life and safety. I guess, anywhere in the Province, at any time, if a member wants to stand and speak in this House, as it relates to his particular district and a particular concern that we all feel is a concern and we should do something about it, then I have no problems as a minister. I am certainly sure that no one on this side has any problems in supporting him. Now, what we can do in the future to try to accommodate the hon. member's concerns is something that we are going to have to work on. I am certainly sure that he is willing to work with me through Newfoundland and Labrador Housing and any member of government to make life a little bit better and more bearable, I guess, in St. John's Centre. Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. TOBIN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I have a few minutes to have a few words to say to this. Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs sounded something like Pontius Pilate. I never heard it, Mr. Speaker, but I read of it.

MR. REID: (Inaudible) getting ready to announce the infrastructure program either.

MR. TOBIN: I can tell the minister, Mr. Speaker, that I might be ready to announce something more important to him than the infrastructure program.

MR. REID: (Inaudible).

MR. TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs better ensure that there are a few bucks in the infrastructure program for me or he might not make many decisions after that.

MR. REID: (Inaudible).

MR. TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I say to the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs, I have no intention of telling any stories, but if I were to talk about that story, I can tell him, that is not the way I would tell it. I would tell the truth about the story, I say to the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs.

Mr. Speaker, the resolution that was put forward by the Member for St. John's Centre calls upon the Department of Municipal and Provincial Affairs, that is responsible for housing, to do something about fire safety conditions in certain residential areas in this city.

Now, this morning I heard on the media that the fire fighters, the Provincial Association of Fire Fighters in this Province were going to be meeting with the social committee of Cabinet. Why were they going to be doing that? They were going to be doing it because this minister has cut the budget for fire-fighting in this Province from $1 million to $200,000. That is how much the Budget was slashed, from $1 million to $200,000, a 75 per cent cut. That is how much was cut from the fire budget in this Province. So, when a member of his own caucus has to stand in this House and put forth this resolution asking Newfoundland and Labrador Housing to do something about the condition of housing in this city, then I think it is time, not for the minister to stand in this House and say, I support the resolution, it is time for him to stand in this House and announce a solution to the problems that exist and that the member has brought to his attention.

I believe what is happening, particularly today, I say to the Member for St. John's Centre, is that there are not a lot of people on his own side listening to his resolution today. They are preoccupied with the Report of the Electoral Boundaries Commission. That's what is happening over there today, and something as vital and as important as this resolution is not being addressed.

They are preoccupied with a report that is going to take Fogo, Twillingate, and Bonavista North, three great Liberal districts and turn them into two. They are preoccupied with Port au Port, St. George's, and Stephenville, three strong Liberal districts being turned into two. They are preoccupied with St. John's which is now ready to vote Tory solidly, now ready to vote PC, Mr. Speaker, they are concerned that there is going to be another two districts put in the city of St. John's.

Well, Mr. Speaker, I can tell you, this report goes a long way to achieving that, I say to members opposite. You have Port de Grace, Carbonear and Harbour Grace, three Liberal districts which will now become two. Mr. Speaker, we are well on the way, I say to members opposite, and it is no wonder.

AN HON. MEMBER: You will be blue from (inaudible) back.

AN HON. MEMBER: You will be blue for different reasons.

MR. TOBIN: No, I thought you got the message.

And I can tell you who is going to look after you come the next election. I know who is going to look after you, somebody who is prepared to do what he can to help the Member for St. John's Centre correct the problem in St. John's. That is one of the people who is going to look after you in the next election, I say to the Member for St. John's North.

AN HON. MEMBER: Are you going to put any money on it?

MR. TOBIN: No, Mr. Speaker, I didn't.

I say to the Member for St. John's Centre that his resolution is an important resolution, and it was put on this Order Paper by the Member for St. John's Centre because he believes - not for political purposes, but because he believes that the conditions that exist in St. John's are not adequate.

The Government House Leader got up today and spoke about Mr. Justice Noel's Report. Well, I say to him, it was done by a minister of injustice, Mr. Injustice Roberts.

MR. ROBERTS: (Inaudible).

MR. TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, Judge Noel, as I understand it, is a fairly reputable gentleman who has done a lot, but when it came to this here, I say to members opposite, his hands were behind his back. His hands were tied.

AN HON. MEMBER: Why, did you tie them?

MR. TOBIN: No, but you did, and when Judge Mahoney came in this House with a good report, with a 25 per cent variation and the whole bit, it was not enough. Now, I do not know what the Minister of Justice is up to, or the former Minister of Justice or whatever. I do not know what he is at, but I can tell him one thing, when we see Port au Port, St. George's and Stephenville turning into two districts, and Harbour Grace, Port de Grave and Carbonear turning into two districts, when we see Fortune - Hermitage and Burgeo - Bay d'Espoir and LaPoile turning into two districts, when we see two additional districts coming to St. John's, we do not have anything to become too upset about, I say to members opposite. We do not have a whole lot to become too upset about.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. TOBIN: My son, that is about the same as phoning the Lieutenant-Governor and telling him we are on the way.

AN HON. MEMBER: Telling him what?

MR. TOBIN: The same as our leader becoming Premier elect and phoning the Lieutenant-Governor to tell him she is on the way down to form the government, that is what that book is all about.

AN HON. MEMBER: You are dreaming in technicolour.

MR. TOBIN: No, I am dreaming in no colour like you. I tell you, you are dreaming in technicolour if you think you are coming back here. I wouldn't doubt but you would be over to see our leader like you were the last time, trying to get to run for us, but I am sure she will say the same thing to you that her predecessor said: We don't trust you.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Make up your mind what you are.

MR. TOBIN: Make up your mind.

Who was it down in Pleasantville who ran against him, Steve -

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Steve Stafford.

MR. TOBIN: Steve Stafford showed you what politics is all about, I say to the Member for St. John's North. Steve Stafford showed you what politics was all about when he sent you out to the Airport Inn.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. TOBIN: Yes he did; indeed he did show him what politics was about. He did exactly with him what Stafford did with you, beat you. Now imagine what he would have done with you, when he beat Stafford, after the trouncing Stafford gave you already, so you would not have saved your nomination. He came in and said: I am going to do a poll to see which one I have the best chance of winning with, whether it is the Conservatives or the Liberals. Len said: Get out, Lloyd. We cannot have people who are indecisive.

I will tell you something else, if the Premier had not hauled John Efford out from being Wayne Comeau's campaign manager, you wouldn't be here today either, I say to the Member for St. John's North. Not only that, when the Premier wanted another candidate on the last few days, when the Premier had another candidate in mind, he called you and Wayne Comeau and asked you to back out, and Wayne Comeau wouldn't back out, then you decided to stay in there. I can tell the Member for St. John's North a lot about what happened in that nomination process, and I can tell you who she was, by the way.

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

MR. TOBIN: By leave, Mr. Speaker?



MR. TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, let me say to the Member for St. John's Centre that I commend him for taking such interest in his constituents -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. TOBIN: - and I will do what I can to ensure that the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs will put the money in place to help him.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

DR. KITCHEN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I was almost prepared to give the member leave, but I wasn't sure what topic he wanted to speak about.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

DR. KITCHEN: I was also prepared to give the hon. Leader of the Opposition leave, but she apparently did not want any seats in St. John's either, so...

Coming back to the problem, I want to thank hon. members who have spoken in this debate, but I want to mention some more things that people need to do. In order to install sprinkler systems where needed, in order to install fire walls, in order to install appropriate wiring and plumbing, which all relate to fire problems, in order to install fire escapes which are often not present on upper stories, in order to do all that money is required. I know there are landlords who have lots of money there, perhaps, but there are also a lot of residences there that are owned by tenants, owned by individuals, families, and they do not have the cash to bring them up to scratch. I believe what has to happen is that government must put money in the form of loans, or some other way, so that people can bring their property up to standard on fire prevention, and this is going to require money.

Metal doors should be installed the fire department tells me. That helps as well. The fire department tells me that one third of the houses in St. John's do not have smoke detectors in them. That is a survey that was carried out. There should be a smoke detector in every house, one that is installed now and not just lying up on a shelf, and one in which the batteries work. There should be a smoke detector in every bed sitting room in the city.

There are some existing programs but they are very inadequate. I appreciate the efforts of the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs. There is $250,000 spent on boarding houses in this city, three quarters of which is spent by the federal government, which means there is $62,500 being spent by the Province in the upgrading of boarding homes, and that is a Band-Aid. That is not even a big Band-Aid. It is a little Band-Aid. We appreciate the fact that we do have the Band-Aid but it is not coming close to solving the problem that the people are faced with in this city. We are not close to it.

Look, I can get all exercised about this question. What we want and what we are going to get is a multi-million dollar restoration program. That is what we are going to get. We are going to continue to press. This is not the last debate on this issue in this House this year. We are going to have petitions and we are going to have people talking. We are going to have all kinds of things happening, because I tell you the galleries are going to be full when we start.

People need this. We are talking about a matter of life safety and we are talking about people living in degraded living conditions, and it has to improve. I am making here today a formal request of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to initiate a multi-million dollar housing development that will consist, perhaps, of three components. I do not have all the details worked out yet but this is my thought at the present time.

The advancement of funds to homeowners and landlords to upgrade their properties to acceptable fire safety standards. The demolition of houses that cannot feasibly be upgraded. There are a lot of houses that can't be upgraded. No matter what you do with them they cannot be upgraded, it can't be done. It is not worth upgrading them. They have to be demolished. The home-owners, if it is owned by a person who lives in it, should be provided a house for a house with low repayment conditions. It is not enough to let Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation just own all the houses. That is not the way it should be. A person should have the right in this Province to own their own home, and over time repay the money. That has to be the way it has to be.

We need I believe, if a landlord has houses that are inappropriate, they should be expropriated and new housing built in the area, perhaps by Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation. Housing that is appropriate for the people. It is no good building large houses now because there are not large families. What we need are smaller units, wheelchair accessible units, units appropriate for senior citizens, one-bedroom apartments and that type of accommodation. That is what we need. We don't need just the restoration of existing houses. That is needed as well.

It has to be a carefully thought out program. Before Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation puts it down and says; This is what it is going to be because of our survey, this has to be circulated around the Province so that people can say: Yes, no, this is not what we want. We want something else. There has to be public input, not just a housing inspector going around and making an account from the various municipalities. We need something that there has to be input from the people so that the fit that is there is fitting the needs of the people and not fitting some imaginary need.

I want to raise the problem - in the same area that I'm speaking about, in St. John's Centre, there are well over 1,000 people looking for work, young men, young women, looking for work. People who want to do carpentry work, people who want to be plasterers, people who want to be roofers, people who are able to paint, plumbers, electricians, people who want to work. There is no more labour-intensive job in this Province now than in the home-building industry. It is much more labour-intensive than building highroads. This is where the labour-intensive jobs are. Can you imagine what this will do for the human dignity of people when they have a job?

AN HON. MEMBER: Take the $110 million from the Outer Ring Road.

DR. KITCHEN: That is a good suggestion. The hon. member says: Let's take the money from the Outer Ring Road. There is almost nobody in St. John's Centre who wants that Outer Ring Road. I will be prepared personally to scrap that, stop it where it is and devote whatever is left over of the $80 million or $90 million and put the $70 million downtown or wherever it is required in the city, in the town, in the Province. It is only a matter of going up and talking to the hon. John Chrétien and saying, `John, look, we don't really need this bloody Ring Road, let us do something different. Let's do something better.' Anyway, I am speaking for my constituents, because that is what they have told me.

Now, maybe other members have different views, but there are other ways of diverting money. But I cannot think of any more serious need in this Province than housing needs in the area of St. John's that I represent. So I am making a plea to my government - and the hon. minister has said that they are in the process of doing that and I appreciate his efforts, I know they are very sincere - that we have to design a program. I believe we have to go to the Federal Government and say, `Your proposal to pull out of housing is not acceptable in this country.' It is not acceptable. We have to have housing for the citizens of Canada and if CMHC is not working let's set up an organization that will work. There is really no reason why real interest rates should be higher now than they have ever been in the history of Canada. What we have to do is divert money to the needs of the people. As somebody said before, one of the more crucial needs for people, besides food, is adequate housing. There are hundreds of families and hundreds of people who are not in families who desperately need housing, and I sincerely appreciate the support of members on both sides of the House in supporting this resolution. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

On motion, resolution carried.

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

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, the House will adjourn in a moment or two, of course, but perhaps I could take an opportunity to inform members that tomorrow we shall call the Budget Debate again. I am not sure who had the floor when we arose yesterday afternoon - my friend, the Member for Grand Bank. Well, maybe the second half of his speech will be even better than the first half of the speech, we look forward to it. We will carry on with the Budget for the rest of the day tomorrow.

The proposal is to ask the House to deal on Friday morning with the Advanced Health Care Directives bill. I don't know whether we will need a long time to debate it because we dealt with that here before; it is almost precisely the same bill with a few minor changes reflecting recommendations of the Policy Review, the Standing Committee to which the bill was referred after second reading. If we finish that Friday morning, we will carry on with the Budget until twelve o'clock when we will adjourn as usual for the weekend.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: (Inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: I am sorry?

MR. W. MATTHEWS: (Inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: If my friend, the Member for Grand Bank wishes to sit the weekend, he and I will be here alone, I can tell him. Now, that might improve the quality of debate and everything else but it would not do very much else.

MR. TOBIN: I don't think we should sit the whole week (inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: My hon. friend, the Member for Burin - Placentia West, wants to sit Friday and Saturday night. Well, given what I understand he normally does on Friday and Saturday night, I can see why.

With that said, Your Honour, I move that the House do now adjourn.

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