October 16, 1995             HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS           Vol. XLII  No. 36

The House met at 2:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Snow): Order, please!

SERGEANT-AT-ARMS: Admit His Honour the Administrator.

PREMIER WELLS: Your Honour, the House of Assembly, agreeable to Your Honour's command, have proceeded to the choice of a Speaker and have elected Lloyd George Snow, Member for the District of Trinity - Bay de Verde, to that office, and by their direction, I present him for Your Honour's approval.

HIS HONOUR, THE ADMINISTRATOR (T. A. Hickman): On behalf of Her Majesty, I assure you of my sense of your efficiency and I do most fully approve, and confirm you as the Speaker.

MR. L. SNOW: Your Honour, having approved the choice of this House in constituting me as its Speaker, it now becomes my duty in the name of the representatives of Her Majesty's loyal subjects, the people of this Province, respectfully to claim of Your Honour their accustomed rights and privileges, especially that they shall have freedom of speech in their debates, that they may be free from arrest during their attendance in Parliament and that I, as Speaker, may have full access to Your Honour's presence at all reasonable times, and that they have confirmed to them all their ancient rights and privileges which have been confirmed to them by Your Honour's predecessors.

HIS HONOUR, THE ADMINISTRATOR: On behalf of Her Majesty, I do confirm this House in the enjoyment of all its ancient and undoubted rights and privileges.

Statements by Ministers

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Your Honour, this is not a formal Statement, as such, on behalf of government, but I rise to join with all members of the House in welcoming two new members, one who is presently seated in the House, the Member for Grand Falls, Mr. Mackey, and one who has recently been elected to sit in the House, but has to, of course, wait the normal processes of time to ensure that there is no challenge to the qualification to sit in the House, Mr. Vey from Gander.

On behalf of all hon. members on this side of the House, and I am sure, the hon. the Leader of the Opposition will speak on behalf of all hon. members opposite, I welcome the two new members; I hope they will find an opportunity to make a constructive contribution to the governing of the Province, one on the government side and one on the Opposition side. As all hon. members know, the responsibility to govern the Province and to provide for sound and fair government in the Province, is a responsibility on both sides of the House, not just on the side that happens to form the government at the time, and I am confident, Mr. Speaker, that both hon. members will have a chance to make a contribution and will do so. I welcome them sincerely on behalf of the members on this side of the House.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. With concurrence of members, I would simply add that, we in the Official Opposition are delighted to have the Member for Grand Falls sitting with us and we look forward to debating with Mr. Vey, for the few months leading up to the next election.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. HARRIS: I would like to join with the Premier and the Leader of the Opposition in welcoming both new members to the House and congratulating them on their election and the very great privilege, honour and responsibility they will have to represent their constituents in this House of Assembly.

Oral Questions

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I have questions for the Premier.

Everyone remembers that the Premier came to power on a promise of bringing home every mother's son, although ironically and sadly, mothers, fathers and whole families are now leaving the Province in droves because of the dismal failure of this Liberal Administration's approach to economic development.

Statistics Canada reports that almost 16,000 people moved away last year and that was worse than any previous year for which they kept records.

Will the Premier confirm, that the problem of depopulation is escalating, that even more people have left the Province so far this year than last year. Will the Premier tell us the out-migration figure for this year to date?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker, I will make the same offer to this Leader of the Opposition that I made to her predecessor. The day that she stands in this House and demonstrates that I ever made that statement, I will resign my seat. If she can't, she ought, if she has any integrity to resign hers -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WELLS: - or stop making the statement.

On the second point, Mr. Speaker, out-migration has been a problem that has plagued this Province ever since it has been a Province. Only in a relatively few quarters or years has there not been a net out-migration. At times when we had a higher natural birthrate than we do now, we had constant growth in the population, now we don't, with the lowest birthrate in the country. I would say, Mr. Speaker, yes there has been a significant increase in out-migration in the last two years or so, I think the figures will demonstrate that, but I would also say, Mr. Speaker, that if you look back over the figures, say the last six years for which we've had responsibility for government - that is the period that the Leader of the Opposition is speaking about - I would say there were fewer people left this Province, the net out-migration was less or certainly no more than it was in the prior six years for which the members opposite had responsibility for government. So I think it is quite improper for the Leader of the Opposition to put forward this proposition now. I will check those figures and bring them before the House of Assembly, Mr. Speaker, and see. It certainly has been in the same range, if not fewer than it was in the prior six year.

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

MS VERGE: Mr. Speaker, the Premier is wrong, everyone in the Province remembers that he made a dramatic and emotional campaign promise in 1989 to bring home every mothers' son, everyone remembers that. Now, Mr. Speaker, I note the Premier avoided answering my precise questions. He did not tell us the out-migration figure for this year to date. His answer indicates that indeed it is worst than last year and that last year indeed was the worst number in reported history. Let me ask the Premier, will he tell us the projections his government has for population decline over the next three to five years and the estimates the Department of Finance has for the drop in equalization payments from the federal government because of the anticipated population decline?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker, I don't have the figures right off the top of my head but I will undertake to get the figures and I will bring them to the House tomorrow. I do know that there was a significant increase in the year 1994, and there was a significant increase in this current year to date, but I do know that the closure of the fishery by the federal government has put 30,000 people out of the means of earning a living, out of a job.

Now, Mr. Speaker, unless the people are going to be totally complacent and do nothing, and make no effort, then they are going to go where they can find jobs, but I am also satisfied that if you look at the actual figures you will find that our growth in employment has been quite significant, and if you take account of the circumstances in the fishery, and discount the fishery, you will see that our growth in the rest of the economy in terms of employment has been one of the best in the country; so clearly the government cannot just simply offset the fact that the closure of the fishery has caused a loss of 30,000 jobs, and write 30,000 in replacement for it overnight. Of course there is going to be an impact. Of course there is going to be an increase in out-migration - that is to be expected - but when you look at those figures, I wonder how the Opposition will explain the severe out-migration in the six years prior to 1989, when they didn't have a fisheries crisis to cope with?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I ask the Premier: Will you admit, Premier, that your Liberal government is directly responsible for triggering the worst out-migration in the Province's history? You are directly responsible because as Premier of this Province, as head of the government responsible for fish processing, you have turned your back on the fishery.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS VERGE: Will you admit you are directly responsible because you let a fantastic opportunity to develop the Lower Churchill slip through your fingers? And will you admit that you are directly responsible -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS VERGE: - because you allowed Hibernia jobs to be towed out of Marystown harbour?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. member to get to her question.

The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: No, Mr. Speaker, I will not admit any such thing. Every proposition the hon. member put is totally without foundation - absolutely and totally without foundation. I will give her, now, some figures on employment increase. Even taking into account the closure of the fishery, employment improved by a total of 4,000 this September over September of last year. That wasn't just September. That has been consistent throughout 1995 over 1994. Slow but steady growth, to the point where the increase was 2 per cent more in employment and the unemployment rate fell by about 2 percentage points.

Mr. Speaker, when you take account of the fisheries, when you take that into consideration, the employment increase in the rest of the economy was 4.3 per cent. So no, I will not take responsibility for any such outlandish statements.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. More questions for the Premier who has presided over the worst out-migration in the Province's history, and who is now presiding over an economy with thousands of fewer jobs than when he took office in the spring of 1989.

The Smallwood government the Premier served in in the 1960s had an overt resettlement policy and provided financial assistance for people to move to growth centres. Today the Premier's Liberal Administration has the same goal pursued in a different manner. The Premier's government is ignoring the fishery just the same; the Premier's government is pulling the plug on rural development associations -

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

MS VERGE: - the Premier's government is centralizing services.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. member, she is on a supplementary, I ask her to get to her question.

MS VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Why, Premier, have you chosen a covert resettlement policy which is resulting in mass out-migration and the loss of many of our best and brightest people?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker, I will provide the answer tomorrow when I have the detailed figures and then we will see where the migration was and whether or not the Leader of the Opposition's claim has any substance. I will deal with the question at that time.

My preliminary assessment of the figures would indicate to me that the position she has taken is totally without foundation. In the last two years there has been a significant increase, that is true, but that is because of the closure of the groundfish fishery. If you look at the past six years from the time we took responsibility for government in June of 1989 until now, and compare that with the six years prior to that, you will see, Mr. Speaker, that it has been of the same size in total. In fact, in the first part of the last six years I think you will find that there was significant improvement, and it is only the closure of the groundfish fishery that has caused this problem.

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

MR. WINDSOR: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I have some questions for the new Minister of Finance. Let me welcome the minister to his portfolio. I look forward to working with him.

Now that he has had an opportunity to familiarize himself with the finances of the Province, particularly the budgetary position, could the minister tell us: The former minister, last year in his Budget, told us that he predicted a $1.9 million surplus on current and capital account combined. We pointed out at the time that that included some $88 million deficit, actually, as a result of the fact that there were funds in there from the sell-out of the South Coast ferry service, transfer from sinking fund surpluses, and sale of some certain Crown corporation, so that in fact instead of a $1.9 million surplus, what the minister actually brought in was an $88 million deficit.

Would the minister now confirm that the former minister actually cooked the books in order to try to give the illusion of a surplus?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DICKS: I say to the hon. member that the former minister may have been a Baker, but I don't believe he cooked the books.

In answer to his question, I think the statement of the hon. minister fairly set forth the financial position of the Province but, as he says, it will be difficult to maintain a current surplus given the economic conditions of the country as a whole, which have deteriorated somewhat, so we are reviewing the Province's fiscal position currently and we will report to the House in probably a month or so, within that time frame.

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

MR. WINDSOR: Mr. Speaker, would the minister tell us what the latest projections are? He says he will give us a full report in a month's time, but I know from experience that numbers are available... Almost on a daily basis there is an update of where we are as major things take place. Would he tell us what his latest projections are? Has he confirmed the numbers that were in last year's Budget or, in fact, is there now a very different picture as we are led to believe that there is? Will the minister confirm that, in spite of these number games that the minister played last year, we have actually slipped from a $1.9 million surplus to a $50 million deficit now projected for the end of this fiscal year? Would the minister like to confirm that, Mr. Speaker?

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

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I cannot confirm the hon. member's figures. We are still in the process of evaluating. Our own current revenues are holding very well. We are concerned about equalization and what may happen there, largely as a result of the slippage of the national economy from a projected growth rate of approximately 4 per cent to something slightly over 2 per cent. Obviously that is going to affect our equalization. We are concerned as well about the net outflow of migration, people leaving the Province, which also, as the hon. member knows, has an effect on equalization.

It is the Province's view that we should, for a lot of reasons, go with the balanced budget. We will attempt to achieve that, but we also have to look at the measures that may be necessary to do so.

As I say, within a short period of time, sometime within the next month, I will report to the House and hopefully be able to give the member the answer he wants in somewhat more detail.

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

MR. WINDSOR: Mr. Speaker, there are many factors that affect the economy positively and negatively during the course of the year, and we are aware that every year there are changes in the final estimates of transfers. The minister predicted last year, in fact, that we would have $161 million decline in the transfer payment next year as a result of the federal government cutbacks. In addition to that we have the $88 million or $90 million that I talked about as one-time income or revenue that the government had last year, and other factors that will add up to about $300 million this minister will have to find in order to balance the budget this year. How does the minister propose to do that? Does he have a magic wand that he is going to wave, or is he going to have another cooked Budget again this year? How will he find that $300 million to try to give the illusion this year of a balanced Budget?

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

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

As the hon. member says, it will be difficult to do in future years; it is certainly our hope to do so. I think he is wrong in his assertion that the Budget in the current year was not accurate. There were one-time cash flows, but balances are balances and that is what we did hope to achieve. It is also our stated objective for the years to come, but as to how we will approach that, of course, is not a decision of the Minister of Finance; it is a decision of Cabinet, ultimately.

As he mentions, we do know some figures. The transfer payments next year will decline not by $160 million but by $111 million. The year after that it will be in the order of $161 million, which will make that task very difficult. Essentially what we have to cope with are the diminishing transfers from Ottawa. The unpredictable element, I will say in the end, is equalization, which varies very much depending on population growth in the Province, and secondly, and perhaps more importantly, the national economy but we will give that in detail.

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

MR. WINDSOR: If I heard the minister correctly, then he is now predicting that federal transfers for next year will decrease by $111 million. The figure in the budget of last year was $160 million. So is the minister now telling us that there is a $49 million favourable variance in transfers predicted for next year? You are not being consistent, I say to the minister, Mr. Speaker. The budget document from last year clearly spells out a predicted $160 million reduction for next year, now the minister is telling us something less. Which figure is accurate?

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

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I believe the hon. member's recollection may not be correct. In the budget it said that next year the difference in transfer payments will be approximately $100 million. There has been a slight upward variation of that to $111 million for next year and the following year an additional incremental $50 million is added on top of that for a total of $161 million in the fiscal year 1997-98. So I think he is using the correct figures but for the wrong years.

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

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Thank you very much. Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Education concerning the situation at the University where we have an impasse between MUNFA and the University administration, where negotiations are at an impasse. It is causing great concern among students. They are not sure if negotiations will commence and the year will not be disrupted. Has the minister had discussions with both representatives of the University administration and MUNFA to see if there is a chance that they will get back to negotiations so students concerns will be put to rest?

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate the hon. member on his promotion.

The University, through the President, has advised me of the situation at the University. I have not met with the faculty union. They have not requested a meeting. We have been treating the University, Mr. Speaker, at pretty well arms length. We give them their budget and they administer it and up to this time at least, we are quite satisfied with the way they have been doing that. There is a dispute between union and management which I have every confidence will be resolved in due course as long as people of goodwill remain on both sides of the issue but I have not at this time and government has not at this time made any decision that we would interfere in the normal collective bargaining process, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. We all know what the minister and the government's due course means, that might mean five years time. Students at the University are very, very concerned about what might happen to them in this current year. There are very serious implications with student aid, landlord tenant accommodations, arrangements that have been made by students, graduation deadlines, it is a very serious time for students at the University. While I respect that you have let the University operate at arms length don't you feel that it is a place for you or some of your colleagues to get involved to see if you can straighten this mess out over there so that students, parents and the local business community here will not suffer the consequences of a disruption at the University this year?

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, in the kind of democracy that we live in, people have the right to negotiate through unions for better pay increases, that is one of the things we accept. Now I am not sure the hon. member would accept the resolution of that problem. I am not sure he would be prepared to give up the kind of democracy that we have enjoyed. If government or any other agency were to intervene then we would tip the scales one way or the other, either in favour of management or in favour of the union and that is certainly not our intent, Mr. Speaker. If we are going to intervene every time an agency of government is involved in a dispute with a union then we will have to change the whole process of our democratic system that we have come to cherish and love over the years and I certainly have no intention of doing that, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. It amazes me how the minister suddenly realizes the value of democratic negotiations. It is too bad that he did not realize that over the last four or five months with the inflammatory statements that he has made when we seem to make progress on educational issues and he knocked us back ten steps.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. W. MATTHEWS: I want to ask the minister: has he had any representation made to him by representatives of the CSU, the student leaders at MUN? If he has not, would he undertake to get in touch with student representatives at the University to hear first hand their concerns because it is a very worrisome time. There are some very serious implications for thousands of students, some 15,000 on the M.U.N. campus itself, if there is indeed a disruption in this academic year.

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, I won't comment on the tangent which is simply a figment of the hon. member's imagination.

The student union hasn't gotten in touch with me on this specific issue. There has been representation with the ADM within the department who is responsible for post-secondary education. They have had preliminary discussions. The Council has been notified, advised, that I am quite willing, my door is forever open, to meet with representatives of the student union. Over the last three years I've had this position, the relationship between myself and the student's union has been one that is second to none in all of Canada, and that relationship will continue. When they see fit to sit down and discuss this issue my door is forever open. If they are not satisfied with that, Mr. Speaker, I will go to their door and discuss this issue.

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My question is to the Minister of Fisheries, Food and Agriculture. I wonder if the minister would inform the House as to how many appeals the Level III TAGS program has received up to today, and how many of those appeals have been reviewed.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Fisheries, Food and Agriculture.

DR. HULAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. A fairly good question, but I think he is addressing it to the wrong minister. I should ask my hon. colleague the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations to respond.

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Mr. Speaker, I think it is a prime example of combining those portfolios and the need of having a separate ministry of fisheries as we had brought forward in the beginning is being displayed here today.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FITZGERALD: Mr. Speaker, I will ask the minister another question which I'm sure that he should have some input into. I wonder if the minister would be kind enough to tell the House today the people who make up this Level III appeals board. Who are they, Mr. Speaker?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Fisheries, Food and Agriculture.

DR. HULAN: Again, Mr. Speaker, I think the hon. gentleman should be addressing his questions to the appropriate minister, the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations.

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Mr. Speaker, this is ridiculous. It is another example of the fishery people out there today left out to dry by the minister not accepting responsibility and answering the questions as directed to him. Here today we are dealing with a Level III process in the TAGS appeals program where nobody knows who the participants of that appeals board are. We are dealing with a phantom group that you would only find in a Communist country or a police state. I ask the minister if he would be responsible enough to name this appeals board and allow our people out there today to come and make representation in the normal way of going before the board and putting forward their case where they can get compensation which is rightfully theirs.

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

MR. CAREEN: (Inaudible) phantom of the opera (inaudible)!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible)!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. MURPHY: I'm glad to see the Member for Placentia has a lot of confidence. I saw in the paper today that he is looking forward to both levels of government helping him.

Let me say to the hon. Member for Bonavista South that within the next week or so we will be able to inform him of that Level III group. It is a situation that is still, I suppose, for the want of another word, in discussion and in negotiation, and we want to make sure that we give our federal friends every opportunity to disclose.

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

MR. HODDER: My question is to the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs. At the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Municipalities a few days ago the minister announced his government's intention to prepare a white paper on regional government. Does the minister propose a regional structure in the Ontario model with its attendant bureaucratic structure, extra level of bureaucracy, or does he propose to introduce an area-wide services model whereby area-wide services can be provided on a co-operative basis by member municipalities? Which structure is he intending to propose in the White Paper?

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

MR. REID: Mr. Speaker, the second one.

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

MR. HODDER: Mr. Speaker, can the minister confirm that his approach, therefore, is based upon the British Columbia model, after a fact-finding trip to British Columbia this summer with his deputy and several departmental officials? When does the minister intend to hold public or private consultation forums with municipalities in the Province, so that they can have input into the formulation of the statements to be included in the White Paper?

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

MR. TOBIN: How many golf courses did you play when you were in B.C.?

MR. REID: I only played on one, it was raining the other three days I was there.

Mr. Speaker, the idea and the intentions of my department in creating a White Paper will evolve from meetings that my staff and I will be holding around the Province with various representatives of both the Administrators Association, the Federation of Municipalities, a number of mayors and councillors throughout the Province.

I am hoping that the White Paper should be ready to present to Cabinet some time early in 1996, and notice, I am saying `hoping'. I still have a fair amount of consulting to be done with the Federation of Municipalities and other groups in the Province before we are ready to prepare the White Paper, and I will say this, quite honestly, Mr. Speaker, that, where my hon. critic has spent such a long period of time in municipal government, I encourage him to have input into the White Paper and to me, personally, being my critic now, to tell me and help me, in some ways that I can achieve I suppose, what I am setting out or hoping to set out to do in the White Paper. We have serious problems in the Province today as it relates to some municipalities and I think that this will, eventually, help solve some of those problems. So I offer my colleague ample opportunity, himself and any member of his party and anyone in this Province, to have input into that White Paper development, and I am hoping that can be done in the next couple of months.

Thank you.

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

MR. HODDER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am pleased to hear the minister commit himself to holding public forums across the Province to listen to municipalities; and could he today therefore, make a statement that his proposal is not going to result in a forced amalgamation in a disguise of regional approaches?

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

MR. REID: Mr. Speaker, I wonder sometimes, where certain people, and not only my hon. friend across the way, get this idea that the regional approach has something to do with amalgamation. They are two separate entities entirely. This government pursued a line of amalgamations around this Province. Just three weeks ago, three communities on the North-west Coast came in and requested amalgamation and I hope that we can accommodate them.

The idea of the regional councils will be one that will be offered, I suppose, to communities around the Province, and those communities who wish to take part in the regional concept, the sharing of services in a particular region in the Province, will do so. But I will assure my hon. friend and this House that the approach will be coming from down here up to government, not from government down there; that is basically why I am creating the White Paper and, hopefully, at the end of the day, the communities around the Province will accept the idea of regionalization and maybe we'll be a lot better off for it in the end.

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

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

My question is for the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation.

Mr. Minister, we are all familiar with the situation with the Grand Bruit ferry on the South Coast. Could you tell us when that situation will be resolved?

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

MR. EFFORD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, the case of the Grand Bruit ferry, is a case of which we, as a government have given it over to private enterprise to run it. We have nine ferries we operate ourselves and the five along the South Coast are operated by private enterprise.

My talks, as of this morning, with the executive of the department - and I am meeting with the operators of that ferry tomorrow morning - gives me some indication that it may be at least minimum, another three weeks before the camshaft and the engine is repaired on that ferry. It is still in operation today working on one engine but it could be another two or three weeks before they get the engine repaired.

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

MR. J. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, could the minister now inform us of the amount of money that has been spent on helicopter service by the government, on that situation?

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

MR. EFFORD: I don't have the exact number of dollars, Mr. Speaker, that we have spent to date on helicopter service, but I can tell you that since the individuals from Grand Bruit didn't want a regular helicopter service, we didn't put it in there when they complained about the service they were getting. What we can tell you very clearly is that while the ferry is out of service, we do not pay the daily cost of that boat that was agreed upon in the contract.

So, the money that would normally be spent on the contract is paid out in helicopter service when required; otherwise, we have hired on a long-liner to transport freight to and from Rose Blanche to Grand Bruit. Now, we have a swing vessel, the Sound of Islay, that we had used down in other areas when other vessels were on refit. We now have that one available and she is now in Grand Bruit or will be there tomorrow, and then there will be no more helicopter service provided. I do not have the exact dollar but I can surely get it over the next couple of days and provide it to the hon. member.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Question Period has elapsed.

Notices of Motion

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will on tomorrow move the following resolution.

"Whereas Section 43 of the Constitution Act, 1982 provides that an amendment to the Constitution of Canada in relation to any provision that applies to one or more, but not all, provinces may be made by proclamation issued by the Governor General under the Great Seal of Canada where so authorized by resolutions of the Senate and House of Commons and of the legislative assembly of each province to which the amendment applies;

"And whereas Term 17 of the Terms of Union of Newfoundland with Canada..." is as set out in the Terms as amended by the amendment of 1987;

"Now therefore the House of Assembly of the Province of Newfoundland resolves that His Excellency the Governor General be authorized to issue a proclamation under the Great Seal of Canada amending the Constitution of Canada in accordance with the Schedule..." which I have set forth to this notice and I don't need to read, Mr. Speaker. Most people are quite familiar with it so I won't read it formally into the record, but I assume it can be taken as read and notice having been given.

"And be it further resolved that upon approval and adoption by this House of this Resolution, the Speaker be directed to forward a true copy of this Resolution to His Excellency the Governor General, certifying that the provisions of the Constitution Act, 1982, respecting the adoption of a Resolution by the House of Assembly of Newfoundland have been met."

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Natural Resources.

DR. GIBBONS: Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will on tomorrow ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, "An Act To Amend The Hydro Corporation Act, The Electrical Power Control Act, 1994, And The Crown Lands Act."

MS VERGE: What about the mineral tax act?

DR. GIBBONS: We moved that last session.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. ROBERTS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. We really do our best to try to help the hon. lady in her job.

Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will on tomorrow ask -

MS VERGE: (Inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: I say to the hon. lady, would she please not interrupt? We've been through this already today.

Mr. Speaker, I give notice I will on tomorrow ask leave to introduce the following bills entitled:

"An Act To Amend The Children's Law Act";

"An Act To Amend The Jury Act"; and,

"An Act To Provide For The Transfer Of The Trusteeship And Agency Business Of Central Guarantee Trust Company To TD Trust Company."

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

MR. DICKS: Yes, Mr. Speaker. I give notice that I will on tomorrow ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, "An Act To Amend The Government Money Purchase Pension Plan Act, The Public Service Pensions Act, 1991, The Teachers' Pensions Act, The Uniform Services Pensions Act, 1991, The Memorial University Pensions Act, Chapter 18 Of The Statutes Of Newfoundland, 1993, And The Pension Contributions Reductions Act."

Further, Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will on tomorrow ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, "An Act To Revise And Consolidate The Law Respecting Credit Unions."

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

MR. AYLWARD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I give notice that I will on tomorrow ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, "An Act To Amend The Waste Material Disposal Act And The Summary Proceedings Act." Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: (Inaudible).

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

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

MR. SPEAKER: Point of order.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Yes, just a question to the Government House Leader. We see any number of notices being given here again today and pending legislation and so on. Have the legislative review committees ceased to function? Because there is no legislation being referred to them any more. At the time the concept was announced by the Premier there was quite a bit of do made about it, and there is no doubt that the committees can fulfil a very useful function.

It seems that the committees are being bypassed. Not all legislation, I realize, should go to a review committee, but there is some that should. I think the committees at least should be utilized in a proper manner without referring everything and tying up too much time and so on. I'm just wondering could the Government House Leader inform the House whether or not we are just doing away with the legislative review committees or will we see them utilized.

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

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, I'm not sure it is a point of order, but with the consent of all I would be happy to respond because I think my hon. friend has raised a valid point.

Let me assure him there has been no change in the commitment of this Administration to allow committees to review legislation. We have, within the last year or two, written a new rule here in the House, and my recollection is that all hands agreed to it, and it gives the committees certain powers and they are there unimpaired.

Secondly, Mr. Speaker, my understanding is that the Clerk automatically refers legislation to the Chairs of the committees, who presumably then consult with their colleagues, and any bill that a committee wishes to address we would be very happy to ensure that, within a reasonable time frame, it doesn't come on for debate until the committee has had an opportunity to deal with it.

In addition, the rules also provide for reference of a bill, at the request of a committee, after the House has dealt with second reading, so the committee has the power to do that.

The bills of which we have given notice today, I think it is fair to say, are routine and I don't know whether a committee would wish to do them or not. If they can, fine, but I think my hon. friend will find, when he sees them, that they are in themselves routine. But we haven't changed our policy; we haven't changed our practice. Indeed, there are a number of specific bills we intend to refer to committees, and ask committees if they would be good enough to seek public input, such as the Limitations Act, I suspect the new Fatalities Inquiries Act, which is a word for Coroner's Act, would go there, and a number of other bills where there may well be widespread public interest. The City of St. John's Act, that my friend from St. John's East and I have been in touch with each other about, would be another candidate for consideration by committee should a committee so wish.

MR. SPEAKER: To the point of order, it was not really a point of order. The hon. member was seeking clarification on the committees, I guess. There was no point of order.


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

MR. HEWLETT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

In the last sitting of this hon. House I rose and presented a number of petitions from my constituents on the issue of the electoral boundaries changes. Prior to the closing in the last sitting I presented over 1,000 names from constituents of mine. A number of petitions came in after the House of Assembly closed, and I wish to present a few sheets of these today.

The petition I have today is from Little Bay in Green Bay, a very small community, signed by 103 people, which would probably constitute every single voting adult in that particular community. The prayer of the petition is as follows:

WHEREAS our communities have been in Green Bay district for many years; and

WHEREAS a recent government proposal would see some of our communities assigned to Baie Verte district;

THEREFORE we, the undersigned, petition the Honourable House of Assembly not to entertain or approve any proposal that would see our communities removed from Green Bay district.

Mr. Speaker, the Government House Leader has indicated in the media that the government intends to proceed with a proposed redistribution of electoral boundaries that will, in effect, take many communities from the northern part of my district and put them in with Baie Verte district, and if the plan that was talked about some months ago is the plan that is to be introduced in this sitting of the Assembly, it would also add to what is left of the existing Green Bay district most of the former Town of Windsor, the Windsor ward, I guess you would call it, of the current Town of Grand Falls - Windsor.

Mr. Speaker, the communities currently in Green Bay have been there certainly since Confederation if not before. They have a community of interest. They are used to being one electoral district. They are used to being, to a great extent, one economic district, and obviously the people, the community councils, the town councils, the development association that is still alive so far, all of these organizations wish to see their district remain intact.

I have also had it in correspondence from, certainly, the Mayor of the Town of Grand Falls - Windsor, that that particular community is not particularly interested in being split into two pieces come electoral boundary redistribution.

Mr. Speaker, apart from these practical considerations with regard to the peoples being served by the various new districts, we have here a process that has been wholly and entirely corrupted by the Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador.

At the beginning the government announced a policy of a significant reduction in the number of seats and constituted, under law, an independent commission to review this matter. Judge Mahoney went about his business and there was an indication from the committee that there would be probably a forty-seat House of Assembly. The Government House Leader intervened in that process at a public meeting in Clarenville and headed the committee towards a forty-four seat House of Assembly. The mandate of the independent committee was amended in this House to that effect. That committee did report with a forty-four seat House of Assembly and that itself not being satisfactory to the Liberal Party and their various vested and selfish interests, Mr. Speaker, they gave another judge, this time under extremely tight constraints, a new mandate to rework, without public hearings, the electoral boundaries in the Province.

Out of that report, at least for the area I represent, came a district which was called, at the last session of the House, Windsor-Springdale. Now, the minister has indicated that there may be some name changes in districts so I don't know if that is the designation for my area or not, but certainly, we have seen a great number of changes in Central Newfoundland, all of them basically tampering with the electoral map by the Liberal Party to suit its own political ends.

The only real community of interest that I can see, Mr. Speaker, with regard to Windsor and Springdale/Green Bay areas is that in the recent referendum, both areas voted very similarly, Green Bay having voted 63 per cent, `No', and the Windsor ward in the town of Grand Falls/Windsor having voted some 68 per cent, `No', in the referendum. Apart from that, there hasn't been a long history of a community of interest. I suppose one will have to be developed if the government goes through with this.

Many people in the Province, certainly many people in my existing District of Green Bay, have severe concerns about how the government went about this and how it basically corrupted the process to its own ends, to the ends of the Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MS VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise to support the petition of my colleague, the Member for Green Bay. As the member pointed out, the Wells Administration, the government's handling of boundary redistribution is shaping up to be a fiasco. The process has been tainted. They followed the law initially by appointing an independent commission headed by a Court of Appeal judge designated by the Chief Justice. That commission was known as the Mahoney Commission. The commission proposed a reduction of twelve districts to bring the total number of seats in this House from fifty-two to forty.

The government, however, then interfered. The government changed the law, changed the rules in midstream and had the commission do a second round of hearings. The commission's final report called for, within the redrawn guidelines of the act, a total of forty-four districts, which would have been a reduction of eight seats. Now, the legitimate process cost the taxpayers of the Province close to half a million dollars. And that process evidently has been totally discarded by the Administration and therefore, half a million dollars was spent for nothing. It was wasted, just money poured down the drain at a time when hospitals have been cut and schools have been cut.

So the process is tainted, Mr. Speaker. What the government has actually done with boundary redistribution makes a mockery of their slogan of fairness and balance. Now, the process was initiated in the previous Finance Minister's mini-Budget of a couple of years ago, and it was announced to achieve certain fiscal targets. It was announced as part of a package of restraint measures which included very severe cuts to health and education, but what we are seeing, of course, as I pointed out, is on the one hand, a pure waste of half a million dollars of taxpayers' money for a commission that was ignored, to end up with only a token reduction in the number of seats from fifty-two to forty-eight.

The forty-eight have no resemblance to the recommendations of the legitimate commission. The forty-eight districts that are coming forward, according to the Minister of Justice, are the forty-eight that he and his staff cooked up. It is a configuration rigged by the Liberal Party and the Liberal politicians for their own selfish, partisan interests. So, Mr. Speaker, the Official Opposition will be very vigorously opposing the bill calling for the redistribution of seats, on the grounds that the process was corrupt and the reduction of only four seats, in the face of massive cuts in Health and Education, is quite unfair and makes a mockery of the government's stated policy.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Orders of the Day

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

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, would you be good enough please to call the bill that stands in the name of my friend, the Minister of Health, which is Order No. 7, second reading of an amendment to the Hospital and Nursing Home Association Act. After we deal with that, assuming the House disposes of that this afternoon before we adjourn at five, we will go on to Order 6, and should we be so fortunate as to deal with that one, too, before we adjourn, then we will ask the House to deal with Order No. 11, The Evidence Act -

MR. W. MATTHEWS: (Inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: I am sorry?

MR. W. MATTHEWS: (Inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: I say to my friend, the Member for Grand Bank, when one is in my job, one is even more optimistic than a person in his job, but his job is the ultimate optimism, Mr. Speaker. But we will go on, anyway, to No. 11 which is The Evidence Act amendment. If you would be good enough to call Order No. 7, please, Mr. Speaker.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Hospital And Nursing Home Association Act" (Bill No. 9).

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

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

Bill No. 9, in the amendments that are before us, are pretty generic and basic, really. Let me just review them for the hon. House, the premise on which they are put forward.

Members of the House will be aware, of course, that there has been a fair amount of restructuring done in the Health Care system over the past year or so, such that we have now reduced our institutional boards down to about eight and we have brought into existence some community health care boards that are new creations of government deemed the appropriate method to deliver community services in terms of health care. And, as a result of that, there is a necessity to amend the bill principally dealing with the name of the bill that is now known as The Newfoundland Hospital And Nursing Home Association Act. What this bill does, really, is it creates a new name for that statute, and the bill and the amendment will cause the name to be changed to The Newfoundland And Labrador Health Care Association.

The name in the bill is principally to recognize the type of organization that is needed and that does, in fact, exist today, and it recognizes the changes in that organization to reflect the different boards that they are now representing. As of the coming into existence of the act, originally of course, there were no community health boards, so they were not part of any organization because they didn't exist. As a result of them coming into the health care structure, they now become part of the health care delivery system and they will be a part of that association which previously was known as the NHNHA, the Newfoundland and Labrador Hospital and Nursing Homes Association.

So, the purpose for this is really to provide a more appropriate name for the organization that now represents the Health Care Boards and the Community Health Boards and really, there is no other basis for, there is no other reason for and there is nothing else behind this amendment other than simply to change the name to make it consistent with the role that it now plays and the organizations that it now represents. Having said that, Mr. Speaker, I move second reading of that bill.

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

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

I just want a few words on Bill 9, "An Act To Amend The Hospital And Nursing Home Association Act." We have no problem with the piece of legislation; it is basically a name change, so we take no exception to that. We concur that if it is a more appropriate name, then sobeit, but I want to say to the minister, that while we have no concerns about changing the name to Newfoundland And Labrador Health Care Association, we do have grave concerns about the state of our health care system in this Province today. The minister referred to the restructuring of the system and so on, and I can tell him that out and about this Province, there are very grave concerns, not only being expressed, but being experienced by practically every family in this Province, which has had some relative or some friend who has had an unpleasant experience of different magnitudes by visits to one health care institution or another. I say to the minister, it is a very serious matter. In the minds of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians there is no doubt that behind the need for jobs and concerns about our employment and our economy, the concerns about our health care systems certainly rank number two in the minds of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. They are so concerned about what is happening out and about this Province - I was going to say in rural Newfoundland, Mr. Speaker, but not only in rural Newfoundland - as well, in urban centres, the pressure on our health care institutions is just so immense. Every day we get phone calls in our offices, and I am sure government members get similar calls, from people who have problems accessing the system, or the way they are treated once they do get into one of our health care institutions, the time they spend on stretchers before they get a proper bed and accommodations in the hospitals and on and on it goes.

So while we have no great concern with what this piece of legislation does, we do have concerns about what is happening out and about our Province with the state of our health care system, I say to the minister. I am sure the minister is very much aware of it but, of course, it is going to take action on behalf of the minister and the government in order to rectify some of those problems. And, of course, our worst fear is what is going to happen in the next year or two when we see a further reduction in payments from Ottawa. I guess, what we are basically saying is that if our health care system is further attacked in any way, then we are going to have one big problem throughout every community in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Having said that, Mr. Speaker, we have no problems with the bill and we lend our support to it.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. As to the substance of the bill itself - of course, the bill has no real substance other than changing the name of the act and the association. It is obviously more in keeping to have an act and legislation related to the organization that looks after hospitals, nursing homes, to be able to have a designation that talks about health care. It is not the designation, Mr. Speaker, that we are worried about in the New Democratic Party, it is the state of health care in this Province and in this country.

We have seen threats to health care by virtue of the changes that have been proposed by Ottawa and implemented in the block transfer legislation. And what is going on with the federal legislation is being echoed in this Province by this government in terms of setting up this health care corporation and community health care associations. What is going to be happening is, the responsibility for cutting back services and health care to people is going to be passed along to those associations. The government is going to be sitting back and saying, well - like the University, Pontius Pilot over there, the Minister of Education, Pontius Pilot, wiping his hands of any problems with the university, `arms length, we just give them money...' Will the Minister of Finance be saying and the Minister of Health be saying, `...we just give them money, they decide on the priority of services.' That's what is going to be happening when this minister starts really talking about health care and the problems that are going on, because, as the previous speaker said, everybody in this Province, who has his eyes open, knows the difficulties that people are encountering with the health care system today.

I had an example brought to my attention the other day of someone going to the Health Sciences Centre, the only emergency centre they were told that would be capable of handling what was essentially a bad back. This person could not walk, Mr. Speaker. He was managed to be brought to the Health Sciences Centre by vehicle but couldn't get from the car to the emergency room. There was nobody available to assist that person. The ambulance attendants were told they were not allowed to do it, and this person could not move. He was in the car outside the hospital and couldn't get from the car to the hospital, and there was nobody there who was able to assist him. There were no orderlies, there was nothing, Mr. Speaker, not even a wheelchair, to bring this person from the parking lot to the inside lobby of the Health Sciences Emergency Centre to be able to get attention, and the ambulance drivers were told they were not allowed to conduct that activity. Then, Mr. Speaker, when the person got in, there was no one there to be able to address that situation. Eventually, he was put in a hard-backed chair and left there for several hours with very serious back pain.

What happens? That type of incident is being repeated day after day all across this Province. And this minister busies himself with legislation that deals with changing the symbolic names of organizations and associations, setting himself up, I suggest, to be able to say in six months time after the Budget is down: We don't make the decisions, we just give them the money and they make the decisions as to the level of services, the choice of services, whether it is home care or emergency or hospital services. That is the kind of problem we are having with the health care system in this Province today.

MR. L. MATTHEWS: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: Now he is blaming it on people (inaudible).

MR. L. MATTHEWS: (Inaudible) people empowerment.

MR. HARRIS: People empowerment. The minister calls it people empowerment. What I call it is downloading, Mr. Speaker. I have no objections to the democratization of services and community control over services. In fact, there should be more of it. But I don't want to see that used as a tool by this minister and this government to blame the lack of services on those very communities which are being asked to now participate for the first time.

That is what is going to happen and we will have the Minister of - the Minister of Health is listening very carefully to the kinds of comments that the Minister of Education and Training makes when talking about the University. He is getting his lines ready. He is preparing his answers to questions from this side of the House. I know they are going to come. They are going to come fast and furious, because in this session of the House as in every session of the House, example after example of inadequate access to health care is brought forward in this House and the minister is going to be asked to deal with it.

I heard recently, and perhaps the minister can confirm this when he speaks in closing the debate, that the thirty-two beds at St. Clare's Hospital that were supposedly closed temporarily will never open again. Supposedly closed temporarily, supposedly to open this Fall - the word I've heard, and I would ask the minister to deal with this, is that they aren't going to reopen and they will very likely and very certainly never open again. Because this minister and this government have, in fact, carried out the program of cutback of needed services. We hear that the waiting lines for elective surgery are getting longer, that people aren't getting the medical treatment they deserve.

The threat, Mr. Speaker, of the destruction of the Medicare system is there in the federal block funding bill, the new block funding transfer act. The threat is there and the invitation is there to provinces which have fiscal restraints to start dismantling piece by piece the Medicare system. I remind the minister, and I will remind him again when this matter comes up in the House for debate, of the five principles of Medicare that have been enshrined in the Canada Health Act, and not only that, by the unanimous resolution of this House. Every single member in this House who was here that day voted for a resolution brought forth by me to ask that these principles of universality, public access, public administration.... (Inaudible); that the five principles enshrined in the Canada Health At be, in fact, placed in the Constitution of Canada itself. That was a part of the Charlottetown Accord debate, and the request of this Legislature by unanimous consent was to have those five principles enshrined in the Constitution itself.

So, in agreeing to the change of wording, Mr. Speaker, I also want to harken the minister's attention to the concern that our Party feels, especially because of our proud place in the history of the development of our Medicare system in this country - particularly because of that - but also, and more importantly, because of the need for us in this country to maintain a Medicare system that provides and guarantees the hospital care that people need, and the health care that people need.

What we see at the federal level - and this Province is a victim of it, as are others, but we have to fight back - the federal House grants all kinds of protection and guarantees to the pharmaceutical companies. In two pieces of legislation, both passed by the Mulroney government, they granted extra copyright protection to the pharmaceutical companies up to twenty years, turning over millions and millions and millions of dollars to the pharmaceutical companies, and preventing generic drugs from being introduced earlier. That has happened on the one hand, helping these corporations, and on the other hand, it is cutting back in funding for basic health care services.

So we see a trend that is being continued by the Liberal Government in Ottawa of passing over, bit by bit, gradually but certainly, health care to private corporations, to multinational corporations, to American service corporations, all of these people gradually creeping in. Just as the Liberal Government in New Brunswick wanted to bring in an American company to run a prison, what is happening in other parts of this country is that American companies are being brought in to help run parts of health care for private patients to pay extra billing, facility fees - call it what you will - these are deteriorations to the health care system. So while we change the name of this act, and change the name of the association to broaden the obvious responsibility that the Newfoundland Hospital and Nursing Home Association has beyond that of running the hospitals and nursing homes, but to be involved actively in health care as a whole, we have to be very concerned as to what is happening to health care itself.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I end my remarks.

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

MR. HEWLETT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like a few words on this bill which is essentially about a name change. We only wish, I guess, the members of this House and the citizens of this Province, that was only the sort of thing that the Minister of Health was doing to the health care system in this Province.

Mr. Speaker, I have had the opportunity over the last few months to serve on a task force set up by the Leader of the Opposition, to travel the Province as an Opposition task force, to get public input into what people think are the problems in our health care system, and what might be done to improve things in the future. It says it all, I suppose, with regard to this particular government, that it took an opposition party to ask the public what they thought about the current state of our health care system and where we might have improvements and where we should be going in the future.

We saw the great fiasco not that long ago here in St. John's where the government announced the closure of two hospitals, the Salvation Army Grace, the Janeway, and also the Children's Rehab Centre - great fanfare with regard to this closure, that it had to do with a restructuring generally of health care, a change of emphasis in health care from institutional to community care, that sort of thing. It wasn't very long after that announcement, when we had some questions on the issue, that it became very obvious that the government really didn't have a plan to restructure health care, certainly not in the capital city of St. John's.

Mr. Speaker, almost everybody who has come out to the forums I have attended have seemed to indicate that it will be physically impossible to achieve the consolidation that the minister is talking about in terms of the institutions in the capital city without a massive capital expenditure program. There appears to be absolutely no work done in terms of engineering planning or detailed medical plans as to how this is going to come about. The government says it is as a result of general restructuring, a general change of emphasis. It refuses to admit and has refused to admit that it is being driven by economics, that the government wants to save money generally out of the health care system towards an overall budgetary position.

Mr. Speaker, it has become obvious that very little thought went into this proposed restructuring before it occurred. It is going to be physically impossible to relocate the facilities, services and staff in the Salvation Army Grace and the Janeway, in either the General Hospital or St. Clare's Hospital, physically impossible. A major capital extension or expansion would have to be required at a minimum to achieve that. We understand, as well, that in the very short term the children's rehab is going to be uprooted and moved, I think, to the Janeway Hospital which is going to involve considerable expense, fuss, bother and stress on the children involved. This move in itself will be temporary insofar as eventually the plan is to close the Janeway.

One thing that has become obvious from the committee meetings that I have attended around the Province, Mr. Speaker, is that there is widespread support for the Janeway and considerable concern about placing a children's hospital, a paediatric hospital, either physically in or very physically near the adult hospital, the General Hospital - so much so, that we have listened to the people, Mr. Speaker, and have stated, as a matter of policy for our party, that the children's hospital, the Janeway, be it in its current location or in some new location, should be a totally separate institution, separate unto itself. Because basically everybody in the field seems to feel that mixing adult and paediatric medicine is just not wise, is just not safe, is just not appropriate.

Mr. Speaker, in our committee travels we did urban areas and we did some rural areas. We found that there have been some major problems in rural areas as well, especially with regard to the retention of medical personnel, doctors in particular. Whatever schemes this government has brought in so far, none of them seem to work. There has been a real problem with retention of physicians in the rural areas, even to the extent that we have had a serious problem with retention of physicians in regional hospitals. Major regional sites have had great difficulty in maintaining staff levels with regard to specialists or recruiting specialists when people move on.

When the government started, Mr. Speaker, some years ago to basically change the health care system, the theory was that a lot of the small rural hospitals would be phased out, as was the case in my district, the Springdale Hospital was phased out. The regional hospitals - in my case, the one at Grand Falls-Windsor -would be expanded to accommodate the closure of the small rural hospitals. What in fact happened, Mr. Speaker, was a loss of the small rural hospitals and further consolidations and cutbacks at the regional level. So therefore, Mr. Speaker, the theory as laid out some years ago, did not turn out to be as it was going to be and furthermore, we have grave suspicions that the current restructuring is not going to turn out the way the government is saying it should.

The theory that the minister and his officials have been espousing, Mr. Speaker, is that we are going to deinstitutionalize to the greatest extent possible and increase resources and facilities, personnel, etcetera, at the community level. All of that sounds good in theory, Mr. Speaker, but what it requires is actual action, expenditure of dollars, significant planning and a political will to make something happen.

What we have been told in our various public forums that our committee has held, is that yes, the cutbacks have been occurring at the institutional level but unfortunately there has not been a commensurate increase in the services at the community level; so what we have is indeed a reduction in expenditures in health care but not a transfer of expenditures from the institutional to the community level. Indeed, Mr. Speaker, there has been very little change at the community level except again, in name only.

The bill we are talking about here has to do with a name change. We have had some name changes; we have had community health care boards set up, some administrative staff approved but it remains to be seen and so far there is no evidence to the effect that the government will be placing financial resources at the fingertips of the community health boards to significantly achieve a transfer of emphasis from the institutional to the community level.

Mr. Speaker, this government has shown that it has reacted in recent times to threats of major cutbacks at the federal level, major decreases in its own provincial revenues because of its abysmal handling of the economy without any adequate planning and without any intention underneath the rhetoric of actually putting the money into community care to make up for the downsizing of our institutional health care system.

Mr. Speaker, as one member, you hear the usual litany of complaints of individual constituents and citizens who have had problems accessing the health care. Just about every family in the Province has had its own particular nightmare or two. It is to the point now where, for the first time in the six years I have been in this House, I have actually had calls from people asking me to intercede with medical professionals to see if they can get in to see a specialist, to see if they can get in to have a heart operation, and that sort of thing done.

Unlike the former Minister of Health, Mr. Speaker, I am very reluctant to get involved in having people jump lines because that is a dangerous precedent to set, and you could be doing a great disservice to the person who is in line ahead of the person whom you are representing. Mr. Speaker, it speaks volumes that people would have to call their MHA to see if they can be moved up on a list, to see if they can avail of a medical service in time, you know, to save considerable problems or even to save their lives, but what we have, Mr. Speaker, is a health care system in crisis, definitely underfunded, and where the funding is there is a lot of waste in the system, we found that out as well, Mr. Speaker, and it remains to be seen if the government is actually going to make any significant improvements with regard to the waste we have in the system.

We have people occupying beds, Mr. Speaker, that are designed for extremely intensive care and who basically should be in nursing homes; there has been absolutely no significant rationalization of bed utilization in this Province at all; all we are seeing are bed closures at the acute-care level and no significant redistribution to save money with regard to an appropriate use for an individual patient in an appropriate bed. A lot of work remains to be done there, Mr. Speaker, but all this government seems to be doing is cutting back, cutting back, restructuring on paper, not doing significant, real, useful beneficial restructuring and really, not going anywhere, not so far in terms of the change of emphasis from institutional to the community care; they are paying lip service to it but so far, the money hasn't been there.

One more point before I close, Mr. Speaker. This government has a tendency to download everything, Mr. Speaker, and the latest tendency on the part of this government is with regard to the new health care boards. These boards seem to be answering for the grief and the misery in the health care system in our Province. If one were to watch the television or listen to the radio, you would swear Sister Davis was the Minister of Health and not the hon. Member for St. John's North.

The government ultimately gives the budgets and the direction to these health care boards and should ultimately be responsible. It is nothing short of amazing, Mr. Speaker, and probably speaks well of their public relations effort that such a crisis could be occurring in the health care system and the minister could be so little called into account by the public media of the Province. They've done a very good job of transferring the responsibility, or at least the appearance and the public relations value of the responsibility, to appointed health care boards.

Mr. Speaker, if you are going to down load and change the emphasis of the health care system into the community level and set up these boards, and have them take the flak, then I think the people should have a greater say in these boards, who gets on them and so on and so forth. One thing we did find in the committee meetings we had around and about was an increasing frustration with not elected politicians but appointed people making major decisions with regard to health care, and they really were not answerable to the general public in any real meaningful way.

If you are going to go all the way with democracy, as the Minister of Education and Training made such a fuss about there some time earlier in this afternoon's sitting, then it might be advisable to have a large part if not all of these health care board elected by the people. If the government is going to give these boards certain set-piece budgets, envelopes in which to operate, then in that way if the members of the boards are elected by the public the citizenry will have some say in the priorities on how their tax dollars are being spent.

Right now we have a system that is being cut to shreds in terms of money. A change of emphasis on paper but not in reality, waiting lists for every type of medical service you can possibly think of, and all we can see are looming cuts from the federal government and expectations of more of the same here in this Province.

It is about time that the Minister of Health and the government generally started taking responsibility for what is happening in the health care system in this Province, start answering to the people for what is happening, and quit hiding behind these appointed health care boards. If you want democracy at the local level then let the local people through elected health care boards have a real say in the priorities of the limited funding available from government. It isn't enough to say: We are going to change the emphasis from institutional to community care and then do nothing about it, except to set up a bureaucratic structure that doesn't have the financial resources to carry out that mandate.

That is all I will say on the issue for now. Suffice it to say that this is an important issue, one of the most important issues in the Province ongoing at the moment, and no doubt it will be an issue of some considerable discussion as this Assembly winds its way through this fall session. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. CAREEN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It is a pleasure today to get up to say a few words on this name change, on a bill, a name change. It is amazing what is going on in this Province today, and the thing we have to address here is not about jobs, not about out-migration, not about education, but a name change. A name change to reflect what?

MR. EFFORD: (Inaudible)!

MR. CAREEN: Listen, why don't you go out and see something about litter? Why don't you go out on the roads and check the litter? That is all you had to speak about the summer was the litter on the roads, not about the litter that is going to be there the winter when all those people are laid off.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. CAREEN: I will take my pills over the summer there, I say to the minister.

Mr. Speaker, I too was a part of that committee this summer that met with various people across this Province on the horror stories in health care. I remember the Premier today, our Premier, going around in 1989 sitting by bedsides of the sick and the elderly, and the crocodile tears, and what was going to be done with health care. We've seen what he has done with health care. We've seen what the present minister's predecessor did to health care. We can see that past minister passed on the same blunt knife and dull axe to the present Minister of Health.

This summer I witnessed an eighty-seven year old lady who was being yoyoed back and forth between Placentia hospital and her home and St. John's. I don't care where an eighty-seven year old lady lives in this Province, whether it is from Cape Chidley to Cape St. Mary's, or Cape Ray to Cape Spear, she deserves the respect that goes with that age, but, no, in the system she was falling through the cracks and it is not right for any elderly person in this Province in this day and age to be subject to that, to pain, torment, and worry.

Now, they are talking about changing the name of the bill. They should probably talk about changing the minister. Put a good Liberal in that position. There are one or two over there, or probably they could do what they did with the past Minister of Finance. He had more departments than Woolco. Probably they could do that to someone else, but not this yes man, this minister we have here now. The only time he says, no, is when the Premier says, no.

Last night I was coming in on the Trans-Canada and there was a lady who called in from Corner Brook, Western Memorial, about pillows. A person being admitted to a hospital, Western Memorial, was told they had to bring their own pillow. Now, this government in six years has closed down 700 beds so there should be at least 700 pillows, if not 1400 pillows if there are two to a bed. Where are they? Up to their cabins, I suppose. It is amazing. What have we come to? Another lady called in and said her husband had been admitted and they had to take a blanket and stuff it in a pillowcase, and he is up talking about changing the name of a board. They know the cost of everything and the value of nothing. That is what the Liberal administration of this Province knows, the value of nothing.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Be nice now. He will be singing in the choir again Sunday.

MR. CAREEN: No, he is not allowed in the choir. His words will go down with him. They will see to that.

Doctors, retaining doctors in this Province - the idea of the minister was from a television show called Northern Exposure.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible)

MR. CAREEN: Sorry, Mr. Speaker.

Someone watched a television series and seen an idea they did in this fictitional town and they thought they could adopt it to this Province. Well, there are real people here. There are real people in this Province. They are not fictitious. I do not know what is going on with the minister's imagination, but this is not a fictitious town in some TV serial. This is real life. Why do you not get out and talk to your people? Talk to the people of this Province.

I say to the Minister of Works, Service and Transportation that he heard an echo there three weeks ago in his district and it is going to be nothing like the echo he is going to hear in the next two years. The gospel singers have even deserted him. I can see that the next bill to be introduced by the Minister of Health will be to order people in this Province not to get sick or not to get old.

Well, probably that is what all this out-migration is about. If they listened to what Parzival Copes said in the early seventies, and Jay Parker, and this Michael Walker from Corner Brook, that Newfoundland can only sustain 250,000 people. Is that what our health care is going to be about, and the urbanization of us rural people? Is that what it is about? Someone is listening because that is what is going on in this Province. They are tearing at the whole fabric of the people of this Province with no respect at all of where you live.

Another incident is of a ninety-six year old woman in this Province who had broken her hip and was sent home from Western Memorial Hospital. She re-injured herself, was sent back to Western Memorial, and was sent home again without a proper bed - the family could not get a bed - and the son had to wedge chairs from around the kitchen table around his ninety-six year old mother's bed. Now I don't care about what your political stripes are here; that is not right.

I will say to the minister today, and this is not an ugly threat or a dirty promise, it would not be my ninety-six year old grandmother. And I will tell you what; if the minister's grandmother was in that kind of trouble, I would help that minister. I would help anybody here - ninety-six years old, and had to jam chairs around her bed to keep her from falling out on the floor again. Is that what we have become?

I know all the ministers are not... Do they know? Probably they know their own stories. Probably they deal with things on a day-to-day basis, but that is not the perception given out in this Province. Where is this vote for real change? What was the slogan in eighty-nine?

AN HON. MEMBER: Real change.

MR. CAREEN: Is this the change? No, it can't be. Not so many people could swallow that hook, line and sinker, could they? To change the name, and all this talk about what the minister is - a name change.

Mr. Speaker, we hear about the Janeway. We hear talk about the Grace and the Children's Rehab. There is no Plan B; there is no Plan C. They are not even talking about the alphabet at all. Cut, hack, slash, blunt knives, dull axes.

The waiting lists are way worse. Your health care changes in St. John's not only affect the people of St. John's; they affect the whole Province. I am glad the minister knows that. I see he was talking to one of his colleagues; they must have just told him.

MR. TOBIN: (Inaudible) the real minister.

MR. CAREEN: The real minister? There is only one minister over there.

They were talking about community care a few months ago, and how much money did they take out of there in this year's budget? They were talking about community care, home care. Well, that needs money if you are going to do it.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. CAREEN: He got that in a barrel from Boston.

The waiting lists, the doctors, the retaining of doctors... Doctors told me around those meetings that they even contribute to the cost of health care in this Province because they cannot get any satisfaction with specialists, and when they cannot get any satisfaction with specialists they have to tell their people: Hey, I will order an ambulance. The ambulance goes to emergency, and that drives up cost. Everything contributes to cost in this Province, and you are not attacking the right causes, Sir, you are not attacking the right causes.

AN HON. MEMBER: Did you hear what Efford said about you?

MR. CAREEN: Efford would like to say some stuff about me.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. CAREEN: Anyway, Mr. Speaker, this is the first day. I had a few words, but I will be back at the minister before this session is over.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Before I recognize the hon. Member for Burin - Placentia West, I would like to remind hon. members about our Standing Order 11. I know in the last session of the House, the spring session, and this session so far this afternoon, I would like to bring hon. members' attention to Standing Order 11.(c): "When a member is speaking, no member shall pass between him [or her] and the Chair, nor interrupt him [or her], except to raise a point of order." I noticed that the hon. Minister of Health was the one who did it earlier this afternoon but in the last spring session -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible)!

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

In the last session I knew it was happening quite frequently. I would ask hon. members that they would adhere to that Standing Order.

The hon. the Member for Burin - Placentia West.

MR. TOBIN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Let me first of all say, if I may - I may not be totally in order - but I want to first of all take this opportunity to congratulate the Member for Trinity - Bay de Verde on his election to the Speaker's Chair today. I for one have sat in this House now - I guess in terms of successive sitting in this House there are only a couple who would be ahead of me.

MR. ROBERTS: How many (inaudible)?

MR. TOBIN: No, fourth term, fourteenth year. You would have served term, but I'm talking about in terms of successive service in this House.

MR. ROBERTS: I had six successive as well as (inaudible).

MR. TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I want to say that the Speakers now are somewhat different from the Speakers when he was there because the Speaker at that time was usually the premier. But right now we've got a more impartial system in this House, and I want to say today that I'm one who is especially pleased that this House chose the Member for Trinity - Bay de Verde as the Speaker.

I want to as well congratulate the Deputy Speaker, yourself, the Member for Bellevue, who no doubt has a lot of experience in the Chair and will serve it well; and the Member for Lewisporte as well on his nomination.

MR. ROBERTS: (Inaudible).

MR. TOBIN: No I'm not, Mr. Speaker, but I want to say that I truly believe it. I will say as well that the former Speaker, the Member for Humber West, was one of the best Speakers that I served with in this House. One of the best.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: He will soon be hung.

MR. TOBIN: Yes, Mr. Speaker,I look forward to, as all other members do, the hanging of the Member for Humber West.

AN HON. MEMBER: You're so nice today, Glenn.

MR. TOBIN: What is that?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. TOBIN: Well, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology, Mr. Speaker, suggested that the Member for Humber West was a good member, a good minister, a good Speaker as well.

MR. FUREY: A fine upstanding member.

MR. TOBIN: That is right. One of these days he will be hung. I hope, Mr. Speaker, that when he is hung that it is hung where we can see it.

MR. ROBERTS: He is going to be hanged, not hung.

MR. TOBIN: What?

MR. ROBERTS: (Inaudible) hang (inaudible).

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Going to be hanged.

MR. TOBIN: Going to be hanged. So long as it is well....

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible)!

MR. TOBIN: I would think, Mr. Speaker, that he was a much (inaudible) -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. L. MATTHEWS: (Inaudible).

MR. TOBIN: By the time I sit down you will be hung, I tell the Minister of Health that. I never got into you yet.

Mr. Speaker, the Member for Humber West was a good Speaker, an excellent Speaker. I was proud to serve in this House with him, and I would suggest that he was much better as Speaker than he is going to be as the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board. He has big shoes to fill.

That is the other thing I wanted to say today. This House of Assembly, in my opinion, will not be the same with the absence of the former Member for Gander It was also a privilege to serve in this Legislature with the former Member for Gander, the former Minister of Finance and Treasury Board.

AN HON. MEMBER: Are you quitting?

MR. TOBIN: No, I'm not quitting. He was a good man, a good member, and I was proud to be associated with him. Because when the Premier of this Province and the Government House Leader went into tantrums, Mr. Speaker, had no respect for anyone or anything in this House, the former Member for Gander was always there to bring back some sensibility to the Legislature. I don't think that is going to be present this time, because most of the crowd over there are even more foolish than the Minister of Justice.

Now I want to have a few words to say about this health bill.

AN HON. MEMBER: It is about time (inaudible).

MR. TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, it is time Judy Billard, the lady up in Grand Bruit who was fighting day-in and day-out for the constituents, all she is doing is being insulted by the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation.

MR. MATTHEWS: He should go back to Halifax.

MR. TOBIN: Who should go back to Halifax? I am not from Halifax. Who are you talking about, should go back? Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation does what he does best, mumbles behind the microphone, `...someone should go back to Halifax.' Now who should go back to Halifax? Is it the people of Grand Bruit, Mr. Speaker? Is he talking about the people of Grand Bruit moving to Halifax, I would like to ask the minister? Again, he lacks the courage to stand up and say out loud what he hides behind the desk and says. The name change, Mr. Speaker -

MR. EFFORD: Put your hands in your pocket now (inaudible).

MR. TOBIN: They are in my pocket and not in someone else's like you spent your lifetime at.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. TOBIN: The name change here, Mr. Speaker, if that is the best that this minister can bring before the House then it is a sad reflection on the health care system because the health care in this Province is basically in chaos, it is in chaos. All the people he wants, Mr. Speaker, some of the paid people in this Province are involved in the health care to sing the glories of the health care system all he wants. The health care in this Province is in chaos and this government is totally responsible for the mess that the health care system finds itself in. This minister, Mr. Speaker, in my judgement, is not competent in the field of health care to deal with it. I say that, Mr. Speaker - and I believe to support what I am saying - the incompetence of this minister is clearly illustrated and demonstrated by the presence of two of his colleagues to my left and to my right.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. W. MATTHEWS: I tell you one thing, it will take more than them to restrain me if I get in the mood.

MR. L. MATTHEWS: I think they over-rated the IQ on that side.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Well, Mr. Speaker, I guess we were concerned about the level of IQ on this side too when Len Simms told you he did not want you to be a candidate for us.

MR. L. MATTHEWS: (Inaudible).

MR. W. MATTHEWS: I will say to the Minister of Health, that you will not, sir, last as long in this assembly as the former Member from Grand Falls lasted and not only that, you will not last as long in this assembly as I have lasted, I say to the Member for St. John's North because you have been elected for your last time. You've been elected for your last time -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. W. MATTHEWS: - and make no mistake about that because I spoke with people the other day who told me they supported you in the last election and will never mark an x for you again. I was told that the other day, yes, I was.

MR. L. MATTHEWS: I don't want to last as long as you, you're foolish.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Mr. Speaker, I wish he would, I say to the member because probably the problem with the health care system is that that minister takes himself too seriously. That minister takes himself to be the answer to the health care problems and what he says goes. He is the only one, in his judgement, that understands the health care system. He is the only one, in his judgement, that has the answer to the health care system and he is the only one in everybody else's judgement that is the problem with the health care system in this Province. That is the situation that exists.

You talk about people on the Burin Peninsula, the minister was down there, there was nothing wrong, nothing wrong when I was asking questions before closing the last Assembly. There were no problems with the health care as far as the minister was concerned but a few days later when he ventured to the Burin Peninsula and met with the doctors he realized then that there was a problem.

MR. L. MATTHEWS: (Inaudible) do your work eating donuts at Tim Horton's.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Mr. Speaker, I was not eating donuts in Tim Horton's, I was serving coffee with a donut in Tim Horton's.

Mr. Speaker, myself and the Minister of Health did some work down there that day and I was proud - I will say right now that I was grateful the Minister of Health came and showed his support for the cause that Tim Horton's was sponsoring. We worked together at that but I say that the minister fully understood the problems that the doctors brought to his attention that day. He fully understood it, Mr. Speaker, but he hasn't really done enough to solve the problems of the health care system in this Province. The health care system is in dire straits. Why does the Minister of Health want to be the person who would go down in history as closing the children's hospital in this Province? What satisfaction does the minister take in having the people of Newfoundland and Canada realize: I am the person who shut down the children's hospital in this Province? What satisfaction, Mr. Speaker, does the minister get from that? What satisfaction is the minister getting from closing not hospital beds -

I remember, Mr. Speaker, when we were in government, the Member for the Straits, the Minister of Education and the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation, CBC, their ally - their ally then, their ally now to some extent - had a big forum at the CBC building on health care, the shutting down of hospital beds. The CBC was concerned about the shutting down of hospital beds, the closing down of, not hospitals but hospital beds. And they put on this big forum, Mr. Speaker, and brought in the Minister of Health and they brought in, I believe it was the member from the Straits and the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation. And their biggest problem, Mr. Speaker, to ever hit the health care system, was the closing down of a few beds at the time.

Mr. Speaker, where are these two ministers now, who sit around the Cabinet table and shut the hospital doors in this Province - not hospital beds, and where is the CBC these days? Where has the CBC disappeared? Are they not concerned about the health care needs of the Province anymore?

Half of them should be put in the hospital, that's the problem. Say that `Glenn', say that, I said it.

MR. TOBIN: Pardon?

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Half of them should be put in the hospital.

MR. TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I am sure if the Member for Grand Bank wants to say anything, he will say it himself.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: No doubt about that.

MR. TOBIN: He has never been one, neither of us has been, from the Burin Peninsula, shy in expressing our beliefs about any issue but I would say, Mr. Speaker, loud and clear, that the CBC and the two ministers they had over there for that forum, were concerned about the shutting down of hospital beds and the attack that was issued that night upon the Minister of Health, if my memory serves me correctly, was almost unbelievable; he couldn't even get to speak. But there has been an absence, that void, Mr. Speaker, that great concern that Canada's National Corporation was so concerned about in this Province, has been absent for the last little while, and these ministers, Mr. Speaker, have done nothing.

I really don't know how the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation, the Minister of Education and the others at the time, I believe the Member for Bonavista North and others, were all concerned about closing down hospital beds, it was not allowed to happen, it should not happen. The government, Mr. Speaker, were negligent and careless and unconcerned about the health care system in this Province. Now, every single one of them, Mr. Speaker, can sit around the Cabinet table and cut beds, close beds, close hospitals, and they even went low enough to attack the sick children of this Province by closing down the Janeway Hospital.

Mr. Speaker, I have attended health care rallies by protesters in this Province, particularly in my own district, and the message was loud and clear, and while people were concerned about the cutbacks to the health care system on the Burin Peninsula, there was more concern expressed about closing down the Janeway Children's Hospital.

I had an opportunity this past summer to spend a fair bit of time at the Janeway Hospital, Mr. Speaker, and I saw first-hand over the weeks of my many visits, the dedication, the concern, the support and the family setting of these professional nurses and nursing assistants and other staff. I saw them at work. I witnessed them express their emotions; I saw them prepare and host a birthday party for a sick child; I saw them very disturbed and very concerned; I saw, Mr. Speaker, working here in St. John's, a group of nurses and nursing assistants and other professionals that any province should be proud to have operating and working in a children's hospital. They are trained, Mr. Speaker, as nurses, no doubt, but I firmly believe that you cannot take somebody from an old age home one day and put them in a children's hospital the next, or vice versa. I know they are dedicated, I know they are committed, I know they are compassionate, caring individuals. Why, Mr. Speaker, does this Minister of Health want to take that away from the children of this Province? Why does he want to deprive the sick children of this Province of their own hospital?

They can have them in other provinces. They can have them in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario, Manitoba, and B.C., Mr. Speaker. They can have them in every other Province.

MR. L. MATTHEWS: Have what?

MR. TOBIN: Children's hospitals, that you want to put the block to.

AN HON. MEMBER: There is no children's hospital in New Brunswick.

MR. TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, is that what the minister wants to justify? Is that why he doesn't want to provide a hospital here, because they don't have one in New Brunswick?

MR. L. MATTHEWS: We are not closing the hospital here.

MR. TOBIN: You are closing the hospital. You have announced you are closing the hospital.

MR. L. MATTHEWS: The building is not the hospital.

MR. TOBIN: No, you are going to put them up in the Health Sciences Complex, next to the Health Science. Mr. Speaker, this minister is closing the Janeway Children's Hospital and let there be no mistake about it. You will be remembered, Sir, as the person who deprived the children of this Province of their own institution, and don't ever forget that. And I don't know why you take any pride in it. I never knew you to be that type of an individual, I say to the member. For as long as I have known him, I have never known him to be a person who wanted to preside over a department that would close a children's hospital.

MR. L. MATTHEWS: You are factually incorrect.

MR. TOBIN: I am factually correct, I say to the member.

MR. L. MATTHEWS: Efficient under information (inaudible).

MR. TOBIN: You might get Sister Elizabeth Davis now to come on and say that what I am saying is not true, but that doesn't bother me either, I say to the Minister of Health.

MR. L. MATTHEWS: What are you saying about the good Sisters?

MR. TOBIN: I am not saying anything about the good Sisters, but I will challenge anyone, Mr. Speaker, whether they be a Sister, or a Brother, a clergy or a politician - if they are going to attack the sick children of this Province they are not going unscarred from me as long as I represent a constituency, I say to the minister.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. TOBIN: The people of this Province deserve a health care system, and no administrators, like Sister Elizabeth Davis and others, should be put in a financial strait-jacket where government refuses to provide them with the funding to operate hospitals and other boards. They said, here is the board, here is the money, but there is not half enough money to do the job and no one knows that better than the Minister of Health.

MR. L. MATTHEWS: I would take her advice any day over yours.

MR. TOBIN: I would say that when it comes to knowing the health care system, she knows it far better than I do and far better than you do, but give her the money to do the job. There is no sense in taking her advice unless you are prepared to give her, and the health care system, the tools to work with, because as long as you deprive them of that, we are going to be in big trouble.

Mr. Speaker, I know that my time has elapsed, but at the same time -

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MR. L. MATTHEWS: No leave.

MR. TOBIN: I wouldn't expect the Minister of Health to give me leave. I wouldn't expect him to give anyone leave when it comes to dealing with the mess that he has created for the health care of this Province. But I will say that legislation such as this is not the problem with the health care system in this Province.

Home care, Mr Speaker, is another topic I will touch on briefly. It was transferred from the Department of Social Services to the Department of Health. I ask the minister to tell me how much money was being spent in the budget of the Department of Social Services for home care and how much is being spent now by the Department of Health?

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Too much.

MR. TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I don't think it is too much, I say to the Minister of Health!

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) know about that.

MR. TOBIN: I do know. I know, Mr. Speaker, that day-in and day-out I receive telephone calls from people who are crying out for health care that this government is now refusing to give to them. For the minister to say it is too much is crazy. It shows the lack of compassion of this minister. It shows the lack of compassion and understanding for the sick that these people have.

I ask the Minister of Health, when he stands up, if he will tell us how much money is now being spent on home care. How can he justify refusing needy people? How can he justify refusing a person living in his own home who needs twenty-four-hour-a-day care and not providing it to him? absolutely none, not an hour. How can he justify that? The Minister of Health knows what is happening, and it is time that he did something to correct it.

Mr. Speaker, with these few comments I shall take my seat, as the Minister of Education and Training has indicated he wants to have a few words to say on this piece. The Minister of Education and Training has indicated he wants to speak. I don't know if he will or not. In the event that he does, I would like for him to tell us why he is now no longer concerned about the health care that he was so concerned about when he was in Opposition.

MR. SPEAKER: If the minister speaks now he closes the debate.

The hon. the Minister of Health.

MR. L. MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I move to close the debate on this amendment that is before the House. I won't take the time now to comment on all of the voluminous inaccuracies and pieces of misinformation that have been put forward in the debate from the other side of the House. Sufficient to say that what has flowed across the floor in terms of comment and information is... to call it mostly non-factual would be treating it with too much respect. There will be another time when I will address some of the points raised and some of the questions raised, but for now, I move that we close debate and I move second reading.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Hospital And Nursing Home Association Act," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House on tomorrow. (Bill No. 9)

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

MR. ROBERTS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Would you be good enough to call, please, Order No. 6, Bill No. 2, which stands in the name of my friend, the Minister of Social Services.

MR. SPEAKER: Was that Bill No. 6?

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, yes, Sir, I believe it is bill - no, it is Bill No. 2, Order No. 6, An Act To Amend The Social Workers Association Act.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Social Workers Association Act". (Bill No. 2)

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

MS. YOUNG: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Under the current Social Workers Act there is a provision for a grandfathering in social workers who have not met the required academic standards. Also, there is a provision in the act to allow that temporary government employees who practice social work but who do not possess a social work degree, be eligible to obtain temporary registration, renewable on an annual basis to a maximum of seven years. This provides an opportunity for these temporary workers to obtain the requirements to be members of the Social Workers Association. But these provisions do not allow for non-governmental employees in the Province, so the intent of this amendment to the act is to allow the non-governmental employees who are practising social work the same opportunities as those who are employed by the Government of the Province.

Mr. Speaker, this is a welcome piece of news, I am sure, for those social workers who have not obtained their social worker's degree, that they can now, under this current legislation, be permitted the same privileges as government social workers.

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

MR. MANNING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to stand and speak on Bill No. 2. It is my first bill to speak on as the new critic for the Department of Social Services, and I would just like to say that I look forward to the session of the House, and look forward to bringing the concerns of the people in our Province forward to this hon. House as they relate to the Department of Social Services, and indeed, the policies of the department, and the problems that many people face in our Province.

In relation to Bill No. 2, I am also pleased that the department has come forward and given the opportunity to non-governmental employees to partake in the social workers - in the past, as the minister has just stated, it has only been government employees who have had the opportunity to do so. I think it is a step forward, a step in the right direction, and I am sure it is very pleasing to the people who are involved in those activities around our Province.

I would also like to take the opportunity to say to the minister that over the past several weeks since I have been appointed critic for the department, I have received correspondence and telephone calls from all over the Province concerning many problems that people are facing, and many problems that, indeed, organizations and individuals are facing throughout our Province as they relate to her department. Over the next couple of weeks, I am sure we will bring forward those concerns, and I look forward to a positive response on some of those, and certainly some good debate over the next couple of months as it relates to the Department of Social Services. With that, I will sign off and say that I look forward to the Fall session with the minister.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to rise to address this bill because I think it is important. I should say I support it, but I support it with a certain reluctance because I know about the struggle that the social work profession has had in this Province to develop a standard of achievement of a Bachelor of Social Work as the professional degree that gives a right to an individual to call himself or herself a social worker. I welcome the social work registration, but I know the Member for Burin - Placentia West had it on his plate for some time and was interested in bringing it forward, but it did involve a lot of negotiations. Some would criticize the Member for Burin - Placentia West for not bringing it forward in his administration -

MR. TOBIN: I did all the leg work on it.

MR. HARRIS: I would have to give him credit for doing a lot of leg work, and it took a lot of leg work to get recognition of the social work profession as a profession, and the BSW as a professional designation. There were a lot of people within the bureaucracy who were not anxious to bring this forward and see it move along speedily, and I understand the problem that ministers may have with these kinds of issues.

The grandfathering clause of which the minister speaks was part of a product of that negotiations, in fact, and at the time that the legislation was brought in there was a concern that I felt, and spoke strongly about in committee and in this House, that even temporary workers who had been hired en masse at the time the government was being criticized by the Hughes Inquiry, and by witnesses to the Hughes Inquiry, for not having sufficient child protection workers, there were a number of people hired temporarily who did not have the professional designation, and there was a concern that these individuals would, as it were, jump the queue. People who were doing and undertaking Bachelor of Social Work programs at the time would not have been able to fill positions because there were no positions any more, and they had been filled by fifty or sixty people without BSWs.

MR. TOBIN: How many?

MR. HARRIS: The sixty that the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation had hired in response -

MR. TOBIN: Oh, yes, right on.

MR. HARRIS: - in response to the criticisms of the department for not adequately looking after the needs of clients. There was a concern that they would have jumped the queue and replaced graduating Bachelor of Social Work students who would not be able to get jobs, who would have to join others in the out-migration from this Province, to go to other provinces, after being trained by our university and being given Bachelor of Social Work degrees, to go out to Alberta and help the people out there, while people holding social work positions in this Province did not have the qualifications, because the minister hired them without the qualifications. But there was a decent solution worked out in that the grandfathering of temporary workers on the year-by-year basis provided that within seven years they got their Bachelor of Social Work degree.

MR. TOBIN: They had seven years to do it.

MR. HARRIS: They had seven years to do it; those are the temporary ones.

MR. TOBIN: Yes, they grandfathered all the permanent ones.

MR. HARRIS: All the permanents were grandfathered in without any requirement of upgrading. I had a big problem with that, because while they may be doing an adequate job in certain circumstances, they did not have professional training. They were not able to necessarily meet easily and readily the complexities of modern social work. They were the people, in many cases, who did not have adequate training to deal with the problems in child welfare institutions in this Province, in homes for special care in this Province, in foster homes in this Province, and as a result of which we have seen some of the great tragedies of child abuse that are still the subject of litigation, and I am referring to Mount Cashel; I am referring to foster children who have sued the government and the department. So I was concerned very much about that, but I was eventually persuaded that the compromise of bringing them into the Newfoundland Association of Social Workers, and the Registration Act, and giving the association the power, under the act, to set standards of practice, to discipline them if they have complaints and go astray, so now we have a situation where the protection of the public is addressed by the ability of the professional association to have a say over the standards of practice, over the behaviour of individuals about whom complaints may be made from time to time, and to establish and increase the standards of practice where necessary.

There is also a requirement for those who are grandfathered in to undergo forty hours per year of continuing education. That, I think, is very important because it requires registered social workers, in order to continue to have the designation, to undergo professional training on an ongoing basis. That too serves to increase the ability of practice and serves to further protect the public but it is a compromise. If it appears, Mr. Speaker, that that compromise is not working, that individuals who have been grandfathered in are overrepresented in discipline problems or standards problems then I think reconsideration should be given to them. I am looking forward to hearing the Member for Burin-Placentia West who is widely experienced in the social work field, having served in the department for a number of years and being minister as well, to hear what he has to say about that.

What is being done here is that the same grandfathering provisions that would allow someone who had worked for the Department of Social Services in a permanent social work position for at least two years will be grandfathered in. There were no permanent positions created or filled since 1986 so that meant that someone had to be working in a permanent position from 1986 on. So by the time this legislation was passed they had at least seven or eight years of experience and I did not have a real problem in grandfathering them in under those circumstances. Here, what has happened, is that the same grandfathering provision is being granted to those who are not working for the government, not an employee of the government of the Province of Newfoundland. This could cover hospital, social workers or those who work in nursing homes that are not directly government employees. They too are to be given the same grandfathering or grandmothering provisions, grandparenting provisions as those in government service and I think that that is appropriate. I have been advised by the Newfoundland-Labrador Association of Social Workers that there may be some 100 people in that category who are - they have applications on file from them awaiting this amendment in order to bring them into the umbrella of the Newfoundland-Labrador Association of Social Workers, a professional body with self-governing provisions that allows them to discipline their members and to withdraw the designation of social worker if it is deserved in particular circumstances.

So with those kinds of protections and as I say with some reluctance, as I outlined in my remarks, I would support the amendment to the legislation that would provide for grandfathering of permanent employees who had been employed as a social worker for at least two years immediately before the commencement to this act. I hope, Mr. Speaker, and it is a third reading issue really, I hope it does not mean two years prior to the passing of this particular amending act. I hope that the proper interpretation of that is immediately before the commencement of the main act, that is 1992, chapter 18.1. I hope that it means the commencement of that particular act, not this particular act here because I would want to ensure that the same treatment was being given to both social workers in government positions and non-government positions and not creating an extra category of people who may have been in permanent social work positions for the last two years but not for the previous period of time. So I will be seeking clarification on that interpretation from the table officers and hope that my initial reading is correct, that it will in fact not give a designation to someone who is permanently employed for only two years before now but rather two years before the passage of the original act.

With those remarks, Mr. Speaker, I would offer my support at second reading for Bill No. 2, "An Act To Amend The Social Workers Association Act."

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I just rise today to say a few quick words on Bill 2, a piece of legislation that was introduced in this House by the former Minister of Social Services quite some time ago. I have had several calls from my district wondering when it was going to come to the floor of the House because a couple of people were very interested in seeing it proclaimed into law.

I think it is a piece of legislation that will admit many other people, and some real fine people, into the Association, the Association that I understand my colleague for Burin - Placentia West was very instrumental in forming some time ago. He is very eager to get to his feet and to enlighten the House on all the wonderful things that he encountered while he was the minister and the many things that were accomplished during his reign as Minister of Social Services. We all wait, Mr. Speaker, to be enlightened and to hear those things.

I think the Minister of Social Services might have been better off had she taken a little time and brought back Bill No. 100 in its new form. The Minister of Social Services, the Minister of Fisheries, Food and Agriculture and the Minister of Health. I think what we've been hearing on the news media this last few weeks demonstrated where such a bill would have been very effective in dealing with some of the problems that have been brought forward.

This bill is no earth-shattering legislation, but I can guarantee you there are lots of earth-shattering problems out there today in the Department of Social Services. I remember going back to the former Minister of Social Services a year or so ago - I think it was in June month - when the Budget was just after coming down. I went back looking for funding. I might add that we did get the funding a couple of months after we went through the long, drawn out process of going to appeals and this sort of thing.

It is unbelievable how budgets can be brought back, brought down. Presumably the concerns are addressed, only to find within a couple of months that all the money that was allotted for certain things in that Budget disappeared. Disappeared within a couple of months. It makes us wonder how realistic budgets are. That was a situation where we had a young person in my district who was confined to the wheelchair. In order for his parents to get him from the house to the school they had to take him and the wheelchair and physically pick him up and carry him down over an embankment and put him in a car. The family had exhausted all their financial resources by going out and purchasing a bus that was equipped with a wheelchair lift, equipped with the proper doors. All they were looking for was some help to go build a ramp. Two months after the Budget was brought down all the funding for such an undertaking was exhausted.

It just goes to show how much thought is put into those programs and how much consideration is given. I think we have to address those needs much more carefully, and I call on the minister when she goes forward and takes part in preparing the budget that she will fight for that department and make sure that she gets ample funding in order to address the need that is out there.

We have to get away from the quick-fix solutions and try to deal with our problems out there today. We look at social workers and we have to question not only admitting them to some association, we have to look at the way we use social workers. We have to look at the things that they were trained for and if we are allowing them to take that experience and expertise and have it reflect on the problems that we have out there today. Many times social workers are burdened down with a caseload to such an extent that they don't have time to do the things that they are supposed to be doing. They don't have time to counsel. They don't have time to take people and go into family homes and try to prepare them and to solve their problems and to carry on and live in the world that we are experiencing today.

One prime example is a few months ago when I went into a Department of Social Services office. I won't say which one it was. I went in and I had a call. This particular individual was looking for some extra money in order to buy some clothing. The comment of the supervisor at the office was, we are not going to give him any more money because he does not know how to look after it. Mr. Speaker, he did not know how to budget his money so the thing that was done because they were so over-burdened and did not have the time, was to say: no, we are not going to give you the money. We are not going to even allow you to get what you are entitled to because you do not know how to handle it.

Mr. Speaker, this is a prime example of social workers being overburdened, overtaxed to the limit, so they cannot take the problem and deal with it. I call on the minister as well to show a little bit of compassion when she is dealing with passing on collections to the Department of Finance. I ask the Minister of Finance if he would heed this as well. Many times today we are getting bills going out and some of them were brought forward from twenty years ago, Mr. Speaker, brought forward from twenty years ago to people who are seniors.

One case I know of is where a person who is confined to a wheelchair, a paraplegic, where the heavy hand of the Department of Finance is coming on him now with direction from the Department of Social Services trying to collect money, money that those people were entitled to, money that was put forward to attend to a need some twenty years ago. Now, all of a sudden they see that this group of people are receiving meagre resources by getting an old age pension, old age assistance, or in some cases Workers' Compensation disability, so they now see fit to go out and try to take back this merger sum of money, this pittance of money that they have to keep body and soul together.

I ask the minister to try and show a little bit of compassion. I say to the Minister of Finance that when those applications that show the income and the receipts of disbursements to the family, I ask if he would look on them with a little bit of compassion and not go and say that the money will be taken from their old age pension, or yes, you must pay it. Stop harassing those people to try and collect this money that was paid out years and years ago. Some of it, Mr. Speaker, was for payment of light bills and others for payment through the Department of Social Services, money they were entitled to at the time and it was never given any thought to having to pay it back once they did go back to work or once did receive another source of funding.

Mr. Speaker, as we cut back on all our social programs today, and as we see the money from Ottawa drying up, and see the cutbacks coming in our social programs, it makes you wonder where this money is going to come from in order to make the old system exist as we know it today. I do not know of any other province where the only form of taxation comes from the people, or comes from cutting away social programs because all of our efforts seem to be geared towards big business, geared towards new people coming in and giving them all kinds of tax breaks so as they will not have to pay and they will not have to contribute to the coffers of the federal government, and it just falls right back to the ordinary people who are out there today and have to pay taxes.

Mr. Speaker, I call on the minister to bring forward some progressive legislation, to bring forward some legislation that deals with problems out there today. Not only bring forward a piece of legislation that was brought forward by another member and somehow or for some reason got mislaid in the push of paper dealing with the problems and dealing with the procedures here in this House.

Now, having said that, Mr. Speaker, I will sit down.

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

MR. TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, like my colleague for Bonavista South I would like to make a few comments relative to the bill.

The Member for St. John's East, and I were both members, or sat in on the committee meeting, when this act was put in place. I remember back when we started this in the first instance, back when I was Minister of Social Services, when we tried to put in place a registration of social workers. There was a lot of resistance by some, supported by others, but to try to put that together at the time was not very easy. There were those who wanted the zero tolerance for those people who didn't have BSWs. There were other people who didn't want anyone except BSWs to have it, and there were those people who worked for the department for a number of years who didn't have BSWs, Mr. Speaker, thought that they should be grandfathered in, so I guess to work that out, Mr. Speaker, at the time - at the time, I say to the Member for St. John's East, there was no such thing as a BSW Program in Newfoundland back in the 70s. (inaudible) university, Mr. Speaker, was a B.A. with a major in Social Work and these people felt that they should be grandfathered in for a lot of reasons.

They had their B.A. with a major in social work, there were other people with other degrees but at the end of the day, there was no BSW Program available for many of the employees in the department and so throughout negotiations there was a compromise that was accepted but it wasn't easy I say to the members. It wasn't easy. There was a certain sector of the social work establishment in this Province who felt that only BSWs should be brought in, there should be no grandfathering whatsoever, they should not be grandfathered in. So I think the department that today was put in place to assist them where they grandfathered in all of the people who had worked with the department, and those who were temporary employees were given the opportunity to become Members of the Social Work Association, provided that they had their degrees within seven years.

Mr. Speaker, what this bill is going to do today is extend it to people who are not necessarily employees of the Department of Social Services but who work for other institutions such as hospitals, school boards, I don't know if they have any, I know some places there are, Mr. Speaker.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. TOBIN: What's that?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. TOBIN: Yes, Mr. Speaker. I don't have any quarrel with that, personally. I don't have any quarrel with it at all and I think that if we are going to bring it in for one group of social workers, then we should apply it to all and make them all even, because once they become registered social workers or RSWs behind their names, then, Mr. Speaker, I think it gives them the opportunity to compete equally and fairly in all jobs that are advertised for social work positions. So, Mr. Speaker, I don't want to delay the passage of this piece of legislation or to speak on it too long, except that I encourage the minister to spread his wings and deal with some of the real issues in this Province as they relate to the Department of Social Services.

MR. SPEAKER: If the minister speaks now, she will close the debate.

The hon. the Minister of Social Services.

MS YOUNG: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I want to thank the Member for St. Mary's - The Capes, he certainly will be putting forward I am sure some interesting questions regarding social service and I welcome answering his questions to the best of my ability. As well, I want to say that it was interesting hearing from the Member for St. John's East and the Member for Burin - Placentia West talking about the history of the Bachelor of Social Workers, how it evolved and so forth and so on.

At this point, Mr. Speaker, I move to close the amendment to the Social Workers Act and I hereby move second reading.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS YOUNG: Oh, I am sorry, the Member for Bonavista South, I guess probably it was so insignificant, I forgot about it but no, I am sorry.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Social Workers Association Act", read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House on tomorrow.

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

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, it is about 4:40 p.m., and as I mentioned earlier, we don't propose to ask the House to sit beyond normal hours, but I wonder if first of all we might have leave to revert to Notices of Motion so that my friend from Mount Scio - Bell Island, who is listening to every word I have been saying, with intent of leave, can give notice of the motion which we will be asking the House to debate on Wednesday, on Private Members' Day. If that were agreed, then perhaps we could at least begin debate on a fairly slight amendment to the Evidence Act. If members want, we can deal with that today. If not, I would open debate and we will deal with it on another day, but we are moving into the educational resolution tomorrow. First, Your Honour, I wonder if we could have leave to revert.

MR. SPEAKER: Does the House have leave to revert to Notices of Motion?



The hon. the Member for Mount Scio - Bell Island.

MR. WALSH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to give notice that I will, on tomorrow, ask the House, during the Private Members' session, to debate the following motion:

WHEREAS the Port aux Basques/North Sydney crossing is an essential economic and social link between Newfoundland and the Mainland of Canada; and

WHEREAS the Port aux Basques/North Sydney crossing is the main service offered by Marine Atlantic in Atlantic Canada and will, within a year, be the only essential service offered by Marine Atlantic; and

WHEREAS the Port aux Basques/North Sydney crossing is vital to the economic development of our Province; and

WHEREAS the Province will be the only Province without a fixed link to the rest of Canada;

BE IT RESOLVED that this House of Assembly call upon the federal government to:

1) designate the Port aux Basques/North Sydney crossing as an extension of the Trans-Canada Highway; and

2) to declare Marine Atlantic employees as essential, and put in place a dispute resolution procedure which would prevent strikes.

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

MR. ROBERTS: Your Honour, I wonder if we could call Order 11, which is an amendment to the Evidence Act, Sir; it is Bill No. 16.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Evidence Act". (Bill No. 16).

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

MR. ROBERTS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I shall be very brief, and if we can finish debate on this today... If not, there will be another time.

Mr. Speaker, this bill seeks to replace one section of the Evidence Act by repealing and substituting for it two new sections that carry into effect a very important reform which I hope will win the support of members on all sides of the House.

Mr. Speaker, the amendments address the role of children in the portion of the justice system that attends to the giving of evidence. Children appear before courts in a number of roles. They can be witnesses, of course, in matters. They far too often appear as victims of abuse or neglect; and, of course, unfortunately children from time to time, again too often, become the subject of disputes over custody or access.

The rules of evidence with respect to the taking of children's evidence need revision in the judgement of, I think it is fair to say, everybody who has addressed it. There have been challenges made to the ability of a child to take an oath, and it must be said that on occasion the evidence of children is sometimes afforded by the finders of fact less credibility than that of adults.

A number of jurisdictions and bodies have taken this matter in hand and produced reports, and my understanding is that the conclusion of these various studies and investigations is that as a class, taken as a whole, children do not have any poorer memories than adults. We all have memory deficiencies and defects, but children are no different than the rest of us. There is nothing magical about being of a certain age that one's memory is suddenly good or, for that matter, suddenly bad, and children have no greater difficulty than do adults in distinguishing fact from fantasy in the context of witnessing events.

Your Honour, the Parliament of Canada first addressed this matter, and if members are a little concerned that this amendment may perhaps go into a new area of law, let me point out that in 1988, by means of Bill C-15, and in 1993 by means of Bill C-126, there were amendments made by the Parliament of Canada to the Criminal Code of Canada, under Canada Evidence Act, which were aimed at removing impediments to the taking of children's evidence and the improvement of the in court experience of the child, when a child appeared as a victim or as a witness. The experience of that new legislation has been positive. Now, Mr. Speaker, the act we are amending here does not apply to criminal proceedings of course nor does it apply to the matters dealt with by the Canada Evidence Act but it does apply to civil proceedings before our courts.

MR. TOBIN: You are rather boring.

MR. ROBERTS: My hon. friend may think it is boring but I would say it is important. The difference between him and me is he is both boring and unimportant. Now the matter is of some significance and if he does not want to take part in the debate he could perhaps improve the quality of the Opposition common room and the House alike by leaving here and going to there.

Now, Mr. Speaker, the amendment before the House now is a uniform act prepared by the uniform law conference commissioners and I am told similar amendments have become law in Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario and Saskatchewan. So we are not inventing anything new here. We are doing what has been done in Ottawa, we are doing what has been done in at least four other provinces. Although the amendment is small, Mr. Speaker, in itself, it does have a very great significance and I would not want members to be misled by the paucity of words, it is an important principle.

Mr. Speaker, let me very briefly go through the proposed amendments; 18(1) of the amendment, the new act, will allow evidence of a child to be admitted if the child promises to tell the truth and if the judge - whether it be a Supreme Court judge or a judge sitting in a family court or a provincial court judge - if the judge is of the opinion that the child understands what it means to promise to tell the truth and can indeed communicate the evidence.

18(2) is another word for judge in this context - gives the court the power to conduct an inquiry to determine if the child understands what it means to tell the truth and to determine whether the child in fact, can communicate the evidence.

Now 18(3) gives the court the power to receive evidence even if the judge is of the view that the child does not understand what it tells the truth, if the court is of the opinion that it is sufficiently reliable. So that power rests with the judge and the judge could bring it in - and if it were a jury matter the jury would be instructed. They will make the findings in fact, they will make the determination of credibility but the evidence comes in and is assessed and dealt with.

18.1, which would be a new section added, removes the requirement for corroboration. Members will understand the reason that's there, there are many situations where there are only two people involved in a given incident, one being a child, the other being an adult. If one needs corroboration then the evidence can now - the child can never be taken into account and whatever went on can never be brought before a court for a finding but I stress - and this is mentioned specifically in 18.2 and 18.3 - that the judge still has powers and 18.3 in particular gives the judge or preserves the judges right to make comment on the evidence. The jury would make the finding a fact but a judge has the right at law to say: In my judgement, in my opinion, here is what I think of this. You may make the finding. Ignore what I say if you wish but here you are, here is what I have to say and here is why.

Mr. Speaker, those are the amendments. I believe they are a step forward. I commend them to the House. They are important in themselves and they will help us to deal with a problem. It does come up in the courts from time to time. They are not a new principle in the law of Canada, they are a new principle in the law of this Province but one which I believe we should accept and accordingly I commend the bill to the House and move that it be read a second time.

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

MR. WOODFORD: Mr. Speaker, just a few comments on this particular bill. I would like to ask the minister, when he gets up to close the debate: what constitutes a child in this case? Is it under nineteen or is it under fourteen because under the Canada Evidence Act there are some references made to the age of fourteen and under the provincial standards I think, if I am not mistaken, it still refers to the age of -

AN HON. MEMBER: It is not there.

MR. WOODFORD: No, it is not there. I don't think it refers to any age. There is no definition in the provincial statutes, it might mean nineteen but I know under the Canada Evidence Act, I think there is reference made to age fourteen.

In fact, under 16 (1) of the Canada Evidence Act, where a proposed witness is a person under fourteen years of age, or a person whose mental capacity is challenged, the court shall, before permitting that person to give evidence, conduct an inquiry to determine, one, whether the person understands the nature of an oath or a solemn affirmation and secondly, whether the person is able to communicate the evidence. That is a very important question, as far as I am concerned, Mr. Speaker, and it has to do with all sections, really, but 18 (1) said it would allow the evidence of a child and I would like the minister to - because a child, in most cases when we talk about children, we talk about someone under the age of nineteen or someone who is under the care or still within eighteen, within the care of parents, but in this case, I don't think it is mentioned in the provincial statutes and it is certainly not mentioned in this particular amendment to the Evidence Act.

Now, as I said to the minister, he knows a lot more about it than I do with regard to the terminology and what is used with regard to the Canada Evidence Act, and there is some reference to the age of fourteen. The other question to the minister would be: Under proposed subsection 18 (2) it says: it would allow the court to conduct an inquiry.

AN HON. MEMBER: What kind of an inquiry? (Inaudible).

MR. WOODFORD: Well, I can understand the inquiry, because of, you know, the check, as he mentioned in his opening statement about finding out whether the witness is able to communicate verbally or otherwise and so on, and to see whether the jury would accept the evidence of the child depending on the circumstances, but is that mandatory, I ask the minister? Would that allow - in other words, would this have to be mandatory? Because, under the Canada Evidence Act, I think this is mandatory, if I am not mistaken. So, if that's the case between - and I noticed that in some of the similarities between the amendments made here, and the minister has stated earlier that the other provinces have done it, is to bring it in line, and he can correct me if I am wrong, with some of the amendments that have been made since 1988 to the Canada Evidence Act. Because a lot of this now, is in sync with the amendments made to the Canada Evidence Act in two or three of the cases, the amendments made by the minister in this particular section, Bill 16.

Those are two of the questions I had, Mr. Speaker. The minister mentioned about children being witnesses and stuff like that, and I think it is very important. If a child can give evidence in a criminal case and an individual can be charged and probably convicted on a child's evidence, then I think the same should be afforded in a civil case. If it is good in one it should be good in the other. It could put someone in jail for twenty, thirty, or fifty years but when it comes to civil law, a civil case, then probably the evidence is just chucked out.

That is about all. We have lawyers in the House who can comment on this particular act a lot better than I can, but just looking through it, those are some of the concerns, as a lay person, that I have with it, so the minister, when he rises, can address those concerns.

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

MR. HARRIS: Mr. Speaker, I am going to speak only for a few minutes. I don't know if any other people plan to speak, aside from the minister.

MR. ROBERTS: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: And then we are back at seven.

MR. ROBERTS: (Inaudible).

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to speak just for a few minutes on this particular section, or amendment to the Evidence Act. I had discussions with the Member for Humber Valley prior to the debate this afternoon and I must say, I have to commend him for his thoroughness in bringing to the attention of the House, the lack of a definition, within the act itself, of what a child is, and unless the Minister of Justice can enlighten us further, there is no definition of a child in the Evidence Act generally, unless there is something in the Interpretation Act, which I am sure he has since looked up.

A child, generally speaking, means a person under the age of maturity, which in this Province is nineteen. Ordinarily, the rules with respect to evidence deal with a child of tender years, or a person who is not necessarily capable of understanding what an oath is, it may be a child of three or four, or five, who does not know what an oath is because he does not understand what it means, but nevertheless can understand the difference between, as the minister said, fact and fantasy, what is true and what is make-believe, something that the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation has difficulty with from time to time.

MR. EFFORD: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: Well, I don't want to share the hon. minister's fantasies with the House. I am sure he should keep them in the privacy of his own mind.

This is a serious issue because trials, in this case, civil matters under the Canada Evidence Act, but perhaps also other matters that are not civil, strictly speaking, but may have to do with matters of child custody under the Children's Law Act, matters the provincial court judges deal with in dealing with decisions being made about what should happen to children on an interim basis or on a long-term basis, the evidence of children may be required in order to properly determine an issue. The current act requires corroboration and, as the minister said, there may be circumstances where there is no corroboration and the evidence of the child must need to be the determining factor if justice is to be served. It is very important for the protection of children in certain circumstances, for example, under the Children's Law Act, but also in terms of civil actions to which a child may be the only witness, and it need not be a case of child abuse, but that is a common case. It may be that a child is the only person who is able to identify who the driver of a car was in a particular circumstance. That is something that may be a crucial factor in determining whether or not a legal case can be properly brought.

I recognize that this is not particularly novel legislation. It is done in other provinces, and the Parliament of Canada has seen fit, under the Canada Evidence Act, even in relation to criminal matters, to be prepared to base a conviction which involves the loss, or potentially the loss, of the liberty of the subject through the requirement of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. In a criminal matter, the Parliament of Canada has seen fit to amend its act to provide that the evidence of a child alone should be sufficient if believed, and under sufficient protection for the truth of what the individual is saying.

I see, Mr. Speaker, that the time is drawing near. I would adjourn debate until tomorrow.

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

MR. ROBERTS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. We will call the debate again. It may be some time, depending on the education thing.

Mr. Speaker, the House might be interested in knowing the sitting hours that we are going to suggest the House adopt to deal with the next few days. We shall tomorrow call the education resolution. The Premier will speak and somebody on the other side will respond, and then we will go on from there.

We are going to suggest, in the desire to ensure that every member who wishes to speak in this debate have the opportunity to do so at full length and without any stress or hurry - and yet at the same time cognizant of the fact that we don't want to be here till Orangeman's Day next summer debating this resolution. There is a need to move it on because it is only stage one of the legislative process with respect to implementing the educational reforms that require the attention of the House. We are going to suggest that the House sit until 7:00 tomorrow night. Wednesday we will adjourn at 5:00 p.m. It is a private member's day. Thursday we shall adjourn at 5:00 p.m. The House will not meet on Friday because a number of us are engaged in a democratic consultation elsewhere.

MR. HEWLETT: (Inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: Well, if it is democratic it should be. My friend for Green Bay shouldn't confuse himself even further than he is confused. Not only that, he shouldn't establish his confusion by interrupting. But the House will not meet Friday, and this is the common practice. We accommodate the Progressive Conservative Party, and rightly so, and if the NDP ever had enough to have a convention we would accommodate them too.

Your Honour, next week we shall ask the House to sit on till 7:00 p.m. on the Monday and the Tuesday and the Thursday, in each case to allow members the opportunity to speak. We will maintain that schedule until the resolution has been dealt with by the House.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: Oh, I assumed the clock had stopped. We don't want to be back here at 7:00 tonight. In any event, that is the point.

Finally let me note that we dealt with the private member's motion for Wednesday. We shall in fact call the one of which notice was given by my friend for Mount Scio - Bell Island.

With that said Your Honour, I move the House adjourn until tomorrow, Tuesday, at 2:00 p.m.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Okay. The clock is stopped.

The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Thank you. I just want to make a few comments, Mr. Speaker. We usually don't have any problem with a request from the government side to adjourn for Friday for their annual convention any more than they have problems when we make a request. But usually the Government House Leader would talk about it before he gets up and makes the announcement, I say.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Yes. The other thing is, I just don't know why the Government House Leader would want us to be sitting here until 7:00 p.m. with the education debate. I mean, under the rules of the House we are all entitled to thirty minutes each, those of us who want to speak. The Premier and the Leader of the Opposition are entitled to an hour. We know if we all speak how much time that is going to take. So I don't know why in the first day the Government House Leader would want to....

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Yes, to try and get the thing off the rails before we really get started again, Mr. Speaker, by getting on with that. Because there is no need of that. We know how long, if we calculate it out if we all speak, how long it is going to take us. Why we would want to be here from 2:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., I really find it hard to understand and I wanted to go on the record.

AN HON. MEMBER: We haven't even got the bill yet. We haven't even got a copy of the bill (inaudible).

MR. W. MATTHEWS: No, we don't have a copy of it. The Premier read it into -

MR. ROBERTS: We are debating a resolution, not a bill.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Yes, it is a resolution, yes. We really understand that. What I'm saying is, what is the rush? It isn't going to get through the parliament of Canada before the calendar year for sure, I say to the minister. So I just wanted to go on the record as saying that.

MR. TOBIN: (Inaudible)!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, I'm not going to engage in a debate (inaudible) but let me just explain, in case my hon. friend's mathematics, which are usually very good.... It is normally 3:00 p.m. in the day before we get to government Orders of the Day. It normally takes an hour. That is fine. If one takes a half an hour per speech, and 3:00 p.m. till 7:00 p.m. is four hours, that is eight members to speak. There are fifty-two, or there will be fifty-two members shortly. There are fifty-one at present. It isn't unreasonable to anticipate one or more amendments may wish to be brought forward. There is no trouble to find an amendment that is in order to the resolution, and that will be brought forward.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: We could easily be two or - my hon. friend says: Not from us. If in fact he will give me that warranty I will be happy to deal with that. I use the word "warranty," and he will want to speak to his lawyer friends to see what that means.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: Your Honour, what I would say is we want to give -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).


SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: Got no warranty. I hear the hon. gentleman has renewed the warranty in a different context. What I would say, Mr. Speaker, is we want to give every member the chance to be heard, and we think it is not unreasonable to ask this House to sit until 7:00 p.m., and then we will go on and take our evening meal and go on from there. The burden is no heavier on members on this side than on members on the other side. That is what we shall ask the House to do, Sir.

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