October 17, 1995             HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS           Vol. XLII  No. 37

The House met at 2:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (L.Snow): Order, please!

Oral Questions

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

MS VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I have questions for the Premier.

Yesterday I reminded people of how the Premier came to power on a promise of stemming the tide of out-migration, of bringing home every mother's son. Today I remind people that his other major campaign promise that persuaded people to elect him was to keep hospital beds open as long as the demand exists, and to provide adequate staff. How, then, does the Premier explain his government's actions in downgrading hospitals, closing beds, and reducing front line patient care staff? How does the Premier square his definite campaign promise with his government's decision to close the Children's Rehab Centre this Fall, and to close the Grace Hospital and the Janeway Children's Hospital in two years time?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker, if anybody took a fair and rational and objective assessment of the medical circumstances in this Province they would find that right at this moment, as a result of this government spending more money, in fact, on hospitals, and better managing hospitals, we have the lowest overall waiting list of any province in the country. That is the result. Those are not my opinions; that is the objective result of the assessment.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WELLS: How can the Leader of the Opposition even put forward such an unfounded question?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MS VERGE: Mr. Speaker, thank you.

I ask the Premier: How can he explain to the people needing heart surgery why they have to wait for months on end? How can he explain to people who need acute hospital beds why they have to be lined up in emergency departments in makeshift quarters for one and two days at a time?

Mr. Speaker, I have more questions on the government's reckless, irresponsible approach to health care on their default of the Premier's campaign promises. I will put the question to either the Premier or the Minister of Health.

The decisions to close the Children's Rehab Centre, the Janeway and the Grace, were made by the Premier and his government and I would like to ask one of them to tell us: where will the programs and services now provided by those three facilities, the Children's Rehab Centre, the Janeway and the Grace be moved; will they be loaded on to the Health Sciences Centre and St. Clare's, as has been indicated publicly? What is the estimated capital cost, the cost of renovations, enlargements and extensions, to replace the three buildings the government is closing? Is it more or less than the $309 million government officials projected two years ago?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker, the whole issue ought to be put in proper context. The Janeway isn't being closed. The Janeway will continue to exist; the Janeway Children's Health Centre will continue to exist and continue to provide the services.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WELLS: It will be at a different address; it will be better accommodation, it will be better able to provide the services. It is very simple. Mr. Speaker, the assessment of the objective experts who have looked at this have made it very clear to government. They have made an overwhelming case to government and we have accepted their recommendations that in the interest of health care in this Province, this is the way to go.

Now, I don't have the details and I doubt if the Minister of Health does in the actual figures as to what the precise capital cost would be and what the savings, but as I remember the presentation to the government, it was very clear that not only was it in the best interest of health care in this Province, it was overwhelmingly in the best interest of the taxpayers of the Province.

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

MS VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I ask the Premier, will he show us, table in this House, the studies that prove closing the Janeway, relocating the Janeway will be in the best interest of children, their families and the taxpayers of the Province?

Where will we be able to find the Janeway in 1998, what will be the new address, and how much will it cost in terms of construction, renovations, alterations and extensions to fit up the Janeway at this new address? Is the current, capital-cost estimate of the St. John's hospital consolidation more or less than the $309 million government officials projected two years ago?

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

MR. L. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The hon. member either does not hear well or does not listen well. We have repeatedly indicated that the new address of the Janeway will be adjacent to the Health Sciences Complex on Prince Philip Drive. That will be the new address of the Janeway, that will be where the new facilities will be located and that is where we will provide a better continuum of care for children in paediatric services in this Province.

As to the question of tabling studies, the hon. member probably would know better than me, that this whole discussion commenced back in 1985-86 when at that time she was member, I believe, of the government of that day. The whole concept of reorganizing health care in St. John's has proceeded and has been announced generally along the lines that these studies recommended consistently from the time that the contemplation was started to reorganize health care in the city. So if she cannot find them in her files, we will find them for her and table them in the House.

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

MS VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, a supplementary to the Minister of Health.

Will the Minister of Health show us the current cost estimates of constructing the new Janeway facilities at the Health Sciences Centre? Will the minister indicate whether his current estimates of the capital cost of the hospital site consolidation, as it is euphemistically called, in St. John's is more or less than the $309 million public works officials projected two years ago?

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

MR. L. MATTHEWS: Mr. Speaker, the estimates to which she refers grew out of work done by individual hospital boards that existed at that time, there were six or seven in the city. It became very clear to government that before we could proceed with a rationalization of services in the city, we would have to consolidate all of the facilities under one administration. That has been done and the indication that I have been given is that the capital construction will not cost anywhere near the $300 million that she alludes to. What I can tell her though, is that by virtue of experience in other jurisdictions, what happens is that about 30-35 per cent of the budget of facilities that are taken out of service is usually what is saved. If we apply that to the Janeway, Rehab and the Grace Hospital, they have a total budget between them of about $90 million. So we could reasonably expect to achieve savings of about $30-$35 million. Government has indicated that we would be prepared to look at putting that toward amortization of capital that would be needed to make the appropriate moves happen. We believe that we can amortize it over a period of ten years or less and still achieve savings; and on top of that, forgetting the savings, provide a better health care for the people of the Province and the people of the area.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Supplementary to the Minister of Health. The Minister of Health just indicated that the current capital cost estimate of the consolidation of hospitals in St. John's is less than the $309 million projected a couple of years ago. What is the current cost estimate?

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

MR. L. MATTHEWS: Mr. Speaker, when the reorganization of health care in the city was announced on June 29 it was also announced at that time by myself and Sister Elizabeth Davis that during the ensuing six months we would engage in a number of activities, first of which will be a consultative process amongst the people who work within the facilities, a consultative process at the community level, and in other jurisdictions where it is appropriate, to discuss and explore fully what people's expectations are in terms of reorganization.

That process has begun. We indicated at that time that by the end of 1995, this year, we would probably be in a position to bring forward a plan that would encompass and envisage the capital buildings, the capital construction that is needed, and also to lay against that some sort of a budget. We will keep that schedule. We will maintain that commitment, and by the end of this year we hope to be in a position to lay out more clearly and more definitively the full scope and extent of the plans to reorganize the system in the city.

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

MS VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. This is shocking. This Liberal government is making major hospital decisions first and exploring later.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS VERGE: This Liberal government is making life-and-death hospital decisions first and planning later. I ask the Premier, will you fire your Minister of Health for reckless and irresponsible handling of vital health care and hospital issues affecting patients throughout the whole Province?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: I will report to the people of the Province and let the people decide whether it is the Minister of Health or the Leader of the Opposition that ought to be fired.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WELLS: Here is what I will tell -


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

PREMIER WELLS: Here is what I will tell -


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

PREMIER WELLS: Here is what I will tell them, Mr. Speaker.


PREMIER WELLS: You know the Opposition are being exposed for what they are when they start to shout. I will quote, Mr. Speaker, the Fraser Forum which just completed in 1995 a full assessment of the waiting lists throughout Canada. Here is what they say.

MR. TOBIN: (inaudible) Newfoundland.

PREMIER WELLS: The only area where Newfoundland has a waiting list of any significance is in plastic surgery. The weighted medians depicted in Chart 1 suggests that Saskatchewan and Newfoundland have the shortest waits in the country for appointments with specialists, while New Brunswick has the longest. Our study shows an overall increase in the waiting times for all provinces except Alberta, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland. Newfoundland shows the greatest improvement in waiting while the median wait in Nova Scotia increased by 26 per cent, and that of PEI increased by 21 per cent. Mr. Speaker, we have been showing consistent improvement to the point we are the best in the country. Now, I will leave it to the people of this Province to decide whether it is the Minister of Health or the Leader of the Opposition who ought to be fired.

MR. TOBIN: He would not have been the Minister of Health if Gerald Smith had to say, yes. If Gerald Smith had to have been for sale he would have been the minister.

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

MS VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Question to the Premier: After the Premier just listened to an admission by his Minister of Health that there is no plan for replacing the Janeway and the Grace, and that is why the minister cannot give us a capital cost estimate, will the Premier put an immediate halt on the government decision to close those provincial institutions in two years time?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: No, Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Health and the St. John's Hospital Board have everything under control and I have complete confidence in both.

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

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Premier as well. Today we are beginning debate on government's amendment to Term 17 of the Constitution of Canada, pertaining to educational reform for the Province. The standard practice in amending constitutions is that there would be a bilateral drafting of a proposed amendment to the constitution. I want to ask the Premier: Has the federal government indeed been involved in the actual drafting and wording of the amendment that we will start debate on here today?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Federal government in the sense of federal officials. I discussed, before the referendum took place, what we were doing with the Prime Minister and so on, and I advised him of the results afterward, and that has been the only direct interaction between the political provincial government and federal government.

I do know that officials in the Department of Justice have consulted extensively with officials in the federal Department of Justice, with a view to making sure that the precise wording of the proposed resolution would be acceptable in legal terms. Whether it is acceptable in political terms will be for the political side to decide, but at the very least the prudent course to follow was to have officials co-ordinate, and we did, and it was as a result of that co-ordination that a couple of the minor wording changes that you see are being proposed.

I can think of one, for example, where we had proposed in the provision that the churches collectively would have the right to elect two-thirds of the school board members. They suggested that it should be changed to read: Would have the right to elect - instead of collectively - in total, because collectively could have other connotations; that kind of thing to make things more accurate, and there were one or two other minor things.

MR. ROBERTS: (Inaudible).

PREMIER WELLS: Yes, those kinds of changes; no change in principle, but this was discussed with the officials.

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

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

I would like to ask the Premier: When did the federal officials become involved in consultation on the actual wording? Was it after the referendum vote was taken, or was it before? And does the Premier have any concern at all that - because indeed in this amendment we will see the taking away of minority rights - that there will be pressure come from all areas of this country, from groups that hold minority rights on the Federal Parliament, and that indeed we may see an amendment by the Parliament of Canada, and we may have this amended amendment back here in this House of Assembly to be dealt with at a later date?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: The first question was as to the timing when the consultation with the federal officials started. It was after the referendum, after it had been drafted and approved generally in the Province, so there was no change of principle involved. It was only details, legalese if you would.

The second question was: Am I concerned that because it involves the taking away of minority rights, we would see the amendment back here?

First, the assumption is incorrect. It doesn't involve a taking away of minority rights at all. It treats -

AN HON. MEMBER: That is your interpretation, not ours.

PREMIER WELLS: That is alright. The hon. member has his. But he has asked me the question. He had the right to design the content of the question, I have the right to design the content of the answer.

My answer is, it does not involve minority rights at all. It involves all of the people of the Province in precisely the same way except the 4 per cent or 5 per cent who are not amongst the eight denominational groups that are represented. It is only the rights of the 95 per cent that are being affected, not the rights of the 5 per cent. If you were to say anything about it, I suppose, it would put the people in the 5 per cent in a more comparable standing, or in a less diminished standing than they have now vis--vis the 95 per cent. It isn't in any manner affecting minority rights, so, no, I don't anticipate any change.

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

MR. W. MATTHEWS: A final supplementary to the Premier, Mr. Speaker. The Premier has indicated publicly that he expects this matter to be dealt with federally by the end of the calendar year, I believe the press has reported. Let me ask the Premier: Do you have an undertaking from the Prime Minister that indeed this will be dealt with through the federal system by the end of this calendar year, or may we be looking at next Spring or next Fall? Because I think a lot of the expectations of thousands and thousands of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians will certainly be let down if indeed it doesn't pass the federal Parliament until some time in 1996 or 1997.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: I would say to the hon. member that thousands and thousands of Newfoundlanders would feel let down if it doesn't pass through the federal Parliament by 1995. I don't see any reason why delay it. So I disagree with his proposition that they would be let down if it doesn't pass until 1996 or 1997. If it isn't passed by the end of this year, I think they will feel somewhat let down.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

PREMIER WELLS: No, and I didn't ask him for an undertaking.




PREMIER WELLS: If hon. members are interested, I will tell them what I did say to him, if not, I will sit down.

What I did say to the Prime Minister is that it was important for the people of the Province to have this amendment through without delay and I would hope that they would see fit to cause it to be introduced in the House of Commons as soon as convenient after it is approved in the Assembly. That is as far as I went. I had to wait until the Assembly approved it. Although I expect that this Assembly will approve it. I couldn't presume that it would. I have every confidence that it will be treated with great expedition and I would expect that it will be passed before this Fall.

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

MR. CAREEN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My question today is to the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation. I was wondering if the minister would update this House on his department's latest objectives concerning the Newfoundland and Labrador high school athletics program.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation.

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I appreciate the reference to the question because, for some members on this side and I think on the opposite side of the House, there has been a letter-writing campaign from concerned physical education teachers in the schools of the Province in particular, and also representatives of the High School Athletic Federation. Of course, all of those, from our experience, know that they are working on behalf of the students in the junior high schools and the high schools of the Province with respect to their extra-curricular sporting activities and competitions.

There was a meeting convened - it might take a minute, if I may, Mr. Speaker, and if the hon. member doesn't mind. There was a meeting convened about a month ago, where the senior officials of our Recreation Division of the department indicated to representatives of the High School Athletic Federation that what we would like to do is to act on a recommendation and suggestion from the sports symposium of last Spring to try to get more money into the hands of athletes themselves for athlete development, and to the sport-governing bodies that govern the different sports themselves in the Province, rather than the overall collective administrative groups.

The view that was put to them is that we could find a way, instead of giving $60,000 or $70,000 - I forget the exact number - of cash to the High School Athletic Federation, from which they hire an administrator and some other support, that we could have existing staff do that organizational work for them. We could use the money for sport development or for more increases in the program that gives the $500 athlete assistance program directly to the athletes themselves.

The information somehow got confused in going from that meeting back to the teachers who are members of the High School Athletic Federation, and they have been writing, suggesting that we are forcing the teachers themselves, on a volunteer basis, to organize all of the tournaments and to arrange for all of these things to happen in the schools; that is not the case. That was never suggested to them in a meeting. I have been meeting with the officials to find out how what was discussed in the meeting could have gotten changed so drastically between that meeting and the letters that we have all received. So we are writing a letter back to all of those who have written us, explaining again that we are trying again to facilitate the running of the events with existing staff rather than have to give an administrative allocation to the governing body for high school sports which is the Newfoundland and Labrador High School Athletic Federation and let them hire staff. Rather than hire staff, we will do the work with existing staff and put the money into a program for the benefit of students.

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

MR. CAREEN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

This twenty-six year old program, Mr. Speaker, has been working well for over two-and-a-half decades. The people who work there are into fund-raising around this Province, in addition to the money they get from this government. Fourteen thousand or so high school students are caught up in this, in every district of this Province. The volunteers, the minister is talking about taking some existing personnel or probably some redundant personnel from his department to take the place of these two hired employees. -

MR. EFFORD: Do you have a question?

MR. CAREEN: I have a question. You wait now, I will get to you afterwards.

The question is, will the minister make a promise to this House today that he will not dismantle this athletic program as it now exists?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation.

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I could give the answer again but I thought I explained it pretty fully the first time around.

The intent, quite clearly, Mr. Speaker, again, is to do away with the necessity of passing over a block of money to the High School Athletic Federation so they can hire staff. The two staff that are there co-ordinate the program and organize the activities on behalf of the volunteer teachers and the student participants. We are saying that we have the capability, with existing staff, to do exactly that function. Everything else in the program would stay exactly the same. The money that we pass over to hire these people could be used for other program uses, probably for a student athlete development and other such initiatives, rather than be used in administration and hiring two people to do something that we feel we already have the capability of doing with existing staff.

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

MR. CAREEN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I can see the students of this Province now being exploited by the Member for Exploits. There are a lot of parallels in all of this.

The fund-raising that is done by that group now, the teachers and the students in this Province, I wonder will they be as anxious to do fund-raising for government? No one, Mr. Speaker, can serve two masters and that is what you are talking about if they get rid of the two existing personnel in the high school athletic program now. I will ask you again as I asked you on the second question, Sir, will you promise this House here today that there will be no changes? Stop the dismantling of the high school athletic program, keep it as it exists.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation.

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and again I appreciate the continuation of the questioning. I will try it for a third time - I thought I made it quite clear. There will be no change, Mr. Speaker, in the program whatsoever. The only difference that will occur is that the two individuals who are currently working because we give money to the federation to hire them, two different people will do the exact, same job. Those people are currently employees of the department, who have the capability in our assessment to do that work, totally on behalf of and dedicated to the Newfoundland and Labrador High School Athletic Federation. We see absolutely no change in terms of the dedication of the volunteers, the fund-raising efforts of those volunteers, the teachers and the students, the running of the program.

There will be a difference envisaged in that, the two individuals who are currently employed will be replaced by two other people, and that is the same as if we had an election and sixteen on that side were replaced by sixteen others or probably by six or seven others, but in any event, Mr. Speaker, they will do the same job; nothing else will change in terms of the high school athletic federation, the program will run, the students will be well-served, the teachers will be well-served in terms of running and organizing the events and the work will be done by two existing staff instead of giving a grant to hire two additional staff.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for S. John's Centre.

DR. KITCHEN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My question is addressed to the minister responsible for housing, my colleague.

Last spring, every member of this House voted, it was an unanimous vote in favour of my Private Member's motion, that the provincial government devote more financial resources to refurbishing existing housing units both private and publicly owned in the downtown core of St. John's, and other communities with similar fire-safety problems with row housing.

Since then, public meetings have been held in the area, petitions are being circulated and letters written to the federal-provincial ministers responsible for housing. My question to the hon. minister: In preparation for the upcoming Budget, has the minister requested that a substantial sum be put in the Budget this year to help make downtown St. John's safer from fire and to provide desperately needed accommodation?

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

MR. REID: Mr. Speaker -


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. REID: - St. John's is the only part of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador this summer, to receive an urban RRAP Program. We concentrated our sole efforts in the downtown area of St. John's, we didn't have very much money to spend, a little over I think, $300,000, but every cent of that went into downtown St. John's.

I have to reiterate the fact that the federal government, some years ago announced that they were getting out of RRAP and any future housing programs in the country, and they are sticking to that principle or premise. By the 1st of January next year, the federal government will be out of all housing programs.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. REID: I am shouting and hollering about it, my hon. friend.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. REID: Mr. Speaker, I think it is very important that each and every member of this House understand and realize the implication of the federal government's moving out of the area of housing, especially in this Province, and the problem with that of course, is that there will absolutely be no housing, no seniors housing, no native housing, no RRAP programs, no programs offered in this Province next year unless, as the hon. member alluded to, the provincial government comes up with a substantial amount of money themselves to put into a housing program.

I am not in a position today to say what this government can afford to put into a housing program for next year. I will be, I would imagine, in the next month or so when we get into the budgetary process but I do appreciate the question and I appreciate the opportunity, Mr. Speaker, of getting up and advising every member of this House, that there will be no housing programs beginning January 1, 1996.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Question Period has expired.

MR. SPEAKER: Before we move on to the next order of business, I would like to take the opportunity to welcome to the House of Assembly, the Ambassador of Russia to Canada, His Excellency, Alexander M. Beonogov. Accompanying the Ambassador is Mr. Andrei Kondakov, Counsellor with the Embassy.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Presenting Reports by

Standing and Special Committees

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

DR. HULAN: Thank you, Mr Speaker.

I rise to present to this House the financial statements for two areas, the Livestock Owner's Compensation Board, the Livestock Owner's Compensation Fund, for the year ending March 31, 1995, and also the Twenty-Second Annual Report for the fiscal year ending March 31, 1995 for the Newfoundland Crop Insurance Agency.

Notices of Motion

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

MR. EFFORD: Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will, on tomorrow, ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, "An Act To Amend The Highway Traffic Act".

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

MR. MURPHY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I give notice that I will, on tomorrow, ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, "An Act To Amend The Workers Compensation Act".

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

MR. DICKS: Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will, on tomorrow, ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, "An Act To Amend The Public Service Pensions Act, 1991, And The Uniform Services Pensions Act, 1991".

Answers to Questions

For which Notice has been Given

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker, yesterday I undertook, in response to a question by the Leader of the Opposition, to table certain figures relating to net out-migration, and I am quite relieved to say that the total net migration in the last six years has been somewhat - a small amount albeit - less than in the prior six years under the former administration.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WELLS: While I am on my feet, Mr. Speaker, in response to questions today by the Leader of the Opposition as to the government's handling of the hospital services, and how we were dealing with the urgent needs for health care, I am happy to table the Fraser Forum Report.

MS VERGE: Mr. Speaker, a point of order.

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

MS VERGE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to point out that the Premier has failed to provide answers I requested yesterday, for which he indicated he would need a little time, namely the latest out-migration figure for this year, for 1995 to date, and also the government's projections of depopulation over the next three to five years, and the Department of Finance's projections of the cuts in federal equalization payments for the next three to five years.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

There is obviously no point of order. The hon. member is making use of the point of order, I guess, to ask additional questions, but there is really no point of order.


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

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I have a petition to present today, and the prayer of the petition reads:

We, the undersigned parents and citizens of Anthony Paddon Elementary School in Musgrave Town, Bonavista Bay, hereby petition the House of Assembly to make funding available through the Department of Education budget to the Bonavista-Trinity-Placentia Integrated School Board so that suitable access to the school parking lot can be provided by the school buses, thus eliminating the danger of kindergarten to Grade 1X students having to board their buses by the side of the main road and having to stand outdoors in inclement weather waiting for bus transportation.

Mr. Speaker, this is a petition sighed by 488 concerned citizens of the area which encompasses the fourteen communities of students attending Anthony Paddon Elementary. This is a school that was built twelve years ago. The school was built on a hill and the school buses today have to drive up by the side of the main road and all the students -

AN HON. MEMBER: Your buddies built the school.

MR. FITZGERALD: Well, it does not matter who build the school, the school is there. At least they built schools I say to the member.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FITZGERALD: Mr. Speaker, the students today have to exit those buses and navigate a set of steps leading up to the school, a distance I would guess of about 700 feet. It is not bad in the morning because they get off the bus and they can go right to the school, a place where they can sit down in the warm and if their clothes are wet they can dry, but the problem arises in the afternoon. The bus goes to the high school first and then it comes back and stops at the elementary school.

The students have to leave the school, come down over the steps, and usually wait for the bus. Now, sometimes they may be waiting there three minutes, or it could be five minutes before they can get aboard their particular bus to take them home. Once they get on the bus the journey homes takes them fifty minutes, so I can certainly understand the concern of the parents when they put forward a petition such as this, when all they are looking for is an opportunity for children to exit the school and get on a bus in the normal way.

Mr. Speaker, there is a parking lot up by the school but the teachers park in the parking lot, and I guess the reason for that is because there is not enough room there right now for the buses to go by the school and collect the students without having to turn around, without having to back up if you would, which is not allowed today when the children are out of school. What the parents are asking for is money to be allotted, money which does not exist in that particular school board right now, to put a road around the school. That way the buses can come from the main road, go up around the school, pick up the students in the normal fashion that we see at most of our other schools, get aboard the bus and be dry on the journey home, and do it in a safe manner.

Back in 1994 this problem was also brought forward, Mr. Speaker. It was brought forward by Mr. Tom Pope, Executive Director of the Integrated Education Council. He went out to Musgravetown to look at this particular problem with the District Superintendent, Mr. Sheppard. At that time Mr. Sheppard responded and wrote a letter about their visit and what they had found there so that it could go on record. He went on to say at that particular time, I wish to stress once again the urgency of this matter, and unless corrective action is taken there is an undue risk of injury or even a fatality.

I ask the minister if he would keep this concern in mind and if he would be kind enough to allot funding either to the IEC or to this particular school board to allow this road which has been estimated at about $70,000 to be constructed, to allow those students to go to school and go back to their homes in as safe a manner as possible.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

I rise to support the petition put forward by my colleague for Bonavista South on behalf of the parents and citizens of Anthony Paddon Elementary School in Musgravetown. I understand there are about 342 students from fourteen or fifteen communities that have a legitimate concern and a legitimate desire to have a way done to pick up their students so as they are not left out in inclement weather conditions.

I was waiting, I say to the Member for Bonavista South, because I thought at least the Minister of Education would have responded. Of course he has an opportunity to do so after I sit down, but I hope someone from the government side at least responds, because this is another case where out and about rural Newfoundland in particular we do have important concerns that need to be addressed. You have students standing out in bad weather and getting wet, cold and so on, and then, of course, it is not only unpleasant at that particular time, but the implications for flus and colds and whatever that might follow after which could cause students to miss school and interfere with their learning situation. So I want to be very brief and say that I support the petition as presented by my colleague on behalf of the citizens and parents, students, that are serviced by Anthony Paddon Elementary School in Musgravetown.

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, a few days ago I received a letter from the parents in Musgravetown bringing this matter to my attention. I was totally shocked to realize that such a situation did exist in this Province. The letter explained to me, just as the hon. member pointed out, that the school is up on the top of a hill, it is impossible for the bus to get up there, the children have to walk down steps in all kinds of weather. The letter pointed out to me the danger to the children and the inconvenience. It is uncomfortable when they get wet on a rainy day having to sit in a bus. I sympathized with the children, and I immediately asked someone in the Department of Education and Training to dig out the facts for me to see is this the truth.

The thing which stands out in my mind which really upsets me about this: There is one cardinal law that this government maintains, and that is the location of schools. Twelve years ago someone in government, some Minister of Education, allowed a school to be built on the top of a hill without having any consideration about getting children from that hill down to the bottom of the road. This is the kind of a mess which is evident in every single aspect that this Administration has had to clean up. This is one of the ones which - it isn't the only one. We found it in the debt burden, the interest rate that is left with us. We found it in the mess that they had in Health that my colleague is trying to clean up. We found it in the mess that they allowed in Education that we are left to clean up. It is absolutely disgraceful. This should never have happened.

Now, here is the situation I'm in today. If I were to find the $50,000 or $60,000 to put that road up around, the first thing I would have to do is to give that $50,000 to the Integrated education council. Then I would have to turn around and give 36 per cent to the Roman Catholic education council. Then I would have to give 7 per cent to the Pentecostals to deal with that one road. Even by doing that I don't have any assurance, if I could find the money, that the DECs would spend the money appropriately on that particular road. Or have the authority. I just can't do it. But the one chance in the history of this Province when that problem could have been dealt with was twelve years ago when the Minister of Education of the day allowed a school to be built on the top of a hill. Tops of hills are for lighthouses, not for schools, Mr. Speaker.

I will tell the hon. member, I will try my level best to find a solution to this within the present rules. Hopefully we will be able to deal with it.

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

MR. HEWLETT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. At the risk of incurring the ire of the Minister of Education and Training I too have to stand and present a petition on an education matter related to a community that is near and dear to the minister's heart and that is Little Bay Islands in the District of Green Bay, where of course the population had the honour to have the minister's presence this summer.

The petition is signed by some 198 adults and there is an addendum to it with thirty-one students from H.L. Strong Academy signing as well. The prayer of the petition is as follows:

We the undersigned petition the House of Assembly to reconsider the impact of the reduction of the numbers of teachers on the education system in Newfoundland and Labrador. Programs such as physical education, special needs, and French are being dropped. Recognize that the lost of teachers at H.L. Strong Academy will impact greatly on the students. Students will have to do without a phys. ed. program and a qualified science teacher. Realize that we are in an all-grade school and that more teachers are needed than the 4.5 we are allocated to provide an adequate program. The staff has been reduced from 6.5 teaching units to 4.5 in two years. We understand that students cannot commute to another community because of the isolation of living on an island. A reduction in staff which reduces the number of programs will lead to an increase in the drop-out rate if students have to leave the island to attend school.

The prayer further goes on to state that they appreciate the fact that our community is prosperous and offers 100 per cent seasonal employment to residents and people in surrounding communities. The loss of teachers and programs at the school could have a domino affect and lead to the exodus of students and parents and ultimately the death of the community. Consider implementing the schools viability criteria immediately to ensure adequate number of teaching units for H.L. Strong Academy a viable school according to the government's definition. Understand we feel our students are being discriminated against and that your policies will lead to them receiving a second rate education. Further understand that we feel government's actions contradict their philosophy on school improvement. How can a school hope to improve when teachers are given greater workloads and students are forced to take downgraded programs?

Finally the prayer states, consider that it appears government is more concerned with saving dollars than improving education for our youth in the future. This is a rather lengthy prayer, Mr. Speaker, and there is a small addition as well from the students who are pleading their case as well.

Little Bay Islands, Mr. Speaker, does have a fish plant that does work, it does contribute to the economy of the Province. It is isolated, it is a forty-five - fifty minute steam to get there. It is not the kind of place where students or teachers can commute.

The Green Bay Integrated School Board - by some twist of fate and chance, I bumped into him at lunch today in the cafeteria and he indicates to me that given the extra teachers that the entire board has been allocated, he has given more than the per capita share that he has available to this particular school. What we have here is a situation where we have a school isolated on an island, there are no options, there is no busing alternative or anything of that nature. I think the provincial government should have a set of standards for schools in such isolated cases that allow a reasonable school program, especially seeing that the community, as long as it has an operating fish plant, will not and certainly refuses to die. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. SHELLEY: Mr. Speaker, I rise to present a petition on behalf of the residents of the Baie Verte Peninsula, Baie Verte - White Bay District. I would like to read the prayer of the petition first;

We the residents of the Baie Verte Peninsula are very concerned with the recent cutbacks by the Department of Works, Services and Transportation. We believe that these cutbacks will seriously affect the safety as well as the overall quality of transportation on the Baie Verte Peninsula;

We urge the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to reconsider these reductions in order to ensure the safety and quality of road transportation is retained and acceptable and at a safe level.

Mr. Speaker, although I rise today to present this petition on behalf of my residents in the Baie Verte - White Bay District, I think I speak for a lot of districts in this Province who are going to feel the effects very soon of the recent cutbacks to the Department of Works, Services and Transportation. Before we leave this season and head into the winter, Mr. Speaker, I would like for the minister, hopefully to respond to these. I think he will be hearing more about this from around the Province, is that first of all deal with - this summer in the cutbacks, as far as calcium for dirt roads, Mr. Speaker. This particular reduction I think cost in the area - I think the minister will confirm - somewhere in the area of $500,000-$600,000. Now, Mr. Speaker, these roads around the Province that still have gravel roads, at least expect and I think they should expect at least liquid calcium to be put on those roads for the summer months in their communities.

Mr. Speaker, in my district alone there are sixteen gravel roads still - sixteen communities with gravel roads in my district. A lot of these communities don't insist that they have pavement, they don't insist even that the roads be graded every day, although they would like that. Now, Mr. Speaker, I think that at least they could expect that once a summer, once during the summer months when it is the dry season, that a bit of liquid calcium at a cost of $500,000 to this government, should at least be given to these particular areas. Now, Mr. Speaker, that is just the summer months. For example this summer we had Come Home Years and tourists visited the areas on the Baie Verte Peninsula and the dust was unbelievable. Many of the residents have complained about this for years. They cannot believe this service which cost this Province $500,000 would be eliminated from the budget. So of course the minister should answer to that one.

Next, Mr. Speaker, as we head into the winter months, as we come into the winter months and what this petition I think is really aiming at, is the problem we may have with safety on our highways with regards to snow-clearing, wing men on the trucks have been eliminated. Now, on top of all that, the staff at the depots on the Baie Verte Peninsula will be reduced. I visited the depots on the Baie Verte Peninsula, both of them, on La Scie Highway and Baie Verte Highway, several times last year in the most busy part of the year for the department during the storm season. Those mechanics work flat out every day and of course they are called back in with overtime to try to keep up with equipment that keeps breaking down so they can keep the roads clear, especially in the storm season.

This year there will be a reduction in the staff that takes care of these mechanical deficiencies that happen throughout the year. I can't see for the life of me how a reduction like that isn't going to affect the safety of people on the highways. When we talk about graders and fliers and those types of things on the highway, if this reduction isn't reconsidered we could be talking about a danger to the people who travel these highways. I've also talked to the people in the depots who relate very well to what we say, the wingmen on the trucks. They can tell us very clearly that there is definitely a danger left there if that wingman isn't in the truck with the driver.

These are reductions that when we talk about the department are very minimal when it comes to that, but it means so much. The bottom line is safety on the highways. Are we going to wait too long, to the last minute, when it is too late, when something in this Province happens which the minister will have to speak to, with the reduction in the staff at the depots, with the wingmen on the trucks, and of course come back to the summer months when we almost had a very fatal accident in my district with dust on the roads around the communities.

These are realities of the cutbacks. This is what is happening out there. This is talk from people who work in the industry, work at these depots, and they are very concerned about the safety and the overall road conditions in these areas. I say too to the minister that these aren't just concerns of people on the Baie Verte Peninsula. I think these are concerns of people throughout the Province, that they have a fear that these reductions by this department will affect the safety and the overall transportation to people in this Province.

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

MR. J. BYRNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I'm pleased to rise today in my place and support the petition from the Member for Baie Verte - White Bay. This government is basically being run by the `CBC.' I don't mean the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, I mean the `Cutback Clyde' syndrome.

The Department of Works, Services and Transportation this past year cut $10 million from their budget. The government cut $10 million from the budget of the Department of Works, Services and Transportation. With respect to the reorganization of the various depots, since 1989 there have been hundreds of employees laid off from the Department of Works, Services and Transportation. This winter there will be as many as 200 more employees leave the employ of the Department of Works, Services and Transportation. This past summer in Deer Lake, in I think it was the month of June or July, there was a meeting of the employees of the Department of Works, Services and Transportation with the administration out there. Thirty people in that area alone, labourers, were told that they wouldn't be called back to work this winter. These were people who worked on the salt and sand trucks in the wintertime as a second person on the trucks and as wingmen. The wingmen serve a very definite purpose on these trucks, Mr. Speaker.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: The purpose of these wingmen, Mr. Speaker - if the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation doesn't know I would suggest that he shouldn't be Minister of Works, Services and Transportation.

When these trucks and ploughs are out in the middle of a snow storm and they get stuck or they have to put chains on, it often requires two people to put these chains on, for safety reasons alone. Not only that, but at this very meeting representatives of the Department of Works, Services and Transportation told these people, these thirty employees, told the operators: You do the work or we will find someone else to do the work for you. Point blank. People who had been working with the department for years.

This attitude is a very poor attitude with respect to the employment of people in this Province, the taxpayers in this Province. What is it doing to the morale of the people working in the Department of Works, Services and Transportation? When they come in today they don't know if they have a job or not. That is right out throughout the government departments with this government, all departments, with respect to the Departments of Health and Works, Services and Transportation, what have you. People are being laid off right, left and centre, and it is a definite concern with respect to the safety of the people in this Province.

The minister last year was highly insulted when there was a comment made in this House with respect to safety on the highways of this Province. But if this attitude continues I can only see it getting worse. The cutbacks are, from my perspective, and I believe to many others in this Province, the cutbacks in this Province have now gone beyond the point of diminishing returns. I don't only mean diminishing returns with respect to dollars saved or what have you, but with respect to the services that people in this Province have enjoyed in the past and expect to have in the future, but since this government was elected, Mr. Speaker, they see nothing but cutbacks and it is time for this government to take the bull by the horns and start spending a few dollars and helping the people of this Province.

With respect to the roads: the roads in this Province are deteriorating at a reckless rate and no money has been spent on maintenance; there have been cutbacks drastically. For example, in my district, the road leading to Bauline, a sign was recently put up referring to it as the longest, speed bump in the Province. That road is in pathetic shape and it is getting to the point now, where it is a danger to travel over that road.

I was in Bauline just the other night, and there is a bridge just before you enter Bauline with the rails completely gone off that bridge, just gone, and if the road gets slippery this winter, there could be cars driving right off that bridge and into the river there and now, we have a situation where the Department of Works, Services and Transportation are talking about putting new equipment on the trucks and the plows and what have you.

This new equipment, Mr. Speaker, is mirrors, mirrors! Can you imagine now the use of a mirror in the middle of a snow storm in this Province, when you have drifts of ten, fifteen and twenty feet high? I see the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation over there smiling but, Mr. Speaker, this is no laughing matter, let me tell you. When someone in this Province gets hurt because of the recklessness of this minister, I won't be afraid to stand in this House and point the finger at the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation and I am sure that will come in due course.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Orders of the Day

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, would you be good enough please, to call motion No. 11, that's the Amendment to Term 17?

MR. SPEAKER: Motion 11, the hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WELLS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am sure nobody in this House would be surprised to hear me say that this is a matter that is of great importance in the government's view. Not only is it of great importance to government, I believe it is of great importance to individuals, particularly young individuals and students in this Province but to all individuals, and I believe it is of great importance to the churches in the Province as well.

Now while I don't propose to spend a great deal of time in going into substantial detail on the basis for this proposal, I do want to take a few minutes to set forth for the House, government's motivation and what caused government to move in this direction at this particular time.

Our motivation is fairly simple and it is easy to state. We are convinced that it is in the best interest of the education of the students of this Province that this step be taken at this time, and we say that with complete conviction. The people sitting on this side of the House are not against the churches. We don't want to abolish the denominational education system for the sake of abolishing the denominational education system, that's not our objective. I didn't check but I expect most of the people on this side, like most of the people on the opposite side of the House are members of one or other of the denominational groups that constitute 95 per cent of the majority of the population of this Province, so I don't think anybody in this House will be voting in a particular way because of any denominational feelings or anti-denominational feelings. That's why I confess to being quite disturbed yesterday when I was confronted by a newsman after I left the House, and presented with a quote by a visitor who was in the gallery. It happened to be Mr. Fallon to whom he referred, and I believe most people probably saw him on television last night, to suggest that this was an attack on the Roman Catholic Church. Nothing in this world could be further from the truth.

When he asked me to comment on it, I was about to have an immediate re-action then I thought better of it and I think that kind of comment is best left uncommented on, it is so unfair, so unfounded and so irrational that it doesn't deserve to be recognized with credibility in responding to, but I want to make it very clear, Mr. Speaker, that nobody sitting on this side of the House is attacking any church in the Province. Our interest and our motivation is the best interest of the students of this Province. Our interest is in securing for them the best future we can, training them to be solid producers in society wherever they happen to live, whether they choose to leave this Province and go somewhere else in the country, or somewhere else in the world, like people from this Province who are in Russia today doing business.

I had lunch today with the Russian Ambassador, and I invited a number of people from Newfoundland who have connections with business and commercial activities in Russia. One person present is carrying on a commercial business of a restaurant and a pub in the outskirts of Moscow, and it is so successful that he is building a second one. Now that person was educated in this Province. We had just as much responsibility to educate that person as fully as was done, whether we knew he was going to Russia or he was going to stay and live in Burin, or St. John's, or Bonavista, or somewhere else; our responsibility is nonetheless. Our responsibility is to the young people of this Province, to give them the best possible education and training we can so that they are prepared to cope as individuals anywhere in the world where they may find themselves.

We do have a responsibility as well to the Province as a whole, to ensure that we respond correctly to the educational component of economic development, and education is critical - is key - to any successful program of economic development, so we must provide for the most efficient and cost effective and productive education system that we possibly can. Our motivation is the future of this Province and all of its people.

The present situation is unacceptable. It is unacceptable that we would allow it to continue, and I think here it is important for me to highlight a number of areas that cause us concern. I have tabled the information in the House before, so I will not spend a great deal of time on it, but our concern with what we were achieving in terms of meeting our objective to educate our youth, and our failure to reach the standards that we ought to reach, despite the fact that successive governments in this Province have invested increasing portions of its overall budget in education - it has been increasing steadily - despite that effort, we have not been able to meet the challenge of overcoming the deficiencies in our education system, and the extent to which students who go through schools in this Province do not have a fair chance - most schools. There are many schools in this city, there are many schools in larger places like Marystown, or Carbonear, or Grand Falls, or Corner Brook, or Stephenville, the larger centres, where the students do have a fair chance. Our concern is for the students in all of the other small communities of this Province who do not have a fair chance at quality education, and that is what we must correct.

We recognize that the people who sat around the Cabinet table did not have all the answers. As a matter of fact, we might not even have had very many of the answers, so we took the normal course. We put in place a Royal Commission to do a complete assessment of all aspects of our education system, to give us recommendations as to how we might solve this bedeviling problem that has vexed this Province not only since it has been a Province, since 1949, but has vexed us from the beginning.

We got back the report in 1992, and they had some 211 recommendations. Of that 211, about 185 of the recommendations were matters that could be dealt with by government without any level of approbation by the churches. Prudence would dictate that we consult; good sense would dictate that we consult with the denominational education authorities and the churches generally, but the law did not require that we conform to their request or their directions, or the demands on the issue. But in respect of the other twenty-six recommendations, the government could not make those changes without either the approval of the churches or a change in the Constitution which would give us the legislative power to do it, because at this moment we don't have the legislative power and the churches told us, very clearly, that if we took action without their approval they would go to the courts. As a matter of fact, they filed a formal notice, as they are required to do, giving us formal notice that they were challenging any legislative action. Even before we had introduced any legislation, they filed a formal notice indicating they were going to do it.

So we really were not left with very much alternative but to take some kinds of steps in order to enable us to deal with those twenty-six recommendations, most of which, incidentally, were crucial to getting cost under control, and to increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of our education system. Most of those recommendation were crucial to any chance at solving that. We could implement the entire remaining 185 recommendations and still not achieve the educational improvement we wanted to achieve without being able to implement most of those twenty-six recommendations.

We didn't want to proceed in a roughshod manner. We made every endeavour we possibly could to get the approval of the churches for the proposals that we had put forward. We gave the churches first the alternative. They said, give us a chance. We know what you want to try to achieve and we will bring you a proposal that we think government will approve of, so the churches sat down to develop their proposal. The government made officials available to them for purposes of giving them information and so on but they weren't part of the development as such.

The churches developed a proposal that, with great respect to the churches, as far as getting cost under control, getting a more efficient and cost effective system, was essentially maintenance of the status quo. I think, as a general comment, and without going into it in detail, that is the only general description I can apply. It was maintenance of the status quo.

Then, government took the position that we would develop the proposal and put it to the churches and we did, and we made it public quite quickly. It is called Adjusting the Course. After the first series of public reactions and discussions to it, and after some persuasive arguments, the government made some minor modifications and presented another version of it about two months or so later, I think.

As a result of that revision and adjustment, and meetings and discussions with the church leaders collectively - and we had a very large number over the two-and-a-half-year period - as a result of that we received a letter from the integrated group of churches that said they saw in government's proposal a basis now for going forward, and were prepared to start discussions with us on the development of the legislation necessary to implement that approach.

We were quite pleased, needless to say, because we saw this as an opportunity to achieve the reform without any constitutional reform, but unfortunately, two of the churches would not agree. With the full approbation of the other five churches, we carried on negotiations separately with each of those two churches to try to find a compromise. We worked several months to try to achieve it and developed alternative proposals. I don't know whether or not all of those have been made public. I guess they will be in the public record sometime in the future, but most of them were as a result of private exchanges of correspondence with the churches. I have no hesitation to make the entire file public. With the approval of the churches I would do that tomorrow.

We had gotten to the point where we were making further concessions and further concessions, and further concessions, until we got to the point where we were warned by the churches and integration that we had gone too far. Now, we were in a dilemma. The integrated group of churches were saying, `You are going too far in that direction,' and the other churches were saying, `You are not going far enough yet to satisfy us,' and we realized then we had to do something quite different.

Fortunately, a couple of individuals who were personally dedicated to trying to see reform effected with the least possible disruption. Their names are well known, Mr. Dennis Browne and Dr. Philip Warren. They said: Maybe we can do something to help sort of broker an arrangement, or help resolve this apparent impasse, so they spent some time with the churches and tried to come to a conclusion.

Their first effort, I guess, did not really solve the problem. Then they made another effort at trying to resolve it. They even came and met with the entire government - met with the entire caucus, for that matter - to explain to them what the churches' positions were, and they said to us: We are confident, if you address this question on busing, and you alter government's position that uni-denominational schools could only be set up - in areas where only one school was viable, in order for it to be uni-denominational, government had suggested it would require the approval of 95 per cent of the population. The reason for that is fairly simple. We did not want to be using the law to force people to go to a school that was designated as the school of a particular faith, and force everybody to go there, without a high level of approbation that would obviously occur, we thought, in an area where there was a predominance of that one denomination, but on reflection - and this is the point that Dr. Warren and Mr. Browne made to us - 95 per cent is an impossible number. It doesn't matter what, it is almost impossible to get 95 per cent of anything. We were persuaded that they were right. They said: If you put that on a straightforward, normal majority, 50 per cent plus one, and dealt with the busing, we think the churches would approve of the course. We did that. It still wasn't acceptable to the churches.

We had some further discussions, and it still did not work out. We then wrote the churches on May 31 of this year, and for the House I would like to read one paragraph from that letter. On May 31 of this year, this is what I wrote to all of the churches. I talked about their correspondence indicating they did not want any change whatsoever; they wanted complete conformity with the existing Term 17. They wanted a system that would conform totally to it. I said: If that is your position, then clearly, there is no purpose in any further discussion.

I went on to say: If, on the other hand, the churches are not insisting that any proposal for change conform fully to the requirements of Term 17, but are prepared to exercise their Term 17 rights in a new manner, as the churches did in 1968, then government is prepared to proceed with the proposal as it was on May 11, 1994. Now, that is the point at which the integrated group came to us and said: Okay, we can live with this. We are prepared now to talk about legislation to implement this approach.

So we said to them: We are prepared to proceed with the proposal as it was on May 11, 1994, when it had the general approval of the five churches in integration, or any one of the proposals offered by government between May 11, 1994 and April 18, 1995 - and there had been four or five different ones - to address the additional concerns of the Roman Catholic Church and the Pentecostal Church, if all of the churches are agreed. If the churches cannot agree amongst themselves to proceed with reform of our education system on that basis, then government will have no alternative but to seek the approval of the people of the Province for a constitutional amendment that would allow the Legislature to implement essential education reform. I assure you; however, that we would propose that any such amendment would be limited to the extent necessary to achieve the reform proposal in Adjusting the Course - that was government's initial proposal - and would preserve the constitutional right for the presence of the churches, and the religious activities in schools, and involvement of the churches in the administration of education in the Province.

Mr. Speaker, it still did not meet with approval. We then met with the churches again, and the final breakdown came when we realized we could not achieve anything. We asked the churches, one day at the meeting: Will the churches agree simply to come together - all of the churches just come together - and run an integrated system, a totally integrated system, essentially as we have it now, but all churches running a single system? If you will agree to do that, we don't need a constitutional change. This will achieve the objectives.

We were told no, they wouldn't do it. It really didn't leave us with much choice. Members may recall, I tabled in the House...I don't know if I tabled in the House or maybe the House wasn't sitting and I may - I guess I did and they were dated in August. I made them public but I will mention them now. This is dated in August of 1995. If you look at these statistics - and I will make copies available for all members - the employment in education and related service industries in this Province is higher than it is in any other province of Canada. That is the kind of effort we are making in education. The earned income for education as a percentage of the total wages and salaries for our total earned income is higher in this Province than it is in any other province of Canada. A greater effort is being made in education than in any other province of Canada in terms of the percentage of people involved in education and the level of earned income from it.

If you look at our GDP -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

PREMIER WELLS: Yes, that's not just new. The hon. member is quite right. We have been making that effort for many years. If you look at GDP in educational services on a per capita basis, Newfoundland is higher than every province except Quebec, Ontario and Alberta. Only those three powerful and economically more competent provinces than Newfoundland have a greater GDP in educational services on a per capita basis than does Newfoundland. Our total education expenditure per capita, which is another significant figure to look at, the total amount we spend per person, is higher than New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Only the `have' provinces of British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario, and the infinitely larger and economically more powerful Province of Quebec, have a total expenditure per capita greater than Newfoundland.

Now, that is pretty good achievement. But when you take into account then, Newfoundland's lesser ability - because our earned income is so much less than any other province - when you take into account our lesser ability, that is a performance that far exceeds anything else in the nation. So when you look at our school expenditures - and this is confined to primary, elementary, and secondary education, these later figures are; some of the first ones included all education - but when you confine it to primary, elementary and secondary education, our school expenditures per student, as a per cent of our GDP per capita, is the highest in the country. We spend more of the resources available to us than does any other province in the country. The average number of students per teacher is less than it is anywhere in the country.

Lest anybody think that our situation exists because we are falling behind, even though we still have those figures, Statistics Canada did an assessment of the changes between the year 1985-1986 and the year 1992-1993 in the increases in expenditures in education. You can't take any one year, because if there was a sudden, say, increase in teachers' salaries in any one year, that would throw it out. You have to look at it over a reasonable period of time, and they took that approximately seven-year period.

Our expenditures per student increased by more than 64 per cent in Newfoundland. I want members to pay attention to that figure. Our expenditures per student in that six- or seven-year period increased by more than 64 per cent, the highest in Canada, with the exception of B.C. So not only have we been making the highest effort all along, the increase in that effort has been higher than in any other province, other than British Columbia. So nobody can say: `Money is your problem. You have not been putting enough money into it or enough of your resources into it. We have been, and we are still not producing acceptable results. I don't need to go into the detail of the results but everybody knows what they are. We have been - for the most part, on most, not all but on the overwhelming majority of the Canada Test of Basic Skills, we have been marginally ahead of the Northwest Territories. That is where we are, behind every other jurisdiction, including the Yukon, the little Yukon.

Now, Mr. Speaker, clearly, government had to do something to deal with that. The results were not acceptable. Finances were not the answer. Growth in expenditures in recent years make that clear, finances are not the answer. The circumstance cries out for correction. We must, if we are concerned at all, do something about it. Now, at the same time that we take steps to do something about it, I think we would be foolhardy if we threw out the baby with the bath water. I think we would be irresponsible not to recognize the tremendous contribution that churches have made to education over the years, and I think we would be even more irresponsible not to acknowledge that they can still make a tremendous contribution to overall education in this Province and provide for that opportunity for them to do so. However, maintenance of the status quo is not the means to achieve that. So government could only come to the conclusion that those who would wish to maintain the status quo were not providing the right solution, but we also felt that those who were suggesting we should eliminate totally any denominational involvement in education were also not providing the right solution.

Our challenge, Mr. Speaker, is to find the acceptable compromise that gave us the means of going forward and producing the best quality of education we could within the limited financial resources available to us, bearing in mind the other financial difficulties of dealing with public services generally in a circumstance where we have only the population of a small-size city spread out among some 800 separate communities around 10,000 miles of coastline. When you have to deliver the service in that geographic and demographic reality, then obviously, many of your resources are not going to end up in programs, you have to provide for that reality. Well, we obviously cannot sub-divide it still further. So we have to design a system that recognizes that reality but also recognizes the contribution the churches have made in the past and that they are capable of making in the future and find that solution. Unfortunately, our efforts at negotiations could not identify that compromise.

I acknowledge and give full credit to all who participated in those discussions. I express the government's appreciation to each of them for the effort that they put into trying to find a solution and I apply that to all of the churches that were involved. My experience with every one of the church leaders, with whom I met, was a positive experience. We may not have agreed. We may not have been able to come to agreement on it but I appreciated very much the sincere and dedicated effort that each of the church leaders made and I express government's full appreciation to them for that.

That left us in a situation where we had to resort to the other alternative of changing Term 17 of the Constitution so as to allow the Legislature sufficient power to make the changes, the minimal changes that were necessary. Hence, we went to a referendum because it was of such significance, because it was changing the constitutional law of this Province but also because we, the government, did not have from the people a mandate to introduce and bring forward that kind of a change. Now, you can get that mandate in either one of two ways - calling an election, or holding a referendum. Calling an election was very tempting. It was indeed very, very tempting, because I had no doubt whatsoever about how the people of this Province felt on that issue.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


PREMIER WELLS: Now, the members opposite have been reasonably quiet so far. I would ask them to just give me a few more minutes.

I just said that there was one of two alternatives. The other alternative was a referendum, and we felt that the referendum was the more straightforward way to go, because clearly, that was a vote on that issue alone and not other aspects of government's performance. It was the clear way to go even though the other course was tempting.

Mr. Speaker, everybody now knows the results of that. It was 55-45. Unfortunately, only 52 per cent came out to vote and I regret that, and our concern was to make sure that those who did vote were expressing the clear and unquestionable wishes of the majority of the people of the Province. When anybody examines the conduct of the referendum, that's very clear that they did, because those who opposed the change carried on a substantial campaign and, Mr. Speaker, I am satisfied that all those who wanted to oppose the constitutional change did so and government therefore feels very confident in going forward with the results of the referendum.

We must now move to implement the clear wishes of the majority of the people, but we must also keep faith with the general indication, with the undertaking that we gave the churches that we would move to make the changes that were necessary to ensure that this Legislature - not the government, but this Legislature, maintain the ultimate control of governance of education, and that's where it will rest. It won't rest with government, it will rest with this Legislature, and that's what we have proposed, Mr. Speaker, and I don't hide anything; government's objective was to remove to this Legislature unfettered jurisdiction in aspects of governance, governance of education, but to reserve to the churches the rights that they have had in the past with respect to religious education, with respect to their ability to provide for and carry on religious activities and observances. There is no question about government's view of that.

We also, Mr. Speaker, had no problem with denominational schools, where such schools could themselves be viable schools and they would not adversely affect the viability of any other school. So, Mr. Speaker, we have provided for that, as well. And I believe I owe to the House the responsibility just to take a few minutes to highlight what we are proposing.

We are proposing, Mr. Speaker, that all schools established and maintained and operated with public funds will continue to be denominational schools, that they are denominational schools and we use that term, that all schools maintained and operated with public funds shall be denominational schools, and any class of persons having rights under this Term as it read on January 1, 1995, shall continue to have the right to provide for religious education, activities and observances for the children of that class in those schools, and the group of classes that are the integrated group could, if they chose to do so, do it together. They can all do it together. I don't know of any court in the land that said, churches cannot act ecumenically or would attempt to stop them. Some have attempted to argue that because it is a right to provide for the education and activities and observances for children of that class, if they tried to do it collectively as a whole school, it somehow could be challenged under the Constitution.

With great respect, there is no basis in law that I know of, or anybody else that I know of, who would support that proposition. I know of no circumstance where the courts have ever said to a group of churches, you can't act in concert; we will prohibit you from doing collectively what you can each do individually. It is not, with great respect, a rational proposition. So clearly, Mr. Speaker, we have provided for the right to maintain religious education activities and observances in the school.

We went further and provided that this Legislature would have the power to pass laws that were uniformly applicable to all schools so that we couldn't discriminate between uni-denominational schools on the one hand and multi- or all-denominational schools on the other hand. Subject to regulations that were universally applicable to all schools of whatever their character, then, in 1(b)(i): "any class of persons referred to in paragraph (a) shall have the right to have a publicly funded denominational school established, maintained and operated especially for that class", as long as it can be a viable school, and it doesn't affect the viability of another school. As long as that is so, government has no quarrel with operating denominational schools and we specifically provided for a right to have it in those circumstances.

We also provided that government could establish, maintain, operate and publicly fund other schools, denominational or non-denominational. The reason for that is - for example, the Francophone schools on the Port au Port Peninsula.

MR. ROBERTS: The School for the Deaf.

PREMIER WELLS: The School for the Deaf, as my hon. friend points out; perhaps aboriginal schools in the coastal communities of Labrador - we would want to be able to provide for those. They wouldn't have to be denominational or uni-denominational schools.

We also provided that where a school is established and maintained in that way then, in addition to the right to provide for religious education, activities and observances, the denomination concerned would have the right to direct the teaching aspects of curriculum affecting religious beliefs. Not to establish the curriculum - that is the general responsibility that government would exercise -but the teaching aspects of the curriculum in that individual school. Because there would be a single curriculum for all schools in the Province, but if a particular denomination were running a denominational school and they disagreed with something in the curriculum or wanted to teach it differently for religious reasons, they would have the right to do so. They would have the right to direct the teaching aspects of curriculum.

Also, Mr. Speaker, the admission of students in denominational schools -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

PREMIER WELLS: Yes they do. The admission of students in denominational schools and the dismissal or hiring of teachers, the assignment of teachers, in those schools.

You can hardly - if we were being honest with the churches and saying to them: We are going to provide for you to have the right to have denominational schools, it would be dishonest to say to them: But you can't require teachers of your denomination to be the teachers in that school. I mean, we would be perpetrating a fraud on them. Either we would say: No uni-denominational schools at all, or: You must have the right, if you want to, to choose teachers of that denomination. We had to.

I know, most people in the Province don't like to see anybody hired or dismissed on the basis of their religious beliefs, or the expression of those religious beliefs, but it would be, if we are being honest with the churches, a fraud on them to say: Yes, we agree, you can have a denominational school, but you can't require that there be teachers of your denomination. That would be dishonest. As reluctantly as we came to that conclusion, we felt that if we were being honest with the churches, we had no alternative but to agree that that would have to be the case. So, the constitutional proposal that we put forward will provide for that.

The next paragraph requires government to expend its expenditures on a totally non-discriminatory basis. That is fair, too.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, we have provided for the involvement of churches in the administration of education, as we indicated we would. What we provided is that if the churches so desire - they may or may not desire it - but if the churches so desire, they shall have the right to elect in total not less than two-thirds of the members of a school board. The churches, if they want to, can require that two-thirds of the members of every school board be specifically representatives of those churches. That is an appropriate role, but they have to be elected. That, we believe, is an appropriate basis for input into the administration of the education system of the Province.

We went further and required that if any church wished it, they could require a portion of the members elected to be proportionate with their portion of the population in the area served by the school board. So if, for example, the Pentecostal church had 50 per cent of the school population in the school board area, they could, if they wanted to, elect 50 per cent of that two-thirds. Even the other two-thirds, that are elected at large, in all probability are going to be members of one or other of those denominations. It may not always be the case, but certainly if the voters wanted it to be the case they could certainly cause it to be the case, because the numbers would require it.

Mr. Speaker, we think that what we have done by this means is found an acceptable compromise, that is a fair compromise between the desire of the overwhelming majority of this Province to see substantial reform in our education system, and the desire of the churches, and many of the church adherents, to see a continuing involvement for churches in education. We think that is a fair compromise. The key is viability. We have to provide for viable schools, and in any community where there can only be one school we will have to spend extra money to make it viable. Now that means we are going to be spending more money on that school on a per student basis than we are on many others, but that is not unfair because if you are in a small community in White Bay, where there is no ability to be bussed to a larger school, you have as much right to quality education as does the person living on Merrymeeting Road in St. John's.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

PREMIER WELLS: I cannot give you the figures on that right off the top of my head. Maybe the Minister of Education and Training, when he speaks, but I do not think this, in itself, will cause any alteration in it. Here or there there may be ups and downs in the numbers in any one school, but changing in the 2 per cent rule and that kind of thing, that is what is going to change the teachers.

AN HON. MEMBER: Declining enrolment will have more effect.

PREMIER WELLS: Declining enrolment - these numbers - just let me give you a figure that I saw this morning, if you want proof positive of the need for this kind of action. In the four years between 1989 and 1993 - in that four years - the number of schools reduced by 12 per cent; the number of students reduced by 12 per cent. The administrative cost went up by 4 per cent, in the same four years when administrative costs were frozen and were supposed to go down, when there were reductions in salaries, at the same time that the population in the schools dropped by 12 per cent. It is an administrative nightmare. It is the fault of the system that we have to correct. We have to get it out of the system. That is one of the reasons why we are taking this kind of action. The system breeds that kind of inefficiency, and almost requires or prevents - if it doesn't require that kind of inefficiency, it certainly prevents any effort to correct it from being successful.

Mr. Speaker, I believe the case has been clearly laid out. We propose to ask the House to support this resolution, and when that is done we then propose to ask the Government of Canada, assuming it is done - and I assume, based on other expressions that I have heard that it will be done - we propose then to ask the Government of Canada to place the matter before the House of Commons of Canada and the Senate to have the corresponding resolution to pass so that the constitution can be changed, the proclamation can be issued. We then propose to proceed immediately - we hope this fall - with legislation. I can advise the House that the legislation is in the process of being drafted now, on the assumption that this will be done.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

PREMIER WELLS: No, it is not completed. There are still some policy decisions that need to be made, but there is a great deal of work done on it, and I do not think we would need a whole lot more time.

MR. DECKER: If we had to, Premier, we could do it in two days, but there are some policy decisions we have to decide on.

PREMIER WELLS: There are some policy decisions that need to be made before it can be finalized. I am hoping we will be introducing it into this fall sitting of the House. I hope.

AN HON. MEMBER: Did you read what he said today?

PREMIER WELLS: I do not know what he said today. Maybe he is right. Maybe it will not be until the spring. I certainly hope we have it by the spring so that we can implement it in this coming school year in September. That is our objective, to see it done, so that the changes can be implemented. Now, I have to advise people as well that changes of this magnitude cannot be done overnight. It does not change on August 31 and September 1. It is unwise to make the changes that abrupt anyway. I would expect that the changes will occur over a period of a few years and within very few years we will have most of those changes implemented.

Mr. Speaker, I say again I believe we have achieved a reasonable compromise in the circumstance between those separate directions that different segments of our society would pull us on education issues. We think it gives priority to the interests of the students of this Province, and secondly, it gives a high priority to the interest of the taxpayers of this Province, and we are convinced that it is in the best interest of all of the people of this Province to pass this resolution with full debate but without undue delay so that we can then proceed to have the necessary approval achieved in Ottawa and move very quickly with the legislation that follows.

I thank all hon. members for their attention this afternoon, and I particularly appreciate their allowing me to make this presentation without serious interruption. I express my appreciation to them for it.

Thank you, very much.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Earlier this afternoon the Minister of Health confessed to the House of Assembly that the government does not have a plan for consolidating hospitals in St. John's, that government announced the decision to close the Grace Hospital and the Janeway Children's Hospital within two years, without having studied the cost or the feasibility of providing alternate facilities for the programs and services now given at the Grace and the Janeway.

Just then the Premier admitted that the government does not have a plan for implementing the long promised education reform. After being in office for six and a half years, after having had in it's possession the final report of the Williams Royal Commission on Education for three and a half years, the government still does not have a draft of the legislation required to give effect to the expected improvements in the school system.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I have taken the view that the reforms and changes, and improvements that are needed, and are awaited and expected do not require a constitutional amendment. When the final vote on this resolution to amend the Constitution takes place in a few days time, Newfoundland and Labrador will have the same teachers with the same qualifications as the Province had last year, the year before, and the year before that. Newfoundland and Labrador will have the same school buildings as we had last year and the year before. The Province will have the same school curriculum prescribed by the Department of Education as the Province had last year and the year before.

How will our students be any better off following our handling of this resolution? I submit to hon. members that if we are to better serve the interest of students we must get on with reforms to education, based, not on power struggles, but on excellence in curriculum and teaching. If we are to better serve the interests of our students we have to get on with better accountability to parents and taxpayers, not with one-upmanship on the part of the Premier. If we are to better serve the interests of our students we must proceed with education reform based, not on getting the Premier a footnote in some constitutional law book but on delivering better services and providing greater opportunities to students. We have to put the interest of students first. Mr. Speaker, long before now common sense changes and improvements to our school system were recommended, were identified, were laid out for the people of this Province. Citizens have indicated support for those changes.

The government appointed Williams Royal Commission on education published a comprehensive assessment of our school system and laid out many specific recommendations for improvements. I am holding the final report. Now that document was published three-and-a-half years ago. The government has had in its possession the final report for three-and-a-half years yet the government has done next to nothing about implementing the recommendations, virtually nothing of the Williams Royal Commission recommendations have actually been put in place. Mr. Speaker, in accordance with the Williams Royal Commission and using the powers the government has had all along, the government long before now could have reduced the number of school boards. The government could have done that with the cooperation of the churches and the school boards. School board administrators have been in doubt about their jobs and the future operation of their boards for two or three years now. School board members who serve voluntarily without any remuneration were elected six years ago for a four year term. Mr. Speaker, long before now if the government was serious about bringing in cost efficiencies the government could have ended duplication in administration. The government could have streamlined busing.

The Department of Education always has had complete control over the payroll for administration. The Department of Education all along has had total power over school busing. In 1949 when the terms of union were formalized there were no school board offices, there was no school busing in Newfoundland and Labrador. Using the constitutional powers the government was granted in the Terms of Union, during the '50s, '60s, '70s and '80s even the '90s - under this administration - administrations have been developed. Administrations have grown out of proportion. Regional school boards were created, school board bureaucracies were put in place, positions of superintendent, assistant superintendent and program coordinator were created by the Department of Education and funded by the Department of Education. Just as the Department of Education built up these education empires the Department of Education can shrink them.

Starting around the late '50s the Department of Education began providing school busing. The Department of Education set regulations or the Cabinet set regulations governing the operation of school buses. If the Premier was serious about streamlining school busing his government could have changed the regulations. An indication of the government's total control over busing was shown by the arrogant behaviour of the Minister of Education this summer when in a dictatorial fashion he ignored the tenders submitted by bus contractors on the Avalon. He made a second call for tenders. He was not satisfied with the bids contained in the second tenders. He then threatened these business people with taking busing out of private hands altogether, going to Ontario and buying condemned buses for $1,500 each and having the Department of Education directly operate busing on the Avalon. If the department, as the minister claims, has documented, flagrant duplication in busing, and there is reason to believe there is duplication in some areas of the Province, why didn't the minister use the power he obviously has to clear up that duplication?

Mr. Speaker, the government has had opportunities to bring about greater sharing of school facilities. Under the existing Constitution through the initiative of clergy, school boards and mostly parents in local areas, co-operative arrangements have been worked out, joint-service arrangements have been put in place. Now these arrangements have come about not because of the government but in spite of the government. For many years now, we have had interdenominational shared schools, working very successfully in many areas particularly in Western and Central Newfoundland, mostly rural areas.

In the district I represent, the Town of Pasadena developed a co-operative, shared school for the senior Grades in the early 80s. Pasadena with a population of 3,500, with thriving churches of the major denominations, Roman Catholic, Anglican, United Church, Salvation Army, Pentecostal as well as some others, for thirteen years have had all students going together for the senior Grades to Pasadena Academy. Under the one roof, the students go together to the same home rooms, study together math and English and phys. ed. and then they are subdivided by denomination for religious education. That's a co-operative arrangement that has worked very successfully and in my opinion, it represents an ideal balancing of interests. The interest of students, the interest of parents, the interest of churches and the interest of taxpayers.

This year, this school year, Gander consolidated its schools. As of this September, all children in Gander of every denomination are going together to the same schools. This Administration provided no assistance for that consolidation; the sharing came about in Gander in spite of this government. The government did not even provide any additional funding so that Gander Collegiate could be expanded, instead, old, portable buildings have had to be tacked on to Gander Collegiate. If the government had been serious about consolidating schools, the government could have used the power of the purse to provide incentives for consolidation. Instead, school administrators tell me there have actually been financial disincentives because after consolidation, operating funds are cut.

Most importantly of all, Mr. Speaker, if the government had been serious about improving education, the government could have improved the curriculum. Since Confederation, the Department of Education has had complete control over all aspects of curriculum, over curriculum for every subject area except for religious education. If there is any deficiency, which I believe there is, in the mathematics curriculum, then the Premier has nobody to blame but himself and his Administration. He has been in office for six-and-a-half years now. If there is anything lacking in the English curriculum, then I suggest to the Premier that he look in the mirror, because he and his Administration have had total control over all subject areas except religious education.

Mr. Speaker, again, any improvements related to teaching, any improvements related to evaluation of students, and basically any changes that would boost student achievement are now in the hands of the government.

Instead of acting on the common sense recommendations that enjoyed obvious public support the government has procrastinated. According to a professor of education at Memorial University the government has acted on only 10 per cent of the recommendations of the Williams royal commission report. If the government had been interested in bringing about improvements for students by now the government could have implemented 90 per cent of the recommendations of the Williams royal commission. Instead, Mr. Speaker, the Premier and his Administration single-mindedly pursued a quest for amending the Constitution, for winning a power struggle. The Premier and his Administration didn't have the good sense to use the power they had and to draw on pledges of cooperation from churches and school boards to make changes and to make progress.

Instead, the Premier put the Province through an expensive and a divisive referendum. The referendum cost the taxpayers directly over $2 million. The referendum is now being used by the government to further delay reform. The referendum was divisive. Whether we like to admit it or not, the referendum process revived some of the old religious divisions and bigotry. Most of us have felt a tremendous sense of satisfaction over the progress that we've made as a people in coming together, but the referendum did revive some of the old sectarianism. It is incumbent on all of us now to try to put that behind us and to reach out and secure renewed cooperation.

Not only did the Premier embark upon a needless, costly, potentially destructive referendum, the Premier's approach to the referendum was seriously flawed. First, the Premier withheld his decision to have the referendum until the House of Assembly had recessed for the summer and until the last day of the school year at the start of summer. Second, the Premier unilaterally decreed the referendum question and the text of the proposed constitutional amendment on which the question was based. The Premier didn't bring his proposed question to the House of Assembly for examination and debate. The Premier didn't put to any public forum, not a constituent assembly that he talked about so piously during the Meech Lake process, his proposed amendment to the Constitution, his proposed change to the Term 17. Instead the Premier dictated, I say to the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation, the referendum question and the constitutional amendment on which the referendum question was based.

After the referendum vote, the Premier and his government changed the wording of the proposed constitutional amendment, and now the Premier tells us that he doesn't even have the agreement of the Federal Government to the proposed text of the new Term 17. The process was badly flawed, Mr. Speaker. I would suggest political scientists will have some criticism to level at the process the Premier followed in years to come when more thoughtful analysis is made than has been given to date.

Apart from the process, what of the substance of the proposed constitutional amendment? What of the substance of the resolution that is now before us? Well, Mr. Speaker, I carefully studied the fine print. When the government finally published the text in mid-summer, some weeks after they announced the referendum, I carefully examined it. What I concluded is that it didn't lay out a framework for the kind of reform, for the kind of progress, that I and many others in the Province had been led to expect.

I concluded that the proposed new Term 17 doesn't give the government powers over human rights or powers to consolidate schools that the government lacks now. I concluded that the proposed new Term 17 has certain provisions which are actually regressive. I've determined - I realize others may disagree, and I acknowledge that none of us can say with certainty how the courts would interpret a constitutional provision - but I concluded that the new Term 17 would actually prolong denominational schools in urban centres and make denominational schools more separate, more rigid, and more denominational than they are now. I concluded that the new Term 17 would be inhibiting, rather than encouraging or fostering, the inter-denominational joint service arrangement that is working so well in Gander, Pasadena, Plum Point, in the Bay St. George area, on Fogo Island, in Bay de Verde, and many other places in the Province.

For me, unlike many voters, making my personal vote in the referendum on September 5, the choice was not black and white, it was gray and gray. I voted no. I voted no because I sincerely concluded that we could make more progress in reforming education and achieve gains faster under the old Term 17 than the new Term 17. Additionally, I concluded that the new Term 17 has certain regressive passages.

The Premier just walked us through his new Term 17. The Premier clearly indicated that it is calculated to give denominational schools a higher status than they have now by making denominational schools the rule, and then in spelling out that denominations operating denominational schools will have explicit control over a greater area of curriculum than the churches control now. Currently, churches only control religious education curriculum. The new wording opens the possibility that denominations will have control or influence over aspects of science curriculum, over aspects of literature curriculum, over aspects of social studies curriculum.

The new Term 17, in describing denominational schools, says that the denominations operating denominational schools will have control over student admissions. This raises the question that denominations will be able to exclude all students who do not adhere to that denomination. Currently, under the law, denominational schools are not allowed to refuse students for whom no school operated by the student's denomination is reasonably available, and if there is a dispute, the minister has the final say. Under the new constitutional provision, a denominational authority will be able to exclude, without question, any student who does not adhere to that denomination. It is written right into the Constitution.

Third, Mr. Speaker, the new Term 17 spells out that denominations operating denominational schools will be able to assign and dismiss teachers on non-work related discriminatory grounds; but that is not spelled out in the current constitution, although courts have held that is the effect of the current constitution. But we are now writing into the text of the Constitution, we are now codifying in the Constitution, churches' explicit power to hire and fire on discriminatory religious grounds.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS. VERGE: That is regressive, I say to the Minister of Health.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, the new Term 17 enshrines a ridiculous quota arrangement for electing school board members. Now, the Constitution is silent on the composition and the manner of selecting school board members. Under legislation we could provide for election of 100 per cent of school board members. In fact, over the years, the House of Assembly has legislated that a minimum of one-third of school board members be elected, and more recently that a minimum of two-thirds members be elected, but there is no quota system written into the law.

Mr. Speaker, the substance of the constitutional amendment, in my view, is regressive. The media incorrectly reported that I decided to vote no because the new Term 17 did not go far enough. I never made such a comment, quite simply because I maintain that the new Term 17 will not take us any distance the old Term 17 would not have taken us. As I have said before, I actually regard the new Term 17 as regressive.

It is extremely discouraging and disappointing to see the Province put through expense, trouble and turmoil for a constitutional amendment that does not represent progress. It is extremely discouraging to see the waste of opportunity that we have witnessed over the past few years.

Mr. Speaker, regardless of the fact that I personally voted no in the referendum for the reasons I have explained, a majority of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians voted yes, and I accept the result of that exercise in democracy. Over all a majority - 55 per cent -voted yes. In the district I represent, a larger majority voted yes; 67 per cent voted yes. I respect the choice of the citizens of the Province, and as Leader of the Opposition, and as the people's representative, I will vote yes to this resolution.

In saying that, Mr. Speaker, I pledge to the people of the Province that I will continue to press for results for students and their families. I have a predication to make. This Liberal Administration has been in office for six-and-a-half years now, they have had the Williams Royal Commission Report for three-and-a-half years, yet, they have done virtually nothing to improve the education system. I don't expect reforms to be implemented before the next election.

In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, I want to assure people that within 100 days of a PC government taking office, there will be action.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS. VERGE: After the next election, our PC government will use the powers the government has and we will accept offers of co-operation by the churches, school boards, and parents, and we will produce results for students and their families.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

I was hesitant to rise, because I really thought someone from the government benches would rise to participate in the debate. I was sort of anticipating that the Minister of Tourism, Culture - what is he now? title but no recreation - would get up. I thought that perhaps the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation might rise. I thought for sure that the Minister of Health, the Member for St. John's North would rise with strong views on this. I thought for sure they would rise in their place. Your Honour, with all respect to you, I realize you can't rise because you are in the Chair, but I thought for sure that if you were in your seat, you would have risen in the Assembly today to take part in the debate.

I see some interaction going on between the Government House Leader and my colleague, the Member for Burin Placentia West here. The real House Leader is now going up to the minister's office. The only place now that the Minister of Justice hasn't had an office in the last six months is behind the Speaker's Chair.

Mr. Speaker, I want to go on and take part in the debate, and I am honoured, really, to participate. I guess, if you look at my participation in this House, now in my fourth term, it certainly is one of the most important debates that I have participated in, in my life in politics, no doubt about that. It is the second time in my political career that I have been involved in a debate involving an amendment to the Constitution of Canada - the second time.

AN HON. MEMBER: Isn't it the third?

MR. W. MATTHEWS: It may be the third. Yes, you are right, it is the third. In 1987 the Government of the day, led by Brian Peckford, gave rights to the Pentecostal Assemblies of the Province. You are correct, and then, just a few short years ago, of course, we had the Meech Lake fiasco, and now we are talking about the new amended Term 17.

I want to say, Mr. Speaker, that it has been a fairly long drawn out process, a process that goes back before the last general election. I remember full well sitting here on March 12, 1993 when the Premier was on the verge of calling an election. We knew he was about to call an election. I thought it was a Friday morning. I may not be correct on the day but it was March 12, 1993.

The church leaders were sitting here in the Speaker's gallery and the Premier undertook at the time to assure them that they should not have any concerns about a government, led by him, seeking a change to the Constitution.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. W. MATTHEWS: That is right, I say to the Premier, and I have Hansard here for him. On March 12, 1993, page 174, he said: "Mr. Speaker, in response to the church leaders' concerns that implementing certain recommendations of the Royal Commission Report would jeopardize their traditional rights, government has assured the leaders that it is not seeking change to the Constitution that would remove the constitutionally protected rights of classes of people specifically provided for.

Some hon. members: Hear, hear!

Premier Wells: It was recognized by all at the meeting" he referred to a meeting, "however, that if after the conclusion of these discussions there is consensus amongst the leaders" the church leaders, "and the government that some adjustment or changes to the Constitution are necessary or desirable then they could be pursued." Consensus between the church leaders and the government.

Now, we know there has not been a consensus reached or developed between the church leaders and the government. March 12, 1993. It is there for everyone to read. It is there recorded in the records of this House, Mr. Speaker, the words of the Premier with the church leaders sitting in the gallery. I was one member who was in my seat that morning and I remember it well.

Then, of course, we saw what happened after the Premier received a new mandate. There were on-and-off-again talks between the church leaders and the government. It was not for the full duration of time that on occasions the Premier has alluded to, I say to the Premier. There were disruptions and interruptions. There were months when no discussions indeed took place. It was not a continuous process. There were disruptions. Really, I guess, for such a complex issue, where people had traditional claims to rights and so on, I am not surprised that it would have taken as long as it did if there were continuous dialogue, but there wasn't continuous dialogue, I say to the Premier, he knows it full well.

I was really concerned when I knew the Premier was considering a referendum - so were many other people in this Province, many members of this House. I remember Dr. Phil Warren saying publicly that he preferred there would not be a referendum because it would be so divisive. Other people in the Province expressed that, many people in this House expressed that, but the Premier wouldn't heed that. There was no need for the Premier to have a referendum to conclude that the majority of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians supported reform. There was no need to spend in excess of $1 million to see if the majority of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians supported reform in our system. We knew that in spades. I would suggest that the government had already spent $1 million getting polling data that already verified that. They did not need a referendum to tell them that, Mr. Speaker.

Of course, the referendum was a big disappointment to the Premier, there is no doubt about that. He wanted a bigger majority than he got. He can talk about why he didn't, and why people didn't vote and why the no side did so well, but, of course, it has been very divisive. Look at the situation in this very House of Assembly where there are only fifty-two of us, and this debate is going to cross party lines. We have had people in the referendum vote, the private vote on September 5, that voted one way and other members voted another. We will see over the next few days members debating one way and members debating the other and voting, consequently, different ways from both sides of the House. I think that should illustrate very clearly just how divisive an issue this has been and continues to be in this Province.

As I said to someone before, it is going to be a little different for me because I've never participated in this kind of a situation here before, where members of my own party will talk and vote different ways. The government side find themselves the same way. It is a very different situation. I think that illustrates just how divided we have become on this issue as a people and as a province, and that alarms me - I don't like that, because it wasn't necessary. The reform that we need and want so badly could have been accomplished by negotiation, in my view. There was still a chance for that.

There are a few things the Premier said that I have to - I sat in my seat and I really didn't want to react, but I feel compelled to. He talks about: The government didn't lead a campaign, and he talks about the great campaign of the `No' side. The Premier can get on all he wants. The government had an advertising campaign, the Premier met with editorial boards. They sent literature to every corner of this Province. The Premier can pooh-pooh all he wants. This government had as aggressive and costly a campaign, if not more, than the `No' side, I say to the Premier.

What a - I don't know how to explain it, to say that all those who stayed home were yes votes.

MS. VERGE: He said all the ones who stayed home in Gander were Liberals, too.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Yes, the voters in Gander who stayed home were all Liberals. Anytime they don't get out and vote, they're with the Premier. It's the first time I've heard that analysis of anything in my knowledge of democracy, I say to him - rather a change.

Mr. Speaker, having said that, there is one other thing I want to say to the Premier while he is in his seat because I would rather say it with him here than with him gone. The Premier has an unusual way - and I have seen it in the years that I have been here since he has been Premier - he makes believe that he really does not want to make derogatory comments or to belittle people, put them down. We saw it before with people that were involved in the opposition to the privatization of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro. When he said about the reporter, and he did not want to go one way or another, but he comes on the floor of the Assembly and does just what he said he did not want to do publicly. I don't think there is any need for that, I say to the Premier. The people who have been involved in this issue have strong beliefs on whatever side they are on, strong convictions and while people have different views than -

PREMIER WELLS: You have no basis for that.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Well that is your opinion again, you see. A lot of things you've said there has been no basis for either, I say to you Premier. You cannot always expect people to think that you're right but my point is that we can go on attacking each other all we like and we will accomplish very little. You have to respect other peoples beliefs and other peoples rights. You have to respect their own personal opinions and you have to respect the opinions and desires of those they represent the same as we, as fifty-two members here, will do over the next week or so. That is my point, there is no need of that.

Mr. Speaker, I sincerely think we are concerned about or should be concerned about, and what somewhat got lost in this whole debate is the quality of education in the classrooms around this Province and I say that to the government and to the church leaders. Somehow in all this great debate and all this attention, all this money that was spent, the quality of education inside the classrooms around this Province seems to have been forgotten. My only desire in it all and has been for a number of years and I've said it to my caucus colleagues when we were developing a policy platform to put forward for the last election and I've said it since during this debate, that what we should all be concerned about and concentrating on is improving the quality of education for every student in Newfoundland and Labrador and I really believe that. I think in all of this somehow it has gotten lost and that concerns me. We have to improve the quality of education for our students and let's get on with it. It should be all of our priorities, Mr. Speaker.

Now, Mr. Speaker, where is the new schools act legislation? My colleague the Leader of the Opposition wondered where it was. We have not seen it. The members of the House of Assembly of Newfoundland and Labrador have not seen the new schools act legislation. I say to members opposite and members on this side, where is it? Was it too much to expect that simultaneous with the notice and the tabling of the new Term 17 that we would have had a copy of the new schools act legislation so that we could see really what this was all about, what the end result of this might be, I say to the Premier? Was that too much to expect? Wouldn't it have only been common courteousness to provide us with that?

MS VERGE: Or prudent planning.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Well whatever, and to go further than that, that is what the church leaders and the no campaign so rightfully asked for during the campaign, that the people of the Province should have been privy to that legislation while they were making up their minds. They should have seen what government was proposing, really what is going to be the end result of what we are doing here. People should have had it so they could have familiarize themselves with it and decide then if the end result of what this process we are about here today, is really what they think it is going to be or thought it was going to be because I am afraid, Mr. Speaker, that at the end of the day that those who went out and voted on September 5 are going to end up with something different then they thought they were voting for. I say that very sincerely. Those who voted yes and who voted no, there is no doubt they all wanted reform and they all voted yes and no because they thought they were going to get a certain kind of reform but I am not so sure they are going to get what they had thought they were getting on September 5.

MR. DUMARESQUE: (Inaudible).

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Listen, you are allowed to speak now, the Premier is leaving. You are allowed to speak now. I look forward to listening to your participation in the debate the same as I expect you to listen to mine, I say to the Member for Eagle River. Be a man and stand in your place to express your views when your turn is called, I say to the member.

Now, Mr. Speaker, that concerns me very much, I say to members. Of course there was so much confusion about this issue that people thought when they voted on September 5 that that was the end of it.

A lot of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians really thought that, and there is another body of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who think that once this issue is passed, this resolution is passed in this House of Assembly, that's the end of it and neither is correct, which brings me to another area of concern that I have and that the Premier today, confirmed. The Premier today confirmed, not only for the members of this House, but for the people of this Province that indeed the federal people were not involved in the drafting of the resolution.

Mr. Speaker, 99.9 per cent of constitutional amendments that have taken place in this country, have been drafted bilaterally and in most cases if not all, there has been legislation introduced simultaneously in the provincial Assembly and the House of Commons, simultaneous legislation. Neither has applied here. The Premier confirmed that today. The other thing he confirmed today, of which I was suspicious, which I pretty well knew, is that he has no undertaking from the Prime Minister of this country to get this through the federal system by the end of this calendar year, which tells me that there is great caution amongst the members of Parliament in Ottawa; there is going to be tremendous lobbying from all across this country by interest groups and various MPs and I don't think, Mr. Speaker, I don't think this thing is going to pass too smoothly through the federal system.

MR. DUMARESQUE: (Inaudible).

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Now I know the Member for Eagle River is aspiring to be the new Member of Parliament for Labrador but he is not there yet. He is not sure where he is going to vote. I only hope, Mr. Speaker, that he has the intestinal fortitude to get up and participate in this debate and tell us what he thinks and where he is going to vote.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. CAREEN: Will he be able to vote in this Province or will he lose it?

MR. W. MATTHEWS: That's what I hope. So, Mr. Speaker, these are some of the concerns that I have about this whole process and where I think we are heading.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. W. MATTHEWS: I am not so sure, I say to the member. Conceivably, we could end up dealing with this again in '96 or '97, right back here, in our laps in an amended form.

MS VERGE: Some of us will be on the other side of the House then.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Of course, we won't have that problem and you are right because we will be over there and we will deal with it.


MR. W. MATTHEWS: We will deal with it. We are real, I say to the Member for Eagle River. It is one thing to be realistic but to think that you are forever going to be in government is unrealistic, I say to the Member for Eagle River. If there is ever a sign that you are in trouble, it is when you get that arrogant and that cocky. It is a sure sign you are in trouble.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I want to speak for a moment about my own situation in my own district, where it has been finally clarified that indeed the majority voted `no'. I was not, by the way, any way concerned that a majority had not voted `no' because I knew what had happened there.


MR. W. MATTHEWS: Yes, I say to the Member for Eagle River. What had happened there was, a poll clerk in the Town of St. Lawrence had phoned in the results on referendum night incorrectly, and then with that old slip of paper that goes into the ballot box to be official, that person reversed the number of yes and no from that particular poll so when the returning officer opened the ballot box and took it out, of course they had to tabulate what was written on the sheet. Of course, I quite naturally was very concerned about that and from where I sat, as the member for the district, I wanted that clarified and there was only one way to clarify it and that was to do a recount, which was initiated as I understand it by the returning officer from the district.

MR. ROBERTS: (Inaudible) send the Auditor General a bill?

MR. W. MATTHEWS: No, no. I didn't initiate it, I mean, someone else initiated it but I was very strong in what I thought should happen, I say to the Minister of Justice. Everyone should know and they did and the result is basically the same as election night except there were two more rejected ballots as I understand it; there were nine rejected ballots in total which left the majority 166 for the no side, so that's the situation there pertaining to my own district about what really happened for members who are interested, Mr. Speaker.

But as well, Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition today, made some interesting comments as did the Premier, but I don't know if members know or not, but there are a lot of people who thought they were getting a certain thing from this piece of legislation, this amendment. There are those who thought, at the time, that government was not going far enough. There were those who thought the government was going too far; and, you know, those two groups of people are more confused than ever, I say to the Member for St. John's South, the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations.

This piece of legislation has got even those who voted yes very confused, the very informed academics who voted yes. They are the ones who are scratching their heads now about the new Term 17 as we know it, really, and if you look at the legislation carefully there is no doubt in my mind that the uni-denominational schools now will have more power than they had before. There is no doubt in my mind at all, and I don't know if a lot of the people really understand that. I don't know how many members understand that.

The Premier as well today, I believe, touched on student admissions. There are some implications there. I guess the perhaps unnoticed or untouched part of it all that raises some concern for me is the effect on the integrated denominations, those who integrated by agreement, I guess - in 1969 I believe it was - five denominations, not because of a constitutional change; they amended by agreement, and from what I understand from what is happening here now is that they are now put into one class of people. Before they were five classes, but they are now junked into one, I say to the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation, who I believe made a comment.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. W. MATTHEWS: He didn't; I am sorry.

MR. TOBIN: (Inaudible) his notes.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Tearing up his notes? I have a note here on that somewhere; I want to raise it.

MS VERGE: It is Anglican (inaudible).

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Yes, the Anglican, United, Presbyterian, Salvation Army and Moravian churches consolidated their schools in 1969. When they did that, they did not give up their constitutional rights as separate denominational entitles. Integration was an administrative agreement, not a constitutional change.

Now if you read the new Term 17, it says: And the group of classes that form one integrated school system by agreement in 1969 may exercise the same rights under this term as a single class of persons, which has some implications for them, as I understand it.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. W. MATTHEWS: I am sorry?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Well, I am not so sure, I say to the Minister of Justice, what they asked for. I know what they are getting.

MR. ROBERTS: I know what they asked for; I was there.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Well, maybe you do, but there is an implication here for them, I say to the minister. There is an implication here in that indeed they are giving up some of their rights, and I am not so sure they understand that, with all due respect to the leaders of the integrated system.

MR. ROBERTS: They are not giving up rights (inaudible).

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Yes, they are, I say to the Minister.

MR. ROBERTS: (Inaudible).

MR. W. MATTHEWS: But you have junked them together as one class, only for observances, as I understand it, or things that they would agree to do together, but they had certain rights individually as classes that they now will not be able to practice under the school system, under the school setting.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Well, I say to the minister, I look forward to his response in the debate. Feel free. I am only giving you my interpretation of it, and the concerns that I have about some of these things, I say to the minister.

Now the Premier, of course, recognized in his debate that indeed the uni-denominational schools - and he said he had to do that to be fair and to be practical and so on, but as I said, there is a fair degree of concern out there about that, a fair degree.

Mr. Speaker, I guess what I am trying to say here today is that the process has been unnecessary. It has been costly; it has divided the people of the Province. The Minister of Fisheries shakes his head, no. I am not surprised the Minister of Fisheries shakes his head, no. He does not realize that the referendum was unnecessary. He does not realize that the people of the Province are divided, members of this House are divided. Even in the same party that the minister sits in there is division. He shakes his head, no, there is none of that. Well there is, I say to the minister, serious division, and it is going to carry over for a long time, in my view, in this Province, which is unfortunate. It was unnecessary but it is going to carry over for a long time. It is going to take a long time for the differences to heal, the wounds to heal. It is going to take a long time, years, for us to get over it, something that was so unnecessary. Something, by the way, that the Premier promised in this Legislature wouldn't happen. Something that the Premier, the leader of the government, promised, with the church leaders sitting here, wouldn't happen, on March 12 1993.

I have a problem with the process. Totally unnecessary. I have a problem, even though 55 per cent voted yes of those who voted. I recognize that and I respect that. It was a very low turnout, I say to the minister, in this Province. Half the people stayed home and didn't vote, for whatever reason.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. W. MATTHEWS: No, all the no votes didn't get out, I say to the minister. I can name a lot of no votes that didn't get out, I would say to the minister. The only thing that I wish was that the no campaign was as effective as it said it was, and then the result, there would have been no doubt about it, I say to the minister. It did a good job, it had a good campaign, but it wasn't as effective as it was touted to be, I would say to the minister, in my view, for what that is worth, which mightn't be very much. If the no campaign was as organized and effective as it said it was, there would have been no doubt in my mind, the result would have been reversed.

I hope the minister isn't suggesting that he believes that all those who stayed home would have voted yes.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Well, that tells me everything about the minister. There is no doubt.

Mr. Speaker, totally unnecessary. A waste of taxpayers' money. The government knew where the people of the Province stood on reform. A great majority of the people wanted reform and still do. The Premier's statement in this House of Assembly to the church leaders, very blatant what he said to them.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. W. MATTHEWS: No, I don't need to read it for the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation. He knows what the Premier said. He sat here the same day that I did with a lot of other members and the church leaders here.

The concerns about what is going to happen federally, Mr. Speaker. There are too many unanswered questions for me to take a chance on this, I say to the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology. Too many unanswered questions, too many suspicions. You can't trust this government, I say to them. You can't trust this Premier. If members want any illustration of how he can't be trusted look at March 12 1993, I say to the Minister of Education and Training, by the way. Who, I have to say to him, on my feet in this House in this debate, that with those series of meetings, that every time they would go into a meeting and they would come out and there was optimism expressed by the Premier and the spokesperson for the churches -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. W. MATTHEWS: No, there used to be optimism. After a couple of meetings I would say -

AN HON. MEMBER: (inaudible).

MR. W. MATTHEWS: No, I would say: Hold on a minute now. It is only a matter of a few days now and Chris will make another inflammatory statement and we will be right back to where we were again. Mark it down on your calendar. What would happen inside of a week after? The Minister of Education and Training would say something completely opposite to what the Premier would lead us to believe, or the spokesperson for the churches. The Minister of Education and Training would knock her off the rails again. It happened so many times, Mr. Speaker, that I thought - I couldn't believe it - it was a deliberate attempt by the government to do things this way. Just when we thought we were making progress the Minister of Education and Training would knock us back. It happened so many times, I say to the Minister of Education and Training.

No legislation in front of us to look at, to compare, to see where we are going from where we are today. To let the people of the Province know really what the new education system in this Province is going to look like. What are we getting for our buck.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Well, I say to the Minister of Tourism, if you do not know what is going to go on in the future, and I know what things are today, am I going to go and jump off the wharf in Grand Bank because someone tells me: Jump in the harbour, Bill, you are going to have a better future, or will I stay on the wharf where I know my feet are dry? Am I going to jump out in the harbour because Clyde Wells and Chris Decker say: Have faith in us. Have faith in this legislation that you will see some time... the minister says next spring. The Premier said today, without knowing what his minister had said, by the way, until I reminded him, that he will do it this fall; and he looked for Ed, but Ed was gone. He didn't know if it was coming this fall or not. He looked for his House Leader; he didn't know.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. W. MATTHEWS: By leave to finish?

MR. SPEAKER: By leave?


MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Mr. Speaker, I thought that I was recognized. I look forward to the ministers participating in the debate, on their feet when they are recognized so they can be recorded in Hansard for us members to read and for the people of the Province who so desire to read.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Oh, I am not going to be very long I say to the minister.

I say to the government, to the Minister of Education and Training, and to the other ministers particularly, and to those on the other side who have not made up their minds yet, who are being influenced by the Premier, and whoever else might be trying to influence them these days, how can you come into this House and vote for something when you don't know what you are voting for? It is as simple as that; you don't know what you are voting for.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. W. MATTHEWS: The leader told us why she is doing what she is doing.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Well, get on your feet I say to the minister.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Mr. Speaker, I want to be allowed to conclude. I want to be permitted to conclude.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. W. MATTHEWS: I say to the minister, it is one to one on this side. The Premier has not made up his mind yet. We are not sure, really, if what we are debating today will be the actual thing sent to the federal government.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. W. MATTHEWS: I am certainly not going to take the word of the Minister of Justice.

MS VERGE: He said that once before.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: He said it before, yes.

Mr. Speaker, I think I have outlined my concerns about the situation. I have alluded to what happened in my own district. I have looked -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. W. MATTHEWS: My cousin.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. W. MATTHEWS: There is one thing about it, Mr. Speaker, none of my cousins speak to the minister, I assure you of that. They know too much about the fishery to speak to the minister.

Mr. Speaker, on a serious note, I have outlined my concerns on the issue, about the process, the promise made by the Premier. I don't know what the new Schools Act legislation is going to look like. I cannot trust this Premier and this minister and this government - I cannot do it - and I am not willing to take a chance on it, to be very honest with you. If it meant that we were going to have our system reformed in the near future, and I knew what that new reform system was going to be like, I would have no doubt what I would do; but having said that, it is as clear as mud that I will be voting no when the vote is called in this House.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Conception Bay South.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS COWAN: Before I make my remarks, Mr. Speaker, I move that the House not adjourn at 5:00 p.m.

Motion carried.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Conception Bay South.

MS COWAN: Mr. Speaker, I would say that in my whole career as a politician and educator, this is the proudest moment in my life, to be able to stand in the House of Assembly -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS COWAN: - to participate in a debate that is going to improve the lives of the children, the young people and consequently the adults and the society of this Province.

I remember some years ago, Mr. Speaker, when I was President of NTA, and I must admit that it was this experience that really made me realize the affect of the denominational system in this Province, and I am going to comment on that in a few minutes because I visited about 250 schools in Newfoundland and Labrador and I have seen it first hand, the affects of the denominational system on these schools and on the children. But I remember being in Creston South - I think it was Creston South, just outside of Marystown, I notice all the people from Marystown and that area have departed because of one of the areas of the problems -

There are two areas in the Province where the denominational system has had a most negative impact and one is the Burin Peninsula and the other is the Great Northern Peninsula, and I find it very interesting that the people who represent Burin have all gotten up and left the Burin Peninsula, but I was in Creston South and on one side of the road there were two schools, the elementary Roman Catholic and the secondary Roman Catholic. On the other side of the road, was the Integrated elementary and the Integrated secondary and one school was building on because it didn't have enough room and the other schools had empty classrooms. Anyway, a teacher there said to me: Patt, do you think that this will ever end, and I said: not in my lifetime, and I am proud today that I chose to become a member of a government that had the intestinal fortitude to take on a medieval institution and reform it.

In my visits around the Province, I am just going to talk to you about some other things that I saw because they were so influential on me that it really changed my whole view of education. When I first moved to this Province, my first question was, why are there all these buses? That was my first question, I couldn't understand where all the buses came from because I didn't think there was a very big school population and that was my first introduction. My second one was, when somebody told me that I was really lucky to have already been certified as a teacher in Ontario, because that meant I could get a job in Newfoundland without having a priest or a minister say that I was of good character and so on, that I had already been given approval elsewhere.

Anyway, I started when I was in the presidency of NTA, thinking that I would just visit some of the schools and see what was actually going on in rural education in Newfoundland because I had heard that things were not that good and I was appalled really, at what I saw. The small schools that couldn't offer a music program, couldn't offer an art program, where the teachers actually built the furniture to sit the computers on, that they sold nuts for, going door to door. It is a very, very negative experience to go to make a presentation at a graduation in a very small school in a very small community, again on the Great Northern Peninsula and find a Kindergarten class that had nothing in it but tables and chairs.

Now, for those of you who have not taught, that might not seem a big thing, you may think that that's all there are in classrooms anyway, tables and chairs but Kindergarten should be filled with all kinds of books, of manipulative materials, things for children to play with as they develop spacial concepts and all these things that lead to an ability in math and science and reading, literacy all that type of thing. This school didn't have the money to get those kinds of things. I met a wonderful principal - and I don't think it is inappropriate for me to say this during the public hearings - from out around the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation, his area, and they have come together there, I think it is his district, several of the high schools have come together and formed a school of about 600, which is a nice-sized school. Nobody can say that that has gone beyond the bounds of interpersonal relationships and that kind of thing.

What the principal was able to offer those students, because she had the staff - she just didn't have four or five teachers in one little wee place trying to teach math, science, physics and music, and do guidance counselling, history, geography and all these multitude of things - she was able to offer drama, she was able to offer music, good solid science and math programs. She had the personnel, and this is what is going to be available to more children in this Province. They are going to have a better rounded education.

We have produced from this Province some very fine scholars who are recognized across Canada but we haven't produced enough. I think that this is a very positive step. Now, we don't have to have everybody being a scholar, there is no doubt about that, but don't we want the very best for everybody in the system to rise at least to their potential and to be able to participate in society to the best of their ability.

I believe that these steps that we are taking now in this reform are very positive steps in that direction. Sure, it may not go far enough, but you always open the door. We've opened the door and we are moving forward in a very positive way. We are throwing off the cloaks and the cowls of the medieval ages and we are stepping forward into a more enlightened education system.

I'm not even going to comment on the religion issue because I don't think it is important. I think it was over-estimated, over-emphasized during the whole debate -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS COWAN: It was a red herring. To me it is the children, the youth, the future of this Province, that is the important thing. I've taught in other provinces. That might make some people think: Why the heck is she up on her two feet talking about Newfoundland. If she taught elsewhere does she really understand the Newfoundland system, and blah-blah-blah? That gives me a wonderful comparison. I know what is available in other small rural communities in other parts of Canada. Apparently they are getting it at a lower cost than we are from what the Premier read there today in those stats. I mean, that absolutely amazed me. I'm sure I've heard them before, but every time I hear them it surprises me, the money that we have put into education in this Province and the little that we have gotten back from it, or have to show for it, the poor quality school buildings that we have had to deal with.

Just in my district this year, a school practically falling down. What were we going to do about it? Because if we put money into that then the money had to go into three other systems. The money wasn't there. It was only due to the ingenuity of the Minister of Education and Training that we were finally able to deal with that situation, and we are getting a new part on that school. Believe me, that experience alone was one of the reasons the people in Conception Bay South voted so strongly in favour of the government's reform.

I'm not going to say too much more, Mr. Speaker, on this particular issue. It is one that is so dear to my heart that I am glad I went into politics.

AN HON. MEMBER: Your overcome with joy.

MS COWAN: I am, I'm overcome with joy.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS COWAN: You go into politics hoping to see positive change, positive change of course that you personally approve of, but that doesn't always happen. Sometimes you can get a bit cynical and lose your enthusiasm and so on. This particular issue is one that makes me glad that I left the education system and went into politics and was able to be part of a significant reform that is going to recreate our Province. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, I rise not to be recognized in the debate. There have been consultations behind the Speaker's Chair, as Your Honour may have noticed from the buzz-buzz, whisper-whisper. I think it is the consensus of both sides at this stage that the debate will move forward more expeditiously to its conclusion if we adjourn the House now and do not sit until 7:00, as we had originally planned, this evening. I want to thank my hon. friend for Conception Bay South for making it possible for the House to sit at 7:00 p.m. should that be necessary.

I am about to move the adjournment until tomorrow. We shall tomorrow debate the motion set down by my friend for Mount Scio - Bell Island on the Gulf ferry service which will appear in tomorrow's Order Paper. We shall on Thursday resume debate on the education thing. I would say to members on both sides that those of us who wish to speak should be ready to speak whenever a debate ceases. Because if nobody rises to speak we have no choice except to put the matter to the vote. Those who wish to speak should be ready to speak when the opportunity arises.

We will not sit beyond 5:00 on Thursday because a number of members, at least on this side, will be on their way to Gander for a gathering of harmony, light, joy, celebration.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: I assure my hon. friend for Grand Bank that there will be great joy and celebration in Gander this weekend. With that said, Your Honour, I move that the House do now adjourn.

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