November 16, 1995          HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS          Vol. XLII  No. 56

The House met at 2:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I would like to welcome on behalf of all hon. members to the gallery today, sixty-four Level I and Level II students from the Democracy/Law Class from Discovery Collegiate, Bonavista, accompanied by their teachers, Stephanie Machim and Larry McCarthy. As well, we have sixteen students from the Central Newfoundland Regional College, along with their instructors, Mr. Randy Arsenault and Ms Mary Kelly.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Oral Questions

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

AN HON. MEMBER: Waterford - Kenmount.

MR. SPEAKER: I'm sorry, Waterford - Kenmount.

MR. HODDER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My questions are to the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs.

At the AGM of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Municipalities in October, the minister spoke about the inauguration of a new approach to municipal-provincial relations and how he would be facilitating that approach. Specifically, he spoke his commitment to collaboration and dialogue with municipalities.

In view of his unilateral mean-spirited and callous actions on the slashing of the municipal operating grants, and his compilation of a White Paper on regional government without even the courtesy of a tele-conference with the federation executive, has the minister, I ask, decided to replace dialogue and discussion with ministerial authoritarianism, cold-heartedness and condescending approaches to the resolution of municipal problems?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. REID: Mr. Speaker, that certainly hits me `right here', because, for such a wonderful colleague and friend that I have had for the past twenty years, both of us involved in municipal politics, and his knowing - in fact he is the one who nominated me for the Presidency of the Federation of Municipalities some years ago, and for him to get up and accuse me of being hardhearted and callous, it's really a distressing comment for me to have to deal with.

No, Mr. Speaker, the answer is absolutely no. I have every intention of continuing dialogue with the Federation of Municipalities and any council and any mayor in this Province, as I have been doing in the last two-and-a-half years. I regret that - I will not say for no fault of this particular government, but because our Budget estimates this year were thrown off because of reductions from the Federal Government, we were put in a position where we had no other choice but to save money, to find money to balance our Budget and to be able to keep the services going that we provide to the people of this Province.

I will say to the hon. member that I hope when this is over, when and if it is over, at the end of the day our relationship, mine and my department with the Federation of Municipalities, can be as cordial as it always has been.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Waterford - Kenmount, on a supplementary.

MR. HODDER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Will the minister confirm that the White Paper on regional government has been written, and will he also confirm that the White Paper acknowledges that local government will collapse in many communities, and that these communities will be given observer or advisory status on the new regional councils? Will he also confirm that the new regional council boundaries will be similar to the boundaries of the nineteen new economic zones?

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

MR. REID: Mr. Speaker, I can't confirm that the White Paper is completed. I haven't seen the White Paper myself so I am assuming it is not completed. If he has a copy I would like to see it. The White Paper, as far as I am concerned, and my officials have told me that the White Paper should be ready for perusal in the next couple of weeks. In fact, the first people who will get the White Paper will be the Federation of Municipalities. They have been working with me on a number of issues over the past two-and-a-half years and will continue.

The hon. member knows that I have already made the commitment to the Federation of Municipalities, and municipalities in general around this Province, and anyone else in the whole community who wants to see the White Paper, discuss it and have input into it, we are going to provide that opportunity.

The answer to his question is, no, I don't have the White Paper ready. I haven't seen it myself, and when I do see it myself, at that particular point in time I will make it available. If he doesn't already have it, I will make it available to the hon. member. If he has it, then he is doing better than I am, because I don't have it.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Waterford - Kenmount, on a supplementary.

MR. HODDER: Will the minister now admit that his cuts to the MOGs were well planned to severely disrupt the functioning of municipalities in Newfoundland and Labrador, and to cause the creation of an environment where his designs for a `made in Confederation Building' regional council approach will be more readily accepted by cash-strapped and orphaned towns and cities, and communities in this Province?

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

MR. REID: Mr. Speaker, up to two weeks ago, I had no idea that we would have a shortfall of in excess of $60 million. I had no idea. I don't know if any other minister or any other member did. There is absolutely no truth in the supposition or the proposal that you are putting forward. There is absolutely no truth in it. I know the hon. member knows that. I didn't have any idea up until two weeks ago that I would be forced to share the deficit burden that we have in this Province, and my department will share it on an equal basis with every other department of government.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. REID: It is not right, Mr. Speaker, for the hon. member to accuse me of plotting or planning to do anything with rural municipalities in this Province, other than trying to help them in every way I possibly can.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I have a question for the Minister of Health. The minister informed this House two weeks ago that the Labrador health care board purchased a house for $182,000 for its CEO in Happy Valley - Goose Bay. Since Mr. Woodward wrote that cheque for $182,000 for the house, I've been informed that there have been further expenditures of thousands of dollars recently including replacing new carpet because of colour clash, landscaping, other major internal renovations, driving the cost in excess of $200,000. Is the minister aware of those extra costs and does he feel it is appropriate to spend upwards of $250,000 for a house for his CEO when they are laying off front-line health care workers and the people in Happy Valley - Goose Bay are waiting up to six months for dental services?

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

MR. L. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The question of the house purchase and its availability to the CEO in Happy Valley - Goose Bay has been the subject of some public comment for the last couple of weeks. I've answered the questions in the House regarding it.

Let me answer the question by outlining the circumstances very briefly. The new Labrador health care board purchased a house for $182,000 some months ago and provided it to their new chief executive officer without charging an appropriate, or in fact without charging, as best I can judge, any rent for the house. He was or he is paying the utilities.

What happened was clearly outside of the policy established in 1991 by my predecessor's predecessor, the Minister of Education, when he informed all boards that for administration personnel no monetary or non-monetary benefit was to be provided outside of the regular compensation or salary package for that position. The new board was not aware of this when it took the decision to purchase the house. It was a new board created in Labrador and the new board chair had not been involved in health care prior to this. I spoke with him personally and asked the question: were you aware of the policy? The answer was clearly no or we would not have done that. So the house has been purchased. I have directed them to correct the situation in such a manner as to fall within the current policy which is to not provide non-monetary or monetary benefits outside of the salary package. I met with Mr. Woodward last night. I asked him for an update on the situation, he advised me that his board has not yet addressed it fully. I have asked him to go back to his board and address the problem that has been created by correcting it as soon as possible and I have given him a number of days in which I want that done. Clearly it is not acceptable to provide a house for free rent to the CEO of any health care board. We will not condone it or accept it as being the norm or we will not make an exception to allow it to happen.

As to the other expenditures that you have just referred to, I can only tell you that I am hearing them from you for the first time. I have no knowledge of additional expenses other than the purchase of the house.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

A supplementary, the hon. the Member for Ferryland.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The minister said two weeks ago and yesterday in the house what he said today. He has answered that before; that was not my question which he just barely answered. I say to the minister, it is no excuse if someone who is chairperson of a health board doesn't follow government policy. It is no excuse because you appointed the board, I say to the minister and you are the man responsible. Now the minister said in this House yesterday that if you buy a house and amortize the mortgage and his words were, `you collect rent so that the mortgage can be paid off then that does not add any costs to our health care,.' that is what the minister said. Now will the minister tell this House what the Labrador board is charging its CEO for rent for this house that is close to $250,000 cost to purchase and renovate?

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

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

The house was provided to the CEO of the Labrador health care board rent free. The only thing that they asked of him was to pay the utilities and that was the arrangement which they put in place with him. They now clearly understand that that is not acceptable. It is not acceptable to government. It is outside of policy and practice as permitted and the Labrador health care board has been directed to correct the situation immediately and we will ensure, Mr. Speaker, that that happens.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. L. MATTHEWS: Now, the question you asked me was what the rent was. The rent today is nil, but the rent being nil is a violation of government policy and we have asked that to be corrected such that not a nominal but a reasonable market value rent be charged for the property so as to comply with government policy.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The minister said in this House yesterday that the purpose of rent is to recover the cost so there was no cost to our health care system. Now, the amortization rate on a property of that size, I say to the minister, at current rates today, it would have to collect over $2,000 a month to recover and not be a cost to our health care system.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes, I do.

The minister has denied the public opportunity to have input into the operation of our health care system by personally appointing members to boards in Labrador and the rest of this Province. Will the minister open that closed door to secrecy? Will he stop making political appointments? And will he have fully accountable and elected members to serve on boards in this Province?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

The practice of appointing health care boards did not originate with this minister or with this government. It has been a practice that has been in place in this Province for many, many, many years.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. L. MATTHEWS: That is how you are going to be after the next election; they are all going to be partly elected. They are not going to get enough votes to get back; I can assure you of that.

As to whether or not electing health care boards is a proper course to follow, it might be something that we should consider in the future. I am not fundamentally opposed to democracy. I am not fundamentally opposed to electing or partially electing boards as a matter of principle, and it might be something that in the future we may have to give some consideration to, but I have to say to the hon. member at the moment that all of the health care boards are in place. They were appointed either last year or this year, for a three-year period, and it is not something that is contemplative in any sense in the near future.

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

MR. SHELLEY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My question is for the Premier.

Mr. Speaker, it is now public knowledge that a company known as The North American Environmental Technology Incorporated is interested in establishing a seal processing plant here in Newfoundland. Can the Premier confirm that this company has submitted a business plan to the provincial government, as well as the federal Minister of Fisheries, Mr. Tobin, and how long has the provincial government had that proposal?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: I am aware of the existence of a proposal, and generally what is proposed. I do not personally have the detailed knowledge of it. The Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology, if he were present, could give that information. I would have to undertake to get it and provide it to the hon. member.

MR. SPEAKER: A supplementary, the hon. the Member for Baie Verte - White Bay.

MR. SHELLEY: Mr. Speaker, this is moving along quite rapidly now. As a matter of fact, meetings start tonight in my district in Baie Verte and they are continuing throughout the northeast coast over the next few days. I would like to ask the Premier if he would tell us if there is any action taken so far by the provincial minister, and are there any meetings planned with Mr. Tobin to see if we can speed up this process.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Are there meetings planned with Mr. Tobin? Yes, but not specifically for this process. For a variety of matters. How far along is it? The minister has that detail and I can get the detail and provide it to the hon. member after.

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

MR. TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations. Seeing he isn't here I don't know if I direct it to the Premier or to the senior minister of employment, the chairman of social policy. In any case, for some time I've been asking questions of the minister as to whether or not he has been advised by his federal Liberal friends in Ottawa as to how they plan to crucify the seasonal unemployed in this Province as it relates to those who depend on UI. I would like to ask either of them now, whoever chooses to answer it, if their bosom pals in Ottawa have yet advised them as to how they intend to inflict this punishment.

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

MR. AYLWARD: Let me tell the member that the minister who is not here today is very much on top of this issue, and is, as is the whole government, very much on top of the issue in trying to deal with the federal government on this matter. We are making representations and have been doing so for a number of months. I'm sure the minister could give you more details of it. We've had a committee of Cabinet working on it and so on. But I mean, there are major concerns. We have major concerns. The government has concerns, sir, and I can tell you we will continue to have concerns until we see where the matter goes in the future.

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

MR. TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, no, I can say that that is the most information we've got, because the other minister had told us that he had never been advised. Now that the minister has confirmed that the minister has been advised, and indeed the Cabinet had been advised and are on top of it, will he now tell the House what they have been advised as to how this punishment is going to be inflicted?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, this minister or this government has not said we have been advised. This government is making representations continuously to the federal government. We are very concerned about the major changes that they may make, or whatever changes they may make, to the changes in unemployment insurance, that may affect seasonal income earners in this Province, we are very concerned. We are expressing our concerns in a number of ways to the federal government; we may express them more, once we get the details of the plan that the federal government may be bringing down.

Mr. Speaker, the Opposition can preach doom and gloom; we are working with the federal government to try to see where we go with this issue and when they give us the details, the government of the day, the details, we will respond in kind but we have also told them, up front, that we are concerned about this issue in a major way.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Burin - Placentia West, on a supplementary.

MR. TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I can't believe what I am hearing. They are going to wait until such time as the federal government decides on what they are going to do, and the mode in which they are going to inflict this punishment and then they are going to make representation.

Mr. Speaker, let me ask the minister or ask the Premier or someone, will they change their attitude at this stage in the game, go to Ottawa and demand, demand, Mr. Speaker, that they not inflict the punishment that they are talking about upon these seasonal, unemployed people of this Province?

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

MR. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, this government doesn't have ESP. You know, we have to see what the federal government is proposing. When they tell us, when they tell the government what they are proposing, the government will tell them what they think of the proposal, so until we get something that is realistic, until we get something that the government can respond to, Mr. Speaker, the government will continue to express its concerns about changes to UI that will affect seasonal employees in the Province, seasonal people.

I mean, we have a lot of seasonal workers, we are concerned about any changes to UI that will affect those workers, we are concerned, Mr. Speaker, but we cannot deal with something that we haven't got yet and are waiting to get it and when we get it, we will respond but in the meantime, I will repeat again: We have been making continuous representations; the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations, the Minister of Education and Training and so on, so, Mr. Speaker, we are working on it, we are working towards it and we are going to be dealing with it, hopefully.

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

MR. WOODFORD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My question is to the Minister of Justice.

Mr. Speaker, everybody is aware of the very high unemployment rate in the Province; some people say it is 23 per cent, some say it is 30 per cent, 40 per cent whatever, but because of this, Mr. Speaker, more and more people in the Province are finding it very tough to survive especially as it pertains to obtaining legal services in the Province.

Everybody knows that you probably cannot get into a lawyer's office under $100 and if you get in, you probably can't afford to get out. Some enterprising people in the Province, Mr. Speaker, have identified the need for paralegals and indeed have set up office. Paralegals, as our learned friends in the House know full well, are non-lawyers who perform legal tasks that were once done by lawyers. Their rates are much cheaper than lawyers, making legal services more affordable to people with very little money.

Would the minister, now tell the House what his department's policy is concerning the establishment of paralegals in the Province?

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

MR. ROBERTS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. friend for a question that I suggest goes to a matter of considerable public interest and my first response must be to the point made by my friend from Menihek, who has obviously spent much more time in lawyers' offices for whatever reason than has my friend from Humber Valley.

I agree with my friend from Menihek. It is not getting into a lawyer's office that costs money it is getting out, but with that said, let me say the problem is a very real one. We look upon it as a consumer-protection issue. My officials have been, at my direction, looking into the issues involved. They are not simple.

There are essentially two types of issues involved, Mr. Speaker. The first is to ensure that no profession, and in this case we are talking about lawyers, but the same principle would apply to psychiatrists, doctors or to chiropractors and everybody else, uses their regulatory authority to benefit themselves, economically unreasonably or, unreasonably in an economic sense.

In other words, they have a monopoly. The law society has a monopoly on the practice of law in this Province, it has had it for 160 or 170 years and that's fair enough. We have to make sure the lawyers or any other professional group do not use that monopoly so as to restrict the availability of services with the view of benefiting themselves economically but, on the other hand, we have to make sure that people holding themselves out as performing certain kinds of services are, in fact, qualified to do it. A lawyer who handles something badly must answer to a disciplinary process. The problem with the paralegals at present is there is no disciplinary process. We have to address that and put one into place.

Now, that is a brief answer. I have probably gone beyond the time that normally would be allowed for an answer. I would be delighted to - the hon. gentleman may have a subordinate question, in which case I will respond to that as well, but he is raising a very important issue and I tell him there is no simple answer. We are looking very hard to find the correct answer.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Humber Valley, on a supplementary.

MR. WOODFORD: Mr. Speaker, I don't know if the minister said it or not but I think he alluded to the fact that paralegals sometimes stray into areas of services that are provided only by lawyers. No person should provide a paralegal service without having adequate insurance to cover both the paralegal and the client or the consumer especially against errors and omissions. Now, some of the people I have talked to in the paralegal community so far cannot obtain this insurance because of the fact that they are a regulatory regime. Will the minister tell the House if he is going to bring in any regulations that will define the role of a paralegal and, at the same time, protect the consumer?

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

MR. ROBERTS: Thank you. Mr. Speaker, the very quick answer, in my understanding, is we do not have authority at this time to introduce regulations. We would need legislation to sanction the regulations. The Law Society Act, I understand, does not have - the regulation-making power in the Law Society Act is not, in itself, sufficient. I agree with my hon. friend. I tried to make the point in response to his earlier question; the issue really is consumer protection. That is why we incorporate these associations. It doesn't matter whether they are lawyers in respect to paralegals or any other professional group one wants to go with.

The problem is not simply one of insurance, it is also training. There are, doubtless, functions which have traditionally been done by lawyers, it could be done equally well and perhaps a great deal more cheaply and a great deal more easily by non-lawyers. The issue is how far do we go? It is one thing to have a non-lawyer appear to represent one on a traffic ticket but what about a drunk driving charge where, if the court finds one guilty, the penalty is considerably higher than in respect of a parking ticket or even a ticket for breach of the anti-speed regulations and so on. So I say to my hon. friend that we will be moving in this area. I have a White Paper that has not yet come to Cabinet but it addresses the issues involved in regulating paralegals and in a whole host of other professions.

We have recently been asked to corporate the massage therapists. We have any number of these out there. In fact, we have identified thirty-eight professions at present which are regulated with a wide variety of powers and a wide variety of - there is a public interest to be identified, a public interest to be addressed and it applies to paralegals elsewhere. We have two or three individuals, that I am aware of, now in this Province who are performing paralegal services. If they are contrary to the Law Society Act the Law Society will have to deal with that, but I am concerned with the broader issue which I think is the one which my friend is raising and I think it is a proper one for us to address.

MR. WOODFORD: A final supplementary, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Humber Valley, on a supplementary.

MR. WOODFORD: In view of the fact - I don't know if the minister is aware of it - that there is a two-year legal studies program now established at Academy Canada, both in St. John's and Corner Brook, if he brings in the White Paper, would he consider then putting in - or any plans for the certification of paralegals that would recognize a professional level of achievement? Because those courses are being taught. Now there is that two-year course being taught out of Academy Canada, St. John's and Corner Brook and when those people come out they are expecting to get certain jobs. So would the minister, in his White Paper, in conjunction with the Minister of Education, make sure that there is a certification program there to honour that?

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

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, a rose by any other friend, the Minister of Education tells me that the courses being offered, to which my friend, the Member for Humber Valley refers, are not on paralegals as such. I suppose the real answer is, what is a paralegal? Every lawyer in the Province for years has been using paralegals in the sense of real estate work where a great deal of the work is done by secretaries, but at the end of the day, the lawyer is responsible. If something goes wrong with the transaction, the client comes back properly against the lawyer and we go on from there.

The overall answer is, yes, we are looking at where we should regulate, the standards by which we should regulate and how we should regulate. We want to allow on the one hand, people the freedom to practice professions, on the other hand, we have to ensure that the public, the community, is protected, and that people who describe themselves - it doesn't matter what they are, denturists, dentists, optometrists, ophthalmologist, we have had this discussion many, many times, in this Province, and the paralegals\lawyers one is simply the latest manifestation of it. The answer, in my judgement, and I believe that of my colleagues, is to address the issue as a totality, to put some principles in place, and ask the House to put legislation in place, and deal with it on that basis.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl.

MR. WINDSOR: Mr. Speaker, this is a question for the Minister of Finance, again relating to Holiday Inns. The minister told us last week that government had accepted a tender for $6.5 million for the sale of Holiday Inns, which he had told us a week or so before, on the book at least, was worth $30 million. Would the minister like to tell us, have any renovations been done to the Holiday Inns in the past two or three years, in fact, and what the cost of those renovations might be?

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

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

First of all, I didn't tell the House that the hotels were on our books for $29 million. What I said was that the cost of building them, together with accumulated interest since about 1966 or thereabouts, 1968, would have amounted to $29 million and, of course, there is a difference.

Secondly, yes, we were forced to carry out renovations in the current year to maintain the Holiday Inn franchise. It cost us $1.5 million.

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

MR. WINDSOR: Mr. Speaker, I can appreciate certain renovations would have to be done to maintain a franchise. I assume the minister is talking about certain interior renovations, and upgrading of that nature, normal, routine maintenance.

Would the minister like to tell us, under what basis was the decision made to go ahead with installing heat pumps at Gander and Clarenville - 30 ton heat pumps - that is hardly normal renovations? It had nothing to do with maintaining the Holiday Inn franchise. Would the minister like to tell us how much that cost, and why would we put in heat pumps at this point in time, knowing that the buildings were about to be sold?

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

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, a good question. I had no idea they had installed two heat pumps, but I will check into it and let the member know what, if any, reason there was for that, if indeed it did occur.

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

MR. WINDSOR: Well, Mr. Speaker, I refer the minister to the latest Watt's Current, which is a publication of Newfoundland Light and Power. It is such a massive project; I understand these are the largest heat pumps installed in Newfoundland. No doubt, they are very cost-efficient, and you will recover that in saved energy costs over a number of years, but that is hardly the kind of thing you would undertake at a time when you have buildings for sale. I would like to know why we are spending, I am sure the minister will find, it is quite a large amount of money for these two heat pumps. Why are we doing that, or are we just getting them ready for Fortis?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The renovations were contracted for earlier this year before I became minister. I didn't approve them. My understanding was that they were done on the basis that they had to be carried out. I will inquire into the amount and the reason for the heat pumps being installed, and let the hon. member know in due course.

MR. SPEAKER: The time for Oral Questions has elapsed.

Notices of Motion

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

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will on tomorrow ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, "An Act Respecting The Investigation Of Fatalities." This is the act that some people may refer to as the Coroner's Act. It is the bill that will introduce the new system.

May I, with leave, say that I have asked the Chair of the relevant Standing Committee to convene his committee to see whether they wish to examine this bill, and there will be two others that will be coming in of a like nature, the Conflict of Interest Act, which will introduce a new regime for public servants, and a Limitations Act, which is not a act to describe my friend, the Member for Burin - Placentia West, no matter what he may think, but rather, a bill to modernize the law with respect to limitation periods. I have asked the committees to meet to consider whether they wish to deal with these bills in detail. In any event, this bill should be in the House later today or in the morning, Mr. Speaker.


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

MR. HODDER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to present a petition on behalf of the residents in the community of Muddy Brook. The petition reads:

We, the undersigned, as residents of the community of Muddy Brook, sign this petition to show that we are solely against being incorporated into the town of Port Blandford.

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the residents of Muddy Brook, I have received correspondence from a representative, Garfield Peddle, and in this petition, Mr. Peddle indicates that 80 per cent of the residents of Muddy Brook who are over the age of eighteen years have signed the petition against the extension of the municipal boundaries of the town of Port Blandford to include their community.

The background to this matter is well known to members of this House. In fact, it is well known to the minister. It is a case of where the Terra Nova Park Lodge applied for funding under the infrastructure program and they were approved, however, they were approved with a little bit of a twist to it. In this particular case, approval was given to the town of Port Blandford to borrow and to put in a sewer line from the Terra Nova Park Lodge through the community of Muddy Brook and for the sewer to exit in the town of Port Blandford.

Now, Mr. Speaker, in this particular case, we see that the community of Port Blandford has been used by the Terra Nova Park Lodge as a way to access funding of $600,000. We acknowledge that the town of Port Blandford will receive financial assistance from the Terra Nova Park Lodge for the $200,000 which is their share. Of course the Province and the Federal Government will each pay $200,000 of the funding cost.

Mr. Speaker, in this case, the Mayor of Port Blandford, Mayor Penney, has admitted, in a newspaper article, that prior to this, the community of Port Blandford had no interest in putting water or sewer towards the Terra Nova Park Lodge. As a matter of fact, their infrastructure program had them going in a far different direction. However, when all this commitment was made the minister discovered that he might have to make some changes, therefore awhile ago an add was placed in the local paper which basically advertised the feasibility study to incorporate the community of Muddy Brook into the town of Port Blandford. In other words to make matters right.

Now, we view that is not appropriate because, in this particular case, there was no interest at all by the people of Muddy Brook to be incorporated, but to make things appear to be right, to have things go appropriately, the minister ordered a feasibility study.

Mr. Speaker, the real concern that we have is that the mayor of Port Blandford has said in the public press, and I quote: Mayor Penney explained that the area is not now incorporated, but once the sewer services are installed it will become part of the incorporated town of Port Blandford; which tells me that the minister had given, or his officials had given, a commitment to the town of Port Blandford that this incorporation would take place.

Now, we have no objections to the town of Port Blandford seeking the incorporation. We are just concerned about the lack of consultation with the people of Muddy Brook and the incorporation against their will. A forced amalgamation, you might call it. Also, we have concerns about what will happen once you take a sewer line from the Terra Nova Park Lodge and extend it all the way into Port Blandford. What you will have done is you will have disturbed the water table in Muddy Brook, and at the end of the day, then we will end up with a situation -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time has elapsed.

MR. HODDER: - where the people will need a water –

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


MR. HODDER: - and sewer line put in.

MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

MR. HODDER: Mr. Speaker, thank you very much.

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

MR. WOODFORD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I take this opportunity to support my colleague, the Member for Waterford - Kenmount, in presenting the petition on behalf of the people of Muddy Brook, a very small - I'm not so sure if it was incorporated before. Was it a local service district or were they just...?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. WOODFORD: Unincorporated altogether. It is not even a community.

Mr. Speaker, there is nothing new here with regard to telling people or - so-called forced amalgamation. The only thing about this particular case here that I see that is different from all the others I have seen over the years is that the people in Muddy Brook, if it is true, will get a new sewer line although they didn't request it, they didn't ask for it. Having said that, they were quite satisfied with what they had, but now they will be saddled with the burden of extra taxes when they didn't even request a sewer line going through their community.

It is funny. I have an area over my way in Deer Lake, Nicholsville and Spillway that was sort of amalgamated. They didn't want to be. It was against their wishes a few years ago, but within consultation and communication and meetings and so on with the minister and his department, they came to some agreements on what would be done over a five-year period. A five-year phase-in would say: well, they will fix the road between Deer Lake and Spillway. The Department of Works, Services and Transportation would bring the roads from Nicholsville up to specification and then pass them over to the Town of Deer Lake. The Town of Deer Lake then would absorb the local service district of Nicholsville and Spillway and then go on to collect taxes, the same as they are doing in the Town of Deer Lake. In fact, that has occurred with regard to the amalgamated part of it, against the wishes of the people, but now, three years after the fact, there is absolutely nothing done.

Now, if the government is going to ask people and ask communities around this Province to amalgamate, to get together and see if they can get more services, and tell them that by amalgamating they will come out of it better off with better services - water, sewer, street lighting and what have you, garbage collection - they are going to have to act and put their money where their mouths are now, with the communities that they have amalgamated now, and the agreements that were signed some three years ago. Then some of the other communities around the Province may avail of the opportunity to amalgamate so that they will try to get better services.

But, Mr. Speaker, I have a funny feeling there is something else to all this. Changing the municipal operating grants - since 1989 the municipal operating grants have gone, period, flushed right out of the room altogether. A change, a complete new local revenue component, an equalization component, the formula for repayment on capital debt has changed. The whole gamut of social structure in the Province has changed. I have a funny feeling that a lot of the stuff that the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs is doing now is tied in with the Minister of ITT, those nineteen economic zones. Something tells me that there is something else; there is something devious going on here that, at the end of the day, the communities and the municipalities in this Province will be associated with those nineteen economic zones.

AN HON. MEMBER: You are not serious.

MR. WOODFORD: You can venture to bet.

Regional government just brought in - there was some legislation brought in here a few years ago, some amendments brought in just in 1993-'94 with regard to regional government in the Province but, as sure as I am standing at this desk this evening, I would say within the next eighteen months we will see communities in the Province that are associated with the nineteen economic zones also brought into play with the municipalities in that particular area of the Province - regional councils, without any input from local service districts, without any input from unincorporated bodies, so we will become like Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, county government. We will have county government in this Province, I would say, within eighteen months. The only thing that might stop it is a provincial election. That is the only thing that might stop it from being incorporated. Everything will be put in place, but it will be tied in with the nineteen economic zones, so I say to the people of Muddy Brook that they are no different, really; this government has been treating municipalities since 1989 in much the same manner. I have a prime example in my particular area now whereby they agreed, really - government agree, the Department of Works, Services and Transportation, in conjunction with the Department of Municipal and Provincial Affairs - to put certain things in place there and have not been done.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. WOODFORD: So I say to the members opposite, especially the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation, that he is going to have to act in the next twelve to eighteen months to try to get a few things in place there.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. REID: Mr. Speaker, I listened to my two favourite friends and colleagues over on the other side a few minutes ago, and I had to laugh all the while. I was laughing all the while they were talking because when I look back and think about what the hon. Member for Waterford - Kenmount, when he was Mayor of Mount Pearl, and his colleague was, I believe, the Minister of Finance at that time, from Mount Pearl, and sent around two separate plebiscites in Newtown - that is part of Mount Pearl now - and on two separate occasions the vote came back; almost 100 per cent said: No, no, no, we do not want to amalgamate with Mount Pearl, and these two gentlemen said: Never mind that; we are going to put them in anyway. It is unbelievable.

Then, on the other side, I cannot let my very good friend from Humber Valley - my very good friend from Humber Valley - and I cannot really say a lot about him out there because he is such a wonderful member and everything, but right next door to him... You remember the episode we had with South Brook and Pasadena, and the racket that was kicked up over that. The people in South Brook and Pasadena said: Absolutely no way are you going to combine us; there is no way. I wonder who the Premier at the time was, and what government was in. I think you were a minister at that time, and the member representing from that area was also Minister of Justice at that time.

AN HON. MEMBER: It was done democratically.

MR. REID: It was done democratically. That was done democratically. Let me tell you what democratic is. This is what democratic is: A month ago this department had a letter from the Mayor of Port Blandford requesting -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. REID: Yes, I do.

- requesting that the Town of Port Blandford -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. REID: The Town of Port Blandford was interested in incorporating the area called Muddy Brook into their town. Now, under the act I have to respond to that, and my response to that was: If that is what you are requesting, then we have to go through a procedure, and the procedure is that we write the people of Muddy Brook - it is not even a community, by the way - we write the people living in the area called Muddy Brook, and we tell them what the plan is, what the letter that we had from Port Blandford included, and what we plan to do, and here is what we are going to do. We have appointed a commissioner, and independent commissioner - I do not even know who he is, to be honest about it; I will get the name for you, but he is an independent commissioner - he is going to go out and talk to the people of Muddy Brook, he is going to talk to the people of Port Blandford, and then at the end of the day he is going to come back to me and say: Mr. Minister, here is what I recommend you do.

Now let me tell you this: If at the end of the day, the commissioner recommends that Muddy Brook not be included with Port Blandford, then Muddy Brook won't be included with Port Blandford. We do it the democratic way, not the way that you two, you two hon. members did it in your regions, but the way we do it as a Liberal government, a democratic government.

Orders of the Day

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

MR. ROBERTS: Thank you.

Your Honour, we had got along so very well with the debate on Bill 29, which is Order 20, that I suggest that we may resume the debate. My friend from Grand Bank I think, had used up his time and so the debate is in the hands of whoever Your Honour chooses to recognize or, we would be prepared to call the question if that's what members wish, but anyway, if you would call Order 20, Sir, we would get on with that.

MR. SPEAKER: Does the minister want to speak?

MR. DICKS: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board. If the hon. minister speaks now he will close the debate.

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I just wanted to acknowledge some of the questions from my learned friend from Mount Pearl and the hon. Member for Kilbride and the Member for Springdale.

I think most of the issues raised by them were not of particular relevance to the bill; I think they were mostly with respect to the current position of government vis-à-vis the deficit. The hon. Member for Mount Pearl raised a question of early retirement plans to try to reduce the number of permanent employees and also questioned the number of temporary employees working with government.

The point I want to make again, was that, we are looking at all the options. One of the concerns about any early retirement packages the last one that government had I believe was in 1988, and at that time there was no anticipated take up of the plan that cost government $118 million, the result unfortunately was that, rather than positions being eliminated, a lot of people who took the early retirement option were in fact, in positions that had to be replaced particularly in the health sector, so the result of that is very difficult sometimes to tailor an early retirement plan, a general application that always will reduce the workforce, but it may be something that government could look at in a certain context, but certainly, the issue of the workforce will have to be addressed.

The rest of the questions were of a similar nature and dealt generally with the Budget and of course, we are trying to deal with that at this point in time, but that's a specific provision of the bill. I believe most members spoke in support of the provisions and understood the basis on which they have been brought forward, and on that basis I move second reading.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

On motion, A bill, "An Act To Amend The Government Money Purchase Pension Plan Act, The Public Service Pensions Act, 1991, The Teachers' Pensions Act, The Uniform Services Pensions Act, 1991, The Memorial University Pensions Act, Chapter 18 Of The Statutes Of Newfoundland, 1993 And The Pensions Contributions Reduction Act," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House on tomorrow.

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

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, we are doing so well on pensions, let's go on to Order 22, Bill 25, which is another act to amend pensions' legislation.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Public Service Pensions Act, 1991 And The Uniformed Services Pensions Act, 1991," (Bill No. 25).

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

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

This is a very straightforward bill dealing with a very narrow issue under The Public Service Pensions Act And The Uniformed Services Pensions Act. What it allows is, an employee who is eligible for medical retirement, when their position becomes redundant and do not use all their sick leave to receive those medical retirement pensions commencing from the redundancy date. As my hon. critic is aware from his position at Treasury Board and Finance, people are retired from time to time on medical grounds and that's provided for under a general pension legislation.

We have a medical group who evaluates these and I believe in the last several years, Dr. O'Shea here in St. John's who has a specialty in compensation matters was contracted to review claims that come to government for retirement on medical grounds. Almost without exception we found his services to be valuable and his advice is invariably received and taken.

We believe that the medical pension issue is one that all hon. members support. It is one that I believe is administered well by the department. Although there have been some questions in the past, I believe that the present system is working reasonably well.

This addresses a minor point I believe in the triggering of when that pension is to be taken up or calculated from. What it essentially says is that if an employee is on sick leave and just happens to be in a position that is declared redundant, then the pension plan picks up as of the time that the employment is terminated. That is just necessary for us in order to make the proper calculations and removes any question as to whether or not the employee is entitled to sick leave benefits and things of that nature.

I would be happy, Mr. Speaker, to answer any questions the hon. members may have with respect to this provision.

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

MR. WINDSOR: Yes, Mr. Speaker. As the minister says it is really quite straightforward. I assume that, if I understand correctly, these are people who are on sick leave when their position is declared redundant. Rather than being redundant they can accept their medical pension, that is what you are saying. I think that is a benefit to public servants, Mr. Speaker. I don't have a problem with it.

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

MR. HEWLETT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I have a few words. In so far as this is a bill out of the Department of Finance and Treasury Board and does allow for what the Speaker ruled the other day was a wide-ranging debate, I would like to -

MR. SPEAKER: I just want to remind the hon. member that yes, it is a bill out of the Department of Finance and Treasury Board, and I guess there is some wide-ranging debate. But referring to Tuesday's debate, I don't think some of the discussion that we had was relevant to the particular bill that we were discussing at the time, and have no intention to let the range be that wide.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. WINDSOR: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl on a point of order.

MR. WINDSOR: Just as a point of clarification. Not to question Your Honour, but it is my understanding that any finance bill is very broad ranging. Simply because, if you are talking financing, anything that relates to financing impacts on anything. So I mean this bill, and the cost of this bill, could be said to impact on anything that has any financial implications to it. That is why traditionally in this House and every other House any matter dealing with any finance bill is very broad ranging. Great scope is given.

I appreciate what Your Honour is saying, that a lot of the debate that took place last week or whenever it was, Tuesday, had absolutely nothing to do with the bill itself, with the principle of the bill, but there are still financial implications. It is my knowledge that it has always been interpreted quite liberally and that great latitude has been given.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Government House Leader to the point of order.

MR. ROBERTS: Thank you. To that point of order, Mr. Speaker. My hon. friend for Mount Pearl makes a valid point in that traditionally with finance bills the House has allowed a latitude of debate that may not be accorded to ordinary matters. But with respect, simply because a bill is introduced by the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board doesn't make it a finance bill. Simply because it has some kind of financial aspect to it doesn't make it a finance bill.

I would say to my hon. friend for Mount Pearl that we have already announced that we will be calling today Motion Nos. 1, 2 and 4, and I'm prepared to call them in any order that members may wish. I hope we will deal with all three of them today. Number 4 is supplementary supply. I would agree with him that on supplementary supply, or on a supply bill, the debate is absolutely wide-ranging. There the traditional rubric - and he may even find it when he looks in - he is skimming through the sixth edition of Beauchesne over there - he will even find, I suspect, the hallowed phrase is: No supply without redress of grievance. This is when the Commons, which is what we are, the Commons comes forward and makes its speech or raises its grievances but, with respect, on a pensions amendment act, the debate surely has to be relatively relevant to the matter in the bill which is an amendment to pension's legislation.

MR. SPEAKER: To that point of order, I acknowledge that while this bill is from the Department of Finance and that it may be interpreted as a wide ranging debate, I did indicate that in second reading we are dealing with a principle of a bill, that the statements must be relevant. If the Chair determines that the statements made on the debate is relevant then, no problem, but I must say that some of the debate that we had earlier on a similar bill was certainly, in my estimation, not relevant.

The hon. the Member for Green Bay.

MR. HEWLETT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Sorry to have caused such a disruption in the House with my caveat at the beginning of my remarks. I might say, Mr. Speaker, that I think what got people worked up with the debate on a similar issue the other day was not so much with what was said but rather sort of how it was said. The tone and the tenor of the debate got rather heated and intemperate in so far as - I do believe I am probably the guilty party in that I did make a speech of general political proportions which did arouse certain sentiments in the hon. Minister of Works, Services and Transportation. After that minister had a go at me individuals on all sides of the House were going at each other in somewhat of a mélée. So I can appreciate your honours concern that the debate not get out of hand.

Mr. Speaker, with regard to pensions, we have a situation on the go in this Province right now where the Minister of Finance has indicated that a number of public employees in this Province may well have to take their leave of this environment by virtue of the $60 million overrun on the current budget and no doubt there will be people leaving early and invoking their severance rights. There may well be people invoking pension rights as well. That brings us, Mr. Speaker, to the entire situation that this government finds itself in financially. When we had the budget brought down last spring, Mr. Speaker, there was considerable applause from the government opposite, that for the first time in the history of this Province we had a balanced budget. Recent statements from the minister would indicate that anything like that is not at all the case and that is certainly what we indicated some time ago when the minister brought the budget down.

Mr. Speaker, we have a government here, that with regard to many matters has been basically using crisis management. In the matters of pensions, they have dipped into employee pension funds as a short term budgetary measure. As I indicated earlier, some employees may have to draw on their pensions in due course because of the requirements of balancing the budget. That brings us generally to the situation with this government and the way it is managing.

As I indicated the other day, the federal government, whatever you think of their particular policies, appears to have developed a sectoral approach to its budgetary situation and its debt management. It has chosen the priorities to finance in this nation and as indicated in certain programs and policies that are under review. Some, such as the National Defence, the UI program, transfers to provinces are going to be either eliminated or significantly curtailed. That being the case, we have a government in Ottawa at least that appears to be about certain directed policies to bring its budgetary situation in line. What we have down here is a government, when faced with a crisis, tends to handle the situation as a crisis and so we see what is before us today. The House of Assembly Department obviously has got to make a contribution to the budgetary problem, the line departments of government will all have to make their contributions to the budgetary problem to see us through the rest of this fiscal year, and I guess we will have to deal with it all over again come the fiscal year 1996-'97. This government really hasn't reviewed any of its programs or policies to see if some of them are outdated, unnecessary, etcetera, so that there is a more surgical approach to meeting Budget targets rather than a broad-axe approach of any and all government programs and personnel taking a certain across-the-board cut. While that may have a certain perception of fairness, it may be an abandonment of the government's mandate to govern effectively, to provide the people of the Province with a level and quality of service, and a degree of service commensurate with its mandate as a government of a provincial legislature.

Mr. Speaker, we have, in recent days, seen also in regard to what I said earlier, the Federal Government making certain directed changes in its economic policy; we saw it again here in Question Period today. The Federal Government is undertaking a major review of the unemployment insurance program, a program that operates in surplus. Any significant cuts, as they would impact on Atlantic Canada, are basically as a result of a policy decision on the part of the Federal Government to engage in a degree of social engineering. What we have is a deliberate decision that seasonal work, UI as a cyclical ongoing lifestyle in rural, Northern, and certainly, Atlantic Canada, has been deemed by the Federal Government to be no longer a legitimate lifestyle, and we have governments in other parts of Canada, in other regions of Canada, speaking up loudly and vociferously against these moves.

Our bone of contention with regard to this particular Administration, and it was evidenced here today in Question Period by the Minister of the Environment acting for the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations, is that this government appears to be acting anything but vociferously in its defence of Newfoundland's interest with regard to this matter. We had the Premier, the other day, indicating: what would be the good of sort of ranting and raving, or being loud and aggressive with regard to these proposed cuts?

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Premier or, I suppose, any minister of this government: What have we to lose? They have played the reasonable back room broker, `be nice to my cousins in Ottawa' line for quite some time now, and that doesn't seem to have worked. And I guess, one of the main reasons for changing direction in how you deal with the problem like the Federal Government is that if the tune you have been singing all along is not getting an appropriate response, then maybe changing your tune would do just that. And, Mr. Speaker, when I indicated that, to some extent, there the other day, I think that was one of the things that led to the debate sort of going off the rails, because government members, especially the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation, took extreme exception to my indication that this particular government has basically gone soft on talking to Ottawa on matters affecting this Province.

Mr. Speaker, the time has come to kick over the traces with regard to UI. It is indeed pitiful when we see a federal Liberal backbencher having to speak up on behalf of his constituents on this matter when we have our Cabinet minister in Ottawa, Mr. Tobin, and an array of ministers on the front bench here, appearing to go through the motions of expressing concern with regard to the social engineering coming on UI, but doing very little else. The time has come for this government to realize that its jurisdiction lies within Newfoundland and Labrador, and just as it has jurisdiction over the pensions referred to in this bill, it has jurisdiction over the economy and certain general matters with regard to the well-being of this Province. There is an onus on this government to focus on its role as both the provider for the people in this Province and the protector of the people in this Province in its dealings with the Federal Government.

Mr.Speaker, I was an employee of a former Administration that had absolutely no problem in taking on Ottawa. Whether Ottawa was governed by the Progressive Conservatives or the Liberals, the main criteria for our opposition to matters out off Ottawa was whether or not what Ottawa was about was good or bad for us. If what they were about was good for us we said, all well and good, but if it was bad for us we fought back, Mr. Speaker. Because it is not enough, in the world of politics and public administration, to do what you think is the right thing - you have to be perceived to be doing what is the right thing.

In the case of a small province standing up to a large Federal Government backed by several large and prosperous provinces in this nation, it is not sufficient to quietly operate behind the scenes, to lobby, to cut the best `lost cause' deal we can. A cause is not lost until the fight is over, but first we have to have the fight. Out of this particular Administration there has been very little fight.

The ilk of this particular Administration has been to hold sway and to swagger at times on the national stage, but only in matters of constitutionality. We have a people down here in this Province who are more concerned on a daily basis with putting bread and butter on the table, sending their kids to school, maintaining decent education and health care systems and so on. This government appears to get exercised, this government appears to get worked up, this government appears to stand its ground on the nebulous and intellectual issues relating to the Constitution. What we need is a government of the Province that will take on `Uncle Ottawa' when needs be.

They have certainly showed no hesitation whatsoever in jumping up on the stage when Ottawa is in the good light of day, but somehow, when Ottawa is in the bad light of day, they seem to be content to whisper behind the curtains without coming out on the stage and taking a few pokes at Ottawa, rather than only coming out on the stage to shake Ottawa's hand when it is convenient for both St. John's and Ottawa.

Mr. Speaker, anytime I have a chance to speak generally with regard to this government - you know, I can pick on individual programs and policies with regard to this government, but one thing that is the hallmark of this government, that is the signature of this government, that is the logo of this government, is its acquiescence in dealing with the Federal Government.

Occasionally, when utterly pressed, they will bring forward a back-bencher to bring in a private member's resolution, to at least put some smoke screen or some show of emotion, some show of standing up for Newfoundland and Labrador. But, on the whole, all the ministers, including the minister who is currently yawning over there, that's what they have been doing when the feds have been putting the boots to us - they have been yawning as well. I don't know if I should continue in this vein, Mr. Speaker, because I have a funny feeling that even the minister from Exploits may get exercised enough to rise from his seat and go into a round of furious debate, but that would be a surprise indeed.

So, Mr. Speaker, this government has to change its tactic in dealing with the Federal Government. It has to be as strong in terms of protecting our fiscal position, as strong in terms of protecting our national social programs, as it was in protecting the Premier's intellectual concerns with regard to the Constitution of Canada. Until such time as this government stands up, speaks up, fights back, this Province will be a net loser in Confederation. And, as a result of that, if it doesn't change, I think the Liberal Party will be a net loser in the next election. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Before I recognize the hon. the Member for Bonavista South, I would like to take members back to what happened on Tuesday in the debate. The point of order, I think, was raised by the hon. the Opposition House Leader in reference to the issuing of purchase orders and signing of purchase orders.

I read through Hansard, the transcript of what happened on Tuesday. I find no reference to the hon. the Member for Eagle River saying that the hon. the Member for Burin - Placentia West issued or signed the purchase orders.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member did indicate that - and I think he was referencing the hon. the Member for Burin - Placentia West when he talked about the issuing of purchase orders. And then the hon. the Member for Burin - Placentia West said: "Several times today he made reference to my name being signed on purchase orders." But he didn't indicate that the hon. the Member for Burin - Placentia West's name was signed on purchase orders. In a sort of withdrawal, the hon. the Member for Eagle River said: "I said that there were purchase orders issued by Executive Council for particular aspects of how they govern, and obviously I stand by that particular statement, but I made no insinuation whatsoever that the member over there signed that purchase order."

I would like to refer hon. members to Beauchesne, page 151, paragraph 494: "It has been formally ruled by Speakers that statements by Members respecting themselves and particularly within their own knowledge must be accepted. It is not unparliamentary temperately to criticize statements made by Members as being contrary to the facts; but no imputation of intentional falsehood is permissible. On rare occasions this may result in the House having to accept two contradictory accounts of the same incident."

I would like to remind hon. members in this House that all members are honourable, and whenever there are speeches we should take that into account. When you say something in this House, it is accepted as being factual, and I remind hon. members that we should keep this in mind. The rules are there for the protection of members, and we can say things in this House that normally can't be said outside the Chamber without being subject to legal consequences, but that is there for a reason. Sometimes, in the heat of debate, members get carried away and say things that they shouldn't say, and if they did say them outside the House there would be problems.

So, I would like to remind hon. members - there is no point of order here, but I think that this is a time for all of us to reflect why we are here and what the House is all about, and I would caution members, in their speeches, to be cautious in terms of what they say. I think we should treat each other in this House as being hon. members.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: A point of order, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

I respect Your Honour's ruling, and I don't want to belabour the point. I guess I feel compelled to say this, that it is unparliamentary to impugn motives upon another member. There is clear reference in Beauchesne to that, that it is unparliamentary to impugn motives upon another member of this House, and in my humble opinion, the Member for Eagle River certainly did that. Even though he didn't say that the Member for Burin - Placentia West signed purchase orders, he mentioned `Glenn' on any number of occasions where he alleged that former Premier Peckford told him to go and get cigars, and go and get alcohol, and go and get food, and in other references in Hansard, he referred to the Member for Burin - Placentia West. I respectfully submit to Your Honour that he certainly did impugn motives upon the member, and I think that is unparliamentary, and I think the Member should withdraw and apologize to the Member for Burin - Placentia West for impugning motives upon him.

MR. SPEAKER: To that point of order, I think if we refer the hon. the Opposition House Leader to page 1912 of Hansard in terms of the response of the Member for Eagle River -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Page 1912, the last paragraph. The hon. member did withdraw, in his statements, what is indicated the Opposition House Leader was talking about.

Order, please!

I guess we are on a bill. The hon. the Member for Bonavista South.

MR. FITZGERALD: I say to the minister, I will give him enough time to close off debate before he goes to his meeting.

Mr. Speaker, I just want to rise and say a few brief words on Bill 25. I will certainly try to keep it relevant to the bill. I understand, on a money bill, the debate is pretty wide-ranging and you are allowed to speak on just about anything concerning your district and anything as it relates, I suppose, to spending by government.

A prime example, I suppose, of money being spent unwisely is what we have been witnessing here in this House this last couple of weeks. The Member for Waterford - Kenmount has been questioning the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs on $600,000 being brought forward to spend to put a sewer line into St. Christopher's Resort, a privately-owned operation in the District of Terra Nova and passing through another unincorporated community. Those people, it appears, will be forced into amalgamation with Port Blandford and it will be an enforcement that those people want no part of. Mr. Speaker, I myself know many people who live in Muddy Brook. I know many people there who have consistently not wanted to be part of the municipality of Port Blandford, and now, because this luxury resort has gone up there - and granted, it does employ some people, which is very, very important, but I don't think the taxpayers of this Province should have to finance water and sewer facilities for some private exclusive club, which is what this resort is going to turn into. The shame of it, Mr. Speaker, is when we see so many other municipalities out there today without water, without sewer and without sensible roads to drive over.

I refer to a couple of municipalities in my area, Mr. Speaker, a couple of community council areas. In one particular case this lady lives on a public road there with a mentally and physically challenged son who is forty years old and confined to a wheelchair. Mr. Speaker, this lady hasn't been able to get her son down over the public road that leads to her house for months now, hasn't been able to get her son in a wheelchair down over the road. The only way that she can get him out to the main road to take him to the store or to take him to other functions in the community is to call people, call neighbours to physically pick him up, pick the wheelchair up and carry him about 800 feet down to the main road. I think if this happened in most other communities, not only would the road be upgraded but it would probably be paved, so that this challenged individual could have suitable access to enjoy some of the things that most of us take for granted. Mr. Speaker, it has gotten to the point where the ambulance won't go over the road and the grocery delivery truck stops at the main road, and the lady has to go and physically carry the groceries from the main road up to her house. And that is the shame of seeing $600,000 put in this direction and so many of the other needs forgotten about.

I brought this to the minister's attention and I am sure that he is going to be looking at it. It has gotten to the point now, Mr. Speaker, that the department of highways which normally snow-clears those roads that I refer to, are refusing to provide winter maintenance because of the condition of the roads. They are in fear of putting their equipment there, because of the danger of damage being done to the equipment, forcing it to be taken off the roads altogether.



MR. FITZGERALD: The minister knows, because I wrote him a letter on the same issue. He didn't have the decency to respond, I might add. I have never received an answer. I have to give credit to the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs, who is aware of it, Mr. Speaker, and has said to me personally: We are looking after it. I compliment him for that, because he has a heart, Mr. Speaker, and he realizes that Newfoundland exists outside of his own district. So I compliment him on that.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: Yes, he does. I feel the minister will go down and his officials will do something about it. But as for the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation, I am sorry, but I can't say the same about him. A couple of times we came in and we had delegations meet - one particular time we had delegations meet with the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation and the meeting was so positive, they couldn't wait to get home, because they thought the work would be done before they got there. They thought the work would be done before they got there. And I said to them: `Boys, that's the type of individual you are dealing with - it will never get done.' But that's his way of dealing with people in a situation - `Treat me nice now that you have me here and I'll forget about you when I'm gone.'

But people are remembering, people are remembering, I say to the minister, and one thing that he has to remember is that he is the minister, a Minister of the Crown, and it is for Newfoundland and Labrador not only for his own district but for the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

MR. EFFORD: (Inaudible) Liberals.

AN HON. MEMBER: Let the record show, Mr. Speaker, what he said.

MR. FITZGERALD: Let the record show. He will be taken to account because of that.

Mr. Speaker, the days are gone when you can do those kinds of things. In rural areas, Mr. Speaker, the days are gone when you can do those kinds of things and not be taken to task over it. The minister found that out when he came down to my district a couple months ago, when he flew in by helicopter to look at the condition of the roads there. Somebody, one of my constituents, did pick him up and all he talked about was politics. How come the former Minister of Transportation never won Bonavista South? That's all he talked about. He wanted to know what happened in Bonavista South. How come the former minister never won? Well, I say, it could be a repeat in your district the next time around.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FITZGERALD: I guarantee you - you are not the local hero that you are here in the House of Assembly that you portray yourself to be.

MR. EFFORD: (Inaudible) take me on.

MR. FITZGERALD: People see you out there. I have people to take you on. I say to the minister, I am not going to take him on; no, he knows different from that - it is not the district I want to run in. But I invite the minister, I throw out the challenge. I throw out the same challenge to the minister, come down to Bonavista South, come down; you will have no problem to come down, but I tell you, you won't be occupying the benches the next time around. They see through you; they see through the minister, Mr. Speaker.

MR. EFFORD: Be very careful when you (inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: Oh, I will issue the challenge and I won't be careful about it. I say to the member: Come on down! The fishermen out in Port de Grave might have been donating boxes of crab to the P.C. Party, but I can guarantee you that the fishermen in Bonavista will not be donating cartons of anything to the minister down there. He will be forgotten about like he is in his own district.

Mr. Speaker, to show the incompetence of the minister, a prime example was a couple of weeks ago when he came out with a budget. There is $10 million - I just want to read this into the record: There is $10 million existing in a kitty somewhere between here and Ottawa to upgrade Route 230, $10 million. The minister is saying -and we are leading up to 1997, the first time in 500 years that the Bonavista Peninsula has had a chance to be the focal point of the nation. The minister, in his wisdom, is saying that he is not going to spend the money before 1997, he is not going to spend the money because he is afraid of having construction equipment on the roads. What about 1996, I ask the minister? What's wrong with 1996?

MR. EFFORD: (Inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: Come down - I ask the minister to come down to the district and drive over Route 235, the one that he flew over last year, and see the condition - very seriously - to see the condition that the road is in today, and he will find that there is certainly a need to have money spent there and they certainly need to have that road attended to, a road that school children have to drive over every day of the week, Mr. Speaker.

MR. E. BYRNE: The Member for Trinity North is giving it to him as well; bring that to the attention of the House.

MR. FITZGERALD: A prime example, the Member for Trinity North agrees with what I am saying, but can't get any satisfaction from the minister as well. Mr. Speaker, with due respect to the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board, I will now allow him to close debate so that he can go and deal with other issues that concern this House. Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: If the hon. the Minister speaks now he will close the debate.

The hon. the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board.

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am pleased that the bill has received such universal acclaim and acceptance and therefore I will move second reading. Thank you.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Public Service Pensions Act, 1991 And The Uniformed Services Pensions Act, 1991," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House on tomorrow. (Bill No. 25)

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

MR. DICKS: Mr. Speaker, Motion No. 2.

On motion, that the House resolve itself into Committee of the Whole on Ways and Means, Mr. Speaker left the Chair.

Committee of the Whole

MR. CHAIRMAN (Walsh): Order, please!

The House has been dissolved into a Committee of the Whole to discuss Bill No. 14, An Act To Amend The Local Authority Guarantee Act, 1957.

The hon. the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board.

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

This is a perennial piece of legislation that comes before the House pursuant to the Local Authority Guarantee Act, which each year lists the guarantees that have been offered and given on behalf of various municipalities in the Province by the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. These are outlined in the body of the act. They represent for the most part, if not entirely, municipal works in these different communities. The Minister of Finance and Treasury Board each year has assigned guarantees on behalf of the Province for these municipalities in order for this work to be carried out.

These particular guarantees were entered into during the period October 13, 1994 to March 10, 1995. In order to give them full legal authority, it is necessary that the House consider and pass this resolution. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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

MR. WINDSOR: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I guess it is not so much what is in this bill as what is not in it. First of all, it is the amount of money this year as compared to previous years. Every year it seems to be less. It is probably just as well, based on the announcement the minister made last week. Having given all these municipalities the authority to borrow - let's be very clear that there is no grant component involved here, this is simply approval to borrow. The municipality is totally liable for any work done under water and sewer program -totally repay. The Province guarantees it. So some municipalities that are not able to pay the full shot receive some assistance if they can't pay their loans, or they default on their loans.

Mr. Speaker, there are going to be a lot more of them now. Having reduced the municipal operating grant to the extent that it has, I suspect there are going to be a lot more municipalities which are not going to be able to pay on these loans. So, what the government is taking in one hand by reducing the operating grant, it may well have to pay out in subsidies to honour these guarantees in future years. One has to question the wisdom. It is like penny wise and pound foolish here.

AN HON. MEMBER: Or the lack thereof.

MR. WINDSOR: Or the lack thereof. Lack of wisdom is very obvious on the opposite side, Mr. Chairman. But it is a very real question as to why a government would do that.

It is a breach of faith that concerns me most. These guarantees or these loans were given a year ago, over the last year - and they are given every year, this is standard procedure - to municipalities to engage in major capital works, essential water and sewer works within municipalities in this Province. Municipalities accept that responsibility under the assumption that they have certain revenues coming in each year, based on the Municipal Operating Grant system that was put in place, I'm proud to say, by myself, in 1979. I have always considered that probably one of the greatest contributions that I made to municipalities in this Province was to introduce the Municipal Grants Act in 1979 as Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. And it bothers me quite a bit to see it being dismantled now. It has been changed quite a bit over the years and it is starting to be totally dismantled. If the indications the minister has given this week are any indication at all, then we can expect to see the Municipal Operating Grant disappear over a number of years. The minister has indicated he would like to see that. He hasn't said he would do it but he certainly said that he would like to see that.

Clearly, what we are seeing here is a downloading of financial responsibility from the Province to municipalities, and this particular case is the worst breach of faith that I have seen since I have been in this House - a total breach of faith, to totally change the operating system under which municipalities have made multi-year commitments, borrowing commitments, and every municipality that has a water and sewer system in this Province has a tremendous amount of commitment there, a financial liability that they have accepted on behalf of their taxpayers to repay these loans over a period of years.

Now, they can come forward and say: Well, sorry, we can't pay it, but I suspect they will get pretty stiff opposition from the minister and his departmental officials when they do that. I am sure the minister is not going to be too generous in picking up the tab on those loans. But it may well be that many of these municipalities may find themselves in such a position as my friend, the Member for Waterford -Kenmount indicated this afternoon, where not only will they not be able to pay the loans, they may totally dissolve themselves, and the minister may find himself totally in possession of all of these guaranteed loans. He may well own numerous water and sewer systems around this Province in municipalities that can no longer carry on, either because financially they don't have the wherewithal, the tax base to do it, or they are probably not going to be able to find people who are prepared to run, volunteers to run for office to manage the municipality, Mr. Chairman.

I think that is a very, very real possibility. The whole municipal structure in this Province is being seriously threatened by this government, by the actions of the minister, and that is only one example of it. Now, we are hearing again today about the possibility of another concept of regional government. This is almost like the resettlement program, except you are not being paid to resettle; you are being starved out so you are not going to have any choice but to resettle. This is government's way of reducing the number of municipalities in this Province - reduce the amount of financial assistance to them and make it absolutely intolerable for them to continue as an operating municipality. Take full control away from the local areas and put it into one of these great regional councils.

Now, there is a big difference in regional government and having a totally amalgamated area. We have said many, many times before that we have always supported the concept of regionalization and the sharing of regional services that are more cost-efficient to operate on a regional basis. There are many, many examples in this Province where government should be moving forward to encourage municipalities, not to shove it down their throats, but to encourage them to combine their services, to jointly share their services, and to be cost-effective for all municipalities involved, Mr. Chairman. But this is not the way to do it. You don't starve them out.

This is a time in our history when the economy is in terrible shape and rather than saying: Well, we have a terrible problem and the only thing we can do is pass the buck to the municipalities and let them bear the brunt of it, let them do the tax increases, so that the Minister of Finance can stand in his place, as he did last year, and say, this is a wonderful Budget, it is a balanced Budget, and there are no tax increases or no taxes of any kind - the most dishonest statement ever put forward in this House of Assembly. It was totally dishonest, and we all knew it at the time. We said it at the time and it has been proven now.

The $60 million deficit that we are now faced with is not something that just appeared. There is nothing magic about that. Do you recall the Premier standing here about two years ago and saying: We are going to have a great plan to get out of this financial situation, to get rid of this deficit. We are going to do it over a three-year period. And we congratulated him. Finally, we had a plan that was longer than twenty-four hours come out of this government, a three-year plan to eliminate the deficit. It was going to be eliminated by 1996 or 1997.

Last year, he said: We are a year ahead of our target. We have done so well, we are such a great government, we have done such a job of managing the economy that we are going to come in a year ahead of time.

He said it was true, but we knew it wasn't true, and we can see now, it is not true. We are looking at a $60 million deficit, but now what has the Premier done, and the Minister of Finance? He has said: We have a serious problem. We have to take action now. Serious action, a serious problem, because we are back where we said we would be three years ago; we are back on track now. We tried to fool the Province into thinking that we could balance the Budget this year. Now we have to admit that we can't do that; we are back to where we thought we were.

Now, all of sudden, being back on track at about a $60 million deficit this year is a major problem, such that they are threatening to lay off thousands of public employees, and cut all kinds of programs and services to the people of this Province. Why, all of a sudden, are we faced with such a problem? It seems like every year, around the middle of November, the Premier has to come out with doom and gloom and totally destroy the retail sector for the balance of the Christmas season.

I am getting calls from around the Province where they are already seeing the impact of this, this negative impact, the uncertainty that has been caused by the Premier and the Minister of Finance saying, `We have a serious problem and we are going to look at it, and we are going to have a statement toward the end of the month.' I suspect, some time late next week we will have the Minister of Finance out with, if not a mini-Budget, the next thing to it.

In the meantime, thousands of public servants have said, `Oops, put a zipper on the wallet and the cheque book. We can't take any chances. We don't know if we will be working next week, or if our salaries will be cut back by 10 per cent or 15 per cent'. So it is a self-fulfilling prophesy. When you say that we have a problem and we are considering doing something, you soon find out that people respond, and when they stop spending, government stops bringing in retail sales tax, and then they do have a problem; they have a bigger problem then. So it is a self-fulfilling prophesy.

The same is true now with what is happening here with municipalities, in gross cutbacks, in municipal assistance, in every program that was in place when this government came to power. I think I can say without exception, every program of assistance to municipalities has been reduced. Clearly, this government is downloading onto the backs of municipalities, and many municipalities in this Province are not going to be able to handle it. Every small municipality in this Province is barely surviving today. There are only a handful of the larger municipalities that have the industrial and the commercial and residential tax base that allows them to be self-sufficient, and a few that maybe don't have such a great base but they have satisfied themselves with a much lower level of services.

Here is what needs to be done, Mr. Speaker. It is not reducing the assistance to municipalities, but encouraging them to be more self-sufficient, to be more efficient, to accept perhaps a lower level of service, to say to the engineering community - my engineering communities - I have said many times, as I said to them in Gander in, when would it have been, about 1984 or 1985, I think, when I spoke to the annual meeting of the Association of Professional Engineers in Gander; I said: We are responsible for putting on the backs of municipalities a debt load that they neither needed nor can they support, because we are designing Cadillac systems for them, Cadillac water and sewer systems that they can't afford and they honestly don't need. And I say that as a professional engineer, and I have said it to the engineers. It has not stopped them, because they get 6 per cent of whatever they can manage to spend, so the more they spend, the more luxurious, the more Cadillac system they can put in, the more money they get for it. I beg your pardon?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. WINDSOR: What do I recommend? I recommend the department taking better controls and ensuring that only the quality of system, the class, or the level of service that is required is put in place. Don't fund it. You control the purse strings. You have engineers on staff who know the difference.

In the Department of Municipal and Provincial Affairs alone, I can show you hundreds of examples, two communities side by side - I won't name any, but I could, and I am sure the hon. the Member for Terra Nova has them in his district; two communities side by side, one is incorporated, Cadillac water and sewer system, six-inch water lines, eight-inch sewer lines, the works. Okay? The community down the road, five miles or less, not incorporated, perhaps a local service district, gets a system put in by water services division of the Department of Municipal and Provincial Affairs. Three- or four-inch plastic water line, probably serviced by wells instead of some great dam system three or four miles back in the country, a great intake system with chlorination and treatment plants and pump systems and pressure-reducing valves and everything else on it. The cost is probably one-fifth.

The consumer, the home-owner, Mr. Chairman, he has water coming into his house. He has a sewage system. He probably doesn't even need a sewage system. You see, in most of our rural municipalities we have a pollution problem because we are polluting our own wells with our own septic tanks. If we had properly installed septic tanks and if we had a portable water system so that we didn't have to depend on wells - because in many parts of rural Newfoundland the soil conditions are such that they really don't provide adequate wells. It is rock and bog. So the sole septic system doesn't work. But if we had a properly designed system and had portable water provided, either from artesian wells at a central point with small chlorination systems attached to them for protective purposes, we could provide adequate service at one-fifth the cost or less.

I was involved in a sewage treatment system when we first changed government and I did some private consulting. The town of Gander. The whole sewage system in the town of Gander, everything is treated by a sewage treatment plant that we installed at one-quarter of the cost of a conventional system. Not only is it adequate, it is more than adequate. I've seen us put sewage treatment plants in rural municipalities, complicated plants based on complicated technology that requires special skills to operate, and the municipality neither has the money nor the skills to operate these plants. I can show you one now. I can show you numbers of -

AN HON. MEMBER: The same thing with water supplies.

MR. WINDSOR: The same thing with water supplies. They put in these great water supplies and treatment systems; they don't know how to operate them. They couldn't afford to have technical staff that have the qualifications to operate them. I can show you one now out in Sunnyside, Come by Chance, right across from Bull Arm. There was a sewage treatment plant there that was installed - there is a nice little fence around it; it is right by the side of the road, you can down and see it - and there is a bypass around it, as you will with any plant of course, so that you can do repairs and change it and clean it and replace parts and so forth, so the bypass - and the day it was installed the bypass line was opened up. There has never been anything go through the treatment plant. There is grass growing over it. It is a perfectly good treatment plant. If you want one for another municipality go take it out and bring it up. It has never been used.

So we are saddling municipalities with a debt burden that they neither need nor can they afford. Now we've gone the final step, the death blow, the breach of faith, in removing the kind of financial support that these municipalities had when they agreed to accept that debt burden on behalf of their taxpayers. They have no choice. They have to go back to the taxpayers and say: We have to increase the taxes that you have to pay.

Don't forget, in the interim period, in many rural municipalities the population has decreased, the tax base has decreased, the tax room has decreased. Alright? They just don't have the room any more, the ability, to raise the kinds of funding they need to operate these facilities. Business have closed down, people have moved away, people are unemployed and absolutely not able to pay. More people are receiving social assistance or unemployment insurance or workers' compensation, whatever, some sort of social support, and are not able to pay their taxes. How does a municipality then support this kind of a debt?

The answer is they are not going to be able to do it. But one way or the other it is going to come back to the Province. Because the people will not be able to pay additional funds, will not be able to pay additional taxes that will allow the municipalities to support this debt. The municipality will have to do one of two things. It will either have to go to government and say: Government, you will have to pay for it, or they are going to have to shut down the systems altogether. Then we are back where we started. Municipalities with people, with residents, who do not have water and sewer services.

We are heading, Mr. Chairman, on a slippery slope. A very serious one that is going to result in the destruction of many municipal systems in this Province. They either will not be operating or otherwise will not be properly maintained and in good time will self-destruct, in good time may not be safe systems, may not be safe from the point of view of disposing of sewage properly, may not be safe from the point of view of ensuring potable water coming through the taps in people's homes. So it is a very serious problem, Mr. Chairman.

These loans - I can beat up on the minister all day for the distribution of those loans for the municipalities they are in. I glanced down through them and I saw very few that were in districts that are represented by members on this side of the House, very few, just a couple. There are not very many. So we could question that but that is not going to change anything, Mr. Chairman.

My real concern here is the breach of faith that this government has shown the municipalities in removing from them what they had every right, under the act, to anticipate, will be a level of assistance that will allow them to continue to pay for and to operate these systems, Mr. Chairman. This government will rue the day that they have made some of these decisions. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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

MR. HODDER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I just wanted to add to the comments of my colleague from the district of Mount Pearl and to agree with the comments that he has made relative to the breach of faith that many municipalities are experiencing today and which they have been experiencing for some time but in the last seven days they have become very painfully aware of the difficulties that they face in trying to provide basic municipal services to their taxpayers. These people, Mr. Chairman, who serve on these councils and throughout this Province, they do so out of a concern for their fellow man. A concern that they want to have the kinds of services that they deem appropriate in 1995. Services they can offer their families and services that they want to have their children enjoy in the broader community, recreational facilities, the basic water and sewer, sensible roads and access to the fire protection services.

Mr. Chairman, they would like to be able to drive over roads that are not full of potholes. They would like to be assured that when it snows this winter that their streets are going to be cleared the next morning, that they are not going to be endangering their lives by simply trying to get the children to school, to get to work and to get home from work.

Now, Mr. Chairman, we would agree that these loans which are guaranteed a year are appropriate. We are not disagreeing with these loans. One of my colleagues said that there is a preponderance of them in districts where we have sitting members on the government side and I have not gone through them. I would take his word for that but that is not to say that there are not needs in all those communities. Mr. Chairman, what happens is that we have had so many cases where communities have made applications for infrastructure funding. I have been talking for some days about the funding that was given to the Terra Nova Park Lodge, $600,000 worth of funding. Unfortunately, when we give that kind of money to private industry it means that $600,000 worth of funding was not given to some community. We have to ask ourselves, is it appropriate for us to put that kind of funding for a private luxury golf course and then by doing, we deny funding to some community where the children have to probably do without the proper sewer facilities? They have to experience water that is probably turned down by the Department of Health.

Mr. Chairman, I have talked to the residents in a little community near Clarenville called Harcourt where they have twenty families who have to drive 2 kilometres to get drinking water every single day. The water is so bad that this little community is unable to offer basic services. The people who live there cannot get a sensible shower, so what I am saying is that by putting money into Terra Nova Park Lodge we have said `no' to some other small community. If we ask ourselves, is that a reasonable approach? The answer is it isn't.

Then we have communities like Fox Cove - Mortier. In 1991 this government said to the people in Fox Cove - Mortier, you should have a town council, and they said: Well, what will a town council do for us? The word was: Well, if you have a town council you will be able to get a water and sewer system in your community. So the people in Fox Cove, 120 families of them, formed themselves into a town council. They made application to the ministry, and they were incorporated and a new council was elected.

Then they applied to the minister and they were given approval to do Phase 1 of their water and sewer project. That amounted to a loan of $442,000. That paid for an intake from a local pond, coming down a roadway to the beginning of the community, and at that point the engineers put in a hydrant. Now we have, in this community today, people who still have no water flowing into their homes. In fact, four years later, four years in which this community has had the answer back: No, we are not going to give you any more money. Phase 1 was completed, the water line went from the local pond, down the road to the beginning of the community, and then they put a fire hydrant there and they just sealed it off, and these people are asked to pay $47,000 a year on that particular service.

AN HON. MEMBER: Poor planning.

MR. HODDER: Now, we say, where is the planning? Where is the engineering study? Where is the commitment? Where is the minister when you are asking people to pay $350 poll tax per person over eighteen years of age, providing they are not making under $6,500 per year, every year, to pay for a water line which comes from a pond to a hydrant. How many people are hooked up to the water line? Zero, not one single resident has water flowing into their home, not one. That was 1991. Did the situation improve in 1992? No, they were refused. They were told: No, we do not have any money for you to do Phase II, which was, of course, to bring the water into the individual homes. We go to 1993, 1994, and 1995, and we have three more of: We are sorry. No, thank you, we cannot do anything for you. We cannot go to Phase II.

AN HON. MEMBER: How much did they spend on Phase 1?

MR. HODDER: On Phase 1 they spent $442,000, and they are amortized over $47,250-something per year ever since then.

How many people in Fox Cove had wells that worked last summer? Well, there are 120 homes in Fox Cove - Mortier. Ninety of these homes had wells last summer that were dry, not a drop of water in them. These people had to get in their cars, drive to another part of Burin, drive to Port au Bras, drive to Marystown, visit friends, so they could get water to be able to provide their essential home needs. Now, we say, does that make any sense? It doesn't make any sense at all. Not one speck of sense is made in doing that. So we say to the government: Where is the good faith in dealing with the people of Fox Cove - Mortier? There isn't any good faith. There isn't any at all.

Where is the expectation that they will be able to improve their condition? We have no indication that these people will be treated any differently in '96 than they were treated in '92, '93, '94 and '95. Now, Mr. Chairman, that is blatantly not appropriate.

Mr. Chairman, then we come to what's happening in Newfoundland and Labrador today, and I am reminded, and I have a quote here and it is from Charles Dickens' A Tale Of Two Cities, and it is a quote that describes what's happening in Newfoundland and Labrador today, and it says: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was the season of light, it was the season of darkness; it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair. We had everything before us and we had nothing before us.

Mr. Chairman, for many municipalities, this winter is a season of despair. It is a season when hope has been lost by so many communities in this Province because, Mr. Chairman, these people, I don't know where they are going to get the money to be able to pay their bills this winter.

Mr. Chairman, I have talked to communities in the past week; to mayors and to councillors who said to me: what are we going to do when we have to tell the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation that we can't pay for the snow-clearing costs that we have to pay to the department, will the department still come and plough our roads?


MR. HODDER: And the minister gives the answer and he says: no, we won't do it. We won't do it.

Now, Mr. Chairman, some of these communities have to make pretty tough decisions. They have to make hard-nosed choices. When you are facing 90 per cent unemployment you don't have the choice of going out and saying: let's up the taxes. I mean, what is the difference if people are now taxed at seven mils and they can't pay the taxes? What is the purpose or what is the use of putting the tax rates up to ten mils, or twelve mils, if they can't pay seven mils, they can't pay their poll tax, how are they going to go and then be able to pay a higher rate? All you have done is, you have increased your level of indebtedness, your bad debts go up but your actual revenue doesn't change hardly at all, if at all.

Now, Mr. Chairman, we have to ask ourselves: what are the consequences of downloading on the municipal level of government? In the past week, we have heard from the President of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Municipalities. Every single day there has been an article in the local press, in the print media and in the electronic media talking about the effects on our municipalities. I have talked to members on the government side who say to me, that they find it equally as frustrating as we do on this side, and I believe them.

Mr. Chairman, it isn't a good time to be involved in municipal government in this Province, and when you go out in a small community with no commercial or industrial tax base, where the only source of revenue is from the residential component, and, when you have such a limited and fragile tax base, and then when the minister comes out and says: we are going to chop you by 22 per cent, it is no wonder that municipalities are going to throw up their arms and say: why are we seeking to be elected to this office, what is it that we can do within reason and many are saying: I didn't get elected to do this kind of job, therefore many of them are considering throwing in the towel.

I have had mayors who said to me they are coming to a meeting on Saturday at Holiday Inn in St. John's and they are bringing the keys of their town halls to the minister. Mr. Chairman, I can only say I don't think we can encourage that. We have to watch you know, that kind of decision making, and I say to all hon. members that this is not merely watching the municipalities and their frustration; it is also tearing apart the very fabric of our communities. It is certainly a case of where raising the mil rates is unrealistic in situations where incomes are inadequate to bear the additional taxation responsibilities. We recognize, or I recognize, that government faces a very difficult problem, but we have to ask ourselves if it is fair that we visit the additional need to save dollars on the very poorest communities in our Province. We say to the ministers who are asking, what are the alternatives, to look at it in terms of, is it fair to pass the additional tax burden onto the people who have the least ability to be able to pay, the smaller communities?

I just want to again say that the last few days have not been very happy for the many council members of this Province. I have not seen one who said they did not want to share some of the responsibility for the burden that has to be borne. Mr. Chairman, what they are saying though is that taking $4.1 million -

MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please!

Would the hon. member take his seat for a moment, please?

MR. HODDER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

MR. CHAIRMAN: It being Thursday and it being 4:00 o'clock I would like to read the questions for what we have come to know as the Late Show. Question number one from the Member for Waterford - Kenmount: I am dissatisfied with the answer provided by the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs concerning my question with regards to cuts to municipal operating grants. Question number two from the Member for Placentia: I am dissatisfied with the answer provided by the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation concerning my question on winding down Cabot 500 Corporation. Question number three from the Member for Ferryland: I am dissatisfied with the answer provided by the Minister of Health concerning my question on house rental for the CEO of the Labrador health board.

The hon. the Member for Waterford - Kenmount.

MR. HODDER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

What we are trying to address is a breach of good faith. The mayors and the communities that we are talking about are facing very difficult choices. We are going to see recreation facilities close, we are going to see more potholes in streets, we are going to, in addition to the struggles we have with our economy relative to the fishery, construction, forestry, and agriculture, we are going to see now layoffs occurring at the municipal level.

An article in today's paper from the City of Mount Pearl talks about the fact that there will be layoffs occurring within the City of Mount Pearl, and there will be layoffs occurring probably within other municipalities. These are hard issues that have to be faced by all of us, but in the case of municipalities we are talking about a threat to essential services. There is not much fat that can be chopped at the municipal level. Most communities offer bare bone services.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HODDER: Mr. Chairman, the hon. the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation is saying it is not 22 per cent of their budget. No, it isn't. It is 22 per cent of their municipal operating grant. Unfortunately, however, the bulk of that occurs in the first three months, and that is when municipalities have their highest expenditure levels. Because for many of them who are at core services that is when their cost of heating their buildings is higher, that is when snow clearing is the highest, that is when you have your water main breaks. I've been through it; I know what it is like to run a municipality in the winter months in the Newfoundland climate. It certainly is when you are going to have the most unpredictable expenses.

Therefore I say to the minister, who is asking questions or making comments across the way, that this is the difficulty that they face. It is the time when it is occurring, that is part of it. It is trying to save that $4.1 million in that first quarter, and that is part of the frustration that is felt by the municipalities.

These are some of the issues. I know that all members are well aware of them. We don't have any objection to the securing of these loans. They are part of the business of running a province. We only want to ask that the government, in giving these loan approvals, they assure that they don't change the methodology of repayment at short notice and that we don't end up with situations where municipalities are asked to share a disproportionate part of the burden, and that the changing of the rules in mid-stream is certainly not fair. It is what is causing the great numbers of municipalities great frustrations in the last several days and particularly in the last week.

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. EFFORD: Mr. Chairman, I was provoked, I guess that is the best way of saying it, today again to get to my feet. When I look at the state of this Province and when I sit down and I have to sit here for hour after hour and listen to hon. members opposite make statements about how we are down loading on the municipalities, how it is not a good time to be in government in municipal affairs, how it is a breach of good faith.

Now I ask the question. Who caused all of these negative things to happen? Who caused the good time not to be in government? Who caused a breach of good faith? What caused this government to be making the hard decisions? All I can say is I have to answer each one of those questions. But what I don't understand is how such an intelligent man or an MHA or a member of the Opposition party opposite could stand to his or her feet for so long and be so critical, and have all the answers, yet not give one answer or one recommendation on what they would do if they were in government today.

I know the reason for that. It is a very simple answer. They would do nothing different today than they did for the seventeen years when they were in government and they almost bankrupted this Province. Very close to total bankruptcy. Had the good people of this great Province not had the good common sense to put us in power they would have been bankrupted. Give them another few short days and they would have bankrupted. No matter how you look at it, we've got a major financial problem.

I guess I will have to repeat it once again because I know they don't understand what they did. They are guilty of putting us in such a financial mess but they are innocent as far as coming to know and to realize how they did it. They were that wrong and that backward in doing what they did, they don't even realize that they did it. So that is the real truth of it. How can anybody be in power, in a government, and have a $7 billion debt and not know that they have to pay it back and not know that they have to pay interest on it and not know that that source of interest has to come from the taxpayers of the Province? It is hard to believe. It is absolutely unbelievable that a group of people could be elected to run the Province and put us so far in debt and have no understanding whatsoever.

In the middle of all of that, what should they do, after putting us $7 billion in debt, they developed this magnificent cucumber farm and if that was not enough then they tried to develop a pickle factory. Now on top of that, before they built the pickle factory they got almost all the wives of the ministers of the day to develop some recipes. To make pickles out of cucumbers and a few things mixed into it to put in a jar to turn the economy around in this Province and they are pointing fingers at the people across this House and saying that we don't know how to manage a government? That we don't know how to manage the provincial debt? That we don't know how to put some common sense into the thinking of the operation of this government that we can get it back on its feet for future generations?

Now we are not selfish people, Mr. Chairman, we understand that sometimes you need to do something out of the ordinary but you would hope out of the ordinary it would be for the best interest of the Province. Let me tell you what is out of the ordinary for the former crowd opposite, let me read it, out of the ordinary, with the best interest of the people of this Province in mind, they developed this, Bev's favourite dip; one Newfoundland cucumber, one package of Uncle Dan's original southern salad dressing mix, one cup of mayonnaise, milk. Mix Uncle Dan's mayonnaise and milk until you get the consistency you like. Slice and arrange cucumbers on the plate and put your dip dish in the middle. Now, Mr. Chairman, that is not something I am making up. That is a fact, Mr. Chairman.

MR. CHAIRMAN: On a point of order, the hon. the Member for Waterford - Kenmount.

MR. HODDER: Mr. Chairman, I fail to see the relevancy of what that particular cucumber factory has to do with the intent of Bill 14 and I will ask you to rule accordingly.

MR. CHAIRMAN: There is no point of order. The hon. member is just looking for further clarification and the hon. minister has agreed to tie it in -

MR. EFFORD: I will tie it in, Mr. Chairman, I will tie it in. I will bring it all together because what I started out was to talk about the debt of this Province. In answer to the statements that the hon. Member from Waterford - Kenmount made that we were downloading on the municipalities of this Province our responsibility, that we were not acting in good faith, that we were not making decisions in the best interest of this Province. I had to point out to hon. members opposite what type of decisions were made over there. Now my hon. colleague from Eagle River made some points the other day and I should, just for the sake of argument, bring some of those out just to refer to but I had to make you understand that for seventeen years this is what we had to listen to. This is the reason why we have a $7 billion debt. This is the reason why we pay in excess of $500 million a year out in interest.

This is the reason why we have to pass along the responsibility of trying to get the financial situation straightened out to the people of the Province, because the only way you can pay off a debt is to collect taxes. The only way you can pay off a debt is let the people of the Province understand the mess that we are in, and when I talk about Bev's favourite dip, and when I talk about the cucumber cooler, and when I talk about cucumbers in sour cream, all of that time that dealt with people's minds collectively working together to develop these recipes, I can understand why there was no time spent in developing or trying to get solutions to the financial debt, because it was all put in developing these recipes. That is where the total energy of the former government went.

Just listen to this one. This is what they did for all of the time they were in power, lemon cucumber sauce. Now, I do not know which one of the wives developed this one, but I will read it to you: one cup of grated Newfoundland cucumber; one cup of mayonnaise; three tablespoons of lemon juice; one-half a teaspoon of salt; two tablespoons of chives - what is chives? Anyhow, combine all of the ingredients; serve over all types of fish dishes. We lost the pickles and we lost the fish. What choice do we have but abandon the whole idea of creating a pickle factory?

Mr. Chairman, I am going to get down to the more responsible things that a government should do. We have a major, major debt in this Province. We have 360 municipalities in this Province, 550,000 people. In the City of Shanghai, 16 million people and we have one mayor - 360 mayors and town councils. In the District of Port de Grave, from one end of the district to the other, we have about seven miles - just listen to what I am going to say to you - for seven miles, from one end of the district to the other, that is the total geography of my district, we have eight town councils and eight mayors, and three fire departments, and you tell us that we do not have problems?

In the Town of Cupids, which just got a water and sewage project there two or three years ago for the first time, do you know what they charge the average resident in the Town of Cupids for a major, multi-million dollar water and sewage? One hundred and forty-four dollars a year, and you tell me that we do not have problems in this Province, that we have all of this debt around us, and the people out there, they do not have any understanding of what is happening in this Province. And we are downloading on the people?

People need services, and there is no magic wand that you can flick your finger and wave out that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. The leprechauns don't do it any more. They may have done it in legends, but they do not do it in reality today. Where do you get the money to pay for the infrastructure that people wanted? The only form of getting it is one of two; either you borrow the money or you collect it in taxes, and there comes a point in time when the banks, the financial institutions, will say: We cannot lend you any more. Bring it down to your own household. In any average household, if you earn an average of $2,000 a month and you spend $3,000 a month and you have to borrow that extra $1,000 every single month, very soon that bank, or that loan, or that financial institution will say: No more; you cannot keep borrowing because you cannot pay it back. Government is no different.

I operated a business for seventeen years, and when I went for an operating credit at the bank they only gave me that which I was able to afford to pay back, and the first day I made an overdraft on that operating credit, the bank manager said: John, we need your money, we need your deposit, as soon as possible ... It is common sense. You do not need to be a genius, but what you need to do is put your time into making these decisions instead of trying to come up with pickle recipes. That is what you need to do, and that is what this government is doing, and when you have to make some hard decisions you are going to take some hard political knocks from the general public of this Province, because nobody wants to give up anything. Nobody wants to give up anything. Don't touch me; I'm free.

But the fact remains is that collectively, altogether in this Province we are responsible for the debt and we had better make some hard decisions. I have the confidence in the people of Newfoundland and Labrador that the majority of the people know what has to be done, they know that some hard decisions have to be made, and they know that this government is willing to make them. The easiest thing for a politician to do to get re-elected or to make the people happy is to give them everything they want, and that is what was done for seventeen years, based on political decisions and not on financial decisions for the best interest of the Province.

Now, if I went out to my district and every time I had a request from a constituent I said, yes, you can have that. You can have another five miles of road paved on top of the twenty-five you got last year. You can have another three or four trucks out there in the fire department. You can have another three or four highway trucks. You can have another three or four grants. Would I not then be a great fellow? I can tell you, Mr. Chairman, that everyone would be dancing in the streets, until the day of reckoning came when you have to start paying for it. That is the situation we are in now, the day of reckoning, when you have to start paying the bills. That is what was shoved on the people of this Province by the former administration, the responsibility of paying back that amount of money which was irresponsibly wasted in the past.

The people of this Province, the young people, the youth, the future generations of this Province, are not willing to put up with it anymore. They do not want to find themselves in the position, when they get their education and they go in the workforce, they have to suffer and pay off our foolish mistakes. That is the reality of what has to happen. The only fact remains is that this government must continue on with that line of thinking, making the right decision for the best interests of the people of this Province, and if the Opposition were the very least bit wise in some of its criticism, in some of the time that is taken for criticism, they possibly could pass along some constructive ideas. How do you deal with such a massive debt with a declining population to pay for the massive infrastructure programs while you still need to provide the essential services for the people of this Province to enjoy a reasonable standard of living?

Mr. Chairman, it is not easy, it is very difficult, but the one thing we have is a government in power who has the ability to do and to make the right decisions, and we have the confidence of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador to continue that and we will continue.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

I must say I am always amused when the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation stands up and starts talking about pickle factories. The people he is talking about are ghosts of seventeen years ago, and the majority of people on this side of the House were not in government at that time. He likes to go on and inform the general public, through the House of Assembly, about all that happened in the seventeen years of Tory government was bad and that this government is the only government of the people that can do anything right.

Now, let us talk about a couple of right things this government did that cost this Province not hundreds of thousands of dollars but millions of dollars, totalling up to one, two, and maybe ten Sprungs. The Minister of Works, Services and Transportation neglected to talk about the shady way in which Trans City was given hospital contracts. He neglected to tell that and what it will cost the people of this Province for the next fifty years. For him to stand up each and every day and talk about that without respect, or talk about what this government and a special committee of Cabinet did for political friends and for political favours is unbelievable.

Let us talk about Hydro, Mr. Chairman.

MR. EFFORD: A point of order, Mr. Chairman.

MR. CHAIRMAN: The hon. the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation on a point of order.

MR. EFFORD: Mr. Chairman, it is very simple and understanding for an hon. MHA to get up and give misleading information to the House of Assembly. The cucumber farm is gone but the hospitals that Trans City built are still here.

MR. E. BYRNE: Let us talk about the privatization -

MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please!

Is the hon. member speaking to the point of order?

AN HON. MEMBER: No point of order, Mr. Chairman.

MR. EFFORD: You do not make that decision, the Chair makes that.

MR. CHAIRMAN: The Chair has to rule on the point of order if you wish to speak to it - the hon. the Member for Ferryland, on a point of order.

MR. SULLIVAN: (Inaudible) the Chairman to rule on the point of order. I certainly don't think there is a point of order, Mr. Chairman.

MR. EFFORD: It is not your decision.

MR. SULLIVAN: I am asking him to rule on it.

MR. CHAIRMAN: The Chair rules that there is no point of order. It was a matter of dispute between two hon. members.

MR. EFFORD: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: It is not a matter of dispute, Mr. Chairman, it is the neglect by the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation to talk about the real issues today.

There is no doubt that this Province is finding itself in a financial burden. If we could all live in the simplistic world that he puts forward, that it is because of the former government, only the former government that we find ourselves in this reality today. Is that right? Let me ask about the $500 million that will be taken out of this Province's Budget in the next two years, is that because of seventeen years of Toryism?

Well, let's talk about Hydro. Let me ask the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation, how much did the privatization of Hydro cost the taxpayers of this Province? Let me tell him, Mr. Chairman, it cost them close to $10 million; $6.5 million came out of the budget of Hydro to privatize a Crown jewel in the economy of this Province; to privatize a linchpin that could develop economic activity for the people of this Province, to privatize a viable, commercial operation that was putting $22 million a year in the budget of this government, that's what this government tried to do. Take an initiative; produce an initiative to privatize Hydro that the people of this Province clearly did not want. What was the cost of that?

MR. EFFORD: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: You have had you turn today, sir, and let me tell you, this member here is not going to sit down and listen to the ranting and raving of the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation without it going unchecked.

Now, day after day, Mr. Chairman, we stand in this House as an Opposition Party to hold government accountable, that is one part of our job. The second part of our job is to provide solutions, the second part of our job is to provide some advice to make I guess, constructive criticism to the government and we have on numbers of occasion, of which government has accepted.

Let's look at the EDGE legislation. Amendments made by this Party to the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology accepted, incorporated, that made that legislation better. We supported that and we supported it wholeheartedly.

Mr. Chairman, I will continue this some time tomorrow. I will adjourn debate. Thank you very much.


MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please!

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

MR. SPEAKER (Barrett): Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Lewisporte.

MR. PENNEY: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole have considered the matters to them referred, have directed me to report progress and ask leave to sit again.

On motion, report received and adopted, Committee ordered to sit again on tomorrow.

Debate on the Adjournment

[Late Show]

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

MR. CAREEN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

On Tuesday past, I was up on questions regarding the Cabot Corporation, about government losing control, about the cost of the corporation from the time it started to the time it was killed and the cost of the funeral because there is money that will be spent in severances and contractual agreements that they already had.

Mr. Speaker, when the Cabot 500 Anniversary Corporation was started the people who were put on these boards were government appointees, sanctioned by the government, especially the minister. They had a senior civil servant as a liaison between them and the public and they lost control. Now mind you, they had their hand in and they lost control. We, for ages, were asking over here simply about the accountability, where the money was going, who went on the trips, who was being paid, who were getting the contracts? All fair when you are asking about public money.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. CAREEN: Millions, we don't know how much yet. It has not been tabled here yet. We have asked, I have asked it and other members before me have asked them to table every minute detail of monies that was spent on the Cabot corporation. The minister said a short while ago that he would put out the cost, tell us the cost. We have not seen anything yet only what was in The Telegram the other day. We want it tabled here, in the people's House, every minute expense, every copper. I don't know who put it in the paper, someone probably talking to the minister. It could have been Miller Lite, but we deserve to know. The people of this Province deserve to know the monies that were spent and we are not being told it. Does the minister expect, Mr. Speaker, that this is going to go away? Well it certainly is not going to go away. Millions of dollars having been spent and some say in excess of $600,000 more will be spent to wind it down. It is not going to go away.

I asked Tuesday past that the cost of Cabot from the start until they finished it, the Friday before last, be tabled here and the cost of wind up. I said at that time, Mr. Speaker, that this could be Newfoundland's most expensive funeral. We see every night again where mafia dons and everybody sends flowers, big cars but that is nothing compared to what it is going to cost the people of this Province when everybody else is suffering and another $600,000 or more is going to be launched out for cars, for office spaces. Who are going to drive the cars? The minister is going to be able to use those cars on his leadership kick across this Province. Mr. Speaker, I ask again like I asked Tuesday, when will we see a full account of all the money spent on Cabot from its formation to its death? How much is it going to cost? Will the minister table it here, how much it will cost the people of this Province for the funeral expenses?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is a serious question and a serious issue, Mr. Speaker, but it is unfortunate again that the hon. Member for Placentia, the critic in raising the question, is more interested in trying to get some catchy lines and rhetoric out there.

I know he is known in his own caucus as a bit of one-line impresario, and has better one-liners than most other people, and that he did make the news with respect to an expensive funeral, and those kinds of things, but it is unfortunate that there is no more serious attention paid to the issue than that.

The whole issue dates back to 1992 when, in fact, everybody agreed, at that time even, that maybe we were not even early enough then off the mark in terms of putting a corporation in place to plan for a significant opportunity that this Province has still before us in 1997, and that in the research that was done involving both the provincial government and the federal government, which was of a different political stripe at the time, headed by Prime Minister Mulroney, the Newfoundland representative was Minister Crosbie, and everybody agreed, both levels of government, while of different political stripe, agreed that there should be an arm's length removed corporation who would plan and organize this event rather than have government do it itself, because we had checked all similar such experiences around the world, in Australia, in other parts of Canada, the United States, in Europe, where they had significant milestones to celebrate, like our 500th Anniversary in 1997. Each time the organizational structure chosen was to put a corporation in place rather than have a department of government take upon itself that initiative.

The hon. member tries to make the point about losing control. The board that was appointed was sanctioned by both governments, and just so the history is right, and to remind my hon. colleagues opposite, Minister Crosbie at the time submitted to our government a list of names that he would like to see included for consideration in the board, because his view, shared by our government - we did not disagree with Minister Crosbie at all - was that this was too important for it to be politically partisan, that it should not be seen to be a bunch of Liberals trying to take credit for something that happened in the Province, and so on, that we agreed that there should be a group of good, reputable citizens, even if their political stripe was known, because a lot of people you do not know their political stripe, but some people do not mind telling the world what their politics is, but if they were good, competent people, if they were known, recognized Newfoundlanders who were willing to make a contribution, that they would sit on the board. We agreed to take some of the names that Minister Crosbie submitted, and he submitted known Progressive Conservative supporters. We submitted names ourselves. Some of them were known Liberal supporters, and there were others in there that nobody, to this day, knows what their political affiliation is, because there were none, and we appointed the board.

Everybody agreed that what should happen is that, in fact, that board should be funded from both levels of government and they should be given the wherewithal to plan the best possible celebration for 1997, so that the citizens of Newfoundland and Labrador - because remember, your vote and your political stripe only count during an election; the rest of the time we are all there for the same cause, trying to make sure that we do something to better the Province and to better the circumstance for the people in it. Those people, and again I have to point out that it is unfortunate that the hon. member again, in being more interested in the rhetoric than the issue, would choose to belittle in some way the person who chaired that corporation, and the chairman of that board is a well-respected Newfoundlander and Labradorian who tried his very best, as did the rest of the board, to make it work, and it didn't work because it didn't gain the political support of members opposite - there were even some questions about it on this side - it did not gain the public support, and they talk about the accountability issue.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please!

MR. GRIMES: There was one incident only where a question was asked that did not get an immediate answer. The Chairman thought that because they were a corporation they did not have to give the answer. It was changed a day later, because I approached them and said: It is public money; we should give the answer; and we gave the answer. And every question that was asked was answered. The Opposition refused to take that point of view, and continued with the myth that there were no answers being provided. Every detail of travel expenditures and so on were provided when requested, Mr. Speaker, but it is only because the members -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. GRIMES: - opposite thought they were on to some political bandwagon -

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

MR. GRIMES: - as per usual. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I'm sure I will get a chance to address the issues again, and I hope we treat it very seriously and not in a politically partisan way. Because it is too important for the Province to be treated in that fashion.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I asked the minister questions in the House. Even though he did answer firstly a question I didn't ask today, actually. The question he answered today was one I asked yesterday and two weeks ago. The minister did give an appropriate response that $182,000 was spent. He did indicate that it was contrary to the regulations of the department. He did indicate that the chairperson of the board was new and didn't know the government policy.

I wasn't satisfied with that initially. Because I think it is incumbent upon the board chairperson, or incumbent upon the minister to appoint a person who is competent and who is familiar with the health care system, and who knows government policy and can implement it. So that wasn't acceptable. I think the minister accepts that. At least he did say in the House here that he doesn't agree with what happened.

The second aspect, the question I really asked today, to get into the question, was: Does he feel it is appropriate to spend such a huge sum of money, close to $250,000? The minister wasn't aware before today, he informed this House, that not only the $182,000 cheque was signed and paid, but they didn't like the colour of the carpet, didn't match the furniture, and they had to go replace all the carpet. They wanted to change the basement now and renovate it and do the basement up to suit the family. They also did landscaping outside and other costs. Now we are up in the $200,000 range. Is that an exorbitant price to pay to house an executive director when we have front-line health care workers getting laid off, and they are waiting six months to get an appointment down in Happy Valley - Goose Bay to see a dentist? I don't think that is a reasonable decision, and I don't think it is appropriate to spend nearly $250,000 of taxpayers money.

The next question relates to what the minister said yesterday in this House. He said it is not the intent, basically - he said it doesn't mean that because we buy a house it is going to cost the system any money. Yes, the minister said that. He went on to say that if we collect rent and we pay the mortgage there is no cost to the health care system. He said the rent is zero dollars as of now, not a penny. I'm very anxious to find out what the rent will be, because on a $200,000 house if he amortized that, without any maintenance costs, over a twenty-five year period it is going to cost over $20-some-hundred dollars a month in rent, and over a forty-year-period it is going to cost about $1800 a month in rent at the going competitive interest rate today, just renting that house there. And I don't think that is fair in this day and age with the restraints in our health care system, with front line workers worked to death, actually, in some instances, driven off the job on sick leave because they can't cope with it any longer, when we have needs in the system. I don't think that is appropriate at all. And I think we need an answer for that. The people in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, in Labrador want to know that their money is appropriately spent, and I do compliment the minister on indicating it is not appropriate. He indicated he made contact with the board on one aspect of it and that is certainly something that I think is important.

This brings us to a much broader issue that I questioned the minister on today. I asked the minister: Why don't we have, basically, elected hospital boards in this Province? When a person is elected they are accountable to the people who elect them. They are given a budget. In fact, it takes pressure off the government. When you elect people, you expect people to follow a budget. They discuss it with the public, they have public meetings, and they make the public aware, but when you appoint somebody you are only responsible to the people who appointed you to that position. That is your main responsibility.

Granted, many people in this Province serve, and serve well, and there are very capable people serving on health care boards. On the other hand, there are people out there on health care boards, too, that may not be so capable and may not have much of a knowledge of our health care system. I think it is important to allow the public to have input into the decision-making process so that the public at large can decide where our dollars should be spent under the budget and where their priorities are. Because the priorities of the people out there should be the priorities of the government, the ministry, and a board.

Without elected people, the priorities do not get carried out. I say to the minister, we, as an Opposition, moved an amendment when this legislation came in, to have elected health care boards in this Province, and the government defeated that amendment. I really feel it is important, even a step taken to have a partially-elected board, to phase in that elected state so that it is not going to be a sudden, dramatic change from appointed to elected.

I certainly can live with that and I think it might be a very progressive step to take.

AN HON. MEMBER: I think you should elect the Cabot 500 Corporation.

MR. SULLIVAN: I know the minister doesn't know today because it was only today I asked the question, and he didn't have time to really find out.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please!

The hon. member's time has elapsed.

MR. SULLIVAN: Could I have about ten seconds to finish up?

MR. CHAIRMAN: By leave.

MR. GRIMES: I have gone over this fifteen or twenty times.

MR. SULLIVAN: No, it has not. It is the first time these questions have been asked in this House, I tell the member. I would be interested in finding out what corrective action has been taken by the Labrador Health Care Board under the Chairmanship of Mr. Woodward? What corrective action has been taken in light of the minister's approach there? I would be very eager to find out that it is going to work in the best interest of health care and the people getting served by the dollars that are given to that board to serve and spend wisely in the best interest of our people. I would like to know answers to that and I will certainly look forward when the minister gets those answers to passing them on to the House. Thank you.

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

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

The questions to which the hon. member says he is not satisfied with the answers are really the same questions to which I have already given the answers two or three times. I agree with the hon. member when he indicates that ignorance of the law is no excuse, so to speak. The fact that the new Chair of the health care board wasn't aware of current government policy with respect to non-monetary additional benefits to management people does not excuse the purchase of the house and the provision of free rent to the CEO. I have already clearly indicated, Mr. Speaker, to the House, that I have asked the board to address the issue, to take corrective action and to advise me, within the next number of days, what that action is. Essentially, the house has to be rented at fair market value if it is going to be rented, and I am confident that the board will achieve this. Unfortunately, it may affect the relationship they have with the current CEO. I am not sure what will evolve on that basis but that really is a secondary issue. We need to get this thing addressed and cleaned up. I will endeavour to find out for the hon. member if, in fact, there were any extra costs expended on the property that they acquired in addition to the cost price of $182,000 or whether, in fact, the $182,000 was the price including the refurbishing, but I will get clarification on that for you and I will advise the House.

To the question of elected health care boards, Mr. Speaker, I can only say what I have already said today in the House; fundamentally one would have a difficult time to argue with democratic elections to hospital boards, school boards or these types of boards. But there are pluses and minuses to electing as opposed to appointing. Very often, in a critical area, such as health care, Mr. Speaker, we want to ensure that we have the most competent people who are prepared to work as board members for the right reasons.

It is conceivable that in election situations you might have special interest groups putting forward candidates. You might have people who have a singular agenda or a regional agenda on a specific board putting forward candidates for purposes that are, in the first instance, not entirely for the good of health care. Again, that is possible to happen with school boards or any other type of board.

On balance, I would have to again support the concept of looking at possibly electing health boards in three years time, maybe, when we are undoubtedly back here for a third term. The hon. member indicated to me today that he would ensure that the rules were changed and that elections would be the way to go in the future and that he would make those rules. I had to point out to him that because there are three-year terms involved there would probably be several more appointments necessary in terms of consecutive three-year terms before he gets to get on this side of the House and make such a change. I suspect he will be... probably not much whiter than he is today, but I guarantee you, he will be a lot balder and a lot older.

Because that event, the arrival of the hon. the Member for Ferryland on this side of the House, I can assure you, will not happen in this century. It will not happen during this millennium. It will not happen during the lifetime of most of us in this House. I'm not sure how long he will live, but I suspect that if and when he ever does get over here, his white hair will be certainly commensurate with and tie in very nicely with the old age pension cheque he will be getting at that time. Because time is clearly not on his side, in a political sense, in this Province.

Now, I don't know - it may be that the hon. member may be sitting two chairs further up before we know it. He came very close to that. I would have to say that the real leader over there, the caucus leader and the Party Leader, are certainly not the same person. The colour of their hair is different; the clothes they wear are different. Actually, their gender is different completely.

MR. EFFORD: (Inaudible) cuter?

MR. L. MATTHEWS: Well, I won't comment on whether or nor it is cuter -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. L. MATTHEWS: - because I'm partial to women.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. L. MATTHEWS: But I will get the information on the additional cost -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. minister's time has elapsed.

MR. L. MATTHEWS: - of refurbishing for you, Mr. Speaker.

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

DR. GIBBONS: Mr. Speaker, in the absence of the House Leader, I move that the House adjourn until 9:00 in the morning.

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