November 28, 1995          HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS          Vol. XLII  No. 64

The House met at 2:00 p.m.

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

Before we get to the routine proceedings I want to welcome to the House of Assembly, on behalf of all members, of course, fifty-two Democracy and Law students from St. Francis High School in the District of Harbour Grace. Accompanying them are their teachers, Mr. Cashin and Mr. Pottier, and bus driver, Mr. Dan Clarke.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Oral Questions

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My question is to the Minister of Fisheries, Food and Agriculture.

The minister recently stated that he will be approaching Ottawa to open the caplin fishery next year, even if the fish are small. I ask the minister if he is prejudging the fishery resource council report, or has he been informed of the contents of this report which has not yet been released?

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

DR. HULAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

DR. HULAN: Yes, they are.

My comments were made in conjunction with a letter that I have already sent to the federal minister, asking for his consideration for an early decision on a caplin fishery for 1996, and my conviction with regard to the possibility of an early decision at this time on a caplin fishery for 1996 is solely based on information from the scientists who are studying the stock.

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Mr. Speaker, I say to the minister that he should remember already where the scientists' reports have gotten us -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FITZGERALD: - and he should listen to the real scientists of this Province, the fishermen and the fisherpersons out there.

I am certain the minister must have held many consultation sessions, and I am sure he must have had many meetings with interest groups around the Province. I ask the minister, if he would inform the House if he has consulted Earle McCurdy, the President of the FFAW, if he talked to the executive of that union or if he held meetings with fishery committees and other fisherpersons before he made that statement?

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

DR. HULAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I can assure the hon. member that I had consultations with Mr. McCurdy and other worthy individuals of this Province associated with the fishing industry on a continuous basis, and indeed we have discussed the issue of a caplin fishery for 1996. I have discussed it also with inshore fishermen, and on that note I can assure this hon. House that inshore fishermen who depend on the caplin fishery are certainly in favour of the fishery being open. On the other hand those who do not have a dependency on the caplin fishery speak the other way.

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

MR. FITZGERALD: This certainly does not reflect the tone of the telephone conversations I have been getting, and other people on this side have been getting this last few days I say to the minister. I ask the minister if he has been in contact with the federal minister on this issue, and if he is simply articulating the position of the federal minister?

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

DR. HULAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I have been in contact with the federal minister on many issues in recent days. The federal minister and I discussed the letter I had written him but, no, I am not necessarily articulating the views of the federal minister. His views are his views and I am sure he is quite capable of articulating them himself.

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Mr. Speaker, the minister states that one of the compelling reasons for wanting to harvest small caplin next year is to maintain caplin markets. If we want to use that argument then I suggest we immediately reopen the cod fishery. At least that has been closed for two years. It makes about as much sense I say to the minister. Will the minister admit that it is now payoff time to the processors who spent hundreds of dollars to advertise in the infamous barbecue book, Mr. Speaker, and that the minister's recent statement is the wish of some of those very same processors?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

DR. HULAN: I will quickly answer that question by saying, no, because that will cause the hon. members on the other side to have to ask more questions during this Question Period, and I question whether they have those questions to be answered.

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

MR. FITZGERALD: I would like to ask the Premier if he would immediately ask this minister to resign because it is obvious he has lost the confidence of the fisherpeople out there in rural Newfoundland today? Mr. Premier, if we allow the minister's actions to continue I fear we will see the entire fishery decimated and rural Newfoundland will disappear along with it. I would like to ask the Premier if he supports the actions and the comments of his Minister of Fisheries, Food and Agriculture?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker, there were two questions: Would I ask the minister to resign? Some questions are so unfounded and silly they should not even be answered or dignified with an answer, that is one of them. The second question is: Do I support what the minister has said? I have not examined it in detail but I will and if there is any difference between me and the minister or the government and the minister, I will let the public of the Province know.

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

MR. TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Premier as well. Last evening I attended a rally in Marystown where the people are scared of the plan by the federal Liberal Government to cut the UI program, Mr. Speaker, and they are bitterly disappointed by the lack of support from this government in fighting the brutal attack that has been inflicted by the federal government on the seasonally employed. I want to ask the Premier, can the people of this Province take your virtual silence on this issue as your unspoken approval for the plan?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: No, Mr. Speaker, that is just the hon. member's view of things and it is his suggestion and it is totally inaccurate. I have to say that I don't think there is probably another single topic that has engaged more of my attention with both the federal minister from Newfoundland and the Prime Minister in recent weeks then has that question. I have had discussions with both in the last few days. They know the views of the Province, I have let it be known very clearly. There will likely be further discussions and the Province has made its position very clear on it. No, the member cannot take the fact that I have not been ranting and raving, which was the course his former leader used to follow, as my silent approval of it.

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

MR. TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, the Premier is already on record as calling for decreased UI benefits and increased qualifying periods when he secretly pitched his ISP program which in itself is a glorified welfare program. Mr. Speaker, let me ask the Premier, wouldn't the federal government consider that pitch as a support for this program?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Few things the hon. member has ever said in this House are so unfounded and so inaccurate as the total of his comments that he just made. There is no merit whatsoever to the position.

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

MR. TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, it is factual, I say to the Premier, and it is not me, it is the people of this Province and the people who attended that rally last night who are concerned about your silence.

Mr. Speaker, let me ask the Premier this: When your Liberal friends in Ottawa, rip up the present UI program, can you tell me how many unemployed Newfoundlanders will be able to qualify for UI and how many of these people will instead, be forced on to the welfare rolls?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker, nobody can answer a question that has no foundation. There is no proposal to rip up the UI program, therefore, the question doesn't arise.

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

MR. TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, is the Premier now telling the people of this Province that the government - as I asked him the question - ripping up the present UI program, that, that is not going to happen, that everything that is in place will remain in place and that your federal buddies in Ottawa will not put the boots to the unemployed in this Province? Is that what you are saying?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker, what I said is, there is no proposal that I know of to rip up the UI program or put the boots to the people of this Province. Those are the totally unfounded and illogical words of the hon. member. So far as I know, there are some proposals to effect some changes in the Unemployment Insurance program but, Mr. Speaker, the description of it put forward by the hon. member is totally outrageous.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Menihek.

MR. A. SNOW: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister responsible for Employment and Labour Relations.

In a recent meeting between the steel workers leaders from Western Labrador and the Government Social Policy Planning Committee, there was a discussion around a recently released dust study and other issues.

I wonder if the minister can confirm that the union leaders have expressed grave concerns about the high TLVs, that is: the `threshold limit values' of dust in certain areas of the plants, and can he also confirm that during the summer months, high dust levels in the Towns of Labrador City and Wabush have become intolerable, especially on windy days? Can he confirm those two particular issues, and can he also confirm that they have offered solutions to them?

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

MR. MURPHY: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

Let me say to the member that we did have a good meeting and it was one that engendered a lot of discussion. What needs to be known is in 1992 the original dust study was done and then, some ten years later, I say to the member, we had a review in 1991 of the complete Labrador dust study. It was tabled here in 1995. Yes, there were concerns, and we have identified over those years some twenty cases of silicosis related to dust in Labrador West. I might add that all of these cases were pre-1982 employees. We have continually monitored, brought together a tripartite committee comprised of both management of Scully Mines and IOC. We have done a tremendous lot of work in that committee. We have identified different zones, both at Scully Mines - and I might add that the threshold limit value that the member talks about for silica dust is 0.1 milligrams per cubic metre.

If you do dust samplings, I say to the member, and you take all the dust samplings out there and monitor them, you will find that the maximum level of silica contained in all dust samplings is approximately 30 per cent. As we look at the A zones in Scully Mines, we see that only one area is an area of concern, that is beyond the threshold limit value. We are dealing with that now. We have just done some parallel monitoring, the department has, with both IOC and Scully Mines. We are quite satisfied that the readings we are getting are accurate and true. We will be down there again in the new year to do more tripartite -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. MURPHY: We will be down there again early in the new year, I say to the member, dealing with both the union and the management people concerning the dust problems. I think, I say to the member in all sincerity, we have an exceptionally good handle on the dust problem there and we will continue to monitor and improve the circumstance.

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

MR. A. SNOW: Mr. Speaker, the minister failed to respond to the question about the dust conditions in the town sites of both the town of Labrador City and the town of Wabush. While he did answer in the fashion of - with regard to the flippant answer that he gave the unions in their meeting with him. I suggest that was not the real answer. I want the real answer, the correct answer, with regard to dust conditions in those two towns.

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

MR. MURPHY: Let me say to the member: Look, when you have a situation like there is in Labrador West, and the member fully knows, then when you excavate the ore and bring it through the concentrator and what have you, you have tailings, and tailings have to be stored somewhere the same as crusher dust or whatever the case may be. If you have a wet day, then obviously dust isn't a problem. If you have a dry day or a windy day, then wherever the prevailing wind blows it often, I say to the member, blows down on the town site.

Now the member needs to be careful. We set up monitoring. There are two types of dust. Acyclic dust is the one that causes the problem. The other dust is basically a nuisance dust, or dust you would see on a normal gravel road. I don't think we need to get them confused.

My colleague, the Minister of Health, and I have had discussions on this issue. When the weather improves next spring we will do monitoring - our department will do monitoring - in the town site to make sure the amount of acyclic dust that is out in the residence is also monitored. We have some 180 workers now, both at Scully and at IOC, who are going around with monitoring tags on them, so all of that is well looked after. We will continue to do, of course, what is necessary to be done to ensure that the health and safety -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I would ask the hon. minister to conclude his answer.

MR. MURPHY: - of the people there are totally looked after.

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

MR. A. SNOW: Mr. Speaker, would the minister respond to the suggestion that was put forward by the union officials, all residents of Labrador City and Wabush, people who live there, understand the problem and know it very well. Can he respond to the solution that they put forward with regard to the establishment of a tripartite committee who would establish a plan to implement a seeding of these areas that he talks about on the tailings area, and also on the mine dump areas.

He knows the people in Labrador West have identified that problem. They have offered the minister a solution, so why doesn't he act on that solution and solve this particular problem?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. MURPHY: Mr. Speaker, let me say to the hon. member that this problem is not a new problem. This problem has been ongoing for some years at Labrador City and Wabush. It is this government, through the Minister of Environment, through the Minister of Health, and this minister, who will address exactly the objectivity that the member talks about. So we are prepared; we have already met. We will talk to the company. I told them I am going down early in the new year. I will discuss the situation with my colleagues upon my return. We will put in place a plan of action which, I might add, was never done for the many years that colleagues opposite were responsible for this problem, when all the problems really occurred. It is this government that has taken the initiative. So the member need not worry and let me reassure the people of Labrador West that this government will do what needs to be done to secure their health and safety.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. A. SNOW: Mr. Speaker, it is not fair to the residents of Labrador City and Wabush to suggest that the previous administration is to blame for this particular problem. He has been offered a solution by the union leaders, residents of the area and he knows he has been offered a solution and it is wrong what he is doing. Won't he correct the problem and not get on with this silliness that he is doing? He has to implement that plan that they offered to him so that the people in Labrador City and Wabush can live in a safe and clean environment. Why doesn't he get on and do his job?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, that question is one in the environment portfolio we have been dealing with. We had a meeting there in August where we met with both union officials, both town councils and with company representatives. The vegetation program, we have already initiated a review of that program and will require both companies to file the program with us before the end of the new year. We will approve the program based on what we see to be an effective program. IOC did a very good job last year and in the last few years. Wabush mines, there have been some problems with their vegetation program. We are going to ensure that that program is brought up to scratch because that is part of the problem, along with looking at the wet mill process, which IOC is now looking at. We expect a decision by the company in December on that issue and that will also help the overall solution to the problem. We are going to respond very shortly to the presentation made by the company, by the union officials and very shortly - and we are, by the way, working with them. We have correspondence with them and we have sent them copies of correspondence which we have sent to the company and we will be following that up. Thank you.

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

MR. HODDER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My questions are for the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs.

On September 10 many Newfoundland communities, especially those on the Burin Peninsula and to a lesser extent the Avalon and Bonavista Peninsula's, suffered severe damage as a result of Hurricane Luis. Emergency Measures has been assigned the task of assessing the damages with a view to seeking assistance from the federal government. I am wondering if the minister could update the House on the progress of the damage claims and assessments to date?

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

MR. REID: Yes, Mr. Speaker, the hon. House realizes we had to reach a certain amount before we would qualify for emergency funding from the federal government towards the replacement of some of the damage that was done, especially on the Burin Peninsula. We have reached and exceeded that limit but there are still one or two claims that we are not quite sure on and with the Department of Works, Services and Transportation, the hon. minister and myself, we are waiting now to get those - I believe it is two, now I may be mistaken, Mr. Speaker, I know it is more then one. I am not sure if it is three or two but there are a couple of claims left outstanding that we are doing some investigations and some investigating into. At that point in time, we will be ready - the hon. Minister of Works, Services and Transportation and myself will be ready then to make the submission to the federal government for funding. Now the hon. member also realizes that we don't get the total funding but we are optimistic that the federal government under that emergency program that they have, will be providing the Province with some funding. Now how soon that will be I cannot answer you.

MR. SPEAKER: A supplementary, the hon. the Member for Waterford - Kenmount.

MR. HODDER: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the minister would undertake to table the damage breakdown by dollar value, by government departments, communities and the numbers of individuals with claims? What is the total value of the claims and would he confirm as well that there has been legal actions taken by individuals and/or businesses against the provincial government as a result of the damages incurred?

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

MR. REID: Two questions, Mr. Speaker, the first one: Would I table the bills and the requests and so on? I don't know if I can do that or not but I will certainly make it available to the hon. member. I will go back and check and see if there is not some confidentially involved here in regards to the legal system. If I can provide it I will provide it to the hon. member. I don't think there is any need to provide it in the House but I can provide it to the hon. member.

The other question was: Is there some legal claims made by individuals against the department? I am not aware, in my department, of any legal claims and I cannot speak for anyone else but I don't know of any claims laid against my department in particular. If there are for other departments, then I would assume that the hon. minister representing that department would answer that part of the question.

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

MR. HODDER: Mr. Speaker, of the 118 individuals who have made claims, many cannot complete repairs due to financial circumstances. Has the minister developed a program of temporary financial assistance to such families so that repairs can be made now rather than much later when the repairs would only compound the difficulties these families have already encountered?

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

MR. REID: Mr. Speaker, it is hard for me to answer the gentleman's question because the question in itself is ambiguous.

For this government to go out and actually assist people who had damage done during the storm would be an admission on our part that it was our responsibility. Now if it becomes our responsibility, then what responsibility does the federal government have? I would say to the hon. member that, no, I don't have any plans to do anything until we hear from the federal government how much money they are willing to put into disaster relief funds. The disaster relief fund is administered by the federal government not by the Province, and until we know exactly how much the federal government will be giving the Province to help those people who had those problems, I really don't think it would be advisable on our part to jump the gun and supplement somebody to make repairs on the condition that down the road we would recover. I don't think we operate that way to be honest about it, Mr. Speaker, and the answer is of course, no.

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

MR. HODDER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to address a question to the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation, if he could confirm that eight or nine legal claims have been made against his department for damages as a result of the hurricane on September 10th?

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

MR. EFFORD: Mr. Speaker, I can't tell the hon. member the exact number of legal claims that have been made against the department. What I have communicated to the general public and to the people who had damages done to their properties, that as Minister of Works, Services and Transportation, the department is responsible for the refurbishing of the roads and damage to the roads. Any other claims that they would have outside of our rebuilding the roads to their properties, they would go to the Department of Justice, and I have not been involved beyond that except to communicate to the individuals concerned.

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

MR. HEWLETT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

In the 1989 Liberal Campaign Policy Manual, it is stated and I quote: A Liberal government will consider ferry transportation to islands off our coast to be an extension of our road system.

The new rate for a return trip for a car and driver for Bell Island in Conception Bay, for Long Island in Green Bay is now nine dollars. The round-trip in the case of my district to Long Island is about one kilometre, that's a one kilometre round-trip.

Does the minister consider nine dollars per kilometre a reasonable cost of operating in this Province this transportation system, when government only pays its own employees, I think, something like twenty-five cents a kilometre?

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

MR. EFFORD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

What I consider to be reasonable is to be able to provide a very effective transportation system for people living in isolated communities. The service that we are providing in the Province today is second to none for those people living in those areas. In order to be able to continue to provide that service to those people, we have to find the money to do it.

What we are charging here, the minimum rate we are charging will return about 15 per cent of the total cost of the operation. If the hon. member opposite can come up with an idea of how we can get that $12 million or $15 million and all the other costs that we have to find in providing the service to the people without having at least some cost recovery, minimal. In 1989, a vehicle cost $12,000, $15,000, $16,000, that same vehicle today costs $20,000, $21,000, $22,000 depending on the type of vehicle you buy. Costs do escalate and the cost of providing this service to people certainly doesn't get any less.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Green Bay, on a supplementary.

MR. HEWLETT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Obviously a significant policy change on the part of the Liberal Party.

Mr. Speaker, I have two islands in my district, Little Bay Islands and Long Island. Little Bay Islands is a longer steam. For a family, a man, wife two children travelling to Little Bay Islands, they will see their rates go from $16 to $24, round-trip. That is a 50 per cent increase. For Long Island, which I presume is much the same case as Bell Island, man, woman, two children would see their rates go from $6.50 to $18. That is a 176 per cent increase. Doesn't the minister consider that somewhat exorbitant?

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

MR. EFFORD: Mr. Speaker. What the hon. member is trying to do here in trying to put a different spin on it is playing around with figures. In the case of Long Island we were charging $0.50 for a child and a senior. We are now charging $1. Is that an exorbitant rate? If that is the case, a can of soft drink is an exorbitant rate, $1, $1.05. In the case of a senior including a car, $2.25. I think the rates are very reasonable in this Province. Nowhere else in this country could you get such good rates for the excellent service. Two boats, one to Long Island, one to Little Bay Islands. Not bad service. I don't know what the hon. member is complaining about.

MR. SPEAKER: A supplementary, the hon. the Member for Green Bay.

MR. HEWLETT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The minister talks about me putting a spin on things. He deliberately read from certain low-fare categories himself. But the numbers I gave for four people in a vehicle are correct, $24 up from $16. In the case of Long Island, and I presume Bell Island, four people in a car, $6.50 up to $18, and that is significant. I would ask the minister: If the government is going to review this for one island in the Province, any island in the Province, will the Cabinet review it for all people in similar circumstances?

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

MR. EFFORD: I don't know where the hon. member is getting his information about reviewing for one island. I'm not aware of reviewing for one island in the Province. We made a decision, we looked at the basic rates, and we started with the basic rates within the Province. As I said yesterday in answer to the questions, to get aboard city transportation here in St. John's it is a minimum of $1.50. Our own minimum rate is $1. I think they are reasonable rates for the people of the Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. EFFORD: I don't have the magic answer, I don't have a pot at the end of the rainbow where we can dip in and get all the monies we like. The people expect a good service, and as people have said to me many times: We understand the cost. What we want is a reasonable service. If you can provide a reasonable service as a government to us, we are willing to pay a minimum cost. That is all we are charging, a minimum fare structure for the people who get an excellent service.

MR. SPEAKER: A supplementary, the hon. the Member for Green Bay.

MR. HEWLETT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Some years ago the government took away one of the two boats serving the two islands in my district at a time when the rate structure fitted the Liberal policy manual. The people there voluntarily asked to have their rates increased to get their two boats back. The minister said: No, I can't increase your rates because it is against Liberal policy. So is the minister saying now the Liberal policy is changed and varied, significantly changed?

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

MR. EFFORD: Mr. Speaker, some years ago this Province did not owe $7 billion, but when that group opposite left office we owed in excess of $7 billion. Five hundred and eighty-five million dollars going out a year in interest. If I had that kind of money the hon. member wouldn't have to worry about a cost on a ferry service.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible)!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Question period has expired.

MR. SPEAKER: Answers to Questions for which Notice has been Given.

MR. REID: Mr. Speaker, could I revert to tabling a report? Could I have permission of the House?

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


MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

MR. REID: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to table today the housing report for the years 1993-'94 for Newfoundland and Labrador Housing. I am sorry about that. I should have done it earlier.

Answers to Questions

For which Notice has been Given

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

MS YOUNG: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Yesterday, the Member for St. Mary's - The Capes asked me to confirm that the administrator of the Youth Centre had been suspended without pay and to explain the circumstances surrounding the report of the suspension?

While I do not usually confirm or refute suspensions publicly, today, at the request of the administrator of the Youth Centre at Whitbourne, I will make an exception. The administrator has not been, and is not currently suspended by this department. Today he is performing his regular duties at the centre. In light of the embarrassment this irresponsible misinformation has caused the individual, I would again invite the member to visit the youth centre, to interview staff and residents, and to develop a better understanding of the whole operation.


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

MR. SHELLEY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I have a petition from the residents of the Baie Verte - White Bay district: `We, the residents of the Baie Verte Peninsula, are very concerned with the recent cutbacks by the Department of Transportation, and we believe that these cutbacks will seriously affect the safety, as well as the overall quality of transportation on the Baie Verte Peninsula. We urge the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to reconsider these reductions in order to ensure that the safety and quality of road transportation is retained at an acceptable and safe level.'

Mr. Speaker, I continue to present these petitions, and will continue, at least until the House adjourns for the Christmas break. Day by day as times goes by, not just the people of my district, because since presenting these petitions and bringing up the issue more and more in public, I am getting calls from other districts who have the same concerns.

I also say that many members in this House are getting the same concerns from their districts about the fears they have for the safety of people on the highways of this Province. I am willing to bet, as time goes by, and as we get into the storm season, and as snow starts to cover the roads and ice forms, that there will be more complaints. The point is that it is going to be too late for the minister and this government to retract and go back if we see too many accidents happen on our highways.

Just over last weekend I had the opportunity to visit the depot on the Baie Verte Peninsula. While I was there, I spoke to the staff and some of the people at the garage. And what was shameful about it was that many of the staff and people at the depot were reluctant to talk, afraid to speak. They were on their break and I asked them a few questions about the trucks and the CV mirrors. I tell the minister that I did see the famous technology that the minister is now putting forward, two circular mirrors with a heater attached to them. That is the new advanced technology that replaced the wingmen.

I have talked to people that obviously the minister didn't talk to, one of them, a man who worked on these trucks for over thirty years. As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, one of those gentlemen, not from my district by the way, was in this gallery the other day to hear the minister himself talk about how there is no need for wingmen, and that no other provinces do it, and so on, Mr. Speaker. He didn't take into account at all, Mr. Speaker, the roads in this Province, the branch roads and the different trunk roads, and the seriousness of the storms in this Province. It is very dangerous, and I say to the minister that those are the people he should have consulted with, the people who have experienced this for thirty years.

Don't be like the Minister of Fisheries who talked to the scientists again, go actually talk to the people who live each day and work each day at this type of work.

Secondly, I would like to say to the minister that another very serious concern of mine is this - I can only give examples in my specific district, but I have talked to my other colleagues who have similar situations. Mechanics, cutbacks in mechanics. I was at the depot this past week, on Friday, and a truck that was used for spreading salt and sand was sent to Grand Falls, two hours away from Baie Verte, a two-hour drive on a flatbed, three times before it was finally fixed.

Mr. Speaker, if the idea of the minister and the government was to save money in the Department of Works, Services and Transportation, I mean, my argument in the beginning was that it was for safety. Now, I question whether we are actually saving money. I would like to ask the minister, is he assessing this, this winter as it goes, with the cutbacks to the different depots? In fact, is it costing more money? We are not only jeopardizing safety but now we have to question whether it is a sensible, logical thing to do.

I would ask the minister to take that upon himself and his department if he is doing the responsible thing to assess it to see if, in fact, we are saving money. Because I'm willing to bet that we are not. If a piece of equipment has to be sent for two hours each way that is four hours, three times, twelve hours of transportation cost to get a piece of equipment to Grand Falls to get it fixed. The simple question was asked of me: What about the scenario of that piece of equipment which salts the roads having to go to Grand Falls to be fixed? What about if the roads are too slippery to send the equipment to Grand Falls?

I ask the minister to answer that simple question - because I like to keep it simple for the minister. Because before the answer is finished he will be blaming it on seventeen years ago or a Sprung greenhouse or something. He never really answers a simple question. Or the PC book. Who gives a damn about the PC book? We are talking about what happens today. He should address the problem as it is because it is serious. I'm saying to the minister, it is going to be too late when the minister has to answer to a question in my district in the near future of a similar situation that happened in Badger or anywhere else in this Province if it happens in my district because a salt truck couldn't get up there, because it is stuck in Grand Falls, two hours away, being repaired by a mechanic when it could have been fixed down in Baie Verte.

I ask the minister to use a bit of common sense and a bit of logic to answer that problem, Mr. Speaker, and answer it seriously before it is too late -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time has elapsed.

MR. SHELLEY: Before another fatality is recorded in this Province.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

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

I am pleased to rise in my place today and say a few words in support of a petition presented by the Member for Baie Verte - White Bay. This petition, I think, is probably the fifth or sixth petition that he has presented and, of course, he is taking very seriously, the situation on our highways today. The petition deals with safety on our highways.

What we see happening this year is we see more cuts in staff. Of course, if we are getting cuts in staff it has to be - I mean, there are no ifs, ands or buts about it - affecting the service that we are receiving on our highways, and the condition of the highways. We are seeing longer waits and the highway workers later in the mornings getting out on the highways and doing their salting, sanding and snow clearing.

With respect to the mechanics themselves, we see fewer mechanics in the depots, and that is a known fact. There are fewer mechanics in the depots. These people now, if you speak to the mechanics, you will find that they are doing paperwork, they are doing stockroom work. They are being run ragged before they even get time to get at the repairs. That is a known fact. The mechanic in Trepassey this year, who was a seasonal person, is not called back, and that is affecting the clearing of the highways in the Province and it is going to get progressively worse over the winter.

The people in Trepassey now, the equipment, the repairs now, if there is any equipment broken down, the equipment itself will have to be taken to St. Joseph's or Renews. If it can't be taken to either of those sites, then you will have to bring mechanics in to the site where the piece of equipment is broken down. That, in itself, has to have a time delay in what work is done and what will be done this winter. If you have a snow storm and if you have the equipment broken down on the highway and we have to bring a mechanic in from any given area, it has to have a negative impact upon the clearing of the highways in this Province.

As I said, now, there are two mechanics in Renews, as far as I know. They are doing stockroom work, they are doing daily reports, they do some mechanic work, and they are even answering their phones. That is definitely having an impact upon the work that is being done in this Province. The shop supervisor in Renews is gone and, of course, that in itself will affect the delays and that is why we have the mechanics doing the work that the shop supervisor should be doing.

There are more problems coming because of the poor planning of this Administration and the cutbacks. You take the St. John's region, the White Hills depot. They have a loader over there from last year that is used for clearing difficult situations where we have high snow drifts, where the graders cannot go through and the ploughs cannot go through, and that loader is for the St. John's area and particularly the northeast; we have Pouch Cove, Torbay, Flatrock, Bauline, Bauline Line, Portugal Cove Road. That loader is stationed in Portugal Cove now, and the operator takes the piece of equipment when the roads are bad and does his route, and then he is available to do other areas outside his own. That piece of equipment now is scheduled, from what I can gather, to go to either Donovans to handle the Foxtrap area, to handle the off ramps or the on ramps of the Trans-Canada Highway. That, in itself, is going to have a negative impact upon the Northeast Avalon.

I can see the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation over there with a big grin on his face, as usual, thinking that this is very flippant. Why he brings in all these cutbacks is to try and save money for the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, but I would suggest to the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation, if he wanted to save money, or to earn some money, maybe if he rented out that vacant lot between his ears he would make a fortune for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, this is a very serious situation in the Province today, and it is progressively getting worse. We have not had any large amount of snow to this point in time, and I would say God help the people of this Province, and in particular the travellers over the highways and byroads of this Province. We have the Trans-Canada Highway now, and I am getting complaints and getting calls from people who travel the Trans-Canada Highway every day from, say, out around St. Mary's Bay, Bay Roberts, and that area. They say that the Trans-Canada is the worst this year - and we have had very little snow - than it has been. It has progressively gotten worse since '89. They have cut back and cut back and cut back. This past Friday there was an accident in Paddy's Pond because of black ice and roads not being salted and sanded. Last Tuesday, I believe it was the 21st, after the snowfall Monday night, in St. Mary's Bay, just outside one of the small communities there, a car went off the road at almost 7:00 a.m. There was slush on the roads -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. J. BYRNE: In conclusion, I would say the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation had better get his act together.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation.

MR. EFFORD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The hon. member wanted to know what I was smiling at. It was not about the seriousness of the situation. He made some sarcastic remark.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. EFFORD: Let me tell you, I just visualized the hon. Member for Baie Verte and the Member for Torbay crawling around the depots every Saturday morning looking at the equipment. The hon. members out there every Saturday morning on their hands and knees looking at the equipment.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. EFFORD: So making no wonder I would smile at such a thing.

I am not going to say a lot about the comments made by both hon. members, but what I am going to do over the next four or five days is bring in here some points from 1980 to 1985 when the then government, which is now in Opposition, about all the accusations –

AN HON. MEMBER: I wasn't there.

MR. EFFORD: I know. That has nothing to do with any members.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. EFFORD: - when all the accusations were made about that government of the day, and about the poor snow clearing, winter maintenance program they had on the go, when they had at least 1,000 more employees than we have today, when they had at least four times as many fatalities in any given year than we have today, so I will provide that information to the hon. House of Assembly over the next three or four days so they will see the silliness they are going on with.

Last year and this year we had the least amount of fatalities we have had over the last number of years, and it is declining slowly every year. We would like to see it down to nil, but in the weather conditions that we get it is impossible, even if you had equipment on the road twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

Mr. Speaker, I will provide the information and the hon. member opposite is going to eat a lot of crow.

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

MR. A. SNOW: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to rise and speak to a petition and present a petition on behalf of some residents of Labrador City and Wabush, and I will read the prayer of the petition of the undersigned residents of the District of Menihek:

WHEREAS because of the budgetary restraint new school bussing proposals are unrealistic and dangerous; and

WHEREAS extreme climatic conditions and local conditions force students to use school buses;

THEREFORE your petitioners humbly pray that the government allocate necessary funding to permit the continuing operation of a safe and reliable school bussing program in Western Labrador, and as in duty bound your petitioners will ever pray.

Mr. Speaker, I say I am pleased to rise and present this petition on behalf of the residents of Labrador City and Wabush in the sense that I want to represent how they feel with regard to school busing in Labrador City and Wabush. I am not pleased to have had to do it. I would have thought that a government would be more responsive to children's safety then this government is showing that they are because that is exactly what is occurring, Mr. Speaker. This government has seen fit to disrupt the busing system in Western Labrador to the degree that it will become unsafe in my opinion and in the opinion of a lot of residents of Labrador City and Wabush. A busing system that has been in place for, I suppose, about twenty-eight to thirty years. It was designed, operated and maintained by local residents. The parameters of the design was laid out by local school board officials, by local residents -

MR. TOBIN: Twenty-one gun salute.

MR. ROBERTS: (Inaudible).

MR. A. SNOW: I noticed that some members were absent from their seats and I heard the shots going off, I had a little glimmer of hope there for a second but -

MR. ROBERTS: (Inaudible).

MR. A. SNOW: Well actually I looked across the House.

But back to my petition, Mr. Speaker. This bus system had been designed around the parameters of people who live in Western Labrador, who know and understand the problems in Labrador City and Wabush. The parameters of their particular busing program were not laid out by people from St. John's. The parameters for the institution of the delivery of the bus service to the residents of Labrador City and Wabush were laid out by local residents who understand the problems, by parents of children who use those buses, that's who designed the busing system in Western Labrador.

Now, Mr. Speaker, we have found that now, because of the parameters laid down by the ministry, the Minister of Education and his officials, we find that they are going to offer triple busing. They will be starting to bus at 7:20 in the morning with three runs; 7:20, 8:00 and 8:30 a.m. At 7:20 a.m. in Western Labrador it is pitch dark, 7:20. Kids are expected to get up and be out at the bus stop when it could be -35 or -40 more especially in the spring and winter. Mr. Speaker, people in Western Labrador had double busing before; with triple busing it becomes unsafe. So they have asked me to present this petition on their behalf highlighting the safety aspect of it. They feel that the guidelines that the minister has established to save money is wrong.

A mother from Western Labrador suggested that it is wrong, it is fundamentally wrong. There is something wrong with an administration that puts dollars ahead of children's' safety. It is pitch dark at 7:30 in the morning in Western Labrador. At the end of winter we are looking at an accumulated snowfall of probably ten to eleven feet. It is going to be dangerous in the driving conditions. It will be dark and because of the extreme high snow banks vehicles will have difficulty seeing the children around turns, et cetera. So they feel we are going to be adding additional risks to the children's' safety. This particular mother, Mr. Speaker, when it was suggested to her, by me, that this was done because of budgetary restraint, she said, my God, how can anybody save dollars and do away with children's' safety? She said ask the minister what he thinks a child's life is worth. Is it worth the $330,000 that he is going to save at the risk of their safety?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.


MR. SPEAKER: No leave?

MR. DECKER: No, he is talking nonsense.

MR. A. SNOW: Children's' safety is not nonsense, I would tell the Minister of Education. He may think it is nonsense (inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Orders of the Day

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

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, as members may have divined, we are on the verge - if the hon. lady will allow - on the verge of a visit from a higher authority. I understand His Excellency, the Governor-General will be here at about 3:45 p.m.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: I thank my hon. friend for the advice and I shall take it to heart.

My suggestion is that we should meet until about 3:40 p.m. and then we could just stand easy until Their Excellencies come here in the Chamber. The hon. Lady may not know how to stand easy but some of her colleagues would be delighted to help her any time, so I would ask accordingly, Mr. Speaker, if you would call Order No. 26, which is Bill No. 36, and I will introduce it and we will see if we could move on with it.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act Respecting The Investigation Of Fatalities", (Bill No. 36).

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

MR. ROBERTS: Thank you.

Mr. Speaker, the bill, Sir, in our judgement as a government is a significant step forward. The bill will replace the present system for dealing with reportable deaths and that's a term that is defined in the act with some precision, and it will replace it with a comprehensive, modern system which is based on the principle of the Office of the Medical Examiner. Some jurisdictions refer to it as a Coroner; I am told there are differences, we prefer the Medical Examiner model and that's the one in which this act is based.

Mr. Speaker, just a word or two of history. First, the current regime for dealing with reportable deaths in this Province is a patchwork, to put it gently. The major provisions are found in sections 22 and 23 of the Summary Proceedings Act and these are the sections under which we order inquiries and a very recent example would be the one that I have given notice that we shall order into the death of that gentleman at the lock-up here in St. John's ten days ago.

The other provisions with respect to reportable deaths are found in an unconsolidated portion of the Statutes and members don't want me to go into what happens, how we come to get unconsolidated portions but it is found actually in Section 180 of the Health and Public Welfare Act, which is in the 1970 revised Statutes at Chapter 151. Now all of those go back, Mr. Speaker, to 1875. The present law, in substance goes back to 1875 and the Legislature of that day abolished the Office of Coroner in the Colony of Newfoundland as it then was and put in the present act.

Briefly put, Sir, the sections required that wherever a death occurs as a result of violence, misadventure, negligence, misconduct, malpractice, by unfair means, suddenly or unexpectedly, in prison or by suicide, the death must be brought to the attention of a provincial court judge. Now that's one of the major changes we are making. We are taking the provincial court judges out of the loop in this one. The death under the present rules must be brought to the attention of a provincial court judge, who must then hold an inquiry unless, the Director of Public Prosecutions, who is my senior criminal law advisor as the Minister of Justice and is in a very unique position for a public servant in that in most cases he takes direction from nobody except the Courts of Appeal and the law, and the inquiry must be held unless the DPP orders one not to be held and then I have a further authority as Attorney General to overrule the DPP in this specific situation, so it's really quite a complex and complicated system, it doesn't meet the modern needs. We believe the system is completely out of date and that's why we brought in a new act.

As a matter of interest, most other Canadian jurisdictions have moved in similar ways. British Columbia in 1975, Ontario in '72, the Yukon Territory I guess in 1972 and the North West Territories in 1978. They all have variations of a coroner based system. The Medical Examiner system such as we are introducing here, came into effect in Nova Scotia in 1963, thirty years ago, it is hardly a radically new idea, Manitoba in '71 and Alberta in '77. In Newfoundland and Labrador, it will come into effect we hope early in 1996. Now, Mr. Speaker, let me briefly say what a Medical Examiner System comprises then I will talk briefly about the major sections of the act and what they seek to achieve.

The Modern Medical Examiner System serves two functions. First, it enables a check to be made and to be kept on the medical and the factual causes and circumstances of death. That's all deaths, and secondly, it provides for public inquiries where necessary, as a means to allow the ascertainment publicly of facts relating to deaths, and to formally focus community attention on, and to initiate response to preventable deaths, and to satisfy the community that the circumstances surrounding the death of an individual will be dealt with publicly and properly and there will be no concealment or no putting aside of uncomfortable facts if they should be brought out. I am using very loose terms but I think members know exactly what I have in mind. There are situations where there should be full examination of the circumstances of a death.

The difference basically between the medical examiner system and the coroner system, and remember we are going for the medical examiner system, is that in the coroner system the single officer, the coroner, carries on both function, that is to do the investigation and to do the inquiry. Under our system the initial investigative work is carried out by a medical examiner who is a doctor, a pathologist in fact, and the inquiry if one should become necessary, and the act specified where one becomes necessary and where the authority to order them rests, that inquiry will be carried out by a judge of the provincial court, chosen for that purpose by the chief judge of the provincial court, and that judge will be assisted by the chief medical examiner and by the Crown attorney assigned to the matter.

The medical examiner will also work with the police, Mr. Speaker, in criminal investigation and in the death of criminal homicide. I am told that approximately 20 per cent of reportable deaths raise issues of suspected criminality. I would not have thought it was quite that high, but I am told it is as high as 20 per cent of reportable deaths that raise issues of suspected criminality and require a joint examination by the medical examiner and by the police. That 20 per cent includes unnatural deaths, in other words deaths that are not obviously from natural causes, and these include cases of homicide, suicide and accidental death. In practice, of course, the police are also involved in many natural deaths. A death in an automobile accident or a drowning accident will often involve at least an initial police investigation, particularly so in the smaller communities where the police are often the first line of authority.

Now, Mr. Speaker, under the medical examiner system in cases where the police or the emergency response team encounter a fatality they are obliged by the act to call the medical examiner, and after assessing the scene, and the body, and consulting with the examiner to determine if continued police involvement is necessary. There are detailed provisions in the bill that address those issues, that address the need for confidentiality and the need to preserve the ability of the police to investigate possible criminal activity thoroughly, properly, and quickly. The function of the medical examiner in that case is to assist the police by providing medical expertise to help to establish the identity of the victim, the time of the death, and the medical cause and manner of death.

Mr. Speaker, let me talk briefly about the various sections of legislation. Section 3 provides for the appointment and the term in office of the chief medical examiner who must be a pathologist with training and experience in forensic pathology. The chief medical examiner's reporting authority is the attorney general, because the attorney general is responsible in a ministerial sense for the operation of the act. The chief medical examiner is responsible in a day to day and operational sense with respect to the reporting, investigation, and recording of deaths, the training and supervision of medical examiners in the field, all of whom must be licensed medical practitioners, and the development and maintenance of the facilities, autopsy rooms, and like places, that are required to perform functions under the act.

MR. TOBIN: Carried.

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, the hon. gentleman for Burin Placentia - West may think this legislation requires no attention, but I must with respect differ with him. I think this really is an important piece of legislation and I suspect his colleague the gentleman for Humber Valley will say so when his turn comes in five or ten minutes to speak to the bill.

Mr. Speaker, Sections 5, 6, 7, 8, and 10 provide very clear directions as to which deaths are reportable. They are set out in detail in the bill, and the mandate of the medical examiner in investigating such deaths. The reportable deaths include all those currently listed under Section 23 of the Summary Proceedings Act, and Section 180 of the Health and Public Welfare Act. We also make provision in Section 8 for the reporting of employment related deaths. Members will note in Section 10 that the chief medical examiner's mandate is to report on the identity of the person who has died, the date, time, and place of death, the cause of death, and the manner of death.

Section 11 empowers members of the RCMP and the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary to be investigators and sets out the powers of the investigators. Policy manuals have been developed by the Chief Medical Examiner-designate, that is Dr. Simon Avis, who is presently the chief forensic pathologist. These policy manuals will deal in detail with the ways in which these powers are to be exercised. They are being developed of course in consultation with the RNC and the RCMP.

Section 12, Mr. Speaker, is one that members may want to look at carefully. It has taken a great deal of time and effort and it spells out the powers of the Chief Medical Examiner to secure and to obtain information. I had a great deal of questions about these myself with respect to the Charter guarantee against unreasonable search and seizure. I can assure members that I've been convinced, and I believe rightly so, that these powers are proper. There is a recent Supreme Court of Canada decision called Colarusso that specifically deals with requirements very similar to these - in fact, almost word for word the same - from the Manitoba act. We believe these are appropriate and these are fully in accord with the constitutional requirements and in particular section 7, a protection against unreasonable search and seizure.

That brings me through to the sections that deal with public inquiries. The present Summary Proceedings Act is really a very unhelpful piece of legislation. It makes no provision for the release of information regarding the death of the deceased to the next of kin of the person who has died. It is often done as a matter of practice but not as a matter of legislative requirement. Moreover, time has shown that the act results in unnecessary inquiries, and often the improper use of the mechanism of the....

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: I thank my hon. friend for Windsor - Buchans for doing what is right. What is right in this circumstance, with respect, would be to speak a little less loudly. I thank him.

The present act, Mr. Speaker, creates unnecessary inquiries, and furthermore we've seen time and time again it has been used improperly as a discovery tool for either the criminal or civil justice processes, and that will be ended under the new act's provisions.

These are found in sections 24 through 26. The Chief Medical Examiner is expressly authorized upon request to provide next of kin with a written report regarding a death that has been the subject of an investigation. It also gives him the authority, with respect to further enquiries, to make recommendations to the minister -

MS VERGE: (Inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: The hon. lady asks me to speak without notes. I would say to her, I've seen her speak without notes, and I would agree with her, that speaking with notes is preferable when I've seen the hash she has made in speaking without notes.

Section 24 -

MR. TOBIN: (Inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: I'm sorry?

MR. TOBIN: You're some hard to listen to.

MR. ROBERTS: I accept that I'm hard to listen to, and if the hon. gentleman doesn't want to listen let him simply close his ears as he usually closes his mind. Now let me get on with this, Mr. Speaker.

Authority to call inquiries continues to rest with the minister. I believe that is appropriate because the minister answers to the House and is accountable for the actions of the department.

Finally let me refer briefly to sections 14, 15, 17 and 21. This will be of great interest to my friend for Burin - Placentia West, because section 14 provides for autopsies; section 21 provides for the examination of bodies to be cremated or shipped out of the Province; section 15 addresses the issue of the removal of tissue for therapeutic, medical education or scientific research and the possession and release of bodies; and most importantly, for a member of the present Opposition, section 17, which addresses the disposition of unidentified bodies. I would commend that to my hon. friend for his earnest attention.

Mr. Speaker, let me conclude by saying that my officials have consulted very widely on this. The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Newfoundland Medical Association, and the Newfoundland Hospital and Nursing Home Association, I am told, have all signified, have all told us that they approve of the legislation and are prepared to move it forward.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, let me note that we are amending four other acts on the way through, members will note, the Health and Public Welfare Act, the Vital Statistics Act, the Summary of Proceedings Act, and the Exhumation Act. Speaking of something that the Tories are interested in, the Exhumation Act. These are very minor amendments, and I would be happy to address in committee -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: No, the act seeks to amend. There are no amendments to the bill, as far as I am aware. The bill amends, among other things, the Exhumation Act and the other ones I named. They are very minor amendments, and I think they speak for themselves. If not, I would be happy to try to respond to it when we get to the committee stage.

With that said, Mr. Speaker, I commend the bill to the House. I believe it is a step forward, and I hope the House will agree and give the bill second reading in good time.

Thank you, Sir.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. WOODFORD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I have recognized the hon. Member for Humber Valley.

MR. WOODFORD: Mr. Speaker, I would have to say from the outset that this is a very positive piece of legislation, as far as I am concerned, long overdue. I did not realize, though, just the same, in having done some research the last couple of days on this particular subject, that it was so much needed, but when you look back I know the last ten or ten-and-a-half years that I have been in this Chamber, and look at some of the inquiries, judicial inquiries and so on, and other deaths around the Province that have occurred in prisons and so on, in hospitals and so on, that it is only now, the last couple of weeks really, that you really take note and realize how much something like this is needed.

The minister has pointed out some of the reasons for that need, and looking back in doing some of my research I looked at some of the comments made by the present leader of our party at that time, and going back to 1989, now looking back from 1989 to today, some six years, why this was not brought in before. This is something that was needed in the past.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. WOODFORD: People did not recognize, I say to the Minister of Education, something similar to members in the House today. I would say if you took a poll of members in the House today, the fifty-two members in the Legislature, before the minister got up and introduced this particular piece of legislation, I would say probably 80 per cent or 85 per cent would not realize how important this particular piece of legislation is.

One of the comments made to me is that this particular legislation takes Newfoundland out of the dark ages with regard to the investigations of death in this Province. Now that particular comment came from the present forensic pathologist in the Province, Dr. Simon Avis, a very credible individual and an individual who firmly believes that this particular piece of legislation is long overdue.

A prime example for members in the House, and people of the Province, of the need for such a medical examiner was just last week or a week-and-a-half ago of what happened at the lock-up down here with regard to this gentleman, Mr. Kevin Smith. I do not think anywhere in this country we should have authorities, really, investigating themselves. We have police investigating police; we have hospital administrators and hospital staff investigating themselves, and at the end of the day the public of this Province is not getting a fair assessment of what is wrong with our judicial system in the Province today.

I was told of an example just about a week-and-a-half ago where a gentleman, a fifty-seven-year-old male, died on the operating table out here at a hospital in this particular city. He was just wheeled out. The forensic pathologist in this Province, Dr. Simon Avis, was not notified, didn't have to be notified, because under the present legislation he did not have to be notified.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. WOODFORD: This new act will make this mandatory. I don't have to go into the section of the act, Mr. Speaker, but it will make this mandatory. One of the comments - a very disturbing comment, you know, I would say to the minister, and he has heard it before as well - made on this particular incident that I am talking about was that as soon as this individual came out of the operating room there was another person wheeled in ready to be operated on.

How did the individual doctors know, or hospital staff know, it wasn't something to do with one of the machines, one of the monitoring systems, the heart monitoring system, or anything in that particular operating room? There was absolutely nothing done only the body wheeled out. The staff did not report it to the forensic pathologist in the Province. The staff did their own internal investigation and passed it over to the police - the RNC, in this particular case.

The other thing mentioned in this particular case, and it has also been mentioned by the minister, is about the families. What happens to families in cases like this where they are waiting for autopsies to be done? In a lot of those cases there is no need for further autopsies to be done. The families are there waiting. I've been told about the waiting time that some of the hospitals have been holding the bodies and so on, not giving them out to the families for disposition. It is absolutely incredible, when you look back on some of the cases that I've checked into over the past number of years here in this Province. It is incredible.

Under this particular act the Medical Examiner will have to be notified. He will have to be notified in just about every case. He will do, or his or her investigator that will be determined by him, will have the investigation done. This, most importantly, will be an independent investigation and have nothing to do - independent from any hospital administration, independent from any police investigation, anything to do with a correctional facility in the Province, anything to do with any facility such as what I've mentioned, and others besides. There will be a complete independent investigation done. Then and only then, if there is reason for the Minister of Justice of the day to have or hold a judicial inquiry into that particular case, it still can be done. So, it is not ruling out the possibility of a judicial inquiry regardless of what the Medical Examiner finds. When he files his report to the Minister of Justice he still has the right to have a judicial inquiry into the particular case if he finds that there is something radically wrong.

Like I said, one of the comments made by Dr. Simon Avis, the chief forensic pathologist for the Province today, about taking the Province out of the Dark Ages with regard to the investigations of deaths in this Province, is a comment that I think should be heeded by all RNC, RCMP, any police force in this Province, any hospital administrator, anybody who should be cognizant of the fact that they should protect their own rights and their own turf. At the same time, individuals will be protected because they will have the consolation of knowing that this will be an independent study.

We have seen all kinds of examples where people - hospital staff especially - are afraid to speak up in cases like this. If you have five or six people in an operating room and something happens on that operating table, the police investigation - people are sort of afraid to speak up because they don't know. They are afraid. One of their biggest concerns, that they may be sued. All this will put the onus on the medical examiner and again, Mr. Speaker, taking the onus off and the worry away from hospital staff, police investigators and so on. After this particular piece of legislation is passed, then everybody will have to report to the medical examiner.

Mr. Speaker, the minister has said that right now it comes under the Summary Proceedings Act, Sections 23 and 24 and also under the Health and Public Welfare Act, Sections 178 to 181. This will eliminate those particular acts. And the present legislation - from some of the comments given to me - was cumbersome, confusing, difficult to enforce and results in incomplete reporting of deaths within the Province.

MR. ROBERTS: (Inaudible).

MR. WOODFORD: Exactly, and those particular words and some of the comments that I have already made came from the chief forensic pathologist in the Province, Dr. Simon Avis, who was very much involved in this particular - his predecessor, Dr. Charlie Hutton, was involved in it before and this particular gentleman, Dr. Simon Avis, was also heavily involved in the preparation - or the advise given to the minister in the preparation of this particular bill. That was some of the comments, like I said, Mr. Speaker, and it was not well defined in the original legislation. Although it was there in those two particular acts it was not well defined, and that is one of the problems they had. The overall effect of the present legislation is an inefficient system which is confusing to physicians with respect to their responsibilities in reporting deaths and unfair to the family of the deceased, inasmuch as unnecessary autopsies are often performed. The proposed legislation addresses these problems by creating an independent authority to examine and investigate reportable deaths within the Province, namely, the chief medical examiner.

Mr. Speaker, overall, the implementation of this act will have a positive and beneficial effect on the citizens of Newfoundland and Labrador by establishing an independent office to investigate reportable deaths, to provide such necessary information to the family of the deceased and by reassuring the public that any hospital or other institutional deaths will be investigated independent of any other authority.

Mr. Speaker, in saying that, one of the comments that I would like to make or one of the reports that I would like to refer to is the judicial inquiry into the death of Miss. Leatte Moores.

MR. ROBERTS: (Inaudible) I can't answer (inaudible).

MR. WOODFORD: No, I just want to comment. I am just going to comment on this -

MR. ROBERTS: (Inaudible).

MR. WOODFORD: Mr. Speaker, I say to the minister that I just want to draw - I just want to make a comparison to some of the comments that I made and he made with regard to the treatment of individual people here in this Province, the families especially, of anybody, under this particular piece of legislation.

Dr. Hutton, who was the Chief Pathologist for the Province at that time, pointed out the judicial system with regard to coroner or medical examiner and he referred to the present system of a judge and the minister has already reported on that. He felt that the Province should have a medical examiner. In that particular report, he made reference to that. A hospital director or other party in charge should be required to notify the Chief Medical Examiner immediately of reportable deaths so that an independent investigation can then be carried out. In all cases of reportable deaths, the scene should be sealed and no person should interfere with the physical evidence including the body of the victim.

Now these particular comments that I am making here are included almost exactly, in the legislation and covered, Mr. Speaker.


MR. WOODFORD: I just forget now which section it is I say to the Member for St. John's East, but I did read it there, I just forget what section it is in but it is covered.

The medical examiner should also be responsible for determining which cases would be sent for autopsies, another big factor, Mr. Speaker. If you talk to either one of the pathologists in the Province today, Dr. Hutton or Dr. Avis, this is one of the big problems they have. A case I brought up first of what happened here in the Province just last week, he was really disturbed by it and was a prime example of not reporting to him in particular, which in this case, after this particular legislation is passed, it will happen.

The current system provides little assistance to the families of victims in obtaining answers or explanations. That was one of the other concerns and one of the concerns that will be addressed in this particular piece of legislation. Physicians in hospitals are for the most part, reluctant to volunteer information in fear of pending lawsuits, and this is another area that was of concern. This problem would be alleviated to some degree by requiring the parties involved to co-operate with a provincial medical examiner and the need for public inquiries will be reduced and the cause of death could be investigated and determined in another form without resort to the courts.

So, Mr. Speaker, there is not a piece of legislation ever put to this Chamber, that was found out after a few days or a few weeks to be something you will find out after it is Gazetted, run into law and Gazetted, that there is something wrong somewhere with it, so I suppose this will be no exception, but as far as I am concerned, Mr. Speaker, and I say to members, that this particular legislation goes a long way, compared to what we have today, and looking back at some of the cases as I mentioned earlier, I think that this is, I would have to say this is a very positive piece of legislation. There may be, someone, like I said, who will bring up something in it that shouldn't be there, some little thing or, something that should be added.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. WOODFORD: Yes, there is a possibility of it. Then if someone has any concerns, if they want to appear, or if there are some concerns they can write the committee about or what have you, but, Mr. Speaker, I would like to just finish off those few comments by saying, that as far as I am concerned, it is a very positive piece of legislation and I say to all members in the House, that they should take the time and read through this particular legislation and ask a few questions of the investigating bodies around this Province today, and ask if it was needed or not. That will answer the questions for them, Mr. Speaker.

Thank you.

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

DR. KITCHEN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My remarks will be very brief. I know that there has been quite a lot of influence from the people in this industry to get this bill passed and I see nothing particularly in the bill to which I could object. However, there is a question that I would like to ask the House Leader, who might wish to, when he sums up, answer, and that is the cost, the cost of bringing this measure in.

MR. ROBERTS: A lesser cost that the present system.

DR. KITCHEN: We are in a desperate situation in this Province now, where, dozens and dozens of people are lined up at food banks. I visited one yesterday, 40-odd people were lined up Monday morning, trying to get a bit to eat and we have people in substandard housing in this place, we have people who have their lights cut off, we have people who, the Department of Social Services cannot afford to provide teeth for people who need them to chew their food and have had to take them out for medical reasons. We are laying off people right and left so the basic question I have to ask the minister is: if we bring in this office of medical examiner, will there be a bureaucracy created, because these things tend to grow, and if that is the case then we should look very seriously at it, but that would be the only possible reservation, and if there is no additional cost then I see no reason why we should not support this bill.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise to speak at second reading on the bill, "An Act Respecting The Investigation Of Fatalities". Let me say at the outset that I welcome the change in the procedures that are used to investigate certain deaths in the Province. The system as we have it right now can only be described as being inadequate and haphazard and, as previous speakers have commented on, there have been instances where examinations that have taken place have been inadequate because of the circumstances surrounding the death and the lack of a system that specifically addresses the issue of: What do you do in the case of an accidental death, or a suicide, or a work related fatality?

There have been many cases where there have been criticisms of the authorities involved, whether they be prison authorities or jail authorities, hospital authorities in the case of the handling of a fatality that may have arisen as a result of the action or inaction of medical or other staff in the case of an operation, or cases perhaps of neglect in a hospital, an institution, or other place where people may be kept either of their own free will in the case of a hospital, or involuntarily in the case of certain hospitals or diseases, or in jail, but also it has been commented on -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: Mr. Speaker, I am having a little difficulty hearing myself. I find it difficult to concentrate with the level of noise.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. HARRIS: There have been many instances over the years where the medical authorities, criminal investigations, civil cases or criminal prosecutions, have been impeded by the lack of proper evidence or proper procedure of investigating deaths in this Province. Quite often I have heard it said by previous pathologists, or chief pathologist in the Province, that you have circumstances where even the police do not take the right precautions in approaching a scene of death and in terms of interfering with the body, or taking actions that have the effect of destroying evidence or making evidence unavailable for later consideration, whether by a court in a criminal or civil matter, or in terms of a proper investigation as to the exact cause of death, or the manner in which death occurred, perhaps in the case of a situation in a hospital, for example, an operating room has been described. This was recently raised in the case of Reneé Leatte Moores, and it was raised there that in this case certain actions had been taken by the staff of a hospital after the death which made it more difficult for the pathologist conducting the autopsy and investigating the death to determine how, in fact, death had occurred. Reasons for this are natural.

The previous speaker, the Member for Humber Valley, has expressed a similar concern; however, he felt that the act has dealt with it. I do not think that is the case. Given the fact that there also seem to be other speakers who wish to speak on this I will adjourn debate now and take up the remarks later.

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

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, I thank members and we will return to debate first thing on Thursday. My friend for St. John's East has adjourned the debate. I understand my friend for Ferryland wishes to speak, and we will see where we go from there on Thursday.

I understand that the staff need a period of two or three minutes to arrange the podium from which His Excellency The Governor - General will speak. My suggestion, accordingly to that, will be that I will move the adjournment in a second or two, and then if we could just wait around. The Speaker, I understand, will take the Chair at 3:20, that is the plan, and obviously we should all be here, or those of use who are going to be here should be here at twenty to four.

Mr. Speaker, tomorrow we will be dealing with the motion put down by the gentleman from Gander, and on Thursday we will begin with this debate and then we will carry on with the other three bills of which I spoke yesterday. The hope is we shall deal with all four at second reading on Thursday. That is our plan and we will accommodate ourselves to that.

With that said, Mr. Speaker, I move that the House adjourn until tomorrow, Wednesday at 2:00 o'clock.

On motion, the House at its rising adjourned until tomorrow at 2:00 o'clock in the afternoon.


His Excellency, the Governor-General, addresses the House of Assembly.


MR. SPEAKER: Admit His Excellency the Governor-General and party.


PREMIER WELLS: Your Excellencies, Your Honours.

Your Excellency, on behalf of the people of the Province it gives me great personal pleasure to extend to you a most sincere and a most warm welcome on this, your first official visit since accepting appointment as Governor-General of our great nation.

The people of this Province particularly welcome Your Excellency's appointment because they are very much aware not only that you are a resident of Atlantic Canada, but they are very much aware of your extensive knowledge about this Province and about its people and about its way of life. Your role as a former fisheries minister of course very much involved you in the affairs of this Province over an extensive period of time. For that reason, when Your Excellency was appointed to this position, that appointment was warmly welcomed by the people of this Province.

I have to say to you now, to both Your Excellencies, that you are most sincerely welcome on this occasion, and you will be most sincerely welcome on all future occasions when you would wish to visit, and we would welcome those occasions.

I want also to ensure that the people of the Province have an opportunity to hear Your Excellency's viewpoints on it, so on behalf of all of the members of the House, and indeed on behalf of all the people of the Province, it is my great pleasure to invite you to address the people of this Province through addressing the members of this House. Your Excellencies are most welcome.

Please welcome, hon. members, Their Excellencies to the House, and I extend to you a kind invitation to speak.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS EXCELLENCY THE GOVERNOR-GENERAL (Roméo LeBlanc): Mr. Speaker, Mr. Premier, Your Honours - I was going to say, fellow members of the Assembly but I haven't been elected to this one. I apologize for interrupting the business of this Assembly. As a former Speaker of the Senate I was always very cautious to take upon my shoulders any responsibility to interfere with the business of the day. Of course, in those days I used to think that the government was on my right and the Opposition was on my left, but I hope the furnace is working well and that both sides of the House are in fact quite comfortable.

Mr. Premier, it has been said that every man has two homelands, his own and France. One can suspect that this probably was said by a Frenchman. Be that as it may, I know that I have two provincial homelands: New Brunswick where I was born, and Newfoundland which I have grown to love. Thank you, Mr. Premier, for reminding this Assembly that at one time I was somewhat involved in Newfoundland's business, and made a good number of faithful friends, some of whom, in fact, are still sitting in this Assembly.

It is a challenge to speak to the Legislature of a Province which is so well known for its oratory. I remember visiting here as Minister of Fisheries and hearing Arthur Wicks of Badger's Quay, and other fishermen, speak with such eloquence that they educated me about the fishing life better than any university could have done; and, of course, they were so eloquent that I always tried to accept their requests where I could, but Newfoundland and Labrador, in fact, have produced golden political voices. Nearly half a century ago Newfoundland chose Canada, which at first was with a very narrow majority, and some great orators against Confederation, the Crosbies, the Jamiesons and others, soon learned to love the larger country they had joined. Newfoundland brought to Canada its own great pride, or as Ray Guy once wrote: If you think the Vikings were tough, what about those of us who stayed here?

In fact, your history shows a never-ending courage earning life from the rocks and the sea, and marching against death at Beaumont Hamel, but even in the toughest times, Newfoundlanders kept their humour and their compassion. In fact, even in these difficult times, your citizens give more to charity than any other region in Canada, but with all their distinctive qualities Newfoundlanders found in Canada similar challenges and similar attitudes. All Canadians have pioneered, and it is more than a belt of snow that joins our regions. We found a land of isolation and hardship, and we have knitted it together with our labour and our compassion, and just as you know the force of the sea, all of us in this country know the force of the land and of the winter, and we learned to help one another.

So Newfoundlanders and Labradorians learned that they could integrate without assimilation into a land of great diversity and great strength. No other country in the world has brought together far-flung regions, not on the basis of ethnic nationalism, nor on the basis of conquest, but through co-operation. Provinces could enjoy local control but benefit from national strength, and Newfoundland need never lose its soul. So Newfoundlanders found their place in Canada, adding not only to our size but, thank God, adding to our spirit, and today the United Nations judge Canada to be one of the best countries of the globe.

Beside hard work and good luck, what produced this greatness? It was not easy at the beginning. The French and the English had inherited the old prejudices and quarrels from Europe, but over time they realized that the real challenge in this harsh and beautiful land was mutual survival and growth, and as they gradually learned they accommodated each other.

The French and English, in fact, were like the two sides of an arch, and below that arch many cultures have found shelter and lent us their strength. We could build a big country not because we were all the same at the outset but because we were different, and wise enough to provide for both diversity and quality, and here there is room for everyone.

We have, unhappily, not always had this record. Canada, like other countries, has a catalogue of historic prejudices, and in some cases, the entries were not so long ago. Let us remember the Jews we did not accept as they fled Europe, the Japanese-Canadians in wartime were relocated inland from their fishing ports; the aboriginal still striving for their full place in our country - the country where we found them already here when we arrived.

In fact, my own people, the Acadians, created a homeland almost 400 years ago and I am learning, as I look at the statute of Cabot, that that was a bit late in the cycle. But my own people, the Acadians, founded their settlement only to be burned out and exiled by the thousands. Yet, I think the story of our reconciliation is instructive for Canada in general. Decades ago, some Acadians tended to group their many grievances under the flag of language but in New Brunswick we finally realized that the real differences were often the differences between the urbans and the rural. The real inequality was in the area of equal opportunity and the real problems in fact, were shared by both language groups. We found that different groups could overcome challenges if they worked together.

Et nous sommes fiers de notre pays et nous sommes fiers de son image dans le monde ainsi que le role considérable que joue le Canada sur la scéne internationale; et nous sommes fiers de la communauté francophone qui se dévelope à Terre-Neuve et au Labrador et que j'ai eu l'occasion de visiter dans un autre métier.

After thousands of Canadians and Newfoundlanders died for freedom in the last World War, Canada invented modern peacekeeping. We have been a leader in foreign aid, in civilized discourse and honourable diplomacy. We are a beacon of accommodation, of compromise and of tolerance. We are a great economic force, members of G-7 and early in this century, Canadians started work on the social safety net, and today, our system is envied in many places of this world. Our literature, our art - and I have been privileged, since I entered this building to see some beautiful examples of Newfoundland and Labrador art - these values and these qualities are becoming known around the world. Canada has become the leading country of out time and one of the finer nations of our time, yet this country has always been a struggle of nation-builders against centrifugal forces. The challenges of geography, regionalism, duality made us great but somehow our troubles never stop and today we have renewed forces of fragmentation and debility. They are not only based on language issues, poverty especially above the tree line, the feeling of being left out, the shrinking job market for the less educated, the fiscal strains of our national generosity, all these renewed challenges require renewed greatness of vision.

The Montreal rally at Place du Canada just before the referendum, joined together people from Newfoundland, Labrador, British Columbia, the Arctic and all the provinces, with those of Quebec itself. It was a cry of the heart. It got only one days worth of television then we returned to our regular view of Canada as through the lens of a bureaucracy or of the media. One may wonder, in fact, what would happen if ordinary people from different regions could share their feelings for our country.

When school children in Estevan, Saskatchewan read about the sealing disaster of 1914, they weep no differently from Newfoundlanders. Newfoundlanders can understand the dislocation and pain of the Inuit community resettled to the Northern Arctic to assert our sovereignty. When the Métis from the West recently rescued a terrified woman from a burning house in Toronto, nobody asked for his racial or provincial identification, and when Medicare prevents a death, nobody asks what was the region that gave the most of the doctor's salary, and when Paul Henderson scored his goal in 1972, all hockey enthusiasts were on the ice with him; so in times of joy, of crisis, all Canadians, despite their differences are the same and the petty dust of day-to-day frictions should never hide our glory.

The golden country needs golden voices to remind us of what we are and, in fact, we need to emulate the Newfoundlanders after Confederation. We need their ability to evolve and their generosity to give and their toughness to prevail. Rather than finding fault, we find common ground and keep creating a country where no one feels left out. We did not master half a continent and provide for every citizen only to fall victims of our own squabbles, in our own backyards.

We still have the Canadian genius for civility and compromise and the Canadian ideals of generosity and mutual aid. Canada will prevail. It is not the easiest, and it is not the easiness of this country that made us great, but the never-ending challenges. They will help us to grow again in greatness and by the end of this century, we will be able to echo Sir Wilfred Laurier and declare this to have been Canada's century, not as an imperial power but as a model to the world.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WELLS: Your Excellencies, thank you so very much for your most kind words.

Would you now join all of the members of the House for a reception in the foyer.