November 30, 1995          HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS          Vol. XLII  No. 66

The House met at 2:00 p.m.

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

Before we begin the routine proceedings, I want to welcome to the galleries on behalf of all hon. members, twenty-six Democracy, French Immersion students from Ascension Collegiate from the District of Port de Grave, along with their instructors: Ed. Wilding, Connie Ellsworth, Barbara Pynn and bus driver, Don Sullivan.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Yesterday, after Question Period, the hon. the Member for Grand Bank raised a point of order that I would like to deal with now.

The point of order raised by the hon. Opposition House Leader was that the comments made by the Minister of Social Services were incorrect and that they were misleading the House.

On this regard, I want to refer hon. members to Beauchesne, page 151, about The Acceptance Of The Word Of A Member: It has been formally ruled by Speakers, that statements by Members respecting themselves and particularly within their own knowledge must be accepted. It is not unparliamentary temperately to criticize statements by Members as being contrary to the fact, and I think that's what the hon. member was doing, but no imputation of intentional falsehood is permissible, and on rare occasions, this may result in the House having to accept two contradictory accounts of the same incident, therefore was not a point of order.

Oral Questions

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

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

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation.

The minister was aware of a public meeting on Bell Island last night where there were over 600 people in attendance. The people of Bell Island are very upset over the unfair, unjust and unconscionable rate increases which are effective tomorrow. The Mayor and a committee from Bell Island met with the minister this morning, he listened, no commitment. He must now realize the impact and seriousness of the situation.

Will the minister now agree to a roll back or a review?

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

MR. EFFORD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The minister met with the committee this morning; he is fully aware of what took place on Bell Island last evening and all the controversy around the new ferry rates.

What I can say to the hon. member is that the whole of Newfoundland and Labrador is under difficult financial situations. The whole of Canada is under difficult financial situations. As minister responsible for the Department of Works, Services and Transportation, if I had to make decisions that were going to be popular with people then I would most commonly make all the wrong decisions. I have a responsibility to all the taxpayers of this Province to provide an efficient service to the best of our ability within the financial means we have. Under today's changes and financial cutbacks, less revenues, we have to make some hard decisions. It is not easy, but they must be made.

MR. SPEAKER: A supplementary, the hon. the Member for St. John's East Extern.

MR. J. BYRNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would say to the minister that the people of Bell Island are only looking for fairness. The minister won't admit that this is a policy change and it is also a broken promise or commitment to the people of Bell Island and Newfoundland and Labrador. Yet the Premier blatantly agreed across the House it is a change in policy. Will the minister now agree that this is a change in policy and that his own caucus members didn't even know about this change, nor were they consulted, and in fact, he embarrassed the Member for Mount Scio - Bell Island, his own colleague?

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

MR. EFFORD: Mr. Speaker, when we were elected to government by the people of this Province in 1989, and while the Cabinet was put in place, it was put there with the confidence that it would make the right decisions based on the interest of all people of this great Province of ours. Since 1989 our financial condition has changed drastically from what it was then. It was bad enough then, but certainly it has gotten much worse now because of the economic conditions that we are facing in this Province today.

We have to make some hard decisions. If I had the opportunity, if I had the pleasure, of making decisions to satisfy all the requests of people I would do it. I don't have that pleasure. I have to make decisions that go with the responsibility of me being a minister of the Crown. When either the Premier or the people of this Province no longer see me in that place, then somebody else will have to make those decisions. Right now, I make a recommendation, government makes the decisions, and it is based on the best interest of fairness of all people in this Province. Believe me, this is not the most difficult decision that is going to have to be made in the future to deal with our economic conditions.

MR. SPEAKER: A supplementary, the hon. the Member for St. John's East Extern.

MR. J. BYRNE: I would say to the minister, yes, hard decisions may have to be made, but people have to live in the meantime.

Mr. Speaker, the minister answered a question I asked the other day in the House, and I quote from Hansard on November 27: `That is all we are charging, $1.50 to get aboard a ferry to go to Bell Island. One dollar and fifty cents to get aboard a bus, that is what the City of St. John's charges. It is a minimum fare structure, reasonable. A bottle of Coke and a bag of chips is $2. God, you get aboard a ferry for $1.50.' I say to the minister, a Coke and a bag of chips are not necessities. The minister also publicly stated that the people chose to live on Bell Island. Is the minister now saying to the people of Bell Island, to avoid these rates, move off Bell Island? Is this just another form of forced resettlement for the people of Bell Island and other islands in Newfoundland and Labrador?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. EFFORD: Absolutely not, Mr. Speaker, absolutely not. If we made a decision based on the accusations in the statements just made by the hon. member, then we would say to everybody in this Province - because people live in different regions of this Province for different reasons and it costs people to live in a particular area. We have to remember, we have a population of 550,000 people living over an area four times the size of Japan with a population in excess of 60 million people - I just can't tell you the exact numbers. So we have to deliver services to people living wherever they choose to live, and we are delivering that service; $3.5 million annually is the cost of operation of the two Bell Island ferries - $3.5 million. Revenues in 1994 and 1995 was $403,000, that was 11 per cent. They will go to approximately 15 per cent or 16 per cent. If we were charging what it would cost the people to use that ferry, that $3.5 million, then the accusation that the member just made would be fair, but we are not even recovering 20 per cent, around 15 per cent of the total cost of the operation.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. EFFORD: No, it is not a user-pay, it is not a forced resettlement, it is just political statements that the hon. member is making.

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

MR. J. BYRNE: I will say to the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation, that transportation is a responsibility of the Provincial Government. People on Bell Island are not only paying the ferry rates, they are also paying RST, GST, income tax and all of that goes to a certain portion of the cost of all government services.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my final question to the Premier, since the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation doesn't understand the seriousness of the situation, doesn't understand that the people of Bell Island are in direct hardship - the students, the people living on the island - and that he is basically uncaring in this situation.

Will the Premier direct the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation to review and roll back the unjust rate increases to the ferry service on Bell Island?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker, in response to strong arguments made by the hon. the Member for Mount Scio - Bell Island, I asked the minister to review his entire proposal with respect to changes, and he sat down and we went over it in detail. We have had, I think, about three meeting on it - three or two?


PREMIER WELLS: We have had three meetings on it, so far. We looked at mileage, looked at everything, all of the factors of it, and he made his case, and he laid out the case and presented the argument. He said to me, here is the mileage. I even got the maps out and measured the mileage myself, because I didn't think the mileage was right.


PREMIER WELLS: So, we did a fairly detailed assessment.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

PREMIER WELLS: We did a fairly detailed assessment of it, and I have to say to all hon. members of the House, while nobody likes to have increases, particularly not increases that go from a small charge to a larger charge - I understand that; I perfectly understand the views of the people of Bell Island - but we have to think about being fair to the overall public of the Province, and the minister has satisfied me that is what he has done, and I have total confidence in the actions of the minister.

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

MS VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I have questions for the Premier about the Federal Government's intentions to change unemployment insurance, about the plans Lloyd Axworthy told him and the Maritime Premiers about in Ottawa yesterday.

After yesterday's meeting, the Premier described the Federal Government's intentions to revise UI as marvellous. What is it about this program that makes the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador its chief cheerleader?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: I have no idea where the Leader of the Opposition got that information, but I can tell the House it is not accurate.

AN HON. MEMBER: CBC Radio (inaudible).

PREMIER WELLS: That probably confirms its inaccuracy.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

PREMIER WELLS: It may, indeed.

What I did describe as marvellous was the willingness of Mr. Axworthy to agree to sit down with the Government of this Province immediately after his proposal is put forward and negotiate a special arrangement to ensure that this Province is treated in a fair way, and to ensure that it is done in a way that is in the best interest of this Province. That is a marvellous change in national government policy and I welcome it. That, too, is marvellous. The overall change and proposal I did not describe as marvellous, and I do not describe it as marvellous now. I spent the last, I suppose, eight to ten weeks corresponding with Mr. Axworthy, setting up meetings with the Chairman of the Social Policy Committee and Mr. Axworthy, meeting and corresponding with the Prime Minister, meeting and corresponding with Mr. Tobin and others, dealing in detail with these proposals and pressuring to get a reasonable accommodation for Atlantic Canada.

The meeting that occurred yesterday was as a result of the initiative I took four weeks ago to set up the meeting, Mr. Speaker, so that is the position of this Province and not whatever the Leader of the Opposition was led to believe from whatever source.

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

MS VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

All of us who listened to CBC radio news today heard the Premier's voice describing these changes as marvellous. Now, if the Premier this afternoon is saying marvellous only applies to part of the changes, will the Premier tell us his full assessment and reaction to the total package of UI revision?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: I do not have the full detail even right at this moment. I sat down with the Prime Minister yesterday, Mr. Axworthy and Mr. Tobin, and some officials from Mr. Axworthy's office and we did a general review of it. Now, I can say that I am satisfied that while they are not doing it exactly as I would wish them to do it I am satisfied that they have taken into account the strong representations that were made, not alone by me, but here, Mr. Speaker, I give substantial credit to Brian Tobin who carried this battle very strongly on behalf of the whole of Atlantic Canada. I acknowledge publicly that he did it and I give him full credit for it.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker, working cooperatively with Brian Tobin I believe we have been able to persuade the federal government to make reasonable adjustments to treat those parts of Canada that have a difficult situation in a more considerate way, but I cannot say anymore than that until the minister has made public the full details and I have total knowledge and so does the rest of the country.

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

MS VERGE: Mr. Speaker, so the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador is satisfied with the UI changes and he thinks parts of the proposal are marvellous. Will the Premier explain to us how the Chrétien government's UI changes will ensure that UI cheques are replaced with pay cheques for productive work here in Newfoundland and Labrador?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: I do not know why the Leader of the Opposition keeps putting words in my mouth that are not there. Maybe she does not have a very strong case when she does that. I did not describe the proposal as marvellous. I did not describe my satisfaction with the individual parts of it, what I said was, as a result of the representation yesterday and the undertaking by the minister, that he was prepared to look at the particular situation, not alone of Newfoundland, but he was prepared to negotiate with the government of each province, if they wished it, a special arrangement that would better use unemployment insurance funds, would ensure that the needs of the province are better met. Because he recognized that the needs are different in one province than it may be in many others.

That is marvellous, Mr. Speaker. I welcome that change. That is not part of his original proposal, I don't think you will hear him announce it tomorrow, but that was an undertaking that he gave me, and I welcomed it, and that is what I describe as marvellous. So I just point out that the comments made by the Leader of the Opposition are not accurate.

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

MS VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Some other premiers, including Premier McKenna of New Brunswick are expressing alarm about the economic hardship that will result for their provinces from the UI changes. I would ask the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, what will be the net income loss to this Province as a result of the UI changes each year after the transition period?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: We've done calculations as to what it might be if you make this assumption as to the change and how it will be implemented, if you make a different assumption, and if you make a yet still different assumption. There are certain announcements that the minister will make tomorrow that will have a substantial bearing on what the overall impact on the Province will be. I'm not in any position to either determine that with any degree of certainty at this stage until the minister makes the specific announcement, and until I'm better informed on the details of it.

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

MS VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Will the Premier make public the provincial government's calculations, and will the Premier indicate whether Lloyd Axworthy's changes that he will be announcing tomorrow are based exclusively on federal government economic forecasts, or whether they incorporated any provincial government calculations? Will the Premier also make public whatever federal government economic analysis he was made privy to?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: I wasn't made privy to any federal government economic analysis yesterday. They didn't suggest any. Whether or not they've done them, I don't know. But when we have the full information and the analysis is done, when that is done, Mr. Speaker, I will make it public. I will not make public speculative analyses or possible analyses because I don't want to cause undue concern where none may be warranted.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I have a question for the Minister of Health. On November 16, 1994 in this House I asked the Minister of Health if his department is intending to allow personal care homes to admit residents requiring level II care. Here is what the minister said. He said: Level I, personal care homes are not built. They are not in a position generally to look after people beyond Level I. Level IIs and Level IIIs will continue to be primarily accommodated and cared for in long-term care institutions and long-term care beds that are in the system and that I might add, we have sufficient of in the system to take care of those types of people.

I now ask the minister, will he inform this House, if his party, if his government and the department, have now changed that policy?

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

MR. L. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and thank you for the question.

The personal care home industry in this Province provides a very valuable service in terms of the continuum of care for the elderly, and I have to tell the House and tell the hon. member, that as a result of reviewing the capacity of that sector vis-ŕ-vis, the needs of the aging population of the Province, and having reviewed the potential that they have to accept, in some instances, higher levels of care, I have made a decision to open up the personal home care industry where the homes can meet prescribed standards, to apply for licensure to accept Level or low Level II entrance into that industry.

A number have applied, I anticipate others will apply; there will be of course, standards that deal with life safety matters and programming standards that will be appropriate to Level IIs and where personal care homes can meet that level of care, as they have been saying over the years that they probably can in a lot of instances, I have agreed to open it up so that they can do that, and it will do two or three things for us. It will allow us to have less pressure on long-term care beds where Level IIs are now going. It will allow the personal home care industry to fill some of the vacancies which they now have in the system and that runs anywhere from 12 per cent to 30 per cent depending on whether they are subsidized or non-subsidized beds, and we believe it is universally a most positive step in government's planning with respect to trying to assist the elderly of this Province to have appropriate accommodation at what point they need it, and to have it provided to them as closely as they can to their homes and also, within a cost that is realistic and that is bearable by most seniors who are in receipt of GIS and OIS.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I gather from the minister's answer, he indicated that we are going to have different categories of Level II care, it is not going to be all Level II care I gather from his answer but I will leave that for the moment.

The minister stated in this House last November, and again in May of this year, that we have enough long-term care beds in the system. On May 23, he said in this House: There are approximately 150 people on a waiting list for nursing homes, and given the fact that there are about thirty-five admitted a month, we could place most of these people within a three-month to four-month period.

I ask the minister, will he confirm that the situation is getting rapidly worse, and there are now over 200 people on a waiting list, and that waiting list is only limited by the board's ability to be able to assess and plan on these people?

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

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

No, I can't confirm all of the propositions put forward by the hon. member because it is factually inaccurate. The last figures I saw, is that there is still about 130 to 150 people at any given time who are either medically discharged, they are in their homes and who could use placement in a nursing home. The 150 figure, assuming that's it, the high end, is not provincial, it's more specific to the Avalon or St. John's area.

What we are doing by opening up the personal home care industry to Level IIs, is in effect causing a circumstance where we will no longer have to admit as many or any Level Is into the long-term care sector, it will ease further, the problem, if there is one in the long-term care sector, by creating spaces that can either be redeveloped into Level IIs and IIIs spaces or used as they are for Level IIs and IIIs, but in any event, the action that we have taken and the direction we are going will significantly reduce, if not eliminate any waiting list that might exist anywhere.

I might say outside of the Avalon and St. John's area, there are actually no waiting lists. We have situations where we have vacancies, I can tell the member where they are if he wants to ask that question but we are moving as quickly as is appropriate to address the long-term care needs, and the actions that I have just described in the previous question, is a significant initiative in that direction.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am speaking on a weekly basis and sometimes every two and three days regarding waiting lists there. I am being informed that there are over 100 urgent cases in Level III and there are over 200, as of the meeting prior to this week. Now the minister was saying a few months ago that we cannot take Level IIs into personal care homes and now he is saying we can take people into personal care homes, the same people. Now with over 200 people on that waiting list and I say to the minister, I received this information as being accurate. Is the minister now making a decision to move people into personal care homes because it costs $60,000 per person a year in a nursing home and with fifty two, he said here in this House I think, in acute care hospitals costing $150,000 to $175,000 a year? Will he indicate now that it is strictly financial because personal care homes only cost $2,400 a year? I will further ask the minister, will he now be prepared to give those personal care homes that are severely strapped, an increase in funding to reflect the extra cost incurred in caring for a higher level of care?

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

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

I would like to ask the hon. member if he will be good enough to stick to the facts and state things as they accurately are? He uses figures, he uses dollars and cents figures and population figures that are grossly inaccurate and distort the truth of the picture. It is about time that the hon. members on the other side, in asking questions, take responsibility for the misinformation that they are providing to this House and they hope will get out to the people of the Province to distort the realities and the truth of the situation.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. L. MATTHEWS: Now, I told him a few minutes ago that there are not 200 people on a waiting list, it may be 130-150 in St. John's. The cost of keeping a person in a long term care, on an average is $3,124 a year. It is not $5,000 a year or $60,000 as he refers to. What we are doing, Mr. Speaker, is allowing the personal home care industry to make application to accept higher levels of care so that where they have the capacity to do it now they can do it rather immediately. Where they don't have the capacity, by virtue of programming or meeting life safety standards, they will have the opportunity to provide that additional infrastructure or level of service so that they will be able to accept Level IIs. What we are doing is the most sensible and practical thing in the best interest - not entirely of the operators although it will help the operators - but it is in the interest of the seniors and the aging population that we have in this Province. We seek to do the best and the most appropriate thing for the people who need our care and who need our attention. We will spend and maximized dollars that we have for health care in the direction of providing services to them so that they will be best served by the government and by the taxpayers of the Province.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The figures I obtained were from an estimates committee hearing in this House by officials of your department and from the budget that is prepared by your department showing a $3 million expenditure for 1,346 approximately personal home care beds and that is the average cost, by dividing the beds into the total.

I ask the minister, and I have costs on every single nursing home here in this city and the average cost of running it. I ask the minister, will he table in this House the figures for the cost of running these and then we can compare the two figures?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. L. MATTHEWS: Mr. Speaker, I will attempt to table in the House the figures for each individual nursing home in the City of St. John's because that is where he is suggesting we have these high costs, if it is appropriate to do so. I won't give an unequivocal undertaking in the event that there may be a reason why it cannot be done but if there is no difficulty in doing it, in terms of the institutions and in terms of government policy, then I will be glad to make the information available and then we will see where the information that is being used, is factual or otherwise distorted.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My question is for the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation.

I want to ask the minister why he and his government is not prepared to recognize that in the case of the Bell Island ferry, that we are not dealing here with discretionary travel? In fact, of all the ferry services in the island we probably have more actual commuters travelling every day back and forth to work and school, Cabot College, University, that this is of vital importance to the people of Bell Island. Is he not prepared to make a special case because of that particular factor?

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

MR. EFFORD: Mr. Speaker, if we went on the rates that we are charging the ferry users in other parts of the Province, the rates which we are now charging Bell Islanders would exorbitantly increase. Commuters on Bell Island are paying $2.25. In the case of St. Brendan's, Fogo, the old rate was $4.75. The new rates are $6, $6, $4.50, $7 and $11.25, one way. We have a special rate for the commuters and students and those people to and from because of the necessity of either working or education of $2.25.

MR. SPEAKER: A supplementary, the hon. the Member for St. John's East.

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The minister well knows that while you can talk about $2.25 one way, that adds up to $100 a month for someone travelling back and forth every day to go to University or to go to Cabot College or to go to work. This is money that these people haven't budgeted for and it is not part of their income. Doesn't the minister recognize the vital importance of this daily access to training and education facilities and to work for the people of Bell Island to improve their situation and not to be relying on the government as so many people are forced to do? Is the minister trying to make things worse?

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

MR. EFFORD: No, Mr. Speaker, I am not trying to make things worse; and yes, I do realize the hardships placed on people, as well as I do realize the hardships placed on every Newfoundlander and Labradorian today because of the economic conditions of this Province and this country. I also do realize that if I only had one small percentage of the debt that this Province carried that we are forced to face, and the interest payments that we have to pay out because of the debt that we took over in 1989, we wouldn't have the problems that we have today, and the people of Bell Island and all other users would get a lot less per cost service than they are getting now.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) Churchill Falls giveaway (inaudible)!

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

MR. EFFORD: But, Mr. Speaker, the fact remains we have some very difficult decisions to make, and I'm only one minister making decisions, and we have to make those decisions.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Bonavista South.

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My question is to the Minister of Fisheries, Food and Agriculture. I would like to ask the minister if he would inform the House as to what basis he formed his recent opinion regarding the harvesting of small caplin in 1996.

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

DR. HULAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I reported to this House the other day that the decision to ask the federal minister for an early decision on a 1996 caplin harvest was made on the basis of the information given to us from the DFO scientists that such a harvest would not in any way significantly impact or otherwise the health of the stock.

The information that we have received is that the stock is indeed very healthy. The size of the fish are small but the fish that are there are of reproducing age. They have reached sexual maturity. They are of reproducing age. The advice that we have been given, that should the federal minister proceed with a harvest for next year it would not have any impact on the health of the stock whatsoever, and if a decision is going to be made on a harvest, that in order to secure markets the decision should be made early. That is why the request was made.

Also in the request, I should advise this hon. House, is that should a decision be made for a harvest in 1996 it should be made with the proviso of a total utilization of the harvest, and that means a utilization of the males and the females. For those of you who know the fishing industry, know the caplin industry -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

DR. HULAN: Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. member to take his seat.

The hon. the Member for Bonavista South. Time for one question.

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I say to the minister, since the decision to either open the caplin season in 1996 and the size of the caplin to be taken will be a decision that rests with the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, I ask the minister if he has conferred with his federal counterpart in Ottawa, and if he concurs with the minister's statement of a few days ago.

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

DR. HULAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I do not know what statement the hon. member is mentioning of a few days ago - Mr. Tobin made many statements in the last number of days - but I will tell you that the request for a harvest in 1996 has been put forward by the Inshore Council of the Fishermen's Union, and they have also requested that the size requirement of a fifty count be dropped this year in order that a harvest could occur.

Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The time for Oral Questions has elapsed.

MR. SPEAKER: Notices of Motion.

The hon. the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board.

MR. DICKS: Mr. Speaker, I wanted to table some pre-commitments for 1995. It wouldn't be on Notices of Motion.

I herewith table six copies of two Orders In Council to meet the requirements of section 26, subsection (inaudible) of the Financial Administration Act. One is in the amount of $700,000, which represents a pre-commitment for the Department of Tourism, Culture and Recreation to procure tourism advertising in the amount of $700,000 in the fiscal year 1996-'97. The second is in the amount of $49 million, under the Trans-Canada Highway agreement, Regional Trunk Roads agreement, and Strategic Highway Improvement agreement, in accordance with the lists of projects on file with the Clerk of the Executive Council.


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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

Mr. Speaker, today I am pleased to stand in my place and present a petition on behalf of the people of Bell Island. The prayer of the petition reads: To the Honourable House of Assembly, in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, in Parliament assembled, the petition of the undersigned of the District of Mount Scio - Bell Island:

WHEREAS the residents of Bell Island rely on this service as their economic lifeline for both economic and social aspects; and

WHEREAS the increase proposed for Bell Island is from 150 per cent to 450 per cent; and

WHEREAS the Liberal Government, as its Policy and Budget of 1989, page 26 stated: It does not endorse a ferry rate policy for island communities which penalizes the residents and hinders their potential for economic growth;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Bell Island ferry service be treated with the same percentage increase as other provincial services in Newfoundland, and as in duty bound your petitioners will ever pray.

Mr. Speaker, I attended a meeting of over 600 people last night on Bell Island. I think it was probably one of the biggest gatherings that I have ever attended with respect to an event or for public opposition to a certain policy of an administration - of this Administration in particular.

There are people in the galleries here today from Bell Island. They were bused over in three or four different groups, on the ferry system, and there are people outside waiting to get in, from what I can understand. I was outside earlier, about 1:45 p.m., and I think the upper galleries outside were pretty well filled up and there were two or three more bus loads of people who came in from Bell Island. Let me tell you, it gives a person a good feeling to see a group and a community come together to oppose something they feel is not justified.

Last night at the meeting, I was impressed again with the numbers. In the room itself last night you could feel the emotion. It was a very well run meeting. The Mayor and deputy Mayor of Bell Island, Mr. Gosine and Mr. Craig, I believe, ran the meeting, and they did an excellent job. The people were really quite orderly, quite civilized, but you could feel the emotion and you could feel and see that the people were visibly upset; yet, they controlled themselves. They were quite upset with the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation on this issue. They felt that they have not been treated fairly. They were even embarrassed, I believe, for the Member for Mount Scio - Bell Island, who didn't know anything about this until last Thursday, and the member himself was quite embarrassed, and he publicly stated that he was embarrassed.

The people at the meeting last night came to the microphone. They were all ages, from young teenagers, students, to seniors. They had concerns, the students with respect to their cost of going back and forth. People who do not actually live on the Island attended the meeting last night because they come to Bell Island as students, they come to Bell Island to teach, and these people attended the meeting last night.

I am glad I went to the meeting. As I said, the people were upset, and rightly so. The increases that are being proposed - not proposed, but implemented - take effect tomorrow, and the people only had four days notice of this. Now, that in itself is unfair, let alone talk about the rate of the increases themselves, but four days notice is unfair.

I brought questions to this House on Monday. The Member for Green Bay brought questions on Tuesday, and I did yesterday and again today, and it seems that we just can't sink it into the head of the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation that this is going to have a drastic, drastic, impact on the people of Bell Island. And it will have impact not only on the people of Bell Island, there are increases in other ferry systems across the Province as well, but in particular, it will impact on the people on Bell Island. We have people over there now, as I said, students, who will have to pay $100 a month to go back and forth, that is $1200 a year. Now, that is hard enough on students but we have parents on Bell Island who are students and who are trying to maintain and keep a family, Mr. Speaker, and what are these people supposed to do? If they are only earning a basic income, $1200 a year is a fair percentage of their income and it is just not right in any sense of the word.

Now, the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation got up today and said he has to make hard decisions. Well, all well and good if we have to make hard decisions, but we have to look at the impact it will have on people's lives, Mr. Speaker. The road system in this Province and the road system in any province is a part of the responsibility of the government. Now, the government can say what it wants and can try to bring in a user-pay system, and that is what they are trying to do. They can say what they want but that is the first step towards it.

This government, and all governments, receive money. They receive money from the RST, the retail sales tax -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time has elapsed.

MR. J. BYRNE: By leave, Mr. Speaker.

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

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

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

They receive revenues from the RST, the GST, and people's income tax and a certain percentage of these monies goes towards the cost of running the transportation system in this Province. Now, I can go on and on with respect to a lot of different points and there are going to be more petitions presented, I am sure, as days go by.

Mr. Speaker, I thank you for the extension to my time, and I am sure other people will speak to this petition.

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

MR. HEWLETT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to rise in support of the petition of my colleague, the Member for St. John's East Extern. This is a matter that is also near and dear to my heart. The District of Green Bay has two island communities that depend on ferry systems run by the hon. minister's department. One of the island communities, Little Bay Islands, has a considerable steam of forty-five minutes and they have had higher rates all along, but even they are getting a 50 per cent rate hike out of this. And the other island, Long Island, is in the same category exactly as Bell Island, Conception Bay, and we are seeing a really drastic fare increase, for the most part well in excess of 150 per cent in most categories.

Mr. Speaker, given the reality of the economic times, this sudden jolt is totally uncalled for and is totally unconscionable. Some years ago, this government took away one of the ferry boats serving the islands out in my district, and the locals out there got rather worked up to put it mildly. They couldn't come to St. John's and sit in the galleries, but what they did, was they sat on the ropes and sat on the wires and would not let the ferry move. They caused this government more money in police and helicopter time than they ever hoped to save by taking one ferry off the run. And, in the end, this government backed down and put a boat back on to each island because it was physically impossible to really, in any civilized way, service two islands with one boat.

The people, if they stand up to this government, can make a difference. To the people of Bell Island in the gallery, the people outside, and the people who will be coming over the next number of days, it is good to see people stand up once and for all. For too long, Mr. Speaker, people in this Province have been beaten down and afraid to stand and speak up for what they think are their rights, so it is about time the people of Bell Island, maybe the majority of whom supported this government and elected a member to the government side, should expect to get some service from the government they helped elect.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HEWLETT: Mr. Speaker, it is time this government learns that it just can't play with its pocket calculator, make sudden and swift decisions in the Cabinet room, and expect the people on the street, the people on the ground, the people on the ferry boats, and the people going to and from their island homes, not to have some adverse reaction to it, not to be angered by what they are doing, and not to stand up and say: Not anymore. I am not going to take anymore.

It is about time that the people of Newfoundland and Labrador in general, and in many other coves, inlets, and islands in this Province took a lesson from the people of Bell Island and said: No more, enough.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. EFFORD: A good motivating speech, believe me.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. EFFORD: I can do it. I can stand equal to anybody on the opposite side of the House and give an equal or better motivating speech, and call up the troops. There is some accuracy in what he is saying that people stand up for themselves. I've always been an advocate for people standing up for what they believe in - no argument, Mr. Speaker.

Here is the reality of what I am faced with. We, as a government, were elected by the people of this Province to administer the affairs and services required by the people - with monies. Where do we get the monies? Two ways: revenues or transfer and equalization payments from Ottawa. We can't borrow any more, the debt is too large. There is the bottom line. We cannot borrow any more. Revenues are less because of the economic conditions, the job opportunities, the fishery and everything else. Revenues are less from Ottawa. The services are no less. The people on Bell Island deserve a service; the people on Long Island deserve a service; the people on Fogo Island deserve a service.

Here is what I have, a total budget. The ferry operations around the Province, the provincial system, last year, cost the taxpayers of this Province $12.7 million. We have to find that money. The total revenues returned on all the operations: $1.3 million. Almost an $11 million deficit, over a $10 million deficit. If I had the money, as minister, in my budget, to provide a free service to everybody living in isolated communities, I would take great pleasure in doing it. We don't have a magic pot at the end of the rainbow, we don't have a leprechaun in our midst, we don't have the money. There is the bottom line. We are honest with people, we are truthful with people, we aren't misleading them.

Orders of the Day

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

MR. ROBERTS: Thank you.


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

The Chair has called Orders of the Day and has recognized the hon. the Government House Leader.


MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, when hon. gentlemen opposite are ready we will proceed.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. ROBERTS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The first -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, the first order of business for the day will be to resume the adjourned debate on Order No. 26, which is An Act Respecting The Investigation Of Fatalities. My recollection is my learned friend, the Member for St. John's East, adjourned the debate on Tuesday. Assuming we get through that we will then work our way down through the Order Paper, reading from today's Order Paper, Order Nos. 27, 28 and 29. If we get through those by the time adjournment comes, we will have done a good day's work.

We don't plan to sit late tonight because it is the hope, I believe, of members on both sides that we will be able to address these four bills and put them through a second reading by the time of the normal adjournment at 5:00 p.m. We will then ask to have each bill referred to the appropriate Standing Committee in accordance with Standing Order 84 so that anybody affected by them or who wishes to be heard with respect to the details may come forward and make presentations to the committees and have them dealt with at that stage before they come back here.

If you would please, Mr. Speaker, Order No. 26 on today's paper.

MR. SPEAKER: Order No. 26, Bill No. 36.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I had commenced my remarks on Tuesday and was cut short by the desire of all hon. members to hear the Governor-General speak as he did so eloquently about the country of which we are a part. I will return now to my remarks about this legislation, "An Act Respecting The Investigation of Fatalities", which will probably be known as the medical examiner's act, although it is called the Fatalities Investigations Act.

I support the act in principle. It does provide a modernization of our various laws, inadequate laws, I must say, with respect to the examination and investigation of sudden deaths - I suppose not merely sudden deaths, but deaths in circumstances where an investigation is required or desirable in the public interest. These are cases of suspected suicides and they are listed in the act, the types of deaths resulting from work-related injuries, violence, accidents, suicide, unexpected deaths where a person is apparently in good health, where the cause of death is undetermined or there may be improper or suspected negligent treatment of a person that results in a death and the notion of course is that the public has an interest in ensuring that fatalities of this nature receive a proper investigation and that that investigation can take place quickly, that it can take place in proper circumstances where the body is not interfered with, or at least to the extent that the law can do so, that the appropriate and properly trained persons can have immediate knowledge of and access to the body to conduct a proper investigation.

Now, some of the inadequacies of the present system are not dealt with in this act, and I am going to outline some of them. This does still separate out the investigation of a death with the possibility of a judicial inquiry. We are still leaving the decision about whether there should be a judicial inquiry in the hands of the Minister of Justice or with the Ministry of Justice, and that seems to be still a little bit of a problem and has been a problem in the administration of the judicial inquiries.

I am aware of a circumstance a few years ago where a judicial inquiry was not called for except after several months of urging and exhortation by the family of the deceased and finally, the Director of Public Prosecutions of the day, did order a judicial inquiry. A judge was appointed and time was passing and inquiries were made and finally the end result was that the family was advised: oh yes, we had a judicial inquiry into the death; we had it several months ago. The family wasn't told about it; the judge went ahead and had the inquiry and finally a report was produced so there are inadequacies in that part of the system as well.

This act of course, doesn't deal with the actual judicial inquiry segment, that's still left under the Summary Proceedings Act, and I would urge the government to consider the whole process while it is dealing with the investigations of death. There are, under our laws some, perhaps overlapping jurisdictions in terms of the investigating of death, whether it is an air crash, the federal Department of Transport has an investigative procedure under aeronautics fatalities, whether they are deaths at sea or involving boats or wharves.

There have been for example deaths at the ferry dock in Bell Island, where an individual, a number of years ago, fell from a gang plank on the Bell Island ferry and went down between the vessel and the dock and was drowned. That happened late at night and in fact it was a crew member of the vessel. These events occur, there are provisions for investigations into these deaths by the federal Department of Transport as well, so there are some overlapping types of jurisdictions, but this particular legislation deals with the investigation at first instance and the procedure for making sure that a proper person is notified immediately.

The appointment of a medical examiner and particular pathologist under his direction, in fact I am not sure they have to be a pathologist; they have to be physicians but only the chief medical officer has to be a pathologist, so I would hope and expect that there would be only a few people appointed as medical examiners under this chief pathologist and perhaps the minister is aware -

MR. ROBERTS: (Inaudible).

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

MR. ROBERTS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

In response to that point I am assured by Dr. Avis that he intends to appoint - or the appointment may actually rest with me as the minister formerly but if so, that would be on the nomination of course of Dr. Avis that he intends to appoint an adequate number of examiners throughout the Province to meet the need. I believe he is intending to appoint them at each of the regional centres; St. Anthony, Happy Valley - Goose Bay, Corner Brook, Gander, Grand Falls and St. John's but I am assured by Dr. Avis there will be sufficient to do the job.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I was concerned as well about training because the whole point of having the medical examiner in place is to provide not only the investigation of the death being done by a particular individual or official but that that person is specifically trained in making sure that all of the evidence that might help determine the cause of death is, not only still present and available, but is also taken care of and secured for the purpose of perhaps later criminal trials, if that is indicated or for other purposes that families may be interested in with respect to civil matters.

One of the difficulties that I have heard expressed by - not by Dr. Avis but by his predecessors and by individuals involved in Crown prosecutions, is that often when a death is reported, it is reported to the police. The police show up and they may, in conducting their own investigation, in fact, disturb evidence and disturb the body. Disturb evidence that could have led to a better understanding of how the death occurred and certainly from a point of view of a court case, better evidence that was properly identified, properly sealed and secured and free from contamination by other people.

I suppose we are familiar with the OJ trial but there have been similar trials here where, in fact, one could not tell at the time of the trial whether certain footprints, blood marks or prints on the floor of a room where a body was found arose before or after the death. You could not tell because the scene had been contaminated by police officers, well meaning in most cases, well meaning police officers, certainly here to my knowledge, well meaning police officers conducting an investigation but not all properly trained in how to deal with circumstances where there is a fatality. That is one of the inadequacies of the act. I think it has come up - my friend from Humber Valley in his speech made reference to a particular situation involving hospitals where there may be a fatality during an operation. What happens to the scene in the operating room?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: Well, I am not sure it is. My friend from Humber Valley suggested that it was. There is something about interfering with a body in Section 20 of the act but I was concerned about something that was a little bit more specific in terms of securing the scene and sealing the place where the body is found. I have not found that there, perhaps someone can point it out to me but my own reference to the act allows the medical officer to cordon off or secure the scene under Section 12.

MR. ROBERTS: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: Yes, I understand what the minister is saying. I suspect though that the delay that we are talking about here - I prefer to see a duty on the people in the hospital facility for example, to not only report the death but also to seal the operating room perhaps and there may be circumstances of course where that might run afoul of some other life-threatening circumstance where perhaps you cannot necessarily close down an operating room if there is only one operating room and you have someone else in an emergency circumstance, but I do see a problem where, as happened in the situation involving the Leatte Moores case where - this was in St. John's; there was no question of travel - by the time the pathologist had been advised of the circumstance some several hours later, the operating room had been cleaned up, the materials had been thrown away and destroyed, discarded, and the examiner had to rely on reports from -

MR. ROBERTS: (Inaudible) the person that was done during the course of the - it was an attempt to respond to the emergency. That was the problem there.

MR. HARRIS: I understand that, that certain things took place at the time, but if I may read for a moment - and this is perhaps for other deaths as well - if I may read from the presentation made to that judicial inquiry by the family, in exhorting the Province to have a coroner or medical examiner system, they suggested that the hospital director or other party in charge be required to notify the coroner or medical examiner immediately of reportable deaths so that an independent investigation can then be carried out, and that is included in this act, of course.

In all cases of reportable death, the scene should be sealed, and no person should interfere with the physical evidence, including the body of the victim. Then the coroner or medical examiner should also be responsible for determining which cases will be sent for autopsy.

They go on to say: We have heard evidence that this inquiry suggested that if Leatte Moores was a sixty-five year old with other risk factors, an autopsy would not have been performed and her cause of death would otherwise have remained unknown.

This, I guess, is an example of the kind of circumstance that can arise, that a person could die in a hospital or other facility. The death, if it is not reported, if the area is not sealed, if it is not left to a medical examiner to fully appreciate the circumstances surrounding the death, with all the evidence available at his or her disposal, then deaths which ought to have been further investigated may go unreported or uninvestigated.

The circumstances under the act, there is provision to allow the medical examiner to himself/herself, seal the area. Now, presumably that would take place upon the arrival of the medical examiner, who would then instruct those present to seal the area and not let anyone there.

I am a little concerned about the period of time, perhaps, and I am not thinking particularly of St. John's but of other parts of the Province. If you have a circumstance where a death has occurred in an institution, then perhaps there should be a duty upon those officials running the hospital or other facility to in fact themselves seal the area awaiting the arrival of the medical examiner for further instructions. I see that as a weakness in the bill, and one that perhaps the government should take consideration of before we finally pass the act at third reading.

In closing, I just want to say that I welcome the government's attempt to regularize the investigation of fatalities, as they have done in this act. It is something that successive pathologists - chief pathologists certainly in this Province - have been promoting for a number of years. Successive - well, I do not know about successive, but numerous Crown prosecutors have raised concerns over the years, particularly in homicide cases, of some of the difficulties with evidence that perhaps would not have been present if there was a medical examiner, one or two individuals who were investigating all deaths, and not just the officer who happened to first arrive on the scene of the many Royal Newfoundland constabulary officers that we have, with a variety of skills and training and not necessarily always attuned to the very special circumstances that involve a death. That certain evidence must be preserved; certain evidence that may not appear relevant to a police officer but may be very relevant to a medical examiner ought to be preserved.

I think the Member for St. John's Centre talked about the cost of this. I would suspect that the cost of this particular legislation would probably not be excessive. In fact, as the minister says, it would probably be less because there are less people involved in investigating deaths. In fact, the administration of justice at the criminal end would be much more simplified by having a proper investigation done from the beginning. There would probably be less judicial inquiries because the medical examiner is required to produce a report upon the request of the family. Many families would be satisfied by a thorough investigation by a medical examiner who is considered to be independent in producing not only an autopsy report, but also a report of his or her investigation into the death. Many families would be satisfied with that if they were satisfied that things were conducted properly and the call for judicial enquiries would be less and that would reduce the expense as well.

I think it is a very positive step and an improvement in the administration of justice in the Province.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I just have a few brief comments there. I'm supportive of this bill. In fact, I asked the Premier back some months ago in the House here when they were going to bring in a bill. I had called for it previously and I felt it was important. Because there are many deaths in circumstances that need to be investigated further and immediately before there is any opportunity to alter the circumstances around that particular death, due either to people's neglect or unaware that they might be affecting the results and any evidence that might determine the cause of that particular death.

The Member for St. John's Centre expressed I think a concern when this was discussed before. He talked about cost and bringing it in at such a time. I don't feel we can afford not to bring it in, because the cost of this - and the Minister of Justice said earlier - I'm not sure if it is this House; I know he said it to me - that there would be costs associated with bringing in such a bill. I did hear him saying recently, I think in response to the Member for St. John's Centre, that there wouldn't be any cost.

MR. ROBERTS: (Inaudible) under this new one then under the present law.

MR. SULLIVAN: Okay, so it is cheaper, in other words.


MR. SULLIVAN: It would be cheaper to have this. I certainly endorse it. I think it is very important. Because the cost of a life is very important and if an investigation of the circumstances around that death could prevent the loss of another life in the future it is well worth it, even if there is a minimal cost to the system by bringing it in. I think it is very positive, it is something that we should certainly move expeditiously to put through this House and get on with it, and do something that is badly needed in this Province. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

The hon. the Minister of Justice.

MR. ROBERTS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I take it that is the wish of the House, and so I shall. I want to thank members who spoke for their indications of support. I think it is fair to say that all who spoke supported the principles of the bill and I welcome that. I believe it is a good bill, as I said at second reading, and I'm glad it has won the support on both sides of the House.

I think the only point I need deal with at this stage is the issue of cost because other points we can deal with at Committee stage. If members have questions as to why a particular phrase, or a particular clause is there, then I will try to answer it and if there is a way to improve it, then, of course we are always open to that, but let me just address cost.

My friend, the Member for St. John's Centre raised the point, the gentleman, the Member for Humber Valley did, and my friend, the Member for St. John's East did as well. These are the estimates prepared by my officials which have been discussed with the Treasury Board staff, so these are the figures that we, in government, believe to be correct. It is costing us, under the existing system, about $438,000 a year to run the existing forensic pathology system, and we estimate that the new system will cost $422,200, so that is about $16,000 a year less.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: Well, the salaries are down. I don't want to get into individual salaries, and members will agree, but let me talk about the subheads of this breakdown. The Salaries under the present system are $197,400 and they will be $149,200 under the new system, and I would be happy to speak with members behind the Chair, as it were, to give them details of that, but that is the information we are given.

The Transportation and Communications item will be $15,000 instead of $20,000. We believe there will be less need to move bodies around the Province, and the reality is that we do frequently have to move bodies now for autopsy purposes, and we believe there will be less such movements required. Supplies are estimated to be $7,000 instead of $4,000, so there is an increase there. In Professional Services, we estimate an increase of $62,000, from $87,000 now to $149,000 under the new system.

Now, there will be approximately 150 autopsies a year performed by outside pathologists, in other words, ones not directly employed, and the two directly employed are Dr. Avis, who is the Chief Forensic Pathologist, or the Chief Medial Examiner under the new one, and Dr. Hutton is back on a part-time basis with us. He retired on a full-time basis, but I am happy to say he is still working with us approximately half-time on a part-time basis. We understand it will cost about $50,000 a year at $335 a case. That is apparently the fee scale for an autopsy, and we have also budgeted for increased medical specialist fees where we need them, so that is included in these amounts.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: No, from $87,000 up to $149.000. These are estimates for a full year. My hon. friend probably has last year's estimates.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: Yes. We estimate this year it is $87,000 and under the new system it will be $149,000. I am happy to give these to my friend and let him deal with them as he sees fit. We are budgeting an increase as part of that subhead for the medical examiners' fees, because remember now, there will be medical examiners throughout the Province, and we estimate that will cost us about $75,000, so you add together the two items, the autopsy fees and the medical examiners' fees and you come to $149,000. The Purchased Services will be down somewhat, from $119,000 to $92,000, and the Property and Equipment, the stuff they need, the real property idea, will be the same at 5K, so the totals are marginally less.

Now, are these figures correct? I cannot say. They are the figures that have been provided by my officials and they have been checked by Treasury Board.

MR. HARRIS: May I, Mr. Speaker?

MR. ROBERTS: I will yield, of course.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I was interested that the actual figures for the operation of the Medical Examiner's Office is in fact cheaper. Although the minister has read out the figures, he hasn't told us why it would be cheaper, other than perhaps government cost-cutting. I could see how the transportation costs would be down because there will be medical examiners around the Province, and therefore, the very expensive cost of transporting bodies to St. John's for an autopsy, for example, I can see that being cut down. My thought was that the cost-cutting might be on the other end, on the judicial inquiry end, and on the prosecutions end of the Department of Justice where, if a proper investigation is done at the beginning, there will be less call for judicial inquiries, perhaps, if the medical examiner is doing a very thorough job, and also at the prosecutorial end, more efficient prosecutions and having less witnesses and people waiting around to testify and things like that.

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

MR. ROBERTS: That cost is not one we factored in because we don't keep our records. We don't keep a record of an individual prosecution, how much it cost for the prosecution or, for that matter, an inquiry. The Crown attorneys don't keep track of their time that way, perhaps they should. I have been trying to bring a time recording and management system into the Justice Department and my friend laughs, I tend with him to share his view, I mean it is a difficult process, but we are getting there.

Certainly, he and I - I in a previous existence and he in his present part-time existence, recording time is a fact of life for lawyers, it is really all that we have to sell, as with plumbers, prostitutes and surgeons, we sell our services by the each. The others, I would say, for the benefit of the non-lawyers here, you give value for money, I make no comment about lawyers. But the difference with respect to the direct costs, the costs that are shown in the estimates that I bring to the House each year, is that we anticipate fewer autopsies.

There are now many needless autopsies being conducted. The medical examiners will see them. We estimate an autopsy of $335 and a medical examiner, we estimate at $100 to dispose of a case on a non-autopsy basis. So, I am told - now, a year from now, if I am here, I may have to say these figures prove to be incorrect, but I mean, this is what I am given, and as I have no reason to question, I accept them.

With that said, Mr. Speaker, I move the bill be read a second time.

On motion, a bill, "An Act Respecting The Investigation of Fatalities", read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House on -

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, I -

MR. SPEAKER: Tomorrow?

MR. ROBERTS: Thank you. I move, pursuant to Standing Order 54.23, that the bill entitled, "An Act Respecting The Investigation of Fatalities" be referred to the Social Services Committee, and that motion, if accepted, the Standing Order will provide when it can come back to the House. I so move, Sir.

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that this bill be now referred to the Social Services Committee.

All those in favour?


Motion, carried.

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

MR. ROBERTS: Would you be good enough to call the next Order, Sir? It is Order No. 27, Bill No. 40, The Leaseholds in St. John's Act.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Leaseholds In St. John's Act", (Bill No.40).

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

MR. ROBERTS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

This bill, I trust, will not require much time of the House. Last year about this time, we adopted a bill which was an amendment to The Leaseholds In St. John's Act that, in my view - and I may add, everything that I have heard since then, confirms that the view was a good one - disposed once and for all, we hope, of the problem we inherited in this Province from the land tenure system that was formerly in use in St. John's.

Now, it was a modification of the English system, and in England, they long ago got into the habit of very long-term leases. Land in England is frequently let on very long-term leases, 99 or even as long as 999 years, and that practice grew up here particularly after the great fire in 1892 in St. John's. Much of the land in the older part of the city, say generally speaking in the area below LeMarchant Road, was held by people who had long since departed this place and gone to England, held by estates and what have you, and after the fire, many of the building lots owned by people in England were let again on 99 year leases with very nominal rents, $2, $4, $10, $12 a year, a lot more in 1892 than today but, with the freehold being held by the people in England, and always the possibility that when the lease came out, the freeholder would come in and not renew the lease.

Well, as long ago as what - sixty, seventy years ago, the House began to address this by passing the legislation we now know, or our predecessor legislation we now know as The Leasehold In St. John's Act, and one legislative attempt after another made some progress but uncovered further difficulties. And the members from the St. John's constituencies, I suspect, have run into these from time to time. Certainly, anybody who has practised law in this city, even in a non-conveyancing practice, as did I, has run into it on occasion.

MR. HARRIS: It is a nightmare.

MR. ROBERTS: My friend, the Member for St. John's East says it is a nightmare, and he is right. It is a very old-fashioned, antiquated, ineffective and altogether quite useless system.

So, a year or so ago, my colleagues and I decided to bite the bullet by bringing in a new bill, and the bill was adopted by the House about a year ago. That bill, simply put, vests all the freehold titles, the reversionary interests in respect of all of this land, in the City of St. John's, the body corporate, and it provides that the people who own the freehold interest, if you wish those entitled to receive the rent and at the end of the lease, were it not for the act, to receive back the land, that those people go to the City and collect their bit of rent in accordance with the formula that was first brought in, I guess, thirty or forty years ago - twenty times on modern leases, forty times annual ground rent on ancient leases - and that seems to work very well.

Now, a year ago the House, at my request, adopted the bill and, again at my request, put a one-year sort of suspension on it before it came into effect. It is to come into effect on January 1, 1996. The idea was to allow, first of all, the City to come forward with detailed comments if they wished and, secondly, anybody else to come forward. My understanding is that nobody has come forward except the City, and I can say that these amendments now before the House have been developed by my officials in consultation with officials from the City of St. John's.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: Yes, of course.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: (Inaudible) land that is within the city now, farmland, where there are long-term leases. Would there be any negative impact as a result of this bill, or would it be more of a positive sort of situation, from your point of view?

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, in my understanding, and I will ask my officials to double check the point - I don't hold myself out as an expert in any area of law, and particularly this one - the Leaseholds Act applies, first of all, to building leases, so-called, so by definition it would not apply to agricultural leases, but I will double check that. That being so, assuming that statement is correct, then there would be no application, but the leases to which my friend, the Member for Kilbride refers would be normal commercial transactions. This doesn't apply to commercial leases either, except in very special circumstances. Generally speaking, and we have seen a lot of litigation on this, somebody who owns a commercial lease is not entitled to get the freehold for the twenty or forty times annual figures. They are entitled to get the freehold, but on a much different basis, essentially the true commercial value at a current date.

Mr. Speaker, to finish the point, these sections here are very technical. If the House wishes, I would be delighted to try to expand upon them, but if not, I can simply assure the House: a) In my judgement, as the Crown's chief law officer for the moment, and on the advice of my officials and, I understand, with the concurrence of the City of St. John's officials, these represent an agreed approach and, if accepted, would enable the bill to take effect on January 1, and we hope will once and for all put an end to this vexing problem that affects a fairly large number of people and is quite troubling. It can be a very difficult issue when you are trying to work it through. At the very least, it runs up big legal fees where none are needed, and at the very most, it causes aggravation and causes people to worry about titles to their homes, and that type of issue, and that is not something people really should have to be troubled about in this day and age. So I would urge the House to adopt the bill. If there are detailed questions, I would be happy to try to answer them.

Thank you, Sir.

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

MR. WOODFORD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

As the minister has already stated, I don't know if it was in the last spring session or the last Fall session, in December, we passed, I think, two or three amendments pertaining to this particular problem with regard to freehold and leases and so on, especially around the St. John's area. And, as the minister stated, it has to do with residential - primarily with residential. However, in the first explanatory note, the last part of the paragraph, the amendment would remove the requirements that the land had to be vacant land.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).


It is funny when you read some of the legislation here that has been introduced in the House. I remember back in 1975 when I became the mayor of a small community on the West Coast of the Province. Members around the Province, and the Minister of Justice, especially, are probably fully aware, of the 1945 settlement of the community of Cormack.

MR. ROBERTS: Under the old land grants.

MR. WOODFORD: Under the old land grants act. I had people coming from all directions with problems, especially when they came in looking for building permits. They went to their banks to try to get mortgages to build homes. When they did the title searches they had no titles. They figured they owned everything. What happened in those days was they gave them, say fifty acres, a fifty-acre farm, but they only gave them a grant, after they cleared x number of acres, on twenty acres for instance. I used the fifty-acre one and they gave the grant on twenty acres.

After so long, five, ten, or after they had a percentage of that particular land cleared, they would get title, they would get the right to work the other thirty acres, and thereby get a grant to it. However, a lot of those people never ever bothered. They figured that they had the fifty acres and that was it. They worked their twenty, then worked their fifty. They kept on clearing land, and over the years just took it for granted that they had title to this particular property.

Lo and behold, when they started to move from different areas of the community of Cormack back on to the main road through Cormack and so on, and all throughout the byroads, started to build and went to try to get mortgages and so on, they finally found out that they had absolutely no title to the property. Now, from 1945 to 1975, Mr. Speaker, a lot of things happened, a lot of people passed away. A lot of family members, even some families, left the community completely. At that time it was just word of mouth or just a signature here or there and you pass along a piece of property. I think, within the first four years there was something like, I think it was, sixty-two cases that came to my attention in the community, along those lines, people who figured they had title and didn't.

Also in the community, someone mentioned - I think the Member for Kilbride - the fact about the agricultural land. In that particular area, and other areas in the Province, there is a new lease. The Department of Agriculture came up with a new lease agreement - especially as it pertains to agricultural land; it was in the late 1970s, I believe, or early 1980s - whereby there are no more grants for agriculture. You get a fifteen-year lease. It is what they call a short-term lease. You had to have 25 per cent of your land cleared within a particular period of time; I think it was within the first five years. If not that particular land reverted to the Crown, unless you could prove that there was sickness or something like that in the family, or some other really good reason whereby that particular land couldn't be worked.

The longest lease to do with agriculture in the Province today is a fifty-year lease. That is a long-term lease that the government will afford to an agricultural producer in the Province because of - say for argument's sake someone is going to invest in a dairy business, or a broiler business, which could cost up $1 million. You are talking about fairly big sums of money. The Farm Credit Corporation especially, and now Enterprise Newfoundland and Labrador where the Farm Loan Board is administered, they are not going to loan money - no financial institution in this country is going to loan money if, when they look at an individual coming in to look for, say, $700,000, $800,000, and they don't have a title, because a grant is a grant is a grant. That is what was always told us when we started first, and it is.

But a lease, the first thing the financial institutions will say is: If you don't meet the conditions of this lease, you could lose your property, so we have nothing. It is no good for you to offer me 200 acres of land for collateral when someone else really holds title to it.

This is where a lot of farmers in the Province ran into problems. I am saying that to just draw reference and use it as an analogy in this case. In St. John's, some of the leases were ninety-nine year leases, I understand, and probably longer. It goes right back to colonial days and the people from Britain when they came over here first got it, grabbing up the land and keeping it, and holding it forever and a day.

Getting back to the substance of this bill, I understand now - the minister can correct me if I'm wrong when he stands to close debate - that after this bill is finished, this passes all jurisdiction for those particular freehold leased properties over to the City of St. John's.

MR. ROBERTS: Not the jurisdiction (inaudible).

MR. WOODFORD: The freehold.

MR. ROBERTS: (Inaudible).

MR. WOODFORD: Yes, in order to grant them title. The City owns it, so the City can convey title to an individual.

MR. ROBERTS: Plus if they (inaudible).

MR. WOODFORD: Meets a condition, yes but there is one - I have been told that there are some twenty to thirty, maybe more; I know my so-called learned friends in the House can definitely confirm that there are some twenty or thirty names on some of those properties. As the Member for St. John's East said before, it is a nightmare. It must be a real nightmare in dealing with it. So this will now give, as I said and the minister has confirmed, that the City of St. John's - people will be able to go to the City and they will be able to look after the title to a particular piece of property.

There is one section here, clause - the second explanatory note, minister, that would also amend the definition of `building' to exclude mobile homes and trailers. Would you - you can either do it now or later on - explain that, because to me, a mobile home on a piece of property, I know it can be moved but why, when passing this over, would it exclude that? It would still cause some problems. So you can probably - I have my own beliefs on it but you can give me yours.

MR. ROBERTS: By leave?

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

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend. The amendment does what he holds it out to do. It would not extend the protection of this act to a mobile home or a trailer. Now, the reason for that is very simple; the act was intended right from the start, the Leaseholds in St. John's Act, to deal not with the usual, not with trailer parks as such, but to deal with a situation whereby - and I don't think any leases like this entered into it for fifty or sixty years but we are dealing with a situation whereby one - instead of buying a piece of land, which would be the normal way one would do it today, in building a house or buying a house with the freehold land, where one acquired a piece of land under the so-called building lease. In fact, the old act spoke of building leases. You got the land so you could build a house on it and you paid a very nominal annual rent which I have seen them as low as two dollars or four dollars.

Now, the conclusion we have or the view we have is that a mobile home that goes in - I don't know, I will just take a name which may or may not be a correct one - the Annjeanette Trailer Park is different from somebody on Casey Street whose predecessors entitled in 1893, took a building lease from some English estate that has the freehold interest to that particular piece of land. So it is simply a policy differentiation. We are not trying to give people with mobile homes the right to acquire the freehold title because their whole deal with the owner of the freehold title is a different one from the leaseholds in St. John's that we are trying to address.

Now, I can be much more technical if my friend wants, but I have tried to answer his question. I hope I have.

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

MR. WOODFORD: Well, to a certain extent, Mr. Speaker, but I can see the difference between a trailer park and an individual who uses a trailer as a home on a particular - say for instance, a 20,000 square foot block or whatever, an acre or two acres, if that is their land and that is their home, because some people live now for ever and a day in mobile -

MR. ROBERTS: They have to have some title in order to put a trailer on it.

MR. WOODFORD: Yes, they have to have some title, but am I to understand now that anything - so what about a trailer in a trailer park, what would happen? The -

MR. ROBERTS: The trailer park would not be affected by this, first or last.

MR. WOODFORD: It would not be affected.

MR. ROBERTS: And we want to make sure it isn't.

MR. WOODFORD: Yes. And also, from talking with some other officials, this is one of the clauses and one of the sections of the act that was probably not agreed to by the City of St. John's probably or one put in there by the Department of Justice, in their judgement, when they did up this particular act?

MR. ROBERTS: I have had no direct dealings with the City but my understanding is that the City has, at the very least, raised no objection to any of these.

MR. WOODFORD: Yes, but from my understanding, and when he checks with his officials later on - I understand that this was not one of the things that they suggested would go in there. But all the rest, as the minister stated, has been done in conjunction with the City. It will make it a lot less cumbersome for the individuals and the City themselves, rather than to be coming back and forth to the Crown, the Department of Justice or whatever.

Mr. Speaker, without any further debate on this particular piece of legislation, as far as I am concerned, it can pass second reading. I know there are other gentlemen who want to have some comment. There is one other thing the minister - I believe he has already mentioned it. When does this come into effect? I think it is January.

MR. ROBERTS: (Inaudible).

MR. WOODFORD: January 1.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. ROBERTS: With leave, I will deal with the last point. The bill will come into effect simultaneously with the 1994 act. I just checked. The 1994 act is subject to proclamation. It is, I believe, the intention to proclaim both with effect from 1 January 1996, but that remains - one will have to get through the paperwork. But a.s.a.p., to get the new scheme up and running.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise with a few remarks on this particular amendment to the Leaseholds In St. John's Act. The previous members, of course, have spoken, and the minister referred to the leases that we are talking about here as building leases. That is the important distinction here. These are leases of land, mostly since 1891, in which one of the requirements of the lease was that the person taking on the lease was required to build a house on the land within a certain period of time. Although the rents may be nominal now - some of $4 a year, $6 a year, in some cases $10 or $12 a year - they were by no means nominal in those days when the houses themselves were selling for $800 or $600 or $300 or $1,200.

What has grown up, though, is that in 1984, for example, when I was buying my house on Queen's Road, the house was subject to an 1893 lease that was leased to some person. When I say a nightmare, when I used the word `nightmare' before, in order to search title to that property - the leasehold interest had been divided up into one hundred and twenty-eighths.

MR. ROBERTS: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: Yes, I have seen that title, too, that there were 2,156 interests, or units, and someone may have owned ten of those, or half of them, or a quarter of them, but it got that small. So it is a nightmare in the sense of - as the minister said, it unduly increases the legal expense of people dealing in those properties.

Quite often, even though the law said for some years that you were entitled to obtain the freehold upon payment of forty times the ground rent in case of the ancient leases, there were legal roadblocks, technical roadblocks, financial roadblocks put in the way of people buying out these freeholds for various reasons by owners of a portion of the leasehold interest.

Those of you who are familiar with old St. John's will remember people talking about the absentee landlords. These were the people who perhaps lived here one time, perhaps never did, but managed to get a grant of certain land from King George or one of these people.

AN HON. MEMBER: They never ever came ashore, a lot of them.

MR. HARRIS: Some of them never ever came ashore. Some of them may have been ashore for a few years and got a grant from the governor of a certain piece of land, and their descendants over in England have been collecting rents on them for 150 years.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: Wood and Kelly.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: Yes, well, I would say to the hon. member that having dealings with these leases has caused a tremendous amount of hardship, and it has caused a lot of people in the legal profession to turn grey, I may say, not just Mr. Wood and Mr. Kelly.

It has also caused a lot of trouble to householders who are concerned about what might happen when their leases expire. Because many of these leases have already expired, and it is only through the good graces of legislation in the past two, three and four years in this House that these leases have been continued, and some of the landlords, or some of their lawyers, have been pretty creative and inventive in finding ways of stopping people from getting access through the leasehold interest.

This bill, and its coming into force in January, provides a very sensible resolution to it. If all of this ancient and modern leasehold land vests in the City, it provides for the owners of the freehold interest getting their money from the City upon demand, and it provides for the person holding the leasehold interest to obtain his title from the City and obtain, in return, a deed from the City so that he can have full access to his freehold land. And it has caused - the minister has mentioned that it caused needless legal expense, but quite often it was the amount of time that it took. You couldn't, in fairness, charge to an individual when you were dealing with basically the purchase of $1,000 freehold -

MR. ROBERTS: (Inaudible) lawyer not able to charge (inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: I only wanted to say it so that hon. members would know that lawyers don't always charge for all of their time. that –

MR. ROBERTS: Be careful or you will get into lawyer jokes.

MR. TOBIN: They charge too much for the time they spend at it. There should be a cap on it - $5 an hour, maximum.

MR. HARRIS: I recognize the wisdom in what the Minister of Justice is saying, based on the comments coming to my left, but I do say that it is not only a nightmare for lawyers, but also a great nuisance for them and for their clients in trying to get their property straightened out.

Now, there are a couple of features of this amendment that are of great interest. Clause 2 provides for circumstances where there may be overlapping leases underneath the house, and I am aware of a few cases of that, and there may also be land that does not presently have a house on it, but in fact may have at one time been leasehold land - the house may have been torn down - and is now being used as a side yard or a backyard or a garden that is associated with the house, and because it doesn't strictly conform to the Leaseholds in St. John's Act, and the person who is occupying the property cannot actually prove that there was a house on the property, the difficulties that ensue there have been fixed up by clause 2. There are certain arcane interpretations of clause 2 that may cause problems. We may have to wait and see whether or not this actually works in a particular instance.

I have a concern, though, I say to the minister, about section 4. There is a change from a payment for a lease being a charge on a property, to an assessment.

MR. ROBERTS: That is at the City's request.

MR. HARRIS: Yes, I understand that. If it remains on the books as a charge against the property, I have no difficulty with that, but by calling it an assessment, does that invoke interest charges? That is what concerns me.

MR. ROBERTS: (Inaudible) within section 28l of the City of St. John's Act.


MR. WOODFORD: Well, a municipality can charge interest anyway on land that has been assessed, up to six years, under the Municipalities Act.

MR. HARRIS: Yes, but my concern here is that what we are doing is allowing the -

MR. ROBERTS: (Inaudible) and I will deal with that.

MR. HARRIS: Well, if I may explain this, the land vests in the City, and then the costs of that land become a charge against the taxpayer, so if someone is looking for a tax receipt, or looking for a mortgage, or looking at transferring the land, that would be cleared off as a debt against the property at that time. What I am wondering - because the City charges a reasonably high interest rate on overdue taxes for the purposes of encouraging people to keep their taxes current.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: Pardon?

AN HON. MEMBER: Prime plus three.

MR. HARRIS: Prime plus three, I am told. I am just wondering, is that going to start running up big costs to householders who may not be in a position to buy out the freehold as of January 1, 1996, and will end up having a whack of interest added on to the value of the freehold until they are in a position to actually buy it. I haven't compared that to the City of St. John's Act but it seems to me that that's a difference from last year's act that I hadn't considered when reviewing this, and it appears that one of the implications of that may be, that a householder will now be subject to an interest charge by the city on this assessment. Perhaps the minister can deal with that -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: I will let the minister deal with that when I conclude my remarks.

I don't have very much more to say about it. I think there was a particular instance, as I said a particular circumstance that caused me concern this time last year, this legislation goes some way in dealing with that; I am not certain that it deals with the actual technicality of the particular individual's circumstance. I will find out though before we get to third reading and if I am advised that this wording will still cause problems, I will discuss it with the minister and see whether or not a technical wording change may indeed deal with the problem where in a particular case, a part of a house is on one lease and part of a house is on another and the second lease may be a portion of a building lease held in fact by a third party.

I don't know enough about the actual specifics of it to deal with it at this stage but we are dealing with it at second reading and in principle, I agree with the changes that are made here, I think that the system is workable with the city as nominal landlord or holder of the freehold, I think the city will be a reasonable party to deal with in terms of householders obtaining the freehold and there won't be the same kind of difficulties or road blocks placed in people's way in obtaining the freehold to their property. I am glad that the city having reviewed it finds the system acceptable and workable within their framework. They have of course, as members from St. John's would know, over the last number of years, engaged staff to assist householders in acquiring the freehold and they have managed to clear up a fair number of leasehold titles in the city and of course their work has also pointed out a number of difficulties that had been addressed in last year's act and now in this amendment here today, so with those comments, Mr. Speaker, I support the bill in principle and would urge all hon. members to pass it.

Someone said that they thought I might deal with the word `vacant', why the word vacant is being struck out in section 2.1(A). That had to do with the definition of the building lease and it gave rise because it said that it was the lease of vacant land on which you were required to build a house, and that gave rise to some people being required to prove that the land was in fact vacant at the time that the lease was entered into; and the lease may have been entered into on December 1, 1892, and how would you prove that the land was in fact vacant in 1892 and some of the wordings of the leases were such that it was pretty clear that the lease was actually entered into after the person had started building the house so it could hardly be considered vacant at that time, so there were certain little anomalies that crept up as a result of these interpretations and now there is no necessity to prove that the land was vacant at the time of the lease being entered into.

There is a lot of technicalities of course in this legislation but in principle, the legislation is good and ameliorative and progressive legislation and I urge members to support it.

MR. WOODFORD: Will the minister permit me one (inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: Yes, of course.

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

MR. WOODFORD: Something just came to mind and it is a good time now so when the minister gets up, he can address it.

It is probably altogether and different and under the regular Crown Lands Act. There is something that comes to mind now that I have run into over the years and maybe one of the members, the Member for St. John's East or the Minister of Justice can answer.

For instance, under the Crown Lands Act, if an individual, say for instance in my area, Cormack, cannot prove, if he has no title to his property and it goes back, and I understand there was an amendment to the Crown Lands Act in 1987, anything before, I think it was October 7, 1987, any land that was not - what did they call it?

MR. ROBERTS: (Inaudible) title.

MR. WOODFORD: Yes, but you don't go Quieting of Titles, I just forget now exactly the -

AN HON. MEMBER: Squatters rights.

MR. WOODFORD: Squatters rights, that's it.

MR. HARRIS: Squatters rights against the Crown.

MR. WOODFORD: Yes, and before then and even after then you had to prove -

AN HON. MEMBER: Twenty years.

MR. WOODFORD: Yes, twenty years, the previous twenty years that you had worked it for instance, you had to go find a fence or a corner post or something. I know I have had a lot of individuals go through the Quieting Of Titles Act in order to prove that before the Crown would give them anything. Does this come in there at all or is that altogether different? It is altogether different, okay. It has nothing to do with that.

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

The hon. the Minister of Justice.

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, in response to the gentleman for Humber Valley, I say to my friend that this act has no bearing at all upon the situation he describes. The Legislature in 1987, if memory serves me, ended the running of prescriptive rights as against the Crown. They still apply as between, or among private parties, but they preserved the rights that were in place at that time if one had acquired prescriptive rights against the Crown, but they no longer can run, and the reason for that in my understanding and in my judgement is a sound one, is that there is so much Crown land in the Province that it is unfair to expose the Crown to having people squat, as it were, against it. Anyway, this bill has no bearing.

I think the only point I need to refer to is the one raised by my friend for St. John's East who, while he is not in the Chamber at the moment, I assume will hear what I have to say, and that deals with the suggested Section 4. Now, that repeals Section 5 (1) of the act we adopted last year. I am sorry, 5.1 (1) to be precise, and 5.1 (1) last year gave the city a lien on the property. Now, where land vests in the city - I am reading 5.1 (1) as it was enacted last year, where land vests in the city under Section 2.1 the compensation that the city has paid the lessor shall attach to the land. In other words it became a lien and ran with the land. We have changed that into an assessment.

Now, my friend was concerned that somehow that might expose people, the lessee, the person who has the leasehold interest and who wishes to obtain the freehold from the city, to something unfair, and the answer is it isn't because the obligation to pay the city does not arise until the city pays out to the freeholder, at which stage it is only right and proper that the leaseholder who will then get the freehold, should compensate the city. The city is not meant to act as a banker for people holding leases. These amounts are relatively small and we will leave it to the city to make whatever arrangements they want. I understand from time to time in the past the City of St. John's has offered extended credit terms to individuals in this situation, but that is for the city.

The effect of the legislation would be to end the lien and replace it with an assessment, and we have done that at the request of the city officials. We accept it as being a valid request and I am told that this engages Section 281 of the City of St. John's Act which deals with assessments and their application, so I think it is a fair provision. The basic scheme of the act is all leaseholds will vest in the city upon proclamation and then when the individual leaseholder wants to come forward he or she can get the title and then has to pay, and then the individual freeholder can come forward at whatever time and collect the amount properly due to them under the terms of the act, so we are not confiscating anything, we are just simply cleaning up a long-standing anomaly that has caused a lot of grief and no good at all.

With that said, Sir, I move that the bill be read a second time.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Leaseholds In St. John's Act," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House.

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, I move pursuant to Standing Order 54.2 (3) that the bill entitled, "An Act To Amend The Leaseholds In St. John's Act," be referred to the Social Services Committee.

MR. SPEAKER: It has been moved that the bill be referred to a committee, carried.

MR. ROBERTS: Your Honour, would you be good enough to please call Order 28 on today's Order Paper, the Limitations Bill?

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Revise The Law Respecting Limitations." (Bill No. 38)

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

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, this bill is a very technical one in some ways.

MR. SPEAKER: Probably, before the minister gets into full flight in his speech, and I would not want to interrupt him at 4:00 o'clock, I can now read the questions for the Late Show. Question number one is to the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation: re my question on inter-provincial ferry rates and it is from the Member for St. John's East Extern. Question number two is to the Minister of Fisheries, Food and Agriculture and it is in regard to caplin harvesting and it is from the Member for Bonavista South. The third question is to the Minister of Justice on air traffic control from the hon. Member for Kilbride.

The hon. the Minister of Justice.

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, I say to my friend from Exploits that he should give the gentleman from Kilbride another opportunity to show he knows nothing about this.

Mr. Speaker, I move second reading of the bill and in doing so let me very briefly describe what is in it.

When my friend from St. John's South is ready we will deal with the limitations of which we have all evidenced. Mr. Speaker, if the House wishes to pass the bill without any debate I am prepared to but I will say this is not an unimportant bill. I believe it is a very good bill.

Mr. Speaker, the bill, in my judgement, implements a long overdue reform of a much studied and a very much debated area of the law. The limitations to which the title refers and with which the bill deals are the limits prescribed by law within which the time limits - within which one must begin a lawsuit and in this Province, generally speaking, one begins a lawsuit by issuing a document called a statement of claim. By simply preparing it, taking it to the registry of the court, filing a copy, having it noted received and from then the rules of the court and the substantive provisions of statutes take over.

The bill deals with the period within which a party to a lawsuit, be it an individual, a group or an incorporated body must start the action.

Now, Mr. Speaker, there are a number of very significant points in this which I would draw to the attention of the House. First of all, the act applies to the Crown and that is provided in Section 4. Now, Mr. Speaker, that is a very great step forward, in my opinion. Traditionally the Crown, because the Crown was the law, in our legislative and political theory, constitutional theory, the Crown is the law. The Crown is above the law unless the Crown subjects itself to the law. Traditionally the Crown was not bound by any law including, in this instance, the limitation periods. Now what that meant is if Your Honour had the misfortune to incur a debt to the Crown 104 years ago when Your Honour was a very young man indeed, the Crown even today, can still maintain a proceeding in debt and yet, if it is a debt among private parties very different limitation periods apply. Well we are ending that. We are asking the House to end that. If this bill becomes law the Crown will be subject to the same limitation periods as any other person in this Province. The Crown will stand before the courts of this Province and in the eyes of the law of this Province, in this regard on exactly the same basis as any other person, be that a natural person or a body corporate recognized by law as having a personality. I think that is a step forward and I commend it to the House.

The general scheme laid out by the act is found in part one which begins with Section 5. It provides as a rule, three separate types of limitation periods. There is a two year period, that is found in Section 5. There is a six year period, that is found in Section 10. There is a ten year period which is found in Section 7. These differ in some instances from the present law but we suggest they are all united by a principle.

If my friend from Placentia really does not mind could he please carry on his - I am sorry, I can yell but it does not help and the hon. gentleman has the most penetrating voice, as he demonstrates to us on occasion.

But there is a principle underlying all of these and I would refer members to the report, a very extensive report of the Law Reform Commission, if they wish to get into it. The Law Reform Commission did a great deal of work on this but we are grouping causes of action, generally speaking, into three groups; two years, six years and ten years and that is spelled out in detail in each of the individual sections.

Mr. Speaker, there are a number of actions for which there is no limitation period. These are set out in section 8. The first group in 8(1) are court actions and personal actions, such things as a declaration as to personal status. Is one married, for example. One can go to court and get a declaration as to whether one is married. That can be very useful. That is not a divorce. That is a different thing altogether than a divorce proceeding. Forcing an injunction. There is no limit on the time period for enforcing - if an injunction stands it can be enforced as long as it stands. For declaring title to property. These are items which I suggest in themselves commend themselves to this.

Even more significantly I draw members' attention to 8(2), that: "Notwithstanding sections 5, 6, 7, 9 and 22, where a person who commits misconduct of a sexual nature against another person..." is in a position of trust, or has a financial or other dependency relationship, or has charge of the person, there is no limitation for the bringing of an action - and we are talking civil actions - the bringing of a civil action arising from that misconduct.

What that would mean, to take an example which is only too real in the recollection of members of this House, and the people of the Province, is the Mount Cashel incidents. Some of these are before the courts so I won't talk about them in detail, but many of these arise out of conduct which occurred twenty years ago. Normally they would be caught by the two-year rule, because these are actions based in tort. But given that some cases at least, arguably, and I don't want to get into the merits of any individual actions for proper reasons, but arguably for the purpose of this these actions arise out of a situation where there was a fiduciary, a trust relationship. There is no bar at all on the limitation periods in respect to those actions. Whenever they come to light then they have to be dealt with.

Those are the general period, the general rules. Section 9 is a catch-all section that says if any cause of action that is not caught by one of the other specific sections shall be six years. That is the fall back section. So if for some reason a cause of action is not covered - and new causes of action are being invented all the time by the courts or by statute, so we've put in that catch-all provision.

There are three other principles which apply to limitation periods. Section 13 tells us when a cause of action arises. I suggest to this House this is simply a restatement of the existing common law as it applies today in Newfoundland and Labrador. That says when the cause of action arises. What does that mean? To give an obvious example, a cause of action for a tortious claim arising out of being run down by a motor vehicle occurs when one is run down. But then there could be others. That is the basic principle.

Then we come to what we call the discoverability section, and this is number 14. Where one doesn't know or cannot know that a cause of action has arisen then the time limit doesn't begin to run. The way we put it here, and I'm reading now from the last part of section 14(1): "...the limitation period fixed by this Act does not begin to run against a person until he or she knows or, considering all circumstances of the matter, ought to know that he or she has a cause of action." That is the discoverability rule.

I'm not sure it has ever been written in a statute in this Province before but it has been developed by the courts, including the Supreme Court of Canada, over the years. It makes very good common sense. If you don't know you've been hurt contractually, for argument's sake, the six year period which applies to contract actions doesn't begin to run until you know or, and I'm paraphrasing now, could reasonably have known that you had a cause of action. That is a very straightforward and I think a very appropriate rule.

But there is a ten-year cap on that. You have to discover within ten years. Why ten years? That is a balancing. The whole law of limitations is a balancing between the right of the person who is aggrieved and has a cause of action to seek redress by means of a lawsuit, on one hand; and on the other hand, the right of the person who is responsible, or who is the defendant in the proceeding, to get on with one's life. There has to be an end to everything.

The other principle, of course, that varies this is what we call a disability rule, and that is section 15, where a person is under a disability, and there can be different types of disability. There is a disability of age, there is a disability of lack of mental capacity, and these are all dealt with in here. You will note a most interesting exception, 5(c), and I am reading section 15.5(c), dealing with sexual misconduct, and that addresses what I understand from the best of authorities, from the courts and from the academic work, is the reality of the situation. Again, the discoverability rule applies in the case of sexual misconduct only when one is capable of realizing one has been sexually maltreated. The literature, I am told, and the case law, is filled with cases where people come forward after twenty or thirty years and bring a case, and it turns out it is well-founded.

The theme running through this act, very clearly, is those who wreak sexual misconduct, those who inflict sexual wrongs upon others, are never going to get away civilly. They can be held to account, under the law, whenever it comes forward, and we believe that is a very appropriate principle, and there are two applications. One is the trust situation is forever. The second is the discoverability one, where it doesn't begin to run until one can be aware of it, and that applies whether it is a trust situation or not, and members will know that the fiduciary relationship has been extended quite widely by the courts.

Mr. Speaker, there are special rules for land. They are set out in sections 19 through 21, and these again are essentially a restatement of either common law or existing statute law. I can go through them in detail if one wants, but I suspect members would just as soon be spared that. No lawyer would find these to be strange or unusual, in my understanding.

That brings us to what I call the long stop. There is an ultimate limitation period which overrides the discoverability rule and everything else, overrides everything except the sexual assault in the fiduciary relationship situation, and that is thirty years, so there is a thirty-year long stop rule. Now, I may have confused members very thoroughly, but the scheme is quite simple. The discoverability postpones the running of the term, but there is still an ultimate thirty-year limit. In other words, if I hurt somebody thirty years ago, and it is not discovered for that period, then I am away, as it were; I cannot be sued. There has to be an end somewhere in this world, and that is what the end is, and that is what section 22 says. Section 22, the drafters put it in legal terms; I have tried to explain it in, I hope, equally correct but non-legal terms.

Another feature of the act that I commend (inaudible) because it is a change in the substantive law, is that we are changing the age at which minors can be held liable for contracts. The common law, which is still in effect in this Province, is that somebody under the age of nineteen cannot be held liable for a contract which he or she makes, although he or she can hold the other party to it liable. In other words, if a seventeen-year-old child goes out and buys a motor vehicle they cannot be held liable to pay for it, although they can sue the dealer. In other words, it is a one-sided contract, and that reflects the old concept that somebody under the age of majority, which was twenty-one and is now nineteen in this Province, wasn't able to carry on his or her affairs. Section 25 makes it clear, it is sixteen. Somebody who is sixteen years old can be held to a written contract, and that is what section 25 says. It is a change in the law. Again, we believe it is a reasonable one.

Mr. Speaker, the other point I draw to members' attention is the consequential amendment section, section 30, which amends a number of special sections which appear in the various professional incorporation acts. By-and-large, we are not varying any of them, particularly when one takes into effect the discoverability rule which, although it is not yet in statute, is very much part of the law, the effect of these will be to make them uniform, so if - and I just single this out; I don't have a knowledge of a direct exception, but if, for example, the Optometry act had some different provisions than the general limitations rule respecting actions against optometrists, or arising out of optometrical services, then those will go, and the special ones will go. The general one will prevail. We think that is a sound principle, too. Again, the Law Reform Commission, in my recollection, recommended that. So, we are amending the special limitation ones that have crept into our statutes over the years. From now on, all the statute law of this Province with respect to limitations will be in this one act.

I think the act is a significant step forward, Mr. Speaker. It is not one that we are going to have public meetings about or petitions about, but it is one which I believe will represent an advance in the administration of the affairs of people who live and work and do their business in this Province.

The only other comment I would make before I move second reading, Sir, is that we shall ask to have this bill, too, referred to a Standing Committee. There may well be groups who wish to be heard on detailed provisions, and the Standing Committee mechanism affords them an opportunity to do so. Nobody can say this bill is new. The speaking notes I've been given, which I haven't referred to, said that the first draft working paper on limitations of actions was made public by the Law Reform Commission in 1985, all 460 pages of it, and their final report was filed in December 1986. I don't think anybody can say we are taking them by surprise on this one. This project has been on the go for at least ten years, and, in my view, it is time we brought it to an end. With that said, I move the bill be read a second time.

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

MR. WOODFORD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I found it rather interesting, to say the least, when I started to do a little bit of research on this particular piece of legislation. I can understand when the minister says that it has been on the go for some ten years, why he would want to do something about it and bring it to fruition and get it out of the way and try to clean up, really, the so-called limitations, the law respecting limitations.

Looking back at the Law Reform submission of 1986, it identified some ninety special limitation provisions in that particular act. When you look at what they identified and what they recommended for repealing at that particular time, and look at some of the - on all the limitations that are now one year, there are two years, there are some that are four years, I think, for some others. The minister has mentioned some others as well. Looking at this act really, like he said, there are two, six and ten years. I looked at, I think it was the Alberta law reform limitations, and that is one for members if they want some nighttime or bedtime reading. If you think ours is a bit cumbersome, have a look at that particular one, and the proposals for new limitations of actions in the Province of Saskatchewan in 1989, some of the recommendations that were made there.

I don't want to belabour this particular piece of legislation. As I said, I'm no expert on any of it. I just glanced over it. I did some research on it. As the minister has already stated, I don't there would be anybody around who is an expert on everything in this particular act, because there are so many different things. I'm sure as I'm standing here this evening, that probably this time next year or the year after, there will be someone in, or some minister, back making amendments to this piece of legislation.

AN HON. MEMBER: I hope not (inaudible).

MR. WOODFORD: You don't have a worry. The minister stated earlier when we did the leasehold act, only last year we passed a couple of amendments on that, and sure as we are standing here and sure as there are fifty-two members in the House, we are back here to make amendments to that particular piece of legislation. I'm sure that we will be back as soon as our learned friends get in the courts and start getting individuals in, requesting cases here and cases there. I'm sure that our learned friends inside the House and outside the House will be making requests to have amendments made to this legislation.

Having said that, Mr. Speaker, I go along with the minister again -that's three times this evening that I have agreed with him - that this piece of legislation is a good one, no question, when you start to clean it up. There are some concerns, and I am sure that some of them will be pointed out. If this goes to Committee there may be some people around the city that may - mostly around this city, because outside the city, people will not know about it.

Mr. Speaker, in the Law Reform Commission's report, they mentioned problems with the current provisions of this particular law. As I said, they identified some ninety provisions in this particular - special limitations under this act. They made quite a few recommendations and that is one of the questions that I had to ask the minister when he talked about the latter part of this piece of legislation, when you talk about the - well, I can understand section 4: the Fatal Accidents Act is repealed and the following substituted; no problem there. Section 4: One action only may be taken for and in respect of the same subject matter or complaint. Going on, Section 29.44(iv) and Section 47 of the Hydro Corporations Act are repealed. Mr. Speaker, in the recommendations made by the Law Reform Commission report in 1986, some of them are included in this particular act, Bill 38, but there are a lot more that are not. So maybe the minister, when he stands, can explain that, because there are some there that I have identified. I won't go into it, it will take some time.

I have also identified the acts - for instance, the City of Corner Brook Act, the recommendations made by the Law Reform Commission back in 1986, for instance, on the City of Corner Brook Act, suggested that Section 79(ii) and 81.1 of the City of Corner Brook Act be repealed. It says here, this particular part of section 50 of the City of Corner Brook Act, be repealed. Now maybe there is a subsection in that that will include some of the recommendations in this particular report. I was just wondering why - and I say to the minister that he was out. I was looking at making some comparisons between the Law Reform Commission's report of 1986 on repealing some of the acts -

MR. ROBERTS: (Inaudible) section number different?

MR. WOODFORD: Some of the section numbers are different yes.

MR. ROBERTS: They change in the (inaudible).

MR. WOODFORD: Under consolidation, but there is also - okay, well, that might answer my other question, then, with regard to some of the other acts that are not included in this report. They will probably come under something else. There is one there, like for the instance, proceeding against the Crown Lands Act. That is not included in this particular - yes it is, this one here, section 21 but it says section 23.

MR. ROBERTS: What happens, then, `Rick', if they are into consolidations, sections are often changed. Section numbers are changed.

MR. WOODFORD: Okay, but there are other acts here, the department of forest, resources, lands act, health act and so on like that. I guess they must come under something else in this because I cannot see them even out a goodly number of the recommendations made under this report.

MR. ROBERTS: If my friend would yield for a moment?

MR. WOODFORD: Yes, okay.

MR. ROBERTS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

What I would be happy to do is to ask the gentleman in my department, my official who knows all about this, Chris Curran, to sit down with him and answer his questions in detail. Mr. Curran was the primary author of that report and is the primary author of the instructions on which this bill was drafted. But I am assured that all of the limitation periods that we have been able to identify have been picked up. Now, we may have missed some but the answer on consolidation is section numbering is often changed in consolidations because intervening year's amendments have been passed.

MR. WOODFORD: One other question here - okay, I will do that because there are some questions here with regard to the repealing of some of the acts and changes in some of the numbering.


MR. WOODFORD: In section 8 (2), with regard to: where a person who commits misconduct of a sexual nature against another person - I think the Member for St. John's East was talking about that earlier. Now, this is talking about individuals. Would this necessarily be true with regard to an organization, say, for instance, a church group?

MR. ROBERTS: It says person (inaudible).

MR. WOODFORD: Person has charge of the other person, section (c), but does that necessarily answer my question? Would, for instance, an organization come under that? a group, for instance.

AN HON. MEMBER: If it were incorporated, yes (inaudible).

MR. WOODFORD: Well, so that means that it could be interpreted that -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. WOODFORD: Oh, okay, I see what you mean now, okay. Any incorporated as in a corporation act; so, you would have to be constituted more or less like a -

MR. ROBERTS: And there are some situations where (inaudible) incorporated (inaudible).

MR. WOODFORD: One other question, then, because we can discuss some of this in Committee rather than do it here so we can get through second reading and get it to Committee. One other question.

I had an example of a young man who was killed a little over a year ago, and my understanding now, is that they have been told they cannot bring an action under the old scheme because it was, I think, and the minister can correct me if I am wrong, that it was for one year, the limitations were for one year. Can they and would they be able to now, for instance, if this act were passed say at the end of this week?

MR. ROBERTS: Thank you.

This act will not increase irrespective of a period now running and I will find the precise section, but that has been addressed and the answer is that it doesn't give anybody a right they do not now have and I think that is really, in my view, the only valid way to do it or else you have a huge amount of uncertainty because you are exposing people all over again.

MR. WOODFORD: Then, for instance -

MR. ROBERTS: Clause 24.3(A), if you want to look it up.

Have a look at it and we will deal with it in Committee if you want, but that's the (inaudible).

MR. WOODFORD: But under this particular act, under the two-year one, I believe it is, they will have two years?


MR. WOODFORD: Is that true for the same thing? Yes, part one, limitation period, two years, so they will have two years to bring damages, to be able to -

MR. ROBERTS: We are changing the Fatal Accidents Act, yes, which has had the one-year rule in it.

MR. WOODFORD: So that will be two years.

MR. ROBERTS: But it is not retroactive.

MR. WOODFORD: But it is not retroactive, that was my question. So anything up until the time that this act is passed will not be -

MR. ROBERTS: So the quicker the better.

MR. WOODFORD: No, but there are cases, very serious cases, too, that people did not understand. You talk about people not reading legislation and not being able to tell what's happening. I have cases, and I am sure there are other members in the House who have cases whereby their constituents would like to bring an action. People are caught at the most vulnerable time, especially in the case of fatal accidents; they don't like to deal with it shortly after because the period of grief and the period of mourning usually stretches out, especially as it pertains to a family member, and they are very reluctant to do anything about it. And all of a sudden - time passes fairly quickly like that, and people don't realize and don't take the time to talk to a lawyer. Some of them really don't know what approach to take, and when they do, it is too late. I have seen two cases in the last couple of years whereby - like the one I just mentioned to the minister where this particular individual, in the City of Corner Brook cannot now bring an action.

I thought by looking at this first - I overlooked that particular section of the act, so I am glad now that I asked the question because I probably would have overlooked it in committee as well unless someone else brought it up, that they could not take action. I understood that in this one they may be able to take action, especially under this two year limitation rule, but obviously they can't. The other thing that I have got confirmed is that after this someone involved in something like that will be able to take action within a two year period rather than a one.

Other than that, Mr. Speaker, you could go on and on with this, especially if you want to get into this law reform commission report and so on. I will get some of my questions answered by Mr. Curran and the minister probably some other time, and any other questions I have on it will be brought up in committee.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

There are just two points there, and I think my colleague made reference to one. I just want to make sure that I am interpreting correctly there what the minister indicated, that now, for example, in Section 24.3 (a), if the statute of limitations ran out now on what was a one year limitation in June of this year it cannot apply because otherwise we would be going back to cases that have been pursued and dealt with, and we cannot resurrect ones that have been acted on. That is what I think that says there, if he would confirm that? And, I guess, one other point, then I will sit down. In Section 14, the section he read on the top of Page 11 there, limitation periods fixed by this act do not begin to run against the person until he or she knows, or considering all circumstances of the matter, ought to know that he or she has a cause of action.

I am aware of an instance where in the case of a death in a family, or both parents die or the only parent dies in a family and there are minors there. Until the minors are in the position to be able to make that decision then whether the limitations are two, six, or ten, it would then kick in from that point, or somebody who is acting on their behalf, can they be held responsible if the newly appointed, or who the legal guardian is, and they decide, would that limitation apply to who is in legal custody of these kids or can they make that decision when they are nineteen?

Let us say there is a two year limitation in that section and they are now fourteen which in five years times they would be nineteen, so in other words technically we would be looking back seven years on a two year limitation.

MR. ROBERTS: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: So that would cover that there until such point as they can make a decision.

MR. ROBERTS: The running of time with respect to the limitations rate is postponed so long as that person is under a disability.

MR. SULLIVAN: And a disability, I guess, is defined as -

MR. ROBERTS: Disability is defined in Section 5, including a minor under eighteen, incapable of management -

MR. SULLIVAN: Okay, I am satisfied. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Speaker.

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. ROBERTS: Before my friend for St. John's East takes the floor perhaps we could take a minute. The gentleman for Grand Bank and I put our heads together behind Your Honour's chair and had suggested in the interest of moving these bills forward that we ask the House to sit by agreement until 5:30 and no later and have the Late Show. Now, I do not know whether we want to have the Late Show now and come back or if we want to postpone the Late Show until 5:00 o'clock. Is that agreeable?

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Personally it does not matter to me but we have people here who are involved in the Late Show from our side and they would prefer to go with it now. So, have the Late Show and then come back and finish up the legislation is my feeling.

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, if that is agreeable we might not hear from the gentleman for St. John's East until after the Late Show. Then we will deal with this bill and I hope as well that we will be able to deal with Bill No. 41, The Conflict of Interest Bill. With that said as I understand there is unanimous consent and we will deal with the Late Show if Your Honour would proceed?

MR. SPEAKER: I call on the hon. Member for St. John's East Extern to ask the first question on the Late Show.

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

Monday in this House, on Wednesday, and today, I asked a question of the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation. I asked a question with respect to the increase in the interprovincial ferry rates on the Island and in particular the rates to Bell Island. The answer that I got certainly was not sufficient. I do not think the people of Bell Island accepted the answer, and I do not think they are about to accept the answer. They came over here today en masse, large numbers of people from Bell Island, they attended a large rally last night, and they are certainly not satisfied with the answer, and they will not be satisfied until this rate is reversed.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

(Disruption from the gallery).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I would remind members in the public galleries that demonstrations of any kind are not permitted. A further outbreak of that kind and I will clear the galleries.

Continue, please.

MR. J. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, the people came from Bell Island today to get the rates reversed. A committee this morning spoke with the minister and they did not get any commitment. The committee again, after Question Period today, I believe, spoke with the Premier and they have no commitment. What he did say was that he would bring it to Cabinet tomorrow - tomorrow afternoon, probably. The rates are implemented, in effect, tomorrow morning. We have students here, and I mentioned these people earlier, who will be detrimentally affected with this increase. The rate increase tomorrow morning is too soon. The people only had four days notice of this - I mentioned it earlier - and it is just not acceptable.

Mr. Speaker, the minister mentioned that there were special rates for students, but let me tell this to the minister. There are seventy-five students going to school on Bell Island, vocational education and other courses, and there are thirty-five of those students, and I was told today by the students themselves, that there is a good possibility that thirty-five of those students will have to quit after Christmas because they cannot afford the increase. Special rate or not, it is too much of an increase. One student in particular told me he has an extra $450 to be spent after Christmas, and he will not be able to attend class. I think that is absolutely pathetic, and it is not acceptable.

Now, the minister said he does not have any money to help the people, to subsidize the ferry system across Bell Island and in other areas of the Province. Let me say this to the minister, and he heard it out there five minutes ago, the people do not have the money to pay. They are in the same situation. You made a promise, and government made a promise, and they are breaking it.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. J. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, they want money. They are looking for money for this, and let me say this: They are looking for revenues. Okay, where do they want to get it? Let me tell you about some of the waste. Now I do not know what the minister is going to say when he stands up, and I can tell you know, but I won't get into it, but they spent -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Yes, sure it is going to come. You know it is going to come.

Twelve million dollars they are looking for - $12 million; $3 million goes on the ferry system on Bell Island. Now, they spent $10 million last year, or the year before last, on Hydro, something that was a farce from the beginning, and the people told them so, and they would not listen and they forged ahead - $10 million down the tubes. They spent $400,000 on a committee to go across this Province on an Electoral Boundary Commission, and they ignored that - $400,000 down the tubes. The Trans-City deal, upwards of $40 million gone. That is where they could get the money. Those are the facts. The people of this Province want better. This government was elected to serve the people.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

AN HON. MEMBER: You should be ashamed of yourself with what you are doing to those people.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: I again remind the hon. Member for Burin - Placentia West, he is not in his own seat.

MR. TOBIN: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Even if he was, he is not permitted to interject like this. Hon. members on either side, I ask you for your co-operation. Let the hon. member ask his question in silence.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. minister, as well, to restrain himself.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. J. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, to continue, I said in this House, and I said it many times before, the policies of this administration - and there are no ifs, ands or buts about it; I can name them - are geared toward resettlement in this Province. That is the bottom line. This policy is geared towards resettlement in this Province and I would ask the minister now again, will he please, on behalf of the people of Bell Island, who he knows, he heard them out in the public, out in the lobby, Mr. Speaker, he knows the impact that this is going to have on them, he knows the hardship that this is going to create. Tomorrow morning we are going to have people on Bell Island, in Portugal Cove and on the other side waiting for the ferry and they are now talking about not paying and going on board anyway. How far is the minister prepared to take this? I say to the minister, we are talking about one day. Cabinet is meeting tomorrow morning, at least delay this implementation until Monday.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. J. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, at least delay it until Monday and that is what we are asking the minister today in this House.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. EFFORD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I am not going to get into this afternoon, out of respect for the people in the gallery, a litany -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) no respect.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. EFFORD: Out of respect for the people in the gallery I am not going to get into a litany about what governments have spent in the past and what they have done because we could be here for the next week and still prove nothing. What I am going to do is deal with the situation that I am faced with, a very, very serious situation. I respect the situation that is placed on the people of Bell Island, the people of Long Island, the people of Fogo Island and all the other users of our ferry operations around the Province. They live in isolated communities and there is an extra added cost to those people in having to use that service to get to and from the mainland wherever they are used. That is a reality that we are faced with, the same as my hon. friend there from Gander. My hon. friend who lives in Gander got three children, three young men and women who go to university in St. John's. He has to bring them into St. John's and they have to pay rent in St. John's. A very high cost. The fact of the matter is -

AN HON. MEMBER: We got to pay rent too.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. EFFORD: The fact of the matter is, there are no easy answers to the situation that we are faced with under today's financial obligations of a government. We just happen to be the people in power now to deal with the financial problems that we have to deal with today. Problems we incurred from the past and problems that we have today and the easiest thing to do is to run away from them but I am not going to run away from them. I am going to face up to the responsibility that I have as minister. I have no choice.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Again, I will remind the visitors in the gallery that it is always a pleasure to have visitors here in this House and we welcome them but under no circumstances are they to show approval or disapproval or engage in any way in a debate that is taking place here on the floor.

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

MR. EFFORD: We made considerations, we put into our fare structure considerations for people who commute to work and students. In the case of St. Brendan's Island or Fogo Island, just take either one, the minimum rate was $4.75. What we done on Bell Island, a commuter including car is $2.25. For seniors, including car, it is $2.25. For a commuter it is $1.00 and for a child or a senior it is $1.00. We put in prices here to deal with the people who have a responsibility of going to work from Bell Island or going to and from Bell Island for education purposes. We put in a price for that. The minimum rate down in Ramea is $7.00. The minimum -

AN HON. MEMBER: It is apples and oranges.

MR. EFFORD: It is not apples and oranges. It is a cost of the people who are users of the system.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. EFFORD: Mr. Speaker, the fact is, we took into consideration the cost of people having to commute on a daily basis. We put in the rates and after speaking to the individuals out there and answering questions, I was walking away under the protection of the police, and I thank the police they did, one man came up and belted me in the stomach and he was one, he was a teacher.

AN HON. MEMBER: Frustration boy, frustration!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. EFFORD: The point is, what has been here has been sensationalized. What we have done is being sensationalized and being promoted by individuals for their own reasons. We have a problem, a financial problem. I have only one alternative to deal with that problem, is face it up front and make some tough decisions - as all my colleagues; the Minister of Health, the Minister of Fisheries, the Minister of Education, because we are willing -


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. EFFORD: We are willing to make some tough decisions if we have to take some political hassle for the best interest of the future of this Province, which is the youth of our Province.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. EFFORD: Now if we go and borrow x numbers of millions of dollars -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. EFFORD: If we borrow -


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

I ask hon. members to restrain themselves and let the adjournment debate continue.

The hon. minister's time is up.


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


MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

MR. EFFORD: Just to conclude, Mr. Speaker.

This government cannot operate under threats and will not operate under threats -


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. EFFORD: This government will make decisions; we will make some hard decisions. The one thing we will not do as a government, as has been communicated by the Premier of this Province on many occasions, we will not put the people of this Province in further financial debt to satisfy small numbers of people. We have to do it for the best interest -


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. EFFORD: We have to do it with the best interest of all the people of the Province in mind.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I have already explained to the visitors in the gallery, the kind of discipline that we expect from them when they are visiting here and that the tradition is and has been that they cannot participate in the debate and this is the last warning that I will give to these people. Should there be further outbursts, then we will have to have you removed from the gallery.

The hon. the Member for Bonavista South.

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I have a question for the Minister of Fisheries, Food and Agriculture.

Earlier in the week, I raised a question to the minister about his comments that he made I think at a Baccalieu Chamber of Commerce meeting, some time ago regarding the opening of the caplin fishery this year and not taking into consideration the size of the caplin stocks.

Mr. Speaker, I also want to take some exception to the answer that he gave me to that question when he talked about the scientific advice that he received in order to make that comment. Mr. Speaker, it certainly concerns me because we have all seen the results of what scientific evidence has provided us with and the work of some of our scientists when we see our cod stocks being decimated to a point where we had to declare a moratorium.

Mr. Speaker, if you look back, before those cod stocks were put in such a condition, I say to the minister, that at that very time that the scientists whom we know and have employed in our fisheries were encouraging us that there was lots of fish there and we could continue to go on fishing. Even, I think, it was probably a year or more after when the moratorium was declared, that we found out that our cod stocks had even reached a lower proportion than even they decided or thought about.

Mr. Speaker, there has been a recent report submitted by the National Newfoundland and Labrador Round Table Partnership for Sustainable Coastal communities, and I don't know if the minister has had the opportunity to read this report, but I think it backs up many of the arguments and concerns that I have had and I would just like to read a few comments that are being brought forward by the people as they have written this report and I might add from the fourteen - I think there were fourteen communities that they visited around Newfoundland, and as it relates to the caplin stock. It says: In every community visited, we heard concerns about the caplin fishery. The concerns fell into three categories. First, that it is inherently an unsustainable fishery due to the critical role played by the caplin in the food chain. Second, that it is an unacceptable wasteful fishery because the major market is for caplin roe in Japan requiring any male caplin caught to be discarded. A similar concern was raised from the fishery for lump roe. Third, even those who believe that the caplin fishery can be managed sustainably do not believe that the stock is strong enough to withstand the current approved level of harvest.

Mr. Speaker, if you continue to read the report it goes on to show that just last year, the co-op out in Petty Harbour had echoed some concerns to the minister about the caplin stocks. They didn't want to take part in the caplin harvest program that particular year but government went back and told them if they didn't take part in the caplin fishery, they stood a chance of losing their license. It appears to me that there is undue pressure put on some processors and, I suppose, if there is an opportunity to go and fish caplin or any other species, many fishermen will do that because, I suppose, it is human nature to want to go out and catch fish and sell it in order to have an income.

So, I beg with the minister, and I know he is a scientist in his own right, and a biologist as well, I beg with the minister, before he is too convincing to the minister up in Ottawa, to make sure that he consults the real scientists in this Province, and that is the fisherpeople, the fishermen and the fisherwomen, and the processors out there in rural Newfoundland today. If you talk to any of these people, Mr Minister, you will find they have grave concerns.

Thank you.

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

The hon. the Minister of Fisheries, Food and Agriculture.

DR. HULAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I thank the hon. member for raising this again. Without question, there is a lot of validity in the points you have raised, Sir. I want to take this opportunity to state categorically - it has been said in the press that I wanted to have a fishery based on small caplin. I can assure this Province, this House, and everybody, that was not my comment. I would never condone a fishery only on small caplin. That is number one.

Number two, my comment to the press in Islington was that I had indeed written the federal minister, suggesting to him that if indeed a fishery for caplin were going to occur in 1996 - and I can table my letter in the House if the member so wishes; I had asked that if the season was going to occur, that an early decision be made for two reasons: number one, so that the buyers in the international marketplace would realize that we were going to have a fishery, and that we would secure a market for the product that we may be fishing. Also, it would provide fishermen with the opportunity to either prepare or not prepare for the fishery if they knew early in advance.

But also, to go back to the Round Table report, and indeed I have read the Round Table report, I had specifically - actually, specifically, and before I had seen the Round table report, because I know what has happened in the past with regard to the caplin fishery - I had specifically put in the caveat that should a fishery occur in 1996, there would have to be an anti-dumping rule in that fishery, and that I would take the responsibility to establish legislation to make sure that we utilized the total harvest, male and female.

Now, hon. members, that changes the water on the beans with regard to a fishery indeed, if the harvesters have to look after the total catch. As you know, that is a major undertaking. Because the season is short, the volume is large, and what do you do with all the smaller females and all of the males that you don't have a ready market for?

I also should tell this House that the Harris report - when Harris did his study, he suggested that a caplin fishery should not go beyond 10 per cent of the spawning biomass. In the more recent years of the fishery, the caplin fishery has extracted from the oceans somewhere between 1 per cent and 3 per cent of the spawning biomass. Also, caplin, as I would imagine most individuals in this House understand, do not live much beyond four years. Very few caplin survive to five years. Caplin that we would have harvested had we had a fishery last year, which would have contributed somewhere between $50 million and $80 million to the provincial economy, are now dead, anyhow, because of their natural biology.

Mr. Speaker, I must say that under no circumstances would I condone or accept or agree to a caplin fishery in this Province if it were going to, in any way, shape or form, jeopardize the health of the stock, or jeopardize the food chain for the returning cod stocks around our coast. Under no circumstances would I do that; however, we should remember that the seals are eating somewhere around 700,000 metric tons of caplin each year. The caplin scientists at DFO tell me, and have told me, that the amount of caplin taken from the oceans as a result of a domestic history would not, in any way, shape or form, harm the health of the stock.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time has elapsed.

DR. HULAN: Thank you very much.

MR. SPEAKER: I understand by agreement that the third question has been withdrawn, and that I will not put the adjournment motion now, until 5:30 p.m., and then we will resume the adjourned debate prior to the adjournment motion being called.


November 30, 1995           HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS      Vol. XLII  No. 66A

[Continuation of Sitting]

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 proposed limitations act that would amend the law on the time limits by which a person has to bring a legal action to enforce their rights or claims under the law in our courts.

Currently, we have two pieces of legislation that govern the principle sets of actions, one involving all the limitations of actions personal and the other one involving land. One involving basically personal injury and torts, defamation, malicious prosecution, breach of contract and under the realty act we have actions for contracts under seal or actions against land. They are, I won't call them ancient acts but some of the language is pretty ancient. They do give rise to a certain amount of confusion or interpretation but I suspect, Your Honour, the law is fairly well settled about most of these. Where the confusion seems to come in is the whole bunch of statutes that are exceptions to the rule.

I talked a little earlier about the nightmares that lawyers have over the Leaseholds in St. John's Act. One of the worst nightmares that lawyers have is waking up in the middle of the night and realizing or thinking that a limitation period may have passed on one of his or her clients' claims but generally speaking this becomes a problem with some of the quick limitation periods. The special limitation periods that arise for special groups, special corporations such as the City of St. John's. If you want to sue them you have to do it within one year, if you want to sue the government you have to give two months notice before you issue the suit, if you want to sue a doctor you have to sue within twelve months, if you want to sue a hospital you have to do it within twelve months. There are all sorts of special limitation periods for special groups and this is what causes all the confusion. This act will get rid of all the special groups, well I don't know about all of them, I have not studied it in great enough detail. We are not at the detailed studies provisions of the bill at third reading in committee yet.

We look forward to having the person who authored the law reform commission report and who, I understand, played a hand in drafting the legislation - if not drafted it entirely - before the committee to explain some of the nuances. But generally speaking there are three limitation periods in our law; four years, six years and twenty years. There are lots of special ones, as I mentioned before, of one or two years, two years for car accidents, one year for fatal accidents, six months to take an application to the court to appoint a guardian. There are a number of special ones that cause problems but generally speaking there are three. There are four years now for intentional torts such as assault; six years for what are, generally speaking, negligent torts and breach of contract and twenty years for actions involving land or title to land, or what are called contracts under seal. This legislation proposes to shorten them and have three limitation periods as well, those limitation periods in the new act being two years, six years and ten years, so essentially halving the time for bringing of actions. In the case of a two-year limitation period, six years for a lot of actions that were formerly twenty years, and ten years for actions involving land.

I have no difficulty with the division into three separate limitation periods, but I have a little difficulty about reducing the limitation period for all personal injuries down to two years from six. There may not be, in many cases, a disability that will allow you to extend your limitation period but there are cases of personal injury, Mr. Speaker, not your car accident necessarily, but particularly where it involves family, where, two years is an awfully short period of time for someone to come to grips with the idea of bringing a court action against family members, there may be a car accident involved, there may be other personal injury, there may be somebody with whom one is living in close proximity or is dependent upon, and to require an action within two years may be a bit quick. Sometimes it takes a lot of courage for people to come forward to bring an action. We have seen that in the case of the sexual assault claims and I won't talk about the Mount Cashel case in particular because I am, as all members know, involved in them.

Although the government is proposing a long or no limitation period in the case of sexual assaults against the perpetrator, against the person who actually commits the assaults, other people who may, under our current law, have legal liability for the persons who commit the assaults are limited to two years. So, let us say for example, someone wants to bring an action against a schoolteacher for sexual assault.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) Ontario, isn't it?

MR. HARRIS: Yes. The minister says the limitation period is unlimited, but supposing the schoolteacher is no longer teaching school and is penniless and in fact, the only source of money for damages will come from the school board or some organization responsible.

Now we will have to get the legal expert for the government to advise whether or not an insurance company will be required to respond in these circumstances -

MR. REID: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: The Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs suggests that perhaps the Member for Humber Valley could give his opinion on it as he seems to do all his research on these matters, especially since he has been Justice critic his knowledge of the law seems to be very substantial, and the minister has suggested we put him in for an honourary LL D at the end of this session. It is a good suggestion.

I have some difficulties about how the sexual misconduct one would operate in terms of people other than the perpetrator. I think these are details that could be dealt with in committee. I have a little difficulty about everything going down to two years - all personal injuries down to two years. I have a little difficulty with that.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: Well, they aren't all now, I say to the minister. We are not down to two years on negligence, except against doctors and -

MR. ROBERTS: (Inaudible) general negligence is two years.

MR. HARRIS: The general negligence is for two years, but yet a breach of contract is still six. It seems to me that there are lots of circumstances where although a person may not have a disability they may be reluctant to bring an action within a two year period.

AN HON. MEMBER: Come on now, you have to get on with life.

MR. HARRIS: Well, you are talking about getting on with life. There are a lot of circumstances, I say. I am speaking here in broad principles, so we don't want to go into a lot of particulars, but there are circumstances where - I can see a car accident; this is an operation of an automobile insurance industry. People are well familiar with the necessity of bringing actions in those kinds of circumstances because insurance is involved, and it is very common, and a lot of people are very knowledgeable about that. In the case of other kinds of injuries, whether they are psychological damages or damages arising from other kinds of injuries, I don't think people are as familiar with the operation of the law; or where relatives are involved, or near relatives, or neighbours, or people upon whom one may be economically dependent are involved, there is a reluctance to bring an action, and the passage of time may change the circumstances to allow a person to come forward.

I am not so sure I agree with making individuals come forward on personal injury within two years, but where it is a breach of contract, where it is a debt, where it is a contract of another nature, that you have six years to do it. For stealing somebody's goods you have six years, but for damage, personal injury, you only have two years. It seems to me there is something amiss about that when we allow people to wait for five or six years to claim on property but require them to move within two years for other actions.

There are some - I have no problem including malicious prosecution, false imprisonment or defamation actions under a two year rule. If you are not going to react within two years after someone has defamed you, well, you might as well forget it. I would even agree with a shorter period for defamation, but in the interest of having few limitation periods I would agree with a two, six and ten in principle, and would think that certain actions should be brought within the six years that are now within the two. But as to the general principle of modernizing our law on limitations, getting rid of all these special limitations for specialist groups, I would agree with. That seems to be the basic thrust of the act. If we can get rid of the antiquated legislation, the archaic words and sometimes very obscure interpretations of what those words mean, I think that would be a positive step.

Having a ten year rule on land is a positive step. It would clear up an awful lot of land titles in this Province by having a ten year rule as opposed to a twenty year rule. It would make things a little smoother for people buying and selling land, or trying to establish title to land, to have that limitation period reduced. I never understood fully why, if the Minister of Justice were building a house on my land I could watch him for nineteen years and then sue him and ask him to get off. It never seemed to make sense to me why I would have that right to take action after twenty years when, in other circumstances one would have to act within two or six. Ten years seems to be perfectly adequate to take action to sort out any trespass to a person's land or encroachment upon that land by someone else. With that, Mr. Speaker, I will end my remarks and support in principle the bill, with some serious reservations about what particular tort should be in which category.

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

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, I thank hon. members and the detailed points that my friend from St. John's East raised, can be pursued at two stages. One is the Standing Committee to which we will refer the bill. I believe he sits on it and even if he does not, of course he has the right to attend and to participate in its proceedings and secondly, the debate in Committee of the Whole which will take place after the matter has been addressed by the Standing Committee.

With that said, Mr. Speaker, I move the bill be now read a second time.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Revise The Law Respecting Limitations," read a second time.

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, I move, pursuant to Standing Order 54.2 (3) that the bill entitled, "An Act To Revise The Law Respecting Limitations", be referred to the Social Services Committee.

MR. SPEAKER: That is Bill No. 38?

All in favour of the motion, `aye'

Those against, `nay'

Motion, carried.

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Order 29, Bill No. 41?

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act Respecting Standards Of Conduct For Non-Elected Public Office Holders" (Bill No. 41).

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

MR. ROBERTS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I will be I hope, brief, succinct and to the point in dealing with this bill. The bill will repeal and replace the present out-dated system by which the Province provides conflict of interest standards for non-elected persons in the public service, and members will note there is a very broad definition found in subsection (g) of section 2 of 2 (1) - 2.1 (g), a very broad definition of "public office holder" and essentially what it means, is people who draw their pay in whole or in part from money voted by the Legislature. Those are the people subject to this act with one exception, elected members of the House are governed by the Conflict of Interest Act which forms part of the House of Assembly Act, which was adopted in the latter part of 1992 or early in 1993; I think it is Chapter 1 of the 1993 Statutes.

Mr. Speaker, members will be interested to know that under the old regime, the one that has been in effect for about twenty-five years now, senior public servants are obliged to file statements with the Auditor General and they do in fact file them, about 1,500 a year do that, it costs us about $25,000 a year simply to print them without reference to the time it has consumed in preparing them or the time on the other end.

All 1,500, Mr. Speaker, are never examined. I am told by the Auditor General staff that there are somewhere of the order of 30,000 to 40,000 of these statements held in a room or a vault over in the Auditor General's quarters or under her direction in custody, that are never examined except, to make sure they are filed and, Mr. Speaker, that is one of the requirements we will be doing away with, with this bill.

Mr. Speaker, the principle of the bill is very straightforward. It is set out in section 3, in section 4 and section 5 and what they say, in detail and in very specific legal language, is that no public office holder may use his or her public office to benefit himself or herself improperly. That is what those three sections say and the rest of the bill, Mr. Speaker, is simply directed at carrying into effect those principles.

Most of the special provisions in the act, and my friend from Humber Valley who is fast winning a reputation for doing his homework, will concur that these special definitions for example, excluded private interests in families and so on, are modelled on and mirror the definitions in the House of Assembly Act. Those principles have now been in effect for three years and seem to be working very well, so we will apply them here as well and will simply - well, there have been one or two minor modifications to reflect the fact that public office holders are a little different from elected office holders, but nonetheless, with that said, they apply without any significant change.

We have also for example applied the post-employment provision. Post-employment provisions, the prohibitions against you know, doing a deal in effect while you are in office and stepping out of office and getting into an arrangement with a company with whom you were dealing while you were holding your office, and also the contracting provisions, the rules that say where a public servant may be party to a contract with the government for which he or she works, so we think, in that sense, while the bill is a step forward, it is not breaking new ground or re-inventing the wheels.

The other point I would draw to the attention of the House, Mr. Speaker, is that we have provided a mechanism whereby the principle is carried into effect. Basically, what we say is very straightforward and very simple: a public office holder is under an obligation to come forward and declare an interest or a potential interest. Now that is based upon the belief, which we think is beyond challenge or beyond reasonable challenge that an individual knows what he or she owns, nobody else knows as well as that individual. So the individual is under an obligation to come forward and to disclose and the disclosure provisions are essentially the ones (inaudible) deputy minister.

We have also provided a mechanism whereby, if an apparent conflict arises or if a public office holder fears there may be, he or she may be in an apparent or even an actual conflict, it can be resolved and as long as the public office holder declares fully, and frankly, then he or she may abide by the decision of the committee in the full confidence that that will be honoured. In other words, if you come forward and say: I hold shares in such and such a company and the committee makes a disposition, as long as the public office holder acts in accordance with that disposition, there is no problem or no fear of any sanction down the road.

Now, if there is not full disclosure or if there is not adequate disclosure or if there is improper disclosure, then of course, there are enforcement provisions and we can deal with those. Section 18, sets out the enforcement provisions and they are very comprehensive. It can go all the way from a reprimand to dismissal which the power is reserved to the Cabinet but the power to recommend is there, and, Mr. Speaker, with that said, let me add one other point.

The act is subject to proclamation. We intend it will come into effect on the 1st of April, 1996, that will allow a period of three or four months during which the Public Service Commission will conduct a training exercise to make sure everybody in the service is aware of his or her responsibilities under this new regime and is able to get him or herself into compliance with it, so we believe that is practical.

Members may ask about cost. I understand that the cost of a training program will be less than we would have spent to print the forms for next year and of course, the cost of the training program is a one-shot cost, whereas the cost of printing the forms is an annual recurring cost. With that said, Mr. Speaker, I move the bill be now read a second time.

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

MR. WOODFORD: Mr. Speaker, I just want to make a few short comments on this particular piece of legislation. There is just one section that I can see that would be different from the House of Assembly Act and that is the one called excluded private interest. I don't think it is going to make much difference anyway to a contract or so on but in the House of Assembly Act it is sort of stipulated right after that an asset, liability or financial interest of less then $10,000 in value or a source of income of less then $10,000 a year and so on. That is the only thing different from the House of Assembly Act -

MR. ROBERTS: That is because (inaudible).

MR. WOODFORD: Other than the public - okay, that probably explains that but an asset, liability or financial inquest of less than $10,000 in value. In any case, Mr. Speaker, like I said, it is not going to make a hell of a lot of difference to this particular piece of legislation.

As the minister has already stated, and it also says here one of the very first things this act may be cited as the conflict of interest act and so on. Somewhere here, where does it say that the act will be - the Conflict of Interest Act will be repealed?

MR. ROBERTS: Yes, the old -

MR. WOODFORD: The old conflict of interest - the last section, Section 22.1 says - that is the section under which all those other submissions and forms that were filed just the same as the members of the House of Assembly and I would say that probably 99 per cent of them were never looked at because it was probably only the deputy ministers, they might have been looked at or the assistant deputy ministers or something like that.

So, Mr. Speaker, in comparing the House of Assembly Act on members' interest, to this particular piece of legislation - a couple of things there sort of brings me back - now this 10 per cent one with regards to the members interest, for instance the 10 per cent share in a company or corporation anything less than that you don't have to declare it and so on. This is also, in Section 8 -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. WOODFORD: Yes, the same as in the House Act. Now that is a section, I have to say to the minister, I don't agree with that in the conflict of interest. Under members interest I don't agree with that and really I suppose if I don't agree with that particular part then I don't agree with this but having said that I just want to be on the record as stating that particular fact.

The one with regards to public competitions and tendering, I think it is Section 3.4(a): a contract that existed before the public office holder became - so now this one here, a contract awarded by public tender, I know that it will have to be reviewed by -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. WOODFORD: Yes, the only question I had there and I had it in some other cases too that I witnessed over the years is that most public tenders today got this caveat on the end, `lowest tender not necessarily accepted.' I find that a danger because I have heard stories and I am sure the minister has heard stories over the years and I found that - when I was a minister for a short six months, people who had left the department - I know this post office one, I will get to that, the post office section of this, post office employment. Some of it is addressed in that one but people who have left the department - you have witnessed it, other members here have seen it I am sure that contracts of $10,000 or $25,000 - say for argument sake the Department of Justice or the Department of Health, then all of a sudden they are back as a consultant. They know the individual in power, whether it is a minister, whether it is a deputy minister or assistant deputy minister or whatever, they know exactly what to do. They know exactly - the contract is over $25,000 it has to be tendered or any less then that they can put in a proposal and it will be accepted. So there are some dangers there that we will never be able to address them all, Mr. Speaker, but there are some dangers there, even with our particular piece of legislation.

In looking at the post employment section of this particular act, Section 19.1 on a provincial post office, the waiver - Section 19.3, the Lieutenant-Governor in Council may grant that public office holder a waiver or variance.

I notice that we changed, this year, the recommendations by the commissioner in our reports.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. WOODFORD: Yes, Mr. Mitchell, said that subsection 32, waiver exemption from public competitions, that the committee -

AN HON. MEMBER: That is the select committee (inaudible).

MR. WOODFORD: - that is the select committee that we had on that - he said the requirement under section 30 for a government department or Crown agency to obtain a waiver from the commissioner before granting contracts to former ministers within one year of their leaving office excludes contracts awarded by public tender. In the situation of a former minister or solicitor contract with the Department of Justice - I think that was Mr. Gover at that time - it was determined that -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. WOODFORD: Yes, he probably did, but it was determined that the public tender reference was not broad enough to encompass a public competition. Therefore, the public interest of a waiver had to be addressed. The Legislature may wish to consider whether employment contracts offered through public competitions conducted by the Public Service Commission should be explicitly referenced together with public tender as exclusions from a waiver under section 30.(2).

Now the recommendation made by the committee at that time addresses that particular problem.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. WOODFORD: No, you won't be getting a job. The only thing about it, it is not the same as a minister, but we did address that in the committee's report.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. WOODFORD: That is what I want to make reference to. I looked at this, the post-employment part of it. I looked at some of the cases I have seen over the years with regard to this, and then I remembered the recommendations made by the commissioner, because I had served on that committee in conjunction with, I think, the Member for Fortune - Hermitage and I just forget who else now. In any case, the minister has said that we will be bringing in some -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. WOODFORD: Yes, and there are other things in that; I won't go into that now as well.

All told, this particular piece of legislation - now there is one other question there on appeals before I... Subsection 14.(1).

AN HON. MEMBER: 14.(1)?

MR. WOODFORD: 14.(1), `The Lieutenant-Governor in Council shall appoint a Conflict of Interest Advisory Committee.' Now that is something that is different. That is something that is radically different.

If the minister could get up he could probably - I know it explains here regards the comprising of five persons, the Public Service Commission, and one senior official from the Department of Justice and so on, a lawyer or whatever. Anyway, the minister may want to just elaborate on that one a little bit. I found that one to be -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. WOODFORD: Anyway, when the minister gets up that is one of the concerns I had with regard to that particular piece of legislation, the advisory committee and the way it was established, or the members of the committee; but the minister, like I said, when he gets up he can address those particular problems.

Other than that, any other questions or any other concerns that I have on this particular piece of legislation I will address when it comes to committee.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I shall be succinct.

An Act Respecting Standards Of Conduct For Non-Elected Public Office Holders is welcome as it puts into legislation rules that are apparent and obvious to everyone. They are not buried in Orders in Council or Minutes in Council that may not receive the same amount of publicity or knowledge within the public service or in the public. It is a good piece of legislation, the details of which will need to be scrutinized in committee, so I won't -

AN HON. MEMBER: Standing committee (inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: Standing committee, and there may be people who want to appear before the standing committee, so I won't look at all of the details. I wonder whether public office holder is too broad, whether it includes people, perhaps university professors might be included since their money is voted from the Legislature as well, and I am looking at a similar definition in the Public Service Collective Bargaining Act which seems to be a very broad definition.

I wonder whether the restriction on doing business with the government should only be restricted to one's department. That seems to be the thrust of section 8, that it is only a contract with the department or agency of the government with which you are employed. It seems to me that is a bit too narrow. There are other provisions in the act that perhaps need to be scrutinized fairly well.

The act itself though is a good one. I would like to see some provision for the types of exemptions, the types of filings that take place where a person is receiving a waiver or an exemption, that there perhaps be some public access to that. That rulings by this advisory committee, the waivers that have been granted, there should be a method where the public, or the press most likely, could have easy or ready access to those kinds of things for their usual types of investigative reporting. At least so that they can satisfy themselves that people have received waivers or received notification of them.

This is something that can be discussed further in Committee. In principle this is a good piece of legislation, it is necessary, and I hope that we will have an opportunity to have the matter passed in this session of the House of Assembly.

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

The hon. the Minister of Justice.

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend for Burin - Placentia West. I appreciate his support and continue to count on it as I have these many years.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: Okay. I'm still going to buy the hon. member lunch, whether he supports me or not, because we are in the good spirit and fellowship of the Xmas season.

Mr. Speaker, I thank hon. members. Let me just make three brief comments. The advisory committee, it is a new idea, but we believe it is a very good one because it provides a mechanism by which advice can be given to public office holders who would come forward and say: We have a question, are we in a conflict? Or, if we do this, how do we resolve it? We believe it is appropriate to do it this way with a fairly broad representation, but not political. My friend for Humber Valley will note that in respect of deputy ministers and I think political staff the advice is given by the Cabinet, but that is because of the relationship between deputy ministers and the Cabinet.

Secondly, the definition of public office holder raised by my learned friend for St. John's East. We've given a great deal of thought to this, "we" being my officials and I, and then the Cabinet subsequently. We believe we have it right, but if we haven't I would welcome a discussion in Committee and would be open to an amendment that would improve this. We want to cast a very wide net, but if we have cast too wide, sobeit. We are prepared to look at amendments. I would say to him though that we spent a lot of time trying to get that one right and I wish him well. I do that with a positive and an open mind.

Finally, I'm taken by his suggestion that rulings by the committee or disposition of appeals, there ought to be a mechanism to communicate them. Perhaps he could put some thought into that and let me have some draft language and thoughts. Again, I'm open at Committee to that. The present conflict of interest advisory committee files a report which we see at Cabinet, I don't know, once a quarter or something. I have no problem with making that kind of thing public and people could see what is being done by their public service.

With that then I will close the second reading debate, but we will be referring the matter to Committee. These are bills which I think members would agree will profit from study at a Committee stage. People can come forward and be heard if they wish, and the Committee can also speak to my officials or any other officials of the government. We will make them available gladly to deal with issues to be raised.

I move the bill be read a second time, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

On motion, a bill, "An Act Respecting Standards Of Conduct For Non-Elected Public Office Holders," read a second time. (Bill No. 41)

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

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, I move, pursuant to Standing Order 54.2 (3) that the bill entitled "An Act Respecting Standards Of Conduct For Non-Elected Public Office Holders", be referred to the Social Services Committee.

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that this bill be now referred to the Social Services Committee. All those in favour `aye'.


MR. SPEAKER: Those against `nay'

Motion, carried.

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

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, notwithstanding the ingratiating attempts of my colleagues over here and their attempt to get the day off tomorrow, we will meet tomorrow but we will have an easy day because we will be dealing with Committee stages, I propose we start with Order 3, Committee of the Whole on a bill, "An Act To Amend The Hospital And Nursing Home Association Act", being Bill No. 9, and then we will work our way through as far as we can get if luck should go with us, we will go right through to Order 17, with luck.

Now I have asked the Clerks at the table to check if any of the bills we have previously referred out to Standing Committees are not back, we may have to postpone that.

MR. TOBIN: (Inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: The House is meeting. I don't know if my friend from Burin - Placentia West will care to join us or not but if so, he is welcome. Remember Ank Murphy? Ank Murphy once said he was going overseas to Bell Island and he meant it. Ank Murphy is a fine man, he grew up on Flower Hill and was very proud of it and he thought Elizabeth Avenue was the outskirts of the civilized world and when he said he was going over to Bell Island he said he was going overseas.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: The hon. gentleman grew up on Parade Street and he says it is true. I accept what he says. Those of us who have a wider horizon -

Your Honour, the House will adjourn at noon tomorrow so members can make their plans for the weekend on that basis. With that said, Mr. Speaker, I move the House adjourn until tomorrow, Friday, at nine o'clock and I thank members for their close and kindly attendance today.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

On motion, the House at its rising adjourned until tomorrow, at nine o'clock in the morning.