December 11, 1996         HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS          Vol. XLIII  No. 51


The House met at 2:00 p.m.

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

Before we begin routine proceedings for today, the Chair would like to welcome, on behalf of all members, thirty-one students from the Newfoundland Cultural Heritage class, St. Clare's Junior High School, Carbonear in the district of Carbonear - Harbour Grace. As well, we have fifty democracy and Canadian Law students from E. J. Pratt High School in Brownsdale, from the district of Trinity - Bay de Verde, along with their teachers, Mr. Jesse Bown and Mrs. Maggie Doyle.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Statements by Ministers

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

MS J. M. AYLWARD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I stand today to speak about the Government Home Support Program. The total budget for Home Support including seniors and people with disabilities is approximately $30 million. Five hundred and seventy-five (575) seniors in the Province will receive $13.5 million in home support services this year from the Department of Health.

Today I would like to address the approximately 1,200 people who have physical or developmental disabilities in this Province who will receive approximately $16.5 million this year from the Department of Social Services to purchase home support. The 1996-1997 budget for this program is $16.5 million which is a significant increase from the 1995-1996 approved budget of $10.2 million.

The Home Support Program has significantly expanded since its inception in 1985. It will continue to evolve depending on the demand for services and the fiscal ability of the Province to deliver these services. The Province of Newfoundland and Labrador is the only Province in this country which offers 24-hour home support for clients. As a Province with serious fiscal challenges, I think this speaks to this government's commitment to home support for those who need these services.

The Home Support Program for people with physical/development disabilities provides supports so they may continue to live at home or be supported in their own homes and apartments. The Department of Social Services has been working and will continue to work with families, advocacy groups, and clients to identify possible options to operate within the approved Budget. Currently, new applicants are approved on an emergency basis. Last year, we admitted approximately 200 new cases, and this fiscal year, so far, we have been able to approve seventy-five new cases.

On September 6, 1996, a $3,000 service limit was put in place for all new admissions to the program. While the service limit is $3,000 per month, some people continue to receive funding of $10,000 per month and more. Most people require less than this amount. In any case, our budget this year for the whole program is $16.5 million.

There are 110 people or less than 10 per cent of the total caseload, who receive more than $3,000 per month. Each of these persons was individually assessed and only reduced with the approval of the client, family, or representative. Thirty-five individuals have agreed to reduce their funding needs and seventy-five were not able to be reduced, and thus were left at their previous level of support. Any reduction in funding for existing clients is intended to allow more access to the program for new clients. All reductions for those currently receiving more than $3,000 per month was done with both the co-operation and the approval of clients and families.

Mr. Speaker, there is no new money. This year we were able to increase our budget from $10.2 million to $16.5 million without decreasing basic social assistance rates. The budget choices we made were very difficult but were done through consultation with people from all over the Province. We are continuing to work with clients, families, and advocacy groups to provide the best possible service.

Recently, our front-line staff have been maligned for doing haphazard assessments of clients. Mr. Speaker, I take strong exception to this. Our staff are dedicated professionals who have worked very hard with clients, families, and advocates, to ensure that all options have been explored and that the best possible solutions were found for the individuals concerned. I know this is not easy for clients, families, or staff. An assessment tool has been developed with the input from staff and consumers and should make the process an even better one. I am confident that our staff are working in the best interest of the clients and will continue to do so. I have every confidence in our front-line staff, and this government has every confidence in our front-line staff.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. H. HODDER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I thank the minister for forwarding a copy just seconds before the House opened. I want to say to the minister, yes, we agree that we have an aging population. The Strategic Social Plan paper that you have prepared for your government shows that, it is borne out by Stats Canada, it is self-evident. We have known for a long time that this kind of situation would develop in this Province; that is why in 1985, the government of the day introduced the Home Care Program. I want to note, as well, the minister says here that: Any reduction in funding for existing clients is intended to allow more access to the program for new clients. I hope that is not the same kind of commitment that was given when we said we were going to transfer funds saved in Education Reform to the children of Newfoundland and Labrador. We hope that is not a hollow promise but that it is a commitment.

Mr. Speaker, also, we have to keep in mind that in this Province today we have nearly ninety individuals who are in hospitals, wanting to go home, who are medically discharged but there are no funds and no place for them to go. We also note that it was your government that in August or July of this year, passed a memorandum in Cabinet, made a regulation that said: people who are eligible for home support payments would not have an appeal process. You just cancelled that completely, took away a fundamental right of many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

We also point out, what is happening in reality is that when we closed Exon House, when we closed all those other institutions, in reality, the extra money coming into your department should be reflected in savings in other departments, and it can be argued that we are not spending any new dollars whatsoever.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. H. HODDER: With leave, Mr. Speaker?

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


MR. SPEAKER: No leave.

MR. H. HODDER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi. Does the hon. member have leave?

AN HON. MEMBER: Sure, he has leave.

MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I agree with the minister that the home support program is desperately necessary and that the government is in fact saving money by reducing health care costs and the cost of having people in long-term care homes. But there are two serious problems that have been identified, Mr. Speaker, with home support program. Number one, the people who work in the home care support program are being discriminated against and abused by this government and number two, the problems are not being identified by this member -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HARRIS: - they are being identified by the people who are being, in some cases, arbitrarily reduced. The minister has said that everything is being done with the cooperation of families. But that is contrary to what she tabled in the House three or four days ago when she said everybody was cut by 10 per cent arbitrarily across the board, except those receiving less than $500.

Mr. Speaker, there are a lot of problems with this home care support program and they aren't being identified by maligning front-line workers. They are being identified by (inaudible) -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.


SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible)!

MR. HARRIS: - and by the policy of this (inaudible) -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. HARRIS: - including a nineteen-page assessment -

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

MR. HARRIS: - with very questionable questions on it.

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform the hon. members of the House of Assembly of the Agricultural Awareness Campaign across the Province. To launch this campaign, more than 100,000 full-colour place-mats depicting agricultural products and featuring facts and trivia about agriculture in Newfoundland and Labrador will be distributed to restaurants across the Province. Newfoundland and Labrador's 700 farms generated $64 million in sales, and furthermore, processed foods accounted for another $300 million in sales. But we can, we believe, do more.

Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are generally unaware of the extent of products produced locally. The Premier and I recently attended a luncheon - and I might add that I was offered up as an item on the menu; they didn't like fat foods - with the Food Processor's Association of Newfoundland and Labrador where they featured many of the numerous meat, fish and dairy products, beverages, baked goods, salad dressings, vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower, preserves, and so on, that are produced in this Province. I might add too that the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation was present.

How many of us know that Newfoundland and Labrador products are now successfully marketed in all of Canada, the United States, Japan, Denmark, Ireland, Russia, South Korea, Norway, the Caribbean, Hong Kong, and many other regions throughout the world? And locally, did you know that farmers in this Province produce all the milk and eggs we consume? However, most people would not recognize that there are opportunities in these areas to increase individual consumption to national levels according to Canada Food Guide standards. These are but a few examples that show why it is important to increase the awareness of agriculture and the food industry so that we can foster new ideas to take advantage of these opportunities.

To do this, my department has secured $375,000 over a three-year period through the Federal-Provincial Agriculture Safety Nets Agreement to promote agriculture in the Province. We will target the education community, producers and farmers, the processing industry, media, policy makers, the general public and other professionals, such as health care workers, scientists, agrologists, to increase the understanding and appreciation of the agri-food sector from farm gate to the consumer plate.

Moreover, Mr. Speaker, we want Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to invest in agriculture in this Province. This Awareness Campaign is an important part of an overall strategy to foster growth in the agricultural sector.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I thank the minister for providing me with a copy of this ministerial statement before the House opened. I say to the minister that I hope his 100,000 place-mats are more popular than his campaign buttons still found in the trunk of his car. It is not place-mats that we want to see; it is food that we want to see on the table. That is what we want to see.

When we see the same government acknowledging the $8 million to $10 million, the $10 million to $13 million, done away with just a few short years ago through the atlantic freight subsidy, when we see the hurt that has had on farmers in this Province, that is not what the place-mats are going to cure, I say to the minister.

What the minister should be delivering here in this House is a marketing plan whereby the farmers' vegetables will be marketed in a proper and professional way, whereby the farmers' produce will be able to get on our supermarket shelves plus the supermarket shelves of Atlantic Canada.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FITZGERALD: Mr. Speaker, when you see our own milk leaving this Province and going to other provinces only to come back as cottage cheese or UHT, and then go on our supermarket shelves, that tells us we have a problem here, especially when you see unemployment in this Province at about 40 per cent.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. FITZGERALD: And this minister expects us to jump with joy when we hear that place-mats are going to be put in restaurants and put on the tables.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. FITZGERALD: Stand up, I say to the minister, and respond to the need.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Does the hon. Member for Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi have leave?

AN HON. MEMBER: No leave.

MR. SPEAKER: No leave.

Oral Questions

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My questions today are to the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation.

On November 19, the minister, in a ministerial statement, recognized that the current highway infrastructure in Labrador is inadequate, and she outlined a ten-year plan to build a much needed highway from Happy Valley - Goose Bay to Red Bay, and to upgrade the portion from Churchill Falls to Happy Valley - Goose Bay. I ask the minister if she would tell this House what her department estimates the total cost of that project will be?

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

MS BETTNEY: Mr. Speaker, as I indicated at the time that I provided information on this particular project, we are in the process of negotiating for a deal with the federal government to be able to implement the Trans-Labrador Highway project. We are in the process of those negotiations at the current time. They are ongoing and I am not able now, as I was then, to provide specific details on the cost items associated with the negotiations. They are in progress. I believe that to provide information on specific details of the negotiations, particularly of a financial nature, could undermine or jeopardize the success of these negotiations and consequently they are proceeding. They are proceeding very favourably. I do expect them to conclude within the time frames that I previously referred to which could be as early as the end of the year.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The minister is telling us that she is up negotiating for money to do a Trans-Labrador Highway and she does not know how much money she is looking for? Is that what the minister is telling us? I am sure your departmental engineers have provided an estimate. All I am asking for, could you give a dollar estimate, in the ball park, of how much it costs to do the highway? Is it $400 million, $600 million, $700 million? Not to have those figures and to go to Ottawa negotiating for money when you don't know what the project is going to cost. I mean that is her responsibility.

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

MS BETTNEY: Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition has misinterpreted my comments. I certainly did not indicate that the department or myself did not know what the absolute costs of all of the details of the negotiations that we are now involved with. We know every aspect of the details of the cost and we are involved in a complex set of negotiations associated with this. What I am saying is that we are unable, at this time, to provide public information on the specific financial details of the negotiations that we are involved in because it could jeopardize, it could undermine the success of this and I am not willing to put that success in jeopardy. This is too important to the people of Labrador and to the Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I certainly agree it is very important to the people of Labrador. I don't consider it top secret that the department cannot tell us how much it is going to cost to build a road from point a to point b. There is something secret about that, I say to the minister.

Now maybe the minister can answer this question: in order to fund this service the federal government and Marine Atlantic are going to relinquish the ferry service and pass it over to this Province to ensure that happens in the interim until we see a road that is badly needed. Now at the current rate that they are paying on this for cargo and passengers, could the minister tell us now how much is needed now by Marine Atlantic to subsidize the current ferry service that is there at the moment?

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

MS BETTNEY: Mr. Speaker, I'm not quite sure what the thrust of the question is. At the time that I briefed the House and briefed the people of Labrador on this whole project I provided information at that time on the framework of the negotiations.

Yes, the negotiations do involve looking at the whole marine services of Labrador and negotiating with the federal government the Province's willingness to assume the marine services of Labrador for a cost. Now, the actual cost of the Marine Atlantic service at this time is one aspect of this whole series of negotiations, as well as the ultimate cost that the Province would have to assume to maintain a service in the short term and to provide a continuing service that Labrador will require through the course of the development of the Trans-Labrador Highway, and once it is completed.

So I can simply say at this point that this is one factor that is involved in these negotiations. Again, there is a range of costs that would be associated with it from the provincial perspective. It is a factor we will take into consideration as we come to some conclusions on an acceptable financial compensation for assuming this responsibility as a province.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. A simple question, I say to the minister, that is what I asked. How much is it now costing to subsidize the ferry service on the routes that are going to be replaced if we strike an agreement? How much is it now being subsidized? A simple question. I don't think that is something the public shouldn't be aware of. It is subsidized out of taxpayers' dollars, and I think the minister should have that figure at her fingertips. I will make it easier for the minister. Will you confirm it is approximately $11 million?

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

MS BETTNEY: Mr. Speaker, this is not a provincial government subsidy. This is a subsidy that is being provided between the federal government and Marine Atlantic. I think the appropriate place to put the question is to Marine Atlantic and to the president of Marine Atlantic, or to the federal government.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I'm appalled that this minister in government is going to Ottawa to negotiate taking over a ferry service and build a much needed highway. They don't know what the highway is going to cost, they don't know what the -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible)!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. SULLIVAN: They aren't prepared to tell the public what the high road is going to cost.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. SULLIVAN: That is a different question.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member is on a supplementary. I ask him to get to his question.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. In light of the fact that the minister doesn't want to tell the public what the highway will cost, and in light of the fact that she doesn't want to tell the public how much is being subsidized, will the minister confirm that they are having problems with negotiating an appropriate amount with the federal government, and they are only prepared to pay $350 million when the cost is substantially higher?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS BETTNEY: Mr. Speaker, I reiterate two comments I made earlier. One was that the minister and the department know very clearly and accurately all of the potential costs associated with this set of negotiations. Secondly, with respect to the actual negotiations, I indicated earlier they are proceeding favourably. I expect they will be successfully concluded within the time frame I stated here earlier, which should be by the end of the year.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I ask the minister, is the Province prepared to provide the difference in what is needed and what the federal government provides to ensure that this project proceeds?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I want to rise to say on behalf of all the members of the government that we have the absolute greatest confidence in the negotiating skills of the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation. She understands the first rule of a negotiation is that you don't do it in public. The second rule of a negotiation is you don't lay down a marker in public. The third rule is you get the best possible deal for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

These are the same kind of questions we heard when we heard: you are never going to get a smelter refinery complex. They are never going to spend that kind of money in Newfoundland and Labrador. These were the same kind of comments we heard when we heard people say: You can't go out and stop foreign vessels on the high seas from overfishing.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I know that the forecast has been: rain, drizzle and fog but it is time for this Leader of the Opposition to see a bit of sunshine in Newfoundland and Labrador.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I say to the Premier, if you think fishing has stopped, you read the activity reports that are going out there now and I will get to that with you later, if you think it is decreased.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. SULLIVAN: I ask the minister or maybe the Premier, if the Premier feels the minister does not want to give us the figures and he does not want an answer - if there is a shortfall in negotiations, are they going to prioritize what roads are needed to be done or, is the Province going to give a commitment to ensure that the ten-year plan is completed?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition wants me to read the Teleost Report, I had the entire captain and crew including the scientific officers of the Teleost at my house for a reception a few days ago. We had a great conversation, and if he wants to talk about fisheries conservation, we would be glad to talk about it. But, if he wants to talk openly about a negotiation on highways, the Trans-Labrador Highway to be specific, we are not going to do it here because it is not in the best interest of the Province, but I would recommend that the Leader of the Opposition do what the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation has done, and that is, to go to Labrador, to visit Labrador communities, to talk to Labrador leaders, to consult Labradorians, to seek their advice.

They are satisfied, Mr. Speaker, that a serious negotiation is underway right now which best protects the interest of Labradorians and the Leader of the Opposition can be sure that we will accept no arrangement that is not favourable to the Province as a whole and to Labradorians in particular, and I say to the Leader of the Opposition, have some faith in this minister. This minister has earned again and again and again, the confidence of the people of the Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Mr. Speaker, my question this afternoon is for the hon. Premier on the topic of education reform savings.

Yesterday, Mr. Speaker, in response to my questions here in this House, the Minister of Education said the government never made a firm commitment to redirect the savings achieved in education reform back into the classroom. So in view of the disbelief, Mr. Speaker, this is generating amongst people in the Province, will the Premier please tell us where he stands.

Does he stand by his Minister of Education, who says a commitment was never made or, does he stand, Mr. Speaker, by the package of documents that he himself prepared, he signed and he brought with him and he distributed to MPs and Senators in Ottawa last spring, that said: The proposed reforms, Mr. Speaker, will provide the opportunity to redirect these savings to the classroom level for the benefit of our students?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I am glad that the hon. member in asking his question, quoted accurately and completely from one sentence in a very comprehensive document that was presented, and I will repeat it again because it bears repeating and it is accurate and is what we have been saying for several years now since the reform agenda has been put forward, Mr. Speaker, as a result of the Williams' Commission Royal Report in 1992.

Again, in part of that comprehensive brief that traced the root and the history of the Newfoundland and Labrador Education System from 1949 to 1996, painting the whole picture of declining enrolments, the change in the number of schools, the administration of the system, the budgetary provisions, the busing provisions, all of that were in that package, Mr. Speaker, and one of the points made was the one that he just read which did state clearly that the proposed reforms will provide the opportunity to redirect these savings to the classroom level for the benefit of our students and the government has said repeatedly: We believe in that, that has always been the aim, goal and objective of a government but it is unfortunate and sad, Mr. Speaker, that a government cannot be honest with the people, stand up and say what their goals and objectives are, and for political reasons have an opposition turn around and say: That is a promise that you made to the people. You did not keep a promise, you broke a promise, you did not keep your word, Mr. Speaker, everybody knows and in the context of every discussion that has every been made, when a government, any government makes a commitment on any issue, everybody always knows and understands that it is dependent upon the monetary financial fiscal position of the Province to deliver. That has been the case in education, Mr. Speaker, last year, and the hon. member might be interested to have himself and everybody else reminded. Last year in our Budget deliberations we announced here in this House after the election in February, in the early spring, we indicated that we had taken all this into consideration. Everybody knew exactly what we had said about education reform. It was well known in the public sector.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. minister to conclude his answer.

MR. GRIMES: With respect to the whole issue when the government listened to the people of the Province in another public -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. minister to complete his answer quickly.

MR. GRIMES: Yes, Mr. Speaker.

Do not raise taxes, do not reduce expenditure on health care, and in those areas then the next priority was education. We will deal with it again this year and find our in short order what the actual

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. minister to take his seat.

The hon. the Member for St. John's East on a supplementary.

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Mr. Speaker, I ask the Premier who is telling the truth? Is it the Minister of Education who says there was no commitment to put savings from education reform back into the classroom to improve education, or is it the Minister of Justice who told people at a public forum, as recorded and rebroadcast by the media, that the savings from education reform would indeed be redirected into the classrooms of this Province?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, with respect to the member opposite the whole line of questioning is taking an important evolution in the Province, an important change in the Province, which is education reform, completion of the job to have the amendment constitutionalized through a vote of the House of Commons, and then turning around at this juncture when we have to move in a very short period of time to do a great deal of work to enable the boards to get on with the job of reform, Mr. Speaker, and frankly I say to the member, trying to find some way now to try and score some political points on the issue.

Mr. Speaker, let me just introduce a measure of reality. The reality is that Newfoundland and Labrador today has $9 billion worth of debt. That is the Province we are living in, with less than 600,000 souls we have -

MR. SULLIVAN: Well, you knew that last year.

PREMIER TOBIN: I would like to answer the question.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

PREMIER TOBIN: We have $9 billion worth of debt. We know that. We have been dealing with the deficit. Now, Mr. Speaker, I ask you to give me a moment. If you take the budgets of the Department of Health - I ask, please, one moment to be heard.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

PREMIER TOBIN: If you take the budgets of the Department of Health, the Department of Education, the Department of Social Services, and the Department of Justice, alone, in excess of 80 per cent of the entire budget is now used up. That is a fact. I ask the member if he wants the government to spend more on education, and that is what he is saying, where should we spend less? We cannot spend money we don't have, so I ask, what does he want us to cut, Justice, Health, cancel the Mount Cashel settlement, cancel the pay equity arrangement? What does the member want?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for St. John's East on a supplementary.

MR. OTTENHEIMER: After all that what remains is the truth, and the truth is that there was indeed a commitment to redirect education reform savings back to the children of this Province, and I ask the Premier if he remembers saying in this House as recently as May 23 of this year that: We need our dollars to go to work in the classrooms of Newfoundland and Labrador, and not in the administrative rooms of Newfoundland and Labrador. Why is he now breaking his commitment, Mr. Speaker, to put these very savings back into the classrooms for these children? Why is the Premier breaking his word to the children of this Province?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: The member is clearly not interested in my judgement in the proper administration of the Province, including the pursuit of the completion of the mission of education reform. The fact of the matter is that the member wants us to prejudge a budget process which will come forward later on in the new year before we talk about what goes in the classrooms versus what goes to administration.

What has happened with education reform? We are moving from twenty-seven school boards down to ten school boards. There is a substantial amount of money that is now going for administration that is going to be a saving.

Mr. Speaker, in due course we are going to have fewer schools in the long term in the Province, both because we have declining enrolments today and because we are going to rationalize some of the operations in the Province today.

Now, is the Conservative Party saying - and I think they should say clearly - that even with declining enrolments, even with the lowest student/teacher ratio in the country today, even with school boards being reduced by almost two-thirds, that all of that savings, 100 per cent of it, should be redirected to the education budget, notwithstanding the fiscal position of the Province.

Further, Mr. Speaker, to pick up on what the member said yesterday, is the member saying, on behalf of his party, that in the absence of that the Conservative Party will now work against the reform package? Is that what he is saying?


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

MR. H. HODDER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My questions are to the Minister of Social Services.

On June 17, 1996, the home support workers on the Southern Avalon Peninsula went on strike. That strike is now in its sixth month. The main issue in this strike centres around the value of the care of senior citizens, and the value of the women's work in the workplace. The strike is about equal pay for work of equal value. I ask the minister: Are you and your government committed to that principle for the working women of Newfoundland and Labrador?

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

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Early in the summer, when this strike occurred, I met with the home support workers on a number of occasions and told them very honestly the situation we were in. Our budget had increased from $10.2 million to $16.5 million. If we were to allocate any new monies to provide increase in the regulations which would allow more money to be paid for salaries and other benefits, it would have to very clearly come from child welfare provisions or from the basic social assistance allowance. I have no new money. The money I have has been allocated, and we are working to redirect the savings that we have in home support to allow more people to enter into the home support program.

The choice is clear. Do we want to cut the money from the people to whom we are providing the service, or do we take that money and put it towards the people who are providing the service? That is the choice we had to make. We are not proposing to change the regulations at this time.

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

MR. H. HODDER: Madam Minister, these workers deliver your mandate.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. H. HODDER: And your mandate is to the seniors and to the disabled people of Newfoundland and Labrador. These workers receive, on average, $5.57 per hour. That is a shameful comment, that these people have to be on strike for six months in order that they can improve their living conditions.

I say to the minister: These people have no bereavement leave, no family leave; they do not have the benefit of lay-off notices, no workers' compensation, no overtime pay.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. H. HODDER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I ask Madam Minister: Why won't you, as minister, accept your responsibilities and become more proactive in trying to find a sensible, reasonable, compassionate, and rational solution to this long-term labour dispute?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to answer the question by asking my hon. colleague: Are you proposing that I reduce the money available for services for the family, a rehabilitative service component for the physically and mentally disabled in the Province? That is the choice I have to make. If I take the money and put it into salaries, I take it from the services that the clients are receiving.

My hon. colleague earlier said that we are reviewing the workers' compensation legislation. I have a choice. If I put more money into salaries, I take it from child welfare or basic income support. I ask you for you suggestion as to where it should come from.

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

MR. H. HODDER: Mr. Speaker, the minister is very good at side-stepping. It is not my responsibility; it is Madam Minister's responsibility.

I want to ask a question which is still on home care. When the minister was giving her ministerial statement, she mentioned the fact that she had every confidence in her front-line staff. She complained about what she deemed to be maligning of staff for their haphazard assessments of clients. I say to the minister, it was your department that told the people connected with home care -gave them a long list of directives and said here is where we can cut. Then you said: Would you please be creative in finding new ways, in addition to these, to cut home care?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member is on a supplementary.

MR. H. HODDER: I ask: Has the minister now withdrawn that directive to social workers in Newfoundland and Labrador so that her front-line workers can be more compassionate, more caring and not have to think that they are being viewed by the senior people in her department as being inefficient if they do not come up with new solutions and more creativity to further hurt the people of Newfoundland and Labrador who need her help?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

AN HON. MEMBER: The minister should resign immediately.

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

MS J. M. AYLWARD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

If the hon. member also read this Ministerial Statement, he would have known that of the 110 people that had been assessed, thirty-five were reduced and seventy-five were maintained at the current level, because on an individual case-by-case basis we sat down with family members, our front-line workers, and came to that agreement. There was no arbitrary reduction, and I take great offence to hear that our front-line staff are making assessments by walking past a window and saying, reduce the service. I think it is a derogatory comment and quite frankly, I have a lot more confidence in our front-line staff than some of the people on the other side of the House who callously make remarks about their abilities!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

My question is for the Minister of Education. It deals with the ongoing negotiations between the Federal Government and the Province with respect to the possible takeover of provincial training programs, provincial employer programs and sponsorship for non-degree granting courses up to three years. Can the minister update the House today on where those negotiations are? What is the status of them? Does the Province intend to take over that responsibility? If it does, when will it happen? Could he answer those questions please?

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

MR. GRIMES: Just very briefly, Mr. Speaker, we have been having the discussions conducted with our department and the Department of Development and Rural Renewal. My colleague, the Minister of Development and Rural Renewal has been taking the lead role because it is a much broader thing than just some of the education issues.

With it, Mr. Speaker, if he wants further information, he could ask a supplementary and my colleague would provide additional information; but we are taking the general approach in the discussions that the preferred position for the Province - rather than say the Alberta model which was concluded a little while ago, where that province took over complete control, complete delivery, and secured the funding from Ottawa - is that we are more interested in an approach where Ottawa will provide the funding, deliver the services under the three different benefit packages that are described but that the Newfoundland and Labrador Government, on behalf of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, would have a much more direct say in terms of defining the criteria and the basis and parameters of the different programs. So that is the thrust of our negotiation. It is proceeding and my colleague can give you more details as to expected time lines for conclusion.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, I will ask another question, a supplementary to the Minister of Development and Rural Renewal.

The minister has, in a general way, answered some specific questions, but specifically: Is there a plan in place now where the Province - say, by April 1 of this year - will take over responsibility for training? Who will actually decide - provide the assessments on the one hand and decide who will be sponsored or not? If so, how much money has been negotiated from Ottawa to the Province to see that that happens? How long will that commitment be made from the Federal Government to the Province with respect to the employment and training programs for the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Development and Rural Renewal.

MS FOOTE: Mr. Speaker, the discussions are ongoing with the Federal Government, with my counterpart, the hon. Pierre Pettigrew. My department has been taking the lead on the employment benefits tools and there are four of those, of course; wage subsidies, wage supplements, self-employment assistance and job creation partnerships with the private sector. The skills, loans and training component of the employment benefits tools certainly is one on which we are working very closely with the Department of Education. At this point in time, we are further ahead in our negotiations on the other four of the five employment benefit tools. So we will, hopefully have reached a conclusion in terms of our negotiations with the Federal Government by the end of this month on those four components.

On the skills, loans and training, we are having a little more difficulty because, as you indicated, there is a totally different approach in terms of the delivery. The focus will be on the individual instead of on the institution in terms of the money flowing. So it will be a voucher-type system.

Clearly, our concern here is to make sure that the Federal Government stays involved in this process and that we do not go the route Alberta has gone, and that is complete devolution. We want to make sure that in our negotiations we get the three-year commitment, but rolling commitment as well so that we will continue on with it. But we are trying to work a deal that is going to be in the best interests of every Newfoundlander and Labradorian. On skills, loans and training component of the employment tools, that is going to take us a little bit longer. But yes, we are looking at April 1, and clearly it will be a different approach, but one that we will have the final say in the design and the delivery.

MR. SPEAKER: Time for a quick supplementary.

The hon. the Member for Kilbride.

MR. E. BYRNE: A final supplementary, Mr. Speaker, to whichever minister is responsible, because it seems that both departments have different responsibilities with respect to these negotiations.

The Federal Government has stated categorically that they want out of training programs. Basically the initiative is coming forth to save a tremendous amount of money. Is it not a fact that the reason negotiations have stalled is because the Federal Government are not willing to put the necessary dollars into the Province for the Province to take it over, and that the Province, in fact, has some very serious problems with that? Is that true? If it is, could you elaborate on it, please?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Development and Rural Renewal.

MS FOOTE: No, that is not true, Mr. Speaker. In fact, they have come to the table and had complete discussions and an agreement with us to continue to deliver and continue to put the money into the program. What we are saying is that we want to be part of the design. In fact, they have agreed to allow us to design and to allow us to deliver where we want to deliver, but they are going to stay involved in this process. And no, there is no indication that there will be less money coming into the Province for training.

MR. SPEAKER: Question Period has elapsed.


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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is my pleasure today to rise and present a petition signed by approximately 12,000 people. Mr. Speaker, I will just read the prayer of the petition. It is addressed to the Honourable House of Assembly, the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador in Parliament assembled. The undersigned residents of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador ask for the House of Assembly to accept the following petition:

We, the undersigned residents of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, do hereby petition the House of Assembly to direct the Department of Education to legislate a paid, adult bus monitor program for all school buses in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

We find that the students are presently being unsupervised and are at risk in their safety going to and from school on school buses. The safety of our children is being compromised. We ask the hon. minister and his government to show compassion, leadership and understanding to insure the safe transportation of our children.

Mr. Speaker, almost 90,000 children go to school every single day by school bus in over 1,000 buses in this Province and in the sole responsibility of a single driver. A driver, who may have seventy-two primary school kids in his care or her care, may have a combination of elementary and high school, in some instances, young kids six years of age and younger on buses with people nineteen years of age and in some instances older, and a single driver who is entrusted with responsibility, even more responsibility than classroom teachers who may have only fifteen, twenty or twenty-five within their care.

The Premier said today, we have the best pupil/teacher ratio in the country, we have three times, actually four times as many as that pupil/teacher ratio entrusted in the care of a single bus driver. Statistics will bear it out, that in the ten-year period from 1985 to 1995, there were 591 bus accidents in this Province, I mean, that is an average of almost sixty per year. That is very significant, and there were 155 bus-related injuries during that same period. Just this past year, we saw another fatality on top of the five fatalities we had in the Province in the previous ten years. I mean, it is a very serious business, bus transportation.

I taught at the high school level for twenty years, I am fairly familiar with transportation of students, and many primary, elementary and high school students all travel on that same bus; and is a major task, just the control of those students, the care for driving that bus in the winter time poses severe problems in instances. I think it is important that the proper care and attention should be provided and when field trips and other school functions are organized, we take great care to see that there is a sufficient number of teachers or supervisory people per student. Some people expect, on certain trips, a ratio of ten to one or fifteen to one, even twenty to one depending on the nature of the activity, depending on the location of the activity, depending on the age of the people involved.

I think it is incumbent really, upon this government who have indicated under Education Reform that they are going to save several millions. The minister and the former minister have indicated on many occasions that several million is going to be saved in bus transportation in this Province, and I think bus transportation is a mechanism, not only to transport people from their homes under the care of an individual to the schools, but we have a responsibility to ensure, Mr. Speaker, that these people are transported in a safe manner. But it is too late when we have other fatalities happen and it is devastating for the family and for that school. The peer groups of those children can have a dramatic effect on their lives and I think it is important that our Province take the necessary steps to insure that these young kids, and particularly young kids, can have the proper supervision, not huddled on a bus, seventy-two of these young kids, three in a seat, on the edge of some seats, not even safely seated because there is no requirement I understand for seat belts and appropriate structures and it is a high-risk situation, Mr. Speaker.

When we are talking about, over the next period of time, closing some other schools in the Province - the number has been listed at probably 100 - even if it is five more schools, it means people are going to be transported longer distances over road conditions that are not the most acceptable in the Newfoundland climate. I am sure, certainly in Labrador, people are transported to school even before daylight in certain instances.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. SULLIVAN: We call upon this government to take bus safety seriously here, to move forward, and to respect the wishes of the 12,000 people who have submitted their names on a petition to that effect.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am pleased to stand in support of this petition this afternoon, which is being presented by my colleague on behalf of some 12,000 residents of this Province; 12,000 residents who feel quite strongly about an issue which is important, concerning the transportation of students.

Mr. Speaker, a school bus safety proposal has been presented, perhaps one of many, I would suggest to the hon. the Speaker, dealing with many issues respecting student transportation in our Province: for example, the proper and adequate supervision of students on buses involving, as well as boarding: the leaving of buses, driver selection and training, proper school bus maintenance and vehicle communication, safety education programs for students and parents, teachers and drivers, a bus safety awareness education program for the public, and scheduled bus routes. These are the important features of school bus safety and transportation issues and, as I have indicated, they are part of a proposal which has been presented, in particular, by Holy Family School in Paradise.

Sadly it was this school, of course, which we all recall, where there was a tragedy a number of months ago. Obviously, this tragedy has resulted in affirmative action being taken by the parents and by the administration of this school in gathering the support of some 12,000 parents and students across this Province in dealing with the fundamentally important issues of school busing and transportation in this Province.

There are numerous recommendations found in this proposal. I would only hope that the minister will take the time to review them carefully, to take them into consideration, and to give serious thought as to how the issue of school busing and transportation services being provided in the Province can be improved to ensure that students at all times are being protected and that their well-being is being secured.

Mr. Speaker, I have no difficulty whatsoever in standing in support of this petition as being presented by my colleague on this very important issue.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I do not believe a lot of commentary is required again. I just want to add a little additional information because this issue has been raised several times by way of petition. Again, I think, for those in years in the future and so on, and maybe even in a shorter period of time, the next few weeks and so on, we might be interested enough to look in Hansard and see what people actually said about this in the debate. As long as we know for the record, clearly, that the Opposition is now stating 100 per cent total, unequivocal support for the fact that there have to be adult, paid monitors, paid for by the government, and that is the position, and that if they were the government of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador they would do that regardless of anything else to do with bus safety, school issues, health issues, social services issues, or anything else; that is the kind of thing they would definitely commit to.

The reality, Mr. Speaker, is that we have had a comprehensive study of school bus safety issues, the whole range of issues, done just recently in Labrador, and we responded to that group. We committed, myself and my colleague, the hon. the Member for Topsail and the hon. Member for Conception Bay East and Bell Island, I think is the name of the riding now. We consulted with the parents from Holy Family school, in particular. Myself and my colleague, the hon. the Member for Topsail, dealt with the issue at a public meeting in Topsail, I believe. The issue was dealt with, and the parents were very serious about it. There is a range. There are ten or eleven different issues which they have raised and asked us to get back to them. We have committed to respond to them. As to a review of the regulations that I pointed out before that were put in place in the late 70s, were reviewed on at least ten occasions in the ten years from 1979 to 1989 when members opposite, or people of their particular party, formed the government, were seen to be adequate, and not only adequate, Mr. Speaker, but the best in Canada at this point in time. We have committed to a further review. The least of all the concerns would be whether or not adult monitors had to be paid from the public purse.

One of the things that maybe has passed by the members opposite with respect to the new legislation we are debating in school reform and education reform, is a piece of the legislation, Mr. Speaker, that gives school boards the ability to collect a fee for busing services if they chose. It was an issue that we discussed frankly and openly with the parent group. If the parents in any school believe that their number one priority is to have paid adult monitors on a bus, and they want that above and beyond everything else in the system, then now, legislatively and every other way, they can provide for that themselves, even if the government does not come forward with additional funding for busing and for the paid adult monitors.

The reality, again, Mr. Speaker, is, if we were to say that we are going to put aside the hundreds of thousands of dollars that it would take to pay adult monitors on the buses in Newfoundland and Labrador - actually, that is an underestimate, it is the millions of dollars - then we would go back and discuss that honestly with the people at a meeting. We would have to go back and say: We are doing this because you asked but now we are cutting out this program, we are cutting out that program, and we are cutting out some other program. They said they hoped that would not be the case but that is the reality of the world we live in.

We are dealing seriously with the issues of school bus safety, school bus monitors, and all the issues with respect to safe transportation for students. I firmly believe at the end of the day that the parents will be satisfied with the position of the government when it is explained to them in the context of the Newfoundland and Labrador scene, and the national scene.

I believe, Mr. Speaker, that if it is a priority, as these people who sign these petitions say it is, they will be more than willing to come forward and pay $5.00 or $10.00 a month themselves to pay for adult monitors on buses. If they really believe the spirit of their conviction that led them to sign the petition, they will pay for the monitors and be glad to do so, at very minimal cost to them, but in the aggregate and total, at a very large, hugh, unmanageable cost for government.

I understand them bringing forth the petition, but I think the broader issue, when it is discussed, debated and explained, we will see better improved attention paid to school bus safety for children, but it probably will not include paid adult monitors from government funds.

MR. E. BYRNE: A point of order, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Kilbride, on a point of order.

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, I stand on a point of order dealing with a matter related to Question Period. It is pretty clear that in Question Period that questions are put - in Beauchesne it says that answers to questions should be as brief as possible, deal with the matter raised and should not provoke debate. Over the last number of Question Periods it seems to me, while sitting in the House as a member, that the Minister of Education takes a great deal of time to deal with matters other than what has been raised. He goes on and on and does not deal necessarily with the question at hand. The Premier, on many occasions, has done the same, and also the Minister of Health.

My point of order, Mr, Speaker, is that I would like to point out to all members that Question Period is exactly that, Question Period, and clearly in Beauchesne, Page 123, Section 417, "Answers to questions should be as brief as possible, deal with the matter raised and should not provoke debate".

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair is ready to rule on that point of order.

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: If the hon. member wants to make a brief comment, quickly. It is now three o'clock and we are to move on.

MR. TULK: I would very quickly like to say to the hon. member that he is absolutely right, answers to questions should be very brief, as should questions. The Speaker is the person who rules on that and I am sure he is going to tell us now that he will see that those rules are carried out. When the Speaker tells somebody to take their place, they do it. It is the ruling that basically guides the Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

To the point of order. Really, it is not a point of order, but I want to say that questions and answers should be brief. The Chair has recognized that on a number of occasions members have been a bit longer in their answers and longer in their questions. I have brought that to the member's attention and have asked the member speaking to take his place.

I also want to refer hon. members to Section 31 of our own Standing Orders 31(6) which says: "The Speaker's rulings related to oral questions are not debatable or subject to appeal."

Orders of the Day

Private Members' Day

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Port au Port.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is a pleasure for me today to rise in this House and to bring forward a motion on behalf of a group I've had the privilege to work closely with for the last couple of years. First of all, if I could just run through the motion.

"Whereas ground search and rescue organizations have been in existence in this Province since 1972;

"And whereas at the present time ground search and rescue units exist throughout most of the Province, both on the Island and in Labrador;

"And whereas these ground search and rescue organizations provide a very important service to the people of this Province;

"And whereas at the present time these ground search and rescue organizations are dependent primarily on local fund raising to finance their operations;

"Therefore be it resolved that this hon. House, on behalf of the people of this Province, express its appreciation and support for the work of these ground search and rescue organizations;

"And be it further resolved that the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador officially recognize the efforts of these organizations and actively explore ways of assisting them in carrying out their very important work on behalf of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador."

Mr. Speaker, I was first elected to this House in 1993, and shortly thereafter I was contacted by the unit that operates in my area of the Province, and had occasion at that time to meet with the coordinator for that group and discuss with him his experiences over ten years in working with that group, primarily a number of issues of concern, problems that he and his group had experienced over the years in trying to deliver this service to the people of the Stephenville - Bay St. George area.

I'm sure everyone in this House has had occasion to be somewhat familiar with these particular groups, whether it is through seeing them on t.v., when from time to time we get spots on t.v. where there is an emergency somewhere in the Province; or whether it is on the site, in participating in searches; or, as often as not, it will be in malls and shopping centres where these people are out pushing their tickets, selling tickets, raising money to purchase equipment, fund training, and generally to raise the finances necessary to keep their operation functioning.

Perhaps for the members of this hon. House it would be of benefit and some interest to know a little about the history and the present status of this group within the Province. It had its beginning in 1972 when it was recognized by the police and Emergency Measures organization that there was a need for this type of service here in the Province. Operations dealing with the Emergency Measures organization and the police were finding that at times of disaster they were having to go out and recruit local people to come out and assist them in carrying out some of these functions. Also, when people were lost generally they were going out recruiting people in the community to engage in assisting them.

Of course, what they realized was that this bringing people out into the bush to engage in a search was not always the best way to proceed. People who are best at that sort of thing are people who are trained in doing it. Because to go into an area, if you aren't a trained individual, it is possible that there could be clues that you could miss. Really you could, instead of assisting the operation, be serving as a deterrent in that as a result of people coming behind you would miss things that would have been there initially.

The first organization began in St. John's, as is very often the case with many of these things. The initial training involved a number of existing agencies. The minister will be pleased to know the Department of Forestry was involved from the beginning in 1972, the Department of National Defence, the Sixth St. John's Rovers, and others. Subsequent to the formation of the group in St. John's, as interest grew these organizations spread throughout the Province.

At the present time, Mr. Speaker, there are a total of twenty-four such ground search and rescue organizations, and number twenty-five is in the process of being organized at the present time, on the Northern Peninsula.

It would also, perhaps, be of interest to the House to know where these particular organizations presently exist. I guess if anybody is not aware, I will go through the list so this way you will know if in fact a unit does exist in your own particular district. I am sure with the commitment that each of us brings to our own districts, our own ridings and our own communities, I am sure that we will do whatever we can to assist these people in their very important work.

Deer Lake has a search and rescue team, Grand Falls - Windsor, Glovertown, Happy Valley - Goose Bay, Holyrood, Rocky Harbour, Springdale, Barachois Brook, Stephenville, Nain, Hopedale, Bay Roberts, Buchans, Burgeo, Marystown, Clarenville, Corner Brook, Wesleyville, St. John's, Pouch Cove, Churchill Falls, Labrador City, Roddickton and Bonavista. As I said, Mr. Speaker, number 25 is presently being organized on the Northern Peninsula.

All of these groups, in the areas that they exist, the way that they function is that they liaison with the police force in that area. In areas that are policed by the RNC, it is the RNC that takes the lead. In areas that are policed by the RCMP, it is the RCMP that takes the lead. These groups are subject to the call of the existing police forces. When the detachment considers that there is a function to be played by the search and rescue then they place a call and these people then respond, come out and provide whatever assistance they can.

Mr. Speaker, I am sure we are all aware, as I stated initially, that we are talking here about volunteers, but we should also keep in mind that these are a well trained group of volunteers. These are not just people who are being pulled in off the street and saying: Okay, will you come out and give us a hand on Saturday? These people are recruited, they are trained and given the benefit of proper training before they are placed in situations where - and some of these situations, Mr. Speaker, hon. members would be interested in knowing, are at considerable risk to the people who themselves are engaged in them. Right now, as I will indicate later, really the term, `ground, search and rescue' does not adequately describe the work of these individuals because now their mandate and the responsibilities that they carry out are much broader. Now they are involved in searches on the water, near shore. I mean they are using Zodiacs and they are taking these out on times when it is certainly -

MR. TULK: (Inaudible). They call them search and rescue coastguards. They do the same work.

MR. SMITH: Yes, they do a lot of the same work.

Certainly they have moved beyond that. They are, as I indicated, Mr. Speaker, indeed extremely well trained individuals. Also we should keep in mind, as I stated, that first and foremost they are volunteers. They are people who give of their time, they give of their evenings, they give of their weekends to go out and to offer services on behalf of their fellow citizens. There is no remuneration and generally there is very little recognition. Other than within their own ranks, they are very seldom recognized for the duties that they perform on behalf of their fellow citizens of this Province. They take training and as I said, they have to make themselves available on a regular basis to serve their fellow citizens.

As I indicated as well, the term, `ground, search and rescue' does not adequately describe what these groups now perform and the responsibilities that they carry out. This hon. House would perhaps be interested in knowing that just recently, with the shooting here in the city of St. John's, the local search and rescue were called upon to come out and assist the police force in trying to locate the weapon that had been used. I have also been made aware that the St. John's group, at this present time, are in the process of setting up a dive team that can assist at times where - of course in these instances here it would be primarily used again in assisting the police to recover bodies or again to be able, I guess, to operate more safely in very, very hazardous situations. They have been used around airports; they have been used in mine rescues, so certainly the type and variety of duties that they perform are indeed very varied.

With an organization that offers such an important service, it would be of interest for us to look at the structure, first of all, and then to look at the funding. Well, the structure is fairly loose. As I said, it initially began in 1972, which means now that we are approaching twenty-five years that they have been active in this Province; certainly a significant accomplishment for any organization. I guess it is difficult to understand why after twenty-five years perhaps they would not be better known and certainly would not have more recognition throughout the Province.

At the present time, there is some contact with the Department of Justice. There is also some contact with EMO. The contact with the Department of Justice is to the extent that the search and rescue organization - each organization is required, on an annual basis, to submit to the department an annual report which contains information with regard to their activities over the year, the number of searches that they are engaged in, the nature of the searches, the outcome, and also to provide information with regard to the training that they have undertaken during that twelve-month period.

Their involvement with EMO is primarily from the point of view that at the present time EMO has responsibility for looking after the insurance, the general insurance, liability insurance, which covers the members of these organizations who, as I indicated earlier, very often are putting themselves at risk. So it is very important on both ends of it: first of all in terms of their own safety, but also that if they are involved in activities of this nature that no one can come back to them after and say that they did not act properly in a certain instance and, as such, would be liable. So the insurance is important to them and EMO is involved with them to the extent that they pick up the tab; they look after the cost of the insurance.

As I indicated, in each particular region where a unit operates, it works closely with the existing police force, and it is up to the police force, whether the RNC or RCMP, to call them out. They make the determination when these people are needed, and they call them out.

Right now, if the unit is called out in a particular area - for example, I take my own area of the Province, the Stephenville area - if they are called out, at the end of the search they then submit to the RCMP a list of their expenses that they incurred during the course of the search. Now, they will be reimbursed for these expenses, but unfortunately, very often there is a lag, there is a delay, from the time that the claims are submitted until the actual monies are received. Of course, also, we have to keep in mind that it is the unit itself that is responsible for having this money up-front. Before they can engage in a search, they must have these people trained, which costs money. Before they can engage in these searches, they have to have the equipment which these people need to go out and engage in these searches. That has to be paid for up-front.

So, while there is a commitment in some areas, as we will see hopefully during the course of the afternoon - when I conclude my presentation now and later on in the afternoon when I conclude debate on this matter, hopefully we will have a little better understanding as to what the present needs of these organizations are as they go about doing the work that they do on behalf of the people of this Province.

Occasionally, over the years, these organizations have been able to access funding through provincial, or primarily through federal, sources, and they have used this to purchase equipment. I mentioned earlier, they are now getting into operating in the near shore. Some of the units have purchased these Zodiacs and outboard motors that they need in order to engage in that sort of thing. Ski-doos is another item that they need in order to be able to engage in the winter activities.

The National Search and Rescue Secretariat has been very supportive, and is a co-ordinating body at the national level. They have been very supportive of the kinds of activities that these organizations have been engaged in here in our Province; however, in the main, the people who are members of these associations, whether they are in Stephenville, whether they are in Glovertown, or whether they are in Nain, it is the general support of the community that they rely upon, and it is generally through fund-raising that they have to go through in order to do this.

I would like to relate an incident which happened within the last few months. The unit that operates in my own area, in Stephenville, had gone out and canvassed the community. They needed a four-wheel drive. Through the community they managed to pick up this old vehicle that had been turned over to them by someone. Then they solicited throughout the area, through the garages, local mechanics, whoever would assist them, people who were involved in the sale of automotive parts. They were given parts for the machine, they had labour provided free of charge. Basically what they did was reconstruct this four-wheel drive and had it to the point where it was ready to be licensed.

They took it to the Motor Registration Division to get it licensed. Basically what they wanted to do was to see if somehow they could get a break on the cost of the registration. The estimate they had, with the type of vehicle and everything else, was somewhere around $180. At that point in time, my office got involved, and primarily my assistant worked closely with this, working with Mr. Blackmore who is the provincial president, and met with the officials at the Motor Registration Division to try to determine if, in fact, somehow these units could get access to the E plates, which are basically there for emergency vehicles.

Well, I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, it certainly wasn't a given. We didn't have the Motor Registration Division saying: Yes, no problem, we will do that for you, that makes sense. For each vehicle that was there you had to be able to provide that - as if somebody dragging around one of these big trailers was going to have some use for it other than to be transporting equipment to be used in searches. It took a while but we were able in that one particular case to get approval, to get an E plate, which was a very small cost to the unit. I have been informed within the last couple of days that the provincial association has now followed up on that matter. It is now at the point where the Motor Registration Division has agreed that for vehicles being used - and I thank the minister - the vehicles being used now by search and rescue -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. SMITH: - are indeed eligible for the E plates.

By leave, Mr. Speaker, just a couple of minutes to finish up?


MR. SPEAKER: By leave.


MR. SMITH: As long as I don't sit to the left I'm alright, is it?

Mr. Speaker, also, my first contact with these groups, it was kind of interesting to be informed - for example, simple things, like maps. Maps are a crucial part that these people need to use in their operations. When we look around and we see the number of maps that are distributed by various government departments over the years throughout, for the schools and elsewhere in the Province, the search and rescue units were required, and still are, as far as I know, to purchase the maps at a cost of approximately $8 each. We aren't even providing the maps to them. One of the first things my office did after I came in here was to, at least for my own unit, go down and pick up some of the maps. They gave me a list of what they needed and I provided them with that.

If you have seen these men and women in operation you will know that they will wear a distinctive type uniform. It is just a coverall. It is something that is very functional. They have to purchase that themselves. There is no provision for providing that for them. So you go out, and someone recruits you to come along and get involved in this organization, providing a service on behalf of the community. You do that, you give up your evenings and your weekend to take the training, and then the next thing someone comes to you and says: By the way, I need $50 from you to get these coveralls that you are going to need to wear whenever you are going out and participating in these activities. Again, Mr. Speaker, a small point, but I think it does say something in terms of these people who are performing and providing that service. It says something to them in terms of the recognition and support they are being provided.

As I indicated, it started in 1972. I am pleased to indicate that in 1994 there was a provincial body formed. This provincial body is now referred to as the Newfoundland and Labrador Search and Rescue Association. There is no longer a reference to the ground search and rescue, for the reasons that I outlined earlier. It is the Newfoundland and Labrador Search and Rescue Association. This was accomplished through a grant from the National Search and Rescue Secretariat in the amount of $25,000. This formation took place over March 25 to March 27 in 1994, here at a meeting in St. John's.

At that meeting they brought in officials, emergency measures organizations from New Brunswick, Nova Scotia. They also had a presentation with regards to the Search and Rescue Operations in British Columbia. So it gave them a kind of a perspective as to what was happening in other jurisdictions in the country, and I guess the hope was that they could probably learn from what was happening in the other areas.

Also, Mr. Speaker, I think it is worthy to note that I had been informed that for all of the volunteers who are engaged in the twenty-four, soon to be twenty-five individual associations throughout the Province, there are no difficulties at all with the people who are involved getting excused by their employers in order to participate in these activities. I think that speaks volumes of the importance that the people of the Province see to the type of work that these individuals are doing. The employers have no difficulty and if they need time off or if they have to be called out, and sometimes it might not be the most opportune time, but they recognize that the work that they are doing is so important that they excuse them from their employment for that period of time.

So, Mr. Speaker, with that, I will stop for now. I look forward to hearing from the other hon. members in the House and to having an opportunity to conclude debate later on this afternoon.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am just going to take a couple of minutes this afternoon to speak on this particular bill and just say that we, on this side of the House, certainly have no problem supporting this particular bill. As my colleague across the floor said, there is certainly one of these organizations in my district in Holyrood.

I guess, Mr. Speaker, to be critical, it is that we do little or nothing for these people. Most of the money that I have seen raised for the group in my district, they have raised themselves. They have gone out, they have done the work, they have held the dances and sold the tickets. Whatever their way of raising money was, Mr. Speaker, they went and they did it.

I have no problem whatsoever supporting volunteers, supporting the work that this particular organization does, Mr. Speaker, because you never know, any time, night or day, these people are called to come out, I guess almost like a volunteer fire department, to do their functions. As I said, Mr. Speaker, what bothers me is that we do nothing or next to nothing for these individuals who give freely of their time, their energy and their efforts, men and women who do work that helps the people of this Province.

I think it is a shame, Mr. Speaker, that we don't do more. My colleague across the way certainly has spoken very eloquently in support of these people, and I certainly cannot disagree with anything that he has said, except to say again, that I am disappointed that, you know, we are not doing things for these people.

I remember under EMO - and I am not sure, Mr. Speaker, if that organization today is still in effect - when I was associated some years ago with the Town of Conception Bay South, there was federal funding at the time which was available. Of course, you had to apply for this particular funding and at the time I believe we were trying to tap this source of funding for some pumps, maybe even an emergency vehicle, some hoses and lights, these types of things that could be used in actual search and rescue and in actual fact, could have been used by our local fire department.

Of course, it was a great thing, Mr. Speaker. As I said, I don't know if these funds are available any more today. Maybe my colleague, who certainly knows more about this than I do, might know if these funds are available or if they are not. I know at one time, as I said, there was federal money available and at one time there used to be somebody I do believe, Mr. Speaker - and again I stand to be corrected - who, provincially as well, used to administer such a particular fund. Now, I am probably going back a few years but at one time, Mr. Speaker, I thought that provincially there was something done as well.

I would like to support the bill put forward by the Member for Port au Port and to certainly support volunteers, which I would do any day of the week, Mr. Speaker. Whether it is in this field or any other field, I have always been a supporter of volunteers and will continue to do so. I realize that in this case there are times when these people give risk to their own lives, and by doing that of course, to their own families.

So I speak in support of the bill, Mr. Speaker, put forward by the hon. Member for Port au Port. I would ask him if maybe he could talk to his colleagues on that side of the House to see if we can get some money whereby we could aid this particular group who provide such a needed service to this Province.

Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Burgeo & LaPoile.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. RAMSAY: The silence is deafening.

Anyway, Mr. Speaker, despite the tyranny of the Opposition, the tyranny of the minority, I want to stand in support of my colleague who, on a daily basis, imparts me with the views of the people in his district and him to mine as well, I might say.

Ground, search and rescue: I just wanted to relate a couple of experiences for the House to consider. Recently an incident that occurred - it was in the summer of 1995, it was in our own area and of course people were mobilized near Port aux Basques for search purposes for the body of a young person who had allegedly drowned at the time. We were not really sure but we all went and chipped in to help early the next morning. The disadvantage to the situation was that in Port aux Basques and along that coastal area, there was no real organized ground search and rescue unit. It was the local fire department, the volunteer fire department, along with a team of interested people, those who happened to be around and I suppose friends of the family and this sort of thing, who got together and went about undertaking this effort.

Now at the time I really was not aware, as a lot of the other members may not have been aware, of the organization known as, `ground search and rescue.' Normally when you hear the news and they are saying that rescue teams are out moving and looking for individuals who had been lost, there is not always recognition of the ground, search and rescue name for the team in a given area and that in itself I suppose is a disservice. It is probably because of the organization being somewhat new. Well, it was 1972 I know but not province wide, and not given a lot of recognition like that which we are giving them here today.

The ground, search and rescue unit that we have in Burgeo is a very active group. In Burgeo they have undertaken quite an effort over the years and possibly it grew there out of the isolation, I would think, the isolation that the Burgeo Road has now changed, linking them up more with the rest of the people through the road network here in the Province.

In the case of Port aux Basques really, I could say, I suppose, there is no excuse. The volunteer fire department and a certain group of interested individuals who were involved with leadership positions in the local militia groups that supported the army cadets, these people, some of whom where members of the Newfoundland Rangers, often were the ones who undertook search procedures during the wintertime. They would also be the ones that people would expect, who would be out searching at any given point in time, along with the required members of the RCMP and required members of other emergency services groups.

So it will be interesting, I guess, as more recognition is taken. It is the kind of thing that I hope to have the people in that area undertake as a ground search and rescue unit, because that co-ordination and that support of a provincial mechanism is really part of what is needed, to make sure that there are maps, that there are people who have the process that they undertake laid down so that no one gets lost, or hurt, or suffers exposure in any way, in trying to rescue someone else. That is the key part of it and it is very important. Often times, I think, without this kind of organization, we have individuals who are put at risk. Granted, there is an element of risk anyway, but they are put at risk in trying to rescue their fellow-man, or groups of people who might be lost for some reason.

We must do whatever we can to recognize and support, as the hon. member has brought it forward on a timely basis here today; so that that kind of thing can be prevented; so that the risk to others who are providing a volunteer public service, does not go unheeded and does not go without the support of the proper maps, without support of the course work, in a manner not unlike the orienteering courses that are given to people in the various sectors such as the Scouts, Venturers, and the female groups, as well, the Guides and these sorts of things, and also into the cadets and the militia.

Now, they all can play a certain role, but it takes some leadership on the part of not only elected members but also on the part of people in the community who are capable woodsmen. I know the hon. member who sits next to me here, the hon. the Member for Port au Port, is certainly that, a capable woodsman. He would be the first to complain of the many restrictions placed on woodsmen, hunters, and fishermen who enjoy the great outdoors. In fact he has brought those opinions to our meetings many, many times, his concern for the welfare, I suppose, of the sports hunter and sports fisherman, and those who just enjoy a casual walk in the woods.

Mr. Speaker, the bill that has been brought forward is certainly good. It is a shame that it has come forward at a time when we have a very difficult situation with our provincial finances. I guess, in certain cases, if the timing were right, maybe it is the kind of thing that we could help in funding on a provincial basis. I suppose, doing what we can to support the provincial association so that more and more funding could be made available from the federal - and not only funding, but support, logistical support through the MO, through the various police forces throughout the Province, through the volunteer fire brigades, and others of a similar emergency service nature, that will help to professionalize a volunteer organization to a point where any one of us, our families, or our constituents can feel confident in the event of an emergency, that the people who are out looking know exactly what they are doing, they have a plan, a very prescribed method of going out, doing a search, and finding the people, hopefully safe, and at the very least, giving some kind of support so that those who are missing a member of their families, or even, in some cases, a member of their community, know that all that could be done is being done on a proper basis.

I want to commend the hon. member for bringing this forward. I will stand in support, and hopefully make an effort in the district of Burgeo & LaPoile to form another ground search and rescue unit out in the Port aux Basques area, including the communities from Cape Ray all the way down to Rose Blanche, so that that area, which often does have people who go missing, not only from the standpoint of missing in the woods or on the ground, but also on a marine basis we have had many instances over the past number of years where people have been lost in open boats; and that is also very important, with all due respect to the hon. members opposite. The weather that we have out there is very, very serious in its nature. It is very severe. It is also extremely unpredictable. You can have four seasons in the course of about five miles, and anyone who knows the area very well, with 160 kilometre winds at Wreckhouse, a regular occasion, with the sea and the two currents, the Labrador Current and the Gulf Stream, meeting, you get very, very many weather patterns. You have the mountainous areas which cause - the Table Mountains and so on.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. RAMSAY: Mr. Speaker, with that I will pass and allow hon. members opposite to have another comment on this.

I want to commend the member and support him, and seek his support and assistance in improving the services offered to the people of my district on the Southwest Coast.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER (Penney): The hon. the Member for Bonavista South.

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I stand today to support the resolution as put forward by the hon. gentleman opposite. It is a good resolution. It is a resolution that reaches out again and speaks about volunteers and the excellent services that they are providing here in our Province. This is one particular area with which I am quite familiar, I say to members opposite. The member opposite went on to name all the areas that now have an active ground search and rescue team. I was one the people who was, I suppose, instrumental in getting one started in the Clarenville area. In fact, I was on the executive of that particular ground search and rescue team for four or five years until we got it up and running, and then it was predominantly from Clarenville to Musgravetown, in fact. Then, as it became active and we reached out to get other people involved, it extended from out as far, I think, as Southern Harbour, down as far as Bonavista, and the other way probably as far as Port Blandford or Charlottetown.

I remember going to the RCMP stations night after night and receiving training. First it was compass training; then it was map training; then it was map to compass training; then we used to go in and do searches. Many nights, as a group, we would go in on the track on the back of Clarenville. We would pick a destination and plot it off at the RCMP station, and we would go in in the nighttime. If anybody wanted to have an experience, or wanted to learn to trust the compass - because a lot of times people have a tendency not to trust the compass but to trust what is up here, and you have the wherewithal about you to want to go where your mind tells you that you should go, and you feel that is the right direction. That is quite an experience, to go out and do a night search, to put something, and to plot it out somewhere, plot it out on a map, and go in at night, just take a flashlight with you, and take the compass and go right to the point that you plotted out. It is really something, and it gives you an appreciation.

MR. J. BYRNE: Did you know that they had a declination on your maps when you were doing that?

MR. FITZGERALD: Oh, yes, you do all of that, I say to members opposite. I have forgotten a lot of it now because that was back in the late 1970s, I say to the Member for Cape St. Francis.

I know it was quite an experience. Even today when you talk to people who are going on Ski-doo rides, and they are going out in the country, some of those same people you meet and they have their compass and map and they have learned to trust that.

Mr. Speaker, here is another group of people who I suppose we could compare to firemen in rural Newfoundland and Labrador because they go out and, for the most part, raise money to buy equipment. I know this one particular ground search and rescue is called the Triple-Bays Ground Search and Rescue Team. They went out and raised enough money to buy survival suits. They raised enough money to buy compasses and a supply of maps for certain areas. They raised money to equip themselves with headlights and flashlights, and other survival gear that they deemed necessary in order to carry out their functions.

As the Member for Burgeo & LaPoile stated, many times when somebody is lost in Newfoundland you do not have a lot of time to respond. You do not have a lot of time, Mr. Speaker, to allow this individual to be out exposed to the elements, when you consider how unkind the Newfoundland weather has been known to be. It is certainly very satisfying to know we have a group of well-trained individuals capable of conducting a search in a very professional way right in our own area.

I remember just a short time ago when there was a - well, it turned out that it was a casualty in the Clarenville area. The local ground search and rescue team went in that night, a cold bitter night, raining, and they found the individual the next morning. The gentleman had a heart attack and he passed away right there in the woods. Those people went in and, as I said, in a few short hours after daylight they had the individual, with the help of the RCMP, and the police dogs were there. But it was the ground search and rescue team that found him and brought him out. Many times those stories can be told of similar happenings right across this Province.

It is not uncommon for this particular team to not only go in the bush and search for somebody, but as the member stated, sometimes it might mean going out in a boat. It might mean being taken aboard a helicopter and dropped off in totally unfamiliar territory. But those people go in there, they are well-trained, and they do a really commendable job.

I don't think the ground search and rescue teams in any part of the Province receive any compensation for what they do. In fact I know they don't. I think the RCMP office has access to money that it sometimes can provide them with travel cost. It is very minimal. If the people from Clarenville, for instance, have to conduct and take part in a search over in Southern Harbour, the call goes out, they will meet in Clarenville, and they will all form a car pool or whatever there, and they will go out. I think maybe food will be provided to them, and that is all - nothing else. Everything else is at their own expense and they are responsible.

The things they do, as I said, are second to none. They are to be commended for putting their own lives at risk, and for going out and having to walk over bogs and having to go up to their waists sometimes in snow, and having to leave their families and leave their places of work sometimes without compensation - many, many times. I don't think you will see them come back in at eight o'clock and say: I have to go to work. They have arrangements made with their employer, for the most part, that he will allow them time off to go and perform their duties as ground search and rescue people. But I can guarantee you that not all employers pay them while they are out performing those duties. So for many of them it might be not only an expense of getting to and from the site and carrying out their duties as they perceive them as being ground search and rescue volunteers, but in some cases it might cost them a day or more of pay as well.

It is not uncommon to see the ground search and rescue teams take part in floods. I remember a few years ago when the Shoal Harbour River overflowed its banks and flooded due to an ice build-up on that river. Some of the homes there and some of the residents there were threatened to a point where they were not allowed to go back into their houses - they had to vacate their houses. But when the Emergency Measures organization went out there to survey the damage and to look at what they might do in order to clear the river, the people by their sides were the local volunteers in the community. They were the people who were there helping them decide what to do, planning a strategy. When they drilled the ice there and blew up the places where the river was narrowest and where it was frozen the deepest, those volunteers took part in all of that.

Those are the people whom we sometimes forget. We take them for granted. We are all right ourselves. Unless you have an experience to call somebody to help you, you just take it for granted. You don't recognize it, you don't know they are there, and I suppose for the most part we don't care because we don't have to use them. We don't have to call on somebody. I can guarantee you, with a family out there that has a son or daughter who decided to go in and put out a few rabbit snares some evening after school, and that son doesn't come home at nine or ten o'clock, panic sets in and you wonder whom you can call. That is when it strikes home, Mr. Speaker, you wonder whom you can call and all of a sudden, somebody tells you that there is a ground search and rescue team, and you are not long in calling them.

AN HON. MEMBER: Were you there?

MR. FITZGERALD: Was I there, when?

AN HON. MEMBER: Were you (inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: I was part of it, yes. I was part of a ground search and rescue team, I just said.

Mr. Speaker, this is when the sudden reality strikes home of the importance of this group of people. That particular person and that particular family will never ever forget what you have done, I can guarantee you that. But for the most part, we take them for granted because we never have to call on them and we never have to use them. We see them in the shopping centres, Mr. Speaker, selling tickets or we see them, with a cold plate, some of us sponsor, some of us go and support them and some of us do not, but what those people are doing, is volunteering their time, out collecting dollars to put right back into our own communities so that they can provide us with a form of protection that will be there should we need it.

Mr. Speaker, this, I suppose, is another organization which makes a community tick, it is another organization that cannot exist without volunteers; we know government do not have the money to fund every organization or every group of people who are out there. However important the service they perform, the government of the day do not have the money to provide them with all the funds that are needed to carry out their duties. That is why it is encouraging to see the member - and obviously, he has some feeling for the ground search and rescue team in his area and in other areas as well, I guess; that is why it is encouraging to see him bring forward a resolution such as this. Sometimes we get involved in resolutions in this House, Mr. Speaker, that are only brought forward to separate, to cause a division, to shame the government into doing this or to shame the Opposition into doing something else. Many times these resolutions are brought to this House for that one purpose only, almost as if to say: I got you, I got you. We will stand up and have a standing vote on this just to see how they will vote, and we will shame them into it and shout at them. This is not a resolution like that.

This is a resolution that speaks for volunteers in this Province, Mr. Speaker, and brings this group of volunteers and the duties they perform to the floor of the House of Assembly. This is a resolution that shows that we, as representatives of the people out there, recognize the efforts of those particular people who provide such services to our communities and it is certainly encouraging to see resolutions such as this come before this House of Assembly. So, Mr. Speaker, we over here, I am sure, will unanimously support this resolution and I congratulate the member for taking the time to write it and to bring forward the wishes of his people to the floor of the House of Assembly.

Thank you very much.

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

MR. WOODFORD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to have a few words on this resolution.

Mr. Speaker, I think that, as the former speaker just said, it is a very, very important resolution and as far as I am concerned, whether it is an organization or whether it is a resolution or a matter that has to do with our people, it is sort of a motherhood resolution. At the same time, Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the Member for Port au Port for bringing this resolution forward.

I think there are some twenty-four organizations, twenty-four ground search and rescue teams around the Province and, as the member stated earlier, another is in the works with regard to the Northern Peninsula. Now, on the Northern Peninsula, they have one in Rocky Harbour and I think they have one in Roddickton but on the rest of the Northern Peninsula they do not have anything and I think that especially in that particular area of the Province, in wintertime especially, that is one place where it is well-needed.

As the other speakers have said, this is primarily a volunteer organization. Now, I have always said, Mr. Speaker, that volunteers, as far as I am concerned, are the unsung heroes in public life. All the people involved in those ground search and rescue teams are working men and women. They work in the daytime or on night shift, and if they come off a shift at 2:00 a.m. - I know of examples in Deer Lake where people came off a shift with Deer Lake Power Company at 12:00 midnight, got a call at 2:00 a.m. and within an hour after that they were on the scene in conjunction with the RCMP officers and so on, searching for lost persons, lost people. And, as I said, all of them are volunteers.

Their training aspect - they get together and they go through different procedures, especially First-Aid. There are certain members of that ground search and rescue team who do not have First-Aid courses, do not have survival courses. A certain amount of training is needed. You cannot just put anybody in the woods. They have to train - for argument sake, the big one is a compass. How to use a compass is one of the first things that they do. Now, a lot of the people involved in those ground search and rescue teams - I can speak for the one I have in Deer Lake. The Deer Lake Ground Search and Rescue Team in that area is one that has been in existence for some time, very active. Even when there is nothing on the go, no one to look for and nothing to do like that, they keep in touch. They have dinners - in fact, it was only a couple of weekends ago that they had their annual dinner in Deer Lake. They keep together and make sure that their members are ready in case there is a call to assist the RCMP or whoever else that might call for assistance, and there are no questions asked.

One of the whereas's here, "at the present time, ground search and rescue units exist throughout most of the Province, both on the island and in Labrador," but there is no assistance. The member has in his second last "Be it resolved" - that this Honourable House, on behalf of the people of this Province, should express its appreciation and support for the work of these ground search and rescue organizations." That is so true, Mr. Speaker.

There is absolutely nothing, as the member mentioned and others, they cannot even get a map. If they go out and ask for a topographical map for instance, of the particular areas which they have jurisdiction over or which they sort of police, they have to pay for that. I think it used to be $8 but I think it has gone up more now. They have to even pay for the map of that particular area, which is crazy. I mean, they are volunteers, they are doing a service to the people of the Province, a service to government. As we all know, the RCMP these days, their numbers are down and they cannot do the same work and even when it was up, the RCMP officers came into a particular area...

I remember in Deer Lake one time, there were twelve officers, they all happened to be transferred and shifted around within a three-month period. They did not know the area. There were two fellows there who were there for three years, the most and even they only knew the roads through the communities and the roads to the Trans-Canada. They didn't know the woods, the ponds, the lakes, the byroads and the woods roads like the people of the district, the people who belong to this so-called Deer Lake Ground Search and Rescue Team. Those people could go on, they didn't need a compass, they didn't need anything. They would use landmarks. Most of the people, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians use landmarks. They take a compass with them but you go on a ski-doo trip, for instance, with someone from over around my area anyway, they don't go on anything. They use landmarks, they go, they go on. They know how to survive if they are caught in a snowstorm and they know how to survive if they get lost in the woods. They are up on this. The RCMP officer in the area did not know it.

Even the Emergency Measures Organization people over the years, I have seen examples of that in the area, where the people who belong to the ground search and rescue teams knew the area so well and could start right away. A very important subject and a very important reason for those ground search and rescue teams, is that they know where to start right away. If there is nobody in the area who knows the area that they are going to search, by the time they get everything set up, by the time they find maps, by the time they find roads, the person could be dead, depending on the circumstances. But those people know the area so well and they are so used to it, they can go on. All they have to do is get assembled, the RCMP bring them together, fifteen or twenty people, and they just say where to go, to branch out or whatever in a certain area, and they just zero in on that particular area, and they do it with such class, as far as I am concerned - that is what I call it - because they are professionals in their own right. Those people belong to different groups, different workers. Some are forestry workers, some work in the agricultural field, some work with Newfoundland Telephone, they have people working with environment. I know that the president of the association in the Deer Lake area works with environment in Corner Brook. The vice-president, or another executive member there, works with the Newfoundland Telephone Company.

Now that I mention the Newfoundland Telephone Company, I had a request, I think it was five years ago - you talk about this simple request - to see if we could obtain so many radios for the members of the Deer Lake Ground Search and Rescue Team, so that when they did go into the woods they had contact, short wave. At that time there was no money available; we could not access any funds. We started a fund-raiser after, I think, and between the jigs and the reels we probably got two or three radios.

Another example is the pick-up that the hon. the Member for Port au Port mentioned. There is no equipment whatsoever, there is no set-up money. I notice in Nova Scotia they give you $100 for each time there is one set up, and they give you $1,000 a year after, as long as it is in existence, which is a great help. It is no big money, but it is a recognition, which is very important. It shows that they are accepted, it shows they are needed, and the people of the province, and especially the government of the day, appreciates the work they are doing.

The Member for Port au Port touched on another very important example. When we say `ground search and rescue' we think it is just on land. It is not. It has to do with marine today. If anybody followed the speech given just recently by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary, you see full well how important those organizations are. That is another organization that is a volunteer organization. The Canadian Marine Rescue Auxiliary it is called, and now it has been renamed and it is going to be called the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary. That is the importance. Again, it shows recognition. It shows how important those search and rescue people are to certain areas and to the Province as a whole.

For example, the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary represents 25 per cent of all search and rescue marine incidents annually, all of that. You take the coast guard. You would figure they would be out and look at the whole works, but 25 per cent of all the rescues made under the marine part of it are made by volunteers, by the auxiliary part of the Canadian Coast Guard, and they have just been recognized now. In fact, they have been given a grant over the years of $1.5 million, and now they are going to try to get Treasury Board to increase that for the next five years. That is the federal part, the marine part, that has to do with all the Canadian Coast Guard. Hopefully, by 1998 - you talk about recognition. If there is recognition just zeroing in on the marine part of it, why should there not be a little bit of recognition with regard to the ground search and rescue teams we have here in this Province that are providing such a vital service to the people of the Province?

Mr. Mifflin said in his speech: Unfortunately, theirs is one of the truly great Canadian stories that very seldom get told. Always at the ready to lend a helping hand, the volunteer element of Canada's Search and Rescue Program embodies all that is good in our society.

I think, Mr. Speaker, that sums up, really, what they are all about.

Some of the questions I asked myself over the years, and I am sure there are other people who have asked them, too: Why do people like this get together and form such an organization? Why does a group spend so much money - and their own money - on an organization such as this, strictly voluntary, strictly volunteers. Why do the members spend so many hours every month training and be willing to leave the comfort and warmth of their home to walk through the woods in the middle of the night? Why do a few dedicated members spend hundreds of hours every year keeping the organization running? There is only one reason, Mr. Speaker, and that is to save someone's life. Ground search and rescue works together as a team to find and preserve lives in the wilderness. Whether that be in the wilderness in the summertime, in the wintertime, any time, or offshore, they are there voluntarily. They are not asking for anything from anyone.

When they do go out and search for someone and they find him or her, whether the person is still alive or otherwise, they aren't looking for recognition. They aren't on the radio saying: We did this or we did that. They just did what they consider the same job that they had every day of the week. They just go out on their own time and fulfil this very important service to the people of the Province, and the people of their particular areas.

I would say, Mr. Speaker, that we all should recognize ground search and rescue teams in the Province. I think we should pay particular attention to the last two `be it resolveds' and the last one - and I will repeat this, and I think the member read it out already: "And be it further resolved that the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador officially recognize the efforts of these organizations and actively explore ways of assisting them in carrying out their very important work on behalf of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador."

That recognition, Mr. Speaker, doesn't have to be in the form of $50,000, $100,000, $200,000 or $300,000. That recognition could be in the form of a thank you, and, as I said earlier, probably a few maps, probably something to help out with training and so on. That as far as I'm concerned would be a great start to a great organization in this Province.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Cape St. Francis.

AN HON. MEMBER: The Member for Bonavista South is number one now.

MR. J. BYRNE: Good for him, I would say.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise in my place today to basically support certainly the intent of the resolution put forward by the Member for Port au Port. I suppose if there was a resolution put to the House to support motherhood you would have to stand and support that, I would imagine. Most people would.

To me this resolution, if you go down through it and read: "And be it further resolved that the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador officially recognize the efforts of these organizations and actively explore ways of assisting them in carrying out their very important work on behalf of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador."

The Member for Humber Valley just mentioned that a simple thank you would be nice. Of course, I certainly appreciate the work that these people do. As a matter of fact, in the town of Pouch Cove in my district they have the Pouch Cove Rovers, which is a ground search and rescue group that has been called upon many times to go and put themselves at risk to save other people. But shouldn't this be a little bit meatier, this resolution? These people depend on fund raising for their financing. They do very important work. I wonder should these organizations get provincial funding. I'm not talking about millions of dollars now here, but I mean enough to keep them afloat and to help them along the way. Maybe the resolution should have said that we would encourage the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to provide funding to these various groups across the Province.

The Member for Port au Port listed out a number, I believe twenty-five or somewhere around there, of different organizations in this Province. Really, it wouldn't amount to a large amount of money, I would say. These organizations now are in place, but maybe there are some new ones that would want to start up in different areas of the Province, and maybe some funding from the Province would encourage those groups in various locations to start up. The groups that are in existence already probably wouldn't require the same amount of money to get going. They have their equipment in place. I know the Pouch Cove Rovers in Flatrock have some equipment down there, and they have been called out in all kinds of weather.

If we are talking about safety in the Province let us look at the record, I suppose, of the government. It was only yesterday in the House, I believe it was yesterday or the day before, that I asked questions with respect to 911 which in fact would go hand in hand with these different groups, Mr. Speaker. Back in March 1995 it was the Member for Humber Valley who asked in the House of Assembly that we get legislation with respect to fire-fighter's protection, to protect them from being sued.

Back in March 1995, the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs announced that they would follow-up on that, and it was only recently announced that it would be cut, it would not be followed-up on. That goes hand in hand with any rescue organization with respect to response time and getting in contact with these people in a hurry.

Also, over recent years we saw in the Province lighthouses being closed down. For example, in my district, just before I became an MHA, the lighthouse at Cape St. Francis, an historic site, was torn down, destroyed, and towed away. No one knew anything about it, Mr. Speaker. What did the Province do? Not a word, not a word, Mr. Speaker, from anybody; done, gone. There have been lighthouses over the past couple of years that I am not familiar with that have been closed down, and all geared to safety within the Province.

I do not know if this resolution would really go far enough, Mr. Speaker. I certainly support it as it is, but I would like for it to go further. The member talked about volunteers, and I think everybody here so far with respect to this resolution has talked about volunteers. I am a firm believer that in this Province and probably in the country as a whole, it is volunteers that make this Province go around, Mr. Speaker; volunteers with respect to the fire department, volunteers with organizations such as we are talking about in this resolution, and volunteers with respect to the municipal councils.

Mr. Speaker, with respect to these ground search and rescue groups, they have to be trained, they have to be well trained, for two reasons, Mr. Speaker. One to protect the safety of the people they are trying to rescue, and their own safety which is often put at risk. If someone falls over a cliff, or is caught on a cliff in this Province, which often happens, the fire departments do respond. The paid fire departments have access to all kinds of training and they are well trained, but the volunteer fire departments are well trained also. These people are well trained to the extend, I suppose, that they can be trained, in that they have to depend upon funding from fund raisers, and they put themselves at risk. It certainly would not hurt, if in due course, we could get some provincial funding for these groups.

It is all well and good for us to stand here in our place and support this bill but we need more than just lip service. We actually need some concrete actions taken by government to do something to help these different groups.

One of the members, I think it may have been the Member for Port au Port, mentioned the Emergency Measures Organization and how these groups have insurance to protect them if they are injured. I am not quite familiar with that. I have often thought about the volunteer fire departments and workers' compensation, and that type of thing, if they are injured on the job, and there has been some discussion on that. It is only recently that we had second reading on a bill here to give fire-fighters protection from being sued if they injure someone or hurt someone in the line of duty when they are acting in good faith.

Maybe in due course government could actually look at including groups and these organizations in the same legislation. It is probably a good idea. I do not know if it is feasible or possible but it is certainly something worth looking at. If these organizations and the members of these organizations, both male and female, Mr. Speaker, are putting themselves on the line, and putting themselves at risk, it would not really be too much to ask, to give that type of support, rather than just to stand in their place and recognize these individual groups and say, thank you, Mr. Speaker.

What we could be doing is putting something more concrete in place to help these various organizations, these different ground search and rescue units, who do put their time in with respect to volunteering their time, putting their time into being trained, and are on call any time, day or night, winter months, summer months, in the middle of storms. In any given situation, Mr. Speaker, these people can be called upon to respond to an emergency situation. For me, on a personal note, I think that we need to give more than just lip service to these organizations.

Mr. Speaker, it was only last night I was watching the news and I saw an individual whose boat sank a year ago in a storm. A few of his friends were not successful in making it to shore, but this individual did make it to shore and, through great strength I would say, made it to a cabin up in Labrador, I believe. They did have the search and rescue people out on that night looking for these people and, in fact, the next day he was rescued.

Now, those people may very well have been a paid organization or a paid group that went out to search for those individuals, but often times the volunteer groups in the Province are called upon to respond alongside groups like the RCMP and the Coast Guard, to go out and put their lives on the line to rescue individuals, to search for people. For me to stand in the House and just say that we should - what is the wording again, Mr. Speaker - the government should recognize the efforts of these organizations. I think we need more than just lip service. I think we should try, do our best, to come up with some funding to at least help these organizations.

I do not know if that is the intent of the Member for Port au Port when he says, "...recognize the efforts of these organizations and actively explore ways of assisting them...". Hopefully what he is talking about there is assisting in a financial way, not only talking about these organizations, or even with equipment.

Some of the members talked about just giving maps and compasses. That, to me, is pretty - oh, what would be the right word? It would not be a great task, or a great recognition, to give an organization a few maps. The training, how to use these maps, to take a compass and a map and put them together, it does not take a lot of time to learn to do that. The actual physical rescue, going out, surviving storms, surviving nights in the woods, and the process of trying to bring it all together to track down a group or an individual who is lost in the woods, that is the situation, and that they have to have the proper equipment and the proper training. I think that is where we have to come from with respect to this resolution, and anything that goes through the House in support of these groups has to be concrete and not just lip service.

With that, Sir, I thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Port au Port.

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

First of all, I would like to thank the members of the House, both this side and opposite, who have spoken in this debate. I thank them for their express support for the resolution.

Obviously it is apparent, from the remarks we have heard from both sides of this hon. House today, that there is certainly support for this organization. I am also impressed with the level of knowledge and experience that appears to exist within this House with regard to this particular organization.

The hon. member opposite who just spoke made reference to the need for specifics. Well, what I would hope to do now in my concluding remarks, and in concluding debate on this particular motion, is to maybe set forth some of the specifics, and some of the things that I feel can be done to immediately, in the short term, assist these organizations and, more importantly, what can be done to put in place, on a long-term basis, a mechanism which can, on an ongoing basis, provide the assistance and support which these organizations require.

First of all, as the resolution itself sets out, I think it is important, and it is felt to be important by these organizations, that they do receive official recognition. At this point in time there is really no department of government that has full responsibility -


AN HON. MEMBER: Order, I can't hear a thing.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. SMITH: At this point in time there is really no department of government that has singular responsibility for the co-ordination of the efforts of these groups. So I think an important beginning would be for government to designate one department that would have the sole responsibility for co-ordinating the activities of these organizations and also to designate within that department, one individual who could serve as the contact person, so that now, where there is a provincial association which exists, then that group would have a person within government that could serve as a contact for them, they would have within government a person who could serve as liaison between them and the Cabinet and the government generally. So that is an important first step.

One of the things that the group has asked, as well, is for assistance in developing a provincial crest for the search and rescue. Mr. Speaker, here this afternoon, we have heard reference by a number of members about the level of training which these individuals, these men and women, have undergone in order to be able to carry out these responsibilities. These people approach their duties with a great deal of pride. They see themselves as having a certain level of skill, a skill, which when it is called upon, is very important. Somehow they would like to have a way of being recognized as they travel throughout the Province, as they officially participate in their activities, of being recognized as part of a provincial body, and that could be symbolized by the development of a crest which would be peculiar to this Province, and would somehow reflect on the uniqueness of this Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

In my remarks today, I made reference to the licensing of vehicles. Well, certainly, I think this is something that can be done immediately to assist these organizations, if the policy is in place whereby these organizations, the vehicles that they have in use in carrying out their responsibilities do qualify for the E-plate, at really no great cost to government. The provision is there now, all we need is to say that, yes, the vehicles that are being used by these search and rescue organizations should qualify for E-plates. That can be done now, at no great cost to government but it certainly would be of tremendous benefit to these individuals and groups as they carry out their responsibilities.

They have also raised the idea of being able to use the `marked' gas, as it is referred to, or gas that is tax free, that right now is being used by fishermen in the Province, and this is being offered to these individuals as a tax break. Well, what they are saying to me is: Why can this not be made available to us? We are not engaged in anything of a commercial nature, we are engaged as volunteers in providing a service on behalf of the people of the Province. We are not being remunerated for this, so why cannot this be done for us? If the will is there, I am sure it is possible to do it, Mr. Speaker, so I say to this hon. House today, that this is something that government should look at and it is something that we can do in a very practical way to assist the work of this group.

The insurance, I have already, through my office, made representation to the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board some months ago, and asked him to explore the possibility of including the vehicles being used by the search and rescue organizations whenever we are doing our negotiations in securing insurance for the provincial fleet, the government fleet. It may not be possible, the insurance company may say: Well, these vehicles are being used, the activities are a little different from what normally government vehicles would be used for. Well maybe, what we could do then, is to negotiate a separate policy but certainly, considering the volume of the business that this government does with an insurance company in negotiating policies, it is recognized that we could provide them an added benefit, that we could certainly make rates or insure that rates are made available to these groups more advantageously than they are at present.

This is something, Mr. Speaker, that we can certainly, I feel, explore and look at immediately. So these are things that really will not cost government a great deal of money. But beyond that, we have heard repeated here today as well, that there are things that we should look at, that we should entertain. If we recognize and we respect that the work that these people are doing is important and is something that we want to continue, then surely we should be prepared to make something available to assist them in their efforts.

One, I think perhaps we should look at the idea of providing them with a small operating grant. I have heard of figures of $1,000. Right now, we have twenty-four, shortly we will have twenty-five groups, $25,000. Mr. Speaker, what a bargain! Where, anywhere in this Province, can we get the kind of service being provided by these volunteers for such a small sum of money? Also, we should be budgeting, I feel, some money for training. We are expecting these individuals to be trained professionals. Then surely we should see that we have some responsibility in making the resources available to pay the necessary trainers, and also to assist these individuals to be able to get to the locations in order to avail of this training.

Also, Mr. Speaker, I think it is important that we should look at the idea of assisting with a provincial conference perhaps every two years. We all recognize, any of us who have been involved in any sort of organization, the importance of having the opportunity occasionally to come together as groups to share and learn from one another. How moreso than for groups which are engaged in this sort of activity to have the opportunity, perhaps every second year, to come together at a provincial conference to work on policy, but more importantly to network and to learn from one another.

Finally, as has been mentioned here today, and I have related my personal experience with that, and several members have mentioned, in a very practical way, right now these groups if today they need topographical maps for work in their area, the first thing we are asking them to do is pay for these maps. I mean, we are sending out maps all over creation to any number of groups free of charge. Then surely we should be prepared to make these available to this group of fine men and women, volunteers throughout the Province, who are doing this very valuable work on behalf of the people of this Province.

In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, I pose the question: How important are they? We have heard several members speak here today about their knowledge and information with regard to these groups. How important are they? I have here the statistics, as I indicated in my opening remarks today. They are required at the present time to report to the Department of Justice on an annual basis the activities of their various units. I have here today a tabulation of the statistics that were provided for the last calendar year, that was 1995. They report in a calendar year, which means that the stats are not available for this year since they will not be required to report until the end of this month.

For the last calendar year for which they reported, 1995, for the unit at Barachoix Brook there were eight searches that they were involved in; Bay Roberts, four; Bonavista - Glovertown, two; Burgeo, one; Churchill Falls, three; Clarenville, nine; Corner Brook - Bay of Islands, five; Deer Lake, five; Grand Falls - Windsor, five; Happy Valley - Goose Bay, nine; Holyrood, six; Hopedale, nine; Labrador City, eight; Marystown, four; Nain, three; Postville, four; Red Indian Lake, one; Springdale, four; Stephenville - Kippens - Port au Port, twelve; St. John's, three.

Mr. Speaker, if we want to know how important the work of these groups is to the people of this Province, then all we have to do is follow up on this. Talk to the parents of a child who has gone missing. Talk to the children whose aged parent has wandered off and has been recovered through the efforts of these men and women throughout the Province. Talk to these people. They will attest to the fact that these groups are very important and are deserving of the kind of attention that we are giving it here today. I hope that what has been said here today will not end here, but in fact will translate into some action in the not-too-distant future.

My colleague, in his remarks, referenced a speech which was made by the federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, the hon. Fred Mifflin, talking about the Coast Guard auxiliary. I quote the same passage as he did in his remarks because I think it is very appropriate and while it was delivered in a different context, it is very appropriate to what we are talking about here today. I quote, Mr. Speaker, `Unfortunately theirs is one of the truly great Canadian stories that very seldom gets told. Always at the ready to lend a helping hand, the volunteer element of Canada's Search and Rescue Program embodies all that is good in our society.' A lot of the remarks that we have heard here today have been about the volunteer element generally. We have heard people speak about the importance of volunteers generally to this society and the kinds of contributions they make in any number of sectors. Mr. Speaker, this enforces that. What more can I or any other member of this House add to that other than to call upon all of the members of this hon. House to join with me in making a beginning by here today recognizing and giving this group the recognition they deserve.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Is the House ready for the question?

All those in favour of the motion say, `aye'.


MR. SPEAKER: All those against, `nay'.

I declare the resolution carried, unanimously.

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, before we adjourn the House - do I have to move the adjournment motion now? No. Before we adjourn the House, I just want to tell hon. members that tomorrow, tomorrow night, maybe the morning after, we will be doing Committee of the Whole on several bills. I think there are something like twenty-five. Where we will start I do not know yet but I will let the Opposition House Leader know sometime in the morning. I have to have some discussions with my colleagues.

Mr. Speaker, thank you very much.

MR. SPEAKER: This House stands adjourned until tomorrow, Thursday, at 2:00 p.m.